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Baekhyun wasn't even sure what he'd done wrong this time; he assumed it was his fault because it was always his fault. Baekhyun was too loud, too clingy, he spoke without thinking, and was just too much, sometimes, for someone as quiet and reserved as Jongin to handle. But he'd thought- he'd assumed -that Jongin was okay with it; that if Baekhyun was overstepping one of Jongin's boundaries that he'd make it clear, tell him he needed his space.

And Baekhyun had tried. He'd resisted grabbing Jongin's hand when they were in public, always waited for Jongin to touch him first because he knew Jongin hated people touching him without his permission. He'd tried his best to hold back from pulling Jongin down and kissing him senseless whenever Jongin was being unbearably cute; which honestly, was most of the time. He'd never spent so much effort and time trying to make someone stay with him.

He hadn't expected to meet Jongin, after receiving a text which simply read "we need to talk", to see his boyfriend with an uncharacteristically solemn expression on his face.

He hadn't expected Jongin to break up with him.

Baekhyun didn't even realise he was calling Jongdae until he had his phone against his ear and Jongdae's voice echoed tinnily from the speaker.

"Baekhyun? What's up? Are you okay?"

For a brief second Baekhyun wondered if Jongdae had heard already; it would figure, Baekhyun being the last person to know that his boyfriend- no, ex-boyfriend, was dumping him. But no, Baekhyun remembered. He never called Jongdae unless it was important. They'd made that arrangement years ago, when Jongdae had spent the night at Baekhyun's house more often than not to escape the shrill screams of his mother at 2 in the morning.

"I-" Baekhyun stuttered, mortified as his voice cracked. He could feel his eyes burning with tears and goddammit, he was not going to cry.

"Where are you?" Jongdae's voice was calm, soothing, and Baekhyun could hear the faint sound of clothes rusting and keys jangling through the receiver.

"T-the Starbucks near the astronomy building" Baekhyun whispered, fingers tightening around his phone as he chewed his bottom lip.

"Okay, okay I'm coming just-" a muffled curse followed a bang and Baekhyun couldn't help but flinch. "I'm coming over ok just stay there, alright?"

"Ok," Baekhyun whispered, slowly sliding down to sit curled up against the brick wall.

And it was there that Jongdae found him, 10 minutes later, staring blankly at the fellow students passing by. Jongdae didn't speak for a moment, just settled down next to Baekhyun and waited. Jongdae always waited, letting Baekhyun talk when he was ready. It was strange, how easily Jongdae knew just when Baekhyun needed the time to speak on his own or when he needed prodding. Maybe it was because they'd known each other since kindergarten, or maybe Jongdae was just unnaturally attentive.

"Jongin broke up with me." He said finally. He felt Jongdae stiffen slightly beside him.

"Oh." He said quietly, after a moment's pause.

"I'm not upset." Baekhyun said.

"Of course you're not." Jongdae said, and Baekhyun wasn't sure if what he could hear in Jongdae's voice was sarcasm or sympathy.

There was silence between them for a couple of minutes, Baekhyun staring resolutely at his hands, pinching his fingertips of one hand with the other to try to stop himself from crying. "This sucks," he muttered finally, tilting to rest his head on Jongdae's shoulder.

He felt Jongdae shift under him, his arm curving behind Baekhyun's shoulders and hand coming up to card through Baekhyun's hair. "I know," Jongdae says softly.

Baekhyun definitely doesn't cry a little into Jongdae's shoulder.

 

♔♔♔

 

Of course Jongdae had called in the cavalry, Baekhyun thought as he half-heartedly picked at the pasta and pesto Jongdae had bought him.

After Baekhyun had Totally Not Cried on Jongdae's shoulder for a couple of minutes, Jongdae had gently nudged him to his feet, pretending not to notice as Baekhyun scrubbed away the tear tracks on his face with his sleeve and ignoring the conspicuous wet patch on his shoulder, and gently steered him in the direction of one of the various nearby cafeterias scattered around campus.

And, lo and behold, Chanyeol and Kyungsoo were already seated at one of the tables. Kyungsoo had a calculus textbook in front of him, eyebrows furrowed as he worked through a problem set, single cup of coffee set to one side. Chanyeol, meanwhile, was busy stuffing his face with a bag of chips, crumbs scattering down the front of his sweater and across the table.

Jongdae had pushed Baekhyun to sit, which Baekhyun did hesitantly. Sure, Chanyeol and Kyungsoo were some of his best friends, but he wasn't quite comfortable letting them see him while his face was mostly likely still blotchy from crying- judging by the questioning look Chanyeol sent him. Not in the way he was with Jongdae, at any rate.

Thankfully, neither of them commented, Kyungsoo too focused on his homework while Chanyeol went back to sharing half of his lunch with his clothing and furniture.

Jongdae came back with Baekhyun's food, shooting Baekhyun a glare when he tried to refuse it. Baekhyun sighed heavily, staring resolutely at his plate and picking up his fork.

"So," Chanyeol said, after an awkward pause, food spraying from his mouth as he chewed obnoxiously. Disgusting. "Care to explain why you decided to call the crisis committee?"

Baekhyun felt Jongdae glance at him and shrugged, refusing to look up from his plate. Jongdae sighed, and Baekhyun felt his Jongdae's foot nudge his calf in a comforting gesture.

"Jongin and Baekhyun broke up." Jongdae said slowly. Baekhyun chewed on his lip, grip tightening around the fork with such force Baekhyun was mildly surprised it hadn't bent under the pressure.

The steady scratching of Kyungsoo's pencil against paper halted, and Chanyeol's obnoxious chewing came to a sudden stop. Baekhyun wanted nothing more than to sink into his chair and into the ground. The closer to the earth's core the better. Becoming worm food seemed like a much better option than dealing with Chanyeol's version of sympathy.

"Who broke up with whom?" Kyungsoo finally asked, voice carefully neutral.

Chanyeol snorted. "What do you think? It was only a matter of time until Jongin got sick of-" he broke off with a yelp as Kyungsoo's pencil hit him dangerously close to his eye.

"Shut up, Chanyeol." Kyungsoo said, voice emotionless and Chanyeol fell silent, rubbing underneath his eye and shooting Baekhyun an apologetic glance that went unseen.

An awkward silence fell over the table then, Kyungsoo abandoning his homework for the time being to shoot death glares at Chanyeol over his coffee. Jongdae's foot was still pressed against Baekhyun's calf and Baekhyun appreciated the gesture, small as it was, even though Chanyeol's words still repeated themselves in his head. It was bad enough that Baekhyun himself had always considered Jongin too good but him, but for Chanyeol to say it too…

"You know," Chanyeol said slowly, finally breaking the silence as he absently tore his club sandwich into small pieces "Lu Han is having a party tonight."

"I don't think drinking would be-"

"You know, drinking sounds like an excellent idea right now." Baekhyun mumbled, staring glumly at Kyungsoo's textbook as Kyungsoo frowned at his problem set. Jongdae huffed, annoying at being interrupted, while Chanyeol whooped obnoxiously, receiving a couple of glares from a group of passing post-grads as they walked past.

Baekhyun could feel Jongdae shooting him concerned glances, but ignored him. Drinking always made him feel better before. It shouldn't be any different this time.

 

♔♔♔

 

Lu Han was famous (or infamous, depending on who you asked) for throwing some of the loudest, rowdiest parties, even when he was an undergrad living on campus. Many a relationship had been made and broken and many a reputation ruined at such events.

Today was no exception; the party was already in full swing by the time the four of them arrived (Baekhyun had insisted on spending an exorbitant amount of time on his makeup, much to the chagrin of an exasperated Jongdae), music reverberating down the streets and guests spilling out onto the front lawn.

Lu Han's off-campus house was modest, as student housing goes. A small, two-bedroom semi located close enough to the club district that he didn't cause too much of a noise disturbance. It seemed even smaller now though, filled to the brim with drunk students stumbling and grinding against each other, and it didn't take long for Baekhyun to lose himself and the rest of his friends in the crowd.

Baekhyun wasn't sure where the first drink in his hand came from. Nor the second. But alcohol was alcohol and really, Baekhyun had every intention for getting a drunk as possible in the shortest time span. He vaguely recalled seeing Chanyeol getting involved in what seemed like an intense game of beer pong- and losing spectacularly, judging by the number of empty cups scattered around the table. Kyungsoo sat nearby, eyeing Chanyeol critically as he nursed a bottle of beer. Jongdae had disappeared… somewhere. Baekhyun wasn't sure when, and he was too drunk to properly identify the strange pang in his chest when he couldn't find him.

He was soon distracted though, as he found himself lying back on Lu Han's surprisingly comfortable couch, with an attractive man he vaguely recognised hovering on top of him. He had a dancer's build, similar to Jongin (not that Baekhyun was really sober enough to come to that conclusion), and he seemed nice enough; first settling down next to Baekhyun when his legs felt too unstable to support him. They'd talked briefly, Baekhyun getting captivated by the man's soft voice, the way his shirt dipped low enough to fully expose his clavicles and the tops of defined pectorals. The stranger's name came to him slowly; Yixing. He was one of Lu Han's quieter friends, Chinese, as his accent identified. He had a dimple, one that flashed every time he smiled and laughed, and his vowels curled pleasantly off his tongue in the most adorable manner when he spoke.

His tongue was also curved pleasantly against other things, Baekhyun thought absently as he allowed Yixing's tongue to probe further into his mouth. Yixing was a good kisser; slow, attentive, one hand curled into the short strands at the back of Baekhyun's neck while the other rested gently against his hip. Yixing's mouth tasted of tequila, tinted with the sharp tang of lime from the shot Baekhyun vaguely remembered seeing him take, cheered on by Lu Han who, last Baekhyun remembered, had been getting very busy himself; with his hands halfway up Minseok's shirt.

His train of thought was interrupted when Yixing pulled away. A whine escaped Baekhyun's lips as his fingers scrabbled to clutch tighter into the fabric of Yixing's v-neck, trying to pull him back in closer. He felt Yixing's chuckle vibrate underneath his fingertips, and Yixing obliged him with a few, short nips of Baekhyun's bottom lip and oh. Oh that felt nice.

"I think it's time for us to leave." Yixing whispered, breath ghosting over Baekhyun's parted lips and yes. Yes that sounded like an excellent idea. Baekhyun nodded slowly, squinting uncomfortably as the room lurched unpleasantly as Yixing gently pulled him to his feet.

Baekhyun wasn't sure how exactly he'd gotten from Lu Han's house to Yixing's dorm; maybe Yixing was more sober than Baekhyun had thought, but regardless, it seemed like no time at all between Yixing pulling him off the couch and Yixing pressing him down into his bed sheets to suck bruises into Baekhyun's neck.

The rest of what happened was a blur of skin against skin, soft cotton bed sheets sliding against his back as his lips pressed against Yixing's again and again and again.

 

♔♔♔

 

Baekhyun wakes up the next morning with a pounding headache and the overwhelming urge to vomit. Groaning, he carefully extracts himself from underneath Yixing's arm and stumbles in the direction of what he hopes in the bathroom. He sighs in relief when it is and slumps over the toilet bowl.

Shakily, he stands back up and rinses the acrid taste of bile from his mouth, splashing water on his face for good measure before stumbling back out of the bathroom. He halts in the doorway, staring at Yixing's naked form, partly covered by the bed sheet. He's moved at some point while Baekhyun had been in the bathroom, curling into the warmth Baekhyun had left behind. His hair adorably mussed and Baekhyun felt an unpleasant lurch in his stomach that wasn't to do with the alcohol.

Shit.

As quietly and quickly as he could, Baekhyun dug through the clothing scattered on the floor and located his phone with a sigh of relief. Without even bothering to check the time, he called Jongdae, because if there was one person who could explain why he felt this roiling, unpleasant lurch in the pit of his stomach, it'd be Jongdae.

He was midway through struggling to put his pants back on, phone tucked against his ear when Jongdae answered, voice slow and cracked and irritated.

"Why are you calling me at 5 in the morning, asshole."

Baekhyun froze, pulling his phone away from his ear to check the time. Shit. "I'm sorry I didn't mean to wake you I'll-"

"Baekhyun, shut the fuck up." Baekhyun shut up, quietly settling on the floor so he could pull his socks on. "Why are you calling me?"

"I…" Baekhyun gulped, fingers curling into fists. "I slept with Yixing."

The silence on the other end of the line was deafening. "Why are you telling me that?" Jongdae finally said, a hard note in his voice that Baekhyun couldn't identify.

"I…. I don't know I just…" Baekhyun paused, frowning. "I feel really weird? About it? And calling you felt like the right thing to do so I just…"

"Fine, fine." Jongdae grumbled, and Baekhyun could hear the rustle of bed sheets and felt a pang of guilt for waking Jongdae up. But that's what best friends were for, right? To help you even at stupid o'clock in the morning. "You can come over, you know how to get in just… be quiet. I have a fucking test this afternoon."

Baekhyun sighed in relief and muttered a quiet thanks before hanging up. He finished dressing himself as quickly as he could and snuck out of Yixing's door, absently amazed at how he hadn't woken up despite the noise Baekhyun had no doubt been making; Baekhyun had never been the quietest of people.

Walking from Yixing's dorm to Jongdae's didn't take too long, it being only a short 10 minute walk away, and the cutting January chill helped to stave off the worst effects of Baekhyun's hangover.

Jongdae's still half awake when Baekhyun lets himself in; shedding out of the jacket he'd been wearing and toeing off his shoes in the hallway. He looks up to see Jongdae stood by his bedroom door, hair sticking up at odd angles and his sleep shirt slipping off of one shoulder.

"Hurry the fuck up," Jongdae mumbles, trudging back into his room and collapsing onto his bed as Baekhyun follows. "You can grab one of the shirts from the drawer," Jongdae mumbles, voice muffled by his pillow. Not that Baekhyun needed the reminder; he'd spent enough nights crashing at Jongdae's apartment when his study sessions (forced by Jongdae, else Baekhyun would never still be maintaining a steady 3.5 GPA) dragged too late into the night to know where Jongdae kept the sleep shirt reserved especially for him.

By the time Baekhyun had gotten changed, Jongdae had already buried himself under his duvet again, face smushed into his pillow as he glared blearily at Baekhyun hovering nervously by the bed. "What the fuck are you waiting for? Get in."

"Sorry," Baekhyun muttered, finally crawling into bed next to Jongdae. Jongdae settled down with a sigh, one arm wrapping securely around Baekhyun's waist and his nose buried in the crook of Baekhyun's shoulder.

"You stink," Jongdae mumbled, still snuggling closer. Baekhyun stiffened, aware of the smell of alcohol and sex that no doubt was still clinging to his skin.

"Do you want me to take a shower?" he asked hesitantly, loath to getting up again after he was just starting to get comfortable.

"No. You can shower when you wake up. Go to sleep." Jongdae grumbled, kicking at Baekhyun's legs so he could tangle their legs together.

Baekhyun stiffened, both comforted and taken aback at how easily Jongdae wrapped around him. This wasn't something new to them, Jongdae had always been a cuddly sleeper but. Well. They hadn't slept together like this since Jongin and…

Baekhyun didn't want to think about Jongin right now.

"I missed this," Baekhyun mumbles, absently combing through Jongdae's hair. Jongdae snorted grumpily, swatting him sharply in the side.

"Byun Baekhyun I swear to god if you don't shut up I am going to kick you out."

Baekhyun snorted, hiding his smile against the side of Jongdae's head.

 

♔♔♔

 

 

Baekhyun wakes up what he thinks is a couple of hours later to the smell of egg and bacon frying. With a grumble, he disentangles himself from Jongdae's bed sheets and shuffles out of Jongdae's room towards the kitchen.

Jongdae is stood by the stove, already dressed in jeans and a t-shirt as he skilfully flips bacon in a pan. He turns when he hears Baekhyun snuffle loudly and frowns, nose wrinkling.

"Go take a shower, you still reek of alcohol and bad life choices." Jongdae said, waving his spatula in Baekhyun's direction before turning back to the stove. Baekhyun frowned but nonetheless turned and shuffled out of the kitchen and into Jongdae's bathroom.

He re-emerged ten minutes later to find a pile of Jongdae's clothes folded in a pile by the bathroom door. He dresses quickly, silently thankful that he and Jongdae are a similar size before heading back into the kitchen. A plateful of bacon and eggs sit, waiting on the dining table, a gently steaming mug of coffee set down next to it. Jongdae's already digging into his own plate as Baekhyun sits down.

They eat in a comfortable silence for a couple of minutes, the final dregs of Baekhyun's hangover and the lingering stickiness from last night fading until Baekhyun feels vaguely human again.

"So." Jongdae finally says, breaking the comfortable silence. Baekhyun tries not to flinch, knowing that Jongdae wasn't going to just let the events from this morning slide. "Do you want to talk about earlier or…?"

Baekhyun slowly set his fork down, chewing his bottom lip. He knew Jongdae wasn't really asking; his tone brooked no argument and really, it was rare for Baekhyun not to tell Jongdae everything.

"I just-" he started, huffing as he tried to explain the anxious roiling in his gut when he thought about what he'd done with Yixing last night. "I have this," he gestured vaguely at his mid-section "weird feeling in my chest? Like it feels tight and I feel horrible and guilty and- I'm not sure? What this is? I've never felt this horrible after sleeping with someone before and-"

"Baekhyun." Jongdae interrupts, pausing in his chewing and setting his knife and fork down. He swallows and purses his lips, interlocking his fingers and resting his chin atop his hands. "Have you considered," he says slowly, as if he was choosing his words very carefully, |that maybe you feel guilty?"

"Guilty? Why would I feel guilty?" Baekhyun frowned, confused.

"I mean," Jongdae continued, "Jongin just broke up with you yesterday, and you go and sleep with someone else the same night."

Baekhyun paused, frozen. When put that way…

"I think you just need time, you know. To get over it. Adjust. Move on." Jongdae paused again, picking up his knife and fork and resuming eating. "And maybe it's best if you didn't get drunk and hook up with random people again in the mean time."

Baekhyun frowned at Jongdae's tone. It had sounded off. Disapproving, maybe. He wasn't sure. There had been a note to Jongdae's voice recently that Baekhyun couldn't really identify, but it left a weird, almost defensive feeling in his chest, like Jongdae was disapproving. this behaviour wasn't new for Baekhyun; he'd had more hook-ups than actual, stable relationships before Jongin and Jongdae had never been outright critical of it before.

He doesn't argue though. Jongdae's looked out for Baekhyun for as long as he can remember, after all. Even when Jongdae had so much going on himself, he'd always looked out for Baekhyun. Baekhyun feels a job of guilt, sometimes, that he hasn't been able to do the same.

 

♔♔♔

 

The next couple of weeks are spent in the collective company of Kyungsoo, Chanyeol and Jongdae. Sometimes all at once but more often one at a time. Baekhyun was convinced that Jongdae had set the other two up to it; Kyungsoo 'dropping by' to meet Baekhyun after class despite his lectures taking place on the other side of campus far too obvious to be nothing short of making sure Baekhyun didn't do anything stupid.

Jongdae, too, took it upon himself to drop by at Baekhyun's apartment almost daily, either to drag him back to his own dorm to eat together and study, or else to drop off leftover lasagne or other meals, sealed in Tupperware boxes. "I'm not letting you live off of ramen and microwave meals, Byun Baekhyun." Jongdae said, glaring at Baekhyun pointedly as he filled Baekhyun with tubs of food.

It was stifling, at first, but Baekhyun still appreciated the gesture; the fact that his friends were willing to go out of their way to make sure he was doing okay.

Some days he was okay, and the nights he spent curled up next to Jongdae in bed helped immensely. It reminded Baekhyun of the times during high school when Jongdae needed Baekhyun. When they'd curl up together under the bed sheets and whisper stories and jokes to each other until they passed out.

Some days, though, weren't so great.

Valentine's Day was the worst. Baekhyun had had gone to the nines trying to plan something romantic for him and Jongin; booked dinner at a reputable restaurant before they'd left for Christmas vacation, had spent most of January agonising over flower arrangements and researching flower meanings and talking the ears off any of his friends who would listen as he debated between red or pink roses.

Jongin breaking up with him hadn't been part of his plans.

Jongdae seemed to sense that this was a bad day for Baekhyun, in that telepathic, best-friend way of his. There was no other explanation for why Jongdae interrupted Baekhyun from an evening he had had the full intention of spending moping, to drag him back to his own apartment where they ended up marathoning Die Hard movies until 3 in the morning, tossing popcorn at each other and munching on pizza.

Baekhyun forgot he was even supposed to be sad, too content to pass out on the sofa to the sound of Jongdae's gentle snores.

 

♔♔♔

 

Baekhyun huffed impatiently, fingers tapping anxiously against his thigh. He was due to meet up with Junmyeon to review articles for the student newspaper, but the elder was uncharacteristically late. He's probably gotten held up at a school council meeting or a tutoring session or one of the other hundred and one things Junmyeon somehow was involved in on campus. And he still managed to get perfect grades, the bastard.

He was in the middle of typing out a whiney text, asking where Junmyeon was because he was 15 minutes late, when he heard laughter that was heart-breakingly familiar.

He froze, fingers stilling over his phone screen as he slowly looked up, hoping against hope that it wasn't who he thought it was.

Of course he wouldn't be so lucky. The fact that he'd managed to avoid seeing Kim Jongin at all in the past two months, despite them having similar enough majors to have classes in the same part of campus had seemed to be the extent of luck Baekhyun had been afforded.

Seeing Jongin was like a punch to the gut. It wasn't Jongin himself, necessarily, though seeing him for the first time in almost two months was… surreal, to say the least. He looked good, his hair dyed a lighter brown and cut slightly shorter; and so, so happy; large, heart-stopping smile that Baekhyun had only been recipient to a handful of times directed to the person walking next to him.

And that was what made Baekhyun feel as if a bucket of ice had been tipped on top of his head. He recognised the person walking with Jongin, their hands clasped together and fingers interlocked. It was hard not to, the number of hours Baekhyun had spent in his company whenever Baekhyun hung out with Jongin in between classes. Oh Sehun, gangly, flat-faced, Jongin's best friend and now- it seemed -his boyfriend.

He couldn't believe how blind he'd been; it was obvious, in retrospect, how much Jongin had liked Sehun even before they'd broken up. But then, that was the problem; Baekhyun had always been so wrapped up in them, too self-absorbed to really pay attention to what was going on around him. He'd spent so long steadfastly ignoring the signs; the way Sehun always seemed to be nearby, the subtle touches and shy smiles Jongin had reserved specifically for Sehun, and not Baekhyun.

He'd been a frog in a pot of slowly boiling water, unaware of the danger until it was too late, and he was being boiled alive.

He kept his head down, eyeing the pair warily as they passed by, not even noticing Baekhyun huddled in a tight ball on the bench ten feet away. Jongin had never looked at him the way he was looking at Baekhyun, and it caused a tight knot to form in the base of his throat.

Baekhyun didn't even think, fingers already tapping out a message to Chanyeol before he even had a chance to process; lu han. party. tonight. tell soo and jongdae. then he stood up and left, his meeting with Junmyeon forgotten.

 

♔♔♔

 

This party is very much similar to the first; the loud music, the press of bodies, the almost overwhelming heat and the bitter tang of alcohol on the back of Baekhyun's tongue. He's drinking with vigour now, uncaring as to what he's tossing down his throat. He came here with the intention of getting piss-drunk, and that's exactly what he's going to do.

Jongdae had been oddly reluctant in coming. Though really, that was to be expected, considering what had happened last time Baekhyun had gotten drunk. Baekhyun had kept tight-lipped on why he'd wanted to go out again, but it didn't really take a genius to figure it out. And Jongdae had always been able to read Baekhyun like an open book.

Baekhyun had long since lost track of Jongdae, though; too caught up in the steady thrumming of the music and the crush of warm bodies around him. When the heat finally became too much for him he breaks free, stumbling over to Lu Han's couch where Kyungsoo and Chanyeol are sat, Chanyeol leaning heavily against Kyungsoo with his head resting on his shoulder, a trail of drool hanging from the side of his mouth. Gross.

Baekhyun flops down heavily on Kyungsoo's other side and Kyungsoo grunts. Chanyeol whines, the movement jostling Kyungsoo's shoulder and his perch. Baekhyun tacitly ignores him.

"Kyungsoooooo." He slurs, throwing one arm around Kyungsoo's waist and thwacking Chanyeol in the side in the process, earning a pained whine. "Kyungsoo I'm drunk."

"I can see that." Kyungsoo said, evidently bored, delicately trying to remove Baekhyun's arm. Baekhyun simply tightens his grip in response.

"I'm reaaaally drunk and you have… really nice lips." Baekhyun continues, resting his chin on the jut of Kyungsoo's shoulder and smiling at him blearily.

"Thank you for noticing?" Kyungsoo frowns, not-so-subtly trying to shrug Baekhyun off of him.

"I want to kiss your lips," Baekhyun says decisively, surging forwards and sloppily catching Kyungsoo's lips against his own. His tongue peeks out, trying to lick into Kyungsoo's mouth but ultimately fails when Kyungsoo pushes him away, not unkindly.

Baekhyun whines as he's pushed back against the couch, tugging at Kyungsoo's shirt to try to drag him back but lacking the proper coordination to do so. "Kyungsoooo why won't you kiss me?" he whines plaintively, pouting, "Am I really that unlovable? Is that why Jongin left me for that stupid gangly kid with a flat face and-"

"Baekhyun," Kyungsoo cut him off, gently releasing Baekhyun's grip from his shirt and holding his wrists. "I won't kiss you because I already have someone else, and because-"

Baekhyun frowns, too drunk to properly focus on the first part of Kyungsoo's sentence and mostly confused about what made Kyungsoo stop. That is, until he looks up and into the scowling face of Jongdae.

"Jongd-" Kyungsoo starts, and Baekhyun is vaguely shocked at the desperate note in his voice. He doesn't have time to dwell on it though, as Jongdae huffs, nostrils flaring and an expression on his face that Baekhyun had never seen before. Anger? Hurt? Disappointment?

"Leave it, 'Soo," he said shortly, spinning on his heel, "I'm going home." And then he's gone, weaving his way back through the crowd as quickly as he'd appeared.

Baekhyun stays sat on the sofa, hands limp in Kyungsoo's grip and completely baffled as to what had just happened.

 

♔♔♔

 

Baekhyun isn't sure what it is he'd done wrong, exactly. Well, he did to an extent. That much was exemplified by the solid hit on the back of the head he wakes up to the next morning, courtesy of Chanyeol.

Needless to say it didn't help his hangover in the slightest.

"What was that for?" Baekhyun whined, covering his head in an effort to protect himself from any more of Chanyeol's attacks with one of the decorative pillows from the couch in Chanyeol and Kyungsoo's shared apartment.

"For making out with my boyfriend last night, dipshit." Chanyeol says, sitting down heavily on the small of Baekhyun's back. Baekhyun whined in complaint, then stopped, struggling to sit up under the weight of Chanyeol.

"What do you mean, your boyfriend?" Baekhyun gasps, pushing fruitlessly at Chanyeol's side in an effort to make him shift.

"Technically he only tried to make out with me," Kyungsoo says mildly, scrubbing his hair with a towel as he walks out of the bathroom. Baekhyun freezes, mouth agape. Oh.

"You're a really sloppy kisser when you're drunk, by the way," he continues nonchalantly, settling into the armchair opposite. "Two out of ten, would not do again." Chanyeol whines weakly in protest.

"Wait, you mean-" Baekhyun says, glancing from Chanyeol to Kyungsoo and back again in confusion, "you mean you're dating that?" he jerks his thumb at Chanyeol, who raises a fist in response.

"Yes. So I would appreciate it if you didn't try to make out with me again." Kyungsoo shrugs, getting up to head towards the kitchen.

"I wouldn't want to, knowing where your mouth's been!" Baekhyun calls after him, and yelps when Chanyeol punches him solidly in the ribs.

But really, failed attempt at kissing Kyungsoo aside, Baekhyun wasn't sure what, exactly, he'd done to make Jongdae mad at him.

And he knew Jongdae was mad. Jongdae had never exactly been all too subtle about his feelings as far as Baekhyun knew. The fact that Jongdae very pointedly ignored his texts and phone calls, and even Baekhyun's entire existence when they sat together for lunch was an even bigger giveaway. Baekhyun had never felt so isolated before, staring forlornly at Jongdae as he heatedly discussed the forthcoming presidential election (honestly, Baekhyun had never cared much for politics).

Jongdae had been mad at Baekhyun before, sure. Like the one time Baekhyun spilled coffee all over the 10 page essay Jongdae had spent a week handwriting in their senior year of high school. Or when Baekhyun had slipped Nair in Jongdae's shampoo for April fool's and Jongdae was regulated to wearing beanies and caps for the entirety of summer because he hated having his hair short. But they'd always made up pretty quickly.

Jongdae had never outright ignored Baekhyun before, and Baekhyun hadn't realised how much he's relied on Jongdae until he wasn't there anymore; the Tupperware tubs in his fridge soon became empty, and stacks of ramen packets overtook his pantry in their stead; Baekhyun struggled to sleep without the comforting warmth of Jongdae next to him and his steady breathing lulling him to sleep.

The hole Jongdae left felt even bigger than the one Jongin had left, and Baekhyun wasn't sure what he was supposed to do to get Jongdae back.

 

♔♔♔

 

"I don't understand why Jongdae is still ignoring me," Baekhyun moaned a couple of weeks later, flopping dramatically so that he lay prone on Chanyeol and Kyungsoo's dining table. He'd been spending far more time hanging out in Chanyeol and Kyungsoo's apartment, his own feeling too big and empty now that Jongdae had stopped dropping in to force him to study. He knew he was getting in the way, but he honestly couldn't really find it in himself to care.

Chanyeol was doing… Something on his DS. Probably playing Animal Crossing or something (Baekhyun had caught him mumbling about bells and villagers falling out under his breath when he thought no one could hear far too many times to count) while Kyungsoo worked steadily on more calculus problem sets. Baekhyun was idly glad he wasn't a physics major; the sheer volume of math Kyungsoo seemed to be perpetually buried under was enough to make Baekhyun want to cry on Kyungsoo's behalf.

"It's because he's in love with you, you idiot." Chanyeol said idly, chewing on his stylus. Kyungsoo slowly lifted his head; fixing Chanyeol with a glare that Baekhyun was convinced would cause any normal person shrivelling into a crisp. As it was Chanyeol just slapped over hands over his mouth, staring at Baekhyun, wide-eyed. Baekhyun was sat frozen, gaping unattractively at Chanyeol until Kyungsoo pushed his mouth shut with a finger.

"You and your big mouth," Kyungsoo muttered fondly. Baekhyun still had the presence of mind to feel uncomfortable with the notion of Kyungsoo being fond of Chanyeol. But more importantly-

"What the fuck do you mean; Jongdae is in love with me?" Baekhyun said slowly, looking between Chanyeol and Kyungsoo.

"I mean he's been pathetically pining over you since like, freshman year? At the very least, you're the one who knew him in high school." Chanyeol continued, determinedly stopping Kyungsoo's attempts to cover his mouth to shut him up by holding onto his forearms. "Stop it 'Soo, I'm getting sick of the two of them dancing around each other and I know you are as well."

Kyungsoo finally relented with a sigh, flopping back in his seat and fixing Baekhyun with a stern glare.

"You should talk to him," he said, in a tone that brooked no argument.

"How the fuck am I supposed to talk to him when he's ignoring me?" Baekhyun whined petulantly, even though he had an inkling now as to why, exactly, Jongdae was mad at him.

Kyungsoo evidently knew too, the way he said nothing, simply stared steadily at Baekhyun until he finally relented.

"Fine, fine," Baekhyun grumbled, dragging himself to his feet and shuffling out of the apartment.

 

♔♔♔

 

Baekhyun had never been nervous to see Jongdae before. For as long as he could remember he'd always simply let himself into Jongdae's house. It had become natural for him to burst in unannounced, and that had carried over to when they went to college. Jongdae had given Baekhyun his spare key right off the bat, and not once had Baekhyun ever knocked on Jongdae's front door.

The wait was agonising, to say the least. Baekhyun was by no means a patient person, and he'd spent the twenty minutes it took to get from Chanyeol and Kyungsoo's apartment to Jongdae's agonising over what he was going to say to Jongdae, as well as mulling over what he'd already started to piece together when Chanyeol had opened his fat mouth. Maybe even before that, if he was being perfectly honest with himself.

Honestly he wasn't as surprised to know that Jongdae? Maybe loved him? As he should be. It made sense, in a way. The way Jongdae looked out for him in a way he didn’t for anyone else; making him food, ensuring he was sleeping well enough and forcing him to sit down to study whenever his grades started slipping. Not only that, but the way Jongdae was touchy in a way that he wasn’t with anyone else; his hands lingered longer, he'd lean his weight more heavily against Baekhyun's side. The small gestures of comfort. They'd always been touchy, even as kids, but somewhere along the line Jongdae's touches had become softer, more reverent. And Baekhyun honestly had no idea how he'd missed the change completely.

But then, he'd always been unobservant in the same way Jongdae wasn't.

He was on the verge of turning around and heading back home when Jongdae didn’t immediately come to answer the door, and was halfway through turning away when the door opened, revealing a dishevelled Jongdae, dressed in the same ratty pair of sweats he'd owned since high school and an oversized t-shirt. His hair was mussed, sticking up in odd angles from his head and the thick-rimmed glasses he wore only when he was studying for extended periods of time perched precariously on the edge of his nose.

Bizarrely, Baekhyun had never seen someone look so beautiful.

"Oh." Jongdae said shortly, slumping against the doorframe and squinting at Baekhyun in confusion. "What are you doing here?" He didn't sound angry, Baekhyun noted, just resigned. The dark circles under his eyes had deepened since the last time Baekhyun had seen him, and for a brief moment Baekhyun wondered if Jongdae was having as much trouble sleeping as he was.

"Um," he said, suddenly unsure of himself. He knew Jongdae hated to be disturbed when he was in the middle of studying, but he hated it even more when he was interrupted for no reason. "Can I come in?" he asked finally, fiddling nervously with the hem of his sweater.

Jongdae regarded him for a moment, then finally moved away from the door with a sigh and shuffled back into his dorm, leaving the door wide open. "Sure, whatever," he called after him, his form retreating back into his room.

Baekhyun hesitantly followed, toeing his shoes off by the door as he shut it behind him, and then hesitantly followed Jongdae into his room. He hovered nervously by the doorway for a couple of minutes until Jongdae shot him an irritated look from where he'd settled back at his desk, textbook set out open on the desk. "Stop fucking hovering and sit down," he grumbled, attention shifting back to the tome in front of him.

With a sigh, Baekhyun hesitantly moved towards Jongdae's bed, carefully settling down on the bed and crossing his legs. He'd never felt so ill at ease around Jongdae, and it wasn’t a pleasant feeling.

"I know why you're mad." Baekhyun mumbles finally after several long minutes of terse silence, picking at a couple of loose threads poking out of the seam of his jeans.

"Oh really?" Jongdae says noncommittally, still poring over his textbook, highlighter poised in the air. Baekhyun knows he isn't actually focused though; his shoulders are too tense, for one thing. He'd been on the same page for the past five minutes, for another.

"Well, kind of?" Baekhyun amended, chewing on his bottom lip nervously. Jongdae still wasn't looking at him. "I mean, I know you're mad that I kissed Kyungsoo? Because Chanyeol said you're in love with me or something and I don't know if he's bullshitting or not because, you know, it's Chanyeol and you're not looking at me why aren't you looking at me?" he was rambling, he knew that. Jongdae had finally set the highlighter down and had settled back in his chair, slowly, he turns, arms folded and releases a deep sigh.

"You really are the densest person on the planet, Byun Baekhyun," Jongdae sighed, sounding exasperated yet… fond? Baekhyun wasn’t really sure if that was what he was hearing in Jongdae's voice.

"Thanks?" Baekhyun said, mildly offended, and his heart leaps slightly when Jongdae snickers.

"You're making it too simple," he says finally, standing from his chair and moving to sit next to Baekhyun on the bed.

"You say that like it's a bad thing," Baekhyun frowns, hesitantly leaning towards Jongdae. He doesn’t move away, he notes with relief, subtly shifting a little closer.

"It is in this case." Jongdae says softly, leaning back on his hands to stare at his ceiling, dotted with plastic glow in the dark stars Baekhyun had bought him when Jongdae had first gotten this place, because he couldn’t sleep without some sort of comforting glow.

Baekhyun doesn’t speak, waiting for Jongdae to continue. He has his thinking face on, eyes shuttered and contemplative and lips pursed in thought.

"You know," he says finally, "you can be kind of an ass sometimes."

"If this is about me and Kyungsoo that's unfair, you know I'm a clingy drunk and-"

"I'm not bothered about that." Jongdae interrupts, "well, I was at first, but I'm not now." Baekhyun frowned, confused. And Jongdae sighs heavily.

"I mean when you told me whenever you'd hooked up with someone. Like at first I thought I was being so obvious that I was in love with you that you slept with other people to try to… let me down easy I guess? But then I remembered that this is you we're talking about, and you've always lacked tact and you would have just talked to me about it instead of being underhanded about it. And then you started dating Jongin and you were so happy and Jongin was so nice. I couldn't even bring myself to hate him, you know? Even when you broke up because it meant that I got you back. And I told myself that just being your friend and being there to support you would be enough, but then you kissed Kyungsoo and I just… snapped because it felt like I was just… being used for you to fall back on whenever everything went to shit and I just… couldn't be that for you anymore. Not when I wanted all of you and not the small parts you allowed me to have."

Jongdae shifted, drawing his knees up the his chest and resting his chin on his knees and looking at Baekhyun with eyes so soft, and with a hint of sadness that Baekhyun really, really wished wasn't there.

"And I think," he continued, taking a deep, shuddery breath as he slowly, hesitantly took Baekhyun's hand in one of his own, "I think I've been in love with you for a really long time."

"…Oh." Baekhyun breathed, stunned, staring dazedly at his and Jongdae's hands. Their palms fit together perfectly. "I think… I think I may have been in love with you for a while too, I'm just too dense to realise it."

Jongdae snorts, tightening his grip on Baekhyun's hand briefly. "Well, we can't all be perfect." he says, the corners of his mouth lifting.

Baekhyun wasn't sure who moved first, maybe it was both of them, but next thing he knew he had one hand fisted into Jongdae's shirt and the other cradling his cheek, their faces millimetres apart and Jongdae's hand rested easily against Baekhyun's ribs. They paused then, Baekhyun idly stroking his thumb against the jut of Jongdae's cheekbone before slowly, hesitantly drawing closer.

It moved quickly from there, Jongdae's spare hand moving from Baekhyun's thigh to the back of his neck, guiding him closer as their lips brushed, deepening the kiss as Jongdae's tongue licked against the seam of Baekhyun's lips.

"I'm sorry for not noticing," Baekhyun gasped into Jongdae's open mouth, moaning as Jongdae's fingers slid through the short hairs on the back of his neck and tugged slightly. "I'm sorry that you've been right in front of me this entire time and I didn't see. I'm-"

"You," Jongdae interrupted him, pressing his lips firmly against Baekhyun's lips, "need," his cheeks, "to stop," his nose, "talking" his lips again, teeth catching briefly on Baekhyun's bottom lip. "I have waited for this for almost five years, Byun Baekhyun, you are not ruining it with your loud mouth."

Baekhyun couldn't help his incredulous laughter, tugging Jongdae down so that they lay side by side, legs intertwining as they had done so many times before.

And maybe, Baekhyun thought, what he'd been looking before had been right in front of him all along.