Length: longer than Kris’s you-know-what, that’s for sure (27k)
Summary, potential warnings: It’s impossible to pay the rent in this economy.
“We’ll just have to move,” Chanyeol says, running his hands through newly shorn hair as he looks down at the notice. “I mean, we could always just move to a smaller place.”
“It doesn’t really get much smaller than this,” Kris replies. “Besides, where are we supposed to move to, Chanyeol?” They already live in a shoebox. A tiny apartment meant for one person, not for two, but Chanyeol’s a grad student and Kris is a writer, and it isn’t like they’ve got a ton of money to throw around. “Besides, moving is expensive.”
“Moving is expensive,” Chanyeol grumbles, scuffing the toe of his sock on the tile of their kitchen floor. It’s not really a kitchen. More like a ‘ramen heating area’. “And also painful.” He rubs his back with what must be phantom pain from the memory of their move here, up seven flights with no elevator. But they have a great view of the neighborhood, and Chanyeol likes to make faces at the kids who live in the apartment next to theirs on Saturday morning as they watch the same cartoons. “But Kris, we can’t afford this kind of rent hike. I’m balls deep in student loans already, and you’re not exactly doing consulting work like the rest of your ivy league classmates, dude.”
“More like the student loans are balls deep in you,” Kris replies, scrubbing his hands on his jeans. “I guess I could pick up another part time job…?”
Chanyeol huffs and pouts, and Kris barely restrains himself from petting Chanyeol’s hair. “That wouldn’t be fair to you and you know it,” he says. “They’re already working you to death at that non-profit you’re all starry-eyed about—“
“It’s a noble cause,” Kris says. “You know how I feel about baby animals—“
“Your best friend wears about four dead baby animals a day,” Chanyeol replies. Kris thinks Chanyeol is exaggerating, since most of Zitao’s pants are pleather and those coats probably aren’t real fur… “So I think it’s all bullshit.”
“I thought you were my best friend,” Kris says, and Chanyeol grins at him, dropping the rent notice onto the coffee table and crossing his arms over his chest.
“Well, I meant your other best friend,” says Chanyeol, shifting close enough to Kris that he can rest his head on Kris’s shoulder. “What are we gonna do, Kris?”
“We’ll figure something out,” Kris says, patting Chanyeol’s back. “We always do.”
“So I hear you’re in dire financial straights,” Baekhyun says, crossing his legs at the ankles as they sit side by side on the park bench. “The landlord’s trying to gut you, according to Chanyeol.”
“Well,” Kris says, “property value is rising around here, and—“
“Kris, please stop speaking,” Baekhyun says. “You know I’m allergic to pushovers.”
“This is New York City, Baekhyun.”
“And you live in a cake tin,” is Baekhyun’s reply. “You know, the ones that you get at Christmas, and you think there’s going to be something awesome inside but it’s just fruitcake? You live in one of those.” Baekhyun leans back on the bench, his designer loafers glinting in the late afternoon sun. “Wow, that’s a good metaphor.”
“No it isn’t,” Kris says. “Just because you went and joined Goldman Sachs like everyone else—“
“Your life is that cake, Kris,” Baekhyun says. “You expected it to be a delicious surprise but instead you live with an overgrown puppy in a cake tin.”
“What are you even talking about anymore?” Kris pulls out the paper bag that contains the sandwich he’d packed for lunch, and Baekhyun arches an eyebrow and takes a sip of his over-priced whipped cream drink that probably doesn’t even have coffee in it.
“I’m not the English major in this conversation,” Baekhyun says. “That’s why I know true happiness.”
“Laugh it up,” Kris says. “Why am I still friends with you, again?”
“Because I am the man who is going to save your non-existent ass, Kris Wu.”
Kris takes a bite of his sandwich and rolls his eyes. “Sure you are,” he says. “But only if I sell my soul to The Man and—“
“Actually, the contact I have for you is a fellow artiste,” Baekhyun says. “He’s a free spirit, a wild bird amidst the cages of the city—“
“He’s not a drug dealer, right?” Kris asks suspiciously. “Because I distinctly remember that time—“
Kris stops speaking as Baekhyun leans over to him and judiciously pinches his thigh, because he has to put all his energy into not yelping in pain.
“We don’t speak about that,” Baekhyun says. “Lu Han and I almost lost our jobs.” Baekhyun shudders. “We might have had to go work for nonprofits and live in cake tins.”
“Your worst nightmare, I know,” Kris says solemnly, and Baekhyun soothes the area of Kris’s thigh he’s wounded with a gentle rub.
“Thank you, Kris, for showing me what idealism would have earned me in the long run.” Baekhyun tosses his hair, now a vibrant purple-red, and tsks. “I can’t believe that, to top it all off, you moved in with Chanyeol.”
“I like Chanyeol,” Kris says. The thought that they might have to move out, that they might have to maybe even separate, is enough to remind Kris that he needs to figure out how they’re going to pay the rent. “He’s a good roommate.”
“I know he isn’t,” Baekhyun says. “I lived with him in college for two years, Kris. I put in my time.”
Kris sighs, shoving the last bite of his sandwich into his mouth and crinkling up the wrapper. He balls it into a fist and considers. “Chanyeol makes the quiet go away,” Kris says. “I need that.”
“If you say so,” Baekhyun says, reaching for Kris’s wrapper and shoving it into the plastic container of whipped whatever he’d just finished. “Aren’t there animals having make-up tested on them in Manhattan somewhere that you have to save? Don’t you have to get back to work?”
“Don’t you?” Kris takes the plastic cup and carries it over to the trash. As he walks back, Baekhyun stands and brushes off his slacks. Kris is just wearing jeans, like he does every day.
“Yup,” Baekhyun says. “But before I go, let me give you Yixing’s card.”
“Yeah,” Baekhyun says. “My friend. The artiste.”
“Why do you make it sound so sketchy?” Kris asks, taking the card and looking down at it. He blinks twice at the bright pink card, before looking up at Baekhyun warily. “What does Yixing do?”
“You know what?” Baekhyun says, smirking, “You should call him and find out.”
“Thanks,” Kris says. “I will. And if he’s a drug dealer—“
“He’s not a drug dealer, scouts honor,” Baekhyun says. “But I know he’s been looking for two tall guys to help him with his, um, work, so when I heard about you and Chanyeol’s little problem, I thought it might solve both of these crises at once.”
Kris looks down at the card, lurid magenta, and sighs. ”Byun Baekhyun, what trouble are you getting me into now?”
Chanyeol inspects the card carefully, bringing it up to his nose to sniff. “It smells like sex and axe body spray.” He lowers the card again, frowning. “Those aren’t two smells you usually encounter together.”
“Baekhyun said it was a friend of his?” Kris sighs. “What have we got to lose?”
“Baekhyun thinks everyone is his friend,” Chanyeol counters. He has marker on the side of his face today, and without even thinking about it, Kris wets the end of a paper towel and brings it up to Chanyeol’s face. “We all remember the incident at the McDonald’s with the homeless guy—“
“I know, I know,” Kris says. “But Baekhyun promised this guy isn’t a drug dealer.” The marker is stubborn, so Kris uses his other hand to lift Chanyeol’s face to the light. Chanyeol leans into the touch, letting Kris scrub at the marker. “How do you even get marker on your face?”
“By taking naps on your project plans,” Chanyeol replies. “I’ve got a big thingy due in like two weeks so I’ve been staying up late.”
Kris sighs and strokes the now clean skin of Chanyeol’s cheek with his thumb twice before dropping his hand. He turns around to where he’d been chopping up vegetables for fried rice before Chanyeol had even come home, and picks up the dull cutting knife.
Without warning, Chanyeol flops on him, chin digging into Kris’s shoulder and arms going around Kris’s waist. “I don’t have classes on Tuesdays,” Chanyeol says.
“I know that,” Kris says. “I could take next Tuesday off, if we need to meet with this guy.” Kris tries to shrug Chanyeol off, because it’s late August and their air conditioner is shit, but Chanyeol clings, as always, tightening his arms. “I don’t even know what he really does. I got the impression, from Baekhyun, that he needed models?”
“I could be a model,” Chanyeol says. “I am devastatingly attractive.” He laughs, and it is too loud, right in Kris’s ear. Kris is used to it, though, and doesn’t even flinch. “You’re all right, too, I guess.” He whispers that bit, and now Kris shivers.
“I’m better looking than you,” Kris says, and he sets the knife down so he can peel Chanyeol’s arms off of his waist. “Now leave me alone to cook so I don’t burn our apartment down before we even figure out if we can stay in it.”
“I’m going to call this guy,” Chanyeol says, the card suddenly between his fingers again. “I like living in this apartment with you. I don’t want anything to change.”
Kris doesn’t want anything to change either. He likes Chanyeol coming home and filling his life up with happiness and laughter after a hard day in his poorly lit office, hunched over a computer from 2004 as he pounds out informational article after informational article on animal rights.
“So we’ll give it a try,” Kris confirms, and Chanyeol nods eagerly, pulling his phone out of his pocket and wandering into the bedroom as Kris puts the onions in the hot skillet.
According to Chanyeol, they’re supposed to meet Yixing at his place of business at three in the afternoon on Tuesday. So Kris takes the afternoon off, getting back to the apartment around one to find Chanyeol half-asleep on his belly on the floor of the bedroom.
“What are you even doing?”
“It’s cooler down here,” Chanyeol says.
“That’s nonsense,” Kris says. “Get off the floor.”
“No really,” Chanyeol says. “You’ve got to try it.” He catches Kris’s pant leg, tugging, and Kris sighs.
“Fine,” he says, and he lowers himself gingerly down to the floor, lying on his back next to Chanyeol and staring at the ceiling instead of at his friend, who has his tank shirt plastered to him with sweat. To his surprise, it is cooler. “Oh.”
“It’s because heat rises,” Chanyeol says. “I’m your smart friend, remember?”
“If that’s true, I’m so doomed,” Kris replies, and Chanyeol smacks at him.
“I’ll bite you,” Chanyeol says.
“You’re too lazy to crawl the three feet,” he replies, and Chanyeol laughs, grabbing at Kris’s arm and holding onto it for no reason. He does that sometimes, just because he can. Kris thinks he should mind it, but he can never muster up the fucks.
“You win this time,” Chanyeol mumbles, already trying to go back to sleep. “But next time, Kris Wu, next time…”
Kris lets him sleep. Chanyeol looks exhausted, the sleep deprivation written in the corners of his mouth and in the shadows under his eyes. He doesn’t wake him until two-fifteen, and even then, it’s a gentle shake.
“We’ve got an appointment, Chanyeol.”
Chanyeol mumbles something in Korean, that Kris doesn’t understand, and think blinks at him wearily. “Already?”
Kris heart does this weird stuttering thing that it’s been doing for the past year or so around Chanyeol, before it evens out to it’s normal, reliable, thump thump thump. It’s a relief, because Kris doesn’t have the insurance to visit a cardiologist for his Chanyeol-induced heart-problems right now. “Yes, already,” Kris says. “Up we go.”
Chanyeol grumbles his way into the shower and whines his way out into the sun, baseball cap pulled low over his face. His ears stick out more without Chanyeol’s hair to cover them. Kris smiles and puts on his sunglasses.
It’s about thirty minutes down the R to get to Yixing’s place. Kris glances at his watch every three minutes, while Chanyeol doesn’t seem to be worried at all, more interested in the sundress-clad girls that keep getting on and off the train.
“Are you sure you’ve got this address right?” Kris asks, and Chanyeol nods profusely. “Because we don’t really have time to get lost.”
“You shouldn’t have let me sleep so long,” Chanyeol says. “And yes, for the three-hundredth time, I got the address right.”
“Sorry,” Kris says. “I just don’t know what to expect from this.”
“I know,” Chanyeol says, patting Kris’s knee. “I completely remember the first time you interviewed for a DC internship.” Kris had maaaaaybe been kind of a wreck. “I don’t mind, you know that.”
Chanyeol never minds anything. Kris thinks Baekhyun is wrong, and it is possibly Kris that gets the better end of this whole roommate deal. "Yes," Kris says. "I do."
Yixing's place is on the fifth floor of a worn out warehouse-like apartment building, made of old brown brick with mortar that is slowly turning green. Inside, though, everything is fairly modern, and Chanyeol cheers at the presence of an elevator.
"I'm so nervous," Kris says. "It's weird to me that this Yixing guy has been so vague about everything."
“He said he could explain it better in person," Chanyeol says. "And the only questions he asked about us were if we had any body modifications." Chanyeol laughs as Kris fingers his multiple ear piercings. "I told him I wasn't sure if you had a secret Prince Albert, and he said we'll see super ominously."
"No, just the ears," Kris says, flushing as he presses the elevator button for the fifth floor. "I swear to God, if this is too weird I'm going to--"
"What? Write Baekhyun a strongly worded letter?" Chanyeol rolls his eyes and grabs Kris's hand. "It can't be that weird. The guys sounded kind of spacey on the phone, but it reminded me of Lu Han, you know."
"Is that supposed to make me feel better?" The elevator opens. There are only three apartments on the floor, and Kris, with a sinking feeling in his stomach, knocks on 5C.
The door opens to reveal an apartment bedecked in lurid pink that matches the business card. There are fuzzy handcuffs hanging from all of the doorknobs.
“Why hello there,” a small dimpled man says. He’s wearing a simple pair of jeans and a tank shirt that reveals a swath of strong collarbones. “I’m Yixing. You must be Kris and Chanyeol.”
Kris’s fight or flight response is being deeply triggered.
“Are those penis shaped light switch covers?” Chanyeol asks, choked, and Yixing smiles.
“Can you believe they were only $19.99 on eBay?” Yixing claps his hands.
“You don’t say,” Kris says, and then Yixing laughs.
“Come in, come in,” Yixing says. “Have some water.”
“I’m going to need something stronger,” Chanyeol says. “I can tell already.”
“So,” Chanyeol says. “We’re never going to talk about that again, right?” He has his baseball cap pulled down low, emphasizing his ears and making Kris want to pull on them. Not that he would, of course, because that’s not a thing Kris does, but he wants to.
“Never,” Kris says. Yixing had shown them to a couch they had both sunk into, offering them drinks of tea and dodging the three-dimensional face of a bear on his area rug. They were out of tigers, he’d said, when Kris had pinned him with an incredulous look. Bears are sexy, right? It had been accompanied with a wink and Kris had gotten the distinct feeling that Yixing wasn’t talking about the woodland animal. Kris hadn’t felt that uncomfortable since his last prostate exam. He half expected to be told to turn his head and cough.
“I don’t even know what possessed Baekhyun to even think--” Chanyeol throws his hands in the air exaggeratedly. “That you... That I... That we would be comfortable doing... that.” His face is suffused a brighter red than Kris has ever seen it; the same color that it’s been since Yixing had sat across from them and proposed--
“Who knows why,” Kris says, rubbing tiredly at his eyes. “Don’t you have a project...?”
Chanyeol pulls his cap even lower, hiding his eyes. “Yeah,” he says. “The next time I see Baekhyun, I’m going to--” Chanyeol mimes strangulation, and Kris sighs.
“I’ll take care of it,” he says. “Don’t worry about it. Just finish your architecture project.”
“It’s kind of funny that I’m studying how to design homes but I can’t afford one,” Chanyeol mumbles as he wanders off into the bedroom, leaving Kris alone in the kitchen.
Kris leans forward and braces his weight on the counter, letting his head hang low. The stress of the past week feels like it weighs a million pounds on his shoulders and he wishes this hadn’t happened to top it all off, like an embarrassing cherry on a misery sundae.
He takes out his phone and dials Baekhyun.
“Byun Baekhyun, at your service~” the other man trills, and Kris licks his lips.
“Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t let Chanyeol end you next time we meet up for drinks.”
“Because then who will pay for the drinks?” Baekhyun jokes, and Kris takes a deep steadying breath. “I take it you went to meet Yixing.”
“Yes,” Kris says. “We did.”
“He pays well,” Baekhyun says. “And it’s one hundred percent legal--”
“He wanted us to make a gay porn together,” Kris says. He doesn’t shout by sheer force of will, but the hysteria creeps up on him faster than he can damp it down.
“I thought you liked dicks,” Baekhyun says. Kris can imagine him looking down at his long fingernails, examining the result of his most recent manicure. “I distinctly remember junior year, when you--”
“Stop!” Kris regrets so many parts of college, but he regrets meeting Baekhyun more than any of the wild parties. “Baekhyun, please, I thought we agreed--”
“Wait,” Baekhyun says, like he’s come to some realization that makes everything suddenly clear, “let me guess. Chanyeol still doesn’t know you’re gay.”
“I’m not...” Kris agitatedly ruffles his hair and feels like screaming. “I’m not...” Kris wonders if Chanyeol can hear him, and he pitches his voice even lower. “It’s not a thing that I want to talk about.”
“Whatever,” Baekhyun says. “My point is, I know you aren’t opposed to having a dick in your mouth, and god knows no one wants to sleep with Chanyeol so it’ll be a clean dick. And it’ll solve your rent problems!”
“There’s nothing wrong with Chanyeol!” Kris snaps, before he thinks about it. Hand clenching his mobile tighter, he quickly rushes to add on more. “And I’m not really game for doing things like that on camera for money, Baekhyun!”
Kris holds his breath and hopes he made it past Baekhyun. “Ohhhhhhhh,” Baekhyun says, sly and pleased. “I see.”
“You see what?” Kris asks. “There’s nothing to see here!”
“So,” Baekhyun says. “How long have you been wanting to maybe suck your roommates cock?”
“I am very upset with you right now, Baekhyun, and if I don’t hang up I might say some things I don’t mean about your mother,” Kris replies stuffily. “I will talk to you tomorrow.”
“Let’s get lunch,” Baekhyun says. “You can tell me about your wet dreams. It’ll be just like freshman year.”
“Goodbye, Baekhyun,” Kris says, and he hangs up.
He peeks into the room to find his roommate looking wrung out, dark circles under his usually bright eyes and even his hair looking limp. It’s hot in their apartment, and Chanyeol has the fan blasting from the corner of the room, but far enough away that it isn’t blowing his books or the notes he has scattered across his bed.
“You look tired,” Kris says, coming to stand on the opposite side of the bed from where Chanyeol is perched, and rubbing at Chanyeol’s shoulders. Chanyeol flinches, before relaxing into the familiar touch. He’s sitting on his bed, legs tucked up to his chest, and his chin resting on his knees. He has an architecture book spread out on the floor between his and Kris’s twin beds, his serious face a contrast to his Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle sheets.
“Just school,” Chanyeol says. “I hate school. Why did I keep going to school?”
“Because you like school,” Kris says. “And you didn’t want to work at Goldman.” He shifts, his knees hitting the mattress so he doesn’t have to reach so far to keep rubbing at Chanyeol’s back.
“I could have been so happy at Goldman,” Chanyeol says wistfully. “I wouldn’t have to worry about homework or rent or my friends trying to get me to sell my body to creepy gay porn directors.”
“I didn’t think he was that creepy,” Kris says. “Baekhyun was just trying to help.”
“Baekhyun is never trying to help,” Chanyeol replies. “Baekhyun is just trying to see if he can make you as uncomfortable as possible and I’m just casualties in his personal war.”
“Baekhyun can be a very good friend, Chanyeol,” Kris says defensively, and Chanyeol huffs.
“Are you forgetting that he sent us to a den of sin? Kris, there were penises on the lightswitches.”
“Yixing seemed nice, though.” Kris rubs his thumb into the knot between Chanyeol’s shoulder blades and Chanyeol moans. Kris bites his lower lip and moves his thumbs a little higher, to the nape of Chanyeol’s neck. “It was... fairly tasteful, considering.”
“I still don’t get why Baekhyun even did that,” Chanyeol says. “Can you imagine? Kris Wu, most eligible bachelor on campus, doing gay stuff? Yeah right.” Chanyeol laughs nervously. “And like, he knows I always had a girlfriend in college, so...”
Kris lets his hands fall from Chanyeol’s shoulders altogether as Chanyeol stretches his arms above his head. His tank shirt is tight, and rides up, and Kris is very glad that Chanyeol is unobservant because Kris can feel his eyes drinking in the slice of exposed skin.
“I’m sure Baekhyun was just thinking it would be a quick and easy way to make money.”
“Well,” Chanyeol says, “I don’t know where he got the idea that I’m quick and easy.” Chanyeol flops backward on the bed, smiling toothily up at Kris. “I’m not him, after all.”
“One day,” Kris says, keeping his eyes on Chanyeol’s, and not on the thin trail of hair that disappears into the top of Chanyeol’s jeans, “you guys are going to stop arguing for the sake of arguing and I might just get bored.” Chanyeol laughs, and reaches back for Kris, like he’s trying to grab the bottom of Kris’s t-shirt and drag him down next to him, but Kris steps back, moving off the bed, dodging the touch. “That wasn’t an invitation for you to remind me how exciting you are.”
“You’re just mad that I’m the only person who knows you’re ticklish,” Chanyeol replies. Then he crosses his arms, trying in vain to look stern as his eyes sparkle. “Wait. Baekhyun and Zitao don’t know you’re ticklish, right?”
“I would never tell Baekhyun I was ticklish,” Kris says dryly, remembering lunch yesterday, with Baekhyun sitting across from him at the small deli Kris frequents and batting his eyelashes as he interrogated Kris about his Chanyeol feelings. “It would only give him more ammunition.”
“So you admit that he’s a little evil,” says Chanyeol, wiggling his eyebrows.
There’s the sound of someone at the door. Saved by the bell, Kris thinks, ducking out of the room as Chanyeol yells behind him.
”Wait, wait, wait, you never said anything about Zitao!” he calls, and Kris smiles as he undoes the chain and pulls the deadbolt.
It’s their landlord. He’s a friendly guy, and Kris has always liked him fine, but seeing him now, when that giant ball of stress in Kris’s stomach was just starting to dissipate, is unwelcome. “Hello, Kris,” he says. “I was just making sure you saw the notification about the rent.”
“Yes,” Kris says. “Got it last week.” He smiles thinly, and the landlord sighs.
“It’s a tough market,” he says. “Rent is rising all over the area, thanks to the property taxes hiking this year.”
“I understand,” Kris says. “Too bad salaries aren’t hiking with it.”
“You and Chan have to renew your lease in a couple of weeks,” the landlord says. “Make sure you make an appointment with me before then! I’ve got a ton of people interested in the building.”
Kris hears Chanyeol walk out of the bedroom and over to the sink to refill his water glass, and keeps his eyes fixed firmly ahead. “Yes, of course, we’ll do that,” says Kris, and Chanyeol turns off the water tap and stands at the sink, waiting and listening.
“Good man,” the landlord says. “I’ll see you then.”
Kris closes the door, and Chanyeol exhales heavily. “Wow, we really have to figure out what to do, huh?”
“Yes,” Kris says. “I was going to speak to my boss about a raise, but...” But Kris works for a non-profit, and both he and Chanyeol know the chances of more money are slim.
“Yeah,” Chanyeol says. “I wish I could access my education fund.”
“I’m glad you can’t,” Kris says. “Your grandfather left you that money to pay for your expensive Ivy League education in gentrified Harlem.” Kris chuckles. “Not to pay off the rent on your tiny shoebox apartment.”
“Why is this so hard?” Chanyeol asks. “When I was a kid, I thought being an adult would be awesome, but it’s totally not awesome. I don’t want to deal with all these adult problems.”
Kris, who has been dealing with adult problems since he was ten or eleven, shrugs, before he walks over to his friend and gives into his impulse to ruffle Chanyeol’s hair. “It’ll work out somehow.”
“You always say that,” Chanyeol says. “Always.”
“It always does,” Kris replies. “Don’t worry, I’ll figure something out.”
Lu Han looks distinctly unimpressed. “But you know daddy would hire you in a second,” he says. “Why do you have rent problems when you could be making enough money to buy five of those apartments you live in right now and the building they’re in. And the whole block.”
“Because, no offense, Lu Han, but your dad is a soul-eating shark.” Kris wrinkles his nose. “He probably signs his complicated and dubiously legal deals with the gas companies using the blood of the animals I work daily to save.”
“Yeah,” Lu Han says, sucking on a lollipop. “But you have to admit he wears fantastic suits.” Lu Han grins, his brown hair, so different from the bubblegum pink he’d sported in college, clinging to his falsely innocent face in the August heat. “There’s nothing more important in life than a really fantastic suit. You would look good in a suit like that.”
“I like my job,” Kris says. “I really like my job.” Kris likes puppies and kittens and baby animals and he’s passionate about ending animal testing.
“Okay, Elle Woods, but you can’t afford your apartment.”
“I’m thinking about putting in a few extra hours as a legal assistant downtown,” Kris says. “I’ve got a friend-- you remember Jessica from ‘07, right? Who said she’d hire me for a few hours a week.”
“You never sleep,” Lu Han says. “There already aren’t enough hours in the day for you to earn enough money to survive.” Lu Han bites down on his lollipop, and the sound of crunching candy sounds like cracking bones. “I bet you use drug store brand shampoo, now.”
Kris doesn’t. He might not be well off, but there are some things in life that he is unwilling to sacrifice.
Looking down at his watch, Kris winces. “I’ve got to get back to work.”
“Work...” Lu Han drawls. “Right. How boring.”
“Don’t you have a job?” Kris’s button up is sticking to his back, and even the meager air conditioning offered by his office will be an improvement on the outdoors.
“Kris, man, I gotta tell you, your morals and sense of compassion have really left you with the short end of the stick.” Lu Han laughs. “Work, he says. Like I don’t spend all day playing Tetris.”
“Better my morals and compassion than being a soul-eating shark,” is Kris’s stiff reply.
Lu Han ponders the stick of his lollipop. “I wonder if souls taste like candy.” He blinks twice, and then digs out his wallet. “Well, just in case you change your mind,” he produces a card with the company’s contact information on it, “I’m sure daddy would love to hire you.”
“Thanks,” Kris says. “I’ll keep that in mind.”
Kris comes home late on Friday. After work, he’d gone down to Manhattan to see Jessica, and she’s given him a brief run-down on what she needed help with. “It’s below you,” she’d said, “but unless you’d be willing to take a full time position...”
“No, no,” Kris had said. “This is great, thank you.”
Now he’s exhausted all the way down to his bones. He tries to be quiet when he opens the door, because Chanyeol might be asleep, but when he enters the apartment, Chanyeol is waiting for him, hunched over the counter with a carton of ice cream and his textbook open next to it. He’s holding the spoon up in front of his open mouth as he reads, the ice cream melting off it as he stands there.
“It’s too hot to have the ice cream out if you’re not going to eat it,” Kris says, and Chanyeol jolts, dropping the spoon into the carton and looking up at Kris with wide, skittish eyes. Chanyeol’s never nervous when Kris come home unless he’s done something that he thinks will upset Kris, like wash his red socks with all of Kris’s white shirts or leave all the lights on all day. “What did you break?”
“Nothing, nothing,” Chanyeol says. “I didn’t-- No, don’t be silly.”
“Then why are you acting weird?” Kris walks over to the counter and grabs the spoon from the carton. Melted ice cream gets all over his knuckles and the back of his hands, but some of the dessert is still frozen so he scoops up a spoonful and brings it to his lips. Chanyeol watches him take the bite, his eyes round, and when Kris swallows, his eyes drop from Kris’s mouth to his throat, teeth biting into his own lower lip. Kris feels flushed and embarrassed for no reason, putting the spoon into the sink and turning away from Chanyeol as he puts the lid back on the ice cream so he can return it to the freezer. Chanyeol’s eyes are burning into him. “Stop staring at me, Chanyeol!”
“Okay, so, I’ve been thinking...”
“Uh oh,” Kris teases, nudging past Chanyeol with a friendly elbow to show he’s teasing as he walks over to the freezer. “That’s never good.”
Chanyeol takes a deep breath, and Kris knows that means he should prepare for an onslaught of words with no spaces between them. “That we should just go for it.”
“Go for... go for what?” Moving? Getting a new place? They still have a few days left before they have to truly decide, but maybe Chanyeol has decided it would be easier to...
“The thing,” Chanyeol says. “C’mon, Kris, don’t make me say it.”
“I really don’t know what you’re talking about, Chanyeol.” Kris grins, thinking about how nice a shower is going to feel on his sweat-soaked skin. “Which is not much different from usual, but...”
“I think we should make a gay porn!” Chanyeol shouts, and Kris feels all the blood drain from his body, leaving behind a corpse. A corpse that is sincerely hoping the neighbors haven’t heard anything.
“Chanyeol, what the hell?” Kris hisses. “You can’t just shout things like that at your roommate!”
“I’m sorry!” Chanyeol says, wringing his hands. “I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to make myself say it and then it just--”
“If you can’t say it,” Kris interrupts, “then you can’t do it.”
“How would you know?” Chanyeol says. “For all you know, I’m totally into gay sex. I could be like, an underground gay sex icon. I could be a connoisseur of anal... stuff. Stuffing. The point is, you don’t know. You don’t know my life.”
“Chanyeol, we share a bedroom. I know you masturbate to pictures of Scarlett Johansson.”
“Sexuality is fluid, Kris!”
“You go to grad school, and suddenly you think you know everything.” Kris swallows, because Chanyeol definitely doesn’t. Chanyeol doesn’t know that when Kris touches himself, late at night, long after Chanyeol goes to bed, he’s definitely not thinking about Scarlett Johansson. “Your degree-program is architecture.”
Chanyeol whines in the back of his throat and Kris deflates at the sound. “I don’t want to leave this apartment, Kris. We had time to figure something out, and we couldn’t. So now it’s either this, or...”
Kris’s hand drops to his pocket, his hand hovering over his wallet. He’s got the card that Lu Han gave him, and...
“It’s a really bad idea, Chanyeol,” Kris says. “Like, really bad.”
“I mean, you’re hot for a guy? I mean...” Chanyeol is squirming, and Kris feels like he’s in a horror movie. Or like he’s watching a train wreck happen and he can’t do anything to stop it. “It’s not like it’s a stranger. It’s you. And if I was going to do something ridiculous like this, it’s better that it’s... Better with you, right?”
“Chanyeol...” Kris reaches out and grabs Chanyeol’s wrist. “You don’t like guys.”
“Neither do you,” Chanyeol says, and that stress-ball in Kris’s stomach is never going to go away. He feels like the worst sort of liar as Chanyeol looks at him earnestly. “You picked up that extra job, and even after one day, you already look...” Chanyeol’s hand comes up to cup Kris’s face, his thumb caressing the soft skin under Kris’s right eye. “Really tired Kris. I could do this, if you could.”
Kris wants to laugh. It would be... Well, not easy for Kris, but easier. Kris would have no problem looking at Chanyeol’s lips and thinking they’d look nice around his dick, because he’s done that often enough in the shower that it’s second nature.
But Chanyeol is... Chanyeol is... “This could really mess things up, Chanyeol.”
“We’re bros, Kris. Bros for life.” Chanyeol laughs nervously. “What’s a little dick touching between friends?”
Kris could say “we’re going to be doing a lot more than dick touching,” but he’s already trying not to let his mind wander in that direction as Chanyeol stands in front of him looking pleading and desperate.
This is a horrible idea. Kris is going to kill Baekhyun one day, for even giving them this terrible option in the first place. “Fine,” Kris says, and he can’t stand here anymore. “I’m just going to...” he mumbles the rest of the sentence, hoping the word shower was clear enough in there somewhere, and locks himself in the bathroom for the next forty minutes as he attempts to drown himself under the spray of cold water.
“It starts in a nightclub,” and Yixing pulls out an elaborate storyboard, and Kris tries to ignore his growing apprehension. “It’s dark, but there’s a spotlight on the stage. A woman stands there, tall and imposing, but her voice is riveting-- Chanyeol, you’ll play her.”
“I’m a man,” Chanyeol says. “I signed up to do gay porn, remember?”
“It’s a man’s role,” Yixing says, patiently. “What’s a pair of panties when it comes to making art?” Yixing’s hair falls into his eyes and he flicks it back. “Anyway, you, Kris... You walk into the club and fall in love at first sight. You’re a straight man, you see, and you--”
“Isn’t this the plot of The Crying Game?” Kris asks, shifting uncomfortably, and Yixing freezes, mouth dropping open as he turns to stare at his storyboard in horror.
“You’re right!” he says, aghast. His long sparkly scarf swings as he shoves the storyboard across the room. “Amateur! Boring!” He smiles at them both. “I’ve got something better.”
He pulls out a second, even larger storyboard, as Chanyeol leans over to whisper “thanks for saving me from the sparkly red dress,” into Kris’s ear. Kris shivers, and tries not to picture it.
Instead, he studies the new storyboard. It’s covered with three-dimensional vines from the arts and crafts store, and a thong that looks very... jungle-esque hanging from the corner. “Two childhood friends separated when one is sucked into a game board at the roll of a dice, only to emerge fifteen years later a wild, masculine sex beast--”
“And that one’s Jumanji,” Kris says, and Chanyeol looks caught between a laugh and a sob.
“Wow, I just imagined Robin Williams having sex,” Chanyeol says. “So thanks for that, I guess.”
Yixing agitatedly drops it to the floor, looking at it with distaste. “You’re right. It’s too fantastical! We need more tension, a different type of danger! Immediacy! Fucking on the battle-lines of life!” He pulls out a third story board, and Kris feels uncontrollable fear climbing up his throat at the pair of scrubs with the ass cut out that are pinned to the foam core. “Chanyeol, you’re a resident at a hospital, and Kris is your sexy older nurse who’s secretly been showing you more than the ropes.”
“So Grey’s Anatomy,” Chanyeol mutters, and Yixing pretends not to hear him. “I guess it’s better than Jumanji.”
“Is it?” Kris asks, feeling like he’s watching this whole thing on a television screen and he’s not really here. He’s heard that in situations of extreme trauma people can separate their minds from their bodies and watch themselves from the outside, but he’s never believed it until now. “You’re probably not the one wearing the assless scrubs.”
“Probably not,” Chanyeol says vaguely.
“So,” Yixing says, “first Chanyeol is going to blow you in the nurses station.”
“Um,” Chanyeol says. His eyes are feverish and frightened, so Kris grabs his hand and holds it. “How does one... do... that?”
“You’re a twenty-three year old man,” Yixing says. “You can’t tell me you’ve never encountered a blow job before.” He leans forward. “If you haven’t, I would be more than happy to educate you--”
“He’s fine,” Kris snaps, pulling Chanyeol closer to him. “He doesn’t need any lessons.” Chanyeol puts his head on Kris’s shoulder like he did that one time during rush when they watched really horrifying childbirth documentaries with Baekhyun as a ‘manliness test’ and Chanyeol thought he was going to pass out.
“Well, if he’s not comfortable, maybe you guys should watch a few of my other productions to get a feel for how I work.” Yixing, stepping carefully over the head of his bearskin rug, reaches into an open drawer at the desk against the wall. He pulls out three dildos of varying shapes and daunting sizes, stopping to hold the last up to Kris and narrowing his eyes thoughtfully, before he squeals triumphantly and bunny hops, pulling out a stack of unmarked dvds that look like the bootlegs Zitao is constantly picking up in Chinatown. “Found them.” He drops them into Chanyeol’s lap and Chanyeol rears back like they burn him. Kris hurriedly puts them in a neat stack. “Watch these, and then report back.”
“Yes, sir,” Kris says, warily keeping his eyes on Yixing as he pulls Chanyeol up. “We’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Good,” Yixing says, producing another dildo from nowhere. He holds up and looks between it and Chanyeol. “Very good.”
Chanyeol’s face looks white even in the pink-tinted light of Yixing’s reception room, unmoving. “I’m not sure I...” Kris can see the fear written all over Chanyeol’s face as he licks his lips and tries to get the words out. “I’ve never --”
“It’s going to be me, right?” Kris interrupts, hand tightening on Chanyeol’s upper arm. “I’ll be the one, um, on the bottom.” He looks at Yixing with as much warning as he can muster in his eyes.
Yixing looks delighted. “What a wonderful idea! Chanyeol could fuck you on one of the empty beds in the Emergency Room!”
“Yes,” Kris says, and he feels Chanyeol relax a little in his grip. “So, tomorrow?”
“Make sure you wax!” Yixing calls after them as they leave, and Kris keeps his hold on Chanyeol’s arm until they reach the elevator.
“Wax what?” Chanyeol asks curiously, as the doors slide open. “Our eyebrows?”
Kris punches the button for the ground floor, and wants to die.
“We have to watch gay porn,” Kris says. “Gay porn, Baekhyun.”
“A lobbyist like you should appreciate the value of thorough research.” He laughs. “Besides, didn’t you have like, ~a thing~ with Tao? I heard he’s super into ‘home movies’ so this should all be old hat to you.”
“I did not have a... a thing with Tao,” Kris says. “How do you even know this stuff?”
“If you didn’t have a thing with Tao,” is Baekhyun’s reply, “then what is there to know?”
Kris pulls at his hair. “It was just... It wasn’t anything, you know, serious. Friends with benefits.”
“Perfect! Why don’t you pretend that’s what you’re doing with Chanyeol and then you guys can still be bffs who send super homosexual text messages to each other, just like you and Tao!”
“Because,” Kris says. “It’s different. Chanyeol is...” Kris doesn’t want to say anything sappy, like special, but that’s really the best way to describe the way Chanyeol makes him feel. He hadn’t really realized it until earlier in the year, but once he’d finally pinpointed all those emotions it had all seemed so obvious.
“Kris, are you in love with Chanyeol? Please tell me you have taste and this is all a horrible misunderstanding.”
“Oh my god, you are. This is all worse than I imagined.” Baekhyun seems short of breath. “If Yixing gave you a dildo, don’t pull that out, you’ll scare him off.”
“Are you giving me... sex advice?”
“No!” Baekhyun says. “Because I don’t want to imagine the kind of sickening, cutesy sex you’d have. Chanyeol already nibbles on you affectionately in public! I bet he likes to hold hands while he fucks, he seems like that kind of guy.” There’s disgust in Baekhyun’s voice, but Kris thinks that sounds kinda nice. “Kris, I thought the fluffy animal rights thing was your low point but I appear to have been wrong.”
“Chanyeol’s not a low point in my life, Baekhyun. He’s...” Kris casts around for words. “Important.” He clears his throat. “He’s the reason it’s so nice to come home at the end of the day.”
“Oh nooooooo,” Baekhyun wails. “Okay, I can see why you’re worried about the gay porn. Especially considering you’re a lying bastard and you haven’t even told the poor man you’re a breakfast guy.”
“A breakfast guy?”
“Sausage and eggs, you know.”
“That’s...” Kris is starting to think Chanyeol is right, and Baekhyun is just a little bit evil. “What am I supposed to do?”
“I suppose you could be honest about your feeling and tell Chanyeol what’s up.”
“That would go over really well!” Kris says. “Chanyeol, I don’t want to make things awkward, but--”
“Make things awkward,” Baekhyun echoes.
“But I’ve totally realized that I’m... I’m...”
“If you can’t even say it,” Baekhyun says, “you’re certainly not going to do anything about it.” Baekhyun goes silent, and Kris is distantly proud that he’s maybe the first person ever to leave Baekhyun speechless. “Okay, here’s what you’re going to do, Kris. Listen carefully. You treat it like a movie night at the frat, only with less spanking: put out some popcorn and some lotion, make sure the lights are off, and you’ll be fine! Chanyeol probably won’t even notice if you get a boner if you sit on opposite ends of the couch.”
“But Chanyeol’s a cuddler.”
“If Chanyeol wants to cuddle with you while watching gay porn, you might have more of a chance with him than you thought.” Baekhyun pauses. “On second thought, don’t let him cuddle with you. It’s a violation of the bro code.”
“Way to be totally unhelpful,” Kris huffs. “And now I’ve got to go watch a Wizard of Oz-themed porno with my best friend.”
“I expect the details at lunch!” Baekhyun says, sounding far too amused at his pain, and Kris hangs up without even saying goodbye.
The space between them on the couch is both too much and not enough. The bowl of popcorn sits between them, and Chanyeol’s eyes are like two moons on his face as he watches the screen.
“Kris,” Chanyeol says, sounding choked. “That hairy guy’s fingers, they’re...” Chanyeol shove a handful of popcorn into his mouth, but they spill out as he forgets to close his mouth and chew. Kris is not supposed to think that’s adorable. “”They’re in the other guy’s ass.”
“That’s...” Kris has to think about this like... like a science lesson. Sex ed. Sex ed with the straight guy he’d very much like to make out with. Faaaaantastic. “Yes, that’s to stretch it out. So that, uh, you can...”
“Stretch out his ass?” Chanyeol finally closes his mouth, and then chokes because of the few remaining kernels of popcorn still in it. “Kris, am I going to put my fingers in your ass?”
“Yes,” Kris says. “And then you’re going to, uh, you know, uh...”
“Kris, Kris, he’s putting his dick in that guy’s ass.”
“Yes,” Kris says, and he isn’t thinking about Chanyeol’s fingers inside of him, or Chanyeol’s cock inside of him either. He’s definitely not thinking about that, and everything’s totally cool, and it’s fine. Fine. “Yes, and you’re going to do that. To me. And it’s not going to be weird.”
“Right. Not weird.” He’s hyperventilating. Fuck the bro code. Kris moves the popcorn to the floor and scoots closer to Chanyeol, throwing an arm around his shoulder and pulling him close. Chanyeol immediately clings to him like a baby koala, and Kris hugs him tighter. “It’ll be okay,” Chanyeol mumbles into Kris’s chest, and Kris hopes Chanyeol can’t hear his heart. “We’re in this together.”
“Exactly,” Kris says, and he prays he sounds more sure and confident than he feels, because if not, they’re both a little doomed.
After a few moments, Chanyeol risks turning his face so its not pressed into Kris’s shirt and makes a wounded noise, clutching at the fabric. “He’s licking that guy’s butt, Kris. Who would do that?”
Kris decides not to say that he’s definitely done that.