[personal profile] maayacolabackup







*

“What do you think of yin and yang?” Chanyeol asks, and Junmyeon looks up from where he’s adjusting the front of his jacket to stare at Chanyeol.

“Chanyeol, what?” He stares at himself more carefully for a second, before slipping his pocket mirror back in his pocket. Junmyeon is the most careful of all of them about looking perfect.

Chanyeol’s own jacket, the silver one that looks like it’s made from the skin of a creature unknown to Earth, is impossible to adjust, so Chanyeol settles for pulling at his fingerless gloves. “Like, complementary opposites, or whatever.” Chanyeol furrows his brow. “Duizhang was talking about it…”

“Um,” Junmyeon says. “It’s like… two halves of a whole? I think it makes sense. Just because two things are opposite doesn’t mean they are dueling? For example, us and the fans. We’re opposites, but without each other, we wouldn’t have a purpose in the entertainment industry. You can’t be a fan without an idol, but you definitely can’t be an idol without fans.” Junmyeon looks at him. “Why are you asking?”

“Sometimes I wonder,” Chanyeol says, “if a lot of things that look like they don’t belong together at all actually fit together just like that.” Chanyeol’s blond hair had looked so pretty, knotted with Jongin’s, and that, Chanyeol is certain, is not a good thought.

Junmyeon laughs and pats him gingerly on the shoulder, probably as hesitant as Chanyeol is to touch the unknown material of his jacket. “Ah, Chanyeol, don’t worry. You and Jongin will be okay.”

Chanyeol blushes. He swears he’s never blushed as much in his life as he as in the past four months. He’s never been as shameless as Baekhyun, but he’s never had so many secrets before, either. “I wasn’t-“ Chanyeol is going to continue, but then Baekhyun is sidling up to him, hair sprayed into curls and lips glossy, and Junmyeon takes the opportunity to slip away, finding Kyungsoo on the other side of the room.

Chanyeol catches Jongin’s eyes and can’t help but recall the way Jongin looks when he comes.

“It’s showtime,” Baekhyun says, a twinkle in his eyes, and Chanyeol pokes him in the side, and this is easy and comfortable.

*

“I hate being around you,” Jongin said, eyes hooded. “It’s tiring.”

*

Jongin is as good at figuring out Chanyeol’s body as he is at figuring out choreography.

Chanyeol is clumsy, but Chanyeol’s always been determined, and he finds the ways Jongin likes to be touched. The first time he takes Jongin into his mouth, letting his tongue slide up the underside of Jongin’s cock as Jongin’s hands clutch at his hair, he uses too much teeth and he gets too much spit everywhere. Jongin stares at him with wide, amazed eyes anyway, and Chanyeol thinks it can’t be so very bad. He can feel Jongin’s pleasure in his own body, like an endless feedback loop, and when Jongin comes down the back of his throat, it only takes three quick pulls with Chanyeol’s hand to bring him off too.

Jongin, though, finds all the places on Chanyeol’s body that turn him into jelly, lips clinging to the lines of Chanyeol’s hips and the sensitive spots on he insides of his arms, and Chanyeol feels like he’ll turn to ash with the heat of Jongin’s touches.

“You’re so loud,” Jongin murmurs against the skin of Chanyeol’s belly, where Chanyeol used to feel the snakes, and Chanyeol pushes covers his mouth with his hand as the other one holds to any part of Jongin he can reach, clutching at hair and shoulders and biceps. “Always so loud.”

“That’s just me,” Chanyeol says, gasps, moans, and Jongin’s face is clear and concentrated, and for once he doesn’t look upset by it. Chanyeol thinks he looks almost fond.

“I don’t get you,” Jongin says, and it’s half-helpless and half-resigned. His hands burn patterns into the skin of Chanyeol’s inner thighs, and Chanyeol gets louder.

Jongin, in contrast, is all stifled noises any tiny purrs; inaudible gasps that make Chanyeol feel on top of the world as he spills across Chanyeol’s hands and his own stomach. In those moments, Chanyeol can almost believe Jongin is the other half of his soul, because they fit together so perfectly.

It isn’t until Jongin presses a soft kiss to Chanyeol’s neck, where his pulse is still thundering, that Chanyeol speaks.

“What is this?” Chanyeol asks, and Jongin’s eyes are more like a lost little boy’s than those of a man who’d kissed and bit his way up Chanyeol’s inner thigh. “What is this?”

Chanyeol’s heart is shaking as he asks. The bond is pulling on him, but this is different. The both know Chanyeol isn’t talking about anything physical.

The way Jongin doesn’t answer sounds like it means nothing, and Chanyeol curls his hands into the sheets and tries to sleep.

*

Chanyeol isn’t exactly sure what he expected to change. Maybe he’d thought now that Jongin didn’t even pretend he was going to sleep in his own bed anymore, and that they’d occasionally slip hands down each other’s underwear, Chanyeol breathing heavy into Jongin’s neck as Jongin licked and bit at his ear and jaw, things would feel easier. Maybe he’d thought they’d feel closer.

But it doesn’t seem to work like that.

Chanyeol is pretty sure if he tried to buy Jongin a soda, he still wouldn’t accept it.

Chanyeol is pretty sure if he reached out to smooth the tense line of Jongin’s jaw as he studies their new choreo, Jongin would still flinch away.

Chanyeol feels like the place he and Jongin are in now is even worse than before, because Chanyeol finds himself wanting more and more, and Jongin is still unwilling to give him anything at all.

It makes it hard to sleep, but it’s the old-fashioned kind of sleeplessness; hard earned by racing thoughts and an uncertain emotion that’s all his own.

Sehun watches him with steady eyes, now, and Chanyeol knows that means he’s slipping. He smiles a little wider back at his friend, and Sehun rolls his eyes.

“Try-hard,” he says, and Chanyeol laughs and hits him.

“Always.”

*

Baekhyun wraps his arms around Chanyeol’s neck and tugs him down to whisper in his ear.

“So cute,” the MC coos, and Chanyeol grins at her, a big lopsided one that makes his left eye a bit smaller than the right.

“Your face is so weird,” Baekhyun says affectionately, and pinches Chanyeol’s cheek. Chanyeol clings, because Baekhyun makes him feels safe, and Jongin’s been even moodier than usual today, shrugging off even Chanyeol’s mildest greetings.

So Chanyeol stays away, and finds comfort in the familiar. Baekhyun doesn’t make Chanyeol feel like he’s whole, but he also doesn’t make Chanyeol feel like he’s falling apart.

Jongin doesn’t like it. Chanyeol doesn’t know why, but he can sense Jongin’s discomfort growing with every push of Baekhyun into his side.

Chanyeol is shocked, though, when during a break in their interview, as Junmyeon begs off to use the restroom and Sehun steals a bag of chips from Seunghwan’s satchel, Jongin comes close and snaps a hold of Chanyeol’s wrist. Kyungsoo protests that there’s no time, but Jongin ignores him.

Jongin drags him backstage, all the way back to an empty dressing room. They really don’t have time for this. Chanyeol’d seen Baekhyun’s face when Jongin had wrapped a hand around Chanyeol’s wrist and pulled. “Let go,” Chanyeol says, careful to keep his face genial.

Jongin does, immediately, looking a bit surprised with himself. “Chanyeol-“

“Why are you so mad?” Chanyeol asks. “Baekhyun is one of my best friends. It’s not anything more than that. And even if it was, why does it matter to you?”

“I don’t know,” Jongin says, a harsh whisper more than a shout. “I don’t know, okay? But you can’t do that.”

“You don’t get to tell me that,” Chanyeol says. “You don’t get to ignore me and tell me I have to ignore the people who actually like me.”

“I’m not,” Jongin says. “I’m not telling you—It’s just, you can’t… the bond…” Chanyeol can feel it now. His stomach is a mess, the snakes angry and hissing. Chanyeol’d gotten used to the quiet.

Jongin looks furious, and Chanyeol can’t ignore his anger that slips thick and syrupy across the bond, heavy at the pit of his gut as he tries not to let his smile falter.

“I’m a person,” Chanyeol says. “Not a machine, no matter how much SM tries to convince us we should be. I have feelings--” It feels like a waste of breath. He turns away. “We have a show.”

“I’m trying to talk to you.”

“You never want to talk to me.” Chanyeol’s questions and words swallowed by Jongin’s lips or greeted with Jongin’s broad shoulders. Silences that have stretched way too long between them. Chanyeol’s tried to talk to Jongin too many times.

“I want to, I just don’t know how. I don’t know how to do anything with you!”

“You know how to fuck me,” Chanyeol says. “And how to make me feel like I’m not good enough to be your friend. You know how to ignore me, and how to make me feel stupid. You know how to do a lot of things with me.”

“You don’t understand,” Jongin says. “You don’t understand how much I wish I could explain to you-“ Now Chanyeol can feel his smile falling, and it’s only practice that keeps it from crumbling.

“Am I supposed to understand?” Chanyeol asks, letting his fingers grip at the table behind him.

“Why are you smiling?” Jongin shakes his head. “You’re smiling at me? Now?”

“That’s what I do.” Chanyeol turns away from Jongin to look in the mirror. His hair is too curly, today, bordering on frizzy. He smoothes it with careful fingers. “I smile. You dance, and smirk, and swivel your hips, and I smile. That’s my job.”

“There’s no one here.” Jongin grabs his wrist again, too hard, but Chanyeol doesn’t complain. “There’s no one here and you’re not happy. I can feel that you aren’t happy. I can feel everything that you feel, and you aren’t happy.“

Chanyeol’s eyes meet Jongin’s in the mirror, and he gently pulls his wrist free. “Of course I’m not happy,” Chanyeol says. “How the heck am I supposed to be happy?” Jongin’s eyes widen.

“Why can’t you feel everything I feel?” Jongin asks, pathetically. “Why do I have to explain it to you?”

“Because you’re always angry,” Chanyeol says. “And frustrated! And regretful. Sometimes you’re confused, too. Do you want me to infer from that?”

“Wait-“

Chanyeol swallows down his temper, same as he does when someone shoves one of his band mates too hard at the airport or when an old friend from high school refuses to answer his calls because of who he is now. “Let me tell you what that means to me. It means you’re never going to like me.” Chanyeol has been pushing and pushing that stupid boulder, and it really is an impossible task.

“What?”

“It doesn’t matter how hard I try, I’m never going to be someone you like.” Saying it out loud hurts, even though Chanyeol had accepted it years ago, between rejected vending machine soft drinks and the flinches Jongin could never control. Maybe the soul bond, and all of the things that had come with it—Jongin’s soft smiles, and Jongin’s hand on the small of his back, and the way Jongin’s face looks when he’s just kissed Chanyeol senseless—had given Chanyeol some misguided hope, and that’s why it feels like a fresh realization. A fresh wound. “I’ll never be-“ Right, is the word Chanyeol bites down on.

There’s nothing wrong with Chanyeol. It’s just that Chanyeol is all wrong for Jongin, and that’s not something Chanyeol can fix. That's not something like dancing, that Chanyeol can just try harder at. Chanyeol is a circular container and Jongin is a square lid and some things just don’t work.

Jongin’s always had people he likes best.

Chanyeol’s never going to be one of those people. He can grin and bear it. It’s only the rest of his life, after all, that they’ll spend bound together like this, souls shackled and hearts trying to get as far away from each other as possible.

Jongin must feel the misery Chanyeol can’t hold in tight enough through the bond. Chanyeol can feel Jongin’s familiar confusion, and Jongin’s frustration. Chanyeol can feel something else, too, but he can’t decipher it.

“Look, Chanyeol,” Jongin says, resting his hand lightly on Chanyeol’s elbow for a moment, before he lets it fall, “it’s not- you’re not-“ He bites his lip. Chanyeol can see Jongin’s reflection out of the corner of his eye as he focuses on his own. “Stop smiling.” Now Jongin sounds angry. “How many times, before we had this stupid bond-”

“You’ve never been much good at hiding how you feel.” Chanyeol’s wrist and elbow still tingle. His chest hurts. He knows touching Jongin would make it stop, but Jongin doesn’t like to be touched. “But when I have to be, I’m the master at it.”

“You can’t hide anything from me, now,” Jongin whispers, and Chanyeol swallows and breaks their gaze, eyes falling to the spread out make-up trays and scattered brushes on the counter. Those are easier to look at than Jongin’s eyes, because Jongin’s eyes make him feel stripped of defense.

He guesses he is.

“Now that,” Chanyeol’s hands grip the edge of the counter, “is something I hate.” His cheeks hurt. His gums feel dry.

“Chanyeol-“ His chest is so tight he thinks it might collapse in on itself. He’s not sure if it’s his emotions, or Jongin’s, or some terrible mix of the two that makes everything so unbearable.

A noise outside the door. It opens, and Baekhyun walks in. “The PD needs Jongin,” he says, and Jongin sighs. Chanyeol can sense Jongin pulling back, in more ways than one. He begins to speak, but in the end he doesn’t. He just walks past Baekhyun and out into the hall.

Baekhyun lets him pass, and then enters, coming over to stand next to Chanyeol. Chanyeol wraps an arm around his shoulders and pulls him into a hug.

“Thank you,” Chanyeol says, and Baekhyun laughs lightly.

“I don’t need a soul bond to tell me you’re miserable.” Baekhyun gives Chanyeol a few soft pats on his back. “The look on your face when you were being dragged away was clue enough.”

“We could have been…” Chanyeol starts to say, but then he flushes, pressing his lips together, because even if everyone knows, they don’t talk about it.

“I hate to be the one to break this to you, but that’s not remotely quiet.” Baekhyun wriggles his eyebrows suggestively. “I really should have pegged you for a screamer, but-“

Chanyeol’s fingers find Baekhyun’s neck, and Baekhyun is squealing and dodging, and they’re both laughing. Somewhere along the line though, Chanyeol’s laugh starts to feel more like a sob, and Baekhyun’s hugging him again.

“Hey, you’re okay, buddy.”

“Why couldn’t I have been bonded to you instead?” Chanyeol asks as Baekhyun fixes his make-up, smoothing away tear-tracks and carefully reapplying powder.

“Because then who would put you back together?” Baekhyun chuckles. “This is a good job for me, don’t you think? I’ll be your circular lid today.”

“A perfect fit,” Chanyeol says. The tightness in his chest is loosening. His smile feels real now. “Thank you. Again.”

“What are friends for?”

When they walk out onto the set hand in hand, the MC swoons, but all Chanyeol can do is swallow and ignore the heavy weight of Jongin’s eyes, and the way Jongin’s anger and frustration bubble up inside him like a volcano.

*

“Do you want to sleep with me tonight?” Baekhyun asks, when it’s almost time for bed. Chanyeol has his knees tucked under his chin. And Baekhyun is fiddling with his watch.

“No, I’m going to call Wu Fan,” Chanyeol says. “I’ll be fine. If he’s still awake, I’ll apologize or something.”

Baekhyun sighs. “I wish things could be easier for you, Chanyeol.”

“Me too,” Chanyeol says. “But they can’t be, so I’ll make the best of it.”

Wu Fan answers the video call on the third ring, face mask comically applied, and hair held back with a headband. He looks ridiculous.

“Don’t even laugh at me,” Wu Fan says. “Your eyes are red and you’re about to start crying.”

“You cried on TV. I watch the video sometimes when I start thinking you’re cool again.”

“You always think I’m cool,” Wu Fan replies. “That’s why I like you.”

“I do have to watch the video a lot,” Chanyeol admits, and Wu Fan laughs.

“What’s wrong, Chanyeol?”

The entire thing pours out of Chanyeol before he can even think of holding anything back. Maybe it’s because Wu Fan isn’t here, but he feels like Wu Fan is an outside perspective.

“Chanyeol,” Wu Fan says, at the end, when Chanyeol is wrung out and spent, “I think I was wrong. I think you are a piece of tupperware.”

“What?”

“Do you not understand what jealousy implies?”

Duizhang, I’m being serious.”

“So am I,” Wu Fan says, and Chanyeol thinks his expression now, underneath his thick mask, is the human personification of ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. “There’s a thin line between love and hate, and I think you’ve put Jongin on the wrong side of it.”

What?

“You should really, really talk to Jongin.”

“He can’t talk. He can only glower and react.”

“Well then,” Wu Fan says, “I am out of advice.”

*

“I’m going to sleep,” Chanyeol says, when he walks into the bedroom. He doesn’t look at Jongin, who is definitely still awake.

“I don’t understand you,” Jongin says.

“So you’ve said,” Chanyeol replies, as he pulls off his socks and sits on the end of his bed. Jongin is watching him. The lights are off. The snakes in Chanyeol’s stomach are impossible to quiet.

“But,” Jongin says, and his cheeks are puffed out, lips pouting as he carefully contemplates his next words, “you don’t understand me, either.”

Chanyeol does look at him then, and it’s a mistake. It’s a mistake because this is not Kim Jongin as he is on stage; this is Kim Jongin as Chanyeol has come to know him, biting his lips and looking more like a child than like an adult. This is Kim Jongin, looking at Chanyeol like he gives a fuck what Chanyeol thinks of him, when Chanyeol should honestly know that he doesn’t.

The snakes are angry.

“Should I?” Chanyeol asks, and he doesn’t like the way his voice isn’t sure.

Jongin sighs, and leans forward, resting his forehead on his knees. His hair shines, even in the limited light from his phone on the dresser. “Blue.”

“What?”

“My favorite color is blue.”

Chanyeol stares at him, mouth slightly open.

“Close your mouth,” Jongin says. “You asked.”

“You said it was black, once. In one of our first interviews.” Chanyeol wants to slap his hand over his mouth.

“I like black too, but blue is my favorite.” Jongin sighs again, and ruffles his hair. “And my favorite soda is grape. And I like breakfast more than lunch. And I like oatmeal body wash, and-“

“Lavender shampoo,” Chanyeol whispers, and Jongin’s eyes are bright as fireflies in the darkness.

“Yeah,” Jongin says. “And lavender shampoo.” He stands up, and walks closer to Chanyeol. It’s only three steps, and a little over a meter, but it feels longer. Jongin stops right in front of Chanyeol, and Chanyeol has to look up at him. He feels small. “And cinnamon toothpaste. Mint is nasty, Chanyeol.”

Chanyeol laughs, and his heart is beating so fast. “Are you telling me my mouth tastes nasty?”

“No,” Jongin replies, and he puts one hand along the line of Chanyeol’s jaw. “And I’m telling you not to give up on me, too.”

“Oh,” Chanyeol says, and he reaches up and curls a single hand around Jongin’s neck. “Okay.”

And then Jongin is kissing him again. It’s not the same as it’s been before. Chanyeol feels like Jongin is slowly unfolding him. Like Jongin is kissing him and not finding anything wrong.

“Definitely not nasty,” Jongin says, and Chanyeol laughs again, big and stupid and probably not attractive at all, but Jongin smiles back at him anyway. “I like that smile,” Jongin says. “The real one. It’s the fake one I hate.”

”I like your smile, too,” Chanyeol wants to reply, but Jongin’s mouth is sweet and enthralling, and Chanyeol would be alright with cinnamon toothpaste, maybe, if he has to compromise.

Chanyeol doesn’t know why, but he needs Jongin closer. He’s not sure if it’s the bond, or just that Jongin is being so open, but either way, he wants to pull Jongin so close he’s inside of Chanyeol’s skin.

As Jongin fucks him for the first time, and Chanyeol thinks this is as close as you can get. Muscles scream, in his lower back, but he can feel the movement of Jongin inside of him and Jongin’s desperate gasps into his shoulder, and when he wraps his legs around Jongin, and Jongin slips even deeper, Chanyeol feels like they are melting together.

“Chanyeol,” Jongin murmurs into Chanyeol’s skin, and the bond glows and shudders and it’s so bright behind Chanyeol’s eyes that for a moment he’s blinded.

“Can we be friends?” Chanyeol asks, and Jongin looks at him, eyes round, and Chanyeol wonders if he’s said something stupid.

“Yes,” Jongin says, breathy and amused. Chanyeol can feel his happiness and contentment though the bond, and it makes him happy too. “Yes, Chanyeol, we can be friends.”

*

They gather in Junmyeon’s room to watch movies on Sehun’s laptop, hooked up to the monitor they’d all pitched in to buy Suho for his birthday.

Chanyeol takes a seat on the floor, curving his back against the wall and stretching his legs out in front of him. He leaves space next to him for Baekhyun, but it’s Jongin who sits beside him. Baekhyun raises both brows with entertained speculation, and Sehun coughs ”gay” into his hand. Kyungsoo gives them both a tiny approving smile, and Junmyeon is too busy swearing at the monitor to react at all.

Chanyeol’s discomfited, wanting to shift closer, maybe, but instead he just holds himself motionless. The sun is out, and Jongin is still touching him. Their band mates are here, and Jongin is still touching him.

“You’re so happy, right now,” Jongin says, so quietly only Chanyeol can hear. He sounds amazed. “Why?”

Chanyeol likes the way Jongin is relaxed into his side, flipping aimlessly through television channels. Jongin is melting into him, like a processed cheese square dropped on a bowl of shin ramyun, and Chanyeol savors the contact.

“Because you aren’t dismissing me,” Chanyeol answers.

“Is that all it takes to make you happy?” Jongin asks. Chanyeol thinks about it, carefully letting one hand come to rest on Jongin’s thigh. Jongin doesn’t pull away.

“Yeah,” Chanyeol says. “I’m a simple guy.”

“Yeah right,” Jongin says, but he says it with another one of those shy smiles, and Chanyeol thinks he’s never wanted to remember something so bad in his life.

"Why does everyone always say that?"

"Most people..." Jongin frowns a bit, turning so his cheek mashes into Chanyeol's shoulder, "want something back. More practice hours in exchange for more dance parts, or 'I'll treat you to lunch if you treat me.' But you..."

"But me?"

"All you want is for me to look at you." Jongin's voice is bewildered. "How is that enough?"

Chanyeol smiles, a tiny one that doesn't show his teeth at all. "It just is," Chanyeol says.

"That makes you the least simple person I've ever met," Jongin says, and Chanyeol takes a chance, and slides his thumb along the seam of Jongin's jeans.

Jongin doesn't flinch away.

*

Sisyphus, Chanyeol knows, stole the secrets of the gods, and earned his punishment by whispering them to mortals. The only secret Chanyeol has stolen is the way Jongin looks when he sleeps, eyelashes fluttering and drool down his chin, his hair dark like a shadow across his forehead.

Chanyeol wonders if his punishment isn’t making Jongin like him after all. Maybe his punishment is never knowing whether Jongin would have come to like him anyway, or if he’s just given in because they’re stuck together. The weight of not knowing whether what Jongin feels has anything to do with Chanyeol at all is immense and exhausting, but Chanyeol bears it because this is how things are, and because Jongin’s hand is so warm in his own.

*

“Most of all,” Jongin said, putting careful distance between himself and Chanyeol, “I hate that you want everyone to be your friend.”

“Why?” Chanyeol asked, stretching his arms up to the ceiling to pull out the tightness in his back.

“Because that means I’m not special,” Jongin replied, and Chanyeol wasn’t sure if it was worth it to tell Jongin how wrong he was.

*

Jongin looks at him from across the stage and Chanyeol smiles back, and the feeling in his gut now, coming from both him and Jongin, is optimism.

The bond is strong, and bright, and Chanyeol feels a tiny, annoying thread of hope.

*

Seunghwan corners them on the way out of their last bit of last filming for the new MV. “I need to talk with you both.”

“We’re not fighting anymore,” Jongin says. “And neither of us are tired.” The tips of his ears are red, and Chanyeol thinks it’s cute, the way Jongin can whisper the dirtiest things into Chanyeol’s cheek but blushes at the thought of anyone suspecting they might be friends.

“Jongin is going to an event in Thailand with PYL,” Seunghwan says. “And after consulting with Dr. Bae, we’ve obtained permission to try a new medication.”

“Medication?” Chanyeol asks, and Seunghwan nods. “What does it… do?”

Seunghwan looks down at his phone, sliding his thumbs along the keys and pulling up a notepad. “It suppresses the bond.”

“Suppresses?” Jongin asks. His face is closed again, and Chanyeol blinks in thought. “It makes it go away?”

“It makes it as if it isn’t there,” Seunghwan answers. “It’s very experimental, but it’s had several successful test runs now, and it took a while to get permission from both Dr. Bae and the guys upstairs.”

“You want to use an experimental drug on us?” Chanyeol asks, and he crosses his arms protectively across his chest. Jongin leans in a bit, and at the touch of his shoulder, Chanyeol calms. “Is that… safe?”

“We wouldn’t give it to you if we weren’t confident,” Seunghwan says. “It’s just a shot. It might even be a permanent solution in the future.”

“A permanent solution?” Jongin asks, and his eyes are excited. Chanyeol’s heart… doesn’t feel so good.

“Like, the bond would be as if it never were?” He wonders if he sounds as hesitant as he is. Jongin is looking at him strangely, now, and Chanyeol doesn’t look back. “It would just be… our own feelings, and not anything to do with the bond?”

“It would be like that, yes. The bond would still exist, though. Soul bonds are forever.”

Chanyeol remembers now, the way Jongin had sounded in the hospital. ’Someday you’ll get to fall in love,’ Jongin had said. ’Someday you’ll get to think ‘I want to spend the rest of my life with this person.’ I’ll never get to do that. And that’s not fair.’

“Then let’s do it,” Chanyeol says firmly. “Let’s do it now.” Jongin stiffens next to him, and Chanyeol still doesn’t look. He’s kinda scared that if he looks, he’ll change his mind.

“The appointment is tomorrow,” Seunghwan says. “And then Jongin leaves directly for Thailand.”

“What if it doesn’t work?” Jongin says, and Seunghwan shrugs.

“Then it will be an uncomfortable four days. But you’ll make it, because the bond should be settled enough. And it will work. It’s worked on everyone else.”

One shot, Chanyeol thinks, and Jongin will be free.

“It’ll work,” Chanyeol says, with confidence he doesn’t feel. He smiles big and wide, and hopes Jongin isn’t paying attention to the way Chanyeol’s stomach feels bottomless with his misery.

*

“Will you let me buy you a soda on the way out?” Chanyeol asks that night, as Jongin carefully unbuttons Chanyeol’s shirt, pulling it aside to bare Chanyeol’s pale skin. He drops gentle kisses along the line of Chanyeol’s collarbones. “Just once I’d like to have you accept it.”

“Yeah,” Jongin says, and his tongue traces the path his lips took moments before. His movements are slow, and if Chanyeol didn’t know any better, he would think they were reverent.

When he works Chanyeol open, with three sloppy wet fingers, he keeps his eyes on Chanyeol’s face. Chanyeol tries not to question whether this is the last time he and Jongin will ever be this close.

When Jongin comes, he says Chanyeol’s name over and over and over again, and Chanyeol memorizes the cadence of it, and lets Jongin’s voice carve right into his heart.

“You can buy me a soda whenever you want,” Jongin says, as Chanyeol starts to fall asleep. “And I promise I’ll accept it.”

“Okay,” Chanyeol says, and he sleeps.

*

It only takes three minutes for five months’ worth of Chanyeol’s life to rewind. The shot goes into his arm and Jongin’s at the same time, and Chanyeol’s vision blurs. Jongin is staring at him, looking sallow and pale, and then Chanyeol can hear the snakes hissing so loud it’s like they’re screaming.

“No, wait-“ Chanyeol starts to say, but he can’t force the words out. Then everything is empty. Chanyeol is empty. There’s no steady thrum of the bond in his chest and no snakes in his belly and no feelings he can’t directly pinpoint as his own. He’s just Chanyeol, again. One person. The only thoughts and emotions he can find are his own.

“That’s it,” Dr. Bae says with a wan smile. “I still think this is a horrible idea but-“

“It’s for the best,” Seunghwan says, and Chanyeol nods with an agreement he doesn’t feel.

“Is it time to go?” Jongin asks, and his voice is hoarse. He looks shell-shocked, Chanyeol thinks, and Chanyeol must too, because Seunghwan grabs both of their arms like he thinks they’ll fall over.

On the way out of the hospital, Chanyeol stops at the vending machine. Outside are two separate cars. One will take Chanyeol to the dorm, and the other will take Jongin to the airport, along with Lu Han and Taemin and the others.

He feeds in three 500 won coins, and presses the button for a grape soda. “For the road,” he says, and Jongin takes it from him slowly. There is no spark when their fingers brush, and no supernatural flow of energy, but Chanyeol’s heart flutters just the same.

“Thanks,” Jongin says, and he smiles, wanly, and Chanyeol smiles back, megawatt large.

“Have a safe flight,” he says, with all the cheer he can muster, and he walks out first. Once he’s safely in the car, he allows himself to curl forward and shake, dry sobs wracking his body.

He’s pretty sure he did the right thing. Even if it feels terrible, Chanyeol thinks, Jongin is free.

And Chanyeol is… Chanyeol was fine, before, and he’s fine now. There’s an echoing emptiness in his chest, but he’s pretty sure he can fill it with Baekhyun’s laughter and Wu Fan’s lameness and the screaming of fans whom will never know any of this happened.

Chanyeol will be fine. And this is for the best. He’s pretty sure.

*

When Chanyeol returns to the dorm, nothing has changed. Sehun's sweatshirt is still on the floor in the foyer and Kyungsoo is still sitting on the sofa with his nose in a book about vocal percussion while Junmyeon raptly watches an analysis of this year's FedEx cup, like he hadn't watched all the highlights of every golf tournament this year on ESPN already. Baekhyun is still talking on the phone to one of his high school friends, laugh echoing through the dorm, and Chanyeol's half eaten bowl of juk is still sitting on the kitchen table, looking cold and congealed.

For Chanyeol, though, everything is different.

Kyungsoo looks up as Chanyeol slips out of his shoes, greeting him with a gentle smile. "So?"

"I'm still alive," Chanyeol says, laughing a little. "And Jongin is about to board a plane to Thailand."

"So it worked?" Junmyeon asked, breaking away from the TV. "No unexpected side effects?"

"Nothing unexpected, no." Chanyeol's hand comes up to his chest and clutches at his shirt. The emptiness is strange. It's like Chanyeol is missing an arm, only he has two of them and he's never needed three before now.

"Are you... Do you feel okay?" Kyungsoo seems hesitant to ask, treading around the subject with tact only Kyungsoo has.

"Sure," Chanyeol says. He hangs up his coat on the stand by the door. There's more room than usual, because Jongin's coat is missing. "I'm going to go take a nap."

He retreats into his room. Jongin's bed is made, like it's been for the past month, because he hasn't slept there. Chanyeol's bed is a mess, the sheets needing a wash. Chanyeol strips the bed, shaking the pillows out of their cases and dumping everything in a pile on the floor at the foot of the bed.

He flops down belly first on the mattress, and smushes his face into a pillow. Even without the case, it still smells like lavender. Chanyeol's stomach hurts like he's been punched.

He can't blame the bond for the way he still wants Jongin to be lying next to him. He can't blame the bond for the way he can't forget the taste of Jongin's skin.

"You're all right," he whispers to himself, and he closes his eyes as tight as he can to stop the sting.

He dozes for the rest of the day, and when he finally opens his eyes, night has fallen. He feels disoriented, and tries to figure out what has woken him up. There's light from the hall, so Chanyeol rolls over to see who has opened the door.

It's Baekhyun. "You've been in here all day," Baekhyun says, turning on the light. "What a waste of a rare day off!"

Baekhyun jumps on Chanyeol's back, and Chanyeol grunts as Baekhyun's weight pushes him deeper into the mattress. "Leave me alone."

"Do you really want me to?"

"No," Chanyeol grudgingly admits after a moment of thought. While its tempting to wallow, Baekhyun has a way of cheering Chanyeol up with just his presence. "Can I ask you a question?"

"You just did," Baekhyun says, and Chanyeol rolls over, toppling Baekhyun down next to him. Baekhyun clings onto him to keep from falling off the bed. He squeezes in close to Chanyeol's side, elbow banging into Chanyeol's ribs. Chanyeol laughs, but it sounds a bit hollow.

"Shut up."

"Then you definitely can't ask me a question," Baekhyun says. "Because I won't be able to answer." Baekhyun's breath is hot on his neck.

Chanyeol feels nothing but affection. His heartbeat remains steady.

Chanyeol is doomed.

"Is it ridiculous that for just a little while, I thought-" He brings his hands up and scrubs at his face. He purses his lips for a moment, then takes a deep breath. "That for just a little while, I wanted to be a square container?"

Baekhyun's silent.

"Or not really," Chanyeol rushes to add. "Maybe I just wanted us to fit together anyway."

"You know," Baekhyun says, when Chanyeol's almost given up on getting a response, "I was wrong, before."

"About what?" Chanyeol stares at the ceiling. Baekhyun sighs.

"The container thing... People are much more complex than that." Baekhyun pokes at Chanyeol's face. "And..."

"And?" Baekhyun sits up, now, so he can look down at Chanyeol with one of his more serious faces. His eyebrows are scrunched together, and his eyes are narrowed in thought.

"And, you know... You sort of smoothed out Jongin's corners, once he let you."

"What?"

"Jongin's always been prickly, but you sort of... Barreled past all his cactusy needles because you're so dumb and reckless."

"Must you always use metaphors?"

"I'm just trying to put it in terms even you can understand," Baekhyun says. "Before you spend the next two weeks asking everyone we know more about their opinions on yin and yang again."

"I don't like you very much." He reaches over and pulls the hood of Baekhyun's sweatshirt over his head, as if it will subdue Baekhyun's laughter.

"You love me," Baekhyun sing-songs.

"Maybe," Chanyeol says.

"You love Jongin, too," Baekhyun says, after a moment's hesitation. Chanyeol's heart does that quaver it's taken to doing at Jongin's name.

"Maybe," Chanyeol says, and that sounds much less sure. "But it doesn't matter."

"Are you sure?"

Chanyeol thinks about how things were before the bond, and he licks dry lips. "Yeah."

"The bond didn't make Jongin smile at you, you know," Baekhyun says. "He did that all on his own."

"Stop," Chanyeol says gruffly, and Baekhyun nods, moving to stand. Chanyeol makes a wild grab, and catches Baekhyun's forearm. Baekhyun stills.

"I didn't mean to upset you," Baekhyun says. "Really."

"I know. Can you... stay?" Chanyeol clutches at Baekhyun's arm, and Baekhyun studies him for a moment before nodding again, more slowly.

"Of course," he says, and Chanyeol sags with relief.

"Just for a little while," Chanyeol says. "And then it'll be fine. Just. For a little while."

"Take as long as you need," Baekhyun says, and Chanyeol knows he isn't talking about tonight.

"Thank you," Chanyeol says, and Baekhyun pats Chanyeol on the head like Chanyeol is a puppy.

"Of course."

*

Jongin comes back on a Wednesday. He drops his duffle bag in the hallway, and Chanyeol looks away from the television.

There are no snakes in his belly. There's no shiver of pleasure from the bond as Jongin steps further into the living room. Chanyeol's heart is beating fast anyway. Chanyeol longs anyway.

"Welcome home," Chanyeol says, and then he tears his gaze away from Jongin, whose eyes are gleaming with the light reflected from the TV, lips dry and brows knitted.

Out of the corner of his eye, he sees Jongin's tongue peeks out, same as always, running the outline of his mouth. "Thanks," Jongin says, raspy, and Chanyeol wonders if he'll say anything else.

He doesn't.

"We moved the rooms back," Chanyeol says, when Jongin continues to stand there. "You're with Kyungsoo again. He sighed with relief! Apparently Baekhyun is too much of a mess for him." Chanyeol strives for levity.

"Did you not... want to... stay with me?" Jongin asks haltingly.

"There's no reason for me to, now, is there?" Chanyeol keeps his eyes trained on the screen, but he doesn't really see what's on it. Every nerve in his body is tuned to Jongin's nervous shifting from foot to foot.

"I-" Jongin's hands slide into his pockets. Chanyeol doesn't have to look; he doesn't need the bond to tell him that Jongin is nervous, and that Jongin can't think of anything to say. He doesn't need the bond to tell him that Jongin's thumbs are sliding across the stitching along the pockets of his jeans. Chanyeol just knows. He's been watching Jongin so long. "I suppose not."

"I missed Baekhyun," Chanyeol says, because he's always been supposed to fill the silence.

"Okay," Jongin says, and he picks up his bag again and walks back towards the rooms. He pauses in front of the room he'd shared with Chanyeol, and then walks to the left, opening the door to his old room with Kyungsoo. "Goodnight, Chanyeol."

"Goodnight."

Chanyeol feels like he's going to be sick.

*

"Are there any members you'd like to get to know better?" the MC asks, and Baekhyun laughs.

"I know all the members pretty well," he says, and Kyungsoo nods in agreement.

"I feel like most of us are really close."

"What about you, Kai?" the MC asks, and Jongin wriggles in his seat. Sehun punches Jongin in the arm, and Chanyeol fixes his eyes straight forward and smiles.

"Chanyeol," Jongin mumbles.

"Chanyeol?" The MC turns to him. "What do you think?"

"Kai and I know each other pretty well, I thought," Chanyeol says, putting his hand to his chest and feigning shock.

"I always think I do," Jongin says. "But then you surprise me again."

After the show, Junmyeon whispers harshly at Jongin, and Jongin glowers back, and Chanyeol clings to Baekhyun's hand and pretends that Jongin had never said anything at all.

*

"You asked if we were friends," Jongin says, standing in the door of the bathroom, trapping Chanyeol inside. "I said yes."

Chanyeol watches the toothpaste foam swirl down the drain. "You didn't want to be friends before the bond," Chanyeol says.

Jongin reaches past Chanyeol and grabs his mint toothpaste. "Because mint is nasty," Jongin says. "And you want to be friends with everyone."

"I really wanted to be friends with you," Chanyeol says lowly, reclaiming his toothpaste from Jongin's hand. Chanyeol wants to link their hands, because he likes the way they look together, Chanyeol's thick knuckles with Jongin's thinner ones. Instead, he just checks the lid, and then sets it down on the sink again. "More than other people."

"Really?" Jongin asks. "I thought it just bothered you that I didn't like you."

"Only because I liked you so much." He pushes past Jongin, and it's a close fit, because Jongin takes up most of the doorway. Chanyeol, if he were braver, could lean forward and kiss Jongin, just like Jongin had kissed him, that night in the kitchen, the briefest brush of lips. "So much." He moves out of the door, and into the hallway.

"Do you still?"

"Does it matter?"

Jongin doesn't turn around, and Chanyeol walks into his room, and closes the door.

*

When Seunghwan announces that K can take their first vacation, Chanyeol sends Wu Fan a mocking email (enjoy your schedules ☆*:.。. o(≧▽≦)o .。.:*☆), and then calls his sister.

"I'm coming home," Chanyeol says, and his sister laughs.

"Are you bringing Jongin?" she asks, and Chanyeol clenches the phone a little tighter.

"No," Chanyeol says.

"Okay," she replies, and Chanyeol pouts.

"I'm going to want a lot of ice cream," Chanyeol says, and his sister chuckles.

"I got ya," she says, and Chanyeol feels a bit better already.

*

"It's strange," his sister says, as they lie on the floor of the living room. "That neither of you love each other."

"Jongin never..."

"Because that's not how soul bonds work."

"What do you mean?"

"Well," she says, flopping so that one of her legs is trapping both of Chanyeol's down, "they only form if two people are right for each other."

"I've never been right for Jongin," Chanyeol says.

"I don't know," his sister says. "He's always seemed like he might be hard to get to know."

"He is."

"But you're easy," she continues. "And stubborn."

"So?"

"Maybe he needed someone to be stubborn," she says. "Just like you needed someone to make you look outside yourself."

"Are you calling me a narcissist?" Chanyeol jokes, and she pinches him, hard. "Ouch!"

"You guys aren't very much alike. But opposites aren't necessarily conflicting."

"Like yin and yang," Chanyeol says, and he dwells on the way Jongin is quiet, even in sleep.

"Soul bonds connect people who fit together," she says, and Chanyeol's stomach twinges, and he swears he can almost hear the snakes hissing at him, coiled and angry in his belly.

*

i take it back, Chanyeol types to Wu Fan. i hate your advice

Wu Fan sends him a tiny animated rabbit that blows hearts, which Chanyeol knows means ‘hang in there.’

*

Tomorrow is Christmas.

Their family isn't waiting on any visitors, and neither is he in particular, so when Chanyeol's mother calls up that he has a visitor, Chanyeol doesn't know who to expect.

He's not expecting Jongin, though, when he looks up from his laptop to see who is standing in his doorway. He leans back in his desk chair, in shock.

“What are you doing here?” Chanyeol asks, looking down at his socks. “Shouldn’t you be on the other side of the Seoul? We’re all taking breaks from each other for a reason, Kim Jongin.” They’d gotten shots just so they could. Chanyeol still gets a phantom pain in his chest sometimes, where he should feel Jongin and he doesn’t.

Chanyeol remembers the taste of Jongin’s lips and the way Jongin’s hands had pressed so hot to his sides.

"Your sister called me."

"I hate her."

"You don't hate anything." Jongin sounds certain of that.

Chanyeol clicks aimlessly on a new tab, and surfs automatically to the Naver homepage. The cursor blinks ominously. "You hate everything."

"Not everything." A stutter, barely noticeable.

"I guess not." Chanyeol's hair is a mess. He's wearing a shirt he's had since middle school. Jongin's seen him worse, though, even if Jongin always looks perfect, even now, in his ugly winter coat that Chanyeol thinks might be almost as unforgivable as those sandals he wears in the summer.

“Chanyeol.”

“You’re free,” Chanyeol says, looking down, and he doesn’t want to look up again because he doesn’t know what he’ll find in Jongin’s eyes. But he can’t help himself because even if he shouldn’t be, he’s a little in love with Jongin. No magic to blame at all; just Chanyeol’s hopeless heart. “No one is forcing you to visit me. Time apart won't be punished.” He laughs. It's an awful sound.

Jongin clears his throat, and Chanyeol’s watches the movement of his adam’s apple, the dregs of inexpertly applied cover-up on the bumps along his jaw, right where it meets his neck. Chanyeol knows how the skin under it tastes, but everything comes to an end, especially fantasies. He thought it would take longer in the business before he got this disillusioned. "I-"

"Do you want some water?" The floor is cold even through Chanyeol’s socks.

"Soda." Chanyeol wishes Jongin would step closer. He wishes he had enough courage to take Jongin’s hand.

It’s so strange, Chanyeol thinks, just how much he’s come to need Jongin’s touch in a way that has nothing to do with a soul bond.

"I don't keep that around the house. Do you think I need sugar?" Chanyeol knows if he doesn’t keep bantering, he’ll cry, and crying’s not something Chanyeol does in front of other people. Not because there’s shame in it, but because that’s not Chanyeol’s job.

It’s Chanyeol’s job to smile.

"Not today. Maybe next week, you can buy me a soda." Jongin’s fingers, nervously toying with the seaming on the pockets of his jeans. He’s so beautiful, and Chanyeol loves the slope of his forehead and the pout of his lower lip, and the way he looks so vulnerable as he stands in front of Chanyeol now.

"Buy your own soda," Chanyeol says, trying to keep the tone light because he's scared.

"I want you to buy it. So I can accept it. I want you to buy me a soda next week, and the week after that too."

"You're getting as spoiled as Sehun." He laughs, but they both know, Chanyeol thinks, that it isn’t an honest one. Chanyeol feels a flicker of something—a bit of white behind his eyes and seated deep in his chest, and it’s distracting enough to make him frown for just a second before he catches himself.

Jongin scratches at his hair, though, and looks like he wants to scream. "I'm saying this all wrong, huh?" His face twists.

"That's okay," Chanyeol says. "I don't get you even when you do say what you mean."

"It's... Look. Listen.."

"I am." Chanyeol stands up from his desk. "I'm listening." Chanyeol’s been looking and listening for a while now, and everything he sees, and everything he hears, makes him all the more sure that Jongin is not the same to him as anyone else is. That Jongin is here to be everything Chanyeol wants but can’t have.

He’ll push and push and push, but he’ll never succeed.

Chanyeol’s not expecting Jongin to grab his hand and lace their fingers together. “You’re right,” Jongin says. “I’m free.” He moves closer, pushing into Chanyeol’s space, and Chanyeol’s pulse quickens because just the smell of Jongin’s lavender shampoo is enough to tie his stomach in knots all over again.

It’s not like the snakes. This, Chanyeol thinks, is just average, ordinary heartbreak.

“Then what are you doing here?” Chanyeol asks, and his voice cracks. Chanyeol wonders if Jongin can see the ache he feels in his chest reflected in his eyes, even if he can’t feel it through their bond. “You don’t owe me anything. I never… I just bought you grape soda because I knew you liked it.” Chanyeol laughs. “Not because I wanted you to owe me anything.”

“I know I don’t owe you anything,” Jongin says. “Also, you're a loud, obnoxious idiot, and you never know the right thing to say. You trip over your own gigantic feet and have the dumbest facial expressions and make my life so much harder than it has to be because you don't understand anything I try to say.“

“You just don't make any sense,” Chanyeol says, and if his bottom lip is trembling, he’s not willing to acknowledge it. He also won’t acknowledge the stinging at the corner of his eyes, or the sweatiness of his palms. "It's not my fault you don't make any sense."

"Stop smiling," Jongin says. "Stop."

Chanyeol’s okay. He’s an adult now, and every adult faces unrequited love at least once in their life. And maybe not every adult faces soul bonds and having to spend every day of the year with someone who rejects almost everything about them, but Chanyeol’s the idiot who will smile through anything. He’ll smile through this too. This and everything else. He hopes Baekhyun will let him hold on a little tighter, just until it’s get easier.

He looks at Jongin, whose gaze has wandered over to Chanyeol’s 2NE1 posters and crookedly hung family photos, and takes in the slight downturn of Jongin's lips and the dull pink of his cheeks and the dark circles under his eyes, and he thinks if he has to get his heart broken, at least it was worth it.

Because even if Jongin doesn’t love him; even if now that the bond between them is gone and that undeniable force that drove them together is no longer constantly pulling, Chanyeol knows that Jongin doesn’t hate him, and they’ve come a step further. That’s enough. It has to be enough, and if Chanyeol thinks about that, he can probably hold on to his smile.

“But,” Jongin says, and Chanyeol suddenly remembers that Jongin is still holding his hand, thumb running in small familiar circles like the ones that Chanyeol had left on the inside of Jongin's thigh, sitting on the floor by Sehun's bed, “I sort of want..."

"What?" Chanyeol asks. "What do you want?"

"I want you to be my loud obnoxious idiot.” His cheeks are a ruddy pink. Chanyeol's not sure that he's breathing. Everything is standing still.

Jongin chokes a little, and now Chanyeol realizes that Jongin seems nervous. He’s doing that thing where his lips stick out like a duck, too much air in his cheeks and hair falling sloppy into his eyes, and Chanyeol wants to kiss him so bad it hurts. “Yeah?” Chanyeol asks, still bordering on disbelief, and Jongin tugs on Chanyeol’s hand, so Chanyeol stumbles forward until they’re standing toe to toe and Jongin can probably smell the chips Chanyeol'd been eating earlier on his breath.

“Yeah,” Jongin says. “So now I’m here, on this side of Seoul. My mom is making my favorite food tonight, and I’m missing it. And Chanyeol, I’m not holding your hand right now just because I have to.”

Chanyeol has so many words he needs to say, but none of them want to come out. He must be making a ridiculous face because Jongin’s gaze flickers back to him and he laughs, kinda incredulously and kinda like he can’t believe whatever it is he’s thinking. “Then why are you?” Chanyeol manages, and Jongin drops Chanyeol’s hand.

“Because I’m choosing to,” Jongin says. “Who the hell knows why. I must have fallen down and hit my head one too many times in rehearsal, or something, but even though the bond is ‘suppressed’, I still can’t-“ He pauses, and Chanyeol’s breathing pauses again with him. “I’m choosing to be here.” Jongin’s laugh, this time, is almost wild. Loud, like Chanyeol’s. The way Jongin only lets himself be when he's comfortable with someone. “I’m choosing you, Park Chanyeol. Honestly, I think I chose you before all of this. I think we chose each other, and that’s why we have a bond at all.”

And then both of Jongin’s hands are slipping into his hair and he dragging Chanyeol’s head down, too hard, and he stills, his lips barely brushing Chanyeol’s. Chanyeol’s hands settle on Jongin’s hips, finding balance as Jongin slowly exhales.

“Jongin,” Chanyeol says, and Jongin’s lips are chapped, and so are Chanyeol’s, the skin catching as the word escapes from Chanyeol’s mouth.

“What do you choose, now, Chanyeol?” Jongin asks, and Chanyeol doesn’t answer with words. As he captures Jongin’s lips, there’s that tiny spark, and a tingle that runs through his whole body. He can feel the familiar weight of Jongin settling back in its rightful place in Chanyeol’s heart, and instead of like manacles, it’s warm like a quilt in the winter.

“Don’t you know I chose you when I was sixteen?” Chanyeol replies, and Jongin gasps.

“Really?” Jongin’s lips catch on Chanyeol’s even drier ones. “Sixteen?”

“I think we’re sort of destined for each other,” Chanyeol says, voice lilting teasingly, and he laughs, and he can feel Jongin’s laughter, too, bubbling up in the empty space Chanyeol’s felt since their bond had been severed. He feels it pulsing between them anew, now, as if it had never left, and Jongin looks just as surprised and delighted as Chanyeol is. “Yin and yang.

“I’m not sure what I quite did to deserve the kind of bad luck that lands me with you forever,” Jongin replies, and Chanyeol squawks with false outrage, but then Jongin’s mouth finds Chanyeol’s again, and Chanyeol doesn’t know whose happiness is taking up more space in his chest, his or Jongin’s. “But I suppose I shouldn’t complain.”

Chanyeol guesses it doesn’t matter, in the end, whose happiness is greater. It can just be their happiness, and as Jongin’s fingers pull tighter at Chanyeol’s hair, Chanyeol’s boulder sits at the top of the hill, and he rests.

“Can I take you on a date?” Jongin asks, with the kind of seriousness only a freshly graduated high school boy can muster, like Chanyeol’s answer is life or death, and Chanyeol kisses him, deep and slow.

“Yeah,” he says, without waiting to catch his breath, and Jongin smiles, and Chanyeol’s joy is endless. “I’m probably going to spill tea all over you, and trip at least twice, and laugh way too loud in the restaurant.”

“I’d expect nothing less,” Jongin says, and there’s affection mixed in with the resignation when he kisses Chanyeol back.

*

END


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December 2012

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