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★★★

Twenty minutes to showtime and Kyungsoo's sitting on the floor of the men's room up against the far row of stalls when Chanyeol comes around the corner, eyeliner already sweating into the creases next to his eyes. He smiles and offers his hand.

"There you are."

Kyungsoo doesn't take it. Doesn't even look up at Chanyeol, just throws the little plastic stick he’s been holding across the floor. It skitters like a stone on a pond's surface and bounces off the opposite wall.

Kyungsoo's not even sure why he's sitting on the floor of all places. It’s fucking disgusting, and there's a couch backstage in the green room if he really wanted a place to relax. They're at a club, for fuck's sake, nobody mops the floors at these venues. The bathrooms are seasoned with jizz and pee and god-only-fucking-knows what else, and here he is, paralyzed in the corner next to the urinal, thighs tucked to his chest, chin on his knees. He’s been here since soundcheck, and that felt like hours ago.

"Kyungsoo." Chanyeol stoops and picks up the pregnancy test. "What is—oh."

Kyungsoo presses his lips together so hard they go bloodless and white. "Yeah."

"But how—I was just kidding, jesus, I thought you had the flu."

"So did I, but you've got mutant sperm, apparently." The trance broken, Kyungsoo pushes to his feet against the wall. His sneakers stick awkwardly to the floor when he pushes past Chanyeol and out of the bathroom.

Chanyeol follows, undeterred. "I think since you're the one who's pregnant, I might not be the mutant."

"Screw you."

"No thanks, the fun of getting you pregnant has lost its appeal," he says dryly. Kyungsoo turns, wide-eyed.

"You're making jokes right now?"

The stage manager interrupts them: "Fifteen."

"Thanks," Kyungsoo tosses over his shoulder. When he turns back to Chanyeol he can't seem to find it in him to be as annoyed anymore, not when Chanyeol's smiling at him with those stupid fucking twinkly eyes of his—that’s what caused this whole mess in the first place. "We're not going to talk about this right now," Kyungsoo says firmly. "I need to warm up, and you need to do whatever it is you need to do somewhere far away from me."

"You got it," Chanyeol says. "I've got a couple phone calls to make, anyway." He pulls out his cellphone from his jeans pocket, pretends to dial, and holds it up to his face. "Hi, Mom? It's Chanyeol. I'm going to be a dad!"

"I'm going to kill you," Kyungsoo says, laughing even as he lunges for Chanyeol's throat.

 

 

★★★

Kyungsoo's had a lot of hobbies over the years, including an ill-fated year when he thought he wanted to be a chef, but really never found something that qualified as a passion until Chanyeol signed them up for that neighborhood battle of the bands back in high school and he realized he wanted to be a rock star. Back then, it'd been the two of them: Kyungsoo on lead vocals and rudimentary guitar, Chanyeol backing him with his drum set. Jongdae came later, on bass, and brought Baekhyun with him to round out the group with a proper lead guitarist, leaving Kyungsoo's hands free. And it's been that way for—years, now, longer than Kyungsoo thought they'd ever last.

He takes the stage and already feels the ache stretching across his lower back, the sudden sensation that his arms are eight hundred pounds apiece. It's going to be a long night. As he grits his teeth and counts them off into the first song, he wonders how much longer it's going to be before he begs off, settles down. Gives up rock and roll and becomes domesticated. Because there's no way, no way in hell he can keep this lifestyle up for an entire pregnancy. He wonders if he'll hate living in one place all the time. He's never really been anything but a transient musician. He wonders if he's even capable of doing anything else.

Out of the corner of his eye, he sees Chanyeol lean in to his mic and wonders if Chanyeol's having the same thoughts.

 

 

★★★

Chanyeol's more subdued that evening. Normally, he's talkative after the good shows, can't get him to shut the fuck up—and tonight's show went well, really well, despite Kyungsoo's preoccupation with the unexpected guest growing inside of him—but not tonight. He sits rigidly in the driver's seat the whole way to the motel and doesn't chime in when Baekhyun really gets going on one of his stupid running jokes, the one where he starts doing different voices for everyone in the van. Jongdae protests with a loud wail, prompting Kyungsoo to clap his hands over his ears and wonder if this is what it's going to be like, having a kid around.

"Hey, are you still sick?" Baekhyun asks, breaking off in the middle of his Darth Kyungsoo impression. He reaches around the head rest and pats Kyungsoo's shoulders as comfortingly as he can manage. "Did you eat something weird?"

"Maybe," Kyungsoo says. He's not nauseous right now, just tired of being held hostage by the anxiety that won't quit. He catches himself holding his stomach and moves his hands away. It's so obvious. It's just a matter of time before one of them figures it out.

"Here," Jongdae says, dropping a half-full bottle of pink stomach medicine into Kyungsoo's lap. Kyungsoo looks at the bottle and grimaces. He's never been one to share bottles of medicine or water, especially when he's seen Jongdae put his lips to the rim of this very bottle and chug.

"I'll be alright in the morning," he says, knowing full well that he won't, but also knowing that the medicine won't make a difference anyway.



Kyungsoo slams every door between the van to the shitty motel they're staying in tonight, and for once Chanyeol doesn't give him his space the way he usually does when Kyungsoo gets like this.

"Can we talk now?" he says when they've checked in for the evening, finally breaking his silence.

Kyungsoo bellyflops onto the freshly-made bed and ignores him in favor of kicking off his sneakers. That's as far as he makes it, still in his black skinny jeans and button-up from tonight's show. He's sweaty and disgusting and he smells like the club's bathroom floor, but he's all out of energy. The fatigue is crippling, more so than usual, even considering they've been on the road for the past two months.

At least now he knows it's not because he's not getting enough sleep.

"Kyungsoo?"

Kyungsoo rolls over and faces the wall. "No. Tired."

"This is kind of a big deal." Chanyeol sits down on the end of the bed, taking Kyungsoo's ankle in his hand. His circled fingers meet around it easily, even at the widest point of Kyungsoo's foot. "You weren't just joking around with me earlier, were you?"

"If I say yes, will you let me sleep?"

"Kyungsoo."

He could say yes. His poker face is good enough. He wants to say yes—but he wants to say yes because it's true. He sighs. "No, I wasn't kidding."

It was one stupid moment, right after they'd gotten back out on the road for their fall tour a few weeks ago. One stupid moment in a series of stupid moments that have been happening for years. Every three months or so, like clockwork. Chanyeol's taken to calling it their quarterly booty call. It'll be a good show, a packed house. Drinks on the house for the band, an enthusiastic audience, the post-performance adrenaline that won't quit. Kyungsoo stays late to help loading the van, and inevitably there's a six pack or two, a pack of cigarettes, and Kyungsoo's willpower crumbles. Each time it's over, they make the same promise—a one time thing, it can't happen again, it won't happen again. But they keep falling into each other like this.

And now—

"So… we're having a kid."

"I'm having a kid."

"I helped."

Kyungsoo laughs even though he doesn't really feel like anything's particularly funny right now. "I didn't ask for your help."

Chanyeol strips down to his undershirt and boxers. They're the stupid Rilakkuma ones Kyungsoo bought for him some Christmases ago. The same ones he'd been wearing the last time they hooked up. Kyungsoo's eyes linger on the neat row of brown buttons securing the fly closed and swallows, trying to forget he's had his hands there. He's dreaming. He's going to wake up in about twenty minutes and he won't be pregnant anymore and he's going to have to find a way to tell Chanyeol that he just had the most fucked up dream.

Chanyeol catches him staring. "What?" he asks, nearly smiling. "Problem?"

"No," Kyungsoo says, feeling his whole face flush hot. It's nothing he hasn't seen before—obviously—but everything's different now. Everyone's going to know that they're occasionally more than just best friends. And—not that he's got much of a choice at this point, but he'd never pictured himself having a kid with someone who owns a pair of Rilakkuma boxers.

Chanyeol hits the light switch between the two beds and bypasses his own bed to crawl up next to Kyungsoo. Kyungsoo's quietly glad he didn't have to ask him to stay here. He's pissed at Chanyeol, pissed at himself—but he's worried, too, and really just needs the comfort of a warm body next to him. Chanyeol's warm body, in particular.

"You haven't told anyone else yet, have you?" Chanyeol curves his body towards Kyungsoo, as close as he can get without actually touching him. His knees are tucked up between them to stop his feet from dangling off the edge of the bed and Kyungsoo's never really thought about height or genetics before, but now he catches himself wondering—no. Not now.

"No."

"They're going to figure it out." Chanyeol jerks his arm like he's reaching out to touch Kyungsoo, then apparently thinks better of it and scratches his nose instead. "What do you want to do?"

"Do?"

"I mean…" he trails off into a heavy pause. "Are we… does this mean you and I..."

"I don't know," Kyungsoo says. "I don't know what I want to do. We're not—dating."

"We could be."

"When people find out, they're going to think that this—between us—has been going on this whole time." He rolls over so he's looking up at the ceiling. He doesn't want to see the kicked puppy look in Chanyeol's eyes when he says this: "What's this going to do with the band? I'm not even sure if I want to be on the road with a kid. But I've only known about—it," he stammers, unable to say the word 'baby' yet, "for six hours, just—let me have a day or two to myself before we send out the invitations to the shower."

"Whatever you want to do," Chanyeol says, retreating, his voice small.

"Hey. Look," Kyungsoo says, unable to soften, but feeling guilty for his outburst anyway. He knows Chanyeol, he knows what it sounds like when Chanyeol's wounded by something he's said. "I'm not saying I don't want you around, I'm just saying that I need some time to figure out how all of this is going to work."

"Alright," Chanyeol says, finally. His voice sounds strangely choked up, but he doesn't seem upset when Kyungsoo dares to look back over at him. Smiles, even. "You should get some rest. Early morning."

Chanyeol does allow himself a small indulgence and kisses the crown of Kyungsoo's head, mouth lingering long enough that Kyungsoo feels the warmth of Chanyeol's breath fanning out across his scalp. He lies motionless, watching Chanyeol stumble away, blindly, bumping into the edge of his bed and fumbling for the edge of the covers to turn them down, Rilakkuma's face staring blankly back at him from the seat of Chanyeol's underwear.

 

 

★★★

He tries, but for all his exhaustion earlier, Kyungsoo can't sleep, not with all of this weighing on his mind. Normally, he'd go to Chanyeol to talk about the big life shit, but—Chanyeol's involved in this. He needs a neutral third party.

Chanyeol clearly had no problem falling asleep and he's snoring loudly now. He doesn't even stir as Kyungsoo pulls his shoes back on and slips out of the motel room, hand digging around in his zip-up sweatshirt for his pack of cigarettes. The surgeon general's warning about birth defects winks back at him when he taps one out. He looks at it sadly for a moment, then drops it to his feet untouched and scuffs it out with his toe.

"Fuck."

He throws the rest of his pack in the dirty public ash tray.

"Fuck."

Tosses the lighter after it.

"Fuck!"

He calls Yura. She might be Chanyeol's sister first, but she's been Kyungsoo's friend for nearly as long. He's thought of her as a sister, a best friend, whatever, for as long as he can remember. It rings five times before she picks up, sounding exhausted. And it hits him: he's in California right now, and it's three hours ahead on the east coast.

"Kyungsoo?" she croaks. "What's wrong? Is Chanyeol okay—?"

"He's fine. Shit, I'm sorry. I completely forgot where I was," he says, running his hand angrily through his hair. Stupid. Stupid mistake. Yet another one. It could've waited until tomorrow. "I'm sorry, go back to bed—"

"No, no, I'm up now. Are you okay? You usually don't call this late."

"Uh. Y—es?" he says, unable to keep the tremor from his voice. "I think so?"

"What's going on?"

He tells her. She might be only the second person he's told, but he's not finding it any easier to say. He can't imagine ever being truly comfortable saying the words. At least she's not here in front of him to see the pained expression on his face.

"Oh, Kyungsoo. A baby," she says, sounding so sweet and fond and genuinely excited for him. She makes everything sound like it's going to be okay. No fear, no confusion, just: "Congratulations. That's so awesome." She pauses. "Except… you don't sound very happy."

"I'm—I don't know. I never thought—and—I don't know what's going to happen with the band and Chanyeol's—I don't know—"

"Kyungsoo," she says again, sounding more concerned this time. "Do I need to come out there? Is he being a jerk, because I'll kick his ass. I've done it before—"

"He's—no, he's not. You know Chanyeol. He's great. He's happy."

"And you aren't."

"I'm not… not happy, I guess," he says. "I don't know what I should do."

She chuckles, which breaks off into a loud yawn she fails to smother properly. "God, sorry—you're not boring me, I'm just—"

"No, I'm sorry, it's late there, I didn't think. I shouldn't have—"

"It's okay. I'm glad you called. This is one of those things—it's okay to wake me up to tell me I'm going to be an aunt." He can hear the smile in her voice, radiant and calm. "Here's what you should do: sleep. I know the schedule you keep, and you need to rest. Eat a good breakfast. Go see a doctor as soon as you can—make sure everything's alright."

Everything she's saying makes perfect sense. "Yeah," he says. "You're right."

"I know I am. One day at a time, Kyungsoo. You don't have to have everything figured out right away. It'll work itself out. And for what it's worth—I know you're going to be great."

She hangs up shortly after that, promising to give him a call tomorrow and check in. He's alone now, still not relaxed enough to sleep, sitting outside in the dark making a list on his phone of people that need to know: Jongdae, Baekhyun. His parents. His brother. Chanyeol's parents too, probably. When he finishes that, he moves on to another list of questions he has, all of them concerns about the future, about his career and Chanyeol's, about the future of the band and where they're going to live, and he doesn't even know how to change a diaper, so he's going to have to figure that out, as well—there's got to be class of some kind for people who never meant to be parents but wound up there anyway.

It's too early to feel anything but now that he knows, it's like the entire world has fallen into place. He runs his hand across his flat stomach, feeling the sparse, gritty hair below his navel, and tries to imagine what his grotesque, ripe body is going to look like in a month, in three months, in seven, when he'll be at term. The thing is… he can picture it, just barely, which is how he knows that he's going to go through with this after all.

 

 

★★★

He manages to keep it a secret from Baekhyun and Jongdae for a full week, which is a miracle, considering the close quarters they keep from day to day. Chanyeol promises not to say anything until Kyungsoo's ready. Kyungsoo holds it together enough to get through their evening shows, but he's been too distracted to notice that Jongdae's been keeping an eye on him. Jongdae catches him one morning on his knees in a rest stop bathroom, miserable, woozy from the swaying motion of the van and the stupid baby, coughing bile and saliva into the toilet because he's running on empty. He's been drinking a lot of ginger tea at Yura's advice, but it's not doing him any good. It doesn't stay in his stomach long enough to make a difference. Kyungsoo's too weak with nausea to come up with a convincing lie, so the whole story comes out.

"Jesus," Jongdae says when he's finished. Kyungsoo leans back against the metal divider in the stall, trying to ignore the strangers at the sink shooting curious glances in the mirror at the two young men sitting cross-legged next to the toilet.

"I know, I'm sorry. I didn't know how to tell you guys."

"We were so worried. Baekhyun thought you were dying."

"Baekhyun noticed?" Oh, no. Kyungsoo hadn't realized it had been that obvious. He thinks back and belatedly realizes that all the times Baekhyun patted his back this week, or handed him the water bottle first, he was trying to take care of him, the only way he knows how. He hasn't even tried to antagonize him lately. "Dammit."

Jongdae's not mad—Jongdae's a saint, though. Jongdae helps him to his feet and stands guard while he rinses his mouth out, then pulls up the nearest Planned Parenthood on his phone and Baekhyun programs the directions into the GPS. Kyungsoo protests because they're got a show to play, but Jongdae won't hear of it.

"If we're late, we're late. The opening act can fill time."

He's not sure if they're being supportive because they're genuinely happy or if they're going to be whispering about it in secret, cursing his existence and his carelessness because everything's going to change for them. This is a decision—a mistake, Kyungsoo corrects himself—that will have far-reaching consequences for everyone's career, not just the idiots who forgot to use a condom.



At least Chanyeol seems more at ease now that their secret's out. He still hasn't touched Kyungsoo since last week, but now he insists on staying with Kyungsoo at the clinic while the others drive ahead and set up. Fulfilling some notion of his fatherly obligation, Kyungsoo realizes, and lets him hold his hand in the waiting room.

Eventually, they call him back. He pees in a cup and lets them draw blood and sits around in a scratchy fabric gown, legs swinging off the exam table, waiting for the results. It's freezing in here and Chanyeol keeps offering him his coat to put over his lap, but Kyungsoo waves him off and goes back to staring at the clock. Three hours 'til showtime and here they are. Waiting for an ultrasound tech. It's still surreal to him that he is here in this situation with Chanyeol, of all people. They'd been best friends—casual fuck buddies—and now they're going to have to tackle co-parenting.

"By the way," Chanyeol says after they've been sitting there for what feels like an eternity. "I—uh, got this message the other day." He holds up his phone for Kyungsoo to see—a chat window with Yura. A picture of her blowing a kiss with congrats, papa~! soooo happy for you two :) written underneath.

"Oh," Kyungsoo says, rubbing the back of his neck. "I—yeah."

"You told her," Chanyeol notes, sounding genuinely surprised. "You told her before you told Jongdae or Baekhyun."

"Yeah. I'm sorry—I should've waited and let you do it, she's your sister."

"No, don't be sorry. I'm—talking about it is a good sign, I think? I wasn't sure what you were—if you wanted anyone to know, but—I'm—it's okay, don't be sorry," he repeats, his ears bright red. He reaches out and tugs on the hem of Kyungsoo's gown, trying to break the tension. "Didn't realize they made these in tiny."

"Fuck off." Kyungsoo slaps his hand away. Chanyeol turns back to the door, but Kyungsoo sees the grin on his face and knows that they're going to be okay.

The technician arrives, pushing a cart full of equipment with a monitor attached to it. Chanyeol makes every stupid joke about high definition while they're prepping Kyungsoo, and Kyungsoo voices aloud to no one in particular that at least Chanyeol's got a dad's sense of humor.

Kyungsoo's seen ultrasounds before, on television, or the print-outs from Seungsoo's wife, but he hadn't expected to be so overwhelmed knowing that it was his body and his baby up there on the monitor. He stares at the screen with a bemused sort of wonder, unable to look away, barely listening to what the tech is saying—he catches healthy, active, and then white noise. The pulsing blob on the screen—his child, their child—looks nothing like a baby yet, even if he squints, but there it is, the unmistakable whooshing noise of a heartbeat, separate from his own. Chanyeol squeezes his hand like he's trying to grind his bones into dust. When Kyungsoo looks away from the screen to protest, Chanyeol's eyes are wide and glistening with tears.

"Are you—crying?" Kyungsoo demands, the spell broken. Chanyeol wipes them away with the backs of his fingers, laughing at himself.

"Shut up. We can't all be dead inside like you."

"I'm clearly not dead inside. Listen to that. You did that."

"I hear it," Chanyeol says, and can't help closing the distance he's been keeping all week to lean in and press a soft, delighted kiss at the corner of Kyungsoo's mouth.

 

 

★★★

When asked about it, Kyungsoo pretends to have a hard time remembering the last time they'd slept together, but Chanyeol immediately volunteers the date and probably would've gone into a detailed play-by-play on the exact positions if Kyungsoo hadn't elbowed him in the ribs and told him to shut the hell up.

He texts a picture of the ultrasound to Yura on their way out of the clinic. May it says, and nothing else. She replies immediately with a thousand heart-eyed emojis, enough to fill the entire screen.

May. He's got a lot to figure out before then. Is he going back to Boston? Is he going to stay in his apartment or try to move to a nicer building with a spare room for a nursery? How is Chanyeol going to factor into all of this? And the band? Will have to go on hiatus, probably permanently. It's hard to hold onto the warm, excited glow when reality comes crashing down on him.

It's early October now. The chill's enough at night that Kyungsoo shivers walking around to the club's back entrance. Chanyeol comes up behind him while they're waiting for Baekhyun to pull the van around after the show and buttons his massive coat around him, creating a four-legged beast. Kyungsoo laughs and laughs.

"You idiot," he says, smiling, secretly glad, because Chanyeol radiates heat like his skin's on fire.

Chanyeol laughs too, his chin settling on the top of Kyungsoo's head, and lets his hand come to rest on Kyungsoo's hip. Kyungsoo can tell what he means, though, and tugs it the rest of the way to his waist, feeling the warmth all over again.

 

 

★★★

Kyungsoo's sacked out in the passenger seat of their little van during a lunch break. Everyone's being really great and giving him his space, which he appreciates, even if he knows it's mostly because they're terrified he's going to snap on them. He doesn't even feel that hormonal, just sort of generally exhausted, maybe a little nauseous—nothing worse than a typical tour, except now he can't expect to feel better in the morning. He hopes the worst of it is over now that he's not puking as much as he used to.

He doesn't open his eyes when he feels the warmth of another body pressing over him—gently, hand braced on the head rest above him. Chanyeol. Has to be. Smells like him, and only Chanyeol would dare come close and disturb him during his nap. The shape of the mouth kissing his forehead confirms it. Chanyeol. He'd know those lips anywhere.

He's about to tell Chanyeol to fuck off for another forty-five minutes while his spawn continues to incubate when the van seat begins to recline. Chanyeol pushes it down as far as it will go, slowly, until Kyungsoo's almost horizontal.

"Don't wake up, and don't yell at me, I'm just going to sit here for a little while," Chanyeol says, patting Kyungsoo's arm. When Kyungsoo cracks an eye open, Chanyeol's sitting in the driver's seat, thumb wedged between his teeth, knees up against the steering wheel. Chanyeol's not really much of a reader, not when he could be sitting out back working on a new song, but then Kyungsoo sees the cover and has to stifle his laughter. The Male Pregnancy: What To Expect When You're Erect.

Chanyeol's been so good throughout this whole thing. Hasn't complained once, hasn't said a thing about Kyungsoo's frustrated outbursts (morning sickness has been wreaking havoc on his voice), he just listens and always knows when to smile and nod, and when to back off.

Kyungsoo had no idea what he was getting into that first time they'd tumbled into bed together, but all things considered, Chanyeol's been better than Kyungsoo possibly could have hoped. Even if this is the death knell of the band as they know it, the band they've had since they were kids dicking around in Chanyeol's basement, Kyungsoo can find consolation in the fact that Chanyeol won't make him do this alone, and there will be no shortage of people in their lives to love this kid.

Kyungsoo lets his fingers wander across the console, the parking brake, the edge of the seat, until they're resting on Chanyeol's thigh. He closes his eyes, feeling warm and drowsy from the sun beating through the windshield, and sleeps.

 

 

★★★

Another day, another show in a different city. Kyungsoo's barely taken two steps into the venue before he wheels around, shaking his head. "Nope, nope, no fucking way." He crashes face-first into Chanyeol's throat in his haste to get away.

"What?" Jongdae asks, looking dazed. "What's going on?"

"It smells in there," Chanyeol explains, tucking his sticks away in his back pocket to catch Kyungsoo by the arm and reel him back in. Jongdae cocks his head to the side and sniffs.

"No more than usual."

"Yeah, well, the little tadpole's given him the super smeller," Chanyeol says, trying to tweak Kyungsoo's nose. Kyungsoo dodges it and retaliates with his fist in Chanyeol's ribs. Typical horseplay for them, except Chanyeol doesn't engage further. A month ago, Kyungsoo would be in a headlock by now. He finds he misses it more than he'd expected to.

"Tadpole. Try sea monster," Kyungsoo huffs, feeling the color drain from his face when a gust of air sends a fresh wave of eau de club over him. "Go get set up. I'll be there in a minute, I just need some fresh air."

Twenty minutes later he still hasn't stopped the roiling in his stomach long enough to get back on his feet. Even the mere thought of the acrid, sweaty smell mixed with beer and bodily fluids has him dry heaving. This does not bode well. Chanyeol finds him sitting out on the curb, head in his hands.

"You think they'll let us play the show out here?" Kyungsoo suggests miserably. Chanyeol settles in next to him and scoots his foot across the gap until their calves are flush.

"Jongdae's got a fan going in there. It's better than it was. I think, anyway. I have no idea what you were smelling."

"I was smelling the end of my career. And really, really old nachos." Kyungsoo pinches the bridge of his nose and swallows hard.

Chanyeol laughs. "We can have them make some fresh nachos if you're hungry."

Kyungsoo's stomach growls audibly. "Don't touch me," he warns, inhaling loudly through his nose. "I can't guarantee that I won't puke all over you."

"I'll take my chances." Chanyeol's hand settles in between his shoulder blades anyway. "Wouldn't be the first time."

"Revisionist history. That was you."

"I hold my alcohol like a champion."

"You drank four bottles of some fruity soju shit and threw up on my bed." Kyungsoo digs his knuckles into the corners of his eyes so hard his vision sparks blue and white. When the fizzing clears and he opens his eyes the sunlight is still bright but he feels less like lying face down on the asphalt and giving up the ghost.

"I was sixteen, that doesn't count." Chanyeol snorts. "You okay? How's Nessie?" He makes an attempt to touch Kyungsoo's stomach, and then appears to think better of it and punches his shoulder instead.

Kyungsoo jerks back at the nickname. "What did you call it?"

"You said it was a sea monster," Chanyeol says reasonably, ruffling Kyungsoo's hair. "Come on. Plug your nose if you have to, but we've got a show to play."

 

 

★★★

The heightened sense of smell proves to come in handy for some things. The van's never been cleaner. Kyungsoo spends a rare afternoon off rolling around on the floor between the back row of seats and the equipment, picking up all the stray Cheetos and fossilized french fries and tossing them into a plastic bag.

Chanyeol tries to get him up. "Hey, quit it. You're going to hurt yourself," he says. Kyungsoo ignores him and shoves the full bag of garbage in his hands.

"Can you get me another one? You guys are fucking gross, can you see the mess down here? Look at all that."

"Yeah. I know. We eat in the car a lot, it happens," Chanyeol says, dropping the bag at his feet to drum on Kyungsoo's ass. The van shakes wildly as Kyungsoo squirms and tries to get away.

"Stop. Stop. Stop, or I fucking swear—"

"You swear what?" Chanyeol taunts. "Come on. I've been reading the baby books, it's too early for you to start this nesting shit."

"Nesting?" Kyungsoo sputters, coming up for air. His hair is disheveled and hanging limply in his eyes. "I'm just cleaning the goddamn van, I'm not planning on giving birth in here."

"It could happen. What if we're still on the road?" Chanyeol strokes his chin. That look comes in his eyes again, the stupid mischievous twinkly one.

Kyungsoo braces himself for the inevitably fucking stupid thing about to come out of Chanyeol's mouth.

"Don't you worry about a thing, though. I'm getting a baseball glove for Christmas, so I'll probably be able to catch it if I have to."

And there it is.

Kyungsoo lowers himself back to the floor of the van and wonders, briefly, if it's possible to retroactively conceive someone else's baby.

 

 

★★★

They have their first parenting fight over circumcision, of all things. Like he really wants to have an argument about a dick that isn't his, and like he really wants to cry over it. They get back after a show and Chanyeol makes some casual comment about it, and Kyungsoo can't stop himself from turning into a huge issue, even though he hasn't given it a single thought before this very moment. Kyungsoo resents the fuck out of his hormones when he can't stop the slow leaking of tears down the sides of his nose, and he resents the fuck out of Chanyeol for leaning forward to mop the driblets so tenderly from his chin.

"We don't have to decide anything right now. You don't even know if it's a boy. Please stop crying," Chanyeol says. "It's freaking me out. You never cry."

"I—can't—stop," Kyungsoo hiccups, covering his face with his hands.

The mattress rolls unsteadily with Chanyeol's weight. He inches forward on his knees, crawling clumsily, wrapping himself around Kyungsoo's body like a creeping vine. "You sound like a frog," Chanyeol says, pulling him down onto the bed and Kyungsoo laughs through his tears.

"Fuck—you," he burbles, scrubbing at his face with his fingers. It's hard to move properly with Chanyeol doing his best imitation of a koala, curled around his waist, hand cupping the tiny swell beneath his navel. "You look like a frog."

"You said I was pretty," Chanyeol teases, thumb stroking the skin right above the snap of Kyungsoo's jeans. "Or was that just to get me naked? Do Kyungsoo. You greasy bastard." The movement of Chanyeol's fingers is soothing enough that Kyungsoo's able to catch a few shuddering, deep breaths, and blow his nose in the tissue Chanyeol had given him.

"Sorry I freaked out," he says when he can finally breathe, voice still croaky and thick. "Blame Nessie."

"Did you hear that?" Chanyeol murmurs to Kyungsoo's navel. "Blaming you. Remember this moment when you're trying to pick your favorite dad."

 

 

★★★

The first trimester robs Kyungsoo of what little weight he has to spare. He's sick, or queasy, or staring at the saltine crackers Chanyeol brings back for him after a late-night trip to the drug store, too weary to consider eating them even when he's hungry because he's done this enough to know that even if he feels fine now, he'll just end up vomiting them back up again. But the third month gives way to the fourth and just like that, he's eating bread and jam and spicy peppers, shrimp chips dipped in Nutella, anything, picking the leftovers off Chanyeol's plate with aplomb, ravenous in ways he's never been before, not even when he used to skip class to smoke weed out back behind the school bus garage with Baekhyun.

Kyungsoo's hormones being all out of whack means once the nausea subsides, he reneges on his 'no-sex-before-a-show' rule in favor of wrenching Chanyeol up against a wall every chance he gets, pushing his hips up into Chanyeol's until Chanyeol relents, gasping, fingers scrabbling to push Kyungsoo's pants down around his thighs.

His refractory period is almost nonexistent these days, too. No sooner does Chanyeol discreetly finish wiping his hand off on the nearest available surface than Kyungsoo's back to mouthing at his Adam's apple, face flushed and sweaty, begging again, again. His voice is so hoarse it keeps splitting on every word and Chanyeol keeps whispering for him to be quiet and save his voice for the show, but Kyungsoo feels so desperate sometimes, like his blood's on fire and he just needs to come right now to get some relief. He finds he really can't work it up to give a shit about his voice when he's feeling like this.

Luckily, Chanyeol's more than happy to oblige, again and again, until his grip is too weak to be of any use and Kyungsoo's too winded to speak and Jongdae's knocking on the door of the green room, politely reminding them they've got a show to play.

 

 

★★★

"So now that you're having his bastard child," Baekhyun starts one evening at dinner, a sly grin on his face. Chanyeol's off making a phone call to set up accommodations for the night after their first hotel had fallen through, and Baekhyun's seizing the opportunity to interrogate Kyungsoo. Jongdae elbows him in the stomach but he persists, undeterred, pointing his fork accusingly at Kyungsoo. "Are you two going to make it official? And if so, is this going to end up like No Doubt?"

Jongdae chimes in. "The White Stripes."

"Fleetwood Mac."

"Rumors was such a good album, though."

Baekhyun snorts. "You would like that album—"

"Guys."

Baekhyun and Jongdae turn to Kyungsoo, shocked, like they'd forgotten he was there at all.

"Sorry," Jongdae says sheepishly. "We just—you guys have been acting like a married couple for years already, and now you're having a kid together, which is a pretty married thing to do."

"We're not married."

"Dating, though."

"I don't know. Kind of? We're—living in the same space—"

"—fucking like rabbits, because he can't get any more pregnant—"

"—but we're not trying to specifically date right now, there's just—a lot—"

"Maybe you should," Baekhyun says, like it's that simple.

"I feel like shit, my feet hurt, nothing fits—"

"You don't have to go out to date."

"But you know Chanyeol."

"Yeah, so do you."

"I mean, you've seen him date! He always goes over the top, and I just… don't want to deal with that right now."

"You really think things aren't different because it's you two? You've known each other so long that you don't need to do the awkward mating dance thing. You've lived together in a van. You conceived a baby. I think that means you've got some chemistry."

"It was just fooling around."

"Sure, we believe you," Jongdae says, sounding decidedly like he doesn't. Chanyeol appears in the restaurant window, waving his arms to get their attention. Jongdae holds up a finger and turns back to Kyungsoo. "I'm just saying, Kyungsoo, that maybe you need to get over whatever this imaginary block in your head is doing to you and just tell him you guys are together."

 

 

★★★

As Kyungsoo predicted, they start fighting, tiny squabbles about the stupidest shit—except they're not angry with him for screwing everything up, they're angry with him for trying to pretend like nothing has changed. It's exhausting being the lone person against those three when they're feeling especially persistent, like hounds catching a scent.

Chanyeol floats the idea of cutting the tour short at a morning meeting. He's been acting as their manager since they realized they were losing money paying someone who didn't care about their music as much as they did, and he's been great at handling their schedule and the details from day-to-day. He outlines a block of shows he'd booked up in the Pacific Northwest stretching all the way to Chicago, back in the summer, before Kyungsoo's pregnancy. Fourteen shows in fifteen days. It's a brutal slog even in decent weather, but it's scheduled for the first and second weeks in December, which means the roads will be icy. And Kyungsoo's not getting any less pregnant as the days go on.

"I want to do it," he says stubbornly, pushing aside the calendar. He tries not to notice the book of baby names underneath Chanyeol's planner. "I'm fine. I'm taking those stupid vitamins, I'm eating better. I want to keep things as normal as possible."

"But—"

"If we cancel shows, people are going to ask why. I don't want it to become this huge thing."

Baekhyun shifts uncomfortably in his seat. "I mean—they're going to figure it out eventually."

"I'll make a post on the forum."

"When?"

"March?" Kyungsoo shrugs. He hasn't even told his parents yet; he's not in a hurry to make an announcement to the fans.

Jongdae laughs. "I think they're going to notice before then."

"You should be, I don't know, resting—not living in a van," Chanyeol says tentatively, his eyes cast low to avoid Kyungsoo's glare.

"I'm not fragile, jesus," Kyungsoo snaps. "If we go back, I'm going to have to get a job anyway. What's the difference between working at home and doing this?"

Jongdae sidles closer, resting his chin on Kyungsoo's shoulder. He's the only one that can get away with being like this when Kyungsoo's in a mood and he knows it, so he's using it to his full advantage right now. "You won't be on the road. You'll have consistent medical care. Better food. A real bed. Your family is back in Boston. We can—I don't know, take some time off. Write songs. Regroup."

"I don't want to go home yet," Kyungsoo says. "People are counting on us. We can't just blow them off like that."

"They'll understand." Chanyeol caps his ballpoint pen and sets it down on the calendar. Kyungsoo feels a quiet sort of desperation when he sees that the December dates have all been crossed out.



For all his protesting, it matters very little. Kyungsoo hasn't gotten to make a decision about his future without something disrupting his plans, and he should have known that he wasn't going to be able to go the distance, not this time. The days of touring for months on end are definitely over.

They're in the middle of soundcheck and Kyungsoo's wearing an oversized hoodie of Chanyeol's to try and hide the now-obvious bloat from speculating fans who would post about stuff like this on the internet, and he'd rather get to tell his parents himself before they read it somewhere or hear it from his brother, who's always tracking the latest scene gossip and seems to know what's going on even better than they do sometimes. He's been feeling kind of shitty today and he's already vomited twice this afternoon so he's more drained than usual. He just wants to sleep forever, but they've got this show to play first—

He wilts. He actually fucking swoons, maybe from the heat backstage, or the exhaustion, or dehydration, or anything else—his knees buckle and he goes down hard, pulling the mic stand with him in a burst of feedback. Baekhyun catches him, and then Jongdae on the other side, helping him back to his feet, and Kyungsoo knows that's it, that last night was the last show. He's got to go home. Chanyeol seems to know it too, the sad way he looks at Kyungsoo and brings him a bottle of water, rubbing his shoulders, his back, the base of his neck.

"You're amazing," Chanyeol says, hugging him, his face crushed into the crown of Kyungsoo's head, one hand splayed between his shoulder blades, holding him close. "You made it a lot longer than I would have."

"You would have gone home crying the night you found out," Kyungsoo says, ignoring the fact that his own cheeks are soaking wet. He wants to stay. He desperately, desperately wants to keep going and pretend like nothing's changed, but there's no way, not now, not when everything's changed. He's got to take care of—this. Himself. The kid.

"I know I would," Chanyeol says. "I'm not as strong as you are."

Kyungsoo doesn't even notice he's still crying until Chanyeol's got both hands on his face, wiping away the tears with the pads of his thumbs. "It's okay," he says, smiling, even though he looks a little upset, too. "We'll be back someday."

 

 

★★★

Boston is bitterly cold when they finally make their way back home to the East Coast. Kyungsoo has just passed the point where he can deny being pregnant. The roundness of his stomach won't fool anyone anymore, even under his baggy black shirts. Kyungsoo's given up on trying to fit into his own clothes and has been steadily raiding Chanyeol's closet for things to wear. Chanyeol catches him pulling on one of his sweaters and helps him roll the cuffs down from his fingertips to free his hands from the long sleeves.

"Sorry," Kyungsoo says. "I haven't really—I just noticed it this morning," he says, hiking up the sweater to reveal the tiny pop of belly forming. Not enough to stop him from buttoning his jeans, but he's gone from looking bloated to undeniably pregnant in a matter of days. "I noticed in the shower."

"That's fine," Chanyeol says, smiling at the sight of it. He skims his fingertips across Kyungsoo's warm skin before the veil of sweater drops again. "I like this sweater on you. Are you hungry?"

"Yeah, actually," Kyungsoo says, surprising himself. He's past most of the morning sickness, but he's still a little queasy first thing in the morning, before he's had a chance to get some fresh air and drink some tea. Chanyeol lends him a heavy wool coat from his front closet and takes him out for a full breakfast at the diner down the block, watching him eat everything he'd ordered and then offering more from the bakery counter.

Chanyeol looks much lighter this morning with the weight of their secret off his shoulders. They'd gone to tell his parents last night, and they'd been over the moon. They despaired when Yura took the job with the White House Press Corps down in DC because it meant she wouldn't be settling down any time soon, but still, they hadn't been expecting Chanyeol to produce the first grandchild, and not with Kyungsoo. They've been treating him like their second son since well before middle school.

"Look, I've got my appointment later," Kyungsoo says, pushing the crumbs around on the table with his napkin. "We can, uh. We can find out the sex today, maybe. Come, don't come, either way. It's fine, I can just call you—"

"No, I want to come," Chanyeol assures him, and finishes his still-hot coffee with three hasty swallows. They've been betting on it for weeks. Chanyeol's adamant it's a girl, but something tells Kyungsoo that he's wrong, that he's carrying around their son.

"I'm telling you. We're going to get pink everything," Chanyeol says while they're prepping Kyungsoo for the ultrasound. "Pink room, little pink bows everywhere, pink frilly dresses. We'll have to get her a pink guitar when she's old enough to play."

"It's not, I'm telling you."

"All the books say—with the shit you've been craving, it's totally a girl."

"It's a boy," the tech says, cutting into their argument. Chanyeol tears up all over again, the same way he'd done at the first ultrasound. He'd been pushing for a girl but he's excited either way and it shows in the way he squeezes Kyungsoo's hand, laughing, pointing at the screen with his free hand. Kyungsoo feels—relief? disappointment?—nothing, honestly, although usually he usually gloats for days when he wins a bet with Chanyeol. He can't gloat just yet, though. He's too busy staring at the screen. He can't fully process it, even though he gets up five times in the middle of the night to pee and he can't be in the same room as cucumbers anymore without feeling queasy, and his stomach rolls with the slow flip of tiny limbs stretching to their limit, the heartburn's fucking killing him, and he's just… it's a boy.

"No more Nessie," Chanyeol whispers, tracing a fingertip around the distended pop of Kyungsoo's belly button. In reply, the baby wiggles and jabs a heel into Kyungsoo's bladder.

"Oh, fuck, don't do that," Kyungsoo says, pushing Chanyeol's hand away. "I think he's ticklish."

A nurse bustles in and offers Kyungsoo a damp paper towel to wipe the gel from his stomach.

"So I was thinking," Chanyeol says on the way home. Kyungsoo's swinging his feet off the edge of the train seat. Chanyeol looks down at him, caging him in—there'd only been one seat available, and Chanyeol's hellbent on taking care of Kyungsoo even when Kyungsoo's perfectly happy to stand.

"What were you thinking?"

"If we're going to stick with the sea monster thing, it really ought to be Kraken."



Kyungsoo's parents take the news surprisingly well, too. Seungsoo's been married for nearly ten years now and Kyungsoo suspects they'd started to give up on him. Not that he's going to marry Chanyeol, mind you—it doesn't feel right, not yet, even though they've already jumped three steps ahead and procreated. Kyungsoo doesn't mind doing things out of order as long as they're done properly. Chanyeol's always been his best friend—they've never tried to date seriously, without the band forcing them together, forcing them to get along even when they'd rather take some time to themselves.

"Have you thought of names?" his mother asks, and he has to bite back a laugh before he spills their nickname for him.

"Not yet."

She looks at him with an appraising eye, her mouth twisting. She's not disappointed in him—Kyungsoo's familiar with that face, the one she got when he abandoned his performance degree at Berklee to pursue the rock band thing full-time—but she's not fully on board, either.

"Why didn't Chanyeol come with you to tell me I'm going to have a grandchild? I haven't seen him in months."

"He had to go back home to teach a lesson, but I think he's also scared you're going to hate him," Kyungsoo tells her. She bursts out laughing.

"Why?"

"He thinks this is all his fault."

"Kyungsoo. I know how babies are made," she says, patting Kyungsoo's hand and rising from her seat to put the kettle on. "I understand it takes two people. I also understand that you seem happier with him, and that it'll be nice to have you back in the city." She sighs. "I'm just trying to get used to this! It's so sudden! You go away for months and come back—like this—and you're dating Chanyeol. We asked you so many times in high school if you were together and you always said no, so I'm just trying to understand what changed."

"Nothing changed."

"Then—what's your plan? After?" He can tell she's trying to restrain herself from nagging, but she's his mother, after all. She comes by it honestly. She's been asking him that question for years and he still doesn't have an answer that completely satisfies her. Is he going to get like this with Nessie?

"I guess we'll be staying here full-time," he says. "We can try recording, maybe, but for now—I'll go back to teaching lessons, whatever. Trying to make enough money to pay the rent and keep Nessie in diapers." He bites his tongue, realizing his mistake. Her eyes soften.

"Nessie?"

"I, uh—I was sick a lot. They said he was a sea monster. Chanyeol came up with it."

"That's very sweet," she says, then her eyes slide to the floor, lost in thought. "I was terribly sick with your brother, but you were an easy pregnancy for me."

"Lucky," Kyungsoo grumbles. Even with the belly, he still hasn't regained all the weight he'd lost out on tour.

"You were—Two. We called you Two, I think. Because you were our second."

"Two?" He's faintly disappointed at the lack of creativity. It could've been worse—could've just been plain baby—but still. "What did Seungsoo call me?"

"Nothing. He begged me to send you back."

Kyungsoo laughs. "What an asshole."

"Language!" she says, smiling, and swats him with an oven mitt on her way back to the stove.

 

★★★

Kyungsoo doesn't go back to his place the next night, or the night after that, either. Chanyeol actually makes an effort and puts away all the clothes on the bed, and he comes back from the store with an armful of brand new pillows of varying softness to help Kyungsoo make himself more comfortable, and Kyungsoo curls into Chanyeol every night as best he can with the stomach between them. They haven't really talked about it, but they've fallen into something resembling a relationship anyway. It's just easier to stay the night with Chanyeol than to run across town to catch the last Green Line back to his cold, empty apartment.

Kyungsoo has to fight the clean? hopefully? laundry for a spot on the bed. It's harder than he remembers, considering he needs more room than he used to. Chanyeol takes so long in the shower that Kyungsoo's half-dozing by the time the door opens, huge clouds of shampoo-scented steam wafting into the room. "You asleep?" he asks.

"Yes," Kyungsoo grumbles. His back hurts again. His hips, too—he can feel the creaking in his pelvis as it shifts and spreads to accommodate the growing life inside of him. He wishes somebody had warned him just how hard this whole baby thing would be on his body.

He'll settle for another pillow between his legs. Chanyeol's, specifically. Chanyeol makes a disgruntled sort of whine and crowds onto Kyungsoo's pillow, face so close to Kyungsoo's that he can feel each humid exhale on his face, minty and clean. His hands follow, rough from hours spent practicing guitar, inching past the hem of Kyungsoo's shirt to get closer to Nessie.

(God, Kyungsoo thinks, covering Chanyeol's hands with his own, I've got to stop calling him that or it's going to stick.)

"Sorry the bed's a mess. Kind of packed in a hurry—"

"I figured. You always do." Kyungsoo's knuckles hit the headboard when he stretches. "Nice to sleep in a real bed, anyway."

Chanyeol hums in agreement and yawns the loudest yawn Kyungsoo's ever heard.

"Shut up. I'm resting," Kyungsoo grumbles, swatting his hand out blindly to smack Chanyeol in the chest. Chanyeol pointedly ignores him in favor of littering a series of wary tap-kisses down Kyungsoo's jaw to the shelf of his collarbones. Kyungsoo feels his resolve weakening. It's too exhausting to pretend to be angry when really all he wants is to give himself over.

But if Chanyeol could stop talking and making noise and generally just being fucking annoying while that happens—that'd be perfect. Kyungsoo's known Chanyeol since they were in elementary school, and he's always been a chatterbox, the class clown, the lovable asshole. The kind of kid who did well in his classes but preferred to be outside playing with the stray cats that wandered into the schoolyard. Music came later, after Chanyeol convinced Kyungsoo to take the group guitar class so he wouldn't have to be alone. Chanyeol was just very good at loving a lot of things, equally and enthusiastically with his whole heart. So, all things considered, Kyungsoo probably could have chosen a lot worse.

Chanyeol's down at Kyungsoo's hips, now, hands braced, and noses up Kyungsoo's shirt to kiss his belly, very gently. Kyungsoo swears he hears him whisper something—he's always doing this, talking to Nessie (dammit, it already has stuck) when he thinks Kyungsoo's not paying attention.

"What are you two talking about?" Kyungsoo asks drowsily, carding his hand through Chanyeol's damp hair.

"Just apologizing."

"For what?"

Chanyeol doesn't answer, but Kyungsoo finds he doesn't have to. The index fingers hooked in the elastic of his underwear tell him everything he needs to know. He pats Chanyeol's cheek encouragingly and lets his knees fall apart so Chanyeol can crawl up between them.

Given the luxury of space, of privacy and a bed, Chanyeol takes his time getting Kyungsoo good and worked up. Now that they're hooking up more than just occasionally, they're really getting to learn each other's bodies, and Kyungsoo's happy to discover that Chanyeol's a fucking pro. He spends an inordinate amount of time nuzzling the soft flesh of Kyungsoo's thighs, biting them, fingers trailing slowly under Kyungsoo's balls until Kyungsoo's whimpering, rock-hard and impatient to come. Chanyeol hears it, chuckling under his breath every time Kyungsoo whines, but he makes him wait for it anyway.

"Pretty soon you're not going to be able to watch me suck your dick," Chanyeol jokes, mouthing at the tip of Kyungsoo's cock without putting any suction or pressure on it. Kyungsoo makes an irritated grumbling noise.

"Don't want to watch you do it now," he says, even as he wraps his palm around the nape of Chanyeol's neck. "Come on. I'm exhausted."

Chanyeol waits, grinning, eyebrows raised to his hairline until Kyungsoo props himself up on his elbows and glares down past his erection.

"Why are you messing with me?"

"I don't know. You're kind of hot when you're mad." Chanyeol manages a sleazy wink. "What can I say, I'm into aggression."

"You want aggression?" Kyungsoo asks, suddenly fully awake. Chanyeol arches his eyebrow again, a defiant challenge: do your worst.

Kyungsoo usually wins his physical fights with Chanyeol. Not that Chanyeol's weak, by any means, but Kyungsoo's usually more insistent, always less willing to lose.

So foreplay's always been a little bit more like roughhousing with them. Chanyeol's gentler with him now, which always frustrates Kyungsoo. The whole reason he'd fucked Chanyeol that first time was because in a moment of drunken impulsiveness, Kyungsoo had bent down to kiss Chanyeol and Chanyeol wasn't afraid to bite him. It was just—fucking hot, really, the prickling of pain at the edges, all the time, just enough to feel. Pregnancy might make him sore and sick and tired, but it also makes him horny as fuck, and if Chanyeol's backing off, Kyungsoo's not afraid to take those steps forward to get what he wants.

"Condom," Chanyeol gasps out when he gains a moment of coherence. Just because Kyungsoo's pregnant doesn't mean that Chanyeol couldn't wind up the same way. It's rare, but it happens—and given their absurd luck with conception, this one in a million shot, they're not taking any chances. One unplanned baby is enough.

They've never done it this way before. Kyungsoo discovers quickly that he likes pressing Chanyeol into the mattress, holding him down by the shoulder blades while he rolls on the condom and pushes himself inside Chanyeol slowly enough that he can see the frustrated tears shining on Chanyeol's cheek when he turns his face against the pillow. Maybe if they'd done this first Chanyeol would be the one carrying their son now.

The stomach's an awkward hindrance, and Kyungsoo finds it's more difficult to navigate being on top than it ever used to be. His sense of balance is sketchy and he keeps bending over to catch at the wall or the headboard, or bracing himself on his knuckles. He compromises and makes Chanyeol do all the work, pulling Chanyeol's hips towards his, grunting softly each time he bottoms out, overwhelmed by the slide inside Chanyeol, the heat, the desperate noises he's making, unselfconscious as always. Doesn't matter if they're fucking in public or in their own place—Chanyeol's always vocal, always talking, laughing, that stupid fucking laugh that makes Kyungsoo worry for their future child's face.

"This is good," Chanyeol gasps, reaching back to grab Kyungsoo by the neck. "Why didn't we—fuck, come on—do this before? Back before—god—the spare tire—oh." Kyungsoo can't bend down to meet him for a kiss, not in this condition, but he needs Chanyeol to shut the fuck up because he's never going to come if he keeps thinking about the hard stretch of his pregnant belly between them, because it's still a strange sight to behold. He sticks his fingers in Chanyeol's mouth instead and lets Chanyeol sink his teeth into the soft pad of Kyungsoo's thumb to muffle his cries.

Chanyeol's babbling for Kyungsoo to just please touch my fucking dick but Kyungsoo fucks Chanyeol harder in reply, fingers gripping bruises into Chanyeol's bony hips, forehead bowed, unable to reach the curve of Chanyeol's spine to rest. And when Kyungsoo comes, he comes hard, moaning. His entire body tenses, muscles rigid, eyes fluttering shut. And for that moment Chanyeol is silent, patiently waiting for Kyungsoo to take care of him.

And Kyungsoo does.

Eventually. When he feels like Chanyeol's earned it. 

 

★★★

Kyungsoo had intended on sticking to his March deadline for an official announcement, but the last-minute tour cancellation had sparked rumors of Kyungsoo's poor health. Kyungsoo had hoped they'd stay just that—rumors—until he could make the announcement himself.

Back when the band first started, Baekhyun'd had the bright idea to start a message forum as a way to communicate with the fans online. Back then, there'd only been a dozen fans, mostly their friends from high school, and it had become a graveyard of inside jokes, standing in place of an answering machine when they disappeared on the road for a few weeks.

Now, though, they've got enough of a fan base that they're never alone. They usually take turns, one Sunday a week, answering as many questions in an hour as they can. One Sunday is all they'll commit to, but usually one of them will hop on when they're bored enough. Baekhyun still thinks it's important to cultivate that kind of relationship with the fans. This is the indie scene, he said once in a rare moment of earnest, holding up his phone and pointing at the familiar, dated graphic over the forum, a poorly photoshopped banner from their first album's cover. They're all we have.

"They know you're pregnant. It's on the internet," Jongdae says, pulling up the thread on their website. "The house manager at the last venue wasn't discreet."

Kyungsoo shrugs. He's trying to play it cool but it feels like his chest has been ripped wide open by a gunshot. Of course they were going to find out some day, but… today? Now? Before he's even had a chance to sit down with Chanyeol and figure out how they're going to explain this situation to the public at large? They haven't even had a real conversation between them about what their relationship means—are they just parents to Nessie? Or is this thing between them going to be a permanent arrangement?

The reaction from their fans is better than he could have possibly expected, though; the message board is littered with congratulations and fan art of babies featuring Kyungsoo's full mouth and Chanyeol's huge ears. Encouraging threads from older fans, ones who have had children themselves, and a discussion about the best music to play to your unborn child to maximize intelligence and empathy. He starts replying to them, nervously, asking them for advice and recommendations. He starts a public playlist on Spotify for the baby and asks for suggestions. He lets them keep a running list of names although he doesn't tell them that they haven't opened the baby names book Chanyeol bought months ago because they're too attached to this cryptid thing. They're making it seem fun.

Kyungsoo's home alone a lot these days, which means he's always looking for something to do. And at first it starts as a casual thing—what's going on today, what are they saying about me—but he finds it helps take the edge off the homesickness he's feeling for the road.

He starts checking in every day. There's always a post waiting for him, some benign question about how he's feeling today, how's the baby, how's Chanyeol.

"Are you guys ever going to release another album?" one of them asks.

"We're on hiatus," he says.

"Permanent hiatus?"

"I hope not."

He sees some of the nastier things too, before the moderator gets to them and erases them from the message board. Speculation on what had happened between Kyungsoo and Chanyeol, in vulgar, explicit detail. Outright lies, things like It's actually Baekhyun's baby but Chanyeol makes more money w/ the songwriting credits and they hate each other now they're just using the baby to get more $ from each other. The community's self-regulating and works quickly to silence them, but he hadn't realized these types of people frequented the site in the first place.

"I'm sorry guys," he writes one night when he's sniffling back tears. "I don't know if we're ever going to come back. I ruined everything."

"You've got to stop going on the forum at 3AM," Chanyeol says the next morning, yawning into his palms. He's got his phone balanced against his coffee mug and he's apparently scrolling through Kyungsoo's descent into self-pity from last night. Kyungsoo rubs at his puffy eyes with his balled fists.

"Heartburn was keeping me up again."

"It's not your fault—that this happened, I mean," Chanyeol says. "It's both of us. We should have been more careful."

"I'm sorry," Kyungsoo says again, and pushes back from the table, his appetite lost.

He promises Chanyeol he won't go back anymore, not when he's this prone to hormonal bouts of vulnerability. He cheats just once and logs on to see a thread addressed to him: "Are you + PCY dating? RU going 2 get married after the baby comes?"

He logs off because he doesn't know what to tell them.

 

 

★★★

"We could take this time to work on a new album," Jongdae suggests one night when they're gathered in the pizza place where Baekhyun works down in Brookline. Baekhyun brings them free appetizers on the house and sits with them during his fifteen minute smoke break, inhaling whatever he can get his hands on. Kyungsoo picks his head off Chanyeol's shoulder long enough to narrow his eyes.

"And then what are we supposed to do about promoting it?" he asks. "Local shows only? Very very quiet local shows, just in case they wake the baby?" He knows his sarcasm sounds a little mean, but he's just frustrated.

"Nessie could play tambourine," Chanyeol suggests, stealing a boneless wing from Kyungsoo's plate and popping it into his mouth before Kyungsoo can complain. "We could change our name to The Family Band."

Kyungsoo rolls his eyes and pushes the plate the rest of the way in front of Chanyeol. He's frowning when he turns back to Jongdae. "You and Baekhyun should really think about jumping ship," Kyungsoo says, eyes trained on the napkin in his hand. He starts shredding it methodically into even strips, laying them out in little piles in front of him. Anything to keep his hands busy. He hates having this conversation. He hates having to say this shit out loud but he doesn't have much of a choice anymore.

Next to him, Chanyeol's body goes rigid and his hand under the table moves from his lap onto the back of Kyungsoo's hand, trying to push his fingers through Kyungsoo's. Kyungsoo's fingers stay limp, unable and unwilling to return the squeeze.

"What do you mean?" Jongdae asks, looking genuinely puzzled. Kyungsoo's really fond of Jongdae, especially in times like this, when it's obvious it hasn't occurred to him for a single second that Kyungsoo would even leave the band or that the band would have to stop touring.

Chanyeol reaches across the table and swipes Kyungsoo's pile of napkin strips onto the floor. Kyungsoo punches his bicep, frowning, and starts over again with a fresh napkin.

"He means find another band," Baekhyun says, elbowing Jongdae in the ribs. His eyes are wide with shock. "Right? That's what you mean."

"Yeah, that's what I mean." Kyungsoo rolls his shoulders uncomfortably. "I don't know—what things are going to be like. After—" He gestures down at his stomach and bangs his hand on the table. "Ow. Fuck."

Kyungsoo can see the smile at the corner of Chanyeol's eyes but appreciates that he manages to rein in his laughter at Kyungsoo's misfortune. When he finally gets a grip, he reaches out and pulls Kyungsoo's hand to his mouth, kissing the injured knuckles as a quiet way of apologizing.

"If we've got to go on hiatus for a year, then that's what we'll do. We can find something to do in the meantime," Jongdae says reasonably. "It's not like this is a death sentence. Plenty of rockers have families and a career. We'll just see how they do it."

Kyungsoo's laugh is brittle . "A year? This isn't—it's not going to be like that. It's never going to be like this again. The years of spending months at a time on the road are over." As soon as he says it, a sadness creeps into him, his heart suddenly heavy. It's been a good run—but he's been enjoying himself so much, more than ever lately, and he's really disappointed to think that he might never play a sold-out show ever again.

Chanyeol kicks him under the table. He's always watching Kyungsoo's face for signs that he's getting lost in his own thoughts, and Kyungsoo appreciates that Chanyeol doesn't tolerate Kyungsoo's brooding for too long, especially when there's nothing to be done. He kicks back, and chuckles when the toe of his sneaker connects with Chanyeol's ankle bone. Chanyeol swears quietly under his breath.

"What are you going to do?" Baekhyun asks, voice unusually small.

Kyungsoo opens his mouth to speak but Chanyeol cuts in and speaks over him. "Are you kidding? This is our big chance. Fuck this, we're going into retirement. We're going to hang up the guitars, sell the kid on the black market and move to Rio."

Kyungsoo laughs, shoulders shaking helplessly at the thought, his head thrown back against the vinyl booth, and the somber mood is broken.

 

 

★★★

Kyungsoo's been spending more and more time at Chanyeol's lately, even though his apartment has all of his things. It's bigger, too, something that he realizes will come in handy when Nessie comes. The spare bedroom he's been using to store instruments and work on his compositions can become a nursery, he supposes, with a little bit of work.

The walls in that room are black—fine for a music studio, but pretty oppressive for the average human being and certainly inappropriate for a baby's room, so Kyungsoo agrees to start looking at paint samples. Chanyeol keeps insisting on bright orange walls. Kyungsoo keeps insisting right back that it'll give the kid nightmares, but he's secretly convinced it'll give him nightmares, too.

So nothing's finished. Yet another decision Kyungsoo keeps delaying. He takes a few voice students on to help defray the cost of the bills and pay his share of the expenses, but it's hard when school is winding down for the holidays. Students keep canceling on him, citing family vacations, or the weather. Christmas is nearly upon them and Kyungsoo's been watching his savings account dwindle away with each new purchase for the baby.

"Why don't you just move in with me?" Chanyeol says. "You practically live here anyway. I don't want you all the way across town, that's too far—both of you." Kyungsoo hangs on to his apartment anyway, reluctant to let it go for some reason he can't quite articulate yet.

"It's a waste of money," Chanyeol says in the middle of another one of their arguments. "You spend all your time here anyway, the nursery's going to be here because I've got the space—what do you need that apartment for anymore?"

"Because—I don't know, it's my place—"

Chanyeol drops his hands to his side, exasperated. "Do you want to live there instead?"

"It's too small for two people."

"Three."

"What?"

"Three. You and me and—" Chanyeol gestures between them. It's not the time to start using cutesy nicknames, not in the middle of an argument that's gearing up to be a really nasty fight. "This kid." He waits. "Which one of us were you forgetting about?"

Kyungsoo turns his back on Chanyeol and starts gathering his things. "Look, I think it's probably a good idea if I sleep there tonight instead."

"Kyungsoo, it's late and it's been snowing. You're not going anywhere."

"Look, you're not my doctor, you're not my husband, you're barely my boyfriend—"

"—barely—? What the hell have we been doing this whole time, then?"

"And I just need—some space, okay? This is why I didn't give up my lease. Because you're just always on top of me, hovering, telling me what I can't eat or what I should be doing—"

"I just want you to be okay," he says, looking genuinely worried. "You've already fallen once—"

"That was months ago! We were on the road! I'm fine, Chanyeol. Leave me alone." Kyungsoo grabs his coat from the hall. Chanyeol's definitely in the middle of saying something but Kyungsoo doesn't give him the chance to finish before he slams the door behind him.



It sucks to sleep alone.

Kyungsoo had forgotten how much it sucked. He's regretting this particular temper tantrum but he's too proud to give in and apologize, at least right now. Maybe in the morning. It's been so long since he and Chanyeol slept in separate beds—well, not that long. But Kyungsoo's grown accustomed to having a warm chest to lean into, the shared body heat keeping out the December cold, the long line of Chanyeol's body curving protectively around his. He'd tried being the big spoon exactly once, but there's something about the way Chanyeol wraps his arms around Kyungsoo, one hand palming his stomach like a basketball, cradling the two of them, that makes him feel safe.

Alright, well. He's not exactly all alone—Nessie's doing acrobatics and battering Kyungsoo's kidneys, but Kyungsoo has no one to complain to about that, either. There's no one to say your son is wide awake to.

"Stop," he says aloud to the empty apartment. "I'm trying to sleep." Nessie takes no notice.

The apartment's stripped bare. He's nearly moved everything over to Chanyeol's at this point. Chanyeol was right—there's hardly any reason to keep paying the bills for this place. He had to make the bed with spare sheets he'd found in the linen closet and turn the heat up a little bit and then he crawled in, coat and everything, and hugged the lone pillow there. Nothing to put between his legs, or under his back, nobody stroking his hair and chatting at him until he falls asleep.

His phone blips—and then again, a few minutes later, when he hasn't checked it. It's Chanyeol.

U up? Did u make it back safely

He stares at the message for a long time, so long that he can see the typing bubble come up again.

Yeah, he says.

How's ur back

hurts, Kyungsoo types back, and then tosses the phone onto the other side of the bed, where Chanyeol usually slept. The whole point of storming off in the middle of the night was to have some space between them.

A moment later he hears a gritty noise from the living room. A key in the front door, turning the lock. Boots dropping one at a time onto the wooden floor.

Kyungsoo holds his breath. Chanyeol appears through the bedroom door, his hair glistening with snowflakes. He'd probably walked here, given the late hour. Nothing much runs after midnight. He peels back the covers, gently, unloading an armful of pillows from his apartment into the bed next to Kyungsoo. "Shh, don't say anything, just—let me—" He pulls Kyungsoo up by the wrists and arranges the pillows exactly the way Kyungsoo likes them. Kyungsoo's eyes sting with tears, hooking his arm around Chanyeol's neck to stay upright. Chanyeol's being so patient with him, even after their stupid fight.

"I'm sorry," he says, sniffling. So much for resolve. "You're right—keeping this place is stupid—"

"I told you not to say anything," Chanyeol says, smoothing his palm over Kyungsoo's forehead. "It's okay. Get some rest. I just—wanted to make sure you could sleep."

"Stay," Kyungsoo says plaintively, pushing his fingers through Chanyeol's. "It's late. The T's not running anymore. Just stay."

"No. You—you wanted space."

"Chanyeol, don't be stupid. Just—come on."

Chanyeol regards him in the dark, his expression neutral, like he's trying to figure out if this is a trap. "You're sure?"

"Yeah."

Chanyeol lies down on top of the covers until his shivering starts shaking the bed. Kyungsoo opens one eye and frowns at him. "Really? Why don't you get under the covers where it's warm? Are you going to leave when I fall asleep or something?"

Chanyeol frowns. "No, but I—can we talk?"

Kyungsoo flops over on his back, arms spread wide. "Go ahead."

Chanyeol waits a long time. He keeps inhaling like he's going to say something and then changes his mind.

"Out with it."

"I'm nervous."

"About talking to me?"

"About—being a dad."

"I am too," Kyungsoo says slowly. "I'm the one that's going to have major abdominal surgery, and I've got to figure out how to be a parent—"

"Yeah, I just feel like—you're with him all the time already—you know him. Sort of."

"It's not the same thing." Kyungsoo sighs. "Are you jealous because I'm the one carrying him? Because you can do it, I don't want to anymore. It hurts. I'm sick and tired all the time, and all I want to do is get drunk and eat a lot of sushi and go back out on the road, or play a show, or go to a show, and I just—I'm not going to get to do that anymore, not for a while, and it's been hard, because this—you didn't plan this, don't tell me this is exactly what you wanted for us, because I know it's not." He sighs. "This was—I mean it was just supposed to be fun. And I don't regret it—" he says, holding up his hand to silence Chanyeol before he can refute anything he's saying, "—but having to default to my back-up plan is kind of hard when I hadn't ever factored a kid into any of those plans. Do you understand where I'm coming from? I don't know what I'm going to do anymore. Music—I thought that was it."

"You can still do it."

Kyungsoo shoots him a withering look. "We're not dragging a kid across the country to play in a bunch of shitty clubs. We don't make enough money for a nice bus and nice hotels, this was—we're not—it's not like I'm not in the band, and I can come with you and look after him at the same time. Who's going to look after him when we're on stage? And don't say our parents, because—that's not fair. He's going to be ours."

"I get it," Chanyeol says quietly. "For the record… I'm sorry. I really—I should've been—I should have taken that into consideration before we—before I—"

"Yeah," Kyungsoo says. "I know. Me too."

"But I want this," Chanyeol says. He's got his hands back on Kyungsoo, soothing him. "I want him. I want you, too."

"Yeah, I think I'm coming around to the idea, too," Kyungsoo says. He yawns, holding open the comforter for Chanyeol to crawl inside. "I'm sorry I freaked out."

"You're hormonal, I get it," Chanyeol teases quietly, pressing his cold hands into Kyungsoo's warm ones to thaw out his fingertips. "It's okay. We can keep the apartment for now. Maybe I can use it as a teaching space, or we can sublet it. We'll figure it out. If it's important to you, then we'll just work around it. We're not struggling."

Kyungsoo leans in and kisses the tip of his nose, content to let Chanyeol have the last word this time.

 

★★★


He wakes up overheating, Chanyeol's breathing like a furnace down his neck, his erection rock hard between his asscheeks. Kyungsoo's own dick stirs with interest. His shirt hiked up at some point in the middle of the night, exposing the ripe melon curve of baby, bigger than it had been yesterday, or so it seems. Chanyeol's hands are on it, playing with the waist of his jeans, fiddling with the snap and intent on getting them off Kyungsoo as quickly as possible.

"Hey," Chanyeol whispers, his voice brittle. "I didn't wake you, did I?"

"You did."

"Can I make it up to you?"

Kyungsoo's already rolling over, mouth open, hands reaching for Chanyeol like a thirsty man in the middle of the desert, and Chanyeol's the one holding a bottle of water.

"You like this," Kyungsoo marvels, discovering that Chanyeol's got something bordering on a pregnancy kink. Despite the unplanned nature of it all, Chanyeol seems downright pleased to put his hand on Kyungsoo's belly and find the evidence that he'd been there. Chanyeol wraps himself around Kyungsoo, chest against his back, and springs a boner the moment his hand dips to the swing of belly pushing the elastic of Kyungsoo's briefs aside. Hands creep south, to the dark thatch of hair, and then to Kyungsoo's cock, already wet at the tip at Chanyeol's touch. Lately, Chanyeol likes to get him up on his knees in front of the mirror in the bathroom, still white with steam, pushing inside him unprotected, coming inside him, which Kyungsoo's going to miss, once this is over. But once is enough, one baby is all he's got in him, he thinks.

Maybe because of this, or maybe because they're doing it more often, the sex is better, somehow—even having to settle for hands and mouths, mostly, especially when it hurts Kyungsoo to be contorted in any sort of position or on his hands and knees for any length of time, but Chanyeol's gotten so, so good at knowing just what to do to get Kyungsoo worked up and begging for it, coming twice before Chanyeol rolls over to his side of the bed and finishes himself off.

"Thanks," Kyungsoo says, panting.

Chanyeol kisses his sweaty face, pink and pleased. "We're getting pretty good at that." He seems inordinately proud of himself for having gotten Kyungsoo to come twice in a row—a feat his unfertilized body never seemed to manage, not even back in high school when he had orgasms on a hair trigger.

"I seem to recall it was good in the first place. Isn't that how all of this got started?"

"You've never really smiled afterwards before."

Kyungsoo laughs. "Had to keep your motivation up. Couldn't let you be too comfortable or you'd just get lazy."

"I promise." Chanyeol kisses his neck, then his ear, then down his shoulder, on his way to finishing his sentence, "I will never be lazy about this. Your ass…" Channyeol says appreciatively, rubbing his palm over it. "Every time I see it I just want to—" and he slips a finger inside Kyungsoo just to listen to him whine through his nose. Kyungsoo wants Chanyeol to replace his fingers with his dick, but he's in no shape to hold any sort of position for enough time for either of them to come, and besides—the lube's back at Chanyeol's place.

"You say that now, but you're on 4AM feedings, so maybe you should revisit that after you've changed a couple diapers."

"Still won't care," Chanyeol says, and gets a look in his eyes like he's gearing up to get Kyungsoo to come a third time. "I know you told me not to say it because you didn't want me to feel like I had to, because of everything, but… I love you. I really do. I love this. I know this wasn't planned but I'm not sad about it. And I'm glad that we… we're trying this."

Kyungsoo looks up at him, wide-eyed at the sudden confession, a little slow and sex-stunned. "Hey," he says, and can't work it up to be cross at Chanyeol about anything anymore. "I'm glad, too."

 

 

★★★

The nursery finally starts to take shape around February. Kyungsoo's having marked difficulty getting to his feet in the mornings when it's so cold outside, but Chanyeol picks up the slack like a champion. He's always been decently skilled in home improvement. Kyungsoo remembers him building things on the weekends, picnic tables and fixing shelves around the house, so the crib from IKEA is a breeze to screw together. Kyungsoo finally rouses himself at ten, unable to sleep for the banging of nails into the wall, and comes in just as Chanyeol's hanging a picture. Kyungsoo nearly doesn't recognize it, and then he does, all at once—it's a sketch he made a few years ago when they were proposing logos for the band. He had no idea Chanyeol had kept it all these years. On the other wall, hanging above the crib, there's a set of three pictures featuring their three EP covers.

"This is so lame," Kyungsoo says, even as he reaches out to straighten the frame.

Chanyeol loops an arm around him, chuckling. "I think it's perfect."

"Yeah, maybe," Kyungsoo says, and then sighs. "I feel like shit." Nessie's been unusually active all day, too. His skin ripples, stretched taut across the arc of his stomach. Chanyeol's hands are large and warm. Even halfway through this pregnancy, the pop of Kyungsoo's belly still fits comfortably into his palm. Nessie settles in and stops fidgeting. This kid's not going to listen to a damn word Kyungsoo says, he can tell already. He closes his eyes and lets himself lean stiffly into the warmth of Chanyeol's chest.

"Go back to bed," Chanyeol says. "I'll come in in a few."

"Teaching today?"

"Mmm. A few lessons. I'll be done by four."

Kyungsoo can't sleep though, and walking sucks because his pelvis isn't meant to deal with this shit, so he sets up on the couch and listens to the twanging sound of beginners through the wall over the low volume of the television. It's been snowing all day, but Jongdae manages to trudge through the worst of the slush and comes over to keep him company.

He shows Jongdae the latest updates to the nursery (the framed artwork, the turquoise walls they'd finally compromised on) and the ultrasound and Jongdae gets a little choked up too. "Congrats, man," he says, pulling Kyungsoo into a bear hug. It doesn't quite work because the stomach gets in the way, but Kyungsoo clings back, letting Jongdae rub circles between his shoulder blades.

"You really are huge. You sure that isn't a Saint Bernard? Or twins?"

"It's just one. And shut up."

Chanyeol comes out at some point after his last lesson and catches them cuddling on the couch for warmth, only to shoo Jongdae away and sit in between them. Kyungsoo laughs and elbows him over and then Chanyeol pulls up his shirt to blow raspberries on his belly and Jongdae's nowhere to be found, just Chanyeol and Kyungsoo and the baby between them.

 

 

★★★

Mid-April, Chanyeol gets a call to come down to New York City and do some studio work for an executive they'd worked with briefly last year. He's excited because it's a chance to make some new contacts, and if he does well enough there'll be no shortage of work to follow. It's not quite as fulfilling as playing his own music, but it keeps him from going crazy listening to all the beginners hack their way through their rudiments.

The morning he's due in the city, his alarm wakes Kyungsoo up at an ungodly hour, who scowls when he catches Chanyeol staring at him, already wide awake.

"Hit snooze, asshole," Kyungsoo mutters, rolling over. "I don't need to be anywhere this early."

"I've got some time. I want to try something."

Chanyeol's hard all the time now, or so it seems. He's ready at the drop of a hat, always looking at Kyungsoo out of the corner of his eye, sizing him up. He's into this, the fullness of Kyungsoo's body, the way he's mellowed out and takes everything more slowly than he used to. He's also just… so grateful to Kyungsoo for doing this and being so good about it, every day, and shows it: foot massages, blow jobs, long conversations with Nessie, trying to get to know their son better.

"Mmm?" Kyungsoo cracks an eye open. His dick is spring loaded, already at attention. He knows it won't be this way forever and that soon they'll be too tired to do this, but for now it's comforting, trying to fit in all the sex they should've had before they conceived a kid.

His body is even more ungainly in this final month and balance is a questionable concept at best, but he lets his weight rest in his hip and thigh on the bed, hand splayed, knee turned over on the mattress for balance, and Chanyeol nudges inside him so slowly. Kyungsoo's eyes roll back in his head at the breech, already feeling full all the way to the small of his back. Chanyeol's large enough that every single time, the initial penetration stings like it's the first time. He grimaces, waiting for his body to ease up and invite Chanyeol the rest of the way in.

Chanyeol seems unconcerned. He knows, anyway, that Kyungsoo's uncomfortable and doesn't want to rush into anything. Gone are the days of rough-and-tumble sex, and instead it's easier between them, Chanyeol content to do most of the work making Kyungsoo feel good. He kisses his skin, slowly, mouthing at Kyungsoo's earlobe, lavishing him with slow, fond affection, his hips pushing a little further with each one of Kyungsoo's gasps that fade into contented murmuring.

"It's never going to be this good again," Kyungsoo warns him when he catches his breath. Chanyeol laughs, hand hooked under his arm and across his chest for leverage.

"It'll be better," Chanyeol promises, and pushes back into Kyungsoo so quickly that his toes curl.

They fuck. Kyungsoo doesn't know it yet but this will be the last time before everything changes. At the time, he's not thinking about anything except how good it feels. All he's thinking is oh, fuck, right there and the weird strain of his body as it tries to ejaculate again and fails, time and again, a chain of orgasms that seems to go on so long that Kyungsoo feels woozy from it when Chanyeol finally removes his mouth and presses a kiss into the overhang of belly. There's a strange tightness in his lower back that doesn't go away even as he shifts positions.

"I think you made me come so hard I pulled a muscle," Kyungsoo murmurs, drowsy. "My back hurts now."

Chanyeol grins, inordinately pleased. "Mission accomplished."

"I miss having real sex all the time." He settles back against the pillows, face scrunching, waiting for the ache to subside.

"Here, roll over a little bit, let me rub your back. I've got a few more minutes before the taxi's here," Chanyeol offers, and then Kyungsoo doesn't remember much after that, just snatches of a conversation he's barely present for—Chanyeol's kiss on his brow, whispering goodbye, smelling like a fresh shower and too much cologne. "I'll call you when I get in," he murmurs. "Go back to sleep. Jongdae's coming over later to check on you," then the same repeated for Nessie, down below the covers.



But he's awake again hours later, a cottony mouth, feeling heartburn and a weird spasm in his lower back. He waits, and it slowly ebbs away as he concentrates on relaxing. He's got to be sleeping on it funny. His position options are limited at this late stage in the game. His body is not built for this, and there are only so many pillows you can fit on a full size bed before you run out of space. Plus—that sex was practically acrobatic, considering his flexibility lately. He's built like a truck at the moment. He closes his eyes and dozes, face buried in the pillow that smells like Chanyeol, only to wake up to it again. Finally, it clicks.

"Oh," he says, hand sliding over his stomach. "Really? Now?"



It had never occurred to him that Chanyeol would be anywhere else but right beside him when he went into labor. He thought it'd be fine for Chanyeol to take this gig in New York—they both did—because Kyungsoo's not scheduled for his surgery for another two weeks, but here he is, gripping at the edge of the dresser during a contraction, a cold sweat breaking out down his neck.

He looks at the clock. Chanyeol had taken an early flight out of Logan instead of the drive, so he's definitely there by now, but he doesn't answer his phone when Kyungsoo calls, and he's not responding to text messages, either. So Chanyeol's somewhere in New York, with spotty cell service, and Kyungsoo's in the early stages of labor.

He drags himself out of bed and takes a shower, because he knows it'll be the last one he can take for a while. Another contraction hits and he has to double over in the tub, holding onto the hot water tap for dear life until it subsides. They're increasing in frequency, less than an hour apart, down from ninety minutes earlier.

He calls Baekhyun next, who notes, laughing all the while, that he knew something must have been seriously wrong to merit being the first phone call. He comes by, leaves his car running in a fire lane and helps Kyungsoo into it. He doesn't even complain when he has to turn the car around the block and double back because they'd both forgotten Kyungsoo's overnight bag from where it sat by the front door for this very occasion. Chanyeol'd packed this bag two months ago, back when they'd scheduled the c-section, even though at the time Kyungsoo had felt a bit like it was tempting fate to leave it there. Still, Nessie's early, but not unreasonably so. Probably better to have him a bit early, with the likelihood of his weight growing with each day. They both know the conception date—they'd only needed one night for it to take. Chanyeol's still inordinately proud of that success rate.

For all his jokes, Baekhyun's great company. He lets Kyungsoo yell at him and squeeze his hand, he makes sure the nurses come to check on him, and he calls Chanyeol six times before he gives up the direct route and goes for the recording studio instead. Jongdae arrives shortly thereafter to help Kyungsoo through the intake process, filling out the proper forms and carrying his bag when they finally find a room for him.

It's a waiting game. He'd eaten before he got to the hospital, only to find out that they wouldn't perform a c-section right away if he's got a full stomach unless it's an emergency, which it's not—yet. They can wait a few hours. So Kyungsoo naps, sort of, and there's a long stretch of time where it feels like nothing's happening at all. He'd thought it would be easy, that Nessie would be here by now. The nurses keep telling him things like "not long now" but they aren't prepping him for surgery, so it's longer than he wants it to be.

"Are you going to name him Nessie?" Baekhyun asks, in between contractions, coming steadily every fifteen minutes now. Kyungsoo glares at him.

"I can't believe that nickname has lasted the whole way through."

"You guys started it," Jongdae points out. "We just went with it."

He wants to argue, but instead leans forward in the shitty hospital bed and whines through his nose as another one hits. This one's so painful that he grips onto the edge of the bed and screeches through his teeth, wishing Chanyeol were here. Baekhyun rubs his back through it, hand braced on his lower back, encouraging him.

"Don't do that," Kyungsoo says, out of breath, when he gets a minute. "Don't do that, you're freaking me out. Don't be nice to me."

"You're in pain."

"And you're an asshole."

"I do have the ability to turn it off."

"Oh, now you tell me."



Chanyeol finally calls somewhere around the three hour mark. All the missed call notifications and the text messages had come sliding into his inbox all at once. "I'm on my way back," he says, sounding frantic. "I'm in a cab heading to the airport right now. I'll be there in a few hours. Don't do anything without me."

"Too late," Kyungsoo says. "I'm putting Baekhyun on the birth certificate."

"I'm serious," Chanyeol says. "You've already had nine months with him, it's not fair if you get a head start meeting him, too."

"I'm not ready. We don't have a name. We never talked about it. We can't call him Nessie," Kyungsoo says, blubbering again, his chest heaving with sobs. He's scared, sort of. He'd thought Chanyeol would be here for this, that Chanyeol would be holding his hand and talking him down instead of a voice on the phone. Baekhyun and Jongdae are great, they've always been great, but they're not Chanyeol, they'll never be Chanyeol.

And he realizes—

"I love you," he says, finally, finally, sobbing harder. "I love you."

"I know," Chanyeol says. "Hey, it's okay. I love you too. Just hang on, okay?"

"Okay."

"You're going to be okay. Baekhyun and Jongdae can keep my seat warm. I'll fly the plane back myself if I have to. I'm not missing this. Just hang on."



In a quiet moment between contractions, he calls Yura, just to check in. "Hi," she says, her voice sweet and soft. "Chanyeol already called. Do I have a nephew yet?"

"Not yet," Kyungsoo says. "I wish you were going to be here to meet him."

"I've got this work thing tonight but then I'll be up on the next train, I promise. And I'm going to spoil him rotten, Kyungsoo. I'm the first phone call after he's born," she says. "I want pictures. I want a name."

"Alright," he promises. "I'll make sure Chanyeol remembers. I'm going to be too out of it."

"I'm so excited for you guys. I'm so glad you finally worked it out. I couldn't have asked for a better brother-in-law. You know I always wanted it to be you. I hoped you'd get there eventually."

"Good," he says. "You'll always be his favorite aunt."

"Does it hurt?" she asks. "Wait, stupid question. I know it does."

"Like hell," he confirms. "They undersold it, if anything."

"They're going to have to knock me out," she says.

"I asked. Apparently they don't offer that anymore," Kyungsoo says.

"No?"

"No."

"Well, fuck. Just hit me with a brick, then."



Time accelerates with his labor. He goes from fifteen minutes between contractions to three, and he can't remember when the nurse last came in to check on him, but she's standing at the foot of his bed now, her hands on her hips. "We're ready to take you back now."

"I want to wait," Kyungsoo says, panting. The contractions are coming in waves now, stronger, overlapping at the edges. The nurse raises her eyebrows.

"We can't wait any longer, Mr. Do, the baby's going into distress because the labor isn't progressing. Weakened vital signs, weakened pulse... you need to get into the surgical suite right away."

"I can't—no, we don't have a name for him yet. We never decided on one, but we can't call him Nessie, because that's stupid, and Chanyeol said Kraken but that's even stupider, and I never got around to reading the baby name book, and—"

"—I'm sorry, Mr Do, but the baby—"

"Please. Just a little longer. The father, he's out of town—but he's on his way back, and I want—I want him to be here, I don't want to have to go in with Baekhyun, he's being really nice and it's freaking me out, and I just miss Chanyeol—"

"It's okay, I'm here," Chanyeol says, appearing like Kyungsoo had finally discovered the correct invocation to summon him. He's out of breath, jacket unzipped, his hair mussed and flying in all directions. He's running on pure adrenaline and he smells like an airplane and he's got the ghost of a five o'clock shadow on his chin. He looks desperately sexy and so wonderful, the best thing Kyungsoo's ever seen in his entire life, or maybe that's just the morphine talking.

"We can go now," Kyungsoo tells the nurse, like he had a say in the matter at all anyway, and she smiles at him, and then at Chanyeol.

"Glad you made it, Dad," she says. "Ready to meet your son?"

"We're ready," he says, and falls in step next to the gurney. He slips his hand around Kyungsoo and squeezes. "Thanks for waiting."

He disappears when they get into the surgical suite because the nurse has to find a gown big enough to fit him. He appears at Kyungsoo's bedside after a moment, a huge cap over his hair, his wide, twinkling eyes peering over the mask. Kyungsoo smiles at him when he squeezes his hand. This is it. They've been talking about him—Nessie—for months, but these are the last few seconds they'll have when it's just the two of them, before it becomes the three of them. Chanyeol seems to sense Kyungsoo's excitement, his trepidation. His voice trembles a little, but his eyes are damp and his grin from ear to ear is infectious.

"This was fun," Chanyeol says, holding Kyungsoo's hand. He cups his face with the other, strokes his cheek, runs his finger down the bridge of Kyungsoo's ski jump nose. "Doing this with you. You're amazing."

"Same time next year?" Kyungsoo jokes weakly, trying to ignore the heavy tugging sensation in his lower half behind the dividing curtain as the surgeons work. He wants a million kids with Chanyeol, all of them with that perfect smile, his stupid bowed legs and his ears, a huge family of Park Chanyeols in perfect miniature. Kyungsoo feels like the luckiest man alive in this moment. Chanyeol laughs, looking like he's going to cry again, and busies himself with brushing the sweaty hair off Kyungsoo's forehead.

"Let's deal with this sea monster first, yeah?

Kyungsoo opens his mouth to answer, but a baby's cry replies.





When he wakes up later, he's back in his hospital room. He feels fine—until he tries to sit up a little further, and then he feels the searing ache of his stitches stretching across his abdomen. He's not going to be trying that again any time soon.

"Shh, don't move."

Chanyeol's sitting by the bed with a large bundle of blankets nestled in the crook of his elbow. He gives a sheepish glance at the empty bassinet beside him. "I know he's sleeping, but I just wanted to hold him," he says. Kyungsoo lifts his arms, wincing as the pain returns.

"Give him to me," he says, beckoning weakly. "My turn."

Chanyeol obliges, moving carefully to set him down in Kyungsoo's arms. It takes Kyungsoo's breath away, looking down at their son. He's so very tiny, with a full head of downy black hair and Chanyeol's nose, Chanyeol's trumpet bell ears. Kyungsoo's assumptions had been right: he's a gorgeous baby. Or maybe that's just the endorphins, or that beautiful way that he smells when Kyungsoo bends to kiss him, right on the top of his head.

"So do we have any ideas for names?" Chanyeol asks, reaching over to stroke his finger against the baby's round cheek. "Seems unfair he's been on this earth for hours and nobody's given him one."

Kyungsoo can't tear his eyes away. "You've finally given up on calling him Nessie?"

"I figure he deserves a chance at not getting his ass kicked at school," Chanyeol says. Kyungsoo looks over at him, still weary, noticing how exhausted Chanyeol looks after the day he's had, but also how blissfully happy he is, too. "Hey. Good job," Chanyeol says quietly, the way he used to say after their shows, clumsy, mouth colliding with the shell of Kyungsoo's ear on his way to his temple. Baby Nessie—jesus, Chanyeol's right, they've got to come up with a real name for him now that he's actually here—opens his eyes, snuffles, and even years later, Kyungsoo swears that he goes back to sleep with a smile on his face.

 

★★★

So it turns out they're both wrong.

They don't disband, but it takes a long time and a generous offer from Baekhyun's sister-in-law to babysit before they're able to get back to writing songs again. Baekhyun and Jongdae take turns babysitting him too, spending time at the apartment, helping Kyungsoo with the baby when Chanyeol's called away to New York for another studio session. Kyungsoo's first week out of the hospital, he spends a lot of time in bed recovering from the surgery, and Jongdae's right there when Chanyeol returns to teaching lessons, making up Minsu's bottle, setting him down in his bassinet when he finally settles enough to sleep.

"You still thinking about keeping your place as somewhere to escape?" Jongdae asks, sitting on the end of Kyungsoo's bed during a rare quiet moment. Kyungsoo laughs.

"It'd make for decent storage. Look at all the baby clothes Chanyeol keeps buying. And the fans—look—" He points at a box on the changing table. It's a tiny onesie with their logo on it, fan made. There's a pair of baby-sized skinny jeans in there, too, to complete the infant rocker look.

"So everything's been going well?" Jongdae asks.

"It's—yeah, it's pretty cool, actually," Kyungsoo tells him. "Turns out Chanyeol might be a keeper."

Yura sends them a massive box of diapers of assorted sizes, practically enough to get them through the first year. When she finally arrives she clucks at them until they let her hold Minsu, his head nestled safely against her shoulder as she rocks him to sleep and coos over him and kisses his wispy, fine baby hair.

"Your sister's going to steal him," Kyungsoo says to Chanyeol, watching her pace the nursery, rubbing his back with her open palm as she tries to coax a burp out of him. "She hasn't put him down since she got here."

Chanyeol starts teaching his lessons with Minsu strapped to his chest. Minsu loves it—frets, even, when Kyungsoo comes to collect him in the afternoon for a feeding.

"This is unjust," Kyungsoo says as Minsu's tiny voice raises into a squalling fuss. Chanyeol retrieves him, bouncing him to the beat of the music until he settles. He's giggling by the time Chanyeol's done with him, squealing incoherent syllables, still too young to form words. Chanyeol keeps trying to get him to say Jerry—as in Garcia—as his first word, and Kyungsoo puts his foot down, insisting that his son will not be sullied at such a young age by jam bands.

"I told you he was going to like me best," Chanyeol says, grinning, bending to kiss Kyungsoo on the mouth. "You kept blaming him for every time you were an asshole, and now you're reaping what you sowed."

Minsu makes a noise that sounds an awful lot like he's agreeing with Chanyeol. Kyungsoo laughs, kisses them both, and goes back out into the living room. His last box of stuff arrived from the old apartment this morning, and he's going to have to think creatively if he's going to find a place to put it all.

 

 

★★★