[personal profile] maayacolabackup
Title: Take it from the Top
Brought to you by: [livejournal.com profile] hyperlydian and [livejournal.com profile] maayacola
Pairing: Sehun/Chanyeol
Rating: R
Warnings:dick piercings (mentioned, non-graphic), allkpop, stripping, Kim Jongin
Summary: Sehun wakes up and realizes he's made a mistake. Sehun wakes up and realizes he's made a mistake. Sehun wakes up and realizes he's made a mistake. Sehun wakes up and realizes he's made a mistake. (Sehun wakes up and-- oh.)
Notes: Whelps. This happened. Surprise! (~23k)




#

0

The television is too loud. Sehun licks at dry lips and tries to focus on his math homework. Junmyeon is sitting next to him, leaning far closer than Sehun would like and mouth-breathing as he tries to puzzle out Sehun’s calculus.

“I think you need to find the derivative?” Junmyeon says, and Sehun rolls his eyes.

“Even I know that’s wrong,” Jongin says from across the table, where he’s eating his fourth ice cream sandwich. The chocolate stains the corners of his lips and makes him look even dumber than usual. “And I slept through approximately one-hundred percent of calculus class.”

“Jongin,” Sehun says, setting his mechanical pencil down on the table, “you didn’t take calculus. You never made it past trigonometry.”

“So,” Jongin says, shoving the last bite of ice cream into his mouth, “the fact that I know that’s wrong means it’s really obvious.”

“Well-” Junmyeon starts, but they’re interrupted by loud shrieks of laughter from the living room. Sehun knows that Baekhyun, Kyungsoo, and Chanyeol are watching ‘Star King’ together, but Chanyeol’s boisterous laugh is loud enough to drown the other two out.

Normally, Sehun doesn’t mind Chanyeol’s laugh. Tonight though, with at least an hour’s worth of math homework ahead of him, thanks to long comeback rehearsals and procrastination, and a monstrous headache, Chanyeol’s laugh is more like nails on a chalkboard than a cheery soundtrack to their evening.

“Sehun,” Chanyeol calls out to him loudly, even though he’s only sitting at the kitchen table less than ten feet away, “Jonghyun-hyung is doing a-”

“It’s unbelievable how much I don’t care,” Sehun says, not even bothering looking up from his notebook.

“No, but-” Chanyeol starts cackling again at something on-screen, slapping at his thighs as his laugh echoes through the whole dorm, exacerbating Sehun’s heachache. Sehun rubs at his temples, narrowing his eyes at the jumble of letters and numbers, and wishes for silence. As soon as that thought crosses his mind, Chanyeol’s laughter explodes again, and Sehun exhales loudly in frustration.

Junmyeon pats his hand consolingly and smiles. “Math is hard.” Jongin snorts and gets out of his chair, walking out of the kitchen to join the others in the living room.

“It’s not that math is hard,” Sehun says. “It’s that no one can get anything done when it’s too loud to think.”

“You don’t usually have problems with it.” Junmyeon’s looking at Sehun’s assignment again, eyes crossed like he’s looking at hieroglyphics. “Are you sure this is right-side up?”

Chanyeol is repeating everything Kang Hodong says now, trying to imitate the comedian’s tone as his voice gets increasingly louder with every line, and Sehun can feel the edges of his patience fraying.

“Chanyeol, could you keep it down?” Sehun says it at a normal volume, but it’s lost in the commotion, swallowed up in Chanyeol’s noise.

Irritation crashing into him like a wave, Sehun stands up from the table, chair scraping, and slams his textbook closed. Junmyeon looks up at him startled as the cryptic problems disappear from in front of him, and Baekhyun spins around completely to look at him. Kyungsoo and Chanyeol follow suit, Chanyeol’s eyes round and confused. Chanyeol looks cute, but Sehun is irritated enough that it only seems vapid.

“Did you finish your homework, Sehun?” he asks, his lips parted and his eyebrows high on his forehead. “That was fast!”

“No, Chanyeol, I didn’t finish,” Sehun says, words slow and measured. His head is killing him, and even Chanyeol’s speaking voice, overly loud for indoors, grates. Sehun snatches his notebook and textbook off the table, and scowls.

“Where are you-”

He cuts Chanyeol off, because he really is annoyed and it’s Chanyeol’s fault he can’t concentrate. “I’m really sick of you,” Sehun says, “so I’m going to bed.”

With that, he turns around and heads for his room, making sure to slam the door. Deciding to call the math homework a loss, Sehun flops face-first into his bed, and tries to fall asleep before Junmyeon can come in and guilt him into an apology.

#

1

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 mumbles groggily, because Junmyeon is already dressed, hair wet from the shower and dripping onto Sehun’s face.

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

“It’s too early for me to have been a jerk today. Did I out Baekhyun in my sleep again?” Baekhyun still hadn’t forgiven Sehun for the time he fell asleep on the sofa and yelled ”Baekhyun is gay!” for fifteen minutes until he’d awoken to Baekhyun trying to smother the life out of him with a couch cushion. Sehun still doesn’t know why Baekhyun got so angry-- It’s not like he can control what he says in his sleep.

“No,” Junmyeon says. “Wait, Baekhyun is gay?”

“Nooooo,” Sehun says, rolling over so the water from Junmyeon’s hair hits his back instead of his face. “Go away.”

“You have a haircut this morning,” Junmyeon says. “Get out of bed. Jerk.”

“Why am I a jerk again?” Sehun closes his eyes and tries to will himself back to sleep.

“You’d better apologize to Chanyeol today, Sehun. Orders from leader.”

“Why do I need to apologize to Chanyeol?” Sehun gives up on sleeping, and sits up in bed, letting his sheets pool around his waist as he finger-combs his hair out of his eyes. “It’s his fault I couldn’t get my math homework done. He spent the whole evening braying like a donkey in the living room, remember?”

Sehun decides not to mention that until recently, he would be sitting right next to Chanyeol, laughing almost as loud and egging him on. Ever since debut though, Sehun’s had to struggle to get his homework done in the snatches of time he’s had available, and watching Chanyeol have fun without him is not only a bitter pill to swallow, but more than a little distracting.

Junmyeon’s frown becomes a little more pronounced. His sad, I-expected-more-from-you face is too much to bear this early in the morning, so Sehun looks down at his lap instead. “You really hurt his feelings,” Junmyeon says.

“What?”

“Just apologize, Sehun,” Junmyeon says. “It would go a long way toward making Chanyeol feel better.”

“Fine,” Sehun mumbles, throwing his legs over the side of the bed, wincing as it only makes his headache worse. “Bye.”

He pulls a shirt and sweats on and shuffles drowsily out the door and into the hall. He rubs at his eyes, trying to clear the sleep, and promptly runs into a wall.

“Sorry,” the wall murmurs, and Sehun blinks up to see Chanyeol. In the mornings, Chanyeol always greets Sehun with a grin that’s far too bright to be tolerated before noon, but today, he isn’t meeting Sehun’s eyes.

“Watch where you’re going,” Sehun says. “I almost lost an eye.” Usually Chanyeol will shove him playfully.

Instead, Chanyeol just nods, whispers “sorry” again, and moves past Sehun, ducking into his own bedroom before Sehun even realizes he’s gone.

Junmyeon’s order to apologize suddenly makes a little more sense, but Sehun still doesn’t understand why Chanyeol’s upset. “He’ll get over it,” Sehun says to himself as he goes into the bathroom and turns the tap to cold. He splashes his face, hoping the chill of the water will alleviate his headache, and afterwards, he feels much more awake. Kyungsoo moves past him as he dries his face and walks blearily into the shower, and Sehun shuts the door behind himself just as the water turns on.

When he enters the kitchen, Baekhyun and Junmyeon are sitting at the kitchen table, but it takes a minute for Sehun to spot Jongin at their feet, asleep under his chair.

“Did you apologize to Chanyeol yet?” Junmyeon takes a sip of his water and then turns to Baekhyun. “By the way, when were you going to tell me that you’re gay?”

Baekhyun stares at Junmyeon for a moment, before launching himself across the table, hands reaching for Sehun’s neck. Sehun ducks, running into Jongin’s chair, and Jongin jerks awake with a yelp. “I will end you, maknae,” Baekhyun hisses, teeth bared.

“Oops,” Sehun says, moving to use Junmyeon as a human shield. Still snarling, Baekhyun drops back into his chair, arms crossed.

Junmyeon takes another sip of his water. “I guess you need to apologize to Chanyeol and Baekhyun this morning.”

Jongin slithers up into his chair, hair wild, and scrubs at his face with both hands. “What have you done this time, asshole? Weren’t you mean enough last night?”

Sehun takes Junmyeon’s chopsticks out of his hand, eating a piece of egg out of Junmyeon’s bowl. “What exactly did I do last night?”

“You were just your usual charming self,” Baekhyun says saccharinely, hands white-knuckled around his bowl of rice.

“So other than crushing Chanyeol’s soul, absolutely nothing,” Jongin says, and Junmyeon lightly hits him on the shoulder. “What?”

“Crushing Chanyeol’s soul?” Sehun says. “Chanyeol never takes anything seriously. Jongin calls him ‘Poor Man’s Minho’ every day in rehearsal and he just laughs.” Sehun had tried to stop that name from sticking, out of some sense of bro-code, but Chanyeol had made it impossible to defend him when he slipped during their first rehearsal of History and fell forward, pantsing Kyungsoo and giving himself a bloody nose all in a matter of seconds. Sehun distinctly recalls pressing a bag of frozen corn to the bridge of Chanyeol’s nose that night, laughing at him while informing him of his hard-earned nickname. Chanyeol had simply smiled, showing every single one of his teeth, and declared that it was worth it, since now they all knew ”that Kyungsoo has the biggest dick in EXO-K”. Sehun had dropped the bag of corn and slapped the back of Chanyeol’s head, Chanyeol letting his head fall toward Sehun pathetically as he moaned about being injured into the hollow between Sehun’s neck and shoulder, still grinning from ear to ear, swollen nose and all.

“But Jongin is not you-”

Chanyeol sticks his head into the kitchen then, looking directly at Junmyeon. “Are you ready to go, hyung?” he asks, mouth still curled into a tiny frown.

“Wait, where are you going? It’s only seven.” He directs the question at Chanyeol, to prove to everyone that Chanyeol isn’t upset with him.

But Chanyeol looks down at his feet and swallows, hair falling over his forehead and obscuring his eyes. Junmyeon clears his throat and answers for him. “We’ve got that photo shoot for the subunit album cover today.”

Jongin snorts, and then covers his mouth quickly as everyone turns to look at him. “My bad,” Jongin says. “I’m just... still not over it.”

“For the last time, Jongin,” Junmyeon says primly, with all the forbearance of a man who takes his job very seriously, “there’s nothing funny about the EXTACY sub-unit project.”

“Of course not,” Jongin says, schooling his face into something almost neutral, that Sehun would totally buy if he didn’t have eyes. “I was just. Coughing.”

Junmyeon turns in his seat. “Oh no,” he says, suddenly worried. “Do you have a cold? Are you coming down with something?”

Now it’s Baekhyun who’s laughing, and Sehun tilts his head to share a conspiratorial grin with Chanyeol, but Chanyeol still isn’t looking at him. Sehun’s stomach hurts, now, too. Maybe he shouldn’t have eaten Junmyeon’s egg. Junmyeon’s perpetual anxiety is probably contagious.

Jongin successfully fends Junmyeon off by promising to drink herbal medicine before he leaves for rehearsal, and Junmyeon stands up and walks over to join Chanyeol at the door. “Don’t forget you have a haircut in thirty minutes, Sehun. Don’t keep the stylist waiting.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Sehun says, waving Junmyeon off as he takes Junmyeon’s seat. “I got it.” He doesn’t look in that direction, because he thinks Chanyeol might be kind of avoiding him and he doesn’t really want to deal with that before food.

After Chanyeol and Junmyeon are gone, Kyungsoo wanders into the kitchen, wide-eyed and wet. “Did Junmyeon-hyung and Chanyeol already leave?”

“Long gone,” Baekhyun says, like they hadn’t left seconds ago. “I hope Chanyeol manages to paste a smile on his face for the shoot. If he doesn’t, Sulli might just out-cute him and he’d never forgive himself for that.”

Kyungsoo looks at Sehun and raises both eyebrows. “Wait, you still haven’t apologized to Chanyeol yet?”

Sehun sighs. “Well, maybe if someone would tell me what I’m supposed to be so sorry about-”

The front door opens, and Hyeonkyun appears in the kitchen, brandishing a baseball cap and one of Sehun’s hooded sweatshirts. “Are you ready to go?” his manager asks, constant frown firmly in place. “I’ll bet you haven’t even brushed your teeth yet.”

Sehun would lie, but his breath smells kind of bad. He gives his manager a sullen look, and decides the Chanyeol situation can wait until lunch.

-

Rehearsal, after Sehun’s haircut, is a nightmare. Or, Sehun wishes it were a nightmare, because that would mean that A, he was still asleep, and B, he would wake up and his hair would not look like someone had closed their eyes and cut it with a weedwacker, and then followed that up by sprinkling a handful of raspberry jello powder on it while it was wet.

“You look like like you belong a kid’s show,” Jongin had said, and Sehun had looked at him incredulously, as if to remind Jongin that his own hair still looked like the 80s might call at any moment and ask for it back. “The one with the round aliens with televisions on their bellies.”

Baekhyun had snickered and run his hand luxuriously through his own dark, normal looking hair, rubbing it in that he didn’t look like an advertisement for Skittles, before looking down at his phone, which was blinking with a ‘new message’ notification. Kyungsoo had clapped a hand on his shoulder and said “it could totally have been worse,” which Jongin had followed up with “how?”

When they get in the elevator, heading up to the top floor where lunch is waiting for them, it stops three floors short of their destination, and the doors slide open to reveal Chanyeol and Junmyeon, still caked in make-up and smelling of BB Cream and overpriced hairspray.

Junmyeon’s jaw drops at the sight of Sehun. “Wow,” he says. “That’s a real... transformation.”

“I think the stylist was drunk,” Baekhyun says. “I’m not going to lie; I am sadistically enjoying the fruits of her trespasses.”

Sehun waits for Chanyeol’s customary seal-clapping and maybe a jibe or two, but he’s treated to nothing but a cursory nod, and Chanyeol sticks to the opposite side of the elevator, between Jongin and the wall. Jongin, instead of elbowing Chanyeol like he normally would, instead pokes him almost gently, which earns him a tiny smile from Chanyeol that quickly fades.

Sehun can remember another smile like that, like the time he’d found a tiny kitten that had fit perfectly into the palm of his large hand, back paws and tail slipping through his fingers, and their manager had told him solemnly that he couldn’t keep it. After the kitten had been carted off to a new home, or an animal shelter, or wherever their manager had taken it, Sehun had tugged on Chanyeol’s wrist and pulled him down into Sehun’s bed. Chanyeol hadn’t cried, because he doesn’t really do that, but he’d pressed his face into Sehun’s hair, and Sehun had let him.

Sehun grabs Chanyeol’s wrist just like that as they exit the elevator, letting the others walk ahead.

“Hey,” he says. “Whatever I said to you yesterday-”

“No, it’s fine,” Chanyeol says, biting down on his lower lip, “I know I can be really annoying sometimes.”

“What?” Sehun is so surprised that he releases Chanyeol’s wrist, and Chanyeol immediately slips his hands into the pockets of his oversized hoodie. He looks down the hallway, towards where the others are entering the cafeteria, and exhales.

“I mean, I can see how you’d get sick of me.” Chanyeol laughs, but it’s forced and hollow and it makes Sehun kind of queasy.

“Chanyeol,” Sehun says, the memory of last night suddenly stark in his mind, “I-”

“It’s fine,” Chanyeol says, and his smile is almost painful. “Don’t worry about it.” He steps past Sehun, and starts down the hall. Sehun opens his mouth, not sure what he’s going to say but thinking he should at least say something, but Chanyeol looks over his shoulder and offers Sehun a grin that’s a little more general. “By the way, I like your hair.” He shrugs. “I think you’d look good with any haircut.”

Sehun swallows as Chanyeol walks into the cafeteria, leaving him alone in the hallway feeling like he just keeps digging himself a deeper grave.

-

They’ve got an MNET interview scheduled for the afternoon. Sehun isn’t really in the mood for another Q&A where the host asks leading questions that hint at a romantic relationship between him and Lu Han, but a job is a job, and Sehun has his best blushes prepared. He’s got to do something to distract the viewers from his hair.

Junmyeon is his usual try-hard self, with Baekhyun egging him on and Jongin trying his best to not look stupid even though all the cards are stacked against him. Chanyeol, sitting on the end as usual, is only speaking when spoken to, Kyungsoo picking up the slack and amping up his own enthusiasm to cover Chanyeol’s uncustomary reticence.

“So EXO is finally coming back after last December’s full-length album,” the host, who keeps eyeing Sehun like he’s a particularly delicious pastry, says. “What is the concept of this new mini-album?”

Junmyeon shifts excitedly in his seat, and Baekhyun imitates him when he isn’t looking, which makes the cameramen laugh, and Jongin smirk. “Well, since we’re from EXOplanet, we’ve finally made a place for ourselves here on this planet, and we are blooming like new flowers with the spring.”

“Oh, is that the idea behind your maknae’s hair concept?” She bats her eyelashes at Sehun, and smiles.

Jongin stifles a laugh, but Baekhyun doesn’t bother, loudly chuckling before composing himself enough to give an answer. “Sehun’s hair concept is more...edgy than than the rest of ours.” He turns to look at Sehun, one dimple showing threateningly, and Sehun thinks maybe Baekhyun isn’t over the whole ‘outing him to Junmyeon’ thing, yet. “We gave our flower-boy the least flower-boy haircut.”

“I’m always so disappointed to be reminded that Sehun is the maknae. He looks so...” she trails off, looking more hungry than Sehun thinks is necessary. “Mature.”

“Thank you?” Sehun self consciously fixes his bangs, or what’s left of them on the right side of his forehead. He wonders if this is how Kibeom-hyung felt during Lucifer promotions.

“I’m sure Lu Han loves it,” she purrs, and Sehun flushes on command and demurely claims that Lu Han has yet to see it. Jongin is shaking with amusement, so Sehun not-so-subtly kicks him, which makes everyone turn in their direction, even Chanyeol. As soon as Chanyeol catches Sehun’s gaze, though, he looks back down again, at his knees, where his hands are resting, thumbs fiddling with the embroidered seams of his bedazzled patchwork denim trousers.

Chanyeol always toys with hems and stitching when he’s nervous. The day after they’d been told they were going to debut, Chanyeol had picked the seams right out of Sehun’s favorite quilt, until the stuffing had started to fluff out and fall to the floor in tufts. “Cut that out,” Sehun had said, peeling Chanyeol’s fingers one by one off of the edge of the blanket, and held his hand loosely between his own two. “Aren’t you supposed to be the hyung?” Sehun had said, and Chanyeol had hunched his shoulders in further. “We’ll be fine.”

“Chanyeol, you’re awfully quiet over there,” the host says, and Kyungsoo interjects quickly with a “he’s exhausted from practicing for our comeback,” which Chanyeol hurriedly nods along with, pasting a wan grin on his face.

“I’ve used up all my power on my rapping,” Chanyeol says, and the host nods, pursing her lips and turning back to Sehun.

“Have you been using up all your power on rapping?” She wriggles her eyebrows, “or do you have a little bit left over for this interview.”

Sehun waits for Junmyeon to laugh and change the subject, maybe to Jongin’s dancing or Kyungsoo’s singing, or maybe even Baekhyun’s pranks in the dorm, but he doesn’t. He just leaves Sehun there to die.

Sehun flounders, and considers answers ranging from “I’m a growing boy so I’m way too tired to deal with this shit,” to “I’m sure Jongin would love to let you suck his dick,” to “Baekhyun is gay,” but none them seem like answers that won’t get him slapped upside the head by someone after the interview is over, and he thinks that Lee Soo Man hits would probably hit really hard.

“Jongin has way more energy than Sehun does,” comes help from an unexpected source. Sehun turns to give Chanyeol a relieved and thankful look, but Chanyeol’s eyes are fixed firmly on the host, who seems a bit put out to be distracted from her game. “It’s him you should be asking about ‘extra energy’.”

It’s been awhile since Sehun’s seen Chanyeol’s fake smile. He hasn’t missed it.

Baekhyun claps excitedly. “We’re lucky if we even get minimum energy from our lazy maknae,” he says.

“I’m not the one who was asleep under the table this morning,” Sehun rebuts, and Jongin pokes him in the ribs while Kyungsoo leans around Sehun to look at Jongin skeptically.

“Again, Jongin? This is why your back won’t get better.”

“It’s like having a particularly unpleasant pet,” Baekhyun says. “One that eats more than regular pets, and adds less to your happiness.”

Chanyeol lets Baekhyun take control from there, and things move forward more smoothly. For the rest of the interview, Sehun tries to catch Chanyeol’s eyes, but Chanyeol, for once, won’t look at him at all.

“Why haven’t you apologized yet?” Kyungsoo asks, as they shuffle from the interview room into the hallway. “This is depressing.”

“I tried but he wouldn’t let me,” Sehun says. “He just made that same face he makes when Jongin eats all the apple flavored candies out of the HI-CHEW box just to spite him.”

“Ouch,” Kyungsoo says. “That’s a bad one.”

“Yeah,” Sehun says. “Then he basically told me that he knows he’s annoying and that he’s going to try to work on it, or something dumb like that. I couldn’t get a word in.”

Kyungsoo frowns, and then looks at Sehun seriously. “But of course, that’s not what you really want, is it?”

Sehun shrugs non-committally. “I dunno,” Sehun says. “Maybe I’d get my math homework done.”

“Do you really want Chanyeol to try to change, though? If not, you’d better apologize.”

“Yeah, yeah, I got it,” Sehun says, and he tries not to think about the way his stomach had dropped at the thought of a Chanyeol who didn’t make too much noise.

-

Chanyeol spends the free time before dinner locked in his room, taking a nap. Sehun knocks on the door three times, and calls Chanyeol’s name through the crack, loud enough to be heard but quiet enough not to disturb him if he’s sleeping. Chanyeol doesn’t answer, but Sehun thinks he hears him moving around inside. That makes him feel worse than when he’d tried to apologize before lunch.

Sehun has been friends with Chanyeol since Chanyeol joined the company, almost five years ago now, and in between school and headlocks and playful fights, they’ve never really argued about anything serious. Sehun has said worse things to Chanyeol in the past and Chanyeol has always laughed them off. He can’t figure out why this time, Chanyeol is acting like Sehun has purposefully crushed all his dreams and then eaten them spread on toast for breakfast.

He ends up dragging his homework out to the kitchen table, opening his textbook to a dog-eared page and clicking new lead out the tip of his mechanical pencil. But as he looks at the complicated problems, he still can’t seem to summon any focus, even though the dorm is completely quiet.

Dinner is a repeat of lunch, with missed glances and Sehun feeling simultaneously ignored and like the worst person on the planet, and by the time he goes to bed, his homework remains incomplete and the weight of his unsaid apology is heavy on his shoulders. As he closes his eyes, he can feel the beginnings of another headache.

#

2

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

“Am I late?” Sehun mumbles groggily, because Junmyeon is already dressed, hair wet from the shower and dripping onto Sehun’s face.

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

“Wait, I’m still a jerk? I tried to apologize. Is Baekhyun still mad about me telling you he’s gay?”

“Baekhyun is gay?” Junmyeon asks, sounding thoroughly shocked. “What?”

Junmyeon’s hair is raining water on his face. This is a terrible new habit he’s developing.

Sehun rolls over onto his belly. “Nevermind,” he says, reaching a hand up to push his bangs back from his face. He gets his fingers tangled in his fringe, and then, he stops. “But-”

“You’d better apologize to Chanyeol,” Junmyeon says, and Sehun ignores him, sitting up in bed faster than he’s moved in literally years, touching his hair all over.

“Oh my god, hyung, I had the worst nightmare.” He fingers the hair by his ears reverently, never having felt so thankful for the awful gray mess he has right now. “My hair was pink. I think I’ve found enlightenment.”

“Sehun, are you even listening to me? I am trying to have a serious conversation with you about your lack of social skills.”

“Yeah, but, in the dream, I got this terrible haircut! Jongin said I looked like a Teletubby. The worst thing was, he was right.”

“Sehun, calm down, you don’t have your hair appointment until after breakfast. And for all of our sakes, I hope they don’t make it pink.” Junmyeon sighs, pulling the collar of his button down out over his sweatshirt, which makes him look like a total tool. “And don’t forget to apologize to Chanyeol.”

“Wait, in my dream, Chanyeol wouldn’t let me apologize, which means I shouldn’t even bother,” Sehun says, but he’s been talking to the closed door, Junmyeon having somehow managed to leave without Sehun noticing.

Grabbing a random shirt from the pile at the foot of his bed, Sehun gets dressed and walks out into the hallway. He’s scrubbing at his eyes with a fist when something solid bumps into his side. That something mumbles a “sorry” and Sehun glares up at Chanyeol’s face.

“Watch where you’re going,” Sehun says, and Chanyeol won’t look at him, just like in his dream. “I almost lost an eye.” Sehun is so distracted by how much this feels like deja vu that he only sort of notices the way Chanyeol’s face falls at his words.

Walking past him, Chanyeol whispers another “sorry”, and disappears behind the door of his bedroom, leaving Sehun standing in the hallway, feeling strange and disoriented.

In the bathroom, he splashes his face with cold water, because somehow, he still has a headache and it thrums annoyingly behind his eyes even worse than it had the night before. He looks into the mirror, frowns at the redness of his eyes, and shakes his head to clear it. “It was just a stupid dream,” he says to himself, and then splashes his face again for good measure. Kyungsoo moves past him as he dries his face and walks blearily into the shower, and Sehun shuts the door behind himself just as the water turns on.

Baekhyun and Junmyeon are sitting at the kitchen table and Sehun, almost in disbelief, looks underneath the table for Jongin. “This is so fucking weird,” Sehun says, when he spots him, snoring underneath his chair.

Baekhyun looks up. “What’s weird?”

“Nothing, nothing,” Sehun says, sauntering further into the kitchen.

“Did you apologize to Chanyeol yet?” Junmyeon asks, setting down his glass of water on the table. He turns to look at Baekhyun. “By the way, when were you going to me that you’re gay?”

Baekhyun stares at Junmyeon for a moment, before launching himself across the table, hands reaching for Sehun’s neck. Sehun ducks, but he’s not fast enough to dodge Baekhyun’s fingers, and they clutch at the fabric of Sehun’s tee and drag him closer, until his hips are digging into the edge of the table. “I will end you, maknae,” Baekhyun hisses, teeth bared. Sehun’s surprised grunt wakes Jongin, who bangs his head on the chair leg, before squirming up and into his seat.

Jongin rubs at his eyes with the back of his hand. “What have you done this time, asshole? Weren’t you bad enough last night?”

Sehun tries to answer, but the neck of his tee is cutting off his windpipe as Baekhyun slowly strangles him.

“No killing band members on interview days,” Junmyeon says. “That’s not giving the SM spin machine quite long enough to make up a plausible story about their deaths.” Then he picks up the last piece of egg in his bowl and shoves it into his mouth, making no move to enforce his order.

Sehun’s vision is going white around the edges when Baekhyun finally lets go, letting him pull backward and gently massage his neck. “Barbarian,” Sehun says, grimacing in distaste in Baekhyun’s direction, and Baekhyun seems to barely restrain himself from lunging again. The slight forward motion is enough to make Sehun shriek and jump backward, out of Baekhyun’s reach.

Chanyeol sticks his head into the kitchen, and Sehun is almost expecting the way Chanyeol looks directly at Junmyeon, completely avoiding eye-contact. “Are you ready to go, hyung?” he asks, mouth curled into a tiny frown.

“Wait, where are you going? It’s only seven,” Sehun asks, and it echoes in his head, eerily enough that he reaches his hands up to cover his ears. “So weird.”

“You keep saying that, but I think you’re equally as weird as you usually are,” Baekhyun says, looking up at Chanyeol with a conspiratorial smile. Chanyeol doesn’t laugh, and Sehun, as he did in the dream, starts feeling a little bit queasy. “Which means super weird,” Baekhyun finishes, but his heart isn’t in it. An awkward silence descends on the kitchen.

It’s just that Sehun’s never really seen Chanyeol like this. He’s always been able to count on Chanyeol’s smile, and the absence of it leaves him feeling empty. Sehun’s trainee-period was filled with instances of Chanyeol picking him up from exhaustion and defeat with a well-timed grin, single dimple serving as a constant reminder that Sehun wasn’t alone. Chanyeol’s face, without that smile, looks wrong, and Sehun finds it strange how lonely it makes him feel.

“We’ve got that photo shoot for the subunit album cover today,” Junmyeon says, falsely cheerful. He’s glaring daggers at Sehun as he speaks, urging him to apologize with the disapproving downturn of his mouth, but Sehun is still too caught up in how creepily similar it all is to open his mouth.

“Wow, hyung, you guys had better hurry up. Wouldn’t want the staff to have to wait any longer than necessary for your orgasm faces.”

“Jongin, just because the subgroup is called EXTACY doesn’t mean all the songs are about sex.”

“Then it’s a waste of a good name,” Jongin replies, and he high-fives Baekhyun before slumping back down into his chair under Junmyeon’s unamused stare.

“It’s about the spreading the pure joy of experiencing our voices together,” Junmyeon says primly, and Baekhyun snorts water out through his nose.

“Hyung, at one point in the single, Krystal moans for a solid minute and a half, and Chanyeol starts in with the low grunting noises about thirty seconds into that.”

“That’s not remotely suggestive,” Jongin says. “I don’t know why anyone would get the wrong idea.”

“They’re experiencing pure joy.” His voice is emphatic, and verging on panicked. He takes a moment to collect himself, and Sehun thinks he might hear him whispering some kind of mantra under his breath.

“I think you broke him,” Sehun says, and Baekhyun and Jongin high-five again, like it was their plan all along. But Chanyeol is still totally and stubbornly silent, and it’s like a black hole coming from the entrance of the kitchen, sucking all the room’s mirth inside of it and making it disappear.

Junmyeon rises from his chair, dropping his chopsticks onto his napkin and straightening the offensive collar of his button down. “Don’t forget you have a haircut in thirty minutes, Sehun. Don’t keep the stylist waiting.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Sehun says faintly, sinking into Junmyeon’s seat. “I got it.” Sehun tries to use his brain to will Chanyeol into looking at him, just to prove things are different than they’d been in his head, while he was sleeping, but it doesn’t work. Chanyeol’s shoulders are slumped, and the nausea climbing up Sehun’s throat threatens to choke him.

After Chanyeol and Junmyeon are gone, Kyungsoo wanders into the kitchen, wide-eyed and wet. “Did Junmyeon-hyung and Chanyeol already leave?”

“Just left,” Baekhyun says. “Chanyeol, of course, looks like someone stabbed a puppy and left it on his pillow, and Junmyeon nearly had another aneurism about EXTACY.”

“That subgroup really is a shame,” Kyungsoo says, always sympathetic to Junmyeon’s plights. “Why is Chanyeol... wait, you still haven’t apologized to Chanyeol?”

Sehun sighs. “I’m not awake enough for this shit,” he says. “I feel like this is some hidden camera show.”

“What are you talking about?” Baekhyun asks him. “Did you inhale too much glitter hairspray yesterday?”

“No, his eyes are always hooded like that,” Jongin says. “And everything he says is always stupid.”

“Pot, kettle, black,” Sehun says, forcing himself to take a huge bite of Junmyeon’s leftover breakfast.

The front door opens, and Hyeonkyun appears in the kitchen, a baseball cap and one of Sehun’s hooded sweatshirts in hand. “Are you ready to go?” his manager asks, constant frown firmly in place. “I’ll bet you haven’t even brushed your teeth yet.”

Sehun runs his tongue over his teeth, feeling the film that still lies there, and swallows. It’s like he’s seeing his life on playback, and this is easily the weirdest morning he’s experienced in a very long time.

At least, he thinks, his hair isn’t pink.

-

Sehun watches in disgusted disbelief as the stylist turns on the buzz shaver and lifts up all the hair on the left side of his head. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” he says, and then winces as the hair hits the ground.

“Hush,” she says, “you’re going to look fabulous.”

“I bet that’s what you told Changmin-seonbaenim before TVXQ’s last comeback,” Sehun mutters beneath his breath, and wishes he were just getting a terrible bowlcut. “This is inhumane.”

“Don’t worry!” She hacks off a chunk of his fringe. “The new color will bring out some of the pink in those cheeks!”

Sehun glares at her reflection in the mirror, and when she approaches him with the little bowl of dye, he has to force himself not to make a break for it.

-

“I know, I know,” Sehun says, as Jongin opens his mouth when Sehun comes into rehearsal later that morning, “I look like a Teletubby.”

Jongin looks disappointed.

-

When the elevator stops to pick up Junmyeon and Chanyeol, three floors short of the lunch room, Sehun isn’t even surprised.

“Wow,” Junmyeon says. “That’s a real... transformation.”

“I think the stylist was drunk,” Baekhyun says. “I’m not going to lie; I am sadistically enjoying the fruits of her trespasses.”

Sehun turns to Chanyeol, arms crossed. “Stop ignoring me.”

Chanyeol’s eyes go wide. “I’m not ignoring you.” His voice is low and careful.

“Then why are you acting so... un-Chanyeol?”

The elevator doors open and the rest of the members file out, Baekhyun looking over his shoulder at Chanyeol worriedly.

Chanyeol tries to catch up with the others, but Sehun, without even thinking, grabs at Chanyeol’s wrist to stop him.

Sehun’s not sure what’s going on, but if everything is the same as it had unfolded in his head last night, he knows why Chanyeol is upset.

“Hey,” he says. “Sometimes, yeah, you are kind of annoying, but sometimes people find their friends annoying, and it’s not like you hold them to the same standards as someone you want to date, right?”

Chanyeol doesn’t look as happy with his apology as Sehun thinks he should. Instead, Chanyeol looks kind of upset. Chanyeol opens and closes his mouth twice, before he gives Sehun a wounded look and gives up.

It’s the look Chanyeol saves for losing his high school girlfriend to a boy who has more time for her, or for late night calls from his older sister when she misses him and wants to hear his voice. It’s the look Sehun soothes away by tossing Chanyeol the other video game controller and pushing into his personal space, bumping their knees together as he challenges Chanyeol to best out of three.

That Sehun has caused that look means Chanyeol probably doesn’t want to race Sehun in Mario Kart, and it’s got Sehun’s stomach twisting around itself in a mix of confusion and frustration.

It’s not like Sehun has even done anything particularly bad. He’s known for being somewhat of a brat, and Chanyeol has been on the receiving end of his temper more than once. Now, he’s trying to apologize, but instead of fixing things, it only seems to make things worse.

Sehun awkwardly shifts his weight and wonders what exactly he’s said wrong. He backpedals. “Not that-- I mean, not that you aren’t... I’m sure you’ll find someone whose standards are different than mine.”

“Thanks,” Chanyeol says, running a hand through his hair, pushing it back to reveal his forehead. “I guess.” His mouth is still in an unhappy pout, and Sehun is frustrated. Chanyeol turns, leaving Sehun staring at his back. “Let’s get lunch.”

Chanyeol starts to walk away, leaving a bewildered Sehun watching his back, and it’s not until Chanyeol reaches the door to the cafeteria that Sehun realizes what is different.

“Wait,” Sehun says, and Chanyeol pauses. “What do you think of my hair?”

Chanyeol sucks his lower lip into his mouth, and pushes his hands deeper into the pockets of his oversized hoodie. “I think...” Chanyeol says, and he’s got his eyes trained on the ground, “I think you’d look good with any haircut.” It’s weird, but Sehun feels a fluttering in his chest, and a warmth that stretches out along the inside of his ribs. The feeling is almost as comforting as one of Chanyeol’s hugs, even if Sehun’s been pretending he’s too old for those, lately.

Sehun swallows as Chanyeol walks into the cafeteria, leaving him alone in the hallway feeling like he’s just failed a test that he thought he’d know all the answers to.

-

When the stylist shoves him his outfit for the MNET interview that afternoon, Sehun grimaces as he holds up the paisley and rhinestone studded harem capris he remembers from his dream.

“I guess even the darkest depths of my imagination, I couldn’t have made these up,” he mutters. “I should have known these existed somewhere in the basement of SM.”

Baekhyun cackles from across the dressing room, putting on his own sedate, white stretch jeans, with only mildly blinding rhinestone flowers sparkling from the pockets. “Sehun, please, you know that it could have been worse.”

Sehun glares. “How?

Baekhyun points at Jongin’s daisy-patterned jumpsuit in lieu of an answer. Jongin is hopping around on one foot, attempting to lace up his gladiator sandals, while Kyungsoo tells him unsympathetically that he should have gotten a pedicure.

During the interview, when the creepy host asks about his power rapping, Sehun blithely informs her that no, he just stayed up all night talking to Lu Han on Skype. The host immediately pounces on the opportunity to talk about Sehun’s relationship with Lu Han, ignoring the other members in favor of going in for the kill.

Afterwards, Jongin teases him about his imaginary Skype call, and Chanyeol, as Sehun has come to expect, is infuriatingly quiet.

-

Sehun’s not sure if what he’s more irritated with is Chanyeol, or himself, that he doesn’t understand why Chanyeol is upset. He ends up glaring at his still unfinished math homework for the entirety of their free time, only pausing when Jongin starts turning all the zeros in his textbook into obscene drawings.

“So have you apologized yet?” Jongin asks, as he turns a theta into an anime girl’s left breast.

Sehun stabs the back of Jongin’s hand with his mechanical pencil, and growls “why does everyone keep asking me that?” as Jongin whimpers and rubs at the wound.

“Because you’re a dick,” Jongin replies. “Besides, you know how much your opinion matters to Chanyeol.”

“What?” Sehun asks, but Jongin is long gone from the conversation, buried waist deep in their freezer as he searches for ice cream sandwiches.

-

When Sehun pulls the covers over his head, he wonders how his day managed to turn out even worse than he’d dreamed.



part ii

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December 2012

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