[personal profile] maayacolabackup



#

3

Sehun wakes up with the same pounding headache he went to sleep with, Junmyeon hovering over him with a disappointed frown on his his face.

“Am I late?” Sehun is starting to feel like a broken record.

“Yes,” Junmyeon says. “And also you’re a jerk.”

The water from Junmyeon’s hair is dripping into his eyes this time and the remnants of conditioner burn. Sehun grabs at his full head of hair and groans. “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.”

Junmyeon’s frown deepens. “Language, maknae.” Junmyeon’s hands are on his hips now, and he looks a little like an offended rooster, wet hair in an accidental fauxhawk. “You’ll never get Chanyeol to forgive you with that attitude.”

“No, no, no, no,” Sehun says, and rolls over, attempting to smother himself in his pillow. “Just no.”

“Get up, Sehun, you’ve got a haircut in thirty minutes.”

“I refuse to get my hair cut,” Sehun announces into his pillowcase, and Junmyeon swats at his backside.

“But you have to. Your contract says the stylists can tie you to the chair if they need to.”

“I don’t want to spend my life as a raspberry!” Sehun wails, but Junmyeon is already gone. “Why is this happening to me?”

Sehun decides not to move until Hyeonkyun sticks his head in a half an hour later, grabs him by the ankle, and drags him out of bed. “You’re late,” he says, and throws a shirt at Sehun’s face as Sehun rubs a now-bruised elbow.

“Hey,” Sehun says, “it’s impossible to be late for something you’ve already done.”

Hyeonkyun scowls, deeply unimpressed. “Kids these days,” he says, and then picks up yesterday’s socks and throws those too, for good measure.

“Those are Junmyeon’s!” Sehun squawks, crinkling his nose, but Hyeonkyun’s left already, too, and Sehun feels like he’s been carrying on conversations with more backs than faces. “This is not a dream,” Sehun says, hands coming up to touch his hair incredulously one more time, just to make sure. “Is it?”

-

When Sehun gets to rehearsal, this time he lets Jongin crack all the jokes he wants because he’s used up all his fight with the hair stylist.

He must look too pitiful for Baekhyun to make fun of, because instead Baekhyun says, “You missed Chanyeol this morning.”

Kyungsoo’s eyes go wide. “You still haven’t apologized?”

No,” Sehun says. “It’s kind of hard to do that when you’re trying not to smash your head repeatedly into a wall.”

“Don’t do that,” Jongin says sweetly. “You’ll mess up your bangs.”

“I hate all of you,” Sehun announces, and then turns to Jongin. “But I hate you the most.”

Baekhyun seems personally offended, like he’s lost some kind of popularity contest, and so he dedicates the rest of the rehearsal to asking pointed questions about the status of Sehun’s virginity.

By the time they get in the elevator, Sehun is almost glad to see Chanyeol’s sad face, because at least it’s not Baekhyun’s demonic one.

Almost, because a sad Chanyeol just reminds Sehun that he still hasn’t figured out why Chanyeol is so upset. Sehun thinks it’s a shame that it’s the third time he’s going through this day and he still has no idea how to put the stupid smile back on Chanyeol’s face.

This time, when he grabs Chanyeol’s wrist, he says, “You’re not that annoying. If I was a girl, I might even date you.”

Chanyeol shakes his wrist free from Sehun’s grip. “We’re not on camera. You don’t have to make jokes like that. It’s weird.” Chanyeol’s face is caught in a weird expression; something between discomfort and sadness. It makes Sehun’s chest feel sort of tight, inexplicably.

“No, but I’m not-” joking, is what Sehun is going to say, but Chanyeol has already turned away, and Sehun can’t see his face anymore but he’s still trying to puzzle out what Chanyeol’s expression had meant.

One time, Sehun had asked Chanyeol for advice about how to win over a girl. They’d been lying on the floor in Chanyeol’s shared room with Wu Fan, and Sehun’d had his toes pressed against Chanyeol’s ankle, occasionally running the inside of his foot up Chanyeol’s calf because he knew Chanyeol was ticklish there. “But how do you know if a girl likes you?” Sehun had asked, and Chanyeol’s eyes had been fixed on the ceiling. Sehun hadn’t thought the uneven paint job was all that interesting, but Chanyeol hadn’t turned to look at him, even when he had huffed and dug his toes into the back of Chanyeol’s knee. ”It’s obvious when someone likes you,” Chanyeol had eventually replied, dark hair curling slightly in the humidity of the room. ”Anyway, what do I know about girls? I just get dumped by them.” “One girl,” Sehun had corrected, and Chanyeol’s face, then, had been set in the same pensive lines that Sehun had seen just a moment ago.

He watches Chanyeol walk away from him, for the third time, clenching his hands into fists and feeling more than a little lost.

“By the way,” Chanyeol says, pausing at the doorway to look back at Sehun, not into Sehun’s eyes but past him, “I like your hair. It’s different, but it looks... good.”

“Thanks,” Sehun says, but he doesn’t think Chanyeol hears him over the sound of Baekhyun’s laughter coming from cafeteria.

-

“So EXO is finally coming back after last December’s full-length album. What is the concept of this new mini-album?”

Sehun barely registers Junmyeon’s answer, still turning the idea he’d gotten during lunch over in his mind. He’s jerked out of his thoughts when the host leans forward to ask him a question directly.

“And what does Lu Han think of your haircut?” she asks, implying the usual innuendo with her tone, and Sehun licks his lips.

“He hasn’t seen it yet,” Sehun says demurely, “but it doesn’t matter since Chanyeol-hyung has assured me that he likes it.” Sehun doesn’t look in Chanyeol’s direction, and he doesn’t really have to force the flush that creeps up into his cheeks.

“Oh, I didn’t know you and Chanyeol were close,” the host says, and she looks like a shark that has found blood in the water.

“We are,” Sehun says, still looking only at the host, but feeling everyone’s eyes on him. “We’ve been good friends since our trainee days.”

“Chanyeol, you’re awfully quiet over there,” the host says, and Sehun chances a look in Chanyeol’s direction, only to find that Chanyeol is staring down at his too-big feet, hair hanging into his face.

“He’s exhausted from preparing for our comeback,” Kyungsoo says, and he glares at Sehun.

“I’ve used up all my power on my rapping.” Chanyeol’s deep voice is softer than usual, and Sehun had thought for sure this would work, but Baekhyun’s glaring at him too, so clearly he’s still doing something wrong.

After the interview, Kyungsoo grabs the back of his tie-dyed and ruffled bolero jacket, the rhinestones making it easier to grip. “I didn’t think you were that big of a jerk,” Kyungsoo says, and Sehun blinks at him, confused.

“What are you talking about?”

“Just because you don’t feel the same way, doesn’t mean you have to rub it in.” Kyungsoo’s eyebrows are drawn together in anger, and Sehun tries to process but the solutions he’s coming up with seem even less right than Junmyeon’s attempts at his calculus homework.

“Rub... what... in...?” Sehun asks, and on instinct, he turns towards where the others are heading back into the dressing room, and catches Chanyeol staring at him. Chanyeol is biting down on his lower lip, and his eyes, Sehun thinks, look a little shiny. “You don’t mean-”

Kyungsoo pauses, and then tilts his head slightly to the left, like Sehun has spoken in another language. “Are you serious?”

Sehun tries to respond, but his jaw is hanging too low to form words. “I...” Sehun’s heart is beating too fast. It’s uncomfortable. “I didn’t...” Sehun’s never considered it. Chanyeol is the guy who had rested his hand on Sehun’s back and pretended not to see him cry when he’d gotten tired and homesick during preparation for debut. The guy who’d bailed him out when he’d accidentally hit on a girl who already had a very possessive boyfriend. The guy who helped Sehun steal all of Jongin’s underwear and put them in the dryer until they shrank small enough to crush Jongin’s balls. Chanyeol isn’t supposed to like Sehun; not like this.

Then the manager is corralling them into the changing room, and Sehun is left with more questions than answers.

-

Sehun runs into the dorm and plasters himself to Chanyeol’s bedroom door so Chanyeol has no choice but to face him.

“We’re getting bubble tea,” he tells Chanyeol before he can ask questions. “You’re older, so you’re buying.”

Chanyeol stares at him for a moment, looking torn, before he shrugs and follows him out of the dorm, down the street to the local bubble tea shop.

After placing their orders, Sehun picks a table, watching Chanyeol fold himself into the tiny cafe chair.

Sehun can’t imagine his daily life without Chanyeol’s friendship. It doesn’t matter if Chanyeol likes him, as long as he never treats Sehun the way that he did today, which had left Sehun feeling cold and kinda lonely.

Chanyeol studies the tabletop until their drinks come, and Sehun decides to break the silence.

“Just so you know,” he says, “it’s totally cool that you want to suck my dick. It doesn’t have to change things between us.”

Chanyeol jumps, knocking his tea into Sehun’s lap, and instead of grabbing Sehun napkins to clean up, Chanyeol just stares at him, mouth open in shock.

“Sorry, s-sorry,” Chanyeol stutters, scraping back his chair. “I’m... gonna go.”

Sehun watches Chanyeol go, wet sweatpants sticking to his thighs, and sighs.

His pants are still wet when he makes it back to the dorm, and Baekhyun greets him with a kick to the crotch. “How are you such an idiot?” Baekhyun says, standing over him as he cries on the ground, cupping himself through his sweatpants. “I hope you never have children.”

He walks away, and Sehun spots Jongin watching from the couch, a bowl of popcorn between his knees. “Ouch,” he says, shoving a handful of popcorn into his mouth.

-

Chanyeol doesn’t come out of his room for dinner, and Sehun doesn’t finish his calculus homework, and he thinks the two might be connected.

#

4

Sehun wakes up with the same pounding headache he went to sleep with, Junmyeon hovering over him with a disappointed frown on his face.

“Oh fuck,” Sehun says, and promptly wills himself back to sleep, ignoring Junmyeon, who repeatedly attempts to shake him awake.

-

His first sighting of Chanyeol this time is in the elevator as they head up to lunch, and now the way Chanyeol avoids his eyes holds more meaning than it did before.

Instead of stopping Chanyeol on his way out of the elevator, Sehun manages to snag the seat next to him in the cafeteria, and Chanyeol flinches when their thighs brush.

It’s amazing, Sehun thinks, that now that he’s looking for it, he can see the blush in Chanyeol’s cheeks. It’s also amazing that Sehun is sort of flushing in response, because Sehun’s not really the flushing type. Maybe it’s because Sehun knows Chanyeol likes him, and Sehun’s never really been liked by a friend-- girls at his high school have had crushes on him before, but this feels different. Sehun knows Chanyeol better than he knows almost anyone else, because they’ve lived in each other’s pockets for over four years, and Chanyeol has seen Sehun when Sehun wakes up in the morning, sleep crusted in his eyes and drool dried on the side of his mouth, and he’s seen the way Sehun looks when he’s tired, and when he’s angry, and when he’s sad. He’s seen Sehun at his very worst. Sehun’s seen Chanyeol like that, too. They’re friends. Things between them should never be this hard.

Chanyeol picks at his food, unresponsive to Sehun’s attempts at conversation, and as soon as he’s deemed himself finished, he hurriedly goes to the garbage, throwing out his extra food and stacking his tray with the others. Sehun watches him go with narrowed eyes.

Junmyeon leans across the table and pats Sehun’s hand comfortingly. “He might talk to you more if you apologized.”

Baekhyun’s head snaps around from where he’s been talking with Jongin. “Wait, you haven’t apologized yet?”

Sehun smacks his head on the table. It doesn’t help his headache.

-

Sehun grunts his way through the interview, which earns him chiding looks from Junmyeon and makes him an easy target for Baekhyun, who tells the creepy host all about the time that Sehun accidentally put on a pair of Taeyeon’s shorts instead of his own during a quick-change during SMTown. The host looks unnecessarily turned on by the idea, which spurs Baekhyun into talking about shared baths he’s had with a Sehun who enjoys lady’s bath products. Baekhyun has always enjoyed milking a crowd.

Sehun would be embarrassed if it weren’t for the fact that he’s planning his next attack on Chanyeol, whose glum countenance has been Sehun’s constant companion for the past four days, or rather, the last day, four times.

He once again ambushes Chanyeol outside of his bedroom door, dragging him to the bubble tea shop and ordering for them both before Chanyeol can even open his mouth.

“How did you-” Chanyeol asks, but Sehun waves him off.

“That’s not important,” Sehun says. “What is important is that we need to talk. About things.”

“What things?” Chanyeol looks down at his hands, fiddling and twisting the ring he’s wearing on his thumb as Sehun struggles to choose his words. “I thought you were sick of me talking.”

“No,” Sehun says. “I mean, yes, but no. I was, you know, tired, and I... This is not what I want to talk about.”

“What do you want to talk about, then?” Chanyeol asks, as their drinks arrive. Chanyeol stabs his straw through the plastic lid, and Sehun follows suit. Chanyeol takes a sip, and Sehun considers.

“You. And like. Feelings. Your feelings.” Sehun wraps his lips around the large straw and sucks, and Chanyeol quickly turns away and swallows.

“About what? Bubble tea?” Chanyeol’s eyes are wary.

“No,” Sehun says, shifting in his seat. His knee touches Chanyeol’s, and this is kind of embarrassing. “I mean, your feelings. For me.” He says it carelessly, like it’s no big deal that Chanyeol wants to bone him, or that Sehun has no idea what he thinks about the fact that Chanyeol wants to bone him, but he realizes he might be giving off the wrong vibe when Chanyeol looks up at him, stricken.

Sehun heaves a resigned sigh as Chanyeol drops his tea in Sehun’s lap, drenching his sweatpants and the rest spilling onto the floor. “I’m... gonna go,” Chanyeol says, and he’s hurrying out of the shop, leaving Sehun staring at his back, again.

“He could have at least given me a napkin,” Sehun mutters, and pouts.

Baekhyun is waiting for him at the door, and Sehun covers his crotch on reflex. “It’s not my fault!” he says, before Baekhyun even has a chance to open his mouth, and Baekhyun just looks back at him disdainfully as Jongin yells “yes it is!” from his usual spot on the sofa.

“You’re completely incapable of tact, aren’t you?” Baekhyun says, and Sehun thinks he’s improved vastly from the last time he’d had that conversation with Chanyeol, but he can’t exactly tell Baekhyun that.

Sehun’s trying so hard to wrap his head around all this new information, but he’s stuck on the fact that this is Chanyeol, and if Sehun were sentimental, he’d say that Chanyeol is one of the most important people in his life.

“I’m trying, okay?” Sehun says. “I don’t know how to deal with all this ‘feelings’ stuff. I’m more into emotional minimalism.”

“You just made that up,” Jongin says, while Baekhyun mutters “you’re just lucky I’m not into dick minimalism,” under his breath.

Sehun doesn’t bother to do his calculus homework, opting instead to knock repeatedly on Chanyeol’s door for fifteen minutes until Chanyeol finally gives up and opens it.

“I don’t know what to do. I just want to be friends with you,” Sehun says, because it’s been four days and he misses Chanyeol’s smile.

“That’s the problem,” Chanyeol replies, and there’s not much that Sehun can say to that.

Dinner is so quiet that Sehun feels like everyone must be able to hear his thoughts, which are echoing as loudly in his head as Chanyeol’s laughter used to.

Chanyeol stays in his room the rest of the evening and Sehun gets into bed, pulling the sheets over his head and wishing he wouldn’t wake up again.

#

5

Sehun wakes up with the same pounding headache he went to sleep with, but the space above him is free of Junmyeon’s head.

A glance at his phone shows the time to be five-thirty in the morning and even if a quick swipe at his bangs tells Sehun it’s technically the same day, he feels like he hasn’t showered in a week. Quietly creeping out the room so he doesn’t wake Junmyeon, Sehun steps into the shower. He glares at his own pink bottle of shampoo, remembering Baekhyun’s words during the interview, and spitefully reaches for Baekhyun’s bottle instead, squirting a generous dollop into his palm.

The shower has him feeling more awake than usual, so by the time Sehun is wiping himself down with a towel, he has an idea.

Wrapping the towel around his waist, Sehun charges down the hall and into the kitchen. Baekhyun is already there, sipping on his morning hot toddy, as Junmyeon cracks an egg over his rice.

“Sehun, you know I have to leave early today,” Junmyeon says. “So why’d you take the shower?”

Ignoring him, Sehun cuts to the chase. “Baekhyun, you’re gay. What should I do about Chanyeol?”

“Wait, you’re gay?” Junmyeon asks, while Baekhyun sputters and stands up from his chair, accidentally kicking Jongin, who is already under the table, and waking him from his slumber.

“You’re going to die, maknae,” Baekhyun hisses. “When I’m finished with you, the police will find your naked corpse on the kitchen floor.” Baekhyun stills. “You know about Chanyeol?”

Jongin hoists himself back up into his chair. “I didn’t think Sehun knew about anything.”

“Jongin, I know everything,” Sehun says, kicking Jongin’s shin. “So what am I supposed to do?”

He looks at Baekhyun expectantly, because Baekhyun still owes him for not telling anyone about when he’d caught Baekhyun on his knees giving Kyuhyun a blowjob during SMTown Paris last year.

“You could try not being a total bastard,” Baekhyun says through clenched teeth.

“That could be kind of hard for him,” Jongin says, and Sehun kicks him again, aiming a little higher.

Chanyeol comes into the kitchen, and freezes, turning such a fierce red that Sehun worries that he’s busted a blood vessel or two. Chanyeol opens his mouth to speak and nothing comes out but a croak. He closes his mouth, gulps, and then opens his mouth again, but Sehun beats him to the punch.

“Chanyeol wants to know if you’re ready to go,” Sehun says, and Chanyeol nods, eyes following something. Sehun realizes, belatedly, that it’s a droplet of water running down his chest. Chanyeol’s eyes track it until it disappears beneath his towel, and suddenly, it’s a bit hotter in the kitchen.

“Um,” Sehun says. “I’m going to. Um. Not be naked anymore.” He tries to go through the doorway, expecting Chanyeol to move, but Chanyeol doesn’t, and Sehun crashes into him, hands grabbing on to Chanyeol’s shoulders as Chanyeol’s hands instinctively clutch at his waist. Sehun can feel the heat of Chanyeol’s body radiating off of him, the warmth traveling from Sehun’s palms all the way up his arms.

That’s when Sehun’s towel decides to fall.

“My eyes are burning!” Jongin screams, and Junmyeon gasps.

“Wow, I wasn’t expecting porn with breakfast,” Baekhyun says, and Kyungsoo chooses that moment to enter the kitchen.

“Did I miss something?”

Chanyeol makes a strange gurgling noise, and Sehun quickly takes a step back, bending down to retrieve his towel before wrapping it back around his waist, and then he skirts around Chanyeol and out into the living room.

“That would have been a good album jacket for EXTACY,” Sehun hears Jongin say, but Sehun is more focused on the way he can still feel the heat of Chanyeol’s hands on the skin of his waist.

-

Sehun’s distracted for the rest of the morning, thinking about the look on Chanyeol’s face in the kitchen, and about Chanyeol’s panicked eyes, and about the way Chanyeol’s shoulders had felt so broad beneath his palms.

He’s so disoriented that he doesn’t even protest this time when the stylist turns on the electric razor, and when he looks in the mirror after she’s finished, he’s horrified to realize that he’s almost used to the color.

Today’s rehearsal is filled with stripper jokes. His new hair color results in Jongin calling him ‘Candy’ the whole morning, and Kyungsoo, at Baekhyun’s urging, sticks 1000W bills into Sehun’s underwear when he’s the first to nail a difficult part of the choreography.

The teasing follows him into the elevator, and when Chanyeol steps in, Sehun is strangely nervous. As if Sehun’s knowledge of Chanyeol’s crush is permission, the other members conspire to have them sit next to each other. Sehun wishes they hadn’t, because Chanyeol, who is still too serious and sad, is making him feel all weird and leaving his stomach too unsettled to eat.

Sehun cleans his tray first this time, but he can feel the weight of Chanyeol’s eyes on his back as he goes. At least, Sehun thinks grimly, Chanyeol is looking at him-- but now, Sehun is too anxious to look back.

#

7

This time, when Sehun drags Chanyeol out for bubble tea, he takes precautions.

“Wait, let me have your tea,” Sehun says, pulling the drink out of Chanyeol’s reach. Chanyeol blinks, confused, just as he had been when Sehun ordered for him without asking. “I know you like me. It’s fine. Nothing has to change.”

Sehun’s satisfied with this answer. He’s gone over it a lot, and thinks it’s the right one.

Apparently, though, it isn’t. Chanyeol’s ears turn red, peeking out from under his hair, and the corners of his lips turn down. “I see,” Chanyeol says. “Look, I’m gonna... go.”

When he stands up, his knees hit the table, tipping Sehun’s own bubble tea into his lap, and Sehun doesn’t bother watching Chanyeol leave as he tries to mop himself up.

He opens the front door and Jongin is waiting for him on the couch, shoving popcorn into his mouth and laughing. “You’re an idiot.”

“Shut up, Jongin. You don’t know anything,” Sehun snaps, the front of his sweatpants still wet with tea.

“I know Chanyeol’s in his room with Baekhyun,” Jongin says, pointing with a buttery hand, and Sehun stomps off down the hallway.

He opens the door to Chanyeol’s room, and Baekhyun has a comforting arm around Chanyeol, who looks miserable sitting on the edge of his bed.

Sehun’s had that job before, and while he doesn’t mind sharing it with Baekhyun, who seems, sometimes, like Chanyeol’s super freaky mind twin more than some guy whose only known him a little over a year, Sehun dislikes the idea that he’s the reason Chanyeol needs comfort in the first place.

“Can we talk?” Sehun asks.

Baekhyun turns on him. “Didn’t you just do that?”

“Go away.” Sehun makes a shooing motion toward Baekhyun, but Baekhyun doesn’t budge.

“Why should I leave?” Baekhyun arches an eyebrow. “I’m not the one who’s sick of Chanyeol.”

There’s a note of warning in his voice, reminding Sehun that he still hasn’t apologized today.

“But I’m not-” Sehun shoves his hands deep into his pockets. “I was just tired. Chanyeol should know better than to take the things I say when I’m sleepy seriously.”

“But you sounded like you meant it,” Chanyeol says, back hunched and head bowed. Sehun can remember seeing Chanyeol like this before, after grueling practices where he’d struggled to pick of the steps, but now it’s his fault and he doesn’t know how to fix it.

What he does know is that even if the way Chanyeol likes him is different from the way that he likes Chanyeol, his day is just too quiet without Chanyeol by his side.

“And I was thinking,” Chanyeol continues, “if you’re sick of me, maybe we shouldn’t hang out so much.”

That’s the last thing that Sehun wants. Sehun wants Chanyeol’s big hands shoving at him playfully off-set and Chanyeol tugging at his shirt and Chanyeol laughing louder than he should directly into Sehun’s ear.

“But we’ve always...” Sehun trails off and Chanyeol twists his hands together in his lap.

“It’s not fine, Sehun.” Chanyeol sounds sad. “Yesterday, when you said that to me, I realized it’s not fine.”

#

10

Running into Chanyeol in the hallway, smelling the soft fragrance of Chanyeol’s shampoo and remembering the drag of Chanyeol’s fingertips across the skin of his waist as Chanyeol pulled his hands away, makes Sehun’s throat dry. “I’m sorry,” Sehun says in a rush, before Chanyeol can walk away. “I’m really sorry.” Chanyeol, who is already starting to step around him, pauses, and Sehun takes the opportunity to grab at his shirt. It’s a bit damp, like Chanyeol hadn’t bothered to dry off with a towel before putting his clothes. “For last night.”

“Oh,” Chanyeol says. “That’s... that’s all right.” Chanyeol scratches at the back of his head, and his hair, already a mess, sticks up in every direction. “You were trying to do stuff, and I know I can be--”

“I like your laugh,” Sehun says, letting go of Chanyeol’s shirt and looking down at his bare feet instead of at his friend. “You’re going to be late for your photoshoot.”

“R-right,” Chanyeol says, and Sehun looks up at him out of the corner of his eye, and Chanyeol is looking at him, eyes opened as wide as they’ll go and lower lip sticking out like it always does when he’s surprised. He looks really dumb, but it’s better than when he’s sad, so Sehun figures it will do. “I’ll just...”

Sehun feels uncomfortable, because he hates apologizing and he also hates not knowing what to do. It’s hard, dealing with all these feelings, and it makes him curious about how long Chanyeol has wrestled with his. Sehun wonders if Chanyeol had just woken up one day and and realized that he liked Sehun as more than a friend. He wonders if Chanyeol had freaked out about it; if Chanyeol had thought about every time Sehun’s arm had brushed his own or Sehun’s hands had lingered too long on his shoulders. Mostly, Sehun wonders how he could have spent every day with Chanyeol, performing and eating and laughing and joking, and never have noticed.

Sehun doesn’t consider himself unobservant. But Chanyeol has always been an open book, so somehow Sehun must have been reading the wrong pages.

Now though, when he looks up to meet Chanyeol’s eyes, he can recognize a little of the longing in Chanyeol’s face, lurking at the corners of his mouth and in the set of his eyebrows, and he realizes it has always been there. His stomach twists up into an impossible knot, and his headache, which has been incessant enough to almost forget about, presses at the corners of his mind.

“I guess I’d better...” Chanyeol says, and Sehun swallows. Chanyeol’s eyes follow the motion, and then he jerks his gaze away, large hands crushing the ends of the towel hanging around his neck.

“Yeah,” Sehun says distractedly, because for some reason, when Chanyeol had spoken, Sehun’s own eyes had gravitated to Chanyeol’s mouth.

The problem, Sehun decides later, is that apologizing hasn’t really fixed much at all, because Chanyeol still looks at him with sad eyes when he thinks Sehun isn’t paying attention, and Sehun thinks his tiny temper tantrum has caused more trouble than he ever could have anticipated.

#

14

Out of boredom, Sehun sweet-talks the stylist into adding a black leopard print stencil to the buzzed half of his head, and the new addition leaves the other members speechless when he walks into rehearsal.

“I’m trying to get Tao to like me more,” Sehun says dully, and Baekhyun collects himself enough to say that something that tacky is bound to catch Tao’s attention.

Jongin is still staring at the side of his head in horror when they enter the elevator to go up to lunch, mouth hanging open slightly, and Sehun has to force himself not to stuff his towel down Jongin’s throat to make him stop.

Sehun feels like his boredom has paid off when the elevator doors open a few floors short of the cafeteria, and right away, Chanyeol’s eyes are fixed on him.

“It’s awful, right?” Sehun asks, and he’s surprised, and pleased, to see that Chanyeol is smiling as he tries to process the monstrosity that is Sehun’s comeback style. Chanyeol’s smile widens as he comes to stand next to Sehun as the lift doors close.

“It is,” Chanyeol says, with some of that characteristic laughter in his tone that Sehun hasn’t heard in two weeks worth of Fridays. “But you’d look good with any hairstyle.”

It’s the opposite of their first showcase, when Sehun had carefully patted down the flyaways of Chanyeol’s crimped and fried hair, telling him not to worry because he still looked great.

Sehun fidgets, scuffing the toe of his shoe on the floor with something akin to embarrassment, but Chanyeol’s smiling at him again, and he thinks maybe that’s worth looking like an idiot. Like this, Chanyeol’s elbow bumping his own, it feels almost like old times.

#

16

They’re in the dressing room, changing for their interview, and while he loops an extra long chain of golden flower charms around his neck, Jongin says, “Stop staring at Chanyeol while he’s changing his trousers. Your jaw is hanging open like you want his dick.”

Sehun shuts his mouth so fast his teeth click and glares. “You would know,” he says, chucking Junmyeon’s studded and tasseled cowboy vest at Jongin’s face.

Jongin makes a gagging sound from underneath the fabric. “Ew.”

“You’re the one that said it,” Sehun says, scratching at where the tag of his tie-dye shirt is scraping his neck, and tries not to look when Chanyeol strips off his own shirt on the other side of the room.

He shouldn’t be interested. He’s not the one with a... crush.

Sehun turns Jongin’s words over in his mind during the interview, purposefully letting his eyes linger on the host’s short skirt. Noticing Sehun’s stare, she doubles her efforts, leaning forward in her seat as she asks him a question, as if to give him a glimpse of her cleavage.

He takes in the view with mild interest, which he thinks is normal, until he notes that Jongin can’t seem to tear his eyes away from the sight.

He mentally checks back into the interview when the host asks him suggestively, “Have you been using up all your power on rapping? Or do you have a little bit left over for this interview?”

Despite her display of skin, Sehun thinks she’s kind of annoying. Maybe, he thinks, it’ll be different with a more hands-on approach.

“I have plenty of energy left over,” Sehun says, standing up from his chair and walking towards her. “I’ve been saving it for you.”

He can see Jongin gaping at him, and Baekhyun gives a low whistle. Junmyeon lifts both of his hands to cover his face and Sehun is pretty sure he can hear a faint and despairing “oh no.”

The host seems frozen as he slides his fingers down her jaw and then uses his index finger to tilt her chin up, and Sehun thinks this is as good a time as any.

Sehun’s no stranger to lipgloss, but the host’s lips feel waxy under his, and her perfume is an overly-flowery scent that’s almost suffocating as he slides his tongue into her mouth. She makes a high-pitched squeaking sound and Sehun pulls back.

Even hands-on, he’s not interested.

“Sehun, what are you doing?” Kyungsoo asks, with forced calm, and Sehun turns around. He hears a thud behind him and assumes that the host has slid out of her chair and onto the floor. The look on Chanyeol’s face makes Sehun’s chest ache, and he thinks even if it was for research purposes, maybe that wasn’t the best thing to do.

Sehun somehow finds his way back to his chair and only half-listens as Junmyeon scrambles to make some bullshit up about how Sehun was just “demonstrating EXO’s love for all their fans” as he helps the host up from the floor.

The interview doesn’t last much longer than that, the host unable to recover enough from the shock to ask any more questions, and soon Kyungsoo is steering Sehun back to their dressing room with a hand on his neck, like Sehun is a puppy that pissed on the carpet.

“So how was it?” Jongin says, still looking amazed at Sehun’s gutsiness. His expression looks extra stupid when combined with his outfit.

“It was okay, I guess,” Sehun says. “But I don’t really like girls.” After he says it, his brain comes to a complete stop to process, and he realizes, with a sinking stomach, that while it’s always been true, he’s never really acknowledged it to himself or to anyone else.

“Chanyeol!” he hears Baekhyun shout, and he looks over to where Chanyeol is shaking off Baekhyun’s grip on his arm, and he watches as Chanyeol quickly walks into the dressing room, Baekhyun hot on his heels and looking worried.

“Still can’t take your eyes off him, huh?” Jongin asks, sounding smug and self-satisfied. “I’m not one to tell you I told you so-”

Sehun distractedly snorts. “Yes, you are.”

“-but I told you you wanted his dick.”

“Someday,” Sehun says, “I’ll make you pay for all the misery you cause me.”

“Yeah, sure,” Jongin says, seeming unconcerned. “I’m sure you will.”

When they get into the van, Sehun is smashed into Chanyeol’s side, and he turns to him awkwardly, looking for the words to apologize. “Chanyeol, I-” As he starts to speak, Chanyeol lifts his thumb to Sehun’s mouth and wipes at the corner of it, dragging the pad along the line of Sehun’s lower lip before letting his hand drop back down to his lap.

“You had lipstick,” Chanyeol says quietly, and he sounds so melancholy that Sehun feels like a total asshole.

“Thanks,” Sehun says, and even if tomorrow, this will all be forgotten, Sehun wishes he’d never done it all.

Chanyeol twists his body so he’s looking out the window, back to Sehun, and Sehun presses his fingers to his mouth. It still tingles. It’s funny, Sehun supposes, that even though it was the host that he kissed, it is Chanyeol’s touch that lingers on his lips.

#

17

Sehun wakes up thinking about the way the pad of Chanyeol’s thumb had felt dragging across the slightly chapped skin of his lower lip, and he’s so distracted that he’s late walking out into the hallway and misses Chanyeol on the way back from the shower.

Instead, he bumps into Kyungsoo, who looks up at him sleepily and says, “You’d better not forget to apologize to Chanyeol, Sehun.”

Sehun heaves a long-suffering sigh and nods, heading to the kitchen.

Because he’s late, Jongin has somehow already made his way up into a chair and Junmyeon has finished eating his breakfast. Sehun flops into an empty seat and makes sad eyes at Baekhyun. Baekhyun is alarmed by whatever expression he sees on Sehun’s face and clutches his hot toddy tightly as though Sehun might take it away.

“Everything alright there, maknae?” he asks and Jongin squints at him.

“What’s wrong with your face? It looks more constipated than usual.”

Junmyeon frowns. “Don’t make him cranky, Jongin. He still needs to apologize to Chanyeol today.”

“I don’t know how you do it, Baekhyun,” Sehun says, scratching at the tabletop with a fingernail. “Being gay is too hard.”

“Wait,” Junmyeon says, “Baekhyun is gay?”

“Goddamnit, Sehun,” Baekhyun says exasperatedly, slapping his hand on the table. He pauses. “Wait, you’re gay?”

Jongin makes a face. “Since when is everyone gay?”

I’m not gay,” Junmyeon says, and Baekhyun coughs awkwardly. Sehun decides not to mention Junmyeon’s obvious crush on Kyuhyun (or the blow job incident, because he might need Baekhyun’s help later).

Chanyeol appears in the doorway. “Are you ready to-- Is everything... okay in here?”

Jongin has his face pushed right up near Sehun’s, studying it closely, like somehow the gay might show in his eyes.

Sehun shoves Jongin away with a hand on his forehead. “It’s not like it’s written on my face!”

“Yes,” Junmyeon says, hastily standing. “Everything’s fine. Let’s get going.” He looks down at Sehun, and puts a hand on his shoulder. “Don’t forget-”

“My hair appointment. In half an hour. I know. I got it.”

“Don’t forget the other thing, either,” Junmyeon adds, as subtly as a brick through a window. Then suddenly, like he’s putting two and two together, a light goes on behind Junmyeon’s eyes. He looks from Sehun over to Chanyeol, and then back at Sehun, and smiles. It’s kind of creepy.

Jongin, who is watching Junmyeon curiously, seems to catch on to whatever Junmyeon is thinking. “Hold up,” he says, pointing at Sehun. “You’re...” He moves his index finger to Chanyeol. “And he’s... you’re both...”

“Both what?” Chanyeol asks, and Baekhyun lunges over the table when an evil smirk spreads across Jongin’s face, slapping a hand over Jongin’s mouth as Sehun realizes what he’s implying.

“Running late!” Baekhyun says, far cheerier than usual, and if Chanyeol weren’t moping, he probably would have noticed, but he’s too busy trying not to look at Sehun to pay much notice to Baekhyun’s antics. “Time for you to go.”

After they’ve gone, Sehun tries to thank Baekhyun, who’s wiping Jongin’s spit off of his hand with the edge of his sleep shirt. “I didn’t do it for you,” Baekhyun snaps. “I did it for Chanyeol. Do you know how he’d feel if-” Baekhyun stops, as if he’s unsure how much Sehun knows. “I don’t want to see him get hurt.”

“Me either,” Sehun says, as sincerely as he can, and Baekhyun narrows his eyes searchingly, like he’s trying to read Sehun’s mind. “I’m not sure how-”

“Baekhyun,” Jongin interrupts carelessly, “why does your hand taste like lotion? What were you doing this morning?” He waggles his eyebrows, and Baekhyun pats at his pocket, where he always keeps his phone.

“You’re dead to me, Jongin,” Baekhyun deadpans, but Sehun thinks he might be a little serious. Baekhyun seems to have lost interest in his conversation with Sehun in favor of boring holes into Jongin’s face with his eyes.

Kyungsoo’s arrival to table coincides with Hyeonkyun knocking on the kitchen doorframe, brandishing one of Sehun’s sweatshirts and a ballcap and Sehun, who has already brushed his teeth, gets up to leave.

Sehun grins at Jongin disarmingly, and Jongin blinks. “We should do something together after the interview,” Sehun says. “I feel like I owe you one.”

“For what?” Jongin calls after him, but Sehun doesn’t answer as he follows Hyeonkyun out the front door.

-

Somehow, Sehun ends up next to Chanyeol during lunch again, and Junmyeon keeps scooting into Sehun’s personal space until he’s crowded out of his seat and ends up smushed into Chanyeol’s side instead. Chanyeol fumbles with his chopsticks and Sehun, realizing belatedly that he hadn’t yet that day, mumbles an apology.

Caught off-guard, Chanyeol pushes his lower lip out until it covers the upper as though thinking hard about something. His lips are full and pink without any gloss, and Sehun wonders what it would be like to kiss him.

As soon as he thinks it, Sehun’s body goes cold, like someone’s poured a pail of ice water over him, and he immediately tries to put distance between himself and Chanyeol. Chanyeol’s lip pushes out even further at this, and Sehun decides he isn’t hungry anymore.

It doesn’t even make sense, he tells himself, that he would want to kiss Chanyeol. He’s known Chanyeol since he was fourteen, and in that time, he’s seen Chanyeol put all manner of disgusting foods in his mouth. Plus, Chanyeol is too big, and too floppy, and too energetic, and there’s absolutely no reason for Sehun to even consider what it would be like to feel Chanyeol’s hand curl around his nape. But then he remembers the way Chanyeol’s hands had felt against his bare waist, and he gulps.

Sehun remembers all the times he’s caught Chanyeol staring at his mouth, and though Chanyeol has seen Sehun eat all manner of disgusting foods too, he thinks Chanyeol might want to kiss him anyway.

“Earth to Sehun,” Jongin says, waving a hand in front of Sehun’s face, “we only have ten more minutes for lunch and if you’re not going to eat those potatoes, I will.”

Chanyeol starts eating more quickly, and his forearm brushes against Sehun’s, and Sehun’s shocked at how much he notices the small touch now, when it’s so much less than the things they’ve done casually for years. Chanyeol’s skin is soft, and Sehun has never really considered it before, but he wants to run his hand up the inside of Chanyeol’s arm; to trace the vein up to the crook of his elbow and feel Chanyeol’s pulse quicken beneath the pads of his fingertips.

Sehun thinks he might want to do those same things with his mouth, and the idea is almost frightening. Except that it’s not, because it’s Chanyeol.

And if he goes back, in his memory, Sehun can recall hundreds of heavy looks Chanyeol has sent in his direction over the past three years, and he thinks some of those might have meant that Chanyeol wants to kiss his way up Sehun’s arm, too.

“Go ahead,” Sehun say belatedly, in response to Jongin’s inquiry, and Jongin almost face-faults in surprise.

“Now I know something’s wrong,” Baekhyun says. “Really wrong.”

Junmyeon has a peculiar expression on his face, something akin to deviousness. He leans around Sehun to look at Chanyeol. “Chanyeol, can you check Sehun’s temperature for me?”

Sehun tries to inch away from where he’s squished into Chanyeol’s side again and Chanyeol stares. “But you’re sitting right next to him.”

“My hands are full,” Junmyeon says, splitting his chopsticks between his hands. “Of... chopsticks.”

Chanyeol sighs resignedly, like he had the time Sehun had accidentally clogged the toilet trying to flush all of Jongin’s underwear and Chanyeol had been forced to help him clean it up, and raises a hand to touch Sehun’s forehead.

Chanyeol’s hands have always felt softer than they look, and his palm is cool against Sehun’s skin. He feels heat climb up his face, and jerks his head away from Chanyeol’s hand before Chanyeol can feel it.

“I’m not sick,” Sehun says, and tries to ignore the hurt look on Chanyeol’s face. His throat is dry.

“You might be!” Junmyeon says enthusiastically, as Baekhyun laughs behind his hand. Jongin looks intrigued, and Kyungsoo looks dubious. “You never know!” His smile is so earnest that Sehun kind of wants to punch him, but that would be like punching a kitten so he doesn’t. “I’ve heard from our Super Junior seniors that holding hands can prevent colds.”

Sehun studies him for a moment, and almost rethinks his decision not to put his fist into Junmyeon’s smile. “Oh yeah?” Sehun replies sarcastically. “Well I’ve heard from our Super Junior seniors that sucking co-”

“His hands are full!” Baekhyun says, interrupting Sehun before he can spill the incriminating winter health tip, “Of chopsticks!”

Jongin picks up on Junmyeon’s game, and smiles wickedly. “To get an accurate read on his temperature,” he says, “you know you need to check it rectally.”

Kyungsoo, who has just taken a sip of his guava juice, chokes, and coughs until his throat is clear. “Jongin,” he says, measuredly, “are you volunteering to stick a finger up Sehun’s butt?”

“Ew,” Jongin says. “No. I was volunteering Chanyeol.”

“It’s so sweet that you’re worried about my health,” Sehun says, and Chanyeol ducks his head, obscuring his face. “I can’t wait until we spend time together this afternoon.”

“Yeah, if you’re well enough.” He furrows his eyebrows in faux-concern. “You might need to spend the afternoon in bed with Cha-” Baekhyun kicks him in the shin, which cuts Jongin short as he rubs at his leg and pouts.

“I think I’ve lost my appetite,” Chanyeol says, and something in Sehun’s gut drops. Chanyeol’s silence makes Sehun wonder if he’s read the whole situation wrong, and the way Chanyeol likes him isn’t the way Sehun had thought he did.

After Chanyeol leaves the table, Sehun points at Jongin and Junmyeon. “You both disgust me.” Sehun turns to Baekhyun. “Thanks for the support. I’m sorry I told everyone you were gay at breakfast.”

Kyungsoo’s head snaps up, spoon dangling from his mouth. “Wait, Baekhyun is gay?” he says around the silverware, and Sehun pretends, for his own sanity, that he doesn’t see the interest in Kyungsoo’s eyes.

Jongin doesn’t quite have Sehun’s skills of self-preservation. “Kyungsoo? You too? Is being gay our new concept or something?”

“I think that’s our eternal concept,” Sehun says condescendingly, reaching across the table to pat Jongin’s hand. “We’ll do something super heterosexual and manly this afternoon, don’t worry.”

In retrospect, Sehun thinks the conversation is even funnier as he watches Jongin get zipped into his corduroy, daisy-patterned jumpsuit as they prepare for the MNET interview later that afternoon.

-

“There are several risks involved with this kind of piercing, and that’s why we had you sign the waiver beforehand. Would you like something to numb the pain?”

Jongin looks up at Sehun from his spot in the chair, eyes alight with fear, and Sehun resists the urge to cackle.

“No, I can take it,” Jongin says, and if Baekhyun were here, there would have already been at least three buttsex jokes in response to that statement, but Sehun’s afraid to open his mouth in case his awful glee comes spilling out. “Are you sure this is safe?”

“Perfectly safe,” the piercer says. “Mostly. So pull down your undies and let’s take a look.”

Jongin slides his briefs down his thighs and Sehun tunes out the piercer’s explanation, instead reminiscing about how he’d conned Jongin into sneaking out with him to Hongdae to get a symbol of their manly brotherhood. “Donghae and Eunhyuk got them done together,” Sehun had said convincingly, “and Eunhyuk-seonbae told me that not only did it improve his dancing, but it also helped him... win over IU. Don’t you want an IU of your very own?”

“So what’s the incentive for you?” Jongin had asked suspiciously. “What would you even do with your own IU? Would you guys braid each other’s hair and talk about how hot Chanyeol-oppa is?”

Sehun hadn’t eviscerated him then, but it had been a close call. He’d avoided thinking about the way his heartbeat had sped up at Chanyeol’s name, and instead had given Jongin what he hoped passed for a sincere smile. “We’re bros, dude. I would be willing to do this to help you.”

And now, he’s got Jongin with his underwear around his knees and his thighs strapped down while a man with a massive needle examines his dick, and Sehun is sad that Jongin’s fansite noonas can’t see him now.

Jongin’s scream, as the piercer completes the procedure, is delicious. Sehun is pretty sure those are tears at the corners of Jongin’s eyes. His face is ashen as the at-home care instructions are given to him in excruciating detail, and he flinches when the piercer pats his knee. “I’ll be back with the rest of the paperwork.”

“Sehun,” Jongin whispers, panicked. “He said I might have to piss sitting down!”

“There, there,” Sehun says. “You’re lazy enough that it’ll feel like you’ve evolved.” Sehun pulls out his phone and takes a few quick photos. It’s good lighting, and the hoop glints silver in the pictures. “Looking good, Dancing Machine.”

“Why did I have to go first, again? This was all your idea.” Sehun doesn’t answer, because it’s a rhetorical question. Sehun had already told Jongin earlier that it was because Jongin was braver and manlier, and that maybe watching Jongin get it done would be “inspiring.”

“Okay,” the piercer says, coming back through the door with a few papers in his hand. He gives them to Jongin. “You guys are free to go.”

“Wait, Sehun, isn’t it your turn?” Jongin’s face is still grey and he cringes as he pulls up his underwear and jeans.

“Yeah, no,” Sehun says, unable to suppress his gloating smile any longer.

“It was just an appointment for one, right?” the piercer asks, and when Sehun nods, Jongin looks woozy.

“I told you I’d get you back,” Sehun says, and Jongin screws his face up, momentarily confused.

“When did you say that?” Jongin asks, and Sehun’s lucky the pain has left Jongin a little bit weak because it gives him a running start to the subway.

“You can’t run forever!” Jongin yells across the crowded subway station, pulling his scarf tighter around his face and checking his sunglasses, and as he slips into a subway car just as the doors are closing, Sehun feels vindicated.

-

This time, when Sehun punches in the doorcode and walks into the dorm, Chanyeol and Baekhyun are sitting on the couch, watching a movie and sharing a bowl of popcorn. Baekhyun is fussing with his phone, but he looks up when the door opens.

“Where’s Jongin?” he asks.

Sehun pauses, building the anticipation. “I might have tricked him into getting his dick pierced.”

The silence is deafening.

“Did he die along with his pride, or... ?” Baekhyun is facing him entirely now, pushing the popcorn bowl into Chanyeol’s lap and patting the bit of sofa in between them.

Sehun hesitates for a moment, but then his desire to share the pictures overwhelms his reticence, and he sits down. “Want to see the pictures I uploaded to Daum?”

He scrolls to the last couple of snapshots on his phone and Chanyeol leans closer to get a better look, his breath hot on Sehun’s neck. When the pictures load, Chanyeol’s laugh is deep and sincere, and Sehun thinks that this is an unexpected bonus of his plan; getting see Chanyeol’s joyful face for the first time in so very long.

Sehun hears the door and bolts to his bedroom, locking himself in. He creeps out to the kitchen for food when he hears Jongin bitching about him to Taemin on the phone through the thin wall between their rooms, and runs into Kyungsoo scrapbooking at the table. He’s got the pictures from Sehun’s phone.

“Where’d you get those?” Sehun asks, laughter building up anew as he takes in the ridiculousness of his afternoon one more time. “Daum?”

“No, Naver. But they went viral. There are Youtube videos now-- just the pictures and an awkward Nicki Minaj backtrack.”

“All my dreams have come true,” Sehun says, and Kyungsoo doesn’t respond, too busy applying adhesive to the back of the photos to pay Sehun’s schadenfreude any mind.

Later, though, when he gets cc’d on an email from Kris to the entirety of EXO-K, he laughs so hard he cries. It’s moments later that Jongin is banging on that thin wall between their rooms, screaming “Allkpop? Really? I can’t believe you put pictures of my dick on the internet, Oh Sehun! I’m going to kill you and throw your body in the Han!”

It’s too bad that when Sehun wakes up, none of this will have happened, but he’ll cherish the memory of it, and maybe of Chanyeol’s contagious laughter bubbling out to fill the room, for a long time.



part iii

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December 2012

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