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New Neighbour

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Once Yuna found out her new neighbour was the Do Kyungsoo aka EXO’s DO, she almost screamed. Almost. She forcefully stifled her jittery vocal cord and gulped it down. If she weren’t looking at his face directly, first, she would never ever believe it was really him, and second, she’d be screaming her lungs out already. She was not a diehard EXO-L by any means, but the man beside her, who was currently working on his door’s lock as she was with hers, was her biggest crush to date and still holding that title now. Her heart bloomed whenever she watched his videos. With him this close, her heart felt overloaded.

Looking at her new neighbour, manners instilled to the bone by her mother, Yuna bowed whilst greeting him. And. And. And. He greeted her back with a smile. His trademark sweet smile. Goodness, it shook her, but she tried her best to maintain her cool. After she smiled back, she returned her focus to locking her door. Thank goodness, she managed to lock her door rather smoothly. She took a breath in and couldn’t decide whether it was good or bad luck that she had to bypass Kyungsoo to get to the lift.

As she walked to pass him, he started moving too.

Wait, he wasn’t unlocking his door, but locking it?

They were walking almost side by side to the lift, with her a bit in front of him. Yuna’s heart was beating like crazy; it felt like she was having palpitations. It was great they were not in some sort of a supernatural world where others could hear her heart beating fast from a mile away. The short ride on the lift was silent and Yuna was glad she wasn’t required to converse with the star.

She looked at her watch, a habit when she was nervous, and gasped. The watch reminded her she was tight with her time to get to her destination. The new stress factor diminished her consciousness towards the star’s presence. She put on the full-face helmet she held and as soon as the lift’s door opened at the car park level, she dashed to her motorcycle and zoomed out of the building.

That was their first encounter.

She was Moon Yuna, a 5’2” lady in black leather jacket, black knee length shirt and tawny cargo pants. A writer and cat lover. Age-wise, a noona to Kyungsoo including Minseok.

--

It was dusk when Yuna got back from her manuscript meeting. She was exhausted, the editor was as demanding as ever, but it was a good discussion. They cleared some things she was stuck at. More than that, she had a better idea on how to pave the road for a more meaningful write-up. Nevertheless, it drained her severely. All she wanted to do now was to cuddle with Munchy, stuffed her face with the takeaway chicken meal and watch a variety show or a movie.

“I need to bathe and wash my hair,” Yuna talked to herself as she waited for the lift to arrive. “Ugh, I stink.” Not realising there was someone behind her she continued speaking to herself. Even butchered ‘Don’t Go’ not so quietly.

A throat was cleared. This effectively zipped her mouth.

Yuna felt her blood curdled. She knew that voice. Turning around, she bowed as she took a side step with a red face. The helmet on her head with the visor raised only partially showed her face. She was beyond embarrassed, but at least now, the man knew she was tone deaf. With this embarrassment, Yuna decided she could sing without reservation after this. Whatever.

Should I say something? Why was the lift taking so long?

Then, she remembered something. “Noona’s name is Moon Yuna. If a red tabby slipped into your place, he’s mine. His name is Munchy and he likes your apartment. The previous owner pampered him too much.” The lift opened and they entered it together. “Ah right, if you don’t like having him around do tell me. Then, I need to change all the window locks.”

“New locks?”

Talking about Munchy came naturally to Yuna, so she didn’t feel pressured. Plus, being older had its perks. “Munchy is good at opening my window locks. He sneaks out a lot to see his best bud Mulbit, the Balinese a floor above. He’s laid back and tolerant of other pets. Rest assured, I don’t think he’ll pester Meongmul and Huchu.” It was best to let the star realise that she knew who he was.

“I don’t mind.” Other people entered the lift and Kyungsoo adjusted his cap, covering more of his face. They moved to the back of the lift.

“Cool.” With her free hand, she fished something from her backpack. “Since we’re neighbours, here’s a welcoming gift and my number in case you need anything.” Yuna passed a box to Kyungsoo.

“Thanks, noona.” Kyungsoo nodded his thanks.

The lift dinged, it was their floor and they got out together. In front of the lift, Munchy sat in waiting and greeted Yuna once he saw her. “Yah, Munchy. Let’s go home.” The big cat stood and followed by Yuna’s side. “Good night, Do Kyungsoo-ssi.”

Inside her apartment, Yuna couldn’t help smiling. With a laugh she said, “I’ve effectively friendzoned myself. Good.”

--

Thinking she had friendzoned herself made her felt light. The pressure thoroughly lifted off her shoulder albeit it did make her feel a bit heartbroken. Relieved, but sad. She was after all crushing hard on Kyungsoo. Anyways, there was never a chance for her to be more than the next-door noona. Not to mention, the fans would run amok if any of the EXO members’ were to be in a relationship. Personally, she wished they would fall in love and be in a healthy relationship. It was already stressful enough to live a restricted regimental life.

She really want them to be happy, be able to live the life they could enjoy. Like Joonmyun’s favourite song, I Want to Fall in Love by Kim Jo Han, if that was truly the thing that would make them happy, so be it. They made her happy when she was down, as such they really do deserve to be happy.

“Munchy, I need a hug.” Yuna lifted Munchy, but the cat scratched at her precious Schuberth helmet, though sans nails. “Yah, you’re supposed to console me.” Munchy meowed as if scoffing at Yuna and struggled to get away. “I know, I know. You don’t like it when I wear my helmet. Fine, I’ll get it off. Then you’ll cuddle with me.”

Yuna took off her helmet, placed it on its special spot, and readjusted the beanie covering her head. She loved wearing a beanie at all times, it honestly helped reducing her migraine, which was rather debilitating. That and lots of plain water, plus exercise. Good blood flow did wonders.

Beg off her back, she spied for Munchy. The tom was lounging on the antennae galaxy beanbag. Screaming out a war cry, Yuna lunged at Munchy, landing on the beanbag whilst securing the cat in a tight hug. Ten minutes of cuddling, Munchy extricated himself from the cage made by Yuna’s hands. He tapped at her face and licked her nose. Yuna stroked his head, saying, “I’m okay. But I really do need to bathe, eat and amend the drafts.”

--

A few days later, someone rang her home’s bell. Thinking it was her editor who promised to come by sometime today, she promptly opened the door without checking and with Munchy in ensconced her arms.

It was not her editor.

There she was, hair unkempt from the frequent fingers running through due to the stress sans beanie and being awake for over 36 hours. She hadn’t bathed as long either. To top things off, Promise was blaring on full blast.

It was a group of very attractive men. The very men singing her background music. It was the rest of the EXO, the whole lot of them including her second bias, Minseok. There were balloons, gifts and takeaways.

But, currently, the significance of their presence didn’t register in her consciousness. She was in a daze, mentally exhausted to process the things happening around her. Her mind was filled to the brim with her writing’s progression; nothing else could penetrate through her zombie mode.

“If you’re looking for Kyungsoo, it’s the next door.” Out of her mind, before any of the men could utter a word, she slipped pass them, walked barefooted to the door on her right, and pushed on Kyungsoo’s intercom, “Your members are here.” Then, she went back into her apartment after the greeting bow.

Back inside her apartment, Yuna noticed Munchy was nowhere to be seen. She let it slipped her mind once again as she glimpsed at her monitor.

--

Yuna walked her editor out to the lift. It was past midnight, closer to mid dawn and the moon was shining low in the dark abyss of the sky. Stars amiss as they were outshone by the light pollution from the big city. Fatigued and famished, she stared at the moon from the huge glass wall besides the lift as though it could suck away her tiredness and fill her stomach.

Then, it struck her. All of EXO’s members were in the building. She shouldn’t be standing by the lift like this. It was horrid enough with how things had happened. It would be a double whammy if she stayed still and somehow met them. So, she hurried back, horrified by thought of meeting them once again whilst looking like she had been trampled by a stampeding herd of bison.

However, fate had a different idea for her. It was her life pattern to show her worst sides to people before they get to know her better. On the other hand, this particular pattern also told her that those that she met in such scenarios meant to own huge chunks of her life. Nonetheless, in her current state, she couldn’t process to this extent. The fight or flight reflex had already been triggered, diminishing her critical thinking aptitude. She would only notice this day years later in the future.

At the exact moment she was to take the steps across Kyungsoo’s apartment, his door opened. Lo and behold, eight gorgeous heads stared at her who had frozen in mid-step. The two sides stared at each other in an impromptu staring contest, namely Yuna was looking eye to eye with Kyungsoo. The one who blinked first would lose.

Meow~ Munchy to the rescue. The tom climbed on Yuna like she was a tree and headbutted her in the face.

The bubble popped.

She missed the snorts of laughter shared by Sehun and Jongin, Chanyeol falling to the ground, Jongdae's and Baekhyun’s shocked faces and Joonmyun’s and Minseok’s worried glances, because she was bowing and apologising then ran to her home like an Olympian medallist. Munchy held tight in her arms.

Bang, her door closed, muffling the raucous it had triggered outside.

If only the apartments in this building weren’t soundproofed, she would have heard them talking about her and Munchy, mostly about her including the anecdotes of her in the day. That they were amused by her reactions but also worried with her state. On top of that, she had missed them ribbing Kyungsoo about the adorable next-door noona.

 

Chapter Text

Like usual, every morning Yuna would open all the windows of her apartment without miss unless she was either sick or in writing mode of which she would hole up in her cave, uncaring of the outside world. Her morning routine included tidying up, cooking and some pilates if she was in the mood while singing off tune to her playlist. So, her tone-deaf voice would echo out and into the nearby homes, which was the neighbour on her right. The previous owner was fine with her disastrous voice since they were the same.

Her mood could range from a dollop of Adele and Árstíðir with a pinch of Christina Perry and a dusting of Gummy to EXO on loop.

Needing a break from all the writing. It had been more than a fortnight since her editor came and she reached her limit of writing daily. Though she was not in her zombie mode, writing every day dissipated her brain juice. She needed to recoup. Ergo, Yuna planned to avoid her desktop at all cost for a whole day. Thus, today was her crazy day, meaning she would be indulging herself with dancing like a maniac, cooking whatever she had been craving after burning the calories and if she got bored, a runway show with her wardrobe contents was also on the itinerary. Thinking back, she checked the date. It looked like today had another thing due.

Galaxy yoga pants on, black cotton sports bra on, tight beanie on and Munchy staring at her from his spot on the beanbag on, time to start busting some muscles. Yuna reset her playlist to the one she specially compiled for this, a combination of EXO, Maroon 5, Bruno Mars, and Linkin Park albums. Fast beats to hype up her heart, lasting for two hours.

Halfway through, she paused to catch a breather. Instead of relaxing, Yuna took out the Korean beef and free-range chicken from the freezer to defrost. She was planning to make some dumplings and roast. After that, she resumed her workout.

Sweating like crazy, Yuna reached for the towel she set aside earlier to wipe herself before putting on a baggy shirt on. She would shower after cooking. The playlist was switched to instrumental and classical music. Yuna cut up the meat, vegetables and aromatics into the sizes she wanted. She put the prepared ingredients in the roast pan, while leaving aside ingredients meant for the dumpling. She added in the necessary amount of salt, pepper and honey and left it in the oven for a slow roast. Wonton skin next, a simple mixture of flour, oil, water and some seasonings, the skin was done. She assembled the dumpling, pleating them to close them securely. She made a lot so she could froze them for later.

Cooking them, mouth-watering aroma filled the apartment, spilling outside.

Suddenly, her bell ranged.

She peeped through the peephole and saw someone very tall. Then, that someone peeped into the peephole too, Chanyeol. Wait, Chanyeol? Why was he here? Did he mistook Kyungsoo’s home again?

The bell rang again.

Yuna took a deep breath, counted one to ten, and opened the door. She looked up at the giant of a man, “Hello, Kyungsoo-ssi’s home is one the right.”

Opening the door also caused the smell of everything she was cooking to flow out in a gush. She could visibly see Chanyeol taking a deep breath in, scenting the air. “Nah, I’m from Kyungsoo’s. Something smells amazing. May I have a look and possibly taste some.” Another head came into view and another.

Shocked, she opened her door wider, allowing them entrance. Chanyeol, Kai and Sehun went inside as soon as the door was wide enough. After that, Kyungsoo bowed and smiling sheepishly at her, apologetic of his members. “Sorry for the intrusion.” Yuna bowed back.

Now, four EXO members were in her home.

“Noona, this smells so delicious. What are you cooking?” Lead by Chanyeol, the three prodded her kitchen, Kyungsoo walking beside her.

“I made some roast and dumplings.” It struck her, her dumplings were still on the stove. She broke into a sprint to check on her dumplings. The abrupt movements took the boys aback, jolting the jittery giant. Yuna lifted one of the dumplings and looked at the bottom. She let out a relieved sigh, “thank goodness they didn’t burn.” Looking at the dumplings, and the men, she took out the rest of the dumplings she had frozen and moved about to fry them, replacing the cooked dumplings. While doing that, she urged the boys to make themselves at home, “Help yourself, and get some drinks from the fridge.” Munchy joined them in the kitchen, rubbing himself at Kyungsoo’s legs.

The roast was not much, thinking for a bit, it was best to make another dish. Stew was good when there were many people. She made quick work to prep the ingredients, “There’s assorted drinks in the bottom cabinet to the fridge’s left.”

Chanyeol opened the fridge and cabinet, whilst the Sehun and Kai tasted the dumplings. The boys moaning in delight at the taste. Kyungsoo though took the mantle of being a sous chef, cutting whatever Yuna had washed. Before cutting, he would first clarify how Yuna wanted the ingredients cut.

Out of nowhere, Yuna had become a cook for EXO. It was rather astounding how the boys got comfortable so promptly. “Noona, we’ve been holding ourselves back every time we’re at Kyungsoo’s. Today we reached our limit,” confessed Chanyeol. “Pity Baekhyun is not here. He’d be furious if he knew we’re eating here.” As Chanyeol conversed, Kai and Sehun continued filling their mouths.

“Yah, Kai, Sehun, stop eating.” Kyungsoo reprimanded the boys whose cheeks reminded Yuna of chipmunks, “save some for noona,”

“It’s fine, if they got filled up, more roast and stew for us to eat,” added Yuna, effectively stopping the boys from eating more. With the rest of the dumplings cooked to perfection, there were 36 dumplings left from the initial 50.

Feeling semi guilty, Kai offered himself, “I’ll go fetch the rice from Kyungsoo’s. It should be done by now.”

It didn’t take long to put the stew on the open fire, but it would take some time for it to be done. Yuna asked Kyungsoo to help look after the stove and oven. To the rest, she said, “there are game consoles at the tv if you want to play. I’m going to freshen up.”

Yuna wanted to cry. She stunk. In the presence of EXO, she reeked. Embarrassed was too light to convey her feelings. Yuna slapped herself to snap out of the misery she was in. She showered and wore a fresh set of cosy clothes. They had seen her in her messiest and smelliest, there was no use of dressing up anymore. It would be even more appalling to be anything more.

Being in her cosy clothes, which mask her figure, she looked pretty much like a pretty boy.

Walking into the open kitchen, dining, and living room, she saw the table was set. They really made themselves at home. On the sofa, Sehun and Kyungsoo was playing Tekken. Chanyeol and Kai was video chatting. Glancing at the stove, the stew needed a bit more time. Yuna went back to her room to get something.

A minute later, she was back at the living room, a set of coloured markers and photographs placed on the coffee table. Then, she sat on the beanbag, disturbing Munchy. “I’ll consider your signatures as reimbursement for the food. Make ‘em pretty. That paper has my name on it.”

문유나

After the four finished signing, she invited them to eat. For an hour, they sat at the same table, eating the same food, and talked about this and that. The boys ate their fill, cleared the table and took back the leftovers. At the door, Chanyeol said, “we’ll be back.”

“Just come whenever, but bring groceries if you want me to cook.” She closed the door and it dawned to her, she didn’t take any picture.

Yuna checked the instagram account she made exclusively to follow EXO and get EXO related contents. Chanyeol uploaded a picture of the four of them setting the table and Sehun had a close-up of the dumplings. She quickly saved the two pictures. The evidence that this was not a dream.

Chapter Text

This was crazy. She was going crazy. Munchy was sick, they were both pyrexic. The pyrexia had triggered her migraine, which was blinding her vision to some degree. The worst thing was she couldn’t take any over the counter painkiller to stop the pain, because the side effects of taking them were even worst for her. To top it off, the herbs and medicine she could take had finished without her realising it. Going to the clinic and vet were the only solution; critical. The problem was, she couldn’t ride her bike in this condition, not when walking straight wasn’t even on the agenda.

Yuna tried to recall which of her eight brothers were currently available from the last time she checked their family’s chatroom. She was avoiding all kind of screens currently lest her migraine intensified. If none of her brothers were free, then she had no choice but to disturb her sister-in-laws, which she loathed to do since they were all with children under five, some had multiples of those.

Meandering in her memory, Yuna tried to process whatever she could last remember. Haneul was outstation same with Miru and Ryung. Insoo, Taeil, Yong and Daewon couldn’t get out of work in short notice. Was Raon working today?  

Phone on loudspeaker, Jung Joonyoung’s Sympathy played. This seventh brother of hers was a romantic and the only one who had flexible hours and unmarried. Not to mention he was the closest to her. Usually he would come sleepover at her place every now and then, but he had been in Jeju for a job the past month, only coming back a couple of days ago.

No one picked up, so she dialled once again. Joonyoung’s Sympathy once again filled the silence. Having migraine meant she couldn’t tolerate loud noises or bright light, hence there were no background music and the curtains were all closed. The ringtone was killing her slowly. Still, no one picked up the phone.

Then, her doorbell sounded deafening, she sobbed at the throbbing it ensued. Yuna forced herself to get up, fighting against the pain. Each motion was like electrical shock jabbing at her neurons. A deep breath abated them a bit. She swallowed the whimpers as she progressed closer to the main door. She opened the door and leaned against the doorframe to look at the guest. Eyebrows scrunching as bright light entered her vision when she lifted her face up. A groan managed to escape.

It was Sehun holding a few bags of groceries.

“Noona,” worry was pronounced in his tone. Sehun put the bags down and felt Yuna’s temperature at her neck. He hissed at the heat while Yuna sighed at having something cold against her skin. “I’ll take you the clinic.”

“Munchy is sick too.” After saying that, a bout of nausea hit Yuna so bad but she didn’t want to mess the front door. She swallowed the risen bile, and lost the feeling of her legs. The consequent falling happened in slow motion for her, but she had no control over her body. She managed to hear Sehun screaming Kyungsoo-hyung as the younger man caught her from bashing her head against the wall.

Laying against Sehun’s body, the man’s perfume was too sharp for her nose, Yuna swallowed another mouthful of bile. She tried to stand on her two feet, unfortunately to no avail. “Sehun-ssi, your perfume is killing me.”

Kyungsoo chose that moment to appear and quickly reached for Yuna, lifting her up. Yuna tried holding her breath, afraid that Kyungsoo’s scent too would be overpowering. As sick as she was, she couldn’t hold her breath for even five seconds. Tentatively, she breathed in and sighed. Then only then, her body relaxed. Kyungsoo smelt pleasant and soft. She hid her face against his shoulder, closing her eyes tight in the effort to block all the bright light.

“She’s burning up,” stated Kyungsoo as he felt the heat from Yuna’s body.

“Noona said Munchy is ill too. Noona, where’s your ID?”  Sehun ran into her home after hearing ‘Wallet… bedroom.’ Within a minute, he slipped the wallet and her phone into Kyungsoo’s jacket.

“I’ll bring her to the emergency, you get Munchy to the vet after finding her keys and locking mine and her apartment,” said Kyungsoo and he hurried to the lift. “Noona, you’re heavier than you look,” chuckled the penguin, trying to lighten the mood.

Yuna deliberately ignored the comment. Instead, she mumbled, “I hope no one sees this especially your sasaeng.” Fortunately, no one else took the lift and they got to the parking level sans disturbance. But, the lift feed was another thing.

Kyungsoo placed Yuna in the backseat of his Hyundai SUV and secured the seatbelt before starting the engine. For Yuna, it took forever to reach the emergency, she couldn’t fall asleep since the pain was agonising for the whole 20 minutes drive. As smooth as Kyungsoo had drove, in her highly sensitised state, she felt every turn like a roller coaster ride. Thank goodness Kyungsoo didn’t switch on the radio or asked her about anything.

Reminded by her words about sasaeng, Kyungsoo put his mask, shade, and cap on. After that, he carried Yuna out of the car. A nurse saw them and brought out a wheelchair to them. Later, it was a blur of frenzy to Yuna as her temperature climbed higher and the nurse transferred her to the critical section, away from Kyungsoo.

Kyungsoo went about to get her registered. At the counter, he had to adjust his voice so that he was not recognised. Registration done, Kyungsoo reached for Yuna’s phone, hoping she didn’t lock it.

It wasn’t locked. He tsked at the lack of security, but was grateful for that. He noted it in his brain to talk to hee later.

He checked the contact list, called the one named Appa, and explained the situation. He looked at his watch, it was almost noon. Kyungsoo waited for Yuna at the waiting area with his face down. After half an hour, a nurse announced Moon Yuna, He went to the nurse. Though the nurse looked shocked to see him up close, she maintained her professionalism. She explained to him Yuna’s condition and that she had been moved to the ICU. He nodded in understanding and the nurse showed him to the ICU.

Yuna’s phone vibrated in his pocket as they walked to the ICU, giving Kyungsoo the chance to not talk to the nurse. He answered the call from Raonie.

“Where are you?” Kyungsoo told Raon her whereabouts and condition. He told him to meet at the ICU.

Chapter Text

Raon was a replica of Yuna in the male form and the most distinguishing feature was his height. Raon was taller than Chanyeol. The height might have thrown Kyungsoo in a loop for a bit, but the similarities made it easy to identify him as Yuna’s brother. How did the size difference became so wide between those two?

If he were not already used to being surrounded by tall people on a daily basis, he didn’t know how would have felt at the moment. Anyways, Kyungsoo greeted the man, taking off his mask and shades. “I’m Do Kyungsoo, noona’s neighbour.” Up close, the man seemed very familiar. He wished he brought his prescription glass with him.

“Ah, Kyungsoo, it’s you,” Raon bade familiarly.

Hearing the man’s voice, his brain clicked, finally managing to process pass the worry of Yuna’s condition. He knew Raon. Raon was a member of the production team he had recently completed filming. No wonder he was not uncomfortable around Yuna, there was an unconscious cognition. Why hadn’t he realised the resemblance before this? Probably because the man was always immaculate whenever they met, wholly contrasting to Yuna’s comfortable yet rugged style. “Raon-hyung, you’re noona’s brother?” Kyungsoo passed Yuna’s phone and wallet to Raon.

“Yes, I am. How is she?” asked Raon as they looked at Yuna’s through the glass window.

“Just now, the doctor said she’s stabilising, but they need to continue monitoring her here until her temperature stop fluctuating completely before transferring her to a normal ward.” He looked at Yuna. There were all kinds of wires on her including an infusion line. Add with her pale face to that, it jabbed at Kyungsoo’s heart. He hated having people around him sick.

Raon nodded. He sighed in respite. “Thanks Kyungsoo for bringing her here. I’m glad it’s this hospital since they have her record.” Raon eyes left Yuna to look at the shorter man. “You should go home and rest. Better leave before the rest of the family reach here especially our brothers. Since you know, you have been her crush since Hello Monster. At least Miru-hyung isn’t here. If they knew her crush was actually in her world, you’ll be facing unwanted special attention.” Raon emphasised on the special in  a questionable way.

However, the warning came too late. Kyungsoo didn’t even manage to process Raon’s words when a storm of footsteps could be heard. As there was only a single exit, escaping without notice was improbable. Five towering figures, one of them a woman and a single short middle-aged man –who was clearly the father- hurried towards them. Kyungsoo stood frozen staring at the flurry with his eyes opened wide. “Hyung, they are all your family?”

“Mom, dad, and our brothers.” Which meant the one wearing the scrub suit was not merely a doctor too.

Kyungsoo stood still as Raon introduced him. A round of introduction, Song Hana, the mother hugged Kyungsoo, squishing him. At the same time, Daewon who was the doctor went to see Yuna up close. The woman released Kyungsoo, “How did you know she was sick?”

“It was Sehun who found out when he wanted to catch up with Yuna,” said Kyungsoo, his voice a bit higher than usual. He cleared his throat. “Right now, he’s with Munchy at the vet. Munchy is sick too.”

The Moon clan nodded as they listened to Kyungsoo. Taeil probed, “Who’s Sehun?”

“My friend.” Kyungsoo felt like disappearing. He bit his lower lip.

“I don’t know any Sehun in Yuna’s life.” And the show began as Daewon interrupted them.

“What the hell, Dae. You don’t know everyone in Yuna’s life. She’s freaking 31,” chimed Yong, rather affronted by Daewon’s poor behaviour. Every time anything remotely male related to Yuna, the doctor would have his normally cool temperament on fire.

“By the way, you’re in EXO, right?” The question caught everyone’s attention. Kyungsoo’s brain was blanking out, but he managed to nod slowly.

Before Daewon could continue, Moon Shin, the father advised Kyungsoo to go home. “You must be tired. Go back and rest. We’ll take it from here.”

Chapter Text

Yuna’s phone purred and purred and purred. The cat sound woke Yuna from her light doze. Groggily, she groped for her phone.

Unknown number created group “Soo’s noona”

Unknown number added you

Unknown number 1: Noona, how are you doing? 🤒?

Unknown number 2: Kyungsoo said you got into the ICU. Are you still in there?

Unknown number 3: Sorry noona. I don’t know where Sehun got your number.

Unknown number 1: You’re not mad right, noona 🤓🤓🤓. I missed your dumpling😬.

Unknown number 4: What? There was dumpling? How did I miss that. Wait, noona is in the ICU😱?

Unknown number 1: 😇 I’m the saviour who found her. But Kyungsoo-hyung brought her to the hospital.

Unknown number 5: Is she okay now??? When did she get into the ICU?

Unknown number 3: This morning.

Unknown number 6: Who’s taking care of Munchy if she’s in the hospital. 😺

Unknown number 3: He’s with me.

Unknown number 1: BTW, you don’t have to worry about Munchy. The vet said the fever should abate in a couple of days. He has caught the cat flu that’s going around but it’s nothing serious.😀

Unknown number 4: The cat was sick too?

Yuna: Thanks Sehunie for taking him to the vet. Thanks Kyungsoo-ssi for bringing me to the hospital and looking after Munchy. I’ll ask Raon to stop by and take him.

Yuna: They moved me to a normal ward. The meds are awesome. I’m floating.

Yuna: Sorry, I made everyone worried. I’ll cook something for you guys once I got better. What do you want?

Unknown number 3: No problem, noona. It’s fine, better not to move him much while he’s sick. I’ll take care of him in the meantime.

Unknown number 1: DUMPLING!

Unknown number 1: GANJANG GEJANG!

Unknown number 3: I’ll make samgyetang.

Unknown number 2: Sehunie!

Unknown number 1: What? I bought all the groceries for those already. They’re in noona’s fridge.

Unknown number 7: Noona, don’t mind the kids. Just cook whatever, we’ll eat them.

Unknown number 8: Is everyone invited?

Unknown number 9: Even me?

Yuna: Everyone’s invited if someone help me in the kitchen.

Unknown number 5: I volunteer Kyungsoo and myself. Don’t let Kai near a stove 💥. Minseok-hyung, want to join in?

Unknown number 7: Sure. I’ll make sure everything is spotless.

Unknown number 5: Great. Then, Baekhyun and Kai are in charge of entertainment.

Unknown number 8: What about me?

Unknown number 9: Me?

Unknown number 2: You guys are planning like noona is better tomorrow. Let her recover in peace.

Unknown number 5: Joonmyun-hyung, your invitation is revoked.

Unknown number 2: Yah, I didn’t say we should cancel this. We should just prepare for this later on.

Unknown number 4: Hyung, she’s here, just ask her directly. Noona, what do you think?

Yuna is typing…

Unknown number 4: Chanyeol is thinking what food he wants. I’ll eat anything you cook, noona.

Unknown number 6: You went out with him, Baekhyun-hyung? Are you working out again?

Yuna: I don’t mind. We’ll set the date once I get home. Just come, you'll know what to do once you're there. Better to entertain 9 dongsengs than listen to my 8 hyungs nagging me. Samgyetang would be awesome. Soft reminder, sadly I can’t eat any soy products or to be specific anything that have oestrogen or phytoestrogen. Kyungsoo-ssi don’t like sweet food. Chanyeol-ssi and Yixing-ssi can’t eat spicy food? Ugh, I can’t think straight. 

Unknown number 5: He needs it, Jongin. And I want bulgogi. I’ll get the beef.

Unknown number 4: Joonmyun-hyung, see noona likes us. Noona, you have 8 hyungs?

Yuna: Yes, they’re unbelievably 2 sets of triplets and 1 twin.

Unknown number 6: Don’t push too hard. 😆Daebak, noona. I love big families.

Unknown number 8: Oh, that’s why you don’t call them oppa.

Unknown number 1: No wonder it’s so easy to talk to you.

Yuna: You saying I’m a guy, Sehunnie?

A minute of silence…

Yuna: LOL, I don’t mind. I act like one anyway. I bet I can beat Kyungsoo-ssi at arm-wrestling.

Unknown number 3: What?

Unknown number 3: I’ll give you the dietary preferences of the members later.

Yuna: Most crucial point is if any of you are on a diet.

Unknown number 5: We’ll make the day our cheat day. So, you’re the only girl in your siblings, noona?

Unknown number 4: Woah, must be tough having them. I can only imagine.

Yuna: The only and youngest one. Double the craziness. I’m not so young anymore though. Funny how I’m the only one who’s not allowed to date ever. Then, they start asking me when will I get married.

Unknown number 1: Like being the maknae, always the maknae.

Yuna: Exactly.

They continued to chat throughout the night till everyone went to bed. However, Yuna couldn’t sleep. Without the distraction from the boys, the pain wrecking her body was more pronounced. Thank heavens her migraine had fully stopped, only the muscle and joint pain from the fever bothered her. A nurse came in to check on her, but it took less than 10 minutes.

Bored, she scrolled the chat group once again. She tried to identify the owner of each unknown number and saved them once she was sure. Only 2 numbers were left unknown.

Suddenly, another chat popped.

Kyungsoo: Can’t sleep, noona?

Heavens, why was this man messaging her?

Yuna: Yeah.

Kyungsoo: Does it hurt?

Yuna: Don’t worry so much, Kyungsoo-ssi. I’m getting better. How’s Munchy? I hope he’s not bothering Meongmul and Huchu?

Kyungsoo: He’s snuggling with me. Meongmul is a bit jealous, she’ll get over it, but Huchu loves him.

The mental visualisation of Kyungsoo being surrounded by fluffy animals tugged at Yuna’s heart.

Yuna: Good. He always sleeps with me. It’s weird not hearing his purr. Oh yeah, beware, he likes to suck on my shirt or hair when he sleeps.

Kyungsoo: Then the duvet will have to do. He’s purring loudly. Wait, I’ll call you. I think he misses you too.

Oh yeah, Kyungsoo’s hair was super short. Damn this man was killing her. He was being too sweet. Rereading Kyungsoo’s words, Yuna swallowed a scream. Didn’t the man just announced he wasn’t wearing a shirt and he was going to call her in a bit. Friendzoned, definitely. She turned to her side and placed her phone against the tall side table so it was upright.

Her phone rang.

Yuna took a deep breath to calm her nerves and swiped the screen. Looking at the screen, she didn’t know what to feel, relieved or missed opportunity, both would sum things up pretty well. There Kyungsoo was but only his face was visible. She could see Munchy laying beside Kyungsoo’s face, eyes wide looking straight at her face. No purring, glaring at her.

“Munchy, love.” Yuna waved at her beloved cat and Munchy started talking back, meowing and meowing, complaining about everything. “I know it hurts. I know, love. I miss you too.” They conversed back and forth as though understanding each other’s languages. “Sorry I’m not there, but Kyungsoo-ssi is taking good care of you, yes.” Precisely at that moment, Munchy nuzzled Kyungsoo’s cheek whilst reverberating satisfied purring, agreeing that Kyungsoo was indeed taking care of him very well. It also effectively stunned Yuna. Munchy only nuzzled those he truly loved. Not to mention, the image was beyond adorable. “See, you’re in good hands.”

Yuna looked at Kyungsoo, Her cat was purring very loud too. “What did you bribe him with?”

“What? Why?” confused Kyungsoo was also adorable. Yuna didn’t know how her heart could manage receiving all this things. Maybe this was the silver linings for getting horribly ill.

“Munchy nuzzled you. Him nuzzling you means he has acknowledged you as one of his beloved existence. That was bloody fast, you know. Ugh, I’m jealous.” Kyungsoo grinned and he stroked Munchy liked he had won something big.

Yuna reached her limit. “Damn it, Kyungsoo, don’t smile like that. Whatever, I’m just going to be straight with you. I’m in love with you. Fuh, it feels amazing to let it out.” Kyungsoo’s jaw dropped. Munchy was still rubbing his head against the man’a cheek. “As much as I’m in love with you, don’t think too much about it. I know we live in very different worlds.” Her medicine was making her tongue loose. The fever and lack of sleep further reduced her inhibition. Maybe tomorrow she would regret everything, maybe not.

They broke the eye contact. “Don’t look so flummoxed. You’re my bias since before I know you were in EXO. Then, I met you and you owned my heart. I’m still a female, you know, and you look cosy up close, nothing like my giant hyungs. I need to stop talking.”

Kyungsoo cleared his throat. “It’s not that I don’t believe that you can fall in love, noona. It’s just that compared to you I’m dumb. You’re doing your PhD whereas I’m a high school graduate.”

Yuna shook her head. She tried her best to look into Kyungsoo’s eyes. “That just means you have different learning environment. Doesn’t mean you’re stupid. University is not everything. For me, I just love researching and to get there, I need a PhD. The whole world can teach you something only if you listened and you do listen, Kyungsoo-ssi.” Her mood stabilised. Yuna smiled at Kyungsoo. “Don’t work yourself up thinking about this. Hearts and feelings are never as simple as they seem. Go to sleep, Kyungsoo-ssi. Thank you for letting me see Munchy.”

“Okay, noona. Close your eyes.” Yuna closed her eyes, following the words sans resistance. Kyungsoo whispered, “You try to sleep, noona. I’ll end the call once you’re asleep. You’ll sleep easier listening to Munchy’s purr.” He hummed a soft tune, harmonising with Munchy’s purr.

He could see the moment Yuna fell asleep was when her muscles relaxed and her head drooped. He was about to swipe the call off when there was movement.

It was Yuna’s mother. She must have heard their conversation.

Before Kyungsoo snapped out of shock and could sit up properly to greet her, Hana interrupted. “It’s okay, son. No need to get up and do call me imo. Go sleep. Yuna slept already. Thank you once again. Night, Munchy. Good night, Kyungsoo.”

The screen changed to his wallpaper after Kyungsoo replied, “Good night, imo.”

His mind totally blanked out. Munchy nuzzled him and stretched, but his face was still glued to Kyungsoo’s cheek. Kyungsoo rubbed the tom’s back and closed his eyes, listening to the soothing purr. It didn’t take long for him to enter slumber land.

Chapter Text

Being hospitalised for four days was not fun. She didn’t have her laptop so she couldn’t write either her thesis or manuscript. Eomma wouldn’t have it. The boys kept her entertained with their squishiness every now and then. It helped reducing the annoyance some of her brothers had caused.

Nevertheless, she felt better, though not completely. It would take a few more days maybe a week for her to recover to full capacity, considering everything.

She missed her bike.

She missed the appointment with her supervisor, the professor said to rest well and met him in another month.

She missed Munchy.

She missed her home the most.

Seeing her brothers and their respective family members every day including her parents was all fine and dandy, but they were exhausting too. There was at least a single reason why she moved out of their family home. Then, of course, Miru got back and found out about Kyungsoo from Daewon, which was the worst scenario ever. Daewon was a gossip. A war mongering gossip. His entertainment was her misery.

Flashback of the conversation.

“How did that punk got involved in your life?”

“Didn’t you lot asked me to get to know some guys?”

“The hell, Moonie? Not an idol!”

“What’s wrong with an idol?”

“Never a celebrity.”

“Raon is a celebrity.”

“Hey, what have I got anything to do with this.”

“Miru brought it up.”

“He’s short though.”

“Then, I’m a hobbit. So is appa.”

“Stop dragging everyone into this.”

“Stop being unreasonable.”

“Yeah, you’re bickering with a sick person. Unreasonable much, Miru.”

“I’m worried, Moonie.”

“Worried for nothing. Come back to earth, Miru. No way will he be interested in the likes of me. He’s a dongseng and a neighbour. What have your panties twisted?”

“Does he know you like him?”

“Do you not know who I am?”

“Damn it, Moonie. Why the hell did you confessed?”

“What?”

“Now, she can’t confess? The dude is in front of her face, Miru. We’re talking about Moonie here. No way would she not confess eventually. It’s inevitable”

“Shut up, Raon.”

“Again, regardless of my confession, it didn’t matter to him.”

“Did he reject you? What the hell! How can he reject our Moonie?”

“Now you’re being confusing, Miru.”

“I told you he’s not interested. Leave my feelings be.”

“Can’t you kill the feels?”

“And have no distraction to abate my depression and anxiety? Now? While I’m going crazy with my thesis? What do you think kept me sane since my graduate school?”

“You have us. You should come back home.”

“We talked about this already. Even eomma and appa are fine with me liking him, living alone and being single.”

“She needs her space Miru. Something we can never truly understand.”

End of flashback.

Everyone was there watching the show between Miru, Raon and her. Daewon managed to half of it before he was called back to work. The rest snickered.

In front of her door with Raon accompanying her, Yuna remembered she didn’t have her key and card. She went next door, to see if Kyungsoo was home with her key and card. Pushing she intercom, she asked for Kyungsoo.

Kyungsoo opened his door, he smiled at her which was slightly different from his usual smile. “Noona, welcome back.” Munchy came running between Kyungsoo’s legs. Huchu on his tail followed by Meongmul. “Huchu, Meongmul, stay.” The pair whined at the order.

Having boundless experience of facing people who she had confessed to in her repertoire of 31 age, it was slightly manageable to interact with Kyungsoo. “Did Sehun pass you my card and key?”

“Yes, he did. Wait a minute.” Kyungsoo went inside.

Yuna crouched to play with the two dogs and Munchy. Baby talking nonsense to them. She rubbed and scratched them, feeling their fluffiness. She didn’t understand why looking at Meongmul reminded her too much about Kyungsoo. They were all too adorable. So aggravating. Yuna picked Meongmul up and she opened her mouth wide, she closed in on her rostrum, taunting the cute doggie like she would really eat her up, the poor baby whined. Kyungsoo chose that moment to appear. She cleared her throat and let Meongmul down.

Kyungsoo bit his lips with mirth shining in his eyes, “Here you go.”

Again, Yuna cleared her throat. “Thanks, Kyungsoo-ssi.” Kyungsoo was still struggling with holding in his laugh. Yuna punched him in the shoulder. “Just laugh it out.” The man burst, falling to his knees. “I’m going. I’ll let the others know I’m back. Come Munchy, let’s go home.”

Raon who was clearly watching the show smirked at Yuna. “Have fun flirting?” Another punching bag appeared, so Yuna punched him. “Damn it, Moonie. I thought you’re still weak.”

“I may be sick, but my muscle didn’t atrophy.” She looked at Raon who was not entering her home like usual. “Are you coming in or not?”

“Nah, I need to get going. The boss has summoned me. Bye, Moonie.” Yuna gave Raon a hug. “Sorry I didn’t pick up your call that day.”

“Stop apologising, didn’t I say I forgave you already.” Yuna hugged Raon tighter.

“I still feel bad. I’ll come by tonight. If you need anything, tell me. Bye, Moonie.” The oh so tall man kissed Yuna’s temple and went on his way.

Hospital bag put away, laundry started, Yuna sat on the bean bag.

Yuna: I’m home. Is the mini party still on?

She didn’t have to wait long for someone to answer her.

Chanyeol: YES!

Baekhyun; Yixing-hyung is here for another week so we should schedule something soon.

So, they planned for the small get-together to be on this coming Friday night which was in three days.

Chapter Text

The EXO members dropped by on Thursday to fill Yuna’s and Kyungsoo’s fridge to the brim. Kyungsoo had a full day schedule today, so he left his key and card in Yuna’s hands. All the ingredients needed to be prepped earlier was designated at Yuna’s, whilst those not requiring so was at Kyungsoo’s. Jongdae and Chanyeol were free, they stuck around after bringing in their contribution in the mid morning.

She brought along Meongmul and Huchu to her place. Mulbit was here too, playing with Munchy. The four of them could entertain each other much better when they were together.

At first, Jongdae was awkward, not knowing where to start. As expected since it was his first time at hers. To pop his shyness, Yuna punched his shoulder lightly. “Yah, Chen-ssi, don’t be so stiff. We have a lot to do today. See that list on the fridge, those are the menus we need to prep for.” On the fridge, more than a dozen pieces of papers were agglomerated.

Looking at the fridge, Jongdae was excited at the covered door. Smiling brightly, “We’re going to eat that much food? YES!”

Chanyeol perused the sheets one by one, snapping pictures to share at the group chat. “Noona, could we make more frozen dumplings so I can bring some home. Sehun wasn’t the only one crazy about them.”

“Are they really delicious? Do you have some now?” Really, Jongdae was a ball of energy. Standing near him recharged her.

“I think they finished the stock I made the last time they were here for snacks.” Yuna pointed at Chanyeol. “If the ingredients are enough, we can always make more. How about I cook something for our lunch, we do need to eat first before going to war. What do you have in mind?”

“Something simple would be good,” said Chanyeol as he leaned on the island.

“Are you having a hangover?” Yuna shook her head. She opened the fridge to take out one of her herbal drink and offered it Chanyeol. The man smiled sheepishly and drank obediently. “Besides the stock for tomorrow, I have hairtail, mackerel, beef, and chicken.”

“Braised fish with radish!” chimed Jongdae.

“Alright, that’s one. Chanyeol-ssi?” Never to leave her guest out of the choice, Yuna waited for Chanyeol to think his idea over.

“This tastes refreshing.” He swirled the drink in his hand and smiled with the dimples announcing their presence. “Chicken stir fry with lots of vegetables. That should be enough main dish for the three of us.”

“Jongin is coming soon. He said he just woke up and Baekhyun too,” said Jongdae as he looked at his phone.

“So five of us. Alright, let’s get to it.” Yuna distributed the tasks.

With Chanyeol and Jongdae here, no way would they be working in companionable silence. Instead, they chose to grill her. “Noona, why do you like EXO?”

It only took Yuna a second to give her answer. “Your talents and squishiness. Basically because you’re very good at what you do and your dynamics are heart-warming.”

Chanyeol nodded vigorously at her answer, satisfied. “Any other groups you like?”

This took Yuna a few seconds to think. She had been mainly listening to her own mix which didn’t have many groups in them. “FT Island? Hongki-ssi have a unique voice and I love the rasp.”

Then, it was a rapid fire of questioning and answering.

“Favourite MV?”

“Tempo.”

“Favourite song?”

“Moonlight.”

“Favourite member?”

“Kyungsoo.” That was what they were trying to get to.

“Aha, I knew it.” Jongdae claimed he could see it the first time they saw her. “You’re in love with him.”

Yuna couldn’t deny his claim. “I know I was being really obvious.”

“Too obvious, but he’s oblivious.” Agreed Chanyeol. “Unless you spell it to his face, he would just dismiss it.”

“I confessed already.” Yuna shrugged.

“For real?” Chanyeol disbelief was plastered on his face.

The noona nodded. “Couldn’t help it. He’s my type at least from what I knew as an outsider. I just hope it won’t get any deeper to the point that it would hurt.”

“Why shouldn’t you?” prodded Jongdae.

“I don’t think I’m his type. It was fine before since he’s not in my world, but now all of you are in my actual reality. It’s a different context. To top things off, you’re idols, I’m not.” Yuna tasted the assembled braised fish and radish on the stove. “Which is for the best actually. It’s good that there’s no hope. I can carry on having this feeling in a safe manner.”

“What if hypothetically he falls for you?” asked Chanyeol. Jongdae knocked his head for the question.

“I’d be thrilled, but it’s impossible. I’m by no means pretty anyway. Nothing like the beauties in your world.” She was on the shorter side and a billboard. She knew she was average. She had long accepted these, so she said the words to them without having a slight bit of dissatisfaction. She love herself the way she was.

Chanyeol and Jongdae was about to say something, but she cut them to the chase. “Don’t say I’m beautiful in my own ways. Of course I am, I’m happy with myself. I’m just not a beauty, which all of you deserve to have. The most important thing is I have my brain. Enough about me. I know it’s your off season, what have you been up to?”

They talked about Chanyeol’s composing, Jongdae’s venture in the land of OST and more working out. Then, it was about hobbies. Not long after, Baekhyun and Jongin arrived. Very good timing too since it was right when the table was set with all the main and side dishes. “Yah, your timing. You’re going to do the clean-up,” expressed the giant baby as he sat down at the table. Chopsticks and spoon ready.

The lunch and prep work went through in similar but rowdier manner. They talked about their families, about the other members too. Baekhyun kept on cracking everyone up. Jongin wasn’t allowed within 5 meters of the stove so he accompanied them while playing with the pets. Chanyeol proved to be a good taster and Jongdae becoming the best radio channel ever.

By five, things that were supposed to be marinated were marinated, all that was left was to cook them on the D-day. Tired, they hung out in front of the TV, which led to the competitive boys being loud over the game console. Then, one thing led to another, and now Yuna was doing foot reflexology that had started from her twiddling with Baekhyun’s leg and commenting about his internal organs. Jongdae and Jongin refused outright after Baekhyun screams and giggles.

At a particular point, which was the liver, she didn’t have to apply any strength for Chanyeol to scream. “Who ask you to drink so much last night that your liver is overworked.” Yuna pressed harder.

“Noona, noona.” Scream, “Not so hard.” Jongin helped to hold Chanyeol’s legs in place lest Yuna suffered from giant kicks.

The rest was laughing hard at Chanyeol’s predicament. Baekhyun took out his phone and recorded the debacle, sending it to their chat group. Now there were two videos, Baekhyun’s and Chanyeol’s. Yuna smiled, gratified by the reaction. She loved it. Baekhyun couldn’t stand pain very well, and he was ticklish so she didn’t let herself go. Chanyeol was better, but not by much. Chanyeol too surrendered within 15 minutes.

“Damn, noona. Your fingers are strong.” Chanyeol was exhausted from the skirmish.

Yuna flexed her arms. “Never underestimate petite people. These stocky fingers are perfect for massaging. Are you guys staying for dinner?”

“We shouldn’t trouble you,” said the sensible Baekhyun. “You cooked us lunch already and there’s tomorrow too.”

“But, I want to eat dinner here.” Jongdae pinched Chanyeol.

Yuna laughed at their antic. “Up to you. I don’t mind either way. I still need to cook my own dinner regardless.”

“We’ll come back tomorrow, noona. Thank you.” Jongin pulled Chanyeol who was reluctant to leave.

A chorus of “Thanks, noona,” filled the room as she walked them out.

Chapter Text

Yuna was having a not so light supper when her doorbell rang for the nth time of the day. She had an inkling who it was, she washed her hands and picked up Kyungsoo’s card and key. Huchu and Meongmul had perked up earlier and were already waiting by the door, tails wagging like a hurricane.

Looking at Kyungsoo, she sighed at the bloated eyes. She could feel his tiredness exuding out of him in waves despite him trying to conceal it. “Have you eaten?” asked Yuna as she passed the key and card. He hummed, noncommittal. “Come on it, I have ramen in the kitchen. It won’t take long to whip you one.”

Kyungsoo was a bit reluctant, but he was intrigued. Plus, his cute dogs were beckoning him to come inside. “You made ramen?”

“Yeah, but it’s just shio ramen. Go, sit.” She retrieved the toppings and freshly made noodle from the fridge that she had intended for tomorrow’s breakfast. Having EXO around was just like having her brothers around, nothing stays in the fridge for long.

Instead of sitting, Kyungsoo accompanied Yuna, while leaning against the cabinet and tasting the heated broth, he observed her moving around in the kitchen. “What did you put in this?”

“Dasima, bonito flakes, fish broth, seasonings and some garlic cloves because I love garlic. Light and simple. I have many toppings here, fish slices, fish cakes, crab meat, assorted vegetables, poached eggs... choose them yourself.” Yuna passed him the bowl filled with ramen noodle and broth; steam rising from the surface. “Water or Sikhye?”

“Both.” Kyungsoo’s eyes sparkled, lessening the exhaustion emanating from him. A hum could be heard as he licked and bit his lips while looking at the steaming bowl and the toppings. He took a bit of all the toppings available. The duo walked to the dining table carefully more so Kyungsoo; him with his bowl filled near the brim and Yuna balancing a tray carrying a jug of Shikye, a tumbler of warm water and two mugs. “Noona, I’ll cook for you next time.”

They dug in. “That is very much welcomed. As much as I enjoy cooking, having someone cook for me is always better. No doenjang-jiggae though.”

“Is it food allergy?” Yuna smiled at Kyungsoo’s sparked curiosity.

“I guess so. I developed sensitivity towards anything containing oestrogen eight years ago around the time I found out about my endometriosis. So, I’m on hormone therapy since then.” She didn’t mind explaining her health condition to Kyungsoo, because his interest to know about her was making her really happy.

Kyungsoo was horrified he stopped eating. “What happens if you eat it?”

His expression was adorable. “Pain, lots of pain. I’m totally fine if I don’t eat any.” Assured Yuna.

“But you’re still taking the hormone.” Relieved, he took another mouthful of the ramen.

“To contain my endometriosis so I don’t have to go for another surgery in the long run.”

Again he was horrified. “You had had a surgery?”

“Yah, eat up. I’m doing great because of that surgery.” Yuna cleared her bowl, slurping down the broth. Then, she poured the Sikhye for Kyungsoo, warm water for herself.

“By the way, this ramen is delicious, noona. Jongdae would love this,” commented Kyungsoo after he had emptied the bowl and mug. He collected the dirty dishes and brought them to the kitchen to be washed.

Yuna wiped the table and slid the chairs under the table. That done, she helped drying the dishes. “I’ll make some for them next time. Feeling better?”

“Yes. Thank you.” They worked in companionable silence. Something that was impossible if the rest of the EXO was around.

Chapter Text

During the time it took Yuna to do the last touch up of the kitchen, Kyungsoo went to the living area to search for his dogs. Huchu perked up as he moved near. Picking the toy poodle up, he sat at the sofa, cuddling with Huchu. Moengmul was already sleeping with Munchy on the beanbag with the cat as the big spoon.

By the time Yuna got out of the kitchen, the penguin was already fast asleep. Feeling sorry for him, the noona decided not to wake him up and prepared a set of pillow and blanket. He didn’t even twitch a muscle when Yuna moved him so that he was lying down instead of sitting. Huchu made herself comfortable once more on top of Kyungsoo after she covered him with the blanket. Lastly, Yuna removed the thick-rimmed spectacle and placed it on the coffee table.

Then, she too went to her room to get ready for bed. Bladder emptied, face and feet washed, teeth brushed and kohl lined on her eyes, she loved making her eyes pretty before bed. Only then, was she ready to drift off in total darkness. To her surprise, Meongmul was beside Munchy on her bed. She kissed them both good night and closed her eyes.

As the sun rose from the horizon, so did Yuna. She had a long day of cooking today, ergo there was a need to start early. Morning bathroom routine done, bed made, windows opened, Yuna headed to the living room to continue opening all the windows.

She had forgotten about Kyungsoo sleeping on the sofa. The presence of Meongmul snuggling with Munchy in a puddle on her bed totally escaped her consciousness. As such, she sauntered into the living room in her low-cut tank top and pyjama bottoms sans care. Something she wouldn’t even do in front any of the male members of her family. At least a baggy graphic shirt was always on to cover up her non-existent cleavage while long enough for her bubble butt.

However, today marked a carelessness she hadn’t made for more than half her life.

Yuna went straight to the windows and spread the curtains apart, not noticing the sleepy head sitting up on her sofa. When she turned around, her eyes fell on the other pair of glaring eyes, she froze for a second. The next second, she scurried to her room as though her life depended on it. She could feel her whole body getting tomato red from embarrassment and mortification. The only point that she tried to use to sooth herself was that the penguin wasn’t wearing his glasses.

She knew, the penguin had likely seen more of the female body, but it didn’t mean she wanted hers to be seen. She hated letting others see her body because for her, it was a secret treasure for her own self-satisfaction. The secrecy gave her a one of a kind thrill.

“Noona, I’ll come back after I make breakfast for us,” bellowed Kyungsoo from the living area. He too fled to his own home. Huchu and Meongmul left behind. Besides the two cutie pies were still wrapped in their respective dreams.

In her room, Yuna decided nothing had happened; the incident erased from her reality. She decided to restart her day by redoing her morning duty, this time by showering.

Refreshed, she proceeded to switch her playlist on dressed in something decent. The trio bundling over seeking her attention. She laid on her back and they swarmed her with wagging tails and loud purring. She petted them and scratched their favourite spots. Once they had enough of her attention, they turned to each other and played, but when she stood up and moved, they chased after her legs. “Yes, yes, I’m getting your breakfast. Who wants to eat tasty, tasty chicken? Healthy tasty chicken.” One container for the cute poodles and another container for Munchy, Yuna heat up the pre-prepped delicacies tailor made for the cutie pies.

Her beloved tune played over the background music, Yuna picked up her ringing phone, “Hello.”

“Noona, breakfast is ready, come on over.” No, the morning’s incident popped up in her mind. The most pronounced image was Kyungsoo’s glaring eyes.

Yuna shook her head. “Give me a minute; I’m heating up the pups’ and Munchy’s breakfast.”

Chapter Text

After filling a bowl of Munchy’s food, Yuna picked up the two cutiepies and placed them in a front sling meant for two. She had bought the sling for Munchy and a possible future playmate of him, but she hadn’t manage to adopt another. Since the cute duo were cat size, they fit into the sling very well. She also brought along their food and left Munchy to feast on his breakfast in peace. The tom would find them once he was done, if he wanted to.

A few steps later, she was inside Kyungsoo’s apartment. For the first time, she was in his home while it was only the two of them. The notion raised goosebumps throughout her body. As she let the duo down, she took a deep calming breath. Then, she passed their breakfast to Kyungsoo. The penguin sniffed at the opened container, nodded and made short work to serve his lovelies with the food.

Yuna shook her head. “It’s chicken and pumpkin. Oh yeah, you need to taste Sehunie’s Ganjang Gejang, it should be ripe enough now.” She had placed the container at Kyungsoo’s when the members came to send their contribution.

The penguin retrieved a big container containing black liquid. “Just eat one and tell me what else is needed”

“Don’t tell me you tasted this when you made it.” He took one crab out, eyeing the syrup before scooping a good amount into a bowl.

“Raon did the tasting. So, I can’t say it is any good or not.” Yuna helped herself at the dining table, her mouth watered looking at the breakfast spread on it. She wiped the drool spilling from her mouth with the back of her hand. “You made tempura for breakfast. How did you know I love tempura?” Kyungsoo joined her at the table. “I love you!” mouthed Yuna reflexively while taking the golden jumbo shrimp and squid. Eyes fixated on them. Yuna hummed appreciatively as she tucked in.

They ate in complete silence. The only sound emitted was the crunch of crispy coating and the clicking of utensils. Both enjoying their own meal, smiling at the taste. It was not the slightest bit discomfiting.

Yuna licked her fingers. “You need to cook for me again. I didn’t expect you to be this good at cooking. “Enjoyed the Ganjang Gejang?” She smirked at the deer caught in the headlight look currently pasted on Kyungsoo’s face as he had taken another spoon of the brine to pour on the last bits of the rice in his bowl. “I take it’s good enough.”

The man licked his lips, “Almost as good as my eomeoni’s.”

“Woah, I’ll take that huge compliment any day.” Food stuffed into their respective tummies, they cleared the table and kitchen together. “Sehunie’s Ganjang Gejang, Jongdae’s jiggly pudding and your savoury ice-cream are done. What’s left are the dumplings, Chanyeol-ssi’s Bulgogi, Jongin-ssi’s Yangnyeom-tongdak, Joonmyun-ssi’s Sataejjim, Minseok-ssi’s steamed fish, Yixing-ssi’s pot pie and Baekhyun-ssi’s pizza. Pleating the dumplings will take the most manual work. All the ingredients are ready. Then, there are the side dishes. That’s all, right?”

Kyungsoo checked his phone, scrolling the chat room. “Should be. So, we need to get the Sataejjim going first, the pizza dough…” They discussed what needed to be done first until last. “We’ll steam the fish while the pizza dough is in the oven.”

“Yes. Once everyone is here, then we’ll assemble the pizza and melt the cheese. Baekhyun-ssi bought so much cheese. We’ll be swimming in them with how he wants it.” Now, she’s worrying about their diet. “Minseok-ssi is going to feel so guilty eating tonight. Your tour is coming soon, isn’t it? Is this okay?”

“With how much they have been talking about this, it’s fine. We’ll be losing weight once the tour comes around. This is storing energy reserve. Anyway, eating a lot in for a day is not going to ruin us.” The penguin reasoned with Yuna.

“You’ll get really bloated the next day though.” Yuna blew up her cheeks like a chipmunk. Unexpectedly, Kyungsoo squeezed both her cheeks flat with his palms and laughed. The noona poked at his cheeks in retaliation. “This is going to get way puffier.”

“Not as much as Baekhyun.” He wiggled his eyebrows.

“Oh, god.” She remembered a picture of a very puffy Baekhyun. “You know, I saved a picture with him puffed up. It was so funny waking up to that picture breaking insta though it was for another reason.” Yuna wiped her face, trying not to laugh. She showed said picture to Kyungsoo. “What were you guys doing? Pranking him with spicy food?” The man just shrugged. “Was it Sehunie?”

“He said he could eat anything and Sehun took that on. Actually, Joonmyun-hyung ate one mistakenly, but Baekhyun didn’t realise it. They both cried that night.” Kyungsoo smirked at the memory.

Yuna outright laughed. “Raonie did the same to Miru but there were two Joonmyun-ssi, Ryung and Insoo. Raon got in so much trouble because of that.”

“Sehun wasn’t unscathed. Baekhyun got his revenge the next day.” Just as Kyungsoo was about to elaborate, his intercom beeped.

“Kyungsoo. Kyungsoo. Kyungsoo. Kyungsoo. Kyungsoo.” The name repeated till Kyungsoo opened his door. “Noona wasn’t home. Is she here?” It was the giant of EXO.

Chapter Text

The sly smirk on Chanyeol’s face made Yuna want to wipe it off his face, possibly with a bit more strength than required, unfortunately she couldn’t reach his face without disgracing herself. Instead, she opt for the next best thing, she slapped his shoulder as s greet, hard. “Our giant beagle is finally here.” At the cutie in his arm, Yuna cooed as she took Toben from his hand. “Hello, Toben. Did your giant appa feed you?”

“I did. Thank you very much.” Chanyeol coughed, he grabbed his shoulder and made a hurt expression. He couldn’t hold that face for long before he snickered. “Having a nice date?”

Yuna rolled her eyes, disbelieving at what Chanyeol was trying to do. “He made me one of the best breakfast ever and now you’re making it feel weird.” She looked at Kyungsoo. “By the way, he cooks better than I expected.”

“Of course he does with how much he cooks for us. Not to mention the times he would ignore us at the restaurant just to dig some tips from the chef. It’s a pity you can’t taste his Doenjang Jiggae unless he makes a special recipe for you.” Chanyeol sighed and changed the topic. “Are we going to start soon or how?” 

“We’ll carry all of these to my place first.” She gestured to the table of ingredients.

“Alright.” Chanyeol arranged the ingredients for a more efficient transfer.

“Noona, you need to share with me the chicken pumpkin recipe. They’re asking for more.” Huchu and Meongmul were begging at their appa’s legs.

Yuna looked the empty bowls Kyungsoo was showing her and the duo whining at his legs. “Okey, remind me later on. I thought they always ask for more” Kyungsoo shook his head. Yuna ahhed. “Don’t give in, lest they’ll get obese. I already do the calorie count for their food.” An image of a fat Vivi lingered in her eyes. “I’ll go open my door first.”

They made quick work of transferring everything. Yuna checked through the plethora of ingredients and cross matching them with their recipes. She took notes on what was missing or lacking. Then, she disappeared for ten minutes into one of the rooms and came back with a basket of colourful produce.

“Where did you get those, noona?” Asked Chanyeol who was checking out the kitchen to familiarise himself.

“I have a mini garden in the second room.” Curious, Chanyeol went to said room and his loud exclamation could be heard all the way to the kitchen. Intrigued, Kyungsoo looked after him, leaving Yuna in the kitchen to sort the produce accordingly.

In a bright room with abundant sunshine and numerous lighting, in the middle of it were rows of vertical garden surrounded by huge pots at the periphery. Herbs of all sorts, rich green shrubs and colourful vegetables, a buffet for the eyes and nose were scattered in a chaotic but patterned manner.

“Someone get me a handful of mint and stevia. I forgot to get them,” shouted Yuna. A few minutes passed, no one brought forth the two things she asked for. So, she ventured to the room she dubbed as her zen room. Where a corner laid some cushions for her and Munchy to lounge.

Inside, the two adult men were focused on perusing each types of plants, smelling and tasting them. “You guys are worst then locusts. You’re tasting basil, Kyungsoo-ssi,” claimed the noona as the penguin kept on sniffing and biting bits of the leaf in his hand, figuring the taste and smell that was at the tip of his tongue. “I have three types of basil here; Thai, Sweet, and Lemon.” She pointed at each types as she said their names.

She added “and that flower you’re smelling is henna, Chanyeol-ssi. I use the leaves mostly for my hair and cuticles. The soft aroma of the flowers is my favourite, that’s why it’s there.” Chanyeol was sitting at her lounge area while he smelt the blooming flowers besides him. “The two of you, don’t go plucking any of those,” she pointed at the end of the row small plants were growing, “I don’t want them to die.”

Kyungsoo was still stuck at the three basils she had. “I’m growing a few more types since Daewon killed two of them the last time he visited.”

“Why do you have so many types? Isn’t one enough?” He plucked the Lime basil, smelling it.

Yuna took the newly plucked leaf from Kyungsoo’s fingers, crushed it in her palm and opened it. “Smell, like this the aroma is more potent.” She repeated with the other two kinds. “Each have their own subtlety. The Sweet basil is mild and best eaten raw while Thai basil retains their taste even after heated. The Lemon basil is good for marinating.”

“You used a combination of Lemon and Thai basil in the roast you made last time,” thought Kyungsoo aloud.

Yuna nodded, “You remembered that?”

“I tried the recipe you gave me, but the taste was different. Now, I figured why but it’s not just the basil, isn’t it?” His eyes showed signs of frustration at the memory.

“Maybe? I need to write them down first then I’ll remember. Sorry, I’ll be more specific next time.”

Kyungsoo okeyed and squatted after taking a few steps. In front of him was an herb with long stalks. “This looks like coriander but smells different.”

“This is Chinese parsley. I don’t like coriander, the taste and smell give me headache, so I substitute this for coriander. I usually use them for soups and stir fries.” Kyungsoo moved, sniffed, plucked, crushed, tasted and asked questions followed by Yuna answering them while showing how to select them properly for their respective uses.

The cycle kept repeating and Chanyeol filmed the duo.

After what seemed to be ten minutes later (it was actually half an hour later, Chanyeol was preoccupied with filming the duo he lost time too), the duo were not showing any signs of stopping, the tall giant was getting worried. “Sorry to interrupt, aren’t we supposed to be cooking?” Chanyeol’s deep voice cut through the duo’s discussion.

Yuna looked at her wristwatch. Wow, time flew very fast today, it was already twenty minutes past ten a.m. and they didn’t have the stew started yet. “Yes, yes. We should.”

Chapter Text

At 1 p.m. sharp, another pair made an appearance. It was Minseok and Tan with containers. “Sorry, I’m late. My dongseng visited. I brought curry.”

First thing first, he released Tan from his carrier. Indoor slippers slipped on, Minseok entered the kitchen as he shadowed Chanyeol. “Woah.” He was impressed, face morphing into phases of shock and wonder. He thought there would at least be some semblance of a disaster strike going on, but the kitchen was apparently rather neat despite the bustle and le clumsy giant. Yes, the counters were all in use with bits of this and that, things were relatively neat.

More than that, currently, the picture in front of him astounded him more. Kyungsoo and Yuna hadn’t realised he was there, standing five feet away from them. Too engrossed were they discussing about something as both of them were holding a spoon each, sipping and commenting and sipping and commenting likely about the content of the pot they kept on spooning from. Beside him, Chanyeol had his phone out, recording.

They were in a bubble. A world consisting only the two of them with their spoons and pot.

“Hyung, let me show you something.” Chanyeol took the curry from Minseok’s hand and placed it on the dining table as he gestured for the hyung to follow him.

Without any query, Minseok was brought to the zen room. Chanyeol closed the door behind him and played a series of videos of the day’s happenstances. All of the videos had one impossible to miss similarity: Kyungsoo animatedly hogging Yuna’s attention with questions upon questions. That was not only it, they also bickered. The penguin bickered with the noona like they were a pair of old married couples.

“Yah, you’re killing those perilla leaves.”

“What?”

“You’re not supposed to put so much pressure on the leaves whilst cutting them. They’ll lose their shapes.”

“I’m not. I’m just holding them tight enough so they roll nicely. You’re the one crushing those leaves in your hand.” The penguin jutted his lips towards Yuna’s hands. Seeing Yuna’s eyes no longer on his hands, Kyungsoo loosened up his hold.

“These are meant to be crushed. These are aromatics not perilla. Chanyeol-ya, he’s slandering me.” Then, only the shorter duo raised their heads to find Chanyeol. Thus, made them aware of him and his phone, which was angling towards them.

“Were you recording us?” Both of them raised their respective glistening knives towards the camera right at the same time.

“No, I’m messaging.”  With his height, the angle of the camera didn’t seem too suspicious, it was believable. The shorter duo went back to their chopping boards.

Yuna spied at Kyungsoo, “Ha, see, you loosened up. You did put too much pressure before.” The penguin ignored her. “You really need to improve your knife skills,” grumbled Yuna, dissatisfied at being ignored.

“You need to learn how to knead a dough,” jabbed Kyungsoo. Yuna groaned.

The video stopped. “What’s with the dough?”

“Noona overworked her dough and it got a bit hard. It wasn’t anything big, but Kyungsoo didn’t have any other ammo so he kept on holding that over her head.” The memory was so funny he remembered shedding some tears. “Too bad, I didn’t record that. Hyung, keep these videos a secret, yeah.”

Minseok could see the mischief the giant was formulating. “No problem so long you keep me posted.” He was not going to miss the process, they had a bet going after all. “In the span of less than three hours, they had dropped the polite speak and talked casually.”

“Not three hours. They’ve been interacting a lot before this. By the way, she made him ramen last night. Ramen. Jongdae is going to be so jealous. I saw the pictures and the recipe on his phone.” They walked out of the room, whispering gossips like teenagers.

When they got back to the kitchen, the duo were still in their own world. This time, both squatting down, looking into the window of the oven.

Chapter Text

Minseok and Chanyeol stared at the two blob staring into the oven. They looked like two fluffy balls when they huddled like that. Hushed talks of them deliberating about the potpie inside filled the room. “Why are they so cute? Makes you want to squish them together.” Minseok’s comment inspired Chanyeol with a brilliant idea.

He knew Kyungsoo and he had an inkling on how Yuna would respond. A mischievous smile and twinkling eyes brightened his face to the limit. Minseok couldn’t help but smile widely at Chanyeol’s expression. He was definitely enjoying the show as a spectator. As Minseok took a step back, Chanyeol crept forward.

Minseok got his phone ready for filming.

Closer and closer the giant inched by.

“Bah!” the giant boomed. The glasses rattled with the degree of the decibels created.

To Chanyeol’s and Minseok’s grinning mien, the duo were jolted to hugging each other, eyes equivalent to saucers as they glowered at the source of their fright. They had both of their arms wrapped around each other, eyes looking in the same direction. Very similar to a pair of alarmed kittens.

It took them a   second before registering Chanyeol was pranking them. The moment it clicked that it was not an earthquake or similar disasters, like lightning strike, Yuna took her slipper and hurled it towards the giant’s laughing face. A direct hit. The giant took the impact head on and laughed even harder, falling to the ground wiping his tearing eyes. Kyungsoo went after the giant and destroyed his hairdo.

On Minseok’s end, he filmed it all quietly while trying not to laugh like a lunatic, though his face contorted in mirth.

Then, they all laughed, with all the pets exploring the sudden loudness. Huchu and Meongmul nosing their appa. Toben who was used to Chanyeol’s craziness, yipped happily. The cats stayed at arm’s length as if they were a group of oldies, judging their humans.

After a while, they quietened down.

“I’m hungry.” Yuna gazed at the skeleton analogue clock on her wall. It was indeed her usual lunch hour. She looked at Kyungsoo and pouted, “We didn’t cook lunch yet.”

“Hyung brought curry. On the table.” The statement had the two cooks zipping to the dining table. Opening the containers, taking in the aroma rushing out of it.

As though they had practised together for years, the duo turned to Minseok in unison. The question was easily read from their faces. Who made this? “My dongseng came over and she made this when I said I’m coming here. She said hello to everyone.”

Chanyeol brought a stack of plates with enough cutleries to the table. He passed a ladle to Kyungsoo and a rice scoop to Minseok. Yuna went to the kitchen to get some side dishes. The penguin flurried behind her to retrieve the Sikhye jug. Four servings of curry and rice, a couple bowls of vegetable side dishes, the three men and the noona took their seats. The pets had already been fed earlier and were sleeping on the wide cushion.

“Noona, have you ever been to our concert?” probed Chanyeol.

“Regrettably no, sorry. The dates never match with my schedule, if it did, the tickets were impossible to get. I wish you’d make vinyl records, I only collect those.” She had decided to only collect vinyl records since she was in seventh grade if she ever to collect any music. It was all thanks to Ryung and his expensive taste.

“You have a turntable, noona?” Chanyeol was happily surprised by the knowledge. He didn’t expect her to have a turntable of all things.

The noona swallowed before answering. “Duh, it’s in my room. I put them on when I write and sleep.”

“Later show them to us, yeah?”

Yuna lifted her eyebrows. “You want to go inside a single woman’s bedroom?” she sounded teasingly scandalous. “You want to be my man?” she looked directly into Chanyeol’s eyes with twinkling eyes.

The three men choked on their food. Minseok was looking at Kyungsoo’s alarmed face while the other two men bored into Yuna. Yuna laughed wholeheartedly, curry forgotten for a moment.

“All of you are so adorable. We’ll tour my bedroom after this, but don’t be too surprised at what shall bewitch your eyes.” Yuna laughed some more. Once the mirthmleft her bones, she continued eating the curry.

None of them commented anything after that, not even a remark on the food. Yuna understood why Kyungsoo didn’t say anything regarding the curry, it was edible but nothing special. Nevertheless, they finished the food without anything leftover, grateful for the food made for them. Yuna checked the oven and the stove, the food were cooking nicely while the men cleaned up.

Chanyeol was excited. His energy brimmed and spilled all over the place. How could she deny him? Any of the EXO in fact? “Come on. I don’t know why me owning a turntable is exciting you so much.” She showed them the way to the room Sehun had entered before.

“It’s a turntable, noona. Not every Korean own a turntable, only audiophiles do. I have one but that’s expected. You, not so much.” His passion was showing so clearly. The other two seemed to be thrilled too.

“I’m not an audiophile. I don’t think so, that’s Ryung. Ryung works as a conductor for Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra. You want to talk music, he’s the man. I’m his residue.” The noona opened the solid oak door to her room. “Welcome to my lair.”

The specialty of this particular residence was the gigantic master bedroom. Sufficient to include her working area with a large working table surrounded by ceiling high bookshelves, and the king sized tatami platform bed. On the other side, books were stacked not only on the shelves but also on the table. “Close your eyes to the chaos on that side.” Contrary to the haphazard state of her workroom, the side with her bed was spick and span consisting only the tatami bed sandwiched by side tables. On top of the tatami was a folded futon and seven fluffy pillows. The other inhabitant of the area was a ginormous beanbag.

The turntable was at the centre of the room, at the end of the bookshelves separating the area. Beside it was another ceiling high shelve, half of its occupant was records. Cho Young Pil, IU, Lana Del Rey, Wonder Girls, Leon Bridges, Adele, Sam Smith, Yiruma, Super Junior, Scriabin, Bach, Mozart, Haydn, Rachmaninoff and various OSTs; those were amongst the few shelf dweller. Their covers were worn out from frequent use. “Ryung bought me this turntable for my twenty-first birthday.”

Chanyeol swarmed the turntable. “Technics SL1200MK6-S,” exclaimed Chanyeol ever the virtuoso.

“Noona, you have Thriller! The Shire, LotR’s OST! The Legend of Zelda! Skyrim!” Kyungsoo was awed with other things. Behind him was a hovering Minseok.

“If you find any you want to borrow, go ahead. I’m going to get back to the kitchen.” She left them to their own devices. She was willing to lend her treasure because she knew they know how to take proper care of the records.

Chapter Text

The sound of Sing Sing Sing wafted through the air to the front of the apartment. A rhythmic thumping accompanied the music. Someone must had put the vinyl on. Likely, it was Kyungsoo. This song reminded Yuna of Swing Kids so much, her favourite song in the whole movie to the point of scouring the net for a copy of the vinyl. She was so happy when the vinyl arrived in perfect condition. She moved her body to the catchy tune, mostly just wiggling her torso and hands.

Chanyeol skidded to a stop behind the kitchen island. “Noona, lend me these two, yeah? Radiohead’s “In Rainbows” and Coldplay’s “A Rush of Blood to the Head". Minseok hyung is getting the Okami OST. Kyungsoo is stuck listening to Sing Sing Sing. The box seemed new.”

“Yeah, I just got that last week. It was so good in the movie I had to have it. Sure. You break them you replace them, my only rule.” The two vinyl in Chanyeol’s hand were expected, but Minseok finding the Okami OST was rather out of the blue. “Is Minseok-ssi using that for his PhD?”

Instead of Chanyeol answering, the man himself appeared. “For inspiration. I’ve been stuck with the structuring of my writing.”

“Structuring sucks. Took me almost two semesters to get the flow right and those were just the sub topics and main points, not the paragraphing yet.”

Minseok nodded, he could empathise. Doing his own research and writing was fascinating but the headache they caused couldn’t be denied. “I can imagine the amount of rewriting that took.”

Yuna sighed. “I wished I could help you, but I know nothing about music.”

“It’s okay, noona. What’s you’re PhD about?” Chanyeol resumed his position in the kitchen while Minseok looked around to find things to do.

“Ethics and Metaphysics; a journey of the mind and soul. It’s philosophy with oodles of cognitive psychology.” As much as writing consumed her soul, the love she had for her PhD was palpable. There was weariness yet there was also happiness.

Chanyeol’s jaw dropped and Minseok shook. The giant stared at the tiny noona. “You’re doing philosophy. That’s daebak.”

Yuna blushed. “Thanks! My brain is my only specialty.”

“No way. Your food is beyond delicious,” Minseok didn’t believe her.

The noona hummed. “My eomma is a Michelin chef. Compared to her, my food is average.”

Her statement summed everything up pretty well, the other two understood. People around the noona must be experts at their own field to the point of her being adept in them seemed only adequate. They could picture how her mother was exemplary with her food and how passionate Ryung was with his music.

“I heard Michelin chef. Who’s a Michelin chef?” Suddenly, a shorthaired penguin popped up.

“My eomma. Her restaurant specialises in samgyetang and dumplings.”

“And he offered to make samgyetang for you.” Chanyeol couldn’t resist but jabbing at Kyungsoo. The penguin didn’t respond, awed with the idea that imo was a Michelin chef. Without response, Chanyeol moved on. “No wonder your dumplings are divine.”

“Eomma’s are way better. The ones I make isn’t the same with the recipes she uses in her restaurant because of the secret seasoning; a soy based concoction. But, mine originates from the ones she made specifically for me.” Kyungsoo was hooked. “She loves all things soy especially doenjang jiggae. If you make some for her maybe she’ll make something for you.”

Kyungsoo smiled a true happy smile, triggering Yuna to smile. He spoke softly, “That would be amazing, noona.”

Of course, the soft atmosphere didn’t last with the others around. “Come on. This is not fair. I want some too.” Minseok nodded to Chanyeol’s protest. “We, all of us want some,” corrected Chanyeol.

“You giant baby, we’ll make enough for the whole group,” she was both exasperated and amused with the whining. “Happy?”

“Yes!”

“Then, let’s get through today first or nobody is going to eat anything tonight. We have lots of dumplings to pleat.”

As night gets closer, the other EXO’s member reached Yuna’s abode one after another. With their arrival, the volume increased, more so when the other two main vocalist were around to joke and troll each other. With all of them around, it reminded her of her family gathering. It made her miss her large family, she noted to go to her parent’s place someday soon.

The dining table and kitchen’s island were full of food. To top things over, even her freezer was close to bursting with the 10 packets of dumplings for the members to take home. Chanyeol wanted an extra packet, to which he had crimped them himself.

Chapter Text

They polished their plates fast, very fast. Everyone took a bit of everything, commenting that there were not enough food to go around yet the noona had catered for fifteen. Yuna retaliated without mercy, “If even a grain of rice is left, no one is getting their frozen dumplings.” They seized their complaining and complimented her instead.

Days of prep and work had been demolished in less than 13 minutes. Looking at them eating like starved dragons was very satisfying. Yuna felt like a proud grandmother that had fed her little ones.      

Exhausted, yes definitely, but she was having a lot of fun. Something she hadn’t felt for quite a while amidst a group of people outside her family. She had friends, just not many of them and they were very busy people. They would gather every now and then and it was precisely their last meet that she had had this much laugh. Who said EXO was not made of crackheads? They were as raucous and entertaining as having her whole crazy family together.

After they were done, they had insisted of cleaning everything without her. She was tearing from all of their attacking her heart as she sat on her throne covered by all the pets. Then, it was game time.

Jongin held the helm. Yuna was horrible at games and she was out in the first round. It didn’t bother her at all as now she could watch them to her fill. Before long, it was the last two player standing.

Jongdae and Baekhyun were getting angry over the game they were playing, competitive wasn’t enough to describe them. It was hella funny when they were the final players. Kyungsoo was bent over Minseok’s lap while Chanyeol was already one with the floor, the three laughing themselves to a cramp. Joonmyun tried to mediate, tried, and ended up being the victim of the fighting duo’s combined attention. Sehun was eyeing Jongin, ready to help Jongdae, but Yixing caught him, the maknae acted as though he didn’t do anything. Jongin the mastermind of the whole game was plain happy at the chaos that he had created.

The fight was never going to end unless someone gave in, but neither of the duo would. Thus, Sehun suggested playing spin the bottle as the duo continued fighting.

Yuna smiled evilly. “So if I dared any of you to kiss each other, you’d do it?” She eyed every single one of them one by one. “On the lips.”

Jongdae ever the sharp eared one, heard her loud and clear. He whined, “Noona!” Dampening the fire currently burning him.

“What? I’m a typical fan, you know how your fans are, right?” Yuna snickered, eyes twinkling with the idea of feeding her fujoshi side. “At least, I’m warning you.”

Jongin looked scandalised. “Sometimes I forget you’re our fan.”

Yixing looked at everyone with that loss sheep face of his. Sehun who was struck speechless couldn’t utter a word, mimicking a fish on dry land. Joonmyun on the other hand was positively awed at the noona.

“Don’t worry, I’m just a soft stan.” Joonmyun broke into a fit of laughter as if her words had triggered some funny memories. “I see someone has been deep inside the hellhole of the fandom.”

The EXO’s leader stopped himself from laughing too hard. “You’re in the fandom, noona?”

“Duh.”

“What do you do?” Those who were active in the social media knew many versions of their fans’ craziness. So, they understood where she was heading.

“I write and edit pictures. Mostly about Kyungsoo being adorable,” Kyungsoo coughed and Minseok poked him. “and your group squishy interactions. Nothing viral since I don’t do anything saucy. If I did anything ChanBaek, I’d be famous. Not interested though.” Yuna gave a Cheshire cat impression, eyes switching between Chanyeol and Baekhyun. They groaned in synchrony.

“Why are we talking about this? I thought we’re playing games?” Baekhyun was not going to delve into the many works related to him. “I want the extra desert.”

“It’s mine, hyung. You lost.” And they were back to fighting each other. She expected them to be super competitive with each other, but having her food getting such demand made her heart flutter. As per Baekhyun and Jongin request, she had made agreed to make extra portions as prizes aside from the dumplings. In other words, they were all hyped up from both the games and the food at stake.

“Fine! It’s a draw! You both get extra desert.” Jongin had had enough of the two’s hard-headedness. Jongdae screamed, happy.

“Yes! Let’s play Riff Off.” Baekhyun the king of fanservice got Yuna applauding with all her might.

“And I’m going to watch this personal concert. The nine of you make three groups. Because I’m the resident tone-deaf, I’ll set the categories.” Chanyeol passed his phone to Yuna to record the game. She recorded right after a quick run to get three sets of spoons with different designs. “The winner will get to take away of their choice.” The pets were sleeping soundly on the beanbag; hence, she had to relinquish her throne and sat cross-legged on the sofa.

The prize riled them up. The members pulled one spoon each and Chanyeol, Minseok and Kyungsoo were in one team. Another team included, Yixing, Sehun and Jongdae. The rest, Kai, Joonmyun and Baekhyun made the third team.

 “The first category, songs about promises.” Easy enough, they went into a relay until at the seventh song, Chanyeol missed terribly. Kyungsoo sat beside Yuna, glimpsing into the recording phone. Chanyeol in front of her, head leaning against her leg. Comfortable, he relieved Yuna from her duty of recording. Minseok had disappeared, probably went to the loo. “Songs with the moon.”

Baekhyun sang Moonlight, Kyungsoo hummed to it, and Yuna melted. Ballad after ballad of seamlessly sweet harmonising careened the tired noona into dreamland. In her sleep, she snuggled to a soft smelling pillow and sighed. The pillow was of course Kyungsoo, someone who had ensnared her nose, ears, eyes and heart. Now, he had even ensnared her sense of touch as she snuggled closer, wrapping her hand around his arm. The penguin was unaware of this though. He had fallen asleep before Yuna, head stretched against the back of the comfy sofa.

Chanyeol found another subject for his video.

Chapter Text

Joonmyun debated whether to wake them up to sleep in a better position but Sehun shushed him. Yixing defended Joonmyun saying they’d get stiff necks sleeping on the sofa.

Chanyeol said moving them would just wake them unnecessarily. Plus, the sofa was the type that was suitable for sleeping. One of those sofa beds. Minseok agreed enthusiastically. They managed to fall asleep despite the loudness that was Jongdae and Baekhyun, meant they were kaput, drained to their bones. Jongdae and Baekhyun were affronted, but nodded anyway. On the other hand, Jongin couldn’t stop staring at the sleeping duo. Something filtered through his mind.

The reasoning sounded sincere enough however, those that didn’t want to move them had an ulterior reason; a reward for the noona who had just recovered and cooked for them. Something she craved in the depth of her heart; more pieces of Kyungsoo. They liked her well enough including Kyungsoo. This was a small token of theirs for her.

Sehun found a blanket for them.

Tomorrow was Saturday anyways, as far as they knew, Kyungsoo didn’t have a schedule till afternoon. He could just go back to sleep in his bed in the morning.

Chanyeol and Minseok divided the loot and prizes to the allotted owners. The rest made sure things were in their respective places and scoured for anything less than pristine. Once they confirmed nothing else needed to be done, they left, leaving the noona and penguin on the sofa with a blanket covering them.

On the wide sofa, there were two bodies lying on their sides, facing each other while treating the other as their body pillow, limbs entangled. Throughout the night, they had pushed and pulled but never completely disentangled from each other. Yuna smooshed her face against her pillow while Kyungsoo pulled his flushed against his body. The alien texture of their respective pillow didn’t register in their bleary minds. The combined body heat was soothing their weary bodies, stimulating happy hormones that deepened their slumber. Hence, entering the best REM state quickly.

Morning came.

Munchy climbed over the sofa, looking at the heap of bodies, he meowed. No reaction. He tapped Yuna’s and Kyungsoo’s faces with his paw one after another. Not stopping until they opened their eyes. They took their time, too cosy from the optimal heat and a splendid sleep. With their foggy eyes and foggier mind, both stretched and Kyungsoo slipped from the sofa with a thud. The sound boosted the amount of neurotransmitters synapsing to their brain, startling them both awake.

They looked at each other and it dawned to them.

They had slept together. Not sexually. However, they did indeed had slept through the whole night snug against each other.

Both faces turned red, but they couldn’t take their eyes off each other.

Yuna poked at Kyungsoo’s cheek, passing his glasses. “Yah, go shower, you said you need to go to your parents before your schedule today. Don’t forget the dumplings for them. I hope the boys didn’t empty my freezer.” She checked her freezer, relieved that they didn’t touch the dumplings meant for Kyungsoo’s parents. She packed them in a bag for him. “Remember, these don’t need to be defrost. Thanks for helping out.” She smiled at him.

The penguin didn’t say much, he nodded, thanked her and bade his goodbye. His awkwardness was an attack to her heart.

Yuna screamed once she was sure the line was clear.

Why didn’t she woke earlier? She could have seen his sleeping face up close. She could have basked in the feeling of being in his arms. She was literally embraced by him and she missed the whole experience due to being dead asleep. The positive thing was, she had slept very well. Her body felt so good.

Sleeping in someone arms made her miss her eomma. She was the only other person who she had slept like that with.

Yuna screamed again. She was in Kyungsoo’s arms. For the whole night. She couldn’t believe it. All the cooking was so worth it.

She probably wouldn’t see him much after this. Yuna sighed. Their busy season should be starting soon.

It was enough break for her too. Their presence had recharged her to the fullest with enough to spare her for the last leg of her PhD. She had to get back to reality. Her thesis needed finalisation, and she had to present her paper at a conference in Japan in three weeks. Maybe she would do some research at the same time; more people watching and sightseeing. Then, there was her manuscript with the last three chapters.

Reflecting, she was at the end of this phase of her life. She needed to plan for her next phase before entering it.

Would the dongsengs who had stolen her heart be in her future too? Time will tell.

Like divine answer, her doorbell crooned. Ah, Meongmul and Huchu who had been investigating her when she screamed were not hers. They were Kyungsoo’s. She lifted the cutie pies and passed them their owner on the other side of the door after fumbling to open it. He smiled that shy smile of his again.

Door closed, Yuna screamed for the third time this morning.

She needed to cool her nerves. Where was her phone? She checked the group chats, Moon Clan had 23 unread messages, more pictures of her nieces and nephews as per usual. Soo’s noona had two unread messages, which were pictures. Both included her and Kyungsoo sleeping on the sofa. The first had only the two of them with her head perched against Kyungsoo’s upper arm. The second had everyone surrounding them in various stance. Someone must have moved them, as now the penguin’s head was leaning on hers as she nuzzled against his nape, his hand draped over her.

Another scream was unleashed. She was getting hoarse from all the screaming.

These pictures needed to be framed ASAP and she would place one on each of her side table.

How to thank Chanyeol for the pictures? He was fast becoming her favourite dongseng after her two biases and Sehun. She messaged him personally.

Yuna: I’m so going to print those pictures. THANKS!!! What do you want as a gift?

Yuna left her phone on the table, knowing that Chanyeol was still sleeping. She proceeded with her daily routine.

Chapter Text

Chanyeol didn’t want a gift. Instead, he made an agreement. He would provide a constant supply of updates of their life at least weekly in exchange for free excess to raid her fridge and vinyl collection whenever he came over. From then onwards, Chanyeol would drop by either alone or with the other members every so often. Sometimes he didn’t even bother stopping at Kyungsoo’s and hung out at hers, usually by her turntable as she typed, trying vinyl after vinyl.

One time, Kyungsoo saw him exiting her place and the penguin didn’t know what to say. He had been busy and couldn’t hang out much. The noona was always around hence became the go to place for the members whenever they had time to spare.

She had three crucial points that attracted everyone; calm environment, tasteful music and better food.

The rest had their own moments to bug her.

On odd days, Minseok brought over his laptop and worked with her in the workroom. If he needed space, he would go to the zen room. They would talk whenever they needed the distraction. PhD was a lonely journey in the sense only the bearer understood their material as it was novel, and good company were difficult to find. They found each other with rather similar wavelength after Minseok asked her opinion about his writing. Since then, they would read each other’s paper, noting key points only someone outside the field could notice.

To Sehun, she was the cool noona to talk about motorbikes, animations and movies. Along the way somehow they ended up being cuddle buddies. Don’t ask her how that came to be, she herself didn’t notice it. By the time she had noticed, it had become a habit of his to hug her as soon as she opened the door to him. No wonder everyone had a tendency to touch him. The maknae would visit to spend hours cuddling on the sofa whilst screening a new movie.

With Joonmyun, they talked about travelling and people watching. They broadened each other’s mind; Yuna added her cognitive psychology, metaphysical and ethical views whereas Joonmyun brought up the aesthetical and logical aspects. There was a reason why he was a member of the passionate four of SM. Joonmyun was truly invested in the world at large. A point that helped him to choose which theatre production to join. He wanted to touch hearts and for him theatres were the best way.

Jongin loved children so when he found out her brothers would send their children to her place on certain weekends, he would be there whenever he could. To them, he was their bear samchun, at times he even brought his niece and nephew over to play together. During babysitting weekends, her place transformed into a kindergarten with the contents of one of her cabinet brought out and Jongin was ecstatic.

Yuna had a number of hobbies; cooking, reading, writing, gardening, people watching, photography and something she indulged in less frequently, sports involving nature (diving, skydiving, paragliding, hiking, stream rafting, you name it). Jongdae discovered her last hobby from the photobooks she left by the television that she forgot to put back. Then, the story telling began. Courtesy of Insoo who was the one that took her everywhere for the sports –he needed a photographer and Raon was not into these sorts of sports-, Yuna regaled the adventures and misadventures she had. The exhilaration from being 10000 meters above ground to the magnificence of untainted underwater world. Jongdae oohed and aahed, promising they should go somewhere together.

Baekhyun getting close to her was unexpected. So did the out of the blue calls she get from him. He was a homebody, and they had that in common. Another thing they shared was their lack of love for alcohol. Yuna despised alcohol for its sole purpose; she abhorred losing her mental functionality. Baekhyun though because he couldn’t tolerate drinking much and honestly he didn’t particularly enjoy the bitterness. He’d call her to get out of drinking or having to go out. She was his excuse. Then, it spiralled to being his listening ears especially when sasaeng fans irked him.

The faraway Yixing was as predicted, adorable beyond measure. He was not innocent, none of them were, but he was a sweetheart with poetic tendencies. A sweetheart who seemed to have read her books, the ones with poetry, and actually liked them. He had perused her books and found her original copy. After that, he asked her email and from then onwards, they exchanged verses and more verses. Thousands of kilometres bridged by the internet.

Then, there was Kyungsoo aka the penguin. He might be her neighbour, but she met up with the rest more often.

With his schedule packed, Huchu and Meongmul were at his parents’. It had been weeks since they saw each other. Munchy had more contact with the penguin than she did. The cat would sneak in his place and stayed there until the traitor missed her. If she didn’t love the red cat, she would dump him.

Yuna wasn’t disappointed as it was within her line of thoughts of how things would be. He was an idol and an actor. If there were no dramas, he had movies to shoot. Thank heavens she got Chanyeol to update her with stuff, much more reliable than the stans in insta. That abated and recharged her well enough. Not as potent as the real deal, but it worked. However, though not disappointed, it hurt.

The interaction she had with him was limited to the scarce replies in their chat group. Subpar from live contact, his very being was lost in translation.

She missed him severely.

His stupid expressions that got her giggling. His gentle yet curious interrogations about food sparking hearty discussions on health sequelae. His less than innocent straight-faced remarks on the most mundane things. The lack of personal space when they stared intensely at whatever they were cooking. The many different voices he used; the soft, the raspy, the deep, the high and mostly the breathy. His presence in the air she breathe. Heavens, she missed him.

Meeting the others reminded her of him. There were traces of him in their personality and vice versa. Chanyeol’s passion. Minseok’s adorableness. Sehun’s tactility. Joonmyun’s quirkiness. Jongin’s gentleness. Jongdae’a attentiveness. Baekhyun’s seriousness. Yixing’s pseudo innocence.

She hoped they would interact more soon. She couldn’t ask for more than that as much as she wished to. Then again, it was best that they didn’t see each other much. Hopefully, it would abate her feelings, so she hurt less and less maybe even numb everything.

Yuna sighed.

She needed to feel less intense towards Kyungsoo. It was going nowhere.

The only way to do that was by finding someone to occupy her everything, replacing the penguin’s throne. Should she take up her supervisor’s offer to meet that person? She should do it after the conference. Thinking about the trip to Japan, she must inform everyone before going lest they worry about her prolonged absence. Message sent. Yuna stopped her self-indulgent delve into her present life and returned to the words on the monitor.

Chapter Text

Fate had other intentions towards Yuna.

She was rearranging her seven pillows to cover every direction when her phone rang. Le penguin video called her. She had changed the members name accordingly when Miru said he was visiting some weeks ago. Wearing an old comfortable sleeveless, sheer enough to peek at what was underneath, Yuna grabbed a pillow to keep some semblance of modesty then swiped to accept the call.

“Noona, when is your flight to Japan?” Kyungsoo’s clavicles were on display.

Yuna swallowed. “First flight this Thursday. Why?”

“To?”

“Osaka. I’m going to have a short vacation before the conference in Tokyo on Tuesday. Why?”

Kyungsoo hummed. “Have you booked a place to stay?”

“Yes. Appa’s friend’s ryokan. Again why?”

“Can I tag along? Looks like our flights are the same but I haven’t book a place yet.”

“Sure. I’ll ask appa to book another room for you.”

“Thanks, noona. By the way, did you cut your hair?”

When did he notice? Probably from the picture Chanyeol took when they ate lunch. “Yeah.”

“The migraine getting worse?”

She nodded. Longer hair equated to heavier head and more protein use, cutting it solved half the problem. “That’s why I’m taking a short holiday. I’ve been cooped up for far too long. I’m going to the zoo, aquarium, a bit of diving then there’s the food.” She flailed. “Can’t wait to eat. Finally, I managed to reserve a table at Shins’.”

“Shin? Which Shin are you talking about; the authentic or the alternative?” Like always, the penguin perked up at the mention of good food. Shin were small restaurants famous for creating their meal specifically to one’s first impression by the chef; the authentic catered to hundred years of family recipe while the alternative offered a post-modern variety specialised on healthy menu.

“BOTH!” Yuna flailed some more. She had phoned to reserve a table once she confirmed her flight. “They are going to be amazing.” The penguin was drooling. “How many days are you there?”

“Two full days. I’m flying back on Sunday.”

“You want to be my plus one?”

“YES!” And Kyungsoo smiled like the brightest sun. “What do you think they’ll serve us?”

“Hopefully seafood. I want sashimi.”

“You’re so boring, noona.”

“What? I love sashimi. Maybe they’ll serve us steamed fish and I’ll get to eat huge fish eyes.” Kyungsoo gagged and Yuna laughed. “The gooey juice. Yummy.”

“You and your palate, noona. I just hope it will be better than what the reviewers said.” 

“Miru said it is. Those judgmental cracks were undermining their subtle flavour profile, his words not mine.”

“Miru hyung nim went there?”

“I still can’t believe you’re so respectful to him. He was researching for a new dish.”

“He’s Moon Miru, the owner and chef of the Moonlight. I still couldn’t forget the taste of my last meal there. You said you’ll bring me to his restaurant, noona.”

“You’re the busy one. I haven’t seen your face for two weeks.” Munchy showed himself on the screen, rubbing his face on the penguin’s fluffy cheek. “Yah, Munchy. You traitor.”

“I have the entire week off suddenly. The film had to reschedule for another actor. You should take me to Miru’s tomorrow. Plus, I’ve been wanting to ride on that bike of yours too.”

“But, it would be for dinner. I’ve movie marathon tomorrow. Why do they have to release the good movies in the same day?”

“Don’t tell me you’re going to spend the whole afternoon at the movies?”

“Why not? They’re showing dragons, then there’s the new Arthur one and did you see that thriller horror trailer? I NEED TO WATCH THEM ALL TOMORROW! Then, I’ll pick you up.” Her mood fluctuations tended to be worse at the end of the day and it showed.

“You’re going to make your migraine worse.” Kyungsoo worrying over her made her heart skip a beat.

But, she knows how her body works, she just needed to relay that to the man so his worry would be abated. “The darkness in the movie theatre is fine, it is the lack of good sleep that is the problem. It’s not like I’m doing this every day.”

“Why haven’t you been sleeping well?” He stroked the cat’s displayed belly.

“Because Munchy has been sleeping with you,” she glowered at the oblivious cat, who was happily purring by Kyungsoo’s face.

“You want him?”

“Nah, he’ll just go back to you. If he wants me, he’ll be here. Traitor.” They both loved the man, but only Munchy had the prerogative of a cat. She was envious.

“You could come and sleep here. It’s not like we haven’t done it before.” A poker face. He said that as if it wasn’t a big deal to sleep together however platonically. Right, she was effectively an older sibling to the EXO, it probably was no big deal.

“What if I really take you on that offer?” Kyungsoo shrugged. “It is always the quiet ones who are unbelievable,” mumbled the noona not so quietly. “I’m taking that offer. Be there in a minute.” Tomorrow, she will blame this poor decision-making (her best decision ever) on her uninhibited brain due to lack of quality sleeps and her blinding crush.

Video disengaged, she scrambled to find a bra that was suitable for sleep and put that on. Then, she threw on a baggy graphic shirt on top of it. With her favourite pillow in hand, she went to Kyungsoo’s, who was waiting by the door wearing a sleeveless. She can see his arms and shoulders. Sturdy shoulders, good for biting.  

Kyungsoo cleared his throat. Yuna flashed a wide smile, not the least bit apologetic for ogling him.

Munchy by his feet had been angered from being awakened. She nudged the unhappy cat with her leg and he slapped at it. He didn’t stay mad long before he rubbed his body against her legs as they walked to the bedroom.

“Noona, let me see your movie tickets.”

“What? You going to watch them together?” She passed him her phone with the ticket on screen.

He took it and bought his tickets, choosing the seat on her right. “You need someone to look after your bad decisions.”

She nudged him with her shoulder. “Yah, you’re the one making the bad decisions. What if your sasaeng rumble you or even worse the paparazzo.”

”No one ever notices me unless I speak and we can get to Miru’s faster this way. You’ll buy my nachos so I won’t need to use my voice at all.”

“You ninja glutton.”

“Plus, with the new haircut you look like a man.” Her hair was not pixie short but she did have the bishounen look with the shagginess. “I’m not the least bit worried,” he snickered and broke to a laugh at Yuna’s facial contortion.

Yuna rolled her eyes. “Why do I put up with you.”

“You love me.”

“That I do. Are we really sleeping on the same bed?” He didn’t answer her instead gestured towards the bed in his room.

For the first time, she entered Kyungsoo’s domain. Like her home, the master bedroom had similar layout, but unlike her divided space, the room was spacious because of its undividedness. There was sitting area with a gigantic mounted television. Then, there was the humongous bed facing the television, which would fit the three towers of EXO and they wouldn’t be snug on it. She could see Sehun sharing the bed with him.

With their smaller bodies, it would be like sleeping in separate futons. “Sweet bed.” She threw her body on the mattress and groaned. “I’m not going to imagine how expensive this bed is. Now I get why my cat is a traitor. I’ll never get out of this bed if I were you.”

She sat up and scooted to the left side of the bed with the uncluttered side table. From the bed, the television didn’t appear so huge. A thought zoomed in her head and she plopped back down. She knew why the television was here. She had brothers, of course she knew, bad enough she actually caught some of them unintentionally. Abysmal memories. She tried to shove the thought out of the forefront of her head.

“If you had introduced yourself as a thirteen years old, I’d believe you.”

“I haven’t slept in a bed since my last visit to my parents.”

“Buy one.”

“That would be a disaster. I’ll buy one after I get married. Goodness, this is heavenly.” She missed the minute flicker of emotion from the penguin’s face. Kyungsoo passed a blanket to Yuna. She opened it up and snuggled with her pillow in it. “I don’t think I’ll be waking up from this cloud. Wake me up early tomorrow.” Her words slurred as she was already being lulled to her dreamland.

Kyungsoo took his spot and made himself comfortable. Seeing them both settled, Munchy jumped on the bed, nuzzled each humans and situated himself between their heads; purring. With him in the middle of their line of vision, they could only see part of each other’s faces.

“Night, Soo.”

“Night, noona.” And the man hummed a tune syncing with Munchy’s purr, a white noise that soothed one’s heart and soul. They both fell asleep facing each other albeit with the cat being a third wheel.

Once his humans were sleeping deeply, the cat perked up and climbed on top of a cabinet so he could look at his two humans with better clarity.

Chapter Text

The sun inched up the horizon, basking the world with its red tinted light, its light outshined the moon slowly.

Similar to a pupa, Yuna was wrapped tightly in her blanket, hugging her fluffy pillow on the right side of the bed. On the left side, another pupa laid cocooned. Both staying in their side, sleeping like logs. Neither showed signs of waking up but the tom on the cabinet stirred from his doze periodically. He checked his humans, making sure they were comfy and sleeping well. He closed his eyes again after being reassured by their steady breathing. The cycle repeated a couple more times.

Bored, hungry and wanting some loving, Munchy decided his humans had slept enough. He jumped down the cabinet, landing on all fours then jumped up onto the bed. He walked on top of the noona and rubbed his face against her cheek and neck to no avail. He moved to his next target, this human only needed a nudge from him and he was already stirring to life. He licked, scraping his prickly tongue at his human’s nose, a reward for waking up promptly.

“Morning, Munchy.” Kyungsoo rubbed his face, his brain loading. He turned to the right. True to her words, the noona was sleeping deeply. He almost fell back asleep due to the tranquillity, but Munchy meowed at him.

The cat wanted out so, he let him out.

Reminded by her words, Kyungsoo went to her side of bed. Gently, he called the noona’s name, voice with a gravel from the sleep. A twinge snag his heart at having to wake her up. She needed the sleep, the weariness she had yesterday had melted away, but not waking her up was not a choice.

His mother told him, to wake someone up, shake his or her leg. He shook hers through the cocoon, lips uttering her name. “Yuna noona, its morning.”

She blinked, once, twice and moaned as she stretched her limbs out of the self-made pupa; far less graceful then an emerging butterfly. She wiped the drool staining her chin. Kyungsoo waited for her. “Hungry,” her first word of the day even before her eyes were completely open. When she opened them, it was to Kyungsoo’s grinning face. “Kyungsoo-ah, feed me.”

He grinned wider. “I’ll feed you but you’re helping me in the kitchen.”

“Why? I’m the guest here,” whined Yuna, she really didn’t want to move. The bed was amazing and this might only be her chance to experience such luxury.

Kyungsoo pulled her outstretched hand, forcing the noona to get out of the bed. “You need to give me tips.”

“What tips?” Yuna made her body heavier as the penguin pulled her up. She was groggy but it was fun messing with Kyungsoo. However, it didn’t affect the penguin even the slightest bit. She was up and about with a single swift motion. “Dating tips? You have more experience than me.”

He ignored her jab. “You said you’d teach me how to perfectly cook Salmon.”

“Fine, fine. Let’s go.” He steered her to the kitchen, pushing her shoulders. Yuna put all her weight against those hands.

“And noona, can you not fly to Okinawa to dive?”

“But I want to play with whales.” She had planned this trip to the tee so she could have time to dive even if it was only once. It was the whale season and she wanted to meet them again. She missed seeing them. The last time she went during their season was three years ago.

Kyungsoo took out the prepped Salmon he had marinated in oyster sauce while Yuna heated a pan. “I’ll pay for your next trip so go there next season.” That shocked Yuna into listening quietly. “This time let’s eat around. My treat.”

“Really?” The noona checked the thickness of the Salmon fillets and gave thumbs up at his precise cut.

Kyungsoo felt the temperature by hovering his palm over the pan and Yuna did the same. She adjusted the fire strength to low explaining that oyster sauce marinate burnt faster. Once hot enough, he placed the two-inch wide fillets in. The magical sound of sizzling skin burst in the kitchen. “Yes.”

Looking at the man manning the stove, a smile propped on the noona’s face. “You glutton, I accept.” She hadn’t thought that Kyungsoo wanted to spend his holiday with her. The idea soften her heart to jelly.

“I’m a gourmet; an epicure,” stressed the penguin.

“Fancy words for glutton. Yah, don’t flip too early, the skin side takes longer to cook and you need to see the flesh on the side.” Her tone had always been on the brasher sides, it was how their family talk. The man was the opposite. Taking everything in coolly. It made her crush on him even stronger. “Now, I need to rearrange my whole trip and cancel my bookings in Okinawa to suit your gluttony.”

“How much did you spend? I’ll reimburse you.” A couple of minutes made a huge difference. Kyungsoo looked at Yuna and she nodded. He flipped the fillets in the pan.

“Sokay. You just pay for my trip to Ishigaki-jima, that’s much better. I’m planning on going during the manta season. MANTAS are so cute.” She couldn’t wait to go there. Mantas were amongst her favourite sea creatures besides turtles and whales.

“When is that?” His eyes were fixed on the fillets, committing every detail to mind.

“Between July and November. I’ll tell you as soon I plan everything.” A diving trip needs meticulous scheduling. Failing at managing the timing could lead to decompression sickness. No one wanted that.

And the fillets were done. Kyungsoo put them in two plates. He cut through his and marvelled at the pink and juicy middle, exclaiming with both his hands up in the air.

Yuna clapped. “By the way, are eating the fish without rice?”

“We’re eating it with salad.” Then, he recapped what he had learnt to Yuna with his hands busy making the salad. She corrected where he misunderstood and ultimately told him he had done a good job; Kyungsoo preened.

“I hope there aren’t many people at the cinema. I want to hog the theatre.” Salad plated, they took their seats and ate. “Oh yeah, lunch. Are you okay with skipping lunch?”

“The nachos and popcorn should be able to tide me over. We’ll just eat at hyung nim’s restaurant right after.” They talked more about the food, which morphed into talking about taste, and culture that led to Yuna broaching philosophical ideas. To her delight, Kyungsoo gave his own two cents. They talked and chewed and talked some more.

Munchy munching on her big toe signalled to Yuna he hadn’t been fed yet. Thus, Yuna excused herself and they set the time to go.

Chapter Text

Exactly thirty minutes before the movie would start, Yuna kissed Munchy goodbye and locked her home. A rustling beside her signalled that Kyungsoo was doing the same. She passed him a black helmet, Raon’s though considered public property because the few that was hers were too small for others to use. “I hope this fits you. Try it.” Like her, the rest of her brothers also had heads that were on the smaller side, hopefully Kyungsoo’s head wasn’t too big.

He slid on the full-face helmet.

“Snug?” Yuna helped the penguin adjust the helmet and felt the size. “Fits nicely. Thank goodness.”

Wearing black helmets and all black clothing, the duo appeared suspicious if not mysterious.

“Hug me tight,” said the noona then she zoomed out of their apartment building, not giving the penguin time to contemplate. Kyungsoo held on to her with his dear life, body flushed to her back. She smiled from ear to ear, loving every minute of it.

The motorbike flitted through the traffic right on the dot of the speed limit. Air rushed pass them, sounding loud but thanks to the noise cancelling effect of the helmet, it was tranquil. It felt amazing riding on a motorcycle. The adrenaline rush gave a distinct feeling; exhilaration. Kyungsoo basked in the feeling, humming in satisfaction of the new experience.

Not liking having to watch the movie in full theatres, Yuna had always watched them in less frequented places. One of those smaller theatres on the outskirt of town, away from student populated areas. However, hen there was less people, one couldn’t disappear in the crowd, it was rather intimate. People’s awareness would be higher. She was a regular and the long termed employees do recognise her. Who wouldn’t? She was the lone wolf coming to watch movies like clockwork every three or five week, at times more frequent if the movies were interesting. The most prominent thing with her presence was that she came with either some very tall men, or other women, never with a man not a giant.

This was a first.

In other words, there might not be many people if any during these working hours, but the ones that were around recognised her and were on high alert.

Despite knowing this, Yuna didn’t get anxious over it. She was sure no one would recognise Kyungsoo with him looking like a generic especially when they walked side by side; average height with a facemask covering most of his face and the cap covering more of his face, looking downwards, his identifiable features were no longer visible. Him walking straight to the checkpoint to enter their opened theatre room without looking left and right while Yuna detoured to the snack bar, further reduced any possibility to pinpoint he was the EXO’s DO.

If they did, she’d know after the first movie was over and that would mean they have lost a regular.

That didn’t stop the employee that knew her from digging the dirt though. “Is that your boyfriend, noonim?” asked Seju, the manager that was moving about.

Taken aback, her brain spurted the truth, “I wish.” She smiled, ordered, gave her thanks after she received the them, and added, “pray that he notices me,” as she walked away.

Up a flight of staircase, down the lane, she entered the third hall. They were relatively early; the hall had only the penguin occupying the seats. She passed him the extra-large nachos, cheese and soda, for herself a regular salted caramel popcorn with macadamia and mineral water. Combat boots off, she sat comfortably on the seat.

“Noona, did you silence your phone yet?”

“Nope. Thanks.” She took out her phone and there were messages. She muted it first before checking them. “Your members are asking my whereabouts. You want to be included or not?” She showed him the group chat.

He scooted closer, shoulder-to-shoulder, mouth swallowing the nacho. “Just tell them.”

The noona stole a few nachos, shoved them in her mouth and typed. She mumbled that the cheese was quite alright.

Yuna: I’m at the movies with Kyungsoo. Movie marathon day!

Message sent she slipped her phone into her pants’ pocket without waiting for replies.

Kyungsoo looked at her with big rounded eyes. “Did you tell Miru-hyungnim we’re going to his restaurant this evening?”

The thought made goosebumps rise on her skin. “Not going to. No no no, He’ll go crazy if he knows I’m bringing you there alone on my precious bike. Let us just pop by unannounced and my skin will be safer. The risk of you being chased out will be less.”

Kyungsoo pouted. Yuna groaned. He wanted to talk to Miru she knew that, but it was not just the date that was at stake but her whole livelihood. She took a minute to stare him down, but she couldn’t beat the pout and those Bambi eyes of his; a pair of lethal weapons.

“Ugh. Fine, I’ll call him after this movie ends.” The extent of the things she would do for this man. She shook her head and looked into his eyes. “You better be treating me well in Japan.”

The change of expression was breathtakingly stealing her lungs away. From sulky to ecstatic. Yuna poked at his face. “Thanks, noona.”

She could already foresee Miru blowing his head off. Thank goodness, the advertisements started and their focus was redirected to the trailers. A few couples and a group trickled in during the advertisements, seating sporadically.

A foreign trailer played, Yuna squealed, catching Kyungsoo off-guard. The screen was showing a Japanese movie with a blond magician wearing a pink diamond cloak and a moving castle.

“Soo-yah, Soo-yah, Soo-yah, we must watch this!” said Yuna as quietly as her excited state could muster, eyes glued to the screen.

He took a handful of the popcorn, and hummed in neither agreement nor disagreement.

That was the last trailer.

Chapter Text

Yuna’s call was not received well when she told Miru she had a plus one. Yuna never used the words plus one. It irked Miru, but she kept it zipped, only revealing that the plus one was a dongseng. That only bugged Miru even more. But it was infinitely better than him knowing she was with Kyungsoo. No way was she telling him who exactly her plus one was. However, she did tell him her plus one was keen on meeting him.

She had to say some more about her plus one without triggering Miru so she chose her words wisely. “He’s a glutton.” The best choice to placate and bring Miru’s passion upfront.

Listening in over her shoulder with his ears planted close, he corrected, “epicure.” His eagerness was ridiculous.

Of course, Miru heard his voice but he didn’t recognise the owner of said voice. Noticing the lack of awareness, a boulder had lifted over her shoulders. Miru was allergic to kpop, for once Yuna was grateful for it.

“A glutton for good food.” Yuna stared Kyungsoo down, daring him to add on to which he did, “I’m your fan, hyungnim.”

Miru was intrigued. She knew he was flattered with how much she could feel his pride was blowing out of proportions. His tone drastically changed from murderous to pleased. “A fan of mine?”

Yuna groaned. “Hyung, just set us a table in one of the private rooms then once everything is served, come out to meet you fanboy.”

“Noona, the food,” reminded the glutton as he tapped her shoulder. Yuna had effectively added another nickname for the owner of her heart.

Rolling her eyes, she passed the phone to Kyungsoo, “you talk to him yourself. I’m going to get some water.”

By the time Yuna got back to Kyungsoo’s side, he was still on the phone, talking about food. She checked the digital board, and their theatre room had opened. Yuna took her phone without waiting for Kyungsoo to finish his sentence. The glutton almost cursed at her (he was overexcited) but he managed to close his mouth, instead he glared at her and she glared back at him, nudging him with her elbow.

They walked to the checkpoint as she talked on the phone.

“You’ll meet him later, hyung, so get off the phone. You’re eating up my battery. We’ll be there before sundown. Do get my matcha ready by then.” An eerie silence annoyed Yuna. “You didn’t serve anyone my matcha, did you?”

No longer calm, Miru’s tone once again transformed; guilty. “I kinda did. It was for those food critiques. I had too.” Her matcha had a bitterness that was smooth, silky yet with sweet undertone; rich yet refreshing. Suitable for making top class deserts.

Now her mood was ruined. She hated it when the few food she could enjoy sans repercussions was threatened especially her precious matcha. “The hell. I got that direct from Fukuoka, hyung! For you to make my drink and desert not serve those hypocrites. I’m telling eomma.”

She looked at Kyungsoo who was fiddling with his phone to calm herself. He was trying not to smile, hard, she could tell from his eyes. The noona elbowed his shoulder.

Their family had a legit hard-core policy about Yuna and her diet. She couldn’t eat like they could with her health conditions (disease, syndrome and allergy, she had all three of those disrupting her food choices) ergo their mother had enforced that whatever she could eat mustn’t be trifled with. Doing so ensured the matriarch’s fury. Yuna even had her own set of ingredients in Miru’s pantry that they couldn’t touch. Quickly, Miru cut in. “Hence, I bought a new one to replace them. It’s not the same brand though.”

Temper doused, the noona closed her eyes and took a deep breath in. She’ll have to get them during the trip. “Of course it’s not, they only sell those locally. What did you buy?” In her mind, she was still going to regale this to their eomma despite her interest in the new matcha. No one touch her matcha.

“You’ll see later. I’ll make it up to you. Got to go, my sous chef needs me.” Typical of Miru to escape in such a coarse fashion. Hopefully, he would deliver as promised. Phone tucked away, she saw Kyungsoo eyeing her. “What?”

“Your family is… different.” Their family was unique with very fluid family dynamic, atypical to the Korean culture. Some found it outright rude, seeing how much they bicker and bluntly correct one another, which included their parents.

“Ah that. Appa was raised across the world and eomma is half-Scottish although she lived her whole life here. Resulting in a wonky family structure. That’s why we’re like this, you’ll get used to it soon enough. Did he scare you off?” Usually Miru wouldn’t get side-tracked once the topic of food was brought up.

Kyungsoo shook his head in succession. It reminded Yuna to a scene during a game in the bus for the Ladder Season 2 show. “We just talked about food.”

As more people enter the theatre room, they quietened, speaking in hushed voices, discussing about the things Kyungsoo talked with Miru till the movie started.

They laughed, they cried (mostly Yuna) and was wholly satisfied. Her face was puffy and reddish. Kyungsoo sneakily took a picture, but the noona caught him. They took a picture together instead at somewhere secluded, making ugly faces and sent it to their group chat.

The group chat had hundreds of messages. She’d read them later.

Hours spent watching movies emptied their bellies. Famished and gluttonous, infinitely more so after talking endlessly about this and that including the many escape rooms to try. They were ready for a feast. Yuna texted Miru they were on the way.

Surprisingly, Kyungsoo proved he was a ninja once again. They arrived at the restaurant sans stalkers. Sliding the door of the traditionally styled establishment showed the tables in the open space were full. Because Yuna was family, everyone knew her and let her be. She went straight to the kitchen to bug Miru, Kyungsoo in tow. One of the server signalled to Yuna the room reserved for them on their way.

Before entering the kitchen, she turned to Kyungsoo, “you go wait in that room.” She pointed to the room right beside the door to the kitchen. The perfect location for them, way in the back and near the kitchen so Miru could come and go with ease. Kyungsoo nodded and entered the room, only then Yuna walked into the kitchen.

The bustle in the kitchen was an organised mess of movements and shouts of orders. She slipped to the other side of the kitchen where Miru’s sous chef was manning her stove aka her sister in law, Jangmi. “Noona.”

“Oh, you’re here.” Jangmi was one of the sister-in-laws Yuna was closer with. “Miru didn’t see you?”

She looked back at the engrossed Miru. “Nope. I brought Soo. Please, please, don’t let him into the room until after we’re done eating. I don’t want a disaster.” Jangmi knew about Kyungsoo. The whole clan knew about Kyungsoo.

“Alright. In exchange don’t tell eomma about the matcha.” Jangmi always had Miru’s back.

It was good that she hadn’t told eomma yet. “Deal.”

“Now, get out of my kitchen.” Jangmi shooed Yuna using the spatula in her hand. “I’ll send Hakchul to serve you.” Hakchul was their most experienced and professional server; discreet.

“Thanks, noona.” Yuna joined the glutton in the room.

Chapter Text

Helmet off, leather jacket off, Yuna readjusted her beanie. She sprawled on one of the cushion at the short table, facing Kyungsoo. The glutton poured her a glass of water.

“Noona, you said you’re almost finished with your thesis?” Looked like they would resuming where they had left off before digressing into escape rooms. Yuna nodded. “What are you doing next?”

“If eomma wants me back home, I’ll have to move back in. If not, I’ll continue being a writer, guest lecture whenever I’m invited, and babysit my nephews and nieces. Maybe catch myself a hubby.” Yuna shrugged it off while looking at the ceiling as she propped her hands behind her back. “I dreamt of being a housewife or work from home since everyone in the family always works, it’s kind of sad for the little ones. But, I need to get married first for that to materialise, which is impossible.”

“Why impossible?” Kyungsoo sipped at his own glass of water.

“Men are generally afraid of me if they’re not threatened. Plus, there’s my lack of fertility too with the endometriosis. Meh. I’ll be a cat lady and take care of my parents, no biggie.” Achieving most of her dream was already more than she could hope for. She smiled at Kyungsoo. “You, what do you want with your life?

“Establish myself as an actor and singer. I want to act in various genres and have my own solo albums. Chanyeol would be the producer.” Such a loyal man. Yuna could only imagine how loyal he would be to his loved ones.  

Yuna sighed. She was sad as she could see the penguin was trapped in the capitalistic box, where their inner self didn’t matter as much as the material world. “I get that you’re trying to carve your name in the industry, but remember there is more to life than just money and glory. You shouldn’t put off falling in love or you’ll lose a lot from your life.”

“But I’m busy, noona. There’s no time to spare for someone special. The feelings would just dissipate before it blooms.” A gentle soul, caring more about others’.

“That’s a load of crap. Love doesn’t work like that. Yes, it needs regular feeding. Yes, it needs a tonne of dedication. You make time for those. There are sacrifices but more than that what love needs most are trust and compromise. If you found someone and that person couldn’t accept you now, how are you sure anyone will accept you in ten years’ time where you could possibly be far busier?”

Kyungsoo was struck silent. Yuna allowed the booming silence to consume him for a while.

“Kyungsoo-yah, you’re not going to stay young forever. I’m not saying you should get married tomorrow, but do think about your own happiness. By the way, if you live together with your love, you’ll see each other every day. There may be times you’ll be apart but there’s technology and internet. You both need to make the effort. Don’t falter at the ripples that shook your sailing ship.”

He was pensive for a minute then he looked into Yuna’s eyes. “You’re telling me all this yet you haven’t been in a relationship. Noona, I’m more experienced than you.”

She kicked his legs under the table. “Rude. But I’m a certified psychologist, in the cognitive field to boot. I know how humans work. For your information, I always confessed to those that I crushed on, but I’m rejected each time. You should know.” She threw the ball back as hard as it had hit her.

Perfect timing, Hakchul knocked on their door before opening it to serve their appetiser.

Chapter Text

A three-course meal with appetiser, main and desert.

The appetiser was an appetite stimulant that prepared the stomach for the oncoming courses. It was a plate of savoury yet light fruit pasty combining three versions of fruits; fresh, cured and aged. Moonlight had a peculiarity with their appetiser; to Miru, it was compulsory to start a meal by eating fruits.

With the pasties in front of them, each gulped a mouthful of clear water to clear their palate.

“Kyungsoo-yah, try the crust alone first, the part that’s not soaked.” Yuna watched Kyungsoo sniff the pasty before putting it in his mouth. He looked at Yuna with eyes wide opened. 

She continued telling him the various ways of eating the food served, bringing out the intended variety that Miru planned. From mixing certain ratios, adding the precise layers, to the position placed in the mouth for texture appreciation, she guided Kyungsoo along the way.

They ate slowly, savouring the taste of each bite. Kyungsoo tried to decode the ingredients, listing them loudly so Yuna would correct him whenever he missed the bull’s-eye. “Noona, why don’t you become a chef?”

“I enjoy cooking but I’ll hate it if I have to do it day in and day out. It’s not my passion.”

“And the stress is bad for you.”

“Exactly. I remembered you once said you’d be a chef if you’re not an idol. I think you’ll thrive in the stressful kitchen, you’d do amazing too.” The glutton laughed, embarrassed. “But, your knife skill though…” Yuna couldn’t help herself but to tease Kyungsoo.

He nudged Yuna’s leg under the table.

Like that the banter continued through the perfectly crispy skinned yet juicy pheasant and Yuna’s favourite layered matcha cake with biscuit toppings. They were in the middle of laughing at a video compilation of the funny catdog fights between Baekhyun and Jongdae by Chanyeol when Miru slid the door open slightly to peep.

Kyungsoo retold the reactions of the other members that weren’t shown with his exaggerated imitations. Wrapped in their bubble, the duo didn’t realise someone was observing them as per usual. For a while, Miru watched his youngest sibling laughed her choking laughter as she clapped madly with a man that did look young. Said young man too was laughing, but he was more focused on making his sister laugh even harder.

What shocked Miru was not the scenes enacted in front of him but the forgotten half-eaten cake. Yuna never leave her matcha cake alone, not until every small crumbs were in her stomach. He knew his sister very well. Although Yuna was easily entertained, she could laugh from reading an encyclopaedia, but this was different. He had never seen her laughing so uninhibitedly with a man not from their family. She was conscious of her choking laughter so she tended to hold things in unless they were her family or best buds, but her best buds were all female –something them brothers had worked hard to seed. Time slowed down while Miru tried to process what his eyes were sending to his brain. His eyes roamed at the unknown man’s whole body, judging each and every aspect, then he came to realisation who exactly Yuna was dining with. He recognised the man. It was none other than Yuna’s love interest, Do Kyungsoo. Why couldn't it be some other man? Anybody, so long they are not a celebrity.

Miru felt a cold shiver running down his spine. This meant he was someone very special, no longer a mere passing crush. He should have anticipated this the moment Kyungsoo became part of her reality and prevented her from having deeper feelings with this idol. However, he didn’t. This fuelled his anger to burn fiercer.

Not only was she crushing on Kyungsoo, someone she had confessed to, but also he was genuinely winning her over. It was so shocking to Miru, he pushed the sliding door too hard that it elicited a very loud thud as it hit the wall, rattling the structure like a minor earthquake.

The spooked duo turned to the source of the sound, hands held tight in each other’s hold. With eyes blown wide, they stared at a red-faced Miru who was sporting a ferocious expression. The handholding only made things worse.

Miru was about to lunge at Kyungsoo and pull the hands apart, possibly rip the man apart too, but a leg got on his way. He face planted. .

“Serve you right, idiot.” The voice told Miru who the culprit was. It was his very own wife. Jangmi closed the door after apologising to the those outside and stepped over her groaning husband. She sat at the empty side of the table. Looking at the duo, she introduced herself to Kyungsoo as the sous chef and Yuna’s sister in law aka the idiot’s wife. “Don’t mind him. He’s being a total douche. What I need to know is, how was your dinner?”

How could they not mind Miru? The large man was staring them down as if they had committed an unforgivable heinous crime though he sat obediently by his wife’s side, putting a wall between her and the infuriating dongseng. With Jangmi around, the giant chef couldn’t do anything to them, he was disarmed.

Her presence calmed Yuna’s heart. Calm enough, a notion entered her mind. The short drama that had occurred must have intrigued those on the outside. She prayed that no one was too interested that they would snoop around to see what had caused the commotion. The possibility of Kyungsoo being swarmed later on triggered her anger.

This time it was Yuna’s turn to be furious. “Yah, hyung! If his cover is blown, you’re dead meat,” she said with gritted teeth, her voice low, seething with the promise of a massacre.

Yuna was seldom angered. However, when she did, her threats must be taken seriously lest they would regret it. Miru deflated and sulked. “Who ask you to bring him here.”

Jangmi rolled her eyes. “Stop being a child, Miru-ssi.” Said giant gulped.

“What the hell are you so worried about. He’s not interested in me. Right, Kyungsoo-yah?” Yuna looked at Kyungsoo expectantly, to which he nodded. “See, I’m his noona, hyung. Nothing more to him. Get your head out of your arse. He’s here because he’s your fan.” The noona stood up and pointed at Miru.”Be nice. You three talk, I’m going to go cool myself before I pop a vessel.”

Yuna exited the room with a final glare at Miru. Instead of going to the customer’s toilet, she entered the kitchen to lock herself in the staff’s bathroom.

Chapter Text

Kyungsoo stood to go after the noona, but Jangmi stopped him. “Not yet. Let her have five minutes to cool herself down first, if she’s not back by then, you may go.” The penguin stared at the giantess chef, asking for an explanation. “She should be crying at the moment. If you go now, you’ll make her cry even worse. She hates getting mad. But beware, if you go check on her, you’ll only make her love you more. Don’t lead her on Kyungsoo-ssi. I know she seems pretty cool, but you haven’t seen the real her yet.” A change in Kyungsoo’s expression made Jangmi smile. “Don’t think too much of it. Even in front of Raonie, she has a wall and that’s her favourite brother.” The sentence didn’t bother Miru. “You’ll only see her real personality when she’s around our parents. The Yuna you’re seeing is still the real Yuna but with layers upon layers of buffer.” She sighed.

Yuna wore her feelings on her sleeve, but those feelings had been adulterated. She only ever let herself go in front of their parents albeit they couldn’t really understand her. Though her personality was the truest when she was with them, her mind and soul was restricted. For not one individual ever truly understood her core.

“But, you don’t need to meet the real her, do you, Kyungsoo-ssi?” Jangmi asked the golden question. A question that floored Kyungsoo. It flooded and swirled in Kyungsoo’s brain, consuming him. Distracted, the presence of the other two persons who were the chefs he was a fanboy of, escaped his mind.

Smiling at the distractedness, Jangmi stole a look at Miru who was looking at Kyungsoo like a hungry piranha, the judgy eyes meant for critiquing food were instead plastered on the penguin as though he was a piece of meat. The giantess chef shook her head and tsked. She took her husband’s hand and intertwined their fingers. A way to cool and comfort him.

The noise snapped Kyungsoo out of his reverie. He looked at the two people in front of him who were wearing distinct light grey uniforms. One second. Two seconds. Three seconds. His mouth flopped open. Like a lightning bolt, he stood up and bowed to the two. Once he sat back down, he stared at them with a mix of awe and worry. His lips burnt red from the biting, a tick symbolising his frazzled mind.

Again, Jangmi took the change of atmosphere and steered the penguin to return to being the glutton; she asked about the food. Unlike usual, though the glutton asked as many questions his brain could muster, he was not as absorbed. He checked his phone every minute to look at the time. When it has been approximately five minutes since Yuna excused herself, he kept glancing at the door.

Jangmi squeezed her husband’s hand, who hadn’t relent his murderous gaze even after food was brought up. “Yah, Moon Miru-ssi, either you go see her or he will,” she whispered into Miru’s ears as her eyes could detect the jitteriness in Kyungsoo’s fingers and eyes. It was visible how he was struggling to decide what to do with his noona.

They were both about to stand up when the door slid open.

It was Hakchul. “Sajangnim, Yuna-ssi put on her apron.”

All three stood up and the husband wife pair shouted, “What?!”

“She even put on her gloves,” added Hakchul with eyes shining in glee.

A cold shiver ran down both of the chef’s spine. They both walked out of the room quickly, “did we clean up properly last night?”

Hakchul stepped aside to let them walk ahead. Kyungsoo could feel the trepidation in their body. He followed them, falling in step with Hakchul, face mask neatly folded on the table in the room.

“We always clean everything but she always finds something wrong. She’s worse than eomma.” Long legs ate up the short distance to the kitchen.

In the kitchen, while the many staff were busy with their work, Yuna filtered around effortlessly, a gift from being small. In her right hand was her phone; in her left hand was a small towel. Every inch she swiped with her left, she took a picture with her right. High low, down under, up above, she swiped and photographed.

With their bigger frames, the four people couldn’t do anything about her without causing a disruption to the kitchen’s flow. So, they watched her. “You already finished her prized matcha, why did you have to piss her off?”

“It’s his fault. Why must it be him?” Like a child, Miru pointed at Kyungsoo. Kyungsoo just listened to them.

“No, it’s your fault for being an arse. Don’t go blaming innocent people for your actions.” The giantess hissed.

Knowing he was in the wrong, Miru changed the subject. “I bet she’s sending all the pictures to eomma. We’re dead, honey.”

It didn’t take her long to round the huge kitchen, pantry and chiller. She hanged her apron, washed her hands, disappeared behind a door for a few minutes and walked out of the kitchen. Kyungsoo went after her while the two chefs scurried to find their phones. True to Miru’s projection, eomma was calling him.

“What did you do?” That was her first question and he knew he was in deep mess. “And why isn’t the kitchen spotless?”

Seeing her husband circumventing their mother, it was left to her to tackle Yuna. She hurried to the room. Yuna was already clipping on her helmet whilst Kyungsoo copied her action in a slower pace, buying time.

“Take off that helmet, Moony, you haven’t finish your cake.” Jangmi was not the one Yuna was mad with, she didn’t have to cower. “If you want to go home, clear your cake.” She looked into her eyes, “here.”

Begrudgingly, Yuna obeyed. “Sometimes, I hate it that you have Miru’s back.” She sat with a plop and stabbed the cake. “I still want my matcha. This is great but still inferior. By the way, I can’t babysit Taeeun this Friday, I’ll be in Japan.” She had dropped by to Taeeun’s playroom when she disappeared to check on her sleeping niece.

“I remembered. You expected he’ll go crazy, but now you can’t get mad at him because Kyungsoo-ssi went to the kitchen without his mask on.” The giantess made her point by gesturing to Kyungsoo. “At least its almost closing time so there are less people.”

Yuna stared in disbelief at Kyungsoo. “Yah, I thought you want to keep it down low.” She poked at the penguin who was sitting quietly besides her, nursing a cup of matcha latte Hakchul just brought over. Then, she checked her phone for any news about Kyungsoo’s whereabouts. Nothing, she exhaled and continued eating her cake. Her fandom twitter on screen.

“How’s the cake really?” It was a new matcha so they were still fine-tuning for the best taste.

Yuna finished the bite in her mouth slowly. “I think you should use a combination of honey and Demerara next time, skip the dark molasses if you want to have a smoother taste. Maybe sprinkle a bit of salt on top.”

Kyungsoo perked up at the unknown word. “Noona, what’s Demerara?”

“It’s a partially refined sugar with a natural caramelised flavour. I have some at home.” She sipped a bit of Kyungsoo’s latte then her own plain matcha and nodded, satisfied with her initial judgement.

“Won’t using caramelised flavour reduce the bitterness of the matcha?” He had a point.

Jangmi pitched in, “In general it will. That’s why you need to adjust the ratio of the matcha, but because this particular matcha has a tangier bitterness, it would only make it smoother so the matcha ratio is fine the way it is.” She maybe the sous chef but her passion was patisserie. “Her favourite matcha isn’t so tangy so we only used a combination of sweet and sour honey.”

The glutton looked at Yuna, eyes shining. “Noona, bake me that cake.”

“Oh no, I don’t bake cakes.”

“Why not?”

“Because, I don’t.” He stared at her with wide deer eyes. She throw a spoon at him. “Yah, ask Jangmi-noona to bake for you.” Kyungsoo redirect his puppy eyes to Jangmi.

Jangmi laughed. “Next time we restock her matcha, I’ll ask her to bring you here. FYI, she hates following recipes to the tee hence her cakes are considered experimental. You don’t really know what you’ll get.” Yuna threw another spoon at Jangmi.

That reminded Kyungsoo to the day he spent cooking with Yuna. “Like how she doesn’t stick to the recipes she write.” Which also thought him, as important as recipes were, tasting the things in front of you was vital. Natural ingredients were products that came straight from nature with little to no processing. As weather and such changes, they have different hues of taste ergo one needs to be flexible and adaptable.

“Exactly, but that works for cooking not baking,” the giantess stressed on the not.

“Because of the processed elements of the ingredients had stable taste,” reasoned Kyungsoo. Jangmi nodded and Yuna clapped.

They continued discussing more about the food even after Yuna finished her cake. This time Kyungsoo was enraptured, asking even the things he experienced currently and previously in the restaurant. They talked and talked till Miru came into the room, carrying his girl.

He didn’t bother closing the door or sitting down. He just stood by the door, softly swaying his body so his girl sleeps well. With his toddler around, Miru adjusted his voice, “hey its almost 11, stop hogging my wife. If you don’t want to join the cleaning up, you better go. All the customers went back already.”

“Yah, you had your wife all day every day.” They all dropped the volume but not the tone.

Jangmi stood up to take her girl away from the two siblings.

“Not your wife, Moony. She’s mine.”

“Eomma didn’t scold you enough. Your fridge is a mess.”

“No, that’s not a mess, they are just not sorted.”

“That’s what a mess means, hyung.”

“Your work space is a mess, Moony. Not my kitchen.”

Jangmi talked to Kyungsoo softly as the siblings were throwing quiet verbal attacks at each other. “Thank you for spending time with her. She hadn’t been this refreshed for a long time. You should drop by sometime during off hours and I’ll give you a proper tour of the kitchen.”

“I will, chef. Thank you!” His attention was now on the chubby toddler.

“I do apologise for the drama. They are all like that. You should see when the whole clan is under the same roof, this is nothing.” The girl in her arms stirred awake. The giantess kissed her awakening toddler, telling her she was near. “Kyungsoo-ssi, meet Taeeun. Taeeun-ah, this is Kyungsoo-samchun.”

The penguin greeted her with a disarming smile and the softest lilting voice, “Annyeong, Taeeun-ah.” His hand grabbing the small hand offered by Jangmi, shaking it.

She grabbed it tightly, but the hold didn’t last long. Her appa picked her up and walked out of the room. The women broke into laughter. From outside the door he said, “Moony, go home.”

Chapter Text

“Ugh, I’m so tired.” It was past midnight, it was normal to be tired. But, Kyungsoo understood something else from her statement.

“I can see why you moved out.” Spending time with her the past few months had shed a lot of light.

Yuna nodded her head up and down a couple of times slowly while pouting. “Too much energy going around, it is so draining.”

He had noticed how other’s colours tended to infiltrate her behaviour. She was a mirror of the people surrounding her. Around Baekhyun and Jongdae she became louder and perkier. Around Chanyeol her passionate side bloomed. Around Minseok the serious yet adorable quirkiness of hers showed more often. Around Junmyeon and Sehun she was clingier and more indulgent. Around Jongin she soft like butter. Around Yixing her bubbliness amplified. Around her family she was crazier. It was not that she was two-faced but different people brought out different sides of hers. However, it caused her original temperament to be overshadowed if the person around her were overwhelming. Yet, if the one around her were temperate, she’d be soothed instead.

Then again, what was her original behaviour? How would she be around her parents?

Kyungsoo knew she had a few screws loose with bouts of hyperactivity and placidity, but mostly she was a package. Outspoken but flexible. Strict but amiable. Independent but affectionate. In his eyes, she was a crescive puzzle not in the sense that he couldn’t see what she’s thinking. Taking a single look at her face would tell you what’s on her mind, that part of her was simple. Though adulterated, she was transparent. The thing was she just had too many layers.

Kyungsoo didn’t know why he was really curious about her. He couldn’t really remember when was the last time someone had fascinated him this much. Maybe because she was fast becoming a fixture in his life. Plus, being around her had made him more aware of who he was as a person. He was discovering the intricacies of Do Kyungsoo, a side effect of being with a psychologist.

He was on the other end of the spectrum from her. Transparent, he was not, but he didn’t have that many layers. He thought so. If he was comfortable with another, that person would see the real him straight away; the boisterous and spontaneous him. Due to many reasons, he did holding himself back a lot. Being in the eyes of the public, combining with his need of privacy, he had to. She said it had something to do with self-preservation. Personality wise, if he could give an analogy, he was black. A never changing colour despite the presence of others. No matter who he was with, he acted similarly according to their stand in his heart. Nonetheless, because he was black, he wanted to both be bold yet have the ability to vanish.

One thing for sure, they were both reserved and preferred comfort to many things. It made spending time with her so effortless.

In front of his door, he asked her. “You want to sleepover?” He wanted her to rest well and her futon was not the best of choices. They were going to Japan in two days, she needed to be well-rested tonight more so because they needed to be at the airport way before the crack of dawn.

She closed her yawning mouth with the back of her hand. “I’ll come over after I’ve showered.”

“I’ll keep the door open. Just come in later.” He needed to shower too.

Chapter Text

On autopilot, Yuna washed her bare face, brushed her teeth, showered, put on her oversized Joker shirt, boyshorts and plain brown sleeping pants, snagged her favourite fluffy pillow and she was out of her house, hair still partially wet. It took less than fifteen minutes going through the motions with her mind up in the clouds.

“Soo-yah, I’m here!” the noona announced her presence loudly with the step she took inside the threshold. Inside, Munchy the traitor greeted her. “Honestly, am I or Kyungsoo your human?” She locked Kyungsoo’s door and promptly went to his room with the tom following by her feet.

The cat talked back, answering as though he understood her. Saying something along the narrative of, “I have you during the day, so night time I’ll have him.”

“Yah, I know you spend the day with me, but I sleep better when you’re around.” She nudges the traitor with her feet. To which he nuzzled instead of tapping the intruding leg away; apologetic. “Come on, let’s sleep.”

They climbed the empty bed together.  Yuna buried herself in the folded duvet on her side, her fluffy pillow in her arms. She rubbed her face against the pillow. A subtle mellow yet musky scent that caressed her sense further loosen her overtaxed body and mind. Munchy’s face against hers reassured her soul. His soft purring combined with the sound of the shower as lullaby, it took only a deep even breath and she was dead to the world.

A freshly showered Kyungsoo wiping excess water from his hair came out of the ensuite. On the bed, Munchy perked up at his appearance. He blinked slowly and meowed softly at the man, waiting for the man to join them. Once he took his spot after turning off the lights, the tom nuzzled him then curled up and aligned his forehead to lay against Yuna’s with the end of his long his tail touching Kyungsoo’s nose.

As the penguin stroked Munchy’s body, little Taeeun’s face came to mind. She was a replica of her father thus having a resemblance to the face in front of him. It made him ponder how the noona looked like when she was Taeeun’s age. It was the last image in his brain before he slept and the notion kept rolling into his dreams.

This time, Munchy stayed on the bed, wanting to be close with the humans who had been gone the majority of the day. During his sleep, the tom stretched, moved, and stretched until he was under the two layers of duvets, connecting the humans on the bed. The humans too stretched, moved and stretched in their sleep, inching closer and closer as the other’s body heat compelled one another.

The next day, on one end a scratchy tongue scraping and the other a tail slapping, both on the humans’ cheeks had woke them up simultaneously. Seeing them blinking awake, his purpose was done, Munchy dug under the combined duvets to go back to sleep.

Chapter Text

Not wanting to wake up just yet, it was just too cosy with the comfy bed and the perfect temperature, Yuna pulled the duvet above her head. She wiggled closer to the middle of the bed and felt around for Munchy with her eyes shut.

Feeling something warm, Yuna shifted closer to the source. Along the way, she found Munchy, so she pushed him along the way so they were both against the warm wall, then she planted her face against it with the tom squished in the middle. Breathing in deep, her hand resting on top of the wall, the land of tranquil darkness claimed her once again.

The living warm wall who had been trying to blink away his sleepiness had his eyes wide open when something crept up behind him followed by a hand on his waist. It took him a minute to process that it was not a sasaeng that had broken into his home. Exhaling a relieved breath, now he didn’t know what to do.

He listened to his company’s even breathing for a while, mind blank. As his mind slowly churned, he realised that it was her face that was plastered to his back and Munchy massaging him with his soft paws between them. This made him miss his two cutiepies. He should drop by at his parents’ and play with them for a bit.

They had discussed about their trip, moving separately then meet at the ryokan. After checking in, he could either go play around alone or escort the noona. Maybe he should stick around her. Thinking about it, the idea of her travelling alone kind of irked him. Yeah, he’ll accompany her. Going to the zoo and aquarium were fun too. Honestly, he was quite excited. Not only would he get to eat at the Shins, but the noona had also planned to bring him to a few masters’ shops to get better knives. Knives!

Whilst the glutton fantasised about knives, behind him, Yuna stirred. Like usual, she would stretch to get rid of the kinks in her joints. This time though, because there was another a warm wall in front of her, after she stretched her limbs like the alphabet H but on her side, she draped herself on the warm wall.

Kyungsoo froze.

There they were, Munchy squished under Yuna who had her body and chest on Kyungsoo’s slender self, her limbs everywhere on his body like an octopus, and a hand had sneaked under his shirt rubbing against his abdomen.

Kyungsoo, he was imitating a stone. He looked downwards to see what was happening and quickly looked back up. He got an eyeful of things he was not supposed to glimpse at with the dishevelled baggy shirt and lack of anything underneath. To his relief, the noona didn’t stay like that for long.

Munchy bit her.

She jumped to a stand.

Standing on the huge bed, but the penguin right underneath her, eyeing her, her face burned. “Did I do anything weird to you?” She had remembered one of the many reasons why she refused to buy a big bed. The bigger the space, the more she moved around and with her tactility, she’d feel everything up to her fill. Yuna wiped her face. “Hell. I must have groped you, right?”

Looking at the noona whose face weren’t covered completely by her small chubby hands, “If you’re feeling guilty, why are you smiling, noona?”

She kicked the penguin and got off the bed. She ran her fingers through her thick brown hair, shaking her lion mane to tame it. Touching her hair, a thought popped into her head. She should get another haircut, a shorter one. Something that would make her androgyny shift towards looking more like a man. That would reduce suspicion when they were together.

Kyungsoo trailed after Yuna out of the bedroom. “Noona, I’m going home today, I’ll get to the airport from there.”

“Okay, what do you want for breakfast?” asked her as she fixed a cup of white tea for herself.

The penguin made himself a cup of coffee. “Yukjeon with sunny side up eggs. I’ll do the eggs.” He passed a slab of lamb to Yuna, one he brought out from the fridge as well as related ingredients. Clearly, he had planned today’s breakfast menu last night.

Yuna cleaned the ingredients. Then, when she was cutting the meat, she sighed. The noona tested the sharp end of Kyungsoo’s knife with her thumb and pursed. “Oh, remind me to get waterstones when we buy your knives.”

“Waterstones?” Noticing her action, Kyungsoo passed her a sharpening rod.

The noona thanked him. “Japanese sharpening stones. I prefer using them and I recommend you get some too,” said Yuna as the sound of knife sliding on metal filled the kitchen.

They made quick work of the simple breakfast. Talking more about knives, waterstones, sharpening skills while eating at the table, and cleaning afterwards.

“Say hello to your family and send my kisses to the cutiepies. I miss them.” Yuna waved at an acceding Kyungsoo as she exited from his apartment.

Done with her morning routine in the bathroom and cleaning up her home, Yuna headed to a saloon Minseok had introduced to her a few days ago. She sent the man a picture of her in front of said saloon, promising to send him another one after the cut. Yuna showed a picture of hers from once upon a time ago to the hairstylist, wanting a short but still shaggy look that amplified her boyish bone structure. However, still professional enough for her conference.

Snip. Snip. Snip. Hair washed. A treatment for healthier hair and scalp later, Yuna had a new look.

A look that others would be confused with her gender. She ran her fingers through her hair; short but long enough to fluff up. She tousled it. Perfect. She smiled, satisfied with the outcome. She thanked the hairstylist and paid her dues.

Outside, she took a similar picture to the one she took before and sent it to Minseok. Commenting she loved the hairstylist. She sent a combined of before after one to the group with her appa and eomma. Her appa replied with a side-by-side picture of her and Raon; a spitting image.

Chapter Text

Back in her asylum with nothing other than packing in her agenda, the morning’s happenstance recurred in her brain. Yuna pulled her shirt up, tracing the bite wound on her tummy. It was not a dream. It was reality.

Yuna screamed.

What had she done?

Her face down to her collarbone turned tomato. A worried Munchy meowed at her. She picked him up and landed on the galaxy beanbag for a comforting cuddle.

She couldn’t recall any memory before Munchy bit her. Something must have happened. No way had nothing transpired with her in such close proximity with another body whilst sleeping. Things had happened without exception before. Her best friends who had shared her bed had one complain; her sleep fondling. It was her accursed tactility. She had a thing with taction, hence her obsession with all things soft and fluffy including high thread count materials.  She loved feeling things up and that bled into every aspect of her life, sleeping was not an escape. Like what was currently happening to Munchy, she was mindlessly stroking him.

Yuna sagged deeper into the beanbag.

She felt bad, but deep inside a sliver of repine slipped into her greedy heart. Shaking her head, Yuna scolded herself. She should be repenting not repining. Seriously, she hoped Kyungsoo didn’t hate her, even worse being repulsed by her. Merely the notion of him abhorring her made her blood curdle. However, he acted fine this morning. Though there was a possibility that he was going through the same thing she did; repressed until secured.

No. Thinking about what others’ were thinking was futile. She stopped herself before it became convoluted and trigger her cocktail of anxiety and depression. Instead, it was best for her to pack the things she needed for the trip.

First up, all the things vital for her conference; her laptop and notebook. Next, clothes. This was trickier. She needed to pack for the trip and the conference, so she needed at least one slack (something she hated to wear) but what kind of shirts. Running her fingers through her new hair, then down her throat. The decision made. Turtlenecks. Might as well kept with the theme of the travel she had been building; androgyny. The season was just right for them too. The rest was done in record time.

After an early dinner, she slept ahead of her usual sleeping time. Waking up early meant she needed to sleep early and she did.

Foregoing her beanie, hair ruffled to windswept perfection, Yuna checked her home for the last time, ensuring that the gas, lamps and whatnots were off. Last check on her mini garden, the automatic watering system and makeshift water bottles set, lighting timer set, she was ready to go.

As she heard Raon’s voice echoing in her home, signifying he had arrived, Yuna called Munchy into his carrier. The tom used to her travelling and having to stay at Raon’s, complied readily.

Drawing her luggage using her left and carrying the carrier on his right, she walked to the living area. “Hyung, did you upgrade my flight?” It was a question that had plagued her when she had checked in.

“You’re not wearing your beanie! You cut your hair! So short!” The excitable giant was too loud this early. It was only 3.00 am. A giant hand messed her hair up. She ignored him. “No, I didn’t, Moony, but I do need pictures.”

Who boosted her to first class?

Raon took out his phone and snapped a picture by her side. Him in his jumper and jeans, she in a black turtleneck and hooded long leather jacket. “I haven’t seen this since you were in school. Don’t go breaking girls’ hearts.” Yuna shoved her brother. “What, you had a fan club.”

Yuna groaned. “I did not.”

“Still, I made money selling your photos.” Raon grabbed Munchy’s carrier while letting her manage the heavier luggage, as per usual.

“Ugh, don’t remind me about that.” It was a nightmare. Sasaeng level nightmare. Thus, she grew her hair. While getting to the car lot, using her free hand, she texted the penguin.

Yuna: You upgraded my flight?

The lift dinged. They enter once the door opened.

“I can’t believe how they fell for a nerd midget. You weren’t even in sports or a trainee.” Raon was still on her past. Thinking and commenting about it. “They couldn’t possibly be attracted to your boring goodie to shoes attitude.” He looked at her, eyes falling to her hair. “Probably the hair.”

The lift dinged. They stepped out of it.

Groaning was inevitable around her brothers. “Why are we talking about this?”

Raon ignored her question and continued thinking out loud about her ‘sordid’ past in the all-girls school. Not relenting even after they strapped the safety belt on.

Her phone buzzed a while later, dampening the irritation that was building up steadily. Reading the message, the penguin pretty much gave an affirmation indirectly.

Le penguin: See you her later in the plane.

Yuna answered with an okay and a thank you.

“Who’s texting you this early? The person who upgraded your seat?” It was odd for his sister to use her phone while the car was moving. She suffered from motion sickness unless she was the driver.

Nauseous, she closed her eyes as she slipped her phone into a pocket. “Yeah. Wake me up when we’re there.”

At the airport drop zone, Raon woke Yuna. “Have fun but not too much. Update us wherever you’re going.” The obligatory worried brother speech.

It was the same every time. Best just to acquiesce lest the speech grew. “I will.” Yuna kissed Munchy goodbye. “Bye, Raonie! Thanks!”

“Yeah, yeah. Go.” Raon was about to drive away after he couldn’t see Yuna any longer, but something from a newly parked car caught his eyes. A familiar silhouette that reminded him of someone was getting out of it. It was a bespectacled man with a cap covering most of his masked face with his hoodie pulled over it. Nonetheless, he was too generic to determine his identity without being able to see his face.

Raon drove home with a weird feeling shadowing him.

Chapter Text

Nose deep in Virtue Ethics and Consequentialism in Early Chinese Philosophy by Van Norden, one of the many books she had been binge reading, Yuna didn’t realise someone had sat beside her until her phone buzzed and she needed to take it out from her thigh pocket. As she retrieved her phone, she looked up at the person engrossed with a mobile game. Her body loosened up once she saw who it was. Book set aside, she tapped on the messaging app.

Raonie: Yah, Moony, did you get a boyfriend?

Yuna: Since when?

Raonie: Since someone upgraded your ticket and texted you at outrageous hours.

Yuna: Don’t think too much about it. I’m still forever alone. Kyungsoo wanted to thank me for bringing him to Moonlight, so he upgraded my ticket. That’s all.

At least that was what Yuna thought and she’s right on the gratitude but not completely on the reason of the gratitude.

Raonie: I thought I saw him at the airport. Probably not.

Yuna: Probably him. He’s here with me.

Raonie: ???!!!!

Raonie: Why is he there?

Raonie: Are you eloping?

Raonie: What the hell, Moony???

Raonie: Does eomma and appa know?

She could feel Raon going through a crisis and it made her snicker. Her youngest hyung might like Kyungsoo and was okay with her crushing on the penguin, but that was because to him they were merely friends. Anyone becoming more than a mere friend would receive some degree of wariness from all of her brothers disregarding how good that person might be. They would have to pass through some kind of passage of right. Even her besties went through them before they actually became her besties.

Yuna: You and your over imagination. No, he’s just my precious dongseng and he’s going on a vacation. It’s a coincidence we booked the same flight. And yes, they know.

Her parents were much chiller than her brothers. They trusted and had her back unlike her nosy overthinking brothers. Hence, her hyungs not knowing about Kyungsoo.

Yuna: GTG, we’re boarding.

Kyungsoo and Yuna acted like total strangers until all the passengers took their respective seats. “So, do you want to go to the ryokan together or not? The airport line connects with a nearby station with the ryokan.”

He was all for saving, but comfort did matter. Taking the airport line meant they would be hassling and he rather not. “We’ll take a taxi,” said the penguin matter-of-factly. He remembered that it took over an hour to the ryokan the noona mentioned. “We’ll reach the ryokan before the check in time. Is that okay?”

“It’s fine, appa arranged for it already. Hopefully we’ll get rooms with ensuites.” The ryokan was at the outskirt of Osaka surrounded by beautiful scenery of the forest and boasting natural radium spring. Yuna got lively as she told the penguin about the ryokan, especially the beautiful traditional architecture. However, the announcements by the flight attendant followed by the pilot’s greeting cooled her down swiftly.

They rehashed their itinerary after the safety instructions, leaning near each other, shoulder to shoulder.

“The Shins’ booking is tonight and tomorrow, right?” Kyungsoo’s deep yet gentle voice up close sent vibrations to her heart.   

Her fluttering heart made her nervous, inserting a breathiness to her voice. “Yes, we’ll stop by a few kitchenware shops before going there today.” Yuna cleared her throat. “The reservations are at seven. Tomorrow I’m going to play at the theme park then the zoo and aquarium. I’ll be back by four. What are you planning to do tomorrow?”

Kyungsoo stared at Yuna as if it wasn’t obvious. “Go play with you of course.”

“For real? You’re going to join me stare at big cats, penguins, rays and scream my lungs out on the roller coaster?” She would be thrilled if he meant it.

“You’re not the only one who love animals, noona. Plus, I haven’t gone to the park there. If Chanyeol was here, he’d love the ride too.” Kyungsoo recollected Chanyeol’s getting shocked multiple times during their visit to the various parks.

He meant it! Thank goodness he brought Chanyeol up, she was already blanking out from the sheer happiness of having something resembling a long date with him.

“As much as I’m worried about his heart, it’s still funny. Don’t worry; I plan on taping the ride. He’s going to see it.” Chanyeol had texted her to do so soon after he found out she was going there, even lending her a GoPro. “So, you need to buy your tickets online. I bought mine already.” She showed him the virtual copy of the tickets. “Make sure you buy the day pass for the park. I don’t want to wait for you.”

“You’re not going anywhere on Saturday?”

“Trekking at dawn then have a long soak and relax. If I’m up to it, practise presenting.” Kyungsoo hummed for Yuna to elaborate. “There’s an easy two hours trail behind the ryokan. It’s beautiful.” Yuna showed the pictures she took from her previous stay with Hana, her travelling buddy.

He noticed her home wallpaper whilst she handled her phone, it was a picture of his from the back in the kitchen. The one she asked to take when they were cooking for the mini party. Seeing it made him feel weird but he couldn’t name or explain the feeling. He had never experienced this jumbled up weirdness before.

For two hours in the airplane, they chatted, laughed, sat in comfortable silence, ate the provided meal, and chatted some more. They continued to chat about small things from the things that had caught their eyes to their observations on the surroundings with bouts of pleasant lull and hilarity on arrival until they reached the ryokan.

Chapter Text

Kyungsoo stood smiling beside Yuna as she spoke at the counter. He understood bits and pieces of Japanese, so he grasped the context of the conversation she was having with the ryokan’s clerk. The noona was flustered not because they couldn’t check in early, they could. That was established early on. The problem was something else altogether. It was because of the room. Yes room, singular aka one. Her father had booked a room for the both of them and today, the ryokan was booked full.

Yuna turned to Kyungsoo. “Okay, we’re sharing a suite but it’s more like a secluded traditional house with a private onsen. Are you okay with that?” She had to talk with her appa when she get back.

“It’s fine, noona.” Getting a green light from the penguin, the noona finalised their stay with the clerk. The ryokan’s staff would send their luggage later on. An attendant was called to show their way to the suite. He male attendant explained the various services and amenities along the way, but Kyungsoo wasn’t listening as he was mesmerised by the visuals feeding his eyes.

True to her words, the ryokan was indeed picturesque. The landscaping was arranged meticulously with a few species of bonsai trees complementing the architecture. Tall trees, flowering and non-flowering shade the pathways. They walked on a bridge crossing a small river with clear water, where he could see fishes swimming by. The sound of flowing water and the soft scent of nature soothed his senses. Stress seeped out of his body, loosening tensed muscles, invigorating his tired mind.

The shaded pathway continued beyond the main area, a route of large stones that had been carved into steps surrounded by green grass and tall trees replaced the paved passage of the main area. They walked pass a few turns until they reached the end of the curved path. Up a small hill, a traditional Japanese house stood fenced in by trees and flowering plants.

The attendant showed and explained about the house upon entry, then he left them to their own devices. Soon after, their luggage arrived.

The rectangular shaped house had three square rooms sandwiched by passages leading to the separate bathroom and toilets at one end and the other end had the outdoor private onsen. Sliding doors separate the two tatami rooms and the Irori room. The noona should have the tatami room at the end and he would have the middle one. That settled it.

After checking the layout, Kyungsoo opened the fridge at the simple kitchen located adjacent to the entrance to look at the content. It was almost 1 pm. No wonder his stomach was gurgling.

“Kyungsoo-yah, are you done exploring?” Yuna’s voice filtered through the opened doors. “We should head out soon. I’m hungry.”

Kyungsoo traced after her voice and found her dipping her legs in the onsen. “This is amazing, noona. It must be expensive.”

“Don’t worry. We don’t have to pay whenever we stay here, the owners are not just appa’s friend. They’re a distant cousin. Consider yourself lucky appa requested this room. I usually get the first suite we passed by early on, not as nice as this one even if eomma’s with me.” Saying the words aloud, a suspicion crept into her brain. Yuna stared Kyungsoo down with squinted eyes. “Did he call you? What did you do to appa?”

Kyungsoo lifted up both his arms. “I don’t have his number. He’s probably trying to motivate you for your conference.” The noona ahhed. “Come on, let’s go find some food.”

They closed up the house and headed to the train station to get to the heart of Osaka. It didn’t take long for the train to slide in front of them. As it was not rush hours and it was a less busy line, many seats were free.

Seating side by side, they talked about the lunch. “I want okonomiyaki and takoyaki.”

Looking up, he touched his chin with his index finger. “I want a proper lunch set.”

“You can order the yakisoba set at the restaurant. It’s good but the okonomiyaki is still the best.” She showed him the restaurant she had in mind on her phone. Kyungsoo scrolled down the screen as Yuna held onto the phone. Numerous pictures of the okonomiyaki littered the page. There were seafood, meat, and poultry. Saliva filled his mouth.

She could see his mind changing. “Miru-hyung love this restaurant especially the wagyu okonomiyaki.” Kyungsoo was sold. Beside him who was still glued to the pictures, Yuna smiled for successfully influencing the penguin’s choice. “You’re such a fanboy. Next time you go Tokyo, do visit the central wholesale markets. Hmm, you should go those in Seoul first. Learning about fresh ingredients is best with a teacher. You should ask Jangmi-noona when hyung would go. He goes there at least weekly.”

The penguin looked at the noona with a happy smile and cute nodding. “Noona, you got messages.” Kyungsoo checked his.

There were more than a dozen message from Raon.

Raonie: Don’t avoid me, Moony.

Raonie: Moon Yoona.

Raonie: Moon Yoona.

Raonie: Moon Yoona-ssi.

“Noona, Raon-hyung asked you to reply him ASAP.” He showed her the screen. Yuna rolled her eyes.

Yuna: Don’t go pestering Kyungsoo. I was busy. No, he didn’t do anything weird.

Raonie: You better tell me everything before I tell Miru and Daewon.

Yuna: For heavens sake, Raonie! Go tell hyungs if you want. I have nothing to be afraid.

The noona huffed.

“He’s being over-protective?” asked Kyungsoo. Yuna sagged against the seat as she rolled her eyes yet again. The penguin smiled. “They should with how you being here alone.”

“You’re here.” She gestured with her open hand at him. “What do they have to be worried about? My parents are fine with you around.”

“Me being the opposite sex?”

“Isn’t that a plus?”

“I might attack you?”

Yuna raised her brows. “Really? You?” Then she mumbled, “It’s likelier for me to attack you.”

He didn’t miss it. “Maybe he’s worried for my virtue?”

A scoff, “Seriously? You’re what, 16 cm taller, approximately 10kg heavier, you need to eat more, your so skinny,” she poked at his ribs. “not to mention eons fitter than me. Ridiculous.” Yuna patted the penguin’s thigh. “Plus, I look like a pretty boy.” She ran her fingers through her hair.

He was not convinced. “You don’t sound like one.” Kyungsoo looked at her short hair. He had been meaning to ask, “Why did you cut your hair again? Is your migraine getting worse?”

“My migraine improved yay!” She came clean easily, “The new hair is so that if anyone recognises you, they’ll think you’re with a male friend.”

“Again not if they hear you.” He didn’t mind pointing out the obvious directly and repeatedly.

“If anyone suspicious comes close, I’ll zip my mouth.” She zipped her lips with her fingers.

“Your plan is so flimsy.” Kyungsoo took out a water bottle from his bag. “Drink.”

Yuna took a few gulps. “Woot. Indirect kiss.” The penguin sputtered on his saliva and she laughed. He poked at her face and she laughed even harder. “Oh yeah, eomma wants a picture of us.”

Kyungsoo pulled his facemask down his chin and smiled at the camera with Yuna tweaking her bang to perfection, their face inches apart. A quick snap, the facemask was back in place. Yuna sent the picture to her parents and Kyungsoo.

Eomma: You two look similar.

Her appa sent back the picture but with anatomical annotations. He made arrows connecting their chubby cheeks, big eyes and the thick-lipped wide smiles.

Eomma: Your nose is bigger though. His skin is so nice. You should learn from him how to take care of your skin, Moony.

Yuna groaned. Kyungsoo asked her what’s wrong. She passed her phone to him.

Chapter Text

The penguin nodded as he read the messages. “Samchun is not wrong. We do have some resemblances, noona. We could be blood-related.”

Eyes blown, her body spasm for a second then she poked at Kyungsoo’s arm. “First, don’t ever insinuate we have any sorts of blood relation. That is just…. no. Um… no.” Her tongue grew thick as she wanted to form the word incestuous. Her body involuntarily twitched at the trigger word.

Kyungsoo burst out laughing at Yuna’s reaction, dropping his face against her shoulder, a hand tapping on her thigh. The vibration from his laughing transferred to her body. After a minute, he resurfaced to a pursing Yuna who had wrapped her body with her hands. “The Dos and Moons are not from the same ancestral home, noona.”

“I know, but the suggestion made my blood run cold. Second, don’t entertain appa. He’ll only get worse.” She took back her phone and gasped. Somehow, a voice message was sent from her phone and both her parents had seen it. Both of them were typing. She elbowed Kyungsoo. “Yah, what did you do?” Kyungsoo looked at her phone. She played the recorded message. It started from the moment Kyungsoo held her phone.

Eomma: XD. Did Kyungsoo send this?

Appa: No wonder you like him so much. He has a nice laugh. Maybe I should listen to their songs. What was their group again?

Eomma: Yeobo, it’s EXO. Better listen to his solo performance. I like What is Love. Put on the Lost Planet concert album.

Appa: Jagiya, where are the albums you bought?

Yuna: Eomma?! You bought EXO’s albums?

Eomma: Why not? Yeobo, there on the shelves with all the other movies.

Her appa took a picture of the albums, asking which one had her recommended song to which her eomma answered precisely including the minutes of the song.

EXO’s albums lined two rows of the shelved. It was not a narrow shelve by any means.

Yuna: Eomma! Did you buy all of the albums in all the different packages and types?

Eomma: I did. I made a scrapbook with all the photocards. When I get back, I’ll snap some pictures for you. Initially I wanted to show them to you when you visit.

“Imo is more of an EXO-L than you, noona.” Kyungsoo couldn’t stop smiling.

Yuna wiped her face. “Where do you think I inherited being a stan from?”

Eomma: Too bad they don’t have any vinyl.

Then, her appa video called them. Quickly, Yuna grabbed for her clip on earphones before she accepted the call. Once all were online, the patriarch pointed to the television screen. “This one, right?”

It was Kyungsoo in the first album standing on the stage alone in his black suit singing a solo Tell Me What Is Love. “Yes, that’s the one. You know, appa, if you want to better support them, stream their music videos online.”

“Moony, give one of the earphone to Kyungsoo.” Yuna took off the left side and hand it to Kyungsoo. “Hi, Soo-yah.” The older man waved at the penguin. He reciprocated the waving with a wide smile.

“Soo-yah, I didn’t know watching those videos would be good for you.” cut the matriarch.

“Not all of them, just the official ones,” explained Kyungsoo succinctly.

Hana nodded. “Send me the links, Moony. But, do it later. I need to finish grocery shopping first.”

“Why is the song so short? You have a beautiful voice, Soo-yah.” Shin gave double thumbs up and rewound the song.

Kyungsoo smiled sheepishly. “Thank you, samchun.”

“And that’s five years ago, yeobo.” Her eomma sounded so proud as though Kyungsoo was her own son. “They are all very talented. I especially love Jongdae. Sorry, Soo-yah.” The matriarch blew a kiss to him. “Pity three of them didn’t stay.”

“It’s fine, imo,” said Kyungsoo at the same time as Yuna saying, “Of course, you would, eomma.”

“Okay, bye. I’m going to start from the beginning.” Without waiting for replies, the patriarch disengaged.

“Alright. Moony, Soo-yah take care. Don’t forget to send us more pictures. I need to make sure your appa multitask.” In other words, finish his chores. After getting goodbyes from Yuna and Kyungsoo, Hana cut off the call.

“How old are your parents?” Kyungsoo returned the clip on earphone to Yuna.

“Both of them are 68, eomma older by seven months.”

Kyungsoo was taken aback. They neither looked nor acted their age. At most, they appeared to be in their early fifties not late sixties, though based on his estimation on the siblings’ age, he had guessed they’d be in their late fifties at most.

Yuna pushed up the penguin’s slacked jaw to close it. “Don’t be so shocked. Eomma is very particular about food and appa made sure all of us are addicted to nature activities.”

He could hear some underlying trauma from her choice of words. “What did he do?”

“He brought all of us mountain hiking very early on like right after we are potty trained. I think I was around three years old. I don’t remember, but there are pictures.”

“That’s crazy.”

“Tell me about it.”

“There’s more?”

“They’re not all crazy. Mostly we garden. Lots of mud fights too.”

“My family is very normal compared to yours.”

“Impossible. No family is normal and by no means are you normal.” Yuna gestured at him from head to toe.

“What?” He had an inkling what she was going to say.

“Almokyung.” She said exactly what he had thought.

“Okay, fine. We have our own quirkiness but on a tamer side. Yours is wild.” He expressed the wildness with his eyes and brows by widening and lifting them up, respectively.

“That, true.” She couldn’t deny how funky her family was.

“My parents are strict about mannerisms, but other than that they’re really soft-spoken and supportive. My brother and I don’t really fight like you and your siblings.”

“Your home must be peaceful. Even Meongmul and Huchu are well adjusted.” Yuna loved her family but they were very consuming.

“We’re not quiet, noona. Just not as rambunctious.” The persona exuded by Kyungsoo amplified the composure their family had.

“Yeah, for me that’s peaceful. My home is like having your members around 24/7 but they are all giants and now there are many mini giants running around.”

“You don’t like children, noona?”

“I do love them. Doesn’t mean they are any less exhausting.”

“There aren’t many children in my family, two of my cousins have one. I hope my brother have one soon. My parents are getting antsy over grandchildren.”

Time flew by as they chatted about their families, which were poles apart. Although there were similar, cultures sprinkled here and there. For example, table mannerism don’ts and bedtime routines. Both their mother loved watching pimple popping videos before sleeping. Before long, they had reached their stop.

Chapter Text

Lunch was a simple affair. After waiting for their turn, they ate quickly and were back on the streets. Yuna hailed a taxi and directed the driver to the kitchenware market. Full from lunch, she dozed off, head banging on the window every time there was a bumper or a turn. Pitying her, Kyungsoo pulled her close, so her head was leaning against his shoulder.

Close to their destination, Yuna woke by herself. They were dropped off in front of a shopping arcade specialised for kitchenware.

“This is the first stop but we’re going to at least one master’s shop after this. We usually get our knives there, but you need to look around here too. If you like something tell me.” They had talked a lot about knives and from her understanding, the penguin had a good grasp of what he wants with his knives. He also had some experience in buying them.

“You’re buying your waterstones here?”

“Yup and more bento boxes, specifically for you and your members.”

“Why don’t you buy them back at home?”

“Because I have a specific type I want.”

Kyungsoo stared at her, nonplussed. “It’s just for us, noona. You don’t need to get anything special.”

Shaking her head, Yuna poked at the penguin. “Soo-yah, it’s exactly because they are meant for uri EXO that I’m especially getting the ones’ I prefer. Plus, I paid for them already. I’m here to pick them up.”

Yuna gestured for Kyungsoo to enter the third knife shop with a black calligraphy sign. It wouldn’t take long to retrieve the bento boxes and buy the waterstones. However, she bet they would at least spend an hour, likely more perusing the many knife shops. There were many knife shops around here but Yuna narrowed down to two, lest they wouldn’t get to Shin’s on time. Their schedule was tighter than tight. If they didn’t get anything good today, Yuna considered to shift tomorrow’s itinerary around.

Upon entering the knife shop, walls stacked with various knives met them. There were even katanas displayed. Kyungsoo went directly to the display showcasing various types of Deba.

Kyungsoo repeatedly adjusted her glasses as he observed the many knives. His eyes were shining, glinting the light falling on the shiny surface of the sharp alloy. “Noona, what do you think about that one?”

Yuna asked the shopkeeper to take out the knife. She gripped the handle before passing it to Kyungsoo, “Not bad, though I don’t prefer this metal. How do you feel?”

The penguin didn’t say anything but nodded his head and returned the knife. At the same time as him checking a few more knives, Yuna conversed with the shopkeeper to learn about the type of metal used for the knife, even the origin. He found one he liked as he listened to the explanation and felt the knife in his hand. She waited for Kyungsoo to make his decision.

They walked out of the shop exactly an hour later. “Change of plan, you choose. Do you want to go to a master’s shop or stay here?”

It was easy for him to answer. “The master’s shop.”

“Alright, after we get my things, we’ll head there.” At a nearby utensils shop, Yuna bought the few waterstone grades she needed. By her side, Kyungsoo bought a complete set from the coarsest to the smoothest, including the holder for the waterstones.

She stopped by a shop dedicated for bento boxes, catering to commercials to custom-made ones and inspected the bento boxes. Each box has a distinct design for a specific owner, easier for her to not get confused with their different dietary preference when she cook for them. The penguin lend her a hand. Nothing amiss, they hurried to their next stop.

With a little over two hours to spare to their reservation, they arrived at their destination.

Yuna greeted as soon as she entered the premise, not in Korean but in Japanese. Her eyes caught the silhouette of the master blacksmith, she greeted him with a ninety degree bow. “Long time haven’t seen you, sensei.” She gave him a toothy smile.

All the while, Kyungsoo copied her actions. His face couldn’t contain the wonders he was feeling and exclaimed out loud. The master’s shop was breath-taking. It exuded a peculiar aura surrounding the premise. Regardless how many times one had visited, the effect never truly left them. The memories etched with all the different calligraphies and the touches of ancient art, though some parts went through changes, instilled a lingering emotional connection.

Whilst the penguin was basking in the magical presence of the venerable world, Yuna chatted with the sensei, who had been expecting her presence.

“Kyungsoo-yah, come on.. You can look at those later.” Kyungsoo was pouting, facial expression downcast for having his moment with the knives cut abruptly. Yuna flicked Kyungsoo’s cap off. “Don’t pout. Sensei is going to show us something good.”

Pout off, the penguin put his cap into his bag and removed his facemask. He brushed his hair with his fingers a few times, to make it just right.  

They moved to another room. Instead of walls lined with knives, it was a tatami room with katanas showcased on sturdy cabinets and more calligraphies that were arcane. If one was not used to the feels, they would feel small surrounded by such old features. Kyungsoo was such person, not the noona though.

Yuna knew the sensei since she was a little girl. How could she not when her mother would come here for their dangerously sharp yet beautifully crafted knives since the matriarch joined the culinary world. On top of that, Hana’s first choice of gift to those who counted in her life was a knife made here. Each of her children had their own sets of knives.

They kneeled on the prepared cushions while the sensei retrieved something. “Noona, why didn’t you tell me you knew a blacksmith master?”

“I did tell you we’re going to a master’s shop, didn’t I?” The pout was back. She nudged him. “Yah, we’re here.” Someone new came in, bringing in a pot of tea and served it to them. Probably a new trainee. They thanked the attendant in synchrony.

Kyungsoo perked up after tasting the tea. He looked at Yuna, conveying with his eyes how wonderful the tea tasted. He swirled another mouthful and sighed. The tea mellowed him out.

Yuna snickered at him, which earned her a glare. The snickering turned to laughter. Kyungsoo elbowed her for that.; lightly. She made a face at him then she sobered up. “Sensei said eomma commissioned a few knives, so we’re checking those first before you buy anything.”

“You can commission from here?” Yuna looked at him as if she couldn’t belief he had just asked that. Kyungsoo poked at her cheek. “Should I commission one?”

“If you want to.” Seeing him seriously considering it, she added, “But, I think it’s better for you to buy one and accustom yourself to it first. If you find it suits you and you know exactly how you like your knives, by all means go ahead and commission as many as you want.”

“Does all your knives came from here?” One thing Kyungsoo was very envious about Yuna was her knives. Not only could they cut a piece of paper smoothly, the metallurgy effect were stunning.

“Not all, but most of them. However, all of my favourites are from here. I grew up using sensei’s knives, I’m biased.” Footsteps heard, so they quietened down.

The sensei placed three knives in front of her. He looked at the two of them, whose eyes were fixed on the knives. “Yuna-chan, have a look first. I forgot another one.” Getting the green light, Yuna picked up one, Kyungsoo moved closer with his cushion. They missed the attendant coming in with a few pieces of used paper and a cutting board.

The attendant cleared his voice, prompting the duo meerkat to look and nod; acknowledging his presence. With his palm, he pointed to the things he had brought for them to test the knives. His job done, he removed himself from the room.

“You test the knives, I need to record for eomma or you record.”

“I want to test them.”

Chapter Text

“You know what to do, right?” Kyungsoo looked at Yuna exasperatedly. She could practically hear him questioning her. “Okay, okay, get to it.” Video ready for shooting, Kyungsoo holding a knife and a piece of paper, Yuna clicked the record button once he looked into the camera. “Start.”

One by one, Kyungsoo checked the sharp edges of the knives, showing it up close to the camera, tilting them side to side for any dullness or chipping; none. “The edges look sharp and none reflective.” He proceeded to test the three knives while facing the camera, face as serious as a master artisan checking their masterpiece. He ran the knives against the paper one by one. He couldn’t help but marvel at the knives. All three sliced through the paper smoothly with clean edges despite not applying any force, dropping Kyungsoo’s jaw repeatedly.

“Woah, noona, these are razor-sharp. Really,” said the penguin as he looked at Yuna, eyes wide and filled with stars. She might edit and put actual starry effects on the video later on.

“Sensei is daebak. I know. Now, hold this. I need to show eomma something.” The video shook as Yuna’s phone was passed to Kyungsoo. She placed he arm on the table, signalling to Kyungsoo to get nearer. “Zoom in on my arm from the side. Can you see my hair?”

Kyungsoo scrunched his eyes, the disbelief of what Yuna was about to do was expressed openly. “Are you seriously doing this, noona?”

“Or you want to volunteer your five o’clock shadow? I’m good either way.” Kyungsoo imitated a fish. No way was he going to get that knife anywhere near his throat unless he was crazy. “I thought not. Come on, set the camera properly. Trust me, I’m not going to injure myself.”

He gave an okay sign to Yuna. Yuna run the knives on her arm at certain angles, opposing the direction of the fine hair.

She laughed at Kyungsoo’s expression every time each knife was tested. “See, no blood. You have little trust in me, Kyungsoo-yah. I’m hurt.” She touched her chest.

“Hurt all you want, it won’t make me worry less.” Yuna cooed at him, smiling brightly. She patted his cheeks. “The knives?”

“I would say the green hilted one is the sharpest.” Kyungsoo gasped at Yuna. “What?”

“How do you know that? The three cuts through your hair equally.”

“The feel on and of my skin. It’s difficult to explain.”

“Try.”

Yuna pursed her lips as she tilted her head, her thumb scrapping against the sharp edge of the knife. “You know when you shave, your skin feel super smooth like a baby’s skin?” Kyungsoo nodded. “It’s like that but with different pressure placed on the skin. The less pressure on the skin you need to put to achieve the same outcome, the sharper it is.”

“But all of them are sharp, how do you differentiate?”

“Experience and really sharp senses,” interjected the sensei in Korean. Back in Japanese, the sensei eyed Yuna. “You didn’t tell me you brought your koibito.”

Yuna choked on her saliva whilst her face down to her neck coloured red. Thank goodness she didn’t have the knives in her hands any longer, if not, there would have been blood splashing all over the place. The sensei’s words were something she would have never imagined he would say. Yuna vigorously shook her head. She denied the sensei’s statement. “We’re not.”

Kyungsoo who understood the gist blushed too.

“Why are you blushing?” Yuna shoved him.

“Second degree embarrassment. You’re so red, noona.”

“Why are you not?” The sensei was incredulous. “He’s handsome.” Kyungsoo ducked his head as he smilingly shook his head. Hearing someone who he had come to admire to compliment his looks directly to his face was difficult to swallow. Nevertheless, the sensei’s upcoming words dealt a heavier blow to the point of making them both speechless statues. “You should, you know since the two of you look good together. There’s a saying that goes, couples who looks similar meant they have really good compatibility.”

“You broke them, sensei,” commented the attendant from the side.

“Alright you two. That’s enough.” The sensei sat comfortably on his cushion then slid the forgotten knife wrapped in a piece of leather across the table. “Here’s your belated 30th birthday gift.” The leather-covered knife was small. “Open it.”

Still somewhat shaken, Yuna’s fingers trembled as she grasped the gift. Steadily, she unwrapped it. Lo and behold, a flip knife with wooden handle. She gasped aloud, she couldn’t blink her eyes at the beautiful masterpiece in her hands. Kyungsoo who had sidled by her side an age ago, eyed the knife.

“I know you love going to the mountains, it’s made exactly for that and your hands.” The raspy old voice sent a jolt into the noona’s system. In one swift motion, she stood up and gave a 90 degree bow. After three breaths with no sign of her straightening up, the sensei waved her. “Sit down, sit down.” Yuna sat back down. “It’s just a gift. You tell your father to come visit me soon.”

“Thank you, sensei. I will. I’ll treasure this gift too.” Her eyes were glistening.

“Go wash your face,” instructed the sensei. He hated seeing any female cry.

Yuna obeyed. Leaving the three men in the room.

“You know, she doesn’t really like it when men other than her family are in her personal space,” commented the sensei to Kyungsoo in perfect Korean.

The images of his members being in her personal space surfaced in the penguin’s mind. There were many instances of Yuna cuddling with Sehun. Her veering over Minseok’s shoulder to look at his laptop, massaging Baekhyun’s scalp or simply carding her fingers through his hair, planning excursions secretively with Jongdae and Chanyeol, tag teaming with Jongin to entertain children, wax poetry with Yixing and taking care of Junmyeon like he was the maknae not their leader.  

To doubt the sensei was wrong too considering the old man knew Yuna from her infancy.

It clicked to Kyungsoo how much EXO meant to Yuna. She had accepted and added them as part of her family. She had treated them like they were family since the get go. It irked him how easily she had trusted them.

What if they were a bunch of monsters?

The penguin’s digressing was halted when the sensei said something else. “If she does allow them in her personal space, it’s compartmentalised.” Kyungsoo acknowledge that. The interactions Yuna had with his brothers were always singular faceted. “It doesn’t appear so with you.” This renewed Kyungsoo’s attention. “I know she must absolutely have declared her feelings to you, but you don’t feel the same towards her. Don’t look so alarmed, I’m an old man. It’s fine, I’m not trying to scare you off. She probably already labelled you as friendzoned forever. What I’m trying to say to you young man is that, if your feelings change, you’ll have a hard time convincing her. As empathic as she is, she’s abysmally obtuse about romantic feelings directed towards her. Now, tell me what you like in a knife.”

Kyungsoo got a whiplash from the abrupt change of topic, but he decided to process what had been said later. Their time at the shop was limited and he had better make full use of it while he could. Ergo, he refocused his mind to the things he loved about a knife and asked questions upon questions, even taking out the waterstones for hands on tutorship with a master.

Yuna who had returned prior to the waterstones being the subject looked refreshed, no longer red. As they conversed, she became the timekeeper. Fifteen minutes before they needed to make a move, Yuna intervened and redirected the topic to Kyungsoo purchasing a knife. It didn’t take long for the sensei to find suitable knives for Kyungsoo for he had discerned what he wanted and required.

They walked out of the door with happiness abound especially the penguin had gotten himself a gyutou and a nakiri. “Thanks, noona for bringing me here and introducing me to the sensei.”

“You’re welcome. Plus, you’re paying for the Shins’ anyways. I should do this much.”

Chapter Text

On the ride to the first Shin restaurant, the alternative one, Yuna was preoccupied with texting with Minseok. Minseok sent a video of Tan acting ridiculous that divulge into sharing cat care and management. Lots of Tan’s and Munchy’s pictures were exchanged. Yuna guessed Minseok must be trying to cope with the stress he was in. Because his corrections restructuring weren’t going well -though she didn’t believe he was doing anything other than well- and the impending enlistment, not to mention he had recently moved to his own place, it was normal to be feeling over his heads. Yuna told him such when he finally admitted to feeling stressed.

Besides her, Kyungsoo was occupied his game, pursing at a level he had been stuck at. They continued so until they disembarked.

“When you get back, could you take Minseok out for some good food? If you want, I can make a reservation at Moonlight.”

The glint of the glutton made an appearance, he smiled and said yes for the reservation which he’d tell her when once he get a hold of the hyung. “What happened?”

“He’s stressing over his corrections.” The moment she found out that Minseok was actually doing his corrections already after they got comfortable and the man’s talkative mode had surfaced, Yuna was honestly flabbergasted. He was surreal. It saddened her that his viva went horribly wrong because one of the examiners had a thing against idols. Not because of his work but because he was an idol. Oh, Minseok didn’t say that to her but hearing the recollection of his viva spelled it to her despite Minseok’s trust on professionalism which had made him oblivious. So, instead of minor corrections he had major corrections to deal with and the submit date was around the corner. He had to finish it first before going on tour for CBX since right after that he had to enlist. The stress was at a level Yuna could never deal with. Her respect for him had tripled the more she knew him. “Should I drop by his place and stock up his fridge with food again? What do you think?”

Kyungsoo took a minute to process the question. “If you want to. I remembered he said he appreciated it the last time you did it.”

“Okay, I’ll ask him once I’m home.” Yuna made a note in her calendar lest she forgot. “He’s dieting again, isn’t he?”

“When has he not been on a diet?” Yuna nodded dejectedly. “I’m thankful he stopped voluntarily starving himself.”

Yuna groaned. That reminded her the moment she decided she was going to prep Minseok’s food for once. They text each other a lot, commiserating about their pet and PhD and one particular week she found out he didn’t eat proper meals for three days straight. Ergo, she invited herself to his place. Dieting in itself meant eating balanced meals catered to one’s body, not cutting down meals, which could result in poor long-term health. She lectured as much to Minseok. “Thank heavens, you eat well.”

“You keep on feeding me, noona. How can I refuse food?” He was a gourmand who lacked time. Something crossed her mind, she noted another set of things to do.  

They had arrived at the restaurant with a few minutes to spare. After clarifying their reservation, they were shown to their seats in one of the smaller closed rooms. The restaurant was minimalistic with pastel colour schemes and walls decorated with a variety of arts. In the room, a square wooden dining table and two cushioned chairs were in the centre of the room, the table could fit two more chairs but it would be a bit crowded.

Yuna sat at the seat facing the door without waiting for anyone to show any courtesy.

The waiter left after explaining to them the questionnaires they needed fill instead of a menu, which were written in both Japanese and English. The questions were direct and easy to answer, Yuna finished her within minutes, and then she went to stand by the penguin to help him navigate his answers.

“You don’t like carrot?” That shocked her.

“I don’t think they are suitable for some things.”

“Ok, but I used loads of carrots in my food though. You never said anything.” Yuna gave him the stink eye.

Kyungsoo rolled his. “They are good in some things but not everything. Like chicken bokkeumtang.”

“I put them in those too. Ah, so you didn’t take the carrots, did you?” She tilted her head as tried to remember the night.

“I gave them to Minseok-hyung. He likes carrots.” Whilst talking, Kyungsoo wrote his answers.

Both questionnaires rechecked, nothing amiss -all important points like allergies, dislikes, health remarks and taste preferences jotted down- Yuna pushed the call button on the table. The waiter came in and clarified a few things before stepping out. “I’m going to the loo. If eomma or appa calls, could you pick up?” She handed her phone to Kyungsoo as he nodded. At the door she turned to him, “don’t pick up if it’s any of my brothers.” The warning was clear in her tone.

What did she think he would talk to her brothers? Unless it was Raon, maybe Miru.

However, it was not her phone that rang, it was his. It was his mother checking on him. Yuna returned while he was still on the phone with her. She went back outside to give him some privacy and wandered around looking at the various drawings displayed.

Staring at a canvas made her process about the interactions she had with Kyungsoo. The difference between hers and his was stark. She was comfortable sharing about her family since the very beginning, but it took him a long time to even bring up his. She understood why though. She had known him albeit not the real him for years, hence for her, he was not a stranger. Not to him. She was a stranger to him, yet somehow here they were. It was mind-boggling.

Seeing their waiter with a tray, Yuna retraced back to their room. But, Kyungsoo was not done with call. Before she could step back outside, he turned and gestured for her to sit down. Just as her bottom laid on the cushioned chair, the waiter knocked.

The dinner unfold similar to their previous date at Moonlight; heavy deliberation on each food set on the table. They were not served separately. Instead, their meals ware courses meant for them to share, which was made tailored to their combined palette. Realising this, Yuna apologised to Kyungsoo. “You should come back with someone with less food restrictions than me.”

“You don’t have to apologise, noona. The food is great. The chef here really is talented to be able to make something that fits both our tongues.” Kyungsoo loved spicy food, but Yuna couldn’t eat them, yet he was still satisfied with the meals provided. “I wonder how they would serve if there were more people in a group?” He was thinking about eating with his family including the rest of EXO.

“You’ll have to bring them then you’ll know. Maybe while CBX concert is held in Kobe?" Bringing up that concert, Minseok's enlistment crept into her mind. She looked at Kyungsoo who was pondering about the idea. The man in front of her too would enlist in two years time. Two years, such a short period. Maybe it was best that she postpone the meet up her supervisor suggested. 

Yuna vowed to herself, she would be dedicating these two years for Kyungsoo and the rest of EXO, but especially Kyungsoo. They would be her centre of life aside from her PhD and family. Enlisting tend to change people, she expected that after enlisting her place in their life wouldn't be the same, considering their contact would likely be limited if not cut completely off.

Distance only made the heart grow fonder if there was a fondness to begin with. She was no one special to them, even though they were beyond special to her. 

She smiled at Kyungsoo, the sombre thoughts hidden in her heart, and scraped their final course to the last visible piece into her mouth.

"Noona," whined Kyungsoo. He wanted the last piece, but she got to it first.

Yuna stuck her tongue out. "Who asked you to be lost in your mind?"

Chapter Text

Back at their suite, Yuna called first dibs to the bathroom. After a quick shower, in a robe she brought specifically for soaking in public, she dipped into the onsen, yelling to Kyungsoo that the bathroom was free for his use.

Yuna found a spot she could lean and watch the night sky. The heat from the onsen working on the kinks in her muscles. The soothing visual and physical stimuli calmed her nerves. Made things more high definition in her mind. She murmured a set of words that was very close to her heart. A rhythm she had known all her life, of which the words she had been trying to string for as far long, yet impossible to complete.

Only a voice

Yet my heart beats a staccato

Only a timbre

Yet my soul yearns in crescendo

Too fast too slow

The mellow seeps and grows

The rasp soothes and flows

 

The voice echoes

Basking in the shadows of the moon

A tangle of feelings loom

Coiling and curling

Twining and twisting

Till the pining blooms

So the moonlight shines a boon

And the timbre croons

 

The words failed her again today. She recited them over and over, yet her brain had stopped churning. Blank. Yuna sighed and stared at the half-hidden moon.

A mellow and raspy voice repeated some of her words, “What were you reciting, noona?”

Yuna turned to face Kyungsoo. “An unfinished poetry.”

“About?” In black shirt and black shorts, Kyungsoo soaked his legs in the onsen.

“Nothing much, just my obsession with a voice, the moon and an all-consuming love.”

A part of the whole poetry intrigued Kyungsoo. “Whose voice?”

“Honestly, I don’t know. I’ve always loved a certain type of voice. Deep but mellow, with a breathy quality and a hint of raspiness.” She didn’t say that Kyungsoo’s came really close to it if not exactly it. As open as she was with him, Yuna couldn’t bring herself to tell him this one thing.

“Like Jongin’s?” tried Kyungsoo.

“You’re thinking about his singing voice, but no. Not Jongin’s. I always imagined it as Severus Snape’s liquid gold voice had a tonal control that melts everything.”

“Alan Rickman’s?”

Yuna stole a glimpse at Kyungsoo, bit her lips and let out a breath. “I know this is going to sound awful but no. Not Alan Rickman’s even if his voice is deep it’s not breathy enough.”

“So, just an imaginary voice?” the edge of the right side of his lips risen for a few seconds.

Yuna didn’t miss either the shadow of his smirk or the snicker in his voice. She splashed at him in retaliation. “No. There’s someone who has this voice but I’m not telling you, ya punk.”

His clothes wet, the penguin submerged his body in the water. Yuna rained splashes upon splashes onto Kyungsoo. She broke into a fit of laughter seeing him doused with water and whining noona.

“How are you still so lively?”

“I’m high on caffeine that’s why.”

“It was just matcha, how could you be high?”

“Hey.” He nudged at the penguin with her leg. “Not everyone has high tolerance with caffeine.”

“No wonder you’re allergic to coffee. Could you recite your poetry again?”

“The horrible one?”

“It sounds interesting.”

“I think it’s literarily abysmal.”

The penguin who had squatted to her side to gaze upon the clouded moon looked at her exasperatedly. “I may not know literature but I think you’re being too hard on yourself since this is something you have held close to your heart for a very long time.”

“Woah.” She clapped her hands. “I can’t believe a psychologist is being psychoanalysed by an idol.” That earned her a poke on her chubby cheeks. The noona jutted her tongue at him, but she relented and voiced the words she had never shared with another. “You’re the first person who heard this,” said the noona once the last sentence was spoken.

Kyungsoo was trying to memorise the words, so she supplied him the correct ones whenever he was stuck. “If you’re interested in better poetry, I have a collection of them at home, you know. It’s good practise for writing your own lyrics.”

“Noona, if you ever finish this, could you give it to me?”

“Why? You’re going to sing it?”

Kyungsoo moved his lips, thinking with his lips. “A tune came to me.”

“Really?” the noona clapped happily. “You can have it, but use my alias in the credit.”

“Moony?”

“Yups. But I don’t know when I’ll finish it though. It has been in the making for 17 years.”

“Why don’t you find the original version and see?”

It was a good idea. She had omitted, trimmed and plucked so much that it was far from the original form. Maybe getting back to the beginning would help her. “I’ll do that. Then, since you want the song, why don’t we sit together after I find the origin?” Kyungsoo nodded in agreement. “Just don’t expect this to be anytime soon.”

“I won’t. It’s not like I’ll get to sing a solo for some time.” She patted his back. “By the way, did Jongdae say anything about his activity?”

“You mean his solo?” Kyungsoo murmured his answer. “Yeah, he did and Baekhyunnie too. I can’t wait for them. I’m so happy they’re finally doing it and it makes me anticipate yours. But getting to hear you singing live every once in a while helps me manage the impatience.”

Yuna was not going to broach the subject of his apprehension towards social media because she shared it too though for very different reason. His mostly due to the craziness of sasaeng while hers due to her social anxiety. It made her think of her position in their life. How it took time for Kyungsoo to genuinely open up to her. From strictly speaking about food to slowly divulging into other areas. From stiff facial expressions to him snapping his fingers at her.

“They’ve been working very hard. I hope they’re received well.”

“Don’t worry, they will and you will too.” Yuna looked at her pruning fingers. “Alright, I’m getting out first.”

The first night ended with them drifting to sleep while talking about this and that, futon side by side, even though they were placed in what would be considered different rooms.

Chapter Text

Morning came. Something was shuffling and it injected a sliver of consciousness into Yuna’s sleeping brain. A low raspy groaning followed by a whining filtered through the cloud in her ears, “Noona~ You’re worse than Jongdae.” The voice only served to lull her back to sleep as she hugged the pillow tighter. “Noona~”

Yuna reluctantly opened her eyes. Ah, that was why Kyungsoo was whining. She was yet again all over him. Her leg across his tummy while his leg functioned as her bolster, her arms secured around his calf. She detangled herself from him and sat, wiping her bleary eyes.

“I told you not to place the futon side by side if you don’t want to wake up like this.” She yawned, but because she was used to force her lips to shut tight, her limbs compensated by stretching with eyes closed, shedding a few drops of tears. She plopped forwards, away from Kyungsoo and mushed her face against the fluffy futon.

The penguin stood and tidied his futon before shuffling elsewhere. A shut door told her he went to the bathroom.  

Left alone, brain still lagging, the noona felt for her phone, grabbed it and flicked through her fandom account. Once she was coherent enough, she checked her messages. Nothing much besides more uploads of the babies in her family group, updates on Munchy and the rest was quiet. Missing her cat, she video called Raon to get herself some Munchy time.

A showered and dried Kyungsoo found Yuna still lazing on her futon with her phone. Sounds of a cat meowing relentlessly told him it was none other than Munchy. “Yes, yes. Sorry I didn’t call you yesterday. Yes, Munchy, I won’t forget to call you tonight.” The human and the cat continued their exchanges for over five minutes; Kyungsoo timed it as he played with his phone. “Raonie, call me around ten in case I don’t. Did he mope around?” Her talk with her brother was succinct. It took only a minute of updating about Munchy and the inevitable questioning about Kyungsoo. To which she had promptly tossed her phone to him and escaped the grilling at the penguin’s expense. “Talk to him yourself.”

Yuna scuttled to grab her towel and bathrobe and scrambled away. Futon a mess. Kyungsoo scrunched up his eyes at Yuna’s antique, staring at her, agape. She stuck her tongue out at him by the door and gave him a wave before leaving him alone. He munched on his lips for a bit.

For someone four years older than him, she was childish at least when it was about her interactions with her family. Being the baby in the family was like that. He empathised as he was relatively the same with his own. The thought made him miss his brother. He should catch up with him soon.

Now, Kyungsoo had a man and a cat staring at him with varying eyes; one anticipatory the other not so much. Munchy greeted him happily and by default, he answered the cat and extended his greetings to Raon. Similar to Yuna, Munchy engaged him in a lively conversation. Of course he had to reply the cat, he didn’t want to be rude. And Raon facepalmed but because Munchy had moved closer to the phone, Kyungsoo didn’t see it.

Then, the phone moved so that Munchy was no longer hogging the screen. But a few seconds passed by, Munchy had settled himself on Raon’s shoulder, eyes peeking at Kyungsoo. Raon rubbed his cheek against the cat’s head. “No wonder she likes you so much, you pair of furries.”

“Hyung, you don’t love Munchy?” Kyungsoo smirked at the man. He really couldn’t heed the slight animosity oozing from Raon. The older man was too much of a softy to him when they had worked together that Raom being otherwise failed to produce the wanted effect.

Raon pinched his the bridge of his nose, dropping the animosity altogether. Then, he looked straight into Kyungsoo’s big eyes, an intense gaze meant to make Kyungsoo understand he was serious though having Munchy purring loudly didn’t help his case. “Just don’t string her along.”

Kyungsoo nodded and smiled at him, the serious and reassuring kind.

Raon sighed and shook his head. “You’re going to accompany her at the aquarium and rides, right?”  Another nod. “Fair warning, she gets hyper when she’s overexcited and she’ll lose a lot of her filters.”

That was interesting. “Lose her filters?”

“Yeah, she’ll be more impulsive and spontaneous. You’ll see it yourselves. Kyungsoo-yah, do me a favour, don’t feed her any sugary food while she’s already excited, savoury is fine. Sweets during adrenaline rush tend to make her suffer a crash later on. She’ll end up catching some bad bugs. That would defeat the purpose of her going there in the first place. She needs to be in tip top shape for the conference.”

Anticipate and mitigate a hyperactive Moon Yuna, that was his objective today. “Alright, hyung.” The younger man waited for Raon who seemed to have something else he wanted to say. His face was doing the thinking with the various expressions flitting on it. But, they ended up staring at each other for a couple of minutes sans words while Munchy kept on blinking at him slowly. Kyungsoo decided to break the impromptu silence. “Anything else I should be aware about?”

A pause. “Nah, she can take care of the rest herself. Thanks.” Raon gave Kyungsoo a peculiar look. “Kay, take care and don’t have too much fun. Bye.” A loud meow was the last sound Kyungsoo heard before the feed was cut off.

That was not what he had expected. There were no shovel talk, no threats. Only worry of her wellbeing. Her parents were even more carefree. It felt a though they trusted him to not do anything untoward. Which made him somewhat warm. Warm because he had earned the trust of those close to the person he cared about.

Yes, the noona was someone he had come to cherish and he considered as a close friend, whom had carved a spot in his life.

Chapter Text

Donning a shirt displaying EXO’s power symbols topped by a baggy hooded jacket, combat boots, a facemask and a beanie, all in black including her cargo pants, Yuna was ready for her excursion. Kyungsoo mirrored her black articles with cosier choices. Though both preferred darker tones, the big difference between the two’s choices were that the penguin had a penchant for monotony to the noona’s graphic design. Something like their personalities too.

The two of them looked like a pair of ninja penguins with eyes barely visible, though standing beside Yuna made Kyungsoo less of a penguin than when he was his members. Hence, decreasing the likelihood that he would be recognised.

“I booked the taxi, they should be here soon." They decided to commute via taxi for the day, safer after a couple of videos went viral with Kyungsoo being in Japan. Thank heavens that she was unrecognisable beyond being a generic short male friend in both videos. The best luck was that the video uploaders were courteous enough to not upload them at the exact moment they had caught Kyungsoo’s sight.

Yuna felt guilty for wanting to use the train, she should have insisted Kyungsoo ride a taxi instead. “You sure you want to tag along with me?”

Kyungsoo gave a severe look of distrust at Yuna. “If I don’t tag along, I have a feeling you’re going to play till you drop and eat all kinds of sweets.”

Yuna groaned. “Did Raon ask you to babysit me?”

“I’m not wrong, right?”

Annoyed, Yuna walked ahead. “I know my body. It’s not like eating a few dango, mochi, cake and ice-cream are bad.”

“Do you listen to yourself? How are those a few? You’re the intellectual between us, noona.” queried Kyungsoo as he caught up with her. He had noticed her love for sweets. She might hate overly sweet sweets, but the ones she love, she’ll eat sans care.

She glared at him, lengthened her steps and huffed. “I have self-control. I’m not a child.”

Kyungsoo scoffed and smirked at the pouting noona. “You sure are acting like one. By the way, if you haven’t noticed, your legs are shorter than mine. You’re not going to get any further away,” pointed the penguin with his ease of matching her strides.

The noona rolled her eyes and shoved him a bit. The penguin didn’t resist the push, allowing the shove to sway him to the side.  “I’m excited, fight me.” She glared at Kyungsoo. She accepted the fact that Kyungsoo made her petulant side even more obvious than usual. Yuna took a deep breath, re-centring her intentions. “But seriously though, as much as I love spending time with you, I hate to be the cause of your trouble even more.”

“Now you’re the one treating me like a child.” There was always a chance of being mobbed. He understood that but somehow he didn’t feel anyone would notice it was him because she was by his side. Her shortness should create a different aura around him who was usually sandwiched between giants.

“You’re impossible. Whatever. Have it your way.” The noona let out a small scream with both her hands pumping the sky.

He looked at her from head to toe, checking for anything awry. “What was that for?”

She flashed him with the biggest smile in the world, turning her eyes into upside down crescent moons with cheeks akin to plump mochi. “I’m just really really happy I’m on a trip with my crush!” She clapped a few times but the weird face Kyungsoo made at her earned him a shove. “Don’t give me that look, I know all this is platonic.”

Kyungsoo rolled his eyes but the smile gave away his genuine enjoyment spending time with someone out of his usual clique. “And you’re not eating all the mochis available. Just take away some if you must.”

“Party pooper. Since I can’t eat all the sweets I want, I’m getting all the takoyaki I want. For lunch, I want tempura.” She’s already drooling at the thought of food. She swallowed the saliva pooling in her mouth and wiped some that slipped pass the edges of her lips.

“There’s a good restaurant in between the theme park and aquarium. Great reviews and a friend of mind recommended it. You want to have a go?”

“Yes! Ugh, I’m getting hungry again.”

“We just had breakfast.” A breakfast set was sent to their door at exactly 7am like they had asked for. “There was rice.”

“My metabolism is fast.”

“You’re a glutton, noona.”

“Takes another glutton to know a glutton. Let’s face it, you’re drooling too.” She pointed to his wet lips. He sucked on them and pursed. “Just in case we’re mobbed and split up, we should meet at the restaurant.”

 

As she had predicted, an ambush laid in prep for Kyungsoo. After the third ride of screaming and more screaming which Kyungsoo joined in since everyone was screaming anyway, a group of giddy girls were waiting by the exit. Seeing the fishy scene, she asked him to pull up his hoodie and adjusted his cap. She fished out a thin yellow scarf from her pocket, draped it over his shoulders, and passed him a yellow Going Merry facemask. “That should be contrary enough for them not to recognise you.”

They slipped out of the ride with their heads up, looking like any other boys out for some fun. Luckily, the trick worked and they were out of the theme park. “Ugh, I wanted to go the haunted house.” Kyungsoo chose to ignore the statement. Since it was rather early, barely 11am, Yuna asked Kyungsoo whether he had anything he wanted to do.

“It’s not that early, noona.” His eyes flickered left to right to left to right for a few seconds. “We should get that tempura don you wanted and head to the aquarium. I don’t want to be late for Shins.”

So, they ate their lunch and spend their afternoon till evening at the aquarium. It was a relaxing and healing at the aquarium. There wasn’t as many people as such they got to take their time sauntering every exhibits, taunting, imitating, prodding, and laughing to their hearts’ content.  

Chapter Text

Dinner was in summary, great and surprising.

Great because Shins delivered their expectations. Surprising because Shins delivered beyond their expectations, mostly Kyungsoo’s. Thus, Kyungsoo gushed none stop. An experience that made Yuna’s heart bloomed and then he kept on giving her pieces to taste from his spoon after she shoved a juicy fish eye into his mouth. An attempt to find a combination that could overwhelm her and soothe his own wounded pride for liking the taste of the jelly gooeyness, which divulge into a competition of sorts. What competition? Thinking back, she wasn’t clear herself, they were just swept by the mood. Another side of Kyungsoo uncovered, the intense and spontaneous side rarely seen.

Easy to say, they enjoyed the food very much.

Also surprising because the song that had greeted them upon entry was Cosmic Railway followed by the fact that the main chef was an avid EXO-L. The look on his face when he came out to meet Kyungsoo when he insisted on conveying his gratitude face to face to the chef was priceless.

Their interactions, mostly the chef’s stuttering shyness added up with the day’s earlier encounter with a bunch of crazy fans, brought up Kyungsoo’s reality to Yuna’s relaxed mind. Before this, it was just an idea or a knowledge that the Kyungsoo in her life was the same person with the famous EXO’s DO. She had only met him and the rest of the members in a private setting, away from the limelight. It made her unintentionally compartmentalise the ones she knew as distinct from the idols they were. She realised that on a tangible level now.

Seeing how fans were around him was another thing altogether. It brought things into perspective. With him right beside her, she could feel how he felt at such hours. The worry and the discomfort he exuded during the day when they were almost mobbed. A vast difference from now as he was bashfully preening in happiness and proudness since the situation was within his control. His soft smile, the sparkles in his eyes and the most vital note was his lax shoulders, absent were the tautness earlier.

Yuna couldn’t take her eyes off of Kyungsoo, drinking every minutiae of his reactions like a parched land. It was like watching from across a screen as EXO’s DO made an appearance. Yes, DO was a persona. They were the same person, not a body suit. Just leashed. The same behaviour exhibited by a large chunk of the world’s population when meeting with strangers.

It made her worry for him and the whole group even more. They were a bunch of cuddly introverts who loved music and performing. It was easy to be abused when you’re in the eyes of the public with how many people would disregard courtesy and common sense in their obsession. Like the public owned parts of them. That was wrong. They were merely doing their jobs. No one was entitled to be in their life.

“What are you thinking, noona?” Kyungsoo waved his hand in front of her face, startling Yuna out of her impromptu pensiveness. “You look annoyed.”

She didn’t realise he was done speaking with the chef or that the chef was no longer in their proximity. What was worse, they were already out of the restaurant and inside a taxi. “I was thinking about the relationship between celebrities and fans.”

“So, you’re not annoyed with me?” asked Kyungsoo.

Yuna tilted her head, confused, “Why would I be?”

“You were silent and staring at me with your brows scrunched. What else could I think?” The penguin but his finger nail.

“You’ll hurt your stomach eating your nails.” She took his hand away “My bad habit of overanalysing things crept up”

“And that could still be about me.” He bit his bottom lips instead.

She shook her head. “I’m not annoyed with you tonight, Soo-yah.”

That statement made Kyungsoo’s eyes bulge out. “I had annoyed you before?” He stood straighter.

Yuna hated her choice of words. A reason she didn’t want to be a counsellor consulting people. Her blunt and somewhat tactless speaking style also had made her less animated about serious matter, but she was not so with Kyungsoo. He had been one of her biggest life exceptions. “Everyone annoys everyone at some point. I probably had irritated you.”

“Yes, but I told you when that happened. You don’t.” Ah, Kyungsoo did indeed become more open about his misgivings with her like right now. “You scrunched your brows and pressed your lips together, but you don’t broach the subject.”

“Then, you do know when I’m annoyed. If I don’t say anything it means they are not problematic to begin with. It was just my being irrational.” Now, Kyungsoo was pursing his lips. “Yah, I do tell you if you annoy me. Like your habit of letting water flow and this nail biting.” She pulled up the abused hand in her grasp.

“You don’t tell me that it annoy you per se,” mused Kyungsoo. He was thinking about this matter intently.

“That’s how I tell you. Not everything must be words and you do that all the time too, speaking with your actions. You do it even more than I do. You don’t realise it because we do it thematically different. You do it when you’re taking care of people while I do it when I find speaking is not a good choice.”

“When does speaking is not a good choice?”

“When I’m aggravated. My broken filter will be crippled so I don’t want to talk.”

“Okay, so a quiet Moon Yuna is either contemplative or bothered.”

“Exactly.”

“How to tell the difference?”

“If I actively ignore you, you should worry.” Why were they having this discussion? Yuna didn’t get it. Her friends didn’t ask these kind of questions. It was throwing her out of loop because the Do Kyungsoo she understood didn’t ask these kind of questions. She gave him the stink eye. “What’s really bothering you?”

Kyungsoo sighed. “I don’t like to annoy anyone.” His eyes shifted as he said his mind.

Yuna understood now. He was most likely worrying about the way things had enfold today. “Kyungsoo-yah, I understand that you are a celebrity and things like this will happe. You shouldn’t fret about it at least not with me. I’m okay with it. It is much worse for you.” She patted his shoulders and ruffled his head. Honestly, she was more worried about his mental state. “By the way, you’re doing great.”

“That was sudden.” The smile he had on his face was telling of his feelings. He might like to troll people every now and then but he would always reciprocate the love he got from those he cared.

“No it was not. You’re doing great keeping things together especially yourself. It’s very good of you to clear things up. Keep it up.” She gave him thumbs up, wiggling her thumbs up in the air, smiled at him.

“Thanks, noona.” The smile lighted up his face.

Chapter Text

Yuna woke up from her own internal alarm but she was just warm enough that she almost drifted back to sleep, ensconced in the hold of a strong arm with her back to a warm chest. Another arm pillowed her head while her own limbs wrapped around a pillow. Comfortable was an understatement. She felt secured, her bones lazy, mind slow to process her situation. The epitome of cosy.

She pulled the fluffy pillow closer to her face.

For a few more minutes, she was lulled into serene darkness. Then, she roused back with her eyes bleary. The arm was still present around her waist.

It was not a dream.

That was new.

Probably she had been moving too much again and the penguin decided the best course of action was to anchor her to something. That something just ended up being his body. Hence, his left hand was where it was. Her eomma did that all the time when they slept together, including the rest of her family and friends who had ever slept together with her.

She should really stop being cumbersome to him, but she was greedy. It was not like she could keep him to herself for the rest of her life. Furthermore, he was what she had wanted for a long time. Right now, he was making it even more difficult by being so so squishy. Nothing could beat another human being as a pillow. Humans were the best kind of pillow and the penguin was perfect. His body proportions were perfect for her to slot in, the consistency was a good balance of soft and hard. Unlike her eomma who had too much limbs going on.

Hmmm, if she was really comfortable, why was she up so early?

Right, she wanted to hike before the sunrise. Leaving such comfort was loathsome but she had too. It was part of her ritual to hike at least once whenever she visited here. But, the position she was in was a golden opportunity. After counting to ten, she carefully extracted herself from Kyungsoo’s hold with a sigh.

Checking her phone, they had barely slept for four hours. She herself was still tires so the penguin should be too.  The plan was to go alone and let Kyungsoo have his rest.  Hopefully she would be back before he woke up. If he was still asleep by then, maybe she could sneak back into their position before. That would be purrfection.

The idea made her smile. However, while she was in the middle of putting the penguin’s arm on her pillow after successfully detangling herself, he twitched.

Kyungsoo sat up with his puffy eyes closed, rubbing them as they fluttered open. “We’re going already?” voice smoky and slurry from slumber struck straight at Yuna’s heart. A direct attack to her soul.

There went her plan, drats. “You don’t have to. Go back to sleep.” she said as she pushed at his shoulder so he was laying back on the fluffy futon, tucking the duvet on him. “I’ll be back in two hours.”

He hummed in appreciation. However, the timing finally clocked in Kyungsoo’s head, jolting him to wakefulness. “Two hours? You said it was supposed to be an easy hike.”

Kyungsoo’s concern made her happy. She cleared her throat. “It is an easy route.” She emphasised again at the easiness. “I can be back in an hour but I want to watch the sunrise and take some pictures. Maybe nap a bit by the creek.” The beautiful scenery from her memories reappeared in her head, beckoning her.

“Give me a minute. I need to pee,” he scrambled to his feet and shuffled his way to the toilet.

Yuna shook her head and sighed. It seemed she had lost this particular battle. She should just enjoy it then. It was not up to her what he wanted to do. He had decided it himself and she was going to bask in the glory of spending time with him.

In the meanwhile, Yuna went to the mini kitchen and fixed a cup of white tea for the penguin and matcha for herself.

As she was whisking her matcha, a forehead landed on her left shoulder. “Can’t we go back to sleep, noona. I’m sleepy.”

She patted the sleepy head. “I told you to go back to sleep but I’m going.” He shook his head against her shoulder. She patted it some more. “I made white tea for you. Drink it if you want,” she pointed to the cup with the elixir. “It is not strong enough so you can sleep later on.”

Teas drained, they head off smelling like citronella. Kyungsoo was only three quarter awake. The pout on his face was on the brink of changing Yuna’s mind, but he livened up as they continued their walk.

Thirty minutes of leisure hike and small talks, the sound of running water greeted their ears. In front of them, surrounded by tall trees was a small patch of grassland with a view of the horizon. A pristine creek tracked down at the edge. Birds twittered happily, a sign of the rising with the sun. It was a tranquil beauty.

Click. Click. Click. The sound of Yuna’s shutter went off.

At that very moment, light started to shine above the horizon with a glimpse of the sun. The noona quickly climb on one of the bigger rocks in the meadow, her favourite perch. It granted her the best position to catch the best composition for her pictures. Kyungsoo joined her on the biggest rock beside hers.

She looked at him sitting above her. Her heart skipped a beat.

The light hitting him as he lounged on the stone made an arresting image. She couldn’t resist anymore. “Mind I take some pictures of you?” The subject hummed his acquiesce, droopy eyes fixed on the disappearing darkness. Her film camera was limited so she only took a few pictures of him, enough to soothe her itch but would never be enough to sate herself.

Being with him made her question her preferences sometimes. The vinyls, the film camera and her own strict code of conducts. She could have more if she was a bit more lax and if she liked things more mainstream.

Then, it reminded her that she was who she was. Who they were to her.

Changing would mean she could get more pictures, more products, but it wouldn’t matter as much and it would create pressures that could taint what they have especially now that she knew them. Sticking to being herself and not cave to pressures that were substantially insignificant made loving them, him, and herself uncomplicated. For her that was the most important.

She was getting sensitive with the lack of sleep. Time to nap.

Kyungsoo was already deep asleep on the ground whilst she was in her thoughts. The calmness he was exuding compelled her. Therefore, she made herself comfortable by his side. Within a few breaths, she was dreaming of big soulful eyes and laughing heart-shaped lips.

Chapter Text

They were a mess of limbs and grass when the sun casted its light onto them. It was already midmorning yet neither was waking up. The veil of sleep was heavy on both as the cool air blew soothingly. Not just the environment was highly conducive for relaxing tense muscles, it was also great for unwinding mental pressures.

The penguin’s face being cushioned by the noona’s squishy abs while he used half of her body as his personal bolster were ingredients for a good sleep. Their role had reversed. Now, the penguin himself found comfort in cuddling her.

The sun rose higher in the sky, with Yuna facing directly towards its brightness, it irritated her enough so she turned her body to hide away from it. Thus, she effectively dislodged Kyungsoo from his cosy perch, yet his limbs didn’t relinquish their hold on the squishiness that was Yuna’s tummy. Instead of stirring awake, he followed her movement, hiding his face against her back.

They only woke up when the sun were inching to its zenith as the heated light caused them to sweat and their empty stomachs to grumble. Refreshed but achy from sleeping for hours on the ground, they quickly headed back. Yuna’s stomach grumbled aloud on their way, demanding to everyone within earshot to feed it and Kyungsoo’s belly answered in kind. They couldn’t help but burst into booming laughter at the conversation their empty stomachs were having.

They raced each other to their suite. The winner gets to shower first.

Oh, Yuna played dirty because she knew no way was she going to win fair and square, but she wanted to shower first. She needed to.

So what she did was, tackle him to the ground when the opportunity for a safe landing arise. Then, she dashed for her escape, holding in the giggles building up in her chest. But, when she peeked behind to confirm he was alright, Kyungsoo was unmoving. That pulled her legs to a stop.

She ran back to him, asking if he was okay.

As she was hovering over him, the silent penguin swiftly pulled her arm, sending her tumbling onto him. Without further ado, he twisted his body and sprinted away, laughing merrily.

“Yah, Doh Kyungsoo!” Yuna shouted, pursuing after him. The downwards trail made for a faster momentum which meant it was more difficult for her to catch him. But, the cheeky penguin slowed down enough that he could keep her shy of arm’s length. Even making faces at her. The tease!

By the time they reached their suite, Yuna was positively huffing and puffing, catching her breath as she braced on her thigh, whereas Kyungsoo weren’t out of breath at all. Maybe breathing slightly heavier, slightly.

If she had something to throw at his face, she would. She hated how he was looking even more handsome with the grasses in his hair face a healthy blush. She could imagine how she looked with her hair more haphazard than a bird’s nest.

He ruffled her hair and giggled at the twig he found.

She pushed him. “If you want to shower go. If not, let me. Quickly go, I’m so hungry,” whined the noona while her belly roared.

For a couple of steps, he made his body heavier against Yuna’s effort. However, when she pulled her hands away, he righted his body effortlessly. Earning himself a poke at his side.

 

Their belly bursting from the Kaiseki lunch, Yuna set up her work and Kyungsoo chilled with his movies. The former with her headphone, the later with his earphones. The afternoon was spent with both in their own worlds.

Chapter Text

Their vacation ended with minimal frenzy. Having their little excursion –her particular presence- kept under the radar despite having Kyungsoo recognised at the rollercoaster ride with her by his side consistently, the burden on Yuna’s shoulders lifted as they parted ways. Her heart floated merrily and she sailed her presentations like an expert sailor, outmanoeuvring the relentless tsunamis sent on her ways. Her supervisors had recorded the whole ordeal, so Yuna could send it to those close to her, which ends up in the only three groups that were bustling in her phone; her family, her besties and of course her favourite dongsengs.

Her family were mostly silent other than congratulating her. Her besties saluted her. Then, her dongsengs wanted a repeat performance. They ordered a re-enactment. All in all, they all promised her treats.

That night, she and Kyungsoo texted each other as she settled for bed. Due to today’s special event, he called her and they talked about everything and nothing. Huchu and Meongmul joined him, thus bringing forth her cooing after them. They were not talkative like Munchy, more of the curious sniffy type, wetting Kyungsoo’s silicone screen with their saliva.

Thinking back the circumstances, she talked to him almost every day when he’s not swamped with work be it directly or moderated by their phones. Even then, he would still send a line or two to tell her he’s alive. It had become a routine, their routine.

Yuna sighed. It would be a huge crater in her heart once things change between them, namely Kyungsoo getting himself a beloved.

She pushed the thought aside. Him finding a beloved would mean his needs were fulfilled and that’s the opposite of being detrimental to him. Hence, she shouldn’t be apprehensive about it.

Another sigh. She wished she didn’t need to wake up from this beautiful dream.

Chapter Text

Back in the familiarity of her territory, time went by with a monotone that lulled Yuna. A cycle of her on her thesis, discussion, meeting, manuscript draft, siblings, babysitting and EXO.

Kyungsoo was a constant though he went back to his parents, the dorm and travelling every so often. He was a fixture in her life. They spent a lot of time especially during meals and meal preparations. Other than that, it was sleeping together platonically in the form of entangled limbs which had ended up causing them to develop a ritualistic nightly routine regardless of proximity. They’ll interact with each other without fail every night, ranging from a simple texting of ‘sleep well’ to soft talks that lingered till one of them drifted off.

As much as he was part of her life, that had extended to the members too. Her home was regularly raided by Sehun and Chanyeol though the tallest giant preferred to spend him time perusing her vinyl collection sometimes with Jongdae in tow, while Sehun was a regular customer of her fridge. Baekhyun, the homebody that he was, dropped by whenever he ventured out to workout with the same intention as Sehun. Yixing and Junmyeon took her out a few times when her head was in a bad space, it was to somewhere private enough that they ended up discussing about a many things till the sun rose above the horizon. Minseok, her thesis buddy, had invited her to the CBX concert in Saitama, but her thesis was due around the time, so she had no choice but to decline.

The passage of time picked up two folds after that. From only getting teasers to the full-blown album showcase of Jongdae’s April, and a Flower, followed by Minseok’s enlistment, Yixing promoting Honey and ChanHun subunits hints, time had slipped through her fingers.

Then, something big happened.

The day Yuna submitted her thesis for viva considerations was also the very day she got the news of Kyungsoo’s enlistment. Not direct from his mouth, but from the cacophony in the fandom.

Kyungsoo was enlisting in a month. A month, not the two years she had thought. Approximately 31 days.

It struck her cold, freezing her fragile heart. She had been worn thin from finalising her thesis and the news was a blow on her rationality, breaking her frozen heart to pieces. Since her mental capabilities was struck cold, her emotions took over and for Yuna, that was a bad omen. Gone were her logic.

From the news, it made her feel that, to Kyungsoo, she really didn’t matter much. She was an outsider. Someone out of the loop despite how much time they had spent together. That she had imposed on him, on all the members. Had she been acting like a sasaeng all along? An eerie shudder ripped through her core.

What had I done? Had I become the very thing I detested?

Yuna hated herself. She needed to get away, lest she would intrude on them again.

Since she had completed her preparations early for her oncoming viva, her manuscript draft also sent, she had nothing significant left anchoring her to Seoul. Not anymore at least. Her siblings could deal without her. She was not a necessity on anyone, merely a convenience. Yuna decided to pack her bare necessities, secure Munchy in his carrier bag and head back to her parent’s in Jeju on her motorbike.

The long ride home would help to stabilise her broken soul and it did clear her head to some degree. However, her tattered feelings hadn’t been able to be reassembled. She knew she was tired and she was being irrational, but the pain was overwhelming. The thought that she might be a sasaeng had made her feel like the guiltiest person ever.

Upon seeing Hana and Shin were already anticipating her at the lawn, probably alerted by the unmistaken roar of her motorbike, shame flooded Yuna.

Her parents knew her prolonged radio silence insinuated nothing else other than her journey back home. The suddenness spoke volume of her state of mind. Hana had pinpointed the exact reason once Yuna took off her helmet. Her slumping into her mother’s open arms plus the presence of another telling clue meant the situation was precarious. “He didn’t tell you?”

“No.” Words were difficult with her tongue thick and tied.

“He must have his reasons,” reasoned Hana with a softer than soft voice. She guided her inside as her father released Munchy from his prison.

“Of course,” answered Yuna like a robot. Kyungsoo being Kyungsoo, he definitely had a legit reason. Didn’t make the pain wreaking havoc on her heart and soul any lesser.

The shudder running through her body told her mother more than enough. “He probably didn’t want to distract you while you complete your thesis.”

“Yes.” That was very likely the reason. Though she agreed to the notion, there was no lightening up, no relief and no life coming from her. Her face was still planted on her mother’s chest.

“What is it, Moony? Use your words,” coaxed Hana as she rubbed her back.

Without extricating herself, she tried to work her tongue and once the words came out, it spilled. “I’m an idiot, eomma. A disgusting piece of trash. All this time I’ve hated sasaengs, yet there I was, acting like one. I trespassed into their lives though I had neither prerogative nor right to do so. The things I did, I’m horrified eomma. I’m no one to be doing them, yet I did.” There were no tears as she served her heart on a silver platter to her parents. Instead, she was embodying dejected sombreness.

How could she think in any other way? It was her own fault for thinking that she somehow was part of their life, more than a mere acquaintance. She was beyond ashamed with the audacity of her interactions with them. It had felt so natural since she had known them for a long time. She had forgotten it was not so for them.

Her lips were muted off when she lifted her heavy head and heavier heart from her perch on her mother’s chest. She wanted to look into her mother’s eyes, seeking for something, but instead, her eyes fell on something else.

There, standing in the living room was the subject of her monologue, Doh Kyungsoo.

She asked Hana. “Why is he here, eomma?”

“Ask him yourself, Moony.” Hana gestured to the man.

Yuna squared off her shoulders, took a breath and asked, “Why are you here?”

Chapter Text

The loudness in Yuna’s mind zipped as Kyungsoo’s soothing timbre graced her ears. She hated how much a simple clearing of a throat, only the penguin’s, had such a profound effect on her, but it was inevitable with how invested she was on him. His presence soothed the soreness in her heart.

She sighed, walked pass him to get to her armchair in the living room, the only armchair in the house and it was hers. Standing up whilst her emotions were running high was not a brilliant idea lest she wanted the Reptilian complex of her brain to short-circuit her cerebellum for the aggression it entailed. Otherwise, sitting was a necessity.

Her lips were dry, her tongue were thick, her eyes were down casted and her mind was exhausted. Yet, she sat on her fluffy sofa, muscles strummed tight ramrod straight, stiff as a board. Not even in the safety of the home she was raised in could make her relax enough to unwind. Gone were her lax and laid-back demeanour.

Seeing the stalemate between the two young ones, Hana poked at Kyungsoo, urging him with a nod of her head. Her husband, shook his at her nosiness, patted the penguin’s back and pulled his wife out of the room.

In the spacious, cosy and minimalistic room, left Kyungsoo and Yuna.

The silence was deafening, wrecking Kyungsoo’s nerves. He exhaled, bit his lower lip and forged on. On both his knees, he took Yuna’s hands into his own and searched for her eyes. “Noona, I’m sorry.”

Him holding both her smaller hands in a tight but comfortable grip made her eyes jolted into his. If she could physically sat straighter, she would. “What are you apologising for? You have nothing to apologise for.”

He shook his head in those quick and small movements. “I have so much to apologise to you.”

Yuna tilted her head, her eyebrows telling him contrarily.

Kyungsoo knew he needed to elaborate. “I’m sorry you had to hear about my enlistment from the news. I’m sorry for not telling you earlier. I’m sorry for making you feel horrible. I’m sorry that you thought you were a sasaeng for even a second, you’re not.” Yuna tried to pull her hands to no avail. “No, noona. Listen, you are not a sasaeng. If you were, I would never be talking to you like this. None of us would. You’re one of us and I’m very sorry that I didn’t tell you in person about my enlistment sooner. I know this is a poor excuse, I didn’t want you to worry about me while you are at such a crucial point of your PhD.”

In other words, Kyungsoo didn’t trust her. Yuna used the momentum of standing up to dislodge her hands. Her blood was cold. She snuffed out. “It’s fine, Kyungsoo-ssi. I get it. You’re forgiven, thank you for clearing this up.” Yuna hadn’t used the polite talk to address him for a long time and it made the penguin to stiffen up.

Frazzled with her closed off behaviour, he too stood up. “No, it’s not fine and you’re not getting it.”

“Alright. I’ll level this to you.” Her voice flat, arms hugging her body, eyes brimming with unshed tears. “I very much appreciate that you cleared up about me not being a sasaeng. Thank you, I’m relieved. Nonetheless, of course, I’m not fine. You tell me how to be fine, Kyungsoo-ssi, when someone you hold very dear to your heart that knows about your feelings had withheld significant information from you. Information that could change their lives. It makes you feel you’re insignificant, untrustworthy, bagatelle.”

Kyungsoo was silent. Words upon words whirled in his head.

“How would you feel if you heard a momentous news about your beloved from someone else regardless of what point you are at your life?” She spiked the ball into his face.

The notion sent a shiver up along his vertebrae. “I didn’t want to trigger your depression and anxiety,” he blurted out.

Yuna shook her head side-to-side, defeated. “I’m not a child, Kyungsoo-ssi. Yes, I have depression and anxiety, but I’m a functioning adult. I’ve survived till now, I know how to cope. I indeed understand that you were trying to spare me, but you broke my heart with this disregard.” The dams of her tears finally broke. “It had been said, hate is not the enemy of love, either platonic or romantic. It is ignorance and negligence. I’m sorry for loving you too much.” Yuna patted his face and smiled sadly.

Before the noona could turn away, he grabbed the hand on his cheek. “Noona, I admit this is a mistake of mine. That’s why I’m here, to put things to right. I know now that I shouldn’t have done it. Please, forgive me.”

“I forgave you. Don’t ever repeat this to another person.” The cracks in her beating heart were patched up. He was young, and for someone with limited experience with human interactions, this was a sign of maturity. She really shouldn’t be in love with such an unreachable person. Maybe, this was the opportunity to let go?

“I won’t. Are we okay?” Hope was brimming in his voice.

The hope attacked her heart, softening it. “Don’t worry about this, Kyungsoo-ssi. I’ll mend my heart.”

“But, you’re still addressing me distantly.” He knew Yuna. There was simplicity in her complexity.

“It doesn’t matter.” It certainly mattered to her, but it shouldn’t matter to him. Not if she didn’t mean much to him.

“It does, noona.” Another direct hit to the walls Yuna built around her. “I do care about you and you’re acting like you’re going to sever all ties with me, with us. Please, don’t let this one mistake of mine ruin our friendship. Don’t blame the others either, please.”

And the barrier crumbled. Yuna took a deep breath. He was right. Blindsiding all their shared moments for this mistake was too harsh. The noona set aside her over-sensitised psyche and gave in. “Okay. Next time, tell me first hand even if the news could break me. I’ll manage, I always do.”

Seeing the tension in her body completely ebbed away, Kyungsoo encircled her in a solid hug. “Let me make this up to you. How about we fly to Okinawa tomorrow? I’ll take care of everything.”

Chapter Text

And they flew to Okinawa to a privately owned beach, sequestered by nature. Away from prying eyes.

Time truly flew like the swiftest albatross when you were happy. The dopamine and serotonin making her feel high, slowly and steadily healing the wound he had made.

Despite the happiness, there was an underlying bitterness shadowing the sweetness in the back of her heart. How could she not feel so when this could be the last time she had with the penguin? The future seemed as though she had no place in his life. She wished time would stop. So that she could keep him to herself. So that she didn’t need to let him go. Alas, that was both an impossibility and an atrocity. No matter how covetous she was of him, she wouldn’t want to deprive the world from his presence. His talent for the arts of performances needed to shared, it was blasphemous not to do so.

She knew she had to let go. She was learning to do so, but it was so difficult. The idea itself had torn her heart to pieces. Going through the process was proving to be even worse. Hence she needed a cushion to soften the impact. Since she couldn’t have him, the next best thing was to memorise every moments with all her senses and immortalise them in pictures and the occasional short videos. Having his express permission had her hugging him in reflex. She thanked him profusely, promising that he would get to delete whatever he wanted. She wiped the happy tears cascading down her cheeks profusely.

Each seconds was savoured to the best of her abilities. Her eyes lingered on him no matter what they did, sometimes she even forgot the camera in her hands as her feels struck her into silence. He was a mesmerising specimen. There was no chance of her to not be enraptured by his presence.

She made it her mission to record all the minutiae.

The wide laughs showing his heart shaped mouth with the half-moon eyes. The scrunching of his caterpillar eyebrows with the acrobatics of his lips as he concentrated. The pout and whine whenever she poked at him while he was in his world. Of course, her favourite smile of his. The one where his lips stretched across his face with a slight parting and the tips curling a little, creating dimples in his nasolabial crease. She loved this particular smile so much but her stash of it was less than a handful.

Those were just his face. There was the body languages too. His shuddering shoulders whilst laughing. The rapid cute head shaking to deny something. The nail biting she hated. The ways he adjusted the frame of his glasses. He was always doing something with his hands, like rubbing circles or playing with them. The list would never end.

She wanted to capture everything, not just his face, his body language, the feel of his skin, the way he walked and stared. She wanted a thorough interactive encyclopaedia of Doh Kyungsoo, covering physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual and more aspects of him. His likes and dislikes. Things that would trigger and placate him. His aspirations, his dreams and his fears. The ways his mind and heart deliberated. The gentleness and strictness of his. Not a page of Kyungsoo left unturned. If she could, she would bottle up his scents too. The mellowness eau de Kyungsoo was smooth and silky with a depth, similar to his vocal colour and it was perfect to sooth her. Honestly, she would be missing that a lot especially when she slept, the same way with how she would be missing his voice.

The notion of not being able to listen to his voice on a daily basis was a sucker punch to her solar plexus. She was used to not seeing him in front of her eyes, therefore not seeing him was not a problem. However, he had spoiled her with his voice. The origin of her infatuation towards him, fuelling it consistently. For the past few months, not a day had passed sans hearing his voice live, even if it was a single sentenced of “Good night, noona.” She knew this particular deprivation would be the most harrowing for her. Hence, she made him talk as much as possible. Prodding this and that. Openly, recording him.

Thank heavens he was being super sporting, enabling her whims. He was dead serious of making it up to her. They spent every waking hours attached to the hips except for certain time outs for bodily requirements.

They perused the market, hunted for delicacies and gazed at the beautiful starry night with barely a centimetre between them if at all. They dived the next day and filled the last day with lazing around since they needed a spare day to decompress before flying back. Though it was early for the season, they were lucky for a school of majestic mantas graced them with their presence in the morning. The mantas blew her away, yet her eyes kept on drifting back to Kyungsoo. His face might be covered with contraptions, but he was still a vision. More so when he was surrounded by one of her favourite creatures in the whole world.

During their slumber, as they were used to sleeping together, it was business as per usual. They talked about everything and nothing, lulling each other to slumber land, ending up like a ball of octopi.

The time spent together only made her love for him more severe, more intense. He embodied her dreams and proved to be what she needed in her life. He filled her life so effortlessly, balancing her brand of craziness. He accepted and understood her so she could be her true self in front of him sans inhibition. In other words, he was a materialisation what could be her soulmate if soulmates were to exist. Nonetheless, it was only on her side.

Oh, he cared about her, but not the way she cared about him.

She knew now she meant something to him, but not the way he meant to her.

Unrequited love, an exquisite torture like no other.

Chapter Text

Their last day was a quiet day. It seemed to have become their style to use the last day to laze around and soak in the experience. The sun was just waking up but it was already bright despite the clouds abound, not the heavy dark clouds, just fluffy clouds filling up the sky, shading the direct heat of the sun. It was a good morning to spend on the beach, so they went to the seaside, found some big rocks to perch on and sat watching the horizon.

“Noona, please don’t suddenly disappear again.” The plea came as soft as the wind blowing on their skin.

However, to Yuna, it sent an electrifying jolt everywhere on her body, making her sit up straighter. She knew this was coming, but it didn’t make it any less disconcerting. It was better now than stewing in her misery longer. “I’m sorry.” She sighed. “I really need to work on my flight tendencies.”

“I rather you fight with me than withdraw yourself,” said Kyungsoo as he moved his attention from the edges of the world to Yuna’s face.

She looked back at him, “I don’t like fighting.”

“Me neither, noona.” He rested his head on his knees while his hands hugged them. His face was calm like the ocean. “It’s okay to cool down and take five, but not completely running away, noona.”

Another sigh. “Honestly, I know that. That’s the healthy way of communicating. Unfortunately, my brain tends to shortcircuit when I’m having strong emotions.”

“Like you eating all the sweets while you’re ecstatic when you’re not supposed to?” Pointed the penguin matter-o-factly.

Yuna poked at Kyungsoo, exasperated with his choice of example. “Yes, exactly like that. That’s why I don’t prefer having them, though I love the vividness their strength elicit, the world had bolder hues. Since I’m mostly pastel, it shocks my system too much.”

“And you don’t want others to suffer from your turbulent emotions and its sequelae, so you run away?” elucidated Kyungsoo.

Yuna was speechless, jaw slacked as her eyes delved into his. She really shouldn’t be shocked by how observant Kyungsoo was. Her heart throbbed with the exposition of his comprehension regarding who she was.

 “Who says you’re mostly pastel, noona?” Kyungsoo shook his head disapprovingly. “Whenever you talked with Chanyeollie about the music you love, my ears almost fall off. You scream almost as much as Jongdae even if you do get quieter than Minseok-hyung.”

She felt exposed, bare to her bones. Her cheeks were wet.

Kyungsoo wiped her tear soaked cheeks. “You don’t have to run away, noona, at least not from me.”

The trickle of tears became a river. Alarmed, Kyungsoo collected into his warm arms, rubbed her back as he held her against his chest.

She couldn’t take it anymore. “You shouldn’t be treating me like this, Kyungsoo-yah, not if you don’t want to lead me on.”

“What do you mean, noona?”

She let go of him. “What are we?” A question she had longed to ask, but dreaded the answer. He was churning the question, so she helped him a bit more. “I love you, Doh Kyungsoo, with all my heart. Not the same kind of love I feel for your brothers. I’m in love with you literally and figuratively. You and me, what are we?”

Seconds ticked into minutes. He was unbearably quiet.

That was answer enough for her. Her blooming heart was doused with cold water. Yuna gave him a small smile. “It’s okay. I’ll be okay.” She regretted asking him the question now. She shouldn’t have since she already knew his answer. “Come on, the sun is high and I’m tired. I want a nap.”

Chapter Text

But, Kyungsoo didn’t move. When did he start biting his nails? A sign he was worrying about something. It sent a twinge in the noona’s heart. This was not her intention. She didn’t want to burden him with her feelings. Her emotions had gotten the better of her yet again. It made her feel guilty.

Yuna shook her head and offered her hand. “Hey, I’m sorry for being overly sensitive. Don’t worry about my feelings. Okay?” He looked up at her. “I don’t want you to feel obligated to reciprocate it.” He stopped biting his nails, wiped it at his shirt and grabbed her hand. She nudged her shoulders against his once he stood upright. “Just continue treating me like you usually do. Forget about it, yeah?”

Nails spared, the penguin bit his lips.

“How about I promise to send you anything you want whenever someone can visit you in the military?” He didn’t ask her the obvious question why she couldn’t send it herself. However, the promise perked him up.

“I wonder how the food in there would be like.” His mind wondered. “I hope they’re okay at least.”

She wondered if she should tell him the truth. “Nutritious but…”

“But what, noona?” he whined.

“This is not to scare you. Only to mentally prepare yourself.” She waited for him to nod in understanding and decided to tell him the bare truth. “It’s edible but since their tongue was preconditioned with eomma’s cooking, my hyungs hated it. Everyone of them came out appreciating eomma to a whole new degree.”

Kyungsoo scrunched his face.

“Yah, you finish your food regardless of how they taste.” He was still demotivated. How to motivate him? She pinched his cheek and altered her promise. “How about I promise I’ll cook for you and even drop them off to you whenever you want if you could get it after the training instead?”

“Whenever I want for the whole enlistment?” reconfirmed the penguin with his eyes shining.

Yuna rolled her eyes. With those sparkly eyes, she can’t do anything other than confirmed his words. “Yes, the whole enlistment. Vow that you’ll finish your food despite your appetite.” Oh, she knew how he was with his food based on their visits to less than delicious eateries.

“Is it that bad?” he was sceptic. It couldn’t possibly be too bad, could it?

So she explained. “I don’t know since I didn’t have a taste myself. This is me theorising based on my hyungs’ privileged tongue and you being a gourmand, there’s a possibility, only a possibility, not confirmed, of it being unappetising for your refined palate. Even a possibility scares me since I really don’t want you not eating considering how taxing the lifestyle in there will be.  Hence, I want you to make this pact with me. Ergo, even if you want me to send you food every day, I’ll try my best to deliver them.”

“You would really go through the hassle for me?” The practical side of Kyungsoo emerged.

“You staying healthy is a vital concern for me, so yes, I will.”

“You don’t have to do this to prove anything, noona.”

The smile on her face faltered. He was still stuck on her confession. “It’s the same thing I did for Raonie. I’m not proving anything to you. This is merely an encouragement for you to do well. Plus, I’ll get to see you, which is a huge incentive for me. It’s a win-win situation.” Yuna wished he would ask her every day for delivery, but Kyungsoo being the considerate person he was, wouldn’t. “Instead, I feel like I’m the one being selfish for wanting to see you every day.”

‘In other words, I feed your tummy, you feed my heart’. Yuna kept that in her heart.

“Remember, this is on you. You ask me and I’ll deliver. You don’t ask, I don’t deliver. Simple as that.” She gave him the leeway in case he was uncomfortable seeing her.

“What if a sasaeng got you?”

“Soo-yah, it’s just a food delivery. Don’t overthink.” They had arrived back to their chalet. Discussing while walking shortened the distance they travelled. At the comfort of the lavish accommodation. a yawn overcame Yuna. She closed her opened mouth with the back of her hand. “You don’t have to decide now. It’s not a sure-fire that the food is bad. I’m going to sleep. Night, Soo.”

It was not night.

Chapter Text

Thin unstable tendrils of awareness slipped into Yuna’s mind from the discomfort of having her Nutella belly squeezed and kneaded. She swiped at the offending hand and whined, still groggy for being half-asleep. She wanted to return to the cosy world of burgundy clouds and black skies. Instead of being left alone, her belly received a harsher disturbance. Her petite body was tugged backwards into a warm embrace.

“Eomma, stop pulling me,” whined the noona with eyes closed tight. The hand patted and rubbed her tummy, placating her. She hummed and turned around, snuggling with the heat source. With the comfortable warmth encircling her, feeling safe and cuddled up, sleep claimed her once again.

This time, a person accompanied her journey in the land of unconsciousness. For the first time ever, she had a lucid dream of Kyungsoo. Yuna rarely dreamed and if she dreamt, it was never about Kyungsoo. She had dreamt of Minseok, Yixing and Baekhyun, but not Kyungsoo.

In this dream, Yuna watched herself and the man who owned her heart walking by the seashore, an exact replica of the one they just came back from, with their fingers intertwined as they talked softly ever so close by each other’s side. That was not so shocking. What made her choke was, sitting on Kyungsoo’s right hip, secured in his arm was a girl with his eyebrows, while she herself carried a boy in a front body sling. Yuna watched as the dream her kissed the downy soft hair of the baby, breathing in the scent of a baby who looked about a year old.

She watched and watched the softness of the scene enfolding though all she could hear were jumbled mumbling. She watched Kyungsoo making her laugh as he smirked and smiled at her. She watched him caressing the girl’s back as she fell asleep on his shoulder. With both the children out of commissioned, Kyungsoo moved, bridging the small distance between them.

Just as he was about to close in, Yuna awakened.

And she shed silent tears then and there with her eyes wide opened, looking up at the ceiling. She didn’t wipe the tears falling down the side of her face, wetting her hair for the dream had made her realise one pertinent information.

Her love for Doh Kyungsoo was beyond salvation.

He was it.

Yet, she was not it for him.

It wasn’t mutual.

More tears cascaded.

Yes, she had always known she was deeply in love with Kyungsoo. But, she had thought there was a possible end to this feeling once Kyungsoo took a step back and found his own person. However, that dream told her that wouldn’t happen. The flicker of another replacing Kyungsoo made her nauseous and crushed her heart.

Yuna rubbed her aching chest. Maybe with time, she could let go, but knowing herself, it was unlikely. Not when it was this love. The love she had searched for since she was a little girl ensconced in fairy tale. A love so consuming, her soul could no longer accept another for it had merged with her love for Kyungsoo.

Moon Yuna loved with all her heart, all her soul, all her being. Unfortunately, the recipient of that love of hers was someone who didn’t return them.

She couldn’t change another’s heart. An impossibility. More so since she couldn’t even alter hers.

The morning’s outing rewound in her mind. The conjectures of Kyungsoo’s words dug deep into her heart. Nonetheless, she had no choice but to accept it as it is. Kyungsoo had always been clear with her that they were mere friends. Platonically close. Their rather bizarre proximity was their norm. Ordinary for their brand of friendship.

With this, Yuna decided, she would no longer hold back her emotions. With Kyungsoo’s want for her to not hold back, she would pour all the love she harboured for however long he would have her. Since she couldn’t have him forever, might as well savour the moments she that she had.

Maybe this was the sign she needed.

A knocking on the door followed by it being unlocked, “Noona, I bought lunch,” hollered Kyungsoo.

She quickly wiped the wetness dampening her face.

Chapter Text

The remaining hours of their stay passed in the blink of an eye.

At Incheon International Airport, they took their separate ways right off the plane. Being together was risky whenever they were on Korean soil despite Kyungsoo being a ninja. It was bad enough she sat with him in the first class. She was not about to jeopardise the penguin with malignant slanders by walking by his side.

She would see him when he came back home.  

Kyungsoo made his way to his parents’ and Yuna to Raon’s. Her heart was about to explode from missing Munchy so much. She needed to squeeze her baby. She didn’t want to dwell on Kyungsoo because that would remind her of his impending departure. However, it was an impossibility to not think about Kyungsoo. She was overexposed with Kyungsoo and he had already became a part of her habit.

As soon as she reached Raon’s, the noona texted the penguin. She didn’t wait for his answer, it was always unpredictable. So long she scratched her itch to interact despite it being one sided, it was enough to sooth her. She was only complying to Kyungsoo’s request.

Showered fresh, she lounged on the sofa, showing Munchy the pictures she took in Osaka. The tabby meowed at pictures he particularly like and swiped back to see it longer. She wished she could take him everywhere in the world, but quarantines were not worth it.

Raon handed her a cup of warm honeyed lemonade, which she finished in one go. “You’re sad.”

She looked at Raon who plopped down on her side. “He’s enlisting.” There was no need to hide anything from Raon. Her brother had figured her situation with Kyungsoo out.

He nodded and hummed. “You’re planning to send food?”

“If he wants it. I don’t think he’ll want it though. He’s planning to join the kitchen division.” Raon continued nodding. Annoyed at the nonstop nodding and lack of reaction, Yuna slapped the back of his neck.

“Yah!” yelled Raon as he wiggled on the sofa.

Munchy jumped from the booming sound, earning him another slap from Yuna. She quickly rubbed Munchy’s fluffed up fur. Her phone buzzed.

Kyungsoo: Eomma said thanks for the souvenirs. Appa too. How’s Munchy?

Yuna snapped a picture of Munchy on her folded lap. His eyes squinting at Raon.

Yuna: He’s annoyed with Raon.

Within seconds of her message, her phone lit up while Tell Me What is Love’s chorus played softly.

Kyungsoo’s face filled her screen, which was soon joined by Huchu. “Hello, puppy~,” cooed Yuna. Huchu barked and another small face nosed in. Kyungsoo pulled them both into his arms so they didn’t hog the video. “You wanna see Munchy?” Hearing his name, Munchy shoved his face in front of the phone, nuzzled the screen and purred as he saw the two poodles and Kyungsoo.

Raon popped behind Munchy and waved. “Kyungsoo-yah, you’re aiming for the kitchen division?”

Kyungsoo waved back, “Yes, I need practise.”

“And you’ll get to sneak cook for yourself.” Raon gave him double thumbs up. “I’ll come visit.” Looking between the two, the hyung felt awkward and decided to excuse himself. “Alright, I’ll go sleep. Night!”

“You’re sleeping on the sofa, noona?”

“No way am I sleeping in the guestroom. He haven’t cleaned it since the last time our parents stayed here.”

“You’ll hurt your back.”

“I have my patches on and it’s just for a night. Shouldn’t be too bad. Did anyone recognise you? I didn’t see anyone uploading anything but that rumour has been picking up again.” The rumour that he had a Japanese girlfriend, some even dared say it’s his hidden wife, so they knew he was in Japan, probably because of the pictures from the mobbing.

“Not that I noticed.”

“Yah, Kyungsoo, I didn’t know you’re married already,” joked Yuna.

“Don’t worry, noona, I’ll invite you if I do,” Kyungsoo smirked at the noona.

She grabbed her chest, “There goes my heart.” She wiped the fake tears on her eyes. But, oh heavens, that indeed hurt. “Please do invite me. I need to see Jongdae sing at a wedding with my own eyes.”

“His brother is getting married sometime this year. You want to go?”

She couldn’t shake her head fast enough. “You’re kidding. I don’t know his brother. No, thank you.”

“You said you want to hear Jongdae singing wedding songs?”

“I do, I do. I’ll wait for one of you to get married and invite me. When is Chanyeol getting married? He needs a wife and Jongin too.”

“When are you getting married?” Huchu couldn’t stay still for long, she bounded away and the sound of her toes clacking around turned into their background music.  

She knew it was rhetorical, but she casually remarked, “After you tie your knot, I’ll find someone,” She did not intend to marry unless it was with the owner of her heart. Till she moved on, she’ll be single. Likely, she would be a spinster. She kissed Munchy’s head.

“You shouldn’t wait for me, noona.”

“Are we going to do this now?” Kyungsoo sighed. “Fine. We’re talking about this now. I know I shouldn’t wait for you, but I can’t help it, Soo.”

“And I’m not helping.” He had a tender gaze in his mellow eyes. Not regret, just concern.

He was making her love him more. “Aw, Soo. You shouldn’t feel like that. Matters of the heart is complicated. You’re giving me good memories. Take it like that.”

“I feel guilty though.”

“Why?”

“I feel I’m holding you back.”

“You’re not. I’m happy. Having this love for you makes me happy.”

“But it’s like I’m preventing you from experiencing the love of your life.”

“How do you know this is not the love of my life? You don’t, Kyungsoo. For me, this is wonderful.” It might not be enough, would never be enough, unless he was hers, but that was not a possibility. Ergo, this was sufficient. “Everyone experience love differently.”

Heart to heart, they spoke, allowing peace to envelop their hearts and minds, calming their soul.

Chapter Text

As the date of the enlistment crept closer and closer, Yuna felt her heart crushing more and more. She knew that with the enlistment there would come a drastic change in their life. Not having someone right in front of your eyes would usually result in forgetting them. Out of sight, out of mind. Unless there were a connection between them. A genuine link that bound them. With this link, distance wouldn’t matter. Though change was inevitable, the link trying them would only tighten up in yearning, a positive colouration of their feelings.

Since Kyungsoo was busy going around meeting his family and friends, their interactions were limited to video calls and texting. Even this, Yuna feared she would lose.

The enlistment day came too fast.

Yuna wasn’t prepared to send him away. Who was?

He would be a step further and would be getting further still.

It hurt.

It bloody hurt.

As though there was a jagged blunt knife that had pierced into her heart, twisted and turned as it was pulled and stabbed repeatedly.

All this yet he hadn’t even gone yet. He was only about to go.

But it already hurt like crazy. Almost too much to bear.

The words, It’s not like he’s moving to another country, ringed in Yuna’s ears. No matter how close or far the distance were, it was a distance nevertheless. To Yuna, the distance separating them was likely insurmountable.   

She came with Raon but Raon was mixing with his production acquaintances so no way was she going to accompany him. Instead, Yuna blended in with Kyungsoo’s family and friends as they saw him off. She greeted Kyungsoo’s parents, gave them a small smile and a nod, “Eomeoni, abeoji.” His mother rubbed her back, a comfort she desperately needed. The brim of her eyes filled with tears

She was proud he decided to do this. She really was. It was a great decision to tackle this phase of his life now rather than later. Knowing all the positivity that this decision of his entailed couldn’t take the pain in her heart away. To others it might not mean much, but to her, there were too much of hers riding on this.

On top of all that, she was worried. Military enlistment as an active soldier was not easy. Yes, nothing was easy, but the amount of exertion being in the army was tremendous. From the unfamiliar living arrangements, lack of personal space, dealing with people of all sorts, it was more than merely physical strain. Physical, mental, emotional, psychological, you name it; the assaults came from every angles possible. Furthermore, Kyungsoo aimed to be an army cook. He had to train and work in the kitchen every single day. There were no weekends for people ate every day.

She was concerned.

Yes, Yuna was confident Kyungsoo would excel. He was capable. He would worked through the stressors and came out on top. She had faith in Kyungsoo. This soothed her, a fraction. Only Kyungsoo reassuring her daily could alleviate this heaviness in her heart. She hope he wouldn’t be averse to doing so.

Feelings were complicated in its amalgamation. Sometimes one feeling obumbrate the others, sometimes multiple feelings fought viciously into chaos, sometimes they were completely void, absent. Either way, it could get overwhelming lightning fast.

Time was what she needed. Time to process her feelings.

Right now, with wet eyes, she didn’t stand by the side of Kyungsoo’s parents for long. Risky. Instead, she mingled with the staff she knew, EXO’s managers who she were close with because of the bentos and watched the EXO doing their things for their fans.

Yixing came for Kyungsoo, making time in his packed schedule to see his brother off, it touched Yuna’s heart. He couldn’t make it for Minseok’s but he was here now. Most likely, when the others enlist, he would be around so long his schedule permitted it.

How could people question the love these nine kindred spirits had for each other? They showed their love for one another time and time again. Just because some of it was behind camera, sans the flare of exposure, they were deemed distant. They were humans with private lives, not everything would be broadcasted and screamed to the world.

For a while, Yuna’s attention diverted away from her imploding emotions. This reprieve allowed her to look at the surrounding. One by one, she tried to memorise everything. This could be her last time seeing these individuals up close and personal especially Kyungsoo’s family. She had gotten to know them a little bit as they would visit Kyungsoo and there was a cooking connection she shared with his mother. His sweet father was sassy too. As Kyungsoo got his mother’s palate, he received his father’s quirkiness.

Then, there were the EXO members. She wished Minseok was around. Yuna shook her head. She was not supposed to dawdle on the thoughts of those that were away. She was supposed to be concentrating on those in front of her. So, she observed them.

How Baekhyun kept on pushing Soo’s button by pinching and poking him. How Jongin didn’t want to lose and poked at his nose. Jongdae being clingy while Chanyeol was almost bursting with tears. Sehun clung to Yixing. Junmyeon though, had a tender smile etched on his face.

That was for the camera, pretty much the same with now. Everyone took turn squeezing Kyungsoo, a prolonged hug to give strength to both ends. Not one person refused to linger, especially Sehun.

Then, Kyungsoo went to the staff, thanking them for their care.

And it was her turn. There were no hugs. There were no lengthy words. There were no lasting looks.

They bowed at each other and that was it. A bow, a smile and a gaze. Short and concise..

It was too public to do more.

Once he was done with his goodbyes, Yuna waved at him like the rest of them.

There he went to a new phase of his life and a new one for Yuna too.