Something was wrong. That much Kyungsoo knew.
Something was wrong in the silence of the van.
They were on their way to the dorms, having just wrapped up a long shoot for a variety show guesting. It was never usually this silent, especially if he's with Chanyeol, who at that very moment, was on his phone in the seat by the van's door. Chanyeol who was usually a bubble of energy even after hours and hours of social interaction in front of the camera. If anyone was going to be silent right now, it would be Kyungsoo. He absolutely hated spending more than 2 and a half hours, without break, surrounded by people who he only got to meet during promotions. It's just who he was as a person.
Back to his predicament at hand, something was wrong and he wanted to know what and why. Mostly, he just wanted to figure out how to make Chanyeol smile again. But Kyungsoo would not be able to do that if he didn't know what was wrong.
"Chanyeol", Kyungsoo called out softly in the darkness. No response. It was only just the two of them and the driver in front. The others were in two other vehicles: Baekhyun, Jongdae, and Minseok in one while Junmyeon, Sehun and Jongin were in the other, along with their managers.
Impatiently, Kyungsoo leaned towards the other boy and shook his arm softly, "Yeol."
"Huh?", uttered Chanyeol, clearly breaking out of his thoughts, resurfacing back to the real world. Still very much distracted.
"Is something wrong?" Kyungsoo gently asked, hand still on Chanyeol's
Chanyeol scrunched both eyebrows, clearly confused by his question. "Yeah, I guess? What made you ask?"
Kyungsoo was overly familiar with that tone of voice, the shifty eyes and fidgeting hands. What with Chanyeol using these telltale signs every time everything's clearly not okay. He sighed inwardly, bringing his hand back to his personal space. He moved his head down, eyeing that annoying unraveling thread at the hem of his shirt.
They have already talked about this: hiding things from each other and not saying what they actually mean and feel. It never bode well for the both of them in the past. Never.
"Chanyeol." He whispered, exasperated.
The boy beside him flinched and looked out the window. It's late at night but there were still so many people out. Cars zoomed past left and right. It was a saturday night, after all.
"I'm just tired, that's all." Chanyeol said, mostly to himself. Kyungsoo's head snapped back to him.
"You're a really bad liar, you know. I think I would know when my boyfriend is not feeling normal." He rolled his eyes, arms crossed in front of his chest unconsciously. Defensively.
Chanyeol looked surprised at his outburst. It actually surprised him too because he was usually patient and understanding. But the silence was really uncomfortable, bordering on suffocating. They barely said a word to each other after getting in the van. It has been an hour since then. The light coming from the streetlights outside was flitting across their faces: one confused, the other frustrated.
"What do you want me to say?" Chanyeol sighed for what felt like the nth time that night. "I was just on my phone, it's not like I have to fill in the silence all the time."
Boy, did that make Kyungsoo's head throb. "I just want you to be honest? Be you, be norma--"
"Normal? What do you mean by normal, exactly? When I do all the talking and sharing, while you sit there nodding and barely paying attention?" Chanyeol interrupted, volume increasing by the second.
Kyungsoo glanced towards the driver's seat and the rearview mirror. This was not what he wanted to achieve. But the more he thought about it, the more he realized that this was a long time coming. That didn't mean he was ready for it.
Kyungsoo cleared his throat, and a lot more softly, he replied, "That's not what I meant. You know I don't-- you know I just love hearing you talk. I'm always interested in what you have to say."
He looked away at that, a bit embarrassed. God, they have been exclusively dating for years now but Chanyeol still made him blush at the most inconvenient times. The boy did not even have to lift a finger.
He felt a big hand wrap around his shoulders, tugging at him, pulling him close. Eyes closed, he heard Chanyeol take a deep, shaky breath. And then,
Fuck, Chanyeol is going to be the death of him. That nickname, although not completely and exclusively theirs, made him weak in the knees whenever spoken softly, vulnerably even, by the big oaf beside him. Stupid Chanyeol and his stupid silence.
"Soo, please. I'm sorry", Chanyeol pleaded. He can just imagine the look on Chanyeol's face when he said that: eyebrows still scrunched together but in a softer way, lower lip jutted out, pouting. How can he say no to that. He couldn't even remember what they were fighting about anymore. Can this even be considered one?
With a deep breath, he sagged closer to the hand on his shoulders. The warmth it emitted spreading through his body, making the tight coil on his stomach he did not know was there to begin with, loosen.
His big, slightly wet eyes (fuck, when did he start tearing up?) looked at his boyfriend. "No, I'm sorry. I should not have said that. You have every right to keep to yourself. Just... if there's something wrong - if I did something wrong - you will be honest and tell me, right?"
There was no response.
The road outside was starting to narrow down. They were probably near the dorms already. 5 minutes at most.
"You will think I'm being petty." He can feel Chanyeol's breath on his cheeks, still minty from the candy given to them by the staff on the set.
"When don't I ever?" The small attempt at a joke almost completely dissipated the suffocating atmosphere. They both laughed.
"I'm serious. Thinking about it is making me cringe myself." Chanyeol started to rub his shoulders, drawing him impossibly closer. Seatbelt and safety be damned. The comfort the small action brought him made him feel a little bit sleepy. He has always thought that shooting for variety shows was leagues more tiring than shooting dramas.
"Don't make me repeat the cheese I said earlier", Kyungsoo grumbled.
But he knew his boyfriend better than anyone. He knew Chanyeol's constant need for validation. Back before they started dating, even before they met as trainees, Kyungsoo promised he will never date anyone who was not confident about himself (or herself), or about their relationship. Then he met Chanyeol and he couldn't help but break said promise. Although to everyone else his boyfriend (he really loved thinking and calling Chanyeol that) appeared confident about most things, there were days when he just needed to be reassured about everything. Kyungsoo loved him too much to deny him that. Park Chanyeol really changed him (love changed him).
So he repeated himself anyway. He shrugged the hand off his shoulder and before Chanyeol can overthink the action, Kyungsoo grabbed both of his stupidly big hands and interlocked their fingers together, his own looking extremely tiny like this. "I always want to hear what you have to say, petty or not."
They felt the vehicle slow down and soon come to a halt. They have reached the dorms. Not wanting to break the moment and drop the subject completely, Kyungsoo unbuckled his seatbelt and leaned towards the driver's seat. "Hyung, can you give us a moment, please? We will be right out." He paused, glancing back at Chanyeol who was, yet again, fiddling with his fingers. Kyungsoo looked back at the driver. "No, actually, tell the others not to wait up."
He tried to stop his embarrassment from the request. Their relationship was not a secret to most of the people around them: their managers, stylists, makeup artists and regular drivers knew about it. Oh, the mess they made when they came out to their members and personal staff. A lot of contracts and confidentiality agreements were signed and collected from everyone who knew.
With a nod and a sheepish smile, the driver jumped out, shut the car door firmly, and left them alone in the darkness of the van.
Breathing a sigh of relief, he turned his full attention back to Chanyeol who was already looking at him with the beginnings of a lazy smile on his face, seatbelt unbuckled as well. He playfully punched the taller boy's arm, "What is with that sleazy smile?"
"Nothing. I just love you so much, Soo."
Heartbeat turning into overdrive, he lunged for the other boy. As if he was expecting it already, Chanyeol opened his arms wide and hugged Kyungsoo close, squishing his face to his chest. Fuck, Chanyeol smelled good. He smelled like Kyungsoo's favorite detergent and just a whiff of the perfume he gave him during their 3rd anniversary. Chanyeol smelled like home.
"Can't breathe", he tried to say but it came out muffled. He felt his boyfriend chuckle deeply, whole chest shaking. With one last squeeze, he was released.
Without missing a beat, and even before he could recover, Chanyeol pulled him to his lap, making his legs straddle Chanyeol's thighs. The number of times they have ended up in this position, sometimes in less innocent situations, cannot be counted with both their fingers and toes combined. He felt arms snake around his waist and Chanyeol's big head on his left shoulder.
With an exasperated sigh that conceded defeat, he said, "I love you too, Yeol, but don't try to change the topic. You still have to tell me what's wrong". He couldn't help but play with the hair tickling his jaw and nose. He knew how much his kinky boy liked feeling nails scratching his scalp. His back. His arms.
Slowly, Chanyeol looked up. "It's just... earlier. I-- fuck, this is gonna make me sound so childish but, I didn't really enjoy the shoot earlier? I don't like what some of the others said during that quiz thingy."
"Huh", he said intelligently. That was the last thing he expected to come out of Chanyeol's mouth.
"See, you already think it's childish and petty!" His boyfriend wriggled from underneath him. He felt the car sway a bit from the movement.
"Stop moving, I am just a bit confused!" The wriggling stopped, followed by a deep breath.
In the next couple of minutes, he tried to rack his brain for what could have been the cause of Chanyeol's dismay. A lot of things happened within the number of hours they spent on that show's set. But nothing was ringing any bell. Would you look at that. Chanyeol still managed to surprise him every now and then. And to think he thought he knew him inside and out at this point in their relationship.
"Is it because of what Junmyeon hyung said about you?" He tried, eyebrows raised tentatively.
The little bitch had the audacity to roll his eyes.
"Okay, I know I said petty, but Soo, even I would not overthink that. You think I don't hear everyone else call my treats, jabs? I don't care about that! Besides, Junmyeon hyung and I already talked about it after." The arm on his waist loosened. Fingers traced along his spine, making him shiver slightly. Chanyeol's hands can do wonders in more aspects than one.
"Then tell me!" His patience was wearing thin at this point. They could be spending this time together doing other things. Instead, they were bickering like this, with him on top of Chanyeol.
"Ugh, fine, but only because I love you. Don't say anything about it being too childish or I'm not gonna touch you for a whole week." The fact that Chanyeol threatened him with that of all things made him scoff internally. If anyone would not be able to survive without touches, be it big or small, it's Chanyeol. Sure, Kyungsoo let him most (all) of the time. But it's only because he's aware that this is one way of Chanyeol seeking reassurance and validity.
Not even bothering to reply anymore, he just nodded and gave the other a light peck on the corner of his lips.
He felt Chanyeol physically brace himself. "It's just that when Jongdae said he was really surprised by how well you kissed in your drama, and everyone else laughed and then they asked you how you practiced for it, and you made a joke about practicing with a wall--- which I knew was a joke immediately, by the way--- and then they suggested that you probably do it inside your head like a simulation and you just sat there and agreed with everything they said? What am I then? Am I not good enough of a kisser to be considered as-"
He shut the blabbering idiot, his blabbering idiot, up with a kiss.
Kissing Chanyeol should have been routine by now, mindless and habitual. But that was never the case. Kissing Chanyeol was always something new and exciting. Different. Like fireworks and late-night motorcycle rides. Like those ice pops from the corner convenience store that they both loved so much. Like fluttering eyelids on the other's cheeks because of how close they were. Like the surge of adrenaline right before a performance. Like fire and ice, thunder and lightning. Like petty fights not dissimilar to this one. Kissing Chanyeol was like enjoying and appreciating comfortable silences.
Chanyeol, not one to back down from a challenge (even though kissing technically shouldn't even be considered one), sucked on his bottom lip. Causing Kyungsoo to groan. He pulled away for a bit, not wanting to get carried away. Again.
Heavy panting can be heard echoing in the calmness of the night. The only source of light was from the faint orange streetlamp outside.
He felt Chanyeol shift slightly beneath him, and knowing full-well that he was about to lean in again, Kyungsoo spoke up before he could. "You idiot. I can't believe I'm in love with an idiot."
"Soo." Chanyeol actually whined.
He rolled his eyes and moved farther down Chanyeol's thighs so he can look at his boyfriend properly. "Listen closely, because I'm not going to repeat myself, and it's going to be full on cheese in the next minute."
He paused for a couple of seconds, trying to collect his thoughts.
"I love you, I'm in love with you, I love kissing you. And as much as I want to shout it out that it hurts to breathe sometimes, the whole world is not ready to hear about it. Yet. Chanyeol, we have been together for years now. I have been kissing only you that entire time, if you don't count the onscreen ones. But Yeol, you know I can't just say that on national television." A soft sigh. He looked at Chanyeol in the eyes as he said all of these. He wasn't finished yet.
"And yes, I get your point and your feelings are valid. We knew what we were getting ourselves into when we started dating, right? No swooning over each other when the cameras are rolling."
"I swoon over you all the time, no one seems to mind," Chanyeol grumbled, breaking eye contact. Kyungsoo has had enough. He grabbed Chanyeol's cheeks and made him look back at him as he continued (he couldn't help but squish them softly while he's at it).
"I said listen. I am pretty sure Jongdae did not mean to imply anything with that question. They respect us and our relationship enough to avoid baiting it in a room full of strangers. Even Minseok hyung protested and denied, like the thought of seeing the other members kiss someone else was absurd. I mean, it's not like he and Luhan hyung did not exchange salivas on a regular basis. And I sat there and agreed with everything because what else was I supposed to say? 'Oh, I took kissing lessons from someone, I am not allowed to tell who, yeah we makeout on a daily basis, I learnt from the best?' Might as well announce that we have been dating for almost 4 years now."
A deep breath.
With a low voice, almost like a whisper, he continued. "I want to. God, I really want to tell everyone that you're mine. But I can't. We can't. Not yet." He was feeling riled up at this point. This was not really a recurring issue in their relationship, but it does resurface every now and then. And he meant everything he just said.
He loved Chanyeol but the both of them were not ready for the consequences that will inevitably come with telling everyone, their parents, fans, the media, the whole of South Korea, that they are crazy in love with each other. It's maddening, most days. Stupid homophobic society.
He was so worked up that he did not notice Chanyeol's eyes welling up with tears at his words.
"Kyungsoo, I am so sorry! I really don't deserve you but I'm too selfish to let you go. Please don't ever get tired of me."
Arms could be felt wrapping around his back, pulling him flush against Chanyeol's chest. He snaked his own around his boyfriend's neck and cradled his head. It was starting to get cold, the seat heaters had been switched off when the driver cut off the car engine. Allowing Chanyeol a moment, he started playing with the hood scrunched up by Chanyeol's neck. The hoodie, along with the rest of Chanyeol, was exceptionally big. Why the boy liked wearing clothes a size or two too big on him was beyond his comprehension. Kyungsoo did enjoy borrowing and wearing them inside the privacy of their rooms, though. They always smelled like Chanyeol.
The tears eventually stopped, their breathing evening out.
It was so easy to love Chanyeol like this. Away from prying eyes. Bathed in dim light. In the silence.
When he felt the cold start to seep into his bones, he opened his mouth.
"Again, you are an idiot. You think I will let you let me go? I'm such a catch." Kyungsoo reluctantly disentangled himself from Chanyeol's warmth. He couldn't wait to go inside the dorms.
Chanyeol did not allow him to go very far. "Wow, Soo. Fame really got to your head."
He couldn't help but chuckle at that. His boyfriend gave him whiplash on a daily basis. Chanyeol's really something else. "I'm serious. Besides, you don't get to decide whether you're deserving of me or not."
Very meekly, Kyungsoo added. "For the record, you deserve better. But I'm also too selfish to let you go."
On his bed, leaning against the headboard with Chanyeol's head on his lap, Kyungsoo couldn't help but fall a little bit more in love. They have just finished taking a shower, after practically running inside the dorms to get away from the freezing night.
No one was speaking, both of them feeling comfortable and contented in the silence. Everything was finally alright. That much Kyungsoo was sure of.