Summary: Kyungsoo really regrets noticing Chanyeol the other day at the lounge, because he finds that he can’t take his eyes off Chanyeol and his chestnut-colored hair. Would his hair be as soft as how he imagines it to be? Kyungsoo may never know. Or will he? (Not-so-HS!AU)
Kyungsoo is in his junior year when he first cordially meets Park Chanyeol. Unfortunately, it had to be in the dormitory lounge, where the boys are all curled up into the bean bag couches with cans of beer (probably snuck in from the back gate while the guard was sleeping), waiting for the soccer match to start at midnight (although it’s only nine. You can never let your guard down when it comes to a dormitory full of hot-headed boys.)
While the lounge contains many other entertainment facilities, the boys only flock to the television, the Wii machines and the table football corner, but today there’s quite a crowd at one of the empty tables for miscellaneous use right beside the drink vending machine. Out of curiosity, Kyungsoo leans in to take a look and he sees Park Chanyeol, the resident magic trick maniac performing a trick for the crowd. Usually, Chanyeol only gets some response out of people who are courteous and polite enough, but today he’s causing quite some havoc in the lounge.
Some boys are squeezing on the couch in front of the television to catch the soccer match and when Man U scores in a goal, they howl in delight and other people in the lounge hisses with disdain. “Get out if you’re unhappy!” Lu Han, a senior, shouts defensively, a large bowl of popcorn in his lap as he looks behind and sticks his tongue out. People then shuffle back to their activities quietly.
Kyungsoo draws his gaze away from the loud seniors in front of the TV set and turns back to look at Chanyeol. The circle of people around him looks impressed enough and Kyungsoo wonders what happened before he came, but another kid (hey Kyungsoo remembers him, he used to dorm beside Kyungsoo’s room) asks Chanyeol to do another trick. Chanyeol only shrugs, the snapback on his head balancing shakily, casting a shadow on the glass table as he slaps six cards on the table, facing down.
“Six of you take each card and sign on it, there are markers at the council whiteboard. When you’re done, place the cards back on the table.” Chanyeol says.
Kyungsoo puffs his cheeks out and the crowd watches on quietly as the six curious boys sign on the cards and position the cards on the table. Chanyeol pulls out a white cloth from his belt (how’d he do that) and waves it in front of the audience to show that it’s just a plain piece of cloth before covering the cards with the cloth.
He snaps, and lifts the cloth.
The cards are encased in the table, right wedged between the two layers of heavy, tempered glass. There’s a collective gasp and Kyungsoo feels his jaw drop. Chanyeol claps once, loudly, with a wide grin stretched across his face and he gathers his things before striding out of the lounge.
For the rest of the night after Kyungsoo goes back to his room, he stays cooped up in his room, and gets teased by Jongin, his roommate, when he looks up ‘magic tricks’ on YouTube.
Kyungsoo has always known the existence of Park Chanyeol as a person, as a student who studies at where he does, who lives two floors below his room and who takes literature in the same classroom as Kyungsoo does. Nothing around Kyungsoo changes, come the following school week, but he starts realizing that he’s been noticing Chanyeol more (more than he usually does, which was practically not at all). He smiles at his bento and convinces himself that it’s just because he was too cool when he performed that trick, and Kyungsoo wants to learn how to pull that off, too.
When he looks up, Jongin is back from the cafeteria queue with a tray of sandwich, apple slices and a bottle of chocolate milk and he has a face full of questions. Kyungsoo tilts his head in question.
“Are you okay?” Jongin says, and Kyungsoo would’ve chuckled at the worry in Jongin’s voice and in Jongin’s eyes if the moment wasn’t this serious and genuine.
“I am, oh my god, why do you ask? Is there something on my face?” Kyungsoo asks. “Is it my hair? God, I told you not to touch my hair gel—”
“You smiled at your bento. Kyungsoo, I have never seen you smile at the food you make. You always say they’re not good enough. Are you possessed? Are you a hungry ghost? What have you done to my Kyungsoo?” Jongin replies.
Kyungsoo promptly looks down at his bento. There’s a slice of sunny-side-up, but the yolk is unfortunately ruined by the cover of his lunchbox and the rice is stained an unfortunate yellow. This is something Kyungsoo would never be happy with. He looks back up at Jongin with a sheepish smile. “I was just thinking of something else, Jongin,” he says, shoving a piece of sweetened egg into Jongin’s mouth so he doesn’t ask anymore.
Jongin looks like he’s about to question further, but he chews on the egg and the frown on his face smoothes out and he grins, eyes lighting up. “Good lord, this is really good.”
The cafeteria is how it looks like practically everyday. There’s somewhat fixed tables for different groups of students and today Chanyeol is seated with his usual friends at his usual table, but Kyungsoo finds that he can’t tear his eyes away from the back of Chanyeol’s head of chestnut brown hair.
Jongin turns to follow Kyungsoo’s line of sight and turns back to blink at Kyungsoo with his mouth full of tuna and bread. His eyes are bright with questions and Kyungsoo thinks he’s going to actually ask what Kyungsoo thinks he will. “Are you actually stalking Park Chanyeol,” Jongin whispers. “I saw you googling him last night. Come clean with me, Do Kyungsoo, or I’m going to post the photos of you from when you got wasted at the freshman party last year on me2day.”
“I’m not,” Kyungsoo hisses, “stalking him. I just saw him do some tricks in the lounge last night and thought it was cool, so.”
“So, you stalked him online and you’re even… what do you even call this, eye-stalking? I don’t know,” Jongin says around a mouth of milk. “But you need to talk to him for things to actually happen, you know, Kyungsoo; love doesn’t come by one-sided staring.”
Kyungsoo kicks Jongin’s legs under the table just when Chanyeol walks past with his empty tray in his hands, friends in tow.
When Kyungsoo first meets Oh Sehun in his biology class, Sehun had managed to successfully dispel a lot of Kyungsoo’s opinions in five minutes. Sehun’s hair is a bright shade of strawberry pink, and the way his hair falls just above his eyes when he has earphones stuffed into his ears ten minutes before class has Kyungsoo thinking that he may be sitting next to a delinquent for the rest of the year.
Despite that first impression, Sehun had tugged his earphones down when the bell rang, and spat out the gum in his mouth (Kyungsoo had no idea it was there) and actually retrieved his vacation assignment from his bag to display them on his desk proudly. Shocked would be an understatement for how Kyungsoo felt because Sehun had done his work flawlessly. Kyungsoo didn’t even know the answer for that –
In the process of gawking and admiring Sehun’s work, Sehun had tilted his head curiously and stretched a slim hand out to Kyungsoo. “Hey,” he had said. “I’m Oh Sehun. You look like a good tablemate. Model student.”
Kyungsoo lets out a strangled laugh, because who’s the better student here, but he smiles and takes Sehun’s offered hand. “Do Kyungsoo. It’s nice to meet someone else who likes biology as much as I do.”
Sehun cracks a smile, and turns back to the board where the teacher begins to talk about their assignment. Sehun answers without hesitation and without any mistake, at that, and Kyungsoo already feels inferior by the time the period ends.
“Sit next to me next time, okay?” Sehun asks, and slings his bag across his shoulder, already walking off without waiting for Kyungsoo’s answer.
As Kyungsoo watches Sehun walk down the corridor, he can’t shake the feeling of having seen Sehun somewhere else before. He shakes his head with a click of his tongue. It must be his head fooling with him.
Kyungsoo’s ready in his seat fifteen minutes for biology on the next lesson, and he isn’t mildly surprised that Sehun reaches five minutes later. He yanks his earphones down and smiles at Kyungsoo. Kyungsoo smiles back as Sehun replies to a text with swift fingers, and he can’t help but notice his wallpaper. It’s a selca of Sehun and – is that Park Chanyeol? Kyungsoo looks up at Sehun and finally gasps. “I’ve seen you before!” Kyungsoo exclaims. “Why is it that I can’t recall where, though?”
Sehun chuckles before sliding his phone to a corner of his desk. “I had rainbow hair last week. Like, literally. I had red here,” he points to a patch of his hair, “green here, orange here, blue here. You might’ve seen me then.”
“Maybe,” Kyungsoo replies, but he adverts his eyes because he already remembers where he’d seen Sehun from. Sehun had been part of the group which was behind Chanyeol that day Jongin was asking if he was crazy for stalking Chanyeol, and now Kyungsoo remembers, the lanky guy with parrot colored hair that walked at the end.
Sehun tilts his head in question because Kyungsoo doesn’t finish his sentence, but Kyungsoo just grins. They then launch into a heated debate over arteries and capillaries and it’s already no surprise for Kyungsoo when Sehun asks if Kyungsoo could be his partner after the teacher reveals their project for the semester. It’s also no surprise that Kyungsoo accepts the request happily. Sehun is probably the smartest kid in the class, and since he likes biology so much they wouldn’t have a problem at all.
It’s a stuffy autumn afternoon while Kyungsoo’s revising for his literature term test that he suddenly recalls something. Something that might possibly help his current troubling predicament.
“Wait,” Kyungsoo says suddenly, head snapping up from his literature notebook, “Jongin,” he says, “you know magic.”
Jongin tugs an earbud down and stares at Kyungsoo with his mouth marginally opened. “I just did the easiest trick in the entire known universe, Kyungsoo.”
“Teach me it,” Kyungsoo says, and Jongin shrugs out of his blanket cocoon to rummage through his closet. Kyungsoo watches as the stack of Jongin’s jackets fall down from the closet and his jaw drops in horror as he swears to tidy that closet up someday.
There are soft knocks on the door when Jongin sets his plastic magic wand on the bed. Kyungsoo goes to open the door to a head of strawberry pink, and he suddenly remembers his biology pair work assignment. His mouth is dry when Sehun invites himself in, kicking his slippers off at the door and sitting on Jongin’s bed. When he sees the wand on the bed and the deck of cards near Jongin’s crossed legs, his eyes widen in question.
“What,” Sehun starts slowly, “are you two doing,” and Kyungsoo looks up from the deck of cards to Jongin’s shocked face to Sehun’s face, distorted with disbelief.
“Kyungsoo wants to learn how I did that trick,” Jongin interjects quickly, nimble hands shuffling the deck of cards and Sehun turns to look at Kyungsoo.
“That trick that you showed me when we first met. That trick that made me think you were an anti-social lame nerd who spent months learning the most basic trick. Jongin. Kyungsoo. Why.”
“The price of courtship,” Jongin says, splaying the cards out in a smooth curve and Kyungsoo gawks wordlessly.
“What courtship—” Kyungsoo begins, but Jongin shushes him with a slap on his thigh. Kyungsoo shuts up to whimper.
“Courtship,” Jongin repeats seriously, and gestures at Kyungsoo to pick a card. They know how this goes. “Kyungsoo has a teeny weenie crush on someone in school, so he’s willing to learn all of these to impress him, I think.”
“I just want to make friends,” Kyungsoo replies, agitated, and Sehun watches as Kyungsoo aggressively pulls a card out from the line and stares at it with large, angry eyes.
“I know who this is,” Sehun breathes out, eyes following Jongin’s hands as he shuffles the cards and he sets the microbiology notes on the bed. “I know.”
“I don’t know why I’m friends with Jongin,” Kyungsoo casually says as Jongin flips the first card open to show Kyungsoo the card that he’d drawn earlier.
“We’re roommates. I don’t know what you’re talking about. Plus, I don’t know what we’d be if we were only roommates and not friends,” Jongin replies easily as Kyungsoo throws the card on the bed angrily. The card bounces once and falls on Jongin’s toes weakly.
“You wouldn’t have nice plates of kimchi fried rice on lonely Saturdays.”
“You wouldn’t have a reason to watch last year’s dance-off for your crush last year.”
“You wouldn’t even have a clean closet.”
“You two just shut the fuck up,” Sehun hisses, and Jongin drops his card and sighs. “Is this guy Park Chanyeol. Kyungsoo, tell me it is. Give me some credit, I rarely get right guesses.”
“Is it that obvious,” Kyungsoo moans and buries his face into his palms.
“Yes,” Jongin says dryly.
Sehun rolls his eyes and nudges Kyungsoo’s side with his toes as he points to his biology notes. “I don’t think I want to talk about Chanyeol right now, I didn’t come here for this. Go get your laptop, Kyungsoo; we need to talk about some microbial organisms shit.”
Kyungsoo actually thinks he’s going to ace the literature test because he’s had almost the entire book of Romeo & Juliet ingrained in his head by now (or at least the important parts), but he drops his pen with a horrified face when the teacher announces that time’s up.
Minseok, his tablemate for literature, turns his head and sends a sympathetic glance at Kyungsoo when Kyungsoo lets out a high-pitched whine. “Minseok,” Kyungsoo dry sobs, “I studied so hard.”
“It’s all about the luck, baby,” Minseok replies, pulling the test paper from under Kyungsoo’s arms where he’s resting his head on. The teacher collects the papers from Minseok and walks away without so much of a glance at Kyungsoo.
The test paper comes back and Kyungsoo gapes at his paper wordlessly, at the merciless F scrawled at the top of his script. He whimpers, and proceeds to bang his head against the table as quietly as possible as the teacher goes through their mistakes. Minseok pats the crown of Kyungsoo’s hair comfortingly, and Kyungsoo manages to catch the part where their teacher says that all the students who failed have to attend a compulsory workshop on their book. Kyungsoo whines against the table.
Kyungsoo most definitely does not want to spend his lovely Saturday morning in a classroom, Romeo & Juliet clutched in his hands as he stares at the other students around the classroom who also have the same ill-stricken face that Kyungsoo has on his face at the moment. He sighs very loudly and rests his cheek on the table until the door swings open loudly.
Kyungsoo looks up, and it’s Park Chanyeol at the door, with a huge smile on his face. He tries to think of anything else but the positivity that’s currently influencing him, but it, sadly, fails.
“I failed my test for this,” he hears Chanyeol say. “I heard the workshop’s super enriching. I can’t miss out on this.”
The rest of the morning passes in a blur, with the mundane breakdown of the book (like how they’d gone through in class) but come afternoon, things start to (finally) look better. The instructor gets everyone to draw lots, and Kyungsoo unfolds his scrap of paper to see the number 8. He groans, because the number is pretty unlucky for him. He’d lost his puppy when he was eight, and he had been at his eighth drink at the party last year before he threw up on a senior.
“Who has eight?”
Kyungsoo looks up and realizes how much a mistake that was. It’s definitely unlucky for him. He could’ve pretended he wasn’t number 8 and ran away or something, but Park Chanyeol is dashing towards him with his long legs and Kyungsoo thinks he couldn’t run away fast enough even if he wanted to. “Are you eight?” Chanyeol asks, and Kyungsoo doesn’t trust his voice enough to speak, so he holds his crumpled piece of paper up.
Chanyeol grins (Kyungsoo’s heart is not racing. Definitely not) and they shuffle to a spot by the whiteboard. “I’m Chanyeol,” he says, “Park Chanyeol.”
I know. Kyungsoo struggles to keep the words in and smiles back. “Do Kyungsoo.”
“Let’s work hard later! Although I have no idea what’s in for us…” Chanyeol trails off, his eyes wandering at the big box that the instructor has at his feet.
It turns out that they’re supposed to reenact scenes from the book itself in order to feel how the characters feel, to better understand and grasp the emotions of the scene, according to what the instructor says, and as Chanyeol picks a number from the box, Kyungsoo hopes it’s nothing overly intimate because he’s absolutely positive his weak heart wouldn’t be able to handle that.
Luck has never favored Kyungsoo, unfortunately, and it had to be the scene where Romeo discovers Juliet ‘dead’ and proceeds to kill himself.
“This scene is so stupid,” Chanyeol murmurs, staring at the plastic dagger handed to him. He tries stabbing the air a few times, and even pokes the tip of the dagger to his stomach. “I’m dead,” he says, rolling his eyes and falling over dramatically.
“I know, right,” Kyungsoo says after he giggles a little.
“So I’m Romeo then?” Chanyeol asks. Kyungsoo keeps his mouth shut and just nods to show his consent.
For the entire three minutes that they acted, Kyungsoo doesn’t think he’s done anything right at all, from pretending to pass out to waking up to a dead Romeo, but at the end Chanyeol grins at him when he picks up the dagger from the floor and mouths a good job at Kyungsoo. His heart is still beating when Chanyeol yanks him up and when they bow at the rest of the class with their hands still clasped together, Kyungsoo takes back everything he said about this class at the start of the day. It’s wonderful to be here.
Jongin shoots him weird glances when he goes back to his room, and Kyungsoo pays him no attention as he sets the extra cup of caramel frappe on Jongin’s desk before heading to the bath. “Wow, what’s gotten into you today,” Jongin says. “You’re too young to be striking the lottery.”
“Nothing,” Kyungsoo hums, “today’s lesson was a good one.”
Jongin scoffs. “Don’t tell me you met Park Chanyeol there or something, because I’m not buying it. You’re not that good as a literature student to be writing your own sappy romance novel yet.”
“Oh my god,” Kyungsoo squeaks. “What if that’s true?”
Jongin turns to look at him with wide eyes, the green straw of the Starbucks drink wedged between his lips. “You are kidding me.”
“As much as I wish I was, no.” Kyungsoo replies sadly.
“You are kidding me,” Jongin repeats, and stares at the cup of coffee deliriously as Kyungsoo runs into the shower.
Apparently, Kyungsoo’s fate with Chanyeol hasn’t ended just yet.
It’s a sunny Wednesday afternoon in Biology lab that Kyungsoo’s chatting with Sehun over dissecting frogs that Chanyeol strolls in like he owns the lab. Sehun tilts his head in greeting because his hands are still covered in blood and Kyungsoo tries his best to look as composed as he can (with blood all over his hands). Just his luck his lab partner is Sehun and that Sehun’s a close friend of Chanyeol’s, because Chanyeol heads for their bench straight. The teacher isn’t around currently, and more people flood in from the door.
“Your friends?” Sehun asks, spinning the scalpel in his hands and Chanyeol looks terrified by the tool.
“We’re here for some hands-on thing that we have in our course – although I’m not sure what this is for, of course,” Chanyeol replies, eyes still wary as he watches Sehun with the knife. “Anyway,” he says, “hi, Kyungsoo.”
“Hi,” Kyungsoo breathes, and he doesn’t say more because he doesn’t want to blabber too much. Sehun stares at him from the corner of his eyes. Kyungsoo pretends not to see.
“I didn’t know you knew Sehun!” Chanyeol exclaims happily, dragging a stool to their bench.
“We met in class,” Sehun says calmly, tossing the innards of the frog into a bin on the bench. “Kyungsoo’s a nice guy and he studies well, unlike you, Chanyeol,” he finishes and smiles.
“Oh my god, did you just malign me in front of my new friend? Hey Kyungsoo, I actually do study well, you know that, right?” Chanyeol laughs nervously.
“I – I believe you?” Kyungsoo tries.
Chanyeol grins; and the teacher returns with a loud cough. Chanyeol springs up from his seat and shifts the stool back to the corner of the room and shuffles to the front to join his group. Apparently, they’re supposed to pair up with another student just for today, to do some cell observation (thank god it isn’t dissection again, Kyungsoo thinks, having enough of blood and the way Sehun smiles in satisfaction when he pokes at the poor animals’ hearts with his scalpel) for their report. Chanyeol sticks his tongue out at Sehun, who hisses in reply but only turns his head away. Chanyeol then comes over to Kyungsoo with his signature grin and Kyungsoo’s heart is so heavy and beating so hard it’s definitely going to drop to the floor any time now.
“Partner me, Kyungsoo! I’m not going to do science with Sehun,” Chanyeol says.
Kyungsoo nods a little too eagerly but Chanyeol doesn’t seem to notice. They spend the hour peering through the lens of the microscope (for Chanyeol) and trying not to freak out (Kyungsoo). Chanyeol praises Kyungsoo when they get the standard observations each time, (“you really are smart,” Chanyeol had said, with some stars in his eyes, and Kyungsoo still thinks he had problems breathing properly for that five seconds) and when the report planning worksheet is filled up Kyungsoo thinks time has passed too fast, too cruel.
When the other students have left and they’re washing their apparatus, Sehun leans over with a sly smile. “You’re glowing.”
Kyungsoo reaches up to touch his face in instinct but Sehun only grins more before going back to cleaning up. “I hate you,” Kyungsoo whines, tossing his wet cloth on the bench and dragging it around the surface.
“Love you too,” Sehun laughs.
The next time Kyungsoo meets Chanyeol, Chanyeol’s sitting at Kyungsoo’s favorite spot during lunch: the shady spot under the oak tree. Kyungsoo wonders how Chanyeol came to know about this big tree in their courtyard (well, everyone knows, but rarely do people sit down here in the shade just for fun, like Kyungsoo does).
“Chanyeol?” Kyungsoo says, and Chanyeol cracks an eye open before smiling at Kyungsoo and patting at the spot beside him.
“Sit down,” Chanyeol says. Kyungsoo gulps and plops down on the orange leaves on the ground.
“What are you doing here?” Kyungsoo asks, fascinated by the smooth lines of Chanyeol’s side profile – the soft curve of his jaw and the way his soft brown hair fall over his closed eyes. Kyungsoo watches as Chanyeol’s lips part to breathe and the way his Adam’s apple bobs when he swallows.
“Y-yes?” Oops. Kyungsoo didn’t realize he was staring and blanking out, but thank god Chanyeol still has his eyes closed.
“I said I was sleeping. What were you thinking about so seriously that you didn’t even catch what I said?” Chanyeol teases with a grin and Kyungsoo can’t look on anymore.
About how it’d feel to skate my fingers across your cheeks and the bridge of your nose to see how soft your skin is? “Actually, I just got reminded that I have a lunch appointment with Jongin today –”
“Oh, don’t worry,” Chanyeol interrupts, “I think Sehun’s bringing Jongin here. I mean, I got Sehun to buy me food since I was lazy and he called to ask if Jongin could come along, so I said, oh yeah, why not? So don’t worry about him, Kyungsoo.”
“How did you know Jongin?” Kyungsoo’s curious now. Jongin never told him they knew each other!
“The freshmen party last year,” Chanyeol says, “he wanted to learn some tricks from me to impress girls, according to what he said, but we didn’t get very close. I don’t think he even remembered me much.”
“Oh,” Kyungsoo says. He’s about to continue probing, but the curiosity dies in his throat when he sees Sehun and Jongin racing each other up the slope to the tree. “Jongin!” He waves.
Jongin looks over and almost trips over his own foot as he returns the wave. Sehun laughs loudly and they’re both panting when they plop down onto the crunchy leaves. “Someone needs to sweep the leaves away,” Sehun whines, “they’re tickly. I don’t like them.”
Jongin clambers over Sehun’s stomach and passes Chanyeol a box of two sandwiches. Chanyeol mumbles a thank you before tearing the cling wrap off the sandwich hungrily as Sehun moans at the weight.
“Aren’t you going to eat, Kyungsoo?” Jongin asks when he’s finally caught his breath, pushing Sehun off him.
“No, I’m not really—”
Chanyeol pushes one sandwich into Kyungsoo’s hands. “Eat up, I’m not that hungry too,” he says with a small smile. Kyungsoo is about to protest but Chanyeol insists, “Take it.”
They end up all lying under the tree, Kyungsoo and Chanyeol eating noisily, and when the bell rings Kyungsoo sits up in a trance. Time for class. He says bye reluctantly, and runs to class with Jongin in tow.
It’s really not like Kyungsoo specially came here to look for Chanyeol again, or so he convinces himself, but he finds himself at the huge tree again, watching as Chanyeol shuffles the deck of cards with quick hands. Chanyeol’s so immersed in whatever he’s doing that he doesn’t see Kyungsoo approaching, so he jumps when Kyungsoo taps on his shoulder.
“Ah, you scared me,” Chanyeol whines with a pout, setting the cards in a nice deck on top of the card box. The leaves crackle when he shifts to let Kyungsoo sit and Kyungsoo doesn’t really want to sit on the leaves again, really.
“Can we sweep the leaves away first? It’s really annoying.”
Kyungsoo finds two brooms in the janitor’s closet beside the cafeteria, and hands one over to Chanyeol. They begin to sweep the leaves down the slope to where the drains are, but the drains are covered anyway, so they won’t get clogged up even if the leaves are gathered there. It starts out as innocent sweeping, but Chanyeol scoops his leaves higher and Kyungsoo finds himself standing in a column of air and leaves. Chanyeol had hauled the leaves over Kyungsoo’s head.
Kyungsoo slowly looks over to Chanyeol with a snarl, but Chanyeol only shrugs with a mischievous smile. Kyungsoo yells in annoyance as he feels the leaves sticking out of his hair and five minutes later, the both of them are completely covered in leaves, with leaves clinging to their clothes and hair. Chanyeol lies down, completely drained and Kyungsoo proceeds to shove all the remaining leaves down the slope before sliding down lazily too.
“It’s your fault,” Kyungsoo bemoans, rolling in the grass. “I’m so tired.”
Chanyeol laughs. “I’m sorry,” he says, but there is no hint of apology in his voice. “It just seemed fun.”
“It is,” Kyungsoo says, and there is a little moment of silence as they breathe quietly. “But what were you doing before I came? Playing with cards?”
“No,” Chanyeol replies breezily, flicking a card up into the air before he catches it between his index and middle finger, “I was playing with fire. I wanted to burn the tree up.”
Kyungsoo rolls his eyes quickly. Chanyeol’s face remains unfazed but he shoots a small grin at Kyungsoo. “Cards. They take my mind off other things, I guess.”
Kyungsoo lets the quick silence and the quiet shuffling of Chanyeol’s cards take over as he reclines against the rough bark of the tree. Chanyeol turns around to face Kyungsoo, and although his face is void of any expression, a smile clings to the corner of his lips as he passes the deck of cards to Kyungsoo. “Can you play with it?”
“Yes,” Kyungsoo says, although he can’t. He cups the cards in his hands and the deck looks seemingly larger in his hands rather than in Chanyeol’s. After some shuffling, Kyungsoo finds that he absolutely cannot do that. Chanyeol suppresses a chuckle and when he leans in to retrieve his deck of cards back, Kyungsoo flinches at the surge of electricity passing through him when their fingers touch for an instant.
Chanyeol works magic, quite literally. The cards listen to his command and the sound that Kyungsoo hears when Chanyeol drops the stack from one hand to the other is wonderful. He doesn’t realize he’s staring, until Chanyeol snaps in his face. “I thought it’d be difficult to trick you since your eyes are so big – I thought you’d see through that. Did you?”
“No,” Kyungsoo breathes. “I’m not good with this. I spent three nights thinking about how you did that trick in the lounge that night, I asked Jongin how you did that, and I still didn’t get it.”
Chanyeol inhales sharply and Kyungsoo looks at Chanyeol worriedly. Did he just expose himself of his not-so-subtle obsession over Chanyeol. Oops.
The dazed look on Chanyeol’s face quickly morphs into a look of mild surprise and Kyungsoo lets out an internal sigh. At least he’s not freaked out by Kyungsoo watching him that night or anything. “It’s – it’s the hardest trick I know. I haven’t mastered it either,” Chanyeol laughs. He fiddles with the hem of his shirt, looks at Kyungsoo and reaches over to pull a dry, red leaf from Kyungsoo’s hair. “I could… teach you, I mean, if you want?”
Kyungsoo thinks about Chanyeol’s offer only for a nanosecond. “Okay.”
They spend late afternoons and mornings of weekends and sometimes nights (Kyungsoo was just feeling extra tired on those nights and Chanyeol had insisted that he just slept over since it’s convenient, in his defense) in Chanyeol’s room and Jongin begins to shoot him odd looks when Kyungsoo actually appears in his own room. “Oh, hi, Kyungsoo. Thanks for dropping by.”
Kyungsoo chews on his bottom lip in guilt. “I’m sorry, Jongin-ah,” he says, and walks over to ruffle Jongin’s hair (under normal circumstances this would be impossible, since Jongin is about a head taller than Kyungsoo, but Jongin’s sitting down with the side of his face pressed tiredly against his advanced math textbook. Jongin lets out a rueful groan when Kyungsoo digs the pads of his fingers into his scalp as a form of comfort.
“I’m joking,” Jongin says when he finally sits up. “It’s fine,” he mutters. “I’m not your only friend, and you’re not my only friend!”
Kyungsoo smacks the back of Jongin’s head. “Don’t be mad. I’ll make you extra kimbap this weekend.”
“Promise,” Kyungsoo agrees with a smile. Jongin grins up with a smile and pops his earphones back into his ears. It’s always easy to make Jongin happy.
It’s right smack in the middle of fall and Kyungsoo finds that he can’t find it in him to cram for his Biology test at twelve midnight with the cicada noises outside the window. The windows are shut and the curtains are drawn and Kyungsoo’s supposed to be studying silently but the sounds from the insects are driving him crazy, and his room isn’t even on the ground floor. Jongin is sleeping, snoring loudly and the combination of all the distracting noises has Kyungsoo out of the room in his pjs and slippers.
He’d expected the campus to be void of people since it’s a school night, but there are still people in the study rooms set up beside the cafeteria and people on the field playing games. It must feel good to not worry about anything, Kyungsoo thinks sadly, kicking a stray stone into a drain. He stops walking when he realizes that he has nowhere to go, and continues walking with a frown because, well, he has nowhere to go.
And he ends up at the oak tree. What he expected to be a quiet and peaceful place for him to take a rest (with the cicadas and grasshoppers) turns out to be quite the opposite. There is a broom standing against the trunk of the tree and there is a red checkered picnic mat spread out on the floor. If he squints, he can see a warm orange light from the other side of the tree, partially obscured from his view.
Fire? Kyungsoo tries to suppress his panic when he approaches the tree. Is some maniac planning to set the school on fire or something? He gets that the recent trend is the ‘you only live once’ mindset, but planning to endanger yourself does not mean you should endanger everyone else, and this was such a huge campus, too.
“Hey,” Kyungsoo calls out and his voice shakes. He blames it on the cold glass of milk he had before he studied. “What are you doing there?”
Kyungsoo hears a squeak and the fire goes out. He thanks all gods that the guy didn’t drop the fire and burn the whole patch of grass instead before breaking into a short sprint to the tree. When he comes face to face with the ‘maniac’, all the words Kyungsoo had in his head to reprimand this irresponsible person dissipates into thin air. He finds that his brain must have evaporated along with it as well, because he can’t speak and this is either an illusion or a nightmare. Chanyeol is holding a bunch of matchsticks sheepishly and Kyungsoo can see soot all over his hands.
“What – what were you doing, Chanyeol?” Kyungsoo’s voice is wobbling a little, and it must be the lateness of the night that’s making him as unnerved as he is.
“I’m trying out something new,” Chanyeol explains and tucks the matchsticks into the matchbox before he grins at Kyungsoo. The paths are barely lit from the lack of streetlights along the campus roads and yet Kyungsoo feels the glow radiating from Chanyeol’s face. “I was scared it might fail if I just perform it in front of people, so I came out here to experiment.”
“Oh,” Kyungsoo replies weakly, face burning although Chanyeol won’t be able to see it in the dim lighting. “I thought someone wanted to set the school on fire,” he mumbles.
“And kill everyone sleeping?” Chanyeol laughs, a soft sound from the back of his throat, deep and breathy and Kyungsoo can’t bring himself to laugh along. “That’s a dick move.”
Kyungsoo hums and they lapse into comfortable silence, but Kyungsoo watches as Chanyeol packs his things up. “Hey,” he says. “Can you do that trick for me? I want to see it.”
“But I don’t think I’m ready—”
“It’s okay,” Kyungsoo interrupts with a smile. “It’s only me.”
Chanyeol shows Kyungsoo how fire can turn a pile of wood into fresh flowers and how a pile of dead leaves can become fresh and green and alive in a snap of his fingers. Kyungsoo watches with his mouth opened in constant surprise and when Chanyeol finishes, Kyungsoo inhales and realizes that he had held his breath for quite some time now. He claps and Chanyeol exhales happily.
“That was wonderful,” Kyungsoo says, despite himself, and Chanyeol lets out a breathy chuckle.
“You didn’t see the mistakes again,” Chanyeol replies, grinning as he tosses the matchboxes into the cloth bag he has against the trunk of the tree (hey, Kyungsoo hadn’t seen that). Kyungsoo doesn’t say anything, just lets the quiet silence and the sounds of cicadas occupy the space in the air between them.
“I can never see them,” Kyungsoo mutters. He curls his fingers around a fistful of choppy, trimmed grass on the ground and listens to the way Chanyeol breathes.
Chanyeol snaps and pulls out a rose from nowhere, and it hadn’t even been intentional or part of his line-up but Kyungsoo’s eyes are large in fascination. “That’s okay,” Chanyeol says later, when he tucks the rose under his arm as he stands up, “magic would be boring if you saw through everything. Everything has to be pre-planned: magic isn’t… very much real.”
Kyungsoo doesn’t say anything again, just lets it when Chanyeol extends a hand and offers to pull him up. They walk back to the dorm buildings in silence, and although Kyungsoo is really supposed to study, he finds that he can’t bear to say bye to Chanyeol, even if they’ll meet again tomorrow.
“Good night,” Chanyeol says, and Kyungsoo notices quite offhandedly that his white cloth bag stark against his black shirt. It looks good on him. “See you tomorrow?”
It sounds more of a promise than a greeting. Kyungsoo nods because he can’t find the energy in him to speak, and stays rooted to the ground, watching as Chanyeol turns and walks towards the other direction to his own room. There’s a click of a light switch from a room somewhere near, and when Kyungsoo realizes that about all the students have gone to bed, he panics and runs back to their room.
When he’s back in his room, out of breath, he’s reminded of the way all his worries were tossed into the wind when he was with Chanyeol earlier. His heart swells like some sort of self-sympathy, and he tries to recall how it felt like, not having to worry about anything.
He ends up not studying anything at all when he falls asleep on his table at 4.