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no need to play pretend

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"Tell me again why you're pushing for this September release date," Junmyeon sighs, rubbing his temples. "November would be so much easier for everyone involved."

"Do you want the real reason?" Chanyeol asks, watching him pace back and forth behind the couch. "Or the fake reason I gave the publisher? Last time I told you the real reason, you got mad--"

"Chanyeol."

"Because Sehun dared me to try to finish the manuscript before he finishes his," Chanyeol admits with a sheepish grin.

Junmyeon, looking even less impressed than last time Chanyeol explained this, raises an eyebrow at him. "And I have no self-restraint," Chanyeol adds reluctantly.

"And no sense of self-preservation, apparently," Junmyeon says, rolling his eyes as he comes around the couch to sit beside him. "As your editor, I think I'm obligated to tell you this is a bad idea. You better hope you don't hit a block."

"I haven't yet," Chanyeol huffs, gesturing at the stack of paper on the coffee table. "That's the first four chapters, and I started the fifth yesterday. I'm ahead of schedule, aren't I?"

"You might not be for long," Junmyeon says, nudging the stack out of the way to flip open a desk calendar. "You'll have to take time out of your writing schedule for some things. This weekend here is the publisher's book fair," he starts to list, marking dates on the calendar. "These two weeks are for book signings and store visits, and we both need this one weekend free--"

"Wait, that one's only a couple weeks from now," Chanyeol says, sitting up to look closer. "What's happening then?"

Junmyeon gives him a weird look. "You have the invitation hanging on your fridge."

Chanyeol just furrows his brow, coming up blank.

"Are you serious? It was planned like, six months ago. It's at your parents' house…" He trails off, but Chanyeol continues to blink at him in confusion. "Oh my god. Yura's wedding? Your sister? Getting married? Remember?"

"Oh god, that's right," Chanyeol groans, scrubbing a hand over his face. "I thought it was next month! You screwed up my internal clock with all those weird disconnected brainstorming sessions you made me do."

"Your invitation is on your fridge," Junmyeon repeats. "You look at it literally every day."

Chanyeol waves him off, standing up from the couch and taking out his phone. "It's probably a good time to find out what colour I'm supposed to wear, right? Be right back."

He leaves Junmyeon to roll his eyes at the calendar and heads to the kitchen, dialling Yura's number as he goes. It only rings once before she picks up, sunny greeting making him smile automatically.

"Hey," he sing-songs, "are you sick of answering questions about the wedding yet?"

"Oh no," Yura groans on the other end. "What is it?"

Chanyeol bites back a snicker. "I mean, this might be kind of tough, but… what colour tie do you want me to get?"

Yura bursts into surprised laughter. "You really had me worried! Go for blue, the whole wedding party is wearing blue."

"Blue, got it," Chanyeol says with a nod. "Is there a certain shade I should look for, or what?"

"Oh, Yeol, it doesn't matter to me as long as it's blue-ish, okay?" Yura sighs. "The gown Mom is wearing is almost navy, and the bridesmaids are closer to teal, same with Insung. I'm pretty sure Kyungsoo is wearing something darker, though, like slate--"

"Wait, Kyungsoo?" Chanyeol cuts in. "Like, Do Kyungsoo?"

"Yeah, he's Insung's best man," Yura says slowly. "Insung asked him a while ago. I thought you knew."

"No, I, uh," Chanyeol stammers, pinching the bridge of his nose. "I didn't know."

Yura hums on the other end. "I'm sorry, Yeol. You guys are on good terms, though, right? It'll be fine!"

"Yeah," Chanyeol says weakly. Nothing bad about seeing your ex-boyfriend at a wedding, right? "Just fine."

He heads back to the couch after saying goodbye, slumping down heavily next to Junmyeon, who raises an eyebrow at him. "Not your favourite colour, huh?"

Not my favourite guest list, Chanyeol tries to say. "Kyungsoo is gonna be there," he blurts instead.

"Oh." Junmyeon slowly puts his pen down. "Are you okay with that?"

Chanyeol nods, clenching his jaw. "Yeah, totally. Why wouldn't I be?"

"Well, last time I checked," Junmyeon says carefully, "you hadn't seen him since you broke up. Like two years ago."

"It's no big deal," Chanyeol laughs weakly. Kyungsoo was only his first serious boyfriend. He was also his first bad breakup - not because they fought, but because Chanyeol thought things were going great until Kyungsoo suddenly suggested it - but that's nothing major. Even though Chanyeol never really understood why they broke up, back then. He still doesn't.

Not that he's still hung up on it, or hung up on Kyungsoo. He's been past that for a long time. Yeah, Kyungsoo never gave him a real reason for why he wanted to end things between them, but it's not like Chanyeol spends every night wide awake wondering about it. Only some nights, mostly when he's drunk. And whenever he tries to write romance. And whenever he drives past their old apartment, or their old college, or their old coffee shop. Not a big deal.

"It's kind of a big deal," Junmyeon says.

"I'm over it," Chanyeol insists, standing up from the couch. "We've both moved on. He's probably dating someone, by now. Maybe he'll even bring them to the wedding. He probably thinks I'm bringing someone too. Or maybe he thinks I'm still single." He crosses his arms with a hum. "Does he think I haven't dated anyone since him? I mean, I haven't, but it's not because of him, it's-- Oh god, what if he thinks I've been hung up on him this whole time? If I show up alone it'll seem like that, right?" He runs a frantic hand through his hair. "I need to bring a date. I need to show him I'm over it. But who?"

He looks around the room and settles on Junmyeon, who seems to have lost interest and picked up his manuscript to flip through instead.

"Junmyeon. Will you be my plus-one?"

"No," Junmyeon says, turning the page. "I already have my own plus-one."

Chanyeol rolls his eyes. "You mean Jongdae? Whatever, you guys have only been dating for--"

"Four and a half years," Junmyeon answers for him. "Besides, Yura's met me before. She'll know we're lying."

"It doesn't matter if she knows we're not really together, just as long as Kyungsoo doesn't," Chanyeol insists. Junmyeon hums dismissively, not looking up.

Chanyeol refuses to be dissuaded. He sits down next to Junmyeon, giving the side of his face a very serious look. "Okay, consider this: a pay raise. For you."

Junmyeon puts the manuscript down and raises his eyebrows at him. "You would pay me to pretend to be your boyfriend at your sister's wedding, instead of going with my real boyfriend, whom I've been dating for several years and love very much?" He sighs, shaking his head. "You drive a hard bargain."

"Please, Junmyeon," Chanyeol whines, dropping his head onto Junmyeon's shoulder. "I need to have a date. Isn't it your job to make sure all my needs are met?"

"I'm your editor, not your caretaker," Junmyeon says flatly, then pauses for a moment with a thoughtful look on his face. "Although…"

Chanyeol immediately sits up straight. "What? What is it?"

Junmyeon hums. "I mean, if you're willing to cut corners and hire someone to fake-date you for a few days--"

"I am. I totally am."

"Then I might know someone who can help you out," Junmyeon says with a smile. "Jongdae's been doing some photography for his magazine recently, and there's this model he's worked with a few times-- here, I'll show you." He jumps off the couch to rummage around in his bag and comes back with a magazine, flipped open to a glossy photo spread.

"Does Jongdae make you carry a copy around everywhere?" Chanyeol asks with a laugh, then looks down at the page and chokes a little.

The model in the photos is stunning, long legs and sharp jaw and flawless bronze skin. In some pictures he's sitting on a couch, looking effortlessly attractive with his hair tousled and his shirt half undone. In another he's spread out on a bed, and the intense look he's giving the camera makes Chanyeol's mouth dry. "Who is this?"

"Kim Jongin," Junmyeon says, sounding a bit smug. "He's a sweet guy. He used to be an escort."

Chanyeol furrows his brow, taking the magazine out of his hands for a closer look. "An escort for what?"

"For people," Junmyeon explains, rolling his eyes a little. "He'd accompany clients to events, or out and about to show them around the city… or to just be their arm candy, basically." He taps his chin with the end of his pen. "I don't think he does it anymore, but I could get Jongdae to ask, on your behalf, if he'd consider being your plus-one for the wedding."

Chanyeol drops the magazine on the table and goes in for a hug. "Junmyeon, you're a lifesaver, seriously--"

"I could get him to ask," Junmyeon says over him, holding up a hand, "but only if you promise to talk to Kyungsoo."

With a whine, Chanyeol deflates and sinks deeper into the couch. "Why?"

"Because even if you don't feel anything for him anymore, it's clear you're not past your breakup. Holding onto stuff like that isn't healthy," Junmyeon tells him, putting a comforting hand on his shoulder. "Just… talk to him. Put yourself back on even footing about the whole thing. You deserve to get over it, Chanyeol."

Chanyeol crosses his arms with a huff. Talking to Kyungsoo isn't anywhere near the top of the list of things he wants to do, and talking to Kyungsoo about their break-up is even further down. Even so, his eyes drift back to the magazine spread open on the table, and to Kim Jongin staring up at him. Maybe it won't be so bad. Maybe if he has Jongin with him, he can manage it.

"Fine," Chanyeol says grudgingly, pouting for good measure.

"Great," Junmyeon says, tapping the manuscript pages on the table to straighten the stack. "I'll talk to Jongdae about it tonight. For now, keep working. You've got a good pace going, but if you want to stay on schedule you have to hit chapter eight by the end of the week."

Chanyeol groans loudly, but takes his glasses when Junmyeon passes them to him and opens his laptop with a resigned sigh.

--

He does get to chapter eight, even a little ways into chapter nine, and on Saturday night Junmyeon replies to their ongoing email argument about the book's title as usual, but adds a note to the end:

btw-
talked to jongin & he wants to talk to you
here's his #. ur welcome :-)

Chanyeol feels a little hope swell in his chest. He sends back a long line of Xs and Os to Junmyeon before fumbling his phone out of his pocket and dialling the number at the bottom of the note.

In between the first and second rings, Chanyeol realizes he might be a little unprepared for this, hunched in his desk chair in boxers and a housecoat. Maybe he should hang up and do this in the morning - it's close to midnight, and Jongin might be asleep already. Besides, he doesn't even know what to say--

But it's then, of course, that the line picks up.

"Hello?" mumbles a sleepy voice on the other end.

"Hi," Chanyeol says, jumping up from his chair. "Uh- is this Jongin?"

"It is," the voice says, then pauses to yawn. Maybe he really was asleep, Chanyeol thinks with a wince. "Can I ask who's calling?"

"I'm-- This is Chanyeol," he explains quickly, pacing nervously in front of his desk. "Park Chanyeol. Junmyeon gave me your number."

"Oh, you're his writer friend!" Jongin says, sounding a little more awake now. "With the wedding, right?"

Chanyeol laughs weakly. "Yeah, that's me. Listen, I can call back tomorrow if you're busy, I didn't really look at the time--"

"It's fine," Jongin assures him. There's some soft noises in the background, like rustling blankets. The bed photo from the magazine spread pops into Chanyeol's mind for a split second, before he shoves the thought away. "I just didn't think you'd call so soon."

"Well," Chanyeol falters, embarrassed, "I'm a little anxious about the whole thing, to be honest."

"What whole thing?" Jongin asks, a pout in his tone. "Hiring me to date you?"

Chanyeol freezes mid-step, feeling his face turn red. "I'm-- uh--"

"It's okay, I'm just teasing," Jongin snickers. "I used to do this for a living. You're hardly the first person to think it's weird."

"I don't think it's weird," Chanyeol says, finding his voice after a second. "There are loads of jobs weirder than that. If anything, it's the people like me who are willing to pay for a pretend-date that are weird."

Jongin laughs out loud at that, a little tinny through the phone, but still musical in Chanyeol's ears. He can't help smiling at the sound.

"Thank you," Jongin says softly around his giggles. "Um, listen, I'd love to stay up, but I have an early call time tomorrow, so..."

"Oh, no problem!" Chanyeol says quickly, heading back over to his desk. "Sorry again for calling so late. I'll, uh. Talk to you--"

"Next week," Jongin finishes for him.

"Right, next-- What?"

"Next week, for the wedding," Jongin explains with a laugh. "I'll get the details from Jongdae tomorrow, and-- this is your cellphone, right? I'll text you."

"Okay," Chanyeol says, a little dumbfounded. "See you then, I guess. Thank you," he adds in a rush, squeezing it in before Jongin can say goodbye, and is pleased to get one more laugh out of him.

He hangs up after Jongin does and lowers himself into his chair, staring at his screensaver and trying not to faint from relief. The wedding is still about a week away, but Yura wants him and the rest of the wedding party to be at their parents' house a couple days early for the rehearsal - which gives Chanyeol enough time to hit the page count goal Junmyeon has set for him, but not much else. Hopefully, Jongin will be okay with not meeting beforehand. They'll really have to figure all this pretend-date stuff out on the fly.

Chanyeol tries not to let himself get nervous about it, as he shuts off his computer and heads to bed. He knows how to write romantic dialogue; surely he can manage it with another person… even if they are mostly strangers.

--

The next few days pass in a frantic haze of keyboard clacking and coffee refills, and soon enough it's time to throw his suit in a garment bag and hire a car to drive him out to his parents' house. First, though, there's an important stop on the way: the train station, where he'll be meeting Jongin.

The driver pulls up to the curb outside the station and Chanyeol gets out to wait, trying not to glance anxiously at the entrance every few seconds. He knows what time Jongin's train gets in and Jongin knows he'll be waiting outside - plus Chanyeol is pretty tall, so he doesn't think they'll have too much trouble, even if Jongin doesn't know what he looks like.

Every time there's a wave of people exiting the station, his eyes flit over as many faces as he can manage. There's a lot of businessmen, old ladies with groceries, a group of teenage girls laughing - gosh, he hopes he doesn't look creepy standing here with his car waiting--

"Chanyeol?"

He nearly jumps at the voice, and suddenly there's this tall, handsome guy in front of him with a long wool coat and a suitcase in one hand. He looks a little unsure, biting his lip almost absentmindedly. It's very cute - nothing like the rough looks of the boy in the magazine, but undeniably the same person. Chanyeol barely manages to keep from gaping at him. "You're Jongin?" he asks, just in case.

"That's me," Jongin says, bowing his head a little. Chanyeol just stares, dumbfounded by the dissonance between the magazine spread and the soft-looking boy in front of him. "Have you been waiting long?"

"Uh-- No, no, not long at all," Chanyeol says, probably too quickly. He takes a steadying breath, puts on what he hopes is his most handsome grin and holds his hand out to Jongin. "Nice to meet you, finally."

Jongin takes it with a shy smile. His hand is warm against Chanyeol's. "Likewise."

Chanyeol lets go of his hand, somewhat reluctantly, to take his suitcase and put it in the trunk, then ushers Jongin into the backseat with him. As the car starts up and pulls away from the curb, Chanyeol spreads his suddenly clammy palms on his knees and clears his throat. "So. How much detail did Jongdae give you about my, uh, situation?"

"He said there's a meet-the-parents, a rehearsal, and a wedding to get through," Jongin says, casually crossing his legs. "Is there more to it than that?"

"A bit, yeah." Chanyeol turns to face him as best he can with his seatbelt on, then takes a deep breath. "One of the guests is my ex."

Jongin seems unfazed. Relieved, Chanyeol goes on. "The whole reason I asked you to do this for me is... I want to show him I'm over it."

Jongin hums. "And are you over it?"

"I'm-- well, yeah, but I-- it's..." He pauses and clears his throat again. "Yes, I am."

Nodding, Jongin crosses his arms. "Okay, so you want me to play the shiny new boyfriend? Hang off you and make him jealous?"

"Well," Chanyeol falters, "we broke up, like, two years ago, so it wouldn't surprise him to see me with someone new-- and I mean, I don't think making him jealous is necessary if we're both past it. Which we are," he adds, when Jongin raises an eyebrow at him.

"Alright," Jongin says, tapping his chin. "What about something more subtle, to show him a new side of you? Like… I'm some timid little thing - clinging to your sleeve, hiding under your arm, stuff like that - and you're the suave charmer bringing me out of my shell?" He tilts his head at Chanyeol. "Or even vice-versa, if you're more into that. I can play the dominant one instead."

"That might be a little… extreme," Chanyeol says hesitantly. Has Jongin had to act out stuff like that before? "He already knows what kind of person I am, he just hasn't seen me since we broke up and I…"

He trails off, searching for the words, and notices how intently Jongin is watching him. It seems a little ridiculous when Chanyeol thinks about what they're really discussing - In what way are we going to deceive your friends and family this weekend, Chanyeol? - but Jongin seems to be taking it seriously, which is… nice. The thoughtful expression on his face is nice, also. Chanyeol has to look away before he loses his train of thought.

"I don't want him to feel like he has to worry about me," he says, letting out a long breath. "I just want him to see that I'm doing okay."

"So… you want him to think you're well-adjusted and in a normal, happy relationship," Jongin sums up.

Chanyeol winces. "Yes?"

Jongin grins suddenly, his serious, businesslike demeanor disappearing. "Well, that doesn't sound too hard," he says with a laugh. It sounds a hundred times better in person than it did over the phone.

Chanyeol splutters for a second before finding his words. "You really think it'll work?"

"Sure. Believe me, I've played less-plausible parts than this," Jongin says with an easy shrug. "I'm sure we can make it work." He smiles before turning to look out the window, and Chanyeol feels a little bit of his nervousness seeping away.

However, it comes back in full force when they pull up outside his parent's house.

"If anybody asks," he says, trying his best to sound casual, "my birthday is November 27th."

"Okay," Jongin says slowly, giving Chanyeol a strange look as he unclips his seatbelt. "Shouldn't everyone know your birthday already? I thought this was your sister's wedding."

"Yes, but what if they, like, try to test you or something!" Chanyeol scrambles his way out of the car to meet Jongin at the trunk, where he's pulling out their bags. "You should know some things just in case! Like my parents' names? My grad year? Do you think they'd ask about my books? I can give you a summary."

"Chanyeol," Jongin laughs, setting his suitcase down and turning to face him. "No one's going to grill me about that unless they're as paranoid as you are."

"You've never met my sister," Chanyeol huffs, then grimaces as realization dawns on him. "Oh god, you've never met my sister. Her name's Yura, her birthday is--"

"Listen to me," Jongin cuts him off, taking Chanyeol's anxiously flapping hands in his own and holding them still. Looking him in the eyes, Chanyeol can't help his breath catching in his throat.

"It'll be fine, okay?" Jongin says gently, smiling at him. "Trust me." He leans forward then, and Chanyeol has half a second to be surprised before Jongin presses a soft kiss to his cheek.

"There he is!" comes a sudden shout from up the driveway. Chanyeol turns to see Yura waving at him from the front door, their parents just behind her. Jongin lets go of his hands to pick up their bags again, and gives him an encouraging nod before they start towards the house.

Yura runs down and flings her arms around Chanyeol, very nearly knocking him over. "There you are! How have you been?"

"Good," Chanyeol manages around his grin. "Busy with writing, but good. Junmyeon is very dedicated to making sure I get enough sleep." He spins her around once before setting her back on her feet, still smiling. "How about you? Ready to get this whole marriage thing over with?"

"Like you wouldn't believe," Yura laughs, then turns to Jongin. "And who's this?"

"This is Jongin," Chanyeol says, nerves kicking up in the pit of his stomach. He puts his hand on Jongin's shoulder, hoping it looks more intimate than awkward, and takes a deep breath. "He's my boyfriend."

Yura looks a little shocked, but covers it with a curious expression when Jongin bows his head a little. "It's nice to finally meet you," he says with a shy smile. "Chanyeol talks about you a lot."

"As he should," Yura says, pleased, but she still looks him up and down a little suspiciously. "How long have you guys been together?"

"And why is he carrying your suitcase?" Chanyeol's mom chides, getting between them before Chanyeol can come up with an answer to either question. Jongin tries to protest, but Chanyeol's parents take the bags out of his hands anyway.

"We'll put these up in your room for you," his dad says, beckoning them towards the house. "Come inside, dinner's almost ready."

"And there's drinks," Yura adds, following her parents up the driveway and leaving Chanyeol and Jongin to trail after her.

Chanyeol lets out the quietest sigh of relief he can manage. "So, what do you think?"

"They seem nice," Jongin answers with a shrug. He slides his arm around Chanyeol's waist, snickering when he startles at the contact. "You still need to relax. If you don't seem comfortable with me, they won't believe we're together. Casual intimacy is key."

Chanyeol nods, trying his best to unclench his shoulders and relax into the touch. "Intimacy, like… kissing, and stuff?"

Jongin tilts his head. "I meant holding and touching, like this. But we can kiss too, if you want."

Chanyeol feels his face turning red. "Oh, uh, well--"

"Come on, you two," Yura calls from the doorway, ushering them along. Jongin puts on a smile easily, but his eyebrows are raised like he's still waiting on Chanyeol's answer.

"Coming," Chanyeol croaks out instead, and tries his best to match Jongin's relaxed expression as they hurry the last few steps into the house.

Inside, Yura leads them to the dining room where the table is set with a few snack plates, plus an open bottle of wine. Jongin moves his hand from Chanyeol's waist to link their fingers together instead. Chanyeol hopes his palms aren't too clammy.

"You can sit down and help yourself, Jongin," Yura says, smiling at him. "I'll go get more glasses. Yeol, can you help me?"

She beckons him with a tight smile and heads off to the kitchen. Chanyeol feels dread settle in his stomach as he reluctantly pulls away from Jongin to follow her.

As soon as he rounds the corner, Yura punches him in the arm. "I can't believe you," she scolds.

Chanyeol winces. He should've known his sister would see right through him. "I know, I'm sorry--"

"You should be," Yura says, hands on her hips, but she's-- smiling? "Why didn't you tell me you met someone?"

Chanyeol stares at her for a moment, dumbfounded. Could their act really be working after all? "I… wanted to surprise you," he says weakly.

"Aww, that's sweet," Yura coos, grinning. She turns away to open the cupboards, and Chanyeol takes the opportunity to sigh in relief. He isn't sure how he feels about lying to his sister, but if he and Jongin can fool her, they can fool anyone.

"I'm happy for you, Yeol," Yura goes on, pulling a few glasses down and turning back to smile at him. "I know you were hurting for a while, so it's great that you found someone. Jongin seems like a good fit for you." She leans over a little to look past him into the other room. "And he's super cute."

Chanyeol follows her gaze to where Jongin is seated at the table, now talking with their parents and looking effortlessly charming. He glances over and smiles at Chanyeol, raising one hand in a tiny wave. Chanyeol melts a little bit. "Yeah, he is."

Yura snorts and hands him a glass to carry, taking the other three herself and leading the way back to the dining room. Jongin reaches out to Chanyeol as he approaches, and Chanyeol can't help smiling as he lets himself be drawn over to his side, wrapping an arm around his shoulders.

"I see you were a big help," Jongin says, raising an eyebrow at the singular glass in Chanyeol's hand.

Yura laughs as she takes it from him to fill with wine. "In his defense, we only really need these three. And I've always been the stronger sibling."

"That's true," Chanyeol admits. "I bet Insung will be getting you to open all the tough jars for him soon enough. Where is he, anyway?"

"Mom sent him on a dessert run," Yura explains, as Mom nods along solemnly. "He should be back any time, so you guys can run upstairs and take your coats off before dinner."

"It'll be on the table when you get back," Dad says, shooing Chanyeol and Jongin toward the stairs.

Chanyeol smiles a little sheepishly but leads the way up the steps and into his bedroom, Jongin following just behind. Inside, the bed is freshly made, and the curtains are open so the whole room is bright with the sunset. Chanyeol warms a little at the thought of his parents keeping his bedroom made up for him. He hasn't been here for a while, but it's always nice to return to after a long time in the city.

He shrugs his jacket off and tosses it on the end of the bed, then turns to take Jongin's from him, but Jongin is hanging his up nicely in the closet instead. When he reaches up to place the hanger, his shirt hem lifts to show a stripe of his thin waist. Chanyeol's words die in his throat.

Without the long coat, he can really see why Jongin models. His whole body is lithe and nimble, and his legs seem a mile long in his dark jeans. His ass is great too, but Chanyeol makes himself look away before he stares too long.

"So, family dinner, huh?" Jongin asks, turning around with a smile. "This is going better than I expected."

Chanyeol clears his throat. "I think that's to be determined."

Jongin shrugs. "Well, no one's thrown me out yet, so we must be pulling this off pretty well."

"My parents would never throw you out, they'd pack you some leftovers and call you a cab," Chanyeol says, rolling his eyes. "Seriously though, they like you already. Yura, too."

"But you're still worried," Jongin hums, heading back to the stairs.

"What if they ask how we met, or something?" Chanyeol asks, wringing his hands anxiously. "Should we figure that out?"

Jongin pauses, thinking about it, then shakes his head. "Don't worry, I've got it."

He starts down the stairs and Chanyeol follows, a nervous knot forming in his stomach despite Jongin's easy confidence.

The table is already set when they get back to the dining room, and Chanyeol's parents are just bringing in the main dishes. Yura is on once side with Insung now beside her, still as unfairly handsome as he always is. He ushers Chanyeol closer with a smile, gesturing for him and Jongin to take the seats across the table from the seated pair. Jongin scoots his chair a little closer to Chanyeol's, and Chanyeol carefully drapes his arm over the back of it, hoping it seems natural.

It catches Insung's attention, at least. "Yura's been filling me in," he says, raising an eyebrow at Chanyeol. "I guess this is your 'super cute date'?"

Yura smacks his arm with a laugh. "I did not say that."

"Well, you should've," Insung says, turning to Jongin. "Nice to meet you. Jongin, right? Really glad you could join us."

"I'm glad Chanyeol asked me to come," Jongin says with a smile, settling back against Chanyeol's arm.

It feels… nice, once everyone is settled. Nicer than he thought it would. The small talk continues while plates and bowls are passed around. Jongin keeps his knee pressed against Chanyeol's when he's not casually touching his arm or leaning into him when he laughs, easy little things that Chanyeol sees mirrored in Yura and Insung across the table. Chanyeol lets himself relax a little. Jongin really is good at this.

It's not until after most plates are clean that someone finally brings it up: "How did you two meet, anyway?" Yura asks, propping her chin up in her hand. "I mean, a writer and a model… Where did you cross paths in the first place?"

Chanyeol immediately panics. "Well, it's, uh--"

"It's kind of embarrassing," Jongin cuts in, looking around shyly before settling on Chanyeol. "Do you want to tell them? Or I can?"

"Go for it," Chanyeol manages, confused.

Jongin clears his throat, facing the rest of the table again. "It was a few months ago, at a bookstore," he says, fidgeting with the tablecloth. "There was a book signing going on. I was stopping in for something else, but I figured I'd get a signed copy for my sister. It must be a good book if the line is as long as it was, right?"

"I'd hope so," Chanyeol says, making Yura snort into her drink.

"So I waited," Jongin continues. "Finally I got to the front, and he's sitting there." He glances at Chanyeol again. "He looks up at smiles at me, and… my knees almost buckled."

The entire table coos loudly. Jongn hides his face in Chanyeol's shoulder, shaking with silent giggles.

"Don't stop there," Insung exclaims, invested now. "And then what happened?"

"He, um. Signed the book," Jongin says, muffled by Chanyeol's shirt, "with his phone number."

Yura shrieks with laughter, reaching across the table to swat at Chanyeol. "You didn't!"

"I guess I did," Chanyeol says, not sure if he's proud or ashamed of his pretend-self's actions.

Another round of coos and laughter goes around the table before conversation goes elsewhere. Chanyeol just stares in quiet awe at Jongin, watching him straighten himself up again. After a moment he catches Chanyeol's eye and raises his eyebrows with a smirk. Still worried?

Chanyeol can't help smiling back at him, shaking his head in disbelief. Jongin gives a little shrug, and reaches out to take his hand, sliding their fingers together on the tabletop.

They clear the table not much later, and Chanyeol loses three rounds of rock-paper-scissors in a row, so the washing of dishes falls to him and Jongin. It's not so bad, though - Jongin is efficient with a dishtowel and tall enough to reach even the highest cupboard shelves. Plus, it's nice having the quiet kitchen to themselves after the crowded affair that dinner was.

"Where does this go?" Jongin asks, wiping water droplets off the bottom of a baking pan.

"Under the oven," Chanyeol says, trying his best to point in the right direction while elbow deep in soapy water. "There's a drawer, should be cookie sheets and stuff in there."

He hears the drawer slide open and closed, and Jongin comes back to his side with the towel over his shoulder. "Is that the last of it?"

"Yep, it's all cutlery now," Chanyeol sighs, sifting through the soap bubbles in the sink. "How six people used this many forks is beyond me."

"Do you want to switch places?" Jongin asks, offering him the towel.

Chanyeol shakes his head, plunging his hands back into the warm water. "No, this'll only take a couple minutes. And you're doing such a great job drying, I don't want to take you away from that."

"Aw, thanks," Jongin laughs. "You're not so bad yourself. We're really a dishwashing dream team."

"A match made in heaven," Chanyeol snickers, rinsing a handful of forks and knives. "Hey, speaking of… I don't think I've thanked you properly yet, for all this."

Jongin snorts. "Well, you're welcome."

"No, I'm serious," Chanyeol says, frowning at him. "This is important to me, and you're really doing most of the work."

Jongin just shrugs, glancing away. "It's fine, okay? I think I heard--"

"Just let me say this," Chanyeol interrupts, trying to catch his gaze again. "Please?"

"Chanyeol--"

"I haven't told you how much I appreciate you doing this for me. I know this is only the first day, but you've already done so much and you're just-- amazing, okay, I mean, as far as fake boyfriends go--"

Jongin surges forward then, and cuts him off with a kiss. Chanyeol drops all the forks back into the sink.

His lips are soft but he presses hard, sure and insistent against Chanyeol's mouth. Chanyeol can't do much more than weakly flap his soapy hands and try to lean a little closer. He's gathered just enough of his brain to wonder what brought this on when he hears someone enter the kitchen, and Jongin breaks the kiss with a quiet gasp.

Insung is frozen in the doorway, looking between them with a slightly scandalized expression. "Oh," he says loudly, "sorry, I'll-- bye." He quickly backs out the way he came.

Jongin sighs in relief. "That was close. I don't think he heard you."

Chanyeol clears his throat, trying to get his bearings back without thinking too hard about how his lips are tingling. "I'll, uh, be more careful."

While Jongin moves away to peek around the corner, Chanyeol takes the opportunity to put his thoughts back in order. Casual intimacy, he reminds himself. Holding, touching. Kissing and stuff. All part of the act.

"I'm pretty sure we're okay," Jongin says, glancing over to him, "but we should probably finish up before Insung tells anyone that we're necking in your parents' kitchen."

Chanyeol can't help snorting at that. "Good plan," he says, and tries not to frown at his soapy reflection.

--

Later, after wine and dessert and more wine, it's finally time to head upstairs to bed. Chanyeol lets out a long sigh once his bedroom door is closed. Spending time with his family is nice, but more exhausting than he expected, even without his constant worrying about their facade falling through.

Jongin seems tired too, but not nearly as stressed as Chanyeol feels. He changes into pajamas in record time and flops on Chanyeol's bed, immediately curling up on one side of the covers. Chanyeol looks at the empty side a little warily. His parents will definitely notice if he digs out the air mattress to put on his floor, so it looks like sharing the bed is unavoidable - but he and Jongin still don't know each other that well, and he doesn't want to make things awkward--

"Can you turn off the light?" Jongin asks, peeking out from under the blankets.

"Oh- yeah, sorry," Chanyeol says, flicking it off. He's left to shuck his jeans off in the dark and feel his way over to the bed. He climbs in gingerly, doing his best not to jostle Jongin, and once he's lying down, carefully arranges himself so he's entirely on his own side of the bed.

"Is this okay?" he asks quietly.

"Yeah," Jongin mumbles sleepily. "Real soft."

Chanyeol blinks into the dark for a second. "I didn't mean the bed, I meant--" But Jongin is already asleep, nuzzled against Chanyeol's pillow, breathing slow and deep.

Chanyeol deflates, relaxing into the blankets as he watches Jongin's sleeping face. He's not sure what he expected, but… the smooth, unguarded lines of Jongin's body beside his sure weren't it. And it really is a soft bed - he always forgets how nice his bed is while he's away from home. Chanyeol can understand how Jongin was out like a light as soon as he closed his eyes. His own eyelids are already drooping, and with Jongin so close, radiating warmth, he can't see much of a reason to resist...

--

Chanyeol wakes up bit by bit, slowly becoming aware of the sun shining in his eyes. He rolls over with a yawn and finds Jongin awake too, blinking sleepily at him.

"Morning," Chanyeol murmurs, but Jongin just barely grumbles in response, burrowing back into the blankets. "Hey, you okay?"

"Tired," the blanket lump sighs. Jongin peeks out from underneath, squinting at the sunlight.

"You can stay here if you want," Chanyeol offers, trying not to laugh at his sleepy pout. "I'm gonna go find breakfast."

He gets halfway out of bed before Jongin grabs his hand, and turns back around to see him struggling to excavate himself from the sheets. It's weird to see him so sleepy and muddled when just a few hours ago he was completely put together. He stumbles out of bed, still holding onto Chanyeol's hand, yawning so wide his jaw cracks.

"You sure you wanna get up?" Chanyeol asks, fondness winning out over wariness as he puts his arm around Jongin to steady him. Jongin nods, still blinking sleep out of his eyes, and leans most of his weight on Chanyeol as they head to the stairs.

The whole house is quiet when they go down to the kitchen. There's a note on the counter from Yura, saying she's gone with Insung to pick up her bridesmaids from the airport, and Chanyeol remembers his parents saying something about getting all the catering handled today. It looks like he and Jongin have the house to themselves.

Chanyeol turns on the coffeemaker and gets out two mugs, but Jongin gets himself a cup of juice instead. "Don't like coffee," he explains around another yawn.

"You could probably use the caffeine," Chanyeol says, offering him a sip. Jongin makes a face and goes back to nursing his orange juice.

Chanyeol makes eggs and toast for them both, then leads Jongin to the living room to sit on the couch. Jongin slumps over almost immediately, leaning his head on Chanyeol's shoulder.

Chanyeol smiles down at him. "Awake yet?"

"Not really," Jongin mumbles, but he does sound more coherent than earlier. He wiggles a little closer, settling into the couch, and Chanyeol puts his arm back around him almost absentmindedly.

"Did you sleep okay?"

"Yeah, your bed is amazing," Jongin says seriously, then yawns again. "It always takes me awhile to get going in the morning, even at home." He lifts his head to smile at Chanyeol. "It's nice here, though."

"Yeah, living in the city is great, but I always like coming back here," Chanyeol agrees.

"It's peaceful," Jongin says with a nod. "I see why this is where your sister wanted to get married."

"She really pushed for the backyard wedding," Chanyeol laughs. "It's gonna be a little weird seeing her walk down the aisle in the same place we used to run around as kids."

"Aw," Jongin coos. "You guys were close growing up, huh?"

"Yeah," Chanyeol says softly, nostalgic all of a sudden. "Being back here now, when she's about to start this new part of her life and everything, it really feels.... like a culmination of something."

"Well, it is," Jongin says, leaning on him again. "It's exciting, something new for your whole family. I'm happy I get to watch it happen," he admits with a shy smile.

Chanyeol looks down at him, surprised but pleased. Before he can open his mouth, Jongin sits up again, squinting out the window.

"Is that Yura's car?" he asks, and Chanyeol follows his gaze to the car pulling into the driveway.

"She must be back from the airport," Chanyeol says, helping Jongin up from the couch.

They head to the front hall right when the door swings open, and Yura appears with five other women in tow, all chattering and laughing. She pauses in the doorway to beam at them. "Oh, you're awake!"

"Mostly," Chanyeol agrees, as Jongin rubs his eyes sleepily beside him.

"We're just here for a second," Yura explains, leading the other girls down the hall. "I'm gonna change, and then we're going for lunch."

"Okay, have fun," Chanyeol calls after her. He turns to Jongin, ready to lead him back to the couch, but another peal of laughter comes from the doorway and makes him pause.

He turns just in time to see Insung step inside too, with his arm around someone familiar. Before Chanyeol can do much more than freeze, Insung notices them and grins.

"Hey, we're just on our way out, too. Have you guys met?" he asks, gesturing to the man beside him. "This is--"

"Kyungsoo," Chanyeol says, forcing his throat to work. "Yeah, we've met."

"It's been a while," Kyungsoo says softly, smiling at him. Chanyeol feels his mouth trying to smile back but he's not sure if it works. He vaguely registers Jongin stepping closer to him and trying to take one of his limp hands in his own, but he can't make himself look away.

Before Kyungsoo can say anything else, Yura reappears in a different outfit and ushers everyone back outside to the car. "Come on, we've got reservations to make! See you two later," she calls back to Chanyeol, and blows him a kiss before hurrying out with the rest of the crowd.

The whole house seems quiet once the door closes. Chanyeol heaves a sigh, shaking himself.

Jongin puts a gentle hand on his arm. "How long were you with Kyungsoo?"

Chanyeol blinks at him, startled. "I didn't say he was my ex. How did you know?"

"Please, you clammed up as soon as he walked in the door," Jongin says, waving his hand. "You said you broke up two years ago, so how long were you together before that?"

"We met in college," Chanyeol admits with a sigh. "We got together just after. Before my first book."

Jongin whistles. "So why did you break up? If you don't mind me asking."

"No, it's fine. I… uh." Chanyeol rubs the back of his neck. "I don't really know why."

"What? You must have some idea."

"Well, yeah, but he never gave me a reason."

"Is that why you're not over it?" Jongin asks.

"What!" Chanyeol scoffs. "I am so."

"Chanyeol," Jongin says flatly, giving him a look. "I'm here pretending to be your boyfriend so Kyungsoo won't think you're single. You're not over it."

Chanyeol deflates. "Okay, maybe a little."

Jongin pats his shoulder. After a moment, he speaks up again, quieter: "You really don't know why he broke it off?"

Chanyeol shakes his head. "I thought things were good. I mean, he was my muse," he admits. "I wrote a whole novel about him - not explicitly, but. Between the lines." He pauses, taking a breath. "I bought a ring. That's how good it was. And then he told me we had to break up."

Jongin furrows his eyebrows. "What? Why?"

"I don't know! He just said he needed space." Chanyeol sighs again, the memories leaving a bad taste. "Maybe he had met someone."

"But you'd been together for years. You were ready to propose," Jongin says, confused. "Surely he liked you enough that meeting someone new wouldn't sway him so easily."

"Well, that's… not the whole story," Chanyeol says haltingly. "The novel I wrote about him, I'd just sent it off to my editor, so I was… feeling the love, I guess." He looks down at the floor, past embarrassment coiling uncomfortably in his chest. "I really felt like we would be together forever. Like we should be. So I rushed things.

"I bought the ring, but it was way too soon. Neither of us were ready for commitment like that." Chanyeol shakes his head with a self-deprecating smile. "It's probably for the best that Kyungsoo broke it off right then."

"Then why are you angry at him?" Jongin asks, tilting his head.

"I'm not," Chanyeol sighs, tilting his head back against the wall. "I just… I want to show him I'm different. I'm not that impulsive kid writing cliche love stories anymore."

Jongin nods slowly, coming to lean on the wall beside him. "Well, what kind of stories do you write now?" he asks quietly.

"Horror, mostly," Chanyeol admits.

Jongin bursts into surprised laughter, loud in the empty house, then sheepishly covers his mouth. "Sorry, I'm not making fun, it's just... horror, seriously?"

"What's wrong with that?" Chanyeol asks, trying to sound offended, but he finds himself snickering as well.

"Nothing, but-- you went from romance to horror?" Jongin asks, not-quite disbelieving. "Seems like you missed a step in the middle."

Chanyeol shrugs. "Well, I did try sad poetry for a while." That sets Jongin off laughing again, nearly doubled over in the middle of the hall. "It never got published, thank god. Junmyeon refused to read it. He said if he wanted to be unsettled, he'd pick up a horror novel. So I wrote him a horror novel."

"And the rest is history?" Jongin asks, straightening up and wiping his eyes.

"More or less," Chanyeol agrees.

Both their giggles taper off into silence eventually, and Chanyeol waits a long moment before speaking up again, quieter. "I can't tell if this is a good idea anymore."

"What, acting this out?" Jongin frowns. "You want to stop?"

"I-- I don't know," Chanyeol admits. "This whole thing with Kyungsoo… maybe I should just handle it myself."

Jongin crosses his arms, considering. "At this point, dropping it might be kind of hard to explain," he points out. "Admitting that we lied to everyone? It might cause more harm than good."

"Well, I could do that," Chanyeol says. "You wouldn't have to stick around."

"Hey, you know you don't have to do everything by yourself, right?" Jongin asks, turning to face him with a concerned look. "The entire point of me being here is so that you're not alone. Even if we drop the act, I'm not just leaving you hanging."

Chanyeol looks away, mouth twisting. Jongin has a point, but the thought of letting him get any more involved in this mess, when he himself isn't sure if he's ready to deal with it--

"Listen," Jongin says, cutting off his thoughts. "Quitting now wouldn't do any good. Let's persevere until the wedding, and if you want to come clean about everything right afterwards, then I'll do it with you." He reaches out and gently turns Chanyeol's face back towards his own. "Promise."

"Okay," Chanyeol agrees, sighing the tension out of his shoulders and letting himself be drawn in. "... Thank you."

Jongin just smiles at him and drops his hand. "Let's go sit down. You need to tell me about your books."

"Why?" Chanyeol asks, raising his eyebrows. "Yesterday you didn't want summaries of them."

"Yesterday I didn't know they were horror novels," Jongin says with a pout. "I'll never be able to read them myself, I'm too much of a scaredy-cat."

"At least you're honest," Chanyeol laughs, and follows him back to the couch.

--

The wedding rehearsal is later that afternoon, and the whole wedding party crowds together in the backyard to hear the run-down from the event planner. All the audience chairs are set up, as well as the wooden gazebo at the end of the aisle, but it still looks like just a yard to Chanyeol. Yura insists it'll be unrecognizable after the decorators arrive.

The rehearsal is pretty straight-forward - everyone walks up the aisle to their standing places, Yura and Insung coming last; some people say some words, then the officiant says some really important words; and after all that the newlyweds kiss and it's over. Practicing walking feels a little silly, but doing so with Jongin's hand in his, imagining all the guests watching them make their way down the aisle is… nice. Even standing around waiting for everyone else to get to their places isn't so bad when Jongin is absentmindedly stroking the back of his hand.

The only downside is that Kyungsoo is there with them, but he ends up standing on the other side of the gazebo with the bridesmaids, and by the time everyone is in place, Yura and Insung are between Chanyeol and him. Chanyeol quiets his nerves and focuses easily on his sister's beaming smile. By the end, he's almost sad they only run through it twice.

Afterwards, his parents usher everyone back inside for drinks and light dinner. They spread out through the living and dining rooms to settle in, Chanyeol and Jongin maneuvering around at least four different bridesmaids to find an empty couch for themselves.

"When did your parents have time to make all this?" Jongin asks, marvelling at the bite of glazed chicken on the end of his fork.

"I have no idea," Chanyeol admits. "Although, for this, they'd probably bend spacetime if they had to. They've been as excited, if not more excited than Yura is about the wedding."

Jongin hums around his mouthful. "I don't know about that. Yura seems pretty thrilled." They look across the room to where she's sitting with Insung, his arm around her as they whisper together, smiles on their faces.

After a moment she stands up, pulling Insung with her and leading him away. He sends an apologetic smile to the other person at the table with them, who waves him off and then turns around to look around the room. Chanyeol's stomach drops. It's Kyungsoo, now sitting alone at the table, and as much as Chanyeol hates to admit it, it's a great opportunity to follow Junmyeon's advice and go talk to him.

"I'll be right back," he tells Jongin, putting his wine glass down.

Jongin looks confused for a second before following his gaze. "Oh, are you sure? I can go with you, if you want."

Chanyeol shakes his head. "No, I've been putting this off for long enough." He looks over at Kyungsoo again and manages to catch his gaze. Kyungsoo gives a little wave. Chanyeol takes a deep breath and stands up.

Before he can take a step, Jongin calls him back. When he turns around, Jongin kisses him - softer and less urgent than before, sweeter - and pulls away with a smile. "Good luck."

Head spinning, Chanyeol crosses the room somehow without bumping into anyone or anything, and ends up beside Kyungsoo. "Hi," he manages to croak out.

"Hey." Kyungsoo is smiling at him, looking genuinely happy to see him for some reason. "I was hoping we'd get a chance to talk."

Chanyeol smiles back and hopes it doesn't look too much like a grimace. It's just one conversation, he tells himself. He promised Junmyeon he would do this, and he's going to. If he can get from hello to goodbye, hopefully with minimal words in between, he can report back that they talked and technically not be lying.

"Who's that you're here with?" Kyungsoo asks, looking back across the room. "I didn't catch his name earlier."

"Ah, that's. Jongin," Chanyeol says haltingly.

Kyungsoo smiles at him again. "You guys are together?"

"We're-- uh. He's… It's very new," Chanyeol manages. Kyungsoo nods understandingly.

"Well, you two look happy together," he says, then pauses, looking down. "I read your new book. It seems like you're doing really well for yourself."

"Trying, at least," Chanyeol agrees, relaxing a little.

Kyungsoo snorts. "I still remember you wailing about how you'd never get published, okay? You're doing just fine. I'm happy for you," he adds, somewhat timidly. "You deserve it."

Chanyeol stares at him for a second before remembering to respond. "Thank you. You, uh, don't look so bad yourself." It's not exactly going how he expected it to, but he'll take it. "So what about you?" he asks, glancing around the room. "You here with someone?"

Kyungsoo shakes his head. "Nope, just me."

"Do you have-- I mean, in general," he says, gesturing vaguely. Kyungsoo blinks at him. "Is there… anyone?"

"Oh, no," Kyungsoo says with a laugh. "I've been single for a while now. I just… I don't know, for a long time I didn't feel like I was ready to be committed." His expression changes then, and he glances up at Chanyeol. "Speaking of…"

Chanyeol gulps. "Yeah, uh. I was meaning to talk to you about… that."

Kyungsoo spreads his hands on the table. "I know it was a long time ago, but I still think about it. About… us." He shakes his head. "Maybe that's weird."

Chanyeol makes himself laugh. "Same, totally weird, right?"

"I still feel bad about it," Kyungsoo says. "It wasn't fair to leave you hanging and disappear."

"Well, in your defense, I was pretty intense back then," Chanyeol admits, smiling wryly.

"I still should've let us talk it out more," Kyungsoo insists. "But back then I just… I was scared. I got it in my head that I had to prove myself by being alone, and--" He cuts off, looking sadly up at Chanyeol. "And you bore the brunt of that. I'm sorry about how things ended. I always have been."

Chanyeol feels his heart break a little. "I am, too."

Kyungsoo drops his gaze. "I wanted to reach out earlier, but I wasn't sure if you'd want to talk to me," he admits.

He sounds so tentative and uncertain. Chanyeol wonders how long he's been carrying this around with him. Probably just as long as Chanyeol's been carrying his own worries. "I was worried about seeing you again," he confesses, "but I'm glad you came. I'm glad we got to talk."

"Me too," Kyungsoo agrees. He's quiet for a moment, then smiles at him again. "I missed you, Chanyeol."

"I missed you too," Chanyeol says honestly, surprising himself. The wave of relief crashing down on him in slow motion apparently knocked a few realizations loose.

Before he can say anything else, Jongin appears at the table and puts a hand on his arm. "Hey, sorry to interrupt," he says, smiling at Kyungsoo before he turns to Chanyeol. "I need your help with something."

"Yeah, of course," Chanyeol says, shaking himself a little as he stands up. He turns to give Kyungsoo a sheepish look. "I'll see you later…?"

"I won't wait up," Kyungsoo says, smirking as he looks between him and Jongin. Chanyeol blushes, but Jongin leads him away to the kitchen before he can protest.

It's quieter there, disconnected from the noise of the guests in other rooms. Jongin leans back against the counter with a grin, looking satisfied. Chanyeol looks around confusedly.

"So, what did you need help with in here?"

"Nothing," Jongin laughs. "I was just giving you an out. It looked like you were both running out of things to say. We can go back to the couch, actually. I left my wine in there."

Chanyeol rolls his eyes but follows Jongin back to the living room, making sure they take the long route through the hallway and foyer rather than going back the way they came. By the time they return to their seats, Yura and Insung are back at the table with Kyungsoo. Chanyeol breathes a sigh of relief, happy that he wasn't left sitting alone for long. He feels a little bad for bailing, but at the same time, catharsis is exhausting.

Jongin nudges him to get his attention, nodding towards Kyungsoo with eyebrows raised. "So? How'd that go?"

Chanyeol shrugs one shoulder. "It was… good?"

Jongin snorts. "You sound surprised."

"I am," Chanyeol laughs. "I mean, I expected-- I don't really know what I expected," he admits. "But he was nice. We both apologized." He looks up, catching Kyungsoo's gaze across the room, and finds himself mirroring his smile. "I think we can be friends again," he says quietly.

"Well, I'm happy things worked out," Jongin says, patting his shoulder. "Looks like my work here is done, huh?"

Chanyeol laughs with him, but can't put his heart into it. It's another realization he apparently hadn't noticed coming to: the job is almost over, but he doesn't want it to be. He wonders why for the rest of the night.

--

Eventually it's time to head up to bed, and the house is quiet for the first time all night. Chanyeol tugs his shirt off while Jongin brushes his teeth across the hall, then rifles through his drawers to find something to sleep in.

He hears Jongin's bare feet shuffling on the carpet as he comes back into the room and closes the door behind himself. "You okay?" he asks, making Chanyeol look up. "You've been quiet."

"Yeah," Chanyeol sighs, turning back to his dresser and pulling out a soft band tee. "Just. Relieved, I guess."

"Good. I guess we can relax for the rest of the weekend," Jongin says, tossing his toothbrush into his suitcase and flopping down on the bed. "I have to say, this just might be the easiest job I've ever done."

Chanyeol laughs, pulling the shirt on over his head. "Yeah? It's not exactly a high-class bar or five-star hotel banquet."

Jongin snorts. "That doesn't matter. It's different, everyone's so... nice."

Raising his eyebrows, Chanyeol turns to look at him. "Are you used to people not being nice?"

"It's not that, it's more like… I'm not used to people being so genuine, maybe?" Jongin shrugs, then smiles at him. "It's just funny how this didn't happen until after I quit escorting, I guess."

"Junmyeon mentioned that you quit," Chanyeol says, coming over to sit on the edge of the bed. "But he didn't say why."

Jongin blinks at him. "Are you asking?"

Chanyeol looks away, flushing pink. "I mean, if you don't mind--"

"It's not a big deal," Jongin assures him with a shrug, rolling onto his back. "I did a lot of stuff like this, being the plus-one for company parties or fancy events. On one hand it was cool, hanging out in these classy places, playing my part, pretending to be someone new." He closes his eyes, smiling a little. "But a lot of clients wanted the same thing: this sexy, sultry stranger to hang off their arm and make all their friends jealous."

Chanyeol watches him carefully, wanting to smooth out the furrow in his brow but not daring to interrupt.

"After a while, I just felt… fake," Jongin continues. "It got harder and harder to keep up the act. So I quit, and went back to being just me."

"Then why did you agree to do this?" Chanyeol asks quietly. "To play a part with me?"

"I don't know," Jongin admits, opening his eyes but keeping them trained on the ceiling. "Part of it is because Junmyeon asked. I knew he wouldn't tell just anybody about me, so I figured I could trust you. And then when we talked on the phone that night… something clicked." He looks up at Chanyeol with a tiny smile, and he gazes back in awe. "It wasn't really until we were saying goodbye that I decided I was going to do it. I'm happy I did, though."

"So am I," Chanyeol says seriously, but Jongin just laughs.

"I mean it. I don't feel like I have to pretend to be someone else," he says, rolling over on his side to face Chanyeol properly. "I can just be myself around your family. Around you."

Chanyeol is caught between affection and the feeling of his heart suddenly trying to claw its way up his throat. "I'm glad," he says weakly, turning away.

"Sorry, that was long-winded," Jongin laughs. "We should probably sleep, it's getting late."

"Yeah," Chanyeol sighs. "I'll, uh. Get the light."

"I can do it," Jongin says, and hops out of bed.

Chanyeol doesn't move, even when the room gets dark and Jongin slides back under the sheets. In just a few hours, the wedding begins. They'll all walk to their places and watch the happy couple kiss, then spend the night celebrating. And after that… it's over.

Everyone goes home, Chanyeol goes back to the city, and Jongin leaves.

"Chanyeol?" Jongin calls softly into the dark. "Why aren't you coming to bed?"

Because if I sleep, we only have one day left, and I don't want this to end.

"Sorry, I zoned out," Chanyeol says, and turns to lie down beside him. He closes his eyes and focuses on Jongin's quiet breathing, matching his own to it like that will make the night last longer.

--

Despite his efforts, the morning does come. Chanyeol wakes up before Jongin this time, and watches his sleeping face until his eyes don't feel so heavy.

After hearing the front door open and close a few times, he gets out of bed as quietly as he can and gets dressed. He leaves Jongin to sleep in a little longer and heads downstairs to see which guests have arrived.

The dining and living rooms are full of people milling around, and the tables are set with light brunch platters. Chanyeol snags a muffin and weaves through the guests on his way to the kitchen. It's a lot of his sister's friends, people he remembers from teen birthday parties and sleepovers. There's some extended family he does his best to remember the names of, some coworkers of Yura's, some complete strangers - and then someone throws an arm around his neck and drags him down a few inches, crowing in his ear in a distinctly familiar way.

"I was wondering when you'd get here," Chanyeol laughs, shoving Baekhyun off of him.

"I've been here for ages, dude. Your parents made me breakfast," Baekhyun laughs. "How've you been?"

"Things have been alright," Chanyeol says, leaning against the counter to nibble his muffin. "It's nice being home. Seen anyone you know yet?"

"Yeah, Jongdae was around here somewhere," Baekhyun says, leaning over to peek through the doorway. "And I think I saw that one hot cousin of yours."

"Minseok is off-limits," Chanyeol scolds, rolling his eyes. "Besides, he's married."

Baekhyun squawks. "What! Since when?"

"Since he eloped last year and didn't tell anyone," Chanyeol laughs.

"Damn. Well, that's a good few years of misplaced attraction wasted," Baekhyun sighs wistfully. "He was totally my type, too."

Chanyeol snorts. "What, short and capable of bench-pressing you?"

Baekhyun sticks his tongue out at him. "Maybe I want to be bench-pressed."

"Someday you'll find someone who's into your weird kinks," Chanyeol says, clapping him on the shoulder. "They're out there somewhere. Probably."

"Hey, 'someday' could be sooner than you think," Baekhyun hums, looking past him. "For instance: who's that?"

Chanyeol follows his gaze over to Jongin, making his way across the kitchen towards them. He looks a little more awake than he did the morning before, but still yawns in lieu of giving any sort of greeting, and leans most of his weight against Chanyeol while he rubs his eyes.

"Good morning to you, too," Chanyeol laughs, steadying him with an arm around his waist. "You could've stayed in bed a bit longer, it's only nine-thirty."

"It got cold when you left," Jongin says with a pout, and only then seems to notice Baekhyun. "Oh, sorry, we haven't met." He holds out his hand and tries his best to stand up straighter. "I'm Jongin, Chanyeol's boyfriend."

"I inferred that much," Baekhyun says with a smile, shaking his hand. "Baekhyun, Chanyeol's BFFL. Nice to meet you."

Chanyeol casts a wary glance between them, but Baekhyun seems more surprised than suspicious, to his relief. "There's food in the dining room if you want breakfast," he tells Jongin, who mumbles assent around another yawn. He gives Chanyeol a sleepy kiss at the corner of his mouth and wanders off to find a plate for himself.

Chanyeol watches him go until Baekhyun punches him hard in the arm. "Ow! What was that for?"

"Dude," Baekhyun crows, grinning in delight, "I didn't know you bagged a hot date! When did this happen?"

"It's… hard to explain," Chanyeol says, rubbing his arm. Part of him wants to come clean about it to Baekhyun - he is Chanyeol's best friend, after all - but another part is pleased at how easily Baekhyun believed them.

"Not really my business, I get it," Baekhyun says, holding up his hands. "Well, I'm happy for you, anyway. Also, is it just me or is Kyungsoo hotter than I remember?"

Chanyeol hushes him and turns to greet Kyungsoo as he enters the kitchen, already dressed in fitted suit pants and shirt. "Hey, everything okay?"

"Have you seen Insung?" Kyungsoo asks, straightening his collar a little. "The photographer just got here and I know he's not dressed. You and Jongin should probably think about getting ready, too."

"Yeah, go find your boy," Baekhyun says, all but shoving Chanyeol out of the kitchen. "I'll help Kyungsoo find the groom. I'm nice like that."

He winks at Chanyeol before disappearing. Chanyeol rolls his eyes back at him, but does turn to head through the dining room in search of Jongin. He finds him on the living room couch with Junmyeon and Jongdae, finally looking fully awake.

He smiles when Chanyeol approaches, reaching out to him. "We were just talking about you!"

Chanyeol grins, taking his hand easily. "Should I be worried?"

Jongdae shrugs. "Well, none of us know how you are in bed, so probably not."

Jongin makes a confused face. "He doesn't steal the blankets or anything, if that's what you mean."

"Let's change the subject," Junmyeon says quickly, putting a hand on Jongdae's knee to keep the mischievous look in his eyes at bay. "Jongin said things were going well for the two of you?"

"Yeah, we're actually about to take the wedding photos," Chanyeol says, gently tugging Jongin to his feet. "We have to go get changed."

Jongin nods, waving to Junmyeon and Jongdae before he heads to the stairs. "See you later."

"We'll be heading outside soon," Junmyeon tells Chanyeol. "I don't know how close to the front we can get, though."

"We'll do our best," Jongdae says, holding up a camera bag. "I brought my DSLR specifically to get pics of you crying."

"Maybe you'll accidentally take some shots of the actual wedding," Chanyeol says dryly. "I'll see you guys outside."

"Hey, in all seriousness," Junmyeon says, catching his arm, "I'm glad this is working out for you and Jongin." He and Jongdae both flash him a thumbs-up. "Have fun out there."

Chanyeol waves them off, but heads up the stairs feeling a little lighter. The ceremony and reception should be fun, after all, and with the hard part of the weekend out of the way yesterday, he and Jongin don't have much to worry about.

He gets to the bedroom just as Jongin is buttoning up his shirt. His hair is styled up and away from his face, reminding Chanyeol of the magazine spread he'd first seen him in so many days ago. The memory throws him off for a moment, and he almost doesn't hear Jongin when he speaks up.

"Hey, do you have a tie I could borrow?" he asks. "I packed one, but I don't think it's the right colour."

"Yeah," Chanyeol says, pushing his unbidden thoughts away. "Actually, I have something better."

He digs through his suitcase for a few seconds and comes out with two long skinny ties, both the same shade of teal blue.

"I figured we should match," he explains, holding one out to Jongin.

Jongin takes it, stroking lightly over the silky material. "You bought this for me? When?"

"After we talked on the phone that time," Chanyeol admits, smiling shyly. He shrugs when Jongin raises his eyebrows at him. "Something clicked."

Jongin laughs as he puts it around his neck, and tries to tie the knot but fumbles.

"Let me," Chanyeol offers, and takes the ends from him. He steps closer to tie it, adjusting the knot to rest at the base of Jongin's throat. He's close enough to feel Jongin's breath on his face, and when he looks up, Jongin is looking back at him.

"Thank you," Jongin murmurs, reaching up to Chanyeol's shoulders, then leans in to kiss him.

Chanyeol kisses back, sliding one hand down Jongin's chest and using the other to steady him, gently resting on his hip. Jongin tilts his head and leans in closer, one of his hands sliding into Chanyeol's hair as their lips move together.

It's nothing like the quick kisses Jongin's given before. Instead it's slow, Jongin pressing against him like they have all the time in the world. Chanyeol gets his hand halfway up the back of Jongin's shirt before he remembers that they're actually on a schedule.

He gives in a few seconds longer, then reluctantly breaks the kiss. "We really do have to get dressed," he breathes, trying his hardest not to stare at Jongin's mouth.

Jongin nods and steps back, slipping out of Chanyeol's grasp and straightening himself out as best he can. "I'll, um. See you downstairs," he says, smiling at him sheepishly, then grabs his suit jacket off the end of the bed before hurrying out of the bedroom.

Chanyeol sets about finding all the pieces of his own suit and throwing them on, thanking his past self for remembering to iron his dress shirt. It's only when he's knotting his own tie, looking in the mirror and catching a glimpse of his kiss-swollen lips, that he pauses.

For every other kiss, there had been people around, witnesses who could recount later how close he and Jongin were. It was all part of the act, just one more thing to make their story believable. Casual intimacy.

But this time they had been alone in his room, with no one around to see. Why had Jongin kissed him at all? It seems unnecessary to take their act an extra step further, especially now that the weekend is almost over. Jongin hadn't mentioned anything beforehand, either. It's not like Chanyeol minds - he participated just as much as Jongin - but it's a little confusing. So is the fact that he didn't think about it until now.

Kissing Jongin was easy, almost natural. Maybe they both need to sort out the line between what's necessary for the act and what's going a little too far - but right now there isn't time for that, not when his sister is about to get married. With one last check of his reflection, Chanyeol takes a deep breath and heads downstairs.

--

The wedding ceremony, when it finally happens, is even better than he imagined. The backyard is fully decorated, barely recognizable with all the hanging lights and flowers in place. Chanyeol walks down the aisle with Jongin like they practiced, their hands clasped tightly together. Neither of them can keep from smiling. It's a little weird when they get to the gazebo, looking out at all the guests, but Jongin's grip on his hand is warm and strong and grounding.

Chanyeol definitely cries, though, when Yura walks down the aisle, and again when she and Insung are saying their vows, and again when they kiss. Jongin digs out his pocket square to wipe his tears, snickering at his sniffles.

"Next time, I'll bring tissues," he whispers with a smile.

He says it like there really will be a next time. Chanyeol knows he probably didn't mean it, but still finds it hard to smile back for a second.

Once it's all official, the guests all stand up to applaud as Yura and Insung go back up the aisle together. At the end, Yura tosses her bouquet, but it goes right over her bridesmaids' heads and lands directly in Kyungsoo's lap. He plays it off, holding it up and grinning sheepishly as the crowd coos, but Chanyeol catches a glimpse of Baekhyun across the room, looking arguably more determined than he ever has.

Afterwards, all the chairs are moved to the edges of the yard and catering tables are brought out for the reception. There's also a stereo set up, and some guests get up to dance. Jongin gets pulled away by some of the bridesmaids to liven up the floor, leaving Chanyeol by himself with the opportunity to sneak away to the other side of the yard, where Junmyeon and Jongdae are sitting together at the long table serving as a bar.

"Hey," Jongdae greets, grinning widely at him. "If you're here to try and delete the crying photos, you're too late. I backed them up already."

"Whatever," Chanyeol says. "Get me a drink."

Junmyeon stops him from reaching for one of the coolers on the table, looking concerned. "What's wrong?"

"It's nothing," Chanyeol huffs. "I'm just overthinking. It's not going to matter after today, anyway."

"So it's about Jongin," Jongdae guesses, taking a sip.

"It is," Chanyeol admits, "but again, it doesn't matter."

"Hey, no," Junmyeon says with a frown. "Tell us about it. Maybe we can help."

Chanyeol slumps into one of the chairs next to theirs with another huff. "It's just… this whole thing, the fake relationship, the act, it's… ugh." He runs a frustrated hand through his hair. "Why did you let me do this?"

"You literally asked me to let you do this," Junmyeon points out.

"I don't see what the problem is," Jongdae says, furrowing his eyebrows . "No one suspects anything. You guys are really pulling it off."

"That's exactly it," Chanyeol groans, slumping over the table. "Everyone believes us. Yura, my parents, Kyungsoo, even Baekhyun - they all think we're really in love."

"Isn't that what you wanted?" Junmyeon asks. "How is your plan working perfectly a bad thing?"

"Because it might be working too well," Chanyeol says, faltering. "I think… I think sometimes I believe us, too."

Jongdae's eyes widen. "You're in love with Jongin?"

"No," Chanyeol says quickly, then looks away. "I… I don't know. I can't tell if it's part of the act. If I'm faking it or not."

"I think it'd be pretty easy to tell," Jongdae says, sharing a confused look with Junmyeon.

"Not for me," Chanyeol says with a harsh laugh. "I've already been here once, with Kyungsoo. What if this is the same as that, and I'm falling into it way too fast? Making myself believe there's something between us when it's really just… nothing?"

"That could be," Junmyeon says with a nod. "But what if it's real?"

Chanyeol hangs his head. "How do I know for sure?"

"That's up to you to ask yourself," Junmyeon says, patting his shoulder. "But for now, I think someone wants to ask you to dance."

Chanyeol turns around to see Jongin standing a few feet away, smiling shyly at him with his hair messy and his tie loose around his neck. He stands up to join him with a grin, forgetting what he was worried about for a moment. "Having fun?"

"Soojung is a good dancer," Jongin says, swaying towards him. "And she kept finding champagne for me."

"Ah, so you've really been having fun," Chanyeol snickers, steadying him with a hand on his waist.

"You'll come dance with me, right?" Jongin asks, tugging at his jacket.

Chanyeol hums. "I don't know, I'm not very good."

"That's okay, I'll lead," Jongin says, already pulling him towards the rest of the dancing guests. Chanyeol laughs and lets himself be led along.

He really isn't so bad at dancing, but Jongin is ten times better, even when he's tipsy. Chanyeol wants to just stand back and watch him move, but every time he stops, Jongin grabs his hands to get him going again. Eventually he just doesn't let go, and ends up dancing closer and closer to Chanyeol until their bodies are nearly touching on every beat.

He's going to miss this, Chanyeol realizes. Having Jongin next to him, close enough to touch. Through all the weird uncertainty, the bottom line has always been that they have to part ways tomorrow, and Chanyeol doesn't want to never see Jongin again.

"What's that look for?" Jongin says with a laugh, bringing Chanyeol out of his thoughts. He wraps his arms around Chanyeol's neck, lowering his voice. "Are you feeling okay?"

"Yeah, it's nothing," Chanyeol assures him, unable to keep from smiling at him. "How about you?"

"I've been worse," Jongin giggles. He's pressed right up against Chanyeol now, the warmth of him seeping through his clothes. They've all but stopped moving, just barely swaying together even though the current song is loud and fast-paced.

Chanyeol wonders if they could just stay like this all night. He watches Jongin bite his lip, his eyes flicking down to Chanyeol's mouth more than once. Of all the times to hesitate, Chanyeol decides, this would probably be the time he regrets most tomorrow. He leans in easily, and gets a split-second glimpse of Jongin's lips curving into a smile before they connect with his own.

It's like everyone around them fades out and all that's left is the music in his ears and Jongin in his arms, kissing him soundly and pressing even harder against him. He keeps Chanyeol on his toes, flicking his tongue against the seam of his lips one second and dragging his teeth over his bottom lip the next. Chanyeol lets one hand trail down Jongin's front until he reaches his belt buckle, and then a little lower just to make Jongin gasp into his mouth.

They're interrupted by Baekhyun as he walks by, face flushed from alcohol, with Kyungsoo in tow, looking a little rumpled himself. "This is supposed to be a family-friendly event," Baekhyun yells over the music. "Can you two get a room?"

Jongin pulls away with a laugh, leaning his forehead against Chanyeol's instead.

"Still gross," Baekhyun shouts, as Kyungsoo tugs him away.

"Well," Jongin murmurs, sliding his hand down Chanyeol's arm to twine their fingers together, "we do have a room."

It sends a wave of heat down to Chanyeol's toes, and he lets Jongin lead him by the hand through the yard, past all the tables and guests and into the house.

It's much quieter inside. Chanyeol can only hear Jongin's breathy laughter as they climb the stairs and his own heart pounding in his ears. He barely gets the bedroom door closed before Jongin tugs him over to the bed and pushes him down on his back, shucking his jacket off before climbing on top of him.

Chanyeol sits up to pull his own jacket off, then lets his hands immediately go for Jongin's hips while Jongin shifts closer, legs spread with his knees on either side of Chanyeol. Slowly and deliberately, Jongin grinds his crotch against Chanyeol's thigh, propped up underneath him. Chanyeol feels his whole body flush.

Jongin does it a few times, rocking against him so Chanyeol can feel him getting hard. His tight dress pants do very little to hide it, and Chanyeol's cock stirs at the sight - Jongin flushed and sweaty from dancing with his lips red and swollen and his cock hard against Chanyeol's thigh.

He surges up to catch Jongin's mouth again, licking past his lips as soon as Jongin opens up for him. Jongin's hips stutter a little, but he picks it back up at a quicker pace than before, whimpering every time Chanyeol flicks his tongue.

Chanyeol is sure he's never wanted someone so much. It's not just the escort job anymore, it's Jongin; it's kissing him and touching him and introducing him to his family; it's his heart pounding out of his chest and his mouth on Jongin's mouth and the ache in him that wants Jongin to always be this close.

But he hasn't said anything, and now the words are bubbling up out of his mouth before he can stop them. He pulls away and puts his hands on Jongin's shoulders, holding him out of reach. "Jongin, wait. Maybe we should talk about this."

"Come on," Jongin whines, losing his rhythm again. "Can't we talk later?"

"As much as I would love to keep going," Chanyeol sighs, willing himself to be firm, "I really think we should talk."

With a groan, Jongin slows down and slides off him. Chanyeol sits up straighter, trying his best to ignore Jongin's dishevelled appearance and look him in the eye.

"What is it?" Jongin asks, impatient.

"There's something I need you to know," Chanyeol says, making himself speak slowly instead of letting the words run together. "Having you here, charming the pants off my whole family and playing your part so perfectly, it's been great. But… I'm not sure I want that."

Jongin flinches back, looking hurt. "What do you mean?"

"I don't want to act anymore," Chanyeol says, taking Jongin's hands in his own. "I know I might be crossing a boundary here, but I really… need to tell you." He waits until Jongin meets his gaze again before taking a deep breath.

"I want it to be real. Telling people how we met, holding your hand, waking up together - all of it. And I know it's probably too much, and this is just another job to you, right?" He shakes his head with a wry smile. "But that's how I feel. I really like you, Jongin. And I can't keep going with this without letting you know."

Jongin is quiet for a long time. His mouth is still red from where Chanyeol kissed him hard. Chanyeol makes himself look away.

"It's not," Jongin says eventually. "It's not just a job to me. It hasn't been for a while."

He shifts a little, tucking his legs underneath himself. "I thought you might notice. There were some things that I took further than I probably should have, but I… I couldn't help it." He looks up with an apologetic smile. "I told you before, I feel like I can just be myself with you. It's not an act. And sometimes it felt like you weren't acting either, but I was scared that I was reading it all wrong, so I never said anything."

He shakes his head, and looks up to meet Chanyeol's eyes with a tentative smile. "I'm saying it now, okay? It can be real if you want it to be. Because I do."

"Then I do too," Chanyeol says, squeezing his hands. Jongin breaks into a beautiful grin, and Chanyeol's whole body floods with relief so quick he feels a little like he's going to pass out. Jongin kisses him though, and that brings him right back.

Chanyeol lifts his hands to either side of Jongin's face, holding him almost delicately, until Jongin gets impatient and moves to climb on top of him again.

"Maybe we should take this a little slower," Chanyeol suggests. "You know, since we just got it figured out, and all."

"We already did the rest of the steps in this relationship kind of backwards," Jongin points out, unbuttoning his shirt and tossing it away. "What's one more?"

"Good point," Chanyeol agrees, sliding his hands down Jongin's bare chest. "Now, where were we?"

--

By the time they get up and head downstairs the next morning, most other guests have already left. The newlyweds took off for their honeymoon hours earlier, so Chanyeol only has his parents to say goodbye to before he and Jongin head outside with their suitcases to wait for a cab.

Baekhyun's car is still in the driveway, and he and Kyungsoo are standing off to one side. Chanyeol almost calls out to them, but it seems like they're having a whispered argument, both gesturing heatedly.

Jongin frowns, looking ready to go break it up, but Chanyeol holds him back, watching carefully. A second later, Baekhyun leans forward and cuts Kyungsoo off mid-sentence with a peck on the cheek. Kyungsoo immediately turns bright red and gets in the car without saying anything else, and Baekhyun does a happy little fist pump before getting in on the other side.

"Aw, young love," Chanyeol sighs, as the car pulls out of the driveway. "Kyungsoo's gonna have his hands full with that one."

"Do you think Baekhyun knows what he's getting into?" Jongin asks.

"Probably not," Chanyeol says with a shrug. "But Baek has a thing for diving in head first."

Jongin makes a face. "I won't ask."

Chanyeol laughs as they make their way to the end of the driveway, just as their cab pulls up. "God, I can't believe I have to go home and write a book now."

"Well, we all have to pay the rent somehow," Jongin snorts, opening the trunk and setting their bags down inside.

"Oh, speaking of," Chanyeol says, following him around the side of the car and holding the door open for him. "How much do I owe you for this, by the way? Like, the not-quite-three days you were on the clock for?"

Jongin ducks into his seat with a hum. "Well, how about this." He looks up at Chanyeol with a smile. "Buy me dinner, and we'll call it even."

Chanyeol grins, leaning down to kiss him. "We'll call it a date."

"Ooh, first date," Jongin laughs as Chanyeol shuts the door and gets in on the other side. "Now we really are doing things backwards."

"Could be worse," Chanyeol says, shutting his own door. "I could be writing sad poetry about you."

"That's true," Jongin agrees, folding their hands together on the seat between them. "I like this way better. I still won't read your books, though."

"I can live with that," Chanyeol says, and smiles as Jongin scoots over, resting his head on Chanyeol's shoulder for the long drive home.