Chanyeol never fully realized just how slowly lessons pass for the teachers, just how they pass for the students, until getting this new job. Sure, he did some teaching here and there at the time travel agency- it was mandatory for agents to share their knowledge to agents in training, and he kind of enjoyed telling all about his exciting missions to a room full of eager listeners. But this, this is different. Being a history professor is nowhere near as fun. He doesn’t get to share any of his stories, and he’s constantly in danger of slipping up and revealing something that no commoners are supposed to know. He knows things that no one else in the world knows- outside of the agency, at least. And he shouldn’t reveal that to anyone. Easier said than done.
He can’t help glancing at the clock almost every five minutes as he’s giving his last lecture of the day. Everyone in the room is nodding off, too- how disrespectful. He’s made it a rule that if he sees anyone falling asleep in his lectures, he’s not going to count them as present for the lecture, but everyone is still getting sleepy. The room is too warm, the air heavy to breathe, and it’s making even him a little bit drowsy. The college of humanities really needs to get some extra funding to fix the ventilation in these old brick buildings.
He’s never considered himself as weak, but he gives in ten minutes before the class is due to end. “We’ll end it here today,” he says with a sigh, finally gaining the attention of his students. These little bastards. “I’ll upload the reading for next week tomorrow. Have a nice day.”
The students begin to gather their belongings, and Chanyeol is quick to do the same. The faster he makes it out of the door, the less students will come up and bother him. He just wants to go home now- go home to his lovely boyfriend. Junmyeon is so good, completing his homeschooling like a diligent student and waiting for Chanyeol to come home. Junmyeon has been living in the present day Korea for a few months now, but Chanyeol still feels so uneasy letting him venture out on his own. He shouldn’t feel grateful that Junmyeon also feels anxious to leave the apartment without him because really, he should be supporting Junmyeon’s independence from him, but it’s just so hard not to worry himself silly.
He doesn’t even have the patience to stop by his office to drop off his materials, and just heads to his car parked in the staff parking lot. He loosens his tie as he walks, walking forward in long strides, pretending not to notice how some students, mostly female, stop and stare. It’s only partially flattering- Chanyeol is well aware that he’s quite young for a professor, and quite good looking for one as well. He knows he’s gained quite a bit of attention, and that most of the students in his classes signed up just out of curiosity. But he’s not so fond of everyone who tries to make idle small talk with him just to get his attention for a moment.
Chanyeol always thought of himself as a people person, but perhaps that only extends to people roughly his age or older.
Once in the safety of his car, he takes out his phone. There’s no barricade of texts waiting for him- a good sign. Junmyeon only attempts texting him when he’s in a dire crisis; when the laundry goes into spin cycle, when the delivery guy rings the doorbell to bring in a package, when he can’t figure out how to open a milk carton so he could eat cereal. The modern day is full of surprises and troubles for someone born in the 1700s.
It’s freaking adorable.
Chanyeol decides to call him anyway, as he pulls out of the parking lot. He never knew he would be such a clingy boyfriend, but he blames it on Junmyeon. He demands a lot of attention and care, so Chanyeol is just catering to him- it’s not like he misses Junmyeon after being away from him for only eight hours. Absolutely not that.
“Hyungnim!” Junmyeon picks up after only a couple of rings. He probably knew to expect Chanyeol to call around this time. It’s part of the routine.
“Hi baby,” Chanyeol coos back, smiling already. Junmyeon hasn’t given up calling him the formal Joseon way, and even though he shouldn’t allow for it, it’s just too precious. “I just got off work, I’m heading home now. How was your day?”
“It was good! I did all of my reading and all of my homework, and I used the microwave to heat up the food like you told me to. And then I just watched the moving pictures.” Junmyeon sounds so mighty proud of himself, and Chanyeol’s heart grows ten times fonder.
“And what are the moving pictures called?” he asks anyway. Working on Junmyeon’s vocabulary has been the biggest hurdle they’ve faced; the funny dialect aside, the fact that Junmyeon doesn’t know what to call anything or anyone is a problem. Chanyeol can’t let these things slide, even though sometimes he does take pity on his boyfriend and talks to him in the Joseon era language instead.
“Movies?” Junmyeon sounds unsure. “Or was it a drama, maybe… I turned the TV on and it was there.”
“So you watched TV, then. You can say that, even if you didn’t know what it was that you were watching.” Even if Chanyeol often tires of teaching his students, he never tires of teaching Junmyeon.
“Yeah, I watched TV. It was probably a movie, it lasted a really long time. It had those American people in it, speaking in American language. It was fun, although I didn’t understand a whole lot.”
“What were the people doing?” Chanyeol has to be cautious with what Junmyeon watches. He has no concept of what is real and what is not- he once watched Iron Man by himself, and it took such a long time to convince him that what he saw was not real or even possible in the real world. The 21st century sure is amazing, but it has its limits- but how would Junmyeon know that?
“Uh, there was this girl that didn’t know if she loved this guy, but she totally did, so there was a lot of trouble when she was trying to figure that out? It was confusing, why didn’t they just get married.” Junmyeon sounds genuinely troubled by that, and Chanyeol can only barely hold back his laughter. It’s taken a while to convince Junmyeon of the relationship models of the present day, and he doesn’t still quite fully grasp these things. It’s kind of cute.
It was also wild to reveal to Junmyeon that no, neither of them would have to marry a girl. That they could just live together and love each other. Sure, some would look down on it, but no one would blame them for being unfilial if they did not carry on the blood line. That they could just live together for as long as they’d like, and worry about marriage later- if ever at all. These are all such confusing concepts for Junmyeon to grasp, and Chanyeol can only imagine that if he were a girl instead, he would have already demanded that they get married so there won’t be a child born out of wedlock.
“That does sound confusing,” he says instead. “Were you craving anything particular for dinner? I could grab something on the way.”
“I want to try something new,” Junmyeon chirps, as he often does when Chanyeol asks for his opinion. He’s embraced his new life eagerly, his curious soul shining through in everything he does. To learn and to experience things outside the palace was all he ever wanted; to spread his wings and be free.
Chanyeol will never hold him back.
“I’ll think of something,” he promises, and ends the call soon after. At least Junmyeon has pretty much mastered the art of phone calls and texting- it sets Chanyeol’s heart at ease, to know that his little bird can reach him whenever, wherever. Having to abandon him not only once but twice, it left a mark in both of them, and even these months they’ve spent together since then haven’t completely healed all that.
He ends up taking home gamjatang, a soup with potatoes and beef ribs with gentle spice. It’s nothing fancy, but it’s going to make Junmyeon so happy just to get to experience yet another new thing.
When he opens the door to their apartment, he’s immediately greeted with the sight of Junmyeon running towards him for a fierce hug. Chanyeol has just enough time to set down the food before Junmyeon is already in his arms, hugging him with all the strength he’s got and tiptoeing up for a kiss. “Hyungnim,” he practically purrs, pushing closer and rubbing his cheek against Chanyeol’s chest. This is exactly what Chanyeol means when he says the abandonment left a mark in them both; being separated is so difficult, even if it’s routine now.
But he doesn’t want to let that self-blame take over, not again, and instead he leans down to grant Junmyeon the kiss he wants and to hug him close. “You’re still in your pajamas,” he playfully scolds him and pats his bum. “Did I not tell you to get dressed, huh?”
“But this is comfy!” Junmyeon flails his arms, currently completely hidden inside the oversized hoodie that actually belongs to Chanyeol and not him. On the bottom he’s wearing pajama pants, cute and checkered, and his feet are bare, toes peeking out from under the loose pant legs. “I like it this way!”
Chanyeol knows why- the looser clothing reminds Junmyeon of the Joseon era clothes he grew up wearing. The clothes of 2018 are quite different from that, with tight jeans, t-shirts, and things restricting movement and clinging to places Junmyeon isn’t used to have clothes even touch. As adventurous and brave as he’s been, this is one of the things that Junmyeon prefers the ways of the past. Chanyeol tries to indulge him, and it really doesn’t matter if Junmyeon stays in pajamas when he’s at home all day, but he also feels responsible to try and get him used to other clothes as well.
It’s a fine line, being his boyfriend but also being the one in charge of him learning this new way of life.
“Fine, fine. Take the food to the kitchen, I’ll just get changed and I’ll be right there with you.”
Dinner is a quiet affair, like it usually is. Junmyeon takes a picture of the food on his phone to save it with the name of the dish so he can study later, and then shows Chanyeol what materials he covered today. There’s a whole curriculum made by the time travel agency to rehabilitate people from the past to the present day. It’s not something that happens very often at all, but it’s in the nature of the agency to be prepared for every scenario possible. It comes handy now, teaching Junmyeon all the basics of what he would have learned in school and going through life as a regular citizen of modern day Korea.
Junmyeon is nothing but diligent, often covering way more material than he’s supposed to in one day, so eager to learn everything he possibly can. He struggles with math a bit, but everything else he’s taking in a stride. It’s hard to say where he stands in his education right now; not yet a high schooler, that much is for sure, but he could probably graduate elementary school now even after just the few months he’s been studying these things.
Chanyeol goes over his school work to make corrections where any need to be made, and answering Junmyeon’s questions related to it all. He’s usually just hungry to learn more- his thoughts wander, and he’s impatient to just wait and find out more later as he makes more progress. Chanyeol understands him and tries to answer his questions as well as he can, even if it usually ends up in him having to explain something totally else because describing anything requires using concepts and names Junmyeon doesn’t understand.
It’s a journey, but one they’re willing to make together.
With the school work out of the way, they can finally enjoy their free time together. Junmyeon loves listening to music together; he finds it so wonderful that to hear music, he doesn’t need to ask anyone to play for him, or even play himself. He can just put music on, and enjoy. Chanyeol got him a lot of classical Korean music CDs to enjoy, and he’s saving up money to buy Junmyeon a geomungo- he knows that Junmyeon misses his instrument a lot, but those are expensive. His professor’s paycheck is decent, but also has to support them both because the small amount of financial aid Junmyeon is allotted doesn’t really cover that much. But he’s hopeful that he can purchase Junmyeon one for Seollal, if he’s good with his money.
The TV stays off, because it tires Junmyeon. He watches it a lot during the day, and it’s such an overwhelming amount of information to him that he becomes exhausted after a while. Chanyeol kind of prefers it this way, too, having gotten well-adjusted to life without TV, internet and such while still on active duty. So they just sit there on the couch, listening to music and reading- Junmyeon one of his favourites, Nine Cloud Dream, while Chanyeol is reading through something a little more modern.
Their love blossomed within conversations on literature, and their mutual love for books hasn’t changed.
“Do you have to leave early tomorrow morning again?” Junmyeon asks, snuggling closer to Chanyeol where he’s resting against his side, Chanyeol’s arm around his shoulders. “Do you have to go back to university really early, hyungnim?”
“I think I do,” Chanyeol says with a sigh, pressing a tender kiss on Junmyeon’s head. “I have papers to grade and such. I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be sorry, hyungnim,” Junmyeon murmurs, shaking his head. “You’re serving the country by educating the brightest young minds, it’s a great honor for any man. I’m so proud of you. It’s just my selfishness that wishes you could stay home, with me, always.”
“True words of a yangban,” Chanyeol teases him, even though he knows Junmyeon is completely serious. “But I’ll come back home as soon as I can. We should go out together, to explore. We haven’t done that in a while.”
Taking Junmyeon out in public for the first few times was kind of… intense. The world of 2018 is full of wonders even for someone who’s grown up in this world, but for Junmyeon, it’s an overwhelming shock to all of his senses. He’s gotten somewhat used to the neighbourhood, and can even make short runs to the nearest convenience store, but venturing any further than that is always an adventure and a half. But Chanyeol knows that he needs to let Junmyeon fly out of the nest, and help him conquer his own anxieties and fears, because he did not bring Junmyeon here to keep him captive in the small apartment. He brought Junmyeon here to set the small bird free, and he has no intention to build him another cage.
“That would be fun,” Junmyeon cautiously says, tilting his head up so he can press his nose against Chanyeol’s neck, breathe him in. “Let’s do that. You can decide where we should go.”
“I’ll think about it,” Chanyeol promises, brushing back Junmyeon’s hair to kiss his forehead. He’s still not sure if he’s gotten quite used to short hair on Junmyeon- a part of him regrets that the people at the hospital cut it off while he was being held captive for the investigation. But they could let it grow back. “So you need to change out of pajamas, alright? You can’t go out dressed like that.”
“Unfair,” Junmyeon grumbles, although mostly for show. “Fine. I’ll get ready after I study so we can head out as soon as you return home.”
“That’s a promise.”
The only modern sight that comes to mind is Namsan tower. There are historical sights there as well, but he hopes that Junmyeon wouldn’t have been up there before. The tall tower could also prove too scary, but they don’t have to go up all the way to the top; just the mountain top is good enough for sightseeing.
When he proposes the plan to Junmyeon via text during his lunch break, Junmyeon sounds quite excited, so it can’t be such a bad idea. After work, Chanyeol drives home to energetic Junmyeon who’s already waiting for him at the foyer, their hiking backpacks at his feet. “Hyungnim,” he exclaims, tackling Chanyeol in for a hug as soon as he walks through the door. “I’m ready to go!”
“I’m not, though,” Chanyeol laughs, returning Junmyeon’s kisses and patting him on the bum. “You’re going to have to let me get changed, your highness.” It feels so good to come home and to know that he’s been missed, even if it’s also heartbreaking. Maybe they should get a dog, to keep Junmyeon company when he’s away. “What did you pack us?”
“Snacks and water,” Junmyeon replies, stepping back to give Chanyeol space to start taking off his outer clothes. “You said we could hike down the mountain on the way back, so I figured those would be useful. Also I just really like snacks.”
“That you do.” Chanyeol laughs again, toeing off his shoes and hurrying towards the bedroom. “But you’re also such a smart cookie, thinking of that. Besides, it’s going to be dinner time soon.”
“Smart cookie?” Junmyeon sounds adorably confused. Chanyeol can’t see him from the bedroom, but he knows his confused expression well enough to picture it in his head; his eyes wide, lips pursed thoughtfully, head tilted to the side. “What’s that?”
“It just means that I think you’re very clever,” Chanyeol explains, taking off his clothes in record time to put on some comfortable jeans and a t-shirt, as well as a hoodie. They’re not really going on a hike, since walking downhill from the mountain is hardly going to be that exhausting, so casual clothes should be just fine. “It’s an endearment, like when I call you babe, or baby, or honey.”
“Oh.” Junmyeon sounds pleased now, and when Chanyeol walks out of the bedroom, he can see for himself how he’s blushing cutely. “Thank you, hyungnim.”
Chanyeol leans down to kiss him, before ushering him towards the door. “You’re welcome, love,” he croons, just to see Junmyeon blush even more. He’s so weak for sweet nothings; his inexperience in dating really shows in moments like these, and it’s so precious. Junmyeon in many ways has seen more than most ever will, yet his innocence is so tangible in other aspects of life. Chanyeol has had to work hard to properly educate him, but a part of him enjoys being Junmyeon’s first everything. First love, first boyfriend… It’s his primal, masculine pride, and he knows it’s ridiculous, yet he can’t help it. Not when Junmyeon is so endearing.
They don’t drive all the way to the mountain top, because Chanyeol doesn’t want to risk finding no parking once they make it up there. He explains what cable cars are to Junmyeon on the way, and the prince vehemently refuses to even step into one. “No way,” he insists, shaking his head at the picture Chanyeol pulled up on his phone when they were sitting in a red light. “I won’t go into that. What’s holding it up, sorcery? I do not trust it.”
Junmyeon has a lot of suspicions over the modern inventions, even if at the same time, he’s terribly curious and drawn to them. But clearly, cable cars hoisted up in the air with wires is just too much- Chanyeol is tempted to tell him that it’s more likely they would end up in a car accident driving there than to get in a cable car accident, but he thinks better of it. The last thing he needs to do is to make Junmyeon afraid of cars as well.
“We can go there by bus,” he promises, reaching over to gently rub Junmyeon’s thigh. “It’s going to be just fine. You’ve been on a bus before.”
“Yes I have!” Junmyeon sounds so proud of himself. “I like buses. They’re so nice, going around the city like busy workers, bringing people places. It’s so convenient.”
Chanyeol hums in agreement. Junmyeon has such a fresh way of looking at even the most mundane things. Spending time with him has opened his eyes to many things he never thought twice of before, public transportation included. Although, he’s certainly missed it on missions, being stuck either walking or horse riding from place to place- yet somehow he feels almost reminiscent, of all those hardships he went through on his missions.
Missions that he’ll never, ever get to experience again.
It would feel like a sacrifice, if he didn’t have Junmyeon. His precious prince, his song bird. For Junmyeon, the trade off was worth it.
They leave the car parked at a side alley, and then get on a bus that takes them up the side of the mountain. Namsan isn’t that tall of a mountain, so the ride doesn’t take too long. They get off the bus and they have to walk a little bit uphill to get to the foot of the tower, the height of it feeling that much more imposing so up close. Junmyeon can’t stop craining his neck to look up at it, stumbling on his feet as he does, his hand squeezing Chanyeol’s tightly like he always does in public. As not to lose his hyungnim.
“It’s so much taller than I thought,” he says in awe as they walk nearer. “It looks so small, in the distance- I didn’t realize that it had to be this big to be seen so far away. It’s so tall… How does it not fall? How does it stay like that?”
Chanyeol has no real answer to give, since he’s no architect. He just shrugs and leans in to kiss Junmyeon’s forehead lightly. “They built it to stay up no matter what,” he chooses to respond with, to keep it simple enough. “It’s been like that for many decades already. I don’t know how they do it, but the people who design and build these things know what they’re doing.”
“It’s so amazing,” Junmyeon mumbles under his breath. “It looks like it’s touching the skies… like I could talk to the gods, standing on top of it. Is that why you built it? To talk to gods?”
Chanyeol tends to forget how casually Junmyeon speaks of the spiritual world. To him, talking about spirits, gods, and magic is no different than talking about the weather; in his day, these things were ever present, even if sometimes kept hushed and tucked away from the scholarly life of yangban. But even the most noble Confucian scholar would have believed spirits to be just as real as anything they could see with their own eyes- spirits of ancestors, grandparents, parents, anyone deceased. To Junmyeon it’s much more concrete and real than it ever has been to Chanyeol, or will ever be.
It’s been a lot to try and explain to Junmyeon- the modern ways of worship, how the modern people believe, or don’t believe, and he’s still not sure Junmyeon fully understands. A statement like that one would suggest he doesn’t.
“No, I’m afraid we built it just so we could stand at the top and see the city below,” he replies with a laugh, tugging Junmyeon to his side to dodge a group of tourists walking by. “I told you that we tend to be quite… blind to the gods. We don’t think about them much, no matter what we build or what we do.”
Junmyeon nods thoughtfully, once again glancing up at the tower. “Perhaps you don’t need gods, when you can build things as grand as this,” he says thoughtfully. “I understand. Does it touch the sky though?”
Chanyeol can’t help but laugh fondly at his innocent question, and hold his hand even tighter.
They do a quick tour around the mountain top, to gaze down from a couple different spots at the city below. The weather isn’t quite clear today, so they can’t see too far and not too clearly, and Junmyeon doesn’t know many of the buildings Chanyeol tries to point out to him, but Junmyeon is excited as ever, taking pictures with his phone with a delighted smile. Chanyeol will print some of those out for him later, so he can add them to his growing collection of pictures from the places he’s visited.
“Should we go to the tower, now?” Chanyeol asks, gesturing towards it. “We can see even more, when we’re up there. We will be able to see all of Seoul from there.”
Junmyeon looks a bit hesitant, dragging his feet even as he walks towards the tower. “Are you sure it won’t fall?” he asks, his grip on Chanyeol’s hand growing tighter. “Are you sure it’s safe?”
“It has withstood time for this long, why would it fall now?” Chanyeol wraps his arm around Junmyeon’s shoulders to walk him towards the entrance. At least it isn’t too busy right now, so they shouldn’t have to wait too long to get to the top. “Thousands and thousands of people visit here, it’ll survive one small prince just fine.”
“I hope so,” Junmyeon squeaks, but follows Chanyeol inside and to the line to the elevator that will take them to the top. The elevator alone is an experience though, with its flashing lights and projections of the galaxy, giving it a feel of being skyrocketed into the universe and not just going up the Namsan tower. Junmyeon is staring at it all with his jaw dropped, eyes wide as saucers, bouncing on the balls of his feet. Others in the elevator are staring, but Chanyeol pays them no heed; he’s much too pleased to see Junmyeon enjoying himself. So what if he’s acting a little strange- to be able to grant him this adventure is too precious to him. And to think that he once thought just taking Junmyeon outside the palace for a short trip along the river was going to be the most exciting thing they could ever do together.
“What were those pictures,” Junmyeon demands to know when they step outside of the elevator, out of earshot of other people. “What were those strange… things that I saw?”
“Ah,” Chanyeol hums, walking them closer to the windows to see the view. “That was just some generic graphics of the galaxy. Planets and such. Wasn’t it very pretty? You’ve learned about planets, haven’t you?”
Junmyeon purses his lips. “I can’t remember,” he whines. “Hyungnim, you must explain this to me! It looked so cool, I need to know more.”
“Now’s not the time for a lesson on space,” Chanyeol says with a laugh, gesturing towards the huge windows in front of them. “Let’s appreciate the view for a moment, shall we? I promise I’ll teach you everything I know about space tomorrow, alright. But now, let’s have fun for a little bit.”
“But learning is fun,” Junmyeon insists, although he does let it go for the sake of admiring the view. From here, Chanyeol can point out a lot of the famous landmarks in Seoul, but to Junmyeon that’s hardly interesting because he doesn’t yet recognize most of them. But instead, he’s in awe with the sheer size of it all.
“You showed this all to me on a map,” he whispers to Chanyeol, tiptoeing so that he can talk directly into his ear, grasping Chanyeol’s arm for balance, “but I never understood how big it was… how huge the city has become.”
“I know,” Chanyeol murmurs, kissing his forehead. “It’s hard to grasp it, it really is. I grew up here and it still takes me by surprise, to see it all like this. And we even can’t see the edges of it all, the weather isn’t clear enough.”
“We have to go on adventures more often.” Junmyeon squeezes his bicep gently, nodding determinedly to himself. “We have to explore more. Such a huge, wonderful city we live in, and I have only seen small glimpses of it! It’s a shame. I know I’ve been scared… but I have to stop being scared, hyungnim. All that time I spent wishing I could see more, experience more, and now I have every opportunity to do so yet I have only stayed at home, with my books. Nothing has really changed, right hyungnim? Even without the palace walls, I’ve still locked myself in.”
Hearing such words from him hurts, and Chanyeol tugs him against his chest, holding him tight. “But this adventure is much bigger than what you ever wished to see,” he murmurs in his hair, feeling the slight tremor going through Junmyeon’s small body. “It’s alright to be scared. And I have failed you too- I set you free, but I didn’t teach you what to do with your freedom. I’ve been selfish, too, because I feared how the world might hurt you. So we both have to let go of fear.”
Junmyeon’s eyelashes flutter against his neck, his breaths coming in warm puffs of air. “Hyungnim is so wonderful,” he says, fond, grateful. “For giving me the world. Everything that I ever dreamed of. Let’s become brave together.”
It sounds so innocent yet so cheesy at the same time, and Chanyeol can just laugh, and nuzzle the soft peach fuzz on Junmyeon’s cheek. “Let us do that, little prince,” he replies. “I promise you more adventures from now on. First we conquer Seoul, and then the rest.”
“In war, you never take on the capital first,” Junmyeon quips as he pulls away, a teasing smile dancing about his lips. “You always start with the villages first- you pillage those, set fire to the fields, and approach the strategic points from the outside. We’re doing this all wrong, attacking the capital from the inside out.”
“You’ve never been to war,” Chanyeol teases him right back, gently flicking his nose. “So don’t quote your Chinese classics on the art of war on me. This is called a stealth tactic, alright? If you hadn’t noticed, we’re significantly outnumbered.”
Junmyeon melts into happy giggles, his eyes scrunching up and all of his teeth on display. Chanyeol hardly ever saw him laugh so genuinely back in 1762- it’s so refreshing to see such a youthful expression on his face, to see him enjoy life and be so carefree. The troubled prince he met in 1762 is no more, and instead he’s been given the brightest bundle of joy and curiosity.
It is his task in this life to treasure him until the end of his days.
They don’t linger in the tower for much longer, since they have other plans after this outing. Junmyeon is once again completely mesmerized by the galaxy graphics in the elevator and Chanyeol can tell he’s burning with questions, but he doesn’t voice any of them this time. Instead of walking, they take the bus back down to where they left the car, so they can get to their dinner double date on time.
“We can go on a hike some other time,” Chanyeol promises Junmyeon, worried that he might feel let down by this development. But Junmyeon just rolls his eyes at him, very inappropriate behavior for a prince. Where he learnt that from, Chanyeol can only guess. But it looks adorable.
“I’ve never been a fan of physical exercise,” he says, and even bristles a little. “Sweating is so uncomfortable, and not befitting for a scholar. I’ve never understood why you modern people insist on moving when you don’t have to.”
That makes Chanyeol crack up, glad that they’re in the safety of his car so there’s no need to worry about anyone eavesdropping on this conversation. “Oh, you should have told me before I dragged you on all of those hikes,” he cackles. “I didn’t realize exercise counts as physical labor to you.”
“But of course it does,” Junmyeon says, side eyeing Chanyeol. He seems to be mostly serious- but also self-aware that his position is kind of ridiculous, making him sound exactly like the spoiled prince Chanyeol likes to tease him for being. “Why exhaust your body, when you can exhaust your brain instead?”
“You’re ridiculous,” Chanyeol huffs, still amused by this. “Most of us just feel like being still for too long and not using our bodies gets suffocating at times, you know? You were talking such grand things about adventure just a moment ago, and now you’re telling me that it’s below you to exert your body to go places.”
“But we do have these things,” Junmyeon gestures at the car and at how Chanyeol is driving. “You’re not slaving away to make us move, are you?”
“Fair point,” Chanyeol chuckles. “But you should have told me earlier, if you didn’t like it. I wasn’t thinking. My prince.”
Junmyeon breaks down into soft giggles, and he nudges Chanyeol in the shoulder lightly. “Hikes are alright,” he gives in. “Although I really do not understand why you’re all so obsessed with exercise and strong muscles. Like I just don’t get it.”
“Are you saying you don’t find me attractive?” Chanyeol flexes his arm for show, although with the shirt he’s wearing, you can’t even tell. He’s gotten a bit out of shape, now that he’s not on active duty any longer, but he likes to hit the gym when he can, especially working a job that has him doing zero physical activity. “You don’t like my strong muscles, babe?”
That makes Junmyeon blush. “That’s… different,” he huffs, crossing his arms. “Like, I’m in love with you, of course I’m attracted to you! It’s irrelevant how you actually look like!”
Chanyeol grins at that, always glad to have his ego stroked a little. “Mm, I see,” he says, switching on the blinker to take a left turn. They’re almost at the restaurant where they agreed to meet Baekhyun and Kyungsoo. “So you wouldn’t mind even if I didn’t have these muscles, then? If I was a skinny little thing like you?”
“I would mind,” Junmyeon says, squirming in place a little. “Keep the muscles. I like your peasant aesthetic.”
Chanyeol is practically howling with laughter now, barely calming down enough to park the car on the side of the road. Junmyeon is still blushing bright pink, and refuses to hold Chanyeol’s hand as they get out of the car, instead smacking his chest repeatedly before scurrying inside the restaurant to get away from him.
He’s just so, so precious.
Kyungsoo and Baekhyun are already inside the restaurant, seated on the floor at a corner, and Junmyeon is quick to sit down next to Kyungsoo and cling onto him, leaving Chanyeol to sit next to Baekhyun instead. Junmyeon is close friends with them both but even more so with Kyungsoo, who took care of him while Chanyeol was being detained for interrogations. He feels at ease with the agent, having spent so much time with him, but also because he knows Kyungsoo speaks Joseon Korean fluently and will always understand him. Of course, in public they have to speak modern Korean, but it’s still a huge comfort to Junmyeon and Chanyeol is just grateful that there’s at least one other person out there Junmyeon can connect with.
Chanyeol would share their conversation with their friends, but the murderous looks Junmyeon is sending him are enough to tell him that he’s going to regret doing such a thing. Maybe later, then, when Junmyeon isn’t so huffy about it.
“How’s it going, little prince and professor Park?” Baekhyun asks teasingly, looking back and forth between the two. “How’s life?”
“Life’s great,” Chanyeol answers, picking up a menu to start looking through it. “We just went on a trip to the Namsan tower, and now I’m having dinner with three midgets. What more can you ask?”
“Yah, watch your mouth,” Baekhyun exclaims, and smacks Chanyeol on the thigh harshly to retaliate. “Just because you’re abnormally tall, doesn’t mean that the rest of us are somehow short!”
“Hyungnim is really tall,” Junmyeon gangs up on him immediately, probably still miffed. “He’s a giant.”
“Yeah, you heard him.” Baekhyun looks so pleased, and even leans over the table to high five Junmyeon. “So keep your short jokes to yourself, Park.”
“I’m not an agent any longer, no need to call me like that,” Chanyeol chuckles, although he can’t help but feel a dull pang in his chest. Every time he meets Kyungsoo and Baekhyun, he’s reminded of the life he’s lost- the work he’s left behind. It was a career that he dedicated so much to, and it was such a huge part of his life. It’s impossible not to miss it sometimes, even if he’s also happy now. Even after these months, he’s still adjusting.
“Keep it quiet, idiots,” Kyungsoo quips, furrowing his brows. “We’re not alone in this restaurant, so choose your words wisely.”
“Alright, alright, calm down,” Chanyeol rolls his eyes, although he can’t hide his smile. Being chastised by Kyungsoo, now that’s familiar territory.
There’s a moment of calm where they choose what to order and watch the table be filled with all the side dishes and the grill is filled up with meats, mushrooms, and cloves of garlic. Junmyeon is watching it all with rapt attention, and is tasting all the side dishes he’s never seen before with great curiosity. Even if they took him to a traditional restaurant, the food wouldn’t still be something he’d recognize- as a royal, even as a prince not in line for the throne, he grew up eating foods only the royal family would ever eat. The foods of the modern day have been a big adventure of their own, but luckily a pleasant one; Junmyeon has turned into a bit of a foodie, and he loves trying out new stuff. And of course, he must take pictures of it all, so he can learn the names and remember it all later. The other three simply indulge him, allowing him to have his fun; it’s almost more satisfying to watch him enjoy himself, than it is to actually eat the food, Chanyeol muses. His reactions are just so pure, so honest.
“So, how’s work for you guys? Busy?” Chanyeol probes once the waiter leaves them alone at their table. He tries to play down his level of interest by poking at the sizzling pieces of meat with the tongs. “Anything interesting coming up for you soon, Kyungsoo?”
He knows that Kyungsoo isn’t supposed to tell him too many details. Kyungsoo isn’t supposed to tell him anything. But it’s hard to see the harm in it, when Chanyeol has already seen it all, done it all. They could kick him out, but they couldn’t take what he has learnt away from him, which is one reason why he’s now a history professor.
“Nothing super exciting,” Kyungsoo sighs, shrugging his shoulders. “I still haven’t found a permanent partner to do missions with, so things are kind of slow for me. I’ll be getting more familiar with the 1970s soon, I think. We haven’t really tackled that yet, have we? It’s going to be interesting though, because you know. My parents were already born back then, and many of my other relatives.”
It’s all Kyungsoo can say in a setting like this, but they all understand anyway. “It does sound… intriguing, although challenging,” Chanyeol muses. “The earliest we’ve ever looked at has been the Korean war. 1970s, that’s not even really history yet, is it? And you’re right about your parents and relatives being alive back then, too.” It sounds like a mission he would have really enjoyed. Trying something different, getting to experience first-hand what his parents lived through when they were young. It’s so meaningful, in a way, even if it makes the mission infinitely more dangerous. Should Kyungsoo run into his own parents back in the day, that could really mess things up.
“Yeah. It’ll be different for sure. But at least it’ll be quite comfortable. You know.” Kyungsoo glances around, and so does Chanyeol on instinct. But no one is paying attention, because why would they? They’re just four men, having dinner together. Nothing out of place here. “So many modern comforts already existed back then- I think.”
“So what about the 1970s?” Baekhyun asks. “Is this going to be a long thing? Don’t tell me you’re going to be home less now, I just got used to having you come home on time.”
“Aw, look at you, little housewife,” Chanyeol coos and pinches Baekhyun’s cheek, just to have him swat back at him. Junmyeon is all smiles, watching on, clinging onto Kyungsoo’s arm on the other side of the table.
“I’ll miss you very much, if you won’t be able to meet us as often.” Junmyeon is clearly weighing his words carefully; this kind of code language is a bit tricky on him, since he’s still learning to just use modern day Korean comfortably, so Chanyeol is proud of him for doing so well. “I, too, have gotten used to your presence and company. I’ll miss you dearly.” And there he goes, lapsing into Joseon Korean antics again. They all burst into laughter.
“Baekhyun has been spoiled rotten,” Kyungsoo teases his boyfriend, although not without a fond smile. “I haven’t really been gone ever since we got back from, you know. But it’s time I start doing something more useful. I didn’t choose this career to do paperwork in an office.”
“I can understand that.” Chanyeol can’t suppress his sigh, although he regrets it immediately, seeing how the corners of Junmyeon’s mouth turn downwards. “I mean, the kind of paperwork that Kyungsoo has to do- it’s so boring. I don’t have to do much of it, mostly I just teach and let my TAs grade papers for me. Spares me a lot of time, and headaches.”
“You’re the biggest kid in all classrooms,” Baekhyun jabs at him as they begin to dig in, the meat finally fully grilled. “I still can’t picture you teaching- I know you did it at the agency sometimes, but that’s different. You’re a proper professor now, professor Park.”
“I’m very well respected, thank you very much,” Chanyeol huffs back at him despite how the three are laughing at him. “And very well liked, as well.”
“Hyungnim is such a good teacher.” Junmyeon sounds all too earnest as he says that, and Chanyeol can only smile at him, feeling how his heart is melting inside his chest with how much he loves him. “He teaches his students, and he teaches me at home, and he does so well. He’s the best.”
“Ew, lovebirds, that’s enough.” Baekhyun pretends to gag on his plate. “Change of topic, alright, I don’t want to hear anymore.”
“You’re one to talk,” Chanyeol tells him with a smack on the back of his head, causing even more laughter and playful banter. It’s such a nice, lighthearted dinner shared between friends and lovers, the four men enjoying each other’s company and good food. They don’t do this often enough, Chanyeol realizes, they really don’t. They all get so carried away with their lives, and it’s so hard now when he no longer belongs to the same world that Kyungsoo and Baekhyun do. When he’s no longer a colleague and just… just a regular citizen. But it’s so, so important for Junmyeon too, to get to socialize more, and to get to meet his friends like this. They’re not just Chanyeol’s friends, but Junmyeon’s as well, and that means they should make double the effort to meet more often.
They make promises of such, as they past ways afterwards, Kyungsoo and Baekhyun heading to the subway station while Chanyeol and Junmyeon get back in the car. Junmyeon seems a bit drowsy already; he likes to sleep early, and rise early. He kicks off his shoes so he can lift up his feet on the seat and curl up there, hugging his knees to his chest, chin resting on top of them comfortably.
“Do you want my jacket?” Chanyeol asks, turning the engine on and adjusting the heater so that it’ll blow warm air towards Junmyeon. It’s gotten a bit chilly, now that the sun has gone down, and he doesn’t want his little bird to be cold. “You can go to sleep, if you’d want. I’ll drive us home.”
“Yeah,” Junmyeon mumbles, rubbing at his eyes. He looks so painfully young like this, vulnerable and small. It makes Chanyeol’s heart swell with the need to protect him and make him happy, cherish him and love him as best as he knows how. How did he ever get so lucky to have his little prince, he thinks, reaching over to gently brush Junmyeon’s bangs away from his eyes, before draping his jacket over him to help him get more comfortable.
“Lean back the backrest too,” he instructs Junmyeon, before he pulls off the curb. It only takes five minutes of driving for Junmyeon to be lulled to sleep, his soft snores blending in with the sound of the engine and the heater. When Chanyeol parks the car at the garage, he has no heart to wake Junmyeon up; instead, he carries him home, cradling him against his chest securely to make sure he doesn’t jostle him too much. Junmyeon doesn’t stir, instead nuzzling Chanyeol’s chest and shoulder, relaxed and calm in his arms.
He only blinks his eyes open once, when Chanyeol places him in bed, even though he tries his best to be ginger about it. Junmyeon is clearly not properly awake though; his eyes don’t fully focus and he keeps blinking, brows slightly furrowed in confusion. Chanyeol gently runs his hands down his body, before quickly taking his shoes off so he can tuck him in. He would undress him, but that would probably wake him up too much for him to go straight back to sleep. If he gets uncomfortable, he’ll wake up and take them off himself, he figures.
“Shh, it’s alright, just go back to sleep,” he sooths Junmyeon in a low voice to lull him back into his slumber. “We’re home now, it’s alright. I’ll join you in bed in just a bit.”
“Hyungnim…” Junmyeon’s voice is muffled and he turns his face to smush it against the pillow, eyes slipping closed once more. “I love you…”
Chanyeol’s heart positively melts. “I love you too,” he whispers back, coming up to press a kiss to his hair line while pulling the covers up. Junmyeon gets cold really easily, and his side of the bed has extra blankets just so he doesn’t have to be chilly even when Chanyeol isn’t in bed with him. “I love you so much.”
Junmyeon’s next words are too incoherent for Chanyeol to make out what he’s saying, and he leaves him be, convinced that he’s fast asleep now. He gets ready for bed without hurry, though- he feels sluggish now, quite exhausted after the long day he had. But it was well worth it, to take Junmyeon out on a new adventure, show him something exciting, and to also meet up with friends. No matter how tiring, it was so nice, and very much needed. He reminds himself once again that they really should do this more often.
When he slides into bed finally, Junmyeon immediately turns around to snuggle into him. He’s such a clingy little monkey in his sleep, always rolling over right next to Chanyeol, if not on top of him. It took some time to get Junmyeon used to the modern bed and its comforts, mainly its soft mattress and pillows, but now he takes full advantage of it by cuddling Chanyeol any which way he wants. Even in his sleep, he wants to feel his hyungnim close- and Chanyeol would never, ever refuse him.
So they watch some documentaries, because Chanyeol doesn’t have the confidence to begin to explain such things as galaxies and universes, let alone the physics behind it all. Junmyeon watches it all with rapt attention, eyes glued to the screen and for once watching quietly when usually he’s bursting with questions and comments about everything he sees. It’s new, to see Junmyeon so obsessed with something, but it seems to bring him great joy to discover more.
Chanyeol downloads him several documentaries to watch even when he’s away on campus, and he comes home to Junmyeon who’s barely containing his urge to gush about everything he’s learned. “Earth is a planet!” he tells Chanyeol like it’s the biggest secret ever known to man, his eyes wide and sparkling. “And there are other planets out there! Countless planets! There might even be aliens out there, they said so.”
“It’s fascinating stuff,” Chanyeol replies, eyes on the meal he’s preparing for dinner. There’s not much for him to say about the topic, but he wants to show that he’s listening. That he cares- even if he only cares because it’s Junmyeon, his small song bird.
“Yes,” Junmyeon says and squeezes his forearm gently. He’d be holding Chanyeol’s hand, but Chanyeol needs his hands for cooking, so this has to be enough. “And there are planets that are super weird, like, they’re made of gas and things, or they’re boiling hot, or they’re made of ice. Every planet is a new world, hyungnim, can you imagine? I wish I could visit them and see how they’re like.”
“That would really be something,” Chanyeol hums, “my little prince becoming an astronaut.”
“What’s that,” Junmyeon breaths, eyes growing even wider still. “Is that a person who visits other planets?”
Chanyeol is sad to tell him that no, humans have yet to figure out how to visit other planets. But they’ve been to the moon- and sharing that fact with Junmyeon launches him into another quest into absorbing all the information he can, this time about the space programs, space stations, and moon landings. It’s so touching, to watch Junmyeon dive right into a new passion and put in all this effort to learn, to discover new things, and to share his new-found love with Chanyeol. Junmyeon would have never even heard of these things in the 1700s yet here he is, gushing about space technology, learning new vocabulary just so he can read and watch more of it all.
He does his best to indulge him. He buys Junmyeon books about space with colorful pictures, and looks up documentaries for him to watch. He takes Junmyeon to science centers crowded with elementary school kids on field trips so they can see the miniature models and such. Junmyeon is a hundred times more excited about it than any of the children, his eyes sparkling and his questions never-ending. It forces Chanyeol to learn more as well, just to keep up with him.
In a lot of ways, this reminds him of how they got to know each other. “Remember when we used to discuss poetry and literature together,” he says, stroking Junmyeon’s hair fondly. They’re curled up in bed, Junmyeon with a thick book in his lap, his reading glasses perched on his nose, while Chanyeol has the TV on to catch up on his favourite shows. “We sat in your quarters, drinking that herbal tea, and we talked until late at night. The maids would go to sleep and the sun would set, and we’d still be there. Just talking.”
“Of course I remember,” Junmyeon mumbles, rubbing Chanyeol’s thigh up and down gently. “It was like nectar for my parched soul, to finally have someone who wanted to listen… who had time for me. Who was interested in the same things as I was, and was willing to entertain a sickly prince who would never come to hold any power.”
There’s a certain bitterness, a certain ache to his voice, and Chanyeol wraps his arm around his shoulders. “And I fell in love with you,” he whispers against Junmyeon’s temple. “I fell for your intellectual mind and your curious, tender heart. Do you know how rare that is, to find such a connection through just conversation alone? I could have never had anything like it in this day.”
“It was like poetry itself,” Junmyeon hums, his hand sliding in between Chanyeol’s thighs, resting there. “The kind of mad, blind love they write about. I didn’t believe in it. I thought it wasn’t possible, or was only possible for women- I was always taught that a good scholar isn’t so blinded by any emotion, isn’t so carried away by heart’s desires. Duty was all I knew. Yet then, love found me… and I had to acknowledge how real it was.”
Junmyeon is so much better with words than Chanyeol is. “You’re right,” he replies, reaching over with his other hand to gently tilt Junmyeon’s face up so he can press slow, warm kisses on his lips. “You’re so right. And I knew I couldn’t let you go, because I knew I would never find something like this ever again. My small bird.”
“Hyungnim.” Junmyeon kisses him back, melts against him. “My greatest adventure. I love you.”
“I love you too,” Chanyeol murmurs, kissing him once more. “I was just reminded of that all now, because we’ve been having so many discussions once again. I think we kind of forgot to do it, in the midst of everything. But we’ve been doing it a lot more now, even if about space and not so much about literature.”
“We could still talk about poetry, if you wanted,” Junmyeon laughs, squeezing Chanyeol’s thigh. “My love for it hasn’t changed, even if I understand so little of the poetry of this day.”
“Maybe some other day, my love. We should sleep now.”
But that gives Chanyeol an idea that he shares with Junmyeon the next day. “You know, you’re not the only person who’s been this fascinated with space,” he tells him while they’re folding laundry together in the living room. Junmyeon finds chores still quite the novelty- he grew up never doing any, and learning these practical skills has been a bit of a challenge. Not because he doesn’t want to help, but because he forgets that no one is going to tidy up after him, and things don’t happen by themselves, not unless he does them.
“I should hope so,” Junmyeon says with a smile. “Otherwise I’ll feel quite strange.”
“No, you’re not alone. So I was thinking- we talked about literature so much in the past but, maybe we could try discussing movies instead. There are so many movies made about space, and the things we imagine exist there. None of it is real- we don’t know if aliens exist or how they look like, and most of the technology in such movies isn’t real either, but I think it would be great fun.” And seeing how Junmyeon’s eyes begin to shine, he knows his idea has been well received.
“What sort of movies were you thinking about, hyungnim?”
“Have you ever heard of Star Wars?”
It’s a fateful afternoon, as Chanyeol comes to realize if not on that day, then at least quickly afterwards. They curl up on the couch with snacks after the chores are done, and Chanyeol loads up Episode IV. “I’ve seen these all once, but some people seriously love these movies,” he informs Junmyeon as he settles onto the couch and throws the blankets over his legs. “Like, really love these. I hope you’ll at least have some fun. The story line is a bit confusing later on but maybe I can help explain some stuff.”
“I’m sure it’ll be fun,” Junmyeon is quick to reassure him as always. He doesn’t want Chanyeol to ever doubt himself- doesn’t want him to feel as though he’s not doing his best for his Junmyeon. “Although I’m quite tired, so we’ll see if I can keep my eyes open.”
That is quickly proven not to be a problem. If Junmyeon seems a bit exhausted in the beginning, he’s soon on the edge of his seat. Chanyeol has to keep reminding him that none of the things they see play out on screen are real, no matter how disappointing that is, because Junmyeon seems so enthralled by it all that Chanyeol worries he doesn’t remember his warnings from earlier. Junmyeon doesn’t look away from the TV even once, completely absorbed in the world of the move, even hushing Chanyeol when he tries to comment on something. “I can’t read if you’re talking,” he hushes Chanyeol, swatting at him. “There are so many new words!”
Junmyeon is of course by now well used to the modern Korean alphabet, but indeed, the sci-fi movie does have a lot of vocabulary Junmyeon isn’t familiar with, many English words that have not been translated but just written in Korean for the audience to interpret. Chanyeol pats his thigh gently and gestures zipping his lips shut, as not to disturb him anymore. He understands- there’s a lot going on, a lot to see, even without the subtitles there.
But even so, he can’t help but get a little excited when Han Solo comes on the screen. “He’s my favourite,” he whispers to Junmyeon. “He’s so cool.” He could say a lot more about him- there’s just something about the character that resonates with him a lot more than young Luke or even Leia. Han Solo is someone who’s seen a lot, done a lot, and as a former agent, he’s someone Chanyeol can kind of relate to, even if in his own line of work he was always strictly working for the light side. But there’s just something that he recognizes in him, that resonates within him as well.
Junmyeon is watching with rapt attention, although a little bit startled to see the bloodied arm fall down on the floor when they run into trouble at the bar. “He seems tough,” he says after watching Han Solo kill Jabba’s minion, again jumping a little bit at the special effects. To Junmyeon, who isn’t used to these things, it’s a lot more impressive than it is for Chanyeol. “But I’m not sure he’s a very good man.”
“You’ll see,” Chanyeol tells him, smoothing a hand down his back to help calm him down a little. “I like these movies because the characters are so complex. You have to see more of them to understand them.”
By the end of the movie, Junmyeon has already completely fallen in love with the whole universe and story. “It was just… It was just so much more than I could have ever imagined,” he says, watching the end credits roll on the screen. “Creatures and scenes… planets… vehicles and devices… robots… I could have never imagined any of this. Yet someone created all of that, and made it come to life for us to see. It is not like the space I’ve read about in books, but it’s so much more exciting!”
“It is,” Chanyeol says with a laugh, and pecks his cheek lightly. “I’m glad you enjoyed it. Who did you like the best? It’s a mandatory question.”
“Leia,” Junmyeon says with a soft, dreamy sigh. “I wish I had been more like her, as royalty. She’s so brave.”
“You were a perfect prince.” Chanyeol pulls him to his side, and kisses him gently, insistently. To make him believe his words better. “You did your best, with what power you had. It isn’t your fault that the court functioned in such a way where you were left with so little choice.”
“I suppose.” Junmyeon strokes a hand down his chest, before burrowing closer. “But still… I still sometimes wonder if I could have done more. Could have helped my brother, or my father more. If there were things I could have done better. I know you said that we have to learn to let go… that things that have happened, already did, and we cannot change that. But even so…”
Chanyeol doesn’t like it when Junmyeon gets in his own head like this, and he hushes him with another kiss. “You did everything you could,” he insists once more. “Princess Leia would have been proud of you, alright?”
“If you say so.” Junmyeon laughs softly, cups his face to press a firm kiss on his lips. “But hyungnim… you said there are more movies, about this story. About the war in the stars. Can we watch more? I want to know, I want to see. I want to learn more, hyungnim!”
His small song bird, ever the curious mind. Somehow Chanyeol feels as though he’s opened yet another Pandora’s box for Junmyeon- but how could he hold him back, deny him the right to fly when he finally can?
“Alright, let’s watch one more movie.”