It all starts with Felix making an absolute ass of himself on his (now ex-) boyfriend's birthday, you know, the one where he tells him that he's going on a business trip when in reality, he sits mostly naked under a coat in the back of a taxi and pays the driver an extra twenty to turn back around ten blocks down from their shared apartment (and Felix loved that apartment so much, goddamnit) so he can surprise him with roses and cake and gratuitous birthday sex.
In hindsight, he should have known. He works as a dance teacher at the rec center, what kind of business trips would he go on? It had been a very transparent lie, yet his ex hadn't questioned it. He's not so sure what hurts more, the fact that the asshole cheated, or that he couldn't even wait twenty minutes to invite someone else to hop on his dick in their shared home.
"Anyways, that's why I need a new place to live," Felix closes his story, his cheerful tone sounding strained even in his own ears.
The three men sitting opposite his chair on the couch stare at him with varying levels of emotion splashed across their faces. Jisung, the loud, energetic one, seems to be unsure whether it's appropriate to outright laugh at Felix, lips pursed and mouth stuck in a spasming half-smile. Changbin, the one sitting in the middle, is just sort of gaping at him while his fingers play with the hem of the bright pink t-shirt peeking out of his black Adidas tracksuit. The last one, whose name Felix didn't hear because he got distracted by the toned biceps very much on display in the cut-off shirt he's wearing, is the only one who meets his eyes. Disarmingly, he smiles.
Felix could swear something in the universe shifts a little. Nameless guy has dimples in his cheeks, as if the arms weren't enough. Now that Felix is paying attention, he's not just attractive, he feels warm: his smile carries a reassuring quality even to a stranger like Felix. He suddenly wishes he'd caught his name.
No one speaks, so Felix rambles on. "You know, when I read your ad on Craigslist, I was looking forward to this interview because I thought this was a women's apartment. Not in a weird way! I was just really gonna sell the fact that I'm gay."
This finally startles the laugh that he's been holding in out of Jisung, while Changbin goes a little bit pink in the face. Felix clamps his mouth shut and refuses to look at Dimples. Please just stop talking, he begs himself. No need to put your entire foot in your mouth within the first ten minutes of meeting your potential future roommates.
"Why did you think it was a women's apartment?" Jisung asks once he's done giggling.
"Um, I guess just the wording? Something about warm tones and direct sunlight."
Jisung's grin is so wide it threatens to split his face in two. Changbin huffs and crosses his arms. "What? Those are assets on the market."
"Changbin wrote the ad," Jisung clarifies, probably to be annoying on purpose. Felix finds it weirdly charming. "Plus, it's not always an asset. Chan over here probably wouldn't have moved in if he'd known about the large north-facing windows."
Dimples - Chan - laughs a little. "Probably, yeah. All of us sleep pretty late, but I'm a bit of an extreme case. I tend to stay up all night working on projects."
Changbin drops his sulking act and leans forward on the couch. "We're all pretty active around the apartment at night. Is that something that would bother you?"
Felix looks at the three of them. Chan is the only one who sounds Australian; Changbin's English wears the lilt of someone born and raised in Korea, and Jisung sounds broadly American. They can't have all grown up together, yet they seem so comfortable with each other, a synergy between them that can't easily be ignored or explained. With the traumatic memory of seeing the person he thought was the love of his life getting it on with someone else (and Felix really thought he'd been done. No more moving around, no more flailing in the wind. Roots, finally) fresh on his mind, he can't help but wonder if he'd just intrude on them. He'd wanted to live with girls anyway, that part was true.
But Changbin also wasn't lying. The apartment is laid out in warm tones, messy in the corners but brimming with character. The pillows on the couch are mismatched and there's a stack of vinyl records stuffed under the TV. The blazing late November Sydney sun sends its light through the windows. He loved his old apartment with his entire heart, but its only flaw was that most of the windows faced south. The warmth of the sunlight in this apartment seeps into Felix's skin, heating him inside out.
"No," he says, "that doesn't bother me at all."
Two months later, he's in an entirely different predicament.
"Minho," he wheezes, all at once realizing that he maybe should have accepted Chan's offer to accompany him to the gym when he first asked, a week after Felix moved in. Felix had said no, fully aware that his jaw droops a little every time Chan walks around the apartment without a proper shirt on, which is often. He wasn't sure he could handle all of that glory at the gym without coming across like a creep. He's had some time to settle down, but he's still not quite sure - not sure what to do with himself when Chan walks past him having breakfast at the kitchen island, clearly not having been to bed yet, and smiles at Felix like he's the first blush of dawn in the early hours of the morning.
Either way, Minho is heavy because he's got a strong build and works out too, and why is Felix surrounded by gym rats? Not that he particularly cares, but Minho is leaning his full weight onto his back and he can maybe sort of feel his knees give a little. Damn.
"Minho," he tries again. Minho hisses something into the back of Felix's neck.
"Let's go back," Minho says, louder this time but just as slurred. "Haven't told that asshole my best insult yet."
Felix finally stops trying to walk with a grown man plastered to his back and sighs. Minho rarely slips in daily life, but he's always been a bit of a messy drunk. It's okay because they've known each other for so long now, but he really did cause a bit of a scene back at the club, yelling at the DJ and all.
He gives his friend a consoling pat on the shoulder. "What's your best insult, hm? Let's hear it."
He turns his head when Minho doesn't answer. His eyes have gone glassy and he's staring intently at something next to Felix's ear. "Hello?"
"I forgot," Minho says without missing a beat, blinking rapidly. "But it was good."
"Okay. I believe you."
"I can't believe he was fucking -"
Felix subconsciously goes from holding Minho up to pushing him back a little too hard, sending him stumbling on his feet. He feels angry suddenly, and tired. "You can't believe he was what? Doing his job?"
Fine. Maybe seeing his cheating asshole ex at the club when he was just trying to have fun wasn't really anyone's idea of a good time. Felix has been doing well, comparatively speaking - he only cried on the couch watching Step Up 2 like, three times, and he even got the rest of his clothes back, with some truly heroic assistance from his new roommates. He doesn't even think of his ex that often anymore, the hurt that he caused more present in Felix's world than the man himself.
And yet. Felix would be lying if he said his heart didn't crack a little when he saw him tonight, standing behind the DJ booth with the little concentrated crease between his brows that Felix used to kiss when he felt like getting some attention. He wasn't going to do anything, but the sparkly energy that had been buzzing through him seconds before just sort of fizzled out. Minho, overprotective as ever, had taken one look at his face and stomped over to the DJ booth to give said cheating asshole ex a piece of his mind.
"He'd leave the country if he had an ounce of shame," Minho declares, which startles a laugh out of Felix.
"I love you," he says because he can, and he does, and he's better at that than saying thank you. Luckily, Minho understands that about him. "Let's get you home."
Minho wobbles but doesn't budge when Felix tries to drag him by his hand. "I can't."
"What do you mean, you can't?"
"The goal of tonight was to get shitfaced and get away from Hyunjin crying about his third breakup this month, not go back to his presence when my reflexes are slowed."
Felix grimaces. He likes Hyunjin, Minho's roommate and favourite bullying/affection victim, but he's a bit of a serial dater. Which doesn't stop him from acting like his entire world collapsed every time his current beau (or belle) of less than a month gets fed up with his blatant commitment issues. Maybe after the stunt he just pulled to defend Felix's honour or whatever, Minho deserves the charity of sleep-cuddling him and pretending that he didn't like it when he inevitably wakes up hungover in the morning.
"Fine," he says, resigning himself to his fate, "come with me."
Minho meeting his roommates goes about as well as he thought it would.
When Felix pushes the door open, they're met with the sight of Changbin wrestling Jisung onto the couch with one yellow converse on his right foot and the other in his hand to beat Jisung over the head. Jisung is wearing similar converse in pink, matching the bright colour of his track pants, which clashes horribly with Changbin's version in red. He's screeching while Changbin is yelling incoherently. Chan is melting into the other end of the couch, red in the face from laughing at them. All three of them stop mid-motion when they spot Felix and Minho at the door, Chan locking bright eyes with Felix.
"Okay," Minho says.
Felix sighs. "Why are you dressed like that?" he asks, belatedly realizing that Chan is also wearing track pants, matching the other two. At least his are a slightly less offensive shade of purple.
"Hi Felix," Jisung says brightly, pushing Changbin off him. "Hi, Felix's hot friend."
Minho smirks. "Is that how I'm known around here? I like it."
"Gross," Felix says, subtly checking his condition. His eyes are more focused now, but he still sways when Felix is not holding on to his arm, and he looks pretty tired. "Bed time for this one."
"Don't baby me," Minho grouches, but lets himself be pushed towards Felix's room.
"We weren't doing anything weird!" Changbin calls after him, followed by a wheeze that sounds like Jisung.
"I don't care!" Felix yells back and maneuvers Minho into his room and onto his bed, slamming the door shut.
Minho sits up on the bed and starts pulling his shoes off, his eyes mostly closed. "I like your roommates. They seem fun."
"Yeah," Felix sighs, rummaging in his drawers for a clean tee and sweatpants big enough for Minho to borrow. He means it. He was desperate at the time, otherwise he never would have moved in with three complete strangers from the internet, but he genuinely likes living with them. He likes hearing Jisung sing in the shower and Changbin muttering to himself when he's deep in thought, and he likes playing video games on the couch with both of them, even though Changbin always gives up after ten minutes.
He likes meeting Chan in the kitchen in the morning, his face rumpled from the lack of sleep but his eyes bright with the satisfaction of a productive night. He likes how he sometimes steals a pancake off Felix's plate like Felix wouldn't give him that and more if he asked, and seeing him annihilate it like he's starved. He likes the wolfish grin he gives him when Felix asks if he liked it, and he says yes.
When he returns to the current moment, Minho looks like he's about to pass out any second. Felix tosses the clothes he picked out at his chest and gives his back a gentle pat.
"Thanks for protecting me tonight," he says quietly, in Korean, so Minho knows it's special.
"Of course, Bokkie," Minho replies softly and promptly falls asleep.
Chan is still sitting on the couch when Felix walks out of his room to get himself a glass of water. Changbin and Jisung have disappeared, and when it's just him, his quiet presence fills out the entire room. Even the stupid outfit looks less ridiculous now, just because it's him wearing it.
"Everything okay?" he asks when Felix sits down next to him, cold glass pressed against his mouth. "You came back pretty early."
"Yeah," Felix says, pulling his feet up to the couch. "Minho had dinner with some friends before so he was already kinda drunk when he started drinking with me, and he just got really shitfaced, so we left."
He contemplates saying more, watching the water quiver in his glass. It takes him a couple seconds to realize that it's from the slight tremor in his fingers. Chan somehow notices anyway, leaning forward to gently take the glass from his hand and set it down on the coffee table. "Did something happen?"
Felix takes a deep breath. "I saw my asshole ex. Minho saw him too, it was a lot. Walked up to him and called him a piece of shit, right in front of everyone at the booth."
Chan furrows his brows. "He's a DJ?"
"Yeah. I used to think that was so hot." Felix grimaces at the thought.
"I used to DJ," Chan says. "Not that you - I mean, I might know him. I thought he kind of looked familiar when we picked up your stuff."
There's an awkward pause. Felix fights the urge to put his face in his hands. Of fucking course Chan used to DJ, because Felix apparently has a capital-T type. He looks over at Chan, who looks vaguely uncomfortable.
"I focus on producing now," he says. "I know," Felix says faintly. Dear god.
He half expects them to sit there on the couch, frozen in a stalemate of things unsaid until either Jisung or Changbin comes to save them, but it's Chan who looks away first.
"I'm sorry you had to see him again," he says, sounding like he really means it.
"It's okay," Felix shrugs, looking at his hands. "It's not like I can avoid him forever."
"Sydney is a big city. It was a shitty coincidence."
"Minho says he should leave the country."
Chan snorts. He gets up from the couch and Felix watches him stretch out his limbs for an amount of time that seems kind of unnecessary, like he's stalling. He's not smiling, but Felix could put his finger on the exact spot where his dimple would be if he was.
"You deserve better, Felix," he says finally. "You know that, right?"
And there it is. Felix takes two slow, conscious breaths and then looks up to meet Chan's eyes. Bright. Sincere. Beautif-
"I know," he says, sounding so steady that he almost believes it himself.
The problem manifests the next morning.
Minho has always been an obnoxiously early riser, even when he's hungover, so Felix wakes up to an empty bed. When he taps into the kitchen in his favourite baby blue teddy pyjamas and a ratty Coldplay t-shirt, Minho is sitting at the kitchen island. Chan is leaning against the counter, eyes intent on him in the way he always looks at everyone he talks to, like they're the center of the entire world. It's intoxicating, the full weight of that focus.
Felix stops dead in his tracks. He feels very awake all of a sudden, and aflame with a horrible, squirmy feeling he does not like. This, what he's seeing in front of him, is something he hasn't considered, and it's making him feel like something has rocked the ground beneath his feet, just enough to send him stumbling.
Five steps away from him, Minho doesn't notice a thing. He keeps chattering away about his job at the animal shelter, hands wrapped around a steaming mug. Felix lowers himself on the stool next to him.
"Good morning," he says, more meekly than he intended. Minho meets his eyes and then looks away quickly, but presses their shoulders together in greeting. Felix loosens up a little. It's always a bit funny, the way Minho gets embarrassed after someone else had to take care of him when he couldn't do it himself, even if it's something as small as letting him crash for the night.
"Morning, Felix," Chan says, a rasp in his voice that indicates he hasn't slept. He looks tired, but his smile is the same as always, warm as it's directed at Felix. He slides a mug towards Felix, the smell of coffee taking over his senses. He almost moans.
"Oh my god. I love you."
He freezes right after the words slip out of his mouth, Minho snorting into his own coffee next to him. He raises his eyes to Chan, who looks dumbstruck, hand frozen mid-air.
"I mean! I was talking to the coffee. Uh, thank you. Really."
Chan lowers his hand and nods, slowly. Felix wants to die. He's pretty sure his entire face is flaming red. Thankfully Minho comes to his rescue.
"Don't mind him. He once said that to a barista at a coffee shop, imagine how awkward that was."
Chan laughs a little at that. Felix watches the way his throat bobs as he tips his head back to drain the rest of his mug before placing it in the sink.
"Alright, I'm off to bed," he says. "Enjoy your breakfast."
Felix stares at him. "You just had coffee."
Chan ruffles his hair as he walks past him. "It actually helps me fall asleep."
Felix suppresses a shiver that has nothing to with the early hour, or the caffeine, or the squirmy feeling that's still lurking beneath his skin. "You're weird."
"See you later, Lix," Chan says in lieu of an answer. "Minho, nice meeting you."
Felix nods mutely and then looks at the closed door of Chan's room until Minho's stare drilling holes into the side of his head gets too much to ignore.
Minho purses his lips. "What the fuck was that?"
"What the fuck was what?"
"Don't play dumb!" Felix yelps when Minho kicks him in the shin and shushes him right after.
"What are you talking about," he repeats, grimacing as he rubs the sore spot on his leg. Minho doesn't even look sorry. Instead he just leans forward and lowers his voice to a conspiratorial whisper.
"I'm talking about how he clearly thinks you're cute."
Felix can feel his face warm again, but he manages to take a measured sip of coffee. "I am cute."
Minho's stern expression softens a little. "Yes, you are. God, you're finally doing what I've taught you to do."
"And what is that?"
"Owning up to the fact that you're fucking adorable. You're cute and you should be confident about it. Anyways, that's not what I meant."
Felix didn't think that's what he meant either, but he doesn't say so to not give Minho the satisfaction of being right. He gives Minho his best unknowing, innocent look and lets him go on.
"And the way he says your name."
"That's just how Australians say my name. Maybe you can't tell 'cause you didn't grow up here."
"My tongue and ears are perfectly Australian, thanks," Minho says as if he isn't talking to Felix in Korean right now. "He says it like he's really fond of you."
It's not fair, the way Felix's stomach flips at these words. Rationally, he knows that they're probably true; Chan is fond of him. It shows in the way he just smiles at him when he finds him sitting in his favourite spot on the couch and doesn't tell him to scooch over, in the way he lets him pick the TV program (Masterchef) and the takeout option (Korean fried chicken) and the name for his new house plant (Gary, like Gary from Spongebob). Which is all fine and dandy, as long as it stays separated from the way Felix's knees go a little weak every time Chan runs a hand through his unruly curls and like, smiles at him. Yeah.
"I'm fond of him, too," he says into his mug. "We've become good friends."
Minho just gives him a long, disapproving look. "What I'm saying is that he likes you."
Felix blanches, pretense shattered. "No, he doesn't."
"He totally does. His feet point to you when you guys talk."
"What does that have to do with anything?"
The huff Minho lets out is two parts condescending and one part fond. "Oh, Felix. Just think about what I said and you'll realize I'm right."
Unfortunately for Felix, he actually can't stop thinking about it. It's like Minho's words have assumed physical form and wormed themselves into Felix's brain, refusing to leave. He knows that it's weird as fuck, but he keeps looking at Chan's feet to check if they're pointing at him, even though he knows it's stupid. First because there's no way Minho is right, and second because if Chan's feet weren't pointing at Felix when he's talking to him, he'd be standing like a duck.
Needless to say he hasn't been the most attentive in their conversations recently.
"Hello? Earth to Felix?" Chan waves a hand in front of his face. Felix blinks, eyes snapping back into focus. They're standing in the produce aisle at Wholefoods because Felix lives with a bunch of health nuts (and Jisung) and Felix wanted to get ingredients to make cookies. A noble quest, really, and not at all influenced by the way Chan' entire face lit up the last time he tasted something that Felix baked. The smile Chan gives him now is cautious, like he's somewhat concerned but not enough to voice it just yet.
"Something been on your mind?" he asks.
Yeah, you, and your perfect face and arms and personality, Felix doesn't say. Instead he blurts out: "Feet."
To Chan's credit, his smile wavers only slightly. "Okay. Do I wanna know?"
Felix would very much like for the ground to swallow him whole. He wants to be dead. Maybe he can still sign up for that Mars colony pilot project? Jisung seemed super enthusiastic when he told him about it a while back, maybe they could go together.
"I mean," he amends, feeling his cheeks heat up, "I was just, uh. I was thinking about chicken feet. I've heard those are really good, but I've never had them."
Chan tilts his head, looking more amused than concerned now, but he plays along. "They are. I've had them a couple of times in Korea."
And because he's a sweetheart and an excellent conversationalist, unlike Felix who seems to miss no opportunity to stumble over his words when Chan is involved, he adds on a question about when the last time Felix visited Korea was. Felix replies, steering clear of both the feet topic and the vegetable crates piling high in the path of their shared shopping cart.
"I went for six months after I graduated high school. I was pretty much drunk the entire time though."
Chan always laughs easily, like now. "Can't say I've been there, but I see the appeal."
Felix grimaces. The party miles in Seoul are a little too fun sometimes, making it easy to lose yourself. It's a phase in his life he looks back on with fondness, but not one he likes to think about too often. "What about you?"
Chan shrugs. "Last year. Changbin goes back pretty often because all of his family is there, and Jisung and I sometimes go with him. Most of my family is here and Jisung's is divided between Korea and Malaysia, so we don't really have a reason to go by ourselves."
Felix thinks about this sometimes, how most of the people around him came from somewhere else, built a life in the space they take up now, from scratch. Chan was born in Australia, but he lived in Korea by himself for ten years before coming back to Sydney. It makes Felix feel woefully inadequate. It's the reason why he talks to Minho in Korean a lot of the time, even though he still cringes inwardly at his own accent, and why he lets his grandma call him Yongbok on the phone. He feels out of his depth when he hears Changbin and Jisung call Chan Channie-hyung with natural ease while both the honorific and the syllables of Chan's name gets stuck on Felix's awkward, second-generation Australian tongue. Chan has made a home in his thoughts, but it has yet to leave his mouth. Felix thinks highly of him, more than he probably realizes, for not making him feel any different for being the only Korean friend he has who regularly addresses him as Chris.
The problem, however, doesn't stop there. Felix isn't stupid. He knows what that tingly feeling he's been getting when Chan so much as looks at him (like he's the center of his world) means. Maybe I should become a monk, he muses as he watches Chan reach down into the shopping cart for a carton of eggs to place it on the scanner at self-checkout, toes pointed firmly in Felix's direction. Run away to the Himalayas.
"All good to go," Chan says, lifting the handles of the SPORTS CAMP AUSTRALIA 2014 tote bag he uses for his groceries to test out if it can hold the weight. He's expertly packed all of the things they bought, careful to place the bag of chocolate chips for Felix's cookies on top so they don't get crushed, all while Felix was going through a mild existential crisis and didn't lift a finger. And now, instead of commenting on Felix's spacey mood, he just pats his shoulder and grips the tote bag in one hand so he can use the other to steer the shopping cart to its drop-off.
"Careful, I could fall in love with you," Felix says to his retreating back. It's meant to be a joke, but his voice is small around the lump in his throat.
In hindsight, Felix's little epiphany at Wholefoods might have been a little bit dramatic. He doesn't love Chan, he's barely known him for three months. It's been barely four months since his last relationship ended, for god's sake, and he'd been together with that asshole for two years.
He used to fall fast. He kind of thought those days were over.
Simultaneously, his friends seem to have decided that they live to make Felix's life harder, and start teasing him about it.
"So," Jisung says, dropping down on the free seat next to Felix at Baskin Robbins. "I've been picking up some vibes."
"Okay?" Felix asks when Jisung doesn't elaborate, staring expectantly at Felix like he's supposed to know what goes on in that chaotic brain of his. Jisung blinks at him, unimpressed with his lack of deduction power.
"You know, you and Chan have been spending some time together lately. He talks about you a lot, and he gets that twinkle in his eyes -"
Felix sits up, face warming. "Hold on, where is this coming from?"
Jisung grins at him. "Just so you know, I don't mind that you're living together and I also live with you. Changbin's there, so it evens out. Don't hold back because of me."
Felix already regrets bringing him along. Once the two of them found out that they were born just one day apart, it was game over - Jisung stuck to Felix and has filled his life with his loud presence ever since. He has enjoyed all of it until this very moment.
"Hey, I'm just trying to get you a boyfriend. A better one this time."
"I will dump my milkshake on your head."
"Who's got a boyfriend?" Hyunjin asks, carefully setting down his ice cream order on the table before sitting down. He always takes the longest to decide, even though he and Minho and Felix do this every other week.
"Not me," Jisung says smoothly, making kissy faces at Minho, who's seated to Felix's right.
Minho doesn't even look up from his phone. "In your dreams, loser."
"Okay, but that's the point," Jisung continues, undeterred, "it's Valentine's Day in two days. Whatever Felix and Channie-hyung got going on aside, all of us are single. We should use the opportunity! Meet some strangers. You know, mingle."
He's met with three blank stares.
"I'm telling you, there's nothing going on with me and Chris," Felix says.
"I'm not single," Hyunjin offers.
"Who are you again?" says Minho.
Jisung sighs. "Why do I even try?"
Minho locks his phone and leans forward, grinning. "I'm just kidding. I know who you are, and I like the way you think. Both about Felix's love life and Valentine's day."
Jisung lights up and reaches out for a high five. Minho slaps their palms together while sending a smirk to Felix, mouthing something that looks suspiciously like told you so and feet . Maybe Felix could drown himself in his milkshake instead.
Defying the combined forces of Minho and Jisung is not something that Felix is cut out for, so Valentine's day night has him nursing an overpriced drink at a bar a little too upscale for his taste. In his humble opinion, Hyunjin is the only one spending the holiday right, which is at his girlfriend's place with chocolates and a movie. No one would have guessed after the stunt he pulled that cost him his last relationship, but Felix is a romantic at heart. He's slept with exactly two people he wasn't romantically involved with and didn't really enjoy either time.
"What am I doing here," he mutters more to himself than for anyone to hear. Of course, Jisung picks it up even over the omnipresent thumping of the music. "You, my friend, are here to give me moral support while I go pick up someone hot and have sex with them."
Felix sighs. Minho would be better suited for this, but he's disappeared into the crowd, presumably to do the same thing Jisung is here for. Plus, he and Jisung are more Felix's friends than they are friends with each other, though there are moments when they seem to operate on the same wavelength like they've known each other for years.
"What do you think of this guy?" Jisung asks, subtly pointing at someone two tables over. He's good-looking, with pretty eyes and a mouth that seems to always be smiling a little. Felix regards Jisung steadily, hesitating.
"So you're actually into dudes? I never know if you are or if it's just a bit that you do."
Jisung turns his head back to him, a lopsided smile on his lips. "Can't it be both?"
Felix shrugs. "Whatever it is, it's fine. I was just wondering."
Next to him, Jisung deflates a little. "I know I joke about it, I kind of always have because I never really cared about it. I thought, hey, I wouldn't be surprised if I'm ever attracted to a guy. It's just recently that I've been thinking about it more, like actually thinking that I might like girls and guys."
There's a small point of warmth that unfurls in Felix's chest. He suddenly feels fiercely proud of Jisung, and has the urge to tell him so. "Hey," he says, setting down his drink to pat Jisung's hand. "That's really cool."
Jisung takes a deep breath and then smiles. "Yeah. I think so too, I just gotta make a move now. Felix, you have to help me."
The mood shatters. Felix groans. "Do I have to?"
He wishes Chan were here. He's great at giving directions, not like Felix who fumbles when he has to explain to someone on the street how to get to the next train station. Not that Chan would know how to give directions on this particular topic, how to pick up a guy. Or maybe he does, a voice whispers in his head. He never said he was straight. He could have fucked lots of guys and you wouldn't know.
The thought follows him all the way home. After giving Jisung a breakdown of everything he knows (smile a lot, touch his arm, just be yourself) and making sure both their phones are charged so Jisung can call him in case the guy turns out to be a serial killer, there's nothing left to do but sit in his Uber ride and consider the questions ricocheting in his head. Does Chan have one night stands? Does he have them with guys?
It feels invasive to even think about it. Felix truly does not judge what Chan does or doesn't do, it's just that he doesn't know how to feel about it. There's jealousy, sure, about how other people, maybe including Chan, are able to let go and have fun without worrying about catching feelings or feeling like something is missing. There might also be a different kind of jealousy, one that burns in his gut at the thought of Chan being with other people that aren't him.
Felix closes his eyes. He must be drunker than he thought.
Chan is sitting on the couch when Felix stumbles in, headphones pushed back from one ear and laptop light illuminating his face. He startles when the door falls shut.
"Hey," he says sheepishly. "I moved out here because no one's home except me. I didn't think you'd be back so soon."
Felix waves his hand to tell him it's fine and walks to the kitchen to get water. "Where's Changbin?"
"Still out, I'm guessing his date went well. Jisung?"
"Went home with someone. Don't worry, I made sure both our phones are turned on."
He walks back and settles down on the couch, a few feet away from Chan. His body is angled towards him; if he stretched out his leg he could touch his calf. "Huh. Look at the two of them, and look at us."
Chan smiles and pulls down his headphones so they're resting on his shoulders. "Do you mind it? It's your first single Valentine's in a while."
"I do. Not because I miss my ex or whatever, I swear I don't." Chan laughs at that. "But I wish I could do something about feeling lonely, but I can't." He forces himself to look at Chan. "I'm pretty bad at casual hookups."
Chan regards him curiously like he wants to ask. Felix both appreciates and loathes that he doesn't. "Everyone is different. There's no right or wrong way to feel."
"I know. I guess it would just be easier sometimes. I haven't slept with anyone since my ex and I slept with no one else in two years, so I just feel weird about it now."
Chan's jaw shifts, like he's working out some tension. His laptop is still open, casting shadows onto his face. Felix traces the slope of his nose with his eyes and wonders, not for the first time, what it would be like to kiss him.
"I think," Chan clears his throat. "Um. I think you shouldn't feel like you have to have sex with some stranger just because you feel lonely after a long relationship ended. When you decide that you're ready, it should be with someone you know and trust."
He really does have such a nice mouth. A nice everything. His entire face is nice, and the rest of him too, even his personality. Are his feet pointing towards Felix? Felix wouldn't know, because he can't tear his eyes away from his face. "Someone I know and trust," he repeats.
"Yeah," Chan smiles, dimples flashing. "Just don't overthink it."
Felix nods mutely as Chan breaks eye contact, reaching for his laptop. "I'm gonna go do some more work in my room. You should drink that water, by the way."
Felix looks down at the water bottle he's been holding this entire time, dumbstruck. He watches as Chan unfolds his legs and gets up from the couch. Runs a hand through his messy curls and shoots him a smile over his shoulder as he disappears into his room.
Don't overthink it. Felix stares at the shut door. He's still a little bit drunk, he can tell from the way the living room looks slightly fuzzy around the edges and the way his heart is beating too fast. His face feels warm. Don't overthink it.
He's at Chan's door before he can stop himself, fist raised to knock. Don't overthink it. Don't overthink it. Don't overth-
His phone rings. It's like a bucket of cold water over his head. He fumbles to get his phone out of his pocket, suppressing a curse. "Jisung?"
"Felix!" His voice sounds tinny through the speakers. "Listen, can you paypal me twenty dollars for the ride home? My card's not working."
"Wait, are you okay?"
"I'm great, bro, just tired. I'll tell you more when I'm home."
Felix scrubs a hand over his face. "It's not gonna do anything if I send you money if your card isn't working."
Silence. "Shit. You're right."
Felix shoots a glance at Chan's closed door and takes a step back. And another one. "I have some cash. Call me again when you're here and I'll come down to pay the driver."
"You're a godsend," Jisung all but yells. Felix suddenly feels very tired. He should stop drinking alcohol and having emotions at the same time. Clearly the two don't mix since he just almost barged into Chan's room to proposition him. He isn't sure how exactly casual sex with someone he knows and lives with would be different, but it could make things awkward. He doesn't want that, not because of something like this.
"See you then," he tells Jisung and hangs up.
Chan drives him home for his mum's birthday.
"Really, I can take the train," Felix says, fiddling with the straps of his bag. He's standing by the door, feeling weirdly put on the spot. Chan isn't listening, walking around the living room, lifting pillows off the couch and sheet music off the coffee table.
"No, it's literally on the way for me," he says, crouching down to check the TV stand. Felix bites his lip, tempted to point out how his parents' suburb in the Hills is much further out than where Chan's parents live. Chan seems to pick up on his silence and looks up at him.
"Hey, come on. The train journey takes over an hour, driving will take like forty minutes, tops."
"Depends on the traffic," Felix says, feeling like a petulant child. Chan abandons his search and rounds the couch to put a light hand on Felix's shoulder. His eyes are disarmingly sincere.
"Don't worry, Felix, okay? It's really no big deal, I want to do this for you."
And that's the problem. With almost anyone else, Felix would have assumed that this was the type of behaviour that expects something from him in return, because who else goes out of their way like this for someone they've only known for a couple of months? They're friends now, he supposes, but it's different from the way he's become friends with Jisung and Changbin. The neighbourhood where Chan's parents live is not even twenty minutes away by car, and he knows that he wouldn't be visiting them today if he wasn't playing chauffeur for Felix.
A smile spreads across Chan's face, sudden like the sun breaking through a cloud cover. He leans forward, reaching around Felix to grab something from the shelf behind him and for a dizzying second Felix can smell his hair and the scent of his cologne. Then he's gone, back outside of Felix's personal space, smiling with his headphones dangling from his fingers. "Got 'em."
Felix looks at him, knowing that he's lost. "Okay, but I get music privileges."
"Of course," Chan says, like it was never a question.
Chan's car is an old thing, seats worn out and soft. There's a little dinosaur keychain swinging from the mirror and stacks of CDs in the glove department like it's 2013. Felix loves it immediately.
"Why do you have Ed Sheeran's entire discography stashed in your car?" he asks as Chan threads into downtown traffic. He looks good while driving. Felix officially needs to get his head out of the gutter.
"I don't know. Nostalgia, I guess? I used to spend so much money on physical albums as a kid, it feels weird to just throw them away."
"Maybe CDs will make a comeback like vinyls did."
"I doubt it. The difference in sound quality - "
Felix leans back and lets Chan go on about vinyls and sound engineering, his explanation littered with technical terms Felix doesn't recognize because he was a performing arts major in university. It's okay, though. He likes music and he likes listening to Chan talk, so it's really a win for him. He opens the car window when they pull on the highway, just enough to let the wind ruffle his hair. It's been almost six years since he got his driver's license, but he's always preferred riding shotgun. There's something he loves about the way he gets to lean back and see the world rush by without having to take an active role in it. He likes the calm of it, the lazy, plush cocoon it puts him in.
He also, like every sensible person, likes road trips.
Chan glances at him in the rearview mirror and grins as Felix hits play on his phone, the snappy intro chords of zombie pop filling the inside of the car.
"I love this song," Chan says, dimple pronounced in his cheek. Felix pushes a pair of sunglasses onto his nose and reaches forward to increase the volume. It's a little bit perfect, the way the sun chooses this moment to slide free from behind a small cluster of clouds, hitting Felix' cheeks and sweeping over Chan's forearms and his hands on the wheel. Felix sinks into his seat and lets the world outside transform into a blur.
His body feels heavy when Chan turns the car into the street where his parents live but he feels more well-rested than he has in a while. It's like he forgot to be jumpy because of the steady thrum of attraction under his skin that he usually feels when he's in close proximity to Chan, and instead just got to soak up his presence. He's warm with it all over.
They both get out of the car when Chan parks in front of the house Felix directs him to. To his surprise, Chan pulls him into a quick hug. "Have fun, okay?"
Felix nods. He wants to say many things, the beginnings of them crowding on his tongue. But all he ends up saying is "thanks, Chris." He bites his lip.
Chan catches his hesitation anyway. "You know, I don't mind you calling me Chris, but you can call me Chan, alright? No honorifics or whatever. Just Chan."
Felix blinks at him. He didn't think that Chan had noticed his awkwardness with the formality, not wanting to offend or misstep and ending up using Chan's English name, even though it feels wrong to use because no one who is close to him calls him that. It never occurred to Felix that there could be a middle ground. "Chan," he tries.
Chan's smile widens into a grin. "Bye, Felix."
"Who was that?" his mother asks when she meets Felix at the door, curiously following Chan's car retreating out of the quiet suburban street Felix grew up in with her eyes.
"He's my- he's one of the people I live with. His parents live kinda close to here so he offered to drive me."
The warmth of his mother's hand between his shoulder blades bleeds through the fabric of his thin shirt. "He seems lovely."
Lovely. Chan's side profile is dominated by his strong nose, the sharp line of his jaw. The lines of his face are angular and strong, a contrast to the soft curl of his hair. He smiles so easily.
"Yeah," Felix says. "He is."
"I've never gone to the beach." Changbin's voice is shaky. "What if I die and I've never even gone to the fucking beach?"
Chan sighs and wraps a long arm around his shoulders. "You've been to the beach, Binnie. We went together a couple months ago, remember?"
Changbin's eyes are somewhere far away. "Bondi. It's like something out of a fever dream."
The sound of Jisung snapping his bubble gum ricochets around the small corner of the waiting room they've crammed themselves into. "I don't really see the appeal in going into the water butt ass naked. There are some parts of my body I don't want the ocean to touch."
Minho raises his head from the National Geographic he picked up to aimlessly flip through when Changbin started whining ten minutes ago. "Swimming trunks are not water-resistant. The ocean will touch your body whether you want it or not."
Jisung leans in closer as if five people on four chairs weren't a very tight fit already. "You don't know me."
His grin is beatific. Minho rolls his eyes but hides the quirk of his lips behind the magazine. Chan furrows his brows. "Who said Changbin wants to go in naked?"
"I do," Changbin says into his hands. "See, that's one thing I haven't done at the beach. So I need to go back to the beach, but what if I don't get to anymore?"
Before anyone can answer, a tired-looking nurse rounds the corner and looks down at her clipboard. "Lewis Seo?"
Changbin stands up so fast he rattles Chan, which sends a domino ripple through the rest of the group. "Yes, that's me."
The nurse gives him a curt smile. "Here for the screening? Come with me."
Minho digs his heel into the floor to prevent a still-flailing Jisung from falling over. Chan quickly scoots so everyone can each have one chair. Jisung adjusts the monstrous ushanka hat he's for some reason insisted on wearing on his head and says, incredulously, "Changbin's English name is Lewis?"
Felix watches the entire scene through a haze. He slept a grand total of three hours last night, and unlike Chan he is not used to that. His eyes kind of stopped focusing properly an hour ago, but this isn't really about him.
Last night, things had unfolded like this:
"You're too nice," Minho says on the phone, a sigh rattling through the line and ringing in Felix's ears. "But thank you, really. I owe you."
"Forget about it, man," Felix says, hopping around on one leg while trying to find his other sock in the mess of his room. "I wasn't doing anything anyways."
And it's true, he wasn't. Since returning to the city from his parents' place, he's kind of been avoiding Chan. Not that he really wants to, it's just that he spent the entire weekend at home thinking about him and the way he makes Felix feel so safe and unsteady at the same time. It feels like he's only a few hours spent in Chan's presence away from doing something very, very stupid. He's not sure he could handle that.
He'd never noticed how much time Chan spent outside of his room, seated at the kitchen island or sprawled out on the couch, eyes fixed on his laptop screen and ears covered with his headphones. It made avoiding him all the more difficult, and Felix has resorted to spending more time inside his own room to avoid running into Chan and getting lost in his eyes or something. So far, he's managed to go five days without really speaking to him.
When Minho called to ask him for a favour, he gladly agreed just to have a reason to leave the house at 9pm other than wanting to prevent himself from accidentally tripping into Chan's arms.
"I sent you the money for the rides to the airport and back," Minho's voice sounds through the phone as Felix slips past Chan in the living room to the door to cram his feet into his converse as fast as possible. "It only takes like ten minutes once you're on the highway."
"Yeah, great," Felix says a little breathlessly, trying to remember how to tie his shoelaces while keeping an eye out for Chan on the couch and also focusing on not letting his phone slip out from between his left ear and shoulder.
"Terminal 1, gate 34. Please don't mess this up Felix, you know Hyunjin will literally have my head if something happens to his precious little friend the first time he comes to visit from Korea."
Felix takes a deep breath and finally remembers which bunny ear to loop first. Success. "Don't worry, I got this. Go back to your emergency case, I'm sure the cats need you more than I do."
On the couch, Chan pulls the headphones off his head and raises his arms into a stretch. Felix inhales sharply. "I gotta go. Bye, I'll text you."
Yang Jeongin, when Felix meets him at the pickup area at the airport after a delayed arrival, looks the opposite of the precious and innocent child Minho and Hyunjin described him as. He's noticeably taller than Felix despite being younger, and there's something intimidating about the straight set of his mouth and the sharp line of his jaw.
"Hi," Felix says in Korean, tacking on a little wave, "Hyunjin probably told you but he had to work late. I'm the back-up welcome committee."
Jeongin eyes him suspiciously. "You're Lee Minho?"
"Well, no. I'm Felix. I guess I'm the back-up's back-up."
"Please call Hyunjin so I can confirm you are who you say you are," Jeongin says primly, letting his backpack slip off his shoulders. Felix blinks at him. "What?"
A mischievous grin transforms Jeongin's features, but his voice doesn't waver. "Please call him."
Felix gives in and scrolls through his contacts to find Hyunjin. "You're cute," he tells Jeongin as the receiving tone trills on his phone, "but I'm having a hard time seeing how you can be described as innocent."
Jeongin's grin widens. He doesn't seem concerned about Felix possibly being some stranger who has nothing to do with his friend at all. Hyunjin picks up. "Hello?"
Felix puts him on speaker and holds his phone out to Jeongin, who leans forward slightly. "Hey, Hyunjin-hyung. Some weirdo is claiming to be your friend."
Hyunjin sighs. "Minho?"
"Nope," Jeongin grins, scrunching his nose at Felix trying to glare at him. Keyword trying. Jeongin seems to be the kind of adorable that knows exactly how to use his face to get what he wants.
"Hyunjin, it's me," Felix says. "Minho had to handle something at the shelter and couldn't come."
Hyunjin laughs. "Oh, I see. Jeongin, I've told you about Felix. Stop being a brat. I'll see you later!"
Felix stares at Jeongin as the line goes dead. "Why did you make me call him if you know who I am?"
"I wasn't one hundred percent sure until you actually dialed the number. And then it was funny to keep going." Jeongin adjusts his backpack and grips the handle of his suitcase. "Nice to meet you, Felix. Ready to go?"
"I guess so," Felix says, feeling a smile tugging at his mouth. He likes this kid.
Felix guides their Uber by the restaurant downtown that Hyunjin works at to pick up his keys and then to Minho and Hyunjin's apartment to drop off a travel-drowsy Jeongin. By the time he makes it back to his own apartment, it's almost midnight. The living room is devoid of Chan, but Jisung is sprawled out on the couch, wearing the most ridiculous hat Felix has ever seen.
"What is that thing on your head?"
"It's called an ushanka hat, it's Russian and extremely cool."
Felix approaches him cautiously like the hat could spontaneously grow legs and pounce at him. "Where did you even get that?"
"A mysterious, wonderful location that I shall never disclose to mere mortals like you."
Felix settles on the couch next to him and giggles. "The flaps kind of look like furry wings."
"Did you just call me a furry?"
"I mean, if the shoe fits - "
Jisung hits his arm. "Are you gonna play League of Legends with me or what?"
Felix glances at Chan's closed bedroom door and then to the time display on the microwave blinking at him from the kitchen. "Yeah, sure. It's not midnight yet ."
Very early the next morning, they are woken up by two things: the doorbell and Changbin dropping what sounds like half of their kitchenware onto the floor. Felix blearily lifts his head from the end of the couch that isn't occupied by Jisung's socked feet and locks eyes with Chan.
"You get the door, I got Changbin," he says, and Felix has no choice but to get up.
The person at the door turns out to be Minho, who is cradling two bags filled with croissants in his arms like small children. "For you," he says instead of a greeting. "For picking up Jeongin last night."
Felix just waves him in and walks him into the kitchen. "Hey, everyone, Minho brought breakfast."
Chan looks up at him from where he's sweeping up the shards of what used to be part of their (already quite limited) stack of dishes still unchipped enough to safely eat from, a crease between his eyebrows. Changbin and Jisung are standing next to him, staring at each other with wide eyes. The silence is deafening.
"It's probably nothing," Changbin finally says. "But I found a growth close to my thyroid a couple days ago. My ultrasound is in an hour."
Back in the present, Felix is startled out of his almost-nap by Chan sidling up to him in the waiting room. Jisung has picked up Minho's National Geographic while Minho has moved on to his phone.
"How long was I out?"
Chan rolls his eyes up to the ceiling and pretends to think. "A week, maybe? Yeah, that sounds about right."
Felix winces and sits upright. The waiting room only has one window, but it's situated conveniently so that the morning sun hits him directly in the eyes now that he's not slouching anymore. In the professional atmosphere of a clinic waiting room, his behaviour over the past few days suddenly seems incredibly childish.
"Five days," he admits. "Been busy."
Chan hums but doesn't say anything else. Felix steals a glance at his side profile and looks away again. "Are you worried about Changbin?"
"Yes," Chan says before he can even finish the question. "I'm always worried about him."
Felix huffs a startled laugh. "Me, too."
Chan places a tentative hand on his knee, as if to see if he'll bolt. He doesn't, but he tenses up regardless. Chan makes sure to look into his eyes as he says, "He'll be okay."
Felix nods slowly. It's true, he is worried. Sure, Changbin is only twenty-five, but these things can happen at any age. Felix has known this for a while, but he loves his roommates. He could not and does not want to imagine a life without them.
"Here," Chan says, nudging his arm. He's holding out a pair of earphones to Felix, the cheap wired earpods Felix knows he carries around to listen to music when he's on the go and doesn't have his big fancy headphones with him. Felix reaches out and plugs one of them into his ear, leaning back into his chair as Chan puts in the other.
He's not sure what he expected. Chan produces mostly hip-hop and EDM, along with catchy beats and jingles for advertisements sometimes. His music taste is all over the place, meddling in every decade and genre imaginable while not being ashamed of also liking mainstream pop music. Maybe he expected Stevie Wonder. Maybe he expected Ed Sheeran. What he hears instead sounds… classical. Kind of like the stuff he remembers from church, just more grand. "Is that an organ?"
Chan gives him a lopsided grin. "I've been trying to branch out."
Felix is still trying to figure out how to express to Chan how incredibly into it he would be if he added a string section to his next hip-hop beat when Changbin bursts into the room. "Guys, I'm not dying!"
Jisung jumps to his feet and flings himself at Changbin, the National Geographic fluttering to the floor. "You're not dying!"
Felix and Chan get up too, the earphone wire tangling between them, to hug Changbin. Felix can smell Chan's shampoo as he curls his fingers into the front of Changbin's shirt, relief flooding his body. He doesn't really want to let go, and neither do the others. Even Minho is silently leaning into the group hug until they get asked to leave because Jisung won't stop chanting Changbin's name.
"So," Chan says. They're standing in front of the clinic, squinting in the bright sunlight. It's late March, but the weather is unusually warm. Felix feels a little bit lightheaded, from lack of sleep or the sudden lack of adrenaline or the feeble weight of the tangle of Chan's earphones still in his hand. Chan raises a hand to shield his eyes from the sun. "What are we doing for the rest of the day? Maybe we should go home and rest."
Changbin ignores him, inhaling a deep, celebratory lungful of air. "I have a better idea. Let's go to the beach."
Felix has never had a Korean friend group before. He met Minho and Hyunjin in university, the two of them coming to Australia after and before their military service respectively, so they all ended up in the same year despite the age difference. They had clicked easily, but Felix always felt like their little trio was bound to circumstance: being in the same major, being on the same dance team, being Korean. Most of Felix's closer friends have always been Australian like him, and not Korean, unlike him.
The shift happened when he moved in with Chan, Changbin and Jisung, but it's only here, at the beach, as he's lying on his back with sand between his toes, that he feels a deep sense of belonging to the people surrounding him. This includes even Jeongin, who Hyunjin brought with him after Minho had called him to join Changbin's impromptu beach day, and Jisung's friend who had shown up out of nowhere and had seemed vaguely uncomfortable in this new crowd until he heard Hyunjin and Jeongin yell at each other in Korean over the sound of the waves and introduced himself as Seungmin.
"What do you do, Seungmin?" Chan asks from next to Felix, ever the gracious host even when they're not in his home, and there's sand everywhere, and none of them brought swimming trunks.
"I'm a law student," Seungmin says with a cautious inflection in his voice as if he's used to being judged for that. Knowing Jisung and his distaste for 'real grown-up jobs' like doctor or lawyer, it's probably warranted. Chan is undeterred though, continuing to make light conversation while Felix closes his eyes and lets the sound of his voice wash over him.
He must have dozed off, because when he opens his eyes again it's to Chan's face smiling down at him. He sits up with a groan.
"How long was I out?" he asks for the second time today. This time, Chan grins at him. "Not long."
Felix squints at the sky. The sun has reached its zenith and charged the air with a lazy sort of warmth. He scrubs a hand over his face, which feels hot.
Chan leans back on his hands. "This weather is weird. It's actually warm, but the water is pretty cold. I stuck a foot in earlier when you were asleep."
"Uh-huh," Felix says, still feeling out of it. Chan seems to pick up on it because he just laughs quietly and keeps looking out at the water. They're sitting close enough that Felix can hear his breath, in tandem with the ocean waves.
"Hey, Felix," Chan says after a while. "Let's go get some ice cream."
If he were in his right mind, Felix would protest that it's probably time they eat something, since none of them actually ate any of the croissants Minho brought this morning. He would suggest that they should get real food, especially knowing the way Chan and Changbin can eat. But he's still slow from his nap, and his body feels sluggish because of the hours of sleep he missed last night, so he just follows Chan into a convenience store close by.
"You like Melona, right?" Chan asks while bent over the freezer filled with different kinds of ice cream. "So does Changbin, so let's get two."
Felix watches him fill up their basket with ice cream, considering and choosing different kinds for each person in the group. It's really cute. Felix takes a deep breath.
"Hey, Chan," he says on the way to checkout, fiddling with the hem of his shirt. He's not sure what he wants to say, he just feels like he needs to say something. Chan raises an eyebrow at him while the cashier puts the ice cream in a bag. Chan takes the bag, fishes a couple bills out of his wallet, takes the change, thanks the cashier. The words are still stuck somewhere in Felix's throat.
"I'm sorry," is what eventually comes out of Felix's mouth. Chan tilts his head. "What for?"
"For avoiding you."
Chan studies his face carefully before shrugging like it's no big deal. "That's okay. You want your ice cream now?"
Felix reaches into the bag Chan's holding out for him without looking, something urgent burning behind his rib cage. He pulls out an ice cream sandwich. Chan reaches in and emerges with a popsicle.
"That's it? You're not gonna ask why I did it?"
Chan walks a few steps off their path on the sidewalk to put the popsicle wrapper into a trash can. He steps back into Felix's space like he never left. "You're gonna tell me when you're ready."
Felix stares, ice cream sandwich forgotten in his hand, as Chan eats his ice cream in three large bites. He's always thought that people who bite their ice creams are weird. It makes absolutely no sense why seeing Chan do it makes his chest hurt.
Chan looks up. "What?"
Felix leans forward and kisses him.
Chan's lips feel surprised and cold against his, slowly warming up to his touch. Felix can feel his stubble on his face from where their chins are pressed together. He smells like sunscreen.
"Sorry," he says when he pulls back, "I just wanted to - "
He doesn't get to finish. The bag with the rest of the ice cream hits the ground with a dull thud when Chan takes a step closer and cups Felix's jaw in his hands, gently tilting him into a proper kiss. His mouth is warm this time around, maybe because of the same blush Felix can feel punch across his entire face. His lips part to let Chan in, his heart beating up a storm at the feeling of his tongue sliding along the soft inside of his mouth. He hasn't been kissed like this in so long. He hasn't been kissed like this, maybe ever.
Chan breaks away first. "The ice cream," he says, sounding a bit out of breath.
Felix thinks he might be going insane. He wants to press his lips to the slight sunburn on the bridge of Chan's nose. He wants to bite his neck, see his pale skin bloom red. He wants to kiss him again until all the taste of ice cream is gone.
"Yeah," he manages. "We should get back to the others."
The others, of course, were not actually waiting for them and the ice cream. When Felix and Chan arrive at the spot at the beach the group has claimed as theirs, they're greeted by Jisung jumping up and down on the smooth strip of sand closest to the water, flailing his arms like a windmill and yelling incoherently. Hyunjin is down on his knees next to him, doubled over with laughter.
"What's going on?" Chan asks, bewildered.
"Changbin went in naked and ate shit two seconds after," Minho provides the answer almost gleefully. Felix squints against the gleaming light of the sun and spots a blob that could be Changbin in the ocean waves. He should really get his eyes checked.
"He's gonna catch a cold," Chan mutters mostly to himself, dropping the bag of battered ice cream where Seungmin and Jeongin are sitting next to each other and talking in low voices as if the whole situation doesn't really concern them. Felix chokes on air when Chan pulls his shirt over his head in one fluid motion, making his way over to the water with determined strides.
"Did you see his feet?" asks Minho, who's not even trying to hide his amusement at Felix's expense.
"Why would I look at his feet when- oh."
Minho stops laughing and narrows his eyes at him. "Do you still not get it?"
"Get what?" Felix tries to get the very recent memory of Chan's lips on his out of his head, to no avail.
Minho sighs and shakes his head at Felix like he's the slowest person in the world. "His feet are always pointing at you because he's always looking at you. His entire body is always angled towards you, like you're the sun and he's some kind of sunflower or something. There could be an entire room full of people but he would always seek you out first."
As if on cue, Chan reappears in Felix's field of vision, one arm around a dripping and shivering Changbin with Chan's shirt wrapped around his waist, followed by a bouncing Jisung and Hyunjin, who's still laughing.
"Felix," Chan says. "A hand?"
Felix nods and locates Changbin's clothes with some difficulty, Minho's words bouncing around in his head like freaky ping pong balls.
"You did it," Jisung says when Changbin is dressed and they're all huddled around him, unwrapping the ice cream that Seungmin brought over. "You went swimming in the ocean today and you didn't die."
Changbin rolls his eyes at him and sticks his Melona into his mouth, but the expression on his face is almost serene. "Thanks for staying with me today, guys," he says quietly into their round of damp skin and salt and sand.
He gets drowned out by a chorus of voices ranging from of course, idiot (Minho) to anything for you, hyung! (Jisung). Chan gently cards his fingers through Changbin's wet fringe and meets Felix's eyes, a small, private smile playing on his lips.
In an entire room full of people, he would seek you out, Minho's voice echoes in Felix's head. The world is the beach, the rhythmic crashing of the waves, the sticky warmth of the sun on Felix's skin. Felix buries his toes in the sand and revels in the feeling of home.
In an appropriate repetition of events, Felix is making pancakes when Chan enters the kitchen the next morning. The apartment is quiet with Changbin and Jisung not up yet, except for the sizzle of batter forming in hot oil. Unlike the other times, Chan does not come up to Felix and asks for a bite or starts going through the steps of making coffee. When Felix turns his head, he's kind of just standing there, half-leaning against the kitchen island. He looks tired.
"Are you okay?" Felix asks, gripping the spatula he's holding a little tighter. Chan seems vaguely nervous, which is a strange look on his usually so confident face.
"I'm good. Just, uh, thinking."
Felix manages to wait two more pancakes, the batter seemingly bubbling up in slow motion, before he turns around and walks over to the kitchen island. Chan startles when he slams down the spatula with a little too much force.
"We should talk," he says, trying to keep the trembling out of his voice. He's a grown adult, he can talk about his feelings. Chan deserves that, at least.
"Okay," Chan agrees and drops his shoulders from his ears. And because being older apparently means that he's even more of a grown adult capable of talking about his feelings than Felix is, he starts talking first.
"I want you to know that I don't expect anything from you." He takes a deep breath. "I know that your last relationship ended really badly, and that it's only been a few months. I like you, but this isn't really about me. Whatever you do should be on your terms, what you feel comfortable with. And I understand that you probably don't want anything to happen yet because it hasn't been that long and- "
"Chan." Felix feels a little bit like he's exhaled all the air in his body at once and his head is swimming from the lack of oxygen, or maybe it's Chan's words. No, it's definitely Chan's words. "What are you saying?"
Chan blinks at him. "Wait. Did you not want to talk about the kiss or…?"
Felix is pretty sure he's blushing, but it's his turn to talk now. "You know how you said I would tell you why I was avoiding you last week when I'm ready? Well, it's because I realized I liked you, but I didn't know how to deal with it yet."
Chan's eyebrows draw together in concern. "But that's exactly what I was talking about. Your last relationship- "
"Has nothing to do with you," Felix interrupts. "With us." He lowers his voice. "Did you hear what I said? I like you, Chan. I really like you."
He's been leaning forward while speaking, so he actually hears the small, quick breath Chan takes before he tilts his head and closes the gap between their faces.
Chan's mouth is warm like last time and pliant when Felix presses forward. His skin is warm too when Felix brushes his fingertips over his nape to tangle his hand into the soft, slightly overgrown curls at the back of his head. His hands settle at Felix's waist and it feels so good that Felix pushes a sigh into his mouth, thinking that he could do this for a long, long time.
"I really like you, too," Chan murmurs into the sliver of space between them. Felix's lips prickle with how much he wants to kiss him again, but he stops himself and leans back. Now that he's had a taste, he's done waiting around and trying to ignore his feelings when they're clearly not going anywhere. But Chan is also right. His last relationship did end badly and even though he's moved on from his ex, his heart still feels fragile.
He would like to put this into words, but it's not easy. One day, soon, he won't need to say them anymore because they won't be true, but for now he only leans his forehead against Chan's and closes his eyes. Chan, in that quietly perceptive way of his, seems to understand him anyway.
"You know," Chan says after a while, reaching out to tangle their fingers together, "I'm kind of hungry."
So Felix returns to the stove and works the rest of his batter into pancakes with one hand while Chan watches him, his smile bordering on giddy. Felix wants to capture that smile, look at it every day, and feel his heart grow strong and settle back into place bit by bit.
It's a good thing they have time.