A touch of blue, a lazy hue of pink crowned by the golden of the retiring sun. Kyungsoo moved his phone just a little bit, slowly, carefully, up and then down as he sought the best possible angle, the best square of the sky to capture on his phone.
He pressed his thumb on the screen to snap a shot and then smiled to himself. No matter how many times he admired it, no matter how many times he broke the admiration by blinking, his eyes still refused to drift away from the picture he’d just taken. He wasn’t sure his eyes were stuck to it, maybe it was just that the sky was stuck to his eyes.
It looked so insouciant. Not a care in the world, just pretty colors melting together. Nothing to think about, no bills to pay, no human feelings to take into consideration, no personal growth to work on over the years. Just breathtaking sunrises, revitalizing sunsets, and a bright tranquility in-between, not even disturbed by the occasional moody weather.
Kyungsoo maybe wished he were the sky, sometimes.
But he wasn’t so instead, he centered the picture again, this time angling down so he could take a shot of the sky hanging over the street. Right before he took the photo, a figure jumped in front of the camera, raised its hands high, and cocked its hip to the right in the silliest pose.
Laughing, Kyungsoo took the picture and then five more of them when Jongin continued posing, only giving himself serious, sober poses at the very end. His best friend liked cheesy poses and Kyungsoo liked taking pictures of them.
"Show me, show me," Jongin said as he ran back to him, eyes already narrowing in on the screen of his phone.
"You look like a fun guy as usual," Kyungsoo said as he swiped through the photos to show them to Jongin.
He felt Jongin’s head bump against his in the softest way possible. "That sounds like an insult but I’ll take it as a compliment, thank you," he huffed."Oh," he said then, just as Kyungsoo swiped to the last photo.
They were pretty good, Jongin’s figure was darkened, his silhouette haloed by the warmth of the sunset behind him. The background was only disturbed on the last photo, where Jongin had moved a bit too much to the left and amidst the bushes, lampposts, and twin rows of houses behind him, another figure could be seen.
Jongin looked behind himself. "Looks like that guy’s filming something."
Kyungsoo followed his gaze, looking up. There was indeed a guy a short distance away from them, talking to a camera with big gestures that seemed to ripple the fabric of the shirt he was wearing. Even from afar Kyungsoo could see the softness of the phantom gold at the collar of it, melting into a dreamy pink and ending as the most tender of blue hues at the waist of the shirt. It didn’t look as tacky as it could. It was a bit like the sky but not really, it looked even gentler than the sky.
Kyungsoo blinked, once, twice, thrice and the view stuck to his eyes. Not the clothes nor the grand gestures to a camera. The laughter rising on the boy’s eyes and setting his lips into the cloudiest of smiles, delicate, far, close. Calmative.
And then it just shattered when the camera he’d set on the staircase in front of him started wobbling and he jumped to it with arms stretched wide by panic.
"Looks like he’s struggling," Kyungsoo said, snapping out of it and looking down at his phone. He’d send these pictures to Jongin. He immediately looked back up to the guy.
"Let’s go help," Jongin said then and Kyungsoo ripped his gaze towards him.
"Wait-" was all he could say before Jongin already leaped towards the guy with those long, excited legs of his. This was exactly what Kyungsoo meant when he said that he didn’t like the fact that Jongin had long legs. It wasn’t jealousy, as Jongin always retorted, but it was the fact that those legs made Jongin so energetic and fast.
With a sigh, Kyungsoo slid his phone into his back pocket and trailed after Jongin. The guy was frowning at his camera, fiddling with it for a bit before setting it back down and smiling at it. He opened his mouth into a voice that Kyungsoo was finally near enough to hear but cut the cheeriness of it when Jongin jumped behind him with the cheesiest of peace signs and photobombed him without any mercy.
Kyungsoo wanted to die and get reincarnated and find a best friend that was far, far less embarrassing than Jongin. But he didn’t really want anyone else either.
When the guy’s first reaction was to laugh, Kyungsoo felt something in him crushing. It was a crisp, flow sound. Like the birds greeting the sun in front of his window every morning. Kyungsoo loved waking up to a choir of birds.
"Hi," the guy said, fully turning to them. Jongin lowered his peace sign and Kyungsoo just stood there, not sure what to do. He wouldn’t apologize for Jongin, he was grown enough to do it himself, but the guy didn’t look like he wanted an apology. He was smiling too widely for that. "I swear I’m not crazy, I’m not talking to myself but to a camera."
"It’s alright, we figured that out," Kyungsoo hurried to say. It felt like it wasn’t the first time this boy had to say those words to someone on the street.
The guy looked at him. It made Kyungsoo want to look away but he didn’t – couldn’t. Something about this guy was sticky. Not the discomfortable kind of sticky.
"Is it a vlog?"
Jongin’s voice woke him up from his musing. He was the first one to look away from the guy.
"Yeah," he said, stretching the sound into a short laugh. It sounded less vibrant than what Kyungsoo had heard from him so far. Not that he’d heard much. "I do videos on youtube." Another wonky laugh.
No wonder he was attractive. Kyungsoo could admit it. That this human being was pretty beautiful to look at, more than most other human beings Kyungsoo encountered every day. And yet, he didn’t seem boastful about it. Kyungsoo realized his gaze was lost on him again when he noticed he looked as uncomfortable as he sounded. But then again, what was Kyungsoo supposed to do? If someone was talking, it was only natural to look at them. It wasn’t his fault. He wasn’t doing it on purpose.
"That’s awesome!" Jongin said, raising his eyebrows. It was honest. Kyungsoo knew just how much time Jongin spent on youtube and other social media platforms. "It must be difficult to film yourself all the time though. I always wonder how youtube people manage to do it so nicely."
Something in the guy shifted. The line of his shoulders relaxed into the blended colors of his shirt.
"I guess you get used to it but yeah, it still is a bit tricky sometimes. It depends if you have a nice spot to set your camera on or not," he said, gesturing to the handrail where he’d set his camera using a tripod. Kyungsoo had wanted one when he was younger but had never really found a proper reason to buy it."I had a friend who was supposed to help me actually but he bailed out last minute."
Kyungsoo looked away from the tripod and at Jongin when he felt his gaze on him. As soon as their eyes met, Kyungsoo knew he was about to get himself in something he didn’t like.
"Actually my friend here, Kyungsoo, is pretty good with cameras." Kyungsoo stared right at him. That was a lie. Kyungsoo could count on the fingers of one hand how many times he’d used an actual camera instead of a phone to take pictures. "He can help you if you want."
"Oh, really?" the guy asked, redirecting his gaze to Kyungsoo. He had nice hair. Not as flashy as Kyungsoo had seen on most youtubers, a light brown and a length that suited him very much.
Most of his features suited him. All of his features suited him. That made no sense.
"I don’t really often use an actual camera," Kyungsoo corrected Jongin, not wanting to make a fool out of himself. He was glad at least the words that he pronounced were more coherent than the words he thought about this boy. "But I do like taking pictures and stuff, yeah," he said, nodding a bit as he looked at Jongin who gave him a wide smile.
Kyungsoo wanted to puncture holes inside of the cheesiness that was his best friend.
"Well, I mean, it would be so kind of you to help me a little then, if you don’t mind," the boy asked, giving him a smile that was shadowed by sheepishness. He stepped to the staircase and grabbed his camera. "I kind of want to film myself walking. That sounds weird but I just really like walking. That sounds weirder." He laughed at himself.
Kyungsoo felt as molten as the colors of this boy’s shirt.
"It’s alright!" he said and stretched his hand out.
"What’s your name, by the way? I’m Baekhyun," he introduced himself and they were looking right at each other but Kyungsoo made it a point not to make their fingers brush as he took the camera from him. He was past that. He didn’t do that kind of desperate stuff anymore with attractive boys he met. Even though the skin of this boy’s cheeks looked so soft, a dollop of light on each of them illuminating his smile. His hands must be just as soft.
"Kyungsoo," he replied and took a step back, looking down at the camera and pointing a thumb towards Jongin. "And this photobomber is Jongin."
Jongin protested with a loud sound that was overpowered by Baekhyun’s laugh. His laugh really was a bright as his name. Baekhyun. That was one of the best names he’d ever heard. Kyungsoo didn’t know when he’d gotten a degree on names but it was.
Baekhyun explained to him how to use the camera properly, showed the buttons and how to zoom in and Jongin didn’t say anything. When Kyungsoo glanced at him, all he saw was a satisfied smile and the exaggerated wiggle of his eyebrows. It reminded him of that one meme Jongin loved using. The masked guy declaring my job here is done. Jongin had dressed up as that character last halloween and no costume had ever suited him so much.
Filming someone was a bit weird, Kyungsoo wasn’t used to it. But filming Baekhyun, Kyungsoo had a feeling that he could get used to it.
He had a nice smile that wasn’t even a proper smile. He just had one of those faces that always looked happy, with thin but sculpted lips that glistened just a tad bit too much for it to be natural. It wasn’t lipstick though, maybe lip balm. The bracelets around his right wrist chimed with his abundant hand movements, when he pointed at himself while talking about how much time he spent walking in a day and then joked about looking crazy for most of it if he had a camera in hand.
He was very good at walking backward while Kyungsoo filmed him, he was very good at giving directions to a building he wanted a shot of because it looked pretty and calm. He was incredibly funny and very good at self deprecating jokes that never crossed a line and made it feel too honest and uncomfortable. Kyungsoo didn’t laugh because he was supposed to show how much of a professional cameraman he could be. Even if no one really asked and he was forced to do this by Jongin. Or by the tip of Baekhyun’s nose. He had very adorable nose.
So Kyungsoo could get used to this. Filming Baekhyun as Baekhyun took pictures of himself on self-timer with his phone, showing people how he took the pictures that he apparently posted on Instagram to show off his outfits. He was a fashion and style influencer. Kyungsoo could get used to the eyes that avoided faces as he introduced his job. Kyungsoo could get used to it.
Or maybe that was just the part of Kyungsoo that liked projecting himself into the future with the idea of a person, rather than the actual person.
It didn’t take too long to wrap things up, they hadn’t strayed too far from where they’d stumbled into each other and now that they had completely ran out of daylight, Baekhyun took his camera back and thanked both Kyungsoo and Jongin a few times. His eyes met Kyungsoo’s more than Jongin’s. Or maybe that was another kind of projection too.
Jongin finally spoke again just to ask for Baekhyun’s Instagram handle and after giving it, Baekhyun left with energetic waves reverberating into the curves on his face. Mouth upwards. Eyes slanted downwards. Something in Kyungsoo took a direction that he couldn’t identify, downwards, upwards, sideways. Maybe all of that at once when Baekhyun turned his back to them and walked away, camera in hand.
Kyungsoo took a deep breath in and looked at the sky. No more traces of sunset. Just the gloominess that came right before night, a washed out yellow and a muddy, dark blue.
"He’s cute, isn’t he?"
He dragged his gaze to Jongin. He recognized that question, he recognized the teasing smile Jongin offered him. It wasn’t a question. It was just Jongin’s radar identifying the people Kyungsoo felt even a tiny spark of interest for. Cheesy, photobombing wizard.
Kyungsoo chose to ignore it. "Shut and let’s go home," he said, grabbing Jongin’s arm and making him walk along. "You picking me up from work is supposed to make the walk back home fun and pleasant, not longer and annoying."
Jongin pulled on his arm to make him stumble sideways and Kyungsoo pulled the other side, just to win. Just to focus on something other than cute boys.
"That would make six fifty, please," Kyungsoo said, looking up at the middle aged woman with a smile.
When she showed her card to him, he typed on the register, waited for her to make the payment, grabbed the receipt, and put it in the small paper bag that he then pushed to her over the counter. She thanked him and Kyungsoo bid her goodbye then, once she left, walked back to the tea area they’d left together.
Grabbing a wet wipe, he cleaned around the scale where he’d spilled a few tea leaves while weighing the right amount to put in the bag. He then closed up the big box of tea, reading the label as he hummed to the song winding over the store. Fruity Oasis, one of his favorite teas they offered here. Kyungsoo had a liking for Rooibos tea and its mix with hibiscus, pear, papaya and the likes made this particular tea one he drank several times a week. He already couldn’t wait to make himself a cup once he’d be home.
He pushed the tea to its empty spot on the shelves, placing it back amidst the fifty other flavors and kinds they offered at Tead-up. Using the same wipe, he cleaned around the shelves just a little bit, they’d already gathered a bit of dust throughout the day. He hated this part of his job. There was just too many nooks and crannies to clean in the store, the two tables at the center displaying the gift boxes and bouquets of the moment themed with their summer teas, the shelves full of tea boxes, on the right side of the store, the shelves filled with coffee on the opposite wall. He truly hated how easily dust gathered around here but he did love this place, the mood of it and the work he did.
It was a cozy little store, even though it was at a corner of the busiest mall of the city. That at least made them attract a lot of clients, regulars but also people who saw Tead-up while shopping around and came to take a curious look. The fact that they sold both tea and coffee was a strong point, it usually smelled delicious – more like coffee than tea as the scent of it was heavier. They even had a few round tables scattered around so that people could enjoy a cup of tea or coffee right here instead of buying it, even though their menu was much, much smaller than what they actually sold in the store.
The brown and mahogany colors gave the store a cozy ambiance that matched its content and Kyungsoo sighed a long breath of contentment as he watched two teenage girls looking over at the accessories section of the store, studying their mugs.
"Hey," he heard behind him and gasped silently in surprise. He turned around and noted that he’d made his startle quiet enough for Chanyeol not to notice. "How are you?" his colleague chirped, an easy smile and an easy voice that Kyungsoo was used to.
"Pretty alright," Kyungsoo shrugged, watching Chanyeol tie his apron behind his back. He’d always envied how much the black fabric of it suited him, much better than it suited Kyungsoo for some reason. Maybe because Chanyeol was so tall, though Kyungsoo had never seen that as a fault. It was a very good feature, gave him many points. "And you?"
"Awesome," Chanyeol replied, jumping a bit of joy into his word. "Did you have your lunch break yet? We could eat together if you want?" he asked, words jumbling together in their haste to leave his mouth.
Kyungsoo laughed at his excitement and noticed that it tucked the corners of Chanyeol’s lips higher.
"Sure, let’s have lunch together. I haven’t eaten yet," he replied, glancing at the girls again. They seemed to be arguing about which mug was cuter. Maybe they were looking for a gift.
"Great! What are you doing tonight?" Chanyeol fired up right away, pulling Kyungsoo’s gaze to him.
What wasn’t easy about Chanyeol was all the excitement and questions he always had aimed at Kyungsoo. He had been this way since his very first day of work here, six months ago, and had never toned it down. This was just too many questions in too little time. Kyungsoo didn’t mind though, he never did.
"Nothing," he admitted, tidying up the boxes of tea just to have something to do with his hands. He hated moments where he had nothing to do at work. "Why?"
"I’m free too. We could watch that movie you talked to me about the other day?" Chanyeol asked, hands doing nothing, eyes not looking away from Kyungsoo.
It took Kyungsoo half a moment to remember what movie they were talking about. Kingsman. Kyungsoo had talked about it in passing and Chanyeol had said that he’d never watched it. Right before a client had interrupted them, Kyungsoo had said that he could watch that movie over and over again because he adored it and that Chanyeol should definitely watch it someday.
It had been one tiny little sentence, nothing more. Chanyeol always remembered Kyungsoo’s tiniest sentences, even the ones Kyungsoo himself forgot.
"Sure, that could be fun," Kyungsoo agreed and smiled back at Chanyeol who swayed to the heels of his feet and then forward again.
Chanyeol’s eyes glowed brightly even though his hair was getting too long and covering his gaze partially. An effortless look. Kyungsoo was used to that too and before he could think about it more, the way he always did, his eyes caught sight of three young women stepping into the store.
Chanyeol stepped back to tend to the two teenagers who seemed to have finally settled on a mug and Kyungsoo walked to the new clients, greeting them a welcome to the store and offering them to taste the two teas they’d chosen to brew today for sampling. Roasted Almonds was one of the women’s choice while the others settled on Kyungsoo’s favorite of the two, Country Lemonade.
While their attention was caught by the different cups filled with different kinds of tea leaves that they’d put on display on the table in front of the tea shelves, Kyungsoo filled three small plastic cups with their tea of choice.
He distributed the cups and then took his best voice to promote his favorite teas. The best part about working here was talking about one of his favorite things in the world without feeling like the was ever talking about it too much.
Humming to himself, Kyungsoo careful brought his knife down and started slicing the meat, only stopping a moment to roll his left shoulder back and forth once. He’d had longer hours than usual at work today and his back and shoulders had noticed it a bit too much.
Once he had cut it all into large slices, he gathered everything and turned it around to cut the meat against the grid of it this time. Halfway through, he heard his phone vibrating on the counter but ignored it until he had cut everything into dices. Only then did he wash his hands, dry them on a tissue that he threw in the trash before grabbing his phone.
hey you annoyingly didn’t ask me for it but here I’m sending you baekhyun’s insta
I know you found him cute even if you stopped thinking about it
A link was attached to the texts. Kyungsoo twisted his mouth and put his phone down again. He got back to the task at hand, his stomach growling at the distraction that strayed him from its need to be fed. He got a broccoli head out of the fridge and separated it into small pieces, cutting the bigger ones to a better size.
Then, he washed it and put it on the side, glancing at his phone as he grabbed a pan from the cupboard. Jongin was right. He poured some vegetable oil in the pan and let it heat up on the stove. Kyungsoo had actually not thought about it because he rarely let pretty boys linger on his mind. They never did, if Kyungsoo decided not to think about them anymore then he just stopped thinking about them. He transferred the meat in the pan once the oil was hot enough.
But not thinking about Baekhyun didn’t mean that he’d forgotten him. It wasn’t every day that Kyungsoo encountered someone with an occupation as special as his, not every day that a handsome boy dressed to impress asked him to film him. Not every day that Kyungsoo’s eyes stuck to someone’s face so much, even through the screen of a camera.
He cooked the meat then poured it into a plate once it was browned nicely. To the same pan, he poured some more oil then added the garlic and ginger he’d grated earlier. Kyungsoo didn’t like flashy clothes but the pale colors of the sky hadn’t looked flashy on Baekhyun on that darkening, serene street. It had made him look like he was part of the sky above him, like the sunset had been installed right there to crown him in beauty.
But he hadn’t thought about it. Because Kyungsoo was very good at letting things pass him by like he was nothing more than a road – part of everyone’s journey but not too sure about his own destination yet.
He snapped out of it when the delicious smell of garlic and ginger pervaded over the kitchen. He had to focus. Quickly, he added a bit of sesame oil, soy sauce, and brown sugar. He mixed it all up then added a bit of honey, stopped, looked at the dollop he’d dropped in the liquid, then added some more and hoped that wouldn’t be too much. He stirred everything together and topped it off with some beef broth.
He waited for it to boil just a little bit, humming to himself again. A bit of cornstarch came next, then the broccoli and finally the meat. He cooked it all together and smiled to himself when the consistency of the sauce came out looking perfect, just thick enough. He turned off the stove and let the food rest just a little bit as he ventured off to grab a bowl that he filled with freshly made rice from the cooker and then covered it with the beef, making sure to put the smallest bits of broccoli because oddly, they tasted much better than the big pieces. Once he made sure that there was enough left over for tomorrow he closed the lid, grabbed chopsticks, and left the kitchen.
He put the plate and utensils on the small square table at a corner of his living room and plopped down on the chair with a sound halfway between a groan and a sigh, so loud he would’ve been embarrassed had anyone been there to hear it. But that was the good thing about living alone. The bad thing was that he had to cook for himself whenever he came back from work. He didn’t like eating out or ordering in and while cooking was one of his favorite means of relaxation, he wouldn’t deny that it often became almost a burden when he came back from work late and was very tired.
Pouring himself a glass of Sprite, he noticed that he’d forgotten his phone in the kitchen. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath of annoyance, then leaped up from the chair to go and get the device. When he sat back down again, he knew he wouldn’t get up from the chair for the next hour.
He started eating, savoring the first bite in slow motions. It tasted delicious, once again. If someone was there, he could’ve bragged about his cooking skills. But no one was there so, instead, he snapped a picture of his bowl and sent it to Jongin. Shoving a pice of broccoli into his mouth, he scrolled back up a little and finally allowed himself to open up the link he’d been sent.
He could’ve looked for it on his own maybe. But without a last name, it would’ve been too difficult to find a Baekhyun on instagram. Not that Kyungsoo had thought of doing it. When the page loaded he realized that his handle wasn’t his name but rather a confident wonderfullydressed. Kyungsoo snorted. He didn’t know why. There was no lie there, the statement was confirmed even more when Kyungsoo scrolled through Baekhyun’s feed in a quick motion.
There were a lot of pictures of him. Some of them looked professional, head tilted, features relaxed or strained into an expression that looked so casually good, Kyungsoo didn’t know how he did it. Baekhyun seemed to really like posing with one of his hands digging into his cheek and his head tilted down a little, lips parted into pulpiness. Enough for Kyungsoo’s gaze to be drawn to them on every picture. Although, it happened even when he didn’t have the shadow of a pout on. Having lips was enough for Kyungsoo to linger on them, maybe.
Kyungsoo studied some of his posts but they all came down to the same thing, he really was wonderfully dressed in all of them. His style diverged from what Kyungsoo had seen him in that day, his latest post was a mirror selfie of him wearing dark gray shorts that had the same fabric as pants people usually wore with a suit. He wasn’t sure what that was called but he knew the black belt, the subtle chain hanging from it, the black shirt and bracelets around his wrist all tied up together very nicely. Very hotly. He was sitting on what seemed to be a table, legs parted naturally and the photo angled in a way that showed some skin on one of his inner thigh.
He closed the picture and went through other posts. Pictures of a cute corgi, of very lively plants. There wasn’t a lot of flashy outfits, none were as colorful as the shirt he’d been wearing that day. He had an impressive collection of sneakers, some of them chunky some of them discreet, all of them accorded to the details of his clothes. Or to the walls he was posing against. He liked cuffing his jeans even when wearing long socks. He looked just as good with what Kyungsoo knew was qualified as streetwear, with layers of clothings and accessories, as he looked with more formal clothing. Fitted pants, turtle necks, long tan coats.
Kyungsoo realized he’d been holding his chopsticks emptily in the air for more than five minutes and put them down, scrolling back up Baekhyun’s feed. He finally looked at his number of subscribers and raised his eyebrows as he took it in. He had more than one million subscribers. That was huge. He didn’t think it would be so huge. He didn’t even know someone that wasn’t some kind of celebrity could have so many subscribers. Who needs children when you have plants was the only sentence in his bio, along with a link to his latest video and an email address for business.
He scrolled back down farther, clicked on a random post. This one was a bit different than the others. The focus didn’t seem to be on the clothes but on the Eiffel Tower standing behind him. He was smiling so big Baekhyun looked like nothing but cheeks and happiness. It looked like a candid, not an actual elaborate pose. Kyungsoo grabbed his chopsticks again, held them up for a bit longer. His body wanted him to get back to eating already but his eyes refused to focus on anything else but the tiny, tiny puddle of glow at the highest point of Baekhyun’s cheek.
Kyungsoo had never studied for so long a picture that he hadn’t taken himself.
He snapped out of it when a notification popped up at the top of his screen.
that looks so gooooood :(
He put his phone down. He wouldn’t obsess over the reflection of sunlight on a human being’s skin anymore. That was weird. He shoved a big lump of rice into his mouth and chewed rapidly.
He continued eating and he most definitely did not wonder how the lights of his own living room would catch on Baekhyun’s cheeks.
"And she’s so difficult! She never likes what I buy her," the woman said, shaking her head as she looked down at her wallet where she pulled a few bills out.
"Oh really?" Kyungsoo said, laughing a little. Not too much but just enough to be friendly and polite. "I guess that’s the challenge of buying gifts for your friends. It wouldn’t be fun otherwise."
"I guess," she said, handing him the money. Kyungsoo typed in the amount on the register and the drawer of money opened up. "I hope she’ll like this at least. I only chose what I know she already drinks but I don’t know."
He placed the money in its rightful spot and retrieved the change. "Well, if she doesn’t like it you could always come back with her and let her choose exactly what she wants. We have so many options."
The woman laughed as Kyungsoo handed her the money. "You’re very good at your job. I could spent my whole salary here," she said, taking the gift box Kyungsoo pushed towards her.
"I can unfortunately relate to that," he said, laughing a bit. "Have a nice day," he bid her.
The woman returned his words and then left, struggling a little bit to put her wallet back into her small purse.
Kyungsoo watched her for a moment and then stepped to the table on his right, where he collected the cups of the couple who’d been sitting there. He liked that kind of client, people who, without any reason, just shared their whole life with him while he accepted their payment. It was funny most of the time, sometimes a bit awkward when other clients were waiting and he had to rush a bit without coming off as disinterested or plain impolite.
This conversation sent him into a musing about his own friendships, however, or rather the fact that he truly only had a very small amount of friends. He didn’t even see them half as much as he saw Jongin and he’d lost contact with so many of them. He sometimes blamed himself for never having enough energy to keep up text conversations and hating phone calls too. He guessed he didn’t really make it easy to be his friend.
He was in the midst of putting the cups and tea bags on the tray when someone approached him and he raised his head to great a new client only to smile when he saw Jongin’s silly peace sign in front of him.
"Hey, I was just thinking about you," he told Jongin with a smile, looking over his shoulder to check if there were any clients he had to tend to. Chanyeol was talking with a man at the coffee section and his other co-worker, Jisoo was preparing a bouquet for a client that would come back in a bit to fetch it. "Almost like I summoned you."
He turned to Jongin again, letting the tray on the table and straightening. There wasn’t much movement at the store today and he’d worked here long enough for Jisoo not to get into strict boss mode when he took a tiny moment to have a conversation with a friend.
"I was running a few errands and thought I’d drop by to see you real quick," Jongin said raising his eyebrows as he looked over Kyungsoo’s shoulder and waved, both at Chanyeol and Jisoo. "Any advancement?" he asked, pointing behind Kyungsoo with a nod of his head.
Sometimes, Kyungsoo hated that they were past the point of starting conversations by asking each other how they were and how their day was going. Instead, Jongin always went straight to the subjects Kyungsoo absolutely should address but never did on his own.
He didn’t need to look behind him to know that he was talking about Chanyeol.
"No, it’s the usual," Kyungsoo said, crossing his arms over his chest and letting his eyes follow a small puppy that was being walked by a tall woman as they passed right in front of the store.
Jongin hummed longly. "The usual meaning Chanyeol flirting with you and expressing his deep interest about your entire life and you going along with it just because?" he asked, voice steady in a tone that lacked any kind of enthusiasm. Only cold, harsh reality.
They’d had this conversation many times already. Kyungsoo wasn’t stupid nor was he naive or particularly prude. He knew a guy that was interested in him when he saw one. Chanyeol was one of those guys. He was also one of those guys Kyungsoo entertained just because it was there, just because it was presented to him and there was no logical reason why he should cut it off. It was there so he took it. Chanyeol was pretty nice and funny and handsome. But that was it.
He scrunched his face, shifted his weight from one foot to the other. "Yeah," was all he said. "I guess. Yeah."
"And you’re okay with this situation?" Jongin asked and he’d lowered his voice but this wasn’t a chiding. It was just that Kyungsoo never analyzed himself and his thoughts and feelings unless Jongin made him do it. "With him being open about his interest in you and nothing more?"
"Yes," Kyungsoo replied, not needing to think longer about it. "It doesn’t have to go farther than that." A group of teenage girls passed by the store, laughing loudly, shopping bags hanging from their arms.
Jongin pressed his lips together for a quick moment. Kyungsoo mirrored the disapproval on his face but didn’t look away. He kind of deserved this disapproval, he knew it.
"It could go further. But you don’t want it to. And you’re not doing anything to reject him or anything either, hyung."
That word sounded really nice from Jongin. No one called him hyung besides Jongin but Jongin called all his older male Korean friends with that honorific. He remembered when they were younger and Jongin kept complaining about how he didn’t understand why his mother kept scolding him for not addressing Kyungsoo as such and his elder sisters with the correct honorific when everyone else at school called their siblings by their names. Now, it was a habit that had just stuck to him.
But Kyungsoo couldn’t find it in himself to feel any kind of fondness for that trait of Jongin when he was being called out so directly.
"You’re right," he admitted. He was past the point of denying it. He never talked about his flaws and he never even thought about them but he knew what they were. He knew they were right there. "But I don’t know. I don’t know what you want me to do."
Kyungsoo wasn’t used to doing. He was used to just losing sight of people, letting people lose sight of him.
"Well," Jongin said and no matter how much he tried to look calm, he knew this was something that Jongin really didn’t like about his lifestyle. He knew Jongin thought he needed to work on it. "Does Chanyeol know? That you don’t want anything to happen with him? That you don’t like him?"
Kyungsoo scratched the side of his neck and scrunched his nose. "I don’t know. I guess yeah. He probably sees that I’m not actively reaching out to him or anything." He was just letting Chanyeol do his thing. Maybe that was the same thing as returning Chanyeol’s gestures. He didn’t know. He dropped his hands down and held onto the chair that separated them. "I don’t know. I don’t want to talk about it right now."
Jongin huffed but when he shook his head at him and tutted his tongue, it was with the mock judgement that he often gave to people around him.
"Fine, I’ll go and buy tea from your concurrent store downstairs," he said, rolling his eyes subtly.
Kyungsoo snorted and pushed him with a hand. "You don’t even like tea, silly. You never drink it unless I make you."
Jongin mocked him in the most childish way by repeating his words, mushed together and nasally. Kyungsoo bust into laughter and made to push him once more but Jongin stepped back just in time. They bid each other goodbye with matching waves and Kyungsoo focused back on his previous task.
He caught Chanyeol’s gaze when he moved to the register with his client and returned his smile, albeit he did it out of habit more than anything else and looked down at the table he was cleaning right away.
This was okay. He wasn’t doing anything bad. This was okay.
Or it wasn’t. It most definitely wasn’t. Kyungsoo needed to stop taking whatever was given to him just to prove something to himself. Maybe.
He threw those thoughts out of his head. It was burdensome. He was working. He worked.
Stretching his arms over his head, Kyungsoo got out of the room, enjoying the softness of the carpet under his feet. That was one of his favorite things about going to the movies, the velvety atmosphere that he was surrounded with. He could even feel it through the soles of his shoes.
He threw his empty cup in the trashcan on his way out of the hallway and let out a sigh of contentment when he arrived to the great entrance of the cinema. It was bustling with life, kids laughing on his left as they played on the few arcade games available, a line of people on his right waiting to buy snacks and drinks for their movies, dim yet colorful lights for his eyes to enjoy on their own.
That was the good thing about going to the movies alone and spending time with himself. No one to rush him, no one to drag him all around and beg to play games with him. Kyungsoo liked watching kids play more than play and Jongin never let him off without one game whenever they came to the movies together. And Kyungsoo still laughed a lot, still loved hanging out with Jongin even if sometimes they saw each other every single day for a whole week. He’d never get tired of the person who made him laugh the most in his whole life but, from time to time, he liked to enjoy his own presence too. Just roaming around, eating dinner by himself, not uttering a single word as he did the things that he liked doing was a privilege that he knew not many people knew to enjoy. Kyungsoo didn’t want to lose that so once in a while, he liked to hang out with himself.
He waited until a trio of children ran past him before continuing his journey out of the cinema, the mall’s bright lights greeting him. He took the escalator down, one hand resting on the handrail as he thought about whether he should get dinner or dessert. He craved ice cream but at the same time, if he ate something now then he wouldn’t be able to eat dinner when he got home, his stomach would already be too full.
But after a full week of work without a day off, Kyungsoo decided that he did deserve dessert before dinner. He watched as the elderly woman in front of him almost tripped while getting off the escalator, a hand instinctively reaching towards her before dropping again when she caught herself on the handrail and got off. He stepped down and took a left turn, heading towards the ice cream shop and walking incredibly slowly because of a group of teenage girls right in front of him.
He didn’t mind though, he had no rush to get ice cream or even get home. He had the whole weekend off and even if he was tired from his afternoon shift, he could still take all the time in the world to get home. It wasn’t like he had anything important to do anyway and it wasn’t too late either, barely past eight. He still had an hour before the mall closed.
Without losing much time, he arrived to the shop and ordered blueberry cheesecake ice cream, his favorite. He felt his phone vibrating in his pocket as he paid for it but ignored it, taking his cup in one hand and his wallet and receipt in the other before heading to a table at the corner of the shop. He sat down, took a spoonful of ice cream into his mouth, closed his eyes in silent homage to the incredible taste, then finally took his phone out of his back pocket before it dug further into his skin.
He’d received a message from Jongin. Everything I do I do for you hyung, was the short text he’d gotten, followed right away by a heart that further emphasized the theatricals of that single sentence. Kyungsoo narrowed his eyes in confusion, reading it over. Another spoonful of ice cream and whipped cream helped him decide that Jongin had probably once again done something either hilarious or embarrassing. Or both.
He started typing a reply but stopped halfway through when another notification popped up at the top of his screen. Wonderfullydressed has started following you.
Kyungsoo’s thumbs froze, one of them still pressed on the screen. He swallowed, the coldness of the cream sizzling in his teeth just a little. He didn’t move until the notification was pushed up by another one. A message.
it’s baekhyun idk if you remember me haha
we met… well in the middle of the street and you filmed me for a bit for a video
Did Baekhyun not have a mirror at home? Did he not have eyes? Did he not look at his own pictures? How did he even think it was possible for someone to just forget his existence?
Kyungsoo was very, very good at making himself forget stuff, just erasing existences out of his own existence. He hadn’t even been able to erase Baekhyun’s profile from his search bar. It just kept coming up on top, he just kept finding himself typing his name and clicking on his account and before he even realized it, he was once more looking at Baekhyun’s latest post. It just kept being there. Like a thought coming up on top of his mind, climbing and climbing and arriving on top over and over again no matter how many times Kyungsoo pushed it off the cliff of his mind.
Kyungso erased the are you drunk that he’d been typing to Jongin. Instead, he wrote something else.
WHAT DID YOU DO??
What Cupidon gets so much praise for doing
He’d replied almost instantly. Kyungsoo locked his phone and put it down. He focused on his ice cream. That was a lie. He barely even tasted the ice cream he shoveled in his mouth. He wasn’t angry. He was surprised. He didn’t know exactly what he felt. But this was a change. This was unexpected. This wasn’t his own doing.
He was getting too worked up about this and it was ridiculous. He had no reason to get so flustered.
Cool. He had to be cool. He had to stay calm. And be cool.
He grabbed his phone again and typed his reply as his ice cream started to slowly melt away.
Of course I remember you
I didn’t expect to ever talk to you again though
How have you been?
Okay good I’m glad I’m not coming off as a weird person who messages you out of the blue lmao
I’m doing great!! I hope everything’s fine for you too!
You must be wondering why I’m messaging you hehe
I actually kind of was impressed by your cameraman skills! it all came out so well on my last video
so I was wondering if you’d be in to actually film me again sometime???
Kyungsoo raised his eyebrows. He hadn’t looked away even once as Baekhyun’s had been typing his replies one by one. He was a quick replier. He was a person who wanted to see Kyungsoo again. For kind of professional reasons.
He felt his lips curving up a tiny little bit. That was a compliment. He’d liked Kyungsoo’s way of filming, although Kyungsoo hadn’t really done much. It wasn’t hard to just hold a camera and film someone. Maybe he’d like the shots he’d taken of the streets. Those had been good. Kyungsoo knew he was a pretty good photographer when it came to landscapes other similar subjects. Though, he’d been very good at filming Baekhyun too. Even if he hadn’t done much besides just holding a camera and staring at Baekhyun’s face and outfit and body and hands and delicate blinks as he followed him around.
And Baekhyun had liked it and wanted him to film him again.
And as always, Kyungsoo didn’t think about it much.
I’m glad to hear you liked it this much!
I didn’t expect that either but I’m glad
And sure, I can film you again if you want me to, no problem
I never really filmed for a youtuber though
Are you free tomorrow?
This time I’d like to make an apartment tour, I just finished decorating and I’d like to show it
It’s not that different a youtuber is still human being you know we’re nothing special
Right. Just millions of people who could potentially watch what he’d filmed, Kyungsoo thought. That wasn’t nothing special. Even if Baekhyun had already said a similar thing on their first meeting.
But Kyungsoo could do this. This was nothing. Just a job type of thing. Something he liked doing. For someone he liked watching. Baekhyun had nice pictures and poses and a matching personalty. That was why he was doing it.
Alright I’ll do my best then
Are you free to do it tomorrow at 2?
When Kyungsoo gave him the green light, Baekhyun replied with another message filled with exclamation marks and sent him his address. Kyungsoo replied and then put his phone down again, draping his hands around his cup and letting it perspire a bit on his palms.
He stared at the spoon for a moment. This was strange. It wasn’t. This wasn’t a big deal. But he was a bit excited. He wasn’t sure why. He just found this situation fascinating. What were the odds?
He wiped his hands on the tissue that had been given to him and finally focused back on his ice cream. It had softened considerably. It still tasted just as good.
On his way home, Kyungsoo opened instagram and pressed the follow back button.
Kyungsoo read Chanyeol’s reply, a simple have a nice day! that concluded their conversation, and sighed.
They’d been texting all morning, after Chanyeol had texted him to ask how work had been yesterday. It’d been his day off so they hadn’t seen each other and that was his usual excuse. It always started with that text and then they ventured into different topics, complaining about weird clients, random bouts about their day, movies and so on. Chanyeol wasn’t a bad conversation holder. Kyungsoo appreciated talking to him.
Even though he never texted him first. Even if Chanyeol always replied right away, even at times when it took Kyungsoo close to an hour to reply.
He thought back to what Jongin had told him. He’d always thought that he wasn’t giving any green light to Chanyeol but maybe he was. Not on purpose. Not too much either. He didn’t know.
He opened up his navigating app and saw that he was right in front of his destination. He texted Jongin a quick I’m in front of his house and then tried looking for the right building. Once he found the right number, he rang the bell and waited a short moment for the door to buzz and open. His phone vibrated in his hands with a you’re welcome act natural be normal try and seduce him if you want to and if you don’t want to at least hey you’ll get a bit of money out of this from Jongin and Kyungsoo snorted, pushing it into his back pocket, and took a left turn.
Baekhyun had given him directions. Ground floor, third door to the left. He stood in front of what he hoped was the right door and raised his hand. The door opened before he could ring the bell.
It made no sense for Kyungsoo to be surprised by someone he’d seen so many pictures of and yet, as the door opened, Kyungsoo’s own thoughts were scared away, by how seamless the beauty manifesting in front of him was. Everything that had been inside of his head was startled into running away. He couldn’t think anything, there was nothing left inside of his mind but silence.
Baekhyun was smiling. Just a stretch of lips, just a bit of tension on a face. Nothing grand, nothing incredible. Yet, just like every single piece of clothing he wore, Baekhyun managed to make it look like it was worth a million and like Kyungsoo would never, ever do enough to afford it.
"Hello," he said, stretching his words into a greeting song. A simple word. A word that should’ve sounds simple. Baekhyun didn’t seem to have the ability of making anything simple.
He was wearing plainer clothes than the last time they’d seen each other. They didn’t look like much, shouldn’t look like much, and yet Kyungsoo’s eyes made a quick journey over them. Grey pants checkered with thin lines of a darker grey, cuffed at the ankles. He wore a pitch black shirt on his upper body, tucked into his pants and large, but still fitted over his body with the words anti social social club etched in white over the left upper side. A thick necklace tied the whole look together, a chain on which hung a silver cat, sitting on its haunches with its tail forming a playful twirl. A cat. A cat. Kyungsoo felt like he needed that door to slap him.
But it didn’t. So he greeted Baekhyun back.
"Hey," he said, returning Baekhyun’s smile and willing himself to act normal. Just like Jongin said. Just like Kyungsoo always acted around people he had a special kind of liking for. Because maybe this was it. He didn’t know. He’d think about it later. He shut it off. "I’m glad I didn’t get lost."
"You don’t look like the kind who easily gets lost," Baekhyun said, stepping back and opening the door wider. "Come in."
"Nah, I actually don’t get lost easily but you never know," Kyungsoo shrugged, stepping in. "Thanks for seeking my camera services again," he said and genuinely meant it. It really made him feel good about himself, to be sought for this particular reason.
"You can take off your shoes here, I have slippers if you want," Baekhyun said and Kyungsoo was glad to hear it. He hated having shoes on in a house, his worst fear was to go to someone’s house and them not asking him to take his shoes off. "No, I should be thanking you. I didn’t even except you to agree actually," he said, adding a puff of air, a silent laugh at the end of his sentence.
He waited as Kyungsoo toed his shoes off and tucked his foot into the black slippers waiting against the wall. That was when he noticed that the only disruption in Baekhyun’s outfit was that he had no shoes on, just long white socks that didn’t show any skin despite his pants being cuffed.
"I asked for your insta to your friend because I couldn’t directly find your account," Baekhyun confessed nonchalantly, walking backwards as Kyungsoo followed him.
"Oh, you’re the one who asked him?" he couldn’t help but say, expressing his surprise. "I thought he’d just promoted me on his own the same way he always does."
Baekhyun laughed, just as he crossed the threshold of the living room. There was very good lightning in this house. It haloed Baekhyun, made his hair look a lighter brown shade at the edges, made his smile fade into the specks of dust swaying around – angelic, so pretty Kyungsoo refused to blink from fear of losing sight of it in that split moment.
"Nope, I looked for you on my own," Baekhyun said, still as easily, crossing his arms behind his back and tilting his head the tiniest bit before turning his back to Kyungsoo.
Kyungsoo said nothing, impressed by the choice of words and the honesty. He wasn’t sure whether he should look for something underneath that. He chose not to.
Instead, he observed the living room. There were a lot of things to see, the apartment in general looked pretty average sized, he could tell right from the hallway, but it wasn’t too small for just one person, he guessed. The walls were a pretty crisp white except for the wall with the two windows that was a pale, sugary yet peaceful yellow that looked just perfect against the greens of the many, many plants Baekhyun had in his living room. The floor right in front of the windows was covered with what resembled a bookshelf except it was thinner and more like the skeleton of it, filled with many plants, small ones and bigger ones with long leaves, even pearly-looking leaves.
On either side of the wall, two plants were hung on the ceiling, white pots held by intricately braided ropes and almost entirely covered. It was hidden by the long leaves cascading down, green dotted by red. Most of these plants, Kyungsoo had never seen before.
Besides that, the living room was pretty sparsely decorated, a minimalist style that made up for the abundance of plants. A golden-shaded couch with dark brown details, a cream-colored carpet inhabited by a white table with legs of a color that matched the couch. The curtains at the windows were of a thin white, tied aside to let light stream into the room. There wasn’t much on the white walls, just a painting of a sunflower field, light, summery, and dreamy.
Right next to the television set, at the corner of the room, sat a white teddy bear, a huge smiling one with a red bowtie. In-between his legs, there was a vase with what looked like wheat but probably wasn’t really.
That was a bit misfitting there. That was adorable. That looked like exactly the kind of surprise in a person that Kyungsoo would melt over. Everything seemed to melt when Baekhyun was in the scenario, Kyungsoo’s ice cream, Kyungsoo’s refusal to interact with strangers, Kyungsoo’s entire existence.
"Your living’s room pretty nice," he couldn’t help but say because this wasn’t just out of politeness. It really was very nicely decorated. "And a bit unexpected," he added, gesturing to the teddy bear. He knew there was a story behind that, probably.
"Thanks," Baekhyun replied and Kyungsoo didn’t know how it was possible for someone to infuse happiness and joy and brightness into every single one of his words. Even Chanyeol, who was the most energetic person Kyungsoo knew, didn’t do that. He decided not to think about Chanyeol anymore when he was with someone else. "I really worked so hard on the decoration which is why I want to show it off. And that teddy bear is actually a gift from my parents." A smile wasn’t needed for Baekhyun to express fondness with the lowness of his voice. "To congratulate me on getting approved on this apartment. I lived with them up until a month ago and I wanted to actually use that gift as decoration."
"That’s sweet," Kyungsoo admitted, watching as Baekhyun plopped down on the couch with a sigh.
"Come here, sit down," he said, gesturing to the spot beside him. Kyungsoo moved to sit. "I won’t give you a tour of the entire house because it would bore you if I did it twice."
"It’s alright," Kyungsoo said, making sure that he wasn’t sitting too close but not too far either from him. Then he cleared his throat a little bit at the reminder of why exactly he was here. "I hope I’ll do a good job at filming you," he said, easily expressing his insecurity.
Usually, he wasn’t really an insecure person. He was confident about himself, he found himself pretty alright, both appearance and personality wise and knew that he always worked hard at whatever he did to obtain the best possible results. He wouldn’t be so hesitant if this was for someone else but just knowing that Baekhyun would post his video on the internet for so, so many people to watch made it impossible for Kyungsoo to be as confident as he usually could be.
"It’s alright," Baekhyun said right away, looking at him with a clear, earnest gaze. "What you did last time was awesome. The result came out very well, otherwise I wouldn’t have called you back. And as I told you before, it’s not that complicated." He pointed a finger towards his own face, scrunching his features. "You just have to follow this face along as it cries about how many bruises I got while decorating this place."
Kyungsoo huffed a laugh at that and that seemed to satisfy Baekhyun. He had a pretty funny way of giving people a confidence boost. Kyungsoo liked it.
"If you end up crying, I’m telling your right away I’ll be too busy trying to make a good job to give you tissues. You’re on your own," he said with a straight face through which Baekhyun saw the joke.
Making Baekhyun laugh gave Kyungsoo a confidence boost that nothing else did in a very long time.
And then, Baekhyun made Kyungsoo laugh a lot in turn, almost as much as Jongin’s silly behaviors made him. Except this was a bit different.
Baekhyun gave off a really professional vibe. After asking if Kyungso would be okay with doing the filming right away so that they’d get it over with and then just hang out as much s they wanted afterwards, he grabbed his camera, one that was different than what Kyungsoo had used the other day. Without losing much time, he once again showed the basics to Kyungsoo who didn’t struggle too hard. A camera was a camera, you just had to know how to zoom and that was it.
Kyungsoo tried restraining himself from laughing while they filmed but often times, he found himself snorting or chortling without being able to keep it in. Baekhyun was just, much, much funnier than Kyungsoo had expected.
As he gave a tour of the house to Kyungsoo, he made it as entertaining as possible. Using the curtains as a gown and taking on an aristocratic vocabulary to present his plants with their names that ranged from Bobby to Regina Van Caenegem. Showing off his closet and roasting himself for having so much clothes and only cleaning everything when he needed to to film. Showing something cool like the mirror he painted himself and doing awkward dance movements to congratulate himself.
He didn’t know where Baekhyun pulled out so many funny jokes and movie character impressions out of, but it all just kept coming and Kyungsoo’s cheeks hurt. He hoped the camera was held in a way that covered his face, he probably came out as too eager or too creepy as he stared at the screen on the camera and followed Baekhyun around wherever he went.
The rest of his house was decorated as intricately as his living room. The kitchen was spotless, albeit a bit too small for Kyungsoo’s taste but, as Baekhyun said, the only magic that happened in this kitchen was ready-made pancake batter and occasional dryass bread-making so he guessed it was enough for him. His bedroom was painted the same color as the one wall in his living room – an accent wall was what Kyungsoo learned it was called. It suited Baekhyun. Frivolous yet deep, light yet sweet enough. Perky, a bit sunny. Definitely beautiful enough to stick to the mind.
Baekhyun had a thing for sheets. He talked about his sheets for ten whole minutes then cut himself off with what the fuck am I talking about why aren’t you whacking me with that camera Kyungsoo? No whacking could be done by Kyungsoo when he religiously listened to him go on and on about how he needed baby sheets for his skin and how spending half of the day sleeping in bed made it detrimental to have a bed of the highest comfort. Kyungsoo had probably not even listened to even one single teacher with as much focus in his whole entire life.
He was so witty, so nice to film, to watch, and the first time Kyungsoo let out an amused sound, Baekhyun stopped whatever he was saying and beamed at the camera, as if he’d been waiting for it to happen all long. Kyungsoo let himself laugh more easily after that.
And he learned a lot about Baekhyun. He used to have entire shelves of manga but they were still at home and he needed to get them here, the shelf in his room was already ready but empty. He hadn’t read them in so long but they were a huge part of his childhood and who he became so he needed them by his side. He hated white, boring towels. He’d kept every single drawing that his best friend had made for him over the years. He had an impressive amount of clothes that barely fitted the dressing room that was almost as big as his actual bedroom. If his desk got cramped with documents and empty glasses and cups, it made him want to cry from the stress of the messiness.
It didn’t take too long, probably less than an hour to film everything. Kyungsoo hadn’t thought it was possible to take so long to give a house tour but Baekhyun talked a lot and Kyungsoo’s ears didn’t want to sew themselves closed for even one single word. He had a nice voice. Energetic, not monotone, laughter sounded just as melodious in it as seriousness did when he talked about the cost of everything and how he’d tried his best not to waste too much money.
Halfway trough filming, Kyungsoo caught himself thinking that he couldn’t wait to watch this video.
"Sorry, I don’t have any coffee left," Baekhyun said, shaking the empty coffee holder and twisting one side of his mouth down. "I can offer you something else though. Tea, soda. Beer?"
They’d wrapped up the filming pretty quickly and as celebration, Baekhyun had proposed that they just sprawled on the couch with a nice thing to drink and Kyungsoo, whose arms were starting to get pretty stiff from holding the camera, had happily agreed.
"It’s alright, I prefer tea anyway," Kyungsoo said, leaning his hip against the counter and crossing his arms over his chest.
"Say no more."
Baekhyun opened another cupboard and showed an actually impressing number of tea boxes, presenting them with a flourishing movement of his hand.
Kyungsoo chortled. "You have almost half as much tea as we got in our store," he said, exaggerating as he stepped closer to study the boxes. Most of them were bought in convenience stores, some of them had a similar packaging to what Tead-Up offered so were probably bought in similar specialized boutiques.
"In your store?" Baekhyun questioned, stepping back so Kyungsoo could see the tea properly. "Choose one."
"This one looks good," Kyungsoo said, retrieving the box labelled as apple and cinnamon. A classic alliance that he always liked. "I actually work in a tea and coffee store," he explained, giving Baekhyun the box.
The kettle started making big bubbly noises as the water boiled.
"For real?" Baekhyun said, raising his eyebrows just as the kettle snapped and turned off. "Which one? I really love those stores!" He got two cups out, one of a plain, black tainted glass and one with little corgi faces all around.
Kyungsoo liked that contradiction. That mix in Baekhyun’s cupboards.
"Tead-up," Kyungsoo said, watching intently as Baekhyun put the teabags in the cups and then poured water over it. He had nice hands, the skin stretching over his knuckles looked velvety. Kyungsoo wondered how it would feel to circle the tip of his finger over one of those bumps.
The rings he was wearing looked nice, silver against the light tan of his skin. Kyungsoo could tell because he’d seen the picture he’d posted during winter, where he looked just as fashionable but his skin was a bit lighter than it was now. That was when he’d figured that Baekhyun fitted every single season.
When Baekhyun pushed the cup to him, Kyungsoo made sure to take it from the opposite end, far from dewy and clear skin.
"Oh I’ve never heard of it," Baekhyun said, picking his own cup along with a small plate and heading towards the living room. "Is it far?"
They sat on the couch, Baekhyun putting his cup down on the low table before, as he’d predicted it, plopping down on the couch with a sigh that was so loud it was surprising such a small body could produce it. Not that Kyungsoo had a better built than Baekhyun. Even their heights was pretty equal.
"No, it’s in the mall downtown, not far from here actually." Kyungsoo sat down, turning his body towards Baekhyun and supporting his elbow on the backrest of the couch. "It’s a pretty nice place. We have a lot of options for both tea and coffee, even accessories or gift packs. You can also just sit there and drink something without buying anything else, kind of like a coffee shop. You should come over sometimes."
Baekhyun leaned towards the table, chuckling. "You’re a pretty good promoter," he said, grabbing the tea bag by the string and raising it before letting it plop back down in the brew a few times.
"That’s a lot coming from someone who’s job is literally promoting stuff," he counter lightly, watching the stretch of Baekhyun’s shirt over his shoulder. "And making awesome content," he added, not only because he found that he wasn’t close enough with Baekhyun to joke around so harshly but also because it was true. And he wanted to say it. He knew how important it was to hear good job from someone, anyone. When Baekhyun chuckled, he added "I’m glad I got that compliment from a pro though."
Baekhyun continued playing with the tea bag, making circles in the cup with it. Kyungsoo knew that wouldn’t make it infuse faster but he found that impatience kind of endearing.
"Nah," Baekhyun voiced out, stretching the sound and turning his gaze to Kyungsoo. His eyes looked great from that angle, droopy, a bit darker. His eyelashes were short but their curve looked lovely, feathery-soft. "I’m more of a mess than a pro. I’m barely starting to get the hang of everything."
"You seem to like it though," Kyungsoo noted, leaning to grab his cup when Baekhyun took a sip of his. "How long have you been doing this?"
Baekhyun hummed and Kyungsoo wasn’t sure whether it was at the taste of the tea or as a reply to his question. He took a sip of his tea and deemed that it had infused just right.
"I’m on my fourth year now." Baekhyun pulled the tea bag out and put it on a small plate he’d brought along. "It only started picking up and becoming my actual full time job a year and a half ago though." Kyungsoo took the bag out and put it alongside Baekhyun’s, not saying anything and just listening. "And yeah, I do love it," he smiled, grabbing his cup with both hands and leaning back into the couch as he looked down at it. "This is my job but it isn’t really at the same time. I mean I don’t do a lot beside speak, pose, tell people about my fashion taste, and edit videos to look good for a few people to watch it."
That seemed way too underwhelming of a description for what Baekhyun was doing. Kyungsoo knew next to nothing about being an influencer or youtuber but maybe it really was as light as Baekhyun made it seem.
"Well, if it’s something you like doing then I’m glad you’re doing it," was all Kyungsoo said. It was important, after all. Not a lot of people nowadays had the chance of doing something that they were actually passionate about.
"I hope I’ll be able to do it for a long time," Baekhyun said, directing his gaze and his smile at Kyungsoo who wished he had two pairs of eyes to be able to look at both his eyes and his lips at the same time. Both were enthralling enough to deserve the focus.
But it was too much. Kyungsoo didn’t have enough. So he chose to look away and focus on his tea instead.
Then, Baekhyun grabbed his phone from it’d been resting on the table.
"Oh," he said, unlocking it and looking at Kyungsoo. "I can pay you. Do you prefer cash? I can also either use Venmo if you want."
Kyungsoo furrowed his eyebrows and shook a hand. "There’s no need to pay me. I did this because it’s something I enjoy."
"But still," he furrowed his eyebrows, "I’m gonna get money out of your work. The least I can do is give some of it back to you," Baekhyun insisted and from the steady line of his mouth to the earnestness in his eyes, Kyungsoo could tell this was his professional side coming off.
But Kyungsoo could be just as stubborn if he wanted.
"If I hated it I would’ve asked for money but I actually liked it so count it as a friendship thing." He
checked the time on his phone. He should get going soon. He had chores to do back at home. He took a few sips of his tea and didn’t look at Baekhyun. He had a feeling looking at Baekhyun would dissolve even his stubbornness and Kyungsoo didn’t want that.
"But I’m still gonna get money out of your job, it’s like I’m exploiting you," Baekhyun said and this time he didn’t sound as convincing, just a bit regretful.
Kyungsoo looked at him and pressed his lips together. Maybe he shouldn’t be so head on. It was obvious that Baekhyun felt bad about this. He finished his tea and put his cup down on the table, his mouth burning a tad bit.
"Well," he started, a bit hesitant. But this was nothing. He had no reason to hesitate. This was nothing. "You could always just repay me by buying me a meal or a drink someday, if you want. I prefer payment in the form of very delicious stuff."
Baekhyun lit up just as fast as the sky burned the day away in hues of warmth and peace.
"Sure!" he agreed right away. "It’d be nice to see each other without me making you my camera slave."
He laughed at his own joke and maybe something in Baekhyun’s smile was adhesive and had caught on Kyungsoo’s face. It felt like the corners of his lips were dragged up whenever Baekhyun pulled his own into a smile.
When Kyungsoo left soon after, it was adamantly. He would’ve loved to stay and talk about the best way to film or photograph a sunset, or share his favorite restaurants with Baekhyun. Those sounded like lame conversations. Kyungsoo lived them as lame conversations usually, because people were never as implied in the topic as he was.
But that wasn’t the case with Baekhyun. Kyungsoo learned that afternoon that the best thing about Baekhyun wasn’t just admiring him like a handmade picture but actually listening to him open up.
And when, on his way out, Kyungsoo regretfully thought that he could’ve spent hours listening to him until he opened up enough for Kyungsoo to listen to his deepest thoughts, he wondered why and how he’d gotten himself into this.
On the next day, Baekhyun stuck with him despite Kyungsoo being alone in his own house.
After doing all his chores, folding his laundry, cleaning the floors and wiping the dust off his living room furniture, Kyungsoo had a good part of the afternoon and the whole evening free to lounge around and do nothing. He could’ve done anything. He could’ve finished watching his series, he could’ve taken a nap, he could’ve baked, he could’ve read a new book.
Amidst endless possibilities to fill his day with, Kyungsoo chose to type Baekhyun’s name in the youtube search bar and threw himself into a typhoon that refused to just kick him out.
Baekhyun’s work was anything but light, that was the first thing he realized. He had almost three and a half million people subscribed to his channel. That meant three and a half million people liked his work, his content enough to want to watch more. Most of his videos had over one million views, some of them even reached three million. One of them had four million views.
A quick scroll through the videos posted was enough for Kyungsoo to see that Baekhyun didn’t only make fashion content. He had videos about making over rooms and houses, a video about taking himself on a date, one about beauty standards, some about how to thrift clothes. There was so many different things, one was even titled with trying on a capsule wardrobe for 30 days and Kyungsoo had no idea what that even was but Baekhyun looked so nice on the thumbnail.
He must’ve been handmade, specially crafted for this blend between hot and cute to so smoothly result in a perfect combination.
This wasn’t light. This was incredible. Baekhyun was watched by an astounding number of people. He literally worked for all of these people. He had no idea why Baekhyun talked about his channel as if it was something lame and ordinary. Kyungsoo tried imagining himself posting a picture and leaving it to be seen, judged, criticized, evaluated by three million people.
It gave him a peak of stress high enough that he left his computer and threw himself in the kitchen. He started baking cookies, chocolate dough and chocolate chips. Just because he refused to spend his whole afternoon thinking about a cute boy or worse, looking at a cute boy.
Halfway through, when he was making small balls with the dough, he received a message from Chanyeol. He read the notification but didn’t open the message, it was just Chanyeol telling him about this one funny incident that happened at work with a client yesterday. He chose not to reply. When he focused back on his cookies, it was with a heavier hand that he continued forming small balls of sweetness.
He waited for them to bake, distracting himself with his phone. He thought back to his unopened message. He bit his lip, kept biting at it for a short moment. If he didn’t reply to Chanyeol maybe he’d get upset and never message him again. Kyungsoo fiddled with the hem of his shirt then rubbed his eye with a fist that felt like lead against his face. It shouldn’t matter. Why did it matter?
Deep down, he knew it didn’t really matter. Or at least, not for the right reasons. Jongin was right.
He messaged Jongin, asking him if he was busy tomorrow. They decided to have a chill day together at Jongin’s house and Jongin gave him a full report on his latest argument with his sister. She was expecting a child and couldn’t take Jongin’s jokes as well as she usually did.
He checked the time, checked the oven, poked the cookies with the tip of his knife. Only a couple minutes and then he’d get them out. He checked instagram. Nothing interesting on his feed, nothing he felt like liking. He scrolled back up to the top. Baekhyun had posted a story. Kyungsoo’s thumb was drawn to the silkiness of Baekhyun’s hair on his profile picture and he checked the story. It was a photo of Baekhyun in a bad angle, giving a smile that was made to be ugly and too large. Kyungsoo still kept his thumb pressed on the screen, to elongate the time that was given to him to admire that face.
It was just a face. Faces weren’t made to be stared at. Or were they? This one probably was created with that purpose. A delightful piece of nature Kyungsoo wanted to photograph in every possible angle.
There was a caption on the photo. Y’all are gonna die when you see my next video and only because you’ve been waiting for it for literal months I’m sorry I’m a mess. Kyungsoo stopped smiling when he remembered that he had cookies in the oven.
He enjoyed them throughly in front of his computer, enjoyed them with a smile that hurt his cheeks. Because he’d decided to watch Baekhyun. Baekhyun posing, Baekhyun doing silly little dances, Baekhyun trying to tap dance as he showed off his shoes, Baekhyun trying to paint for the first time since high school, Baekhyun giving out actually useful advice about getting through college. Baekhyun being obsessed about silk for five minutes straight.
Baekhyun’s tender habits. The bounce of his feet whenever he showed off his shoes. The way his hands always made a circling motion when he started dancing. The way he replaced almost every single you in his sentences by y’all. Baekhyun often bumping into his plants and apologizing straight away to them like they could actually understand him.
The hours passed, the cookies disappeared from his plate, but Baekhyun remained on his screen until very, very late. And the sweetness that had started in his mouth turned a bit different, a bit stronger and suffused throughout his entire body. It wasn’t because of the chocolate and the sugar.
"Oh," Jongin said and Kyungsoo looked up at him, thinking that he’d finally found the piece that they’d been looking for. "Your video is out, by the way."
He looked back down at the pile of tiny puzzle pieces, fingers trying to sort through it to find the right color and shape combination. Despite having been looking for that one piece for the past couple minutes, Kyungsoo didn’t feel a sliver of annoyance.
They did this sometimes, not as often as Kyungsoo would like, but often enough. Hanging out, putting nice, soft music on, and using their braincells for something actually productive by solving a puzzle. Puzzles were another kind of pretty picture that Kyungsoo liked.
Except that that one sentence from Jongin was enough to disturb the calm in him. Just a tiny little bit. He stopped focusing on the sunset over Big Ben that they were constructing with their bare hands. A sudden pinch somewhere in his stomach grabbed his attention. Excitement. The video was out. He finally found the piece they were looking for and only then did he allow himself to express a bit of happiness with a long ah.
"So you watch his videos now?" he asked, voice blending in with the slow beat of the melody dancing over them. He didn’t know it, it came from one of Jongin’s many playlists, but it was relaxing just as much as it was motivating.
The low voice of the female singer tied around the living room like a ribbon, shining over them like the dim lights Kyungsoo had switched on instead of the main ones. She started rapping then and the steam coming from their tea cups rode the beat as swiftly as her voice did.
"It’s pretty great actually!" Jongin said, grabbing the piece that Kyungsoo was handing out to him and putting it in the bottom left corner of the picture. He gave it a triumphant smile when it finally completed the reflection of the tower on the water. "He’s very good at what he does, I only watched like two videos but it was interesting and the editing is cute."
It was. Big letters, nice music, entertaining transitions and tiny sketches, stars, hearts, smiley faces. Baekhyun even liked to sketch over his own body, following the lines of it as he posed. It was just very lovely to watch.
"Yeah, it’s pretty cute," Kyungsoo said as he pressed another piece into the puzzle. It wasn’t the right shape, it didn’t lock in with the piece he thought it would go with.
He twisted his mouth, looked at Jongin, and threw the misplaced piece to his face when Jongin gave him that exaggerated eyebrow wiggle that Kyungsoo hated. Jongin spluttered and fell back, hand slapping against the floor as he caught himself.
"Why," he whined, turning to grab the piece where it fell. "I didn’t even say anything," he defended himself, though the amused waves in his words made him lose all credibility.
"You did that eyebrow wiggle that I despise," Kyungsoo said, grabbing his cup and sipping at the tea. The taste of citrusy fruits, oranges and lemon, made his mouth very happy. "Only cartoon characters make that face."
"Are you saying I’m every little girl’s cartoon dream?" Jongin said, raising those eyebrows again and somehow widening all his features into pleasant surprise.
"Yeah, from the show that gets cut after one season," Kyungsoo snorted, putting his cup back down on the floor and adjusting the pillow he was sitting on. This kind of night made Kyungsoo regret not owning a nice, fluffy rug.
Jongin groaned an exasperated sound. "Stop trying to distract me from the fact that you did actually watch the videos I sent you."
"You sent me a link to his instagram, not to videos," Kyungsoo mumbled, turning his body away from the puzzle spread on the floor to stretch his legs until his toes touched the low table they’d pushed away.
"Either way," Jongin said, a bit loudly to cut the conversation off and stir it right back into the direction he wanted. "Did you like the videos?"
He had a wide smile on and Kyungsoo didn’t know if it was because of what he’d just learned or if it was just a natural reaction to one of his favorite songs softly tiptoeing into the room through his phone.
"Alright," Kyungsoo gave up. "Yes. I watched a few of them and I did like them. Just as you said, they’re pretty nice."
Jongin didn’t say anything, he just swayed his body side to side to the rhythm of the song.
"Did you watch the video you filmed for the other day then?" Kyungsoo shook his head, grabbing his cup again and holding it on his lap. "Let’s watch it now then!" Jongin said, perking his shoulders up and straightening his back.
Before even waiting for Kyungsoo to agree, he grabbed his phone and paused the music. That was okay. Kyungsoo was at least glad that he hadn’t insisted more on the fact that Kyungsoo did actually watch Baekhyun’s videos. Not that it meant much. It was just a small interest, it didn’t have to lead anywhere, it didn’t have to mean anything. Kyungsoo didn’t even have to measure his interest.
He was too bad at measuring that kind of thing about himself anyway.
Instead, he measured the amount of talent Baekhyun displayed with that video alone. They were watching it on Jongin’s phone and even if the screen was smaller than usual, Baekhyun looked just as entrancing.
He’d managed to edit the video in a way that made it look like an actual hotel visitation, with an intro of shots of small corners of his house, the teddy bear, the shelves full with plants, the rainbow gleams of light on his desk from the light catcher hung in front of his window. The clear, perky music over it made it exciting, some shots were framed with a pale color that matched the main colors of the filmed area, making the editing feel so thought-out and worked on. Kyungsoo had a hard time believing that he’d been the one to film all of that. He remembered tripping over the rug as he tried getting closer to one of his plants to film the leaves – Margareta was her name, he recalled.
Besides that, he also recalled every single one of the smiles and laughs Baekhyun showed on the screen. And the ones he’d cut off too. The video was only seventeen minutes long, there was a lot of things that he hadn’t put in, he’d edited out almost the entirety of his description of every pretty glasses he own and he owned a lot of them. He’d left his speech about comfortable bedsheets but had sped it up and written here’s me projecting myself into the role of a college professor giving y’all a lecture about freaking BED SHEETS and I don’t even look so serious during business meetings lmao.
The video made this apartment look just as perfect as it really was in real life. Jongin asked him lots of questions throughout it and Kyungsoo was glad he’d already witnessed all this and nothing new was presented to him because Jongin asked a lot of questions. Kyungsoo had probably missed half the video from being too busy explaining stuff to him.
But it also made him happy. The knowledge that he’d had the privilege of seeing all that before three million other people subscribed to Baekhyun. He felt a tiny bit special. A bit like a winner. The prize was all the awkward dances Baekhyun had also cut off the video.
"It must’ve taken hours to edit this," Jongin said once the video cut off with an animated sketch of a tiny boy waving goodbye. Kyungsoo had seen that outro so many times and it still made him want to bite his lips so hard he couldn’t feel them anymore.
"I can’t believe he did all of this with what I filmed," Kyungsoo admitted, crossing his legs and resting one of his knees against Jongin’s thigh. "He used so much effects and so many different songs without it sounding messy."
Kyungsoo knew nothing at all about editing but he could recognize a job that was well done. He wasn’t the only one, the video had been posted this morning according to Jongin but it already had five hundred thousand views.
Jongin locked his phone and put it down on the floor. "I follow someone who has a similar style and they always say that it takes them literal days to edit their videos."
It had been four days since they’d filmed this. And Kyungsoo knew they’d had more than an hour of footage.
This wasn’t nothing. Kyungsoo couldn't comprehend how Baekhyun managed to talk so lightly about something that probably consumed a gigantic amount of time. SOmething that he was so incredibly talented at doing.
"I can’t believe we actually know a youtuber," Kyungsoo said then, because this whole situation was still pretty unlikely to him.
Jongin snorted and pulled away from him. When he turned his music on again, Kyungsoo went back to looking through the puzzle pieces. They probably wouldn’t finish this tonight but he still would like to continue as far as they could. It did him so much good not to think about anything but what piece to put where.
Until Jongin spoke again.
"A youtuber was the only thing missing from your chaotic life." He grabbed his hot chocolate and it was probably cold by now but he still downed the rest of it. "How’s it going with Chanyeol?" he asked, his question hitting over Kyungsoo as much as the sound of his cup being put on the bare floor with too much force.
Kyungsoo sighed. "The usual. Why do you keep asking when you know there’s no advancement?"
"Because if I don’t ask about it, then you don’t think about it." He put another piece at its rightful place. Kyungsoo pressed his lips together, continued running his fingers through the pile. "So, do you like him?"
"I don’t know," Kyungsoo replied, honest even as he looked for a piece with water on it. It was hard when water constituted a third of this puzzle and all the pieces looked alike. "He’s cool."
"People usually react more than that when they reply to that question," Jongin said, ending his sentence right in time to sing along to the low high note the phone sussed into their ears. He looked at Kyungsoo then, head tilted down, eyes sharp. "You react more than that."
"Well." He twisted his face, glanced at Jongin who handed him a piece. It fit right into the place he was trying to fill. "It’s been two years since my last relationship. Almost one year since my last crush. Maybe I don’t know how to talk about crushes anymore."
Though, he wasn’t sure it had been a crush. It had lasted longer than the flings Kyungsoo had had in the past two years but it had faded just as easily. With a conversation, not a lack of response. An honest confession that Kyungsoo had turned down. That was what made him figure out that he didn’t like that guy. The fact that his confession didn’t make Kyungsoo feel relieved but disappointed. He still didn’t know whether it was disappointment in himself or the other party.
"Those are all just excuses, hyung," he said and it could’ve sounded harsh but it didn’t. Because Jongin knew him, wanted the best for him. And Kyungsoo wouldn’t take half as many good decisions in his life if it wasn’t for Jongin’s help. "I don’t think you like him."
Kyungsoo grabbed a piece and checked if it was the right shape. It wasn’t. He dumped it back to the pile and continued looking.
"I appreciate him," Kyungsoo said after a moment. He did. If he didn’t, he wouldn’t be so responsive to Chanyeol. Kyungsoo was very good at ignoring what he didn’t like.
"That’s not the same as liking him," Jongin said nonchalantly as he admired their advancement.
They had half of the puzzle complete. The bottom part was okay and the frame of it down too, as well as the upper left corner. They just had to fill in the middle of it.
"I guess I don’t know what I want then," Kyungsoo said, softly enough to go unheard had the music not been dying just then to leave its place for another song to come to life.
He liked that they could have this conversation without Kyungsoo fearing judgement or reprimand. Jongin only reprimanded him when he was going too far but Kyungsoo could count their arguments in the fingers of one hand.
What he didn’t like though, was still having to think about this. Sure, he didn’t know what he wanted. Sure, he appreciated Chanyeol just enough to flirt back from time to time. Sure, he’d been this way for the past years. But that didn’t mean he liked actually looking at his own flaws right in the eye.
But maybe he actually should. Maybe if he looked at them just once, then he’d have nothing left to look at right after.
He didn’t want to talk about this anymore and maybe Jongin had sensed it, he didn’t ask anything else. Instead, he was staring at the puzzle with a frown now. Kyungsoo was growing tired of this. Maybe they should start cooking dinner instead.
"What about you?" he said then, looking at a piece that had been discarded a bit outside of the pile. It fit right in. He’d finally found it. "You didn’t tell me about that garage thing."
That was enough for Jongin to tell him the entire story, from beginning to end, of how he brought his car to the garage to get the tires checked out and one of the guys working there was incredibly hot. He’d followed Jongin on instagram that night.
Kyungsoo listened to him, not only because Jongin’s life was always full with weird, improbable and highly entertaining stories, but also because he didn’t want to think about himself anymore. He’d filled his quota for the week.
But he was thinking about it the next evening, even in the middle of a grocery store, even as he was faced with the complicated task of choosing the best green apples to buy. It should require his whole attention. It should. But Kyungsoo felt bad.
He felt incredibly bad because-
"These ones are the biggest."
A hand crossed over the apples he was staring at and grabbed one of the biggest ones. Kyungsoo looked at Chanyeol’s face. He was furrowing his eyebrows as he examined the fruit, turning it around in his hand. It had a yellow spot on one side of it.
"Is this okay with you? I know some people don’t like imperfect fruits," he said, bringing the fruit closer to Kyungsoo so he could look at it.
"That’s perfect," Kyungsoo said, not needing to think about it. He didn’t like choosing fruits based on whether they had spots or not. That didn’t matter to him. He could just cut those spots out if he felt like it. A pretty fruit didn’t mean a tasty one anyway. That was perfect.
Chanyeol put it in the bag Kyungsoo was holding and together, they grabbed a few more apples. Chanyeol was very good at choosing fruits and the best thing about him was that he didn’t spend five whole minutes trying to choose, contrary to what Kyungsoo was used to with Jongin.
He could also reach the highest fruits, where the biggest ones were left something that Kyungsoo couldn’t do. He seemed to take a lot of pride in it and Kyungsoo couldn’t help but elbow him every time he did it with a smug stretch to his lips.
They’d closed the shop together earlier and Kyungsoo had mentioned in passing that he’d have to do some grocery shopping before going home. They’d decided to go together after Chanyeol had said that he needed to do it too and there was a grocery store right outside of the mall anyway. It had seemed like a logical decision, one that Kyungsoo saw no reason not to take.
But he felt a little bad. Just a little. Now that he had decided to acknowledge Chanyeol’s intentions with him.
"Do you need any other fruits?" Chanyeol asked as Kyungsoo tied the bag.
"Nope, we’re done if you don’t need anything else," he said, looking at the basket Chanyeol was carrying. "Though you don’t seem like much of a fruits and vegetable guy." There was mostly pasta, sauces, and snacks along with just some tomatoes in his basket but besides that, he’d only helped Kyungsoo choose rather than take anything for himself from this section.
"Stop judging me, I already have everything at home," Chanyeol said, a subtle whine to his words as he pushed Kyungsoo’s basket with his.
It made Kyungsoo take a step back and he laughed, heading out of the aisle.
Maybe he shouldn’t feel bad. This was nothing. Chanyeol was a good talker and a pleasant company. Kyungsoo appreciated him. He did.
They headed to the hygiene section, Kyungsoo needed to buy a box of tissues. He stood there, wondering if he should take a box or just small packages before deciding to just take both because he knew he’d need them.
He grabbed the box, put it in his basket as he heard footsteps approaching him and when he reached for a package, he heard a turn around right as Chanyeol put something on him. He squeezed his eyes shut, groaning a little while Chanyeol laughed. He figured that these were glasses and when he opened his eyes again, he saw a darkened Chanyeol grinning. He looked at the mirror in front of him and burst into laughter.
They’d somehow made glasses in the shape of cups of coffee and Kyungsoo had never looked so silly before. What made this funnier was Chanyeol’s own laugh, much higher than his normal voice, hiccupy and chopped into pieces.
Kyungsoo took the glasses off and gave him his blankest stare, one that only made Chanyeol laugh harder as he reached to take the glasses off Kyungsoo. He let out a small sound of exaggerated pain when the frames tugged a bit on his hair. It was getting too long and he really wanted to get a buzzcut. Chanyeol chortled and Kyungsoo shook his head at him.
"You’re so childish," he said, even if he’d been laughing just as hard a moment ago.He really enjoyed this about Chanyeol. Whenever they worked together, Kyungsoo knew he wouldn’t have a boring day.
He shook his head. He could feel that his hair was a mess because Chanyeol visibly didn’t know how to put glasses on someone correctly.
Chanyeol huffed at the insult then reached with his free hand towards Kyungsoo. He followed it with his gaze until he couldn’t anymore, when Chanyeol started running his fingers through his hair with the remnants of his amusement still on his face. He was tidying Kyungsoo’s hair.
"So this is what it feels like to have a giant servant," Kyungsoo couldn’t help but say, feeling his own face expanding into triumph. Maybe he liked bossing around tall men more than he’d care to admit it.
Chanyeol pulled at his hair with a quick movement and Kyungsoo gasped, reaching to pinch his shoulder.
"Fine, fine," Chanyeol said right away, dramatically scrunching his entire face in pain. He went back to tidying Kyungsoo’s hair. He was still smiling.
Kyungsoo should feel bad. But he liked this. He liked the attention that Chanyeol was giving him, had been giving him for the past six months. Maybe he appreciated this more than he appreciated Chanyeol.
He thanked Chanyeol, making it sound haughty so it would come off as a joke and not as discomfort. Kyungsoo wanted to go home and not think about this anymore.
Chanyeol babbled about how he used to to steal his sister’s skincare products when he was a teenager as they passed through the beauty section as a shortcut to the checkout section. Kyungsoo laughed, because Chanyeol somehow managed to make every single one of his stories hilarious. Maybe it was the voice impressions and big hand movements.
As they passed by a few mannequins, something caught Kyungsoo’s eye. A pair of denim jeans with clouds embroidered in white right above the left knee. The mannequin was wearing them with the legs cuffed.
Kyungsoo thought in passing that it would look good on Baekhyun then burst into laughter when Chanyeol hesitated between two registers and looked like a flailing pair of legs for a short moment.
Kyungsoo closed the door behind him and toed his shoes off.
He was happy tonight. He’d finished work right on time, late but not as late as closing time. It meant that he didn’t have to be the one to do the end of the day clean up, Kyungsoo really didn’t like doing that.
Having to clean both at home and at work felt a bit like too much to him and even if he did his best to clean around during his shift, he still despised having to do it at the end of his shift too. It took an additional half an hour after closing time.
But escaping that wasn’t why he was happy tonight. He hung his jacket at the entrance hall and hummed a song to himself as he headed to the bathroom to wash his hands. He’d ran into Cheesy right in front of the apartment building, the neighborhood’s stray cat and he hadn’t seen her in weeks. He’d started to worry about her but he also knew she was a warrior cat. He’d seen her get into many fights along the years but nothing bad had ever happened to her.
He couldn’t feed her because he had nothing on him but he’d spent a good fifteen minutes sitting on the stairs and giving her all the love that she deserved. He really liked the pale, dusty ginger of her fur, it reminded him of the sky sometimes and he’d given her a photoshoot. She weirdly was very very good at posing and didn’t move around a lot either, she was probably past that age already.
Washing his hands, he continued humming even though he didn’t know what he was even singing. Probably one of the songs he’d last listened to with Jongin. He always sent Kyungsoo a bunch of great songs but Kyungsoo was very bad at recalling titles.
He went to the kitchen then and sighed as he opened the fridge.
"What are we gonna eat tonight?" he muttered to himself.
No answer. Not in his head neither in his kitchen. He didn’t mind having no one to reply to him, it meant having no one to argue with about food. Only himself to please, no one else mattered. Kyungsoo had decided that he liked that, over time. He’d even grown past the part of his life where cooking for just himself felt unnecessary.
He now gave himself the tastiest feasts and tonight would be no different. He should’ve gotten meat out of the freezer this morning. Or maybe he should go with only vegetables. He hadn’t eaten noodles in a while.
Once that his choice was made, Kyungsoo headed to the living room. He wasn’t hungry for now, he could just rest a bit before starting anything. He got his phone out of his back pocket to prevent it from disturbing him when he sat on the couch but froze right there when the screen lit up and he saw a notification.
Baekhyun had liked the picture of Cheesy he’d just posted. He opened the app and stared at the photo. Her body was twisted over the concrete prettily. No one but Baekhyun had liked the picture. He was the first to like it. He’d posted the picture five minutes ago.
Something in Kyungsoo crashed and his body went along with it, face first on the couch. His body was supported by the cushiness, unmoving now, but he still felt something somewhere in him tumbling down somewhere unknown. Or maybe not so unknown. Just somewhere that he hadn’t allowed himself to visit in a while.
Biting on his lip, he tried to crush the smile. He didn’t like having it. It was too big. Too bothersome.
But Kyungsoo fueled that smile, kept it alive because he couldn’t control himself anymore and before he knew it, he’d already opened up another one of Baekhyun’s videos.
It was the dead of summer and it didn’t make sense for Kyungsoo to watch Baekhyun showing off winter outfits that were stylish but still sufficiently warm and protective. But maybe it didn’t have to make sense. Maybe Baekhyun’s ears sticking out of his head adorably as he wore a beanie paired up with oversized coats that snuggled him in cuddliness was the only sense that Kyungsoo wanted to make now.
"The apron looks good on you."
Kyungsoo sprinkled surprise all over himself when he turned to the source of that unexpected sentence. He heard the paper in his hand letting out a small screech when Baekhyun’s smile recompensed him for not tripping on his own feet from the shock.
"It’s a bit different from a barista, you look more like a tea master," Baekhyun continued, nodding towards the bouquet Kyungsoo was holding.
He was standing there, with his arms crossed, unaware of the effect he could have on innocent people who thought they’d go through their day without their heart reminding them of its existence.
Cool. Be cool. As cool as the fact that Baekhyun could wear green converses and look wonderfully confident in them.
They hadn’t talked since Kyungsoo had filmed him. It had been a few days since Kyungsoo had last seen him, only a few hours since Kyungsoo had last thought about him.
Kyungsoo looked down at the paper, stretching it a bit more and grabbing a pair of scissors.
"And you seem to be an apron master," he couldn’t help but say, something as weird as what Baekhyun had told him. Not weird. Just particular. Just like Baekhyun.
He hesitated before cutting the paper, already having forgotten if it would be long enough to wrap a bouquet with. He usually did this so quickly. He usually didn’t have a spotless combination of colors standing near him and observing his every movements.
"Maybe I am," Baekhyun said and Kyungsoo didn’t need to look at him to know he was smiling. His voice sounded bigger when he talked through a smile, words a bit longer, stretched over his lips as much as his skin. Kyungsoo had watched enough videos to know.
He shouldn’t know, probably. He started cutting the paper.
"I guess I really am a pretty good promoting agent," he said then, when Baekhyun remained silent.
Kyungsoo looked up at him just in time to see that he’d been staring at his hands. He put the scissors down and looked at Baekhyun properly. Kyungsoo never liked green. It was a cheesy color, the color of grass. But stretched over Baekhyun’s torso, it looked like the perfect hue to taint dreams with. Warm, earthy, complemented by the cuffed pants he was wearing, a soft, malleable fabric somewhere between dark pink, orange, and brown.
Kyungsoo sucked at colors. Baekhyun obviously didn’t.
He dropped his arms along his body, revealing the small cartoonish teddy bear that was making a little brown dance on his shirt.
"Yeah, I needed to buy a gift for my mom so I thought I could find something here," Baekhyun explained and Kyungsoo hummed a little.
He grabbed the coarse paper that they used as the skeleton for their bouquets and coiled it into the right size. He grabbed a piece of tape.
"What do you need then?" he asked, looking at Baekhyun who swayed to the tip of his toes and then back down again. Had it been any other client, Kyungsoo would’ve given them his full attention. But if he gave his attention to Baekhyun, he feared he’d lose himself in it. He felt something sticky on his finger, looked at it, frowned when he saw that he’d stuck the tape on his thumb rather than the paper.
He quickly but carefully ripped it off. Baekhyun made him nervous. He hoped he hadn’t noticed. He stuck it properly again on the coiled paper and then straightened his back to properly look at Baekhyun who was looking around the store. He hadn’t seen the embarrassment.
"Uh," he said, stretching the sound longly as Kyungsoo stepped from behind the table. He would continue the bouquet later. He had more important things to do now. Like making sure not to do anything stupid. "Something like a gift box or something?"
That was good. This was a surprise visit and Kyungsoo should’ve gotten time to get himself ready for this but this was okay. This was his job. Kyungsoo knew he’d do this perfectly, it was nothing.
"We have many options for that," Kyungsoo said, turning to the table he’d just left. "We have bouquets, with tea and infusions, caramels and chocolates, or coffee and chocolate. Or just coffee. We can even make a customized one, with whatever you want to put inside."
"You make these yourself?" Baekhyun asked stepping closer to the table. The deep green of his shirt made his surprise look even more innocent.
"Yeah, I made this one," Kyungsoo said, tapping on a bouquet of coffee and dark chocolate pearls, finger wrinkling the paper with pride. It wasn’t much, not a real bouquet. It had the shape of one, with packages of coffee and sweets but they decorated it in such a way that Kyungsoo himself really liked them. The cutest part was the bow. "The others were made by my colleagues." Jisoo was very good at these.
Baekhyun hummed, turning his impressed gaze to Kyungsoo. "You’re pretty crafty."
"When I’m getting paid for it, always."
That made Baekhyun laugh. His shoulders had the most exquisite of springs, in rhythm with the breathy sounds his mouth made. His lips had the same tinge to them as the heart shaped sweets they sometimes put in their bouquets.
Kyungsoo had never really felt the need to be the funny person in the room, to make people laugh in order to be likable but this, the daintiness of Baekhyun’s smile and its melodiousness made Kyungsoo feel like he’d done something as big as taming a cloud for himself. It made him want to do it over and over again.
Maybe if he was the funniest person in the room, Kyungsoo would stick to Baekhyun’s mind the way Baekhyun stuck to his.
But he wasn’t here for this. He was here for work. Baekhyun wasn’t here for him, he was here to buy something. He snapped out of it and gestured Baekhyun to follow him.
"What does your mother like?" he asked and showed their other gift boxes with his hand. "We also have boxes like this, if you want something that looks really like a gift. We also have accessories, cups, teapots, and all kinds of things."
Baekhyun twisted his mouth, looking at the aisle full of candies or tiny tea boxes.
"She likes flowery teas and infusions more than actual teas."
Kyungsoo looked around, humming to himself. They had a lot of fruity infusions and flowery teas too. He knew some really nice combination made with rooibos or white tea.
"I’ll show you our different teas then," he said and they headed to the shelves full of boxes. "What occasion is it for?" he asked, not only out of curiosity but because making conversation with clients came as a habit to him.
Baekhyun seemed kind of lost. It was surprising, Kyungsoo thought he was the kind to very easy find gifts for people, just the right thing that made them happy.
"Oh, there’s not a special occasion. I just wanted to buy her some tea for my next visit," Baekhyun said, the nonchalance in his words shrugging in stead of his shoulders.
Kyungsoo stopped when he almost bumped into Chanyeol who was passing by with another client on his tail. Chanyeol gave him a mock angry, sharpened look as Kyungsoo laughed and then he turned back to Baekhyun.
It was only when he spoke again that Baekhyun turned his attention from Chanyeol and back at him again.
"If you’d like, we could choose several teas and make a bouquet out of it," he suggested, leaning his hand on one of the shelves. Baekhyun glanced back at Chanyeol. Kyungsoo tapped his fingers on the dark wood of the shelves and spoke more. To make Baekhyun focus on the task. Not on him. Just on the conversation. "It’s pretty nice to offer a bouquet, especially when there’s a twist to it with tea. It’s our most popular gift option and it’s pretty quick to make too. It’ll only take about fifteen minutes for me to make. Or you can choose one already made too!"
"I think that’s a good idea," Baekhyun agreed, nodding as he trailed his gaze over the tea. When he looked at Kyungsoo again, his gaze was infused with a hint of playfulness. "Though, I’ll warn you I’m pretty indecisive so I might take your whole afternoon of work just for myself."
That sounded wonderful.
"It sounds like I might have to kick you out of the store at some point," Kyungsoo said, adding a loud sigh to his words to feign resolution.
It made Baekhyun laugh. That made Kyungsoo feel like he was bathing in a fluffy pile of clouds. It wasn’t even his own laugh. It shouldn’t affect his body so much.
Contrary to what Baekhyun had threatened, they didn’t take that long to choose the teas to put in the gift. Baekhyun was pretty efficient and Kyungsoo knew his shelves by heart so he suggested things that he knew corresponded perfectly to what Baekhyun wanted for his mother.
The best thing about this was Baekhyun reading out loud the names that he found the most fascinating. Cotton Candy Prince, according to him, was the life style that he wanted. Under the Shade of the Fig Tree, sounded like the perfect place to take a nap in. Tristan and Iseult smelled as dramatic as it sounded to him. Kyungsoo had no idea someone could make so many jokes about tea and he hated just a little bit the fact that Baekhyun was so witty and comfortable in any and every kind of situation. It made it very hard for him to recall that he was here to do his job and not just let Baekhyun entrance him.
Baekhyun watched Kyungsoo make the bouquet once they’d chosen a few fruity and flowery teas, with, as Kyungsoo had expected, a lot of of them having white tea as their base. They talked about Baekhyun’s mother a little as Kyungsoo prepared the bouquet, Baekhyun had a lot of childhood anecdotes to give to him. That time he’d mixed tea and coffee in his mother’s cup, that time she’d made him eat tea leaves after he’d cried and begged her to do it only to regret it deeply. Surprisingly, something similar had happened to Kyungsoo but with coffee. That had won the Most Funniest Story category for Baekhyun who laughed about it for almost five minutes straight. Kyungsoo had found that stress of most and funniest quite endearing.
He didn’t mind the embarrassment of that stupid story, for once.
"When are you free?" Baekhyun asked him, a bit later, when they were at the check out section and Kyungsoo registered the bouquet.
"I don’t have a day off until next Saturday," he answered, looking from the screen to him. "Twenty four dollars, please. Why?" he asked, tilting his head as he watched Baekhyun get his card holder out of his pocket. He didn’t have a proper wallet on.
"I thought I would pay you," Baekhyun said as Kyungsoo pressed the button to turn on card payment. Baekhyun put his card in the machine and typed his code. "And then exploit you some more," he added, looking at Kyungsoo with a smile so crooked Kyungsoo felt it tug his insides upside down.
"I’m not sure that’s how exploitation work," he teased the other, unable to hold in a smile as he waited for the receipt to get printed out. He knew exactly what Baekhyun meant. He wanted Kyungsoo to film him again.
"Whatever," Baekhyun laughed, putting his card back in its holder. "I would like you to come and shoot photos with me, please?" Kyungsoo thought a please shouldn’t be so powerful. "I’m getting rid of a few clothes so I need to take pictures to resell them and I want to make a video out of it too."
"Alright," Kyungsoo said, holding the receipt out him. His answer had come to him just as easy as ripping the piece of paper out from the printer. Automatically. A reflex, no need to think about it.
And even more easily came Baekhyun’s smile, so wide and dazzling and jolly in its surreal beauty that it threw his entire body into a tiny bounce of excitement at Kyungsoo’s agreement.
Kyungsoo had never enjoyed watching even his favorite movie so much before. Baekhyun’s entire existence beat even the most renowned directors, even the most expensive budgets, even the most captivating soundtracks combined.
"See you next Saturday then? My place?" Baekhyun asked, taking the bouquet when Kyungsoo pushed it to him.
Their fingers didn’t brush, the bouquet was too big. Kyungsoo wanted to live a cliche. He wanted it so bad. But he didn’t push their fingers together.
He nodded to agree, smiling back at Baekhyun who waved goodbye at him before turning around and leaving.
Maybe Kyungsoo had accidentally dropped every single one of his thoughts in the bouquet he’d crafted for Baekhyun, that would explain why his head carried the brume of emptiness and distraction throughout the rest of the day.
Kyungsoo missed reading books. The more he missed reading the more he bought books that he never ended up reading.
Laying on his couch, a pillow cushioning his head, he was scrolling through his phone aimlessly. He’d just finished works two hours ago and had been sprawled in his living room ever since, watching cooking videos, catching up with Jongin by text messages, laughing at tv shows and movie memes. He’d been living his best, restful life up until the moment he’d seen the pile of books planted next to his television screen.
Back when he’d been in high school, Kyungsoo used to read at least one book a week, always those incredible thrillers that kept him on the edge and blew his mind away at the last chapter. He even used to religiously watch book reviews on youtube and follow some of the best review blogs. But then he’d started working and his body was too tired for his brain to let him use it for anything productive at the end of the day.
Instead, he started watching thrilling shows. But he felt bad, incredibly bad not to be doing anything truly productive. He was smart, Kyungsoo had despised every hour he’d spent at school but he’d used that spite to get some of the best grades of his classes. And yet, he hadn’t done anything academically smart in so long, he wasn’t even sure his brain was capable of logical thinking anymore.
He locked his phone, put it on his chest, listened to the incredible silence of his house. He stared at that pile of book, bit his lower lip, then looked back down at his phone. He should read it. If he didn’t read them, he should get rid of them. If he didn’t feel like reading them, he shouldn’t have bought them in the first place. He should get rid of them.
He unlocked his phone and focused on it. If he ignored those books, they weren’t really there. It wasn’t anything important. It served as some decoration. Kyungsoo appreciated their presence.
He opened up instagram, scrolled down quickly, then stopped, thumb crashing so hard against the screen that his nail made a perky sound against it.
It was a new post by Baekhyun. He was wearing an apron, a pale yet deep yellow jeweled with clouds embroidered on the fabric in the softest, most delicate blue. He was wearing a white shirt and a white cap backwards as he posed to the camera, one leg raised high, arms outstretched in his kitchen as he held onto a whisk stained with what looked like batter.
Apron master, read the caption.
Kyungsoo smiled so hard he felt his cheeks sticking to the skin under his eyes. But maybe that was too nasty of a description for someone as captivating as Baekhyun. It was because of Baekhyun, after all.
Apron master. That was what Kyungsoo had called him.
Kyungsoo pressed on the screen to like the photo. A heart raised itself over Baekhyun’s chest and as Kyungsoo watched it disappear, he felt something somewhere in his chest rising, light as a cloud, and disappearing somewhere he might never get it back from again.
Baekhyun was the most impressive when he was posing in front of a camera, not to film but to immortalize himself and the clothes that he was wearing.
Maybe the most impressive thing about Kyungsoo at that moment was that he would probably never tire of watching Baekhyun strike a pose, make a face, give a look over and over again with an infinite number of outfits. They’d been taking pictures for almost two hours now and as he stood in that living room and centered the photos and gave the green light to Baekhyun, Kyungsoo had seen every single pose Baekhyun could possibly do.
Hands in the pockets, two fingers linked in front of his body with his shoulders relaxed, head turned to the side with his mouth open, a scrunched face, a playful wink, one side of his jacket off a shoulder. He’d seen Baekhyun repeat these poses, they’d taken so many pictures it was impossible to come up with a different pose for every single clothing item that Baekhyun wanted the focus to be on.
And yet, Kyungsoo never once felt the desire to look away from the camera screen, unless it was to look directly at Baekhyun with his bare gaze without a medium separating them.
He was just being professional, was what he told himself at the beginning. He wasn't being as professional as he should be, probably. He just enjoyed admiring Baekhyun’s confidence, the straight line of his shoulders, the lack of avoidance in his gaze, his perfect knowledge of every single angle he looked the best in.
He just really, really liked looking at Baekhyun, was what he allowed himself to admit when Baekhyun broke a pose, dumped the weight of his arms down his body, complained about the heat and stuck his tongue out. When Kyungsoo laughed at him, he called him out with a false threat in his voice, saying that Kyungsoo should be just as professional as he was while selling tea to him.
Kyungsoo deepened his voice then and shouted a loud cameral roll, action! that startled Baekhyun with its seriousness and then made him burst into laughter. Then, he reenacted a dramatic romeo why art though romeo out of everything he could’ve chosen.
They had to take a break to drink some soda and cool off, both because of the unforgiving July heat and because of the painful cramps of laughter in their stomachs. Kyungsoo was apparently very good at making accidentally funny faces behind the camera and making Baekhyun laugh until he threw a beanie at him to violent him into stopping. Kyungsoo had only started doing it on purpose halfway through. Because Baekhyun’s laugh sounded precious and he just couldn’t get enough of it.
"Let’s order something, I’m starving," was Baekhyun’s celebratory sentence when he was done posing for the last jacket and plopped down on the couch.
The whole living room was filled with a chaos strewn here and there through different clothing items. The most tiring thing about this must’ve been to change clothes for every picture. Baekhyun had only kept one pair of jeans on and had changed his top over and over again for the last two hours.
Kyungsoo wasn’t really tired. He’d done nothing but move left, right, forward, backward, crouch, stand up again to try and catch the best angle and the best lighting. He still let himself fall right next to Baekhyun on the couch.
"Let’s not," Kyungsoo said, turning his head towards him just in time to catch the confusion deepening between Baekhyun’s eyebrows. They were so thin and light. Kyungsoo kind of wanted to brush them with his fingers. "I can cook for you. It’s better and healthier." He did have a strict no eating out during day offs rule.
It wasn’t that he wanted to impress Baekhyun with his undeniably wonderful cooking skills. Not at all. If it happened, it would be just a bonus. Not a goal.
Baekhyun raised a hand in a motion that gestured his incomprehension.
"First of all, can you cook?" His gaze trailed from Kyungsoo to his chest in a quick, judgmental look. "Also, I’m supposed to pay you for your services. Not exploit you even for things that have nothing to do with a camera."
"I can’t even put into words how well I can cook," Kyungsoo admitted, not even trying to brag. That was just the truth. He’d really perfected his cooking over the years he’d lived alone. Baekhyun’s hand fell on his own thigh. Kyungsoo’s thigh itched in jealousy. He didn’t scratch it. "And technically, if I’m using your groceries then you are paying for the food."
"Smartass," Baekhyun huffed, flicking Kyungsoo’s thigh. Kyungsoo shifted in his sit, contracting it to make sure it didn’t do a happy little dance of its own accord. "It doesn’t count as paying my debt. If I keep being indebted to you then I’ll keep having to see you to try and pay it." There was no laugh in his words, no smile either. Just a steadiness in his gaze.
Kyungsoo let his gaze ride it right back into Baekhyun’s eyes. "That is such a scary threat."
Baekhyun didn’t say anything. His eyes just narrowed a little, a tiny gleam of satisfaction sparked by the smile barely shadowing his lips. Kyungsoo shot up to his feet because he didn’t trust his body not to react to that in any way.
That afternoon, Kyungsoo learned that Baekhyun’s chef pose on Instagram was probably not orchestrated just for the aesthetics of it. Baekhyun wasn’t bad at cooking.
He had a weird way of holding a knife but he still cut the vegetables just right. Weird, big shapes but nothing that couldn’t be eaten properly. He didn’t know that many recipes by heart but he could follow videos he found on the internet. He didn’t like written recipes, he was more of a visual kind of person.
Kyungsoo was the contrary. As they cooked together, Baekhyun cutting vegetables as Kyungsoo took care of the meat, they talked about Kyungsoo’s huge collection of cooking books. He wasn’t sure how, but he’d managed to impress Baekhyun by telling him that he put memo stickers on the pages that interested him and that was enough to sort the recipes and find the ones he liked very quickly. Baekhyun was a very messy person, he figured since the living room was a chaos of its own.
As Kyungsoo cooked the vegetables one by one and Baekhyun watched him, one hip cocked against the kitchen counter and his arms crossed over his chest, they talked about more books. Or rather, Baekhyun confessed that he wasn’t really a book kind of person and then listened to Kyungsoo ramble about one of his favorite books ever, Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn. Baekhyun listened to him intently, asked about the characters, why was it titled that way. And by the time they were done cooking, Kyungsoo had talked about books so much that he actually felt like reading something for the first time in a very long time.
On the other hand, Baekhyun told him that he was much more into fashion books, biographies, the history of brands, and fashion magazines in general. He even had a pile of them, Kyungsoo had seen it during the house tour but he’d thought it was just decoration. It wasn’t, Baekhyun had read all of them and wished there would be a book about one of his favorite brands someday, Jacquemus.
They set the table together and Baekhyun ran to grab his phone when Kyungsoo told him that he’d never heard about that brand before. Baekhyun showed him a few pieces of clothing as they started eating their noodles. The vegetable were cooked perfectly, the snap peas crispy yet tender, the carrots cut way too big but still coated with the perfect amount of sauce. Baekhyun seemed to like simple, romantic clothes, as he liked to call them, beige, whites, pretty blacks, large and airy clothes. And tiny bags.
He showed Kyungsoo one tiny bag that he owned, the tiniest bag Kyungsoo had ever seen, white with blue flowers all over, thin and dreamy. Kyungsoo had asked what could even be put inside of this and without any hesitation, Baekhyun had replied my will to clean my room. Kyungsoo had choked on his noodles and Baekhyun had slapped his back way too strongly all the while choking on his own laugh.
"I’m scared of seeing your bedroom now," Kyungsoo said once he could breathe properly again. His throat burned a little, he took a sip of water and slumped it down with little difficulty.
"Oh shit," Baekhyun said, looking at him in-between his chopsticks. "I take it back."
Kyungsoo chortled at that, looking down at his food and picking up a one string of noodle.
He didn’t say anything. But he thought about it. About what that meant. Because it could mean something, couldn’t it? It could mean Baekhyun wanted him to see his room. Or be in his room. Or whatever. Or maybe not. Maybe this was flirting. Maybe it wasn’t. It wasn’t. Kyungsoo gulped those thoughts down by showing a big lump of vegetables into his mouth.
Silence fell over them for a moment then and Kyungsoo didn’t mind. It wasn’t the kind of silence that felt misplaced, like it shouldn’t be there. It was just silence, nothing that lacked, nothing that was filled with too much. Just a pause.
He liked it.
Until Baekhyun broke it unexpectedly.
"Your coworker seems to appreciate you a lot."
Kyungsoo stopped chewing and looked at him. He’d already finished his plate, he was a fast eater and now looked at Kyungsoo while holding his perspiring glass of sparkling water.
"We get along well," Kyungsoo said, taken aback but calm. He recalled how much Baekhyun had been looking at Chanyeol when he’d been at the store. The only thing Baekhyun did was hum, a long, lazy sound. Kyungsoo cleared his throat, changed the subject. "Did your mother like your gift, by the way?"
"She did," Baekhyun grinned, putting his glass down and crossing his arms on the counter, leaning his body forward a little bit. Closer to Kyungsoo who sat on the other side. "She scolded me a little though, at first. She thought I’d bought the tea for myself before realizing it was a gift for her."
That would make no sense had Kyungsoo not already seen Baekhyun’s collection of tea boxes and figured that he was a hoarder, much worse than Kyungsoo himself.
"Great, that means you have no reason not to comeback to the store," Kyungsoo said, letting a teasing, triumphant edge take over his voice.
"Yeah," Baekhyun said, tilting his head a little. "I have a reason to come back."
He smiled at Kyungsoo. And Kyungsoo was very good at looking at people, winning stare battles. But this gaze. It was too much. It was just a pair of eyes. Brown, like countless eyes. But there was something. Something in the fact that they were Baekhyun’s eyes that made him look down at his food instead of right back at him.
Something that made his chest feel almost warmer than the food in his plate.
Baekhyun had a reason to come back.
Kyungsoo downed his cup of iced tea and put it back down on the table, right next to his phone.
"And I remember in high school, I used to just put on a hoodie and call it a day." The Baekhyun on the screen gestured around with a black denim jacket in his hands, laughing at himself. "And it was the most basic of outfits but the most comfortable. And there came a point where I wanted to be comfortable but wonderfully dressed. So I started coming up with better ways to wear a hoodie."
Kyungsoo grabbed his phone and leaned back into the chair. The living room was pretty cool, a bit cooler than the actual store and he kind of wished he had an ice cream to eat but watching Baekhyun was the next best thing. Just as sweet, lasting even longer than his favorite ice cream flavor.
"And really, you don’t have to give up on comfort to look good." He was doing his usual little leg dance on the screen as he showed off his clothes but his voice over went silent. "Okay well, not always at least." He laughed.
Kyungsoo felt it on his own lips. That would explain why they perked up along with the song of the laugh and not the actual words. There wasn’t really anything funny. Baekhyun’s laugh was just sticky and splattered all over Kyungsoo. He wished he could absorb it, sometimes. It sounded so incredibly joyful.
"So yeah, this video is for those of you who want to look good and wear your favorite, most comfortable hoodie at the same time." The screen showed Baekhyun bumping into one of his plants, the caption STOP HARMING YOUR KIDS showing up on screen. "One day I’ll either kill a plant or trip on a plant and accidentally die all alone in my apartment and no one will find my body for at least a week."
Kyungsoo snorted, glanced at the clock right above the fridge across the room. He still had ten minutes of break left.
"In this outfit, I paired my favorite, longest, snuggliest coat with my favorite, snuggliest hoodie."
Kyungsoo had never imagined there could be so many ways to wear a hoodie and actually not look like your body had barely been pushed out of bed.
In that outfit, he’d paired a grey sweater with a long black coat, a black cap with tiny white graphics on the front and black and white sneakers. He looked cuddly.
He had more colorful outfits. A black and red checkered hoodie with a black, furry jacket and black jeans. Black framed glasses. He looked like taking a nap with him would be a dream.
He slid across the screen and almost fell to showcase another outfit. A light grey hoodie, the hood pulled on to cover his messy hair. No glasses this time but another long coat although this one was of a darker grey than his hoodie and checkered intricately with black lines, flowing prettily along his white sweatpants and converses. His shoes were the main piece of his outfit again, they were of a dirty white stained with black curlicues all around.
More outfits came and went, more poses that Kyungsoo wouldn’t tire of. He watched with enough attention to take notes inside of his brain and dress prettily this upcoming winter. But that wasn’t really why he was watching this. He just liked Baekhyun’s content. It was entertaining, a nice way to rest after complicated and tiring hours.
He just really liked watching Baekhyun.
And listening to him, talk about his own life, about fabrics and how to layer them, about his favorite coffee shop.
"So yeah, this was it. I hope you liked the video." His voice laid on top of the last outfit very nicely. Very warmly. Like the hood of a comforting piece of clothing on an early morning. "I was asked about this a lot and it’s really just hoodies and coats but I hope you like it. I’m also very tired and I think I’m catching a cold because I sweated a lot while shooting this video and it was a little cold in the house so it’s kind of a mess for the editing, I tried doing it quickly."
Kyungsoo sighed. He knew how tiring doing this kind of video was now, he’d experienced it firsthand. But it came out very nicely. This was a video from more than a year ago but he knew the video they’d filmed the other day would come out even good. There was some kind of progression in these videos, he’d noticed it. Baekhyun grew more comfortable and confident in front of a camera as time went by.
"It’s really a mess, I don’t know why y’all put up with this." Baekhyun’s voice huffed a tiny laugh. The Baekhyun on screen wrapped his large coat around his entire body. "I don’t even know how I’ve reached two million subscribers last night. I’m not sure I deserve this all but thank you all so much, I’m glad watching me put on dark clothes and make silly poses entertain you. I hope it’ll last." He waved goodbye and then pulled his beanie off his hair. "Okay this is cheesy, bye."
He stretched his greeting into a tiny melody and the screen went baby blue. The tiny cartoon Baekhyun waved good bye at the frown forming on Kyungsoo’s face. He was realizing it then, putting a name on what pushed Baekhyun to talk so lightly of himself. Like he was undeserving of this all. Like he didn’t do anything as great as it actually looked.
Kyungsoo locked his phone and his screen went black. He wished he could lock away Baekhyun’s vision of himself as an imposter just as easily.
He went back to work then and amidst the aroma of various plants and teas doing invisible swirls in the air around him, Kyungsoo’s attention still raced right to the way Baekhyun scrunched his nose adorably whenever his beanie was pulled down too much and his hair tickled his eyelashes a little.
The walk home from work took twenty five minutes. Kyungsoo enjoyed every single one of those minutes.
He wasn’t really someone who had a liking for working out, even in his younger years he never did it. Not that being twenty six was considered being an ancient but even during college, Kyungsoo had never yielded to Jongin’s unending offers of accompanying him to the gym.
Which was why Kyungsoo liked walking, or else he’d never do anything that was remotely physical.
That wasn’t the main reason why he didn’t mind the walk home, however, there was just something genuinely healthy about walking alone, and not just on a physical level. He’d seen these streets hundreds of times over and over again but there was always something different, no matter how many times he walked them.
A new flower, a missing branch on a tree, an abandoned toy on the sidewalk. Even the people he stumbled across were different. Young couples hand in hand, grandparents trying to canalize tiny jumpy kids, a car full of five young girls driving by quickly with heavy beats blasting from the open windows. In these same streets, Kyungsoo could see a million different stories.
He didn’t even need music on, he liked the sounds of the world.
Except when a car suddenly honked three consecutive times behind him. He didn’t even turn around, just scrunched his face. It was soothed a little when he felt his phone vibrating in his pocket.
He pulled it out, feeling the warmth of the evening breeze tickle his nape a bit too much. The only bad thing about walking during the summer.
It was blown away when he saw the notification on his phone. Wonderfullydressed has messaged you.
Kyungsoo shut down every single sound and sight around him when he opened the message and, to his eyes was granted a picture of Baekhyun wearing another apron, reflected on the surface of the mirror in his living room.
It was a picture he took of himself in front of a mirror, he’d probably not put much thought into it Kyungsoo could barely see his face. But what he saw was prettier than what he’d seen in his entire fifteen minutes of roaming this part of the world. Fluffy hair flopping on his forehead, one strand standing up straight on the side of his head, his cheeks puffed up and his eyes droopier than ever as he tilted his head back and looked at the phone that covered the lower half of his face.
Kyungsoo took a deep breath in through his nose, engulfing the warm, unpleasant breeze and not minding it one bit.
He was wearing a baby blue apron, a bunch of candies drawn all over the fabric in a style that looked made by hand. Lollipops, sweets wrapped in colorful and swirly paper. It was made in such way that it almost looked like each individual drawing was stuck on the fabric rather than printed into it. He looked nice. He was wearing a brownish pink buttoned shirt underneath and light brown tailored pants. Black socks. A bracelet that looked like a braid around his wrist, a ring with a black, round stone, and a few necklaces. One of them was a round, swirly lollipop. No color just silver and a lighter, whiteish shade.
Kyungsoo’s gaze snapped up from his screen when boisterous sounds rushed towards him. A kid was wheezing down the street on a skating board. He shook his head, a bit ashamed by how focused he’d been on the picture. He typed a quick reply.
Just how many aprons do you have???
It looks so great though I like it with all the candies
Also I’m impressed by how well you’re dressed when you’re cooking
Kyungsoo usually hung around his home in shorts or sweatpants or no pants at all. He hated jeans or fitted pants and took them off as soon as he could.
He continued his walk home, looking down at his phone again when it vibrated almost instantly.
I have so many of them I’ll show you my collection next time you’re over
Kyungsoo smile at that.
And yeah I usually dress up even when I’m at home the whole day haha
I feel better if I don’t look like a lump of laziness
It helps me be more productive too
Maybe that’s superficial haha
Baekhyun never used haha. Unless he felt awkward. Kyungsoo had picked that much from the few messages they’d exchanged. And Baekhyun never really looked awkward, it felt like it just wasn’t who he was. But maybe Kyungsoo still knew him only on the surface and there was a different Baekhyun laying underneath.
He had no idea how someone who had so much confidence could be so insecure at the same time. It tugged at his heart just the tiniest bit.
A car drove by very, very slowly as he typed his next message. Kyungsoo glanced at it, wondered if the driver was maybe lost, but focused back on his screen.
No that makes sense
You dress to impress yourself I guess
If it works then that’s all that matters
omg you get me
you really do deserve to see my apron collection
My goal is reached
Can’t wait to see it!
Baekhyun sent him a bunch of smiling emojis.
He locked his phone and traveled the short distance he had left before reaching home. He still couldn’t hear or see his surroundings properly, despite not having anything left to distract him.
Throughout the entirety of the journey, the picture of Baekhyun and his painfully sweet apron remained glued to the world surrounding him. It really was all he could see or think about or imagine no matter where he looked.
Kyungsoo had a pretty healthy relationship with sleep. He rarely had any sleepless nights and even though he wasn’t the kind to fall sleep right after his head hit his pillow, he still never took too long to sleep.
Except tonight. Merely because he’d drunk too much tea and sometimes that was worse than drinking coffee right before bed.
And lately, Kyungsoo’s favorite last thing to do before falling asleep was looking at Baekhyun.
Some nights, he accidentally caught himself wondering what it would be like to close his eyes to Baekhyun right beside him, all soft hair and softer breath, and sloppy tired voice. Most nights, he blocked every single one of his thoughts and scrolled through Baekhyun’s feed instead.
Baekhyun had posted a story today, of him watching a movie. He hadn’t given the title but had quickly filmed himself saying this movie was a mindfuck and everyone should watch it. Kyungsoo should’ve messaged him to ask him what the movie was. He was going to, but then he’d watched the video over and over again. Baekhyun had been in the dark, blinds pulled down, voice knitted into comfort and velvety snuggles. A tired, sleepy, sloppy voice.
Then he’d exited the app and hadn’t opened it until now.
He looked at a picture of Baekhyun posing in front of a camera alone. The picture was taken on another device, the camera and Baekhyun could both be seen. He was wearing nice clothes as usual, a bit simpler for once. Denim jeans, denim jacket with yellow writings on the lapels, white shirt, black and white sneakers. The caption said using self timer to take a picture of me using a self timer to take a picture of me.
The photo was old, Kyungsoo had shamefully scrolled down to six months ago. Baekhyun was so good at working on his own, he had no trouble taking pictures on his own even in the middle of the street. He didn’t need anyone to help him film or take pictures.
Yet, he’d asked Kyungsoo several times for help. Even on their first meeting, he looked like he was struggling a little but hadn’t looked desperate either. He probably would’ve worked it all out on his own had Jongin not jumped in.
Kyungsoo kicked his blanket away and rubbed an eye with his fist. He probably didn’t need Kyungsoo.
Or maybe it was just easier when someone else helped him, even if he already did great on his own. He put his phone face down on his chest. Or maybe he was doing it on purpose – asking for help on purpose. For another reason.
No. Kyungsoo turned to lay on his side, felt his phone sliding off and heard it thumb against the mattress where it fell. It was just easier for Baekhyun to work with someone. Maybe.
He didn’t know. A sigh fell from his lips and dragged his thoughts out of his head. Heavy, full. He didn’t want to think about it. Maybe he knew. Maybe he wished. Or hoped. Or maybe he told himself not to get ahead of himself.
This was bothersome. He didn’t want to have anything to think about.
He grabbed his phone and put it on his bedside table. Far from sight, far from thought. That was how Kyungsoo wanted to live, for now.
"So you have a crush," Jongin said, stretching the last word in such a happy way that Kyungsoo winced.
"I don’t," he replied, ripping the plastic package apart and unfolding the bag of popcorn.
"I’m pretty sure you do though," Jongin said, leaning towards him, arms crossed, features expanded into a satisfaction that made Kyungsoo swat at him with the plastic wrapping. Jongin swung back just in time to avoid it. "And I’m pretty sure you’re pretty sure about it too."
Kyungsoo let out a noisy sigh, blending half of a groan inside. He made a point not to look at him, putting the bag inside the microwave and turning it on for two minutes and thirty seconds. The engine started whirring as the bag turned inside. Maybe he shouldn’t have told Jongin that he’d been keeping contact with Baekhyun.
They’d been texting last night and this morning too. About movies and books and all the series that Kyungsoo watched. Such a trivial subject of conversation shouldn’t have kept Kyungsoo up until midnight. Or maybe it had just been funny reading Baekhyun’s rants about having too many clothes to fold and how he hated laundry and felt bad for having too much clothes and not taking care of them properly.
Either way, Kyungsoo had never enjoyed texting so much before.
"Alright," Kyungsoo said when Jongin stared at him pointedly without any other word. He crossed his arms and leaned against the counter. The corn popped inside the microwave, beating a suspense that preceded Kyungsoo’s next words. "Maybe I do."
Jongin smiled so hard a line on his cheek crevassed into itself. They liked to call it his fake dimple.
And Kyungsoo wasn’t stupid, nor naive, nor excessively young and unaware of his own feelings. He knew what a crush felt like. He knew what always thinking about someone, looking at their pictures for too long, thinking about them at the most random times meant. He knew what all of it meant.
He was just in denial and needed to be pressured into admitting his own feelings out loud. Or in his head. He often was in denial even in his own thoughts too.
"You totally do," Jongin said, pushing him a little on the shoulder. "You get very cute and fidgety when you have a crush on someone."
"Stop exaggerating," Kyungsoo said, words tinted with something that was halfway between a sigh and a whine.
"What about Chanyeol though?"
Kyungsoo had expected that question. He didn’t like it, nor the sudden seriousness that kicked out all the teasing hints in Jongin’s voice, but he’d expected it.
He turned to the microwave and turned it off right when there were five seconds left. Those five seconds would’ve burned their precious popcorn.
"What about him?" Kyungsoo said, an answer that Jongin had probably expected. He could tell by the way he didn’t even react to it like he usually did, with a sigh, a roll of his eyes.
This had been dragging on for too long. Just this morning they’d been texting. Kyungsoo liked talking to him. For short amounts of times. Not for as long as he liked talking to Baekhyun.
"Kyungsoo," was the first word of Jongin’s sentence and Kyungsoo kept the focus on his task, pouring the popcorn from the bag into two bowls so they could both comfortably eat it while watching their series later. "Just because you refuse to acknowledge that something is here doesn’t mean that it’s not actually here."
Kyungsoo crushed the paper bag into a chunky ball in his hands.
"I don’t know, Jongin," he said, surprised by how tired his own words sounded. He was tired of this situation. Not of Jongin always taking about it but of the way this was just a repeat of what they’d talked about for the past two years. "What can I do or say about it?"
He handed one bowl to Jongin and they went out to the living room.
"Well, truly thinking about it would be a good start."
They plopped down on the couch. "I am thinking about it," Kyungsoo mumbled, furrowing his eyebrows as he crossed his legs and rested the bowl in the hollow between them.
"No, you only think about it in surface. You have to sort it out." Kyungsoo looked at him. This wasn’t a scolding, nor an argument. Jongin’s eyebrows were raised by a concern Kyungsoo relied on too much and his voice remained soft but firm. "I’m sorry, but your life is always a mess and I know it’s hard to sort it out but isn’t it tiring to always be unsure of everything?"
It was. Not knowing whether he was flirting with someone for the right reasons. Never asking why they were even flirting in the first place. Never asking if they were something. Never saying goodbye, just letting things pass by. It was exhausting.
Just then, Kyungsoo’s phone lit up on the low table. He reached for it, grabbing the pause that was offered to him with no hesitation whatsoever.
Wanna come over tomorrow after work?
I’ll make pancakes for you using the pan my mom gave me
You know the one you made fun of :)
"See?" Jongin said, leaning away from Kyungsoo once he was done reading the message along and perking up quicker than Kyungsoo’s thoughts about the message. "If he didn’t like you, he wouldn’t invite you to his house just to make you some pancakes."
Kyungsoo rubbed a hand over his mouth and chin. Chanyeol had talked about pastries last week and how he was very good at making pancakes. About the pan that his mother had gifted him, where they were four spots to make small pancakes all at once. Kyungsoo had found it cute, had laughed about it and teased him a little. He hadn’t thought much about it.
But maybe Chanyeol had thought a lot about it.
"Why don’t you have a conversation with him? Just to clear things up? I think you’re giving him mixed signals, hyung," Jongin said and Kyungsoo looked down at his popcorn. It was getting cold. He didn’t want to talk about this, he wanted to eat popcorn with his best friend. "You know one of the worst things to do is to give mixed signals to someone."
Kyungsoo knew. He knew. Mixed signals meant someone who didn’t know what they wanted. Someone who was a waste of time. Someone who didn’t actually want.
Jongin didn’t like it. Kyungsoo didn’t like appearing in such a way either.
"But what do I say?" He asked genuinely lost. He didn’t know what to do, never knew what to do in these situations. Never bothered trying to find the right thing to do. He clenched his jaw, grabbed a few popcorns and threw them in his mouth. "I never said anything. He never said anything."
He didn’t like talking with his mouth full. Frustration clouded his mind so much that he didn’t even bother not doing something that he swore never to do.
"You’ll figure it out." Jongin’s voice was as soft and warm as his palm felt when he rested it on Kyungsoo’s thigh. Kyungsoo looked at him with an exhausted sigh. "You don’t have to figure it out now. Just think about it. For your own good. I don’t want you to end up hating yourself over this," he said, drumming his fingers once over Kyungsoo’s skin.
Then he twisted his mouth and pulled his hand away. He grabbed some popcorns from Kyungsoo’s bowl, causing him to automatically try and slap Jongin’s hand.
But Jongin had too quick reflexes and pulled away just in time for Kyungsoo to fail. It was a double win for Jongin. Because that childishness made Kyungsoo laugh a bit.
"Don’t steal my popcorn, I’ll kick you out of the house," Kyungsoo threatened, narrowing his eyes at him.
"You won’t," Jongin confidently said, throwing more popcorn in his mouth and teasing Kyungsoo by raising one shoulder and then the other in rhythm with his chewing. "But more seriously," he said when Kyungsoo snorted at him. "Figure it out. Chanyeol’s not a bad person and he doesn’t deserve you being like that with him while having a literal crush on someone else. Even before that. He didn’t deserve you giving him mixed signals just because you like the fact that he likes you."
"I know," Kyungsoo said, finally dropping his phone on the couch. It hit his knee as it went down and hurt a little. "I know, Jongin. I just." He sighed, stabbed a thumb into his thigh, looked down at it. His next words were barely loud enough to be heard. He didn’t want to hear them. "I guess at some point, after Haesoo broke up with me two years ago. I started- I just started accepting whoever wanted me."
"And that’s okay," Jongin said right away, not in rush that made Kyungsoo feel like Jongin pitied him. In a way that Kyungsoo knew he meant it and wanted Kyungsoo to know it. "It’s understandable. Break ups are hard and this was how you coped with it. But it was two years ago. You’re over it now, aren’t you?"
Kyungsoo let himself look into Jongin’s eyes, comforted by the care in them. Eyes that called out his worst parts but never let him focus solely on them.
He didn’t reply right away, looked at the difference of skin tone between his tanned thumb and his thigh. That was two years ago. That was what had kept Kyungsoo going two years ago and had stuck with him ever since. Enjoying every bit of attention, being reassured by the fact that someone, anyone still wanted him. Despite having been dumped by someone he thought would want him for the rest of his life.
But he was over it. He didn’t need that anymore, he didn’t crave that reassurance anymore. He’d gotten over it almost a year ago.
"Yeah," he said, nodding to himself. Jongin was smiling when he looked at him, barely there but filled with tenderness. Kyungsoo knew. "Yeah, I’m over it. It’s just that it’s bothersome to talk about the things with someone. It makes it real. Too official. For me," he added when Jongin gave him a look that let him know what he had with Chanyeol was far from being official. Kyungsoo sighed and grabbed his phone. "But it’s only bothersome because it’s something that should be done. The right thing."
"It is," Jongin said, grabbing the remote from the table and turning on Netflix on the television.
Kyungsoo pursed his lips and grabbed his phone, unlocking it and reading Chanyeol’s message again.
Last time he’d went over to his house, it had been fun. They’d watched a movie. Chanyeol had been sitting too close to him and nothing had happened but Kyungsoo had felt it. That Chanyeol had been a bit nervous, a bit too close to him.
Sometimes it wasn’t even something that could be seen on a physical level. Some conversations were like that, some sentences. A voice too low, a smile that didn’t feel like the usual smiles. Kyungsoo knew.
And Jongin was right. Chanyeol didn’t deserve this. Even if Baekhyun hadn’t been in the picture, Chanyeol didn’t deserve someone leading him on. Because that was what Kyungsoo was doing. Being unsure about wanting someone meant that you didn’t actually want that person.
Kyungsoo needed to stop acting like maybe he wanted him. Like somedays he wanted him, wanted to talk with him, see him, and somedays he didn’t. Because he didn’t. And this was unfair and wrong.
So he typed his answer to Chanyeol, apologizing because he couldn’t come over this week. He was busy.
That was good. Wasn’t it? That was the right thing to say.
He locked his phone again and looked as Jongin struggled to find their series, his face scrunched up like he barely could see the screen.
Kyungsoo took the remote from him and directly typed the title, Good Girls, in the search bar.
Jongin stole popcorn from his bowl again. "Payment for the therapy session," he said, mouth full.
Kyungsoo didn’t say anything, only laughed and settled comfortably as the episode started. He wasn’t wrong anyway, this had been a great help to him. As always.
In the following days, Kyungsoo and Baekhyun kept talking. They kept talking a lot.
They didn’t see each other, because it was too hot and Kyungsoo was busy with work and Baekhyun had to lock himself in the house to take care of business. But they texted a lot, and Kyungsoo learned that Baekhyun didn’t just film videos and upload them on the internet.
He had to prepare videos, outline them, but there was something even bigger behind the scenes. Meetings, brand deals, emails, a lot of paperwork to take care of.
So they texted a lot, almost the entire day, and even during Kyungsoo’s breaks at work. Kyungsoo’s evenings were now basically made of checking Baekhyun’s social media and then talking to him, while cooking, while watching series, while doing housework, even while texting Jongin or anyone else.
And that was how they’d decided to hang out tonight.
"Kyungsoo," Baekhyun called out, twirling around towards him. Kyungsoo ripped his gaze away from the movies arcade games on their left. The cinema looked even more colorful and otherworldly at night. Kyungsoo liked the way the lights made Baekhyun’s hair all shiny. "Can you take a picture of me, please?" he asked, already stretching his phone towards Kyungsoo.
Behind him, he heard Jongdae laugh.
"This is what you need to get used to when you hang out with this celebrity," he said and Kyungsoo looked at him, laughing.
"Are you his usual cameraman?"
"Yes, and he exploits that cameraman too much," Jongdae answered, causing Kyungsoo to snort in amusement and Baekhyun to whine a shut up at him.
"This isn’t why I wanted the three of us to hang out," he complained, giving Kyungsoo his phone and narrowing his eyes at Jongdae. "You’re not supposed to gang up with Kyungsoo against me. You’re here to talk about nerdy movies while I just enjoy the place."
All Jongdae did was mock Baekhyun’s words by repeating them but mushed up together and with a voice tone that was much too low and high at the same time for Baekhyun.
Baekhyun made to kick him but Jongdae stopped back at the right time, bursting into boisterous laughter that made Kyungsoo laugh more than the actual situation did.
He liked this. This was a different side of Baekhyun.
Last night, when Baekhyun had offered him to go watch a movie with he and his best friend, Kyungsoo had felt a little hesitant. He knew how easy it was to feel left out when you hung out with a friend and their best friend you knew nothing about. But he hadn’t been able to say no to Baekhyun and he had a feeling that was the first of many instances where that happened.
But right now, as Kyungsoo was looking at Baekhyun through the screen of his phone, he didn’t regret his decision.
Baekhyun stood in front of him, positioning himself in a way that showed the arcade games and snack shop behind him. He raised his arm high in a peace sign, closed his eyes, tilted his head against his arm and smiled widely with his eyes closed. He was dressed in light grey shorts and a blue, light sweater today. He had a shirt underneath it, the white hem reached a bit longer than the hem of his sweater so it could be seen, matching the white of his sneakers. He looked like the prettiest colors of the sky. His smile looked like the best representation of joy Kyungsoo had seen. Or maybe that was because seeing that smile brought Kyungsoo the best version of joy he’d felt in a long time.
Kyungsoo felt something hitting his heart just as his thumb hit the screen and he snapped a picture of Baekhyun. He felt like he’d photographed it with something that was part of him rather than an object he was holding in his hand.
He gave Baekhyun his phone back. And maybe something else. Something he wasn’t sure he could ask back for.
But he didn’t mind. Because could’ve asked Jongdae to take a picture of him, or took it himself, but instead he’d asked Kyungsoo to do it.
And even if Jongdae had laughed at them, Kyungsoo had liked it. He didn’t feel triumphant over Jongdae in the slightest, he didn’t even feel anything negative towards their closeness. He liked seeing Baekhyun with a close friend, how he acted with them, the adorableness of it, and Jongdae was, from what Kyungsoo had seen from him so far, a really nice and funny person.
He just liked that Baekhyun seemed to love having Kyungsoo take his picture for him.
Once Baekhyun approved the picture and congratulated Kyungsoo on his photography skills, they discussed what to do next. With no hesitating whatsoever, Baekhyun declared that he was hungry and he they should settle somewhere to eat and hang out some more.
When Jongdae instantly suggested going to Burger King, Kyungsoo knew this man was a good man. That was his favorite fast-food place and he always fought about it with Jongin who preferred Taco Bell over everything else.
They each got way more food than they probably should and Kyungsoo observed Baekhyun posting the picture on his social media as they waited in line for their food to be ready. That made him happy and he continued talking with Jongdae about his favorite Noir movies. He seemed much more informed about them than Baekhyun was.
Once their food was ready, the settled on the nearest available table and the food was great, but it tasted even more delicious when they seasoned it with words about how shitty Once Upon a Time in Hollywood was. Kyungsoo was glad that he wouldn’t have to convince the other two that the movie sucked and they agreed with him. Jongdae looked very angered by the fact that the movie felt completely pointless and had no direction leading it. They laughed a lot when the conversation veered towards Tarantino’s foot fetish and Baekhyun seemed to know by heart every instance of it manifesting in his movies.
It was pretty great to tease him about it along with Jongdae.
At some point, a young teenage girl came up to them, shyly asking Baekhyun if he was wonderfullydressed on youtube.
Kyungsoo had never really thought he would be in this situation he only saw in movies but he was glad to be a part of it. Just because embarrassment looked as precious on Baekhyun’s cheeks as dew drops on pretty petals.
He shone so bright and the young girl smiled so bright despite her hesitance. It was then that Kyungsoo noticed. Baekhyun didn’t just magically made Kyungsoo alone feel great, he had something, something about him that made whoever entered his life enter a bubble of contentment and warmth.
He complimented the girl’s earrings and Kyungsoo looked away to catch Jongdae’s gaze. He must’ve been staring. Kyungsoo smiled at him to hide his embarrassment and pass it off as nothing important. After a short conversation during which Baekhyun looked just as happy as the girl, she left. She’d praised Baekhyun’s videos and his fashion style and told him that he motivated her and so many other people to take care of themselves better. Kyungsoo thought it was accurate.
"Sorry, this doesn’t really happen usually," Baekhyun said once she was gone. The happiness in his eyes had leaked on the apples of his cheeks, radiant.
"It’s okay, we know you’re famous," Jongdae teased him, elbowing him a little before going back to slurping on his drink, the sound covered by a kid laughing loudly on the table behind theirs.
Baekhyun made a nonchalant sound and scrunched his face, grabbing one fry from his plate. "I don’t even know why these people watch me, I’m not sure I do something great enough to deserve meeting people who like me in the streets like this."
People who like me. He didn’t even call them fans. He didn’t even look at Jongdae nor Kyungsoo while speaking.
It pained him just a little still, no matter how many times he heard Baekhyun downgrade his own hard-work. He deserved all of this and more. He worked so hard. He made people so happy, Kyungsoo had seen it firsthand only a minute ago.
One of the workers called the next customer for pick up, his voice cutting through the conversation for an instant.
"Nah," Kyungsoo said, trying to make it sound as casual as possible. He didn’t want this to come off as harsh or too knowing. He didn’t want to make Baekhyun feel bad or stupid for feeling this way. He probably couldn’t help it. "Your videos are great and very, very creative." Baekhyun was still holding onto his fry but not lifting it up from his tray. His eyebrows were curved, rising in an expression of intent and surprise that pushed Kyungsoo to continue speaking. "They’re helpful and make people happy. This girl just said so herself."
"Exactly!" Jongdae excitedly agreed with him, putting his cup down and almost crushing his little cup of sauce. "You’re just good at what you do. It’s a fact. Stop being so humble. Only Beyonce has the right to be humble about her work."
"What does that even mean?" Kyungsoo couldn’t help but ask as Baekhyun burst into laughter.
Jongdae raised his voice to be louder than Baekhyun’s laugh as he defended his logic. Kyungsoo barely listened to his explanations. He had a hard time focusing on anything else when Baekhyun looked right at him while still laughing, tiny hiccups that scrunched his face and almost entirely closed his eyes.
That was when Kyungsoo decided that Baekhyun looked the best when his own beam clouded his eyes. Made them smaller but even deeper to sink into.
Kyungsoo had been working at Tead-Up for a very, very long time. Long enough to know every single product they offered by heart, long enough to be able to move through the store even with closed eyes.
That was what he’d thought, at least, up until the moment he bumped his hip on the coffee baskets table and heard huffy laughter behind him.
Maybe, just maybe this didn’t have anything to do with how long he’d been working here. Maybe this had everything to do with the way Baekhyun could, without doing it on purpose, turn him into the stupidest and clumsiest version of himself. As easily as it was for sunsets to distract Kyungsoo from the road he was walking on. He’d almost bumped into streetlights several times.
"This is my domain, you aren’t allowed to make fun of me," he threw over his shoulder with a false harshness to his voice.
Every domain Baekhyun entered seemed to become his. He was the only thing in the room Kyungsoo could pay attention to. It was kind of unfair.
"You can’t threaten me, I’m your client," Baekhyun snorted and when Kyungsoo turned to him, standing next to the tea shelves, Baekhyun looked more amused than offended.
His smile was too much. Too colorful. The pale pink of his lips, the fierce shade of his confidence, the tranquil blue of his shirt reflecting appeasement all over him. He looked happy to be here. This was too much.
"What tea would interest you then, sir?" Kyungsoo countered, taking on his most melodious professional voice as he gestured towards the shelves with a flourishing movement.
Baekhyun laughed. "Let me think about it," he said, stepping to the shelves and letting his eyes parkour the different boxes.
Kyungsoo felt his lips smiling and looked away. Baekhyun had popped in randomly, without even telling him about it, just because he wanted to buy some new tea. He was tired of always drinking the same thing at home, was what he said.
His eyes met Chanyeol’s across the room, where he was giving out a tiny sample cup to an entering client. They smiled at each other and Kyungsoo quickly looked away.
After his conversation with Jongin, he’d been more careful. Despite still talking to Chanyeol at work, still replying to his texts, he’d slowed down, stopped replying a bit too often maybe. He’d stopped laughing too much at his jokes, tried to avoid spending too much time with him. He didn’t want to give any more mixed signals or pretend that he could feel something that he knew he didn’t.
It made him feel a little bad. He could see that Chanyeol had figured it out, from the way he initiated less conversations with Kyungsoo, but he had to do this. He had to draw the line. He was tired of never drawing lines with people and just falling out over time without even a goodbye that both parties probably deserved. It was hard to say goodbye to someone who’d never officially said they wanted to hear it.
"What are you favorites?"
Baekhyun’s voice called back for his attention and Kyungsoo looked at him again. Kyungsoo often had clients asking for recommendations when they didn’t know what to get. This was bit different though, Baekhyun looked too curious, too focused on him as he waited for an answer, all eager eyes and intrigued pull of his mouth to the side.
"It depends, are you looking for iced tea or something that you can drink warm too?" Kyungsoo asked because the question was too complicated on its own. He had so many infusions that he adored.
"Doesn’t really matter, I like both," Baekhyun answered, tilting his head to the side. His hair fluffed a tiny shrug as it fell over his eye.
Kyungsoo looked away. This wasn’t a picture posted on the internet. This was a living breathing, very much unbelievably real Baekhyun who’d notice how much Kyungsoo loved staring at every single one of his features if he did t for too long.
"Alright," Kyungsoo hummed and stepped closer to the shelves as well to take a better look, even though he didn’t really need to. Baekhyun was just very good at clouding his mind with the simplest words. Or no words at all. "Well, for summer I usually drink a lot of iced tea and my favorite flavors for the heat are mostly hibiscus or cherry. Like this one."
Kyungsoo reached up to grab the big box labelled Cherry Berry Punch and opened the lid.
"There’s black tea, cherries, a little bit of hibiscus blossoms. It’s very nice and refreshing to drink."
Baekhyun peered into the box and Kyungsoo stretched his hand towards him, letting him take a look at the loose leafs and the other dried ingredients as he hummed. His hair looked really nice brushing his eyelashes as he looked down.
"Is there a little bit of citrus too?" he asked, taking a step back.
"Pineapple," Kyungsoo corrected, a smile permeating into his words. Baekhyun had probably mistaken the yellow bits for lemon.
"It’s pretty nice. What else do you like?" he asked, leaning a hand on the table next to them to support his body. His shirt stretched around his shoulder prettily, tainting it with a delicate, blue dream.
Kyungsoo had always wondered what it would feel like to touch the sky but this was even more overwhelming than that. He closed the box and put it on the table, setting their candidate aside and looking for something else on the shelves.
He should ask Baekhyun what he liked, but he appreciated the attention towards Kyungsoo’s taste. Appreciated that Baekhyun was asking questions about him.
"In the same spirit, we got this one," Kyungsoo said, taking a box from one of the lower shelves this time. Hibiscus Splash.
He felt Baekhyun’s gaze on him as he opened the box with one hand, glanced up, saw that Baekhyun was looking at his hand intently. Maybe Kyungsoo should just give him his hand. He wouldn’t even ask for anything in return. Just for free. Just like that. But looking at something didn’t mean wanting something.
"This one is softer," he said, approaching the box to Baekhyun who leaned towards it.
"It smells nice," was the first thing that Baekhyun said, closing his eyes for a tad longer than a blink.
"It’s very flowery," Kyungsoo agreed. The tip of Baekhyun’s nose looked just perfect for a dried bloom to rest there, carried with the wind. Kyungsoo felt his own hand aching from the yearning of that smoothness. This tea was perfect for picnics. It would be even more perfect if it was enjoyed with Baekhyun sitting right by his side, under pretty flowery trees. "With Hibiscus, cornflower, apples and figs too."
Baekhyun leaned away and looked right into Kyungsoo’s eyes. His gaze was much, much darker than the petals Kyungsoo liked to have in his cups of tea.
"I meant your perfume," he said then and his voice sounded heavy enough to make Kyungsoo’s hand waver and bring the box a bit lower. "It smells nice."
Kyungsoo let out a stupid sound, an imperfect blend of surprise and laughter. "That’s not what I’m trying to sell you though. It’s the tea you should focus on."
Stupid. Stupid. That was a stupid thing to say. Stupid. It was a stupid think to think that this was deeper than a remark. Hopeful, stupidly hopeful was Kyungsoo’s brain for immediately thinking that maybe this was like flirting.
"That’s all I can focus on though," Baekhyun replied, no pause, no hesitation. So honest Kyungsoo could barely comprehend it."Is it my fault?"
Maybe this was flirting and maybe it was unbelievable only because Baekhyun was being so honest about it. Kyungsoo hadn’t even known it was possible to be so honest about this.
But it was. He could tell, from the way Baekhyun didn’t look away from him even once, didn’t smile his usual playful smile, only gave Kyungsoo a knowing taint to his lips, an intent in his eyes.
Kyungsoo took a deep breath, felt his chest hiccuping with it, felt himself taking the air in through chopped pieces. This was too much feelings.
"Is it mine?" he asked back, not stepping down, giving Baekhyun as much as he was given.
Baekhyun shook his head, barely, eyes closing for longer than a blink again.
"I’ll take these two teas," he said, instead of replying to Kyungsoo’s question.
Putting the box down on the table as well, Kyungsoo took a step back. It made it easier to breathe, not easier to look away from Baekhyun.
"What would your audience say if they knew you just copied my tea taste instead being original?" Kyungsoo teased him, because the previous moment was broken but he didn’t feel awkward. Maybe just a bit breathless, a bit higher than the ground, like he’d been running on sunlight and rays for a bit too long.
"They’d probably copy it too," Baekhyun said, laughing as the weight in his stance and his eyes dissipated a bit, leaving his face clearer for Kyungsoo to read.
They continued talking as Kyungsoo weighed the bags he transferred tea into. Baekhyun asked him if it was tiring to stand on his feet all day while working, told him about the cup he’d broken in his kitchen this morning, complained about the mess that his house was, asked him if he wanted to come over this weekend. He didn’t specify a reason why. Kyungsoo didn’t need a specific reason to accept.
And when Baekhyun was gone, the brume of his presence lingered in Kyungsoo’s head up until the very end of his day.
When’s your shift tomorrow? :)
Kyungsoo ruffled his hair with the towel as he read the notification on the screen.
With a sigh, he hung the towel over his shoulder and unlocked his phone.
I start at 10 and finish at 3
What about you?
He walked to the kitchen, opened the fridge, and grabbed an apple.
I start at 2 and close the shop
I’d prefer your shift :(
He put his phone down and washed the apple then grabbed a small plate and a fruit knife. Not forgetting his phone, he brought everything along with him as he went to the living room. He dropped down on the couch with a sigh, put everything but his phone on the low table.
Yeah it’s better when you have the afternoon off, you can still do something out of your day
But when you start in the afternoon, you usually just laze around in the morning
Especially when you hate mornings like I do lol
Kyungsoo read the message and put his phone on the couch beside him. He grabbed the remote and opened up his new favorite series, Mindhunter. Nothing more interesting than the mindset of psychopathic serial killers.
Then he grabbed his phone again. He should reply, even though he didn’t really feel like talking to Chanyeol.
It’ll pass quickly it’s a tuesday!
Tuesdays are chill
Stay strong and good luck for your lazy morning
He closed the app then and sighed a little. Maybe he’d cut it short too soon. Maybe he should say something to keep it going. But he didn’t have to, he didn’t want to. He didn’t want to make himself do it anymore, even if he felt bad about it.
He strengthened his decision and opened up instagram instead. Chanyeol was used to this now. He thought that they’d set some limits, even without having a conversation about it.
What he wasn’t used to was the content of Baekhyun’s stories. A short video, first happiness taking over Baekhyun’s voice to pronounce the words I got a new plant then his mouth opening wide in a silent scream, one hand flat, fingertips resting right on a corner of his lips. He swirled around to show his new, tiny, dark purple-leafed plant right behind him.
Kyungsoo watched the video over and over again, until his cheeks started complaining, not used to so much happiness compressing them together. That was when Kyungsoo discovered that a smile shouldn’t be held in place for over two minutes straight.
He put his phone down, still saw Baekhyun’s adorable excitement every time he blinked. While cutting his apple into half-moons, and even while watching a critically acclaimed series. His thoughts still preferred watching the Baekhyun that lived in his head.
"Why do you not fold your clothes properly?" Kyungsoo couldn’t help but say, making sure to put all the judgement he could muster into his voice.
"I do," Baekhyun defended himself, right away, grabbing a beige shirt and folding it in two by the short sleeves.
Kyungsoo dropped the shorts that he was holding on his lap and made a face, gesturing around the entire dressing room with an outraged wind to his hand. They were sitting on the floor in a pretty confined space. The room wasn’t big, it wasn’t small either but it was an enclosed space, the walls covered in shelves and clothes hanging. Except that a lot of clothes were on the floor rather than put tidily into the hangers or the shelves.
The only orderly thing about the room was the accessories drawer that Baekhyun had showed him, the jewelry and the watches were all neatly sorted, and the same thing could be said about shoes. Baekhyun worshipped shoes so much that he really, really seemed to take care of them well. Almost all of them were clean, out of their boxes and exposed on the racks. Kyungsoo hadn’t realized how much Baekhyun had an abundance of shoes until he’s stepped into this space adjacent to his bedroom.
The clothes, on the other hand, were surprisingly mistreated. A lot of them were on the floor, Kyungsoo had hardly made room for himself to sit without leaving anything under his legs. Baekhyun did his laundry but hated the process and often just dumped everything here once things were clean. He also had way too many clothes to deal with despite having sold a few pieces already. He still needed to sell and donate part of what they’d taken pictures of together.
The worst thing about this was that there were no doors on the shelves, so it was impossible to even conceal the mess that this room was. Everything was just out there.
"Is this what folding your clothes look like? I think you need a lesson or something," Kyungsoo teased the other, holding no true judgement in his voice. Baekhyun just looked very, very cute when he was a bit embarrassed. Or shameless.
Baekhyun grabbed another shirt from the floor. "I just need you to shut up and let me exploit you," whipping the shirt in the air close enough for Kyungsoo to feel the hem brush his nose and squeeze his eyes shut.
Silence fell over them. Baekhyun, still holding the shirt, looked at Kyungsoo with a halo of defiance in his gaze. Without even thinking about it, Kyungsoo unfolded the sweater he had in hands and mirrored Baekhyun’s childish action by whipping it right back at him.
Except Kyungsoo did it closer to his face and he actually heard Baekhyun let out a sound when the hem of the sweater brushed against his mouth.
Before Kyungsoo even realized how it happened, he felt the slap of fabric against his cheek and his first reaction was to burst into laughter, his second reaction to retaliate by straightening up his back and throwing the shirt at Baekhyun. Baekhyun made a sound of surprise that bloomed into high pitched laughter and never stopped as they continued fighting with the clothes they were supposed to fold together.
Baekhyun grabbed his face, pushing with a hand on his cheek and continuously slapping the sweater into Kyungsoo’s chest and neck. Kyungsoo reached with a hand, grabbing Baekhyun’s ankle and pulling harshly and suddenly, hearing Baekhyun’s laugh bounce up to the ceiling as he fell on his back and Kyungsoo dug his knees to his side, attacking him by throwing every single piece of clothing he could get his hand on right at his face, fabrics barely muffling the chiming of his laughter.
He thought he was winning, until Baekhyun stabbed a finger to his side harsh enough for Kyungsoo’s laughter to derail into an airy gasp. A hand grabbed his wrist and pulled, air leaving Kyungsoo’s body until he fell face first into the pile of clothes on Baekhyun’s chest.
He felt his hand catching his own body by supporting his weight uselessly on Baekhyun’s thigh. It only made it to harder to breathe for a short moment, harder to feel anything else but the warmth of Baekhyun’s skin, not even held in by the barrier of his pants.
Then, they burst into laughter. Kyungsoo still could barely breathe, tired from the mock fight, stunned by how close he was to Baekhyun. He sat up, shoulders quaking, and helped Baekhyun take off all the clothes that had formed a tiny mountain on his body. When their eyes finally could meet, they started laughing all over again. Baekhyun’s laugh was what made this entire situation so hilarious to Kyungsoo, high pitched, then low pitched, breathy then mounting peaks of volume.
He laid down on the floor, at some point, fitting himself right next to Baekhyun in this tiny world of clothes they’d filled with their laughter. He supported his body, one hand having found its way back on Baekhyun’s thighs. His legs were folded up, spread the tiniest bit. Kyungsoo took his hand away, let it fall with a thump on his chest. And another thump. Another thump. But Kyungsoo only had two hands. Maybe the thumping wasn’t coming from the fall of his hands on his chest. Maybe it was from the fall of something else.
They didn’t say anything for a moment, a crumble of laughter escaping them from time to time, just looking up at the plain white ceiling and the tiny, tiny chandelier hanging from it. As he looked up, it was the view of above that made Kyungsoo the happiest in a while. He felt content, not blinded but like he was seeing everything so much more clearly. Like he was feeling things much, much more limpidly. Like he was content. It had nothing to do with the lack of a sky above him and everything to do with the person whose arm was pressed right against his.
"I’m tired," Baekhyun said then, not looking at Kyungsoo. Kyungsoo didn’t need to look at him either to notice the softness of his voice, it wasn’t something to look at, it was something to feel in the soul. "I’m sometimes too tired to clean all of this up." He gestured around him with a hand then let it plop down on his belly again.
"I understand," Kyungsoo said, taking a more serious stance on the situation. They’d already laughed a lot, he’d teased Baekhyun enough. "You do work a lot, all the time."
Baekhyun snorted. Kyungsoo knew what his next words would be before he even voiced them out.
"But I guess I shouldn’t complain too much," he said and his voice sounded as tumbly as a sigh. "It’s not a real job, I just do videos. I don’t get as tired as someone who does a nine to five in terrible conditions."
And he wasn’t wrong. Maybe he wasn’t wrong in the concept of those thoughts but he was so far from right, at the same time.
Kyungsoo turned his head to look at him, let his gaze fall down Baekhyun’s nose, skitter on the plush of his lips, topple off his chin. He saw Baekhyun’s finger twitch, it caught Kyungsoo’s gaze. He landed safely.
"Why do you always talk yourself down like that?" Kyungsoo said, voice barely stronger than a whisper.
It wasn’t a real question, nor was it a chiding. Just an ache, because Kyungsoo had no way of making Baekhyun see himself through his own gaze. It was much, much fairer than the way Baekhyun saw himself.
Baekhyun didn’t say anything. Kyungsoo kept looking at him, wondering if he’d gone too far and this didn’t concern him and he’d said something he shouldn’t have. But he’d been wanting to say this since the very first time he’d noticed Baekhyun didn’t give himself enough credit.
He swallowed, was glad that despite saying nothing, Baekhyun didn’t look offended or anything of that sort. He was a still shot of tranquility as he laid there, a blue shirt under his head, a pair of red checkered pants crushed underneath his shoulders. Kyungsoo didn’t look away from him but decided to speak more about this.
"You have a real work, Baekhyun. This is what you do to earn money," he said, keeping his voice as gentle as possible. He didn’t want this to come off as a scolding but it was something that was important for him. Important for him that Baekhyun heard it. "This isn’t something you do half-assedly either, you spend hours editing your videos."
Baekhyun posted stories of himself at very late hours still behind his computer screen. He sometimes messaged Kyungsoo in the wee hours of the morning to tell him what they’d shot together was ready to be posted.
"You always say it even on instagram, even if you never complain directly. And it’s work. You work so hard you haven’t even eaten anything since this morning because you only now finished editing your next video."
That was why Kyungsoo was here. Baekhyun had told him he hadn’t eaten anything and Kyungsoo had brought in Indian takeout, just because that was the quickest way for Baekhyun to eat something.
"Stop doing this." Kyungsoo felt himself frowning, forehead wrinkling in worry. "You have a right to complain. You deserve the acknowledgement you get for your amazing work and more. You deserve more of that. But you also have the right to call it a difficult job because that’s what it is."
Kyungsoo stopped there, because he’d said almost everything he wanted to. Not the entirety, there were so many praises that he should give, that he wanted to give to Baekhyun but he didn’t want to dump everything on him. He just wanted Baekhyun to realize his self worth and that this was real. His hard work was real, his complaints were real and justified and understandable.
Silence laid over them for a moment. Kyungsoo sunk his teeth into his lower lip, a bit scared that he’d gone too far. But Baekhyun wasn’t frowning, there was nothing on his face that indicated that he’d hated hearing those things and he hadn’t done anything to make Kyungsoo shut up halfway through his speech either.
He smiled then, a soft tinge of laugh breezing through his lips.
"Wow, you’re much harsher than Jongdae about this," he said, turning his head towards Kyungsoo. The light reflected so prettily in his eyes. Almost like his eyes were made for nothing but brightness itself. No worry, no insecurity, just endless beams of contentment.
"I’m sorry," Kyungsoo said, pressing his lips together, digging the fingers of one hand into the back of his other hand. "I didn’t want to come out as harsh. I just think you don’t give yourself enough credit and it’s really a shame."
"I know," Baekhyun said, breathing in loudly through his mouth at the end of his words. He turned his gaze to the ceiling again. He furrowed his eyebrows a little bit. Kyungsoo didn’t even want to smooth the folds of his skin. His skin was just as pretty in distortion as it was in tranquility. "I guess it’s just a habit that I have. I don’t like it either. Maybe you’re right, I’ll work on it."
Kyungsoo smiled, relief appeasing the tension on his face. He watched Baekhyun sit up with an exaggerated groan and turn to him. Even from this angle, looking down at Kyungsoo, Baekhyun was mesmerizing. The light on the ceiling kissed sunniness around his hair and on his shoulders. Kyungsoo envied that source of light.
"Can you make me some cookies to cheer me on towards a life with less of an imposter syndrome?"
Kyungsoo snorted, shaking his head in disbelief at how easily that request had come. But when Baekhyun stretched his hand towards him, Kyungsoo easily grabbed it and let Baekhyun pull him so they could stand up together.
They made cookies together. They took a lot of pictures, or rather, Kyungsoo took a lot of pictures of every single cheesy and over the top pose Baekhyun gave him. He laughed until his stomach hurt too much he wasn’t even sure it could accept cookies.
That evening, Kyungsoo learned that Baekhyun wasn’t only good at posing. He was also incredibly talented at sticking every single one of those poses inside of Kyungsoo’s head for the days that followed.
Someone laughed happily on the television as Kyungsoo made a list of ingredients on his notes app.
He exited the app, checked the exact name of the recipe on the website he’d found. Thai Red Curry Noodle Soup with Crispy Tofu. That was a long name for a recipe. He typed it entirely then scrolled back up through his list of recipes.
He’s started collecting recipes like that from the internet. Books were fun but sometimes it was nice to find something new unexpectedly while watching the many cooking videos that popped on his social media timelines. Moreover, it was easier to make a list of ingredients directly on the app, it was much more convenient for grocery shopping.
He glanced at the screen when suspenseful music flowed from the speakers, watched for a minute as the character snooped around someone’s office. He wasn’t really sure about what he was watching, he’d just turned the tv on out of habit. He quickly lost interest and decided to scroll through his social media feed instead.
Food, cats, movie memes, people out on trips. One of them was a face he knew very well, posing in front of the sea, on a boat. Kyungsoo furrowed his eyebrows. A face he used to like very much, last summer when they’d hung out a lot, had a lot of fun, flirted a lot, kept circling around each other before Kyungsoo decided that he didn’t want to be in that circle anymore and broke it off. They’d slept together twice and Kyungsoo had ended up gradually ghosting him, stopped replying, never initiated a conversation by text with Hyunbin first. They hadn’t fought, they’d never really talked about them as an actual thing either. They’d just lost contact over time.
Kyungsoo swallowed, felt something clogging up his throat, swallowed again. There was nothing, nothing but the sensation of being a bad person. And he didn’t want to be that person anymore. He locked his phone and let the hand that was holding it fall on his thigh.
He didn’t want to be that person anymore. He wasn’t. Not really. He didn’t need to be that person anymore. Back then, he’d needed it. He’d needed all the attention and the desire and the knowledge that people still could want him. That in this world, there was a ton of people who wanted him even if the only one he’d wanted back then wasn’t part of them anymore.
But he didn’t need it now. He’d grown from it. Had he, though? He thought about Chanyeol and pressed his lips together, pulling them to one side of his face in distress. He’d stopped things with Chanyeol too. It would’ve ended up just like with Hyunbin. He’d stopped it. They only talked at work now, like normal colleagues. Maybe friends.
Because he didn’t need to be that kind of person anymore. He’d grown out of it. Or at least, he was in the midst of growing out of it.
His phone vibrated and he turned it towards him. Everything that was in his head cleared up as soon as he saw Baekhyun’s name. As easy as strong winds sweeping the clouds away from the skies.
What are you doing
Do you want to come and film with me tomorrow?
Kyungsoo smiled. This felt like an excuse. He knew that it was an excuse. He often used the same one too, messaging Baekhyun to ask if he needed help with filming just to see him.
He brought his phone to type his message but a few more words appeared on the screen just then.
Actually that’s just an excuse lmao
I just want to hang out with you
I dont really have anything to film :(
Kyungsoo’s eyebrows twisted up into a messy expression. Happiness, wonder, a bit of sadness. Because Baekhyun had just vocalized the exact thought he’d been having. Because Baekhyun could be so honest about this, so easily.
Kyungsoo had never been, with anyone else. He thought back to Chanyeol, who’d never said anything of this kind either. But maybe that was because Kyungsoo had never given him the full signal that he wanted to hear it.
Or maybe Baekhyun was just being honest. Maybe he just wanted to hang out with a friend. They were friends, after all. Or maybe not.
Whenever Kyungsoo let himself believe that there was something there, something slowly growing between them, a part of himself crushed it down. He could almost hear his own voice saying don’t be ridiculous in his own head.
He shut it down. He shut it all down. What mattered was that he’d see Baekhyun.
I’d like to hang out with you too, was what he sent. Simple. Quick. Honest. A novelty in his way of being.
"I don’t think this fits," Kyungsoo said, looking down at the shirt he’d been trying to wear for what felt like the past hour.
He raised his gaze to the mirror across from him and and scrunched his face. The shirt was pretty, really it was. A scarlet red with small black patterns over it. Even the fabric felt comfortable.
"What do you mean it doesn’t fit?" he heard from the other side of the curtain. "How are you wearing it?"
Kyungsoo huffed a laugh at the suspicion in Baekhyun’s voice. And the audacity. Not only had Baekhyun convinced him to try this shirt on, helped by Jongin, but he also was criticizing him. Kyungsoo didn’t like shopping and Jongin had jumped on the occasion to make Baekhyun a means of making Kyungsoo buy new stuff. He really hated the way Jongin knew his weaknesses sometimes.
"What do you mean how am I wearing it?" he countered, grabbing the hem of the shirt and pulling down. "I’m just wearing it normally."
Maybe asking Baekhyun to hang out with them while shopping had been a mistake. Baekhyun had the tendency of grabbing clothing from the racks and putting them against Kyungsoo’s chest to see how it would look. Kyungsoo’s brain had a tendency to short-circuit whenever he felt Baekhyun’s knuckles grazing his chin as he held onto the hanger.
"Just try it properly," he heard, with a laugh and Kyungsoo furrowed his eyebrows.
"I am trying it properly?" he threw back, buttoning the shirt up until the collar. It looked even worse. "This is terrible."
"It’s a pretty shirt!" Baekhyun said and Kyungsoo saw something hitting the curtain of the cabin.
"Well, not on me," Kyungsoo stated, turning his body to the side and observing himself. He tucked the shirt into his jeans. No.
Maybe it just wasn’t made for him. That was okay. Some shirts weren’t made for some people. Kyungsoo didn’t have a problem with that. He raised his hands to undo the buttons.
"Can I come in? I’ll help you," he heard then and his hands froze.
He saw his own eyes rounding up into surprise in the mirror. Then, he watched as the mouth that he was supposed to control properly opened and replied in his stead, without even taking a moment to think.
"Sure," Kyungsoo said and pressed his lips together right away.
Baekhyun did not waste a second, pulling the curtain away just enough to introduce his body in the opening. Kyungsoo felt his heart itching when Baekhyun took one tiny step and was right in front of him, with not much room between them.
Baekhyun stood there for a split moment, pouting his mouth to the side as his gaze rested on Kyungsoo’s torso. Kyungsoo was almost glad he’d buttoned the shirt up to his neck, which was weird. He’d never been insecure about himself. But Baekhyun’s eyes looked too good to be laid on him, or anything else that wasn’t pitch perfect.
"Well, it won’t look good if you wear it like that," Baekhyun said, looking at him, the lights reflected in his eyes laughing in amusement.
Kyungsoo snorted. "How else am I supposed to wear it then, Mr. Fashion?"
Baekhyun tilted his head back a little and laughed, a short string of hahaha. Kyungsoo liked the fact that it was him who’d woven those sounds together to get them out of Baekhyun.
"Let me show you," Baekhyun said, taking a step even closer to him. Kyungsoo felt that step somewhere in his chest. Something about Baekhyun’s light brown hair tickling his eyelashes looked playful. Something about the fact that Baekhyun was the tiniest bit taller than Kyungsoo, almost insignificantly, made something in Kyungsoo tickle. "And for free just for you."
His voice was heavy with something Kyungsoo wouldn’t dare naming. His hands felt even heavier on his body when he looked away from Kyungsoo’s face and focused on the buttons he started undoing.
Kyungsoo was glad there was music all around him, was glad that he could hear a young girl and, probably, her mother having a conversation about sleeve lengths on the dressing room next to his. He was glad all of that probably overpowered the sounds he heard in his own body. Cacophonous, fast-paced, so overwhelming he could even feel it on the side of his neck, where Baekhyun’s fingers grazed as he adjusted the collar of the shirt.
He didn’t say anything, he kept focused on the task. Kyungsoo couldn’t not watch him as he unbuttoned a few more buttons, he’d lost count while trying to count the moles on Baekhyun’s face. On his cheek, right above his lip, on his temple when he turned tilted his head just a little bit. Kyungsoo envied those tiny dots on Baekhyun’s skin so hard he felt his stomach contracting. Or maybe that was when he felt Baekhyun pulling the hem of the shirt up and out of his jeans.
His hands felt weightless as the sun as he adjusted the shirt, pulling on the shoulders so it would fall properly on Kyungsoo’s body. He smiled then and looked at Kyungsoo, without taking a step back. Kyungsoo didn’t know whether he was glad or not.
"There," he said, adjusting the collar one last time and brushing his hand over Kyungsoo’s chest, like he was flattening a wrinkle. Maybe he’d just pushed that wrinkle down, down deeper. Kyungsoo felt it carve itself right into his heart, a sear, a burn, a tingle. "It’ll look even better with the right pants and a nice belt. Take a look."
Swallowing, Kyungsoo forced himself to look away from Baekhyun and turned towards the mirror again. As soon as he laid eyes on himself, he raised his eyebrows in pleasant surprise. It was the same shirt and yet, it looked completely different. Enough buttons were undone to showcase the slight sculpt at the start of his chest, making it look better than it usually did in Kyungsoo’s eyes. Baekhyun hadn’t entirely pulled the shirt out of his pants, just tugged at it until it wasn’t stretched down and flat against Kyungsoo’s body but floated a little around him, hung loosely in a way that Kyungsoo didn’t know could look flattering.
The color of the shirt looked actually nice against the slight summery tan of his skin. It was completely different than how it looked before Baekhyun’s hands added their celestial touch to it.
"How do you do this?" Kyungsoo said, twisting his body to look at the shirt from another angle. It looked just as fitting. "Every piece of clothing you touch looks incredible on a body. Are you some kind of magician?" he asked, only half joking as he turned back to look at Baekhyun properly.
Kyungsoo caught the way Baekhyun’s eyes had been focused on his body before his laugh jolted them up to his face again.
"I don’t know," he said, a smile still shadowing his amusement. He’d liked that question. "If you think I am, then maybe I really am," he continued, lowering his voice like he was sharing a secret.
And Kyungsoo had thought he’d simply downgrade his talent, his work again. But he hadn’t, and that realization washed over Kyungsoo in satisfaction. It evaporated with the warmth that it ignited in Kyungsoo. The fact that confidence looked so good on Baekhyun, in that knowing smile, the mischievous glint in his eyes. A different kind of blaze.
"I’m glad you didn’t deny it like you usually do," he confessed, just because it made him feel really happy and maybe it would make Baekhyun happy to hear it too.
His sentence tilted Baekhyun’s head down a little, his smile narrowed into a pure blend of contentment and shyness.
"I don’t know," he said, shaking his head a little. Light kissed the tip of his nose so comfortably, as if that glow on his skin knew it would never find a prettier place to rest upon. "You kind of make me feel like I’m more incredible than I usually think that I am." He furrowed his eyebrows. "Maybe like I’m as incredible as I could be if I let myself be."
Silence fell over them then, Kyungsoo couldn’t hear the trashy music, couldn’t hear the movements behind the curtain, the bustling crowd. It had been an awkward sentence, maybe not constructed with the perfect sense. But the meaning was there. It was there and it plunged right into Kyungsoo, lodging in his throat, rushing to the tip of his fingers.
"I’m glad I do then," he said, the weight of Baekhyun’s beauty so imposing on him that he felt it constrict his voice into a whisper. "Because you are incredible."
Then, Baekhyun raised his head, looking up at him through his lashes, like he didn’t have it in himself to look at Kyungsoo properly. And Kyungsoo was glad he didn’t, he was glad that Baekhyun’s head partially covered his face. He couldn’t see the entirety of that face he’d already stared at for ages and yet, it still paralyzed every cell in his body and made them hyper sensitive all at the same time.
"I’m glad you do too," Baekhyun said and his voice had been lowered to match Kyungsoo’s.
And it matched it perfectly. It matched it so perfectly. Everything about Baekhyun matched Kyungsoo so perfectly.
Kyungsoo’s gaze fell to Baekhyun’s lips.The bow of his lips was high, small, sculpted enough to fit a tiny piece of cloud there. Maybe it was already there, even. Maybe Kyungsoo should check. Maybe their lips would fit each other just as perfectly.
He felt a hand catching him by the waist, wanted to look down at it, wanted to look up into Baekhyun’s eyes. Just to know. Just to ask. But Kyungsoo couldn’t hear his own thoughts, his body couldn’t hear any sort of command over the strength of the pulsation he felt right under Baekhyun’s fingers, right on the hollow under his lips, and right in the center of his own chest.
The moment was stretching over them lengthily, wrapping over them, grasping Kyungsoo, grasping Baekhyun and pulling them to each other. Kyungsoo let his lips meet Baekhyun’s and felt the softness of his skin jolting all over him, like the unexpected flash of a camera.
Kyungsoo closed his eyes, breathed out, couldn’t feel himself breathe in again, couldn’t feel anything but the alliance of Baekhyun’s lips with his. It fit perfectly. Maybe there wasn’t a cloud on Baekhyun’s lips, maybe Baekhyun’s lips were the cloud Kyungsoo would let himself rest upon forever if he was allowed to.
"Can one of you check if these pants look good on me?"
Just like that, the cloud was popped and Kyungsoo’s eyes snapped open. He didn’t think it was possible for someone to hate their best friend so much and yet there Kyungsoo was.
They both pulled away, wide eyes falling into each other for a moment. Kyungsoo blinked and Baekhyun pressed his lips together, cheeks puffing up the slightest bit with the laugh that he was trying to hold in.
"Go check on him, you’re the expert," Kyungsoo said then, incredulity singing in his words.
Baekhyun made a face and got out of the cabin, closing the curtain behind him. Kyungsoo stood still for a moment, looked down, and shook his head as he brought his hand up to rub his face, crushing a quiet laugh underneath his palm.
He pulled at his lips with the tip of his fingers. It didn’t feel like he was touching his lips but a slice of the sky that was offered to him. The memory of Baekhyun’s lips.
Kyungsoo closed the door behind him and rested his back upon it. His head moved back to rest against the wood of it with a muffled sound that he didn’t even feel on his skull. HIs heartbeat was still stirring things in his whole body and he couldn’t think about anything else.
They’d kissed. Only a short while ago, inside that tiny world they’d created in that dressing room, they’d kissed.
He pressed his lips together. It didn’t crush the ghost of Baekhyun’s lips, didn’t make it go away, didn’t take out a single crumb of it. If he closed his eyes, he could relive that moment forever in his head, it was like a picture stuck to the door of his mind and he’d see it every single time he’d cross that threshold.
His eyes opened and he pushed himself away from the door, toeing his shoes off instead of just standing there. It felt like something was expanding in his body, pushing everything back and then pulling everything closer again. Like something was sneaking its way inside of his heart.
He went to the living room and dropped on the couch with a loud sigh. The whole house was silent enough for Kyungsoo to hear his own thoughts over seeing a moment that he wished had lasted longer. But Jongin had pulled them back to reality.
And another realization pulled Kyungsoo further back at that exact moment.
They hadn’t talked about it. After Baekhyun had gone out of the cabin, Kyungsoo had dressed himself in his own clothes and left as well. Outside, Baekhyun had been giving his review of Jongin’s new pants. They hadn’t said anything to each other, just smiled at each other and that had been okay.
They’d hung out a little more, went to get some coffee, sat somewhere and chatted a little about the most random things. He liked that Baekhyun got along with Jongin as well, he’d liked that throughout the conversations their gazes had kept finding each other. Baekhyun had caught Kyungsoo staring and Kyungsoo had caught Baekhyun staring. It hadn’t been one-sided.
But then, they hadn’t talked about it. Neither of them had acted like it hadn’t happened, their behavior had changed the tiniest bit, but neither of them had actually acknowledged it either.
Kyungsoo hadn’t know what to say when they’d parted ways and Baekhyun had just said bye to him with a wave, like he always did. He didn’t know what to do even now.
He pulled his phone out of his back-pocket, relieving his skin of its dig. He put it on his thigh face up, looked at it, bit the skin on the corner of his lips. Should he message Baekhyun? But what would he even say?
A sigh raked through his body and stormed through his stomach. It didn’t feel good. Like something was about to happen. Like anything could happen and Kyungsoo wasn’t prepared.
He wasn’t prepared and maybe part of him was afraid of what could happen but, at the same time, he didn’t want this to be a fleeting thing. He didn’t want this to turn into something he’d already lived through many times. Something he’d already made himself live through without any particular desire of doing so.
He wanted to acknowledge this. This didn’t feel like it should be another repeating cycle of attraction, amusement, and then distance. With no words, no conversation, no thoughts confessed out loud. No real involvement on any part.
He tapped a finger on the screen of his phone. It lit up. He tapped again and again, without unlocking his phone. His finger moved way too slowly compared to how hard his chest was being beat up by an anxiety he hadn’t felt in a long time.
Baekhyun hadn’t said anything. If he’d wanted to, he would’ve acknowledged it. Wouldn’t he? He would’ve said something. Maybe Baekhyun didn’t want to acknowledge this. Maybe this was the moment karma hit Kyungsoo with the weight of every questionable relationship or liaison he’d had with people in his life. Maybe Baekhyun would do to Kyungsoo the exact same thing Kyungsoo had done to way too many people in his life.
Kyungsoo had forgotten how to be serious with someone. He’d forgotten how to express what he wanted. He didn’t remember the limits, the things that could be said and the things that should be kept to himself. He barely ever remembered wanting. But he wanted Baekhyun. He wanted him so bad. After that kiss, he wanted him even more. He wanted him to himself for hours, he wanted all his awkward hand movements, and his sunset-y smiles, and his thrilling confidence, and his misplaced insecurities.
He wanted it all. Sincerely. He wanted it the way he’d stopped wanting people a long time ago. But he wanted Baekhyun.
But maybe it would come off as too demanding to talk about it with Baekhyun. Maybe Baekhyun didn’t want him that way. Maybe it was too fast. Maybe they didn’t know each other enough yet.
Maybe Kyungsoo should just forget about it for now. Maybe he should just forget about it entirely. It would be less bothersome. Not bothersome. It would be less rattling for him.
But Kyungsoo didn’t stop thinking about it.
He stopped calling it a bother, though. It wasn’t a bother. It was just something that his mind kept going to, a road that his mind kept traveling over and over, yet turning right back before it could reach Baekhyun at the end of it. He didn’t say anything, didn’t ask Baekhyun anything.
They kept talking, texting about the most random things. They talked about everything, the egg that Baekhyun broke in his kitchen, the fact that Kyungsoo had ran out of shampoo and had washed his hair with soap, the way watching an hour long show episodes was outdated and too difficult now. They talked about anything but what Kyungsoo felt like they should talk about, for two entire days. That he spent thinking about this.
Even now, as he was putting the dried dishes in the cupboards of the kitchen while humming to himself. Even doing the most mundane things that Kyungsoo usually never did while thinking about anything, he couldn’t get his mind away from it. And he didn’t do anything to put an end to this either. That was what ate away at him the most. His inability to do anything about it.
He could. He could do something about this. He really should. He winced when he bumped his plate against a bowl as he tried stacking it up on top of the others plates.
He closed the cupboard and sighed, tilting his head to the side to stretch his neck. He didn’t want to think about this anymore. Grabbing a bottle of water from the fridge, he headed to the living room. On his way in, he glanced at the pile of books next to the television. He should read them. He should really get into reading them.
He grabbed the one right on top of the pile and put it on the low table along with the bottle before sitting down. He didn’t even look at the title properly and grabbed the glass that was already on the table, pouring himself water. He brought the glass up and stopped before he could take a sip. His phone had started buzzing.
It was a FaceTime call. Kyungsoo furrowed his eyebrows. From Baekhyun. They’d never done this before. He cleared his throat, once, twice, passed a hand through his hair, took a quick sip of water, and cleared his throat again. His heart did a weird thing inside his chest, something like a bounce down to his stomach. He swiped his thumb over the screen and picked up the call.
Somehow, seeing him on the screen was still worse than seeing him in real life. Baekhyun had been looking to the side while waiting for Kyungsoo to pick up and only when he heard his voice did he turn his head to face the camera.
"Hey," was what he greeted Baekhyun with and he was incredibly relieved not to hear his voice do anything funny.
Baekhyun looked soft. There was no other word. Like Kyungsoo was looking at him through a rain of cotton bits and not the screen of a phone. White shirt, hair falling messily on the edges of his forehead like he’d ran his hand through it too many times. A smile so delightful Kyungsoo felt sweetness dripping from the phone and landing right on his lips. Or maybe that was just the ghost of Baekhyun’s kiss, so dreamy Kyungsoo was almost unsure if it ever happened or not.
"What’s up?" Baekhyun asked and Kyungsoo focused on the creaminess of his skin. Kyungsoo didn’t know how his skin felt on the cheek, but he knew how it felt on his lips. He wanted to know more.
"Not much, I got back from work a while ago," he replied, clearing his throat, raising his phone a little bit. He wasn’t sure this was a good angle. "You could’ve just come over if you wanted to see me," he said then, even though Kyungsoo was always the one going over to Baekhyun’s house. "Why didn’t we just see each other in real life instead of doing this?"
Baekhyun laughed and when Kyungsoo looked at the rectangular of his own face he realized he was frowning.
"You really don’t like technology that much, do you?" he asked and there was something on his face that Kyungsoo couldn’t quite grasp, couldn’t quite describe properly. Something that made him look both amused and playful at the same time. Maybe the tiny suns in Baekhyun’s eyes.
"Not as much as you, apparently," he replied, staring at the tiny Baekhyun on his screen. He wished it was a human sized Baekhyun.
"I can tell, grandpa," Baekhyun snorted, raising a hand to flatten a strand of hair on the left side of his face. "I’m a bit busy with editing today but I really wanted to see you. I guess I was thinking about your face too much or something so I just grabbed my phone and made it so that I could see your face."
He said all that without looking away from the screen. It made Kyungsoo want to laugh. Not because this was funny. Because that was happy sentence. He could feel the sound lodged somewhere in his chest, so strong it shot sparks down to his stomach. Baekhyun wanted to see his face. That wasn’t something you just said without meaning it.
So this is what this was. Baekhyun wanting to see Kyungsoo’s face. Kyungsoo wanting to see Baekhyun’s face.
Maybe Kyungsoo took too long to reply. Baekhyun’s smile had diminished but not in a bad way. It looked even softer than the air. Misty. A bit more vulnerable. A bit weaker.
"Okay, we can do this then," Kyungsoo said and he moved so he could rest his back against the armrest and fold his legs up to rest his elbows on the knees and hold his phone better. Baekhyun didn’t say anything so he allowed himself to push one of his loudest thoughts out of his head. "I like seeing your face."
Baekhyun huffed a laugh out at that. It wasn’t a joke. Kyungsoo didn’t know why he was laughing. But he was laughing in such a pretty way, eyes curled up, the shine amplified, the sound breathy through the receiver. It was like he was inhaling joy rather than breathing it out as he laughed behind his teeth.
It made Kyungsoo smile. If this was his reward for being honest, maybe he should try it way more often.
"Well," Baekhyun said and he looked down for a bit. He looked like he was sitting on his desk, Kyungsoo recognized the white leather of the chair peeking behind his shoulders. Maybe he was really taking a break from editing. He looked at Kyungsoo again, Kyungsoo felt his gaze washing over him like a chilling breeze. The ones that came with summer nights, the ones that felt liberating. "I like seeing your face too. And I like you."
Another silence. There was too many silences already. Kyungsoo didn’t know where they came from. They’d never really talked on the phone, not even phone calls, usually it was just texting. Maybe this was normal. Maybe he should’ve expected that Baekhyun made him a little shy, the way he usually never was shy. Kyungsoo was a grown man, shyness was for teenagers. Or people who liked someone too much.
But Baekhyun had just said he liked him. That was supposed to be only Kyungsoo. Maybe.
He swallowed, studied the color of Baekhyun’s lips on the screen. They looked redder than usual, because of the video quality. Or maybe Kyungsoo couldn’t see, couldn’t hear, could barely even breathe.
What did he mean? I like you. What did that mean?
Kyungsoo felt his chest stuttering as he took a deep breath in. He didn’t want to just assume or imagine or ignore this. He wanted this to be something. He wanted this to be something different than what he usually had. Something real. Something that had a beginning.
"You like me," he repeated, voice quietening towards the end of his sentence. He was terrified of saying out loud and clear. It felt like a sacrilege, like something he shouldn’t say. Baekhyun liking him. Something that had always been in the head and never real.
Baekhyun bit his lower lip, pulled it to the side, nodded. "Yeah," was all he said, a quick, sharp sound. More air than sound. Kyungsoo barely heard it.
He felt his eyebrows twitching, felt his fingers squeezing around the phone. He still didn’t know if this was a good angle. He hoped it was. He hoped it so much.
"But," Kyungsoo said, stretching the sound. He stopped. Either he did this or didn’t. Either this was something he grabbed or something he let pass him by. Kyungsoo tightened his old around his phone until he felt the corner of it painfully digging into the inside of his finger. "Okay but. Do you- Do you like like me?"
He felt his own body contracting, cringing at the words that he let tumble down his mouth. That was almost unimaginable. His eyes had automatically looked away from the screen, head turning to the loose thread on his jeans. His hands were still glued to the phone.
Kyungsoo had never been an insecure person. But this, this wish, he couldn’t utter it while looking at the only person who’d be able to ever grant it.
"Yeah," Kyungsoo heard and when his gaze snapped back to the screen, the smile was gone entirely from Baekhyun’s face, as were the suns and the clouds and the lights. There was only heaviness left, graveness in the way he looked at Kyungsoo without blinking. This was nothing but Baekhyun. Just plain, bare Baekhyun. "Yeah, I do."
But this was weird. Kyungsoo wasn’t used to people saying that to him, not in that way. He needed to know. He furrowed his eyebrows. He needed to know what Baekhyun meant.
He didn’t want to assume or figure it out on his own. He wanted to have this conversation, even if his mouth felt so dry it was getting hard to keep control over his voice.
"Right. So," he said, looking away for a moment, letting out a huffy laugh. He felt just a bit ridiculous but that wouldn’t stop him. He felt his own thoughts racing way faster than he could bear it, he could barely hear anything in his head except the wildness of his heart reverberating through his entire being. How was Kyungsoo supposed to say anything coherent when there was nothing coherent in his head? "So you like like me?"
And it made no sense. Baekhyun snorted, looked to the side. Kyungsoo was repeating himself, it made no sense. He saw Baekhyun’s tongue flicking to the side of his mouth for a moment, tracing the edge of his lip. Nervousness. Kyungsoo recognized the gesture from one of his videos about beauty standards and how they’d affected him for a long, long time.
"Yes, Kyungsoo," he said and he sounded a bit breathless. His eyes jumped to Kyungsoo, jumped to the side, jumped to Kyungsoo again. "I like like you."
Kyungsoo wished he could record those words. He wished he could somehow take a picture of words.
Dumbass. That was just recording a video, he realized. Baekhyun made him so damn stupid.
So stupid his brain refused to believe it. This was weird. This wasn’t planned. This was strange.
"Okay," Kyungsoo said and he saw himself smile on the corner of his screen. He couldn’t even feel his own face anymore. Maybe it was too late. Maybe this face belonged to Baekhyun now. Maybe he already knew this face belonged to Baekhyun for a long time. Maybe he was okay with it. "But. Do you like me in a friendship way or do you like me?"
"Kyungsoo," Baekhyun said, right away. He brought the phone closer to his face. He brought himself closer, deeper to Kyungsoo’s heart. "I like you." He rubbed a hand over the side of his face, laughed under his palm shortly, leaned back into his chair and looked at Kyungsoo again. "Like I like you. I like you so bad I can’t stop thinking about you and I always want to see you and talk to you and I want to know everything about you and I want you to like me back. The way I like you."
It was an odd sensation. Kyungsoo heard those words louder, clearer than anything else he’d ever heard. But it didn’t feel like he was listening to Baekhyun, at the same time. It felt like he wasn’t even there. Felt like he was an outsider, felt like he’d stepped out of the situation.
But he was there. He was there and Baekhyun had just said that he liked him as more than a friend. That was it. That was what it meant. He’d said it so easily. So incredibly easily. Kyungsoo looked down, pressed his lips into a line he tried keeping tight but felt curving up at the edges.
"Alright. Okay," he said and laughed again, a single sound propelled out of his mouth. It sounded a bit ugly. He looked right at the Baekhyun he was holding in the palms of his hands, loosened the hold. "I like you too," he said, quiet, honest, so honest he felt these words scorching his tongue a little.
But it felt good. It felt so incredibly good. To like Baekhyun knowing that Baekhyun liked him back. Kyungsoo hadn’t felt so safe, so right in such a long, long time. Maybe they really did fit each other perfectly. Maybe this was the last criteria to decide that.
Baekhyun’s phone trembled a little, Kyungsoo saw the image of him turn crooked for a moment before he straightened it back up.
"You do?" he asked and it didn’t really feel like a question, more like a piece of happiness Baekhyun poked his heart with. Kyungsoo felt his smile sending jostles down his stomach.
"Yeah," Kyungsoo said and he let out some air infused with the beginning of a laugh. This was a ridiculous conversation. "Yeah, I like you too."
He felt his voice trembling even as it rose through his throat. It felt so incredibly relieving to be able to say it, finally.
"So we like each other," he realized out loud, turning his head a little bit, looking to the side. His gaze jumped right back to Baekhyun, couldn’t stray away for too long.
That made Baekhyun chortle and Kyungsoo couldn’t help but snort right at the same time. Baekhyun’s eyes mooned into something Kyungsoo couldn’t even identify. Amusement or satisfaction or mockery or happiness.
And even as he said it, Kyungsoo wasn’t sure about it. Someone as incredible as Baekhyun, someone loved by so many people he’d never even met. Someone like Baekhyun. Just Baekhyun. Baekhyun liked him. It felt like something much too grandiose for Kyungsoo, felt like a hoax he couldn’t help but fall into.
He didn’t know what he’d done to deserve this. He didn’t know how he’d managed to do this. But he was so happy to be the one to hear those words from Baekhyun. I like you. So happy Kyungsoo couldn’t even feel the tip of his fingers anymore. Like Baekhyun had already taken away part of him to be his forever and Kyungsoo wouldn’t be able to get it back anymore.
"We like each other," Kyungsoo repeated and Baekhyun nodded again, a slight movement of the head, much smaller than the smile. Kyungsoo could see that he was constricting it, trying to keep it small, could see it in the way he was pressing his lips together but it didn’t keep his cheeks from bundling up into solace. "What does that make of us?" Kyungsoo asked, voice breaking a little at the end of his sentence.
He was so nervous. Still so nervous. He couldn’t even look away from the screen from fear of this moment escaping him and never coming back.
"I don’t know," Baekhyun said, tilting one shoulder and his head towards each other in a shrug. "Whatever you want it to. What do you want?" he asked back, tongue coming out to wet his lower lip a little.
Kyungsoo felt himself mimicking the movement, felt something in him squeezing into itself when Baekhyun brought a hand to his chest, resting it there. Maybe he was just as nervous as Kyungsoo, maybe they really were in this together. Maybe they really mirrored each other’s feelings.
But Baekhyun had asked him a question and Kyungsoo brought a hand up to his cheeks, scratching the skin until he could feel it warm up under the harshness of his touch.
"I don’t know," he mumbled. But this was it. This was the moment he had to do it. He had to get rid of any blurriness between them. He wanted it all crystal clear. For the first time in so long. He looked away from Baekhyun. "We could," he started, stopping to hum when he looked back at Baekhyun and saw his smile. He looked so satisfied. Like he was having fun. Kyungsoo knew he couldn’t control his face and whatever Baekhyun saw there, he liked it. He took a deep breath in and let the words burst out of him. "We could… get to know each other more? We could be… together?"
Saying that made him feel stupid enough for his voice to go instinct by the end. What if he’d misunderstood it? What if this wasn’t what Baekhyun meant? He hated how insecure Baekhyun made him feel. But he liked every thing that Baekhyun made him too, all at the same time.
"Yes," Baekhyun said after a tiny pause, voice bursting through the screen a bit too loud. Kyungsoo allowed himself to finally blink. "Yeah. Of course. Sure. Yes. I would love that," he continued, words tumbling into each other. The way they always did when he was talking about something he very much liked. Kyungsoo. Kyungsoo was part of that category.
Neither of them said anything then, for a moment. Kyungsoo just looked at Baekhyun, heart still pulsing all over his body louder than the choir of thoughts marching through his head.
Baekhyun was the first to break the silence.
"So, we’re together then?"
And laughter ripped through Kyungsoo’s lips. That was the last straw.
Baekhyun’s laugh followed in and it sounded raspy through the phone, loud and scratched and free and Kyungsoo couldn’t stop himself from laughing even more. Their laughter sounded good together.
"Why is this conversation such a mess?" Baekhyun asked, rubbing his eye with a fist as the remnants of their fit of laughter raked through his chest, making him hiccupy.
"I don’t know," Kyungsoo replied, stretching his legs and raising the phone a bit higher. He sighed. Not tiredness, nor annoyance. It just felt good to laugh so hard with Baekhyun, made him feel lighter. "I just know that now we’re together."
Baekhyun grinned so hard Kyungsoo couldn’t see his eyes anymore. "You mean… together together?" he said and by the panicky tone of his voice and the exaggerated width of his eyes, Kyungsoo could tell he as making fun of him.
"Stop making fun of me or I will hang up on you," Kyungsoo said, laughing his voice into a whine as he threw his head back and rubbed a hand over his face in exasperation towards himself. This would be a very, very fun story to tell to people someday.
"Fine, fine," he heard Baekhyun say and when he looked at him again, Baekhyun was twisting his chair left and right, swinging slowly. "We’re together together."
He said it with a finality to his voice but it was tucked in under layers of downiness. Maybe that was exactly what Baekhyun did to Kyungsoo’s heart too. Tucked it right under layers and layers of cotton, of silk, until it was in such a comfortable place, Kyungsoo wished he would never have to leave it.
"Yeah," Kyungsoo breathed out through his smile. His cheeks were starting to ache but he couldn’t twist his face into blankness. Only overwhelming joy." "Alright. We are."
"But," Baekhyun said, pointing to the camera with a long finger and a blinding beam. "That means you’re my exclusive cameraman now."
Kyungsoo snorted. If the only payment he was getting was that smile always being directed at him and only him, then he was willing to be that exclusive cameraman until the end of time.
wonderfullydressed has reacted to your story: best photographer in the game.
Kyungsoo read the notification and typed a quick reply. I’m the best only when it’s you I’m taking a picture of.
That had unfortunately not been a picture of Baekhyun. But Kyungsoo still loved taking pictures of Jongin, the light of the restaurants behind him looked really fitting with the mustard of his shirt. And the idiot had a nice smile too. And Kyungsoo liked bragging about his best friend.
"Why are you smiling at your phone like a baby?"
Kyungsoo put his phone down and stared at Jongin. "What do you mean like a baby?" he mumbled, giving him a look as he grabbed his utensils again and cut a piece of his lasagna.
"You look like a baby when you smile," Jongin said with no hesitation but a voice full of amusement reflected into his eyes.
"Thanks," Kyungsoo snorted, pushing the food into his fork with his knife. "That does a lot for my ego."
"Babies are cute," Jongin said, voice rising into a higher sound in his haste to defend himself. He pointed at Kyungsoo with his fork. "And by sulking, you’re being exactly that. A baby."
"Right," Kyungsoo replied, stretching the sound until Jongin laughed a little. He shook his head in amusement and chewed on his food.
"That doesn’t reply to my question though," Jongin asked, sharpening his attention on Kyungsoo. He looked just a bit funny, chewing as he looked at him with suspicion.
Kyungsoo looked over Jongin’s shoulder when a family settled on the table behind him then cleared his throat.
"Baekhyun and I are together," he blurted out then, as he dragged another pice of lasagna through the sauce on his plate. This restaurant was actually pretty amazing for these lasagna.
When Jongin said nothing, Kyungsoo looked up at him and had to press his lips together to suppress a laugh when he saw that he’d stopped chewing and was merely staring at him blankly.
"What?" Kyungsoo laughed. "Swallow your food or you’ll choke."
"Wait," Jongin said and Kyungsoo scrunched his nose when he got a glimpse of the crushed food in his mouth. Jongin swallowed, took a sip of water, and Kyungsoo didn’t think someone could look so crazy while doing that but he was having fun. "Like together together?"
That made Kyungsoo smile, threw him back to the call with Baekhyun, a few days ago now. They’d talked until way after midnight then, until Baekhyun had looked so sleepy his blinks couldn’t be called that anymore.
"Yes," he replied, drawing curlicues in the sauce coating his plate with his fork’s teeth. Oddly, having this conversation made him happy. And proud, to be able to tell someone that Baekhyun was dating him. "It happened out of the sudden, I guess. We were FaceTiming and just had a conversation and decided it."
"FaceTiming?" Jongin repeated, widening his eyes so much Kyungsoo kind of wanted to pinch his face. He looked very dumb like that. "You?"
"Yeah," he huffed but he couldn’t even be mad at his best friend for the obvious mockery in that response. It really was out of the norm for Kyungsoo.
Then, a wide smile etched itself on Jongin’s face and he did a little dance with his shoulders, making Kyungsoo laugh.
"I knew you liked him that much," he said, smiling like he’d just won something.
"You didn’t know that much," Kyungsoo still defended himself, although the smile shaping his words probably didn’t made him too credible.
"Oh my god," Jongin said then, leaning closer to Kyungsoo, eyebrows raised as he put down his utensils. "This happened because of me. I knew it would end this way. It’s thanks to me!"
Kyungsoo chortled. "Every good thing that happens is thanks to you, weirdly," he said, shaking his head in mock exasperation. Maybe Jongin was kind of right.
"Yeah!" Jongin insisted, a perky shameless sound. Then, he leaned back into his chair and smiled at Kyungsoo, a bit more tender, less of a joke. "I’m really glad though. That’s really awesome." Kyungsoo smiled so hard he felt like his cheeks would drop into his plate. "I hope you’ll make each other very, very happy."
"He does make me very happy," Kyungsoo whispered, putting his fork down. He hadn’t been so happy in such a long time. But there was something else he wanted to talk about. He pursed his lips then and reached for his water. "This also means I have to talk to Chanyeol though."
"About what?" Jongin asked, grabbing his utensils again and cutting a piece of his steak.
Kyungsoo knew Jongin probably had already figured tit out but just wanted to hear it directly from Kyungsoo's mouth.
"I guess I never really…" He stopped, took a sip of water to help himself think better. "I guess I never really talked with him about us. Even if nothing was really happening, there was still something. And I want a clean cut, just to make sure I’m not doing anything wrong in regards to Baekhyun. Or even to Chanyeol. I’ll even tell Baekhyun about it."
"Maybe that would be a good idea," Jongin hummed, nodding as he wiped a finger on the tissue next to his plate. "You’ve never really wanted to talk to Chanyeol," he noted then, giving Kyungsoo his full attention.
"I always kind of chickened out," Kyungsoo admitted without much trouble. Even when he’d said he’d cut things off with Chanyeol, he hadn’t done it as properly as he should’ve. But he’d been thinking about this ever since they’d made things official with Baekhyun. "I’m just gonna tell him about it and hope that I don’t come off as ridiculous but still just in case."
He didn’t want Chanyeol to have any lingering ideas. He didn’t want him to misinterpret his actions either and they were colleagues. To make sure that they could both keep working together comfortably, he had to do this. He owed this much to Chanyeol, but also to Baekhyun.
Kyungsoo was serious about this. He wanted to do things properly.
"You took this decision yourself, I’m so proud of you," Jongin said and even though he disguised it as a joke by giving Kyungsoo an overly emotional expression, Kyungsoo knew it was only half a joke. "You’re growing up too quickly," he said then, wiping an imaginary tear from his cheek.
Kyungsoo kicked his leg under the table this time.
If asked, Kyungsoo probably couldn’t list all the reasons why he liked Baekhyun.
But if asked, he knew that one of them would be how much Baekhyun just liked taking walks. Walking while talking about his day, walking to the restaurant, walking in silent enjoyment of each other’s presence, walking while letting his fingers brush Kyungsoo’s because he didn’t like holding hands but he liked Kyungsoo.
The night was joyful, there were no stars in the sky but the wind sang fresh melodies against their skin as they walked through the park near Kyungsoo’s block. There was no one else, this place was usually depleted as soon as night fell even during summer but Kyungsoo didn’t mind. Baekhyun’s presence populated his heart with enough joy for him not to mind anything else in the world, even solitude.
And when Baekhyun pressed their arms together and rested his head on Kyungsoo’s shoulder with a sigh, Kyungsoo’s steps stuttered but not as hard as his heart tripped in his chest and fell, fell, fell. He felt like it would be an unending fall.
"I’m so exhausted," he heard Baekhyun say and raised his arm to pull him even closer, wrapping it around his waist, squeezing as much comfort as he could into him.
He didn’t say anything, because no matter what he said it wouldn’t take the tiredness away from Baekhyun. Kyungsoo preferred physical words, words pressed into skin, words he patted into Baekhyun’s cheek with his other hand. The hair that brushed against his fingertips felt like the most precious of silk.
"What did you do today?" he asked then, because he liked listening to Baekhyun tell him even the most random details about the hours they spent apart.
When Baekhyun pulled away to look at Kyungsoo, it felt like part of him remained stuck to Kyungsoo’s shoulder. Maybe warmth, maybe a piece of a heart. Kyungsoo hoped it was a piece of his heart. It was early, still so early but he really hoped Baekhyun would give him his heart at some point. Kyungsoo would care for it like he’d never cared for anything before.
They hadn’t seen each other today, until Baekhyun had FaceTimed him an hour ago and asked if they could see each other. Kyungsoo had never gotten ready so fast in his life.
"I spent the whole day filming for a video and I’m really so tired," he said, words morphing into a yawn at the end of his sentence.
Kyungsoo smiled, expecting him to pick up and say something he’d already heard so many times after those words.
"And usually I’d say it’s nothing," Baekhyun said and Kyungsoo tilted his head to the side in light surprise. A twist. Not the exact words he’d expected.
Baekhyun looked down and kicked a stone that was on his path. He was wearing his favorite pair of converse tonight, along with large brown checkered pants that he looked very comfortable in. His furry beige jacket made it hard for Kyungsoo not to want to snuggle up to him and never move away.
"But," Baekhyun said, a crispy sound, shoving his hands on the pockets of his jackets and bumping his shoulder against Kyungsoo’s. "Someone scolded me in a rather hot way so I’m trying not to downgrade my work like that. Therefore, I’ll just say that it took me so long to film and I’m tired."
Kyungsoo’s face had morphed into a smile halfway through those words. Baekhyun could just transform his entire existence into a smile just like that.
"I’m proud of you," he said and his voice didn’t take a single turn towards amusement. It remained steady, low, earnest.
"That usually sounds like a joke," Baekhyun said, fastening his pace a little bit so he could walk ahead of Kyungsoo and jump on the bench they were passing by, hands still hidden in his pockets.
"It isn’t," Kyungsoo said, stopping in front of him, stretching his neck to look up at him. He brought his hand to his hips then dragged it up until he could pat Baekhyun’s hand through the fabric of his jacket. "I’m proud of you," he declared, threading those words with the most honest part of himself.
He hadn’t expected to hear that, thought that Baekhyun would put no importance to the conversation they’d had about this back in his house, when they’d been folding clothes and throwing part of their attraction to each other’s face.
He was glad to hear it. Even though he knew it would take a lot of work, he was glad to know that Baekhyun was at least trying to give himself more credit and allow himself to be tired once in a while.
Kyungsoo took a step back when Baekhyun smiled down a him. With that one, tiny curve on his mouth, he’d hung the sun in the the darkness of the sky. He jumped down to stand right in front of Kyungsoo and link that light to Kyungsoo’s entire being through the link of their arms.
"But do you hate it?" Kyungsoo said as they started walking again. It was a wonder his voice was steady when he could feel flutters shooting through his whole body. "All the work this requires you to do?"
"No," Baekhyun said, looking at him with eyebrows raised high as he stretched that sound as if even the possibility that Kyungsoo thought that was enough for him to panic. Kyungsoo already knew, but sometimes he wondered still. It was a possibility and he didn’t know Baekhyun by heart yet, couldn’t know his deepest, most secretive thoughts. It was by asking sometimes stupid question that he would learn Baekhyun. "I love it. I love my job and everything that comes with it. I love creating content that can entertain or amaze or make people forget their problems for a moment. And I think that’s worth the exhaustion."
If you were to ask Kyungsoo what he likes the most about Baekhyun, he couldn’t reply to you.
But if you were to ask him, he knew one of the things on the list would be the passion lighting up Baekhyun’s face whenever he talked about his job, the convinced hand movements, the excited stumble of his words, the up and downs of his voice.
And Kyungsoo loved it so much. So much. It was a bit frightening, how overwhelming it was to like Baekhyun, how it controlled the entirety of his body, from his heart to the stirring in his stomach to the way his body leaned towards Baekhyun of its own accord right then, his gaze deescalating to his lips.
But Baekhyun turned his head at the last moment and the pucker of Kyungsoo’s lips was only granted the edge of his lips. He pulled back with a laugh at himself and Baekhyun chortled, head snapping towards him.
"Wait, no, I didn’t notice," he said, laughter tucking in-between his words as he pulled Kyungsoo closer to him again by the arm. "Kiss me again," he demanded, the satisfaction in his eyes suffusing into amusement.
"No," Kyungsoo said, turning his head away from him and closing his eyes for a moment. He wasn’t embarrassed, just liked this show of how much Baekhyun wanted to kiss him. "You lost your chance."
"Come on," Baekhyun whined, shaking his arm a little. The wind blew, rising his hair from his forehead for a moment. "Please," he said, pulling hard enough for Kyungsoo to almost trip for a second and laugh. He was adorable, the pucker of his lips, the insistence in his eyes, the excitement in the tremors of his body. All of it was endearing Kyungsoo took a deep breath and still felt like he couldn’t breathe properly.
"No," he replied, just because this was fun, stretching the sound to mock Baekhyun’s whining.
Baekhyun stopped walking then and narrowed his eyes at him. Kyungsoo mirrored his expression then burst into laughter when Baekhyun’s hands were suddenly squishing his cheeks and pulling his face towards him. It was a kiss as sloppy as the first one, Baekhyun laughed against his lips more than he pecked them.
Kyungsoo didn’t know where Baekhyun’s laugh ended and his started. He liked it this way. He liked it so much this way.
"How was that any better?" he said when Baekhyun pulled away with a sway to his feet, caused by his hitching laughter.
"Exactly!" was all he said, widening his eyes like he’d just proved a point to Kyungsoo who only snorted and leaned to kiss him properly, fitting his lips against Baekhyun’s smile better than he’d fitted anything else in his life.
That was the night he realized that he’d accept anything from Baekhyun. Half kisses, failed kisses. Anything that Baekhyun was willing to give him and maybe, Baekhyun would like every kiss he gave him too, no matter how imperfect.
Kyungsoo liked the end of his days more than their beginnings, especially when it came to work days.
Something about the store being empty, alight but void of any client and allowing him to hum to himself as he cleaned around was calming, almost therapeutic.
He grabbed a chair, lifted it and turned it upside down so he could rest it on the table. This would make it easier for him to sweep the floor later. He heard Chanyeol gasp and looked over his shoulder at him.
"Almost dropped my phone," Chanyeol explained with a sheepish smile to which Kyungsoo snorted before moving to the other table.
He did the same thing, putting away the chairs as they both silently continued working, Chanyeol cleaning the counter area where they prepared the drinks for their clients. Kyungsoo glanced at him, looked down again, bit his lower lip.
It wasn’t weird between them, it had never been. Chanyeol was a bit quieter than usual but nothing was wrong between them. Maybe it would be weird to talk to him about it. Maybe it would be weird not to talk to him about it.
He’d told it to Baekhyun. He had felt a bit stressed out about it but Baekhyun hadn’t reacted badly at all. Kyungsoo had cut off things between Chanyeol and him as soon as he started liking Baekhyun, after all, and he was glad. Baekhyun had said that he was glad too. It had been the right thing to do. He’d said, however, that talking to Chanyeol should Kyungsoo’s decision and not his, but that it always felt a bit shitty when someone suddenly retorted to ghosting rather than having a conversation. And he was right. It had been the right decision but there could’ve been an even righter decision to take.
Kyungsoo didn’t want to run away from his responsibilities anymore. Not now that he wanted to be a better version of himself.
"Hey," he said, quickly before he could change his mind. Chanyeol looked at him as he continued cleaning the counter. "There’s something I want to talk to you about."
Chanyeol put down the cloth he was using to give him his whole attention.
"What’s wrong?" he said, pressing both hands on the counter as Kyungsoo approached him. "I’m not holding anything breakable so this is your chance," he added then and Kyungsoo saw his attempt at making things more lighthearted and appreciated it.
"I don’t really know if this is going to make any sense," Kyungsoo started, grabbing his wrist with his other hand, unsure of what posture to take. He really didn’t want to come off as conceited or delusional.
"It’s alright," was all Chanyeol said this time and his smile had slipped away. Kyungsoo was really bad at hiding his nervousness, maybe.
"Alright," he said before taking a deep breath in. "Okay. So. I’m sorry to say this, I hope I don’t come off as conceited or delusional or anything." Chanyeol furrowed his eyebrows and Kyungsoo cleared his throat before continuing. "But I feel like there was something between us? And we never addressed it, I guess."
He was looking at Chanyeol throughout his whole small speech and could see the exact moment Chanyeol’s features went slack. He wasn’t sure that was a good thing.
"Oh," Was the first thing Chanyeol said, pushing himself back with the hands on the counter and leaning forward again. "Yeah. No. There was a bit of a thing, I guess. We did," he stopped, moved a hand in front of him like he was trying to catch the right words, "get along well, I guess."
"Until I kind of started ghosting you," Kyungsoo admitted, feeling very embarrassed as he said it. But he wanted to say it. That was the least he could do.
Chanyeol let out a breathy laugh. "I mean, it wasn’t really ghosting. You still replied to my message. You just stopped seeming interested in me and didn’t put in as much effort anymore."
"Right," Kyungsoo winced before taking a deep breath in, fingers digging into the protrusion of his wrist. "I actually liked talking to you. I still do. I just didn’t like it like that. And when I realized that, I stopped because I didn’t want to give you a signal that I wasn’t sure of. That would be unfair. And." He stopped, pursing his lips. Kyungsoo hadn’t realized how bad the situation was until he had to actually describe it out loud. "And I also started liking someone so I put some distance between you and me. We’re together now. So, I didn’t want to leave anything hanging between you and I. Also because I really appreciate you, as a friend. I’m just sorry that I chose to start ignoring you instead of having this conversation with you earlier. It would’ve been the good choice."
He made sure to look right at Chanyeol throughout all his words. Not with confidence, but with the honesty of someone who truly felt bad about the way they dealt with things.
Chanyeol didn’t say anything for a moment and Kyungsoo’s mouth was hanging open. He wasn’t sure whether he should say something else or what he should say or if he’d just really hurt someone he appreciated a lot.
But then, Chanyeol scrunched his face. "Damn, you really rejected me before I could even confess."
Kyungsoo didn’t find it in himself to laugh, those words petrifying him for a moment. Chanyeol saw through it quickly and waved his hands in front of him with a laugh that sounded just like the usual. Not weird, not fake.
"I’m just exaggerating, it’s alright," he said and when Kyungsoo didn’t laugh or didn’t decide whether to believe him or not or apologize yet, he shook his head a bit. "I mean. I did appreciate you a bit, I think. But I don’t think I liked you. Not enough to actually confess, at least. Or else, I would’ve done it. So it’s okay. I settled on being friends with you, I thought that would work better for us and that’s why I never said anything. I didn’t want to come off as conceited either."
He laughed a bit at the end of his words and it sounded real enough for Kyungsoo to let himself laugh along, quieter, more relief than amusement apparent in his voice.
"Okay. Yeah," he said, letting go of his wrist, studying Chanyeol carefully. "I think I see what you mean."
"I guess we both just didn’t like each other that much," Chanyeol said, twisting his lips a little. "So it’s okay really. We can be just friends, can’t we? We already were."
"Yeah," Kyungsoo and when Chanyeol smiled at him, small but familiarly comfortable, he felt his shoulders going softer, the tension in his body pouring out of him just like that. He was glad. "Yeah, I think we’re good friends."
"Not when you make fun of me for dropping things though," Chanyeol retorted right away, crushing his voice under a sulk.
Kyungsoo chortled at that. He took a step back. He was really, really glad that Chanyeol could still joke with him. This was what he liked about Chanyeol, his casualty, his funny jokes.
"I can’t promise I’ll ever stop doing that, but I promise I’ll clean this place very well in compensation so you won’t have to do it over after me," he said, heading behind the counter then to grab the broom from where Chanyeol had leaned it against the wall.
"That already never happens," Chanyeol snorted and he got back to his task too, wiping around the sink. "Give me the tea though. Who’s the boyfriend?"
Kyungsoo twirled towards him in a snappy movement and pointing at him with the sticky end of the broom. Chanyeol’s smile had never been so proud.
"Please never make that pun again," Kyungsoo threatened him, to which Chanyeol merely laughed.
Shaking his head, Kyungsoo started sweeping the area but he did it with a smile on his face. A smile of relief, happiness, and a bit of liberation maybe. Taking accountability and having honest conversations about relationships wasn’t that hard, maybe.
And it also allowed him to brag about Baekhyun to a very interested and curious friend.
"That looks good," Kyungsoo said as he put a plate full of food next to Baekhyun’s laptop and stopped there to look at the screen.
"Really?" Baekhyun asked, replaying the sequence he was showing him.
It was a shot of him walking on the street as the words part one appeared letter by letter with each step he took. He’d spent three whole hours doing this little thing. Kyungsoo had been watching him, had been able to read almost fifty pages of a book he’d just started, had been cooking and admiring all that patience as Baekhyun worked throughout all in the span of those three hours.
He really liked that. Keeping Baekhyun company even if it was silent as Baekhyun worked on his videos and business calls. It was a habit they’d started taking this week and Kyungsoo discovered that he really, really enjoyed just basking in Baekhyun’s presence, even if no attention was given to him. It just felt tranquilizing, being able to exist right next to Baekhyun with both of them doing their own thing.
"Yeah," Kyungsoo said, leaving for the kitchen again.
He’d forgotten the salt dispenser there, just in case the food wasn’t to Baekhyun’s taste. He brought it to the living room and as he passed by Baekhyun, he ruffled the top of his hair and smiled down at him when Baekhyun looked up and followed him with his eyes.
"You spent so much time on that, you’re incredibly patient," Kyungsoo said as he sat on the chair next to Baekhyun’s.
"It’s a small detail, really," Baekhyun said, shrugging with one shoulder as he pushed his laptop away and pulled his plate closer. "But it’s a pretty detail. I wanted things to look good."
"Well, I think you’re doing a very good job at making things pretty to watch," Kyungsoo praised him with all the honesty he could muster. Baekhyun posted regularly, almost once a week but the quality of his videos never diminished. He just got better and better over time.
"Thank you," Baekhyun said and even though he leaned closer and let his voice drip into sugariness, like he was teasing Kyungsoo, he knew that Baekhyun really liked getting that recognition, even from him. "This looks even better though," he said, looking down at his food with stars in his eyes.
Over the past couple days, Kyungsoo had figured out that one thing Baekhyun loved almost as much as fashion was food. He could only hope that one day he’d be on that level of appreciation as well. But he wouldn’t say it out loud, wanting to be liked as much as food and clothes was a bit odd, maybe.
"The recipe was called Moroccan Chicken," he answered, smiling down as he grabbed his fork. "It’s my first time cooking it. It’s really just chicken, chickpeas, zucchini and tomatoes. And a pretty tasty sauce, might I say."
"I shall confirm that myself," Baekhyun teased him and he moved to grab his fork but instead of eating, he pushed a chickpea on his plate against a cherry tomato. "I have an idea," he said then, suddenly a bit more serious.
"What?" Kyungsoo asked, cutting a piece of chicken with his knife and bringing it to his mouth. He hummed. It tasted good, even though he’d tasted it while cooking. He was a bit impressed.
"For a video," was all Baekhyun said before shoving food in his mouth. He raised his eyebrows. "This is amazing," he said, voice loudening a bit before he ate more.
"Good," Kyungsoo said, satisfaction spreading through him. Those words coming from Baekhyun tasted better than the delicious food he’d cooked with his won hands. "What video?" He wasn’t sure why Baekhyun didn’t just say it right away like he usually would.
"A how to match outfits with your significant other kind of video," Baekhyun said, grabbing the bottle of sparkling water and pouring some in Kyungsoo’s glass.
Kyungsoo hummed. "That’s a good idea," he said despite the surprise. He hadn’t expected that but it really was a good idea. "Like couples who have the same clothes?"
"No," Baekhyun retorted right away, stretching the sound in indignation. Kyungsoo huffed a laugh. "Never. That is boring. Why wear the same clothes when you could just wear similar outfits that go well together? That is exactly what the video would be about."
Of course Baekhyun would take a route different than the classical one.
"I think that would be a very nice video to watch," Kyungsoo said, knife and fork accidentally clattering together. He winced at the sound before continuing. "But then you need someone to be in the video with you. You usually never have people in videos with you."
Baekhyun sighed and put his utensils down. Kyungsoo huffed an amused breath through his nose when he noticed he’d already almost finished the piece of chicken in his plate.
"That’s the thing," he said, pressing his lips into a line. "I am faced with a dilemma."
"Which is?" Kyungsoo asked, putting down his fork to rest his hand on Baekhyun’s knee, rubbing up towards his thigh and coming back down in a caress that he hoped would ease Baekhyun into this conversation. He usually wasn’t so hesitant to speak out his mind.
"I actually wanted to film that video with you," Baekhyun sighed, hand landing on top of Kyungsoo’s in a delicate gesture. He trailed his fingers in small circles over his knuckles. Kyungsoo didn’t say anything, let him take the time to continue. "I don’t really want to film it with anyone else. It’s a video basically for couples after all. But I also-" he stopped, mouth hanging open around the words he couldn’t find for a moment. "I also want to keep us private for now. I want to keep you to myself."
Kyungsoo’s lips curved up into a smile. Those words tasted sweeter than his favorite plate would in his mouth and he hadn’t even been the one to pronounce them.
"I’m already sorry to be so public about everything else," Baekhyun said, free hand illustrating his words with small gestures. "My job, my life, what I do in a day… It could get tiring for you to have to share me with… basically the Internet. I don’t want to expose you to that, it can be harsh sometimes."
He let out a quiet laugh, the lack of amusement as apparent as the lack of sound. Kyungsoo thought back to the glimpses he caught of nasty comments under his videos and pressed his lips into a tight line.
"So yeah, I want to do it but I also don’t want to put you in a video or even on my social media for now," Baekhyun said, tilting his head side to side to the rhyme of his words. Probably to add more casualty to the subject. Maybe this was a habit. Kyungsoo liked that he had all the time in the world to discover Baekhyun’s habits.
Kyungsoo grabbed Baekhyun’s hand with both his hands, resting his hold on Baekhyun’s lap.
"You know, I like you for everything you showed me," he said because really, that was the most important, crucial thing he wanted Baekhyun to hear at the moment. He’d just told him about some insecurities Kyungsoo didn’t even know he had. Baekhyun put his other hand on top of his too, thumb tracing his skin. "Even the things I saw on my own on your videos. I started liking you knowing that you’re busy and spend hours working and it’s a difficult job and you maybe don’t have as much freedom and invisibility as I do. So it doesn’t matter to me, whether you show me or not on the internet. It’s your life, your platform, your job. Your choice. If I ever don’t want to be public, I’ll tell you. Right now, I wouldn’t mind. But if you don’t want us to be, then that’s perfectly fine as well."
It really didn’t matter to Kyungsoo. He liked Baekhyun for Baekhyun. Not for what he represented or his job. He didn’t feel the need to publicly claim Baekhyun as his, that was ridiculous. He didn’t really need anything else but Baekhyun and this was totally up to him. Kyungsoo hadn’t imagined this would be so important but it made sense. This wasn’t only Baekhyun’s job, it was also his lifestyle.
"Thank you," Baekhyun said, squeezing Kyungsoo’s hand once. He felt the relief in that gesture and felt a bit sad that Baekhyun had even stressed out about this. "It’s not that I don’t want to," Baekhyun said, shaking his head a bit. "Just. I guess this is new for me and I’m not sure about it."
"That’s okay," Kyungsoo said, raising his eyebrows and leaning closer to Baekhyun. He hoped his eyes managed to convey the reassurance he wanted to give him. "We can be private for now. It doesn’t have to be forever. When you, when we feel like it we can just start being more public. Same thing goes for your video. Do you want to film it right now? As soon as possible?"
"No, it’s just an idea I have for now but I don’t have to do it now," Baekhyun said, then his features hardened with a decision. "What if we did it later on? And maybe that would be like a way to kinda make us public?"
"Like 'look I have a boyfriend and I am dressing him'?"
Baekhyun snorted, raising his gaze to the ceiling. "Okay yeah maybe that is kind of exactly the message I want to give."
It wasn’t really, Kyungsoo knew. But he liked that they could joke about that.
"Then we can do that, in a few weeks, a few months. Whenever you want," Kyungsoo said, patting Baekhyun’s hand a few times and drawing more tiny pieces of laughter out of him. "Alright?"
"Alright," Baekhyun said, smile shining over his voice and lowering it as he looked into Kyungsoo’s eyes. Kyungsoo felt the sudden and incredible urge to memorize this image of Baekhyun forever. Smiling, happy, calm, holding his hands. Sharing his insecurities with Kyungsoo. "Thanks. You do give good advice."
He hoped Baekhyun would feel even more comfortable enough with him to tell him every single thing that crossed his mind soon. Kyungsoo knew he was getting there himself, even if this was only the start of them.
"And I have another good advice to give," Kyungsoo said, letting go of his hands to point out a playful finger at him.
"What?" Baekhyun said, turning back to his food. He fit so much into his fork that it was a miracle nothing fell before he could bring it all to his mouth.
"Let’s take a picture," Kyungsoo said and without even waiting for Baekhyun’s reply, he grabbed his phone from the table and pushed his chair closer to Baekhyun’s.
He pressed their arms together and raised the phone in front of them.
"If this is a way to distract me from the fact that you just said you basically binged my videos-"
"Okay, smile," Kyungsoo cut him off, to which Baekhyun replied by pinching his thigh while smiling at the camera.
Kyungsoo hadn’t said that at all, it was merely a teasing assumption of Baekhyun’s. But it wasn’t untrue. Just as it wasn’t untrue that the smile bedazzling him from the screen of his phone deserved thousands pictures of it taken. Even if none of them would ever do it justice.
Kyungsoo still took many pictures of them. Of Baekhyun pressing their cheeks together. Of him pulling at Baekhyun’s ear because Baekhyun didn’t like how big they were and always hid them under his hair. Of Baekhyun resting his head on his shoulder and acting asleep. Of Baekhyun puckering his lips to the maximum and kissing Kyungsoo’s cheek, Kyungsoo’s eye closing on that side of his face.
Every single pose made for a perfect picture. Maybe it wasn’t so much because of the pose. Maybe it was because Kyungsoo had a feeling the picture would always be perfect as long as they were on it together.
And he wished, with a heart that was barely getting to know Baekhyun’s, that they would stick to that for a very, very long time.