Chapter 1: Prologue
Excited whispers and praises of ‘Chanyeol-sunbaenim’ bounced off the walls of the corridors — the same corridors that Chanyeol himself walked past back when he was a trainee at SM. And now the ones who followed in his footsteps were making haste as they poured into one room, enticed by the scent of chicken and other delicacies. They were eating good today, thanks to their generous senior’s treat. Most of them flocked to open the boxes and containers to reveal food, glorious food.
Yoonhwa, however, could not be tempted to eat. She was practically in a state of anhedonia and because she was in a bad mood, her stomach had to suffer along with her.
All the trainees dug in instantly, wasting no time, whereas Yoonhwa just stood at the door, staring at the rest of them blankly, with no intention of either joining them or returning to whatever she was doing.
“Aren’t you going to eat as well?”
Yoonhwa never cared much for deep masculine voices but this one made her whirl. Facing the giant, she shrugged reluctantly. “I’m not that hungry.”
Chanyeol eyed the girl from head to toe. She did not look like the type who starved herself with hopes of getting a better body. “Well,” he continued, shifting his balance from one foot to another. “I admit, there are problems that not even a good meal can fix.”
Like a broken heart, thought Yoonhwa to herself. She had cried enough times over it, but even till now, she could not believe her own misfortunes. It was already difficult enough to accept that she got cheated on. And now, said cheater had decided to break up with her on the day she turned 18. What was Yoonhwa going to do with her life?
Seeing as she was silent, he went on. “Whatever it is that you’re going through, I hope that you can stay strong and one day overcome the pain it’s putting you through.”
She smiled wryly. “What do you do when you're upset?”
I kinda just keep working, he thought but decided against saying it aloud. He was the happy virus, the most cheerful member of the group. He could spread some joy if someone needed it. “I play every type of sports under the sun! I go drinking with the other members, I channel my emotions into songwriting, I play video games...what about you?”
Yoonhwa wished she had a more meaningful response than what came out of her mouth. “I...I don’t really know? I'm boring.” Maybe that's why she got together with someone else behind my back, she added inwardly. “Actually, I’m stuck in a rut.”
“Then...perhaps it’s time to make a change,” Chanyeol suggested.
And changes Yoonhwa did make. At about the same time EXO released Lightsaber, Yoonhwa had decided to become her own lifesaver. She made a life-changing choice that would prove to be for the better, a lot better: to leave SM.
It had become clear to her that it was just not written in the stars for her to stay there, if she wanted a musical career, or a future at all. Being a 97-liner, she was among the eldest batch of trainees there and it would only be less and less likely that she would get her chance to debut. Not everyone could be as fortunate as Irene-sunbaenim, and especially as Red Velvet had already debuted more than a year ago, Yoonhwa’s chances were slim, and she knew it.
It was in private that Yoonhwa was still able to keep in touch with very few of her friends from SM who were also fellow trainees, one of them being Jaehyun, who was lucky enough to get into SM Rookies almost 2 years ago. Yoonhwa waited for her turn, but it was never going to happen. Yoonhwa and Jaehyun were the same age, and got accepted into SM at around the same time, but she received none of the opportunities he had. Yoonhwa figured that if SM would not give her the recognition that she deserved, well, then, she was better off without them too. It was another company, JYP, that was more interested in what she had to offer, and so she continued her training there.
"Well, I'm just glad you're much happier now. I miss when we could see each other almost every day, but if this is not where you belong, then of course it's better for you to chase your dreams elsewhere. I'd want you to soar high too," said Jaehyun sweetly over the phone.
"I do feel a lot more comfortable and appreciated here. It feels nice to know I still have some prospects," Yoonhwa replied. "Have you been eating well and sleeping well?"
"Oh, yeah, I have! The other day, Chanyeol-sunbaenim came by again and bought food for us. He's so generous and funny."
"Jaehyun, your inner fanboy is showing," she laughed.
"We all look up to him!" He chuckled. "Ah, by the way, I think he asked about you that day. Wanted to know if you were still too disconsolate to be tempted by chicken."
"He did?" Her eyebrows furrowed together. "Why would he, though? I don't think he even knows my name..."
"Well now he does, because I told him. He remembers your iconic hair band. You know, the hideous bister one you always wore," he revealed.
She giggled. "You're the only one who thinks it's hideous!"
"Yeah, you know what I mean. Do you still wear that? Maybe that's why you don't get to debut," he joked.
"Excuse me! That's my good luck charm! My great-aunt gave it to me! So yes, I wear it often," she stated proudly. "I'm going to make it a fashion trend once I debut. Just watch me."
"Alright, alright! I see you have much optimism about you. You better keep your word then! I'll be waiting for you to debut. I'm gonna be so proud of you," he said happily.
She grinned to herself. Chanyeol-sunbaenim’s concern was unexpected but appreciated, and not that she cared too much what he or other people thought of her, but perhaps he would be proud of her too, to see that she did stay strong and overcome the pain she was in, just like he had hoped when they met for the first time.
A year pursuant to this phone call, Jaehyun beamed proudly and sent his congratulations to Yoonhwa as he read the news about JYP's debut of a girl group, Wisteria. Unlike Twice that debuted last year, Wisteria had only 3 members. Yoonhwa took up the position of the rapper, and although she was the maknae, she was the face of the group, and the tallest too, towering over the other members: the vocalist as well as the dancer.
Wisteria's debut single, 'Green Light', was quickly dubbed a 'hoe anthem' and went viral. The accompanying music video was quite daring too, and as explicit as broadcasting regulations would allow.
"She's hella hot," said Chanyeol under his breath as he lied down on the couch lazily and watched the MV on his phone.
"Who?" asked Kris curiously as he doodled in the margins of the lyric sheets. He was delighted that SM had allowed him and Chanyeol to co-write some tracks. Although they were not in an official subunit, there were plans to release a song performed by just the two of them.
"This chick from this new girl group," Chanyeol answered, unplugging his earphones. "Here. Check them out."
"Wah, they're only just getting started and already Chanyeol-sunbaenim is promoting them," Kris teased. "They're gonna go very far."
"Just look at how talented they are!" Chanyeol replied, clicking to replay the video and sliding his phone across the table to show it to his hyung.
Kris was originally uninterested, but the song was so catchy that it was bound to brainwash any listener, and soon enough his eyes were glued to the screen and he was enjoying it at least as much as Chanyeol was.
"See? She's hot, right?" Chanyeol pointed at Yoonhwa on the screen.
Kris nodded in response, but only absentmindedly as he was more focused on the dancer, and how she made it jiggle, made it pop. “All that body…that's impressive.”
"Aigoo, I'm so distracted now," Chanyeol whined, connecting his palm with his forehead. "How am I gonna be productive?"
"Well," Kris sat back and folded his arms, the corner of his lips upturning in amusement. "Just last week you sat your ass down and just decided to write a song about a torrid one night stand you had. There's no reason why you can't be productive when you can write about literally anything that occupies your mind."
Chanyeol chortled. "Are you suggesting that I go out and have some fun so I can be inspired to produce more bops like 'Masquerade'?"
Kris shrugged and smirked. "Why not? Go ahead. I promise not to interrupt your make-out sessions with my timely phone calls."
"Although this time, it might be wiser to go after someone our Jonginnie doesn't have a crush on."
"Ya!" Chanyeol rebutted amidst guffaws. "That's not enough as awkward as you discovering that you —"
"Oh my goodness. That's enough," Kris blurted, glowering at Chanyeol but not at all threateningly. He sat up straight and adjusted his cap, a secretive, lopsided smile on his face. "Stop. Topic closed. We are not going to talk about this anymore. Write your verse."
"Ohoho, don't worry, hyung. Your dirty little secret is safe with me," Chanyeol winked, and zipped his lips. Picking up his pen, gladly he got to work.
Chapter 2: Chanyeol
The summer of 2017 would be nothing without two bops of the year: ‘Ko Ko Bop’ by EXO, the nation’s pick, as well as ‘On My Mind’ by Wisteria, the nation’s favorite breakout girl group. These two songs had brainwashed everybody since their release in July, and the two groups’ performances on Music Bank were much anticipated.
“In this segment,” said the MC enthusiastically. “We are very excited to have two of Korea’s most loved groups, EXO and Wisteria, in the same room with us to introduce the songs that they are going to present.”
Smoothly, EXO’s super leader hyung explained the concept behind 'Ko Ko Bop' and this summer’s comeback, with Baekhyunee showing finger hearts and shooting goofy grins at the camera every now and then.
Although the room was definitely spacious enough for 12 boys, 3 girls, and the 2 hosts, Chanyeol was the only one in the room who found it hard to breathe. Standing next to him at the back due to their height was Kris, as usual, who noticed this. He nudged Chanyeol and said mischievously, “act natural; your crush is here.”
“I’ve never been so close to her before,” Chanyeol whispered breathlessly to Kris like an excited kid to his big brother. Sure he had been in such proximity to her before, but that was EXO’s Chanyeol-sunbaenim with heartbroken trainee Choi Yoonhwa, and now they were Wisteria’s visual Yoonhwa and her fascinated fanboy Park Chanyeol. Inwardly he made a mental note to himself that he had to make an effort to try and talk to her after the performances. But in the end it was Yoonhwa who bowed politely and approached him first when they were all backstage.
“Congratulations!” She chirped mirthfully. “I wonder if you still remember me, Chanyeol-sunbaenim?”
His jaw dropped. “I — you — yes, yes I do. It’s so nice to meet you again!”
She grinned. “It’s been two years; I’m honoured that someone as famous and successful as you still remember me. But I am no longer the girl too broken to accept even fried chicken.”
“Hmm, but I see you’re still the girl who likes to wear that hair band…” he pointed. It was, after all, what he remembered her by.
She chuckled, remembering her friend Jaehyun’s words. “Do you also think it looks hideous?”
“Noooo,” he laughed. “It’s average by itself, but you wearing it makes it look cute.”
“Thanks! Do you reckon I could turn this into a fashion trend?” She joked.
“Aha! You know what, if you just tell your fans that you like it when they wear that, it’s gonna happen. Baekhyunee once revealed that he likes it when girls wear yellow tops and then after that, at every concert that we’ve ever held, that’s what half the audience is wearing.”
“Then I think first I would like to be as popular as Baekhyun-sunbaenim,” she giggled.
“Ya ya ya! I heard my name,” Baekhyun chimed in merrily. “Yoonhwa-ssi, it’s you!”
Yoonhwa bowed and greeted her senior properly. “I’m so honoured to meet you! I have so much to learn from you.”
“Ah, I’m happy to finally see for myself what the ‘female version of Chanyeol’ is like,” Baekhyun replied lightheartedly. “You’re cuter than Chanyeol though.”
Yoonhwa said her thanks, but tensed up a bit at the nickname that she got. She had been called that pretty much since debut, and while that certainly boosted her fame and had prompted many to check her and her group out, she did not appreciate being compared to another artist. She felt as if the nickname implied that she was not bringing any new elements to the table, that she was no different than another rapper except when it came to gender. Was her rapping style really that similar to Chanyeol’s? She had spent months scrutinising this, and admittedly she did spot similarities, but in her eyes it was certainly not to the point where she ought to be ‘reduced’ to the female version of Chanyeol. Granted, he was there first, but it was not like he would ever be called the male version of Yoonhwa. Besides, when Yoonhwa checked out the songs that Chanyeol composed and produced on his own, she noticed that he just kept using the same three chords, and that was so very uncharacteristic of her. How come people just kept paying attention to the things they had in common, and not the differences? The distinctions were there; it was obvious to her, just not to the world, and that frustrated her a little. It was the worst when Korean netizens criticised her for trying too hard to be like Chanyeol and not being original, when that was not even what she was attempting to do, at all. She wanted to find her own place in the genre and have her own unique sound and style of music.
Still, decisively she pushed these thoughts aside and carried on chatting with Baekhyun; he was fun to talk to and, like she said, there were indeed plenty of things that she could learn from him. Halfway through the conversation, Chanyeol excused himself to go get something to drink. That was only partly true as his ulterior motive was to get help from his Kris-hyung as he was just so bad at chatting with girls, and it did not help that he already had a big fat crush on Yoonhwa. He needed help, and he needed it urgently, because Baekhyunee, even without trying, was probably making a better impression than he was.
Chanyeol did not know where Kris was; he could be chatting with anybody, since there were quite a lot of other groups and artists that got invited to today’s event. He glanced around, and the tall Chinese boy was nowhere to be found.
Approaching the refreshment bar anyway, Chanyeol saw that another member of Wisteria, the vocalist, was also there. Chanyeol could recall that her name was Gahyun, but he never really paid a lot of attention to her, not when Yoonhwa was always right next to her.
Chanyeol went right for the bottle of water on the counter and had not meant to strike up a conversation with Gahyun or anyone. Yet once Gahyun spotted Chanyeol walking in her general direction, she got nervous, and not even the ‘oh my gosh, this is EXO’s Chanyeol, a member of one of the most popular K-pop groups ever’ kind of nervous. She was downright uncomfortable and tense, and once she saw the opportunity to leave the room she seized it and practically fled. She felt bad for doing that as that was sort of impolite, but she actually had a lot more to be remorseful for. It had honestly been such a long time since it happened, and it was not really Gahyun’s fault but she still felt somewhat responsible. On stage or in front of cameras she could remain professional and just stick with her group and avoid Chanyeol, but she would not be okay with having to interact with him one-on-one, so she got away from him as soon as she could.
Chanyeol noticed this and got confused. Had he offended her in some way? Scratching the back of his head and ruffling his hair, he merely pouted and drank from the bottle.
Promotions for Wisteria and their single ‘On My Mind’ continued, and propelled the group to an even higher level of fame. To celebrate this as well as numerous big wins, JYP Entertainment threw a pool party for Wisteria, and various groups and artists got invited. EXO was on the guest list, but not all the members could make it as some of them were occupied with solo activities in Korea and outside. EXO-CBX, for example, were in Japan for a concert, whereas Yixing was in China for his drama. It would be a pity if Chanyeol could not join the pool party, but luckily he was able to make it.
The moment he saw Yoonhwa, he could not take his eyes off of her, but he only had the guts to keep checking her out whilst she conversed with all the other guests that she crossed paths with. She on the other hand did not seem to pay attention to him in particular. However when she looked in his direction and approached, his heart began to beat really fast, and he could not help but wear a goofy smile on his face. Taking a deep breath, he opened his mouth, “hi—”
“Kyungsoo-sunbaenim! Hello!” said Yoonhwa as she smiled and waved at Kyungsoo who was standing behind where Chanyeol was sitting. “I’m so happy you could make it! I heard that not all the EXO members could attend the party but I’m glad you’re here.”
Chanyeol’s jaw dropped and he turned around abruptly to gawk at the small vocalist, unable to utter a word as he observed the interactions between Yoonhwa and Kyungsoo. It was a brief conversation between the two of them and the second it was finished and Kyungsoo walked away, Chanyeol sprang to his feet and dared grab Yoonhwa by the wrist gently.
“You seem very delighted to see Kyungsoo,” he stated.
Yoonhwa grinned. “Yeah! I’m a big fan and he’s my bias, after all,” she revealed.
“What?” Chanyeol gasped. “Aigoo! Even you…”
“What’s wrong with that?” Yoonhwa asked, amused by Chanyeol’s reaction.
“My mom, my dad, and even my sister all chose Kyungsoo as their bias. And now you as well...who would love me then?” He pretended to dab at his eyes to wipe his fake tears away.
“Well,” she giggled. “He waved at me first and I just had to go talk to him, especially since I didn’t get the chance to do that last time. You know that feeling? When there’s someone you like and really wanna meet and then they’re the one who notices you and greets you first?”
“Uh, no, because there’s somebody I kinda like and really wanna meet but then when she saw me, she bypassed me for another member and probably wouldn’t even look twice at me if I hadn’t stopped her to draw her attention,” he pouted and whined.
“Aw, that doesn’t sound nice. But hey, why couldn’t you have been the one to walk up to her and talk to her first?” She nudged him playfully. “Is our baby Chanyeol too shy?”
“W-what…” he stuttered. “No I’m not! And what did you just call me?”
“Baby Chanyeol?” She teased.
“Hey! I’m a man! A manly man!” He insisted, and pouted again.
She merely chuckled. “Here, baby Chanyeol. Have some chocolate. Say ‘ah’!” She joked.
“Ya!” He laughed. “Anyway, congratulations to you and your group. I really like the song; you totally killed that verse. And I like the MV too…”
“Oh, thanks so much! But speaking of the MV, that was really challenging to film...it was so difficult to dance on a chair and I remember thinking that I was going to break the chair, and of course my heels just made life that much easier for me,” she guffawed. “I’m sure it looks nice on screen but behind the scenes? Endless worry. I’m not like Hyuna-sunbaenim who can pull off any choreo in any outfit.”
“You still absolutely blew me away with that,” he admitted, beaming. “And your light brown hair is so pretty.”
“Yeah! It’s my favorite color. And hey I’m glad it’s still so soft,” she smiled, gently lifting his hand to allow him to feel the smoothness of a strand of her hair. The angle at which the rays of sunshine hit her hair was perfect, making it glow almost golden.
“So pretty…” he reiterated, looking lovestruck and gazing at her fondly.
“I’m so flattered; Chanyeol-sunbaenim — ah, I mean baby Chanyeol — has nothing but compliments for me today,” she replied cheerily. “It must be my lucky day.”
“It’s an embarrassing nickname,” he commented, ruffling his hair. “But I like it when you’re the one calling me that.”
“In that case, I’ll be more than happy to save your name in my contacts as ‘Baby Chanyeol’,” she smirked, sliding her phone into his hand so he could key in his number.
He chortled. “And what should I save you as? Goddess Yoonhwa?”
“Ooh,” she giggled. “Not so loud. Don’t wanna spoil our next comeback concept. You didn’t hear that from me though,” she winked. “Let’s go get something to eat, yeah?”
Chapter 3: Chirp-Chirp
As the party went on, Chanyeol only became more and more besotted with Yoonhwa, especially after she beat him at a game of pool. Everyone had tons of fun, and truly lived up to the iconic line, ‘shawty Imma party till the sundown’.
Everyone except Gahyun, probably.
It was inevitable that the vocalist of Wisteria should run into Chanyeol. She continued to avoid him and it was like she could not even look him in the eye, which fuelled a burning curiosity in Chanyeol’s mind as to why she would react to him like that, so when he caught sight of her from the other end of the corridor, he called out her name and tried to strike up a conversation with her, but had absolutely no luck with that. She did not even need to run away from him, as he was intercepted by a whiny Tao who announced that it was Chanyeol’s turn to shower with him. Obviously still distracted, Chanyeol quickly uttered his agreement much to the delight of the younger boy. Promptly on his way again and reluctant to allow his quest for answers to be a failure, Chanyeol continued to look around for Gahyun. But instead of finding her once he rounded a corner and found himself in one of the more secluded parts of the hotel building complex, he found another member of Wisteria — unfortunately not Yoonhwa but, rather, Cheolyeon, the leader and dancer of the group. And she was not alone. Kris was with her, lips locked and their hands all over each other.
Chanyeol smacked himself on the forehead and scuttled away in embarrassment. They probably did not even see him but he still had not meant to walk in on this. He hurried back to the pool area as quickly as possible, deciding to jump into the cool water to take his mind off things.
Following the success of Wisteria’s summer bop ‘On My Mind’, plenty of windows of opportunities had been opened up for the three girls. Cheolyeon was invited to star on a popular variety show, Gahyun was going to making her debut in a K-drama, and Yoonhwa was about to step into her new role as an MC on Music Bank, partnered with none other than her friend Jaehyun from NCT.
Equally, EXO members were busy being successful kings, but whenever they had a bit of free time, they would gather in the dorms and Skype the members who were occupied with overseas activities. For example, Luhan and Jongin were in different parts of Japan, Kris was in Los Angeles, Chanyeol was in Spain, whereas Tao and Sehun were in Paris. So employed! Legends!
“Daebak! All twelve of us are online! I’m not sleepy anymore,” Baekhyunee chirped and clapped in excitement.
“Woohoo! We are one!” Chanyeol chimed in, and the rest followed suit, energetically echoing their slogan.
One by one, each member talked about what they were up to and how they were doing. When it was Suho’s turn, he chuckled and revealed that he was derping around on chirp-chirp.
“Twitter?” Baekhyun asked. “I’ve been thinking about getting an account too.”
“If you’ll make one then I’ll make one as well,” Yixing piped up.
“You should! It’s fun to read what our eris have been saying about us,” Suho replied enthusiastically. “Look at them. They’re so supportive and they’re looking forward to our upcoming projects! Ah, some of them have made dance covers of our songs. It makes me so happy to see these.”
“Ah, I saw some of the dance covers as well!” Jongin said happily. “Our eris are so talented. Hyung, are you interacting with any of them?”
“Heheh, maybe…they’ll never know it’s me,” Suho laughed. “You guys know about EXO-L Selca Day? I guarantee it’ll make your day to see their selcas…”
After this conversation, Chanyeol was the one who got interested in Twitter and beat Baekhyun to setting up an account. In no time, his interactions tab was spammed with hundreds and thousands of mentions, and his phone kept buzzing as the notifications kept coming in.
“This is crazy,” he said to himself, alone in his hotel room in Barcelona. That was also where he spent the next hour, figuring out how to navigate this app and accomplishing as much as replying to Yesung-sunbaenim’s welcome tweet.
Amidst the influx of mentions, Chanyeol hoped he had not missed anything work-related, but most importantly he made sure to check that he did not miss anything from his goddess Yoonhwa. But wait, he did miss some of her new messages! And she had sent a selca! Chanyeol let out a squeal. Time to repeatedly thumb the heart-eyes emoji! And then when she asked for a selca from him in return, he leaped on the bed and jumped excitedly.
Chanyeol: MY GODDESS
Chanyeol: SO PRETTY
Chanyeol: THE PRETTIEST
Chanyeol: ALL MY LOVE IS YOURS TO TAKE
Chanyeol: 1 image
Chanyeol: I look handsome right? (Wink)
Yoonhwa: hhhh of course my baby Chanyeol looks handsome
The smile on Chanyeol’s face stayed for a long, long time. He was so overjoyed he could not even sleep that night.
Turning to his side, he opened the Twitter app again. It was truly addictive. Seeing as he had just learned what a ‘stan account’ was, he thought, perhaps he could set up a stan account and use it to fanboy over Yoonhwa to his heart’s content. And that was what he did once he had settled on a username that would allow him to blend right in with the rest of Wisteria’s growing fandom.
He chuckled to himself as he joined the hype, thinking that even if Yoonhwa got on the official Wisteria account and saw his fanboy tweets, she would not have even the slightest clue that it was actually him.
He continued to scroll through his timeline as he hummed the chorus of the tune that he and Kris composed together. He smiled in approval when he saw all these high quality pictures of Yoonhwa, but then he came across a tweet that made him frown. It contained a link to a tabloid article and the headlines read: ‘NCT’s Jaehyun and Wisteria’s Yoonhwa — this summer’s cutest couple?’
Chanyeol’s phone slipped out of his hand and it fell onto his face, eliciting a yelp in pain. He rubbed his cheek and checked out the article. Normally he kept his mind clear and paid no attention to the lies fabricated by the media, but that was only when he himself was concerned. This time when it came to Yoonhwa, he could hardly remain rational. Could it be true that Goddess Yoonhwa was a couple with his hoobae? He scratched his head and thought about it further. They were already close when they were trainees, and now that they were cohosting Music Bank…could they really be more than friends? These pics of them smiling and laughing and being completely natural with each other…it should not be enough to indicate that they were romantically involved. But Chanyeol just could not stop thinking about it. Was he jealous already? Oh yeah he was. He wished he could get that many opportunities to interact with Yoonhwa too.
It was only when EXO’s hit single ‘Power’ was released that they had the chance to go on Music Bank again which gave Chanyeol the opportunity to interact with Yoonhwa. He practically kept his eyes locked on her the whole time, observing her dynamics with Jaehyun. So far, no sparks were flying, only rumors. This brought him relief as well as the confidence to be the one to hold her undivided attention once they were backstage and had the chance to chat and chill.
“Yoonhwa-ya!” Chanyeol gushed once he located Yoonhwa in a corner neglected by many. He got too excited and had inadvertently reenacted a scene from EXO Next Door, placing his palm flat on the wall behind Yoonhwa and effectively keeping her trapped there. She was more amused than startled by this move, looking up at him and right into his eyes.
“I see you’re not too shy this time,” Yoonhwa commented slyly.
“And I see you’re not choosing one of the members over me this time,” Chanyeol replied. Wow, how did he manage to be that smooth? How was he not tongue-tied when he was in front of her? Amazing. He was so excited.
“Are you sure?” She shot back playfully, looking over his shoulder to take a peep. “Hmm, perhaps not one of your fellow members but I reckon Jaehyun looks dashing.”
“What…” his eyes widened. “You…you and Jaehyun…are you two really…”
“Really what?” She pressed on, poking his chest gently and puckishly.
He gulped. “A couple?”
Yoonhwa burst out laughing. “Oh my gosh, no, no! Where did you even get that idea from…I have to tell Jaehyun about this; he’s not gonna be able to stop laughing.”
“Aigoo, I don’t know, I just heard rumors...” Chanyeol faltered instantly, realizing he had made a fool out of himself.
“Rumors…” Yoonhwa chuckled. “In that case, I also heard rumors that you’re dating a model.”
“I am? Again?” Chanyeol asked, his eyebrows furrowing together. “Whomst?”
Yoonhwa shrugged. “Doesn’t matter. She’s not your type anyway.”
Chanyeol was truly taken aback this time. “How would you know what my type is?”
“You said so in your Instagram live the other day,” Yoonhwa answered.
“You watched my Insta live?!”
She nodded. “How’s that song coming along, by the way? You said you couldn’t find the right words or something, right?”
He nodded too, but still gaped at her in disbelief.
“Why are you so surprised?” She let out a chuckle and reached out to give him a boop on his nose. “Am I not allowed to watch when you’re going live? Or did you reveal something that I wasn’t supposed to know?
“No, nothing,” he said hastily. “And of course you’re allowed. You’re welcome to watch me go live as much as you like,” he smiled sweetly. “That way I’ll feel more connected to you, and I like that.”
“I like that too,” she confessed, licking her lips. “You better be watching my Vlives too, baby Chanyeol.”
“Yes!” He chirped, not letting her know that he had been watching more than her Vlives to include fan cams and interviews and compilations of her funniest moments on YouTube.
Impishly, she threw her arms over his shoulders and pulled him closer to her. He found her completely irresistible and although he was not sure how he got into this position, he definitely liked where this was going.
“I like you, Chanyeol,” she said with zero hesitation, eyes meeting his without trouble. “I like you when you’re being a shy baby, when you’re bold and proactive, and when you’re performing and commanding the stage. I like how you want me to choose you over everyone else, how you hype my selcas, and how you appreciate me for who I am even though the world likes to give me labels and define me in their own terms. You make me feel special.”
Chanyeol gasped lightly, then his hands flew to cover his mouth, and then moved to cup her face tenderly. On his own face was a proud look of delight. He was so overjoyed that he could not even find the words to say. “You make me feel even more special, Yoonhwa,” he admitted blithely. “Well, how do I outdo a confession like that? I have no idea I would mean that much to you. It was a chance encounter between us two years ago. You aren’t the same Yoonhwa that you were back then, nor am I the same Chanyeol that I was at the time. We’ve grown so much over the past two years, and over the past few months I’ve grown to adore you. You are like no other to me. You are so fearlessly, unreservedly you. And I really can’t help but fall for you.”
Yoonhwa smiled wholeheartedly, and this was an endearing, heartwarming smile from her that only Chanyeol was worthy of. “Well, it was because of what you said to me the first time we met that I can be who I am today. It’s galvanised me to make the right changes so I can live the life I want to live and all of these decisions helped bring me here to be with you right now. So I can think of a million and one ways to celebrate that.”
Enough said, she angled her face closer to his and, tantalizingly but with certainty, placed a kiss on his lips. He was more than eager to kiss her back, wrapping his arms around her body firmly. Her lips were so soft, so pliant even though he was letting her take the lead. The way they touched his was magical, enough to set his heart on fire. She cherished this kiss because it was such a meaningful kiss — and it had been a while since she kissed somebody knowing it held emotional significance.
“Hmm,” she remarked afterward, still savoring the taste of his lips on hers. “You're a much better kisser in real life than on screen, you know?”
He almost choked. “You watched my movie too?”
“Yeah of course,” she replied proudly. “Gotta support my baby Chanyeol.”
Chapter 4: Song For You
For idols like Chanyeol and Yoonhwa it was often the case that dating was considered a luxury, and so they were very grateful to be able to make the time for dates with each other throughout the following month, and more kisses were shared. Even though they flew around frequently for concerts and other activities, video calls made a solid option for them to fall back on.
“So, I have completed a new song,” Chanyeol announced during one of their FaceTime sessions, evidently giddy.
“Oh! That’s great! I bet you’re excited to show it to your fans,” Yoonhwa clapped, forever supportive of her baby Chanyeol.
“I am! But I’m even more excited to show it to you,” he replied spiritedly. “It’s confirmed to be part of the setlist for our Elyxion tour since each of us is gonna have our own solo stage, but since the song is written for you…”
“My baby is the sweetest,” she remarked, a wide grin hanging on her face. “Show me, show me. I’m so excited.”
“Have you got time now? I can just p—”
“Yoonhwa-ya!” A whiny voice from Yoonhwa’s side of the line caused her to whirl as she stood up and took off one side of her earphones.
“Yeah? What is it,” she called out loudly. When there was no response she quickly motioned for Chanyeol to give her a moment, and then she was no longer on the screen.
“Gahyun? What’s up,” said Yoonhwa, glancing between her fellow members.
“Yoonhwa…” Gahyun whined softly, taking Yoonhwa by the hand and pouting. “What will it take to persuade you to join me and Cheolyeon for our Vlive? Two-thirds of Wisteria just won’t cut it. We need the complete lineup.”
“Ah! Crap, did we decide on tonight? Oh goodness, um, just give me five minutes, okay? I promise,” Yoonhwa pleaded.
“Five? By then Cheolyeon will have enough time to finish the whole bag of chips and you won’t get to have any and then you’ll whine and make me buy more food for you.”
“Aha! You’ll buy more for me? You’re the best. Love you. Muah,” she giggled and said lightheartedly. “Eonni, I have to get back to Chanyeol now—”
“Him again?” Gahyun asked, almost sadly but Yoonhwa was hardly perceptive to the elder girl’s tone.
“Yeah of course. Did you think there was someone else? That anyone could possibly compare to my beloved baby? Nah.”
“So wait for me!” She laughed as she dashed back to her bed, deftly picking up her phone to resume the call. “I’ll be there in five; no lie.”
“Hey, you’re back! I thought I would have to delay my performance…” said Chanyeol, pretending to sniffle and shed tears.
“Aww, no! I’m ready now,” she smiled. “We have exactly five minutes before Gahyun-eonni whoops my ass.”
Chanyeol, who was able to catch most of the conversation between the girls, could not help but wonder. “Gahyun-ssi seems fine with you spending time with me, surprisingly.”
“Why wouldn’t she be fine with it? Did you do something to piss her off?”
“I’m fairly certain that I haven’t, but it’s just that...I’ve never even had a proper conversation with her before.”
“Right, so if that’s the case, why would she have a problem with us?” She frowned, confused.
He shrugged. “I’m sure it’s nothing.”
“Yeah. Anyway, your new song! Oh, wait,” she paused, looking as if she had just thought of something. “Baby? I’m curious about something.”
She chuckled before asking, “have you ever written songs for your exes before? Or for the people you liked.”
“What?!” He squeaked, clearly taken aback. “I...well...I, uh—”
“It’s alright. I’m sure you had your own life before we met just as I had my own,” she added.
“Well...yeah, to answer your question, yes I have. Twice actually. One time was about, well, an unexpected but unforgettable encounter at a masquerade party last year. The other time was a couple years back, when I got spurned by the girl I was actually dating. I was serious about her but she...well, she chose somebody else over me. She dumped me and went for another girl instead,” he confessed. “I’m over it now. And it was music that helped.”
She smiled wryly. “That’s not too far off from what I experienced too.”
“Wait, you — you went through something similar? But who...who in their right minds would do that to you? I just…” he shook his head. “I’m shooketh.”
“Oh, err, I...I mean, I’m, you know, shocked,” he said quickly, realizing the slip was due to exposure to stan Twitter language.
“Yeah, I got cheated on. It hurt me really badly, but that was more than 2 years ago. Actually, you know what? It was right before we met for the first time,” she revealed.
“Whoa! For real? Back then...at SM? Oh, no wonder you were so down. Now I understand why it was something that not even chicken could fix.”
She nodded. “We trainees weren’t really supposed to date, so we kinda kept it a secret from management. But then it turns out she was also keeping secrets from me, and when I found out about it, it really cut me like a knife. Especially since she was my first,” she sighed. “She left me for good and then went ahead to get engaged to the person she chose over me. Apparently, they’re really rich, and she didn’t even have to keep training as she could simply rely on their influence to get whatever she wanted in life. I don’t really know what she wanted, or if it was ever me.”
“Well I know what I want and it most certainly is you,” he replied heartily. “I have a song to prove it,” he added, smiling slowly.
She beamed. “I believe you. I’ve been liked by many, desired in some ways, looked up to as well, but I’ve never been adored and supported and loved by anybody...until you came along.”
“Ya! Why are you always one step ahead of me?” He laughed, rolling on the bed. “I get it, normally it’s ‘ladies first’, but when it comes to professing my love for you…”
“Alright, I’ll let you go first this time,” she chuckled too.
“Yoonhwa, I love you,” he said happily, eyes shimmering with joy and fondness.
Her own smile was like a mirror image of his. “I love you too, Chanyeol.”
More giggles followed, but they were the only ones who were enjoying themselves. Gahyun, for one, was not having so much fun as she fiercely wiped the tears from her eyes. She knew she should not be eavesdropping; she should have just barged in and curtly informed Yoonhwa that her five minutes were up. But...it broke her heart to hear Yoonhwa say those words to someone else. She knew about Yoonhwa’s failed relationship way before Chanyeol had the chance to learn about it, and even before that she had already made up her mind that she was going to treat Yoonhwa right, at all costs. But what about now? What about when her own heart was broken? Could she still do it? It hurt, it goddamn hurt. And out of all people it had to be Chanyeol that Yoonhwa chose to love and be with. Yoonhwa knew nothing about why Gahyun was so aversive to him, and frankly it was not his fault either. He was probably just as clueless as she was. But Gahyun could see and hear clearly that both Yoonhwa and Chanyeol were happy with each other and Gahyun had no doubt that it was better this way. She could not bear to get in the way of Yoonhwa’s happiness, and she definitely did not want to bring pain to Chanyeol a second time.
“Hey, is she ready yet?” Cheolyeon asked casually, throwing away the empty bag of chips as she approached Gahyun. And then she realized that Gahyun had been crying. “Oh my gosh, what’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” Gahyun answered croakily, forcing herself to plaster a smile on her tear-stained face. “Everything is as it should be.”
Chapter 5: You Me In Bed
Although it sucked that Chanyeol and Yoonhwa were not able to meet up often during the whole of November since they were really so very busy they barely had enough rest, she still celebrated his 25th birthday with him on FaceTime and this time she prepared something special for him too: she wrote a song for him as well!
"And this time you can't say that I'm one step ahead of you," she winked. "Do you want me to show it to you now?"
"Wa! I'm the happiest man ever. Can I get a live performance instead when we meet in Hong Kong for MAMA?" He asked blithely, all of his gesticulations denoting his excitement — the giant was practically curling himself into a ball of joy. “It'll be in 4 days' time anyway!”
“Yes of course!” She smiled. “Anything for the birthday boy.”
December came soon enough, and the first day of the month was already full of frustrations and worries. To say the least, EXO did not have a fun evening at MAMA. Aside from other members’ brief speeches, Kris had managed to utter a few lines in Mandarin and Cantonese before choking on his own tears. It was tough for all twelve of them.
Tearfully, they returned to their own rooms after the event, wanting to bury their tired faces into a pillow more than anything else. Chanyeol decided to take a shower and then get some rest as soon as he could, but even in the shower he was still crying.
Chanyeol was not eager to let anybody see him like this, when he was not in the condition to be the Happy Virus that usually came so naturally to him. But many people were so concerned about him, trying to message him and call him. Yoonhwa in particular. And he did not want her to worry so he texted her back and agreed to let her come to his room even though it was late. He knew that they both had to catch the flight in the morning to go back to Seoul, where another award show awaited their presence and performance, but he really needed her right now.
Once Yoonhwa saw Chanyeol she held him tight and did not let go. They did not need to exchange any words; her presence and support was enough. As they cuddled on his bed, he sniffled and piped up. “I don’t usually like asking people to stay,” he admitted. “Because there’s never been anyone that I thought I needed desperately. But I really need you. And I need you to stay. Here with me.”
She nodded right away. “For as long as you need, baby. You don’t even need to ask,” she replied in reassurance, softly stroking his hair as the warmth of her hand combined with the coolness of the pillow lulled him to an easy slumber.
Leaving Hong Kong behind, a new day awaited all the hottest K-pop artists in South Korea as they took turns to shine on the stage for the Melon Music Awards. EXO members had decided to shed their sorrows from yesterday and focus on today’s performances. One of the most impressive stages was probably the one featuring some of the best dancers under JYP: namely Yugyeom from GOT7, Momo from Twice, as well as the newest star: Cheolyeon from Wisteria. While most EXO members, particularly Kris, were quite focused on appreciating this stunning dance performance and jamming to the beat of the song, Chanyeol was more occupied with something else. Since EXO and Wisteria were seated adjacently and Chanyeol was conveniently sitting on the side, he and Yoonhwa naturally gravitated toward each other. In no time, that had turned into exchanging smiles and sharing jokes and fooling around and giggling. Yoonhwa even took her teasing and playing to the next level by playing with his hair, and he gladly let her. There were many things he would let her do to him and she knew how much it was affecting him, although he hardly thought that she would understand how much self-control it took for him to not just kiss her in front of all these cameras.
“Will you let me kiss you?” He inched closer to her and asked while covering his mouth so that nobody could so much as read his lips.
She broke into a grin. “Right now? Can’t you wait?”
“No,” he shook his head and beamed at her lovingly. “Don’t wanna wait.”
“Well, it looks like you’ll have to,” she replied impishly, pointing at the staff member behind him who was gesturing for EXO to get ready for their upcoming performance.
Chanyeol was not the least bit deterred. Instead, he was determined to come back and claim all the kisses he wanted. He would make her even more eager for it, and the fact that he had to go on stage now? He was going to own it and make it his bitch. Not only would it not serve as an interruption between his sweet interactions with Yoonhwa, he was going to turn it into an opportunity for him to continue playing with her.
When Chanyeol said that he could not wait, he meant it. He did not even wait till the iconic hip thrusts or the body rolls on the floor during The Eve — simply, his verse in Forever would have to do. The song was cut short but that was not a problem either. Given his goal, his first line would suffice.
“Yo, nice skirt,” he began, pointing at Yoonhwa as he rapped. That smirk? That wink? Deadly, and yet it made Yoonhwa feel so alive. Her heart was racing and inwardly she was squealing and screaming but she only dared smile and nod along like other girl groups were doing. He’s gonna get it, Yoonhwa thought to herself. This boy is gonna get it tonight.
With that mindset, by the time Wisteria went on stage to blow the audience away with their amazing performance, Yoonhwa was determined to give back to Chanyeol the same way everything he gave her. Wiggling to show off the nice skirt that she knew he liked. Licking her lips flirtatiously while glancing in his direction. Adding a seductive touch to the way she danced and moved her hands up and down her body to signify to him that that was how she wanted to be touched, and he had better watch and learn so he could please her. He grinned to himself as he saw for himself how well his plan was working. Even though she had been playing with him off-stage and complimenting other artists — like Kyungsoo for his shoulders that looked really broad from a specific angle, Jihyo for her mesmerizing curves, or Jinyoung for the cute crinkles by his eyes — all of this was building his confidence rather than shattering it, because Chanyeol knew that her heart was with him and it was him that she adored and wanted.
And she proved as much at night when they could finally be in the privacy of his hotel room, in bed. Tonight was not going to be full of tears and sorrow like last night. On the contrary it was going to feature a series of passionate kisses, hands roaming everywhere in desire and articles of clothing going one by one.
“You’ve been teasing me all night already,” said Chanyeol, whining slightly as he grabbed Yoonhwa’s hand and placed it on his thigh and gesturing for her to do more.
“As if you weren’t the one who started it,” she replied puckishly and pulled down his pants. “Lie back and let me suck you off.”
He was not used to being told what to do in bed as he usually tended to be the one taking the reins but gosh, she was so hot and it made him even harder when she was in command, so he did as he was told.
“That’s a good boy,” she winked in satisfaction and then got to work. When he let out a grunt even though her mouth was barely on him, she held back and eyed him in amusement. “Someone’s got a praise kink, huh?”
“Don’t expose me— ah—” he was cut off mid-sentence when she took him into her mouth as deep as she could go. “Yes, more, please,” he almost spluttered.
She paused and looked up at him with a smirk. “Oh, I like a polite baby.”
“Please,” he repeated, not yet desperate but certainly very, very eager. He would do well to remember that with her, he could get what he wanted by being a well-mannered submissive.
She licked his tip a few times and then went in deeper and deeper, tightening her grip on his thighs as she took in an inch after another. “Oh…goddess, yes, thank you,” he groaned, hands trembling in pleasure but still reaching to hold her hair and the other to tug at his balls, desiring more stimulation. However she stopped in her ministrations and placed her fingers on his wrist, using no force at all but was such a powerful gesture that it made him halt too.
“Did I give you permission to touch yourself, baby?” She questioned, sounding sufficiently stern without needing to practically bark at him.
“I...n-no…” he gulped. “No,” he answered quietly and shook his head, his lips beginning to form a pout like an apologetic schoolboy.
“What did I tell you to do?”
“You...you said to...to lie back and…”
“And let y-you...s-suck me off,” he finished shyly.
“Right. So unless you don’t want me to blow you anymore—”
“I want it!” He blurted, and then quickly realized that he was not supposed to interrupt when she was speaking. At the slightest raise of her eyebrow, he knew that that impatient move he made just now was unwise. Hastily he added, “please! I’ll be good.”
She nodded lazily. “You’ll prove it,” she chirped, and then resumed sucking. As soon as she did, he opened his mouth no longer to speak but to grunt in pleasure. She decided she liked his reactions and the noises he made, so she tightened her lips around his length and sucked harder, faster, and all of that made him groan incoherently, bucking into her mouth. He could hardly help it even though he could feel her hands on his hips, not meant to stop him completely but just to slow him down and also to remind him that she controlled the pace.
Running his hand through his hair as he began to sweat, he looked down at her and asked pleadingly, “will you let me?” He breathed in deeply. “I’m close.”
She stopped, sitting up on her knees to rest rather than to denote subservience. “You think you get to go first? Before I even get any pleasure?” She placed a finger under his chin. “I think you know better than that,” she chuckled. “If this were your wet dream, of course you get to cum as many times as you like. But this isn’t a fantasy, baby,” she added, kissing him on the face. “This is even better.”
“You’re right,” he whispered a bit breathlessly. “I’m hella blessed to have you.” He leaned in naturally, wishing to lock lips with her and yet part of him wondered if he ought to ask for permission first. She however met his lips with her own and kissed him with evident need and desire. On the bed were four pillows and two cushions and they were going to take full advantage of that to shift into any position they pleased. She had purposefully deprived him of the privilege of getting to touch her, so he did not have the chance to get a feel of how wet she was. But instead, he was about to get something even better than that, just like she offered, when she straddled his lap, bending her knees and splaying her legs apart.
“I want all of you,” she stated sensually, gripping his shoulders tight so she could keep her balance, and allowing him to support her weight using his hands.
“I’m all yours,” he replied with much fondness in his gaze that she held as she began to move her hips and let each inch of him slide into her. She gasped at that sensation, inhaling deeply while he groaned in absolute delight and started kissing her neck. She opted for back-and-forth thrusts, preferring to allow the pleasure to accumulate for her first. She took and took and took, and he was so eager to give it to her. He was so willing to cooperate with her and do anything to heighten the pleasure for her, from kissing her passionately to touching and groping her thighs and her butt. Eventually he found his hands on her hips, to feel each of her thrusts with more intensity. As challenging as it was to hold back from reaching his orgasm, he did want her to get to hit her climax before he did. Even though he was not the dominant one, he would still love to spoil her utterly.
“Chanyeol,” she moaned as she shifted gears and her motions became up-and-down and she was moving faster, requiring more friction to satisfy the both of them. Depth was hardly a problem considering his size. She was gently biting his lower lip as she rode him, fucking herself on his cock as her breathing quickened too. “Fuck,” she whispered, throwing her head back and relentlessly chasing her orgasm and exclaiming his name when she finally got what she wanted. He climaxed moments later, finally free to go over the edge and hissing as he came. For a few moments she was so absorbed in paradise that she hardly knew what was happening except that he was dipping to bury his face in her chest between her breasts, kissing and nipping and licking. Clearly he wanted more and he was ready for more, and the feeling was mutual.
“Let me pleasure you,” he offered once he recovered from his high, a smile upon his sweaty face. “I really want to. I won’t disappoint. Come on, sit on my face.”
She licked her lips and beamed. That was an offer she could not find it in her to turn down. “You better prepare yourself for a long night ahead, baby.”
Chapter 6: Valentine’s Day
In the first month of 2018, Chanyeol had already received the news that he was given the chance to collaborate with a very popular singer in the K-pop scene. This was already enough to get him thrilled and when he was informed by SM that it was going to be a member of a girl group, he was even more exhilarated.
“Oh my gosh, is it Wisteria?” He asked giddily and could almost leap out of his seat in excitement.
“Yes. We believe it would be profitable for you to work wit—”
“Ah!!! Is it Yoonhwa?” He pressed on.
“Yoonhwa?” He repeated, dozens of further descriptions popping into his head like ‘my beautiful goddess’ or ‘my beloved girlfriend’ or ‘the prettiest, cutest girl in the world’ but in the end what left his mouth was, “the rapper of Wisteria?”
“Ah, no. It’s another member. You’ll be working with Gahyun-ssi, the power vocal of the group.”
Although this was not the first time Chanyeol and Gahyun were in the same room, every time they were at the same event she kept going out of her way to avoid him, until today. It was no longer avoidable this time as it was just the two of them in the studio, and now both of them were feeling incredibly awkward. Feeling responsible for this, Gahyun was the one to pipe up first.
“Chanyeol-ssi, I believe I owe you an explanation. I understand that my recent behavior with regards to you has been…mystifying, but since we are going to work together, I would like our collaboration to go smoothly. And so I’ve decided that it would make things easier for us if I could explain to you why I have been acting the way I did.” She remained solemn and sorrowful, which made Chanyeol even more curious as to what she could possibly have to tell him. She took a deep breath and asked gingerly, “do you remember Kang Jisun?”
Chanyeol was taken aback to hear that name. He had not heard this name in such a long time but he still nodded, thinking about the first ever person that he had written a song for. “Yeah...she’s kinda hard to forget even though I don’t really think of her anymore. Why?”
While what he said was true, now that he was reminded of her, he was triggered to think about everything that he had shared with her. Three years ago, before Chanyeol even met Yoonhwa in SM, he had just been dating another girl, Jisun. She was from outside the entertainment industry and was an acquaintance of his friend Gyeongjin. He thought that things between the two of them were going well and he could be in a relationship that, for once, might last, but the feeling was apparently not mutual as Jisun revealed that she did not believe that they would work well as a couple. An even more devastating revelation was that she had been seeing someone else in the few months leading up to their breakup.
“I’m sorry you have to find out about it this way but...it was me that she was cheating on you with,” said Gahyun quietly. “I feel really bad about it and that’s why I haven’t been able to really...look you in the eye or interact with you. Because I get reminded of what happened with Jisun and it’s just...awful. By the way, I broke up with her a long time ago and we don’t keep in touch anymore.”
“Oh, no, I understand…” Chanyeol replied calmly. “It really crushed me back then but it’s been so long. I’m over it. I’m over her and I don’t keep in contact with her either. And I would never blame you for what she did to me. I didn’t know it was you until just now but I never thought of it as somebody else ‘stealing’ her from me. It was her own wrongdoing and I would not like you to burden yourself with the belief that I would lay the blame on you for it.”
“Thank you so much for being understanding about it…” she sighed in relief. “Phew, that turned out to be much better than I was anticipating.”
“So…I guess, now that we’ve reconciled ourselves with this dreadful experience and you’ve come clean to me about it, perhaps we could put this in the past and try to have fun working together?” He suggested, offering a friendly smile to her and feeling much more comfortable now that he understood what was going on.
She wished she could honestly say yes and mean it from the bottom of her heart but she could not. Even though they could forget Jisun, there was still the problem of Yoonhwa. More specifically, her feelings for Yoonhwa were definitely going to get in the way if she had to be working closely with Yoonhwa’s boyfriend on this track. But what else could she say to him? No? She could not possibly disclose to him how she felt about his girlfriend. It took her a great deal of strength to admit it to Cheolyeon and she was only able to do it because they were so close. But Gahyun strongly believed that she could not let Yoonhwa and/or Chanyeol know about it. That would just complicate things so much and make everything awkward again and that was not what she wanted.
“Yeah, definitely,” she replied, forcing herself to return the smile.
In spite of all that Gahyun was keeping to herself, the collaboration with Chanyeol was going quite well as their studio sessions were quite productive, even if they both had other schedules and events to attend.
“Would you be able to come in on Wednesday?” Gahyun asked, looking through her organizer. “Friday is also cool.”
Chanyeol chuckled. “Wednesday? Isn’t that Valentine’s Day? I have plans with Yoonhwa.”
“Oh...right,” she laughed somewhat bitterly. “It really slipped my mind.”
“Yeah, I wouldn’t wanna be away from her on such a special day,” he replied, even grinning as he thought about the plans he had made and only getting more and more excited.
“Me neither,” she uttered under her breath and stifled a sigh in frustration.
“I mean, I wouldn’t want to be away from my girlfriend on such a special day either,” she quickly spluttered for fear of giving away even the slightest hint about her feelings for Yoonhwa. “So, I’ll see you on Friday then?” She added with haste, urgently changing the topic and redirecting the attention away from Yoonhwa and back to their music and work.
“Yeah, sure, that works for me,” Chanyeol replied breezily, remaining clueless to Gahyun’s emotional turmoil.
When Gahyun returned to the dorms she found Cheolyeon there already, chilling and shoving chips into her mouth.
"Where's Yoonhwa?" Gahyun asked.
Cheolyeon shrugged. "Probably still at the studio working on something. She didn't dress up or anything so I'm guessing she's not on a date."
Gahyun sighed and sat down next to the leader. "You got any plans on Valentine's Day?" She asked, wondering if all her fellow members would be choosing EXO members over her on that particular day.
"No," Cheolyeon snorted. "I'm far too single to be making that kind of plans."
"What, aren't you gonna go out with —”
"With Kris? Nah, he's not even in Seoul. He's still gonna be in LA and probably between some random girl's legs."
"The dream life," Gahyun replied dryly.
"You don't need to be seeing anyone to have fun; sure, the occasion doesn't offer much reason for us singles to celebrate, but we can still have a blast. Let's do the movie marathon we've talked about for so many months! We can just put our feet up and eat lots of snacks and chill," Cheolyeon suggested. "No fancy candlelit dinners, no pretty bouquets, but it's gonna be a relaxing day for us. Completely stress-free. Lord knows we need it."
"That would be so nice," Gahyun beamed. She was constantly disappointed and hurt by many people around her but Cheolyeon was her best friend for many years and they could always count on each other.
"Great! Let's do it then," replied the dancer merrily. "So how was your day at the studio? Working with Chanyeol-ssi."
"Oh man, it hasn't been entirely easy — I'm sure you know why — but it has been easier. He's actually quite funny and, as an artist, I think I work with him really well. I do sometimes wish I haven't got feelings for his girlfriend, because then I would be much more comfortable with being around him. And I could actually become friends with him.”
As Gahyun explained, the door opened and Yoonhwa was back. "Friends with whom?" She asked curiously as she kicked off her heels and put on her softest pair of slippers.
“Oh, just this trainee. He’s gonna debut maybe next year,” Gahyun lied. “I bought chips for you, by the way,” she added, changing the topic right away and directing Yoonhwa to the cabinet and effectively distracting her with food. At this rate, she was going to become a specialist in avoidance and changing topics. It was tiring, but she would rather keep exhausting herself like that than make her feelings known. It would cause so much drama and awkwardness and she did not want to deal with that either.
“Movie time!” Gahyun said singsong, evidently excited as she filled the table with chips and popcorn and various snacks and drinks next to their proper breakfast. Although her unrequited crush was still going strong, this was probably still going to be one of the happiest Valentine’s Days that she had ever spent. It was early in the morning but she sounded more joyful than any morning person. Unlike Yoonhwa, both Gahyun and Cheolyeon were so used to having to be up early — like at 6 o'clock even when they did not have any schedules to rush to — that their bodies were attuned to this rhythm and naturally woke them up even though the sun would not be up until after an hour.
"I'm ready!" She yelled cheerfully again when Cheolyeon was still not in sight. She had already plopped onto the sofa and was sitting in the laziest semi-recumbent position she could think of, so she had zero willingness to get up to search for the dancer.
She was about to shout again but saved it when Cheolyeon showed up with a frown on her face. She sat down next to Gahyun but stayed focused on the phone in her hand.
"What's up? Is something wrong?" The vocalist asked, adjusting the cushion behind her back.
Cheolyeon sighed. "So you know Kris is in LA, right?"
"Yeah. What about it? You miss your booty call? FaceTime him then," said Gahyun somewhat sardonically.
"Nah," Cheolyeon replied. "He says he's actually free on Wednesday but only in the evening and not during the day, and he's bought a first class ticket for me to fly to LA so we can at least spend the night together. He's 17 hours behind me over there, so if I pack my stuff now and hop on the plane before noon, I can actually get there when it's morning in the West Coast..."
Gahyun's jaw dropped. "Well, I guess you better, uh, start getting ready then?"
"What? No, I'm not going," said Cheolyeon decisively, and put her phone on the armrest, face down.
"Why? He's already booked the flight for you and you're just gonna turn him down? You sure?" Gahyun asked, but not aggressively.
"Because I've already promised you that we'd spend the day together."
"But you know I would let you go if you wanted to."
"Yeah, but I don't want to go," Cheolyeon replied in displeasure. "I'm not someone that he can just summon at his whim. He can't just buy my time and use it to make his day more interesting now that he's suddenly discovered, at the last minute, that he's available in the evening — and available in many other ways."
"So what are you going to tell him?"
"I don't know. Nothing."
"What, so you're just gonna ignore him? Leave him on read?"
"Cheolyeon, why are you like this? You clearly like him and here's your chance to go see him but you won't take it. I know you miss him, and not just sexually, but you won't be the first to text him because you don't wanna sound desperate and clingy, but then when he texts you, you don't reply." Gahyun shook her head. "Y'all are so complicated."
"What the hell, no. I just enjoy fucking him. I don't have feelings for him nor am I emotionally attached to him," Cheolyeon insisted.
"Sure," Gahyun drawled. "Well, if you've made up your mind, let's not spend any more thoughts on any boys, okay? Boys are just stupid and not worth it. We should get started on our movie marathon, yeah?"
Chapter 7: Acting
By the time Chanyeol and Yoonhwa woke up on Wednesday and realized that it was Valentine’s Day, half the day was already gone as it was already the afternoon. And why was it that they only rose and shone past midday? Naturally it was because last night they were tangled in the sheets in the privacy of Chanyeol’s own apartment till the wee hours and were understandably exhausted.
“Oh my gosh, I can’t believe it’s almost 2 in the afternoon…” Yoonhwa croaked and groaned. “Should we even get out of bed?”
“My heart says no but my stomach says yes,” Chanyeol drawled with a yawn.
“But the way to your heart is through your stomach,” Yoonhwa replied, poking Chanyeol affectionately.
“Yeah, so we should probably go get food,” he laughed. “How about Chinese cuisine? How does that sound?”
“I approve,” she grinned and rolled out of bed before she could fall asleep again. “Good thing we only made a reservation for dinner and not for lunch.”
Dinner, however, was not the only reservation that the couple had made. After a really late lunch, they went back to his place and played the guitar for a bit before heading out again, this time to an ice skating rink. The rink was owned by his friend Gyeongjin, who closed the venue an hour early so that Chanyeol and Yoonhwa could have the place to themselves. Otherwise they would get spotted by the public and it would be more difficult for them to enjoy themselves.
“You’re hella good at this!” Chanyeol exclaimed as Yoonhwa kept spinning and showing some moves.
“Ha! I’m not even as good as I used to be,” she chuckled. “Still didn’t make me better at dancing though. Dancing is so fun but I’m not the best at it.”
“Agreed! Ah, you really are the female version of me,” he beamed and scooted toward her.
“Ya! You know I don’t really like to be defined like that,” she whined and poked him in the sides as they frolicked.
“Baby, I’m just saying we are alike and compatible,” he cooed and poked her too.
“Since when do you call me that?” She giggled.
“Since I felt like it,” he replied with a shrug, smiling comfortably and shifting his balance from left to right and back and forth at his ease.
“But you’re the baby,” she insisted, matching his moves and doing a few spins as she pleased.
“No, I’m your baby,” he corrected, gleefully beaming as he pinched her cheeks. She chortled and did the same to him.
“I love my baby,” she smiled.
“I love you too.”
The couple got ice cream afterward and watched the sunset together, taking a romantic walk and sharing smooches. Just being so wholly immersed in these moments with each other was enough to make them forget that they were celebrities. Just an ordinary couple having a nice dinner together and enjoying each other’s presence. They were completely relaxed and comfortable and in love, and this was one of the loveliest feelings in the world.
6000 miles away in Los Angeles, however, was a completely different situation. Kris stared blankly at his phone screen waiting for notifications from one specific person only, swiping away every irrelevant message and muting several group chats as his frustration and disappointment grew by the minute.
“Bro, she’s not gonna show up,” Kevin stated with a light sigh. “Just give up and enjoy the night anyway. You can get any girl you want. We’re hitting the club tonight. Screw Valentine’s; let’s just go where singles have fun.”
“You’re right,” Kris finally admitted, standing up but not putting his phone away. Instead he unlocked it only to make a call about the guest list, and moments later he and Kevin were out the door.
It was toward the end of the month when Chanyeol and Gahyun had finished co-writing their song, so they left the recording studio and headed to the film studio to shoot their music video. This process, however, was nowhere as smooth as song composition.
“Cut!” The director shouted, tempted to kick his chair in disappointment. Even though the filming staff was used to the director’s temper and it certainly was not the first time he was yelling at the crew, this time he was angry with the actors’ subpar performance. His assistant announced a 10-minute break to everybody on set of the music video while the director personally approached Chanyeol and Gahyun to have a talk about their acting.
“Please,” said the director in frustration. “What the hell is going on? This isn’t fucking working. Can the two of you give me more passion. I’ve told you so many times, your song is called ‘Whispers In The Dark’; it’s supposed to be seductive and secretive, mysterious and naughty, but you two look like you don’t even want to be in the same room, let alone whisper in each other’s ears. Is that how you look when you’re with your partner and trying to whisper something in their ear?! Aigoo…” he shook his head and frowned. “Especially you, Gahyun-ssi. I’m seriously disappointed. I’ve heard so many seniors praise you for your acting, but how come none of it is showing? They’re all lying to me or something? Are you just not willing to give me your best shot or what?”
“I apologize, director-nim. I’ll do better in the next scene,” Gahyun replied gloomily, only hearing half of what the director was saying. She had taken up some acting roles before, playing a criminal, playing a gisaeng, playing a madwoman...she handled all the fight scenes and death scenes without much difficulty but she had relatively little experience in taking on a role that required her to be someone’s love interest. It was awfully hard having to look at Chanyeol and pretend that they were lovers, even if it was only to match the theme and content of their song. This was not his fault; she just thought it might be easier for her to put on a show if she were acting with a girl instead. Preferably Yoonhwa. The irony, however, was that Chanyeol was probably thinking the same thing.
“You better,” the director snapped. “Make the audience feel what your song is trying to convey. Right now, if I let people come here and see how you two are doing, even your fans are going to be turned off and unimpressed. Is that what you wanna see? Huh? Letting your fans down? Pull yourselves together. I don’t care who you’re imagining in your heads when you act, but give me the sexy vibes I’ve been asking for since day one. I need to be able to feel it, the attraction, the passion, I need to see it and feel it in the way you look at each other, touch each other, so I need you to drop all your inhibitions and go all out for the cameras, aight? We’re so behind schedule already.”
“We’ll do our best, director-nim. Thank you for the advice,” Chanyeol replied, much more attentive than Gahyun and feeling much less defeated.
“Your solo scenes are fine, but with each other you two are so awkward, you know that? It won’t do. Even I feel weird looking at the two of you pretending to seduce each other. But this is acting, okay? You gotta be professional and do as the script says and as we’ve discussed. Like I said, I don’t care who you fantasize about in your mind when you’re acting. I don’t care if you gotta down a whole bottle of soju before you can loosen up for this. I don’t even care if you gotta watch porn to get in the mood so we can properly film this shit. Do what you must; my demands are the same. Passion. Seduction. Attraction. Got it?”
“Got it,” replied the two artists in unison.
“I’ll give you two a minute to talk about how to deliver what I’m asking for,” said the director who then made his way to the washroom.
“Um, I’m really sorry…” Gahyun began glumly and gulped. “I’ll do my best to cooperate. I don’t mean to waste anybody’s time.”
“It’s alright. I’m still quite new to this and I can understand if you don’t exactly find this easy either,” Chanyeol replied softly, knowing a thing or two about Gahyun’s sexual orientation that probably the rest of the filming crew had no idea about. “And if it helps, I promise I won’t get offended if you think about someone else when we’re acting. I won’t take it personal; we’re just doing what needs to be done for work.”
Gahyun was not sure if she ought to smile because she was fortunate enough to work alongside someone as compassionate and kind as Chanyeol. She appreciated that he was willing to offer some reassurance even though she was aware that she was the one who was slowing down everybody’s work. But she also wondered if she ought to shed tears because it was so ironic — she would indeed feel much more comfortable if she did not had to suppress her thoughts and fantasies of Yoonhwa during filming. But for fuck’s sake, that was his fucking girlfriend that she was fantasizing about and she was certain that if he knew about it, it would be hard to not take it personal and not get offended.
“Thank you so much, I’m so sorry…” she could only say this much and with much wryness.
“No worries at all. Let’s just try again in the next shot,” he said with a grin to keep spirits up.
Seeing as the director had returned and his assistant was motioning for everybody to return to their respective posts and continue working, both Gahyun and Chanyeol went back on set and tried their best to refocus.
That night, back in the dorms with the rest of EXO, Chanyeol found his thoughts returning to the MV again and he was trying to find ways to deliver a better performance. He figured it might be a good idea to approach Kyungsoo for advice, since Kyungsoo was undoubtedly the best actor in EXO, but tonight he was not in the dorms as he was on the way to another filming schedule. Also because he was one of the best vocalists as well, he had to promote his solo album too and honestly Chanyeol felt like he had not seen Kyungsoo in days.
Still, the giant was not worried as there was still the other giant that he could consult and go to for practically anything, the almighty Kris-hyung.
“Filming explicit scenes?” Kris repeated in the least sexy manner possible, remaining in his lazy pose on the armchair with his cap almost falling off and his glasses slanted.
“Yeah,” Chanyeol nodded. “I’m fine with screen kisses, but when it comes to anything more intimate than that, like what my MV requires...man, it’s just so damn unerotic. There’s hardly any enjoyment or pleasure in it, but I gotta act like I’m having the best time ever. And that’s kinda challenging...especially since my co-star doesn’t seem to be most comfortable with me, in this setting at least. In my experience, usually there’s at least some degree of romantic chemistry between me and whoever is supposed to play my character’s love interest, but this time I think she's really not attracted to me. Not because she thinks I'm really ugly but because, um…” he hesitated, biting his lip as he tried to search for the right words. He wanted to convey the obstacles he was dealing with without outing Gahyun, but nothing seemed to come to mind.
Kris cleared his throat once he caught on, shifting to sit up properly. He took off his cap to ruffle his hair and then fixed his glasses.
“Ahem, well, Cheolyeon did tell me she's the only straight one in her group, so I think I know what you mean,” he explained. “And it's neither your fault nor hers. It's just the way it is but you can work something out. But only if both of you rehearse a lot. Not with each other though, because that's clearly only turning you off — turning her off even more, and getting both of you hella stressed out. That's not conducive to any good results. So what you gotta do is practice with someone that you're attracted to, so you can easily get in the mood. You need to remember that feeling and then you reproduce it when you're on set, so that it shows on camera, and the audience will be able to feel it too. Which, as you've told me, is what the director wants from you.”
“So, you're saying I should have even more sex with Yoonhwa,” Chanyeol concluded delightfully after a moment.
“Well, that's not what I'm saying but yeah, that's exactly what I'm saying. I’m sure you can play it raw, no script needed, right?” Kris laughed. “I got laid a hell lot more than usual when I was preparing for and promoting Deserve. It was easy to get into character, almost effortless.”
“This is brilliant advice and definitely something I can put into action,” Chanyeol chuckled cutely. “But hyung, you're already always getting laid a hell lot.”
Kris shrugged. “What can I say?” He smirked. “I like to party, and usually I get all the girls.”
Chapter 8: Accidents
“I thought you were supposed to just caress her knee or something,” Yoonhwa pointed out softly as she found herself in bed with Chanyeol, purporting to be practicing so that he could act with better ease on set of the music video. “But you always end up kissing my thighs and more.”
“Yeah, well,” he replied unapologetically, naturally sweating without needing the rosewater and glycerin spray that the crew had readily available to get that sweaty look from him (and Gahyun). “I do have to thank you real good for rehearsing with me.”
“Hmm, I agree you do, but how do you intend to do that?” She asked, smirking in anticipation of his answer.
“Uh, I don’t know. Let me see. I think I forgot my lines,” he joked.
“Cut!” She declared, giggling and closing her legs.
“Ah, no!” He protested, whining. “I’m not done having my fun yet.”
“Aren’t you? Well, maybe if you ask nicely…”
“I’ll do anything you want,” he replied quickly and eagerly, then proceeded to kiss her neck and nip at her collarbone, eliciting a soft moan from her. He would rather hear her loud and clear but what pierced through their intimate bubble was the sound of his phone ringing.
“Ugh, not now…” she groaned. Reluctantly he paused to check who it was.
“It’s management…” he said. Uttering a quick apology, he picked up and greeted the caller politely, but in return the person on the other end of the phone sounded much less calm. Chanyeol was informed, with regret, that the release of his song with Gahyun would have to be postponed. He then learned that it was because the director got involved in a bar fight and assaulted someone, but that was not even the worst of it all, not when he also got arrested for possessing drugs.
“Oh shit, that’s really serious,” said Yoonhwa afterward as she and Chanyeol remained sitting on the bed processing the sudden news. “So I guess a new director will be arranged to take over? Or is the whole thing gonna be called off?”
“Luckily there will still be an MV. I’m supposed to go meet with the new director tomorrow to talk about it. I’m sure Gahyun will be there too,” he replied with a sigh and ran his hands through his hair. “They haven’t told me much, except that the new director will be picking up a slightly different narrative to the MV. And usually when management says ‘slightly different’, they mean ‘completely different’. So maybe that means no more explicit scenes. I don’t know. I guess we’ll find out tomorrow.”
Gahyun was not sure how to feel about the news that she too had just received. She had been trying to hard to push through and brainwash herself into keeping in mind that it was all just acting. She was a professional and competent enough actress to do what she had to do and get through this. But now, all of that mental effort got thrown out the window, because she no longer had to deal with or worry about explicit scenes. Overall, she supposed she was relieved as the new director made life easier for her.
Within that week, the MV was wrapped up and by the end of March it was released, impressing many fans and topping charts even though SM barely promoted it. All Chanyeol did was post a pic of the cover art on his Instagram, although his fellow members also showed their support by doing the same, as did Cheolyeon and Yoonhwa on their social media accounts.
Speaking of Yoonhwa and social media, she had a little secret, just like Chanyeol did actually: a stan Twitter account. The difference was that so far she had been keeping her secret better than Chanyeol did his.
Stoked for Wisteria's comeback stage and their new single 'Catch Me', Chanyeol had been watching the performances and streaming the MV as well as hyping it on Twitter. Occasionally he also went on his verified account to laugh at Baekhyun, hype Yixing, post jokes, as well as reply to some EXO-Ls. However, between time after time of switching between his two accounts, he ended up making a big mistake, and tweeted something that was supposed to go on his stan account rather than the official one. And he did not even realize what he had done, going to sleep without any worries only to wake up in the morning discovering that he had stirred up a lot of drama.
“Oh, goodness, what have I done…” he uttered to himself once he checked his phone in the morning. In big, glaring words was his tweet: “YOONHWA IS SO PERFECT SO ATTRACTIVE SO BEAUTIFUL SO HOT I REALLY TRY TO BE A SOFT STAN BUT SHE DOESN’T LET ME SHE WANTS ME TO BE A HARD STAN LOOK. AT. HER. WHY DO YOU WANT ME DEAD YOONHWA WHYYYY” along with two photos of Yoonhwa from Wisteria’s stage last night that had him so affected. It was not bad to the point where he would be asked to delete it but it was just so embarrassing because it was not supposed to be there.
“Well, I am very flattered,” admitted Yoonhwa when she came over, laughing while Chanyeol facepalmed. “Now everybody thinks we’re dating or something.”
“Then they’d be intellectuals,” he replied, his voice still muffled because he had his face buried in his hands.
“We been knew though,” she said slyly, then proceeded to sip tea.
Shaking his head, he looked up at her. “Wait, how are you so well-versed in stan Twitter language?”
“Hmm, I don’t know. No reason,” she giggled.
“Aigoo! You have a stan Twitter account too, don’t you! Show me, show me,” he urged, tugging on her arm and snuggling up to her.
She obliged and grabbed her phone. “Here you go,” she chuckled.
“Ooh! I love your username! @naebabychanyeol,” he gushed excitedly. “Mine is @goddessyoonhwa.”
“I wholeheartedly approve,” she nodded and smiled.
“But wait, how come your header is Kyungsoo and not me?”
“Well, I was gonna put a pic of you and him but then usually the height difference between you two gets in the way…”
“Then how do you explain your profile pic being Kyungsoo as well and not, you know, your boyfriend?” He nudged her.
“I have no excuse,” she shrugged. “I am a proud dandanie. Have been since, like, 2012 actually. Even though I’ve only begun to be active on Twitter since, well, I don’t know, maybe the start of this year. It’s only been a couple months and it’s fun.”
Chanyeol gasped. “You never told me that your adoration for Kyungsoo runs so deep.”
“Because it’s not something I can just put into words,” Yoonhwa winked. “But I haven’t forgotten about you! See? I put ‘soft dandanie and hard yeolmae’ in my bio. You can’t just neglect all my love for you.”
“Hmm, but you only started loving me half a year ago,” Chanyeol pouted, which only earned him a peck on the lips from Yoonhwa.
“It’s a different kind of love,” she laughed. “What, are you jealous?”
“I…” he muttered reluctantly. “N-no, not really. Maybe...just a lit-little?”
“Aww.” She threw her arms around him and rested her head on his shoulder. “But it’s you that I’m hopelessly in love with! Or have you forgotten that? I could write you another song to remind you of it.”
He smiled as she looked up at him. “Just as long as you don’t forget me when you’re on tour for the next two and a half months.”
“Of course I won’t! I’ll be thinking of you all the time and hitting you up on FaceTime any time I can,” she said in reassurance.
“I miss you already…” he mumbled.
“I’ll miss you too. But we’ll just be doing the tour around Asia, so I’m sure we can talk often since the time zones won't be getting in the way too much,” she said as she thumbed his biceps fondly. “I’m gonna be making big bucks going on tour and you’re gonna be so proud of me.”
“Oh hell yeah I am proud of you,” he replied confidently. “Just think about how far you’ve come. Even just comparing where you were, when we first met, with the status quo. Isn’t it amazing?”
She nodded in agreement. “I love prospering with you and taking over the world together and making history in our own ways. It’s such a dream come true and even more fulfilling and rewarding than I ever could’ve imagined. This is so worth living for.”
“I love to see you happy like this,” he said, stroking her hair. “You deserve all of this and so much more. I can’t wait for your OST to come out. I’m so excited for it! It’s gonna be such a bop; I just know it.”
“You really are my number one fanboy,” she giggled and kissed him.
As expected, Wisteria spent the following two and a half months on tour, and by the time they returned to Seoul, it was already early July. The best news, however, was probably that the members got to take a short break after this tour. This gave Yoonhwa the chance to be reunited with her family, and she brought Chanyeol home to meet her parents too.
Yoonhwa had a great time catching up with her family and some relatives, especially her great-aunt, the one who gave her her signature hair band that she loved to wear. But on top of that, Yoonhwa had not forgotten her old friend Jaehyun.
“Wah~ you still remember me,” Jaehyun teased as they chatted over the phone. “We haven’t met up in forever. The members and I have been so busy. But how have you been? Did you have fun on tour?”
“It was an amazing experience! I can’t wait to one day actually do a world tour and get to go outside Asia and meet our fans from so many other countries,” Yoonhwa gushed. “By the way, I wanted to congratulate you on your station with Kyungsoo-ssi! I’m so proud of you! You two have such impressive and powerful vocals and I love it so much.”
“Thanks! Yeah, it was so nice to work with Kyungsoo-hyung,” Jaehyun chuckled. “You sound pretty calm, though. If my memory serves me right, your 15-year-old self would’ve fangirled over this; you would’ve been squealing all over the place, screaming and declaring your love for your D.O-oppa.”
“Oh my gosh! Don’t remind me.” Yoonhwa burst into giggles. “Gosh I was such a cringey, embarrassing teenager back then.”
“You still are.”
“No I’m not!” She laughed. “That’s you!”
“Your love for Kyungsoo-hyung has not died at all,” he remarked. “He’ll always be your favorite singer and I could never compare.”
“Of course; my love for him only grows stronger each day,” she replied, beaming heartily as she placed a hand on her chest.
“Aww, but what about your secret admirer?” Jaehyun asked. “I mean, it’s not so much a secret anymore now that he actually posted it on his Twitter account…”
“Aha, yeah, that was funny. And you know what? After the rumors of you and me being last summer’s cutest couple had died down, netizens began to spread talk about me and some guy from a boy group — I don’t even know; I don’t think I’ve ever even talked to him before, but you know all it takes is for me and him to breathe in the same room — and then after that, people began to speculate that Chanyeol and I are a couple. Which is the truth, of course, but now they’re hardly subscribing to their own ‘fan theories’ because they’ve seen how smitten I am with Kyungsoo-ssi. They believe with such conviction that if I’m dating an EXO member then it’s gotta be him and not Chanyeol. You and I know the facts, though. And being with Chanyeol is making me the happiest I’ve ever been in, like, forever.”
“Well then I’m glad to hear that you’re happy! I on the other hand just went through a breakup.”
“Oh…” Yoonhwa quieted down. “I’m sorry. Are you OK? How did that happen?”
“It was a mutual decision; it’s not like we had a big fight or anything and there certainly weren’t issues like cheating but...the special feeling was lost. The spark had died,” Jaehyun sighed. “I’m gonna tell you more about it when we meet up, yeah? I have to get back to the other members now. We gotta film a dance practice video. Send my regards to your family, will you?”
“Yeah I will. Fighting!”
Chapter 9: Break
After the Asia tour, it was time for Wisteria to focus on activities based in South Korea, so they were in Seoul most of the time. As such, it was not too difficult for Chanyeol to arrange a fun trip to the Gangchon Rail Park for Yoonhwa’s birthday. They went in the evening, just as the park was closed to visitors, so they had the place all to themselves once again. It was exciting to get to cycle through tunnels using pedal carts on train tracks that were no longer in use. They finished the ride just in time to watch the sunset in the scenic countryside and it was beautiful. But that mirth only lasted a day because the next morning, Yoonhwa received some distressing news that stayed on her mind all day long. She was unable to focus at all when she was at work. It was upsetting that the more she tried to learn a choreography, the more mistakes she made. She was just getting more and more frustrated with herself. In the end she could not stand it anymore, having to leave the practice room and heading to Chanyeol’s place.
“What’s wrong?” Chanyeol asked, putting down his guitar somewhat reluctantly. He was actually inspired to write a tune at the time, and he really wanted to do this because he had been on a lyricist’s version of a ‘writer’s block’ these days. But then when Yoonhwa called and came over, the creative process got interrupted and he kind of lost the flow.
“My great-aunt. She’s really sick and she got into the hospital again last night. I don’t even get it; she seemed fine when we met up with her last week. And now she’s in a lot of pain and I’m just so worried. My cousins are with her right now and steadily updating us about her condition. But still,” Yoonhwa ranted, pacing the perimeters of the room in frustration and worry.
“Well, I’m sure the doctors will do whatever they can. She will be in good hands,” Chanyeol replied, trying to sound reassuring but also somehow wondering if he came off as dispassionate about it compared to how distraught Yoonhwa was.
“Ugh, I don’t know. I just wish I could be with her right now. But I can’t because I’m supposed to be working, rehearsing, in the studio getting shit done. I can’t fucking put my mind to any of that. Not when all I wanna do is just to sit with her and tell her that everything’s gonna be alright. Even though I don’t know that it will,” she said, shaking her head but unable to shake off this feeling of uncertainty and anxiety. She hated it, yet she could not get rid of it, and it just perpetuated her perturbation.
“It will be alright. She’s gonna be fine,” he said calmly, reaching out to hold her hand but then she snapped.
“But you don’t know that for sure!” She exclaimed. “You don’t know anything!”
He was taken aback by her reaction. “Well, I…” he frowned. “I’m not sure what you want me to say or do?”
She sighed and held back the urge to roll her eyes. “You just don’t get it, do you?”
“You know what, never mind,” she uttered and plopped down on the nearest chair.
“I could try to take your mind off things, if you’d like,” he offered, but flatly.
“Yeah, sure.” Her response was equally monotonous, but it was not like there was anything either of them could immediately do to alleviate her worries.
He took a deep breath. “So, management just told me that I had two options regarding which subunit of EXO I could be in. This seems to be my biggest dilemma at the moment. I could either be in EXO-SKY or EXO-SOL. But not both, because they told me there won’t be enough time. And I already ha—”
“Wait, stop, hold on,” she cut in, rubbing her temples. “What are these sky and sol things supposed to stand for? I’m super confused.”
“I thought I’d told you about it before.”
“Really? Well, I don’t remember, so are you gonna enlighten me, or…”
He let out a sigh too but still explained. “So it’s either EXO-SKY which will consist of our baby maknae Sehun, as well as Kai, and then myself. Or, it’s gonna be EXO-SOL, so I’m gonna be in a subunit with Kris-hyung and Kyungsoo. That one’s made up of the last letter of our names.”
The truth was that although Chanyeol would love to be in both subunits and greatly enjoyed working with all of them, it was simply not feasible. Right now he was leaning a bit more toward the SKY option, because it seemed easier for his schedule as well as Jongin’s and Sehun’s to match and sync. Not that he did not want to be part of SOL, but it would certainly be more difficult. He had to take into consideration all the acting projects and solo music that Kyungsoo was already so busy with. It was more or less the same for Kris, but mainly overseas. But Chanyeol had been stalling and not wanting to make up his mind because he did not want to give either option up.
“Well, I’d say go with the latter,” Yoonhwa replied after some thought.
Chanyeol was more surprised than sardonic, but everything he said probably came out all wrong. “Why?”
Yoonhwa shrugged. “Why not? Your voice blends really well with Kyungsoo’s, and everybody loves the dynamics between you and Kris. You have the tallest and the smallest, and I don't see how anyone can not melt at that.”
“So my voice doesn’t blend well with Sehun’s and Jongin’s?” Chanyeol questioned. A part of him also began to get defensive, because he was aware that it was the maknaes who got the least chance to show off their vocals. So he would like them to have an opportunity to shine too, and a subunit seemed like a good way to make that happen. Besides, there was no way the fans did not enjoy the bromance between him and the 94 liners. It was clear enough when they went live together on Instagram, as well as when the three of them went to Hong Kong for the MLB event. Oh how the fans screamed for them.
“Well, that’s neither what I said nor what I mean.”
“Then why do you prefer SOL over SKY?”
“I don’t know; I just do,” she stated, beginning to get irritated. “Maybe it’s because I feel like I’m closer to both of them whereas I’m quite unfamiliar with Kai’s and Sehun’s musicality. Or perhaps it’s because both of them are quite fashion-oriented, and that’s where their impact seems to be strongest, right? But Kyungsoo will carry the vocals. I’m not trying to make it seem like SKY will flop, but SOL is a much more interesting trio to me, although that’s just my two cents and I’m just one person.”
“So basically it’s just because you like Kyungsoo more. And that’s reason enough for me to go with the SOL option.”
Yoonhwa grunted in exasperation. “You’re completely missing the point here.”
“Am I wrong though?” Chanyeol shot back. “Because Kris does modelling too so what you said about Sehun and Jongin focusing on fashion is just, you know, invalid.”
“Well, if you really like the idea of being in a subunit with them so much, then just go ahead with it. Just tell SM that you wanna be in EXO-SKY, and get it over with. Why bother with this hassle?” Yoonhwa groused. “Honestly, if you already have a preset answer in your mind, then why would you even ask me for my opinion? It’s pointless and a waste of time.”
“I know I’m not wrong, because—”
“Why are you so obsessed with proving yourself right?!”
“Because you do like Kyungsoo a lot,” he went on anyways, undeterred by her interruption. “And I’m sure you’re cool with Kris now that he and Cheolyeon have made up. You just don’t care about Jongin and Sehun, and I don't think you ever even fully considered SKY as an option. I think you’re the one with a preset answer in your mind. And you’re just gonna be biased against them and toward Kyungsoo. I get it though; he’s lovable and all. And not to mention you’ve liked him for like a quarter of your life now. So I —”
“Dude, are you seriously gonna bring this up again? Yes, I won’t deny that I’ve been stanning him for a long time. So what do you want me to do about it? I won’t apologize for it. Do you wanna also get a Sehun-biased girlfriend as well as a Jongin-biased girlfriend and then ask them for their opinions? So that they’ll tell you what you wanna hear? So that you can feel validated? So that they'll prove you right? I have never done anything to invalidate you, or make you feel inferior to Kyungsoo or anybody. It’s just that you keep making these pointless comparisons, and it’s stupid. Honestly, it’s so stupid. And you know why that is? Because all it does is make you feel insecure and upset. You keep asking me for reassurance over this, but clearly my reassurance doesn’t mean shit to you. It’s obvious that it ain’t enough to keep your suspicions and doubts from arising. You still keep jumping to conclusions about me and my opinions, about my feelings for Kyungsoo, as if my feelings aren’t for you and you only,” she asserted, seriously getting annoyed.
“I can’t believe you’re shaming me for feeling insecure.”
“No, I’m not! It’s normal to be insecure at times, and sometimes I feel that way too. I think everyone does. But it’s still not an excuse for you to make these assumptions or accusations about me, or to put words into my mouth,” she explained, trying to be as calm and as patient as she could manage. She never meant for this conversation to end up this way. She did not appreciate that it got steered in a completely different direction than she could have anticipated, although it sure did take her mind off the concerns she had about her great-aunt’s health condition. “I really don't know how to make you understand what I’ve told you before, that I like Kyungsoo for the artist and actor that he is, and I like you for the person and everything that you are. That’s why I chose to be in a relationship with you rather than pursue anything with him. I’m not sure how I can make this even clearer to you than it already is. Heck, I can’t even remember the last time I talked to him.”
“I just wish that you can be my biggest fan just like I’m yours,” he said somewhat pleadingly. “It just upsets me. Like when you were fangirling when you discovered that Kyungsoo took part in writing the lyrics to XOXO. You might not think much of it, but for me it feels like even if I write a whole album for you, you still won't be as impressed, and you're still not gonna react with as much enthusiasm.”
“That is simply not true. I appreciate everything that you do for me, no matter how big or how small, because all of it comes from the heart. And it's not a competition. I can be a supportive girlfriend to you and a supportive fan to him and any artist I choose to stan,” she argued. “I don't hype him just to make you upset, you know.”
“I get that.”
“I hope you do. Because sometimes I think you only consider part of the picture and you allow it to ruin your mood or your self-esteem. Like when SM didn't make you a part of The Young ∞. I do understand that you felt left out and inferior at the time, because it was a cross-group rap project. So on that matter I agree it’s reasonable for you to expect to be part of it since you're the main rapper. But then you found out that it was just because they were saving you for another subunit, but they just didn't inform you about it. And now you know about the plans that you didn't know back then. So now you realize that nobody was thinking less of you, or trying to make it seem like other members were superior to you. It's honestly all just in your head, and yet you project these defeating and negative deductions onto me. It's unfair to me, and it doesn't make me feel good either. How do you think I’d feel if every time I fangirl over Kyungsoo I'm gonna be reminded that my boyfriend is not gonna be happy about it? I shouldn't have to choose between being a dandanie and being your girlfriend.”
“I'm so sorry. It's just that when it comes to me feeling kind of ‘threatened’ or in competition with Kyungsoo, I can't help but think about when we first debuted…”
“What does this have to do with something that's happened such a long time ago?”
“I know it's been forever but some things still impact me. Because at the time, both Kyungsoo and I fell for the same girl. But she only liked him back and completely disregarded me. Still, Kyungsoo decided not to pursue a relationship with her. He didn't want my feelings to be hurt or for it to come in between our friendship,” he revealed. “I know it was a long time ago, and the two situations aren't comparable. But I, well…”
“Huh. You obviously have a lot of insecurities that I never knew about. I'm really overwhelmed and you don't feel good about yourself either. Do you think maybe we need some time apart? So we can have some space for ourselves,” she suggested.
“I never thought about it that way but...perhaps that's exactly what we need. It could do us good,” he nodded, wishing that there was more they could agree on today. But now that they had reached some sort of a consensus, he decided against bringing up more stuff that he stupidly felt jealous over. Sadly there was a lot, like when Wisteria did an interview back in May and got asked about their favorite movies. Yoonhwa answered ‘Along With The Gods’ rather than any film that Chanyeol starred in. And this was not the first time she had openly praised Kyungsoo or declared her love for him. On top of that, there was another instance in June, and it was when Kyungsoo’s station with Jaehyun came out. Yoonhwa hyped it so much and it was basically all that she talked about. She was not even that excited when ‘Whispers In The Dark’ came out.
“So let's give ourselves like, a month’s time, to deal with personal stuff and our own issues. How does that sound?” Yoonhwa asked. “I’m sorry I snapped at you, baby. I do love you and I do love being with you, but we need this break.”
“I can work with that,” said Chanyeol. “And I love you too.”
Chapter 10: Cooperation
Although Chanyeol was taking a break from his relationship with Yoonhwa, in other areas he was far from taking a break or even resting much. Unfortunately the group comeback got pushed back once again, to many members’ disappointment, but that did not make Chanyeol any less busy as he was fully occupied with other projects, especially acting. He spent the rest of July as well as the first week of August in Europe, in Spain and Hungary and Slovenia specifically, to film his drama ‘Memories of the Alhambra’.
Once he flew back to Seoul and returned to the dorms, the quietness began to register since the members were not around to make it a noisy yet wonderful place. EXO-M stayed in China for a fansign, Suho was in Hawaii, Baekhyun and Sehun were at a meeting about their video game broadcast, Jongin was with Elle, and Chanyeol was expecting Kyungsoo to be at the studio since there seemed to be demand for an English version of one of the ballads on his solo album. But Chanyeol was surprised to find the tiny vocalist in the kitchen, absentmindedly humming a song that they had recorded a while ago but it did not make it into the album tracklist.
“Kyungsoo-ya,” said Chanyeol singsong, dropping his uwu all over the place. “Oh, how sweet of you to cook for me.”
“Oho! You wish,” replied Kyungsoo, licking his lips and ready to eat.
Chanyeol chuckled. “It’s alright. I’ve already eaten. You’ll get your chance next time.”
Taking out a can of coke from the fridge, he sat down and drank from it as he went through the unread messages on his phone. Nothing from Yoonhwa, unsurprisingly. But he stifled a sigh and scrolled down to look at the messages from other members and group chats.
2 unread messages from Galaxy Hyung:
Galaxy Hyung: the bridge that you wrote is stuck in my head
Galaxy Hyung: also don’t you dare consume the black soda drink i left in the fridge
Chanyeol produced a laugh and continued drinking.
Reply to Galaxy Hyung: ㅋㅋㅋㅋ idk what you’re talking about ㅎㅎㅎㅎㅎ
4 unread messages from Galaxy Hyung:
Galaxy Hyung: goddamn
Galaxy Hyung: (facepalm)(facepalm)
Galaxy Hyung: I can’t believe you betrayed me like this. I guess it’s true that betrayal only comes from the ones that you are closest to. Now I have learned that I can’t trust anyone in this world.
Reply to Galaxy Hyung: ㅋㅋㅋ hyung, please.
1 unread message from Galaxy Hyung:
Galaxy Hyung: I was gonna tell you something but now because of what you’ve done to me I have decided not to tell you
Reply to Galaxy Hyung: hyung, don’t be mean to me~
1 unread message from Galaxy Hyung:
Galaxy Hyung: pfft look who’s talking (eyeroll)
Reply to Galaxy Hyung: I know you’re itching to tell me.
2 unread messages from Galaxy Hyung:
Galaxy Hyung: ...you’re right.
Galaxy Hyung: I’ll tell you and you can deal with my wrath later.
Reply to Galaxy Hyung: Sure ㅎㅎㅎ
2 unread messages from Galaxy Hyung:
Galaxy Hyung: I found out from Cheolyeon that Yoonhwa has fallen sick
Galaxy Hyung: you know what to do
Chanyeol typed out the reply he had in mind: ‘what am I supposed to do?’ but felt like an idiot so he backspaced hurriedly and raised his voice while still looking at his phone. “Kyungsoo-ya!”
“What are you supposed to do when your girlfriend is sick?!” He asked loudly.
Silence. And then, Kyungsoo emerged from the kitchen. “I guess I’d cook something nice for her? Sing to her softly and look after her?”
“Yeah, but you do it even when nobody is sick,” replied the taller boy.
“Not the case for you, clearly,” said the small penguin. “You should learn from me.”
Chanyeol gave this suggestion a thought. “You know what, actually maybe I really should learn from you. In fact, it's such a wonderful idea that I would like to do that right now."
"I'll be your vocal coach if you pay me," Kyungsoo offered.
"No, I don't mean singing," Chanyeol chuckled. "I mean cooking."
"Oh," replied Kyungsoo, but not at all in disappointment. "In that case I'm charging you double."
It was hours later when Chanyeol had finished preparing a lunchbox for Yoonhwa, with much help from the house chef — not house elf — Do Kyungsoo.
"Well, I'd say that's quite a feat for both of us," Kyungsoo commented at the end as they cleaned up. More than once they were very close to starting a food fight but Chanyeol had managed to exert some self-control, keeping in mind that he was doing this for Yoonhwa and aiming to make her feel better. So what could be more awesome than two of her favorite men in the whole world joining forces in preparing a simple but nice meal for her when she was not feeling well? Chanyeol really hoped with all his heart that she would love this. He would love to see her smile and even just thinking about it made his heart melt.
However, there was the problem of their agreement, to be on break and take a month off from their relationship. He wanted to honor that still, because she could really need all of that time that they had agreed on. It was also partly because he did not want to risk starting a fight either, which might result if he went to her place — the dorms, actually — unannounced, and probably disturbing her fellow members.
As soon as Chanyeol's thoughts had darted to the other members of Wisteria, though, he had the perfect solution to his predicament. Just as Cheolyeon had indirectly tipped him off through Kris, perhaps he could ask Gahyun for a favor! He still had Gahyun's contact number saved in his phone, even though they had not really talked much after their collaboration was wrapped up and the promotion period was over. In spite of all the awkwardness, their initial entanglements with their common ex Jisun, and the obstacles they faced in shooting the music video for their song — they were still on good terms.
Gahyun's own heart was a whole ass mess but she still agreed to Chanyeol's request. He drove to Wisteria's dorms and met up with her, thanking her profusely. When she delivered his lunchbox to Yoonhwa, she was all smiles and totally had Yoonhwa — who was overjoyed — convinced that she was just as delighted, even though deep inside she was falling to pieces and hurting. How tragic was it that Gahyun was constantly putting on a show and practicing to become a better actress this way, when every smile she had to plaster on her face was actually eating her up inside.
Gahyun finally broke down when Yoonhwa was asleep again, taking probably her third nap of the day. Cheolyeon was there for Gahyun, the two of them quietly talking in the bathroom.
"I really just wanna figure out what I gotta fucking do to make her love me back," said Gahyun, clenching her fists. "Did you see how happy she was just now? To receive that lunchbox from..." she sobbed and breathed with difficulty. "Not like I haven't been cooking for her all through today as well as yesterday."
Cheolyeon handed more tissues to her best friend and tried to soothe her. She really did want to comfort Gahyun but did not quite know what to say. Gahyun refused to let Yoonhwa on about her feelings, but allowed Cheolyeon — and only Cheolyeon — to see her in this emotionally fragile state. Frankly the leader was getting more and more worried as she had observed that Gahyun was frequently tearful. Cheolyeon understood that this was because Gahyun's feelings were only getting stronger, and at first she might have advised her best friend to try to extinguish these feelings for Yoonhwa so that nobody would have to be in more pain. But at this stage, it was going to be extremely difficult and even Cheolyeon had little hope that these strong feelings would diminish. It was so very stressful since Gahyun's unrequited feelings were becoming harder and harder to conceal. Both of them knew that Yoonhwa had put her relationship with Chanyeol on a break, but it was also easy to see that her love for Chanyeol, and vice versa, had not at all faded. The contact between the couple could even be said to be minimal, but they still stayed faithful to each other as they had promised. Gahyun was in awe of how strong their love was and secretly, bitterly, part of her wished that their relationship would collapse and fail so that she could stand a chance, but now she saw for herself that she had no chance at all. So now she was beating herself up for wishing something so heartbreaking upon Yoonhwa, who was not just the woman she loved but also a friend and a fellow group member. Gahyun was honestly having such a hard time dealing with herself and her complicated feelings. Cheolyeon hated to see her best friend suffer and really wanted to help but knew not what to do. Whenever she tried to suggest telling Yoonhwa about it, Gahyun shut it down and completely rejected this option, insisting that it would just transfer the burden to Yoonhwa. Gahyun even made it clear that she would rather drive herself insane than make Yoonhwa feel uncomfortable or let it get in the way of what she had with Chanyeol which obviously made her so happy that it was all that she could see. Perhaps it was true to say 'love is blind' because as far as Cheolyeon could see, Yoonhwa was truly so blinded by her love for Chanyeol, as well as his for her, that she was quite oblivious to Gahyun's romantic feelings and sadness that she sought to cover up all the time.
By the end of the week, Yoonhwa had recovered. But every time she thought of the meal that Chanyeol and Kyungsoo had prepared for her, she would smile to herself and it would make her whole day. And just like that, a whole month had passed since she and Chanyeol had last seen each other. It was time for them to meet up and make up, which they did as soon as Chanyeol had finished filming the MV for ‘We Young’ with Sehun.
“So have you made your mind up yet?” Yoonhwa asked as she and Chanyeol ate ice cream together, affectionately feeding each other too. It put both of them in such a good mood that she was not apprehensive about bringing up a topic that they had previously fought over. “About the subunit dilemma.”
“Yeah, I have,” Chanyeol answered mysteriously. “But I’m gonna keep it a secret. You’ll find out when we debut.”
“You sure I won’t be able to find out beforehand from Cheolyeon?” Yoonhwa smirked.
“Absolutely not,” replied Chanyeol with confidence. “But hey, we should really catch up. How’s your great-aunt? I hope she’s doing fine now?”
“Yeah! Thank goodness!” Yoonhwa began to explain the whole situation and updated Chanyeol on her post-tour activities. “And you’ve been all over Europe, haven’t you!”
“I have indeed! It was so fun,” said Chanyeol merrily. “Spain was the loveliest. Hands down. We went to Granada and Barcelona and Girona and all these nice places. And the whole time, I was actually thinking about taking you there. We should go on a trip together and we can visit all the beautiful places in Europe that I’ve been to for filming, and so much more!”
“Ooh, I would love that! I think the promotions for our new EP is just gonna be until the end of this month, so after that, we can go have fun!”
“Perfect! And you remember my friend Gyeongjin?” He asked.
“Yeah, the owner of the ice skating rink we went to on Valentine’s, right? I remember. What about him?”
“His girlfriend Yunji works for a travel agency so I think I can get her to help us with the flights and hotels and itineraries and, you know, everything,” he suggested enthusiastically.
“Perfect,” replied Yoonhwa with equal thrill. “This is gonna be so exciting. I haven't been to Europe since I was a kid. It's gonna be the best vacation ever!”
Chanyeol nodded blithely, eyes shining in exhilaration as he thought about all the places they could go to. They could fly to Spain first, and then France, then Italy. It might be too ambitious to consider including Czechia and Croatia but he was hoping they could continue their eastward journey to Hungary before returning to South Korea. His mind was already miles away and going on this trip with Yoonhwa would mark a significant development in their relationship.
Chapter 11: Blow Up
In this fic series, the following celebrity couples never existed:
- Baekhyun and SNSD Taeyeon
- Jongin and F(X) Krystal
- Jongin and BLACKPINK Jennie
Similarly, EXO’s Ladder would not exist in this series, for reasons that will be stated in this chapter.
On another note, there are a few things about the timeline that I'd like to clarify:
1. Considering I am writing SM’s role quite differently than what it's like in reality, in this fic series, Kris’ first solo album would've been released a long time ago so the release of Antares is not going to be written as being at the same time as Don't Mess Up My Tempo.
2. Chanyeol’s sister Yoora’s wedding will be written as taking place in mid-November rather than on 13th October (reality).
"Aigoo! Yoonhwa-ya, why do you always steal my food?” Cheolyeon complained, feeling the need to lead Yoonhwa away from the pantry into another room.
“Excuse me, Gahyun bought that bag of chips for me," Yoonhwa replied, but the mischievous smile on her face gave her away and made it obvious that those snacks were clearly meant for someone else.
“No she didn’t,” Cheolyeon pouted and tapped Yoonhwa on the head gently as if she were berating the maknae.
“Yes she did,” Yoonhwa insisted singsong.
“You wish,” Cheolyeon shot back and stuck her tongue out.
“Stay pressed," said Yoonhwa, but still relented by sharing the chips with the hungry leader. Laxly they sat down on the sofa together, but then Cheolyeon's phone made a loud noise. It was not because there was an incoming call but, rather, because her alarm was going off. She let out a startled squeak and grabbed her phone right away, silencing it and then promptly going on YouTube.
"Hey, what's so urgent," Yoonhwa asked aloud, pushing a cushion aside so that she could scoot closer to the dancer and have a look at her phone screen.
"I thought you knew? Our favorite men in the world are in a subunit and they’re about to debut. It's midnight right now, so it's time for the teaser to drop. I don't know about you, but I'm hella ready for it," Cheolyeon answered excitedly and even squealed.
"Wait what?!" Yoonhwa's jaw dropped. "Holy shit, EXO-SOL?"
"Right! Look at this," Cheolyeon gushed, pointing at the screen and barely able to stay still. The video played and the two girls held their breaths throughout. It was just a short clip but they clung to every moment of it.
"Holy shit, it's so cool," Yoonhwa exclaimed. "Wow, I am actually so proud. Of all of them."
"I know right! 'Madness'? The title? The vibes too, and the beat...oh my. Mind blown. I can't wait for the release. 6pm tomorrow!"
"It's gonna be a bop. I know it. It's gonna snatch all the wigs."
"Ah! I need to rewatch this," said Cheolyeon, as her focus was clearly quite different than Yoonhwa's.
"I'll join you," Yoonhwa added without hesitation.
The two of them were so engrossed in fangirling that they were actually much louder than they thought they were being. It was only when Gahyun came back to the dorms that they quieted down a bit, especially since she mentioned — but not with displeasure — that she could hear them squealing and yelling even from outside. After they explained what they were so elated about, she stifled a sigh and smiled wryly.
"I wish I could have a girlfriend who'd hype my new music that much," she said.
"Ah, you're talking about 'Backtrack', right?" Yoonhwa replied, referring to Gahyun's solo track. It was actually very skillfully written about her struggles in dealing with her feelings for Yoonhwa, but ironically she knew nothing about it, which perhaps was what the songwriter herself wanted. "No worries! We got your back! We'll hype you! The two of us are among the very first batch of Gahyun stans, since pre-debut, am I right or am I right?" She said in delight, nudging Cheolyeon who nodded in agreement. "I know you're not gonna let us listen to the song ahead of everybody else but I'm glad you let us have a look at your lyrics and I loved it! You're actually my favorite lyricist."
Gahyun froze at that compliment. How exactly were you supposed to react when your crush was praising you like this? Not to mention the irony of the whole situation. Gahyun herself knew that if it were not for her feelings for Yoonhwa, she would hardly have been able to write such beautiful lyrics.
"I...thank you," she uttered quietly, blinking in uncertainty.
Cheolyeon intervened before the awkwardness could unsettle anybody. "You must be tired," she said to the vocalist. "I don't think there's any more snacks for you because somebody keeps consuming them all behind our backs, but I can make you some tea!" She offered. "Tell us about the meeting with the producers, though. How did it go?"
And so, the crisis was once again averted, and the vicious cycle continued.
Besides the debut of the EXO-SOL subunit, perhaps the other exciting thing starting this September was that EXO’s Showtime was getting a second season. It was going to feature all twelve members, kicking off with filming an episode on how the members celebrated Jongdae’s birthday. This time, Baekhyun’s grandmother’s house could not be missed, and someone also suggested going to Taiwan. They even wanted to go to somewhere in China so that the Chinese members could be tour guides to the Korean members. But unfortunately these plans might have to be pushed back, as all of them had to prioritize their preparations and rehearsals for their ‘Don’t Mess Up My Tempo’ comeback, which took up pretty much the entirety of October. For some members it had also been 10 years since they joined SM, so there were some celebrations too.
At the same time, Wisteria members were no less busy as they had just released their new EP as well as a special Halloween remix of their title track. Promotions continued into November, past EXO’s comeback as well as Kris’ 28th birthday.
Apart from work, there was life of course. And in Chanyeol’s life, there was someone important who was getting married: his sister Yoora. It was a joyous occasion and although he at first did not have much of a reaction when she told him the news of her engagement, he was genuinely happy for her.
It was, however, difficult to keep this event a private one, as Chanyeol was still photographed at the wedding by unwelcome paparazzi and sasaengs. In no time it was all over the news, especially since he was there with Yoonhwa. This was enough to prove to the public that they were a couple and honestly all the confirmation that netizens and fans needed. No doubt about it even before their respective agencies issued an official statement saying that they had been dating for a year now.
In view of this mess and the discomfort that came with suddenly having to go public like this, probably the best thing they could do for themselves was to stay off social media for a while, on all of their accounts. As long as they could not see the things that they did not want to see, they would not be upset by it, and that was enough. Work went on. Life went on.
Gahyun, however, could not keep her silence anymore. Perhaps this was the outcome of having been mute about her feelings for too long. When she snapped, she was not aiming to expose her feelings but, rather, just to stand up for a fellow member and friend, and to defend Yoonhwa’s relationship with Chanyeol. Defending her right to date anybody she wanted and against accusations that she was just riding on Chanyeol’s fame. Gahyun made a post on Instagram and typed out a very lengthy caption on this matter, asking for Yoonhwa’s privacy to be respected and for her to be given space.
“Thanks for having my back,” said Yoonhwa quietly when she and Gahyun were alone in the dorms. They were expecting Cheolyeon to be back soon, after meeting with a few choreographers and modifying some steps she came up with on her own.
“It’s nothing, really,” Gahyun replied, somberness seeping from her tone although her facial expressions remained tenebrous.
“I think I need to go out for a walk. Gotta clear my head; these thoughts are suffocating and ain’t making me happy,” Yoonhwa asserted, sighing as she dusted herself off, putting her heavy boots on and approaching the door.
“Wait,” Gahyun blurted, abruptly jumping to her feet too. “I wanna come with,” she declared boldly, clumsily grabbing her phone off the nightstand. “That is...if you don't mind, of course…”
Yoonhwa shrugged. “If you don’t mind. Because I have a feeling I won’t be shutting up and I’m gonna segue into a rant of some sort and annoy the hell out of you.”
“I’d love to be annoyed by you,” Gahyun stated without missing a beat.
“Then, by all means, come along.”
The weather was unimpressive, just average November temperature, though the girls could barely spare a thought for the coldness outside. For Yoonhwa it was all the stress and negativity that came with her dating ‘scandal’, whereas for Gahyun it was the tenseness she could never fully shed whenever she was with Yoonhwa.
“So...you wanna vent?” Gahyun offered, really wanting to be there for Yoonhwa even just as a friend because indeed they were friends. But she was also thinking that if they could both focus on Yoonhwa’s feelings then she would not have to be engrossed in worrying about her own feelings. “I'm all ears!”
“Yeah, if only I knew where to start,” Yoonhwa sighed and then shrugged. “I guess one of the reasons why I'm upset is just...how come people find it so difficult to believe that I love him for him and he loves me for me? Like...it's like I have to have some ulterior motive and it's just utterly implausible that he could just genuinely have feelings for me. Why is the world so...so ugly?”
Gahyun’s heart sank. “People love to jump to conclusions when they don't know someone that well. Especially us girls...they love to vilify us and sexualize us and objectify us.”
“So you're saying that because they don't know anything, they just assume the worst?” Yoonhwa complained and leaned her forehead into her fists. “This is making my head hurt.”
“Well, people can think whatever they want. What's important is that you and Chanyeol know the truth and stick together and stay strong. That's all that matters, isn't it?”
“Yeah, that's important of course, but I...I want to be liked. Or is that too much to ask too?” Yoonhwa sniffled and began to find it difficult to hide that she wanted to cry, which made Gahyun soften and crumble inside.
“No, no,” she replied urgently. “It isn't. You are liked. It's not fair if you only pay attention to the haters and not the people who show you love and affection. You gotta decide who's worth your time and who's not. And I think you know.”
With a pout on her lips, Yoonhwa wrapped her arms around Gahyun and rested her head on the older girl’s shoulder. It made Gahyun freeze and her eyes go big, and she knew it was definitely not from the coldness in their surroundings.
“I just forget that it's possible for people to like certain things about me when I've been receiving so much hate and judgment for what I actually am not,” the younger girl admitted.
“But I like many things about you,” Gahyun stated. The words had leaped out of Gahyun’s mouth before she could hold herself back — or perhaps she had been holding back for too long. She might actually go insane if she had to continue living like this. “Perhaps you forget that because I've stopped saying it or showing it lately. But I adore you and everything about you.”
Slowly and stiffly, Yoonhwa let go of the vocalist and faced her with much uncertainty in the look in her eyes. “Wait...you...you're joking, right?” She questioned. And when she saw that Gahyun.exe had stopped functioning, she shook her head in disbelief. “No, you've got to be kidding me. You can't be serious. It's just not...not possible.”
When Gahyun unfroze and her brain began to work again, she desperately wondered how she ought to prove her love true. She could reveal something telling, like how she was thinking of Yoonhwa when filming the ‘Whispers In The Dark’ MV with Chanyeol. And yet, ultimately, she decided against making a move that might make Yoonhwa even more uncomfortable and things even more awkward. “I— I don't know how to…make you...b-believe…”
Yoonhwa opened her mouth for a moment, then closed it, and then opened it again, still in shock. “Gahyun, please, I can't tell if you're being serious or playing a massive prank on me,” she pleaded. Gahyun was just too good an actress — on-screen and off-screen — for Yoonhwa to be sure about what was really going on right now.
Gahyun almost snapped, but instead she just choked and burst into tears. Having repressed her feelings for too long, she just could not do it anymore. “You think my feelings are a fucking joke?!” She finally exploded, drawing uneven breaths as she went on. “It’s been more than a year. I've kept it a secret from you, for more than a year. And it has not been easy. I was so fucking scared — fuck, I still am — because I don't know what's gonna happen if I tell you. Or if I’m too careless and I show too much of my affections. Or if you find out about how I truly feel. It's gonna ruin everything. So I just kept pretending everything was fine, even when I was hurting while you're happy. I don't know why it had to be you, out of all people, but it just is and I can't help the way that I feel.”
Yoonhwa panicked. “I had no idea, oh my go—”
“Of course,” Gahyun retorted. “Because I tried my damned hardest to make sure you were completely clueless. But now you know. Now you know, and I just, I, well, I don't know what to do or say anymore. And you’ll never understand how much it hurts me.”
Yoonhwa was speechless. She had not meant to make her fellow member cry so pitifully, but she also did not know how to avoid further breaking Gahyun’s heart. “I-I’m so-sorry if I've made you u—”
“No,” Gahyun cut in resolutely, her jaw tightening as she became bitter. “You aren't sorry. And my feelings don't matter to you.”
Yoonhwa let out a gasp, hurt too. “How can you say that?! You know I cherish you as a friend and value you as a fellow member. Did it not mean anything to you when I said that I'm a Gahyun stan and you're my favorite lyricist? I absolutely do not want to lose you, and I wouldn't want anything to get in the way of our friendship. I just ca—”
“Yeah, sure. But now you'll never look at me the same again, and everything’s just gonna be awkward, and I hate that. I hate it. Even if I get over you someday, I won't be able to change what's already happened and what you already know,” said Gahyun with a shaky voice. The snow continued to fall and landed on her face, blending with her tears as it melted. “Sorry; I just can't deal with you right now.”
She turned on her heel abruptly and began to run away from Yoonhwa, literally. It was difficult to run in these heavy boots, but her desire to get away and just escape this situation was too strong. She did not even once look over her shoulder to see if Yoonhwa was chasing after her. So she kept going until she ran out of road and the traffic lights had compelled her to come to a pause. Out of breath since she was in tears as well, she had to lean against a lamppost to catch her breath. Her lungs were burning and her nose was completely blocked and she was choking and it made her feel like she was about to gag or pass out.
Just as she was about to faint and collapse, a familiar face came into sight.
Chapter 12: Wisteria
“Oh my gosh!” Cheolyeon exclaimed. “Gahyun?? Are you okay? Shit, can you hear me?” She gulped. Then when Gahyun gave no response, Cheolyeon turned around to holler, “Kris! Come and help me; she's unconscious!”
The tall boy got out of his car urgently and scuttled to where the girls were. “Shit, what do I do…” Cheolyeon uttered breathlessly. “We gotta call an ambulance. Fuck, where's my phone, crap— Gahyun?! Holy shit. You're awake. Are you alright? How are you feeling?”
Gahyun’s eyes fluttered open as her body trembled. She could most definitely hear Cheolyeon and the fear in her voice. It's just that she was too disoriented to react so she just stayed lying on the cold, damp ground. She croaked, and made a small noise to indicate to the worried dancer that she was still alive and conscious, just weak all of a sudden. Slowly she tried to rise to her feet and then was helped by Cheolyeon and Kris to the latter’s car. While Cheolyeon was on the phone with their manager to notify her of Gahyun’s condition, Kris drove off hastily as if he and Cheolyeon were troubled parents in a hurry to take their daughter Gahyun to see a doctor.
That evening when Gahyun was in a stable condition again — at least medically — and ready to go, Kris had again given her and Cheolyeon a lift back to the dorms before he had to go meet up with some other members. By now Cheolyeon had begun to understand what had happened between the rest of her group while she was away.
"Why don't you lie down and have some rest like the doctor advised," suggested the leader while eyeing Gahyun pitifully. "I'll cook some noodles for us and we'll just have a light dinner tonight. How does that sound?"
The vocalist shrugged expressionlessly. "Anything will do." She sniffled and settled on the sofa, hugging a cushion tight as if grasping for comfort and security. "I don't know how to face her. Or how we will function as a group from now on. I feel like I've ruined everything."
"No, it's not your fault, please," said Cheolyeon gently, readying the ingredients in the kitchen. "As long as I'm still in the group, I'm gonna do my job as the leader. That means I'll make sure we all stay together and support each other. No matter what. I won't let anything get in the way. And we are not going to try to assign blame to anybody. Let's try to deal with our complicated feelings in a constructive way."
"I just can't stay calm like you do..." Gahyun sighed, rubbing her temples and frowning. "I really can't. I feel like crying again."
"Will lend you my shoulder in a minute," replied Cheolyeon as she cooked.
Gahyun tried to close her eyes and let herself rest, but it did not work. She was haunted by the memories of all her interactions with Yoonhwa that had ever meant something to her. And it was painful.
By the time the food was ready, the familiar sounds of tinkling keys were heard.
"Oh shit," uttered Gahyun under her breath, panicking. She had no idea how she ought to react or behave but she had to make up her mind now, pick a side and stick to it.
Once the door opened and, to nobody's surprise, Yoonhwa walked in gingerly. Gahyun averted her gaze right away and focused on the bowl of noodles in front of her, as if she had not even heard anybody entering and as if she had not seen anyone sitting down with them. She could feel it, Yoonhwa's eyes on her. It had created such an unsettling feeling that not only did she lose her appetite, she also wanted to throw up. Yoonhwa's stare bore no malice, of course, but it was boring right into Gahyun's skull, which made her sweat nervously and her heart was racing. She hated feeling this way but she could not make it stop. Her arms went weak and her legs also became jelly — luckily she was sitting down, but she could barely even hold the chopsticks in her hand, let alone eat or say a single word. She could only wait for Cheolyeon, the ever reliable Cheolyeon, to come to her rescue.
"Hey, you're back," said the leader, and one glance from her was enough to communicate to the rapper that she knew what went on earlier that day. Cheolyeon remained somber but something about the look in her eyes had conveyed to Yoonhwa that she had known all along about Gahyun's feelings. Yoonhwa did not blame the dancer though, figuring that she must have been put in a difficult situation too. The maknae could imagine Cheolyeon would not want to keep secrets from a close friend but at the same time would wish to remain loyal to the other close friend. Not to mention Cheolyeon and Gahyun had been best friends since they were 14 when they joined JYP as trainees, so Yoonhwa was kind of the outsider...
Nah. Yoonhwa was long over this. They were all close even though Gahyun and Cheolyeon had known each other way before they got to know Yoonhwa. That had never really been an obstacle to their friendships within the group. But now Yoonhwa was really worried that they would not be as close as they used to be. She understood that Gahyun could not help her feelings. It was nobody's fault that things were this way, but ugh. Especially now that it seemed like Gahyun did not even want to acknowledge her presence...Yoonhwa felt really bad about this. She really did not want to lose a friend because she could not requite Gahyun's feelings. Nor did she have any idea how to fix things, now that they were finding themselves in this mess. She really did not know what to do, except look up at Cheolyeon gloomily.
"You hungry?" Cheolyeon pressed on tenderly. When Yoonhwa nodded, the dancer offered, "you've got leftovers in the fridge, right? I'll reheat it for you."
Although, when Cheolyeon returned with Yoonhwa's food steaming hot, she realized that this approach was not going to work. There was absolutely no way that Gahyun and Yoonhwa would be able to initiate and sustain a meaningful conversation on their own, so she had to intervene.
"Girls," Cheolyeon began. "I know you're probably not feeling the best right now. It's understandable that many of our thoughts at the moment are not easy to process. I just want you two to know that I do understand your concerns. And if you need me, I am always here. I will drop everything and be wherever you are. But I also think it's important that we give each other some time and space for the time being. So maybe let's do that, and then we'll try to...discuss things, or see what we can do about it?" She suggested. "I don't want any of us to be unhappy. Really, I just want what's best for both of you. But I also want what's best for our group as a whole. And that requires all three of us to function well and work with one another to the best of our ability. We can't forget that this is our job, our lives, and we've got our fans too...we can't let them down. ‘Always Wisteria, and always with Wisteria’, right? That’s our tagline, and we are staying true to it."
Gahyun only dared flick a glance up at Cheolyeon before gulping and looking down again. Yoonhwa on the other hand produced a small nod in response.
"I'm going to take that as an agreement between all of us," Cheolyeon announced. "So for now, just eat well and call it a day. Go to bed early or something. We have schedules tomorrow, and we need to be in our best condition," she added. "Wisteria still needs to be Wisteria."
"What are we gonna do about our daughter?" Cheolyeon asked with a sigh as she and Kris cuddled in bed. It was nice that they had some privacy right now, as Gahyun was rehearsing for a performance, while Yoonhwa was out with Chanyeol, so Cheolyeon had the dorms all to herself. Although she invited Kris over with the intention of helping her take her mind off of things — which he did, oh he most certainly did — afterward she still could not help but allow her thoughts to be led back to the issues that troubled her every day.
Kris bolted upright. "Wait, what the fuck. What daughter. You're not pregnant, are you?! Fuck, I'm not ready."
Cheolyeon smacked Kris on his noodle arm and pouted. "I mean Gahyun!" She then kicked his leg lightly and uttered under her breath, "no sex for you this week."
Kris just reacted by placing one leg across both of Cheolyeon's and then shifting atop her altogether. "Aw, damn," he replied sarcastically to tease her. "But then what good would I be if we're not gonna be having sex? After all, you just enjoy fucking me. You don't have feelings for me nor are you emotionally attached to me. I'm not useful anymore."
"Shut up," Cheolyeon complained, throwing her hands over Kris' shoulders. "I'm just really worried about Gahyun. I know she's going through a lot and there's so much to deal with. But damn, it feels like she's slipping away from me. And that just makes me feel so...you know, uneasy."
Kris kissed her lightly on the nose. "I understand. I know what it's like to not be as close to your best friend as before,” he said, thinking of what he himself had also been going through and dealing with over the past few months. “But in your situation, and considering what Gahyun is facing, all I can say is that even if the way she's coping may be putting some distance between you and her, maybe that's what's best for her. Perhaps that's what she needs. At least for a while, for her to heal and get through this rough patch. Adversities can really change people to the core. I know you’d hate to have to let go of her, especially considering now that you're kinda the sanest one, and that means you also gotta be the one carrying the entire group on your shoulders. I get that you desperately want everything to work out and all these problems solved and going away on their own. But you really just gotta give it time. You can't always be the band-aid to her wounds. She gotta take out the bullet herself and heal.”
“Ah. You're right, I guess. I just so desperately wanna help and make it all better, even if it might not be my place to do something about it anymore. I find it hard to let go,” she explained. “Not just with regards to our current circumstances but in general actually.”
“Well…maybe that's not so bad,” he replied with a smile. “That means you're not gonna let go of me easily.”
“Would you mind that?” She asked longingly, looking into his eyes and reaching to play with his hair. “Would you mind if I don't let go of you and I keep you to myself?” She suddenly felt emotional. “I know we've kind of talked about this before. But I don't wanna push you away again, like I did on Valentine’s. Because it makes both of us unhappy. I don't like that I'm the one who catches feelings first, and the one who's fallen deeper, but that's the way it is and I just really need you close. I need you to not leave.”
“Then I won't leave,” he promised. “Just as long as you say you want me around and say you need me, and I'll stay. And if you give me time, if you let me, I'll fall even deeper for you.”
“Wow. Perhaps I can repeal my edict about you not getting any this week,” she giggled, before caressing his face and looking more serious. “I'm sorry about choosing my doubts over you back then on Valentine’s Day. I should've known you were genuine.”
He shook his head and blinked softly. “Nah, our feelings were different back then. So many things were different back then. And why are you suddenly thinking of something that happened more than nine and a half months ago, hmm?”
“I was just wondering when I began to fall for you. And I can't figure it out. You sneaked up on me,” she accused, sticking her tongue out at him.
“You make me crave more than the...well, transient highs I get when I hit the club. Do I still like clubbing though? Of course I do. But I want you on my lap the whole time. I want you to be the one coming home with me by the end of the night. And in the morning I'll want you to stay. I'll wanna know your name. I'll wanna save your number. I wanna mean something to you. I wanna be special in your eyes. But I can only do all of that if you let me. So…” he felt a bit awkward and chuckled, his ‘cold city guy’ façade evanescing completely. “Will you let me?”
Cheolyeon laughed lightly and covered part of her face with her palm. “Why does it feel like...it’s like you’re proposing to me or something. No, never mind, I’m just being dramatic. I don’t even know what to say?”
Kris took her hand and kissed her knuckles affectionately. Biting his lip and then looking back up at her, he replied, “all I can say is that I've warned myself against developing feelings for you, against getting attached to anyone. Yet that still ended up happening and I don't want it to stop. So let's not stop either, yeah?”
She tilted her head to the side and smiled at him. “Let's see where this takes us then.”
Chapter 13: More Than Distance
Although Yoonhwa was trying her best to be herself so that Wisteria could continue to be Wisteria, it had not been easy. In particular, she simply did not know how to explain stuff to Chanyeol. The EXO member was getting really concerned and pressed for some explanation about Yoonhwa’s behavior lately.
“I'm really worried about you,” he said patiently and sat on the side of the bed with her. “You haven't been yourself and something is making you feel uneasy. I just wish I knew what's going on so I can see how I might be able to help you or something.”
“Would you mind if I stay the night here?” She asked quietly.
“Of course not. How could I ever say no to that? I love having you around,” he replied breezily. “I guess we have all night to talk about your problems.”
“Yeah, well,” she sighed. “I don't think I'd feel comfortable going back to my dorm. So much is going on. I mean, not like there's a lot going on, but there certainly is something big that is happening and this one thing is enough to make everything awkward and uncomfortable for all three of us.”
“Did you girls have a fight or something?”
“If only it were just any ordinary quarrel. I wish. It'd be over in no time, and we’ll be back to being heart eyes for one another real quick. This is much more serious. And I think it's bigger than anything we've ever been through together. As a group I mean. And honestly? I don't know if we're going to get through this. For sure, we are not going to be the same anymore after this. And I don't like it. I don't like it at all, and I don't like how it's impacting us.”
“It'll be okay, my love. Of course you're going to get through this just fine. There will be a solution, even though you might not have worked it out yet. But everything will be alright in the end. Trust me,” he said in reassurance and put his arms around her.
Shaking her head as she explained, she rubbed her eyes and went on. “I- I really want to tell you but, I don't know if it might make things worse. I enjoy telling you this and that, and more often than not it makes me feel better. But about this...I can't risk letting it make things awkward between us as well. I wouldn't be able to stand it.
“What's the worst that could happen, really?”
“Wow, I don't know, I think I have a tendency of underestimating just how wrong things could go.” Anxiously, she whirled and grabbed his hands tight. “But you know what? Fuck it. I'm gonna say it. I'm gonna tell you everything because if I don't, I'm gonna die from overthinking and I feel like my head is about to explode.”
He nodded attentively. “Ready whenever you are.”
“Right, okay, cool, good,” she replied and took a few deep breaths. She had no idea how to say this — how in the world do you tell your boyfriend that your fellow member has been secretly in love with you for a year? But again, fuck it. She decided to just be as straightforward as possible. No point in prolonging the suspense and the agony, she figured.
“Gahyun just recently admitted to me that she has a crush on me,” she blurted. “She has, you know,” she spluttered, gesticulating wildly, “feelings for me.”
At first Chanyeol did not have much of a reaction. He merely blinked and then frowned slightly. But then he uttered under his breath, “I can't believe this is happening again.”
“...What?!” Yoonhwa gawked at him. “What do you mean?”
“Ah...I didn't tell you?”
“No...should I be worried? Like, even more worried than I already am?” She prodded. His reaction to the big news she dropped was not what she had expected, but then again she did not really know what to expect.
“It has to do with a piece of my past that I've left behind a long time ago. But I guess I can tell you if you want to know.”
“Alright, well, long story short: my ex-girlfriend cheated on me with Gahyun. I didn't know it was Gahyun at the time, but when we began working together for our collab, she told me about it,” he gulped. “Not to sound like I'm turning this into a joke since this is clearly stressing you out but, I guess her type is whoever I'm dating…”
“Huh,” she said after a moment, hardly even exhibiting a shocked reaction even though this was a surprise for her. “This is a mess,” she stated. “And I have no idea how to fix it.”
Chanyeol cleared his throat. “I don't mean to make this all about me but...you're not gonna end up choosing her over me, right? Like...I don't want yet another one of my relationships failing like this. Or failing at all. Cause that shit hurts.”
“No,” Yoonhwa answered emphatically, not letting go of Chanyeol’s hands. “I'm not going to choose anybody over you. I just don't want this to be a barrier to our relationship, and at the same time, I don't want this to be a hindrance to my friendship with Gahyun either. Not to mention we are still in a group together, and Wisteria is so important to us both personally and professionally. I'm not blaming her for feelings that she can't help, but I will also absolutely not let it ruin our relationship, or this friendship, or anything pertaining to my career. I'm sure she doesn't mean to jeopardize these either but, ugh, if only you know what the atmosphere is like at the dorm. I know Cheolyeon is trying her best to smooth things out between us. Frankly I feel bad because this isn't even her problem in the first place. So when Gahyun and I fail to communicate well and resolve this on our own, we have to trouble our leader and add to her burdens. And you know she's been friends with Gahyun for so many years...I'm already thankful she isn't choosing her best friend over me.”
“I feel you, baby. And I can see why this is a situation you never wanna be in. Though I feel like this depends a lot on Gahyun herself. If I were in her shoes I'd also find it suffocating. I know you're gonna fight tooth and nail to stay friends with her, but is she willing to do the same? A friendship doesn't just depend on how one person feels. It goes both ways and you gotta see how she feels about it...otherwise it's not gonna do you or her any good. And it most certainly will bring down the morale of your whole group overall.”
“I wish she’d fight for me too. But I have no clue how she feels about this. We can’t communicate anymore. Can't look each other in the eye. Can't exchange any words or text messages. Can't even bear to be in the same room. It’s awful. My mere presence is troubling to her.” She shuddered as she came to that conclusion. “How are we even going to make this work?”
Chanyeol stayed silent for a moment, pausing in thought. “How about this: you keep a bit of distance from her for now, to give her the time and space perhaps she’d like to have. And when she’s ready to reach out to you, she will. I’m sure you’ll be made aware of it one way or another. And even if she doesn’t come to you right away, somehow Cheolyeon will know about it, and no doubt she will be eager for you and Gahyun to reconcile.”
“That sounds...workable,” Yoonhwa replied, sounding hesitant and uncertain but nevertheless thankful to Chanyeol for the suggestion. “But what am I to do until then? I don’t know when she’s ever going to be fine with interacting with me again, if ever.”
“In the meantime,” he added gently. “I suppose you just gotta set all these loud and unsettling thoughts aside, and carry on with everything else that’s going on in your life.”
“Like, catch up on sleep and get some proper rest?”
“Well, I was gonna say pay attention to and spend time with your boyfriend. But I suppose, yes, that’s important too,” Chanyeol laughed, and Yoonhwa chuckled too. “I don’t want you to fall ill again, even though you’d love to have the excuse to get me and Kyungsoo to cook for you.”
“Fair enough,” she agreed contently and snuggled into his arms, cuddling till they fell asleep.
Yoonhwa had no idea how they managed but eventually, Wisteria had made it to the last month of the year. One of the highlights of December was MAMA, where the award for Best Collaboration had gone to Chanyeol and Gahyun for their track ‘Whispers In The Dark’. Chanyeol was overjoyed and so was Yoonhwa, both of them glad that this year nobody would be crying for the same reasons the previous year.
As Kris and Cheolyeon were not exposed as a couple like Yoonhwa and Chanyeol were, all they did was exchange glances throughout the show. But the eye contact was meaningful enough to convey a lot, like how proud of their daughter they were.
Gahyun was also delighted, but there was something even better waiting for her. It was another award: Best OST. Her voice was lovely and loved, and carried so much emotion that really befitted the angst that the drama delivered.
The vocalist walked on stage gracefully and accepted the award, standing in front of the mic nervously. She had not really prepared a speech, but she was going to say a few words anyway. Just whatever would come to mind since she was shaking and tearing up already. Everybody was still clapping for her, and she had a moment before they quieted down to think about what she wanted to take this opportunity say. But her mind was blank and no words would come. The tears kept streaming down her face and judging from the smiles all around her, she was sure that everybody was convinced that she was crying tears of joy, proud of herself for having won as a soloist. But they did not know the truth. Only Gahyun herself did. This was the last time she was going to introduce herself as Wisteria’s Gahyun.
“Hello,” she spoke, voice still quivering and her jaw trembling too. “I am Wisteria’s Gahyun.” By now she was just hoping against hope that she would not pass out on stage, because she really felt so nervous that she could faint anytime. “I would like to thank everybody who has made it possible for me to receive this award. My family members, who have believed in me from the start, as well as our fans, who have kept this faith in me through thick and thin. All of you are people I never want to let go of. I really, really hope that you will stay with me and support me in what I do in the future.” She blinked hard and tried to swallow the urge to bawl. It was simply embarrassing to be crying like this in front of so many people. But as she said those words and thought about the decision that she had already made up her mind about, it was just too difficult to not weep. “And I can’t say this enough, but thank you to my fellow members of Wisteria. You two are my closest friends, and even though this award was given to me, I know it is a win for all of us. Because we share all our joys and sorrows, our glory and hardships, our clothes and even potato chips.” As the audience giggled, she drew a deep breath, knowing that what she was about to say was something that she would soon no longer be entitled to say with her whole chest. “Always Wisteria, and always with Wisteria.” She bowed and finished her speech on this note, with a tagline that she would always keep in mind and a spirit that she would always keep in her heart.
Chapter 14: The Show Must Go On
Although in real life the beginning of 2019 was marked by significant events such as the reunion between Kris and Tao as well as the news of Kai and Jennie dating, none of that will happen in this series. That’s because EXO is still OT12, and also because Jongin has been paired up with an OC, Elle, in this fic’s prequel, ‘My Clarity’, which can be easily found on my profile. If you haven’t read the prequel, please go check it out! It will tell you more about Chanyeol and what he has gone through in between meeting fetus Yoonhwa for the first time and falling in love with her. Enjoy!
MAMA 2018 was the last time Gahyun made a public appearance as a member of Wisteria anyway. Since then, she had not been spotted anywhere, nor had she been updating on any social media platform.
Her last Instagram post remained to be the one in which she vehemently defended fellow member Yoonhwa’s relationship with Chanyeol.
It was like she was dead, and fans were getting worried. Theories were everywhere and suspicions only grew.
Things only got worse when they got to the end of the month and various K-pop groups were scheduled to attend the KBS Gayo Daechukje. Wisteria got invited too, but only leader Cheolyeon and maknae Yoonhwa showed up. The official explanation for Gahyun’s absence was, simply, ‘health reasons’. There was some truth in it, but there was also a lot that was not disclosed to the public, such as her talks with management to leave the group but stay in the company.
Still, the show must go on.
One of the performances that fans from all over the world were eager to see was a staged shared by an EXO member and a Wisteria member. Although it would have been refreshing to see Chanyeol and Yoonhwa share a stage, tonight the spotlight was going to go to another couple: Kris and Cheolyeon. Their love affair was still kept a secret even though as usual there had been some speculation and the standard amount of shipping. Relationships aside, the two of them were going to give the world something new to talk about, a performance that would surely blow everyone’s minds.
It was no news that most of EXO’s songs had Korean versions and Mandarin versions, so it was not surprising that the most multilingual member of the group had recorded English versions, Mandarin versions, and even Cantonese versions of his solo songs. This evening, he was going to share one of his unreleased gems from his stash, performing the Korean version of his song ‘Freedom’. It was going to be remixed, and Cheolyeon’s dance performance would be the perfect complement to it. Their energy and their chemistry, the talent and the visuals, all of it jumped out and made this performance unforgettable.
What the audience did not witness was how difficult it was for Cheolyeon to pull off this performance. For the most part, she was unused to having to attend events with Yoonhwa as the only fellow member by her side, and having to deal with Gahyun’s absence. She knew better than everybody that Gahyun really needed a lot of rest for the sake of her health, and that the girl had been taking some time off from Yoonhwa. But Cheolyeon was undeniably affected too. She had her best friend with her along the way; she really did not think she could do without Gahyun, even though it more often than not seemed like the other way around. Together they had made it through each and every year, all the way from 2010 to 2018. She wondered what 2019 would hold for them, but she was not optimistic about it.
The K-pop community was in shock and chaos when the first day of the new year was kicked off with an official statement from JYPE, announcing that Gahyun was no longer a member of Wisteria, but would remain under the agency to be managed as an actress. Additionally, she would be on medical leave this month. At the same time, Wisteria would be going on hiatus for a short while but the duration of their break was not specified. It was only mentioned that changes might be made to the group’s line-up, so there would be another announcement regarding this matter once plans could be confirmed and carried out.
Both Cheolyeon and Yoonhwa were devastated by this. They tuned out from social media so they could shut out all the threats and accusations and theories that only further dampened their spirits. There were blessings and kind wishes that part of the fandom was sending, but it was easy for those to get drowned out by all the noise. Noise made by people who ordinarily did not even give a damn about Wisteria, but only talked about them for clout on social media.
Fortunately, Chanyeol was already coming to Yoonhwa’s rescue within that week, whisking her off on a vacation and traveling to Europe as they had agreed on previously.
“I really hope this trip can take your mind off things,” said Chanyeol, giving Yoonhwa’s hand a supportive squeeze as they sat down on the sofa of their luxurious hotel suite.
“I will try to not think about it,” replied Yoonhwa seriously. “I really want to enjoy this vacation with you too. I just expected that we’d be going on this trip under less…distressing circumstances.”
“Do you still feel guilty and responsible for this? That if you hadn’t met me and if you hadn’t fallen for, you could perhaps bring yourself to like Gahyun a little? So that she wouldn’t have been heartbroken and then she wouldn’t have left the group?” Chanyeol asked.
Yoonhwa stared at him for a moment and then gave him a tentative nod. “Something along those lines, yeah. My thoughts are too messy for me to put into words.”
“I’m not mad or anything,” Chanyeol replied. “I suppose it’s easy to be inclined to think that this could’ve been prevented. But it’s nobody’s fault.”
“Really,” he nodded firmly. “All three of you are hurt in some way, and to different extents. None of you should be blamed. And right now a lot of people are trying to assign blame to Gahyun and make her take responsibility for the damage she’s done, but in my eyes…” he shrugged, though not nonchalantly. “It could’ve been a lot worse. She already chose an adequate time to leave. What if she left just before your group was supposed to go on tour? Left everything in disarray and at a much more critical time than these days? Can you imagine how much messier everything would be? Not to mention the pressure you and Cheolyeon would be under, to have to manage everything without one-third of the group when a hiatus isn't an option,” he explained. “So I think Gahyun was already attempting to minimize the damage and aftermath. She just wanted a peaceful exit and she wanted to be on civil terms with you two. After all, you and Cheolyeon are too dear to her for her to do anything to intentionally hurt the two of you. Maybe in the end, this will be better for all three of you.”
“I didn’t know you’ve thought about this so deeply…”
“It’s already painful enough to imagine losing a member, no matter the reason. Except you and Cheolyeon actually have to go through it,” he sighed as well. “There isn’t much more we can do except stay strong.”
“But what happened to ‘always Wisteria’?” She questioned, her nose already picking up on the familiar sensation of wanting to shed tears. “And ‘always with Wisteria’?” She sniffled again. “Our agency has plans to add new members to the group, I’ve heard. I’ve a rough idea of which trainees they’re seeking to bring into our group as new additions. I’m not bitterly opposing this decision but I just, just, I’m loyal to Wisteria as OT3. Even if the company debuts some more members in our group, it’s never gonna be the same again. No amount of new members will make up for the vacancy and void that Gahyun has left behind. It just isn’t the same and it will never be. They can be ten times more talented than her, but they won’t be her. They won’t ever be. She just cannot be replaced. None of us can be replaced.”
“Of course,” Chanyeol agreed. “Nothing can take away the glory of your OT3 era, even if it lasted only a bit more than two years. It’s always with you. It will always be a period of your life that you will fondly look back on. But come on, you’ve got to think about the positive side of this too. You and Cheolyeon are still on good terms with Gahyun. It’s not like y’all bullied her into leaving; it’s not toxic like that. She made a decision that was best for her own health and emotional wellbeing. This decision can come across as selfish, and it certainly comes at a cost. But you’re not really losing her. The group loses a member, but you did not really lose a friend. Once she’s had some time to sort out her own feelings and her health has have improved, the three of you can talk things out and your friendship will still be intact. I get that you’re crushed that you won’t have OT3 on stage anymore. Understandably your fans share these sentiments too, but there will always be OT3 in your heart and in theirs. Isn’t that something to be happy about, too?”
“I’m not sure I can put any faith in ‘always’ anymore,” she smiled wryly and shook her head. “But you have a point. OT3 stays in my heart and that’ll have to suffice. On stage, the show must go on. I must be strong too. Not just for myself but for Wisteria – what’s left of it, at least – and for our fans.”
“That’s my girl,” Chanyeol smiled proudly. “And you can do it. You can be strong. I know you can, because whatever you put your mind to do, you succeed at it. I know this from experience, and also because I have faith in you. I will support you and keep believing in you. And definitely won’t make your worst fear come true.”
Yoonhwa looked a bit taken aback. “How would you even know what that is?”
“I won’t tell you I love you one moment and then leave you the next,” he promised, covering her hand with his. “When I say it, I’ll mean it, and you can trust me.”
After the holidays in January, it was time for EXO to prepare for their upcoming projects. Arguably one of the most important dates in February was Valentine’s Day, but around that time there were also celebrations for NCT Jaehyun’s birthday. That was something Yoonhwa had not forgotten, even though recent events had taken their toll on her in a number of ways.
“Oh my, you really have been through a lot since we last got to meet up and hang out,” said Jaehyun. “How are you holding up though? I wish I could give you some advice but my group just keeps getting more and more new members.”
“I also wish I could say that I’m fine and truly feel that way but, not yet,” Yoonhwa replied gloomily. “It’s been one and half months since Gahyun’s departure. She's already moved out from the dorms and taken with her all her stuff. The place feels really empty now,” she added. “Anyway, it’s confirmed that my group will have two new members.”
“Hey, that could be good news. Is it anyone who’s already been publicly introduced?” Asked Jaehyun, but then he quickly added, “hmm, but then pretty much most of the contestants on Sixteen have already left, whereas Itzy literally just debuted..”
“Yeah, you’re right about all of that. Most female trainees here have either debuted or left, and we of course are not going to be in direct competition with Itzy. So we’re gonna have two new boys,” Yoonhwa revealed.
“Ooh, but Stray Kids debuted a little less than a year ago, didn’t they?”
“Yup. Though as far as I know, they weren’t even on Stray Kids because they didn’t fit the concept. As Wisteria’s new boys, they have to pull off the concepts that Wisteria has consistently delivered and defined, so something sexy and mysterious. You can even say that the less compatible they are with Stray Kids’ concept, the better. There should be very clear differences between what Stray Kids and Wisteria — and even Twice — have to offer,” Yoonhwa explained. “And they’re going to debut within a couple of months, just in time for our upcoming comeback.”
“So the hiatus is ending? Are you ready to go back out there on the stage?”
“We’ve been rehearsing and preparing ourselves for a completely different concept and image. It’s been tough to adjust to, but we gotta do it. The new members have been supportive too. Cheolyeon is also adjusting to playing the role of a leader to them as well. We get along with them quite well, and I think they look up to us in some ways — but, ironically, to Gahyun in particular. Maybe it’s a vocalist thing. They were closer to her than to us even during our trainee days. The two boys are 98 liners,” she revealed. “I have been displaced as the maknae!”
“Ooh, ‘Yoonhwa-noona’!” He chuckled. “Do you like being called noona?”
“Not…in a kinky way,” she clarified, and both of them laughed. “A mixed gender group sounds appealing in some ways, but we never know how the public will take to it. I hope they don’t hate us or treat us as a joke or a flop or whatever.”
“They won’t,” said Jaehyun in reassurance right away. “No, I’m sure they’ll love you. They'll love all the members. You’ll be doing something new and interesting, breaking rules and challenging boundaries. It’ll be something to look forward to, and I’m behind you all the way.”
Yoonhwa smiled. “You know, sometimes I feel envious of the friendship between Cheolyeon and Gahyun. But whenever that happens, I quickly think of our friendship. I’m glad to have something that I cherish so much and hold dear to my heart.”
“Of course! I’ll be hyping you, and roasting you, an—”
“And giving you confidence to carry on with this new ‘OT4’ line-up,” he said blithely. “Best of luck with the comeback. It’s gonna be great; don’t worry about it.”
“Thanks,” she smiled. It was time to put on her favorite hair band and get ready to be the Yoonhwa that Wisteria needed.
The comeback proved to be a success, and Wisteria OT4 was liked. The new members were adored by the public and brought more people into the fandom. At the same time, the girls were also praised for staying strong even in the toughest of times. Overall, they really exceeded expectations and were eager to show even more of what they were capable of.
Thankfully, the fandom had not forgotten about the ex-member Gahyun, nor had the public. Within a few months’ time pursuant to her departure from the group, she was cast in the same film as the nation’s rising idol actor Do Kyungsoo. Her health condition was much better now, and she as well as the rest of Wisteria were all prospering.
“I'm guessing this was what you meant when you said that perhaps Gahyun leaving would lead to the best outcome for everyone,” said Yoonhwa to Chanyeol as they played with Toben. “And there's some good news I want to tell you.”
“Ah, yes! I'm ready,” Chanyeol replied enthusiastically. “I'm just happy to see that you're of good cheer these days.”
“And there's definitely a reason for it.”
“I know. It's me, isn't it.”
“Aha! You're right, you're right,” she giggled. “There's another reason.”
“I know that too. It's Toben, right?”
“It's you and Toben and something else,” she winked. “This morning, Gahyun finally texted me.”
“Oh my goodness! She did? Finally? What did she say?”
“I know right! I'm so relieved,” she gushed. “She said she'd like to hang out with me again and we could, well, talk about things and catch up. Cheolyeon is really pleased too. It's gonna be OT3 again — I mean, like you said, we've never stopped being OT3,” she explained. “And she’s also going to send us invitations to an event that she and Kyungsoo will be attending next month. Some sort of promo for the new film. I'm excited for us to go!”
“Me too!” replied Chanyeol happily. “I hope it all goes well for you and Gahyun when you two finally meet up after such a long time.”