“Sunbae! Sunbae!” Mina said urgently as she ran from one end of the corridor to the other just to be able to catch Sehun. Both of them had just finished a long day of classes, and the first thing Mina did as soon as the bell rang and she was allowed to leave the classroom was to look for Sehun. “I need to talk to you. I’m so sorry.”
“Hey,” said Sehun softly. “You haven’t done anything wrong. What’s the matter?”
“Um, I think I really owe you an apology. I’ve already troubled you so much — with the board decorations previously and then again at the school ball. I’m really grateful for all that you’ve done for me, which makes me feel even worse, for putting you in an awkward situation with the dating rumor that everyone has been spreading…” Mina explained. “I’m so sorry. It must be so awkward for you.”
“Well, a little. But it’s not your fault,” Sehun replied, eager to reassure his hoobae. “Everyone loves to gossip. As long as you and I know the truth, it’s good enough.”
Mina nodded in relief. “Phew. I’m glad you’re not mad at me.”
“No, I wouldn’t do that. I’m sure people will forget about us soon enough. Before we know it, they’re going to find something else to talk about,” Sehun pointed out. “They're always like that. It's just the way things work around here.”
“True,” Mina replied with a smile. “Oh, it’s time for me to go for my athletics team practice now. I’ll see you around!”
They parted ways, and Sehun skipped down the stairs, evidently in a good mood. He was in an even better mood when he met up with Chanyeol, who began the conversation right away.
“Hey. I’ve got something important to tell you,” Chanyeol revealed. “I had lunch with my father just now and he told me something that I really need to share with you.”
“Oh yeah? What did he say?” Sehun asked. He was curious, but he also felt uneasy because what if his worst fear came true? That his mother and Chanyeol’s father were going to tie the knot, making him and Chanyeol stepbrothers for real? Oh goodness, please, no. Just, no.
“Some news about him and your mother,” Chanyeol announced. “He told me they broke up.”
“Oh?” Sehun gasped. He was not sure if he ought to be happy or sad about this. “Did he mention why? What happened?”
“Well, yeah. Something along the lines of...they can’t make this long-distance relationship work, since she would rather stay in South Korea whereas his work requires him to be in Italy,” Chanyeol explained.
“We sure do have fathers who prioritize work and business over everything else, huh,” Sehun commented slightly sardonically. “My father’s relationship with Soomin was already relatively ‘stable’ compared to the more casual flings I presume he must've had over the years. But they wouldn't even have met if not for work. Although, of course, we know now that that's all for show. I don't know how they can live like this and think there's no problem with it.”
“Family drama.” Chanyeol giggled. “What's new?”
Sehun shrugged. “I also suspect it’s because my mother has a ‘once a cheater, always a cheater’ belief; that could be one of the reasons why she broke up with your father...it’s not that he cheated on her but he cheated on his wife at the time he had an affair with your mother, and also because of what my dad did — it left my mother traumatized, obviously.” He sighed. “Then again it’s not like I know enough about my mother’s personality to be drawing this conclusion.”
Chanyeol grinned. “Sucks for them. As long as we prioritize each other and stay faithful and committed, we’ll be fine.”
“Hey, you’re right,” Sehun replied, smiling too. “Look at you, having so much faith in us right now.”
“And look at you, you’re the talk of the town today,” Chanyeol remarked with a guffaw. “Quite the celebrity, huh?”
Sehun rolled his eyes and laughed. “Well, you out of all people should know there’s no truth to it.”
“Yeah, of course. Your brother and I just had a laugh about it because we’re among the few people who know the truth,” said Chanyeol. “Don’t worry about all the gossiping. By the end of the week they’ll have something new to talk about,” he added. “And on another note, my father has invited me to stay at his house in Milan over the summer. Think he wants me to meet his other kids as well as get to know what his life is like over there.”
“Oh, you have half-siblings too?”
“Yeah,” Chanyeol answered. “Actually, Yoora-noona is my half-sister from my mother’s side, and I have more half-siblings from my father’s side.”
“Wait, so that means you don't actually have full siblings,” Sehun stated, chuckling at his discovery. “You only have half-siblings!”
Chanyeol chortled too. “Oh my goodness, you're right. I hadn't even thought about it that way but yes, that's true. Sehunnie is so smart!”
“Of course I am! So, did you take him up on that offer?” Sehun asked.
“I think I’d like to. It’d be after my graduation, and wouldn’t I love to travel and explore the world?” Chanyeol smiled. “And the best thing is that he’s extended this invitation to you as well. Oh, man, he's so supportive of our relationship. Can't say the same for my mother, as you saw last time, but I'm glad my father and I are getting along so well!”
“Really? He would like that?” Sehun grinned, instantly sounding elated. “So I get to go with you?”
“Yep, you get to come with.” Chanyeol nodded. “And I wouldn't have it any other way.”
“I’m so excited!” Sehun gushed. “It’s going to be our very first trip together as a couple!”
“I’m excited too, baby,” Chanyeol replied mirthfully. “Now, what do you say we hop on my bike and go get bubble tea to celebrate that?”
Prior to the summer trip to Italy, Sehun went on another trip to Australia during Christmas, but with his siblings instead of with his boyfriend.
It was a trip that all four of them had been looking forward to for some time. They had brought this up to their father when they were still getting to know Soomin. At that time, he did not reckon it would be possible for them to make it happen, since he thought he had a wedding and a honeymoon to go on. But ever since he and Soomin called it quits, which meant no wedding and no honeymoon, he was supposed to be free to travel with his children.
Of course not. Work was obviously more important. So his four kids took matters into their own hands, and embarked on their journey anyway. They were having fun without him, and it was not their loss that he was missing out.
Christmas in Australia was always during summer vacation over there, and by the time it was the summer of the following year in the other hemisphere, Chanyeol and Sehun went to Italy as planned.
They stayed at Soonhong’s place, a huge house with a beautiful garden. Chanyeol loved it there. He loved the trees, the flowers, the benches, the balconies, and especially the fountain. The view of the city was spectacular, especially during dusk and dawn. The peace and quiet during those hours of the day was something he found particularly enjoyable, especially considering Milan’s status as one of the most prosperous manufacturing and commercial cities in the world. No doubt that was one of the reasons why the co-founders of Parco & Fenice decided to base their business here. Even Chanyeol was at least a little bit tempted by the prospect of getting to do business in one of the leading financial centers of the world. He felt that this fast-paced metropolis had a lot of opportunities to offer, and indeed one was right under his nose.
“Chanyeol, did you know,” Soonhong began when he had a chance to speak with his son alone. “That when you smile at Sehun, it’s a winsome, million-dollar smile that could humble any model or actor. If that was photographed, it would put every magazine cover to shame.”
Chanyeol giggled. “You flatter me.”
“No, I’m serious. You have a natural charm. And when you’re around Sehun, your glow, wow,” said Soonhong. “It’s like the warmest ray of sunshine. It was in you all along, and having him around helps bring out that side of you.”
Chanyeol grinned at that. “I hope we all have someone in our lives who make us glow that way.”
“I hope so too. And on top of that, your aura and charisma is a perfect match for Parco & Fenice and what our brand represents. I think you would fit the concept that we’ve come up with for a new fragrance line we’re planning to launch soon,” Soonhong explained. “You should model for us.”
“Me?” Chanyeol asked hesitantly. “But I have no experience. Shouldn’t I at least go to model school first? Is it called model school? Or something like that?”
“That can be arranged,” Soonhong replied. “Would you be willing to join us for a photoshoot and see how things turn out? Maybe you’ll like it.”
Chanyeol paused. He never felt certain about what he really wanted to do after high school. His grades were decent, not the best but still above average, so if he wanted to get into university he would have quite a range of options. But did he want to take a conventional route and go to university at all? Or would he rather explore the opportunities that awaited him outside traditions and expectations? Perhaps a career on a runway or on the cover of magazines would be right for him, and he would never know unless he was willing to give it a shot.
“Alright,” Chanyeol agreed and nodded. “Let’s try that.”
“Great! It would make me so happy to see all my children taking part in the big business that I’ve spent years and years building.”
“Oh, hold on, your other children— ahem, I mean…” he faltered as he thought about how awkward it was that he had half-siblings from his biological father’s side that he did not know how to address. Referring to them as ‘your other children’ would make it seem like he was trying to draw a clear line between him and them. But going as far as calling them ‘brothers’ or ‘sisters’ would feel even less natural.
“You have two other siblings,” Soonhong revealed. “One elder brother and one younger sister. I can’t wait for the three of you to meet. How about this weekend? They’ve been travelling around the country a little bit these days, but they’ll be back real soon.”
Chanyeol might have been smiling on the outside, but on the inside he was not confident that the meeting between him and his half-siblings would be as wholesome as Soonhong would want.
Despite these uncertainties, there was one thing Chanyeol knew for sure: above all the things that he loved about Milan and being in Milan, what he loved the most was getting to wake up next to Sehun every morning.
“Good morning,” said Chanyeol lovingly, wrapping an arm around his boyfriend. They were barely dressed at all after last night, but that was alright.
“Good morning to you too,” Sehun replied with equal fondness. But under the sheets he kept shifting as if he could not find a comfortable pose, and Chanyeol knew exactly why.
“Hurts?” Chanyeol asked tenderly, but the slightest smirk was upon his lips.
“No,” Sehun insisted, even though they both knew the truth. Eventually he gave in and sighed. “Okay, I didn’t know that you could be so rough.”
Chanyeol smiled and gave Sehun a peck on the lips. “I can be rougher if you want me to.”
“Well…” Sehun blushed. “I...I also didn’t know that you could be so gentle afterwards.”
“Of course, baby. Aftercare is so important,” Chanyeol explained softly. “There’s a lot for you to learn, but you’ll learn fast.”
“At least you can’t make fun of me for being a virginal little boy anymore,” Sehun added smugly. “That’s a win for me and me only.”
“Really? Getting dicked down is an achievement?” Chanyeol teased, lightly nudging the younger boy.
“Yeah,” Sehun answered with certainty. “I never even thought I would get this far, so yeah, I’d say it’s an achievement. Besides, I’ve earned it.”
“Oh, well. You sure have, baby. Can't argue with that.”
“By the way, I heard what your father said to you the other day,” Sehun revealed. “About modelling and all that.”
Cutely, Chanyeol burst into a guffaw and held Sehun even closer. “Am I supposed to be surprised? Eavesdropping is practically your biggest kink, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, yeah, that’s not the point though,” Sehun whined. “What your father talked to you about, it got me worried. A little bit worried at least.”
“Hmm? How come?” Chanyeol asked.
“Well, it’s not just that, but also the fact that you’ve graduated and I haven’t. I still have a year to go, so I’ll be pretty much stuck in Seoul as long as I have school. You, on the other hand...you’ll be staying in Milan, I guess? You’re not happy at home in Seoul; I know if it weren’t for your sister and Toben you would’ve walked out a long time ago. Plus now that your father can help you pursue a career in modelling that just might become a future path that’s right for you...it got me thinking about our future too,” Sehun explained. “I don’t want to sound like I’m getting way ahead of myself again, because you’ve already told me not to. But this is a valid concern, right? What will happen to us? I don't want us to have to separate for the same reason my mother and your father did. Or for any reason at all.”
“Honestly, I’ve been asking myself the same question too,” Chanyeol admitted. “But I will say this: it’s been less than a day since my father made that suggestion to me. I don’t know what modelling is like, and I’m not even sure if I’m going to end up liking it. Even if I do, it doesn’t mean I’m necessarily going to pursue a career in that field. Perhaps I’ll also like other stuff, and I might opt for other professions. Who knows? It’s not set in stone. When I hopped on the plane and flew here to Milan to be on this trip with you, I had planned to fly back to Seoul with you. Together. So I’m not going to ‘leave you behind’ in Seoul, so to speak. Even if I do decide to train and work as a model, in Italy instead of in South Korea, I’ll still have to make some plans first, so we can set our expectations and lay out some ground rules in advance. Something like that. So we can adjust to it. I’m not going to just up and leave. I couldn’t possibly do that to you...”
At that, a look of relief was back on Sehun’s face. Chanyeol’s words had warmed his heart, and it was clear that Chanyeol was committed to this relationship with him. In the beginning, Chanyeol was so dismissive of Sehun’s feelings, but now he had become so considerate of Sehun’s feelings. Just thinking about that development was making Sehun’s heart flutter.
“Alright,” Sehun cooed, appeased now. “You’ve managed to ease my worries and reassure me.”
“Now that’s an accomplishment,” Chanyeol commented breezily.
“I know you’ve been making lots and lots of accomplishments lately,” said Sehun, evidently proud of his boyfriend.
“Yeah, haven’t you been learning Italian?”
Chanyeol chortled. “Baby, I only know a few words. The basics.”
“And that’s still a feat. Learning a new language is a feat nevertheless,” replied Sehun. “Besides, it looks very difficult to me.”
“It is kind of difficult. But I think I’d like to keep learning,” Chanyeol remarked. “I’ll get there someday. Right now, it’s alright even if there’s only one phrase that I can say fluently.”
“What is it?” Sehun asked.
“Ti amo,” said Chanyeol, softly because he was not confident in speaking the language, especially since his accent got in the way. But not at all did he lack confidence in the love they shared. “It means I love you.”
Sehun smiled, a look of contentment on his face. “I love you too.”