Chapter 1: pull on that thread
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.
Chapter 2: unravel it
it’s been months since jongin started his thesis, which means it’s been months since the last time the astrophysics department last saw anyone relatively new. this is why baekhyun is so excited about sehun, jongdae decides. it’s either that, or maybe it has to do with how tall and lean sehun is, and what a cute butt he has, and jongdae isn’t entirely willing to consider that second option, not right now.
“i can’t believe he’s doing binaries, of all things,” baekhyun whines, leaning back on his chair as far as it will go.
“what’s wrong with binaries?” kyungsoo asks innocently and jongdae sighs because he should know better, after all this time. not all binaries are massive stars, but some are, and that’s enough for baekhyun to be groaning like this.
massive stars are a touchy subject for baekhyun, they have been ever since some exchange student left him hanging in the middle of hooking up because his supernova had exploded and he just had to go alert his research group. he’s been denying this happened for the past three years, but jongdae has a great memory for embarrassing baekhyun stories. still, whenever someone brings up anything remotely related to it and baekhyun goes off a tangent to pretend he has solid reasons that have nothing to do with sex to hate them, jongdae lets him pretend. he likes that baekhyun thinks he’s got some dignity left to preserve, even if it’s getting boring to hear him make up a case against massive stars. luckily for everyone, before he can start again on his vague ridiculous list of reasons why no one should be wasting their time on stars that are just gonna blow up anyway, the door opens up and sehun himself peeks in.
“uh, junmyeon hyung said one of you guys might be able to help me out with something? i’ve got a problem installing a thing on my desk computer and he’s in a meeting,” he says, not looking at any of them in particular, but baekhyun’s already jumping out of his seat. it makes jongdae wildly uncomfortable, but he’s probably the best choice if sehun needs help with software.
“remind junmyeon hyung while you’re there that we’re not his students anymore, he can’t assign us work,” jongdae tells baekhyun, rolling his eyes, but baekhyun doesn’t laugh along.
“it’s not work, jongdae, it’s helping someone out because we’re nice people,” he says instead, rolling his eyes right back at jongdae. it stings, but just a little. baekhyun’s just trying to look good in front of sehun, it’s fine. jongdae doesn’t mind.
he watches baekhyun march outside of the office, and feels rather deflated for some reason.
“i’m pretty sure sehun has a boyfriend,” kyungsoo says after they’ve been in silence for a while, only the sound of their keyboards filling the office.
“oh,” jongdae replies, but he’s not sure why he’s telling him this. he didn’t say anything, did he? it wouldn’t be the first time he’s voiced a thought he really meant to keep to himself.
“i mean, if you’re like, worried about baekhyun,” kyungsoo adds like he doesn’t want to say it, and now jongdae is officially confused, so he turns his chair around and stares at the back of kyungsoo’s chair, patiently waiting for him to turn around himself.
“why would i be worried about baekhyun,” jongdae squints, eyeing kyungsoo like he might get answers from him just by staring hard at his face. it’s a good face to be staring at, and that’s a bad track of thought. “if he likes sehun, and sehun isn’t cheating on anyone by doing it, then i don’t care what baekhyun does.”
“it’s alright if you do,” kyungsoo says it so gravely, it makes jongdae’s heart shrink and then expand in rapid succession. “i know he cares about what you do, you two should talk about that.”
“he told you that?” jongdae asks, sounding way too excited about it, and even though he’s obviously trying to stay impassive, he can see kyungsoo’s face fall a little. damn it. wrong thing to say. “i mean, i care about what all of us do, in that sense,” he adds hesitantly but no, still the wrong thing to say. “i just, it’s none of my business, we’ve all hooked up with other people while the deal was on or whatever and it’s never made a difference.”
he knows the key to why kyungsoo’s giving him such a sad look is right there, in that sentence he just said out loud, and he could hear the words standing out as if they were somehow highlighted in audio form. it was fine, while the deal was on. so baekhyun had his thing with yixing, and jongdae had that short period of time in which he and lu han were the messiest combination but also the best sex he’d had in a while, and he knows kyungsoo and the intimidating girl from planetary sciences, seohyun, went out at some point. he’s not sure about chanyeol, but jongdae never really bought his story about working on a project that fell through with junmyeon to justify all their late nights at the office.
now the deal is off, or it could be, if they talked about it, and maybe jongdae’s brain isn’t entirely sure why baekhyun would need to chase after some new kid when he’s got jongdae right there. it’s not something he’d thought about at all. deep down, he’d convinced himself ages ago that he wasn’t into baekhyun like that anymore, that he’d finally killed those feelings, and yet here he is. everything is just as he left it that night he put his hand over that poor galactic astronomy textbook and promised to bury every stupid feeling. now he’s dug them up and found they’re all as good as new, and he’s fucked. again. as he’s always been.
“you should talk about it,” kyungsoo says, turning his back on jongdae, evidently all too aware of the existential crisis he’s just unleashed in him. he thinks it’s about baekhyun though, when it’s about the three of them, and jongdae would rather die than have to try and work through this.
“i’m gonna,” he starts, getting to his feet and staring at the back of kyungsoo’s chair, but he’s back to typing. there’s only way to sort this out. “i’m gonna go for a bit.”
“don’t forget jungsoo hyung is coming over later to check on our progress with this,” kyungsoo reminds him off handedly, and jongdae nods though kyungsoo isn’t looking at him.
it’s kind of shocking to go into minseok’s office and not find lu han sitting around. jongdae knows he’s got a place to work in the literature department, but he also knows the literature department is so tiny lu han’s place to work is a chair at his advisor’s desk, so no one questions him being always on minseok’s desk.
“hey, come sit down, i’ll be with you in a sec,” minseok greets him without looking away from his computer. he’s got his glasses on and he’s clearly immersed in whatever it is he’s reading, but jongdae got pressing matters he needs him to attend to.
“so i’ve been thinking about some stuff,” jongdae starts saying, sitting on the floor with his head against minseok’s desk. minseok reaches out to pat his head, humming noncommittally, and jongdae is pretty sure he’s listening to him. probably. “and i need some advice.”
minseok makes a noise jongdae interprets as “go on”, while he keeps his fingers gently rubbing the top of jongdae’s head. it’s a cute gesture, it definitely means he’s paying attention.
“i think my feelings for baekhyun may not be entirely platonic,” jongdae lets out, closing his eyes and leaning into minseok’s touch. “but i think my feelings for kyungsoo are clearly way past platonic as well.”
“that’s unsurprising,” minseok mumbles. “there’s more though, right? somewhere?”
that takes jongdae by surprise, and he looks up but minseok is still reading.
“yeah, well,” jongdae admits. “chanyeol’s… well, there’s always been something there. i don’t know what i’m supposed to do.”
“there it is,” minseok nods, sounding triumphant. jongdae can’t relate, though he guesses there should be something satisfying about him finally admitting these stupid feelings he’s been trying to deny for so long. “well, i mean, there’s not much to do about this. gotta make some sacrifices, i guess. no one can have it all, there’s just no way to make it work.”
jongdae was aware of this, because of course he can’t have them all, but there was a tiny part of him that hoped minseok would tell him it wasn’t such a crazy idea to think there was a way for him to not end up giving up any of them. he’s so sure of what he’s saying, so final in his tone, that jongdae makes a pained noise. that’s what it takes for minseok to finally look down at him, and when he sees the look in his eyes, he takes his headphones out. the ones jongdae hadn’t seen him wearing.
“i’m sorry, were you saying something? i’ve been struggling with this paper that doesn’t seem to make sense all morning, but we can talk in like, ten minutes? i don’t mind if you wanna hang out here, though i should warn you lu han says i have a tendency to talk to myself when i’m focused,” minseok speaks so conversationally, like he didn’t just crash all of jongdae’s hopes and dreams without even meaning to, but clearly he can see something’s wrong in his face because he keeps frowning at him. “or i can leave this for later, if it’s that serious.”
“no, no, it’s fine, i just,” jongdae takes a breath, lets it out, tries to remind his body breathing is something he’s supposed to do without explicitly giving out indications to his lungs. “you do speak to yourself, and i thought you’d said something to me that was just, a little mean, in context of what i was saying?”
“oh,” minseok’s frown deepens, and suddenly it seems to dawn on him, what he was just saying. “oh, the sacrifices thing? did i say that out loud? it’s just this model is really good at replicating a large scale evolution but it keeps underestimating small mass galaxies, and you don’t really care about that, right? you were coming with some epiphany about your weird love square and i told you to make sacrifices, i’m sorry.”
it’s probably the longest jongdae’s ever heard minseok talk without stopping to take a breath and it speaks volumes of both how deep into his galaxies and their models thing he’s into, and how terribly upset jongdae must look right now.
“so you don’t think it’s impossible to have it all?” jongdae dares ask, and minseok looks at him like he’s trying to read into his soul, make sure he’s not about to accidentally crush him again even if he has to be honest now that he’s actually listening.
“i don’t think it’s impossible,” he says slowly, and jongdae thinks that could be enough. he has no idea how it would even work, he’s not even sure it’s what he wants, but it feels like a step in the right direction that he’s considering it. “i think you shouldn’t be talking to me about this, though.”
“i know,” jongdae nods. “i was kind of hoping i’d find han here, will he come by later?”
minseok gives him a look, and jongdae smiles sheepishly at him, though he meant that, a little. he loves minseok, but he’s always so cautious and right now jongdae needs advice from someone less willing to play it safe.
“no, but i can hear baekhyun being loud somewhere down the hall, maybe he has some wise words for you,” minseok replies, raising his eyebrows like he’s not suggesting a completely stupid thing. jongdae can’t go ask baekhyun for advice on how to deal with something baekhyun, that would be almost like confronting a problem instead of avoiding it. jongdae’s not a big fan of doing that these days. “if you really need han though, he’ll be back in like, half an hour.”
“why isn’t he here? i thought he’d moved in,” jongdae asks, relieved to have a change of topic.
“he was stuck on something he was working on and he had a study date with kim taeyeon so she could help him out,” minseok explains.
“the kim taeyeon? the one i know from high school?” jongdae opens his eyes dramatically, having some intense flashbacks to being constantly terrified of her.
“yeah, the one baekhyunnie made out with and then ran away from and all that,” minseok laughs, and jongdae starts laughing along because minseok’s chuckles are so contagious but then he comes to a halt because /what/.
“baekhyun did not make out with kim taeyeon, ever. in his entire life. baekhyun hasn’t made out with girls?” he hesitates towards the end of that sentence but this doesn’t make sense. he knows everything about baekhyun. sure, they don’t really kiss and tell, considering how messy it’s always been between them, but he would know of something this big. he would definitely have heard if baekhyun had kissed a girl, especially if that girl was their hottest senior.
“at least that’s what he’s always said whenever anyone mentions her? i’ve heard it like, a thousand times? how can you not know this story, honestly, he’s weirdly proud of it,” minseok is looking at jongdae as if he’s suddenly grown a third head, and that would be less puzzling to jongdae than the reality of baekhyun having a story like this he hasn’t heard about.
“when is this supposed to have happened, assuming it wasn’t him having a fever dream or something?” he says, mentally going through every moment in history where baekhyun and taeyeon could’ve been in the same room, trying to place this kiss in a scenario baekhyun wouldn’t have told him about.
“uh, i don’t remember, something like baekhyun having a house party? he was a baby, or at least that’s what he says,” minseok offers innocently, unaware of the switch he’s just turned on jongdae’s head. the house party. at baekhyun’s. the one taeyeon and her hot senior friends had crashed, leaving everyone feeling like whiplash. it had turned baekhyun’s lame get together into the best part of the semester, and they’d been so goddamn ecstatic about it, baekhyun had grinned at everything and everyone. jongdae had felt dizzy just looking at him, and that had been when he’d finally understood that one kiss of theirs at thirteen hadn’t made his stomach squeasy because of it being weird. it’d been the fucking butterflies.
at that same party, baekhyun had kissed kim taeyeon and then he’d never told jongdae about it.
“i gotta go back to work,” jongdae nods to himself, getting to his feet. he feels like he’s been hit by a train, and few things as ridiculous as being this blindsided by something that happened nine years ago have happened to him, but he can’t help it. it makes everything worse, and more confusing, and jongdae’s never let go of the pain he went through that night, so this is just a bit too much for him. “i have to, uh. my office. jungsoo is coming by. i’ll come back later?”
minseok watches him walk out of his office with worried eyes, calls after him telling him to please talk to the others about this, but jongdae isn’t really listening.
he walks past his office, following the sounds of baekhyun’s laughter down the hall until he reaches junmyeon’s office. sehun’s got an entire desk to himself, which would make jongdae furious if he wasn’t too busy feeling a whole other myriad of things right now, and he’s perched on top of it, looking at baekhyun do something on his computer. they both turn to look at him when jongdae walks in, and for half a second he wonders if maybe he should wait until there isn’t anyone else around to bring this up, but then he locks eyes with baekhyun and decides he doesn’t care.
“did you really kiss kim taeyeon at the same party you kissed me?” he asks, and sehun gasps. this was a bad idea. jongdae should turn around and walk away and leave this for some other time, but he’s already said it and baekhyun’s staring at him with his eyes so wide open jongdae can’t stop looking back at him.
“uh,” baekhyun says. jongdae can almost see the little wheels turning frantically in his head, trying to figure out what this has to do with anything, and why jongdae looks so mad about something that happened almost ten years ago. “well, yeah? before you, like, way before. hours before.”
jongdae isn’t sure he can explain why he’s so mad, because baekhyun clearly has no idea how long it had taken jongdae to put his heart back together after he’d smashed it that night. this makes everything worse, but baekhyun might never understand it.
“you never told me,” he replies, trying to sound calm and collected, but he knows he sounds like this is the most tragic thing that’s ever happened to him instead. he can’t help it -- it kind of is.
“there wasn’t much time,” baekhyun raises an eyebrow, like he’s daring him to be mad at him for not finding a moment to let him know he’d kissed someone else while they were in the middle of making out themselves. “you know, since you left and all that.”
maybe jongdae isn’t the only one who never really moved on from that stupid night.
“i just wanted to ask you about that because minseok sort of brought it up,” jongdae says, because chickening out sounds like his best option right now. this is somehow a fresh wound for both of them, and he’s starting to get a bit unsettled by how sehun keeps looking back and forth between the two of them like he’s wishing he had popcorn. “you can go back to whatever you were doing, i’ll leave you two to it.”
“you never told me why you left,” baekhyun says right before jongdae’s turned around, because apparently he doesn’t mind having an audience for this. his voice quivers just a tiny bit, and jongdae has so many regrets in life but digging into his heart and dragging out his biggest, oldest grudge at such an inconvenient time is definitely the worst thing he’s ever done.
“i heard you,” jongdae says weakly. “when your brother came home, and you told him -- i overheard. didn’t really felt like sticking around after that.”
there’s a long silence that stretches on while baekhyun thinks, and of course he doesn’t remember what he said. it didn’t matter then, jongdae doesn’t know why he thought it would matter now.
“i wasn’t talking about you,” baekhyun startles him, and it’s louder than they’d been so far but he looks a little shocked. “oh my god, is that why you left? you thought -- oh my god,” baekhyun gets to his feet, and before jongdae knows what’s happening, he’s being dragged out of the office.
“what the fuck, baek,” he mutters when baekhyun’s closed sehun’s door behind him, because baekhyun is fucking laughing so hard he’s doubled over, and jongdae doesn’t appreciate this situation, not one bit.
“this is so ridiculous,” baekhyun says through his hiccups. “oh my god, i can’t believe it took like nine years for me to find out you’re an absolute idiot.”
“i already feel pretty shitty, but thanks,” jongdae raises his eyebrows, too confused to be properly offended.
“you overheard me tell my brother it’d been fun to try it out but it was never gonna work and you actually thought i could ever say such a thing about you? or like, about boys, when after that i went on to be the gayest kid around?” baekhyun’s still hiccuping, and he’s smiling so big jongdae really wants to catch up and figure out what he misunderstood so he can grin back at him, but it’s just not happening.
“i woke up and you were outside saying those things, of course i thought -- oh, he didn’t know about me, did he,” jongdae says, and now he’s the one with his eyes going ridiculously wide open. “he couldn’t have known, because no one knew, but he knew… he knew about taeyeon,” baekhyun nods vigorously and jongdae isn’t sure if he wants to hug him or go outside and bury himself very deep because he’s truly been an absolute idiot for a whole ten years. “i thought it hadn’t mean anything to you, so i left, and then you never asked me why so i never said anything.”
“this is by far the dumbest thing we’ve ever done,” baekhyun rubs his eyes, wiping the tears that came with laughing so hard. “i kissed taeyeon and everyone was talking about it for days, but i couldn’t have cared less about that because afterwards i kissed you and i knew -- well, i knew i was pretty fucking gay, for one, and i knew i was so into you i’d never get over it, so when baekbeom came asking about taeyeon i just couldn’t bring myself to lie to him about it. i was so excited about you, and us, and then i woke up and you were gone and i felt like dying,” baekhyun doesn’t sound sad now, but jongdae still feels guilt eating at his heart, so he reaches out and grabs his hand. “and then we just kept doing that for years, didn’t we?”
baekhyun lets out a chuckle, but jongdae can’t make himself laugh along. not when he’s going through all those years in his mind, the last of high school, college, all those times he kissed baekhyun when he was a little drunk or too bored or too full of his own feelings to think straight. all those times they hooked up and pretended it meant nothing, that jongdae’s heart wouldn’t turn to dust every time the following morning -- all because one time at sixteen, jongdae had misheard something.
“i figured it was always like that for you, we were friends with benefits or whatever,” jongdae says quietly. “kind of assumed it was still just because there was no one else around and you knew i’d always be willing.”
“jesus,” baekhyun huffs. “i thought you didn’t care, we’re so stupid. so incredibly stupid.”
jongdae looks up at him and he’s hoping to find baekhyun’s eyes sad or something, but instead he’s still smiling at him.
“so did you,” jongdae asks tentatively, though baekhyun is walking him against the wall so maybe he already knows the answer to the question he’s about to ask. “get over those feelings, being into me, i mean.”
“you know i didn’t, you idiot,” baekhyun snorts, and there’s still so much they need to sort out, because there’s still two boys waiting for them at their office, but right now, right here, jongdae lets baekhyun press him up against the wall and kiss him, he lets himself feel sixteen again. “we’re gonna talk about it this time,” baekhyun mumbles against his lips, kissing him again like they’re not in a hallway at their workplace, and it sounds like the promise jongdae should’ve made years ago, but it’s alright. it doesn’t matter how long it took them to get here, the important thing is they made it, and it feels like a step in the right direction.
baekhyun kisses him softly, and jongdae melts into it. they’ve kissed a billion times before, but there was always this sort of dark cloud hanging over them. it’s such a gentle kiss, and yet it’s already the best kiss they’ve ever had. jongdae puts a hand on the back of baekhyun’s head to pull him closer, and sighs a little against his mouth. someone coughs, and they both look to the side before pulling apart.
chanyeol has an unreadable expression on his face, and jongdae’s hand drops from baekhyun’s neck like his skin suddenly burns him.
“jungsoo hyung’s in our office,” chanyeol says, tone carefully kept monotonous.
“ah, right,” jongdae nods, and baekhyun takes a step back, letting him unglue his back from the wall. “i, uh. we’ll talk later, yeah?”
“definitely,” baekhyun smiles at him, but it’s a rather weak attempt at grinning, and jongdae can relate.
kyungsoo watches him walk into the office and doesn’t say a word, but jongdae can feel in the heaviness of his gaze that he knows something’s happened. jungsoo’s waiting at jongdae’s desk though, so they’ll have to talk later. they have to show jungsoo the results from their observations, the ones they did on their trip, and jongdae watches kyungsoo click through the files and can’t help but have flashbacks to every single second of those days together. kyungsoo won’t look back at him, but it’s alright. jongdae’s learned his lesson, and this time, he won’t wait ten years to clear the misunderstandings.
sehun opens the door after jongdae’s left, and looks back and forth between baekhyun and chanyeol, clearly feeling the tension.
“uh, it’s all up and running, thanks,” he tells baekhyun.
“no problem,” baekhyun gives him a thumbs up, and sehun closes the door. baekhyun’s pretty sure he’s got his ear stuck to it, so he makes a gesture with his head and chanyeol nods, following him down the hallway until they are finally out of the building.
“so you and jongdae,” chanyeol starts once they’re far enough from the door, sitting down on the grass. baekhyun drops down in front of him, chewing on his bottom lip.
it’s been a weird day to say the least. the second he’d stepped into junmyeon’s office, sehun had confessed he actually needed help getting skype to work on linux because his boyfriend was visiting his family in china and he was probably going to die if he didn’t get to talk to him soon, so that had killed baekhyun’s hopes of getting to see if his butt was as soft as it looked. he’d kind of expected that though. jongdae bursting in and randomly reliving the most traumatic moment in their ten billion years of friendship -- that he hadn’t seen coming at all.
“it’s not exactly what it looks like,” he says, wanting to look at chanyeol, but he’s busy picking fallen leaves from the ground and staring at them like they hold the secrets to the universe.
“it’s fine if it is,” chanyeol shrugs. “you two probably owe it to each other to give it a shot or something, i guess.”
“maybe,” baekhyun concedes, because there’s a lot jongdae and him owe to each other, but it doesn’t mean this is how it has to be. it doesn’t mean it’s how baekhyun wants it to be, and he’s pretty sure it isn’t how jongdae wants it to be either. “but i could say the same about you and i.”
chanyeol looks up at this, eyebrows raised.
“it’s not the same, you’ve been pining after jongdae since you were twelve.”
“thirteen, actually,” baekhyun corrects him, unhelpful as ever. “but i’ve been pining after you since i was eighteen.”
“you would pine after two boys at once,” chanyeol mutters, going back to inspecting the grass.
“like you weren’t pining after kyungsoo while trying to seduce jongdae,” baekhyun snorts, and chooses not to mention his own stupid lingering feelings for kyungsoo, because he’s sure chanyeol doesn’t need a reminder of that.
“jongdae was trying to seduce me,” chanyeol defends himself, like that somehow makes it better, but baekhyun laughing broke the tension that had built up and chanyeol’s shoulders aren’t set in such a straight line anymore. “man, i have no idea what we’re gonna do about this.”
“me neither,” baekhyun shakes his head, trying to blow the hair that falls on his eyes away from his face. chanyeol scoots up closer and brushes it back for him, and suddenly they are too close. “but something, we have to do something.”
“moving to alaska sounds good,” chanyeol mumbles, pulling away. baekhyun is grateful, he’s still trying to recover from kissing jongdae, he has no idea if he could survive kissing chanyeol right now.
“you know we’d all end up going after you, and it’d be terrible, jongdae would whine about the cold all the time,” baekhyun says, and chanyeol laughs but it sounds hollow.
“i wanna talk about it, and i want us to work it out because we’ve been awkward for far too long,” he starts, and then he pauses, glancing away from baekhyun like he can’t say this while looking at him. “but it scares me. like, the more i think about it, the more i feel like i know how it may turn out, and i’m not sure i like any of the outcomes.”
he does that cracked laugh again, making baekhyun frown.
“don’t be stupid, yeol,” baekhyun says, a bit more aggressively than he intended. “there’s no outcome in which you get left behind, i promise. whichever way we sort this out, no one’s getting hurt.”
it sounds like an empty promise even to his own ears because there’s no way baekhyun can actually know how this will turn out, but it’s ridiculous to even think of a future in which it isn’t the four of them, however combined. chanyeol still won’t look at him though, and baekhyun rolls his eyes, grabbing his chin to force him to turn his face.
“we all did some stupid shit, and swearing to pretend there was nothing going on was by far the dumbest of all our mistakes, but we’re gonna fix it now and fixing it means we make things better,” baekhyun says with as much confidence as he can, staring right into chanyeol’s eyes until it gets weird and he has to look away and let go of his face.
“we really did a lot of stupid shit,” chanyeol says under his breath. “remember that one time you helped me dye my hair and we stained the entire bathroom?”
“i don’t know why you thought i’d be any good at it, but i certainly did not live up to your expectations,” baekhyun laughs, and it’s nice to hear chanyeol laughing along, for real this time.
“it feels like those were simpler times, but they were just as messy, weren’t they?” chanyeol asks, but it sounds just a tiny little bit lighter, and it’s enough for baekhyun to keep on smiling at him.
“messy isn’t necessarily bad,” baekhyun shrugs. “we’ll make it simpler though, you’ll see. there has to be a better way.”
chanyeol nods, looking at baekhyun like he’s once again ready to put too much trust in him. baekhyun can only hope this time, he’ll actually prove himself worthy of it.
(baekhyun and chanyeol become best friends within exactly fifteen seconds of meeting. it’s so easy, they both make the same dumb jokes, they’re both too loud, and they’re both too excited about everything, too willing to go out and learn about the world, crash and burn through shitty choices that leave them feeling exhilarated and ready to jump back into whatever life throws at them.
it’s a bit of a whirlwind, college life and everything it entails, and it takes baekhyun a couple of months to realize something else is going on under their shared roof because he’s so caught up in things happening elsewhere. he notices it eventually, how jongdae bats his eyelashes at chanyeol whenever he has the chance, how chanyeol’s defenses are crumbling. but chanyeol’s straight as a ruler, he said so himself, and baekhyun remembers it vividly because he’d wanted to climb him like a fucking tree the first time he’d seen him and those are some feelings he’s tried very hard to push to the back of his mind ever since. this may have been a mistake, since with all the pushing he neglected telling jongdae about them. not that it would make a difference, because chanyeol is straight, and both him and jongdae are barking up the wrong tree, it doesn’t matter if jongdae knows he’s not the only one doing it.
they go out one night and baekhyun loses them in a crowd. when he texts jongdae, he gets a string of incoherent messages, until his brain puts the pieces together and they make sense. there’s a lot of emojis that make it hard to read, but basically jongdae’s yelling at him about how not even straight boys can resist him and maybe baekhyun can give them another hour before he comes back because jongdae’s somehow convinced chanyeol a little making out between bros isn’t that big of a deal but now apparently it escalated and chanyeol’s having a bit of a sexuality crisis.
it’s a lot to take in.
baekhyun worries for an entire night about how this will change everything, and he realizes jongdae having someone besides him wasn’t something he’d ever considered, but it’s too late to do anything about it. except when they wake up the following morning, the only proof that something happened is how chanyeol’s covered in hickies. but neither jongdae nor chanyeol seem to be willing to talk about it, and baekhyun doesn’t question.
he decides not to question anything, and it works out for him, for a while. when chanyeol doesn’t come home one night and jongdae shrugs it off like he honestly couldn’t care less, baekhyun takes him at face value. it makes it easier the next time he finds himself with a clingy, drunk jongdae trying to kiss him -- he feels less used, even if he pushes him off because everything’s feeling a bit fragile inside and if he’s gonna be kissing jongdae, he needs to know he’s fully aware of what he’s doing too. chanyeol doesn’t say anything when he finds them asleep in the same bed, curled up around each other, and it eases baekhyun’s mind.
eventually, jongdae kisses him sober again when they’re at the movies watching winter soldier for the fifteenth time, and baekhyun kisses him back as eagerly as ever. gifted horse, teeth, he doesn’t remember the saying but he lives by it. it’s never gonna be enough, but he knows jongdae isn’t interested in anything serious, he keeps saying it when baekhyun asks him about the other people he sees him texting. at least he’s not like, secretly in love with chanyeol or something. baekhyun appreciates the little things in life, such as that one.
they never talk about chanyeol, not like that, and the question of why that didn’t work out is always lingering at the back of baekhyun’s mind. he doesn’t dare ask jongdae, but one saturday night he skips a party and ends up hanging out with chanyeol, and there’s a six pack of cheap beer between that helps baekhyun build the courage to ask him.
“i freaked out pretty bad,” chanyeol says, taking another sip of his beer and playing with the ring on top of it until it eventually falls of, right into the can. “he was so nice about it, because he’s jongdae and he’s always nice, but i said i needed some time to figure stuff out so we decided to just, postpone the talking about it, and now it’s been too long i think?”
“i mean, you could totally bring it up, if you wanted to,” baekhyun offers hesitantly, because it’s only been a month or two, and just like chanyeol said, jongdae’s always so nice he’ll be fine discussing it.
“no, i don’t know, i think it’s better like this,” chanyeol shrugs his shoulders. it’s obvious there’s no way it’s better if he doesn’t know where they stand, but baekhyun isn’t gonna push him in that direction. as much as he wants to be a good friend, he’s not quite ready to push chanyeol and jongdae into getting together or whatever, not when he’s obviously never gonna be over jongdae, and he’s not really moved on from his initial crush on chanyeol either. if anything, the more he knows chanyeol, the more his silly infatuation grows into something more solid, no matter how hard he tries to stop it.
“have you, uh. figured out stuff, in the meantime?” baekhyun asks, because he needs to know that much, at least.
“oh yeah,” chanyeol assures him straight away, a bit too quickly even. “i’m definitely bi, that’s -- there’s not much room for doubt there.”
“are you sure you’re not just like, into girls and jongdae?” baekhyun asks with a giggle merely so it’s not too obvious he’s testing the waters.
chanyeol looks at him for what feels like an eternity, and it makes baekhyun’s skin tingle with anticipation though he doesn’t know why. there’s just something in the way chanyeol’s examining him, like he’s the key to the answer to his question, and baekhyun really doesn’t wanna get his hopes up but it might be too late for that.
“no, i -- i definitely like boys other than jongdae,” chanyeol stutters through his answer, but he keeps his eyes on baekhyun, a fierce look on his face like he’s doing the brave thing by not looking away.
it’s almost enough of an answer for baekhyun, but not quite.
“jesus, you’re very bad at flirting,” he says, because it’s always easier to pretend he’s in control of situations, and chanyeol blushes so deeply baekhyun can’t help but laugh a little. “oh, so you are flirting,” baekhyun says, half joking half looking for confirmation, and chanyeol starting to nod is all the motivation he needs to close the distance between them and kiss him.
they settle into a weird routine, but one baekhyun learns to accept. it isn’t so bad, and he’s seen stranger things happen. once baekhyun helps him settle his fears and sucks his dick, chanyeol does indeed talk things out with jongdae, which results in them hooking up again, and from then on it’s just their thing as roommates, sleeping with each other every now and then.
jongdae seems fine with it, he keeps going out with other people too, so baekhyun swallows down those feelings pretty fast, like he’s done his whole life. baekhyun would have to be dumb to complain about having two hot friends he can fuck, and he’s not about to go ruin it with emotions and falling in love and other stupid stuff. this is good, it works for everyone, and if baekhyun’s heart is getting a bit bruised up in the process -- well that’s his own fault, for catching feelings when it was obvious he shouldn’t have.)
the first four years of college, chanyeol shared a tiny room with baekhyun and jongdae. once they graduated and had more time to get side jobs and so on, they’d decided to leave the dorms, and their advisor -- because of course they’d all ended up in the same field, with the same advisor -- had asked chanyeol if he would mind a roommate. it’s been forever since then, and chanyeol can barely imagine living with anyone but kyungsoo by now, even if at first it had seemed like they would never ever get on.
walking into jongdae’s and baekhyun’s apartment though, it always makes him feel a little weird inside. like he missed out on being a part of something by parting ways with them, even after getting a taste and seeing how good they could be together. it was worth it, because it gave him endless chances of getting to hang out with kyungsoo, but still. chanyeol’s never been good with the concept that one can’t have it all.
kyungsoo trails after him, following chanyeol to the living room where baekhyun’s already comfortably sitting on the couch. something smells amazing, and chanyeol doesn’t have to ask to know jongdae’s in the kitchen. it’s already off to a better start than the last time they tried talking about this, because now they are all ready for the conversation, and instead of those cheap pizzas from that awful place baekhyun loves that just refuses to add pineapple as a topping, they’re having a real meal. chanyeol isn’t exactly looking forward to having this talk, but he’s glad they’re doing it under better circumstances at least.
baekhyun’s watching some drama on the tv, and kyungsoo sits on the edge of the couch at first but baekhyun is quick to drag him into cuddling with him. he curls up around him, getting kyungsoo to relax against the back of the couch eventually, and chanyeol smiles at the sight. he can hear jongdae singing while he cooks, so he goes into the kitchen to offer his help only to be put in charge of carrying the already finished meal to the table.
they eat in the living room, jongdae sitting cross legged on the floor because they don’t fit on the ratty couch baekhyun and him brought in from the street three years ago. the tv remains on, so there’s background noise, and eventually jongdae comments something dumb about the leading actor and they all start talking like there isn’t a huge elephant in the room claiming their attention.
it isn’t until kyungsoo’s back from doing the dishes that they actually get to it, but it’s alright. chanyeol’s glad they waited until they all had full stomachs to do this. kyungsoo sits next to chanyeol, and when jongdae clears his throat ready to start talking, kyungsoo puts a hand on chanyeol’s knee like he needs something to hold onto. chanyeol puts his hand on top of kyungsoo’s, and if kyungsoo turns his hand around to link their fingers together -- well, chanyeol isn’t gonna complain about that.
(kyungsoo is the perfect roommate. he pays his half of the rent right on time, helps chanyeol out in the kitchen, never leaves dirty laundry lying around, and he doesn’t mind if chanyeol’s schedule is so fucked up that he always ends up working at four am. he gets on with all of chanyeol’s friends, and though he’d seemed serious at first, it only takes a short period of chanyeol being overly friendly for him to loosen up. the first time kyungsoo laughs at one of his jokes, chanyeol knows he’s fucked, because it’s one of the most gorgeous laughs he’s ever heard and he’s ready to spend the rest of his life trying to make that sound come to life as often as he possibly can.
jongdae teases him about it, and chanyeol rolls his eyes a lot because he’s not ready to admit how whipped he is already. he’s not sure how it will affect everything else either, and giving up baekhyun and jongdae and the bizarre triangle thing they’ve settled into doesn’t sound like something he’s willing to do for now. the way kyungsoo scrunches up his nose when he’s thinking hard is so cute that it’s threatening the balance of things, and chanyeol is scared.
it doesn’t stop him from flirting, because he’s never been good at keeping himself from trying to reach for the things he wants, and sometimes it almost feels like kyungsoo might just be reaching back. they build something together, in all the quiet nights they spend working next to each other in the couch as the months go by, something intangible but solid, and now when chanyeol thinks of kissing kyungsoo, there’s a lot more to it than there used to be when it was just a silly crush. so he doesn’t, because he’s a little scared, and kyungsoo is too shy to make the first move. instead, he keeps going out with baekhyun and kissing him in dark corners of night clubs, pulling all nighters with jongdae that end up with them making out slowly, kissing the sleepiness away.
maybe they could all sit down and think about this, about the mess they’re creating, but there’s so much going on all the time, there never seems to be a right moment. kyungsoo never asks when chanyeol comes home late, so when he starts hanging out at baekhyun’s and getting back even after chanyeol’s already brushed his teeth, chanyeol knows it’s not his business. it feels like kyungsoo might actually fit into their messed up friends with benefits situation just fine. he’s already learned no one talks about it, so he’s got the first rule down. chanyeol isn’t sure that there are any others, or if there are and he’s just not aware of them, but he hopes they can both figure them out together.
chanyeol kisses kyungsoo on a night like any other, in the middle of arguing over filters and colors as they usually do. kyungsoo is in the middle of ranting about the johnson system being outdated and useless for identifying dwarf galaxies, and chanyeol just has to lean in and kiss the words out of him. he’s wearing one of chanyeol’s sweaters that fall almost to his knees, and he looks so tiny and gorgeous with his glasses and his constant waving his hands around to make his point, it’s impossible to resist. kyungsoo gasps, and then he’s kissing him back, and it’s a first kiss that feels like opening up a dam, letting the entire ocean flood in, except the ocean is every feeling chanyeol’s tried to bottle down and can no longer hold back.
they kiss a billion times after that, and there’s entire weeks between that and the moment it all starts to fall apart. it’s stressful, but in a way, they’re the best weeks of chanyeol’s life. he kisses kyungsoo over breakfast, makes out with jongdae when their advisor lets them take a break from the code they’re writing together, and then ends up curling up around baekhyun while they pretend to watch a movie, as if he could ever concentrate with baekhyun kissing his neck like that.
jongdae and him celebrate the code being done by going out, and chanyeol lets jongdae pick their drinks, which means he ends up with way more vodka in his system than he’s used to. it’s a bad choice, and when jongdae tells him between kisses that they can’t go back to his place because baekhyun’s probably still awake, chanyeol makes an even worse choice and leads jongdae back to his.
there’s only one room in his shared apartment, but chanyeol’s brain seems to have completely forgotten that fact as he pushes jongdae against the wall, kissing down his jaw like he’ll die if he doesn’t cover every single inch of skin with his tongue. jongdae’s making all these little sounds, gasping for air and shivering under his hands, and chanyeol wouldn’t be able to think straight like this even if he was sober. he pulls away and jongdae pulls him back in with a hand behind his neck, kissing him aggressively until he’s out of breath and chanyeol needs to get him on a bed.
it isn’t until jongdae’s back’s hits the mattress that chanyeol realizes he’s fucked up. kyungsoo turns on his light and sits up on his bed, rubbing at his eyes sleepily, until he registers what’s happening and stares at both of them like he can’t quite believe the scene before him.
there’s no arguing, because they don’t have a hold over each other, that much has always been clear. they laugh it off, jongdae puts his shirt back on and goes home, and chanyeol mumbles some lame apology to kyungsoo’s back while he pretends to sleep. nothing changes, not really, but it sets something in motion and slowly everything starts to shift.
it’s just that having jongdae breathing heavily under him with kyungsoo staring at him like he’d broken his heart makes chanyeol question all of his life choices. he hangs out with baekhyun to get his mind off things, but when baekhyun leans in to kiss him, all chanyeol can think about is how much he smells like jongdae, how he’s wearing a shirt of his, how they probably were together and that’s why it took baekhyun so long to get here.
it had been a tight balance and now it’s broken, like a balloon made of glass that’s just exploded over their heads, turning their carefully crafted dynamics into a minefield. chanyeol knows they’re all feeling it, even if they won’t say it, he can see it in their eyes when it’s the four of them and the air feels so tense and heavy it’s hard to breathe.
they’re good as a group, and chanyeol misses that so badly, misses being able to hang out and have fun and talk about life and the universe and everything while passing cheap beers around. he just wants that back, they all do, he’s sure of it. it’s why they all agree to it when baekhyun sits them down and tells them they need to fix this. “no hooking up within the gang,” baekhyun says solemnly, and it feels like the only way out of this mess. so they swear on it, and for a while, it works. it really does.)
“i have a solution for this,” jongdae says, and the other three look at each other, ready to groan in unison if he suggests another oath. “after yesterday’s events,” he starts, glancing at baekhyun like anyone has any doubts he means them making out in the middle of their office building, “i talked to han, and he suggested we all stop being idiots, among other things.”
“helpful as always,” baekhyun rolls his eyes, and jongdae tries to kick him but can’t quite reach him.
“he said what we should do is think of like, a magical scenario in which we can get whatever it is we want without hurting anyone,” jongdae keeps on talking like nothing happened, glancing between all of them. “he said we should put that on the table, what we ultimately want, and work from there.”
“okay, that’s not as unhelpful as i expected,” baekhyun says because he can’t ever let anyone bring up lu han without making a biting remark about him and it’s completely unrelated to him being the person jongdae had the closest thing to a serious relationship with outside the people in this room. nothing to do with that. baekhyun wouldn’t hold that kind of grudge, and he’s definitely never felt not even the tiniest bit of jealousy over jongdae remaining such close friends with him even after lu han dumped him for minseok or whatever. he’s never wondered if that was maybe because jongdae still had feelings for him either, honestly, what kind of person would that make him.
“so we should do that, then?” chanyeol asks, chewing on his lip like he’s ready to get into his serious thinking mode.
“it could work,” jongdae says, but he’s hesitant, like he has more to add. kyungsoo nods for him to keep on talking, so he does. “but the thing is -- well, when he said that, i tried doing it myself, just to see if it was possible. it’s really hard to imagine getting some things without hurting anyone, but i kind of realized that wasn’t really what was keeping me from like, choosing one thing i wanted.”
they all know what he’s gonna say next, because deep down, they’ve known it all along. there’s always been only one possible solution to this mess, and it took them some time but what matters is they’ve all come to figure that out for themselves at the same time.
“we’re so good as a group,” kyungsoo says quietly. “i could never choose.”
“maybe we don’t have to,” baekhyun looks at him, then looks at jongdae who’s slowly cracking his serious facade and starting to smile.
“one person can’t date three people at once,” chanyeol says, but it’s a little weak and he’s looking at them like he’s just saying it so they’ll convince him.
“sure, and you’re straight as a ruler,” jongdae rolls his eyes, ignoring chanyeol’s following whine. “the only thing that doesn’t make sense is how much time we’ve wasted when it was so painfully obvious that none of us was willing to either date anyone else, or give up any of us.”
kyungsoo hums thoughtfully, staring at his knees, clearly turning the idea around in his head.
“it wouldn’t be so different from what we were doing before, except this time we wouldn’t be constantly going behind each other’s back, and we could like, talk about our feelings for each other knowing they don’t diminish our feelings for anyone else? if that’s -- uh, if that’s how it is for everyone,” baekhyun says, having started out so confidently and then flickering towards the end as he glances at chanyeol and kyungsoo who are still sort of holding hands.
“i think maybe we should think about that first,” jongdae intervenes. “like, i’m running on the assumption that it is like that for all of us, but i could be wrong. like, i know i’ve been in love with baek here since forever and before that too, but it never got in the way of me feeling strong stuff for chanyeol when we started hooking up -- and then at the observatory, i realized none of those things had stopped me from falling for kyungsoo, too.”
chanyeol snorts, blushing immediately afterwards like he really didn’t mean to do that.
“i’m sorry, it’s just weird to hear it like that, but it’s not that i don’t feel the same way,” he hurries to say, rather apologetically. “it’s always felt like something was broken in me, because people aren’t supposed to fall in love this many times without ever falling out of love? but now it kind of feels like that’s exactly what i was meant to do.”
“me too,” kyungsoo nods, going from looking at his knees to staring at his hand in chanyeol’s. “i was worried, at first, that i’d disrupted things or something when i came here, ruining the good thing you guys had going on for you. but i think maybe we can have something better, all of us?”
“yeah,” jongdae says, and it’s suddenly a bit awkward to be sitting in a circle like that, throwing love confessions all around, but the gigantic mess of feelings they’d been dragging along for so long is finally getting untangled and it feels like getting to breathe again after a long time underwater.
“wait, so let’s get this straight,” baekhyun says, scooting up closer to jongdae. “we’re all agreeing to date, then? all of us, with each other, and as a group or whatever?”
“basically, yes,” jongdae grins at him, and then they both grin at the other two boys as if they could ever say no when they’re both looking at them like that.
“sure,” kyungsoo says, finally breaking out of his serious expression and smiling at them, and it seems to be a breaking point for chanyeol who leans in and kisses his cheek soundly.
“sorry,” he says pulling away, but then it seems to hit him that he can do that now, and he kisses him again. “this is gonna be terrible, isn’t it, being able to kiss after so long?”
he doesn’t get an answer because baekhyun is either kissing jongdae or eating his face, it’s hard to tell with how pressed to each other they are. kyungsoo laughs at his side, and pulls chanyeol towards him again to kiss him on the mouth, though he keeps it gentle.
“wait, come here,” jongdae says, climbing onto the couch and straddling chanyeol. he puts a hand on his chin to pull him away from kyungsoo, and chanyeol can’t pay attention when jongdae is sucking on his bottom lip like that but he knows kyungsoo is kissing baekhyun.
it’s stupidly easy, kissing baekhyun again, even after all these years. he falls onto his lap, jongdae getting to his feet to make room, and chanyeol can’t believe they could’ve been doing this all along.
“fuck,” baekhyun curses under his breath once he’s pulled away from chanyeol, and chanyeol echoes him when he turns to see what he’s looking at. jongdae and kyungsoo have shared the least amount of kisses amongst all of them, but that clearly doesn’t seem to be a problem with how kyungsoo’s threading his fingers through jongdae’s hair to keep him close while he kisses the lights out of him.
“i was gonna ask if this meant we were gonna like, do stuff with all of us because it sounded weird, but,” chanyeol’s voice quivers a little when kyungsoo pulls back and jongdae makes a tiny whimpering noise like he’s not quite ready to let go, dragging him back for another kiss.
“oh, i know,” baekhyun agrees, making himself comfortable on chanyeol’s lap like he doesn’t plan on leaving his spot anytime soon. “we have a lot to explore, clearly.”
jongdae finally pulls away, looking smug but nowhere near as satisfied with himself as kyungsoo does.
“my mom’s gonna be thrilled when i tell her she can stop whining about me never having a serious relationship,” baekhyun sighs happily. “she’s always been torn about which one of you to nag me about, clearly this is what she’s been secretly wanting for me all along.”
jongdae laughs, falling from kyungsoo’s lap and curling up on his side instead. like this, they fit perfectly on the couch, and chanyeol thinks maybe that’s a sign of some kind.
(they were always friends, but the truth is, kyungsoo and jongdae had always been a little more distant than the rest of them. they’d been getting closer before jongdae found kyungsoo on baekhyun’s lap, and the whole waking kyungsoo up by nearly hooking up with chanyeol a meter away from his bed hadn’t really helped either. but they’re friends, kyungsoo’s always been terribly fond of jongdae and his whining, and jongdae is a little smitten by how adorable kyungsoo is, but mostly he admires how much of a hard worker he can be, when the situation calls for it. kyungsoo doesn’t know this, but he’s always felt it in a way, because jongdae’s always so supportive of him, he sometimes even makes kyungsoo believe all the good things he says about him aren’t just out of love. like maybe kyungsoo is actually capable of all the stuff jongdae thinks he excels at.
it’s their first time working together, and it’s a strange territory because their advisor’s asked them to work on a project with some guy too young to have a phd who used to work on planetary sciences but has decided to switch over to clusters. he’s just as in over his head as they are, but he seems to have a lot of trust in them, so when he asks them to take care of the observations by themselves, jongdae doesn’t hesitate to say yes. kyungsoo shoots him a worried glance, but jongdae rolls his eyes and promises him they can do this. it’ll be fine. they’re professionals, and the truth is, they are well more acquainted with this kind of work than jungsoo is.
he reassures kyungsoo so much, and holds his hand when the plane shakes a little while they’re up in the air. his smile is always kind and so, so warm, and if kyungsoo thought he’d gotten lucky they’d cut off all attempts at romance before he could get closer to jongdae and develop stupid feelings, it’s rather obvious now how wrong he was. he never had a shot at not falling for him.)
their advisor gives them a suspicious look at the end of their meeting, and chanyeol is sure she’s finally on to them and thinks it’s a little weird that all her students are dating each other. jongdae says she’s just worried all the hickeys might indicate they have too much free time and she should be giving them more to work on.
baekhyun runs into yixing when they’re walking down the hallway towards their office, and he stops to give him a hug.
“finally got your shit together, huh,” yixing smiles at him, ruffling his hair. baekhyun nods happily, glancing behind his back to see his boyfriends slowing down their pace to wait for him.
“what about you, hyung? any advances in your tutoring?” he asks, waggling his eyebrows at yixing until he blushes and puts his hand on his face to make him stop.
“shut up,” yixing mumbles, but he’s grinning in a way that answers baekhyun’s question easily enough. “go back to your boys, they look like lost sheep without you.”
baekhyun hugs yixing one last time, just so he can have a chance to whisper some encouragement into his ear in case he’s still on the verge about his precious jongin. yixing thanks him by patting his butt, and baekhyun doesn’t miss kyungsoo raising an eyebrow at this.
“you’re cute when you’re jealous,” baekhyun coos when he’s finally caught up with them, and kyungsoo wrinkles his nose.
“i do enough sharing to deserve a little tiny bit of jealousy sometimes,” he mutters, and baekhyun puts an arm around his shoulders to pull him closer, laughing.
they disperse when they get to their office, jongdae immediately rolling his chair to kyungsoo’s desks so they can go over the processed data from their trip, chanyeol stretching his arms and fetching everyone’s mugs to go get some tea while baekhyun scrolls through their workplace playlist until he finds a good girl group song to keep everyone awake and cheerful.
it feels like it always has, with the low hum of their computers as background noise between songs, and their voices speaking about all the same stuff they’ve been talking about for years, sometimes in hushed whispers, sometimes turning into more enthusiastic, louder conversations. minseok walks past by their door, waves and tells jongdae to come have dinner with him and han sometime, and it’s such a regular thursday, it’s hard to believe everything’s changed so drastically since last week.
but jongdae takes advantage of having his chin hooked on kyungsoo’s shoulder to press a kiss right under his earlobe and make him shiver, and chanyeol comes back with everyone’s favorite brand of tea and hands them out with a kiss to each of their mouths, and everything’s kind of the same, but it’s so much better now. the tension’s gone, and all that’s left is this warm, comfortable love they’ve somehow managed to built through all the chaos and drama, and it fills every corner of the office, pushing every bad feeling out of it.
it’s a thursday like any other, except a week ago, jongdae would’ve been wishing he didn’t have to go to his apartment instead of being around the three of them. home used to be here, in this office, but now it’s wherever the four of them find themselves at the end of the day, piling up onto a couch as they were always meant to do.