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Aestiferous

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"Baekhyun, here!"

 

Baekhyun looked around to spot where Jongdae’s voice was coming from. A smile broke out on his face when he saw him in one corner of the restaurant, waving crazily from his seat amongst the rest of the academy’s teachers. The seat right in front of him was empty, the one on its right occupied by Chanyeol who turned around at that moment. His wide eyes widened even more as he seemed to realize that Jongdae wasn’t joking around and that Baekhyun was indeed walking towards them.

 

It was a nice restaurant, one designed to accommodate large groups of people. Their table was already garnished with all kinds of delicious foods, set for barbecue, with bottles of soju and cider. Baekhyun supposed they were all comfortable with each other enough not to push themselves to consume alcohol if they didn’t feel like it without it seeming rude.

 

He weaved through the different tables and when he reached them, Chanyeol was still looking at him in surprise, his eyebrows raised and eyes still widened. He had a cap on, worn backwards, along with yet another hoodie that seemed new since Baekhyun had never seen this one before. He looked youthful and adorable.

 

"I’m here for Jongdae, not for you," he said with a faux disdainful expression before smiling again as he bowed and greeted everyone else around the table.

 

He recognized Seungwan who was sitting right next to Jongdae and directly across Chanyeol but the four other people around the table were unfamiliar to him, save for a few glimpses caught in the academy’s hallways. He settled in next to Chanyeol and felt the curious gazes on him, their weight not making him feel ill at ease.

 

"You plotted this behind my back?" Chanyeol asked Jongdae, voice a bit higher than usual and that same surprised expression still etched on his face. He looked utterly betrayed and even a little flustered, as if he hadn’t expected this at all.

 

It was almost satisfying, after what had happened on Wednesday. Baekhyun still felt mortification hitting him sometimes as he remembered the whole situation and how he had lost his entire composure.

 

"Don’t talk as if I stole him from you, I just invited him to dinner," Jongdae snorted, giving Chanyeol a look.

 

The latter grumbled under his breath, the tips of his ears going red in an obvious sign of embarrassment. Baekhyun felt fondness flowing through him as he watched him take his cap off and run a hand through his messy hair to push it all back before putting the cap back on again. Chanyeol seemed to feel his gaze on him but when he looked back and their eyes met, the surprise and the embarrassment on his face was swept away by a joyful smile.

 

As is turned out, only two of the other strangers occupying the table were teachers at the academy. Soojung, who was sitting directly next to Seungwan, gave flute and violin classes, and the young woman sitting across from her was her best friend, Amber. Next to Soojung was Yixing who gave piano, guitar, and vocal lessons which seemed to be his favorite thing to talk about since that was the subject of a heated conversation between him and the young man sitting across from him, Jinyoung, another one of Soojung’s friends. They were all friendly and the food was nice, Baekhyun still struggled a little from time to time with wrapping his meat with perilla leaves but it would be a lie to say that he wasn’t doing it on purpose to see if Chanyeol would treat him the same way as usual even in front of his friends. He did. It earned him a few curious looks from everyone, especially Jongdae and Seungwan who kept eyeing him and then meeting each other’s gaze as if they could communicate through their eyes alone. Baekhyun noticed that they were sitting close together.

 

It was a homey kind of dinner. Different from the company dinners Baekhyun sometimes had to go through at 4C where everyone was from the corporate world, introduced themselves with their occupation rather than their name, and talked about work more than themselves. Here, Baekhyun talked to Amber about video games and to Jongdae about music, Seungwan and Soojung talked about the latest drama they were watching together, fawning over the handsome main character. Jongdae kept intervening each time, telling Seungwan that he too would be nice enough to hold an umbrella over his partner’s head if it were raining.

 

Chanyeol joined in all kinds of conversations, talking with Yixing about a particular student who had trouble speaking but enjoyed piano more than anything else, leaning over the table to talk to Jinyoung since Amber was sitting between them. He made sure that Baekhyun had everything he wanted to eat and Baekhyun put particular care into reminding him to eat and not only talk. He was aware that everyone was probably watching him and that this was some kind of test to see if Baekhyun fitted with Chanyeol, as a friend or more.

 

Either way, Baekhyun liked this intimate atmosphere, the white noise of the meat grilling from their own table and surrounding ones, the hushed conversations and loud laughter from other patrons, and the way everyone smiled at each other, so familiar and comfortable. He didn’t feel out of place even for a second. On the contrary, despite this being a fairly unfamiliar situation to him, Baekhyun felt like everyone was doing their best not to make him feel left out, especially Chanyeol. The tips of his ears remained red for a short while and Baekhyun didn’t miss the glances he exchanged with Jongdae.

 

"It’s nice to finally meet you for real," Seungwan said about halfway through the dinner, when Baekhyun had probably answered a dozen questions about his life and earned approving nods from everyone around the table.

 

"Right?" Jongdae said, looking at her once. His voice was still drawling out when he looked at Baekhyun again. "Chanyeol always keeps you to himself like you’re some kind of treasure but also always talks about you so we all kind of grew curious."

 

Chanyeol remained silent at that, munching on his beef almost grumpily as he glared at Jongdae whose amusement seemed to grow at the sight. Baekhyun nudged him, wiggling his eyebrows in a way that made almost everyone laugh.

 

"You two plotted behind my back anyway," was the only thing Chanyeol huffed and Baekhyun laughed.

 

"Well, I’m nothing special. Just me.” But he was glad Jongdae had taken this initiative, it allowed him to see how Chanyeol behaved amongst friends and it felt like a treat so far.

 

"Nothing special?" Soojung perked up from her seat. "Every time I catch a glimpse of you, you look so nice. With perfect clothes, perfect hair, and even the way you walk is perfect. That’s some special talent, according to me," she said, shoving a few bean sprouts into her small, pretty mouth afterwards. 

 

Baekhyun carved his lips into a smile. "Thanks."

 

"While you’re here, you should tell me exactly how you do that. I need to learn," she chuckled and maybe she had a bit too much soju already, her cheeks were a little flushed.

 

Baekhyun hummed in thought for a few seconds. He let his eyes trail over her features and she seemed to understand the jest behind it because she started batting her lashes at him and making various poses.

 

"If this is how you look when you’re not perfect, I don’t think you should try harder unless you want to hurt us."

 

She laughed at that and everyone booed collectively, Jongdae acting as if he was puking while Yixing looked at him with a rather impressed expression. 

 

"He does this sometimes. Don’t mind him," Chanyeol shook his head, giving him a look with his unimpressed, narrowed eyes. Baekhyun smiled at the faint unfamiliar note in his voice. 

 

Maybe it was something close to jealousy.

 

There were only a few pieces of meat left on the grill and Chanyeol asked if anyone wanted more only to order another serving before anyone even had the time to answer.

 

"I heard you’re stopping classes?" Yixing questioned him after Chanyeol called out for more in a hearty but polite voice.

 

He felt Chanyeol’s gaze on him and met it once before looking back at Yixing.

 

"Yeah, I’m getting a bit busier with work and other things so I’ll unfortunately have to stop for now," he replied, the secrecy with which Chanyeol smiled not going unnoticed by him.

 

They had both agreed on stopping the lessons as Baekhyun wouldn’t learn anything anyway. Despite them being pleasant, Baekhyun figured that since they would continue seeing each other outside of the academy, he had no reason to clog up Chanyeol’s class schedule anymore. He had only agreed on one condition though. He had asked Chanyeol to help him choose the perfect keyboard to buy and the other had heartily agreed. They had gotten it yesterday and it was now sitting in a corner of Baekhyun’s room, perfectly slotted against his wall.

 

"So Chanyeol couldn’t convince you," Jongdae snorted, eyeing Chanyeol with a mock disappointed twist to his lips. "I bet that wouldn’t have happened if you had a teacher as amazing as me."

 

"You’re not a better teacher than I am," Chanyeol argued with a light frown.

 

"I am."

 

"You’re not."

 

"Let’s ask Baekhyun," Seungwan intervened, putting an end to their childish banter before it could escalate, as if she was used to this kind of situation. "Who do you think is the best teacher between these two idiots?"

 

Amused to no end, Baekhyun made a show of watching the two of them, Jongdae’s wiggling eyebrows and Chanyeol’s threatening gaze. Everyone was looking at him as if he was about to decide the winner of some kind of talent show and he took a few seconds to hum before giving his answer.

 

"Obviously, Jongdae would be a funnier teacher," he said, glancing at Chanyeol to see his reaction.

 

His mouth fell open in a barely exaggerated display of betrayal. Jongdae fist bumped the air in victory. Everyone else laughed and Baekhyun joined along before they all perked up at the same time when another serving of meat was brought to them.

 

Jongdae and Soojung started grilling it with the respective help of Seungwan and Jisoo. The scent of cooking meat billowed towards his face pleasantly before an even more enjoyable sensation pillowed against his arm when Chanyeol leaned close enough to him so nobody else would hear him.

 

"You really can’t lie, you know? It’s cute."

 

Baekhyun smiled at him. Chanyeol’s breath tickled him through their proximity. It felt like an estival mist on his skin. 

 

"You’re right, I really can’t."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In a way, it was almost as if the revelation that Baekhyun had actually lied to Chanyeol about piano brought them closer than ever. They still saw each other on the subway, they still ate together, still discovered new restaurants together, and still talked a lot through messages and phone calls filled with Chanyeol excitedly telling Baekhyun about his day at the academy.

 

Baekhyun could feel himself growing fond of Chanyeol by the day, the same way he always grew fond of anyone who had so much love locked in themselves. He felt as if that wasn't avoidable, with the way Chanyeol was so caring, so selfless, and just had that something about him that was so soft. Baekhyun sometimes wanted to reach out to him and touch him just to see if he was made of human bones and flesh rather that feathers and cotton candy. Sometimes, he wondered how someone so tall and long and broad could have a heart even bigger, wider, and full of love to give.

 

Of course, that love wasn’t given to Baekhyun. Not yet, it was too soon for Baekhyun to know for sure whether Chanyeol was in love with him or not since the latter didn’t treat him any special kind of way. Chanyeol was just naturally kind and caring, that was all there was to the way he treated Baekhyun with familiarity and ease. He could see it in the way Chanyeol smiled at strangers on the street, waved at small children in the subway, petted every dog he met, and always asked Baekhyun if he had eaten dinner yet at the end of every day. Just amiability. He probably asked the same question to each of his friends.

 

Baekhyun craved that love. He craved it. Sometimes, he’d look at Chanyeol and wish he could simply take that big, soft heart and keep it to himself until the end of time. It wasn’t an unfamiliar sensation, it was something Baekhyun had been feeling since as early as he remembered.

 

Things were going at the perfect pace, however, and he wouldn’t ruin things. Some flowers took longer to blossom than others, some flowers didn’t reach their full potential at the first bloom yet. Some flowers grew even more beautiful if he just waited long enough and were patient enough to catch them at the right time. In Baekhyun’s eyes, that was the kind of flower Chanyeol was.

 

He would continue planning everything step by step and so far, he was content with this odd thing they had, somewhere between really close friends and people who were much too close to be called just friends. This was his longest case so far, it had been almost four months since the first step Baekhyun had taken into the academy and the love wasn’t there yet, but the affection was. 

 

He was content with drawing that affection to himself and breathing it in with every warm smile, warm word, and warm breath Chanyeol sent his way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On some days, that contentment withered a little bit.

 

On some days, while the friendly affection was delightful, the lack of desperate love fell over it like a shadow preventing a flower from reaching out to sunlight, its source of life.

 

On that cold November day, Baekhyun had gone to the company for the first time after a long time. He had been unable to avoid it anymore, with the holiday season approaching and the company getting much busier.

 

He hadn’t ran into his father, able to avoid that at least, but that didn’t make the place any less oppressive. Especially since being in the company led to thinking about his father which led to thinking about their last encounter and the words he had been stabbed with which led to thinking about his mother which led to thinking about what exactly Baekhyun had done.

 

Had he done it? He wasn’t sure. He couldn’t have done it. He had no reason to do it, hadn’t he? She had wanted a divorce, she had wanted to leave him and Baekbeom with their father but would that even lead a child to push her down the stairs and subsequently kill her? He wasn’t sure. He remembered it. He remembered pushing her, he remembered the exact moment he had turned into a monster but at the same time those memories seemed so foreign to him. As if they weren’t his own. They were too blurry, too foggy, and why couldn’t he just dream about them? Why was it always so nubilous in that same, recurring nightmare?

 

After a day spent filling up  with restless thoughts, Baekhyun’s head felt like it was about to explode. To avoid going home and making himself even more vulnerable to the constant thinking, he had decided to wander through Myeong-dong instead. It was almost closing time, some shops were even already closed but he had found one clothing store that appealed to him through the vitrine and without hesitation, he had thrown himself inside.

 

It hadn’t been a bad choice, there were really nice clothes that caught his eyes. He found a sweater that would go perfectly with that dark, navy blue pair of slacks he had, along with a dress shirt that would bring his new suit to completion. He even found a nice, woolen black scarf that he could probably wear on less formal days. Everything would be perfect.

 

There was no one else in the store, the sun had already set and it would probably close soon, he hadn’t even seen any employee wandering around. When a sudden, quiet voice rose from behind him, he was a bit startled but didn’t let it show.

 

"Good evening, sir. Can I help you?"

 

Baekhyun turned around, gaze falling on a young man with long legs and broad shoulders. His features were veiled behind a faint sheen of aloofness that Baekhyun could associate to someone who wasn’t too expressive. However, there seemed to be a few cracks in that veil, a tongue sliding out to lick at a plump lower lip, fidgety eyes as they stared at Baekhyun. He felt a shiver brushing down his spine, like the first drops of rain after long days of draught.

 

"I’m just looking for a jacket," Baekhyun said, putting on his prettiest smile. Eyes dropped to his lips for a second before going back up to his own eyes. He was handsome. He seemed to think Baekhyun was handsome too. "Would you mind helping me?"

 

"Sure," the young man agreed easily. 

 

Their gazes lingered on each other for a second before he stepped closer to Baekhyun, much closer, and started looking through the rack of clothes. Baekhyun didn’t step away one bit, basking in every single furtive glance thrown his way that he caught. He observed him. Broad shoulders, black hair falling over his forehead, slightly curled and brushing his eyebrows. He had fair skin, a mole right on the side of his neck. A pinkish tongue came out to slide over his lower lip again, leaving it prettier and glossier. He glanced at Baekhyun, once, twice, thrice. Baekhyun’s smile grew wider.

 

After a few seconds, he pulled an item out of the rack. It was a black jacket, a stylish one that he wouldn’t mind wearing.

 

"How’s this one?"

 

"It looks alright. Can I try it?" he asked, tilting his head a little. Dark eyes slid down to his bared neck.

 

Silently, the attractive man handed the jacket out to Baekhyun. He locked his gaze into his as Baekhyun took his own coat off and tried the jacket on.

 

"How does it look?" 

 

He trailed his gaze over Baekhyun’s body, down his chest, along his shoulders, and then down his legs. An unnecessary move, a blatant display of attraction. He smiled at Baekhyun, playful, a bit mischievous, maybe inviting. He wasn’t even trying to hide it.

 

"Very nice," he assured before taking that one step that separated them. "Let me help you adjust it to get a better look."

 

Long fingers slid over his shoulders, slowly. Eyes focused on his lips, then his eyes. Cool fingertips grazed his neck, then the collar of his jacket. He looked into Baekhyun’s eyes as he adjusted it. Baekhyun dropped his gaze to those thin, rosy lips, not concealing the gesture one bit.

 

"You smell very nice," he commented offhandedly, lowly, leaning a tad closer to Baekhyun. 

 

"Thank you," Baekhyun said back, letting his gaze drop to exposed, sculpted collarbones, then the name tag on a chest that looked carved and sturdy beneath the black fabric of his shirt. "Sehun," he completed, diving his eyes back up into the other’s.

 

He was taller than Baekhyun, much taller. He would look very nice pressed under him.

 

"Perfect," Sehun said after a while, whispered, voice lower, attraction scratching it faintly as he tapped Baekhyun’s chest with finality, smile widening.

 

He didn’t step back. Baekhyun grazed a hand against his hips with the excuse of grabbing the rest of the clothes he had chosen from the rack he had rested them on. 

 

"Do you have a changing room? I’d like to try these on."

 

He didn’t need to see whether the jacket fitted him or not, he could figure it out from the way Sehun was eyeing him, his shoulders, his chest, his arms, his entire body.

 

Sehun nodded then gestured Baekhyun to follow him to the changing rooms at the back of the store. There was still no one else, the door of the shop was closed.

 

Baekhyun pulled the door of a random cabin open. It was wide. Wide enough for one person, a bit narrow for two. 

 

He turned to Sehun, looking at him over his shoulder, catching him trailing his gaze down the back of his body.

 

"Would you like to help me try these on too?"

 

His voice was suave, low, the perfect melody to wrap around Sehun and pull him in closer, closer until they both stepped inside the changing room and locked the door behind them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baekhyun hated company dinners.

 

There was nothing faker than company dinners. And there was nothing worse than being one of the higher ups and having to attend them once in a blue moon. Only because both his father and his brother couldn’t attend and there had to be a representative, especially in such busy times.

 

He held onto the doorknob as he composed the code to unlock his door, his body swaying a little bit. He shouldn’t have drunk so much, he was such a lightweight but at the same time, he wouldn’t have been able to survive so much masquerade without alcohol in his system. It was so hypocritical of him to hate these kind of events because of fakery when he, himself, was the fakest.

 

His first attempt was a failure. The door beeped at him in refusal and he took a deep breath in, blinked a few times and slowly, very slowly pressed his fingertip on the keyboard, seeking for the right numbers one by one. It beeped at him with an approving melody and the door unlocked. He sighed in relief.

 

Getting rid of his jacket as soon as he stepped in, Baekhyun let it fall on the ground. He hated when things were on the floor and not in their appropriate spots but he was too exhausted to deal with it. He’d do it in the morning. Instead, he headed towards the bathroom on slightly wobbly legs. Had he paid the taxi driver? He didn’t remember. He must have. Or else he wouldn’t have been able to leave the vehicle.

 

The bathroom’s lights were too harsh, glaring at him unforgivingly as he stepped in front of the sink and turned the water on. He caught his own gaze in the mirror. He washed his hands as he looked at himself, the water cold, too cold for his already cold hands but he was too lazy to make it more bearable.

 

He looked nice. His black hair was styled perfectly, brushing over his forehead as if he had combed through it just now. It was a wonder Baekhyun hadn’t ripped his hair off after spending close to two hours in a place he hated with people he hated. The alcohol was the only thing he had liked. His eyes were droopy but there were no dark circles, no eye bags, just a slight flush on his cheeks that looked natural and complimented his skin tone well. His lips were just a shade darker, smooth, not dry nor chapped. The water sounded unnecessarily loud, splashing against the porcelain sink, crashing against Baekhyun’s hands. He rubbed his skin a little more, a little harsher.

 

His tie wasn’t crooked, it rested perfectly flat down his chest, the knot still tied elegantly, the black color assorted to his black slacks and the jacket he had taken off on his way to the bathroom. There were only a few wrinkles on his shirt. He straightened up, turned off the water with a heavy hand and rested his wet hands on the wet sink, looking at himself a little more. He looked, sleek, irreproachable. He was the flawless image of a company, of a family, of a life that wasn’t even his. An image made for a place he had a reputation to uphold in, where every single one of his actions could reflect on his father’s company and their family.

 

He looked immaculate. But did he look like himself?

 

He tilted his head to the side, revealing his neck. It wasn’t bare, it was covered with an illusion that concealed the blossoms inked on his skin. He straightened his back again. He reached for the pack on a corner of the marble counter, it scrunched and groaned in complaint as he pulled a single wipe out with a bit of difficulty. He began rubbing it against his skin until black plum flowers appeared again, tainted in red from the irritation of the wipe against his skin.

 

Carelessly, he dumped the wipe into the sink, brought his hand up to his hair to ruffle it, swayed a little on his legs, alcohol pushing him back and forth. He loosened the knot of his tie, tugging on his neck and on his ears as he took it off over his head, unbuttoned his shirt, swayed a little more, and then looked into the mirror again.

 

He looked like himself. Now, he did.

 

He was tired. Exhausted. Of what, he wasn’t sure. From the dinner. From looking so spotlessly perfect all the time. From finding just the right kind of perfect in every gaze he met and moulding himself into that exact shape. For what? Air. Warmth? He wasn’t sure, not when he was so exhausted that he could hardly stand.

 

He dragged himself to his bedroom, crumbled down on his bed, buried his head against the pillow. It smelled just like him. It was silent.

 

He wanted to play piano. He turned to lay on his back and looked at the keyboard at the other end of the room. It was too far. He was too heavy. He was a bit too sad. But piano.

 

He dug into his pocket, finding his phone in a place that seemed much bigger than usual. The light was harsh when he unlocked it, he narrowed his eyes and looked for a name in his contacts list. Without a single doubt, he pressed on the call button, brought the phone against his ear, and then closed his eyes, listening to the long, endless chunks of beep until a familiar voice broke it off.

 

"I see you survived your boring company dinner."

 

It was tepid. Like water. But not the water from his sink. That water was cold. Maybe it was like the shower Baekhyun should take but couldn’t bring himself to. Maybe it was like the fuming cup of his favorite tea that Baekhyun wished someone would bring him right now.

 

"Chanyeol-ah," he said, muted, like a whisper. But whispers weren’t so loud. "Why is your voice always so warm?"

 

"What?"

 

A chuckle. Warm. So warm. If he closed his eyes, he could imagine himself dressed in his favorite sweater. But his eyes were already closed. So he couldn’t imagine. Maybe Chanyeol actually was a sweater.

 

"Actually," he slurred, sighing softly, contentedly. Maybe he should wear his favorite sweater. "Why are you always so warm?"

 

"Are you drunk?"

 

That tone. Molten, but the kind that was playful. Knowing.

 

His eyes closed. When had he even opened them? His eyelids felt heavy.

 

Baekhyun couldn’t wear sweaters. They didn’t look as formal as a suit.

 

He felt sleepy.

 

"I’m tired."

 

"You should sleep then, silly."

 

"I’m tired of always being like this," he said, voice trembling the slightest bit. As if he was scared, as if he was confessing his biggest sin. "Tired of always forcing myself to be like this. Like." He waved a hand around. "Like perfect. Something like that."

 

He was so sleepy, so exhausted. He just wanted to sleep, wrapped around his favorite sweater. Why couldn’t it stay with him all night?

 

"You don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to try so hard to look perfect to everyone, Hyun-ah."

 

Had his favorite sweater always felt so comfortable and fitting?

 

There was the prickling little burn of tears in his eyes but nothing escaped  them. He took a deep breath in, sniffled a little.

 

"I want to play the piano," he slurred, mumbled, maybe pleaded.

 

"We got you a piano." A chuckle. So, so soft. Cotton candy. But cotton candy wasn’t that snug. A sweater. "You can play it. But you’re drunk so, try not to break it."

 

He took another deep breath in. Sniffled.

 

"Can you play for me until I sleep?"

 

And it was odd. Sweaters couldn’t play piano. Maybe his favorite sweater had turned into a big, soft blanket that could protect him from the cold and magically sing him to sleep. 

 

Piano him to sleep?

 

He wasn’t sure, he fell asleep before he could figure it out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was a headache that Baekhyun woke up to the next morning but it was the memory of what exactly he had done that turned that small hangover into a full nightmare.

 

He groaned, running a hand through his hair and then over his face. His throat was dry. He couldn’t believe he had called Chanyeol and had said such things to him. It wasn’t like him at all. He hadn’t wanted the other to see that side of him. Even Baekhyun hated that weak, vulnerable side of himself. But he had been drunk. He hadn’t been completely aware of what he was doing.

 

And maybe, just maybe he didn’t exactly regret it. Maybe he had needed to hear those words at that exact moment. Even if he didn’t agree with them and knew he wouldn’t take them into consideration.

 

He whined a bit, groaning when even that small sound made the headache knock harshly against his temples to remind him of the mess he had been last night. He grabbed his phone from the bedside table.

 

There was a message notification from an hour ago, Chanyeol’s name greeting him on the screen.

 

good morning 

I hope you’re not too hungover 

drink a lot of water!

 

He heard a soft chuckle escaping his lips, the sound too loud for his headache. He needed some painkillers. And food. But his bed was so comfortable. Or was it really his bed that made him feel so alleviated and content? Maybe not.

 

My headache is killing me 

It was nice knowing you

And sorry for drunk dialing you last night

 

it’s alright I don’t mind you sound kinda funny when you’re drunk

 

I’m not sure that’s a compliment

 

as expected from the king of compliments :p

you can’t cook, can you

wanna meet for some haejangguk?

it could help with the hangover

 

Baekhyun hesitated. It would feel awkward to see Chanyeol after last night. Not really awkward. A bit weird. It was usually Junmyeon who ended up listening to Baekhyun’s drunk slurring and his sad drunk whining. He was used to Junmyeon understanding him and then acting like nothing happened because he knew Baekhyun would hate talking about it. He wasn’t sure how to act with Chanyeol now.

 

I don’t know if I can drag myself to the subway station

 

come ooooooon

you can’t cure a hangover with just ramyeon

 

I think you’re just looking for an occasion to make fun of me

You did just say I was a funny drunk 

 

no I just want to check up on you since I’m the kindest person on earth

I’ll even treat you

you can’t say no when someone offers to feed you

 

Baekhyun bit his lower lip, unsure. It was nice to see that Chanyeol was genuinely concerned. It was far from being surprising but it still made him feel cared for and his headache became just a little more bearable. A nice, flavory soup to cure his hangover sounded nice. 

 

Before he could reply, his phone vibrated once more in his hand.

 

I’m actually kinda tired too I look like shit so you’ll see me and get a shock and then sober up

pretty effective

also this means pls don’t look too amazing don’t wear a suit and stuff or I’ll look pathetic next to you

 

He smiled, wondered if Chanyeol had said this on purpose. He hadn’t used the word perfect but the message was there. 

 

And maybe Baekhyun should feel bad, maybe he should think that the other was pitying him after last night. Oddly, he didn’t. It just felt nice. Made him feel important, somehow. Cared for. Understood.

 

Fine

I’ll wear a hoodie to match you

 

yay

let’s meet at the station in 45 minutes?

 

Baekhyun simply sent him a sticker, the bunny sticking both thumbs up to Chanyeol to let him know Baekhyun was alright with that. He smiled down at his phone a last time, sighed, and then dragged himself out of bed, head still pounding a little.

 

It didn’t take him long to get ready. He gulped aspirin down, hoped for the best, and then headed to the bathroom to wash up. The water was hot but Baekhyun’s insides tingled with an even more delightful heat. Once in front of the mirror, dressed in the only hoodie he owned and light wash jeans, he took a look at himself.

 

He didn’t really look nice. 

 

He had faint shadows under his eyes, his hair was fluffy but disorderly, still a bit damp. He hadn’t dried it with anything but a towel and had not brushed it properly, just ran his fingers through it. He glanced at his hair then at the comb on the marble next to the sink, then at his hair again. He ran his fingers through it again, just a little, to make it less messy. His eyes caught sight of the blossoms on his neck, the pointy branches. He was going out into a restaurant, not a known, expensive one, but still a restaurant. 

 

He glanced down at the products resting beside the sink. He grabbed his concealer and looked at his bottle of full-coverage foundation. He should cover it up. Dab at his skin with the concealer to lighten the ink, then apply foundation, and seal it all with powder. Layers and layers of coverage. To hide it all. Just his neck. But he was tired, a bit lazy. He put the concealer down and immediately walked out of the bathroom before he could change his mind.

 

In front of the door, he put his shoes on and then just stood there, one hand on the doorknob and the other hanging limply by his side. He could almost feel the way his hair was already starting to stick up here and there. He was itching. The urge to run back to the bathroom and brush his hair was real. He should cover up his tattoo, just a little. 

 

He took a deep breath in. Chanyeol was waiting for him. He simply grabbed a scarf, wrapped it securely around his neck, and then got out of the house before the urge to do anything else won over him.

 

He could simply take the scarf off at the restaurant, with Chanyeol.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

November passed by in swirls of cold winds, warm shared meals, and comfortable smiles.

 

Baekhyun wasn’t someone who was particularly sensitive to the cold, contrary to Chanyeol, but he chose to spend that day nestled under his blankets. He had been on a The Avengers marathon since that morning and his eyes were starting to hurt. The sun had been barely reaching a peak behind grey clouds when he had started but now, it was already set, leaving the sky to mourn its departure with idle tears that sparkled.

 

As soon as the credits rolled down the screen of his laptop, he stretched his arms over his head and let out a loud sound, halfway between a groan and a yawn. His body felt sore but a bad kind of sore. He was too lazy to move. He was too lazy to go through another movie too, even if midnight was still hours away and he had nothing to do early tomorrow morning. He grabbed his phone. He hadn’t talked to anyone the whole day, except Junmyeon in the morning and a few messages with Chanyeol before the end of his lunch break.

 

He opened up his SNS account and scrolled through his feed, hoping that it’d help him take a decision about what he should do next. It took him only a few seconds to stumble upon a photo Chanyeol had posted three hours ago. He was holding a cake, with a few candles that had seemingly just been blown off, the ghost of smoke faint but visible as it rose from the burned tips. He had a bit of cream on his cheeks, as if someone had stabbed the cake and then swept their finger against his skin. His eyes were closed and he had a wide smile on, the one with his lips pressed together and that dimple peeking through his cheek.

 

The caption was simple. Birthday Boy. Written all in English, just like that. It took Baekhyun a few seconds to actually register the information before his stomach dropped a little bit. He didn’t even  know. No one had told him. He frowned. That didn’t feel too nice. He had missed an occasion. This could’ve been a very nice opportunity to do something wonderful for Chanyeol and draw him to himself further. 

 

It didn’t feel nice at all. Baekhyun felt bad. It was a vaguely familiar sensation, a bit like that time Junmyeon had gone to Japan without him, without even telling him when they had promised to travel there together one day. That had been years ago. Now, this felt a little worse. This was a birthday. Chanyeol’s birthday. The picture didn’t exactly look like it was taken at a party, he recognized the academy’s blue walls in the background. But still, this didn’t feel right.

 

He quickly pulled up their conversation thread and let his thumbs drum on the screen.

 

It was your birthday today??? 

 

Baekhyun spent every second of waiting frowning at the conversation thread, opening up the picture again, frowning more, and then going back to the messaging app to wait for a reply. The reply came two minutes later.

 

it was haha

 

Why didn’t you tell me??

 

I don’t know..

It never came up in any conversation 

I also didn’t feel like just messaging you to go ‘heeeey it’s my birthdaaaay wish me a happy oneee’

;n;

 

Baekhyun couldn’t help but snort at that. He wasn’t sure whether he was snorting because that sounded like a lame reason or because this wasn’t even surprising coming from Chanyeol.

 

It’s your birthday!! Of course you should tell me!

Seriously Chanyeol

 

I’m sorry TT

I didn’t think you would get so upset

 

Baekhyun wasn’t sure why he felt so upset either. Probably because birthday were always the best day to make memories with someone, especially fond and unforgettable ones. He could’ve bought something, something that would’ve made Chanyeol happy. Maybe something that would’ve taken them one step further.

 

But it was night already, most places were already closed and he wouldn’t be able to come up with a marking, meaningful gift to offer the other in such a short amount of time. 

 

Are you home?

 

yes TT

 

Alone? Or did you organize a party and not invite me?

Betrayer

TT

 

oh god

this is the first time you’ve ever sent me any kind of emoji

it’s a crying one

you must be really upset

I didn’t!!!

I swear I’m alone

There won’t be any party this year who even has the time to organize all that shit??

but if there was one I would’ve invited you first

but yes I’m alone

I’m not a betrayer TTTTTTT

forgive me TTTTTTTTTTTT

 

Baekhyun couldn’t help but smile at the long pile of messages that popped on his screen one after the other, an obvious sign of the distress Chanyeol was feeling. He was kind, too kind, too selfless and Baekhyun didn’t expect this kind of reaction. He had said those words merely because he wanted to let the other know he was a bit upset but also because he wanted to tease him. He had expected an apology at most, but not such blatant display of guilt. It didn’t feel unpleasant.

 

He took a few seconds to reply, not because he wanted to make the other feel worse but because he had to calculate his next move. There wasn’t much he could do but he could still do something nice.

 

Give me your address

 

oh my fucking god

you’re not upset enough to murder me in my sleep are you???

 

No, silly

You can’t spend your birthday night alone

I also need to wish you a happy birthday properly

So I’ll pick you up in half an hour

No protestation, you owe me that for not telling me it was your birthday

 

oh

oh okay

yes 

yes that could work too

alright

no protestation

yessir!

 

Baekhyun shook his head fondly at yet another string of messages. He was flustered, maybe. He hadn’t expected Baekhyun to care so much.

 

Maybe this hadn’t really been a missed occasion and Baekhyun would manage to thread it together just fine. There would be many other occasions, many things he could do, but somehow, this felt more important than others to him. 

 

Glad that Chanyeol didn’t seem to have picked up on the idea forming in his head, he quickly got out of bed. He threw on jeans to go along with the sweater he usually wore at home, and headed out of the house, rushing a bit to reach his destination before it closed for the day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The look on Chanyeol’s face when he saw Baekhyun pull up to his house in his most expensive car was worth not being told about such an important information, at the end.

 

His eyebrows were raised and his eyes were widened as he looked at Baekhyun who turned the engine off and got out of the vehicle with a smug, satisfied smile plastered on his lips. 

 

"This is your car?" Chanyeol asked, voice higher than usual and eyes sparkling like an excited child as he ran his gaze all over the sleek, white Mercedes-Benz.

 

"Yep," Baekhyun simply said before stepping closer to the other and grinning at him. "Happy Birthday!"

 

That was enough for Chanyeol’s attention to snap at him and he grinned, almost abashedly.

 

"Thanks. And sorry again, for not telling you," he muttered.

 

He couldn’t take his eyes off the car, however, glancing at it in amazement time and time again. It was adorable. Baekhyun knew he liked cars but he hadn’t thought that it would be this much, enough for him not to look sorry anymore when he had been almost distressed through their messages earlier. Maybe this would turn out for the best.

 

"It’s alright. I couldn’t get you a gift, though, so I had to improvise and I hope you don’t mind," he said knowingly. 

 

Chanyeol vaguely nodded at him, stepping closer to the car to inspect it almost unconsciously as little amazed sounds escaped his parted lips. He stretched a hand out to touch the rearview mirror, very slowly, as if the car was some kind of monster and could bite him back, before realizing that Baekhyun had actually addressed him. 

 

"It’s alright," he quickly said. "I don’t really want gifts or anything like that, I’m not a child."

 

"Really?" Baekhyun hummed, pulling the car keys out of his pocket. Another comically amazed sound from Chanyeol accompanied the movement. "Then I guess you also don’t want to drive my car."

 

Chanyeol choked in his hastiness to step closer to Baekhyun. It was a wonder. Breathing had nothing to do with walking.

 

"What?"

 

Baekhyun couldn’t keep a few chuckles in at the mix of surprise and anticipation on the other’s face.

 

"We’re going on an early night ride," he said while grabbing Chanyeol’s hand and pressing the keys into his palm. "You can drive it. That’s the only gift I could come up with in such a short time."

 

Chanyeol looked at him blankly for a few seconds before realization dawned upon him and his eyes widened.

 

"You want me to drive your car? This car?"

 

"You don’t want to?" Baekhyun asked, tilting his head in mock confusion.

 

"No!" Chanyeol answered a bit too loudly, wincing when he realized it. "I mean, yes. But. Really?"

 

"Yes, you can drive it," Baekhyun laughed, endearment fluttering in him a little and keeping him safe from the cold night air.

 

"You really trust me with your car?"

 

"Well, you’re not going to break it, are you?" Baekhyun playfully narrowed his eyes. "If you do, you’ll have to be my slave for fifty years to repay it. Otherwise, yes. You’re the driver tonight."

 

Chanyeol looked extremely touched for a second, looking at Baekhyun as if he had given him his heart or proposed to him. Then, he suddenly perked up, jumped a little on the sole of his feet, and threw himself towards Baekhyun to engulf him into a tight, unprepared for hug.

 

The surprise in Baekhyun petered out into laughter as Chanyeol swayed him from side to side, muttering an excited string of thank you’s and this is the best gift ever’s. Baekhyun’s face was mashed against his chest, the blue scarf Chanyeol was wearing tickling his nose familiarly. Then, he let go of Baekhyun and basically ran to the driver’s side. He got in and probably already started tweaking with every button and looking at every single utility in amazement. 

 

Baekhyun’s cheeks hurt a little from smiling too much as he moved to get in the passenger’s seat.

 

The childlike, handsome grin never once left Chanyeol’s face as he drove. Baekhyun, despite still being a little worried at the beginning, grew more comfortable as he realized that Chanyeol was actually a very good driver. Even better than he was, actually. Although, Baekhyun had a feeling he wouldn’t be so careful had he been driving another car. Chanyeol’s eyes never strayed too much from the road, at least one of his hands always remained on the steering wheel even as he passionately and terribly sang to random songs banging loudly from the radio.

 

Baekhyun’s stomach was starting to hurt from laughing, an overly hyped up and happy Chanyeol preventing him from singing along properly. He had never enjoyed a drive so much in his life. Maybe he should make Chanyeol drive him around more often.

 

They drove in circles around the city for a while, trying to avoided places that were too crowded, the radio’s volume almost hurting Baekhyun’s ears. He was too busy singing along dramatically with Chanyeol to mind, however. He met some high notes and earned impressed looks and sounds from Chanyeol, letting his voice break and stumble down on others, fueling more laughter in the car.

 

After a while, they pulled up on top of one of Seoul’s many hills, the windshield melting into a painting as they looked through it and saw tall buildings, the Namsan Tower, and countless  lights. They seemed to have dropped from the bare, dark sky and gathered in the city, some of them unmoving and others whooshing through the city like drowsy shooting stars.

 

"This is the best birthday ever," Chanyeol declared once he turned the engine off and looked out into the view for a silent while.

 

He looked happy. Baekhyun laughed. Maybe the heat of the car was turned on too high, he felt a bit too warm. But not uncomfortable.

 

"I know, you said that about twenty times."

 

Chanyeol looked at him, smiling, lips pressed together a little bit as if he was a bit embarrassed but totally shameless about his reaction at the same time.

 

"How can you even dislike driving when you own this car?" he wondered out loud, fingers stroking the wheel with care. "If I were you, I’d never step into the subway station ever again."

 

His hair was unruly, mussed, he was wearing his favorite hoodie along with Baekhyun’s scarf knotted around his neck. The hoodie was oversized, making him look smaller than he was in the driver’s seat of Baekhyun’s car. His cheeks were dusted with the tiniest amount of pink, as if rosy petals had shyly kissed the apple of his cheeks and spread their tint through him. His eyes were sparkling, shadows made his dimple a bit deeper than usual. He was handsome, looked soft, cozy, like the most refined of flowers Baekhyun had yet to pluck out of its roots.

 

"I’m still looking for a handsome driver, if you’re interested," he said, voice drooping to an obnoxiously seductive tone that made Chanyeol laugh softly.

 

"If you’re going to pay me to drive this baby, I’ll even marry you whenever you want."

 

Baekhyun turned towards him, leaning the side of his head against the headrest.

 

"Understood. If I ever want to propose to you, I’ll do it with a car instead of a ring."

 

The tips of his ears grew red as he snickered. 

 

"Now, close your eyes," Baekhyun asked hushedly.

 

"You’re not actually going to propose right now, are you? It would be a little complicated to get married right now," Chanyeol said, raising his eyebrows and showing Baekhyun that mischievous, boyish smile of his.

 

"Just close them," Baekhyun huffed.

 

He did and Baekhyun moved, turning towards the backseat. It was a wonder that Chanyeol had not even noticed what was there, too excited about driving to pay attention to anything else. Baekhyun grabbed the small box and opened it up, revealing a small, chocolate-flavored muffin. That was the only thing left at the bakery at this time of the day but he didn’t mind, it would be enough for Chanyeol and at least, the bakery even managed to find him a single candle and a lighter.

 

Quietly, he lit up the long, red candle, held the box out towards Chanyeol and smiled a little.

 

"Open up."

 

The small flame’s reflection fluttered in Chanyeol’s wide eyes, orangey. Soft, just like Chanyeol himself. He looked at the muffin and then at Baekhyun, the flame in his eyes seemingly strong enough for him to melt just a little bit under Baekhyun’s eyes. He looked even more affected by a mere cake than when Baekhyun gave him his car keys.

 

"Make a wish," Baekhyun prompted him, voice falling down to a whisper. 

 

Chanyeol hadn’t said anything yet, he was only looking at him with that melted, soft look in his eyes. It felt wrong to talk at a higher volume than an intimate whisper. 

 

Chanyeol closed his eyes then and laced his hands together right under his chin. The candle illuminated the remnants of a smile on his peaceful features.

 

"I wish Baekhyun will be my friend for a very very long time."

 

He opened his eyes the slightest bit, leaned forward and blew on the candle, the flame fluttering before disappearing into a smoky swirling. That single tiny breeze seemed to still carry specks of fire, because Baekhyun felt it spread over his whole body with every single breath he took at that exact moment. Chanyeol looked at him, eyes bright, smile even brighter.

 

"If you tell your wish to someone it won’t come true, silly." His voice was smelted into a quiet tone again.

 

"I said it out loud because I don’t want to leave this into Fate’s hands or whatever."

 

And there was not even an ounce of love. Baekhyun hadn’t even given his all to Chanyeol yet, hadn’t even added him to his ever-growing bouquet of colorful flowers. There was nothing but affection and yet, the emotion flushing inside him at that exact moment felt like much more than that. It felt like Chanyeol had loved him through ice and fire, winter and spring, through burgeoning plum blossoms and a thousand years.

 

Chanyeol smiled at his silence, as if he was proud of himself for momentarily hindered Baekhyun’s ability to speak. He grabbed the muffin to split it into two. He offered one half to Baekhyun and as he bit into the sweet chocolate, he felt it melt inside his mouth, as if that aroma remained there, a part of him for the night.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chanyeol’s house was an unexpectedly messy place.

 

After driving them to his house, Chanyeol had asked Baekhyun if he’d like to come up. Baekhyun had eagerly accepted, glad that a simple thing he had done had opened such doors into their relationship. Moreover, he had said that Chanyeol shouldn’t spend his birthday alone and he meant it, birthdays were important and should be spent together with cherished people.

 

It was a decently sized apartment, not too big and not too small either, he noted when Chanyeol had given him a tour. The kitchen, was small but that didn’t seem to matter to Chanyeol. It was orderly, there was not a single dirty mug left on the side of the sink and no crumbles on the counter or the floor.  The living room was rather wide, the walls a plain white adorned by pictures, of a family, of the woman Baekhyun had once seen Chanyeol with in the subway, his sister, and there was even several pictures of a small, black poodle dog.

 

It wasn’t dirty per se, the floors were clean and there was even the hint of a flowery scent hanging over the whole apartment, but it was messy. And with things he hadn’t imagined he’d see here. 

 

Baekhyun found Iron Man figurines queueing on the kitchen counter as if they were waiting for food, the pillows in the living room were all different colors while the couch was a simple black one. There was an entire shelf of CD’s and cassette tapes in the living room -  a quick glance had been enough for Baekhyun to see that they were both from old and current foreign artists, blending in with a few albums belonging to local, Korean artists. There was even an entire mini car track laid out on the floor, close to the TV.

 

Chanyeol hadn’t even seemed sheepish about it, though, it was as if he was used to this clean kind of messiness and thought it normal. Baekhyun found it a bit charming and after a can of beer, he had even challenged him to a mini car race on that long and maze-like track. He had won, cheating by distracting Chanyeol and tickling him. The discovery of how ticklish the other actually was made the whole situation even more enjoyable, even if Chanyeol had whined about his cheating and requested for a rematch that Baekhyun refused.

 

"It’s late," Chanyeol said after a while, when they were both calm and had been watching a random drama on TV for about half an hour.

 

"It is," Baekhyun replied, yawning a little. It was indeed late, slightly past midnight now. He hadn’t even noticed how much time he had spent here. He was just a little bit tipsy. He had stopped after two cans of beer and that had been an hour ago, drowsiness taking over now.

 

"Wanna stay over? You drank and you don’t like driving anyway."

 

Baekhyun turned to look at him, meeting his gaze. Chanyeol was sprawled over the couch, the back of his head resting against the backrest as he looked at Baekhyun. They were sitting the same way, close but not touching. His eyes were hooded the slightest bit, he seemed to be sleepy as well. He looked soft, fluffy, cozy in that usual oversized hoodie.

 

Baekhyun slid a little down the couch to lay his upper body sideways on the cozy surface.

 

"That would be great," he muttered. "This is comfortable," he added, looking at the other, curiosity concealed by a sleepy gaze.

 

"You won’t sleep on the couch, silly," Chanyeol chuckled. He wasn’t even tipsy. He held his alcohol rather well. Baekhyun was just a little envious. He felt a hand feebly patting his head, his eyes momentarily closed. "We can sleep on the same bed. You trusted me with your car, I’ll trust you with my pillow," he said in an unnecessarily dramatic voice.

 

Baekhyun laughed softly. Chanyeol’s hand fell off his head.

 

"Good, I said that just to be polite anyway," Baekhyun said.

 

Chanyeol rolled his eyes and they both stood up, still laughing a little. There was nothing funny. Merriment was the conductor of their guffawed duet.

 

The pajamas Chanyeol lent him were a bit too big on him. It wasn’t even actual pajamas, just sweatpants that were too long for his legs and a shirt that fit his shoulders perfectly but that flowed a bit too much down his hips. Chanyeol snickered at the sight, changed in his own fitting pajamas, actual blue pajamas with little puppies patterned here and there. Baekhyun snickered right back at him.

 

They fell in bed together and Chanyeol was right, it was actually big enough for the two of them to fit in without any problem, even if their arms brushed together the slightest bit. It was comfortable, the blankets were light but kept the body heat cocooned around him. He could hear Chanyeol breathing softly as they remained silent but not awkward.

 

Baekhyun turned to lay on his side, facing Chanyeol. He looked sleepy. His eyelids were drooping lower by the second. After a while, Chanyeol noticed his gaze on him and smiled a little, turned his head towards him first and then his body, mimicking Baekhyun and laying on his side as they faced each other. Baekhyun said nothing. He gazed at Chanyeol calmly while Chanyeol gazed back at him, a bit more agitated. He didn’t look into Baekhyun’s eyes for too long. Odd. He wasn’t an usually shy person. But they were sharing the same bed. Timidity meant this wasn’t something casual to him.

 

His eyes kept fluttering, trailing down from Baekhyun’s face, to the unconcealed tattoo on his neck, to his chest, up to his face again and then to his collarbones. The shirt’s collar was a bit too wide on Baekhyun, he was exposing more skin than needed. It was nice to watch Chanyeol and try figuring out what thoughts were racing in his head.

 

"Do you wanna cuddle?"

 

Chanyeol’s voice was naught but a hush after so much time spent laughing. He was looking into Baekhyun’s eyes properly now. It was so random and yet, Baekhyun couldn’t say he was taken aback. That could explain his agitation. He caught Chanyeol’s eyes dropping down to his chest again.

 

"You wanna be the small spoon, don’t you?" he ventured, smile flowing through his voice.

 

Chanyeol chuckled softly but said nothing, considering Baekhyun for a bit. The room was warm, a Chanyeol kind of warmth that Baekhyun could feel his body swooning at. Chanyeol’s eyes were clear, clearer than Seoul’s starless sky. A tepid summer night. 

 

Without waiting for an answer, Baekhyun opened his arms. That seemed to be exactly what Chanyeol had been waiting for because he let out a soft, jubilant sound and moved until he could bury his face against Baekhyun’s chest, one of his arms folded between their bodies while the other was draped over Baekhyun’s waist. 

 

He chuckled lowly, fond. It was better this way. Fitting. He wrapped his arms around Chanyeol’s bigger body and shifted, pulling him even closer and resting his chin on Chanyeol’s head, skin tickled pleasantly by his messy hair.

 

Halfway through the night, Baekhyun felt Chanyeol turn around and move a little bit until it was his back pressed against Baekhyun’s chest, his head still tucked in under Baekhyun’s chin. Baekhyun tightened his hold on him, sleepily shifting a bit to bury his nose in the other’s hair, breathing in the other’s nearness and soaking his entire being with it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That pleasant sensation lingered on, tingling through Baekhyun’s body as his eyes fluttered open, almost enough for the slight hangover his temples were suffering from to go unnoticed. 

 

He was alone. He remembered falling asleep with Chanyeol in his arms. It meant the other had woken up earlier than him and left already. He could hear faint sounds coming from outside, maybe the kitchen.

 

He wasn’t sure. He couldn’t really think properly at the moment. His whole body felt kind of numb. He blinked a few times, stretched his arms over his head and arched his back a little bit, sighing softly. It wasn’t a tired sigh, nor a lazy one. He recognized contentment in his own voice. His fingers tingled a little bit, his chin too, his chest, and his hips. He could almost still feel Chanyeol’s soft body pressed against him, basking in his embrace, asleep.

 

Baekhyun didn't even remember the last person he had done nothing but sleep with through the whole night. Was it Junki? He wasn’t sure. That almost felt like years ago. Too long ago. He had forgotten how nice it actually felt to share a calmative slumber with someone through the night. Baekhyun wasn’t sure he had shared the calm but he felt himself drenched. As if it was soaking through his entire being. He wanted to bathe and bask in it a little more. But Chanyeol wasn’t there.

 

He yawned a last time before getting up and heading to the kitchen. Chanyeol was there, still in his puppy pajamas, leaned over the stove. He was cooking. Now that he thought about it, Chanyeol really did feel like a snuggly puppy last night. Baekhyun stepped into the kitchen and took a look at the food garnishing the small, long counter that served as a kind of separation between the living room and the kitchen.

 

It was quite generously furnished, two bowls of rice put on each side, along with small side dishes here and there, including fermented kimchi, and there were even two bowls of miyeokguk, the seaweed’s delicious scent drawing him in just a little more. Chanyeol seemed to have heard him because he turned around right at that moment, hair ruffled, smile wide.

 

"Oh, you’re awake. I was just about to splash water on your face so you’d stop drooling on my pillow."

 

"I wasn’t drooling!" Baekhyun defended himself with a huff before giving the other a sheepish expression as Chanyeol stepped away from the stove, pan and spatula in hand. "You really didn’t have to cook all of this. I’m sorry I crashed here and made you cook all that."

 

Chanyeol crinkled his nose and shook his head as he slid each of the sunny side up eggs he had fried on the two bowls of rice.

 

"It’s okay, it’s not even much. I got too lazy to make miyeokguk yesterday so you were kind of my excuse for today," he said while gesturing to Baekhyun to take a seat across from him. "It’s actually a good thing. If it weren’t for you I wouldn’t have even cooked this and ate just rice and eggs with one side dish or something. I’m used to that since I always eat alone. I just got excited at the idea of eating with someone for once."

 

Baekhyun smiled, grabbed his spoon, and slurped a little on the broth. It tasted perfect. It almost felt like it was his birthday. He caught Chanyeol grinning, as if he had noticed Baekhyun’s enjoyment towards the soup.

 

"I don’t like eating alone either actually. I just eat rice or cereals when I’m at home."

 

Chanyeol hummed.

 

"Sounds like we should be having breakfast together more often. Especially since it’s an honor for you to eat the amazing food that I cooked. Not to brag but I’m kind of an amazing cook," he added, leaning forward a little as if he was sharing a secret, with that boyish smile on.

 

Baekhyun chose to playfully scrunch his nose down at his bowl of rice. He felt Chanyeol’s foot hitting his shin as he gave him a playful, threatening look. Baekhyun engulfed every bit of the food with a smile on his face.

 

Surprisingly, Baekhyun didn’t really feel like leaving right after they finished up their meal. He stayed, helping Chanyeol do the dishes — earning foam on his cheeks and the tip of his nose— and afterwards, they naturally plopped down on the couch and watch a few gaming videos on Chanyeol’s computer. Baekhyun never mentioned having to do anything else, too comfortable in this messy living room, and Chanyeol never said anything about the time either. On the contrary, it felt like he was even more comfortable with Baekhyun now, if that was even possible. Maybe spending a whole night cuddling together had helped.

 

Therefore, Baekhyun was barely even surprised when at one point, he felt careful fingers grazing the side of his neck, as gentle as the inked plum blossoms they were caressing.

 

"Why plum blossoms? Just because it’s pretty?" Chanyeol asked and his gaze was entirely focused on Baekhyun’s neck as he spoke, holding himself closer to Baekhyun to properly see the tattoo.

 

"Mainly," Baekhyun hummed, tilting his head almost unconsciously to display the brush-like strokes on his skin. Chanyeol’s gaze remained on them. "Plum blossoms are just my favorite kind of flower. One of the only flowers I can see actually having a meaning."

 

"What meaning do they have?"

 

"They blossom at the end of winter and usually announce spring. They’re kind of a way to symbolize that even the harshest of winters come to an end, you know?" he explained, catching Chanyeol’s gaze. There was an odd glint in his eyes. He wasn’t sure what to associate it to. It felt like a new discovery. Baekhyun smiled. "But I mainly got it to piss my father off when I was nineteen."

 

Chanyeol laughed at that, shaking his head a bit before he brought his fingers up to trail them against Baekhyun’s inked skin again. His touch was guarded, as if he was caressing the flowers themselves and not a mere drawing of them on Baekhyun’s skin. It felt nice. 

 

"Did it hurt when you got it?"

 

"It did, especially when they did the part on the collarbone," he confessed, pulling the collar of his shirt a little bit to show what he was talking about. He was still wearing Chanyeol’s clothes. He hummed softly, gaze trailing over the tattoo. Baekhyun leaned closer, curving his lips into a smile. "I feel like you’d probably cry from the pain if you were to get a tattoo."

 

Chanyeol’s features morphed into a grimace of offense.

 

"I wouldn’t!" he frowned. His next words were mumbled. "I wouldn’t get one anyway, my mom would probably cry."

 

"Sounds like an excuse because you don’t wanna cry."

 

"I wouldn’t cry."

 

"You would."

 

"Maybe you’re the one who cried and you’re trying to conceal it!"

 

"You just look like a crybaby, Chanyeol."

 

Chanyeol fake gasped at that. Baekhyun gave him a victorious grin. He had won the battle. 

 

At least that was what he thought until Chanyeol grabbed the nearest pillow and rammed it against his head. Another battle ensued and this one was won by Chanyeol who had long limbs that could hold Baekhyun’s shorter ones in place while he just bashed his head with a pillow. Baekhyun laughed until his stomach burned with cramps.

 

After noon, they left the house together. Chanyeol drove himself to the academy in Baekhyun’s car. From the passenger’s seat, Baekhyun could feel the same excitement as last night sparking from him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Are you on your way to getting married yet?"

 

The look Junmyeon gave him was a rather dead one.

 

"You’re never going to let it go, are you?" he sighed before shaking his head as if to answer his own question. "It was a mistake to let you eat at my parents’ place that day. You were only there for the food and the laughs," Junmyeon accused him, eyes narrowed but not enough to hide that fond glint Baekhyun liked so much.

 

"I mean, I’ll stop at some point. I wouldn’t want you to get upset enough to never feed me again," Baekhyun said as he looked around once more.

 

They were in a nice restaurant that served Italian food and that Junmyeon had said to be rather satisfactory. It was an inviting place, popular but not crowded. They had easily found a table to settle on even if it wasn’t in an intimate or quiet corner of the restaurant. Baekhyun liked how vintage it felt, from the wall’s deep colors to the low, foreign music humming through the air. It was nice, the leather seats were comfortable and the table was adorned with candles, lit up since night had fallen.

 

Even the menu had sounded promising when the waitress had explained what their dishes consisted of and Baekhyun, who usually wasn’t one for western food, wouldn’t deny that he was anticipating the dish that would be served to him.

 

"Can you stop using the word feed whenever I’m buying you food? It sounds weird."

 

"Why?" Baekhyun singsonged, wiggling his eyebrows. "Does it actually make you think of feeding me with your pretty fingers?"

 

Junmyeon scrunched his nose. "You’d bite my fingers off."

 

"I’ve had plenty of occasions to do it and it never happened until today, has it?"

 

Junmyeon gave him another unimpressed look and took a sip of his water. Baekhyun’s suggestive smile widened and he looked at Junmyeon with an insistent, dark look as he drank his water. Then, a shadow fell over them.

 

"Here’s your order!"

 

Baekhyun’s gaze snapped up at the familiar voice, eyes widening when he was met with none other than Chanyeol. He was dressed in black sacks and a white shirt, holding two plates. He had that crooked smile on as he let his gaze meet Baekhyun’s, as if he knew that his presence was a surprise to him.

 

"What are you doing here?" he asked, surprise chiming in his voice as he watched Chanyeol lay a plate full of mouthwatering pasta in front of him. Junmyeon gave him a confused look, looking between him and Chanyeol.

 

"I told you my parents owned an Italian restaurant, didn’t I?" he shrugged, mischievous, boastful.

 

Baekhyun couldn’t drag his gaze away from where it was hung on Chanyeol’s face. He had completely forgotten about that. It had never once crossed his mind that this place could be what Chanyeol had been talking about.

 

"Enjoy your meal," Chanyeol said, giving Baekhyun one last grin before walking away towards a door on the left. He vanished as quickly as he had appeared. The surprise lingered on behind him.

 

"Who was that?" Junmyeon asked once he was gone, eyebrows furrowed.

 

"Chanyeol," Baekhyun said and realization spread over Junmyeon’s face. "You met him once, you remember?"

 

"I didn’t really remember his face but how can I forget him when you always talk about him? It’s like you’re a three year old kid with a shiny new toy," Junmyeon said with a snort.

 

Baekhyun shushed him almost instantly.

 

"Someone could hear," he explained when Junmyeon quirked an eyebrow.

 

Junmyeon snorted and dug into his food instead. Baekhyun mimicked him, unable to stay away from the rich flavors awaiting him in his plate for too long.

 

Conversation with Junmyeon flowed naturally, as usual. It felt really nice to have his best friend cater to him, shaking his head exasperatedly when Baekhyun, always the messy eater, got a bit of sauce on his chin. That didn’t prevent Junmyeon from reaching out to clean around his mouth either when Baekhyun looked at him with instance and no will to do it for himself.

 

He would sometimes catch a glimpse of Chanyeol carrying full plates into the room and empty plates back into the kitchen. Their eyes would sometimes meet and they would smile at each other. Baekhyun somehow half expected Chanyeol to break a plate or a glass at some point but that didn’t happen. On the contrary, Chanyeol looked at him smugly each time their eyes met when he was carrying anything, as if he figured out what Baekhyun was expecting and was boasting about it not happening. 

 

Junmyeon had to call out to him a few times as that would seldom distract him from the conversation. There was just something interesting about watching Chanyeol in different situations. Baekhyun always discovered new sides of him. It could be surprising that Chanyeol would work here so diligently when the restaurant looked popular and equipped with enough staff for the owners’ son not to have to be so present in the service. However, Chanyeol put a lot of importance into his family.

 

Towards the end of their meal, Chanyeol approached them again, smiling at Junmyeon and asking him if he was enjoying the food. Junmyeon, ever so polite, gave him lots of praises that seemed to make Chanyeol happy enough to still be grinning as he leaned down to whisper into Baekhyun’s ear.

 

"I’m gonna leave in about ten minutes. Do you want to wait for me so we can leave together? If that’s okay for you, of course," he added, glancing at Junmyeon who was observing them curiously.

 

"Sounds like you’re desperate for a ride," Baekhyun teased him. There would be no problem, his decision was already taken. Both him and Junmyeon had come here with their own cars and Junmyeon wouldn’t mind.

 

"You talk as if I’m not the one always driving you around in your own car," Chanyeol huffed, his breath tickly against Baekhyun’s ear. He pulled away a little to give Baekhyun a judgmental look. His eyes dropped to his neck. There was nothing to see, Baekhyun had concealed his tattoo tonight. It still made him smile.

 

"Fine, I’m feeling very kind today. Lucky you."

 

"Lucky me," Chanyeol repeated with a smile before straightening up. He bowed to Junmyeon once and disappeared through the same door again.

 

Chanyeol had indeed been driving Baekhyun’s own car around through the whole week. December had knocked into them with its first snow a few days ago, on the first day of the month, and Baekhyun particularly hated driving when it snowed so it benefitted him.

 

"You let him drive your car?" Junmyeon questioned him, eyebrows raised in surprise as he scraped the last of his food with his fork.

 

"He likes it," Baekhyun easily answered.

 

"That never happened before."

 

There was a questioning, odd glint in Junmyeon’s eyes. Baekhyun looked back at him in confusion, not sure why this was a big deal.

 

"If anyone else liked cars as much as he did, it would’ve happened. It makes us spend a lot of time together."

 

Junmyeon hummed at that and didn’t comment further. He left soon after, with a last hug and reminder for Baekhyun to always wear a scarf. He coughed and caught a sore throat rather easily. Baekhyun patted his back and reminded him to always call when his mother was getting too much.

 

Chanyeol came out a while later, when Baekhyun finished drinking a last glass of water, his hair messy like it so often was. It hadn’t looked this way earlier. Baekhyun wondered if his mother was inside and had ruffled his hair goodbye. 

 

It was natural to just give Chanyeol his car keys now and the other gave him an excited smile in exchange before personally opening the passenger door for Baekhyun and acting like his actual driver. Baekhyun laughed at him and settled comfortably in his own car. The drive was a bit quieter than usual, Chanyeol was obviously a bit tired, but he was still chatty, telling him about his day and asking Baekhyun about his.

 

"That was the guy you came to the recital with back in August, right?" Chanyeol asked when they were a bit closer to his neighborhood and the song playing on the radio was an unknown one to both of them, preventing them from singing along.

 

"Yep. Junmyeon," Baekhyun informed, turning to look at him.

 

Chanyeol looked handsome when driving. There was no need to change gears, Baekhyun’s car was automatic and he sometimes used only one hand to drive, the other limply resting on his lap, falling between his slightly parted legs. He was a good driver. Chanyeol was good at everything he did, now that Baekhyun thought about it, but there was just something more attractive about him when he was driving.

 

Perhaps it was the way he effortlessly switched lanes. The constantly shifting eyes, his constant glances at Baekhyun, the veins in his hands somehow complimenting the expensive leather of the steering wheel. Or the way he blended in a fast car whether he was wearing a hoodie and ripped jeans or slacks and a dress shirt, like he was now. He always pulled the seat all the way back to accommodate his long legs. It was charming. He fit in Baekhyun’s car perfectly.

 

"You seem close," Chanyeol commented again and Baekhyun gave him a curious look.

 

"We are," Baekhyun confirmed, tone nonchalant. "We’ve been friends since we were fourteen. Or thirteen? I don’t remember exactly. He’s kind of my only real friend."

 

Chanyeol didn’t say anything after that. 

 

He fell quiet and Baekhyun caught a shift in his expression. His eyebrows remained furrowed through the remainder of the ride. Baekhyun discreetly glanced at him, trying to read him. This didn’t feel like the usual silences they shared. Chanyeol was the kind to ask numerous questions on any newly discovered topic. But he was silent.

 

Could this be a sign of jealousy? It could be. Baekhyun was close with Junmyeon and they usually didn’t hold back with skinship even when they were in public. Perhaps he had seen them acting too intimately and hadn’t liked it. It would be an interesting reaction. Not one he had planned, but also the only explanation to such reaction.

 

Eventually, Chanyeol pulled up at his apartment’s parking lot and turned the engine off. He remained quiet for a few seconds and Baekhyun, curious, waited for him to speak first.

 

"You said he was your only real friend," Chanyeol broke the silence after a short while. Baekhyun kept his expression neutral.

 

He hadn’t even noticed that those words had slipped off from him. It was a habit for him to think that Junmyeon was his only true friend and it wasn’t a wrong thought either. 

 

"He is," he said.

 

Chanyeol was still frowning when he looked at Baekhyun. It made something in him tinkle in glee.

 

"Then what am I?"

 

That definitely sounded like jealousy, Baekhyun thought. He hadn’t expected it to spark from something quite insignificant. It almost didn’t fit Chanyeol. He didn’t know what kind of lover Chanyeol was yet, though, so he couldn’t come out with an accurate hypothesis.

 

"You?" he hummed, curving his lips into a playful smile afterwards. "You’re cute."

 

Chanyeol didn’t laugh at that. He didn’t snort or scrunch his nose in like he usually would when he deemed Baekhyun too cheesy either. The corners of his lips barely twitched. He looked at Baekhyun with a foreign glint in his eyes.

 

"You know you can talk to me about things too, right?"

 

Confusion tugged at Baekhyun through those words. He kept his expression neutral. Had he been wrong? His tone didn’t sound like how people usually did when they felt jealous, there was no harshness, no accusation, and not even anger. In fact, he sounded just a little sad. Even his eyebrows were furrowed, his eyes set on Baekhyun, lips tugged down in that droopy, concerned way.

 

"I mean," he started again when Baekhyun said nothing. He looked down to where his finger was pressing against the wheel, nail drawing the ghost of a scratch on the leather. "I obviously can’t be on the same level as someone you’ve been friends with for more than ten years. But I want to be there for you when you need it too."

 

Baekhyun had a hard time formulating the words that he knew he should pronounce at that moment. It was too unfamiliar. It wasn’t jealousy after all. Just affection, maybe concern. Maybe something else. He wasn’t sure. He couldn’t identify it.

 

"There for me?" he repeated.

 

"Yeah. I want to be your real friend too. Someone you can lean on when things get hard. Or when you’re sad. Or lonely. Someone you can talk to about anything that bothers you. I want to be all that for you."

 

It was odd. No one had ever said such things to Baekhyun. This had never been one of his aims. He smiled. There was just something so lovely about Chanyeol. His wide, sad eyes. The concerned frown. The purse of his lips that indicated how serious he was being. The genuine, sincere, selfless gaze with which he was looking at Baekhyun. 

 

There was just something so fervent about it all. Baekhyun craved more of it.

 

"Then how about you start by being my little spoon for the night?"

 

Chanyeol looked at him blankly for a second, as if he had expected to hear anything but that. Then, he burst into laughter. His shoulders shook a little and he pressed a hand against his face. His eyes closed. He didn’t look embarrassed. Disbelief? No. He nodded, looked at Baekhyun. Satisfaction? A little. His dimple sauntered under Baekhyun’s gaze. He unfastened his seatbelt. 

 

Baekhyun smiled at him.

 

Endearment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was the same, foggy nightmare that woke Baekhyun up days later.

 

It was the same, clear memories that followed those foggy images. Anger, betrayal, sorrow, an angry push, and a scream as her body tumbled down the stairs and never got back up. 

 

Why could he remember that? Why couldn’t he dream about that? Why was it never him but the fog that pushed her down? Why did the whole situation not make sense to him? Why did a part of him keep wanting to hold onto that dream and believe that maybe, just maybe his own mind was wrong and his father was wrong and everything else was wrong and he hadn’t pushed his mother into her death?

 

Each of those thoughts were whizzing through his head like crazed cars and blinding headlights running right into a wall, victims of dysfunctional brakes. He could see each of those thoughts flashing harshly, blindingly against the black ceiling he was staring at..

 

After a while, his hand reached for his phone. The luminosity was too high but not as flashy as his own thoughts. This time, he didn’t seek the recordings of various pacifying melodies Chanyeol had sent him until today. This time, Baekhyun blinked and found his thumb hovering over Chanyeol’s name on his contacts list.

 

He stopped. Froze. Snorted. Chanyeol was only a friend right now. Baekhyun didn’t need a friend. He needed someone who loved him. Or at the very least, could show that kind of interest towards him. He was just in a weak state and had gotten confused. Not that Chanyeol wouldn’t love him. He would. Baekhyun was working towards that. Too slowly. Why was he working so slowly? He despised himself just a little bit for not having pulled Chanyeol into loving him yet.

 

Shaking his head, he scrolled a little more down his contacts list. He needed a name. Just a name. Any name would do. That was all Baekhyun needed, he could take care of the rest. It had been a long time since he had had anyone else in his life. He was spending too much time on Chanyeol, both literally and figuratively. He stopped at one name that stood out. Sehun.

 

Sehun could do. They had already had sex and he had been the one to ask for Baekhyun’s number back then, an obvious sign that he hadn’t wanted to cut things off there even if all he had in mind at that time could’ve been a physical relationship. Baekhyun could turn that around. Baekhyun could turn that scalding desire into fervid affection.

 

He pressed on that single name amongst tens, hundreds.

 

Wanna meet tomorrow?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sehun was as confident and open while they walked through Itaewon together as he had been the last time they had seen each other, in that small clothing store and that even smaller dressing room.

 

He was still just as handsome. He still had that attractive smile that mixed in smugness and innocence. Baekhyun, of course, knew that there was nothing innocent about Sehun. They chose to go on a simple outing for Baekhyun, a date for Sehun.

 

He wasn’t boring. He was funny, had tons of anecdotes to share about the hundreds of clients he encountered at work, and he still looked at Baekhyun with that openly interested, confident glint in his eyes. Conversation flowed nicely as they had a drink —tea for Baekhyun, coffee for him— but there was nothing particularly distinctive about that. Baekhyun could make conversation flow nicely with just about anyone as long as he tried hard enough.

 

And yet, Baekhyun couldn’t help but feel as if something was missing, lacking in the other. He couldn’t figure out what. Perhaps it was the fact that there was only plain lust in Sehun’s eyes, no affection, no care, no love. That shouldn’t be odd, though. There never was such feelings at first, Baekhyun always slowly worked them towards it.

 

It didn’t keep him from saying exactly what Sehun wanted to hear, nor did it crack through the interest he had concreted  over his face but Baekhyun couldn’t bring himself to find anything satisfying in this meeting. There was no warmth. No brightness. Sehun didn’t feel like a flower. He was pretty to look at, his skin was soft when Baekhyun grazed his cheek with his fingertips and pulled a smile to himself, but it didn’t feel like anything, maybe just a mere, human-crafted copy of a flower with harsh fabrics and faded colors.

 

He still did his best, however, thinking that maybe he just had to get used to it again and they got out of the coffeeshop together.

 

That was when he saw him.

 

Only a few meters away, Chanyeol was smiling down at Yixing as they walked together. Out of nowhere, Baekhyun felt something in him freeze and break down. He grabbed Sehun’s hand, pulling him away, to the opposite side where Chanyeol wouldn’t be able to see them. For a few seconds, he remained like that, until he was sure that Chanyeol was gone.

 

He looked behind him, where he had last seen them, and felt relief numbing him a little bit when he caught no sight of that familiar oversized, military green coat. He looked up at Sehun and met his questioning gaze, the sight enough to make him realize what he had just done.

 

That had been a missed opportunity. He could’ve shown himself, even made himself look unaware as he shoved Sehun into Chanyeol’s eyes. He could’ve tested him, his reaction, if there would be anger, jealousy, possessiveness. Instead, Baekhyun had hid himself. In that moment, fear had been the one to pull at his strings.

 

It was an odd feeling. It wasn’t really fear, perhaps. He shook his head at Sehun and pulled him closer by the hand, giving him an attractive and attracted smile. It hadn’t been fear. Just. Something lighter. Baekhyun wasn’t sure why he hadn’t wanted Chanyeol to see him. Maybe because it could’ve ruined everything he had worked to build so far. That could be it.

 

Sehun gave him a handsome smile but it wasn’t enough to shake that weird feeling off for the remainder of their time spent together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first thing Baekhyun did when he got home less than two hours later was call Chanyeol.

 

He could’ve stayed with Sehun, he had offered Baekhyun a cup of coffee at home, a bowl of ramyeon. Baekhyun knew what that stood for. He hadn’t been able to focus on the meaning. He hadn’t been able to focus on Sehun at all after seeing Chanyeol. He didn’t even remember the excuse he had given Sehun but he had let Baekhyun go easily, with no fuss or insistence.

 

All that had been on his mind was whether Chanyeol had caught a glimpse of them earlier. That wouldn’t be great. Baekhyun just had to make sure that hadn’t happened. Just so he could base his next moves on it all. Or something like that.

 

Chanyeol took a little while to answer and Baekhyun felt himself deflating a little more with each beep that went unanswered until eventually, his low voice greeted him from the other end of the line.

 

"Hey," he greeted the other back. "What are you up to?"

 

"I have a class in a bit," Chanyeol answered, no trace of irritation, anger, or any kind of negative emotion in his voice. He sounded the same as usual. Baekhyun’s body unknotted. "It’s going to start in three minutes actually. I only answered because you usually never call during the day when I have work. It’s gonna be an entire class of five year olds with tiny tiny pianos. Wish me good luck."

 

"I hope you got painkillers with you. I predict a headache," Baekhyun laughed softly.

 

Chanyeol hadn't seen them. He would’ve commented on it. Baekhyun didn’t know why he felt so reassured.

 

"Always got them. What about you? Is everything okay?"

 

"Yep," Baekhyun said with a skip in his voice to let Chanyeol know he was in a good mood. "I was just wondering if it was still on for Saturday?"

 

"Saturday?" Chanyeol asked, voice just a little blank as if the memory concerning that word was blank as well.

 

"There’s a new bibim naengmyeon restaurant opening tomorrow. We agreed on going this Saturday, two weeks ago. You know, the one in Jamsil-dong. Did you forget?" Baekhyun asked, voice taking on a teasing but threatening lilt.

 

There was a long, loud sound of realization from Chanyeol’s part.

 

"That was this Saturday?"

 

"Why? Do you have other plans?"

 

"No, it’s just," Chanyeol started before his voice sounded a bit far off the phone as he greeted someone. Probably his students. His voice sounded a bit rushed when he came back. "It’s just that it’s my mother’s birthday this Saturday. I completely forgot about the restaurant, I thought that was next week."

 

He had an apologetic tone to his voice. Baekhyun hummed understandingly.

 

"That’s okay, we can go next week. Your mom’s birthday’s more important."

 

"But we already planned this two weeks ago. I hate going back on promises," Chanyeol mumbled and Baekhyun could almost imagine his frown, the adorable upset line of his lips.

 

"It’s alright, silly. Don’t be upset about this. Just enjoy your time with your family and wish your mom a happy birthday for me," he said, his heart squeezing just a little bit at his last words. He didn’t remember ever wishing his mom a happy birthday.

 

"How about you come with me and wish her a happy birthday yourself?"

 

Baekhyun was at a loss for words for one fleeting second.

 

"What?"

 

"You can come with me. That way we’re not really cancelling our plans, just changing them."

 

"But it’s an important day. It’s for you and your family," Baekhyun reasoned, taken aback and unaccustomed to this kind of invitation.

 

"It’s alright," Chanyeol dismissed his concern before greeting yet a few more children. "She already saw you at the restaurant anyway, you’re not a total stranger. She’s actually even curious about you. It’d be nice."

 

It was almost flattering. Chanyeol felt comfortable enough with him to introduce him to his family when they were still just friends. That hadn’t ever happened before. No one had introduced Baekhyun to their families and Baekhyun had always avoided that kind of encounter. He could mess with someone’s feelings but not with anyone’s family. That was a drawback for him, he had limits.

 

"Come on, it’ll be fun!" Chanyeol insisted. "Look, I gotta go now. We won’t be talking about this again, you’re coming with me. I’m the driver anyway, I’ll just kidnap you. Alright. Talk to you later."

 

And Baekhyun was left to look at his blackened phone in surprise, not really sure what he was feeling.

 

He let out a soft chuckle after a few seconds. He supposed things with Chanyeol were already unusual as it was, he could allow himself to bend a single rule.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Come Saturday, Chanyeol had really not given him the choice and Baekhyun found himself standing in front of a small, lovely house as they waited for someone to open the door.

 

"You’re nervous, aren’t you?"

 

Baekhyun looked at Chanyeol, an eyebrow raised.

 

"I’m not," he lied.

 

He wasn’t even sure why he felt a little bit of apprehension when he knew for sure he had the ability to make whoever was behind that door appreciate him in a matter of minutes. What he was even less sure about was how Chanyeol had even managed to see through him. Baekhyun wasn’t sure he liked that either.

 

Chanyeol merely gave him a satisfied smile before looking at the door.

 

"Why is no one opening," he muttered under his breath before bringing a hand up and stabbing his finger against the doorbell just about ten consecutive times.

 

He heard a female voice screaming something unintelligible through the door, Chanyeol’s smile widening and then turning into a full grin when the door opened to a beautiful woman with an irritated twist on her face. Baekhyun recognized her from that one time on the subway and photos in Chanyeol’s apartment. Her name was Yoora, if he wasn’t mistaken.

 

"You know why I think you’re adopted, Chanyeol? Because no one else but you acts so damn childish in this family," she grumbled, looking up at her brother with that same irritated frown that seemed to fuel Chanyeol’s amusement. It was an interesting scene. Then, her eyes slid to Baekhyun and her features relaxed into a friendliness. "Oh, hello."

 

Chanyeol snorted. Baekhyun gave her an easy smile and bowed. 

 

"Good, now you gave him the first impression of a mean sister. Pretty accurate," Chanyeol huffed before Baekhyun could say anything.

 

Yoora snarled at him.

 

"Of course not. You look like a very beautiful, very nice person. I’m actually impressed you haven’t killed this guy despite living with him all your life," Baekhyun said, purposefully avoiding to look at the offended expression he knew Chanyeol was sporting.

 

Yoora laughed at his words. He supposed she appreciated both his compliments and the playful support equally.

 

"I think if we adopted Chanyeol, we could afford to adopt you too if you’re interested," she said playfully.

 

They both laughed before Chanyeol nudged both of them inside, giving Baekhyun a betrayed look. He couldn’t conceal his smile, however. He looked glad that Baekhyun got along with his sister even if it meant the two of them teaming up against him.

 

Their mother was waiting for them right in the living room, a big smile on her face. Baekhyun realized how alike both Chanyeol and Yoora looked to their mother, the big smile and kindliness radiating from her face a splitting image to that of her children. She embraced Baekhyun heartily, as if she had known him for years and raised him together with her own children, her hands even patting his back when she pulled away with a concerned frown on her face.

 

"You’re so thin, dear," she said, voice sad and fussy. Junmyeon’s mother always did the same thing. Maybe it was something all mothers did. 

 

"And you’re very beautiful. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that you have such a beautiful daughter anymore," he simply answered, earning a charmed smile from her. "Happy birthday."

 

She smiled bashfully. "I cooked lots of things. I wasn’t sure what you liked and couldn’t ask Chanyeol but eat a lot at least tonight, alright?" she asked softly, her hands still on his shoulders as if she had hugged him thousands of times before. She was a warm person. It was an unfamiliar kind of warmth, Baekhyun had never really felt it before, not even through Junmyeon’s mother.

 

He nodded, smile genuine before it turned into laughter when Chanyeol stepped in.

 

"Mom, don’t forget your real son."

 

She proceeded to hug Chanyeol too, laughter and joy dripping from her voice as Chanyeol wrapped his long arms around her frail body and even folded himself all around her. He rested his head on her shoulder even if she was much shorter than him and his back probably hurt from bending so much. His eyes closed into that peaceful expression, his lips pulled into that lovely smile. The one he always had on when he played the piano. Baekhyun felt fulfilment gratify him as he looked at them.

 

Chanyeol’s father was a really friendly man as well and he seemed to be the source of Chanyeol’s talkative side, asking many questions to Baekhyun, making conversation as if they were old friends. Baekhyun was pleased to find out that he liked soccer as that was a topic he had quite an abundant knowledge on.

 

As they sat down in the living room while Yoora and her mother made the last preparations for dinner, the unfamiliar sound of clicking paws suddenly cut through Chanyeol’s conversation about work with his father. Suddenly, he shot up to his feet and ran towards his left, Baekhyun’s confused gaze following him. It lit up with understanding when he saw a small ball of black fur jumping to Chanyeol’s lap when he crouched down.

 

"You have a puppy?" Baekhyun asked as he almost unconsciously stood up, leaving Chanyeol’s father alone to crouch down next to Chanyeol.

 

It was a black poodle Baekhyun had already seen pictures of but he had forgotten its existence and now, as he watched it jump and yip all over Chanyeol, he couldn’t help but laugh and slowly reached out to pat its small head. Instantly, it gave all its attention to Baekhyun. It was so jumpy and excited and in a way, it almost reminded him of Chanyeol.

 

"Looks like he loves you," Chanyeol laughed softly.

 

"What’s his name?"

 

"Toben," Chanyeol announced with a boastful voice. "Short for Beethoven."

 

Baekhyun looked at him.

 

"Did you really name your dog after a dead musician?"

 

Right at that moment, Yoora stepped into the living room with a tray full of food she laid on the dining table.

 

"It’s a lame name," she said, shaking her head a little.

 

"It’s not!" Chanyeol instantly protested, hugging Toben to his chest as if the small puppy could hear her words and get hurt.

 

"Just don’t forget to take your meds," she retorted before disappearing into the kitchen again.

 

Chanyeol huffed softly before letting go of Toben and stepping out into the hallway and up the staircase. Toben didn’t seem to mind, laying its hind paws on Baekhyun’s thighs. He took the small puppy into his arms and sat back down onto the couch, giving the father a questioning look. He seemed to understand it and smiled good-naturedly.

 

"He’s allergic to animal fur. He has to take pills whenever he’s in contact with it or he’ll start sneezing and his eyes water or get puffy."

 

"But he loves animals so much," Baekhyun heard himself say, surprised to hear this piece of information he had no idea about.

 

"He does," the man chuckled fondly. "That’s why Toben’s staying with us and not with him. He can’t spend too much time with him and especially not live with him."

 

Baekhyun looked down at the small puppy, caressing the puffy and curly fur on its ears. He had never even thought that Chanyeol could hurt himself so much through all the time he spent with animals. He had no idea Chanyeol was the kind of person who’d still spend so much time with animals and love them so much even if it affected his health.

 

That explained all the time he’d randomly have sneezing spurges back when he still gave Baekhyun classes after being in contact with animals. Or how regretfully he looked at cute puppies in the streets after caressing them once and stepping away. Baekhyun smiled down at the puppy licking his fingertips. There was just something so captivating about that. Chanyeol was really someone full of love to give. A bountiful source of melted softness.

 

The Park family’s house was a welcoming, cozy place. It wasn’t big, just big enough to fit in a family of four but small enough to keep that small family together and close to each other on a daily basis. There were pictures scattered all around the living room, Yoora had even told him the story behind every picture of Chanyeol. The way he groaned at the most embarrassing ones was almost better than the stories themselves.

 

That closeness could still be sensed throughout the meal. Chanyeol’s mother had really given her all to this meal, side dishes and main dishes piled up all over the table, complementing each other perfectly and melting deliciously in Baekhyun’s mouth through a homey blend of flavors and colors. The table was never silent, they all talked and talked more about anything and everything, ranging from Yoora’s boyfriend’s last antics to their father’s most favorite musical eras throughout the whole world. He had an overflowing knowledge about the topic and Baekhyun listened to him, genuinely amazed and interested by every single song and artist recommendation he made. His eyes sparkled the same way Chanyeol’s always did when he talked about music and that alone was enough to have more of a hindsight concerning the kind of person Chanyeol grew up to be.

 

It was such a loving family, Baekhyun felt acceptance coating his entire being with every dish that the mother made him taste. Chanyeol always filled his glass of water when it emptied or handed him the plate he wanted to take food from before Baekhyun even had the occasion to voice it out. At one point, Chanyeol accidentally spilled the broth of his ttukbaegi bulgogi on his chin and fingers and, out of habit, Baekhyun tutted at him while grabbing a napkin and dabbing at his skin to absorb the scalding hot drops before they could hurt him. He caught his mother smiling at them and almost felt bad for acting so intimate but neither Chanyeol nor anyone else seemed to mind. 

 

He wondered if Chanyeol’s family was aware of his preferences and had accepted them. Not that they had ever actually talked about their own sexual preferences but at this point, it was obvious. Maybe Chanyeol had been accepted and loved as he was by his whole family. It would be surprising but not unheard of. They did seem like a loving, close family and Baekhyun never once felt like an outsider but as happy as that made him, he also couldn’t ignore the harshness with which envy clawed at his heart. Even Junmyeon’s family wasn’t so closely bound together.

 

And it made him feel odd. It was as if he were part of the intimacy, as if he was one of the pictures hanging on the wall, one of the vinyls displayed on the shelf, one of this incredibly loving family’s members. He could feel it. And maybe even Chanyeol could feel it in the way Baekhyun’s own voice seemed lighter than usual to his own ears. He kept glancing at Baekhyun, watching him, and Baekhyun didn’t know why. Was it because he liked Baekhyun getting along so well with his family? Or was it because he was starting to feel something deeper? He wasn’t sure. He couldn’t decipher anything, too busy basking in the novelty and breathing it in, his shoulder pressed against Chanyeol’s as they sat close to each other.

 

"You’re eating so well," the mother said halfway through the meal, her gaze tender and her smile pleased as she looked at Baekhyun shoveling food down his throat. There was just something else about home cooked food. She gestured towards her children, shaking her head a little bit as she cut off yet another one of Chanyeol and Yoora’s childish arguments about something as trivial as the most tasty beverage on earth. "These two always complain about this and that, how there’s not enough salt or it’s too spicy. You’re just perfect. Not picky at all."

 

Baekhyun smiled at that, satisfied. Chanyeol had teased him about how much care he had put into his outfit but it had seemingly paid off. She liked him. Her husband nodded from beside her, approving of her words.

 

"Here, eat more," she said, refilling his rice bowl and ignoring her husband’s complaints about making him eat too much and pushing him to have a stomachache.

 

Baekhyun laughed at the argument. It kind of explained how their children acted. He took another small dish from her with both hands, bowing his head a little bit to thank her. His smile didn’t falter when he noticed that it was just cucumber pickles but he hesitated just a little bit, chopsticks hovering over the small side dish for a second before he grabbed a very small amount and added it to his bowl of rice, right on top of the grains. 

 

He couldn’t reveal himself to be unable to eat cucumbers right after such words from her. He wouldn’t allow himself to shatter that perfect image he had managed to create for himself. He held out the small plate back to her.

 

"How’d you cook that, mom?" Chanyeol suddenly asked, drawing his mother’s attention to one of the side dishes in front of his father.

 

In that short second, he grabbed the thin spicy, sauced pickles of cucumber from Baekhyun’s bowl and dumped them into his instead. Baekhyun looked at him, surprise not showing on his face but still quite obvious from how fast his gaze had flown to Chanyeol. He didn’t look at Baekhyun, simply listening to his mother enthusiastically describe him the cooking process of her dish.

 

Baekhyun smiled down at his food and continued eating, ardor trickling down is stomach until he felt fuller with affection than with dishes cooked with love. He wondered if it was possible for it to overflow. He hoped not, he felt like keeping it all to himself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"I could sleep on the floor," Chanyeol said a bit later, eyeing his small bed that was made to fit a single person only.

 

He had a nice bedroom, one that was fitting to the image Baekhyun had of him. There were even more pictures, of him now or of him with his childhood friends when he was still a preteen or a bubbly teenager. It wasn’t as messy as his current apartment but there were still mismatched things around. An empty guitar case leaned against the wall, movies and video games posters all around, and even a tiny basketball hoop hanging on the wall.

 

He stepped closer to Baekhyun and ran his hands down his chest with a playful smile, childishly leaving a few wet spots on the fabric. Baekhyun kicked him away, scrunching his nose. They had washed the dishes together only minutes ago. Chanyeol had argued with his mother about washing them with Yoora and had won the battle after lots of protest from the kindhearted woman. Baekhyun had then joined in, offering to wash the dishes with him rather than letting Yoora do it. She had swooned. Baekhyun felt himself melt a little bit at how caring Chanyeol was with his parents.

 

It was much past sunset, closer to midnight now and Baekhyun hadn’t expected to spend that much time in here but he had barely even noticed the clock ticking. They had eaten cake, sang her a birthday song, and then let her open her gifts. She had told everyone that it was unnecessary of them to spend money on her but the happiness she felt through the whole night had been obvious. Baekhyun knew he had scored a very high mark when she opened up the beautiful, old but authentic phonograph Baekhyun had gotten for her after much debate on the subject with Chanyeol.

 

She had insisted for them both to just spend the night here and leave in the morning even if they both didn’t even live too far off, just in another district of Seoul. Baekhyun hadn’t even hesitated before accepting. There was just something binding about this house. He wanted to spend as much time here as possible. Or maybe it was just the family living inside of it.

 

"Come on, we’ve already shared a bed before," Baekhyun said, shaking his hands a bit. He was wearing another one of Chanyeol’s pajamas, too big on him. This one had little stars on a red background. "We can both fit in here."

 

Chanyeol grinned.

 

"That’s exactly what I wanted to hear."

 

Baekhyun laughed softly at that, shaking his head fondly when Chanyeol proceeded to yawn while pulling him to the small bed. Baekhyun got in first, sticking himself against the wall and then patting the small room left for Chanyeol while obnoxiously wiggling his eyebrows. Chanyeol snorted while sliding under the blanket and letting Baekhyun pull him close, holding onto him so he wouldn’t fall off the bed.

 

They wiggled around a little bit to fit and Baekhyun even kneed Chanyeol in the stomach on purpose as some kind of revenge for the wet hands earlier before they settled down as comfortably as they could. However, as soon as they stopped shifting around, Chanyeol’s eyes widened in realization and he sat up.

 

"You should sleep on the other side, away from the wall."

 

"Why?" he asked, giving the other a confused look.

 

Without giving him any explanation, Chanyeol simply pulled him away from the wall and then slid over him to settle on that tiny spot. He wiggled around a bit more to push Baekhyun away and make more room for himself, his arms wrapping around Baekhyun to prevent him from falling off the bed. Baekhyun watched him in confusion, a bit too sleepy to even say or do anything. It was only when he was satisfied with their new position that Chanyeol smiled at him sheepishly.

 

"The window doesn’t close properly so there’s always a little bit of cold air blowing in directly over the bed at night."

 

Baekhyun glanced at the window right above the bed. Chanyeol’s embrace around him was warm. He felt himself swimming in his pajamas and Chanyeol’s own pajamas were a simple blue color with a squared pattern you’d see on most pajamas. The fabric was soft against Baekhyun’s hands, soothing. It always felt like a blanket wrapped around him. His favorite sweater. But it felt like the warmth was somewhere inside of him.

 

"But you get cold more easily than I do," he said after a while, not really knowing why he was whispering when they hadn’t even turned the lights off yet. The dim glow from the puppy-shaped bedside lamp was still on, drawing long shadows on Chanyeol’s cheeks every time he blinked sleepily.

 

Maybe it was because he could feel it, that balminess. On the brink of overflowing, puffing up inside of him and fanning snug breezes through his entire body. Or maybe it was Chanyeol. They were pressed so close together, Baekhyun could see every single emotion displayed in his eyes, playing hide and seek with the ardent sparkles in those dark orbs.

 

"Yeah. But I’m used to it, I’ll be okay. I don’t want you to get sick."

 

Baekhyun felt himself taking a deep breath in. The warmth was almost overflowing, too abundant. The affection he was cloaked in through Chanyeol’s tender embrace almost suffocating. But he had never breathed in so easily. It was a little stupid. It was just a spot on the bed, an insignificant, ridiculously insignificant sacrifice. And yet it was so easy to breathe it in, indulge in it.

 

"So, how was your first family dinner?" Chanyeol asked after a few seconds of comfortable silence.

 

"How do you know it was my first?"

 

It wasn’t his first family dinner. He had dined with Junmyeon’s family before. Maybe it was his first real family dinner.

 

Chanyeol smiled softly, a bit unsure but barely so. Baekhyun knew exactly how to read him now. He had a handsome smile. He looked so soft and cozy, pressed against Baekhyun, their heads resting on the same pillow, their breaths caressing each other timidly. His hair was a mess. It was longer now, much longer than when they had first met. That seemed so long ago. Baekhyun shifted just a little bit, pushing himself closer to him just a little bit. Chanyeol’s hold on him never loosened.

 

"You looked kinda clueless and a little lost, a bit overwhelmed maybe. I hope they didn’t make you uncomfortable, they can be a bit too enthusiastic sometimes."

 

He chuckled, velvety, smooth. Baekhyun felt it tickle his face, spreading more of that delectable simmer through him. He hummed, choosing his words carefully. Chanyeol seemed to be able to read him well too now. Baekhyun had no idea how that came to be. Had no idea how to prevent that. Had no clue whether it was a bad thing or not. He’d think about it later.

 

"Let’s just say it was my first real family dinner. I’m not used to familial events and you’re a small family but you just felt so wide and close at the same time. To me, at least."

 

"Do you have a small family?" Chanyeol questioned, curious, mellow. Like his fingertips barely kissing Baekhyun’s nape, caressing his skin. His voice sounded like a vibrating piano note, a loving lullaby.

 

"Just my father, brother, and me," he whispered. He should stop there. There was no question, just a slightly curious look but no question. He spoke out again before realizing it. "We lost my mother when I was eight."

 

There was no pity. Baekhyun had expected it but there was not a single hint of it. Chanyeol continued looking at him through his beautiful, hooded eyes. His fingers seeded down warmth from Baekhyun’s nape to the back of his head, soaking his hair and his mind with it until Baekhyun felt it ingrained inside him.

 

"Do you wanna tell me what happened?"

 

"She fell down the stairs," he answered just as a foggy, croaky, snappy voice whispered the truth in his head. A truth concealed by wafts of smoke that blurred that voice.

 

Baekhyun closed his eyes for a second, burrowing deeper against Chanyeol’s chest. He said nothing, simply looked at Baekhyun, watched over him, fingers careful, like the light murmur of sunlight against damp silk. Baekhyun looked at him again.

 

"We never really had family dinners after that," he explained, voice holding no particular emotion. "I barely even talk to them anymore."

 

"How did you feel tonight then?" he asked, shifting just a little bit, pulling Baekhyun even closer. He didn’t know how that was possible. He already felt engulfed.

 

"It was nice," he confessed. More than nice. But he didn’t know the words to describe this feeling. He never had to. "Foreign but nice. You have a really nice family."

 

Chanyeol’s lips curved into a faint but heavy smile. Heavy with joy at those words. As if that was all that he had wanted. Baekhyun to just feel nice tonight. To feel the fervency.

 

"If you want, you could come here more often. I’m pretty sure both my mom and sister will pester me to bring you more anyway. They loved you."

 

His words lived on for a few more seconds after leaving his mouth through an emollient, quiet laugh. There was more lukewarm air than full sound. It was cushioned against Baekhyun’s chin. Their faces were so close. Had Chanyeol’s laughter always sounded so bright?

 

And he didn’t know what it was about those words. He didn’t know why. He didn’t know if it was the drowsiness dripping from Chanyeol’s eyes and diluting him into something that felt as soft as a puff of a cloud, maybe a mouthful of cotton candy melting against his tongue. He didn’t know if it was the handsome smile that was frail as a flower, rosy and mesmerizing as the touch of a petal. He didn’t know if it was the embrace around him, comfortable as his favorite sweater, warm as the first beam of a spring, sturdy yet tender as heated water drenching his body at the end of a stubborn day. He didn’t know if it was everything that had happened to him tonight, everything that he had seen. He didn’t know if it was just Chanyeol.

 

But Baekhyun could feel it. The warmth in him, pooling, gathering, saturating him and eventually overflowing. Spilling and swamping Chanyeol himself. As if Baekhyun wanted to pull him in, heist that white heat, lock it in a corner of his body and braze it into himself.

 

Chanyeol’s lips were soft as plum blossoms when Baekhyun pressed their lips together. They moulded against Baekhyun’s perfectly, just like plum blossoms had inscribed themselves onto his skin so easily. There was no pain.

 

There was no surprise, no hesitation. Baekhyun kissed Chanyeol balmily, breaking the touch for a fleeting moment only to press his lips against Chanyeol’s again, on one corner, then the other, and then perfectly embraced the other’s plump, silky lower lip, cocooning it in his own warmth. Chanyeol kissed Baekhyun back as if he had taken the first whiff of his favorite flower and wouldn’t get enough of it until his head was clouded and hazed from the fragrance.

 

His fingers skimmed over Chanyeol’s cheek, sliding down, down like stray blossoms guided around by the wind until his fingers branched down to his jaw, pinky nestling against his neck. His skin felt cloudy. His lips felt even smoother, but not like weak silk at the mercy of the wind. His lips played and pressed and pecked and pulled against Baekhyun’s like mischievous leaves swirling with the wind in the air, not guiding the dance but not let completely limbless either. It didn’t feel as if they had kissed a thousand times before. It felt like their first time.

 

Chanyeol’s fingers tightened just a little bit in his hair, not enough to tug but just enough to hold him in place. Baekhyun’s fingers slowly rode the faint beat he could feel on his neck. It wasn’t awkward, there was no teeth, no accidental bite. Just discovery, careful steps into a new territory, the excitement and eagerness brought in by the fresh taste of an unexplored adventure. It felt like their first time but one that they were both delighted to take part in, one that they turned into their usual banter, playful, familiar, comfortable and so, so warm.

 

Chanyeol didn’t taste like anything when Baekhyun ventured into his mouth. He hadn’t expected him to. Baekhyun couldn’t taste anything much, maybe just a pint of strawberry, a remnant of toothpaste, but Baekhyun could feel. He could feel that fervency trickling through his fingers, through their mouths, through the cushioning fingers still in his hair. He could feel it flowing inside of him. He could almost taste it when he carefully nibbled onto Chanyeol’s lower lip, asking, questioning. Chanyeol replied by pulling away just a little bit, until Baekhyun could only feel the impression of his lips but not touch them any longer. They met again, their lips parted, like burgeoning flowers reaching out to the clear, beaming embrace of the sun.

 

Their lips grazed, brushed, caressed, Baekhyun leaned in, touching, giving a taste, before stealing it back. Chanyeol followed the movement, trailed after him, as if in his mind, he was already kissing Baekhyun again. He pressed their lips together again, fingers sliding down to Baekhyun’s nape as he gingerly, sweetly nibbled on Baekhyun’s lower lip once before pressing a huggy peck above Baekhyun’s upper lip. It was delicate, precise, right where Baekhyun knew a mole was dotted on his skin. He leaned in, chased, pressed their lips together again, deepening the kiss. He felt Chanyeol’s lips curving up into a candescent moon against his. He wondered if it was that smile. That same smile, the one he had on when playing piano, with his eyes closed and his entire body left to the hands of the melody, its new owner until it died down.

 

Baekhyun hoped it was.

 

 In the back of his mind, Baekhyun thought that this memory belonged to him. Chanyeol would remember their first kiss as such. Every time Chanyeol would step into his childhood bedroom, he would feel Baekhyun’s lips against his. Careful, familiarly unfamiliar, and slow, like the drag of Chanyeol’s lower lip when he pulled away and Baekhyun kissed it one last time, holding it captive under his white pearls for one last breath before letting go. This belonged to him.

 

Baekhyun’s lips still tingled a little when they pulled away to look at each other. He remained hovering over Chanyeol a little bit, supporting himself on one elbow, the other hand still laid halfway between Chanyeol’s jaw and his neck.

 

There was no surprise in Chanyeol’s eyes, they were just a little more hooded than earlier. There were no questions between them either. Their faces were still too close, Baekhyun could feel Chanyeol’s breath ghosting against his lips, damp. His cheeks were a little flushed, faintly dusted in pink, not from embarrassment or timidity. Maybe his own warmth overflowing from Baekhyun had simply flooded into his cheeks. Maybe it was his own warmth that he felt in Baekhyun. Sometimes, Baekhyun wished Chanyeol could feel it.

 

They looked at each other for a few seconds, observing. Simply observing. Chanyeol leaned up again. His fingers were still tangled in Baekhyun’s hair, his the imprint of his touch still swirling in Baekhyun’s soul. His lips were still just as soft the second time they kissed. 

 

This one was amble, like a final note. Or maybe a preview. Baekhyun kissed him back, letting his eyes flutter shut, hand dangling from Chanyeol’s neck to his chest, fingers gripping that soft, comfortable pajama shirt. He pulled away a bit, grazed his lips over Chanyeol’s skin, lacing kisses from the corner of his lips to the reddened apple of his cheek before going back on his steps, untying everything to let his mouth fall back against the other’s. 

 

He hovered over it, their lips still parted, Chanyeol’s seeking, Baekhyun’s smiling. He shook his head a little, barely, just to let the tips of their noses brush together in a different kiss. Then, he pecked him one last time, breathed him in, drenched himself in the sensation, soaking it up, imbibing his mind before slowly pulling away.

 

Their eyes opened almost at the same time, their gazes met, and almost simultaneously, they laughed. Softly, quietly, but with affinity.

 

Chanyeol’s fingers were still set against his neck, his smile a bit dreamy, very handsome. His dimple seemed deeper, content pooled inside.

 

"I thought I’d be the one to lose and kiss you first," he said, whispered, voice knitted in a smile.

 

"Was this a competition too?" Baekhyun laughed softly. Chanyeol’s smile widened a little.

 

"No, but you’re really good at being exactly what people crave." 

 

"Maybe I’m just exactly what you crave."

 

Chanyeol quirked an eyebrow, playful, amused.

 

"And what makes you so confident?" he challenged Baekhyun who hummed playfully, as if in thought.

 

"Maybe the way you couldn’t help but stare at me in the subway, at the beginning," he said, smug.

 

"There’s no way you noticed that without staring back at me, just saying," Chanyeol huffed, frowning in that mock irritated way that suited him so much.

 

Baekhyun snickered and that seemed to be enough for Chanyeol to follow along, chuckling and letting his dimple peek through again. The smile lingered on his lips afterwards as he silently looked into Baekhyun’s eyes. Without thinking, without hesitating Baekhyun leaned in to press a kiss right against that dimple, right below the rosiness on his cheeks, stealing the warmth nestled in there and pulling a soft chuckle out of an even softer Chanyeol again.

 

They kissed a lot that night, until their minds floated into haziness, until Baekhyun’s lips felt numb but not from kissing, from the delicate blanket Chanyeol’s mouth always felt like as it laid on his.

 

It was an odd kind of victory trickling through Baekhyun’s veins that night. 

 

As they fell asleep, he was the one to hug Chanyeol’s back tightly into his chest, his arms wrapped around his waist securely, his forehead perfectly nestled against his nape, but Baekhyun still felt himself enveloped by that same, radiant torridity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That sensation was still the first thing Baekhyun felt when he opened his eyes in the morning and was met with the calm on Chanyeol’s features as he was asleep.

 

He had shifted around a lot in his sleep, just like he had on the two previous times they had shared a bed, and he was facing Baekhyun now, his face close enough for Baekhyun to feel every single breath he exhaled. Whenever they slept together, it always felt like Chanyeol couldn’t keep himself away from Baekhyun. He fell asleep pressed up against Baekhyun, and woke up pressed up against Baekhyun, maybe closer. 

 

His hair was messy, ruffled and sprawled over the pillow, his cheek squished against the pillow, puffed up the slightest bit. He looked beautiful. His lips were parted a little, wafts of air swinging in and out of his mouth. Baekhyun’s eyes dropped to it, to that soft lower lip he had kissed too many times to keep count last night, up until the last second of consciousness before sleep had taken over.

 

They had kissed. It almost felt surreal after how long it actually took to happen. The end of a summer, an entire autumn, and the shy beginning of a winter. Five months. He felt his lips flowering into a smile, something in him still basking in the ardor of the remembrance. 

 

There was no profound love. Not yet, but there was room for it to maturate. Affection and attraction were present - Chanyeol had never said anything but Baekhyun knew him enough to tell he wasn’t the kind of person to just go along with things. If he had kissed Baekhyun, it meant that he at least liked him. 

 

That was enough for now. Now that Baekhyun thought about it, it had been a while since the last time someone had loved him. This wasn’t remotely close to the way Junki or Joohyun or anyone before loved him but it was a good start. Baekhyun wasn’t even surprised to feel how much he had actually missed this feeling, this feeling of care and the delight that always came with the knowledge that someone nurtured such feelings for him.

 

Chanyeol woke up slowly up. Baekhyun quietly watched as his eyelids fluttered, rows of lashes delicately kissing each other and parting only to meet again a few times as Chanyeol blinked. It took him a few seconds to be able to keep his eyes open and Baekhyun smiled as he noted how hooded they remained, as if it took Chanyeol a strong willpower to keep his eyes open even that little much.

 

They remained quiet. Baekhyun’s joyful gaze met Chanyeol’s hazy one and he watched as the sparkles in his eyes cleared up with each blink that chased the sleep away from Chanyeol’s mind. They gazed at each other, Baekhyun wondering what would Chanyeol’s reaction be, if he’d say anything about last night, ask explanations and complicate things, or act like nothing had happened.

 

Chanyeol did none of that. His gaze dropped to Baekhyun’s lips as if the memory of how they had felt against his last night was just coming back now. 

 

"You can kiss me good morning now. There’s nothing holding you back," Baekhyun said, the quietest, in order not to brusque him in his slumberous state. He watched Chanyeol take two more seconds to stare at his lips before looking up into Baekhyun’s eyes.

 

Chanyeol grinned, the curve of his lips soft with the remnants of sleep. He didn’t kiss Baekhyun. Instead, he wrapped his arms around his waist, slid down a little bit on the pillow to pull Baekhyun close to him until he could burrow his face in the crook of Baekhyun’s neck. He chuckled fondly as he felt Chanyeol breathe out a sleepy sigh against his neck, tickling his skin both with exhales and his messy hair. He wrapped his arms around Chanyeol, returning the embrace and letting his hand brush up and down his spine.

 

"I’m holding back because of morning breath," he heard the other mutter, voice muffled against Baekhyun’s neck.

 

This was delectable. He hadn’t had something like this in a long time. He hadn’t felt this kind of warmth shrouding him from everything else in too long. It was almost making his mind hazy from how overwhelming it felt.

 

He let Chanyeol wake up properly, slowly rubbing his back and stroking his bird’s nest of a hair, smiling a little as Chanyeol tangled their legs together and nestled deeper against Baekhyun’s neck. After a while, he pulled away and looked up at Baekhyun. It wasn’t a shy smile, just a delicate, contented one. Baekhyun leaned down to kiss it. Just because he could now. Just because he wondered if Chanyeol’s kiss would still feel just as revitalizing after a full night’s rest and with no drowsiness clouding his mind anymore.

 

It did. It still felt like slipping into his favorite sweater. It was slow, sleepy in the way Baekhyun pressed benign kisses over Chanyeol’s lips, slotting their mouths together. Chanyeol melted against him, as if the warmth Baekhyun felt from him was too consuming for even Chanyeol to survive. He was putty under Baekhyun’s lips but not limbless, he was gentle but not numb, his hold around Baekhyun still strong and sturdy.

 

When Baekhyun pulled away from him, Chanyeol’s lips remained parted, his lidded eyes looking up at Baekhyun from under delicate lashes. He looked hazy, as if he was still in a dream, or maybe as if he was the dream itself. Baekhyun smiled and that seemed enough to attract Chanyeol’s lips back to his, he leaned up to press their lips together in a deeper, more playful kiss, as if Baekhyun’s lips had helped him sober up from his slumber and he was wide awake now.

 

Baekhyun let him take the lead, simply savoring the smooth texture of his lips, the soft jolts and tingles when Chanyeol nibbled on his lower lip only to pull away a little before Baekhyun could return the gesture. It was still lazy, the drag of Chanyeol’s lips against his was  dreamy, leisurely.

 

Chanyeol parted from Baekhyun with a last lap against his lower lip but remained close, enough for Baekhyun to actually be unable to properly see him without his eyes straining. He breathed in. It was easy.

 

There was something addicting about Chanyeol’s kisses. He didn’t know what. It could be how easeful, slow, but full they were. It could be how Chanyeol clung onto him for dear life up until the very last graze of their lips together and even after that. It could be the way Chanyeol looked at him after each kiss, his gaze soft, a bit melted. A little flush on his cheeks, so radiant and clear. It could just be the fact that Baekhyun hadn’t kissed someone who nurtured some kind of genuine emotions for him in a while.

 

He didn’t know. But he wanted to kiss Chanyeol again. And he could now - he had held back for months. He wasn’t even sure why he had done so. He leaned down a little bit, eyes focused on Chanyeol’s permeating smile, as if even he knew that Baekhyun couldn’t keep away, as if he understood that feeling. 

 

Before their lips met again, a knock against the door froze them in place.

 

"Boys, breakfast is ready. Come out before it gets cold."

 

Chanyeol’s mother’s voice was muffled behind the door but it was still easy to hear the joy vibrating through it.

 

"We’ll be out in a minute," Chanyeol called out to her, eyes still trailing over Baekhyun’s face.

 

Baekhyun smiled down at him. He almost felt like a teenager. Maybe it was because he was technically in a teenager’s bedroom.

 

Quiet footsteps walked away from the door and Chanyeol yawned a little, letting go of Baekhyun to stretch his arms over his head. Baekhyun did the same, although his only motive was to bump his fingertips against Chanyeol’s face with the excuse of stretching his poor limbs. Chanyeol whined just a little when Baekhyun’s hand knocked against his forehead and they laughed together before sitting up.

 

Nothing had really changed. It almost came as a relief to Baekhyun. He wasn’t sure why.

 

He grabbed his phone from the bedside table but didn’t unlock it, simply used it as some kind of improvised mirror and tilted his head a bit to take a look at his neck. Chanyeol was still laying down, he could feel his gaze on him. Baekhyun frowned when he saw that the make up he had concealed his tattoo with last night was smudged and faded away in some parts, letting some black lines completely appear while only graying out others.

 

"Do you have makeup in your room?" he asked, looking down at Chanyeol. "Foundation or even concealer?"

 

He hadn’t planned to stay the night and had therefore not brought anything with him. Even if the makeup he used was of high quality, it wasn’t surprising that it had been ruined after a full night’s sleep during which his neck had continuously rubbed against pillows and sheets. There wasn’t anything else about his appearance that he couldn’t fix, the tattoo was the only major problem. He couldn’t go out like that.

 

Chanyeol hummed softly, finally sitting up.

 

"I don’t have anything here. My sister probably does, though," he added and Baekhyun was about to ask him if he could perhaps borrow it from her even if his skin was a little darker than hers and the shade wouldn’t completely match but before he could do so, Chanyeol spoke again. "But you don’t have to hide it. They won’t mind."

 

And they didn’t.

 

It took Chanyeol five entire minutes to convince Baekhyun to just let it go but when they came down for breakfast, no one had commented on it. Chanyeol’s parents had seen it, he caught them looking but there had been no judgement or disapproval in their eyes. Even Yoora had simply asked what was his tattoo about since it couldn’t exactly be entirely seen and Baekhyun explained with a little bit of hesitance but their mother had reassured him with a smile, telling him that she really loved plum flowers.

 

Breakfast was as delicious and garnished as last night’s dinner. Baekhyun still felt a little overwhelmed but very comfortable. The food melted deliciously in his mouth. Chanyeol’s hand sometimes rested on his thigh under the table, gathering alleviation into one single point.

 

When it was eventually time to leave, Baekhyun watched as Chanyeol hugged his parents as if he wouldn’t see them for a whole year when everyone knew he’d be back here some time next week or would drop by the restaurant at the very least. 

 

What had been surprising was the way Chanyeol’s mother hugged him the same way she had hugged her son. She felt so small in his arms, Baekhyun blanked out for a second, not sure how he was supposed to hug her back even if he had hugged Junmyeon’s mother before. This felt a bit different, a bit more genuine. Chanyeol hadn’t even tried to conceal his amused smile.

 

Chanyeol’s father gave him a friendly pat on the back and recommended him a few last Edith Piaf songs and when they left the house, it felt as if part of it was lingering in his breath.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chanyeol was the one to drive Baekhyun’s car on the way back to his house but they didn’t part ways there. Unspoken, it had become a habit for Baekhyun to just randomly crash at Chanyeol’s apartment and spend more time with him and this was another one of those times.

 

The drive back wasn’t quiet, it never was quiet between them, and it especially wasn’t awkward. Baekhyun was used to people asking questions or acting coy and shy after a first kiss. Maybe it was because Baekhyun was usually never the one to initiate the first kiss, always pulling and pushing the other person to yield and kiss him first just for the satisfaction it always brought to him.

 

Chanyeol wasn’t awkward, or coy, or anything in between. It still felt like they were friends, childish friends when Chanyeol pushed him to step into the apartment first as if this was some kind of race.

 

"How’s this place always a mess? It looks like there’s a child living here," Baekhyun grumbled, loudly on purpose as he stepped into the living room. Almost automatically, he grabbed the minicar that had somehow ended up right at the entrance to dump it with the rest of the mini cars in front of the shelf, near the track.

 

"You’re the child here," Chanyeol huffed as he plopped down on the couch.

 

Baekhyun gave him a look, a disappointed one.

 

"That’s the only thing you can come up with?" He shook his head, stepping towards him.

 

The blue scarf draped over the couch caught his eyes. It was the one he had lent to Chanyeol months ago. He had never given it back and Baekhyun still caught him wearing it from time to time. He grabbed it and draped it over Chanyeol’s head, hiding his face with it.

 

Chanyeol laughed softly, trying to free himself from it but Baekhyun held it on over his head for a few seconds. When Chanyeol managed to win the small battle by kicking Baekhyun away with his long legs and pulled the scarf off, his hair was even more of a mess. Some strands were standing up straight on top of his head, left static by the wool that had rubbed against it.

 

Baekhyun laughed. He liked it. Both the hair and the offended expression on Chanyeol’s face, his frown and that unconscious way in which his lips pouted faintly whenever Baekhyun teased him too much and he lost.

 

Chanyeol threw the scarf back at him and he went to hang it at the entrance hall, where Chanyeol kept his jackets and coats.

 

"Do you have any makeup remover? Or lotion?" he asked when he came back.

 

"I think my sister might have left some around. It’s probably in the bathroom," Chanyeol replied, hand reaching out to the remote to switch the television on.

 

Baekhyun nodded before heading towards the bathroom. He could almost feel his skin itching with the knowledge that his tattoo was a mess, half covered and grayed out by makeup. It took a while to find makeup remover but it indeed was buried somewhere at the bottom of the drawers. Once his tattoo was cleaned up and bared out, Baekhyun felt much better and refreshed as he headed back to the living room. He plopped down next to Chanyeol on the couch, eyes already taking in the historical drama Chanyeol was watching.

 

However, before he could settle properly, he felt hands grabbing his legs to pull them up on the couch. Chanyeol easily pulled more until Baekhyun was laying on his back, head laid over the armrest.

 

"What are you doing?" he asked, incredulous.

 

He could’ve felt offended that Chanyeol easily manhandled him into the exact position he wanted him to be but instead, he was merely curious as he watched Chanyeol comfortably lay on top of him. He shifted until the side of his head rested on Baekhyun’s chest and the rest of his body was just perfectly fitted between Baekhyun’s legs.

 

"Cuddling you," Baekhyun heard the other say, words a bit deformed from the way his cheek was squished against Baekhyun’s chest. He was already back to watching the television.

 

And the position could’ve easily felt erotic, he could feel Chanyeol’s whole body pressed against his. It could’ve easily been initiated with a different intention, but Baekhyun couldn’t even feel a smidgen of arousal at the moment, not coming from himself nor from Chanyeol. Not because Baekhyun wasn’t attracted to Chanyeol and the other didn’t return the feeling. Just because this felt just so comfortable, and cozy. Chanyeol just wanted to cuddle him.

 

Baekhyun let him, body completely at ease, not a hint of tension coursing through him, not feeling uncomfortable the slightest bit even if Chanyeol’s body was bigger than his and therefore, just a little bit too heavy. It just felt laid-back, maybe comforting, natural and entirely cushy. He turned his head towards the television and silence fell over them as they both watched it for a few minutes, basking in each other’s presence, in each other’s body heat.

 

Baekhyun’s fingers found their way to Chanyeol’s messed up hair, leisurely carding through it even if there was still a little bit of static left from the scarf and some strands stuck themselves to his skin. Chanyeol didn’t move much, shaking his head a little bit from time to time, rubbing his cheek against Baekhyun’s chest before sliding up a little bit to rest his forehead against Baekhyun’s neck.

 

Chanyeol liked cuddling. Chanyeol was a good cuddler, not a selfish or awkward one. He liked being wrapped in a hug but also liked wrapping Baekhyun in a hug, just pressing against him, holding him, making sure that he was comfortable and not shy about their bodies coming in contact a bit too much, a bit too intimately. Baekhyun liked it. He liked the proximity. He liked the way it made him feel as if Chanyeol could find warmth in him too and simply wanted to wrap himself in it. He enjoyed the way Chanyeol was so at ease with him, as if he felt safe, as if he trusted Baekhyun, and had let himself completely in his hands.

 

He felt the other shift a bit after a while and looked down at him, their eyes meeting when Chanyeol folded his arms on Baekhyun’s chest and then rested his chin on them, supporting his head on his forearms to look at Baekhyun. It felt odd to have to look down at him when usually it was the contrary. He looked cute from this angle too.

 

"I can kiss you everyday, right?"

 

He didn’t really look anxious or hesitant, nor exactly curious. That wasn’t the question Baekhyun had expected. Maybe that was all Chanyeol needed to know as a confirmation. 

 

Baekhyun pursed his lips into a thoughtful expression.

 

"I’m not sure. I’ll have to see if I can fit your kisses into my schedule everyday."

 

"You don’t even have a schedule," Chanyeol snorted before leaning to kiss him.

 

His lips were pulpy as they embraced Baekhyun’s lower one, his teeth careful but enticing as they sank into the tender flesh cautiously, barely, just taking a taste. Chanyeol breathed out through his nose, almost like a sigh of contentment. It was hot. Baekhyun breathed it all in and played back with him, deepening the kiss but leaving it short, pulling away and watching through half-lidded eyes as Chanyeol chased him, letting out a soft, tiny, maybe unconscious whine. Baekhyun laughed when Chanyeol moved to press their lips together again, stopping just in time to let Chanyeol kiss his lips rather than his teeth for a last, long peck.

 

They pulled away, Baekhyun opened his eyes and saw the content, almost victorious smile on Chanyeol’s lips. As if it had been an argument and he had had the last word, winning it all. Baekhyun smiled at him, his hand melting down from Chanyeol’s hair to his back instead. Chanyeol rested his chin on his folded arms again, looked at Baekhyun for a few silent seconds. Baekhyun had painted his lips a shade darker with his own. It looked beautiful.

 

"You know," Chanyeol said and this time, there was a bit of hesitation in his voice. He stopped for a second as if to choose his words carefully. Baekhyun rubbed his back encouragingly. "You don’t have to lie to make people appreciate you."

 

Baekhyun took those words in but didn’t let the surprise seep out into his features.

 

"What?" he said, voice taking in the perfect intonation of confusion.

 

Had Chanyeol figured it all out? There was no way. He was smart, very smart but Baekhyun had never let anything out, not anything that would ruin things for him.

 

"The cucumbers. If you told my mom you couldn’t eat it, she would’ve understood."

 

He had that usual concerned frown on his face but with an addition to it. Almost as if he was holding himself back. He scrutinized him, trying to figure out what exactly Chanyeol was thinking about. He wasn’t sure what he should say, intrigued, a bit unsure. Chanyeol was sharing raw feelings with him but it wasn’t his own that he was talking about. It was Baekhyun’s.

 

"I didn’t want to be rude," he settled on saying when Chanyeol obviously waited for him to speak.

 

The frown deepened just a little bit. Not in anger, just concern, or maybe concentration. Chanyeol was trying to read him. It didn’t make sense, Baekhyun had always made himself easy to read for the other, never really concealing what he wanted Chanyeol to see. Maybe he had not concealed everything.

 

"You didn’t do that just to be polite, though, did you? She just told you that you were perfect."

 

And Chanyeol didn’t say anything more but it was obvious was he meant with those words. Baekhyun wasn’t sure how it happened. Had the other figured everything out after Baekhyun had once drunk dialed his number and complained about this? There was no other way possible. It was Baekhyun’s own mistake, his own inattention.

 

Denying it would be useless. Blaming Chanyeol wouldn’t be the right thing to do either. There was also no reason for Baekhyun to put some distance between them just to be sure either. As long as Chanyeol didn’t figure everything out, he supposed it would be okay. Foreign but okay.

 

Not wanting to linger on this topic too much, Baekhyun simply curved his lips into a small, playful smile.

 

"Maybe I just wanted to see what you’d do."

 

Chanyeol looked at him for a few silent seconds, studying him. Baekhyun’s smile didn’t falter even once. It almost looked like he wanted to say something else before giving up, maybe understanding that this wasn’t a topic Baekhyun was keen on breaching. Then, he smiled back and it was a genuine one, a boyish one.

 

"Was that the final test that led you to kissing me?" he said, eyes narrowed.

 

Baekhyun laughed at that. Maybe it actually was part of the reason why. He didn’t say anything, Chanyeol’s lips were already grazing his again, just a breath away. 

 

He hummed and then pressed his smile against Chanyeol’s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Naturally, everything and nothing really changed between them at the same time.

 

There was no significant change between them, they still messaged each other a lot, they still joked around and acted maybe a bit too childish for their age, they were still as playful as ever, and they still continued exploring restaurants. Although, Baekhyun spent much more time eating in Chanyeol’s apartment than outside or in his own now.

 

There was just little additions that made all the subtle differences that satisfied Baekhyun. They kissed a lot. They greeted each other with a kiss, parted with a kiss, laughed between kisses, sometimes into kisses. It ranged from small pecks to deeper kisses, on the lips, down Chanyeol’s cheek and right where his jaw spread into his neck, sometimes a few pecks pressed against the flowers on Baekhyun’s neck.

 

Chanyeol didn’t really seem to contain himself anymore after that first day back from his parents’ house. Every single occasion seemed to be an occasion for him to cuddle Baekhyun, wrap himself around him or burrow himself against his chest to spend a few minutes there, sometimes a full night. Chanyeol pulled him into his embrace anywhere and everywhere, in the car after a late night drive, in his bed after a tiring day filled with hyper children resulting in small headaches, on the couch where he liked laying his head against Baekhyun’s chest, and even outside, through subtle touches. He really liked holding Baekhyun’s hand.

 

Sometimes Baekhyun was the one holding the soft ball of fluff that Chanyeol was, pulling him against his chest, spooning him just the way he knew Chanyeol liked, and pressing kisses down whatever patch of skin he could reach. He could always feel Chanyeol melting into a puddle with every single kiss, rendering him so cloudy and malleable in Baekhyun’s hands.

 

There was still no love. It was still burgeoning bit by bit in Chanyeol’s eyes, but Baekhyun watered it carefully, with just the right amount of care he knew it needed in order to blossom into another pretty flower he’d pluck with delight.

 

Sometimes, he felt as if Chanyeol was the one watering him with that warmth. Sometimes, it felt too much. Not overwhelming and scary, not at all. Baekhyun had just never felt so much love and care in a single person.

 

There wasn’t even anything different about Chanyeol. There was nothing more Baekhyun did to him than he had done to dozens of people before. Nothing exceptional, nothing out of the ordinary, except maybe a stronger than usual compatibility with Baekhyun.

 

Baekhyun had done everything he did with Chanyeol hundreds of times in his life, with different people. Chanyeol wasn’t the first person he spent more than one night with. He wasn’t the only person Baekhyun had driven to and fro work often, although Chanyeol was usually the one on the driver’s seat. He wasn’t Baekhyun’s first discovery of affection through physical touches. But he was the first person to be enough on his own.

 

Nightmares still came and went, Baekhyun still sometimes woke up feeling undeserving of the air he breathed.

 

Sometimes, Chanyeol was sleeping right next to him, the steady pattern of his breathing chasing the iced fog away from Baekhyun’s body. Sometimes, the mere thought that someone as selfless and beautiful as Chanyeol had appreciated him, liked him, and would fall in love with him was enough for Baekhyun to find an anchor through the smoky haze.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"I feel like this one took you the longest to yield, hasn’t it?"

 

As always, Junmyeon’s voice was accompanied by the white noise of chopsticks clanking against plates and bowls. Although, he was the only one to use chopsticks for this. Baekhyun simply used his fingers to eat the fried chicken they had ordered to Junmyeon’s house, not having the patience to deal with utensils when faced with such delicious food.

 

"It really did," Baekhyun hummed, although the sound was directed more at the food than at his companion.

 

Though, now that he thought about it, he wasn’t sure if Chanyeol had really yielded. Baekhyun had kissed him first after all, despite Chanyeol letting him know that it had been in his intentions as well. It didn’t really matter, the result was the same. Chanyeol was now his. The affection now belonged to him.

 

"How do you think this one will end?"

 

Baekhyun gave Junmyeon a confused look. He usually never really asked so many questions, Baekhyun was the one to endlessly talk about his unusual love life.

 

"I don’t know.” He bit into a piece of chicken and moaning at the honey’s sweetness that spread through his mouth. Junmyeon gave him a disgusted look. Baekhyun resumed chewing with his mouth open. "He’s pretty nice. A good snuggler."

 

Junmyeon laughed at that, well-aware that Baekhyun appreciated snuggles once in a while. He leaned to put a few more spicy wings into Baekhyun’s plate.

 

"Remember that painter who was so obsessed with you he had dozens of drawings of you? What was his name?" he suddenly inquired.

 

Sometimes, Junmyeon didn’t judge Baekhyun for his wrongdoings. Sometimes, it was fun to mention them.

 

"Jongin," Baekhyun recalled, breathing the name out with a chuckle. "I still have one of his paintings of me somewhere in the house."

 

"You spent three months with him. You said he was a good cuddler and then you suddenly left him one morning."

 

Baekhyun remembered him well. He was one of the most handsome people he had ever laid his eyes upon and a joy to be loved by. Jongin had always made it his duty to let Baekhyun know how much he appreciated him, both his heart and his body, through beautifully sincere words or mesmerizing sketches and paintings that always amazed Baekhyun. He was a very tender person too, very sleepy in the mornings and could spend hours in bed just holding onto Baekhyun and watching him as if he were one of his own perfect creations.

 

It had grown boring after a while. Baekhyun had indeed left him one morning after a last night together. He still remembered the note he had left to Jongin, something about Jongin having painted him enough not to ever need to see him again to trace the shape of Baekhyun with a brush. He had always regretted not having seen his reaction to that note.

 

"He was nice," Baekhyun mused.

 

"I wonder what happened to him."

 

"Last I heard of him was two years ago," Baekhyun said after a few seconds of thinking. "I think he moved to Paris or somewhere equally artful."

 

Junmyeon gave him a look. Baekhyun deciphered amazement but something that oddly looked like understanding.

 

"You really made someone migrate to another country after falling in love with you."

 

There was no real praise in those words, no special judgement either, just the playful narrow of Junmyeon’s eyes as he looked at him. And yet, it sounded nice. Someone loving him so much they couldn’t stand to be in the same country as him while not being able to reach out to him. He remained silent.

 

Junmyeon shook his head softly.

 

"I wonder how the pianist will end."

 

Baekhyun didn’t answer. He wasn’t sure. It was too early to see the end yet. He would figure it out when he’d grow bored and wanted another fresh breath of air. He wondered if he would find something that would feel as fresh and sufficient as Chanyeol in someone else. He probably would. He was good at looking exactly for what he wanted.

 

He leaned forward to steal the chicken’s neck part from Junmyeon’s plate, laughter fueled by the other’s groan as he obnoxiously munched on it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Piano notes were graciously dancing around him that night but Baekhyun’s eyes never once strayed away from Chanyeol’s serene expression as he led that delicate dance with his fingers sliding skillfully over the black and white ballroom of his keyboard.

 

He was holding onto a fresh can of beer that perspired a little bit into his hands as he watched Chanyeol play around on the keyboard, comfortably settled into a now familiar couch. He hadn’t planned to spend the night with Chanyeol today but the latter had called him earlier to complain about boredom. It was nice to know that Chanyeol’s first reaction towards boredom was to reach out to him.

 

Baekhyun’s phone vibrated loudly on the table, startling Chanyeol a little. Baekhyun caught him jolt on his seat and gave him a mocking smile that only widened when he weakly glared at him, music cut off and one hand pressed against his chest as if his heart was about to jump out of it.

 

"Scaredy cat," Baekhyun singsonged and Chanyeol gave him a mock disdainful look before continuing to play.

 

Baekhyun had been the one to ask him to play. He liked watching Chanyeol and listening to him play the piano. He had spent the day locked at home and eyes stuck to his laptop. Work had piled up and Baekhyun, who had resorted to working from home long ago, had had to make phone calls, send emails, and analyze marketing strategies through the whole day. 4C’s holiday collection would be launched next week, they still had a lot to do. He hadn’t even had the occasion to eat lunch and Chanyeol had scolded him when he arrived before giving him the leftovers from his own dinner.

 

He grabbed his phone and took a look at the notification. It was a message from Sehun. He opened it up, reading a request to meet. They hadn’t met since that last time, when they had almost gotten caught by Chanyeol. He glanced at Chanyeol, tracing his broad shoulders and his straight back with his gaze. 

 

They had no title yet. Chanyeol hadn’t asked for one and Baekhyun, naturally, hadn’t breached the subject either. Chanyeol hadn’t even said anything about liking him either, Baekhyun could just feel it the same way he made Chanyeol feel it. It wouldn’t really be cheating.

 

And yet, Baekhyun didn’t feel the need to respond to that message. He was used to juggling two people at the same time and he could do it now too, he could have both Chanyeol and Sehun without actually ever belonging to either of them in return. It would be easy but there was nothing in Baekhyun that pushed him towards that path.

 

Chanyeol was enough right now. Chanyeol was always so abundant, so affectionate and loving that Baekhyun didn’t yearn to look for more. Not even through simple physical contact with someone else. It had been a week since their first kiss in Chanyeol’s childhood bedroom but they hadn’t had sex yet, nothing really went further than kisses and leisure making outs. They cuddled more than they made out. Baekhyun didn’t mind, oddly. 

 

Everything that Chanyeol did was just so abundant with affection that he didn’t even need anything sexual between them to actually feel it. It was just there, bare and open. In the way Chanyeol looked at him when he laughed, in the way he still always asked if Baekhyun had eaten at the end of the day. In the way he always wanted to feel Baekhyun wrapped around him when they went to sleep together. In the way he had looked at Baekhyun in disapproval earlier when he had opened the door to find him with a thin jacket on and nothing but a shirt underneath, an outfit that wasn’t fitting for Seoul’s harsh winter, according to Chanyeol.

 

It was there. In tiny details, and Baekhyun could feel it.

 

He ignored the message and put his phone back down just in time as Chanyeol stopped playing and plopped down next to him instead, grabbing his own can of beer from the table and immediately snuggling into Baekhyun’s side. He laughed. Chanyeol was so tall, had long limbs and sometimes it was difficult to adjust to it but he somehow always found a way to make himself smaller when he felt like letting Baekhyun cuddle him rather than being the one draped over him.

 

"Why did you never go into piano? Or music in general," Chanyeol asked once Baekhyun had adjusted his arm around him. His hair tickled Baekhyun’s chin. It always did. Chanyeol always liked tucking himself under Baekhyun’s chin, in the crook of his neck, against his chest. That was when Baekhyun felt the warmest.

 

"It’s always been just a hobby," he replied, shrugging on purpose just to make Chanyeol’s head jump a little. He felt a pinch against his side and whined before continuing to speak. "I’m just working for 4C."

 

"What do you do exactly, though? You always work from home and I suppose you can do whatever you want since you kind of own the company but still. It’s probably not too practical."

 

Baekhyun chose not to correct him on owning the company even if he itched to do so.

 

Instead, he focused on his reply. Or lack thereof.

 

"I don’t really have a fixed position, actually." Chanyeol looked up at him, eyes made wider and expression somehow even more adorable than usual because of the angle. "I never really bothered with one."

 

Chanyeol didn’t seem to completely understand how that worked but didn’t press on the issue further. His fingers were holding onto the hem of Baekhyun’s shirt, Baekhyun’s own fingers resting on the skin Chanyeol’s shoulder, tucked in right under the collar of his sweater.

 

"What do you exactly do then?" he asked again, nuzzling back into Baekhyun’s neck. He felt cozy.

 

"I just have a say in most things. They always go through me for the last check-ins. I just replace my father when he’s sick, which happens often. My brother’s always out of the country too so usually I’m the one who does his work."

 

"Your dad’s sick?" Chanyeol asked. Baekhyun realized what had slipped out of his mouth.

 

Words had escaped him. Words always seemed to escape him when he was with Chanyeol nowadays. He wondered if that was caused by the overflowing warmth. He frowned, a small sign of displeasure. His fingers started rubbing Chanyeol’s shoulder, barely, softly.

 

"Lung cancer," he settled on saying.

 

It didn’t really matter. If he shared this with him, Chanyeol would think that Baekhyun was comfortable and trusted him enough to bare this part of his life to him.

 

Instantly, Chanyeol looked up at him again, his hold around Baekhyun’s waist tightening. There was a concerned frown on his features but nothing akin to pity or anything remotely close to that. He simply looked worried for Baekhyun, not sorry for him.

 

"I didn’t know that," he murmured. As if he thought he should’ve known and comforted Baekhyun accordingly, way before.

 

"From the way he continues smoking so much, he doesn’t seem to know it himself either," Baekhyun couldn’t help but snort, dry, chaffed.

 

As if he could sense it, Chanyeol slid his fingers under Baekhyun’s shirt, kneading comfort into his skin with each brush against his waist. The gesture was almost anchoring, not sexual at all. Baekhyun wasn’t really used to being so close to someone without it leading to something else.

 

"Why would he do that?" he heard Chanyeol mutter.

 

He couldn’t see him anymore, he had tucked himself back against Baekhyun’s neck but he could hear the upset edge of his voice, could imagine his slightly jutted out lower lip as he spoke. He wasn’t expecting an answer, just talking to himself and yet, an answer flew out of Baekhyun’s mouth nonetheless.

 

"I don’t know. I’ve never really understood him."

 

Chanyeol looked at him again, as if he had heard something in those words. Baekhyun wasn’t sure what it was, didn’t really have the occasion to linger on it because Chanyeol leaned up to press a kiss against his jaw. Then, he shifted to catch Baekhyun’s lips against his for a small, lazy kiss.

 

"You should drink your beer before it gets warmer," he mumbled against Baekhyun’s lips, as if Baekhyun should be the one to stop the kiss because he himself couldn’t pull away. Baekhyun kissed him again, just because he liked the look in the eyes of a freshly kissed Chanyeol. His voice was dreamier when he spoke again, almost into the kiss. "Or maybe you shouldn’t drink it. It’s too cold outside for beer. Why did you even want to drink that. You’re gonna get sick."

 

Baekhyun pulled away from the kiss completely.

 

"That just convinced me to drink it all until the last drop," he merely said before bringing the can up to his lips and taking a loud, obnoxious slurp.

 

Chanyeol wrinkled his nose and pulled away before the bottom of the can could hit him in the face as Baekhyun drank from it.

 

"You’re really childish," he snorted as if he wasn’t just as childish as Baekhyun could sometimes be.

 

Baekhyun quirked an eyebrow, threateningly shaking his can of beer right under his nose.

 

"Oh, really? Well, at least I’m not the one who—"

 

The last of his sentence was cut off by a loud sneeze. Chanyeol yelped when the can shook in his hand, fortunately not spilling but still very much threatening to.

 

Baekhyun sniffled loudly, squeezing his eyes shut at the impact of the sneeze and scrunching his nose just a little bit.

 

When he opened his eyes again, Chanyeol had a victorious glint in his eyes and a smug arch on his smile.

 

"I told you you’d get sick."

 

"I’m not sick. Just drink your beer," Baekhyun huffed, shoving the can into his hand as Chanyeol laughed.

 

When Chanyeol was almost done with his beer, Baekhyun wondered if he knew that his ears took on a soft red hue when he drank, sticking out even more charmingly than usual.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes, Baekhyun happened to be wrong.

 

That morning, when he woke up to a terrible headache and a clogged up nose, it was easy to conclude that this was one of those times. He had gotten sick.

 

He didn’t like being sick. He didn’t even catch a cold too often, maybe once a year as soon as the temperatures reached their lowest peak, and he really wasn’t expecting it. There was no denying it now, though. His throat felt sore and no matter how much he tried clearing it, groaning or coughing, he still felt as if there was something disgusting knotted in there. He already had a small pile of soiled tissues on his bedside table and he had spent half an hour trying to will himself to get out of bed without any success.

 

He was sick. And he didn’t feel nice at all. He wasn’t sick enough to feel like he was dying but sick enough to feel whiny. He always got whiny whenever he was sick. He didn’t like it.

 

After rolling around in his bed for a while, temples pounding and nose running without any remorse, he opened his messaging app and scrolled through it. He didn’t really like being alone when he was sick. There was no one to listen to him besides his own ears and even he grew tired of himself. He sighed softly, that small puff of air leaving his mouth followed by a string of coughs, his throat rattling. It didn’t taste pleasant at all.

 

Junmyeon. He should probably message Junmyeon. He was way too fussy and nagged too much when Baekhyun was sick but at least he’d be there to listen to him and maybe massage his temples. But Junmyeon had gone to Busan last night for a business trip and Baekhyun didn’t have it in himself to actually call him and add concern on top of the stress and work already piling up on his best friend. Disappointment spread cold through his already icy limbs. He knew the apartment was already heated enough and it would only worsen things to turn the heat up a little more. He should probably get up and wear something else, something thicker. Maybe his favorite sweater. It was snug and soft. His head was pounding a little too much.

 

He should probably also take some medicine, at least some aspirin for his headache. He wanted to sleep. But he didn’t want to sleep either. He was hungry. Had he gone grocery shopping lately? Probably not. He ate dinner with Chanyeol almost everyday, whether it be outside or at the other’s apartment.

 

He frowned a little bit and opened his conversation thread with Chanyeol. He needed something warm. He wondered if Chanyeol would take care of him. Or at least listen to his whining. He was very hungry and very cold. He didn’t like being hungry, cold, or alone. He hated it even more when he had to experience all three of those horrible things simultaneously. 

 

Without much thought, he opened his camera and shifted a bit, carefully in order not to worsen his headache, until he was laying on his stomach, arms stretched out in front of him and phone in hand. He looked at the image of himself on the screen. He didn’t look nice at all. His cheeks were flushed, the tip of his nose red and he could already feel a bit of irritation on the skin right between his nostrils and his lips from blowing his nose too many times. He was a bit paler than usual and his hair was a mess, eyes puffy and bleary. 

 

He sighed. He really just wanted a bit of warmth. Was that too much to ask? It wasn’t. He just wanted to see how Chanyeol would react. He closed his eyes, frowned sadly and jutted his lower lip out in a pout. He pressed his thumb against the screen to take the picture and then looked at it. He looked sad. Messy. And kind of sick. He inwardly groaned, the urge to brush his hair or do anything that would make him look less messy was strong. He ignored it. It was just the perfect picture for the situation.

 

He sent it to Chanyeol, joining a small caption about being sick. Nothing much. He didn’t really have the strength to choose his words with care and as soon as the picture was sent, he simply let his forehead crash against the pillow, too tired to support himself up. His nose was shoved into the pillow, it was difficult to breathe but then again it was difficult to breathe when laying on his back too, because of a clogged up nose. It was a wonder how noses could run endlessly while still being clogged up and refusing to let air in. 

 

Surprisingly, the reply came rather quickly and Baekhyun felt his lips curving into a smile. He really felt it, because his lips were a bit crusty and dried up, stretched uncomfortably and almost sandy when he swiped his tongue over the skin to wet it a little bit.

 

I told you were gonna get sick TT

you never listen to me

now you’re sick

I’d tell you you deserve it but :( 

cute people shouldn’t be sick

you shouldn’t be sick :c

are you okay?

if you sent me a picture of yourself looking like a (hot and cute) mess then it must be serious

is it bad?

 

He smiled at the string of messages popping up on the screen one by one. Chanyeol had indeed warned him about dressing up more appropriately for the weather over the course of the past three days, since the first time he had sneezed while cuddling up to him. Maybe he should have listened to him. But then again, he didn’t regret it. It was kind of cute, the way Chanyeol immediately started panicking.

 

Not my fault

It’s because of the weather

Scold the weather not me

I’m just a victim here

Victim of winter

Actually I think you should start fighting winter

You’d do everyone a favor

I’m ready to finance your battle

 

oh my god

so you’re the kind to talk nonsense when sick

I see

hehe

 

Baekhyun frowned. Was he? He didn’t say anything wrong or weird though. It would be in everyone’s interest to fight winter. Especially in Baekhyun’s, currently.

 

Why are you making fun of a sick person

TT

 

oh shit

and here’s the emoji

this is serious

 

Baekhyun snorted. It was weird how he could almost imagine Chanyeol’s expression as he uttered those words. With his big eyes. He had some beautiful eyes. He was so cute. 

 

He could also imagine how warm Chanyeol always felt and with that single thought, Baekhyun felt himself craving it. Yearning for it much more than usual. Just because he was sick. Just because he felt really cold. Was that the sign of a fever? He wasn’t sure.

 

Before he managed to type a message and ask Chanyeol the symptoms of a fever, new messages popped up on the screen.

 

alright

you can’t feed yourself when you’re normal so it’s gonna be a disaster when you’re sick

give me your address

I’ll go grocery shopping and come over

do you have medicine? painkillers or cough syrup? things like that?

 

Baekhyun looked at the messages in surprise, raising his eyebrows a little bit. Not too much, frowning hurt his head. He hadn’t really expected Chanyeol to say that. Do that. He had wanted to see his reaction, expected him to maybe scold him and give him instructions but he hadn’t thought the other would go as far as going grocery shopping for him and then come over. To take care of him. 

 

It felt. Nice.

 

Unexpected but nice.

 

Victorious. He felt a little victorious. But had triumph always felt so scorching? He could feel it spreading in his chest, making it a little easier for him to breathe. He quickly typed his address, erasing his words and rewriting them a few times because his fingers didn’t want to cooperate and he had too many typos. It was probably from the fever. Or not. He wasn’t sure if he had a fever or not. Chanyeol would tell him, though.

 

Baekhyun felt like laughing. He wasn’t sure why.

 

After sending the other his address and having been told that Chanyeol had luckily only two morning classes scheduled for today that he was already done with and that he would be there in about an hour, Baekhyun relaxed a little bit. He snuggled under his blankets and basked in the warmth it provided him. It was not as warm as having Chanyeol in his arms and feeling how much the other loved and cared for him. It wasn’t as warm as the smile Baekhyun knew Chanyeol would be sporting while scolding him for not having been more careful. But it was still a good rebound until Chanyeol arrived.

 

Maybe he actually didn’t have to get up and slide into his favorite sweater. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next time he woke up, it was to the ring of the doorbell.

 

He felt disoriented for a second, his eyes snapping open and taking around his blurry surroundings. Had it been an hour already? Why didn’t Chanyeol just let himself in? He sat up, a little groggy. Right. This was Chanyeol’s first time coming over. Actually it was the first time anyone came over to Baekhyun’s apartment. He never brought no one, always refused when they asked. No one except Junmyeon. Why did he invite Chanyeol in? That was a stupid move. But maybe not. This was just part of it all. This would only bring Chanyeol closer to him. There wasn’t anything wrong with this.

 

The doorbell rang again and Baekhyun dragged himself out of bed with difficulty. It almost felt like his bedsheets were stuck to him, clinging to him in refusal to let go of him. His hair felt a little damp. Maybe his bedsheets had actually been stuck to him. He didn’t feel nice. He probably looked like a mess. This was a bad idea.

 

And yet, when he opened the door and Chanyeol’s apologetic smile greeted him, Baekhyun already felt better.

 

"Did I wake you up? Sorry, I thought you might be sleeping but there wasn’t any other way for me to go in. I could’ve waited for you to wake up but I thought the quicker I made you some juk, the better it would be for you."

 

Baekhyun hadn’t actually expected Chanyeol to show up, for some reason. But not only was Chanyeol standing in front of him, sporting that big, puffy green coat and that blue scarf of Baekhyun’s that really didn’t go along together, but he was also holding onto grocery bags. His gaze took Baekhyun in, his eyebrows furrowing a little. Baekhyun really must look like a mess. There was no judgement in his gaze though, only worry. Warm worry.

 

And Baekhyun felt pulled to that warmth, like a frail, weak flower reaching for the delicate streaks of the sun.

 

Chanyeol let out a small sound of surprise when Baekhyun stuck himself to him out of nowhere, his arms wrapping around Chanyeol’s shoulders and his head easily resting on his chest. Chanyeol was so much taller than him. So much warmer. He heard a chuckle. Fond. Baekhyun felt warm too. Was it the fever or was it Chanyeol’s own temperature soaking him so easily, at the first contact? 

 

He felt whiny, a bit groggy. He didn’t really like this. He felt a little weak. He wasn’t used to feeling weak or not in control of his every thought, every action.

 

He could hear the vibrations in Chanyeol’s chest from his low, sweet laughter. Or maybe it was just his headache. He couldn’t feel it through that big puffy coat, probably.

 

"Did you miss me that much?" 

 

Baekhyun simply hummed. He had missed this. They had seen each other yesterday morning but Baekhyun was sick now. He was just being clingy.

 

"Let’s go in. It’s cold," Chanyeol said again and Baekhyun took a few seconds to will himself to let go of the other and step away. He leaned down to grab one of the bags but Chanyeol pulled it out of his reach. "Whiny patients shouldn’t carry heavy things."

 

Baekhyun gave him a look. He didn’t know what look it was. Chanyeol seemed to appreciate it, however, melting a little under Baekhyun’s eyes and stepping inside, the concern on his features growing a little. He didn’t know what he was doing. He felt a little drunk, tipsy, maybe it was the fever. Chanyeol could now check if he had a fever. That oddly sent a jolt of happiness through his chest. Or maybe it was the fever.

 

"Show me to the kitchen?" Chanyeol said again when Baekhyun didn’t react.

 

He felt slow. Very slow. As if the world around him had turned idle. He wondered if that was what suffocation felt like. It wasn’t. Baekhyun knew exactly what that felt like.

 

"Right," he croaked, throat sore, blinking a little. Chanyeol looked amused. He didn’t have the heart nor the will to call him out on it. He also looked very huggable. Baekhyun knew he was.

 

He led him to the kitchen, moving to take the bags from him again but Chanyeol refused, laughing when Baekhyun let out a small whine of protest. It didn’t have the wanted effect on the other. He grabbed Baekhyun by the shoulders and moved him around until he was seated at one of the high stools against the kitchen counter. He felt very malleable under Chanyeol’s touch. Melted. That could also be the fever. Everything was the fever.

 

Before Chanyeol could step away after putting the grocery bags on the same counter, he grabbed his hand.

 

"Do I have a fever?" he mumbled, blinking at the other blearily while leading his hand to rest against his forehead.

 

Chanyeol looked amused. Fond. He was smiling but trying not to smile, his teeth sinking into his lower lip to conceal it. Baekhyun waited for the verdict.

 

"You do feel very warm," Chanyeol hummed, smile wiped off by a frown of concern. His hand trailed down from Baekhyun’s forehead to his cheek, then to the side of his neck, seeking for heat. Baekhyun hadn’t let go of his hand yet, holding on. He was almost sure that the more Chanyeol touched him with so much care, the more his skin flared under his hand. "Is your throat sore?"

 

Baekhyun nodded.

 

"Headache?"

 

He nodded again, closing his eyes when Chanyeol cupped his cheek, leaning into the comfort.

 

"Nose?"

 

"Annoying," he huffed before sniffling a little. Or a lot. He needed to blow his nose again.

 

Chanyeol cooed mockingly but not meanly. With his free hand, he reached for the box of tissues at the other edge of the counter, grabbing one to give it to Baekhyun. The loss of warmth on his cheek was worth the tissue. He blew his nose, a bit messily, with just one hand. He didn’t want to let go of Chanyeol’s. He chuckled. Baekhyun felt the sound wrapping all around him like a loving embrace, his favorite sweater.

 

"Do you feel cold?" Chanyeol asked again, voice cushiony against Baekhyun’s ears.

 

"You’re warm," was his reply.

 

"I need to cook though," Chanyeol said and he was endeared. Baekhyun could see it in his eyes, in the corners of his smile, and the concern dragging his eyebrows up.

 

Baekhyun sighed when Chanyeol eventually let go of his hand. He gave him a look, a sad one, hoping that it would be enough for Chanyeol to just hug him and fall into bed with him to hug him more, maybe take a nap together. It wasn’t food that Baekhyun needed to earn strength from. This would be enough.

 

It didn’t work. Chanyeol took off his coat, draping it over one of the stools beside Baekhyun. Then, he took off his scarf but didn’t let it join the coat. Instead, he wrapped the wool around Baekhyun’s neck, making sure that it covered his whole neck and was even tugged a bit over his chin. Once satisfied, he patted Baekhyun’s head.

 

"So obedient when you’re sick," he said but despite the sparks still lighting up his gaze, he looked concerned. "I’ll make you food and then you can sleep. Alright?"

 

Baekhyun nodded. Sleeping sounded good. Sleeping with Chanyeol sounded better.

 

"Let’s just clean this all up first," he said as he started getting every product out of the grocery bags.

 

There was too many things, things that Baekhyun certainly didn’t need. Too many vegetables that he didn’t know how to cook with, too many snacks that he knew Chanyeol loved more than he did along with his favorite brand of yogurt. Baekhyun silently watched Chanyeol try and figure out where everything went in the cupboards, too lazy to give instructions. The scarf grazing his lower lip was too cozy, smelled a little like Chanyeol. It was fun to watch the other’s expression go from confused to victorious to intrigued as he explored the cupboard.

 

It was only after a few seconds that Baekhyun couldn’t take products being placed where he usually didn’t place them and finally spoke to give the other proper instructions. Chanyeol grinned and Baekhyun wondered if he had done it on purpose, just to see how long Baekhyun would last before the perfectionist in him mixed in with the tinier control-freak in him took over. He said nothing and happily followed Baekhyun’s instructions as he placed everything on the right spots.

 

Once he was done, Chanyeol offered him to go to bed and rest a little more while he cooked but Baekhyun refused with a scrunch of his nose and a little groan. His throat really hurt. Chanyeol didn’t seem to agree with his stubborn decision to stay in the kitchen but despite the blankets waiting for him in the bed, he knew that watching Chanyeol move around like a busy bee to take care of him as much as he could would bring him more comfort. 

 

They argued a little about it, Chanyeol with concerned words and frowns, Baekhyun with whines and other various guttural sounds accompanying his constant head shaking. In the end, he grew a little dizzy and Chanyeol gave up with a chuckle on the condition that Baekhyun would drink some tea and let Chanyeol bring a blanket to wrap around himself. Baekhyun agreed but tweaked the conditions, convincing Chanyeol to let him make his tea himself. He was sensitive about tea. It had to be perfect and Chanyeol didn’t know how he took his tea. Chanyeol shook his head fondly and watched as Baekhyun made his tea with the various, fairly easy steps, the right amount of leaves, the right amount of water, and the perfect amount of sugar for the next time. 

 

The tea eased his throat a bit. The blanket Chanyeol had draped over his shoulders made him sweat a bit. When he took it off and Chanyeol noticed after a few seconds, he scolded Baekhyun and draped it right back around him because it would keep him warm and sweating would make recovery quicker. According to Chanyeol, at least. Baekhyun didn’t know. No one had ever really taken care of him like that. Not even Junmyeon. Baekhyun never let the blanket slip past his shoulders again.

 

At first, he was satisfied with watching Chanyeol move around, watching him get everything he needed to cook juk out. Every time Chanyeol passed in front of him to get something or another from the counter, The tea tasted perfect, it was one of his favorites. It soothed his throat but what tugged his dry lips into a smile was the sight of Chanyeol looking around, hands pressed against his hips and lips pursed in thought. He didn’t ask Baekhyun for what he was looking for until he grew frustrated. Baekhyun didn’t give him the answer until he was asked to. Just because it was adorable.

 

At first that had been enough but as Baekhyun watched him, his gaze trailing over Chanyeol’s back, his broad shoulders, and the sturdy movement of his arms as he washed and scrubbed the rice he would use to cook, he started feeling restless. Chanyeol’s back looked comfortable. Baekhyun knew it was comfortable, he had slept more than once with his forehead pressed against that back, fitting perfect right between Chanyeol’s shoulder blades while Chanyeol was encased against Baekhyun’s chest even more perfectly.

 

It was comfortable. It looked comfortable to Baekhyun’s bleary, stinging eyes. Not really stinging but burning. He could feel them water from time to time. It was because of the fever. Baekhyun knew he had one now, Chanyeol had said so. And maybe it was because of the fever but the urge to snuggle against that back and imbibe himself with the care it exuded was stronger than Baekhyun’s will to stay where he was and finish his tea.

 

He stood up, quietly, gaze focused on Chanyeol who hadn’t noticed anything yet and without hesitation, without any second thoughts, he wrapped his arms around his waist from behind and then pressed his chest against Chanyeol’s back, pulling him closer. He turned his head, resting it comfortably between his shoulder blades. He breathed in and then let out a relieved, relaxed sigh.

 

He felt Chanyeol stop whatever he was doing and try looking over his shoulder.

 

"What are you doing?" he heard the other laugh incredulously.

 

"I still have the blanket around me," Baekhyun mumbled, as if that would convince Chanyeol to just let him be. To just let him enjoy this. His head was still pounding a little and his legs felt weak but this was more comfortable than he had been since waking up.

 

"But I’m cooking, Baekhyun."

 

"You can cook like this too," Baekhyun said, hearing his own voice tilt into a whine, a childish, weak one he always heard whenever he was sick. He hated it. "I’m not touching your arms or your hands, am I?"

 

"So you’re just going to stick to me while I move around?" Chanyeol questioned him, teasing. Baekhyun heard the smile in his voice. He nodded. He didn’t like his voice enough to speak much now, even if the tea had helped. "You’ll get tired though."

 

He felt big hands resting on his where they were laced against Chanyeol’s tummy. They were a little wet, a little cold - Chanyeol had just finished washing the rice and had put it to soak. Baekhyun let out a long, loud whine.

 

"Alright, you whiny baby," Chanyeol snorted, understanding him and patting Baekhyun’s hands to let him know.

 

Satisfaction drew a smile on Baekhyun’s lips and for the rest of the time Chanyeol spent cooking, Baekhyun remained in the same position, hugging him from behind and breathing in the appeasement though his clogged, irritated nose.

 

He closed his eyes as Chanyeol peacefully chopped and sliced the garlic cloves and onions into small pieces, smiling a bit when the movement made the other jiggle and consequently reverberated into Baekhyun who shook a bit. He must’ve let out a laugh at some point because Chanyeol snorted. 

 

When he sliced the carrots, he twisted a little to push one small matchstick into Baekhyun’s mouth. Baekhyun munched on it,  feeling fuzzy with joy at the way Chanyeol doted on him. He showed his appreciation by planting his chin on the other’s back and chewing exaggeratedly to dig his chin into his back. That seemed to tickle Chanyeol who started laughing and squirmed a little to escape it. Baekhyun held on, however, and stopped once he had swallowed so he could comfortably lay against the Chanyeol’s back again.

 

Baekhyun groaned a little when Chanyeol started cutting red and green bell peppers but Chanyeol ignored him, claiming that they were sweet. Baekhyun was only a little soothed when he saw the other chopping broccoli into small pieces, his chin hooked on the his shoulder as he raised into the tip of his toes to see what he was doing. He liked watching Chanyeol cook. It made Baekhyun feel tingly with affection. He hadn’t eaten any kind of homemade porridge in so long.

 

When Chanyeol moved towards the stove, Baekhyun mumbled small instructions about how to use it, moving with him, arms still locked tightly around the other’s waist as Chanyeol started cooking the ground beef and then added the onions and garlic, followed by ginger and the other vegetables later on. Baekhyun had no idea why he hadn’t just dumped everything at once. It would’ve been quicker. When he mumbled that into Chanyeol’s shoulder, he snorted and told him to go back to sleeping while standing.

 

The juk had to boil for a while, at least thirty minutes, according to Chanyeol. During that short time, Chanyeol turned around in his hold to hug him into his chest instead, leaning back against the counter. Baekhyun nuzzled into the crook of his neck. He smelled nice. He wasn’t wearing perfume or anything with a particular scent, but it was heavy as Baekhyun breathed it in. Maybe it was his body temperature, a sensation rather than a scent. Chanyeol rested his chin on the crown of his head, fingers carding through Baekhyun’s hair. 

 

Chanyeol’s chest was as cushy as his back, if not even more so. His heartbeat was steady, not a single note out of place, not a single beat straying and ruining the rhythm. It was as soothing as Chanyeol’s piano notes. 

 

Enfolded into the affection singing into his ears with every single steady beat against Chanyeol’s chest, Baekhyun let his eyes finally dip shut.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He must’ve fallen asleep at one point. When his eyes fluttered open to the world again, he was still resting against Chanyeol’s chest, his arms wrapped around him. Or one of it was wrapped around Baekhyun. He still felt very hot, and a bit cold, but Chanyeol was just the right temperature and texture under his cheek. His fingers were still tangled in Baekhyun hair but they weren’t leaned against the counter anymore. 

 

Chanyeol was softly calling out to him, waking him up as they stood in front of the counter, against the high stools instead.  How did Baekhyun not sense that the other had moved him? His head was pounding. His nose felt stuffy. His throat was clogged and tender at the same time, as if something was continuously planting its nails against the flesh and scratching at it. He turned towards the counter. There was a small bowl of juk, the porridge looking smooth, creamy, various vegetables adding color to it. It looked nice. How could food look so nice? Steam was still billowing out of the bowl. It looked delicious. Unfamiliar. A novelty.

 

"You cooked that for me?" he mumbled against Chanyeol’s chest, blinking, disoriented. Chanyeol smiled down at him, nodding a little.

 

"Yep. Eat up so you can take your meds and go to sleep," he said while pulling away from Baekhyun.

 

Baekhyun felt himself clinging to the other for a second. It was odd. As if he wasn’t in control of his own body. He didn’t like the feeling at all. 

 

He let Chanyeol guide him to the stool, let him adjust his scarf so it wouldn’t get in the way of his mouth, let him wrap the blanket tighter around him, making a knot against his chest so it wouldn’t fall off, like a cape. He let Chanyeol care for him. Baekhyun wasn’t used to such level of care. It should feel bad. Baekhyun didn’t like depending on others. 

 

But maybe. Maybe just this once. Just this once in his life he could let Chanyeol do it. Chanyeol had said he had a fever, after all.

 

"Careful, it’s hot," Chanyeol warned him as he took a seat next to him.

 

Baekhyun grabbed his spoon. Looked at him. Felt his cheeks bunching up into a smile. He didn’t know where it was coming from. He didn’t know what was the intention behind his own smile. He was still drowsy from sleep but he felt bubbly, hyper, a bit joyful. It almost felt like he was drunk. Tipsy. Sleepy-drunk.

 

Chanyeol looked back at him, an intrigued glint in his eyes. Or maybe something else. Baekhyun had a hard time making a distinction between emotions at the moment. Then Chanyeol guffawed, voice low but not loud, controlled, soft, maybe because he knew Baekhyun had a headache.

 

"Just eat, you look crazy."

 

Baekhyun huffed at him but still planted his spoon into the juk, nudging the sprinkles of green onion and spooning some of the porridge before bringing it into his mouth. It was mushy, crushed easily in his mouth, both the rice and the vegetables. The sweetness of bell peppers married the rich aroma of broccolis perfectly. He took another mouthful. Then another. It wasn’t scalding, just perfect. Maybe Chanyeol had waited a bit before waking him up. How had he even prepared this with Baekhyun sleeping on his chest? While standing up? Maybe Chanyeol was just really amazing.

 

"You’re not eating with me?" he mumbled after a while, looking at Chanyeol. He was watching Baekhyun, chin nudged into the palm of his hand, lips curved into a faint smile. Maybe unconsciously. Maybe lovingly. Baekhyun felt the food’s homey flavor pooling in odd parts of his body, his chest, his stomach, even the tips of his fingers.

 

"Nope, I made it for you."

 

"But you could eat with me," Baekhyun frowned a little. His head pounded and he relaxed his features again.

 

"I’ll eat when I’m hungry. Promise," Chanyeol consoled him, his hand reaching out to adjust the scarf and then squeeze Baekhyun’s shoulder.

 

He resumed eating. He felt a little better now that his stomach was filling up with home-cooked food. He was still sleepy. He should sleep more. Maybe Chanyeol could sleep with him.

 

"You have a really nice house," Chanyeol said after a while of silently watching Baekhyun eat and holding him out napkins whenever he either made a mess around his chin or needed to blow his nose. "Is it a monthly or yearly lease?"

 

Baekhyun almost choked at those words. He shouldn’t snort and slurp food into his mouth at the same time. Especially when his nose was stuffy. It was Chanyeol’s fault. The tone he had taken with those words and the way he had leaned closer had been too similar to the middle-aged, gossipy women who usually asked this kind of question. He grinned, not even helping Baekhyun as he coughed. He looked proud of himself.

 

Baekhyun shook his head and took a sip of water.

 

"It’s just mine. I bought it."

 

Chanyeol raised his eyebrows at that before laughter streamed into his soft features the next second.

 

"Sometimes, I forget you’re actually rich," he said with a soundless chuckle. "You’re always so simple."

 

"I can be a lot of things.” But that was just the way he was.

 

Chanyeol snorted.

 

"You can’t be messy, that’s for sure."

 

Baekhyun looked down at the drops of mushy rice on the counter, then back up at Chanyeol, pointedly.

 

"Not like that. You’re not even messy when you eat, you’re just a child," he chided Baekhyun, earning an offended groan from him. "I mean in the way you are, as a person. Even now, you’re sick but still not actually messy. You’re wearing accorded pajamas, actual pajamas that kinda look like a suit on you," he snorted again and Baekhyun looked down at his pajamas curiously. It was just pajamas. Black with white stripes. "All the buttons are done. Your hair’s the only messy thing right now."

 

He looked down at himself again. He hadn’t even noticed. Was that considered not being messy? 

 

Baekhyun scraped his spoon against the bottom of the bowl to catch the last bits of rice, swallowing them down before giving Chanyeol an amused look. Or a teasing one. He wasn’t sure.

 

"Funny how you pay attention to my shirt’s buttons. Perhaps, you’d like to undo them?"

 

Pushing his now empty bowl away, he leaned close enough for Chanyeol to almost go cross eyed while trying to look at him. Chanyeol laughed and leaned back as far as possible, grabbing onto the counter to prevent himself from falling.

 

"Stop trying to infect me with your germs," he threatened Baekhyun with narrowed eyes. Baekhyun still caught them dropping to his lips and he leaned even closer, almost losing balance on his stool but grabbing onto Chanyeol’s thigh to steady himself.

 

"That’s a weird way to describe a kiss," he frowned, just as playful.

 

Chanyeol groaned a little.

 

"I can’t kiss you. You’re sick."

 

Baekhyun smiled, stomach warm, content, and filled up. Just like the rest of him felt when Chanyeol still didn’t look away from his lips. He laid his other hand on his thigh too and tilted his head a little bit. Or a lot. He couldn’t really measure his movements at the moment.

 

"But can you stop yourself?"

 

He couldn’t. Instead of replying, Chanyeol leaned down and pressed his lips against Baekhyun’s for a quick, short peck that Baekhyun barely even felt. The victory and the contentment, on the other hand, he could feel coursing through his veins.

 

Before he could say anything, Chanyeol narrowed his eyes.

 

"I kissed you so you’re going to take your meds now."

 

"Am I a child?" Baekhyun snorted while slowly, carefully pulling away and settling back into his chair properly.

 

When he looked at Chanyeol again, he had a crooked smile on.

 

"You’ve been acting like a baby since I got here, yes."

 

Baekhyun didn’t reply. He grumbled under his breath while dragging the small bag from the drugstore towards him. Chanyeol watched him, making sure that he gulped everything down, even the foul scented coughing syrup. Baekhyun made sure that his expression was twisted enough for the other to understand he wasn’t pleased.

 

Baekhyun did feel like a child when Chanyeol tucked him into bed right after that. He despised it but the way Chanyeol slid under the covers beside him as soon as he let out a miserable whine made him feel a bit better about it. Chanyeol was the best source of warmth he could use now, maybe the only one Baekhyun even needed. He was just so cozy, so comfortable, and so affectionate in Baekhyun’s arms, nuzzled against the crook of his neck like he always was.

 

This wasn’t an entirely bad situation either, despite how gross and exhausted he felt. At least, he could play on it and use it as an argument not to let go of Chanyeol even once until the latter offered to play piano to him on the keyboard that they had chosen together weeks ago. Baekhyun pulled him back into his embrace as soon as he was done playing a calmative but unfamiliar piece to Baekhyun, not even having to use words. A look and a small, pitiful groan along with an unplanned sneeze was enough for Chanyeol to bathe him in an unending stream of attention and affection again.

 

He even managed to get a few more kisses out of him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Baekhyun woke up again, it was dark in the room. 

 

He didn’t remember when he had passed out exactly but he knew the last smile he had seen before falling asleep was Chanyeol’s fond one. His head had been pounding, Chanyeol had been running his fingers through his hair, fingertips massaging his scalp in an attempt to melt some of the pain away. Maybe it had worked, the headache was nothing but a buzz at the back of his mind now, so faint he could almost pretend it wasn’t even there.

 

What was still there, however, was Chanyeol. He was there. Weirdly, Baekhyun had expected the other not to be by his side anymore. He wasn’t sure how much time had passed. He was a little disoriented, couldn’t exactly make out what time it was exactly. His whole body almost felt like it was buzzing. Not the bad kind of buzzing, almost relaxing, soothing. He had expected Chanyeol to leave. They had spent most of the day together, Baekhyun supposed he had fallen asleep some time when the afternoon bled into the evening. 

 

The blinds were pulled down. Baekhyun felt comfortable in his nest of blankets and Chanyeol. Darkness mutedly glided through the room, silence whispering quietly to keep it company. Dainty streaks of light sliding in through the blinds, the moon discreetly spying on them. 

 

Baekhyun hadn’t closed the blinds. Chanyeol had probably done it. He felt his lips curving into a smile. Maybe he had done it so Baekhyun wouldn’t wake up with the first rays of daylight in the morning. It was very considerate of him. Loving.

 

He was still asleep. His features were relaxed. He was handsome. Baekhyun still didn’t know what it was in Chanyeol that took so long for him to work through, to appropriate, to own. He still wasn’t sure he owned whatever it was. Why couldn’t he be sure? Baekhyun was always so sure.

 

He was handsome. His eyebrows were a little furrowed in his sleep, not the kind of furrow to be  associated with anger, but the kind of knit that looked peaceful, radiant. His eyes were closed. Chanyeol had pretty eyes, even when all Baekhyun could see through his own hooded ones were his eyelids and the delicate curls of his eyelashes. His nose wrinkled from time to time, scrunching up a little bit. Baekhyun spent a whole minute watching it scrunch up, like a small puppy sniffling for the last traces of its owner’s scent, and then relax again, as if whatever Chanyeol had been looking for, he had found it in his dreams. His lips were parted, upper lip plump, cupid’s bow sculpted tenderly, lower lip a bit plumper, jutting out in an unconscious pout that Baekhyun always caught on Chanyeol when he was asleep. 

 

They were facing each other. Baekhyun’s bed was big, enough for Baekhyun to feel cold on nights he spent with no one but himself, enough for the both of them to sleep comfortably without coming in contact with each other. But they were. Their arms were tangled, Chanyeol was holding onto him, one of his legs sandwiched between Baekhyun’s. He had long legs. He was wearing pajamas. Just sweatpants that didn’t even reach his ankles and a sweater. It was Baekhyun’s favorite sweater.

 

Baekhyun felt hot. Boiling. Overflowing. It was the fever. He felt a little gross, sticky, for he had sweated a lot, way too much. Why was Chanyeol sleeping so close to him when he felt, and probably looked, so unappealing and messy? Why hadn’t he gone home a long time ago? Why had he even bothered coming here to take care of Baekhyun? Why hadn’t he left as soon as Baekhyun fell asleep? He had seen it. Baekhyun couldn’t bear himself when he was sick so he couldn’t even imagine how he must’ve looked to Chanyeol, acting like a whiny, clingy, needy, annoying child, the complete opposite of what Chanyeol knew him to be.

 

He wasn’t sure it bothered him. It should have. This could’ve potentially ruined everything. Baekhyun never showed anything that wasn’t entirely crafted and remodeled according to the person who would lay his eyes on him. But this felt so natural. So familiar. As if this wasn’t the first time. Maybe it was the fever.

 

Baekhyun eventually let his eyes drop from Chanyeol’s face to his chest. His favorite sweater. It looked so comfortable on Chanyeol. It was a bit oversized for Baekhyun but it fit Chanyeol perfectly, as if it had been shaped with Chanyeol’s form in mind. Baekhyun stretched his hand out a little, pressing fingers against the other’s chest, rubbing the familiar fabric. 

 

"You awake?" a low voice suddenly mumbled and Baekhyun looked back up at Chanyeol’s face.

 

His eyes were nothing but small slits but his gaze still trickled on Baekhyun’s face with clarity. His words were barely intelligible. He still looked asleep, only with his eyes open a little bit, lower lip still jutted out, eyebrows still furrowed. His hair was a mess, strands falling in his eyes, others resting on the pillow, laid flat on the puffy fabric.

 

Before he knew it, Baekhyun’s hand reached to tangle those messy strands. Chanyeol closed his eyes, as if Baekhyun’s touch was equivalent to a lullaby for him. Baekhyun felt a smile splitting his face into two. He bit on his lower lip to hold it back. It didn’t work.

 

"Go back to sleep," he murmured after a few seconds.

 

Chanyeol opened his eyes again, looking at him for a blank second as if Baekhyun’s words registered into his mind with a bit of delay. Then, he huffed. Just a small puff of air carrying the fresh aroma of drowsiness.

 

"That should be my line," he mumbled again, words not louder than a whisper, a bit hoarse. His eyes fell shut again but he continued speaking, as if he hadn’t even noticed it. "Why’d you wake up? Feeling better?"

 

Baekhyun felt arms wrapping around him before he was pulled closer against his favorite sweater. It was a bit ridiculous how Chanyeol was physically stronger than Baekhyun yet the only thing he used that advantage for was to pull him and lock him in his embrace whenever he wanted to cuddle. Not the bad kind of ridiculous. The Chanyeol kind. Baekhyun shifted to adjust his head against the pillow. Chanyeol was laying close to him, on the same pillow even if there was a second one completely discarded behind him. Baekhyun didn’t move enough to let the embrace budge around him.

 

He studied Chanyeol, for a few seconds. 

 

"You should come over more often," he said, suddenly, slurring his words.He felt completely awake and the fogginess from the headache had dissipated. His nose was still stuffy but at least, not so runny for the time being. He still had the blue scarf he had given Chanyeol months ago wrapped securely around his neck. His voice wasn’t really a croak anymore, his throat still sore but not unbearably so.

 

He wasn’t sure why he was offering, advising, demanding such a thing either. Baekhyun just knew that Chanyeol fit perfectly into his favorite sweater and that he fit perfect into Chanyeol’s embrace. It was a good convergence. His favorite sweater and Chanyeol. 

 

Chanyeol slowly opened his eyes again. It was a beautiful sight to witness, those eyelashes batting delicately, like the flutter of a butterfly’s wings. Baekhyun felt warmth soaring through him when their eyes met.

 

"Why?" he answered.

 

He looked drowsy, Baekhyun could see sleep trying to tug his eyelids down and shut Chanyeol up into a cage of dreams again. He could see it in the way his eyes were barely open, his gaze almost blank, as if he was looking at Baekhyun but wasn’t sure whether he was really looking at Baekhyun or at an image sketched behind his eyelids by his own mind. He blinked, once, twice, adorably, and Baekhyun felt his smile growing.

 

"Maybe I just can’t live without you," he said, uttering the same words he had spoken out dozens of times in his life.

 

Usually, people would smile, grin, blush, or fall deeper into the love Baekhyun laid for them in a trap of thorns. Chanyeol, despite being only half-conscious, huffed softly.

 

"Are you sure it’s me you can’t live without?"

 

It took Baekhyun a few seconds to register those words. Both because they had been slurred unintelligibly and because Chanyeol’s eyes were suddenly much clearer, shining confusion right into Baekhyun’s eyes.

 

"What do you mean?"

 

"Maybe it’s just because I’m a great cuddler," Chanyeol mumbled, pulling Baekhyun even closer to him, eyes dipping shut again. There was no correlation between this sentence and the last one.

 

"That’s exactly what I meant," Baekhyun chuckled softly.

 

Was this how he had looked when he had felt sleepy drunk earlier? He probably hadn’t been as appealing as Chanyeol was right now, nuzzling against Baekhyun’s cheek, his hands clinging onto his pajamas. As if his fervid embrace wasn’t enough to keep Baekhyun in place.

 

Baekhyun closed his eyes as well, basking in the sentiments Chanyeol threaded around him. He let a few seconds pass, silence lulling them all the while, assuming that Chanyeol had fallen back asleep. However, the other spoke again, mumbled, but unable to hear him properly, Baekhyun pulled away a little bit. He faced him and hummed questioningly.

 

"I wonder what a frustrated you looks like," Chanyeol repeated, eyes fluttering open a little bit again, gaze finding Baekhyun’s like a stray ray of sunlight seeping through a blanket of clouds. His lips were pouty, sleepily so when he continued speaking, Baekhyun found great amazement in watching them form sounds and syllables and continuous puffs of warmth. "I’ve never seen it."

 

"And why do you want to see that?" Baekhyun asked, intrigued. Drowsiness definitely made Chanyeol more entertaining but most importantly, unguarded. 

 

"You’re always in control," he explained, ending his words with a sigh. He stopped talking for a few seconds, Baekhyun looked at him in silence until Chanyeol let out a quiet, tiny snort. He seemed to be laughing at the thought that was about to escape his mouth and Baekhyun smiled. "Maybe I should refuse coming over. That might frustrate you."

 

Baekhyun let one of his hands unfold from where it was pressed against Chanyeol’s chest to drape it elsewhere, molding it to the slope relying Chanyeol’s neck and shoulder.

 

"Do you really want me to kidnap you with my expensive car? I’m sure you’d jump in yourself as soon as you see it."

 

At those words, Chanyeol outright pouted. In a split second. Eyes opening, wide, and clear, and doe as they stared at Baekhyun, words nothing but a mumbled, weak complaint.

 

"Why are you using my weaknesses against me?" he said, declaring Baekhyun the winner before the battle was even remotely started.

 

"I’m just fighting cruelty with cruelty," Baekhyun snickered, booping the tip of Chanyeol’s nose.

 

He watched it wrinkle a bit in discontent before his eyes dropped to the other’s still flowering lips. He leaned forward to press a playful peck against the jutted out, pulpy petals. When he pulled away, Chanyeol was still pouting but this time, his eyes were even more hooded. He pressed against Baekhyun’s back to pull him closer and Baekhyun understood what he was silently asking for, leaning to offer him another kiss.

 

This one was longer, maybe a bit sloppier as Chanyeol was almost too lazy to kiss back and let Baekhyun do most of the work instead, closing his eyes and enjoying. Baekhyun felt his senses flaring a little more with each second spent kissing the other’s sleep-dusted mouth, pressing genereously lengthly pecks, tending to the jutted out lower lip, a curled corner of his lips, and the tender sketch of his cupid’s bow.

 

At one point, Chanyeol grew completely limp against his lips and when Baekhyun pulled away, he smiled at the familiar, asleep expression that softly gleamed on Chanyeol’s face. Baekhyun had never met anyone who could pass out in the midst of a kiss. He chuckled softly, the silent sound echoing in his own head, beating quietly, oddly. He felt it in his temples, on his fingertips, on the tender flesh of his lips where his teeth were digging into with endearment, and in his chest. 

 

For a few seconds, maybe a few minutes, maybe shorter than that or longer, Baekhyun watched the now familiar reflection of slumber on Chanyeol’s face. Its beauty gleamed enough for him not to register anything else, not even the sound of his own breathing. 

 

The only difference was the balmy smile on his lips that Baekhyun had painted with his own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For two entire days, Chanyeol remained by Baekhyun’s side.

 

He cooked for him, various soups and other dishes that he judged were the best for quick recovery but that didn’t fill Baekhyun with contentment the way a firm embrace, sometimes an easy smile did. He tucked him into bed and frowned in disapproval whenever Baekhyun whined — just a little bit — about being sick of laying down all day. He let Baekhyun wrap himself all around him, formed a more satisfying cocoon right inside the comfortable shell of Baekhyun’s blankets, and tried not kissing him too much. However, Baekhyun knew exactly how to make Chanyeol’s resolutions crumble down into pink dust that landed on the highest points of his cheeks or the tip of his ears. Even if he still felt quite terrible for these two days, Chanyeol’s presence, his affection, and his doting hands made everything a little more bearable.

 

He couldn’t spend entire days with Baekhyun, of course. He still managed to get Yixing and Jongdae to replace him on his afternoon classes, only going to his morning ones since Baekhyun slept well until noon, and quickly came back just in time to wrap himself around Baekhyun right when the latter craved a hug.

 

Baekhyun won over the small cold rather quickly and got back up to his feet after these two days, falling back to his usual routine, working, hanging out with Junmyeon, going out for various errands and people-watching. The only difference was that, somehow, Chanyeol was even more present in his life than before the short time Baekhyun spent at the mercy of a cold. He indeed came over more often and they spent an equal amount of time in each other’s apartment. It was easier this way for Baekhyun, just a question of practicality. 

 

He still worked from home and no one seemed to mind, especially not his father whom he hadn’t heard from in a while. Sometimes, he wondered if he was okay. Sometimes, the thought loomed over him like a dark, imposing cloud bulging with rain, a pinch of snow, or maybe falls of ice shards. Most of the time, Baekhyun didn’t like thinking about the man at all. 

 

They still discovered restaurants together, Baekhyun still collected Chanyeol’s smiles and soaked himself in their fervor whenever he could. 

 

Sometimes, nightmares still fogged his mind and smothered him. Through the fog and the smoke, Baekhyun discerned how Chanyeol’s sleepy mumbles into his neck could be more grounding that any other sweet tune.