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“Well, what do you think?”

“I’m thinking that I would have liked to stay in bed a little bit longer,” Jongin yawned.

Chanyeol shook his head and planted a peck on Jongin’s forehead, reaching him over the gearshift of their pick-up truck. Well, Chanyeol’s pick-up truck. Jongin refused to drive the darned thing.

“C’mon, let’s get going!” Chanyeol said before getting off the truck, slamming the door so hard Jongin felt it ricocheting in his brain.

Whistling a happy little tune and walking with a spring in his steps, Chanyeol quickly crossed the front yard of the house they had stopped in front of and jumped on the porch, digging in the pockets of his jacket before triumphantly finding the key and turning it into the lock.

He is always so disgustingly chirpy in the morning, Jongin thought, sipping on what remained of his latte. Why do we have to start our day at such an unreasonable hour? The house has been here for the past eighty years, it’s not gonna run anywhere.

Resigned, Jongin left his used cup near a pile of what looked like old takeout menus – When was the last time Chanyeol has cleaned up, he wondered – grabbed his bag, and exited the truck, shivering. Jongin loved fall but largely preferred to experience it from the toasty warmth of his bed, not lost in the countryside, trembling because he had forgotten his scarf.

“So?” Chanyeol asked, standing on the porch of the house. “Hasn’t it got potential?”

Jongin tilted his head to the side. “Mmh,” he hummed, pretending to be thinking hard about it just to enjoy the expectant look on Chanyeol’s face to the fullest. He looked like an enthusiastic puppy.

“Jongin, c’mon…” Chanyeol whined.

Breaking out in a beautiful smile, Jongin nodded and hurried up the steps, falling into Chanyeol’s welcoming arms. “It does,” he said, leaving a kiss on his boyfriend’s cheek. “Let’s take a look inside.”

 

Chanyeol and Jongin had met through a common friend.

Back in college, Jongin had shared one of his classes with Sehun – who was studying to be a fashion designer, while Jongin had chosen interiors. They had been paired up for a group project and while, at first, their two personalities had clashed because of ‘artistic choices’, they had quickly realized that together they were a force to be reckoned with. Putting aside their differences and working on their strengths, they had worked hard and came out winners: they not only got the best grade out of all the class, but they also earned a new friend out of the entire ordeal. They deemed themselves quite satisfied.

Once the semester was over, unwilling to let their relationship die with it, they kept in touch and met quite often on campus, be it to study together at the library or for a cup of coffee at Sehun’s favorite place – at the time, Jongin was quite oblivious at what was actually going on with Sehun and his choice of coffee shop. Only when he saw him making out behind the building with their favorite barista did he finally realize that Sehun must have been more interested in Kim Junmyeon than he was in the actual coffee they served.

Their duo having been turned into a trio by the welcome addition of literature major Kim Junmyeon, Sehun put in his head the idea of finding someone Jongin could hook up with. Jongin thought it was more out of Sehun’s desire of going on a double date - as he had seen in the movies - than out of real concern over Jongin’s inexistent love life. But Jongin being Jongin, he had humored Sehun’s wishes and gone on a few dates with people Sehun introduced him to. After the third date gone awry, he started wondering if Sehun had any idea of what he was doing, or if he was deliberately fixing Jongin up with people that were the total opposite of what he looked for in a partner.

Tired, Jongin soon refused to go on any more dates unless the people Sehun chose were also agreed upon by Junmyeon. The dates dropped drastically after that.

Jongin was thus enjoying a two-months long hiatus free from any romantic obligations when Christmas was suddenly upon them.

Sehun had decided to throw a little party in his apartment, something small to celebrate with friends. He had convinced Jongin to help him decorate and Jongin had to admit that it had been the most fun he had had in a while.

The apartment was soon full of all the people Sehun had invited and a few of Junmyeon and Jongin’s friends. The food was amazing – store-bought, of course. Neither Sehun, nor Jongin, nor Junmyeon could be trusted in the kitchen – the alcohol flowed freely and the neighbors hadn’t complained about the noise, yet. Overall, it was turning out to be the perfect party.

One hour into it, the doorbell rang.

Sehun having disappeared into his bedroom with an inebriated Junmyeon, and Jongin being the one closest to the door, greeting whoever was behind it fell upon his shoulders. He prayed that he wouldn’t find Sehun’s prim neighbors behind it.

He opened the door, wary, but who he saw wasn’t the bald man living in the apartment next to Sehun’s.

“Hello,” a deep, warm voice greeted Jongin. “Am I too late to the party?”

Chanyeol, Sehun explained once he resurfaced from his bedroom with several new hickeys and looking like the cat that got the cream, was Sehun’s oldest friend. Chanyeol still lived in Sehun’s hometown, working with his father at their construction firm. College had never been for him, he confessed to Jongin, a beer in one hand and a smirk on his lips, while the two of them sat on the living room’s small sofa, unaware of the coming and going around them.  

Chanyeol was smart, sweet, his sense of humor was similar to Jongin’s, and he had a body to die for. Jongin was instantly smitten, and the feeling was quickly returned.

Once the party was over and Jongin stayed behind to help Sehun tidy up, he hit him on the head with a pillow, several times, yelling about how – out of all the people he knew – he had never thought about introducing Chanyeol to Jongin, who, as Jongin said, “was utterly perfect in every way.”

That was the reason why Jongin got so irritated every time Sehun had the gall to preen like an overgrown peacock claiming that he had been the sole reason why Jongin and Chanyeol were so disgustingly happy together.

It had been fate, Jongin repeated time and time again. Sehun had had nothing to do with it.

While Jongin was still studying for his degree, the days he and Chanyeol could meet up were few, but every time he could Chanyeol would take his battered pickup and drive into the city just to spend a few hours with Jongin.

On those nights Chanyeol spent with him back in his tiny college bed, they had daydreamed about what the future would look like for them, and despite some details changing from time to time, something always stayed the same: they would be happy, and they would be together.

With his degree finally in his hands, Jongin didn’t think twice about moving in with Chanyeol. It hadn’t been a reckless decision: they had a project they wanted to see through together, and Jongin moving to Chanyeol’s hometown was only the first step.

Thinking about how to make it work and worrying whether or not it would pay off, they decided to treat it as a side-project at first, taking little steps in the direction of their dreams.

They started small: with their savings, they bought a tiny, run-down house that had the merit of having been built in a great position, right outside the downtown area of their city. Once fixed, they hoped it could sell pretty easily.

It wasn’t a walk in the park; they spent on it more than they had originally estimated, and the construction went on for longer than they had expected. Rookie mistakes, but their stubbornness paid off. The house sold well; so well, in fact, that they could invest more money into their next project, and into the next one after that.

Commissions started coming in, much to Chanyeol and Jongin’s happiness. With Chanyeol and his men taking care of the more practical aspects, Jongin was free to imagine what the houses would look like once completed, what kind of atmosphere he wanted to create for the families that would live there. It was the most fun he had ever had.

It didn’t come as surprise, then, when – right after the fifth anniversary of their business opening – Chanyeol bundled him up in his coat, handed him a travel mug full of latte, and shoved him into the pickup, blabbering about a new commission he had received a few days before but that he had forgotten to tell Jongin about.

They drove for a good forty minutes past the city limits and well into the sleepy countryside before Chanyeol stopped the pickup in front of an old, quaint house, utterly charming with its red roof and the small, rickety porch.

The door creaked open after a couple of tries, clearly it hadn’t been used in a while. Chanyeol behind him, Jongin stepped foot into the short corridor, dimly lit by the low light that came in from the curtain-covered window. The hallway opened up into what had to be the living room, with a beautiful stone hearth encased between two windows. Sliding doors – The original ones! Jongin thought, excited – led into the dining room which connected to the kitchen.

Running back towards the entrance, Jongin passed by a very amused Chanyeol, who was trailing behind him taking pictures of what they came across. There was another room downstairs – possibly what had been a home office – and then the staircase to the second floor. Two bedrooms, a closet, and a bathroom later, Jongin came running down the stairs, almost toppling over Chanyeol who was standing at the bottom of the staircase.

“Chanyeol!” Jongin yelled, excited. “Chanyeol, we need to take on this project! This house,” he sighed, starry-eyed. “This house is lovely.”

The click of a shutter button, then a bright flash of light right on Jongin’s face.

Blinking away the spots that had appeared in his eyes, Jongin regarded Chanyeol with confusion. “What was that for?”

Chanyeol shrugged, a fond little smile on his lips and his dimple in full display. “To remember this moment.”

“You’re weird,” Jongin stated, frowning.

“I might be weird, but you love me.”

And that, Jongin did.

 

On the road back home, Chanyeol informed Jongin that he had been contacted by the owner of the house – an heirloom the guy had received after the death of his grandfather, but that, living abroad for several years, he had never found the time to care about – who was moving back home in a few months and would like to have the old house restored and refurbished, ready for him to live in once he stepped off the plane.

Back at their apartment, Jongin quickly shed his shoes and his coat, running barefoot towards their bedroom. He came out soon after dressed in the comfiest clothes he owned, a determined light in his eyes.

Chanyeol, who had barely started preparing lunch for the two of them, looked on amusedly, knowing that when the creativity bug bit him, he wouldn’t see Jongin for at least the next three days. In those situations, Jongin had the tendency of holing himself up in his home office, coming out only for bathroom breaks. If Chanyeol didn’t regularly bring him food, he would probably end up surviving out of instant noodles and watered down coffee.

That was Jongin’s life for the next couple of days; bent over the desk of his tiny office, eyes burning under his desktop’s lights, he came up with three possible layouts to present to the house owner, each one respectful of the owner’s wishes: to preserve the original parts of the house as much as possible, to add a small second bathroom on the first floor, to enlarge the backyard porch.

Jongin had had no problems respecting those wishes, for he found himself to agree completely with them. The owner and I must have similar taste, he thought gleefully.

The possible layouts finally sent to the guy’s email address, Jongin found himself lazing around the apartment, waiting for Chanyeol to come back from work. He ordered some food, took a shower, started tidying up his office.

When Chanyeol came back, he found Jongin setting up the table, the warm aroma of Chinese food spreading in the kitchen. “I gather you had a good day?” he asked Jongin, kissing him on the cheek.

Jongin hummed, content. “The best. I just sent in the layouts to our client! Now we just have to wait for the approval and then we can start working on the house,” he said, barely able to contain his happiness.

“I’m glad, sweetheart. You are having a lot of fun working on this project, aren’t you?” Chanyeol asked, once sat at the table. Jongin had ordered all his favorites.

“Is it that obvious?” Jongin mumbled, his mouth full of chicken. Swallowing, he sipped on his water and then added, “The house is lovely, it has so much charm! All those original details, the view, the quiet, the land around it. I totally understand why our client wants to go live there, even if it’s quite far from the city. He would be a fool not to!”

Chanyeol nodded, a fun little smile appearing briefly, so much so that Jongin thought he must have imagined it.

“Do you have any ideas for the furnishing, yet?”

Jongin hesitated, not wanting to appear too eager. But, when he felt Chanyeol’s foot nudging his under the table and saw the encouraging look his boyfriend was giving him, he spat out, “I might have saved a few pages of furniture on my browser…”

“How many?”

“…you don’t want to know that.”

Chanyeol’s laughter rang out loudly in their small kitchen, and Jongin couldn’t help but laugh with him, full of a kind of happiness he found hard to describe.

“Wanna make out?” he casually asked Chanyeol once their plates were empty and their stomachs full.

Jongin had never seen Chanyeol move so quickly: grabbing Jongin’s arm, he dragged him to the couch and had him settled on his lap, eager. Jongin was laughing so hard that their make-out session had to wait a bit before it could start.

 

Jongin loved to check on the work in progress while his help wasn’t needed yet: as a perfectionist, he liked being able to keep an eye on everything, even though he trusted Chanyeol and his men to follow the project without any issues – they had worked together long enough that they knew not to stray from his directives and Chanyeol, especially, always made sure that everything was as Jongin had designed it: if his workers risked a telling-off, Chanyeol would be banished to the couch for several nights without Jongin feeling too guilty about it.

The second reason why Jongin took every chance he could to go check on their projects was that he loved watching his boyfriend at work. There was something incredibly hot about a sweaty Chanyeol working his ass off lifting weights or breaking down walls.

For that very reason, Jongin found himself in his car on the way to the house a couple of weeks after the start of the project. He was having quite a boring day at home and also missed his boyfriend, who usually left so early in the morning he didn’t even bother waking Jongin up, so he didn’t think twice before hopping into his car and driving all the way to the property.

At his arrival, he could immediately see how much progress had already been done: the roof had been repaired, old appliances that needed to be substituted were laying in the front yard, and new materials were being carried inside. They are making good time, Jongin thought, satisfied.

Sauntering inside, he greeted those he met on his way to Chanyeol, his boyfriend’s unmistakable singing voice guiding Jongin to the room the other was working in: standing on a ladder, Chanyeol was busy removing wooden strips from the ceiling – a relic from the 70s, most likely – to reveal the surface underneath.

“Hey, love!” Chanyeol greeted him before stepping off the ladder to plant a loud smooch on Jongin’s cheek. “Came to check on us?”

“You know me so well,” Jongin said, running his fingers through Chanyeol’s hair, moving them away from his forehead. “Have you taken a break yet?”

“Not yet. Wanna keep me company?”

They stepped outside and sat on the steps that led to the back porch, the banging and clanging that came from inside the only thing reminding them that they weren’t alone. If not for that, Jongin could have imagined he was gazing onto the trees of his own garden, and that any moment he and Chanyeol would go back inside to start preparing lunch. They would take a nap on the living room’s couch, a lively fire casting shadows over their sleeping forms.

But, thankfully, Jongin didn’t lose himself too much in that daydream, because no matter how much he loved the house, it would never be theirs. He had to be satisfied with just leaving their signature on it – Chanyeol’s in the plaster and wood, his in the cotton and wool – and not ask for much else.

“You are pensive today.”

Jongin turned to look at Chanyeol and his breath caught in his throat. Had he always been that handsome? He scooted closer to his boyfriend, uncaring of the dust that could transfer on his clean coat.

“I am,” he told him, and he needn’t say anything else.

They sat quietly for a while, each of them lost in their own thoughts. In the end, they were roused by the buzzing of Chanyeol’s phone, and they both realized it was time to go.

“I need to talk with our client,” Jongin told Chanyeol before stepping back inside. “There are so many details we still need to define, it would be better if I could speak directly with him.”

Chanyeol stumbled on a wire left laying around, risking becoming intimately acquainted with the door jamb. Concerned, Jongin hovered behind him, worried that maybe Chanyeol had worked too much lately. He wasn’t usually that clumsy.

“Are you alright?” he asked him, and Chanyeol nodded with force, marching inside.

“About the client,” Chanyeol said, “it might be impossible to talk with him on the phone because of the time zones, you know?”

“Oh…” Jongin hadn’t thought of that.

“But I’m sure you will have no problems communicating via email as we have done until now!” He left a quick kiss on Jongin’s cheek before hurrying back up the stairs to the second floor. “I need to go now, see you back home!” And just like that, he was gone.

Okay, then… that wasn’t weird at all, Jongin thought. He followed Chanyeol with his eyes until he had disappeared upstairs. Shrugging, he made his way along the hallway and to the front door, already composing the email he needed to send in his mind. Then, he suddenly recalled that he and Chanyeol hadn’t agreed on what they would have for dinner, so, like the good boyfriend he was, he went back inside to ask Chanyeol just that.

As before, he found his boyfriend in the bedroom he was fixing the ceiling of, but, unlike earlier, he found him whispering on the phone, which was already suspicious enough: Chanyeol’s voice was loud all the time, Jongin hadn’t even known he was capable of speaking in such a low tone.

Curious but aware of the terrible breach of privacy he would commit, Jongin didn’t know whether to stay and try to figure out what was going on or to go back to his car and pretend nothing had happened. Before he could make a decision, Chanyeol raised his voice enough for Jongin to be able to hear at least a couple of sentences: “You are way better at this than I am, I don’t even know the difference between an armchair and a chaise longue! Please, do it for me, alright?” A pause.  “Thanks, talk to you later.”

“Who were you talking to?”

Chanyeol flinched, startled. He turned around and Jongin thought he looked like one of those little, furry creatures surprised in the middle of the road by car lights.

“Ah, I was…” He cleared his throat. “I was talking to Yoora, we’ve thought about signing a contract with a new supplier.”

Jongin blinked; that was the first time he heard anything about a new contract. “What supplier?”

Wide-eyed, Chanyeol started pushing Jongin out of the room and towards the stairs, heedless of his protests. “I have a lot of work to do, we’ll talk about it at home, okay? I love you, bye!” he told Jongin, waving from the top of the stairs.

“Alright, alright, there is no need to be so pushy, jeez.” Miffed, Jongin decided to take a little revenge on his boyfriend: “We are having Mexican for dinner!” he yelled from the first floor and smirked gleefully at the loud groan Chanyeol let out.

They loved Mexican food, but it didn’t quite agree with Jongin’s stomach. Chanyeol was in for a turbulent night.

 

The next day Jongin woke up bright and early, ready to tackle the tasks he had scheduled for himself. After a shower and a nice breakfast, he settled down in his home office, his computer screen showing the first page of his inbox.

After going through a few emails that had accumulated in the past couple of days, he opened a new one, ready to finally discuss with their client about the style he wanted for his house. He wrote quite a long email – there was a lot to discuss, after all! – and attached a few images with examples of colors, textures, interiors of houses that Jongin had furnished in the past, hoping that their client would point him to what he wanted for himself.

Once the email was composed and sent, he started working on a little project he was keeping on the side. He and Chanyeol had often talked about moving out of their apartment, which, although spacious enough for the two of them, didn’t allow for much improvement. Jongin dreamed of a big house, one where he would be able to freely express his creativity. A garden wouldn’t hurt either, but he knew that finding something like what he had in mind in the city wasn’t that easy, and Chanyeol wouldn’t probably want to move too far away from his parents.

Nonetheless, Jongin kept adding pictures and ideas to a folder he kept hidden inside another folder he had labeled as ‘fabrics of the nineteenth century’, sure that Chanyeol would never go snoop in there.

He was busy poring over a very interesting blog written by a French architect when he heard a ping signaling a new email had arrived in his inbox. Thinking about quickly checking it over and then go back to the blog – it was probably spam, anyway – he was quite surprised seeing that the email was actually from their client who had replied way quicker than Jongin thought he would, almost as if he had been waiting for Jongin to contact him.

Recalling what Chanyeol had said about time zones, Jongin wondered if maybe their client suffered from insomnia and that was why he had replied so quickly. What time it was where he lived, anyway? Where did he live? Jongin had never bothered to ask. Ah, he felt so silly.

The reply was short and to the point, which Jongin appreciated. The client asked Jongin to send him a few more examples of what he had in mind, but he was overall agreeing to Jongin’s vision. It felt so refreshing to be working with someone who respected Jongin’s ideas and was open to suggestions. More often than not, Jongin had to bow to his clients’ wishes, sacrificing his ideas to others’; he didn’t often mind it, because, after all, he wouldn’t be the one living in the house he was working on and his clients’ satisfaction was of the utmost importance, but for that particular house… He didn’t know why, but the thought of not being able to realize what he had in mind for it saddened him immensely.

 

For the next week, Jongin and their client kept emailing back and forth, finalizing all the details while Chanyeol and his men kept working on the house. The more Jongin talked to their client, the more he was amazed at how their personal tastes seemed to coincide perfectly. Jongin needn’t make a suggestion that the client had proposed him the same thing.

The weeks passed by quickly after that, in a flurry of activities. After two months from the start of the renovation, the house was finally ready and the only thing left to do was to bring in the furniture. It was Jongin’s favorite thing in the world seeing his project come to life before his very eyes.

On the day they were set to start moving the furniture in, Jongin woke up way earlier than he needed to. Wiggling out of Chanyeol’s hold, he checked the time on his phone: 4:42 AM. Sighing, he dropped the phone on the fluffy carpet and slid back into Chanyeol’s arms, hoping to fall back asleep lulled by his boyfriend’s warmth.

Lightly running his fingers along Chanyeol’s shoulder, Jongin couldn’t help but think that there was something weird going on with Chanyeol, but he had no idea what it was. His boyfriend was as attentive as usual, sweet, loving. Lately, though, Jongin had found him smiling giddily at his phone several times and, when asked, Chanyeol usually replied that he was watching puppy videos. Was Jongin being suspicious over nothing? Probably. He just hoped Chanyeol wouldn’t come home with a puppy or two without consulting him first.

“Why aren’t you sleeping?”

Jongin startled, surprised by Chanyeol’s mumbled words. “Sorry,” he told him, caressing his cheek. “It’s nothing, go back to sleep.”

Chanyeol nuzzled against his neck, kissing it softly and making Jongin shiver. “You sleep too, long day,” Chanyeol kept murmuring. Then, his breathing got heavier, and Jongin knew he had fallen back asleep.

“I love you,” Jongin whispered against his ear. I hope I will be lucky enough to wake up in your arms for the rest of my life.

 

“And with that, I think we are done.”

At Jongin’s words, Chanyeol and his men whooped loudly, their enthusiasm contagious. Jongin broke out in a beautiful smile, accepting Chanyeol’s tight hug: they were both sweaty and dirty after an entire day spent bringing in and arranging furniture, but their happiness was palpable. The house was beautiful, probably the best they had ever worked on yet.

With Chanyeol’s arms around his waist, Jongin couldn’t help but imagine, for one moment, that the house was theirs. He could imagine himself reading in front of the fireplace while Chanyeol cooked, listening to old jazz music. They would invite all their friends to have dinner at the big dinner table or for a barbecue in the garden. They would have an office big enough to house all their stuff, from Jongin’s workstation to Chanyeol’s guitar and drums. But it was useless dwelling on such thoughts, for they brought only heartache. The joy of a job well done was enough, had to be enough. There would come a time for him and Chanyeol to find a house that would be perfect for them, even if they still had to wait a while.

 

“We should celebrate,” Chanyeol suggested, throwing his coat on the back of the couch. Jongin hummed, agreeing with him. It would be great, he thought, having a nice, romantic dinner, just the two of us. They had been so busy working on the project that Jongin didn’t remember the last time they had gone out on a date night.

“We should invite Sehun.”

Jongin froze mid-step. “…What?”

Oblivious, Chanyeol carried on. “He told me they opened a new Italian restaurant downtown, maybe we could check it out? Or there’s always the Thai place near the mall, the one you like so much. Think about it, I’m gonna take a quick shower, alright? Be back in a few.”

Bewildered, Jongin thought long and hard about why Chanyeol might want to invite Sehun on their night out. Was it Sehun’s birthday? No, there were still a few months to that. Had he gotten a promotion at work? But surely Jongin would have known, right? Puzzled, he walked to the bathroom door, knocking on it. “Chanyeol?”

He heard him rummaging inside and then his voice coming loud and clear. “Yes?”

“Why do you want to invite Sehun?”

A loud, sudden thud and a swear word later – things which brought Jongin to frown, worried that Chanyeol had slipped in the shower – Chanyeol finally answered. “We haven’t seen him in so long, I thought it would be nice…”

Why did Jongin feel like there should be a ‘right?’ at the end of that sentence?

“But if you’d prefer him not to come it’s okay, we can catch up later.”

“No, it’s alright, I was just curious.”

“’Kay!” Then, the shower was turned on and Chanyeol started singing loudly and off-key.

 

The new Italian restaurant was pretty nice, Jongin had to admit. Low lights, white tablecloths, silver cutlery… it would be quite romantic if not for a certain Oh Sehun that was sitting in front of Jongin, looking quite smug for who knew what reason.

“What will you have, Jongin?” Chanyeol asked him, eyes on the menu. “I was thinking about the carbonara, but the tortellini sound good too.”

Diverting his eyes from Sehun’s cocky eyebrows, Jongin quickly read the menu and settled on the gnocchi, eager to return to his staring contest with his old-time friend, Chanyeol looking on from beside him.

“So,” Sehun started, placing the white napkin on his lap. “I heard the house turned out well. Chanyeol told me everything about it.”

Why was he looking so smug, Jongin was losing his mind thinking of a good reason. “Oh, he did? Yeah, it’s quite beautiful.”

“Mh,” Sehun nodded, smiling. “Was your client easy to work with?” he asked, eyes wide-open. “I know how it can be working for difficult clients, all those demands, the shouting…” Suddenly, he jerked on his chair, hitting his knee against the table. He threw a dirty look in Chanyeol’s direction, but then sighed and settled back down. “Do you have any pictures to show me?”

Confused at what had just happened, Jongin nodded, tentative, but picked up his phone to show Sehun the pictures he had taken of the house. The evening was quite pleasant after that; Jongin always enjoyed talking to Sehun about work stuff, he was one of the few people Jongin felt he could talk to and be understood – Chanyeol did his best, but sometimes Jongin could see his eyes unfocusing when he started talking in jargon.

Chanyeol insisted on paying for Sehun too, which led Jongin to believe that there was more going on than the two let on. Too sleepy and stuffed full, he didn’t find in himself the strength to ask about it: he let Chanyeol guide him to the car and, after saying goodbye to Sehun, he fell asleep against the window, just as the first snowflakes of the season started to come down from the sky.

 

“Chanyeol, we’ve been in the car for hours, can you please tell me at least where are we going?”

“Where would be the surprise in that?” Chanyeol asked in fake outrage.

Jongin pouted. “I need to pee,” he whined, hoping to move Chanyeol to compassion.

“You’ll pee when we get there, we’ve almost arrived."

Sighing and pouting, Jongin resigned himself to his fate. Riding in a car blindfolded wasn’t how he had envisioned spending his 27th birthday, but he supposed there were worse things.

As long as Chanyeol hurried up, though. He really needed to pee.

 

 “Alright, here we are.”

Chanyeol hid it well, but Jongin could feel the nervousness in his voice. He heard Chanyeol get off the car and soon after the door on his side was opened and warm hands guided him outside. Disoriented, Jongin grabbed on to Chanyeol’s arm, knowing that he wouldn’t let him fall.

They left the road and took a few steps on the snow, the crunching sounds their boots made against the white surface the only sound that could be heard around them. Jongin had already suspected they must have left the city, but he still had no idea where Chanyeol had brought him.

“Okay,” Chanyeol said, suddenly stopping. He cleared his throat and Jongin could feel him fidget beside him. Then, the jingling of metal on metal. Chanyeol left his side and positioned himself at Jongin’s back, his hands on his shoulders.

“I feel like I should say something, but honestly…” he laughed awkwardly. “Honestly, I don’t know what to say.” He pressed his face against Jongin’s shoulder and took a deep, calming breath.

“Chanyeol?” Jongin tried to turn around, wishing desperately that he could see the expression on Chanyeol’s face. His behavior was worrying him.

“No, stop,” Chanyeol told him. “Don’t ruin your surprise.” He left a kiss on Jongin’s cheek. “Happy birthday, love.”

The sudden brightness of a snow-covered field pierced Jongin’s eyes and he had to squint to see what was standing before him, but the more his eyes got used to the change in light, the more his confusion grew. They were standing in front of the old house they had just finished working on, the sight of it even more charming with its roof covered in snow.

“I don’t understand,” Jongin said, frantic, turning back to look at Chanyeol. “Is there any problem with the house?”

Chanyeol shook his head, fond. He took Jongin’s hand and placed something in it. He left his larger hand on Jongin’s own, preventing him from seeing what was clasped between them. When he raised his head, his eyes were wet. “Jongin… I think, no, I know I started loving you the moment we sat down on that lumpy couch in Sehun’s apartment and talked about ourselves. I still remember how you looked that night. You were so beautiful with the lights of the Christmas tree reflecting in your eyes.”

Jongin wasn’t able to utter a single word, too overwhelmed by the look of love Chanyeol was gazing at him with. He felt like crying himself, for whatever reason, and a lump was forming in his throat while a thousand butterflies buzzed around in his stomach.

“I am not very good at this, am I?” Chanyeol chuckled and Jongin couldn’t help but smile, too, though he shook his head.

“I don’t know what ‘this’ is,” he told Chanyeol. “But you’re doing great, sweetheart.”

Chanyeol snorted and drew Jongin into a hug, their clasped hands squeezed between them. “I remember all the important things you tell me. I remember your favorite books and the way you scrunch your nose before laughing at something particularly funny.” He drew back from their hug, eyes serious and boring into Jongin’s own. “I also remember all the talks about our future and the wishes you have for it. Like a big house, big enough for all our friends to come to visit and eat together at the same table.”

Jongin’s heart was beating so loudly in his chest he was afraid it would fall out of it. He didn’t dare to hope, but what Chanyeol was saying…

Chanyeol lifted his hand from Jongin’s and Jongin gasped at what he saw: a familiar pair of keys, the ones needed to open the door of the house standing silent behind them.

“Chanyeol…” Jongin felt tears running down his cheeks, warm against his cold skin. Aren’t we two idiots, Jongin thought, hysterical, crying while freezing our butts off?

“This house is for you, love,” Chanyeol sniffled and couldn’t say no more because Jongin fell into his arms, sobbing loudly against his chest.

“No, it’s not,” Jongin wailed.

“It is, silly.”

Jongin started wailing louder.

Eventually, they relocated inside with eyes swollen from too much crying and hearts full of too much love, and they sat together on the carpet in front of the fireplace.

“I can’t believe you made me work on my own house without telling me,” Jongin babbled, loudly blowing his nose.

Chanyeol chuckled caressing his hair. “It wouldn't have been a surprise otherwise.”

Jongin harrumphed. Then, he gazed at Chanyeol from the corner of his eyes and started giggling.

“What?” Chanyeol asked.

“You love me so much,” Jongin taunted him.

“Of course I do,” Chanyeol replied, confused, but accepting a snuggly Jongin in his arms. “You think I would do this for someone I don’t love?”

They rested in each other’s arms, exchanging kisses and love words until Jongin wiggled out of Chanyeol’s hold: a sudden, oppressive dread had made way into his heart.

“Wait a second… If there was no client, who did I talk to about the details of the house? Please, tell me it was you, tell me you didn’t ask him.”

Chanyeol blanched and stammered, “Well… You-- you know I’m not good at what you do. I had to ask him, I’m sorry!”

Jongin groaned, aghast. “Sehun is never gonna let me live this down.”