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how not to become icarus

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The floor is clean, newly-swept, and completely ice cold. Chanyeol really should’ve worn socks.

As it is, he ends up wincing the whole time he makes his trip down to the first floor of his home, doing some sort of bizarre half-hopping and half-skipping routine in an attempt to touch the ground as little as possible. It’s already March. It shouldn’t even be this chilly outside, let alone indoors. Considering the way Chanyeol’s pitifully bare feet are stinging, though, Seoul clearly doesn’t seem to have gotten the memo.

Which is a shame, because Chanyeol loves his city - just not as much when the shitty weather is doing its best to tempt him back to his bed.

Especially on a day like today.

Come on, Park, he tells himself, trying to adopt one of those motivational pep-talk techniques his mom is ridiculously good at. You can do this. What’s a little cold in the face of your freedom?

Unfortunately, because Chanyeol’s only human, after all, and not some max-efficiency business machine, he still finds himself wishing he’d stayed in the warm nest of his blankets instead of trudging out on a cold Thursday at barely 7 A.M. The air is dry and frigid against his skin, and it makes him shiver. His poor toes feel like they’re already halfway to turning into numb blocks. The coldness definitely isn’t helped by all the space in the mansion, either, since its blank walls and bare-minimum design just make the entire place seem even bigger and emptier than it already is. Chanyeol’s never quite managed to warm up to this family house despite how much his mom likes it. It still feels bleak. Like a meticulously-kept office and not a home.

At the very least, the halls are mercifully empty, which means no one’s here to see Chanyeol look like a complete idiot as he does his weird little stumble-jog down the corridor.

He finally reaches the main entryway with a soft huff of breath. It’s still so cold that he half-expects it to come out in a white cloud. The weight of his phone in his pocket bumps against his hip as Chanyeol reaches down to rub at his feet, trying his best to get his blood flowing again.

“Well,” he says aloud, and grins to himself. “That wasn’t so difficult.”

Famous last words. Just as Chanyeol’s preparing to do one last sprint across the icy floor so he can reach the door, a dry voice behind him says, “Going somewhere?”

Chanyeol lets out an extremely unmanly yelp. He whips his head around so fast he almost cracks his neck, and there, just at the base of the staircase, stands the last obstacle to his goal: Yoona, his mom’s favourite assistant, arching a perfectly groomed eyebrow at him as she leans against the wall. There’s a glossy folder clutched in her manicured hands, and she doesn’t have a single hair out of place even though it’s early enough for most of Korea to still be sleeping. It’s just a shame that the full effect of her intimidating good looks is somewhat diminished by the unimpressed look she’s now directing at Chanyeol.

Understandable, though, considering that she’s just caught the twenty-five-year-old son of her boss sneaking through his own home like he’s trying to single-handedly reenact Mission Impossible.

Chanyeol’s the proverbial kid with a hand shoved into the cookie jar. “Noona,” he coughs out awkwardly, then trails off, because he’s never been good at getting himself out of sticky situations. “Um. What are you doing here?”

Yoona raises her other eyebrow. “Your mother asked me to retrieve a few documents from her office,” she says, nodding in the direction of the hall.

Now that she mentions it, Chanyeol’s gaze drops down to the folder in her hands, which looks like it’s stuffed to the brim with papers. Yoona’s dressed to the nines, too, he realizes suddenly - grey pantsuit sharp and pressed, shiny black pumps on her feet. It’s her typical meeting outfit. The one that means business.

And also the one that means Chanyeol’s mom probably won’t be coming home until it’s far past midnight again, then leaving in another busy blur before the sun even rises.

Chanyeol feels a slight twinge in his gut, even though it’s exactly what he was expecting when he woke up today. “Oh,” he mumbles.

“Right. She said she’d forgotten some key stat sheets that she’d meant to bring.” Yoona pauses. “She also said that you would be waiting for her in her office.”

Her voice is carefully pointed, and Chanyeol cringes. There it is. “Uh, haha,” he attempts, bringing a hand up to rub at the back of his neck. “About that. I’m actually... not?”

Yoona’s mouth quirks. “I can see that.”

“And, um, I’m not really planning on being there either?” It comes out sounding like a question. When Yoona gives him a sceptical look again, Chanyeol just gives up on any pretense and resorts to telling the truth. It’s not like he can hide anything from his mom’s sharp-eyed assistant anyway. “Okay, okay, I’m going out. For most of the day. Don’t tell Mom?”

“Chanyeol,” Yoona sighs, somehow managing to sound even more unimpressed. “I thought you two were supposed to go over the first quarter profit margins today.”

Chanyeol winces and tries to ignore the guilt creeping up his spine. “I know, but this is for something kind of important—” technically not a lie— “and you know Mom isn’t going to get back on time anyway, so—”

“I’m not your parent, Chanyeol. Youngmi-ssi has the privilege of being the only one to hold that title.” Yoona straightens, tucking a lock of dark hair behind her ear, and fixes her amused gaze on him again. “Even if I did try, I think it’s pretty clear that I can’t stop you either way.”

A faint feeling of hope flickers to life in Chanyeol’s chest. “So…”

“So go on if you want,” Yoona says. She flicks a nonchalant hand at the door, smiling not-so-discreetly when she watches Chanyeol visibly brighten. “I trust that you’re old enough to make your own decisions.” Then she frowns a little and adds, “No promises about not telling your mother if she asks, though. She is still my boss.”

Chanyeol can work with that. Chanyeol knows better than to look a gift horse in the mouth. “Got it, noona,” he says seriously, then grabs for his shoes right away just in case Yoona decides to change her mind. “Thank you. Really.”

“Don’t mention it.”

As Chanyeol’s tugging his warmest and most fur-lined boots over his bare feet - honestly, why did he decide not to wear socks again - his phone vibrates in his pocket, once then twice in a row. At the fourth time, he slaps a hand over it with a wince of frustration. It’s probably not important. Chanyeol’s about ninety-nine percent sure he knows who it is, anyways, and the whole act of texting him in the first place is kind of counterproductive considering his situation.

Not that Yoona knows that. Her smile’s turned into something a little more sly when Chanyeol finally finishes lacing up his boots and stands up. “Better hurry,” she tells him, tilting her head pointedly at his pocket. “Looks like someone’s getting impatient.”

The knowing glint in her eyes is impossible to miss. Chanyeol almost flinches. He knows what she’s assuming. He also knows, with a kind of resigned certainty, that it is most definitely wrong.

It’s not what you think it is, Chanyeol almost wants to protest, if only to clear things up and get rid of the uneasiness stirring in his chest, but then his phone vibrates again and Chanyeol starts seriously considering murdering the person on the other end as soon as he’s out.

“Uh, yeah,” he mumbles a beat late, shuffling over to the door. On second thought, he reaches back for the coat rack and grabs his jacket, tugging it over one shoulder and hastily fastening the clasp at the neck. Better safe than sorry, in this weather. “I’ll just… go now, then. Thanks again.”

Some part of him still sort of expects Yoona to reach out and stop him, on behalf of the honour of the family business and all, so Chanyeol’s relieved when she just waves as he opens the door. “Just hurry up,” she says, still so amused. “And make sure not to stay out too late, okay?”

“I won’t,” Chanyeol promises, and makes his escape. “You’re the best, noona!”

“Don’t let Yoora hear you say that!” Yoona calls out, and Chanyeol laughs as he runs out into the driveway, hair flapping against his forehead and the cold March wind cutting his cheeks. As soon as he hears the unmistakable sound of the door slamming shut behind him, he digs his phone out of his pocket. True to what Chanyeol expected, it’s a chain of completely nonsensical texts - all under one particular contact name, and with inspiring content ranging from where r u to lol jk i know where u r to hurry the fuck up already i’m freezing my balls off out here.

Chanyeol glowers down at his screen as he speed-walks along the driveway. At the very least, he tells himself, the stupid messages are something familiar he can count on as a part of his routine. If not comforting, they’re consistent.

The thought doesn’t exactly dull the sharp irritation he feels starting around his temple.

Neither does the cold air swirling around Chanyeol as he walks. The path to the gate of the mansion is ridiculously far, which is something Chanyeol’s usually grateful for because of the privacy it allows his family. Pyeongchang-dong homes tended to be built like that: all half-kilometre-long driveways and tall green hedges, adding up to round out the perfect equation for worn-out celebrities and important businesspeople. Most times, Chanyeol likes it that way. It’s peaceful and quiet and safe and relaxing. His mom needs relaxing, these days.

Now, though, when Chanyeol’s still shivering even bundled up in his expensive coat, is not one of those times.

It’s a good thing he finally spots the red Mercedes parked outside when he looks up from his phone. Chanyeol pulls the collar of his coat a bit snugger around his neck and hurries over, punching in the code to open the gate and standing back as it slowly drags open.

When it does, he steps out onto the road, glancing back to make sure the gate has shut itself again. This close, Chanyeol can see his best friend even through the tinted windows of his stupidly flashy car. Sehun’s fiddling with his own phone as he pulls the Mercedes out into the road. As Chanyeol watches, he looks up, quirks an eyebrow, and hits a button on the screen with his thumb.

Chanyeol’s phone vibrates in his hand. Again.

So of course, he can’t really be blamed when the first thing he does upon opening Sehun’s car door is throw the device at him. “Did you have to keep doing that?” Chanyeol complains, as Sehun lets out an offended noise and rubs at his shoulder. “Yoona noona was there to pick up some stuff for my mom, and now she totally thinks I’m skipping out on important work things to go on a date or whatever. Which I’m not,” he adds viciously, when Sehun just gives him a smarmy grin and wiggles his eyebrows.

“Congratulations on escaping the golden castle,” is all Sehun says in response, because he’s insufferable like that. He pats the steering wheel and starts up the car again, revving the engine. “Was it difficult?”

“Very. No thanks to you.” Chanyeol huffs as he closes the car door behind him and settles into Sehun’s fancy leather passenger seat. He picks up his phone, clearing away all of Sehun’s text notifications with a single swipe, and drops his head against the headrest with an exhale.

“Hey, is that any way to talk to your best friend who’s graciously taking you out on a shopping trip just to cheer you up?”

Chanyeol huffs again. “I don’t need cheering up,” he mumbles.

The sceptical look Sehun sends him is way too similar to Yoona’s. It creeps Chanyeol out. “And anyway,” he barrels on, choosing not to get into that subject, “this was your idea in the first place. And now my mom’s assistant thinks I’m on a date.”

“Well, yes, Chanyeol,” Sehun says dryly. “That’s what people tend to assume when someone with a significant other sneaks out of their house at 7 A.M in the morning.”

That makes Chanyeol cringe and sink back into his seat. “I’m not - don’t. Have one anymore. You know that.”

“I do,” Sehun agrees, leaning over to check the GPS screen built into his dashboard. “But does she know that?”

Chanyeol’s awkward silence is answer enough. Sehun just snorts. “You still haven’t told her? Or even your mom?” When Chanyeol pointedly looks out the window, Sehun’s head shake is practically audible. “Hyung, it’s been, like, a week—”

“Look, I tried, okay?”

“Did you?”

“Of course I did!” Chanyeol says, defensive. “I even sent a can we talk message to my mom and everything. But you know how she is.” Busy. Overworked. Probably doesn’t even sleep. He shrugs, lifting his shoulders then dropping them in defeat. “And I don’t know, it felt weird to tell Yoona noona before I even told my own mom.”

Sehun, like the brat he is, just heaves a dramatic sigh, raising his eyes to the sky before focusing back on the road. “Chanyeol, Chanyeol,” he says, dropping the hyung almost as fast as he picked it up. “What am I going to do with you?”

“Dude, you’re the younger one here—”

“Anyway,” Sehun continues smoothly. Chanyeol gives up and settles back into his seat. “Point is, you need something to take your mind off things. And as your very best friend, that’s what I’m here for, isn’t it?”

“If you say so.”

Sehun pretends like he doesn’t even hear the doubt in Chanyeol’s voice. “You know the gala?”

Chanyeol slumps. Of course he knows the gala - commonly referred to with a capital G and no other title, because apparently it’s just that important. It’s an annual thing, mostly for the who’s who in the media industry to show up and show off, get some pictures with whichever pretty idols and actors are the most popular that year and then make enough connections to last until the next spring when it repeats all over again. Next to the year-end awards, it’s probably the biggest event in Seoul entertainment. It attracts enough attention that it’d be stupid to not go if you’re lucky enough to get an invitation. Anybody who’s anybody gets one.

Chanyeol’s mom, as the mogul at the forefront of Korea’s largest mass media company, has always been a part of that anybody. Which means the same goes for Chanyeol, mostly as a courtesy. For someone like him, who holds an unexpected distaste for parties and social events despite being a cookie-cutter chaebol, it usually stays a courtesy. He’s been more than happy to let his mom go by herself on behalf of her work every time the thing’s been held.

With the rate at which his mom’s duties are piling up recently, though, Chanyeol’s probably doomed to be forced to go alone to represent the company at the event this year.

Which is in three days.

All of this adds up to Chanyeol very much not wanting to talk about the gala. But of course it has to be an integral part of Sehun’s cheer-up plan, or whatever it actually is. Chanyeol sighs. “Yeah, I know the gala. What about it?”

“Well, seeing as you’re hopeless and completely lacking a sense of style—”

Excuse you—”

“—I’ve decided to lend you my services this year to help dress you up for it,” Sehun finishes, ignoring Chanyeol’s insulted spluttering. “So lucky for you, you have a professional, top-notch fashion consultant at your disposal right here.” He punctuates the statement with a proud nod.

Chanyeol makes a big show of looking around, holding a hand over his eyes as he turns to peek in the back of the car. “Where? I don’t see any—”

“Oh, very funny,” Sehun says tonelessly. He makes another turn, bringing them out onto a wider, busier road. It’s the one that takes them straight into the heart of the city, Chanyeol realizes, and feels a strange sense of foreboding begin to crawl down his neck.

Which quickly becomes justified as Sehun says, with a note of glee, “So we’re going to the mall. That fancy new one at Lotte Tower.”

Chanyeol makes a half-disbelieving and half-protesting noise. “Why?”

“Because you have more than enough money for it, Casanova. And because it’s the gala.” Sehun cuts his eyes at him, raising one thin eyebrow. “I’m going to be there too, you know? You can’t expect me to be willing to be seen with you if all you’re going to wear is some thrift shop suit.”

That makes Chanyeol sulk. He’s not that bad. He’s gained at least some common sense through years of being forced through weird upper-class socialization rituals. At least, enough to know not to wear a thrift shop suit to the biggest event of the year.

“You probably just want to go there to use the chance to see your face on some new ad or something,” he shoots back, and feels vindicated when Sehun falls into reluctant silence - meaning Chanyeol’s absolutely right. “Wait, seriously? What is it this time?” He pokes at Sehun’s shoulder, teasing. “Another racy underwear billboard? A wet swimsuit shoot in the water?”

“You wish,” Sehun mutters, but there’s a faint flush across his cheeks.

Bingo. Chanyeol grins. “Is that why you came all the way here to pick me up and go shopping?” he asks, leaning back in his seat. “And here I thought you just wanted to fulfill the whole post-breakup cliche. Not go and stare at your own face.”

“Hey, this face—” Sehun gestures exaggeratedly around his head— “has been on the cover of international magazines, you know. You could at least be a little more honoured.”

Chanyeol can’t help himself. He snorts. Loudly. It’s probably all the jittery energy still bouncing around inside of him, or a side effect of the leftover shivers from the cold air in his house. Sehun shoots him an affronted look, one hand turning the steering wheel, and Chanyeol just drops his head back against the seat and laughs.

The slight tension in his chest that’s been there more or less for the past week starts to dissolve. Maybe it was a good idea to sneak out on an impromptu trip with his best friend, after all. Even if said best friend is a slightly narcissistic supermodel who drags him to luxury shopping centres at the crack of dawn.

He might need this, anyway.

“Yeah, sure,” Chanyeol says. His lips curl into a small smile as he looks outside the window again. “I’m plenty honoured.”

Sehun, unaware of the truthfulness laced in Chanyeol’s words, just heaves another sigh and keeps driving.

 

---

 

Throughout all six of the years he’s known his manager, Baekhyun has gained the uncanny ability to instantly sort any of Minseok’s facial expressions into three main categories.

The first one is the easiest: happiness. Also known as the safe zone. Any of these expressions means that Baekhyun’s out of trouble for the foreseeable future, and also, usually, that Minseok’s in a good mood. This one’s the one to aim for. Then comes the second category, which is just a little more risky but not enough to actually be dangerous. Baekhyun just has to tread more carefully than normal when these expressions come up, for fear of turning his manager’s slight annoyance into something full-blown.

And the third one, of course, is the danger category. The code-red category. High-pitched sirens and flashing, glaring, obnoxiously neon warning signs - the whole nine yards, usually reserved for times when Baekhyun has Really Fucked Up.

Right now, as Baekhyun leans backwards over the head of his chair and blinks at Minseok’s upside-down face in the doorway, it’s the third kind. Definitely the third kind.

Shit.

“Uh,” he says intelligently. His inner alarm bells are going off, and he starts running through the past few days in his head right away. Baekhyun doesn’t think he’s done anything that warrants the Look-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named currently plastered on Minseok’s face. He’s not even promoting right now, stuck in the limbo between comebacks - all he’s done in the last week is practice, practice, and more practice just to keep in shape, forced to maintain those Nutella abs that are ever-useful when the company can’t come up with enough new things to show off at concerts. And one boring session on some radio show where he gave textbook answers to textbook questions, but Baekhyun really doesn’t think that’s what’s making his manager look like… well, this.

This being an expression like he’s just swallowed a particularly sour lemon. Or come home to his cat tearing his immaculate bedroom to shreds. Or found out that TVXQ’s Changmin has just announced that he’s getting married, leaving the duo, and quitting the entertainment industry for good.

Or all three. At the same time.

“Uhhhh,” Baekhyun says again, drawing the sound out. He wracks his brain and immediately latches on to the first possible worst case scenario. “Did another bad article get published?”

Minseok levels him with a very, very flat look. “I don’t know, should one have been?” he says, pushing into the room and dropping his bag into a chair with a thump. “Because I swear, Byun Baekhyun, if you did something stupid again—”

“Hey, I didn’t do anything!” Baekhyun protests. He watches as Minseok shrugs out of his coat and unceremoniously dumps it in the chair too, feeling more alarmed by the second. Minseok always folds his coat in a neat square before stacking it on top of his bag. Baekhyun would know, because he’s teased his manager for the habit more times than he can count. “Um, hyung, are you, like… okay?”

Minseok barely even spares him a glance. “Why wouldn’t I be?”

Yeah, I’m trying to figure that out too, he thinks, but wisely does not say. “You just have a really weird look on your face.

“Do I?”

“Yeah. Like this.” Baekhyun screws his face up into an imitation of Minseok’s category three expression. Judging by the way Minseok’s lips just pinch together even more, it probably doesn’t help much. “Okay, okay,” he hurries to amend, “maybe not exactly like that, but you get the idea. It’s kind of freaking me out.”

Minseok sighs. Then he sighs again. Which doesn’t really do anything to disprove Baekhyun’s point.

“Alright,” he finally says, rubbing at his forehead. “I guess there’s no point in keeping it from you anyway.” He reaches into his bag and, as Baekhyun keeps blinking up at him in confusion, pulls something out and flicks it across the room.

The something lands on the hardwood table in front of Baekhyun and stops sliding right before it drops off the edge. Baekhyun squints. It looks to be some sort of fancy, creamy envelope, with crisp edges and a loop of indistinguishable gold characters embossed over the top.

“Uh... what’s that?”

Minseok looks like he’s trying very hard not to roll his eyes. “Why don’t you take a look and find out?”

And so Baekhyun, not one to disobey his friend when he’s in manager-mode, gingerly picks up the envelope with two fingers before bringing it to his face. Turns out the curly loop of gold is his name, albeit in romanized English letters - Byun Baek-hyun, with an elegant twist at the two y’s that nearly curves off the page.

Baekhyun’s seen this type of card before. It’d be hard not to, really, with his type of career. He looks up at Minseok and quirks an eyebrow. “An invitation? To what?”

“The gala,” Minseok says, in the exact same tone of voice he’d use to say the middle of the Bermuda Triangle.

“Which gala?”

Now Minseok really does roll his eyes. “The gala. The media one. The annual one that you’ve been going to for the past three years? Does that ring a bell?”

Baekhyun almost falls out of his chair. “That’s this week?”

“It’s always been this week!” The pinch in Minseok’s expression is only getting more pronounced by the minute. He strides over to the table and picks the envelope up, stowing it away in his bag again like he doesn’t even want to look at it. “The last week of March, remember? There’s a reason I keep telling you to actually use the schedule app on your phone.”

“Why would I when you can just do it for me,” Baekhyun replies cheekily, and has to duck on instinct when Minseok raises his bag in threat. The action makes his gaze fall on the chair standing just beside his manager’s arm. Minseok’s jacket is lying in a sad, rumpled pile across the seat, its usual pristine smoothness ruined by the wrinkles running along the fabric.

All in all, very unexpected. Very un-Minseok-like. At least Baekhyun has a better idea of what caused it now.

“Let me guess,” he says, trying to press his lips together to stop a grin. Minseok definitely wouldn’t appreciate that. “You’re stressing yourself out in advance again?”

Minseok cuts his eyes at him, exasperated. “Can you really blame me?”

“Hey, I keep telling you to loosen up and just relax, you know. You don’t have to prepare yourself for the worst every time I go to a big event.”

“I’m an idol manager, Baekhyunnie,” Minseok says flatly. “Being prepared for the worst is literally my job.” As if to emphasize his point, he pulls a stack of papers out of his bag and lays it on the table with a smack that makes Baekhyun wince. “And anyway, I’m sure you remember last year. I think any sane person in my position right now would be stressed.”

That makes Baekhyun wince again, a bit more sheepishly this time. Because he does remember last year’s gala.

Or, more accurately, last year’s nightmare, as Minseok called it. There was a boring event, a steady supply of expensive alcohol, and a handsome waiter who wouldn’t stop brushing Baekhyun’s arm whenever he brought over the drinks, and - well. Baekhyun’s never been known for his stellar impulse control. The blurry paparazzi pictures of them leaving shoulder-to-shoulder were only the beginning.

Long story short, they ended up at the guy’s apartment after a tipsy, messy stumble, and apparently Baekhyun direly overestimated both his stamina and his biological clock, because he woke up late enough the next day to miss half his schedules. It took him at least a week of grovelling and coffee-buying for Minseok to forgive the incident. Baekhyun doesn’t blame him. Minseok is a manager most idols would kill for, and Baekhyun often finds himself sending thanks to the gods for bringing him into his life, but one too many close calls would fray anyone’s nerves after a while - even if in the end, his reputation still came out intact and with no potentially career-ending wounds, as it tends to do.

The rumours, though. Those are always there. As they tend to be.

(It probably didn’t help that it wasn’t Baekhyun’s first rodeo, either, so to speak.)

Which makes up at least ninety percent of the reason Minseok is so worried in the first place.

“You can’t rely on luck forever,” his friend-slash-manager is telling Baekhyun now, a downward pull to his mouth as he finishes shuffling his papers and finally reaches for his coat. “Honestly, I have no idea how you still haven’t gotten yourself into a huge scandal yet. You’d think your enormous reputation would make people want to try harder to expose you.”

“Your faith in me is truly inspiring, hyung,” Baekhyun mutters.

Minseok just sends him another Look. “Award show season is already bad enough. I’m just trying to get you to learn some self-preservation skills.”

“I know, I know. Don’t tire yourself out, okay?” Baekhyun watches as Minseok runs his fingers along the lines of his coat. “How come the invitation came so late anyway?” he asks, attempting a clumsy change of subject. “Don’t they usually send those things way in advance?”

It works. At his words, Minseok makes a vaguely disgruntled noise and tilts his head towards the door. Baekhyun follows the movement. There’s a few large packages stacked together against the wall, all wrapped up in some sort of pretty, shimmering paper that catches the light and makes Baekhyun wonder how he managed to miss when Minseok lugged them in.

“One of your fanbases chose this week to send out their support project,” Minseok explains. “It got mixed up with all the letters in the mail.” He makes another fold. “Stop looking so smug.”

Baekhyun quickly schools his face into a neutral expression before glancing over at Minseok. “You’re not even looking at me!”

“I didn’t need to.”

If there’s one thing that Minseok has gained the uncanny ability of doing, it’s keeping the amusement off his face after he’s delivered a good comeback. As it is, Baekhyun catches the slight curve to his mouth anyway. “Okay, fine,” he huffs out, leaning back into his chair and reassuming his upside-down position. “You’re the best manager. You get to read your idol’s mind. Kudos.”

“If only my idol would listen once in a while,” Minseok says dryly. “That might be a cooler power.”

“Hey, I listen plenty.”

“So if I told you not to hook up with any hot waiters this time - male or female - to save the risk of Dispatch making you their headline of the year, you’d listen?”

Baekhyun pauses, pretending to contemplate, then asks hopefully, “So the hot chaebols are free game?”

To his credit, all Minseok does is shake his head. “You’re impossible,” he says, and keeps folding.

Baekhyun watches him again, for lack of anything else to do. Minseok’s thin fingers are careful; meticulous. He handles the coat fabric with a practiced kind of ease that wouldn’t be out of place in any lifestyle tutorial video. As Baekhyun looks, Minseok presses into the cloth and smooths out all the creases with hardly any effort at all, almost like his touch is laced with magic.

It’s not, Baekhyun thinks, unlike a metaphor for his career. Or maybe just his life in general.

The thought makes him clear his throat. “I’m just saying,” he tries, waiting for Minseok to look up again before he goes on. “You don’t have to worry that much. I’ll be fine.” He waves a hand. “I’m practically a veteran at this stuff now, anyways. People only believe what they want to believe, right?”

“That’s one way of looking at it,” Minseok says, unenthusiastically. He tucks in a last corner and drops his now perfectly neat coat back onto his bag, then frowns and rubs his hand along his forehead. “If you want to play the shameless daredevil again, I’m under the duty to warn you against it. As your manager.”

“Warning received,” Baekhyun mumbles, remembering the category three expression that brought them here from the beginning.

“Just tell me you’ll be more careful.”

“Of course I will. I always am, aren’t I?”

Minseok only snorts in response to that. Before Baekhyun can even muster up the will to get the tiniest bit offended, he raises an eyebrow and adds, “And that you won’t make any impulsive decisions this time?”

They both know full well what he’s referring to. “I’ll try,” Baekhyun concedes.

He can practically feel the scepticism loaded in Minseok’s gaze. “Really?”

“I said I’ll try. No promises.”

“When are there ever promises,” Minseok deadpans, then turns away to rummage through his bag again. He pulls his phone out, unlocks it, and taps something rapid-fire on the screen. Baekhyun’s own phone gives a pleasant ping from where it’s resting in his lap, screen still facing up from the half-finished gaming session he’d been doing while he was waiting for Minseok.

He looks down. It’s a notification for their shared schedule app, because of course it is.

Media gala @ Lotte Hotel. Saturday 5:30 P.M. Arrive at SM two hours early. DON’T BE LATE.

“I take it that you won’t be there to babysit me the entire time, then,” he teases, and the ensuing expression Minseok pulls is so comical that Baekhyun is tempted to create a whole new category four, just for a moment.

 

---

 

Chanyeol pulls out his keys to unlock his door at the grand old time of 11 P.M, a whopping sixteen hours after he escaped home to be swept on a cliche shopping spree with his best friend - which, he figures with a vague sense of shame, probably breaks his “don’t stay out too late” promise with Yoona about ten times over.

It wasn’t Chanyeol’s fault, though. It was definitely Sehun’s. Sehun, who dragged him to every single high-end store in the mall like Chanyeol was meeting the president instead of just attending an event as a courtesy. Sehun who somehow convinced him to buy way more than just one suit. You need fancier clothes anyway, he said. Might as well get them while we’re here, he said. And yeah, maybe they got a little too caught up in testing some new game console at the electronics display area, courtesy of Chanyeol’s entirely-too-short attention span, but technicalities.

Even now, after Sehun’s already dropped him off and zoomed away in his flashy car, Chanyeol still isn’t used to the unfamiliar weight of the shopping bags looped around his wrists. A full-body shiver races up his spine as he finally nudges his door open. “Still so cold,” he grumbles to himself, kicking his shoes off and starting to trudge towards the stairs. “Seriously, why is it so...”

Chanyeol trails off. Then, with a sort of terrifying clarity, thinks: Oh, crap.

Yoona - like ominous déjà vu - raises her eyebrows at him from where she’s sitting at the dining table, glasses perched on her straight nose and an empty mug of coffee next to her arm. “Welcome home.”

“Noona,” Chanyeol says weakly. He resists the urge to cave into his instinct to flee. “You’re still here?”

There’s a mess of documents scattered all around Yoona’s elbows. When she takes off her glasses to put them down on the table, the papers flutter, and Chanyeol catches some of the content: numbers, graphs, and more numbers, the usual finance statistics of the company that Yoona is ever-obligated to sort through. “I’m working,” she says, a bit redundantly, and half-smiles at him. It looks one-part amused and one-part curiously puzzled, which is an expression Chanyeol doesn’t know what to make of.

Whatever confusion quickly evaporates from his mind, though, when Yoona says her next sentence. “She’s waiting for you upstairs.”

Great.

“Great,” Chanyeol intones, dread creeping up his neck. “Thanks for telling me, noona.”

Yoona just waves him on, gaze already returning to her laptop screen, and Chanyeol turns and starts stiffly continuing his journey to the stairs.

The shopping bags in his hands suddenly feel very, very incriminating. It’s not like it’s unheard of for Chanyeol’s mom to make a surprise return to the mansion; it is still her home, after all, even if she spends ninety percent of her time at the company these days. Chanyeol just didn’t expect her to be back tonight, although that was probably stupid considering they were supposed to work together today. But honestly. If he ever made a list of the worst times for his mother to decide to come home, “after he’s skipped out on important work to go on a pointless shopping trip with his best friend” would definitely be at the top.

He reaches the top of the stairs with slow guilt building in his chest. When Chanyeol peeks into his mom’s office, though - their usual designated working spot - she isn’t there. The lights aren’t even on.

Huh. Maybe she has something other than work to discuss.

Only, by the time Chanyeol’s checked every single room in that wing of the house, his mom is still nowhere to be found. His arms are already starting to ache from carrying all his bags, so he makes a split-second decision and goes on a detour to his bedroom, feet padding against the hardwood floors. His mom wouldn’t blame him for dropping off his shopping before going to find her. She doesn’t know he’s home yet, anyway, so putting away incriminating evidence is a good—

Chanyeol’s thoughts come to a screeching halt. He stops. It’s unmistakable: even though the door to his room is closed, there’s definitely faint light coming through the hinges.

“Great,” he mumbles again. He braces himself before walking forward and pushing the door open. “Mom,” he begins, a hand already coming up to rub at his neck, “look, I can—”

The figure at the other side of the room turns around, and all of a sudden, Yoona’s curious bemusement downstairs begins to make a lot of sense to Chanyeol.

Because the woman looking through his floor-to-ceiling window definitely isn’t his mother.

“Oh,” Sooyoung says, mouth opening into a soft o of surprise as she turns. “Chanyeol. You’re back.”

Chanyeol drops his shopping bags on the floor. It’s only half intentional. “I’m back,” he says lamely. “Uh. Hi.”

“I came to get some of my things, but Yoona unnie said you were out, so…” Sooyoung hesitates, tucking a lock of dark hair behind her ear. It’s shorter now, Chanyeol notices, cut neatly in a way that falls just past her shoulders even though it was still at her elbow a week ago when he last saw her. “She told me I could just come up to your room and look for them, but I didn’t want to intrude.”

That… clears a lot of things up. Yoona’s inquisitive, perplexed expression, for one. No doubt she expected Chanyeol to be out with Sooyoung, judging by what happened in the morning - not her coming over when he’s not even there.

At least she looks just about as awkward as Chanyeol feels. “No, it’s fine,” he coughs out. He bends down and pushes his bags until they’re resting against the wall. “Sorry for making you wait.”

“Don’t worry, I didn’t wait long. I should’ve texted to let you know I was coming.”

When Chanyeol straightens again, Sooyoung’s gaze is running curiously over his shopping bags. He looks back and almost cringes. Like all luxury clothing stores, each logo looks like it’s intentionally designed to be as obvious as possible - there’s Balenciaga, Prada, and of course Louis Vuitton, the lucky brand Sehun chose for Chanyeol’s gala suit (notwithstanding his ambassador bias). It’s out of character for Chanyeol, who usually doesn’t care about what he wears as long as it’s comfortable. If he wasn’t absolutely, completely sure that Sooyoung knew better, he’d be nervous about her assuming that he’s gotten some new girlfriend in the one week since their breakup.

Which, despite the media’s love for pinning some sort of serial heartbreaker image onto him, isn’t something that Chanyeol would be prone to doing. Ever.

“Did you go shopping?” Sooyoung asks him, blinking.

Chanyeol clears his throat. “Yeah. With Sehun. It’s, um, for the gala this weekend.” When Sooyoung nods in understanding, he says, “Are you going?”

It’s not a wild assumption, since Sooyoung’s family owns an enormous chain of luxury hotels and is, therefore, part of the top one percent the gala usually sends out invitations to. But Sooyoung just shakes her head. “Not this year. My dad wants me to go to Thailand with him for the next week to figure out a potential new expansion.” She pauses awkwardly, brushing another strand of hair over her shoulder. “That’s why I needed to come to pick up the rest of my stuff.”

“Oh, right. Sorry.” Chanyeol steps towards his walk-in closet, where Sooyoung tended to keep her things whenever she came over. “What did you leave here?”

As Sooyoung points out her belongings to Chanyeol in her careful voice, he reaches up to take them from the shelves, placing everything down on the table as he goes. It’s more stuff than Chanyeol expected, even considering the one-year length of their relationship. It makes him feel a flicker of guilt despite himself. Maybe that’s one of the reasons it ended in the first place: him never paying enough attention. Even though, as far as breakups go, Chanyeol’s had a lot worse, he still can’t help but feel regretful with every coat or scarf or fancy handbag he pulls down from his shelves.

Chanyeol’s just never been good at dealing with breakups. Especially not breakups with somebody like Sooyoung, who looked up at him during their dinner last week and said simply, easily, this isn’t really working out, is it?

He hasn’t even told his mom yet. Or Yoona. Or even anyone in his close friend group besides Sehun, although that could probably be blamed on how busy Jongin and Kyungsoo both are. Some part of him feels ashamed of it, of adding another failed relationship to his already sizeable list, but most of him just doesn’t want to risk disappointing the people around him who all unanimously loved Sooyoung. Most notably Chanyeol’s mother, whose favourite thing to point out was that - if they ever got married (hint, hint) - they wouldn’t even have to go through the whole complicated last-name-deciding process that all chaebol heirs are wont to do. It’d be a walk in the Park, she’d always say, winking.

“I think that’s all of it,” Sooyoung says, breaking Chanyeol out of his thoughts. She reaches over and takes the thin leather jacket out of his arms, adding it on top of the neat pile she’s been building up. “Thanks, Chanyeol.”

Chanyeol drops his hands. “No problem. Did you need anything else?”

“No, it’s okay.”

“Okay.”

It’s awkward. It’s so awkward that Chanyeol shuffles his feet, opens his mouth, and starts wondering if he should apologize just to break the thick silence.

Thankfully, Sooyoung stops him from saying anything stupid by turning and looking up at him. “Have fun at the gala,” she says, sounding so genuine that another prickle of guilt stings Chanyeol’s chest. “And say hi to your mom for me, if you get the chance?”

Chanyeol snaps his mouth shut and swallows. “I will,” he says.

“Good.” Sooyoung bites her lip. She’s visibly hesitating, and for one ridiculous second Chanyeol thinks she’s going to slap him in the face or something. But of course that doesn’t happen. All she does is open her arms, give him a faint smile, and reach up for a hug.

Something in Chanyeol’s gut relaxes and tightens up at the same time. It’s a strange feeling. He leans down and hugs Sooyoung, if still a little awkwardly. Her hair is soft and tickles his chin, and she smells of a subtle perfume - not the flowery scent that Chanyeol’s grown to expect from being around her, but a different, sharper kind, reminding him of peppermint and vanilla all at once.

Something like affection swells in his chest, though it’s not really romantic. He’s lucky, Chanyeol thinks, that their separation is still ending on an okay note. He’s used to ones that are far worse, after all.

Sooyoung squeezes him once before letting go. “I’ll be going now, then,” she tells him. “Thanks again for the help.”

“Don’t mention it.” Chanyeol watches her hug her stack of clothes to her chest. It’s so tall that it nearly covers half her face. “Do you, um, need a bag for that?”

“It’s alright. I drove here.”

“Okay.” Chanyeol pauses. “Have a safe flight?”

Sooyoung smiles, amused. “My flight isn’t until Saturday morning.”

“Have a safe flight… when you have it.”

At that, she laughs, bright and clear. “I’ll keep that in mind,” Sooyoung says, and shifts her baggage to her waist so she can free one hand to give him a wave. “See you around, Chanyeol.”

Chanyeol half-heartedly waves back, and then Sooyoung’s gone, stepping out his bedroom door for good with her newly short hair sweeping like black silk across her shoulders.

He waits for the sound of her steps to fade before groaning and flopping onto his bed. Let it be known that, contrary to popular belief, Park Chanyeol is absolutely terrible with breakups. And he’s had more than enough to know. There’s still leftover tension stuck in Chanyeol’s shoulders as he rolls over, spreading his limbs across his wide mattress and staring at the ceiling.

The weight of his phone in his pocket digs uncomfortably into his hip, and he sighs and pulls it out just to have something to do. I just saw Sooyoung again, he texts Sehun, tapping listlessly at his screen. Kill me. It was so awkward.

Sehun’s reply is almost instantaneous. do u need me to come over with chocolate and tubs of ice cream?

The dry message - which still sounds concerned enough to let Chanyeol know his best friend isn’t all joking - is enough to startle a surprised laugh out of him. Trust Sehun to always find the most characteristic way possible to try and get Chanyeol to feel better. Trust Sehun to know.

Chanyeol rolls over again, sinking his face into one of his soft pillows and inhaling the scent of clean laundry. So. To look on the positive side: he’s resolved things with Sooyoung. He has a nice suit for the gala. And, maybe most importantly, he didn’t get subjected to any mom-disappointment despite making the less-than-intelligent decision to skip out on his work.

It’s still a good day, Chanyeol decides, and breathes out again, unlocking his phone to message Sehun back. Everything will be just fine.

 

---

 

Everything is not, in fact, just fine.

“Can you try to look a little less like you want to die?” Out of nowhere, Sehun’s bony elbow comes out to jab Chanyeol in the shoulder, startling him into almost dropping his untouched flute of champagne. “I know your mom isn’t here and all, but that doesn’t mean you can get away with—” he wrinkles his nose, then gestures meaningfully at Chanyeol’s face. “That.”

All Chanyeol can do is aim a half-hearted glare at his friend. “I’m trying,” he complains, rubbing at his arm. “You know I don’t like these events.”

Sehun gives him an unimpressed look. “And I’m not jumping for joy every time I have to strip down for creepy old men, either, but you don’t see me quitting my job.”

To Chanyeol’s right, Jongin very badly disguises his sudden laugh with a cough. Chanyeol bites back the comment about that being a terrible description of Sehun’s high-profile model career - he probably enjoys undressing, anyway, what with his exhibitionist streak - and sends a betrayed glance to his other friend. But Jongin just shrugs. “Sorry, hyung,” he says apologetically, offering him a sheepish smile. “But you do kind of look like you need a drink.”

Which - fair. Chanyeol sure feels like he needs a drink. He looks down at his champagne flute, contemplating, then sighs and downs it in one go, wincing at the strong fizz that bubbles all the way down his throat.

All things considered, it’s a very nice event. Really. The fancy hotel ballroom is as classy as any high-budget movie set, all white and gold and crystal with enormous chandeliers that throw off bits of bright light against the dimmer walls, and there’s even a live jazz band playing the kind of slow, rich music that sounds ten times better when you’re a little tipsy. Chanyeol doesn’t exactly have any standards to go by since this is the first time he’s been to the oh-so-famous gala, but he’s attended no shortage of upper-class events in his life, and it’s easy to see how much effort has gone into planning this one. It’s vibrant. Cohesive. So well thought out that probably even the pickiest invitee wouldn’t have any complaints - Chanyeol’s mom would be jealous.

It’s just a shame that, well, Chanyeol really isn’t the type for this kind of scene.

“It’s weird,” Sehun says, as if on cue. He’s absentmindedly swirling his wine around in his own glass. “How did someone as antisocial as you end up being a chaebol?”

“It’s not like I chose to,” Chanyeol mutters. “And I’m not antisocial.”

Sehun and Jongin exchange a not-so-subtle look. “No, seriously!” Chanyeol protests, feeling the need to defend himself. “I’m not. I just - it’s so stuffy here. There are way too many people.”

Sehun snorts. “That’s kind of the point.”

“And everyone keeps coming up to me to talk about the company. Like I even know what’s happening right now, with my mom always gone and doing everything herself.” Chanyeol raises his glass to his lips again before belatedly realizing it’s empty. He huffs. “I need a refill.”

“You need to relax,” Jongin says, lightly hitting him in the arm. “Stop thinking about work and try to enjoy yourself. We’re at a party.”

“We’re at a gala.”

“Same difference.” Jongin grins. “I’m here for work too, technically, but that doesn’t mean I don’t get to have fun, right?”

Under the light, the black silk of Jongin’s tie is so glossy Chanyeol can practically see his own reflection in it. Despite also being a company heir hard-pressed for time - just like Chanyeol usually is - he sure doesn’t seem to have any trouble dressing himself up. In fact, if Chanyeol didn’t know better, he’d think Jongin was one of the idol guests with how well he manages to blend in.

Of course, the same thing also applies to Sehun, who’d probably be flashy enough to stand out anywhere. “He’s right,” the model butts in now, putting a hand on Chanyeol’s shoulder. “Even Kyungsoo hyung went off to have fun earlier.”

Chanyeol almost chokes on a laugh at the mention of the last member of their friend group, who’s long since been swept away by admirers hoping to get a word in with this season’s rising actor. “I don’t think he’d call it ‘having fun’.”

“My point still stands.”

“Well—”

“Come on, hyung. Don’t be so boring.” Sehun squeezes his shoulder. When Chanyeol turns to look at him, his friend’s eyes are a little darker, a little more sober. “I’m serious.”

He is serious, Chanyeol realizes. Sehun’s voice may still be teasing, but there’s genuine concern spelled out all over his expression. Something pangs in Chanyeol’s chest all of a sudden. It’s probably an effect of Chanyeol’s recent breakup; with how listless he’s been these days, how much enthusiasm he’s lacked at the gala so far, it’s probably only natural that he would be worried. Jongin, too, if the way they’ve been teaming up is anything to go by.

His friends are looking out for him. The thought makes Chanyeol feel grateful and guilty at the same time.

“Okay,” he finds himself saying. “I promise.”

Sehun’s expression melts into relief for a moment before going back to his usual indifference. “Good,” he says, satisfied. “You better keep that promise. Now—” he glances down at his phone, which Chanyeol didn’t even notice he was holding. “I need to go meet Junmyeon hyung. He said he’d be arriving a little later tonight.”

Of course. Chanyeol rolls his eyes good-naturedly. “Go on then. We won’t keep you lovebirds apart.”

“Yeah,” Jongin chimes in, already waving him on. “Don’t let us stop you from having your fun.”

Sehun shoots them an unimpressed look, which only succeeds in making them both laugh. “Yeah, yeah,” he says dryly. “Thanks, guys.” He turns, and Chanyeol waits for him to vanish into the crowd of well-dressed, expensively perfumed people, but then Sehun stops. He looks back again and points a threatening finger at Chanyeol. “I mean it,” he says accusingly. “Loosen up. Let yourself go. Live a little, Park Chanyeol.”

When Sehun has a look on his face like that - coldness in his striking features and expression downright intimidating - Chanyeol has no problem seeing why he’s such a successful model. He gulps. “Yes, sir.”

“Good,” Sehun huffs out again, and then he’s gone.

From then on, the rest of the gala plays out pretty underwhelmingly. Jongin ends up excusing himself, too, claiming that he promised his sister he’d go home early to help watch his niece and nephew. “Sorry, hyung,” he said. “You can have fun without us, right?” And well, sure, Chanyeol’s an adult who’s about as well-versed on upper-class etiquette as can be, but he’d bet that anyone would get sick of the same polite greeting, meaningless small talk, rinse and repeat routine after the first hundred or so times.

For what it’s worth, the gala is mostly over anyways. Sehun and Jongin left about halfway into the socializing portion. The actual event portion is already over and done with, comprised of about a billion boring speeches and presentations about celebrating South Korean media, and now they’re well into the reception part meant for making connections.

Which would be useful, if Chanyeol was actually interested in making any connections. Or in making conversation at all.

Chanyeol was fine with the boring speeches. At least the boring speeches didn’t come up to him to ask about the company, or try to force him into giving up his contact info, or sneak in a thinly-veiled question like oh, right, is your mother looking for anything to invest in at the moment?

Eventually, he gets tired enough of it all to stop wandering around like a target for sharp-tongued entrepreneurs and make an escape to the buffet tables. They’ve already eaten their fancy dinner during the earlier part of the event, but there’s still rows upon rows of huge porcelain plates, tiered desserts, and carefully arranged appetizers for anyone who happened to arrive later. It’s in front of one of those pristine cloth-draped tables that Chanyeol finds himself standing, newly-filled champagne glass in hand.

He… doesn’t really have a game plan. He’s too full to eat more. He’s way too drained to engage in any more polite conversation. He supposes he could just leave early, but an annoying voice that sounds suspiciously like Sehun’s keeps goading him in his head, and Chanyeol’s stubbornly competitive nature means that the last thing he wants to do is feel like he’s lost. Even to an imaginary voice.

Chanyeol’s so caught up in reviewing his options and staring a hole into a plate of pretentious tomato-slice-looking-things that he almost jumps when he hears, “What did those hors d’oeuvres ever do to you?”

Admittedly, his first reaction is: Oh no, more polite conversation.

But then Chanyeol spins around and actually sees the man talking to him, who’s, well. Not exactly what he was expecting.

It’s not that he looks different from everyone else, per se; he’s dressed in a classic three-piece tuxedo, grey and white and silky with a single button at the waist. His brown hair is parted over his forehead in a charmingly neat sort of way - a style very typical at black-tie events. So no, it’s definitely not the average formal getup that catches Chanyeol’s attention. It’s the openness in his face.

The man has warm eyes, expressive eyebrows, and a catlike curl to his mouth when he quirks a smile at Chanyeol, and something about it is vaguely familiar and instantly reassuring all at once.

“Not one for parties?”

It takes Chanyeol a second too long to realize he’s being talked to. He coughs out something resembling a laugh. “Not at all.”

“That’s a shame,” the man says. He leans forward and squints at the label card propped up beside the plate on the table. “Because I think those… brochettes de tomate were definitely going to burst into flames if you stared at them any longer, which would’ve livened things up here a whole lot.”

That startles an actual laugh out of Chanyeol, a full, genuine one that shakes in his chest. It’s probably the first time he’s managed to feel at ease all evening, and it makes him relax a little, limbs loosening and shoulders slumping down. “Maybe I should’ve tried a bit harder then,” he jokes. “Wouldn’t want the ritzy aesthetic to fall flat.”

The man nods, all fake-serious. “You’d be doing them a favour. There’s only so much boring gold and white a guy can take.” He waves a hand at their surroundings. “I mean, what’s with the whole rich jerk vibe anyway?”

The irony in that statement does not go unnoticed by Chanyeol, and it makes him laugh even harder, bringing a hand to his mouth to stifle an unattractive wheeze.

The man’s smile turns into a full-on grin - and yeah, there’s definitely something familiar about it. Chanyeol’s positive he’s seen those unique lip curls somewhere before. A TV actor like Kyungsoo, maybe? He has the looks for it for sure. Or maybe another important businessman who Chanyeol’s met in passing, though the “rich jerk” comment seems to work against that theory.

“So what are you here for, then, if you don’t like parties?” the man asks conversationally, straightening back up to look at him.

Chanyeol pauses. Somehow he doesn’t think mentioning his chaebol status would be a great idea right now, if only because the man was clearly joking before and would probably be embarrassed at the realization. “Uh.”

“Oh, come on. You can tell me. I won’t judge.” The man tilts his head, eyes sparkling in mischief. “Free food? A chance to woo the ladies?”

“No, nothing like that!” Chanyeol rushes to say, but it must come out a bit too hastily, because the man’s grin goes teasing, mouth curving up even more at the ends.

Another pang of barely-there recognition hits Chanyeol right in the face. It’s frustrating. He tries to narrow his eyes as discreetly as possible, wracking his brain to figure out a memory to match up with the man’s features.

If he’s not a businessman, then he has to be a celebrity. If he’s at the media gala, then Chanyeol must’ve seen him on a screen somewhere. If he’s not an actor, then he must be…

He’s so focused on staring again that he doesn’t even notice someone coming up to them until a smooth voice says, from right behind him, “Jongdae, making new friends already?”

Chanyeol actually does jump this time. He turns around. And - oh.

Oh.

Crimson-red hair. Smoky eyeshadow. A pair of curious, hooded dark eyes that fall upon Chanyeol with the weight of an anvil. The first coherent thought that passes through Chanyeol’s suddenly transfixed mind is: at least I won’t have any trouble figuring out a career this time.

Because the new man standing before him - the man who’s all golden skin and sharp angles, suit daringly unique but still immaculate, with his graceful fingers wrapped around a wineglass stem - is the very definition of idol if Chanyeol’s ever seen one.

The brown-haired man he called Jongdae brightens his grin even more, although it loses none of its sly edge. “Aw, come on,” Jongdae says, reaching out an elbow to nudge the redhead in the shoulder. “You know I’d never replace you. I’m just branching out like everyone else here.”

The redhead’s lips pull up into a playful tilt. “Is ‘branching out’ code for ‘scaring the unlucky guests you find until they agree to talk to you’?”

“Hey, that’s mean! I’ll have you know that I can talk to people just fine.”

“About things other than music?” The redhead gives him a once-over, pretending to consider him before shaking his head. “For all we know, you were gathering real-life inspiration for your next album to broadcast to all of Seoul. Which would definitely be unethical, by the way.”

That makes Jongdae whine out something about artistic integrity before the pair fall into an obviously familiar pattern of good-natured ribbing. There’s something easy and natural about their banter, which would speak a lot about their relationship with each other. Chanyeol isn’t really paying attention, though. The mention of music and your next album makes him perk up right away, like a police dog with a clue, and he can almost feel the connection building itself towards a realization in his mind.

He squints at Jongdae’s friendly features again, and then he sees it: the same face, with eyes closed and mouth open, singing a song powerful enough to resonate into a mic on Yoora’s TV screen.

“You’re Chen!” Chanyeol blurts out.

And then flushes. Because he definitely said that a little too loudly. And now both Jongdae and the intimidatingly attractive man have stopped goading each other to stare at him.

At least Jongdae - Chen, since it’s all coming back to Chanyeol now, in Inkigayo stages and endless loops on the car radio - doesn’t look offended, just surprised and maybe a little pleased. “You know who I am?” he asks, blinking twice.

“I, uh, only figured it out just now. Sorry.” Chanyeol gives him an abashed smile. “You’re really good, though. My sister loves your songs.”

Now Jongdae definitely looks pleased. “Wow, thanks! That’s awesome to hear.”

“Your sister has good taste,” the red-haired man puts in. It’s the first thing he’s said directly to Chanyeol, and embarrassingly enough, Chanyeol jolts, freezing as those dark eyes lock onto him for the second time. It’s like being pinned under steel. The man tilts his head, and there’s a spark of something in his gaze when he says, “Does she like my songs too?”

Chanyeol goes still. His head spins.

“Um,” he hedges, trying to figure out the politest possible way to say that, despite the pull of this man’s strong, unique gravity drawing him in even now, Chanyeol kind of… has no idea who he is.

His mother would disapprove. For someone who’s set to inherit a media and entertainment company, Chanyeol sure isn’t the best at recognizing faces. Maybe the redhead’s charming features are vaguely familiar to him, in the way that all idols are, but he can’t conjure up a memory strong enough to connect him to anything. At least, not in the way he did with Jongdae.

He must stay silent for too long, or maybe he has a way-too-obvious expression of panic on his face or something, because the next thing Chanyeol knows both Jongdae and the red-haired man are bursting out into laughter.

“Oh, no,” Jongdae says, wiping at his eyes. “That’s got to be a blow to his ego.” He looks up and flips a hand at Chanyeol, who’s getting more mortified by the second. “Sorry about him. Don’t get so nervous, Baekhyunnie’s just teasing.”

Baekhyun. That name is unmistakable. Chanyeol’s heard it before, he’s sure of it; he’s just drawing an unfortunate blank right now. “I’m sorry,” he says meekly, “I just—”

Thin fingers curl around his sleeve, and Chanyeol’s brain short-circuits. He looks over. Baekhyun lets go but doesn’t step away, leaving Chanyeol close enough to count every single fleck of glitter on his eyelids if he wanted to.

“Don’t be,” he tells him, and his voice is so warm - not the friendly kind of warmth like Jongdae’s, but darker, more intense, a pool of liquid heat. “I’ll just have to do the introducing myself.”

Chanyeol swallows. There are silver threads running through the inky fabric of Baekhyun’s suit, and they catch the light when he tips his chin to meet Chanyeol’s stare head on.

The gravity tugs, almost imperceptibly, in his gut.

Off to the side, Jongdae clears his throat. “Hey, look!” he says, voice purposely loud. “There’s that guy I know over there. I think I’ll go talk to him.” He glances at them, a noticeable glint in his eyes. “Nice chat and all, but I’ll leave you two to get acquainted now.”

And then he’s walking straight into the crowd until his tuxedo mixes in with all the black and white and gold.

As soon as the top of Jongdae’s brown head disappears, Baekhyun snorts. “A real master at subtlety, that Jongdae,” he says, and despite himself, Chanyeol lets out a small laugh. It makes Baekhyun turn back to him and quirk a curious eyebrow. “Sorry, I just have to get this clear. You really don’t know who I am?”

It’s not an arrogant question at all; just one filled with genuine interest. For some reason that’s a million times worse. Chanyeol winces.

“No,” he admits, worrying his bottom lip between his teeth. “You’re not offended, are you?”

That playful spark in Baekhyun’s eyes is back again. “Just surprised. I’m very well-known, you know.”

“I’m sure you are,” Chanyeol says weakly.

“And well, Jongdae was sort of right.” There’s a pause, then Baekhyun reaches out again, skimming his pretty fingers over the silk of Chanyeol’s collar until Chanyeol’s next breath gets stuck somewhere along his windpipe. “I’ll be honest, my ego did take a hit,” he says. His voice is pitched low, soft, like he’s divulging some big secret. “I was hoping the handsome man in the suit would know my name.”

Chanyeol’s throat goes desert-dry. It must be getting stuffier in here. “Oh,” he ends up croaking out. “I… really am sorry. About that.”

Baekhyun’s hand trails from Chanyeol’s neck down to his arm, and Chanyeol can practically hear the teasing smile in his voice when he says, “I might consider forgiving you if you give me your name.”

If looking into Jongdae’s warm, open face earlier put Chanyeol at ease, looking into Baekhyun’s now is like whiplash: it heightens and pinpoints his senses until all he can focus on is the tiny, dotted mole at the corner of Baekhyun’s curved mouth. The other man’s eyes are so dark already, and combined with the shimmery eyeshadow, all his gaze is doing is making Chanyeol’s insides feel like a gooey mess. It’s heady. He doesn’t remember the last time he was so instantly taken with a stranger - doesn’t remember the last time he felt so tempted.

Like an ever-convenient reminder, Sehun’s voice reverberates in his head. I mean it. Loosen up. Let yourself go.

Live a little, Park Chanyeol.

It’s probably a bad idea. It’s definitely a bad idea. But Chanyeol catches Baekhyun’s hand at his wrist anyway, hesitating for only a second before sliding his fingers neatly into the gaps between Baekhyun’s own.

“It’s Chanyeol,” he says, and dimples, turning on that million-dollar charm. “And you know, I’m getting really bored of this party.”

Baekhyun’s smile sharpens into a full smirk. He pulls until Chanyeol’s forced to lean forward again, close enough to share his breath, helpless to both kinds of gravity.

“Let’s get out of here then,” he says back, and Chanyeol falls - hook, line, and sinker. All in.

 

---

 

In all honesty, Chanyeol should’ve realized from the start that he wouldn’t be able to preserve any semblance of anonymity. He’s not oblivious, after all. Or blind. The fancy suit Sehun forced him to wear, combined with his presence at the gala in the first place, would be enough for anyone to at least get the idea of just who Chanyeol is. That much is given.

But Baekhyun doesn’t say anything - not when Chanyeol leads him down to VIP parking and into his Rolls-Royce, and not when he drives them in silence until busy Myeongdong transforms into quiet, luxurious Gangnam. Not even when Chanyeol takes him all the way up a glittering high-rise to its penthouse. Chanyeol punches in the key code to the apartment he bought for himself, feeling the weight of Baekhyun’s gaze like a scorching brand on his back, and can’t help but wonder if he’s going to ask about… well, anything.

Because he knows Baekhyun is an idol, but Baekhyun doesn’t know a single thing about him.

The door clicks open with a low beep. “Here we are,” Chanyeol mumbles, not sure what else to say. He reaches up and slides a button on the tablet in the wall until the apartment fills with soft, muted light.

Baekhyun steps in first, eyes roaming over all the open space, the loft overlooking the living area, the enormous glass windows that let Seoul spill out in a shining ocean of light below. “Fancy.”

“Thanks.”

“How do you know that was a compliment?”

Chanyeol opens his mouth, then snaps it shut again. There’s a quirk to Baekhyun’s mouth when he turns. “I’m just kidding,” he says, and starts walking towards Chanyeol, easy confidence outlined in every line of his limbs. “This is a very nice place.”

“Thanks,” Chanyeol repeats lamely. His heartbeat picks up as Baekhyun lessens the distance between them. Two metres, one metre.

He stops right in front of Chanyeol, until he’s looking up at him and reaching out to pull on his shirt collar, bringing Chanyeol’s head down with a warm touch to his neck.

Chanyeol’s pulse throbs in his throat.

The thick, crackling tension around them is back, and it’s suffocating and electrifying at the same time. Baekhyun’s hot breath stirs around his collarbone. “It’s just a shame,” he murmurs to Chanyeol, shadowed eyelids drooping, “that I won’t be seeing much of it.”

The invitation couldn’t have been more obvious if Baekhyun held up a neon sign. And Chanyeol wants. For a moment, he’s tempted to close the gap right away; to let things escalate, play by Baekhyun’s rules until they end up in the one place in the apartment Baekhyun will be seeing.

But then somewhere, through the haze of his mind, he hesitates. He thinks about pristine idol images. Unblemished reputations. The field days the press would have whenever there was a breakup with Chanyeol’s name stamped all over it in rash-red ink.

“Listen,” Chanyeol begins. “I think there’s something you need to know first. About me.”

Baekhyun just blinks at him, allowing him to go on.

“I should’ve told you before, but I’m—”

“Chanyeol,” Baekhyun answers for him. And Chanyeol doesn’t think much of it - not until Baekhyun cocks his head and adds, with a knowing intensity in his eyes, “Park Chanyeol.”

Chanyeol’s mind goes abruptly blank. Everything grinds to a halt.

“You knew?” he asks, flabbergasted.

Baekhyun cocks one of his eyebrows, too. “Of course I did. You’re not as low-key as you think, Mr. Big Shot.”

“But then - why did you ask me for my name?”

That makes Baekhyun laugh, sliding his hands down to tug at the sleek fabric of Chanyeol’s tie. “I needed a line,” he says, grinning. “A way in, so to speak.” He shrugs. “I never claimed to be the most creative person.”

“But…” Chanyeol flounders. “You don’t have a problem with it?”

“Why would I?”

“You’re an idol. Aren’t idols really careful about this stuff?”

Baekhyun’s eyes glint, and he tips his head to the side, letting his red bangs fall over his forehead. “Most are,” he says, and leaves it at that.

Chanyeol’s still baffled - of course he is - but if the way Baekhyun’s fingers curl around his shoulders again means anything, he’s getting impatient. So Chanyeol gives in to the pull in his gut. He swallows, then drops his hand to tentatively rest on Baekhyun’s hip.

“It seriously isn’t an issue?” he asks one last time, still unsure.

“Not an issue,” Baekhyun promises. Then his voice lowers, and oh, there’s that heat again, all-consuming. “Unless you think there’s some sort of conflict of interest with me fucking the son of the woman who owns half my company.”

It’s shameless. So shameless. But it works.

And now Chanyeol’s mind is going blank for an entirely different reason. His grip clenches, and he’s the one who pulls Baekhyun in, in the end, hands coming up to hold either side of his face and the burning in his gut threatening to consume him.

Chanyeol was expecting something languid and almost lazy, something to match the push-and-pull of Baekhyun’s teasing personality. A slow kiss. Unhurried.

But instead, Baekhyun drags him in and devours him whole - demanding, greedy, stealing the air right out of Chanyeol’s lungs. His fingers are tight around the back of Chanyeol’s neck, and he licks into Chanyeol’s mouth with such single-minded intent that it sends a zap of electricity coursing down his spine.

The idol tastes sweet, Chanyeol thinks faintly, then remembers. Wine. It reminds him of the alcohol still lingering in his own body, making itself known with a rush of liquid warmth to his gut. That must be why he feels punch-drunk right now; like he can’t even tell up from down as Baekhyun presses him back into his own apartment door and pushes his thigh between Chanyeol’s legs.

Baekhyun swallows the desperate noise Chanyeol doesn’t even mean to make before breaking away. His lips are as red as his crimson hair, and his gaze is dark, dark, dark. Chanyeol gulps.

When Baekhyun lowers black eyelashes onto golden skin, something in Chanyeol’s blood catches a spark like a doomed wildfire.

“So,” Baekhyun says, voice barely more than a rasp. “Show me to your bedroom.”

Chanyeol can’t obey fast enough.

The master bedroom of the penthouse apartment is located just down the hall from the living area. Chanyeol sends a silent thank-you to whichever architect designed the place now as he leads Baekhyun through the door, still brushing a hand along his waist because he can’t resist. The lights are dimmed enough to allow the space a sort of subtle, seductive vibe, and it’s that kind of glow that washes upon Baekhyun’s skin as he heads straight for the enormous bed, unbuckling the belt looped around his dress shirt as he goes.

The accessory falls to the floor with a clink. Baekhyun climbs onto the mattress and turns. His layered shirt is loose now, and the silver-black fabric on the outside is slipping off his shoulder, revealing red satin and bare skin underneath.

Is that a necklace glittering on his chest? Chanyeol’s definitely going to die.

He strips off his suit jacket and joins Baekhyun on the bed, hovering over him while Baekhyun looks up. His weird idol-acceptable shirt only has a few large black buttons. Chanyeol reaches down and undoes all of them, until the fabric falls open and he has to inhale a sharp breath.

It is a silver necklace. One with an intricate, circle-shaped pendant that Chanyeol recognizes and picks up in his hand.

“Dreamcatcher,” he says aloud, feeling one of the icy feathers between his fingers.

Chanyeol,” Baekhyun says back. He sounds peeved and even more impatient than before. “Is that really the important thing right now?”

Despite everything else, Chanyeol laughs, dropping the necklace and leaning down until he’s close enough to catch that mole at the edge of Baekhyun’s mouth again. “No, no, sorry,” he agrees, and kisses him.

Baekhyun tugs him in, fingers coming up to tangle in Chanyeol’s dark hair. He’s still so aggressive: all rough presses, biting teeth. He kisses like a daredevil. His palms burn the base of Chanyeol’s nape, and it’s all Chanyeol can do to let himself be dragged into Baekhyun’s restless rhythm, matching his speed with every harsh kiss until the heat fizzing in his stomach rises to a fever pitch. Baekhyun lets out a satisfied noise into his mouth as Chanyeol tightens his hold on Baekhyun’s broad shoulders, tilting back to give him more access when he dips a thumb below the waistline of Baekhyun’s pants.

It’s so, so addicting. Chanyeol feels like he’s drunk on it all. He’s never wanted to touch someone so bad.

By the time they pull apart, Baekhyun’s breathing is heavy. “Good to see you have your priorities straight,” he says, but whatever’s left of his goading tone is kind of ruined by the hitch in his voice.

Not like Chanyeol isn’t just as affected. But there’s something intoxicating about knowing that Baekhyun’s this way because of him - cheekbones flushed, pupils blown, artfully styled hair a disheveled mess. It makes Chanyeol’s lips curve as he dips down impossibly closer, trailing his mouth over the column of Baekhyun’s neck.

Baekhyun jerks as soon as he sucks the first mark into that smooth skin. The moan he lets out is gravelly, unbidden.

Chanyeol pulls back a little. “Is this okay?” he asks, suddenly hesitant.

Baekhyun has to take a breath before he answers. “More than okay. I’m just… sensitive.”

Well. Chanyeol isn’t going to use that against him at all.

His mouth goes back to Baekhyun’s neck right away, and if the way Baekhyun stiffens means anything, he’s realized Chanyeol’s intentions. Chanyeol doesn’t hesitate. He goes straight to using his teeth this time, scraping against Baekhyun’s collarbone until Baekhyun’s knocking his head back with a shudder and there’s maroon blooming on his skin. The tension around them climbs, builds to something almost tangible. Chanyeol laves his tongue over the mark, then bites another spot, hard, and Baekhyun’s nails dig painfully into his back.

The heat in the pit of Chanyeol’s stomach spikes. There’s so much red. In Baekhyun’s hair, shimmering around his eyelids, tinged in the already-darkening marks on his neck and shoulders. In his shirt, more than halfway to falling away. Off, Chanyeol’s caveman brain thinks, and he reaches out to give a rough pull, letting the silky fabric slide onto the floor.

“Unfair,” Baekhyun says. His voice is somehow composed, even though Chanyeol can see the quick rise-and-fall of his toned abdomen. “Are chaebols always required to keep their ties on during sex?”

“Only the polite ones,” Chanyeol tells him, and reaches down to press a hand between Baekhyun’s legs.

Baekhyun’s eyes fall shut. He lets out the most attractive noise so far, low and musical in a way that doesn’t make Chanyeol doubt he’s a singer. The pants he’s wearing are black and tight, but his cock is already swollen under the rough material, a hard, rigid heat, and Chanyeol strokes him with firm fingers just to watch Baekhyun’s throat quiver.

He’s mesmerized, watching the pleasure pass over Baekhyun’s face, the high flush spreading across his cheeks. A drop of sweat rolls down Baekhyun’s forehead as he pants. Chanyeol swipes it away with his other hand, and the tip of his finger comes away smudged with orangey-bronze.

He raises a joking eyebrow. “How much makeup are you wearing?”

“I’m, ah, an idol. Have to keep up appearances, and all that.” Baekhyun’s hands grab onto Chanyeol’s collar to loosen and yank away his tie. “Not important,” he says, unbuttoning Chanyeol’s shirt faster than he could’ve done it himself. “Are you going to keep touching me or not?”

Chanyeol answers that with a squeeze around Baekhyun’s bulge, and Baekhyun sucks in a breath and tips his head all the way back again, showing off those pretty marks.

He shrugs off his own shirt as he crowds over Baekhyun, still rubbing his hand along Baekhyun’s pants. Baekhyun watches him through half-lidded eyes. A hand comes up to trail over Chanyeol’s chest, and Chanyeol shivers at the touch, holding his breath as Baekhyun maps out the planes of his body with his graceful fingers. It’s a strange sensation; bewitching. Like he’s pinned in place by the dark lust in Baekhyun’s eyes. When Baekhyun reaches his waistband, Chanyeol bites down on his lip, pulse jackrabbiting, waiting for those fingers to slip lower.

But it doesn’t happen. Instead, Baekhyun curls his hand through Chanyeol’s belt loop and aims a wicked grin at him.

“Enough of that,” he whispers, and before Chanyeol can even blink, Baekhyun’s flipping them over in one smooth, liquid move - then straddling Chanyeol until his thighs are on either side of Chanyeol’s waist.

Chanyeol nearly chokes on his own spit. Oh.

Baekhyun bends down to kiss him again. It’s messy, all teeth and tongue, and Chanyeol is so turned on it hurts.

He puts his hands on Baekhyun’s bare waist while he deepens the kiss, head going hazy as soon as Baekhyun does something with his tongue that sends a flash of arousal right to Chanyeol’s groin. It’s merciless, and Chanyeol whines into Baekhyun’s mouth. He needs to be touched. He’s straining against his pants and Baekhyun hasn’t even done anything except kiss him.

“Please don’t be such a tease,” he rasps out, when Baekhyun pulls away, wiping at the saliva around his mouth.

Baekhyun just gives him a slow smirk, hand still hovering at his chin. “Since you asked so nicely.”

Then he’s reaching down and unbuttoning Chanyeol’s pants, thumbing over the wet spot in his boxer-briefs, and Chanyeol loses his breath entirely.

Baekhyun, it seems, has decided to listen to Chanyeol’s plea, because there’s nothing slow about the way he takes Chanyeol in his hand and strokes him. He sets a relentless rhythm right away; running his fingers from base to tip, fisting the head to catch the leaking precome. Chanyeol has to slap a hand over his mouth to stifle his sudden moans. There’s something so dirty about watching Baekhyun pump his cock, from this angle, following his pretty fingers as they touch and stroke and squeeze, and Chanyeol’s mind fizzles out into static, pleasure wracking his body that’s sharp enough to go straight to his bones.

It’s too much. It’s way too much. “Baekhyun,” he says, voice shaking into a half-whimper as Baekhyun presses his thumb into his slit. “Don’t - I don’t want to come so soon.”

That makes Baekhyun’s eyes darken. He slows but doesn’t stop, still rubbing over Chanyeol’s length languidly as Chanyeol tries his best to catch his breath. “That close?” he asks, voice low.

“It’s, ah. It’s been a while.”

Baekhyun straightens, sitting up on Chanyeol’s thighs, and Chanyeol almost whines at the loss despite himself.

“Have you done this before? With another guy?”

“Of course I have!” Chanyeol protests. And he has - he’s a healthy twenty-five-year-old, after all, no stranger to hook-ups even if his more serious relationships tend to be with girls because of his position. “I’m not a teenager. I’m just not used to…”

Someone so brazen. Someone so greedy. Someone so good at what he does that just a look is enough to set Chanyeol’s blood alight. Someone like Baekhyun.

Said man tugs his reddened lip between his teeth, and Chanyeol’s gaze catches, helpless, on the action. “Okay,” Baekhyun says, voice still so rough. “That’s good.” His hand slides down to unbutton his own pants, skimming over the thick outline of his erection. “Do you have lube?”

Chanyeol’s breath hitches. “In the nightstand drawer.”

Baekhyun leans over to find it, and Chanyeol takes the opportunity to stare all he wants, tracing the faint lines of abs in Baekhyun’s stomach and the sharp dip of his pelvis.

When Baekhyun comes back, it’s with a small, clear bottle in his hands. He has a condom pinched between his fingers, too. Chanyeol didn’t even know he had those in his drawer. He can’t do anything except stare some more as Baekhyun strips out of his pants and boxers in one go, then returns to his straddling position, letting out a breathy sigh as he curls his fingers around his own cock.

Chanyeol can feel his dick pulse against his leg at the sight.

“Are you,” he starts weakly, as Baekhyun reaches for the lube and unscrews the cap. He gestures at the bottle. “Do you want me to…”

Baekhyun’s lips quirk up, positively devilish. “I want you to watch.”

All of the air rushes out of Chanyeol’s lungs in one fell swoop, and his heartbeat skyrockets, because Baekhyun is evil.

There’s no other explanation for the way Baekhyun holds Chanyeol’s gaze as he tips the lube over his fingers and dips his hand down. He rubs a little, just to warm it up, and then presses one finger to his rim, biting back a pleased noise at the contact. When Baekhyun pushes it in, his legs fall open just a bit more - there’s an obvious tremble of desire running through his body as he arches his back. He works the finger in and out before adding another one, doing a scissoring motion that turns his already harsh breathing into something ragged and wanton.

Chanyeol’s knuckles clench white around the sheets. It’s downright obscene, the way Baekhyun keeps his fiery eyes on Chanyeol as he fucks himself on his fingers. Then Baekhyun’s head tips back - revealing the graceful column of his neck and all the marks Chanyeol sucked into his skin - and the already taut string of Chanyeol’s resolve snaps.

The moment Chanyeol pulls Baekhyun’s hand away from between his thighs, Baekhyun snaps his head forward. “What—” he begins, brow furrowing, but it wavers into a moan when Chanyeol presses his own fingers in, helped by the lube slicking Baekhyun’s skin, stretching.

Chanyeol,” Baekhyun gasps. It’s the loudest he’s been by far, and Chanyeol’s breath stutters. The ache in his cock grows unbearable.

He bites his lip hard enough to hurt and keeps moving, curling his fingers into Baekhyun’s heat, searching for that one spot that will—

Baekhyun’s hand shoots out to clamp around his wrist. “That’s enough,” he says, and his tone is so dark, scorching with intensity. His other hand grapples across the bed until he catches the condom and throws it at Chanyeol. “Get on with it. Now.”

“Demanding,” Chanyeol comments, going for teasing even with the obvious breathlessness in his voice.

“Do you want to fuck me or not?”

Chanyeol shuts up. He rips open the package.

Baekhyun’s the one that rolls the condom onto him, letting his fingers linger around the base of Chanyeol’s dick just to watch him tense up. He pushes Chanyeol back until he’s lying against the small mountain of pillows on his bed, then climbs over him, hovering directly above his hips.

One last stroke over his cock, and Baekhyun’s lining himself up, then letting out a keening noise as he sinks down - slowly, ever so slowly, little by little until everything in Chanyeol’s brain fizzles out into white noise.

It’s tight. And hot. So hot. Chanyeol tries his best to keep his breathing even, one hand gripped in the sheets while the other rests along the subtle curve of Baekhyun’s hip. The slow drag of his cock along Baekhyun’s walls is excruciating, agonizing in its pleasure, and Chanyeol has to gulp as Baekhyun finally bottoms out, perfect ass coming down to rest against Chanyeol’s hips as he tosses his head back and lets out the longest, most satisfied sigh Chanyeol’s ever heard.

“Baekhyun,” Chanyeol manages to choke out. His fingers tighten around Baekhyun’s waist. It must be at least a little painful, but Baekhyun doesn’t even seem to notice, eyes shut and skin shiny with sweat as he pants.

For a moment, everything seems suspended in time. The only thing Chanyeol can focus on through his lust-drenched daze is the rapid heave of Baekhyun’s chest.

Then Baekhyun clenches, and Chanyeol actually cries out, bucking upwards, head spinning with the ruthless onslaught of sensation, cock giving a heavy pulse of need.

Fuck,” Baekhyun says, and he sounds so wrecked already. “You’re big. I—” He moves his hips, just slightly, circling them until Chanyeol’s cock pushes just that much further into his intense heat. Baekhyun’s voice catches and he shudders, head falling back again. The silver necklace still resting on his neck glimmers in the faint light.

It’s distracting. It’s unfair. The pressure around Chanyeol’s dick is borderline painful at this point, but Chanyeol bites his lip hard and forces his head to clear out.

“Are you okay?” he asks, because he’s not a complete jerk. “Should we - should I prepare you more?”

Baekhyun doesn’t say anything for a while. He just breathes as he drops his head and rocks back and forth on the weight of Chanyeol’s cock inside him. “No, I’m good,” he finally replies, breath still stuttering. “Just move. Actually—” Like whiplash, Baekhyun’s smile stretches into something wicked again, and Chanyeol only has half a second to think oh no before Baekhyun’s leaning forward and breathing the words into his mouth. “I’ll be the one moving.”

Chanyeol’s saved from having to force his dizzy mind to figure out what that means when Baekhyun straightens, lifts himself up, and slams back down hard enough to knock the wind out of Chanyeol’s chest.

Chanyeol’s hands shoot out to grip around Baekhyun’s waist, and he lets out a downright embarrassing noise as Baekhyun grinds down again. Arousal spreads lava-hot beneath his skin. He feels overheated already, helpless to Baekhyun’s rapid pace as he rises up and sinks down, over and over again, riding Chanyeol until Chanyeol feels like his dick is about to burst in the tight pressure of Baekhyun’s heat. The silver chain around Baekhyun’s neck bounces while he moves, thighs quivering and pretty cock flushed pink at the tip.

It’s a sight that Chanyeol instantly knows will follow him well into the next morning. Baekhyun is a vision, all sweaty, golden skin, crimson hair in a mussed halo around his head. He’s making noises as he fucks himself open on Chanyeol, too - strained moans and sharp gasps when Chanyeol’s length drags against his walls just right.

“Baekhyun,” Chanyeol says. His voice doesn’t even sound like his own anymore, husky and ragged and an octave too deep. “Please, I…”

He isn’t even sure what he’s asking for, but Baekhyun seems to catch on anyway, slowing down until he’s only barely rocking down on Chanyeol’s dick. He tilts his head.

“What?” Baekhyun says, low. “Do you want to fuck me yourself? Make me scream? Watch me cry from how good you can fuck me? Is that what you want?”

Chanyeol’s breath stops all over again, and he can’t nod fast enough, spreading possessive fingers over Baekhyun’s hips until they’re harsh enough to bruise. His cock is throbbing just from the thought of it; of turning Baekhyun into a desperate, incoherent mess for him.

But of course it’s not that easy. Baekhyun’s smirk sharpens. He dips down.

When he whispers his next words, Chanyeol’s lips tingle from the hot puffs of breath that blow over his skin.

“Then beg.”

Oh.

Oh.

Chanyeol’s brain short-circuits. He swallows, throat clicking dryly as he stares into Baekhyun’s pitch-black eyes. Faced with Baekhyun’s heavy gaze like this, though - heated enough to practically drip molten over his skin - it’s not a particularly difficult decision to make.

So Chanyeol makes it.

“Please,” he says softly, gut jumping when he feels Baekhyun clench around him at the words, like he didn’t expect Chanyeol to give up his pride so easily. “Please, Baekhyun. Please let me fuck you.” He strokes his fingers up Baekhyun’s chest and over his nipples, feeling him shiver under his touch. “I’ll be so good. Want to make you feel amazing. Please.”

The words, shaky and imploring, clearly aren’t leaving Baekhyun unaffected. Chanyeol can see his throat bob as he reaches down to clasp over Chanyeol’s hand, pupils blown wide until the whites of his eyes are swallowed almost completely.

“Please,” Chanyeol says again, just for good measure, face burning when he sees Baekhyun’s cock jerk and leak against his toned stomach.

It has to be a kink thing, then. It must be a kink thing. Something about Chanyeol’s words is turning Baekhyun on so badly that he can’t even try to hide his physical reaction anymore. The rush of desire that seizes Chanyeol at the realization is so strong it feels like a sucker punch, and he has to bite his lip as he raises his eyes to meet Baekhyun’s again, holding his breath, waiting.

All Baekhyun does is tip his head back: an invitation.

“Then do it,” he rasps, and it’s all Chanyeol needs to lunge forward and press him into the mattress.

Everything seems to go blurry as Chanyeol pins Baekhyun down by the wrists. His chest is heaving, and his heartbeat goes timpani-mode as soon as his vision focuses and he sees Baekhyun again - hair mussed, fiery eyes framed by smudged eyeshadow, teeth biting into his swollen red lip.

He looks like an incubus. Some kind of demon of the night. Chanyeol’s hips thrust forward almost of their own accord, and Baekhyun moans immediately, long and low and musical.

The new angle is intense, and Chanyeol can feel his cock push even deeper inside Baekhyun until he has to grit his teeth to keep from coming. “Fuck, you’re so hot,” he mouths into Baekhyun’s neck, hot breath ghosting over the marks he left earlier, and Baekhyun keens again, arching his back and digging his nails into Chanyeol’s back until Chanyeol has to wince from the sting. He doesn’t mind the pain, though. Not like this. Not when he’s buried so deeply inside of Baekhyun that he feels on the verge of exploding. Not when he pulls out and thrusts in again, managing to hit that one spot he tried so hard to find earlier, and Baekhyun actually wails, legs shuddering around Chanyeol’s hips and cock pulsing wetly against his stomach.

“Again, do that again,” Baekhyun pants, and Chanyeol would have half a mind to tease him about the begging if he wasn’t so turned on he felt like losing his mind. He thrusts once more, hitting Baekhyun’s prostate dead-on, pulling another strangled noise from Baekhyun’s pretty mouth. It’s too hot. Way too hot. Chanyeol fucks into him again, and again, and again, until Baekhyun’s practically sobbing into his own fist, squeezing around Chanyeol’s dick every time with such fierce pressure that Chanyeol feels the heat in his abdomen reach a boiling point.

He leans down to kiss Baekhyun again, although it’s not much of a kiss and more a messy press of lips. “Told you,” he breathes. “That I’d fuck you good.”

It says something about Chanyeol’s success that Baekhyun’s too far gone to even reply. He just whines at another harsh thrust, dragging his fingers over Chanyeol’s shoulders.

When Chanyeol reaches down to fist a hand around the tip of Baekhyun’s leaking cock, Baekhyun lurches, mouth falling open, letting out the most wrecked noise Chanyeol’s ever heard. Chanyeol thumbs the slit just once, and it’s over. Baekhyun clenches around him so tightly that Chanyeol sees stars, then comes all over his fingers with a cry of Chanyeol’s name, trembling through his climax and coating his own stomach in white.

It’s a sensory overload for Chanyeol. His mind goes blank and his orgasm is wrenched from him with the force of a truck. He bites down into Baekhyun’s shoulder again to stifle his moan as he comes, filling the condom, then half-collapses onto Baekhyun in a shaky heap.

Too much. Way too much.

It takes a very long time for the buzzing in Chanyeol’s ears to fade. When it does, though, he’s vaguely aware of Baekhyun still breathing raggedly beneath him, the heat of his body now more feverish than arousing.

Chanyeol struggles to sit up, bones still feeling like jelly. “Shit, sorry,” he pants. His cock slides out of Baekhyun with a slick sound that makes him grimace. “Did I hurt you?”

Silence. Baekhyun doesn’t say anything. Chanyeol looks down, alarmed, and is about to start shaking Baekhyun’s shoulders when Baekhyun lets out a stuttery breath and throws his arm over his face.

“I’m good,” he says, voice weak and raspy. “Just… give me a moment.”

“Okay.”

“Maybe several moments.”

“Okay,” Chanyeol says again, relieved if a little confused. He straightens and ties the condom off, chucking it into the wastebin beside his bed, then reaches over for the tissue box to clean himself and Baekhyun up.

Baekhyun doesn’t protest as he does it, still taking deep breaths in and out with his arm covering his eyes even when Chanyeol finishes and throws the tissues away, too. Chanyeol moves to head to his bathroom, but hesitates just as he gets up. He looks back. Under the moonlight coming in from the enormous glass windows of his bedroom, Baekhyun’s red hair is turned into something soft and almost silvery; the glow runs along the curve of his bare hip, changes his silhouette into a luminous ghost.

Chanyeol gulps. He turns around so fast he almost cracks his neck. Enough, he tells his dick, before starting to stiffly march towards the bathroom.

All in all, it’s quite an anticlimactic end to the best sex Chanyeol’s ever had.

By the time he comes back, he knows without even checking that Baekhyun’s already asleep. Chanyeol worries his lip between his teeth as he drops back onto his mattress. The idol in his bed still has his face hidden by his arm, but his breathing has evened out, and the slow rise and fall of his chest is almost soothing to watch in the quiet of the night.

So.

It’s not like Chanyeol can’t wake him up. He definitely could. Baekhyun would probably even thank him. Chanyeol doesn’t know what kind of schedules he has, but with the way Jongdae and Baekhyun reacted to Chanyeol’s failure to recognize his name at the gala, it’s not hard to guess that the other man is probably popular enough to be busy almost all the time.

But the post-orgasm exhaustion is finally hitting Chanyeol too - the haze of sleep is already creeping into his mind like a persuasive force, until he has to blink a few times to remember to keep his eyes open.

Baekhyun looks tired. Drained, actually. And Chanyeol doesn’t even know if he has a reliable method of transportation ready this late. Gangnam may be affluent, but that doesn’t take away from its danger when covered with darkness, what with all the possible robbers and criminals hiding among the streets. Not to mention the gossip-hungry paparazzi always camping out near rich, celebrity-filled neighbourhoods with their cameras, hoping to catch a glimpse of whatever fresh scandal they can get their hands on.

Chanyeol, unfortunately, is willing to bet that they’d kill for a picture of an idol with rumpled clothes sneaking out of a penthouse apartment at well past midnight. No matter how blurry it may be.

“Well,” he mutters, reaching out to drag the blankets over Baekhyun’s body. He lies down himself on the other side of the large bed, yawning while his eyes close by their own will. “Sorry about this, then.”

He’ll play it safe this time. Let his famous sort-of one-night-stand stay in his room. For the sake of both their reputations.

The last thing Chanyeol catches before he succumbs to sleep is Baekhyun’s arm slipping from his face, and the leftover glitter catching the light as his lashes flutter.