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a call to motion

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SEHUN

It’s not that Sehun is completely unused to being around gay people. He is around, if you can put it this way, a gay person 24 hours, 7 days a week, fifty-something weeks a year. But this gay person is basically himself. So that, obviously, doesn’t count. 

Anyway, this is a gay bar and Sehun is gay, so he is kind of supposed to be in his element. While he, clearly, isn’t. He gets a drink (and a compliment) from a handsome bartender and then takes a seat in the darkest corner possible, hoping not a single person will approach him during the evening. He wishes he could have taken Jongin or Seulgi with him, but he isn’t really sure if he would be able to do that without getting out of the closet. 

“Hi, can you go to a gay bar with me? Not because I am gay, but because there is a gig of a guy whom I really like because I am gay.” Sehun shakes his head, more horrified than humored by the fantasy. 

He straightens up in his seat a little to look more confident. It’s just a gig, it’s just a bar. A bar with a lot of people. With a lot of gay people. Who might approach him and talk to him, holy shit. Looking confident doesn’t seem like a brilliant idea anymore.

He unlocks his phone and looks through a bunch of messages in Line. Cute dog pictures, Seulgi chatting with Jongin about some shit. Oh, work chat. 

Honestly, he hates work chat in Line, and what he hates even more is that Yixing types endless messages there on Saturday evening, but for now he will take it. He concentrates on Yixing’s critique of the last scene they put together, and almost completely breaks his contact with reality, trying to figure out how much time he will need to fix his mistakes. 

Then his worst nightmare comes true and somebody actually does talk to him.

“Hi! Do you mind some company?”

Sehun almost jumps and lifts his head from the phone, taken aback, because a person who speaks to him is actually a girl. 

“Uh, I,” he mumbles, “I mean, yeah? I mean, no, as like I don’t.” He really thought that being in a gay bar would save him from being approached by a girl. 

She laughs at his confused expression and smiles. Her smile is warm and soft, and it makes Sehun calm down a little. At least she doesn’t look like she is interested in him.

“Sorry, I guess I am supposed to introduce myself first. I am Son Seungwan, Baekhyun-oppa sent me,” Seungwan smiles at him again. “He said you look like you’re about to run away and he can’t have that.”

At the mention of Baekhyun’s name Sehun relaxes and feels his cheeks flushing. When did Baekhyun see him? Probably while he was on the phone. He shouldn't be on the phone, right? Did he make a horrible impression? The thought of it makes Sehun’s palms sweat instantly.

But he speaks anyway: “I am Oh Sehun. Nice to meet you.” They both bow, and she settles down on a chair next to him. 

“Why did Baekhyun-hyung send you?” Does it sound offensive? He probably needs to make it softer: “I mean, he really shouldn’t have bothered you.”

Seungwan chuckles cutely and brushes a strand of her hair behind her ear. She doesn’t really look like a person who would go to a gay bar. Her makeup is really soft, and the cute pink sweater she wears doesn’t look gay bar appropriate.

“Well, oppa said that you looked like the straightest person in the bar, and straight people should ‘suffer together’. He also said that me being straight is preventing them to get in tune with the beautiful ‘atmosphere of gayness’, whatever this is.”

Sehun laughs. That feels like a really Baekhyun thing to say. But then again, it seems like Baekhyun is sure Sehun is straight, which is. Good? Bad? Sehun feels disappointed a bit, but also relieved. He might like Baekhyun as much as he does, but he is not even sure if their new composer is gay, or just. Or just Baekhyun. And they still have work to do together.

He chats with Seungwan a bit about the place and the gig. At some point she mentions that she works as a pediatrician and came to the concert just after her shift (which explains the outfit). It turns out that Seungwan is also the girlfriend of the group’s vocalist, Jongdae and a generally nice person to be around. She is not crossing any personal boundaries and Sehun easily gets away with general work-weather-food conversations. Which he isn’t particularly good at, but at least practiced. He wants to ask her about Baekhyun, but feels like it will be too suspicious, and he also doesn’t want to learn anything he shouldn’t from a third party. He doesn’t know why, but it feels important.

By the time they finish discussing the place and the bar menu, and are almost out of available small talk topics, the musicians finally get on stage, and Sehun finds himself speechless for a second. Everyone in the band is horribly attractive. And he is really glad Jongdae is straight, because otherwise he might have crushed on him right away. Seungwan spares him an all-too-knowing look and whistles loudly. 

Baekhyun is nowhere to be seen, however the keyboard is there, vacant, which means that he probably should be around. Sehun shouldn’t really be questioning if he is around, but something just makes his heart flutter, unsure if he is in the right gig, bar, country or universe and if he will really get to see Baekhyun on stage now.

When Sehun almost turns to Seungwan to ask her about Baekhyun, he finally runs up on the stage and takes his place by the keyboard, smiling. The way the audience screams tells Sehun that he is very appreciated around here.

Sehun’s first thought is that he is in the deepest shit he got himself in years, because coming to this place to see Baekhyun was one bad idea. Second thought never comes to his mind, left completely blank. Baekhyun is wearing makeup. Lined eyes, dark eyeshadow and something like a pink lipstick, and it suits him perfectly, especially with the dark red hair (when did he even dye it?) and the red turtleneck with rolled up sleeves.

Baekhyun spots them immediately and grins brightly, his canines showing, waving his hand at both Sehun and Seungwan. Sehun tries to smile back, but feels that his face muscles are living some separate exciting life where his brain isn’t included. Baekhyun, though, seems okay with that as he winks, probably just to make Sehun’s heart fall somewhere down his abdomen.

 

***

When the gig ends, it’s well past 10, but the bar stays as crowded as ever. The band tries to leave the stage a couple of times, but nobody really lets them. However, after the third ‘last’ song Jongdae calls it a night. Now the bar is both louder and quieter at the same time — a strange feeling, where music and applause are gone, but the buzzing noise of everyone talking is still deafening. Sehun quickly remembers why he actually hates clubbing. 

Seungwan, though, seems at ease with that, turning down a girl approaching her and greeting a few friends. Seungwan is… pretty? Really pretty. Sehun gets why people would want to spend time with her so much. Her beautiful eyes sparkle and she looks lively and fun. The confidence with which she talks with people would probably feel really sexy if Sehun was able to think about anyone but Baekhyun.

“You wouldn’t expect a straight pediatrician to be this comfortable in a gay bar,” Sehun jokes when Seungwan finishes greeting a half naked man, presumably a stripper. 

Seungwan shrugs, frowning adorably. “I am not really big on clubbing, honestly, but you get used to this. When I first came here, I was so scared that I didn’t even leave the backstage. But then you get to know people, and it becomes less… chaotic?”

“Do they perform here often?” That seems like a safe question, but being as bad with people as he is, Sehun wouldn’t know.

“Yeah. I’d say this is their main stage, honestly. They have a couple of other places, and sometimes they get invited somewhere new, but this is like, a home field. They also play here separately sometimes, like a live music corner.”

Seungwan checks her phone and smiles at it sweetly. Then she starts to gather her things. 

“Sorry, that was Jongdae, I should join him backstage. Do you want to meet them? I am sure Baekhyun-oppa will be happy to see you!”

Sehun is not really sure what he is supposed to do, by this point. He wanted to see the gig, so he did. And he and Baekhyun are not even friends, just random coworkers. Do you invite a random coworker to your gig in a gay bar? But then again, it was Sehun who asked Baekhyun if they play somewhere soon, so he kind of asked for this.

Seungwan is looking at him, confused and probably waiting for the reply.

“Ah, no,” Sehun awkwardly shakes his head. “No, thanks for the offer really, but I don’t want to bother them. I will finish the drink and probably just go home, it is kind of late.”

When Sungwan leaves she waves her hand to him cutely, and Sehun immediately feels sorry he didn’t go with her, both because she was his only shelter from all of the gay strangers, and because he just turned down what likely is his only chance to see Baekhyun backstage.

Though maybe he really should talk to a gay stranger, honestly. Sehun can’t even remember what having actual sex feels like. Sure, having two jobs and a gaming addiction does help to spare most of his time, but none of that actually will help him with his love life.

Suddenly Sehun feels a huge wave of self pity, raised mostly by alcohol. This third cocktail should have never happened to him, really.

Sehun: why is this happening to me

Jongin: what

Sehun: life

Jongin: Are you drunk?

Sehun: why

Jongin: you ask stupid questions. You are

Sehun: That’s not the point

Jongin: It is though. Should I pick you up?

Sehun almost answers yes, but then thinks that this is a very bad way of coming out to Jongin. Which he should have done a really long time ago, but then it always seemed like a wrong time. Because they live together, and it will probably make things awkward. And since they also work together. And since they are relatives, and spend every family holiday together. Basically, this will make his whole life awkward, so asking Jongin to pick him up from a gay bar is a really bad idea.

Sehun is just about to message Jongin that he is fine when somebody touches him by the shoulder. Sehun turns his head quickly, defensive to the unwanted touch, but he is met with Baekhyun’s bright grin, and that makes him melt immediately.

Baekhyun has changed into a black t-shirt with a LoL print, but he hasn’t washed off the makeup, and it really suits him more than any girl Sehun’s ever met. His hair is wet from performing on stage and playing for so long under the club lights. But even now he doesn’t seem tired, as always shining with energy.

“I was afraid you’re going to leave before I finish changing. Sorry Seungwan left you alone but those two can’t be kept apart for longer than five minutes,” he says, rolling his eyes, but the gesture is more fond than annoyed. Sehun smiles.

Does the fact that he is fond of straight people lower the chance of him being gay? No, probably not. Sehun could be fond of Yixing and Seulgi if they finally started dating, but it wouldn’t make him straight, right?

He should have asked Jongin to pick him up.

Baekhyun looks at him somewhat concerned for a moment, and Sehun understands that he didn’t say a word yet. 

“Oh, hi, hyung. Sorry, it’s late, I dozed off a bit. It’s okay, nobody ate me, honestly.” Sehun regrets that a moment he says it, but then it is too late.

“Their loss,” Baekhyun smirks and Sehun can feel his cheeks burning. “I’ll get a drink. Do you want anything? We get free drinks after gigs.”

Sehun wants to say that he had enough, and he could use some coffee or lemonade, but some university time version of him says that he can’t drink lemonade in a gay bar, so he replies instead, “Yeah, thanks. Whatever you are having is fine, hyung.”

Why his brain blacks out when he is around people he likes is a mystery.

KYUNGSOO

When Baekhyun gets home Kyungsoo is almost done with work. Although he has been ‘almost done with work’ for a couple of years now, since he started this job, so it doesn’t really sound that promising. Baekhyun looks cheery as he half-walks, half-jumps towards Kyungsoo, hugging him from the back and placing a kiss just below his ear. 

“Hi.”

He smells of alcohol, and sweat, and cigarette smoke, and some other romantic shit like evening Seoul. Kyungsoo wants to say something about Baekhyun being a distraction, but he never really manages. First, because he is sick of work, second — he hadn’t seen Baekhyun this happy in a while. This fall has really been hard on him, with all the money issues and that newspaper which still owes him his pay for the article. Kyungsoo leans back towards him just a bit, to let his sore neck rest. It’s nice to see Baekhyun excited.

Kyungsoo interlaces their fingers and leans in to leave a kiss on the back side of Baekhyun’s palm. Baekhyun giggles stupidly.

“Did I distract you?” 

After a second required to get his thoughts together, Kyungsoo confesses: “A bit. I still have about two pages to cover today’s minimum.”

Kyungsoo can feel Baekhyun’s pout, but then he just says: “Okay. I need to shower anyway. Do you want tea?”

“I want to die, honestly,” it is barely a joke.

“Noooo,” Baekhyun wines, and it almost makes Kyungsoo smile. Almost. “You can’t die yet.”

“Why?” 

Baekhyun groans in fake exasperation: “I told you already. You are the love of my life. We are supposed to die on the same day and I am just too talented, young and beautiful to die now. So you’ll have to stick around.” Kyungsoo huffs, and it almost counts as a laugh. At least definitely as a full on smile. 

“Okay. But you will have to get me tea.”

Kyungsoo gets another peck to his temple. Somehow, Baekhyun being home helps him to concentrate and speed up with his work (something he tried to do for the last couple of hours). It is Saturday evening, and they do not have to be anywhere tomorrow morning so it is pointless to spend his time procrastinating now. With that newfound determination, he is down to the last half of a page when Baekhyun, showered and changed, puts Kyungsoo’s cup on the table next to him, and then drops himself on the sofa. 

Baekhyun wears his pink bunny kigurumi and super warm socks. It’s just the middle of October, but in the morning they can already see their steamed breaths. And the electricity bill is enormous, as it always gets around winter. But they both hate the cold, so the heater works constantly while they are home. Which doesn’t really help.

Kyungsoo writes the last comments to the calculations and sends them to Bae-gyejang via e-mail. While he looks through the letters, he gets an almost immediate reply from her:

Bae-gyejang: Thanks, I’ll need it in the morning. Make sure you look through the rest of analytics tomorrow.

He replies shortly to that, satisfied. Short emails from Joohyun make him happy. He really hates all the boring politeness of e-mail communication, most of which can be just deleted. It something everyone in their company does, except for Joohyun. To her team, she is that ‘straight to the point’ type of person, which Kyungsoo enjoys a lot, even though many people don’t.

Kyungsoo deletes the last spam message from his mailbox and finally closes his laptop, taking his glasses off and rubbing his nose-bridge. It is nice to finish work, especially if you were stuck doing it throughout your weekends. 

When Kyungsoo looks over to Baekhyun, he is smiling at something on his phone. His smile is soft, and this foreign exciting energy is gone, but he still looks happy. Sensing that Kyungsoo is looking at him, Baekhyun meets his eyes and smiles wider. 

“Are you looking at me because I am the sexiest man alive in this pajama?”

Kyungsoo shakes his head. “Baek, despite my family’s popular belief about whatever we do in our bedroom, fucking with a rabbit is not going to happen.”

Baekhyun pouts again, and Kyungsoo walks to the sofa, nudging him by the shoulder with his knee. The sofa is definitely not long enough for him to sit down now, so Baekhyun sits up for a second to let Kyungsoo settle, but then immediately crashes back, occupying Kyungsoo’s knees. 

They stay like that for a minute, Baekhyun’s familiar warmth nice and soft next to Kyungsoo.

“How was the gig?”

Baekhyun grins widely, looking at Kyungsoo upside-down.

“We were amazing. I spent like a whole evening trying to get away from admirers.” He wrinkles his nose, annoyed.

“You usually like admirers,” Kyungsoo frowns his eyebrows. “Is something wrong?”

Baekhyun shrugs. “I don’t know. I think I am growing old and boring. I don’t. I mean, I don’t ‘don’t like them. I am just. Not interested?” He relaxes his head and closes his eyes for a moment. “By the way. Do you remember I mentioned a guy? The one from this indie game company?”

“The extremely hot Chinese guy? I thought he was your employer.” Kyungsoo distinctly remembers Baekhyun spamming him with the guy’s photos during their meeting on Thursday.

Baekhyun wrinkles his noes cutely, “No, that's Zhang Yixing. He is hot, but no sex with employers rule still stands. Also I know him since like, uni. God help the person who is going to date this poor workaholic.”

Kyungsoo tugs on Baekhyun’s ear. “Is he like me?”

Baekhyun shrugs. “God no. If being a workaholic was a sport Yixing would have had an Olympic gold in it every year since he was three. You are a baby comparing to him.”

Kyungsoo smirks. “Okay, so who should I remember then?”

“The other one, their programmer. Tall, skinny, beautiful?”

“Right. The one who asked you about the gig which turned out to be in a gay bar. Yeah.” Now Kyungsoo remembers Baek mentioning the ‘really cute programmer kid’. “Did he come?”

“Yeah,” Baekhyun grins again, “he liked it. Also got completely drunk so I had to send him home in a taxi, but honestly, he is such a dork. It’s really cute. We spent two hours in a fucking gay bar discussing LoL.”

Kyungsoo chuckles. “Seems like you are getting old. I remember you doing other things there.” For that he gets a punch to the stomach, but it’s pathetic more than anything else, so he doesn’t bother. “Are you interested? In this gamer guy.”

Baekhyun shrugs again noncommittally, “Kind of? He is cute, and smart, and hot. He also likes me.”

Kyungsoo’s heart grows with uncontrollable affection for a second, as he strokes Baekhyun’s hand. “It’s hard not to.” 

Baekhyun looks at him, soft and fond, and then sits up, sneaking his hand around Kyungsoo, turning at a weird angle to kiss him.

It’s more of a touch, soft, and gentle, but Kyungsoo replies greedily, kissing Baekhyun’s lips and licking at the lower one. Baekhyun shivers and kisses back. Kyungsoo catches the remains of Baekhyun’s excitement, the foreign smell, probably his new crush. It’s nice to see Baekhyun back in his element: gigs, new exciting job, new person around. 

Kyungsoo deepens the kiss, sliding his tongue over Baekhyun’s teeth, and he can feel Baekhyun tremble, sensitive. Kyungsoo smirks while Baekhyun breaks the kiss with a gasp and hides his face in the crook of Kyungsoo’s neck.

He remembers well, just when they were still new and Kyungsoo would still go to see every gig, that Baekhyun would just lock them up somewhere backstage afterwards, eager to be touched and extremely turned on. Kyungsoo used to call him horny, but it wasn’t just that. Baekhyun gets the energy from the stage, from people looking at him. He gets the energy instead of spending it there. And afterwards he is just so full he always wants to share. Now Kyungsoo might not visit every gig, but some things never really change.

“Kyungsoo, I have a super serious question.” Well, that’s new. “How determined are you about not having sex with me while I am wearing this?” Baekhyun tugs at his pajama, sheepish. “Because I can take it off now, but it’s really fucking cold.”

Kyungsoo giggles, looking over the oversized pink bunny thing, and tugs on its tail. Baekhyun’s breath on his neck doesn’t really help him make up his mind, so with the other hand he tugs on Baekhyun’s hair to kiss him again.

At some point he notices that he is still holding the pajama tail in his hand. But to be honest, he knew that his rule about bunny sex will not stand for long.

 

SEHUN

When Sehun wakes up, he regrets it immediately. His head aches like hell and he isn’t sure why. He isn’t even sure he wants to know why. 

Where is he, for god’s sake? It is not his bed. At least, it doesn’t really feel like one. 

Sehun groans, trying to stand up, and immediately hears a familiar voice, “good morning, beauty. You look like shit.”

The voice belongs to Jongin, which is horrible because of the teasing but yet – is a very good sign that he is somewhere decent. Jongin is generally a good sign that his life is still going somewhere in the right direction. 

“Where am I?..” He can hear Jongin giggle. Because despite being the silver line of his life, Jongin is also a dork and most cruel human being alive. Well, after Seulgi. And probably Yixing.

“You are on a sofa. In the living room. It is in our flat. Seoul, Earth. Does that help?”

“I hate you. Can you actually be merciful? I don’t remember anything.” Sehun’s brain is just completely blank and he would probably want it to stay that way, but he still asks, “how did this happen? Why am I so sick?” 

“You want ME to tell you that?” Jongin raises his voice and Sehun flinches unpleasantly, “I have no idea where you got that drunk, honestly. It is like we are in college again, when you tried to outdrink Tao on my birthday.”

Sehun groans immediately, like the memory of that day piles up to his current headache, “not that bad. Really. Like on a scale from one to ten, where one is totally fine, and 10 is how I felt after that party, I am on solid seven.”

“Well I guess. At least you can speak words.”Jongin walks towards him holding a glass with something in his hand, “this is for your headache. And that’s for your stomach,” he hands Sehun two pills.

After Sehun finishes with drinking everything obediently he feels a bit better, “I love you, Jonginnie~”

“Thank you, but no, thank you. Do you remember anything? Like, anything from the moment where you told the driver a wrong address? He drove you to our office, Sehun. I had to actually go there to pick you up because Lee-ssi, the security guy, called me at two in the morning, and told that you were trying to get inside the office.” Jongin sounds on a borderline of judging, annoyed and teasing. Sehun can already guess that he owes him a lot of favors to cover yesterday’s night.

Sehun doesn’t remember a thing about that. Why would he use his work address? What happened? He distinctly remembers that he was sitting with Baekhyun and decided that the sixth cocktail will be his last. But that was like at 11 or something. Oh yeah. Baekhyun.

Sehun groans again. Gay bar, Baekhyun. He spoke about LoL for two hours watching a gay strip show with their new composer.

“Are you getting in contact with your memories?” 

“Yup.”

“Do you already regret your existence?” Jongin almost feels sorry for Sehun, but not really.

“Yup, very much. I am like, approximately at 11 o’clock.”

“Oh wow. We were home at about 3. So you have another embarrassing four hours! Enjoy,” Jongin smiles at him sweetly, but there is something sadistic there. He also looks tired, which is probably Sehun’s fault. At that, he feels even more miserable, but before he can apologize, Jongin ruffles his hair: “It’s fine. You owe me some nice food. I made you coffee, it’s in the kitchen.”

“You are the best. Are you going somewhere?” he finally notices, that Jongin is dressed like he is going out.

“Yeah, I promised mom to be home for dinner. You also did, by the way, but I told her you got sick.”

Oh fuck. Sunday, his aunt’s invitation. His life sucks, “Please tell eemo I am really sorry.”

“Don’t worry, she will probably pack you some home food, so you don’t miss the best part.” Jongin finishes tying his shoes and opens the door, “I need to go. Bye! Take care and eat some food.”

Sehun just lies back on the sofa and stays like that for sometime, looking at the ceiling. The white perfectly clear colour remind him of all the perfect things he failed to be in his life. It’s also really cold, but seems like outside is sunny. He is just wearing his t shirt and briefs, which probably means Jongin got him undressed, which is, again, embarrassing. And he also brought blankets from Sehun’s room. And since Jongin still talks to him, Sehun probably didn’t come out to him while being drunk. So, it probably could have been worse. 

Sehun sees his phone on the table next to the sofa and picks it up. There are a couple of missed calls from Jongin, six from his mom who probably heard he is sick from eemo. And also one call from Baekhyun. And a message. 

Byun Baekhyun: Hi^^ How are you? Sorry if I woke you up with my call I am really worried ㅜㅜ

After reading that Sehun’s brain supplies him with the details of yesterday’s evening. 

When Baekhyun joined him in the club, they immediately started to talk about work which at some point shifted to gaming. It was decent enough, but the fourth drink was really something he shouldn’t have had. He can briefly remember the moment when the strip show started. But Baekhyun didn’t even flinch, and he remembered that Seungwan mentioned that they perform here often, so Baekhyun was just probably used to it. So Sehun also decided to ignore it. At least ignore it as much as he could have ignored a first strip show in his life. After that there was a lot of game talking, and the fifth cocktail. His mind becomes fuzzy about the following details, so he definitely does not remember a single thing about the taxi ride. And how did he even get in that taxi?

The only thing he does remember is Baekhyun’s hand sneaking on the sofa behind him, touching Sehun’s shoulders. And a hand on Sehun’s knee. He is pretty sure it was a thing which happened somewhere after the fifth drink. But could have as well been a sweet dream. That probably means Baekhyun is gay? Or that he is interested? They didn’t have sex, right? He would have remembered sex with Baekhyun? 

Sehun’s mind is unhelpfully silent, but he is like 85% sure that nothing actually happened. While he is like 98% sure that he didn’t imagine Baekhyun’s hand on his knee.

Sehun: Hello, hyung! No, you didn’t wake me up. Thank you for worrying, I am at home safe.

Byun Baekhyun: ^_^

Byun Baekhyun: Thank god, I should have gone with you ㅜ.ㅜ But I am glad you are okay. 

Sehun spends another minute looking on the emoticons, confused. He is not really sure how he is supposed to reply to that. Does he mean it like a friendly way, or not… Friendly? Also Baekhyun is around thirty but he writes like he is a first year student. Female student, flirting with a guy, Sehun’s mind helpfully supplies. He needs to get some coffee. 

Sehun: That’s fine, hyung! Do not worry, I got home just fine. How do you feel?

Sehun stands up and stumbles towards the corner with a coffee machine. It, indeed, has coffee, which is barely warm. He drinks first cup just like it is, without even adding milk, hoping that the disgusting substance will somehow bring him back to reality. He switches on the sound on his phone (he turned it off before the gig, of course) and it immediately rings with a new message.

Byun Baekhyun: I’m fine~ I only had four drinks anyway. Actually, do you remember you promised some game videos from your favourite youtubers? I’d like to see them ^o^

 

***

Monday morning starts with Sehun trying not to sleep during the monthly meeting. Their boss is going on about the new online rpg, which they are supposed to be testing this week, but Sehun doesn’t even feel excited. Sometimes he feels that for the last few months all the games he tested just became an enormous homunculus in his head. He isn’t even sure what the previous one was about. 

They’re out of a meeting room by 2 PM and Sehun is starving: both for the information, since they are not allowed to use their phones during meetings, and physically, so he and Jongin grab their coats and run down the staircase outside the building. It’s sunny but freezing, and Sehun immediately regrets forgetting the scarf at home. 

He looks through the missed messages in Line, and sees Baekhyun’s name there. It almost makes him stop in the middle of the street.

“What?” Jongin looks back at him, confused. 

“Ah — Just a message in the other work chat.” Thank god Jongin can never check. 

Byun Baekhyun: Morning~ It’s so cold today ㅜㅜ Do you feel better?

Sehun’s cheeks warm up a little and he is glad Jongin walks in front of him and can’t really see this. It’s sweet that Baekhyun worries about him. 

Sehun: I am fine, thank you, hyung. How is your day?

Sehun feels like adding a smiley face, and while Jongin chooses his dinner he tries to figure out which one to send. By the time they get their food he just   clicks send, because emotions are hard. 

Reply comes almost right away, as if Baekhyun had been waiting for his message:

Byun Baekhyun: ㅠㅡㅠ 

Byun Baekhyun: I am supposed to work but I can’t it’s cold I just want to hibernate -_- 

Sehun: What do you do?

Byun Baekhyun: Well I am supposed to write an article, but what I really do is binging on the youtubers you sent me. So it is you fault >_<

“Did you get yourself a girlfriend?” 

Sehun chokes on his tea. “What? Why?” 

Jongin points his fingers to Sehun’s phone. “You have been staring there for almost five minutes and smiling like an idiot.” 

Sehun takes some time to analyze the situation and to straight out his facial expression. “Uh.” Has he been smiling? God, that probably looked so weird.

“Unclench,” Jongin says, making an ugly sound around his fork. Sehun wrinkles his nose — deliberately this time — and Jongin chews through his food before speaking again. “I’m not your mom, remember? You still don’t need to hide shit from me.”

Cool, and now Sehun feels bad for hiding an imaginary girlfriend from his best friend. Exactly like before and they both remember how that ended. 

“If she’s somebody from the company it’s okay, you don’t have to tell me who she is,” Jongin continues. “In fact, you don’t have to tell me either way. But just, you know. You can trust me? In case our life-long friendship is not proof enough.” Sehun can see the silent reminder in Jongin’s eyes, but he doesn’t say anything. He never really reminds him of everything that happened two years ago during arguments. Then, again, this only makes Sehun feel worse somehow, because compared to Jongin he is just the shittiest friend.

Sehun pokes around his plate. He’s hungry, but his nerves make it hard for him to stomach anything. The hangover feelings come right back. It’s fine. It’s fine. He’s not committing any crime (yet), Baekhyun and himself aren’t together or anything, he can’t even be sure if Baekhyun is really interested in him (he’s confusing, really; or maybe Sehun is confused). They’re friends at most. He doesn’t need to come out to Jongin right now this moment. 

Sehun’s phone buzzes a few times with new notifications. Baekhyun is really. Wordy. And talkative.

“There’s no girlfriend,” Sehun says, because lying to his best friend about his nonexistent heterosexual relationship is the last thing he’s gonna do. “It’s just a friend.” He doesn’t know what possesses him to say ‘friend’ about his hyung, might be his chronic accidental disregard of formal speech, but the said hyung isn’t here to get offended.

“The one you got wasted with, I’m guessing?” Jongin says. He pouts and frowns. “The one who didn’t bother getting you home after you got so done you forgot where you live?”

“Wow, rude,” Sehun says. “He did want to help me get home, but I was too stubborn — ” He still doesn’t remember that very clearly but still. “He’s checking on me, okay? It’s my fault that it happened.”

Jongin looks at him for a long moment before smiling tentatively. “Okay, I got it. A really good, attentive new friend that makes you smile like an idiot.” Sehun opens his mind but Jongin doesn’t let him defend himself. “I’m sorry for assuming shit. I know you are self-aware and fully capable of choosing good friends.” 

“You as an example?” Sehun jokes. He doesn’t really feel upset with Jongin, obviously; he rarely does. He does, though, feel upset with himself. He promised to never do this again, he even promised himself the past new year, when he and Jongin were cuddling on the sofa watching some stupid movie, that he will talk to him about everything what happened. And now it is fucking October. God, he hates New Year resolutions.

“I shall hope so,” Jongin says pointedly before laughing and kicking him on the leg beneath the table. “What’s the name of the friend?”

“Ah.” Sehun isn’t sure if he should disclose it, for various reasons, them meeting at a gay-bar being the most prominent. “You might have heard of him, actually? From me or Seulgi, either way. The composer guy, Byun Baekhyun.”

“Oh, I have heard of him, but briefly. Work never leaves us alone, I see,” Jongin sighs, but looks somehow more settled with this information, like if it is from work, it is more safe. “Isn’t he older than us though? You at it again forgetting how to call your hyungs?”

“What can I say, they always forgive me because I’m so lovable,” Sehun says and finally, finally feels like he can eat.

 

***

On Tuesday evening, he runs to his second job office at eight in the evening, almost not late for the meeting. ‘Almost’ being a keyword, but the reason he loves his second job is that no one is on time for the meeting, except for Yixing. 

“Hi, hyung” Sehun is panting, still trying to get over his sprint from the subway and up to their fourth floor. He takes of his coat and hangs it in the corner of the room which can barely be called an office. Surprisingly, he notices that next to Yixing’s fancy coat there is Seulgi’s leather jacket. It’s weird for her to come this early. But she is not in the office, so...

Yixing notices his questioning look. “Someone called her so she went out to talk.” He looks annoyed. Sehun can see that foundation cracks a bit under his eyes. It’s easy to notice in their unnatural, too yellow cheap light. Yixing always looks his best and certainly knows how to use makeup, but the amount of it itself gives out how hard he is trying to keep things together. Sehun almost feels sorry for him, but he doesn’t know how he can help. And if you ask, he will just say he is fine. That’s just a person Yixing is.

At that moment Yerim breaks into the office, also short of breath. “Sorry I’m late!” her high-pitched voice cuts through the established silence, loud and excessively cheery, “Hi hyung! Hi Sehun.” She smiles brightly, white teeth showing.

Yixing furrows his eyebrows even more and raises a hand to massage his temples: “How do you manage to be this energetic this time of a day.” It doesn’t sound like a question, or somehow even as a complaint, more like a reprimand in Yixing’s mentoring tone, but Yerim just skips it.

She grins again, even brighter: “I have a night shift today, so I am just straight from home, after a long, beautiful sleep,” Sehun can’t help but huff on the sight of Yixing’s pained expression, “It will be my turn to hate humanity tomorrow, don’t worry.” 

This moment, Seulgi walks back in. She looks collected and firm, but Sehun understands immediately by just her slightly red eyes, puffed cheeks, the annoyed glance she spares Yixing, that all the phone call shit was just made up. It made sense, since they probably fought again and Yixing didn’t want to discuss it. It is none of Sehun’s business, but it kind of isn’t? He and Yerim are parts of this, and then he’s known Seulgi for ages and it is clear to him that she cried. And also that they are awkward again. Sometimes he wondered if he is as transparent to Jongin as Seulgi is to him. If yes, he is doomed.

“Okay,” at the sound of Yixing’s voice Seulgi flinches, but doesn’t say anything, “let’s start and finish this as quick and painless as possible. Some news, progress review, plans for next week, all that,” Sehun nods, but never really listens for this week’s review. He focuses solely on Seulgi who acts like all of that has nothing to do with her and just doodles something on the paper next to her. She hates it when Yixing gets all-business and tries to pretend that they are something more than a bunch of dolts trying to launch a game. 

Though he believes that with Yixing keeping this together, they really are.

Yerim next to him seems to be the only one listening to Yixing, so Sehun just nods every time she does, while Seulgi just keeps ignoring him completely. It gives Sehun the same chills when his parents argue about things.

“With that said, let’s move onto bad news. To sum up all that I said in one sentence: we are four weeks behind schedule. Both with design and code. So we made some decisions.” Yixing looks at Seulgi, waiting. Something gives Sehun the feeling that ‘we’ part was clearly an exaggeration.

Seulgi looks at him and if Sehun didn’t know them long enough he would have thought that she hates Yixing. He knows for a fact she doesn’t, but at the moment it clearly feels like that. 

It's common knowledge they’re behind schedule. Four guys trying to launch a game, while dealing with their jobs and lives. But it’s all going somewhere. Or at least Sehun likes to think that. But Yixing spending 15 minutes on stating the obvious can’t be good.

Seulgi takes a breath and speaks, “We decided that we cut off the whole arch of the forest, and move straight to the castle part.”

“What?!” Yerim looks disturbed, and Sehun gets it. He looks at Seulgi shocked and feels like he can’t even close his mouth properly. There clearly couldn’t have been any ‘we’ in that decision. The forest part, it is the whole purpose, the favourite moment for Seulgi. The least done one, for sure, but cutting it still can’t be right. 

“Yerim.” Yixing’s voice is strict and disturbingly calm, like he doesn’t care, though he’ in fact, does. Sehun is really getting tired of reading between the lines. Why can’t people just talk words. “Nobody wants that, but the facts are like this: we either quit sleeping, eating and breathing, quit our main jobs, or we sacrifice something from the game. The release is on Christmas.”

“But can we move a release?” Sehun also can’t hold himself from speaking, “There should be something. We can hire another coder. It won’t take long to teach him by this point.”

Yixing shakes his head, but it is Seulgi who speaks, “Nope, Sehun. We can hire another coder, but we can’t hire another artist. Yixing asked for the delay, but the sponsors have had enough of that.”

“We shouldn’t just be giving up parts of the game, because of that,” Yerim doesn’t look like she’s about agree, “Guys, it’s a fucking reason why we don’t do this game in some company. You didn’t sell the plot to anyone, so it’s all gets to be done properly.”

“Nothing really happens in that arch though,” Seulgi advocates for this shit as hard as she can, like she herself thinks it’s right. Sehun hates to see how she gives up on things, always unsure about the story and the plot she created. But Sehun and Yerim are sure. And Yixing can get his business approach up his ass. 

Finally, his excessive knowledge of gaming industry is good for something. Their game would be just a simple quest, another fairytale, something you spend one day on and then forget completely, but it is special. It is special because of the way Seulgi wrote it — full of touching details, funny and sad moments, side characters and other things that made you go all the way with the character. 

It’s easy to make a game where you can choose the character’s appearance. It’s now there in almost every game, where you can spend hours adjusting facial features just to let the character into the world where you don’t get to make a single choice that really matters.

Get from point A to point B, Sehun would do three games like this in a row during his student years. But when Seulgi showed him this one, he knew he cared right away. Because of one and only thing. Every decision you made for your character mattered. You are not getting to create a face, but you get to create a person.

Sehun shakes his head, “Everything happens in the forest arch,” Seulgi doesn’t usually need to be stood up for, but Sehun kind of gets that with Yixing she does. Also sometimes Yixing needs to be stood up for in front of his own destructively effective self. “Naturally everything. We write this game because we all want to play it. We know it will be great and successful because of it. We have to find another way.” He catches a breath and notices that his heart is going wild inside his chest, “Guys you know, I play. Here’s a two second market analytics for you. If we cut the forest arch, we might as well just go home now and give up.”

Yixing rubs his forehead, annoyed. He might be unhappy with that, but all Sehun needs is to get them both to listen. He knows that it’s important for them. He in fact knows it was the forest arch that made Yixing take on this project, so it is just not the time to give up now.

“We can ask Jongin to code. I mean, I know he refused the last time we offered but that’s just a couple of months now, not like. Two years.” Jongin wouldn’t be happy, probably, since he actually prefers to have a life outside of his job, but three months isn’t a long time.

Seulgi chews on her lip. She looks really tired. Sehun knows both she and Yixing already spend all their time drawing, and that by this point it’s all about the artist.

“Okay,” Yixing himself almost sounds relieved, but still shakes his head, “Does anyone except for me has any brighter idea on how we can make that work?”

The silence sets across the room, but after a minute Seulgi breaks it, “Yes. I do,” Sehun can hardly hold himself from relieved exhale, “We finish everything else including the castle first and then move onto the forest just to be safe with the rest of the game. We also hire another artist.”

Yixing frowns, raising an eyebrow “any bright ideas on where do we find a suitable artist in this period of time?” There, obviously, is none.

They all sit in silence for another minute, but then Yerim is there to change the topic. Sehun would have kissed her, but that seems barely appropriate. “You said this was the bad news. Was that to imply you have some good ones?”

All of a sudden Yixing‘s mouth twitch, folding into a tiny smile, dimple on his cheek showing, “Yeah, actually, that one. Do you remember Byun Baekhyun?”

Sehun almost chokes on that, but then catches himself the last moment. Sure, Byun Baekhyun. Their composer, Byun Baekhyun. A person Yixing hired to write the music to the game. Not the person Sehun got done with in a gay bar. Everyone else just nods to Yixing’s question so Sehun rushes to do the same. Oh yes, he does remember Byun Baekhyun. 

“He sent me a couple of tracks he composed for us.”

Even Seulgi seems surprised with that, “Wow. You didn’t even tell me! How are they?”

Yixing laughs softly, relieved by the sight of her excited face, “I don’t know yet. He sent both tracks about an hour ago, but I thought it’d be unfair to listen them alone so.”

Yixing was always good at that — dealing with people. Even more than Jongin as the latter was good in dealing with Sehun in particular, while Yixing was just good with people. He knew how to bring them together, however harsh are the circumstances. Well, except Seulgi. He really wasn’t good at dealing with Seulgi. In fact, probably even worse than Sehun was in any human interaction. One day Sehun needs to write him a textbook.

When Yixing connects his MacBook to the little speaker they have in their so called office, Sehun’s heart clenches for a moment. Nobody said that, but it is a life changing moment, really. Baekhyun wouldn’t be their first composer, the last one left them a month ago with all the tracks, which they didn’t sign a proper contract for. They were pretty sure that would be it — nobody could write a whole soundtrack in three months. At least they were sure of it before Yixing said he might know a guy.

Seulgi walks to Yixing leaning on the back of his chair to peek inside the computer, nervous. Sehun can also feel Yerim getting tense next to him. Byun Baekhyun is their only chance to make it in time.

The music starts quietly, from the soft drums, which sound grows slowly, meeting with the violins. It is a simple electronic track, just to record the melody, but it still fills their tiny room, and for a moment Sehun actually forgets how to breathe, and even the noises outside the window all disappear.

It sounds so much like what Seulgi and Yixing are drawing. The same dreamy and airy style, built around something sad, clear and simple. Just like the moment when the Princess lies alone in the field, looking up at the night sky, feeling bittersweet — sad, and lonely, and happy at the same time. 

By the start of the second track, which is meant to be for the character escaping fight, Sehun feels like a speechless idiot. He takes a moment just to catch a glimpse of everyone’s faces to see their reaction, Seulgi’s lips slightly parted, her foxy eyes sparkling as she leans closer to Yixing, anticipating every single sound, as if she is afraid that something can go wrong. Fear and hope are both equally present in this expression. Yixing, chews on his lip and frowns, listening carefully. When the tension of the melody reaches its peak, Sehun sees how Yixing clenches his fist, worried. Yerim’s eyes are wet, and usually Sehun doesn’t know how to deal with her being so emotional, but at that moment he almost feels like he is about to cry himself. 

If he did it would be tears of a tremendous relief. If Baekhyun keeps it up, they might just be able to get this in time. Still seems like a miracle, and yet. At least a possible miracle.

The track ends, and the speaker goes silent together with the whole room. Yixing straightens his palm slowly, exhaling. 

“Wow,” Yerim is voicing out the obvious, but it also helps them to get out of this half-frozen state. 

“Yeah.” Seulgi also exhales, like she was holding the breath for the entire time of the track, “I think we have the music covered.”

“If he doesn’t disappear like the last guy. Or if he manages to write all the tracks in three months which is insane,” Yixing inserts, for which Seulgi pinches him. “Hey! You know we have to count this in.” Seulgi gives him a look and Yixing laughs sweetly, visibly relieved and smiling. “Allright, alright. It is good.”

While they joke around, Sehun fishes out his phone and types a message:

Sehun: we’ve just listened to your tracks

The reply comes even before he can finish the second sentence:

Byun Baekhyun: how is it @_@

Sehun: Are you joking?! Hyung, this is amazing. Seulgi is so happy. 

Byun Baekhyun: Are you happy too?

This is a cheesy question, but Sehun doesn’t hesitate even for a second before he replies.

Sehun: Extremely. It is beautiful. It’s just what we needed. Thank you, really.

Byun Baekhyun: //_//

Byun Baekhyun: I’m glad. I was thinking of you while writing~

Sehun can feel his whole face burn as he giggles uncomfortable and hides his face behind his palm, embarrassed. This is too much. Byun Baekhyun just had to be beautiful, smooth and multi talented in things ranging from makeup and gaming to writing actual music just to make Sehun confused. He feels like he is falling, or like his heart is falling somewhere.

“Sehun?..” Right, people. 

“Yeah, sorry, just a message. What do we do now?” He asks, suspiciously cheerful. Thankfully, nobody comments. 

When Sehun looks back at the message, while Yixing is goes on about all the things they should finish this week, he feels something like hope in the corner of his heart. 

 

KYUNGSOO

“Kyungsoo, I understand that… this. This is important for you, but — ”

Kyungsoo makes a deep inhale and slowly exhales. He is really not in the position, literally, to argue. Considering he is lying in the kitchen floor in his parent’s house, trying to fix the pipe which decided to break down exactly today. 

“Mother, can you please pass me the screwdriver again? I will need to take this shelf down.”

He can see his mother’s legs walking towards the table to pick up the instruments, “Kyungsoo, you are not listening to me.”

Kyungsoo suspects that his mother just broke down the goddamn pipe to make him come here all the way from work and finally talk to him after more than two months of silence. 

“No, mother, I am listening to you. But I thought you called me to prevent your kitchen from drowning, not to discuss my life choices.”

“Kyungsoo!” His mother actually sounds angry this time. “This is not funny. I am trying to talk to you like an actual adult.”

“No. You are trying to take advantage of me being too concentrated on getting this pipe right to tell me how unhappy you are about my life. And you still didn’t give me the screwdriver which you are holding.”

She inhales deeply, and passes him the instrument. “Why do you refuse to talk to me about this?”

“Mom. Seriously, there are so many reasons, and even if I wanted to list them all, I wouldn’t do that with my head inside the kitchen closet. If you want to talk we can talk, okay? But not like this.”

He can hear his mother leaving the kitchen and shutting the door beside her. Kyungsoo can feel this instinct to run after her and apologize, because she is probably crying and Kyungsoo hates it when she cries. But that’s not happening. 

When he is finally done, he showers in the bathroom and changes back into his working suit, since he actually doesn’t have anything to wear in his parent’s house. He walks down the staircase and sees that his mother already sits in the kitchen and the electric teapot is bubbling softly. 

“Will you have tea with me?” She asks casually, but Kyungsoo still hears this ‘okay let’s do this your way’ tone, which doesn’t promise him anything good. 

“Okay.”

They sit in silence, for a couple of moments before it gets too heavy to bear and his mother finally asks. 

“How is Byun-ssi?” 

“Baekhyun is fine, thank you.” His mother flinches at the name and Kyungsoo has to remind himself that they are both trying as hard as they can. 

“Good.” The silence settles in the room again. 

“Mum, if you want to talk about Chuseok, then just do. But I would be grateful if you could stop referring to my family life as ‘this’.”

“We are your family, Kyungsoo. You are supposed to spend Chuseok with us.” Well, here it goes.

Kyungsoo exhales again, happy that he hadn’t eaten because he would totally feel sick right now: “We talked about this last year.”

“Last year was. Different. One year is different.” His mother’s hand tightens on the cup, her expression upset and hurt.

“It’s not. If Baekhyun was a girl, we wouldn’t ever have this conversation. And I wouldn’t have to choose.” Kyungsoo is so sick of this talk he somehow wishes his mom would still ignore his existence, just to escape this and go home. But it can’t last forever. 

“But he is not a girl!” His mother raises her voice, high and almost snapping, but Kyungsoo doesn’t even blink. He feels like he is a huge turtle hiding his head and prepared for pretty much everything. Not like she will say anything he didn’t hear yet. Four years ago he wouldn’t be able to hold back, but now he can. But it still equally hurts. 

“I know. He is not a girl, and I have to choose between two families. You told me I should choose.” It’s not even that hard to speak about this like that, cold and factually. “I chose and I don’t even ask you to understand. But you will have to respect that.”

His mother’s eyes immediately fill up with tears, but at this point Kyungsoo feels like his ability for compassion is numb, so he just sits there in silence, looking at how she rubs at her eyes. 

“We accepted that he is — a part of your life. But he is not your family. We are your family. Your wife would be a part of it, your children. But he is just a man with whom you are sleeping.”

Kyungsoo clenches his fist together, because even his self-built calmness and numbness has borders, and his mother certainly knows how to cross them. He wants to argue, wants her to listen and understand, but that’s not going to happen. 

He sits there for sometime, heart beating widely, choosing the things he wants to say. Something sarcastic, or something to hurt his mother back. 

“Kyungsoo, listen — ”

“No.” Instead, he just does something Baekhyun actually taught him, “I love you very much, mom. But I am not going to listen to how you decide who can and cannot be my family.” Before she can say anything, he continues, “That’s it. Baekhyun is my family, and I can respect that you don’t want to see him. But you will have to respect that i spend Chuseok with him.”

“Kyungsoo, what I am supposed to tell your grandmother? Your uncle? Do you even understand how hard it is to lie about this? You don’t even try to keep this together.” She breathes in and out, trying to calm down. “We do everything we can and you still blame us for not accepting you.”

“Thank you. I appreciate that you try.” Well, at least they stopped calling Baekhyun a weird kink, and raised his status to ‘somebody he sleeps with’, but that’s not enough. “I have to go home, mom. I still have some work to finish today.”

His mother doesn’t say anything to him. Before he leaves the kitchen, he turns back to her, saying, “I love you, mom.”

As a kid he used to love Chuseok, but that feeling probably will never be back again. At least, not if every post Chuseok will be like this. He opens his phone just to find a bunch of messages from Baekhyun.

Baekhyunnie: ♥.♥ 

Baekhyunnie: how are you~

Baekhyunnie: Kyungsoo there’s so much work I can’t concentrate come home ~_~

Baekhyunnie: where did you go ㅎ_ㅎ

Kyungsoo: I will be home soon. Do you want Chinese food?

Baekhyunnie: ★.★

Kyungsoo smiles and feels like his stomach, lungs, heart and throat unclench a little. Only now he notices that his hair is still wet, and that he is actually freezing. He was supposed to lend hair drier from his mother, but at that point that didn’t seem an option, really. 

“Fuck it,” is his only legit thought as he raises his hand to catch a taxi. His day sucked enough as it is, without him catching a cold.

The taxi driver, luckily, doesn’t even bother talking to him. Sometimes Kyungsoo is really grateful for this aura of ‘non-talkative passive aggressive’ guy he has to strangers. He calls the Chinese place owner and orders their usual favourites, so he doesn’t have to wait in the shop, and then just stares at the window, thinking about Chuseok with Baekhyun which they spent together. Last year, Baekhyun tried to persuade Kyungsoo to go back to his parents, saying that he is fine by himself, but Kyungsoo wasn’t able (still isn’t) to imagine spending Chuseok in his parent’s house. Or spending it without Baekhyun. 

This year they didn’t even talk about this, because if there is something in their relationship he wants to be taken for granted, it’s this. 

Kyungsoo smiles to himself, remembering the way Baekhyun tried to make songpyeon for the first time, and how excited he was when Kyungsoo was hundred times better at it than him, making cute shapes out of the daw. 

He tried to call his parents that day, but they never picked up. Kyungsoo wasn’t surprised or angry, just sad. It is still hard for him to get how him being so happy could be so disturbing to them. Maybe, one day it will be fine. But not today. 

It starts raining, this tiny, cold, november rain, but he still asks the driver to stop by the Chinese takeaway, just a block away from their house. 

When he comes home he doesn’t even bother taking off his coat. Just steps out of his shoes, walking straight to the living room, feeling almost the urgent need to see Baekhyun’s face. 

Baekhyun is lying on the sofa, grinning at his phone. He wears his studio headphones, connected to the computer placed on the floor, abandoned, and doesn't even notice when Kyungsoo enters the room. 

The way he smiles to the screen of the phone makes Kyungsoo feel miserable for a moment, unable to hold back his jealousy after a long day. He doesn’t usually feel like that, but he really needs Baekhyun’s attention right now. 

Baekhyun raises his eyes above the screen and Kyungoss barely manages to blink when he almost teleports from the sofa to stand next to Kyungsoo and softly pry the bags out of his hands to put them on the floor. Kyungsoo didn’t bother to button up his coat when he was leaving the house, so Baekhyun just sneaks his hands under it, hugging him and pressing his lips to Kyungsoo's cheek. 

Kyungsoo melts into the touch slowly, wrapping his hands around Baekhyun, who still hadn’t change into his pajamas, wearing his ‘work clothes’ — sweater with tight jeans which flatter him much more than it would be appropriate for somebody who teaches piano to kids. The sweater is soft against Kyungsoo’s hands and he hides his forehead in the crook of Baekhyun’s neck, relaxing.

They stand like this for some time. Baekhyun’s hands move to Kyungsoo’s shoulders, tugging his coat away, because it is cold and wet from the unpleasant rain. Kyungsoo lets Baekhyun go, just so he can tug it off his arms and throw it on the nearby chair. As soon as Baekhyun is done, Kyungsoo pulls him back, but instead of a hug, he kisses him. It’s chaste and simple. Familiar. Calming. Baekhyun’s lips, and cheeks and nose are warm and pliant. Baekhyun’s hands move up to stroke the nape of Kyungsoo’s neck, his cheeks, beautiful fingers softly tracing his features. 

When they break apart, Baekhyun kisses him on the cheek again. 

“Are you okay?” Baekhyun’s index finger traces Kyungsoo’s ear, slightly ticklish.

Kyungsoo shakes his head, “It could have been worse, but. Not much.” 

Baekhyun hugs him again, holding him tight against his chest. Kyungsoo never was as tactile with people as Baekhyun, but somehow Baekhyun just knew how to hold him so he feels better. 

“I love you,” after the talk with his mother he needs to say this more than ever. Sometimes he feels so sorry for his parents he even doubts if his personal happiness is worth that, and if it was wrong wanting something for himself after all. What if family is about sacrifice? But Baekhyun is always there to remind him it isn’t.

“I love you too.”

They break apart after some time and Baekhyun picks up the bags and goes to the kitchen to get them chopsticks and put the food on the table. Kyungsoo hangs his coat and finds his phone in the pocket. 

Kyungsoo: Gyejang, thank you very much for today. Is it okay if I finish everything tomorrow?

Kyungsoo rarely asks for favors like this, and Joohyun knows that, but today he just can’t take any more pressure. 

Bae Joohyun: Okay. Is everything fine?

Kyungsoo: Being a plumber is just not my dream job.

Bae Joohyun: I hope it isn’t.

“Soo, where are you? Food is getting cold!” Baekhyun sing songs from the kitchen. 

Kyungsoo suddenly feels hungry, remembering he hadn’t eaten since noon. The Chinese takeaway never disappoints them, being both cheap and very tasty. The best place there is in their shabby district. 

They eat in silence, both stuck in their phones. Baekhyun smiles sweetly at the screen, but this jealous feeling never comes back to Kyungsoo. He is curious about what got him that happy, but he will ask later. Kyungsoo looks through his email, deleting the endless spam messages. At some point he finds himself opening them one by one to unsubscribe, food forgotten on the table. He still finishes what he started, suddenly determined to make his life better, at least in this one way.

When they finish eating and cleaning up they go back to the sofa. Baekhyun sits down and tugs at Kyungsoo’s hand, making him lie down on his knees, so Baekhyun could ruffle his hair. 

“How is eomoni doing?”

Kyungsoo always finds it fascinating, how Baekhyun was incapable of holding anything against people. Kyungsoo himself remembered things forever, and even if he wasn’t really angry, he would still have it in his brain constantly. 

Baekhyun is different. The way he calls Kyungsoo’s mother eomoni like they are a normal family, and like she didn’t try to deny his existence this whole time they’ve been together. Like she never told him all the things she did, the only time they ever met. 

Kyungsoo finds Baekhyun’s hand with his and interlaces their fingers together. 

“As usual. She is still not over Chuseok, that is. I guess she will get around about the time for the New Year.” Kyungsoo shrugs, which is not really a comfortable thing to do in his current position, “And then I spend New Year with you and it will be there all over again.”

At that Baekhyun squeezes his hand reassuringly, still stroking Kyungsoo’s short hair.

“What made you so happy today?” Now Kyungsoo finally feels capable of talking about other things. 

Baekhyun flushes a bit, taken aback by the sudden change of topic, “The gaming company. They listened to my tracks today, and they really liked it.”

Baekhyun showed Kyungsoo the pieces he had been making, and he is glad it really worked out this way. Baekhyun rambled about the game for the whole Sunday, excited about music for it and the plot. Composing for computer games was his long standing dream, but he never actually had time, or a project he liked. But now they both can afford to spend at least a bit of time for something they like. 

Kyungsoo can’t help but tease: “Did Sehun also like it?” and giggle when Baekhyun punches him in the shoulder, flushed.

“You can’t just tease me on that!” 

“Full disclosure, me teasing you about your crushes is the whole reason we have open relationship, sweetie. Now you know.”

Baekhyun pouts cutely, but then giggles and finally replies: 

“Yup, him too. I think he… likes me?” Baekhyun says the last part of the sentence, as if he is surprised. 

“Is it bad?”

Baekhyun chews on his lip, slowly, before he replies: “I mean. I think he actually likes me. Like, serious way. Commitment, all that.”

Kyungsoo massages Baekhyun’s hand softly, waiting until he continues.

“It’s not bad, it’s just. You know I don’t do serious relationship.”

“Oh really?” Kyungsoo can’t help but tease. 

“Stop it!” Baekhyun punches him again, but there is no bite to it. “I mean, with other people. My heart belongs to you, all that.”

“In that case you can just tell him now. Like, before it’s too late. Let him decide what’s best for him.”

“It’s kind of early,” Baekhyun considers to abuse his lower lip, worried, so Kyungsoo raises his hand and touche is with his thumb. 

“Early is better than late, in this case.” Kyungsoo never met Sehun before, so it is something he’d just want for himself — a chance to be straightforward and direct. He was never the one into flirting. 

 

two years back

After sex they cuddle under the blanket, and Kyungsoo thinks they should probably go to sleep, but he doesn’t feel like sleeping. Baekhyun checks something on his phone, smiling to some message, and it suddenly urges Kyungsoo to ask.

“Do you miss being able to be with other people?”

Baekhyun turns to him, brows furrowing as he puts down his phone. “What?”

“Before we met you always flirted and never really committed to anything. So I just wonder, if you miss it.”

Baekhyun smiles, softly, and shakes his hand, “You know that you are enough for me, Soo.”

Something in his expression makes Kyungsoo pry. He takes Baekhyun’s hand, interlacing their fingers and kisses him slowly, until Baekhyun is breathless. With their faces extremely close, lips almost touching, Kyungsoo asks again:

“I know. But that’s not what I am asking. I am asking you about flirting, and having sex with people you barely know. Do you miss that?”

Kyungsoo feels the way Baekhyun tenses. “Do you want me to?”

He keeps his voice calm and soothing. He has years of experience in this, and it rarely fails him. “Nope. It’s fine if you don’t. But it also is fine with me if you do.”

“Why?” Baekhyun breaks away, looking at Kyungsoo alarmed. “That wouldn’t be fine for me if you did.”

Kyungsoo smiles and traces Baekhyun’s side with his hand. Baekhyun shievers.

“Because I don’t flirt with people. And you know all the things like friends with benefits, and ‘no strings attached’ don’t work for me,” It is true. Kyungsoo thought of it for a really long time. He never actually wanted to have sex with someone unless it was Baekhyun. And it wasn’t about just him, but mostly about Kyungsoo who always craved for emotional connection more than for just sex.

“Soo, you know that I never. I never did anything like this since we…” Baekhyun’s expression is hurt and confused, but Kyungsoo still somehow doesn’t regret starting this talk. He knew by the way Baekhyun abruptly stopped himself in the middle of talking to others, and then felt guilty after, that this talk has to happen. Baekhyun can’t read Kyungsoo’s mind and just guess that for him he is fine just the way he is.

“Shhh, I know,” Kyungsoo soothes him, “And I am not asking you because I suspect you or anything, okay Baekhyunnie? I am asking you because I love you and I don’t mind.”

At that, Baekhyun finally relaxes a little, moving back to lie closer, their skin touching. Here we go.

“Why?” now he sounds genuinely curious much more than afraid. And Kyungsoo loves curious Baekhyun.

“I don’t know,” Kyungsoo shrugs. “You love me.”

Baekhyun huffs “Well that’s smug.”

“Nope, that’s true,” he might have came up with a better answer, but this will have to do.

They lie in silence for a minute. Then Baekhyun tenses again, just a bit.

“Actually. You know that Chanyeol doesn’t talk to me, right?”

Kyungsoo feels like he has to furrow his brows or something, but his face is too relaxed for that. “I thought you had a fight about the group, or?”

Baekhyun laughs shortly, but it’s sharp more than entertained. He tries to shake his head and barely succeeds. “No. We fought because he thinks I am cheating on you. And so does Seungwan.”

That finally makes Kyungsoo’s face move, more out of surprise, “Well, that’s new. And who are my imaginary rivals?”

He dislikes the guilty look on Baekhyun’s face enough to know that he will not be amused with the answer, “I flirt with people, Soo. And I am. Well. Touchy when I am drunk, and I joke questionable jokes, and.”

Kyungsoo takes Baekhyun’s face in his hand to maintain some eye contact. He hates it when Baekhyun feels guilty. When he fails to see how perfect he is.

“Baekhyun, I know,” Kyungsoo smiles at a memory he is about to share, “On the party where we met you were sitting on Jongdae’s knees and kissed Chanyeol, danced with a stripper and relentlessly flirted with almost everyone.”

Baekhyun giggles “Right. I did.”

“And you still do. Like, every time when you have a gig, or every time you notice a pretty barmen, or, like. Pretty anyone.”

“I am sorry,” these makes Kyungsoo roll his eyes. He suddenly feels an urge to let Baekhyun look at himself through his eyes, because that’d be so much easier than talking.

“I am okay with that. I like that about you, Baek,” Baek hyun looks shocked like it’s the first time Kyungsoo ever told him, “Sweetie, I didn’t redefine my views on my sexuality, or my entire family, or my entire life for someone like Chanyeol, you know. Even thinking about this is gross honestly.”

Baekhyun laughs and sobs at the same time, “Stop calling me that! You know I get emotional!”

Kyungsoo ignores the protest and just goes on: “Your way of interacting with people has always been okay with me. Just like my way is fine with you.”

That gets him silent for a second. Kyungsoo can see that thoughts are running around his brain in chaos, and it’s the cutest thing there is. He finally speaks: “It’s funny, that like. I never even asked you if you are okay with that. I just. Assumed, that it’s normal not to be.”

Kyungsoo huffs. “Well I’ve also assumed I’d never hear the word ‘normal’ in this bed.” After they finish giggling, he asks again: “So do you? Miss that.”

“Do you really want me to talk to you about this?” 

Kyungsoo nods, and then adds, “Honestly, I’d say that it’s my way of. I don’t know, being possessive? I am okay with you flirting, and. Touching, and kissing even, other people. But only if I know what’s happening.” After a second, he adds, “Though you don’t have to share things you don’t want to share.”

“I do. It’s stupid, but I really do. But. What about Chanyeol, or Seungwan? Or Jongdae, or — ”

“If you are worried about the pressure, we can. Not do that,” Kyungsoo stops for a moment to get a strand of Baekhyun’s hair behind his ear, “I don’t think they get a say, though. If they want to talk to me about this, they can. But I don’t want us to be. Limited to something just because of what other people might think or say. Even if they are our friends.”

Baekhyun’s eyes are watery when he smiles at him: “There’s no way I deserve you.”

For that Kyungsoo pinches him because out of all the things he says that’s the one he hates most. 

“You do. Me, and a whole lot more.”

 

Chapter Text

SEHUN

On Friday, there is no work at all, and every single person in the room knows that, but they are still supposed to make it look like they are extremely busy. Screw capitalism. Screw big companies. By midday Sehun is so done watching youtube videos on his phone, he starts writing the code for their game using computer’s notepad and since Jongin agreed to join them for the last three months of the sprint, he spends some time explaining to him the details of the project and what are the main features he and Yerim use.

However, talking for too long is also not possible because it would be suspicious. At 4 in the evening he finishes writing the part he wanted to work on in the evening, so he is all of a sudden free and lonely with Jongin actually planning to work on the game in the office, Seulgi being too busy drawing, and Yerim working the afternoon shift, which leaves him with no friends and absolutely nothing to do. 

Almost without friends, since he still has Byun Baekhyun, who bought him drinks last week. And he is supposed to return the favour anyway, so it probably wouldn't be too weird if he invited him somewhere. 

Sehun mulls this thought over and over, looking at the phone, which is offensively silent. Baekhyun hasn’t messaged him all day, and that feels weird, since Sehun actually got used to the familiarity of his messages and their endless chats about games and youtubers. It was amazing how Baekhyun knew all this shit that only a true nerd can know. Like, there were moments when even Jongin lost him in his gaming references, but Baekhyun just had to know everything. How can one person be good at so many things?

It takes Sehun about half an hour to finally message Baekhyun. 

Sehun : Hi, hyung! How is your day?

There is now answer for awhile, and Sehun already curses himself for being too much, when he gets a reply.

Byun Baekhyun : ~_~ zZz 

Sehun looks at the time. It is 5 in the evening. Who the fuck is asleep at five in the evening? He almost types back, when he gets a second message, which is.

Byun Baekhyun

Sehun almost chokes on air, eyes glued to Baekhyun’s cute features half hidden under the blanket. Who sends in-bed selfies to coworkers? Or even friends. Unless. Unless Baekhyun is gay, interested in him, and he just casually flirts, while Sehun is just too dumb to get a hint. 

The last of the options seems attractive, and also pretty easy to believe, but Sehun doesn’t. Maybe Baekhyun has a bunch of other reasons to send him this. Maybe he mistook the chat. 

Byun Baekhyun : I spent half a night writing a stupid article ㅠㅠ But I also got inspired and wrote another track ^.~ 

Sehun : Hyung, you are amazing. 

Sehun : I am sorry you didn’t sleep well.

Byun Baekhyun : *^.^* Its ok!!! I m used to irregular sleeping schedule 

Sehun : What is the track for?

Byun Baekhyun : I won’t tell you~ But it’s not a main theme. 

Sehun kind of hoped it was, because the main theme was, obviously, the most important and also long overdue. But Baekhyun already wrote three tracks in a span of a week, which is way more than they actually could hope for.

Sehun : It’s fine, hyung. I believe you can do that : )

Byun Baekhyun : ♡.♡

This is not how colleagues communicate, right?

“Sehun, just in case you were wondering, you look at your phone and smile like an idiot again,” Jongin quietly comments.

“It’s just — ” Sehun pauses for a second, choosing the right word, “Baekhyun-hyung. He finished another track for the game.”

Jongin’s look is more than telling, as he goes back to his computer, annoyed. Sehun looks through their messages with Baekhyun and thinks, somewhat detached, that Jongin has every reason to be angry, since their communication with Baekhyun is really not about working together. 

Sehun : Are you free today, hyung? You mentioned the new game centre. We could go together?

Sehun : And have dinner.

Sehun : If you want.

He sends the last one before he can even think of it. But then Baekhyun sees the message right away, and it’s too late to delete it. Sehun turns his head away from Jongin to make sure his friend doesn’t see his expression. 

Byun Baekhyun’s reply is immediate: Yes~~~~ I want to go ^o^

Sehun’s heart hammers in his chest, cheeks feeling hot.

Sehun : Let’s meet next to it at eight.

After thinking for another second he adds:

Sehun : : )

 

***

When Sehun gets to the place, Baekhyun is already there. He looks at his phone and chews on his lower lip. He seems serious, and the black coat he is wearing somehow reminds Sehun that Baekhyun is actually his hyung. It is sometimes too easy to forget, especially when they communicate through text.

“Um. Hi, hyung.” Sehun greets him when he approaches, and Baekhyun startles, surprised, and raises his eyes from his phone.

“Oh, hi!” With a slight delay Baekhyun grins and hides the phone into his pocket. 

“I am sorry, I made you wait.”

“What?” He picks up the phone again, looking at the time, “No, you’re early. I am just super early because I had to meet the newspaper editor I work for. Their office is around.”

They start walking to the gaming centre. 

“Do you work in the newspaper?” Sehun remembers that Baekhyun teaches music to kids, and then composes, and then he is also in a band, but newspaper?

“Yeah, in a couple. I mean, I am just freelancing because my Korean is good and it helps me to write. Well, decently enough to get money for this.”

They talk a bit about the newspaper work and why Baekhyun doesn’t particularly enjoy it. It turns out that it’s easier to count the things Baekhyun doesn’t do rather than the ones he does — a bit of graphic design, a bit of writing, interviews, some music, some composing.

“Hyung, where did you get a degree to learn all of this?” 

Baekhyun squirms, as if his tooth was aching and Sehun immediately regrets his question, “Sorry if it’s too personal.”

“Nah, it’s fine.” Baekhyun stares at him for a second, vary and doubting something, but then smiles softly, and Sehun feels his heart falling somewhere down his stomach. Again. “I dropped out of the university during my second year. I was a Korean literature major and wanted to be a school teacher.”

Sehun even stops for a moment to stare at him, “Wow. I honestly didn’t see that coming. School teacher?”

“I am good with kids, surprisingly.” Baekhyun shrugs, smiling a bit sheepishly, “I thought, like, being a teacher is a good way of helping kids. Also my school teachers mostly sucked, so I thought that if I become one, I could change the world or something.”

By that point they finally reach the mall and the next couple of hours they spend trying to beat each other in all sorts of games, but nobody really manages to break the tie. Sehun can’t stop thinking of what he just learned, but Baekhyun doesn’t seem too eager to pick it up, so Sehun actually makes an effort to let it go, at least while they are playing. Also because everytime he gets distracted the score rapidly grows on Baekhyun’s side.

“Shit, you are really good,” Baekhyun says at some point after Sehun beats him at Mortal Kombat. “I think I am done with gaming for ages.”

“Ages, hyung?” Sehun snickers as Baekhyun lightly punches him in the arm.

“Maybe for a whole day or so. But Sehunnie, I am old, so every day is important.”

Sehun shivers at the name, his heart beating fast. Now, when games don’t take his full attention, he is suddenly too aware of everything. How tight and flattering Baekhyun’s jeans are. How he smiles and how he bites his lips, and how he threads his hand through his hair. He has beautiful hands and that mole on his thumb Sehun noticed when playing. The thought of this mole isn’t going to leave his head for a long time. He almost feels sorry for himself.

They decide to eat something hot, but Sehun abstains from drinking, all too aware of what happened the last time. And he still owes Jongin dinner. 

When they settle and order food they mostly discuss games, but then Sehun suddenly remembers of their earlier conversation. It seems like a decent time to pick it up.

“Hyung, can I ask you a personal question?” Sehun mentally gives himself an award for being the smoothest (no) person in the world, looking at how Baekhyun narrows his eyes just a bit, still smiling. 

“Well that depends on the question. But you can try.”

“Why did you drop out?” Sehun is afraid that the topic will not be comfortable for Baekhyun, cause Sehun saw how tense hyung got last time, but now Baekhyun just grins and replies casually. 

“I am just a rebel at heart, so I happen to hate institutions.” Sehun hoped for a more detailed reply, but at that exact moment they get their food so hе doesn’t pry and concentrates on all the amazing things there are to eat on their table. 

Baekhyun rules over the grill, constantly adding new things, cutting and taking them of the fire. Sehun sucks at this so he doesn’t interfere. Another thing is that he loves to see Baekhyun’s hands flying above the grill, but he definitely won’t admit that.

“You’re good at this, hyung. You must be great at cooking.”

Baekhyun laughs from surprise: “Well I can cook cup ramen pretty well. And grilling also is something I don’t suck at. But cooking? Nope,” he actually looks amused, “I am literally the worst. Even in the army I was not allowed near the stove, so when we got a kitchen shift, I was forced to endlessly wash rice and peel vegetables.”

Sehun can’t really imagine Baekhyun in the army, much less in the active forces, so he just stops chewing and stares at Baekhyun with wide eyes. 

Baekhyun laughs. “This food is too good for you to drop it so concentrate, Sehunnie.” He adds some more vegetables on the grill, “besides, I am thirty so I obviously served.”

That answers none of Sehun’s questions so he just silently stares at Baekhyun while he chews a piece of pork. At some point, when he is mostly done with cooking, Baekhyun starts talking. Probably Sehun shouldn’t have stared at him for so long.

“I dropped out at the end of my second year. My university sucked. I went there because I thought, hey, I can be different, I can change the system, all that.” He stops talking for a minute, switching off the grill. “I couldn’t. It’s not a question of bad teachers, it’s. The system itself? It sucks. I mean, nobody teaches you how to help kids, they mostly teach you how to hate kids, and be one of those people I hated. Also our faculty… It was very homophobic. Like,” he pauses again, “we had this whole talk about how you need to look for gay kids and ‘out’ them to their parents, because they ‘break Korean traditions’ and all that shit. And, well, everyone was pretty clear that you can’t be a teacher unless you are straight, which I am not.”

Sehun stops eating, and drinking and, probably, breathing. He spent the whole week trying to understand if Baekhyun was gay or not, and here he is, saying it so easily, like it doesn’t cost him any effort to out himself to a person he barely knows. Also the person he works with.

Baekhyun ignores his surprise and continues, “So yeah, I dropped out and joined the army. My family supported me, so it wasn’t actually all that bad,” they sit in silence for a moment, eating food while Sehun just is trying to process one thing out of the whole story. Baekhyun is gay. 

“Hey?” When Sehun raises his eyes, Baekhyun smiles sheepishly, rubbing the back of his neck, “sorry, I didn’t mean to tell sad stories.” 

Sehun waves his hands so hard he knocks of the glass of water, which runs on the grill, causing steam to rise on the table and gathering the whole restaurant around them. It takes time to apologize to everyone and explain they are fine so people stop staring. When they do Baekhyun starts giggling.

“Fuck, sorry,” he tries to keep serious face, but bursts out laughing again and Sehun joins him.

When they stop, Sehun finally articulates what he needed to say, “Hyung, it’s fine. Thank you for answering. I am just. Surprised?”

“With what part? Me being gay?” Baekhyun frowns, “Sorry, I assumed it was pretty clear from. Well, the whole thing with the gay bar.”

Sehun blushes so hard he feels he can die. 

“Yeah? Kind of? I don’t know hyung I am really bad with this. Like, really bad.”

He can hear Baekhyun huff softly: “It’s fine. I shouldn’t have had assumed either, honestly. I mean, Jongdae also was there and he is straight so. Wasn’t that obvious probably.”

They again fall silent to finish their food (and probably to give Sehun some time to become less flustered), and then Baekhyun just looks at him, and asks, “You are also gay, right?” 

Sehun, who was sipping his water, chokes on it and starts coughing. Oh Sehun, you are fucked. So fucked. 

“I am sorry!” Baekhyun actually looks alarmed, “I didn’t want to pry or anything I am just. Sorry, I am used to being pretty blunt with people about those things.”

“I noticed, hyung.” Sehun tries to bring back at least an illusion of his composure. There is no point in lying, or anything. But it’s been so long since he actually talked about this to anyone.

Sehun rubs his face, probably red in tone with Baekhyun’s sweater.

“It’s okay if you don’t want to talk about that, really.” Baekhyun doesn’t sound offended, just genuinely worried, and Sehun suddenly giggles, almost hysterically. 

“Yeah, I am. Gay, I mean.” 

“Are you okay?” Baekhyun still sounds worried, from what Sehun gets that he doesn’t really behave adequately.

“Yeah, I am fine. Sorry, I’m. I don’t usually talk about this since. I am not really out. Or rather, like. Not out at all.”

Baekhyun frowns, but it doesn’t seem judgmental, just sad. There is a kind of sympathy in his eyes. He probably can get at least some of it. And while no one sees he brushes Sehun’s hand with his fingers lightly, leaving a tingling feeling. 

After they finish their drinks and Sehun pays for them both (Baekhyun argues, but he insists) and they leave the place. It’s about 11 now, already late. Sehun takes a moment to look at his phone to see a couple of missed messages. Mostly from Yixing, who was already looking through the code he submitted today.

Sehun just scrolls through. The comments to his code are the last thing he wants to know now.

Jongin : I have a question

Jongin : how the fuck do you work with Yixing

Jongin : he wrote me a whole article about the code and my eyes ache

Jongin : Also, wtf is happening between him and Seulgi? 

Then, later.

Jongin : are you all right?

Sehun replies that he’s fine and that he is arcade with hyung. He thinks it wouldn’t be too suspicious? Going to the arcade with a hyung you are friends with is okay, right?

Baekhyun also types something on his phone, smiling at it and his expression is so soft and so beautiful in the evening lights, that Sehun skips a breath. Again. He feels so tired from all the overwhelming feelings.

Suddenly, a bunch of stupid questions appear in his head. Was this… a date? Does that mean they can… kiss?

Luhan always called Sehun weird because he never had an idea on how to approach people. He was always too awkward, could never take any hints. He knew it was annoying to other people. Also, in his crushes he was so obvious it could have killed any romance straight away. 

What they have now is romantic? Or just confusing? Or is he the only one confused?

“Actually, what line of underground do you need?” 

“Third.” They live next to the subway station, which is a great deal for the money they pay.

Baekhyun grins, “I need to take the fourth. Should we walk to Chungmuro?”

Sehun nods. It’s not that close, maybe about 20 minutes walking or more. It’s cold and unpleasant and he will probably be riding the last train, but he doesn’t want to go home just yet. The air between them is so light while they walk, that it has Sehun smiling to himself. It has been a while since he was with someone who knew about him. Even longer since it was a pleasant experience. 

They are walking through the Namsan Park, when Sehun notices that Baekhyun is staring at him.

“Is something wrong, hyung?” Sehun can feel himself frowning. He doesn’t see Baekhyun’s face well since it’s pretty dark.

“Not wrong, just,” Baekhyun’s voice sounds strange, almost like he is feeling nervous, but that doesn’t go well with Baekhyun’s image in his head. Can Baekhyun even be nervous? “Look, I love being subtle and flirty, and everything, but I hate things to go complicated, so. Occasionally I become straightforward as fuck and you might have to deal with it.”

There is a bit of silence, and Sehun manages to say: “Okay.” Then, collecting his thoughts, “That also might be the best way since I am. Well, bad at hints.”

Baekhyun laughs, suddenly: “Yeah I guess I have a thing for straightforward people.”

They walk in silence for some time, Baekhyun probably trying to voice out his thoughts, while Sehun tries to breath deeper to calm down his stupid hammering heart.

“Look, I. I really like you.” All Sehun’s efforts go to waste. “You’re amazing, and funny, and smart, and everything. Also, since we are clear that I am gay. Your ass looks so good.”

Sehun giggle nervously, blood rushing to his ears. Did Baekhyun just… confess?

“But. There is a thing. I don’t do relationships.” Sehun freezes, finally stopping on his way so Baekhyun has to turn around to face him. “I have, well, reasons. So I flirt, I joke around, I date and, well, I do have sex with people, but I don’t do relationships. And commitment.”

“Why are you actually telling me this, hyung?” It’s the first question that comes to Sehun’s mind so he just goes for it.

“Because, well. I like you?” Baekhyun offers and does this thing again with biting his lip. It definitely doesn’t make Sehun’s life easier. “And I am pretty sure you like me. And you just don’t strike me as the type of person who’d be into friends with benefits or some kind of thing like that. I might be wrong in both statements.”

‘Friends with benefits’ hurts much more than it is supposed to. His heart aches as he looks at Baekhyun, and suddenly feels vulnerable. Frozen. He definitely should say no to this, because he still very much remembers how it ended last time. But it’s way too hard to say no to a person you like this much.

When they had almost the same talk with Tao, just like this Tao would lean in and kiss him. And Sehun would hope that at some point everything changes and Tao will realise that they belong together. He never did.

But Baekhyun doesn’t even step closer. “I just thought that it’s better if I tell you now, so you actually can decide.”

“And what are my options?” Sehun voice shakes and he is surprised he even can say something at all. But that’s a pleasant surprise.

Baekhyun thinks for a moment, “Well I’d name the two things I’d be fine with,” he raises his fist and straightens his index finger. His hands are extremely beautiful and Sehun hates himself for not being able to look away, “First is, we continue this where it goes, and it will involve dates, or kisses, or sex, depending on what you want because I’d be interested in everything.”

It’s weird for Sehun that Baekhyun can lay out things so simple in front of him, repeatedly showing his interest and comforting Sehun, yet breaking his heart.

Baekhyun continues. “But we won’t be boyfriends, and there won’t be any relationships. No commitment, no romance, and. Things like love are not involved because, I don’t. I don’t work this way, okay? Just trust me on that.”

Sehun nods. “And the other?” He can feel November cold creeping under his coat and scarf.

Baekhyun smiles and straightens his middle finger before he continues, “We stop here. Like, I stop flirting with you, and we stop wondering where this goes and just stay friends. And colleagues, obviously. I mean, the same thing we had today, just no hints and context, and. Although I’d have to warn you that my flirty and not flirty behaviours are not very different to people other than myself, that is.” After a bit of silence, Baekhyun rubs his neck and adds: “You, obviously, can take your time to think or offer any other options.”

“Okay.” He doesn’t want to offend Baekhyun by being silent but doesn’t know what to say. “Can we just. Keep going? I need. Time to process and it’s cold.”

Baekhyun nods and they continue walking. Sehun thinks that he is stupidly lucky to always get in no commitment shit. But then, this time it’s different because instead of leaning in to kiss him and having sex with him right after saying ‘no commitment’ Baekhyun actually gave him space and put himself through a really awkward talk just because he noticed that Sehun is just not the type of person who’d do that. And Sehun really isn’t.

“Why did you. I mean, why did you tell me this?”

Baekhyun looks at him, smiling softly. “I really hate complicated things so I believe that everyone should know what they are getting into. Also, I really don’t want you to get hurt, Sehunnie.”

They walk a little longer, past the gates leading out of the park. Sehun suddenly feels being able to breathe again, normally, his mind clear.

“Thank you for talking to me. Really. It means a lot,” he pauses for a second, “I am really not. Made for those things. I mean. I am a sap and everything so.” Sehun feels flustered again, but continues, “I’d be glad if we just stayed friends with like, no benefits.”

He can’t believe he is saying this, because he really likes Baekhyun. He does, but it will probably not work out for him. Baekhyun is right just because they will both end up hurt. And miserable. Especially Sehun.

“I hope you don’t count food and arcades into benefits,” Baekhyun says that with a straight face, but then they both giggle. 

“Nope.”

“Then that’s a deal.” Baekhyun beams at him and Sehun’s heart melts a little bit, panic disappearing. “Also, Sehunnie, there is nothing bad or wrong with wanting commitment. Or being a ‘sap’ which is just like, to feel feelings. So. Don’t be embarrassed about that, okay?”

Sehun’s heart feels warm.

 

KYUNGSOO

“I mean, I am not against gay people, I am not homophobe or anything. It’s just, why do they have to take so much space? You know, marriage equality and all this. They can just live their lives quietly.”

It is the end of their project, the one they were working on for the last three months. So getting drunk with your colleagues is something you are supposed to do. Everyone at the table nods enthusiastically to the drunk speech of one of the managers, and Kyungsoo just tries to memorise his face — he doesn't really know this department that well since they rarely work together. But at least it will help him to keep unwanted people out of his life. And Kyungsoo is really good at that. 

He would rather prefer going with Junmyeon and Minseok on their monthly karaoke night today, but instead he is here listening to the shit his drunk colleagues say. He never really liked these gatherings. They are good for people who are ambitious — to learn new things, watch other people, know who your competitors are. Joohyun is shining at the other end of the table, skilfully charming, discussing something with the other department's leader. She looks like she is in her element and Kyungsoo really appreciates and admires that. But he never was ambitious himself. Just hardworking. 

He looks at his whiskey glass, half empty, and while his colleagues brag about being 'tolerant' and argue about gay marriage, he fidgets with the bracelet on his hand and just retires to his safe house — Baekhyun. Kyungsoo can’t message him — will be teased for using the phone instead of being friendly, but he can just stay silent. At least for some time. He has a certain reputation which helps him, that he is reserved, scary and aggressive work geek. A weird guy at the command of a wicked bitch, how they call Joohyun behind her back, just because she is moving upwards faster than they are.

He has plenty of things he can think about. Most of them, with Baekhyun or sometimes Chanyeol, but there is the one which always helps.

 

four years back

Kyungsoo remembers, how they were sitting in their room, late at night. Much like today, Kyungsoo had a shitty day — his father got into hospital, and Kyungsoo just had to learn that via Chanyeol, because his mother was still stubbornly ignoring his existence. He had this new job, in a big company and was still new with how things worked there, and how you are supposed to behave. It was another two years before he’d meet Johyun and join her team, and another ten months before he’d meet Joonmyun and Minseok.

He came home after trying to visit his dad, and his heart ached a lot because he never managed to get through his mother. He and Baekhyun were sitting next to each other, sharing the headphones (he didn't have good studio ones back then, so they had to use what was there) and listening to the part Baekhyun has written for some shitty drama. The piece was unpolished, but Kyungsoo felt so much while listening to it, so much love and sadness that he was almost scared his heart would burst from all the unnamed things in it. 

“Is it that bad?” Baekhyun was biting his lip, looking open and unsure.

“What?” Kyungsoo didn’t even know what to reply as he was trying to deal with all the mess happening in his chest. 

“The piece. You look like you are ready to kill someone,” Baekhyun suggested sheepishly, “It’s okay if you don’t...”

Kyungsoo looked at him, probably with that exact death stare everyone is so afraid of, and then rubbed the bridge of his nose. He really felt like he should have taken off the contacts because his eyes were sore, but at some point, as the music stopped playing, and he saw Baekhyun nervously tapping his fingers and waiting for the reply it became too hard to filter what he had to say.

“Baekhyun, I love you. And I want to marry you.” With no music in the earphones, the room went surprisingly quiet, only distant traffic sounds behind their window.

“What.” Baekhyun mouth fell open, “what did you just. Soo?”

Kyungsoo’s bravery all disappeared and he felt fucked, and flustered but there wasn’t a way for him to step back now.

“Look, I am. Sorry, I am super sudden and. I can’t actually propose you and.” Kyungsoo made a deep inhale trying to calm down, “but it’s true that you’re my only family and I’m fucking scared that something will happen to you and I won’t even. Be able to be next to you, or.”

Baekhyun was looking at him with wide eyes, still trying to process at least something he said. “Soo, but. But we can’t. I mean it’s. It’s Korea, and.”

“Baek, that’s why I am. I am not proposing you. But. Would you be my healthcare proxy doesn’t really sound that romantic.” Baekhyun fingers in his hand were cold and weak, and it was hard to read him. “But. I’d want you to be that. Because if something happens, I don’t want my parents next to me, I want you,” the room fell silent again and Kyungsoo really regretted starting this talk, but couldn’t really stop, because he wasn't ever able to stop talking when Baekhyun looked at him like that. “I mean, we can actually do that. It will require tons of papers and it will be weird and we’ll get stared at in every institution but. It's something. And…”

Baekhyun’s gentle finger touched Kyungsoo’s mouth, making him to shut up.

“Soo. I lost you and my brain at like, the word ‘marry’. Did you just?”

Kyungsoo finally looked at Baekhyun again, his wide eyes, the way he bit his lip, and something just caused him to slide down from the bed on his knees, still holding Baekhyun’s hand. The earphone felt out of Baekhyun's ear and Kyungsoo took a moment to take out his just to put them away. Then he inhaled, and.

“Byun Baekhyun. If I could marry you, I would do that. I can’t. But I want to be with you forever, and I want us to be together whatever happens to us, and I want to share my life with you, and I love you. And it’s a lot of commitment, but. Will you be my healthcare proxy?”

Baekhyun’s giggle was on the side of hysterical. 

“Soo, you are so. So fucking lame.” He covered his mouth with his hand, and Kyungsoo noticed that his eyes were wet. “But I am more lame because I’ll fucking cry right now. Shit.”

Kyungsoo moved up, to sit next to him again, and pulled Baekhyun into a hug, stroking his back, his neck, cradling his fingers through the dyed hair. Felt Baekhyun's warm breath on his neck, familiar and nice.

“I want rings,” a moment of silence, “though we can’t have them, can we? Everyone will ask all the shitty questions about your wife at work and.”

Kyungsoo just shrugged “We could have bracelets or something. I mean, It’s not really the same but close enough?”

Kyungsoo felt Baekhyun nodding. They stayed like that some more, Baekhyun wasn't letting him go, holding him tight and still hiding his face. 

“I am lame but, is this a yes?” Kyungsoo was still stroking Baekhyun's hair, trying to calm him down, but his own heart was beating madly. 

“Yeah. Yes. Let’s do this. There is no way now to deny that we are both lame.”

 

present

“See who is smiling there. Thinking about a girl?” Kyungsoo lost track of time, but it was worth it — at least now he feels like he can survive the rest of it and even some more shitty jokes. 

“Nope, hyung.” He smiles shyly to the guy, “I was thinking, if we could just redo this analysis of the Lotto’s sales for the last quarter? I still think that not all numbers are matching well...”

The whole table stares at him and then booo-s loudly. Kyungsoo learned his way of talking about the most boring work projects whenever he gets asked questions. That earned him his reputation, which almost always serves in his favour because he really does hate attention. Especially this kind of it.

After everyone finds a better topic to discuss, he feels Minseok nudging him by the shoulder. 

“Are you okay?” his hyung looks worried, so Kyungsoo smiles reassuringly. He doesn’t mind some attention though. Minseok is nice.

“Yeah, why?”

Minseok shrugs, “You hate personal questions. And loud companies. And our colleagues.”

Kyungsoo laughs, “Hyung, it’s not that bad. But I am fine, thank you. Just tired.”

“Yeah, the week was shit. Ahhhh, I wish I could take a vacation.”

"Can't you?" Now when the project is over there really is some place to take a day off at least. Which is again, not really a vacation but close enough. 

Minseok stares at him, eyes wide, "Now? Are you kidding?" By Kyungsoo's telling silence Minseok probably gets that he is dead serious. He sighs, "you really have no idea about anything, do you?”

Kyungsoo shakes his head.

“Do you see those guys next to Joohyun?" Minseok doesn’t wait for Kyungsoo’s reply, “These are top managers of marketing and partnership departments,” Minseok nods towards the table where Joohyun still passionately discusses something with the upstanding colleagues, “Both of them, and also one of the Public Relation guys retire this year. And they also plan to open a new department,” Minseok’s eyes shine, but Kyungsoo can't see any reason for him to get so excited, “Do you imagine the change? There haven’t been this much shifts here for years.”

Kyungsoo sips at his whiskey. He again missed all the intrigues, but he doesn't really care that much. Minseok and Joonmyeon together with Joohyun though probably do. That was probably why everyone was working so much extra time lately.

"It's a lot of opportunities," Minseok's voice is quiet, "and I can't believe you didn't notice that it became even more competitive. Like, Bae-gyejang is super smooth, but you still can notice that her nerves give out sometimes. Her position is very unstable now, but the chances are good. I root for her, honestly."

Kyungsoo nods, looking back at Joohyun. She isn't very popular among other departments for being too young and also a woman but her own team for the most part adores her for being straightforward, and absolutely unbreakable but also kind and understanding. Kyungsoo has always found her ambitions somewhat frightening. Not just them but also the way Joohyun has this ability to shift the way she behaves just the way she needs to any moment. He honestly also roots for her.

Minseok keeps talking about the new department of business analytics, targeted for international market for awhile and that helps Kyungsoo to survive the rest of the evening, before it’s finally time where he can just go home without offending his coworkers.

“We really should go to karaoke next week. It’s been awhile,” he smiles to Minseok who lets him get the first taxi. 

"Yeah, let's do this."

It gets him almost an hour to get home with Seoul’s traffic. He spends it staring out of the window again, his thoughts constantly coming back to the memory from earlier. A lot of tiny details. How they told Baekhyun's grandmother and she said she couldn't believe how lame they are. Then, Chanyeol sobbing and hugging them with their enormously huge hands. The way it took them almost a year to get the bracelets because they were broke back then and the headphones were more important.

By the time he gets home, he is almost sober, but the only thing he wants to do is still collapsing into their bed. He finds Baekhyun’s snickers by the entrance. It’s November and he still doesn’t wear proper shoes.

When Kyungsoo enters the bedroom, he finds the light on, while Baekhyun is snuggling under their blanket, fully clothed, causing Kyungsoo to wince. He hates when Baekhyun does that, really. It’s not even that hard to change and the bed is clean (he just changed the sheets yesterday).

He gets the bunny monster out of the wardrobe and nudges Baekhyun by the shoulder. 

“Wha? Soo?” Baekhyun snuggles even deeper in their bed but Kyungsoo is relentless, unbuckling his belt and tugging off his sweater. The wool gets tangled in the bracelet fastener, and Kyungsoo spends another minute untangling it carefully. When he is finally done, he nudges Baekhyun again to get him dressed. “You’re so cruel.” Baekhyun mumbles.

“I am practical. Get into the bunny thing or you’ll freeze to death.”

Some more nudging and annoying Baekhyun, Kyungsoo finally accomplishes his mission.

“I love you,” Baekhyun’s mumbling is hardly coherent, but Kyungsoo gets it and kisses him on the forehead, gently. 

“Love you too.”

 

***

When Kyungsoo wakes up he is uncharacteristically alone in bed. He picks up his phone and sees that it’s already 10 a.m. so he just groans frustrated at the thought about all the important things he could have been doing. But then again, He doesn’t have any work these weekends, so he can just never leave bed at all.

Kyungsoo : where did you go

Baekhyunnie : Soo, I am literally next door you could have walked

Kyungsoo : I never want to move again

Baekhyunnie : I disagree with this. I am used to the food other than cup ramen

Kyungsoo : I spoiled you

Kyungsoo : do we have cup ramen?

Baekhyunnie : when were we ever out of it. I ll make you one~

Kyungsoo : please

Baekhyunnie : ♡.♡

Kyungsoo forces himself out of the bed just to walk to the bathroom, brush his teeth and look at the pile of undone laundry. He will have to do it later today. They were supposed to get their personal washing machine, but this paper really fucked up their finances so they had to delay buying it till New Year. And he still has to get out to wash the clothes. 

Baekhyun is already sitting at the table, typing something on his computer. The cup ramen is waiting for Kyungsoo on the opposite side, but he still takes his time to come and hug Baekhyun from the back, kissing him on the neck. Baekhyun is wearing his headphones again, which probably means he is busy. 

“Hi.” Baekhyun’s hair is wet like he has washed it earlier. Seems like he has been up for quite some time. “I need to finish with something okay?”

“Yeah, sure.” 

Kyungsoo finishes eating fast, and goes to the fridge trying to find something else to eat, not because he is hungry, but rather has nothing to do now, when the project is finally over. 

He ends up making two cups of hot chocolate, one of which he places next to Baekhyun. It feels a bit uncomfortable to not be doing work. He spends two minutes looking up at the ceiling, another five scrolling through his Line. Looks up the financial news, but naturally nothing happens on Saturday mornings. 

When he starts feeling desperate, Baekhyun finally takes off the headphones. 

“Good morning.” He stretches like a cat and smiles brightly at Kyungsoo. “You look bored to death. Trying to survive the entire day without work?”

Kyungsoo groans. “Baek, I had a life before this project. I remember having friends, and hobbies, and things to do but now it’s just work”. 

“It’s mostly an illusion. Well, mostly. I remember you loved cooking. Especially jjamppong.”

Kyungsoo looks at him flatly, unsurprised by Baekhyun’s insinuations. “Nope. That was you loving to eat jjamppong.”

“It’s a tiny lie for a greater good,” Baekhyun pouts and Kyungsoo finally huffs. 

“Okay, jjamppong it is. Do you have anywhere to be today?”

Baekhyun looks so happy that Kyungsoo heart feels warm. Baekhyun’s grandmother was actually as bad at cooking as Baekhyun is, so Kyungsoo was the one cooking home food all the time even when she was around, which saved Baekhyun from his unhealthy eating behaviour at some point. 

Baekhyun nods. “Yeah, a couple of kids to teach at three and six. But I should be home after. I still have the music to work on. There is really not that much time, and still haven’t thought of anything.” He falls silent for a minute, wrinkling his nose cutely. “I really don’t know. The main track should be just perfect, and everything that comes to mind is really not even close. Too much pressure.”

“You could talk to Sehun? Or the other people, whoever is the author. What’s his name by the way? I never asked.”

“Well, one is Zhang Yixing obviously, but he is more like a manager or something and one of the two artists. The other one is actually she. Her name is Kang Seulgi,” Baekhyun looks like he suddenly got enlightened, “She’s actually the main artist and the author of the plot, and I haven’t even met her.”

Kyungsoo raises his eyebrows slightly, “Why?”

“I don’t know.” Baekhyun shrugs, “Yixing hyung offered me to join the project, and he is mostly the one talking to me. And, well, Sehun, but that’s a different story.” Baekhyun expression changes into something unsure confused for a second, but then he stays on the topic. “Anyway, it is a really good idea. I should probably meet Kang-ssi and talk the whole thing over with her.”

Baekhyun gets to his phone, probably typing to someone about it, but still keeps talking, because of being talented at multitasking. “Do you remember Chanyeol celebrates his birthday next week? Saturday, at the club. So you will have to socialize with people.”

“I wouldn’t be able to forget even if I wanted,” Kyungsoo sighs, “you know how it is with Chan and birthday preparations. His mother called me thrice to ask me what to get him.”

Baekhyun breaks away from his phone, smiling, “I am not even sure if it is gross or adorable, to be completely true.”

Kyungsoo shrugs noncommittally, “I am glad he is loved. He deserves endless love, honestly, especially considering his equally endless love failures.”

Baekhyun rolls his eyes, still typing something on the phone, and they fall silent again, as the plan for the day finally starts to make sense in Kyungsoo’s head. Laundry, and then they have to clean their room and then there’s still cooking. A lot of things to do. He should also probably wash the windows, since today is still warm. 

Kyungsoo walks to the kitchen to wash the dishes, murmuring a song quietly. He checks their fridge and makes a list of what they need for jjamppong. While he examines upper shelves for spices, he feels Baekhyun’s warm hands sneaking around him from behind. Kyungsoo doesn’t stop his search, roaming through all the stuff they have, and only turns to Baekhyun when he finds what he was looking for. 

Baekhyun’s expression is calm. He doesn’t smile, or tease, just stands there, looking at Kyungsoo softly. Kyungsoo cups his cheek, traces his ear, cradles his fingers through his hair, slowly, letting Baekhyun to lean in to the touch. 

Kyungsoo also leans forward just an inch, their lips barely touching to kiss the mole above Baekhyun’s lip, and then his cheek, and nose, and finally moving to his mouth, but the kiss stays simple, just a way of touching more than a sexual thing. Kyungsoo’s hand moves to the nape of Baekhyun’s neck, squeezing it lightly, massaging, until Baekhyun wimpers from pleasure, melting completely as he stands. 

“I have to go to work in an hour, you know this, right” Baekhyun mumbles lazily.

Kyungsoo huffs, “an hour is a lot. I promise I’ll kick you out in time, don’t worry.”

“I don’t” Baekhyun’s voice is soft and quiet as they stand, glued to each other. Baekhyun’s skin smells like shower gel and shaving cream and Kyungsoo loves it so much he just can’t stop himself from kissing up Baekhyun’s chin.

Kyungsoo still finds it fascinating. When they met, he wasn’t really into touching people. He would always try to stay away, hated being hugged (unless it was by Chanyeol but that’s something you just accept as a part of the best friend duty). He even didn’t do relationships because close contact scared him. 

But here he is. At first it was overwhelming — an idea of touching a person, holding his hand, even kissing him. But every time Baekhyun smiled, or frowned, or talked (which is basically all the time) Kyungsoo just craved for the contact. 

He spent a lot of time mulling over his affection. For him it wasn’t that new to like a guy, rather than, to like anyone at all. Agreeing to go to a club with Chanyeol, lacking sleep because he spent a night out with insomniac Baekhyun. And he didn’t even regret it, because sleepy and tired, Baekhyun was pliant and touchy, and Kyungsoo allowed that, telling himself that Baekhyun needs it (but Kyungsoo definitely needed it more). Stroking his fingers, touching his hair, massaging his neck. Falling asleep in the same bed once just to wake up next to Baekhyun. 

Baekhyun never pushed him. Of course, he flirted, and touched him, but he never made any steps further and never showed him that he is waiting for some steps from Kyungsoo. He was just content with whatever Kyungsoo was ready to give. As Kyungsoo found out later that was also pretty unnatural for Baekhyun, who is usually the one to push and indulge others.

It was exactly something Kyungsoo have said when he confessed. “You bring out a different side of me. And I really like that side. And I really like you.”

Baekhyun tugs at his hair lightly, pulling Kyungsoo out from his dream world, “what are you thinking about?”

“You,” Kyungsoo answers simply, but extremely cheesy, looking at how Baekhyun’s expression changes into something fond and flustered. Other times, he would say something smug, but Saturday morning he just doesn’t, too soft to come up with anything. 

Later, then it’s just another half an hour before Baekhyun leaves, they sort out the laundry in the bathroom. Not that Kyungsoo needs help with this grand task, but Baekhyun just likes to stick around, typing something on the phone again.

The sight of it makes Kyungsoo remember Sehun, and ask, “How was your date yesterday?”

Baekhyun looks at him, a bit alarmed at the word ‘date’, but that’s not new either. Like sometimes Baekhyun forgets how Kyungsoo is okay with everything, and needs little reminders that what they’re doing is fine. Kyungsoo is ready to offer that, his face calm as Baekhyun searches it for any signs of discomfort or judgment, or whatever they both always try to be so ready for. Baekhyun shakes his head, biting his lip again, and relaxes. 

“It was nice. The new arcade is really good and it even has a couple of really old games even you might like considering your obsession with Mario,” Kyungsoo sighs — Baekhyun will not let this go. 

Baekhyun talks some more about games, as Kyungsoo finishes packing the laundry and they switch locations to the bedroom to let Baekhyun change and get ready to work.

“By the way, I talked to Sehun,” Kyungsoo blinks on the sudden change of topic, “I mean. About things. Because he came out to me and, god, I felt really bad.”

Kyungsoo frowns, “what do you mean?”

Baekhyun threads his hand through his hair, frustrated. With the belt still undone, as he stops in the middle of fasting it. 

“I mean.” Baekhyun abuses his lower lip for some time, but Kyungsoo lets him have a moment, “I don’t know, the first day we met he looked reserved, and sexy, and, I don’t know, like cold? I mean, hot but, you know. Cold hearted or something. Just as if he was a person who doesn’t get attached and that’s just like what I need, so I started all this but then he turned out to be a soft, awkward and geeky guy, who is not out to anyone and now I feel really bad cause like. I am really not what he needs.”

Kyungsoo humms, confused: “So did you tell that to him?”

“Yeah.” Baekhyun finally finishes doing his belt. 

“And what happened?” Kyungsoo tries not to pry generally but sometimes fails because when Baekhyun gets like this he might take ages to finish. Not that it’s obligatory for Baekhyun to share, but Kyungsoo feels like it is important. 

Baekhyun shrugs, “It went. Fine I guess. He really likes me and all, but. He said it’s better to be friends because he wants commitment.” Baekhyun sighs, and Kyungsoo can see that he is hurt. He walks towards him, pulling Baekhyun into a hug. 

“I might be wrong, but it’s not the first time that happens, but that one seems to get under your skin.” Kyungsoo suggests softly, and Baekhyun breaks away from the hug, shaking his head.

“Well I guess. Sehun is really nice and I kinda really feel sorry for how alone he is with all that. And it’s like. I really want him not to be, but it’s up to him to decide such things. I mean, I guess I am more invested than usual but, I still want to be friends with him, so that’s fine,” Kyungsoo doesn’t buy this mumbling for a second, but doesn’t keep prying.

He kisses Baekhyun on the cheek instead, “It’s good you talked to him then.”

“Yeah,” Baekhyun still sounds more sad than Kyungsoo would like him to be, but he just makes sure that Baekhyun leaves for work on time, giving him space to figure it out. They can deal with this later, and Kyungsoo also needs to get his day going, since laundry won’t wash itself. 

 

SEULGI

Seulgi stands on the street and hates the entire world. It is windy, cold air breaking through all the layers of clothes. She knows she looks like a slob now, and Yixing totally would be angry if he knew how she is dressed to meet the ‘amazing composer he hired’. 

She isn’t very fond of herself meeting Byun Baekhyun either. Yixing was the one made for this — being around people, being a business partner, talking. Looking annoyingly good in a suit. Sometimes Seulgi even though that Yixing’s skills at basic make up is much better than her own.

And here she is — hair in a bun, old jeans and an oversized sweater she got from her mom. She didn’t even bother to wear contacts because she overslept. And yet she had to go, both because Byun-ssi was extremely insistant, and because Yixing didn’t want her to go, like she was only good to be locked away for drawing and creating new ideas. Which she was. But that’s a whole different thing.

“Hello,” the voice comes from behind and she turns immediately, alarmed, “Sorry if I scared you.” The stranger smiles to her and that sharp grin just makes Seulgi’s internals stumble. She tugs at her hair and then pulls it behind her ear, hesitantly. 

“Hello?” her voice comes out much weaker than she wanted it to be. The man’s grin immediately softens into something smaller and kinder. 

“I am sorry, I should have introduced myself first. I am Byun Baekhyun. And I am quite sure you are Kang Seulgi,” he bows to her politely and she does the same, awkwardly remembering about it the last moment.

“Are you okay with some kind of coffee shop?” Byun Baekhyun shievers, “It’s really freezing today.”

“Yeah, I guess.” the silence becomes weird, “I mean, do you know anything around here?”

Baekhyun nods enthusiastically: “Yeah, there is a great place just like 5 minutes from here. My friend works there. Their coffee is really good.”

Seulgi honestly doesn’t care about coffee, but she nods and follows Baekhyun anyway.

“So, you are. Our composer, right?” It’s a really stupid way to start a conversation, but Seulgi doesn’t care, still angry from their evening conversation with Yixing and her own frustration. 

“I am many things, but yeah a composer for your game is one of them.” Baekhyun emphasises ‘your’ like he means Seulgi’s personal game she makes. Suddenly, instead of bothering her, it somehow makes her feel a bit better. 

“Thank you for the parts you already wrote, Byun-ssi” bowing while walking is very uncomfortable, but she still attempts it. Baekhyun just winces. 

“I am sorry but would that be okay if we talked less formal?” He pouts a bit, “Because I am really bad with the whole being cool and polite thing, so. Baekhyun-oppa or something?”

Seulgi just stares at him with wide eyes, as Baekhyun sheepishly rubs his neck: “Yeah, sorry. That was intimidating. We can stick to ‘ssi’ if you’d like.”

Suddenly even to herself, Seulgi shrugs, “No. Oppa is fine. I am also not that great in speaking formal anyway.”

Baekhyun beams at her again, but before she can say something else, they finally reach the coffee shop. Next ten minutes they spend picking a place to sit and looking through the menu. The coffee shop turns out to be nice, with a great variety of hot drinks and desserts. It’s also pretty private and not very crowded, which ensures that you actually can have a decent conversation. 

While Baekhyun leaves to make an order, Seulgi checks her Line. 

Yixing : Are you awake?

Yixing : Do you remember about the meeting?

Yixing : How is it going?

Seulgi feels the wave of annoyance raising in her again, but then Baekhyun comes back and she turns the phone screen down. 

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah, sorry. Just...” she thinks that she shouldn’t say that Yixing annoys her, so she just goes with: “unpleasant work messages.”

Baekhyun nods and doesn’t pry, for which Seulgi is extremely grateful. She wouldn’t know how to answer questions right now. She is just always afraid to slip, both in front of her co-creators and just friends (usually the same people) about how she feels. It’s even harder because Seulgi hardly knows anyone who is not friends with Yixing. Well, there was Jongin, but even he is now working with them. 

Not that Seulgi would talk to him about this anyway, but now that she knows that she also shouldn’t — it’s like a string around her neck is becoming tighter. 

“So um,” she decides to break the silence, “why did you want to meet me?”

Baekhyun looks at her, amused: “Do you find that weird?”

She shrugs and doesn’t really reply, suddenly lost in Baekhyun’s sharp eyes. He watches her for a second, and then his expression softens, almost as if he understands that the way he looks is too intense for strangers:

“Honestly, I didn’t mean to also. But yesterday my partner told me I should definitely do that and... I thought, isn’t it strange? That I haven’t spoken to you, I mean.”

Seulgi doesn’t really think that this is strange, because she doesn’t really speak to anyone about their game. It is all done by Yixing and she became familiar with relying on him. And with being distant from the process. 

“I mean, you wrote this. This is your thoughts, and your heart, and your story.” Baekhyun seems really into explaining his reasons, “I mean, I read the description and all, but if my knowledge of Yixing is worth anything, he wrote them all himself.”

Seulgi chuckles at that sudden note.

“I am right, ain’t I? Gosh, Yixing has always been obsessed with work.” Baekhyun rolls his eyes cutely, and Seulgi can’t hold back a smile. “And he wrote it good, and he is clearly in love with what you all are doing, but ...” Baekhyun ruffles his hair and bites his lip, trying to pick the right words: “you know, music is important. Music is with the player throughout the game, and it tells a story. My music, if I am the one to write this, should tell your story.”

Seulgi feels flustered. She suddenly realises that it’s been a while since she was someone more than just an artist working on a game. An artist who is under a lot of pressure and also can’t get her life right. She was even ready to give up the whole arch, the most important one because of the stupid business reasons, like the game would make any sense without it. It’s so nice to feel that Baekhyun thinks more of her than she lately does of herself. 

“What do you want to know?” Seulgi tugs on one of the strands sticking out of the bun while Baekhyun sips on his coffee. 

Baekhyun shrugs, “I don’t know, like, what is it about? I know the plot, obviously. And all the characters, and every part, because Yixing’s outlines are super clear. It’s just, that doesn’t really describe what you want this story to tell.”

It’s been awhile since Seulgi told anyone about this. She knew that many of it is obvious from the game, at least she knew that Yerim and Sehun got it and maybe Yixing did. 

Yixing definitely did. It’s just, they wouldn’t talk about this anymore, all the unsaid mess being in the middle and keeping them further and further apart. 

They relied on understanding each other without words for so long Seulgi feels she forgot how to speak.

And then now she will have to figure that out.

“I am not really skilled at explaining. I am this, you know, weird and quite artist and I draw but I am not really at ease with. Reviews, I guess.” she leans back on the chair, her hand still tugging on her hair, “so everything I say will probably sound dumb.”

Baekhyun smiles again, soft but surprised. “I am really fine with whatever you are going to say. I find what you wrote amazing already, and I would totally play, so I am quite excited.”

Seulgi inhales nervously, and the last tug on her hair is almost painful, so she just puts her hand down and starts: “Well, it’s a homecoming story. It’s. You’ve probably noticed that it’s, well. Pretty trivial? I guess Yixing would say ‘classy’ here, but really,” she huffs. That might be the reason Yixing doesn’t let her anywhere close to their investors. “Anyway, it starts next to a dragon’s den, and there’s just a couple lines of the backstory...” She takes a deep breath:

“You are a beautiful princess. One day, a huge dragon steals you from the castle and takes you far away. He shall be defeated by a beautiful prince. You are to marry the prince. He will become a righteous king of your Kingdom. Just before you arrive to the dragon’s den he remembers that it’s his mother’s 100th birthday so he has to fly to the other side of the world. He decides to leave you because you are heavy. You are in the unknown field, next to the unknown town, alone. Completely alone.”

Baekhyun smiles as she recites the lines without looking anywhere, just because she knows them too well.

“Do you know what’s the part I like the most about these lines?”

Baekhyun shakes his head. “Honestly, I find the part with the dragon and his mother's birthday the best, but I’d be happy to hear other options.”

Seulgi huffs and shakes her head lightly.

“It tells us more about the dragon and about the prince, than it does about the princess. So everyone has to walk into the story without being introduced to her. What kind of person she is? Is she kind, or is she cruel? Is she happy or sad? The things she wants?”

Baekhyun nods. “Yeah. I mean, it does tell us that she is supposed to marry the prince, but does she even like the prince?”

Seulgi shrugs. “Well, that’s up to you to decide because every decision you make matters. I don’t know if Yixing ever mentions that, because as a composer that doesn’t really influence you that much, but that’s the point. You walk through the game, and you talk to characters, and you always have a choice — are you rude or kind, are you asking them or stealing from them, do you help them or do you run away.”

Seulgi takes a breath and a sip from her coffee because she feels her throat getting sore. Baekhyun doesn’t ask any question, just waits for her to continue. His silence is inviting. He’s so easy to speak to, and she usually wouldn’t say that about many people.

“The princess isn’t really a character before you start playing. If you ask her, what kind of person she is, she wouldn’t know, because she only knows what she is supposed to be. So there is no character introduction, really.”

“Well,” Baekhyun interrupts, “not up to the forest chapter.”

Seulgi nods. “Not until there. And the forest chapter depends completely on your game choices. It is not even a chapter, more of a revision. It tells you about your choices, and what the princess discovered about herself on the way. Telling you a tale you wrote yourself.”

“Seems incredibly complex to make but so cool, seriously.” Baekhyun seems excited, and even though he is clearly one excitable person, Seulgi’s heart still warms up to him.

“Yeah. The princess discovers who she is through the story of her traveling home. It’s the answer, basically. To your question.” Now when Seulgi is finished she feels too open and uncomfortable, almost naked. It seems that everything is too complex, too simple, not enough and too much, but Baekhyun doesn’t look bothered. 

“Would you be okay if I ask a personal one?” Instead, he looks curious. A ‘personal question’ warning makes Seulgi go all tense. There’s no way he’d be… interested in her, right?

“S-sure,” it doesn’t seem polite to refuse anyway.

“What are you supposed to be?”

Seulgi blinks a couple of times trying to get what he means by this.

“Sorry,” Baekhyun gives out another charming smile, “I mean. That whole thing, the idea of the game, is yours right?” Seulgi nods quickly. She gets where this is going, but the question is way too personal already, “What is that you think you’re supposed to be, that you thought of it?”

Seulgi huffs uncomfortably. She tries not to get into any of defensive postures but it’s really hard to hold herself from crossing her arms: “Don’t we all? I mean, we are all taught what we need to be instead of being taught to explore who we are.” Great job redirecting the question, Seul. So subtle, so smooth.

Baekhyun doesn’t seem to be bothered: “Well, I guess so, but really, I didn’t have much of that so I don’t think I truly get it.”

“But like. You know, didn’t your parents have like. Expectations of you?”

Baekhyun narrows his eyes just an inch, before he says: “Well, I didn’t have parents around growing up. And my granny was a whole different human being from what a parent usually is, so no. I am a bit lacking experience here.” He shrugs easily like it’s not a big deal, “But if it’s too personal you can totally skip that.”

It’s funny how these words are exactly what make Seulgi start speaking. Also Baekhyun’s confession about his parents not being around. “I don’t know. Like. When I went to school I was always supposed to only get good marks. To be great at singing, dancing, drawing, languages, but never too into anything. To want marriage and kids. To get into a good uni and finish it brilliantly but never be too interested in a career,” she takes a breath and tries to stop, but Baekhyun seems so genuinely interested that she just can’t, “I don’t know. To be a good artist, to date Y… a guy. To always agree with what looks like right to others, because they know better.” She makes another deep breath. Gosh, Seulgi, you honestly can’t be let around people, “Sorry. That was a lot of personal shit.”

For a guy who just listened for a whole bunch of nonsense Baekhyun seems to be surprisingly content with the information, “No, I’m actually glad you shared. It’s relatable. Like, really relatable. Does the castle part also depend on what you see in a forest?”

Seulgi nods far too enthusiastic before she could stop herself, “Castle part is actually just a finale with not that big choice varieties, you know. In the whole chapter you have just one choice, right when you enter.”

“Wow. That I actually didn’t know. What is it?”

Seulgi smile is much more foxy when she intends it to be, “It’s a secret. You’ll have to play.”

Baekhyun laughs a little bit taken aback with her sudden bravery, “Okay, cool. So it’s actually all about the forest part?”

“If we ever, like, finish it.” Seulgi’s worries still slip from her tongue before she can stop them. She is not supposed to talk about the project’s problems and that might scare Baekhyun away, but something about him makes her unable to hold back. Or maybe it just shows how much she is unsure of what to do. 

Baekhyun frowns. “What do you mean?”

Seulgi shrugs uncomfortably. “It is. I don’t know, it’s just. We are out of time and we don’t really have enough people to finish everything. And then the forest is the only thing you can take away without harming the main plot.”

Baekhyun eyes are wide: “You naturally just told me that is the main plot.” He shakes his head, messing up his hair and raising his hand. “Sorry, I shouldn’t have pried. You probably have reasons. Is it a coding thing or? I mean, if you need a coder, I know people.”

Seulgi shakes her head. “Nope. That’s not it. It’s just.” She tugs on her hair again, “We are not finished with drawing. And honestly, I don’t see us being finished. It’s just me and Yixing-oppa, and I do nothing but drawing already, and oppa, who has an actual job which eats most of his time I think he quit sleeping about six months ago.”

Baekhyun looks even more amused. “I never thought it was a problem to hire an artist. I mean, its an indie project, and you actually pay, and your plot is just amazing. I thought you’d have a line of artist asking to work with you.”

Seulgi chuckles. “Well you are only half wrong. But half of that line wants twice as much as we can pay. Other half’s drawing skills suck, and then the couple of people left either want to change the plot, or think this game is too feminist.” Seulgi shrugs, remembering the argument they had with one of the artists they almost hired when he found out that the princess can fight the prince. 

Baekhyun taps on the table, and then fishes the phone out of his pocket. “I have someone in mind, actually.”

Seulgi tenses in her place. Baekhyun will probably suggest one of his friends, and then is she supposed to make a decision now? She can’t really do that without Yixing. And then what does she actually say to Baekhyun if she doesn’t like it?

When Baekhyun finishes scrolling through his phone, he turns the screen to Seulgi, encouraging her to take it. “You can scroll through the folder. I know it’s hard to tell from the phone, but anyway it’s just a suggestion. You are free to show it to all the team and just ask me for a link or anything.”

It’s a pastel watercolour painting, edited on the computer. A woman, wearing a hanbok, lying down. Nothing too bright, just plum and lilac colours of the hanbok’s skirt fading into the gray background. It is a lot of texture — just when you think you can scroll to the next picture, you notice the pieces of paper the woman is holding, the surreal pattern on top of the hanbok, how unnaturally the fabric is folded, and when you look into the folds, you see a whole different picture. A story inside a story. 

Seulgi spends another moment looking into the detail and then scrolls to the right. A boy, holding a toy of a whale in his hand. Another soft and pastel watercolour, with a gray background. At first you don’t notice anything, but then you understand that background is also a whale, you just need to stop focusing on the front line. 

Next pictures are all different. Flowers, another women in hanbok, oil, watercolour, some graphic. The author likes to play — each part can turn something else, not what it seemed before. A picture, inside a picture, inside a picture. A puzzle out of a drawing. Seulgi can’t even say how much time she spends looking into the pictures. Baekhyun’s phone shows a notification that his battery is low and that finally drives Seulgi out of her thoughts. She smiles sheepishly, returning the phone.

“Sorry, I got. Distracted.”

Baekhyun smiles and doesn’t seem bothered. He actually seems excited. “I know, right?! It is great.” He looks at the notification and takes out a power bank to connect it to his phone. 

“I always forget to charge them.” She suddenly shares that very important detail about herself, but Baekhyun just beams at her.

“Me too! I can deal with phone charging, but remembering that this thing needs that too?” His smile turns soft on the edges. “I have someone who remembers this for me. Anyway, what do you think?”

“Honestly? This person is amazing.” She feels at a loss of words, but it’s not a problem with Baekhyun, who can talk for both people. 

“Yup. Absolutely. And I kinda think that the style would be actually not too far from what you do in the game.”

Seulgi bites her lip, thinking about it. “You are kind of right, I guess. But, like, why do you think he will be interested? His skill is impressive.”

Baekhyun shrugs, beaming again, like he knows for sure that Seulgi just feels head over heels about the style and colours. “Well, I know Sooyoung pretty well. I think she’d love to work on something that special. Besides, she loves indie games.”

It’s a pleasant surprise for Seulgi that the artist isn’t a guy. It feels right, now when their equal team was broken by Jongin it is time for them to get another girl. 

She didn’t want to make a decision before talking to Yixing, but now there is no real reason to wait because they need an artist and more than that — this particular artist, she is sure of that. Seulgi smiles back at Baekhyun. “Oppa, can I get her contacts please?”

Chapter Text

SEHUN

“OH FUCK,” is the first thing Sehun hears when he exits the bathroom on Sunday morning. 

He spent half an hour in bed deciding if he should get from under his warm and nice blanket, but then the hunger became too much to deal with. Their flat isn’t even that cold, or unpleasant, but being curled in bed is just so much better. 

“Are you okay?” He heads to the kitchen to find out what happened to Jongin, already smelling something burnt. Sure enough, when he comes in he sees Jongin by the stove, frying food. 

“Yeah,” he says, distressed. “But this chicken rice isn’t. I really shouldn’t have let work distract me.”

Sehun picks up chopsticks from the table and steals some of the food from the pan. It is obviously burned, but not really that bad. 

“Jongin, our stomachs survived university,” he says, pausing to chew properly at Jongin’s disapproving nose crunch. “They can digest anything.”

Jongin shrugs exasperatedly, but lets Sehun put some food on his plate. Not like they have better breakfast options anyway.

The food doesn’t really taste like anything, so Sehun just adds more salt and kimchi still left from Jongin’s visit to eemo. With that, the food finally becomes edible. Sometimes he misses his mom’s cooking, but the two hours of commuting to work every morning just aren’t worth nice food. Though that thought itself is a betrayal of his ideals. But one has to choose between food and sleep sometimes. 

Baekhyunnie: Good morning~ How did you sleep?

When Sehun sees the name on the screen, he almost chokes on rice. He is only stopped by the thought that Jongin will probably ask unwanted questions, so he has to swallow painfully while maintaining a stony face. 

When did it change to Baekhyunnie ?

Sehun vaguely remembers that at some point at the arcade Sehun lost a game to Baekhyun and the latter demanded his phone to ‘look something up’. Sehun didn't mind since nothing interesting really happens on his phone, and he also did not — expect that.

Now that they have talked and Sehun knows for sure that Baekhyun was — is interested in him? This action certainly seems like flirting, but it doesn’t really matter now.

Jongin snorts, and Sehun looks up at him in alarm. 

“Sehun, just if you ever doubted, you are really easy to read. And this is pretty entertaining,” Jongin says amusedly, and his untroubled expression irks Sehun.

“Jongin, honestly, get a life!” It sounds a bit too harsh, but at moments like this Sehun feels flustered and vulnerable. Whatever this is, it really shouldn’t concern Jongin for his own sake. 

Jongin looks even more annoyed than before, pouting slightly, and Sehun almost feels like the banter about his secretiveness will start again, but it never does — Jongin just raises his hands in defense. 

“Sorry, didn’t mean to pry.” He still sounds offended, and speaks through his teeth, but offended is much better than aggressive, or disappointed, so Sehun just lets it go. His screen lights up again.

Baekhyunnie: Do you not like me anymore ТТ

Sehun: Sorry, I was having breakfast. I am fine, thank you, hyung. And you?

Baekhyun sends him endless messages about his work, but the look Jongin spares to the phone which lights up every twenty seconds makes Sehun put it screen down. His palms are sweating. This is far from the most uncomfortable moment with Jongin, but it doesn’t make Sehun like it more. 

“So...” Sehun pokes around his plate with chopsticks, “How was your first day at work yesterday?” 

He tries to make it sound like a peace offering, and there is this expression on Jongin’s face that says, ‘I’m not buying it but okay’ . Sometimes he wonders how many things Jongin can see in him. But then, usually he just forgets it because it makes him feel like a shit of a friend and brother.

“I don’t know.” Jongin leans back to the chair with a groan symbolizing how exhausted he is. “Really, how do you work with Yixing hyung? He is not even a coder, yet I feel like he is a better coder than I am.”

It’s Sehun’s turn to snort, “Get used to it. Yixing hyung is better than you or me at every single thing. I think he was born perfect.”

“I know, right!!” Jongin says, sitting up straight, his hands moving frustratedly. “I mean, is he a god, or what? How does he manage?”

Sehun shrugs. “I believe he operates on cosmic energy so he doesn’t need sleep, or something. What did he tell you?”

“He told me that I have a really long way to becoming a programmer and I should stop sleeping and having a life because I suck,” Jongin pouts even more obviously. Sehun wouldn’t tell him but he’s really cute. He thinks he would totally fall for him, if it didn’t seem like a horribly gross idea. Also what the fuck is he thinking about.

Sehun shakes his terrifying thoughts away and raises an eyebrow, returning back to the conversation. “Doesn’t sound like him.”

“Well,” Jongin grumbles, “you can't make me read the whole damn essay he wrote me out loud. But anyway the essence of it is that I suck. ”

Sehun finishes his food and stands up to add one more dirty plate to the pile of dirty plates. “Well, when he first saw my code he asked Seulgi if they could hire an actual programmer,” he reminisces

“Wow,” there’s a bit of silence behind Sehun’s back, Jongin even stops eating. “That’s… Harsh?” 

Sehun turns around to see Jongin blink at him, still surprised, and just shrugs. He thought he could talk about this as a funny memory, but turns out it’s still unpleasant to revisit that moment.

“It’s something you get used to. He doesn’t agree on anything but perfection generally, so if you are not a genius, you suck.”

Jongin sighs heavily and bangs his head on the table, moving the plate away first.

“Why did you get me into this again?” he demands. “To make me suffer, or what?” 

“You wanted an extra job in programming anyway, so here it is! I just pushed you in the right direction.” Jongin leans back again, and Sehun can see that he’s not buying a single thing Sehun just said, but well. It’s like almost 20% true. Jongin would have probably agreed anyway, since it’s also for Seulgi, and all three of them know each other since childhood.

When Sehun snatches his phone from the table while Jongin is looking up something on his computer, he finds about twenty messages from Baekhyun, mostly describing his day. The last one, though—

Baekhyunnie: what do you play when your brain is dead from work

Sehun: solitaire

Baekhyunnie: is that all you are going to reply me to my award winning day description

Sehun: Sorry, my friend is here whining about his day, he hates when I’m on the phone.

It is not exactly true, but saying ‘ I still like you and I can’t let my best friend know ’ doesn’t really feel appropriate. 

As Sehun moves to make himself some coffee, their coffee machine informs him that it’s out of ingredients. Sehun opens one of the lower drawers, trying to carefully search in there while preferably keeping everything else intact and in its place.

The screen lights up again when he has successfully retracted a new pack of coffee without making a disaster. He stands up and opens the message.

Baekhyunnie: by the way have you ever thought that spades sign looks like anal plug

Baekhyunnie: ♠ 

At that, Sehun  drops the coffee on the floor, making Jongin look up. He is probably some shade of crimson right now. He and Jongin make awkward eye contact, and Sehun doesn’t dare look away.

Jongin stares at him for what he thinks is the longest second in Sehun’s life. “You look red like my mom’s kimchi, Sehun.”

Sehun covers his face with a hand and turns away. “Just don’t.”



KYUNGSOO

Joonmyun drops himself on Kyungsoo’s desk at a quarter past seven, groaning tiredly.

“I am done with this garbage forever. Those were the last numbers I ever looked at.” Kyungsoo doesn’t even spare him a glance, still staring at his computer screen.

“Yeah, sure. Your forever ends tomorrow.” Minseok’s reply is both exasperated and ironic, and Joonmyun pouts sadly. Kyungsoo is still trying to pretend he is very concentrated but those two aren’t helping.

“Can we get food? I haven’t even had lunch, so I am sad and hungry.” Kyungsoo pretends to ignore him, but Joonmyun nudges him by the shoulder repeatedly, completely unbothered by the death stare. “Kyungsoo, you are as lonely as I am, have mercy. I am sick of 7-Eleven food.”

Kyungsoo raises an eyebrow, “I actually cook almost every day, so I don’t get why you’re asking me. Ask Minseok. He is on the same 7-Eleven diet.”

“Minseok hyung has a beautiful wife who cooks him amazing food every day. Right, hyung?”

Kyungsoo chuckles at that but still looks towards Minseok curiously. Minseok just rolls his eyes. 

“Well, have you ever seen me coming to work with beautifully cooked homemade food?” The silence is already far too telling, but Minseok replies anyway, “Exactly. Boah is good at many things, mostly related to chemistry. And chemistry does not include cooking.”

They sit in silence for a while longer, as Kyungsoo finishes his work and switches off the computer. “I think we could go to the mall next to the station. I am too lazy to cook today anyway,” he says, mulling the other options in his head.

Baekhyun is also not gonna be home up till late at night so he will probably grab something on his way home, but that information is not something he needs to share. It does make him agree to go out easier, but that is also not something his coworkers should know ever. 

Minseok nods and switches off his computer too. “Yeah. Good idea. I could get some takeaway. Boah is stuck in the university again.”

They say goodbye to their colleagues as they leave. Kyungsoo stops on their way out to put on a scarf and gloves, and Joonmyun teases him for being too sensitive to cold.

As soon as they exit the building, Joonmyun turns to Minseok, way too lively for someone who was whining so much just a few minutes ago: “So what are the latest news?”

Minseok sighs, as if it was exactly the question he expected to hear. He shrugs lightheartedly,  “Why would I know?” just to make Joonmyun roll his eyes.

 “Come on, hyung. You always know everything.”

A tiny pleased smile creeps up on Minseok’s face. “I really don’t know much though. I’m pretty sure Bae-gyejang will take the lead of the new department. Bosses up there are really happy with the last project, so she is their favourite.”

“And what about her position?” Joonmyun looks worried, and Kyungsoo is just really happy he’s not taking part in all this.

Minseok just can’t leave that, his voice teasing, “Worried, aren’t we?” as Joonmyun grumbles.

“Really, hyung? You married to get your job, and you are making fun of me? Of course I’m worried.”

Kyungsoo can see the mall at the end of the street and really hopes they won’t be discussing promotions all evening long. This topic isn’t among his favorites, because it is just stupid that only the married men get promoted. It isn’t surprising, just annoying and mostly sad. At the end of the day, it’s not just a running joke that Minseok had to marry Boah, even though they didn’t plan to, originally.

Kyungsoo knows that at some point Joonmyun was considering marriage too, but that included finding someone to marry first. Which is, well, just a tiny bit harder, especially considering that Joonmyun’s longest and most serious relationships are with his job. And well, maybe with karaoke. God forbid.

Joonmyun and Minseok continue rambling about work, so Kyungsoo gives himself a moment to check his phone to find a couple of messages from Baekhyun.

Baekhyunnie: did I ever tell you I hate interview transcriptions -_-

Baekhyunnie: just in case I didn’t I REALLY hate it >.<

Baekhyunnie: This guy’s rambling is so hard to understand -.-

Baekhyunnie: kyungsoo why don’t you answer do you hate me ~~~~>_<~~~~ 

Kyungsoo: you are ridiculous, you know that?

Kyungsoo: I love you. Had a lot of work, sorry. Don’t you have a student today?

Baekhyunnie: the kid got sick so they cancelled and I'm stuck here alone to be bored to death with this shit

Kyungsoo: Don’t die, and I will bring you food. Okay?

Baekhyunnie: ★.★

 

At that they finally reach the venue and spend some time arguing about what they want, just to choose the same Chinese place they always go to. Maybe one day they will feel more adventurous, but new discoveries do not seem to be their goal after a 10-hour shifts.

Kyungsoo gets a call when they finish ordering. The screen says ‘Mother’ so he excuses himself and grabs his coat to go outside. The topics might include things he wouldn’t want his friends to hear, especially if she is still mad. 

“Hello, Mom.” The wind creeps in under his coat immediately, and Kyungsoo connects his earphones so he can hide his hands in the pockets.

“Hi, Kyungsoo. How are you?” His mother’s voice is casual, but that doesn’t usually mean the topic will be pleasant. Kyungsoo hates the way he tenses, both from the wind and from talking to her. He’s never regretted telling her about Baekhyun, can’t actually imagine lying to his parents like he does to colleagues. But he still wishes things could be different.

“I am fine, thank you. And you? Is everything okay at home?”

“Can I only call you when something’s wrong?” Kyungsoo exhales quietly, rolling his eyes.

“Of course not, I just asked. How are you?” He steps away from the entrance to let people in, and it feels even colder.

“We are okay. I met Park-ssi recently. Did you know Yoora is getting married?”

Kyungsoo huffs. Chanyeol kept sending him pre-wedding photos and promised he’s going to cry through all of it. He already knows everything about the groom, and Yoora even asked Jongdae and Baekhyun to sing at the wedding.

“Yeah, I met her last weekend and she told me. Wedding is supposed to be in March, right?”

“I didn’t know you’re still friends.” His mother’s tone is pleasantly surprised. Kyungsoo shrugs, even though she can’t see that.

“Yeah, sure. I sometimes help noona with financial comments, she still hates that topic.” Also helps her to get Chanyeol out of his room after another heartbreak, but he is not going to mention that. 

Kyungsoo can hear that his mother smiling as her voice gets soft, “I’m glad. Yoora is a good girl.”

He can still remember the time their parents dreamt they could get married, and Yoora even offered to pretend they are dating when she found out about Baekhyun. Kyungsoo refused. Lying was never his brightest skill anyway. Staying silent about some things is the best he can manage, if only because it’s not like he is the most talkative guy on the planet anyway.

After a pause his mother continues, “You are invited to the wedding, right?”

“Yeah, of course.” Kyungsoo already thought of it, knowing that Yoora’s parents probably invited his, too, and that might be a problem. At the moment he’d decided not to bother her with his family problems. But now, something spites him to say, “Both me and Baekhyun are invited.”

There is a prolonged silence, and Kyungsoo regrets his decision immediately.

“Right, Chanyeol and Byun-ssi are friends, right?” Her voice is hesitant, but Kyungsoo’s just glad she doesn’t get angry right away.

“Yeah, he is friends with noona too, has been for a long time.”

“I see,” his mother sighs. “I wanted to ask if you are free this Sunday. It’s been a while since you visited, so I thought it’d be great if we could have dinner together.”

He feels like there's a stone falling from his shoulders, when he hears that. Sunday dinner is a good thing. Might mean that things will be quiet, even if for a little while. “Sure, Mom. I am free.”

“Good. See you on Sunday then.” She pauses, almost like she wants to add something else, but doesn’t, so Kyungsoo picks up the conversation.

“You too. Love you, Mom.”

His mother exhales, dropping whatever she wanted to say before. She is still unsure how to behave when he tells her this, and how to react, but Kyungsoo still says it often anyway. For them, there’s only these few ways when he can express what she still means to him, even though it might be strange to hear or say. 

After a pause she replies, “Yeah. I love you too.”

She hangs up and Kyungsoo smiles, tugging the earphones out. Their relationship will turn to shit again around New Year, and he doesn’t even want to think about Yoora’s wedding and them meeting Baekhyun, but they probably can deal with this somehow. They always do.

 

 SEHUN

Sehun is surprised when Seulgi writes in the common chat. She rarely does that first, usually just replying to messages left by Yixing or their random questions, even the ones asked at 3 a.m. Mostly the ones asked at 3 a.m, bless people with no daily job.

Seulgi: Hi everyone! Want to introduce our new artist to you. Come by to the office today at 7, please.

It is also quite unexpected that she is the one introducing someone since it was always done by Yixing, but Sehun just shrugs, pushing the thoughts away. Whoever it is, it’s really good that they found an artist. The messenger blinks again.

Yixing: Baekhyun also wanted to come by to show a new track he wrote.

Sehun totally does not immediately become more interested. And he is very glad that Yerim is the first one to message.

Yerim: I’ll be there~~

Sehun: Yeah, sure!

Maybe, though, the exclamation mark is already far too telling? Or not? Not like there is anything for it to be telling about, but still he is worried that Jongin will see through him as easily as he usually does.

Jongin: ok

After work both he and Jongin head to the office. Which is some kind of sad irony of their life, where they just have two jobs, sleep deprivation, and nothing else. They grab coffee and a couple egg toast on their way from the subway to the office to make their lives less miserable.

“Did Seulgi tell you anything about the new artist?” Jongin asks, his mouth full of food. Sehun gives him an unimpressed stare.

“No, not really,” he and Seulgi hasn’t chatted for a while which is legit considering she mostly does nothing but drawing for the game. He really needs to take her out before she forgets human speech.

When they reach their office, it’s just Yixing and Yerim there. Yerim probably has been here from the early morning, considering the amount of food containers and chip packs around her. Yixing though looks chic, wearing a suit with his hair done nicely. He looks way too good to be standing in their office, so Sehun just assumes he had a meeting before, or something.

It is ten to seven when Baekhyun storms in, way too energetic for this dark and cold evening. However, Sehun already knows Baekhyun’s energy has its ways. Baekhyun smiles to everyone, grabbing Yixing in attempt to hug him just to get a shove in the shoulder.

“Baekhyun. It’s work,” Baekhyun pouts immediately.

“You don’t like me anymore?” the question makes Yixing’s cheeks get one tone pinker, “Hyung~ you don’t even answer my messages anymore!”

Yixing raises an eyebrow, “I wonder why.” Baekhyun mock gasps, pretending to be offended and hugs Sehun instead. Sehun freezes immediately, unsure what to do and also far too aware of Baekhyun’s strong hands against his waist. It sends a shiver down his spine, and Baekhyun certainly feels it, but doesn’t show anything. Jongin is busy looking into something on Yerim’s screen, so he, hopefully also notices nothing.

“Sehun is my favorite now,” Baekhyun sticks his tongue at Yixing and he is ready to say something back, but instead there is a girl’s voice from behind.

“So that’s how it goes, sweetheart? Sehun is your favorite now? My feelings are hurt,” at that dramatic statement everyone turns to the red-hair girl who enters the room. She smiles brilliantly, her white teeth showing. She looks familiar, but Sehun can’t figure out where he has seen her. The girl is almost the same height as Baekhyun so it takes a moment for Sehun to notice Seulgi who stands beside her.

There’s some awkward silence in the room as everyone stares at the new girl, before Seulgi finally stands in front of her, taking a better position for introduction.

“Well, hi everyone,” she tugs her hair nervously, as always, “That’s Park Sooyoung. She is the new artist for our game,” since everyone keep glaring at Sooyoung she adds, “She is friends with Byun Baekhyun, so they know each other.”

At this moment Sehun’s memory comes back to him. It was the same girl who played drums in Baekhyun’s band. Back then she had black hair and her make-up was different, but that’s definitely her. 

“Hello everyone. It’s nice to meet you,” she bows to everyone. And Sehun tries to bow back only than realizing that Baekhyun is still hugging him, “I am very excited to work with you.”

Seulgi introduces everyone to Sooyoung, including Yixing, and that comes out as a surprise for Sehun too. Yixing is very deliberate with choosing members of the team, so it feels weird they haven’t met before. He will need to ask Seulgi later. And he will also have to somehow figure out  if Sooyoung has told her anything about meeting him in a gay bar.

Baekhyun finally lets Sehun go and it feels empty without his warm body pressed into him. Sehun shakes his head trying to bring back his composure. For a moment she catches Sooyoung’s gaze, and she looks at him almost as if she also recognized him, which can’t be good.

Sehun suddenly becomes nervous, thinking of it. He doesn’t find any better solution when to message Baekhyun, hoping he will notice a new message.

Sehun: Park-ssi is the drummer from your band, right? 

Baekhyun’s phone vibrates in his pocket. He immediately fishes it out to reply (probably the reason why his replies are always so fast).

Baekhyunnie: Yeah, that’s her! If u’r worried — what happens in the club stays in the club ^.~ 

This lifts a ton of stones from Sehun’s chest although it still is embarrassing that he’s so easy to read. And Baekhyun’s texts are also. Embarrassing.

Sooyoung is already chatting with Yerim happily about her hair, as Yixing asks:

“You are familiar with the project, right? Did Seulgi send you the outlines?”

Sooyoung shakes her head, “Which outlines? I mean, obviously I know the plot, and Seulgi-unnie introduces me to the main ideas and to the part I will be doing,” before Yixing can say something, she adds, “Yeah, and timeframes of course. Pretty tight aren’t they?”

She says it conversationally, but Yixing looks annoyed as he nods.

“Yes, they are. I would be glad if you could give me your email so I could send you the outlines.”

If there is something else he wants to say, they never know as Baekhyun interrupts cheerily, “No need to. I still have your email with them and her address, so I'll forward it right now.”

“Thank you sweetie,” Sooyoung smiles again and the pet name makes Sehun doubt the nature of their relationships.

Yinxing, despite everything, tries to continue, “I hope you understand that we need you to start working now, because there is a lot of things to do in a short time.”

Sooyoung nods and opens her bag to take out her ipad, which she lays on Yixing’s table, “Actually, I made a few things, but they are a bit differently styled from the rest of the game. Since I will be drawing the forest part, I wanted to suggest it to be a little…”

Yixing’s reaction is sharper than Sehun expects. “I am sorry, Park-ssi, I am sure you mean well, but we do not have time for your bright ideas. The schedule is tight and we barely have time to finish at all.”

Sehun notices that Yixing generally looks quite more annoyed than ever, almost as if he doesn’t particularly like Sooyoung. He’s also usually much less harsh than that so Sehun doesn’t get what’s it that different with Sooyoung. 

Seulgi raises a hand, “Hey, look, I saw that, and I pretty much like the styling. I really think it’s not that different, just. Give it a chance, would you?”

Yixing nods, still not particularly happy with it. Sooyoung smiles at Seulgi fondly and switches on her Ipad to find the correct folder with the sketches.

Sehun also takes a peek on the drawings and it’s really not that different, and it takes a moment for him to realise that here and there they can see tiny details, which makes the forest just more surreal. The rest of the game’s backgrounds are more or less realistic. Well, maybe if you forget about the dragon. And the forest also seems realistic at first, but if you look into it – it has strange patterns, and creatures which don’t really remind him of anything he had ever seen.

Sooyoung made about five sketches, all with different amounts of strangeness. She switches between them, and they can see the change, as the main character moves deeper into the forest. When the sketches finish, she switches off her Ipad.

“What do you think?”

“I don’t think it matches the style of the game. Sure, these details are pretty good, but that’s your style. It would take too much time for me or Seulgi to recreate that.” Yixing runs the bridge of his nose.

Sooyoung shrugs, completely uncaring, “If you like the idea, I can just draw all the backgrounds to the forest while you both finish other parts and do animation.”

To Sehun it sounds like a reasonable proposal (nobody cares about his opinion though since he is a programmer), but Yixing somehow doesn’t seem satisfied. Seulgi, however, speaks up:

“I think it’s doable. And actually, I’d like to do that.” She looks at Yixing, “I mean, it’s a great idea to show that the forest is not exactly just forest. And plot-wise this part is different. We really could use that to spice it up.”

The look Yixing gives her is both tired and disturbed, but Seulgi looks back and keeps the eye contact up till the moment when Yixing turns away. This game doesn’t seem to ever get old, with all the electricity sparkling between them.

“We can talk about this later,” he sighs.

Seulgi smiles victoriously and turns to Baekhyun, “Oppa, you said you have some tracks done? Can we listen?”

 

 

KYUNGSOO

At some point Kyungsoo feels glad that they cancelled karaoke again, since two nights out in a row would be too much for him. Even if nights out like this almost do not involve pretending. Almost though. He is as close with Joonmyeon and Minseok as he can be with someone who doesn’t know Baekhyun, or even of him. To whom he is not out. He can almost be himself in the bar where everyone knows about Baekhyun, but not under those stares.

Here, he doesn’t pretend at all, but there is still something — unpleasant — in a way he is looked at. He doesn’t know many people here, has been a long time since he visited the place for things other than Chanyeol’s birthday, or Baekhyun’s gig. But everyone knows Baekhyun and rumors spread faster than he’d like them to. 

He was never one to care about other people’s relationships. Didn’t think people would care, either. For some time, even lived in a dream where he thought people are okay with any sexuality, and there isn’t a difference. That was before he started dating Baekhyun, and long before they agreed on how they have their relationship. 

But now he is still reminded every time, how much it matters to others. First time he tried to explain Chanyeol what was going on, Chanyeol yelled at Baekhyun ‘for his best friends sake’ and Kyungsoo didn’t talk to him for a month, before Yoora called him one day and asked him to spare her idiot brother. 

It didn’t go easy even after that, feeling that their friends feel sorry for Kyungsoo and blame Baekhyun, while they themselves have never been more content. Happier. 

It never mattered how much Kyungsoo tried to talk to others — most people in the room still perceived him as an abandoned lame guy in love with a slut who can’t hold his dick in the pants, or whatever the people usually think. Kyungsoo still isn’t okay with this, but he also isn’t okay with changing anything just because of the things people might say behind his back. He loves to see how happy Baekhyun looks after a date, or how his short romantic things make him lock himself in the studio and write music. Make him vivid. Loves how Baekhyun’s mouth taste of something foreign when he kisses other people and comes back to him. Baekhyun’s smile. How much he treasures what they have.

Of course, it isn’t like this with all their friends and even family. Baekhyun’s grandma was generally unable to judge people and Jongdae genuinely supports Baekhyun in everything he does, so they always had people on their side. Chanyeol came around, and so did Seungwan, even if it took them a lot of time. As for Sooyoung, — Kyungsoo chuckles to himself, — Sooyoung enjoyed making out with Baekhyun so it would be hypocritical for her to be opposed.

But being in a club isn't the same as being around friends so Kyungsoo just feels these stares from all the corners. How people look at Baekhyun, who sits on Chanyeol’s lap, or on himself who is sitting quietly in the corner.

“You look sad,” only when Seungwan speaks and sits down next to him, Kyungsoo notices her approach, “too much?”

Kyungsoo shakes his head understanding he escaped reality again. “Yeah,” he smiles, “feel like a wife of a famous actor or something.”

Seungwan laughs and pats his shoulder, “they’re just jealous, really. You know half of the club would be glad if they were in your place.”

Kyungsoo smiles back to her. Speaking to Seungwan makes him feel better instantly, just because of her friendly and calm tone, “just don’t tell that to Baekhyun, okay?”

Seungwan nods, “Your husband’s ego doesn’t need anymore stroking, or he will explode from it.”

The world ‘husband’ is soft on Seungwan’s lips and Kyungsoo feels both warm and sorry for still remembering the bad things from years ago, since she is always so supportive of them. He wants to say it out loud but then gets that it’d be awkward. Instead he smiles to ask:

“How is work?” just to get a passionate lecture about kids’ health problems in the autumn. But Kyungsoo doesn’t mind, because Seungwan is so excited about her job and kids that it is a pleasure to listen. It’s also a good distraction from all the unwanted attention. 

Baekhyun in the other corner smiles playfully to some guy, his teeth showing, and for a moment Kyungsoo tries to search for jealousy or another possessive feeling, but he doesn’t find it. He almost never does. But it makes him happy just to see Baekhyun’s smile. It is lame, but when Baekhyun smiles like this, it always feels like it’s going to be okay, with that bright light shining in his eyes. Kyungsoo is so in love.

He turns his attention back to Seungwan to ask her about the kid she recently was taking care of, and misses the moment when Baekhyun joins them in their corner, looking drunk and tired. Baekhyun makes Kyungsoo change his posture, so he could sit sideways on Kyungsoo’s lap hiding his face in the crook of Kyungsoo’s neck, without disrupting the talk. Kyungsoo catches other people looking at them — someone he knows, someone he doesn’t — and slides his arms around Baekhyun’s waist as if it could make them invisible for others. 

Seungwan only stops her story for a second, to smile at them, and then goes on. Baekhyun’s breath is warm and ticklish against Kyungsoo’s neck and he feels warm and solid. Kyungsoo snuggles him even closer which makes Baekhyun huff in content. 

Kyungsoo glances to the other table, where Chanyeol looks happy and excited (like always) talking with the other guy Baekhyun was smiling to. Kyungsoo doesn’t hear what the conversation is about, but Chanyeol looks like he’s flirting, the interest written on his face with capital letters. 

Jongdae joins them a couple minutes later, bringing a chair to sit next to Seungwan and hold her hand, interlacing their fingers together. Kyungsoo smiles at the familiarity of it:

“Are we ‘too old and married for this shit’ circle again?”, Kyungsoo asks and everyone laughs, even Baekhyun huffing in his neck and Kyungsoo squirms, ticklish.

“We aren’t married, though,” Seungwan says that and Kyungsoo searches her face for the signs of discomfort before he answers.

“Well, technically we also aren’t. Should I change it to ‘too old and mentally married for this shit’ kind of thing?”

He knew their reasons. Seungwan is all too focused on her work to get into marriage. Marriage involved responsibility, and having kids, and spending Chuseok with Jongdae’s relatives. It is quite humorous how Jongdae and Kyungsoo connect on the topic of their misunderstanding with parents, who generally disapprove of their life choices. Although if he could get why his parents disliked Baekhyun (he couldn’t), he still wasn’t completely clear with the part where anyone in the world dislikes Seungwan. 

The strip show on the stage finishes almost at the same time as Seugwan’s story, and the DJ says something about some romantic dancing before he puts up some new kpop single. Kyungsoo thinks he heard it somewhere, maybe in the karaoke, but he isn’t familiar with girl bands. 

“Romantic dancing’s good,” Baekhyun suddenly mumbles, trying to stand up, “Soo, will you dance with me?”

“I thought you fell asleep there,” Kyungsoo is still amazed sometimes by the amount of energy Baekhyun generates. Baekhyun stands up decisively, smiling at Kyungsoo brightly and making his heart melt. He offers Kyungsoo a hand.

“Almost. But you can carry me to the dance floor, or something.” Kyungsoo doesn’t usually dance, but he knows that Baekhyun will persist forever so he gives up easily, taking his hand, and lets Baekhyun drag him to the dance floor. 

The song is a simple ballad so they end up just swaying from side to side. Not like Kyungsoo can do any better.

“Are you okay? You looked sad over there.” The music on the dancefloor is too loud, so Kyungsoo almost has to read Baekhyun’s question by the movement of the lips. 

Kyungsoo shakes his head, “It’s okay,” he smiles reassuringly and sees how Baekhyun’s smile grows in return. 

It’s easy, almost natural to tug Baekhyun into the kiss. He kisses him slowly, but persistently, licking into his mouth, as he slides one of his hands up to the nape of Baekhyun’s neck and the other — down to the small of his back. Baekhyun makes a funny sound of surprise, but opens to the kiss readily. Kyungsoo cannot hear much, but he feels and also knows the soft sounds Baekhyun makes, when he is kissed like that. It’s not just about him, but also about the publicity which Baekhyun enjoys way to much. Kyungsoo usually doesn’t, but it satisfies him to kiss Baekhyun like that in public once in a while. One of the privileges of being in the gay bar. 

“I’m sorry I make it awkward for you,” Baekhyun says quietly, breaking the kiss. Kyungsoo can’t hold back a sigh. 

“Baekhyun,” he cups Baekhyun’s cheek with his hand and makes him look up, “it’s okay. You don’t need to worry about that.” Baekhyun nods, but all too familiar hesitation doesn’t leave his eyes, so Kyungsoo touches the corner of Baekhyun’s lip gently with his thumb and says, “I don’t like people, but I love you. And things you do. I can survive an evening here, I promise.” Baekhyun goes red on the Kyungsoo’s silly admission of love, and Kyungsoo kisses his lips again, lightly. 

“Why are you so good at that,” Kyungsoo thinks he didn’t hear the question well because of the music:

“What?” 

Baekhyun laughs cutely, still shy. “I don’t know. Me, in general,” Kyungsoo can’t hold back from kissing Baekhyun on the lips again, planting the next kiss on his chin, then – on his pink cheek. His annoyance fades away instantly, as always when he has Baekhyun next to him, as if his battery recharges from Baekhyun’s kisses, touches, his smile. 

The song changes into something more active, and Kyungsoo drags Baekhyun away from the dancefloor to one of the corners, quite sure about continuously making out and taking a taxi home. As soon as they leave the crowd he notices that some girl is waving her hand at Baekhyun cheerily, but he can’t see her face in the darkness of the club. Baekhyun notices Kyungsoo’s glare, and huffs:

“It’s Hani. Don’t look at her like that, it’s scary,” Baekhyun gets his well deserved punch in the shoulder, but Kyungsoo stops staring, even though it’s pretty hard to make Heeyeon feel uncomfortable. Kyungsoo is surprisingly happy to see her. They were never close, but they met a lot on the club’s backstage, since she performed here often as a stripper. 

It has been a while since they met for the last time, but Kyungsoo knew she still performs and they are good friends with Baekhyun and Seungwan. Baekhyun changes their course to walk closer to her and Kyungsoo finally can see her features – she is obviously just got off the stage, her face and body covered with glitter and hair pulled up prettily. She is already wearing some almost decent clothes, which makes her company even more enjoyable, since Kyungsoo doesn’t need to think where to put his eyes not to make it weird, though Heeyeon never cares. 

Only when they come closer Kyungsoo notices that Heeyeon isn’t alone, but it takes him a moment to recognize Bae Joohyun. Her makeup is very different from what she wears to work – brighter, with crimson lipstick and lined eyes and hair loose on her naked shoulders, as she wears a pretty revealing top, causing Kyungsoo’s brain to collapse for a moment and freeze.

Joohyun also stares at him with the same stare, and it flashes in Kyungsoo’s mind that he is for once able to make her speechless, which is, certainly, an achievement. 

“Kyungsoo, are you okay?” Baekhyun feels that Kyungsoo freezes and turns to him, question in his eyes.

Heeyeon beams at them both, “Hi, Kyungsoo-ya! Been a really long time. Backstage is just not the same without you.” Kyungsoo forces himself to act normally and turn his face to Heeyeon. He is probably grasping Baekhyun’s hand too tightly, but he can’t relax, as his mind travels a thousand mile per hour hysterically over his options. 

Heeyeon blinks at them, probably confused by Kyungsoo’s prolonged silence. “That’s my girlfriend, Bae…”

This has words just jumping out of Kyungsoo’s mouth, “Bae Joohyun. Yeah. I know.” He notices in the corner of his eyes how Baekhyun’s eyes widen as he stares at Joohyun. Well, this is awkward. This is really, really awkward. 

At that Joohyun, her face completely red and panicked, tugs Heeyeon away. She follows despite the confusion on her face. Kyungsoo wants to go after them too, and to tell Joohyun it’s fine, but Baekhyun holds him in place. 

“I don’t think it’s a good idea,” Kyungsoo blinks at him, and Baekhyun speaks speedily, “she is your boss and as far as I know Heeyeon has only been dating her for a few weeks so I really doubt she wants to discuss anything right now. But fuck that was awkward.”

It takes a moment for Kyungsoo to be able to speak, “You are telling me?” he still feels like all that now was just a dream, or he just drank too much and didn’t notice before. He keeps staring at the crowd, where Joohyun and Heeyeon disappeared. Baekhyun touches his chin and turns Kyungsoo’s head so he can look him in the eyes. Kyungsoo feels an urge to push him away, but then just makes a deep breath, understanding that whatever they do now doesn’t really matter. And they are also probably the last thing that matters to Joohyun now. 

“Do you think it’s bad?” Baekhyun looks worried, which makes Kyungsoo’s head clear a bit. 

“I don’t know. Don’t really think so. Gyejang is a pretty cool headed person,” or at least Kyungsoo thought so. He also though that dating a stripper could never happen to her. Or rather, dating in general. 

“Yeah, cool headed,” Baekhyun raises his brow ironically, “That’s exactly what it looked like.”

Kyungsoo giggles, part hysterical, part a real laugh of relieve as panic lets him go. “Let’s go home. I really don’t want to run into them again.”

“Yeah, before we do that,” Baekhyun bites his lip as if he doubts something, but the teasing sparkles in his eyes tell that he is not going to like it, “As we get home, is the offer about sex still on the table? Or did your boss cockblock you?”

Kyungsoo punches him in the shoulder, as Baekhyun just laughs obnoxiously, making people turn his eyes at them as Kyungsoo grabs his hand and pushes him towards the exit. He knows he will have to let go once they reach it, but just for one more second he will hold onto him. 

 

 

SEULGI

“What are you doing here?” Yixing sounds surprised as he enters the office. He hangs his only partly wet coat on the hanger. Seulgi distractedly thinks that he has probably left his umbrella downstairs. Yixing stares at her expectedly.

“Oh, sorry,” thinking after 10 straight hours of drawing is hard, but she somehow manages, “I’m working, obviously. Why?”

Yixing shrugs, “I don’t know. You usually work from home. Strange to see you here alone.”

“Oh, I wasn’t alone. Sooyoung left just an hour ago, or so,” Seulgi regrets mentioning her almost immediately. 

“Did she?” Yixing’s eyes narrow and Seulgi feels irritated. It’s really annoying how Yixing just refuses to like Sooyoung. It’s so stupid. She has already done so much and it’s just been less than a week. 

“Something wrong?” she raises her eyebrow intentionally, but the smile Yixing gives her — sweat, but not really reaching his eyes, makes her shrug, “You can see the updates in the folder. Her progress on the chapter is really impressive.”

“Does she have nothing else to do?” it’s just a question, but it feels offensive just by the way it’s put together.  

“Shouldn’t you be happy about it?”

Seulgi can’t read Yixing’s gaze, when he says, “Sure. Just wanted to know more about her background. Shouldn’t I be concerned?”

Yixing sounds just like her dad does when he assumes shit about her future, and her friends, and their game. She wants to retort so badly, but something Sooyoung said to her today suddenly comes up in her mind.

“Don’t worry about it. He is wrong and too stressed and he knows it well. Just let him be.”

Seulgi looks at Yixing and notices the pale grey colour of his skin. His eyes look tired. His cheekbones are just a bit more prominent, more lines around his eyes, just a bit more concealer under them. She always thought all his irritation was really about her not being good enough and now that suddenly seems stupid and childish. He is wrong and he knows it. Suddenly Seulgi decides to drop the subject. 

“Come here, I want to show you what we did.” Yixing also seems to be taken aback by the sudden change of topic, so uncommon for Seulgi, but he also lets go, coming to stand behind Seulgi’s chair instead. 

Seulgi opens the new sketches starting from the one of the forest backgrounds Sooyoung made earlier today. 

“Nice, isn’t it? It’s the one from the end of the chapter,” Yixing interrupts her:

“Yeah. I can see that. She is not a very organized person, is she?” 

Seulgi can’t hold back a huff: “Do you know a single person who is ‘organized’ by your standards, oppa?”

Yixing seems to think for a second, “Actually, I don’t think even I am,” He sounds like he is smiling.

It makes Seulgi giggle. Yixing leans forward to click the arrow sign to move to the next picture. He leaves his hand next to the keyboard. His body is now almost pressed against Seulgi, but he still keeps the polite distance.

They scroll through Sooyoung’s backgrounds. Every time Yixing admits how skilled Sooyoung is, it makes Seulgi smile in triumph, like she is the one who drew it. 

“You are surprisingly merciful to her,” Seulgi regrets saying this, but she is also curious. 

“Well that doesn’t mean I won’t send her a lot of comments but. She seems much more attentive to her drawings than I ever expected she can be. Is this one yours?”

Seulgi nods, “Yeah, Sooyoung… helped a bit, but I just wanted to try the way she does it. It seems strange, doesn’t it?”

Yixing spends a moment looking at the picture, when makes zooms it to see the details in one of the pieces, “Is that hers?”

Seulgi shakes her head proudly. At one moment her head touches Yixing’s shoulder and she just leaves it there, leaning onto him. He is warm and it’s been a really long day. Yixing startles for a second but doesn’t pull back.

“I can see that. Her lines are more geometrical than yours,” he pauses, “but it’s good. Do you want to work on these backgrounds?”

“No, I think Sooyoung can deal with that. I will work on the characters a bit more. I am still not done entirely, so.” Yixing clicks through the rest of the pictures in the folder, even though he has seen them a million times. Almost like he doesn’t want to step back. Seulgi just closes her eyes, sore and tired from looking at the screen. 

Yixing smells like his favourite perfume and like the outside rain. He came here not so long before, but he is already warm and the heat makes Seulgi wanting to snuggle like a cat.

“You’re cute, you know that?” Yixing’s quite question make Seulgi open her eyes. She immediately feels flustered, but Yixing doesn’t push it, smiling softly, “Want to go home? I can catch you a taxi.”

Seulgi huffs, “Someone actually earns money in this room, doesn’t he?” She likes to tease Yixing about his well paid job that also sometimes takes too much to have, “Don’t wanna go home. Wanna stay here,” she almost says ‘with you’ but stops. It’s been awhile since the air between them was like this, comfortable and calm. It wakes up so many feelings in her chest, that it aches.

Yixing’s tone, too, turns impossibly soft, “Are you sure? You look tired.”

Seulgi can feel her cheeks getting warm, but it’s too hard to detach her head from Yixing’s firm shoulder. Though it is probably really uncomfortable for him to stand like this. “Yeah. Wanted to finish something. Can we go together?” Yixing’s apartment is just ten minutes away from her parents’ house, so sometimes he would just leave the underground one stop earlier to walk her home. It didn’t happen for a while, “and order food here.”

“Okay,” Yixing’s voice is still soft, but he stands up, making Seulgi seat upright and miss Yixing’s warmth. It suddenly brings up the conversation she had with Sooyoung earlier today. When they walked downstairs to grab a coffee, she asked if she and Yixing were a couple. 

Seulgi couldn’t do anything better than just nervously laugh, “No. Not really. I mean. Really not.”

Sooyoung raised her eyebrow theatrically suspicious, “You can skip that question if you don’t want to tell, you know. But if that was a lie, it’s a really poor one, unnie.”

Seulgi blushed even more. Sooyoung huge eyes, deep and black like the ocean’s water late at night had that effect on her, “I didn’t. I mean, it’s not. A lie. We’re not dating or anything.” 

Sooyoung smiled at her. That brilliant, bright smile which made Seulgi’s heart beat faster.

“I was hoping you’d say that,” Seulgi wanted to ask her what she meant by that but they reach the coffee shop at that moment and she never manages. 

Yixing’s voice interferes with her thoughts, “What are we ordering?” and Seulgi notices she’s been smiling.

When they are done with ordering food Seulgi notices that Yixing is eyeing her, like he wants to say something.

“Oppa?”

He almost tries to turn away, flustered that she noticed, but then stays still and keeps his expression straight, “It’s nothing. I was just thinking,” He presses his lips together, but then keeps speaking, “There’s this event at work, we finally present our latest project. I was wondering if you would like to go with me?”

Seulgi is surprised and she doesn’t even try to hide it, “why me?”

Yixing looks her right in the eyes, and it’s so unusual for him, to do that not when they argue, that Seulgi can’t look away, “I just. I thought that this project is really important to me, almost as this is,” he makes a move with his hand, emphasizing this office, “And I thought I’d like you to be there.”

Seulgi isn’t sure this is a great idea, not with her level of communication skills at least. Not with where their relationships are right now. But then, Yixing never asked her of anything, so she doesn’t want to say no to him. Especially if this is important. 

“Sure,” Seulgi even tries to smile, which is a hard thing to do at this point of time, “I’ll go.”

 

 

SEHUN

Dear, would you please pass me the salad bowl?” Sehun barely notices the question is for him but Jongin saves him by kicking his leg under the table. Some things have not changed since they were kids.

“Sorry, mom! Here you are.” He passes the green bowl to his mother, making sure she holds it properly before letting go. He probably should pay more attention to the dinner, rather than being somewhere inside his head.

“It’s a pity you don’t have anyone to help you around the table, isn’t it,” his grandmother asks. Sehun really hoped they can skip this talk at least at some family gatherings, but his hopes always go in vain. At least he can pretend he doesn’t understand what they are talking about. His parents aren’t always hard on him but they do dislike the lack of relationships in his life. And some other things.

“Can you imagine a girl who would marry a low-grade programmer from some online gaming fraud?” His father’s unpleasant opinion about his job almost saves Sehun at least from some torture, but his mom makes sure it doesn’t happen. At least them being unhappy about his gaming addiction isn’t new. 

He can’t figure out what exactly makes his mother think that talking like that in front of the entire family, eemo and grandparents included, will influence him, but she obviously does. 

“Darling, I married you when you lived in a student dorm. Money is not the obstacle if you find a nice girl.”

Jongin nudges him again reassuringly, but that barely helps. He knows that their family isn’t the most understanding, and always tries to cheer Sehun up, but the huge elephant of his homosexuality barely fits the room while still somehow going unnoticed as his mother and aunt start arguing about whose personal life is worse: his or Jongin’s. Sehun can see Jongin sigh, so he nudges him back. 

The new message notification is really not welcomed but he still takes the phone to check.

Baekhyun: hi~~~ how’s your day?

And then another ring. Why did he even live the sound on?

He switches his phone hastily and something just makes him say: “That’s Seulgi. Seulgi says hi.”

“Oh, that's so sweet of her! How’s she doing?”

Both Sehun and Jongin shrug, confirming that she is something close enough to okay. They have a silent agreement of not mentioning their second job at home, because it is barely an option for anyone to approve by this point.

“Do you remember how you two used to argue about marrying her?” Sehun would have cursed himself for inability to avoid embarrassing topics but he seems to be cursed enough for the rest of his life, so there’s no need to add. “Is she dating someone?”

“Yes!”

“No.”

All their relatives stare at them to get a proper explanation, but Sehun doesn’t have any. Jongin comes up with some silly “it’s complicated” and also loses the avoidance battle, because their grandma just rolls her eyes tragically before speaking. 

“Complicated! Everything in your world is complicated! And you just spend your lives playing computer games instead of just finding a real job and a nice girl to marry.” Everyone at the table except for eemo and Jongin nod enthusiastically. “You are both twenty six! I was pregnant with your mother when was twenty six,” she points her finger at Sehun, “and your mother,” she moves it to Jongin, “was already running around the house!”

“Mom,” Jongin’s mother interrupts softly, “It’s not all about a family.”

“If you didn’t think that way maybe your husband would still be around instead of running off to someone else.” Jongin and Sehun sigh in unison this time. From this point on it is usually a snowball rolling down the hill. Sehun can kind of get it, their grandmother has always dreamt about big family and spent all her life building one, but still.

“Mom!”

Sehun exchanges a glance with Jongin and by the look on his face he can see that they both regret not staying at work all weekend. Not every family gathering ends up on these note, but once in a while family just has to bring up eemo’s unfortunate marriage. Jongin always hated it. They both think his mother was more than right to get a divorce, but they do seem to be the only ones in the family. 

He can kind of get it. Their grandmother came from a life that they can’t even imagine. Post-war Korea, economic crisis, they had no money, sometimes no food, they worked hard every day to build what they have now. He knows for a fact that she was rarely happy, forced to work a low-paying job, look after two daughters, deal with their grandfather’s drinking habits. Sehun never knew for a fact if his grandfather cheated, but he could have guessed by the things he heard during eemo’s divorce, when they argued, that he did. ‘I don’t want to end up like you and father did’.

Sometimes Sehun wonders if it’s selfish of him to want something better. To have a job he likes, to be gay, to give himself space he feels happy in. To not want to have a family. Maybe he just has to fit, but he can’t imagine how to— how to force himself to be nothing he truly is, just to be accepted.

While eemo keeps arguing with their grandmother, Sehun sneaks his hand under the table to reach out for Jongin’s hand. He doesn’t think it will help, but at least it’s something. 

Finally his mom decides to switch the topic, probably seeing where the conversation goes and trying to prevent the already unavoidable disaster, but Sehun starts to guess that wherever they stop on this path, it’s not going to end well. 

“Sehun, do you remember that girl you were dating a while ago? You even lived together.” The elephant of Sehun’s homosexuality knocks off the table and Sehun can almost hear imaginary pieces of glass and ceramics hitting the floor. “What was her name again?”

Sehun barely remembers what he told her the last time she asked. He is almost 90% sure she was Chinese for a good reason of this being as close to the truth as he was able to tell his mother. “Tzuyu, mom. But that wasn’t anything serious.” He made his best guess. 

“You lived together for almost a year, honey!” The elephant knocks out a window, and Sehun wishes that it could also smash him somewhere along the way before this conversation continues.

He probably should have talked to his family. At least to Jongin, but it just never works. No New Year resolutions can help that. His family isn’t the one that loves you unconditionally. It is easy to see right now, right in front of him. All that eemo ever did was divorcing a guy who was a jerk, and the family still isn’t okay with this. When he was eighteen he used to hope that homosexuality is a phase, and it’ll pass, but at 26 he’s quite sure it isn’t going to. Which means that all of his mother’s marriage plans will never come to life. 

At first it was easy to just say that he’s focused on his career. Then he met Luhan and they moved in together. He remembers his mother insisting on meeting his ‘girlfriend’, and he just kept making up stupid lies and then just cut all the ties with the family. It seemed like the best thing he could do. Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t.

Talking to his parents since then is always just like walking on the minefield. He was so happy when Jongin offered to move in together, just so he could escape these conversations. His parents never wanted him any harm, but the pressure has been too much. They wish him well, he knows it, it is just a wrong well. Theirs.

The dinner finally ends, just when Sehun is quite ready to have a panic attack. Eemo leaves the house shutting the door soundly.

“I will stay with her today,” Jongjin grabs his coat and storms after his mother. Sehun looks at the closing door, and can’t figure out what to do with his life, so he just volunteers to wash the dishes. 

When he does, he switches on Baekhyun soundtracks to their game. He downloaded them from their work drive just a few days ago. Promised that they will help him to concentrate on working, but now they are almost like his presence, calming and light.

 

 

KYUNGSOO

On Monday Kyungsoo forgets to be nervous about Joohyun, because at 6 a.m. he gets a message from Minseok about some economical shit happening on the market, and that he needs a report for the meeting at 9. Most of his morning he spends reviewing the news and drawing graphs for the presentation trying not to fall asleep with his head on the keyboard. Baekhyun doesn’t help since he just cuddles in bed because he doesn’t have to be anywhere until noon. 

Kyungsoo sends the report at 8:46 and only manages to get to the empty office by 10, but nobody cares because everyone is either still at the meeting which he doubts will end before noon, or extremely busy getting through work which piled up since Friday. Kyungsoo thanks himself for getting almost all of it done Saturday’s evening and gets a coffee before getting to his workplace. Joonmyeon barely looks up at him, busy typing something on his computer. 

It always feels strange when everyone has something to do, and you’ve got almost nothing – no need to rush, and type, and read, his report filed to Minseok in the morning. It’s a pity he can’t read a book, so he busies himself with the preparations for the next project and closing the rest of the minor tasks. 

At noon nobody quits the meeting room, so Kyungsoo supposes that it will take a while. His stomach clenches unpleasantly. Not that he thinks that there will be problems with Joohyun. She is a good person and a reasonable boss. But it still feels like it is way too personal for a work discussion. He never brought his personal life here, not even to Junmyeon ot Minseok, yet alone his boss.

On the other hand, since Joohyun wants to take a new position, it is probably as nerve wrecking for her as it is for him. If anybody finds out she dates a woman, let alone a stripper from a gay bar, she will probably be fired next day. It’s not fair and it makes Kyungsoo angry somewhere deep inside, a muted old rage, something too old to care. It works this way, and Joohyun is well aware of it. And so is he. 

Joohyun leaves the meeting room at two, and goes straight to her office. When she notices Kyungsoo, her face doesn’t change – same busy and concentrated expression. She waves at him something like ‘later’ and closes the door to her office. Kyungsoo can’t help but smile just a little, amazed by how she is holding up even if inside all of the things happen at once - promotion, work, Hani and now his way too personal presence. 

 

Nobody except Kyungsoo even bothers to have lunch, and he again feels completely useless. He buys food in the nearest store for Minseok and Joonmyeon, to make sure his friends don’t die, and then after a second grabs something for Joohyun too. He wouldn’t usually do that, but today was a hard day for everyone and he doubts she cared enough to eat. 

When he walks in her office to give her food she almost kicks him out, but then notices the reason he is here, and probably - his neutral expression (he tried to make sure to keep the distance) and just nods, going back to whatever she was doing.

At five it’s so boring he messages Baekhyun, which he doesn’t usually do at work, but Baekhyun replies nothing. Probably teaches piano to a kid, or something. Kyungsoo still can never tell with how rapid everything changes at Baekhyun’s self-employed world. Messaging Chanyeol crosses his mind, but that’s way too much during a work day, so he gets stuck with playing Solitaire on his computer before Minseok delegates him another task, which he is grateful for. 

It’s almost seven when Joohyun finally emails him:

Hello, Do-ssi, 

Please meet me at my office.

Kind regards,
Bae Joohyun
Project leader of the analytics department

Kyungsoo smiles at the formality of it. It’s just an automatic form but it is still funny considering the topic they are most likely to discuss. He takes a deep breath and heads to her office. He gets a feeling he is already doing something suspicious even if he knows that, on most of the days, he would go there at least two times a day, so nobody cares.

“Hi,” Joohyun looks tired. Her computer screens are dark, like she is ready to go home, but Kyungsoo notices the soft humming of the machine, which means it is not off yet. Joohyun looks. Normal. Compared to what he saw in the club – collected, with basic makeup and in a suit. A bit more formal than usual, but considering the meeting today it makes a lot of sense. 

She threads her hand through her ponytail, “I saw your report on the meeting. It’s really good. I remember you had problems with urgent tasks before.” She notices that he still stands and waves her hand offering him to sit down. 

“Thank you, Gyejang. It’s getting easier with time, I think.” There is a bit of awkward silence as Kyungsoo stares on the flower picture hung on the office wall, and Joohyun does the same with the dark screens of her computer. 

Suddenly, she huffs, standing up. Her arms are crossed in front of her as she walks towards the window and looks out to the already dark street. 

“That’s really awkward, right?”

Kyungsoo huffs, “Yeah,” another bit of silence before Kyungsoo finally feels brave enough to speak, “What did Heeyeon-noona tell you?”

Joohyun looks at him sharply at the name, but it passes quickly as she smiles, “It’s funny you call her noona.”

Kyungsoo shrugs, “Yeah, we have some history.”

“She told me. At least some of it, I believe. She is not a big fan of outing other people. But she kind of had to tell about you and… I am sorry, she calls him by name, so I didn’t really ask her for the surname.” Joohyun bites her lip – such a familiar gesture but so foreign on Joohyun’s face, that it makes Kyungsoo feel less nervous. He smiles:

“It’s Byun,” Joohyun just nods to that, going back to staring at the window. 

“What are we going to do with that?” Kyungsoo doesn’t really understand what she means, and it is surprising how she can’t quite put the words in order as she is usually perfectly able to, but after a short pause she raises her hand as if to prevent him from speaking: “Sorry, it is a weird question. It’s just. You understand that not a single person should know, right?”

Kyungsoo nods, letting her to continue, “Does anyone know about you? I mean, Kim Minseok-ssi, or Kim Joonmyun-ssi?”

“No,” Kyungsoo shakes his head, “They don’t, obviously. I prefer to keep it as far from work as I can. We both know there can be consequences, and all.” Kyungsoo looks at her worried expression, and decides that he should say something more reassuring, “Look, if you are worried, you don’t have to be. I understand what it can mean for your career and believe me, I also quite like you as a boss so I literally don’t have reasons to disclose this to anyone.”

The ambulance passes outside the window, making a loud noise. Joohyun looks concentrated, but less uncomfortable than before, so that’s a start.

“It’s new. I mean. Heeyeon and me. Maybe a month or so. But that’s pretty serious to me, otherwise I wouldn’t,” she tugs a stray hair behind her ear, “care enough to risk. Especially now, when It can take everything to get a promotion,” she looks at Kyungsoo searching for a sign that he knows what she is talking about. He nods, “going out to the club was really reckless, but. Heeyeon really makes me do stupid things.” Joohyun smiles softly at that as her cheeks get pink, “Sorry, that was. Weird.”

Kyungsoo shrugs again, surprised by how much he decides to share, “I am not the one to blame you, honestly. Heeyeon noona is pretty great, so, if anything, I am just happy for her.” He wanders, if there’s no one else she could tell this about. Does she have any friends who know, or any friends at all considering how much she gives to this job?

“Thank you,” she suddenly turns to him. Her expression changes to the one she usually has before meetings – concentrated and sharp, the one he would expect her to have, “Do-ssi, I am not supposed to tell you that, but I am most likely to take the lead on the new department. It’s only a question of signed papers now, but one scandal and my career here is done. I don’t want to put it out there but I hope you understand that I know as much about you as you do about me.”

Kyungsoo nods. It doesn’t scare him, really, as he was sure Joohyun will play this card. They both have too much depending on this, and she now has more than ever. 

“I don’t want both of us to get fired. And I wouldn’t want Heeyeon noona and Baekhyun involved. They both have jobs outside of the bar, so let’s just.” He can barely hold back a shiver thinking what Joohyun’s rivals can do for the new position if they ever found out, “Let’s just do everything possible to keep them out of it. And us. I like this job.”

Joohyun nods, her lips curling into a relieved smile, “I hoped you would say that.”

Kyungsoo nods and then after a bit of silence stands up and walks to the door. He almost reaches the handle when he hears, “I am glad that it was you of all the people, Do-ssi.”

“Yeah,” he smiles back to her, “me too.”

 

SEHUN

The release of the new location in one of their games makes work more lively and busy than Sehun recently became used to. That makes him strangely happy, since doing nothing already got him sick. He barely notices it’s lunch time because the amount of things he needs to check, ask, send is just enormous. But Jongin is always there for him to remind of food. 

They go downstairs to their favourite place. Jongin seems preoccupied by something. Has been since their visit home, and Sehun doesn’t want to interfere, picking up his phone to check the messages. 

Baekhyunnie: ~_~ zZz

Sehun: Still asleep?

Baekhyunnie: I wish. I am waiting for a guy I have to interview and he’s late -_-

Sehun: Did you sleep last night at least?

Baekhyunnie: Sleep is for the weak

Baekhyunnie: I am weak though

Baekhyunnie: Anyway I got a couple of hours or so, whatever

Sehun: You need to sleep, hyung, really.

Sehun notices that he got too much into the conversation so he looks at Jongin, alarmed but today he doesn’t seem to mind at all, being lost in his thoughts. Sehun relaxes. 

Silence like that was never hard with Jongin. It is one of the reasons it is so easy to live with him. Sehun spends some time looking through messages from Yixing and Sooyoung, who seem to have another fight in the common chat. Sehun skips it, because for the past week it has almost become work routine.

When he finally gets his food, half of their lunch time has passed, so they eat fast to make sure they have enough time to go back. This is why they usually go for lunch earlier, not to get stuck like this. Sehun’s phone flickers with light and he thinks it’s another message from Baekhyun, but passes, so they eat fast to make sure they have enough

Luhan: Hi! How are you?

Sehun feels his heart skipping a beat, the world becoming slow and quiet around that message. He fights the urge to rub at his eyes to make sure it is happening (and also to try wiping the message away in case it is just an optical illusion). He blinks again, but the message doesn’t fade. 

Luhan wrote him. He used his Korean number. Sehun feels like he is typing almost automatically, like he can’t actually control the motion:

Sehun: Hi! I am fine.

What is he even supposed to say? He blinks one more time, just trying to settle the thoughts in his head. Luhan wasn’t part of something he likes to remember, but they are supposed to be — friends? Something along these lines, though it has been a while since he last needed to think about this. But Sehun isn’t excited. Just nauseous. 

Sehun: And you?

Luhan never messaged him after he left to China, even when Sehun wanted him to, but then, now Sehun definitely doesn’t. He is absolutely sure about it, feeling how anxiety spreads everywhere in his head, and stomach, and heart, in limbs.

Luhan: Me too! I’m actually in Seoul. Do you want to meet?

“Are you okay?” Jongin still sounds distracted, but the sparkle of worry tells Sehun how bad he probably looks, “Sehun? You look like you saw a ghost.”

Sehun smiles weakly at the joke (as always too close to the truth) and turns the screen phone down. He hopes that Jongin doesn’t notice his sweaty hands and trembling fingers. 

“Yeah, sure. I just. Saw a spoiler for Game of Thrones,” this is the most bizarre lie he could have thought of, but it helps as Jongin drops the topic saying, “Go away, Satan! I don’t need your spoilers!” and then stands up, finished with food. Sehun is just trying to do the same, but he feels like his knees give out. He puts his phone in his pocket without looking at it. 

In the office he tries to busy himself with work, but he is all too aware of the smartphone’s shape and weight in his jeans. Luhan must be typing him and he really should answer, but then every time he decides to do that, he just starts panicking. 

“Sehun, seriously, are you okay?”Jongin’s expression is so worried, Sehun feels an urge to just grab his arm and tell him the whole thing, but instead he just says:

“I might be getting sick. Should probably grab something from the medicine kit before it gets worse.” Without looking at Jongin, Sehun walks out of the room and walks past their office, a floor up, just to take a small space next to the fire entrance to lean on the wall. 

Options that come up in his head are one just better than another, starting from fantastic ones, like changing his name and moving to Sri Lanka, to generally stupid, like talking to Jongin or Seulgi. Or even meeting with Luhan. 

Sehun threads his hand through his hair and pulls it so hard it is painful. 

Meeting with Luhan or talking to him isn’t supposed to be that scary, or rather scary at all. They just broke up, and they are friends, and it is okay if Luhan messages him, once he is in Korea. It should be okay, but it isn’t. 

His fingers feel numb, and so does the whole world. This feeling of being out of control when something horrible is about to happen leaves him helpless. 

At that moment Sehun deeply regrets the fact that he is not out to anyone. It is the same feeling of isolation, which was eating him from the inside a couple of years ago. There’s no one to call and ask them if everything what happens is okay. It’s hard to make a decision. 

The same one which he felt when Baekhyun said about friends with benefits. 

Right. Baekhyun. The thing which pops up in his head doesn’t look much better or smarter than the rest of the options, at least at hindsight. But at the moment it feels almost genius, and Sehun pulls out the phone. 

He thinks about Baekhyun’s interview after the third dial, but before it bothers him enough to cancel the call, Baekhyun picks up. 

“Hi!” his voice isn’t annoyed so Sehun hopes that he didn’t interfere. 

“Hi, hyung.” Just hearing Baekhyun’s voice seems to make things easier. Like the colours and sounds are back to the world. There is a bit of silence, after which Baekhyun speaks again:

“Hi. Sehun, did something happen?” It is probably weird when a friend calls you in the middle of the working day, because who the hell even calls nowadays, when you can just use messengers. 

“Yeah,” he means it like ‘yeah, I am here’ but it sounds like a reply, “I mean, no. Not really.” Another bit of silence, “I don’t know,” he inhales shakily, threading his fingers through his hair again. “Sorry, hyung, I’m a mess. Nothing really… Happened.”

“Sehun, are you okay?” Now he feels sorry he made Baekhyun worry, but just hanging up won’t really make things better. 

“Yeah. Yeah, I’m fine.” He tries to say something else, but the right words just do not come up in his head. On Baekhyun’s side of the line it gradually becomes quieter, like he walked away from people to talk. 

“Let’s review our Korean vocab. To me ‘fine’ means generally happy and content.” Baekhyun falls silent for a second. “But I have some doubts we are on the same page here. Am I wrong or?”

Baekhyun doesn’t tease, and his tone doesn’t sound playful, just calm. Soft. It somehow helps Sehun make another deep breath and say: “Yeah. I mean, no, not wrong. I am not fine.”

“That’s okay. Do you want to tell me what’s wrong?” Baekhyun’s tone gets one more bit softer, doing strange things with Sehun’s heart. 

“No. Not really.” It sounds stupid, but Sehun doesn’t feel like saying anything like that — over the phone, but also just generally. It’s hard to explain, but he has to say something to stop confusing Baekhyun so he just blurts, “your voice really helps.”

The huff on the other side of the line is surprised, but Baekhyun doesn’t laugh. 

“Okay. I really don’t think I can be on the phone for long, but if you want we can meet after work.” 

The perspective of seeing Baekhyun brings Sehun back to his normal self, at least a bit. “I don’t want to bother you.”

“You don’t want to see me?” Baekhyun whines, and Sehun can almost see him pout. 

“I always want to see you.” It comes out much cheesier than he thought it would, and he feels his neck getting warm from embarrassment. How does Baekhyun always manage to do that to him.

“You are not bothering me, okay? If you want I can pick you up after work and we can get food, or just kill time by playing games.”

Sehun thinks about it for a second — Baekhyun’s bright grin, the way his sharp canines are showing when he laughs. He also thinks of all the moments when Baekhyun could have pried but didn’t, and when he could have pushed Sehun, but instead gave him space, and it makes his internals turn into jelly. 

“Yeah. If it’s fine with you, I‘d be. Really happy to see you, hyung.”

“Then that’s a deal.”

The rest of the day goes by in a blur. Sehun allows himself to get drawn in the work, purposefully ignoring Line and messages in it. When he looks at his phone it feels like it became just a bit heavier, filled with things Sehun is expected to do (be a sensible person and reply) but doesn’t. 

At seven Jongin stands up, switching off his computer. 

“Are you going to the studio today?” he still seems absent, like there are a lot of things happening on his mind and he doesn’t really care. Jongin always had that habit of closing up when he needed to concentrate on something. Sehun hopes he has nothing to worry about, but at least it is easier like this for now. There is that bit of relief, what Jongin won’t ask him questions about Baekhyun and everything. 

“Nope, I am almost done with the work there, so no point,” and it is almost true. But redoing stuff according to Yixing’s comments is not a priority. 

Jongin nods and leaves the office where Sehun is one on one with his thoughts and new locations to test since there is another hour before Baekhyun can pick him up. 

Last minutes until eight o’clock go so slow it’s almost painful. For most of it, Sehun even forgets about Luhan’s messages which he still ignores. He can go downstairs right now, but that would be too early. 

At some point he understands that feeling so nervous before meeting someone wasn’t a thing for a really long time. And that feels weird and unsettling since he and Baekhyun are set to be friends, and not anything that can include Sehun’s fluttering heart. 

When it is 7:58 Sehun finally allows himself to get his coat and go down the stairs. It’s not like he and Baekhyun didn’t see each other for awhile, since they met at the office just a couple days ago, and they talk everyday. And after what happened in the morning, he is really not supposed to be that. Happy? Excited. 

But he is.

Baekhyun waits for him downstairs and Sehun immediately feels sorry that he didn’t come earlier. Then, Baekhyun smiles at him — not his usual grin, just the corners of his lips curling up slightly. 

“Hi.”

At the sound of Baekhyun’s voice Sehun suddenly becomes aware of how real this is — he called his hyung, a coworker, in the middle of the day because he had a panic attack over nothing and made him come up all the way here just to meet him from work. Well shit.

“Oh. Hi. I’m sorry for, ugh.” Sehun hates how inarticulate he can get sometimes, so he shakes his head slightly. “Sorry. I dragged you all the way here.”

Baekhyun’s eyebrows furrow, but he just drops the topic, instead saying, “It’s a beautiful evening and you promised me food. So food it is!”

“Okay.” Some of the weight drops from Sehun’s shoulders. “How was your day?”

They stop by a tiny cafe nearby to eat Japanese curry and talk about anything, and nothing at all. Sehun suddenly remembers how he and Jongin were sneaking out from the house in the summer to spend hours on the empty playground. He doesn’t really remember now what they talked about back then. Nothing, but in the same time everything, like kids do. And teenagers. And adults, apparently. 

They speak of the game, and then of food. Baekhyun tells him about his band and some stories about Chanyeol and Jongdae. Also about Sooyoung. It turns out that Chanyeol and Sooyoung both met Baekhyun in the university, before he dropped out. 

“Chanyeol crushed on me, and I almost broke his heart,” Baekhyun laughs, “but somehow I saved myself by being a brat, so he fell out of love before I managed to fuck it up.” He stops for a second, shoving some more curry in his mouth. “It is really easy to break Chanyeol’s heart, honestly. That’s why I never made out with him before we were 100% settled on being friends.”

Sehun almost chokes on his food, but tries to keep his face straight. He feels like it might be appropriate to ask about something that was bothering him for awhile.

“Why did Sooyoung call you ‘sweetie’? Do you two… date?” Sehun immediately regrets asking it because the question gets too private, and Baekhyun told him that he is gay, so it is also really strange to ask him that.

Baekhyun, though, doesn’t seem bothered, just entertained: “Water in the ocean will boil sooner than me and her can date. I mean, we are bi enough to have some history,” Baekhyun pauses for a second, smirking, “But that definitely cannot be called dating.”

Sehun gapes, confused, “So are you bi?”

Baekhyun shrugs noncommittally, “Yeah? I guess. To be honest I don’t really like to define. I generally am. Into people, I guess. Mostly men, but occasionally women too.”

Sehun is afraid that Baekhyun will ask him the same question, because he doesn’t really know what to say, but Baekhyun just doesn’t — again doing that thing with leaving Sehun space. It feels strangely empty, but also makes Sehun feel flustered, like a tingling feeling that Baekhyun’s touches always leave.

They talk a bit more — of games, Baekhyun’s interview, their job. At some point they leave the place and grab some takeaway coffee to keep them warm outside. The evening is really nice. The temperature seems to have risen during the day, and the cold wind doesn’t appear as they walk away from the business center into the quieter area. Soon enough, almost referencing Sehun’s earlier memory they find an empty playground with two empty swings. Baekhyun runs to them excitedly (like there are other people who might take them) and grins at Sehun.

Sehun just walks to the other one, but Baekhyun’s enthusiasm is contagious and soon Sehun also feels like a five year old kid. 

He catches Baekhyun looking at him, his eyes fond, with the same soft smile Sehun noticed earlier, and he doesn’t think оbefore saying, “Thank you, really. It made me feel better.”

Baekhyun stops entirely, looking at Sehun closely. “Do you want to tell me what happened?”

The question, even that soft, makes Sehun tense. It shows in small things, like how his grip gets tighter on the swings, his shoulders stiff. He catches that, and tries to exhale slowly, but that doesn’t really help.

“Nothing, really. I mean, it is really stupid.”

Baekhyun tips his head to the side. “Didn’t really sound like it was nothing. But, Sehunnie, if you do not want to tell me, it’s okay.”

After that ‘Sehunnie’ he is not even sure what he wants anymore, feeling like his neck is getting hot, his shyness messing him up. “It wasn’t anything bad, honestly. Just,” Sehun inhales deeply, “my ex messaged me.” The memories of today flash back to Sehun as he feels the burning presence of the phone in his pocket again. He also almost expects Baekhyun to laugh, but then Baekhyun just keeps looking at him, with the very same expression, waiting. 

“Did you break up recently?”

Sehun shakes his head. “No, not really. Almost two years ago.” It goes quiet again and Sehun feels sorry that he can’t actually talk smoothly, feeling like all the words are gone. But Baekhyun helps him again. 

“Why did you feel so upset when he messaged you?” 

It’s a lot, honestly, and Sehun really doesn’t know how to make a solid sentence out of everything he feels. He doesn’t really know why that message affects him so much. It shouldn’t, but it does. It’s not that their relationships were bad, or even their break up. Sure, Sehun still feels like it’s his fault, but that was almost two years ago. 

“Hyung, I don’t. I don’t know, really,” something in Baekhyun’s eyes makes him continue with words he never thought to himself: “I just don’t want to see him. I don’t want him back in my life. It’s finally good.”

There is a bit of silence, where Sehun takes a moment to think of what he just said and of Baekhyun, who is just quietly listening to him, swaying a bit back and forward in the swings. It’s quiet and there is nobody in the playground. Just the light creak of swings. 

“Luhan hyung isn’t bad. He is a good person. And we were living together for almost a year and I was, just. Just really unhappy, I guess.” There is another squeak, a person passing the street coughs, Baekhyun still watches Sehun with the same soft, interested expression. “It’s also probably my fault, because I wasn’t good enough to be together with. But then he just got a work transfer back to China, and I,” it still aches to remember that week when Luhan was sure Sehun will be going with him, as Sehun wasn’t able to say no. How Luhan was taking for granted that Sehun will go with him, how heartbroken he looked when Sehun refused, “and I just didn’t go.”

“Because you were unhappy?” Baekhyun suggests, and Sehun squirms as it doesn’t hit the right place. 

“Not that. No. I didn’t even know Chinese, hyung. A word of it. Here I had a job, and my family, and my friends, and my whole life, but moving there it’s just. I felt scared that I won’t be able to communicate with anyone.”

Baekhyun smiles teasingly, all of a sudden, “You know you don’t really seem to be someone who will miss communication a lot, right?”

Sehun huffs, but there’s no humour to this, “It’s different. I can’t really. Talk. But I like being able to say hi to a random shopkeeper. Or discuss the game in the gaming centre. Or ask a neighbor about his health. Also, just being around people. Jongin, Seulgi, my parents. You,” at that Sehun can feel his face burning, “Sorry, that was. Cheesy.”

Baekhyun’s smile grows, turning into a grin, “That’s okay. You’re adorable than you say cheesy things.”

“Come on, hyung. Cut it,” Sehun almost wails just to hear Baekhyun’s obnoxious laugh. 

“Nope, sorry.”

“Okay.”

They sit for another minute and Sehun finally starts feeling chilly, even without the wind. The cup he is still holding has gone cold a long time ago and he doesn’t really have gloves yet, but he doesn’t want to go just yet. Sitting here with Baekhyun feels safe. 

“Why do you say you’re not good to be together with?” Baekhyun’s tone is suddenly serious and his eyebrows are slightly furrowed, a new and unfamiliar expression.

Sehun giggles, a strange sound more because of the nervousness than fun, “That’s. A sudden question.”

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to pry,” Baekhyun sways his hand and smiles again, the furrow going away, “You don’t need to answer that.”

They sit another moment in silence, as Baekhyun stares somewhere into the night and Sehun just looks at him and his all too pretty face, the beautiful curve of his lips, the slim fingers with long nails grasping the swings. His heart hammers in his chest and he feels a bit delirious, like this whole thing is just a dream.

“I just think,” Baekhyun bites his lip, stopping for a moment, “It’s okay to want things outside of your relationship. I mean, job, and friends, and family, and just. Other people or things. I don’t think we are made to limit our world to just one person. I tried to, and it wasn’t making us happy.”

“Is that why you broke up?” Baekhyun told him he cannot do relationships, so it must be a reason why they broke up, but Baekhyun just smiles, so genuine and fond that Sehun’s heart skips a bit.

“Nope, that’s a different story. No. We talked and we decided that one person cannot be the whole world to you. It really,” he pauses, smiling again, “helped, I think.”

Sehun suddenly remembers the day when he and Luhan had another fight over Sehun’s contacts with other people. He doesn’t even remember what he did, probably spent too much time with colleagues on Friday’s drinking, or asked if he could meet Jongin on weekends. A some point Luhan asked him if he isn’t enough, and Sehun didn’t know what to say, because Luhan wasn’t. He missed Jongin, and his parents, and generally other people that weren’t his boyfriend. But he wasn’t able to tell him that because it was just. Too cruel. He wasn’t supposed to say ‘you are not enough’, so he didn’t. He was supposed to be content with having just one person, but he wasn’t. Isolation scared him, made him nervous, sick, unhappy. After Luhan mentioned going to China, Sehun had nightmares for that whole week before he could finally say he isn’t going. 

He never thought he was right about that. But Baekhyun says he was. 

Almost feeling Sehun’s thoughts, Baekhyun turns to him, “Sorry, got carried away. How do you feel now?”

Sehun shrugs, completely shaken both by the memories and finally talking to someone about this for the first time since it happened, “Scared. I don’t know, hyung. His messages really scare me. It’s so stupid cause, fuck, he’s a good person and I shouldn’t feel that but. I don’t want to go back there ever again.”

Baekhyun turns to him as much as he can, so the swings creak again and all of the sudden one of his hands reaches out to take Sehun’s. Baekhyun’s hand is freezing, but the feeling of that touch makes Sehun melt. Baekhyun’s fingers skim over Sehun’s defined knuckles, prying it away from the swings to hold it in the tight grasp.

“It’s not stupid if you don’t want to go somewhere you were unhappy. And you don’t need to,” Sehun barely hears him because of his heart hammering in his chest, “And if you don’t want to see him, it’s okay. You don’t have to do anything that wrecks you or scares you so much, Sehunnie. Taking care of yourself comes first.”

Sehun doesn’t notice when their fingers become interlaced, but when he does, he can’t think about Luhan or anything else. The imaginary extra weight of his phone almost disappears, and the whole world doesn’t matter. It’s an overwhelming and happy feeling, but he soon remembers that it shouldn’t be.

“Thank you, hyung.” he should take his hand away, but doesn’t want to because it feels too nice, “I really do feel better. Your hands are freezing. We should probably go home.”

The look Baekhyun gives him is strange, all too knowing but he doesn’t say anything, just nods. 

They hold hands till the end of the street, until Baekhyun’s fingers slip away when they step to a brighter area, and Sehun’s heart doesn’t calm down all the way home. He remembers about the messages only when he is half asleep but can’t find any energy to be bothered. He can always reply later. But it’s okay if he doesn’t.

Chapter Text

SEULGI

It is already the third sketch which she crumples to throw away. She was supposed to start drawing one of the final castle scenes today, but each time she started she found herself drawing something else completely. Doodling animals, creating a nicer outfit for the princess, changing her hairstyle. She also now has a chibi-Yixing doodle, which is the only one she doesn’t throw away. In the doodle he is wearing a suit, looking both extremely smart and cute. Just like in real life. 

Usually working from home is easy for her but today it certainly isn’t the case. Sometimes she can’t help but wonder, if after they finish she hates drawing. Sometimes it felt like a possible outcome. 

She used to have everything — a good idea, right color — on the tip of her fingers, the picture of how she wants everything to look like clear before her eyes. But the deeper she goes into the game, the more nights she spends colouring, and changing, and sketching, the more of a mess everything becomes. It is never good enough, never perfect and the time is running out, slipping through her fingers.

Earlier today she woke up early and walked towards the mirror. For some time couldn’t quite figure out, if the person reflecting in it is really her. Dark circles under her eyes, oily hair. A mess of a girl with a hungry cat next to her. Unable to manage her life.

When they first came up with the idea of making the game, really launching instead of keeping her sketches in the drawer, she used to imagine how it would be when they are almost done — excited, anticipating, happy. Now it certainly isn’t like that at all: she spent all her time staring at the paper filled with stupid sketches, without a single thought in her head except for the one which she tries to push away the most. Should i even be doing this.

By noon it becomes impossible to stand the quietness of the house. Her hair is already almost dry after the morning shower, so she pulls on the stretched t shirt and a warm sweater. It doesn’t really matter how she looks, since she doesn’t have anyone to impress. Except for Sooyoung.

The thought of Sooyoung makes Seulgi grab an eyeliner and mascara from the shelf attempting to do at least some makeup. Only when she finishes the first eye she understands that she shouldn't be trying this hard for her. Or rather, shouldn’t want to. But it’s easier to finish with her makeup than to wash it off. Pretty pink blush with sparkles is on her cheeks before she can even think of applying it. Some habits die hard. 

At least she wants to think that’s it. Just the last moment before she goes out, she also puts on a nicer sweater. Just in case.

Seulgi grabs coffee and some food on her way to work, hoping no one is really there on a working day. Maybe Yerim, if she has a night shift on her main job. 

Releasing the game on time still feels like a distant miracle. Yixing is always the one who has everything together, their timeframes, budget, their plans. She always listens but the closer the release date gets, the more vague it becomes to her. She feels detached, and distant, almost like her passion is freezing in the cold November wind.

Seulgi reaches the office while thinking all the happiest thoughts, and the door opens before she can even put the key in the lock. Sooyoung bumps into her, and then blinks with her huge eyes, surprised. Seulgi does the same thing, since she really hoped she could work alone. But then she notices the line of Sooyoung shoulders slightly open in the leather dress she is wearing and it becomes too hard to look away. She suddenly can’t find herself to mind.

Sooyoung’s eyes are unlike any Seulgi has ever seen in her life. Huge, with those long black lashes, they seem unreal, like she is a manga character. Looking at her always makes Seulgi want to draw her, even though years have passed since she asked anyone to pose for her. 

When Sooyoung blinks again, surprise finally fades away and Seulgi can break the eye contact, finally looking elsewhere. 

“Sorry, unnie,” Sooyoung doesn’t sound very sorry, especially judging by the soft laugh on her full lips.

“No, that’s fine. I should have been more careful. Are you leaving somewhere?” Seulgi doesn’t want Sooyoung to leave. Realisation comes quickly and makes the whole situation even more uncomfortable. 

Sooyoung just shakes her head and smiles again, looking straight at Seulgi as she says, “I was hoping I’d meet you today.”

Seulgi is just happy she put some makeup on so it shouldn’t be as visible that she is flustered. She tugs at her hair nervously, trying to get herself back to reality, but she is still impossibly close to Sooyoung and her heart is beating too fast. It must be from walking up the stairs. Third floor is a very long walk.

She tugs at her hair once again just to be able to get out of that sudden jelly-like state, “Why? Do you need anything?”

Instead of answering Sooyoung takes her hand and makes her let go of her abused hair strand. Then she simply puts it behind her ear, like this is a totally okay thing to do to a colleague, touching the shell of her ear tenderly. “No, unnie. I just like being around you.”

At that she finally leaves the room, going somewhere towards the bathrooms. Her legs are unbelievably long in this unbelievably short dress, but Seulgi forces herself to stop looking and sneaks into the office, overly grateful for it being empty at least for a moment. 

 

***

Coming to the office despite Sooyoung’s distracting presence finally helps Seulgi to get things done. She wasn’t really planning to draw this part in particular today, but polishing up the beginning is also something they should do, so it doesn’t seem too bad for them.

She was always weird about the beginning, mostly leaving it to Yixing. The idea of the travel, the forest, the castle — they were all familiar. Sometimes she would wake up after a dream of walking in those cities, and fields, and about a river flowing down from the capital of their imagined kingdom.

The princess, walking through those fields, step by step was gaining, collecting, saving the memories. Here she sees a village, here she helps or rejects a stranger. Here she runs away or faces the danger. A line of decisions, a line of character-defining choices, which Seulgi didn’t have to make — just leave it there to a player.

When Seulgi was drawing, she was imagining the princess as an empty shell, a vessel ready to be filled with meanings. And the more the princess moves forward the more filled she becomes.

The beginning though was something that never worked in Seulgi’s imagination. A feeling of being left alone, all the life you imagined, everything you knew yourself to be perishing in the clouds. It wasn’t something she thought she could draw, almost like she couldn’t explain it to Baekhyun. It was too personal, way too close to home. She never managed to ask if Yixing also got intimidated by these chapters.

She isn’t sure.

But now the part she struggles the most with is the end. When the princess steps out of the forest, she is not an empty shell anymore. Filled with determination and with her vision of her future she is ready to move on. Seulgi just doesn’t feel she is anywhere that determined. She can’t connect.

She doesn’t know what to draw, or how to draw, which colours to pick. Maybe it’s because she isn’t sleeping well, mostly dreaming of Yixing, budget, investors, and Sooyoung.

Before she properly notices, she sketches one of the early scenes. A dragon, flying up the skies. A lonely, abandoned feeling, a fading hope, a fading dream, fear. 

She double checks Yixing’s list of missed screens in their organizer and finds it there. She marks it as ‘in progress’ and starts drawing. She can’t help but wonder, why would he leave it. Yixing isn’t the person to jump from one thing to another, he proceeded thoroughly, step by step, line by line.

She suddenly remembers the day he pried the exact same sketch, of the exact same moment out of her hands. Seulgi wasn’t planning to show it to anyone, it just happened to be in her notebook, folded. And the Yixing asked her about it and she couldn’t help herself but tell. 

She would never think back then they would come so far. Could it be that Yixing also wouldn’t? Could it be that he wanted her to draw the exact picture it all started with? Sounds way to irrational for him, but Seulgi kind of wants to believe it’s true. Maybe he still treasures it the same way she does.

They work in silence. Sooyoung doesn’t start the conversation and if she looks up to see Seulgi’s concentrated face, Seulgi never notices.

After she finished with her first outline, she colours the sketch vaguely and puts it away, feeling the strange inspiration, weirdly determined. She goes back to the things Yixing drew for their starting scenes. He wasn’t happy with them, said they seem off. She couldn’t tell then but now she sees. Colors are too vivid, lines are too straight, too easy. She saves his drafts and starts editing, changes colours, the lining. It seems easy, and there is a certain satisfaction in editing Yixing’s perfect lines, his ideal pictures, adding chaos to them. This is what they should be, chaos taking over the expected perfection. Something he wasn’t able to do himself but knew that it had to be done.

Seulgi doesn’t notice the passage of time. Once, she looks up at Sooyoung to see her profile. She concentrates on the screen, narrowing her eyes and moves the stylus on her tablet, drawing something Seulgi can’t see from that angle. There is that dimple right below her full lower lip, the line defining her round chin. Her lashes from the side seem even longer. 

Seulgi forces herself to look down back at her work, but can’t resist adding the same line to one of the characters just because it seems like a great detail. 

Seulgi doesn’t like working with someone like that usually. With Yixing, the silence just becomes too heavy at some point and she cannot stand it, all the unspoken things between them hanging in the air. Yerim likes to talk, Sehun likes muttering something to himself. 

The way Sooyoung works is very similar to her own. Quiet and concentrated, like she dives in right inside her own drawings, in these lines and illusions Seulgi likes so much in her style. It’s like they both go under water, occasionally swimming up and taking a short breath before they get completely lost again.

When Seulgi finishes with editing, the autumn sun is already setting. It is dark in the room. Now, when the sun isn’t shining through the huge office windows, Seulgi notices that they never bothered to switch on the lamps. Sooyoung is squinting looking on her screen. They probably need to get the light on, but the silence established in the room is so thick, that Seulgi is afraid to break it. Instead she watches how Sooyoung bites her full lover lip. 

Is that okay that she finds Sooyoung so pretty? She should probably ask Sehun or Jongin what they think about her. Or maybe not. The thought of Jongin not liking Sooyoung irritates her, but Jongin liking her seems even worse.

Is it weird that she wants to stand up and walk closer to push a strand of her hair away from her face? It doesn’t feel weird. It feels right.

Seulgi only notices that she is still staring at Sooyoung when she looks back at her, “Unnie?”

The quiet sound of her voice, soft and curious. She blinks with her huge eyes, her lips parted. Sooyoung’s eyes are as dark as the forest that she is drawing. The thoughts coming into Seulgi’s tired head are slow and heavy, like when you spend hours doing the same thing and then your brain tries desperately to get used to the new setting but can’t keep up.

Sooyoung stands up carefully, not breaking eye contact, and makes a cautious step towards Seulgi’s table. Seulgi can feel her heart beating too fast in her chest. She swallows nervously, but cannot look away. When Sooyoung stops next to her and licks her lips, the picture of kissing her is so vivid in Seulgi’s imagination that she almost feels that kiss on her mouth. And it feels amazing.

Seulgi craves for human contact, someone’s warm hands holding her own, someone’s attention, being loved. Sparks she had with Yixing which are fading away, unwanted. Sparks she has with Sooyoung. When Sooyoung’s hand moves towards her face she almost waits for her to touch her cheek and drag her into a kiss — a thought that should seem weird, but it doesn’t — but Sooyoung does that only briefly, tucking away the strand of Seulgi’s hair which fell out of her messy bun. 

“Will you show me what you are working on?” the question is so sudden that Seulgi blinks a couple of times to get the meaning. 

“Oh. Yeah, sure,” she hopes that disappointment doesn’t show much and leans towards her computer to show her work to Sooyoung. 

“Wow, that’s really cool,” she says at one of the screens. Seulgi is very happy about it herself and it adds up that it is exactly the one Sooyoung pointed out. It is one of the finishing screens for the first fight, stable ones with no animation, capturing the emotions of the character. Happy smile, if she solves the fight with peace, pride if she defeats the enemy, fear if she runs away. Shock and some weird satisfaction if she kills it. 

Seulgi was editing the picture that shows the princess running away, tears in her eyes, gray colours, dark silhouettes of trees stretching their branches like arms. It is a scary drawing, and Seulgi likes it. Likes that it made her cringe herself in this dark room with Sooyoung’s warm breath on her neck. Yixing drew it and it was perfect, just too perfect for the erratic emotion it depicted.

“The whole sequence just seems better now. I don’t know. Darker, if this makes sense. I really liked how you blurred the lining here.”

“You sure? I don’t think Yixing will like it. It came out too dark at some places.”

Sooyoung snorts, “Yixing dislikes many things, but I doubt your artwork is one of them. Besides, It’s your game. The most important thing is whether you like it or not.”

Seulgi really wants to argue and say the usual thing, tell her how they are working on it together and how none of it would be here without Yixing, but something selfish in her doesn’t let the words slip out of her mouth. It feels nice to hear Sooyoung phrase it that way.



KYUNGSOO

When Kyungsoo wakes up, it’s warm. Usually in the morning it gets colder since their heater turns off automatically, but now it’s not. Kyungsoo blinks a couple of times, his head clearing a bit, and finally understands that he isn’t alone in bed. Baekhyun is snuggled next to him, his arm resting on Kyungsoo’s chest. Both of their blankets are lying upon them so it almost feels hot. Baekhyun’s breath is tickling the top of Kyungsoo’s head.

Kyungsoo moves slightly to grab his phone trying not to bother Baekhyun. It’s almost 11 o’clock and it’s Saturday, so Kyungsoo doesn’t need to be anywhere. Probably Baekhyun too. It doesn’t happen often so Kyungsoo puts his phone away and turns back to Baekhyun, carefully hugging him too. It’s not the most comfortable position, with Kyungsoo’s mouth against Baekhyun’s collarbone, but it still feels nice. Kyungsoo closes his eyes, feeling the smell of Baekhyun, familiar and calming, and allows himself to be lulled back to sleep by the sound of Baekhyun’s breath. 

 

When he wakes up for the second time, barely one hour later with his head on Baekhyun’s chest, Baekhyun is already up, scrolling through the news with his left hand. Good thing he is ambidextrous.

“Morning,” Baekhyun smiles as he notices that he woke up.

“Hi,” Kyungsoo’s voice is sore and crunky from all the sleep, and he can’t see anything without the glasses so he turns around to get a sip of water from a glass next to their bed and pick them up. It helps him wake up.

“How was your sleep?” Kyungsoo lays back on Baekhyun’s shoulder and hugs him again, still too lazy to stand up. 

“Good,” Kyungsoo can feel the way Baekhyun strokes his hair pleasantly, “You don’t have anywhere to be today?”

“Nope. Seems like Seungwan was right about the epidemic. Both kids cancelled,” Baekhyun sighs, “It might be bad for my finances, but honestly, I am just glad I have a day off finally.”

Kyungsoo snuggles a bit closer, trying to reassure him. That is definitely not the worst financial situation they’ve been to. Not anywhere close. But a washing machine would be nice. 

It takes them another hour to finally get out of the bed. The weather outside is not particularly motivating either — the gray skies, rain pouring down, the drops of water hitting the window. It’s been awhile since they actually had a chance to do nothing all day. Well, maybe almost nothing since Kyungsoo has some work for the upcoming project already and Baekhyun still has to compose a lot. 

Kyungsoo isn’t surprised Yixing was unable to find any composer for that before — the schedule is just too tight for anyone to work in it. Anyone, except for Baekhyun. It is still a mystery, how his brain was able to create so many melodies so fast that it just took more time to write them down than to compose. Not all of them are good for anything of course, but many are. Kyungsoo always likes to listen to everything anyway.

It was partly Baekhyun’s music that won him over in the first place, and the more he knew Baekhyun the more Kyungsoo liked everything he wrote. He is probably biased. Stupid people in love are always biased. 

Baekhyun looks at his phone worriedly, while finishing his breakfast, and bites his lip so Kyungsoo just can’t hold himself back from asking, “Is something wrong?”

Baekhyun looks at him eyes wide, like he was jerked out of his thoughts. Then he ruffles his hair, puts the phone screen down. Kyungsoo can’t take his eyes off Baekhyun’s hands, as always, but still tries to listen. “I don’t know. Not really?” Kyungsoo doesn’t say anything, giving Baekhyun a chance to make his thoughts into words: “I am just worried about the main theme, I guess. Nothing seems good enough.”

“Did you try showing it to Yixing or Seulgi?” Kyungsoo sits down on the sofa to get a better view of Baekhyun’s face. 

“No. It’s just. It’s bad, Soo, I know it. It’s wrong,” Baekhyun bites his lip again and Kyungsoo thinks that he will need to buy more lip balm and keep putting it everywhere around the house including every pocket of Baekhyun’s trousers, “The main theme should be about the most important thing of the whole game. ”

“And what’s that?”

Baekhyun leans back in his chair and looks up towards the ceiling, “I don’t know, really. I mean, it’s hard — the game depends so much on the player. And the player can be everything — kind or cruel or reckless or just curious, and all off that would be like, four different soundtracks,” Baekhyun sighs, “Fuck. I don’t know. It should be something bigger than just, like. Any particular emotion.”

“And what’s that?” — Kyungsoo understands that he asks the same question, but it still seems appropriate. He also didn’t ever claim to be the smoothest conversationalist. He has Baekhyun for that. 

“The character is always the same. In the beginning. ‘I am what I am supposed to be’ kind of thing, you know.”

“I think we all do. We all try to keep fitting ourselves at that one box of how we are supposed to feel, or act, or whatever.”

Baekhyun looks lost and gapes at Kyungsoo, “I really don’t think I know how this works. I kinda always get what I really want.” At that, Kyungsoo can’t hold back a smile. 

“I don’t think you don’t. Remember, before we talked about polyamory? You kept pretending you didn’t want that, but you did. Or when halmeoni got sick and you acted like you’re fine,” Baekhyun flinches at the memory, but Kyungsoo knew that they both thought it’s better to talk about it, than to not to, “I don’t think that all was a show-off.”

“No,” Baekhyun’s voice is sharp and husky, “Kyungsoo, you know that I don’t lie to you. It wasn’t—” He bites his lip again and Kyungsoo stands up from the sofa, unable to watch it anymore. He picks up the lip balm from the shelf and passes it to Baekhyun, “Oh god, am I doing it again?”

Kyungsoo shrugs looking how Baekhyun covers the red lip with the balm.

“I didn’t even realise.” Kyungsoo stands behind the chair and lets Baekhyun lean on him, “You know it wasn’t intentional. I was confused. Didn’t really know how I was supposed to feel,” the silence on Kyungsoo’s side is all too telling, “Fuck, you’re right. I am incredibly good in pretending too,” there’s a bit of silence, “Thank you for being here. And for reminding me of lip balm. And of that.”

Lip balm on Baekhyun’s lips tastes strawberry and mint. Their necks are at an awkward angle, so Kyungsoo guides Baekhyun to standing. He wears slippers and Baekhyun is walking around barefooted as always, so they are almost the same height. The kiss starts slow and gentle, but then Baekhyun bites his lip and pushes his tongue in Kyungsoo’s mouth. It sends a jolt of electricity down Kyungsoo’s belly and he winds his arms around Baekhyun’s waist, sneaking them under his shirt.

The doorbell rings. Baekhyun keeps kissing him and Kyungsoo thinks that might be somebody mistook a door.

It rings again. 

“Do you expect someone?” Kyungsoo mumbles, breaking the kiss, Baekhyun moves to kiss his chin and down his neck.

“Nope,” but the doorbell keeps ringing. 

“We really need to...”, the rest of the sentence gets muffled in Baekhyun’s mouth, and Kyungsoo would totally give in, but the doorbell keeps going on so he decisively breaks them apart. Sight of Baekhyun’s shining lips and his generally wrecked appearance are not helping at all, but Kyungsoo makes an effort and goes towards the door.

When he opens it, he sees Sooyoung cheerily smiling. She holds two huge bags of food in her hands, and Kyungsoo leans forward to take them away even before he manages to ask what the fuck she is doing at their apartment door. Not like he is going to get any sensible reply for that. 

“Did I interrupt something?” Kyungsoo notices that Baekhyun came up to the door, still looking like a mess. 

“You interrupted my almost successful attempt to seduce my own husband,” Sooyoung makes a disgusted face.

“You told me you’re both home so I thought we could cook food and have a movie night.”

Kyungsoo rolls his eyes, but can’t really find himself being annoyed at Sooyoung. She lives barely a block away and they do enjoy her company for movie nights a lot, “Do you mean you thought I can cook a lot of food and you can just hang out watching my efforts?”

Sooyoung beams at him, nodding, “Exactly, oppa.”

All of them laugh and Baekhyun helps Kyungsoo to get the food to the kitchen. Sooyoung follows them, stopping by the bathroom to wash her hands.

“I am sick of drawing, honestly,” she whines and Kyungsoo remembers that Baekhyun mentioned she also got into the same project. 

“How do you enjoy working with Yixing?” Baekhyun’s tone is sacractic. He puts the beer Sooyoung got into the fridge and takes out kimchi. 

Sooyoung wailes, “Holy shit, Baek. Does this guy ever takes his head out of his ass?”

“I was quite sure you wouldn’t like each other, honestly,” Baekhyun giggles, way to happy for a person who just got his friends in an uncomfortable communication.

Sooyoung opens the fridge and takes one of the cherry beers they just put there, “I have nothing to do with that. It’s him who hates me.” She pouts sadly, “I mean now I kind of dislike him too.”

“And Seulgi?” Baekhyun’s grin is already far too telling and Kyungsoo turns to Sooyoung to look how her cheeks get pinker.

“Shut up,” Baekhyun and Kyungsoo both laugh, “It’s your fault anyway, oppa! You are here all lovey-dovey with Kyungsoo while I suffer from my love. You got me into this!” 

Baekhyun laughs again, loudly, and Sooyoung steps closer to punch him in the shoulder. Kyungsoo can’t hold back a smile. 

“Okay, kids.” He says, his tone serious, “get yourself useful finally. Baekhyun, you are trained to chop vegetables. Sooyoung,” he looks over Sooyoung trying to think of something she can do, “make us hot chocolate. I don’t trust you with sharp objects.”

“Aye-aye, captain!” Kyungsoo just hopes it will get them busy for once. 

They spend another hour cooking kimchi jjigae. Baekhyun and Sooyoung keep chatting about the game, but Kyungsoo doesn’t feel bored or left out. He likes to listen to Baekhyun’s voice and takes his time to focus on the cooking. It’s relaxing. 

“I don’t know,” Sooyoung’s voice is concerned, “I think I am serious about her? But whatever’s going on between her and Yixing-oppa is just weird”.

Kyungsoo adds the kimchi juice and other things to the pot and starts stirring carefully. 

“I really have no idea. I never asked Yixing, to be honest. Do you think she’s gay?” Kyungsoo can hear Sooyoung laugh. 

“Oppa, I am not to worried about that. She might be straight, you might be gay, but I’m irresistible,” Kyungsoo remembers how confused was Baekhyun during the short period they had… whatever that was. So far he only dated men but Sooyoung was a huge crush for him so he kept going around about his new-found bisexuality. 

“You are a brat,” Baekhyun’s voice is somewhat mockingly offended, and that causes Sooyoung’s bright laughter to fill the room again. The stew boils and Kyungsoo tastes it to check the spiciness level, which turns out to be fine. He adds the tofu and reduces the heat to leave it simmer. 

“Is it ready?” Sooyoung and Baekhyun both jump around excitedly and Kyungsoo feels like a dog-owner. 

“Shush, another 20 minutes. Get away from the stove.”

They relocate to the living room and Kyungsoo puts his laptop on a chair next to the sofa. 

“Any ideas?” It’s been awhile since they did this, and with his job Kyungsoo feels like he missed all of the latest movie news. There’s also a growing list of anime Baekhyun wants them to watch together. 

Sooyoung and Baekhyun argue choosing between some drama and the latest marvel movie which Sooyoung missed, but end up with “Kill Bill,” which comes up out of nowhere. Kyungsoo has it on DVD back from the time when he assembled a collection. He only took half of his disks he had back home, but all Tarantino’s movies left his parent’s house with him. 

When he comes back from Baekhyun’s studio where they have all the shelves with DVD, Baekhyun looks down at his phone and smiles. 

“I think someone is looking like a lovesick idiot,” Sooyoung teases.

Baekhyun reacts unexpectedly sharp at that, “I’m not lovesick, It’s just,” his cheeks get pinker reminding Kyungsoo of Sooyoung’s expression today. He hums to himself. He knew well how Baekhyun behaved with his crushes, but now there was something different to it, almost like they were back to the place where having this wasn’t allowed. He stopped talking, and sharing and right know he could feel his defences being up. “It’s just Sehun had some. Difficulties, a couple of days ago. And now he is saying it’s fine,” Baekhyun smiles softly.

“Sure thing,” Sooyoung keeps teasing him, but it seems to be way past Baekhyun’s comfort zone, so she stops and changes the tone, “Sorry, sweetie. I didn’t know you’re sensitive about this.”

“I’m not,” Baekhyun retorts, and the look he gives Kyungsoo — sheepish and guilty, makes him concerned once again. Sooyoung also looks a little surprised.

“I just thought you liked him,” she offers softly and Baekhyun finally eases a bit.

“I do, but. We want very different things, so we just left it where it was,” Kyungsoo’s timer rings in the kitchen and he walks there to stir the stew. While he does, he hears Baekhyun’s quiet steps behind him. Baekhyun’s expression is puzzled, and still apologetic.

“Are you okay?” Kyungsoo asks quietly making sure Sooyoung doesn’t hear them. 

Baekhyun steps closer and drops his forehead on Kyungsoo’s shoulder, “I don’t know. Is Sooyoung right? Do I...” he pauses, “look like lovesick idiot?”

Kyungsoo giggles, “90 percent of the time,” he teases, but hugs Baekhyun carefully, “you kind of do. Is it Sehun?”

“I don’t know,” Baekhyun sighs, “it shouldn’t be, but.”

“Do you want to talk about it?” Kyungsoo can feel how Baekhyun smiles into his neck. The stew behind them simmers quietly. 

“How are you so perfect, Do Kyungsoo?” Baekhyun’s voice is so warm, it makes something inside Kyungsoo melt. “How do you put up with me?”

Kyungsoo threads his fingers through Baekhyun’s hair lightly, “I don’t. I hate it when you throw your socks around the flat and I spent two years trying to teach you how to not make our room a one huge mess over a week," he moves his hand down Baekhyun's spine, "And I still think your political views suck and I think we are going to fight about them again when election season is close," Baekhyun giggles, but Kyungsoo continues before he can interrupt, "but I love you a lot and I don't put up with you, okay. You make me happy."

Baekhyun relaxes into the touch. "Thank you."

"It's okay. Just remember to talk to me, okay?" Kyungsoo almost whispers in Baekhyun's ear. Sooyoung is their best friend, but some moments should be kept between them.

"Yeah," Baekhyun sighs, "I will. But I think I need some time to figure this out. I think I'm confused."

Kyungsoo can't hold back a smile. "And that's the person who was telling me he is always good with his emotions."

Baekhyun giggles. "Shit, you're right. I just did the same thing again, didn't I?"

They stand like this for a second, before Baekhyun raises his head, smiling wildly. 

"Can you keep Sooyoung company for the movie?"

Kyungsoo gapes at him, confused at Baekhyun’s sudden mood switch, "Sure, why?"

"I think I've got an idea," Baekhyun plants a quick kiss on Kyungsoo's lips and almost runs towards his studio. 

Kyungsoo sighs and turns back to this stew. He will bring some to Baekhyun later.



SEHUN

Sehun thinks that leaving the bug fixing till Sunday evening was a terrible idea. Seriously, at his age he is supposed to know better than this already, but it all seemed so insufficient comparing to Luhan messaging him and other things happening in his life (mostly Baekhyun and his first job) that it might take 12 hours straight to fix everything. 

He saw all members of the team today, coming and leaving — Yerim left to her shift in the morning, Yixing walked in at 10 to work, and had a fight with Sooyoung who came at 12 about her styling. Seulgi came during lunch and brought them food, and then walked away with Sooyoung leaving Yixing irritated and unhappy. Jongin came by for a couple of hours to write some code. He still was less chatty than usual, and it seemed like he tries to keep some distance from Sehun lately. Sehun can’t get why, but maybe it's his piled up secretiveness, or maybe just two jobs are too much for Jongin. Sehun should have asked, but at the same time was scared to, so he kept himself occupied to push the unwanted feelings away.

It turns out that Sunday can be a very busy day. 

Now everyone left, obviously, because it’s 11 and normal people have a life at 11 o’clock Sunday, or just simply enough brains to go home already, but well. Sehun is obviously not one of them.

His phone blinks with the notification. 

Baekhyunnie : Hi~~~ Where are u?

Sehun : I’m at the office, hyung. What’s the matter?

There is no reply for another five minutes, which is uncharacteristically long for Baekhyun. Sehun tries to focus on his code, but fails dramatically. The screen lights up again.

Baekhyunnie : Stay there!!! I ll be in 15 minutes!!!

It turns out he is not the only one without a life then. What hyung might need at 11 o’clock in the office?

Sehun : Sure. Hyung, are you okay? Did something happen?

Reply never comes. Sehun tries again to bring at least some of his attention back to work, but doesn’t manage so he simply closes the laptop and stands up to go to the bathroom. 

Sehun looks at his reflection in the mirror and feels how his heart is hammering. He is the last one in the whole building probably — at least their floor is quite dark and empty. Even the lights in the bathroom are switched off. 

On his way back to the office through the dark corridors, he can't think of anything but how loud is the beat of his heart. Both because of Baekhyun and because he is alone in the whole building and that’s just how horror movies usually start. 

Baekhyun, however, seems much scarier in some ways. He promised that his friendly and flirty behaviours are not that different and he was right. Sehun isn’t even sure if two gay guys can just friendly hold hands while being mutually interested in each other. Too complex. And now he is storming to the office at 11 p.m. on Sunday, just to… Whatever he is doing that for.

And Sehun can’t stop finding himself interested. He doesn’t know if it is because he is not allowed to be — and it just makes it more tempting, or is that just a Baekhyun kind of thing. Him being into Baekhyun kind of thing.

The office is still empty when he comes back and Sehun spends another minute looking outside the window. It’s dark there so he mostly sees just his own perplexed expression. 

When the door clicks Sehun jumps, turning to it rapidly. Baekhyun in the door frame looks like a complete mess — ruffled hair, red face. He is panting like he has been running. That might be true and also might be the reason why he didn’t reply. 

“Hyung, are you all right?”

Baekhyun nods and puts his backpack on the table, to take his coat of and hang it. 

“Yeah. Do you have water?” Baekhyun’s voice is rough and husky, like his throat is sore. Sehun takes a bottle of lemonade from his table and comes closer to Baekhyun to give it to him. When he does, their fingers meet, but instead of taking a bottle away, Baekhyun leaves his hand there, looking at Sehun with this strange and concerned look in his eyes. Sehun blinks, and feels his cheeks getting pink. He takes his hand away and Baekhyun opens the bottle while his eyes are still concentrated on Sehun.

“Hyung? Is everything okay?” Sehun feels uncomfortable, but when Baekhyun finishes drinking, he grins at him and that smile is so familiar that Sehun relaxes.

“Yeah, I’m great!” he says cheerily, “I’d say even awesome!” Baekhyun opens his backpack and takes out his computer and a pair of headphones, “I wrote the main theme.”

Sehun jaw almost drops to the floor, “you did what?!”

“I wrote the main theme! With these amazing hands!” he puts his computer on the table and waves his hands in front of Sehun. Sehun can’t help but notice how beautiful his fingers are. 

“And you ran here to show it to me?” Sehun is still confused, since he assumed he and Jongin would kinda be the last people Baekhyun would care about, “why not Seulgi or Yixing?”

Baekhyun opens his computer and launches some program on it, “Because I wanted to show it to you first.” Baekhyun untangles the earphones and Sehun can see that he is also nervous. His hands tremble slightly, and his movements are hurried. Finally he finishes and connects them to the computer, “It’s definitely wrong to do this with music, but studio headphones are too big to take them out.”

He hands the earphones to Sehun and waits until he plugs them in. Then he finds the right track on his computer, and turns it on, immediately looking back at Sehun. Baekhyun bites his lip again, and Sehun already knows that he does it when he is nervous, but it still looks really sexy. 

The music starts. Sehun has wondered many times what it’d be. He heard Yixing discussing it with Seulgi and previous composers, but in the end that was nothing but just words — still a galaxy away from it to be an actual track. Then they listened to a thousand variations of it and it still was never right. Some tracks even were good, but nothing really matched whatever they were wanting for it to be. Like Seulgi once said, “I don’t know what is our main theme, but that’s not it.”

This track is definitely it. As soon as Sehun is able to hear the melody, he immediately knows that Baekhyun managed to perfectly grasp what they were wanting. It just matches their main character and nobody actually thought it was possible, because she can be just anyone depending on the player. But that music isn’t good or evil in itself, just like the princess. Sehun could feel that — confusion, and fear, and the hesitation all tangled in these sounds. And then — a growing determination with the second melody which quietly starts at the back and grows louder as the track progresses. 

Sehun became so concentrated on the music that the world around him froze for a moment, but now the overwhelming feeling passed and Sehun is again too aware of all the alarming things happening in his chest, like he is the main character, who is lost and confused, with all those unspoken feelings and things. Also too aware of Baekhyun, who stands all too close to him, looking at Sehun as if his reaction to the music is the most important thing in the world. 

Sehun can’t take his eyes away from him — slightly parted lips, shining eyes — and the music which keeps on playing just sounds intact with his heart, making Sehun unsure if anything what happens now is real. 

Sehun notices that the track finishes and starts again, so he forces himself to take off the earphones and hand them to Baekhyun. Their fingers touch again, but this time Baekhyun just takes the earphones away, leaving them play quietly in the background. He doesn’t take his eyes from Sehun, but Sehun can’t quite form any words, like he is probably supposed to, so he just asks lamely, “Why me?”

“You helped me a lot to write it,” Baekhyun doesn’t smile, or even blush, like he is not saying the cheesiest thing ever, just the obvious truth with the most earnest expression he can make. And Sehun believes him, without the usual spike of self doubt. 

They are still extremely close and Sehun is not even sure who closes the distance. He kind of expects Baekhyun to kiss him, but Baekhyun doesn’t move, same as all the times before, leaving it up to Sehun. Sehun tries to think about everything, Luhan, Tao with his stupid friends-with-benefits shit, about their talk in the park with Baekhyun, but he can’t. It’s also might not be the smartest idea to do any of this in the office, but he doesn’t even remember this when he leans down, his lips brushing Baekhyun’s softly. At that feeling Sehun startles, suddenly scared that he isn’t supposed to do that, but Baekhyun kisses him back immediately, moving closer and tilting his head back to make the position more comfortable for Sehun.

Kissing Baekhyun is unlike kissing anyone else. He isn’t sloppy like Tao, or possessive like Luhan, two people he had the most experience with. Baekhyun kisses him like Sehun is fragile, but also like Sehun is allowed to take the lead at any moment. Their kiss is soft and tender, and there is so much in it that Sehun’s heart is about to burst just from that one simple thing. 

Baekhyun throws his hands over Sehun’s shoulders, tugging him closer, while Sehun’s hands naturally fall to Baekhyun’s waist. Baekhyun deepens the kiss lightly and gently, licking Sehun’s lips. It’s still so soft, and with that music playing quietly, and Baekhyun’s pretty fingers sliding through Sehun’s hair, Sehun feels like he is about to cry. 

Baekhyun is the first one to lean back slightly, as he pants, their lips still touching. 

“That,” Sehun isn’t even sure what he wants to say, words forming faster when he is able to think of them, “wasn’t.”

“Wasn’t what?” Baekhyun stays close, but doesn’t kiss Sehun again, looking at him curiously.

“Wasn’t friends with benefits kind of kiss,” as soon as he hears himself he feels embarrassed over his own stupidity, and wants to turn away, but Baekhyun cups his cheek and doesn’t let him do that, a rare moment when he insists.

Sehun is pretty sure it wasn’t though. It felt different, not just because the way Baekhyun kisses is different, but also everything else — Baekhyun looking as wrecked as he does, how tender his touches feel, how his hand is touching Sehun’s cheek softly.

“Nope. I don’t think it was,” Baekhyun smiles at him, and Sehun wants to kiss him again, but makes an effort to stand back. 

“Does that mean you have changed your mind?” Sehun feels lame for wanting too much clarity and sucking at romantic moments as always, “Sorry, I,” but Baekhyun doesn’t seem to mind.

“Yeah. I think so,” he bites his lip and Sehun raises his hand to touch it, “Oh god, I always do that when I am nervous. Thank you.” He pauses for another moment, “Look, I can’t say that we are boyfriends or anything right now because— well, because there are some things we need to talk about, before we get into this, okay?”

“Are you a pornstar?” Sehun giggles and Baekhyun laughs, punching him in the shoulder.

“God, no,” his hand lingers on Sehun’s shoulder, “It’s just complicated, but. I really like you. And I do want to figure this out. Without friends with benefits.”

Sehun can’t hold back a smile, “Okay.” He isn’t sure how Baekhyun can talk about this so easily, but he doesn’t mind. Doesn’t mind at all.

The look Baekhyun gives him is kind of sheepish, “But I wanted to ask. Are you really against kissing while we are not boyfriends yet and I need to go home now or...”

Sehun leans in before Baekhyun can finish the sentence.



KYUNGSOO

When Baekhyun gets home, it's past 12. He messaged Kyungsoo beforehand, so it isn't a problem, but after a day with his parents, he would rather spend the evening together, instead of doing work alone. 

The day with his parents wasn't all that horrible though. They just avoided his personal life topics settling for the safer conversations about his work, politics and baseball. Not that Kyungsoo liked talking about politics or knew anything about sports, but he was grateful for any way which could help him to avoid hearing more shit about his personal life. 

When Baekhyun returns he looks— weird. Not his usual, excited self, but also not really upset. Kyungsoo always notices these things, when he is being restless and there are things spinning in his mind, making him about to burst. Baekhyun looks distracted— doesn't check his phone, and doesn't even ask Kyungsoo about his parents. He disappears to the kitchen, probably searching for food, and Kyungsoo can hear him dropping something there.

Kyungsoo doesn't want to stand up from the sofa — he is tired and he has to go to sleep. But leaving Baekhyun alone with his thoughts will just make things worse, so Kyungsoo forces himself up and follows his husband to the kitchen. 

Turns out, the thing Baekhyun dropped is just a ketchup bottle. He either didn't even notice himself, or couldn’t be bothered enough to pick it up, as he continues to kneel in front of the fridge searching for god knows what.

"Do you think staring in the empty fridge is productive?" Baekhyun jerks his head towards Kyungsoo, like he is surprised there is someone else in the flat. 

"No, of course not." He sighs and stands up to close the fridge door, "Sorry. I am really late, and super dumb at the moment. You should probably go to sleep."

Kyungsoo frowns. It doesn't seem to be the best idea to leave Baekhyun like that, but it's hard to say whether he really wants to be alone or just tries to take care of Kyungsoo, so Kyungsoo just leans against the kitchen corner, still holding the stupid ketchup bottle.

Baekhyun starts a coffee machine and Kyungsoo raises an eyebrow, "Are you sure that coffee at this time is a good idea? It'd be better if we just want to sleep at this point."

Baekhyun leans against the kitchen corner on the opposite side of the room, raking his fingers through his hair tiredly, "You're probably right, but I need to talk to you. And I really don't think it waits. Or if it does, I don't think I am going to sleep today."

Kyungsoo knows that thing about Baekhyun well. He doesn't sleep if there is something bothering him. Insomnia is a bitch and it keeps coming back to him from time to time. He can play LoL all night, or just work, but that would barely be a good start of the week. Kyungsoo sighs.

"Make two then," Kyungsoo goes to the fridge and takes out the rest of kimchi they have together with some vegetables and pork leftovers and starts to chop it. 

"What are you doing?" Baekhyun sounds surprised and comes closer to look over Kyungsoo's shoulder, but doesn't touch him. It’s almost like he keeps a little bit of distance and together with a promise of a 'talk' it makes Kyungsoo's stomach twist.

"Bokkeumbap. You're hungry and we have rice anyway," Kyungsoo finishes chopping and starts the stove, putting the pan on it. 

While he finishes frying the food, Baekhyun makes them two cups of coffee and adds milk to both of them. Kyungsoo puts food in the bowls and grabs the chopsticks to lay everything on the table and then just watches how food in front of Baekhyun disappears rapidly. Kyungsoo looks down on his own plate and feels that he can't actually eat, both too sleepy and too nervous. He can't even guess why he feels that, since it's just Baekhyun, and it's probably nothing scary, and they will, most likely, think of a solution to anything. 

But the horrible feeling in his chest doesn't go away so Kyungsoo just focuses on his coffee, while Baekhyun finishes eating. 

"You're the best, you know that, right?" Baekhyun says when he is done. It doesn't take Kyungsoo's mind off his thoughts, and he still feels uncomfortable, so he just mumbles something like ‘of course’. He wants to take Baekhyun's hand to make sure that everything's going to be fine, but doesn't reach out to do that, since it might be something Baekhyun doesn't want, "Kyungsoo, are you okay?"

Kyungsoo just blinks at Baekhyun owlishly. Suddenly he notices that Baekhyun is genuinely worried, while Kyungsoo just spirals down his thoughts to nowhere. Whatever it is, Baekhyun came to talk, so there is just no point in sitting there trying to hide his discomfort for the sake of— he is not even sure for the sake of what, to be honest.

"No, not really," even after his tiny revelation, it is still hard to form words, "look, the whole 'we need to talk' is just. I don’t know. Can we like. Change the settings or something?" he doesn't want to mention that sitting in front of each other like that, without being able to touch makes him think about divorce scenes in Korean dramas. 

Baekhyun smiles at him, and that smile is tired but warm, reaching his eyes. "Studio? I don't think we can sit down in bed without having you falling asleep."

Kyungsoo chuckles. He picks up his bowl to bring it to the kitchen and put it inside the fridge. Baekhyun follows and places his dishes in the sink, filling the bowls with water. Next moment he's already next to Kyungsoo, hugging him from behind. 

"Sorry," Baekhyun mumbles as he kisses the back of Kyungsoo's neck, "I got too deep inside my head." They stand like that for a moment and Kyungsoo feels like he’s melting as the tension leaves his body. Baekhyun continues, "It's not… Bad, okay? I don't think it is. I just really need to talk to you about this."

Kyungsoo nods and puts his hands above Baekhyun's where they rest on his stomach. "Let's go to the studio then."

Everything in the studio is still so familiar. The full sized bed on which they used to barely fit because Baekhyun constantly moves around when he sleeps. His table with the computer, the devices for recording music, the most expensive thing there is in this flat. The shelves with all the DVD they have. 

Baekhyun settles on the bed cross-legged and Kyungsoo just moves a chair next to it because otherwise he will totally fall asleep. Baekhyun reaches out to him with his hand and Kyungsoo interlaces their fingers together. It is always easier to talk about things while they touch. It brings some kind of soft reassurance into it. A promise that they are still together and nothing can change that. 

Now, when Kyungsoo has woken up more or less he can’t even tell what has gotten him so worked up earlier, since there were hundreds of conversations before and he knows that’s a good thing.

Baekhyun smiles at him, shy and happy and starts, “So, I finished the main theme. Because you are the best husband I could have ever dreamed off. And you know me better than I know myself.”

Kyungsoo blinks at him again, confused. “I am happy for you, but if that’s why you made me drink coffee at 1 a.m I might strangle you.” Baekhyun laughs at that nervously and shakes his head.

“No. Of course not.” He looks at Kyungsoo, and his expression is so honest and wrecked, Kyungsoo feels like he is falling in love once again, “I kissed Sehun. Or rather, Sehun kissed me.”

Kyungsoo moves a chair slightly closer so it’s easy to gently push a hair strand from Baekhyun’s face. “He is fine with the friends with benefits thing?”

“No,” Baekhyun maintains eye contact, even though Kyungsoo can clearly see how flustered he is, “He is not. And I’m. Kyungsoo, I’m also not fine with being that with Sehun. I think I’m. In love?”

It’s not surprising. At least, Kyungsoo doesn’t think so — with the way Baekhyun talks about Sehun, the way he cares so much, it’s all clear. Kyungsoo used to think about it too, a lot. Seungwan and Chanyeol would still sometimes ask him, how would he feel in Baekhyun really fell in love with someone else. 

He didn’t know how he would feel, but he always trusted that they will be okay in any case. And now, when Baekhyun talks to him like this, open and earnest, wanting them to come up with a solution, Kyungsoo thinks it might only be bringing them closer. It’s something about trust, which is so beautiful and precious that Kyungsoo doesn’t think he can put it into words.

“Okay,” he smiles back to Baekhyun, and feels how he grips his hand tighter, “So you’re serious about him?”

Baekhyun nods, “I am. Otherwise I wouldn’t ask you if.” Baekhyun swallows, nervously, “If I could tell him. About us.”

“Do you think he will be okay with this?” Kyungsoo isn’t so sure about that part, knowing how people usually react to that, but it is up to Baekhyun to decide.

Baekhyun shrugs, “I don’t know. But I trust him enough to try, you know? Also it wouldn’t be fair to him if I didn’t.”

“Right,” Kyungsoo nods. It feels easier than he thought it would be. Maybe he’s just numb from the lack of sleep, but he doesn’t feel jealous. On the contrary, there is this ecstatic, bright feeling of tenderness in his heart. He already knew how Baekhyun felt about Sehun and that Baekhyun was always counting Kyungsoo as a part of this, so it doesn’t feel threatening to what they have. The only thing bothering him is the one he voices out, “But if you do, I want to meet him.”

Kyungsoo isn’t sure if he is asking for too much but his request is not just about curiosity. Sure, he is curious about Sehun, but he also feels like if they all get into this both he and Sehun deserve to be on the same page. And he also wants to know that Sehun is just. Just as good for Baekhyun as Baekhyun deserves. 

Kyungso tries to suppress this feeling, his own type of lame possessiveness, trying to protect Baekhyun from all the bad things in the world, but his request still seems reasonable. It would be fair.

Baekhyun doesn’t say no, so that’s a start, but he is also confused, “Like, do you want to meet him before I tell him about us, or?”

Kyungsoo’s answer is quick, “No. Of course not,” he even waves his free hand in the air, “If Sehun is okay with everything and agrees to that, I mean. It would be weird to me if I don’t know the person you’re dating.”

Baekhyun furrows his eyebrows, still worried and confused, but before Kyungsoo can say anything, he asks, “Wait, I think I missed something. So you’re okay with me dating Sehun?”

“Why wouldn’t I be?” Kyungsoo’s face is probably equally confused, because Baekhyun giggles, the worry in his eyes fading. Kyungsoo smiles back to him, unable to hold back.

“I don’t know,” when they calm down, Baekhyun picks up the conversation from where they left it. He moves back on the bed, closer to the wall and tugs on Kyungsoo’s hand to make him sit on the bed next to him. When Kyungsoo does, Baekhyun just puts his head on his shoulder, snaking the arms around Kyungsoo’s waist. “Doesn’t it feel strange that I will be dating a different person? It’s okay if it is, just. Are you sure?”

Kyungsoo turns his head to kiss Baekhyun on the temple, “I think it will be, but. If it makes you happy, I guess I am fine,” Kyungsoo tries to imagine it, together with the parts where it can go wrong, but he doesn’t think there will be anything they won’t be able to talk about. “I mean, I’d like to still have you in our bed on Saturday mornings. Or generally at least most nights in the week. And it would hurt my feelings deeply if you go to marvel movies premiers without me.” Baekhyun huffs at that.

“Well that’s just treachery. I am not capable of such things.”

Kyungsoo knows that it’s just a joke, but it sounds pretty serious to him, so when he replies his voice doesn’t have any laugh in it. “I know,” he snuggles closer to Baekhyun. Now, when it’s finished and when they’re again at the same page Kyungsoo feels so calm and happy, that he starts falling asleep, “I guess we will need to talk about the rest with Sehun,” he mumbles, “That’s also why I think we’d need to meet.”

“Do you really think we can figure this out?” Kyungsoo can almost hear the engine of Baekhyun’s brain gaining momentum. He needs to do that or he will just have him drowning in self-doubt again.

Kyungsoo opens his eyes decisively, and turns to Baekhyun, cupping his chin. Baekhyun startles, surprised, and it’s the best moment for him to speak, as tenderly as he can, hoping he would hear how much Kyungsoo is okay with that: “Baekhyunnie, tell me. Do you really want this? I mean, having both me and Sehun?”

“Yeah,” Baekhyun answers without any hesitation, even though he is surprised about Kyungsoo’s sudden movement, “I do really want that. I mean, I am in love with him. He makes me feel like I want to flirt with him, and kiss him and. I don’t know, make him happy,” Baekhyun smiles softly, “But you know I don’t exist without you, right. I just don’t.”

Kyungsoo gets it. It’s different from just being in love. Living together, being sure that somebody is there for you. Waking up together on Saturday mornings, sharing all the ups and downs. Kyungsoo isn’t even sure if he’s functional without Baekhyun next to him, as if that need to be near him exists somewhere under his skin, a natural instinct. 

“Then it will be okay,” Kyungsoo moves closer, kisses Baekhyun’s forehead, then his cheek and then — softly, just a simple touch — his mouth, “And I told you, I am fine with things that make you happy, Baekhyunnie.”

Baekhyun looks at him with something akin to disbelief, and it makes Kyungsoo wonder, if it is really that strange, to let the person you love go for something that makes them happy. The way Baekhyun kisses him after that, so warm and familiar, makes Kyungsoo’s heart melt.

They fall asleep at the studio and Kyungsoo’s phone is barely charged when he wakes up, unable to do his morning routine from the lack of sleep. But as Baekhyun sleepily mumbles, “I love you,” while grasping Kyungsoo’s hand, he thinks it’s definitely worth it. 



SEHUN

“You look completely out,” Jongin notes during lunch. Honestly, Sehun doesn’t even remember well how they ended up having lunch at all. What was he doing the whole day before? He can remember some meeting, their boss saying some things, then he was doing some work on his computer. But it can’t be that half of the day has passed?

Or can it?

“Out of what?” he finally replies to Jongin who looks at him expectantly. His lost tone makes Jongin snicker. 

“Out of life in general, I’d say. You haven’t said a word today,” a shadow of worry runs through his features, but there’s also this distant anger which is still pretty much there. And Sehun still haven’t figured out why or what it is about. Jongin presses his lips together for a moment before he keeps talking, “Are you okay?”

Is he okay? That is really one good question even to Sehun himself. He isn’t not okay, definitely. Just a little nauseous from the butterflies flying around his stomach. And around his head, which is a bit concerning, but he can’t care enough to be worried. 

He and Baekhyun kept kissing up until their mouths were sore and it was hard to breathe normally. It’s been awhile since he kissed someone, and forever since he enjoyed it so much. 

“Yeah, everything is great,” he probably doesn’t sound convincing at the slightest, since Jongin only raises an eyebrow to that. 

“Particularly great, or?” at that question Sehun feels a wave of anger in his chest. Why can’t Jongin leave him alone, like he does every time he can see that Jongin needs space. Why does he always has to ask?

He wants to swallow it down, but frustration turns out to be too much, and he feels his face twisting before saying, “God, can’t you just let it go?”

Probably isn’t the thing he is supposed to say to his best friend. Jongin frowns, and speaks calmly, even though he also looks like he is trying to suppress his anger, “Look, I just want to know if everything is okay.”

Sehun tries to take a breath, but feels that all the piled up frustration exploding inside him. He is so tired of hiding everything from Jongin but also so tired of not having personal space, and from this aura of annoyance Jongin spread around himself lately. And Sehun is tired of always being questioned, always being seen through. Always feeling guilty for not telling Jongjin about the parts of his life he doesn’t want him to know. All of that is just too much. 

“Look, Sehun, you can just tell me,” Jongin tries.

“I don’t want to tell you, okay?” His tone sounds angry, but he doesn’t think he really can change that. “I told you I am okay. Why the fuck do you always need to pry like you don’t believe me?”

Jongin blinks, his huge eyes sad for a moment, before he comes back, trying to keep his voice low.

“Why? You’re asking me why I don’t believe you?” Jongin hisses. “Last time you had secrets. Do you remember how it ended?”

Last time that was happening, it was almost four years ago, when Luhan became a part of his life, and Sehun didn’t want anyone to know. And then Luhan didn’t want him to spend time with any of his friends. And then it all went downhill.

“Then let me remind you,” he says this part out loud and a waiter turns to look at them. Jongin tries to keep his voice down. “Four fucking years ago, you were also all ‘fine’ and ‘great’ and then you just disappeared on us for more than a year, Sehun. Not just me, Seulgi, your parents, everyone,” Jongin takes a deep breath and Sehun notices that his fists are clenched. “And then do you remember what happened?”

Jongin never really brought this up ever since it happened. Not even once, even though he didn’t get any explanation that time, and Sehun still could see it bothering him every time they fight. Lunch at work really isn’t a perfect time to discuss this, so Sehun raises his hand saying ‘don’t’ hoping Jongin would understand.

He doesn’t. “You came to my mom’s place at 5 a.m out of nowhere. Drunk as fuck, and refused to explain anything. I haven’t seen you for a year. One. Fucking. Year,” Jongin tries to keep his voice down and again almost hisses that part. “You barely cared enough to send me a message on my birthday or to let your parents know once a month that you didn’t actually die.”

Sehun did imagine how this conversation would go a lot, back since the night he came back home. He expected Jongin to be angry, to stop talking to him, but that never actually happened. He was welcomed back home, back to their friendship like nothing had happened. When once Sehun tried to apologize, Jongin told him that it was fine and he is just happy Sehun is home. That he is free to talk to him whenever he is ready. Sehun never was.

“That doesn’t give you a right to just question me about my life, like I can’t have any privacy, hyung,” Sehun does understand how Jongin feels, but standing up his ground seems important. ‘Hyung’ is something they never use among themselves, because they are too close for that. Maybe now it was too much, because Jongin’s face goes all white.

“Hyung? Really now? For fuck’s sake, Sehun, what is this that you’d rather disappear from my life for a year than tell me? Crime? Drugs? Being a pornstar?” Sehun smiles weekly, remembering their conversation with Baekhyun yesterday. “I really just don’t understand what can be so bad that you can’t tell me.”

“It doesn’t have to be ‘that bad’ for me not to tell you, hyung.” Sehun is being unnecessarily cruel, he knows, but stopping now doesn’t really seem to be an option. “I just don’t want to tell you. That’s it. It’s not your business.” 

This isn’t really true. Or rather, true at all. He does want to tell Jongin about everything. Luhan, Baekhyun, the kiss yesterday, but doing this would involve saying he is gay and that’s just scary. Jongin is his cousin, his best friend, almost like a brother to him. 

Sehun doesn’t have to confess to know that it wouldn’t be welcome. The jokes about gay people, the awful things people say, they are everywhere. They are in his home, and in Jongin’s, together with the judgment. They exist among their coworkers. Even among Jongin’s friends with whom Sehun used to hang out in the university. 

Jongin doesn’t joke himself about that, and Sehun is incredibly grateful for this. But he laughs with everyone, and never says anything to make this stop so it is fair to assume he supports this point of view. It hurts to hear every single time, but he just loves Jongin too much to care. He doesn’t want to see how Jongin stops loving him. It’s too scary. It’s the only family left for him to care about.

Jongin looks offended and hurt, his face still pale. He grits his teeth and looks at his phone which is showing that they should have left the place ten minutes ago. 

“We need to go.”

They pay for the lunch in silence, and on their way back Jongin stops to buy a pack of cigarettes. Sehun knows that he quit smoking a while ago and it makes him feel guilty. But what he is doing is the best way to manage their relationship. At least he wants to think so.

He gets a message from Baekhyun when he comes back to the office. Baekhyun didn’t reply to his ‘good morning’ and that made Sehun worry, but it seems like he was just asleep.

Baekhyunnie : hi!! Good morning~ Sorry, I was asleep ^^;;; 

Baekhyunnie : I’m sorry I have students till late today, but we need to talk.

Baekhyunnie : are u free tomorrow evening?



SEULGI

Seulgi isn’t sure how she feels in that dress. She got it back in the university for her graduation, but then got sick and never went. Not like she wanted to anyway. University was okay, nothing too bad, but she just wanted it to be over. To draw, instead of researching about drawing. Now she finally wears the dress and it still fits, and she probably does look nice in it. But it feels like the girl who bought it was a completely different person.

Seulgi would never know if she does looks nice or not too. Drawing on paper and drawing with a makeup brush are still two disturbingly different things, and the second one was never her strong suit. At least she thinks so. 

She tried hard not to be late, and even manages to arrive five minutes earlier, but Yixing is already there, waiting for her by the door to the restaurant. He looks stunning, as always. Perfection she sometimes feels tired of. His suit is perfect, his hair, the light, barely visible makeup, which is thick only under his eyes, perfectly covering how tired he is. 

He is probably mad for her almost being late, but he never shows that.

“Hi,” he smiles, and this smile might mean literally anything. Or maybe she is just overthinking their relationship, “You look wonderful.”

Does she? It took her awhile to get ready. Maybe the dress is too short? And is her ponytail too simple? Was she supposed to let her hair loose? 

Seulgi tries to get rid of the thoughts. It’s not like she is trying to impress Yixing or cares what impression she has on his colleagues. That’s just her erratic mind going rounds as usual. 

“Hi. Thank you. You look really nice too,” she smiles and something flickers in Yixing’s eyes but goes away quickly, as he offers her his hand.

“By the way, they do not know about the game,” Yixing’s tone doesn’t change as they walk inside, “We are not encouraged to be employed anywhere besides our main job.”

Seulgi nods — a stupid jesture since Yixing doesn’t actually look at her. She has a feeling that he should have told her sooner, not like that — when they just enter the place, but it’s not like she can ask any questions now. But if nobody knows about their game, then who do they think she is?

“Zhang-sunbaenim!” there’s a girl headed in their direction.She is stunningly beautiful with her evening makeup and loose black hair, and Seulgi almost feels jealous for a moment, “Sunbaenim, finally! I was so worried you would be late,” she doesn’t even look at Seulgi, too occupied with Yixing, “They need us on stage in five minutes, your speech starts in ten.”

“Kang-hoobae,” Seulgi jerks immediately, but then gets that it is probably the girl’s surname too, “Please meet Kang Seulgi. This is Kang Riye, she is a part of my team.”

They greet each other politely. “It’s such a pleasure to meet you, Kang-ssi! Thank you so much for taking care of our team leader.”

The way it sounds seems awkward, like Seulgi is Yixing’s wife, or something. But then the girl manages to drag Yixing backstage leaving Seulgi completely alone in the crowd. She has never been to events like this. It’s new, and even nice, but she is still unsure what to do with herself.

“Hello,” the guy approaches her and before she even starts to worry he manages to say, “Kang-ssi?”

“Y-yeah,” that would be too much socialisation in one day. Why does he even know her name?

The guy smiles, “I am Kim Seokchan. Zhang-sunbaenim asked me to keep you company while he is on stage.” 

It’s a strange feeling, both relief from not needing to figure things out on her own, but also irritation by how Yixing is always so over-protective. How does he manage to have everything under control?

She smiles anyway and bows, introducing herself. 

“Would you like some wine? Sunbaenim’s speech starts soon, and the presentation might take awhile.”

“No, thank you! I am fine,” Kim-ssi looks at her suspiciously for a moment, but doesn’t try to persuade her, “So… do you work with hyung?”

The guy seems to be surprised with her questions, like if she is supposed to know him, so she adds, “You know, hyung isn’t a very… talkative person. He doesn’t share much about his job.”

Kim-ssi laughs, “I get it, he never talks much about things,” he thinks for a second, and then adds, “To be honest I hoped that he would be more open with someone so close as his girlfriend.”

“Girlfriend?” that might be just the answer to the question she was asking herself earlier. Before she can correct him, he speaks again.

“Oh, sorry. You are already engaged, aren’t you? I am sorry, I am not really good with keeping track of such things,” She is probably looking at him weirdly, since he asks, “Kang-ssi, are you okay?” He has this apologetic expression on his face, like he is already worried that he said something wrong, and he did but that’s— that’s not exactly his fault.

Girlfriend? Engaged? Yixing, what the fuck. Now it all strangely adds up, in a bizarre, horrible way. His team is sure he brought a girlfriend to the project presentation. Totally appropriate. Totally traditional. So, so Yixing. 

Something nice inside her makes Seulgi shut up, before she says anything. Whatever it is, she needs to speak with Yixing first. By now she can just pretend it is fine. 

“Kim-ssi, actually, I just thought I would like some wine.”

 

***

“Don’t you think you owe me an explanation” they are walking in silence towards the station, and Seulgi can feel the anger and confusion bubbling up in her.

She is still a bit tipsy, but that is just that bit that allows her to feel all the emotions she managed to suppress the whole evening, while she was walking from one extremely important person to another greeting them by Yixing’s side. 

She thinks she’s also mad at herself for doing that now. She should have just stopped all that madness right in the beginning. She didn’t want Yixing to suffer the consequences, but why would she care, if he, clearly, doesn’t? 

“What explanation?” Yixing is like always, trying to escape an uncomfortable conversation, snake out of it like everything is alright, but Seulgi believes, at least at this very moment, that she had enough of this.

She stops, and takes a deep breath of the cold air. It streams down her throat to her lungs and she can feel that she is actually shivering from the evening chill but that only makes her more agitated.

“Really, oppa?”

She stares at him expectantly, but Yixing is either too dumb, or just too good at pretending, “Seul, you know I couldn’t have told them about the game,” he actually sounds apologetic, “you know we are not welcome to be self employed along with the job.”

He smiles at her almost sheepishly, still looking annoyingly good looking, and all of it just makes the situation suck even more. How did she manage to let it go this way? How did she end up keeping quiet and waiting for someone else to make a decision, for her life to end up like that, standing in the middle of a crowd, telling all the wrong things about her, and too tied in assumptions to do something. To say something.

“I don’t care, oppa. I don’t care about that,” It’s not about the game. It’s about everything, putting their relationship on pause, ignoring everything there is to them but work, his maddening rush to perfection, his ability to lie like that, just to achieve things he wants.

Yixing frowns, and his tired face looks so beautiful Seulgi’s heart aches. She suddenly feels an urge to spare him from her own emotions, and keep them to herself, but then just for a moment she imagines how she walks back in the office, keeping her face straight, pretending like this didn’t happen, and just puts the urge away.

“So when you were going to tell me we are dating, sweetie?” She should have probably said it softer, but she can’t. At least now Yixing looks like he understands.

“Oh. That,” it could have been nice to finally see confused Yixing, but it feels just too late for that. “Look, there is nothing to it,” he massages his nose-bridge, almost like his eyes are tired from the lenses, “I have to spend a lot of time on the game. And i never told anyone you are my girlfriend, okay? They just assumed I had one, and. I kind of let them assume?”

This confession doesn’t make it even a bit easier, “So you called me here so everyone could keep assuming? You could have at least warned me!”

Yixing shrugs, “You wouldn’t have gone if I told you,” he blinks a couple of times, maybe realising how wrong this sounds, or maybe not. Maybe this is only happens in her head, maybe it’s just her who thinks this is wrong. 

He wanted her to be here? He likes her? Isn’t it okay to take a lead just by lying to her? Maybe that’s supposed to make her feel liked? But is she even liked at all, or all of these things she were just there in her head, and they are just colleagues, and maybe she is acting stupid?

“Why did you even make me go then?” It’s a helpless question, but she can’t find anything better than it. She just wants an honest reply from him, once.

Yixing looks taken aback. He blinks a couple of times before answering, and Seulgi doesn’t even hope for him to tell the truth, and it really never comes: “You are my business partner and a friend, and I thought you would be the best person to invite.”

Maybe this is the honest answer? It’s hard to read him, hard to understand if she imagined everything, and everything what happens between them is just their game, a business they share. It probably would look stupid if she confessed right now, and really unprofessional. Should girls even confess first? Especially since she is not sure, that what happens is anyhow romantic anymore. If it could be romantic.

But then if she doesn’t break this misunderstanding cycle right now it will just keep piling up, and involve people who never wanted to get in the middle, like Sooyoung. 

“Cut the bullshit, oppa,” Yixing seems surprised by how rude she is, but that’s the last thing she cares about right now, “I am done. I am done with all of that playing around. You do not treat me as a partner. You don’t let me make decisions, you keep things in the dark from me, you do not share anything with me. You treat me like I am a glass maskot of my own fucking game. Like hell I am your business partner.”

“Seulgi, stop that.” He makes a couple of steps forward to take her by the elbow, “Look at me. You are just too stressed and drunk. Let me take you home.”

“Not happening. This is not happening. I am sick of this, I am sick of you,” he almost grabs her hand but she steps back and moves her hands out of his reach, “You tell me we are partners, and then treat me like I am not good enough to meet our sponsors. You tell me we are friends, but you get jealous every time anyone I might like is around. And then you just pretend like everything is fine, when it isn’t and like I am dumb and I can’t see it myself.”

“Seulgi, people are staring,” Yixing still looks awfully composed, while she doesn’t even want to think how horrible she might look. 

“I don’t care, oppa. That would be you always giving a fuck about others, but I am sick of that. I don’t,” she breathes rapidly, but doesn’t want to calm down, “You have no right to treat me like you do. I am not your property, I am not your girlfriend, I am not a goddamn maskot, who you can just put in the corner waiting until you need it.”

“I never told you that you are my property. What are you even talking about?”

Seulgi laughs. It’s a crazy laugh and it’s crazy to think she might just have imagined everything Yixing left unspoken, but then it’s better to be crazy than to keep pretending to be normal, “Oh well, and then you are not jealous at all? If I tell you I like Sooyoung, just as much as she likes me, are you not jealous? Is that not why you just keep being a jerk around her?”

At Sooyoung’s name Yixing goes all white, rapid shift from his usually neutral face, “I don’t care about Sooyoung. She is just an unorganized mess, who is not professional enough even to stop flirting with her employer. What do you want, to date her?” Yixing talks with that usual quiet anger, without even raising his voice. It scary nonetheless, “And then what? Get married, have kids, introduce her to your parents? How do you think that’d go? Why do you never care about those things, why do you never think about how that will make you look?”

Seulgi blinks at him and a though rushes through her head. It’s a weird realisation, but she is just too sure that’s true. She is not mad. She is not wrong. It’s just Yixing’s little spinning workaholic mind she got caught up in. What others would think? What is a good thing to say? What is proper?

“Is that what you hate so much about Sooyoung? That she doesn’t care?”

Yixing deflates a little, like her words strike right in the place, “I hate everything about her,” he smirks weakly, but it seems like a most sincere expression she got from him for years, “I hate her drawings, her style, her erratic mind. She is unorganized, loud, and shameless. She gets everything easily. I don’t get it.” He closes his eyes, probably trying to pull himself together, “I see why everyone likes her. I see the way you look at her. I know she likes you. I would never get that.”

“What?” She doesn’t want to break this moment, when Yixing finally speaks to her. 

“I don’t know. Being gay. Like Baekhyun and Sooyoung. How do you just go against everything you are supposed to be and just be happy. Act like this is okay, like you are okay. Like you can just. Just get what you want. And keep it out in the open instead of...” he shakes his head, “instead of this.” He drags his fingers through his hair.

“Can’t you? Can’t you just settle for things which are imperfect, if you like them? Why do you have to rush for things you don’t want just because everyone does?”

The look Yixing gives her isn’t something she has ever seen before. He is usually so put together, that this just doesn’t look familiar. He almost looks mad and it’s scary but she thinks that he has never let her closer before.

“It’s the only way someone like me could be a decent human being. I am not our princess, I am not you, not Sooyoung. You have no idea how much it takes me to keep this up. To have something good, like this game, like my job. Like you,” Yixing also looks like he can’t stop anymore, “What do you want to hear? That I like you? Why would I even say that? To try to fit you into my mess of a life? I can’t quit working so much, I can’t start a family, I can’t even date you properly. I am not even a person you should be dating.”

He speaks like anything coming out of his mouth makes any sense. It doesn’t, “Who is that, then? Tell me, finally, who should I be dating? I like Sooyoung, but she is a girl, I like you, but you are whatever you think you are. Should I just be sitting there waiting for a perfect Prince Charming?”

The honest expression fades from Yixing’s face and she is not sure she can get it back. Can she even do something here now, when she got her twisted confession. ‘I like you, but I am not good enough for you’. She wasn’t good enough for him. Or for Sooyoung. But how she can become someone good enough if she keeps all that distance, all that stupid pretending, if she treats them like they only deserve her admiration instead of her being there next to them.

She doesn’t know what to say. But Yixing does, “I am sorry I made you confused, okay? I like you too, but it’s not the right place for that. I don’t think it is. And I am sorry for getting mad at Sooyoung, because I shouldn’t have. It’s not her fault for being as good as she is,” Seulgi can’t say how he manages to keep his face straight through this, but he does, “Go for what makes you happy. But that’s not me.”

Seulgi nods. She wants to argue, and to try to persuade him, but it doesn’t look like that will get her anywhere. Seems too late for that. “I’ll take a taxi, okay?”

“Sure,” his expression is impossible to read again, calm and polite, and she isn’t sure what happens in his head.

The taxi appears almost immediately, like it’s her lucky day and the universe spares her from awkwardly standing here. She is grateful it does, and that she can close the door before tears start running down her cheeks. 

Chapter Text

SEHUN

Baekhyun is already waiting for him next to the underground station even though it’s only half past seven and Sehun was sure he’d be early. 

“Hi!” Baekhyun looks nervous, Sehun can tell right away by the way he bites his lip and how his fingers are playing with the zipper of his pocket. He never managed to stop wondering, what is it exactly that gets Baekhyun so agitated. And what could be so complicated that he feels like they need to talk about that first? A couple of horrible ideas were racing in Sehun’s head, illness, drugs, mafia. He kind of related a lot to Jongin at the moment. What could be so bad that Baekhyun couldn’t tell him?

“Hi, hyung. Sorry to make you wait.” Though it was Baekhyun who said he’ll only be here by eight so Sehun probably shouldn’t feel sorry but he still does. 

Baekhyun shakes his head, “It’s nothing. The interview finished early and I couldn’t think of any other place to be,” Baekhyun swallows nervously, looking at Sehun but then avoiding eye contact, “Are you hungry?”

It has become familiar how they eat after work and then grab coffee. While eating neither of them mentions important things, just chatting about how Yixing and everyone liked the main theme and about their comments. Sehun watches Baekhyun carefully, and keeps noticing how he behaves differently. Almost like he is in his own head and can’t get out. Usually that would be Sehun to do this, but not today. This sudden change in Baekhyun’s behaviour makes Sehun to be even more nervous himself.

At the same time Sehun can feel the butterflies down his stomach again, watching the way Baekhyun laughs, bites his lip, eats, his pretty fingers holding the chopsticks. Even nervous and vulnerable like this, without his usual confidence, he is beautiful and Sehun can’t believe he has a right to take Baekhyun’s hand into his. Well, not now, because here everyone could see. But later. Grab his hand, maybe even kiss him if they find someplace without people. 

When they order a usual take away coffee and leave the place, Sehun feels Baekhyun quietly taking his hand, interlacing their fingers just for a moment. He then retracts it, almost immediately making sure no one can see, but that tiny motion alone makes Sehun’s heart beat faster. Sehun feels how cold Baekhyun’s fingers are. He wants to take Baekhyun’s hand again, kiss it, hold it till it becomes warm, but he can’t do that. It’s frustrating.

They walk to the very same park they were passing through, when Baekhyun first said he liked Sehun. In the end of November it’s easy to walk somewhere no one can see or hear them, especially that late. They could have gone to Sehun’s place, since Jongin messaged him he will stay with his parents for a week, but Sehun doesn’t think it’s fair to use this opportunity. They probably could have gone to Baekhyun’s place, but he never offered. Maybe he thinks it’s too soon. 

They sit down on one of the benches, sipping their coffee in silence before Baekhyun starts speaking.

“I wanted to talk to you about something before,” Baekhyun’s fingers are clenched on his cup. He sits with his elbows on his knees, looking down and holding the cup with two hands. The cup becomes a little deformed, plastic lid almost falls down and Baekhyun spends a moment adjusting it.

Sehun doesn’t say anything, just waits for Baekhyun to continue. In the dim light of the park Baekhyun looks even prettier and now, when nobody is around Sehun feels so happy that he is allowed to move slightly bit closer to sit right next to him. He is still worried about whatever Baekhyun wants to say, but this worry is so small compared to how much he is in love. It is scary, probably, but Sehun has this way of feeling around his crushes. Hopelessly in love.

“First of all,” Baekhyun sounds stiff and his speech is overly formal as he continues, forcing himself to talk,”I am really sorry you had to get through all of the ‘friends with benefits’ shit. That’s just. I am usually into this kind of thing. I assumed it would be the same with you.” he pauses, finally looking at Sehun. “But somehow I came to really, really like you and. I don’t want to just be friends or to just. Have sex casually or whatever. I really want to date you,” he sighs, “I want it to be serious.”

This is so strange. So different from Luhan, who never seemed to use words to express what he wanted, making Sehun guess. Sehun sucked at guessing and playing around. Maybe too dumb to really get any of this, to constantly play hide and seek about things he feels. 

Luhan made Sehun feel that he sucks in ‘relationship’ as if relationship was a sport. But that honesty, which Baekhyun is doing, it’s just something completely different. Sehun feels his cheeks getting warm, butterflies in his chest, stomach, brain. Both an overwhelming feeling of being liked by Baekhyun and happiness of not having to guess. 

“I do want that too, hyung.” He doesn’t even think about being embarrassed for this confession. It’s easy with Baekhyun: the way he is sincere about his own feelings makes it easy for Sehun to talk about his.

Baekhyun smiles, but there’s no relief or happiness in it, and that makes Sehun worried. There is something Baekhyun wanted to discuss in the end and it can’t be easy or good. He doesn’t want to guess, have had enough of that already, but still...

“But before we get into this I really want us to be on the same page.” At that, Baekhyun straightens and turns to Sehun with all his body, moving his bent leg to lie on the bench. “I have a person I love, Sehun. In fact I am married.”

Sehun heart skips a beat and he isn’t sure he keeps his mouth closed. Married?

When the meaning of this word finally reaches his brain, there are a million questions following. Does Baekhyun have a wife? Is he cheating on her? But wait, he told him he is not into girls. Sehun blinks, suddenly feeling dizzy, but Baekhyun continues before Sehun can say anything.

“I am sorry, I spent the entire two days figuring out how to start telling you, but I couldn’t” Baekhyun massages the bridge of his nose, “Look, I am not cheating. Okay?”

He looks like he is actually waiting for Sehun’s reply, so Sehun nods. He isn’t sure how to react to that, but still wants to listen. It’s actually calming that Baekhyun looks that self cautious, because that at least means that they are both equally lost.

“We have. Something like an open relationship.” Baekhyun chews on his lip, obviously trying to pick the right words. “He is monogamous, but he doesn’t mind me fucking around and all that, because I am a horny mess. That’s why I told you about friends with benefits in the first place.”

Sehun blinks again. It takes him a moment to intake all of that, trying to understand what exactly he’s supposed to say, so he just manages to ask the first thing that comes up in his mind: “He?”

Baekhyun blinks looking at Sehun: “Did you— Oh god. Sorry. I suddenly suck at explaining.” He ruffles his hand through his hair. “Yes. His name is Kyungsoo. We are not officially married, obviously. But we are very much a family.” Baekhyun raises his left hand and with his right one tugs on a simple silver bracelet around his wrist. Sehun has noticed it before, but he never thought that it means something like this.

They sit there in silence, questions bubbling in him, but he isn’t sure how exactly is he supposed to act now. Baekhyun looks at the ground again, but Sehun can feel him glancing at his expression.

“Sorry, Sehun. I kind of had this conversation planned in my head, but I am so nervous I might die.” Sehun notices that Baekhyun’s hands are shaking and he suddenly realises that it is him who makes Baekhyun so nervous.

“Do you usually tell people you fuck with about him?” Sehun suddenly wants to smoke but instead sips the cold coffee. The question seems valid since he doubts that there are many people who’d be okay with such thing. He isn’t sure he is.

“No.” Baekhyun’s reply is firm, “Believe me, it’s not easy. You know that feeling of how being gay cuts you off from the people around you?” Sehun nods. Oh really, does he. Seeing this, Baekhyun goes on, “Well, polyamory does the same thing to you.”

Sehun thinks that he can imagine. He doubts it is an easy thing to say to people or that either of their families approve. He himself can’t even come out to his friends and family as gay, afraid of exactly that — being cut from his life. 

“In the club we went to, many people know. I am pretty popular there, so,” Baekhyun smirks, and it’s a kind of expression Sehun never saw on his face before, sore and angry at the same time, “Most of them think that I am a slut and Kyungsoo is a pushover.”

Sehun is sorry for his question immediately as it leaves his mouth, but he is not very good in controlling himself right now, “And you’re not?”

Baekhyun flinches, furrowing his brows. “Sehun, I might be a slut or whatever. I don’t think I have a right to argue with this, but please just don’t judge Kyungsoo or our relationship because you don’t know him.”

“Sorry. I didn’t mean to.” It’s true. He does feel uncomfortable with that, but it doesn’t mean he wants to judge Baekhyun or his... his husband. He thinks now, that he gets it. The tender look Baekhyun gave his phone the other day, reading someone’s message. How he said that someone always cares about him having the lip gloss. Baekhyun does seem like a person who has someone taking care of him, much less messy than Sehun would assume him to be. Much less lonely. 

“It’s just really a mess in my head right now, hyung. But I didn’t mean to say those things about you or. Or about your husband.” It takes some effort from Sehun to say this, but he does and then he feels really proud about it, seeing how Baekhyun relaxes.

“Thank you,” Baekhyun’s tone softens, “Kyungsoo is not a pushover. He is just,” there is that intimate, soft smile on Baekhyun’s lips that is more telling than all his words. “He was the one to offer this, because he is okay with who I am. And you saw, how I, well. I don’t know what is more natural to me, breathing or flirting.”

Sehun giggles, suddenly even to himself, “Oh yeah. I noticed.”

“Sooyoung knows him, in fact. She is a very good friend of ours now, but it all started with us having sex. But generally I do not introduce him to people. He is a very reserved person. Also a workaholic,” Baekhyun smiles sweetly to himself, again. Sehun can’t quite figure out, what does he feel when he sees that smile.

“Then am I special? Why are you telling me?” This is stupid, but that’s the question bothering Sehun greatly. He is not sure where he really stands now, but he wants to know. Baekhyun told him just now that he wants this to be serious, but what is it really supposed to mean?

“You are.” At this confirmation Sehun finally takes a moment to think about the whole talk. Baekhyun looks so nervous and fragile now. And it is because of Sehun. Because he has feelings for him. It busts Sehun’s confidence a little and he nods to Baekhyun, letting him continue. Baekhyun looks like he’s about to burst. His cheeks went red and his movements are sharp and chaotic. Sehun thinks he never saw him so engaged into conversation. It’s cute.

“Look, I am not a commitment kind of guy. Usually. I like many people and things like flirting, and sex and kissing it’s all easy for me, but I only liked someone that much once in my entire fucking life,” Baekhyun pauses to lick his lips and take a breath. When he starts again, his voice is much quieter, “That someone was Kyungsoo. He was sure he is straight when we met, and then I was sure I can’t really commit to anyone and we were a mess, but I was really in love and it was different from anything I felt with other people, so I know the difference. I feel that with you,” he pauses, shaking his head, “Like not exactly that, of course, but. Something similar.”

Sehun’s mouth goes dry immediately, heart hammering in his chest. Nobody ever said anything like this to Sehun. A confession, or even just confirming their feelings like that, saying many times that he is special, and important. Baekhyun saying that he is special, when Sehun feels like there is no second person like Baekhyun in the whole world. 

“Similar how?”

Tips of Baekhyun’s ears turn red together with his cheeks, but he speaks anyway, “I don’t know. I want you to be happy. To make you happy. I don’t want to just fuck you, or for you to fuck me but I want. I want to kiss you, to go on a date, I want to be next to you. I want to see where it goes.”

They sit like that for a moment and Sehun feels so dizzy that he leans to the bench and looks up to the clouded skies. His heart hammers and the whole world feels wonderful. He tries to force himself to be bothered, or at least to be skeptical, but he just feels happy. He turns his head to Baekhyun, looks into his dark eyes, thin line of his pink lips and understands that he can’t make himself care about anything.

He still manages to ask, though. “So you want what? A relationship? But what about… I am not sure you told me his surname.”

Baekhyun giggles, “It’s Do. But he’d prefer you to call him hyung anyway. I made him pretty bad with formal speech, honestly.” There’s that smile on Baekhyun’s lips again, tender and filled with affection and Sehun can’t look away. “He always knows about my crushes. I tell him things, because he makes me feel, I don’t know, grounded?” Sehun nods, because it sounds like he knows the feeling. “With you it was him who noticed first about how I feel, because he’s that person who always knows better.”

“Then is he okay with this?” Sehun isn’t sure if he is okay with sharing someone he likes, someone he might be in love with, with a different person? More than that, with a husband, somebody that close. It is not cheating, probably, since Kyungsoo knows, but it still seems odd.

Baekhyun nods, “We talked on Sunday, right after I came home. He thinks we will be fine.”

Sehun doesn’t know what to say. That conversation is like an emotional roller-coaster, up and down, all his concerns, and fears, and feelings mixed up on the same plate. 

He and Tao were extremely open. Or rather, they weren’t together at all despite all Sehun’s hopes. And then what he and Luhan had, it was so closed that there weren’t even space for friends, or family. Sometimes Sehun feels there wasn’t even space for himself. And at the end both of the relationships sucked, and maybe this will suck too. He can’t know. It seems like it is overly complicated and there’s just so many things that can go wrong. 

“You don’t have to decide now, okay?” Baekhyun interferes in his thoughts, and lightly brushes his hand over Sehun’s. Sehun doesn’t move away. “I understand that this is new, and crazy. And you are free to say no. I don’t want to push you into this. And if you have questions about me, or Kyungsoo, you can ask.”

Sehun can’t help but lace their fingers together because Baekhyun’s hands are freezing. 

“I told you I like you too,” the confession comes easy again, even easier than before. There doesn’t seem to be anything worth hiding now. “And I don’t think that I hate the idea. I just. Don’t really understand how this would work?” At this he does get flustered, by Baekhyun told him he can ask. “You do not mean this as a threesome, right?”

There isn’t anything special in Baekhyun’s reaction, like it is a completely normal thing to ask. No laughter, no surprise, as he shakes his head. “No. I mean, if you ever feel up to that, we can figure this out, obviously, but no. Threesome is not part of this both as a relationship or as a sexual thing.”

At that Sehun exhales because that was the thing that bothered him most. He had a threesome once, with Tao and another guy and the horrible jealousy of it, and also the sensation of other person touching him was still one of his worst nightmares. 

Baekhyun speaks again, moving his other hand to hold Sehun’s. “If you want to try this, I want you to know that if anything gets uncomfortable for you, you can talk to me. Because I really want this to work for both of us.”

Sehun nods. “I don’t have much experience in that, okay? Talking was never a thing in any of the relationships I had. But I guess I can try? I want to try.”

Baekhyun’s smile shines and Sehun falls for it one more time, butterflies in his stomach again preventing him from thinking straight. Baekhyun likes him enough to rearrange all his life. His relationship. And it is both weird and satisfying. 

“Oh, there’s another thing, then,” Baekhyun adds. “If you’re okay with this, Kyungsoo wants to meet you.”

“What?” everything had just started to make sense, but had to be ruined. Sehun almost thought he and Kyungsoo didn’t ever need to meet, and now Baekhyun says this.

“For you to come over for dinner. To our place. Kyungsoo says that if I’m serious I should introduce both of you to each other because it would be easier for him to know you. Is this awkward?”

It takes some time for Sehun to process and reply. It is awkward, of course. Everything is. It feels like Baekhyun is inviting him to meet his parents, but not really his parents, his fucking husband. But Sehun can’t hold back from thinking that it’d be nice to see where Baekhyun lives. Also, if Kyungsoo is Baekhyun’s partner he must be super important to him and knowing him will tell him more about Baekhyun.

“Do you want me to meet him?”

Baekhyun rubs the back of his neck, sheepishly. “Kind of? I mean, I’m used to him knowing everyone important to me. And you are important, Sehunnie. And you will be. Gosh why I am so cheesy,” Baekhyun giggles nervously, an endearing gesture, then takes a breath and keeps talking, “And Kyungsoo is. He is really cool. I think you might like each other. Not, like, dating way but just as friends.” After a bit of silence he adds, “Besides, Kyungsoo is the only family I have, that is. So you can just count it as meeting my parents or something. Oh god this is an awkward thing to say,” Baekhyun mumbles the last phrase, and Sehun suddenly can’t hold himself from leaning in and softly kissing him on the lips, a simple touch. Baekhyun cheeks go red immediately. Sehun has no idea where this smoothness just came from.

It’s interesting to see that side of Baekhyun. He is usually the most confident and articulate person, but here he is on the same page with Sehun, lost and uncomfortable. It’s nice because it makes Sehun feel like he isn’t alone. Them the meaning of the last phrase finally reaches Sehun’s brain.

“The only family?” he pauses, not sure if he’s allowed to ask, “Is that because you’re gay?”

Baekhyun shakes his head, “No. I was raised by my grandmother alone. And she was— ” He smirks, “Well, my grandmother’s motto was ‘no drugs and use condoms’ and she adored Kyungsoo so much that I sometimes doubted I’m the one who is her grandson so no. I am the luckiest person in terms of coming out and all.”

The way Baekhyun is using past tense is telling enough and Sehun doesn’t keep asking. This talk seems draining enough as is, without bringing up bad memories.

“Okay then.” Sehun knows he might regret all of this, but he feels oddly confident about it. If what Baekhyun told him is true then whatever goes wrong, they will be able to solve it. At least, seeing Baekhyun that happy is worth a try.

 

 

SEULGI

“Hi.” Sehun grumbles something sleepely on the other side of the phone, but there’s no way Seulgi feels guilty. Friday evening is a perfectly okay time to call a friend. “Are you both home? It’s been a while since we hung out.” She didn’t get any reply from both Sehun or Jongin to her messages, so she decided to go for a more blatant move.

It takes some time before Sehun’s speech is intelligible, but Seulgi is intent on waiting. Finally he is awake enough to mumble, “No. Jongin's at his mom’s place.”

“Is it okay if I come over?” 

It might be even better that Sehun is the only one around since Seulgi needs to talk, and being serious is barely an option when it comes to those two. She needs someone next to her right now to keep her mind off certain things, and there's only so much cleaning and drawing she can do before getting sick of it and before the thoughts she is trying so hard to avoid come crashing down on her again. 

After getting the confirmation from clearly non-enthusiastic Sehun, she drops by one of her favourite coffee shops to get them bubble-tea. After some thought she buys three, just in case Jongin gets back from his mom’s place. 

All things considered, she should have thought of talking to Sehun and Jongin sooner—they're her friends, and they used to spend lots of time together before— Well. Before Yixing became her job instead of… Ugh, she's thinking again. 

So that's exactly what happened: she let her emotions push her friends out of her life. Lately it's been too busy and erratic to just do what she usually would have done. Which is to talk to her friends and figure things out.

When she punches in the code she remembers by heart (thankfully at least she still remembers something other than their game and Yixing’s hurt expression) and enters the flat, there’s no one to greet her but the sound of something being fried in the kitchen.

“Hi,” Sehun whom she finds next to the stove still looks sleepy, but otherwise pretty content with her interfering his evening nap.

“Hi, sunshine,” Seulgi coos, half-assing a teasing lilt of her voice. Sehun doesn’t look impressed with the joke. “I brought bubble tea. One for you and one for Jongin if he shows up.” Something in Sehun’s face looks suspiciously sad at that, but she can ask about that later. Now she’s just happy with the way she feels safe here, like all her worries are fading away. “Are you cooking because you want to poison me? Give me the spatula and get out of my way.”

Cooking and chatting about casual things with Sehun takes her mind off everything. Exactly what she’d hoped for, because Jongin and Sehun always remind her of not being alone. And that she is okay and always has someone. 

Sehun also loses his tension throughout the evening. Seulgi wants to know what was it, earlier when he got so sad at the mention of Jongin, but pushing Sehun into talking never works. He has always been too closed off to just open up easily like that.

Two hours later they are sitting on the sofa and eating the chocolate ice-cream out of the carton. The movie on the screen, third part of Xander Cage, barely makes sense at this point, but that’s probably for the best. It provides for the necessary background noise, so that Seulgi’s question doesn’t sound like interrogation.

“Is everything okay with Jonginnie? I barely see him at work. Is eemo okay?” 

The same shadow as earlier creeps across Sehun’s face, and he doesn’t reply, staring intently at the screen, until Seulgi punches him lightly.

“We had a fight,” he lets out reluctantly. “Jongin doesn’t talk to me.” 

It should be hard for people to look both angry, guilty and like a punched kitten, but Sehun does the job perfectly. It might not be easy for a stranger to read Sehun, since his expressions are so delicate, but they are just enough for Seulgi. 

“What?” Sehun frowns, noticing Seulgi’s expectant stare. “Don’t do that. I feel shitty enough already. Let’s talk about something else. Like, why hang out today? Shouldn’t you have piles of work?”

“I’ve been drawing non stop for the last six days. Literally. I think I forgot how to talk to people.” Except for Sooyoung, apparently, whom she came to see in the office almost every day when no one was there. They haven’t talked, not necessarily. They would just go downstairs sometimes to grab coffee and share their progress. 

They’ve come to have a silent agreement to leave just half an hour before Yixing comes to work, and then walk to the station together. It’s something Seulgi doesn’t want to explain. Like doing this is their own space and secret. And Sooyoung never asked, like it’s not her business why Seulgi didn’t want to see Yixing. Seulgi’s grateful for that. She still needs some time to get over the heartbreak.

It’s just so easy— to be around Sooyoung. Seulgi’s never had someone with so much in common. Food they enjoy, music they like, drawing tools they use. Seulgi could name a hundred indie-games or movies no one else even heard of, and Sooyoung would already know them.

“That’s not work that has you smiling like that, is it?” Sehun nudges her by the shoulder, visibly more relaxed now that the danger of personal questions has been averted. “Do you have something to tell me?”

Seulgi can feel her cheeks warming up. “Well. Kind of?”

“Is it about hyung, or?” The thought of Yixing darkens her mood right away, but before she can say something, Sehun adds, “Well, by the look of your face, not him.”

They both giggle, guiltily so, and get distracted momentarily when something explodes on the screen.

“I think I like Sooyoung.” Seulgi is still looking at the screen when she says it, but even if she’s nervous, it would be just a bit. Sehun is usually not the type of person to care about those things.

“What.” He turns to her quickly, face a little too pale, brows drawn together— a menacing expression hiding nervousness. “Do you mean. Like. Like-like?”

Seulgi huffs, but doesn’t tease him about his brilliant communication skills. “Yeah. Like-like.”

“But she is,” Sehun looks at her with eyes so wide that it’s a little concerning, “a girl.”

Seulgi decides to pass up on the opportunity to congratulate Sehun for noticing that Sooyoung is, indeed, not a man like some would expect. It looks like he might not take the teasing too well right now. 

Instead, she just shrugs. “Yeah. I am kind of worried about this but you know. I haven’t liked anyone besides oppa for way too long so. I don’t think I care.”

Sehun is still staring at her like she is that girl from The Ring crawling right to him. 

“Sehun,” Seulgi says, frowning now. She’d hoped for it to be an easy conversation. She hasn’t come here for a difficult coming out talk. “Don’t tell me you are suddenly homophobic. I kind of hoped you’re not.”

The giggle coming out of Sehun’s mouth is almost hysterical, but before she can say something, he raises his hand and takes a deep breath.

“No. I am not. I mean.” He giggles again, and Seulgi thinks that if all her movie-based knowledge of panic attacks is worth anything, she is witnessing one. She is not sure what she is supposed to do and even less sure about what she did to cause this. Unless he is literally homophobic and is afraid of gay people. She has seen him acting like this a couple of times, but then he never liked talking about it.

“Sehun, are you okay?” She tries to speak soothingly, searching his face. His expression looks mostly like sheer panic now, unmistakingly so. “Sehun, what happened? Did I say something wrong?” She doesn’t think she did, anyway, but there aren’t any other possible triggers. It couldn’t have been the movie, after all.

He shakes his head jerkingly, never looking up, his eyes and hands frantic. He takes another breath before saying quietly, “I’m gay.”

It’s not like Seulgi never considered such thought, but even if she did she would just assume that was all the yaoi manga she read during her university years speaking in her. But then, it never actually mattered. Or rather, never mattered enough to make her consider this seriously.

Now everything seems to kind of add up, the whole ‘moving in with a girl’ whom they never met and the secretiveness around it, and then. Oh dear. 

Sehun seems like he is on the verge of crying, so before Seulgi asks him anything else, she pauses the movie and moves closer, hugging him as tight as she can and mumbling some sweet nonsense into his ear.

She feels Sehun shaking, so she holds him even tighter and strokes his hair. She doesn't know the right thing to say. She has never been good with words. Finally, she manages: “It’s okay.” Then another, just a bit softer, “You should have told me sooner.” Then something she never voices out, because that’s too awkward, but then now it seems to be the perfect time: “I love you.” Something soothing, with a gentle voice while she can feel him still shaking, “It will be fine.” Then,“It’s fine,” just to make sure that he knows for sure how much she is okay with that. 

It takes Sehun some time to calm down. Seulgi keeps stroking his hair and thinking about all the questions she wants to ask but probably shouldn’t. Does Jongin know? He must. It’s unlikely that Sehun would tell his parents, but Jongin definitely knows.

There are tear lines on Sehun’s cheeks when Seulgi lets him go. She reaches for her backpack to fish out the tissues. Sehun takes them awkwardly, big clammy hands shaking when he pats his face dry.

They sit in silence for another moment, until Seulgi feels like it’s okay to ask.

“It’s not the reason you fought with Jongin, right?”

Sehun shakes his head after a pause, frowning again. “Well. Not exactly? Almost? Kind of?”

“Those are four different answers,” Seulgi says quietly but sternly. “Stop shitting me, and tell unnie what happened.”

Sehun takes another deep hitching breath and Seulgi grabs his huge hand into hers. He’s still shaking. “Well. I kind of. Started dating someone?”

“Okay,” Seulgi says.

“And then. You know. Like, Jongin kind of understood that?”

“Because you are too easy for him to read, yeah.” Seulgi can see Sehun smiling, but it’s mostly sad. He probably misses Jongin. Why does it have to be so important? Why everyone has to care so much about someone you love being a man or a woman?

“Yeah. And then he got angry cause I didn’t want to tell him.”

Seulgi furrows her eyebrows. “Like, you don’t want Jonginnie to know who you date? Why?”

He looks at her like it is the dumbest question in the world, but she doesn’t get it so he forces it out: “It’s a guy.”

It takes Seulgi another minute of staring and blinking before the realisation hits her, “What.” She shakes her head, trying to fit Sehun’s reasoning in her mindset where Jongin always knows what’s going on with Sehun. “Oh Sehun. Are you kidding me right now? Is that your reason?”

Sehun shrugs, looking down again, but the guilty look already creeps up on his face. 

Seulgi is still so confused about the whole thing. How can Jongin just not know something about Sehun? Is that even possible? They’ve always shared everything since they were two, or something. 

“Okay wait. Since when are you gay? Is it a recent thing?”

“Well, like, if the last 10 years is still within your idea of ‘recent’?” The look on Sehun’s face gets more and more upset, the corners of his mouth pulling down.

“And this is not the first time you date a guy.”

Sehun shakes his head. Her suspicions about the mysterious girl are probably right, then.

“And you are not out to Jongin.”

Sehun doesn’t reply to that, but it’s not necessary. The look of a kicked kitten is all too telling. 

Why isn’t he out to Jongin? Is there a reason for this that Seulgi doesn’t know? That it’s Jongin who has secretly been homophobic this whole time? Or is Sehun just— so afraid of everything, that even just coming out to Seulgi, of all people, made him panic? How does this idea of what’s proper twists everything so you lie to your friends, to your colleagues, to the people you like just because you think that’s the only thing you can do to keep them around?

Seulgi messes up her hair and sighs, looking up to see Sehun staring at her anxiously.

“Oh Sehun, you are an idiot.”

 

SEHUN

Seulgi stays with him until early morning. He doesn’t bother making a bed for her on the sofa, and they just cuddle in his room instead, talking about everything and nothing. Her crush on Sooyoung, Baekhyun, their game. 

In the morning she leaves Sehun alone with everything she told him about Jongin, and everything he told her, too, and none of it can be undone. He sits with his realizations quietly, and at some point finds himself staring at the third cup of bubble tea sadly. He misses Jongin — stupidly so, how long has it even been to miss him so much?

But Jongin is everything in his life. A family, a friend, even a coworker. He brought up all these separate worlds into one, and yet Sehun can’t gather enough courage to tell him about such a significant part of himself.

And now he’s not even here. All that time Sehun has been trying to protect him from this knowledge, but did it really look like that to Jongin? Was it really protection?

“Listen,” Seulgi had said very late at night, her voice slurring a little with sleepiness. “As soon as I realized I liked Sooyoung I knew I needed to speak with someone. You know who were the first two people on my list? You guys. You are my family and I trust you to love me whatever happens.”

Sehun doesn’t want it to look like he doesn’t trust Jongin.

“But you don’t trust him. If you did, you would have told him.”

Seulgi then apologized, of course, for a long time, because ‘it was too harsh’ and she ‘didn’t mean it like that’, but truly— truly. Sehun sighs and forcefully tears his eyes away from the bubble tea cup to go find his phone.

Sehun: come back home

Sehun: I was an idiot

Sehun: I am sorry

Sehun: we need to talk

Jongin: ok

It should take Jongin about an hour and a half to get home, but Sehun shouldn’t probably expect him to just run to their place right after his message. Sehun washes the dishes, then vacuums the floor in vain hope to stifle his fear down.

Seulgi’s right. It’s just Jongin. What can even go wrong? 

His mind helpfully supplies him with colourful illustrations. Sehun tries to stop thinking. Even if everything fails, Jongin deserves Sehun to believe in him.

Another two hours leave him so desperate that he starts editing his coding, which doesn’t often happen even at work. He orders food because cooking seems too difficult a task. He panics. Works some more. 

He hears the code being entered in the lock at about three o’clock and his internals immediately turn into a huge jelly, every calming thought he’s mastered up to this point flying out of his head.

“Hi,” he says, voice trembling.

Jongin still seems offended, just by the way he looks down on the floor without even sparing Sehun a glance. “Hi,” he mumbles in that annoying childish ‘don’t wanna talk with you’ manner, shucking off his shoes.

Sehun feels out of place in his own flat, standing there in his pajama pants, having no idea where to put his hands. Or himself, in general.

“I ordered food,” he says awkwardly.

Jongin doesn’t bother replying to that, dropping his bag along the way, and for a moment Sehun, grasping at the chance to escape feeling shame, gets angry. Why can’t he just let it go and listen to him?

The second later his inner Seulgi kicks in and helpfully supplies: it’s not about you. It’s about him. Jongin deserves your trust, you idiot. And he thinks you don’t trust him.

The thought just makes Sehun sick. He is such a dick, fucking hell.

“Jongin,” he says carefully, making sure not to snap at him.

“What?” Jongin grumbles, finally looking up, and Sehun is taken aback by how tired and alone he looks. 

Sehun never actually thought about what it all means to Jongin. How does he see all of it— Sehun’s disappearance for a year, his secretiveness now? Is Seulgi right? What if, for all those years, Jongin’s just been thinking that Sehun— what? Doesn’t trust him?

“I’m sorry,” he says, voice breaking, “I promise I’ll talk. Let’s just eat first.”

Jongin doesn’t look relieved, but nods anyway. 

They start in silence, Sehun still unsure what he’s even allowed to talk about, but then Jongin sighs and starts talking. He tells Sehun about his progress on the code and even opens up about eemo. His speech is stiff. He doesn’t look up much and doesn’t smile, but he talks and that’s a start.

After they finish Jongin grabs the bubble tea Seulgi left for him and follows Sehun to his room.

Sehun gestures towards the bed, the only place there is to sit in here since his chair broke down a couple months ago and he never managed to get himself a new one. Jongin sits down, but Sehun hesitates. Should he sit next to him? There’s a sensation in his stomach, like he’s falling, and it’s stopping him from moving.

Jongin looks at him expectantly. Sure. Sehun promised to tell him things. 

What’s the worst thing that could happen? Jongin hating him for his entire life, moving out and never speaking to him at work? Okay, so. That’s pretty bad.

Sehun takes a deep breath and tries to calm down. It’s Jongin. And Sehun knows deep down that Seulgi is right. Sehun doesn’t think there is a single thing Jongin could tell him that would make Sehun turn away, so why does he think that Jongin doesn’t feel the same? In the end, he is the best brother Sehun could have dreamed of.

“Can I take a nap while you’re silently freaking out?” Jongin’s tone is just that tiny bit softer than before, but it helps.

“No. No, if you do, I’ll run away to Russia and will hunt bears there for the rest of my days,” Sehun lets out quickly, stumbling over words, just happy that Jongin is teasing him. He takes another deep breath, “so. Four years ago. There wasn’t... a girl. I was not dating a girl.”

Good job, Sehun. If you do not know what to say, start from the obvious. You could have learned that from Yixing.

Jongin waits a bit for continuation, and when nothing follows he just shrugs. “I know.”

Sehun freezes for a second: “You do?” 

He kind of still hoped his bullshit lie was at least in some ways believable.

His friend lets out a humourless laugh, shuffling his feet across the floor. “Did you really think you can just lie to me and I wouldn’t notice? You suck at lying,” Jongin emphasises the word ‘suck’, and Sehun can’t even act offended. “Last time you told me your ex-girlfriend’s name was Wang Fang.”

It takes a moment for Sehun to realize and then he just covers his face in shame. Oh dear. He can remember the logic behind that. The most popular name in China couldn’t have gone wrong. What depths of mind did Tzuyu come from? Or was it a different name? He’s so bad he should be surprised that his mom still hasn’t asked him about his boyfriend instead.

“Okay, that’s— fair,” Sehun says, overcoming the shame. “Alright, wait.”

He turns to his wardrobe and reaches up to one of the higher shelves. It might be easier if he doesn’t need to speak, right? He rummages around blindly and finally feels the cold metal edge of the photo frame. He holds it for a second, and his heart hammers against his ribs so hard it’s alarming.

He hands the frame to Jongin.

Jongin stares at it for a moment. It’s a picture of Sehun and Luhan. Nothing too revealing, just a selfie from when they went to Jeju together.

“I’ll need a bit more explanation than that,” Jongin says.

Sehun smiles wryly, despite his heart falling somewhere down his stomach: “Well, that’s Wang Fang.” Jongin stares at him, confused. “Or Tzuyu.” Another moment. Sehun swallows his nerves down. “His name is Luhan. I didn’t lie to you about moving together with— somebody. And dating them. It’s just wasn’t a girl.”

For a moment the room is absolutely quiet. This is what the assassins must have felt during the leap of faith. 

“Okay,” Jongin says slowly, suspiciously, “so. That’s it? Or were you also doing drugs?”

Sehun is so confused by the question that he can’t even think of a good comeback. “No?”

“And you didn’t murder anyone?” 

“N-no?”

“And he is not a part of Chinese mafia?” Jongin looks like what he is asking actually makes sense. It’s starting to irk Sehun.

“Jongin, what the fuck? No, he’s not. He worked here for three years in Kenbo. Why would you say that?”

Jongin looks at the photo for another moment, and Sehun certainly feels something bugging him. After Jongin’s questions he has no idea where this conversation goes next.

“Because I am still trying to find at least one good reason for you to disappear for the whole year and never tell me,” Jongin says, looking up.

Oh. 

“So. You are angry because I. Didn’t tell you?” It takes some time for the information to reach Sehun’s brain. So Seulgi is indeed right, and Sehun is just—

“The fuck else you want me to be angry about, you dumbass?” Jongin actually looks furious now. Sehun doesn't think he’s seen him that angry since probably somewhere around middle school. “You dating someone with a penis? Or what?”

Sehun cowers, hunching into himself reflexively.

“I’m so—”

“Stick you apologies up your ass. What were you thinking?! What the fuck were you thinking, Oh Sehun?” At least Jongin is still here with him, so that's probably a good sign. “Was I supposed to what, disown you for being gay? Seriously now?”

This is not how Sehun thought it would be going but it does make some sense, now that he thinks about it. A lot of sense. He probably shouldn’t have disappeared for a whole year just because he’s gay. That wasn’t the only reason anyway, but still.

“Would you hate me less, if I tell you this is the first time I come out to anybody who’s not gay?” he offers sheepishly.

Jongin pauses to think for a moment. “Are you now telling me you have a bunch of gay friends I know absolutely nothing about?” There’s a hint of jealousy in his tone, and that’s a final drop into the realization what an idiot Sehun has been this whole time. Also, a little bit, that he might be the luckiest idiot in the world.

What would he feel, truly, if Jongin just wouldn’t trust him enough because of anything. Like he is not a good enough friend and brother to even for Jongin to even trust him with his problems.

Sehun finally sits down next to Jongin carefully. He hopes he does look sorry enough. 

“No,” he says. “There’s not a single friend you don’t know. There were— some people Luhan knew, but. We weren’t friends.” Sehun grabs the blanket tightly. “Seulgi is the only one who knows. She found out yesterday. Kind of accidentally,” he really hopes Jongin doesn’t get jealous over Seulgi, of all people.

Jongin looks at him blandly. “I hope she didn’t walk in on you and Byun-hyung making out.”

Sehun almost chokes on air. “Jongin!”

“Tell me I’m wrong,” Jongin challenges him, and he’s finally, finally smiling. It’s a small one, but smug, and it makes Sehun feel home.

After a moment of silence Sehun has to admit, “She didn’t. But you’re not. Wrong I mean.”

They don’t speak for a while. Sehun takes the photo frame and puts it down on the table, face down. It’s mostly an automatic gesture, but Jongin notices anyway. He always does. 

“So what happened? You never told me. Even the ‘girl’ version.” He sounds a lot calmer right now. He was never a person to stay angry for a long time. Always making sure Sehun and Seulgi are safe, taking care of them, noticing tiny things like how upset they are. It’s the same way for all three of them, or at least— at least Sehun hopes he’s not being the biggest dick out there.

It should have been clear he wouldn’t care, but it wasn’t. Maybe because Sehun himself cares so much, acts like this is a sad, horrible, but— normal thing to do, to disown someone simply for them being gay, and that’s why he was afraid Jongin might do that too.

“Luhan was great,” Sehun says, feeling compelled to smile to soften his next words, “but really possessive. Like. He was jealous of me having family and friends here.” It takes him a lot of effort not to blame himself for the way it ended, and he takes time to pick out his words. “He wasn’t in his best place either. He left everything in China and really missed home, so. I don’t know. Maybe he hoped I could kind of replace everything for him?”

“Didn’t work out?” There’s almost a note of sympathy in Jongin’s tone, and the feeling of falling in his stomach turns into impossible lightness. Sehun feels like he might just fly away. It’s everything in one: finally telling Jongin, finally not having to lie, but also— not being alone.

“No. Not at all.”

Another beat of the quiet. Jongin looks like he is thinking of something, and Sehun doesn’t interrupt.

Then, Jongin pulls one leg under himself to get comfortable on the bed, and perches his chin on his hand.

“I feel like you owe me a lot of your dating history. I advise you to start now.”

 

 

SEULGI

Seulgi should have stayed at Sehun’s place. Probably. But then, he promised to talk to Jongin, so those two clearly need some space. Going to the office doesn’t seem to be a good idea at all. Yixing and Yerim are probably both there, as usual on weekends, and she is clearly not ready to see Yixing. And even if she was poor Yerim has absolutely nothing to do with this. But then, going home— Her parents will possibly force her to get out of the room and do something else, while all she really needs to do is work.

She stares at her phone for a moment, then at the Line app. Then at her dialogue with Sooyoung.

Seulgi: Hi. Are you busy?

Sooyoung: Good morning, unnie ~ no, why?

Seulgi takes a deep breath.

Seulgi: Can I come to your place to work?

Seulgi: I mean, if it’s okay.

Seulgi: I have my tools with me.

Seulgi: I mean, I actually need to work and don’t know where to go.

Seulgi: sorry

Well that was disturbing. Let’s just hope Sooyoung won’t hate her for over-messaging. 

Sooyoung: Is that because you miss me~~

Sooyoung: Anyway, I’ll text you the address.

 

***

Seulgi gets off the subway at Suyu. She has never been to this district before, but Sooyoung’s explanations seem extremely clear. On her way she buys another set of bubble teas, this time just two. To think of it, she has never actually asked Sooyoung where she lives. Does she live with her parents? Or maybe rents?

Sooyoung meets her downstairs next to the grocery shop and smiles at her with her brilliant sunshine-like smile. In her hand she holds a bag with some groceries, but when Seulgi offers help Sooyoung just shushes her away.

“It’s a bit tricky here. Come on.” Seulgi follows her to the back of the grocery store to a huge painted black door which is locked on a key. Sooyoung fishes the key out of her pocket and opens the door which leads to a long and dark staircase. Sooyoung lets her in first and then closes the door behind them.

“Be careful here, it’s not the best staircase in the world.”

The staircase ends up turning and continuing to another floor. When they reach the top Seulgi is kind of relieved to find a normal door with a passcode which Sooyoung quickly enters. 

The room is basically the attic with one big room where everything somehow fits: a fridge, a sink, a large drum set and a huge mattress spread on the floor. One kitchen table seems to function both for eating and working, at least judged by Sooyoung’s computer placed on it.

It looks messy, a pile of clothes on the chair, stacks of unused drawing paper everywhere, together with a stack of already used sheets with some drawings on them. But in the same time, the room feels clean and fresh. There’s a huge window on the wall opposite to the door and as the attic stands a bit higher than the surrounding buildings, Seulgi can see just a little bit around the area. At least up until the first huge apartment house. 

“It’s nice,” Seulgi finally says. “Kind of boho.”

Sooyoung chuckles, “love boho. Instead of saying: I rent an attic on top of the shitty grocery store, I can just say: I live my best boho life.”

Seulgi smiles, “so you rent?”

“Sure,” Sooyoung beams at her, “no way I could own a property.”

“Sure. I thought, you know, you might live with your parents,” Seulgi suggests.

The look in Sooyoung eyes is so surprised Seulgi feels an urge to check if she suddenly grew a second head, “Oh, I didn’t mention I’m from Jeju?”

Seulgi shakes her head, “I don’t think so.”

“Oh, okay. Yeah, I am from Jeju,” Sooyoung walks to the fridge and starts unpacking while Seulgi freezes unsure about where to put herself, “come in. You can put your computer on the table. It’s like the single spot in the house where any job is done.”

Seulgi does exactly as she told. Her computer, slightly newer version of Macbook than Sooyoung has goes on the table together with the drawing tools. The moment Sooyoung spots the bubble tea she instantly gets even more excited. 

“Do you live alone?” It doesn’t seem super inappropriate to ask, so Seulgi does.

Sooyoung shrugs, “Most of the time.” The reply isn’t the most precise but she can settle for it, “Oh, actually. No. Watch out for Dumpling. Don’t step on her.”

“Oh. That’s a cute name! Is Dumpling a cat?” Seulgi somehow never stroke Seulgi as a cat person, but then Seulgi is kind of bad at guessing.

The funny look Sooyoung gives her tells Seulgi that she missed.

“Dumpling is a snake.”

What.

“She’s not poisonous. Do you want to meet her?”

 

***

Dumpling turns out to be a 1,5 meter long ‘corn snake’. When Seulgi sees Sooyoung getting her out of the blanket pile on her bed she almost passes out, but tries to keep cool.

“How did you get her? Aren’t they expensive?”

Sooyoung shrugs again, “Not really. At least not Dumpling. I found her on the street in winter a couple years ago. She was almost dead, so I figured someone horrible just left her there. Right, sweetie?” Sooyoung pets the snake’s head fondly and Seulgi can swear that Dumpling seems to enjoy it. 

“But she must be hard to maintain?” Seulgi still can’t believe someone would willingly keep a snake as a pet.

“Well, my bills for electricity are hell cause Dumpling hates cold. I tried to keep her in an aquarium, but she really hates it too. Also feeding her with mice is both horrible and complex, but.”

Seulgi shudders at the thought alone, “Then why keep her?”

Sooyoung pets Dumpling one more time and leaves her hanging around her neck. The snake seems perfectly happy with this kind of treatment.

“Hate to talk about this but since you asked,” Sooyoung goes back to chopping some vegetables, “I do relate a lot to being kicked out. People buy an animal, take it into family and then it’s not ‘easy’ enough, or doesn’t behave like they expected. And they think it’s okay to leave it on the street just because it’s not what they wanted it to be.” It gets so quiet after Sooyoung’s speech that Seulgi is afraid to ask anything else. Was Sooyoung… kicked out? But then Sooyoung keeps on with the conversation, “Besides, Dumpling is a sweetheart. Do you want to pet her?”

 

***

At some point they settle down and finally get to work. Sooyoung puts Dumpling on the ground and the snake rushes back to the pile of blankets. 

Seeing Sooyoung working helps Seulgi to concentrate on the rest of the things she needs to do. It’s actually surprising how they are almost ready to finish on time. Yixing took over the castle backgrounds and drawings in the folder add up scarily fast, like he stopped doing anything else in his life. She finishes up with some missed things, has time to edit. Yerim has already put the third part together, both the pictures, the music and the text. Yixing’s translators submitted English and Japanese versions. Chinese one he did himself to spend less money on hiring.

They added three people to the team at the last moment, but all the risks seems to pay off. Just a little more work, and their game might be out there. Available to play. That makes Seulgi feel on cloud nine. At least if she doesn’t think of Yixing.

It gets darker on the street with time, but Sooyoung never says anything about her leaving, so Seulgi just hopes she can stay just a bit longer. Only for the game’s sake of course. It’s also comforting and kind of thrilling to be around Sooyoung since the weight of everything they had with Yixing is mostly off her shoulders. One way or another. Does Sooyoung really like her?

Being in the Sooyoung’s place is nice. She seems even more special now, with the drum set, and the cool attic, and. And Dumpling. 

Somewhere around ten with the food on the table finished a couple hours ago, Sooyoung’s stomach rumbles loudly. Seulgi can really empathise with that. Sooyoung stands up and stretches like a cat, her belly showing from under her t-shirt. It sends a spike of electricity down Seulgi’s spine.

“Are you okay with pizza?”

Seulgi tugs her hair, suddenly nervous, “I should probably go home.”

Sooyoung blinks, surprised and also… upset? “Why?”

The questions takes her by surprise, “I mean. I stayed at a friend’s place yesterday. My parents are probably worried? And then I don’t have a toothbrush, and — ” Seulgi, you are mumbling.

Sooyoung beams at her: “That’s okay! I have a bunch of spare toothbrushes. And you can take a shower here. And take my t-shirt.”

“I don’t want to bother you,” Seulgi tries to be polite but Sooyoung doesn’t seem impressed.

“I’d never offer if you would,” her smile is so charming and suggestive that Seulgi can almost guess the next sentence: “besides, I get to share a bed with you.”

Seulgi probably turns a tomato like colour on that, but tries to ignore that. Though, that looks like something which passes as flirting, right? She is almost sure.

 

***

They actually end up getting to bed quite early, just after eating pizza and nothing else ever happens. Seulgi feels kind of both relieved and disappointed, but then the tiredness just takes over her and she falls asleep almost right away.

When Seulgi wakes up the first thing she notices is Sooyoung’s warm breath on her neck. She’s still asleep and that's a good thing because she won’t be able to see Seulgi’s crimson colored cheeks.

Second thing she feels is something moving next to her so she opens her eyes just to see Dumpling’s curious face.

Seulgi doesn’t think she screamed that loud for the last twenty years or so. 

 

Next thing she remembers is her sitting on the kitchen counter with her legs far from the floor. A snake. Right. Dumpling. She doesn’t bite.

Sooyoung’s laughter fills up the room. “Oh dear. I don’t remember such a nice scream since Baekhyun met her.” When she finishes laughing, she adds, “I should have probably locked her in the aquarium, but I forgot. Sorry~”

Needless to say, Sooyoung doesn’t sound sorry at all.

Seulgi feels really angry at herself. She shouldn't have stayed. Or at least overreacted so much, it’s just a snake anyway. She doesn’t bite.

Taking a shower for the first time in two days feels nice, even though she usually does it in the evening. By the end of it her annoyance with herself fades away, but piles up again when she only finds her night t-shirt hanging next to the shower. Right. Her normal clothes is probably where she left them, next to the bed. And now she just has to sneak to get it in the t shirt too wet and short to be decent

But Sooyoung is also a girl. So it is probably okay, if she shows up like that. Probably being the keyword, but it’s not like she has much choice. But anyway, they slept together while she was wearing that and nothing really happened. 

When she sneaks out of the bathroom and tries to silently pick up her clothes, she is immediately noticed by Sooyoung. Great.

“Can you come over? I can’t tell you if there’s enough salt!” At least, Sooyoung is also wearing a night t-shirt. Which is even shorter on her for the obvious reasons. Seulgi can’t tell if this makes the whole thing better or worse.

Sooyoung seems to be baking some mixture of rice, сheese and vegetables. Definitely not a Korean dish, but whatever, it tastes delicious. When she turns to tell Sooyoung about that, she just freezes. It can’t be about salt, can it. Do people stand this close when they just cook together? 

Sooyoung’s body is so close and Seulgi feels… turned on? Not that it is surprising since she was telling Sehun she likes Sooyoung just yesterday, but the feeling is still overwhelming. Is she supposed to step back or?

Sooyoung hand snakes around Seulgi’s waist boldly and that makes her shudder. The movement stops immediately. Seulgi looks up at Sooyoung, but her face is mostly calm, just lips slightly parted. She is not very easy to read. It’s hot. Sooyoung is so hot.

“What are you. Doing?” Words, Seulgi, use words. Even if your heart feels like it is about to jump out of your chest, say words. Preferably better ones.

“Well, I’m decently hugging you with one hand and above your t-shirt, and think about kissing you. Also wonder, is it necessary to bring Dumpling in case I want you to get back on that kitchen counter.”

Sooyoung looks incredibly smug and Seulgi can feel herself melting. That does sound a lot like. Dirty talk? Is that what’s happening? She can’t quite figure out.

“And then?” Sooyoung looks quite surprised. Did it sound like an invitation for her to keep talking? Oh dear, it totally did.

But even taken aback Sooyoung doesn’t hesitate, “Well I did think a lot about how you’d look without this t-shirt. And about touching your chest. Preferably with my mouth.”

Yup, she is definitely turned on. And she can definitely imagine that. Sooyoung’s mouth around her nipples wasn’t precisely a thing she dreamt about before, but now it totally is.

She doesn’t know what makes her say, “and then?”

That’s the moment where she can tell that it gets to Sooyoung too. She trembles slightly and that’s definitely her heartbeat going like crazy. As much as Seulgi’s is.

Sooyoung leans closely to her ear and Seulgi can immediately feel her hot breath and her lips against it. It tickles a little, when she speaks, “I’d like to get you naked on that counter. Want your fingers in my hair. To run my hand down your stomach and follow it by my mouth.” Sooyoung licks her ear and Seulgi feels like she’s ready to melt right here, because every touch feels like its electric, “have you ever been eaten out?”

Seulgi grabs Sooyoung’s shoulder just to stand straight. Does she need to reply to that? Is that bad that she is. Inexperienced?

“N-no.”

Sooyoung doesn’t seem to mind. More like she enjoys the fact, “Just try to imagine my tongue touching you there. Licking your clit, down to the place where my fingers can enter you. Would you like that?”

By that point Seulgi can barely breathe, let alone talk. Sooyoung breaks away a little, and holds her cheek to make Seulgi look at her. At least Sooyoung looks as wrecked as she does.

“I want you to know, that none of that is set in stone, and we can just stop. Or just kiss,” Sooyoung licks her lips, “but the rest of it is very much on the table. I mean. On the counter.”

Seulgi is the first one to lean into the kiss. She is not sure yet if all of the mentioned things are going to be true, but the way Sooyoung soft lips feel on her mouth and the way her hand sneaks under the t-shirt tell Seulgi that some of them definitely will.

 

KYUNGSOO

Baekhyun being nervous the whole morning is mostly endearing. He wakes up two hours earlier than he usually would, and Kyungsoo is still unsure if he slept at all. Washed the dishes and all the counters. Went grocery shopping and now finished cleaning his music room. It’s obviously just a distraction, the usual restless energy which Baekhyun gets when he is nervous. It’s also a good distraction for Kyungsoo. Teasing Baekhyun, setting everything he needs to cook dinner overthinking the recipes — a great strategy to purposefully ignore his own feelings. It angers him a little how nervous he is still about those little things — letting anyone in their house, which is almost like a fortress. Not many people are allowed in here. Sooyoung, Jongdae, Chanyeol. Seungwan. People which were here to help them redo the rooms after Baekhyun’s grandmother passed. 

Sometimes, when Kyungsoo wasn’t here Baekhyun would bring some of his crushes in. But that was different since. They didn’t know. Sehun did.

It is always complicated, to tell someone about them. It still is, even after all those years. There are always chances of uncomfortable questions, of people being rough on them, judging, sharing their unwelcome opinions. Kyungsoo knows that everyone sees him as a pushover. A dull guy who does anything to keep shining Byun Baekhyun next to him. But that, to Kyungsoo, has never been the worst part.

He catches Baekhyun who is still running around the house with a wet wipe like Sehun is coming here with a sanitary check. Kyungsoo wraps his arms around Baekhyun from behind, kisses his neck. Baekhyun tries to get out of the hug at first but then melts a little into the touch when he understands that Kyungsoo is not going to let go.

“He isn’t my mother you know?” Kyungsoo whispers, softly breathing into Baekhyun’s neck and making him squirm. 

“I know, I know. It’s just,” Baekhyun nips his lip but doesn’t bite it. “What if he likes clean places? And I am a mess. And god, did you know I cleaned up my room every time you came by even when we were still friends?”

Kyungsoo laughs, “Even? You mean only when we were friends? As soon as you got me in your web you showed me your true nature, monster.”

Baekhyun giggles too, “Yeah, I really cared about my first impression.”

Kyungsoo takes a moment here to think if he is jealous. He is about to meet Sehun and he has never seen Baekhyun so in love before, at least not with someone else. Maybe he is supposed to feel threatened? He wouldn’t know. Baekhyun just makes everything so easy, that Kyungsoo can’t find it in himself. 

Baekhyun isn’t big on love-showing gestures, despite his loud personality. But he is always consistent in the small things. Being next to Kyungsoo when he needs him. Telling him how much he is in love, or how good Kyungsoo looks. Bringing funny sex toys and insisting to test them with Kyungsoo. Sharing with him, trusting him. Small things which matter in the big picture.

Baekhyun would often doubt that he is capable of commitment. But what Kyungsoo found out, is that it’s just hard to get Baekhyun committed to something. But once he does choose things that arr important he holds on to them. To music. To his friends. To Kyungsoo. 

What Kyungsoo hates the most about coming out to people, is that he can’t make others see that. He can’t show them just how committed Baekhyun can be, and this gross doubt of others just spreads to Baekhyun. Kyungsoo hates this shadow which sometimes runs across his features. ‘Am I really allowed to have it’, ‘am I bad for wanting it’, ‘am I a burden.’ Hates that Baekhyun doubts the way he loves and feels.

For Kyungsoo being judged is easy, he barely cares enough to know what strangers think, but Baekhyun is just so eager to be approved and liked by everyone, and Kyungsoo hates it when he is sad. 

Finally Kyungsoo can tell what worries him the most. What if he doesn’t like Sehun as a person? What if Sehun isn’t nice, or just isn’t good for Baekhyun? Baekhyun deserves someone who makes him happy. It has finally settled down now, since his grandmother passed away, and Baekhyun just stopped being so sad that it kept breaking Kyungsoo’s heart. But with this new thing, would it really be good for him?

As soon as Kyungsoo finishes processing this thought he laughs, surprising Baekhyun: “What’s that about?”

“I think I am just the weirdest guy in the world,” Kyungsoo finally, voices out, amused by his own brain.

Baekhyun turns to him as much as he can in this position. “Why is that?”

Kyungsoo can feel his own cheeks getting pink, as he mumbles, “I don’t know. It’s like, I’m supposed to feel jealous or something, but I just. I don’t know, I just want you to be happy. It’s weird. I am worried he won’t make you happy enough.”

Baekhyun turns completely in his arms, kissing Kyungsoo on the lips, simple, but so warm. “I don’t know how you do this, Soo. But you are not supposed to feel anything, if you don’t. Because I am also not supposed to want this, probably, but I do, and. And you’re okay with that and—” 

Baekhyun falls silent, hiding his face in the crook of Kyungsoo’s neck.

“And?..”

“Jongdae told me once that when Seungwan gets jealous he feels loved. And I don’t— you know, I don’t think that I ever felt more loved than I do now.”

 

***

It takes another hour for Kyungsoo to almost be done with cooking and then he even manages to work for some time before he hears the doorbell ringing. Baekhyun, who still hasn’t quit his chaotic wavering around the flat, jumps like he is on fire.

While he answers the door Kyungsoo takes these last moments to close his computer and then remind himself that Sehun isn’t just a guest. Kyungsoo usually does have a habit of hugging Baekhyun at home, and then sometimes kissing him, but that might make it weird for Sehun so it’d be better to hold back at least for now. At least until they figure it out. 

Kyungsoo has seen Sehun’s photo before, and on that photo Sehun just looked reserved and sexy. Good looking, but not the way Kyungsoo would find interesting. He walks to the hallway having this image in his head, just to see right away that real-life Sehun is nothing like it. An awkward tall guy, handsome but mostly endearing, he trips as soon as he enters the flat and then looks at Baekhyun with eyes filled with pure adoration. A completely different person from what Kyungsoo imagined (and kind of feared) him to be. 

“H-hello,” Sehun notices Kyungsoo before Kyungsoo can say anything. He can say that Sehun is nervous and uncomfortable just by the way he fidgets and stutters. He probably usually isn’t like this, but the situation itself is also kind of special. Kyungsoo smiles.

“Hello. It’s nice to meet you. I’ve heard a lot about you.” Kyungsoo worried he might have sounded cheesy, as he watches Sehun’s cheek burn.

“Oh, yeah. Uh. Me too?” He says that last part almost like a question. Kyungsoo isn’t sure if he should say anything, so he just blinks looking at Sehun. The guy takes a moment, finishes taking off his shoes. Then he ruffles his hair and takes a deep breath. It is both entertaining and cute. “Actually no. I haven’t. Sorry, this is confusing as hell. It’s nice to meet you, Do-ssi.”

Baekhyun snorts and Kyungsoo stares at him disapprovingly. His husband seems to deflate a little, calming down. “Sorry. Seeing you two interact is bizarre. Bizarre and cute.”

At that Sehun and Kyungsoo both give him the same ‘Oh really now?’ Kind of look. Weirdly, it eases the mood a little. Kyungsoo turns back to Sehun.

“It’s okay with just Kyungsoo-hyung, if you don’t mind,” Sehun nods, “Is it okay if I just call you by your name too? It’s kind of soon but I do think formal speech is going to make it even more awkward.”

Sehun stares at him for a second, then blinks, completely taken aback by something. Kyungsoo isn’t sure what got him, but Sehun smiles shyly, a cute little curve of the lips, and says: “Sure”.

 

Chapter Text

SEHUN

Sehun had spent a lot of time during the week wondering what Kyungsoo is like. Asking Baekhyun about him via messages kind of seemed inappropriate so Sehun was left with his own speculations, and god knows that rarely went well for him. 

They planned to meet earlier, before Sunday, but ended up having no time for this, with Baekhyun’s deadlines for music, and then Kyungsoo’s job that made them cancel Thursday. Or at least that’s what Baekhyun had told him. 

Sehun even wanted to ask for Kyungsoo’s photo, but didn’t know how he would do that without making it awkward. His photo? For what? Checking if Baekhyun's husband is good enough? Good enough for whom, even— for Sehun? 

So it ended up being easier not to ask at all and let his imagination run wild. 

In his head, Kyungsoo has slowly built up to be that serious guy, cold and smart and possibly incredibly attractive. He is probably working in a big company and wears suits all the time. Imaginary Kyungsoo was also fit, a great conversationalist, and generally brilliant. To cut a long story short, nothing like Sehun. 

Somehow, Sehun had also come to think Kyungsoo would be the same height as him or even taller. It’s not like he knew that many people of the same height as Jongin and himself, but hey— Baekhyun must have a type, and Sehun must be resembling Kyungsoo at least in some way. 

All those thoughts are the reason he is completely taken aback when he sees a tiny guy in a brown sweater and round glasses. 

Sehun is probably, most likely being rude but he can’t stop staring at Kyungsoo, just because he is so—just so different from the image Sehun has made up in his head. So different from Sehun himself, at least in his appearance. He is even smaller than Baekhyun, and if they were to stand close in front of each other, he would barely reach up to Sehun’s chest. God.

Sehun stumbles through his greeting and prepares to die of mortification right there. But instead, Kyungsoo smiles sweetly in reply, and now Sehun thinks he's going to die because it’s too much. 

He feels incredibly vulnerable. He isn’t used to being around strangers. More than that, strangers who know he is gay. And strangers like husbands of his boyfriend. Kyungsoo being so—different from Sehun’s imagination just makes Sehun panic more.

When he says he's also heard a lot about Kyungsoo he immediately realises it's a lie, which makes him feel even more out of place. This time, he actually makes an effort to calm down, before his panic makes him completely illiterate. It’s not like he succeeds, but at least he tries. 

“Actually no. I haven’t. Sorry, this is confusing as hell. It’s nice to meet you, Do-ssi.”

Well, that was awkward. But at least it was an awkward truth. 

Baekhyun snorts, and Kyungsoo immediately turns to stare at him, his gaze unexpectedly heavy. At that, Baekhyun calms down right away, and says almost sheepishly, “Sorry. Seeing you interact is bizarre. Bizarre and cute.”

‘Oh really? ’ a sarcastic thought races through his head as he looks at Baekhyun, but he never voices it out, because Kyungsoo starts talking to him again. Sehun can see a trace of a smile in his eyes, but then, maybe it’s just the light reflecting in the glasses.

“It’s okay with just Kyungsoo-hyung, if you don’t mind.” Sure, Baekhyun actually warned him Kyungsoo would prefer it this way, so he nods. It's manageable. It's his native language after all. He can do it. “Is it okay if I just call you by your name? It might be too soon but I do think formal speech is going to make it even more awkward.”

Sehun imagined this conversation to be a lot of things, but what he didn’t expect was for Kyungsoo to admit he also feels awkward. Probably because the tall Kyungsoo in a suit was like Superman and never felt human emotions. It is a pleasant surprise, though. At least Sehun is not the only one who has no idea what they are doing.

He could never imagine how this conversation would go though. Not really. He tried to imagine Kyungsoo (and he failed even there) but the conversation itself—he wasn’t sure how these things happened. All communication about his relationships before was hard and painful. ‘We need to talk’ sounded like something his father would say after Sehun got a bad mark at school. He also can’t remember ever having a say in any of these talks. Well, maybe only when he broke up with Luhan.

All of the past week he was mulling over his experience of talking. He never did with Tao until—until the time Tao blamed Sehun for becoming too clingy. Luhan and Sehun did talk, but then it was always Luhan doing the talking. Even when Sehun disagreed he preferred not to tell his boyfriend just because it would make him upset, and then what would become of Sehun? He was madly in love and sure that for Luhan he can change, but that didn’t work.

As the was getting ready to meet Kyungsoo, Sehun found himself thinking that he is again madly in love. And he really wants this, like he wanted with Luhan, so what’s the difference? Is he just going to sit there and agree with anything? Think of the ways he can be changed to fit the mold they have in their relationship?

Their flat is simple. Even more than Jongin and his is. At least most of the furniture back in their place is quite modern. Here it’s old, almost like it comes from the past century. Sehun remembers Baekhyun mentioning his grandmother. Is it her place then? He imagined the place to be much more stylish—much like Luhan’s who was obsessed with his surroundings. Also imaginary Kyungsoo in a suit wouldn’t really fit in here.

It isn't disappointing though. Just different, and maybe different is better, at least in that case. He is glad it’s not like he imagined. That Baekhyun always turns out to be nothing like Sehun thought he would be. And, well, maybe Kyungsoo does too.

Sehun takes one of the chairs at the dining table for four people. The room doesn’t have a TV but he notices a fancy computer on the table, and another one just next to the couch. The sofa is oddly new, especially compared to the table and to the walls—seems like they were definitely last painted a long time ago into this yellowish colour.

Baekhyun takes off his slippers and plops himself on the couch with his legs crossed, while Kyungsoo keeps standing. Sehun notices that Kyungsoo also glances at him now and then, curious. It’s cute. He probably shouldn’t think it is.

“Do you want something? Like tea or coffee?” Kyungsoo finally asks, when he catches Sehun's eye. “Dinner won’t be ready for another 15 minutes anyway”.

“Ready? You mean, you guys are cooking?” Sehun gestures awkwardly towards Baekhyun and Kyungsoo. He was thinking of some takeaway. Baekhyun mentioned he can’t cook, and Sehun just didn’t think Kyungsoo would. Because, you know. Tall guy in a suit and all. Superman doesn't cook after all.

Kyungsoo chuckles in reply. “Well Baekhyun washed rice so I guess you can say that we are cooking, sure.”

“Hey, properly washed rice is an important part of a good meal!” Baekhyun’s cheeks actually go pink at that, and Sehun can’t hold back a smile. Their interactions seem a little strained, and again, Sehun is kind of happy about that. He probably shouldn’t be, but it kind of makes him feel less lonely in his confusion.

Sehun just asks for coffee, though he really shouldn’t have this much on weekends, especially not when he's already restless from anxiety. Kyungsoo nods and goes to the kitchen, disappearing there together with Baekhyun, who whines a little having to get up from the sofa. For a moment Sehun just takes a breath and checks his messages in Line. His hands are shaking. 

Jongin: Good luck on your date

Jongin: Use protection

Jongin: Consent is important

Sehun: I hate you

Sehun smiles at his phone. He hasn’t told Jongin about Kyungsoo yet, but he will need to. Turns out that having support of his brother and just someone to talk to, his two best friends, just changes everything. Sehun still doesn't feel like he can properly process the fact that he doesn’t need to hide anymore, and that Jongin would sometimes ask questions about Luhan, or Baekhyun, and Sehun doesn’t have to lie anymore. It makes his heart feel so full every time. 

Baekhyun returns with dishes and starts serving the table. Kyungsoo’s computer (Sehun figured the owners by spotting a bunch of funny stickers on the other one) gets moved to his office bag in the corner of the room.

When Kyungsoo returns they don’t immediately start discussing anything important. Kyungsoo asks Sehun if it was easy to get here, then about his job—both the official one, and their game. Sehun does feel a little bit like he's being interviewed, but the feeling dissipates quickly as Kyungsoo also shares details about himself.

Turns out the real Kyungsoo does work in a big company, just like Baekhyun told him before. He apparently loves working with numbers and doing financial prognosis. It’s a mystery cause Baekhyun isn’t even capable of basic counting sometimes. Sehun figured it out when they tried to split the bill for coffee once. 

They are so different. Even the tones of their voices, where Kyungsoo is much calmer and quieter, even when he laughs. He seems shy, but then there is also a lot of confidence emanating from him. Just as much as Baekhyun has, but different. Baekhyun's confidence shines like the sun, easily spotted by everyone, but Kyungsoo’s feels a lot calmer, like a steady warmth. You can’t see it, but you know it’s there. 

It’s not something Sehun would have expected, but it turns out that Kyungsoo’s presence is actually calming. It makes Sehun feel a little less awkward. Just a little, the tension going away as they talk about casual things.

The dinner is so good Sehun almost tells Kyungsoo he is a better cook than his mum but then stops. Is mentioning his family okay? Is mentioning personal things okay? He ends up just complimenting the food.

After dinner they take dishes back to the kitchen and Kyungsoo stays there to make some tea. Baekhyun goes to the room, and Sehun follows just to sit back on his chair. He isn’t sure if there is anything else he can do. Baekhyun stands next to him. 

“Are you okay?” Baekhyun seems genuinely worried. “You look like you are freaking out.”

Sehun giggles nervously. Why is he so easy to read? Shouldn't it be the opposite, with his stony face and all? Why can’t he be more like Kyungsoo. When Baekhyun puts his hand on the nape of Sehun’s neck he almost jumps to the ceiling. What if Kyungsoo sees?

“Hey. I know that’s a lot.” Baekhyun massages his neck slightly, and Sehun relaxes a bit, leans into the touch, unable to resist the warmth of Baekhyun’s hand. “But this is not an interview, or a parent kind of meeting. It’s okay.”

When Kyungsoo enters the room, Baekhyun doesn’t pull away his hand. Doesn’t even think to, just leaves it to rest there. Kyungsoo’s look when he notices is just… Neutral?

Baekhyun only moves away when Kyungsoo asks for his help. Sehun actually feels better knowing that Kyungsoo at least isn’t jealous, so he will probably not poison him. He is really hard to read though. Maybe he is thinking of a thousand ways of killing Sehun and hiding his body.

When they all sit back at the table, Sehun notices that Kyungsoo looks at him, a direct heavy stare. It almost feels too heavy, so Sehun immediately revisits the poisoning idea. What if he doesn’t like him? But when Kyungsoo speaks his voice is just calm and soft.

“Baekhyun probably already told you that you are the first person who is here like this, so,” Kyungsoo shifts in his place, like he is not sure what to say, “I will just be honest—I'm not sure at all how this should go and I am already regretting I asked for this because there’s only a certain amount of awkwardness a guy can take.”

Sehun laughs at his sudden confession. Not because it is funny, just. Just sudden. It makes him feel all sorts of weird, more and less nervous at the same time. It still feels crazy that Kyungsoo feels the same as Sehun does. At least in some ways.

It's like Kyungsoo almost hears his silent question. He messes up his hair and speaks again. 

“Look, this is complicated. For all of us. Many things in a relationship can go wrong. You probably know.” Kyungsoo takes a shuddering breath and that’s how Sehun can feel that he is actually nervous. Sehun nods. He understands. “This has three sides which makes it one person more complicated. That’s why we need to talk. A lot. About feelings, and relationships, and our life in general. Because if we don’t it falls apart quickly and everyone gets hurt.”

Kyungsoo waits until Sehun nods again to continue, “And I know that this might be odd for you but you will have to tell us how you feel about this, because we can’t guess.”

“Guessing sucks,” Baekhyun finally says from his place on the sofa and Sehun can’t disagree. Guessing really does suck. He did a lot of hiding and a lot of guessing and it never worked, but even knowing that he can’t say anything right now, just because it will make him too open. Too vulnerable. It’s much easier to know how he is supposed to feel and then to pretend that this is how he feels than actually share the mess that is happening inside.

It’s too much attention pointed at him, and Sehun’s hands become clammy, his heart pounding heavily. He wants to say something, but apparently he is just bad at talking.

Baekhyun stands up from the couch and walks to the table, sitting next to Sehun. “Are you okay?”

Sehun first intention is to say he’s fine, but then there is no point in starting to lie now. It’s a simple, short word to reveal how he really feels, but it takes a lot of effort to say it.

“No.”

At that, Baekhyun smiles, like he is actually happy Sehun said it. “That’s a start. It’s okay if you’re not okay, if this makes sense, you know? You are not supposed to be okay. Can you tell me why you are not okay?”

It’s easier to go from there. At least he has a question to answer. 

“I am not used to. This. Not just this kind of—relationship, but also talking in general. I don’t know what I am supposed to say.” Sehun feels like what he is saying is wrong the moment the words leave his mouth. Kyungsoo just told him that he is supposed to be honest. He probably sounds stupid.

But Kyungsoo is still calm and friendly. “You don’t have to say anything specific, okay? Just try to come around this idea. If you don’t know what to say, you can ask. Any questions, even the ones you think are stupid. Because they are not.”

Sehun finally looks back at Kyungsoo. The whole situation is ridiculous. Three adult men trying to figure out how to have a relationship together. Three gay men. Three lost gay men, two of them in love with Baekhyun. “How do you know?”

“There are no stupid questions here, Sehun. If you want I can ask you?” Kyungsoo offers. Sehun just nods, feeling like he has to choose an option in a video game, and answering the questions might be the easiest and also less damaging.

“Okay,” Kyungsoo thinks for a second. “First of all, do you plan on telling someone about this? I mean, about Baekhyun of course, but about me also.”

Well, that’s not scary. Sehun nods. “Yeah. My best friend Jongin? And, possibly, Seulgi.” He looks at Baekhyun, hoping he will understand.

Baekhyun looks like he does, as the bright smile shines across his face. “Did you guys finally talk?”

Sehun shrugs. “Kind of? Mostly thanks to Sooyoung.”

“So you know about Sooyoung and...”

“And Seulgi? Yeah.” Just this morning he got a message from Seulgi that said, ‘ i just had gay sex what do i do ’. Sehun smiles a little when he thinks about it. Good to know they are all equally in the dark about things.

Kyungsoo looks at them absolutely clueless. “Okay, I guess I’ll have to ask Sooyoung. Anyway just in case you want to introduce Baekhyun as your boyfriend, tell him first, okay? And about me... you can, if you want to, obviously. But talk to both of us before you do, okay? Polyamorous coming out can really be worse than a gay one, for everyone.”

“Wait.” Sehun barely can process the first part of the monologue. “Do you mean... you’re okay with me saying to people he is my—” he can’t even finish the sentence, because words are too complex, but Kyungsoo gets it anyway. So does Baekhyun.

“Hi everyone,” Baekhyun waves his hand in between them, “thank you for remembering that I’m here ” When they both look at him, he continues, “Thank you. Sehun, of course you can. I mean, tell me first, obviously. But when I said I am serious, I meant this. I am.”

Kyungsoo nods, like he is absolutely chill with it, and that makes Sehun’s brain collapse completely. Which is a good and a bad thing at the same time.

“I don’t. I don’t get this.” The look he gives Kyungsoo is probably pitiful. “I really don’t. Are you okay with this? How can you be okay with this? You don’t even know me.”

Kyungsoo shakes his head. “I don’t need to know you. I mean, I wish I would get to know you better, of course, but I don’t need to because I am not going to date you. Baekhyun likes you, you like him.”

“And you are not jealous?” The concept still doesn’t fit into Sehun’s head.

“Are you?” Kyungsoo raises his eyebrow, almost ironically, and it all gets Sehun’s brain stunned for a second. It’s all of the past experience speaking at once. He was extremely jealous when it came to Tao. Since then he really didn’t have a reason to but—Luhan was always jealous. Does he feel jealous now?

He tries to imagine. This is their flat. They are married, they have history. It will probably take forever for Sehun to mean at least half as much to Baekhyun as Kyungsoo does. He should be jealous, but at the same time something just doesn’t add up.

The realization comes to him slowly and hits him hard. He thinks he can almost hear thoughts rushing in his head.

It’s mostly about Baekhyun, the way how honest he is about being in love with Sehun, and all the things he already did and said to prove that. It makes Sehun feel special. Important. Unable to doubt himself. Unable to feel left behind. It’s also the way Baekhyun is ready to listen and redefine things just for Sehun. In order to make this work.

They don’t rush him to reply, and when he finally speaks, he really feels what he is saying, “No. I don’t think I am. At least not when it comes to you.”

Kyungsoo nods. He seems oddly happy with that reply. “Okay. Answering your question, no. I also don’t. Not like this and not when it comes to you.”

Sehun nods too. It still hurts his head to think about this, so he just tries to stop analyzing things. At least for now.

“With that said, I really think that Baekhyun needs to ask you this, but knowing him, he wouldn’t. So I will go ahead and be a dick,” Kyungsoo smirks a little. “Are you okay with him flirting with other people?”

“Kyungsoo!” Sehun can see Baekhyun’s cheeks flush immediately. It’s cute.

Kyungsoo shrugs. “What? Don’t tell me that you’ll stop interacting with other people once you get a boyfriend.”

Sehun takes a moment to think of a reply, while they keep bickering about Baekhyun’s flirting habits. When he starts talking, they both get quiet. 

“I don’t think I can be not okay with him flirting because that’d mean locking him up in the bathroom without his phone or laptop.” Sehun finds it adorable—the way Baekhyun blushes even more. He is not sure if it is okay to say the next thing he wants to, but it seems important, “but I’m not. I might be not okay with more. Like, having sex and kissing.” He takes a breath, trying to avoid looking at them, instead staring on the table. “I mean. I thought a lot about what you both have. Had. And even if I don’t think I am jealous when it comes to you, but other people. Being open, it’s different.”

Sehun isn’t sure what reaction he expects. He is afraid Baekhyun will be mad, but he also can’t imagine him being mad. But that is something he is sure about. He is not ready to handle open relationships.

“Sehun,” Baekhyun voice is soft, as he covers Sehun’s hand with his. Sehun is kind of still concerned about Kyungsoo being in the same room, so he just looks at their hands. “First of all, I don’t think I am ready for open relationships while being with both of you. I am really afraid that I won’t be able to handle that much commitment, so—” He tightens the grip a little more, making Sehun look up at him. “Second thing is, you are a part of this, so you have a right to voice out everything you’re unhappy about. More than that, If we want this to work, we really need you to do that.”

Kyungsoo continues, “He is right. For this to work, we need to be able to discuss things. All of us.” 

Sehun nods. He kind of understands, but it is really hard for him to wrap his head around this idea.

They sit in silence for a moment. Then, Baekhyun speaks again, and Sehun immediately wishes he didn’t.

“Okay, so. Is there anything about sex we need to talk about.”

Sehun really hopes he can just burn in flames and die at this exact moment.

 

***

In the evening Baekhyun volunteers to walk him to the station even though Sehun insists he can find it himself. It’s late and the streets are empty, but not empty enough to hold Baekhyun’s hand.

“Are you okay?” Baekhyun looks a bit worried but then the content smile on his face really tells Sehun how pleased he is.

“I guess? Kyungsoo is really cool.” At that, Baekhyun smiles even brighter, his eyes soft, the same expression like he has when he looks at Kyungsoo, and that makes Sehun’s insides turn into something warm and fuzzy. 

“Yeah. I am great at falling in love with the best people.” Sehun blushes as soon as he realises it’s a compliment. 

Suddenly, Baekhyun grabs him by the sleeve and drags to a tiny alley. It’s next to a brick house which looks abandoned, at least by the way they find a hole in the fence. Sehun is surprised, but follows Baekhyun anyway.

It is even darker behind the building, or rather what remains of it, with the street light not reaching here. Baekhyun walks slowly and holds Sehun’s hand to make sure he follows him closely. Then they stop next to the back wall. Sehun really hopes it is safe here, and they won’t be robbed or something.

“This is really not the fastest way to the station,” Baekhyun whispers, and Sehun has to lean closer to hear him, “but I figured out we can bear a longer one.”

At that he touches Sehun’s cheek gently, leading him into a kiss. It’s a bit hard to do that in the complete darkness, their noses bumping, but Sehun doesn’t care. Especially when Baekhyun is eager like this, like he also wanted to kiss Sehun for so long, but didn’t think they could do that in front of Kyungsoo. 

At some point Sehun opens his eyes and notices that Baekhyun is watching him too. The weak light still reaching from the street reflects in his eyes, and Sehun can’t stop himself from wondering what Baekhyun sees. Does he like what he sees? This thought makes Sehun uncomfortable, and he breaks the kiss, almost by accident. He tries to resume, but has to gasp for air, and Baekhyun just moves on, kissing his jawline, cheek, nipping at his neck. 

His hands move from Sehun’s chest and wander around. He touches his shoulders, his neck, then moves down to stroke his sides above the coat, slipping them under it. Soon it becomes hard for Sehun to breath. It’s sudden, overwhelming, and Sehun can’t wrap his head around—just being able to kiss like this, outside. Is Baekhyun sure that is okay? Is he himself sure that’s okay? This one doesn’t matter though, if it’s fine with Baekhyun. 

This last thought flashes through Sehun’s brain and suddenly feels so wrong, but he can’t quite grasp why. That’s exactly what he would usually think in bed. It was always important to make someone else happy, pleased. But then, with Baekhyun, it just doesn’t seem right. Maybe it still is.

He just didn’t think that this will go—that fast. Not that he doesn’t like doing this with Baekhyun, with his hot breath on Sehun’s neck. Sehun wants to move his hands, to do something, to be more responsive to Baekhyun’s attention, but his limbs do not comply. 

“Sehun,” Baekhyun whispers in his ear, and it’s supposed to be hot, but Sehun just feels stuck. He knows that what they are doing is okay. They are dating now, and all, and when you date you are supposed to make out and have sex at some point. And it’s not likely they are going to have sex next to the abandoned house in the early December anyway, so it shouldn’t scare Sehun so much.

It does. 

One of Baekhyun’s hands gets out from under his coat and just goes up to hold his chin. “I feel like we need to talk about this, don’t we?”

Sehun giggles nervously, and makes an effort to reply, relieved that he doesn’t have to stay silent with his mind spinning around this anymore. “You know we just talked about relationships for four hours, right?”

“Yup,” Baekhyun doesn’t actually look bothered by that. “I suck at reading minds, Sehunnie. Honestly, I don't think anyone doesn't so just tell me, okay.”

Sehun feels mortified by the fact that Baekhyun noticed, and kind of wants to just vanish, but it’s not likely to happen. Baekhyun is looking at him expectantly, and Sehun can’t help but mumble, “It’s embarrassing.” He doesn’t know where this comes from but even if Baekhyun is not telepathic he’s certainly good at dragging words out of Sehun.

Baekhyun voice sounds as he’s frowning. Maybe he is. “What exactly?”

Sehun finds himself shrugging uncomfortably, his body moving ahead of his brain, “I don’t know. Not being. On board and.” Why would he even say that? What if Baekhyun just—

But Baekhyun starts talking before Sehun manages to finish the thought. 

“How much ‘not on board’ are you?” Baekhyun‘s voice is soft as he tucks a strand of Sehun's hair behind his ear. He doesn’t seem to be put off, just concerned. 

Right. Both Baekhyun and Kyungsoo asked him to talk and say if he is not sure about something. He probably needs to do that. It’s not even that hard, at least not with Baekhyun who always listens to him.

“I am just not sure,” Sehun stumbles and breathes deep to get more air, “like. Where is this going?”

Sehun is scared to fuck up. He doesn’t know anything. What is he supposed to do, what does Baekhyun like? He doesn’t think he can figure that out in the current circumstances. 

“Where do you want it to go?” Baekhyun answering a question with another one doesn’t help at all. “Like, right now. At this moment.” 

It’s a pity Sehun can’t see his face.

Sehun presses more into the wall, creating some distance between them, just to cover his eyes. He feels so confused he just might cry. “I have no idea.”

Sehun is kind of ready for Baekhyun to pry his hand away from his face, but instead Baekhyun just turns and leans on the wall right next to Sehun.

“Can I take your hand?” He doesn’t sound offended and that makes Sehun feel both relieved and horrified.

“Yeah,” Sehun feels Baekhyun’s gentle touch, their fingers being interlaced together. “Sorry.” 

Silence settles between them, and Sehun finally feels like his heartbeat is slowing down.

“Can I ask you a stupid question?” Baekhyun speaks again, and there’s something sheepish in his tone. Or maybe Sehun is making that up.

“Yeah.”

“Is that about me… or?”

That actually gets Sehun out of his head for the first time. Baekhyun couldn’t be thinking that this is because Sehun doesn’t like him, could he? 

“Fuck, no. No it’s not, hyung.” He hates to think he just caused Baekhyun to think this way. “I do enjoy making out with you. And you’re extremely hot.” It’s a silly confession, but Sehun doesn’t know what else to say. 

Baekhyun tightens his grip on Sehun's hand, like he's happy with that bold statement. “Then what?”

Voicing things out is so confusing. How can Baekhyun do it so easily? Unless you just need to get through the fact that it’s okay. It’s okay to be gay. And to tell Seulgi. And Jongin. And to talk to Kyungsoo. And to have this. And to say things. 

Something tight in his heart unclenches, and he suddenly feels the cold December air flowing down his lungs. Then the firm wall behind his back. The warmth of Baekhyun’s hand.

“I am used to act how I am supposed to. I don’t know. It’s just a fact. And this, I—I am just very unclear about it. Like. What should I do and what do you expect.”

“Sehun,” Baekhyun tries to interrupt but since Sehun is on a roll he doesn’t let him.

“Wait. I know that like. You probably don’t. But it’s just. I am not used to this,” Sehun takes another super deep breath. “Can you. Help me?”

Sehun thinks that it’s the most he ever trusted to someone. Except for Jongin, maybe, when he came out to him. That's a lot of trust in one week.

Baekhyun goes back to the same position, facing Sehun, and puts his free hand back on his cheek.

“Okay. Are you okay with making out?” He sounds happy. Sehun wants to see his smile so badly, but for now Baekhyun’s voice will have to be enough.

“Yeah.”

Baekhyun grins, white teeth catching the light, probably about the way Sehun’s breath hitches. Sehun feels flustered and excited. 

“Make out intensely until we are both hard?” Something in Baekhyun’s voice tells Sehun he actually enjoys this.

“Yeah.”

“Me, sucking you off right here?”

As much as Sehun feels aroused at this thought, he forces himself to voice out, “Not now?” 

It still sounds more like a question, but he tries his best. Baekhyun smiles wider. It’s both seducing and reassuring at the same time. He leans a bit closer.

“Me taking you on a date next tuesday?”

When Sehun mumbles, “Yes”, their lips are already almost touching.

After they get out of the alley Sehun feels extremely grateful for his long coat. First, because it does a really good job in keeping him warm. Second, it is also good for covering how hard he is since Baekhyun did his best to keep up with his promise.

 

Three stations away from home he fishes out his phone and notices that he has been added to a Line group chat. The name says, ' everyone loves Baekhyun ' and it unsurprisingly includes him, Baekhyun and Kyungsoo.

Kyungsoo: why.

Baekhyunnie: we need to solve problems somewhere~~~

Kyungsoo: what problems

Baekhyuunie: like, if i’m very aroused because i made out with Sehun can I have sex with you, or should i just deal with this myself?

22:42 Kyungsoo left the chat

23:17 Kyungsoo joined the chat

Kyungsoo changed the chat’s name to ‘i will regret this’

Baekhyunnie: Sehunnie he is mean~~~~

Kyungsoo changed the chat’s name to ‘already regretting’

Baekhyunnie: TT

Sehun: :lol:

 


SEULGI

Seulgi isn’t exactly sure what she looks like when she watches Sooyoung. It’s most likely that her being in love is written all in bold over her face, but she doesn’t feel like it’s something she should be hiding, like she did with Yixing. 

It is that sinking feeling in her chest, every time she looks at Sooyoung. Every time Sooyoung smiles, her gums showing. Every time Seulgi gets to see her hands moving fast, drawing something on a computer or her notebook, or typing something on her phone.

It almost borders with stupidity. Sometimes she would just find herself sketching Sooyoung, or messaging her too much, or looking at her for too long.

She used to think that it will be easier if they started something, but the feelings refuse to go away and just keep whirling down her chest. The only difference is that now it is okay to step closer and lean to kiss Sooyoung’s neck, whisper sweet things in her ear, hold her hand.

Seulgi can’t find in herself to care about what her parents would think.  Leaving Sooyoung’s place at one point becomes too much of an effort. She manages once every couple of days, but then it really doesn’t have any benefit to it, since they both can barely think of anything but each other both at Sooyoung’s place and back in the office.

Good thing they are almost always alone when they are there.

Seulgi never actually thought she could be so horny all the goddamn time: when she wakes up, or goes to sleep, or when they are in the middle of work in the office, but being with Sooyoung is so good and just too easy. Wanting her as the most natural state of mind.

She is kind of worried about many things, though. She barely sees her parents, and avoids Yixing just because there is too much pressure and she doesn’t want to lie or to explain. She keeps putting all the thoughts about him away, hoping that they will just disappear and she won't have to process and feel again. The date of release is getting closer by each second and Seulgi can feel time running out almost like sand flowing down her body instead of an hourglass.

They lie down in bed with Sooyoung at night. It’s a good thing that Sooyoung is so hardworking and still new enough in the game developing to actually be enthusiastic. Otherwise, Seulgi would have probably just spent just about all of her time like that.

“We should shower,” Sooyoung mumbles in her hair. Her hand is dancing on Seulgi’s back.

Seulgi’s grumble is barely intelligible. Lying like that next to naked Sooyoung is too nice to bother.

She can feel Sooyoung’s huff, “You’re right, why bother,” like she is reading her mind.

“Have you seen Dumpling?” By this time Seulgi is completely used to waking up next to 1,5 meter long snake. Dumpling seems to feel really cold during the night so she would always sneak to stay next to them. 

Seulgi isn’t really sure if snakes can be… affectionate? Dumpling certainly can.

Sooyoung shrugs. “By the way. Yixing-oppa actually called me and said you've been ignoring his calls.” She follows Seulgi’s hairline with her fingers gently. “Wanna tell me anything about that?”

Seulgi really doesn’t. She’s been skipping Yixing’s calls and messages for this past couple of weeks, since they talked. She really shouldn’t have, but then again, he can see that she proceeds with the drawings. And again, he didn’t call in for a meeting, so they are probably fine?

“It’s nothing, really,” she tries to fish away from the conversation but is almost sure that wouldn’t work. Not with Sooyoung.

“Well he certainly doesn’t think so since he even called me.” Sooyoung breaks away a little bit, just to look at Seulgi curiously. “Is it because of us? I mean, I am still not sure what you and Yixing have, so—”

“We don’t have anything!” She shouldn’t probably act that defensive, but this is true. Now they certainly don’t. Sooyoung, however, just doesn’t seem to believe her. 

“And that’s why he gets jealous as hell every time I'm near you?” Sooyoung raises her eyebrow ironically. “I don’t get it, like. Is he your ex?”

“Why do you care?” It actually comes out angrier when she intended it to be. Sooyoung pries and it feels uncomfortable, like she’s poking a wound. 

“Because I care about you. But I also care about the game.” Sooyoung is so calm that it actually makes Seulgi even angrier. She moves away, just an inch, and the cold air reaches where Sooyoung’s warm body was pressed.

“I don’t want to talk about it.” She hopes it sounds decisive enough.

“Okay,” Sooyoung nods. Seulgi can’t tell if she is irritated with this argument.

It doesn’t make things easier, since they are now lying awkwardly far from each other and it’s actually cold. And then Sooyoung is also giving her a Look.

“What,” Seulgi grumbles, but the only thing she manages by that is to make Sooyoung laugh.

“Nothing. You’re cute.” Seulgi can feel her cheeks burning. “Let’s get up.” 

Sooyoung stands up easily, like a cat, and for a moment Seulgi gets stunned by the way her body looks in the weak street lights coming through the large window. Sooyoung offers her a hand, and Seulgi is also forced to get out of the blankets.

She follows Sooyoung to the kitchen area. Their computers are still taking over most of the table so Seulgi just leans on their ‘make out’ kitchen counter that earned its name in her head for obvious reasons. Sooyoung wanders around the kitchen gathering ingredients for something. Probably hot chocolate.

When they both get a mug, Sooyoung sits down on the chair, facing Seulgi. And Seulgi still can’t stop looking at the beautiful lines of her naked body.

“It’s okay if you don’t want to tell Yixing about us,” Sooyoung suddenly says, “it’s a lot.”

Seulgi winces. 

“That’s not it. Look,” she takes a deep breath, preparing for the unpleasant conversation, “me and Yixing-oppa had exactly two… dates I guess. I liked him a lot. I still do.” She hates to admit it, but there’s no point in lying. “But then I showed oppa the game ideas and he suddenly got all invested into actually making it.”

She makes a wide gesture with her hand that’s not holding the mug, trying to describe the amount of engagement Yixing showed with her game. She gets immediately self-conscious—like the gesture is too big, showing too much emotion, like she’s yelling with her hands or something. Sooyoung doesn’t look away from her face, attentive, and Seulgi sighs, scratching at her nape.

“I don’t know, I guess we couldn’t think about anything else for a while? You know, first we just were discussing the concept, drawing, then we kind of thought, wow, we can actually do that.” 

It’s a bittersweet memory. Sweet, because working together was great, and then bitter, because back then she had this very same feeling of sinking in her chest like she has with Sooyoung, but now every time she looks at Yixing it’s just painful.

“Then investors came in, Sehun, Yerim. You know, Yixing kind of pushed me out because he just knew better. Decided he would be better doing everything by himself.”

“And then nothing really happened?” Sooyoung is listening to her carefully. It’s nice, since this story isn't something Seulgi has ever told another person about. At least not how she felt about the whole thing.

“I don’t know. You see, we are almost done with the game thanks to him. That makes oppa right? I don’t know.” Seulgi really doesn’t. She still kind of wishes everything was different. “He never asked anyone for help, but I don’t think I offered it as much as I should have.”

Sooyoung nods. “He kind of seems like the guy who would sooner die than admit he can’t do something.” She pauses for a moment. “Then why ignore him now?”

All Seulgi can do is shrug. “We talked, and I—” How does she put it so Sooyoung doesn’t feel like her and Seulgi are together because Yixing rejected her? Because it isn’t the case. “We talked about things. He knows I like you,” Sooyoung raises her eyebrows in surprise. “But he thinks he can’t date anyone. Like he is not perfect enough to do that.”

Sooyoung’s look becomes so soft and sad, like she's actually sorry for Yixing. 

“Do you still like him, though?” 

The question itself and just the way it is asked, without any jealousy or pressure, doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Sooyoung kind of mentioned before how she felt about that, when she told her about their relationship with Baekhyun. That she is okay with a commitment which doesn’t require fully belonging to just one person. Sooyoung already told her then that she is chill with her liking another person. Seulgi just isn’t sure if she is chill with it herself.

“I don’t know. When I look at him, I’m just angry, you know. I’m so angry at him.” Seulgi doesn’t want to complain, but the next thing just slips out of her mouth. “I am so tired. I am so tired of this game I almost hate it.”

Sooyoung stands up and walks towards her, slow, like she expects Seulgi to run away. She slides her hands up Seulgi’s back, into her hair, tugging her into a hug.

“It’s okay. It’s okay to be overwhelmed.” Sooyoung’s whisper is sweet and comforting, Seulgi can feel it vibrating where she’s pressed against Sooyoung’s chest. “You do understand that you two are doing a great job, right?”

All Seulgi can do is just try to shake her head. She doesn’t know anymore. A great job? She barely manages her deadlines as an artist let alone work out a relationship. A complex relationship. 

“You are. Both you and Yixing-oppa. You are doing a great job. You both are almost there.” Seulgi feels Sooyoung’s breath near her ear. It tickles. It’s so nice to hear something like that, even if she can hardly believe it.

“I feel like I am out of control, you know. The game is almost published. And then it’s, you know,” Seulgi herself doesn’t, “everything. What should I do next? Am I gay now? What will my parents say? What if nobody plays the game and it just gets buried there among a thousand others? Will we just finish with the release and I will never see Yixing again?”

Seulgi feels like she is almost about to cry, but Sooyoung’s presence is so warm and reassuring that instead she just feels herself melting in her arms, reluctant to move again. Maybe she herself is a little like Dumpling. Maybe it’s purely Sooyoung’s influence. “It’s a lot. But it’s okay if you don’t just have answers to every question, okay?”

Seulgi doesn’t think it is but hearing Sooyoung say that feels too pleasant to argue. She is younger than her, but at the same time so much braver and stronger. It feels so safe next to her.

“You still have almost two weeks to finish everything. And trust me, we are almost done. And then we will just have to let it go and see. And you don’t have to come out to anyone if you’re not ready.” Sooyoung releases her hold, and Seulgi manages to spot her expression—a funny one— before Sooyoung kisses her on the forehead. “And us. I really like you. But it’s not like we are getting married now.” 

They’re both silent for a moment, Sooyoung’s face soft but serious, very different from less than a minute ago.

“Do you like this?” Sooyoung asks.

“Yeah.” Seulgi really does.

“Then just enjoy. We will see where it goes. Nobody has their shit together all the time.”

Seulgi huffs. “Yixing-oppa does.”

“Yixing-oppa is a dumbass who will end up having a breakdown if he doesn’t get his head out of where it’s not supposed to be. You don’t need me to tell you that.”

They both laugh at that. 

Seulgi feels a little better. Maybe it will be okay. Maybe she can just solve one problem at a time. Maybe she can just have this. Enjoy Sooyoung’s naked body next to hers.

When they calm down Sooyoung strokes her cheek gently. “Try to talk to Yixing again. It might be a couple years overdue, but it doesn’t seem like it’s too late. And then we will figure that out.”

“Okay,” Seulgi smiles. She hopes it looks playful, “but only if you kiss me.”

There wasn’t any point in showering after all.


KYUNGSOO

Kyungsoo enters a code to his parents’ door on Friday evening. Spending an evening with his mother wasn’t anywhere near what he was actually planning  to do, with the crazy work week behind him, but Sooyoung and Baekhyun promised they will pick up something he already watched, and then he can join their movie night later. 

It also wasn’t very much like his mother, to just call out of nowhere and invite him over. But she promised on the phone that no pipe has suffered this time. Something inside Kyungsoo tells him that this is going to be the talk about New Year. With the second week of December at its end that would be just around time.

Not like he wouldn’t love to spend holidays with his family. Revisit New Years traditions, help around the house, make tteok and decide their plans for the Korean New Year celebrations. But only if all of that included Baekhyun. 

It smells wonderful in the kitchen. 

“Hi, mom!” He puts his computer bag in the corner and takes of his work jacket. “Are you making bulgogi?”

His mother turns to him when he walks in the kitchen, and smiles, surprisingly warm for a predicted ‘serious talk’. “Yes. Actually, can you please pass me the honey?”

Kyungsoo does as he’s told. Bulgogi is something he really loved as a kid. He cooks it himself at least once a month, but no matter how hard he tries he still can’t get quite the same taste as his mother manages.

At dinner his mother just asks the usual questions. About his job, Chanyeol and then Yoora’s wedding. 

“You know, I stopped by Youngmi’s place a couple days ago.” She takes a deep breath, and Kyungsoo notices again how much older she has become recently. That’s not a new realization to him— that he is responsible for most negative changes in her life—but it’s as bitter as ever. “To be honest, I wanted to talk to her about Byun-ssi attending the wedding.” 

Kyungsoo doesn’t know what he looks like, but something must change, because his mother looks down at her hands clasped together, before she glances up at him again. “Please listen.”

Kyungsoo would have thought he still  has some time before the whole wedding talk, but apparently he doesn’t. And now he is bound to listen. 

This is too much serious talking for him this week, with Sehun, and then Baekhyun talking to him every evening about how they both feel. Kyungsoo is happy with that but tired, unused to his life spinning so fast. And now this. He feels almost outrun by everyone in his life, and now by his mother too.

“She is very happy about Yoora’s wedding, you know?” His mother smiles. “Couldn’t stop talking about how nice the guy is and how she looks forward for him to join their family.” Her eyes suddenly become shiny, like she’s about to cry, but she overcomes that and continues. “You know, I felt extremely jealous of what she gets to experience. Seeing her kid meeting a person they will be happy with, being sure that they have each other even when we are not here anymore, greeting them to their family.”

Kyungsoo doesn’t exactly understand where this us headed. Is she expecting for him to apologize? He just keeps staring at her, confused, trying to focus on what to do rather than the inexplicable numbing fear growing in his chest. 

All of this is so unlike her, and something feels misplaced, doesn’t add up. She isn’t angry, or sad, and she isn’t trying to force him into something—that’s what he was preparing for. And now everything is going off-script. She has to—to blame him for something, right? But maybe she wants to be nicer about it because—New Year?

God, Baekhyun would die of laughter had he heard Kyungsoo’s thoughts. Kyungsoo dreams of being as good with people as he is. At least Kyungsoo is good with Baekhyun.

“You know, and then she told me something, and I still can’t get over it. When I asked her if she’s okay with Byun-ssi attending the wedding, she smiled at me and said, ‘Baekhyunnie is a good person’ .” 

It is disturbing that his mom was asking about that, but the reply has Kyungsoo smiling despite himself. Yoora’s mom has always been a huge fan of Baekhyun. Maybe because of the number of times he got Chanyeol out of his sufferings about another relationship. 

Still, Kyungsoo can’t think of why his mom would bring that up. Surely, if they were gossiping about Baekhyun Kyungsoo would maybe like to know—or would he really?—but he can’t imagine what’s the reason for it.

“It had me thinking.” She pauses to suppress her emotions again, looking strangely, uncharacteristically vulnerable. “You know. I wouldn’t know. I mean, I wouldn’t know if Byun-ssi is a good person.” Suddenly, a tear runs down her cheek and she quickly raises her hand to wipe it. 

“Mom—” Kyungsoo is not sure what he is going to say, but his mother stops him anyway. And he is still confused, a little sparkle of hope in his heart, but he just doesn’t even want to think about that, to protect himself from disappointment later. 

“I never gave him a chance, you know.” His mother’s voice shakes a little as she keeps speaking, and Kyungsoo still can’t quite grasp it yet—“I was so occupied with the fact that he is a man that I never actually cared to ask if he is a good man. And now Youngmi tells me he is, because she knows. And I don’t.”

Kyungsoo wants to reassure her, say something about him being happy (the happiest he has ever been, with being out to his boss, with Baekhyun shining, with managing their relationships), but she never lets him, just pouring out whatever is happening in her head. Kyungsoo, for the first time in years, feels happy to listen. 

“And you know what's worse?” Her expression grows irritated, frowning, with her eyes glaring at nothing on the table in front of her—looking inward, at herself, with the anger she hasn’t looked at Kyungsoo in a long time. “It’s not his fault. And not yours. You tried to let me in but I never listened. And Baekhyun—” Kyungsoo can feel his heart beating faster just when he hears his mom calling Baekhyun just by the name. “You know,” she wipes her tears again, and Kyungsoo feels almost like he is about to cry too, “I am getting old. And when you get old you understand something.” His mother clenches her hands and then smiles, sad but light. “One day I’ll die.”

“Mom.” She shushes him again and keeps talking.

“We all die, sweetie. It’s not optional. I imagined myself dying and not knowing if you are happy and safe. And that you have someone to love you, you know. And I hate this. I hate myself for depriving myself of what Youngmi has.”

Kyungsoo covers her hands with his, clutching them tightly. He doesn’t know what to do, or how to react, because he would never have expected this. He feels like he’s being carried by a stream, and for the first time he doesn’t feel the need to push back against it.

His mother looks up at him, the familiar stern expression softened by tears.

“I am not telling you I am ready for everything, like introducing him to the rest of the family, but,” she pauses and it looks like words are incredibly hard for her, but she manages, “I’d like to visit your place. And meet Baekhyun.” At that, Kyungsoo feels like this could as well be a dream, but his mother’s hands feel too real. “I understand if he wouldn’t...”

“Mom. He would love to. We both would love to.”

He doesn’t think his heart has ever felt so full before.

 

***

When Kyungsoo gets home he finds a bunch of shoes lined up at the door. He can figure out Sooyoung’s, since he can’t remember when was the last time she got herself anything new. The black Converses of enormous size are definitely Sehun’s. He stares at the long black leather boots for a second and tries to figure out who they belong to. Definitely female. Definitely not Seungwan’s. Baekhyun’s red Nikes are missing. 

When Kyungsoo walks into the room, more than a little intrigued, he finds Sooyoung on the couch, making out with a girl. 

For a moment he actually wants to interrupt but then again, why bother. They will have a chance to formally meet each other later.

He proceeds to the kitchen, still in sort of stunned silence, and finds Sehun there. He awkwardly stands in the middle of the room, looking like he’s absolutely not sure where to put himself. It’s endearing.

“Hi.” Kyungsoo puts carefully packed bulgogi on the table. 

He can see Sehun’s back tensing before he visibly forces himself to relax and turns to smile at Kyungsoo nervously.

“Hi, hyung.” Sehun waves somewhere towards the living room. “Sorry, that’s Seulgi. I would introduce you, but.”

“But she is quite preoccupied by Sooyoung, yeah. I noticed,” he says, trying to soften his sarcasm so as not to scare Sehun even more. Honestly, the last thing he is going to be surprised by is Sooyoung making out with someone. Though Sooyoung insists that this time she's serious. “Where is Baekhyun?”

“He said he was going to the Chinese place.” Sehun rubs the back of his neck, looking around again, with the wonder of a person who’s never been to a kitchen before. Maybe he hasn’t, who even knows; he was so surprised that Kyungsoo could cook, after all. “He asked me to get plates but.”

“But you have no idea where the plates are?” 

“Yeah, that. I thought I might ask Sooyoung, but.”

Kyungsoo laughs, “Yeah, I get it.” He walks to one of the cabinets and opens it, gesturing inside. “Here are the plates.”

“And where normal people store plates you store—?” Sehun asks, attempting a smile. He still seems uncomfortable, but also—relieved by Kyungsoo’s presence. Relieved enough to be curious, almost like a kitten brought from the street. 

Kyungsoo probably shouldn’t feel that way about his husband's boyfriend though. 

“That’s a bunch of old teapots, you might have noticed,” Kyungsoo says, like a tour guide, opening the cabinet where ‘normal people store plates’ . “They belonged to halmeoni, and don’t fit into any other cabinets.”

Sehun presses his lips together, frowning hesitantly, but then asks, “Halmeoni as in Baekhyun’s grandmother, right? He mentioned her.”

Kyungsoo just nods. “Yes. She was really like a mother to Baekhyun.” Sehun looks at him so curiously that it’s clear Baekhyun never shared. But he hates telling this story anyway, so it’s probably okay if Kyungsoo tells it instead. “Well, his mother gave birth to him in Bucheon, basically sent him to her mother when he was around two, and then disappeared god knows where.”

It’s a little funny how Sehun’s expressions are both quite subtle and very easy to read. The corners of his lips turn down, and his face looks so hurt. Kyungsoo can guess why, really, since he probably had the same expression when halmeoni told him. That’s why he knows exactly what to say next. 

“Don’t. It’s not something you or I can get, but Baekhyun had a great childhood.” Kyungsoo steps closer and awkwardly pats Sehun’s shoulder. “She was a very loving person. Baekhyun got that from her.”

Sehun looks even more flustered with Kyungsoo’s hand on his shoulder.

“When did she pass?” he asks carefully.

“A year and a half back.” It is still a sore spot, both for him and Baekhyun. Kyungsoo won’t tell Sehun, but when he sees Baekhyun now, it’s probably the first time he is truly happy since then.

Sehun nods. “I see,” he says, biting down on his lip. “Hyung, can I ask you a question?”

“Sure.”

“Are you... Out to your parents?” 

It’s funny Sehun asks that today. Kyungsoo smiles a little, remembering the arrangements they made for today. He wanted to tell Baekhyun in person but couldn’t wait and messaged instead. Judging by the amount of emojis, Baekhyun is on cloud nine. He always wanted that connection to the family which they never had.

“Yeah. You are not?”

Sehun shakes his head. “I want to, but. You know how it can be,” he looks up at Kyungsoo, kind of hopeful, but then frowns again. “Or maybe you don’t, I actually have no idea.”

Kyungsoo remembers that feeling well—the feeling of being unable to share. When you have to lie, and when you can’t tell your family you’re in love. He wouldn’t have been able to continue like that any longer. He hates lying, and always have. 

But then, when he came out it wasn’t just out of desperation. He’d also hoped that despite everything his family would still love him.

“I was kicked out,” he says simply. Thankfully, that only made him move in together with Baekhyun which was the best thing in his life. “They stopped talking to me for about four years. Almost. But now it’s getting better.”

Sehun looks panicky, obviously finding it hard to reply, probably overwhelmed with all of the information. Oh no. Kyungsoo might have broken him. 

“How did you get through?” Sehun asks again, before Kyungsoo manages to brush it all off.

Kyungsoo shrugs. “Financially, I had a job, and a place to live. Sooyoung got it much harder. And emotionally, well. I had my best friend. I had halmeoni, and most of all, I had Baekhyun. It’s not everything you need, but that’s more than enough to get through.”

Sehun blinks at him, so serious and sad and hopeful. He opens his mouth to reply, but then the front door opens with a trill of a code lock.

They turn their heads just in time to hear Baekhyun sing-song, “Food!” 


SEHUN

Having sex with Baekhyun is, in some ways, dreadful. It had first occurred to Sehun during their first time, while he was still thinking that Baekhyun is just into talking dirty. But then it didn’t take long for him to realise that Baekhyun is just into talking. Into a lot of very precise, explicit talking.

At first, Sehun just didn’t know what to do and how to react to this. He isn’t usually comfortable with explaining what he wants in sex and in life generally. What if he wants too much? Or if he doesn’t want what Baekhyun wants? 

Baekhyun has his own ways of making him talk. Pushing back and forward, like waves of the ocean, coming extremely strong, but then breaking away and leaving Sehun space, sometimes too much space, to breathe and think.

It made Sehun so confused at first, that he just started talking to make his head stop spinning, unable to predict what Baekhyun will do next. It also made it hard to just figure out what is that he is supposed to feel, and want, and do. 

At moments like these, he just froze completely, horrified and unsure, afraid to do the wrong thing. But then again, it also left Sehun with something he is still not used to. A space where it’s okay to be yourself. And with Baekhyun always waiting there for him.

Sehun likes that.

“By the way, on the scale from zero to ten,” Baekhyun smiles, leaning down and whispering in Sehun’s ear, “how opposed you are to me fucking you with a tentacle vibrator?”

Sehun really wants to say ten. He really does, but then the way he comes straight away probably sounds like barely a three.

 

***

When the door opens, Sehun spends entire twenty seconds thanking god he forced Baekhyun to take a shower so they both actually look decent. Another twenty seconds are spent internally cursing, because what he didn’t manage is making Baekhyun or, for that matter, himself,  wear something else but boxers. Because why bother if Jongin was supposed to spend the night at eemo’s place anyway.

Jongin looks at Baekhyun. Baekhyun looks at Jongin, and it is a silent perfection, both his boyfriend and his best friend being at a loss of words. Hopefully they can stay like this long enough for Sehun to grab his shoes and escape to Russia. Or Mongolia. Mongolia would do.

Instead, he watches with quiet trepidation as the usual grin creeps up on Baekhyun’s face. 

“Hi,” Baekhyun says cheerfully, waving his hand. “How are you, Jongin?”

This could have been a great opportunity to introduce them to each other properly, not just as random coworkers. But somehow both he and Baekhyun walked into this situation without clothes, and, unsurprisingly, that didn’t make things easier. 

“Hello, hyung,” Jongin says suspiciously, which, in this situation—fair. Too bad Sehun can’t just un-walk him out of the room. He walks in slowly, letting his backpack slide off his shoulder on the floor. It is very hard for Sehun to ignore his own nakedness. “I’m good. What about you?”

Sehun’s mind travels the whole world in seconds, сhaotically trying to figure out the best course of action. When he and Jongin moved in together they agreed not to bring over girls when another person is home, but Sehun was a hundred fucking percent sure that Jongin wouldn’t be home. But then again. Does the rule apply to boys? 

“I feel like this is slightly awkward, so I, like—” Sehun silently prays Baekhyun can somehow just. Throw Sehun out of the window. But he doesn't, so Sehun is bound to say, “—I’m just gonna put on some pants,” while making no move to stand up.

Byun Baekhyun. A traitor.

When Sehun forces himself to turn back to Jongin, mentally preparing for god knows what, Jongin doesn’t look mad. Sehun stares at him for a moment, trying to figure out what to say, and then just watches Jongin's eyebrows going up in amusement.

Somewhat relieved, Sehun offers him what he hopes looks like an apologetic smile but probably looks like a face cramp. At that, Jongin finally breaks and starts laughing. His laughter is a legit one of a person who just saw the funniest thing in the world, and Sehun is just—going through an emotional rollercoaster here. 

Baekhyun joins Jongin’s laughing fit soon, and Sehun sighs and covers his face with his hands. This is impossible, they’re both making fun of his struggles and he just wants to live a simple life without constant mortification.

Jongin wipes away non-existing tears, heaving out a breath of exhaustion.

“You know,” he says, and for some reason Sehun thinks he’s referring to Baekhyun in a disrespectful manner, which is not exactly typical of Jongin, and looks up surprisingly, “sometimes people tell me and Seulgi that you are hard to read,” he lets out another laugh, “they have no idea.”

“Ah, but he is though!” Baekhyun says, indulgently letting himself laugh some more. “You just have the advantage of knowing him forever!”

“That might be true,” Jongin says.

Sehun frowns and grumbles, “Well, and what was I thinking then.”

Jongin beams, “I’m pretty sure you were mapping your way to New Zealand.”

Sehun snorts and shakes his head. He just hates his friends sometimes, but just because they are obviously too good to be true.

“No?” Jongin pouts.

“Mongolia, Jonginnie. It’s like a different world part entirely.”

 

***

Baekhyun leaves around nine and it’s completely fine with Sehun. Maybe later he will be missing Baekhyun next to him in the mornings, but for now Baekhyun not seeing him being a morning mess seems like a nice addition to their relationship. At least because it saves Sehun from more mortification. 

When Baekhyun leaves, he stops for a moment to make Sehun lean down and kiss him on the mouth. It is soft and affectionate, makes Sehun melt a little, and then some more when Baekhyun runs his fingers down the back of his neck. His hands are slightly cool, and the sensation is electrifying.

Sehun watches Baekhyun close the door and turns just to meet Jongin’s eyes. He is still surprised by the lack of judgment or disgust in the way Jongin looks at him. But either way Sehun would prefer not to kiss a guy in front of his brother.

“You know that you’re staring like a pervert?” Sehun just says this to attempt to ease the mood in the room.

Jongin smiles adorably shy. “Sorry.” He thinks for a moment. “It’s just. Weird I guess?”

Something inside Sehun drops a little, but before it completely crushes or he snaps and says something unnecessary, Jongin continues, “Seeing you in a relationship, I mean. Seriously, like, I was seventy-five percent sure you’re still a virgin.” He snorts at Sehun’s offended look. “Not my fault you didn’t tell me any of that dating history. But now I know everything and I am going to use it against you!”

Sehun can’t hold back a cringe. Not everything. Jongin still doesn’t know everything. 

Sehun did ask both Baekhyun and Kyungsoo if they were okay with just Jongin knowing. Lying to him wasn’t something he wanted to do anymore. But also, even though Baekhyun and Kyungsoo said they didn’t mind, Sehun still just— doesn’t know how to tell this to Jongin. It’s like he has no tools to speak about it.

You have no tools to speak about anything at all, Oh Sehun,” imaginary Seulgi says in his mind. Imaginary Seulgi is a lot meaner than the real Seulgi, but they both get their point across equally well.

Swallowing down his anxiety, Sehun asks, “So, you’re still not weirded out by me kissing a guy?”

Jongin looks at him for another second, like he is analyzing. “Honestly? a little bit, yeah,” he pauses, “not like. Badly? I mean it’s not like I want to scream and run away forever, or anything. It’s just. I don’t know, I never saw two guys making out, so it’s kind of new.”

It’s a good opener for a conversation— like, ‘do you know what else is new? A three-way gay relationship !’— but Sehun doesn’t say anything. They have dinner, talk work for an hour before they both become too frustrated, and kill that frustration in two rounds of Mortal Kombat—Baekhyun had sneaked this game in their apartment somehow without Sehun noticing.

When they both go to their rooms, Sehun is left staring at the ceiling. 

Sehun: hi! Are you home?

Baekhyunnie: Yeah, sure~~~ missing me already?

He kind of does. Of course he does.

Sehun: how do i talk to Jongin?

Smooth, Sehun. Real smooth. Just put all your problems around your boyfriend’s neck. That’s what grown-ups do.

Baekhyunnie: Hunnie

Something always melts inside Sehun’s heart when Baekhyun calls him that, even if he can tell his tone this time is a little chiding.

Baekhyunnie: there’s really only one option. You just go there and say that. Jongin loves you. It will be okay.

That’s probably the most adult message he’s ever sent. At least to Sehun.

Really, what could go wrong now? Sehun already knows Jongin doesn’t hate him for being gay, and we wasn’t even that mad about Sehun keeping him in the dark about it, so. Can’t be that bad, can it?

Except it’s totally a three-way gay relationship, and— that’s still a little much even for Sehun. 

Sehun spends another ten minutes staring at the phone. It’s already late too, maybe he should message Jongin instead or just leave a note under the door?

He immediately asks Baekhyun that. 

Baekhyunnie: what you should do is give your chosen family more credit.

Baekhyunnie: sorry ~~~~~ that was Kyungsoo TT he took my phone away.

Sehun isn’t sure how he feels about that. Come to think of it, from what he learnt about Kyungsoo it seems that sometimes he has very little regard about other people's personal space. It’s mostly endearing, especially the way he’s totally clueless and apologetic when someone points it out.

Credit. Yeah. Jongin deserves credit, doesn’t he?

Maybe he should let Jongin sleep first? That would be considerate, right? And then in the morning they’d talk. Except Sehun is going to chew himself to death until the morning comes. He winds up the courage and knocks jerkily.

Twice.

Three times.

“What do you need,” Jongin grumbles from inside. He’s probably more asleep at this point than awake. Sehun opens the door slightly.

“On a scale from zero to ten how bad is my timing?”

“Seven,” Jongin says, not raising his head from the pillow, and repeats his question, “What do you need?”

Sehun walks into the room and sits on the corner of Jongin’s bed.

“I wanted to talk.”

Jongin blinks, now slightly more awake.

“So you and Luhan were doing drugs?”

Sehun punches him and Jongin yelps and chuckles right after. He yawns and drags himself up in a sitting position.

“Okay. What’s this about?” Jongin maneuvers himself around the bed so he’s sitting next to Sehun. “But please don’t tell me you’ve been in love with me since five.”

“You wish,” Sehun smirks. Falling for Jongin has never really been an option for him. He probably knows too much about him to do that. Not to mention they’re brothers. Gross.

Jongin turns his sleepy face to him, “So? Please try to finish this before morning.”

Sehun takes a deep breath. “Well. Baekhyun is. Married.”

Oh yeah, he remembers now. That was pretty much what Baekhyun told him. Bad idea. Bad, bad, bad idea.

“What?!” Jongin looks shocked and finally very awake. Much more awake than Sehun would prefer.

“Wait. Wait, wait.” Sehun waves his hand frantically, trying to stop Jongin’s thought process. “It’s not legal. He is married to a guy. As much as he can be.”

That surely does stop Jongin’s thought process. He blinks at him, a picture of confusion. Sehun sighs. Why are words so hard. Why can’t he telepathically communicate the whole situation along with his feelings straight into Jongin’s head.

“And I know Kyungsoo-hyung.” Oh Sehun, just shut up. Why isn’t this going well? He hasn’t said anything that’s not true, but somehow everything he’s saying is wrong.

“Sehun, calm down, okay?” Jongin says, putting a hand on Sehun’s back. At least he doesn’t look like he is about to kick him out. Mostly he’s just still confused.

Sehun nods. “I am not a homewrecker, okay?” Jongin frowns but nods. “They had something like an. Open relationship,” Jongin’s frown deepens, “don’t judge, okay? It kind of works.” Sehun pauses to collect his thoughts. “It’s not a threesome either. We just both date Baekhyun. Both know about it. And I’m really okay with this.”

Jongin turns away and stares at a wall for a minute. Sehun doesn’t bother him. 

“Okay,” Jongin says finally.

“I’m still not doing drugs,” Sehun offers sheepishly in an attempt to ease this whole infodump.

Jongin huffs quietly. “Yeah. It’s not that. I don’t hate the idea of your—relationship. I clearly don’t get it, you know,” Sehun nods, “but just. It's not my business but like. Are you okay with this? I don’t want you to get hurt.”

It’s Sehun’s turn to blink. Jongin is such a good friend it can’t be true. Sehun bites down what would be a very embarrassing smile of relief and thinks his words out.

“We are still figuring that out,” he says carefully. “A lot. But you know, I ended up really unhappy in my monogamous relationships, so. I don’t know. I think it’s not like I will get hurt more because there are more people, you know? If it turns out badly I’ll get hurt anyway. It’s always a risk.”

Jongin hums in agreement. “Yeah. That’s how every human interaction goes, right?” He laughs a little to himself. “Especially for you.”

“You ass,” Sehun says without any bite. “Would you at least have some decency not to laugh before your own lame jokes?”

They sit in silence for another moment. Now, when Sehun’s almost stopped freaking out, he notices just how quiet it is. Literally the middle of the night. He should’ve waited till the morning after all, probably.

“You know,” Jongin says, yawning again, “maybe you were right about not telling me for a long time.”

Sehun, for a change, doesn’t really know this time. Maybe sleepiness is finally winning over his nerves.

“Why?” he asks.

“I don’t know.” Jongin looks down at his feet shuffling against the floor. “If all this happened when I was twenty, I might have said or done something very stupid. It would’ve hurt.”

Sehun shakes his head and smiles. 

“Someone told me that I need to give my chosen family more credit. He is really right.”


SEULGI

“Was it that hard to just reply to my messages?” Yixing doesn’t exactly look happy to see her, but Seulgi promised Sooyoung and herself that she’ll at least try, so she is not getting discouraged that easily.

“I am sorry, oppa.” She also decided that there’s enough omitting and assuming between them to keep up with sarcasm or even that weird office-like tone. “It’s a lot. I felt overwhelmed, so you know. I couldn’t. Did you want to talk about the game?”

Yixing looks a bit taken aback with her sincerity, but still keeps up with his calm expression, intertwining his hands in front of himself and resting his chin atop them. “Yeah. Did you see my suggestion about music timing? Yerim started to connect all the parts since Baekhyun is fully done with drafts.”

“Yeah,” she frowns, “you didn’t see my comments in the planner?”

Yixing blinks at her confusedly, immediately so lost that she feels that horrible sympathy once again, her heart aching. She walks around his table, to open the page on his computer and show it to Yixing.

“And how was I even—” Yixing starts, frustrated, but then ends up just taking a deep breath, “I am sorry. I didn’t notice.”

He looks kind of worse, really, even despite still being a perfectly fine man. Who would have thought neglecting sleep would do that to a person, huh.

“Oppa, are you okay?” Seulgi already knows the reply to that, but she really hoped she can get past that. Maybe after the last time it would be just a tiny bit easier for him to open up. Like that, with her standing next to the table and him sitting down, she feels more stable. Grounded. Just without him towering over her.

“I am fine, Seulgi, don’t worry,” Yixing says, with a hint of annoyance in his voice. Trying to brush her off.

Truth be told, Seulgi just doesn’t know how to do that. How to get past that ‘I’m okay’ . What should she say or do, if she doesn’t want to be screaming like she did last time?

“But I worry, oppa,” she tries carefully, slow and quiet. “You don’t share anything with us. Are the things with investors going smoothly? Do you even sleep at all? Do you need any help?”

Yixing gives her an odd look, like he never expected her to say something like this. Well, maybe she wasn’t a person who says something like this. “Seulgi, you know I can handle things. Leave it to me.”

“Gosh,” Seulgi can’t hold back a sigh, impulsively pushing her hair back off her face, just to steam off at least a bit of her frustration. “Oppa, we talked about this, okay? I am not a mascot in a two-meter suit that can’t properly move my hands. You can actually trust me with these things you think you can handle.”

Yixing looks up at her, and Seulgi can’t quite figure out what his expression means. He looks so tired and so alone. It makes her sad, but doesn’t discourage. She has to try at least once.

“Seulgi, what happened? It’s just two last weeks left.” Yixing frowns, looking back at the computer screen. All business again.  “You don’t need to care, just keep…”

He pauses, but somehow Seulgi feels that the omitted part is exactly what she needs to hear the most.

“Keep what, oppa?”

Yixing’s frown looks even more prominent now. “Nothing. I am tired, Seulgi. We should just both go home, okay? It will all be over soon.”

It would be probably for the best. Or maybe not. But it feels like beyond this talk there’s just nothing. Like this is her last chance to get through. She either talks to Yixing now, or they just finish the game in two weeks and never meet again. 

Seulgi is sure about just one thing: she doesn’t want to let go. This feeling is clear as day. She is not afraid to look stupid, to be openly talking like this. It’s okay to look stupid as long as she doesn’t keep doing what she has been—waiting. 

“Keep what, Yixing? Keep waiting for you to make the right decision? Keep my feelings to myself waiting for you to say something first? Keep expecting you to solve things? Keep just dating Sooyoung and ignoring my feelings for you?”

Yixing freezes. Seulgi doesn’t know if it was… obvious they were dating? It should have been, but then again, probably not. Or were her feelings for him not obvious? Her heart melts with unexpected fondness. Workaholic mind running circles. She has no idea what’s happening there.

She doesn’t press further, giving him some time to think and just looking at his face. The sharp line of his jaw, puffy lips, lines left by his cutest dimples. She misses his smile so much. 

Finally, he speaks. “I don’t know, Seulgi. Everything.” 

Yixing leans back in his chair, looking so exhausted it almost makes her cry, but she doesn’t. This is what she wants to know—what is behind this perfection she never cared about. 

“What feelings?” he says, shrugging. He doesn’t look away from the computer, his eyes restless, as if something is happening on the screen. “I told you everything I could about these feelings. Believe me, you don’t want to get involved, okay? I don’t want to say all of that again.”

She wants to be there. Behind that stern and determined smile, behind his public face. Right there, in the heart of it was this guy who was able to draw the beginning chapters, like he understood perfectly how lost and unsure you could be under all the expectations. This ambitious, lost mess getting excited over her ideas, jealous of Sooyoung for being who she is. This is who Seulgi wanted.

“What if I do, oppa? What if that’s exactly what I want? What if I don’t care for the perfect guy on that stage, shining in the lights of success?” Her gestures are again too big, drawing an imaginary stage in the air, but she doesn’t care how big and emotional they are. “Because I don’t. I don’t want a husband, I don’t want your makeup to cover how tired you are. I don’t want to keep up,” she takes a breath, “I don’t know. Maybe I am wrong or have no idea, but. I am a mess too, aren’t I? Look at me, I wear my mother’s sweater, and I suck at makeup, I don’t have a normal job, I don’t even have a nice dress because I’m a slob. I always was.” 

She takes a deep breath, her voice shaking. “But God knows why, oppa, you love me. You fell for me back then, before the game, and I still have no idea why you needed such a mess in your perfect lined up life, but you did. Unless I imagined that part.”

He looks at her surprised, like it had never occurred to him that he doesn’t need to be someone he’s not. Like he had no idea about how she feels at all. It breaks her heart. 

“No.” He sounds sure, his voice firm. “No, Seulgi, you didn’t imagine, I just. I thought—” He sighs, messing up his hair with his hand and then smoothing it back down. “I mean back then I thought that the game is just—more important, so it made sense to put things on hold.”

“For two years?”

Yixing frowns again. “I don’t know. Where do you expect me to fit romance in this life? Look at me. I work seven days a week on my main job, another seven evenings a week I draw, just to wake up at five and go to the gym. I don’t know where people fit anything else, Seulgi. I can’t keep up.”

She leans down to take his hand into hers, palm up. He flinches, but then relaxes, just giving in.

“Not all people are as ambitious as you, oppa,” Seulgi says quietly, like she’s telling a secret. “Actually, none of them.”

Yixing lets out a dry laugh, “Do you think I am the most ambitious person in the world?”

“You must be, oppa. Honestly, any person has to sleep at least three hours a day.”

Yixing finally smiles enough to show the dimple.

“Wow, here you are, breaking all my hopes. I really thought one day I could just stop sleeping at all.”

They both laugh. It’s not a laughter of joy, but it helps ease the mood a little. 

“You are not a slob.” It’s a little scary but at the same time funny how fast Yixing drops a smile. “And—I don’t want a perfect girl. I don’t want a perfect wife, perfect kids, perfect home. You are a mess, and you were, too,” he smiles a little, fond. “One day you would wear an oversized sweater with no makeup, and then just something really cool, draw doodles and then out of nowhere draw something that would steal my breath.” 

He looks at the ceiling, probably trying to pick the right words, but it’s okay for her to wait. Maybe if Yixing takes his time her heart too will calm down a little. 

“You are a mess,” he says, sounding a little taken aback. “I love that so much about you, you have no idea. I am sorry I waited for so long.”

Seulgi smiles, and it’s shaky. It’s unbearable and embarrassing, and she wants to look away. “I waited, too. And I am sorry, too. But then, we are talking now.”

Yixing smiles wanly in response. “Yeah. Funny we needed Sooyoung to do that. And it’s just... Too late now, isn’t it?”

Seulgi has no idea what she is getting herself into. But the right words are just there, for the first time in forever, and she doesn’t have to doubt herself.

“It’s late, oppa,” she says, “but since we actually needed Sooyoung for this. Maybe not too late?”

This might be a little much. She doesn’t even know what she’s offering. A threesome? Because she is sure as hell she isn’t going to give up Sooyoung. But she is sure she doesn’t want to give up Yixing too. 

So she keeps going. 

“What do you think our relationships would be? Happy marriage, me sitting at home and drawing when our kids are asleep?” Everyone fitting into a predefined notion of relationships, love and family. “The kind of relationships you don’t have time for? Also, fuck, oppa, the one I don’t think I’ll ever be ready for.”

Suddenly, Yixing laughs. “You know, that’s about it, when it comes to my relationship ideas. You’re just in the mood of ruining how I see my world, aren’t you?” Seeing him look up at her is really refreshing and does something to her head, but she doesn’t let herself be distracted.

“Do you want that?” She doesn’t specify what she means by that, doesn’t let him escape. She wants to know. Seulgi stares into his eyes, trying to find an answer. Her own she somehow already knows.

Yixing just looks up at the ceiling. He stares at it for a minute or so, and Seulgi just can’t stop looking at his Adam's apple, his chin, his mouth. Fuck, how are all of her crushes just that beautiful.

Yixing smiles, and this smile is wild, completely different from it’s polite and perfect version. “You know, I am just standing here next to a dragon’s den. And I can see the dragon’s tail as he flies away,” he looks to where she still hold his palm and intertwines their fingers together, unsure and tender. Then he looks up at her and Seulgi’s heart skips a beat. “I will need some time to get where you are.”

Seulgi grins. She feels almost ecstatic about the reference and how it matches what she feels.  Yixing gets it. He finally does.

She stretches her other hand to gently touch his cheek. He leans into the touch.

“I can wait for you, oppa.”

 

KYUNGSOO

It’s around Christmas when the executive board finally announces their decisions. It seems to be quite late, and Joohyun together with Minseok and Joonmyun have been acting increasingly weird and tense for the past two weeks, but in the end, it turned out to be in their favor. 

“Cheers to my new department!” Kyungsoo feels that the last rounds of cheers were very extra, but he kind of can’t stop. Plus the occasion is great.

It was announced that both he and Joonmyun move after Joohyun to her new department. It works out great for all three of them in different ways. Minseok got Joohyun’s place, Joonmyun got a whole new list of responsibilities within Joohyun’s department together with the extra pay and some perspectives. Kyungsoo got a good raise (finally, a washing machine) and Joohyun as an only boss. It was a bit sad that their trio separates now, with Minseok working at a different office, but small sacrifices are always made when people move on. 

He didn’t talk with Joohyun about the accident at the club anymore. One time he spotted her at the bar after Baekhyun’s gig, but she was too busy making out with Heeyon to notice him. Probably for the best.

News and assumption about Sehun travelled faster than Kyungsoo would like them to. He had a nice list of options to choose from: some people said they are having a threesome; some—that Baekhyun found someone to replace Kyungsoo with. 

Chanyeol tried to protect him, as usual, but Sooyoung was quick to tell him off.

“Chanyeollie,” she’d said, surprisingly stern. “People don’t need to live up to your expectations of happiness. They are three big boys, okay?”

That helped a lot, especially with the way Chanyeol bonded with Sehun immediately after over some gaming stuff. Dorks.

It finally is a good time. 

Except for Baekhyun’s gig, Kyungsoo doesn’t feel much of that ‘polyamory’ kind of thing yet. Maybe because both Baekhyun and Sehun locked themselves up in their respective flats to finish the game on time. Will it be any different after the release? Kyungsoo has no way of knowing.

Maybe Baekhyun isn't around as often as before, or sometimes he is, but with Sehun too.

So far, they’re managing. Strangely so, even for Kyungsoo, but everything seems so right that he can’t remember when else their flat had been such a happy place. 

Kyungsoo enjoys Sehun’s presence. It turns out he’s a picky eater, but still somehow eats all the food Kyungsoo cooks. He’s great at Mario, and that drives Baekhyun mad because it’s now two against one. Even the excessive talking about relationships somehow has settled into something more or less comfortable for all of them. But then again, they will have to figure all of that again, when the game is out. 

It isn’t just about Sehun, though. It’s everything that makes for a good time. Joohyun as his boss. Joonmyun and Minseok as his colleagues. His mom coming over for Christmas.

Seulgi, who’s somehow entered their quiet circle, later followed by Jongin, who joined for movie night once with Sehun. 

When planning his birthday Kyungsoo’s suddenly found himself with a whole list of new people whom he wants to see. And even though he can’t stop complaining about how much more food he needs to cook, he also feels so full and content like he never thought he would.

“Kyungsoo, are you here?” Joonmyun waves his hand in front of him.

“Yeah, sorry,” he blinks a couple of times to get back from reminiscing. “What are we drinking to?”

“To getting what we want,” Joonmyun announces proudly, and Kyungsoo doesn’t even want to tease him for looking ridiculous.

“To that.”


SEHUN

Kyungsoo: Good luck. Don’t get too drunk.

Sehun: sure, mom

Kyungsoo: brat

Baekhyunnie: you like him~~~~

Sehun smirks and closes the chat. Recently it has changed its name to a ridiculous ‘Snow White and two gnomes’ and it was all Sooyoung’s fault.

He can’t really say how it all has evolved in just the last three months, from him first meeting Baekhyun and going to his gig. From a place where he’d been sure that he can barely come out to Jongin, to now, where Jongin joined them for the last movie night in his boyfriend’s house with Seulgi, and Sooyoung, and Kyungsoo. Sehun is pretty sure that Yixing knows something too, so it can’t be long until Yerim finds out. And he is okay with that.

Sehun tries to find worry in himself—about his parents, the next family dinner, coming out to them. But somehow, he is okay with that too. His anxiety will probably come back as it always does, but just not now.

When he reaches the office Yerim is already sitting at the table there, her expression giving out that she just basically slept for three days straight. Seulgi and Sooyoung’s coats are already here too, but they aren’t in the room, probably making out somewhere.

Baekhyun and Yixing are talking about something in the corner of the room, but instead of bothering them Sehun just messages Jongin, asking him where he is.

Jongin: stupid traffic 

Sehun: you’re stupid for taking a bus

Jongin: :C

He doesn’t pay attention to footsteps behind him until Baekhyun hugs him from the back. He is warm, like it has been a long time since he came in. Did he talk about something with Yixing? Sehun still somehow never came around the idea of them being friends and never bothered to ask Baekhyun. 

Yerim, who’s nervously folding what looks to be an army of paper cranes, gives him and Baekhyun a Look that makes Sehun blush. He needs to get rid of blushing every time somebody looks at them. Last time, when Baekhyun did the same thing, he got so nervous and scared, but now he can’t find it in himself. It’s new, living with no fear. At least, with less fear.

Seulgi and Sooyoung come back to the room, but now Sehun isn’t sure they were making out. At least by the looks of sickly-pale Seulgi who holds on to Sooyoung’s hand for dear life.

“Are you okay?” Sehun frowns. It is a big day for everyone of them, but probably most of all for Seulgi and Yixing. 

Seulgi smiles weakly. “Yeah, kind of?” Then shakes her head, “nope. Not at all, I think I am going to die.”

“There’s nothing to worry about.” Yixing almost sounds smug. “The advertisement is on point, sponsors are happy. I confirmed the release procedure.”

Sooyoung huffs. “Does that help you not worry, sweetheart?”

There’s a whole bunch of emotions racing through Yixing’s face before he finally admits, cringing like he has a toothache, “Not really.”

Seulgi looks surprised. It is surprising, and Sehun’s sure he has the same shocked expression. It’s quite rare for Yixing to show emotions like this. He watches as Seulgi takes Yixing’s hand and strokes his palm in a calming motion.

They all stand in front of the computer screen which has the Steam window open on it. 

Yixing looks confused and somehow elevated. Like a huge burden of responsibility for their project is almost lifted from his shoulders and he doesn’t really know what to do with the free time he will have tomorrow. Or will he? Sehun is sure the guy has a hundred potential projects on hold at all times.

“Hi,” Yixing starts talking, and he seems hesitant and unsure about what he wants to say, which is just so unlike him. “Tomorrow me and Seulgi have a presentation in front of the sponsors and yesterday I spent two hours writing a good speech.” That is what’s not surprising to anyone. Some things in Yixing will probably never change. “But Sooyoung told me that if I read it to you she’ll fall asleep. So. To you I kind of just wanted to say thank you.” Vulnerability is certainly a new look on Yixing’s face, but Sehun likes it, and by the tender expression Seulgi has, she does too. “For me it’s not just my first business project. It’s also a dream come true. From the moment Seulgi showed me this I knew that we need to show it to the whole world. And today we are making it happen.” Yixing pauses for a moment and takes a breath, “thank you everyone. You all did great.”

“Awwww, Yixing!” For all it takes, Sooyoung actually sounds like she is in awe. “We all thought you’re a robot and then it turns out you have a plush heart.”

Everyone laughs. Seulgi steps forward to Yixing’s place and then almost invisibly grabs his hand in hers. Almost.

It is less than two minutes until the release and Seulgi moves the mouse to make sure computer doesn’t fall asleep and they can see their game appearing on Steam.

“I’ll try to keep it short. To me this game wasn’t anything more than a nice fantasy, you know,” Seulgi says, frowning. “I am good at ideas and bad at executing them. And I never thought anyone would sponsor me or help me, or that anyone will ever believe in the dumb things floating around in my head,” she chuckles and glances at Yixing, “you all did and it means a world to me.” 

Sehun finally feels like he himself starts to worry horribly. It takes immense effort to calm down his jiggling knee. Baekhyun interlaces their fingers, and they all stare at their dark Steam page together. The fully checked-in pre-release green to-do list on the Steam page, which is supposed to assure them that they are good to go, doesn’t make it even a bit easier.

Sehun notices that Sooyoung hugs Seulgi who still holds hands with Yixing. They both look so pale, and Sehun probably will never imagine how much this moment means for them and how horrified they feel. He’s just glad they have each other. Well, each other and Sooyoung.

The time just slowly gets closer, and then the screen changes in one moment, together with the game status. It’s so simple, no tremendous music or anything else significant enough, just a tiny line of code that makes their game available to buy around the whole globe.

Sehun feels so happy he doesn’t think his feet are touching the ground. Baekhyun’s hand next to his, though, he is perfectly aware of the whole time.


BAEKHYUN

Somehow Seulgi made sure nobody would spoil him a goddamn thing from the game ending, god knows he tried to get something out of Sehun or Sooyoung but failed every time.

So him being still up at five in the morning because he has just that one last chapter left is entirely their fault. At least that’s the excuse he’s going to tell Kyungsoo tomorrow, while looking miserable and sleep-deprived.

The last chapter finishes loading. It’s been bugging him for a long time to know what is in there.

The text on the screen says:

“Hello again. This forest was pretty creepy, right? Good thing you got out in one piece! 

Thank you for helping our Princess get home. She seems a bit overwhelmed by her journey and wants to be alone for a moment. But she left a message for you.

It says she is very grateful for helping her find out who she really is. She doesn’t think that your help is required now, but you are definitely invited to the castle!

She has one question, though. One last thing you could help her with. 

When she goes back there, do you think she should behave like a proper princess? Or do you think she should stay true to her new self? 

She says she is not sure what to do.”

Baekhyun can’t hold back a smile. He feels fooled but in a good sense. Last chapter, my ass. 

He really wants to know what happens if he chooses the first option. He hopes the Princess will be able to throw his advice in the garbage if necessary. 

He will ask Seulgi. Tomorrow. Hopefully she won’t torture him any longer.

Today he chooses the second one and knows that the Princess will do just fine.