It is somewhere between the crisp mornings of autumn and the freezing evenings of winter that Byun Baekhyun realizes that he is, without a doubt, in love with his best friend. It doesn’t hit him suddenly, forcefully like he’s seen happen in movies or read about in the romantic drama novels that he likes to deny owning. On the contrary, he comes to this realization slowly, painstakingly so.
The last drop, the final moment of calm before the storm, happens on a very unfortunate evening in the middle of January, when the snow has fallen in a thick sheet that covers the entirety of Seoul. Unfortunate, because the heating in Baekhyun’s small, run-down (but cheap) apartment has been steadily dying for the past few months, and has decided that tonight, of all nights, is the right time to finally retire to the afterlife. The weather is below zero, and when Baekhyun squints from his curled-up position on the couch, rolled into about half a dozen blankets, he can make out a thin sheen of frost covering the windows.
He sighs, defeated, and burrows deeper into the cocoon of warmth when a shiver runs down his spine. The windows are drafty- have been since that one time he forgot to close them during a rainstorm and the wood soaked the moisture up, after which they’d barely been able to fit together again- and he can feel the cold air hitting his socked feet from where they peek out from under the blankets. He wiggles his toes for a moment, and then promptly shifts, stuffing his feet into the warm safety, free of the cold.
A loud groan sounds from the front door, and Baekhyun doesn’t even need to look over his shoulder to know who it is.
“I forgot my gloves at the library!”, his best friend, Chanyeol, says grumpily. And, to emphasize the severity of that mistake, he starts rubbing his pink, half-frozen hands together, trying to get them warm and working again.
Baekhyun hums in sympathy, “The heater finally gave out.”, he announces in a defeated voice, a little groggy from his earlier nap.
The couch shifts with the added weight of the other boy throwing himself onto it, heaving a loud sigh and immediately laying down with his head resting on what he assumes is Baekhyun’s leg. The blankets are warm from his body heat, and he soaks it up greedily, planting his freezing hands on the soft fabric.
Baekhyun’s eyes flutter closed again, because he’s warm and the weight of his best friend on his side is comforting, and it really is getting late. He’s just about to slip into sleep again, but almost jumps when a piercing pain shoots through his body, centered on his stomach.
“Noooo- stop! What the fuck are you doing?”, he protests, squirming away from the hands trying to slip under his sweater.
Chanyeol gives him his signature puppy eyes, and it’s almost enough to convince the smaller boy to give in. Almost. Baekhyun whines low in his throat, still trying to get away even when his body starts growing accustomed to the chilliness of Chanyeol’s palms on his skin, warming them up steadily. He stops moving when it becomes apparent that Chanyeol has no intention of removing his hands from underneath his sweater anytime soon, and instead shifts to give him more room on the couch.
“Mmm~”, Chanyeol hums happily, mooching off of his best friend’s warmth shamelessly, to the point where he almost burrows under the blankets to join him. “How are you always so warm?”, he mutters, words slurred from how tired he is after a grueling day of dance practice.
Baekhyun snorts, with his eyes closed and his body used to the added weight and warmth of another person. “How are you always so cold?”, he counters, because not a day goes by that something like this doesn’t happen. Whether it’s Chanyeol stealing his blankets during the night, or his thick, knitted sweaters to wear during the day, or just plain stealing his body heat like he is right now. It’s infuriating.
It’s funny, really, how they’re complete opposites sometimes. Like in the way Chanyeol can’t even look at Baekhyun’s favourite cereal (“Mm, nothing like artificial fruit flavouring in the morning~”), and Baekhyun can’t understand how the taller boy can eat the plain, wheat ones with raisins (“Fucking raisins, man, how can you?”); or how Baekhyun has no qualms about becoming instant friends with anyone he meets, talking animatedly and openly, while Chanyeol is more closeted at first, until he gets used to the person, before he manages to open up; or how Chanyeol is actually a pretty responsible student, studying whenever he can and making sure to not miss a single deadline, while Baekhyun prefers the “Due today? Do today” technique that has resulted in one too many all-nighters and breakdowns over the years that they’ve known each other.
They even each other out, and there is a delicate, comfortable balance that is only disrupted in moments like this, when Baekhyun’s heart starts to race as he feels Chanyeol’s hands moving up and down against his waist, thumbs running slow circles into his skin. A lump lodges itself somewhere in his throat, constricting, and he finds it hard to breathe. It’s crushing, sometimes, this thing between them. It leaves him exposed and vulnerable and he doesn’t know what to do or say or how to go on with everything normally when Chanyeol smiles at him, or looks at him, and he forgets what breathing is for a split second.
He’s gotten very good at ignoring these feelings when they come up. I must be hungry, he thinks, to explain the sudden hollowness in his entire body when Chanyeol talks about someone he likes. It’s just the cold, he tells himself, when his hand and Chanyeol’s brush together while they’re walking home from class on a windy day. This is what friends do, he tries to convince himself, when they fall asleep curled together on the couch after a movie marathon or an all-night study session, when he tries to push down the rising warmth in his chest that threatens to overwhelm him as Chanyeol mumbles sleepily, pulling Baekhyun closer to himself.
He can hear the soft sounds of Chanyeol’s breathing evening out as he slips into sleep, muttering something unintelligible into the blankets and burying his face into their warmth, rubbing his nose against Baekhyun’s covered thigh. The other boy waits a few moments, making sure that his friend is asleep, before allowing himself to reach out and run his fingers through the silver mess of hair, too long now that there’s no time between school and dance to have it cut. He pushes the strands away from Chanyeol’s forehead, letting his hand linger for a few moments longer than necessary, just to ease the ache in his chest.
“I think I might love you.”, Baekhyun whispers into the silence of their living room, and doesn’t get a reply other than another sleepy mumble as his best friend continues to dream, blissfully unaware of the storm of feelings pooling underneath the surface of Baekhyun’s skin. He pets Chanyeol’s hair, touch soft and lingering, and every second he spends looking at that sleepy smile on his best friend’s face is another bruise on his heart.
Chanyeol wakes up with a sore neck and a dull throb in his leg, all caused by the position he’s been sleeping in for the past few hours, his tall, lanky body curled up in a fetal position on one half of the couch. He blinks a few times, adjusting to the brightness of a new morning, and vaguely registers a foreign weight on top of his head. Upon looking up, he smiles, because there are fingers in his hair and they flex every few moments while Baekhyun dreams about something that seems unpleasant, if his frown is anything to go by.
So, like a good friend would, Chanyeol reaches for him, bringing their joint hands close to his chest and lacing their fingers together. The sleepy sounds he gets in response make his heart stutter involuntarily, and he gasps a little, wondering when this started being their 'normal'- the urge to reach out and touch and hold and see every part of Baekhyun that the other boy was willing to show. He stares as the frown is replaced by a small smile, just the corners of the smaller boy’s lips turned upwards, but it’s enough to send Chanyeol’s thoughts spiraling.
There are no free tables in the 24 hour diner, even though it's already pretty late on a school night, and the weather outside is bordering on freezing. Chanyeol sighs and his eyes roam across the room, trying to find an unoccupied chair, at least, and he sighs in relief when they land on one near the window. Today's afternoon dance class had stretched far longer than usual, and he's dying to eat something and go home, probably collapse onto his bed and sleep for the next three days. He timidly approaches the boy sitting at the table, with headphones loudly playing some pop song he's heard many times but still doesn't know the name of, typing away on his laptop. "Um", he says, tapping the boy's shoulder to get his attention, and he's momentarily taken aback when a pair of wide, light brown eyes snap up to meet his own. "Can I sit here?", Chanyeol manages, biting on his lower lip to ease his nerves. Approaching strangers has never been a habit of his. But the boy sends him a warm, kind smile and nods, motioning to the empty seat in a 'go ahead' motion. "I was just about to look something to distract me from this essay!", the boy says in a cheerful tone, heaving a sigh and snapping his laptop closed. He leans forward and rests his chin in his hands. "I'm Byun Baekhyun, but you can call me Baek.", he tells Chanyeol, who's caught offguard by the friendliness of this stranger- or, well, not-so-stranger, now. "Uh... Park Chanyeol. You can call me whatever you want, I guess.", he mumbles, still a bit nervous, but his words earn him a chuckle from the boy sitting across from him, and his heart may or may not skip a beat.
Chanyeol's rushing across campus to get to his English class when a familiar voice shouts his name, and his lips stretch into a smile as he hears quick footsteps approaching. "How'd your audition go?", Baekhyun asks as they fall into step together, walking in long strides towards the language building. Chanyeol remembers telling the other boy about the audition for the school musical, during their encounter at the diner a week ago, but he really didn't expect Baekhyun to remember anything about it, so he's a little taken by surprise. He seems to always be, with Baekhyun. "I got the part.", he says proudly, and the feeling only intensifies when he recieves a big grin and a pat on the back from his friend (friend?). Baekhyun looks up at him and his eyes are kind of sparkling when he asks, "Did you blow them all away?". Chanyeol huffs a laugh and nods, happy when he hears the responding laugh from the shorter boy. "I wanna see you dance.", Baekhyun says suddenly, after they've been walking in a comfortable silence for a few minutes. Chanyeol knows that he's going to be late for class now, but he stays behind to talk to the other boy as they finally reach the entrance. "It's in three months, so-", Chanyeol begins, but is cut off by Baekhyun shaking his head, "No, I mean, like, soon. You'll need some constructive criticism, or else your lead role head will get too big!", he jokes. That's how they agree to meet at Chanyeol's place during the weekend.
Three months into being friends, Baekhyun tells Chanyeol that they should be roommates starting next month. They've just come back from Chanyeol's performance and are high on the excitement of the final applause, and Chanyeol doesn't even think before he agrees. Baekhyun helps him pack his things the following day, and by the end of the month he's already moved out of his lonely, cold apartment in a crappy neighbourhood, and moved into a not-lonely, still kinda cold apartment in a slightly less-crappy neighbourhood with his best friend and roommate.
He tries to date because he's heard that it's supposed to be nice, but he can't seem to commit to anyone for longer than a few weeks, maybe a month if he's lucky. It takes him three tries to realize what he's looking for in each and every one of them- bright auburn eyes, a kind smile, light brown hair with bangs that sweep to the side, and just short enough so that the tops of their heads reach his chin when they hug. It takes him another few tries to realize that none of them have what he needs, because only one person does, and he's not brave enough to actually want that person that way because there's too much on the line.
Chanyeol jumps back like he's been burnt, ignoring the soft sound of protest that leaves Baekhyun's lips at the sudden loss of warmth. His breathing is coming out ragged, and he doesn't realize that his feet are moving until the door to their apartment slides shut behind him and he's left in the hallway of their apartment complex, alone and shaking slightly, head pounding in the same rhythm as his heart. "Shit", he says, sliding down the door, face cupped in his hands, "nope. Nope. Don't go there.", he tells himself, giving his own cheek a firm slap that doesn't help at all. "He's your best friend. Probably the best thing that's ever happened to you.", he whispers, thinking I can't ruin this.
Baekhyun wakes up and it's to find the other end of the couch empty and cold, his hand tingling from the phantom feeling of fingers laced with his own, and he remembers the dream he was having before waking up- Chanyeol holding his hand and smiling at him in the kind of way that he can, really, only dream about. He groans and burries his face into the blankets, hoping to fall asleep again so he wouldn't have to face this day yet, as it hasn't exactly gotten off to a good start.
The front door slams closed and he hears a low curse that sends a spike of warmth through his body, before the tall form of his best friend appears in the doorway, wearing an apologetic expression.
"Sorry", he mumbles, lifting up a plastic bag as a peace offering, "I brought breakfast, and, uh, coffee."
Chanyeol doesn't mention how he got the coffee from the place half an hour away from where they live, near campus, where they met. Because he was feeling all kinds of sentimental and it was really early and he just needed to walk off his thoughts for a little while, and somehow he ended up there without really realizing it was where he was heading all along. He plops down on the couch and doesn't notice the fond expression cross Baekhyun's face, because he's too busy staring at the steaming cup in his hand.
"Thanks.", Baekhyun mumbles, reaching for the other cup and blowing on it before taking a careful sip. He looks at the logo and smiles, because he knows. Of course he knows.
They sit in silence, alternating between long sips of coffee and bit bites of the pastries Chanyeol also bought, and it would be the usual, comfortable silence if the two of them weren't secretly thinking about their newly-acknowledged feelings.
Baekhyun is the first to speak, unsurprisingly.
"We met here.", he says, pointing to the logo on his coffee cup.
Chanyeol nods, but doesn't look up.
"It's my favourite diner."
Baekhyun snorts, eyeing the coffee with a frown, "Their coffee always sucked, though."
The taller boy's gaze snaps up and his eyebrows draw together, "Why is it your favourite, then?", he asks incredulously.
He watches as Baekhyun bites his lip, his long, pale fingers peeling the logo off of his paper cup. It's a habit of his, one Chanyeol noticed during the first weeks of their friendship, when Baekhyun and he would meet at the diner and study together before exams, and Baekhyun would start peeling away out of nervousness. He's not sure why his friend is doing it now, though. What's he got to be nervous about, when it's just the two of them?
"Because we met there.", Baekhyun says, and it's so quiet that Chanyeol wouldn't have heard him if he hadn't been listening intently.
Chanyeol swallows, and it's too loud in the silence following Baekhyun's words. He hears a car honking outside their apartment, a few birds chirping on the fire escape steps, the sound of a baby crying in an apartment somewhere above theirs. This is one of those movie moments, he thinks. The ones where the main character finally realizes something grand, and then there are confessions and kissing and fireworks. Or, there are confessions and rejections and sad, instrumental music playing in the baackground while the main character stands in the rain, getting completely soaked, the raindrops mixing with his tears. He prefers the first scenario.
What's he got to be nervous about, when it's just the two of them?
He cups Baekhyun's cheek, feeling brave for the first time in forever. There's even more on the line than before, when he still believed that drowning himself in other people would somehow help him escape from the reality he was living in. And he's still not a brave person, but it just takes a second of crazy courage. Or maybe it's just recklesness. Whatever dumb luck got him into the position of being Baekhyun's best friend seems to be on his side, still, because the shorter boy leans into his touch with a low hum, never breaking eye contact.
Realizing something grand: check. Confessions: (kind of) check.
Baekhyun sighs impatiently, and then he's leaning forward, his hands on Chanyeol's thighs for balance, until their faces are inches apart and their breaths mingle in the leftover space between their bodies. The air is charged with something that sends sharp jolts of fear and excitement coursing under the surface of Chanyeol's skin, and he wonders, vaguely, with the part of his mind that is still fully-operational, if Baekhyun can feel it, too.
One second of crazy courage: check.
Chanyeol closes the distance and titls his head to the side, lips pressing to the other boy's so quickly that he doesn't even get a chance to re-think the potentially destructive decision he's just made. He vaguely registers the couch shifting, too afraid to move or breathe or, God forbid, open his eyes and face the situation, his lips still pressed firmly to Baekhyun's. But then they're moving and Baekhyun is sighing and Chanyeol feels it against his lips when the other boy smiles and moves closer to deepen the kiss.
Baekhyun breaks the kiss and moves from his position on the couch, but he doesn't move away. Instead, he unceremoniously plops himself down on Chanyeol's lap, arms looping around his neck and smile bright enough it could probably keep him warm better than a working heater ever could. Baekhyun kisses him again, and something warm and electic blooms inside his chest, a sort of intense fondness that he's had yet to experience with anyone else before. He hopes that's what Baekhyun feels, too.
"I think I might love you.", Baekhyun mumbles against his lips.
He hums, trying not to smile too wide because it would break their kiss. He pulls away just barely, breathing in Baekhyun's exhales, and tells him, in a voice so soft that it sounds foreign to his own ears, "I think I might love you back."
Baekhyun laughs and pulls away, immediately nosing into the crook of Chanyeol's neck. He smells like the shampoo Baekhyun bought last week.
They don't notice the snow begin to fall outside the foggy windows of their living room, or the sounds of children running around in the hallway in front of their apartment, or the otherwise annoying sounds of busy morning traffic. It's just the two of them, in their, now, even less-lonely, really cold apartment in a kinda-crappy neighbourhood, and they're right where they're supposed to be.