Actions

Work Header

the weight of the world (i'll lift it for you)

Work Text:

Chanyeol wakes up at the crack of dawn, blindly fumbling for his phone to shut off the alarm. He’s not entirely sure when he set it to play Jason Derulo’s Talk Dirty, brows furrowing in confusion as he recognizes the lyrics, but he has a few guesses as to who probably did. He glances beside him but there’s no Jongin in bed with him tonight. It’s not that Jongin is supposed to be, rather that lately he’s crawled in beside him claiming it’s comfier and that the sun doesn’t rise from Chanyeol’s side so he can sleep in longer.

They’re pretty silly excuses and Chanyeol teases Jongin that if he wants to sleep with him, he just has to ask, but once Jongin pushed him off the bed and he keeps his thoughts to himself. He likes having Jongin there, curled up into his chest, so he doesn’t want to ruin a good thing he wouldn’t really have otherwise.

He drags himself out of bed with a groan, stretching his arms over his head, and grabs clothes for work before heading to shower. The door to Jongin’s room is shut but there’s light still on down the hall which he knows he turned off before he went to bed last night. Chanyeol sighs, hoping that doesn’t drastically affect their electricity bills, and goes to shut it off so he feels better about it.

He doesn’t expect to find Jongin asleep with his head pillowed on an arm on the coffee table. There are a bunch of newspapers open underneath him and when Chanyeol looks closer he realizes they’re classified ads. His stomach lurches a little, glancing down at his roommate’s face, soft in sleep, and really hopes Jongin’s looking for another job not because he got laid off but because he just wants something better.

Taking in the way Jongin fell asleep like this really doesn’t give Chanyeol too much hope for the latter.

It’s a Wednesday morning so Chanyeol knows Jongin only works at the chicken place today and his shift isn’t until after noon. He sets his clothes onto the couch so he can gently shake Jongin awake. His tendency to fall asleep anywhere usually leads to being a little cranky when he wakes up with a hundred kinks everywhere and that’s never good for his shifts at the dance studio.

“Jonginnie,” Chanyeol says softly, pushing back the bangs from his face and shaking his shoulder. “C’mon, get up.”

Jongin makes an adorable ruffled noise at being woken, his eyes fluttering open and shut a few times before he seems to realize Chanyeol is crouched down before him. “Hyung?” he croaks out and then swallows. “What time is it?”

“Fucking early,” Chanyeol laughs. “I’m getting ready for work. You should go sleep in your bed.”

Jongin blinks again, glancing around him and then down. He stares at the newspapers and his face visibly falls. Chanyeol bites his lower lip. They’ll probably have to talk about this, but later.

“Come on,” Chanyeol says, standing and tugging at Jongin’s arm. Jongin gets up without much protest, and Chanyeol places a hand on each of his shoulders and marches him toward his room. Jongin is still dressed in clothes from yesterday so he pulls at his shirt to get his attention and Jongin easily removes it. Chanyeol glances at the floor when he undoes his jeans and steps out of them and only looks back when he hears the slight creak of the bed. “Get some real sleep, okay?” he tells him, patting Jongin’s head.

Jongin nods, his hair flopping into his eyes and making him seem like a little puppy. It’s too cute, too early in the morning. “Have a good day at work,” Jongin murmurs, already falling back into slumber. “Will you be able to meet me for lunch before my shift?”

“I’ll text you,” Chanyeol says and he looks around the floor to pick up Jongin’s jeans. He grabs his phone from the pocket and types in the passcode easily. He sets his alarm for him, to make sure he gets up. “Sleep,” he says finally, setting the phone on the bedside table.

“Okay,” Jongin says and he reaches out to lightly touch Chanyeol’s wrist before letting his arm flop over the edge of the bed.

Chanyeol stares at him for a second longer before he turns and walks out of the room. He can’t be late for work.

-

Chanyeol wishes a lot of things in his life could be different. That he didn’t have to juggle two low-paying jobs just to get by. That he didn’t have to work such awful shifts. That he wasn’t always worried about making the rent on time. That he could just walk into his favorite music store and buy the guitar he’s been eyeing for months instead of waiting patiently for when he has enough saved up. He wishes his apartment could be a little bigger, and that he could give up the coffee from the shop around the corner so he wasn’t wasting money on it every morning, and even that the small table in the kitchen would finally break and they’d be forced to buy another one.

Despite all that Chanyeol wants to change, there’s one thing that makes everything bearable. One thing - one person - that makes it okay. For anything in the world, he would never not want Jongin.

They’d been vague acquaintances since high school, with a shared group of friends and similar interests. Chanyeol thought Jongin was quiet, a little too shy and slow to open up to people. He stuck around Sehun, back then, and Zitao, but he would always give Chanyeol pretty smiles and ask him questions about math assignments during lunch. It wasn’t until university, that they became much better friends. Actual friends. Chanyeol gets teamed up with Sehun for a semester-long project and spends enough time in Sehun and Jongin’s dorm room that he gets used to the way Jongin looks perpetually sleepy or procrastinates his homework by reading and rereading volumes of One Piece.

They end up sharing meals together, meeting up after classes to study in one of the private rooms in the library, and Jongin laughs at Chanyeol’s dumb jokes like it’s the funniest thing he’s ever heard and Jongin edits all his literature papers and leaves little characters drawn into the margins. He’s still shy and so easily embarrassed, but he’s let Chanyeol in much more than in high school and Chanyeol is more than happy with the progression. He likes having a lot of friends, and he’s always wanted to be Jongin’s friend, ever since he first met him in the high school cafeteria and Jongin had been half-asleep on Baekhyun’s shoulder.

That was all years ago and so much has changed since then and Chanyeol’s friendship with Jongin has only gotten stronger. They move in together during Chanyeol’s senior year, fitting in all their belongings into a cramped two-bedroom apartment close enough to the university and the dance studio Jongin helps out at whenever he’s not buried under essays and research. It’s a great match, because Chanyeol likes taking care of people and Jongin is a little hopeless at anything domesticated. Chanyeol cooks, and Jongin washes up. Chanyeol cleans around the apartment, and Jongin brings back his favorite food to make up for it. Chanyeol watches the news on television, and Jongin climbs onto the couch after he gets home and falls asleep with his head in Chanyeol’s lap.

There’s nothing that makes Chanyeol happier than having Jongin in his life. They’ve both been out of school for three years now and things aren’t easy. It was hard, for either of them to get the job that they wanted, and they’ve had to settle for whatever they could get to pay the rent, to stay together, because that’s become practically an unspoken agreement. They could handle anything, as long as they’re together.

At least, that’s what Chanyeol thinks. As long as Jongin is beside him, he could take on the world.

-

Jongin doesn’t get home until late in the evening and Chanyeol passes out on the couch as he waits up for him. It’s only when Jongin undoubtedly climbs up onto him and presses his face into the crook of Chanyeol’s neck does he blearily wake, rubbing his eyes with the back of his hand. “Hey,” he says softly, mouth feeling all cottony from his nap. “Welcome home.”

Jongin just groans into his skin and Chanyeol laughs, only to end up yawning halfway. “Long day?” he asks Jongin, letting his arms wrap around his back. He’s so warm and even though the smell of fast food lingers on his clothes, he feels really nice, pressed against Chanyeol like this.

“It wasn’t terrible,” he mumbles, “but I spent my breaks looking for a new job so I’m exhausted anyway.”

Chanyeol sighs. “I saw,” he says, “this morning.” He rubs Jongin’s back. “What happened?”

Jongin shifts against Chanyeol’s chest, turning his face so he can speak more clearly. “My boss at the music store is such a bitch. She’s always on my case about being late even though I’ve told her like a hundred times not to schedule me at that time when it takes so long to get over there after my shift at the chicken place.” He groans and pulls himself up suddenly, running a hand through his hair and frowning down at Chanyeol who only wants to draw him back. He doesn’t, though, just stares back and waits for Jongin to continue. “It’s like she was creating a reason to fire me,” he says and then shrugs. “Whatever. That job sucked. I’m glad I can look for something else.”

“I’m sorry,” Chanyeol says, reaching out to ruffle Jongin’s already tousled hair some more. He shakes his head and smiles at him, a little tired but honest, and Chanyeol knows he’ll be okay. “Maybe you should ask Hyukjae-hyung about taking on another class at the studio until you find something else?”

Jongin’s face lights up. “That’s a good idea,” he says, climbing off the couch so he can easily pull his phone out of his pocket. “I’ll leave him a message right now.”

He rushes off into his room at that and Chanyeol sighs again, stretching the length of the couch before letting himself roll off and to his feet. He rubs the back of his neck, working out a few of the lingering kinks, and heads into the kitchen for something to eat because he slept right through dinner.

“Jongin?” he calls, pulling open the fridge and checking through the few tupperware of leftovers. “Did you eat already?”

“No!” he shouts back and Chanyeol frowns in the direction of his room. He probably skipped his meals in favor of looking up new jobs instead.

“I’ll make something then,” Chanyeol says loud enough that Jongin will be able to hear him. There’s some remaining spaghetti from a few nights ago that Chanyeol takes out in case Jongin wants that instead, and he turns on the stove to make himself a quick omelette instead because nothing much sounds as appetizing.

Jongin wanders in sometime later, fresh out of the shower and dressed in just a pair of loose-fitted shorts. His wet hair drips down his shoulders and Chanyeol has to remind himself to look away.

“Ooh, spaghetti,” Jongin says. “Can I have it?”

“Go for it,” Chanyeol responds without turning to him. He hears Jongin popping it into the microwave and then he’s sliding up onto the counter beside the stove and smiling at Chanyeol. Chanyeol quirks a brow in amusement, pretends to poke him with the wooden spoon in his hand. Jongin laughs, squirming to the side, and childishly kicks his feet out to retaliate. He’s so cute like this. “For someone who just got fired, you sure are happy.”

Jongin grins, shrugs. “Like I said, it was a crap job,” he replies. He tilts his head slightly and gives Chanyeol such an assessing look that Chanyeol feels a little nervous. “Besides,” he says, straightening up again and fluffing at his damp bangs. “when I’m home with you it’s hard to be sad.”

Chanyeol’s heart does a strange spastic thing in his chest at that and he has to turn his attention back to the stove. His omelette is done, so he shuts off the heat and sets the pan to the side and picks a plate off the drying rack beside the sink. “And you call me sappy all the time,” he says, finally, when he’s found his voice and the urge to look at Jongin and want to kiss him fades away, back.

“Because you are,” Jongin laughs, jumping off the counter and patting Chanyeol’s ass lightly. He stops the microwave just before it starts to beep and pulls out the container, hissing at the heat.

“Careful,” Chanyeol chides, catching Jongin pouting, and hands him a potholder from the drawer next to him. Jongin smiles at him gratefully and after grabbing a fork from another drawer, he retreats to the living room to eat.

Chanyeol slides his own omelette onto a plate and cleans up a bit around the kitchen before Jongin calls out, “C’mon, hyung, what’re you doing?”

Chuckling softly, Chanyeol tosses the dishcloth onto the counter and grabs his plate. “Nothing, nothing,” he says and heads over to join Jongin on the couch. Jongin presses in close like normal, but today, especially after what Jongin said earlier, it has Chanyeol’s heart beating a little faster. Jongin’s watching some cartoon show on the TV that Chanyeol hasn’t seen before, but he couldn’t really care less what they watch. Just being together like this, that’s what really matters, and seeing Jongin laughing and happy, that’s more important than anything.

It’s nice, he thinks, to know that Jongin feels the same way, even if it’s not quite the way Chanyeol hopes he did.

He’ll take what he can get, and having Jongin beside him is more than anything he’s ever needed.

-

“I heard Jongin lost his job,” Kyungsoo says by way of greeting when Chanyeol slides into the booth at a small ramyeon place just a block from where Chanyeol has his radio gig every night. “Are you guys okay?”

Chanyeol smiles and waves a hand at him. “We’re great,” he says and even when Kyungsoo narrows his eyes at him, looking menacing in his pressed, black suit and coiffed hair. He’d taken a break from long day of meetings to meet with Chanyeol for a late dinner, something they try to do every week because Chanyeol complains Kyungsoo never wants to see him otherwise. “Really,” he insists, after their waiter stops by to get their orders. “Jongin’s taking on another class at the studio for now, and we might be a little strapped, but I’m gonna talk to Minseok-hyung and see if I can take on extra shifts at the cafe.”

Kyungsoo frowns at him like that’s not a good enough answer. He doesn’t say that, though, just gives Chanyeol this sort of look and waits for him to break down. Chanyeol won’t, because he’s used to this, from Kyungsoo. From Junmyeon, too, and his sister, and it’s mostly because they don’t seem to understand. It’s okay, for Chanyeol, that things are tough. He doesn’t expect things to be easy. After doing his utmost best in university and not getting accepted to any of the companies he applied to, he understands the struggle all too well. And he’s happy, to have Jongin at his side so they can get through the mess together.

Chanyeol ends up winning their staring contest when their food arrives and Kyungsoo lets out a heavy sigh, picking up chopsticks and pulling his bowl closer to him. “Fine,” he says, “I’ll let it go. For now.”

Chanyeol slurps up some noodles before he grins. “Careful, Kyungsoo,” he says, “or people might start thinking you care.”

Kyungsoo kicks him, hard, under the table and smirks around his mouthful of food as Chanyeol whines. He’s distracted when his phone beeps on the table, and he finds a message from Jongin.

did u really make food for me but go out to eat w/ kyungsoo?

Chanyeol smiles at the text. He’d been bored, and Jongin has been doing that thing where he lives off of too many take out meals from the chicken place, so he’d whipped up a quick chicken pasta for him to have when he gets back home. Chanyeol already had his plans with Kyungsoo, so it seemed like a good idea. He types back a quick Yes :D.

i could’ve made something myself!! or brought food back! :(

Instant ramyeon isn’t a meal, Jongin. And you should cut back on all the take out anyway. Chanyeol types. He can feel Kyungsoo staring at him and he’ll probably complain about Chanyeol dragging him out just to ignore him. Besides, I don’t mind cooking for you. So just eat and don’t complain.

Jongin’s reply doesn’t come for a few minutes, giving Chanyeol just enough time to enjoy a few more mouthfuls of his ramyeon and for Kyungsoo to glare at him across the table.

you’re the best

this is so good!! (っ˘ڡ˘ς) (っ˘ڡ˘ς) (っ˘ڡ˘ς)

thanks hyung ♡

tell kyungsoo i said hi

Chuckling softly, Chanyeol shakes his head and sets his phone aside. “Jongin says hi,” he tells Kyungsoo who rolls his eyes.

“Ah, of course it was Jongin,” he says before he takes a sip of his water. He sets down the glass and adds, giving Chanyeol a very pointed look, “How is that going?”

Chanyeol doesn’t meet his eyes, focuses instead on another mouthful of his meal. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he says after he swallows.

“Don’t you?” Kyungsoo says, raising a brow. He picks up a piece of meat from his bowl and pops it into his mouth as Chanyeol tries to make sure to keep his expression as impassive as possible. When Chanyeol chooses not to say anything, Kyungsoo adds, “There isn’t any point in pretending to hide it from me, you know. Not when it’s so obvious. Especially not when you practically confessed the whole thing over drinks two years ago.”

“It’s not like that,” Chanyeol says, but it comes out as more of a whine. He vaguely remembers that night but Kyungsoo never brought it up so he assumed Kyungsoo had forgotten, which was just fine with him because Chanyeol doesn’t...This is something he never wants to talk about, even with Kyungsoo who knows Chanyeol the best. If he talks about it, it becomes real and Chanyeol can’t have that. “We’re just friends, Kyungsoo.”

“It’s okay that you like him,” Kyungsoo starts and Chanyeol flinches back. Suddenly he doesn’t feel as hungry anymore, his stomach rolling unpleasantly as he thinks about Jongin and how adorable he’d looked that morning, curled up against Chanyeol in bed, and how he’d danced around the kitchen and made breakfast, and coaxed Chanyeol into dancing with him. Chanyeol thinks about how he just likes having Jongin in his life and about how much he wants more.

“I know it’s okay, that’s not the issue,” Chanyeol says finally. He sighs and pulls off his cap, runs his hand through his hair a few times before fitting it back on. “I just don’t want anything to change, okay?”

Kyungsoo doesn’t seem convinced by this but he thankfully decides not to press. “If that’s what you want,” he says, even though his voice suggests he thinks Chanyeol is an idiot. Maybe he is, but he’d rather be an idiot than to jeopardize what he and Jongin already have.

“It is,” Chanyeol says firmly. He grins up at Kyungsoo and when Kyungsoo just stares back, he laughs and adds, “So what about you and Junmyeon? Has anyone figured out that you’re fucking your boss?”

“If they did, they’ll regret ever bringing it up,” Kyungsoo says easily, and Chanyeol laughs because he knows Kyungsoo means it.

“So cruel,” he says and Kyungsoo just smirks before conversation switches to him complaining about Junmyeon and work. Chanyeol listens dutifully because it’s much better than their previous topic, which still has him a little unsettled. He’s been doing a good job, lately, keeping that away from the forefront of his mind, but now it’s returned, and he’ll have to work to push it back all over again.

They finish up eating and chatting for awhile longer, until Chanyeol needs to head over to work and Kyungsoo needs to go back and make sure everyone wasn’t slacking on his break. He grabs Chanyeol’s hand and twists his fingers when he tries to pay for himself, and Chanyeol whines until he lets go and pays for them both.

“Take care of yourself,” Kyungsoo says when they make it to the crosswalk. Chanyeol grins widely and slings an arm around his shoulders to drag him in close.

“Come visit us sometime big-shot,” Chanyeol says once Kyungsoo has bodily shoved him away and smooths down the front of his suit, glaring at him.

“We’ll see,” Kyungsoo says but he smiles at Chanyeol before darting down the street and Chanyeol watches him go before turning and heading in the opposite direction. It’s going to be a long night, but he’s in a good mood and he hopes the night will go by quickly.

-

Jongin picks up an afternoon beginner kids’ class at the dance studio after his job at the music store ends. “It’s lucky that Yunho-hyung has to move for his new job,” Jongin told Chanyeol once he’d found out. “Hyukjae-hyung needed someone to take over that class anyway. I’d much rather be teaching dance than working at that stupid store.”

“See? Things always happen for a reason,” Chanyeol replied and ruffled Jongin’s hair until he squawked and shoved him away.

Chanyeol finishes up a double shift at the cafe with enough time to head over to the studio and meet Jongin so they can head home together. He’s there a little early today, but he’s been here enough times that Hyukjae doesn’t mind if he comes in and watches. He finds Jongin’s class easily, just over in the second room, slightly smaller and nearly packed with little kids who are laughing as they trip over feet and try to copy the moves that Jongin showed them.

“Come on, you guys can do it,” he hears Jongin say before he sees him, and he wanders through the open door to the corner where there are a few parents waiting, too. He sees Jongin now, dressed in one of his usual loose sweatpants and a tank top that seems to reveal more skin than it covers up. His hair is pushed underneath a backwards cap - one of Chanyeol’s, he notices when Jongin turns around and he can see the ILLEGAL written on the front - and his collarbones shine with sweat.

Chanyeol shuffles into the corner and watches as Jongin helps up a small boy who had fallen, smiling at him so brightly and giving his hair a quick ruffle. He doesn’t get to see Jongin with kids very often, unless one of his sisters needs an emergency baby sitter, and since Lu Han’s little girl is a terror just like her father they don’t offer to watch her very often. So it’s nice, watching him like this. And Jongin loves to dance, even if it’s showing off the most basic of steps to some kids that seem like they’re still struggling to stand properly on two feet.

Jongin doesn’t notice Chanyeol until the very end, when he’s wrapping things up and glancing over to the parents present to make sure they encourage their kids to practice at home. That’s when he sees Chanyeol, and he pauses for a brief second in surprise, before he’s grinning even wider and turning away to finish his little speech.

Chanyeol stays back when Jongin finishes, watches as he talks with a few kids directly and his silly, high-pitched laugh fills up the room as a few of the more energetic ones try to jump up onto his back and give him hugs. He meets with some of the parents, too, and Chanyeol can’t really hear much from the corner but he can see how happy he looks, eyes curved into crescents and mouth stretched into a never-ending smile. A young mother seems intent on flirting, with the way she lightly touches Jongin’s elbow and leans into his space a bit, her son bouncing around at their feet. Jongin just laughs at whatever she says and Chanyeol knows he’s embarrassed by the way he rubs the back of his neck but he smirks coolly at her, the way he knows makes him look hotter, and Chanyeol has to turn away, then, pulling his phone from his pocket and fiddling with it until Jongin is done.

It doesn’t take much longer; the chatter dies down as everyone files out of the room and then Jongin is sliding against the wall next to Chanyeol and bumping his left shoulder with his right. “Hey, you,” he says, peering over his shoulder where Chanyeol is typing up a message to Baekhyun. “I didn’t know you were coming over.”

“Surprise,” Chanyeol says with a laugh, tucking his phone away once he’s sent the text. He turns to Jongin with a big grin and Jongin returns it. “I figured I’d come get you and we could stop for groceries before heading home.”

“Sounds good to me,” Jongin agrees and he picks up his small gym bag and slings it over his shoulder before leading the way out of the studio.

“You’re going to get sick like that,” Chanyeol says, pulling at a thin sleeve of Jongin’s tank top.

Jongin laughs, darting away and onto the street. “It’s like 90 degrees out, hyung,” he says with a roll of his eyes. “Don’t be ridiculous.”

Chanyeol just hums thoughtfully, wishing he didn’t feel the need for Jongin to cover up just because it’s distracting. Jongin doesn’t care, so Chanyeol shouldn’t either. He clears his throat and falls into step beside him, says, “You looked like you were having fun back there.”

“I love this class,” Jongin says, like it wasn’t obvious from how enthusiastic he was with the kids. “The kids are so cute and they really want to learn. It’s fun, teaching them.” He glances at Chanyeol and slowly smirks, nudges him with an elbow. “It’d be the perfect class for you, too, hyung, if you wanted to brush up on your dancing skills.”

“Right, because that’s on the top of my to-do-list,” Chanyeol says solemnly and the way Jongin snickers behind a hand has him grinning. They stop by a Family Mart near the apartment and carefully fill up a basket with the things they most need. Jongin sneaks in a bag of his favorite chips and Chanyeol gives him a little pinch in the small of his back but doesn’t remove the package. Chanyeol pays as Jongin shoves everything into plastic bags and Chanyeol has to remind him to be careful about the eggs.

“I’m not a little kid,” Jongin pouts at him as they leave and Chanyeol pulls at his plush lower lip and raises a brow at him as if to say, Really? Jongin swats his hand away and laughs and Chanyeol feels good, happy. It’s sticky hot outside and he had a long, annoying day at work this morning, but being with Jongin always makes him feel better, even if they’re doing something as menial a task as buying groceries.

Jongin wanders off to shower when they get back to the apartment, sneakily leaving Chanyeol alone to deal with putting the groceries away. With that all taken care of easily, Chanyeol thinks he should probably take a nap before his radio show tonight. He didn’t the other day and it was hard, staying awake through the late-night program.

He strips out of his jeans and climbs into bed, taps up a quick alarm on his phone to make sure he gets up in time. He doesn’t hear Jongin slide into bed with him after his shower, but he’s there when Chanyeol wakes up at his alarm starts blaring that song again, an arm thrown over Chanyeol’s waist and pressed in close. Chanyeol sighs, slumping back and closing his eyes for a moment and wishing this could all mean something different but knowing it’s not worth the risk.

-

Baekhyun likes to throw these parties every once in awhile like they’re all still in college and not adults who go to bed at 10PM instead of four in the morning. “I’m too cute to be called an adult yet,” he says, and he says the word adult like it’s a disease. It’s funny, considering Baekhyun’s one of the most successful people Chanyeol knows, with a knack at speaking and drawing people’s attention, he works in sales for a pretty big company and does really well for himself.

But Chanyeol’s not one to complain about how Baekhyun wants to stay young and relive the dream years (Baekhyun’s words, not his). Chanyeol wouldn’t mind going back to those times either, when his dreams felt big but also attainable, just out of his reach. When he didn’t have a hundred and one things to worry about constantly.

It’s a warm day in July when Chanyeol goes over, a box of some of Baekhyun’s favorite sweets in his hands. “If you fuckers come, it better not be empty-handed,” is what Baekhyun always puts in the emails, but everyone knows by now that if they show up late enough, Baekhyun’s usually so drunk he forgets. It’s how Jongdae’s gotten by every year.

“Hey man, long time no see,” Baekhyun greets Chanyeol at the door and grins widely at the box when Chanyeol hands it over. “You sure know the way to a guy’s heart. Sehun brought a bag of banana milk.”

Chanyeol laughs because that’s not surprising in the least. “You should update your requirement to state: must spend more than ten thousand won for entry.”

Baekhyun pats his back, shoving him into the apartment. “Good plan,” he says, “but then Sehun might not come at all.”

“Now that would be a tragedy.”

“I heard that!” Sehun snaps from the couch where he and Jongin are playing video games on Baekhyun’s giant television.

Chanyeol just pats Sehun’s head as he passes by. He glances at Jongin but he’s wrapped up in the game, so he follows Baekhyun to the kitchen to get himself something to drink. Chanyeol isn’t too big on alcohol but it’s been awhile and he doesn’t have to get up at dawn tomorrow, so he indulges in some cocktail Baekhyun hands him. It burns a bit, but it’s good, and he leans against the counter to sip at it slowly, glancing around the apartment. Not everyone is there yet, but Chanyeol knows Kyungsoo won’t make it because of work and Junmyeon is out of town. Lu Han said he’d come if he and Jia could find someone to watch Mei. Amber is out on the balcony with Sunyoung and Zitao, and Taeyeon is helping Baekhyun in the kitchen.

Chanyeol glances at her and then Baekhyun and smirks around the rim of his glass. “Still no ring, noona?”

Taeyeon laughs while Baekhyun whips around to glare at him. “Nope,” she says with a bit of a long-suffering sigh. “I’m thinking I should just propose to him.”

“Well, we all know you run this relationship anyway,” Chanyeol agrees with a nod and Taeyeon gives him a pretty smile. “Baekhyun clearly doesn’t have the balls--”

“I’m gonna kill you,” Baekhyun says, nearly dropping a plate of appetizers in favor of lunging toward Chanyeol with his hands outstretched. He doesn’t get very far before Taeyeon grabs the back of his shirt and stops him in place and Baekhyun’s pulling at the collar of his shirt where it’s pressing uncomfortably into his neck instead. “But babe--”

“Don’t babe me,” she says, letting him go finally and ignoring Baekhyun’s wheeze as she thrusts the plate back into his hands. “Go be a good host.” She pats his ass as he leaves and he leers at her over his shoulder before he disappears out of the kitchen. A few seconds later, Chanyeol hears a clatter and, “Come eat you bitches!” hollered from the living room.

Taeyeon sighs next to him as Chanyeol bursts out into laughter. He downs the rest of his drink and grabs one of the banana milk cartons from the counter. “I’m gonna go before he comes back and does try to kill me,” he says, gesturing toward the balcony and Taeyeon waves him off with a cheerful, “Have fun!”

It’s a little too humid outdoors but they’re mostly in the shade. Amber and Sunyoung are in deep discussion about something and Zitao instantly grabs Chanyeol’s arm and pulls him down to sit next to him on the floor. Chanyeol laughs, “Hey,” amused, because Zitao hasn’t let go. He must’ve already had a drink or two, but Zitao is clingy on most days so it’s hard to tell. He looks good, like always, dressed in sleek, dark jeans and a printed shirt that Chanyeol’s seen in ads. He pokes at his chest and says, “How is your line going?”

Zitao grins at him, lighting up his face even though he’s wearing sunglasses. “Great!” he says excitedly. “It was a huge hit. Better than I ever could’ve imagined.” He sits up straighter, proud, and Chanyeol pats his hand happily. Chanyeol’s seen Zitao’s clothing line on billboards and in magazines. He’s become a really popular, rookie designer in the past year.

Chanyeol remembers clearly how much time Zitao spent sketching outfit ideas into his notebooks instead of actual notes and how he would make sure he looked his best even if it was just a short trip to the nearest bubble tea shop. After all, they dated for about five months during Chanyeol’s second year and Chanyeol can’t forget things like that, even now. It’d been before Chanyeol realized bit by bit how interested he was in Jongin, or maybe being with Zitao had made his hidden crush even more obvious. He did really like Zitao though, and they had a good run, despite the occasional bump because they’re a lot alike. Zitao wants someone to pay attention to him but he so craves his independence and his dreams never seemed to have room enough for Chanyeol.

None of that is important now though. Now Chanyeol is glad he still has a friend in Zitao and that Zitao is achieving his dream. It makes him proud, too.

“I’m glad things are working out for you,” he says. He reaches out to pull lightly on one of Zitao’s earrings, the way he used to years ago, and laughs at how Zitao squawks and nudges him back.

“Thanks,” Zitao says after a moment, leaning into Chanyeol. “It hasn’t been easy, but things are really good.” He looks up at Chanyeol and Chanyeol is tempted to yank his sunglasses off because he can never tell quite what Zitao’s thinking behind it, but then he says, “If there’s anything you want from the line, let me know. I’ll get it made specifically for you.”

Chanyeol smirks. “I didn’t know I still got special treatment.”

“I’m just being nice,” Zitao huffs. “You know me, the nicest.”

“Right, nice,” Chanyeol humors him. “Up there with self-absorbed and whiny, your other two best traits.”

Zitao pushes at him again but he’s laughing and this is nice. It’s been awhile since Chanyeol’s seen him, but they always fall back into the same sort of pattern and it feels good, today. “You can add mean to your list,” Zitao says. “I take it back, you can’t have anything.”

“Who’s being mean now?” Chanyeol points out and Zitao pouts at him. He chuckles and bumps Zitao’s shoulder with his own. “You don’t have to give me anything, it’s no big deal.”

“I know that,” Zitao says. “But I want to.” He pauses, assessing, and then adds, “Or, if you’d rather, you can help me get Sehun to agree to model for me. I keep asking but he keeps saying he has to focus on his ~studies~.”

“Well, he does.”

“But he’d be so good!!” Zitao wails and Chanyeol pats his knee. “You would be, too, now that I think about it.” He gives Chanyeol a very slow, very careful once-over that has Chanyeol a little embarrassed. “We’d have to work on your facial expressions, but--”

“I don’t want to be a model, Zitao,” Chanyeol laughs. “But thanks for the offer.”

Zitao purses his lips thoughtfully before he shrugs. “Your loss,” he says, “but if you ever change your mind, you know, if you need the help--Let me know.”

He’s not really looking at Chanyeol as he says it but Chanyeol knows what he really means. Everyone of his friends worries too damn much, he thinks, even if it makes him happy just as much as it wears him down.

Before he can tell Zitao that he will, there’s a short knock against the door frame and Jongin halfway steps out onto the balcony. “Baekhyun-hyung wanted everyone to--” He cuts himself off suddenly, eyes widening a bit as he looks from the girls to Zitao and Chanyeol on the floor, taking in how Zitao is leaning into Chanyeol and their arms are still linked from when Zitao first pulled him down. He pauses, staring, and only jerks back into motion when Zitao pinches him, laughing.

“Oh, uh, sorry,” Jongin says, flushing. He meets Chanyeol’s gaze for a second before darting away, over to the railing and Chanyeol furrows his brows in concern. “Baekhyun-hyung said there’s food and that we all have to go play song-byung-ho. No one is exempt.”

“Why does he love that game so much?” Amber questions aloud, rolling her eyes, but she and Sunyoung dutifully head back inside.

“Guess we better go back, too, then,” Chanyeol says and Zitao sighs but lets him stand, raising his hands up for Chanyeol to pull him to his feet. Chanyeol laughs but does and Zitao grins at him before he ducks past Jongin through the door.

Jongin is still standing there and he is looking at Chanyeol now, plush lips pulled into a cute frown. Chanyeol ruffles his hair to get his attention, smiles down at him. “You okay?”

Jongin bites his lower lip and nods slowly, like he’s not actually sure that he is. He leans into Chanyeol’s touch instinctively, like a cat, and it makes Chanyeol’s smile widen. He’s so cute. “Haven’t talked to you at all since you got here,” Jongin says, still frowning.

Chanyeol tilts his head to the side. “I was right here,” he says. “Besides, I saw you like three hours ago.”

“But--” Jongin says only to cut himself off once again, maybe because of the way Chanyeol is staring at him, confused. He shakes his head, steps back, and Chanyeol’s hand falls away. “Never mind,” he says. “C’mon, let’s go play.” He smiles at Chanyeol and it’s not quite as bright as usual, but it’s better than the frown so Chanyeol smiles back and follows him inside.

-

“Hey Chanyeol, I’m sorry to call you in like this on an off day,” Ryeowook says, sliding into his seat behind his office desk. “I thought you’d want to hear right away.”

Chanyeol doesn’t particularly like the sound of that, but he smiles and nods as he settles into the chair in front of the desk. “It’s fine, hyung. I was in the area anyway.” He and Jongin had been shopping, not really looking for anything but wanting to get out of the apartment while they were both free to hang out. He’d told Jongin to go home when he’d gotten the call and Jongin had waved goodbye before parting. “What’s up?”

“Things aren’t looking good with the ratings lately, Chanyeol,” Ryeowook says with a sigh and Chanyeol feels his heart slowly sink toward his stomach. “It hasn’t been easy, especially with our late night shows, and funding has been cut recently, on top of all that--”

“Are you canceling my show?” Chanyeol asks, point blank, and is impressed that his voice doesn’t crack.

Ryeowook shakes his head but the set to his jaw is tight, strained. He looks tired and Chanyeol, too, is feeling weighed down. “No, not...yet, at least,” he says. “I really like you, Chanyeol. I think you’re great at what you do, so this is sort of a...heads up, if you will.” He sighs again, runs a hand through his hair. “You’ve been running a lot of your own ideas but that might change. A lot of programs are being revamped and we’ll have to do that for you, but if things don’t turn around, it might, well. I think you understand.”

Chanyeol nods, his throat too dry to speak. He rubs his palms over his thighs, wonders what he’ll do now. He’s glad, that he’s not being fired entirely, but this job was one of the best things he had going for him, being able to host his own kind of show, play the kind of music he likes, talk about things he wanted. Sure, the hours weren’t ideal and he didn’t get that many callers or anything like that, but it was still fun, and he was glad he’d found something that wasn’t too strict with its reigns so Chanyeol could do different things as he came up with his own ideas. It hurts, knowing that he wasn’t doing well enough with it, but having to change everything because of it is almost more upsetting.

“I’ll do my best,” is all he says in the end, when Ryeowook asks if he’s still on board, because what else is there?

Jongin is waiting at home for him, lounging on the couch with a bag of chips and a book when Chanyeol gets in. “Hey,” he says, leaning his head back over the armrest and looking at Chanyeol upside down. “What was that about?”

Chanyeol shrugs one shoulder, not sure he even wants to bring it up to Jongin and give him something else to worry about. He passes by into the kitchen and a second later he hears Jongin follow. A warm hand grabs his elbow and Jongin is tugging at him, getting him to turn around, and when Chanyeol does, his eyes are set in concern.

“Tell me,” he says in an almost childishly demanding voice, like Chanyeol is keeping secrets about a schoolyard crush instead of just finding out he might lose his steady job.

Chanyeol sighs heavily, rubs a hand over his face and trudges up a gist of his conversation with Ryeowook and tries not to notice the way Jongin’s eyes flash with surprise, then panic, as realization sinks in.

“What the fuck,” Jongin says, bordering on angry but mostly disbelief, “they can’t just do that.”

Chanyeol chuckles. “They can,” he says. “But at least I wasn’t fired, you know. I just have to work harder, do as they say.” He shrugs. “It’s no big deal.” It isn’t, really, in the grand scheme of things, but knowing that if things don’t get better, having that looming over his head, makes things so much worse. It won’t be fun, going into work tomorrow night.

“It is a big deal,” Jongin says, shaking his arm a little. “You love that job, you love doing it your way.”

“My way wasn’t cutting it,” Chanyeol says, and he offers Jongin a small smile because he looks much more upset about this than Chanyeol feels now. “This isn’t like back in school, when I got away with stupid shit on the university radio station.” He laughs, reminded of the ridiculous stuff he and Jongdae always did then. It’d always been fun, even if they got into trouble sometimes by Kyuhyun. “I just have to adjust. So stop making that face.”

“I’m not making a face,” Jongin retorts and Chanyeol pinches both of his cheeks between his fingers until Jongin is laughing and stumbling away. His face falls again a second later and he steps back to Chanyeol. “Are you sure you’re okay?”

Chanyeol’s not, not really, but he will be. “Yeah,” he tells Jongin, “don’t worry about me.”

“Of course I worry about you,” Jongin says, sounding a little offended at the implication and Chanyeol’s surprised by the vehemence in his voice. “You always try to be so strong, hyung, but you should let people worry about you.”

“I’m fine,” Chanyeol says, stepping back, because he doesn’t like talking about this, least of all with Jongin. He turns swiftly on his heel and opens the fridge, tries to think about what to make for dinner.

“You always say that, but I’m not so sure,” Jongin says, and he follows it up with a deep sigh. Chanyeol imagines him fussing with his bangs but he doesn’t turn to look. There’s silence, for awhile, then, and Chanyeol figures Jongin has left the kitchen entirely, but once he pulls out two containers and some bags of vegetables from the fridge and moves away, he sees that Jongin is still there, staring at him.

“What?” Chanyeol asks.

Jongin purses his lips, walks over to him and takes the containers from his hands, sets them onto the counter. He starts pulling them open and Chanyeol joins him, takes out a pan and sets it onto the stove. Chanyeol grabs the cutting board from beside the sink and a sharp knife, pulls out a few tomatoes from the bag.

“You should let me worry about you, Chanyeol,” Jongin says after a couple of minutes, his voice just loud enough over the steady chop-chop-chop of the knife against the cutting board. “We’re roommates, right?”

That pulls a small laugh from Chanyeol and he glances over at Jongin and nods. “We’re best friends,” he says, pushing back everything else, and Jongin beams at him. “I’m sorry.”

Jongin shakes his head and bumps him with his hip. Chanyeol grins, playfully tosses an end of the tomato at his face and Jongin’s shriek of laughter is enough to make him forget about the troubling things. They’ll be back, later, but for now, Chanyeol enjoys this.

-

He’d said it to Jongin, when he’d managed to pick up a second class at the studio after he lost his job at the music store, that things always happen for a reason. Chanyeol doesn’t really believe in stuff like that, even if it’s nice, how sometimes it feels like maybe the world is looking out for him, and redirecting him whenever something doesn’t work out.

The news from Ryeowook is almost like a wake-up call, in some ways. It’s easy, to become complacent, to settle, especially when Chanyeol isn’t exactly unhappy with his life. Sure, things could be a lot better, but he’s got a roof over his head and food to eat and a roommate to share his life with, so things could also be a lot worse. But he’s remembered, with a jolt, that working at a coffee shop and struggling to keep a radio program afloat isn’t what he wants in life. It’s not what he wants for his future. His meeting with Ryeowook has reminded him, that he doesn’t want to settle.

Chanyeol hates job hunting. After his unfortunate results after graduation, he’d been pretty quickly discouraged and picking up the pieces of that now isn’t easy, either. It’s like he’s pushed aside the part of him that’s always been so interested in environmental sciences and wanting to work somewhere so he can really make a difference.

It’s not easy, but he has to do it. He brushes up his resume and gathers up extra materials and saves them all properly in a little folder on his laptop so he can get to it whenever he applies somewhere. He spends his breaks at the cafe researching for something else, something better, and even scrolls through the email alerts he gets on his phone whenever the shop is slow and Minseok isn’t around to scold him.

Not that Minseok minds too terribly, because he understands Chanyeol’s dilemma and is always encouraging him to do better, try harder. Put himself out there.

“It’s not like I’m trying to kick you out of here or anything,” he says when Chanyeol points it out one day, after Minseok catches him looking at his phone during a midday Thursday lull. Chanyeol had quickly pushed his phone away but Minseok just patted his shoulder and told him not to worry about it before handing him a dish towel and pointing toward the messiest table. “It’ll probably suck having to break in someone else as good as you.”

Chanyeol laughs, pleased. “I am awesome, I know,” he says and Minseok pretends to throw a half-eaten muffin left at the counter at him. "But don't worry, hyung, I'm not going anywhere for now."

"Pity," Minseok says with a shake of his head and Chanyeol just laughs again, good-naturedly.

It's a pretty slow day, but Chanyeol doesn't mind those. He sweeps up and keeps the front tidy and sings aloud to the music with Yixing when he comes in twenty minutes late as per usual. Minseok works on new recipes in the back and comes out occasionally to check on them and make them taste test. It's nice, when a customer comes in and settles at the counter and Chanyeol amiably chats with them unless it's clear they want to be left alone. Not all of them do, and Chanyeol enjoys being able to make friends with a few friends.

That's how they get regulars, the ones who stop by early in the morning for their daily fix and call them all by name. There's Gayeon from the martial arts studio down the street, Song Qian who stops by after her daily run for a latte and a blueberry muffin and shows Chanyeol recent pictures of her daughter, and then Sungwoo, who always has new music to recommend and ruffles Chanyeol’s hair kindly before he leaves. There are others, too, of course, ones that know Yixing a little better, or Minseok, too. It's probably what Chanyeol likes best about this job.

He's nearing the end of his shift when Jongin walks in with Sehun in tow, the two of them laughing over something before Chanyeol interrupts them with a cheerful greeting.

"Hey, hyung, how's it going?" Jongin asks, smiling at him prettily. His hair falls into his face, a little too long, and he brushes it back hastily with a hand. "Been slacking off all day, I'm sure."

Chanyeol mock gasps, places a hand over his chest. "I'm the perfect employee," he says haughtily. "Right, Minseok-hyung?"

"You're alright," he says with a shrug, earning Jongin and Sehun’s derisive laughter. Chanyeol’s about to bring up how Minseok didn't seem to want him to leave earlier, but figures it’s not worth the effort. Jongin's amused laughter is better anyway.

"What can I get you guys?" Chanyeol asks and they both squabble over choices for awhile until finally settling on something. Chanyeol rings them up and then goes off to make them while Sehun and Jongin find a table by the window to flop into.

"You're done soon right?" Jongin asks when he brings back their drinks. "Come join us for dinner."

"I don't know...I had plans, you see, with cooler friends," Chanyeol says exaggeratedly. "You can't just come in here and expect me to--"

"Please, you have no cool friends," Sehun scoffs, rolling his eyes. "We're the coolest friends you've got."

"You just want me to come so I pay for you," Chanyeol says, reaching out to slap at the bill of Sehun’s cap so it hides his face. Sehun pulls his hat back and grins up at him while Jongin laughs.

"So you're coming?" he asks before sucking on the straw of his iced coffee and Chanyeol stares at his mouth for the briefest of seconds before darting his eyes back up.

"Well, I wouldn't want you to beg."

Sehun coughs something that sounds like "Lies," and the back of Chanyeol’s neck feels suddenly hot. Jongin just looks at his friend in confusion but Sehun is sending a pointed stare toward Chanyeol who figures it’s in bad form to strangle someone who just paid for a drink.

"Finish your drinks. I'm gonna go work and I’ll be back soon," he says eventually, turning away from Sehun’s piercing stare. He knew he shouldn’t have ever told Sehun. Kyungsoo was bad enough.

Jongin waves as he leaves and Chanyeol tries not to let what Sehun implied get to him. It wasn’t even that terrible, really, and Jongin just seemed lost so it’s okay. He can breathe, he can let it go. Sehun is always like that, anyway, and Chanyeol is mostly used to it. It’s just that, for some reason, these things have become harder to ignore. He wonders if agreeing to dinner with both of them was a good idea.

They end up at a samgyeopsal place nearby and after a few drinks, both Sehun and Jongin are giggling and leaning into each other from across the table. Chanyeol is much more cautious, sipping slowly at his first and only bottle, while Sehun gets sloppier at cutting up meat on the grill. “You guys better watch it or I’ll just leave your drunk asses here,” Chanyeol says.

“You’d never,” Sehun accuses.

“Yeah, you like us too much,” Jongin adds, pointing a finger toward him and Chanyeol looks down at his hands. “Besides, we’re not that drunk. We’re not like Baekhyun or Yixing, so don’t worry, hyung!” He waves a hand at Chanyeol dismissively and Chanyeol shakes his head, an amused quirk to his lips.

“I’m only worried that I have to drag you back to the apartment,” he says, “I don’t give a fuck about Sehun.”

“Hey!”

Jongin laughs loudly at that while Sehun tosses a balled-up napkin in Chanyeol’s direction. It misses, by a lot, and falls sadly to the floor, and Chanyeol just snorts, bends to pick it up and set it to the side. “Come on, maknae,” he says, “do your job.” He gestures to the table and Sehun grumbles at him but dutifully cuts up a few more pieces of meat that they have left.

They hang around for awhile and it’s nice to spend time like this, leaving behind all the worries that have taken over Chanyeol lately. Sehun suggests playing sam-yuk-gu, but ends up losing every time, while Chanyeol, who is definitely the most sober one left, manages to win repeatedly.

“Unfair,” Jongin complains, “you’re both good at math and numbers and shit. I went to school for literature!”

Chanyeol laughs. “What does that say about Sehun, who is actually doing his graduate studies in mathematics?”

“It says fuck you, pour me another drink,” Sehun retorts and Chanyeol’s laughter only gets louder.

In the end, Chanyeol’s not really surprised that he’s dragging both Sehun and Jongin back to the apartment, one on either side of him. He could probably hail a cab, but it’s not that far and they can still mostly walk. The cool night air might help sober them up some, too. Or he hopes, because the way Jongin has taken to clinging to his left arm makes it difficult to walk without stumbling himself. He’s impossibly warm against him, cheeks a little flushed from his drinking, and Chanyeol stays as detached as possible, even when Sehun shoots him amused looks whenever Jongin whines about the walk home being too long and curls in even closer.

“We’re almost there, you big baby,” Sehun says and he tugs Jongin away from Chanyeol, picking a fight and leaving Chanyeol blissfully free. He’ll have to thank Sehun for that later, because even if he’s a little shit, he doesn’t seem to always want Chanyeol to suffer.

Chanyeol unlocks the door to their apartment when they arrive and Jongin and Sehun practically faceplant in the doorway. He laughs, manages to get them both inside so he can shut the door after them, and then Sehun is flopping onto the couch instead, kicking his shoes off so they fall to the floor haphazardly. Chanyeol sighs and leaves it for now, too tired to pick up after him, and he pulls Jongin toward his room.

“In you go,” he says, yanking back the covers and gently pushing Jongin onto the mattress. Jongin rolls from side to side for a while before he yawns and settles and Chanyeol forces himself not to reach out and push his hair from his face. Instead he leaves, heads to the bathroom to quickly wash up, stripping out of his clothes and leaving them in a pooled puddle on the floor. He can clean that up tomorrow, too.

By the time he comes back out, Jongin has somehow made it into his bed, and he’s lost his pants along the way. Chanyeol sighs, scrubbing at his face and weighing the terrible options. He could stay, or he could go sleep in Jongin’s room instead, but before he makes the decision, Jongin is peering an eye open and grumbling at him.

“Aren’t you sleeping?” he asks and, well, Chanyeol really does have so much trouble saying no.

He climbs into bed next to him, resolutely turning his back to Jongin and facing the doors to his closet, and he stays still even when Jongin presses in close to his back and warm, warm fingers curl around his waist. This is nothing unusual, this happens practically every single day, but right now Chanyeol’s heart is racing and his stomach is coiling like he’s eaten something expired, and he realizes, with a start, that maybe he can’t do this anymore...be so close, but not close enough. With so much else to worry about, this…this thing that he has with Jongin, it would be best to push it even further away than he already has.

-

It’s probably one of the hardest things Chanyeol’s ever done. His...feelings for Jongin have never been easy to deal with but he had gotten good at brushing them aside. If he doesn’t think about it, it’s not as real and he can pretend it’s just a little fluke, or something. Just a product of them spending so much time together. Nothing special.

He’s never let his feelings change how he acts around Jongin, though. He still ruffles his hair in the mornings or lets him cling to him when they watch movies. He got used to Jongin sliding into bed with him and leaning against his shoulder and propping his legs up onto his lap.

So it’s harder than Chanyeol ever expected it would be, to pull back. He just--He needs the space, he needs the distance. He’s gotten too close lately, maybe, and he needs to get back on track. Needs to remind himself that it’s better to stay friends and that he doesn’t need to kiss Jongin to make him feel better because chances are, Jongin wouldn’t ever want him to, anyway.

He’s careful about it, too, because he doesn’t want Jongin to realize something is off. He doesn’t think he could lie to his face, not about this. He doesn’t shy away when Jongin drops his head in his lap while Chanyeol watches the news, but he doesn’t thread his fingers through Jongin’s hair like he usually would. He still makes extras for Jongin when he cooks, but he doesn’t leave the usual note reminding him to eat and take care of himself. He still talks with Jongin like any other day, but he doesn’t let himself think about how good he looks, or how much he wants to touch him.

“What’re you trying to do?” Jongdae asks one day, when Jongin drags Chanyeol to the nearby park where they meet with some of the others. It’s late on a Saturday afternoon, so the grassy lawns and large playground are full of families and teens. Lu Han has brought along Mei, who is climbing up the slides while Zitao watches. Minseok is even there, and it’s difficult to get him to leave the shop, but he usually tries to make time, especially if it’s to beat Lu Han at a game of soccer. Jongin is playing, too, along with Yixing, making up dismal two-on-two teams, and Chanyeol watches from the sidelines with Jongdae, who had come by after a date with his girlfriend.

“What are you talking about?” Chanyeol says, glancing at him in confusion before he turns back to watch Jongin. He has the ball now, and he’s trying to fend off Minseok.

“I haven’t even been here that long, but it’s really obvious,” Jongdae says. “How you’re ignoring Jongin.”

That gets Chanyeol’s full attention, whipping around to face Jongdae properly even as he hears Jongin’s undeniable screech of triumph behind him. “I’m not ignoring him!” he hisses in a huff, because he’s not. He could never.

“You’re doing something, though,” Jongdae says. “You’re not as--I don’t know. Attentive, maybe?” He tilts his head at Chanyeol and looks almost worried. “Did something happen?”

Chanyeol takes a slow, deep breath and wonders how best to go about this. Jongdae doesn’t know...and Chanyeol would rather keep it that way. It’s not that he doesn’t trust him, but the less people know about it, the lesser the chance that Jongin ever finds out. “I’m not ignoring him, okay?” he says finally. “Everything is perfectly fine.” Jongdae doesn’t look convinced in the slightest, though, so Chanyeol sighs again and pulls at strands of grass around his knees. “I just need some space, I guess. There’s been a lot on my mind and, well, Jongin...clings.”

Jongdae chuckles at that but nods like he understands. He doesn’t really know the half of it. “You guys have always been like that, though,” Jongdae says. “That’s probably why I noticed, you know? Since you’re not being as hopelessly infatuated as you usually are.”

Fuck, Chanyeol thinks. Is that how he comes across? He groans, yanks some grass out of the ground and throws them in Jongdae’s face. “I’m not infatuated,” he grumbles but Jongdae just laughs.

“That’s just what it looks like.” He shrugs. “I’m not saying you’re like in love with him or something--” Chanyeol winces, keeps his eyes focused on the ground, “--but you are a little more in tune with Jongin than anyone.” Jongdae smiles indulgently at Chanyeol when he glances back up, and his heart is hammering loud in his ears, almost blocking out the sounds of children laughing and cheering or Zitao’s loud voice as he coaxes Mei down from a high spot on the playground. “I mean, you’ve stuck to Zitao and me this whole time, and Jongin keeps glancing over here to see if you’re watching him play but you haven’t even waved back at him once.”

Chanyeol doesn’t look. He doesn’t. He stares at Jongdae and does not turn back to look for Jongin, no matter how much he might want to, no matter how much his stomach twists at the thought. “What’re you trying to say?” he asks, shoulders slumping. He feels way too tired now, suddenly, and wonders what excuse he could use to leave.

“Just that you’re not telling me everything,” Jongdae responds and Chanyeol frowns at him. “But that’s okay. I’ll get it out of you eventually.” Jongdae grins, wide, a little evilly, and it makes Chanyeol laugh despite everything.

“I wouldn’t be so sure,” is all he says before he drags himself up to his feet and wanders over to Zitao because even if Zitao knows, he’s usually not so upfront about it and Chanyeol could use that, right now.

Mei comes up to tackle Chanyeol’s legs when he’s close enough and Zitao grins at him, looking relieved to have someone else to help play with her. He looks mostly like her mother, but she has Lu Han’s eyes, which spark with mischief just like her father’s. Instantly she’s pulling Chanyeol towards the monkey bars and he helps her up to grasp them with her small hands.

“Thanks for rescuing me,” Zitao says, climbing up onto a flat platform of the playground to sit. “I was starting to run out of energy.”

“You?” Chanyeol laughs, pretending to be shocked. “No way. You’re still like a kid yourself.”

Zitao aims a kick out and gets him in the ass and Chanyeol almost falls over into the gravel, but he laughs. “I thought work was exhausting but little kids take the cake,” he says and Chanyeol has to agree when Mei demands to be put down and only pulls him toward a slide next.

Chanyeol is too long for the slides, and Zitao laughs cruelly as he struggles down after Mei, who has already run off toward the swings because he’s too slow. Zitao jumps off the platform and walks around to grab each of Chanyeol’s hands in his and pulls him up and out. He nearly topples over again but Zitao steadies him, an amused lilt to his lips.

“You really are hopeless,” he says.

“And this is why I don’t think I should be a model,” Chanyeol says seriously and Zitao tilts his head back and laughs.

He pats Chanyeol’s shoulder and nods. “It is probably for the best,” he agrees before his attention shifts away and he says, “Hey, Jongin! Done with your game?”

Chanyeol takes one careful step back when Jongin approaches, ends up a little closer to Zitao who gives him a quick look. Chanyeol just offers a small smile in his direction but the way Zitao’s eyes narrow and he pokes Chanyeol’s hip tells him he’ll hear about this later, probably. Zitao’s always been honest with his feelings and he tries to get Chanyeol to do the same with Jongin, but so far Chanyeol hasn’t listened to his so-called advice. He not sure that he ever will.

“I’ll call you later, okay?” Zitao says before he wanders off to check on Mei again, leaving Chanyeol with Jongin for the first time since they arrived out at the park.

“What were you guys talking about?” Jongin asks, and he’s staring after Zitao with an unfathomable look on his face. Jongin can be hard to read sometimes, but he’s usually not for Chanyeol, so he isn’t sure what to make of such an expression.

“Nothing important, really,” Chanyeol says, tucking his hands into his pockets. “How was the game? Did you win?”

Jongin turns to him, a pout taking over his face. “You didn’t see?” he says. “I made the winning goal!”

“Sorry,” Chanyeol says, frowning, wishing he had seen it, because Jongin looks really upset, that he hadn’t. “I was talking with Zitao and--”

That look is back on Jongin’s face now, and Chanyeol doesn’t like it, how dark and unreadable he looks. He pulls a hand up and ruffles Jongin’s hair in a way he hasn’t done in awhile. “It was an amazing goal, though, right?” he says, grinning. “I’m sad I missed it, but you were probably awesome.”

Jongin smirks a bit, proud, and nods. His hair falls into his face and Chanyeol flattens everything down properly so it’s not such a mess. “I was,” he says, adorably smug, and he jabs Chanyeol in the chest. “You should have watched though.”

“Next time,” Chanyeol promises with a laugh and Jongin seems to accept this because he’s smiling and pulling back, Chanyeol’s hand slipping out of his hair.

Jongin grabs his hand though before Chanyeol can pull it back and he’s dragging him to join the others. “Let’s go! Yixing-hyung and Minseok-hyung are buying us food because they lost,” he says and Chanyeol has to force himself not to yank his hand away, because that would be suspicious, and he doesn’t want Jongin to figure out how much he’s trying to put space between them. His hand feels nice in Chanyeol’s but he resolutely shoves that realization to the back of his mind so he doesn’t think about it, and he’s glad, when Jongdae notices their linked hands and maybe the inexpertly masked look of distraught on Chanyeol’s face, because instead of teasing, he just sneaks in between them to sling an arm around Jongin’s shoulders and knocks their hands apart.

Jongin laughs and shoves at him but Jongdae is good at clinging when he wants, and he pokes and prods at Jongin as they all leave the park and Chanyeol feels like he can breathe again.

“You okay?” Zitao asks, coming up beside him and linking their arms. His free hand is clenched into Mei’s tiny one and she’s practically yanking him along, pulling Chanyeol with them both.

He stumbles a little to keep up and nods, and doesn’t look up at Jongin even though he can just see him turning back to stare at him. “I’m fine,” Chanyeol says, and maybe, if he says it enough, he will be.

-

“Jongin didn’t come with you?” Chanyeol’s mother says as a way of greeting when Chanyeol stops by to visit after a shift at the cafe.

Chanyeol shakes his head, slips out of his shoes in the doorway and follows his mother inside. “He’s at work,” he says, remembering Jongin’s pouty face last night when Chanyeol had asked if he wanted to come visit with him.

His mother purses her lips and shakes her head. “The both of you, always working,” she says. “I’m amazed you managed to stop by today.”

Chanyeol smiles sheepishly. “You make it sound like I purposely stay away,” he says and she pats his arm almost apologetically as she fusses around in the kitchen. Chanyeol leans against a counter and watches. It has been awhile since he’s come home to see his parents, even if he does talk to them often over the phone.

“Don’t you?” his mother teases him and Chanyeol laughs, the sound filling up the kitchen.

“Let me help,” he says then, and she orders him around to help her cook. It’s only her at home, since Chanyeol’s stopped by just shy of noon, and they chat excitably as they work. His mother has always been easy to talk to, and even though Chanyeol doesn’t like to make her worry, he usually tells her everything. She can weasle things out of him pretty well though when he’s apprehensive, and she does it again today, when he brushes off one too many curious questions about work.

“The radio show is going a little better,” Chanyeol admits finally. “They had to cut down on two nights though, so I’ve taken a few more shifts at the cafe to compensate.” That has his mother frowning but Chanyeol just sighs, pokes around at his food with his chopsticks. “It’s not as fun, either, when I have to follow the new program, but whatever. It pays the bills, right?”

He laughs shortly but his mother doesn’t, just looks at him with that frown and and it’s almost like the way she looked when he told her how he hadn’t gotten accepted to the jobs he’d applied for: worried, but also disappointed. Chanyeol doesn’t want to disappoint her just as much he doesn’t want her to worry about him. It’s not ideal, his lifestyle, but he hasn’t found himself in a ditch somewhere, so he thinks he’s doing well enough.

It’s just that well enough isn’t what he wants.

“Don’t look so sad,” his mother chides him. Her expression has softened considerably and Chanyeol wonders just how miserable he must look, then. She reaches across the table to pat his hand and then points at the plate sternly so he chuckles a bit and resumes eating. “I know you’ve been trying hard.” She’s smiling at him, now, but she still looks so worried. “I just wish things were easier for you.”

“Me, too,” he agrees wholeheartedly.

“How is the job hunting going?” she asks and Chanyeol heaves a deep sigh but tells her everything. How many places want more experience or higher level of studies, how he’s applied to a couple of interesting options but hasn’t heard back yet, how discouraged he gets when nothing seems to pan out.

They talk about it a lot that afternoon, and Chanyeol feels a lot better than he has in days, to get his own relentless worries off his chest. He hasn’t talked to Jongin about much of this because Jongin already understands the pressure and the disappointment and he doesn’t want to drown him with his own. They commiserate a lot these days though, sprawled in the living room with their laptops and newspapers open to the job listing sections and cold beers dripping condensation onto the thin pages. Usually then it turns from serious job hunting to giggling over the strange, obscure postings and jokingly wondering if they should just be a hair stylist or chef.

By the time he leaves an hour or so later, Chanyeol isn’t as stressed out or bogged down with his worries as he was when he came over. His mother packs up leftovers for him to take back and gives him a long, warm hug at the door. “Just do whatever makes you happy, Chanyeol,” she tells him, patting his cheek. “That’s all that matters.” Then she narrows her eyes at him and pinches his face. “And come back to visit more, that also matters.”

He laughs and nods, and hugs her again before he leaves, feeling much lighter than he has in quite awhile.

-

“Hey, where were you last night?” Jongin asks Chanyeol out of nowhere, flopping onto the couch next to him and disrupting the sheets of music paper Chanyeol had been looking over. Jongin sheepishly rights them, but his eyes are curious and staring right at Chanyeol, waiting for an answer.

Chanyeol blinks at him, a little confused. He plucks at his guitar, his fingertips hurting a bit because it’s been awhile since he’s played properly and it’s always rough after taking a break. “Here?” he says.

Jongin pouts at him, cracking open the cap of a water bottle and taking a quick chug. “You weren’t in your bed when I got up to use the bathroom in the middle of the night, though.”

Ah, that, Chanyeol thinks, not looking at Jongin and instead focusing on his guitar. He’s not really playing anything of importance now, guilt creeping through him inexplicably. It’s not like he owes it to Jongin to stay in bed, even if it is his bed, but he just…needed to get away, or something. Jongin had crawled in sometime after Chanyeol had gone to bed, but he’d still been awake when he’d joined him and Chanyeol really couldn’t get to sleep easily after that. Once he was sure Jongin had fallen asleep, he slipped out quietly and made himself at home on the couch instead. It wasn’t the same, but it helped. “I slept on the couch,” he says as nonchalantly as he can manage. “You didn’t notice when you came out?”

“What? No,” Jongin shakes his head, “why were you out on the couch?”

Chanyeol shrugs. “It felt a little hot, I guess. You know you cling a lot, right?”

“That--That’s never bothered you before.”

Chanyeol strums a little too loudly on his guitar and then gives up. He doesn’t particularly feel like playing anymore. He sets his guitar aside, resting it against the couch carefully so he can gather up the sheets first. It gives him something to do with his hands and not look at Jongin even though he can feel Jongin staring at him. “It doesn’t,” he says after a moment, “not really. But I don’t know, Jongin, I was thinking…” He shuffles the papers into a pile, taps them atop the coffee table so they line up straight. “If you like that room better, then maybe we should switch? Then you wouldn’t have to crawl in with me or--”

He makes the mistake of looking at Jongin then, and he’s surprised to find such a mortified look on his face. Chanyeol isn’t sure what he’s said that was so wrong.

“That’s not why--I just--” Jongin exclaims when Chanyeol’s silence stretches on, but then he flushes slightly and composes himself. His fingers are tightening around his water bottle and Chanyeol can hear the crinkling of plastic. “Do you really want that?”

Chanyeol stands, papers in hand and guitar in the other. “It makes sense, doesn’t it?”

“But I--” Jongin sighs, runs a hand through his hair, dropping his gaze to his lap and mumbles quietly, “I like things the way they are.”

That has Chanyeol’s chest tightening because, well, he does, too. He likes having Jongin pressed up next to him in the morning and curling in close as he sleeps. He’s never minded it, he still doesn’t mind it. But nowadays, when he sees Jongin next to him, Chanyeol only wants to lean down and kiss him, smooth his fingers along Jongin’s cheek and push back his bangs. He wants more and that’s why he needs to stay away.

Chanyeol sighs and shakes his head. “I’m sorry,” he says. “Forget I even brought it up. It’s not a big deal.” He offers Jongin the most genuine smile he can muster and then heads for his room to maybe nap or something before he has to go into work at the radio station.

Except Jongin follows him, slipping into the room and hovering awkwardly by the door and when Chanyeol glances at him curiously Jongin blurts out, “Are you moving out?”

Chanyeol nearly drops his guitar in surprise, quickly setting it down carefully in its stand in the corner of his room. “What?” he exclaims, turning to Jongin with wide eyes because that--that is the most ridiculous thing he’s possibly ever heard.

At least Jongin looks slightly embarrassed by his outburst, shuffling at the door until he finally leans against the wall and pulls agitatedly at the hem of his shirt. He won’t look at Chanyeol again. “I don’t know,” he says, practically mumbling, and Chanyeol moves closer to hear him speak. “It’s just lately it feels like you’ve been avoiding me and now you want to switch rooms but it feels more like you’re trying to stop me from--I mean, it’s like you don’t want me around and…”

He trails off awkwardly, his gaze flicking up at Chanyeol for a second before dropping away again and Chanyeol doesn’t know what to say. He slumps down onto the edge of his bed and stares at Jongin and feels this strange guilt crawling up through his veins. He feels awful because yes, he has been avoiding Jongin but Jongin wasn’t ever supposed to notice. Chanyeol just needed the space to work out his own problems, and even if all he’s managed to do so far is realize how much he misses Jongin when he’s not around, he was still so determined to stick through it.

And maybe, in that determination, he hasn’t let himself think about how his avoidance has made Jongin feel. Jongin, who doesn’t open up so easily, is so private about his feelings sometimes, but never like that with Chanyeol and it’s like he’s taken away Jongin’s means of comfort at home, with the way he’s been skirting around him for over a week. It’s no wonder, he thinks with a start, that Jongin thought Chanyeol wanted to move out.

“I’m sorry,” Chanyeol says finally, and this time, this time he really means it. His shoulders slump in his defeat, in his guilt, and he looks at Jongin, still standing awkwardly in the doorway like he’s not sure he’s allowed inside even when he always, always has been. Chanyeol pats the side of the bed next to him and smiles, and Jongin, after a second’s hesitation, comes rushing forward to join him.

Chanyeol throws an arm around Jongin’s shoulders and Jongin curls into his side, warm and solid and so right. His heart is beating loudly because it’s the first time they’ve really been this close in a while and Chanyeol hasn’t tried to worm away. “I’m sorry,” he says again. “I wasn’t trying to avoid you--I just. I have something on my mind, and I need to figure it out.”

“You can’t tell me about it?” Jongin asks quietly and Chanyeol remembers how Jongin had told him, not so long ago, that he could let Jongin worry about him, be there for him when he was troubled, but this is something Chanyeol can’t tell him.

“Not--Not yet,” he says and gives Jongin a little squeeze, hopes he understands.

He’s quiet for a moment, picking at loose threads at a hole in his jeans just at his knee. Then he sighs and Chanyeol thinks maybe he’s going to fight him on it but instead all Jongin does is reach out for Chanyeol’s free hand and slip their fingers together. “Okay,” he agrees finally, while Chanyeol tries not to freak out. They’ve done this before - hold hands - but it feels different, somehow, right now. Jongin is staring down at their fingers contemplatively and Chanyeol wishes, not for the first time, that he could read his mind. When Jongin gets all thoughtful like this, Chanyeol feels like he doesn’t know him at all.

“Okay?”

Jongin nods. He looks up and he’s smiling, a real smile. “I’m sorry, too, for thinking you were moving out, for not just talking to you--” Chanyeol shakes his head at him dismissively and Jongin’s smile widens. “I missed you,” he adds, a little embarrassedly.

“I’m not going anywhere,” Chanyeol says, and he’s glad his voice comes out firm instead of all wobbly like he feels because of Jongin’s words. He pulls Jongin in even closer and reaches up to ruffle his hair like usual and Jongin practically beams under the affection.

“Good,” Jongin says, sounding a little petulant but so, so happy, it makes Chanyeol laugh, unbidden, and pleased, too, for the first time in awhile. He looks at Jongin and thinks he really must have been stupid to try and put so much space between them when he doesn’t want to be so far away. He likes Jongin too much, and he likes how they are, together this way, and Chanyeol will be able to find the balance he needs eventually, he’s sure, but he can do that with Jongin next to him instead of trying to push him away.

-

It’s hot, too hot for August and for the suit Chanyeol is wearing as he slips into the cool cafe a block from where he’d just had another interview. He loosens his tie, steps into line in front of the counter and pats the little beads of sweat clinging to his forehead. His clothes are practically sticking to him like another layer of skin but he’s just glad he can blame it on the heat instead of the anxiety that had gripped him while he waited for his interview to start. That sort of nervous sweat is just annoying and Chanyeol is glad the whole thing is over and he can maybe cool off a bit before he heads back home. He orders an iced drink and just after he’s paid and turned to look for somewhere to sit, he hears a familiar voice calling his name.

In the corner is Zitao, waving at him with a big grin, sunglasses hanging from the collar of his shirt and a fedora-like hat perched on his head. He looks impeccable as always.

Chanyeol grins back and walks over to join him and Zitao’s eyes run up and down the length of his body.

“You clean up well, I see,” he teases and Chanyeol’s laugh is a little too loud as he settles into the seat opposite Zitao at the small table.

“You say that like you’ve never seen me in a suit.”

“Well, the last time was at Lu-ge’s wedding, and that was years ago,” Zitao points out and Chanyeol supposes he’s got a point. “Interview?”

Chanyeol nods around his straw. His drink is a little too sweet, but he’s probably just too used to the way Minseok always makes it perfect. "Just finished up," he says and Zitao's curious eyes has him explaining about the opportunity at KIST. It's a small position but it's better than most of the other places Chanyeol's applied to in the past month and he's looking forward to hearing back from them the most. "I think I did pretty well."

"Pretty well? You're usually so much more confident than that."

"I haven't gone to interviews in so long. I feel like I'm twenty-two all over again."

"You'll be fine, hyung," Zitao says easily. "You've always made it easy for people to like you."

Chanyeol snorts but he's pleased and Zitao smiles at him as he pokes his straw into his cup around the cubes of ice. "What're you up to?" he asks. "Hanging out all by yourself in a coffee shop."

"I was supposed to meet Yixing-ge here twenty minutes ago, but maybe he forgot," Zitao says with a small laugh.

"He's with his band today, right?" Chanyeol says. "Practice just probably went late. You know how he gets."

"Forgets about everything else when music is involved," Zitao says with a nod and Chanyeol chuckles, nodding, too. "He should be better about it though. I'm a busy guy. I have places to be. Things to do."

"And yet," Chanyeol says, "you've been sitting here waiting and having coffee with me."

"It's just too hot outside," Zitao says petulantly and Chanyeol laughs.

Whatever you say is on the tip of his tongue, but that's when his phone buzzes in his pocket, practically scaring the life out of him, and he pulls it out to see Jongin's name flash across the screen. Zitao waves a hand at him so he answers, a smile tugging at the corner of his lips as Jongin greets him excitedly.

"Hyung! How did the interview go?"

"It was good," Chanyeol says, "I was nervous as fuck, but I think I did okay." Zitao narrows his eyes at him, lightly kicks him under the table, and Chanyeol laughs as he remembers what Zitao said to him earlier. "Zitao says I should be more confident, though, so pretend I said I did amazingly and they're definitely going to hire me."

There's a beat of silence on the other end but then Jongin says, "You're with Zitao?"

"Yeah, we ran into each other when I stopped to get coffee," Chanyeol says, and he reaches out to swat at Zitao's hand when he tries to steal Chanyeol's cup for himself. "Needed a little reprieve after that interview."

"Oh," Jongin says and his voice sounds off, like something is wrong, but Chanyeol can't tell what it is.

"Are you okay?" he asks, sitting up straight as his brows furrow.

"Yeah, yeah, I'm fine," Jongin says, a little too quickly for Chanyeol to really believe him. "Are you coming home soon? I just finished my shift and was gonna bring back some food if you wanted a late lunch."

"Get jjajangmyeon," Chanyeol says instantly and Jongin's laugh is pleasant in his ears.

"Sure, hyung," he says, almost indulgently, but Chanyeol's just glad that weirdness in his voice from earlier is gone. "Meet you back at home then?"

"Yeah, Zitao's stolen the rest of my drink anyway, so I should head out before he weasels me into buying him something else," Chanyeol says and Zitao just smirks, unrepentant.

"Tell him I say hi," Jongin says and then, "See you soon, Chanyeol."

Chanyeol just barely gets out a goodbye before Jongin's hung up, and he blinks at his phone for a second as he lowers it to the table before Zitao kicks him again.

"Is Jongin okay?" he asks.

"How'd you know I was talking to Jongin?" he replies, snatching back his drink and sucking futilely at the last drops stuck to the bottom of the cup.

"You always get this look on your face," Zitao says, grinning widely as Chanyeol stares at him. "It's all gross and besotted. It's easy to tell."

"Shut up," Chanyeol hisses, feeling his ears burn. "It can't be that bad."

"Oh, it's bad," Zitao says, and Chanyeol reaches across the table to smack him in the shoulder. Zitao whines, exaggeratedly, but Chanyeol pays no mind, slumping back into his seat.

"He's fine," he says after a moment. "At least I think he is. He sounded a little strange on the phone, but maybe he's just tired?" He shrugs, tucks his phone into his pocket and stands. "He's bringing home food so I should go."

Zitao waves at him, like Chanyeol is an employee he's trying to shoo out of his office. "Go back home to your boyfriend," he says and when Chanyeol opens his mouth to protest, his face turning as hot as his ears, he just laughs and adds, "Tell me if you hear back from KIST, okay?"

"Yeah, okay," he agrees and offers Zitao a smile before he heads back out into the sticky summer heat.

-

Jongin’s already home by the time Chanyeol gets back, the smell of jjajangmyeon greeting him as he toes off his fancy shoes and tucks them back into the hall closet so they don’t get ruined. He follows the smell into the living room where he finds bowls of food spread across the coffee table and Jongin sitting on the floor in nothing but a pair of black boxer briefs.

“Why aren’t you wearing any clothes??” Chanyeol says, except his voice comes out like a croak and Jongin looks at him strangely for a second before smiling, wide.

“It’s too hot,” he says simply, then pats the space next to him. “Come on, hyung. Eat.” He pauses for a second, tilting his head slightly as he gives Chanyeol a similar once over like Zitao had, except coming from Jongin it makes Chanyeol’s heart beat much faster. It definitely doesn’t help that he’s practically naked. "You look nice in suits," Jongin says, voice low, and Chanyeol chuckles lightly to dispel the sudden nervousness in his veins.

He reaches out to push playfully at Jongin’s head. "I look good in everything," he says and Jongin just laughs, like he's told a particularly funny joke, and waves him off down the hall. So Chanyeol goes, shedding his suit jacket and tie on the way and dumping everything onto his bed for now. He's too hungry to deal with putting his suit away properly so it won't wrinkle. Kyungsoo would frown at him sternly if he knew.

He washes up quickly and returns, checking his phone for messages that he'd missed during his interview. There’s not much except a text from Yura to come visit and one from Zitao on Kakaotalk. It's just a sticker of a little puppy with hearts for eyes and under it Zitao has helpfully added u → Jongin.

Chanyeol flushes, remembering what Zitao had said to him earlier, and he’s in the midst of sending back a flurry of angry stickers when Jongin is suddenly leaning in close to peer at his phone over his shoulder. He jerks away quickly, nearly dropping his phone from his hands in his surprise, but manages to tuck it under his side away from Jongin in time.

"Who was that? You got really red all of a sudden."

"It’s nothing," Chanyeol says hastily, busies himself with grabbing the other bowl of noodles and digging in with his chopsticks. "Just Zitao making fun of me as usual."

Jongin goes slightly still next to him for a moment, but then hums softly in response and says nothing else. Chanyeol focuses on the television where Jongin is re-watching an episode of what looks like that one titan anime he made Chanyeol marathon a few months ago. It’d been pretty interesting, even if the main character was kind of annoying; Jongin’s enthusiasm made it fun to watch, though Chanyeol had enjoyed that show about basketball a lot more. At least that one was more believable.

They eat in silence like this for awhile, and Chanyeol tries not to think of Zitao’s message or of how Jongin hadn’t really pulled away from when he leaned in closer earlier. His bare shoulder brushes against Chanyeol’s every time he moves to eat and Chanyeol keeps his eyes fixated on the screen instead of the way Jongin stretches his legs out under the table.

Then, out of nowhere, Jongin says, “Are you and Zitao dating again?”

Chanyeol chokes violently on his noodles. He’s pretty sure he’s going to asphyxiate and Jongin will have to perform CPR--though the thought of that only makes him choke more, coughing and slamming a fist to his chest until he swallows properly and can breathe again. “What?” he wheezes, looking at Jongin like he’s grown another head.

Jongin seems a little surprised by Chanyeol’s reaction but the set of his jaw suggests he still believes what he said. “You and Zitao...Are you dating again?”

“What makes you think that?” Chanyeol says, climbing to his feet to head into the kitchen for some water. Jongin stays behind, but speaks loudly enough so that Chanyeol can hear him.

“It’s just that you seem to be really close lately,” he says. “And you got coffee today and you talk to him a lot and I don’t know, it looks the way you sort of did, back in college.” Chanyeol glances at him from the kitchen, sees how he’s pouting slightly at the floor, almost frustrated.

He returns a minute later after he’s gulped down some water to calm himself after his coughing fit, and he slides down beside Jongin again, spreading his legs out under the table, too. He pokes Jongin in the nose and laughs at his indignant squawk, then says, “Zitao and I aren’t dating, stupid.”

Jongin jerks up to look at him, eyes wide and mouth open in shock. “You’re...not?” he says carefully, and Chanyeol wants to laugh even more because Jongin thinking he and Zitao being back together is possibly one of the most ridiculous things he’s heard in a long time. And he’s friends with Baekhyun. He hasn’t thought about wanting to really date anyone but Jongin for six years, almost, and Zitao is so far from that now, it’s actually kind of funny.

“We’re not,” Chanyeol confirms with a soft chuckle and shake of his head. “Zitao and I are just friends, we have been for a long time. I don’t like him that way anymore.”

“Oh,” Jongin says quietly, eyes back on his lap again, but when Chanyeol glances at him there’s a tiny smile forming on his lips.

Chanyeol blinks at him, curious, but turns back to his unfinished meal. “If we were dating--if I was dating anyone--I would tell you,” Chanyeol says and Jongin lets out this deep sigh that almost sounds like relief. Chanyeol’s not so sure what he has to be worried about, though, and he’s not sure he wants to ask. Jongin looks happy now, grinning at him as he grabs his own bowl of food and settles back against the couch.

“Okay,” he says simply, leaning back into Chanyeol’s side as his bare foot slides down Chanyeol’s calf and hooks their ankles together. Chanyeol’s heart skips a beat at the touch, but he doesn’t move away. It’s nice, Jongin’s bright smile and the closeness. It’s been too long since they’ve relaxed like this, close together and so comfortable, and Chanyeol knows he’s mostly at fault for it, so he smiles at Jongin around his chopsticks and reaches out to swipe the bit of sauce clinging to his lips.

Jongin’s smile only gets bigger and Chanyeol pushes aside all the worries about his interview, his curiosity about Jongin’s behavior because of Zitao, and just lets himself melt into that look and keep it safely tucked away in his heart.

-
It’s been nearly a week and Chanyeol hasn’t yet heard back from KIST. He tries not to let that get to him too much, they’re said so themselves that it could take up two weeks for a return call but he’s antsy because he so desperately wants this to go through. His other applications have gone through with no further inquiry, except for one that he had an interview over the phone. They’d informed him by the next day that unfortunately he wasn’t who they were looking for for the position. It’d sucked, but Jongin had distracted him with a movie and popcorn and sprawling across the crouch with his head in his lap and Chanyeol forgot all about it in favor of running his hands through Jongin’s hair until he fell asleep halfway through.

“Don’t think about it so much,” Minseok says when he catches him checking his phone for any emails or missed calls. “You’re going to drive yourself crazy.”

“I know, I know,” Chanyeol whines, tucking his phone back into his pocket and pouting at Minseok. “It’s just hard not to.”

Song Qian comes in around her usual time, still looking beautiful even after her run, her long black hair pulled back in a ponytail. “The usual, noona?” he asks her and she nods, panting slightly as she slips into a seat at the counter. She sets a book down beside her, her headphones and phone next to that. Chanyeol eyes the familiar cover and says, "Did you go running holding that?"

She laughs at him, taps the top of the book with perfectly manicured fingers. "I didn't go down my usual route today," she says. "I went to the gym to use some of the machines and brought this along because I started rereading it recently. It's one of my favorites."

"I really like it, too," he says excitedly. "The whole series is good, have you read all of it?" He steps away to make her drink, but glances sturdy over his shoulder to keep the conversation going.

"I have," she says, and she looks pleased by his interest. "I love the writing, it's so engaging."

"The way Werber included bits and pieces of other sacred texts throughout the book? That was really cool," Chanyeol says and as he talks, he remembers when he'd first seen the book. Jongin had been reading it, taking it everywhere around campus with him and ignoring everyone else in favor of pulling the book out and reading. Chanyeol remembers how into he was, how he would explain everything to Chanyeol because Chanyeol was practically the only one who'd listen to him go on and on. He'd thought it was cute, like most things about Jongin were, but especially how passionate he was about literature, and about the series. It made Chanyeol want to read it, too.

It’d been a lot more fun discussing the book together with Jongin than just listening to him babble about it and not really understanding. The excitement in Jongin’s eyes then made Chanyeol feel warm, and maybe he’s channeling some of Jongin’s enthusiasm as he talks to Song Qian about the book and the whole series as he finishes up her drink and leans against the counter since no one else has stopped by. They discuss the themes and the characters and Chanyeol’s a little surprised by how much he remembers since he hasn’t touched the book in a few years.

“You really know your stuff,” Song Qian says, sounding impressed. “Now I wish you’d been a part of the applicants I’ve been reviewing for our new position.” She sighs and takes a sip of her drink.

Chanyeol laughs, a little embarrassed. “Ah, no, it’s not me, really. My roommate--he’s really into this stuff. Literature and writing and everything. He always talks to me about what he’s reading. I’m pretty sure most of what I just said I stole from him.”

Song Qian chuckles softly, her eyes amused, but before she can say anything, the rest of her earlier words suddenly click in Chanyeol’s brain. “Wait, you said you were looking for someone for a new position?” he says, standing up straight and staring at her with determination. “Are you still looking?”

“Are you thinking of applying?”

“My roommate--” Chanyeol starts, excited, thinking about how much Jongin would kill for an opportunity like this, to do something he loves; he could at the very least, finally quit working at the chicken place, and it would be so good for him. “I was thinking my roommate would want to.”

Song Qian looks contemplatively at him for a long moment before she smiles. “It’s a writing position, at the magazine I work for,” she says, and she climbs off her stool to walk to the front of the cashier, grabs a pen from the little cup beside it and plucks one of the business cards stacked in a pile next to that. “But I’m guessing your friend studied literature or writing?” she says, and Chanyeol nods quickly, watching as she scribbles down some information onto the back of the business card. “Then I’ll definitely be interested in hearing from him.” She hands the card to Chanyeol who takes it happily. “There’s all the info he should need to apply. I make no promises but I’ll take a look.”

“Thank you,” Chanyeol says as earnestly as he can and she blinks at him, almost surprised, before laughing and shaking her head, her ponytail swaying behind her.

“Don’t worry about it,” she says with a wave of her hand, and Chanyeol tucks the business card into his pocket and is already itching to go home and talk to Jongin about the opportunity.

-

Chanyeol is getting a late lunch with Junmyeon and Baekhyun when he gets the call. He’d just finished up a shift at the cafe and made it home for a quick shower before Junmyeon and Baekhyun had shown up with take-out bags of jjajangbap, practically walking into the apartment like they life there. They both looked vaguely out of place in their suits, but Chanyeol laughed and welcomed them easily, even if he was surprised because the original plan was to meet Junmyeon at a restaurant near his office at three.

It’s been awhile since he’s actually seen Junmyeon in person instead of just exchanging texts, so they’d made it a point to try and grab lunch as soon as they could. Plus, Chanyeol really needs Junmyeons budgeting advice. There are bills to pay and his and Jongin’s apartment costs just seem to get more and more problematic every month. He wasn’t expecting Baekhyun today, but Baekhyun always has a tendency to just show up, unannounced, even though he claims Junmyeon invited him.

It’s not the call Chanyeol is hoping for; KIST has not returned his inquiries and he’s quite sure that means he’s facing another disappointing rejection. It is, however, good news. Great news, even, and he can tell from the moment Jongin’s cheerful voice fills his ears that he’s made it.

“They hired me, hyung!” Jongin exclaims and it’s the loudest Chanyeol’s possibly ever heard him. He laughs as he pulls the phone away from his ears to prevent his eardrums from shattering, and both Junmyeon and Baekhyun stare at him in amusement. “Sorry,” Jongin suddenly adds, much quieter, and Chanyeol guesses he probably got a similar rejection by the people near him, wherever he is. “I’m just really happy.”

“Where are you?” Chanyeol asks. Jongin sounds a little out of breath, and there’s a the loud street rush filtering through the line.

“I’m like just outside the apartment,” Jongin laughs, “I couldn’t wait to get in and tell you--Hold on.” There’s some shuffling, probably Jongin trying to find his keys from wherever he put them, and then it’s much quieter. Jongin’s voice comes out clearer, “Okay, I’ll be right up, and we can talk about it. Sorry, I guess it was stupid to call you like that when I’m--”

Chanyeol laughs, shakes his head even though Jongin can’t see him. “It’s okay. I get it. I’ll save the congratulations for when you get up here.”

“Say it now,” Jongin says, petulantly, and Chanyeol just laughs again and hangs up.

“What was that about?” Baekhyun questions, a brow raised as he leans back in his chair, balancing on the back two feet. Chanyeol is tempted to push him off, but that would probably just get him a disapproving look from Junmyeon and he doesn’t need Baekhyun’s high-pitched whining in the background for when Jongin gets back. He’s practically bursting with excitement like he’s the one that got the job. He recalls Jongin’s nervousness the week before when he went into his interview, dressed to the nines in a suit and even going so far as to sleek back his hair.

“It’s an interview, not one of Zitao’s photo shoots,” Chanyeol had teased, trying to help him shake off the nerves, and Jongin had punched him, hard, in the arm.

“You’ll see,” is all Chanyeol says to Baekhyun, which gets him confused looks from both Junmyeon and Baekhyun, and before either of them can prod him for more information, there’s the unmistakable rattle of the front door and what sounds like Jongin tripping over his feet in the hall. It startles all of them, and Baekhyun almost does fall out of his chair at that, but Chanyeol’s already on his feet, walking out to meet Jongin, who has the brightest smile on his face.

“Hey,” Chanyeol says before Jongin is practically barrelling himself into Chanyeol’s chest. Chanyeol’s laugh is too loud, especially since Jongin didn’t bother to close the door properly and it’s left open halfway, but he doesn’t care. He hugs him back, happy but amused, because Jongin’s excitement is so palpable Chanyeol could probably gather it all up in his hands and save it in a jar.

“Thank you, thank you,” Jongin says and Chanyeol chuckles, drawing back to poke Jongin’s forehead.

“Idiot, what are you thanking me for?” he says. “I didn’t do anything. You’re the one who sent in the application and passed the interview.”

Jongin’s lower lip juts out slightly. “I know that but--”

“No buts,” Chanyeol says decisively, nodding for effect. Then he grins and pats Jongin’s head gently instead of kissing him like he wants to; he looks so happy and Chanyeol is so happy, and Chanyeol can’t think of any better way to express that than by pulling him close and pressing their mouths together. He doesn’t, though, just smiles wider, and says, “Congratulations,” and lets Jongin drag him back into another hug.

“Did we miss something here?” Junmyeon pipes up from the kitchen, looking at them with a slight smirk on his lips. Baekhyun is watching like Chanyeol and Jongin are part of some fascinating television show.

Jongin jumps in Chanyeol’s arms at the sound of Junmyeon’s voice and it’s so cute. The urge to kiss him isn’t going away so easily this time, except it’s been like that for awhile now, and Chanyeol doesn’t want to think about what that might mean. He pulls away, letting his arms drop from around Jongin’s waist, and Jongin blinks over at Junmyeon and Baekhyun, only then realizing they’re there, and he goes a little red in the face.

“Oh, hey guys,” he says, rubbing the back of his neck. “What’re you up to?”

“I’d rather hear about your day,” Baekhyun says, “and why you just acted out a sickeningly romantic scene from a drama with Chanyeol.” He grins, shark-like, and adds, “Just without the kissing, which is a shame if you ask me--”

Baekhyun whines when Junmyeon smacks him over the back of the head. “No one did,” he says and Baekhyun pouts at him. Junmyeon ignores him and turns to Jongin, pulling out Chanyeol’s empty chair and patting the seat. “What happened, Jonginnie?”

As Jongin goes over to tell them, his voice getting more and more excited as he explains how Chanyeol got him an in at the magazine, Chanyeol closes the front door and straightens up Jongin’s shoes in the doorway. His mind reels with Baekhyun’s words, and wonders if it really did look like that. Romantic. He wonders if they, if he and Jongin, give off that sort of impression normally. No one is supposed to know, other than the few people Chanyeol has told, and it sets him off balance, a little. He wonders if Baekhyun could tell how much Chanyeol wanted to kiss Jongin just then. He wonders if Jongin could.

Except he doesn’t really want to think about that, quickly pushing the thought away and joining the others back in the kitchen. The table is a mess, their lunches scattered about and all of Chanyeol’s bills that Junmyeon was looking through spread in front of him. He’s ignoring all that to listen to Jongin’s story, while Baekhyun is still eating. Chanyeol starts to clean up a bit, tossing away the empty boxes and used disposable chopsticks. His own plate is mostly empty but Jongin has seemed to claim it as his own, stuffing his face with mouthfuls and making a low growling noise when Chanyeol reaches to take it away.

He laughs, holds his hands up placatingly, and instead goes to get Jongin something to drink. He sets the glass of water down a few minutes later and Jongin flashes him a bright smile. “Sit down, hyung, have you even been listening?” he asks, and Chanyeol does as he’s told, taking the last seat on Jongin’s other side.

“Of course I have,” Chanyeol says, pretending to be wounded. Jongin just narrows his eyes at him, but with his cheeks full of food, he just looks adorable instead of menacing. “I’m really happy for you.”

“Me, too,” Junmyeon says, patting Jongin’s shoulder like a proud sort of father. “When do you start?”

“Monday,” Jongin says, and he’s practically vibrating with excitement. “I have to talk to Donghae-hyung at the chicken place and then with Hyukjae-hyung at the studio and get everything figured out.” His shoulders slump a little at the realization of all that work, but he’s still smiling. “Donghae might not let me quit.”

Baekhyun laughs, “Of course he will. Though it sucks I can’t mooch off your discount for chicken anymore.”

“As if you need that discount,” Chanyeol scoffs, kicking Baekhyun under the table.

Baekhyun kicks back, but he’s laughing. “So what about you, Chanyeol? You haven’t heard back from that one place yet?”

Chanyeol swallows, glancing down at the table and not the curious, worried gazes on him. “Nope,” he says as lightly as he can and shrugs for effect, like he doesn’t care. “I guess I’m not what they’re looking for.”

“That’s their loss then,” Jongin says vehemently. He nudges Chanyeol’s arm with an elbow and smiles consolingly when Chanyeol turns to look at him. “Don’t worry, hyung, you’re gonna find something amazing.”

Chanyeol starting to wonder though. He knows he has to keep trying but in the face of Jongin’s success and Baekhyun and Junmyeon sitting here with their stable jobs - Chanyeol’s not so sure. “Of course I will,” is all he says, bravados lacing his words, “because I’m fucking amazing, you know.”

They all laugh at that and Chanyeol pretends not to notice the suspicious look Baekhyun is giving him in favor of stealing food off Jongin’s plate.

-

It’s the first Saturday in a long time that Chanyeol doesn’t have to get up early for work. He didn’t bother setting his alarm when he got home the night before from the radio station, just curled into bed and blissfully passed out. He wakes up that morning on his own when the light streaming from the window gets to be too much and his stomach starts to poke and prod him in hunger.

His phone says it’s nearing ten, which is later than he expected to sleep until, but he feels refreshed and knows he really needed all the rest he was able to get. He lounges in bed for awhile longer, checking messages on his phone, replying to Sehun’s whiny request to get lunch sometime next week and Junmyeon’s inquiries about whether all the budgeting help has worked out.

It’s nice to spend some time relaxing like this on a Saturday morning, when usually he’s up early to head into the cafe. Yixing had asked Chanyeol to switch shifts earlier that week because he has a gig later tonight, and Chanyeol had easily accepted. He’ll have to work through dinner and head straight to the station after but it’s worth it for a slow morning like this.

He drags himself out of bed after awhile, noting that the other end is unruffled. Jongin has been a lot more careful about crawling in with him ever since Chanyeol brought it up, what feels like ages ago. In some ways Chanyeol misses it, waking up with Jongin pressed in close to him, but in other ways it’s almost relief.

He washes up leisurely, taking his time for once, and emerges from the bathroom in just a towel around his waist when Jongin walks right into him in the hall. Jongin looks like he’s still half-asleep, his hair all cutely mused up and face all soft like he only just rolled out of bed. He’s staring at Chanyeol with wide eyes though, like he’s never seen him before.

“Morning,” Chanyeol says simply, “did you just get up?”

Chanyeol wonders if Jongin is actually sleepwalking because he says nothing for a long minute, and then he’s taking a quick step back, his eyes finding Chanyeol’s. “N-No,” he says, “I’ve been up for awhile.” He rubs the back of his neck and drops his gaze and Chanyeol can feel his eyes traveling down his chest before suddenly jerking back up. “I wasn’t expecting you to be home. Don’t you have work?”

“Switched with Yixing for this morning,” Chanyeol explains, clutching his towel tight in one hand so he can push back wet bangs from his face.

“Really?” Jongin says, perking up. “Then you’re free for most of the day?”

Chanyeol nods. “I have work later, but the whole afternoon is open.” He laughs, amused by how happy Jongin looks, and questions, “Why, did you want to do something?”

Jongin shakes his head, and his hair seems to get even messier as it falls across his forehead. “No,” he says, “but it’s nice to have you home on a Saturday morning for once.” He smiles prettily at Chanyeol and it makes Chanyeol’s chest tighten.

“I’m happy about it, too,” Chanyeol says, grinning. “I think I’ll make breakfast, like a real one. Did you want the shower?”

“Ah, right, yeah,” Jongin says, looking strangely flustered. He shuffles toward the bathroom as Chanyeol moves away and flinches when Chanyeol bumps into him with his arm. Chanyeol blinks at him, confused, but only manages to catch a bit of Jongin’s pink cheeks before he’s shut the door behind him.

“Well, that was weird,” Chanyeol mutters to himself as he returns to his room to dress. Jongin is probably still partly asleep or something, and as Chanyeol heads into the kitchen to prepare breakfast, he figures getting some food into his roommate will definitely wake him up.

He starts up the rice in the cooker and pulls out ingredients from the fridge to make a simple bean sprout soup. Jongin wanders out a some time later, stopping to peer over Chanyeol’s shoulder at the pot on the stove, his chest brushing against Chanyeol’s back, before he quietly sets their table, pulling out dishes from the cupboards.

It doesn't take long for Jongin to whine about being hungry, frowning at the rice cooker as if that will make it cook faster. Chanyeol laughs and lightly kicks at his ankles. "Go get the kimchi out and work on that while you wait," he suggests and Jongin turns his frown onto him.

"You're better at that, though," he says, even as he goes to take the jar out.

"It's just breakfast, don't worry about that so much," Chanyeol says and Jongin narrows his eyes at him.

"You don't even pretend that you're not good at it."

Chanyeol smirks, standing a little taller, "There's no point in lying, we all know you’d live off of chicken if it wasn't for me knowing how to cook."

"I would not!"

"Jongin, did you forget about how you’d stay up late to study during finals your last year, and ordered chicken at like midnight to get you through the night almost everyday?” Chanyeol says, laughing as he remembers coming home from the radio station to find Jongin passed out on the dining table with empty take out boxes littered around him along with his books and notes.

Jongin splutters, embarrassed, and half-heartedly swings an arm out to punch Chanyeol. He misses, and Chanyeol only laughs harder, and then Jongin is smiling back at him. “Okay, fine,” he concedes, “maybe you have a point.” His smile widens and he gives Chanyeol an almost exaggeratedly soppy look. “Where would I be without you, hyung?”

Chanyeol pretends to think about it for a moment, grinning when Jongin shoves at him, and then draws Jongin close with an arm around his shoulders. “Lucky for you, you don’t have to find out,” he says softly and Jongin relaxes in his embrace before huffing out an amused laugh.

They return to cooking after that, and settle down at the table to eat when everything is done. Jongin practically scarfs down his food like he’s gone days without eating, and Chanyeol just pats his back when he chokes around a mouthful as he chews and talks at the same time. Jongin smiles impishly, downing some water from a glass, and goes right back into telling Chanyeol about his new job after Chanyeol had asked him how everything was going. A week has gone by already and Jongin is clearly infatuated with his work, his eyes bright and excitement clear in his voice as he tells Chanyeol everything.

It makes Chanyeol happy to see him so happy, it really does, even if a tiny part of him curls up in ugly jealousy at the fact that Jongin has found something he clearly loves. Chanyeol, on the other hand, feels worn thin between his two jobs and the challenge of finding something better, and he wishes he could have what Jongin does, a sense of security and the passion, instead of the beaten down feeling of constantly dragging himself out of bed in the morning to work just because he knows he has to.

He knows he has it better than some people, sure, but Chanyeol still wants more for himself and seeing Jongin so happy, it grates, a little.

“Sorry,” Jongin says suddenly, pulling Chanyeol from his thoughts, “this is all probably boring to you, isn’t it?”

Chanyeol shakes his head quickly. “No, no!” he says, waving his hands. “I like hearing about it. I’m happy for you, you know? I’m glad to see you so excited about it.”

Jongin stares at him unblinkingly for a few seconds, but he smiles eventually as if satisfied by Chanyeol’s answer, and picks up his chopsticks to shovel some rice into his mouth. “What about you, hyung? Did you ever hear back from KIST?”

Chanyeol winces, looking down at his lap. He was hoping Jongin forgot all about that just so Chanyeol could let himself forget, too. He has heard back, and he'd been doing a good job at pushing it out of his mind because when he stops to really dwell on it he gets upset and frustrated and angry, even, and he doesn't like how he feels.

It takes him a moment to answer, and when he does, all he says is, "Yeah, they turned me down."

Jongin pauses with his chopsticks halfway to his mouth, eyes going wide. He sets them back down as he says, "What? Seriously?"

Chanyeol nods. “They said they were looking for someone else,” he says with a shrug.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Jongin asks, his brows furrowed and lower lip jutted out in a pout, and it’s clear in his expression that he’s hurt Chanyeol didn’t tell him about this right away.

“I wasn’t trying to keep it from you,” Chanyeol says, even though he was, a little. “I only just heard back like two nights ago, so it hasn’t even been that long.” He sighs, pushes a hand through his slightly damp hair. “I just didn’t want to think about it myself, you know? So I just sort of pushed it away completely.”

“I’m sorry, hyung,” Jongin says sincerely, “I know how much you wanted that job.”

“It’s okay. I’m okay. It is what it is.”

“Then why do you look so sad?”

Chanyeol shakes his head quickly, tries to push aside his own frustration and offers a smile because he doesn’t want Jongin to be upset just because he is. “I’m not,” he says, “Really. Besides, it’s hard to be sad when I’m here with you.” He returns the words Jongin had said to him what feels like months ago now, but it’s true. This morning has been so nice, so relaxing and fun, spending time with Jongin, that he had forgotten about everything else that was bothering him.

Jongin’s eyes widen a little at his words, staring at him like he’s actually surprised, which makes Chanyeol strangely anxious. He doesn’t get it, really, because isn’t it obvious that Chanyeol feels the same way as Jongin about this sort of thing? He’s about to point it out when Jongin’s expression fades into something much more warm and happy, his eyes soft as he leans into Chanyeol’s side, scooting closer in his chair, and says, “Good. Because I don’t want you to be sad.”

He smiles up at Chanyeol and, like it’s completely normal, finds Chanyeol’s hand and laces their fingers together. Chanyeol stares down at them, throat suddenly too dry and his heart beating too fast, and he’s almost overwhelmed by how much he wants to pull Jongin into his arms and hug him, reassure him that he’s not sad, because how can he be sad, when Jongin always makes everything that is shitty in his life not seem so terrible anymore.

Jongin has already gone back to eating, using his free hand and not letting go of Chanyeol at all, and Chanyeol is suddenly struck with the realization that he wants this--but he also wants so much more. It’s nothing new, to want to kiss Jongin, to be closer to him, to have something that doesn’t just end at friendship. But Chanyeol has always pushed those feelings aside, has tried so valiantly to ignore how much he likes Jongin because the risk of losing his closest friend just never seemed worth it.

Right now, though, with Jongin’s hand in his, Chanyeol thinks that maybe, just maybe, he is ready to fight. Everything else in his life seems to out of his control and it makes him frustrated. Frustrated that he’s stuck and can’t get his shit together, frustrated that the one job he was hoping would work out only dragged him along to another dead end. And he’s been frustrated with himself and his feelings for Jongin for so long, constantly locking them up in the back of his mind to deal with later, later, later--But he could change that, he could, if he let himself. Later could be now, if he’s brave enough to tell Jongin how he really feels, put all his cards out on the table.

Chanyeol stares down at their hands and gently squeezes Jongin’s fingers, his insides warm at how nice Jongin’s hand feels in his, how right, and when Jongin turns to look up at him, Chanyeol grins back, wide and excited, and unafraid, for once, about his feelings.

-

"So if I said I wanted to, uh, confess to Jongin...what you would think?" Chanyeol asks carefully as he pokes around his bubble tea cup with his straw.

Sehun stares at him with a deathly blank expression that makes Chanyeol a little nervous. It's like he's trying to determine whether Chanyeol is being serious. Finally he sucks up a pearl from his drink and leans back in his seat, crossing his arms. "If you said that and you meant it, then I'd say, about fucking time, asshole."

"So vulgar," Chanyeol laughs, but Sehun is still giving him a very curious, concerned look and Chanyeol coughs into his fist and squares his shoulders. He doesn't hesitate as he says,"I want to tell Jongin that I like him. Like really like him."

"About fucking time, asshole," Sehun replies and he sounds almost angry about it, but now when Chanyeol laughs, Sehun grins and laughs, too. "Seriously though, I've only been telling you to do this for like four years. Kyungsoo-hyung, too! And Zitao--fuck I have to tell him about this right now. He's not gonna believe it."

Chanyeol groans as Sehun completely ignores him in favor of whipping out his phone and tapping at the screen furiously. "I was gonna tell Zitao eventually, when I see him later this week. I probably would've told him first if he hadn't been busy today and Kyungsoo’s at work, too. So you were my last resort."

Sehun kicks him. "Fucker," he says, without malice. He finishes typing out his message and sets his phone onto the table, takes a few noisy sips of his drink. “So,” he says, narrowing his eyes at Chanyeol, “what suddenly changed your mind?”

Everything, Chanyeol wants to say, but Sehun would probably call him disgusting, so he just settles for a shrug. “I just realized, I guess, that no matter how much I try to push these feelings back, they’re not going to go away. I love Jongin, and I want to actual be with him, and I think maybe I got a little tired of pretending.”

Sehun is gaping at him, mouth hanging open, and it considerably calms Chanyeol down. This was sort of reaction he was expecting, because he can’t really believe it himself, that he’s finally thinking about doing this. “Wow,” Sehun says after a long moment. “You said it. You actually said that you love him.” He sucks at his straw, shaking his head in disbelief. “I mean, I’ve always known that, but like. You never said it that way before.”

“There’s no point in hiding it anymore, now that I want to tell him,” Chanyeol says, shrugging again like it’s not a big deal when it really is. Sehun is right; Chanyeol hasn’t been able to say it out loud, that he loves Jongin. It’s always been something he’s brushed aside, watered down to something more tolerable, a little crush, something more than friends, but never love, even if that’s what it is, what it’s been for a long time now.

“Who are you and what have you done to Chanyeol?” Sehun says so seriously it pulls a such a strong laugh out of Chanyeol that he almost drops his drink all over the floor.

He sets the cup back down hastily just as his phone beeps in his pocket a few times in surprisingly quick succession. His stomach drops at the influx of messages from Kyungsoo and Zitao, most of them from the latter and containing a ridiculous amount of excited emoji because apparently it’s the only way Zitao can convey his feelings.

“What have you done,” he says to Sehun who snickers gleefully at him.

Kyungsoo’s only message says FINALLY YOU DUMBFUCK which really doesn’t make Chanyeol feel much better at all. Before he can send Kyungsoo a bunch of frowning faces, his phone beeps again with a follow up message that has him smiling. Let’s talk about it. I’ll call you tonight.

Chanyeol sends him a teary-eyed emoji and then a thumbs up, and tells Zitao that this really isn’t that big of a deal. Really. Zitao must be on a break or something, because he replies almost instantly, yes it is!!! you’ve been in love with him for years! And then, a second message that adds, i’m glad you’re doing this, you deserve to be w/ someone you love.

Chanyeol can’t help the grin that spreads across his face at that. Zitao has always been supportive, even after they broke up and ever since Chanyeol told him how he thought he might want to date Jongin, almost a year after. He hadn’t been very surprised, and Chanyeol had wondered if he was that obvious, but Zitao had assured him he wasn’t.

“Have you thought about what you’re gonna do?” Sehun asks, pulling Chanyeol away from his phone.

“I haven’t gotten that far yet,” he admits, rubbing the back of his neck. “I only just decided that I wanted to tell Jongin this past weekend and I’m still coming to terms with that so…”

“So take it slow,” Sehun suggests, smiling a little. “You don’t have to go home and confess today, you know. Unless you want to.”

Chanyeol shakes his head quickly a few times. “No, I’m not quite ready for something that sudden,” he says. “I know I’ve wasted a lot of time, these past years, so I don’t want to waste anymore, but I need just a little more to figure it out. Like, I don’t know if he even feels the same way and I don’t know what I’d do if this completely ruins our friendship and--”

“Hyung,” Sehun says loudly, effectively shutting Chanyeol up. “You’re doing it again, that thing where you justify to yourself that hiding the truth from Jongin is better than just telling him.” He kicks Chanyeol under the table again, like a reprimand for being an idiot. “Stop that. It’s stupid. You’re stupid. Don’t get all wrapped up in your head over all of this. You know Jongin, you know that even if he doesn’t return your feelings, he would never let something like this mess up your friendship.” He huffs, slouching in his seat. “I thought I was Jongin’s closest friend, but I’m pretty sure he’d replace me in a heartbeat but he’d never do that with you.”

Chanyeol opens his mouth to speak but nothing come out. He’s surprised by Sehun’s words, to say the least, because Sehun isn’t exactly the most helpful when it comes to situations like this. But he’s right; everything he’s said is right, and Chanyeol does know that Jongin wouldn’t let something like Chanyeol’s feelings get in the way of their friendship. He’d find some way around it, make it better for them both.

“Of course he’d replace you,” Chanyeol says finally, “I think we’ve all been trying to do that for years.”

“I hope Jongin rejects you,” Sehun snipes back and Chanyeol laughs loudly as he leans across the table in a half-hearted attempt to strangle him. Sehun just slides his chair back and laughs, too, and Chanyeol lets Sehun’s earlier words help him believe that he really can do this.

-

Admitting to himself -- and to Sehun, Kyungsoo and Zitao -- that he loves Jongin doesn’t particularly change anything in Chanyeol’s everyday life. He still wakes up ridiculously early and works long hours at the cafe. He still spills at least one glass a week and he still has to prod and poke Yixing awake when he falls asleep on the counter. The nights at the station are still as mundane as they were the week before and Ryeowook’s insistence that he’s doing a great job continue to fall on Chanyeol’s deaf ears. There’s still the frustration of job hunting and the uncertainty of his future hovering above him like a grey raincloud, and there’s still the bills to pay and the laundry to do and the grocery to budget to make sure they don’t starve.

There’s still Jongin, too, who is the only thing that’s a little different, now. Maybe it’s because Chanyeol has properly admitted how he feels to himself, that when he looks at Jongin now he doesn’t have to remind himself to push it all back. When Jongin smiles at him, he smiles happily back. When Jongin leans his head on his shoulder, Chanyeol wraps an arm around his waist and pulls him closer. When Jongin climbs into his bed on a loud, thunderstorming night, Chanyeol doesn’t stop him from curling into his side and doesn’t climb out of bed to sleep on the couch.

He lets himself enjoy every little thing that he hasn’t in months, maybe because this might be the closest they’ll ever be, if Jongin rejects him, or maybe because Chanyeol is so tired of playing pretend, that he doesn’t care, if Jongin thinks his affection means more than friendship. It is more than friendship, and if Jongin asked him, Chanyeol wouldn’t hesitate to tell him the truth now.

He’s still working on that part though. The actual telling. He doesn’t want to make something special out of it, like Zitao had dramatically suggested over the phone the other day, and he doesn’t want to just blurt it out when Jongin is least expecting it. So he waits on it, takes each day as they come. He feels like a weight’s been lifted from his shoulders, finally accepting his feelings instead of ignoring them, and it makes his overall attitude so much better these days.

Even Jongin notices, pointing it out one evening over dinner. “You seem happier lately,” he says, nudging Chanyeol’s elbow with his as they eat on the couch and watch The Amazing Spider-man. “Did something happen?”

Chanyeol purses his lips thoughtfully but shakes his head after a moment. “Nah,” he says, “just in a good mood, I guess.” He glances down at Jongin, grins at the curious look in his eyes, the little bit of sauce from the noodles stuck to the side of his lips. “Must be because of you.” He tries to say it all sleazy like, but Jongin blinks at him, surprised.

“Me?” Jongin echoes, brows furrowing, and Chanyeol laughs as he reaches out to swipe his thumb at the corner of his mouth. Jongin’s breath catches, he can feel the heat against his skin, and his eyes go wide, searching, as Chanyeol pulls back, wiping his thumb on a napkin. Jongin’s hand flies up to touch his lips and Chanyeol catches the beginnings of a blush across his cheeks before he looks resolutely away. “Thanks,” he mumbles and Chanyeol smiles.

They’re quiet for some time, just eating and watching, but Chanyeol can tell Jongin isn’t interested in the movie as he was before. Finally, he says, “Did you mean that?”

Chanyeol doesn’t have to ask to know what he’s talking about. “Of course I did,” he says, and he bumps Jongin’s foot with his own atop, where they both have their legs stretched out atop the coffee table. Jongin laughs and fights back, and Chanyeol tries to trap his bare feet in both of his. “You’re really happy lately, you know? So that makes me happy.” He grins. “And with your new schedule we can actually eat dinner together more than like three nights a week which is a great improvement if you ask me.”

“I like that, too,” Jongin blurts out, and from the flush on his face Chanyeol can tell it came out louder than he meant.

“That’s good,” Chanyeol says seriously, “because I’d feel pretty stupid if this was all one-sided.”

“Shut up, of course it’s not,” Jongin laughs, finally pushing his bowl to the counter to reach out and attack Chanyeol with his fingers. Chanyeol’s yelp is too loud in their apartment, and he barely has enough time to set aside his own food before Jongin is leaping on him, the two of them scuffling on the couch, movie long forgotten, until Chanyeol manages to get Jongin into a loose headlock.

“Unfair,” Jongin wheezes, “you learned this from Kyungsoo.”

“I do have a lot of experience, since he’s always putting me in one,” Chanyeol says, laughing. He lets Jongin go then and Jongin exaggeratedly slumps down onto the floor in the space between the couch and the coffee table. Chanyeol stares at him fondly, Jongin’s eyes closed and shirt riding up his stomach, and fluffs up his already mused up hair with a hand. Jongin swats him away, but his lips curl up into a smile, and before Chanyeol can actually pull his hand back, Jongin is gripping his fingers with his, holding on.

He’s not looking at Chanyeol, eyes still closed, but his fingers brush across Chanyeol’s knuckles and butterflies explode in Chanyeol’s stomach. They sit like that for awhile, quiet and comfortable, until Chanyeol’s thinks maybe his heart is going to burst right out of his chest with how big it feels.

He doesn’t let go of Jongin’s hand though. It’s nice, like this, and Chanyeol is happily content, even as he considers if maybe now would be a good time to tell Jongin how he feels. He wonders what Jongin would do, what he would say - he thinks about this a lot - but the moment passes as Jongin eventually pulls himself back up, easily letting their hands slip apart.

“Want some more to drink?” Jongin asks, standing and turning toward the kitchen.

Chanyeol just nods, watches as Jongin walks away. Soon, he tells himself. Soon.

-

It’s Jongdae’s idea to throw a little congratulatory party for Jongin’s new job, even if Jongin’s been working at the magazine for nearly three weeks now. He claims it’s because everyone was too busy to get together but Chanyeol’s pretty sure he’s just using Jongin as an excuse to get out of Joohyun dragging him over to spend an evening with her parents.

They end up at Club FF on a Saturday night, piling into a booth and waiting for Yixing’s band’s performance later in the night. Jongin is pressed into Chanyeol’s right side, arms brushing together with every tiny moment even as all of Jongin’s attention is on Lu Han, sitting across from him and telling stories about Mei. Chanyeol sips at a fruity drink that Jongdae had thrust into his hand and listens to Jongdae complain about the kids in his class.

“You’d think high schoolers wouldn’t be so annoying,” he huffs and Chanyeol snorts, grinning around the rim of his glass.

“Do you remember how you were as a high schooler?” Chanyeol points out and snickers as realization slowly creeps across Jongdae’s face. “They can’t possibly be as terrible as you.”

Jongdae smirks a bit. “I did set the bar pretty high,” he admits with a laugh. “You weren’t so bad, yourself, Park.”

“Our teachers never knew what to do with us, huh?” Chanyeol says. “Causing trouble but managing straight As.”

“Yeah, thanks to that it was always me getting the punishment,” Baekhyun cuts in loudly from Jongdae’s other side, turning away from his conversation with Kyungsoo.

“Because you were the noisiest,” Jongdae says.

“And the dumbest,” Chanyeol adds, and everyone falls into laughter as Baekhyun attempts to lunge across the table at Chanyeol, hands outstretched.

“Jonginnie was almost as bad,” Kyungsoo says, yanking Baekhyun back into his seat with a hand in the back of his shirt, just after Baekhyun’s settled for punching Chanyeol in the shoulder. “Always falling asleep in class and getting called out for it.”

Beside him, Jongin shifts and pouts into his class. “School was so boring,” he mumbles cutely and Chanyeol laughs, leaning back against the seat and casually wrapping an arm over the back, just barely around Jongin’s shoulders. Jongin leans into him almost instinctively.

“If the reason you fall asleep everywhere is because everything is boring, then I’m offended,” Jongdae says, narrowing his eyes at Jongin. “Don’t you remember how you fell asleep during my 21st birthday party?”

“Jongdae, I think everyone wanted to fall asleep during that party, especially after you started sobbing about how much Joohyun was ignoring your existence,” Junmyeon says, leaning around Kyungsoo to look at Jongdae properly, lips curving in amusement and Jongdae just stares back at him, betrayed.

Baekhyun cackles obnoxiously in Jongdae’s ear until Jongdae silences him with a punch to the gut, and Chanyeol watches them, bemused, before glancing down at Jongin. “Hopefully you don’t find me boring,” he teases, reaching out with his left hand to poke at Jongin’s side. “I’m pretty sure you’ve fallen asleep on me a hundred times.”

“Only because you’re comfy,” Jongin returns easily, smirking at him and surprising Chanyeol, because that wasn’t what he was expected, that wasn’t even what he was implying and yet--

He laughs, happy, and gives Jongin a slight squeeze of the shoulders. Jongin grins at him, unbidden, before his attention is stolen by Kyungsoo, eagerly asking him more about work. Chanyeol settles back and watches; it’s been awhile since they’ve gotten so many of the group together for a night out. Kyungsoo and Junmyeon are such workaholics, it’s a feat to get them away, and even more amazing that they’re here together. After a few drinks, Junmyeon’s got his head on Kyungsoo’s shoulder and Chanyeol’s pretty sure they’re holding hands under the table even if he can’t see. Lu Han and Jia are here, too, after leaving Mei with Jia’s parents for the night. They’ve eventually made their way to dance, and Chanyeol’s loses sight of them both after a few minutes. Sehun and Minseok are the only two unable to make it, while Zitao said he would try to stop by later, if he could, especially to see Yixing’s show.

Chanyeol definitely hasn’t had a chance to see Yixing perform in awhile, so when his band finally does make it up on stage, he’s cheering as loudly as he can. “You’re so embarrassing, god,” Jongdae hisses, but he’s clapping just as enthusiastically from beside him.

Jongin leaves to get them more drinks and slides Chanyeol’s favorite over to him when he returns. Chanyeol smacks at Baekhyun when he attempts to steal it and thanks Jongin with a bright smile and a clink of their glasses together. Jongin settles right back into the space at his side, sipping at his drink slowly and watching Yixing onstage, and Chanyeol just about chokes on his own when he feels a hand rest on his knee under the table. He glances down at it, then at Jongin, out of the corner of his eye, but Jongin doesn’t react at all, and Chanyeol licks his lips slowly and sets his glass down onto the table. Jongin’s hand is so warm.

“Yixing-hyung’s band is really good,” Jongin says, tilting his head to look up at Chanyeol, “don’t you think?”

Chanyeol huffs out a laugh and nods. “Of course,” he says, and the combination of alcohol and Jongin’s hand still on his leg makes Chanyeol’s head suddenly far too fuzzy. “We should come and see him play more often.”

“Definitely,” Jongin agrees excitedly, “but without everyone else.” He wrinkles his nose at Jongdae and Baekhyun who are chatting throughout Yixing’s stage.

“Too noisy?” Chanyeol chuckles, but Jongin looks at him for a long, unblinking moment, and he traces his fingers just barely along the inseam of his jeans.

“Something like that,” he says and Chanyeol stares back, confused, intrigued, all at once. Jongin can get very touchy when he’s drunk, Chanyeol has experienced that firsthand many, many times, but there’s something so clear in Jongin’s eyes that makes this feel different than usual but he’s not sure what, exactly.

“Jongin,” he starts, not even certain about what he’s going to say, when a familiar voice interrupts his thoughts, shouting out his name.

Chanyeol looks up to find Zitao making his way over, drinks in his hand and a big grin on his face that has Chanyeol grinning back. “Hey, you made it,” he says, as Zitao plops himself down in Junmyeon’s previous seat, empty once he’d dragged Kyungsoo out to dance.

“Of course,” Zitao says, “no party is fun without me.”

“Lies!” Baekhyun hollers from the end of the table and Zitao just childishly sticks his tongue out at him.

“Oh, this is for you,” he says, sliding a glass over to Chanyeol, filled with his favorite drink, too. “You can save it for when you finish the one you have.”

“Does this mean I owe you one, later?” he asks, raising a brow because he’s used to Zitao’s tactics, but still he smiles his thanks.

"Maybe," Zitao sings, and laughs when Chanyeol lightly steps on his foot under the table with the heel of his shoe. He turns to Jongin then, reaching out to clap his shoulder twice excitedly, "Hey! Congrats on the new job! How is it going?"

Jongin seems to jerk out of his own reverie, a smile forming on his face as he looks at Zitao but Chanyeol notices that it's not quite as bright as usual. "It's good," he says, nodding for effect and then downs the rest of his drink. He stands suddenly, setting his glass down with more force than necessary, and says, “I’m gonna go to the bathroom.”

Concerned, Chanyeol grabs his hand before he manages to get too far and asks, taking in the flush to Jongin’s face, his clouded eyes, “Are you alright?” The loss of warmth from Jongin’s hand on his leg makes Chanyeol strangely cold now, and he wants to tug him back into the booth but Jongin is slipping his hand away and nodding again.

“Yeah, fine,” he says and laughs, a little. “I’ll be right back.”

He disappears before Chanyeol can suggest to go with him, worried by his weird behavior, and he stares after him for a long moment before Zitao’s amused laughter pulls him back. “What?” he demands and Zitao just grins widely.

“You two are cute,” he says and Chanyeol blames the alcohol for the reason he blushes.

“Shut up,” Chanyeol groans, reaching for his drink and finishing it up. He pins Zitao with a level stare over the rim. “And don’t even bring that up, okay? I know you want to ask about it. Like you don’t demand updates from me everyday already.”

“I’m just curious!” Zitao protests loudly, and pouts when Chanyeol narrows his eyes at him. “Fine,” he huffs, “I won’t.” He grins then, and sets his glass down onto the table. “Come dance with me then, instead.”

No, thanks, is on the tip of his tongue but Zitao is already dragging him out of his seat and into the bustling throng of people on the floor. Chanyeol’s coordination is limited when he’s sober, so dancing while drunk is most definitely not one of his strong points. Zitao knows this already, and doesn’t seem to care, laughing at him as they move together, the DJ having taken over and playing a remix of a recent Maroon 5 song.

Halfway through the next song, Yixing joins them on the floor, slinging an arm around Zitao’s waist and laughing when Chanyeol nearly trips on his feet and into a disgruntled girl behind him. “Good show!” Chanyeol leans into whisper in Yixing’s ear, and Yixing grins back at him, grabbing Chanyeol’s wrists to stop him from flailing about and guide him properly with the beat. Zitao, shameless as ever, comically grinds against Chanyeol until Chanyeol laughs loudly and shoves him away.

He’s thinking he’s probably had enough of this when familiar hands wrap around his middle from behind and Chanyeol cranes his neck back to look at Jongin, peering up at him from under his bangs. “Hey,” he says, throat suddenly thick. Jongin’s fingers curl into his shirt just around his navel.

“You look ridiculous,” Jongin says, voice full of mirth. Yixing’s let Chanyeol go, now, moving on to steal Jia from Lu Han a few feet away while Lu Han drags Zitao back to the bar for something more to drink. “Are you sure you don’t want to join in on my kids’ dance class? I could get you a discount.”

Chanyeol laughs, letting Jongin manhandle him around so they’re facing each other. “Maybe you should just teach me yourself,” he says, and it’s probably the alcohol making him a little bolder than usual. “I probably need one-on-one lessons, don’t you think?”

Jongin snorts, amused, settling his hands on Chanyeol’s hips and drawing in close. Too close. Chanyeol’s breath hitches in his throat, and he’s pretty sure his heart is louder in his ears than the music, right now. “You might be right about that,” he muses, and he’s pulling Chanyeol into dancing with him.

Chanyeol easily follows his pace, trying not to think too much about this. They’ve danced together before. It’s nothing new. Except something--something feels different about it, right now, and Chanyeol can’t tell if it’s just because now he’s aware of his feelings more than before or if it’s because of the way Jongin is staring at him, the smudged eyeliner around his eyes making his gaze even more intense. He doesn’t seem very drunk, but Chanyeol knows Jongin’s had a few drinks over his limit, so he chalks this up to Jongin’s own inebriated boldness and goes along with it carefully. He doesn’t exactly mind all the attention, or how Jongin’s just shy of grinding against him.

He doesn't exactly trust himself not to pull Jongin closer, thinking maybe it's best if he returns to their booth but Jongin is holding onto him tightly, laughing when the song changes to something even faster and Chanyeol almost trips again.

"You could really hurt someone out here," he says.

"Good thing you're here to watch out for me, then," Chanyeol returns easily, lips curving into a smirk despite himself. It has Jongin laughing louder, and he looks so pretty, so carefree, that Chanyeol just wants--

He reaches out and brushes back the hair that's fallen into Jongin’s face; it's gotten a little too long lately, always falling into his eyes, and he gently slides them out of the way. Jongin's eyes widen at the touch, a shaky breath escaping his lips and Chanyeol's gaze darts down to his mouth, plush and parted just so, and he doesn't think the urge has ever been this strong to kiss him. It could be so easy, right now, but Chanyeol doesn't want it to be this way.

He tears his eyes back up to Jongin's and then takes one giant step back from him, letting his hand fall away from his face and Jongin’s from his hips. “I-I’m gonna go--get something to drink,” he says, turning quickly and heading toward the bar where it's safer, where he can push aside the thoughts of finally giving in that have taken over his head and hopefully let some more alcohol blur away the tiny hope bubbling in his chest because he's almost certain that Jongin had been staring at Chanyeol the same way that Chanyeol had been staring at him.

He runs into Kyungsoo at the bar who takes one look at him and furrows his brows. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah, yeah, fine," Chanyeol replies quickly and he knows he's not being convincing at all. Kyungsoo gives him an unimpressed look, waiting for him to fess up to what's bothering him, but Chanyeol isn't sure where to even begin to explain what just happened. Instead he just mumbles Jongin's name under his breath and hopes Kyungsoo can fill in the blanks.

He does, smirking a little, amused, and Chanyeol wonders why they're even friends when Kyungsoo only ever seems to take pleasure in his misery. Maybe his pout is effective though because Kyungsoo pats his shoulder consolingly and says, "Let's go sit back down."

The booth is mostly empty now save for Junmyeon, who doesn't seem to care when Chanyeol flops over next to him and rests a head on his shoulder. He wonders if he looks that pathetic, or maybe he knows, from the way he and Kyungsoo share a pointed look. Chanyeol has never directly told Junmyeon about Jongin, but he wouldn't be surprised if Kyungsoo has alluded to it, or if Chanyeol has given himself away, since according to everyone who does know, he's incredibly obvious.

Just thinking of that makes him feel even worse and he groans, sitting up just long enough to take a much needed chug of his beer.

"Don't be so miserable," Junmyeon says, patting his knee, "I'm gonna need you to keep me entertained because Kyungsoo refuses to dance."

"No, I refuse to let you dance because you're just gonna end up falling over with how many drinks you've had."

Junmyeon pouts at Kyungsoo, who just idly sips at his drink and ignores him. It doesn't last long because Chanyeol can just see Junmyeon's hand sliding up Kyungsoo's thigh under the table and that's when he pulls away to the edge of the booth, wondering if maybe he should just go home. He glances out at the dance floor but he can't make out Jongin from here. He sighs, runs a hand through his hair and downs the rest of his drink. Jongin can get home himself, or he can crash at Jongdae's or something if he wanted. This is a party for him so he'll probably want to stay out as long as he can. Chanyeol should just go home.

He shouts a goodbye to Kyungsoo and Junmyeon who have practically started making out and don't even react to his words, and then weaves his way towards the exit.

He doesn't expect for Jongin to catch him just before he goes, grabbing his elbow and whining "Hyung," into his ear. "Are you leaving?"

Chanyeol shivers, looks down at him uncertainly. "Yeah, I'm tired," he says and it's not a complete lie.

"Me, too," Jongin says but something in his tone makes Chanyeol think he doesn't really mean it the same way. "I think I'll go back with you."

"Are you sure?" Chanyeol asks, hoping the panic he feels isn't clear in his voice. He wanted to leave to put some space between him and Jongin and this is not what he needs. "It's your party and I think you could still manage to weasel out a few more drinks from Kyungsoo."

Jongin laughs and clings onto his elbow a little tighter. "Yeah, I'm sure," he says.

Chanyeol just nods and leads the way out onto the streets. It's a little chilly now, the sky dark and Hongdae's lights like stars. They take the train back home and Jongin falls asleep on Chanyeol's shoulder.

"Come on, Jonginnie," he says softly, half-dragging, half-carrying Jongin up to their apartment. Jongin just grumbles into the crook of his neck, annoyed at being disturbed, and Chanyeol can only smile at him in amusement, pulling off his shoes and leading him to his room. Jongin flops into bed bonelessly, faces smushed into his pillow and Chanyeol thinks for a moment about taking his clothes off so he's not uncomfortable before deciding that would be A Very Bad Idea. Instead he rolls him onto his side and fluffs his pillows up under his head, draws up a blanket over his body.

Jongin squirms cutely, eyes blinking open for a brief moment but not really seeing and Chanyeol's smile widens as he pushes slightly dampened bangs back from his face and impulsively leans into kiss his forehead. "Goodnight, Jongin," he murmurs before he realizes exactly what he's just done and when he pulls back, Jongin is staring right at him.

Chanyeol's eyes widen and he quickly bolts to his own room, hiding his face in his pillows and groaning. He doesn't fall asleep for a long time, his mind running through every little thing that had happened between him and Jongin that night and trying to piece together just what it might mean.

-

A little after noon the next day, Chanyeol makes a pot of kimchi jjigae and nurses his hangover with endless glasses of water. The apartment is quiet which is both a blessing and a curse to him that morning; it helps with his headache but doesn’t help with pushing aside everything from last night when all he wants is a short reprieve to clear his mind.

Jongin tends to sleep in late on the weekends, especially after he’s spent a night drinking, so Chanyeol nearly jumps out of his skin when hands snake around his waist and Jongin notches his chin atop Chanyeol’s shoulder. “G’morning,” he mumbles and Chanyeol quickly relaxes as much as he can. He hadn’t even heard Jongin walk into the kitchen and the sudden warmth of his body has his heart beating much too fast.

“I think you mean good afternoon,” Chanyeol replies, glancing at Jongin’s sleep-ruffled hair and then back at the stove, stirring the soup in the pot slowly.

“I’m tired,” Jongin says and it pulls a laugh out of Chanyeol.

He nudges Jongin in the stomach lightly with his elbow and chides, “Then go back to sleep.”

“Come with me,” Jongin whines, tugging at Chanyeol’s waist until Chanyeol stumbles backwards a few steps.

While the prospect of sleeping again is tempting, Chanyeol shakes his head and gently pulls Jongin’s hands off from around his waist. “I’m cooking,” he says, pointing at the stove, and turns away when Jongin pouts at him.

"Fine," Jongin says after a moment, huffing slightly as he climbs up onto the counter next to the stove and watches. "I guess I'm more hungry than sleepy anyway."

Chanyeol shakes his head, amused, and pats Jongin's knee. "Do you feel okay?” he asks. "You had a lot to drink last night."

"Well, it was a celebration party for me," Jongin says, grinning, but he nods. "Yeah, I'm okay. I didn't drink so much I can't remember anything, or get so shit-faced like Jongdae-hyung. Did you get twenty drunk texts from him or was I just lucky?"

Chanyeol snorts. "You must be lucky," he says, his mind stuck on the fact that Jongin said he remembered last night. Does he remember everything? He glances at him, taking in the slight stubble across his jaw, the darkness around his eyes, his hair, a right mess, and he thinks of how nice his skin felt under his lips when he kissed him.

"Hyung?" Jongin interrupts his thoughts and Chanyeol meets his gaze, surprisingly intense for so early in the day, and quickly looks away.

"Um, hey, can you check on the rice?" Chanyeol says, wincing at how strangled his voice sounds. He can feel Jongin’s eyes on him for a long second before he jumps down and says, “Sure.”

Chanyeol focuses on the jjigae and tries not to get distracted by Jongin, who deems the rice a success and then starts rifling through the cupboards for a glass. He’s still staring at Chanyeol, the weight of his gaze only adding to the tension in Chanyeol’s shoulders, and he almost lets the pot get too hot because his mind keeps wandering to Jongin. It’s never been this bad, and Chanyeol isn’t sure what it is, right now, that’s got him so frazzled, but when Jongin peers over his shoulder to look at the food, he flips off the stove and gently pushes Jongin away so he can carry the pot over to the table.

“Chanyeol,” Jongin says suddenly, and Chanyeol pauses in pulling bowls out of a cupboard to turn to Jongin slowly. “Are you okay?”

Chanyeol forces out a huff of a laugh; it sounds pathetic to his own ears and he winces. “Yeah,” he says, “just fine. Why do you ask?” He rushes past to set the bowls down on the table and then remembers spoons and heads back, only to have Jongin grab his elbow and stop him, fingers firm where they’re gripping him.

“You’re acting weird,” Jongin says carefully, like he’s not really sure and he’s piecing it all together as he speaks. “You won’t look at me, for one, and then, last night, when you pulled away so suddenly--I don’t know, it’s like you’re pushing me away again and I just--” He groans, frustrated, letting go of Chanyeol’s arm so he can push his hair out of his face and frown. “What’s wrong?”

Fuck, Chanyeol thinks, staring at Jongin now, really looking at him, at how confused and defeated he looks. Defeated, because Chanyeol is freaking out over everything that’s happened in the span of a few days and Chanyeol is pulling away again, because even though Chanyeol has accepted his feelings, has decided he wants to tell Jongin the truth, is still so terrified of what might happen when he does.

“Jongin, I--” Chanyeol starts, unsure how to get the words out in a way that doesn’t make him sound ridiculous, but instead they get stuck in his throat as Jongin takes a step up to him, fingers wrapping around his wrist as if to keep him in place.

“What, Chanyeol?” Jongin says, his low voice burning hot in Chanyeol’s chest. “You what?”

Chanyeol licks his lips and even in the haziness of his reeling mind, he catches how Jongin’s eyes dart down to his mouth and back up, so quick Chanyeol might have missed it if they weren’t standing so close now. Chanyeol could count Jongin’s eyelashes, could just lean in and kiss him and for once, for the first time, he decides enough is enough. He isn’t sure how else he can better explain to Jongin what he feels than by doing what he’s wanted for so long, for doing what it almost seems like Jongin is waiting for him to do.

“Don’t--Don’t freak out, okay?” Chanyeol says, just enough of a warning that Jongin could pull away if he wanted to, but instead Jongin stares back at him, open and beautiful and there, fingers tightening around Chanyeol’s wrist like permission, and Chanyeol--

Chanyeol just kisses him.

Jongin’s gasp is lost in his mouth and his lips are warm and smooth against his, and this is nothing like anything Chanyeol has imagined; none of his dreams come close. His heart is pounding in his ears incessantly but it pales in comparison to how wonderful this kiss is and how perfect Jongin’s mouth fits against his like they were always meant to be, how Jongin’s pulling him even closer, and how Jongin kisses him back.

Chanyeol has always hoped he would but he never expected it would be reality, but here he is, in the middle of their tiny kitchen, with Jongin’s plush lips moving against his, free hand reaching up to clutch at Chanyeol’s shirt and drawing a surprised moan from Chanyeol’s throat. It’s almost too good to be true, but the heat of Jongin’s fingers, and the slickness of his mouth, the rush in his veins are enough to remind Chanyeol that yes, this is real.

He’s the one to pull away first, overwhelmed, pleased, too many emotions filling him up all at once, and when he looks at Jongin now, he’s smiling, smiling. Not angry, or upset, or pushing Chanyeol away, but instead staring at him in wonder like no moment is more important than this. It’s how Chanyeol feels, too, right now, and he only manages a short, relieved, laugh before Jongin is suddenly cupping his face in both his hands and leaning up to kiss him again.

That’s even more unexpected than Jongin returning his initial kiss, but it’s just as much appreciated, and Chanyeol can’t help the stretch of a grin across his face, his own hands naturally settling at Jongin’s waist as he kisses back. Chanyeol doesn’t even know how much time passes like this, kissing softly, eagerly, Jongin’s fingers slipping back into his hair and curling through the strands and Chanyeol’s lips feeling wonderfully swollen. He ends up pushed back into the nearest counter, somehow, Jongin stumbling forward and guiding Chanyeol over until he practically collides into it. Jongin laughs into his mouth, smiling for a second before pressing one more swift kiss to Chanyeol’s lips.

“Um,” Chanyeol says, the only thing he can even think to say at this point, and Jongin’s laughter gets louder.

“I think you’re the one freaking out, now,” Jongin says with a bright grin and it eases away the last of Chanyeol’s uncertainties, barking out an amused laugh. “You don’t need to worry,” he says as he steps up closer to him, and they’re so, so close now, Chanyeol thinks he might go cross-eyed, staring down at Jongin like this. “I really wanted to do this last night, you know.”

“You--You did?”

“Yeah. And maybe some other times, too.”

Chanyeol can’t believe what he’s hearing, to be honest. At the same time, it’s everything he’s wanted to hear for years, and he’s never felt more pleased. “Just maybe?” he teases, because this is good, this is just him and Jongin like it’s always been, like it always will be, and Chanyeol’s has been such a coward for far too long.

“Yes,” Jongin snipes right back, but he’s still grinning, “maybe.”

“Well,” Chanyeol says, sliding a hand softly along Jongin’s cheek, letting his thumb just barely brush over his upper lip before slipping fingers into the short hairs at the back of his neck, “I maybe wanted to do this for a long time, too.”

“How long?” Jongin demands, lips ghosting against Chanyeol’s and drawing a shuddering breath from his mouth.

“Too long,” Chanyeol says and figures they can get into the details later. Right now, he really needs to make up for lost time, and lets Jongin pull him into another heated kiss.

-

Chanyeol had plans for that Sunday: apply to at least five new jobs, do all the laundry, clean the bathroom, take out the trash. It’s a bunch of things he’s been putting off, but in light of how the day starts out, it’s safe to say that all of Chanyeol’s original plans end up long forgotten.

Instead, there’s Jongin, smiling at him, touching him, and plopping himself onto Chanyeol’s lap at the table like he belongs there so they can eat the jjigae Chanyeol made in between kisses. There’s Jongin with his slightly bruised lips and messy hair, dressed still in his sleep clothes, old faded Batman t-shirt and worn-in shorts, the last dregs of slumber in the edges of his eyes, and he’s the best thing Chanyeol’s ever seen. Ever will see, probably, with how he smiles so wide and laughs so adorably, his fingers splaying across the nape of Chanyeol’s neck, and whenever Chanyeol looks at him and thinks about kissing him, he just leans forward and does and is constantly amazed when Jongin lets him and pulls him in for more.

Jongin does con him back into bed sometime after they’ve cleaned the kitchen, but only to push Chanyeol down onto the mattress and climb atop of him, worming his arms around his back. Chanyeol chuckles, smoothing down Jongin’s hair as he rubs his cheek against Chanyeol’s sternum, like he’s making a space for himself there, and rests against him, a soft sigh of content slipping past his lips. It feels different from any of those nights when Chanyeol would wake up to Jongin pressed against him; instead of the frazzled beating of his heart, right now Chanyeol feels so completely at home, calm and so incredibly happy he doesn't think he can put it into words.

He thinks Jongin has fallen asleep because he’s quiet for a long time, but suddenly he shifts, turning so he’s propping his chin on Chanyeol’s chest and looking up at him. “You didn’t answer my question, before.” He narrows his eyes at Chanyeol who blinks back.

“What question?” he says, even though he knows what Jongin is talking about.

“How long?” Jongin asks quietly and Chanyeol smiles.

“Does it matter?” he says and laughs when Jongin petulantly grumbles, “Yes.” So Chanyeol thinks about it for a moment, trying to pinpoint the exact moment, how many years it’s been that he’s been pushing this aside. “Since my second year at university?” he muses aloud and catches the way Jongin’s mouth drops open. “I told you,” he laughs, “that it’s been a long time.”

Jongin scrambles up so he’s straddling Chanyeol’s hips and swats at his chest. “Why didn’t you say anything?” he exclaims, looking both flustered and frustrated. Chanyeol is surprised by his reaction, leaning up on his elbows. “All this time, I thought--” He cuts himself off quickly, looking down in embarrassment and Chanyeol smiles, slides a soothing hand up his thigh.

“I didn’t want to ruin anything,” he admits, because he might as well come clean about everything that he can, when it’s clear that Jongin wanted this, too, when it’s clear that Jongin isn’t going away. “Your friendship is more important to me than anything and I didn’t--I didn’t really think that you would like me back.”

“How could I not, you idiot,” Jongin laughs, but it sounds a little soppy, and he doesn’t give Chanyeol a chance to poke fun at him before he’s lunging in to kiss him again. Chanyeol doesn’t think he will ever get tired of it, sliding his arms around Jongin’s waist and pulling him close, so close it’s like he’s trying to mold their bodies into one, and he can feel Jongin’s lips stretch into a grin.

It all feels surreal, after so long of wanting and hoping and yearning, that he can actually have this, have Jongin in his arms and kiss him and know that his feelings are not only understood but returned--Chanyeol is so happy he’s astounded he hasn’t already imploded from just how happy he is.

“Please don’t implode,” Jongin murmurs later, when Chanyeol says this to him. They’ve probably spent most of the day lying in bed, but Chanyeol has no regrets. “I don’t want to only have you as a boyfriend for less than a day.”

Chanyeol’s suddenly more worried that his face is going to split in half with how wide he’s grinning. Boyfriend. He squeezes Jongin closer to his side and presses a kiss to his forehead like he’d done the night before and it really is so natural, and Jongin is smiling up at him when he looks down. “I won’t,” he promises with a laugh, which gets cut off by Jongin pressing a short kiss to the corner of his mouth.

“Hey,” Jongin says, pulling back, still smiling, “I really, really like you.”

Chanyeol stares at him, sees only honesty and affection and love, maybe, in Jongin’s eyes and he doesn’t know how he missed that, all these years. “Yeah,” he says, and now he’s the one who sounds soppy. “Yeah, me too.”

-

Monday morning, Chanyeol wakes to Jongin's soft kisses and it takes him a few minutes to realize just what’s happening. "Am I still dreaming?" he muses aloud, blinking his eyes open to meet Jongin’s, bright and amused for so early.

Jongin chuckles, curling onto his side and propping his head up on a hand. His hair is sticking up cutely in the back. "Do you dream about that a lot?"

"More than you can imagine," Chanyeol says honestly. Yesterday does feel a little like a dream, but waking up with Jongin next to him for the first time in awhile, and to the gentle touch of his lips on his skin, well. Chanyeol knows it’s real, and it makes him feel impossibly giddy.

Jongin looks surprised by Chanyeol’s words, but after a moment he smiles. "Then I guess we need to make sure the real ones outweigh the dreams," he says, and he doesn't give Chanyeol a chance to tell him that they already have before he leans in and kisses him again.

Chanyeol ends up being twenty minutes late to work that morning.

He's in such a good mood the rest of the day that Minseok and Yixing threaten to kick him out of the cafe because his huge smile is gonna scare the customers. When Chanyeol tells them why he's so happy, only after Minseok says he'll cut his pay if he doesn't fess up, Yixing takes one look at Chanyeol and says, "Wait, I thought you two were already dating."

That wipes the smile off Chanyeol’s face and into a pout while Minseok laughs at the two of them and pats Chanyeol’s shoulder. "Congrats," he says, "it was a long time coming," and he walks off to help a customer before Chanyeol can demand how he knew. Yixing continues to look confused, and after a few minutes Chanyeol’s happiness springs right back and he greets even the most grumpiest of customers with endless cheerfulness.

Jongin gets off of work around six in the evening, so Chanyeol heads over to meet him, waiting around the corner at a bookstore and peering at the shelves when Jongin walks in. “Hey,” he says, slipping up beside him and letting a hand softly brush across Chanyeol’s back before dropping to his side. “You didn’t have to come get me, you know. Weren’t you at home?”

Chanyeol shrugs, puts the murder mystery he’d been looking at back on the shelf. “I was thinking we could like, go out, or something.”

Jongin blinks at him. “Like a date?” he asks, slowly smiling.

Chanyeol nods, squeezes Jongin’s hand briefly. “Yeah, like a date,” he confirms and Jongin all but practically drags him out of the store.

They end up getting hot pot at a small Chinese place closer to the apartment and Jongin teases, “Wow, so romantic,” after they’ve ordered. Chanyeol pretends to look hurt and Jongin laughs, happy and open, and Chanyeol tries not to get distracted by how he opens up the collar of his button-up and slips his tie off around his neck.

“I know it’s not, uh, the fanciest of places, but I don’t know. I thought we could just...take it slow, or something. Start somewhere we’re comfortable?” Chanyeol says. He rubs the back of his neck because it all sounds lame when he says it, even though he’s been thinking about this all day. Jongin is staring at him bemusedly, and Chanyeol quickly backtracks. “O-Or, not, I guess, I--”

He cuts himself off when Jongin nudges his ankle lightly with a foot. “Relax,” Jongin laughs. “It’s fine, really. We haven’t been here in a long time, and I’d rather not make a big deal out of it or anything either.”

Chanyeol lets out a deep breath, pleased. “Good,” he says, fiddling with a napkin and not really looking at Jongin. “Good.”

He can sense Jongin leaning over the table without looking up and feels heat flood to his cheeks when Jongin questions, “Chanyeol, are you nervous?”

Chanyeol jerks back so quickly he almost falls out of his chair. Jongin is hiding his mouth behind a hand, trying to stifle his laughter and being mostly unsuccessful as Chanyeol rights himself in his seat and clears his throat. “Maybe a little,” he admits, because there’s really no point in lying when it’s obvious.

Jongin’s gaze grows immensely fond. “You’re cute, hyung,” he says softly and Chanyeol feels himself flush more even as he laughs, embarrassed, and shakes his head.

Their food arrives shortly after and everything is delicious, as usual. Jongin’s company, the fact that this is a date, makes it all even better. They talk about their day, Chanyeol mentioning how Song Qian proudly tells him about how hard-working Jongin is when she stops by in the morning, and Jongin complaining about how one of his sunbaes treats him like an intern and orders him to get coffee all the time like Jongin doesn’t have his own work to do. It’s easy and comfortable, like everything always is between them, but now Chanyeol catches how Jongin stares a little too long at his mouth, or the way he seems to pull open the top of his shirt whenever Chanyeol stares at him.

Chanyeol has been easily distracted throughout the day, thinking about Jongin’s lips against his and how nice his touch felt on his skin. He wants to go home and do that, again, and he’s considering cutting dinner short when they’re suddenly interrupted by Sehun and Zitao.

“You could’ve invited us if you were coming here to eat,” Sehun says, kicking at Jongin. “I thought you said you were busy, but you’re just having dinner with Chanyeol.”

Jongin looks momentarily embarrassed, but then he glances at Chanyeol, eyes questioning. Chanyeol grins at him before raising his bottle of beer to his lips. Jongin grins back and then kicks at Sehun. “We’re on a date, okay? So could you leave?”

“You’re what?!” Zitao practically yells and Sehun has to slap a hand over his mouth, even though he looks shocked as well.

Chanyeol and Jongin burst into laughter, and instead of leaving, like Jongin asked them to, Sehun and Zitao end up joining them, maneuvering them around so now Jongin is pushed into Chanyeol’s side and Zitao and Sehun stare them down from across the table like proud (Zitao) and confused (Sehun) parents.

“When the fuck did this happen?” Sehun demands, stuffing his face with pieces of meat.

“Yesterday,” Chanyeol answers happily. Sitting next to Jongin now makes it easy to slip his hand into his under the table. Jongin squeezes back and lets his thumb graze over Chanyeol’s knuckles.

“And you didn’t tell us?” Zitao says, offended. “After all the help I gave you!”

Chanyeol rolls his eyes, tries not to feel too embarrassed at the way Jongin is eyeing him curiously. “Telling me I should’ve just jumped him is not help.”

“Trust me, Jongin wouldn’t have minded,” Sehun pipes up and he smirks when Jongin turns a sudden red. Chanyeol stares down at him in amazement. “I’m glad, though, seriously,” he continues after a moment. “Do you know how annoying it was to hear you guys whine about each other? At least Chanyeol-hyung wasn’t that bad, but Jongin?”

“Shut up, Sehun--”

“He kept asking me about you two,” Sehun says, gesturing between Chanyeol and Zitao. “Like don’t you think they’ve been closer lately? and maybe they got back together.” He grins at Chanyeol, who is both warm with pleasure and astounded. “He was such a pain in the ass.”

Jongin is practically trying to slink down under the table now, and Chanyeol stares at him and remembers, suddenly, every strange conversation he’d had with Jongin about Zitao over the past few months. “Wait, you were jealous? Of Zitao?” he exclaims, and Jongin yanks his hand out of Chanyeol’s and uses it to reach over the table and punch Sehun in the shoulder, hard. Zitao laughs loudly, clearly entertained, and Chanyeol’s heart is pounding in his ears because he hadn’t really expected this and he can’t believe he never put it together himself.

“I wish I’d realized,” Zitao muses aloud, smirking at Jongin. “That would’ve been fun.”

“You’re cute,” Chanyeol whispers into Jongin’s ear after things have calmed down and Jongin groans, slumping back into his seat. “You never had to worry about that.”

“I know that now,” Jongin says grumpily, but he grabs ahold of Chanyeol’s hand again and leaves it at that.

It ends up not being the best of first dates but Zitao foots the bill to make up for joining them halfway and nudges Sehun hard in the ribs to get him to apologize, too. Jongin doesn’t seem to mind all that much, and Chanyeol had fun despite everything. Hearing all about Jongin’s little quirks about his feelings for Chanyeol from Sehun was definitely beneficial, and he has a lot he’ll have to ask about later, when they’re alone.

There’s other things he wants to do when they’re alone, and it seems like Jongin has the same idea because the minute the door to their apartment shuts behind them, Jongin pushes him against it and leans up to kiss him. A hand grips the back of Chanyeol’s neck and Chanyeol lets out a huffed laugh into Jongin’s mouth before kissing him back.

“Wanted to do that all day,” Jongin says, teeth nipping at Chanyeol’s lower lip as he pulls away to breathe. Chanyeol licks his lips and rubs at the patch of skin at Jongin’s hip, where his shirt has come untucked from his pants.

“Me, too,” he says and leans into kiss him again, and again. Jongin pants against his lips, shifting in closer, and the door handle is digging into the small of Chanyeol’s back but Jongin fits so nicely in his arms, hands fisted into the back of Chanyeol’s hair and lips moving together in a perfected dance, it’s like they’ve been together like this for years instead of just barely two days.

They kiss for a long time, standing there in the middle of their entryway, and Chanyeol is dizzy with want and pleasure when Jongin finally pulls back. His face is beautifully flushed, eyes so bright, and Chanyeol wants nothing more than to kiss him again and again, draw out the little whining sounds and feel him as close as possible. Maybe it’s clear in his eyes, or maybe Jongin just wants the same thing, because he’s surging forward for more, even as he speaks between quick presses of their mouths.

“You know how you said maybe we should--uh, take it slow?” he gasps, and when Chanyeol nods, slowly, vaguely remembering something of the sort from earlier that evening, Jongin pulls back to stare him right in the eye. “Yeah, I don’t want to.”

It takes a moment for Jongin’s words to register, and when they do Chanyeol’s mouth opens, searching for words as he realizes what Jongin means. “You don’t?” he asks, to make sure, so he doesn’t read this wrong. It’s been just over a day but Chanyeol has waited years, for this, and although Jongin hasn’t said so himself, it seems the same for him.

Jongin shakes his head. He looks a little nervous, now, but the set of his jaw is determined and his voice doesn’t waver when he says, “I like you, Chanyeol. And I want…” He swallows thickly and Chanyeol thinks about licking up the column of his neck, but pushes that thought aside for now.

“What do you want?” Chanyeol says, leaning forward. He rubs his thumb across the jut of Jongin’s hipbone where his hand still rests at his waist and Jongin’s breath catches.

“I want you,” Jongin says, firmly, surely, and Chanyeol closes the space between them in a hard kiss.

It’s amazing, how easily they fall into each other, how comfortable it is to let Jongin slide his hands up his shirt and drag it off over his head, let it fall to the floor in their hallway as they stumble back toward one of their rooms. Jongin’s shirt is lost around the bathroom door, buttons ripped in Chanyeol’s haste and scattering over the floor. He whispers, “I’ll buy you another,” and Jongin just laughs and says, “That shirt was yours,” before he drags him into his room and pushes Chanyeol down on his bed.

Jongin climbs on top of him and Chanyeol has to catch his breath because everything is moving so fast. Not that he minds, because he has wanted this for so long, but he wasn’t planning this, today, and he wonders if Jongin was thinking about it, while he was at work. Waiting. The thought makes him groan and he cups the back of Jongin’s neck to pull him into another kiss. They’re getting messier, rushed, even though it’s still early and they have all night.

“You know,” he says softly, letting his fingers trail down Jongin’s chest and drinking in the sight of the blush spreading across his skin, “I don’t usually put out on the first date.”

Jongin laughs loudly, threads his hands back into Chanyeol’s hair and leans down. “Well, maybe I can convince you,” he says lightly, playfully, and Chanyeol decides to just kiss him again instead of telling him that he already has.

They don’t end up going all the way, but that doesn’t bother Chanyeol at all. Instead, Jongin is quick to pull the rest of Chanyeol’s clothes down his legs and to the floor, blinking up at him questioningly until Chanyeol nods before he takes his half-hard erection in hand and strokes once, twice. Chanyeol bucks up into the touch, groaning, and they’ve barely started but he feels wound tight, ready to burst.

“Hyung,” Jongin whispers, sliding down between Chanyeol’s legs more comfortably and kissing just above Chanyeol’s navel, “watch me.”

Chanyeol doesn’t think there’s anything else he would rather do, staring down as Jongin presses light kisses across his hip and jerks him off until he’s fully hard in his hand. He curses under his breath when Jongin sucks him into his mouth, and Chanyeol’s thought about this more than he would like to admit, but it’s indescribably better in reality than his dreams and his own hand. Jongin’s mouth is hot and wet around him and he keeps his gaze fixed on Chanyeol’s like he’s memorizing every ragged breath drawn from his lips and every flutter of eyelashes when the pleasure becomes too much.

“You’re good at this,” Chanyeol breathes out, and Jongin revels in the praise, pulling back to smirk at him, stroke him hard and fast from base to tip until Chanyeol is practically trembling. He doesn’t last long at all, not after wanting this for so long, and Jongin mouths at the head of his dick, moaning low in his throat when Chanyeol gives in and tugs at his hair. The vibrations are all it takes for Chanyeol to come, groaning some semblance of Jongin’s name as a warning so he pulls back and Chanyeol spills into his fist.

He barely has a chance to catch his breath before Jongin is sweeping into kiss him. Chanyeol laughs, sated, and returns the kiss lazily, feeling a little dazed from everything that’s happened. Only when Jongin starts to rut against his hip does his focus sharpen and he draws back to look at him closely.

“Chanyeol,” Jongin says, softly, and Chanyeol doesn’t waste a second before he’s undoing Jongin’s slacks and pushing a hand down the open front. Jongin moans again and Chanyeol doesn’t think he’ll ever forget that sound, heady and desperate. He strokes him quickly, can tell he’s close by the way he’s clawing at Chanyeol’s shoulder, and starts a slow path down Jongin’s neck with his lips.

When Jongin comes, a few minutes later, Chanyeol sits back to watch, to burn the sight into his mind, because Jongin, all flushed and trembling, sweat-slicked bangs matted to his forehead, is the most beautiful thing Chanyeol has ever seen. His staring must be obvious because Jongin takes one look at him after he calms down and laughs, his voice coming out a little hoarse, which only makes arousal twist in Chanyeol’s gut in newfound interest. It’s because of him, he thinks faintly, that Jongin sounds like this.

“Come here,” Jongin says, a little whine, and flops a hand across the mattress toward Chanyeol who goes instantly, without question. Jongin kisses the jut of his chin, the corner of his mouth, the high point of his cheek, and it’s so quietly intimate that Chanyeol feels breathless all over again.

“We should do that again. Soon,” Chanyeol murmurs when he’s found his voice and Jongin laughs lightly but makes a low noise of consent before he pulls away and stretches his arms over his head.

“For now, a shower?” He looks at Chanyeol imploringly and Chanyeol nods without hesitation.

They end up curled up on the couch later, watching a random episode of a recent drama that neither of them have seen. Jongin has his legs pulled over Chanyeol’s lap, a carton of ice cream in his hands, and Chanyeol holds him close with an arm around his shoulders. Every once in awhile, when Chanyeol feels like kissing him, he just leans down and does, tastes chocolate on his lips and something distinctly Jongin, and Jongin always kisses back.

Chanyeol is pretty sure he’s the happiest he’s ever been in this moment.

-

Being with Jongin doesn’t magically make everything in Chanyeol’s life better. Nights at the radio station continue to be lackluster and frustrating and while Chanyeol mostly enjoys working at the cafe, continuing to wake up so early in the morning for his shift leaves him a little cranky some days. However, being with Jongin does make the little things so much better. It’s nice to come home to Jongin already there after work, greeting him with a kiss or something more, when he’s bolder, and Chanyeol likes that they’re no longer dancing around each other. They spend time together like before, watching movies and playing video games, but when Chanyeol gets distracted by the press of Jongin into his side, he doesn’t move away, instead lets his character die to pull Jongin into a kiss.

Jongin has always made it easy to forget the troubling things and now that they’re dating, it’s like that special power has become stronger. When they’re together, Chanyeol doesn’t have to think about his endless job-hunting struggle or making sure there’s enough money in his account to pay his half of the rent for the next month. Those worries are still there, but Jongin’s smiles and his soft kisses and the look in his eyes, that tells Chanyeol, without a doubt, that he really does feel the same way, is more than enough for Chanyeol to push it all aside.

And maybe that’s the problem, because Chanyeol shouldn’t be letting himself get so distracted. He needs to focus on these things just as much he wants to simply be with Jongin and pretend everything is okay. Things are okay, they’re better than they’ve ever been, for him, because being with Jongin and no longer having to hide his feelings makes him so happy, but that’s not the only thing he wants. He wants so much more for himself, for the two of them, and that little ugly monster of jealousy shows itself sometimes, when Jongin gets all excited about work and comes home to show Chanyeol the first article of his that’s printed in the magazine.

Of course he’s happy for him, too, so proud and excited, that it’s just as easy to push the envy aside and pull Jongin into his arms. “I’m so proud of you,” he says, and he means it, and he loves that he can kiss Jongin now and show him just how pleased he is.

“I was starting to think I’d never get a chance like this, you know?” Jongin says as he settles comfortably in Chanyeol’s lap. Chanyeol nods, his gut twisting unpleasantly because yes, yes he really understands. “I don’t know what I’d be doing if you didn’t help me get this job, hyung.”

“Hey, I told you, I didn’t really do anything. You got the job on your own.”

“I’m still glad you were thinking of me.”

That makes Chanyeol chuckle softly. He plants a soft kiss to Jongin’s forehead. “I’m always thinking of you.”

Jongin wrinkles his nose but the quirk of his lips are an easy giveaway. “Don’t be so cheesy, hyung.”

Chanyeol laughs, leaning back against the couch and stretching his arms over his head. “Ahh, I wish some random person could come into the cafe and have a magical job waiting for me, now,” he says with a heavy sigh. He drops his arms but lets his head rest against the couch, eyes closing, and smiling slightly at how Jongin rubs at the creases in his forehead with his thumb. “Especially since Minseok mentioned something about possible pay cuts? I don’t know. I might have to look for another--”

“You can’t possibly get a third job, Chanyeol, you’d die,” Jongin says, sounding so incredulous that Chanyeol lifts his head to look at him. “You’re already working so hard.”

“Well, it’s not like I want to Jongin, but we have to eat and pay the bills and, fuck--the rent is coming up, isn’t it?”

“Stop. Stop worrying,” Jongin says quickly, brows furrowing. Chanyeol clamps his mouth shut and stares at him and for a long moment they don’t really say anything, just sit there, uncertain. Then Jongin says, “Let me cover the rent this month.”

“What? No--”

“Chanyeol, seriously,” Jongin cuts across him, voice firm and steady. “I have a better job now! One that pays well. I can cover this month, whatever you can’t make.”

It makes complete sense, it does, but Chanyeol can’t help the way shame curdles in his stomach at the thought. It must show on his face, because Jongin pokes him in the chest and says, “Don’t make that face. We live here together, you know, and god, you’re always trying so hard, hyung, and I know that. I know you’re looking for something better and you’re trying to figure things out and it’s not easy.”

He smiles at Chanyeol then, the stern edge to his expression softening and Chanyeol lets out a little huff of a laugh because he wasn’t expecting Jongin to react like this. “So let me help,” he continues, letting the hand at Chanyeol’s chest lightly brush down his front. “I told you before, didn’t I? It’s okay to let me worry about you and help you about anything. I still mean it. And fuck, we’re dating now!” Jongin narrows his eyes. “So stop being so stubborn and--”

Chanyeol doesn’t let him finish. He leans in and kisses the rest of Jongin’s words out of his mouth, his heart feeling suddenly so full. Jongin laughs against him but kisses back and Chanyeol says, when they pull apart, “What would I do without you?”

Jongin laughs again, a little breathless, a lot happy. “Good thing you never have to find out, right?”

“Right,” Chanyeol agrees wholeheartedly and lets Jongin draw him back into another kiss.

-

“I can’t believe you’ve been harboring this major crush on Jongin for years and you never told me,” Baekhyun says dramatically when he stops by the the cafe around lunch. “I thought we were friends. I could have helped.”

“See, that’s precisely why,” Chanyeol says, laughing. He finishes up Baekhyun’s order of some ridiculously sugary drink and slides the mug over. “You helping would only have led to Jongin finding out everything years ago.”

“Then, clearly, I would have saved you a lot of agony, seeing how he’s been into you for so long, too,” Baekhyun points out and Chanyeol just rolls his eyes.

“Is that why you came all the way over here on your break?” Chanyeol questions. “To question me about Jongin?”

“Why? Aren’t you happy to see my pretty face?” Baekhyun questions, batting his eyelashes. When Chanyeol just stares at him blankly Baekhyun pouts. There’s a little bit of cream on his upper lip and he looks like a kid. “Fine, fine, so maybe I came to see you.”

Chanyeol gasps, places a hand over his heart. “Me, really? I’m touched, Baekhyun.”

“Shut up, you giraffe,” Baekhyun says, but they both laugh, a little too loud as usual when they’re together and Chanyeol bows his head apologetically to all the customers who look over at them. “I just wanted to talk, I guess. It’s been awhile, and you always complain when I ignore your texts.”

“You literally never reply,” Chanyeol says and Baekhyun grins, unrepentant. “Not that I’m not happy to see you or anything, but this isn’t exactly close to your workplace. Can you blame me for being suspicious of your ulterior motives?”

“You caught me,” Baekhyun sighs, “I’m really here to ask Minseok-hyung out on a date.”

Chanyeol snorts. “Yeah, I’m sure his wife will greatly approve of that.” Baekhyun snickers around his mug and Chanyeol leaves for a moment to help out a few girls who stop by to order. When he returns, he tugs Baekhyun’s mug away and says, “Fess up, or I won’t give you a free refill.”

Baekhyun quickly tugs the mug back, holding it closer to him almost protectively and says grandly, “I’m here to change your life.”

Chanyeol is two seconds away from pouring a cup of hot coffee on Baekhyun’s head. “Is that how you start all your sales’ pitches, Baekhyun? Because I think your script might need some work.”

“Look, I came all the way over here to offer you a potential job and this is what I get?”

“Wait, what?”

Grinning smugly, Baekhyun takes a slow sip of his drink and Chanyeol watches him exasperatedly, raising a brow in expectation and not giving into the temptation to beg for more information or actually go ahead with his earlier idea of dumping coffee on his friend. Finally, Baekhyun sets his mug down and says, “I heard from Zitao that you didn’t make the KIST job.”

Chanyeol groans. “Yeah,” he says, “did you have to bring that up?”

“Just checking,” Baekhyun says, still grinning. “You’ve been applying to mostly sciencey related positions, right?”

“Well, yeah, that’s what I went to school for, you know,” Chanyeol says, unsure as to where this conversation is going.

“Yeah, yeah, and I technically went to school for marketing, remember? Not business or anything like that,” Baekhyun says with a wave of his hand. “I’m just pointing out that maybe you’re limiting yourself too much.”

Chanyeol opens his mouth to retort that he’s not, except he realizes, as he stares at Baekhyun’s amused face, that he’s actually right. He closes his mouth with a snap and narrows his eyes. “How does this translate into you having a job for me?”

“I said potential job,” Baekhyun says. “I don’t know if you’re interested or if you’ll even get it.” He takes another drink of his coffee and glances over at the other end of the counter where a couple is waiting. Chanyeol curses under his breath and rushes over to help them, being extra polite, and when he finishes up, he does a quick check around the cafe, picking up discarded mugs and dumping them by the sink for Yixing who tries to pat his butt with soapy hands as a thanks. Chanyeol laughs, darting away before he gets all wet, and heads back up to Baekhyun.

“An old co-worker of mine left our company a few years ago to join a starter,” Baekhyun says, picking up right where they left off. “I don’t remember all the details right now, but they’re basically into media creation such as television spots and radio commercials. You’ve worked with radio programs for years, now, and, yeah, it’s not what you studied in school, but so what? You’re pretty good at it, and you’ve always liked it, right? I could give them your name, if you’re interested.”

Chanyeol’s not sure what he was expecting, but it wasn’t this. Still, he doesn’t think it’s an entirely terrible idea. He blinks at Baekhyun, considering, and says after a long moment, “Are you sure they wouldn’t just look at my resume and laugh? It’s not like I know much about coming up with radio commercials or--”

“So you’ll learn!” Baekhyun interjects. “They’re just looking for someone who understands radio work well, and you and Jongdae used to come up with some fun shit back in school, so it’s not like you’re completely unqualified.”

“Yeah, but that was stupid shit for our school’s radio program, not something that would be like, airing nationwide or whatever,” Chanyeol says, feeling suddenly anxious by this prospect. The thought is so crazy, going into something he’s never dutifully studied, something that isn’t what he knows, and yet, Baekhyun is right. He has been horribly limiting himself, looking for something that fits his degree to the tee. He hasn’t had any luck in that department, anyway, so why shouldn’t he try something a little different?

“I know it’s not like, your dream job or anything,” Baekhyun says, his voice surprisingly gentle. Chanyeol wonders if all his panic is showing on his face. “But the pay is probably gonna be better than what you have right now, and honestly? I think you will like it.”

“You sound so certain,” Chanyeol says weakly.

Baekhyun laughs. “You worked at the university radio station all four years we were there, Chanyeol,” he says. “And then we graduated and you got a job at a real station. I know that job hasn’t been the best for you lately, so maybe this one will let you do more of what you like.” He smiles and sips at his drink a few times as Chanyeol’s mind reels with everything Baekhyun is telling him. “You don’t have to do it if you don’t want to, of course. But maybe a change would be good. And with a more stable job, you wouldn’t have to worry so much about everything else. You could look for something nerdy and sciencey then, too, or maybe you’ll like this job so much you won’t have to!”

“I-I don’t know, Baekhyun,” Chanyeol says, confused and tempted and lost all at once.

“Here, I wrote down their info,” Baekhyun says, slipping off the stool long enough to pull out a folded piece of paper from his back pocket. He hands it to Chanyeol. “Just look into it, okay? Really think about it. If you’re interested, let me know and I’ll give my friend a heads up.”

Chanyeol nods, staring at the paper for a moment before tucking it into his own pocket. He smiles at Baekhyun and says earnestly, “Thank you.”

Baekhyun waves a hand at him again, but he’s grinning. “No problem, man,” he says, and then holds out his mug. “Now give me that refill.”

-

“Hey, what’re you doing still awake?” Jongin says, startling Chanyeol where he’s sprawled across their couch. He glances over and Jongin is standing just on the other side of the coffee table, looking tired and adorable in one of Chanyeol’s too-big shirts. He stifles a yawn behind a hand and walks around to look down at Chanyeol directly. “Come and sleep, don’t you have to work early tomorrow?”

Chanyeol winces, glancing at the time on the small clock above the television. It’s a little past one in the morning, and he really should be in bed, but he’s been thinking too much and can’t seem to shut off his brain. “I’m sorry,” he says, “did you wake up because of me? You should be sleeping.”

“I’m fine,” Jongin says, “I don’t work tomorrow, remember?” He pushes lightly at Chanyeol’s side and climbs onto the couch next to him. There’s definitely not enough room, but Chanyeol just laughs and opens his arms wide for Jongin to curl in. They’re quiet for a long moment, and Chanyeol thinks maybe Jongin’s fallen right back asleep, when he says, “Is this about the job offer Baekhyun told you about?”

Chanyeol sighs. Jongin really knows him too well, or maybe Chanyeol is just that easy to read. “Yeah,” he says, because there’s no point in pretending it’s not. It’s been on his mind everyday since Baekhyun brought it up earlier in the week.

“What’s bothering you about it?” Jongin asks. He’s rubbing his thumb lightly around Chanyeol’s hip and it’s somehow comforting. They’ve talked about this already; Jongin was the first person Chanyeol told when he got home that day, and Jongin had been excited, said it was a good opportunity if Chanyeol wanted to pursue it. Chanyeol, however, is still not sure.

“I don’t really know, honestly,” he admits, feeling a little stupid. “I guess I just don’t know what to do.”

Jongin hums thoughtfully at that, squeezes Chanyeol a little tighter with the arm thrown across his waist. “There’s nothing wrong with that,” he says after a moment.

“Isn’t there?” Chanyeol argues. “Sometimes it feels like everyone else knows exactly what they’re doing and I’m just. Lost.” He sighs, rubs at his eyes. He’s starting to feel tired now, mentally and physically. “It’s kind of lonely.”

Jongin is quick to pull away then, looking down at Chanyeol with hard eyes. “You’re not alone, though, you know that, right?”

“I do,” Chanyeol says, sitting up and waving his hands at Jongin so he doesn’t misunderstand. “I do, god. I have you,” he reaches out for Jongin’s hand, holds it in both of his, “and all our friends, and Yura, who sends me job listings sometimes when she’s bored and you and--”

“You listed me twice,” Jongin says, and he’s smiling now, which is better than the slightly wounded look from before.

“Because you’re doubly important,” Chanyeol replies, completely serious, but Jongin laughs like he told a joke. “You’re the best thing that’s happened to me in a long time.”

Jongin kisses him and it easily helps melt away some of the frustration, the heavy weight of stress on Chanyeol’s shoulders. “I love you, you know,” Jongin says when they pull apart and Chanyeol’s eyes widen, his heart skips a beat. Jongin chuckles at his expression and kisses him once more. “And I’ll still love you, even if you’re working two jobs or if you take the offer Baekhyun-hyung gave you, or if you suddenly decide you, I don’t know, want to become a chef.”

“I would probably make a good chef,” Chanyeol says lightly even though he’s still shocked. He’s pulling Jongin closer to him though, lying back onto the couch and wrapping his arms around him securely and Jongin stares down at him with what is clearly love in his eyes.

“The point is that, you can do whatever you put your mind to, Chanyeol. Maybe this job isn’t what you were looking for in the beginning, but it can’t hurt, right? To give it a shot? And if it sucks, then that’s okay, too,” Jongin says and everything he’s saying makes so much sense and makes all the uncertainties lingering in Chanyeol’s mind seem so pathetic. “You’ll figure something out. We’ll figure it out together.”

“Together sounds nice,” Chanyeol says.

“It does, doesn’t it?” Jongin grins and Chanyeol might not know exactly what he’s going to do yet, but hearing Jongin’s support means more than he could ever express. He hopes maybe he gets that across to Jongin as he hugs him tighter and presses a small kiss to the curve of his jaw. Jongin laughs cutely and draws back, grabbing each of Chanyeol’s hands in his own and hauling him up with him. “Come on, let’s sleep, okay?”

“Okay,” Chanyeol agrees, dutifully following Jongin into his room. Jongin tends to be messier than Chanyeol, so they end up sleeping in Chanyeol’s room a lot, which Chanyeol doesn’t mind in the slightest. Jongin curls up into his side just right and Chanyeol runs a hand gently down his arm. “Hey,” he says quietly, barely making out Jongin’s face in the darkness. “You said you loved me.”

Jongin feigns innocence, “Did I?”

Chanyeol hums the affirmative and Jongin’s breathy laughter tickles his chin. “I love you, too,” he says, and wow, does it feel good to finally, finally say that to Jongin out loud. He squeezes Jongin lightly, lets out a relaxed, happy sigh and closes his eyes. “I really love you.”

Jongin’s fingers brush through his hair, soft and gentle. “Go to sleep, hyung,” he says, voice knowing, and Chanyeol lets everything that is bogging him down slowly vanish at Jongin’s touch and Jongin’s warmth and the way Jongin sounded when he said that he loved him.

-

Chanyeol sends in his resume and information for the job that Monday and he’s still jittery nervous about it by that afternoon when he meets Yura for a late lunch.

“I’m proud of you baby brother,” she says when he tells her about it. “You never know what will happen unless you try, and sometimes just putting yourself out there is the scariest part.”

“Tell me about it,” he mumbles, but he’s smiling. He’s still uncertain about everything, but whenever he gets too lost in his insecurity, he remembers Jongin’s words to him from a few days ago. That it’s okay to not know, that if things don’t work out, that’s okay, too. That he’s not alone, and that Jongin will be there, so they can get through everything together. Thinking about all that makes it better, and Chanyeol focuses on that so he doesn’t spend too much time dwelling on things he has no control over.

“Things will work out, you’ll see,” Yura says wisely, grinning back at him. “Look at how everything turned out with you and Jongin. How is he, by the way?”

“He’s good,” Chanyeol says, and he feels a little embarrassed flush creep up his neck. “He’s...he’s really great, and you’re right, that did all work out, didn’t it?”

“About time, too,” Yura teases and Chanyeol laughs, because she’s not wrong. "You've been into him for a long time, haven't you?" When Chanyeol blinks in surprise she smirks. "Sisters always know!"

Chanyeol laughs again, shaking his head in amusement. "Sure, whatever you say."

"Bring Jongin along next time, okay?" she says when they part ways. "I haven't seen him in ages."

"Sure," Chanyeol grins, "Maybe after Chuseok?"

"Perfect! I’ll see you at home then in a few days, right?" Yura says and Chanyeol confirms with a nod. In the haze of everything else that’s happened within the past few weeks, Chanyeol had practically forgotten about the holiday, only reminded when his mother called last night to ask him about it. He always goes home for Chuseok, but he thinks it might feel a little different this year, now that he and Jongin are together. A different kind of longing.

Chanyeol waves goodbye to Yura at the next crosswalk as they head their separate ways. He’s in a good mood; it’s been awhile since he’s had a chance to meet up with Yura and she’s given him more to think about in regards to finding a new job and generally boosting his morale. He’s so distracted thinking about their conversation that he nearly trips over his feet in the middle of the sidewalk when his phone suddenly vibrates in his pocket.

zzzz is the message from Jongin. this meeting is going on for so long! i might be late coming home :( what’re u up to?

Just met up with Yura for a late lunch! She wants to see you sometime soon, too, Chanyeol types back as he carefully heads down the crowded sidewalk. Don’t fall asleep!! I’ll make something for you to eat, even if you’re late!

Chanyeol can just hear Jongin’s whiny voice in his response: but i’m so tired :( Two seconds later, he follows up with spaghetti!! and Chanyeol laughs, even as he mentally thinks about whether they even have the ingredients at home to make that.

Just a few hours left in the day, you can do it! :D And sure, spaghetti it is!

i love u (´ε` )

Chanyeol flushes at the message and the silly kissing emoticon, wishes Jongin was around so he could have one for real. Instead he just grins at his screen before pocketing his phone and decides to stop at the supermarket on the way home to pick up a few things to make dinner.

Jongin doesn’t get home until nearly two hours later than usual, looking sleepy as he stumbles in through the door. He smiles at Chanyeol though when he finds him on the couch, and lets Chanyeol reach up to draw him into a kiss. “Long day, baby?”

Jongin flushes cutely at the endearment but nods and clings to Chanyeol’s shoulder, pressing his face into the crook of his neck. “The longest,” he says and Chanyeol pats his back before planting a kiss to his forehead.

“Go wash up and I’ll reheat the spaghetti for you,” Chanyeol says and Jongin nods, taking longer than necessary to drag himself away from Chanyeol and down the hall. Chanyeol watches him go until he disappears into the bathroom, then heads for the kitchen. Jongin wanders in twenty minutes later, freshly showered and wearing one of Chanyeol’s shirts again. He’s started doing that a lot lately, but Chanyeol likes how he looks in them; a little too big for his smaller frame and so adorable.

“Chuseok is next week,” Chanyeol says when they’re sitting together on the couch, Jongin with a bowl of spaghetti in his hands and his feet propped up over Chanyeol’s lap. “You’re going home, yeah?”

Jongin nods, cheeks puffed up cutely as he chews. “Yeah,” he confirms after a moment. “That reminds me, my mom wants you to come over for dinner sometime after.”

“Oh no, is this the dreaded meet-the-parents dinner?”

Jongin laughs, half-heartedly smacks Chanyeol’s shoulder with the back of his hand. “You met my parents years ago!”

“Yeah, but it’s different now that I’m going as your boyfriend,” Chanyeol mutters, sliding the hand he has resting on Jongin’s knee gently up his thigh. He frowns, looks at Jongin and questions, “Does your mom even like me?”

“Are you kidding?” Jongin snorts. “You feed me so she basically thinks you’re a saint.” He lifts the bowl in his hands as if to prove his point and Chanyeol slumps back against the couch with a laugh.

“Crisis averted then,” he says, grinning, and leans into swiftly lick the tiny bit of sauce stuck to the corner of Jongin’s mouth with his tongue, and lets Jongin follow it up with a kiss.

It is nice to go home for Chuseok; Chanyeol enjoys spending time with his family and although he talks to them often, he hasn’t had a chance to stop by in awhile. His mother and Yura grill him about work and about Jongin and Chanyeol is a little embarrassed to discuss the latter when they complain that he should have told them about it all sooner. He’s thankful when his dad pulls him away to talk about music and movies and things that let Chanyeol push aside the heavier worries weighing inside. He knows he probably won’t hear back from Yonhap until after the holiday, so he tries hard not to dwell on it and instead laughs with his family over moon cakes and his mother’s best dishes.

Jongin messages him a lot, pictures of his puppies on kakaotalk and anecdotes of his time at home. Apparently his sisters are much like Yura and Chanyeol’s mother, and Jongin had to lock himself in his room with his poodles for a few hours until they left him alone.

family is so troublesome, Jongin writes but he follows it up with a photo of him and his sisters all smushed into the screen and one of Jongin’s dogs, Jjangah, Chanyeol thinks, trying to climb up his chest. It makes him laugh and miss Jongin a lot, which is kind of ridiculous since it’s not like they’re even that far apart or that the holiday lasts that long.

Jjangah is so cute! Chanyeol sends back, and he’s barely put his phone away when Jongin texts him back.

what about me :(

Chanyeol laughs, thinks about his response for a moment before typing it up. He can tell Yura is smirking at him knowingly from the couch so he sends it off quickly. I don’t know. I guess you’re okay. :P

He sets his phone down on the coffee table and ignores Yura when she laughs, “Jongin?” He pretends not to know what she’s talking about and squawks in surprise as she bounds over to him and ruffles his hair aggressively. “You see Jongin all the time and you can’t take a break to spend with your own family?”

“Stop! Stop!” Chanyeol exclaims, trying to fight her away while he hears his parents laugh from the kitchen. He’s grinning widely as Yura lets go off him and he swats at her with a couch pillow before running to the kitchen to hide.

He spends the evening helping his mother cook dinner and relaxing with his family. By the time he glances at his phone again, he’s ready for bed and he has two messages from Jongin.

yeah well you’re nothing special either!!

let’s get dinner tomorrow, okay? a date!

Chanyeol smiles up at the message, holding his phone above his head as he lies back in bed. His heart feels warm and he’s already excited to go on another date.

Whatever you want, Jongin. ♥

-

Chanyeol gets a call back from Baekhyun’s friend at Yonhap two days after Chuseok. It’s perfect timing really, like maybe this Kim Jonghyun knew just exactly when Chanyeol was allowed to take his break.

“I hope I’m not catching you at a bad time,” Jonghyun says and he laughs when Chanyeol hastily says he’s on a break so it’s okay. “Good! I’ve heard a lot about you from Baekhyun and I had a chance to look over your resume the other day.”

“I’m sorry about Baekhyun, really, he can be overly enthusiastic sometimes,” Chanyeol says, wondering what Baekhyun has told him, if he’s been hyping Chanyeol up much more than necessary.

“You shouldn’t be,” Jonghyun says and Chanyeol feels a sudden glimmer of hope. “Your resume is good and it seems like, from what Baekhyun has told us as well, that you would be a great fit at Yonhap.”

Chanyeol has to refrain from exclaiming really?! at the top of his lungs. Instead he quickly calms himself down and says, “I-I’m glad to hear that.”

Jonghyun laughs again, the sound almost approving. “We’d like to have you come in for an interview sometime within the next week. Talk to you in person about the position a little more. If you’re interested still, of course.”

“I am!” Chanyeol says, probably a little too quickly. He cringes at himself; and he was calling Baekhyun overly enthusiastic. “I mean, yes, I would like that very much.”

“Great!” Jonghyun says happily. “What would work the best for you, Chanyeol-ssi?”

They take a few minutes to set up the best day -- Monday at nine in the morning -- and Chanyeol thanks Jonghyun more times than is probably necessary before he hangs up, shocked and a little overwhelmed. He’d been almost certain that this wouldn’t work out, that they wouldn’t want to interview him at all, but Jonghyun had seemed genuinely interested in Chanyeol and eager to meet with him so Chanyeol starts to believe that maybe, just maybe, this might work out.

He tells Minseok about it afterward and Minseok heaves a deep sigh and says, “So the time is coming, huh? You’re getting a better job and leaving this place behind.”

“So dramatic, hyung,” Chanyeol laughs, patting his shoulder. “It’s just an interview.”

And that’s what he keeps telling himself over the next few days as he prepares for it and simultaneously tries to forget about it so he doesn’t spend every waking moment thinking about it. None of that works very well, but he has to admit he is much more excited about this opportunity than he has been about any other ever since the KIST job fell through.

“You’re going to be amazing,” Jongin says the night before Chanyeol’s interview. “You were so sure they wouldn’t call you back but they must be interested enough to ask for an interview.”

“Maybe they’re just doing it as a favor to Baekhyun,” Chanyeol says as he washes the dishes they used for dinner. It’s somehow calming in his state of anxiety for tomorrow.

Jongin, sitting up on the counter, aims a good kick to Chanyeol’s ass. “Shut up,” he says reproachfully. “You’re not usually this insecure, are you okay? You’ve spent the past few days reading up about the company and talking to Baekhyun about them--why are you so worried?”

Chanyeol sighs heavily, sets aside a newly washed plate. “I’m just nervous,” he admits after a moment, shoulders slumping. He stares down at the soapy water in the sink so he can’t catch the way Jongin is looking at him. “What if this doesn’t work out? Then I’ll have to keep looking all over again and it’s so exhausting, you know, having to find something--”

His words are cut off by Jongin suddenly grabbing his elbow and yanking him the few steps over to where he’s sitting. Chanyeol’s eyes widen just as Jongin cups his face in his hands and swoops into kiss him, effectively shutting him up and nearly letting the wet cup in Chanyeol’s hands fall to the floor.

“Stop it,” Jongin laughs when they pull apart. “You haven’t even had your interview yet and you’re already beating yourself up over this.” Jongin plants another kiss to his lips. “It’s going to be fine.”

“I’m kind of a mess, aren’t I?” Chanyeol says sheepishly as he pulls back, setting the cup back into the sink and wiping his hands off on the kitchen towel hanging from the oven door handle.

“Maybe a little,” Jongin agrees, making a little space in the air between two fingers. He slides off the counter then and wraps his arms around Chanyeol’s waist, fingers slowly trailing up his back and grins at the immediate gasp that Chanyeol lets out. “Do you want a distraction?”

It’s clear in the low sound of his voice and the brightness of his eyes what he’s offering but still Chanyeol laughs and says, “Depends on what kind of distraction.”

Jongin kisses him hard, Chanyeol’s breath catching in his throat as Jongin holds him close and Chanyeol can only grab onto his hips to steady himself and kiss back. It’s instantaneous how he forgets everything that has been weighing him down, all about his interview and the uncertain future, and focuses entirely on Jongin. He pushes Jongin into the nearest counter, leaning into him as Jongin’s hands slip up into his hair and his teeth graze just briefly across his lower lip. The sigh Jongin lets out when Chanyeol works his tongue into his mouth is delicious, and he wants to pull more sounds from him, wants to feel even more of him.

It’s Jongin who breaks off to suggest, “Bedroom?” with a small smirk at the corner of his mouth that Chanyeol promptly kisses off.

“Yes,” he says, and lets Jongin grab his hand and drag him down the hall. They end up in Chanyeol’s room, falling into bed and Jongin’s laughter filling up the room as he pulls Chanyeol atop of him. It’s easy to settle in together like this, hands sliding up shirts as their mouths find each other again, Chanyeol’s heart beating loudly in his ears and Jongin’s tiny trembles under his touch.

Jongin tugs Chanyeol’s shirt off first, pulling out of a kiss to drag it over his head. It falls to the floor as his fingers lightly brush up Chanyeol’s stomach and chest, slow and teasing and Chanyeol huffs out a laugh into the crook of his neck. It kind of tickles a little but also doesn’t fail to send shocks of pleasure to his groin, arousal steadily building as Jongin kisses his way down the length of his neck.

In an effort to take some control, Chanyeol reluctantly forces himself back so he can pull off the thin sweater Jongin is wearing and toss it somewhere behind him. There’s a clatter and Jongin is laughing, but Chanyeol figures whatever it is that fell is infinitely less important than the warm blush across Jongin’s chest and the sound of his voice as he laughs into his hand. It dies down almost immediately into a soft sort of groan when Chanyeol pops open the button his jeans and tugs the zipper down. He leans in and presses his lips against the sharpness of Jongin’s collarbone, enjoys the sigh Jongin releases as he laves his tongue across the skin and pulls his jeans down his hips.

Jongin lifts himself up to make it easier and Chanyeol chuckles as Jongin reaches down to help him strip out of his underwear, too. He lies naked in Chanyeol’s bed, staring up at him imploringly when Chanyeol draws back, and he looks so good like this, flush and open and beautiful. Chanyeol licks his lips and grins, and Jongin sits up so he can get closer, smiling just as widely as he wraps his arms around Chanyeol’s shoulders and kisses him again.

“Touch me,” Jongin murmurs in the brief second they break apart for air and Chanyeol doesn’t hesitate to comply, pushing Jongin back against the sheets and slipping a hand between their bodies.

Jongin groans at the first touch and Chanyeol has learned over the two weeks that they’ve been together that he’s surprisingly vocal in bed. Chanyeol loves that, though, loves drawing every sound he can out of Jongin’s pretty mouth, loves seeing just what makes him react.

He sucks a mark into Jongin's chest as he rubs his thumb over the head of his cock, smearing the precome that's gathered there over the skin and making the glide of his hand smoother. Jongin grips at his shoulders, his body arching into the touch and Chanyeol takes one look up at his face, eyes fluttering shut and mouth open, before he slips down and licks straight up the underside of Jongin's dick. Jongin gasps loudly in surprise, eyes opening wide and Chanyeol laughs into his thigh, feels him quiver under his hands.

"Is this okay?" Chanyeol asks and Jongin gives him a look as if to say are you an idiot? Chanyeol grins, twists his hand up his length again and Jongin jerks into it.

"Yes, yes, Chanyeol, of course it's okay," Jongin says, reaching out to delve his hands into Chanyeol's hair and pull him back to his dick. Chanyeol kisses the flat of his stomach just to hear Jongin's impatient hiss before giving him what he wants. He'd given Jongin a blowjob the night before they'd gone home for Chuseok and he tries to remember the little things that made him come undone. Chanyeol swirls his tongue around the head, strokes the base and slowly sucks down until his lips meet his fingers. Jongin groans, tugging at his hair, and Chanyeol easily grabs his hips to keep him still, reminded of how much Jongin moves instinctively for more.

When Chanyeol pulls off to gasp for breath Jongin is instantly dragging him up and sealing their mouths together. Chanyeol's amused laugh is swallowed up by Jongin's mouth and his hand still wrapped around the base of Jongin's cock strokes faster and faster. It doesn't take much for Jongin to get worked up, pushing at Chanyeol's chest as he says, "Wait--Wait, stop."

Chanyeol pulls back, giving him one last stroke and smirking at how Jongin shudders and kicks out at him in retaliation. He lets go, lets his hands gently brush down his thighs and Jongin stares up at him, eyes so clear and chest heaving, and Chanyeol leans into say, "You're so hot," against Jongin's lips.

Jongin laughs breathlessly, hands tangling into Chanyeol's hair as they kiss once, twice, three times, short and sweet, and Jongin says, "I want you to fuck me."

Chanyeol swallows thickly. "Yeah?" he says. His voice still comes out all strangled and Jongin's lips quirk.

"Please," he says, pushes his hips up against Chanyeol's, their erections brushing together even though Chanyeol's jeans.

"Okay," Chanyeol says, in between quick kisses, "Okay." He gives Jongin's side a light stroke before drawing away. He rolls off to the side and rummages through the drawer in the bedside table and lets out a small noise of triumph when he finds the lube. His face falls within in the next second though. "Shit, I don't think I have any condoms."

Jongin chuckles, swats lightly at Chanyeol's arm as if in reprimand for not being prepared. "Check my room," he says, taking the lube from Chanyeol's hand. "My wallet, in my work bag, I think I have some."

Chanyeol sweeps in for a quick kiss before he darts off to do just that, Jongin's laughter following him down the hall. His bag is out on his bed and Chanyeol practically upends the whole thing in search for his wallet; it flops out easily between folders of papers and notes and Chanyeol finds a condom within the flaps quickly enough.

He almost trips over his own feet in his haste to get back, his arousal just about screaming at him, only to stop dead in his tracks at the doorway of his room, eyes widening at the sight of Jongin slowly prepping himself. "Fuck," Chanyeol groans, drinking in every inch of Jongin's body and smirk to his lips when he glances at him under sweaty bangs. He pushes in a second finger and Chanyeol's mouth goes a little slack at how his thighs tense and his hips roll down for more.

"Are you just going to stand there and watch or what?" Jongin says, slipping his fingers out and wiping the residual lube on his thigh and, fuck, that shouldn't be as hot as it is.

"I don't know," Chanyeol says as lightly as he can manage when his voice comes out more like a croak. "The view isn't so bad."

Jongin rolls his eyes and reaches out a hand towards him. "Come here," he chides and Chanyeol goes, lets Jongin grab the waist of his jeans and tug him down so he practically falls on top of him.

He kisses him, then, deep and promising, and says afterward, "Next time you can watch all you want. For now, I really just want you." Jongin smiles beautifully at him, slides their mouths together again. "You don't know how much I've been thinking about this."

Chanyeol sighs into his lips, slips a hand up to cup the side of Jongin's face. "I think I might have an idea," he says before closing the space between them again.

Chanyeol's heart beats loudly in his chest as they kiss, rushed and almost desperate now, as things get even more heated. He thinks he could stay here forever like this, just lying together with Jongin and kissing him, feeling his hands slide up his back and his lips move so perfectly against his. Everything feels right like this, so good, and Chanyeol is still a little amazed they've made it here. He's wanted this for so long.

He's shocked out of his thoughts when Jongin suddenly hooks his foot around Chanyeol's leg and manages to roll them straight over in bed, Chanyeol's back hitting the mattress with a low thump and his eyes widening in surprise up at Jongin who smirks. "Just stay like this, okay?" he says and Chanyeol can only manage a nod as Jongin starts to hastily undo his jeans and drag them down his legs with his underwear. Chanyeol breathes out a sigh at the pressure around his cock disappearing, reaches down to stroke himself lightly a few times. Jongin stares him, much the same way Chanyeol must have watched him finger himself earlier, and that has him instantly reaching for the tube that's rolled toward the edge of the bed.

He coats his fingers with them and grabs Jongin's elbow with his other hand, pulls him up to straddle his hips. Jongin nods at him from above and Chanyeol slips his fingers behind him to press into him. He's slick from earlier but still wonderfully tight, and Chanyeol works two fingers in gently until Jongin grunts, "More, hyung, you don't have to be so careful."

"Christ," Chanyeol says, but does as he's told, fucking into him with his fingers harder, deeper, and adding a third when Jongin lets out a heady moan and scratches his nails down Chanyeol's chest.

"Please, please," Jongin whines, rocking his hips down onto Chanyeol's hand, and Chanyeol reaches out with this free hand to hold tightly at the base of Jongin's cock. He doesn't want him to come yet, not yet, not until Chanyeol has pushed his dick inside and felt him envelop him completely.

"Can I--now?" Chanyeol grits out, his words all sort of melding together in the haze of his arousal.

"Do it," Jongin says, urgently, pleading, and Chanyeol releases him entirely so he can grab the condom he'd set aside. His slick fingers make it difficult to open and he grumbles in frustration until Jongin snags it from him and rips open the packaging. He rolls it down onto Chanyeol's cock for him, too, and Chanyeol has to bite his tongue to keep from groaning out too loud. It's the first time Jongin's touched him all night and he doesn't want to fucking come before they even do anything.

Jongin slicks Chanyeol's cock up with a little more lube before he settles atop of him. Chanyeol's cock brushes up against the curve of his ass and Chanyeol forces himself to stay still, hands on Jongin's hips to steady him, as Jongin slowly, so slowly, sinks down.

"Fuck, fuck, fuck," Chanyeol says, his eyes clenching tight instinctively and head falling back onto the pillows as the hot, overwhelming heat of Jongin's body wraps around him. It's better than anything he could've ever imagined, and when he hears Jongin's soft whine he flicks his eyes open and is amazed by what he sees. Jongin, settled on his cock, leaning back slightly with a hand on Chanyeol's knee, head hanging down, his hair shielding his face. Still, he looks fucking wonderful, body all taut and flushed, and Chanyeol lets go of a hand at Jongin's hip to brush his hair back. "Hey, look at me."

Jongin lifts his head and his gaze is so intense, so full of love and want, and Chanyeol rises up to kiss him. The movement shifts his cock inside of Jongin and they both moan, before Jongin pushes him back down and says, "Let me."

If Jongin wants to take control, Chanyeol is not going to complain. He settles back and watches with awe as Jongin lifts himself up and slams back down, hissing between his teeth at the sensation. Chanyeol grips his hips again, and it’s almost more for himself, to have something to hold onto, to steady him, as it is to steady Jongin, and moans from deep in his chest at how amazing Jongin feels around him.

Chanyeol breathes out, "You feel so good, Jongin, I--" and his words melt into a moan as Jongin clenched tighter around him. His hips instinctively jerk up, pushing harder into him, and Jongin makes a delightful keening noise, a hand pressing down in the middle of Chanyeol's chest to balance.

He laughs, rides Chanyeol faster and says, "Why'd we wait so long to do this?"

"Clearly, we like to draw things out," Chanyeol returns to another peal of laughter, which quickly becomes a low, beautiful moan, Jongin's eyes fluttering shut as his rhythm gets more erratic.

Chanyeol grasps Jongin's erection with a hand and pulls him down with the other to kiss him, his deep sounds of pleasure disappearing into Chanyeol's mouth. He can tell that Jongin is close and Chanyeol doesn't think he will last that much longer himself, but he wants to get Jongin off first, feel him around him when he comes.

"Are you close?" he asks and Jongin nods, hair flitting around his face and Chanyeol swipes back the bangs that are sticking to his forehead, let's his fingers trail down the slope of his cheek and the sharp jut of his jaw. Jongin sucks in a breath and Chanyeol asks, "What do you want?"

There's momentary confusion in Jongin's eyes but then he understands, a soft smile stretching across his lips. "Fuck me harder, Chanyeol," he says, leaning in again. "Make me come."

Chanyeol kisses him fiercely as he thrusts up, harder just like Jongin wants, pushing against his prostate with nearly every move. Jongin starts to jerk himself off now, matching Chanyeol’s pace and Chanyeol continues to gently trace his fingers down Jongin’s body, taking in the way his breath comes out in short gasps and his eyes never once leave Chanyeol’s. “Jongin,” he whispers quietly, suddenly full to the brim with emotion, with an aching kind of love that has his body burning, and Jongin surges forward to kiss him, hands sinking into Chanyeol’s hair, grasping tightly just as his muscles clamp down around Chanyeol and he comes.

Jongin shudders through it all, and Chanyeol has to break their kiss to gasp for breath as Jongin tightens around his dick. He only manages a few shaky thrusts before he follows, moaning deeply until Jongin kisses him again and again in quick succession. It ends up pulling a laugh from him instead, happy and sated, and he wraps his arms around Jongin’s back as a grin threatens to split his face.

Jongin is smiling too, as he slips off of Chanyeol’s lap and flops down onto the bed, stretching his arms over his chest and yawning like a cat. So cute, Chanyeol thinks, dropping a kiss to his forehead before he rolls out of bed to discard the condom in the trash. He reaches out with his hands, making clawing motions in the air, to get Chanyeol back in and Chanyeol slips his fingers into Jongin’s and lets himself be tugged into bed, Jongin curling into him.

“That was fun,” Jongin says lightly and Chanyeol barks out a laugh.

“I love you,” Chanyeol says and Jongin makes this sort of rumbling sound of happiness that Chanyeol can practically feel, they’re pressed together so close.

“I love you, too,” he replies, his voice soft and a little sleepy, and sure enough, when Chanyeol glances down at his face, his eyes are closed and his breathing starts to even out.

Chanyeol rubs his hand down Jongin’s back slowly and after a long moment of silence, he asks, “How long was it for you?”

“Huh?” Jongin mumbles tiredly.

“You asked me awhile ago, how long I liked you,” Chanyeol clarifies and Jongin pulls back just enough to look up at him. “But you’ve never said how long it was for you.”

Jongin purses his lips in thought and Chanyeol considers just letting him off the hook, but he’s wanted to know, for awhile now. It’s not as if Jongin’s answer will change anything, but Chanyeol is just curious. “I’m not really sure,” Jongin murmurs eventually. “It’s like I just sort of fell for you without realizing it?” He licks his lips slowly, contemplative, and traces a finger in circles around Chanyeol’s shoulder. “You were always around, and then we moved in together and I liked how you took care of me and liked how hard you worked.”

Chanyeol gives him a quick kiss, a reassurance that it doesn’t matter to Chanyeol that he doesn’t really know. And it doesn’t. Chanyeol is just happy that Jongin loves him at all, that they’re together like this right now, that Jongin wants to be.

“It’s not as long as you’ve liked me,” Jongin admits. “I still can’t believe that, either, sometimes, you know.”

“I’m very resolute in my love,” Chanyeol says seriously and Jongin snorts, swats at his chest lightly.

“Eventually I just couldn't imagine being with anyone else, I guess. Or, you know, something that sounds less cheesy than that,” Jongin says with a groan and he tries to hide his face in the crook of Chanyeol’s shoulders, but Chanyeol isn’t having any of that.

He rolls on top of him, taking his face in his hands and kisses him again, soundly on the mouth. Jongin relaxes instantly, kissing back with even more fervor, and when they part Chanyeol says, “Thanks for telling me.”

Jongin grins and Chanyeol slides back down beside him. Jongin wraps an arm over his waist and snuggles in closer, closing his eyes, and Chanyeol kisses the top of his head as he settles down to sleep, too, feeling warm and so, so content.

-

It’s been a long time since Chanyeol has spent a weekday morning with Jongin. Usually, he’s up and out of the apartment before Jongin is awake, so it’s nice, that Monday, to start the day off with soft kisses and Jongin making a quick breakfast for them to enjoy before they both head out. It keeps Chanyeol’s mind off of the interview a bit, and Jongin’s sneaking kisses in between brushing their teeth and throwing on clothes makes him ridiculously happy. It’s like he doesn’t have it in him to be nervous.

Chanyeol is definitely fine with that. They sit together at the dining table and munch on burned toast, which is more Chanyeol’s fault for distracting Jongin by kissing him against the fridge than it is Jongin’s, and runny eggs. Jongin looks adorably tired still, because even though he loves his job, he’s still practically incapable of waking up in the mornings.

Though it seems he’s alert enough to tease Chanyeol about his complete failure at knotting up his tie around his neck. Jongin laughs, swatting Chanyeol’s hands away, and says, “Who taught you how to do this?”

“My whole family tried, but it just never stuck,” Chanyeol laments, but he smiles as Jongin focuses on slipping the black tie around and presses it up against the hollow of his neck.

“There,” he says when he finishes, smoothing it out, before he leans up to catch a quick kiss, surprising Chanyeol. Jongin grins at him before he ducks away, grabbing his own things and pulling his shoes on at the doorway.

They part ways on the street, and Jongin squeezes his wrist briefly and says, “Good luck, hyung.” It’s all Chanyeol needs to push back the anxiety that’s started to bubble up inside him again. He wishes he could kiss Jongin in response, but instead just grins at him and says, “Thank you, Jonginnie.”

Jongin’s bright smile stays in his mind as a sort of mental reassurance and Chanyeol comes out of the interview at Yonhap later that morning feeling much more confident than when he went in. Jonghyun was as nice and easy to talk to as he was on the phone and made Chanyeol feel a lot more comfortable even as he was nervous as fuck inside. The company itself sounds even more fun than everything Baekhyun told him about it, and he’s excited for the position, for the opportunity to work there. Of course, all he can do now is wait to hear back, which is always the worst part.

“I could help distract you some more,” Jongin teases when Chanyeol talks to him on his lunch break. “I think it worked quite well last night.”

Chanyeol laughs. “I don’t think we need the excuse of distraction anymore, honestly,” he says and Jongin snickers on the other end. “I’m okay though, Jongin. I--I feel better about everything than when I had my interview for KIST.”

“Good,” Jongin says. “You should be. Things will work out, hyung.”

“I know,” Chanyeol says, because he’s finally starting to understand that, yes, it will.

Chanyeol stays late that day at the cafe to make up for the time he missed that morning for his interview, and by the time he gets home, Jongin is already there. Surprisingly, so is Zitao and Sehun, who have Jongin squashed between them on the couch and raising bottles of beer at him when he walks in.

“You guys realize it’s a Monday, right?” Chanyeol laughs, even as he takes the bottle Sehun hands him after he’s shrugged out of his sweatshirt and jammed his snapback onto Jongin’s head.

“I just got back from Tokyo, so I wanted to come and say hi,” Zitao says with a slight pout. He reaches out and pulls Chanyeol down to the couch between himself and Jongin.

“I’m here to spice up your undoubtedly boring life,” Sehun adds as he channel surfs and doesn’t look at any of them. “It’s like I haven’t heard from either of you since you got together either, what the fuck.”

“Well, after you ruined our first date, can you blame us?” Jongin says, nudges him in the side with an elbow.

“You say ruined and I say greatly improved,” Sehun retorts before he takes a sip of his beer, only to have Jongin jam him with his elbow again and spluttering beer down his front.

They all laugh as Sehun jerks up from the couch, frowning angrily at Jongin and threatens to dump the rest of his beer on him. Chanyeol throws an arm around Jongin’s shoulder and tries to shield him, shooing Sehun to the bathroom to clean up. He gives them all one last displeased look before he goes, grumbling the whole way.

“I heard you had an interview today, hyung,” Zitao says. “How’d it go?”

“It was good, really good,” Chanyeol says, grinning. He takes a swig of his beer and it’s satisfying after a long day, after the unease of his interview that morning. He feels pretty great right now. “How was Tokyo?”

“Amazing,” Zitao gushes. “Wait until you see the new collection I’m working on, it’ll be even better than the first.”

“One would only hope,” Jongin says, and Zitao reaches around Chanyeol to swat at his shoulder. Jongin’s laughter fills up the apartment and Sehun walks back in a few seconds later to a light tussle on the couch, with Chanyeol somehow stuck in the middle.

He takes one look at them and says, “So, who’s hungry?”

They end up ordering a few pies from Mr. Pizza and somehow let Zitao pick the movie, which is some loud Chinese action film that they all get a little too into. Chanyeol has long since forgotten all about his interview, all about the anxious weight in his stomach, and settles into the happiness that is his friends laughing abound him and Jongin sitting next to him, his hand in his.

-

“You know, I did always think that maybe you guys had something for each other,” Jongdae muses, glancing from Chanyeol over to where Jongin is on the other side of the room, talking with Soojung and her daughter.

“Shut up, you did not,” Lu Han laughs, shoving Jongdae lightly as Chanyeol rolls his eyes. “You kept insisting Jongin was still into Taemin for the longest time.”

“Okay, fine,” Jongdae grumbles. “Maybe not. But now that I think about it, I don’t know how I missed it. There were so many clues.”

“I’m just glad we weren’t obvious to everyone, like Kyungsoo kept saying we were,” Chanyeol says, flushing a little. “That was upsetting.”

“If only you’d been obvious to each other,” Lu Han says, smirking with amusement. “Could’ve saved a lot of trouble.”

“Things worked out in the end,” Chanyeol says, grinning at Jongin when he glances over in their direction. Jongin waves back before his attention is drawn away by some of the other kids. It’s a birthday party for Lu Han’s daughter, and Jongin had dragged Chanyeol to Lotte Mart that morning to find the perfect gift. It’d kind of felt like a date again, getting distracted by clothes for themselves that they don’t need and an amazing bass guitar that Chanyeol stared at sadly for ten minutes before Jongin pulled him away.

They cooked lunch together back home after finding the perfect present, Chanyeol wrapping a bandage around Jongin’s finger and pressing a tiny kiss to it when he accidentally cuts it while chopping vegetables. “Why don’t I take over?” he said and Jongin pouted but handed over the knife and decided to pull out bowls and utensils instead.

It’d been a good afternoon but Chanyeol’s glad to see some his friends, especially since it’s been awhile since he’s seen Lu Han especially. Lu Han is busy running around the place though, giving him and Jongdae a quick goodbye to help his wife pull out the cake from the fridge and watching his daughter with fond eyes and a wide smile that Sehun would poke fun at if he were here. Chanyeol glances at Jongin and teases, “So when are you gonna have to start doing all this?”

Jongdae snorts around or his cup of punch. “Hopefully not for another few long years. God, we haven’t even gotten married yet. One step at a time.”

“Hey, some people do it backwards, you never know what could happen.”

“Joohyun would kill me if that happened,” Jongdae says with a laugh but they both know she actually might try. “I’m happy enough spoiling Lu Han’s kid right now.”

“I’m sure she appreciates it, too,” Chanyeol agrees, eyeing the massive pile of gifts in the corner.

They gather around to sing happy birthday to her a few minutes later, and Jongin reappears at Chanyeol’s side out of nowhere, clapping and cheering as loudly as the group of children peering over the sides of the table. Chanyeol throws an arm around his shoulders, laughing with everyone as Mei smears frosting all over Lu Han’s face and Yixing comes up behind him with his camera to film it. Jia quickly stops Lu Han from trying to retaliate and accidentally cause a massive food fight, and Chanyeol lets Jongin draw him away from the surge of children screaming for cake.

“Don’t you have to head to work soon?” Jongin asks and Chanyeol curses, remembering suddenly that he indeed does have a shift at the cafe before his night at the station.

He pulls his phone out from his pocket to check the time and it’s not too late, but he should probably get going. “Thanks for reminding me,” Chanyeol says with a sigh, running a hand through his hair. He heads back over to say a quick goodbye to Mei and her parents. Lu Han pats his back and thrusts a piece of cake on a small paper plate into his hands; he still has frosting all over his nose. He can’t quite find Jongdae or Minseok anywhere to say goodbye to, so he heads for the door, realizing that it’ll probably be Heechul on manager duty at the cafe tonight, which will make Chanyeol’s shift feel even longer than usual.

Jongin is waiting at the door for him, already dressed in his shoes and light jacket. He’s holding Chanyeol’s out for him with a smile and says, when Chanyeol raises his brows at him expectantly, “I wanted to go with you.”

“And what? Watch me work?” Chanyeol laughs, amused.

“No, to get free drinks, of course,” Jongin replies like it should be the most obvious thing in the world.

“Yeah, and who says you’re going to get any?” Chanyeol says as they head down the street. “I’m a model employee, I’ll have you know. I don’t just give out drinks to anyone.”

“Don’t I get a special boyfriend discount?” Jongin teases, bumping his shoulder into Chanyeol’s lightly, and Chanyeol’s heart skips a beat like it still does whenever Jongin, or anyone really, uses the word boyfriend.

Chanyeol turns to look at him, Jongin smiling at him widely and his hair blowing all over the place from the wind. “Well, maybe I can make an exception,” he says after a moment, like he’s really thinking about it. “Because you’re so cute.”

“I am not,” Jongin grumbles almost instantly, even as the smile fights to stay on his face.

“You are to me,” Chanyeol says, squeezing him quickly to his side. “My Jonginnie.”

Jongin groans, out of embarrassment or annoyance Chanyeol isn’t sure, but he laughs anyway when Jongin tries to shove him off the sidewalk and then pulls him back in a second later. He lets his hand linger around Chanyeol’s wrist for a moment before pulling away and Chanyeol thinks maybe he quite likes the sound of that endearment as much as Chanyeol does.

-

“Here, let me take that for you,” Chanyeol says, quickly reaching out to grab the dish from Jongin’s mother.

She smiles at him and pats his cheek. “Thank you, dear. Just set it down on the table somewhere,” she says and he heads over to set the dish onto the table, making a little more space by pushing another aside.

“Being helpful I see,” Jongin says, popping up beside him and nearly scaring the shit out of Chanyeol. He snickers at Chanyeol’s reaction but then leans up to kiss his cheek as an apology.

“Just being nice,” Chanyeol replies.

“Exactly, Jongin,” Jongin’s older sister says as she passes by. “Instead you come home and end up on the floor with the puppies.”

“Hey, I haven’t seen my kids in weeks!” Jongin exclaims, pouting at his sister who rolls her eyes. Jongin’s attention is easily taken away by Monggu who comes to his feet and barks softly, his pout spreading into a wide grin as he drops down to the floor right beside the dining table to play with him.

“Hopeless,” Jongin’s sister says and Chanyeol laughs, pets Jongin’s head like he’s a puppy himself before heading back into the kitchen.

“What else can I do?” he asks Jongin’s mother and she happily lets him help her finish up cooking, directing him to take over plates to set the table for everyone and shows him where the utensils are so he can take those over too. Chanyeol was a little nervous about visiting, especially since it’s been awhile and the last time he wasn’t Jongin’s boyfriend, but Jongin’s family is as easily welcoming as always and Jongin really wasn’t kidding about how his mother seems to think Chanyeol is wonderful for taking care of him. “He takes care of me, too, more than he knows,” Chanyeol tells her later when Jongin is out of earshot and she smiles at him brightly, so much like Jongin, and says, “You really should come visit more, Chanyeol-ah.”

“I’ll do my best,” he says.

Dinner is nice and comfortable. Jongin’s sister talks to Chanyeol a lot about music that they both like and Jongin rests a hand on Chanyeol’s knee under the table as he tells his parents everything about work while discreetly offering his puppies pieces of his meal.

They’re just getting started on dessert, a pie that Chanyeol and Jongin had stopped to pick up from Jongin’s mother’s favorite bakery, when Chanyeol’s phone buzzes in his pocket. He’s surprised to find it’s from Yonhap; it has been a just a day over a week since his interview but Chanyeol had been doing such a good job at pushing it out of his mind that it’s like he wasn’t expecting a call at all, and not this soon. He excuses himself quickly to take the call and feels Jongin’s eyes on him as he slips into the bathroom.

“Hello, Chanyeol-ssi, this is Jonghyun from Yonhap, we met last week,” Jonghyun says when Chanyeol answers the call.

“Yes, I remember, Jonghyun-ssi, it’s nice to hear from you,” Chanyeol says, rubbing the slightly sweaty palm of his free hand down his jeans, feeling nervous all over again, tucked away in the tiny bathroom.

“I hope I’m not calling you too late,” Jonghyun says cheerfully and laughs when Chanyeol hastily says it’s perfectly alright. He jumps, surprised, when the door to the bathroom opens and Jongin slips inside, eyes wide and curious, concerned. Chanyeol relaxes at the sight of him, and Jongin doesn’t say anything, just smiles, and stands against the wall across from him.

“We had a really great time talking with you in person last week,” Jonghyun says. “You seem really excited and motivated and we believe you have plenty of potential to do some wonderful things here.”

Chanyeol swallows thickly, his heart pounding so loudly in his ears it’s a feat he can even hear Jonghyun speak. “Thank you,” he says, “I was glad to be able to talk with you in person about the company and position, too, I really learned a lot.”

“Good! That’s what we like to hear,” Jonghyun says. “And that’s what we hope for you to be able to do, if you decide to accept our offer at Yonhap.”

For a second Chanyeol wonders if he heard right, but then the words sink in and he’s standing up straight, eyes widening as a grin stretches across his face. Jongin reacts almost instantly, too, staring at him with wonder as Chanyeol says, “Of course, of course I accept.”

Jongin shouts out excitedly, but quickly clamps a hand over his mouth in mortification, but Chanyeol doesn’t care, just reaches out to pull him into his chest. “Thank you so much for the opportunity,” he tells Jonghyun who laughs excitedly in his ear.

“No need, we’re glad to have you join us, Chanyeol-ssi,” Jonghyun says. “How soon do you think you can start?”

Chanyeol works out the details with Jonghyun for a little longer, trying to mentally figure out how quickly he can end his current jobs at the station and the cafe. When he hangs up, with a very happy goodbye from Jonghyun, Chanyeol stands there, stunned in silence for a long moment until Jongin finally pulls back to look at him.

“Are you okay?” he asks and Chanyeol nods slowly.

“I got the job,” he says, and it sounds almost strange, saying it out loud. Chanyeol has been trying so hard to change things and finally, finally, it’s happened. It doesn’t feel real yet.

“You got the job,” Jongin says brightly, hands finding Chanyeol’s face and leaning up to kiss him soundly. “You did it! I knew you could.”

Chanyeol winds his arms around him and hugs him close, still shocked but mostly happy, incredibly happy, really. Sure, he has to worry about talking to Ryeowook and Minseok as soon as possible, and he definitely knows his new job won’t be that easy and he has a lot to learn, but that’s more of an exciting adventure than anything else. It’ll be difficult but Chanyeol can’t wait to start, can’t wait to try something new, to see where it takes him.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” Jongin asks when Chanyeol gets so lost in his thoughts that he says nothing for a couple of minutes. He pinches Chanyeol’s waist, hard, and Chanyeol yelps, narrowing his eyes and retaliates by tickling his fingers into Jongin’s sides. Jongin’s adorable squeals echo off the tiled walls in the bathroom and they only quiet down when someone knocks on the door and Jongin’s sister says, “Come out already, or dad’s gonna finish that entire pie.”

Jongin giggles, shouting out a, “Be right there!” before turning back to Chanyeol. He pushes him up against the sink and kisses him again and Chanyeol reciprocates easily, eagerly.

“I’m really proud of you,” Jongin says when they pull apart.

Chanyeol links his hand together with Jongin’s, warmth spreading throughout his chest. “Thank you for believing in me,” he says and Jongin’s smile is so bright, Chanyeol can’t help but kiss him one last time.

They head back out to curious looks from Jongin’s family and Jongin wastes no time to tell them all the news. Chanyeol settles down in a chair feeling a little overwhelmed by the supportive congratulations and Jongin’s mother hands him a slightly extra large piece of pie that makes Jongin’s father whine at her until she shushes him.

“Tell us all about it,” she says to Chanyeol, who takes a bite of his pie and does.

When they leave later that night, Jongin’s mother gives him a warm hug, patting his back before she pulls away and smiles at him. “If you two ever need anything, don’t ever hesitate to let us know, okay?” she tells him sincerely, almost sternly like she expects to know when things are difficult.

Chanyeol knows that not everything is going to suddenly be better for him and Jongin, just because he got a good job. It’s still going to be rough, with bills to pay and money to budget, with the regular everyday worries that don’t go away no matter what. Despite all that, there’s one thing that’s still the same and for Chanyeol, that’s just having Jongin by his side. So much has changed between them within the past couple of weeks, but even if he and Jongin hadn’t gotten together, he would still feel the same way. Struggling with work and finding a better job, Chanyeol wouldn’t have been able to get through all that without Jongin, without the help of any of his friends and his family. Even when things get almost unbearable, Jongin makes it better, takes Chanyeol’s mind off of it and helps him forget, even for a little while. No matter what, he makes Chanyeol so happy, and he’s starting to learn that Jongin will be there to help to lift the weight off of him when things get too heavy for Chanyeol to carry alone.

And Chanyeol will always be there to do the same for him.

He smiles back at Jongin’s mother and shakes his head slightly, glancing at Jongin who is giving his puppies an almost tearful farewell. He looks up a second later and grins when he catches Chanyeol’s eyes, and Chanyeol looks back at Jongin’s mother, smiling even wider as he gives her another quick hug. “Don’t worry,” he says softly and surely, “we’ll be fine.”