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and it echoes a spark

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‘Sorry, Minnie. Please feed Toben, I’ll be flying out today. Welcome back. Love you. Yeollie,’ is written on the paper, folded neatly and placed on top of the kitchen table.

Minseok sighs as he reads it, hoping he’d have Chanyeol to greet him when he’d gotten back, but he’d been a little surprised to see Junmyeon standing with the managers at the airport to pick him up instead of his husband, and he had thought maybe that Chanyeol would be at home, getting things ready for his return, but. The house is just as empty as it was the day he’d left the week before, and he knows that Chanyeol is busy. Always so proud of him, for his solo music and his acting and everything in between, but it’s been a while since they’ve seen each other. Even before he had left.

They’d been the first to get married, in the group. A little after Chanyeol had gotten back from his enlistment, in a small ceremony with their families and the other members and their staff. They can’t wear rings, and it had been Junmyeon’s idea, to have each other’s initials tattooed around their ring fingers, print small and in a faint red hue, and Chanyeol had cried, beaming as they’d gotten it done together, his free hand gripping Minseok’s right, and it was their beginning.

They’re happy. They’re stable. It’s been a few years since then, and they’re not quite living a picket fence, babies in cute clothing and happy suburbs life, and he thinks they can never truly have that, they can never go public, not when they’re still promoting as a group, not when progress is slow and acceptance is hard to come by in this country, but they’re happy. But he’d been seeing less and less and less of Chanyeol, and they’re not that kind of couple, attached at the hip and needing each other wherever they would go, but they’d never been distant.

It causes an ache in his chest, but he’s not unhappy. He loves Chanyeol, knows with security that Chanyeol loves him, and that alone had been more than enough for a while. He doesn’t know when it won’t be.

He unpacks, cleans up the small bit of mess he sees in the sink and he vacuums the floors of the thin layer of dust accumulated from lack of disturbance, but the house looks mostly clean, untouched. Achingly empty, unlived.

He refills Toben’s and Tan’s bowls, and sits with them, scratches their backs and pets them and Tan climbs into his lap, curling up and getting comfortable, while Toben lays next to him, resting his head on his thigh. Minseok smiles quietly at them, missing their other dad too much, his chest aching with how much he wants to see him.

‘I’m home. The flight back was okay. Stay safe. I love you,’ he texts Chanyeol when the call goes to voicemail, and he thinks he must still be in the air. He doesn’t, isn’t allowed opportunity to wait for a reply, his phone ringing just as he sends it, and he reads Jongdae’s caller ID off the screen with a bit of a deflated heart.

“Hi, Dae,” he says when he answers.

“How was Beijing?” he asks, and he shrugs a little.

“I saw Yixing, he says he’ll be back soon, after he releases his album,” he says, and Tan purrs as he rubs his belly gently. “He misses everyone. He’s working hard so he won’t miss Soo’s wedding.”

“Ah, he’s running himself ragged,” Jongdae says, and Minseok hums.

“That’s what I said,” he says, “But he seems determined. He’s looking very happy too. It seems like he’ll be settling down too, soon.”

“About time,” he says, and Minseok stays quiet. He and Chanyeol had settled down, had their years, and they’re happy. Watching everyone else around them do it as well, it had been confusing. They’d been happy for all of them, and he knows that he and Chanyeol are strong in their love.

But Minseok starts to think, with how little he’s seen from his husband, that maybe he can’t tell the difference between stability and stagnancy. He’s thinking then that having their happy ending so early, having everything too good, maybe it’s made them. Stop.

“Hey, are you there?” Jongdae jolts him, and he blinks out of his stupor. “I was asking about work. How were the reshoots?”

“They were fine,” he says, and he tries not to think too much. Tries to stay in the conversation. “Editing’s underway. I think, probably before the end of the year, it’ll be released.”

“Feels like you’ve been filming that movie since Gaeul was born,” Jongdae says, and Minseok smiles sadly at the mention of his goddaughter. Knows he has a lot to make up to her, all the time he’s missed. “Keeps asking where you are. Misses the one with the cat eyes.”

“The one with cat eyes misses her, too,” he says, and he makes himself promise to come see her, see Jongdae and his family. “I’ll come by, soon.”

“You should,” he snorts. “Chanyeol’s been coming over a lot. I think she’ll have a new favorite soon, the one with the big ears.”

“I’m still the official godfather,” he says, tries not to sound so put off that his own goddaughter has probably seen more of his husband than he had as of late. “He’s not going to be here for the next week, so she’d better be prepared to get sick of my face.”

“Ah, yes, you’ve reminded me, do you think you can come by tonight?” he’s asking, “because Yeol left one of his notebooks here a while ago? I don’t know if he’ll need it for Japan, but maybe he’ll want it back before he leaves.”

Minseok pauses, not understanding, heart falling. “He. He was there? When?”

“He just left, a little bit before I called you,” Jongdae answers, his voice careful, must have heard the fall in his tone. Minseok feels like he’s being cracked, chipped away at slowly. “Is, is he not going to pick you up now, at the airport?”

“Myeon picked me up, I’m at home now,” he says, and he’s so confused, and he’s angry and hurt and sad. “When did he tell you his flight was?”

“Tonight,” he answers, tone still careful, and Minseok takes the deepest breath. “Wait, Min. Don’t jump into conclusions.”

“He’s lying to me and avoiding me, what do you think I should do?” he says, and his chest is tight with worry. He sighs, tries to calm himself, “I’ll call you later Dae.”

Jongdae is quiet on the other end of the line, and he’s about to hang up when he says, “He’s. He’s not really been himself, Min. What happened?”

“I don’t know,” he breathes, and Minseok realizes just how not okay he is. It’s past being chipped at; he’s shattered, and he thought he’d been holding up okay, thought that they were okay, that not seeing each other as much as they’d used to, it would just pass. He didn’t know that he wasn’t fine.

It’s quiet again, and then Jongdae is saying, “I know you want to look for him. But if you go to him now, if you contact him, you’ll say something you’ll regret.”

He’s completely right, but Minseok doesn’t like it, still. He wants answers, he wants explanations. He wants to see his love and see for himself what’s changed between them. If the love even exists, still.

“Come over now. Bring Toben and Tan, Gaeul wants to see them,” Jongdae’s tone is cheerful, firm and final, leaving no room for discussion, and he knows what he’s trying to do. Knows he’s trying to calm him down, cool his head and give him room to think everything over, and Minseok loves him a lot. Will try to remember to thank him even when he’s on the cusp of being completely devastated over his love not telling him the truth.

So he comes over with the pets, plays with Gaeul and beams at her as they run around Jongdae’s backyard, playing with his dog and his cat and drinking the tea and eating the cakes Jongdae brings out for them. It’s not enough for him to forget what Chanyeol did, but when Jongdae hands him the leather bound diary, a little worn and spine cracked, his heart just simmers slightly, sad but never not fond of his words.

It’s one that Minseok doesn’t remember seeing, and Chanyeol’s accumulated many of these journals in the long time they’ve known each other. It’s not that Minseok’s not allowed to read any of them, but he doesn’t, because some things, he thinks, are for Chanyeol’s eyes only. Up until recently, at least, Chanyeol had always bared a bit of his soul to him, so he’d never had the urge to peek in and read whatever he writes. He doesn’t feel the need, still, even now, but as he traces over the leather, over his name, he feels an ache, unfamiliar up until the last few months, in which it has become something of second nature.

He goes home, leashes Toben up for a walk, and that’s when he decides to call him, hoping he’s calmed enough.

But, Chanyeol’s voice enough is enough to stir the pain again, and it’s heavy on his heart.

“Hello, Minnie?” he says, tired and deep, still soft in the way he’s always reserved just for him. It comforts him a great deal, that though it’s not as bright, it hasn’t changed its tone.

“Hi, baby,” he greets him, because him pulling away won’t change how much he loves him. Just makes it more painful. “You sound tired.”

“Had a long day,” he replies, and Minseok tries his most not to bristle, but.

“I must imagine chasing after a toddler’s made you exhausted,” he says, and he hears the small “oh” he lets out, and he’s a little bothered his voice doesn’t sound as neutral as he’d wanted it to, the edges of it tinged with hurt.

“Minnie-“

“Must have made you tired enough to forget your notebook,” he continues, and Toben whines in front of him, makes him realize he’d stopped walking. “And made you forget to tell me the correct time of your flight.”

“Minnie, I’m. I’m sorry,” he says, and Minseok hears it clearly, knows he’s sincere, and it makes it so much harder to think about. “Baby, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”

“Why?” he says, trying to keep himself moving, but even Toben seems to have sensed how upset he is, and has sat himself down on the street, nuzzling at his knee. Minseok breathes deeply, trying not to be too emotional. “I. I know we haven’t been the same, but we’ve never lied to each other before. I didn’t think we could do that to each other.”

“I didn’t do it to hurt you, I promise,” he says, and Minseok is frustrated and sad.

“How am I supposed to feel about you lying to me and doing everything just so that you wouldn’t see me?” he says, and he can’t remember a time he’d felt so apart. “You’re avoiding me, Chanyeol, forgive me for not being happy about that.”

“Minnie, baby. I, I’m so sorry,” he repeats, and the despair is so clear in his voice. Minseok shuts his eyes, overwhelmed with how much it pains him.

“Can you,” he tries, clears his throat. “Can you just tell me why? Are you unhappy with me, is it something I did?”

“No, no, no,” Chanyeol says, over and over until Minseok can hear the tears in his voice, “It’s not you, Minnie. I love you, I love you, I love you.”

“Then why don’t you talk to me anymore?” he says, and his chest feels tight with it. “I don’t understand. I don’t know what’s happened to make us like this.”

“It, it wasn’t anything you did, particularly,” he says, and he sounds so sad. “We just haven’t been the same.”

“What you’re doing isn’t making things any better,” he says, and Chanyeol sniffs on the other end, signaling his guilt. “How am I supposed to try to work things out with you if you won’t even make the effort to see me?”

“You’ve been away a lot.”

“So it is my fault?”

“No, no, Min, that’s. That’s not what I meant by that,” he says, and Minseok hears how much he wants him to understand. “It’s. It’s given me a lot of time to think about things, about us. About how we’re different, and it’s. It’s been overwhelming. I just wanted some time to stew.”

“So it means that you’ll purposely make Junmyeon pick me up so you can go play with my goddaughter and leave me to look after your dog and not give me a chance to see you before you leave?” he says quickly in a single breath, and Chanyeol sobs on the other end. Minseok feels crushed, to make him sound like this, and he’s angry, but he never wants to make his husband cry, no matter how upset he is with him.

“Please. Read, read the journal.”

“How is that supposed to solve anything?”

“Baby. Baby, please. Please read it,” he pleads, and Minseok is so frustrated, so heartbroken. “I know it’s not enough, but for now. Please.”

“Fine,” he says, biting it out, and he tries not to cry. “Fine, I’ll read it.”

“Thank you, thank you,” he says, and Minseok can hear the sounds of the airport on his end, calls for his flight to start boarding, and he takes the deepest breath, trying not to break down, trying and trying and being given scraps. “I, I need to go-“

“Fine,” he says, his voice still hard, still cold, but he’s not strong enough to keep it that way when he says, “I love you.” Because he’ll never not mean it when it comes to him, he’ll always want to say it, can’t not say it, even if he feels like his world is slowly ending.

“I love you,” Chanyeol says on an exhale, “Minnie, I love you.”

“I’ll see you when you get back,” he says shortly, hanging up before anything else can be said, feeling awful.

Toben whines, pawing at his foot, and Minseok lifts him up into his arms, willing himself not to cry into his fur as he holds him close, for something to do, to not feel so useless, for any flicker of hope to keep burning, no matter how small.

.

‘You’re my favorite person in the world. My world goes so soft with you, and I’m thankful always that you exist, that you tolerate me, that you love me.

But. I feel like the world’s given me too much, and thought that it was enough. That it thought I’d be able to figure everything out once it’s done its job and brought us together .

I don’t know what to do now, I don’t know how to move forward.

I have you. I should be happy.

And I am.

But I don’t know how to make it better for you.’

.

‘I think, especially these days, that you’ve gotten tired. Tired of me, tired of having to keep us afloat.

I know you love me. You never fail to let me know, to let me feel it. I know how hard you’re trying, for me, for us.

I am trying to do better, for you. I want to be so much more for you. I want to give you every bit of love you give me without question, if just to ease your thoughts and make you feel that what you’re doing isn’t going unnoticed, isn’t for nothing. But that’s not how love works, that’s not what it should be about. It should be about us, what I feel for you, what you feel for me.

Please believe me when I say that I love you more now then I have before, that it fills me so much more each day.

But it’s been so hard. And it’s changed us.

I know love will change, that we will change. I didn’t know that it would come so soon, I did not know it would be like this, slow, unexpected, but also natural, like it was just waiting. I thought I would have the chance to try to stop it, but I didn’t even see it coming.’

.

Baekhyun makes him come over a few days after Chanyeol leaves, and it’s then that he knows that it’s spread to the rest of them, that they’re not completely okay. Not that Baekhyun doesn’t force him to hang out, because he always does. It’s that he knows that Sehun and Kyungsoo and Junmyeon are coming over as well, having invited themselves as well in the chat.

They do it on his terms, which he appreciates greatly. Staying in after a dinner of grilled meat, and drinking around the table. Baekhyun’s brought out the expensive whiskey he’s previously said he’d only open in times of dire need, and Minseok knows he’s in for a night.

“Is he cheating on you?” is the first thing that’s asked, after three glasses in and they’ve decided they’re brave enough.

His chest aches, not liking how they would think that Chanyeol could do that. To anyone. To him, most especially, when they’ve been witness to everything they’ve been through.

“No. He’s not,” he says, polishing off his glass, relishing the burn it brings to his chest, his throat. Anything else would be welcome from the constant ache it seems to be feeling as of late.

“Are you cheating on him?”

“I couldn’t,” he says, closing his eyes, his entire self, feeling sick at the suggestion of it alone. “I can’t do that to him.”

“Then what exactly is wrong?” Baekhyun says, wincing and sticking his tongue out at the strong taste of the alcohol. Minseok would have made fun of him any other day, but now. “You’re the model couple, you’re the ones we all wanted to have our relationships be like.”

“And we know you don’t love each other any less,” Junmyeon says, always trying to pull them all together, even these many years later. “So it’s not because you’ve fallen out of love.”

Minseok breathes. “He’s my world.” His eyes sting. He distracts himself by filling his glass, taking a deep swig, wanting to feel something else, anything, as long as it wasn’t this hurt.

“Well, that’s not going to make things easier for him,” Sehun says, and it’s quiet, straightforward. They all look to him, and Minseok feels it, like a punch to his gut.

“I don’t understand,” he admits, and Sehun’s eyes on him are kind, maybe a little exasperated.

“It’s Chanyeol,” he says, as if that explains anything.

And, in that moment, it does. And Minseok feels like crying, because it’s taken him so long to realize.

Chanyeol would go to every length to make any of them happy. It’s simply the kind of person he was, and they’ve tried to shield him from getting hurt, from being taken advantage of, because his heart was too kind and people didn’t treat kindness fairly.

He’d forgotten, because it was him. Minseok’s the one he loves, so of course Chanyeol would work even harder to try to make him happier, to make things better for him. Along the way, he’d gotten overwhelmed.

Minseok hadn’t even noticed that it had gotten too much for him.

He lays his head in his hands, shoulders shaking, and he didn’t think he could get even more shattered.

“It’s not your fault,” Kyungsoo says gently, kindly, sincerely. “These things, they will happen naturally for any couple. But you two have always been stronger than this. It will pass.”

He doesn’t quite cry, but he feels like he’s choking, like he can’t breathe and there’s a weight on his chest, heavy and unyielding. He should have known better.

“You don’t have to know what he’s thinking all the time, you know,” Sehun says. “You’d go crazy trying, especially with someone like Chanyeol. Marriage isn’t about telepathy or guesswork. You’re supposed to talk about your problems. You two, you’ll be okay. We know you will.”

“Then why, why do I feel like. I’ve done everything wrong?” he asks mostly to himself, and the rest of the room goes quiet. He’s devastated. “He won’t even look at me, these days.”

In hindsight, he knows this is just like any other problem a normal couple faces. Even maybe considered a small one, one that wouldn’t be seen as a big deal, just a bump in the road.

But they’re not a normal couple, not with their careers, not with the kind of attention they get on a normal basis, not with the circumstances of their friendship, the way they’d gotten to know each other. They’re not even afforded the small miracle that is being able to be open, public with their affection. Chanyeol is his soul, and they’d risked everything to be together. He would do it all again in a heartbeat, for every pain, because he was worth it.

But it makes it hurt, all that much more.

Nothing else is said, and it’s because of the many years of friendship that he’d able to recognize it’s on Junmyeon’s shoulder he’s being pulled into, and he leans, breath leaving him in shudders, emotion overtaking him.

.

‘I believe our love is strong. I believe that I will never love anyone as much as I love you.

It’s a scary thought.’

.

‘I want everything too much. I want the world for us, I want to give you everything and more, I want you to have the best life you can possibly have.

I didn’t know it would leave me feeling empty, when I couldn’t give that to you.’

.

‘I remember when I’d first fallen in love with you.

It was just another day, and we had dinner at home, and everyone else had gone to bed, but I wanted to drink. You stayed, and held out your hand for me to hold when all my words left me when I looked at you and I suddenly couldn’t think of anything else but how soft your smile was.

I remember the when and how, so clear and sure, and I did not question it. I just knew that I had loved you, the brightness in my heart something I could never forget.

I love you. I love you.

I’m sorry for not tending to your flame, the way you have mine. I’m sorry.

I love you.’

.

Minseok steps in, locking the door behind him, and he pauses.

He knows he’s here.

He breathes deeply, and stares at the ceiling, already overwhelmed. He steels himself, toes off his shoes, and walks in, thumbing his ring finger and tracing over the PCY inked on him for life, on his skin, in his heart.

Chanyeol’s hair is fluffy, standing on all ends, and there are rings under his eyes, showing his exhaustion, his lack of sleep, and Minseok knows that he is probably the same, his battered heart and full mind not giving him much respite.

He’s smiling softly, one hand rubbing Toben’s belly and the other scratching Tan behind the ears, and Minseok aches with how much he’s missed him. How much he loves him.

“Hi,” he says quietly, sounding too loud in the silence of the room.

Chanyeol looks up, eyes wide, and he’s standing then, and he looks at him, unsure and the love clear in his gaze. Minseok’s heart hurts, looking at him.

“Hi, baby,” he greets, and Minseok tries not to break down at the softness of his voice.

“I’ll. I’ll make you some tea,” Minseok says, looking at the ground, making to move away to the kitchen. “I know you must be tired-“

“Minnie,” Chanyeol says, and he sounds pained. “I know you want to talk.”

“I really don’t know if I still want to,” he says, and he looks up. Chanyeol’s eyes are already shine, mouth set in a thin line, as if to stop himself from crying. “I don’t know what you want.”

“I want you.”

He huffs out a breath, frustrated. He turns away, going to the kitchen, needing to think. Chanyeol doesn’t let up, follows him, and Minseok doesn’t want to lash out at him. He’d thought that he’d be calm enough that this wouldn’t happen, when Chanyeol would come back and he’d see him again, but his hurt isn’t as healed as he had thought it was.

Maybe it’s really just Chanyeol’s effect on him, frustratingly present, always intense, always having such a hold on his heart.

“I’m sorry,” Chanyeol says, his breath short and choked. Minseok can’t look at him. “I’m sorry. I was just. I was so confused, because we’d changed, and I wasn’t prepared.”

“So I suppose the solution was to avoid me,” he says, and he wishes his voice had more fight in it, but now. He’s just tired.

Chanyeol stays quiet, sniffing. Minseok stares at the ground, feeling insufficient, completely not enough.

“Did you read it?” he asks, and Minseok nods.

Back to front many times over, fingers tracing over the words he’d written, trying to understand, trying to know what went wrong between them. Getting his heart broken, many times over, because he couldn’t.

“I’m not asking you to pay me back for everything I’ve done for you,” he says, his hands balling up into fists, trying to get a grip on himself. “That’s not how love works. That’s not why I do it, I do those things because I love you.”

“I know,” he answers, and Minseok knows he doesn’t.

“Chanyeol,” he says, breathing deeply, “all I want from you, is you. To talk to me, to tell me about your troubles, to tell me when you’re not happy. When you, when you don’t feel the same way about me, anymore.”

Chanyeol stares at him, his eyes wet and shining, and Minseok feels like crumpling to the ground.

“Do you really. Do you really still love me?”

Chanyeol breaks.

“Of course,” he says, and the tears are falling onto his cheeks, his mouth trembling. “I meant it, every time I wrote it, every time I’ve said it. I love you. I love you so much.”

“Am. Am I too much for you?” he asks, and it’s so hard, keeping himself in check. To not cry. “Because, I know I can be a lot. If, if I’ve overwhelmed you or made you feel less, I’m sorry. I’m always too much.”

“No, you’re never too much,” Chanyeol says, shaking his head, his face a mess, and Minseok thinks he’s beautiful all the same. “It’s not you. You could give me everything and I’ll always want more because I’m selfish that way. I just didn’t think it would hurt so much, to not be able to give it back the way you deserve.”

“I’m not asking you to,” he says, and he’s battered and bruised. “All you have to do, is be you. Love me in the ways you can. That’s all I want. That’s always been more than enough.”

Chanyeol cries silently in front of him, open in his sadness. “I feel like. Like it hasn’t been enough, for us. Like it can only get us so far.”

“What are you saying?”

His lip quivers. “I don’t recognize us anymore. I. I don’t know, I didn’t know that we could change this much.”

Minseok pauses, his heart heavy, his chest crushed. The kettle whistles in front of him, and he can barely move to turn it off. He makes himself stand firm, despite the overwhelming urge to collapse.

"Chanyeol, do you," Minseok breathes, pauses, and he can't look his husband in the face, feels like he's falling apart, knows it will get worse when he sees those eyes, shining, a wealth of sadness. "Do you want to break up?"

He hears a choked breath, a sob. "No," his voice is small, so hurt and devastated just at the suggestion, and Minseok squeezes his eyes shut, breathing hard, because he had caused that pain. "I'll always want us."

Minseok’s breath leaves him in a shudder. He looks at his husband, whose tears flowing freely and not stopping as his chin is tilted down to his chest, shoulders shaking as he cries and cries. He comes forward, pulls him in, and Chanyeol goes easily, clinging and tucking his face in his neck, getting him wet, but Minseok just holds him tighter, hopes his love seeps through his clothes, into Chanyeol’s heart.

“I don’t want to give up, I never will,” he’s saying into Minseok’s neck tearfully, wrapping his arms around him, trying to get closer.

“Then. You can’t keep doing this. We have to talk, even if it’s hard. We have to work together,” he says, his lips soft against his cheek, trying to stay gentle and tender. “We’re going to change, that was always going to come. But it doesn’t change how much I love you. I hope it’s the same for you.”

He feels Chanyeol nod, clutching on to him, and Minseok holds him, focusing on him, trying to give him the last bit of strength he has. Doesn’t quite matter if there’s nothing left for himself, he doesn’t care. He’ll always put him first, and he’ll do it without question.

Chanyeol kisses him, and it’s wet, messy, but Minseok melts under him anyway, letting him guide their mouths and letting him take and take, take his comfort and love and assurance, whatever he needs.

He licks into his mouth, and his hands cup his face, and Minseok lets him hold him. Reaches up, finds his hand, and thumbs over the KMS on his ring finger, hoping it still holds meaning, hoping it’s still important, still treasured.

Things go about very gently that night. Quiet, tender and so, so soft, making the ache in his chest amplified as he hovers over Chanyeol, opening him up with his fingers and his husband gasping and whimpering into his mouth, each sound he makes sweet, almost an unbearable flinch on his heart.

It’s been some time. Not that they haven’t been sleeping together, not that they haven’t been touching each other, but. It’s been awhile, since it’s been so intimate, so close, so achingly tender.

Chanyeol pulls him close, arms wrapped around his shoulders, legs tangled around his waist, his cheeks wet as he breathes, his face tucked into Minseok’s neck as he’s fucked with slow, long, thorough thrusts, and his touch feels like fire on Minseok’s skin, the softness of his fingers as they glide across his back, down his arms, on his face, making his breath stutter and his heart pound painfully with how gentle they are, how precious they make him feel.

Chanyeol’s mouth never strays far from his, and they swallow each other’s sounds, sharing air, and each time his lips skim over his husband’s, his chest tightens, his eyes sting as he tries to fuck it out of him with a harder roll of his hips, and it’s an endless cycle, one that shatters him from the inside out. He wants him to feel cared for, treasured, loved in every way he can. The words won’t leave his heart, overwhelmed, so Minseok does his best to show it through his body, with each push, with each kiss, with each motion.

He makes him come with his name a gasp on his lips, body trembling as he clings to him, his ass clenching around him and Minseok shuts his eyes, overwhelmed, lets Chanyeol murmur the sweetest, loving words into his ear, lets him touch and lets him make him come inside him, and Chanyeol takes it all, willing, finally with him, after what feels like too long.

Minseok barely holds himself together, breathes and breathes until he’s sure the tears won’t leak from his eyes, keeping his face hidden in Chanyeol’s neck. He doesn’t know if Chanyeol mistakes it for him being wrung out and sated, catching his breath, but he’s held with aching closeness, fingertips seeping care and love into his skin, and it makes it so much harder to find his breath.

He pulls back slowly, and Chanyeol greets him with a soft kiss that makes his entire body sting, and he knows they’ll be okay, he knows that they love each other and they’ll work hard, but it still hurts. It’s still an unbearable ache that makes the warmth Chanyeol gives him feel. Undeserved.

.

He wakes the next day with Chanyeol curled into his body, long limbs trying to fit themselves comfortably and closely, and Minseok looks at him, committing him to memory. He looks especially young in his sleep, the slope of his nose and his jaw sharp, his closed eyes and lips soft, plush, lovely and Minseok’s chest hurts. His skin glows with the morning, and Minseok traces the tattoos on his arms, once jarring many years ago, now familiar and giving him every hope of home.

He touches him tenderly, fingertips skimming over skin as it glides over his body, across his back and his torso, and Chanyeol barely stirs, nose scrunching up but he shuffles closer, curling in and looking so precious. Minseok falls in love, again and again, the sensation taking hold of his heart, as it always does, with everything Chanyeol does.

He breathes, forces himself to sit up, and he wipes his face with a tired hand, and his chest is battered with how hard his heart has been working to keep himself together.

He puts on boxers, goes down to the kitchen to make breakfast, try to keep some semblance of stability, and he makes the pancakes and fruit in silence. Tries to keep his head full of other things, tries and tries and Chanyeol won’t let him.

He eyes the initials of his ring, and he will always fight for him. Will always want them, too. But it doesn’t stop him from getting tired.

“Minnie?”

He looks back, and Chanyeol is ambling down the stairs, walking to him and rubbing at his eyes sleepily, shirtless and sleep pants on, hair all over the place, and Minseok smiles, the curve of his mouth a little pained.

“I was going to bring this up to you,” he says, and Chanyeol blinks at him for a moment, before he’s shuffling over, and he embraces him fully, closely, and Minseok stills.

“You looked cold,” Chanyeol mumbles, pulling him in, kissing his cheek, and Minseok wills himself to relax, hold him in return, kissing over his heart. “Cooking shirtless? You know my weakness for you in lack of clothing and making food, how lovely.”

Minseok smiles at him gently, squeezes his hip. “This will be done shortly. I’ll bring it over to the table, go sit.”

Chanyeol blinks at him again, eyes large and studying him, and Minseok turns away before he can get much in, stirring the honey and strawberries in the small pot, and flipping the pancakes over. He hears Chanyeol move away, plates and utensils being brought out of drawers, the table being set, and he focuses on piling the pancakes on a plate, pours the syrup into a bowl, and when he turns to the table, Chanyeol’s sat down, bent over as he scratches Tan behind the ears, their cat purring and curling its tail around his ankle.

His heart hurts, and he knows he should be happy, because they’ve had their talk, they’re fixing things. He shouldn’t have to feel so broken, and yet.

“How was Japan?” he asks as casually as he can manage as soon as he’s seated and there’s food on both their plates.

Chanyeol lights up at him, and recounts the work he had done, the places he had gone to, still something new to discover about his favorite place even after the many years of going there. He tells him about the deer he’d fed, the old man in traditional wear that had helped him with directions, all the food he had eaten, and how “I’ll bring you there too, Minnie, you would love the cake-”

Minseok listens to it all, watches him as they eat and his grin is so wide, so lovely, and Minseok loves every bit of him. He stays quiet, mostly, but he doesn’t shy away when Chanyeol reaches over, runs his fingers over Minseok’s knuckles, his fingers, the letters representing his name and his place in his heart permanent with fine print and red ink.

It makes him ache with want and sadness that he still doesn’t understand, and he feels stupid for feeling it in the first place.

He stands to clean up, but Chanyeol shakes his head, protesting loudly and with the cutest pout on his face, and Minseok has to look away, can feel himself breaking.

“No, I’ll clean up, you’ve done too much already,” he says, and Minseok is almost envious, that he seems back to himself immediately, and he doesn’t harbor any sadness or anger towards him, it’s just. He wants to move on, like Chanyeol can, the way he seems to be doing now, he wants that free-spirited heart and not let this weigh on him anymore, he wants to be in love and make their life together and he feels like he’s being overdramatic for no reason.

“Minnie, baby, let me,” he’s saying, taking the plates from him, and Minseok takes the deepest breath, getting a hold on himself, and smiling. It feels foreign on his face, but he kisses Chanyeol’s cheek with every sincerity.

“Okay, thank you, Yeollie,” he says. “I’ll take the first bath, hmm?”

“Okay,” Chanyeol smiles quietly, kissing him gently once. He pulls back, and Minseok watches his eyebrows furrow slightly, watching him, trying to gage him. “Baby. Are you okay?”

“Yeah, why wouldn’t I be?” and he asks himself the same thing, quietly. He smiles again, trying to reassure him, because this was supposed to be fixed. They’d done their talking, and it should be okay, and he’ll get over it, has to. He kisses his cheek again, pressing into the dimple, and he leaves, goes back up the stairs to their room.

He takes a moment to breathe in the bathroom, and he looks at himself in the mirror. He’s relatively unmarked, as far as morning afters go; usually he comes out more bruised, more scratched with Chanyeol, but last night had been so soft, so gentle. He looks normal, and there’s a storm inside him, making him battered, tired, devastated.

He gets under the spray of the shower, and tries again to not think of anything, keep his mind empty and focusing on the water running down on him, imagining it soaking him to the bones, cleaning him and washing away his unwanted emotions.

A knock on the door jolts him from his empty thinking, and he shakes the water from his eyes, and he clears his throat, saying, “Yes?”

“Minnie, you’ve been in there for over half an hour,” Chanyeol’s voice comes through, and Minseok blinks, not even realizing the pruned state of his fingers from how long he’d been under the water.

He swallows, says, “Sorry, do you need it? I’ll just finish up.”

“I - okay,” Chanyeol says, and he tries not to read too much into his pause. Washes up and gets out, towelling off and steeling himself at the door, wrapping the towel around his hips.

He walks out with a small smile, and Chanyeol is standing right by the door, expression confused, concerned. Minseok touches his stomach, smile growing slightly, and he says, “All yours.”

Chanyeol blinks at him, but he walks away to their shared walk-in, pulling out a set of clothes that he doesn’t put much thought to, and he only registers that he’s not alone when a pair of arms come around to wrap him in an embrace, and he stills.

“Yeollie?” he says, and Chanyeol’s chest is warm against his back, his whole body pressed right up against his even though he’s not quite dry. “What is it?”

“Are we okay?” Chanyeol’s voice is quiet, tender and aching. Minseok’s heart breaks.

“We are,” he replies, running his hands over his arms. They are. It’s his problem that needs to be fixed, and he doesn’t want to bother him more than he already has. Doesn’t want to put him through another emotional tornado that will just make him feel worse. “We’re okay.”

Chanyeol doesn’t let up, hugs him closer. Minseok closes his eyes, gives them a moment to just be. Takes it in, and Chanyeol’s lips are soft on his shoulder, the touch innocent, loving, and Minseok pulls at everything, doing the most he can to not break down.

He swallows, musters up a smile as he turns to face Chanyeol, kisses him gently. “I’ll go get dressed.”

He walks away before anything else can be said, and he goes over to their bed, still unmade from the night before, and it makes his breath catch as he stares at the covers for a moment. His chest shudders, and he forces himself to move, pulling on bottoms, a dark pair of jeans, and he’s putting his arms through the sleeves of a button-up when the silence is disturbed again.

“I’m sorry.”

He turns, and Chanyeol is looking at him, eyes determined, genuine and sincere, bright but strong.

Minseok blinks at him, not understanding. “What for?” he tries, smiling as he sits on the edge of the bed, pushing the flaps of the shirt closer together to start buttoning up. “We’re done with this. You’ve already apologized. It’s okay.”

He barely gets one button done when Chanyeol says, “When I was pulling away and wanting you more and more but feeling guilty about everything, I wasn’t here. I, I wasn’t here, for you, when you were falling apart.”

Minseok’s fingers slip on the next button, and he breathes hard, blinking and blinking, and the words hit him unexpectedly, making him ache all over. His eyes sting, and he hates, hates, this feeling.

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry I didn’t see it until now, how much pain you’re in,” Chanyeol says, quiet despair in his stable, steady voice.

Minseok’s chest feels stabbed, and he leans forward, elbows on his knees, and he stares at his lap, not making a sound, and the tears finally run, after weeks. It’s so, so painful.

He doesn’t move, not even when Chanyeol comes to kneel in front of him, his hands tender on his, holding him, and Minseok cries, cries harder though he makes no excessive sound, but his whole body shakes with it.

“What,” his words come out in gasps, and he tries to speak, “What did I do, to make us change? What changed? What did I do?

“Min, no,” Chanyeol says, voice soft, sounding near tears as well. “We changed because that’s what time does. It wasn’t anything you did that made us change, but. You did everything, Min. You fought harder and harder and I was banking on that to save us. This happened because I didn’t work as hard as you did. I’m sorry.”

Minseok shakes his head, and he doesn’t know how he’s crying so much, but Chanyeol holds him steadily, his touch so painfully gentle, warm. “I’m sorry,” he says, hating how his voice trembles. “I, I know this wasn’t the life you asked for.”

“I didn’t ask for any life, except for one with you in it,” Chanyeol says, and Minseok lets out a sob.

“It’s not the one you deserve.”

“It’s better than the one I deserve,” Chanyeol says, and Minseok is shaking his head, but he goes on, “I don’t deserve you. I don’t deserve someone who’s worked so hard for us, but I’ll work to deserve you. I’ll work hard for you too.”

Minseok cries harder, until his lap is wet, his jeans stained with tears, their hands wet with it. Chanyeol just holds on tighter. “You’re not happy.”

“I am happy,” Chanyeol says, sincerity lacing his words. “I, I know that my distance might not make it look that way. But I am so, so, so happy. I married my dream boy, and we’re building a life together. Even though it’s hard, even if it wasn’t what we expected, it’s still ours, and I wouldn’t ask for another life. I hate that what I did made it seem like I wasn’t. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”

Minseok can’t stop shaking, can’t stop crying. He makes himself look at his husband, and Chanyeol’s eyes are shining, but he’s not let the tears fall, staying steady for both of them. Minseok loves him so much, but. “I’m. I’m not the same, I know I’m not the same as I was when you married me. I’m not that dream boy anymore.”

“And?” Chanyeol says, and his smile is so soft, only for him. Minseok trembles as he raises a hand to wipe at his face carefully, lovingly. “I’m not the same, either. I know this isn’t the dream you had for us. But. Dreams change. It doesn’t mean I’ll stop chasing them, trying to make them happen, even though they look different.”

Minseok stays quiet, just looks at him as the tears go on, falling down his face, and Chanyeol looks more in love than ever. His chest aches with all of it.

“Baby,” Chanyeol says softly, and it’s tentative, strong. “I know that I messed up. I know. But, I’m trying, and I’ll keep trying. I’ll never, never, not want us. I’ll always want my future with you. But, I’ll understand if. If you’re tired of trying to make us work.”

Minseok’s breath leaves in a shudder, and he shakes his head, because no. “I won’t, I won’t get tired of trying. But, I just. I don’t know if my trying is enough, anymore.”

“Then it can’t just be you trying,” Chanyeol says. “I’ll try hard, too, this time. Do you want us? Do you want to try?”

He looks at him, and his gaze is steady, silent, saying everything, and Minseok knows this will be hard. But, his love is sure. Chanyeol’s love for him is sure, and they have fought so, so hard for them. He loves him so much.

“I want to. I want to try,” he says.

Chanyeol smiles, and that’s when a tear runs down his cheek, sinking into his dimple.

“That’s all I need to hear,” he says, and he leans in, resting his forehead against his, and Minseok breathes, the pain not fully gone, but warmth and love alleviating it, making it easier, and he pulls him in, embracing him, melting into his husband’s hold.

Chanyeol reels him in, pressing his lips to his cheek in a long, genuine kiss. Minseok lets himself live in it, and things will be difficult, things won’t be easy.

But their love was hard to find, and he would never tire of having it, never tire of being in love with him, of being loved.

.

It gets easier. It’s slow, not without its bumps, but it does get easier.

Chanyeol tries, as he’d promised, and he doesn’t get it right all the time. When he doesn’t, they cry, they fight and argue, but they talk about it. When he gets it right, it sparks every hope in him, in them both, and it keeps them going, and going, until those right moments become normal, continuous, but no less celebrated.

Minseok works hard too, getting over himself and actually talking about what he feels, meets Chanyeol in the middle.

It’s worth it all. New dreams, this life they’re making together, and then. Minseok doesn’t even realize it, but.

It’s in the middle of breakfast one day, when Chanyeol’s bent over and trying to sneak Toben a bit of his fruit and beaming, conspiring with their dog as if Minseok couldn’t see them, Tan judging them silently from Minseok’s side of the table, content with the milk on a small bowl, and it’s then that he realizes.

Home. Happiness, love, all contained in the man in front of him, now trying to feed Toben some of his pancakes in secret, and this is all he wants.

They’ll change, they will continue to do so. But the love, he knows, will remain, maybe changing on the surface, but steady, present always.

Chanyeol glances at him from the corner of his eye, and Minseok rolls his own, smirking at the laugh he lets out, leaning down to mutter into Toben’s floppy ear.

Home, happiness, love. He’s grateful, so, so happy.