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Sickly Sweet Synths

Chapter Text

 The quiet was so loud. The bitter greens were also acetous on the tongue. Though the meat burst with flavours, its rigidness was a pain to the teeth. The cook needed to be replaced. But it was a topic Sehun dared not broach since Mr Kim had been cooking for the Park family for over four decades. Mr Kim was an old man, he could barely stand straight. He should have retired years ago. He was practically part of the family—not Sehun’s family, though. Nobody in this house was his family.

The meat was overdone, the green beans overcooked. Sehun gritted his teeth and clenched the fork. He raised his head and glanced at Chanyeol on the other end of the long table. They always sat far apart, on the opposite of one another. And the lack of proximity was not only physical.

Chanyeol had his attention elsewhere, as usual. It was neither on the food nor Sehun. He was scowling at his phone. He looked stressed, his eyebrows furrowed, and jaw taut. Sehun never understood what was the need to eat together if they were just going to ignore each other’s existence.

He cleared his throat and swilled some wine before speaking. “How’s the food?” he asked diffidently.

Chanyeol’s eyes flicked up from his phone and he raised an eyebrow in surprise. “Good,” he muttered and picked up his fork. “Good.”

Sehun nodded his head and licked his lips. “Is everything okay?” he asked. “You look… tense.”

“Yeah,” he huffed and took a look at his phone again. “It’s work. Excuse me.” He rose from his seat and Sehun stared at him. “I might have to work all night. Good night.”

Sehun bit his tongue. “Good night,” he said, but Chanyeol had already stormed out of the dining room. Clenching his teeth, Sehun furiously sawed through the meat. He paused as his eyes fell on the gold wedding band around his finger.

They had said their vows. They had made their promises. But neither planned on keeping them.

He thought of the first time he had met Chanyeol. That was some four months ago. However, it felt like he barely knew the man he had been married to for almost three months. He knew nothing about Chanyeol except for what his Wikipedia page said about him and his famed family. Well, he had eventually understood that Chanyeol was a workaholic and his company was his utmost priority. That was a given, considering the Park family’s background.

Why did Mr and Mrs Park see the need to get such a man married, if their only son had absolutely no interest in having a family of his own? It was either that or Chanyeol really did not fancy Sehun. It had been a marriage of convenience for them both. Sehun was indifferent towards the man when he was told that he would marry him. Chanyeol’s parents were interested in the prestige that came along with Sehun’s name and family, and Sehun’s parents had been keen on the supremacy that Chanyeol’s family entailed.

It wasn’t all bad. Sehun had learned and gotten used to entertaining himself in this manor, which was too huge for two men and a handful of servants after Chanyeol’s parents went away for their tour around Europe, while Chanyeol always busied himself with work. He was mostly absent during the day and when he returned home at night, he’d have dinner with Sehun in silence and later, they’d go to bed. Sharing a bed with Chanyeol was another nightmare. But they had both gotten used to it. Sehun often came close to bringing up the idea of sleeping separately. But then he remembered they had to put on an act like a happily married couple in front of their families.

Being around his husband often suffocated him. Not only did he struggle for words, he was also conscious of how much Chanyeol struggled to even manage a small smile for Sehun. It would not have been so awkward if only Chanyeol had been the kind of man that was easy to approach. Chanyeol’s personality was cold, unforgiving. He was even scary at times. Sehun thought it would be best to steer clear of his way.

As a child, Sehun was accustomed to loneliness. Apart from the servants back home, he had no real friends. No one was good enough to be his friend, his parents often told him. His classmates, who came from quite prestigious families, weren’t good enough. The first boy Sehun had had a crush on in high school wasn’t good enough either. His date to the senior prom wasn’t good enough. Now that he was married to a guy who was indeed more than good enough, he wasn’t happy.

After dinner, Sehun lounged on the couch in the living area and idly stared at the dead TV. He then glanced at the wall clock. Almost 9 p.m.

He exhaled a sigh and pulled his legs up, hugging his knees to his chest. He looked around the grand space before gazing up at the crystal chandelier. A servant quietly ascended the stairs, bearing a bottle of a whiskey. Must be to restock the liquor cart in the bedroom.

His eyes darted to Mr Kim when he saw the old man ambling towards the front door. “Mr Kim,” he called from the couch and the man turned to him with a frail smile. “Heading home?”

Mr Kim approached him, nodding his head. He always wore the same brown shirt and black pants. Sehun had never seen him in anything else. For all that he knew, Mr Kim wasn’t exactly poverty-stricken. He had been in the past, but he earned well now and his son even worked for Chanyeol at the company. The Park family looked out for Mr Kim and his family now. Sehun had heard all about how penurious Mr Kim had been before Chanyeol’s grandfather had appointed him as the cook. Mr Kim had struggled to provide his family. Through all the hardship, he had managed to get his son good education—of course, in the graces and mercy of Chanyeol’s family.

“Did you need something, Master Sehun?” the old man asked.

“No,” Sehun said, grinning. “Your son isn’t here to pick you up yet.”

“I know. I thought I’d wait for him on the patio,” he said.

“It’s cold out there.” Sehun patted the couch beside him, prompting Mr Kim to take a seat. The man sat, though keeping his distance from Sehun. Mr Kim knew he was still a servant regardless of his familiarity in this house. Sehun laughed.

“Am I making you uncomfortable, Mr Kim?” he asked.

“No! No, Master Sehun,” the man said quickly. “I am sorry if I made you feel so.”

They sat in silence for a moment. Mr Kim kept his head hung low as Sehun smiled at the old man, realizing he had never actually said more than a sentence to the man at a time in all these months he had been living here.

The doorbell rang and Mr Kim sprung up to his feet. A servant hurried to get the door.

“I shall take my leave,” Mr Kim said and bowed his head at Sehun.

Smiling, Sehun nodded his head before he picked himself up from the couch. He accompanied Mr Kim to the door, looking at Chanyeol who was climbing down the stairs with his hands in the pockets of his pants.

“Kai,” Chanyeol called.

Sehun turned his gaze to Kai at the doorway, who held an arm out to his father. Sehun looked up at Kai’s dishevelled hair and his limpid eyes. His necktie had come loose, his dress shirt was untucked from his pants. He looked exhausted, sleepy. He must have worked overtime tonight, too. But he still smiled cheerily at his best friend.

“Here,” Chanyeol said and tossed a thumb drive over to him. “The files you asked for.”

“Thanks,” Kai chimed and pocketed the thumb drive.

“Did you even eat today, you bastard?” Chanyeol asked, scowling. “You look like shit.”

Kai rolled his eyes. “I’m not ten. I can look after myself, Mr CEO. Come on, dad.” He started ushering his father towards the car. “Night.” He then saluted at Chanyeol with two of his fingers.

Closing the door, Chanyeol turned to face Sehun, who crossed his arms over his chest. Sehun only heard Chanyeol talk so much when he was around Kai. He even laughed once in a while when he was with Kai. That could not be helped, Sehun supposed. Kai was Chanyeol’s closest friend and they’d known each other since childhood. Sehun was just a stranger that was now sharing a house with Chanyeol. And Kai, too, hung out with Chanyeol like they were equals, even though Chanyeol was both his and his father’s employer.

“Why hasn’t Mr Kim retired yet?” Sehun asked right when Chanyeol turned to walk away.

He turned and pinned Sehun with a perplexed look. “What?”

“I mean, he’s old… His son can take care of him now, can’t he? He doesn’t have to work anymore.”

Chanyeol sighed and proceeded towards the stairs. “That’s up to him. He wishes to continue working here for as long as he is able.”

“Oh,” Sehun murmured and fell silent again. He fished his phone out of his pocket when it buzzed violently. He bit his lip, grinning when he read the text message saying, Kiss kiss baby. Good night :)

* * *

The morning was also quieter than the night. Chanyeol was always extra careful to not to wake Sehun up in the morning as he got ready for work. Sehun stirred under the covers and rubbed his eyes on the back of his hands before he cracked one open to look at his husband.

Chanyeol stood before the full-length mirror, tightening the necktie. He pulled the shirt collar down before adjusting the cufflinks. Sehun sat up against the headboard and inhaled the fresh scent of Chanyeol’s aftershave that he usually woke up to these days.

Grabbing his coat from the closet, Chanyeol eyed Sehun through the mirror before he turned around to face his husband. “Did I wake you?” he asked.

Sehun shook his head and yawned, shoving the covers aside. Did Chanyeol even sleep here last night? He often slept in his study. Sehun didn’t really care.

“I’ll be home late,” said Chanyeol on his way out.

“Okay,” Sehun muttered, sitting up on the edge of the bed.

Chanyeol was waiting at the door, staring at Sehun. “I… um, do you have plans for dinner tonight?” he asked and Sehun’s eyes widened.

“Tonight?” he echoed, shaking his head. Did Chanyeol really think Sehun made plans for dinner?

“Do you like Italian?”

“Sure,” Sehun said, still confused. Why was he asking? Did he want to take Sehun out for dinner for a change? A date? They had never been to a single date…

“It’s a dinner meeting. Everyone’s bringing their spouses. You can come along if you want to,” Chanyeol said and Sehun’s heart sank.

“Oh.” He licked his chapped lips and rose from the bed. “Sure,” he repeated, shrugging.

Nodding his head curtly, Chanyeol left the room, shutting the door behind him.

Sehun turned to the bathroom, sighing heavily, and after, he exited the bedroom, still clothed in the white dress shirt and pair of boxers he went to bed with. He picked his way to the kitchen and realized Mr Kim wasn’t around.

He grabbed a tub of ice-cream from the refrigerator and a spoon.

“Where’s Mr Kim?” he asked when he found a servant in the living room.

She looked at him and bowed. “I am not sure, Master Sehun,” she said.

Sehun huffed and plumped heavily on the couch. “No breakfast, then?” he mumbled, turning the TV on. He scooped a spoonful of ice-cream and moaned as it melted in the heat of his mouth.

“I can make something,” the servant offered.

“I’m kidding,” Sehun laughed. “I can make my own breakfast for one day.”

The servant still looked terrified, as though Sehun were about to strangle her. She eventually slinked away as Sehun turned his attention to the TV. He wondered if Mr Kim had fallen ill. Did Chanyeol know he wasn’t going to come in today? Was that why he thought he’d take Sehun out for dinner? Because the cook wasn’t around?

“How romantic…” he groaned begrudgingly as he coursed through the channels.

He was halfway through the tub of ice-cream when the doorbell shrieked. Mr Kim usually used the backdoor when he came in the morning. Who was that, then?

Sehun perked his head and looked at Kai who sauntered in, already engaged in a conversation with the servant who got the door. “I mean, tell him I said hello,” he told the servant, chuckling.

“Of course, Kai,” the servant said, grinning at him. Kai, clad in his black shirt, had the sleeves rolled up to the elbows. The watch on his left wrist completed the look. Though he wore a necktie, he always had the top button undone. His hair was gelled and swept neatly. His cologne always smelled nice, intoxicating.

“Hey, Sehun,” he said, waving once when he spotted Sehun on the couch. “Chanyeol forgot some stuff. He told me to get them on my way to the office. Oh, and dad’s not feeling well. I hope you can survive on grilled cheese and apples for one day,” he joked.

Sehun shrugged and returned his gaze to the TV as Kai leaped up the stairs to Chanyeol’s study. Sehun sat up on the couch and swallowed another spoon of ice-cream before he glanced around. All the servants were busy with their morning chores. Letting out a heavy breath, Sehun got up and slowly wended his way upstairs, leaving the ice-cream on the coffee table.

He stopped before his bedroom, leaning against the doorframe. Kai walked out of the study with a couple of folders in his hand. His eyes flitted to Sehun at once and a cocky smirk tugged at a corner of his lips. Sehun folded his arms over his chest as Kai approached him.

“Is that Chanyeol’s shirt?” Kai asked, jerking his chin towards the shirt Sehun was in.

Sehun scoffed, rolling his eyes. He grabbed hold of Kai’s necktie and yanked him into the bedroom. “Why? Are you jealous?”

Kai sighed and kicked the door shut behind them. “People will ask questions if I showed up at work smelling and looking like sex so early in the morning,” he whispered as Sehun shoved him against the door, hands desperately fumbling to undo Kai’s necktie.

“Like I care,” Sehun grumbled, hurriedly unbuttoning Kai’s shirt.

Kai smirked as Sehun pulled his shirt apart and ran his hands down Kai’s abs. Then hooking his fingers into the waistband of Kai’s pants, Sehun hauled him forward. He kept his hand on the belt buckle even as Kai shoved him onto the bed and climbed atop. Sehun spread his knees apart when Kai pressed himself against Sehun’s cock.

“You really want to get fucked, don’t you?” Kai purred, grabbing Sehun’s wrists before pinning them to the bed.

“You have no idea. You’ve been ignoring me lately,” Sehun whined, bucking his hips to grind against Kai.

“You don’t know how exhausting it is to be around you,” he muttered as he slowly bowed his head, leaning towards Sehun’s parted lips.

Frowning, Sehun asked, “What? Why… would you say that?”

“It takes me all of my strength to restrain myself and pretend like I’m okay with the fact that you’re my best friend’s husband.”

“Kai,” Sehun said, scowling now.

“Yeah, yeah. You don’t want to talk about it,” he sighed and released Sehun’s wrists. He straightened up and knelt between Sehun’s thighs to unbuckle his belt. Sehun sank his teeth in his bottom lip, eagerly watching Kai as a ferocious fire rose in the pit of his stomach. He pushed himself up and kissed the fine trail of hair below Kai’s navel as Kai undid the rest of his pants’ fly.

Discarding his shirt on the floor, Kai shoved Sehun to recline on the bed again. Sehun snorted at him. “And I thought you didn’t wanna fuck so early in the morning.”

“When have I ever denied anything you’ve asked for?” Kai said coyly and descended upon Sehun. He pressed a kiss to Sehun’s jaw first and then dragged his lips along the jawline while Sehun wound his arms around Kai’s warm body. His heart leaped in a lustful excitement when he felt Kai harden against his crotch.

Their lips met in a fervent kiss. Kai always kissed Sehun like he was taking an oath, like he was pouring his soul into the kiss. His hot lips had become Sehun’s comfort. Even though it had been less than two months since any of this had started, they had each other’s body memorized, etched to their own.

Sehun now lived for the brief moment his skin smelled like Kai instead of himself.

“God, fuck me,” Sehun rasped when Kai broke the kiss to let him catch his breath. Kai smiled down at Sehun’s throbbing, swollen lips.

“So impatient.”

“Only because you love teasing,” Sehun hissed, sliding a hand between their hips to palm Kai’s cock over the fabric of his pants. A ragged moan broke from Kai’s throat. His hand slithered into Sehun’s shirt and he enjoyed feeling the warmth of Sehun’s skin as he always did for a moment. Then he shifted to flop Sehun onto his stomach.

“Try not to scream too loud. Wouldn’t want the servants to hear you moaning like a whore, would you?” Kai purred into Sehun’s ear and earned himself an encouraging moan from Sehun. He drew a hand along Sehun’s spine and gripped Sehun’s ass.

“Jesus, Kai,” Sehun moaned and bit the sheets as Kai yanked his boxers down and glided lower to kiss Sehun’s tailbone before sliding his tongue down the ass crack.

* * *

“I should get going,” Kai murmured tiredly as they lay on the bed, spent and exhausted, tangled in the sheets. “I’m about to tell my boss that I took the longest shit in history.”

Sehun laughed, his head resting on Kai’s sweaty, bare chest. “Is your dad okay?” he asked, drawing aimless patterns on Kai’s abs with his forefinger.

“Yeah. He called me earlier and said that he was light-headed.”

“I don’t think he really likes me,” Sehun whispered, pressing a kiss to Kai’s neck.

“He’s just protective of Chanyeol.”

Sehun laughed again. “Imagine his reaction if he finds out that I’m fucking his son.”

Kai did not find that funny. He continued to stare expressionlessly at the ceiling. “Is that what we’re doing? Are we just… fucking?” he asked in a low voice.

Sehun kept mum. He really hoped not. But he didn’t exactly know what Kai’s intentions were. They couldn’t be more than just this. “I don’t know,” he muttered at length. Kai exhaled a heavy breath. “I don’t think Chanyeol and I will ever be… you know, happy together. It has to end, right?”

“I can’t say that I’m pinning my hopes on that,” Kai said and Sehun brought his head up to frown at him. “He married you, after all.”

“Because his parents told him to.”

“Because they didn’t want him to be miserable forever,” Kai said.

Sehun arched an eyebrow. “Miserable?”

Kai shook his head and sat up. Sehun caught his arm before Kai could climb out of the bed.

“I asked you before. But you ignored me. Why is he like this?” Sehun asked. “Why marry me if he doesn’t want to be married in the first place? Is he in love with someone else?”

Kai dropped his head.

“That’s it?” Sehun spat, scowling. “It is, isn’t it? He likes someone else? Then why the fuck would he marry me?!”

“It’s… more complicated than that.” Kai rose from the bed and started pulling his boxers on. Sehun glowered hard at him. “Why aren’t you with me?”

“Huh?”

Kai cleared his throat and repeated, “Why aren’t you with me? Why not just leave Chanyeol and be with me?”

“Because… I’m… married,” Sehun said weakly. “And… Chanyeol is your friend, your employer…”

Kai let out a lifeless laugh. “No, those are excuses. You won’t be with me because of my status.”

Sehun frowned, but he did not try to argue.

“And that’s the reason for Chanyeol’s misery,” Kai added.

Now, Sehun grimaced at Kai. “What? Does he like you or something?”

That had Kai guffawing as he buckled his belt after yanking his pants on. “He loved someone… since high school.” He paused and licked his lips. “You can’t say anything to Chanyeol about this, okay?”

“Easy,” Sehun scoffed, shrugging. “We don’t even talk.”

Kai perched on the bed again and took hold of Sehun’s hand. “He was in a relationship with this guy for so many years. I used to envy Chanyeol because, I mean, the guy literally had… has everything,” he corrected, looking at Sehun. “When the word finally got around, your fucking mother and father-in-law tried to end it before it could become a scandal… Chanyeol fought back. But eventually, he agreed to let go of his love. It involved a lot of threats and blackmails from his parents…”

Sehun scooted closer and rested his chin on Kai’s shoulder. “Why were they against it?”

“Status,” Kai snorted. “The boy Chanyeol loved was from a bloody crazy family. His father was a drunkard, his mother had run away when he was a kid. He grew up in a difficult environment. He volunteered every now and then at the school Chanyeol studied at. As a janitor… So, that’s how everything happened…”

“Where is he now?”

Kai was silent for a moment. “He… took his life.”

Sehun pulled away, his heart clenching painfully. He suddenly found it difficult to breathe. He swallowed he lump in his throat before speaking. “Wh-Why?”

“I mean, if life was so damn shitty and dark, and suddenly, one day, you find one little ray of sunshine, you’d want to hold onto it forever, won’t you? Chanyeol left him and… I guess his ray of sunshine died out.”

Sehun dropped his gaze. His chest tightened. How could someone live on with such guilt and grief? They must be killing Chanyeol every single second of his life. He looked at his wedding ring and his stomach clenched. Chanyeol must be suffocating, too.

“Do you think… he still loves him?” Sehun asked.

Kai jolted up to his feet and buttoned his shirt up. “He would have moved on with you if he didn’t,” he said.

“How are you so sure?”

Kai tipped Sehun’s chin up and brushed their lips together. “I just am,” he breathed against Sehun’s lips before straightening up. “Can I see you tonight?”

Sehun nodded immediately. “Oh… Chanyeol is taking me out to dinner, though,” he said, eyebrows furrowing.

“Oh,” Kai muttered, his face wilting at once. “It’s okay, then.”

“No, no,” Sehun rasped, kneeling up on the bed to help Kai tie the necktie. “I’ll meet you after that.”

“My apartment?”

“You got it, handsome,” Sehun mumbled, grinning. He leaned in for one last kiss once he was done with the necktie.

Chapter Text

In spite of the constant worry that had his stomach in granny knots, he was overwhelmed by the eagerness. As exciting as this was, it was also agitating.

He had spent almost an hour primping himself to look good. Crisp denim shirt, Versace. Sleek black trousers, Balmain. Marine Chronometer watch, Ulysse Nardin. His hair, neatened and gelled. He even wore his best cologne, Clive Christian. Not that his husband had noticed any of them.

Sehun curled his hands on his knees as Chanyeol pulled the car over. He gazed out the window and stared at the parking lot of the restaurant, L’Arcangelo, teeming with showy, shiny cars.

This was one of those lavish streets that homed staggers of fancy restaurants, which was only reachable to the haves. Sehun was no stranger to this kind of places. But he had not been out for dinners since he got married. This was their first date.

For some odd reason, it thrilled him.

A click snapped him out of his crock of thoughts, and he looked over to Chanyeol, who had unfastened both of their seatbelts.

“Let’s go,” Chanyeol muttered without meeting Sehun’s eyes and climbed out of the car to hand the keys to the valet.

Sehun quickly followed, sighing. Unlike his indifferent, unobservant husband, Sehun took note of how handsome Chanyeol was tonight. It did not particularly seem like he had made an extra effort for their first date. Or for Sehun.

The restaurant was one of the most extravagant ones Sehun had been to. Even from the outside, it extravasated its opulence into the rest of the dull, uninteresting world.

“This way, Mr Park,” a waiter said, directing them toward their reserved table by the window.

It was a beautiful corner, a nice big table. Sehun could feel his heart pounding.

Chanyeol took his seat after pulling out a chair for Sehun, which was one of the nicest gestures Chanyeol had shown to him.

The waiter returned with a menu.

“We’ll order the food in a while,” Chanyeol told him. “Just bring us two glasses of the 2004 Château Lafite Rothschild Pauillac.”

Sehun almost wanted to say that he was hungry and that he would like some food. But he didn’t. The silence settled between them comfortably as always. Chanyeol averted his attention to his phone, not that he was giving Sehun any before, anyway.

Sehun let himself submerge in the ambient music while scanning the restaurant. There were all sorts of rich men and women. Mostly middle-aged. Most of the men were portly, old. Ugly. Some did not have their wedding rings on. Sehun briefly looked at his ring. Then he looked at Chanyeol’s. Did Chanyeol ever look at it? Did he repulse wearing it?

He loved someone since high school.

Could Kai be right about Chanyeol still grieving? Sehun wanted to know for himself. Could he really still be in love with that other person? Even after so long?

Sehun bobbed his head softly to the music, staring at the waiter who was bringing them their wine.

“There you go,” the waiter said, placing the glasses down.

Sehun picked up the wineglass and the contents a gentle swirl. Bringing it to his lips, he inhaled the sweet-scented fragrance of the wine. He could almost taste its finesse on his tongue.

Come Back to Sorrento,” Sehun said under his breath.

Chanyeol lifted his eyes and looked at Sehun with his eyebrows drawn together in confusion. “Excuse me?” he asked.

Sehun cleared his throat once he had swallowed the sweet, velvety liquid. “The song,” he said, pointing his finger up at the ceiling. He felt stupid for doing that, so he quickly lowered his finger.

“Oh,” was all that Chanyeol said before he dropped his eyes back to his phone.

Sehun exhaled heavily and tossed the wine back, draining the wineglass in a single gulp. Chanyeol looked up at him again, this time with a judgmental glare.

“Can we order?” Sehun asked.

Chanyeol stared at him for a moment. “Are you hungry?” he then asked, his expression softening.

“Yeah,” Sehun said. “I hadn’t had any lunch. Mr Kim did not show up today.”

Chanyeol did not argue. He never did. Because arguing meant making conversation with Sehun. He never had any interest in exchanging more than a few words with Sehun, especially if they were unnecessary.

He beckoned the waiter over and asked for the menu cards.

It made Sehun smile. He did not let Chanyeol see it.

“Did you have a good day otherwise?” Chanyeol asked when the menu cards arrived, and it took Sehun aback.

“What?”

“I asked if you had a good day otherwise.”

Was Chanyeol possessed? First, he took Sehun out to dinner with his business friends. Which meant he was finally ready to acknowledge Sehun as his spouse. Now, he was making conversation?

“Uh… Yes,” Sehun muttered, licking his lips. “I was… looking forward to the dinner.”

Chanyeol did not look up from the menu. “Do you know what you’d like to order?”

“I—” He was cut off by the herd of potbellied men approached the table, accompanied by overdressed women, whom Sehun assumed were their wives.

“Park!” one of them exclaimed, and Chanyeol shot up to greet the men with handshakes.

“We were just about to order,” Chanyeol said, grinning.

He was smiling. It did not look sincere. But he was at least putting on an act. The jackass was capable of smiling after all.

“And who might this young gentleman be?” another inquired, turning to Sehun.

Rising to his feet, Sehun held out his hands to the other men and their wives. “I’m Sehun,” he said.

“My… husband,” Chanyeol said, as though he did not want to say it.

It angered Sehun.

But what angered him even more was the realization that Chanyeol had brought him along because they were supposed to bring their “wives”.

“Congratulations on your wedding,” one of the wives said as the others took their seats.

The men distributed rare Cuban cigars and a tonne of improper remarks among them while they decided on food. Sehun tried to muster a smile every time the women asked him something like, where did he and Chanyeol go for their honeymoon, are they planning to start a family soon, would they adopt or surrogate.

“How is that audit coming on?” Chanyeol asked someone. He talked a lot. Sehun had never seen him talk so much. He supposed Chanyeol had to talk in these situations. But the sudden gravitas surprised Sehun to the extent that he wanted to punch Chanyeol’s teeth in.

The waiter soon came to take their orders.

Sehun sat stiff-lipped, grinding his teeth while everyone else ordered. His hands were balled into tight fists under the table.

“Are you not going to order?” Chanyeol asked and Sehun’s gaze darted up to look daggers at him.

“No,” he spat through his teeth.

Chanyeol arched an eyebrow. The table fell quiet. “You said you were hungry a moment ago.”

Sehun took in a deep breath. It was taking him an immense amount of his strength to not to yell at Chanyeol and cause a scene. He did not know why he was so upset. Was it just annoyance or disappointment? It made no sense to be disappointed, though. He knew this was all too good to be true.

“I think I’ll just leave,” Sehun said and started to stand.

Chanyeol looked at him like he was just slapped. “What?”

“I said I’m leaving,” Sehun grumbled.

Glancing at the others, who were rubbernecking stupidly at Sehun, Chanyeol said, “I’m sorry.” He then rose to his full height and faced Sehun. “What’s wrong?”

What’s wrong,” Sehun scoffed, rolling his eyes.

Chanyeol began to glower. “You are causing a scene.”

“No, I’m not. You are. I’m going home.”

As he started for the exit, he was halted by Chanyeol’s grip on his arm. It was the first time Chanyeol had not “accidentally” touched him. Hell, they did not even kiss at their wedding.

“Sit down,” Chanyeol asked. It did not sound like a demand. It did not sound like a plea either. He sounded like a level-headed businessman. Sehun hated that the most about him. “Please.”

“No,” Sehun said and yanked his arm free. Chanyeol did not try to stop him again when he stomped away.

He hailed a cab outside and as soon as he was in the cab, he cursed out loud, suppressing the urge to punch the back of the driver’s seat.

“Whoa, son,” the cabbie rasped and then sniggered. “Who got your dander’s up?”

Sehun sighed and dropped his head back on the seat. “My oblivious, heartless husband,” he murmured.

The cabbie laughed. “Ah… Where to, then?”

Sehun thought of going home to his usual loneliness. But he did not want to be there for Chanyeol to come home and either ignore or sough at in disapproval.

He fished out his phone and sent a text.

Are you home?

He received a reply immediately.

Yes…

Sehun gave the cabbie an address.

* * *

When Kai got the door, he was sporting his glasses and his usual smug smile. He raised an arm to the doorframe and crossed his legs, slipping a hand into the pocket of his sweatpants.

Fuck, he’s so hot.

“So, what has your panties in a bunch?” Kai asked, smirking.

Sehun groaned and shoved Kai back to let himself into the apartment. “Don’t start,” he mumbled and flumped on the couch.

Kai had his laptop open on the coffee table alongside a messy pile of papers. “Okay,” Kai said playfully, holding his hands up after he had shut and locked the door.

“Were you working?” Sehun asked. “Did I disturb you?”

“No, I was waiting for you,” Kai said and perched on the armrest. He had such a pleasant smile. It could put anyone in distress at ease. “You said you’d come.”

Yeah, Sehun was not sure if he would have come here after all if the night had gone differently. If Chanyeol had not screwed up again.

Sehun stared at Kai for a long minute, studying the other man’s perfect face. Kai really was perfect. It was such a mystery why the guy was not already snatched and taken.

Kai did not have many great ambitions. From what they had talked about—and they talked a lot—Kai did not have a very long bucket list. He already owned a nice apartment, a nice car, a stable job, and he looked after his parents, even though they still lived in their own house, he had a three-legged dog he doted on heavily. He called it San, Japanese for three. Sehun recalled the night Kai had told him about adopting San from the pound.

“Every boy needs a dog,” Kai had said.

Sehun never had a dog. He was not allowed to. Dogs were slobbery and smelly, so his parents never allowed him to have one.

He liked San, though. The dog was not the friendliest of dogs, but he was always nice to Sehun.

“Like what you see, sunshine?” Kai said, running his tongue between his lips.

Sehun snorted. “You just… look so good with glasses.”

Kai laughed. “Well, that’s a compliment you’ve never given me… You hungry?”

Sehun planted his face in his hands and moaned. “Am I ugly?” he said, bringing his head up to look at Kai.

Kai’s eyes widened. “What?”

“Am I ugly?” Sehun repeated. “Am I a bad person? Do I have a stale personality or something? Am I not likable enough?”

Kai scratched the back of his head. It was cute when he did it. “Um… I don’t think so, but I also don’t think that’s the point you’re trying to make.”

Sehun jolted up from the couch and started pacing the small but cosy living room. “What the fuck is wrong with me, then? Okay, let us just assume that he is indeed still mourning and is in love with a dead person. Does that give him the entitlement to treat me, his bloody husband who married him and freaking lives with him, like I’m trash?!”

Kai did not answer. He lowered his gaze, gnawing at his lower lip. He usually was silent when Sehun talked about Chanyeol. It was not as though he hated it, but he also did not particularly like to talk about Chanyeol, his best friend, his employer, when he was with Sehun.

“I’m sorry,” Sehun let out, gritting his teeth. “It just… frustrates me.”

Kai sighed loudly and rose from the armrest. He then cupped Sehun’s face in his hands and said, “Hey. Listen to me. You’re the greatest guy out there. And I’m sure Chanyeol sees it, too. You are beautiful. Inside and out. There is… absolutely nothing wrong with you.”

Sehun smiled, then. He fisted Kai’s grey hoodie in a bunch and hauled him close for a kiss.

They broke apart quickly.

“I really am hungry, though,” Sehun groused.

“I have some leftover Chinese takeout I could heat up,” Kai said. “If that’ll suit your palette, Your Majesty.”

Sehun did not care. Kai often insinuated that Sehun would not get used to the ways of the lower classes, but Sehun was different. He had always been different, which was probably why he had such a strained relationship with his supremacist parents.

They heated up the food and lounged on the couch. Kai turned the TV on, but they paid very little attention to it.

“Is it hot enough?” Kai asked as Sehun dug into the food.

“Mh-hm,” Sehun hummed, stuffing his mouth.

“So, what happened?”

Sehun lowered the box and chopsticks, chewing slowly, keeping his eyes on the TV screen. “You don’t want to know.”

Kai draped an arm over Sehun’s shoulders. “Maybe I don’t. But you’re upset. So, spill.”

Sucking in a breath, Sehun faced him. “I’d rather not.”

Kai shrugged. This was also a trait Sehun adored in Kai. He was understanding. It was either that or he was just uninterested.

Why could not Sehun be married to someone like Kai instead? It would have been so much easier. He was not in love with Kai, definitely not. But it would have been so much easier to fall in love with him, you know.

With Chanyeol, Sehun had no chance.

After dinner, Sehun inquired about Kai’s father’s health. San eventually roused from his slumber and hopped over to Kai for food. Then he turned to Sehun to greet him before he jumped onto the couch to settle between them.

“Would you mind if I stayed here tonight?” Sehun asked Kai when it was close to nine o’clock.

Kai’s lips stretched into that kind smile. “Not at all.”

He curled a hand around the back of Sehun’s neck and massaged it gently. It rendered Sehun goosefleshed, the hair-raising kind. Then he drew Sehun close.

The kiss started out slow, but passionate. It quickly heated up and Sehun was soon clutching at Kai’s hoodie, tugging at the hem before he yanked it over Kai’s head and tossed it to the floor.

Smashing their mouths together again, Sehun rose to his knees and straddled Kai’s hips.

“Fuck, you smell so good,” Kai groaned, ramming his lips onto Sehun’s neck to pepper it with searing kisses. He was always cautious not to mark Sehun’s skin anywhere.

Sehun thought Kai smelled so good. Just the smell of his bare skin was intoxicating. Sehun loved that his own skin smelled like Kai when they were catching their breath, limbs tangled and body spent.

Sliding his hands around Sehun’s ass, Kai gripped it, his fingers digging into the thick fabric of Sehun’s pants, as though he were exasperated by the barrier.

As Sehun entangled his fingers in Kai’s hair, Kai attacked his collarbones with kisses, his own fingers fumbling to undo the buttons of Sehun’s shirt now.

“God, you’re so beautiful,” Kai gasped, lowering his hot, wet mouth down Sehun’s chest.

An aggressive moan escaped Sehun’s throat when Kai’s lips brushed his nipple, teasing it softly before it hardened rapidly under Kai’s warm, swirling tongue.

Shoving Sehun’s shirt off his shoulders, Kai gripped Sehun’s thighs and hoisted him up. As he bore Sehun to his bedroom, San eagerly followed them.

Dropping Sehun on the bed, Kai kissed him feverishly, hands ripping at the fly of Sehun’s pants.

San woofed.

They came apart, laughing uncontrollably. “I’m telling you,” Sehun panted. “He has a weird fixation.”

Kai briefly climbed out of the bed and picked his dog up. “No, San. You sleep alone in your own bed tonight.”

When he lowered the dog to the floor, San whined pathetically at the door.

“No,” Kai told him sternly.

“He can come in,” Sehun said.

“He’d want to sleep between us.”

“Ah, so you don’t swing that way.”

Kai gave him a look and kicked the door shut before crawling back into the bed and between Sehun’s legs. Grabbing the sides of Kai’s head, Sehun pulled him up for a kiss.

It did not take much from there for them to get naked and hard. So hard. Kai eventually turned the lights off after finding the lube and condoms.

They never fumbled in the dark these nights. Their hands and mouths knew exactly where to find one another.

Kai was easy. Sehun liked that about him. He was simply uncomplicated and not necessarily all complex and confusing like Chanyeol. What he had with Kai was simple. Sex. Relief. Sometimes companionship. It was easy.

Easy. Sehun needed more of that in his life.

* * *

“I thought you were spending the night,” Kai said as Sehun sat up on the edge of the bed to get dressed after hours of nothing but sex and cuddles.

Sehun did not answer, pulling his pants up.

Kai sat up against the headboard and watched Sehun with his head tilted sideways. “You look guilty.”

Sehun looked at him and frowned. “I’m not guilty.”

It sounded like an accusation. Sehun did not like it. But Kai smiled that easy smile again and ran a hand through his mussed hair.

“You can just stay here,” Kai said. “It’s really late.”

“No, it’s fine,” Sehun muttered, pulling his shoes on.

Kai licked his lips. He was no longer smiling. He was thinking. Thinking of something he would soon voice.

And he did.

“Sehun,” he called.

“Yeah.”

“We… I mean, what exactly are we?”

Sehun did not how to answer that because it was a very vague question. “What exactly are we?” he echoed.

Kai looked away, sighing. “No, nothing. Forget about it.”

Sehun did not press him for more. He was really tired. “So, I’d call you… or text you.”

“Yeah,” Kai let out. He smiled once more. “You can just let yourself out.”

Sehun nodded once and hurried out to grab his shirt from the living room and pet San on the head before he stormed out of the apartment.

When he reached home, he quietly sneaked into his room, not wanting to entertain a confrontation right now.

Unfortunately, Chanyeol was awake. The brightness of his laptop screen illuminated the entire room.

As soon as Sehun entered, Chanyeol’s head craned up to look at him. He was not scowling. He did not look angry or upset or like he was gearing up for an argument. He looked indifferent. As always.

Sometimes, Sehun wished that he could slap the stoicism from the bastard’s face.

This time, Sehun ignored him as he sauntered to the bathroom to take a quick, warm shower and change into his nightclothes.

The bed was big. Too big. And there was always a large space between them. A gap. Both literally and figuratively.

Sehun did not even know why they needed to share a bed. Sure, their families visited from time to time and the paperwork would be a pain in the ass if they found out they slept on different beds, in different rooms.

But for how long could they keep this going?

“We should maybe get separate beds,” Sehun suggested when he stepped out of the bathroom and approached the bed.

Chanyeol looked up from his laptop. He did not say anything.

“I’m getting seriously tired of this,” Sehun added. He made sure his tone was passive-aggressive enough when he climbed into the bed and turned his back to Chanyeol.

He then heard Chanyeol leave the room, leaving Sehun to his depressing loneliness again.

* * *

He woke the next morning to the heavy fragrance of something sickly sweet that wafted in the air of the room.

He was not sure if Chanyeol ever returned to bed after he had left. He decided that he did not care. Except that he did. And it annoyed him.

Sitting up with a morning lour on his drowsy eyes, he glanced over to the bouquet of red roses seated comfortably in a vase on the bedside table.

“What the…”

He snatched at the card in the roses with profound curiosity and flipped it open.

I’m sorry, Sehun… C.

Sehun sat still for a few minutes, the card idle in his hands and his gaze fixated on the perfumed flowers. A moment later, he realized that he was smiling to himself.

It was weird.

He felt happy.

Chapter Text

How did it all start?

He drank in the vibrant aroma of the black coffee sitting stagnant in his favourite mug as he leaned over the railing of the apartment’s balcony, leering down at the traffic on the roads. The city was always bustling. It was not a bad thing. Kai delighted in the hectic, lively city.

San sat next to him on the balcony floor, wagging his short tail.

The air was somewhat cleaner up here. Kai liked the mornings more than the nights, not that the city slept any hour of the day. Skyscrapers and lofty towers packed the city he had fallen in love with.

He relished in the little things in life. Sometimes, it was all that a man needed to do to stay happy. The warm sunlight that caressed his face, the soft breeze that carded through his hair, the sound of the leaves on the branches rustling to the flow of the wind, his pet dog’s tail drumming against the floor, the smell of coffee… They all made Kai very happy.

It did not take much to make him happy. And very few things in life made him sad. His family and friends thought he was too good to be true. That he, too, like many other men, hiding his sorrows behind a mask of smiles. It was not true. Kai was truly content with his life, with his days and with his nights.

When they got lonely sometimes, he’d spent a few days with his parents and everything got better.

He did not grow up, basking in luxuries. There were times when he could not even afford school textbooks because his father did not earn enough. But then the Park family would help him out. They helped in all of his adversities. Mr and Mrs Park doted heavily on Kai’s family, thanks to the service his father had offered the Parks for many years.

“We are forever indebted to them,” his mother always said. His father agreed. Kai, on the other hand, was conflicted. Of course, he had appreciated their favours. But he also never asked for any.

He hated that he and his family had been a constant charity case to the Parks.

He particularly did not like being “forever indebted to them”. But that was the truth. He was.

When he and Chanyeol made a friend of each other, they had been boys. Boys who had a secret handshake, a few private jokes that were only funny to them, a favourite hideout, made-up games that made sense to just them.

They were still friends. Not as thick as before but it was doable. Chanyeol had never treated Kai like he was two whole social classes below him. And he never encouraged Kai to treat him like he was his employer either. They were friends. Friends with clashing personalities. Chanyeol had always been a little detached, undemonstrative. His aloofness was something that not many people out of the corporate world could empathize with. And Kai’s personality… well, Kai was the opposite of Chanyeol.

Perhaps Chanyeol’s reticence was due to the burdens that were set on his shoulders. Kai had his own responsibilities, too. But they were mundane, normal people problems.

For one, he never had to deal with the grief of having lost someone he loved, knowing that he was the reason for it all. He did not ever want to undergo something so painful. It was not as though his entire life had been all sunshine and rainbows, but he was just the kind of person to always look on the brighter side of things. There-must-always-be-a-silver-lining kind of guy.

So… How did it all start? When did it all start to hurt?

He knew the answer to that. He was never going to acknowledge it, though. He was not going to blame someone he loved for the heartaches and the pain he suffered. It did not seem fair.

He smiled down at San and ruffled the dog’s fur before heading back into the apartment, taking a sip of the lukewarm coffee. When he returned to his bedroom to get ready for work, he glanced at the crumpled sheets on the bed.

Shaking his head, he ripped those sheets off the mattress and flung them on the floor. He then stepped into the shower.

Washed and clean, he stood before the mirror in the bathroom and shaved. Then he gripped the edge of the sink and took a couple of deep breaths, staring at his own reflection in the fogged-up mirror. He pushed his wet hair out of his face and looked into his own eyes.

“What are you doing?” he asked his reflection, not that the latter had an answer for him.

Perhaps he was one of those men who hid their sorrows behind a mask of smiles after all.

He tore away from the sink and stepped out to get dressed. As he fastened the necktie around his collar, he grinned at the bed on which he and Sehun had spent hours on, making love.

Making love. No. It was not lovemaking to Sehun. Somehow, Kai had let himself be convinced that knowing that did not bother him. And he did not stand on a very high moral ground to play righteous police here.

He grabbed his car keys and ambled out of the apartment, bidding San goodbye while the dog stood miserably at the door.

He drove out to his parents’ house in the suburbia like he usually did in the mornings. His father did not like him fetching and dropping him off, he preferred to take the bus, but he did not get to argue much on this matter. It was bad enough that he still insisted on working at such an old age and with his deteriorating health.

“Mom,” Kai greeted her when she got the door with a big, warm smile. People say Kai inherited her smile, eyes, and temperament. His best traits. “What’s for breakfast?”

Although his father was a professional cook, it was always his mother who cooked at home. And according to both him and his father, she was the better cook. He liked having his breakfasts here. It beat the stale bagels and dry sandwiches in the cafeteria at his workplace.

“Hey, geek,” he said to his younger sister, who was in the final year of her college, when he found her lounged on the couch, occupied with video games, sporting her favourite Star Trek T-shirt. Yeah, she was a Trekkie and a big nerd.

“Hey, loser,” she called back to him without looking away from the TV screen. Kai pressed a kiss on the top of her head before he followed his mother into the kitchen.

“Shoes off, Kai,” his mother chided gently. “How many times must I tell you that?”

“Yikes,” Kai sighed and took his shoes off. “Kara’s not going to her classes today?”

“She is, I think,” his mother said, plating him a slice of pie. “Just later in the afternoon.”

Kai flumped on the chair at the dining table and poured himself a glass of orange juice. “God,” he moaned when his mother placed the plate on the table. “I love your rhubarb pie.”

“I know,” she said, smiling.

Kai forked into the sweet, crumbly delight at once. “Mom, you are a goddess.”

“And you are a wonderful son,” she said and sat down. “So?”

Kai looked at her. Oh, he recognized that “so” and her smirk all too well. She was about to hover and get nosy. “So what, Mom?” he played coy and turned his attention back to the pie.

“You haven’t been coming over a lot. Are you busy?”

“Yes, Mom. Very busy.”

“With a girl?”

Kai choked and coughed, quickly reaching for the glass of juice. “Mom,” he grumbled. “How is Dad?”

“Your Dad is fine. He’ll be down in a moment. Do not change the subject, Kai. Is there a woman?”

Kai never knew why he never told his parents that he liked men. Probably because it was never really a big issue that needed to be uttered out loud. Though he was sure his family would be entirely supportive.

“No, Mom,” he said. “There is no woman.” He would love to introduce Sehun to her, though. She would love Sehun. They all would.

“Really?”

“Will you quit badgering the kid so early in the morning?” his father said when he joined them in the kitchen.

“He is not getting any younger,” his mother said and rose to her feet to kiss her husband on the lips. “Soon, he’s going to have wrinkles like you.”

“And you don’t, my love?”

“Oh, am I wrinkly now?”

His father smiled and kissed her once more. “Not one bit.”

Kai wanted what they had. A peaceful life, a harmonious home, a loving family. They never had a lot, but they had enough. It sounded like the plot of a really sappy family movie, but there it was.

Kai dreamed of simple things. He always thought life was too short for pessimism and complications.

But now, he was falling in love with his employer and best friend’s husband.

* * *

He gave the glass door a knock before entering. Chanyeol looked up from his desk and flashed a lopsided smile, which Kai instantly knew was not sincere.

Chanyeol had not smiled genuinely in a very long time.

“Here’s the printed out financial report for this month,” Kai said, placing the file on the desk. “I already sent you the digital copy, too.”

“Thanks,” Chanyeol said.

Kai nodded once and turned around to leave.

“Kai,” Chanyeol stopped him.

“Yeah?”

“You wanna grab a drink after work?”

Kai blinked. It was not as though they had never drunk together before, but it had definitely been a while. “Uh… yeah. Sure.”

Chanyeol rubbed his temples, exhaling heavily. “Great.”

“Is everything okay?” Kai inquired.

“Yeah. Just a headache.”

“You need anything?”

Chanyeol shook his head. “No. You can go.”

They did go to a bar after work. Chanyeol was not snobbish enough to insist that they should go to a high-end bar. Any bar would do for them when they wanted to get shitfaced.

Kai had tried his first beer with Chanyeol too when he was fifteen. It was a hilarious experience. They swore to never drink beer ever again. They hated how bitter and unpalatable it was. They promised on many things back then. They broke all of their promises one by one as they grew older.

They had also promised to never hit on each other’s girlfriends when they were kids. Kai could laugh it all now.

“Whiskey. Neat,” Chanyeol ordered when they found their seats at the bar.

“Get me a beer,” Kai told the bartender.

“A beer?” Chanyeol scoffed.

“I’d still like to drive home,” Kai said, shrugging. They sat in silence for a moment. Chanyeol was quiet these days. Not that he was extremely talkative back in those days either. But now, he was just… hiding.

“How’s your father?” Chanyeol asked at length.

“He’s better. He went to work today,” Kai replied. “How are… things at home?”

He did not know why he asked it. Because he did not want to know. Although he knew exactly how things were at home.

Chanyeol sighed. “Not good,” he muttered and swigged the whiskey the bartender handed him.

Kai took a sip of the beer and watched Chanyeol order another tumbler of whiskey. “Not good with… Sehun?”

Chanyeol kept his head down. After a moment of saying nothing, he picked his head up and met Kai’s eyes. “I don’t like him there.”

Kai rubbed his forehead and sipped the beer. “What do you mean you don’t like him there?”

Chanyeol drained another tumbler of whiskey. “I just don’t,” he said miserably. “His being there… is just… suffocating me. I am wracked with crippling guilt and… I don’t know.”

This was out of the ordinary. Chanyeol never talked about his problems. Especially not this kind of problems.

“Guilt?” Kai echoed confusedly.

Chanyeol ordered another tumbler. “Yeah.”

They fell quiet again.

Then Kai said, “Why did you even get married?”

Chanyeol snorted, almost laughing a dead laugh. “Like I had a choice.”

“You did, Chanyeol,” Kai said. “We all have a choice.”

“You don’t understand. Your life isn’t as complicated as mine.”

“Yeah, no shit, man,” he mumbled. “But if you’re so miserable, just file for a divorce.”

“So I can dishonour my family name again and again?”

“Since when do you care about your family name more than your own happiness?”

“Since forever, Kai,” Chanyeol spat. “Since fucking forever.”

Kai kept mum for a length, watching Chanyeol drink to nurse his misery.

“I don’t even hate him,” Chanyeol then drawled, looking a little drowsy. “That’s the problem. I can’t… hate him. He’s done nothing wrong and he’s being… punished. I’m a horrible person.”

Kai had no words to console his friend. He was not sure he wanted to. He looked away and drank his beer. “You’re a good person, Chanyeol,” he said a moment later, squeezing Chanyeol’s shoulder. “You really are a good person.”

Chanyeol was a good person. It was not difficult to say it. But Kai wished Chanyeol wasn’t a good person. He wished he were actually a horrible person, so that his own guilt would not eat him alive.

“He doesn’t deserve this,” Chanyeol said. It seemed like he was talking to himself. “You should look at the way he looks at me sometimes. It’s… unbearable.”

Kai was not sure what look that was. And what “unbearable” meant exactly.

But it made his guts twist and turn in jealousy. He hated feeling this way. He was so full of bitterness nowadays.

“How… does he look at you?” Kai asked, unsure of if he wanted to know how Sehun looked at Chanyeol or if he just wanted Chanyeol to keep talking again like the old Chanyeol.

Chanyeol seemed lost in his own thoughts for a minute as he stared into the tumbler that was almost empty. “Like he’s… expecting something. Like a child walking into a candy store.”

That hurt Kai. He had never seen such innocence in Sehun’s eyes when Sehun was with him.

“And you don’t like that?” he asked Chanyeol.

Scoffing, Chanyeol knocked back the rest of the whiskey and ordered another. “I have no idea. But I don’t like him there. In my life. In my home. I’m too… scared that he would…” he trailed off.

Kai did not press him to continue. He rubbed Chanyeol’s back and tore the tumbler away when the bartender showed up with a refill. “Maybe we should get you home.”

“No,” Chanyeol murmured drunkenly. “I screwed up.”

“What?”

“He hates me, you know? He really, really hates me.”

“I doubt that, Chanyeol.”

“No, he really does,” he groaned. “I don’t blame him. All that I’ve done from day one is disrespect him. I don’t get him. I don’t get why he’s still… here.”

This was hurting Kai more and more. He did not want to listen to his best friend sulk about his husband, with whom Kai was in love.

“Okay, that’s enough,” Kai grunted and hauled Chanyeol up from the barstool, holding onto his arm. “Let’s get you out of here.”

He drove Chanyeol home while the latter groused the entire ride about how painful everything was.

* * *

Sehun could not stop staring at the empty chairs. Why did they need a 12-seater dining table, anyway? Most days, it was just him. Sometimes, he wished the servants would join him so that he would not have to eat alone.

The food was bland as usual. Sehun eventually lost his appetite and pushed the plate away. Then lifting his knees to his chest, he turned the dining room TV on and flipped through the channels.

“Has Mr Kim left?” he asked one of the servants, who started to clear the table.

“I don’t think so, Master Sehun,” she said.

Oh, then Kai would probably come over to pick his father up.

The doorbell rang after a couple of hours. Sehun stopped the servants from getting it and said that he would get it himself.

Much to his surprise and dismay, he found both Chanyeol and Kai on the doorstep. Chanyeol was leaning heavily against Kai, his eyes droopy and half-lidded.

They both reeked of alcohol.

Mr Kim showed up and pinned them both with a reprimanding look. “What happened?” he asked, and it was the first time Sehun had ever heard him sound like a vexed father.

“Bit of snafu, Dad,” Kai said. He sounded sober.

Chanyeol groaned and pulled his arm from Kai’s shoulders before he stumbled into the house. As he tripped over the ledge, Sehun caught him, arms quickly winding around his husband’s inebriated body.

His heart almost leaped out of his chest when Chanyeol did not pull away. He leaned against Sehun instead, his arm tiredly curling around the back of Sehun’s waist.

“Do you need help, Master Sehun?” Mr Kim offered.

“I’ll help you get him into bed,” Kai blurted out.

“No, I got him,” Sehun said and noticed how Kai’s eyebrows furrowed into a disapproving frown. What was that all about, he wondered.

Kai stood there for a moment, almost seeming reluctant to leave. “You sure?” he asked.

“Yeah,” Sehun reassured him. “Thanks for driving him home.”

“Kai,” Mr Kim called his son. “Let’s go.”

Kai bit his lip, watching Chanyeol. “Okay. Good… night, I guess.”

Sehun let the servants shut the door as he dragged Chanyeol upstairs. It was no easy task. Chanyeol was tall, taller than him. Big and muscly. Wow, Sehun never knew Chanyeol was actually this heavy.

Once he had somehow managed to lug him to their bedroom, he shoved Chanyeol onto the bed and turned him to lie on his back before he yanked his shoes off.

Why was he doing this? He should just let the guy rot on the floor. He was definitely still angry. But…

Wasn’t this job he signed up for? To be his partner through thick and thin? The oaths might not have meant anything to Chanyeol, but Sehun had hoped that things would go completely differently when he agreed to marry this man.

Chanyeol moaned, throwing an arm over his clenched eyes. Grunting and huffing heavily, Sehun climbed onto the bed to loosen his drunk husband’s necktie. Discarding it on the floor, he then unbuttoned Chanyeol’s shirt. It had alcohol stains. Or at least Sehun hoped that was what those brownish blots were.

“Come on,” Sehun panted, gripping the back of Chanyeol’s neck to lift his head so that he could draw the shirt off his shoulders. Jesus, sliding his fingers into Chanyeol’s hair drove him crazy. It felt like he was cheating but this was probably the only time he’d get to touch his husband’s hair.

Once Chanyeol was stripped of his shirt, Sehun ogled at Chanyeol’s toned body. The deep cleft of his chest, the solid muscles of his abdomen and his thick biceps. The trail of hair that followed his navel but disappeared into the waistband of his trousers. And god, Sehun was so embarrassed. He slid out of the bed, feeling his face heat up in shame. It did not seem right to ogle an unconscious man, even if the man were legally his husband.

The belt did not look comfortable. Not that Sehun cared shit for Chanyeol’s comfort.

So, he left the belt be and yanked the duvet over Chanyeol.

“Sehun,” he heard Chanyeol drawl just as he was about to leave. He stopped and gaped at his mumbling husband. “I’m really… sorry.”

* * *

Chanyeol roused to the ruckus downstairs and a brain-numbing thrum in the back of his head. Fortunately, when he opened his eyes, the drapes were drawn close and he was grateful for that.

He checked the time. It was almost 9 a.m.

“Shit,” he griped as he sat up on the edge of his bed and planted his pounding head in his hands. “Shit.”

Yeah, he was not going in to work today, he decided. He would stay in bed forever if that was what it took to stop his head from thundering so bad.

He almost wanted to fall back on the bed and sleep, but he was curious about what the noise downstairs was all about.

Taking a cold bath, he slipped into a pair of joggers and a white T-shirt and headed down to the kitchen. Something smelled good, though it still made him retch. He wanted to throw up forever.

“Master Chanyeol,” a servant greeted and bowed her head.

He stopped at the kitchen’s doorway and gawked at Sehun, who was chopping onions while wiping the tears from his eyes on the back of his hands.

“Like this?” he asked Mr Kim, who nodded encouragingly. “God, it’s so burny.”

“It’ll get easier.”

“When?”

After… twenty years maybe.”

Sehun groaned. Chanyeol stared at the bustling kitchen in both confusion and wonderment. What the hell was going on, he wondered.

“What next?” Sehun asked once he was done with the onions.

Chanyeol leaned against the door and quietly watched Sehun whisk a couple of eggs in a bowl with Mr Kim’s guidance.

“Does he like pepper?” Sehun then asked.

“Oh, no,” Mr Kim said. “He prefers light flavours.”

“That explains the bland food,” Sehun mumbled.

“Bland? Do you… not like the flavour?”

Sehun shrugged. “It’s okay. I’ll get to used to what he likes.”

“Oh, Master Sehun, I can always make you a separate dish as per your tastes.”

“No,” Sehun said quickly. “You don’t have to do that. We’re a family. I don’t like this… doing things separately stuff.”

That made Mr Kim smile.

“What next?” Sehun asked once he looked satisfied with his beaten eggs.

“A dollop of sour cream and then chives,” Mr Kim said.

Sehun was making him breakfast. Chanyeol felt his heart drop to his stomach.

“Master—” a servant began to gasp when he noticed Chanyeol’s presence, but he fell quiet when Chanyeol shushed him, bringing a finger to his own lips.

Sehun moved to the stove. He was a lousy cook, Chanyeol realized. He did not even know how to turn the stove on.

Mr Kim helped him. “Now, be careful when you flip the eggs.”

“I don’t know how to flip eggs. I’ve never flipped eggs,” Sehun said worriedly.

“Here.” Mr Kim stepped in. “I’ll demonstrate.”

Sehun looked like he was in awe. He eagerly grabbed the fry pan’s handle and hissed when his finger accidentally touched searing pan.

“Ouch!” he gasped and retrieved his hand. His eyes bulged out in shock when Chanyeol lurched forward and grabbed hold of his hand abruptly.

It felt like a reflex. Chanyeol did not realize what he was doing until he was gripping Sehun’s wrist and holding his burned finger to the running water in the sink.

Sehun hissed again.

“Can’t you more be careful?” Chanyeol chided under his breath. Then turning the tap off, he examined the reddened fingertip and frowned. When he lifted his eyes, he quickly dropped Sehun’s hand and stepped away.

Sehun was staring at him. He then held his hand to his chest and turned back to the stove.

Rubbing the back of his sore neck, Chanyeol walked out of the kitchen while the servants giggled quietly behind him.

Chapter Text

So, Sehun was making him breakfast. Chanyeol was not sure how to react to that. They lived together, it should not be such a big surprise that Sehun wanted to make breakfast, should it?

Roommates did that. Except that they weren’t roommates and they had servants. Was he just being nice on the account of the flowers Chanyeol had ordered for him as an apology?

Speaking of which, he had no idea on what impulse he had decided to call the florist in order to apologize for… for what, exactly? He knew Sehun was annoyed and he had insinuated that it was Chanyeol’s fault. Although Chanyeol did not see the need to apologize per se, he had done it, anyway. He didn’t know why he wanted to.

He wandered back upstairs, massaging his temples to nurse the harrowing headache. Upon reaching the bedroom, he dropped back on the bed and stared vacantly at the white ceiling.

He did not want Sehun to make him breakfast. He did not want to placate Sehun’s anger, no matter what he was angry about. He did not want to give Sehun flowers. He did not want them to share a bed. He did not want Sehun anywhere near him, believing that he owned the rights to Chanyeol because they were fucking married. He wanted Sehun to stay mad at him. He wanted everyone in this world to detest him. That was all that he deserved.

He stared at the ceiling for a long time. They used to do that a lot. Stare at the crevices of the ceiling after making gentle love. Sometimes, they’d watch the stars, lying on grass. They’d talk about all sorts of things. Chanyeol was not particularly chatty, but he liked listening to others.

“Do you promise to always stargaze with me, even when we’re old and grey and can’t move?”

Chanyeol had laughed, he had thought it was such a child-like apprehension. “A promise means nothing.”

“Do you plan on breaking promises you’ve made me, then?”

There had been real despondency in his eyes. And it had saddened Chanyeol.

“No,” he had said. “I promise, I will not break my promises to you.”

He broke them. He broke all of them when he chose his family’s honour and succumbed to his parents’ threats. Even then, not a day went by when his thoughts were not impinged by the only person he ever loved so hard and excruciatingly. They weren’t just memories. He had wondered, he had wondered every day, what it would be like to be with him this very moment, to hold him in his arms, to mutter into his ear that everything would be fine.

Then one day, he found out that nothing would ever be fine. He would never be able to hold him in his arms. And perhaps, only in death, he could be with him again.

Chanyeol was a coward. He could not even end his life to end the misery. On the other hand, he deserved to live with the sorrow. He never wanted the grief to end. This was the fair punishment meted out to him, and he embraced it.

High school. Too many years ago. He remembered the boy crying when he was being bullied. Chanyeol was among the bullies. Little did he know then that the victim of his bullying would become the love of his life, whose memories would continue to haunt him for the rest of his living days.

He remembered their first kiss. Prom night when Chanyeol took a classmate, one of his closest female friends as his date. Later, he had snuck to the back of the school and had kissed his boyfriend for the first time when he found the latter sulking miserably because he could not be Chanyeol’s date.

He was very soft, fragile. Chanyeol wanted to protect him forever. And he had promised to do so. Especially protect him from his parents, who sound discovered his secret rendezvous with his beautiful, kind, impossibly generous boyfriend. Even when he had nothing, he gave to others who were in need. Chanyeol loved that the most about him. He was selfless and brave in his own way.

Chanyeol was not selfless or brave. Though he stood up against his parents to defend his love, he did not have the courage to keep fighting. He would lose everything. He’d get over it, he had thought. After all, everyone did, didn’t they? He had thought they would both get over it.

They had found a letter addressed to Chanyeol a couple of days later.

Thank you.

It was all that it said. Chanyeol had lost count of the times he was thanked for being the sun in his dark, dark world.

And now, Chanyeol’s own world was dark, sunless, devastatingly despairing. It made him wonder if they had, after all, been each other’s light of hope. Now, they were both extinguished.

Chanyeol wanted his to stay extinguished.

He led a mechanical life now. He kept a colourless agenda and stuck to it. He tried not to feel much. Feeling things would end up hurting him and others.

He sat up and rubbed his eyes on the hilt of his palms. He could hear Sehun’s voice from downstairs.

Sehun had a pleasant voice. He did not speak much either. It was not a complaint. Chanyeol did not like listening to his voice.

It made him want to listen to what Sehun was saying. It made him want to listen to it… more.

Chanyeol was not the man who kept quiet and listened to others anymore. He preferred complete silence in his completely dark world. Silence and darkness went well together. Like silence and death and death and darkness.

Thirteen therapists. Not one of them could solve his problem. Because he did not want to talk. He did not want help. He wanted to feel the numbness for as long as he lived.

He had become used to this mechanical life. But then he said his vows, exchanged rings, and brought a stranger into his house, who was as miserable as he was. But for completely different reasons.

Couldn’t they at least try to be friends, Chanyeol often wondered. But then he always ended up deducing that making the effort to be friends would be just as tiring.

He avoided Sehun as much as he could. That was not even the most difficult part about living with Sehun. The hardest of all was finding the strength to not to look at him when Sehun was looking at him, as though he were searching for Chanyeol’s lost soul.

Sometimes, Chanyeol wished that Sehun would find it.

Sometimes, it angered him that he wished for it.

Sometimes, he just wanted to cry into Sehun’s arms when he woke up with nightmares in the middle of the night and found Sehun’s back turned to him on the bed.

What would Sehun do if Chanyeol broke down and told him everything? Would he be able to do what those thirteen therapists couldn’t do for Chanyeol? Would he be able to break Chanyeol’s silence?

Why? Because they owned some dumb certificate that said they were legally united in marriage?

Fat chance.

He rose from the bed and sauntered to the liquor cart.

“What are you doing?” Sehun startled him just as he picked up a carafe.

Chanyeol blinked at him, never knowing what to say to him. “I…”

Sehun grimaced then, like he was disgusted. No. He was irked.

He walked over to Chanyeol and prised the carafe away. “Not the best method to cure a hangover, in case you missed the memo,” Sehun muttered without looking up at Chanyeol.

Dropping his hands back to his sides, Chanyeol walked back to the bed and sat on it, slouching heavily while Sehun slipped into the bathroom before he returned with a glass of water and a couple of aspirins.

“Eat this,” he said, handing Chanyeol the pills.

Chanyeol licked his chapped lips and held out a hand. Then popping the pills into his mouth, he retrieved the glass from Sehun’s hand and swallowed the cold water.

Sehun was scowling now as he took a step back and crossed his arms over his chest. “Will you come down to have some breakfast?” he asked grouchily.

So, he was still mad.

And Chanyeol probably did not make any better by showing up shitfaced last night. Where did Sehun even sleep last night?

“I’m sorry,” Chanyeol muttered, hanging his head. “I shouldn’t have come home drunk.”

Sehun was quiet for a minute. “You at least came home,” he then said, and Chanyeol brought his head up to meet his gaze. Sehun’s expression softened. Chanyeol must look like a kicked pup or something right now.

“I don’t usually do that,” Chanyeol said with a sigh.

“Do what? Coming home?” Sehun scoffed.

“No,” he quickly said before he realized Sehun was joking. “I meant… coming home drunk.”

Sehun curled his bottom lip between his teeth and stared at Chanyeol, as though he were surveying and examining him. Chanyeol hated that. It unnerved him.

“Well, come on,” Sehun said. “I made breakfast today.”

Yeah, I know, Chanyeol wanted to say, but didn’t.

* * *

They sat at the table in silence as usual. Sehun watched Chanyeol eat, looking for signs of discomfort. But Chanyeol showed none. He did not even hesitate as he stuffed a mouthful of eggs into his mouth and chugged the cranberry juice like he was the hungriest man on earth.

It was the best compliment Sehun had ever gotten, he thought. It had him grinning like an idiot.

Chanyeol noticed. He looked up and wiped his mouth with a napkin and started chewing slowly.

“It’s good,” he said and Sehun’s heart almost fell out of his mouth.

“Really?” he asked, eyes widening.

“Yes,” Chanyeol mumbled and lowered his eyes back to the plate. “Might have to fire Mr Kim now.”

Holy shit. Sehun clenched his hands into fists and smiled uncontrollably. Not because he wanted Mr Kim fired, but his husband had finally noticed something he did! And commended it!

“They’re just eggs,” Sehun mumbled embarrassedly, shrugging, as if to play it humble. But he was proud. So incredibly proud. It was just like the first time his father had recognized his finger-painting as actual art when he was eleven.

“They’re good,” Chanyeol said. They ate some more. “Did you… get the flowers?”

Sehun froze in his seat. “Yes,” he said, feeling his cheeks warm with colour. “They’re in the living room.”

“Oh.”

This was a little awkward. Sehun wasn’t sure what he could say about the flowers. He did not want to bring up that wretched dinner.

For the first time, they were having an actual conversation over a meal. He did not want either of them to ruin it.

“Should we… hold a thanksgiving dinner this year?” Sehun asked after a while.

Chanyeol’s head shot up and he arched an eyebrow. “A thanksgiving dinner?” he echoed.

“For our families and… friends.” Sehun knew Chanyeol was not going to say no. But he was also not sure. He had never really asked his husband for anything before.

“Sure,” Chanyeol then said. “It’ll be nice.”

Sure. It’ll be nice.

God, Sehun was on cloud nine. This seemed too good to be true. Were they starting to be friends? Was Chanyeol finally warming up to him? Was Sehun’s outburst at the restaurant the reason for this progress? He decided that he did not care.

“Thank you,” he muttered, and Chanyeol gave him a look. A confused look.

“You’re… welcome.”

You’re welcome.

That made Sehun happier than the vows Chanyeol had robotically said during their wedding.

“Are you not going to office today?” Sehun inquired, seeing if he could push his luck to get his husband to talk to him a little more.

Chanyeol shook his head. “I think my head might explode.”

I think my head might explode.

Sehun’s eyes briefly flitted to his vibrating phone on the table. Kai. Swallowing hard, he rejected the call and pocketed the phone.

“Would you really like me to cook every day?” Sehun asked.

Chanyeol coughed then and quickly swigged the juice. “I did not really… mean that I’d fire Mr Kim.”

Sehun smiled regardless at how flustered Chanyeol looked. “You were lying, weren’t you?” he said, almost laughing.

Chanyeol stiffened. “I…”

“I know the eggs taste shitty,” Sehun said.

“I…”

“It’s okay,” he sniggered. “Good husbands always lie to keep their spouses happy.”

Chanyeol’s face turned ashen then. Sehun bit his tongue, immediately regretting having said that. But then a small hint of a smile tugged at a corner of Chanyeol’s lips.

“I suppose they do,” Chanyeol muttered and brought another spoonful of the scrambled eggs into his mouth.

I suppose they do.

Chanyeol’s phone rang a moment later and God, how Sehun wished he hadn’t answered it.

“Hello,” Chanyeol said on the phone. His face crumpled with annoyance. “Yeah. Okay. I’ll try to be there in an hour.”

Hanging up, he wiped his mouth and rose from his seat. Sehun frowned. “Work?” he asked monotonously.

“Yeah,” Chanyeol said, scratching the back of his neck. “Sorry.”

Sehun shrugged. “It’s fine.”

For the first time ever, it was all fine.

* * *

Kai remembered the first time he had met Sehun. It was at Chanyeol’s wedding rehearsal, where he was Chanyeol’s best man.

Was it love at first sight? Maybe. Like many fools, Kai believed in such nonsense. Love at first sight, soulmates, destinies.

He would never forget how nervous Sehun had looked that day, his nose all scrunched up and forehead crinkled in worry. He remembered walking up to Sehun after that to introduce himself.

He had taken Sehun’s hand and told him not to worry.

Sehun had laughed nervously and said, “What if everything goes wrong?”

Kai had told him, “Then fuck everything.”

Sehun had laughed again. “What if he doesn’t say ‘I do’? What if he doesn’t want to marry me tomorrow?”

Kai had jokingly said, “Then I will marry you.”

It was not much of a joke. But Sehun had calmed down after that.

Then one night, when Kai had come over to pick his father up from work, he had found Sehun sitting on the porch steps, lost in his own thoughts with tears he did not even know were streaking his cheeks.

When Kai had approached and asked him what was wrong, Sehun had quickly wiped his cheeks and shook his head, mewling, “Nothing.”

“There has to be something. You’re crying,” Kai had said.

“I’m not crying,” Sehun had argued defensively.

Kai had taken his seat beside Sehun on the porch steps. He knew Chanyeol wasn’t home and wouldn’t come home tonight. He had told Kai that he was planning to spend the night at his office.

Sehun had not said what was bothering him. Kai had not asked again. He simply sat there with Sehun for a while before he had gotten up and fetched his father.

He hadn’t gone back to his own apartment that night. He had gone back to Chanyeol’s house to check on Sehun. To see if he were all right.

Sehun was still sitting out in the cold. He was no longer crying.

“You know, I’d never seen a man so sad in my life,” Kai said, snorting as he sat back beside Sehun. “You’re sadder than that blue pony in the honey bear cartoon.”

That made Sehun laugh a little. He turned his head to meet Kai’s eyes. “His name is Eeyore and he’s a donkey. Not a pony.”

“Tomato, to-mah-to.”

“More like tomato, sock.”

Kai laughed with him. Then Sehun’s pale face saddened again. Sighing, Kai took hold of a side of Sehun’s face and cupped it gently.

“Give him some time,” Kai had said.

Sehun did not look surprised that Kai knew what was wrong. Before he knew it, Sehun was leaning into his touch, his eyes closed, his plush pink lips parted. It was too tempting.

He refrained.

And pulled his hand back. He stood up and said, “You should go inside, Se—”

He was cut off when Sehun sprung up and caught his collar, yanking him forward to crash their mouths together.

Kai pulled back at once, gripping Sehun’s shoulders. Their breathing quickened and shallowed at the same time as Kai stared at him in shock.

Then he leaned in this time and kissed Sehun, deep and firm, hands clutching at Sehun’s hair and hip. He remembered them stumbling into the house, up the stairs and into the bedroom.

Did either of them regret anything that happened the night before when they woke up in each other’s arms in the morning? No. Not even Sehun.

Kai promised himself that he would stop the instant it felt wrong to either of them. But it never did.

“Kai.”

He turned around when he heard Sehun’s voice outside the crowded cinema. He smiled at Sehun, who smiled back at him, walking up to him.

The night was hectic as always in the city. Cold, on the brink of winter. That was good. Because no one would pay them any attention.

“I thought you wouldn’t come,” Kai said, curling his arm around Sehun’s waist and kissed his cheek to greet him.

Sehun drew away at once and glanced around them apprehensively. Then he faced Kai with a smile. “Are we watching a movie?” he asked excitedly.

Kai pulled out the tickets and waved it in the air. “Dirty Dancing.”

Sehun was immediately beaming with exhilaration. “It’s my favourite movie. But… I haven’t been to the movies in like… years.”

“Live the life of the common tonight,” Kai said, holding out a hand for Sehun to take.

Sehun took it. “Does that mean I’ll get popcorn, too?”

“Whatever you want, princess. I am your humble subject.”

“Oh, in that case, squire, fetch me a bucket of caramel popcorn.”

“Only for a kiss in return.”

Sehun faked a frown. “Subjects do not demand.”

Kai stopped and held Sehun’s waist. “Kiss me.”

Sehun bit his lip, looking around.

“No one is looking at us, Sehun,” Kai said. “And even if they are, it’s probably because I’m so handsome.”

“Uh-huh,” Sehun scoffed and draped his arms loosely over Kai’s shoulders. “How about I kiss you inside?” he whispered, his lips almost brushing Kai’s.

Kai smirked. “I can live with that.”

Chapter Text

“Relax,” Kai said as they strolled down the bustling street after the movie. The bitter autumnal wind knifed at their faces, chilling their fingers to numbness. “You look like the cops are after you.”

Kai was smiling, almost chuckling in amusement. Sehun glared at him. “There might people who know us,” Sehun muttered, rubbing shoulders against strangers on his path.

“Maybe. But I can assure you people who know you will not be out here,” Kai said, curling his hand around Sehun’s, stuffing them both into the pocket of his jacket. “This is the land of the peasant folk.”

“Why do you keep saying that?” Sehun snickered, tightening his fingers around Kai’s in the warmth of the pocket. This was new. They had never been out in the public together. Not this kind of ‘public’ and certainly not this kind of ‘together’.

When he received Kai’s text saying that he should meet Kai in front of the cinemas at 7p.m., Sehun had hesitated to show up. He almost did not. But then he figured he could just head out for once instead of sulking in his loneliness at home.

The movie was still a surprise nonetheless. Whenever Kai called him up, it had always been for sex. Though this was a nice difference, it unnerved Sehun. Were they going to do things like this often now? What did that mean?

Not that he did not like Kai’s company, God knew he loved it. But up until now, Kai had only kept him company in bed. Although they talked a lot and were already a part of each other’s lives, this was different. Strange. It was all very strange. It was as though they were on a… date.

And the idea discomfited Sehun.

“Keep saying what?”

“That you’re a commoner?”

“I am a commoner.”

“So am I. I’m not royalty.”

“You’re only a step away from royalty, Sehun. Do you know what guys like me would do to hang out with guys like you?”

“I don’t know. Suck cock?” Sehun said jokingly.

Kai smirked. “Precisely,” he scoffed and leaned in to brush his lips against Sehun’s temple. “Want a pretzel, princess?”

Sehun glanced at the pretzel stand. “Can’t we just head to a café or something?” He pointed at one across the street. “What about that bistro over there?”

“The bistro,” Kai snorted and laughed. “Trust me. The roadside pretzels are way better than the ones sold at your fancy bistros.”

He then tore his hand away from Sehun’s to skip over to the pretzel stand. Sehun wouldn’t lie. The smell of butter, dough, roasted almonds, and hot caramel was wonderful. It tingled his nose pleasantly.

But his parents had warned him that they were full of germs and that he would get sick if he ate the roadside goods. Sehun felt foolish for recalling the things he hated the most about his parents. They were so strict.

He waited, hands plunged into the pockets of his coat while he watched Kai place his order to the man behind the stand. They shared a laugh about something. Sehun knew Kai was good with everyone. It was so easy to smile and laugh with him. Everyone loved guys like Kai.

He was wrong. Did Kai know what guys like Sehun would do to hang out with easy, gregarious guys like Kai?

Cut it out, Sehun thought to himself. They fucked. They saw each other for sex. Nothing more. He should not let either of them make a habit out of this. No more movies, no more walking on pavements holding hands, no more soft pretzels from the street.

“I got you the almond one,” Kai said as he walked back to Sehun. “It’s the best kind.”

Sehun accepted it with a smile. “And the caramel?”

“Yeah. Dip it into the caramel. You’re going to taste heaven in a while.”

Sehun watched Kai tear a piece of the pretzel with his bare fingers and dunk it into the small tub of the gooey, sickly sweet delight. Instead of eating it, Kai held it out to Sehun.

For once, reassured that no one was watching them, Sehun ate the piece of pretzel from Kai’s fingers. And God, it was delightful.

It was warm, doughy and the buttery caramel made it all the butter. He grinned like a fool.

Kai smiled back. “See. You like it.”

“Mh-hm,” Sehun hummed and got busy. He did not care to get his hands dirty and sticky.

While he paid his full attention to working the pretzel out of its bag, Kai stole a quick kiss from him, licking a blob of caramel from Sehun’s lower lip.

“Hmm,” Kai let out, smirking as he ran his tongue along his own lips. “Sweet.”

Sehun quickly glanced around them. “Don’t do that,” he mumbled, face turning embarrassingly red and hot.

“Come on.” He pressed a hand to the small of Sehun’s back and ushered him towards his car. When he reached for the pretzel, Sehun pulled away, glowering playfully.

“Get your own.”

“Oof. Mr Stingy Pants,” Kai scoffed.

* * *

 “Jesus Christ,” Kai swore under his breath, fingers gripping Sehun’s rolling hips.

“He’s not the one… making you come, Kai,” Sehun rasped as he fought for breath, hands clutching at the shoulders of the car seat.

The car filled with their obscene moans and aggressive gasps as they edged closer to their climaxes. Kai moved one of his hands to fist both their erections to pump it harder while Sehun continued to rock his hips, grinding their cocks together.

Their hot breaths mingled when Sehun bowed his head to bring their mouths together. The kiss was sloppy, desperate, spelling their desperation as they were clinging dearly on the edge of sanity.

“Fuck, I’m gonna come,” Kai gasped, sliding a hand to grip Sehun’s ass.

“Me, too,” Sehun panted and moaned. He then rammed his mouth down on Kai’s once more, tongues swirling around one another, teeth looking to further abuse the other’s swollen lips.

When they reached their peak, almost simultaneously, Sehun arched his body into Kai’s and cried his name like a prayer, shooting warm, white ropes onto their bodies. Kai then cupped the back of Sehun’s head and drew him down for a lazy kiss.

Coming down from their high, Sehun shifted back to the passenger seat and pulled his pants up.

Kai remained reclined in his seat, eyes closed and chest heaving laboriously. “God, that was good,” he exhaled with a hint of smile on a corner of his lips.

Sehun smirked back and bit his throbbing lip that had been Kai’s victim for a good one hour. “I always fantasized about car sex,” Sehun murmured, leaning his head back on the headrest.

“We can still go all the way in the backseat. Just let me… recharge for a bit.”

Sehun laughed. “Next time. I should… head home.”

Kai’s eyes fluttered open and turned to Sehun. “Are you sure? We can just… go back to my place.”

“No,” Sehun said quickly. “I should go home.”

Kai shrugged and zipped up his pants before he reached for the pack of tissues from the dashboard. Wiping the come off his abdomen and chest, he handed Sehun the rest of the tissues for him to clean up.

“So long you promise me a next time,” Kai said and held Sehun’s chin, pulling his face close for a soft kiss. “Yeah?”

“Yeah, of course,” Sehun said and pulled back. He slumped back in his seat and sighed.

“What?” Kai asked, cocking an eyebrow.

“Nothing.”

Usually when he said nothing, Kai would not press him for more. He’d let it go. He was simple like that.

“What is it, Sehun?” Kai asked again, this time in a hoarser voice.

Sehun faced him, his eyes sombre. “Let’s… stay this way, okay?”

Kai blinked. “This… way?”

“Yeah, this way. Without… complications.”

“Oh,” Kai said and turned away, face scrunched up in confusion. “Without complications,” he echoed in a whisper. He then looked back to Sehun with a strained smile. “Of course, Sehun. Whatever you want.”

Sehun smiled and kissed Kai back when the older leaned in for a kiss.

“Wanna go out to the skating rink with me on Saturday?” Kai then asked.

Sehun hesitated. “I don’t think we should,” he said blatantly. And then felt bad when Kai withdrew with a frown.

“Okay.”

“I’m sorry. I just think we should be… careful and not push our lucks.”

Kai flashed a smile. “I get it, princess.” He raised a hand to Sehun’s hair to ruffle it. “Don’t worry.”

* * *

He was expecting Chanyeol’s usual absence when he returned home that night, completely worn out and strangely happy. He had had a good day after a very long time. For the first time, nothing had gone wrong.

Much to his surprise, he found his husband in their bedroom, nestled on their bed with a laptop in front of him.

Chanyeol raised his head and greeted him with that stoic look he always had.

“Hey,” Sehun said, feeling oddly ashamed. He refused to meet Chanyeol’s gaze as he walked over to the bathroom. God, yes. He needed a thorough wash to cleanse himself.

“Were you… out?” Chanyeol asked calmly.

Sehun glanced back at him, licking his lips. “Uh… yeah.”

For a moment, he thought that Chanyeol would ask where he had been. But he didn’t.

“Did you do something fun?” he asked instead.

Sehun stared at him for a moment in disbelief. Chanyeol was smiling. Or half smiling. He did not care. He’d take whatever he could get from that undemonstrative bastard.

“Um… sort of,” Sehun answered. “What about you? How was… work?”

“Same old, same old,” Chanyeol said with a breath of laughter that sounded dead. “Are you hungry?”

Sehun shook his head. “I had dinner. I’m just going to… get to bed.”

“Okay.”

After a long, deserving shower, Sehun slipped into the bed and turned his back to his husband like he always did before turning his side of the bed lamp off.

“Do you want to,” Chanyeol then began. “go pay my grandparents a visit this weekend?”

Sehun flopped around and propped himself up on his elbows. Chanyeol looked flustered, his eyes looking everywhere but at Sehun. “This… weekend?”

Chanyeol rubbed the back of his neck. “If you have other plans, you don’t have to. But I just thought it’d be nice to go out to the lakehouse and stay with them for a couple of days.”

Holy shit, he’s talking to me, was all that Sehun could think. And he wants to go away with me.

“Yeah, I mean,” Sehun blurted out and paused to compose himself. “I don’t have any plans. I’d love to go with you and visit your grandparents.”

Chanyeol smiled faintly and nodded his head once. “Okay. I’ll book the flight tickets.”

“Can’t we drive there?”

Chanyeol was mum for a moment, staring at Sehun. “We can… But it’d be a four-hour drive.”

“That’s not bad,” Sehun said. “We can take turns at the wheel. Could be nice to go on a long drive.”

Chanyeol did not look like he was going to protest. “Wonderful,” he muttered and pursed his lips, as though to stifle a smile.

Sehun dropped his head back on the pillow and grinned to himself. Yes, they were definitely becoming friends now.

Chapter Text

The wind roared and whistled behind his ear when Chanyeol rolled down the windows and the roof of his Porsche 918 Spyder. The sun was surprisingly shining today. It had to be the sunniest, warmest autumn day.

Sehun was still pleasantly surprised in his seat. This seemed too good to be true. He was so ready for the whole thing to be called off this morning when he woke up and found out that Chanyeol had left for work. But around noon, he returned home and asked Sehun if he were done packing since they should hit the road soon.

Unbelievable.

Forty minutes down the road, neither of them had anything to say. They quietly listened to the radio. The silence, for once, wasn’t so bad. Sehun observed Chanyeol whenever his husband was not noticing. So, that was basically most of the time.

Chanyeol kept his eyes on the road at all times, one of his hands lightly gripping the wheel while the other rested on the gear stick. He was wearing a fleece shirt Sehun had never seen him wear under a black leather jacket. He even wore his hair down today. Not that it stayed down, anyway, as the wind relentlessly mussed his hair.

Sehun fought the urge to reach up and run his fingers through his husband’s hair. He briefly averted his attention to his phone to check the missed calls from last night. Two from Kai. He hadn’t attended the call because he had already fallen asleep then. For some reason, he did not want to call back this morning.

His head shot up when Sweet Home Alabama by Lynyrd Skynyrd started playing on the radio. Chanyeol pinned him with a sidelong glance through his sunglasses when Sehun turned the volume up, grinning in excitement.

“You like this song?” Chanyeol asked, his own lips twitching into a smile. “It’s crap.”

“I love this song!” Sehun laughed, bobbing his head to the opening chords. “Big wheels keep on turnin’. Carry me home to see my kin. Singing songs about the Southland. I miss Alabamy once again, and I think it’s a sin, yes.” He bit his smiling lip and nodded to the rhythm.

Chanyeol’s smile widened as he slowly shook his head.

Well, I heard mister Young sing about her,” Sehun sang. “Well, I heard ole Neil put her down. Well, I hope Neil Young will remember. A Southern man don’t need him around anyhow!” He drew his hands, beating the air to mimic beating a drum. “Sweet home Alabama… Come on, sing with me.”

Chanyeol let out a laugh, which sounded like the most genuine thing that he had ever done around Sehun.

Sehun was completely astonished when Chanyeol joined him in the song. “Where the skies are so blue… Sweet home Alabama! Lord, I’m coming home to you.”

“Oh, my God, it doesn’t only talk. It sings, too!” Sehun remarked, guffawing in ecstasy. Chanyeol immediately pursed his lips, his cheeks turning visibly red.

“You’re not a bad singer yourself,” Chanyeol said.

“And it gloats,” Sehun gasped. “Have mercy. I cannot take all these revelations in one day. It’s already killing me.”

Chanyeol did not reply. He let Sehun sing along to the rest of the song with a small smile constantly playing on his lips.

The freeway was almost deserted. They soon got off the city’s radar, entering the countryside.

Sehun found himself immersed in the breath-taking scenery surrounding him. “Why do you grandparents live near a lake?” he asked Chanyeol after a while.

“They don’t live there. They just go there every summer and return around the autumn. It’s… really nice there. The lake is beautiful. The forest is beautiful.” He momentarily lost himself to his own thoughts for a moment, eyebrows furrowing in a sad frown. “I went around there a lot when I was a kid.”

Sehun smiled. “We all miss our childhood.”

“I guess.”

Sehun liked Chanyeol’s grandparents. He hadn’t met them many times but all the times he had, they had been incredibly nice to him. They were nicer than his own grandparents. He knew they’d be happy to see him, too.

They stopped a couple of times to get some gas and refreshments.

“I got us some… Cheetos,” Chanyeol said with a hint of disgust in his tone as he climbed back into the car after filling the tank. “I don’t really know what they taste like. I couldn’t find anything else decent in there.”

Sehun accepted the bag. “I never had them either,” he said. “My Mom was very strict about my diet.”

“We’re a couple of snobs,” Chanyeol said, and Sehun stared at him for a moment. Did he just… crack a joke?

The third time they stopped at a gas station, they were almost at their destination—just fifteen minutes away.

“We have an almost full tank,” Sehun commented as Chanyeol pulled over.

“Oh, we’re not here for gas,” he muttered and unbuckled his seatbelt. Sehun blinked confusedly and looked ahead at the only other car parked at the gas station.

His eyes almost popped out of their sockets as his jaw fell slack when he recognized the black Aston Martin and spotted Kai leaning his back against the hood of his car, clad in black jeans and white shirt, sleeves rolled up to his elbows, sporting a pair of dark shades and a sports watch.

What the fuck…

At his side, a tall woman stood, muttering something into his ear that made him grin. She was beautiful. Long brown hair, charming features, a little curvy, big breasts, garbed in a flowy blouse and a pair of white pants with boots.

Sehun wondered if he had met her before. She looked slightly familiar.

“What… are they doing here?” he asked in a breathy whisper.

“I invited them,” Chanyeol said.

Sehun looked at him sharply. “You… invited them… So, what? Is this like a group vacation or something?”

And here he was, thinking that Chanyeol was finally treating him like a friend or something a little more special.

His husband arched an eyebrow. “No,” he said and exited the car.

Sehun sat still in his seat, scowling hard for a moment, grinding his teeth as he stared at Chanyeol sauntering over to Kai and the unknown woman.

Then cursing under his breath, he stepped out of the vehicle and walked over to them, plunging his hands into the back pockets of his jeans.

Kai lowered his sunglasses and flashed a cocky smile in Sehun’s way. “Sehun,” he called as Sehun joined Chanyeol’s side.

“Hey,” Sehun murmured monotonously, trying not to grumble.

Kai continued to smile.

“Sehun, you remember my cousin, Kira,” Chanyeol said.

Kira. Of course. Sehun recalled her immediately. She was at the wedding, attracting all the men and women’s attention. Up close, she was a lot more beautiful.

He also remembered her throwing up at the wedding reception after one too many cocktails.

“Hi, Kira,” he said, mustering a smile as he went in for a hug. “It’s great to see you again.”

“Same here, Sehun,” Kira chimed friendlily and pulled back. “You weren’t… expecting us?”

Sehun shook his head, turning his black stare and forced smile to his husband. “I was unaware of this little arrangement.”

“You didn’t tell him?” Kai asked Chanyeol, raising an eyebrow.

Chanyeol glanced at Sehun. “It’s… not a big deal.”

The nonchalance! Sehun wanted to hit his husband, then. It went to show how Chanyeol belittled Sehun and had no care for Sehun’s feelings.

“Yeah,” Sehun let out through his tight teeth. “It’s not a big deal.”

“So, shall we?” Chanyeol said and turned back to his car.

Sehun lingered for a moment to glower at Kai, who suddenly looked confused. Then he followed after Chanyeol, gripping his fists at his sides.

This was bad. A weekend getaway with both Kai and Chanyeol? Shit. He was in deep shit.

“Why did you invite them?” Sehun asked when they were back in the privacy of their car.

Chanyeol stared at him wordlessly for a moment. “You’re upset?”

Sehun licked his lips. “No, I’m… not. But you should’ve at least told me.”

“I didn’t think you’d care. Or mind… I told Kai that I’m taking you out to the lakehouse and he said that he would like to tag along because it’s been a while since he saw my grandparents, too. They’re really fond of him… Anyway, I also invited Kira to join us, hoping that…” he trailed off, gazing out the window.

“Hoping for what?” Sehun asked sourly.

“She and Kai used to date,” Chanyeol said. “When they broke up, they stayed good friends but… Kira still likes him. I figured this would be a great opportunity for them both to… get it back on.”

Chanyeol was smiling as he said that. Sehun’s fists loosened as his hands slowly started trembling to the chilly wind.

“What?” he said. “You’re… playing… cupid?”

Chanyeol scoffed as he started the engine. “It sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? But I still think they’re a great match. I don’t know why they broke up, but Kai was really happy with her. They were happy with each other. And I know Kira wants to try it again with him.”

Sehun seemed at a loss for words for a moment. He wasn’t sure why his heart was hammering wildly against his chest. He couldn’t tell if he were angry, upset, resentful, jealous or all of them.

“But they… broke up. Maybe sometimes you shouldn’t try to fix broken things and let them stay broken.” He sharply turned his head away then, clenching his jaw. Chanyeol pulled his hands away from the steering wheel.

“What do you… mean by that?” There was a stinging sobriety in Chanyeol’s voice that instant. Sehun did not answer. Chanyeol stayed mum for a moment, too. Then, “Not everybody gets a second chance. I just want to… make sure that—”

“That they have that second chance? You want to make sure that they go back to the past and fix their mistakes and live happily ever after with each other? Is it what you wish for them or for yourself?”

Sehun immediately regretted saying it.

Chanyeol’s face paled. He looked away and closed his eyes. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he muttered, taking a deep breath. “But I don’t want to know either.”

Sehun bit his tongue. His blood was boiling. Was he more upset about the fact that Chanyeol had invited his best friend and cousin on their trip, or the fact that Kai had deliberately decided to intervene and make everything awkward and difficult for Sehun, or the fact that Kira was Kai’s ex-girlfriend who was still pining for a shot with Kai.

Whatever it was, he knew the next couple of days would be hell for him.

* * *

They did not talk for the rest of the drive to the lakehouse. Kai had arrived with Kira a few minutes before them and they were already unloading their cars.

Sehun looked out the window and gawked at the vast expanse of water surrounded by sepia-toned forest. The sun was already dipping beyond the horizon, painting the sky with purple and orange. Facing the enchanting lake was the lakehouse, way grander than Sehun had expected it to be.

When Chanyeol killed the engine, he did not spare Sehun a glance as he got out of the car and grabbed their bags.

Sehun exhaled heavily, burying his face in his hands. What had he done… He should not have snapped at Chanyeol like that. Especially not now when everything was just starting to go smoothly. He supposed he had no one to blame but himself for the situation he was in, for his resentment, for his guilt, for his apprehension.

God, everything could go wrong.

He brought his head up when he heard the tap on the window. Then pushing the door open, he stepped out and faced Kai with a scowl.

“What are you doing?” he hissed at Kai, whose brows were pinched together in confusion.

“Why are you so disappointed to see me?” Kai asked without any humour in his voice.

“I…” Sehun began, flustered and nervous. “I’m not… disappointed,” he muttered. “But are you… bloody insane to—”

“Hey!” Kira interrupted them from where she stood with Chanyeol by the front door. “You two coming?”

Sehun sighed and heaved a few deep breaths. Fixing Kai with one final look, he started towards Kira and Chanyeol.

“I can take mine,” Sehun told Chanyeol as he reached for his own back.

“It’s fine,” Chanyeol mumbled without looking at him, refusing to hand Sehun his bag. He then rang the doorbell.

“Aw,” Kira cooed. “Look at you.” She poked a finger into her cousin’s cheek. “Playing the role of a good husband.”

Chanyeol did not seem like he was in the mood for banters. Thanks to Sehun.

“Tell me, Sehun,” Kira said, turning to him. “Is he really being a good husband to you? Both during the day and during the night?”

“Can you pipe down, Kira?” Kai said as he ambled over to them with a duffel bag slung over his shoulder. “We’re tired.”

“I’m not,” she said.

“That’s because I was driving the whole way.”

“And that’s why you’d also make a good husband,” she said, clinging onto his arm.

Kai snorted. “That’s what you said last year.”

“Perceptions change, Kai.”

Sehun turned away with blood pulsing in his temples and heartbeat quickening. He needed some good food and good sleep. Yes, that would make everything slightly better.

When the door swung open, Chanyeol’s grandmother immediately pounced on Kai, who stood closest to the door.

“Kai!” she squawked deliriously when she pulled back to hold Kai by the shoulders and take a good look at him. “Why don’t you even call anymore?”

Kai laughed. “Hey, Nana,” he said and pecked on her cheek. “You have your grandson to thank for that. He’s drilling me pretty hard, being the boss and all.”

Chanyeol rolled his eyes. Sehun found it charming. But also, very surprising. “He’s just giving excuses, Nana,” he said and welcomed the hug his grandma offered.

“Well, you two step aside,” she said as she approached Sehun with a big warm smile. “Sehun.”

Sehun returned her smile and briefly melted in her embrace for a moment. She smelled like chamomile and something else expensive. “How have you been, Mrs Park?”

“I’ve already told you that you can just call me Nana,” she said, drawing back to stroke Sehun’s cheeks with her thumbs. “My… You are more handsome every time I see you. I hope you’re the reason my grandson claims that he’s far too busy to visit family these days.”

Sehun blushed hard at that and he noticed Chanyeol flushing in embarrassment, too. Kai was looking somewhere else.

“I did know you were tagging along,” Mrs Park said, turning to Kira.

“Are you disappointed, Nana?” Kira scoffed and hugged her. “Where’s Grandpa?”

“He’s out. But he’ll back shortly. Come on in.”

The interior of the lakehouse was just lavish as the exterior, adorned with animal head mounts, rifles, rich mahogany woods, fireplaces.

“Now, why don’t you all freshen up and come on down for some dinner,” Chanyeol and Kira’s grandmother said. “We’re having spare ribs.”

“My mouth is already watering,” Kai remarked.

Sehun glanced around the front hall for a moment before he turned to look at Chanyeol waiting on the stairs, staring at him. Sehun felt his cheeks heat when his husband quickly looked away.

He then followed Chanyeol upstairs.

* * *

Their room had a balcony that overlooked the lake. It was a stunning view that snatched Sehun’s breath. He returned to the room and closed the balcony doors as the air turned colder and heavier.

His eyes darted to Chanyeol, who stepped out of the bathroom with only a towel wrapped around his lower waist. As he rummaged through his luggage for clothes, Sehun leered at the water rivulets dripping from his damp hair and the glistening skin that still needed drying. His back muscles were taut, solid. His biceps were well-defined. And when he turned around after fishing out some clothes, Sehun checked out the toned abs and chest and the deep waistlines that looked so sexy it should be illegal.

Shit, his husband was hot. Did Chanyeol work out that often? If so, where? Sehun had never seen him in the gym at home.

His gaze slowly rose and he realized that Chanyeol had caught him looking. In fact, he was staring back.

Sehun scratched the back of his neck and staggered to the bed to grab his own bag. “Are you done with the bathroom?” he stuttered, refusing to raise his head.

“Yes,” Chanyeol murmured. “You can… use it now.”

Sehun nodded hastily and hurried into the bathroom to splash some cold water on his burning face.

 By the time he was done with his shower, Chanyeol was gone. Sehun dressed himself quickly and headed out of the room. On his way to the staircase, he walked past the room Kai would be sleeping in tonight.

Did he share it with Kira, Sehun wondered, but then remembered hearing Kira’s voice from across the hall. He didn’t know why it came to him as a relief to find out that Kai and Kira did not share a room. Why did it even matter? It wasn’t like Kai was Sehun’s. They were just… friends with benefits. No, even that was too much. Fuck buddies. Yes, that was what they all was.

He rapped on the open door with his knuckles when he found Kai tossing out shirts from his bag and onto the bed.

Kai’s head shot, turning in Sehun’s direction. Neither of them smiled. Sehun entered and closed the door behind him.

They stood in silence for a moment while Sehun watched Kai’s chest heave.

“What were you thinking?” Sehun then broke the silence. “You knew Chanyeol and I are going here together.”

Kai held a perfectly stoic expression. “So?”

“So?” Sehun spat. “What are you trying to do? Sabotage this… this whole thing?”

Kai gave an estranged look. “What thing?”

Sehun did not know. He did not know what was worrying him. “Please, don’t try to ruin this,” he then said in a low voice.

Kai dropped the shirt he was holding back into the bag and faced Sehun. “You think I’m trying to ruin this? What exactly is ‘this’? You and… Chanyeol?” His voice faltered a little. “So, there’s a ‘you and Chanyeol’ now?”

“No,” Sehun said quickly. “But…” He trailed off. He did not know what he wanted to say. His mind felt like a blank slate that homed a muddle of emotions.

“Look,” Kai sighed. “If it upsets you so much, I’ll just leave. I don’t want to ruin anything for you. Trust me, I only came along because I missed you. But if my being here annoys you, I think I’ll just go.”

Sehun frowned. “No, don’t,” he muttered. “I… I’m just… You don’t have to go.” He swallowed hard and stormed out of the room. Kai did not stop him. He never stopped Sehun whenever he walked away.

Chapter Text

“This is so good, Nana,” Kira commented with a full mouth and a moan. “Kai, you have to try these potatoes.”

She held out her fork pierced through a hunk of potato and Kai took a bite of it without a polite smile. They seemed closer than Sehun thought. What was he thinking… Of course, they were close. They used to be lovers.

It was a little difficult for Sehun to wrap his head around that fact and the fact that he was having dinner with the man he had an affair with and his ex-girlfriend, who apparently was still in love with him, and his husband. This was a whole new level of twisted.

“Sehun,” Chanyeol’s grandfather called from across the table. Sehun lifted his head. “You’ve been awfully quiet. I was hoping it’s the one quality of my grandson that won’t rub off on you.”

Sehun smiled at that. “I am just tired, that’s all.” Even if he weren’t, he could never match up to Kira’s level of socialness and chattiness. She was always up and about while maintaining her elegance and grace at all times. It was hard to picture a man who would break up with her. Especially considering she was loaded, beautiful, friendly, had a lively personality and did Sehun mention she was loaded? She was way out of Kai’s league. She still seemed interested in Kai. So, was Kai out of his mind?

It did not look like he hated her either with all the private jokes and skin contact he happily shared with her. Sehun stared at them whisper something into each other’s ears before Kira shoved Kai away by her elbow, chuckling. Kai, on the other hand, paid Sehun absolutely no heed. He did not even turn to Sehun once.

“Makes perfect sense,” grandpa Park said. “But I’m hoping you’d be joining us for the stargazing.”

Sehun noticed Chanyeol stiffening in his seat suddenly, his jaw tightening as he slowly munched his food, keeping his eyes on the wineglass.

“Stargazing?” Sehun repeated excitedly. “Of course. That sounds… fun.”

“The stars out here are insane,” Chanyeol’s grandmother said. “They sparkle like actual diamonds.”

“And their reflections on the lake,” Kira added with a low whistle. “Stunning.”

Kai smirked at her and shook his head. “Keep your foot to yourself,” he muttered under his breath and Kira pouted.

Sehun fought the temptation to duck under the table and take a look at what mischief they were up to. He felt petty and ridiculous. Why should he care what they did? No, he did not care.

He stuffed a huge lump of potato into his mouth and chewed aggressively.

“Still not going on that honeymoon we paid for, are you?” Mr Park asked, arching a brow in Chanyeol’s direction.

“Where was it to again?” Kira inquired.

“Tahiti,” the old man sighed. “You own the company, Chanyeol. It’s yours. And it will still be yours when you return. One of the perks of being the CEO is that you don’t have to actually be there all the damn time.”

Sehun was too embarrassed to pitch in his thoughts in this conversation. A honeymoon to Tahiti sure did sound wonderful. But he knew there’d be no point in going on one if Chanyeol was not keen on the whole concept of the honeymoon. 

“He’s a workaholic,” Kai said with a scoff. “I told him many times to take the time off and go on the honeymoon.”

Chanyeol fixed Kai with a daggering look. “Well, I’m a workaholic,” he said, shrugging.

“You sure are,” Kai said. “But you’re also a family man now.”

Sehun saw Chanyeol’s face twist uneasily.

“Kai has a point,” Chanyeol’s grandmother remarked. “Your grandfather never neglected me when we got married in the name of work.”

“In fact,” her husband said with a mischievous smile. “I was always the romantic. I would whisk her away all the time just so that I could demonstrate how much I love her.”

Mrs Park’s face turned into a beautiful shade of pink. “Oh, you sappy old-timer,” she said, laughing a little.

“I built this lakehouse for her, too,” he added.

Sehun’s eyes widened. “Really?” he rasped. “That’s so… sweet.”

“Hm,” Kira grunted and swallowed her wine before speaking. “You should listen to their stories. Better than the Disney love stories.”

“I’d love to,” Sehun said.

“So, Kai,” Kira purred, resting her elbow on Kai’s shoulder. “When are you building me a lakehouse?”

Kai jerked away, forcing Kira to drop her elbow on the table. “That ship has long sailed, love.”

“Ah, dang it,” she huffed, faking a frown.

Sehun gripped his fork with more force than necessary. It was rude and annoying of them. What were they even doing? Flirting? Fighting? Falling back in love? Whatever it was, Sehun wished they’d take it somewhere else and not do it during dinner.

“You two should get a room,” he muttered bitterly, and all heads turned to him instantly. Including Kai’s. Sehun mustered a strained smile. “I’m just saying,” he said with a shrug.

Kai pursed his lips, staring at Sehun with a cocky look. He then averted his attention back to Kira, who leaned in to his ear and mumbled, “He’s right.”

Sehun rolled his eyes and dropped them on his husband. He was picking out radishes on his plate and setting them aside. “Do you not like them?”

Chanyeol raised his head and turned to Sehun. “Uh… No.”

“Oh,” Sehun let out. He’d remember that. “I really like them. Can I… have them?”

Chanyeol surprisingly smiled. “You’re welcome to eat all my radishes,” he said in a low voice.

Sehun found it so charming. He did not seem like he was mad anymore. And neither was Sehun. He supposed it was not Chanyeol he was mad at.

He retrieved the radishes from his husband’s plate and settled them on his. “Thank you.”

It took him a while to realize everyone at the table was watching them. Chanyeol’s grandparents were smiling at each other, as though tacitly conversing something.

“Excuse me,” Chanyeol said after a while when his phone rang and rose from his seat.

“Chanyeol,” his grandfather began to protest with a heavy sigh. “Come out to the lake.”

Chanyeol replied with a curt nod of his head and sauntered out of the dining hall.

“You two seem awfully chummy,” Kira said, jerking her chin at Sehun with a wineglass in her hand.

Sehun glanced at Kai instead. Kai simply smiled at him.

* * *

After dinner, they headed out to the lakeside with mats, blankets, pillows, bottles of scotch and whiskey, and homemade dried kale chips, which Kai called “the tasteless potato chips of the rich” and refused to consume any.

Kira was right. The sky did look like a canvas of black, spangled with clusters of diamonds. The air was heavy and chilly. The rippled surface of the lake glimmered with the reflection of the stars. Sehun sat on the grass near the lake, swaddled in blankets while he waited for Chanyeol to show up.

Kai settled in a chair beside Mr Park to share his scotch while Kira and Mrs Park set up the telescope.

Everyone looked happy. Even Kai. But then again, it did not take much to make a guy like Kai happy.

Sehun, however, was overwrought with an overbearing sadness. Though he was smiling, there was no meaning behind that smile. He wasn’t sure what made his chest so heavy that even breathing was hard labour.

He stared vacantly at the lake. He could not quite put his finger on what made him so miserable all of a sudden. Perhaps it was guilt. But the answer could never be that simple, could it?

Envy, perhaps. He envied Chanyeol’s grandparents and the love they shared. They were growing old together, side by side, as each other’s best friend and better half. They understood one another so well.

He never should have agreed to marry Chanyeol. He had not only ruined his happiness, but he was not making Chanyeol any happier either. And this whole thing with Kai. God, he had ruined Kai’s friendship with Chanyeol. He hadn’t known Kai was almost like a brother to Chanyeol, like another son to the Park family. How would this ever go away? How would Sehun’s mistakes ever go away?

He could not think straight. Maybe he was just tired after all.

More than an hour passed. Kai and Kira constantly took turns at the telescope before they tired of it and settled on the grass on top of the mats, cocooned in the same blanket.

As much as Sehun tried to not to look at them, his eyes kept wandering over to where they lay, laughing and talking about things that Sehun was not a part of. Kai had his arms wrapped around her, keeping her warm while she drove her foot up and down Kai’s leg, her head settled on one of Kai’s shoulders.

And the entire time, Kai never looked in his way even once. And he hadn’t tried to sabotage anything. Sehun felt stupid for accusing him of such a dumb thing earlier.

His gloom intensified tenfold and he decided to call it a day when Chanyeol did not join them after the first hour.

“Are you done for the night?” Kira asked when Sehun walked past her and Kai, who were all cozied up on the ground. Kai propped himself up on his elbows and looked up at Sehun.

“Yeah,” Sehun said. “I should check up on Chanyeol.”

“He’s such a party pooper,” Kira groaned. “He’s always been like that, Sehun. Don’t feel bad.”

Sehun managed a smile. “Good night.”

“Good night,” she and Kai said in unison before they went back to whatever they were talking about before Sehun interrupted.

Bidding Chanyeol’s grandparents a good night, Sehun proceeded into the house and lazily dragged his weight up the stairs. A sob was ready at the back of his throat.

God, he wished he could hate Kai for ignoring him like that. But he knew his anguish was foolish and unreasonable. He did not want Kai to give him any attention either. But Kai was either a good pretender or he really did not care about Sehun.

It did not matter. Sehun did not care either.

He found Chanyeol in their room, plopped on the floor of the balcony, leaning against the railing with a bottle of alcohol keeping him company.

Sehun hurried over to the balcony, blinking in perplexment. “Hey,” he rasped.

Chanyeol lethargically lifted his head and met Sehun’s gaze with a pair of reddened, limpid eyes. “The stars are beautiful out here, aren’t they?” Chanyeol drawled.

Sehun lowered to his knees before his clearly drunk husband and frowned. “Are you… okay?”

Chanyeol did not answer. He picked up the bottle and quaffed the rum.

“Whoa,” Sehun gasped and took hold of the bottle, pulling it away from Chanyeol. “You’ve been drinking a lot lately.”

“You said,” Chanyeol said, his voice thick with sorrow. “I shouldn’t try to fix broken things and let them stay broken… Did you mean… me?”

Sehun shivered at the cold and looked at him dejectedly. “I…”

Chanyeol closed his eyes and let his head fall back on the railing. Sehun dropped his blurry gaze, tears welling up in his eyes.

He brought the bottle up to imbibe a mouthful of the rum before he plopped on the floor next to Chanyeol. “I’m sorry,” he whispered, shuddering softly at the cold wind as their arms brushed each other.

He watched his husband’s Adam’s apple bob as he swallowed hard, opening his tired eyes to look at Sehun. “Sorry?”

Sehun downed another gulp of the alcohol and winced at the bitter taste. “I didn’t… mean it.”

He could hear Kira’s laughter from below. He wanted to shut the whole world out then and just listen to Chanyeol’s voice without any distraction.

“You meant it,” Chanyeol said. They sat in silence for a few minutes following that, quietly sharing the drink. “I am… broken, aren’t I?”

Sehun hated himself for what he had said. Then he hated himself for realizing that he had hurt Kai too with what he had said earlier. God, he was just messing up endlessly.

“We all are in a way,” Sehun muttered. When Chanyeol curled his hand around the bottle to tear it away from Sehun’s hand, Sehun refused, gripping the bottle harder. “No. That’s enough.”

Chanyeol scowled, eyes narrowing as his fingers tightened around Sehun’s. “Fuck,” he let out and dropped his hand from the bottle.

Sehun set the bottle aside and gazed up at the sky. “The stars are beautiful,” he commented in a hushed voice.

He froze when Chanyeol’s head fell on his shoulder. His breathing quickened as he glanced at Chanyeol. “You should… not have to… fix broken things, Sehun,” he said in a coarse, low voice. “You can walk away.”

A tear betrayed his eyes when he lowered them. “No,” he breathed out, braving himself to reach and take Chanyeol’s hand. Though he expected Chanyeol to pull his hand away, he did not.

At length, Chanyeol straightened up and snivelled, withdrawing his hand from Sehun’s before he rose to his feet and wobbled back into the bedroom. Sehun pushed himself up and watched his husband collapse on the bed.

Maybe tomorrow would be a better day. Sehun counted on that as he joined Chanyeol in the bed and turned the lights out.

Chapter Text

Sehun meandered downstairs the next morning for breakfast. He did not find Chanyeol in the bed or in the room when he woke up earlier. But he did find Chanyeol’s grandparents and Kira in the kitchen, preparing breakfast.

The smell of freshly baked banana bread wafted in the light air of the kitchen when he sauntered into it.

“Sehun!” Kira squawked excitedly from the sink counter as she filled the kettle with some tap water. “You’re finally up.”

“Good morning, sweetheart,” Chanyeol’s grandmother said, pressing a loving kiss on Sehun’s cheek. “Did you sleep well?”

Sehun smiled at them all and wandered over to the window to gaze out at the backyard. “I did,” he said. “Thanks for asking.” The forest ahead looked peaceful, the morning sunlight piercing through the dying canopy of the trees.

“We hope you like banana bread,” grandpa Park said. “It’s apparently the only thing Kira could make.”

“That’s a lie,” his wife said, shooting her husband a sharp glare. “Kira is one of the best cooks I know.”

Sehun turned his attention to the coffee machine.

“I’m decent,” Kira said. “Decent enough not to have a cook of my own. Unlike Chanyeol and Sehun here.”

Sehun looked up at her. “I don’t need the cook,” he said, feeling oddly defensive. It was a lie. He was no cook. He could not cook to save his life. He had no idea why he felt weirdly competitive. There was nothing to compete over with Kira. And yet, he wanted to.

“Um… Has anyone seen Chanyeol?” Sehun asked.

“He and Kai went on for a morning run, dear,” Mrs Park answered. “Sit down. Let’s eat.”

 Sehun perched on the stool by the kitchen island after getting his cup of coffee.

“Here,” Kira said as she joined him. “Have a slice.”

Sehun raised a hand to refuse. “No, thanks. I’m not a big fan of bananas,” he said to the slice of banana bread Kira handed him. Was it really petty of him to behave so passive-aggressively towards her? She hadn’t done anything, had she? God, he wished she and Kai had never tagged along on this trip. Everything would have been so much better.

“I was thinking of taking a walk in the woods,” Sehun said.

“Oh, it’s wonderful there,” Mrs Park said. “But don’t go alone. You could get lost easily.”

Just as he took a sip of the hot brew, Kai and Chanyeol spilled into the kitchen, huffing and panting, both bathed in sweat from head to toe.

Chanyeol’s eyes briefly flitted to Sehun before he tore a hunk of the banana bread, popping it into his mouth. Sehun leered at the beads of sweat trickling down his husband’s muscled arms.

Then he glanced over to Kai at Chanyeol’s side. Kai ran a hand through his damp, sweat slicked hair. He was still not sparing Sehun a single glance.

“Who was faster this time?” Kira asked, leaning back in her seat.

Kai flashed Chanyeol a lopsided grin and lifted a hand to ruffle Chanyeol’s hair at the back of his head before Chanyeol swatted his hand away.

“I will always be faster than him,” Kai said.

“Careful,” Chanyeol said in a light, humourful tone. “I’m still your boss.”

“Ooh, I’m so scared. What are you gonna do? Fire me to death?”

“I’m gonna go take a shower,” Chanyeol said and bent low to peck on his grandmother’s cheek.

“Sweaty,” she groaned, pulling away.

Straightening up, Chanyeol turned to Sehun. He bit his lip hesitantly for a moment and Sehun almost looked away. “Good morning,” Chanyeol said then.

Sehun felt his heart skip a beat. “Good… morning.”

Did Chanyeol even remember anything that had happened last night? Sehun recalled waking up a few times during the night to make sure that Chanyeol was asleep and up drinking again. And his husband was sound asleep the whole night. But did he remember what they had said to each other the night before? The way their fingers had lingered, hoping for, perhaps, something more? Did he remember Sehun’s heartfelt apology for hurting his feelings?

But then Chanyeol smiled. It seemed genuine. Sehun smiled back, thinking that it did not matter whether Chanyeol remembered it all. Today might be better than yesterday after all.

When Chanyeol hurried out of the kitchen, Kira leaped up to her feet and lunged at Kai, attacking him with a piece of the bread.

“I baked,” she chimed, and Kai ate from her hand. Sehun looked away, swigging the coffee, gripping the handle of the mug.

“I kind of miss this actually,” Kai muttered appreciatively. It did not sound like he was doing any of this to get a rise out of Sehun. Besides, Kai was not that type of a man, anyway. He was someone who strongly believed life was too short for animosities and grievances.

“Well, if you miss it so much—”

“I don’t miss it that much,” Kai cut her off and Sehun saw him smirking.

Sehun rose from his seat and cleared his throat. “I’m going for that walk now,” he told Chanyeol’s grandparents.

“Oh, Kai, go with him,” Mrs Park said. “Make sure he doesn’t get lost in the forest.”

Sehun frowned. “That’s not necessary, Nana. I can… I promise I won’t get lost.” For god’s sake, he wasn’t a kid.

“No, it’s fine,” Kai said quickly. “I’ll go with you.”

Sehun gritted his teeth, keeping his eyes on Mrs Park. “That won’t be necessary. I won’t go too far.”

“I wanted to go to the woods, anyway.”

Oh, now he wanted to talk to Sehun?

“Unless you’re too… afraid to go there with me,” Kai muttered behind him.

Sehun turned to face him with a glower. Kai pressed his lips into a thin smile and shrugged his shoulders. Rolling his eyes, Sehun shook his head and turned on his heel.

The chilly morning breeze was pleasant when he stepped out of the lakehouse. He stopped to leer at the lake in awe. The air was rich with the fragrance of the lake water and earth. The faint heat of the sun kissed upon his bared skin, such as his neck, face and fingers. He started towards the forest that was welcoming him with a tranquil charm.

He lifted a hand to touch the bark of a tree as he entered the woods, trudging across dried foliage. He loved the way the leaves crunched beneath the trampling of his shoes.

Kai silently followed, maintaining a safe distance. Sehun eventually came to a halt to look up at the ruddy leaf clinging on the tip of a branch. The forest had its own symphony. Sehun closed his eyes and let himself be drowned in the serenity of it all for a moment.

He could finally breathe.

He then heard Kai slogging past him with heavy footsteps. Sehun’s eyes flung open to scowl at him and the sweat-doused back of his grey T-shirt.

“What are you doing?” Sehun blurted out at long last, unable to hold his anguish in any longer.

He did not know what exactly he was mad about, but he was mad at Kai. That much he was sure of.

Kai stopped and turned around with a cocked eyebrow. “I feel like you’ve been asking me that question a lot lately.”

Sehun stared at him, gnashing his teeth furiously.

Kai sighed. “Care to get more specific?”

Sehun clenched his fists. “What are you doing with… Kira? Is she really your… ex-girlfriend? You’ve… never mentioned her before. She looks like she still has the hots for you. Are you… interested in her? Or are you just leading her on?”

Kai fell quiet for a minute, looking taken aback. Then he laughed. “I believe leading people on is your field of expertise.”

That struck Sehun dumb. “What?”

Kai shook his head and turned away. Sehun vaulted after him and grabbed his arm, yanking him around to face him again. Kai scowled at him this time. “Why do you even care, Sehun? Whatever the hell I’m doing with Kira. It’s none of your business.”

Sehun released Kai’s arm as his heart dropped to his stomach. He then lowered his gaze. “I…”

Kai’s hard expression softened, but it did not look any less hostile. “You have no reason to care about any of this, Sehun. Whom I want to see is not something you have to concern yourself with. Just like how I’m not supposed to give a damn about you and Chanyeol’s relationship.” He stepped closer and Sehun took a step back. “Remember?” he said in a low, threatful voice. “We just fuck. When we’re not doing exactly just that, I’m no one to you and you’re no one to me. Wasn’t that the deal you made with the devil?”

Sehun almost tripped over a root and he braced himself against a tree. He slowly lifted his gaze to look at Kai’s dark eyes. “Kai…”

Kai raised his hands to Sehun’s hips. Sehun stifled a gasp. “What?” he purred lowly, a hand curling around a side of Sehun’s waist.

“Stop,” Sehun let out shakily, pressing his fists weakly against Kai’s chest.

“Stop?” Kai echoed in a whisper as he slid a hand along Sehun’s ass before he gripped it, causing Sehun to gasp and arch into his sweaty body. “And if I don’t?”

His head felt like spinning carousel. What was Kai doing? This was unlike him. “Kai…”

“Ah,” Kai breathed out, leaning so close that his breath was grazing Sehun’s lips. “You prefer to be the one calling all the shots, don’t you?”

Sehun tightened his fists around Kai’s shirt. “Stop.” It sounded neither like an order or a plea. It was weak and unconvincing.

“What if I don’t want to?” Kai growled, tilting his head to brush his lips on a side of Sehun’s neck. “What if I want to take you right here and right now?”

Sehun clenched his eyes, dropping his head back on the tree, giving Kai the access he wanted to his neck. A moan almost betrayed Sehun’s throat when Kai’s teeth grazed his skin.

“Raw, bare, bent over,” Kai murmured, drawing his tongue up Sehun’s neck, all the way up to the corner of his jaw. “Don’t you want that?”

Sehun opened his eyes and sucked in a breath. “No, Kai,” he said.

Kai retrieved his hands from Sehun’s body and pulled back. There was a flash of disappointment in his eyes. “What do you want then, Sehun?”

“I…” Sehun opened his mouth and trailed off for a moment. “I… don’t know.”

Kai gripped his jaw. “Well, maybe you should figure out what you want before you end up hurting everyone.”

With that, he stomped away, heading back to the lakehouse. Sehun caught his breath, slumped against the tree.

Chapter Text

When he returned to the house, Kai marched upstairs to take a well-deserved shower. His heart was thumping against his ribs. He did not like feeling this way. A few deep breaths and his frustration usually gradually waned. But this time, it was different. He oddly wanted to hold onto that frustration.

Shedding his clothes when he was in the privacy of the guestroom, he stepped into the shower. The comfortably warm water rivulets pattered on his skin, running down his back.

“No.”

No… It was not the first time Sehun had refused to give Kai what he wanted. But it’d never hurt as much as it did a moment ago. He sighed. He decided to let it go for the time being. There was no point in mulling over this. It would not make his problems go away.

Fuck, he had real problems now, huh… He supposed loving someone entailed such problems. Especially if that someone was his friend’s husband.

He turned around when he heard someone pushing the bathroom door open. Rubbing the water off his face, he slid his hands into his hair, pushing it out of his eyes.

He cocked his head and smirked at Kira, who stood in the doorway, arms crossed over her chest.

“Can I join you?” she asked with a playful grin.

Kai rolled his eyes. “I don’t think so.”

She stepped forward. “Why not?” She started slowly unbuttoning her blouse. “It’s not like there’s anything I haven’t already seen.”

“You’ve bathed,” Kai said as her leering gaze travelled down Kai’s bare, wet body. “That’d be a waste of water.”

“I don’t care for the environment,” she purred, advancing closer.

Kai exhaled heavily, holding the glass door of the shower cubicle. “I can’t do this with you, Kira,” he then said in a fairly light tone.

“Sure, you can. You know you want to.” She raised a hand to his chest, fingers brushing the water droplets on his sternum.

Kai glanced at her hand and the looked back up. Smiling faintly, he said, “I don’t want to, Kira,” he said, pulling her hand away. “I’m… seeing someone.”

Kira dropped her hand to her side at once, her eyes widening. “Oh?”

“It’s over between you and I,” he said without sounding condescending. “I don’t like reopening the chapters I closed. I still care for you as a friend and you know that.”

She retreated, buttoning her blouse up again. Then she let out a heavy breath. “I understand,” she muttered. “I just… had no idea.”

“It’s my fault for not making that obvious. Sorry if I… led you on.”

Kira smiled. “No, you didn’t, don’t worry. I don’t know… what I was thinking.” She turned and left, closing the door behind her.

Some would call him foolish, others ungrateful. No sane man would turn down a woman like Kira. She was well-off, independent, gorgeous, humble. Kai was in love with her for a while until the thrill of being with her wore off. He wanted to be with someone who could ignite a fire within him every time he saw them.

And Sehun did that. Every single damn time.

When he stepped out of the bathroom, he quickly dressed and packed his bag again.

* * *

He had never seen Kai act so hostile, heard Kai speak so confrontationally. He still could not believe it. He did not know that Kai had it in him. It had left Sehun aghast and flustered.

His resentment might have been unjust but what of Kai’s? Why was he acting the way he was when Sehun was around? Was it to stay away from Sehun or was it to deliberately get a rise out of him?

Either way, Sehun meandered back into the house with an immense burden on his chest. He should have just stayed quiet and not confronted Kai about Kira. Why did Sehun care, anyway? Kai was right. They fuck and that was all they were.

Except they weren’t. No matter how much Sehun tried to convince himself otherwise. Were they not friends? Were they just each other’s tools for relief? Sehun realized that he, after all, did not think of Kai like that.

Kai was his only confederate right now. Sehun did not want to antagonize and lead him stray, too.

When he sauntered into the bedroom, he found Chanyeol, bathed and dressed, perched on an edge of the bed.

He looked up from his phone and offered a thin smile.

Sehun did not smile back as he took his seat on the bed beside Chanyeol, a safe distance always keeping them apart.

“I’m sorry,” Sehun said.

Chanyeol dropped his eyes back to his phone screen, though he was not paying it any attention. “You already said that last night,” he muttered.

Sehun sucked in a breath. He wasn’t sure if he were relieved or distraught to hear that. “You remember?”

His husband licked his lips. “Yeah.”

Sehun turned his head away, hanging it, fingers fidgeting around each other nervously. A familiar silence settled between them.

Until Chanyeol broke it. “Do you… want to take a walk by the lake?”

Sehun looked up at him, eyes widening. “With… you?”

Chanyeol pursed his lips and nodded curtly once. “It’s okay if you don’t want to.”

“I want to,” Sehun blurted out quickly.

They rose together and headed downstairs. “I’ll just quickly get a cup of tea,” Chanyeol said and started towards the kitchen. “Would you like one?”

Sehun smiled and said, “Yes. Thank you.”

He waited by the front door, listening to Chanyeol’s grandmother singing a peppy song in the drawing room. Chanyeol eventually returned two red mugs and a faint smile on his lips.

“Here you go,” he said, holding out the mug in his left hand. Sehun’s eyes briefly flitted to the wedding band on Chanyeol’s finger. He hoped Chanyeol hadn’t noticed him looking.

“Thank you,” Sehun murmured and followed his husband out.

They strolled to the lakeside, taking slow, quiet sips of the chamomile tea. Sehun was a few paces behind before Chanyeol slowed to walk side by side.

It warmed Sehun’s heart and he grinned to himself.

The gentle breeze that stroked his face carded through Chanyeol’s hair. Sehun watched his husband. It was starting to become a habit. Watching his husband in silence. Did Chanyeol even notice? Would he ever look at Sehun for longer than two seconds?

“It’s so peaceful out here,” Chanyeol commented, heaving a deep breath, inhaling the pleasant smell of crisp grass and fresh water.

Sehun looked away. “It is,” he mumbled. So peaceful and yet, Sehun’s heart was clamouring in chaos.

“I wish to move to a place like this when I’m old.”

Sehun noted the sincerity in Chanyeol’s half smile. He was almost tempted to ask, ‘What about me? Will I be there, too?’. He should have, but he was too afraid of finding out the answer.

They found a rock to roost on. Gazing out at the unperturbed waters of the lake, they drank their tea, listening to the melody of the howling wind and the rustling trees.

Sehun turned and met Chanyeol’s eyes that were staring at him. His cheeks immediately reddened and so did Chanyeol’s.

Chanyeol broke their locked gazes first. He looked down into the mug and fingered the rim, biting his lip. “I was in love with someone,” he said all of a sudden.

Sehun froze where he sat, his shoulders taut and tense. He did not want to hear this now. He did not want to hear about how much Chanyeol loved someone else when they were finally getting some time together.

“It didn’t… end well,” Chanyeol added, his voice thick with anguish and pain.

Then Sehun realized that he needed to hear this, after all. This. Chanyeol’s secrets. His pain. He was unveiling them to Sehun after all this time.

“You don’t have to tell me,” Sehun said carefully and gently.

Chanyeol shook his head. “I think you have the right to know,” he muttered. “I…”

Sehun frowned. He raised a hand to his husband’s arm and said, “I understand.”

Chanyeol clenched his eyes. “You couldn’t possibly understand.”

Sehun dropped his hand from Chanyeol’s arm. “I don’t want you to talk to me about this if you don’t want to tell me. If it wouldn’t change anything.”

Chanyeol met his gaze. “I’m not hoping that it would change anything,” he said and that hurt a little. “But it’s not fair to you.”

Sehun swallowed. “We all have pasts. We don’t need to talk about them. And I don’t really have the right to know anything about you. Not because of some legal papers.”

That clearly hurt Chanyeol as his eyebrows furrowed deeply. “I did not mean it like that,” he said calmly. “I…” he trailed off for a moment. Then he turned away. “You’re right.”

He said nothing more. Sehun did not want to listen to everything just so that Chanyeol could tell him that he was still in love with his old lover. That wouldn’t be fair to him.

“I don’t hate you, Sehun,” Chanyeol said at length. “Please, don’t think that if you do. I suppose… that’s what I wanted to say.” He spoke like a businessman.

Sehun sat still, unnerved. Then gritting his teeth, he jolted up to his feet and started to walk away.

“Sehun,” Chanyeol called, standing up as well.

Sehun came to a halt and turned around to face his husband with a scowl. “That’s all?” he asked. “You don’t hate me. So?”

Chanyeol blinked.

Sehun sighed. “I didn’t need you to tell me that. Maybe I don’t need you to tell me anything that apparently you want to say to me.”

“Sehun,” Chanyeol rasped and caught his arm when Sehun spun around again. “What I’m trying to say is…” He released his arm.

Sehun frowned at him, then. “We’re married,” Sehun let out miserably. “And all that you can say to me is that… you don’t hate me.”

Chanyeol’s face paled. “I…”

Sehun shook his head. “How long are you going ignore the fact that we’re husbands? We’re not roommates. We’re married. We said our vows. You were the one who said you do want to take me to be your husband, your life companion. And now, all that you can say is that you don’t hate me. What? Was that supposed to be some sort of a compliment? Like you got a pet dog and you tell him that he’s not a bad pet?”

“Jesus Christ, I did not—”

“You did not even look at me eyes when you married me. Now you say that you don’t hate me. So, that’s progress? I’ve levelled up? How many levels should I reach before you’d acknowledge me as your life partner and not a pet you could neglect? I’m an actual person, Chanyeol. An actual person who doesn’t want to hear his husband say, “I don’t hate you.” Never in my life have I ever been so humiliated, slighted and snubbed and I never dreamed that my own husband would do it.”

Chanyeol kept mum, staring at Sehun like he had been slapped by a ghost.

“You married me for your own convenience,” Sehun spat. “I married you because I wanted to. Now I wish I hadn’t.”

With that, he spun around to walk away and Chanyeol did not stop him.

As he angrily stomped back to the lakehouse, he paused to look at Kai, who was loading his car with his bag. His anger immediately soured into something more distressing.

Walking over to Kai, he asked, “What… are you doing?”

Kai laughed, turning around to face him. “Oh, my God. I guess you’re never going to tire of that question.”

Sehun looked embarrassed. “Are you… leaving?”

Kai’s jaw tightened. “Yeah.”

“Why?” Sehun frowned. “Because of… me?”

Kai was silent for a minute before he hesitantly said, “No. I have… to attend some urgent work.”

Sehun’s frown deepened. “You’re lying.”

Kai shrugged. “White lies.”

“Kai…”

Kai waved him off. “You have fun, Sehun.” His voice sounded dead and coarse. “I’ll… see you.”

Sehun seized Kai’s hand when Kai pulled the car’s door opened. “I’m sorry,” Sehun whispered apologetically. “I never should have pried. You’re right. I shouldn’t care about you and Kira or you and anybody. It’s… none of my business. I’m sorry.”

Kai briefly squeezed Sehun’s hand once, his eyes limpid with fatigue. He then pulled his hand away. “Just text me when you… want to. I’m always gonna be there, aren’t I?” He smiled. “And don’t worry about it. I didn’t mean anything I said.”

Kai was not the kind of guy who wouldn’t mean what they said because they knew exactly what they wanted and what they were doing. They were a little remorseless because nothing they consciously did seemed wrong to them.

“Kai,” Sehun breathed out.

“See you, Sehun,” Kai muttered and climbed into the car. “Oh, Kira will be going home with you guys. And tell Chanyeol I took off for me, will you?”

“Kai,” Sehun said again, eyebrows knitted in disappointment.

Kai started the engine and rolled the windows up before he pulled the car out of the driveway.

Chapter Text

After dinner later that night, Sehun followed Chanyeol’s grandmother into the drawing room, where she perched on the bench of the piano and Sehun made himself comfortable on the chaise lounge.

As she played a gentle tune on the piano, Sehun gazed at the portraits on the walls.

Dinner had been tormenting. But Chanyeol made it all the easier by ignoring Sehun’s existence like he always did.

“Are you all right, son?” Mrs Park inquired and Sehun looked to her, frowning.

“Yes, Nana,” he lied.

She smiled. “You don’t look all right. You barely touched the food on your plate.”

Sehun had not been able to find the appetite for the food to sate. There was just too much on his mind. “I was just… not hungry.”

“Hmm,” she hummed and turned her attention back to the piano. “I am old, you know,” she said at length. “With age, comes wisdom.” Her lips stretched into a knowing smile. “I see things. I notice a lot. Especially those that happen right before my eyes.”

Sehun could feel his face grow hot. “Nana…”

“Arranged marriages are never bliss in the beginning. And given my grandson’s… history and temperament, I know that you nowhere near bliss at the moment.”

Sehun dropped his gaze, curling his clammy hands into fists.

She pulled her hands away from the piano keys and shifted in her seat to face Sehun. “He resents us all. He doesn’t say it, but he does,” she said. Sehun felt his heart clench. There was guilt and dejection in her voice as she spoke. “But he does not resent you.”

Sehun did not want to hear this again. First, Chanyeol says that he does not hate him, and now, his grandmother says that he doesn’t resent him. Is this a joke?

“Give him time,” she then said. “All wounds heal eventually.”

Sehun scoffed. “But some leave scars that can never be erased,” he muttered, and Mrs Park’s eyes widened with something like amusement.

“Be that the truth,” she sighed. “You are a good boy. You have a kind heart.”

Sehun snickered. “How do all grandmas possess the power to pick out the kind-hearted?”

“We just do,” she said, smiling. “What I’m trying to say is that he will come around. Soon. You will bring out the best in him. Just like how his parents and… all of us brought out the worst in him.”

“I wouldn’t make that wager,” Sehun let out, hanging his head.

Mrs Park rose from her seat and wandered over to Sehun before she tilted Sehun’s head up by the chin. “He hates everything in his life, Sehun,” she said. “But you… You are a breath of fresh air to him. You haven’t… hurt him. Like everything else in his life has. Including the family he once trusted the most.”

Sehun stilled, his ears ringing. Chanyeol, a man who recoiled from everything he was accustomed to and once loved, did not find Sehun loathsome. In his world, perhaps Sehun was one of the few things he did not hate.

Sehun’s stomach churned with pangs of conscience.

“I do want to know one thing,” she said. “Do you… like him?”

Licking his lips, Sehun averted his eyes. “I…”

“I know you married him because it was what your parents willed. But do you want to have a life with him?”

Sehun exhaled heavily and nodded his head. “I… do.”

Mrs Park’s face lit up with joy. “You will do him a lot of good, Sehun. Just be patient. It will pay off, I promise.”

Be patient… Sehun was worried that that ship had long sailed.

There was a knock on the open door of the drawing room and they turned to see Chanyeol sauntering in with a stoic expression.

“Grandpa wants you, Nana,” he said dully, not even accidentally looking over to Sehun. Perhaps his sharpness and alertness were what made him a great executive.

Sehun believed he owed him, yet again, another apology. He should not have snapped earlier, especially when Chanyeol had not been meaning to hurt his feelings.

“He will never stop wanting me,” Mrs Park said and pulled away from Sehun. “That’s the deal you make when you get married. You’ll never stop wanting each other.”

Her smile was directed to both Sehun and Chanyeol. Once she stormed out of the room, leaving them in each other’s company, Chanyeol finally glanced at Sehun. It was a very brief look before he ambled over to the piano and took a graceful seat on the bench.

Chanyeol then stared idly at the piano keys in front of him, fingers twitching on his knees. He lifted his head to look at Sehun a moment later.

Sehun felt his heart skip a rowdy beat before he looked away from his husband’s glassy eyes.

“Do you play?” Chanyeol asked.

Sehun’s head shot up at once, his heart pounding. “Y-Yes.”

Piano was not the only musical instrument he was forced to master even as a child. He supposed Chanyeol’s fate was no different.

Chanyeol did not say more as he sat still, as though he were waiting for something. With his breathing quickening like a teenager confronted by his crush for the first time, Sehun rose to his feet and joined his husband at the piano, sat down rather unceremoniously on the space next to Chanyeol on the bench.

“What do you play?” Chanyeol asked. The candleflame flickered on the mantlepiece.

Sehun gnawed at his lower lip, raising his fingers to the piano keys. “I like Marvin Gaye’s ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’,” he muttered.

Chanyeol bowed his head and waited. Sucking in a breath, Sehun began playing, focusing hard on hitting all the right keys at the right time so that he did not make a fool of himself in front of his husband.

He did not dare look up at Chanyeol’s reaction until he decided he was done. Much to his surprise, Chanyeol was smiling.

Their arms and knees were almost brushing. Not even when sleeping in the same bed had Chanyeol ever touched Sehun. Sitting this close to each other, in such an intimate ambience was a little overwhelming.

“Wh-What do you… play?” Sehun asked in a low, stuttering voice.

Chanyeol licked his lips and lifted his hands. “It’s a bit of a cliché but… Yiruma,” he said, smirking to himself, as though it were a private joke that only he understood. “River Flows in You.”

Sehun silently stared at Chanyeol for a moment, almost breathlessly. “I love that one,” he exhaled.

Chanyeol looked up at him before he turned his attention to the piano and began playing. Sehun watched him in utter mesmerisation as Chanyeol’s fingers poised over the keys with such a grace that Sehun could never master.

Then he brought his own fingers to the keys and joined Chanyeol. Where Chanyeol paused, he picked up. Where he stopped, his husband began.

Losing track of time and their surrounds, they played side by side, lost in their own world for a while. And they smiled through the whole session, stealing glimpses of each other every now and then until the night grew old outside and only embers remained in the fireplace.

By the time they pulled their hands away from the keys, they were a little out of breath, both shaking with ecstasy. Chanyeol’s eyes bored into Sehun’s, his lips curled into a beautiful smile.

It was not until Chanyeol lowered his gaze to the bench when Sehun noticed that their fingers were touching.

Chanyeol did not pull away.

“I did not mean to… cause you any distress earlier,” Chanyeol said in a low murmur. “It was… never… my intention.”

“I know,” Sehun muttered. “I’m sorry.”

He looked down to their almost brushing hands. He wanted to hold Chanyeol’s hand. But he could not muster the courage to do it in sobriety. So, he stared at them instead, his fingers lightly twitching against Chanyeol’s.

Chanyeol then withdrew his hand. Sehun sighed disappointedly and shifted his weight before he started to play Beethoven’s ‘A Melody of Tears’. It was one of Sehun’s father’s favourites. He used to have Sehun play it every Sunday after lunch while he read the newspaper.

He was forced to stop when Chanyeol caught one of his hands. Sehun blinked at his husband’s strong fingers, wrapped around his slender digits. Then he slowly brought his head up to meet the depth of Chanyeol’s eyes.

He swallowed, his throat parched and tight. Chanyeol had never looked so earnest and exhausted before. Sehun’s gaze fell low, a slight flush in his cheeks and a savage heartbeat in his chest. He slowly curled his fingers around his husband’s, unsure of what else to do.

Chanyeol was staring him down, surveying him like he was searching for the secrets of the universe in Sehun’s eyes. He leaned in. The heat of his ragged breath stroked Sehun’s cheek.

As Sehun began to slightly lift his head, his eyes tightly shut, Chanyeol drew closer, their lips distanced by a hair’s breadth.

Then the warmth disappeared. Sehun’s eyes fluttered open to see Chanyeol jolting up from the bench, retrieving his hand from Sehun’s.

“Chan—” Sehun began, standing up but was interrupted by Kira, who skipped into the room with a full wineglass in her hand.

“Cousin!” she shrieked excitedly. “Drink with me, will you?”

Chanyeol looked at Sehun with nothing but embarrassment before he turned to Kira. “We’re heading back tomorrow morning. I need to sleep,” he told her, seizing her arm when she almost accidentally spilled the wine on him, tripping over the carpet.

“Boo-hoo. You’re no fun,” she spat and glanced at Sehun. “What about you, sunshine?”

Sehun hoped his voice did not sound too hoarse when he turned her down, sharing Chanyeol’s excuse.

“Okay, fine. Go sleep, both of you,” she grumbled. “I’ll just spend the rest of my life alone.”

“Is everything okay?” Chanyeol inquired as she plopped on the chaise lounge, cursing under her breath.

“No, Chanyeol,” she spat. “Your brilliant idea to set me back up with Kai did not work out.”

Chanyeol frowned, lowering to sit beside his cousin. “What did you do? Are you the reason he fled like a cow on fire?”

She snorted. “He said he’s seeing someone.”

Sehun froze in horror.

“Oh,” Chanyeol let out.

“Yeah. That was my reaction, too.” She groaned and shook her head. “Whoever that snatched him is one lucky bitch.”

Sehun’s shoulders dropped in relief again.

“You snatched him once,” Chanyeol said. “You let him slip through your fingers.”

“Ugh, don’t remind me,” she said. “But it wasn’t like I didn’t want us to work out. He… didn’t want us to get serious. That wasn’t my fault.”

“No,” Chanyeol sighed. “I guess it wasn’t.”

“You really didn’t know he’s dating someone?” she then asked, arching an eyebrow.

Chanyeol shrugged. “We don’t… talk or hang out that much anymore. I wouldn’t be surprised if he is dating someone, though. He calls in sick a lot these days.”

The mornings Sehun refused to let Kai out of bed. The mornings they made breakfast together. The mornings they’d still be fucking in the shower.

Sehun shuddered. It did not use to make him feel so conflicted when he thought of Kai in Chanyeol’s presence.

“Oh, come on. Don’t make me watch a sappy romantic movie alone,” Kira pleaded Chanyeol, who gave in with a subtle smile.

“All right,” he conceded. “One movie and I pick.”

Kira nodded and looked up at Sehun. “What about you?”

Sehun’s eyes flitted to Chanyeol, who looked back at him solemnly. They both knew what had almost happened. Almost.

“You have fun,” Sehun said, barely able to manage a small smile. “I… I’m going to hit the bed.”

“I’ll send your man up to cuddle soon. Don’t worry,” Kira said.

Sehun did not respond as he turned on his heel and headed upstairs, where he spent the following couple of hours thinking about what had almost happened.

* * *

After picking San up from the pet hotel, Kai drove over to his parents’.

“Kai,” his mother gasped in surprise when she got the door to let her son and the dog in.

“I hope you spared some dinner,” Kai said, shoulders slumped with fatigue. He lowered San down to the floor and watched the dog skip over to his sister in the living room.

“Your father said you were accompanying Chanyeol to his grandparents’ place,” his mother said as Kai wobbled into the kitchen, where he found his father peeling potatoes by the sink.

“Is Chanyeol back?” his father inquired immediately.

“Thanks, Dad. I’m fine, too,” Kai scoffed, plucking a grape from the basket of fruits on the counter.

“Why are you back?”

“I can just feel the love, walking into this house.” He plumped tiredly on a chair and yawned.

“Dinner will be ready in a moment,” his mother said.

“Cool,” Kai muttered and stared vacantly at the table. San eventually leaped back to him and sat on the ground by his feet.

“How are Chanyeol’s grandparents?” his father asked once he was done peeling the potatoes.

“Beautiful as ever,” Kai replied, shrugging. “They really like Sehun.”

“Who wouldn’t?” his mother said. “You father tells me that he is a very nice boy. I have to meet him one day.”

Kai gripped his jaw, gnashing his teeth. His mother would be introduced to the boy Kai loved as another man’s spouse. That’s fucked up.

“He is… very nice,” he mumbled. “You should… meet him.”

His mother handed him a glass of water. “And see it for myself if the boy is worthy of our little Chanyeol.”

Kai snorted at that. “Wow. Why does everyone think the guy is second to none? He’s just human, Mom. But with a shitload of money.”

His mother paused to regard him with a serious look for a moment. “Yes… Yes, he is,” she then said in a light tone, smiling. “Kai, why don’t you come help me in the garden for a moment? The fence has come off and your father no longer has the muscles to fix it.”

His father groaned. “I said I’d call a man.”

“You’ve been saying that for over a week.”

Kai sighed and rose from the chair, following his mother out the backdoor and into the vegetable garden.

“So, how was the lakehouse?” his mother inquired, ushering him to the end of the fence. The wires were snapped and twisted.

Kai crouched to the ground to lift one of the wooden bars. “Fine,” he muttered disinterestedly.

He did not come here to talk about what happened at the lakehouse. In fact, he wanted to forget everything about it.

“I need some tools from the shed,” he then said, rising to his full height. As he started past his mother, she caught and halted him.

“Kai,” she called, frowning. “What’s going on?”

Kai stared at her, cocking his eyebrows. “What?”

“You look… perturbed,” she said, hands stroking Kai’s arms.

Kai laughed. “Perturbed? That’s a big word, Mom.”

His mother cupped a side of his face. “I know it when my son’s thoughts are troubled. Because yours are rarely ever.”

That sent a pang to Kai’s heart. It was true. Despite all the problems life threw in his way, Kai was never perturbed. He faced it all with impassivity and composure, without complicating anything. But this… This time, it was different.

He could not shake it off like he’d shake everything else off. This was burdening… his heart. That was something Kai had not learned how to deal with.

“What’s troubling you?” his mother asked. “You haven’t been yourself lately. You seem… distant.”

Kai gulped nervously to swallow back a sob. “You’re just… imagining things, Mom,” he lied.

She stepped back and leaned against the fence. “Come here,” she called, and Kai joined her side. “I’m your mother. You can confide in me. About anything. That’s the fun thing about mothers. We’re gonna love our children no matter what.”

Kai kept his gaze low. He was tired. Tired of everything. Tired of pretending that he could walk away from it all and it would not affect him.

Chanyeol was only human. But so was Kai. Did Sehun know that? Or was Kai just an item for him to use as he wished?

“Kai,” his mother called. “What is it? Are you having financial problems? Do you need money?”

“No, Mom,” he said quickly, his voice quiet and raspy.

“Then what is it? Is it… girl problems? You didn’t get anyone pregnant, did you?”

He chuckled at that, but the laughter sounded hollow and dead. “I didn’t, Mom. Though I was… with a girl a year ago.”

His mother did not act surprised. “And?”

Kai shrugged. “I liked her but…” He lifted his head to meet his mother’s eyes. “I wanted… something else.”

“Like what?”

“Like…” He paused for a moment, taking a breath. He could say it. It would change nothing. He would say it because, like many other things in his life, this would not affect him. “I like men, too.”

His mother was quiet. “Oh,” she let out at length. Kai waited for her to say more when her expression did not give anything away. “Are you… seeing a man now, then?”

Was it genuine curiosity? Kai could not tell. “Sort of,” he admitted.

He wanted to say it all now. Pour it all out.

After a minute of silence, his mother said, “Why didn’t you tell any of us sooner?”

“I don’t know, Mom,” Kai said. “It’s not that I want to keep it a secret. I wouldn’t have told you if I were seeing a woman either. I keep these things private.”

“You don’t have to keep them all from your family,” his mother said. “We love you, Kai. And no one will be happier than us if you brought home someone you love. Because chances are, we’re going to love them, too. Man or woman. We’re so proud of you, Kai.” She smiled.

Kai’s eyes stung with tears then. “Mom…”

“You should have told me sooner,” she groaned. “I would have tried to get you and Chanyeol together.”

“Mom,” Kai groaned. “We’re friends.”

“He’s more open than you are. Do you think it rubbed off on you and that’s why you’re—”

“Mom, it doesn’t work like that. And we don’t look at each other like that.”

His mother shrugged. “Could have fooled me.”

“Mom,” he grumbled.

They sat in silence for a moment, both digesting everything that had happened.

“Sehun,” Kai blurted out after a while. He did not meet his mother’s eyes as he spoke. “I think I’m in love… with him.”

The air between them shifted instantly, the cold wind dying around them. His mother kept mum.

Kai continued. He couldn’t stop. He did not want to. He wanted his mother to know what a degenerate her son truly was and that he was nothing for her to be proud of.

“Sehun,” his mother echoed in a whisper. “Is that… Chanyeol’s…”

“Yes,” Kai answered.

“Why?” she breathed out, her eyes glistening with tears.

“We’re… having an affair,” he said unabashedly. “We’re sleeping with each other.”

His mother pulled away from the fence and stood before Kai. He did not need to raise his head to know that she was miserably furious.

He brought his head up to see her glare.

“You are joking,” she said.

Kai shook his head, lips pursed. “It’s been going on for months.”

For a long length, his mother blankly stared at him. He had never seen her look so crestfallen.

And then her hand struck a side of his face with a merciless force. Kai’s eyes remained low, his jaw squared and throbbing in a subtle pain.

“Get out of my house,” she spat, a tear trickling down her cheek.

Nodding once and huffing heavily, Kai retreated from the fence and brushed past his mother, heading back inside where he grabbed San before he stormed out of the house with his sister and father calling after him.

Chapter Text

Kira kept Chanyeol occupied the entire ride home. Sehun was, surprisingly, grateful for it. He decided that when Kira was not all over Kai, he did like her company. He was at least glad that she balked the inevitable awkwardness between him and Chanyeol after what happened last night.

Chanyeol had not even come to bed. If he had, Sehun hadn’t noticed while he was asleep, and he must have gotten out of bed before Sehun woke up in the morning.

He, unfortunately, could not stave off the awkwardness forever.

When they reached home after Chanyeol had dropped Kira off at her luxurious condo building, Sehun quickly climbed out of the car and grabbed his bag before wandering inside.

Mr Kim and the other servants greeted him at the door.

“Welcome back, Master Sehun,” Mr Kim said.

“Thanks, Mr Kim,” Sehun said and handed a servant the bag to be brought up to his room. “I’m starving.”

“I’ve cooked up something good for you two.”

“Great. Did you do something nice on your weekend off?”

“I used the time to rest, Master Sehun.”

Chanyeol did not join him for lunch. He was also avoiding Sehun. That was nothing new, though.

So, were they going to never talk about it and just pretend like what almost happened did not happen?

After lunch, Sehun headed upstairs. On his way, he spotted Chanyeol at the end of the hallway, exiting a closet. At least that was what Sehun believed it was. Chanyeol retrieved the key from the doorknob after locking it.

He stilled for a moment when he noticed Sehun in the hallway. Licking his lips, Sehun lowered his gaze. “No lunch?” he asked in a low voice.

“I’m… going to get some rest first,” Chanyeol said. “Have you eaten?”

Sehun nodded his head. “I thought I’d just… thank you for taking me to the lakehouse.”

Chanyeol smiled, his fingers fidgeting with the key. “You didn’t really enjoy it, though.”

“I did,” Sehun rasped. “I liked meeting your grandparents again. They’re really nice people.”

He scoffed. “To people they want to be nice to,” he muttered under his breath. As he then started for their bedroom, Sehun quietly followed.

Closing the door behind him, he watched Chanyeol disappear into the closet he owned for a moment before he returned with a forlorn look on his face. Sehun turned to his own closet and changed into something more comfortable.

The afternoon heat was pleasantly warm, the sun shrouded by puffs of clouds outside. Sehun pulled the balcony door drapes close and turned to the bed. A small afternoon nap sounded like a nice idea, especially after that long, tiring ride. Chanyeol apparently had the same idea as he climbed into his side of the bed and reclined with an exhausted sigh.

Sehun bit on his lower lip for a stretch before he slid into the bed. They had never napped together. Chanyeol was almost never home during afternoons and during the days he did not go to his office, he’d spent all his hours in his private study, working. Probably. Sehun didn’t know.

“Are you… tired?” Sehun asked in hushed tones after a while as they lay still in their bed, the infuriating distance keeping them well apart.

It was a stupid question to ask. Of course, he was tired. Sehun felt ridiculous immediately after asking it.

Chanyeol retrieved his arm from his eyes and glanced to Sehun with a languid gaze with a stray lock of hair falling over his eyes. God, he was beautiful.

Idiot, Sehun chided himself. He was the biggest idiot. He was admiring a man he married, who never looked at him the same way. Had Chanyeol, even once, found Sehun attractive?

Before his marriage to Chanyeol, he was used to receiving countless compliments on his good genes and more-than-decent looks. Chanyeol made him doubt everything he had been sure about himself.

 How beautiful was his ex-lover, anyway, that he did not even find Sehun the least bit attractive?

“Yeah,” Chanyeol replied. “Do you still… want to do the thanksgiving dinner?”

Sehun hummed, shifting his weight on the mattress to lie on his side so that he was facing Chanyeol. “Yes,” he muttered. “But I don’t want to do it on my own.”

Chanyeol stared at him.

Sehun lowered his voice further as he spoke. “I want to do it with you. And not just pretend to our families like we’re happy living with each other.”

Chanyeol shifted, too, tucking an arm under his head for leverage as he looked into Sehun’s eyes. Sehun realized that they had never done this—facing each other while they lay in their bed. Sometimes, he hated that the bed was so big.

“I am… happy living with you,” Chanyeol murmured, eyes wandered to Sehun’s hand resting on the pillow.

Sehun’s throat tightened. He knew Chanyeol was lying. God, everyone knew Chanyeol was lying. “As in like a roommate who doesn’t give you trouble?”

Chanyeol kept mum.

Sehun did not say anything more. What more could he possibly say to Chanyeol to make him understand that all of this was getting old? Months had passed and there had been little to no progress. How many years would Sehun need to wait for his husband to realize that they were married?

“You were right,” Chanyeol said at length. He sounded worn to the bone, both mentally and physically. “I did… marry you for convenience.”

That was a knife to the heart.

“I thought,” Chanyeol continued in a very whispery voice. “if I married you, things would be different. For others. For my parents, my company, our reputation. Not for me. I didn’t want… to…” he trailed off.

Sehun curled a hand around the sheets.

“I figured you must have had the same idea,” Chanyeol sighed. “But then at the lake… you said that you… wanted this. That you wanted to marry me.”

It took Sehun a moment to find his voice. “I did…” he breathed out shakily. “My parents… were not going to let me just settle with anyone just because I wanted to be with a man. They brought me some prospects. But… I liked you.”

Chanyeol’s eyes flickered. “Why?”

Sehun’s breathing shallowed. He kept his eyes on his hand that lay between them before he slowly and hesitantly raised it to Chanyeol’s stomach.

Chanyeol flinched but did not pull away. Sehun felt his heart thunder in his throat and was sure Chanyeol could hear it, too. His fingers gently pressed into the firm muscles of his husband’s abdomen, the heat of his skin seeping through the flimsy fabric of Chanyeol’s T-shirt.

Sehun waited for Chanyeol to yank his hand away or something. But he didn’t.

He didn’t.

Shit.

What now? Sehun never thought he’d ever get this far.

What now?!

He looked up at his husband’s eyes. Chanyeol, in all his exhaustion and confusion, did not seem alarmed. In fact, Sehun had never seen him so relaxed.

“Why I chose you?” Sehun mumbled, his fingertips jittering over the deflating planes of Chanyeol’s stomach. His heartbeat quickened as he allowed his hand to venture lower, fingers now breaching the waistband of Chanyeol’s sweatpants.

He raised his eyes back to Chanyeol’s face, only to find the man clenching his eyes close with his lips parted. His breaths were slightly laboured.

“Sehun,” Chanyeol huffed stiltedly as Sehun slid the tip of his fingers into the hem of his T-shirt, brushing and teasing the trail of fine hairs before his navel.

Sehun thought he was going to lose his mind. Holy Lord, this was happening. “I wanted you,” Sehun exhaled, moving a little closer to feel the heat of Chanyeol’s body against him. “It’s as simple as that.”

He breathlessly leered at Chanyeol sinking his teeth into his bottom lip as Sehun slipped his hand past the waistband of his sweatpants. Sehun’s mouth turned dry, desperate for air, as he watched Chanyeol with intent, noting every little raspy breath that escaped his husband’s lips.

His head swirled with shambles and disorder when his fingers softly caressed the foreskin at the base. His heart almost leaped out of him as he took hold of Chanyeol in his hand, curling his fingers tightly around the rapidly hardening shaft.

Oh, God, he was hardened so fast.

How long had it been since he’d been touched, Sehun wondered. He did not need to know the answer to know what to do next.

He slid his hand deeper into the boxers, slowly stroking the cock from its base to its head.

Chanyeol’s lips quivered, his face reddening with either shame or excitement. His hands were balled into fists between them. Sehun shifted closer, resting his head on Chanyeol’s pillow now.

As his hand tugged at the hot, pulsating member, Sehun kept his eyes on Chanyeol’s mouth. Eventually, Chanyeol released the sheets and lifted his hand to Sehun’s hip to grip it unconsciously as Sehun picked up the pace of his pumping.

Chanyeol was almost thrusting into his hand, his breaths verging on moans.

Sehun gasped, sobbing for air all the same, as he nuzzled into Chanyeol’s arched neck before he pressed a kiss on a corner of his husband’s jaw.

Hell, he wanted more. He wanted to much more. He did not dare ask for more right now. He did not want to ruin this.

Chanyeol’s hand on his hip that tightened as he edged towards his climax drove Sehun half mad. When he came, spilling into Sehun’s hand, he cursed hoarsely, clutching at Sehun’s hip.

Neither moved for a long moment as they gathered their breaths and recollected their sanity. When Sehun retrieved his hand from Chanyeol’s pants and looked at the white, stickiness painted all over his fingers, Chanyeol pulled away from him, as though he were struck by fire.

He sat up at the edge of the bed and planted his head in his hands, panting hard for a while.

Sehun pushed himself up and frowned at his husband’s back. “Chanyeol…”

“Shit,” he heard Chanyeol hiss before he jolted up to his feet, fumbling for one of his car keys on the sideboard before he flounced out of the room.

* * *

He did not know where Chanyeol was for the next two days. He did not try to contact him either, thinking that he was probably holed up at the office. Chanyeol would have to return home eventually, wouldn’t he? For how long did he plan to run away and ignore what had happened?

Sehun, on the other hand, did not come out of the room. He sulked. For hours and hours. What had he done…

Did he just ruin everything? But Chanyeol had not stopped him. He hadn’t. He just took off after all that in disappointment and regret.

Later that evening, when he finally tired of the bed and the bedroom TV, he rose to take a quick shower.

He then stood before Chanyeol’s closet for one long moment before he decided to step in and snoop around. He was curious. Too curious ever since he saw Chanyeol coming out of the closet in the hallway and locking it.

When he couldn’t find the key, he dejectedly wandered downstairs. He found Mr Kim at the kitchen island, staring at a wall blankly.

“Good evening, Mr Kim,” Sehun said.

“Oh, Master Sehun,” he gasped and got up from the stool. “You didn’t come down for lunch… or breakfast. For… two days.”

“I was busy. I ate, don’t worry. The servant brought me the food. I liked the whiskey sauce.”

“Did you?” The old man smiled.

“Is Kai coming to pick you up?”

“I’m afraid not. He says he’ll be busy all week at the office until late night.”

“I see. Do you want me to send you home?”

“Oh, dear. That won’t be necessary, Master Sehun. Thank you for offering.”

Sehun nodded and turned to a servant, who was busy stacking the plates in the cupboard. “Do you clean the locked closet on the second floor?”

The servant faced him with a confused look. “Master?”

“The closet. The locked one. Do you now clean it?”

“Oh,” she let out. “Master Chanyeol has ordered us to never go in there.”

Sehun’s eyes widened. “Why?”

“I believe… we don’t know, Master Sehun. We just know he used to spend an awful lot of time in there.”

Sehun frowned. “Any idea what he keeps in there?”

“No, Master Sehun.”

“You don’t know either?” Mr Kim asked.

Sehun shook his head. “I just found out that closet’s locked.” He leaned over the kitchen island, propping his elbows on its edge. “Peaks my interest.”

Mr Kim grinned. “Like the forbidden fruit.”

“There are… spare keys, sir,” the other servant said.

Sehun straightened up, jaw falling slack. “Really?!”

“I can probably find you a spare.”

“That’d be great. Thank you. And… let’s keep this between us.”

* * *

When the servant had brought him the spare key to the closet, Sehun hurried upstairs. A small guilt gnawed at his guts. He shouldn’t be doing this, but he convinced himself that, at this point, he’d do anything to get to know his husband a little better, since Chanyeol was not being very verbal… or even mildly demonstrative.

But he had given in the other afternoon. For the first time, he had given in to Sehun.

And then he ran off.

Sehun knew exactly what he was going to say when Chanyeol came back. He would tell his husband that he wanted to be with him and Chanyeol did not have the same idea, it’d be better for them to end things before Sehun could get far too deep into this. The emotional investment would not be worth it.

He beamed wide when the door clicked with ease and he pocketed the key before pushing the door open.

Much to his astonishment, it was not exactly a closet. It was more or a less a room. A dark, cold room. He fumbled for the switch to turn the lights on.

Finding it, he flicked it on and squinted at the brightness for a second. But then, as his vision cleared, the world darkened around him once more.

He entered the room, his mouth agape and heart in his mouth, stomaching churning with misery.

The walls were plastered with photographs. There were desks, cabinets, tables that held copious amounts of trinkets and novelties. Sehun dragged his feet to the wardrobe first and prised the door open.

He found clothes, some neatly folded, others on hangers. Sweaters, mostly. They were too small to fit Chanyeol’s built.

Pulling away from the wardrobe, he turned to one of the desks. A Valentine’s Day card. He opened it.

I love you, my big ditz.

Another Valentine’s Day card.

You promised me an ice-cream date.

And another.

I love you, Park Chanyeol.

Sehun felt a sob climb up the back of his throat. He fought the urge to crumple the cards and tear them apart and withdrew to the table. Snow globes. There were at least twenty of them. He picked one of them up and grimaced at it.

A drawer was full of only dried flowers. Another held love letters. Unable to find the strength to read them, Sehun turned to the walls.

A physical hit would have been more merciful. He gawked at the polaroid pictures, strewn all over the walls. They were old but well-cared for.

His eyes were blurred by the tears that rapidly welled up.

Chanyeol looked so happy. With someone else. With whose memories he still lived with and refused to let go. How could he have the heart to string Sehun along like this when he could never forget another? How could he live with Sehun while still loving the memories of someone else?

Sehun gripped his fists so hard that his fingernails dug into the palms of his hands.

The air turned heavier all of a sudden and he turned his head, slowly and tiredly, to see Chanyeol at the door, staring at him with a blank face. He looked just as tired.

Sehun shook his head, shutting his eyes momentarily. Then wiping the tear that rolled down his cheek, he stomped out of the room, shoving past Chanyeol without giving him another look.

“Sehun—” Chanyeol called after him but stopped when Sehun broke into a sprint.

* * *

The office was almost deserted by the time he reached it. Though it was not the first time he was there, he could not really remember his way. After asking around for Kai’s office, he wended his way up the building, gnashing his teeth in fury.

He had gone to Kai’s apartment first, but he wasn’t home. He didn’t care. He was a fool for thinking that he could have a life with Chanyeol. He could never. Not as long as Chanyeol was holding onto his past and today, it became apparent that he was never planning to move on.

“Sehun,” Kai gasped, shooting up from his desk when Sehun burst into his office and slammed the glass door shut before locking it behind him. “What the hell are you doing he—”

He was cut off as Sehun grabbed him by the necktie and yanked him forward for a brutal kiss. A guttural moan escaped Kai’s throat when Sehun bit his lip and tugged it.

“Jesus, Sehun,” Kai panted, pulling back to only grab Sehun’s ass and drive up against the wall. He then crushed Sehun’s lips beneath his while Sehun’s hands hastily fumbled to rip Kai’s shirt apart and yank the belt off his pants.

“Fuck me,” Sehun rasped between the sloppy, desperate kisses as he pulled the black shirt off Kai’s shoulders and tore Kai’s glasses away before tossing them to the floor.

Kai asked no questions. He never did. Taking hold of Sehun’s hips, he hauled Sehun to the glass desk and slammed his back against it, tilting his head to smash his lips on Sehun’s neck.

Moaning hard, Sehun gripped at Kai’s hair, locking his legs around Kai’s waist.

And then it stopped.

Kai straightened up and pulled back, chest heaving and eyes narrowed. Sehun panted, sitting up and frowning.

“What’s wrong?” he asked.

Kai scowled. “What happened?”

Sehun blinked and closed the distance between them again. “Nothing,” he said and raised a hand to Kai’s neck.

Kai caught it and gripped his wrist. “Sehun…”

“Kai, can you… just stop talking? And fuck me?”

Kai glowered then. “No.” He dropped Sehun’s hand. “I want to talk. I want us to talk, Sehun. I want you to tell me. What the hell is going on?”

Sehun loured into Kai’s eyes, clenching his jaw. Then conceding defeat, he fell against Kai, dropping his head on his bare chest and broke into a sob.

Chapter Text

“Coffee with extra cream, four scoops of sugar, and milk,” Kai said when he returned to the living room with a mug. “Just the way you like it. But just so you know, it’s diabetes in a mug.”

Sehun accepted the mug with one hand while stroking San, who snuggled up beside him on the couch, with the other. “Thanks,” he muttered, his voice thick and shaky.

Kai perched on the armrest and brought a hand to the back of Sehun’s neck, his fingers lightly brushing Sehun’s hair at the nape. “Are you feeling better now?”

Taking a small sip of the coffee, Sehun nodded his head slowly. “Thanks,” he said again.

Kai bowed his head and pressed a kiss to the top of Sehun’s temple. “You’re a total cry-baby,” he mumbled, fingers caressing a side of Sehun’s face.

Sehun elbowed Kai and shoved him away, scowling. “I’m not…”

“Yes, you are. I need more fingers to count the number of times I’ve seen you cry.”

That had Sehun frowning, eyes idle on the warm content of the mug. “Have I… only cried to you because of… him?” Sehun then asked.

Kai sighed. “You only come looking for me when you’re either crying because of him or you’re horny because of him.”

Sehun looked at him. “That’s not true.” He looked offended.

Kai shrugged and rubbed Sehun’s back comfortingly. “It’s okay, Sehun. You don’t have to defend yourself. I know the deal I made.”

Setting the mug on the coffee table, Sehun shifted on the couch to face Kai straight. “No,” he spat, glowering. “I don’t… come to you just because of… him. Kai, you’re the only one I have in my life right now that I can be myself with. You’re my friend.”

Kai smiled. “I know,” he let out. “So, what happened tonight?”

He was understanding. He understood Sehun like no other. Perhaps that was why Sehun kept coming back to him. Not because Kai was easy but because he made things easier for Sehun.

“He’s,” Sehun began, casting his mind sourly back to the room and all the memorabilia Chanyeol had locked away in there. “still in love with his ex.”

Kai did not interrupt.

“He,” Sehun paused and swallowed. “is holding onto his memories. He has an entire room full of everything that’s his lover’s. He’s not going to move on, Kai. I don’t think he can.”

Kai pursed his lips and stared at Sehun, as though he were lost in his own thoughts.

“I feel like… there’s no point,” Sehun continued pathetically. He was embarrassed, to say the least. “I’m trying… while he… he takes me for nothing and in his heart… it’s always going to be someone else. Why must I be with a man like that? And the worst part is that… I keep trying to tell him and show him that I want to be with him. But he… he just… turns away and… leaves.”

When he brought his head up, Kai was looking at him with an earnest smile. “Yeah… I think I know a thing or two about how that feels,” Kai said and let out a breathy laugh. “Sehun, what… do you want from him?”

Sehun dropped his gaze. “I… I wanted to… have a normal married life, you know? I know that when we first got married, I didn’t have very high hopes for us, he was just someone I had to get married to… but I still wanted things to work out. I was hoping that, like many other married couples, we’d… work out. And for a while, it seemed like we would.”

“You still want it,” Kai said it like he was talking to himself. “You never planned on… leaving him. You’ve always wanted to work this out with him.”

Sehun nodded. “I thought he’d come around. I’m not saying that I’ve… I’ve fallen for him or anything but…”

“You want to… and you’re hoping he would, too,” Kai finished for him.

Sehun kept his eyes low, his fingers curled tightly into fists. “I know it seems like a joke. Especially since I… we… you and I are in this…” he trailed off once more, biting his lip.

Kai exhaled heavily, dropping his head back for a moment to stare at the ceiling. “I get it,” he said. “I was a rebound. Or a buffer. Or whatever.”

Sehun frowned at him. “At first… yeah. But Kai, I… I really care about you. You’re not just… someone I come to when I’m upset or horny. I genuinely like being with you. And the other day, when you said that I prefer to be the one calling the shots, that’s… not true. I remember you telling me one night when we first started this whole thing that we’d stop when you wanted me to stop and the same goes to you. I will stop this if you don’t want to do this anymore.”

Kai rose from the armrest and sat on the edge of the coffee table before Sehun. Then taking Sehun’s hands, he said, “So, you can stop this if you wanted to?” he asked.

Sehun blinked confusedly. “What?”

Kai shook his head. “I wish I could, Sehun. I wish I could… make myself stop. Sometimes… I fucking hate Chanyeol for getting someone so wonderful and just… taking you for granted. God, the times I’ve wished I was him. Not because of his money, reputation, success. But because of you.”

“Kai…” Sehun’s voice was a bare whisper, his hands turning clammy in Kai’s.

“Then the other times, I fucking hate myself for wanting you of all people,” he scoffed, licking his lips. “I’m not saying I’m… guilty of betraying my friend. I’m not. Because I knew what the hell I was getting into the first time I kissed you. And I’m not afraid to face the comeuppance for my wrongs. Because… it’s worth it. I’m not going to regret a single minute I was with you.”

Sehun’s throat felt dry as he drew in gulps of air. “I… I feel the same,” he let out. “I know I should… feel horrible for… doing this… for having done everything. But…”

“You don’t,” Kai said, smiling faintly.

“No,” Sehun exhaled. “Because when I needed someone… you were there.” His eyes brimmed with tears. “Only you were there.”

Kai grabbed a side of Sehun’s head and kissed his lips tenderly before pulling back to place another kiss on his forehead. Sehun, curling an arm around Kai’s, dropped his head against Kai’s shoulder.

“I give up,” Sehun whispered, his tears seeping into Kai’s shirt. “I don’t want to try anymore.”

“Then don’t,” Kai said, cradling Sehun’s head in his hands. “Just let go. I’m gonna be here to catch you.”

* * *

For the first time ever, they fell asleep in each other’s arms, both giving in to the sheer exhaustion the previous day had cursed upon them.

When Kai woke up in the morning, he found Sehun still sound asleep against him. Sitting up, careful not to wake Sehun up, Kai smiled at the beautiful mess set before his eyes and gently tucked a lock of hair behind Sehun’s ear. Then cupping Sehun’s cheek lightly, he swiped his thumb along Sehun’s cheekbone and grinned to himself.

San was waiting for him at the door. “Shh,” Kai hushed his dog and pulled the door close before he sauntered into the kitchen to start on breakfast.

He did not have many victories in his life. Not the ones that counted, anyway. And it was never a big deal to him. He was one of those average joes that preened on neither success or failure. And that was okay.

But last night, he had tasted his first real victory. And it happened not on his account. He had not made Sehun come to him. He had not made Sehun give up on Chanyeol. He really just stood by and waited to catch Sehun when everything crumbled, and he was there last night to do just that. It was a victory that came to him on its own. He had never forced Sehun to do anything and yet, in the end, Kai had been victorious.

He was a fool to think it was the end, though.

“San, stay,” he chided the three-legged dog when it tried to snatch the scrambled eggs from the counter. “I’ve got a joke for you, San,” he said, plating the stir-fried mushrooms. “What did one mushroom say to the other mushroom?”

“You’re one ‘fungi’ to be with.”

Kai turned around to see Sehun leaning against the doorframe with his arms crossed over his chest and a smirk playing on his sleepy face. “You’re up,” Kai rasped. “How long have you been standing there?”

“Since you started your round two of your omelette dance,” Sehun said, yawning.

Kai picked up the pan from the stove and crossed the kitchen for a quick kiss. “Fuck, I love it when you smile when I’m kissing you.”

Sehun blushed at that. “I do that?”

“Yeah. Most of the time.” Kai turned his back to Sehun to set the pan down in the sink and grab the carton of milk from the fridge.

“Wow, you’re a decent cook,” Sehun said.

“No surprise there.” Kai snorted. “My dad is a cook.”

“Fair enough.” He ambled around the kitchen for a while, looking for a mug.

Kai handed him one and said, “Coffee’s that way, princess.”

“Oh, what would I do without you, my knight,” Sehun sighed playfully and helped himself to the coffee pot.

Kai ran his tongue between his lips, leering at Sehun’s back before he marched over to Sehun and slapped a hand to Sehun’s ass, giving it a firm squeeze that made Sehun jump with a start.

“Kai!” he gasped, spinning around.

Kai stepped closer, pinning Sehun against the counter, smirking suggestively. “Why don’t we skip the eggs and pancakes for breakfast?”

Sehun’s smile faltered. “I kind of want to just… mull over, to be honest.”

Kai withdrew at once. “I understand. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to—”

“No, no,” Sehun said quickly and leaned in for a peck on Kai’s lips. “It’s just… a lot for me to process right now. I still need to figure out what I’m going to do.”

“Right,” Kai let out. Again, he was not going to influence any of Sehun’s decisions. If Sehun were to make choices, Kai wanted it to be Sehun’s choices. Not his. “But whatever you decide,” he then said. “I’m going to be here for you.”

“I know,” he said. “But… you’re Chanyeol’s friend, too.”

“Yes, Sehun. What I’m saying is that… I will take up my share of the lex talionis if it comes to it.” He curled his arms around Sehun’s waist and pressed their foreheads together. “You weren’t in this alone and you’re not gonna be alone. I’ll be there for you, as a friend, as an acquaintance, or just as a fuck buddy. Whatever you want, Sehun. Whatever you want.”

Sehun smiled and closed his eyes momentarily.

 “For now, how about that ice-skating rink?” Kai asked.

Sehun laughed. “Do you even know how to skate?”

“I’m pretty sure I’m not the most graceful skater, but I can balance. It’ll help you get your mind off things for a while.”

Sehun pulled back and sighed. “I don’t know, Kai. I don’t think I’m in the mood.”

“We’ll get you in the mood,” Kai said, stroking a side of Sehun’s face with the back of his fingers. “Please?”

Sehun then chuckled. “Next time. I promise.”

Kai let out a heavy sigh. “What’s the plan for today, then?”

Sehun took hold of the collar of Kai’s T-shirt. “You go to work. And I’ll go home.”

“You sure… you want to do that? You can stay here for as long as you want, Sehun.”

“What if it’s forever?”

“Then it’s forever.”

Sehun snickered, as though it sounded too naïve for him. Then the laughter died. “No. I have to… talk to him. I don’t want to run away like he does. I want to end it. For good. I don’t want to pine for something that’s never going to happen.”

* * *

He sat in his room and gazed out the open balcony doors at fat, grey clouds shrouding the sun in the sky.

A servant came into the room with a knock on the door. “Master Chanyeol,” she said. “Your secretary called.”

Chanyeol kept mum, staring vacantly at the sombre autumnal day, nursing a tumbler of whiskey in his hand. “What did she want?” he asked at length.

“She said a woman called for you today and asked for an appointment with you,” the servant said. Chanyeol was barely listening to her. “She would like for you to get back to her soon.”

“Get out,” Chanyeol muttered then.

The servant left without another word.

He set the tumbler on the bedside table. He had taken a few sips before he decided drowning his sorrows in alcohol would not help him this time.

He could not stop thinking about those two pools of glassy, miserable, desolated eyes that were sheening with a devastating loss of hope.

And then he thought more about the heat that wrapped around his body the other day, swallowing him whole. The guilt washed over him repeatedly. He had wanted it and he had wanted more.

The bedroom door creaked open again and he jolted up to his feet, snarling.

“I said get ou—” he began to shout but cut himself off when he saw Sehun walking in with his eyebrows furrowed in a scowl.

Chanyeol’s, on the other hand, waned as the blood drained from his face. They stood in silence for a moment as Sehun continued to glower at him.

“I’m… done,” Sehun then muttered after a while.

Chanyeol gawked at him, breaths coming out short and with difficulty.

“I’m done, Chanyeol,” Sehun said again.

Parting his lips, Chanyeol let out a trembling breath. He gripped his shaking hands and lurched forward, vaulting across the room.

“I’m not,” he spat breathlessly as his hands flew up to the sides of Sehun’s head and he crashed their lips together, shoving Sehun back against the door, shutting it close with a loud thud.

Chapter Text

It took him a few moments to grasp the situation. Not only that it had come out of nowhere and taken him completely by surprise, it was also not what he wanted to happen right now.

He stood paralyzed and shaken, eyes ballooned and bewildered. In a trance, he wondered if this was actually happening. He tasted a slight trace of whiskey on Chanyeol’s lips as they slipped past his. He had been drinking but clearly not enough to be drunken.

Chanyeol dropped one of his hands from Sehun’s face to grip Sehun’s wrist. His hand eventually drooped to Sehun’s palm and their fingers intertwined.

“Chanyeol,” Sehun rasped into the kiss, breaking it, and raised his free hand to his husband’s chest. “Stop.” He looked down, cheeks reddening with heat.

Stepping back at once, Chanyeol released Sehun’s hand and looked mortified for a second. “I’m… I’m sorry,” he blurted out breathlessly. “I’m sorry if… it’s not what you wanted.”

Sehun stared at him wordlessly. Then, “It’s… It is,” he let out. “what I want… But right now, I want you to talk.”

Chanyeol’s eyes met his with a solemnity that Sehun had never seen in them before. It almost seemed as though he were on tenterhooks.

“What are you doing?” Sehun asked, genuinely confused and curious. “If you just… kissed me to shut me up—”

“I did not,” his husband cut him off. And then he said nothing more as he dropped his gaze to the floor and gripped his fists at his sides.

Sehun waited and when he did not get anything further out of Chanyeol, he stepped away from the door and moved closer to Chanyeol. “If you think this… would solve everything, you could not be more wrong,” he told his abashed husband. “I don’t want you to give me just enough to keep me on the hook while you’re clinging onto another man’s memories!”

Chanyeol did not respond.

Sehun continued, his heart pounding against his ribs. “Why the hell did you even marry another if you are never going move on?”

“Who told you about him?” Chanyeol then asked, his voice low and dull.

Sehun scowled. “’Cause that’s what’s important right now,” he scoffed. “It doesn’t matter who told me about him. I had been very understanding from the moment I heard. No spouse would be okay with what you’re doing. But I wanted to be there for you, Chanyeol. I waited and waited for you to acknowledge that I was waiting! But all you wanted was for me to be your husband on paper and put on a façade before your family. Meanwhile, you live with your dead lover in your head and heart!”

That was what broke Chanyeol’s composure as his hand sprung up to grip Sehun’s shirt collar. “Don’t you dare talk about him,” he spat through his grit teeth, eyes lustred with anger.

Sehun did nothing but gape at him in shock and horror. Then releasing his shirt, Chanyeol cursed under his breath and turned his back to Sehun, clutching at his hair at the back of his head. He swore again and started pacing towards the balcony.

“I’ve been with him for years,” Chanyeol said, his shaky tone full of misery and ire. “And just his memories for more.” He then spun around to face Sehun with an indignant glower. “How do you expect me to throw away everything he and I had for you, who came into my life not even half a year ago?!”

Sehun’s heartbeat quickened, his body trembling and eyes welling up with stinging tears.

“Fuck,” Chanyeol hissed, grinding his teeth. “Everybody keeps only expecting things from me. No one understands and you’re lying if you say that you do. You won’t understand. You never will until you lose the person you love the most because of your own cowardice. An eternity of guilt. You’re right to ask why I chose to marry another while my heart will always belong to him… I never wanted to marry you. Or anyone after him. But I had no other option.”

Sehun’s mouth felt dry, his throat brutally parched. He blinked the tears away, refusing to let them fall for this man. “You… always have an option,” he muttered, and Chanyeol pinned him with an overbearing look. “Do you think… what you’re doing to me is fair? I don’t care if you want to keep loving him. But all I’m asking is… if you’ll ever have a small corner for me in your heart. Or am I just… blindly hoping?”

“It’s not easy, god damn it,” Chanyeol snapped. “What exactly is that you want? It hasn’t been that long since we even met each other! What? You want a fuck? Is that it? Just find another.” With that, he stomped past Sehun and wrenched the door open before slamming it shut behind him as he stormed off.

* * *

He sat idle in one of the cars for hours in the garage. River Flows in You, that was playing, gently lulled him to calmness as the night fell. He reminisced the first time he had played it for him at the school’s auditorium.

“It’s so beautiful,” he had said, completely enthralled while he looked into Chanyeol’s eyes with mesmerisation.

“It’s not that beautiful,” Chanyeol had replied just to tease him. “You are a simpleminded person.”

It made Chanyeol smile to himself. If it weren’t for the photographs he still treasured, he dreaded that he would not even remember what he looked like anymore.

He then thought about the first time he played it for Sehun. The evening had been unbelievable. His chest had not felt that light in so long.

Chanyeol did not know what had prompted him to kiss Sehun earlier. But it became apparent to him, after thinking long about the promises he had broken so far in his life, that he did not want to break his vows to Sehun, too.

It was true that Chanyeol did not deserve happiness after all the anguish he had caused to the boy he loved and his family. But he had been happy nonetheless when he felt Sehun against his body for the first time in such an intimate space. It had been so long. Too long. He knew he shouldn’t have yielded to the desire, but in that moment, he wanted nothing more than to have Sehun touch him. More than that, he had wanted to touch Sehun.

Why did everyone expect so much of him? It was suffocating. It was not wrong of Sehun to want affection from his husband but wanting it so soon was demanding and unreasonable. But would Chanyeol ever be able to give him what he wanted?

It would be better for both of them if they called the time of death on this. That was probably what Sehun wanted now.

He wasn’t sure if he’d find Sehun in the room when he walked up to it later that night, gripping the car keys in his hand. He wouldn’t be surprised if Sehun had left him for good. That would be better. Chanyeol did not deserve anything but his right to grief. And just for how long he wanted to grief was up to him. Sehun had no right to tell him to move on.

He found Sehun in bed when he quietly walked into the bedroom. The balcony doors were open, letting the cold wind gush in without barriers. Chanyeol stopped at the door and stared at Sehun’s back that was turned to him for a length before he closed his eyes and took in a few deep breaths.

He did not have to look at Sehun’s face to know that he was awake. Over the months of sleeping in the same bed, he had learned the patterns of Sehun’s breathing. He tossed the keys on the sideboard and surveyed the curves of Sehun’s body silhouetted by the light of bedside lamp while he slowly unbuttoned his shirt. Then taking it off, Chanyeol climbed under the covers and into the bed.

He turned the lamps off and stared into the darkness. Sehun’s breathing was ragged and shallow. “Whatever you want, Sehun,” Chanyeol muttered in the dark. “If you’re done… then you’re done.”

Sehun sucked in a sharp breath. “I want you,” he whispered, his voice sounded weak and on the verge of a sob.

Chanyeol turned on his side. His chest tightened. “Sehun…”

“I’m adamant,” Sehun murmured. “I know. But I want to be done with this. I can’t…” he trailed off.

Chanyeol lifted a hand to Sehun’s waist. He felt Sehun shudder under his touch but Sehun did not turn around or flinch away. Chanyeol bit his lip, swallowing hard. He lowered his gaze, slipping close to press his forehead against Sehun’s nape.

“Sehun…”

Sehun turned around eventually and met his eyes. “Don’t you… want me?” he asked miserably. “Have you… never wanted me even for a second? Not even once? Do you see absolutely… no future for us?”

“I… can’t… possibly tell you that now,” Chanyeol muttered, raising a hand to cup Sehun’s face. He stiffened when his fingers brushed against the tears that streaked Sehun’s cheek. “Sehun, please.”

“Why did you kiss me, then?”

Chanyeol slid his hand around the back of Sehun’s neck. “I don’t know…” he let out, drawing his hand to Sehun’s jaw, and he pressed his thumb to Sehun’s lips, lining the bow of the upper lip. Sehun’s hot breath grazed Chanyeol’s thumb. “Do you hate me… now?”

Sehun splayed a hand on Chanyeol’s bare chest. “Is that what you want? For me to hate you?”

Chanyeol kept mum.

“Tell me,” Sehun then said. “Tell me everything. I want to know. I want to understand.”

Chanyeol sighed. “You don’t want to know.”

“I do,” he said. “Help me understand, Chanyeol, if you think I don’t.”

Huffing heavily, Chanyeol gently carded his fingers through Sehun’s hair. “It wouldn’t change anything even if I told you.”

“I want to know you,” Sehun breathed out, pressing his hand harder to the cleft of Chanyeol’s chest. “I will understand, Chanyeol. Please. Trust me.”

After a moment of consideration, Chanyeol edged closer and said, “All right.”

Chapter Text

 

As the night aged, they lay quietly in the bed, listening to each other’s steady breathing. Sehun waited with patience but he was not going anywhere until Chanyeol talked.

Chanyeol eventually sat up and rested his back against the headboard. “Do you believe in soulmates?”

Sehun raised his head and slowly nodded it. “I think… I do.”

Chanyeol looked at him. “Our souls just… roam aimlessly until we find that one person who brings meaning to our existence. I had everything in life. Everything but a… purpose. A purpose for myself. Then I met him… I saw him smile and I just… completely crumbled. At the same time, I’d never felt more alive. You would only experience something so innocent and impactful once in your life. He… felt it, too. We both knew it from the very first time we looked at each other. He was always so afraid. He did not trust me. I didn’t see how anyone in his place could. I came from such a big family with heavy responsibilities weighing on my shoulders. But he had other sort of responsibilities, too. We couldn’t fix each other completely or run away from the expectations our families had put on us, but we were… so happy. I’d long to see him and when I did, everything just got better.”

He took a breath and Sehun sat up, hanging his head.

“My life began to revolve around him. It was a bad idea, pinning all of my happiness on a single source and he made the same mistake,” Chanyeol continued. “When we were in each other’s arms, we could escape the world. While mine was suffocating and demanding, his was miserable in another way. I wanted to help him in any way I could. But he’d always say that the instant he took favours from me, he’d be lowering his self-respect. And that wasn’t why he was with me. When everyone around me expected me to act like their puppet, he… he expected nothing from me. Nothing but unconditional love. And I gave it to him… for a very long time. Until I was given the ultimatum that if I were to tarnish the family’s name and go against everyone, they’d not only ruin me but also ruin him. My hands… were tied. Or at least that’s what I convinced myself of. Like you said… we always have an option. I wanted to just… settle back and let things cool off for a bit. I thought eventually, my family would come around. I was foolish enough to think that he’d wait and he’d understand. In my mind, it didn’t matter whether we were together physically or not. We were married in a sense. We were already too close to be separated. And I was wrong.”

He stopped to close his bleary eyes and swallow. “After he had…” he trailed off, shaking his head. “I went to see his father and siblings. They looked at me like I was a… murderer. I was.”

Sehun lifted a hand to his husband’s and lightly curled their fingers around each other. Chanyeol did not pull away. “No, you weren’t,” Sehun let out, frowning.

“Yeah… I was,” Chanyeol replied in a coarse whisper. “He had… begged me to not to walk away. I didn’t understand then why I was… so important to him. It wasn’t as though he could not continue living without me, I thought. Besides, I was only asking him to wait. But in his mind, I was already succumbing to my family’s manipulation and I was never going to go back to him. But… I was always going to go back to him. It was… either him or nothing for me. And then I understood… how horrible it is when all of your happiness hinged on a single person. I can’t… I don’t think I could just… forget everything and move on. I made a mistake and it is only fair that I face my just deserts accordingly.”

There was not just grief in his tone. There was anger, resentment, guilt. He was a paragon of despair.

What it would feel like, Sehun wondered, to love like that.

He felt Chanyeol’s fingers tighten around his. “I’m… sorry,” he muttered, a sob rising in his throat when he met Chanyeol’s glassy eyes. “I’m so sorry for what you went through and for what you’re going through.”

Something shifted in Chanyeol’s miserable gaze. Had anyone ever told him that? People were trying so hard to fix him, but no one tried to understand him. While Sehun could not empathize with his husband’s situation, he would surely try to understand it. He did not have to, but he wanted to. That was what marriages were about, weren’t they? Understanding.

“I have come to… getting used to seeing you around me, Sehun,” Chanyeol then added quietly. “You don’t deserve this. You don’t deserve any of this. I’m sorry if you were hoping for something else. But this is… who I am. Broken goods. And I’m not going to hold you back. I never wanted to.”

“You regret not having fought for him,” Sehun began. “Won’t you regret letting me go, too?”

Chanyeol looked stumped that instant.

“I’m not him, I know,” Sehun said. “And no one can ever replace him. But I want to be a part of your life, Chanyeol. I see now that… you have no place in your heart for anyone. But maybe… I want to try. I don’t like giving up.”

“You shouldn’t try to fix broken things. Isn’t that what you said?”

Sehun dropped his gaze embarrassedly. “You’re not broken… But I care about you. I care… Chanyeol. You might not believe me, but I do care for you.”

Chanyeol said no more as he turned his face away.

“Do you… care for me?” Sehun asked, staring at Chanyeol with wide, hopeful eyes. “At least even a little?”

It took Chanyeol a minute to answer. But when he did, it sounded sincere. “I do, Sehun.”

“Then you’re worth it,” Sehun said and laid his head on his husband’s shoulder. They stayed that way for a long time until the sky began to brighten outside.

* * *

When they woke to the rap on the door around noon, Sehun’s eyes fluttered open and he slowly raised his head from the steadily rising and falling chest of his husband’s.

He quickly sat up with blood rushing to his cheeks. God, he hoped Chanyeol had not noticed. He then took a moment to watch Chanyeol. The fatigue was apparent in his heavy breaths. Sehun smiled to himself. It felt like the calm that came after a storm. And he wished it’d lasted forever.

Before the second knock, Sehun hurried out of the bed and got the door.

A servant grinned at him and bowed her head. “Master Sehun,” she rasped. “Mr and Mrs Park are back. They’re downstairs, unloading their car.”

Sehun’s eyes widened. “What? They weren’t supposed to be back until next week.”

“Uh… well, they are, Master Sehun.”

Shutting the door, he vaulted back to the bed and gently shook Chanyeol’s shoulder to wake him.

Chanyeol cracked an eye open and pinned Sehun with a bewildered look.

“Your parents are home,” Sehun blurted out and that immediately roused Chanyeol to full consciousness. He jolted upright and gaped vacantly for a second.

“They’re back?” he said in a thick, drowsy voice.

“Yes,” Sehun gasped. “They’re downstairs.”

“Shit,” Chanyeol murmured and climbed out of the bed. “I was supposed to be at work.”

Sehun caught his arm when he started for the bathroom. Chanyeol halted and blinked at him. “No, you’re not going anywhere today. You’re not leaving me to deal with your parents alone,” Sehun said gruffly.

Chanyeol stared at him in an amusing way. Sehun pulled his hand away from his arm and cleared his throat. “Okay,” Chanyeol agreed. “I’m not going anywhere today.”

Sehun licked his lips and bowed his head, stepping back to let his husband grab his towel and saunter into the bathroom. He then grabbed his phone from the bedside drawer and frowned at the messages and calls he had missed from Kai. He ignored them and hurried into the closet to find something presentable to wear.

He was not well acquainted with his father-and-mother-in-law, to say the least. Only weeks after the wedding, they had taken off on their trip. Even before that, he didn’t think they were all that interested in getting to know him, which was fine because they weren’t the ones Sehun was married to. But the one he was married to was just as interested in getting to know him.

He sighed as he found a decent shirt and wandered back into the bedroom to find Chanyeol exiting the bathroom, dripping wet and wrapped nothing but a scanty towel.

Sehun knew Chanyeol knew what sort of reaction his little half-naked show evinced by Sehun. He was just not sure if Chanyeol cared.

“You can use the bathroom now,” Chanyeol said as he turned to his own closet.

“Chanyeol,” Sehun called, halting his husband in his tracks. “About last night… I want you to know that… I’m sorry if I ever… overstepped.”

Chanyeol stood stiff. Then he raised a hand to the back of his neck to scratch it. “I’m sorry too, Sehun. I said some things I… didn’t mean yesterday.”

Sehun lowered his eyes. “Like when you said that I’m nagging you for a fuck?”

Chanyeol’s face paled entirely and he crossed the room before stopping a foot in front of Sehun. “I am so sorry.”

“Do you really believe that?” Sehun asked. Not that he wanted to talk about yesterday’s debacle, but he needed to know if that was the perception his husband held of him.

“Sehun, I—” he was cut off by the knock of the door.

“Chanyeol? Darling?” they heard his mother call on the other side of the door. “Are you awake?”

Chanyeol groaned. “Buckle up,” he muttered to Sehun, rolling his eyes. “Mrs Control Freak is back.” He turned his back to Sehun and yelled at the door. “Yes, Mother! We’ll be down in a while!”

“Oh, okay,” she chimed. “Be quick! We’re having breakfast together.”

Sehun watched Chanyeol hang his head dejectedly.

* * *

He did not stop glancing at his phone every two minutes, hoping for a text or a call from Sehun. Kai kept gritting his teeth hard enough that his jaw began to turn sore.

Unbelievable, he thought. What had happened to Sehun? He had promised to let Kai know, but he hadn’t returned any of his calls. Worrying over someone was new to Kai. And worrying over someone he loved to this extent was even stranger. He thought he was losing his mind.

He’d go over to the Parks’ residence after work, he decided, although he wasn’t certain he’d find Sehun there. Sehun had been pretty affirmative that he was going to end things between them. Was he hurt? Did he not want to talk to anyone, even Kai? He shouldn’t have to go through this alone. Kai wanted to be with him right now.

“Kai,” the receptionist called, popping into his office.

“Hey, Alina,” Kai sighed, leaning back in his seat. “Did you see Chanyeol coming in today?”

She cocked an eyebrow. “Um, no. But I just saw your mother walk in.”

Kai blinked. “What?”

“I’m pretty sure I’ve seen her with you in here before. She’s waiting in the first floor. She wants an appointment with Mr Park.”

Kai rose from his desk and gawked at Alina. “Are you… sure? My… mother?”

“She did say her surname is Kim.”

“Fuck,” Kai cursed under his breath and stormed out of his office and hurried down a few floors before he found his mother waiting nervously in a seat by the reception. “Mom.”

Her head shot up in his direction and her eyebrows instantly furrowed into a frown as she stood up.

Kai clenched his jaw and scowled, walking over to her. “What are you doing here?”

She was tight-lipped, turning her face away.

“Mom,” Kai said again through his teeth. “Come with me.”

“No,” she then said. “I am not going anywhere with you.”

For a minute, all that Kai could do was stare at her in disbelief. “Why are you here to see Chanyeol? He’s not here. But what are you doing?” he demanded with his chest tightening in agony.

Pursing her lips, she gulped hard and refused to even look at him.

“Mom.”

“To make things right,” she then spat, picked up her purse, and shoved past Kai, wending her way toward the exit.

Kai went after her. “Mom, please.”

“Don’t,” she said annoyedly and unforgivingly. “Don’t call me your mom. I did not raise a child like you.”

“Jesus Christ,” Kai swore and grabbed hold of her wrist. “Please, just stop. You’re seriously going to tell him on me?”

She glowered at his hand around her wrist before she yanked it free. “I was ready to accept whoever you are, Kai. But I will never let my son wreck another man’s home.”

“I am not wrecking his home,” Kai hissed quietly. “Sehun does not love him. And Chanyeol does not even remotely like Sehun. They’re going to split, Mom.”

“Because of you.”

“Oh, for god’s sake,” Kai groaned. “I’m not the bad guy here.”

“Yes, you are,” she spat with furious, watery eyes. “And to think that you are my… son… God, forgive me. I don’t know why you would ever think that I would support infidelity.”

“I did not,” he said. “But I love him, Mom. I want you to know that.”

“Cut it out,” she snapped. “You could have fallen in love with anyone. Yet you chose to bite the hand that not only fed you but your entire family. I am not the ungrateful, disloyal dog you turned out to be.”

Kai’s eyes stung with tears then. He never realized how much he hated his parents for placing Chanyeol before their own son. “I never asked for his favours,” he spat with anguish. “I’m not his fucking dog, Mom. Stop calling me his dog. If I want to fuck his husband, then it’s because I can. I don’t have to serve under his foot for the rest of my life like you apparently seem to.”

His mother’s hand that struck his face came up too fast for him to register it. People in their surrounds to stopped to spectate the fiasco.

“You are irredeemable,” his mother said and stomped away.

 

Chapter Text

“Vienna is charming. I can’t believe we’ve snubbed it for so long,” Chanyeol’s mother mused as she joined them at the dining table. “You’re in my seat, darling.”

Sehun blinked up at her before realizing that he was indeed occupying the seat at one end of the table which used to belong to his mother-in-law. He had grown accustomed to sitting there in her absence.

“Oh, yes. I’m sorry, Mrs Park,” Sehun blurted out and quickly rose from the chair.

“Mother,” Chanyeol grumbled in objection. “It’s just a seat. We have twelve chairs.”

“Of course,” his mother said with a coy smile. “But this is my seat. Don’t get me wrong, Sehun honey. In this family, we like to keep things as they are. Traditional and conservative.”

Sehun noticed how Chanyeol’s eyes narrowed as his jaw tightened. “It’s fine,” Sehun muttered, sinking in the chair beside Chanyeol. He reached for his husband’s hand under the table and squeezed it lightly. “It’s fine,” he repeated in a low voice, only for Chanyeol to hear.

He then retrieved his head and cracked a soft-boiled egg open, lightly tapping its shell with the back of a spoon.

“Since when do we have eggs for breakfast?” Chanyeol’s mother asked, looking genuinely surprised.

Sehun froze and swallowed hard. “Uh… I like having eggs in the morning,” he said. Was it really such a big shock that he wanted to have eggs for breakfast?

Mrs Park’s eyebrows rose. “Really? I see. We don’t have boiled eggs in this family for breakfasts. It’s very messy.” She smiled and let out a chuckle. “Don’t you think?”

“Mother,” Chanyeol interfered with a gruff breath. “He—”

“I wasn’t in the mood for an egg, anyway,” Sehun cut him off quickly and put his spoon down, staring at the egg for a moment. Then sighing, he reached out for one of the muffins stacked before him on the table, forsaking his egg. When he glanced at his mother-in-law, he found her smiling at him with a smugness that spelled victory.

“So, tell us, son,” Mr Park said, nursing a glass of cranberry juice in his hand as he turned to Chanyeol. “How’s things at the company?”

“Nothing worth reporting to you, Dad,” Chanyeol replied stoically. “We had some trouble with the stock market and the shareholders recently, but it was dealt with.”

“Hm,” the man said and took a sip. “And at home? How have you been, Sehun? How… has my son been to you?”

Sehun almost choked on the blueberries he was chewing on. Swallowing hard, he looked up at his father-in-law and took in the man’s stern expression. His gaze flitted to Chanyeol, who sat still with his shoulders squared, his hands fisted tightly around the utensils as he continued to stare fixedly at the flower vase in the middle of the table.

“He’s… been… wonderful to me, Mr Park,” Sehun said quietly and with a straight, dull face. Chanyeol looked up at him, pinning him with a sidelong glance.

“Has he now?” his father hummed and smiled. “We’d really be happy if he did.”

“I don’t see why he wouldn’t,” said Mrs Park, leaning back in her seat. Chanyeol face reddened as he increasingly looked like he was losing his patience.

“Sehun and I have decided to hold a thanksgiving dinner, Mother,” Chanyeol said, as though to divert the topic of discussion.

“Is that so?” she chimed. “That’s a wonderful idea. Sehun would have a chance to meet all of our family… and friends since we couldn’t invite them all to the wedding.”

“Maybe we should just keep it among our close friends and family?” Chanyeol said.

“Oh. That’s also nice. Was this Sehun’s idea?”

Sehun’s heart skipped a beat as he looked over to his mother-in-law. “Um… Yes, it was,” he said tentatively.

“Well, I liked the idea,” Chanyeol backed him up.

His mother smiled at him. “Of course, you did, sweetheart.”

Chanyeol cleared his throat and wiped his mouth with a napkin before pushed his chair back. “If you’ll excuse me,” he said and began to stand up.

“No, you will not. We’re not done with breakfast,” his father said quickly and beckoned him to sit back down. Sehun noticed one of Chanyeol’s hands balling into fists at his side as he sank back in his seat. 

“It’s rude to leave in the middle of a meal, isn’t it, Sehun?” Mrs Park asked.

Sehun grabbed his glass of water and drank in large drafts.

“Have you two thought of adoptions yet?” she pressed on.

Sehun coughed and choked. His eyes watered and stung. He then felt Chanyeol press a hand on his back to calm him. “Are you okay?” he inquired and Sehun shakily nodded his head. “Mother, we… we haven’t talked about things like that yet. It’s way too soon.”

“Way too soon?!” she yapped and then laughed. “We’d like some grandchildren, Chanyeol.”

“No, you don’t,” Chanyeol scoffed. “It’s the last thing you want right now.”

His mother’s eyes narrowed. “I beg your pardon?”

“Look. It’s just… not something we have discussed, okay? It’s only been months since we—”

“Well, your father and I have. We suggest surrogacy. We even talked to our family doctor to bring us list of potential surrogate mothers soon. Of course, the donor will be Chanyeol.”

Sehun blinked, completely stiffening. “Wh-what?” he let out, unable to believe that they were even discussing this over breakfast. She had to be kidding.

“Mother,” Chanyeol spat under his breath, through his teeth.

“I am serious, Chanyeol,” she said in a steady and composed tone. “We have to consider these things. It may take a while to find the right mother to carry your child. And then, there’s a lot of money involved and time.”

“Whoa, Mrs Park,” Sehun interrupted, half smiling, half frowning in disbelief. “Are you… joking?”

His mother-in-law arched her eyebrows in incredulity. “What makes you think I’m joking, sweetheart?”

Sehun’s jaw fell slack. He gawked at her and then at her husband and then at Chanyeol. “Surrogacy?” he let out. “And… why did… how could you just so offhandedly decide that the baby has to be Chanyeol’s?”

“We can have more than one baby, more than one surrogacy,” Chanyeol’s father said. “But the first born will be Chanyeol’s.”

Sehun almost sprung up and snapped but then Chanyeol spoke. “Mom, Dad,” he said, surprisingly coolly. “This isn’t the time to have this talk. We’ll… let you know when we’re ready for… kids.”

His mother sighed. “Then I hope it will be soon.”

Chanyeol nodded and rose to his feet. He held a hand out to Sehun. After scowling at it for a minute, Sehun took the hand and stood up. “Now, we should let you two rest. You must be tired,” he told his parents. “We’ll be in our room.”

His parents did not stop them as they wended their way out of the dining room and headed up to their bedroom. Sehun was fuming, his blood drumming hard in his temples and shoulders tense. How dare they? How dare they did not only decide how and when he should have his children but also who should be the father? What nonsense was this? What would Sehun’s parents have to say if they heard of this affront?

As soon as they were within the privacy of their room, Sehun slammed the door shut and gaped at Chanyeol, who collapsed on the bed with his limbs outstretched, as if he were worn to his bones.

“They can’t be serious,” Sehun rasped.

“They are,” Chanyeol said, staring at the ceiling.

Sehun stomped over to the side of the bed. “Are you… okay with this?”

Chanyeol sat up with a sigh and met Sehun’s gaze. “I haven’t been okay with anything they do, Sehun,” he muttered with despaired frown. “They will make us do their bidding… Like we’re their puppets.”

Sehun crossed his arms over his chest. He knew they had never once broached the subject of kids but now, Sehun was curious. “Would you… go through with it?”

Chanyeol’s eyes lifted.

“I mean,” Sehun stuttered, rubbing the back of his neck. “I know it’s absurd and we’re not… I mean… having kids… Uh… I just… Do you… What your parents suggested…”

“No,” was all that Chanyeol said before he rose to his feet and wandered into his closet. Sehun, with a heavy breath, plumped on the bed and hung his head.

No. What was he referring to? Did he not want to have kids with Sehun or was he rejecting his parents’ proposal? Either way, Sehun realized that it was too soon to be even thinking about all this. Hell, with Chanyeol, it would always be too soon to be talking about something like that.

“Do you want to go for a drive?” Chanyeol said when he returned to the bed’s side with a car key.

Blinking confusedly for a moment, Sehun smiled and nodded. “Sure.”

* * *

They drove to a nearby pond, one Sehun had never actually been to in spite of it being very close to home. Exiting the car, he followed Chanyeol to a bench and sat next to him.

They gazed silently at the pond for a moment. There weren’t any ducks. Sehun wished they could skip autumn and winter and jump back into spring. But this wasn’t so bad. It calmed his nerves and eased his fury.

“You saw nothing today, by the way,” Chanyeol broke the silence eventually.

“Huh?”

“My parents,” he continued with a deep breath. “This is just the tip of the iceberg.”

That made Sehun’s stomach twist uncomfortably. “They didn’t seem so… hardcore before.”

“That’s because they wanted you to marry me and into his family.” He slumped back against the bench, keeping his eyes on the pond. He then turned his head to face Sehun. “Are you all right?”

Sehun did not really know the answer to that. The fact that Chanyeol had continuously been a specimen of his parents’ manipulation greatly unnerved him.

“I’m not sure,” he said and glanced back at the pond.

“You’re mad?”

Sehun looked back at Chanyeol with a scowl. Of course, he was mad! “Do you think they’re being fair?”

Chanyeol laughed. “Wow. You don’t want to have my baby that bad?”

It was obviously a joke, but it struck Sehun dumb and his face instantly died. Only after a moment did Chanyeol realize that his joke had taken Sehun aback and his own smile faltered.

“I did not mean…” Chanyeol trailed off, licking his lips.

Sehun shook his head. “It’s not that. It’s what your parents are doing… They don’t get to decide in this matter, you know? Even if we’re never going to have children, if we ever wanted to, it should be our decisions. We get to decide. And I don’t mind if it’s… yours.”

“You don’t?”

Why were they even talking about this? It wasn’t like it was ever going to happen, anyway…

But Sehun met Chanyeol’s dark eyes and bit his lip before looking away again. They remained in silence, letting the world around them slip away for a moment.

“We never got to finish our conversation this morning,” Chanyeol then asked. “About what I said yesterday.”

Sehun stared at him. “What you said yesterday?”

He noticed Chanyeol’s cheeks colouring in embarrassment. “I was… a little drunk and a little frustrated. I didn’t mean to insinuate that you are with me for…” he could not finish.

Sehun exhaled heavily. “So, you didn’t mean it when you told me to find another?”

Chanyeol seemed slightly conflicted then. “I wouldn’t blame you if you did.”

Sehun dropped his head and stared at his hands on his lap for a long minute. “You don’t mean that,” he then said in a low voice.

“I don’t,” Chanyeol let out.

Sehun raised his head and blinked at his husband. “What?”

Chanyeol swallowed and turned to him. “I…” he paused and gnawed at his lower lip, running his tongue along it. “I’ve never had anyone who tried to understand… But then you… you said last night that you would. I’ve never opened to anyone since… since him. I appreciate what you’re doing for me, Sehun. But you don’t have to. It’s not your responsibility. I’m not your responsibility.”

Sehun’s hand found Chanyeol’s that was resting on his knee. “I know,” he murmured. “And I will turn and walk away from you if that’s what you want me to do.”

Chanyeol licked his lips again, his eyes falling to Sehun’s mouth. Pulling his hand away from Sehun’s, he brought it to lightly cup a side of Sehun’s face.

The air only softly stirred between them when Chanyeol leaned in and pressed a kiss to a corner of Sehun’s lips. The kiss was fleeting, brief, a mere brush that did not let their lips meet properly. But it left them both short-winded and jaded.

As Chanyeol pulled back, retrieving his hand from Sehun’s face, Sehun lowered his gaze. “It’s okay, you know?” he whispered, wondering if that was what holding Chanyeol back. A fear perhaps. “To kiss me.”

Chanyeol watched him. Observed him. Then he pressed his hands to either side of Sehun’s face and brought it up. “I want to,” he breathed.

Sehun closed his eyes. He felt Chanyeol’s lips touch his in the slightest brush at first. He parted his lips, allowing their mouths to fit better. Chanyeol kissed his upper lip once, gently, cautiously and pulled back. Sehun hated that he was still hesitating and was always leaving him craving for more. But he also did not want to push Chanyeol too far so soon.

So, he did not protest when his husband withdrew and sighed, averting his gaze back to the pond. “I’m sorry,” he said.

“No,” Sehun quickly muttered, his cheeks burning and with desire swirling about the pit of his stomach. “Don’t… apologize.”

When they returned home later that noon, Sehun sauntered into the kitchen to get the egg he wasn’t allowed to eat this morning while Chanyeol retreated to their bedroom for an afternoon nap before he was summoned to his father’s study.

“Mr Kim,” Sehun called when he found Mr Kim pulling his coat and hat on. “Are you going somewhere?”

Mr Kim met Sehun with a limpid pair of eyes. The distress was clear in his expression. “I am taking the rest of the day off, Master Sehun. There’s been an emergency.”

“What emergency? Has something happened?”

Mr Kim bowed his head worriedly. “My son. He’s in the hospital.”

Sehun’s mouth fell agape as his heart sank. “What? Kai?”

“Yes, Master Sehun,” the man said.

“What’s wrong? What happened?” Sehun inquired with his own worry bubbling up in his chest. “Is he all right?”

“I think he is. But he was run over by a car last night while he was… drunk.”

Sehun could not believe his ears. “No… I’ll drive you to the hospital.”

“Oh, dear. That is fine. I’ll take the bus.”

“No, I insist. Does Chanyeol know?”

“It’s best if we don’t alarm any of them right now.”

Sehun nodded. “I’ll go with you.”

Chapter Text

“Mom,” Kai called, his head still lightly spinning from all the painkillers he had been on all morning. He sat down on the edge of the hospital bed again to close his eyes to stop the room from spinning. “Mom,” he said again to his weeping mother in the corner of the room. “Can you stop crying?”

His mother snivelled and fell silent for a moment before she said, “It was my fault.”

“No, it wasn’t,” Kai grumbled under his breath. “I was the one who got drunk and I was the one who reckless jaywalked across the road.”

“I had upset you by showing up at your office.”

Kai’s eyes flung open, and he turned to frown at his mother and her reddened eyes. “I’m not dead, am I? What are you lamenting for?”

His mother’s face hardened. “You could have been seriously hurt, Kai. And it would have been my fault.”

Kai rose to his feet and hissed softly when his arm smarted. The doctor had bandaged it and put it on a sling that hung from his neck. “I said it isn’t your fault. You made it pretty clear that everything was my fault.”

His mother pursed her lips, staring at him vacantly for a minute.

Kai sighed. “I’m sorry the nurse had to call you. You should go home.”

“What about you?”

“The doctor said I’m okay to go. I’ll just call a cab.”

“Kai—”

“Mom, I’m fine,” he reassured her, though in a rough tone. “You really should—” He was promptly interrupted by the nurse who led his father into the room along. “Dad, what are you…” he trailed off, eyes darting over his father’s shoulder, landing on Sehun, who gushed into the room wearing a horrified expression. Kai’s jaw fell.

“Oh, my God. Are you all right?” his father gasped, rushing to Kai’s side at once.

Blinking a few times in utter shock, Kai turned to his father. “Yes… Dad. I’m,” he paused, looking over to Sehun again. His mother was scowling now. “fine… It’s, um, just a concussion and a dislocated joint.”

“You were run over?” Sehun asked, walking calmly to his side. But Kai could tell that he was worried, his hands balled into fists, his lips trembling, eyes quivering.

“That’s an exaggeration,” Kai said, smirking a little. God, if only his parents weren’t there, he would pull Sehun’s into his arms… or arm, considering one was temporarily out of order.

“Have you been discharged already?” his father asked.

“Yes,” Kai said. “We were just about to leave.”

“The doctor said you should get some rest,” his mother told him. “Come home with us.”

Kai shook his head immediately. As much as he wanted to fix things with his mother, he was still mad at her and he did not want to deal with any of this right now. He wanted to go home, take a warm shower, see San, and sleep for a hundred years.

“I wanna go home, Mom,” he said. “My home. You two shouldn’t have troubled yourselves.”

“What are you talking about?” his father chided worriedly. “You got injured and you tell us that we shouldn’t have come to see our son?”

Kai bit his lip. If his father knew what his mother did, Kai doubted that the proud man would even show up at his funeral. “Dad, don’t… worry. Okay? I’m all right now. I really just want to get home and rest. Get over this hangover.”

His father looked at him disapprovingly. “I’ve never seen you so drunk that you forget how to cross a road.”

Kai glanced to Sehun, who stood quietly. His eyes, however, gave it all away. He seemed agitated and unnerved. Kai’s mother noticed where Kai’s attention had shifted to.

She cleared her throat and stepped in between them. “Let’s go, Kai,” she said, taking hold of his good arm.

Kai pulled away and sighed. “Mom, I said go home. And please, leave me be for a while.”

“What is wrong with you?” his father inquired.

“I can send you home,” Sehun said all of a sudden, his voice hoarse and shaky.

“Oh, Master Sehun,” his father rasped. “Please, you shouldn’t have to trouble yourself again.”

“It wouldn’t be a trouble for him,” his mother retorted bitterly.

“Mom,” Kai said under his breath. He then turned to Sehun. “Are you sure?”

“Of course,” Sehun said quickly. “I don’t mind.”

Kai nodded once and passed his gaze to both his parents. “I’ll come by when I’m feeling better, but please, don’t worry.” He leaned in to press a kiss on his mother’s cheek and frowned when she flinched. Sighing, he followed Sehun out of the hospital.

In the car, Sehun was completely silent and so was Kai. He knew Sehun had questions but Sehun also probably knew Kai had questions of his own. But neither found the courage to ask.

Kai leaned his head back against the headrest and allowed his eyes to shut. Then Sehun broke the silence.

“Are you all right?” he asked quietly. Kai opened his eyes to glance at him. Sehun kept his focus on the road, one hand lightly gripping the wheel while the other rested on the gear stick.

“Better that you’re here now,” Kai said, smiling as he reached out his uninjured hand to cup the back of Sehun’s neck. The sudden contact had Sehun shuddering and Kai retrieved his hand, blinking. “Where were you?”

“What happened?” Sehun asked instead.

Kai licked his chapped lips. “Does… Chanyeol know?”

“No.”

Exhaling heavily, Kai dropped his head back against the seat. “Yeah, I got shitfaced and… got almost hit by a car.”

Sehun turned his face to him with a pair of dipped brows. “You’ve never been that reckless… Why did you get that drunk?”

Kai glanced blankly out the window. “No reason,” he lied. If he told Sehun about his mother’s little visit at the office, he might have to divulge more than he was willing to.

“No reason?” Sehun echoed.

“No reason.”

Sehun did not push him for more for now. They did not speak until they reached Kai’s apartment.

“Shit,” Kai murmured, fumbling with the keys. “It’s going to be difficult managing things with one arm.”

“How bad is it?” Sehun asked.

“Not that bad,” Kai replied and pushed the door open, letting Sehun into the apartment. San was already waiting for him by the door with his tail wagging in excitement.

“There’s a good boy,” Sehun chimed, crouching on the floor to pet the dog.

Kai tossed the keys on the sideboard and tottered straight to the couch, where he plumped heavily with a loud, exasperated breath.

“Kai,” Sehun called, walking over to him. “Is everything okay?”

Kai lifted his head and smirked. “Do I look okay?”

Sehun frowned. “That’s what I’m asking. You’re seriously trivializing an almost accident. You could have gotten seriously hurt.”

“God, you sound like my mother,” Kai said, chuckling. Sehun glowered. “Relax.” He sat up straight and took hold of Sehun’s hand. Again, he noted the slight shudder when he touched Sehun. “I missed you.”

Sehun did not react when Kai brought his hand to his lips to kiss his fingers. He sighed and pulled his hand away at length. “You look terrible. Do you want me to help you get into the shower?”

“I want you to get into the shower with me.”

“Kai, be serious,” Sehun grumbled. “You’re hurt.”

“Oh, for god’s sake, I’m not dying, Sehun,” he spat and rose to his full height again.

Sehun shook his head with a heavy breath. “Fine then. I’m leaving.”

Kai’s eyes widened. “What?”

Sehun stopped as he started to turn around. “I said I’m leaving if you insist that you’re all right and don’t need my help.”

Kai cocked his head a little to the side and stared at Sehun for a moment. “You’re kidding me, right?”

Sehun blinked. “No?”

Kai scoffed and let out a lifeless laugh. “You said you’d call.”

Everything seized around and between them for a moment. Sehun’s face paled with guilt almost instantaneously. “I… I forgot.”

Kai’s eyes ballooned even more. “You… forgot?”

Sehun curled his bottom lip between his teeth and chewed on it for a second. “Yeah. I wanted to call you soon, anyway.”

Kai stared at him, his stomach gripping hard out of the blue. “Okay, but you said you’d call. To let me know how it goes with Chanyeol.”

Sehun scratched the back of his head. “You know what, Kai? You’ve had a rough night. You should really get some rest right now and… I’ll come by later, okay?”

As he turned to leave, Kai’s hand flung up to grab Sehun’s wrist to stop him. “What happened?” Kai demanded, his brows drawn in a scowl, his breathing quickening. His chest felt strangely hot as blood pounded in his ears. “With Chanyeol.”

Sehun looked down at Kai’s fingers wrapped around his wrist before he raised his concerned eyes to Kai. “We… I… Well, nothing really happened… We talked and… well…”

Kai released his wrist. “You talked?”

Sehun was mum.

Kai’s heartbeat was thundering in his temples. “You’re avoiding me, aren’t you?”

“What are you talking about?” Sehun said with a ridiculous look. “I was going to call you, Kai. Why does it matter, anyway?”

“Why does it matter?” Kai repeated through his teeth. “Why wouldn’t it matter?”

Sehun looked genuinely lost for a moment. “You’re… acting really weird right now.”

“I’m acting weird!” Kai spat and ran his fingers through his hair, clenching his jaw.

Sehun’s mouth fell open, as though he had just met a ghost. “Why on earth are you shouting?”

“So, s-so… What? You’re going to live with him after all? Y-you talked so… so everything’s fine?”

“It’s… complicated.”

“You’re joking, right?” Kai blurted out. “You come running to me, saying that you’re gonna end things with him. What happened to all that?”

“I… What?” Then Sehun’s expression changed into something hard and angry. “What the fuck is your problem? Why would you care?!”

Kai lost it, then. For the first time, he had completely lost every last fragment of his patience as he sprung forward and grabbed Sehun’s jaw and neck in a hand and yanked him so close that their foreheads almost collided.

“What am I to you?” he demanded, baring his teeth.

Sehun, bewildered and astounded, gaped at him. “Kai…”

“Don’t play coy!” he yapped. “You knew. You knew all along that I was falling for you. When I told you that I hated Chanyeol. When I keep coming back to you like a dog! A dog! Yeah, my mother was right. I am a dog after all, aren’t I? Why the hell are you, pretending to care about me?!”

“Kai,” Sehun gasped, his eyes glistening with tears as he raised his hands to Kai’s chest. “Stop this. I… I do care about you!”

“You care about me? I don’t want you to just care about me!”

“Kai, why are you doing this?”

Kai’s eyes fell on Sehun’s parted and panting lips. Then they rose back to bore in Sehun’s horrified eyes. Loosening his grip around Sehun’s jaw, Kai cupped a side of it and ran his thumb along Sehun’s lower lip.

“You’re ruining me,” he whispered scratchily, breath brushing Sehun’s lips. “You’re ruining me…”

That was when the world darkened around him and his knees turned to water. He remembered dropping to the floor as his eyes shut tight and Sehun yelled his name.

* * *

He woke up with a fever.

His eyes cracked open to his dark bedroom, his skin clammy and sweaty, his mouth and throat dry and sore. He then felt something cold press against his forehead.

“They shouldn’t have let you go from the hospital so soon,” Sehun muttered from where he sat on the bed, pressing the wet cloth to Kai’s forehead.

Kai closed his eyes momentarily again to let all of his senses return to him. His head felt too heavy for him to be able to lift it. There was a sharp pain in his injured shoulder. “What,” he began to say in a raspy whisper. Even that hurt. “are you… doing here?”

“You passed out,” Sehun said, brushing the back of his fingers against Kai’s cheek. “You should get up and eat something and take some pills. You’re a running a fever.”

Kai smirked at him, his eyes only half open. “Since when did you become my personal house-nurse?”

Sehun did not find it humorous. He dropped his head and gaze, staring into the bowl of water he held in his hands.

Pulling the wet towel away from his forehead, Kai pushed himself up and immediately regretted it as his head pounded cruelly. “Fuck,” he cursed under his breath and leaned against the headboard.

“I’ll try to make you something to eat,” Sehun said and started to get off the bed. He sank back in his seat when Kai caught his arm. He looked miserable. His eyes were red and puffy. Had Sehun been crying or was he just tired, Kai wondered.

“I’m going to get you sick,” Kai moaned, unable to get most of his voice out.

Sehun shook his head. “I don’t care.”

Kai smiled. Lightly tugging at Sehun’s arm, he pulled himself up and pressed a kiss to one of Sehun’s cheekbones. He parted his lips against the skin to inhale the scent of it. It tasted of dried tears. Kai then moved his cracked, sore lips to kiss Sehun’s brow. Then his forehead. “I’m sorry,” he whispered and kissed away the fresh tears clumping Sehun’s eyelashes.

With Sehun’s hot tears sheening on his lips, Kai drew back a little.

“I’m really sorry,” he breathed and kissed Sehun’s bottom lip, which was slightly swollen from crying for long. Sehun did not kiss him back immediately. But his lips eventually trembled against Kai’s and he kissed Kai’s upper lip before Kai withdrew with a faint frown.

Sehun did not look up at him as Kai wiped the tears from his cheeks. Then Sehun lifted his eyes to meet Kai’s.

“Are you in love with me, Kai?” he asked in a very quiet whisper.

Chapter Text

Kai responded with another kiss, as gentle his hand that was cupping Sehun’s face.

“Kai,” Sehun let out in a protest, pulling back a little. But he quickly yielded once more to Kai’s lips as the latter cupped the back of his head and pressed a firm kiss on his mouth. He slipped his tongue past the seam of Sehun’s lips and licked along the ridge of his warm mouth. They knew each other’s mouths as well as they knew the rest of each other’s bodies. Kai’s lips and tongue were really hot, thanks to the fever he retained. All fight left Sehun’s body again as he surrendered to Kai’s kisses.

Only when he was satisfied with kissing Sehun did Kai withdraw and meet Sehun’s eyes. Sehun frowned at him, lifting a hand to caress Kai’s burning hot cheek.

“Are you, Kai?”

“I don’t really know what love is,” Kai whispered, holding a side of Sehun’s face, lightly brushing his thumb along Sehun’s bottom lip. “But if this isn’t it, then I don’t know what is.”

Sehun stared at him for a minute, his heart rumbling without control. There had been signs, Kai had clearly given him hints. But it had never really occurred to Sehun that his feelings could run so deep. Not this deep. This was bad. This was dangerous.

They had only been each other’s sexual relief until somewhere along the way when they began to care for each other. Sehun had even realized that he was a little possessive of Kai when he was close to Kira. But that was completely unreasonable and a hypocritical. He had no reason to claim rights upon Kai.

He drew away from Kai and rose from the bed. For a long moment, he stared blankly at a wall with a sob rising in his throat.

“Why, Kai?” he croaked out at length, a sudden burden weighing down on his chest. He then turned around to face Kai with glassy eyes. “Why? Why would you?” He watched Kai lower his head. “That was not the deal we made, Kai!” Sehun shouted miserably. “It wasn’t part of the plan! You told me that you were okay with what we were doing!”

“I was,” Kai said and climbed out of the bed, eyebrows. “I still am, Sehun. I’m sorry for my little outburst earlier. I… I was just tired and… worried about you.”

Sehun flinched and stepped away from Kai when he raised a hand to Sehun’s face.

“No,” he breathed out, shutting his eyes. “You can’t be serious.”

“Sehun, it doesn’t have to change anything,” Kai said, his tone sounding a little desperate. “between us. We’ll stay the same. I am not pressuring you into anything. Like… you don’t have to feel the same way.”

Sehun knew he wasn’t serious. The pathetic, hurt look on in Kai’s eyes gave it all away. “Kai, this is… You have no idea… This… changes everything.”

Kai blinked. “Why does it have to?” He stepped forward and curled his good arm around Sehun’s waist to pull him close. “We’ll do what we’ve been doing. We’ll just have fun.”

Sehun pulled away and ran his hands through his hair before gripping it. “You don’t understand. We… We can’t.”

Silence fell between them.

Kai mustered Sehun without a word for a stretch, his face crumpled in bewilderment and shock. “What?” he then broke the quiet. “What do you… mean, Sehun?”

Sehun sucked in a breath. “We can’t have… fun,” he began shakily. “You have… feelings for me. How do you… God! I feel terrible. All this while, I was just… using you and you were… you…” He stopped to scrub his face with his palms.

“Hey,” Kai exhaled and pulled one of Sehun’s hands away from his face. “You don’t have to feel guilty or anything. I loved every single second I was with you. You weren’t hurting me or using me.”

Sehun stared into Kai’s sincere eyes. “I… was. I was.” He drew his hand away from Kai’s. “I care about you. You’re not… just a fuck buddy. But I never allowed myself to feel anything more for you because… I’m not supposed to.”

“Why not?” Kai asked, his face wilting by the second. “We already care about each other. We sleep together. I’ll do anything for you. Why do you think… you can’t allow yourself to feel something more?”

“Because that’s not how the story goes, Kai!” Sehun shouted now. “We don’t get rewarded for cheating behind my husband’s back! Behind your best friend’s back!”

Kai looked stumped at that. “Rewarded? What do you mean? You’re… expecting some sort of punishment?”

“We’ve had our fun, haven’t we?” Sehun panted. “But what are you expecting? For us to end up together? How does that work?”

Kai wobbled back to plump on the edge of the bed. “You were… never planning on… ever being with someone like me…” he muttered under his breath, as though it were a revelation that had never struck him before.

“You knew that,” Sehun said. “You always knew that. You always said that… guys from the top rungs like me don’t…” he trailed off when Kai raised his head to pin him with a sharp glare.

“Don’t end up with guys like me,” Kai finished with a sigh. “I knew that I shouldn’t hope for that and I still don’t. Forget that this ever happened, Sehun. I want us to go back to the way we were. I’m fine with whatever breadcrumbs I get. I just want to be with you.”

Sehun gripped his trembling hands. “It’s too late,” he murmured. “I don’t want to lead you on any longer.”

“Lead me on?” Kai said. “You haven’t… led me on, Sehun.”

“Don’t you understand?” Sehun spat, though there was a tremor in his voice. “The reason why I… didn’t call you last night is…” He paused to brave himself and look at Kai’s eyes as he spoke. He owed Kai this.

They could not continue to do this when Kai was harbouring feelings for him. Feelings that Sehun worried might ruin Kai the same way it had ruined Chanyeol if he allowed them to grow. He did not want to be the person to cause such anguish. Especially not to Kai.

“I have decided to try and make my marriage to Chanyeol work,” he spilled it out. Kai sat still and did not react. “We agreed to try. I want us to still be friends, Kai. I know I said that I would end everything with Chanyeol because I could no longer take it. But if I left him now, I would come to regret it. I care for you, but I also care for him.”

Kai closed his eyes and hung his head, his breathing weak and shallow. He looked so ill.

Sehun approached him and laid a hand on the back of Kai’s head. “Kai, please. Try to understand,” he whispered. “I never wanted this to happen. I swear.”

Lifting his head, Kai dropped his face against Sehun’s abdomen, nose nuzzling into his belly. Sehun froze, his fingers lightly clinging onto the damp strands of Kai’s hair.

“It isn’t your fault,” Kai drawled drowsily.

This was strange. There were both the flutters of a butterfly’s wings and the stabbing of a knife in Sehun’s heart. A teardrop rolled down his cheek. He didn’t know what to do with this situation. He wanted to just sit down and cry. He had made promises to Chanyeol while another man was breaking apart because of him. And it wasn’t just any man.

“Kai,” he called in a breath, wrapping his arms around Kai’s neck. “Please,” he begged sorrowfully. “Don’t make this any harder than it is.”

Kai snivelled and pulled back all of a sudden. Reclining on the bed, he draped an arm over his eyes and said, “Get out.”

Sehun dropped his head and licked his chapped lips. Then wiping his face, he hurried out of the apartment.

* * *

He did not go home immediately. Instead, he pulled over along the side of a road that was mostly deserted and mulled over Kai.

All his life, Sehun had been someone’s puppet. He realized that he had never truly gotten what he wanted, in spite of coming from a family that had everything.

The few months he had been with Kai, Kai had taught him to live without a care. Which was probably why Sehun never worried much about being discovered. Because he always believed Kai would be there to catch him. They had become friends at heart. At nights when it the world just got too much, Kai was right there to solace him. Sehun doubted anyone had ever learned so much about him, in such short notice, like Kai had.

Kai had because he truly cared about Sehun. Sehun had never just been a ‘fuck buddy’ to him. He was not a degenerate who’d betray his friend’s trust. He did it because it was… Sehun.

No one had ever cared for him like that. Not even his own family.

Sehun wiped his eyes. He was tired of crying in silence. But he would have to get used to it now that he had driven away the one person who cared had enough to make sure that he did not cry himself to sleep.

Why couldn’t he have met Kai several years ago? Sehun doubted that his family would have accepted Kai, but he still believed Kai would have changed so much in his life for the better.

They could have remained as friends. But Sehun knew that if Kai felt so strongly for him, it would weaken both of them and Sehun knew he would start acknowledging his own feelings for the man. It would all then just end in a big, colossal mess.

When evening had darkened into night, he decided to head back home.

By the time he reached home, Chanyeol and his parents were gathered in the dining room for dinner.

He was too exhausted to play the part of an obedient son-in-law.

“Sehun,” Chanyeol’s mother gasped when he dragged himself into the dining room, his throat dry and eyes swollen. “Where were you? We were waiting for you.”

Sehun swallowed the thick saliva that coated his tongue and glanced over to Chanyeol, who was staring at him with what appeared to be a worried frown.

“I was just… out,” Sehun said curtly. “I’m not hungry. I think I’ll just… go to bed. So, good night.”

“Whoa, hold on a second,” Mrs Park called. “You will have dinner. It is rude to not to eat with your family without a reason.”

“I’m tired,” Sehun said.

Mrs Park’s eyes narrowed. “Sit down. We’ll get you a plate.”

Sehun let out an exasperated breath and rolled his eyes before he spun around and walked out of the dining room.

“What…” he heard his mother-in-law say in surprise at his back.

“Wait, Mother,” Chanyeol then said. “Something’s up. Let him be. I will check on him.”

Sehun could not be bothered tonight. He was too emotionally drained. He was more hurt than he wanted to be. Sure, he cared about Kai. But at the end of the day, Kai was only meant to be a bed partner Sehun turned to when he needed the attention. He had been clear about that from day one. No feelings. No strings attached.

Then why did it hurt so?

He stumbled into his room and peeled his all of his clothes off before stepping into a warm shower. When he stepped out of the bathroom, he found Chanyeol on the balcony, leaning against the railing.

Sehun ignored him and wandered into the closet to slip into a pair of sweatpants and T-shirt.

“Not hungry?” Chanyeol asked when Sehun returned.

Sehun shook his head as he perched on the bed. Chanyeol joined him on the bed at his side.

“Is… everything okay?” he asked. When Sehun did not respond, he slid a hand into Sehun’s and caught his attention. “You seem upset.”

Sehun raised his head to meet his husband’s eyes. This was too exhausting. All these lies, all these heartaches. “I… I have something… to tell you,” said Sehun weakly.

Blinking, Chanyeol straightened up. “What is it?”

Sehun parted his lips once more, staring at Chanyeol’s face. He should tell him. This was his chance. He should let everything spill.

He turned his face away and looked at his fingers trapped between Chanyeol’s. “Kai… got into an accident last night. I drove Mr Kim to the hospital earlier.”

Chanyeol’s eyes widened. “What? Is he okay?”

Sehun nodded. “Just a minor concussion and a dislocated shoulder. He’s… fine.”

“You should have told me. That bastard,” Chanyeol huffed. “He couldn’t even call me?”

“He probably didn’t want to worry you,” Sehun muttered, keeping his head low.

“Shit. I’m gonna kill him.”

Sehun smiled meekly at that and faced his husband. “How did you deal with your parents without me during dinner?”

Chanyeol sighed. “I got used to it. But I’m afraid you totally pissed my mother off with that little stunt.”

Sehun shrugged. “I cannot fuck with her tonight.”

Chanyeol’s eyebrows rose with shock. Then his lips curled into a grin. “She’d love that.”

“I’m sorry,” Sehun said. “I guess I’m just really tired.”

Chanyeol nodded and pulled his hand away. “Get some sleep then.”

“Where are you going?” Sehun asked as Chanyeol stood up.

“I’m going to see Kai.”

Sehun caught Chanyeol’s wrist. “Please, stay,” he said in a breath.

After a moment of confusion, Chanyeol sank back into his seat beside Sehun. “Are you sure you’re okay?”

Sehun licked his lips, letting out a heavy breath. “Yeah.” He climbed into the bed then and fell back on the mattress, burying half of his face in the pillow. Chanyeol joined him.

“What sort of accident?” Chanyeol inquired.

Sehun closed his eyes. “He was almost run over by a car when he was drunk.”

“What? That… doesn’t sound like him.”

“I don’t want to talk about him,” Sehun blurted out suddenly, realizing that his heart was skipping a painful beat every time he thought or talked about Kai.

Chanyeol fell silent for a moment before he called, “Sehun?”

Swallowing a sob and clenching his eyes tightly to bite back on his tears, Sehun slid closer against Chanyeol’s body. “Can you… touch me?” he panted breathlessly on his husband’s neck. “Please.” Anything to forget Kai right now.

Chanyeol did not move immediately. “Sehun…” he eventually breathed out and brought a hand to Sehun’s hip. “I don’t think… we should.”

“Please,” Sehun mewled, his lips trembling against Chanyeol’s chin.

Chapter Text

Sehun pulled back and watched Chanyeol lick his lips tentatively, swiping his tongue along them while keeping his gaze on Sehun’s. He swallowed, his fingers following a nervous trail on Sehun’s hip. Like he was doing something wrong and that it was a punitive crime to be touching his own husband.

It made Sehun cringe inwardly. The fact that Chanyeol hesitated so much even after Sehun had stooped low to beg him to touch him.

He sat up, brushing Chanyeol’s hand off him. Gripping the edge of the bed, Sehun slouched forward and sulked for a good minute before he felt a gentle touch on his back that was meant for comforting and nothing more. Except that it wasn’t very comforting. In fact, it did quite the opposite.

He sprung up from the bed, aggravated and annoyed.

“Where are you going?” Chanyeol asked, not with a lot of concern as much as curiosity.

Sehun grabbed a coat. “For a walk,” he muttered, although all that he wanted to do was yell at the man for being so dense.

“I’m sorry,” Chanyeol then said, sitting up. “I don’t think… I’m ready.”

Sehun paused at the door, clenching his jaw. And you never will be, he wanted to bark at his husband. God, husband. On paper, yes. Everything else? Fuck.

He slammed the bedroom door shut behind him before stomping downstairs, barefooted. He couldn’t care less. Storming out of the house, he trudged angrily over the cold ground. He wanted to get far away from here. He wanted to run away.

As it turned out, he did not get so far as the soles of his feet begin to turn numb. Stopping, he dropped to a crouch and clenched his eyes tight. He wanted to fucking scream. So, he did.

He let it all out at the top of his lungs. The tears burned in his eyes when he opened them again. Then hugging his knees to his chest, he rocked himself lightly, muffling his cries in his arms.

What made him so miserable? The fact that he had just ended things with Kai in hope to mend things with Chanyeol? Or the fact that he had just been humiliated by his husband after he had shamelessly asked the man to hold him?

Perhaps both. It had been a long day and night.

He thought of the fleeting kiss he had shared with Chanyeol. It still burned through his skin. Then he thought of all the kisses Kai had given him. It made him even more miserable. He had made Kai miserable. And then had ended everything with him in the worst way possible.

He had never planned for it to go any further, anyway. So, he shouldn’t be feeling this guilty. It was not his fault. It was Kai’s. Kai chose to get his feelings involved. Yes, Sehun never imposed anything.

God. He stood up and turned back to the house. He had promised he’d give Chanyeol the time and space. It was not right of him to ask the man to do something he was not comfortable with. And actually, with his head cleared now, Sehun realized that it would not have been right.

He doubted having Chanyeol hold him would help.

No. It would. It would reassure him. It would be everything he had wanted for a while now.

But he supposed there was always a time and place for everything. He pretty much had the place right, though.

He returned to the bedroom and found Chanyeol on the balcony, nursing a tumbler of scotch in his hand. Sehun hoped he hadn’t heard him scream.

While he removed his coat, Chanyeol turned around and gave him a small smile.

“Did the walk clear your head?” he asked. It sounded like mockery.

Sehun was too tired to entertain it. So, he nodded and perched on the bed, facing Chanyeol.

“Short walk, though,” Chanyeol added, walking back inside and closing the balcony doors.

“Are you ever gonna touch me?” Sehun blurted out and it horrified him as much as it did Chanyeol. He wanted to collect the words and shove them back in his mouth.

Chanyeol settled the tumbler on the bedside table and rubbed the back of his neck. “You still seem upset about something,” he said instead of answering the question. It always a bad, unfavourable answer when a person dodged the question, wasn’t it?

Sehun looked away.

“Did something happen… with Kai?”

He tensed up and raised his nervous gaze to Chanyeol. “No,” was the curt answer.

“You want to talk about it?”

Sehun scoffed. “I’m playing ‘the shrink’ here, remember? You’re the patient.”

The hurt was so clear in Chanyeol’s face then. Sehun bit his tongue.

“I did not… mean that,” he said quickly but shakily.

Chanyeol slipped his hands into the pockets of his pants. “Is that how you view this relationship? That you’re my personal shrink or something?”

“Unless you don’t mind sharing a bed with your shrink,” Sehun mumbled. Chanyeol did not find it funny. “I don’t.”

“Good. Because you agreed to take things slow. So, please don’t use any of it against me.”

Sehun nodded once and kept his gaze low thereon. He heard Chanyeol sigh before he dropped to sit beside Sehun on the bed.

“I am trying, Sehun,” he said carefully. “Believe me when I say that when you asked me to touch you, I wanted to. So badly. But…”

Sehun felt his tight chest loosen with warmth. He almost reached out and took Chanyeol’s hand. But he waited for the “but”.

“I want it to be real,” Chanyeol said.

Sehun looked at him confusedly. “What do you mean real? Was it not real when you kissed me at the park? Was it not real for you when we… when we… the other night…” he trailed off, blood rushing to his cheeks.

Chanyeol was blushing, too. Good.

“I didn’t mean that. But you deserve more than just… me trying, you know,” he said. Sehun understood, then. And it crushed him a little. In a good way. Maybe. “I want things to be real with you. And I know how… how it hurt you when you saw the… room.”

Sehun would rather not be reminded of it at all. “Does ‘real’ mean you forgetting about… him?”

Chanyeol smiled then, sadly. “I don’t think I ever can.” That wrenched Sehun’s gut. “But I mean… I want to move on. I want to want you for real and… you know. The whole deal.”

“Falling in love?” Sehun’s skin tingled even at the thought of falling in love with each other.

Chanyeol kept his low but this time, he was smiling. Happy smile. “Yeah. That too.”

“Well,” Sehun let out. “I imagine it’ll be all the sweeter then.”

“So, you’re not mad at me anymore, are you?”

Sehun dropped back on the bed and threw an arm over his eyes. “I don’t know. I’m just so confused.”

“Anything I can help with?”

“Apparently not.”

“Apart from that.”

“No.” He withdrew his arm from his face and glanced at Chanyeol, a hand teasingly lifting his T-shirt to expose his belly. Chanyeol’s smile died at once and he sharply turned his head away, clearing his throat. “It’s the only way.”

Even the back of Chanyeol’s neck turned bright red. He then chuckled, though he didn’t look back at Sehun again. But good to know he could be flustered by something so trivial. Not that Sehun did not already know that. He thought about the weight of Chanyeol’s cock in his hand and the hot breath grazing his skin.

“I think I’ll just let you suffer in silence,” Chanyeol said in a light tone.

Sehun sat up and grinned to himself. Maybe he would get over Kai after all.

Chanyeol turned to him. Smiling, he said, “Do you want to go see Kai and give him a good beating with me tomorrow?”

Sehun’s face wilted immediately but he tried not to show his discomfort. He considered turning down the offer and telling Chanyeol to go on his own. But then what if Kai was spiralling? He did not believe that Kai would sell him out like that but… But what if?

“Okay,” he murmured.

“Okay,” Chanyeol echoed.

Sehun stared into his husband’s eyes. “Okay.”

* * *

“I have decided to try and make my marriage to Chanyeol work. We agreed to try. I want us to still be friends, Kai.”

Even as noon approached, Kai did not move from his couch. San was waiting patiently at his side to be taken on a walk. Kai never moved.

He kept replaying Sehun’s words in his head on a loop.

He was hoping. Blindly. He had been an idiot. And he had ruined everything.

San whined, jumping up to his three legs. He nudged his nose into Kai’s leg. Kai threw his head back on the couch and closed his teary eyes. It was not supposed to hurt this bad, was it?

It felt as though a truck was parked right on top of his chest. And he couldn’t move. He was a fool and… and…

He was outdone. Because once again, he could not match up to the great Park Chanyeol.

They had been friends. Chanyeol had been everything to him. But now, Kai did not want anything more than to have him dead.

He did not feel abashed admitting it. Sehun would have chosen him if Chanyeol had been fucking dead, wouldn’t he?

It was the anger talking, Kai convinced himself. He probably did not want his friend dead. Probably.

He did not move from where he had been sitting since early morning until he heard the apartment doorbell ring. He shot up to his feet instantly and hurried over to get the door. It had to be Sehun.

Prising the door open with more aggression than necessarily, his lips stretched into a wild grin. But it quickly faltered and died when his eyes looked up at Chanyeol.

Chanyeol’s gaze dropped to Kai’s bandaged arm. He was hugging a brown paper bag to his chest and it smelled of food. Kai’s stomach almost grumbled and he realized he hadn’t eaten anything since last night.

His confused lour darted past Chanyeol’s shoulder and landed on Sehun, who was refusing to meet his eyes.

Kai’s heart sank.

“You get into an accident and don’t tell me or call the office?” Chanyeol spat, scowling as he pushed past Kai and entered the apartment. “What the fuck is up with you, Kai?”

Kai gawked wordlessly at Sehun next. He could not take his eyes off him. He wanted to pounce him right then and there and kiss the freaking soul out of him, right in front of Chanyeol.

Sehun lifted his eyes and looked at Kai. His gaze was blank at first and then he frowned with something like regret. No. Guilt. Pity. Not regret.

“Kai,” Chanyeol called from inside. Sehun broke their miserable eye contact and walked into the apartment. His arm lightly brushed Kai’s chest.

Taking in a strained, angry breath, Kai tried to calm himself as he shut the door and turned to confront them.

“What the hell are you doing here?” he asked Chanyeol. Or maybe Sehun. Both.

“I brought lunch,” Chanyeol said, settling the paper bag on the table before withdrawing a few food boxes. “It’s Chinese.”

“You didn’t have to,” Kai said.

“Yeah. But I figured you’re not going to be able to do much shit with one and half arms.”

Kai groaned and turned to Sehun, who was pretending to be distracted with petting San. “Hey, Sehun.”

Sehun stiffened and straightened up, met Kai with a quivering set of eyes. “Hi… Kai.”

“Let’s eat,” Chanyeol said.

Kai and Sehun did not look away from each other for a while. Then a while later, Kai smirked. “Yeah. Let’s.”

* * *

He would rather be anywhere than here. Anxiety was eating at his insides as Chanyeol and Kai continued to talk about details of the accident and then about work back and forth at the table over food.

Sehun eventually lost all of his appetite and gave up on pretending to eat something. He reached a hand down and rubbed the dog’s head.

“He seemed to be familiar with you,” Chanyeol said, pausing his conversation with Kai midway.

Sehun shrugged. “I’m good with dogs.”

“Yeah,” Kai scoffed. “He’s good with dogs.”

Sehun almost kicked his foot under the table. Instead, he pursed his lips and retrieved his hand from San.

“What’s his name again?” Chanyeol inquired.

“San,” Sehun and Kai replied in unison. Sehun wanted to bury himself there. Kai smirked while Chanyeol cocked a brow. Thankfully, he did not ask further questions.

“You don’t bother going in to work for a while. At least until you get better,” Chanyeol said to Kai, threateningly.

“I can work with one hand,” Kai said, still smiling smugly. “Ask anyone in this room.”

Sehun stilled in his seat and then scowled lightly at Kai, who grinned back at him.

“What?” Chanyeol asked, lost.

“I don’t really like dumplings,” Sehun said.

Kai coughed into his hand. “Smooth.”

“Anyway,” Chanyeol proceeded. “At least you weren’t driving. Why the hell did you get drunk so bad?”

“Why don’t you take a guess?” Kai challenged.

Sehun jumped a little in his seat when he felt toes climb up the leg of his pants. His stomach knotted and blood filled his face. He looked at Kai in horror before kicking his foot away.

“I don’t like guessing games,” Chanyeol said dully. “If you can’t hold your alcohol, then don’t drink.”

“Look who’s talking,” Kai snorted. “If there’s anyone in this room,” he then said, his foot clambering up Sehun’s leg again. This time, much higher. “has an alcohol problem, it’s you.”

“I have control.”

“You think you do.”

Sehun almost gasped when the foot pressed into his crotch. Kai curled his toes against Sehun’s cock.

He jolted up from the chair abruptly. Chanyeol looked up at him. “Is something wrong?” he asked Sehun. Kai licked his smirking lips.

Sehun swallowed hard. “I… I’m not hungry anymore.”

“Yeah, me neither,” Kai said and stood up. He started to pick up his plate.

“I got it,” Chanyeol interrupted and grabbed Kai’s plate. As he started for the kitchen, Sehun silently followed.

He hopped with a start when a hand slapped his butt from behind before fingers gripped a side of it. Sehun spun around and shoved Kai back by the chest.

Kai continued to flash that lopsided grin.

“Cut it out, Kai!” Sehun hissed under his breath, glowering at the man.

Chapter Text

“Oh, you don’t like it anymore, huh?” Kai said, and Sehun wanted nothing more than to smack that smirk right off his face.

“What do you think you’re doing?” he growled at the man, keeping his voice low.

Kai shrugged. Then he winked and leaned in to peck on Sehun’s cheek before brushing past him. After a moment of puzzlement, Sehun turned around and started for the kitchen, where he found Chanyeol and Kai by the sink counter.

“How are things at home?” Kai asked Chanyeol.

Looking into the glass of water, Chanyeol mulled for a second. “My parents are back.” He lifted his solemn gaze to Sehun’s. “It’s tense.”

“I bet,” Kai scoffed. “Your mother is more intense than all of the Disney villainesses combined.”

“I’ll drink to that,” Chanyeol said with a smile. “You shouldn’t, though.”

Kai fixed Sehun with a sidelong glance. “But it must be easier now that you have a partner to face her with, right?”

What was Kai doing? What sort of game was he playing at?

Chanyeol lowered his eyes, his neck turning into an embarrassing shade of pink. “She’s tough on Sehun.”

“Tough is an understatement,” Sehun chimed in before Kai could muck this entire thing up. “We probably should get going, Chanyeol.”

“Yeah. Probably.” He set the glass down and turned to embrace Kai in a loose hug. “Don’t be a moron again.”

“I’ll try,” Kai said, his predacious eyes still lingering on Sehun.

“And if you need anything, just give me a call,” said Chanyeol, pulling away. “Or Sehun. Okay?”

Kai simpered. “I definitely will.”

As Chanyeol turned around, Sehun told him that he would be down in a moment and that he just needed to use the bathroom quick. As soon as Chanyeol was out of the apartment, he spun around to confront Kai.

But the air in his lungs was knocked out when a hand flew up to his chest and shoved him back up against the counter.

“Kai!”

“What are you trying to do?” Kai growled, the hand on Sehun’s chest fisting around the shirt.

Sehun glared back. “What am I trying to do? What are you doing, Kai?”

“You called things off and then you march back in here with your beloved husband?” said Kai, making it sound like an accusation.

“I didn’t want to come,” Sehun said and it honestly felt like a lie. He had wanted to see how Kai was doing. He wanted to make sure that he was all right. He was more than all right. He was being an utter dick.

Kai pulled back with a hurt look. “You didn’t… want to come.”

“No,” Sehun spat, straightening his shirt. “But Chanyeol asked me.”

“And you couldn’t say no. Like a proper wife.” He rolled his eyes.

“You know what,” Sehun said and drew away from the counter. “You need to stop acting like a grade-A jackass, Kai. Whatever that you’re doing, stop it.”

“Now, why would I do that?” He closed the distance between them and with their mouths inches away, he curled his good hand around the back of Sehun’s neck. “Are you afraid that your husband will find out? But doesn’t thrill make it all the better?”

Sehun was momentarily lost in Kai’s intense eyes for a moment. He then shook his head. “I was not doing for the thrill, Kai.”

He thought Kai might snap back with a witty remark, but the man held onto his silence as he scanned Sehun head to toe. Then he scoffed, rolling his eyes before he turned his back to Sehun to slouch over the sink counter.

Sehun opened his mouth but screwed it shut again when he realized he had nothing more to say to Kai. So, he turned on his heel and left.

“He’s acting strange,” he heard Chanyeol say when he joined his husband in the car.

“Really?” Sehun muttered, fastening the seatbelt, and hoped that the disinterest in his tone did not sound too fake. “He’s probably just fatigued from all the painkillers.”

Huffing heavily, Chanyeol shifted the gear and drove them out of the parking area.

* * *

“This is ridiculous,” he groused to San, who blinked at him from where he was resting on the adjacent couch. Gnashing his teeth, Kai browsed the channels, thumbing the buttons on the remote control with more aggression than necessary. When none of the programmes managed to distract him from the bubbling misery and resentment in his chest, he turned the TV off and hurled the remote control across the room.

San flinched and whined softly, realizing his owner was spiralling.

“Fuck him,” he spat. “Fuck them all.” He then yanked the arm sling off his neck and ripped the bandages away from his arm. The doorbell rang. Who could that be? He glanced at the wall clock. At ten o’clock at night?

Pushing himself up from the couch, he went to wrench the apartment door open, only to find his mother at his doorstep. She regarded him with a sombre moue.

“What are you doing here at this hour, Mom?” Kai asked in a voice gruffer than he had intended.

“I brought you dinner,” she said, holding up a paper bag. “Your father is not home yet, so I figured I drop by myself. How are you doing?”

Clenching his teeth, Kai loured at his mother. “I already ate, Mom. Chanyeol and Sehun popped by earlier with food.”

He watched her face pale. Then it reddened with something like anger. “Sehun?” she asked through her teeth.

“Ugh, Mom. Let’s not do this now.”

“Let me in,” she said. With a groan and a sigh, Kai walked away, leaving the door open for his mother. She entered and closed it behind her. “Chanyeol visited you with… him?”

“Yes, Mom.” He plumped on the couch.

She looked like she might say something, but she did not as she turned to the dining table, where she placed a couple of containers containing food. “I made you some chicken soup.”

“Great. Thanks.”

She faced him, leaning against the table. She licked her lips. “What did they say?”

Kai dropped his head back on the couch and stared vacantly at the ceiling.

“Kai?” She pulled away from the table and took her seat on the couch. “I wanted to ask you if… if you got so drunk because of… because of our argument.”

“For the millionth time, Mom, no.” He closed his eyes and prayed that his mother would just leave him alone tonight.

He felt her scrawny hand drape over his knee. “Then was it… because of… him?”

His eyes flew open to scowl at his mother. “So, I could only get recklessly drunk because it has something to do with someone?”

Frowning, she pulled back. “He dared show up here with his husband?”

“Yes, he did,” Kai spat.

She straightened up and took a deep breath. “Kai, I promise you, I will not interfere in your life or this… abhorrent affair you’re involved in. But you must end it. End it before the Park family finds out. Your father would… God. Did you not once think about your father? The poor man. He’d lose face and everything he’d worked so hard for.”

Every nerve in Kai eased then as his breathing shallowed. He turned his gaze to the coffee table and stared at it emptily. “I… I never meant to…” he trailed off. He wasn’t sure if he were lying. He did not want to mar his father’s dignity. Or his family’s. But he had known very well from the beginning that if he boarded this ship with Sehun, there was a big chance he’d tarnish his family’s reputation.

And his father… The man would never live that sort of humiliation down. He did not have much, but he had no deed of vice listed to his name.

“Your father would kill himself if he knew, Kai,” his mother added with red, limpid eyes. “He wouldn’t stand the embarrassment. Especially if it came through you. You know he wouldn’t say a word against you. He respects you and trusts you too much for that. But he would die in silence.”

Kai felt his throat tighten with a lump. He was playing a dangerous game a while ago, teasing Sehun in Chanyeol’s presence. He knew he wouldn’t get caught, but he could have. Or he definitely would if Sehun somehow mustered the courage reveal everything to Chanyeol or his family.

What happened to his father then? His family?

He knew his actions would affect them even when he first started this affair. But he supposed he never cared. He was blinded by what Sehun was offering him. Nothing else mattered.

“All I’m asking is that you spare the old man the suffering,” his mother implored, a tear rolling down her cheek. “He’s worked every day of his life. He’s struggled every day since you were born to give you a good life. Don’t put this on his head, Kai. You don’t have to be loyal to the Parks. But you could at least be loyal to the man who had shed sweat and blood from the day you were born to raise you. Many times, when we couldn’t afford to buy baby milk for you, the man would toil all day and wash dishes at restaurants all night. He’d come home with his back almost broken… But not a single day he let you starve, Kai. And the Parks. They helped us all the way in any way they could without making us feel like a charity case. You got it all wrong about them, Kai. I know that you never asked for favours from them, but they gave them to us when we didn’t even ask. They have a good heart. All of them.”

“Are you trying to guilt-trip me, Mom?” Kai asked, although his chest was now tight with a strange feeling.

“No,” she said. “I’m trying to help you realize that your actions have consequences that would hurt the ones whose only mistake was to love and trust you.” She rose to her feet, wiping her cheek. “Family might mean nothing to you. Loyalty might mean nothing to you. But your father still believes that you are the son he raised you to be. The same boy he carried on his shoulders hours on even when he’s dead on his feet.”

With that, she saw herself out of the apartment. Kai sat idle on the couch, chin propped on his clasped hands. He tried to picture his father’s reaction if he ever came to know of what his son had done.

No matter how much Kai tried, he only saw a disappointment in the man’s wrinkled forehead and tears in his weathered eyes.

* * *

“How many from your side of the family?” Mrs Park inquired at breakfast. Sehun told her that he could not give her a number at the moment. Mrs Park flashed that condescending smirk of hers.

“We’ll invite the Kims, Mother,” Chanyeol suggested, and Sehun almost choked on his orange juice.

“That’s a nice idea,” said Mr Park. “And perhaps for a change, Mr Kim shouldn’t be the one to cook.”

“We could book a caterer,” said Mrs Park.

And the rest of Sehun’s day was ruined just like that.

After breakfast, he found Chanyeol in their bedroom, getting ready for work.

“Why are we inviting the Kims?” Sehun asked quietly as he perched on the bed, watching his husband knot the necktie around his shirt collar.

Chanyeol turned away from the mirror to pin Sehun with an arched eyebrow. “What do you mean why?”

Sehun shrugged. “I thought the dinner is for close friends and family.”

“They are close friends and family,” he said. “Kai is my best friend. His father has been working for us forever.”

“They are your employees.” Sehun did not mean it to sound mean. But he had to find a way to stop this from happening.

Chanyeol blinked. “You… don’t want them to come?”

Sehun shook his head. “No, no. I didn’t mean that. Of course, they should come. But…” But what? He had no good excuse to ask Chanyeol to reconsider about inviting them. He sighed instead and eyeballed his husband, who was clad in a white shirt and black necktie and black pants. His hair was swept back, sleek and gelled.

Sehun rose from the bed and walked over to Chanyeol. Stopping a foot before the taller man, Sehun took hold of the necktie and tightened the knot before resting his hands against Chanyeol’s chest. He felt it heave lightly. He decided that he liked the way Chanyeol’s aftershave smelled. It was both musky and minty.

Chanyeol let out a shaky breath when Sehun raised his head. “I should… get going,” he muttered, eyes falling to Sehun’s lips.

“Yeah,” Sehun sighed and stepped back. “Have a… good day.”

Mrs Park waited a couple of hours after his son was gone to intrude into Sehun’s room. Without bothering to even knock, she barged in with a fake smile on her face and a glass of something that looked like urine.

“I made you some apple juice, sweetheart,” she said with her saccharine voice that was nothing poison underneath.

Sehun sat up on the bed and put the book he was reading aside to take the glass from her hand. “You didn’t have to. That’s really nice of you.”

She smiled again and sank into a seat beside Sehun. She then raised a hand to his shoulder. “So, how are you feeling?”

Sehun looked at her. “How am I… feeling? We saw each other at breakfast.”

“Yes, we did. But we haven’t had a chance to talk. Alone.” She looked devious. And she never stuttered. “Is my son treating you well?”

Sehun wasn’t sure how he should answer that. Because he knew the woman was not here because she cared about his welfare. “He is,” he answered, anyway.

“And you? Are you making him happy?”

Sehun’s throat felt scratchy suddenly. “I don’t know that. You’ll have to ask him that.”

“Hmm… I doubt you make him happy. Not many things in this world could make him happy anymore.”

Sehun hated her for that. She knew what made her son happy and she had taken it away from, anyway.

He stood up. “Why don’t you just cut to the chase?” he said, and Mrs Park cocked a brow. “I know you don’t like me. I was sort of a rushed-up solution to your problems, and that’s why you married your son to me.”

She remained mum. But her eyes looked eerily satisfied.

“I care for him, okay?” Sehun then said. “I want him to be happy. Unlike you. But I will not cower before your tyranny like your son does. So, if you think you could intimidate me, think again.”

She rose. Smiled. Then brought a hand to lightly cup Sehun’s cheek. “I never mean to intimidate you, darling.” She stroked his cheekbone with her thumb. “But I wouldn’t let that pretty mouth of yours run at me, if I were you.” She edged closer. “I gave you all this. I could take it all away in the blink of an eye. And you’re back to being a nobody with just mommy and daddy’s dough in your pockets. I married you to my son because you were a potential puppet. And you will remain a puppet. So, I suggest you don’t get smart with me.”

She patted Sehun’s cheek twice before sauntering out of the room.

Left alone once more, Sehun dropped on the bed and pulled his phone out. There were no missed calls or text messages from Kai today. Or last night. Or the night before. It had been almost a week since he last went to visit Kai at his apartment with Chanyeol.

He put the phone away, realizing he could no longer ring Kai for comfort and company every time he felt lonely, upset or miserable. And that made him feel even more low.

He needed to patch things up with Kai if they were going to be in each other’s lives forever. They could not forever ignore and avoid each other. Sehun wondered if it were even possible to be friends with Kai after all that’d happened.

* * *

He went in to work the next week. Chanyeol was not surprised to see him walk into the office.

“How’s your arm?” the boss inquired, casually looking up from his computer screen. Kai shrugged.

“Good as new,” he said.

“You can take this week off if you need to,” Chanyeol said.

“I don’t need to,” Kai replied curtly. “I should get back to work.”

“Everything okay?” There was genuine concern in his voice when he asked it.

Kai shrugged again.

Chanyeol exhaled heavily. “What are you doing this Thursday?” he then asked.

“Nothing. Why?”

“Thanksgiving dinner. My place. Don’t be late. You know how much I hate cold turkey.”

Kai stood frozen for a stretch. “What?”

“You and your family are invited. You better be there. Bring your sister along, too.”

Clearing his throat, Kai moved closer to the desk. “I don’t think… I’m actually available on Thursday night. I have, um, plans.”

“Cancel them. It’s Thanksgiving. You’re supposed to be with your family. I already invited your father. He said he’ll be there.”

“Well, he’s your cook. He’s always there.”

“He won’t be cooking that night.”

Kai drew a deep breath. “Is… everyone okay with this? Your mother, father… Sehun?”

“Yes, why?

“We’re not exactly ‘family’.”

Chanyeol glared then. “Stop spewin’ bullshit before I put a rod through your skull.”

“Okay, okay,” Kai let out, raising his hands in defence. “We’ll… be there.”

“Good. Now, get back to work. You’ve got a ton to catch up with.”

“Yes, boss.” As Kai wended his way out of Chanyeol’s office, his stomach turned into twists and knots, his heart pounding. He knew he could not avoid Sehun for long. The week had been complete hell. Nights had been sleepless. Days had been insufferable. His fingers were constantly twitching to dial Sehun’s number. His thoughts were mired in Sehun. His bones ached at every one of those thoughts.

God, he realized he was so fucking sick in love. And it was the worst thing ever.

Chapter Text

“You’re back,” Sehun gasped and sat up when Chanyeol entered the room, tugging his necktie loose. Shutting the door behind him, Chanyeol eyed Sehun dubiously.

“You look like you were expecting me,” he said.

Sehun licked his lips, setting the book aside. “How was… work?”

It took Chanyeol a moment to answer as he yanked the necktie off and started unbuttoning his shirt, heading toward the bathroom. “Good. Thanks for asking.”

“Did you… see Kai?” He wasn’t sure why he was asking about Kai. But the words had slipped out of his mouth before he had a chance to contemplate.

“Yes, why? He came in yesterday.”

Sehun sat up straighter. “How… is he?”

Chanyeol turned around, his unbuttoned shirt dangling on his shoulders. “I’m concerned about him, but I think he’s doing fine.”

“What are you concerned about?” He tried to keep his eyes to himself but failed hopelessly as they wandered to Chanyeol’s exposed firm and padded abdominal muscles.

With a shrug, Chanyeol said, “He seems aloof these days. Like… something’s been bothering him. He just looks… withdrawn and tired.”

Sehun could not conjure a response to that. He glanced away. Then after a length, he muttered, “Maybe you’re wrong. Maybe you’re just seeing things that aren’t there.”

That made Chanyeol scoff out a chuckle. “Trust me. It takes one to know one.”

Sehun looked back at his husband with bulging eyes. That horrified him. What did he mean by ‘it takes one to know one’? Was… Kai going through something similar? Was he miserable like Chanyeol had been? Did Sehun cause all that?

No. No.

He gritted his teeth. “Did you talk to him?”

“Well, not about him being weird,” Chanyeol sighed. He then smiled in Sehun’s way. It made Sehun blush. “You care about him.”

Sehun felt blood draining from his face. “Wh-What?”

Heaving another breath, Chanyeol sat himself down on his side of the bed. “You care about Kai. That’s…. nice. He means a lot to me.”

He means a lot to me, too, Sehun thought but didn’t know how much of it was true. And he definitely knew better than to say it out loud. “He’s your friend,” Sehun said. “Of course, I care… about him.”

It felt like the dirtiest lie he’d ever uttered. He cared for Kai. But not because he meant something to Chanyeol. Chanyeol was nowhere in this equation.

Chanyeol smiled. His eyes were now on Sehun’s hand that was resting on the mattress in the gap between them. “He’s more than just a friend. I don’t have siblings. He’s my brother. He was there. He wasn’t much of a solace, but he was there. Through everything that happened. He was a… shoulder to cry on, even though I refused to cry on anyone’s shoulder. He understood. He gave me space when no one would. He was my drinking partner. He was my best man at my wedding.” He laughed at that. “He knows me. He knows that I value quiet. So, he gives me the quiet when I need to recharge. I truly want the best for him. He’s a good man, who’s honest to himself. Never thought ill for anybody. But most of all, he’s a free man. That I envy of him the most.”

Stomach turned in knots, Sehun felt sick. “How do you know he’s a good man?” Sehun asked, voice breaking.

Chanyeol seemed lost in his thoughts for a moment. Then he snickered. “He didn’t have a lot growing up. One time I saw him give his lunch away to this kid who never brought lunch from home and never had the money to buy food at the cafeteria. Kai starved for the whole day. He refused to let me share my lunch with him, said he had a tougher stomach than I did. I believed him. That’s when I knew anyone could make an honest man out of him. He knows what he wants, and he goes for it. He’s no coward. He doesn’t hurt people.”

As Chanyeol hang his head, Sehun said, “You’re no coward either, Chanyeol.”

“I am. I was. And I hurt people.”

Sehun wished he had the strength to power through his own misery so that he could console his husband. But he couldn’t. All that he could focus on in that moment was the disappointment he had left Kai with when he had rejected the man outright immediately after learning Kai was in love with him.

Anyone could make an honest man out of him…

Sehun had done the exact opposite and turned Kai into a degenerate. He had ruined a man. And that was not even the worst part. He had done it all while knowing what his actions entailed.

He shuddered when he felt a warm hand wrap around his own. He stared at the big, long fingers entangled around his slender digits. He looked up. Chanyeol gave him half a smile.

“I’m trying to be less of a coward now,” Chanyeol said quietly, shifting his weight on the bed so that he was facing Sehun.

Sehun swallowed. “Chanyeol… I have… something to tell you.” His fingers tightened around his husband’s.

“What is it?”

He tried to brave himself and spit it out. Perhaps Chanyeol would never find out. Perhaps he would. Perhaps years from now, they’d still be together. Perhaps even then, Chanyeol would not be ready to open his heart fully to Sehun. Perhaps he’d understand Sehun. Perhaps he wouldn’t.

It did not matter. Sehun wanted to come clean. And he wanted to do it without ruining Kai completely. But he was not sure how to do that. He was ready to admit, ready to concede whatever punishment awaited him. However, he could not do that to Kai. He did not want to be the bad guy that destroyed Chanyeol’s relationship with Kai. And maybe that was a selfish intention after all. But he was afraid of making Kai suffer any further on his account.

“What is it?” Chanyeol asked again, face crumpled with curiosity and concern.

Sehun shook his head. His heart was pounding in his throat. “Your… mother. She…” He paused to take a breath. “We talked yesterday.”

Chanyeol blinked. “You did?”

“Yeah. She came to the room and… she asked me if I make you happy. I know that I don’t, but I’m trying to. She doesn’t believe that I could make you happy. She says that I’m her puppet. That I’m a nobody if I weren’t married to you. Which might be true. I would have been a nobody, in spite of my family background and riches and everything. Compared to everything you and your family have achieved, I am a nobody.”

That was strange. He believed every word he was saying. And it was stranger that he had not once felt that way when he was with Kai. With Kai, it was different. He was him. He was Sehun, still a nobody but it didn’t matter. It didn’t matter because Kai was a nobody, too.

“What else did she say?” asked Chanyeol gruffly, eyebrows drawn into a scowl.

Sehun stared at his husband’s hand that was clutched in his. “That’s pretty much it. It’s obvious that she doesn’t like me. And I’m not sure if I’m okay with that.”

“You do make me happy,” Chanyeol blurted out. Sehun lifted his astounded gaze and blinked confusedly at Chanyeol. “Or… whatever that’s closest to happy I can get.”

His ears rang slightly.

“She and everyone took away something I loved more than life itself once. I’m not going to let them do it again.” Chanyeol’s eyes turned limpid and red.

Sehun took a shaky breath. “What’s weird is that what she said didn’t even offend me. I know it would take you a long time before you could even consider me as your—”

He was cut off as Chanyeol’s hands flung up to cup the sides of his face, shoving him back against the headboard before his mouth covered Sehun’s. These impulsive kisses might be Sehun’s most favourite, he decided. They always left him aghast, puzzled, and begging for more. The faint scent of cologne still clinging to Chanyeol swooned Sehun’s head a little as the rest of the smell of his husband’s skin overwhelmed his senses. And his lips. God, his lips did things to Sehun’s own that should be unlawful. The kiss was not rough, but it was strong and hard.

A gasp escaped Sehun’s throbbing lips as one of Chanyeol’s hands slipped from Sehun’s face to curl around his neck before it ventured a little lower, fingers stroking Sehun’s bare chest through the slit of the shirt. The next second Sehun’s hands were gripping onto Chanyeol’s hair as he kissed the man back with all the might and want he had. It was all hot and wet, teeth and tongue. And he even heard a scratchy moan break from Chanyeol’s throat when he sank his teeth into Chanyeol’s bottom lip, tugging at it lightly, leaving it red and swollen.

Their breaths mingled, lips chased after one another as Chanyeol drew his hand down Sehun’s body and slid it into his shirt, caressing Sehun’s waist and belly. It made Sehun arch his back off the mattress and into his husband’s while Chanyeol rubbed the planes of abdomen. The light sounds his throat made and the moans that rumbled in Chanyeol’s chest suggested that he wanted this, wanted Sehun. Also, the hard knob that was prodding into Sehun’s thigh.

Sehun let his own hands travel down his husband’s smooth chest, glide around the sides of his torso and settle on the back under the shirt. He loved the way Chanyeol’s back muscles tautened under his palms.

This was really happening. It was no dream. Chanyeol was kissing him, ferociously might he add. And his hands were on Sehun’s body, touching him. Feeling him. All that Sehun needed right now was for his husband to see him. Bare and raw.

He recalled the first time he had bared himself to Kai. The first time he had ever been so comfortable with a man. Kai had made him feel comfortable. Kai had made him feel everything. Sehun had never trusted anyone the way he had entrusted his body to Kai. He had made Sehun feel safe. And that was why Sehun had confidently taken it so far with him.

His mouth was eventually released before his neck was attacked by a bombardment of hot, murderous kisses. Moans broke from Sehun’s parted and panting lips as he clenched his eyes.

“Ka—” He stopped himself from moaning out the name his lips were so used to chanting like a solemn prayer. His eyes flew open and he forgot how to breathe for a moment. Frightened and in a panic, he brought a hand to Chanyeol’s chest.

Chanyeol brought his head up at once and withdrew his hand from Sehun’s belly. One moment his lips were all over Sehun’s neck and jaw, and the next, he was gone.

He clambered out of the bed, his neck, chest, and face bright with red and embarrassment. His hair was mussed, his shirt dishevelled. Sehun did not move away from the headboard for a long moment as he gathered his breath.

Then he cursed himself for ruining it.

“I’m sorry,” Chanyeol said, rubbing the back of his neck. He sounded out of breath, too.  “I… shouldn’t have… gone that far.”

“No, no,” Sehun panted, climbing onto his knees so that he could crawl to the edge of the bed. ”I wanted you to. I just…” I just freaked out because I almost moaned your best friend’s name because it’s what I was used to…

Although that sounded like a poor excuse…

Kneeling up, he brought his hands to Chanyeol’s hips and his head up to meet his husband’s worrying gaze. “I wanted you to,” Sehun breathed out again, his eyelids heavy. He noticed Chanyeol’s hands furling into fists at his sides, as though to restrain them.

Sehun leaned in and pressed a kiss to Chanyeol’s abs before dragging his lips down the trail of hair beneath his navel. His fingers then worked on unbuckling the belt. Chanyeol, surprisingly, did not stop him. He closed his eyes instead.

Sehun wanted to make him open them and look down at him. Unbuttoning Chanyeol’s pants, he started tugging at the zipper and that was when Chanyeol caught his wrists, looking down at him.

“We shouldn’t,” he muttered, frowning. “Not… now.”

Sehun mirrored his frown. “It’s okay, Chanyeol. We don’t have to do anything. You don’t have to do anything. Let me, um, suck you off.”

That shouldn’t have turned Chanyeol as red as it should have. But it did, and his hands tightened around Sehun’s wrists, fingernails digging into the bones. And he had never looked so aroused.

“Fuck,” Chanyeol hissed under his breath and released Sehun’s wrists. One of his hands then rose to the back of Sehun’s head to aggressively fist his hair there. And that did it for Sehun. He wanted to taste his husband, and that was enough for now. He yanked the zipper down.

The knock on the door drew them apart at once.

Sehun cursed all the gods there was in the heavens as Chanyeol frantically pulled away and zipped his pants up before buckling his belt back on.

Closing his eyes, Sehun took a deep breath and swore again quietly.

But he took a little comfort in knowing that it also annoyed Chanyeol greatly as the man marched to the door and prised it open with brute force before yapping at the servant’s face.

“What do you want?!”

The servant blenched and gulped nervously. “Master and Mistress… Park is demanding your presence at dinner. They are waiting for you and Master Sehun at the table.”

Letting out an exasperated breath, Chanyeol said, “Tell them we’ll be down in a moment.”

“Yes, sir.” With that, she scurried away and Chanyeol slammed the door shut. He didn’t turn around immediately as he pressed his forehead to the door and sucked in a few breaths.

Sehun gnawed at his lip, wondering what they might be doing this very moment if only the damned servant hadn’t interrupted.

Chanyeol turned around. He did not look as mortified as he did earlier. Just irritated and frustrated. “We should head down.”

“Like that?” Sehun pointed at his husband’s obvious bulge.

That crimsoned Chanyeol’s cheeks. “My mother will take care of it.”

Sehun could not hold the laughter that bubbled in his chest and broke into a vicious guffaw, despite the circumstances.

“I did not mean it like that!” Chanyeol cried, chagrined beyond measure. He was already losing his hard-on. Groaning and shaking his head, he stomped over to the bed and grabbed Sehun’s chin in his hand. Sehun stopped laughing as he stared into his husband’s eyes. “Do you want to move out?”

Sehun blinked. “What?”

“Our own place. We can get our own place and stay away from my parents.”

Sehun had hardly recovered from what had just happened and the fact that he had offered his husband a blowjob. And now, Chanyeol was suggesting that they move out?

“Huh?”

Chanyeol smiled and bowed his head to kiss Sehun full on the mouth before he pulled back. Sehun blinked again. Where did the man get all this sudden confidence from? “I’ll take that as a yes.” He started buttoning his shirt up again.

Sehun shook his head. “Moving out together is a big deal. We won’t have Mr Kim to cook for us.”

“I’ll cook for us.”

Sehun grimaced. “Are you a good cook?”

“Um… I can handle myself.”

“Do you even know where the grocery store is, Mr CEO?”

Chanyeol laughed softly. He had never looked so happy. Or whatever the closest thing to happy he could get. “Tell you what. Why don’t we go grocery shopping tomorrow and I’ll cook the Thanksgiving dinner?”

“Are you serious? My mother is coming, and you have no idea how much of a picky eater she can be. She’d be furious if she found out her son-in-law can’t cook.”

“Let me surprise you. What do you say?”

Sehun tilted his head, still kneeling on the bed. He eyed the hand Chanyeol held down to him for a moment before taking it to let his husband pull him out of the bed. “Okay…”

“Bet you’ve never been grocery shopping before,” said Chanyeol as they made their way out of their bedroom.

Actually, he had. With Kai. They were getting instant noodles. And Kai had kissed him in the dairy aisle after handing Sehun his gloves, noticing Sehun’s fingers were cold. Sehun was wrong. That kind of impulsive kisses was the best.

* * *

They did go grocery shopping the next day. Last night, Mrs Park had not approved of them cooking the Thanksgiving dinner by themselves. She had implied that it must have been Sehun’s ridiculous idea in the politest way, of course. Chanyeol had been stern in his decision, however. And it had made Sehun happy.

Sehun’s mother had called him for the first time in months in the morning. She was excited for the dinner, she had said. She did not once ask how Sehun was doing. Probably because she figured Sehun could not be doing anything short of good since he was married to Park Chanyeol.

“That’s not a turkey,” Chanyeol said when Sehun picked a frozen bird from the compartment. “That’s a duck.”

Sehun rolled his eyes. “Potato, po-tah-toh.”

“More like potato, goose,” Chanyeol said, crossing his arms over his chest.

Sehun glanced at their two carts that were almost overflowing. “Fine. You get the turkey.” He dumped the duck back in the compartment and turned to the dairy aisle to get milk and cream.

“Don’t forget the half and half.”

“I don’t know what a half and half is,” Sehun called out to his husband.

A woman glanced at them, smiling in their way. She then grinned at the golden wedding band gleaming on Sehun’s finger. “Shopping with husbands are the worst,” she remarked, chuckling.

“Tell me about it,” Sehun shot back at her, sighing. Chanyeol was the worst shopper. He took his own sweet time, reading everything written on every packaging. And he stopped at every aisle. And he stopped to try every free food sample.

“Married for how long?” the woman asked as she fished out a carton of yogurt.

“Almost half a year,” Sehun said, smiling.

“Ah. Newlyweds. It’s the best period in a marriage.”

Sehun wished he could tell her how it was not at all the case. He searched for the goddamn half and half.

“He looks familiar,” the woman then commented, gazing ahead at Chanyeol, who was still picking out the best turkey. “Is he… famous?”

Sehun was barely listening as he stared at his faint reflection in the glass door. He recalled the time he had been to a grocery store with Kai. Kai had pushed him against a glass door like this one and kissed him. He smiled fondly at the memory before a pain twisted in his chest.

“No idea,” he muttered with a sigh, grabbing a carton of milk, cream, and half and half when he finally found one. He then walked back to the carts and Chanyeol. “Can you pick a turkey already?”

“They only have the bad ones left,” the man groused.

“You’re the richest man I know and probably the richest man to have ever walked into this store. Just buy them all and decide later.”

Chanyeol made a face at him. “What would I do with the twenty turkeys that would just lay there in my house?”

Sehun grabbed his husband by the jacket and pulled him close. Chanyeol’s eyes bulged out.

“Sehun,” he started to protest softly.

“That lady over there says that we’re in the best period in our marriage. Don’t make me kill you over a turkey,” Sehun whispered, lifting his head to lightly brush his lips upon Chanyeol’s.

Chanyeol drew back at once, clearing his throat. “Okay. This one,” he said shakily and retrieved a frozen turkey. “Which lady told you that, by the way?”

Sehun shrugged, jerking his chin toward the woman who was now standing in the cereal aisle, staring at him and Chanyeol like she was watching a horror movie. “That one.”

Chanyeol turned around and followed Sehun’s gaze. Then he didn’t move for long. Neither did the woman.

“Chanyeol?” Sehun called. When his husband did not respond, he raised a hand to Chanyeol’s shoulder. “Hey. Are you okay?”

And then he noticed the tears welled up in Chanyeol’s eyes. The woman held the same expression, only angrier. “Yeah,” Chanyeol let out eventually. “Yeah.” He pulled away from Sehun and approached the woman, who did not turn a hair.

Sehun, confused and curious, followed.

“How are you?” Chanyeol asked the woman tentatively. He knew her?

She did not reply. She scowled, a tear trickling down her cheek.

Chanyeol had never looked so miserable. “Mrs—”

“You’re married,” the woman spoke. Chanyeol’s face wilted altogether. She looked at Sehun briefly and scoffed. “Married. Shopping. Happy.” She nodded her head and then laughed. “Of course. You have all the money. Rich people always move on, don’t they? Married. Happy.” She cried then. “Unlike my only son. Dead. But you be happy. Be happy. With your new husband. Both of you. Be happy.”

With that, she turned on her heel and walked away.

Sehun could not bat an eye for a while. “What… just happened? Who is that?” When he tried to hold Chanyeol’s hand, the man yanked it away furiously and stomped away, wiping his eyes. “Chanyeol?” Sehun hurried after him. “What’s going on? Where are you going?”

Chanyeol did not respond or stop as he stormed out of the store.

“Chanyeol,” Sehun called again, grabbing his arm once they were out in the cold. His husband spun around and freed his arm from Sehun’s grip before snarling menacingly at him.

“Just leave me alone, will you?!”

Sehun’s jaw fell slack as his hand fell back to his side limply. “What… What are you doing?” he asked, barely finding his voice.

Chanyeol sniffled and clenched his eyes for a moment. Then he turned around and started to walk away again.

“Will you stop and talk to me?” Sehun pleaded, chasing after him. When he caught Chanyeol’s arm again, he was shoved back.

“I said leave me the fuck alone,” Chanyeol growled. “What part of leave me the fuck alone don’t you understand? Do you always have to cling on me like a fucking leech?! You’re not some goddamn 40s housewife, so quit your henpecking.”

People at the parking lot were staring at them. Sehun stopped, ashen and embarrassed. And as Chanyeol walked away from him, he stood out there in the cold for a moment, shamefaced, bewildered, and unfathomably upset.

Chapter Text

Chanyeol did return from his walk in the cold, however, after what seemed like more than an hour. Sehun was idle in the car, gaze staring ahead at the cars parked on the opposite end of the parking lot after he had purchased all the items that were on the list for the dinner. He was listening to Sweet Home Alabama when Chanyeol slid into the car.

He could not glance over to Chanyeol immediately. He was not sure if he were still fuming about the humiliation he had just undergone, or if he were just exhausted from trying. Trying to understand Chanyeol. Trying to hope. He had promised he’d try and he was sure he had. But did ‘trying’ involve receiving whatever knock on the head Chanyeol wanted to give him whenever he pleased or had a meltdown?

Chanyeol said nothing either as he rested against the car seat, eyes fixed at nothing. The longer the silence stretched between them, the more Sehun’s blood boiled. With a rough sigh, he turned and looked at his husband at last, gritting his teeth.

Something shifted in Chanyeol’s expression, although he did not meet Sehun’s vexed gaze.

“I’m sorry—”

“Don’t,” Sehun cut him off, shaking his head. He turned the radio down. Chanyeol pursed his lips again, a frown taking form on his creasing brows. His head turned eventually, and his eyes met Sehun’s. Sehun shook his head once more. “Just don’t. Don’t apologize if you don’t mean it.”

Even though he had every right to be mad, he was not certain that he should. Who was he to Chanyeol? Husband on paper. Friend otherwise? More than a friend? Besides, Sehun did not stand on a very high moral ground to be upset over this. He had, after all, slept with his husband’s best friend. He had long lost all credibility to be mad over anything Chanyeol did.

But he wanted to know if all of this ‘trying’ was just a futile effort.

“You’re right,” Chanyeol sighed. “I shouldn’t say it because… I knew exactly what I was doing. I saw her in there and I spiralled out of control. There’s no excuse for how I treated you and I know I should be sorry. But I’m just… too occupied with my own emotions right now to be thinking about… yours.”

Sehun did not know what hurt more. That or the fact that Chanyeol was still struggling with such a colossal amount of grief and all that it took to trigger it was a something so trivial.

It alleviated his rage and indignity a little.

“I’m sure you want to know who she is,” said Chanyeol.

“I think I figured it out,” Sehun muttered, looking away. “But you can talk to me about it if you want. It’s okay if you don’t.”

Chanyeol was mum for a moment. “You’re angry.”

Sehun looked at him again, this time with a scowl. “What did you expect? I’m not your 40s housewife to just be okay with whatever you throw in my way.”

Eyes closed, Chanyeol nodded his head. “I deserve that.”

Sehun clenched his fists on his lap. “So, is this how it’s always going to be? One small reminder of your boyfriend and you take a nosedive back into whatever depressive little ditch you promised me you’d climb out of?”

Chanyeol’s face paled with disbelief. He blinked blankly at Sehun’s outburst for a moment.

“Tomorrow, you might bump into his uncle on the street. Or the next day, you’ll see his father at a local burger joint. Maybe you’ll run into his first cousin, three times removed at the park. You’re telling me you’re going to have this… this episode of yours every single time and embarrass me just because I wanted to give two damns about you?”

Sehun could not stop himself once he started.

“We both promised to try. But this isn’t you trying,” he added furiously. “At the best of times, you’re all kind and polite. But one wrong downturn, you flip shit. Why is the room still locked? Your room of precious memorabilia of your old flame? You’re married, Chanyeol. This grief of yours is getting seriously old. You say that you will move on, but I don’t see you making any progress towards that. How long do you want to string me along? One year? Two years? I don’t want you just physically. I want you to mentally and spiritually be mine. You’re never going to be that if you keep letting your ex’s memories haunt you. And I certainly don’t want to be with a man who’s still hung up on someone else. Grief is one thing. But still wanting to be with someone else is another. You’re in love with him and where does that leave me?”

It sounded like he was talking to Chanyeol. But most of the points tallied to his own self. He swallowed.

“You said that you want it to be real,” Sehun then said, diverting from the previous argument, which was knifing through his own conscience. “Are you certain it can ever be real enough for you? Or am I just spitballing here?”

Chanyeol was the embarrassed one now. He kept his head hung. He looked guilty as well. “Sehun,” he said at length while Sehun was waiting for a response. He lifted his head and faced Sehun. “I don’t feel like doing this right now.”

Of course…

Sehun scoffed with a humourless smirk and lifted a hand to the steering wheel. “Right. Because you’re distressed, depressed, and upset. As though you’re the only one who gets to feel all that.”

That struck Chanyeol dumb. He had never seemed so conflicted. Frowning at Sehun, he stuttered to get his next words out. “I didn’t… I never meant that… you can’t feel… all that.”

“Good,” Sehun spat. “Because I do. I’ve been feeling like that since our first fucking night when you refused to even look at me when you walked into the bedroom and insisted that we just go to sleep.”

“We barely knew each other.”

“I wasn’t asking for us to fuck!” Sehun snapped then. “I wanted us to talk! That’s all. I had just left home for the first time after my parents basically served me over to the Parks on a silver platter without a second thought. I wanted us to get to know each other. All you did was nothing. Quite literally, because you were never there! You hated looking at me. Can you imagine what that would feel like? I was lonely as shit in that house!” he was yelling now but he did not care. “I had no clue where our future was heading because you literally gave me no signs! You were just quiet! It drove me insane! The first few weeks, I just kept waiting and waiting for you to at least talk to me! I’ve seen so many arranged marriages work out. But what we had… What we had was the strangest thing ever. Depressed? Distressed? Disappointed? Yeah, I’ve been there, too. We all have, Chanyeol. The only difference is that while you’re grieving over a dead person, I’m grieving over a living person. When you think about it, it’s quite comical. But you know what’s the worst thing about people like you is? You like to think there is no greater anguish than the one you experience. You will continue to refuse to accept that all levels and calibres of grief are relevant and acceptable. To you, you expect everyone to cater to your every whim because you’re ‘grieving’. Well, wake up. You’re still living. You’re still breathing in this world. We can try to help you as much as we can. But if you’re never going to help yourself, then you’re a lost cause.”

Chanyeol deserved it all. All of it.

It did not make Sehun feel as good as he had thought it would. When he glanced at Chanyeol, the man looked more miserable than ever. It left Sehun’s insides wrung and numb.

Once his thundering heart calmed, he exhaled heavily and rubbed his forehead. “You’re being an asshole to me, Chanyeol,” he said quietly. “And maybe I’ve given you no reason to be anything else to me. But when you say things like… you don’t have much room to consider my own feelings or that you don’t feel like talking about what you just did, humiliate me in public… it hurts. I don’t want you to act like a husband. But maybe treat me like a human being.”

He didn’t realize his eyes were blurring with tears before he had to look at the hand that clasped his. Chanyeol raised his other hand to cup a side of Sehun’s face.

“I’m so, so sorry,” he said, voice cracking. “And I mean it. I never… knew… I’m sorry, Sehun.”

Sehun withdrew his hand from Chanyeol’s and pulled the other away from his face. “Not what I wanted to hear,” he said in a low voice and shifted the gear. “Let’s just get back home. You promised your mother you’d cook the Thanksgiving dinner. The last thing I want to see today is the smug ‘I-was-right’ look on her face.”

“Sehun, wait,” Chanyeol called. “I want to talk about this.”

“Well, tough. Now, I don’t want to.” With that, he pulled them out of the parking lot and Chanyeol did not press the matter any further.

* * *

Mr Kim stuck around all day, assisting Chanyeol in preparing for the dinner tomorrow. Sehun stayed in his room all afternoon, brooding and clenching his jaw until it hurt. When he decided that he wanted to tire of this pity party, he got off the bed and headed out the bedroom.

He stopped briefly in front of the locked door. A big part of him wanted to kick the door down and destroy everything in that room before setting them all on fire. And it only annoyed him more when he realized it was not because he was jealous. He was just angry.

Furious that Chanyeol was being a baby.

When he headed downstairs and sauntered into the kitchen, he found Chanyeol, his mother, and Mr Kim gathered around a pot that was boiling something that burned Sehun’s eyes.

“We did forget the cranberry sauce,” Chanyeol said.

“I’ll have someone run to the store later,” his mother said, patting on her son’s back.

Sehun never understood that relationship. While Chanyeol claimed that his parents had ruined his life, his parents claimed that they were only looking out for him. And it did seem like his mother’s entire world revolved around her only child. And that was probably what made so insufferably possessive and obsessive towards her son.

“We’ll just leave the turkey to roast in the oven overnight at a very low temperature in this brine,” Mr Kim said. Sehun never realized until now how similar Mr Kim’s manner of speaking was to Kai’s. His voice was slightly scratchier, but they sounded almost the same.

A sickening feeling twisted in Sehun’s chest. It felt like he had not seen Kai for an eternity. And every time something reminded him of Kai, he turned sad and blue. Which was hypocrisy at best. Only this morning he was reproaching Chanyeol for something he often did himself.

“Mr Kim’s recipe for stuffing is the best,” Mrs Park commented. “I’m glad Sehun gets to taste it this year.”

“You are too kind, Madam,” said Mr Kim. The man was old. He looked older than he apparently was. Must have been all those years of standing, labouring, and sweating in the heat of the kitchen. Kai must be proud of his father. The man was hardworking and diligent. Respectful, respectable, and kind. Even though his wrinkled face and the dark circles under his weathered eyes regularly pointed towards fatigue, the man never once groused about being tired. He worked and worked. Even now when he lived comfortably. Kai never talked much about his father or his family in general. But Sehun knew plenty about them. He had made the effort, without even knowing that he was, to get to know about the world Kai lived in.

He was sure Mr Kim was just as proud of his son as his son was of him. Just like his old man, Kai was a sedulous man who never gave up on anything easily. Sehun both admired and feared that about him.

“Sehun.” Mrs Park’s voice snapped Sehun out of his doleful trance. Blinking, he looked up at her and Chanyeol at her side. A small, faint smile stretched on Chanyeol’s lips. “We didn’t hear you come down.”

“I was going to start making the apple cider,” said Chanyeol. “Do you… want to be my helping elf?”

Sehun chuckled despite himself as he walked around the kitchen island. “It’s not Christmas dinner.”

Chanyeol shrugged, jerking his head toward the basket of apple. “It’s a lot of peeling.”

Stopping before him and his mother, Sehun managed a smile. He was smiling because Mr Kim was smiling at him from behind Chanyeol. “Of course, I’ll help.”

* * *

“Don’t forget the cinnamon sticks,” Mr Kim said before he took off, pulling his ascot cap on.

“I will see you tomorrow, Mr Kim,” Chanyeol told him from he sat at the island, peeling the apples. Sehun flashed another grin in Mr Kim’s way before the man disappeared out the backdoor. He wondered if Kai was out there to pick his father up. He doubted Kai would be driving so soon after the accident, though.

“Do you know how to make an apple cider?” Sehun asked when he and Chanyeol were left alone in the kitchen. Chanyeol had even ordered the servants to let him cook on his own.

“Mr Kim left me a recipe,” Chanyeol replied, smiling cheekily.

After today’s debacle, Sehun didn’t know if he could look at Chanyeol the same way. He concentrated on slicing the apples and oranges.

Chanyeol abruptly stopped skinning the apples that were to be juiced. He looked up at Sehun and caught his wrist. “Earlier today,” he began. “in the car, you said that that wasn’t what you wanted to hear. But I was truly sorry, Sehun.”

Sehun sighed. “I know,” he said with a smile. “I was just mad. I’m over it now,” he lied.

“No. I want to know what you were expecting to hear from me.”

Sehun tried to keep his cool. “You should know it yourself, Chanyeol. There’s no point to it if I have to tell you.”

Releasing his wrist, Chanyeol nodded his head. “I was a dick. I’m sorry about that.”

Sehun had nothing to say to that. He knew very well who the bigger dick between them was.  And Chanyeol figured that out, no kind of apology was going to save Sehun.

As he resumed cutting the apples, he recalled a horrible joke Kai had once made when they were having salads that had bits of apples in them.

“Hey,” Kai had called. “Why did the apple turn red?”

Sehun’s face had been all scrunched up in confusion. “Huh?”

Kai had forked a chunk of apple and fished it out of his salad. “Why did the apple turn red?”

“It’s not red, though,” Sehun had said.

Kai had rolled his eyes. “It’s a joke, Sehun. Answer it.”

Jokes. Sehun had not heard many jokes. “I don’t know.”

With a naughty smirk, Kai had said, “Because it saw the salad dressing. Get it?!”

Sehun remembered tossing a fork at Kai. He snickered to himself.

“What is it?” Chanyeol asked.

Sehun brought his head up. “Uh… Nothing. It’s just a… joke.”

“A joke?”

He cleared his throat. “Why did the apple turn red?” he asked.

Chanyeol thought about it for a moment. “I’m not sure… Why?”

The mirage of the momentary happiness Sehun had encountered with Kai in that café where they had had that ridiculously sour and strange salad left Sehun lost for a while.

“Sehun?”

He glanced at Chanyeol then. He shook his head slowly. “I don’t remember actually,” he let out and returned his attention to the knife in his hand.

* * *

Everyone came. Neither Chanyeol nor Sehun had a big family. But they all showed up. Even Kira and her parents.

Sehun had opted for a simple, crisp white shirt and black jeans for the evening. When Chanyeol ambled out of the closet, clad in a black shirt tucked in his blue jeans, sleeves rolled up to his elbows, Sehun took a moment to marvel at the handsome man.

“Good?” Chanyeol asked.

Sehun shut his gaping mouth close and grinned. “Are you asking my opinion?”

Chanyeol blushed. “Yeah?”

“You wouldn’t do so bad if you weren’t rich. You look good in anything.”

“That’s not true,” Chanyeol scoffed, standing before the mirror to adjust his shirt collars. “I look horrible in orange.”

“I think you’d look adorable.”

That made Chanyeol smile. “It’s you who looks good in anything.”

“I know.” Sehun pulled away from the watch case after picking out one. They headed down together and greeted their guests. Sehun, in spite of not having the healthiest of relationships with his parents, was glad to see them after so long. They told him he looked happy. They did not hug Chanyeol. They bowed their heads instead and handed him a wrapped giftbox.

Sehun found Kira by the piano in the living room. She gave him a tight hug and asked him if he were pregnant because he was glowing. Sehun did not find it funny because if he were pregnant, the father would be Kai. Putting that ridiculous thought aside, he offered Kira a glass of apple cider. The smell of cloves, cinnamon, and orange filled the house.

Chanyeol and his parents introduced Sehun to a few other of their relatives, whom Sehun had not met, not even at the wedding. They were all very friendly. The evening was turning out fine. Sehun was relieved.

Mr and Mrs Kim showed up with their daughter, whom Sehun had not met personally, but had seen pictures of. As soon as they walked into the house, Mr and Mrs Park welcomed them, but no one else talked to them. The Kims did not seem bothered by it. This was not their usual social circle. They had dressed their best, Sehun assumed. But even then, they stood out among the guests like a worn cardboard wall in a house of crystals.

 Kai was nowhere to be seen.

It was either a disappointment or a relief. Sehun could not decide.

An arm that curled around his waist averted his attention from the Kims. “Are you all right?” his mother asked.

“Yes, why?” Sehun asked.

She smiled at him. “Nothing. I’m glad things are working out between you and your husband.”

“Sure,” he muttered.

“You have to be patient, Sehun. No marriage is easy.”

“I’m fine, Mom.” He pulled away from her and joined Chanyeol’s side. “We should feed this people.”

“Yes,” Chanyeol agreed and leaned down to press a kiss to Sehun’s temple. That was new, and it took Sehun aback. Was he putting on a show for their families? “I cooked the dinner. Sehun was a very good helper.”

“Really?” Kira gasped. “Look at you two doing all the domestic shit.”

“Kira, mind your language,” chided her mother.

* * *

Dinner turned out great. Chanyeol received praises from everyone who enjoyed his turkey. Even Mr Kim seemed impressed, even though all that he had been trying to all evening was to make sure that nothing went wrong with the food.

Sehun noticed that his parents had very little to say to Chanyeol’s. And that was okay. The last thing the evening needed was his mother lashing out at Mrs Park. And Mrs Park, surprisingly, was on her best behaviour. She even kept Sehun at her side most of the time, paying him compliments she never would have under normal circumstances.

It took Sehun a moment to realize that both Chanyeol and his mother were parading him around like a prize. Chanyeol, to let Sehun’s relatives know that he was being a good husband to Sehun. His mother, to boast Sehun’s obeisance as her son-in-law.

As the dinner came to an end, the guests were guided back into the living room for some more apple cider and pecan pie.

“Did Chanyeol also make this pie?” Kira asked, looking shocked.

“No. That was catered,” said Chanyeol.

“Oh, I knew so. No businessman in this world who sits in an office and could make a pie as good as this.”

While the guests carried on with their conversations, Sehun snuck away to the kitchen to grab some cold water to aid his parched throat. That was when he found Mr and Mrs Kim cleaning up in the dining hall.

“What are you doing?” he asked, gasping.

Mr Kim straightened up with the plates stacked in his arms. “Oh, Master Sehun. We’re helping the servants clean up.”

Mrs Kim was not even meeting Sehun’s eyes as she continued to pick up used and stained the silverware with an indignant scowl plastered on her face.

“You don’t have to do that. The servants will—”

“It’s no big deal,” said Kai’s mother bitterly. “We’ve done this before. I even worked here for a couple of years as their servant. We don’t belong in there while you enjoy the evening.”

That clenched Sehun’s heart. “Look. If you don’t want to join us in there, then at least go home. You are not servants here anymore. And Mr Kim, your job is in the kitchen. And I was informed that you are off for the night. So, please. Stop this. Chanyeol will be upset if he found out.”

“You care about upsetting him now, are you?” Mrs Kim scoffed, and it halted Sehun in his tracks, horrifyingly so.

“What’s that supposed to mean, Mrs Kim?”

She glared in Sehun’s way. But then she stopped to glance at her husband, who wore an appalled and bewildered look. She exhaled exasperatedly. “Nothing.” She then continued to clean up the table with the rest of the servants.

Sehun frowned at Mr Kim. Then licking his lips, he walked out of the dining hall and into the kitchen. He turned the tap on and stared at the running water for a long while before he lifted his head and gazed out the window.

His heart dropped to his stomach when he caught a sight of the car in the driveway, its lights turned off. Then he made out the silhouette of the man standing, leaning against the hood of the car, slouching and head dropped low, hands stuck in the pockets of his coat, puffs of white huffed out of his mouth in the cold air.

Unsure of what jolted through him, he was hurrying out the backdoor the next minute. The biting cold night wind slapped against his face as he approached the car.

“Kai?” he called, and the head rose.

Kai turned to him, eyes bulging out. “Sehun,” he let out.

Sehun wrapped his arms around his own body and shivered against the cold. He stopped a few feet before the car. Kai looked worried and apprehensive, as though Sehun were some feral animal that was about to pounce him. Otherwise, he seemed good. A little red on the cheeks and nose, but he still looked as good as ever.

“What are you… doing out here?” Sehun asked, managing to find his voice again.

Kai took a moment to answer. When he did, he raised a hand to the back of his head to scratch it. “I… was going to come in… but then…” he trailed off.

Sehun’s eyebrows drew together. “But then what?”

Kai huffed out another puff of air. “I couldn’t…”

“Why?”

Grinding his teeth, Kai glanced ahead at the house. “My family is in there, right?”

“Yeah. Your mom, dad, sister. Everyone’s here. You should come in, too.”

Kai shook his head, eyes meeting Sehun’s again. They looked as sad as they had been the day Sehun told him he did not love the man.

“I probably shouldn’t,” Kai murmured. “I’m gonna get going. But you… you have a great evening.” There was no malice or sarcasm in what he said. He turned to his car.

“Wait, Kai,” Sehun halted him. “If this is about what happened the last time, then… don’t do this. I’ve decided that we should… at least try to tolerate each other since we’re going to be in each other’s lives.”

Kai stopped, hand on the handle of the car’s door. His breathing was clearly quickening. He looked up at Sehun again. “No,” he said. “I can’t do that.”

“What?”

“I would have been able to, Sehun,” he said calmly, slowly. “I would have been able to if I weren’t in love with you. But I am and that makes it impossible for me to be around you.”

Sehun was no longer sure that it was the cold that made him shiver. A sob was making its way up his throat. “Kai… We can’t… I told you many times that I…”

“No, we can’t,” Kai said and that surprised Sehun. “We never can. It took me a moment to realize that.” He sniffled and blinked at the tears that was brimming in his eyes as he turned his face away from Sehun. “I always wanted you to choose me and not him. But I can’t… do that to my dad. I can’t choose you over my dad. The man’s been through… shit for me. But at the same time, if I had the option, I’d throw away everything and everyone for you. So, you know what I’m thankful for the most today? On Thanksgiving. I’m thanking you for not giving me that option, Sehun.”

He closed his eyes and took a breath. When he opened them again, they were glistening red.

“I should go.” He turned.

Sehun moved. He wanted to stop. But he couldn’t, so he didn’t.

One moment he was standing on the damp, cold dirt of the driveway, choking on a sob, realizing how much he had missed the man he once used to bare himself to without a second thought. And the next, he was vaulting into Kai’s arms, lips desperately searching to meet Kai’s. And when they did, Kai pulled back at once, frowning.

“Stop this,” he said in a raspy voice, clasping his hands to Sehun’s arms. “I don’t know what you’re playing at but at least let me go for good.”

Sehun took a step back, panting, dumbstruck. What had he done… “Kai, I…”

Kai was no longer listening to him or even looking at him. His eyes darted over Sehun’s shoulders, wide and horrified.

With his heart leaping in his throat, Sehun turned around and confronted Chanyeol’s dead, expressionless face. For one long minute, no one moved or spoke.

And then Chanyeol stepped towards them, hands balled into fists at his sides.

 

Chapter Text

Chanyeol’s hands came up to the lapels of Kai’s coat before Sehun could get a word out. Without an attempt to defend himself, Kai received the blow to his face.

“Oh, my God, Chanyeol!” Sehun gasped and lurched forward to yank Chanyeol back while Kai braced himself against the car and wiped the blood that oozed out from a cut on his lip. Chanyeol spun around and faced Sehun, his fist still taut and ready. Sehun almost thought that he was about to get struck down, too. But then Chanyeol unclenched his hand.

He could have. He could have hit Sehun and Sehun would have accepted it, just like Kai had. Because he deserved it. But Chanyeol didn’t. Because he shouldn’t. That said something. He did not think he had the right over Sehun. Not even the right he had over Kai.

Sehun met Chanyeol’s reddened eyes with his own set of horrified eyes. “Chanyeol…” he let out, voice breaking. His heart was ready to fall out of his chest. He tightened his hands to stop them from trembling.

“What the hell is this?” Chanyeol growled.

Sehun kept mum. And so did Kai behind Chanyeol. He looked too miserable to say anything in his defence. Sehun wasn’t sure neither of them could say anything in their defence at this point.

“Fuck,” Chanyeol then spat when he did not obtain an answer. Without sparing Kai another look, he stomped back into the house, slamming the backdoor shut on his way. Sehun stood in the same spot for longer than a few minutes, trying to digest what had just happened. He could not stop his body from quaking or the tears from falling from his eyes.

He eventually looked up at Kai, who was mirroring his own expression. He stepped forward and took a side of Kai’s face in his hand. “Are you all right?” he asked, lightly brushing his thumb on the bleeding gash. Kai flinched and pulled away, blinking at the tears blinding his eyes. Sehun backed away. Then shaking his head, he turned on his heel and hurried back inside.

The guests were playing a game of charades in the living room. Sehun ignored them as he ran upstairs when he didn’t find Chanyeol amid them.

“Chanyeol,” he panted, bursting into the bedroom, where he found Chanyeol perched on the bed, staring aimlessly at the floor. Shutting the door behind him and locking it, Sehun stood against it for a moment, trying to think of something to say. He wished he’d stop shaking.

“Chanyeol,” he began again and pulled away from the door. “I… I’m sorry.” He swallowed. “I never meant for you to find out like… this.”

Chanyeol lifted his head with a sharp glare. “No,” he let out. “What you mean to say is that you never meant for me to find out.”

That stung. Sehun fell silent once more.

“So, what is this?” Chanyeol asked, tone mostly stern with a slight tremor. “An… affair? How long has it been going on?”

Sehun exhaled a shaky breath before saying, “I know you’re mad. You have every right to be. But—”

“Just answer the question. Is this something that just started or…?”

Slowly shaking his head, Sehun took a step forward. He stopped when he saw Chanyeol’s expression harden. “No. It’s been going on for… a very long time. It started a few weeks after we got married.” There was no other way to come clean. He owed Chanyeol at least that. “I shouldn’t have done it. I have no excuse. I have no… justification. No matter my reasons, what I did was wrong. And whom I did it with is unforgivable.”

Chanyeol’s jaw fell slack as he took it all in. His gaze lowered, his hands gripped the edge of the mattress. “So, you took me up on my advice to fuck other people…”

“Chanyeol.”

“And Kai was fully in this, too…”

Sehun closed his eyes momentarily. “I shouldn’t be defending him. But he’s… he’s in love with me. Unlike me, who was doing it for just… for no good reason, he was with me because he loved me. He couldn’t help it. Chanyeol, I’m not asking you to forgive him, but he never meant to hurt you. In fact, he was ready to end it all. He was here tonight to tell me that he’s done. He doesn’t want to let his family or you down. He was ready to give it all up. To give me up. It’s over.”

Chanyeol pinned him with an arched eyebrow then. “You’re telling me to understand his situation because he was in love with you?”

Sehun thought a hit with the shoe would have been less mortifying. “That’s… I…”

Chanyeol rose from the bed. “Because that’s what it sounded like. You’re talking for his side and you’re expecting me to be okay with it just because him being in love with you justifies him fucking my husband?”

Sehun clenched his fists so hard that his fingernails started digging into his palms.

“No. I want to hear about your reasons,” Chanyeol said. “He loves you. What about you? What is your vindication for sleeping with my best friend?”

Sehun did not want to answer that question. But he was left with no option when he realized there was no getting out of this. “I was… lonely… and frustrated and… just sad. You weren’t… You didn’t want to be with me. You didn’t want to marry me. And when we were married, you treated me like I never existed. Because you were still holding onto your love and memories of your dead boyfriend. I never meant the affair to mean anything.”

Something shifted in Chanyeol’s expression. It mellowed. He quietly stared at Sehun for a moment, his chest heaving and nostrils flaring. “Were you still with him when you started… all that shit with me?”

Sehun shook his head. “No… We were already pulling apart when I started to get close to you. I like you, Chanyeol.”

“But you were kissing him a moment ago.”

Sehun looked down. “I like Kai, too.”

Chanyeol nodded his head and turned around, hands on his sides. He stayed silent for a stretch, then at length, he said, “And what was your plan?” He faced Sehun again. “When I found out. What did you think was going to happen? Or were you pinning your hopes on me never finding out?”

“I was going to tell you, Chanyeol. I’ve wanted to tell you many times.”

“Wanting it and doing it is not the same thing.”

“I know. You have no idea how sorry I am.”

“You don’t even realize the worst thing you were doing. You were giving me hopes.”

Sehun opened his mouth, but when he could not find the right words, he sealed it again.

Chanyeol closed the distance between them. “When you said that we should try, you meant that you would try to get used to me while you try to get away from Kai.”

“No, that’s not—”

“Did you think I would just forgive you?” Chanyeol scowled. Sehun frowned at him. “And that we could go on like it never happened? Did you think we’re that close and we have that kind of rapport for me to keep holding onto this worthless marriage like you didn’t screw my friend? Someone I grew up with?! Someone I treated like a brother? Did you think we could pretend our whole lives? Will you do that if you were in my shoes? If I were the one who cheated on you? Would you forgive me? Would you try to understand? No. I don’t think so. You’d be walking out that door right this instant.”

“You’re right,” Sehun breathed out. “I don’t expect you to forgive me, Chanyeol. I have to reap what I sow. And you might also be right about me not wanting you to find out. Maybe I never would have told you. But… it’s because I want to… be with you, Chanyeol. I wanted to make this work.”

Chanyeol surveyed Sehun’s face in silence. “And Kai? What about him? You don’t want to be with him?”

Sehun could not bring himself to say no. Because he didn’t know if that would be the truth. When he did not answer, Chanyeol moved back to the bed and sank into a seat. He buried his face in his hands and took a few deep breaths.

“What do you think happens now, Sehun?” he asked quietly.

Sehun hesitated to reply. “I… don’t know.”

Chanyeol lifted his head. “I was starting to move on,” he said. “At least I think I was. I wanted it to work too, Sehun. You tell me. How am I to be okay with what you did? How am I to trust you again? It’s one thing to succumb to your vulnerabilities. But it’s another to be uncaring of who you do it with. He was my brother. His family and mine are… You didn’t care, did you? Because you didn’t know what you were risking. You could walk away from all this unscathed.”

“That’s not true,” Sehun rasped, tears streaking his face. “I lose everything if I walk away.” He dropped to his knees before Chanyeol and took his hands. “I shouldn’t have kissed Kai. It was over. I had ended everything with him. And I… I couldn’t stop thinking about him. But I can’t walk away from this, Chanyeol. I don’t want to walk away from you.”

Chanyeol tightened his fingers around Sehun’s, eyes boring into the other’s. Then in a low voice he said, “It might not be your call.”

Sehun closed his eyes and licked his lips, taking slow, trembling breaths. “You’ve always wanted a second chance, Chanyeol,” he whispered. “Now, I’m asking you for a second chance. I’m not ready to give up yet. I messed up. And I’m not asking you to forgive me. But give me the chance to prove to you that you could trust me.”

After a moment of stillness, Chanyeol retrieved his hands from Sehun’s and brought them to the sides of Sehun’s face. He held it in his hands for a while, eyes scanning Sehun’s.

“I don’t want to blame you for what you did. But we make our own choices,” Chanyeol said. “I made mine once and it ruined me. You made yours, too.”

“Yes. Yes,” Sehun said. “And I want to be with you.”

Chanyeol pressed his thumbs to Sehun’s cheekbones. The world tuned out around them.

* * *

Some 13 months later…

He had gotten his first Christmas tree. He never owned one himself. His parents used to put up a gigantic tree at home, but they never decorated it together. They were always too busy for that. Sehun, as a child, would jump in with the servants and decorate it.

He was thrilled to get it his own Christmas tree. It wasn’t as big as it used to be back home. But he was excited, nonetheless, to decorate it.

He just needed the right ornaments.

As he wandered around the department store for some last-minute Christmas shopping, he glanced at a kid trying to reach a box of candles on the top shelf.

“Here, let me get that for you,” Sehun said and grabbed the candles before handing to the boy.

“Thank you, mister,” the boy said, grinning. “Merry Christmas.”

“Merry Christmas,” Sehun echoed and smiled back as the boy skipped away to his mother, who was busy rummaging through a basket of socks.

“Oh,” came a grunt from the man pushed the cart Sehun had almost ran into.

“Sorry—” he began to say but was cut off as he looked up the taller man, who was now gaping at him with bulging eyes.

“Sehun?” Chanyeol said.

“Chanyeol,” Sehun let out. “Fancy… seeing you here.”

Chanyeol scoffed out a chuckle. “It sure is a nice change than having to see you in the courtroom.”

Sehun felt his cheeks burn a little. “So… Last-minute Christmas shopping?” He eyed Chanyeol’s cart that was full of paper cups and plates.

“Actually, I’m helping a friend run an errand,” Chanyeol said.

“Huh.” Sehun gnawed at his lower lip for a moment, rubbing the back of his neck. “How… are you?”

“Good,” he replied. “You?”

Sehun shrugged, smiling half a smile. “I finally put my journalism degree to use. I got a job, my own apartment. I couldn’t live with my parents anymore after they clearly expressed their disappointment in me.” He sighed. “It’s all good, though. I needed to find something for myself.”

Chanyeol bowed his head understandingly. “That’s good. I… I’m not sure if you heard, I started an endowment organization to sponsor for some underprivileged kids’ education.”

“No, I read about it.” Sehun didn’t want it to sound like he was keeping a tab on Chanyeol. Because he wasn’t. He had stumbled upon the news at his workplace. “You even named the initiative after your… ex.”

Chanyeol licked his lips. “Yeah…” He spaced out momentarily, lost in his own thoughts. “I finally figured out a way to deal with my guilt. It’s helping me… get out of it.”

Sehun smiled. “I’m happy to hear that. You’re helping hundreds of kids study.”

Chanyeol returned the smile. “I wish he was here to see that.” He lowered his eyes. “He wanted that. For all the unable children in the world.”

“Are you happy now?” Sehun asked.

“I’m getting there. I, um, met someone, too.” His grin widened. “Mother doesn’t approve of him either.” He laughed. “But I’m finally done listening to other people, caring about what others would think and he makes me happy.”

“Good,” Sehun said. “It truly makes me happy to hear that, Chanyeol.”

“I should… get going.” Chanyeol pulled away from the cart to wrap his arms around Sehun.

Gulping heavily, Sehun pressed his face to Chanyeol’s shoulder before withdrawing. “Merry Christmas, then,” he muttered with a faint smile.

“See you around, Sehun. Merry Christmas.” With that, he walked away.

Sehun stood in the aisle for a length.

“Hey, Sehun?” Chanyeol called, pausing in his tracks. Sehun turned around. “Have you talked to Kai lately?”

Sehun’s heart clenched. He shook his head. “No.”

Chanyeol pursed his lips, nodded his head and turned away again.

* * *

It sucked having to go in to work on Christmas week. But Sehun supposed he didn’t have much to complain about. As much as he wanted to be around his family for Christmas, he would prefer his lonely apartment and work over them. The divorce had been almost seamless between him and Chanyeol. But it was hard on their families, who didn’t understand why they were doing it. They didn’t know. As far as they were concerned, it just didn’t work out for Chanyeol.

“Sehun,” Alice from the cubicle next door peered into his cubicle. “You’ve got a visitor waiting for you in the lobby.”

Sehun cocked an eyebrow. “What? Who?”

“Don’t know. Didn’t ask a name.”

Sehun rose from his seat at once and hurried down to the lobby. He stopped at the receptionist to ask who the visitor was. She pointed him in the direction of the woman standing near a corner.

The shock stilled Sehun in his spot for a minute or two before he dared himself to move and approach Kai’s mother.

Her eyes turned to him.

“Mrs Kim?” Sehun said, walking up to her. “What are you doing here?”

She nervously fidgeted with her purse. “Hi, Sehun,” she said. “How have you been?”

Sehun’s eyebrows furrowed. “Fine… But why are you here?”

It was tough to fight the urge to ask how Kai was.

She cleared her throat. “Chanyeol… contacted me yesterday,” she said in a quiet voice. “I hadn’t talked to him ever since my husband retired.”

“All right…” Sehun murmured.

She looked up at him and dropped her gaze again. “My son… is… miserable.” She sounded devastated as she said it. “I believed I knew what was right. I thought what I believed would be the right thing to do. But he’s… I caused my own son’s… misery.”

“What?” He stepped forward to hold her shoulders as she started to slowly weep. “Mrs Kim…”

“I’m here to ask you for a favour,” she said a while later. “Please… Please go see him.”

“Kai?” Sehun blinked.

“I’m worried that if this keeps going, he’s going to hurt himself. I put my pride before my own son’s happiness,” she said shakily. “And I’m paying for it every day I see him ruin himself with all the drinking, losing control of his life… I’m afraid he’s given up. Please, if you could talk to him… I would be… very grateful to you forever.”

Sehun took a moment to process her request. Then he tried to calm his own nerves. “Of course… I will go see him if… if you want me to.”

She wiped her cheeks. “My daughter’s in a play tomorrow.” She pulled out a card and handed it to Sehun. “He’ll be there.”

“I could just drop by his place,” Sehun said.

“He’s never home,” she muttered sadly. “He’s always in some bar, wasting off.”

“Okay. I’ll… try to make it tomorrow.”

Sucking in a breath, she turned around. Sehun took a breath of his own before scanning the invitation card. A Christmas Carol. 7pm-9pm.

* * *

He had mulled over it the entire night and day. Even though most of him wanted to go there tonight, a small part of him dreaded what he might encounter.

He extinguished that part when he showed up the local theatre. Tugging the scarf tighter around his neck, he sauntered into the theatre. The play had already started. So, he quietly slinked to a seat. He spotted Kai’s sister on the stage. She was playing as the wife of Bob Cratchit. As his eyes glided over the quiet audience, they eventually landed on Kai’s parents at the front row. Mr Kim looked older than the last time Sehun had seen him.

But there was no sign of Kai. Did he not end up coming after all?

Sehun tried not to pay too much attention to the disappointment that washed over him.

He stayed at the play until the third Stave. When he finally conceded defeat and decided to head back home before the night got even colder, he stood up and snuck out of the theatre.

He staggered to stop, slipping out the door, when he spied the figure perched on the steps outside the theatre. It had started to snow.

Sehun did not move immediately as he stared at Kai on the steps while the snowflakes fluttered around him and collected on his shoulders and in his hair. Sehun’s heart clamoured against the quiet of the world and the empty street.

Then he advanced down the steps. Kai did not raise his head until Sehun was standing on the step he was seated on.

When he looked up at Sehun, his face paled like it had seen a ghost, save the tip of his nose that was red from the cold.

Neither of them said a word as Kai dropped his head again and stared straight at the street.

Sehun crouched and took a seat beside Kai on the step. They sat in silence for what felt like a very long moment until Sehun decided to break it. “How’s San?”

Kai took a moment to answer. When he did, his voice sounded hoarse. “Dead.”

Sehun glanced at him.

“He died because I was too shitfaced to take him to the vet when he was sick,” Kai said expressionlessly, still looking ahead at the road.

“I’m sorry,” Sehun muttered. Kai said nothing. “How’s your… family?”

Kai snorted. “My dad hasn’t talked to me in a year. He retired. Because he no longer had the face to work for the man whose husband his son fooled around with.”

“You… told him?”

“I wanted to see if… if I could make it better. I ended up screwing things up.” He smirked. “What’s new, am I right?” He sighed. “My sister is embarrassed of me. All my mother does is cry whenever she sees me. And I killed my dog. How are you?”

Sehun’s throat felt tight. “For what it’s worth, Kai, I’m sorry. For everything.”

Kai turned and met his eyes at last. “You’re sorry? Why? We’re all individuals. We make our own mistakes. We pay for them.” He turned his head away again.

Sehun fell mumchance.

They watched the snow fall and drift in the air before them.

“We have nothing holding us back anymore,” Kai said a while later. “Why hadn’t we tried to get back to each other?”

Sehun exhaled heavily. “Guilt? Like… we don’t deserve to get rewarded after causing all the innocent people around us all that grief.”

Kai nodded his head twice and scoffed. “That has to be it, right? Guilt. You know, I used to believe that nothing could ever strike my conscience. That I will always put myself before anyone else.”

“What happened, then?”

Kai looked at him. “You.”

“You said you wanted to protect your father, Kai. He struck your conscience. Not me.”

“No,” he muttered. “It wouldn’t have mattered at all if it weren’t you. If I hadn’t been in love with you, nothing would have struck my conscience.”

“Sure. Blame it all on me.” Sehun looked away. “I’m the villain that ruined everyone’s life here. Blame me for your own self-destruction, too. You think I don’t blame myself enough? We would be dead corpses if we kept living in the past, Kai. All that we can do now is to let go of it and move forward. If there’s one thing I learned from my time with Chanyeol, I have to learn to let go. I can’t make myself miserable. Because it makes the people around me miserable.”

Kai shook his head. “I don’t blame you for anything, Sehun. Like I said. We make our own mistakes.”

“Then let’s learn from them and work on getting away from them,” Sehun said, almost sounding like he was pleading. “We have paid for them.”

Kai only stared into his eyes.

Sehun heaved a big breath. “I’m sick of this. Of all this guilt.”

“I am, too,” Kai whispered.

“Time heals everything. I met Chanyeol the other day.”

“How is he?” Kai was quick to ask.

“He’s fine. You don’t work for him anymore, do you?”

“No,” said, shaking his head. “The worst thing is he didn’t even fire me. I just… resigned. And he gave me a referral.” He laughed at that before his lips turned to a moue once more. “But that’s it, you know… I lost my friend and the one I loved. I thought my dad would be proud of me because I sacrificed my love for his dignity and he hates me now. I ended up losing in the end.”

“I lost too, Kai,” Sehun said. “And Chanyeol did, too.” He slipped his cold hand into Kai’s.

Kai raised his gaze to level with Sehun’s.

“But losses are not meant to last forever,” Sehun muttered. “We can have our wins, too.”

He felt Kai’s hand tremble lightly in his own. “I can’t do this,” Kai breathed out. “I can’t, Sehun.”

“No. I know. I don’t want you to,” said Sehun. “But you have to try. You don’t know… what great things could come out of trying real hard.”

The biting wind soften around them as ice-white dusts flitted down.

“We can try together,” Sehun said with a slight smile. “I tried once… With the wrong man… when I should have… tried with you. I wasn’t right for Chanyeol. I had known it and I had still kept going, stringing him along, stringing you along. But I’m done feeling sorry for myself. We can have… one win, Kai. Just one.”

Kai closed his eyes that were started to brim with tears. He brought a hand to cup Sehun’s cheek. “It’ll take a lot of trying,” he let out.

Bowing his head, Sehun rested his forehead against Kai’s. “I know.”