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“M50, it’s begun Jonginnie!” Chanyeol cheers as they pass by the blue board.

It’s barely seven in the morning, a bright day on the dawn of July. The sky is free of clouds and stray rays shine on Jongin where the visor doesn’t block them out. Just as well. It would be a misfortune to visit where they’re headed on a gloomy day. The streets were bare of traffic in the city and only the odd car or two passes them on the highway now, making their going faster. They have a long day ahead.

A cheerful euphonious acoustic croons from the radio and Chanyeol nods along to it. Jongin is slumped against the window in the passenger seat, trying to doze. He understands why they have to leave so early but really, there’s no need to be so lively in the morning.

“Hyung, you’re acting like you’ve never been on the M50 before.” Jongin mumbles, lacking the energy to open his eyes and roll them at his friend.

“Yes, but not as a tourist. This is a road trip, Jongin, and we’re gonna be touristy and do everything tourists do.” Chanyeol doesn’t lose the enthusiasm. Talking about it only seems to invigorate him more.

“Be loud and annoying?”

“Jongin, please.” Chanyeol sighs, a wisp exasperated.

“Sorry, sleepy.”

In all honesty, Jongin is just as excited for this trip.

His earnings from the dance classes he teaches part-time aren’t the most substantial but he knew that he wanted to save up. It hadn’t occurred to him what he wanted to do with his savings until Chanyeol had suggested it one dreary evening while they both lay worn out on the practice room floor.

They were supposed to have dinner out and Chanyeol had come by the studio to pick him up but Jongin just couldn’t get his body to obey him. Chanyeol had had just as rough a day, between his own barista job and spending hours at the music studio so they lay perfectly content lazing on the floor.

“Let’s go, Jongin. This summer, let’s go somewhere.”

“Where do you want to go?”

“Anywhere. A road trip,” a sudden spark had filled Chanyeol’s voice as he turned over on his side to look at Jongin, “we could go north, or west, or anywhere at all. Just, let’s drive and see places.”

“That sounds great, hyung.” and as tired as he was, he managed to beam back at Chanyeol, the spark in his friend’s eyes diffusing into his own bones.

They’re not going anywhere boisterously exotic, their budget is too constrained. But Jongin doesn’t mind. He has always had a wanderlust for the lush, quiet serenity of Ireland.

“Then sleep, you bear. But it’s a short ride and if you wake up cranky, we’re going back home.” Chanyeol warns and Jongin hums inattentively, already rejoining the sleep he regretfully parted from earlier.

 

Jongin wakes to a hand squeezing his thigh, the sun in his eyes. He straightens, feeling the shape of his palm indented into his cheek where he was cupping it and a kink already in his neck. Part of it is soreness from last night’s additional hours of practice, the thought of not being able to dance for days, weeks perhaps, making him anxious to claim the time he’d lose.

He realizes they’ve stopped and he can no longer hear the soft troll of the radio nor Chanyeol’s humming.

“Morning sleeping beauty.” Chanyeol greets, holding something out to him. It takes several moments for Jongin’s vision to clear but he’s instantly grateful. He takes the paper cup from Chanyeol eagerly.

“Thanks.” he nurses the warmth of the cup in his hands before he lifts it to his lips and lets out a satisfied sigh when the chocolate melts in his senses. It’s warm so it must not have been long since Chanyeol got it.

“Why did we stop? Where did you get this?”

He looks out at last to assess their surroundings but his breath is plucked from his lungs in a gasp.

“Yeah, I didn’t want you to sleep through the rest of the way.” Chanyeol chuckles, “I stopped at one of the villages, Knock-something. I wanted to refill our tank so we don’t have to make too many stops on our way up later.”

They’re pulled over at a narrow dirt road. A thick railing is at the side and beyond that, it’s a sheer drop to the Upper Lake. It glitters in the July heat, such a shiny brown that it looks like a murky copper mirror. Dense, low shrubbery hugs the banks like an affectionate lover. Above that sprawls an impenetrable umbrella of evergreens, shrouding the mountain that rises on the other side. The valley is a burst of lush greens, dazzling amber married with brown and gold, and the teasing hints of shy puce and rose. It takes Jongin’s breath away.

“Wow.” Jongin doesn’t realize he’s pressing his face to the window.

“I didn’t remember it being so beautiful.” Chanyeol comments close by and Jongin looks back to see him closer than he’d anticipated, leaning forward over Jongin’s shoulder, his seat belt unfastened. When he looks at him, his eyes are as warm as the chocolate Jongin is consuming slowly.

“You’ve been to Glendalough?”

“Yeah, but eons ago. Sixth class, school tour.” Chanyeol smiles wryly and sits back in his seat.

“What did you guys do?”

“We mostly spent the day at this resort, Avon Ri. But I was too busy fighting over which team I wanted to be in when we got there to look out on our way down.”

“Silly.” Jongin accuses, face crinkling with mocking mirth. He imagines a younger Chanyeol with ears bigger than his head and a grin just as wide, arguing and negotiating with his peers. His grin grows.

“As all kids.” Chanyeol shoots back. “Finish your drink. The centre’s not far from here. I just wanted you to see.”

Jongin doesn’t say it, but he knows Chanyeol’s aware he’s grateful as Jongin turns back to window in a cocktail of gratitude, amazement and unbridled excitement.


↠✰↞

 

Parking is hard to find, especially a spot close enough to the visitor centre so they won’t have to walk too far. It’s their third round back and Jongin is about to suggest they just park wherever they get space when a car pulls out as they’re about to pass by.

“See Jonginnie? Never give up!” Chanyeol yells triumphantly.

Jongin laughs and shakes his head, putting the cup in the holder as he mutters ‘silly’ under his breath.

“My name is Chanyeol, Jongin. I don’t know who this Silly you keep mentioning is.” Chanyeol says, wounded. He kills the engine and turns to Jongin with folded arms.

“Silly? He’s a cute friend of mine.” Jongin says cheekily and unfastens his belt. He’s out of the car before Chanyeol can retort.

“So what are we doing here?” Jongin walks around to the other side, leaning against the car as Chanyeol takes out a small backpack from the back seat. He shuts the door and tells Jongin to move so he can lock it before fixing him with a raised eyebrow.

“I don’t know, why don’t you ask your cute friend Silly?” Chanyeol shrugs the bag on and stands before Jongin, tall and menacing. Jongin retreats but he’s already backed into the car and there’s nowhere for him to go.

“Hyung,” he starts with a slight whine. He braces himself as Chanyeol steps even closer, making him crane his neck back to look at him properly.

“I’m sure cute ol’ Silly would know.”

Jongin places his hand on Chanyeol’s chest, trying to push him back but all it does is expose his sides to what’s coming. He curses his sensitive body as he breaks out in high pitched laughter, disturbing the vigil of the silent valley, his voice blending in like throaty birdsong.

“Chanyeol, stop, please,” Jongin wheezes in a stutter as the tall man continues to dig softly into his sides.

“Hmm, why don’t you ask Silly to save you?” Chanyeol creeps higher, almost tickling his underarms and Jongin wriggles like a hysterical worm between Chanyeol and the car, “Or you could denounce your statement about his cuteness.” he taunts the ultimatum sweetly, wrapping an arm around Jongin’s waist to keep him upright while continuing to tickle him with the other.

“Fine! Fine! He’s —not! Cute!” Jongin gasps out, struggling against Chanyeol but it’s no use. Small mercies, Chanyeol stops immediately once the words have left his mouth and he continues holding up a wheezing Jongin who’s recovering from the unceremonious fit of laughter.

“Who’s cuter, Silly or me?”

Jongin wraps his arms around Chanyeol because there’s nothing else to do with them and besides, he’s still weak from laughter and needs the support.

“Answer carefully, Kim Jongin. Our friendship is on the line.” Chanyeol’s eyes are bright as Jongin’s breaths come out heavily. His lips are quirked up in gaiety and Jongin’s own mirror it. He could deny it but Chanyeol will only tickle him again and he can’t endure another bout of forced laughter.

“You, hyung, you’re cuter.” some truths don’t come so easily but this one does and Jongin feels a small ruckus flutter up his stomach as the smile nursing at Chanyeol’s lips breaks into a flaring grin.

“I guess the contract for this friendship hasn’t expired.” Chanyeol backs off, satisfied.


They stay close as they walk to the low stone building that is the visitor centre, Jongin breathing deeply. His life had become motion and only that, no time to lubricate the cogs. This is the respite he needs. He feels light, like the city had been pressing him into the ground, compressing his lungs, and now the wild glacial valley is setting him free. That, and a concentrated dose of happiness that comes in the form of Park Chanyeol.

“Morning. We’re here for the Glendalough and Wicklow Mountains Tour.” The reception is milling with people but there’s no queue at the desk. Chanyeol smiles at the receptionist who looks up from her computer with a genuine seeming smile.

“Good morning! Welcome to Glendalough Centre. Do you have reservations?”

“Yes, for Chanyeol and Jongin.”

“Just a second,”

“Park Chanyeol and Park Jongin?”

Jongin stills next to Chanyeol. With a quick glance at him, he knows Chanyeol can see he has tensed but he just gives him a smile, squeezing their linked arms and keeps his attention on the receptionist —whose tag on her green polo reads ‘Brenda’.

“Yes.”

“Yep, great. You’re all set. The early group has already left and the next tour begins in an hour. The bus from Dublin with the rest of the group hasn’t arrived yet but you can take a seat in the lounge or visit the cafe while you wait, is that okay?”

“That’s fine. Thanks, Brenda.” Chanyeol smiles at her and tugs Jongin —whose heart thunders in dazed shock— along.

“Park Jongin?” Jongin forces the words out as soon as they’re out of earshot.

“The deal for couples is cheaper and I want us to get the most out of what we have.” Chanyeol explains. Jongin nods, unable to reply. He feels a little winded.

The lounge is huge and mostly empty. Its timbered ceiling is low and the walls share the same tawny colour. Wooden tables for two is set evenly along the long glass window and sofas and plastic chairs are arranged in sections, an abandoned kids corner at the very end of the room. There’s a TV on the far wall and an RTÉ One morning talk show fills the space with quiet chatter.

A man is dozing, sprawled across one of the leather sofas, an old couple are engaged in low conversation over cups of tea by the ceiling to floor window. Besides Jongin and Chanyeol, they’re the only people there. The elderly couple looks up and nods in greeting at the two as they enter. Chanyeol and Jongin greet them back with soft, cheery good morning before walking down a few feet away.

“Are you okay? You look pale.” Chanyeol says as they sink into the leather sofa that faces the window, giving them a view of a pond in a small garden with the great Wicklow Mountains looming behind. Chanyeol sets the backpack against the foot and pulls Jongin towards him, scrutinizing him.

“Yeah, just a little hungry.” it’s not a lie, eating too early in the morning makes him queasy so that hot chocolate is all he’s had. The omission of how his heart is still struggling to find steadiness again does not really count as a lie, at least Jongin doesn’t think so.

“I swear you’re an adolescent,” Chanyeol gives a suffering sigh but he’s already reaching for his bag. He pulls out two neatly wrapped square tin foils and offers one to Jongin.

“It’s normal to be hungry in the morning.” Jongin defends with an affronted pout, refusing to take it.

“Fine. But what would you do without me?” Chanyeol retracts it and unwraps the foil with another sigh before offering it to Jongin again. It’s a simple jam and butter sandwich but Jongin’s eyes light up and he takes it eagerly from Chanyeol. He wonders how much earlier Chanyeol woke up to prepare this for them and pick Jongin up on his way. He finds himself pushing a little closer, till their thighs touch and their shoulders brush.

“I’d, you know, be alive and well. Just like I was before you.”

“Kim Jongin,” Chanyeol’s voice lowers and he leans even closer. Jongin can hear the threat in the sonorous tone and he forgets his retort, sandwich also temporarily forgotten in his hands.

“What I mean is, Chanyeol hyung is the best, the bestest.” Jongin smiles saccharinely. He takes a hefty bite and chews enthusiastically for show. Another tickle attack doesn’t sound appealing but he’s not entirely insincere.

“Hm, I thought so.” It’s stated arrogantly. Jongin hears the satisfaction.

Chanyeol unwraps his own sandwich and takes out his phone, resting back. Jongin immediately seizes the device from his hand.

“Hyung, no electronics!” Jongin exclaims, betrayed.

“I know Jonginnie, it’s on airplane mode. I just want to listen to some music.”

They’d made a pact to enjoy the trip as thoroughly as they could which meant limiting their use of technological devices. They’d go without contacting anyone, the three weeks they’d planned to be on the trip. Just them, the road and all the places that would fold into their minds as memories.

“Don’t worry, you’re going to have all my attention.” Chanyeol winks and Jongin hits his arm with a huff. He ignores Chanyeol as the latter puts in both buds, lies back and closes his eyes, food already wolfed down.

Jongin munches on the rest of his sandwich quietly, gaze wandering the room.

He loves these serene hours of the morning and it seems especially enhanced here in the valley, like all the noise and sounds bounce off the prodigious mountains, most of it kept for safekeeping and the rest bouncing back in soft, dulled echoes.

Just as he’s about to try and nap again, his eyes fall on the elderly couple. The lady is staring at him or rather, staring through him with a wistful fondness that confuses him. He smiles at her tentatively, wondering what that look is about.

“Sweet, young love.” Her gaze focuses back on him and her wistfulness transforms into endearment. It’s when her eyes sweep over Chanyeol then back to him that Jongin understands what it means and suddenly his heart is thundering like festival drums.

“Pat, don’t you remember our days?”

He turns quickly in embarrassment as his cheeks heat, face pressed into Chanyeol’s side. Perhaps this action only augments whatever notion the elderly lady has about him and Chanyeol but he doesn’t feel brave enough to face her again. He takes a bud from Chanyeol’s ear, the latter awakening but Jongin shakes his head and closes his eyes.

“Want to listen too.”

If he finds it weird, Chanyeol doesn’t comment. He puts his arm around Jongin and rests his head on top of his. It doesn’t take long for his embarrassment to fade as the comforting, familiar voice of his favourite band sounds through the earphone and Jongin is taken to the warm, secure place music and Chanyeol’s embrace take him.

 

↠✰↞

 

An hour and a half later they arrive at the Monastic ruins. Richie, their guide, had run a commentary on the bus. He’d given them an informative general introduction to the holy site. He’s currently preoccupied with answering questions he’d already answered on the bus and Jongin sighs. His hands drum on his thighs and his feet follow the rhythm in a tap. He’s wide awake now and he wants to get going, anything other than standing around.

A double stone archway hugged by moss and climbers looms before them. The sun shines brightly on the other side, a shield that obscures from their side but beckons them in too.

“I almost forgot.” Chanyeol murmurs.

The fingers are slightly callused on his skin. Jongin breath gets lost somewhere between his lungs and throat. Chanyeol rubs the sunscreen into him with wide glides of his thumb like a precise, controlled paintbrush over a canvas. His eyes follow his hands but Jongin’s stay on Chanyeol’s lips. The curiosity tingling in his fingertips has not faded, not even after two years. He still wants to touch the ring shining at Chanyeol’s bottom lip.

Chanyeol takes his time, till the dollop is evened out on Jongin’s face. He stands back and observes his handiwork with a pleased smile.

“We’re going to be outdoors a lot. You should put some on every morning from now on.” he taps Jongin’s nose.

“Yes, Mom.” Jongin takes the tube from Chanyeol. He bends without Jongin having to ask and batts his eyelashes dramatically. The way Chanyeol leans into his hand compresses his chest but he ignores it and spreads the lotion nonchalantly.

“We’re going to be outdoors a lot. You sh—” Jongin begins to parrot, tapping Chanyeol’s nose but with a sigh, Chanyeol catches his raised hand and laces their fingers, turning them to the entrance.

“Okay, everyone’s got their tag on, right? Follow me!” Richie’s voice rings out and the murmur drops. He’d given them yellow tags to stick on their upper arms for visibility and easy identification. “Welcome to the Monastic ruins. This beautiful entrance is the Gateway. Long ago, when the Monastic city stood, this Gateway…” his voice fades a little as he walks in ahead of them.

“Hyung, where’s the camera?” Jongin asks as they file behind Richie and follow him into the archway.

“We don’t need the camera.”

“You don’t want to take pictures? You always want to take pictures…”

“We can take pictures in our minds instead. You can keep these memories in your heart, right?” Chanyeol grins and holds up his fingers that are forming a camera in Jongin’s face. He produces a clicking sound, his fingers closer to Jongin’s face with an eye shut as if it were a real shot. He reaches for his bag without pause when Jongin bats his hands away and threatens to walk ahead of him.

 

Richie shows them to each ruin, halting to give them some background interspersed with funny, sometimes self deprecating anecdotes. They stop by the Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Kevin’s Kitchen. Reverence clings to the crumbling corbelled frame of the ancient, decrepit cathedral, like it does the church, named ‘Kitchen’ after it’s chimney resembling tower. The group observes the same silence as the valley, the hallowed aura touching everyone.

The history of the monks outsmarting the Vikings is at first intriguing but Jongin finds himself muting the booming voice of their guide in favour of absorbing the sights. He soon forgets everything he’s told but he has no option but to pay attention as they stop by their last destination at the Ruins; St. Kevin’s Cross.

“Legend says that whoever can fit their arm around the cross will be married within a year.”

That rouses an excited murmur through the group. Richie turns to the massive cross and wraps his arms around it with ease. The rest gather around and file to test it after him.

“Here, how about you?” Richie gestures for Chanyeol to try and the tour group nods around him. Chanyeol goes with a grin at Jongin and it’s no surprise his arms fit around snuggly too.

“Ooh! Maybe you and your boyfriend will be married.” Richie jests, nodding at Jongin. Those within the proximity to hear cheer and Jongin wants to dart off into forest like a deer, unable to meet anyone’s eyes.

“We’re not a couple!” Chanyeol clarifies quickly and this burns a little hotter than embarrassment.

“Sorry! You’ll meet someone then. And be married within a year.” Richie laughs and Chanyeol laughs with him.

They part from the group once they return to the centre. The mountain trails are easy enough to follow. It’s silent once again and Jongin embraces it. The day has begun to cool. There’s a chill that’s sweet on his face. The trail is beaten but clear. The fringing grasses grow short, interwoven with tufts of pale, purple moor grass. They rustle as the breeze dances through them.

“Why so quiet?” it’s not direct but Jongin knows Chanyeol has sensed how his mood plunged.

“Just, tense — lots of energy. I feel like I’m already losing shape.” Jongin says loosely. It’s not a complete lie, it’s one of the concerns that refuse to be left in the city.

“You won’t be lying down the whole trip. You’re gonna be active, don’t worry so much.”

Chanyeol puts an arm around him.

“It’s not the kind of activity I need.”

“Didn’t you tell me you can dance anywhere? Well, go ahead. There’s no one here.”

Jongin laughs but Chanyeol pauses, stopping them both.

“No, I’m serious. Do it, Jongin. Dance.”

He peers up at Chanyeol, wondering if he’s pulling an elaborate joke but all he sees is sincerity. Looking up ahead at the trail, he considers it. It’s rough but it’s not unfeasible. He shrugs off the backpack that somehow ended up with him and Chanyeol is more than ready to receive it.

He feels weightless, even if his worn tennis shoes are less than ideal for dancing and the ground is harsh. Chanyeol watches him in silent cheer as he leaps and taps and points his body. He laughs as he trips over a tuft of flowers that reach for the trail, Chanyeol’s guffaws echoing along with his. Instead of helping him up, he holds up his hand and arranges his fingers in a square.

“Me on my ass is worth remembering?”

“Well…”

Jongin shakes his head and stands, dusting his behind.

“Dandelions,” Chanyeol says when he sees the plants he tripped on. He leans down and plucks two, holding one out to Jongin.

“Make a wish.”

Jongin deliberates, knowing he doesn’t have much faith in such things. But Chanyeol’s got his eyes closed and looks concentrated so he figures it wouldn’t hurt to do the same.

 

Jongin doesn’t attempt any more mountaintop dancing but the energy cluttered in his muscles has diffused. He indulges the races Chanyeol initiates, knowing they’re not going to reach the top like this but it’s empowering to hear Chanyeol yell for him to slow down and let him catch up.

“You’re getting too old.” Jongin comments as Chanyeol holds his sides. He dodges and runs when Chanyeol reaches out for him. Chanyeol regrets starting this game but Jongin’s only enjoying it more with each defeated look that crosses his friend’s face.

“Okay, fine. I’m getting old. Have mercy on this old man.” Chanyeol clutches Jongin’s arm to prevent him from running away and Jongin laughs triumphantly, wrapping an arm around Chanyeol’s waist to let him lean on him further.

They’re both exhausted when they reach the top, collapsing on the barely trodden grass next to each other but the thrill of the triumph is shared.


↠✰↞

“Hyung, let me drive.” Jongin says, closing his book and tossing it over his shoulder to the back. He unfolds his legs and stretches as best as he can in the cramped space. It’s been over an hour since they left Wicklow. The sun is dying in the sky and twilight casts shadows that chase everything they pass by.

“Go to sleep.” Chanyeol doesn’t look at him but the corner of his lips are raised and his voice doesn’t disturb the soft guitar of the track they’ve got playing. It’s one of Chanyeol’s own compositions.

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah. Princess needs his beauty sleep.” Chanyeol looks at him then, not quite a smile gracing his face but the remnants of one and it’s not glaring but his teeth keep coming back to the balls of the curved barbell in his lip.

“You’ve got something. Want me to write it down for you?” It’s obvious now. Even his fingers are darting quickly over the wheel, a silent rhythm.

“You wouldn’t mind?”

It’s ridiculous that Chanyeol still asks, even after almost two years, but the dregs of the smile morph into one that makes Jongin feel like he’s Chanyeol’s saving grace. He reaches for the backpack behind him and pulls out Chanyeol’s sheet book. The pen is already wedged in the middle and several pages are folded down. He finds a new page near the back and pauses the song.

“Go on,”

Jongin and Chanyeol are tethered to music, in different ways. Jongin revolves around it, that’s what his existence requires him to do. But Chanyeol is the centre of it, the essence of music itself and everything else finds its way around him. Sometimes that essence bursts out, mellifluously, in spontaneous ways.

When he and Chanyeol were on their way back from a late dinner one night, a few months after they’d met, Chanyeol had suddenly stopped the car to jot down a chord progression he’d thought of and Jongin suggested Chanyeol relaying it for him to write down. Jongin passed his secondary school Music with flying colours but he had no use for it, double majoring in Ancient History and Archaeology and though he was rusty, the basics had not yet eluded him.

Chanyeol had blinked at him, like he couldn’t comprehend but then he lit up, in that way of his that always made Jongin feel like he was responsible for every sunrise and asked him if he were sure.

It became routine, when Chanyeol is preoccupied with something but gets sparked by inspiration, for him to say it aloud and for Jongin to scribble it down in his sheet book, be it lyrics or notes. At times it doesn’t work because thoughts strike Chanyeol like lightning and dictating is simply too slow so he takes the book from Jongin and scribbles furiously. But he always smiles and a light glow clings to him after he immortalizes the idea on paper. The circles he rubs on the back of Jongin’s palm in silent gratitude is always soothing.

↠✰↞

 

Darkness lives in the night, the Atlantic cold dense. He longs for somewhere to rest. The only warmth is Chanyeol and he presses closer drowsily, almost all of his weight on him. The hostel looms close and the cold is gone as soon as it comes with Chanyeol walking them in.

“Good evening,”

Jongin knows Chanyeol is every bit as fatigued as him but his greeting remains pleasant. He wishes they could teleport to their room, he’s ready to collapse and not even Chanyeol can hold him up much longer.

“Good evening, would you like a room?”

“Yes, please.”

“I’m guessing you’d like a double?”

Jongin doses off, right there on Chanyeol’s shoulder and doesn’t feel himself being carried to their room. 

In the morning he wakes up sore but fresh. He lies basking in the warm sun filtering between the blinds they had been too tired to draw. His memory lapses as he tries to remember where he is, certainly not his flat. The window is on the left side of his room and the rays warm him from his right. There’s salinity in the air and for a delirious second, he imagines he’s home at Waterford, where his room faces the sea and the salinity has long soaked into his walls, along with the pomegranate diffuser his mother leaves in each room of the house.

Chanyeol’s waking groan prompts him to open his eyes. Their gazes fasten on each other. As if in a trance, they stare at each other in a moment of comfortable tranquility.

Jongin doesn’t remember why they’re sleeping cramped together in this bed. Their long limbs are intertwined and their bodies curve towards each other like the split pieces of an acorn that was once one. The bed is neither big nor tall enough for them, their feet dangles over the edge.

They haven’t slept together often, the only two times in Jongin’s memory being the seldom times they got shitfaced enough to end up back in Chanyeol’s place and crash on his couch or bed as a single mass of inebriated limbs. When he’d gotten up in the morning with a madman taking an axe to his head, Chanyeol was already up, making a heavy concoction of a questionable assortment of blended vegetables and all the grease of eggs and bacon that could possibly feed a neighbourhood.

Comfort gives way to a prickly feeling in his chest, akin to panic and embarrassment but not quite either. Yet it’s still comfortable and warm, so close to Chanyeol like this and he doesn’t feel like moving.

“Morning.”

“Hi.” Chanyeol returns, his eyelids drooping like they are still attuned to the siren song that is sleep. His hair, normally parted evenly over his face, is disheveled and veils his forehead.

“You forgot to take it out.” the metal is warm under his tentative touch. He’s slept over enough times to know Chanyeol doesn’t wear the lip ring to sleep.

“You’re lucky I even got us to this bed.” Chanyeol says with thick sleepiness.

He’s right. They’re both in yesterday’s clothes that are now terribly wrinkled and it feels uncomfortable. He yearns for a shower as he abruptly becomes attuned to the mud of the mountains staining his clothes and the exertion of their hike dried on his skin in sweat.

“I’m not sure why the receptionist gave us one double. I thought I made it clear we wanted two.” Chanyeol muses, untangling from Jongin in a yawn then getting to his feet to stretch.

“We can ask her to switch us to another room when we go down.” Jongin follows suit.

It’s a compact room with peach walls. There’s not much besides the too-small bed and a nightstand next to it. The window is quite large and Jongin wanders to it, pleased.

“Wow, hyung, look at the sea!”

There’s no beach but the deep blue water sparkles with the early morning sun, just beyond a low, lumpy field of green. There are houses on the hills, slanting with the slope as if they will slide down into the ocean with the slightest breeze. A dry dashed house stands in the dip between them and the sea and Jongin is reminded of home, where their house is at the cusp of the beach.

“Jongin,” Chanyeol says and Jongin turns to see him fumble in his bag, “come here.” he sits back on the bed.

“What is it?” Jongin takes the dark aqua booklets from Chanyeol.

“Wild Atlantic Way passports. We can get a stamp for each discovery point we visit.”

“Oh,” Jongin skims through the pages, awed at its resemblance to an actual passport.

“Our exploration begins after breakfast,” Chanyeol throttles Jongin in excitement, making the other push him away in annoyance. He laughs and takes the passports from Jongin, “Use the bathroom, I’ll go after you.” he slips them into his bag and settles back down on the bed with his music book.

 

As he waited for Chanyeol to wash up, he’d manage to doze off again and he can’t shake off the sleep. He’s slumped on the table when Chanyeol sets a bowl next to his head.

“You have to eat. We’re going to do a lot today.” Chanyeol lifts his shoulders from the table.

Strangely the self-catering kitchen is empty and he and Chanyeol are the only guests present.

The only separation between the dining area and the kitchen is the tiles of the kitchen and the veneered wood of the dining. There’s a fireplace at the end of the room with a mirror above and a clock on the black marble mantle. Dish towels and mitts sit on the oven handle, pots hang on a board over the window at the sink and seasoning bottles and jars sit on an open shelf. There are scratches on the shiny kettle and a few initials carved into the wooden tables. The whole hostel is nothing more than a huge, regular house, too large for a single family but not big enough to fit too many at once. It’s homely.

“Jonginnie,” Chanyeol coaxes, spoon at Jongin’s lips. He chews on autopilot, savouring the blend of cereal and strawberry yogurt. He realizes he’s starving, not having eaten anything besides snacks since they’d left Wicklow yesterday, and accepts the spoonfuls enthusiastically.

A pleasant voice greets them good morning and Jongin straightens, sleep diffusing. They greet the newcomer back, an elderly lady with a mane of shocking silver hair that hangs about her hips and smiling eyes of storm. She sits at the table next to theirs, the air about her benevolent, a mug in her hands.

“How’re you lads?”

“We’re fine, thank you.” Chanyeol says. Jongin takes the spoon from Chanyeol, fingers brushing over Chanyeol’s knuckles in thanks, and stuffs his mouth so he doesn’t have to speak.

“Hope you’re finding it alright here. Anne, the girl at the desk, tells me you got in last night.”

“We did. We haven’t been out yet but the view from our room is great.” Chanyeol says.

“That’s good to hear, dear. Have you been here before? Where are ye coming down from?”

“No, it’s our first time. We’re from Dublin.”

“Ah, city lads. What are your plans for the day? Slieve League?” She takes a sip, creased eyes twinkling like she already knows. “Lived here all my life and still takes my breath away, I’ll tell you. Make sure you’ve got something good on your feet, even if you plan to take your car up there.” she speaks with the cadence of a crackling fire fused with lilting bells. “There’s a tea room, just at the base before you head up. Make sure to stop by on your way back. My daughter, Aisling, runs it. Tell her Moira sent you and she’ll treat you to a special.” she winks at them.

“Thank you! We really appreciate that.” Chanyeol beams and Jongin thinks the two are having a grinning contest.

“Don’t worry about it. Ye remind me of myself and my old man. Gone he is now but we were fond of taking to the roads every other weekend when we were wee things like ye. Sometimes we stayed loyal to our wild country. Other times we wondered down as far as Cork. It’s healing, isn’t it? Strengthens your bond and love too.” her soft smile is conspiratorial.

“We’re not a couple.” Jongin states in realization and winces at the blunt harshness it rings with.

“Oh, is that so?” her brows rise high with palpable bemusement, “Forgive me, I had thought you look very cosy. Even so, it’s a blessing to travel and more so with a companion.”

“That is true.” Chanyeol is looking at Jongin warmly.

“I’ll let you get on with it now. Most of the guests left early. If you want less crowded times on the cliff, try for the late afternoons or evenings. Mornings and early noons are teeming. We don’t serve dinner here but I recommend you try the Lodge Restaurant. Every dish there is fantastic.”

She pushes the chair in and leaves them with one last amiable smile.

“We should leave soon. We don’t want to waste our trip sleeping and lazing around.” Chanyeol says lightly, looking at Jongin the way he always has.

Jongin’s breakfast tastes soggy now but he finds it in himself to reply as lightheartedly as he can that sleeping and lazing around doesn’t sound so bad.

↠✰↞

 

The road winds like they’re driving up the coiled belly of a serpent. They can see the tarmac interlocking and the mountain becoming sky as it rises and blocks out the azure of day. It gets steeper in each direction, like they’re driving up the vertical edge of a plateau and Jongin wonders if this aged Skoda can make it.

There are fenced strands of small fields, electric posts leaning against them as though elderly and in need of support and sizeable boards signal B&Bs. Livestock idles and munches about on the fields, cows and sheep and goats, all inked brightly to distinguish their owners. Dull quartzite flashes on the naked faces of the rugged mountain where vegetation is scarce but wild flowers and willowy grasses grow on the sides of the road.

They come up to the visitor centre. There are more cars around and Chanyeol has to go even slower but they drive on past it, wanting to go as farthest as they can with the car.

 

It’s getting even steeper, they see the bright sky as they push their way up and it seems if they keep going, they’ll veer right off the mountain but the road suddenly bends and they’re nestled between mountainsides again. Vertigo creeps up on Jongin steadily like a fiend and he finds it harder to enjoy the sensational scenery.

“Do you know Bunglass means ‘bottom green’?” Chanyeol rattles on obliviously and Jongin looks at him, focuses on his face, his voice. He’s got sparse stubble on his chin and his throat bobs heavily as he speaks. Jongin knows the meaning of Bunglass, he knows about the myth riddled passage of faeries associated with the mountain but it’s soothing to hear Chanyeol tell it enthusiastically.

“Jongin?” Chanyeol says, bringing Jongin out of his hypnosis.

They’ve stopped and Jongin’s heart drops. It’s a sheer fall to the sea on his side and his gravity goes awry. He knows cliffs, he grew up by them. But this is over six hundred metres high, boasting to be some of the highest in all of Europe, and a newly found acrophobia grips him.

“I thought city traffic was bad.” Chanyeol muses.

Jongin looks ahead to see why they’ve stopped. He bursts out laughing. The peculiarity unknots the fear in his stomach and he finds himself in a thrashing laugh as hilarity overtakes it.

“At least there were traffic lights there.” Jongin says once he can breathe but it sets them both off again.

A herd of tawny cattle have blocked the road. They graze slowly on the side vegetation, some intuitive force of nature preventing them from wandering too far out. They take their time getting by them and Jongin watches in mirthful fascination. The merriment fades as soon as they’ve passed and vertigo hits Jongin again like a whip as Chanyeol drives forward and they round a towering curve.  

“Hyung,” Jongin clutches Chanyeol’s arm on the gear stick, closing his eyes.

“Jongin?”

“Let’s stop at the next parking spot.”

“What’s wrong?”

“Just — just —talk to me hyung.” Jongin says with his eyes closed and holding onto Chanyeol tight. Relief comes slowly as Chanyeol resumes his brief history lesson of the cliff, worry lurking beneath his easy tone.

“Hey, Jonginnie.” Chanyeol prompts once they’ve stopped. He laces their fingers properly and tugs on Jongin’s hand for him to face him.

“Sorry. It just feels like we’re going to fall of the cliff any time.”

“Oh. We can go back. There’s other stuff to do around here.” Chanyeol offers immediately, sounding apologetic.

“No,” Jongin breathes, opening his eyes and looking over at last, “can we walk the rest of the way? It’s beautiful. I want us to see it.”

Jongin feels there are no words that could accurately convey the majesty of Slieve League, at least not in any language that he knows. The rugged cliffs curl in jagged edges around the Atlantic Ocean, like a toothed barrier keeping its aquamarine destruction from the land.

They can see the shores of Mayo and Sligo from here, stretching in craggy coastline. At some parts of the base, there are slim rocky beaches while a hurl into the depth of the ocean awaits at others. There’s not much wind and the waves lap in white foam at the cliff face.

 

People walk by, some drive. But the suspension between sky and sea is reverently serene and they could be the only souls slaved to the imposing beauty of the mountain. It feels like they’ve discovered ultima Thule.

Chanyeol stands behind him with his arms wound around his waist. They’d made small conversation as they walked up, mainly to distract Jongin from his vertigo. ‘You won’t fall ’ Chanyeol had told him when he’d taken an apprehensive glance at the sea.

I won’t let you ’. He didn’t have to say as he clasped their hands.

Most of the fear has faded now and he feels he can dance right here at the edge of the world. Chanyeol doesn’t prompt him but he doesn’t have to. He moves back from fence of the viewing point and Chanyeol asks him if he’s sure. He shrugs off his windbreaker and passes it to the taller man, his nod firm.

Poised like a flightbound crane, Chanyeol’s eyes ground him as he rotates. He feels airborne with each rotation. The wind caresses him and the ocean perfumed air fills his lungs, deep and fresh and spreads strength through his veins. The delight eases a bubbling laughter from his throat and Chanyeol’s eyes crinkle back at him each time they meet again. He feels like he can do a million pirouettes, the arresting mountain and his friend’s proud gaze as his spectators.

“You’re marvellous.” Chanyeol grounds him in his arms once he stops. He uses the slight dizziness as an excuse to bury his face in the taller man’s chest, more than exertion colouring his cheeks.

“We have a little more to go,” Jongin pulls away and shrugs his jacket back on. Hiding his grin is not as easy as ignoring the remark.

They don’t try the perilous One Man’s Pass or Pilgrims Way, they’re not experienced hikers or mountaineers but even sticking to the easy trail from Bunglass to Malinbeg exhausts them and they narrowly remember to stop by the tearoom on their way back.

It’s fortunate that they didn’t miss it. Tí Linn is a cosy haven of white painted stone and potted plants and a safe but intimate view of the cliffs and the Atlantic. The far side of the room is a little craft shop, materials stacked on shelves on the wall and into cylindrical containers before the counter. Jongin spots those acrylics he sees scattered around Sehun’s studio and thinks they should have a look before they leave.

Aisling, a freckled, willowy woman of the same cascading mane as her mother, welcomes them warmly, asking them whether they’re enjoying their time and where they’re staying. When they mention Moira, she beams and takes their order.

It’s a small building but almost all the tables are taken up. Still, the chatter is low and pleasant like everyone is abiding to secret laws of the secluded mountain. Aisling brings out a small apple tart along with their order of brownies and tea.

“Hyung, I’m in heaven.” Jongin groans and flops onto the table after taking a bite.

“Of course heaven would have me in it.”

Jongin kicks him under the table but Chanyeol holds his feet down and their limbs stay intertwined.

 

“This is so nice, why don’t we live here?” Jongin murmurs as they take their time with the last few slices of the tart, brownies forgotten on the plate they arrived on. The sun has begun to dip towards the horizon, most customers have left and new ones don’t trickle in.

“Because we have dreams and a life to build before that.”

“What if they turn out to be nothing but pipe dreams?”  

“As long as you try, it’ll never be for nothing.” he shrugs but it lacks the conviction that trademarks Chanyeol for Jongin. “You’re a miraculous maverick, Jongin. I believe you can make anything happen.” the conviction in this is rooted to the core of the earth.

The words curdle in his stomach but not in a daunting way, a weight that warms and heartens him. He believes in himself and Chanyeol does too. For now, it’s enough that they’re the only ones who see his dream.

“Thank you, hyung.”

 

↠✰↞


On their way to Dunaff, they take a pit stop at Dunfanaghy. It’s their third day in Donegal and they mostly spent the day resting and recovering from the ache of climbing and walking Slieve League two consecutive days. Today they’d only gone as far as the picnic tables they saw on their way back the first day, as per Moira’s suggestion that morning. They took some food out from Tí Linn, Aisling fixing them with a basketed meal of shrimps, mussels and that divine apple tart that Jongin fought Chanyeol the last piece for.

Lunch has long digested and they’ve bought some chicken rolls from the Centra that’s setting to close. They’re crossing the street back to their car when Chanyeol sees the eccentric shop, its brick painted blue and distinguishing it from its neighbours. The Art Room it reads in orange, the lights on inside, warm and inviting.

Brian, it’s owner, welcomes them heartily. It’s about to close for the night too but he engages their curiosity and gives them a tour. The exhibition room is narrow but long and Jongin is no patron of the arts but some of the pieces are breathtaking.

Brian doesn’t try to sell any of the pieces to them but he shows them a section with paintings of just Donegal and tells them it would be a great souvenir to remind them of their travels in the county. It’s when he asks them if they’re living separately or together that Jongin gets what he means.

“We’re friends.” he says vehemently, blushing.

“Ah, I’m sorry.” Brian says but his eyes lock on Jongin and Chanyeol’s clasped hands. They don’t let go of each other but Jongin does fight the urge to shield himself behind Chanyeol.

As though escaping the awkwardness that has descended, Brian lets them have a moment to look around by themselves. There are paintings of all kind, of all topics. There’s an oil painting of Kilimanjaro next to a print of a pelican.  A charcoal drawing of half a face next to the contrasting painting of a strikingly realistic Slieve League. He busies himself with examining the art, like he’s not hyper aware of how they’re still holding hands and standing breadth to breadth.

“Sehun would love this,”

“Maybe we can come up with him next year.” Chanyeol suggests.

“Yeah, you could bring the band too.” Jongin doesn’t try to conceal the joy he feels at thought of repeating all this again.

“That’s a really great idea.”

 

↠✰↞

By the time they reach Dunaff, the sun has long set and night has sunk in like mist. The roads leading here were narrow and street lights became scarcer and scarcer till their headlights were all they had to rely on. It was too bumpy and dark to read and despite the dimness outside, the awkwardness had dissipated and they belted out common songs from their childhood offkey. Perhaps that was only Jongin, Chanyeol’s baritone was still pleasant.

There are barely any street lights in Dunaff. It’s difficult to drive in at night but it’s perfect for the purpose they’re here. The less light pollution, the better.

That’s if they’re lucky enough to be graced with the celestial show.

It’s absolutely chilling with no cliff to ward back the Atlantic draft. The wind whips out and tugs at them like a lasso. In the distance, the waves murmur into the night in slightly turbulent crashes.

Jongin is elated.

The sky hangs so close. A splatter of gleaming gems on a dark, cloudless canvas. All Jongin needs to do is stand atop the little hill behind them, reach for the stars and pluck them from the sky, the way he did apples as a child from the apple tree in their garden.

“Wow.”

Chanyeol is breathless and speechless next to him, having turned the car off and gotten out. They lean against the boot for a while and let the stupendous beauty of the world drown them. It’s not the Aurora Borealis but even if it doesn’t show tonight, this unpolluted sky where the stars seem within his grasp will suffice.

“Let’s set up the boot, we’ll have all night to admire this.” Chanyeol moves Jongin back from the door and opens it.

The excitement is a chord connecting them. They work quickly, putting the back seats flat down and pushing them all the way forward. They move their small luggage to the front seats along with Chanyeol’s guitar case and spread the sheet they’ve brought with them. It’s difficult in the restricted space and they bump their heads on the roof or against each other a few times, laughing off the pinch of pain.

They manage at last and place all the pillows they’ve brought and the extra ones Moira allowed them to borrow once she heard they were camping out in their car. They’d been planning to find a restaurant along the way but she’d insisted on making some soup for them to keep them warm through the night. They set the flasks of tea and soup she gave them next to their pillow fort and bring out the blankets too.

Eagerly, they sit cross legged at the heel of boot, a tight but comfortable fit. The car is parked backwards so they’re facing the sea and open sky simultaneously.

“I really, really hope we see it. It’s so beautiful,” Jongin voices, trapped in awe again.

Chanyeol hums next to him. He puts his fingers out, aligning them in a square and makes a shuttering noise. Then he turns to Jongin and takes one up close.

“It is,” he says, pretending to zoom in on Jongin’s nose.

“Silly,” Jongin laughs, slapping Chanyeol’s hand from his face.

“So your cute friend Silly has made a return?” the mirth drops from Chanyeol’s face.

“Chanyeol,” Jongin warns, wondering if he could try fighting the imminent tickle attack.

“Those are  two crimes, Jongin.” Chanyeol says solemnly.

“If you tickle me, I’m going to send your nudes to Baekhyun hyung.” Jongin tries again to sound threatening but his pout isn’t very effective and Chanyeol cackles.

“My what? Baekhyun would be lucky to have them.” Chanyeol wheezes, tipping towards Jongin as his limbs flail.

“Fine, I’ll tell Sehun to put them in the monthly Art Society newsletter.”

“My nudes, huh?” Chanyeol doesn’t return to his position and the already enclosed space feels too tight as his face nears Jongin’s. “And how would you get them?”

“You —your phone. I’m sure you have them.” Jongin’s skin burns as his cheeks take a beetroot hue but he knows he’s probably right.

“I don’t have any Jonginnie,” Chanyeol’s eyes are full of mirth, “but I can take some for you.”

“Hyung!” Jongin shoves Chanyeol back and covers his face.

“What? You’re the one who brought it up.” Chanyeol peels Jongin’s fingers back from his face, still grinning.

“Don’t say stupid things!” Jongin punches Chanyeol’s chest, ears turning red too with the height of embarrassment. It’s not only Chanyeol’s teasing that’s getting to him but also the fact that he wouldn’t mind what Chanyeol is jokingly offering.

“You’re so stupid.” he punches Chanyeol again for good measure but they don’t affect the dorky giant at all, he’s still laughing at Jongin’s expense.

“You like my stupidity.”

Jongin only huffs and turns to crawl to the front to get the flask of soup. He pours some into the cup and takes a sip, almost groaning at the delectable thick brew of shellfish. He passes it to Chanyeol who does moan at the taste, making Jongin blush, given their earlier topic of discussion.

“I applied to the IWAMD.” In a moment of panic and trying to dispel the image of a nude Chanyeol making obscene sounds, Jongin blurts out what has been on his mind the whole summer.

“You what?” Chanyeol splutters, almost choking.

“I did it in May. Haven’t received a reply.”

The Irish World Academy of Music and Dance. It isn’t Trinity but Jongin isn’t looking to have a scholarly resume or a lasting career in Ancient History or Archaeology. He doesn’t despise his courses but going to class the previous months had become so difficult and he’s never been one to bite the bullet where his heart didn’t lie.

“But..you’re gonna be a sophister this year.”

“I —I know. It’s just...when I left home for Dublin, I thought big things were going to happen for me.” Jongin has always found it so simple to show his pages to Chanyeol but perhaps the candid stars and open ocean embolden his honesty even more as he swivels to face Chanyeol.

“I thought I’d get somewhere with my fusion style but it’s been two years and I feel like I’m exactly where I started.”

Danse Chroi , a style Jongin coined himself. He has loved ballet and Irish dance equivalently, longer than he can remember. He’d fallen for the strict elegance of ballet in his weekend classes and the nimble passion of Irish dance in the compulsory classes at school and one day he’d thought to merge his love for them.

He’s danced this way all his life since then, practising them separately in his individual classes but creating his own alloy of choreographies in private. His respective teachers had frowned when he’d tried to introduce the style to them and rebuked him if the different styles became too evident when he was dancing the other.

He doesn’t care anymore. He’d been overjoyed when he got into Trinity, Trinity , with half a scholarship. He’s given up on getting his style acknowledged, though he never tried too hard. He just wants to sweat his days away in dance, not cooped up in a lecture hall to study something that no longer intrigues him.

Practising whenever he can and teaching ballet to children on the weekend and certain days of the week is not enough anymore. He needs something more concrete, more challenging. IWAMD is not Trinity but it’s the best for his craft and he can only dream of getting accepted.

“I’m tired, hyung. I want to follow my heart now.” Jongin sighs candidly.

Chanyeol is quiet for a moment and Jongin’s heart thunders, afraid that Chanyeol’s going to tell him it’s stupid to even think of  leaving the most prestigious college in the country.

“Then you should do just that, Jonginnie.” Chanyeol’s grin is wide and congratulatory. It feels like there are layers to it but his eyes flicker at him like the stars above them and Jongin has always had a feel for sincerity.

“I might not get in.” even so, his shoulders feel loser at having shared the secret that he’s been sheltering these months.

“You will.”

Chanyeol’s certainty is as powerful as the wind lassoing them. He nods and lifts the soup that’s going cold to his lips.

“And even if you don’t, there are other ways to do what you love.”

“Yeah,” Jongin turns back around and leans his head on Chanyeol’s shoulder. Perhaps it’s sharing these thoughts that weigh him down that eases them or the simple magic of Chanyeol that makes life feel warm and made for joy, but all that was disconcerting moments ago feels like it will work out anyway and Chanyeol’s arm settling around his shoulders feels like a gavel sentencing his Fate to show him mercy.

 

It’s deep into the night when they’ve fallen asleep against each other in that sitting position after trying to stay awake, talking for hours and sipping tea, that Jongin rouses so he can lie down properly. If it were freezing when they’d arrived, it’s almost Antarctic cold now, the wind battering the open car and Jongin’s teeth chatter violently. He’s about to nudge Chanyeol awake so they can lie down in their makeshift camp when he sees it.

“Hyung, hyung, wake up!” He’s never been this alert immediately after sleep but this may as well be an alternate universe because he’s been transported to another dimension.

It looks like day, if daytime were to ever have a green sky. The horizon has turned soft jade and bleeds all the way to the shore where it’s periwinkle and pink and the stars emerge as even clearer gems, winking at them like this ethereal show is a secret they’re gifting.

“Oh my god,” Chanyeol voice reflects the awe that’s inscribed itself into Jongin’s existence.

The puddles on the beach, the water between the shingles and the sea itself have all reflected the exquisite colours of the Aurora, and it feels like vertigo except Jongin wants to bask in this stupendous astoundment.

“Jongin, this is fucking—” Chanyeol grapples for a word that conveys how arresting this phenomenon is but he doesn’t complete the sentence because there really is no accuracy for it.

“I know.” 

Chanyeol scrambles for the camera and though Jongin is sure no device can ever capture this mysticity, the picture will make a lovely memory.

“Beautiful,” Chanyeol murmurs and his voice sounds closer to Jongin than earlier. When Jongin glances at him, he’s pointing the camera up so he dismisses the notion that had wisped into his mind.

The colours begin to wash out of the sky like sunset bleeds into night and Jongin realizes forlornly that he doesn’t know when it began and that they’ve most likely slept through most of it had went on for long.

It’s better than nothing, though, and he’s grateful they’ve caught it at all. He slips his hand in Chanyeol’s as they watch the sky darken back to night, such deep content and joy in his heart that it almost feels heavy. 

When the sky returns to normal night, still unable to wrap their heads around what they witnessed, they shut the boot door and collapse on the floor they’ve made their bed. It’s a tight fit but it’s so cold and they’re cuddling to share the heat anyway.

“You’re so big,” Jongin irritatedly pulls back the blankets that leave him when Chanyeol pulls them up to his chin.

“Should I sleep elsewhere?”

“No, don’t go. Just don’t hog the covers.” Jongin says sleepily, nearly pulling them over his head.

“I’m not going anywhere.” he pulls Jongin close till he’s fitted under his chin, flush against his chest and tucks the blankets in around them like a cocoon. The wind still batters against the sides of the car but Jongin falls asleep comfortably with his palm warming under the heated skin of Chanyeol’s back where he slipped it beneath the layers of jacket and shirts.

 

↠✰↞


The pub is thrumming with life, so packed to the brim that the walls will burst open if another person enters. Jongin is squished at the counter between Chanyeol and Aidan, a robust bearded man. He leans over to yell something to Chanyeol, the pipes and fiddles blaring through the space laced with hearty chatter and clinking pint glasses. Jongin squirms back into Chanyeol, his skin itching with the proximity and noise.

Chanyeol’s arm finds its way around Jongin and he leans over Jongin’s shoulder so Aidan doesn’t have to invade his space so much. He focuses on Chanyeol’s hand resting on his hip, the firm grounding grip, Chanyeol’s face close to his, their cheeks touching and Chanyeol’s strands brushing his eyelashes and tickling him.

“Left me for my wingman she did,” Aidan explains bitterly, going on about the girl dancing on the small stage at the head of the room. “Relationships can be a hassle but be grateful yous found each other.” Aidan tips his head and wags a finger at them like he’s handing them wisdom on a silver platter.

“We’re not-” Chanyeol starts the same moment Jongin decides to speak up.

“We’re friends.” Jongin raises his voice, colder than he means to sound.

“Oh, are ye?” Aidan doesn’t sound like he believes them and the itch under Jongin’s skin intensifies.

Chanyeol nods but he’s considerably quieter. The discussion veers to coasteering and how Aidan thinks they should try it while they’re here before Jongin tugs Chanyeol away to dance.

He wishes the place was empty. He hasn’t danced properly in days and he can feel the tension building in his muscles. No amount of physical exertion can unwind him, it’s the type of tension that leaves him when he’s airborne in grand jeté or riding the rhythm of a Sean nós .

But there’s no place for reserve or shyness when the whole place is alive and people are passing each other in a messy but merry Céilí. Chanyeol joins in, trying to follow what everyone is doing. It’s a hilarious, colossal mess and Jongin forgets his own self consciousness, clasping Chanyeol and a stranger’s hand and joins a row.

He feels like a child again as he bends under a bridge of arms as they dance the Fairy Reel, his feet glides on memory alone in the Wall of Limerick. The form is not as rigid as it’d been in his school days and not everyone knows all the steps so they keep crashing into each other but it’s enjoyable and Jongin feels more nimble than he’s been on his feet in the past days.

It’s only muscle memory that’s keeping him on his feet, his sides ache with laughter. He’s not the only one entertained, the other patrons are grinning ear to ear, caught in their own conversations as they dance and none seem to mind much the butchering Chanyeol is putting the dance through.

“I can dance too!” Chanyeol exclaims victoriously once he’s gotten the hang of one-two-step. Jongin cheers for him in amused joy.

 

“Jongin,” they’ve stopped to drink another pint and Chanyeol’s hair is matted to his forehead like Jongin’s is, “dance for me?”  

“But we just danced.”

“No,” Chanyeol’s hand maps up the veins of his arms, “I mean, on stage.” he nods towards it. His hands stop and curl on Jongin’s upper arm like Jongin will sprint away if he doesn’t.

“You miss it,” Chanyeol knows he’s right and the coaxing currents in his eyes draw Jongin in.

“You can pretend like I’m the only one here.” his voice turns honey, as though feeling Jongin’s anxiety hook into him and pull him down under.

“Dance for me.”

In the end, that’s what moves Jongin. Once he’s gotten past the initial apprehension, it feels like home to be on the raised platform, music speaking through his body and crowd’s cheer thundering beneath him.


↠✰↞



“What did you wish for?”

“Can’t tell.”

It’s a pleasant change to be navigating them through the country. They’ve left Donegal and its rugged, staggering terrain, stopping by the Fairy Bridges and Wishing Chair at Bundoran before they embarked on the drive to Mayo.

“I’ll tell you what I wished for.” Chanyeol is at the back, guitar stretched across his lap.

“What’s the point if I tell you?”

The Fairy Bridges were intriguing, piled sea stacks that caved where the waves sprayed up. Jongin felt a thrill as he crossed them, Chanyeol behind him, but in risk of falling into the ocean if he lost his footing. It was a teasing dance with danger but that was the thrill of it.

The Wishing Chair was less impressive, a shallow depression in the slabs poking out of the gentle hill, the rock protruding like armrests and thus its name. Jongin had still made a wish.

“I can make it come true.”

“Are you sure?” Jongin takes a glance at Chanyeol through the rearview. There’s a lazy grin stretched on his face that spells trouble and Jongin knows he’s set himself up for something.

“Yeah, like if you wished for my nudes, I can make it happen.”

“I hate you.” Jongin doesn’t look back even though he knows Chanyeol’s gaze is pointed on him with that stupid grin.

“I know. Tell me what you wished for.”

“I’ll tell you if it comes true.” Jongin means it but he doesn’t see the likelihood of it happening.

“Fair enough. Kaleo?” he gives a preliminary strum of his guitar.

“Yeah,” Jongin smiles. That flurry of emotion chases up his stomach again as Chanyeol’s deep, velvet voice imbues the car and the wild country accompanies them.


↠✰↞



It’s late afternoon when they arrive at Mayo. There’s a light shower and the petrichor hangs in the air. They park the car in the narrow drive, the front lawn spilling over with vegetation, and weeds nesting between the cobblestone. Grapevine claims the cottage front, all the way to the chimney on the shingled roof and the whole building seems on the cusp of being wholly reclaimed by nature. They find the key under a pot on the sill, just like the host said it would be.

Chanyeol brings in their bags as Jongin has a look around. He thought they’d be checking into another hostel but this is a welcome surprise. Chanyeol said that he’d gotten it at much cheaper rate since he’d booked them in long before summer season had begun, almost immediately after he’d suggested the trip back in January when Jongin had agreed.

The cottage is compact like it wants to trap the homeliness in the small space. The living room is a thin cuboid with a threadbare maroon sofa and a stone hearth fireplace, logs assembled on it, and a plywood mantle with board games stacked atop. There are two small rooms, perhaps even smaller than the one they’d shared at Malinbeg Hostel. One faces the front and one looks out the garden that’s an impenetrable tangle of plants and trees, clearly unattended to in a while. Jongin likes it and Chanyeol lets him have the room. Besides that there’s a proportionate kitchen, equipped with nothing but basic appliances and empty cupboards, as well as an equally proportionate bathroom.

“We need to go shopping.” Jongin says to Chanyeol whose feet spill over the armrest of the sofa he’s sprawled on.

“Shouldn’t we refresh ourselves first?” Chanyeol catches his arm and pulls him down. Jongin falls on him, the breath knocked out of him, but his heart does leaps for an entirely different reason.

Chanyeol balances him, making sure they don’t topple to the ground. He reaches behind Jongin and gently pries the tie out of his hair, the caramel locks that have turned wavy in the bun coming loose and haloing them both.

“You look tired.” Chanyeol cards a hand through the tangles and Jongin burrows his face in Chanyeol’s chest. He’s not fatigued but sleep reaches for him with feathered tips.

“I’m fine,” Jongin prays he sounds steady, “we might as well get done with errands.” he rises quickly, knowing he might succumb if he stays there too long.


The GPS misleads them several times on their way into town but they eventually find a Tesco and pile all that’s on the shopping list Jongin quickly drew up into a trolley. They’re both starving but they’ve agreed they’ll have a home cooked meal, the first since they’ve left Dublin. They split when they get to the cottage, Jongin heading for the shower and Chanyeol preparing the ingredients they would use to make dinner.

There is no dining table or chairs besides the sofa and Jongin doesn’t feel like sitting there. He settles himself on the counter next to the vegetables Chanyeol has chopped and assorted into bowls, deciding to read till the latter finishes washing up. He quickly gets engrossed in the story, straining to see in the fading light of day.

“You night creature, you’re gonna ruin your sight.”

Palms meet his shorts clad thighs and Jongin looks up with a start, book nearly falling out of his grasp.

“That’s a paradox. Night creatures have excellent vision.” Jongin tries to bring his thighs together but Chanyeol doesn’t budge.

“Yeah? Which one are you?”

Chanyeol’s hands thankfully leave his thighs. The relief is short lived. He braces himself on either side of Jongin and leans in.

“I don’t know, vampire maybe.” Jongin snorts, using every effort to stay still.

“I think you’d be a werewolf,” Chanyeol twirls a finger around a strand grazing Jongin’s shoulder and tugs, “you’re so hairy,”

“Let me finish,” He holds up a hand at Jongin’s protest, “you’re always warm,” his hands return to Jongin’s thigh, sliding to his exposed kneecaps, “your pout is fierce enough to be a growl and you smell really good.” he nuzzles Jongin’s neck, lip ring grazing the skin before pulling back with a sugary, self assured grin, like he knows exactly what’s going through Jongin’s mind.

Jongin’s brain ceases functioning. He clutches Chanyeol’s shoulder like he’s going push him away but he doesn’t. Albeit sitting, he feels lightheaded.

“That’s rich,” he scoffs, once he’s recovered enough breath, “we smell the same.” they smell of Chanyeol’s sandalwood and vanilla body wash, Jongin having forgotten his toiletry bag at home.

“Fine, I mean, usually. You usually smell good.” Chanyeol says dismissively, coming too close for the proper functioning of Jongin’s heart again, “but if you really insist on being a vampire, I’ll always welcome your bite.” he cocks his head, baring his neck to augment his point.

“I can’t believe you,” Jongin gives a long suffering sigh, forcing away the man between his legs as he hops down, “why did I agree to this?”

He ignores Chanyeol’s chuckled reply, going to switch the light on so they can get started on dinner. Hope he has deemed foolish nags him through the night, he’s flirting with you, he’s flirting with you, but Jongin stays adamant on sticking to his rational side. Perhaps Chanyeol is being a little more forward than usual but it doesn’t mean much. He’s treated Jongin in this easy flirty manner since they met and if he liked Jongin any other way than as a friend, he is sure Chanyeol would have long approached him.

 

↠✰↞

 

They figure out how to start a fire in the fireplace and have dinner in front of it, nowhere else suitable. The parmesan chicken is a little burnt, Jongin forgot to take it out when Chanyeol told him to as he went to start the fire, but it tastes delicious with the fried rice. They savour dinner then clear away the dishes together, Chanyeol washing and Jongin drying.

Too tired to go out but not yet sleepy, they humour themselves with the board games on the mantle, treating themselves to some of the apple tart Aisling gave to them as farewell. They quickly grow tired of everything save for Jenga, in which a heated match that may

encompass a tad cheating ensues.

“Oh my god, look at the cockroach!” Chanyeol exclaims when it’s Jongin’s turn to take out a block. Jongin knocks down the pile in his panicked haste to locate the bug, leaping onto the sofa until he realizes Chanyeol just wanted to distract him.

“You’re so stupid.” Jongin scowls at the man who’s flailing in laughter on the floor. It’s hard to stay solemn when Chanyeol’s laugh is so infectious but he stands his ground till the latter’s guffaws ebb away and he reaches for Jongin in coaxing apology.

“Hyung, I’ll have your nudes.” Jongin retaliates a while later when he knows Chanyeol thinks he’s forgotten and won’t suspect foul play.

“W-what?” his hand jerks, the block tumbles down and it’s Jongin’s turn to dissolve into raucous laughter.

“How dare you, Jonginnie?” Chanyeol forges wounded but his eyes dance with amusement.

They give up the game late into the night, Chanyeol emerging victorious but Jongin schedules them for a rematch tomorrow. It’s cosy with the fire crepitating low and they don’t want to head to bed yet so Chanyeol drags some pillows and a duvet from one of the rooms and spreads it over them as they talk softly.

“I don’t know, this concept might be based on you. We’ll call it The Dancer Who Danced.”

“So your concept is going to be ‘Stating the Obvious’?” Jongin snorts, poking Chanyeol’s side.

“How about The Cute Dancer Who Danced Magnificently ?”

“So what,” Jongin hopes the dimness hides the warmth on his cheeks, “you’re just gonna sing about me, track after track?”

“Yeah. Might change the title though, to something, eh, more poetic. Maybe French. Le Mignon Danseur Qui a Danse Magnifiquement, how does that sound?”  

“Too long.” Jongin pokes Chanyeol’s side again. Chanyeol takes his hand and wraps his fingers around his, for his own safety perhaps.

“You’re right. Baekhyun would never let me base our concept on you anyway.” Chanyeol sighs, sounding bummed.

“Hyung, you really are the silliest.” Jongin snorts, the urge to hide under the duvet overwhelming. “No!” He holds up his free hand when Chanyeol narrows his eyes at him, his plan to tickle Jongin plain as his glances at Jongin’s sides, “I want to hear about your music.”

“I don’t know, Jongin.” Chanyeol’s sigh comes from a deeper place. The light in his eyes dims, he deflates a little. “You know how you said you felt like you were going nowhere? That’s all I’ve been feeling lately. Nothing I compose or write feels good enough anymore.” the frustration is corporeal as he runs a hand through his hair.

“But hyung, you’re amazing.” Jongin sits up and turns completely to Chanyeol. He’d wondered if he’d been imagining things when he’d thought the conviction in Chanyeol seemed weaker but it makes sense now.

“Maybe. Not anymore.” he smiles ruefully and Jongin hates the self doubt he sees in Chanyeol. It’s foreign and makes his stomach twist.

“No, you still are. Feeling lost is part of the process, it doesn’t mean you’re losing your skill.” Jongin slips his fingers from under Chanyeol’s and reverses the position, his thumb soothing over Chanyeol’s.

“You think so?”

“Definitely.” Jongin nods quickly. He notes with a fluttering heart the amount of hope Chanyeol has in his reply and once again feels like hiding.

Chanyeol nods back, content with Jongin’s answer and the shadow of hopelessness recedes.

“I think you’re going to be okay, hyung. We’re going to be okay. And if you really get desperate, I’ll beg Baekhyun hyung to let you base your concept on me.”

“I’m really going to hold you to that.” Chanyeol grins and pulls Jongin closer.

“Yeah, yeah, I want a portion of the sum when it becomes a hit.” Jongin says, lifting his face haughtily.

“Sure, we can make donations to my biggest fan.”

“Hey!”

“What? You’re not my biggest fan?”

“Shut up and let me hear something you’ve been making.” Jongin grumbles, pushing away Chanyeol’s smug face.

Chanyeol stands to get his guitar and returns shortly. He sings a few lines from the new songs he’s been working on and his mellifluous baritone lulls Jongin to drowsiness but Chanyeol doesn’t seem to mind. He lowers his shoulder for Jongin to rest his head and he’s not sure when he falls asleep but in the morning he wakes in a puddle of his own drool on Chanyeol’s chest and the latter holding him tight.


↠✰↞

 

The bed is a dubious double but it feels like a king size. The silence is a blanket and as exhausted as he is, sleep seems intent on eluding him. It’s startling to realize that it’s the first night he’s sleeping alone since this trip began.

Grasping what went wrong is hard, Jongin is still not sure. All he knows is that there’s a rift between him and Chanyeol and it’s so foreign, he doesn’t know how to approach it, let alone fix it.

The day had begun well, even if Chanyeol made fun of him for drooling on him, yet again. They went cycling in the Great Western Greenway, zipping along rugged topography of mountain, ocean and Mayo wilderness. They completed the whole 42 km stretch, to and back, alternating between racing each other and going leisurely with intervalled pauses, to catch their breaths or to simply take in the beautiful wilds. They collapsed in their car, boneless, and had gone back to the cottage to nap. Even then, they’d shared Jongin’s bed, Jongin latching onto Chanyeol’s arm when he’d attempted to leave. Chanyeol accused him of just wanting a chest to drool on. Jongin was too sleepy to be embarrassed and Chanyeol stayed anyway.

Things were fine when they went out for dinner and drinks too. There was a football match on at the pub they dined in and the jolly rowdiness was comforting as people yelled at the large screen pinned on the wall.

A girl had come up to them while they awaited their food, playing juvenile footsie under the table because neither of them cared much for the game. She slinked in next to Chanyeol. Caragh, she’d introduced herself with a simpering smile.

“Well good evening to ye handsome fellas, I’m Caragh." but she only addressed Chanyeol.

“Hi, Caragh.” Chanyeol gives her his beaming smile.

“Am I interrupting something or can I sit with ye?”

“What would you be interrupting?” Chanyeol laughs and Jongin is astounded how Chanyeol looks arguably flustered.

“You seem to be in yer own world. You must be brothers or lovers, which would be a tragedy for me.” she looks dramatically forlorn and Jongin can’t explain the contempt he’s already harbouring for her.

“We’re just friends.” Jongin says coldly and this time he means for the ice to permeate his voice.

“That’s great. Would mind you me borrowing yer friend for a while? If he wants to, of course.” but she’s got her hand on Chanyeol's arm and doesn’t seem too concerned with getting his permission. Jongin looks at Chanyeol and the smile on his face is awkward but he’s not pushing her away and Jongin wonders if Chanyeol is into her as she clearly is into him.

“So, I haven’t gotten your name.” she angles herself completely towards Chanyeol and it hits Jongin: she expects him to leave.

“...I’ll leave?” he looks to Chanyeol.

“You don’t have to.”

You don’t have to, not don’t leave . Jongin smiles, even if there are pinpricks in his heart, and stands.

“I’ll get some drinks.” he leaves before Chanyeol can say anything else.

Caragh hadn’t left when Jongin came back to eat once their food arrived. She was talking Chanyeol’s ear off and Chanyeol entertained her. Jongin tried to tune in to the match and perhaps it was the steady rhythm of discomfort or desperation to drown out the image across him but he found himself intrigued. Before long, he was just as invested in the game as the other patrons.

At some point Jongin had stretched out and his legs tangled with Chanyeol’s but he quickly pulled back before Chanyeol could trap them with his like he normally does when they sit like this. He thought the wounded look that crossed the other’s face was due to him breaking their little tradition but he didn’t give it much thought.

When they got back to the cottage after the match was over, Jongin’s mood was crawling in the ditches. Chanyeol didn’t even look at him, barely bidding him goodnight before he shut the door next to him.

And here Jongin is, trying to figure out how this chasm has suddenly manifested between them. He thinks he’s done his best to hide his feelings and not let his hurt bleed through but it seems Chanyeol is annoyed at him. Should he have given them some privacy again after finishing his food? Had Chanyeol wanted to spend more time with her? Was he too consumed by his own hurt and dash a possible date for his friend? Jongin’s head is swimming and when sleep comes at last, it’s restless.  .



↠✰↞

“Jongin,”

Jongin cracks an eye open and sees that it’s still dark. He tries going back to sleep but he’s being shaken awake.

“Sleeping beauty, come on.”

He hasn’t slept well and there’s no way he should be up this early when there isn’t even any natural light in the room. He ignores the insistent shakes but it’s getting hard to cling to the oblivion that wants to suck him down.

“Should I kiss you, princess? Is that what’ll wake you?” the voice hovers close and he’s still trying get back to sleep when the words register.

“Thought that might do the trick,” Jongin can’t see him but he hears the smugness, “we have to go. Get up.”

Light causes him to sit up groggily and rub his eyes. Chanyeol stands by the switch, already dressed in casual combination of sweats and windbreaker he’s been sporting most of the trip.

“We haven’t seen a sunrise yet, that’s a shame. You have twenty minutes.”

 

Darkness is yet to disperse when they take to the road. They’re accompanied by silence, not even Chanyeol’s habitual humming fills the car. Jongin still doesn’t know how to breach this vacuum that has sprung between them since the previous night.

It’s not that Chanyeol is giving him the cold shoulder. He smiled at him when he entered the kitchen and they made small talk as he drank some juice and Chanyeol shovelled down some cornflakes.

They made small talk .

Chanyeol knows when he needs refuge in himself from the world. He knows when Jongin needs silence and they exist in it, together, peacefully. Silence with Chanyeol feels awkward now and it’s glaring there’s something off.

He bares with it, head resting on his kneecaps curled towards him and stares out at the darkness like Chanyeol doesn’t exist. The outline of Croagh Patrick looms in and out of sight as they drive but Jongin doesn’t know much else about where they are or where they’re headed and he’s nervous to ask.

They stop after what feels like hours, Jongin nodding off every so often. They’re parked at a viewing point, no other vehicle to be seen. He realizes they’re by the sea, vast water ahead of them, inky and languid.

“Jongin,”

“Jonginnie, look at me.”

He can’t resist, not when Chanyeol asks him like this, with his voice almost tinged with poignancy. The chasm shrinks as Jongin turns to face Chanyeol. He’s positioned towards Jongin, as close as he can get. When Chanyeol reaches for his hand, he’s eager in reaching back and lacing their fingers. It feels like a fraction of himself that had disintegrated last night has reassembled.

“I’m sorry, I should have left.” he says quickly, ripping off the bandaid.

“What?”

“I should’ve left after eating. I didn’t think then that you wanted her number or more with her.” Jongin can’t look at him, the words churn like acid.

“What? Are you talking about Caragh? Who said I wanted that?” he sounds helplessly perplexed, “Don’t jump to conclusions like that. Hey, look at me Jonginnie. I didn’t want her number or anything else.” he tilts Jongin’s chin around so their eyes can meet.

“So why were you upset?”

“I...I wasn’t upset. Okay, maybe I was. I’m just - I don’t understand why you get upset when someone mistakes us for a couple.”

“What? Hyung, I don’t.”

“You do, Jongin, you do.” there’s frustration in the bemusement, “You deny it so quickly, like it’s the worst thing people can assume about us. Is it me? Because you told me having people know you like boys isn’t an issue for you…”

“It’s not — it’s not that, hyung. It’s neither of those.” Jongin is stunned. Strangers thinking he and Chanyeol are a couple isn’t a problem for him, not by a mile.  

“Then what is it?”

“I- I...After the first time people mistook our status, I thought you had a problem with it. And I didn’t want it to make you uncomfortable, that’s why…” He’d always jumped to correct people because he didn’t want their assumptions to burden Chanyeol or push his feelings onto him. Not once did he ever think his actions would translate like this.

“Oh Jonginnie,” he almost sounds amazed, “that’s not something that would upset or make me uncomfortable.”

“So you wouldn’t mind?” there’s a smile tugging at Jongin’s lips but he hold his passive fort.

“Being mistaken for your boyfriend? Why would I? You’re cute.”

“That’s all?” he says, indignant.

“I mean you’re more than cute, you’re pretty stunning and not just physically, but you drool on me and I don’t think I could commit to that.” Chanyeol’s waggles his nose.

“You’re nothing special either.” he looks to the sea. He can’t keep looking at Chanyeol’s grinning face and act like his stomach isn’t turning with butterflies. You’re pretty stunning.

“I didn’t say you’re not special...stop pouting!”

“Whatever, look,” the darkness is dispelling like it’s a ghoul being chased by the sun’s rays and shadows form at the rocky coastline as the sky becomes a gamut of colours.

They get out and sit on the hood, wanting to observe it properly.

“It’s beautiful.” Chanyeol sighs against Jongin’s head as they watch the pretty sunrise. There’s no hint of the earlier awkwardness or estrangement between them and Jongin lets out his own sigh of content. Chanyeol is the kind of comfortable Jongin can’t unlearn. He’s the unforgettable ease of en pointe after years of practice. Except Jongin never practised with Chanyeol. And perhaps that’s the daunting part.

 

↠✰↞

They watch the sky light up and get back inside once it’s bright and the first of the early birds pass down the Atlantic Drive. It’s breathtaking, the narrow road winding around the rocky seaside, a breath away from the ocean. Jongin admires what he couldn’t see in the dark and they take a few photos together. Chanyeol makes the goofiest faces and spurs Jongin into making the same ones, Chanyeol chortling at him even though he looks just as ridiculous.

After an early morning cycle at the Great Western Greenway again and breakfast at the cottage, they’ve found a secluded beach and decide they’ll spend the day here.

“Dance for me, Jongin.” Chanyeol tells him, passing him the dancing shoes he thought he forgot to pack and with joy, he does.

He feels like he hasn’t danced properly in years, the little jig at Donegal taking the edge off but only a little. His feet sink into the sand but he feels powerful. His toes gliding through the grains bring out a different sort of elegance, one that is wilder than the one that’s been ingrained into him but still requires grace. He hears a melody in the waves that whisper at the shore, like a cheer that’s just for him.

After he loses his breath and has sweated through his clothes, he collapses next to Chanyeol who pretends to flinch away.

“Not only do you drool on me, but you also get your sweat all over me.” Chanyeol tutts, shaking his head at the dancer resting on his thighs. “You’re beautiful though and I guess worth a little grossness. I’ll let it slide.” he smoothens back the flyaways from Jongin’s tied, matted hair and Jongin’s eyes shut so Chanyeol can’t read the pleased shimmer there.

Jongin gets up again once he’s recovered and Chanyeol gets his guitar and sheet book from the car. They spend the day like that, engaged in their own arts while Croagh Patrick observes from the distance and the Atlantic murmurs its encouragements.

Late evening they decide to go for a swim to wash away the exertion, Jongin especially, even though it’s starting to get chilly. They don’t go far but the water’s nice once they adjust. Jongin tries to dunk Chanyeol underneath but Chanyeol’s too strong and a taste of his medicine leaves him spluttering salty water.

“I could’ve died!”

“And I wouldn’t have?” Chanyeol yells back incredulously.

“Iron man isn’t supposed to die!”

“I could have - wait, you think I’m Iron man?”

Jongin covers his mouth, realizing what he let slip. He’d always associated Chanyeol’s favourite hero with him but the other man didn’t necessarily need to know that. Before he can swim away, Chanyeol pulls him close and locks his arms around him.

“You think I’m a superhero?” Chanyeol’s grin is toothy.

“No, but that costume was scarring.” Jongin can’t help but giggle as Chanyeol’s hand grazes down his side. Chanyeol’s Halloween costume is a shudder inducing memory and remembering how they were together when he made the disastrous purchase is even more so.

“Take that back!”

“No!”

Despite anticipating the dunk, the water still fills his mouth as he laughs. He splutters harder than before when Chanyeol finally lets him breathe again.

“Don’t worry, Iron Man won’t let you die.” he thumps Jongin on the back and Jongin glares at him.

“I hate you.”

“Much love to you too, sweetheart.”

Jongin flings himself at Chanyeol and they both go down flailing but he counts it as a victory.

 

↠✰↞



The air in Galway lives, even at night, as though invisible faeries shoot arrows of jubilation and vitality into the air. The buildings of Quay Street huddle close and the cobbled streets are clustered with people, menu boards and verandas that are too big with their awnings spilling out. Pots of flowers hang between the buildings and the fairy lights threaded in them and swinging to the next pot give the vicinity a glowing festive feel that’s normally reserved for winter holidays, not warm July nights.

It seems there is no specificity for the type of stores that open up here; Jongin has seen everything from a pottery shop to a thrift store to to a pie makers to a jewellers. Most of all there is a generous abundance of restaurants and pubs and from the amount of people milling about, it appears they are all packed. There’re as many buskers as restaurants, if not more, and the streets are a chaotic medley of chatter and music.

Chanyeol’s got an arm around his shoulders, keeping him close so they don’t get separated in the thick throng. They’re walking off the delightful dinner of oak-smoked salmon as they enjoy the ambience of this warm night.

The Pie Maker’ s storefront is splashed with deep burgundy and the aroma wafting out is nothing short of appetizing. A bell tinkers over a cerulean door as they enter and there’s a short queue in the small shop.

“What do you want?” Chanyeol asks and Jongin’s stomach rumbles at the display of pies even though he’s just eaten.

“Just —everything,” he eyes the display that pleads for him to taste, every single pie looks like Jongin’s favourite.

“We can help with that,” says one of the staff behind the counter, the customer ahead of them finishing up. “You can have a sample of everything and see which you like best!” He takes out a tray with many slices of pie from one of the shelves behind him, like they encounter such customer problems often, and sets two forks on it. Chanyeol takes a fork and sinks into a dark one that looks like blackberry pie. He holds it up to Jongin’s lips.

“Oh my god,” Jongin wants to melt, preferably in a large tub of this pie.

“Blackberry Rhubarb Crumble, one of my own favourites,” the man says proudly.

Chanyeol only hums when he tastes it and they move on to the next one.

“Hyung, I swear,” Jongin moans, head coming to rest on Chanyeol’s arm because it’s so delicious, he just might collapse.

“Our famous Banoffee!”

“I don’t know, it’s a bit too sweet.” Chanyeol winces.

“No, it’s perfect.” Jongin insists, taking the fork from Chanyeol so he can take another bite.

“No worries, it’s all preference. My boyfriend has a sweet tooth like yours here,” the man says, grinning at them. Jongin hides his face on Chanyeol’s arm again, his reason entirely different.

“Yeah, the sweet tooth of his is a real issue. He’s got cavity in his teeth like the ones he’s put in my heart.”

Jongin’s cheeks feel far too warm and he bites Chanyeol’s arm discreetly because he’s flushing from head to toe and these butterflies have become weighted as they transform into dragons and he wants to disappear .

“Ah, that isn’t an issue.” the man laughs, “no one’s ever died of a sweet tooth.”

“There’s always a first time.” Chanyeol pats Jongin’s head and Jongin bites harder.

They walk out with a bag of the Banoffee Jongin fell for, strawberry rhubarb and some cottage pie because it’s the only one Chanyeol liked.

“Hyung, you’re an idiot.” Jongin breathes once they rejoin the fresh night hubbub.  

“Yes but I’m an idiot who doesn’t mind being mistaken for your boyfriend. That’s gotta mean something, right?”

“Shut up.”

They stop by a man whose nimble fingers dart over a keyboard, his voice ringing clear in the cluttered night and people ooh and aah at the modulations of his voice. They leave a few coins and move on, there are so many acts to enjoy.

The crowd around the next act is thicker, a woman dancing Sean nós on a little raised board, and Jongin slips his arm around Chanyeol’s waist to keep a tighter hold of each other. Chanyeol grins down at him and squeezes his shoulder.

“Don’t worry boyfriend, I won’t lose you.”

Chanyeol doesn’t let him go when he tries to pull away, embarrassed and flustered as taller man laughs smuggly.

“Oh, it’s been a while.” Chanyeol sighs, closing his eyes, when they move on to a less crowded corner where a violinist plays a hauntingly enchanting piece.

“Since?”

“I played the violin.”

“You play the violin?” Jongin has known him two years but he’s only ever seen him play the guitar and mess about with Minseok’s drums from time to time.

“Yeah, long time ago.”

“Would you like to give it a go? It’s almost time for me to finish up anyway.” the musician suddenly stops and holds out the slight instrument out to Chanyeol.

“That...that would be great.”

Chanyeol takes the violin delicately and cradles it on his shoulder, an almost invisible tremble in his hands. He runs the bow over the strings experimentally and the instrument squawks. Chanyeol mumbles an apology under his breath before beginning again.

Jongin recognizes it immediately. How could he not? It’s one of the first songs he choreographed his Danse Chroi to.

La Stravaganza, Vivaldi .

Stars enter Chanyeol’s eyes, the same type he has when he’s singing on stage and Jongin is mesmerized. Even as Chanyeol closes his eyes and sways with the notes, his body emanates corporeal joy. It curls around Jongin, makes him want to move with it.

Chanyeol’s eyes open and he nods at Jongin as their gazes meet.

“Dance, Jongin. Dance.” he urges with delightfulness.

After his teachers had rejected his style, he hadn’t shown it to many people. Only those closest to him knew, Chanyeol being one of them. In fact, he’d watched Jongin dance this same Vivaldi, though he wasn’t the one playing it.

There’s no one familiar here to see him and he feels airy in his veins tonight, like he can take flight any moment and it’s hard to resist when Chanyeol’s sheer joy seems to be tethered to him, ensconcing him. He sets the bag of pies aside and clears his mind.

Chanyeol slows down, giving Jongin a moment to seek the rhythm. Then he begins, fouetté, feels the night spin in colours and sounds with him. Attitude devant, he feels life between the steps and discovery with every breath and tries to contain the giddiness his dance brings him. Sevens, double click, Chanyeol is grinning at him, he can feel it. Grand jeté, he’s grinning too and though his eyes are open, all he sees is music leading him in leaps and taps and searching stretches.

It feels like he’s only begun when Chanyeol stops playing and sadness invades him once he realizes it’s over. He’s got enough ardour to dance the night. A sudden applause rises and he sees the crowd they’ve drawn. He doesn’t know if he should bow in thanks or disappear so he finds himself hiding in Chanyeol again.

“You are the most exquisite.” Chanyeol whispers in his ear as he hides in his chest and Jongin only wraps his arms around him tighter, unwilling to show his burning face.


↠✰↞

 

Morning finds Jongin pressed against Chanyeol and feeling strange. He knows they don’t have much planned besides driving by the coast and taking it easy so he closes his eyes to try and fall back asleep but oddly, it’s hard.

Quite literally, he realizes. He’s hard. It’s not the first time since he’s woken up like this next to Chanyeol and he’s always managed to ignore it and pretend he’s fast asleep but it’s exceptionally prominent today and he squirms in discomfort.

“Take care of it,”

“Wh-what?”

“Take care of it, Jongin. It’s nothing out of the ordinary.”

He contemplates bolting out of the room but he’s going to have to face Chanyeol sooner or later and he doesn’t feel like he’s in any state to run. The embarrassment might swallow him alive any moment but it’s even more awkward staying like this so he turns over and shimmies his boxers down a bit.

He takes himself in his hand but he hears Chanyeol’s light breathing and he really can’t get past the embarrassment.

“Do you want help?” the bed dips, he can feel Chanyeol’s warmth behind him but they’re not touching fully. Chanyeol’s fingertips dance over the exposed skin of Jongin’s hips where his shirt has ridden up. Jongin can’t reply, his muscles are locked, like his brain suddenly lost command of his body. Chanyeol’s hand settles on his hip, filling the dip of his waist like it was made to fit in Chanyeol’s palm.

He cruises down Jongin’s hip, onto his lower tummy, drawing goosebumps wherever he touches. He goes slowly like it’s an offer to speak out, to stop him. Jongin says nothing.

When Chanyeol’s hand covers his, his breath hitches and the little gasp that leaves him is involuntary and mortifying. Chanyeol’s hand wraps around his and moves them down his member. Jongin’s hips jerk slightly, he wants more. His body is lax as Chanyeol jerks him off together, trying to contain all the little sounds that want to escape from his throat. He’s growing harder, he’s aching and he needs Chanyeol to go faster but there’s embarrassment clogging his larynx.

“Jongin?” Chanyeol’s voice is in his ear, deep and thick as it is every morning and Jongin throbs.

“Yes?”

“Are you close?”

“No,” he pushes his face into the pillow, his shoulders caving in as though trying to shield himself from the shame.

“Do you want me to suck you?”

The groan escapes Jongin faster than he can hold it back, he bites the inside of his cheek.

“No.”

“How do I help you get there?”

“Just,” Jongin breathes with a tremble, “faster, please.”

Chanyeol comes even closer, till their bodies fit together like they do when they’re spooning. He pushes away Jongin’s hand and grips him tightly. Then he strokes Jongin furiously. Precum slicks his member and smooths the process, the sound of the motion and Jongin’s pants sinful in the morning stillness.

“Hyung,” Jongin gasps when he’s close. He falls onto his back, head tilted towards the ceiling as he tries to keep his hips on the mattress.

“It’s okay,”

He comes hard, his body shuddering up and teeth drawing blood on his lips because he doesn’t want to let out the broken moans of his climax. Chanyeol keeps going till his body has stilled, gentler and gentler till there’s nothing.

The silence makes Jongin want to burrow in a permanent hole.

“We should go out since we’re awake.” Chanyeol says, retracting his hand and sitting up like nothing has happened. Jongin stares incredulously as Chanyeol leaves him with a smile to shower.


↠✰↞

 

Jongin can’t get enough of this open air and wild rugged beauty of the Wild Atlantic Way. He sticks his head out of the window and feels the wind on his face, laughing in delight. The sun streaks gold through the sky, a deceivable image of warmth but Jongin doesn’t mind the slight chill.

“Put your head back in, you puppy.” Chanyeol instructs but Jongin pretends he hasn’t heard.

He feels things have shifted but he can’t tell if it’s pushed them together or apart like last time. Chanyeol had run out like he had not helped him reach completion, grinning at him as he always has and Jongin is confused.

As if he had not been aware enough of Chanyeol already, his mind plays the image of the latter’s eyes monitoring him darkly as he came, a perpetual loop that heats Jongin. He can’t meet Chanyeol’s eyes now without blushing and he’s annoyed at them both.

“You’ve called me a bear, a puppy and even a frog once.”

“I like animals.” Chanyeol is defensive.

“Are you calling me an animal?” Jongin glares at Chanyeol’s reflection in the side view mirror because he’s not ready to face the real man.

“We’re all animals, Jongin.”

“A frog?”

“I’m sorry, that wasn’t the best analogy but you have to understand you’ve both got intense gazes.” Chanyeol says, sheepish.

“Thanks?”

“Do you want me to write you an essay on how intense you can be? I mean if that’ll make you feel be-”

“Chanyeol hyung,” Jongin isn’t as annoyed as he sounds and trying to hold back his laugh is hard.

“Yes?”

“Please shut up.”

“As you wish.”

 

Jongin slumps against the backseat, tired but satisfied. It’s nearing sunset and the sky is turning into a colourful display. They’ve found another secluded beach and decided to have a productive day spent on their arts. Chanyeol decided he didn’t want any sand getting everywhere including between his strings, like last time, and decided to sit and write in the car with the backseat pushed to the front to maximize the boot space, the way they’d done at Dunaff.

“Tired?” Chanyeol pats his hand and Jongin jumps like he’s been electrocuted, almost knocking his head on the roof.

“Fine,” he swallows, keeping his gaze ahead. He’s avoided contact with Chanyeol all day. He’s not sure he can bear his touch and not think of this morning when he’s desperate to forget. If he doesn’t, the craving will only expand and it’s not like he can satisfy it the way he wants it to be satisfied.

“Jongin,” Chanyeol sighs and pushes his book away. “I’m sorry, about this morning.”

“It’s fine.” Jongin swallows again but it’s emotion that’s there now. Of course Chanyeol is regretful and Jongin feels a little bitter. Chanyeol shouldn’t have touched him at all. He was just trying to be helpful as he always is but that moment where Jongin thought maybe , maybe he means more, has put cracks in Jongin’s heart because he was wrong and it would have been better to not get any part of Chanyeol, not like that.

“Jongin, I’m sorry I made you uncomfortable. I thought it might help.” there’s shame in Chanyeol and Jongin is more confused.

“What?”

“I won’t do it again. Just, don’t avoid me, please?” he implores, facing Jongin who’s now staring back.

“Hyung, I wasn’t uncomfortable.” Jongin is incredulous once again, he wonders how he feels so much ease with this man yet have such deep misunderstandings between them, “I would have told you.”

“Oh. But you’re...you’re keeping a distance. Why?” Chanyeol sits closer, closing the little gap between them, proving his point.

“I…” Jongin doesn’t know what takes over him. Chanyeol is so close, he’s tired of pretending he feels nothing more than friendship. Hiding his emotions has never been his forte and after this morning, his fortress of resistance has crumbled. “I...this.” he leans in slowly and Chanyeol watches him with wide eyes. His own flutters closed as he tilts his head and presses their lips together.

“Oh. Oh.” Chanyeol says breathlessly when Jongin pulls back. He only stares at him and Jongin feels his heart sink a little.

“Oh,” Chanyeol snaps out of his daze and cups Jongin’s face. His thumb caresses his cheek and he’s looking at Jongin like there’s a constellation in his eyes.

“Cat got your tongue?” Jongin smiles but he’s a little breathless too because oh , how Chanyeol is looking at him.

“No,” Chanyeol’s thumb reaches Jongin’s lips and Jongin’s mouth parts at will, “you’ve just put another cavity in my heart.”

Jongin doesn’t have time to call him out on his lameness because Chanyeol presses their lips together again, so delicately, Jongin feels warmth turn liquid in him. Chanyeol kisses him gently, short kisses in succession and Jongin only wants as Chanyeol gives.

“Do you want me,” Chanyeol leans back to rest his forehead on Jongin’s, their noses fitted against each other, “to take out the ring?”

“No, I like it.”

“So you’re only kissing me ‘cos of my lip ring?” when Chanyeol grins, their lips brush.

“When did I say that?” Jongin tries to push back but Chanyeol’s hold on his nape keeps him in place.

“You think I didn’t notice your staring?” he kisses Jongin again before he can decide he doesn’t want to kiss him anymore. “Don’t worry, I like your staring.”

Their kisses last longer and Jongin wraps his arms around Chanyeol and pushes closer, opening his mouth when Chanyeol prompts him. He runs his tongue over the metal he’s been so curious about and finds it feels better than he anticipated. Chanyeol groans and pulls him even closer, almost sitting him on his lap in the tight quarters, and kisses him more heatedly.

“You’re so beautiful,” Chanyeol nips his ear, his neck, his throat. “If you bite me again, I might end up doing more than just kissing you.” he warns breathlessly when Jongin nips his lips because fuck, he really likes how the metal feels in his mouth.

“Yeah?” Jongin wouldn’t mind and he shows it to Chanyeol with his wandering hands settling between them where Chanyeol is hard.

“Jongin,” Chanyeol jerks. He takes Jongin’s hands and pins them behind his back, pressing him into the side of the car. “No, let me touch you first.” he kisses Jongin’s neck again, sucking gently before drifting down, down to the side of Jongin’s tank top where the sides are cut low and the skin is exposed.

“Oh my god,” Jongin bites his lip hard as Chanyeol’s mouth directs attention to his nipple. “Hyung! Oh my god,” Jongin’s hands come to grip Chanyeol’s shoulders as Chanyeol sucks, it’s embarrassing how hard he’s becoming.

“You’re going to drive me crazy.” Chanyeol says huskily, coming up from Jongin’s nipple to give him a rough kiss.

Chanyeol pulls the top off him swiftly. The way he stops to stare unabashedly down Jongin’s torso makes Jongin want to cover himself but he doesn’t, he lets Chanyeol run his hand down his chest, languid but careful like Jongin is a sculpture display he doesn’t want to taint. He skips over Jongin’s evident hardness and grips his thighs. He pulls Jongin onto his lap and Jongin is almost bent over him in the confined space.

“I want more space with you, Jongin. I need your legs open wide for me, I want to kiss every inch.”

Jongin doesn’t know why Chanyeol’s straightforwardness knocks the breath out of him, it’s Chanyeol and he’s never been one to hold back with compliments but the honest dirty talk arouses him so much, it almost feels like insanity.

Chanyeol sets him down against the backseat and takes the waistband of his shorts.

“Can I do this?”

Jongin helps him shimmy out of his shorts but once he’s naked, he’s self conscious, realizing not only is he displayed to Chanyeol but also anyone who might wander down this side of the beach and look into their open boot.

“You’re stunning, Jongin. Don’t hide from me.” Chanyeol puts his hands back down by his sides. He presses a chaste kiss to Jongin’s lips but it becomes anything but as he tracks downwards again. When warmth chases down Jongin’s sides, he feels the hints of a giggle but laughter is the last thing on his mind as Chanyeol comes to his hips and teeth gently sink in.

“Fuck,” Jongin’s hips jerk sharply, arching as Chanyeol uses his tongue on the bitten skin.

He aches harder as Chanyeol moves over his hips, across his stomach and leaves patches of angry red marks on his other hip too. He’s trembling and ready to come when Chanyeol finally takes him in his hand and strokes him, firm but slow, unlike this morning, keeping his pace no matter how many desperate hyung and please, please Jongin lets out breathlessly.

“You’re getting there, baby, you’re getting there.” Chanyeol murmurs encouragingly as Jongin leans on his chest, hips canting into Chanyeol’s fist. “That’s it,” the kisses are soft on his shoulder as he keens into Chanyeol’s neck with release, spilling hard for the second time that day.

“Fuck, when do you not look gorgeous?” Chanyeol says when he pulls him back from his neck and takes in his dazed and dishevelled post climax state. Chanyeol’s hand soothes over his shoulder blades and he curls back into the taller one’s crook, sated and slightly embarrassed at his state of undress and Chanyeol’s lack of nudity.

“You’re wearing all your clothes.” he can’t help the little whine.

“All you have to do is ask if you want me to get naked for you,” Chanyeol teases but he’s lifting his short sleeve off.

Once Chanyeol is naked and Jongin reaches to return the favour, Chanyeol pushes his hand away.

“Just, watch me okay?” Chanyeol widens his legs to accommodate Jongin between them. He takes himself the way he did Jongin, languid and sensual, like he has all the time to get off as Jongin watches him. His lips are caught in his teeth, the bars glinting, his heavy eyes set on Jongin.

It’s almost too much for him.

Once or twice, it does get overwhelming and he feels so shy because Chanyeol is unbearably hot and he feels embarrassed for desiring him as much as he does. But Chanyeol lifts his chin, murmuring watch me, Jonginnie, watch me . And he does, starting to feel very hot and bothered all over again. Chanyeol comes with a hoarse groan of Jongin’s name and Jongin can’t hold himself back anymore, he catches Chanyeol’s lips in a filthy kiss that has Chanyeol chanting fuck between breaths.

The sun goes down as they kiss. The breeze picks up but they’re too content to put their clothes back on, too content to move so they stay curled together, pressing kisses to each other’s lips.

“Kim Jongin, you’ve given me so many cavities, do you know that?” Chanyeol says, hands tracing over Jongin’s bony shoulder, down his arm. Jongin doesn’t look away but his smile is bashful. His heart flutters like it’s the first time they’re holding hands when Chanyeol’s wandering fingers eventually intertwine with his own. It’s more than satiation that blankets him.


↠✰↞


“Why are we doing this?” Jongin groans, teeth clattering in a chatter.

It’s a dull day, haunted by pummelling wind and seeping sea fog. Clearly it’s a day to spend indoors but Chanyeol is insistent on having them out every single day.

“Doing what?”

“Getting battered willingly by wind. It’s probably going to rain soon too.”

They’re walking the Galway strand of the Cliffs of Moher and Jongin reckons it would be breathtaking, if they could see much. It’s not as high as Slieve League and perhaps spending days on its sheer height has granted him immunity to acrophobia of lesser heights.

“Anything else you’d rather be doing?”

“Sleeping.”

“Really? I can think of a few more exciting things.” Chanyeol nudges him, unsubtle.

“Eating, then sleeping.”

“We need to make interesting memories, Jonginnie. What’s gonna make for a more interesting story when we’re old and grey, walking the Cliffs of Moher on a nice sunny day or walking the Cliffs of Moher on a terribly windy day, fighting our way along, having the imminent threat of being blown into the sea over our heads?”

“What if we don’t live to tell that tale? Because, you know, we’ll have long been blown into the Atlantic.”

“That won’t happen. Iron Man is here, remember?” Chanyeol says so casually, Jongin takes a moment to register the tease. He groans and stomps away, Chanyeol chuckling.

“Come here,” Chanyeol pulls him back once he’s done humouring himself, “fuck, your hands are cold.” he stops and takes Jongin’s hands. He cups them together at his mouth and blows. Jongin doesn’t pull away, taking whatever warmth he can get in this slapping cold.

“Are your lips cold too?”

“I don’t know. Maybe you need to find out.” Jongin blushes. It’s an easy and comfortable novelty to be able to flirt with Chanyeol like this.

Chanyeol takes their hands and tucks them into the pocket of his jacket. Then he kisses him, warmer than warm and Jongin wants wrap his arms around Chanyeol and kiss him harder but he settles for squeezing Chanyeol’s knuckles laced with his.

“Warm?” Chanyeol nuzzles his red nose, and Jongin tips his face up to catch his lips again.

“Almost.”

When they finally start walking again, with Jongin’s hand in his pocket and the other still firmly in Chanyeol’s pocket, his lips are swollen and almost sore.

 

↠✰↞

 

The fog has cleared but the wind blows chillingly. Jongin is wearing as many layers as possible, at Chanyeol’s insistence, but it’s the same man that has them out at this time of night in this less than ideal weather condition.

They’d seen the poster this morning when they were headed for the cliffs; a music festival by the beach near their cottage this evening. They’d planned to go but Jongin didn’t think it would go through, since the fog had swallowed the coast and the temperatures had dropped unusually low for July but the beach is buzzing with life and music.

They’re standing at the edge, not really wanting to get squished in the surprisingly thick crowd. Jongin has never heard of the bands playing at the medium sized stage set up just after the shingles, but it’s pleasant and even though it’s freezing, he’s enjoying himself. Chanyeol is behind him, arms around him and sipping on his own can of beer, occasionally swaying Jongin when a mellow act comes on.

“I’ve always wanted to slow dance with you.” Chanyeol says by his ear.

“This counts as slow dancing?”

“You are standing on my toes.” he’s right, Chanyeol’s toes are tucked under the heels of Jongin’s Converse. He pushes down onto them and Chanyeol pushes him off with a grunt. Turning around, he stands on Chanyeol’s feet again and crosses his arms behind the taller one’s back.

“Is this better?” Jongin grins.

“The things I do for cute people.” Chanyeol looks to the sky, inhaling deeply and closing his eyes in prayer.

“Cute people?” Jongin raises a brow, daring.

“Is there something wrong with that?” Chanyeol raises a brow back, peering down at Jongin.

“No.” Jongin says curtly, turning his face away with pursed lips.

“Fuck,” Chanyeol nuzzles his neck, up to his ear, “cute person, one cute person. My cute person.”

Jongin is a little tipsy but the flush isn’t owing to that alone. He hums and rests his head on Chanyeol’s chest, warm even through the layers. Chanyeol sways them like that, with Jongin on his feet, waddling them from side to side until the song ends and a different band comes on, their music galvanizing and demanding to be felt. They discard their cans in a nearby litter bin and jump along, hands in the air.

He’s jumping, laughing with delight when Chanyeol turns him around and kisses him sound, right there. And maybe it’s the tiny buzz of alcohol but he kisses back harder, slipping his hand beneath Chanyeol’s jacket and fitting his leg between Chanyeol’s.

“Jongin,” Chanyeol breathes when Jongin’s hand wanders close to the waistband of his jeans. Jongin doesn’t know if it’s a warning or an invocation.

“Let’s go home, hyung.”

 

As soon as they arrive back at the cottage, speedwalking from the beach, Chanyeol doesn’t give them time to turn on the lights. He slips off Jongin’s jacket as he captures him in a searing kiss and soon both their clothes are shed like snakeskin along the corridor to their shared room as they go kissing from wall to wall.

“Hyung!” Jongin exclaims as Chanyeol trips on his jeans at the foot of the bed and he lays there naked for a moment before they both burst out in laughter.

“How sexy.” Jongin snorts but he helps Chanyeol up and sits them both on the bed.

“You’ll get sexy soon enough,” Chanyeol smiles, the tips of his ears red.

Jongin pulls him down in a kiss and the blundering moment is forgotten as they feel each other skin to skin. The heat is almost too much as Chanyeol presses him into the mattress, their groins aligned and hard, his air limited by Chanyeol’s mouth.

“Hyung,” Jongin gasps when Chanyeol bites his clavicle particularly hard, “hyung let’s do it.” Chanyeol seems content kissing the breath out of him and leaving marks all over his skin but Jongin is aching in so many ways.

“Are you sure?” Chanyeol halts.

“Yeah,”

“We’ve had a few drinks Jonginnie. Maybe we should wait…”

“Is that what you want?” he reddens more than he already has, embarrassment at his own eagerness, heart sinking a little.

“I want our first time to be the best it can be, Jonginnie. Of course I want you now but—”

“I want you too, hyung.” Jongin presses up to remind Chanyeol just how much,  “It’s not my first time and —it feels special because it’s you.” he stutters because this kind of truth isn’t as easy to utter but it is the truth and he needs Chanyeol to understand.

“Oh,” Chanyeol says, pressing back, “it is mine.” he looks the unsurest Jongin has ever seen him, eyes downcast and teething at his barbell the way he does when he’s deep in thought or nervous.

“Your first time?”

Chanyeol nods, still not looking at Jongin.

“Does that change anything?”

Jongin thinks he’s misheard.

“What?”

“I...I might not know how to please you, since I haven’t — you know.”

“Hyung,” Jongin sits up and shuffles onto Chanyeol’s lap, wrapping his limbs around him. He doesn’t even feel embarrassed anymore, he’s quite shocked that Chanyeol feels this way. “Hyung, that’s...you can learn. And I don’t know much about your body...not like that. It’ll kinda be firsts for us both.” Jongin kisses him, mostly because it looks so painful how Chanyeol is biting at his ring.

“Wait here,” Jongin says after Chanyeol begins to relax again, even though Chanyeol doesn’t seem to be in any condition to go anywhere any time soon. He comes back with a bottle of strawberry lube, the one he’d brought with him even though he hadn’t really been anticipating to use it much besides solo. He lies down again, Chanyeol between his legs and hands him the bottle.

“Prep me.”

Chanyeol starts out slow and hesitant, asking Jongin if he should stop every time he grunts or groans but Jongin grits out for him to keep going because sweet heavens , Chanyeol’s fingers are so long and thick and reach far and god does he need more.

“You’re doing so good, hyung, keep going,” Jongin moans, eyes closed and legs parting wider as he tries to take Chanyeol deeper.

“You look,” Chanyeol begins, husky and hovering close, “so hot.” he hooks his fingers inside Jongin experimentally and Jongin almost sees white.

“Fuck hyung, you’re already so good.”

When Chanyeol has gotten the hang of edging him and Jongin is ready to cry if Chanyeol stops his fingers before he comes one more time, Chanyeol finally turns away for a second to grab the condom stashed in Jongin’s bag, lubes himself up and enters him slowly.

Jongin’s hair comes loose as Chanyeol once again holds him down into the mattress. Chanyeol takes it as an opportunity to grip the locks and fuck into him harder but not before asking is this okay, Jonginnie? Does it hurt? And Jongin barely gets out for him to keep going, it’s good hyung, it’s so good .

Chanyeol is a quick learner and it’s Jongin’s demise. He goes fast, kissing Jongin’s neck, throat. Then when Jongin is ready to scream his name in star studded vision, he slows down and kisses him like it’s all he’s wanted to do his life.

Jongin comes in a broken, shuddering moan and Chanyeol keeps going till his own release, chanting Jongin’s name in a breathless prayer as his walls constrict around him.

“Fuck,” Jongin sighs, boneless with aftershocks.

“That was,” Chanyeol says, slumped on Jongin’s shoulder, “amazing.”

“I dunno,” Jongin says and Chanyeol lifts his head, pushing the matted locks from Jongin’s face, “I could be terrible. You don’t have much to compare with.” he traces the red crescents on Chanyeol’s shoulders where his nails dug in.

“Maybe I should I get more experience then, for research purposes.” Chanyeol’s easy tone matches his and he’s looking at Jongin with those sparkling eyes like it’s a reflection of the constellation he sees in Jongin’s but Jongin’s stomach does a flip as he realizes how much he doesn’t like the idea of Chanyeol with anyone else.

“Do you regret it?” it’s not that Jongin is taking Chanyeol’s teasing to heart. He needs to know, flashing back to his own first time and remembering how unprepared he was for the unsatisfied residue it left in him. But perhaps it’s different, he was confused about his orientation and it had been with a girl, so it’s not the same but Jongin needs to know if Chanyeol liked it as much as he did.

“No,” Chanyeol’s brows rise in surprise, “I don’t regret anything with you.” he says like it’s something he thought Jongin already knew.

“Not even when I drool on you?” Jongin grins and cards a hand through Chanyeol’s wildly disheveled hair (that he’s responsible for).

“Not even then.” he feels Chanyeol’s grin on his lips as he pecks him.

“Not even when I ‘put cavities in your heart’?”

“Especially not then.”

“Hyung, you’re so cheesy.”

“You like it.” another peck.

“I like you.” the admission feels like a cleansing breath.

“I like you too.”

 

↠✰↞




The sun beams in through the space between the open curtains, warming a spot on the back of Jongin’s head. He lounges in the circular armchair, eyes closed as he waits for Chanyeol.

It’s a clearer, warmer day so they plan to try the cliffs again after a swim. He hears Chanyeol come in but he doesn’t open his eyes yet, the rays sink gloriously into his skin. They remain closed as Chanyeol steps right up to him, between his feet precisely. Still, he stays unseeing as Chanyeol kneels between his feet, hands smoothing over his exposed legs.

He’d debated the trunks that boarded boyshorts this morning but the way Chanyeol’s eyes lingered below his torso after he’d pulled them on had convinced him otherwise. His legs are pulled further apart and Jongin puts up no resistance. His hold only tightens on the armrests as Chanyeol wanders to his thighs. He bunches up the seams and pushes them up to expose as much of Jongin’s thighs as he can. Then he places a humming kiss on the innermost he can get without touching his groin and Jongin is not ready for the vibrations it resounds through him.

Chanyeol,” Jongin grips Chanyeol’s hair with one hand, other fist clutching the armrest. The kisses trail to the dip at his knee. Hands trace every inch that was kissed, twice, before his mouth returns to Jongin’s skin.

Jongin’s eyes open with a grunt when teeth sink into him, a kiss lingering soon after the bite. Reflex pushes his legs together and Chanyeol holds them apart, looking up at him.

“Relax for me.” his eyes are pools of lust that Jongin drowns in. Jongin forces his legs to stay still but it’s hard to keep from squirming as Chanyeol caresses his inner thighs, to the apex, to his knees and lower to his calf where coarse hairs grow before coming back up to smooth skin. He shows each thigh the same adoration and Jongin wants to be touched elsewhere that’s coming alive but Chanyeol doesn’t seem to have any intention of satisfying him there. Jongin lets him do as he likes, trying his best to stay pliant.

“Beautiful,” sealed with a kiss where he’d irritated the inner thigh with bites, “beautiful,” followed by another, “Beautiful, beautiful here too.” this last one is pressed to his half hard groin.

“Chanyeol hyung,” Jongin doesn’t care how needy he sounds, both hands come to tangle in Chanyeol’s hair.

His whine is ignored as Chanyeol returns his attention to Jongin’s legs, the latter groaning and throwing his head back in despair.

“I’m learning your body, baby. Be patient with me.” Chanyeol murmurs into his skin between more kisses. Jongin twitches.

His patience is tried to the limit as Chanyeol touches over every inch of his thighs like he’d promised. He makes throaty hums that nearly vanquish the little semblance of patience Jongin is clinging to. His mouth reaches close to Jongin’s member but every time Jongin’s heart leaps in anticipation, it’s forced down again as Chanyeol redirects to a lower part and Jongin is shaking all over.

They both stare in shock when Chanyeol kisses the crease of his thigh and Jongin arches. There’s a stickiness between his skin and clothes that’s more than precum and Jongin’s embarrassment is stifling, he’s ready to cry. They both know he’s just come without being touched there.

“Fucking hell, Jongin.” Chanyeol says, bewildered. Jongin closes his eyes, the shameful aftermath of his abrupt orgasm washing over him still. Chanyeol pulls him down, his body sliding easily.

“That was,” Jongin laughs, swallowing down his humiliation, “really weird.”

“No,” Chanyeol shakes his head furiously, “no, that was hot. Really hot. Fucking hell, come here.” but Jongin is already as close as can be as he kisses him, open mouthed and ravishing.


↠✰↞

 

They leave Galway behind in zipping trees and asphalt. Jongin drives and Chanyeol folds himself awkwardly in the passenger, humming.

And becomes a major distraction to him.

He traces Jongin’s fingers like he’s following a path, up to his wrist and encircling it before coming back to his hand that’s gripping the stick.

“Pretty fingers.” he laces his fingers with Jongin’s and Jongin’s grip on the gear tightens.

“Hyung,”

“Yes?” he pries Jongin’s hand from the gear —giving him a small heart attack— and lifts their laced fingers to his lips, kissing each knuckle.

“You’re distracting me.” Jongin says sternly but he glances quickly at Chanyeol, feeling his heart swell a little.

“Sorry, Jonginnie.” he doesn’t sound sorry at all. His actions reflect his lack of remorse as he continues pressing kisses to Jongin’s knuckles that are woven between his, kissing all the way to his wrist and nipping at his pulse.

Hyung ,”

“It’s your fault.” Jongin feels the grin on his skin.

“It’s my fault I’ll crash because of you?”

“It’s your fault for looking so damn cute. And just delectable.” Chanyeol shrugs and kisses his hand before nipping again.

“So you think you can eat me?”

“Like a dessert —don’t give me that look, you set yourself up for that one.” Chanyeol chuckles. Jongin ignores the remark and keeps his focus on the road. He doesn’t need that hand anyway, the highway is mostly clear and he doesn’t need to shift gears anytime soon.

“What the fuck,” the car jerks, mimicking Jongin’s leg on the pedal.

“You did sound like you want me to. Eat you, that is.” this time Jongin can feel the grin around his finger which is in Chanyeol’s mouth .

“Chanyeol hyung.”

“Yes, baby?” Chanyeol puts another finger in his mouth and Jongin really wants to smack him, but also, he feels heat shudder up his spine.

“Please.” he tries to pull his hand away but his fingers are stuck between Chanyeol’s teeth and he doesn’t really want to scrape himself.

“Please what? Please stop ? Please eat me hyung ?”

Jongin’s not sure where the idea or the nerve comes from. Perhaps it’s that Chanyeol has been touching him nonstop ever since they slept together. Every chance he gets, he’s coaxing Jongin’s body to his mercy, in any form, in the littlest forms. At night as they snuggled, in the kitchen when he stood behind Jongin and guided his hands in the pretense of helping him chop carrots only to suck those love bites he’s become fond of onto Jongin’s neck. In the shower, helping him lather shampoo into his hair as a hand lazily strokes him, on their last day at Galway beach, pulling him onto his lap to rub sunscreen onto him in a way that could not be described other than erotic.

Most frustratingly of all, Jongin is already addicted to all this, all of Chanyeol’s endless touches and affection. The more Chanyeol gives, the more Jongin needs, the more Chanyeol supplies and the cycle only seems to be growing so he has Chanyeol to blame for getting him addicted and for this wild, reckless idea he’s about to suggest.

“I’m going to find somewhere to pull over.”

“So you can kill me? I’m sorry, I’ll behave.”

“No,” Jongin rolls his eyes, “I want...to try something a little different.”

“A little different...?”

“Didn’t you say we need to make more interesting memories?”

“I don’t -oh .” Jongin’s hand drops in Chanyeol’s lap as the latter lets go like a current has been run through him. “You’re gonna tell people in the future that we fucked in a car?”

“No, don’t be stupid.” Jongin takes the chance to reclaim his hand, blushing, “this is for us to remember.”

“I mean, I could write it into a song. ‘That one sweet summer, when were were bold and not too old, on our way to Brittas Bay, and I fucked you till you couldn’t say your own name...in a car...I mean it’s not great yet but it could make for great lyrics if I worked on it, right?” he sounds sincere, taking Jongin’s hand again.

“You know what? I’ll find somewhere and get myself off.”

“No, I need you.” he leads Jongin’s hand and lifts his hips and Jongin almost jerks again.

He doesn’t know if it’s a moan or a groan that he’s holding back.

Stop .”

“Find somewhere quickly, Jongin. I’ll take care of you too.” and Jongin doesn’t have to look to see Chanyeol’s staring at his own problem that’s developing.

Jongin is ready to stop the car, right on the side of the N24 and just let Chanyeol have his way with him, when they come upon a derelict petrol station. It’s rundown and the convenience store’s windows are shattered, the roof rusted and peeling while overgrown foliage rises like a thick wall on the sides of the building where fields stretch on for endless miles.

He drives around to the back, heart racing as he kills the engine. Chanyeol reaches for the lever of his seat and pushes back as far as he can, looking at Jongin expectantly when he’s done.

“Come here, I need you.”

It’s a challenge getting across to Chanyeol’s seat and even trickier settling on his lap but Jongin is sent under another wave of emotions as Chanyeol immediately secures his arms around his middle and pulls him even closer.

“Hi,” Chanyeol grins.

“Hi,”

“I heard you have a problem,” Chanyeol’s hands are warm on his sides, rubbing up and down.

“Maybe,” Jongin shrugs and loops his arms around Chanyeol, holding in a groan as he feels Chanyeol’s hardness on him.

“I can help. Do you want to show me?”

Jongin groans, embarrassed and aroused, but takes Chanyeol’s hand from his waist and slowly guides it to his groin. He lays his head on Chanyeol’s shoulder when the latter cups him, breathing shallow despite the deep breaths he tries to take.

“I see. That’s quite a hard problem.” Chanyeol muses.

Jongin chortles despite himself, arousal temporarily forgotten.

“I can’t believe you.”

“I’m sorry.”

“No,” Jongin cups Chanyeol’s face, “no you’re not.” he gives him an open kiss even though he can’t stop grinning.

“You’re right. I’m not.” Chanyeol’s still grinning when Jongin leans back. “You look even sweeter when you laugh,” Chanyeol says, still grazing over his sides. Jongin feels a pleasant curl in his belly, even as his self consciousness heightens. “I’m not always funny but you still laugh. I want to hold you for a long time, like this,” Chanyeol’s arms wrap entirely around him, pushing them heartbeat to heartbeat, nose to nose, “then you look at me with dark eyes and stare at my lips. And I want to fuck the daylight out of you.”

“Hyung,” Jongin says breathlessly, feeling the words like a pull at his core. He kisses Chanyeol again, with much more urgency, needing Chanyeol to feel how much his words have set him alight, with flame and fireflies, and how he feels the same, exactly the same.

Chanyeol fumbles with his sweats and Jongin is just as eager, trying to help him unknot the strings.

“They haven’t faded yet.” he says appreciatively, looking down at the dark blossoms on Jongin’s hips.

“It’s not like you remark them whenever you get the chance.” Jongin snorts, recalling how many times in the past two days Chanyeol had pulled him down to have him writhe as he sucked on his hips.

“They look beautiful on you.” Chanyeol traces the puce sprawling over the gilded hipbone, making Jongin quiver, “ you are beautiful.” he takes Jongin’s member, stroking lightly.

“Shit,” Jongin almost bangs his head on the low roof.

“Here,” Chanyeol says after a while, bringing Jongin’s hand to his own member.

“Didn’t you want to…”

“Yeah, but I want to watch you.”

“Don’t you need to come too?”

“I don’t know if you’ve noticed,” Chanyeol takes on a teasing tone, covering his hand over Jongin’s to prompt him to start moving, “but seeing you come gets me off too.”

“Fuck, hyung,” Jongin groans, head on Chanyeol’s shoulder again.

“Hmm?” Chanyeol nudges him back up so he can look down between them, making Jongin’s blood run hotter. “Baby?” he cues when Jongin does nothing but struggle with moans, stroking himself at the pace Chanyeol won’t let him go beyond.

“You drive me crazy too, so much.” Jongin gasps out, arousal tying a tighter knot in him when Chanyeol’s gaze goes a little unfocused at his admission. Chanyeol’s mouth falls open for him pliantly when he kisses him again, desperately hot.

“Fuck, fuck— gonna—” Jongin pants, stroking faster.

“Wait, wait,” Chanyeol pulls away both their hands, forcing Jongin to halt.

“Why?” Jongin croaks, he’d been so close.

“Wait for me.” Chanyeol is already unbuckling, as best as he can manage in the cramped space with a human on his lap. It takes a few tries but when he finally manages, it’s clear he’s as close as Jongin is. “Start again.” Chanyeol murmurs and Jongin obeys, taking delight in the heavy velvet Chanyeol’s voice has taken on, something Jongin has come to realize it does when he’s highly aroused.

Jongin’s arousal reaches impossible heights each time his member touches Chanyeol’s as they jerk off, feeling each other, warm and hard. Chanyeol purposely thrusts up against him, shoving them together and Jongin gasps, finding purchase on Chanyeol’s shoulder.

When Jongin’s whole body shudders and he meets the stars in spurts of white, Chanyeol follows, the two of them making a mess of each other’s torsos.

“Can’t move.” Jongin says, spent. He slumps onto Chanyeol, mindless of the stickiness between them.

“Do you want to take a nap? We’ve got time.”

“Together? Yes.” Jongin twists around and opens the glove compartment, taking out the wet wipes Chanyeol keeps there. He wipes the mess off them, as much that will come off anyway and tosses them out of the window he quickly rolls down. He knows they’ll have to change their t-shirts but all he has the energy to do right now is curl up with Chanyeol and bask in the residue of his orgasm.

Chanyeol reclines the seat flat and hugs Jongin down to him.

“You okay?” he caresses Jongin’s nape, slow and soothing.

“Yeah,”

“Wanna move to the back?”

“No, this is okay.”

“Sure?”

“Kiss me, hyung.”


↠✰↞

 

It’s only hitting him now, as they sit in the underground parking of his flat block, that the trip has come to an end. Wisps of melancholy had hovered at the edge of his conscious as they took a small detour to Glendalough again, both of them eager to stretch out the little piece of haven they’ve found on the road between counties. But it hadn’t capsized him, not like it’s doing now. He’d love nothing more than for Chanyeol to start the car and take them up to Donegal again. But Chanyeol doesn’t, instead he gives a laugh that sounds like all of Jongin’s current anxiety combined.

“I guess, it’s over now.”

“Over?” Jongin’s heart spikes.

“Our trip, it’s over.”

“Oh, yeah.”

“What did you think I meant?” he’s looking at Jongin now.

“I don’t know, us maybe.”

“Of course not. I mean, do you want us to be?”

“No.” Jongin says sharply, meeting Chanyeol’s gaze. Chanyeol smiles that sun-tipped smile.

“Do you want to come up?” Jongin asks. He’s spent every single day of the past three weeks with Chanyeol. Still it’s not enough, he’s not ready to let go. Even if it’s just to let him go home.

 

Even though he’s already missing the road, it’s a gratifying reunion to enter his house, especially with Chanyeol in tow. They trudge to his living room without turning the lights on, both of them well versed in the layout of his flat. Jongin gets the light as Chanyeol collapses on his leather couch, plopping something on the floor next to him.

“Oh, it’s here!” Jongin sees his phone on the coffee table where he’d forgotten it before he left. Understandably, it’s dead when he presses the home button and he plugs it in the charger that’s tangled in the chords of his television and DVD player. It’s only now that he realizes how much he’s missed his friends and family. Disconnecting from everything has been refreshing but he suddenly feels the urge to call every single person on his short list of contacts.

Jongin picks up what Chanyeol had placed on the floor, realizing it’s their Wild Atlantic Way passports. He flips through them, smiling as he sees the stamps marking the individual routes. He already knows these are truly memories he’ll keep long in his heart.

“We can try and visit every point.” Chanyeol says, “Go again next summer.” he’s got that warm spark in him that diffuses all the way to Jongin’s toes, the way it did the first time he suggested a trip, and Jongin nods, smiling.

“I’m going to make some tea.” Jongin says, standing. He knows he’s tired enough to blackout as soon as his head hits the pillow even if he takes caffeine and he’s missed his own tea, even if Tí Linn’s is the best he’s ever had.

“I have something to show you, come back quickly.”

With a statement like that, Jongin waltzes through the kitchen and returns with two mugs in record time. As he passes by the door again he sees the post they stepped on as they’d entered in in the dark and picks them up, dumping them on the coffee table. Chanyeol sits up to make room for him. When he sinks down next to him, he pulls him even closer and kisses his cheek.

He’s about to ask Chanyeol is he wants to stay the night when Chanyeol leans down to his backpack, takes out the camera and holds it between them.

“Oh!” Chanyeol has taken so many pictures of them, he hadn’t been aware. “Didn’t you say we should take pictures in our hearts instead?” Jongin accuses.

“Yeah, but some of them were too beautiful. I can’t be selfish with them.” he says, grinning at Jongin standing at the top of Wicklow Mountain, arms spread out victoriously like the wings of an eagle.

“Still so cheesy.” Jongin shakes his head in dismay but his grin that hasn’t faded takes the weight out of his words.

“Still your fault.”

“Oh, you recorded that.” it’s a video of him dancing, at Mayo on the beach. He’d been too engrossed, unaware of the lens focused on him but he’ll admit it turned out impressively cinematic.

“I recorded everything. I have a video of you drooling on me, do you want to see?”

“Shut up.” Jongin gets up but only to get his phone that’s finally come alive.

The first thing that greets him is a million messages pinging and the phone icon on his screen pregnant with over four hundred notifications.

“What the hell,”

“What?”

He scrolls through the notifications to see Sehun, Baekhyun and Jongdae repeated over and over, his other friends’ names appearing sparsely between them. His heart thunders, thinking of all the things that could have happened while he’d gone MIA for weeks.

Why had they thought disconnecting completely was a good idea?

Sehun doesn’t pick up so he tries the other person who blew up his dead phone. Baekhyun picks up on the second ring.

“You fucker, oh my god. You’re alive.”

Well, that sounds promising.

“Yeah hyung, what’s up? Did something happen?”

“Where the fuck have you been? I called you a million times. The idiot with you wasn’t answering either.”

Chanyeol is peering at him curiously but Jongin just shrugs, he’s not sure yet either.

“Do you know how worried we were? I was this close from going out on hunt for you two. I hate you both so much.”

“You were worried? That’s cute. I did tell you we weren’t gonna use our phones much.” the worry evaporates, Baekhyun doesn’t sound like he’s dying nor does it seem like anyone they’re close to is.  

“Did you see the news?”

“Why?” Jongin is confused again.

“Dude, you were on it.”

“What?” Jongin almost chokes. Chanyeol is staring anxiously now. Jongin holds up a hand.

“Yeah, there’s this clip of you that’s gone viral. They’re calling you Big Elliot.”

“Is this a joke?”

“I already spammed you with links. Check your messages. Watch it and call me back. And welcome home, idiots.” he hangs up but Jongin is too stunned to care.

“He said I was on the news?” Jongin’s brain isn’t processing the information fast enough but his finger is already on the first link that appears in his chatbox with Baekhyun.

It takes him to a Youtube video and Jongin almost drops the phone when he immediately recognizes himself and Chanyeol, that night they’d stopped by the busking violinist.

“Oh my god.”

“Ten million views, oh my god.” Chanyeol echoes.

Jongin puts the phone down with shaking hands, unsure of what to make of all this.

“You’re famous Jonginnie!” Chanyeol nudges him but he can hear how shaken he is too.

He’s staring blankly in a daze when something catches his eye; the pile of post he’d brought in. His heart is hammering again and all he can do is stare, asking himself if he’s seeing right.

But he’d recognize that coat of arms anywhere.

Irish World Academy of Music and Dance.

He stares at it until Chanyeol becomes aware of it too, scrambling for it unlike Jongin who has become paralyzed.

“Here.” Chanyeol puts it in his lap and Jongin is still too afraid to touch it. Warmth appears at his back as Chanyeol rubs circles along his spine and Jongin’s body slowly unlocks. He tears along the edge carefully, like there’s some monster contained inside of it that he’s cautious to unleash.

The first time he scans over the words, he can’t comprehend. He reads it again and still, his brain doesn’t register the words. By the third time, tears drip onto the sheet and Chanyeol is calling his name in thick concern.

“Hyung,” he croaks, his heart is dipping into his stomach, “hyung they accepted — I’m going— I got in — I’m—”

Chanyeol tackles him back into the couch in a bone crushing hug. He’s laughing and crying and Chanyeol is doing both alongside him.

“I’m so proud of you baby,” Chanyeol says over and over in his ear, kissing his hair, his forehead, his ear, any part that he can reach while they hold each other tight, “so fucking proud.”

“Hyung, hyung, hyung,” Jongin doesn’t know what to say. All he knows is that his heart is splitting in happiness and he doesn’t know what to do except cling to Chanyeol like the lifeline he’s been.

 

When he has cried and laughed his heart out and is wrung dry of emotion, they get up and collapse in Jongin’s bed. They called Baekhyun back, their friend telling them enthusiastically about the buzz Jongin and Chanyeol had created, after giving them more grief over their disappearing act. Jongin is still numb to that but his acceptance letter tucked safely into a file is heavy on his mind, almost tangible in his hands.

He’s aware emotions are clouds that dissipate faster than they form but he’s sure that he’s content right now. More than that perhaps.

“Hyung, I got my wish.” Jongin whispers as they’re about to fall asleep.

“Which one?” Chanyeol’s lips move on his forehead like a kiss as he mumbles.

“Second one. Wishing Chair.”

“I told you Jongin, I believe in you, always. What was your dandelion wish?”

“You.”

Chanyeol pulls him closer.