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[“Not real or genuine.”]

I can't even think what it was like before, tell me, I want to know how you've been.

Sunday

Wakefulness came too soon, it always did. He sat bolt upright, eyes widening in fear as he saw sunlight streaming in through the window. Careful not to wake the sleeping body beside him, he scrambled for his phone.

5:45am.

Fuck.” He hissed, burying his face in his hands. Here he was, thinking he was going to be late, and he had woken up a good half hour before his alarm. He turned to the sleeping body next to him, getting ready to curl up next to the warmth, when the conversation from the previous night suddenly flooded his mind.

‘How was your week? I feel like I haven’t seen you at all.’ He smiled sleepily at his lover, trying to sound sweet, peaceful. He tried to ignore the dagger that pierced his heart as he thought of how he had felt so lonely, day after day and night after night.

‘Mm. Was fine.’ Fuck, was he even listening? Did he even care?

‘Yeah, but what did you get up to?’ The urge to bite back left an acrid taste in his mouth, words clawing at his throat, desperate to be released.

‘Just assignments, and work. The usual.’ Still so nonchalant. Silence resumed.

‘Next week we have a week off, remember? What are your plans?’

‘I’m busy on the weekend. Assignments, meeting up with a friend. I’m busy on Monday.’ That was fine. They had the rest of the week to work with, to try and save this failing relationship.

‘And then? We could do something later in the week.’ There was a pause.

 ‘I’m going on holiday with my family.’ The dagger cleaved his heart in two. 

‘O-oh. You hadn’t told me.’ His voice was as sweet as honey, his brown eyes warm, his dimples showing despite his eyes burning with tears.

‘I forgot.’ There was irritation in his lover’s tone now, the unspoken ‘stop asking questions’ ringing in his ears. He was so glad it was dark, as his tears began to spill over. He hadn’t seen his boyfriend for more than an hour at a time in weeks. He had been so excited for the break from uni, to see his boyfriend, for them to go on a date, to hang out, something…he wanted to scream. It was so frustrating! He just wanted to feel like they were actually dating, like he mattered. He wanted to start a fight, be petty like he had in the past. But he swallowed his pride, forcing a smile into his voice.

‘That works well, actually. I had plans myself.’ What a lie. They both knew that Chan kept his schedule open in case there was a chance they could hang out. ‘Maybe we should plan something for Christmas.’

‘Just go to sleep.’ Chan nodded, fighting down the acrimonious burn in his chest. He fought back a sob as his boyfriend turned away from him instead of reaching out his arms. Chan wanted to run, just get up and leave. But his fear of the unknown held him back.

‘Goodnight.’ He was met with silence, cold and poignant.

Chan bit down on his tongue until it hurt. His boyfriend had just been tired, probably too tired to continue a conversation, that was all. Their relationship had started heading south about six months back. Chan had since realised that he wasn’t the only at fault for the decline in their romance – he had become petty and bitter, instead of looking for answers he would turn his back and sulk. After finally admitting to himself that he needed to step the fuck up – one of them had to, if the relationship was to last – he had started trying to practice a new mantra. Just let it go. Instead of sulking, he would smile sweetly and murmur ‘okay, honey’. Instead of lashing out when he was upset, he would meditate, exercise, or play guitar, so he would stop taking out his own problems on his partner.

In all honesty, he was quite proud of himself. He was far more productive. Instead of refusing to fall asleep until his lover came home after work – often in the early hours of the morning – he would curl up with a book and fall asleep early. He kept their once messy room neat and started eating better. Chan hoped that if his boyfriend could see what a strong, positive, and loving person he was becoming, their relationship would exponentially improve.

So far he was wrong. Wrong, and in denial. Chan checked his phone again. ‘Hey, Hamlet. Chill.’ He told himself, rolling his eyes. Any hopes of going back to sleep for a measly fifteen minutes were crushed after his internal monologue. Chan was a swimming instructor. He used to coach high school students but had found a new job teaching younger children to swim. Sometimes he missed coaching – Chan had a loud personality in public, preferring to keep his more genuine, introverted self to a reserved few. Chan ran a hand through his light brown curls, wrinkling his nose in disgust. He needed to grace his poor head with a proper wash at some point.

Chan was just about to roll out of bed when he glanced at his boyfriend. Usually, he would lean over and press a soft kiss to his cheek, but Chan held back, the sting from last night still too fresh. His partner didn’t stir when Chan slipped out of the room, and Chan felt a fresh wave of loneliness wash over him.

If his own boyfriend didn’t care about him, who would?


 

Chan cracked his neck as he stepped out of his car, admiring the soft wisps of clouds spread about the horizon. It was a surprisingly pleasant morning after the awful humidity of the day before.

“Morning.” A familiar voice, still raspy with sleep, greeted him. Chan turned his head in surprise to find his co-worker, Jisung, blinking at him owlishly. Chan liked Jisung, they usually talked before or after their shift and if there was a slight break in-between classes. However, Chan was usually the one to initiate most of their interactions if they weren’t in the pool.

“Morning!” Chan replied, flashing Jisung a genuinely bright smile. Jisung blinked again, seeming to shake himself out the final remnants of his sleepy daze.

“You sound cheery.” Jisung sounded quietly amused. He was clearly not a morning person.

“It’s a nice morning.”

“Yet we’re headed indoors.” Jisung raised an eyebrow at him, starting his slow journey towards the pool. Chan shrugged and matched pace with him. The two made it inside, Jisung admittedly dragging his feet, quickly greeting their supervisors and manager and trudging into the staff room. Chan cracked a smile at the sight of his younger co-worker, Seungmin, face down on the table seemingly half-asleep.

“Save me.” He whined as Chan and Jisung entered the staff room.

“After yesterday, I think I’ll already be too busy saving Jisung.” Chan laughed, watching as Jisung smirked knowingly. One of the kids in Jisung’s class had decided it would be the perfect afternoon to cry for twenty-odd minutes, leaving Jisung floundering between the half-hysterical child and the rest of his class.

“Yeah, Chan, fancy taking all my classes for me so I can go home?” Chan rolled his eyes.

“You wish.” There was an easy flow to the conversation that Chan appreciated after feeling so forced and awkward around his partner. Jisung leaned back in his chair, running a hand through his bedraggled bed hair. Chan bit back a comment about how it was probably time for Jisung to get a hair cut before he turned into Anakin Skywalker for real, but figured he’d save it for another time. He didn’t want to overstep whatever bounds their acquaintanceship had.

Please, guys, I’ll die. I’m so tired.” Chan chuckled and patted his shoulder sympathetically.

“Yeah, yeah, give it a year and you’ll be just as used to it as us.” Seungmin had only recently started swimming teaching, while Chan and Jisung both had several years experience.

“Just die quietly, aye?” Jisung tapped his nose and laughed.

Chan was sometimes blown away by how much he loved teaching. He loved seeing the pride on a kids face when they got something right or did a good job. He loved seeing how proud the parents were and their grateful smile as their little ray of sunshine clambered out of the pool. Sometimes he wondered if it was worth getting back into coaching, but sometimes this felt more rewarding to him.

Chan made his way to his next class, poking his tongue out at a toddler who was splashing around on the side. Without really registering why he scanned the room for Jisung. Their eyes met. It felt like their gazes clicked, like a key slotting perfectly into a lock. Jisung’s eyes widened fleetingly before he resumed a neutral expression. Then, Chan stuck out his tongue at him. Jisung grinned, and Chan’s heart suddenly decided to thump.

Chan’s throat went dry. His cheeks burned. Chan shoved it down immediately, thinking guiltily of the man probably still lying peacefully in his bed. His boyfriend. Chan turned to face his excited students, trying desperately to ignore the lingering warmth that remained long after Jisung’s smile had faded from his thoughts.

He caught Jisung looking at him throughout the shift. Granted, that meant he had to have been looking at Jisung, but Chan thoroughly chalked up to his habit of scanning the pool. For Jisung. He shook his head, getting flustered at the trail his thoughts were leading him down. The shift could barely end fast enough. He received his last high five for the day from a beaming four-year-old with the roundest, cutest cheeks he had ever seen, and swam to the other side of the pool.

“How’d your shift go?” Jisung’s voice caused him to stop in his tracks. Chan turned to look at him with a shrug. Then he got a good look at Jisung. The instructor’s uniform was clinging to his body, revealing some definition that Chan had never really taken notice of him before. His shaggy hair was still just as messy as it had been earlier that morning. The sunlight behind him was what really made Chan’s jaw want to drop. It turned Jisung’s unruly hair into a golden halo and outlined his slim frame, illuminating him almost like he was straight out of heaven.

Chan’s heart ached.

He realised he’d been spacing out and inhaled quickly, hoping he hadn’t gone into the depths of his brain and left Jisung standing there awkwardly.

“Good, good, it was good.” He wanted to slap himself. Fuck, he would be too obvious, and then Jisung would either be creeped out or get the wrong idea, and Chan…Chan had a boyfriend. “How about you?” Jisung smiled easily, lazily, not even realising the insane effect he was having on Chan’s blood flow.

“Yeah, pretty chill. Weekends are like that, though.” Jisung hauled himself out of the pool, shaking his hair to rid it of any stray water droplets. Chan glanced around. By some cruel twist of fate, the kids in Seungmin’s last class had all canceled, leaving him free to go home early, leaving Chan and Jisung to pack up and haul the pool covers on.

“Typical Seungmin, running off early.” Chan pouted, and Jisung laughed.

“You’re lucky I didn’t haul ass too, I’m starving. There’s this café down the road and I’ve heard their burgers are really good.” Chan smiled, albeit a little tight-lipped. He’d lost track of the number of times he’d tried and failed in the last few months to get his boyfriend to go out somewhere with him. Eventually, Chan had just given up. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d gone on a date with his boyfriend. Maybe a month ago…no…he racked his brains. Maybe three months ago? “Earth to Chan. You alright?” Jisung’s voice was uncharacteristically soft. Chan glanced over at him and laughed awkwardly.

“Yeah, just thinking about food.” It wasn’t a total lie. “Maybe I’ll race you there, hey?”

“I’d like to see you try.” Jisung then proceeded to give the pool cover a sharp tug, landed Chan flat on his back. Chan shot up, spluttering and blinking rapidly.

“Oi!” But Chan was already laughing.

“Oops, didn’t see you there old man. My bad.” Jisung was practically cackling, a mischievous glint in his eyes.

“Leave me alone.” Chan pouted, dragging a hand through his now-sopping mop of hair. “You’re lucky I need to wash my hair.”

“Now, now, no need to thank me.” And with that, he hauled himself out of the pool. He seemed to ponder for a moment before turning and poking his tongue out at Chan before heading to the showers.

Chan felt just a little bit dizzy. Maybe he just needed to drink some water.


 

On the drive home, Chan smiled fondly as he thought of Jisung. Today he felt like they’d really connected. He’d already made a few close friends, Mina and Momo, and he remembered how thrilled he’d been to hang out with them outside of work. He felt like he was succeeding at adulting, finally. But today, with Jisung, it felt…different. Probably also didn’t help that Chan was gay, and Jisung was an objectively speaking only attractive man.

Then Chan felt sick to his stomach. What the fuck was he doing?! He was taken, and there was no way another person would ever encroach on their relationship. Chan felt incredibly guilty, his throat closing up as he thought of his boyfriend’s smile. Chan bit down on his tongue and angrily dragged his hand through his hair. He was furious at himself. The second his relationship went bad, he went weak-kneed around the first pretty boy that smiled at him? How pathetic.

He pulled up into the driveway, anxious to be home. As soon as he parked, he threw himself out his car and hurried up to the small apartment he shared with his partner. Chan flung the door open, looking around anxiously for his boyfriend. He pulled out his phone, gnawing on his lip as he closed the door.

Chan, 12:34pm
Where are you?

Babe
Be out in a sec.

Chan breathed a sigh of relief. He was itching to kiss his boyfriend, to reassure himself of his own feelings. He was desperate to cling onto this love. They’d lasted this long, there seemed no point throwing it away now. Chan threw himself onto the couch, his leg tapping anxiously as he waited. He scrolled through memes on his phone, sent a few messages to the various group chats he was part of, and then went back to oscillating between guilty and anxiety. Finally, he grew desperate.

Chan, 12:46pm
How soon?

Babe
Sorry, forgot.

Chan clicked his tongue. How typical. He heard the door to their study open, and his partner’s head poked out. Chan padded over to him.

“I’m doing an assignment. Can you give me some space?” Chan swallowed the lump in his throat. There was that undercurrent of irritation again, the unspoken you’re so annoying lying dangerously close to the surface, a string of spines underlaying a thin layer of ice. Chan still advanced towards him anyway, remembering to take a big breath. As much as the lack of interest stung, Chan smoothed his expression out and smiled brightly.

“I missed you.” He whispered. He gently leaned up to peck his boyfriend on the lips. Chan loved long, gentle kisses, and soft touches, but his boyfriend had long since established that he wasn’t a fan. Chan leaned back on the balls of his feet, eyes brimming with hope that his kiss would be reciprocated.

“I really need to get this done.”

“Let me know if you need anything, lunch, or a drink, or moral support, or I can –” Chan’s hopes crumbled as his partner turned and shut the door behind him.

That was when he realised it was over.


 

Tag Team Extreme

Daddy, 1:01pm
I don’t know what to do.

Dancing MOchine
You all good, bud?

Penguimina
Is this about your boyfriend?

Chan couldn’t help but give a smile. Mina, ever observant and empathetic, seemed to pick up on his problems straight away. He wriggled deeper underneath the covers, curling up like a cat around his favourite stuffed animal, a plush dragon named Peaches.

Daddy
I feel like he doesn’t care about me anymore. I came home after work and he pretty much just ignored me straight up for an assignment, fuck me.

I get he’s busy! I get it, I don’t want to hold him back.

Is it unreasonable that he takes 5 minutes to say hi when I get home though?

Dancing MOChine
Sorry Mina please don’t kill me but can we change Chan’s nickname I can’t take it seriously rn

Momo set your nickname to Daddy ):.

Mina set your nickname to Channie.

Momo set your nickname to DADDY CHAN IS SAD.

Mina set your nickname to Chan. And Chan Only.

Momo set your nickname to d a d d y.

Mina removed Momo from the chat.

Mina set your nickname to Channie.

Chan couldn’t help but laugh. He really should have anticipated antics like these when he wanted to whine about his boyfriend. He wondered if he should tell them about last night, but then brushed it off. This was enough for now, he didn’t want to flood them with his problems.

Penguimina
Sometimes I wonder how she even functions.

I’m so sorry Chan. And no, before you go unrealistically justifying it, it is not normal to ignore your significant other that you live with.

Momo has entered the chat.

Momo has set her nickname to Momo Defence Squad

Momo Defence Squad
I made her add me back she’s so MEAN

Also I genuinely am sorry Chan.

Also I want to add that like…this isn’t the first time either.

Maybe a couple times during assignment/exam season, sure, like have you seen Mina lately?

But it’s all the time. You say this all the time.

When was the last time you had something positive to say?

Penguimina
When was the last time you two went on a date?

Channie
Will you kill me if I say I genuinely don’t remember?

Momo Defence Squad
I’m so mad right now

I swear JISUNG would make a better boyfriend

Chan nearly choked on his own spit. He almost hoped they could leave it there. They would joke about Jisung, Momo and Mina would be angry on his behalf, and he could go and sulk until he was ready to get over himself and get back into being productive.

Penguimina
Oh god Momo, don’t say that

Chan, I know you live with your boyfriend and it’s been two years, but you should probably try and talk to him.

Momo Defence Squad
Talk to him about breaking up. You can’t keep doing this, Channie.

Penguimina
She’s right, Chan. I don’t know if you can be happy like this.

But I know the way you think, and I know we don’t know the whole story – what if he’s caught in a rut and he doesn’t know it? He might not understand what he’s doing wrong.

Momo Defence Squad, 1:25pm
Channie?

Penguimina
Just think about it, Chan. Please.

Chan felt his heart beating loud in his ears. He felt sick. He hadn’t even registered that he was crying until he tasted salt in his mouth. He fought to sift through the storm raging inside him. The first emotion that registered was pure guilt. He’d only been thinking of himself. This whole time. He should’ve tried harder to get through to his boyfriend – Chan’s head wasn’t exactly easy to crack open either. He sighed and ran his hands through his hair.

Channie, 1:40pm
I’ll talk to him.

He uncurled himself from his little cocoon and padded out of the room, his heart pounding. He dashed the remainders of the tears from his eyes and tried to slow his breathing. He was still prone to panic in these situations. He hated any possible confrontation in relationships. He could deal with it in his friendships, and at work, because he knew it was all just part of the job. But he was so scared of being alone, of the last few fragile threads he had been clinging onto to finally snap. He softly knocked on the door to the study, trying to steel himself. He could do this. He had to. Even if just to make sure his boyfriend was alright. He let himself in softly, trailing over to his boyfriend and placing a hand on his shoulder. The other man didn’t spare him a glance.

“Chan, I told you, I’m busy.” This time there was a real bite to the words, the man’s irritation flashing across his face.

“I know, I’m sorry.” His voice sounded so meek. He hoped it would be enough of a peace offering. “Can we talk? Then I promise I’ll leave you be?”

“Fine.” Chan had his partner’s full attention, but it made him falter.

“I was just – just wondering…” He bit down on his lip. ‘Come on, Chan. You were so resolved to talk shit earlier, you owe it to him to find out what’s really going.’ “I was wondering if you were okay.” His partner blinked, then raised an eyebrow.

“Yeah, I’m fine. Look, if this is about me being busy the last few weeks, I really can’t help it.” Chan nodded wordlessly.

“Yeah, I just…I figured I’d check because I haven’t really seen you and you’re getting distant again.”

“Fuck’s sake, Chan! You bring this up every. Single. Time.” Venom punctuated each word, and Chan’s eyes stung with tears that he refused to shed. His boyfriend was right. He was like a broken record. “I’ll do something when I can.” Chan kept his mouth shut, not wanting to retaliate by bringing up that every time they went out was because Chan planned it and did his boyfriend even want to hang out with him at all because it seemed so one-sided and he hated being alone all the time and if they could just please watch a movie together or cuddle sometime and –

And finally, the dam broke.

“Do you even know what this does to me?” Chan’s voice was low, quiet. “Waking up every day, waiting for you to get up, then seeing you for ten minutes before you disappear? Then I leave for work, and you get home at midnight if I’m lucky? I see you maybe twenty minutes in total. I’m not upset when we both have long shifts or we’re at uni, I’m talking about you avoiding me.” Chan’s voice remained steady. He was so angry he was numb.

“I’m not avoiding you.” The response was too fast. “I’m just busy.” Chan felt cold. His fingertips felt like ice.

“Sure.” Chan could have scoffed. “That sounds like bullshit. How come you have enough time to see all of your friends and play games and then somehow only manage to see me ten minutes in a day, if that?” It was a low blow. Chan hated bringing up his partner’s friends and hobbies. “I’ve never stopped you from seeing your friends, I always tell you to go see them, but when I ask you to spend time with me you always have an excuse. Why can’t you make time for your partner?” Chan spat.

“You’re so petty. Why don’t you just leave me alone? Don’t you have anything better to do with your life?” Chan’s boyfriend rose to his feet, leering down at Chan with a snarl. “I’m just not good enough for you, is that it? You always just want more, Chan, you’re way too fucking much.” He shoved Chan back, hard, Chan stumbling back into the wall. “You’re really just pathetic.”

“I think we should take a break.” Chan’s voice was barely more than a whisper.

“Chan, you say that every time you feel like pointing out something you don’t like.  How about I point out something about you? You don’t have anything to offer, conversation with you is like watching paint dry. You’re too clingy. You’re indecisive. You’re always whining. Why don’t you just shut up, sit the fuck down, and leave me alone?” Chan gripped the door frame so hard that his knuckles went white. His heart was broken and bleeding on the floor. “Isn’t it enough that I’m still here for you, after all this time?”

“I was doing better.” He choked out. “I haven’t said anything in a while.”

“Yet here you are again. You’ll never change, Chan.”

“Then just break up with me.” Chan whispered. “Just leave.”

“Is that what you really want?” Chan’s eyes were on fire. ‘No, no, no, don’t leave me. Please don’t leave.’ He wanted to scream. “Answer me, Chan. I have no reason to stay unless you want me to stay.”

“Please.” Chan sank to his knees, head in his hands.

“What do you want, Chan?”

“I’ll be better.” He hated the words falling from his mouth. He hated them. He felt so weak, reaching out for a man that already thought he was pathetic.

“Last chance, Chan, or I’m gone.”

“Please don’t go.”

“Get up.” Chan scrambled to his feet, his head swimming, and violent headache thudding behind his eyes. He stumbled forward and grabbed onto his lover’s shirt, sobs finally breaking out of his throat.

And the irony of it all?

“We’ll talk later, Channie.” Was whispered into his ear.

Fuck, why was he so stupid?

Momo Defence Squad, 3:30pm
Channie?

Penguimina
Chan?

He would never be able to leave, would he?

Chapter Text

[“Self-pityingly or tearfully sentimental.”]

I'm not happy with the déjà vu, it's painful, between two roads of crisis and opportunity

Is the road I'm on of crisis? I don't know and I keep asking.

Monday

“You alright, Channie?” A warm hand patted his shoulder. Chan still felt numb. He had fled to uni as early as possible, wanting to escape the heavy atmosphere at home. His boyfriend had barely looked at him after the fight, but had still slept beside him that night, punishing Chan whilst reminding him who he belonged to. His boyfriend kept murmuring ‘I’m glad you made the right choice. I’ll never leave you, Chan.’ The words were anything but comforting. He knew he’d made the worst decision possible. He knew he became a mess whenever faced with an argument, and he hated how submissive he’d become. Looking back on it now, he wondered if he even really loved his boyfriend anymore, or if he was just scared to lose him. Lose someone. “Channie, I know something’s up.” He turned to see the concerned eyes of Lee Minho boring into him. Minho, like Mina, saw through him so easily. Chan shrugged.

“I’m okay.” Minho raised an eyebrow at him, seeing right through him.

“Yeah right.”

He’d met Minho in second year, two years ago now. Trust Chan to change majors and then not even able to end up at right orientation. He’d thought he would stick with Sana, his best friend from high school. Even though she was in the year above him, she’d offered to come and make sure he wasn’t alone. Well, scratch that plan. He’d looked around at the impossible crowd when a girl around his own age had caught his eye. Her name was Dahyun. She’d instantly gathered a small group around her, simply from striking up a conversation with someone. She made everyone introduce themselves, and they ended up all sitting together, Chan trying to keep quiet that he wasn’t even studying the same course as them.

He’d felt so awkward and out of place that he’d stuck to Dahyun like glue. One boy, though, had caught his attention. He seemed quieter, too, but friendly, and would occasionally crack a joke that had Chan howling on the inside. Finally, he plucked up the courage to introduce himself.

“I’m Chris – Chan. Chris. Chan? Bang. Uh…” Maybe it was best if he left now.

“That’s a lot of names. I’m Minho.” The boy then proceeded to laugh, and Chan felt his heart throb in his chest. He couldn’t deny they had chemistry. He could almost see the electricity spitting between them.

“Most people just call me Chan.” Chan had finally made up his mind. “It’s my Korean name, and I guess Bang Chan has always sounded cooler than Chris Bang.”

“Depends on what you’re interested in, I suppose,” Minho smirked, his eyes half-lidded. Chan coughed, knowing by now that his ears would be bright red. Minho then smiled, looking like the cat that had gotten the cream. Chan knew he’d given Minho the exact reaction he’d been fishing for. “Do you have your timetable yet, by the way?” Chan’s gay panic then morphed into real panic as he realised he’d have to confess.

“I – uh – I do have something to admit.” He murmured, rubbing the back of his neck sheepishly.

“Fire away.” The smirk was back. Chan leaned in close to his ear. Minho tensed up.

“I’m – uh – I’m not – actually – studying veterinary science.” Chan rushed the last part, almost blending the words together. Minho gave him a pointed look.

“What are you doing here, then?”

“I may have – well, hypothetically, say you get lost. And then you just…don’t want to draw attention to yourself.” Then Minho started laughing again, and Chan realised he understood his predicament. Chan felt disappointed when Minho’s laughter stopped. He would do anything to hear that laugh again.

“Oh, I see. So what are you studying, then?”

“I was just doing a general business degree, didn’t really know what I was doing. But then I switched to education, and I’m meant to be at the orientation, and then I got the rooms mixed up.” Chan ran his hand through his hair, pushing it to the left.

“Well, why don’t I help you find it? Maybe some people will still be there.” Chan’s eyes widened in surprise. Minho lowered his voice and leaned in close to Chan’s ear. Minho seemed to pause, for far longer than necessary, and Chan could feel the electricity sparking up again. “Besides, I believe you’re far more fun than just sitting around here, Chan.” He squeezed Chan’s shoulder, and Chan flushed scarlet.

“I mean, I’m not a crazy cat lady.”

“You take that back right now.” Minho was pouting. “I have two cats, I’ll let you know! I plan on adopting another hundred.” Minho smirked at him. “Do you think I’m crazy, Chan?”

“W-well –” Chan felt like a mess and a half when Minho lowered his eyelashes like that. “Not yet.”

“Come on, let’s go and make sure you don’t give into my influence and change courses again.” Minho stood and smiled. Chan was smitten.

Nothing had ever happened between them after that, but the chemistry never went away. Chan ignored it for a while, as he started dating his current boyfriend quite soon after meeting Minho. Chan and Minho had always danced around the sparks, though. Both of them were prone to sending each other unsavoury memes, and their jokes often turned dirty. Chan knew they were just bros, and dick jokes were nothing new, but sometimes he’d stop a conversation or change subject quickly. It was far easy for them to toe the line between joking and flirting. Chan felt like he didn’t try to make it happen with Minho, one moment they would be talking, and the next Chan would put his phone away and try to desperately ignore the little blip in his heartbeat.

But right now, Chan just wanted to disappear. He couldn’t go home and he didn’t want to face Mina or Momo after their pep talk and his brazen confidence. Minho was the only one he’d wanted to seek refuge with, but he really should’ve anticipated this. Minho would never let him off the hook that easily.

“What’s up?” Minho was probing again.

“I think I’m okay. I’ll get back to you in three to five business days though.” Minho laughed softly, his hand ghosting across Chan’s shoulder blades to gently rub the back of his neck. Chan practically melted into the touch, watching Minho’s mouth draw into a stiff, straight line from his half-lidded eyes.

“Are things alright at home, Channie?” Minho was so protective of his friends. Chan wanted to tell Minho everything that had been happening. Usually, he would, when Minho’s eyes turned cold at the thought of someone upsetting him. But he couldn’t bring himself to tell Minho. Not this time.

“You’re too clingy. You’re always whining. Why don’t you just shut up, sit the fuck down, and leave me alone?”

Chan tried not to flinch at the memory. The wounds still stung. Chan didn’t think they’d be closing anytime soon.

“Chan.” Minho’s voice had developed a sharp edge. “You know you can tell me anything.”

“I was doing better. I haven’t said anything in a while.”

“Yet here you are again. You’ll never change, Chan.”

“Don’t worry about it, Minho. I’m just tired.” He hated getting snappy with Minho, but it was the only way to get his friend off his back. “Seriously, we’re doing great. He’s been doing a lot better lately. We even went out the other night.” Chan’s heart hurt. He wanted it to be true. Maybe if he said it with enough conviction, he could make himself believe it. Minho’s expression softened, but his hand dropped to his side.

“I’m glad to hear that, Chan.” Minho seemed to deflate, pulling back from him. “If you’re sure.” Chan smiled wearily, and rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly.

“I just need sleep, Minho. Now, wasn’t I helping you with your studying?”


 

Minhoe, 9:50pm
Hey Channie

Channie ;~)
What

Minhoe
Instead of saying yes daddy

Channie ;~)
I already hate where this is going, Min

Minhoe
Why not switch to the alternative yes chef

Channie ;~)

Fine, I’ll indulge you. I’m intrigued.

Minhoe
It’s cool, inventive, and most importantly, gender neutral

Channie ;~)
Still trying to guess my sexuality, hm?

I’m guessing yes daddy is overused, then?

Minhoe
I would never!

And of course, when I’m around, that is.

Channie ;~)
Maybe this is why I introduced you to Ramsay in the first place

Just for this conversation to take place

Minhoe
dick your daddy raw, after all

Channie ;~)
How dare you besmirch his name with your treachery

Gordon would not stand for this lack of contraception

Minhoe
I’m kinkshaming you, Chan

Channie ;~)
Too bad

That

Kinkshaming

Minhoe
Don’t you dare

Channie ;~)
Is

My

Minhoe
That quote is overused and you know it

I’m about to be disappointed

You don’t want to disappoint me, Chan

Channie ;~)

Kink

Minhoe
sorry we can’t be friends anymore

Channie ;~)
Don’t shame me too hard Min

Chan didn’t want to finish the rest of the sentence. He stuffed his phone under his pillow. He would’ve liked where this was going. If he was single, of course. He sobered instantly at the sight of the empty bed next to him. His partner wasn’t even at work. He was home. Chan knew he was suffering the consequences from the fight. He hadn’t seen his partner at all today, except for when he woke up to his lover’s back turned away from him.

Boyfriend.

Lover.

Partner.

The words stung.

Friend.

That didn’t seem right, either. Minho was his friend. Momo and Mina were his friends. He felt far more comfortable with them.

Stranger.

Chan hated how much that fit the man he shared a bed with.

Friend.

He instantly thought of Minho, Mina, and Momo. A pang of guilt stabbed at him as he remembered he had not yet answered them.

Tag Team Extreme

Channie, 10:10pm
I’m really sorry for not replying, I know you guys are worried.

Momo Defence Squad
Yeah next time maybe don’t, I’ve been stressing about you all day

But honestly, Chan, please don’t say you’re okay unless you really are

Remember Mina is a psychic

Penguimina
Between the two of you, I think I’ve gotten especially gifted with predicting the future

How are you, Channie?

Channie
Tired. Confused. Sad.

I couldn’t do it.

I don’t think I even love him but I can’t fucking leave him

I’m so scared of what I’ll do without him

It’s like everything’s been the same in my life with him

What do I do? Will I have to move out??

Will I have to get a roommate?

What will my family say? They were against us from the start

I can’t hear “I told you so” on top of everything

Penguimina
I’m proud of you Chan

Channie
Don’t be. I know I need to stand up for myself

Momo Defence Squad
 No I’m with Mina

This is the most honest you’ve been with us in a while

I know you want answers but I don’t know what to tell you Channie

I think you’d have to get a roommate, but you don’t have to tell your family straight away

But if you don’t get away from this dickhead soon I might have to rescue you to be honest

Channie

I’m actually terrified of you kidnapping me, thanks Momo

I have someone close to me I lied to today

I want to tell him what’s going on but I don’t want to overshare

Penguimina
Honestly, Chan, I think it’s a good idea to tell people

Then you find it easier to hold yourself accountable for saying something

Momo Defence Squad
Minari you sound like a mother

Penguimina
Then watch out or I’ll ground you for a billion years

Channie ;~), 10:20pm
Minho I need your help

Minhoe
No dick pics required, right?

Channie ;~)
No this time I really mean it

Minhoe
What’s up?

I can come over

Channie ;~)
No, please don’t

Minhoe
Chan seriously are you alright?

Channie ;~)
How do you break up with someone you don’t really love but can’t be without

Minhoe
I knew you were hiding something

Which I get, because it’s hard to get you to talk about this shit without me digging at you

What do you mean you can’t be without?

Channie ;~)
I’m scared of how life will change

Minhoe
Silly

Life changes all the time

You sure I can’t come over? Or will he take offence?

Channie ;~)
Most likely

Can I come over to yours though

Minhoe
Always

It’s my turn to help you study, anyway

Chan and Minho had first started hanging out at the library, Minho with a coffee at his elbow and Chan sipping on a tea. Then, offhandedly, after they’d known each other for about six months, Minho invited Chan over. It was far more comfortable than the library, and Minho had his cats, which were very cuddly. Chan had made his mind up in a heartbeat, as soon as Minho had asked. Seeing Minho, who was usually cool and confident, become flustered, had been cute. Chan tended to go to Minho’s. The last few months Chan had tried to keep Minho from coming over, wanting to avoid Minho getting swept up into the drama. Chan knocked on the door to the study.

“I’m heading out.” He murmured.

“Bye.” Chan knew it was expected that he went in, but then he thought about his friends. They had endlessly supported him through this, guiding him, picking him back up, and coaxing him to be more independent. He couldn’t throw that away. He could imagine Momo shaking her head at him as he placed his hand on the doorknob.

‘Is your pain worth it, Channie?’ Mina’s gentle voice echoed through his head and he let his hand slip off the doorknob.

‘Just go.’ That was Minho’s voice in his head. Chan took a deep breath and turned around. For the first time, he was…turning away. He was truly letting go. He felt guilt drag his feet down, but shook his head and bit his lip.

“Why don’t you just leave me alone?”

‘Fine, then.’ Chan thought bitterly. ‘I will.’ He couldn’t get out of the apartment fast enough. Minho lived about twenty minutes away, and the usually easy drive began to drag on. Chan just wanted to see Minho. Wanted to get everything off his chest. He wanted to be the good person he’d been forcing himself to be. He didn’t want to burden his friends, he didn’t want to find it a chore to be kind and productive. He wanted to really live it.

Minho had to be the first step in the right direction.

As Chan pulled up outside the apartment complex, Minho was already waiting for him, stoic and unreadable. But as soon as Chan stepped out of the car, he was waiting with his arms open. Chan fell into the embrace effortlessly, clinging onto Minho like he was an anchor in the middle of a raging storm.

“Tell me everything.” Minho whispered in his ear, pulling Chan with him towards the lift. They were silent on the way to Minho’s apartment. Minho had gone from wrapping an arm around Chan’s back, to holding his arm. Then, as they stepped out of the lift, his hand had drifted lower, wrapping around Chan’s wrist. Chan glanced at him.

Chan smiled, giddy as his fingers slipped into his boyfriend’s. Such a lovely feeling, to hold hands. Then, their hands were wrenched apart. Chan’s face fell, and he looked up to see that one of his partner’s friends had rounded the corner towards them. Chan was confused. Didn’t partners hold each other’s hands in public? It was too PDA-y, was it? They never kissed in front of anyone. Chan reached for the warm hand again. This time, he received a small glare.

“Don’t, my friend is coming over here.”

“But –”

“Quiet, Chan.”

Chan brushed the memory away, biting down on his tongue. To hell with his boyfriend. He took the final step and gently pulled his wrist from Minho’s grasp. Minho turned to look at him, guilt flashing across his face.

“Sorry, I just –” Chan just smiled at him and held his hand out for Minho to take instead. Instantly, Minho relaxed, and cautiously intertwined his hands with Chan. “Come on.” Minho gently pushed open the door and pulled Chan with him. “My roommate is out at the moment, so we should have a little privacy.” Then two very distinct voices made themselves known. Minho laughed, and Chan instantly felt a smile spread across his face. He let go of Minho’s hand only to kneel down to give Minho’s two cats the attention they deserved.

“Soon-ie,” He crooned. “How are you today? Is Minho feeding you well?” Doong-ie nosed against his hand, impatient to be petted. “Of course I didn’t forget about you, Doong-ie.” Chan chuckled, scratching softly behind the feline’s soft ears. Chan looked up to see Minho watching him with a strange expression. It was one Chan hadn’t seen before. He looked a little starstruck. As quickly as Chan had noticed, Minho wiped his face clean.

“Leave our Channie alone, we’ll be back soon.” Minho gave the two a goofy grin. Chan tried to ignore that his face was on fire.

‘Our Channie.’ Yeah, thinking about it more wasn’t going to help much. Chan practically threw himself onto Minho’s bed. He would be content to just lie there, not saying a thing, just basking in Minho’s presence, but he knew Minho wouldn’t let him get away without saying anything.

“I guess I should just get it over with.”

“We don’t need to rush into it straight away, Channie.”

“Yes, chef.” Chan laughed as Minho choked on his spit. The two of them then locked eyes and laughed harder.

“See?” Minho had a tear rolling down his face. “It’s cool and inventive! I told you so!” Minho flopped down next to Chan, his hand slowly inching towards Chan’s. Once the two had regained their breath, Minho sighed. “Alright, Chan, time to tell me what’s up. I’m judging by what you said earlier, things are not in fact great, you probably didn’t go out recently, and you’re looking for a way out.” Chan sighed.

“Why do you always have to be right?” Chan stopped Minho’s wandering fingers by capturing them with his own.

“Maybe just because I’m perfect.” Minho’s voice was very soft, but then Chan shoved him and he laughed. “Hey! You can’t ignore facts.”

“You are shameless, Minho.”

“That’s chef to you, mister Bang Chan.”

“Wouldn’t you like to know.” Chan scoffed, and then it was Minho’s turn to shove his shoulder. They lapsed into silence, broken only my Minho cracking the fingers of his free hand. Chan found he didn’t mind, as he so often did the same thing when stressed. “We fought last night. A bad fight.” Chan’s voice was so quiet, he wondered if Minho could hear him. “Then the night before, I could tell we’d reached the end. I didn’t want to admit it. I’ve been saying things have been really bad for six months, but when I look back – I think…I think it’s been for a lot longer.” Chan laughed bitterly. “And to think…I was so desperate to make it on my own, in the big city, that I jumped at the opportunity to move in with him.”

“You know you’re not obligated to stay with him, right?” Minho murmured, rubbing soothing circles onto the back of Chan’s hand.

“I guess I’m just prideful. Too much for my own good. I don’t want to admit to people that I was wrong about him, wrong to move in with him so soon, wrong to base my life around him. It seems so stupid, in hindsight, when all of this could have been avoided.”

“Blind, maybe.” Minho rolled onto his side, and Chan turned his head to look at him. Minho’s eyes were dark and wide, fixed on him. Chan could fall into the depths of those eyes and never resurface. “Naïve, yeah. But stupid? Never, Channie.” Chan shrugged and looked away, but Minho gently grabbed his chin and turned Chan’s gaze back to his. “Do you want to be with him or not, Chan? If you could stay in the same apartment, at the same university, with the same job, and the same friends, and he wasn’t in your life, would you feel sad?” Chan thought about it. Really thought about it.

He’d forgotten what they had in common. Maybe they’d just developed their own separate interests. Lines that overlapped at the start, and the got further and further apart, never to meet again. He thought of the love he had felt at the start of the relationship, their first kiss. When they had moved in together. Chan frowned. He missed that feeling. He knew sparks didn’t have to last forever, but he hadn’t imagined them to be snuffed out, only to be replaced by shards of ice.

“I wanted to see if we were going to spend time together during the break.” Chan murmured, closing his eyes. “He forgot about me completely. He didn’t even tell me he was going on holiday. I probably would have woken up that morning and he’d be gone.” Chan bit down on his lip. “The next day, I got home from work. I went and said hi. He barely acknowledged me. I felt so…angry. Disrespected. How dare he not care about me? After I always make time for him, and take care of him, and clean for him…he couldn’t spare me five minutes.” Chan felt Minho tense next to him. “And I…confronted him. It hurt, when he could make time for his friends many times a week, and then not have an hour to spare for me. I thought I was important to him too, but…I suppose not.”

“Quiet, Chan.” He should have heard the alarm bells ringing. But he didn’t. He was naïve, and blind. He wanted to see what he wanted to, blocking out the rest through his rose-tinted glasses.

“He said I could never change. Every single time we had an issue or a fight, it was because I brought it up. I tried so hard not to. I tried to let the small things go, and just focus on the big things. Then I didn’t want to bother him. I tried to change. I tried, Min. I promise I tried.” Chan felt tired. So tired.

“I know you did.” Minho murmured. His hand had lingered on Chan’s chin. Chan opened his eyes to watch as Minho, frowning, gently ran his hand over Chan’s cheek. “I have no doubt, Channie.” The nickname felt so much more intimate on Minho’s lips, with Minho holding his hand and softly stroking his cheek. The sparks between them had settled to embers, steadily smouldering. “And think about it. How much have you changed in just a few years? Since I’ve known you, you’ve already become far more confident. From what you’ve told me, you’re great at your job, which involves a lot of confidence and knowledge. That’s all come from you working hard. That’s not luck.” Chan knew he was right. He took a deep, shuddering breath. He felt ashamed to look Minho in the eye.

“He called me pathetic, Min.” Chan whispered. He’d ripped the barely-healed scabs open. “And I…I think he’s right.” Minho sat bolt upright so fast that it startled Chan. Minho’s face was suddenly alight with anger, the embers sudden flaring. Chan had never seen Minho look so furious.

“He did what?” Minho was seething. Chan sat upright himself, and scrambled back until his back hit the wall. “Was that the first time?” Chan bit down on his lip and looked away. Minho kneeled over him, soft fingers framing Chan’s soft chin. Chan gulped, suddenly all too aware of Minho’s proximity, Minho’s soft breath on his face, Minho’s hands on his chin, the intensity of his gaze searing. Chan couldn’t pick out the different emotions in Minho’s eyes. “You are not pathetic, Chan. You could never be pathetic. Not to me.” Chan’s throat felt dry, and he swallowed hard. Minho was mere centimetres away from him. If they both just leaned forwards….perhaps…Chan let his eyes flutter shut. The electricity between them sparked higher and higher, close to becoming an electrical storm. Chan didn’t know how much longer he could contain himself. Chan swallowed thickly.

“Minho.” He whispered, voice hoarse. He hated how desperate he sounded. He needed Minho to just lean forwards. Just a little closer. “Min.” His voice cracked. He froze as Minho’s nose brushed over his. The electrical storm between them vanished as Minho suddenly jerked back from him as if burned. Minho stood a few feet away from him now, his eyes wide and his breathing harsh.

“I’m sorry, Chan.” Chan had never heard Minho sound so impossibly sad. He hated that tone in Minho’s voice. He never wanted to hear Minho sound that way again. “I just – I don’t know what came over me.” Chan’s eyes widened. Fuck. He’d probably misread the situation. He had just been so needy, and had craved attention, and Minho, his poor, caring, loving friend, had been sucked into the cavern of his emotions and had felt obligated to comfort him.

“Minho, I  –” Chan clambered off the bed towards him, and Minho shook his head vehemently.

“I’m sorry, Chan.” He repeated, his voice cracking. “You should go.” Chan blinked at him, stunned.

“G-go?” Minho, of all people in his life, seemed the one who was the least likely to push him away. Minho was usually so honest, so upfront, even when it was awkward. They started at each other for what felt like an eternity, before Chan finally laughed. It was cold.

“Figure out what’s going on inside your head. I can’t lose you too.” Chan turned and rushed out of the room, out of the apartment, fleeing back to the safety of his car. He didn’t register if Minho had called out to him. His only instinct was to go.

Chan stumbled into his apartment, his head roaring. He felt like he could barely breathe. Every inch of his body was on fire. His lungs were trapped in an iron vice, his tongue was dry, his eyes and nose were running, and his face was as pale as a ghost. He threw open the door to the study.

“Get out.” He choked out. His partner turned around. Seeing Chan’s state, his eyes widened, and a hint of concern ghosted across his face.

“Chan? Are you alright?” That familiar lilt he had grown to know like the back of his hand had turned cold and unforgiving.

“I said get out.” Chan couldn’t take it anymore. He couldn’t do this. It hurt too much. “I don’t want you in my life anymore, I can’t deal with it. You’re not the man I love – loved.” Chan’s knees felt like they would give out again, but he locked them tight and tried to pull himself up straighter. Minho’s tortured face flashed through his mind and he grit his teeth.

“Are you sure this is what you want?” The concern was gone, replaced by boredom. This had happened so often. Too often.

“Yes.” And Chan smiled. Fuck, did it feel good to smile as confusion twisted the other man’s features. “Pack a bag. Come back for the rest later. But I want you to go.”

“Chan, are you sure?” Suddenly there was an undercurrent of fear to that familiar gaze. This time Chan chose to keep his mouth shut. “Chan…Channie?” Chan’s breath hitched. He thought about Minho’s fingers on his jaw, Minho’s fingers intertwined with his, and he steeled himself once more. He thought about Momo’s fierce expression when she was working on a choreography that she found difficult. He thought about shy, quiet Mina, who hated confrontation more than him, constantly offering to mediate for him. He couldn’t let them down. They had given him so much strength, he couldn’t throw it all away and go back to square one.

“You don’t get to call me that. Leave.” Just like that, it was over. The other man looked conflicted – fear, anger, regret, confusion warred for dominance in his expression, before finally being replaced by a blank slate. The door to the study closed, and only then did Chan allow himself to sink to the floor and sob.

Chapter Text

[“To lessen.”]

Now my questions and your answers fit together like a puzzle.

Friday

He hadn’t heard from Minho in days. It was uncharacteristic of his friend. Even after their worst fights or disagreements (“You thought I had only one cat!” Minho shrieked. “That is unforgiveable!”), they hadn’t gone more than three days without reconciling. This had set a new record. He hadn’t been able to find Minho at any of their usual hangouts around town. He couldn’t try uni, because the break had started on Monday. Chan’s head was filled with the sight of Minho a hairsbreadth from his face and then, mere moments later, Minho’s face twisted in horror. At first Chan had thought that Minho was avoiding him because Minho didn’t want to be friends with him anymore, or that he thought Chan was too damaged.

But then Chan had actually sat down and thought about it. Minho wouldn’t leave his side during such an important time unless Minho himself genuinely believed he would be detrimental to Chan’s progress. In the two years that Chan had known him, he had never hesitated to put Chan first. In a way, Chan was grateful. Thanks to Minho, he’d been given the final surge he had needed to finally hurdle himself to freedom. While both Minho and Chan knew that Chan was planning on breaking up with his partner, Chan was glad they hadn’t kissed while Chan was still officially with someone else. No matter how shit, it had still been a relationship of almost two years. Chan was glad he hadn’t kissed anyone during that time, as small as it sounded. As his now ex (Momo wouldn’t stop spamming it in the group chat) still had a spare pair of keys, he had organised to collect all of his stuff while Chan was away. Chan knew he still wasn’t strong enough to withstand another confrontation. Not yet.

Sleeping by himself was hard. Not having anyone to come home to was weird. But Chan realised, albeit bitterly, that his routine hadn’t changed that much at all. By the end, he had pretty much been living life as a single man, pining after someone who just couldn’t extend their orbit to him, or make room for him to join their gravitational field. But he couldn’t believe he felt so light. It was nice to not feel sad, or worthless, or…pathetic, even. But it was bittersweet. It wasn’t as satisfying as he’d imagined, especially with Minho still not contacting him.

A tap on his car window broke him rudely from his thoughts, and he looked up to see Jisung. Chan shot him a smile and hopped out of his car.

“I thought you were about to drive off and I’d be stuck telling Seungmin he’d have to clone himself to take your classes.” Jisung had one eyebrow raised, and Chan laughed.

“I was getting close, to be honest.”

“You and me both, man, I’m shattered.” Jisung pouted. This time, Chan allowed himself to fully appreciate how cute Jisung was.

“You look like a squirrel.” Chan blurted suddenly, immediately regretting his big mouth. Jisung just looked at him and giggled.

“Finally, genius, I think this is the longest it’s ever taken for someone to point that out to me.” Jisung rolled his eyes, but the smile on his face grew. Chan couldn’t help but spot the dark bags under Jisung’s eyes, and he frowned.

“Didn’t you sleep well?”

“Nah. My roommate’s been keeping me up with his music.” Jisung yawned into his elbow. “He’s having a bit of an emo episode.” Chan hummed sympathetically, his mind beginning to wander.

“Is it worth getting a roommate?” He asked, and Jisung shrugged.

“Depends. You have to really click or it sucks ass. Saving money on rent is nice, but if you don’t get a neat freak you get a slob and honestly, if you thought my bed hair was bad, imagine my room.” Chan laughed at this.

“I shudder to think what the world would be like if you had a clone.”

“Oh believe me, my mother reminds of that every time I go back home for the holidays.”

“I swear they only remember that you’re an adult for about an hour before they go back to treating you like you’re ten for the rest of the trip.”

“Right?” Jisung laughed, launching into a story about how a young Jisung had gotten into the presents under the Christmas tree early. By the time the two were in the staffroom, they were in tears, Chan holding his sides.

“What’s up with you two?” Seungmin inquired, trying to sound unimpressed, unable to hide his curiosity. Chan took a breath and then collapsed straight back into giggling.

“My ribs, they burn.” Jisung cried, falling into a chair and shaking his head. Chan plopped down beside Seungmin.

“So is anyone gonna tell me what this is about?” Seungmin was pouting now, desperate to be let in on the joke. Jisung and Chan looked at each other and began laughing again at how funny Seungmin looked, trying to copy Jisung’s signature pout.

Chan threw himself into his work that afternoon. He often just stood back and observed, cupping his jaw and tapping his nose or cheek in thought. One time he glanced over at Jisung, who teasingly copied his signature Chan is thinking pose, making Chan laugh. Sometimes Chan could swear he felt eyes on him, even when he wasn’t looking, and he couldn’t help but bite his lip, hoping it was Jisung.

Surprisingly, one of Chan’s last classes was empty. Usually his classes were quite full.

“School holidays.” Jisung remarked as Chan slipped into his lane. There were plenty of other classes he could also go and hang out in, but Chan had to be honest. He was curious to see how Jisung was a teacher. He only really saw him as his usual funny self. He settled to the side, watching as Jisung began to explain a freestyle drill. Chan’s favourite stroke was butterfly. It was difficult, sure, but felt exhilarating when he’d finally mastered it. Chan was surprised, if he was being honest. Jisung was calm and to the point, and more surprisingly, firm. He couldn’t imagine Jisung, who he’d been in tears with before, was actually the same person as the one he was watching now. All of Jisung’s students watched him intently. And when Jisung smiled, they all flashed him toothy smiles back. It was quite cute, if Chan was being honest. As Jisung sent the first kid on their swim, he turned to Chan and raised an eyebrow. “Careful, or I’ll send you off on a lap as well.”

“I’m terrified.” Chan widened his eyes comically and stuck his tongue out at the other instructor, who merely rolled his eyes. Chan honestly felt a bit put out when he had to go to his next class. He had taken a few mental notes, drills to try for later, and bits of dialogue. He kind of wished he could just keep hanging out with Jisung. Suddenly an idea struck him. He glanced at the clock and grinned. He only had a half hour to go.

At the end of the shift, he made his way over to Jisung.

“I’m hungry.” He complained, and Jisung frowned.

“Me too, aye. I’m starving.

“I’ll race you to the burger place.” Jisung cocked an eyebrow at him, testing him, trying to see how far they would go this time.

“Might be too late for that, I think it closes at five.” Chan frowned, but Jisung’s eyes lit up. “There’s actually a really nice restaurant close by. How far away do you live from work?”

“About fifteen minutes away.” Chan felt his heart flutter as Jisung smiled at him in response.

“Well, how about we both go home and get changed, and I’ll meet you there?” The light in Jisung’s eyes dimmed and he became considerably less bouncy. “That’s assuming you want to go. To dinner, I mean.” Chan laughed, and shot Jisung his own blinding smile.

“I’d really like that.” Chan felt free. He felt…light.


 

Chan jiggled his knee anxiously, eyes fixed on the door. Jisung lived about twenty minutes away, so they should have arrived at similar times. Chan was worrying his lip when his phone suddenly buzzed.

Minhoe, 7:45pm
Channie how are you

Fuck I’m so sorry for not taking care of you this week

Are you alright?

I promise I can explain I just need to make sure you’re okay

Chan wouldn’t be surprised if the other diners could hear his heart thud. Minho was okay. More importantly, Minho was talking to him, and Chan hoped this meant that they would reconcile. He couldn’t help but smile fondly as he stared down at his phone, another wave of relief washing over him. Typical Minho, always worrying about others first.

Channie ;~)
I’m good, actually

I did it. He moved the last of his stuff out today

I’m not mad at you by the way, which I know is going to be your next question

I just missed you

His phone was suspiciously silent for a few minutes, and Chan frowned before slipping it back into his pocket. Maybe that was too far?

“Sorry, Chan, sorry.” Chan’s head snapped up as Jisung slid into the chair opposite him. “I – uh – traffic.” He offered lamely. Chan narrowed his eyes as he scanned Jisung’s figure, eyes finally settling on his hair. It was styled nicely, looking like it had been freshly washed and brushed. Jisung looked…objectively attractive with his hair styled, Chan decided, gritting his teeth to avoid thinking that Jisung wasn’t just attractive, but hot. Really hot. ‘Objectively attractive.’ He reminded himself.

“Your hair looks nice.” Chan offered a bright smile, one he knew showed his dimples. Jisung’s cheeks went pink.

“Thanks, Chan.” Chan’s phone buzzed. He hoped it was from Minho, but didn’t want to take out his phone in case it looked bad to Jisung. Chan began to jiggle his leg nervously. What if Jisung got the wrong idea about his intentions? Most concerning – what if he wanted Jisung to get the wrong idea? He inhaled deeply and gave Jisung another smile. He didn’t want to rush into anything. Hell, he didn’t really even know Jisung that well. Not to mention that Minho…well, Minho would always make his heart flutter. His smile faded slightly. That was, if Minho even wanted to see him in person so soon after the incident.

“Did you have a good shift?” Either Jisung had picked up on Chan’s anxious internal ramblings or had noticed that Chan was fading out into his own thoughts again.

“Yeah, it was alright actually. I actually picked up a few good pointers from you, I reckon.” Jisung smiled brightly at that, giving Chan the courage to continue. “I think you’re a really good teacher. The kids listen to you and have so much respect for you, but you also know how to teach swimming.” Chan scratched the back of neck nervously as he realised he was beginning to ramble. But there was a glint in Jisung’s eye, a keen interest that was showing Chan that Jisung was quite a multifaceted person.

“I used to be a swimmer myself, see. I think it helps when you’ve been taught yourself, so you have an idea of what kids will listen to.” Jisung began, and Chan’s eyes lit up.

“Stroke?” Chan asked, leaning forwards a bit. He missed swimming competitively, if he was being honest.

“Breaststroke. I was never great at freestyle, I kept trying to breaststroke kick.” Chan laughed at that. “Yours?” Jisung asked, leaning back into his chair, regarding Chan with renewed interest.

“Fly.” Jisung whistled softly, impressed. “I used to coach, as well.” Jisung raised his eyebrows.

“Interesting. Why switch to the younger kids?”

“Honestly, I kind of wanted a change. And I wanted to get back into the water. Eventually I just got sick of standing on the side shouting.” Jisung mused over this.

“Yeah, I could see that. I was actually thinking of doing a course in coaching.”

“I think you’d be amazing at coaching, to be honest.” Jisung grinned at him. “Are you studying at the moment?” Chan asked, curious.

“I did last year, but now I’ve deferred this year. I wanna find out if I actually should do uni, y’know?”

“Yeah, I get you. I changed my course after one year. I’m studying education now.” Jisung’s eyebrows raised again. Chan wondered if one day they’d either transcend off his forehead altogether, or just migrate upwards a couple of centimetres.

“You’d make a good teacher. Teacher Bang. Has a good ring to it.” Jisung smiled toothily at him. “Do you still swim, by the way?”

“No, not really.” Chan smiled wistfully. “I want to though.” Jisung hummed for a moment, thinking.

“I usually try and swim or work out a couple afternoons a week. I would say mornings, but I really don’t get up until ten if I can help it.” Chan chuckled at that, remembering all the times Jisung has shown up on the weekend looking like he was going to pass out at any given time. A waitress cleared her throat rather loudly, looking apologetic to interrupt the conversation.

“What can I get for you this evening, gentlemen?” Jisung and Chan locked eyes and flushed, both realising they hadn’t even looked at the menu. Chan bit his lip and looked down at the menu, then back at Jisung, who looked like a deer caught in the headlights. Chan opened the menu to Mains and looked up at the waitress, pointing down at a random item without seeing what it was. “Very good, sir.” Chan winked at Jisung as she wrote. Jisung’s eyes widened slightly, and then he winked back. Jisung then also selected a meal at complete random. After the waitress left, Jisung started to laugh.

“Oh man, I can’t tell whether you’re brave or just stupid.”

“Probably both.” Chan admitted. He couldn’t believe how purely happy he felt with Jisung. He didn’t feel particularly self-conscious, or stuck for what to say. They discovered they had a shared love of music, and discovered that they’d both previously dabbled with music in their teens, Jisung practically begging Chan to let him listen to some samples. The more Chan got to know Jisung, the more he wanted to know. Chan could see them being great friends. He couldn’t yet entertain the thought of them being anything but, however tempting it was.

Chan escaped to his car a few hours later, feeling absolutely giddy. He had given Jisung his number, the food had been great, and Jisung…was an angel. He checked his phone to find a message from Jisung, who had texted him so Chan would also have his number. There were also a few messages below. Fuck, Minho. Chan felt awful at not having remembered.

Minhoe, 7:50pm
I want to see you, I need to say all of this in person

Are you home?

Chan?

Minhoe, 9:00pm
Are you dead or something?

I have nothing better to do, so I’ll head over soon

Minhoe, 10:05pm
Where’d you go????????????

Hurry home, Chan

Channie ;~), 10:10pm
Fuck I’m so sorry Min

I’m just on my way home

Minhoe
All good, I’m just chilling in my car

Don’t speed on my account ;~)

The smiley face was a good sign. Chan breathed a sigh of relief. As he drove home, he found he couldn’t wait to tell Minho all about Jisung. They would get along well. They seemed to have a similar sense of humour. Maybe they’d annoy each other a little at first, but Chan wondered if in a few months maybe he’d introduce them and they could all hang out. Chan hummed happily to himself.

He pulled up and parked, already looking for Minho’s car. His eyes lit up and his heart began to speed up a little with anticipation. He crept over, trying to stay hidden. When he got close enough, he could see Minho’s nose scrunched a little in concentration. Minho really was a sight to behold. Chan would never get tired of looking at his best friend. He tapped lightly on the window and grinned down at Minho, who jumped in his seat. As soon as he saw Chan, instead of smiling back at Chan, as expected, his expression became muddy and hard to read. Finally, it seemed that Minho decided on a neutral expression. It dampened Chan’s hopes for a normal reunion, but as he opened the door for Minho, he couldn’t hide his excitement.

“I missed you so much, Min.” Minho’s eyes widened in surprise. Indeed, Chan was surprised to hear how much pure joy and affection he had in his tone. Minho climbed out and their eyes met. As always, Chan pointedly ignored how his heart skipped a beat when Minho began to smile.

“Hey, Chan. Can we get inside?” Chan’s face fell. No Channie, no I missed you too you dork. He brushed it off. Maybe Minho just wanted to get inside before he let his emotions out. Chan practically ran up the two flights of stairs to his apartment – the lifts were as unreliable as hell – and bounded into his apartment. He turned to see Minho leaning on the doorframe, a small smile gracing his lips. “You’re like a kangaroo, Chan.” Minho slipped inside, letting the door swing shut behind him. Chan snickered and held his arms out, ready to engulf his best friend in a bear hug. Minho hung back, and finally Chan had to admit something was wrong.

“Min, what’s wrong?”

“I want to apologise.” Minho avoided his gaze. “You were so vulnerable. I got so angry and then I – I –” Minho cleared his throat and began to crack his knuckles. “I didn’t trust myself to not force you to stay in my room while I went and dealt with him myself.” Chan’s eyes widened. “I knew you had to do it by yourself though, but it was so hard to think of you going up against him by yourself.” Minho inhaled shakily, and his eyes glazed with tears that he swallowed back by sheer force. Chan was stunned, watching his pillar, his anchor, of so many years, break down piece by piece. All because Minho thought he’d failed to protect him.

“Minnie…” Chan whispered, reaching out to him. Minho stepped back and shook his head.

“Let me finish, Chan. I’m so, so fucking sorry for being M.I.A. this week, but I just knew if I got involved it would end badly. So I removed myself completely. I’ve been so worried about you.” This time Chan strode across the room towards him and before Minho could protest, wrapped him in his arms. Minho froze for a few moments before completely melting in his arms. Chan’s arm tightened around Minho and he buried his face into Minho’s neck.

“I don’t blame you, Min. Honestly, I might have done the same. And I think…I think you really gave me the push to see that I needed to get out. I couldn’t have done it without you.”

“Yes, you could have.” Minho murmured into his neck. “You’re strong, Chan, really strong.”

“I’m glad someone thinks so.” Chan couldn’t keep the bitterness from his voice.

“I wanted to kill him.” Minho’s voice had become icy. “Every time I saw that you were sad, I knew it was probably because of him. And all I could do was sit and watch, because I knew you would never believe me.”

Minho rubbed circles onto Chan’s back, holding him close while he cried. Chan racked out messy, heaving sobs. He felt like a small boat lost at sea, caught in a storm. Then Minho squeezed him tight and pressed their foreheads together, and Chan clung onto him for dear life.

“I’ve got you, Channie.” Minho’s voice was soft. “I’ll always be by your side.” Chan cried even harder, thinking of how his boyfriend had come home pissed, the stench of liquor surrounding him.

“He said I wasn’t good enough, Min.” Chan could feel Minho tense beneath him. “But I don’t know how to be better. Everything I do seems to set him off.”

“Chan, look at me.” Chan lifted himself up onto his elbows, looking down at his best friend. Minho gently carded a hand through his hair. “He’s not good enough for you.” Chan shook his head, and Minho’s lips settled into a stiff, straight line. “You deserve better.” Minho was pleading with him now. “You don’t need him. You’ve got me.” Minho coughed, quickly breaking eye contact with him. “You’ve got me and your friends. Everyone will support you.”

“I can’t give up on him.” Chan hated the words coming from his mouth.

“Channie.” Minho was desperate. “Channie, please let me help you. Let me talk to him.”

“I can’t.” His voice cracked, and Minho suddenly looked furious. Chan flinched back.

“I’m not angry at you, dear – Chan. I’m not mad at you, I’m just…fucking furious with him. I wish you were with someone who cared about you as much as you deserve.” Minho pulled him close again, and Chan grabbed onto his shirt. “I care about you, Channie, I lo – I’ll always be here if you need me.”

“Don’t feel guilty, because I know that’s the first place your brain is going.” Minho smile wryly at him. “He had you wrapped around his little finger.” Minho stepped back from him, observing him with a small smile. “I’m hungry.” He suddenly announced. Minho was so cat-like sometimes. Chan knew that if Minho was hungry, they’d be eating. It was a fact of life.

“I’ve eaten.” Minho nodded, smirking at him.

“You were on a date, right?” Chan’s face went red.

“No! It wasn’t like that. I was just hanging out with someone.”

“You’re dressed nice.” Minho raised an eyebrow. “You’re not wearing all black. I think this is the first time I’ve seen you not wearing that colour.”

First of all, black isn’t a colour, it’s a shade.”

“Alright, professor, thank you for enlightening me.”

“Second, black is cool!”

“Yeah, but all black?”

“It’s gives me an aura of mystery.”

“No, it gives you an aura of being stuck in the early two thousands.”

“No, black is slick, and sexy.”

“You, sexy?” Minho smirked even more. “I’d like to see you try.”

“Oh would you now? Don’t try me, Minho. Don’t make me dance.”

“You’ve given me the challenge now, I’m not going to back off after you said that.”

“So it’s going to be like that, then?” Minho advanced slowly towards him. At first Chan was confident, but then Minho got right up in his space, leaning against him with his eyes half-lidded. Chan felt like he could have melted into a puddle seeing Minho like that.

“M-M-Minho, too close.” Chan had a suspicion that Minho knew exactly what he was doing.

“What’s wrong, Channie?” Minho pouted, his breath fanning over Chan’s face. Chan felt like he was on fire. In a good way, though. He wouldn’t say no to this happening all the time. “Cat got your tongue?” Chan tried to stop his brain from running in the direction it was heading in, but it was no use. If that made Minho the cat, he wouldn’t be complaining. Then Minho reached around, slipped a hand into Chan’s back pocket and ‘oh my god, oh my god, did Minho touch my ass? He definitely touched my ass. Oh my god.’ Then Minho trotted towards the living room, triumphant, Chan’s phone in his hand. Chan really hoped he still only had his music open, and not his messages. Minho chose to play a GOT7 song. Chan appreciated that he had taste. Never Ever began filling the living room, and Chan’s eyes widened. His throat was suddenly dry.

Minho and Chan had dumb competitions all the time. Who can hold their breath the longest? Who can make the best cake? Who can do the sexiest dance? But to this song? Chan already knew all the lyrics, and as he looked at Minho, who was already beginning to sway to the music, Chan knew he was done for. Chan’s heart stopped as Minho began his usual choreo – the infamous body rolls.

“I’m going to win my default at this rate.” Minho laughed as he got a glimpse of Chan’s starstruck face.

“Never Ever, ever gonna let you go. I won't leave you again, don't worry. Baby you're mine, mine, mine.” Minho’s voice was smooth and sweet as honey, and Chan moved towards him like he was in a trance.

Never Ever, ever gonna make you cry, I won't make you cry again, don't worry. Baby you're mine, baby you're mine.” Chan sang softly, his eyes never leaving Minho. Minho slowly dropped to the floor, rolling onto his back and slowly grinding upwards. Chan squeaked, and his first reaction was to grab a pillow and throw it at Minho. “That’s not PG-rated, Minho!” Chan felt like he needed a drink. He really didn’t know how much more he could take. Chan turned and began moving his body from side to side, hiding his face in his elbow as he moved in time to the music. He heard Minho laughing from the floor.

“Group dance!” Minho suddenly exclaimed, and Chan dropped his elbow to find Minho slowly making his way towards him.

“Minho that wasn’t the idea of this competition!” Chan shrieked, indignant, and also, extremely panicked. At this point, he didn’t trust himself to not kiss Minho. His best friend then twirled around him, holding out his hand. Chan looked at the proffered hand like it was a venomous snake.

“Come on, Channie. The song’s almost over, anyway.” Chan felt dazed as he took Minho’s hand, letting the other man spin him around. As the last few notes of the song played, Chan felt the tension between them grow. The familiar sparks were back. Chan felt his body crackling with electricity, the parts of his body in contact with Minho burning up. Minho was regarding him with an unreadable expression. Chan opened his mouth, knowing there were words still left unsaid between them.

“Chan –”

“Minho –”

“There’s something I have to tell you.” Minho was worrying at his bottom lip. Chan’s throat went dry. Was Minho going to bring up their almost-kiss? He felt his breath stutter in his throat. Minho was so close. If Chan moved his head forwards, he would bump their noses together. Chan bit down on his lip. ‘Kiss me.’ He wanted to say. He could cut the tension with a knife at this point. “I want you to meet my boyfriend.” Chan looked at him blankly, blinking dumbly.

“What?”

The bubble around them popped.

“My boyfriend.” Minho’s expression was unreadable. Chan just kept blinking.

“Your…” Chan’s brain was probably about to make the Windows shut down noise.

Minho…had a boyfriend?


 

Saturday

“Now I get why he was so distraught when we almost kissed!” Chan pulled at his hair, pacing around his apartment. “He already liked someone else! And all I could think of was how I almost asked him to kiss me.” Chan was mortified as he recounted his ordeal to Momo and Mina in his living room. At work that morning, the pair had instantly noticed that Chan was dazed, and had confronted him after their shift. He knew there was no point trying to hide his predicament, as they could just follow him home after work. Mina was biting her lip while Momo was laughing on the couch. “And he’s dating his roommate!

“’And they were roommates.’” Momo piped up, yelping indignantly as Mina gave her a gentle shove.

“All the times I’ve been over there, and I haven’t seen his roommate.” Chan lamented. “So I don’t know what to expect about the guy.”

“As much as it seems funny that Channie had his heart broken again,” Mina gave Momo a pointed stare. “I find this bizarre. You always talk about how open Minho is with you, but it seems lately he’s been secretive.” Chan frowned at this. “Are you sure he’s usually always open with you?” Chan bit down on his lip in thought.

“Yeah. He’s always told me about his hook-ups and relationships before. I thought we told each other everything.” It was Mina’s turn to frown.

“Maybe it’s because he likes you but doesn’t want to tell you because you’re best friends and he doesn’t want to ruin that so he’s gotten with someone else to distract him and you from the very obvious chemistry between you.” Momo then heaved in a deep breath. There was a pause. Mina and Chan looked at each other, then back at Momo. Then they burst out laughing.

“Yeah right, Momo. Why not just tell me he’s hooking up with someone? Why introduce me to his boyfriend if it wasn’t serious?” Chan shook his head and sighed. “Fuck, I don’t want to be a third wheel. It’s going to be so awkward meeting Minho’s boyfriend when we almost kissed, and then I got stupid and in over my head and thought about kissing him.”

“Okay, I’m rethinking my conspiracy theory.” Momo puffed up her cheeks and frowned in concentration. “Okay…it’s coming to me…alright…maybe he’s not distracting himself, maybe he’s trying to hook you up with someone.” Mina and Chan exchanged glances.

“Momo…” Mina began. “That would mean...”

“A threesome?” Chan suggested. “Oh man, could you imagine? ‘Hi Chan, this is my boyfriend, and we’d like to fuck you. How does right now sound?’” Chan looked at Momo. Momo looked at Mina. Mina then looked back at Chan. Then they all burst out laughing again. As much as Chan felt down about Minho, he couldn’t help but feel better when he realised how ridiculous it would be to even consider dating his best friend. Right? That never worked out. Then Chan thought about Jisung. Would he consider dating Jisung? Something must have showed on his face, because Mina had an eyebrow raised, and Momo had hopped off the couch.

“Spill.” Momo put her hands on her hips. “There’s someone else, isn’t there?” Chan spluttered and coughed. “I swear you must attract boys like flies.” Mina wrinkled her nose at the analogy. Chan wisely chose to keep his mouth shut.

Then, his phone buzzed.

Chan’s eyes widened in horror as he realised that his phone was on the coffee table, next to the couch, next to Momo. Momo gave a triumphant cheer and dove for his phone. As she saw who the text was from, she gave him a look of confusion.

“It’s from…Jisung?” Chan’s heartrate, which had already skyrocketed at Momo grabbing his phone, had now gone off the charts. He imagined his ECG would look insane right now. Mina, now curious, had gone over to Momo to look at the message.

“‘We should go out again sometime, maybe tomorrow after work?’ Chan!” Mina turned to face him, eyes wide.

“Oh my god, you didn’t.” Momo whispered, an evil grin spreading across her face. “Why are you so worried about Minho if you’re making moves on Jisung, though?” Chan’s face went red.

“I’m not interested in either of them!” He shot back, indignant. He wasn’t! He pointedly ignored Jisung’s smile flashing through his mind, and how warm and happy he had felt when Minho held his hand. “Jisung and me just didn’t feel like cooking, and we didn’t know each other that well and wanted to get to know each other better, so – so we –”

“Went out to dinner together?” Mina gave him a knowing look.

“Just as friends.” Chan stammered, his voice cracking. Mina massaged her temple at this, and Momo began laughing again. Why did he have these two as friends? Chan watched in despair as Momo collapsed on the couch, still laughing at his predicament.

“Two bros –” Momo began, before Mina slapped her hand across the other girl’s mouth.

“I hate to ruin the mood,” Mina began, a crease appearing between her brows as she frowned. “But are you ready for this, Chan? Even if you don’t want to date either of them just yet, are you okay with getting feelings for someone again?” By someone, Chan knew she was just talking about Minho and Jisung.

“He’s allowed to date new people, Mina.” Now it was Momo’s turn to frown. “Plus, it was already like he was single anyway.” Chan’s heart sank and he swallowed hard. It hadn’t even been a week and he had already started moving on – was it right? Did that make him a bad person? He bit down hard on his tongue. He was also beginning to see Mina’s real point. Would getting close to them romantically, letting them infiltrate his heart and give him butterflies, so close to such a bad relationship, end in just a fling? He didn’t want to use either of them as rebounds. If he was going to date one of them, he wanted to do it properly.

“No, I can see what Mina’s getting at.” Chan admitted with a heavy sigh, throwing himself onto the couch beside Momo. “Plus, it wouldn’t be fair of me to bring my leftover baggage with me into a new relationship.” He leaned back and closed his eyes. “I guess I’ll just…deal.” Momo hummed sympathetically and rubbed his shoulder.

“Just remember, Chan, we’re here for you. Always.” Momo looked up at Mina, who smiled softly.

“I just don’t want you getting hurt again, Chan.” Mina’s voice was quieter than usual. Chan’s heart ached as he realised how much it would have cost his friends to see him go through so much pain. Mina, always so quiet and empathetic, would have carried his burdens along with hers, without telling him. He patted the couch and Mina sat down beside him, and he didn’t hesitate to wrap his arms around her.

“I’m sorry you had to see me go through all that.” He murmured. “Thank you for being there for me.” He looked over at Momo and smiled at her. “Thank you for always giving me so much strength.” Momo’s smile was small, but genuine and warm.

“You deserve it.” She ruffled his hair. “Now, before we all get really sappy, can we watch a movie? I want to watch La La Land again.”

“I want to watch La Boum.” Mina murmured.

“We’ve seen that like a million times, Mina.” Momo pouted.

“Why did I decide to share an apartment with you, again?”

“Because you love me.” Momo stuck her tongue out at her.

“Let’s watch Pulp Fiction.” Chan suggested, watching as the two girls groaned and rolled their eyes.

Again?” Momo huffed. “We’ve seen that lots of times too and –” Mina reached over and covered Momo’s mouth with her hand again.

“That sounds great, Chan.” Mina smiled sweetly at him, and Chan grinned, triumphant.


 

Sunday

Two weeks had passed since his movie night with Momo and Mina, and Chan had been doing his best to distance himself from Minho and Jisung. It was easy with Minho, Chan could just make excuses that he was sick, or didn’t feel like going into uni that day, or he’d picked up an extra shift. Jisung, on the other hand, was harder to avoid, and he was persistent.

Chan had tried avoiding conversation with Jisung, and had tried to talk more to Seungmin. If Mina or Momo were there, he would stick close to them. Chan had never ended up going out with Jisung on Sunday after their shift, feigning a bad night’s sleep. Chan tried to ignore the way his heart twisted when he saw how disappointed Jisung was. Chan knew that Jisung was getting suspicious. Chan found himself making eye contact with Jisung at work more often, or that Jisung would hang back after their shift to try and make their normal conversations more drawn out. Chan felt awful avoiding Jisung, he wanted to talk to the other man so badly, but he held himself back. He didn’t want his feelings to deepen to a point where there was no surfacing.

Finally, after two weeks of Chan being distant, Jisung confronted him after work.

“Hey, Chan.” They were making their way out to there cars. “Did I do something wrong?” Chan’s heart sank as he saw the confusion and hurt in Jisung’s eyes. “I thought when we had dinner, it went really well. And then all of a sudden, radio silence. Kind of weird, man.” Jisung had stopped, and folded his arms over his chest. “To be honest, I kinda thought you liked me.” Chan knew his face was on fire as Jisung scowled at him.

“W-well.” Jisung raised an eyebrow, and Chan dropped his gaze. “I did – I do.” He threw all of his cards down on the table, hard and fast. Jisung’s eyes widened. “I just…” He sighed deeply, and rubbed the back of his neck. “I just got out of a relationship, and I was scared of just using you as a rebound.” Jisung inhaled sharply. “I didn’t want you to get hurt, and I didn’t want to do anything I would regret. I told myself that if I wanted to get close to you, I’d have to sort all my shit out first.” Jisung’s expression softened.

“I’m sorry.” Jisung offered quietly. Chan shook his head.

“Don’t be. I’m realising now that…I really should’ve ended it officially when the relationship went bad. I just let it drag on.” Jisung frowned at this.

“I’ll back off, then. Until you’re ready.” Chan nodded, a lump in his throat. He bit down on his tongue as Jisung gave him a small smile and turned away. He didn’t want to let this go. Not yet. He had nothing holding him back anymore, and he couldn’t afford to just let himself get into a rut.

“Could we go out for lunch today? To the café down the road?” Jisung froze before turning around slowly. A wide grin began to stretch across his face, and Chan felt his heart flutter. ‘Oh man.’

“Of course.”

Minhoe, 3:45pm
Chan, are you avoiding me?

Minhoe, 3:57pm
Chan, you left me on read, dumbass

I’m guessing that’s a yes

Channie ;~)
You caught me

I’m sorry, Minho

Minhoe
I just want to know why

We used to hang out almost every day, but I haven’t seen you for two weeks

I’m worried about you

Channie ;~)
I’m not mad, Min

Things just felt awkward

Especially after you said you had a boyfriend

I felt like I should meet the guy first

Minhoe
I’m sorry for not telling you

I didn’t want to distract from what you were going through

Has your ex messaged you?

Channie ;~)
Surprisingly, no

Min, I don’t always have to come first

You can tell me about your life too, I wanna know what you’re up to

Minhoe
When can I see you again?

Soon-ie and Doong-ie miss you

I miss you

Channie ;~)
I miss you too

Minhoe
My roommate isn’t here

Channie ;~)
You can call him your boyfriend, Min

I’ll be over as soon as I can

Minho was waiting for him in the carpark, practically bouncing on his feet. This time, when he saw Chan, his familiar smile was back, even brighter than normal.

“Finally.” His eyes were brimming with warmth when he saw Chan. Chan felt awkward. Usually he’d go straight in for a hug, but now that Minho had a boyfriend…

“Are you hanging out with that Minho guy again?”

“Yeah!” Chan was grinning. “He’s pretty much my first real uni friend.” There was a grunt in response.

“Just remember you’re dating me. Don’t get too attached to him.” Chan laughed, but it felt awkward. “I mean it. Don’t go hugging him or anything.” Chan frowned, confused.

“Okay.” He didn’t want to upset his boyfriend. Maybe he should be glad that his boyfriend was being jealous. It was only naturally, right?

“You can hug me, Chan.” Minho’s face had fallen, his eyes full of sadness as he realised what Chan was thinking about. “It’s normal to hug your friends, and if someone can’t see that, it’s not right.” Chan made a noncommittal noise in the back of his throat. Impatient, Minho threw his arms around Chan and hugged him tight. “I never want you to avoid me, Chan. I’m here for you no matter what. I’ve felt like such an awful friend because I’ve barely seen you in the past three weeks, and that’s when you’ve probably needed me the most.” Chan leaned against Minho, burying his face in Minho’s sweater.

“I’m sorry.” He whispered.

“Please tell me you haven’t just been sitting by yourself at home.” Minho pulled back and locked eyes with Chan, as if searching for answers.

“I’ve had my friends from work hang out with me a lot.” Minho froze, his expression going blank. Then he smiled so fast that it gave Chan whiplash, making him question if he’d ever seen that strange expression at all.

“That’s good. Otherwise I’d have to kick your ass.” Minho chuckled. “We should probably stop standing around down here. Come on. I bet Soon-ie and Doong-ie already know you’re here and will break down the door if I don’t deliver you fast enough.” Chan smiled at that.

“Alright, I’m sold. Let’s go.” The awkwardness Chan felt melted away as they got into the lift, Chan filling Minho in on the past few weeks. It seemed so stupid to him now that he’d avoided his best friend simply because he felt awkward. It wasn’t Minho’s fault. Minho’s eyes were warm and his smile was bright. Minho’s presence was like a drug, filling him with calm and warmth that spread all the way down to his toes.

“Brace yourself.” Minho warned as he opened the door. Instantly Chan was met with the sight of Soon-ie and Doong-ie mewing at him. He bent down to pet Soon-ie first, before reaching out to Doong-ie. Doong-ie merely looked at him and stalked away, and Minho started laughing. “I think you made Doong-ie jealous.” Chan pouted up at him, still petting Soon-ie.

“At least Soon-ie loves me.” He cooed. “Maybe I should take you home with me.” Minho glared at him.

“I’m afraid I can’t let you leave now, just in case you try and smuggle out my precious Soon-ie.” Chan carefully picked Soon-ie up and stood up slowly, so as not to disturb her. Minho cooed at Soon-ie and gently petted her ears.

“How’d you meet him?” Chan blurted out. Minho’s head snapped up.

“I posted an ad for a roommate and got him.” Chan tried desperately to ignore the flash of jealousy that struck his heart when he saw Minho’s expression soften, and the tiny smile that came to his face. He didn’t have the right to be jealous. “I really want you to meet him, Chan. I think you two…” Minho bit his lip. “You two would get along quite well.”

“I have to make sure he’s got the Bang Chan seal of approval.”

“I’ll tell him he needs to be shaking in his boots.” Minho laughed. “We should all go out for coffee sometime.”

“There’s this really nice café near my work.” Fuck, now he was thinking of Jisung, and how much he wanted to go out to eat with him again.

“How does Tuesday sound? I know neither of us have uni then.” Chan swallowed nervously. That was…soon. He wasn’t sure if he was ready to meet the man that Minho had picked. He’d have to be pretty incredible. Minho was witty, caring, and a certified twenty out of ten. “I know you’ll like him, Chan.”

“Can I bring a friend?” Minho shrugged.

“Sure, why not. I guess you don’t feel like third0wheeling?” There was a small smirk on Minho’s lips.

“Not yet, anyway.” Chan admitted, and Minho’s smirk deepened. There was a glint in his eyes that Chan couldn’t quite decipher.


 

Fly is Superior and Anyone Who Doesn’t Agree Is a Coward, 7:34pm
I need a massive favour.

President of the Chan Is Wrong Club
Sure, what’s up?

I can cover a shift for you.


Fly is Superior and Anyone Who Doesn’t Agree Is a Coward
I’m meeting my friend’s boyfriend on Tuesday, but I don’t want to third wheel.

So could you do me a solid and save me

Either assassinate me or come with me, either is fine

I’d prefer to live, though, so could you come?

It’s at that café that you like near work

President of the Chan Is Wrong Club
So you want me to like……….

Be your fake date?

Fly is Superior and Anyone Who Doesn’t Agree Is a Coward
I mean

If you want to think of it like you’re my boyfriend for the day, go ahead

President of the Chan Is Wrong Club
I am most certainly going to enjoy telling stories about you

Fly is Superior and Anyone Who Doesn’t Agree Is a Coward
Your fake boyfriend card has been revoked

President of the Chan Is Wrong Club
Whatever you say, ‘babe’

I’ll see you on Tuesday ;)

Chan didn’t want to admit how much that made his heart flutter.

Chapter Text

[“Excessively sweet or sentimental.”]

Ready ready ready, baby, today may be my lucky day.

Monday

“Sana, how do you deal with liking two people at once?” Chan groaned, burying his head in his arms. “When I see one of them, I think ‘oh, cool, I’ve got feelings for this guy’. Then I see the other one, and I lose my head all over again. I can’t pick.”

“I don’t know, I’m trying to figure out to deal with you always distracting me.” Sana laughed as he put a hand over his heart and widened his eyes.

“We’ve been friends for so long, and you haven’t figured out that you just put ear buds in?” She giggled at this.

“Yeah, like that would work.” She tucked a strand of dark pink hair behind her ear.

“You look like bubble gum.” Chan commented, regarding her fondly.

“That’s what I was hoping for, actually! I was done with my fairy floss phase, to be honest.” How he’d missed hanging out with Sana. They’d been best friends since high school, before Chan had started straightening his hair and was a shy mouse. She’d helped him overcome a lot of his social anxiety, had been there through all of his different phases of hair colour, and had helped him settle in at uni. When Chan had decided to switch majors, she’d been there. They lapsed into silence, Sana tapping her chin in thought. “I really don’t know how you’d pick. And…” She bit her lip, frowning. “Are you sure you’re ready?” Chan shrugged at this.

“It’s been exactly three weeks.” He murmured, the realisation suddenly hitting him. She reached over and rubbed his shoulder.

“Chan, I don’t wanna overstep…” The usual honey in her voice was now muted with concern. “Are you sure you’ve actually dealt with everything? Or are you just…ignoring it?” He hummed at this.

“I’m not sure. It seems like such a long ago. I just feel so much lighter, I guess? Like I come home and I don’t have to wait for anyone, or sit in my bed and wait for someone to come. But…” He hated not waking up next to someone. It was something he missed. “I guess I feel lonely. It’s just hard, because I can’t figure out whether I miss him or I miss having someone.” Sana hummed in thought, twirling a piece of hair around her finger.

“I get you.” She tapped her chin, her mouth twisting. “I think that’s something you need to figure out. But I already can see that you’re happier. I guess…I started noticing that you were getting quiet again.” Her eyes were filled with sadness. “It was like we were back in high school again. You seemed so nervous to say anything about your life.” Chan blinked in surprise, and she shook her head. “I guess you didn’t notice. You almost became a different person, Chan. I really only saw you smiling when Minho would come and hang out with us.” Chan flushed at this, and Sana smiled. “He’s a good guy, Chan.” Chan spluttered when he realised what she was implying.

“He’s got a boyfriend.” Why did his heart twist whenever he thought about it? Minho was his best friend. Sana’s brow creased in confusion.

“Then wouldn’t it just be logical to try and see if the other guy is interested?” Chan couldn’t help but laugh awkwardly at this. It was the extremely logical choice, but after the last few times Chan had hung out with Minho, he couldn’t get his best friend out of his head.

“Yeah.”

“I’m guessing Minho’s just a bit too special though, huh?” Chan glared at her. “You can’t hide anything from me, Channie.” She poked her tongue out at him. “Come on, let’s go get coffee.” Chan raised an eyebrow at her and rolled her eyes. “Okay, fine, we all know that I’m getting coffee, and you’re going to get hot chocolate or something.”

“That’s more like it. I’m down.” The two made their way downstairs, Chan suddenly realising how much he and Sana contrasted. He was dressed in his usual ensemble of jeans and a sweater, both black, his hair a light brown. Sana’s hair was bright pink, her white blouse and pink skirt finishing off her outfit perfectly. However, she had stolen Chan’s black leather jacket. She proclaimed it made her look cool, but Chan just thought it made her even cuter. It was far too big on her, but at this rate Chan was wondering if he would ever get it back. She already had two of his hoodies, that Chan had eventually given up on. He was too lost in thought to pay attention to his surroundings, and inevitably he crashed into someone.

“Shit, man, I’m really sorry.” Chan smiled sheepishly, rubbing the back of his neck awkwardly. There was no response, and Chan finally looked up at the man he’d crashed into. All the blood drained from his face when he locked eyes with his ex-boyfriend.

“Oh, it’s you. Still as careless as ever.” His ex sneered down at him, jabbing a finger into his chest. Chan swallowed hard, his heartbeat racing.

“I – I’m sorry, I was just –”

“Chan, let’s go.” Sana must have realised he wasn’t with her and had found him a stammering mess. She had grabbed onto his arm and was gently tugging him. “Channie.” Chan barely registered she was there, too busy looking at the cruel sneer on the other man’s face. Suddenly, Chan’s ex leaned down, whispering in his ear.

“You were so sure of your decision to cut me off. Maybe you should start reconsidering.” Chan trembled at this, and finally Sana gave a sharp enough tug on his arm to snap him out of his daze.

“Leave him alone.” Her voice was soft, but full of anger. “Chan, please, let’s go.” Wordlessly, Chan let Sana lead him away, like she always did when they were younger and he was having an anxiety attack. He couldn’t believe how he’d immediately lost all of the progress he’d made. He hadn’t been able to stick up for himself, Sana had had to do it for him. He hated that someone else was always protecting him, or helping him make decisions, even if those decisions were the right ones. Why couldn’t he do it himself? He seemed to always be stuck hiding behind someone else. “It’s okay, Channie, he’s gone.” Sana murmured, gripping his arm tight and rubbing his back. “Remember, you have to breathe. Count to seven.” All Chan could do was nod.

He had to change.


 

Chan had always wanted to be an independent person. He hated relying on people so much. It irked him. After high school, he’d moved out into a share house, and hadn’t really talked to anyone other than Sana. He’d taken a gap year, trying to find himself, and hadn’t fully succeeded. All he knew was that he liked teaching swimming, and he’d gotten really good at playing the guitar. But he had promised his parents he would go to university, so he’d picked a business degree. It was no surprise that he’d absolutely hated it.

Then he’d found his new job. He’d been shy at first and had probably come off as cold to his other co-members. Then, one day, he’d decided to talk to Momo. She was talkative, and excitable, and talking to her had been like a breath of fresh air. She was quite close to Mina – the two were a package deal. If you became close to one of them, of course you would end up involved with the other one. He’d tagged along to the movies with them one day, and that was it. Momo had declared they were all destined to be great friends, and they’d begun having monthly movie nights.

One day, Mina had told him he would make a great teacher. That got the ball rolling for his change in courses. He’d never really considered it before. After talking to Sana, who was studying secondary teaching, he’d finally made the leap. That was when he had met Minho and Dahyun. He didn’t see Dahyun as much anymore, but Minho had kept him updated on how she was doing. Chan had felt like he was improving more than ever before. He had friends that he’d made by himself, without Sana’s help, and he’d also met a boy.

Chan had bumped into him on a coffee run. Sana had suggested they study together, and she seemed to be constantly in need of caffeine. So Chan, being the great best friend he was, had offered to be her supplier. He hated sitting still for so long. Chan had just placed his order when the man next to him in the line had cleared his throat, getting Chan’s attention. Chan had instantly felt his heart thump when he’d met the dark eyes of the man next to him. He’d never really had any dating experience, always feeling too shy to strike up conversation with someone. On the same vein, he often came across as unapproachable, so no one had ever really initiated conversation with him before.

“Is it worth getting the special, do you think?” Chan had swallowed nervously at the low timbre.

“Y-y-yeah, I’d say so. The specials here are always good. I come here a lot.” Chan bit down on his tongue to shut himself up. The other man had looked amused at his rambling.

“Cool.” The man had ordered, and moved to stand next to Chan to wait for his coffee. “Say, what’s your name?” And Chan had stared at him blankly for a moment.

“Ch-Chan. I’m Chan.”

“Cool.” The other man suddenly offered Chan his phone.

“Can you give me your number?” Chan’s knees almost gave out.

“I-I’m sorry, what?” The man had started to roll his eyes, but then stopped himself. Chan barely noticed. He was still too busy trying to register that someone had actually spoken to him.

“Your number.” The man still looked amused, and Chan had laughed nervously, before hurrying to save himself as a contact in the man’s phone. “We should get coffee sometime, Chan.” He had heard Chan’s name being called out and had grabbed his coffees for him. Chan hoped his smile wasn’t stupid. The man pressed them into Chan’s hands before grabbing his own. “I’ll see you around then.” And just like that, he was gone. Chan was left staring after him, gobsmacked. He didn’t even know his name.

If Chan looked back at it now, that’s where he knew it all went wrong.


 

Chan hopped off the bus, fiddling with his hair. Seeing Sana with her pink hair had made him remember his time in high school. He’d tried black hair, and blonde hair, and silver hair, even once dying it red. He’d tried cutting his hair really short, or letting it grow out. Then, after he’d left high school, he’d decided to dye it green. He’d thought it was really cool, but Sana had changed his contact name at least fifty different times, all in reference to his hair. Yeah, he wasn’t going to miss the ‘broccochris’ or ‘chan is brussels sprout’ days. He wouldn’t mind trying silver hair again, it’d looked pretty cool.

Absentmindedly, he wondered what Jisung would look like with blonde hair. Jisung had dyed his hair red, once, and now that Chan was thinking about, it did things to his heart that he didn’t care to admit. He wondered why he hadn’t approached Jisung before. He’d always liked Jisung, and they’d gotten along well, but they hadn’t really had any reason to approach each other. Usually Chan would talk to Mina and Momo, and he’d only really begun approaching his other co-workers a couple of months ago. He was really glad that he’d gotten to hang out with Jisung. Unfortunately, talking more to Jisung had resulted in an awful side effect – Chan now had a raging crush on him that he had no idea how to treat. He thought about what Sana had said. Maybe he should just go back to thinking of Minho as a friend, and nothing more. Maybe he should just be normal and look at only one person with romantic intentions.

But the more he tried to get Minho out of his head, the more than Chan realised he simply didn’t want to. He wanted to kiss Minho. He wanted to hold his hand. He wanted for them to curl up on Minho’s bed with Soon-ie and Doong-ie and go to bed together. But at the same time, he wanted to go swimming with Jisung. He wanted to go to cafés with Jisung and kiss his cute chubby cheeks. What was worse than wanting one person was wanting two. Knowing both were very likely unattainable made his heart ache. Chan knew he had to figure this one out. He couldn’t rely on the advice of his friends for everything. Sooner or later, he’d have to be content with making decisions by himself and being alone with his own thoughts.

Chan knew he hadn’t been blameless in his failed relationship. He had been petty and had lashed out. He had gotten jealous himself. Chan had neglected his friends and studies for his boyfriend. He’d stopped having study days with Sana and had blown off Momo and Mina on some of their movie nights. And towards the end, even though he’d been with someone, Chan knew he’d started having feelings for Minho. It made him feel awful. He knew if even wanted to continue to think about Jisung and Minho the way he was, he’d have to step up. He couldn’t bring this version of himself into a relationship.

He wanted to be good, and not just for the sake of it. He wanted to be strong. Both Jisung and Minho deserved it. Chan thanked the bus driver as he hopped off, beginning the slow walk back to his house. He was just about to put his headphones back on and turn up I Need Somebody when an all-too familiar voice met his ears.

“Fancy seeing you here again.” Chan’s fingertips went cold. He turned around slowly. “Your friend isn’t here this time, Chan.” The dark eyes that had first made his heart thump now made it stop in fear.

“We’re done, you shouldn’t have anything to say to me.” Chan murmured. He turned back around, getting ready to hurry away, when a hand clamped down on his shoulder.

“I have a lot to say to you.” Chan refused to turn around. He clenched his jaw and wrenched his shoulder out of the other man’s grasp.

“Leave me alone.” Chan tried to ignore how much his hands were trembling. Fuck, he felt like he was about to be sick. “Please.” He bit down on his tongue. He needed to just keep his mouth shut.

“You never gave me a chance to apologise.” Chan froze. Apologise? He was confused. He’d never been given a genuine apology before. He turned around, and his eyes widened in shock as his ex sank to his knees before him. Chan took a step back. This wasn’t real. It couldn’t be. The other man grabbed his hands, holding them so tight that it was uncomfortable. Chan felt sick. He wanted to wrench his hands back and run without looking back. But his legs wouldn’t move. “Chan, you have to give me another chance.” The grip on his hands tightened. “I’ll do anything. You have to come back to me.” Chan felt his burn with tears. “Chan, you don’t know what it does to me, seeing you with other people. I’m sorry. I promise I’ll treat you well. It’ll just be you, and me. No one else. I’ll never leave you. Just say you’ll come back.” Chan’s throat had closed. He couldn’t form words. He just needed to say no. He just needed to go. The other man took his silence as affirmation, and he smiled. Chan felt like he was going to pass out, seeing that smile. “I get it. You need time. Let’s go home.” The other man rose to his feet and began to pull him along. ‘I don’t want this. Please just go. Someone help me.’ Chan thought desperately. Fuck, why couldn’t he move?! ‘Please, someone help me!’ But there was no one here to help him.

‘I’ve got you, Channie. I’ll always be by your side.’ That was Minho’s voice in his ears. Chan couldn’t imagine how distraught Minho would be if Chan were to dive headfirst back into the relationship. Chan realised that if he gave in now, there would be no going back. This time, it was sink or swim. He had to this by himself – for himself. He couldn’t let anyone else do it for him. He thought of Minho’s arms wrapped around him, Minho’s laugh, Minho’s smile.

“Minho.” He whispered. Chan wanted to see him so badly.

“Hm? Come on, Channie.” ‘Channie.’ There was Minho’s voice in his ear. With that, Chan’s brain kicked into gear and he pulled himself away, stumbling backwards.

“Minho can call me that. You can’t. You don’t – you don’t deserve me.” Chan hissed. “Stay the fuck away from me. I’m not yours. Stop playing me.” Chan’s voice broke.

“Fine.” Chan was so glad he’d seen through the façade. As soon as Chan had pulled away, the other man’s face had morphed into a vile, twisted scowl. “Fine, have it your way. This is because of Minho, isn’t it? I should have made you cut him as soon as I heard his name.” Chan could feel anger coursing through his veins. It was scorching. He felt his heart begin to pound in his chest. He clenched his jaw so hard that he felt it creak. Chan realised this was what rage was. He’d been angry before, sure, but this…he didn’t know how he would be able to contain the extent of this emotion.

“Do you hear yourself right now?” Chan spat, balling his hands into fists. “You sound insane.

“I always knew that little bitch was bad news.” Chan saw red.

“Say all you want about me.” Chan’s voice was shaking. “But don’t you dare bring Minho into this.”

“Why not? You were the one who let him turn you into a cheater. He’s disgusting.” Chan didn’t even realise he was moving until he heard the sickening crunch of bone breaking. Chan stared down at the other man, his chest heaving.

“Minho would never let me cheat on someone.” Chan leaned down, ignoring the other’s cries of pain as blood gushed from his nose. Chan made eye contact, and smiled, trying to ignore how much he wanted to punch his ex again. “And Minho is the best fucking man I’ve ever met.” Chan smiled. “Why don’t you just shut up, stay the fuck down, and leave me alone?” The other man’s eyes widened as he realised that Chan had quoted him. With this, Chan was gone.


 

Monday

Chan checked his phone.

11:56pm.

He inhaled, his breath shaking. He felt exhausted. He was curled up into a ball on his bed. Why did it hurt so much? His chest was physically aching, his hands hurt from where he’d repeatedly beat them against the floor, and his head was heavy. He wanted so desperately to close his eyes and succumb to sleep, to dream away this absolute mess, but so far it seemed impossible. He couldn’t help but wonder if he deserved this.

A fresh wave of sobs wracked his body. What if someone never held him again? What if he never kissed anyone again? What if he could never become a good enough person? What if he just stayed stuck in a rut? What if Minho went and left him behind? What if Jisung got bored of him? He couldn’t believe he was in this predicament. He knew, by all rights, that it was unfair on all of them if he kept having these unchecked feelings for two of his closest friends.

Fuck, he was so selfish. He just couldn’t force himself to give either of them up.

He still couldn’t believe he was capable of so much anger until he’d heard Minho disrespected by his ex. Chan just wanted to cuddle up next to Minho and hold him tight. ‘I did it, Minho. I got rid of him for good.’ Chan wanted to tell him about how he was finally free. Free, and ready to admit that he didn’t see Minho as just a friend anymore.


 

Ring.

Ring.

Ring.

Beep.

“Hi, you’ve reached Minho. Leave a message and I might get back to you. Depends on if I like you or not.”

 “Minho – I think you’re the best. I really do. I don’t know what I’d do without you. You’re my best friend, and I just…I just…I – I’ll see you tomorrow. And…”

Beep.

“I love you. Fuck, Minho, I love you.”


 

Tuesday

Tag Team Extreme

Chan Is Dehydrated, 8:24am
Help. Oh my god. Today is the day.

Holy fuck. OH my god

Penguimina
Maybe Momo and me should have come

Momomomomomomomomoring
No absolutely not

Can you imagine what a trainwreck that would be??

‘This is my girlfriend Mina and her girlfriend Momo’

‘Well nice to meet you, I’m Chan’s boyfriend 1 and this is Chan’s boyfriend 2’

Penguimina
It has been two days since we told him and you’re already making jokes

Momomomomomomomomoring
No Mina you don’t get it

This is a chance for me to slip into every conversation that I’m dating you

It’s so I can flex on people

Like who else gets to date an angel

Chan Is Dehydrated
Guys

I’m still here

Way to make a guy feel lonely

What do I even wear??? How do I act??

Should I actually go through with the ‘Jisung is my fake date’ thing??

Momomomomomomomomoring
I mean I’ll say it again

Jisung?????????????

Like objectively speaking, he’s hot

Chan Is Dehydrated
I’m glad someone gets it!!!!!!!!!!!!

Even when he’s just woken up he looks great

I don’t get it

Just objectively speaking though

Momomomomomomomomoring
Chan

I say that because I’m not into guys

You’re just saying that because you’re in denial

Chan Is Dehydrated
No I’m not

No I’m not!

Ok fine. Fine.

Maybe I am. Maybe he is really hot and I’m not ready for that today

Penguimina
Who suggested the fake date idea, anyway?

Chan Is Dehydrated
I asked him to come with me so I wouldn’t be third wheeling

But he brought it up

Momomomomomomomomoring
Chan I think Jisung’s into you

Like………..a lot

You realise that this is his segue way into making you his actual boyfriend, right?

Chan Is Dehydrated
Yeah, I wish

As if

Momomomomomomomomoring
How can you be so in denial I don’t even –

Look, if he tries flirting with you today, just don’t mess it up with your puns

Chan Is Dehydrated
Someone’s gotta be the dad around here

Momomomomomomomomoring
Just say daddy, Chan, we know you want to


 

Chan still had roughly two hours before he had to leave. He’d already showered and shaved. Now all that was left was what to wear. Chan took a deep breath and opened his wardrobe to a sea of black.

“Ah.” Now that was going to be a problem. He wondered if Minho had seen him in something that wasn’t black or a shade of grey. When Minho would rock up to uni in a colourful button up and his designer jeans, Chan would show up in his usual oversized black hoodie and black beanie. Oh, and black sweatpants. His ensemble wouldn’t be complete without them. Chan frowned as he began to realise that maybe Minho had a point. He didn’t want to ask Minho for advice – he wanted to surprise him. Then maybe Jisung? No, Chan wanted Jisung to be impressed. Finally it hit him. Sana. He needed Sana.

cHrIsToPhEr, 8:35am
This is a matter of life or death

Snake
I’m not reading your assignment again Chan

cHrIsToPhEr
Please Sana you’re my only hope

I’m dying here

…for your bestest and oldest friend?

Snake
………..fineeee

What’s up?

cHrIsToPhEr
I don’t know what to wear

I can’t wear all black this time

Snake
You mean you’re considering…colour??

Other than black?!

Who are you I don’t know this Chan

cHrIsToPhEr
First of all, black is a SHADE

Second of all, I’m desperate.

Remember how I said I like two people?

I’m meeting both of them

So I need to knock both of them out

Snake
I’ll be there in 10


 

Chan looked at himself in the mirror, Sana smirking beside him.

“I’m a genius. I’ll say it right now.” She tucked a piece of hair behind her ear and grinned at him. “Chan, you look good.” Chan couldn’t help but agree. Although he technically wasn’t wearing any actual colours, nothing he was wearing was black. He was incredibly proud of himself. Well, of Sana. He was proud of himself for agreeing to her choices. She’d picked a simple white shirt with denim jeans, and had dug his denim jacket out of the depths of his wardrobe. Chan couldn’t actually remember seeing the jacket before in his life. Sana hummed in thought. “Oh, I got it!” She darted over to his bedside table, before returning with a small locket on a chain. Chan’s eyes widened. He’d bought that while out shopping with Minho. He’d never really worn it, which was a shame. Chan flushed as he remembered how Minho had commented he’d looked really good wearing a necklace.

Chan couldn’t deny he looked good. His outfit was simple, but suited him. It was a nice change from what he usually wore. He had butterflies in his stomach. This didn’t count as a date. Did it? A date with Jisung and Minho, and…Minho’s boyfriend. He couldn’t help but sigh. After he’d finally let himself admit that he was in love with Minho, thinking about meeting the person that Minho loved was going to prove to be difficult. At least he’d have Jisung. Chan shook his head and frowned. That made it sound like Jisung was second best. But if he was being honest, Chan couldn’t pick between them. Minho was the moon, and Jisung was the sun. And Chan…Chan was left staring up at them, trailing far behind.

“Earth to Channie.” Sana was giggling. “I need to meet this Jisung guy, huh? Seems like he could give Minho a run for his money.” Chan gently shoved her shoulder, and she stuck her tongue out at him. “C’mon, I didn’t come over here for nothing. You owe me pancakes.”

“But I’m going to a café in an hour.” Chan pouted at her, but she winked at him.

“Who said I’m saving you any?”


 

Fly is Superior and Anyone Who Doesn’t Agree Is a Coward, 10:32am
You here yet?

President of the Chan Is Wrong Club
Yeah, I’m inside

Fly is Superior and Anyone Who Doesn’t Agree Is a Coward
I’m so nervous, man, I don’t know what to expect

President of the Chan Is Wrong Club
I think you might be impressed ;)

You’ll like him, trust me.

Chan’s brow furrowed, but then he brushed it off. Jisung had probably seen a couple and had asked they were waiting for Chan. Jisung had great people skills. Chan had often watched him strike up a conversation with parents at the end of a lesson, or before the shift. Jisung was like a light, drawing people to him. And Chan, like a moth, was now fixated and couldn’t look away. Chan couldn’t wait to just sit next to Jisung, and to pointedly ignore that Minho now had an other half that wasn’t, and was never going to be, him. Chan sighed, and resisted the urge to push a hand through his hair. Sana had helped him style his hair, and she would kill him if he messed it up. He could almost imagine him behind her, shooing him towards the door. He smiled wryly. He couldn’t back out now, not after she’d been so eager to hear how it went. Chan trudged towards the café, nibbling on his bottom lip.

He felt antsy. He didn’t want to judge Minho’s boyfriend too early. He wanted to like the guy. He wanted nothing less than the best for Minho. He stepped in through the doorway, a little bell tinkling to alert the employees of his presence. He scanned the room for Minho and Jisung, finding them alone at a booth in the corner. He looked around curiously, wondering where Minho’s boyfriend was. Maybe he’d just gone to the boyfriend. To his relief, Jisung and Minho looked like they were getting along well.

Jisung’s muscular arms were on display in his tank top, and Chan reminded himself to keep breathing. Then he caught sight of Minho. Minho was wearing a simple white button up, but fuck, should it have been illegal. The sight of the two of them had Chan feeling dizzy. As Chan got closer, he closed his eyes and sighed in exasperation. The starstruck feeling faded a little. Minho was doing the thing again. He had his arms by his sides and was leaning forwards, sipping his drink out of a straw. Why couldn’t he just have his arms on the table like a normal person? Chan would forever lament about this.

“Hey guys,” He grinned at them. His two favourite people – well, not that he would let Mina and Momo know – were with him, and they were getting along fantastically.

“Hey, man.” Jisung beamed up at him.

“Hey, Channie.” Chan caught Minho’s eyes. Minho seemed to very deliberately run his gaze down Chan’s body, then back up. Then he winked. Chan looked around. Was Minho winking at someone else? Chan shook his head slightly. He had to have been imagining it. Surely. That didn’t detract from the fact that his face was on fire. Maybe it was just hot in the café. Yeah. For sure. “You’re not wearing black.” Minho remarked. “Special occasion?” Then he smirked, and Chan slipped out of his jacket as he began to sweat. It was getting hotter. Maybe he should ask if he could open some windows?

“Figured it was time for a change.” Chan laughed, nervous. He slid into the booth next to Jisung, who was biting his bottom lip. Oh man, did that do things to his heart. Chan began fanning himself. “Hot in here, isn’t it?” He commented, breathless.

“Oh, yeah, for sure.” Jisung also smirked at him. Fuck, between the two of them, Chan wouldn’t be surprised if they’d been taking him out in ambulance. Then he realised how rude he was being.

“Oh man, I’m sorry, I haven’t introduced you guys. Minho, this is Jisung, he –”

“I know who he is, Chan.” Minho was giving him a strange look. Jisung was quietly laughing next to Chan, who turned and glared at him. He would’ve really appreciated some moral support in this trying time. Chan just laughed awkwardly and rubbed the back of his neck.

“Where’s your boyfriend, Minho?” Chan looked around again, craning his neck to see if he could spot any other young men around. Jisung laughed harder, and Minho’s lip twitched. Chan turned to Jisung, who looked like he was having the time of his life at Chan’s expense. Suddenly it dawned on Chan that it seemed like both of his friends knew what was going on and he didn’t. Chan looked around again before Minho gave him an incredulous look. Chan gazed back at him, getting more confused. Finally, Minho sighed, seeming to accept that there was no way Chan was going to clue on by himself. Jisung looked over at Minho, and they seemed to be having a silent conversation via their facial expressions. Eventually Minho rolled his eyes and turned back to Chan.

“He’s right next to you.” Chan blinked a couple times and laughed.

“But there’s just Jisung next to – wait a minute.” He looked at Jisung, then at Minho, then back to Jisung, and finally back to Minho. “Wait…hold on. That would mean…”

“Processing, please wait.” Jisung smirked next to him. When Chan’s blank look didn’t disappear, Minho rolled his eyes.

“Chan, I’m dating Jisung. Jisung is my boyfriend. That Jisung.” Chan could only nod.

“Right.” He finally got out. “Cool.” His voice cracked. He was so confused.

“I guess we should introduce ourselves properly.” Jisung began, a twinkle in his eyes.

“Chan, this is my boyfriend, Jisung.” Minho was biting his lip, trying hard to fight down his laughter. Chan just blinked at them both. He caught Jisung’s eye, who gave him a smile and flashed a quick thumbs up. He took a deep breath. ‘Here goes nothing.’

“You know, that is such a coincidence. Because this is my boyfriend, Jisung.” At this, Jisung burst out laughing. ‘Fake date for the day.’ Oh, god. Minho and Jisung had probably had a good laugh at that one. Chan began to massage his temples. His brain hurt. This…this was too much of a coincidence. Surely. How had he not seen Jisung at Minho’s apartment ever? How had he not put the little pieces together?

“Wow.” Jisung remarked, a shit-eating grin on his face. “Small world.” Jisung turned to Minho. “And you must be Chan’s friend. It’s so great to meet you.” Minho and Jisung then dissolved into laughter, while Chan still sat there, processing. Chan felt increasingly uncomfortable. He didn’t belong here. He felt like he was intruding. He also realised that he’d been lusting after two people, who were both his type, and this whole time they’d been dating and he had absolutely no chance with either of them.

“I never ran into you at Minho’s place.” Chan spluttered out. Jisung shrugged.

“I’m usually home at night, to be honest. I’m pretty busy during the day. Or I sleep. I like staying in my room.”

“He’s good at that. He’s a bad influence, I barely get anything done when he’s home.” Minho smiled fondly, resting his chin on his hand. “We didn’t really realise you were the same Chan until one day I started talking about you and how you were Australian and sometimes said strange things. Then Jisung went ‘huh, I work with a guy named Chan.’ And we kind of figured it out from there.” Chan couldn’t believe it. So this whole time, the two knew each other, and had probably been swapping embarrassing stories about Chan. “I would’ve said something earlier, but I didn’t want you to feel awkward around Jisung.” Minho was frowning now. “Plus, I didn’t want to make it weird between you two.” Chan pushed his hair back.

“No, I get it.” Did he? He really didn’t get it. He then began to panic, wondering if Jisung knew about how close Minho and Chan had been to kissing. Or if Jisung knew about the whole yes chef thing. Who called who daddy? Did they even call each other daddy? Why was he thinking about this? Chan decided he would throw caution to the wind. If the universe had decided to throw him this many curveballs, he couldn’t fight it anymore. “I’m assuming you know Minho has more than one cat, at least?” He asked Jisung, who laughed. Jisung then widened his eyes and feigned shock, and Minho rolled his eyes.

“Minho, this whole time you didn’t have just one cat?!” Minho must have kicked him under the table, because Jisung began to pout at him.

“Leave my precious angels alone if you want me to spare your life.”

“We all know that I’m Doong-ie’s favourite.” Jisung sang, and Minho rolled his eyes again. Minho put his arms by his sides, and Chan just looked at him as he leaned forwards to sip out of his straw.

“I tell you every single time, Minho, you can’t do that around other people.”

“You noticed it too!” Jisung exclaimed. “I don’t get why he can’t just put his arms on the table.” Chan and Jisung laughed and then lapsed into silence.

“It’s easier this way.” Minho shot back, trying to hide a smile. “Chan, I’ll go grab you something.” Chan didn’t bother asking what was available. Minho knew him like the back of his hand, after all. Not one to be still for long, Jisung turned his head towards Chan and started opening and closing his mouth like a fish. Chan, observing him from his peripheral vision, began copying him. Chan turned his head, expecting to make Jisung laugh, but what he didn’t anticipate was how close Jisung would be. It took Chan a second to register that they were too close. He bumped noses with Jisung, and Chan jerked away like he’d been electrocuted.

“Oh shit, sorry, I wasn’t trying anything.” While Chan leaned away even further, Jisung leaned forwards. Chan’s brain started to short circuit. This didn’t make sense. Weren’t Jisung and Minho dating? Why was Jisung suddenly leaning against him? Jisung’s tongue darted out across his lips, and Chan squeaked.

“Don’t worry about it, Chan.” Jisung squeezed his bicep and then leaned back. Chan couldn’t help but wonder if Jisung had picked up Minho’s signature smirk.

“S-s-so, um…um…Minho told me you met because…you were roommates.” Chan finished lamely. Jisung nodded, looking over at the counter where Minho was ordering.

“Yeah. We were cool, at first, but then…shit happened.” Jisung’s smile grew soft. Chan hated the way his heart broke, seeing Jisung’s expression that was so full of love. But then he shook himself back to his senses, appalled. He could have slapped himself. Chan should’ve been happy, and nothing but, seeing that expression. Hadn’t he been preaching to himself how much he hoped Minho’s boyfriend was good to him? Hadn’t he wanted to see that love towards Minho? Chan, for the millionth time in the past five minutes, felt confused. Chan felt sad, seeing Jisung express so much love that wasn’t for him. But then Chan felt sad that he wasn’t allowed to give Minho that same look. Chan felt jealous, seeing Jisung practically devour Minho with his eyes as he walked back over. But then Chan felt jealous that Jisung wasn’t looking at him that way.

“It wasn’t that special.” Minho must have caught the tail end of the conversation. While Minho sounded nonchalant, his eyes gave him away. Jisung grinned lazily at his boyfriend, and Chan felt himself edging towards the end of his seat, ready to run away.

“Please, I planned it out so it was perfect.”

“You practically ambushed me.” Minho rolled his eyes, but he couldn’t hide his smile.

“But it worked, didn’t it? You fell right into my trap.” Chan could have fallen down a hole. He really, really hated this. He could’ve curled up into a ball and rolled away. The waitress cleared his throat, setting Chan’s drink down in front of him.

“My treat, Chan.” Minho had turned his attention back to him. Chan nodded his thanks. “You should come back to our place after this.” Chan only nodded, trying to preoccupy himself so he could avoid the obvious flirting happening right in front of him.

“So how’d you two meet, Chan?” Jisung had also turned back to Chan, resting his chin on his hand. It was another thing Chan wondered if Jisung had gotten from Minho. He felt another stab of jealousy. “We’re pretty self-explanatory. We met at work. But how’d you two meet? You’re not studying the same major.” Minho smirked at this.

“Funny story.” Minho began recounting the experience after Chan gave him a look, still not looking up from his drink. He’d probably have a burnt mouth afterwards, but he didn’t care. Anything to extricate himself. Jisung was laughing, and Chan glanced at him. He still felt like he was missing something. Surely he had been imagining Minho’s wink. Maybe Jisung had just…misplaced his hands. Or something. If Chan was being honest, he couldn’t really explain the pair’s behaviour.

It bothered him.


 

Chan almost wished he wasn’t alone with his thoughts. He was in his car, on his way to Minho and Jisung’s apartment. He couldn’t help but feel irritated. Sure, neither of them had really outright flirted with him, but sometimes…sometimes it felt like maybe there was something there. Or maybe it was just him being an absolute fool and imagining everything. He felt awful. All the things he’d thought about Jisung and Minho, all the times he’d wanted to kiss them…maybe he should just turn around and go home. He remembered holding hands with Minho, before their lips had been a hairsbreadth away from each other. He remembered Jisung leaning against him, biting down on his lip. Chan hated that he couldn’t help but wish he’d be the one biting Jisung’s bottom lip instead.

He tapped the steering wheel, nervous. He had to be strong. Chan bit down on his tongue as he remembered punching his ex in the face. He hadn’t told anyone. He didn’t know if he ever would. But Chan knew that the part of his life where he’d been so meek and submissive was coming to an end. He had to pull on that same strength in this situation. He could deal with having his heart broken if it meant his two best friends could be happy. He would be fine with that – eventually. Even if it took him months, or even years. He couldn’t – wouldn’t – allow himself to ruin this for them.

Chan tried not to stare at how Minho and Jisung’s hands were intertwined as they made their way to the apartment. He was fine. He was cool. He could do this.

Chan just smiled at him and held his hand out for Minho to take instead. Instantly, Minho relaxed, and cautiously intertwined his hand with Chan’s.

Yeah, maybe not.

“You alright, Channie?” Chan didn’t even realise he’d stopped outside the door until Minho had placed a hand on his shoulder and shaken him from his sulking. No doubt Chan was glowering right now. He forced himself to smile, despite the storm raging inside his head.

“Yeah, I’m okay.” His smile mustn’t have been very convincing. Minho grabbed his arm and gently pulled him inside, before leaning forwards into Chan’s personal space. Chan swallowed nervously, feeling the breath leaving his lungs as Minho pressed his hand to Chan’s forehead.

“Maybe you’re coming down with something. I’ll make you a honey drink. Go into the living room, Jisung’s finding a movie for us to watch.” Chan wanted to cry. Why was Minho so good to him, while Chan was sulking like a child who was denied their favourite toy?

“Minho, you don’t have to –” Minho placed a finger against his lips, shushing him. “I’m okay, really.”

“I’ve always taken care of you, Channie, don’t worry about it.” There was that sweet smile again. ‘You’re all the honey I need.’ Chan wished he could say that out loud. He wisely kept his mouth shut and nodded. “Good boy.” Minho murmured, patting his cheek. Chan choked on his own spit. His eyes were wide. Fuck, that had…really done more to him than expected. He hurried to the living room, anxious to avoid the thoughts that were now racing through his mind.

“Hey, Chan, what movie should we watch?” Jisung turned as he heard Chan’s footsteps. Doong-ie had already claimed a spot on Jisung’s lap, and Jisung was petting her head softly.

“Doong-ie likes you more than she likes Minho, I think.” Chan couldn’t help but smile at Jisung’s grin.

“Minho gets jealous. Sometimes he’ll greet her and she’ll go right past him to me.” Jisung giggled. “Anyway, we should watch a horror movie!” Chan’s eyes widened in fear. He wasn’t good with horror movies. At all. Chan turned towards the kitchen, where Minho was now advancing towards them with a steaming mug in hand.

“Good idea, Jisungie.” Chan didn’t miss the evil glint in his eyes. “Two against three, Channie.” Chan shook his head at him, eyes wide. The traitor! Minho knew he couldn’t handle horror movies! Chan pouted at him, trying to pull out his puppy eyes. Minho carefully placed the mug down on the coffee table and leaned down, squishing Chan’s cheeks. “Aww, Channie. Don’t worry, we’ll protect you.” Chan gulped, trying to make his pout bigger. Minho just winked at him, and as he pulled away, his thumb brushed over Chan’s lips. Chan blinked. There he went again, imagining things.

“What about the Train to Busan?” Jisung piped up. “It’s a great movie.”

“Oh, a zombie movie. Sounds perfect, Jisungie.” Chan’s eyes widened at Minho’s words. Zombies were the worst. Minho offered his hands to Chan, who begrudgingly took them, letting Minho pull him to his feet. Chan let Minho lead him over to the couch. Chan decided he had to give in and wait for death to claim him. Minho flopped down on the couch and pulled a blanket over him, patting the couch beside him. “Don’t be scared, Channie, I’ll protect you.” Chan glared at him, but complied. Minho proceeded to curl up into Chan’s side, throwing an arm around him. Chan looked over to where Jisung was rising to his feet. Jisung caught his eye and grinned. Chan’s brow wrinkled. Maybe Jisung didn’t mind because they were all close. That had to be it.

Not even ten minutes in and Chan was already squealing. Minho and Jisung had taken it upon themselves to torture him and then comfort him. They’d him to watch and then Minho would pull Chan’s face into his shoulder, rubbing Chan’s arm and cooing in his ear about what a cute scaredy cat he was. Jisung would be pressed flush against Chan’s back, rubbing circles onto his shoulders. Chan would’ve left the room, but this contact with them…it was perfect. Chan could subject himself to a super scary zombie movie if he got this as a reward.

At some point during the movie, Jisung’s hand found his. Chan froze, his head snapping over to Jisung. Jisung was smiling softly at him.

“Don’t worry about it, Channie.” Jisung whispered in his ear, squeezing his hand tight. Chan swallowed nervously as he realised how close Jisung’s face was to his. This situation seemed oddly familiar to Chan now. Jisung seemed to be edging closer to him. He was biting down on his bottom lip again. Chan held his breath, not daring to move, as Jisung’s lips ghosted over his. Then a scream from the TV rang out and Chan jumped. Jisung laughed softly, looking over at Minho and grinning. Chan couldn’t read the expressions on either of their faces. He was still trying to process what had happened. They hadn’t…really kissed, right? Right? For the rest of the movie, Chan didn’t dare move.

The rest of the movie couldn’t have ended fast enough. Minho had yawned and announced that it was bedtime. He’d leaned down and kissed Jisung, slowly and deeply, and Chan averted his eyes.

“Night, baby.” Minho murmured into Jisung’s ear, his face full of affection. He ruffled Jisung’s hair and then turned to Chan. “Night, Channie…sleep well.” Minho leaned forwards, then paused. He ruffled Chan’s hair and gave him another wink, before heading off to his bedroom.

“A-are you going to go to bed, too?” Chan murmured, and Jisung grinned at him.

“Nah, I’m awake now. Plus, I wanted to spend some time with you. Unless you’re tired?” Chan thought about the horror movie.

“I probably won’t be sleeping tonight, if I’m honest.” The pair laughed.

“Maybe if you watch more horror movies, you’ll be less scared.” Jisung mused, and Chan shook his head violently.

“N-no thanks.”

“Maybe we should watch a nice movie to wind down.” Jisung suggested. Chan’s eyes brightened.

Pulp Fiction?” He suggested, and Jisung blinked at him.

“Chan, a movie to…wind down.” Chan pouted at him, and Jisung laughed. “Alright, weirdo, we’ll watch Pulp Fiction.” They spent the entirety of the movie dancing around each other. Jisung had thrown a leg over Chan, cuddling up into his side, his hand tracing mindless patterns onto his chest. Chan wanted to hold his hand badly. Really badly. His hand was on his stomach, and his fingers twitched whenever Jisung’s hand drifted closer to his. Jisung had his face buried into Chan’s neck. Chan barely dared to even breath as Jisung laid his hand over Chan’s. The movie had long since ended. They were lying together in silence. Chan was fighting to keep his eyes open. He was so warm, and sleepy. Then his heart skipped a beat as Jisung’s lips pressed against his throat.

“J-Jisung.” Chan’s voice was hoarse. “Wh-what are you doing?” Jisung hummed, squeezing Chan’s hand.

“Is this alright with you?” His breath tickled Chan’s neck. ‘Yes.’ But Chan knew that it wasn’t okay. Jisung wasn’t single, and he was dating Minho. Chan couldn’t screw it up.

“I-I don’t know.” Chan whispered, his eyes fluttering closed.

“Goodnight, Channie.” He barely registered Jisung kissing his cheek before he was out to the world.


 

Wednesday

“Morning, sleepyhead.” Chan groaned, blinking rapidly as he sat up, stretching. “I told Jisung to get you to his room, but I guess you were too far gone.” Chan hummed in response, yawning. He sat up, finding Minho in the kitchen, watching him. Chan gulped. He’d seen Minho in the morning before, but seeing Minho’s sleepy smile, paired with his messy hair, made Chan’s heart feel like it was about to explode. “I’m making coffee. Want a hot chocolate?”

“Yes please, Min.” Chan was surprised to find that it looked like someone had tucked him in. Chan spotted about three pillows, and a sleeping Soon-ie. He wanted to pet her, but didn’t want to incur her wrath if he woke up, so let her be. He checked his phone and bit his lip. Oh boy.

Snake, 1:43pm
Hey, Channie, how’d it go?

Did they fall over you?

cHrIsToPhEr, 8:36am
Not exactly

But it was an experience

Tag Team Extreme

Momomomomomomomomoring, 9:45pm
Chan we haven’t heard from you are you dead or getting laid

Penguimina
Momo you can’t say that

Momomomomomomomomoring
Nope, I know it, he’s getting some

Go Channie!

Chan Is Dehydrated, 8:37am
I think I’ll be forever dehydrated, unfortunately

But good news is, I’m alive!

“How’s Sana?” Chan looked up to see Minho biting his lip, his eyes warm. “I haven’t seen her in ages.” Chan bit down on his tongue, rubbing the back of his neck nervously as he made his way into the kitchen.

“She’s good. I caught up with her yesterday, actually.” Chan took a deep breath.

“I listened to your voicemail, Chan, was everything okay yesterday?” Minho was holding his arms out, wordlessly demanding a hug. Chan couldn’t help but smile wryly as he wrapped his arms around Minho. Then his breath caught in his throat.

“O-oh, um, do you…do you remember what I said?” Chan felt his hands begin to shake.

“You just said you were excited to see me, and you were being sappy, saying you were glad to have me.” Chan heaved a huge sigh of relief. Minho pulled back from him. “When did you get so sappy, Chan?” Minho’s smile was soft. Chan swallowed down the lump in his throat.

‘I love you. Fuck, Minho, I love you.’ 

“I – I ran into him yesterday.” Minho’s smile melted away like snow in summer. “Twice, actually. The first time, Sana helped me. But the next time…”

‘Someone help me.’

“He didn’t do anything, did he?” Minho’s voice was charged with anger.

“He insulted you.” Now it was Chan’s turn to feel anger at the memory. “And – fuck, Minho, I was so angry. I’ve never felt more angry in my life. I – I punched him. I think I broke his nose.” Minho’s eyes were wide.

“You what?”  Instead of sounding proud or awestruck, like Chan had been expecting, Minho was angry. Minho took a step forwards, forcing Chan to take a step backwards. Minho kept advancing until he had Chan pinned against the pantry. “Chan, what if he’d fought back? You’re really fucking lucky he didn’t hurt you!”

“I was protecting you!” Chan shot back, incredulous. “I couldn’t let him talk shit about you, Minho! If you expect me to just sit idle instead of defending you, I don’t know who you think I am.”

“I’m not worth getting hurt for.” Minho’s voice was low, and his eyes were full of emotion.

“Yes, you are!” Chan felt like crying. Minho was so incredibly precious to him. Chan didn’t know how to make him realise that.

“I’m not that special. But you are, Chan, and you can’t go around being so reckless like that.” Minho brought his forearms up, resting them on either side of Chan’s head.

“You don't get it, do you?" Minho's voice was shaking. “You should’ve told me earlier, Chan! You should’ve called me when you saw him.”

“I don’t need you saving me all the time.” Chan hissed. “I have to do something by myself.”

“And risk getting beat up in the process, all because he said something about me? I don’t know why you thought it was worth it.”

“When will it get through your head that I love you?!” Silence. Minho’s eyes widened. Chan’s breath caught in his throat. Chan couldn’t move, Minho’s arms had boxed him in. Chan expected Minho to jerk away in confusion and horror, apologising and telling him he could never feel the same way, and that Chan would have to leave. What he was wasn’t expecting was for Minho to kiss him. It was searing. All Chan could think about was Minho’s lips on his, Minho was kissing him. His knees were weak. Chan wanted to kiss Minho forever. He bought his hands up, resting them on Minho’s hips, tugging him closer. Minho kissed him feverishly, hungrily, and Chan returned with equal fervour.

“Minho…” He whispered. “Minho.” Minho nipped at his bottom lip, and Chan groaned. “You don’t know what you do to me.” Chan was lost in an endless ocean of longing, and he didn’t care if he drowned. Then he remembered Jisung, and he choked, flinching backwards and hitting his head against the pantry. Oh, fuck, Jisung, with his bright smile and beautiful lips and warm eyes. Jisung was Minho’s, and here Chan was, taking that away from him. Chan’s eyes filled with tears. Minho stilled, his brow creasing in confusion. Chan wanted to kiss him again. He wanted to kiss Minho until his expression smoothed over and Minho was gasping and begging for more. But he couldn’t. He couldn’t do that to Jisung. “Are you playing me, Minho?” Chan whispered. “Because I swear to fucking god, I can’t take anymore.” Minho flinched at Chan’s harsh tone. “I’m sorry, I just – I can’t figure it out. You have a boyfriend – both of you do. But I – I keep feeling so confused.” Chan felt tears begin to roll down his cheeks. Minho cupped Chan’s face with his hands, his thumbs brushing away Chan’s tears.

“It wasn’t my intention.” Minho’s voice was very soft. “Chan, please believe me.” Chan watched as Minho’s face filled with guilt. “We didn’t know how else to go about this.” Chan froze. ‘We’?

“Minho,” Chan breathed. “What do you mean?”

“Minho and me both like you, Chan.” Chan’s head snapped to the side, watching as Jisung approached them. ‘No, no, no.’ How long had Jisung been standing there? How much had he seen?

“Shit, Jisung, I’m – I’m really sorry, I just – fuck, I can’t even begin to explain, I’m so sorry.” But Jisung was smiling. “Chan, you didn’t hear me. We like you.” Chan paused before looking back at Minho, who was smiling. Finally, finally, it dawned on Chan.

Oh.” He breathed. “Oh fuck. So this whole time…”

“We talked about our feelings for you before we got together. Jisung liked you, but wasn’t really sure about it, and I’ve liked you since day one.” Chan’s eyes widened. So the sparks between them had been real. And no wonder Jisung had agreed to lunch with him so easily. “Then…” Minho looked at Jisung, and grinned. “We got together, but…without you…”

“It just didn’t feel right. So we agreed we’d save you a spot. Just for you.” Jisung continued, and his hand carded through Chan’s hair.

“Our Channie.” Minho whispered, cupping Chan’s cheek. Chan’s knees felt weak. So this whole time…he needn’t have worried about liking only one of them.

“Fuck, I wish you’d told me sooner.” Chan croaked. “You have no idea how much I’ve been trying to chose just one of you to like.” Chan shook his head, and laughed softly. “Then yesterday…fuck, I felt so conflicted. I wanted to be jealous of you, Jisung, but then I’d want to be jealous of Minho, and I couldn’t figure out who I was jealous of. I wanted to be with both of you so bad.” Minho’s eyes were shining with hope.

“So is that a yes?” Minho murmured. “For the two of us?” Chan leaned into Minho’s touch, his heart, no longer aching, was singing. He looked over and caught Jisung’s eyes, and his heart skipped a beat when he saw the same love in Jisung’s eyes that had been directed at Minho before.

“Someone please kiss me.” Chan whispered. “Before I lose my mind.” And Jisung and Minho laughed in harmony. Chan felt like he could drown in this moment.

He wouldn’t mind not coming up for air this time.

Chapter Text

[“A situation or state of confused movement or violent turmoil.”]

Don't give up, oh no. You persevered up until now. What's the worry? Believe in yourself.

Friday

Chan was running. He didn’t know what was running from, or where to, he just knew he had to go. He turned around, being met with darkness. He couldn’t see anything. But the longer he stayed still, the more his anxiety rose. He felt a chill crawling down his spine. A cold breath met his cheek, and an icy hand wrapped around his throat. Chan turned his head, trying to find his attacker, but found no one. His airway was constricting, his breathing beginning to come in short gasps.

“Where are you?” Chan choked out. “Who are you?”

Silence.

Chan’s eyes rolled back into his head, and his heart beat slowed until it stopped.

Chan jolted awake, his cries caught in his throat. His hands were trembling, and he was dripping with cold sweat. “Fuck.” He whispered. He looked over at the clock. 1:30am. He’d only been asleep for two hours. Chan hadn’t been sleeping well lately. The nightmares had started a week ago, roughly two weeks after they’d all started dating. Usually, he got a couple of hours of sleep. His dreams were always the same. He would be running, and would either try and find who was chasing him, or he would be caught. He would wake up just as he died in the dream. He never saw who his tormentor was.

Once he was awake, he’d further keep himself awake but trying to figure out how he fit in. He saw how perfectly Jisung and Minho fit together. They were pieces of a puzzle, fitting snuggly against each other. Sometimes they didn’t even say anything to each other, they would just communicate via vague hand gestures and facial expressions. That was how well they understood each other. They would always be laughing at inside jokes, and holding hands. It seemed so natural.

Chan was so careful around them. He didn’t want to interfere with their jigsaw. He didn’t want to overstep his boundaries too early. He didn’t want Jisung to feel left out – Minho and Chan had known each other a long time, after all. Chan still couldn’t quite believe what he was experiencing was real. Despite now dating them, Chan still felt stranded on Earth while they shined above him like stars. He didn’t really feel like he deserved to be with them. Despite how much he’d longed for this, he just couldn’t shake the feeling that maybe he didn’t belong.

Chan couldn’t figure Minho out. Minho had been practically joined at the hip to Jisung. Jisung hadn’t changed his affections towards Chan. Sometimes it made Chan feel like he was only dating one person, while Jisung was the one dating two people. It hurt. Jisung and Chan were still testing the waters of their relationship, and Chan had no doubt he was falling in love with Jisung. Chan was happy the way he was progressing with Jisung. The three of them had been dating for three weeks now. Chan knew that he was slowly starting to take his own place in Jisung’s orbit.

But Chan had told Minho he loved him. Minho still hadn’t brought it up. He hadn’t reciprocated the intensity of Chan’s feelings, and it made Chan uneasy. What if only Jisung liked him, and Minho was just trying to make Jisung happy by letting Chan into the picture? Then Chan shook his head. He couldn’t believe how much he was spiralling. He knew that Minho wanted him around, he just…didn’t know which way. Chan guessed he was probably hypersensitive to any abandonment. It didn’t bode well, though, if he kept having these feelings. He didn’t want to scare off either of his boyfriends.

“Channie…?” Jisung’s sleepy voice reached his ears. Chan had discovered that Jisung was a light sleeper. Jisung blinked sleepily at him, tugging on his shirt. Chan instantly felt the lump in his throat disappear. He let Jisung pull him back onto the pillow.

“Go back to sleep, love, I’m fine.” Chan murmured, carding his hand through Minho’s hair. If anything, he could talk about it in the morning. Chan wrapped Jisung in his arms, resting his chin on the top of Jisung’s soft hair. Jisung mumbled sleepily before dozing off again. Chan couldn’t imagine not having Jisung. Chan looked over at Minho, and he felt uneasy again. Chan gently ran his hand through Minho’s hair, trying to soothe himself.

Chan tried to sleep. He tried. But after what felt like aeons, sleep still evaded him. Exasperated, Chan carefully extricated himself from the cuddle pile and stretched, his neck popping. He looked down at his sleeping boyfriends, and instead of feeling happy, he felt anxious. Chan sighed and made his way out into the living room. He hated that he was feeling like this. Minho and Jisung were incredible. He knew the problem had to have been himself. Chan plugged in his headphones and began watching videos on his phone, hoping that eventually, sleep would come.

It never did. As sunlight began streaming into the room, Chan finally relented, and stood up and stretched. He padded into the kitchen, tilting his neck back and forth to try and ease some cracks from it. He heard quiet footsteps and turned around, expecting to see Minho. Instead, he found Jisung peering at him blearily. Chan’s heart melted. Jisung was wearing Chan’s signature black sweater and was practically drowning it. Jisung opened his arms and Chan rushed forwards at the opportunity. He swooped in and stole a kiss from Jisung’s warm lips. The knot that had formed in his chest after a sleepless night of worrying was finally to ease itself. Maybe Chan should have woken Jisung up when the pessimistic voice in his head had been the loudest. He couldn’t imagine Jisung being annoyed at him for that.

A sudden wave of relief washed over him. Things were going to be okay. He had Jisung in his arms. That was all that mattered. He peppered Jisung’s face with kisses until Jisung began to giggle, swatting Chan with sweater paws.

“Stop it!” Jisung giggled again. “I wanna kiss you.” Jisung’s fingers framed Chan’s face perfectly. Chan closed his eyes and hummed, content, as Jisung’s lips met his. Their first kiss had been incredible. While Minho sparked with electricity, bright and unpredictable, Jisung was sunlight. Warm, comforting, and steady. Jisung never failed to calm Chan, or to make him smile. Jisung pulled back, taking in Chan’s face. His face fell as he took stock of the bags under Chan’s eyes. “Chan, didn’t you sleep well?” The smile froze on Chan’s face.

“Bad dreams.” He murmured, trying to brush it off. “I just woke up early, that’s all.” Chan ran his hands through Jisung’s hair, trying to soothe himself. “But I always sleep well next to you.” He winked, admiring the blush spreading across Jisung’s face. There went his healthy plan of ‘I’m going to ask Jisung to help me deal with what’s going on inside my head’. He didn’t want to a burden on Jisung. He didn’t want to be a bad person. He needed to see Minho, to reassure himself that he was just as important to Minho as Jisung was.

“Where’s Minho?” Chan must have been frowning, because Jisung began to look concerned.

“He’s sleeping. Why, is something up?” Chan opened his mouth but then snapped it closed as soon as he even considered about telling Jisung his feelings.

“No, baby, nothing’s wrong.” He flashed Jisung a bright smile. “I promise.” There he went, lying again. He could’ve laughed. When had he managed to trick himself into believing he was worth something like this?

“We should go swimming!” Jisung was already bouncing on the heels of his feet. Chan couldn’t help but perk up at that. Since they’d started dating, Chan and Jisung would often go to the local pool and swim. The sounds of the water moving around him became white noise, allowing Chan to completely clear his head and focus on getting into a rhythm. This morning especially, Chan was eager to rid his mind of the plethora of thoughts swirling around inside.


 

Arm, dive, kick, arm, breathe, kick, dive.

Chan slammed both of his hands onto the wall, looking up as Jisung cheered.

“You beat your time, Channie!” Jisung and Chan had taken it in turns to time each other at the end of each week. “Holy shit, you almost took off two seconds.” Chan grinned up at him. “You’re under a minute twenty, Chan! That’s pretty damn good.” Chan’s goal was a minute and ten seconds or under. He figured it was good progress, considering when he’d started training with Jisung he’d been over a minute and thirty seconds. Jisung had pointed out it was mainly his timing that was off, and he wasn’t being efficient with his arm strokes. Once he’d fixed the two glaring problems, it had taken a significant chunk of time off. Now he just had to hone in on his stamina. Chan tended to go too hard in the first fifty metres, lagging by the end of the second lap.

“Alright, my turn.” Jisung’s eyes were twinkling. Jisung was a breaststroker, and a damn good one at that. Jisung had laser focus whenever it was related to swimming or music. It was almost scary how he’d go from being his bright, cheery self, to being almost expressionless with concentration. Jisung offered Chan a hand out, and Chan took his goggles off, holding out a hand for the stopwatch. Jisung was staring at him with wide eyes, and it took Chan a moment to realise that Jisung was gawking at his chest.

“You could be a little less obvious.” Chan winked at Jisung, which only seemed to worsen Jisung’s predicament.

“Y-you did that on purpose.” Jisung squeaked.

“Please, you know wearing a rashie just slows me down. If you want to see me shirtless so bad, all you need to do is ask.” Chan almost blushed at the words coming out of his mouth. He’d never been very good at flirting, so sometimes he felt rather awkward. It was, however, always worth it, seeing how Jisung came apart whenever Chan so much as lowered his voice. “Alright, babe, get in there.”

“You threw me off! I was just starting to get into the zone.” Chan bit his lip. He reached out and cupped Jisung’s chin and leaned forward.

“I can throw you off a bit more if you’d like.” Chan pressed a slow kiss to Jisung’s earlobe and watched as Jisung’s face went bright red. Chan then turned around, hiding his face. He felt so embarrassed. He was used to getting flirted with, not the other way around. Jisung was muttering under his breath how ‘it should be illegal for one man to be so bloody attractive’ as he stepped onto the starting block. Chan finally mustered up the courage to turn back around. Jisung gave Chan one last grin before taking a deep breath. Chan watched as his facial expression smoothed over.

“Alright, Channie, I’m ready.” Chan nodded, holding up the stopwatch.

“On my count. One, two, go!” The way that Jisung’s body seamlessly slid into the water was breathtaking. He barely made a sound as he hit the water. Jisung’s stroke was perfect. As both a swimmer himself and as an instructor, Chan never failed to be impressed by Jisung. Chan had never understood how breaststroke really worked. It never made sense. What was the point if you had to stop moving to actually go anywhere? Chan had always preferred butterfly and freestyle. Backstroke he’d always run into the lane ropes. Jisung made breaststroke look easy. Chan’s heart rate began to rise in anticipation as he saw Jisung begin to speed up in the last twenty-five metres. He leaned over the edge, stopwatch in hand. He grinned as he saw the time. Jisung was going to crack his goal, Chan could feel it. “Come on, Jisungie.” Chan muttered. “You’ve got this.” Bam. Chan stopped the clock as Jisung’s hands met the wall. Chan’s eyes were wide as he looked down at the stopwatch. “Jisung! You did it!” Chan couldn’t help it. He jumped into the water and wrapped Jisung in a hug. Jisung had been forever lamenting that he could never make it under a minute and fifteen seconds. Even by a millisecond, he’d never managed it.

“What was my time?” Jisung already had a smile spreading over his face.

“A minute fourteen, pretty much spot on.” Jisung’s eyes widened. Jisung’s true goal, like Chan’s, was to crack a minute and ten seconds. Considering Jisung was less than twenty seconds off the world record holder, Chan was proud of him. “Maybe you should try and become an Olympic swimmer.” Jisung laughed at this.

“That’d mean leaving you and Minho behind. Never.” Chan’s eyes softened as he saw the small smile Jisung was giving him. “I don’t want to go anywhere if I haven’t got both of you.” Chan realised that he’d definitely been overthinking earlier. Jisung made Chan feel like he fit. With Jisung, Chan felt like he could do anything.

“We should probably get back.” Chan murmured. He just wanted to kiss Jisung, and at a public pool probably wasn’t the best place for it. Plus, Minho was waiting.


Jisung and Chan were still chatting as they walked through the door to Jisung and Minho’s apartment. Chan felt elated. He could talk to Jisung for hours without either of them running out of things to say. Chan’s nose wrinkled as a peculiar smell met his nose.

“Is that…pancakes?” Jisung also looked confused.

“But I also smell tomato sauce.” They looked at each other and shrugged.

“Morning.” Minho turned around to great them. Chan melted at the sight of Minho’s soft smile. His earlier worries washed away. He tried not to run over to Minho, trying to just speed walk over. He heard Jisung snickering behind him. Chan wrapped his arms around Minho, burying his face into Minho’s shoulder.

‘I love you.’ He wanted to say, but Jisung was there. Chan wanted to say the same for Jisung and Minho, not wanting Jisung to feel left out.

“You’re cuddly this morning, dear one.” Chan went weak at the knees. He still wasn’t over Minho calling him dear one. It still had the same effect, if not greater, on him every time.

“When it comes to you I am.” Chan murmured in his ear. Jisung came up behind them and started rubbing Chan’s back, kissing his cheek. Chan turned his head, smiling as Jisung’s lips met his. Then Jisung pulled back, his nose wrinkling. Jisung began to stare suspiciously at the fry pan. Jisung began to rub his eyes, exasperated.

Minho. Oh my god. You didn’t wash the pan from last night, did you?” Minho blinked innocently at Jisung, appearing to be genuinely confused.

“Was I supposed to?” Jisung slowly turned to Chan. The two of them just looked at each other. They really should have expected this. Chan and Jisung weren’t great cooks either, but sometimes they forgot how Minho really didn’t have any common sense when it came to cooking. Chan remembered Minho being surprised why nothing was cooking when he hadn’t even turned the gas on.

“Maybe we’ll cook next time, babe.” Jisung patted Minho’s shoulder. “How does toast sound?”

“But my pancakes are perfect!” Minho sounded indignant. “Fine, Chan, you’ll have my pancakes, won’t you?” Chan turned to Jisung, mouthing ‘help me.’ Jisung just shook his head and smirked. “Channie?” Jisung began cackling as Minho began chasing Chan around with a ladle, before Minho turned on him as well. Five minutes later, they had all collapsed onto the floor, breathless and laughing.

“I can’t believe that you were using a ladle to flip pancakes.” Jisung was wheezing. “I love you, Minho, even though sometimes I think you only have three brain cells.” Chan laughed even harder, holding his stomach.

“I think we have three brain cells between the three of us, to be honest.” Minho shoved him.

“Maybe we’ll just have to eliminate you and share your brain cell.” Minho had one eyebrow raised.

“You wouldn’t dare.” Chan grinned at him. Things were going to be okay. Everything was going to be fine. Then Jisung sat bolt upright.

“Oh fuck, why can I smell something burning?”


 Saturday

“I can’t sleep.” Chan sang softly, on his way back to his apartment. “So tell me.” It was a song that he’d written over several years, with his limited knowledge of music. Sometimes he’d played his guitar until his fingers had hurt. He knew he should’ve been asleep right now, curled up between his boyfriends. He had work later that morning, after all. But once again, his thoughts kept him up. He didn’t know how to get himself back to sleep. His stupid subconscious was probably trying to mix his dreams in with reality, trying to make him believe things that weren’t true.

He hadn’t been home – to his home – in a while. He knew eventually he’d have to think about moving in with Minho and Jisung. He was just…scared. He was so scared of getting hurt again. What if he was getting played again? He didn’t want to believe it. Jisung and Minho would never do it. But then he began thinking about how naïve he’d been before. What if it happened again?” Chan bit down on his tongue. He felt suffocated. Chan stumbled into his empty apartment. A wave of sadness washed over him, nearly bringing him to his knees. It was so quiet. So lonely. Maybe it was what he deserved.

Chan was so tired. So, so, fucking tired. But he couldn’t sleep. He knew it was a pointless endeavour. He pulled out his laptop, blearily peering at the screen until the sun began to rise. He didn’t want to face the nightmare again.


 Saturday
Chan thought he was quite clever in the way he avoided Momo and Mina. Seungmin was in, covering a shift, and so Chan stuck to Seungmin’s side when he wasn’t teaching. He sometimes spotted Momo and Mina talking to each other, occasionally looking over at him, and he knew he wouldn’t be able to avoid them forever.

“Why am I always left out?” Seungmin was pouting. Chan sometimes thought he resembled a Labrador. “I had to find out you and Jisung were dating from Momo!” Chan leaned over and ruffled his hair.

“Patience, young padawan.” Seungmin stuck his tongue out at him.

“I mean, I always suspected. You guys had tons of inside jokes, and sometimes I wanted to tell you to get a room.” Seungmin rolled his eyes. “Okay, maybe I should’ve seen it coming. It started to get a bit too obvious.” Chan rubbed the back of his neck as anxiety began to pool in his stomach. Usually Jisung woke up when Chan went to work, even just to kiss him goodbye, so he hoped that Jisung hadn’t noticed that Chan hadn’t been there in the morning. “Jisung especially.” That broke Chan from his thoughts. He looked over at Seungmin, confused.

“What do you mean, Jisung was obvious?” Seungmin laughed at Chan’s obvious bewilderment.

“Oh man! I guess you didn’t see how he’d try and talk to you before everyone else. Sometimes I’d catch him looking at you, as well. I teased him about it, but he was really defensive. It was funny.” Fuck, did Chan miss his boyfriends. He wanted to see them so badly. But he knew he couldn’t subject them to the chaos raging within his mind. “Chan, you okay?” Seungmin patted his shoulder. “You look like you need to go to sleep.”

“Yeah, I’ll do that.” Chan forced a smile. “I’ve been staying up too much, lately.”

When his shift ended, Chan slipped out before Momo and Mina could catch him. His phone began to ring once he got into his car, but he ignored it. He didn’t want to let anyone else in. He didn’t want to hurt anyone. His eyes were burning, but no tears fell. Chan was beginning to succumb to apathy. It should have scared him, but he found that he didn’t care anymore.


 His apartment was still as empty as ever.

“Hi, I’m home.” He laughed bitterly, dropping his bag by the door. His apartment seemed so dark and empty compared to Minho and Jisung’s. The pair had small decorations adorning shelves and cupboards, and the curtains were always open, letting sunlight stream in. There were little succulents scattered along the windowsills, because according to Jisung, any plant that required regular watering would die under Minho’s care. Soon-ie and Doong-ie would be lounging around, oscillating between demanding attention or food, and sunbathing.

Chan missed them.

He jumped as his phone began to ring. He looked down, finding Jisung’s contact name had popped up. Chan bit down on his lip, realising his mistake. He hadn’t told either of his boyfriends that he hadn’t planned on coming home.

“Chan, when will you be home?” Jisung’s voice was full of concern that Chan knew he didn’t deserve. Chan swallowed down the lump in his throat. He was glad he couldn’t see Jisung’s face.

“I – I won’t be.” He heard Jisung’s breath catch, and Chan bit down on his tongue. “I’m sorry. I just need to be by myself.” Chan muttered. “Can you guys give me some space for a couple days?”

“Chan…” Jisung sounded like he wanted to say something else, but was holding himself back. “If something’s up, you should tell us. Let us help you.”

“I will. I’m fine, I just…assignments, and stuff.” He hated lying to Jisung. He hated that he was taking advantage of Jisung’s tendency to believe him. Chan knew Minho wouldn’t buy what he was saying. Minho would have seen straight through him.

“Are you sure? Momo messaged me. So did Mina. They were asking about you. They said you were avoiding them.” Chan winced at this. “Chan, can we come over?” Jisung was beginning to sound desperate.

“I’m fine.” Chan tried to force a smile into his voice. “I haven’t been sleeping well because I’m tired. I just need to be by myself.” He kept his voice firm, knowing any signs of weakness would alert Jisung that something was off.

“Okay, Chan. If you’re sure.” Jisung’s voice sounded rough. Chan hated that he was the one causing Jisung pain, when he should be protecting Jisung.

“I’ll see you tomorrow, Jisungie.”

“Yeah.” Jisung’s voice became quieter, sounding uncharacteristically dull. It was like a cloud blocking out the sunlight, muting Jisung’s vibrancy. “See you.” Chan was tempted to throw his phone across the room after Jisung hung up. He was so angry at himself. Chan knew that what he was doing was wrong, but he didn’t know how to get himself out of the hole he’d dug for himself. He just couldn’t seem to escape from the prison the voices in his head had created. Chan sank to the floor, his eyes burning. He didn’t remember the last time he’d eaten. He couldn’t remember when he’d had a full night of sleep. It seemed that the happier he became, the bigger his fears grew. Chan felt like he was being hunted by a hydra. Every time he thought he’d cut off one head, another three grew back in its place. Every time he quelled one voice in his head, he’d be greeted by another ten.

‘Not good enough.’

‘You’re a burden.’

‘All you do is hurt people.’

‘Just tell them the truth, that you aren’t good enough.’

‘Why do you, out of everyone else, deserve them? What have you done to merit that?’

Chan clamped his hands around his temples, wishing he could just drive the voices out. He felt dizzy, the volume of the voices in his head getting louder and louder, each one demanding his attention. Occasionally the voice of his ex would punctuate the throng within his mind, louder than all the other voices. That voice was the worst one. It always had memories attached. Chan wondered if he would ever escape.

‘Just shut up, why don’t you? What makes you think you’ll ever be enough, for anyone? You weren’t enough for me.’


 Sunday

He was such a coward. Chan had called in sick on Saturday afternoon. He had a perfect track record of showing up for shifts, so he’d been told to just rest. He hadn’t slept again that night, not wanting to risk another nightmare. Chan busied himself with uni work and old movies, but nothing was distracting him from the confrontation he knew he was going to have with his boyfriends tomorrow. Chan knew he had to end it. He knew he was probably torturing them with his absence. He couldn’t continue hurting them like this. He had to let them go.

Chan had been expecting a phone call as soon as Jisung’s shift finished. There was nothing. He started to grow suspicious when the silence continued for another hour. He wondered if Jisung and Minho had just decided to cut him off. He wouldn’t blame them. It was certainly the far less painful option than confrontation. Not that Chan planned on there being one. He would tell them that they should stay away from him and then they would leave, simple as that.

Chan hadn’t slept properly in over a week now. He’d had two hours of sleep on Thursday night, and hadn’t slept on Friday or Saturday night. Every time he stood up, he felt dizzy. He knew he probably looked like a dead man walking. He hadn’t shaved, or eaten. He’d been stuck on pause, while life around him went on. He didn’t even flinch as someone began banging on the door.

“Chan!” Jisung sounded angry. Chan had never heard Jisung angry before. “Let us in! We know you’re in there!” Chan rose to his feet, grabbing the side of the couch as a wave of nausea threatened to overwhelm him. He felt like he was in a dream as he made his way over to the door. He opened the door, finding a furious Jisung glaring at him. Chan just blinked at him, stepping back so Jisung could enter. Chan was just about to close the door when he came face to face with Minho. Minho looked uneasy. As soon as he saw Chan, his face fell.

“Oh, Channie.” Minho cupped his face, stroking his hair back from his forehead. “I wish you weren’t so good at hiding your feelings.” Chan just nodded. Minho’s voice felt like it was coming from far away. Minho was the one who closed the door and led Chan to the couch. “Jisung, don’t get angry at him.” Minho murmured. His voice was like honey. 

“I don’t care, Minho. He can’t pull this shit.” Jisung’s voice was cold. Minho merely sighed, pulling on Chan’s sweater, trying to coax Chan to the couch. “Don’t baby him, Minho!”

“Don’t snap at me.” There was an undercurrent of warning to Minho’s tone. “I’ve seen Chan like this before.” Chan barely registered that Minho’s voice was filled with guilt. “This is my fault, Jisung.”

“No, don’t try and take the blame.” Jisung’s voice softened for a moment, before he turned back to Chan. While often soothing, the sun’s rays could prove dangerous if concentrated enough. And Jisung was about to start a fire. “Chan, what the fuck, man?” Chan just looked at him.

“Everything you’re about to say, I deserve.” He barely recognised his own voice. Minho made a soft noise from beside him, but Jisung was too blinded by his emotions to register it.

“Jisung, stop.” Minho sounded desperate.

“Do you even care about us, Chan? Because it seems like you’re avoiding us. Minho’s been really worried about you. I’ve been worried about you. Your friends are worried about you. If you were in that much trouble, why couldn’t you just tell us? I thought – I thought you were trying to leave us!” The crack in Jisung’s armour broke for just a second, and his fear shone through. “I thought you didn’t want to be with us anymore.” The voices in Chan’s head were loud in his ears, drowning out Jisung’s words. Chan was silent. This just made Jisung more angry. “Say something, Chan!” There was another crack. “Please?”

“You should leave.” Chan’s voice was hoarse. Jisung glared at him, grabbing onto his shoulders.

“Is that what you really want, Chan?” His grip on Chan’s arms was tight.

“Is that what you really want?”

“Say something, or maybe I will!” Tears were streaming down Jisung’s cheeks.

“Answer me, Chan. I have no reason to stay unless you want me to stay.”

Enough.” Minho’s voice cut through air like a knife. “Jisung, sit down.” Chan’s breath was coming in short gasps. Jisung lowered himself onto the couch, resting his head in his hands. Minho turned back to Chan. “Chan, come here – Chan?” Chan’s vision blurred, and darkness encroached on his vision.

“Chan!”


 Chan was running through a dark forest. The further he ran, the more the trees started to close in on him. His breath was loud in his ears, his sobs racking his body. He was being chased. He wondered how he would die this time. He took a sharp left, and his eyes widened in horror as he found that there was no way through. Chan looked around, desperately searching for an exit. The only to go seemed to be forwards. He took off running again, his heartbeat loud in his ears. He felt like he was being herded. He couldn’t turn around, or he knew he’d be caught.

All he could do was run, and run, until his legs trembled and he couldn’t catch his breath. This time, Chan was determined to escape. He ignored how ragged his breath was, ignored the stitches in his size and the nausea in his stomach. Surely he was close. He felt like he’d been running for hours. Then Chan skidded to a halt. The trail before him was gone. In its place was a seemingly impenetrable wall of thorny vines. He looked left and right. When had the trees become that close? He’d come this far. He couldn’t give up now.

“Fuck.” He began scrabbling at the vines, his hands catching on the thorns. Blood began to trickle down his forearms. Chan bit down on his tongue, stifling a cry of pain as the thorns ripped deeper, and deeper. He was making no progress. Chan let out a cry of frustration. He was trapped, with no escape. All he could was stand there, waiting for his demise.

“Chan.” He whirled around, his eyes darting around, trying to find the figure that came to him every time he closed his eyes.

“What do you want?” Chan demanded. “Who are you?” He stumbled back as a figure materialised before him. Curly, dark brown hair, and dark brown eyes. Tall and broad-shouldered, and smile that revealed dimples. Chan’s eyes widened.

“Can’t you see?” Chan stepped forward, holding his arm out. The figure did the same. As their fingers met, the forest around them began to disappear. Chan whirled around. He was now in an open field, with both the sun and the moon present above him. His jaw dropped. He turned around, finally beginning to understand. “I am you.”

This time, Chan woke up smiling. His eyelids felt heavy. Chan frowned, trying desperately to open his eyes.

Channie!” The voice was shrill. He groaned as someone threw themselves onto him, arms snaking around him.

“Careful, Minho!” That was Jisung’s voice. “Don’t hurt him.” Jisung’s voice was shaking. Chan finally forced his eyes open properly, taking stock of his surroundings. His nose tickled. All he could see was Minho’s hair. Minho was sobbing into his shoulder. Instinctively, Chan began to run his hand through Minho’s hair.

“Shh, baby, it’s okay. Don’t cry…” Chan was perplexed as this seemed to make Minho cry harder. “Min? What’s wrong?” Chan was so confused. He turned his head to see a blue curtain, and a plastic bag of fluid hanging from a stand. His brow creased. Was…was he in a hospital? “Wh-where am I?” Minho pulled back to look down at him, rubbing his tears away. He was wearing Chan’s sweater. Chan smiled softly at him, and Minho leaned down to kiss him.

“I love you, dear one.” Was whispered against his lips. Chan’s eyes widened.

“I-I love you too.” Chan couldn’t describe the happiness that washed over him at Minho’s words. It was more than happiness – it was pure joy.

“Chan, I’m really sorry.” Minho tucked himself into Chan’s side, leaving Chan to look up at Jisung. Jisung’s bottom lip was wobbling, and his eyes were bright with unshed tears. Then Jisung wrapped his arms around Chan’s neck, also beginning to cry. Chan was perplexed. Had he been in an accident or something.

“What happened to me?” He murmured.

“It was my fault.” Jisung whispered. Chan heard Minho tsk at him.

“Sungie, we’ve been over this. It’s all of our faults.” Minho nuzzled into Chan’s neck, tracing patterns on Chan’s chest. “Chan, you started having trouble sleeping again, didn’t you?” Chan froze, his memory of the past week rushing back to him.

Fuck.” He whispered. He knew exactly what had happened.

“About a year after I met Chan, I learned that he had bad nightmares. They were mostly gone, but sometimes they flared up.” Chan pressed a kiss to Jisung’s forehead. “He stopped taking care of himself. He didn’t sleep for about three or four days, after a couple weeks of not sleeping well. He passed out. His friend, Sana, was with him. She called me when he ended up in the hospital. Exhaustion and dehydration.” Minho sighed.

“Can I sit up?” Chan murmured. Minho and Jisung scrambled backwards. “I have some explaining to do.” His voice was rough. “I don’t want either of you feelings guilty, for a start. This has happened before, as Minho said, so I should’ve known not to let it get this bad.” He took a deep breath. “I guess I just…I was worried…that I wasn’t going to fit in with you guys.” Jisung opened his mouth, but Chan shook his head. “Don’t make excuses for me, Jisung.”

“Especially not for me.” Minho was clenching his jaw. “This was my fault.” Jisung turned his gaze to Minho, confused. Minho pressed a finger to Chan’s lips. “I was scared of Jisung feeling left out, because we’ve known each other for a long time.” Minho murmured. “I was scared of hurting Jisung, so I…I think I forgot that I needed to just treat you equally. I’m sorry, Channie. I love both of you so much, and I didn’t want either of you getting hurt. But I still ended up hurting both of you anyway.” Minho’s voice was bitter. Chan locked eyes with Minho. Typical Minho. Typical Chan, really. Minho, with his penchant to put others first, often getting tunnel vision in his endeavour to protect those he cared about. And Chan, stubborn, refusing to let anyone help him, blinded by his desire to make everyone happy.

“I’m sorry.” Chan whispered. “I know I should’ve let you help me. But it was hard even thinking about how I would bring it up. Then it just got worse, and worse, and I lost myself in it.”

“I’m sorry, too. I should’ve kept both of you as equals in my mind.” They smiled at each other. Then Jisung made a soft noise, and they turned to find him staring at them, incredulous.

“So…you’re telling me…this whole time, both of you just needed to talk to each other, or to me? This whole thing could’ve been avoided if you just weren’t so stubborn?” Jisung pressed his hands to his temples. “Oh man.” But then he began nibbling on his bottom lip. “I’m sorry for yelling at you, Channie.” His voice was impossibly small. Chan just wanted to hold him. “It felt like you were hiding something. It seemed like you were trying to avoid us, or me. I was really scared. And I got angry, instead of thinking it through logically.” Chan stroked Jisung’s cheek.

“I get it, Jisung. I would’ve done the same.” Chan ran a hand through his hair, shaking his head. “I feel so stupid.”

“Never forget that we’re a team, Chan.” Minho murmured, resting his head on Chan’s shoulder, intertwining their fingers.

“We have to do this together. Remember what I said? ‘I don’t want to go anywhere if I haven’t got both of you.’ And I mean it, Chan. I always will.” Chan’s heart felt full. He couldn’t imagine life without the two of them in it. He had to step out of the voices in his head, keeping him in the past, and step in the arms of his boyfriends, who were offering him a future.

“I love you, Jisung.” Chan watched as Jisung’s eyes widened, and Chan felt as if he was full of sunlight. “I’m in love with you.” Chan then turned to Minho. “I love you, Minho.” Minho beamed at him, making Chan’s heart flutter.

Chapter Text

[“Harmony.”]

I’ll be by your side, trust me till the end. I’II promise you that I’ll stand by your side.

Chan had never understood the excitement surrounding coffee. That’s what people usually planned with friends, to go and get coffee. Apparently, most university students thrived on it. Some people liked to try different blends and aromas. Over the years, through living with Minho, Chan had grown to like coffee. He didn’t mind the little bit of bitterness. However, he had at least three sugars and a good deal of milk with it. Minho had never been able to stop him from drinking it like that. Chan liked sweet things. Sweet, like icing on the tip of Jisung’s nose when they’d tried to make a cake for Minho’s birthday. Sweet, like Minho’s smiles when they were kissing on the couch.

Chan hadn’t had nightmares since the time he’d gone to the hospital. He’d been sent home with strict orders to rest, and Jisung and Minho had been reluctant to let Chan so much as stand up. They’d hovered around him, until Chan had bear tackled them, proving that he wasn’t as weak as he’d seemed. Chan had arrived at Jisung and Minho’s apartment to a frantic Momo, Mina, and Sana. The three girls had bonded pretty much instantly, creating a formidable force. Jisung and Sana had gotten along quite well, and Minho had instantly clicked with Momo and Mina. Chan had been in awe of how well his two worlds were colliding. They’d all crammed into the small living room of the apartment, Sana’s lap being claimed by Soon-ie, and Mina’s by Doong-ie.

Chan had felt overwhelmed, at first. But it was Sana who had taken his hand with a smile and started from the beginning. Chan had watched as Minho’s eyes widened with understanding, and Jisung had buried his head in Chan’s chest to hide his tears. Mina had given Chan a reassuring smile, and Momo had gently smacked the back of his head, chastising him for not telling anyone sooner. Chan had been shocked at the positive response. When Sana had finished, Chan had taken a deep, shuddering breath, telling his friends and boyfriends about the past week. He told them about his nightmares, his fears, and the voices in his head, that got louder with every passing moment of wakefulness.

He hated seeing the guilt on Minho’s face, the guilt that should have been Chan’s burden alone. He had taken Jisung’s shaking hands, stopping Jisung’s apologies with a kiss. Momo had been angry at the three of them. She’d been angry at Minho for being too preoccupied to take the time to see if Chan was alright. She’d been angry at Jisung for being confrontational. But she’d been furious at Chan for shutting everyone out, for almost giving into the cycle that had started at all. Then Mina, ever the mediator, had taken her hands. Mina, sounding wise beyond her years, had gently murmured that anger was the wrong emotion to be driven by. Sana had given her a grateful smile.

They’d all turned to Chan. Chan knew he wouldn’t be able to fall back into the deep depths of his head even if he tried. It had felt strange, to feel so prioritised, so loved, and to not doubt his feelings for a moment. They all agreed they’d keep an eye on each other, particularly Chan. All of them had realised what they could have lost. They kept their promises. Sana would often join Chan and Minho for study sessions. Momo agreed to stop making fun of Jisung if he agreed to teach Mina how to play piano. Sana occasionally dropped by with cookies or sweets that she’d baked with Momo and Mina. Minho – after being thoroughly supervised – had returned the favour, with his questionable ‘family’ dinners.

They weren’t just friends anymore, after all. They had become far more tightknit than that. In the centre of it all lay Chan. Jisung and Minho had been on edge for a while around him, Minho especially. Chan had often found Minho watching him like a hawk. Jisung, on the other hand, had taken it upon himself to try and teach the three of them ‘communication skills.’ Chan and Minho, admittedly, hadn’t taken it seriously at first. But Jisung had pushed and prodded, until Chan and Minho had completely let down their walls. Chan had been the first to give in. He knew that if he wanted to truly feel worthy of his new family, he would have to open up. There had been tears, and nights were Chan had just wanted to punch a pillow until his mind cleared.

After the bad nights, Jisung would drag him to go swimming. Chan instantly felt calmer after a good session with Jisung. Whenever they returned home, Minho would be waiting for them with open arms. Wordlessly, he would wind his arms around Chan and whisper, ‘I love you, dear one’ into Chan’s ear. Then Minho would pull Jisung into the hug, kissing him until Jisung became breathless and starstruck. If Chan had trouble sleeping, Jisung would sit up and play guitar with him, while a sleepy Minho read a book on their bed. Other times, Jisung would be curled up on Minho’s lap as Chan and Minho stargazed on the balcony.

It had taken a while for Chan to be okay. But they’d worked through it, together. Sure, they’d had their arguments along the way. Chan had still been scared about moving in with the two of them, until Jisung had sat him down and made him talk it out. It had been hard. Admitting one’s true feelings always was. But between Minho and Jisung, Chan had gone from a sapling to a towering oak. Chan couldn’t imagine where he’d be without them. They’d been able to afford a small home of their own, eventually. Jisung had been the one to press the keys into Chan’s hand. Minho had been the one to rush in through the doorway, a joyful laugh leaving his lungs and filling the empty house. Chan had become a teacher, and Minho had become a vet. Jisung had become a swimming coach for a little while before going to university for the first time, to study music producing.

While they rarely saw each other during the day, weekends were sacred. They’d gone hiking, gone to the beach, and once over the Christmas break they’d gone overseas. Chan still considered that one of his most stressful experiences to date. He’d been the one stressing about passports and if they were going to make it on time. He’d made them leave five hours before their flight. Minho had just discovered his next favourite band and had been dancing away as they made their way through the airport. Jisung had been…well, Jisung, distracted by everything and anything. Eventually, Chan had given them one strap of his backpack each to hold, and had lead them through the airport, threatening to take the window seat from them on the flight over and back.

Over time, Chan had begun to see that they needed him. Sometimes Jisung and Minho would clash, the poles that brought them together sometimes forcing them apart. Then Chan would be there to pick up the pieces and bring them back together. Sometimes Chan would sit and watch his boyfriends, a smile on his face. He no longer felt alone or excluded, or like he didn’t belong. Seeing his boyfriends together made his heart fill with love. He loved seeing a sleepy Jisung wrap his entire body around Minho like a koala. Seeing Minho teasing Jisung, a mischievous glint in his eye, always made Chan laugh. He was especially grateful when Jisung would pout and feign being hurt, because it usually meant that Chan had an excuse to smack Minho’s ass.

Eventually, their house had begun to feel empty. One day Minho had called Chan, frantic. When Chan had picked up, he’d heard Jisung’s voice on the other end of the line as well. He’d been confused, until Minho had begun telling Chan about this adorable little kitten who needed a home and three cats was the perfect number and he’d never ask for anything again if he could just bring home this sweet little kitten…

“What’s the name?” Chan had already made his mind up as soon as he’d heard Minho’s request. He’d heard Jisung teasing Minho in the background.

“Dori!” Minho had sounded so excited. “Thank you, Channie, you won’t even know she’s here.”

“I call dibs on cuddles as soon as I get home, love.” Chan had chuckled, delighting in Minho’s excited squeal. Dori had been tiny, and had been extremely shy. Minho had often complained that his two cats had decided they liked his boyfriends more than him, but he had no worries when it came to Dori. Dori was always clamouring for Minho’s attention, and barely left his side. It had been perfect. They didn’t need anything else. Chan’s favourite times became movie nights, where he’d be cuddled up with his boyfriends, their cats either curled up on their laps or in their own cuddle pile.

Then, one rainy day, Chan had been in a hurry to pick up some coffees for his boyfriends. On his way to the café from his car, he’d heard strange noises coming from a small box at the edge of an alleyway. Suspicious, Chan had investigated. In the box he’d found a tiny King Charles Spaniel. She had a cute black button nose and Chan had instantly fallen in love with her when she slowly wagged her tail as he held his hand out towards her. He’d carefully picked up the box, not wanting to scare her, and her put her into the passenger seat, giving her his scarf to cuddle. When he’d shown up with the puppy in the box, Minho had simply raised an eyebrow.

“That doesn’t look like coffee to me.” But his mouth was quirked at the corners.

“What’s her name?” Jisung had been so desperate to pet her. Chan had known that he couldn’t leave the little puppy behind. They’d gone with Minho to his surgery, to make sure she was alright. Minho had warned a smitten Chan and Jisung that she might not get along with the cats. Chan had already named her Berry. Thankfully, due to Minho’s care and expertise, Berry had fitted right into their little family. Sana absolutely doted on Berry, having always wanted a dog herself. Chan sometimes wondered if he was in heaven. And if this wasn’t what heaven looked like, Chan would rather go to hell.


 

“Sana, what if one of them say yes and the other says no?” Chan was fiddling with his tie. He’d never worn a proper tuxedo before. He felt uncomfortable in the stiff fabric. But he had to look perfect. Everything had to go smoothly tonight.

“Then you’ll wait.” Sana was smiling at him, her dark hair flowing down her shoulders. “They waited you for, and I know that you’ll wait for them, no matter what.” She gave his shoulder a reassuring squeeze.

“Sana, how do you deal with liking two people at once?” Chan groaned, burying his head in his arms. “When I see one of them, I think ‘oh, cool, I’ve got feelings for this guy’. Then I see the other one, and I lose my head all over again. I can’t pick.”

Chan smiled fondly at the memory. It seemed like so long ago. He couldn’t believe it had been six years since he’d started dating Jisung and Minho. Chan tucked a piece of hair behind his ear and smiled at his reflection. The locket on Chan’s chest glinted in the light, and he reached up to touch it, trying to ground himself. Inside was a small picture of him, Jisung, and Minho. He only took it off if he was going near water. Otherwise, it had a permanent home near in his heart. 

“You look great, Channie.” Sana was beaming at him. “I’m so proud of you. You’ve come a long way.”

“So have you.” Chan went to ruffle her hair, but she ducked, sticking out her tongue at him. Sana had become a high school music teacher. They’d never quite succeeded in drifting apart, as Sana would often tell him, much to her overexaggerated dismay. She’d had trouble finding love, herself, always being disappointed with the men and women she dated. Chan glaring whenever he met her potential partners probably didn’t help, either. But fate had granted Sana a girl with blue and green hair and a brilliant smile that Chan had found oddly familiar.

Dahyun, with whom he’d first met Minho, had become a vet at a surgery in Sana’s area, about twenty minutes away. Sana had adopted a little Shiba Inu from a nearby shelter. At her new puppy’s first appointment, Sana had met – and Chan could quote her on this – an angel. Chan remembered how Dahyun had been so friendly and welcoming, even at a young age. Dahyun had only matured further into a responsible, strong woman. But she also possessed a wicked smile and a sense of humour that Chan knew could keep Sana laughing for hours. Sana and Chan had become friends in the first place because they’d bonded over their fears. Chan knew that Sana still occasionally struggled with dark thoughts. He was glad that Dahyun had been able to support Sana, giving Sana a light to follow.

Fate, as Minho would say, had given the two women luck of the draw. Chan just hoped that fate was on his side tonight. This was the one thing he’d hidden from his boyfriends in many years. Chan had found that it was incredibly hard to surprise his boyfriends. Chan had been so cautious not to let them find out. He didn’t know if they’d suspect that he’d planned to propose. What if it was too early? What if they weren’t ready? He’d almost given Mina and Momo a heart attack when he’d told them. They’d been told him he would have nothing to worry about.

But Chan couldn’t help but feel his stomach churn whenever he thought about proposing. He was lucky that it was their sixth anniversary – his boyfriends had actually helped him plan the night. Chan hoped that this way, they’d be less likely to suspect anything. He slipped his hand into his pocket, fingers curling a small box. He had a ring for both of his boyfriends. He had picked a rose gold ring for Jisung. It was a simple band, decorated only with intricate engravings. Minho’s ring was made of white gold, with the same engravings. He hoped they liked them.

Chan was meeting Jisung and Minho at the local observatory’s adjacent restaurant. After the three of them had made the booking together, Chan had called back and asked if they could have the balcony seating to themselves. The lady on the other end sounded rather exasperated and seemed unsurprised to hear his request. Chan didn’t know what he’d done to upset her. She’d even asked if they wanted a half hour window free of bookings, so there would be less people around. Chan didn’t mind paying extra for the luxury.

“Yo, tell Chan his hair isn’t long enough to take an hour to dry, so his free ride is going to leave without him.” Chan turned to find Momo leaning against the doorway, her long hair in pigtails. She pushed her glasses up her nose and grinned at him. “Come on, you’re going to be late to your own proposal.”

“Who’s proposing?” That was Dahyun, who poked her hair in through the door. She smiled sweetly at Sana, who blushed.

“Channie is.” Chan didn’t miss how quick Sana was to reply, or the way her voice cracked. Chan caught Dahyun’s eyes, who put a finger to her lips, winking. Chan smirked at her.

“Just remember, my wedding has to happen first.” Momo reminded Chan, smirking at him. Chan had always thought Momo would be the one to propose. Turned out Mina had surprised both of them. According to Momo, Mina had woken her up in the middle of the night. Momo had thought that Mina was having a heart attack, but just turned out that Mina hated hiding things and her conscience had forced her to propose at two in the morning. Mina and Momo had been engaged for about a year and were having their wedding in the next spring. They still couldn’t figure out if they wanted him as best man or maid of honour. Honestly, Chan would take both. Minho had always told him he’d look cute in a dress.

“Good luck, Channie.” Sana threw her arms around him. Suddenly Chan was engulfed as Momo and Dahyun decided to make it into a group hug. He took a deep breath. He could do this. It would be fine.

“Go get them, tiger.” Dahyun patted him on the shoulder. Sana squeezed his hands before going to hug her girlfriend.

“Come on, we’re going to be late.” Momo practically dragged him down the stairs before his doubts could begin to get the best of him again. On the drive to the restaurant, Chan begun fiddling with the box in his pocket again. Momo noticed, reaching over to squeeze his knee. “Hey, Channie, no matter what happens, I know all of you are going to come to the same decision. But there’s no way I can see this ending badly.” Chan nodded, jiggling his knee. He wondered how he’d do it. Would he catch his boyfriends in the middle of stargazing, or would he kneel when they were seated? Would he give a little emotional speech first, or just go for it? He couldn’t decide. “Just don’t overcomplicate it.” Chan looked over to see Momo smiling softly at him. “Do what your heart tells you to.”

“That’s cheesy, coming from you.” Chan teased, trying to ignore how his voice was shaking.

“Please, the three of you are enough to make me lactose intolerant.” Chan laughed at this. He couldn’t help it. Even though it had been six years, his heart still skipped a beat whenever he saw his boyfriends smile. He still got butterflies when he held them in his arms. He hoped the feeling never faded. Momo pulled up outside the restaurant, leaning over to hug him. “You can do this, Channie. We’ve all got your backs.” Then she shooed him away. Chan felt his heartbeat begin to race as he stepped into the restaurant. A waitress, seeing his nerves, had given him a knowing smile and lead him outside.

The balcony was lined with fairy lights, and there flower petals scattered around the table. The table was lit with candles, bathing the scene in a soft glow. In the middle of it all was Minho and Jisung, who were murmuring into each other’s ears. He snuck up behind them, snaking his arms around Jisung’s waist and pressing a kiss to Minho’s cheek. Minho and Jisung jumped, exchanging a quick glance.

“What was that about?” Chan’s brows creased in confusion.

“N-nothing!” Jisung squeaked. He was still as cute as ever. Jisung looked over at Minho again, and Chan stepped back.  

“Sure.” Chan was suspicious. Fuck, what if they’d already figured out his intentions? He thought he'd been so careful.

“W-we were just saying how – uh – when you got here, we should, uh, say what we’re thankful for. Before we, uh, sit down, you know.” Minho was stumbling over his words, further confusing Chan. Minho was usually quite composed. Chan’s eyes narrowed. Something was definitely up.

“With our eyes closed.” Jisung added, and Minho began nodding furiously. Chan’s eyes widened. This would be the perfect opportunity. While their eyes were closed, Chan could prepare himself. They’d all say their piece, and then Chan would swoop in and propose. It was perfect.

“That sounds great, love.” Chan smiled at him.

“I’ll start.” Minho looked over at Jisung again. The two closed their eyes, and Chan hurried to bend down on one knee, fumbling in his pocket for the rings. Then he closed his eyes, taking a deep breath to prepare himself. That was when he heard Jisung’s soft gasp, and subsequent laughter.

“Oh man.” Jisung’s quiet giggles had gotten louder. Chan opened his eyes. He looked up. He couldn’t see Jisung or Minho. His heart thudded loudly in his chest. Chan felt the blood drain from his face. He’d scared them off. They’d seen him kneel, had probably looked at each other, and ran off. Then he heard Minho begin to laugh as well. He looked around to see that Jisung and Minho were also kneeling. Chan caught Minho’s eye, and Chan watched as Minho’s lip began to twitch.

“I guess great minds think alike, hey?” Jisung continued to laugh. “I was so fucking nervous. The whole night I was hyping myself up.”

“What does this even mean?” Minho’s brows were creased in confusion. “Like is this an elimination round?” Jisung looked at him, exasperated.

“What are you saying? First man to stand just? What? Gets eliminated?”

“Exactly.” Minho deadpanned. “Only one can remain. Last one to stand wins.”

“Good thing I’m used to being on my knees.” Chan shot Jisung a wink, and Jisung went bright red. Minho merely rolled his eyes.

“Please. We all know it’s going to be me.” Chan burst out laughing at this. Jisung made a strangled noise.

“No, I’ve been planning this for months, both of you get up.” Chan folded his arms over his chest, determined to be the one to propose. Jisung bit down on his bottom lip and made to stand, but Minho lifted his chin.

“Try years, dumbass.” Minho’s eyes flashed with challenge. Chan’s eyes widened. “I will win.”

“This…this isn’t a competition.” Jisung piped up, but Chan and Minho were already locked in a staring contest.

“I only said months so I didn’t freak you out, but I’ve also been planning this for years.” Chan smirked at Minho. “Checkmate.”

“Oh yeah?” Minho raised one eyebrow, swiping his tongue over his lips. “How many years?”

“Two.” Chan shot back, confident in his victory. But Minho grinned, triumphant.

“Try three.” Minho smirked, and Chan narrowed his eyes. So it was going to be that way? Fine, Chan could take it.

“Guys, you do realise we’re all just on our knees and –” Jisung tried to interject, but he gave up as soon as he’d started, realising that Chan and Minho were clearly oblivious to the outside world.

“Four years.”

“Ten!”

“We didn’t even know each other ten years ago, therefore I win by default, so stand the fuck up, babe, and prepare to get propositioned.” Minho gasped, hand flying to his heart.

“Never!” He turned his head away, holding his nose up high in protest. Jisung just looked at them, rubbing his temples. He knew Chan hadn’t realised he’d pretty much just proposed, and that Minho had already turned him down. Jisung knew that if Chan had really proposed, Minho probably would be the most emotional out of the three of them, and would never say no.

“Try – try when both of you introduced me as your boyfriend and I went, ‘yep, I’m going to marry those two one day’.” Jisung’s voice was trembling. Chan’s eyes snapped to Jisung, who was giving them a wobbly smile. Chan couldn’t take his eyes off Jisung. Jisung had never looked more attractive to Chan, bathed in moonlight, the fairy lights highlighting the blonde in his dyed hair. “Minho…the first time I met you, you stepped on my foot, offered to kiss it better, and when I said I wasn’t into that you asked if I’d ever be into you. I remember telling myself that no matter how it started or ended, if it lasted a few hours or a few years or a lifetime, you were going to be mine. Then one day I just couldn’t take it, and I kissed you. I thought you’d hate me after that, but you just kissed me back. It was perfect.”

Chan dared to take a look at Minho. Minho was staring at Jisung, mouth wide open. Tears were rolling down Minho’s face. Minho had such an intense look of pure love in his eyes that it sent Chan reeling. Then Jisung turned to Chan. If the look in Minho’s eyes had had an affect on Chan, Jisung’s gaze could have set him on fire. Chan felt like he was burning up from the inside. “Chan, when I met you, I thought you were really cold. You didn’t really talk to anyone. But then I saw you lift a little boy into the air and spin him around, making rocket ship noises, and I knew that one day, I would talk to you. When I did, I realised that you were just shy. I remember you rocked up one morning, your hair an absolute mess, and you only looked half awake. I wanted to wake up next to you like that.” Chan’s heart melted. A lump had formed in his throat. Chan didn’t even realise he was crying until he tasted salt.

“I talked casually to you, for so long.” Chan shook his head. “I didn’t even realise how much I felt about you until I saw you one morning, and I thought you were angel.” Chan bit down on his lip, running a hand through his hair. “Then when we went out to dinner, I…to be honest, I already felt like we were dating. We just clicked. And I…I really don’t know what I’d do without you. I can’t do this without you. To me, you’re the sun.” Jisung’s eyes were wide, and a fresh wave of tears came over him at Chan’s last words. Chan wanted to kiss his tears away, to hold him close. But he knew it wasn’t time yet. Chan looked over at Minho, whose eyes were wide. “You know that we clicked on day one. When I met you, I felt electricity. I could never really get you out of my head. I didn’t want to.” Chan grinned at him. “And even though you’ve been stealing my part of the blanket for six years, I still don’t want to.” Minho grinned at him through his tears.

“So I guess it’s my turn?” Minho buried his face in his hands, clearly trying to compose him. “You’re in me.” Minho paused for a moment, clearly thinking hard. They all burst out laughing.

“Of course.” Jisung dragged his fingers over his cheeks, dispelling his tears. “Wait until we get home, babe, geez.” Minho laughed, but then cleared his throat.

“I meant…you’re a part of me. Both of you are.” Minho began to crack his fingers. “I met both of you at similar times, so it’s hard to pinpoint how I felt exactly. I just know that when I met both of you, I had…a feeling.”

“Minho, I said save it for the bedroom.” Jisung hissed, and Minho glared at him as Chan snickered.

“Do you want me to stop my speech?” Minho threatened, and Jisung averted his eyes. “Jisungie…you got on my nerves at times, to be honest.” Jisung glared at him, but Chan didn’t miss the small smile on his lips. “I’m kidding.” Jisung smiled at him. “Maybe.” Chan reached over to give his shoulder a little shove.

“You’ve got this, baby.” Chan murmured, and Minho shot him a grateful smile.

“Jisungie…whenever I saw you, I just knew. It was when you smiled, when you said good morning, when we ate dinner together. I thought I was going to explode if I didn’t get to at least hold your hand. And then you kissed me. I thought I was dreaming. I was so lucky.” Minho was smiling, staring at his hands. “It was all I’d wanted for about an entire year.” Jisung chuckled wetly. “And Channie…” Chan’s heart skipped a beat as Minho held eye contact with him, eyes half-lidded. “I knew I couldn’t have you, but I wanted you. I hated seeing how much you were hurting.” Minho’s expression darkened. “Jisung and me hadn’t officially started dating yet. We’d…fooled around a bit, sure.” Minho bit down on his lip, glancing at Jisung, who winked at him. “When we found out we were talking about the same person, we had to admit that we also liked you, as well as each other.”

“I felt bad for a bit, to be honest. But then, turns out Minho felt the exact same as you.” Jisung pursed his lips together. “I don’t think I would’ve coped with it if it was anyone else.” Jisung grinned at him. “But it was you.” Chan’s mouth when went dry when both of his boyfriends looked at him. “No one’s saying you have to be perfect, Channie.” Jisung caught Minho’s eye and grinned.

“But we’ve always known that for you, we’d do anything.” Minho grinned at Jisung. The two winked at each other, scrambling to their feet in unison. Chan opened his mouth to protest. He went to rise to his feet, but Jisung and Minho shook their heads.

“Channie, I know it should be the other way around, but things seem to work best with you on your knees.” Minho began. Jisung shoved him.

“This is probably the second most important moment of our lives, and you want to bring last night into it.” Jisung muttered, and Minho raised his hands. Minho was too conspicuous, with a smirk on his face.

“What’s the most important moment of our lives?” Minho queried, raising an eyebrow.

“Last night?” Chan asked innocently. He tugged on the collar of his tuxedo, revealing his collarbones. Minho smirked at him and shot him a wink. Jisung glared at both of them and swatted Minho’s shoulder.

“It seemed pretty special to me, when –” Jisung slapped a hand over Minho’s mouth.

No, you absolute dumbass, when we marry him.” Jisung exclaimed. The jokes died in Chan’s throat. Chan was glad he wasn’t standing. He probably would’ve fallen over. Hearing Jisung’s words, his entire body had turned to jelly. Minho inhaled sharply, cracking his knuckles.

“I’m about to ask myself in a second.” Chan’s voice was hoarse. He couldn’t believe this was actually happening. Minho held up three fingers, eyes on Jisung. Minho silently counted down, and Chan couldn’t help but smile. This was so typical of his boyfriends, but he wouldn’t have it any other way. It was also probably no surprise that he was being proposed to while on his knees.

“Chan, will you marry us?” Minho and Jisung spoke in perfect unison. Chan would even say they harmonised. Minho’s voice was sweet, like honey, and Jisung’s complemented it perfectly, full of devotion.

“You assholes planned this without me, didn’t you?” But Chan was grinning, his eyes filled with happy tears.

“We figured we worked better together.” Minho shrugged, reaching out for Jisung’s hand.

“You complete us, Channie.” Jisung’s voice was soft.

“Well?” Minho was biting down on his bottom lip. Chan began to sob, his eyes fixed on his boyfriends –  

Yes.” Chan whispered.

– his fiancés. Chan threw himself to his feet and into Jisung and Minho’s arms. He was home. Chan slipped the box out of his pocket. Jisung just grinned, pulling one out of his own pocket. Minho looked like he was going to burst out laughing when he also reached into his pocket.

“This means we all get two rings!” Jisung exclaimed, excited. Minho looked a little crestfallen.

“Are you sure we can’t do the elimination round? I think I’d look good with four rings.” Chan kissed him before he could say anything else stupid.

“Two is plenty, Minho.” Jisung rolled his eyes.

“Just because you have baby hands and wouldn’t be able to rock four rings on one finger, doesn’t mean I can’t.” Jisung huffed. Suddenly his face lit up.

“Hey, look! That’s us!” He was gesturing excitedly to a small cluster of stars in the distance. Chan looked up, his heart melting at how fervent Jisung was.

“Jisungie, those stars are lightyears away from each other.” Minho sighed, patting his back. “Good thing we love you.”

“Yeah,” Chan couldn’t wipe the smile off of his face. “And always will.”