[personal profile] maayacolabackup
Title: The Thin Line Between (Taijitu)
Pairing: Kai/ Chanyeol
Rating: NC-17
Summary: Jongin’s always had people he likes best. Chanyeol’s pretty sure he’s never going to be one of those people. (34k)
Notes: This is a universe that is almost canon, but not quite. You’ll see why.
Notes ii: This is late, but it was 'recently' (read: last month) Nav-nim ([livejournal.com profile] thatdayismine)'s birthday and I’m sorry it wasn’t on time ;___; I meant to do something short but you know how that goes. i adore you nav-nim, and i hope this is not terrible and at least marginally worth the wait. thank you a million trillion times to annie, without whom this never would have gotten finished because i kept trying to throw it angrily in the trash, and who saved both my sanity and my spelling. ilu annie u r the gr8est. Also writing things that aren't about China seem to be a bit harder to make happen ;___; <3
Warnings: (highlight to see, NOTHING SCARY so if you're worried about character death or something sad happening, that's not why there are warnings bc this is me; you know it's going to be puppies and rainbows.) accidental soul bonding ((omFg)), magic, suspension of disbelief? The premise is ridiculous, obviously <3
Language Notes: Taijitu (太極圖): looks like this. Gochujang is red pepper paste! It's eaten in a Korean rice dish composed of odds and ends from the fridge called bibimbap, which means mixed-up-rice :D. banchan is the general word for side-dishes, and doshirak are packed lunches sold as sets! I think I've made almost everything else into English, save for maybe kimchi





*

“And last but not least, Kai and Chanyeol have been selected to model,” Seunghwan tacks on to the end of his debriefing, “for Lie Sang Bong’s special collection. So we’re all going to Jeju.”

Chanyeol blows his bangs out of his face and grins. His mouth tastes like mint, because they’ve just finished lunch and Chanyeol always brushes his teeth right after. Kimchi stains enamel, and Chanyeol’s got a reputation.

“Cool!” Baekhyun says, leaning forward. “I haven’t been to Jeju since I was, like, six.” He stretches his arms, flashing his soft belly. Sehun looks like he’s tempted to poke it, but Chanyeol knows he’s probably too lazy to actually do it. “And also about the modeling, I guess. Congrats.”

“Don’t worry, Baekhyun,” Chanyeol says, setting his hand on Baekhyun’s shoulder, the sequined material of his jacket rough beneath Chanyeol’s fingers. “I’m sure there’ll be opportunities for tiny people in the future.”

“I’m not tiny.” Baekhyun smiles up at Chanyeol saccharinely. “I’m one-hundred percent efficiency. Not wasted space, like you.” Usually that sort of smile and quip is followed up by Baekhyun's heavy boot smashing into Chanyeol’s sneaker, but Baekhyun must be feeling charitable today.

“I’m not wasted space. I’m tall and manly,” Chanyeol replies, pushing his luck and resting his elbow on Baekhyun’s head. “With a cute face.” Baekhyun shoves him off.

“Cute like Shrek,” Baekhyun flutters his eyelashes, and Chanyeol chuckles and goes straight for Baekhyun’s neck. Baekhyun shrieks and hunches his shoulders and slips away, hiding on the other side of Kyungsoo, as Seunghwan releases a beleaguered exhale.

“Can we focus?” Seunghwan looks down at his watch. “You have a performance in two hours.”

“Who in the world picked Chanyeol to model?” Sehun says, ignoring Seunghwan and kicking at Chanyeol’s shin. Chanyeol throws an arm around Sehun’s neck and drags him close enough to flick his forehead with his other hand. “Ouch! Unhand me, Park.”

“Quiet, maknae. You’re just jealous,” Chanyeol says, chancing a glance over at Jongin.

Jongin’s face is hard to read. He’s looking at his feet instead of at any of them, and Chanyeol thinks his toes are tapping out the beat of MAMA, hands locked together behind his back. His hair falls into his face. It’s getting too long, but management seems to be avoiding any changes to their appearance.

Jongin hasn’t been paying attention for a while, actually. He does that, sometimes; just spaces out in the middle of things and gets lost in his thoughts. He’d been quiet during the entire impromptu meeting their manager had called as Kyungsoo and Junmyeon had packed away the doshirak lunches Seunghwan had brought for lunch. Chanyeol wonders if he’s thinking about the performance they’re doing in a couple of hours. Or if he’s thinking about the interview they just did. “Jongin, did you hear? We’re modeling for Lie Sang Bong.”

“Oh,” Jongin says. “Just me and you?”

“Yes,” Seunghwan says. “You and Chanyeol will serve as the male models. The rest of the models will be female. There will be no scandals. You’ll have two fittings and a single rehearsal, so make sure you pay better attention there than you just did here.”

Jongin flushes and scowls, still staring at his shoes. Sehun snickers and does poke Jongin, who swats his hand away easily, red fading from his cheeks. The frown, though… that lingers, pulling down on thick lips.

“It’ll be interesting to watch. We can take bets on Chanyeol’s balance.” Kyungsoo says, an innocent expression on his face that belies the teasing. “Don’t worry Chanyeol, I’ll bet on you not falling.”

“I’m in,” Sehun says, and Junmyeon’s silence is telling of his own complicity.

“Not you too, leader.” Chanyeol feigns offense, but he doesn’t really mind the teasing. Chanyeol knows they tease him because they like him, and Chanyeol can take being the butt of jokes much better than Jongin and Junmyeon can.

“It sounds like fun, anyway,” Junmyeon says. “What do you think, Jongin?”

Jongin looks up, and catches Chanyeol’s eyes for a moment before he looks away. “Jeju’s nice this time of year,” he says, with little enthusiasm.

“You know everyone’s going, right?” Chanyeol says, and it’s almost painful how quickly Jongin’s countenance brightens. Chanyeol knows Jongin’s pleased that it’s not going to be only him and Chanyeol.

Chanyeol’s tried for a long time to make Jongin comfortable with him, but Jongin doesn’t really seem to want to be comfortable with Chanyeol. Chanyeol knows you can’t win them all, but for some reason, he’s never been able to give up on Jongin as a lost cause.

“Oh really? All of us?” Jongin’s interest now is visible, and Chanyeol thinks Kyungsoo knows Jongin’s reaction stings because he pats Chanyeol gently on the back.

Kyungsoo coughs when Seunghwan sighs again. “Pay attention when manager is talking, Jongin.”

“Yes, please,” Seunghwan says slowly, like they’re kindergarteners. Sometimes, Chanyeol thinks, they really act like it. “You’ll be performing, too. So the whole group is going. Our two models will go a day ahead, and then the rest of the group will follow.”

“I want to go to the beach,” Junmyeon says, and Baekhyun murmurs something about Junmyeon and Sehun ’burning up in the sunlight like the vampires they are’ under his breath.

“It’s work,” Seunghwan says, but he speaks a little like he’s already given up on having control of this meeting.

Baekhyun throws a tiny piece of paper at Jongin, and Sehun smirks when it hits Jongin square in the nose. Junmyeon gives a sigh of long suffering even as he laughs at Jongin’s confused expression, and Chanyeol shakes himself out of the weird sadness to smile, too.

“I love Jeju,” Chanyeol says, clapping his hands together and smiling a little wider, and he lets himself get pulled into teasing Seunghwan, as Jongin whispers with Sehun and laughs behind his hands.

Chanyeol’s only a bit jealous; he’s used to it, after all.

*

Chanyeol met Jongin for the very first time in a practice room on the third floor.

It was a Saturday, and Chanyeol was fifteen minutes earlier than usual, because he’d somehow caught the eight o’clock 402 bus instead of the eight-fifteen one. Being a trainee was still fresh and exciting, so Chanyeol had woken up early that day, too excited to stay in bed. That meant he had a few minutes to burn, and so he’d wandered upstairs to see if anyone else was around.

He remembers following a heavy bass beat to the end of the hall. The door had been open. Chanyeol watched the room’s sole occupant-- a trainee, not one of his seniors-- dance. When the song ended, the trainee turned off the music and picked up a towel, vigorously rubbing at his hair and neck, before throwing the towel back on a chair and moving to start the music again.

“Hey,” Chanyeol said, announcing himself, and the trainee looked over to him, startled, turning his back to the mirror in order to stare at Chanyeol.

“Who are you?”

“I’m Park Chanyeol.” Chanyeol offered him a wide smile. The trainee didn’t return it. Instead, he watched with wary eyes as Chanyeol ventured further into the room, sneakers squeaking on the wooden floor. “I’m new. And you?”

Chanyeol knew the trainee’s name already. He’d heard about Kim Jongin, who took dance classes with Lee Taemin and made Sehun late for vocal lessons. He looked almost exactly how Chanyeol had pictured him; thin and wiry with dark, dark eyes. Chanyeol hadn’t expected the soft, vulnerable mouth. No one had mentioned that.

“Jongin.” It was grudging. Chanyeol smiled wider and hoped his friendliness might be contagious. It wasn’t.

“You’re a dancer?” Chanyeol wasn’t sure what else to say. While he was waiting for answer, he took a sip of his bottled iced tea. It was already getting warm from the heat of his hand.

“Obviously.” Chanyeol moved another step forward, and he almost thought Jongin might take a step back. “You’re not, though.”

“I could be.” Chanyeol swirled the warm tea around in the bottle, and then took another sip. “I just started, you know.”

“You walk like a newborn cow calf,” Jongin said. “You’ll probably dance like one, too.”

Chanyeol had been so startled he’d spit out his tea. It’d sprayed all over Jongin’s sweatpants and shoes, and Jongin had given him a disgusted, incredulous look that had made Chanyeol feel so small.

It had been an inauspicious start to an acquaintanceship.

Chanyeol hadn’t realized, then, that the incident would end up being a microcosm of their relationship for the next four years.

*

Chanyeol has tried, over the years, to wear Jongin down. It’s not that he’s fixated on making Jongin like him. Chanyeol just wants everyone to like him, because being liked has always been one of Chanyeol’s talents, and they get reminded enough by teachers and managers and each other on a daily basis about their inadequacies that Chanyeol’d like to hold on to this one thing that he’s always done well. So he keeps trying with Kim Jongin because it doesn’t make sense that Jongin doesn’t like him, and so eventually Jongin will.

Sometimes, it almost feels like it works; Jongin will smile at him, or help him play a prank on Sehun, or let Chanyeol have the rice at the bottom of the pot. (Chanyeol’s not sure if he knows Chanyeol likes it, or if he just doesn’t want it)

But then other days, Jongin will wince every time Chanyeol laughs, and flinch away from Chanyeol’s touch when Chanyeol reaches out to clap him on the shoulder, and it feels like Chanyeol’s starting all over again; Sisyphus trying to push that boulder up a hill only to watch it roll back down again to the foot.

When Chanyeol finds out they’re debuting together, he thinks it will get easier, and that Jongin will soften towards him. Instead, it’s twice as difficult, because Jongin’s patience is even shorter when he knows his success depends, at least partially, on Chanyeol’s mediocre dance skills. So Chanyeol works harder, and at least Jongin seems to approve of that. Chanyeol considers Jongin’s grudging respect headway.

And yet.

“Do you have to be so loud?” Jongin snaps, after a long day of rehearsal, when Chanyeol laughs a bit too hard at one of Baekhyun’s off-color jokes. Baekhyun frowns at Jongin, a tiny one, and Jongin’s eyes flicker down to the floor for a moment before he looks up again, brows furrowed and lips tight. Chanyeol can never figure out what that particular expression means.

“Sorry,” Chanyeol murmurs in reply, feeling, for some reason, like a scolded child, and he dusts off his hands and prepares to start pushing that boulder again.

*

Baekhyun throws himself onto Chanyeol’s bed, and Chanyeol looks up from his laptop to observe his friend, pulling one earphone from his ear. “What?”

“Are you excited about Jeju? You’re leaving in like three hours.” Three hours isn’t a lot of time. Chanyeol should pack, maybe. It’s not like there’s a lot for him to do, when someone else will be dressing him, doing his hair, choosing his shoes. All he really needs to pack is a toothbrush, a pair of pajamas, and a book to read on the plane for when Jongin inevitably puts his headphones on and tunes him out.

Chanyeol gets chatty when he’s confined, because he’s got too much energy and usually Baekhyun or Wu Fan will sit next to him, and give him an outlet. Jongin just makes Chanyeol feel the same way confined spaces do—trapped.

Chanyeol pulls his other earphone out, and grins, thinking about the positives. “It’ll be great. The weather will be refreshing, too.” Chanyeol’s not looking forward to the airplane ride, but he is looking forward to a change in scenery, even if it’s only more stages and more camera flashes. “Plus, we all know I’m destined to be a model.”

Baekhyun chokes a little, and Chanyeol laughs as Baekhyun peers up at him through his fringe. “Yes, with all the grace of a bull in a porcelain shop.”

“I photograph well,” Chanyeol retorts, blowing his own fringe out of his eyes.

“You’ll be on a runway, Chanyeol. Next to, you know, the most coordinated member of EXO, Kim Jongin.” Baekhyun waggles his brows, and Chanyeol shifts the position of his laptop, because it’s starting to burn his thighs through the thin material of his pajamas.

“He is rather good at moving,” Chanyeol says, suddenly recalling the way Jongin had looked so unenthused to go anywhere with Chanyeol. Chanyeol’s surprised it still makes his stomach clench. “I’ll try my best not to look hopeless.”

Baekhyun makes a gentle ‘hmm’ of agreement before rolling onto his stomach, bumping into Chanyeol’s feet. “Just don’t bounce.” Chanyeol flexes his toes so they dig into Baekhyun’s side, and Baekhyun wriggles away. “So…”

“So…?” Baekhyun’s face suddenly changes, upper lip thinning the way it always does when Baekhyun wants to talk about something serious. Chanyeol digs his toes in again, but this time, Baekhyun doesn’t react.

“You know Jongin doesn’t hate you, right?” Baekhyun says, and Chanyeol swallows.

“What are you talking about?” Chanyeol’s eyes focus back on his email, where he’d been typing to Wu Fan in a message composed mostly of simple Korean and excessive emoticons. Wu Fan pretends to be cool, but he actually uses more emoticons than anyone, and Chanyeol always uses just as many in his reply mails to make fun of his friend.

“It’s just…” Baekhyun trails off, his eyes boring into Chanyeol hard enough that Chanyeol has to look back up from his laptop. “Some people don’t fit. Together. Like with tupperware.”

“Baekhyun, what?”

“If there’s a circular container and a square lid, you can’t seal up the leftover banchan.” Baekhyun scrunches his nose. “It’s not because the square lid doesn’t like the circular container, or that the square lid thinks the circular container is too clingy and obnoxious-“ Baekhyun pauses here, and clears his throat. His mouth curls. “It’s just that square lids fit on square containers. And circular containers need circular lids. And that’s not the circular container’s fault or the square lid’s fault.” Baekhyun’s hands are kneading Chanyeol’s duvet now, thin fingers tangled in the fabric. “So the circular container shouldn’t feel sad about it, is what I’m saying.”

Chanyeol licks his lips. His eyes fall back to his message, but he’s mostly thinking about what Baekhyun has said, using far more words than he needs to, as usual. He turns the words around in his head, and it’s not a subtle metaphor so Chanyeol gets what Baekhyun is trying to say.

“What kind of container are you?” Baekhyun gets along with everyone so easily. He’s been here such a short time, comparatively, and yet it seems like he’s always been here.

“I’m the banchan,” Baekhyun says seriously, even as his lips twitch. “It doesn’t matter if the container is round or square.”

Chanyeol slides his foot down to Baekhyun’s soft belly and presses, and Baekhyun yelps at the tickle. “Hey!”

“I’ll try not to worry about my circular nature,” Chanyeol says gravely, as Baekhyun stares at him balefully.

“Actually,” Baekhyun says, as he stands up, tugging down on his shirt to pull out the wrinkles, “maybe you’re the square-“ Chanyeol sets his laptop aside and dives for Baekhyun’s neck, even as Kyungsoo peeks his head inside to ask about all the racket.

Chanyeol thinks a lot about circles and squares, and about plastic containers, as he stows his facewash, toothpaste and toothbrush into his small travel toiletries bag. But in the end, it just makes him kind of hungry for leftovers, and he still feels a lot like Sisyphus.

*

“I hate the way you smile,” Jongin said to him, the second time they met. “It makes me want to hit you.”

Chanyeol gaped at him, mouth wide enough to catch a frog instead of flies, and Jongin’s frown carved even deeper into his face. “I’m… sorry?”

“How can a human being possibly be that happy? You smile all the time. All the time.” Jongin’s hair stuck to his face with sweat, and his nose was shiny. His eyes were dark with frustration. Chanyeol assumed it was because he was holding the other boy up on the dance they were learning. Jongin, Chanyeol had learned, was sort of a natural dancer.

Chanyeol shrugged. “Do you want me to be sad all the time?” He reached up and untwisted the strap of his tank shirt. His arms were still too thin, but Chanyeol couldn’t eat enough food to make up for the centimeters he seemed to be growing overnight. Jongin was getting taller, too, but Chanyeol had already outstripped him.

“I don’t know,” Jongin said. “I just don’t understand you.” His collarbones were slick with sweat. Chanyeol’s skin felt wet, too.

“I don’t really understand you either,” Chanyeol admitted, after a long moment of consideration. “But I-“

“Let’s run through the choreo again,” Jongin interrupted. “We have to get it right by the end of the day.”

*

Something-- and Chanyeol’s not sure what, exactly-- happens on the short flight to Jeju.

Jongin and Chanyeol are going ahead of the other four, because they’ve got fittings to attend, and press photos to take. Chanyeol is running on four hours of sleep. Jongin’s running on few more than that, but hours count less for Jongin, whose arms are forever outstretched mid-yawn, balancing on the tightrope between asleep and awake. His head rolls onto Chanyeol’s shoulder when he dozes off, and Chanyeol looks down at him, surprised, because Jongin makes a concentrated effort not to touch him, when he’s awake.

Jongin’s cheek is warm, even through Chanyeol’s T-shirt, and there’s a bit of drool at the corner of his lips. Chanyeol accidentally raises a hand to brush the hair out of Jongin’s face before he remembers to stop himself, and when his fingers brush against the skin of Jongin’s forehead, there’s a tiny… spark. Chanyeol swears he sees it, bright white like lightning, but then he blinks and it’s gone, as if it never were.

It feels a little like when Chanyeol was eleven and Chanyeol’s sister had dared him to stick a fork in the electrical outlet in the living room, only this time Chanyeol’s hair doesn’t stick up in a million directions and there’s no terrified scream from his mother as the apartment lights flicker.

Instead, Chanyeol’s heart skips one beat, then two, and then starts a normal rhythm again, and the world is spinning around him as his fingertips linger right above Jongin’s brow.

Jongin feels it too, Chanyeol thinks, because his eyes flutter open, and he seems disoriented, eyes unfocused and lips parted as he searches for wakefulness. When he finds it, he pulls himself up from Chanyeol’s shoulder and back into his own seat.

Chanyeol’s shoulder feels a bit cold when he moves, and there’s a tiny wet-patch on the sleeve of his tee, but Chanyeol doesn’t mind. Chanyeol doesn’t mind most things, because the energy it takes to mind could be better spent laughing or dancing or singing or carefully brushing Jongin’s hair out of his face.

“Sorry,” Jongin says, and the letters crawl one by one down into Chanyeol’s belly and sit there, rolling around each other like snakes as Chanyeol picks his magazine back up and takes a slow, even gulp of air.

“It’s not a big deal.” Chanyeol shrugs. He can still feel the peculiar spark in the tips of his fingers and toes. His stomach feels weird. Jongin catches his gaze, and he’s still sleepy enough that he’s not frowning at Chanyeol just because Chanyeol is forcing his smile too wide again.

“Okay,” Jongin says, and his knee bumps Chanyeol’s as he reaches between his legs to dig his mp3 player out of the front pocket of his backpack.

It’s like fire, this time, and it shoots down Chanyeol’s calf and up his thigh, and Jongin stills. Chanyeol wonders if it’s really just him that feels the strange lancets of confusion wherever he and Jongin touch.

It wouldn’t be the first time Chanyeol’s imagination has run away with him.

*

When Chanyeol found out he was debuting with EXO, he was ecstatic. He knew not every trainee even got the chance to debut, so to be debuting with a group of guys he liked a lot, he thought he’d gotten the best possible outcome.

They were all loud, even Jongin, who is shouting something at Sehun, smiling with white teeth against golden skin.

Chanyeol picked Kyungsoo up and swung him, even as Kyungsoo laughingly demanded to be put down, and Wu Fan kept attempting to rescue Kyungsoo as Jongdae and Baekhyun took care to stay far enough away not to become Chanyeol’s next victims.

“Park Chanyeol, if you don’t put me down right-“ Chanyeol promptly swung him again, and Kyungsoo squawked, arms grabbing at Chanyeol’s biceps. Chanyeol set his friend down, and turned to advance on Baekhyun, but he tripped, maybe over nothing, and careened into Jongin instead.

Jongin had been mid-sip, his bottle of water uncapped and raised, and the contents of it spilled onto both of them.

“I’m-“

“Sorry, I know,” Jongin said irritably, looking down at his drenched sweatshirt. Chanyeol’s own shirt was soaked through, chilling his skin, but he wasn’t particularly concerned. He had another in his bag, probably, and if not, it was early enough in the fall that he’d make it home alright. “You’re always sorry.”

“I didn’t trip on purpose,” Chanyeol said, with a wide smile. Smiles had always defused situations with everyone else, but never with Jongin. It was only habit that had Chanyeol even making the attempt. “I never trip on purpose.”

“I’ll never escape you, will I?” Jongin mumbled, pulling off his hoodie before the water seeps through and gets his t-shirt wet. “Debuting together. Of course.”

Yixing offered them both towels, and Jongin took his and smiled at Yixing, and Chanyeol only felt a little jealous. He’d rarely been on the receiving end of Jongin’s smiles, although Jongin proffered them readily to everyone else.

“You always knew it was likely,” Chanyeol said, as Jongin dried his face and balled up his sweatshirt, chucking it in the direction of his bag. Chanyeol could hear Sehun bickering with Jongdae, the volume increasing as Baekhyun found his way into their inconsequential argument, and Chanyeol watched Jongin pat at his jeans. It reminded Chanyeol of his own wet clothes, and he half-heartedly started patting himself dry too. “Is it really so bad?”

Jongin didn’t reply at first. He just gave Chanyeol a long look, and sighed. “I hate that you’re so clumsy,” Jongin said. His eyes glinted a bit, with an emotion Chanyeol didn’t recognize, before that glint disappeared again as quickly as it had come.

“I’m working on it,” Chanyeol said. “The clumsy, I mean.”

“And I’m working on not hating it.” Chanyeol thinks Jongin’s facial expressions are like Lu Han’s Rubik’s cube, sometimes. Beyond Chanyeol’s ability to solve.

Jongin threw the towel to the same place he’d thrown the sweatshirt, and then Wu Fan was tugging on Chanyeol’s arm to pull him back toward the conversation. Jongin was already back at Sehun’s side, and Chanyeol tried not to think about the slight gleam he’d seen in Jongin’s eyes. It wasn’t worth analyzing.

Chanyeol knew he crawled up under Jongin’s skin and stayed there. He knew that Jongin thought everything about Chanyeol was obnoxious and overbearing and loud. Chanyeol knew all of that, but he still wanted Jongin to like him.

Chanyeol just wanted everyone to like him, even though he knew that was impossible and unrealistic. He’d settle for just Jongin, though. Jongin, who was both prickly and soft; loud and quiet. Jongin, who looked disappointed to debut with Chanyeol, after all. It left a bitter taste at the back of his tongue.

*

Being model, Chanyeol discovers, is mostly just a lot of waiting. He thinks it’ll be different during the actual show, later tonight, when they have to scramble into new clothes as quickly as possible, but for right now, it’s just a whole lot of standing around.

“You look so dumb,” Jongin says, staring up at Chanyeol through thick eyelashes. His mouth turns down at the corners, and the collar of his jacket tickles at his chin, and Chanyeol likes the way Jongin’s skin looks against the gray. “Why would they pick you to be a model, anyway? Baekhyun would be way better.”

“Baekhyun’s tiny,” Chanyeol says. “He comes up to, like, my waist.” He smiles as he says it, and Jongin’s frown becomes a little more pronounced. “Besides, aren’t you happy you get to spend time with me?” Chanyeol stubbornly adds a little extra cheer into it, because he’s perfectly aware Jongin would rather it be anyone else over Chanyeol, but Chanyeol’s got a reputation to maintain and he’s never really been a quitter. He thinks about circular containers and square lids and curses Baekhyun in the back of his mind.

“Thrilled,” Jongin says. Then he’s reaching up with both hands, smoothing down the color of Chanyeol’s jacket. Jongin’s close enough, Chanyeol realizes, that he can feel Jongin’s breath on his chin, and he fixes his eyes on the tiny furrow between Jongin’s brow instead of the brush of fingers that seems to burn even through his coat. Chanyeol’s not used to Jongin’s touch, but the way his body reacts to it is unusual even taking that into account. “Your collar was messed up.”

Chanyeol licks his lips as Jongin steps back, letting his hands fall back to his sides. “Thank you,” Chanyeol says, and he’s still wearing a smile but he feels… anxious, like he wants to take a step back, or maybe a step closer. He’s not sure which. He thinks... he thinks he feels those snakes again; the same ones from the plane that had made it hard for Chanyeol to breathe. “I hadn’t realized.”

“Of course not,” Jongin says. “You never notice anything over the sound of your own weird.” He turns away, watching the technicians fuss with the stage. Chanyeol appreciates the bit of island wind that blows just enough to make their jackets bearable in the late summer weather. “And it’s not so bad.”

“What?”

“Being here with you is not so bad,” Jongin says. “You’re always quieter when it’s just you. “

“There’s no one to entertain, when it’s just me,” Chanyeol replies, and Jongin looks at him in surprise. “So I don’t have to be loud.” Chanyeol thinks his face might be saying too much, so he stretches his smile a little wider, until he’s showing Jongin all of his teeth.

“Whatever,” Jongin says, and he crosses his arms, schooling his face into disinterest. Chanyeol swallows around a sudden lump in his throat. “Don’t think this means you can be all touchy feely with me because Baekhyun’s not here for you to crawl all over.”

Chanyeol scratches at the back of his neck, and his stomach feels twisted up, snakes twining faster around each other, because he doesn’t know what to say. Chanyeol dislikes not knowing what to say, because silences always feel so empty and it’s always been Chanyeol’s job to fill them. "Don't worry," Chanyeol says, and it sounds funny, like there's actually a squirrel or something there in his throat, blocking his voice from coming up and out. “I won’t.”

Then the tech is signaling that it’s time for another run, and Jongin goes first. Chanyeol watches him walk away, movements slinky and easy, and wonders why he feels so very circular.

*

That night, Chanyeol can’t sleep. The lingering adrenaline from the show, combined with the uncomfortable writhing of the snakes in his stomach, keeps Chanyeol from drifting off. He flattens his palms against his abdomen. “Calm down,” he says, thumping it once, and he looks over to where Baekhyun is sleeping, mouth open and sniffling. He doesn’t wake. Chanyeol’s relieved. “Calm down, self,” he whispers again, and when he closes his eyes, he can feel Jongin’s hands pressing down his lapels, and see the curve of Jongin’s lower lip, and the snakes don’t go away.

*

“You look exhausted,” Baekhyun says frankly. “And also like if I shoved you right now, you’d just fall right over and realize twenty seconds later that I’d pushed you.”

“That’s just Chanyeol,” Sehun says. “Zombie state or no. He’d probably look up and say Did I trip?’

“I’m fine!” To prove his point, Chanyeol waves his arms around in the air. His neck cracks, though, and then he yawns. “Just a little sleepy.”

“You haven’t slept since we got back from Jeju.” Baekhyun’s voice is flat. “Trust me, I know. I’m your roommate.”

“You’re sleeping, though. How can you know if I’m sleeping?” Chanyeol draws pictures of flowers with his fingertip on the kitchen table, the wood smooth and cool. He looks up when Baekhyun snorts.

“Because I used to have this horrible soundtrack to sleep to, and now my dreams are blessedly quiet.”

“What?”

Sehun smirks. “He means your snores, man. We all know you sound like a train coming off the tracks when you sleep.”

“I do not!” Chanyeol blows his bangs out of his eyes. They keep falling into his face, and he’d forgotten to grab a rubber band to pull them out of the way. “We’re all a little sleepy, anyway,” Chanyeol says, and he points at Junmyeon, whose palm on his cheek is the only thing keeping him from face-planting into his cereal as he half-sleeps, half-chews.

“You’re not sleepy,” Baekhyun says. “You’re exhausted. Both you and Jongin have these hideous dark circles under your eyes and look like someone chewed you up and spit you out. Did you guys have a fight?”

“Rude,” Chanyeol says under his breath. “I am as good-looking as ever.” He takes a deep breath. “No, we didn’t fight. It was actually… we got along really well.” Jongin hadn’t snapped at him once. Chanyeol hadn’t known how to react to a neutral Jongin. “It’s just… my stomach.”

He looks down at his own cereal, soggy by now, and bites his lip. Since Jeju, Chanyeol’s stomach has refused to relent. Day and night, he can feel those snakes, curling and slithering along the insides of his stomach walls, and it makes it impossible to fall asleep. Impossible to eat, too. He’s just not hungry.

“Finish your cereal,” Kyungsoo says. “Or there’s some rice left in the cooker, if that’ll be easier.”

“I’m not hungry,” Chanyeol replies, and Kyungsoo opens his mouth to respond, but then Jongin is stumbling into the kitchen, his hair a black shock of frizz and his lips almost white.

He looks sick. Chanyeol wonders if that’s how he looks, too, and maybe that’s why everyone is making such a fuss.

Jongin collapses down into the only open seat, next to Chanyeol, and reaches blindly for the cereal box. His elbow hits Junmyeon, who bolts up and starts pretending like he hadn’t been dozing into his breakfast, which has Sehun laughing at him and Baekhyun grinning ear to ear.

Jongin smells like laundry detergent and sleep. “Morning,” he mumbles, and Kyungsoo reaches across the table to take his temperature with the back of his hand. “Not sick.” He doesn’t swat the hand away though, and Chanyeol empathizes that it would take too much energy.

He shifts away from the touch, and his leg bumps Chanyeol’s. At the press of Jongin’s knee into his thigh, Chanyeol swallows at the way an odd tingle shoots up his leg. It is reminiscent of how it felt at the show rehearsals, when Chanyeol could feel the tips of Jongin’s fingers through his jacket.

Chanyeol takes a big bite of his soggy cereal to distract himself, and then another. Jongin’s bare leg is so warm. Chanyeol tries not to shiver; it’s so rare that Jongin doesn’t slide away from that kind of touch that Chanyeol doesn’t want to spook him; not when the touch is bizarrely soothing, and Chanyeol’s not really awake enough to piece together why.

When he stares down at his empty bowl five minutes later, he realizes that with Jongin’s calf leaning against his own, the snakes in his stomach have become unexpectedly quiet.

He looks over at Jongin, who looks back at him with hooded eyes, and Chanyeol again wonders if he’s the only one who notices.

“Well, at least you both ate,” Kyungsoo says, as Sehun pours himself a third bowl of cereal. “Now if only Jongin could brush his hair…”

“I’m going, I’m going,” Jongin says, with a tiny smile that he seems to save just for people trying to mother him. Chanyeol thinks he looks kinda soft, like that, and as Jongin stands up, moving away from him, the snakes come hissing back to life.

*

Later, in the car, on the way to a performance, Chanyeol is pushed by Sehun into Jongin’s side, and at the touch of their arms, Jongin’s bare and Chanyeol’s clothed, Chanyeol is finally able to fall asleep.

Sehun shakes him awake when they arrive at their location, and Jongin jumps away like he’s been burned.

“You and Jongin were so cute,” Sehun coos. “Two sleeping babies.” Chanyeol studies Jongin out of the corner of his eye, and wishes Jongin wouldn’t move away if he reached out for him again. His stomach rolls and clenches, and he can’t figure out why only Jongin seems to make it stop.

“Shut up, Sehun,” Chanyeol says, and he blinks weary eyes, and smiles.

*

“I hate the way you laugh,” Jongin said. “It’s like you’re trying to prove to everyone else that something is funny.” Jongin looked terribly serious for a sixteen year old boy, sandwich in one hand and a pensive pull to his lips. Chanyeol had seen him laugh, before, but Jongin’d always been too frustrated with Chanyeol to laugh with or at him.

“I’m not,” Chanyeol said. “It’s more fun to laugh, isn’t it?” He chuckled, and Jongin glared.

Jongin’s stare was cool, and Chanyeol thought, for a brief moment, that maybe he should just give up on making Jongin like him after all.

*

Chanyeol’s sleep is restless. He counts sheep and llamas and puppies and ice cream cones, and only manages snatches of unconsciousness between long stretches of excruciating awakeness. His stomach heaves and curls and he doesn’t know what’s wrong, but he knows if he waits much longer it’s going to start effect his work.

He ends up sending Wu Fan a three-page email that just says (╥﹏╥) repeatedly and listening to Beenzino until the sunlight starts filtering through the window.

“Maybe you should see a doctor,” Baekhyun says one morning, after another week of sleepless nights. “Maybe you have a bug, or something.”

“It’s fine,” Chanyeol says, and he rests a hand on his stomach and wants, more than anything, to sleep.

“It’s not fine. Maybe you and Jongin both ate something…?” Baekhyun’s head tilts to the side inquisitively.

The mere mention of the word ‘eat’ makes Chanyeol want to gag. He fists his hands into the material of his camouflage hoodie, and shakes his head. “We only ate with you guys, that day. We didn’t have time for lunch, between fittings.”

“It’s just a strange coincidence that only you two seem sick, while the rest of us are fine.” Baekhyun taps his index finger on his chin. “And the only thing you’ve done separately is the fashion show.”

“I’m not sick,” Chanyeol says, running both hands through his tangled hair. “I don’t feel sick.” Chanyeol walks over to his desk and picks up his black hat. He rubs his thumb along the red, yellow, and green embroidery, and contemplates. “I feel… like I’m on edge.”

“On edge?” Baekhyun isn’t looking at Chanyeol anymore. He’s applying lotion under his eyes, the way Wu Fan had glowingly showed him the first time Baekhyun had complimented him on his complexion. “What do you mean?”

Chanyeol thinks about the snakes, and the way his skin tingles when he even lightly touches Jongin. “It’s like I’m looking for something? Or waiting, maybe.” He looks for words. “Like I’m on a plane that’s about to take off, but more… important. I don’t know.”

Baekhyun sets his lotion down on his own desk and rubs his hands together, before he comes up to Chanyeol and reaches up to pat his cheeks. “Well, you can’t exactly look on an empty stomach.”

“You sound like my mom,” Chanyeol says, shoving at Baekhyun’s shoulder. Baekhyun steps back. “I’ll be okay.”

Chanyeol’s stomach isn’t empty, anyway. It’s filled with tension and worry and that indescribable longing that’s been plaguing him for weeks.

“I worry about you,” Baekhyun says. “Your smile’s all frayed around the edges.”

*

Chanyeol stands beside Jongin during the interview, Baekhyun sitting in front of him, Chanyeol’s fingers curling around his shoulders. Jongin’s shoulder keeps bumping his own, and with every bump the knotted snakes quiet a little more. Chanyeol almost feels like himself at the end of the interview, and the smile he offers Junmyeon as Junmyeon reaches up to fix his hair is real.

But then Jongin slides away from him, towards Kyungsoo, who seems to be trying and failing to work a tangle out of his left shoelace so he can retie it, and Chanyeol’s discomfort rushes back before he can take another relieved and easy breath.

“Some virus you picked up in Jeju,” Sehun says, and Chanyeol receives a punch from Sehun to his upper arm that’s far gentler than usual. “You should take a nap. You should go to bed. You should, I don’t know, continue normal human functions. You didn’t even complain about your hair today when they styled it.”

“I’m trying,” Chanyeol says, and then the photographer beckons them over, and Chanyeol smiles as brightly and as widely as he can for the camera.

*

At four in the morning, Chanyeol hears noises outside his door. He tries to ignore it for a while, but then he peels himself up out of his bed and heads out into the hallway to investigate.

The light is on in the kitchen.

Jongin looks so tired. Chanyeol leans back against the kitchen table and watches his sluggish movements. Jongin’s dark hair and darker eyes are shadowlike in the dull beige of the room, his tan arm stark against the white countertop. He’s thinner than usual, Chanyeol thinks, as he lets his eyes take in the faint stretch of Jongin’s ribs against his skin. There’s a bruise from rehearsal earlier on his hip, where Chanyeol had stumbled into him, and Chanyeol winces at the evidence of his clumsiness.

“What do you want?” Jongin asks, and Chanyeol blinks because he hadn’t realized he’d been staring.

“I don’t know,” Chanyeol says. “I heard you prowling around out here and thought you might still be having trouble sleeping.” Chanyeol’s been having trouble sleeping too. It’s like those snakes are winding around each other in his stomach, and it only seems to ease when he’s next to Jongin. Of course, then there’s a different feeling that seems to find its way up Chanyeol’s chest, but that’s less of an ache and more of an anxiousness.

“What’s it to you if I am?” Jongin says. “Just go to sleep, Chanyeol.” He turns off the faucet.

“I can’t,” Chanyeol replies, and Jongin, who is, Chanyeol belatedly realizes, making a cup of tea, looks up at him with unreadable eyes. “I mean, I close my eyes, but I just keep staring at the back of my eyelids.”

“Would you like some tea?”

“What?”

Jongin sighs impatiently. “I boiled a whole kettle of water. Would you like some tea?”

Chanyeol ventures a little further into the kitchen, now. “I mean, yeah, sure. Thanks.”

Chanyeol doesn’t really like tea, but Jongin has offered, and Chanyeol is sure that if he turns it down, Jongin will make that tiny dissatisfied smile he always makes at Chanyeol; the one that makes Chanyeol feel like there’s some imaginary checklist he hasn’t any hope of fulfilling.

“I didn’t make extra for you, or anything,” Jongin says, but Chanyeol thinks Jongin had still been filling the kettle when he’d first spotted Chanyeol in the doorway. Chanyeol can feel himself wanting to smile, but he’s too exhausted to lift the corners of his lips.

“Okay,” Chanyeol says, and he squeezes past Jongin, who fills most of the space between the table and the counter, to reach up into the cabinet for a second mug to place beside the one Jongin’s set out for himself already. As he stretches his arm, it brushes against Jongin’s. Jongin shivers, and shifts away. Chanyeol’s heart is beating so fast, but the snakes in his belly are retreating.

He doesn’t understand why there’s only respite when he’s close to Jongin, but that’s all right. It’s enough that the tingling in his fingertips and his toes abates, and his stomach settles. He feels hungry for the first time in weeks.

“What kind of tea?” Jongin asks, his voice is scratchy and hoarse, at the same time as Chanyeol asks if he wants a snack, and their voices tumble over each other. To Chanyeol’s surprise, it sounds kind of nice.

“Raspberry would be nice,” Chanyeol says, after a moment of silence, and Jongin exhales, slowly.

“I think… Do we have any of that meat left from dinner?”

“I’m pretty sure we do.” Chanyeol goes to move past Jongin again, toward the refrigerator, and Jongin spins around at the same time. They are chest to chest, Jongin’s bare stomach barely grazing Chanyeol’s thin tank shirt, and Chanyeol can feel the tabletop digging into his ass. “Sorry,” he mumbles, and Jongin’s eyelids flutter a little from Chanyeol’s breath.

And there they are again, Chanyeol thinks. The snakes. Only now they’re hissing and coiling up like a spring and Chanyeol’s shaking. Jongin is shaking, too; his left thigh is pressed to Chanyeol’s, and if he were Baekhyun, Chanyeol would rest a steady hand there until it ceased. But Jongin is not Baekhyun, and Chanyeol’s hands aren’t remotely steady.

“Why-“ Jongin starts to ask, but then, somehow, Jongin’s leaning forward, and Jongin’s dry lips are pressed to his own. It’s not really a kiss, Chanyeol thinks, more like the press of skin against skin, but it makes Chanyeol feel like he might explode. His stomach knots and crushes up into itself, and he feels dizzy, his knees trembling as he tries to find purchase on the tabletop behind him.

“Jongin-“ Chanyeol says, against Jongin’s mouth, and then there’s white behind his eyes, a bright, bright light, and Chanyeol can feel consciousness fading even as those snakes slither up his chest and out of his throat.

He thinks he hears Jongin say his name as he falls, head smacking the table, but he’s not sure, because everything that had been so bright is now dark.



part ii



From:
Anonymous( )Anonymous This account has disabled anonymous posting.
OpenID( )OpenID You can comment on this post while signed in with an account from many other sites, once you have confirmed your email address. Sign in using OpenID.
User
Account name:
Password:
If you don't have an account you can create one now.
Subject:
HTML doesn't work in the subject.

Message:

 
Notice: This account is set to log the IP addresses of everyone who comments.
Links will be displayed as unclickable URLs to help prevent spam.

Profile

maayacolabackup

December 2012

S M T W T F S
      1
2 345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
3031     

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Sep. 22nd, 2017 03:15 pm
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios