The Lotto comeback posters make their way around town. Baekhyun slides into his assigned seat next to Chanyeol at yet another music show, and something clicks in his head when Chanyeol slings a casual arm around the back of his seat. He's missed this. Not this specifically, because what even is this, but just... something.
Maybe it’s reflexive by now. Or maybe Chanyeol is just gearing up for their next promo cycle, which, Baekhyun knows, will involve a lot of touching, a lot of accidentally-on-purpose glances, a lot of fan videos slowed down to capture the exact angle of Baekhyun’s face as he stares up at Chanyeol and the fifth highest upvoted comment wonders if he’s really in love with Chanyeol or just a damn good actor. And the first most upvoted reply wonders if the fifth most upvoted commenter needs an extra ticket in train compartments to fit in that delusion.
“Hey,” Chanyeol says, eyes still on the stage.
(For the record; he’s not. He’s not a good actor at all.)
He learns that, ironically enough, a couple of months prior, on the Bobogyungsim set. Maybe this would have been handy information to have in his arsenal before he joined it. But instead, he’s stuck on his tenth retake and everyone around him is fidgeting and trying not to yell because he’s EXO’s Baekhyun. He doesn't know what it says about him that he's so bad at basically playing himself.
“Good job,” Jie-IU smiles, at the end of his first scene with her, which he’s fairly sure she’s just saying to be polite, and because she can’t reasonably tell him that he should stick to singing.
Her hair, which he thinks he may accidentally have pulled harder than necessary in their scene, is sticking out. It’s an oddly intimate thing. He’s not sure yet if he actually likes acting.
In the after-party, her heels are red, precarious almost. They make him want to reach out his hand on occasion to steady her, but she’s steady enough in them. She’s still shorter than him though- barely, but still- which he enjoys in an unstated low-key sort-of way, when he thinks about it, because he so rarely gets to be the taller one.
He remembers her last set of promotions, she’d worn red heels everywhere then, and never promoted after. So it could just be that habits are hard to break for all of them. It’s meant to be for the cameras, but you keep doing it over and over and eventually it’s just habit. Habit he can deal with.
Chanyeol’s hair is the same red now, he remembers idly, on his way back in the van, just a little drunk. The radio has started playing their old songs again.
When he initially got past Chanyeol’s homicidal cheeriness— yeah Baekhyun’s the mood-maker, but Baekhyun is not insanely dialled up to a hundred every single second of the day, Baekhyun is not crazy— and he’d just started missing home a little less, he’d watched Chanyeol pick his towel up from the practice room floor and bow to no one in particular, eyes unfocused, tired, and kind of thought something like: this kid isn’t so bad. I could get used to him.
And the first time Chanyeol cooked for him, hair and ears sticking out beneath his snapback, as he turned away from the gas, face flushed, far too proud of himself, a drop of sweat making its way down the hollow of his throat and disappearing inside the opening of his shirt, even though the chicken was too dry, Baekhyun thought something like: this isn’t so bad. I could get used to this.
Which, if he were counting at that point, would be his seventh mistake.
The thing is— it’s not— it’s not a realization exactly. He doesn’t wake up one day and wonder what it would be like to have Chanyeol suck him off in the wings backstage at an awards performance, the sweat still drying on his skin, running down in unhurried streaks of the metallic glitter that their stylist has a fondness for— that’s a really specific fantasy and Baekhyun is eighty percent sure he’s never had it.
It’s slower, creeping. It ambushes him in the stupidest of ways like when Chanyeol takes it into his head to be the brattiest he can possibly be without Kyungsoo murdering him in his sleep, and obnoxiously rests his elbow on Baekhyun’s head about seven times on average through the day, always in front of the cameras, and he’s really fucking pissed off till he looks up, and at his angle he can see the sharp curve of Chanyeol’s jaw, as he half-smiles and determinedly doesn’t look down to avoid Baekhyun’s glare. He watches the movement of Chanyeol’s throat as he swallows.
And thinks: oh.
He likes to believe it’s sort of a hobby, this— attraction or whatever. It’s nothing serious, nothing he’s going to write a song about. It’s just— this is what he spends most of his time doing, it’s what he’s coached on for god’s sake, so he may as well enjoy the fanservice. It's pretty much like acting in a drama, and if he's better at this than he is in that, it's only because he's had more practice.
The point being, he may as well fist Chanyeol’s shirt tighter in the live performance because it’ll just find its way in some fancams and that's not a huge deal. It’s not like that’s going on the official website or making it into the official music video anyway. There is nothing official about this. So he may as well make someone’s day. It’s good for business.
“Who knew you had it in you,” Chanyeol whisper-grins, as he leans down and stills, Yixing’s solo moves drawing wild cheers. Jongin sits it out. Minseok-hyung is still the most practiced. The air is charged and weird. He can't seem to think straight.
Baekhyun freezes too, mid-position, waiting for the cue to start the group formation, “you have so much to learn.”
He’s progressed to flirting now, god, someone needs to shoot him.
Chanyeol doesn’t seem to notice, or care, one of them. His hair is still flaming, catching the light at all the right angles when he shifts. Baekhyun has never run his hand through it. “Who needs college when I have you.”
"How many kiss scenes?"
Baekhyun looks up briefly from the piano. Chanyeol already has his phone out, and Baekhyun knows this will make it to Instagram in the next few seconds. He doesn't particularly mind.
"None," he says. Thinks of Jieun for a second, the almost-kiss scene, which ends with his rejection, as do most scenes in the drama, then dismisses it. Whatever. He's not the hero of the story, which is fine, he's not hero material anyway. Forget the industry, everyone knows he and Chanyeol aren't even going to make it to the list of the top actor-dols in EXO. Not with Kyungsoo ruining the grading curve for all of them.
The corner of Chanyeol's mouth turns up in that sort of delighted, shit-eating way, which mildly irritates him because he already knows what this is about. "I had one."
"I know." He saw it after all, multiple times, on loop. Sehun and Jongin had a gif of it as their wallpapers at the same time. It wasn't all that great, honestly. He doesn't understand what Chanyeol is so proud about. His technique was average at best.
Baekhyun goes back to contemplating the piano. Maybe he shouldn't play right now. He doesn't want to end up on Chanyeol's stupid Instagram with stupid comments that make his head want to explode.
"Since when are you such bffs with Kasper." Chanyeol snorts, hand stilling in the middle of his incessant scrolling.
"Since always," Baekhyun shrugs, and feels a twinge of satisfaction. He doesn't know why he feels like being a jackass, but he does. It's sometimes the strongest urge in him. "You haven't been paying attention."
Is this about Taeyeon, nobody asks. But, why can't it just be about Kasper. Or someone else entirely. Or no one in particular. It's not that deep.
The smile slides off Chanyeol's face. He shoves his phone in his pocket. "I'm going to practice."
Chanyeol flicks him on the forehead. “You keep spacing out, Byun B, look aliver.”
“Aliver is not a word,” he says, eyes nearly closed, trying to figure out the best angle to make it look like he’s deep in thought, and not half-dead. It doesn’t matter, the camera will get him either way. There is no greater truth. He’s never been good at hiding. If he was, there wouldn’t be so many videos of them on YouTube right now.
“Yeah, well,” Chanyeol flicks him again on the side of his head, long fingers lingering on the shell of his ear. Baekhyun can hear the ocean when he leans in to his touch. Habit, again. “Neither are you.”
He turns his head away. Chanyeol starts rapping to Ravi's part. Then: "do you think we'll do our taxes together ten years later. Like, all of us. Like Jongdae will just mark the date on our calendars and then call up for good measure and then land up on our individual doorsteps through the day for greater measure. Hey, do you think if I ask nicely, Junmyeon hyung'll just let me borrow his dad's accountant? Sehun's probably going to be a bitch about it and call it co-worker cred, but he's not the chaebol, so. And anyway he'll come around eventually unless bubble tea goes extinct in the next ten years. Like, I have enough friendship cred for it, right? Enough for ten years?"
That's random, but this is Chanyeol. Most likely to be voted Most Likely To Get Caught In A Tax Evasion Scandal And Exiled if they were still in high school. Because he'd forget to fill in the forms, and yet somehow find a way to blame Baekhyun for it, so he's probably going to have to do his taxes for him for the next fifty years instead or something. Park Chanyeol is way more trouble than he's worth.
They're no longer all of us, anyway. Baekhyun leans further down, giving up the pretense entirely, and closing his eyes. His head falls on Chanyeol's shoulder, which is definitely not his head-level, and without opening his eyes, he knows Chanyeol's probably halfway down his seat to accommodate him. "Maybe."
It’s after the MAMA awards that it strikes him. It’s the end of the year again, their double promotions are over, and there’s no real reason why he should follow Chanyeol back home and sit with him to watch a re-run of his own drama in an episode where he knows he’s barely on-screen for thirty seven seconds, which they’ve all already seen fifty three times.
But he does anyway, and Chanyeol makes those thirty seven seconds seem like thirty seven minutes with a running commentary on every single fucking movement any molecule of him makes on-screen, before pausing the television.
Baekhyun indents himself further into the couch. Chanyeol stretches his legs. He’s sitting on the other end, but he still takes too much space. “I’m too tall for this,” he sighs dramatically. “I’m cramping up. My kingdom for a day being as fun-sized as you.”
“Fuck off,” Baekhyun mutters, and he honestly means to shove Chanyeol’s legs off his lap, and maybe punch him for good measure, but it somehow ends up with his hands resting on Chanyeol’s legs instead. And he should really be getting paid for this hobby of his, because he pursues it like a goddamn full-time job with health benefits.
In the darkness, he can see Chanyeol’s grin, as he picks up the remote and rewinds thirty seven seconds back.
Later, Chanyeol cooks for him. He has a vaguely suggestive Kiss The Chef! apron that Baekhyun knows his noona got for him from Los Angeles when she went there to surprise her best friend at her baby shower, except she accidentally reached a day after because she got the time-zone wrong, and spent her day alternating between shopping and crying. He knows so much useless crap about Chanyeol, it sometimes pushes out the important stuff, like remembering his next lines when Chanyeol leans in too close during his rap part in the song, or not forgetting how to breathe when he turns, and the light turns his hair to fire.
“This is actually good,” he concedes reluctantly after five bites. He could probably do Chanyeol's taxes if Chanyeol cooked for him, it doesn't sound like the worst bargain in the world.
There are no cameras, but he thinks this is something most people don’t understand about Chanyeol; he doesn’t react for the cameras. He always reacts to everything, he keeps pushing, keeps reacting, sets Newton’s third law of motion into practice all by himself, and it’s exhausting. And it’s exhilarating.
Chanyeol punches the air, his fist slicing through. Baekhyun feels his heart race in a cosine wave.
“Hell yeah,” Chanyeol crows, hand coming to rest just beside Baekhyun’s on the table, fingers outstretched. “You better get used to it.”
He already has.