Length: 63,000 words
Summary: But it’s almost like Joonmyun is giving Chanyeol a glimpse of his soul, giving Chanyeol a piece of him and Chanyeol is nervous about giving back. He isn’t sure how much he will be able to return.
“You seriously couldn’t have chosen an apartment with an elevator instead?” Jongin says, sweat running down his forehead as he drags in Minseok’s old drawer up three stairs and through the tiny door. The stairwell smells a bit like disgusting floor soap and soar sweat. He puts it down with a thud in the hall and slides down on the ground to breathe. “Where is Chanyeol? I asked him to hold up the port for me.”
“What, did you hurt yourself?” Chanyeol says, laughing loudly as he comes into the hall with two water bottles in his hands. He plops down on the floor next to Jongin, who snatches one bottle away with an annoyed expression. “Sorry, I had to help Minseok hyung with the table.”
“It was damn heavy,” Jongin barks, gripping the cap with his hand and twisting it counter-clock wise before unscrewing the lid.
“It’s good for your health.” Chanyeol’s not really sure, but it sounded like something good to say.
Jongin rolls his eyes and mutters whatever under his breath before drinking up half the bottle, gulping it down as if he’s been in the desert for days. Chanyeol shakes his head. Overreacting over small stuff and being a brat about it even though he doesn’t really mean it, is something Jongin is really good at. But today’s a warm day, the summer heat too hot and sun is blazing down, so Chanyeol just grins at him and pats him on the back. “You’ve worked hard.”
They don’t have that much to do now, only a few chairs and a bookshelf to carry up, but Jongin complains about his back with a frown when Chanyeol slaps his butt and forces him to stand up. Minseok comes out from the kitchen at this moment, a thankful smile on his lips and wipes away the sweat on his forehead.
“Please, you’re eighteen years old, Jongin,” Minseok points out. “Don’t be a brat, and help your hyung. I’m making dinner for you.”
“This place is nice,” Chanyeol says with a small grin, while Jongin groans. He pushes Jongin out of the door and then they’re walking down the stairs to finish this. He’s got a five hours shift at the record store later, too, he remembers, his hands on his hips, and sighs. “I’ve got twenty more minutes to help you, so if you don’t want to do this all alone, hurry up.”
“I actually can’t believe I’m wasting away my Saturday on this. You guys could’ve asked Baekhyun!”
“He was busy with personal family meetings. And we have summer break, Jongin, everyday is like Saturday anyway,” Chanyeol remarks, laughing, before they carry up the bookshelf together.
Chanyeol enjoys working here; after all, working in a record store and being surrounded by music, is something he shouldn’t complain about. It’s not a boring job either, because he’s a talkative person who likes to recommend good bands to the few customers who are truly interested in music like he is. Plus, if there’s no one around, he’s got time to just relax, catching up with all the manga series he’s borrowed from the library. Or read books. He likes reading, too.
However, after two hours in the afternoon of carrying loads of stuff up the three stairs to Minseok’s apartment, it’s kind of a pain right now and he just wants to go home. Or eat something at least, he’s starving because he had to hurry to work and take over Hyosung’s shift and couldn’t eat Minseok’s food. Which sucks, because Minseok’s kimchi jjigae is the best.
He pants heavily as he puts down the box of newly arrived records on the floor of the store. Chanyeol doesn’t really understand why he must do things like this. It wasn’t in the paper, really. Two more boxes to go, he thinks, forcing his legs to stand up before running to the truck. The driver gives him an irritated look, and Chanyeol knows he’s taking a long time, but this is painful, actually. Chanyeol bows and gives the driver a grin before taking out another box. The last two boxes are not as heavy, so he manages to get them in quickly, and without another word, the driver is off. Chanyeol frowns; he’s not a big fan of rude people. Except for Jongin, but he’s the only exception.
Chanyeol is in the middle of sorting out the CDs on the floor when someone walks in, and the bell chimes. He jumps up on his feet immediately and has a smile on his face, and a ‘welcome’ on his tongue when he sees that it’s only Yixing. Sighing, he waves lazily at the boy and sits down again, careful not to tip over the two separate piles of CDs.
“Hi,” he calls out, reaching for the scissor to cut up another box.
“Hey,” Yixing says back, voice soft and Chanyeol still thinks his accented Korean is so very adorable. Yixing places down his guitar case and sits on the floor next to Chanyeol.
“What are you doing here? It’s not your shift today, dude.” Chanyeol is focused on cutting up the tape on the box. He’s never really been good with these things, even though they’re not really difficult to do. He’s always so impatient when he can’t get up the tape, for example. He frowns and lets his tongue slide out a bit, a habit he’s picked up from Minseok who always does this when he is concentrating on something.
Yixing laughs next to them, before taking the scissor and the box away to put it on his own lap. “Let me do it. You know, you could just cut it up like this.” Yixing presses one side of the scissor against the tape and pushes down. "It would've worked better with a knife, too."
“Oh,” Chanyeol says, a sheepish grin on his lips, and scratches the back of his head. “Thanks.” He gets the box back and proceeds to take out the CDs to sort them into different genres. Yixing is quiet next to him, and Chanyeol turns his head to look at him with curiosity. “Did you have something you wanted to tell me?”
“Actually, I’d like to invite you to our band’s first time playing live, at a café. It’s nothing much, but I’d be thankful if you could come.”
The corners of Chanyeol’s lips lift up into a wide grin and he nods his head more times than necessary, and maybe a bit too enthusiastic, too. But it’s Chanyeol, so Yixing just smiles back. He’d freaked out when Chanyeol did that the first time they met. “Yes, of course! I’d love to!”
“It’s after our shift together on Friday, next week,” Yixing tells, standing up now. He looks rather excited and nervous. This is the first time he sees Yixing like this. It's almost like Chanyeol's found another side of him. Yixing doesn’t usually show much of himself, he’s almost always all shy smiles and very quiet, only leaving pieces of himself here and there, once in a while. “I’ll take you there with me.”
“Cool, do they pay you good or something?” Chanyeol asks playfully and wiggles with his eyebrows.
“You look pathetic,” Yixing points out, “stop that.” He picks up his guitar and chuckles at Chanyeol when he juts out his lower lip in a pout. “You’re disgusting. Anyway, it’s our first time playing, so we agreed with the owner of the café that instead of getting paid this time, he’ll see if we’re good enough or not. If we are, we’ll get a job there, to play every Friday and Saturday night. Then we’ll get paid. Which is good, because I really needed to look for something else to do, too. My dad is having a hard time paying the—” he stops. Chanyeol understands.
It’s not everyday Yixing talks this much, so this is more than Chanyeol had expected. “I’ll come with you. It’ll be fun to finally meet your band, too,” he says, nodding. “Good luck.”
“Thank you.” It’s genuine, Chanyeol can tell. But then again, when is Yixing not genuine?
Just don’t overwork yourself, Chanyeol thinks, sighing when Yixing is gone. Yixing’s worked in this record store for over three years, balancing school, work, his band and also taking care of his family. Chanyeol doesn’t really know much about him, he realizes, placing CDs on shelves. But he does know that Yixing’s family is having a hard time right now, especially when it comes to money, because there are loans his father must pay back. Yixing helps all he can. Chanyeol remembers to tell him once in a week that he’s admirable, to which Yixing only blushes at before waving it away.
There are not many customers today, only a few teenagers and an old man. Chanyeol is tired and hungry when he stumbles inside his tiny, and messy apartment at 7 PM, but he’s fully aware of what a simple life he’s living. He goes to school, has his own apartment and a job. He wouldn’t want anything else. This is enough.
A week goes by fast, with a few conversations with his mom in between and Baekhyun coming over to eat dinner together. Jinri, his childhood friend, had called him once and they had a small conversation before Chanyeol had to go back to work.
Friday finds Chanyeol placing back CDs that the customers had misplaced, and Yixing is mopping the floor when it’s a quarter past seven. They’re ready to go in fifteen minutes, and Yixing has said that it doesn’t take more than twenty minutes if they take the bus from here. He seems nervous, Chanyeol notes, and walks up to him when he’s finished to pat Yixing on the back.
“It’s gonna be okay,” he assures, smiling, and takes the mop from Yixing. “If you really want to practice the last fifteen minutes we have left, go do it, lead guitarist.”
“It’s fine, though,” Yixing says. “We’ll have a few minutes to do a sound check, so I can practice there. Go do something, I’ll be ready in five minutes.”
Patting him on the back one last time, Chanyeol shrugs and goes behind the counter to gather his things and shove it all in his backpack. It’s rather cold tonight, he thinks, closing the window, and it’s only the beginning of July. Ten minutes later and they’re all done, closing the door and locking it before heading to the bus stop.
Café ‘Heart Attack’ smells like coffee, bread and well, people, Chanyeol thinks, when he steps in. There are not many customers right now, only three teenagers taking the seats by the window, and a tired looking woman sitting alone, typing away on her laptop with glasses sliding down her nose. The place is almost underground, tiny, with a few chairs and tables, and one blue couch in the middle of everything, in front of the small stage. It looks odd, but nice, and cozy, although it’s really cramped. But he likes it.
He walks by two bookshelves and his eyes lingers on a boy standing there, looking so lost in his own world as he studies the books, before following Yixing up to the band. They’re all young, some of them look older than Chanyeol and some younger. He smiles at them, teeth showing and all.
“This is Chanyeol,” Yixing says, pulling him forward by the wrist. “And this is the band.”
“He looks like a weirdo,” one of the boys says flatly with a bored expression and eyebrows furrowed, eyes looking straight into Chanyeol’s.
He isn’t sure how to answer. Rude people, he’s not so fond of them. But this kid seems like Jongin, so he lets it slide and places on an awkward smile instead.
“Don’t mind Sehun,” another tiny boy says now, and Sehun rolls his eyes, “he’s just nervous. I’m Kyungsoo, I sing.” Kyungsoo, Chanyeol thinks, is a lot shorter than him and nicer than Sehun. He has slightly chubby cheeks but Chanyeol supposes that it fits him really well. The cute kind of guy. He wants to reach out and squish his cheeks.
Yixing puts a hand on his shoulder now. “Sehun can be a brat sometimes, but he’s very sensitive. And he’s an amazing bass player, you should pay attention later. Oh, he’s the one playing drums—” he points to a tall guy with blonde hair, wearing the same annoyed expression as Sehun “—he’s also our leader, Yifan. But you should call him Kris, since he prefers that. Oh, don’t misunderstand the expression on his face, he’s actually soft inside. And the shorter boy next to him is Jongdae. He plays the keyboard. They’re all really good.”
“You shouldn’t forget to praise yourself,” Jongdae says now, noticing them and coming over with a charming smile. “Hi,” he says to Chanyeol. “It’s nice to meet you, Yixing’s talked about you. I’m his best friend.”
“Sorry to break it to you,” Sehun snorts, “but Joonmyun’s number one on Yixing’s list. You’re third.”
Jongdae shoots Sehun a glare and raises his eyebrows. “Who is second, may I ask?”
“I don’t know, Kris? That tall weirdo, maybe?” Sehun shrugs. “You’re still third.”
“You little shit—”
“Guys,” Yixing cuts in, laughing. Kris gives them a glare from where he is, still by the drums, and then nods at Chanyeol, as if to tell him that he’s acknowledged now. Chanyeol thinks they’re all a little bit scary, except for Kyungsoo, but seem like a bunch of good kids nonetheless. Maybe. “I haven’t introduced you to Joonmyun, yet,” Yixing continues, dragging Chanyeol to the bookshelves.
It’s the boy from before and Chanyeol can’t help but stare at the way he turns around, looking surprised with his mouth slightly open and eyes wide when Yixing pats him on the shoulder. Joonmyun. That was what Yixing called him. Joonmyun looks, perhaps, a bit like an angel, but maybe Chanyeol is totally creepy for even thinking this. He grimaces at himself.
Joonmyun still seems lost, eyes on Chanyeol and then turns to Yixing, tilting his head. “Hello.”
“Hi,” Chanyeol says, catching Joonmyun’s attention again. “I’m Chanyeol. I work at the same place as Yixing.”
“Ah, the record store. This is the tall boy you always talk about?”
Yixing sighs. “Hey, I’ve told them about you three times, they’re just overdoing it. Anyway, I have to go to the band now. Please keep Chanyeol company, Joonmyun.”
“Ah, and here I was thinking I was special to him,” Chanyeol jokes, when Yixing hurries up to the stage and grabs his guitar. He glances at Joonmyun, who’s laughing quietly, with a hand in front of his mouth. “Don’t hide it.” It kind of just blurted out. But he meant it. He clears his throat and pushes his hair back from his forehead. “I mean—”
Instead of giving Chanyeol a weird look, Joonmyun actually smiles wider, now letting his hand fall down to let his smile be seen and Chanyeol thinks it’s a pretty smile he’s got there. “You’re interesting,” he remarks, walking up to the couch, and Chanyeol follows.
You kind of look like an angel? is what Chanyeol wants to say, but he shoves the words back in his throat. “That, I’ve been told.” He sits down next to Joonmyun. “I heard you were Yixing’s best friend? Or number one on his list? Something like that.”
“We’ve known each other since we were nine. I’m the only one that he lets take care of him, I guess.” Joonmyun looks down on his palms. His skin is so pale. “Sometimes, I wish he would let me do more than just hold him together, but. That’s how he is. I’ve learned to accept it.”
Chanyeol nods. “I know. I…I’m not really close to him, like you, or the rest here. But I’ve known him a year now. I feel the same way, sometimes. He works hard.”
“Guys,” someone says, and both Joonmyun and Chanyeol looks back to see someone that looks like he’s in his forties walking up to the stage. He’s talking to the band. “More people will surely come soon; they usually gather here when it’s time for the band to play. So be prepared, okay?”
Kris gives him — maybe he’s the owner of this place — thumbs up, and then mutters things to the band. Kyungsoo is clutching his microphone, looking nervous and so tiny, while Sehun is expressionless, but his trembling hands reveals himself and Jongdae is practicing on the keyboard without turning the volume up. Yixing is looking at Joonmyun and Chanyeol, a faint smile on his lips.
“It’s going to be great!” Chanyeol shouts loudly and gives them all two thumbs up.
Sehun rolls his eyes at him. Chanyeol leans back against the couch again when Yixing looks away, embarrassed, but more relaxed. He glances to his right, and somehow feels warm when he sees Joonmyun with a calm face, the corners of his lips lifting up to a smile. They’re quiet most of the time, Joonmyun with his eyes on the band and Chanyeol looking around the place, leg pressing against leg. Chanyeol could move away; there’s a lot of space left. But it’s not uncomfortable. Chanyeol finds it strangely soothing.
“Hey, Joonmyun hyung,” a boy with accented Korean suddenly says, hurrying up to them from behind. Joonmyun looks back to see who it is. “Hi, I’m late, when do they start?”
Chanyeol looks at them both. The new boy is tall, although probably not as tall as him, and has black, short hair. His eyes…reminds Chanyeol of a panda, but in a cute way. He’s wearing black from top to toe and maybe does look a little bit scary, but something about his gentle eyes tells Chanyeol that he’s soft. The new guy notices Chanyeol now, and nods with a tiny smile, before turning his gaze back to Joonmyun again.
“Ah, Zitao,” Joonmyun says, shifting closer to Chanyeol to give the boy space to sit down. “No, they’re starting soon, but not yet. Oh, and this is Yixing’s friend, Chanyeol.”
“Nice to meet you!” Tao is smiling widely now, reaching out with his hand to pat Chanyeol’s leg. He’s very friendly. And touchy. Chanyeol likes friendly people. “I’m Zitao.”
Chanyeol tells him it’s nice to meet him, too, and luckily, Tao is good at talking. There’s no silence anymore, as the three of them starts talking about the band and how they all got to know each other. Chanyeol feels more comfortable now, laughing loudly at Tao’s adorable Korean and his not so funny jokes. Joonmyun is speaking more, but is still very quiet. It makes Chanyeol wonder. Is he bored? Is he just a quiet person? Or is he somewhere else right now? Chanyeol’s a curious person, so he blames all these questions on that.
It’s 8 PM when people storm in, both teenagers in groups and adults going alone or with a friend. Soon, the whole café is cramped and it gets a little bit hard to breathe, but Chanyeol decides that it’s a godo atmosphere. He’s glad they sat down on the couch first. Joonmyun is warm next to him. He looks ridiculously cute in that ugly t-shirt, with different poems on. Really lame, too. Chanyeol grins to himself, but Joonmyun catches him.
“What are you grinning at?” Joonmyun asks.
“Nothing,” he says. “Just. Your t-shirt. It’s…funny.” It was not really meant to be funny, but maybe it was kind of a stupid comment, but Chanyeol is satisfied when Joonmyun burst out laughing.
“H-hello everyone,” Yixing starts talking suddenly, and his voice is a little unstable but he clears his throat and gathers himself. “We’re ‘The Disenchanted’ and this is our first time playing here. I hope you all will enjoy our music, because that’s why we are playing, after all. First song is Black Pearl. Thank you all for coming.”
Yixing didn’t overdo it when he said that his band was great. Sehun is still expressionless, but he’s burning of energy while playing on the bass. He smiles once, when Tao shouts out his name and Chanyeol really thinks a smile suits him more than that frown he always wears. Kyungsoo is an amazing singer, voice soft, but powerful and it’s like he’s captured everyone’s heart already. The nervous look is gone, now replaced with confidence. Kris is no different from before, face still the same, but Chanyeol can see that he’s enjoying it very much, hitting the drums. And Yixing. Chanyeol’s seen Yixing play before, but only calm songs, and even then, he’d thought that he was wonderful. Now, though, now he’s almost shining with passion and love for what he’s doing, and Chanyeol is speechless.
“They’re great,” Chanyeol says.
Joonmyun laughs, and Chanyeol can’t hear it properly over the loud music, but he does, still. “I know,” Joonmyun says, leaning in. “They’re amazing.” Chanyeol nods, and is glad that Yixing invited him.
It’s almost nine when the band finishes all their songs, and Yixing hurries up to them with sweat running down his forehead. His t-shirt is drenched in sweat. But although it was tiring and the band was nervous, they’re wearing bright smiles now, the widest one on Yixing’s lips as he throws himself at them on the couch. Tao sighs and whines ge, you’re sweaty but doesn’t push him off as Joonmyun just chuckles.
Kris, Kyungsoo and Jongdae are busy placing back the instruments in their cases, except for the drums and Sehun is also dragging himself to Tao, plopping down on the floor by his legs.
“Tired?” Tao asks, gently pushing away hair from Sehun’s face, who seems to soften at the touch and then he nods. Chanyeol raises his eyebrows and something flips in his stomach, making him feel funny inside. He pushes it away and instead turns to Yixing.
“I have to go soon,” Chanyeol says, grinning. “Mind getting off me?”
The café is closing soon, so people are all finishing their drinks and food before paying and going home. It’s just the band, Chanyeol, Joonmyun, Tao, the owner, and a few workers left now. It’s late, and Chanyeol has to catch the bus that arrives in about twenty minutes. Yixing frowns at him before sitting up, on Joonmyun’s lap. “Joonmyun can drive you home,” he says. “Right?”
“Yeah, that’s okay for me.” Joonmyun’s shrugging at Chanyeol now with that soft smile, and Chanyeol finds himself nodding even though he doesn’t really like to bother people like this. But Joonmyun doesn’t seem to mind at all. A little company wouldn’t hurt, after all.
It’s already midnight when Chanyeol says goodbye to the others and steps into Joonmyun’s car with Yixing. It smells just like Joonmyun; a little sweet with a faint bit of honey. A pleasant scent. It’s not like Chanyeol’s payed more attention than needed, but really, Joonmyun had leaned in too close sometimes. Yixing is sitting right next to him at the back, and Joonmyun’s getting in the car now. It’s a cold summer night and Chanyeol hadn’t thought it would rain at noon, so he only has a thin t-shirt to shield himself with from the cold. Joonmyun starts the engine, and then they’re driving away.
The window is cold against Chanyeol’s forehead when he leans on it, eyes closing and ears listening to Joonmyun’s voice humming a melody. Yixing is breathing heavily next to him, probably tired and still excited after the show. He’s had a few beers, too, with the band because they got the job. The owner seemed pleased, praising them, and it wasn’t hard to miss the look of hope in their eyes. They were perhaps thinking about the future, Chanyeol thought. Just for a slight moment there, he’d wished that he didn’t give up working with music. But it went away quickly. He has let it go, and there’s no use regretting it, anyway.
Yixing groans next to him and Joonmyun laughs — Chanyeol opens his eyes just in time to look at the mirror and catch the adorable way Joonmyun gets wrinkles at the corner of his eyes and how his cheeks gets chubbier as the corner of his lips pulls up.
“Yixing’s always been bad with alcohol,” Joonmyun says, shaking his head.
“Stop it, you’re no better,” Yixing shoots back, but he seems amused. He slurs a little and Chanyeol chuckles when he feels a head on his lap. Yixing is touchy when half-drunk, which he never is at work. Chanyeol decides that it’s good that they’ve gotten closer; he’s never liked getting to know people only halfway. He runs his fingers through Yixing’s soft hair and leans back against the seat, breathing out. It doesn’t take more than a few seconds for Yixing to fall into a slumber.
“He’s very soft inside,” Joonmyun tells Chanyeol quietly, all of a sudden. “Outside, too. He’s so kind, always gives but never takes.”
Chanyeol’s noticed this, after a year of working together. “I’m glad he has someone like you, then,” Chanyeol whispers. He watches as Yixing’s chest moves up and down. “To take care of him, I mean.”
Joonmyun laughs softly and makes a turn, making Yixing mumble something with a frown before moving closer to Chanyeol. “He has Jongdae, too, so I’m not the only one. They’re childhood friends. We went to high school together, all three. But I guess, Yixing leans more on me.”
Yixing continues to mumble in his sleep and turns a lot, too. “Oh, we’re here. Can you wake him up?” Joonmyun tells after a while.
Chanyeol does, pushing the Chinese boy slightly on the shoulder and helping him sit up. “You’re home, dude.”
It’s clearly that Yixing’s embarrassed about sleeping on Chanyeol’s lap. He mutters thanks and goodbye before stepping out with a loud sigh. He seems a lot more awake now, so Joonmyun drives away after watching him with worried eyes. He asks Chanyeol about his address, and Chanyeol tells him. Silence fall on them after that, as Chanyeol focuses on rubbing his left thumb against his right palm instead. Joonmyun turns on the radio, lowest volume, and hums along to the songs, head bobbing along and looking really, really ridiculous. It makes Chanyeol smile.
After an half hour, Joonmyun turns off the engine, and parks right outside Chanyeol’s apartment building. “Time to sleep, little boy.”
“I’m not little,” Chanyeol laughs, opening the door to step out. He bends down and sticks his head back in again to say, “Thank you, and sorry for bothering.”
“No problem. It was nice meeting you!”
“You, too. Goodnight!”
Then he shuts the door and Joonmyun drives away. He’s never liked getting to know people only halfway, and Joonmyun’s not an exception, but Chanyeol thinks he really wants to know Joonmyun more. Because no one smiles a smile like that without having something to hide, and Chanyeol’s a little curious, and that is all.
Minseok comes by the record store on Monday when Chanyeol is having a shift with Hyosung. Today’s a perfect day for Chanyeol, not too hot with refreshing breezes now and then, so Chanyeol’s comfortably settled on the chair behind the counter, legs stretched out and reading while Hyosung is on the phone with one of her friends. There has only been two customers so far, and he’s bored, so he’s more than overjoyed when Minseok shows up with bubble tea. Chanyeol gets up and takes one chocolate flavored, thanking Minseok with a wide grin, before sucking up a tapioca pearl.
“Hey,” Hyosung says, putting the phone away for a while to look curiously at Minseok and Chanyeol. “Didn’t you get me one?”
“Sorry, Hyosung,” Minseok says, an apologetic smile on his lips. “I didn’t remember that you worked here on Mondays with Chanyeol.” Muttering meanie, she goes back to talking to her friend, leaving Minseok looking guilty.
Chanyeol chuckles at her before sucking up more from the drink. “What’s up, hyung?” he asks, tugging.
Minseok turns back his attention to Chanyeol. “I haven’t had time to say thank you to you yet, for helping out.”
“What do you think you have a strong dongsaeng for, huh?” Chanyeol teases, wiggling his eyebrows and earning a playful punch on his shoulder by Minseok’s small fist. “No, but it’s fine, really.”
“Jongin called me yesterday and complained that he didn’t get anything back after that he worked so hard, so he asked me to…well, I don’t know, celebrate the new apartment? I don’t understand him; I actually thought he would ask for a free meal or something, maybe ask me to buy him bubble tea all week. But I wouldn’t mind celebrating. Because you know, spending time together once in a while is good... so — if you’re not busy — you should join us.”
“It sounds fun. When is it?” Chanyeol is annoyed when he only sucks up the chocolate milk and no tapioca pearl. Like, shouldn’t they put in more of the pearls? If he had wanted chocolate milk, he could’ve done it at home or something. This is all about the pearls. “I’m pretty sure I am available and I wouldn’t want to miss it.”
“Saturday, at seven or something. Time is not that important, I’m always home. And take Baekhyun with you, if he’s not busy. I haven’t seen him in a while.”
“Sure, I’ll ask Hyosung to switch shifts with me. You can do that right?” Chanyeol asks, turning to her.
Sighing, she puts down her phone to take up her calendar, looking through it for a while and then shrugs, pressing the phone against her ear again. “I’m free, so that’s fine.”
Minseok smiles and says, “Thanks”, before he waves goodbye to Hyosung and leaves Chanyeol alone again, who is trying his hardest to suck up the last tapioca pearls. Today, he isn’t loved at all, not even by stupid pearls.
“This sucks!” he whines, frowning at it when he can’t get it up.
“You suck,” Hyosung snaps, “be quiet, I can’t hear a thing of what Eunji is saying.”
“You’re just jealous because you didn’t get any.”
“Chanyeol, please, only you would sulk over something like that.” He doesn’t pay any attention, and instead continues with his battle against the tapioca pearls, tongue sticking out like a dog. And even though it doesn’t surprise her, it still makes Hyosung roll her eyes.
"I've signed up for songwriting classes for both of us."
This is the first thing Baekhyun says when Chanyeol picks up the phone. He's having it squeezed between his ear and shoulder, both hands holding a towel and a bucket of soapy water. He's going to clean the windows, because Hyosung said they looked like shit before she went home, and pretty much, he thinks that, too. So here he is. But he sucks at cleaning, and maybe answering Baekhyun's phone call wasn't his best decision today.
But if he hadn't, he would've had to go through a whole other call with Baekhyun later, when Baekhyun could reach him. Baekhyun hates it when you don't answer his calls. He asks Chanyeol all the time why he has a phone but never picks up. Well, Chanyeol isn't sure. No one can pick up all the time. Except Baekhyun, but that's because he has his phone glued to his hand or something.
"Songwriting classes?" he asks now, furrowing his eyebrows as he struggles with not dropping his phone to the floor. He can't afford a new phone. Oh. And back to songwriting classes. "Why?"
"Because," Baekhyun sighs, "you're boring. It's summer and all you do is work and sleep!"
"Well...isn't that what you're supposed to do? And come on, I'd rather work and sleep than go to classes on my summer break. You do know that I have assignments to finish before school starts again, right?"
"It's only four times, on Mondays starting from next week, 6 PM. Oh, and the last time is on Wednesday, if I remember right…"
"I have work." Chanyeol is finished with the first window. He thinks. But it does still look kind of awful but he figures that he can wipe it again once Baekhyun hangs up. Chanyeol is not good at doing two things at the same time.
"I am your best friend," Baekhyun hisses, as if he thinks Chanyeol has forgotten. "I know when you're free or not free and I'm fully aware of that you do not work on Wednesdays and only work first shifts on Mondays. Which means, yes, you can."
Chanyeol laughs and shakes his head, bending down to rinse the towel in the bucket and then tries to press out all the water, while still having the phone squeezed there. "Did you really memorize it?" He moves to next window and makes a face at the dirt there. "I'm flattered that you like me that much."
"I don't like you. I am just a better friend. You haven't called me in a week! And your replies to my messages are stupid smileys!"
"You," Chanyeol says, holding in his laughter, "sound like a girlfriend. And hey, don't make me feel bad. I'm the best friend in this entire world. And again, what do you do on summer breaks? What do you want to do? Except for attending lessons because God knows how much I need that right now. Please hear the sarcasm."
"People actually go out! Because it's sunny. And you are just staying at home. Jongin is being a brat, he actually asked me to pay for his ticket when I asked him to go to the amusement park with me." Baekhyun pauses. Chanyeol is still listening, just more focused on wiping away that stupid stain on the window. "And... I want to go to the beach."
Chanyeol stops what he's doing and is quiet for a second. "Baekhyun, you can ask Minseok hyung. Or your other friends. Ask Taeyeon noona."
Taeyeon is the hot girl in the choir that Baekhyun’s been crushing on since forever, but she treats him like a baby, patting his head and also, she probably already has a boyfriend.
"Chanyeol you know it's not—"
But Chanyeol really doesn't have time for this conversation, he thinks, because he just dropped the bucket. Now he's drenched in soapy water and how fun is that? Very funny, apparently, because someone is laughing. Startled, he turns around to see Yixing.
"Yixing! Please help me with these damned windows!" he shouts. But then he sees someone next to Yixing and he squints his eyes trying to remember a name to the very familiar face. Then he remembers, and really, he just have to have soapy water all over himself when Joonmyun is here. Chanyeol forgets about Baekhyun for a second. "Hello."
"Hi," Joonmyun responds and walks up to him while Yixing is too busy laughing. Joonmyun's really adorable today, wearing a plaid, short-sleeved shirt and jeans. Very tight jeans actually, but they fit him nicely. He bends down to pick up the bucket and then proceeds to take the towel away from Chanyeol's hand. "Leave this to me and Yixing. I think you should clean up yourself first." Joonmyun is smiling up at him now, and Chanyeol gulps.
"Okay." Then he remembers Baekhyun, pressing the phone against his ear again while walking to the bathroom. "Baek?"
"What the fuck?"
"I'm sorry, I was actually cleaning the windows and dropped the bucket with water while talking to you. Got it all over me."
"Congratulations, Chanyeol," Baekhyun laughs and Chanyeol can see in front of him how Baekhyun rolls his eyes now. "Okay, I'll pick you up on Monday for our first lesson. You can't say no."
Right now, Chanyeol is only paying attention to how his pants and t-shirt are sticking to his skin. Sighing, he tries to peel off his pants with one hand and says, "Whatever you like."
"Oh wait, are you busy this Saturday?"
Chanyeol is very terrified to remember that no, he does not have any other clothes with him. "Uh... oh, yeah, Minseok hyung got a new apartment, remember? Yeah, and he wants to celebrate, so he's asking us to come. If you can, come by me at half past six, we can go together."
"That sounds nice, I can do it. And I hope you're wearing ugly clothes today so that you can just throw the ruined ones away. Wait, you always wear ugly clothes, why do I even bother."
"I hate you," he snarls, but Baekhyun is already hanging up.
Now, where does he find some clothes.
The floor is cleaned and surprisingly, the windows, too, when Chanyeol steps out from the bathroom. Unfortunately, still in his drenched clothes, but at least he’s rinsed them with water and pressed out the soap, before wriggling into his wet jeans again. He’s still very uncomfortable in them, walking funnily with furrowed eyebrows, but there is no other choice. Joonmyun is nowhere to be seen, and Chanyeol is maybe disappointed, but it’s easy to push away that feeling. He walks up to Yixing instead.
“Hey, you don’t happen to have any clothes with you?”
Yixing laughs and shakes his head, as Chanyeol pulls out a chair to sit next to him. “No, but Joonmyun is out to get some clothes for you. His apartment is near here, so he’ll probably be back real soon. And don’t sit down, you’re gonna wet the chair!”
“Really?” Chanyeol’s eyes are bright and he ignores the last part.
Just then, Joonmyun walks in with a plastic bag and Chanyeol sighs of relief, rushing up to him. “You’re so clumsy, little boy,” Joonmyun says, handing over the plastic bag.
“I’m not little,” Chanyeol replies, and he remembers vaguely having this conversation before. Because really, it’s Joonmyun who’s tiny, one head shorter than Chanyeol and all skinny legs and arms. Chanyeol thinks he could just wrap his arms around the older boy, and then he would be able to cover Joonmyun’s whole body. Instead, he places a hand on Joonmyun’s shoulder and squeezes lightly. “Thank you, so much. Lifesaver, really.”
It’s something about the way Joonmyun naturally slides his hand around Chanyeol waist, to push him to the bathroom with a tiny smile. Chanyeol focuses on the way his t-shirt sticks annoyingly to his back instead, and thanks Joonmyun one more time before walking in to change his clothes. The t-shirt is too small and tight around the arms, and it looks awkward on him. He manages to put on the pants, and of course they’re too short, revealing more than his ankles. Everything smells like Joonmyun. He doesn’t really mind.
“Here’s food,” Yixing says, already eating his jajangmyun, when Chanyeol is finished. “Joonmyun bought it for us.”
Chanyeol let his eyes wander around the shop, as he sits down next to Yixing, taking out his own food. “Where’s Joonmyun hyung?” he asks, picking up the chopsticks and tearing apart the plastic foil around the plate.
“He had to leave, had things to do.”
Once again there’s a faint feeling of disappointment, but like always, it’s easy to ignore and press down. Chanyeol looks forward to meeting Joonmyun again. After all, he still has clothes to return.
It’s Friday and the band is going to play again. Originally, Chanyeol had wanted to go, but other plans came up. He says goodbye to Yixing when they close the shop and take different busses. He stops by the convenience store near his apartment building to buy instant ramen, grabbing a few packs of chocolate and strawberry pudding. It’s always been his and Jinri’s favorite flavors and he has a feeling that she’s going to need them today.
It had been too early in the morning when he got his second call from Jinri this month. He’d sat through breakfast with his phone pressed against his ear, trying to swallow down the cereals while listening to Jinri talking. She’s always been the more talkative between the two of them, and their old friend in high school had remarked once that Chanyeol is only ever quiet when Jinri is around. He’d found it amusing, and that fact has never really changed. She talks, he listens, and maybe tells her his opinion now and then. She has never asked for more than that, either.
“I’m coming over today,” Jinri had suddenly said, and Chanyeol had choked on his cereal. He had not been expecting that, but Jinri would never blurt something like that out without having an important reason behind it. He’d told her his address and then they hung up.
Now he’s locking up the door and kicking off his shoes. Maybe he should clean a little, he thinks, placing the plastic bag down on the kitchen table. But it’s only Jinri, so he doesn’t. She’d seen his room as a teenager, it can’t get worse than that. It’s only a few minutes later that someone rings the doorbell. Chanyeol breathes in and it’s only now that it hits him, they haven’t seen each other in a year. He isn’t sure why he’s nervous. Maybe it’s the fear of knowing that maybe Jinri has changed. Or maybe he’s changed. Chanyeol’s never been one for changes, anyway.
“Hello,” she says, a small grin on her lips and her eyes are so, so tired when he opens the door. She breathes in, eyes flickering here and there and he notices how her hands are trembling. Then he knows. He was right; something has happened. Jinri hasn’t changed at all. “I missed you.”
Reaching out, he puts both arms around her and pulls her closer, until she stops trembling and is instead taking steady, long breaths instead. And this is his way of saying, I missed you, too.
He met Jinri when he was seven and she was six. They’d bickered over the last strawberry pudding in the store. She’d seemed almost like a boy, frowning and screaming at him, even punching him on the arm. Then he’d called her ugly and Jinri had started to cry. That was when Chanyeol realized how you should treat girls with care, even though they act strong and words hurts more than a slap to the face, and that was also when he swore to himself to never make her cry again. It hadn’t been love or anything like in the books. But sometimes, lying in his bed at nights in his apartment, Chanyeol almost wishes for it. Love. He thinks being in love with Jinri would be so simple. But it’s not going to happen, and he knows it all too well.
They’d grown up together, five minutes from each other’s houses, and Jinri had been like a little sister. She was thirteen when boys made her cry and she’d had her heart broken for the first time by Minho, a boy in their class. He’d never meant to, Chanyeol thinks. Maybe Minho didn’t even know about the tears that Jinri shed for him, so Chanyeol couldn’t really go and beat him up. Instead, he’d put his arms around Jinri, just like now, and he’d held her close until the tears dried and she was back to breathing normally again.
Afterwards, she’d hit him hard and told him to stop touching her like that. I’m not going to fall in love with a giant like you, was what she said. Chanyeol couldn’t stop laughing because she had no idea. Because years later, while she went around liking boys, Chanyeol was too busy doing the same, in secret. Liking boys, that is. There had been Lu Han in high school. Lu Han the transfer student from China, Lu Han with big eyes and a cute face, a doll face, Lu Han who Chanyeol wasn’t supposed to like.
They sat together every Math lesson, three hours, three times a week, and Chanyeol had always admired the way Lu Han spoke Korean as if he’d been born here. Sometimes, Lu Han leaned in too close for Chanyeol to handle, his scent too strong, and sometimes, he would put a hand on Chanyeol’s thigh during lunch, making him flustered. Then Lu Han had disappeared, the second year in high school, moving back to China, and Chanyeol was fine. It was never love, anyway. Chanyeol doesn’t want to bother with stuff like that. Still, he can’t deny that he’d often imagined pressing his lips against Lu Han’s, to see if they were soft or dry, or if Lu Han tasted just as sweet as he smelled.
No one knows until now, except Jinri. Because she saw, and she was the only one that noticed. Now, as he places down two cups of tea, one for her and one for himself, it all comes back to him. How much Jinri knows but never tells. He’s grateful. Up till today, he’s still not…accepted it. Himself. Liking boys while you’re a boy yourself, that isn’t supposed to be right. By now, he’s mastered the art to press down feelings as much as he can. He’s gone too long, pressing down too much, that he’s pretty those feelings won’t be able to bubble up again. After Lu Han, his heart hasn’t fluttered for anyone else, and he is glad.
“Too bitter,” Jinri whines. “I want more sugar.”
“Go get it yourself,” he laughs but is already on his way to take out the sugar from the cabinet. “Missed me too much you had to come over immediately, huh?”
She’s quiet, eyes on Chanyeol, and then nods. “Yeah.” She’s not going to tell him anything, and Chanyeol isn’t going to push her. If she isn’t ready, she isn’t. Maybe she just needs him around right now, and he is always going to be around. Not every minute of the day, but whenever she needs him.
“Do you call your mom often?” Jinri asks, pouring two teaspoons of sugar into her tea. Chanyeol cringes, because isn’t that too sweet.
She drinks her tea slowly, drags out the time, and then puts it down. “You should call her more. She’s lonely. I visit her sometimes, and she always brings up memories about you and your sis—” Jinri knows where to stop, and she does it now, too. Blushing, she looks down on the tea and cups her hands around it. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay,” Chanyeol laughs. Another thing he’s learned to do, is to lock memories he doesn’t want to have away in a box. He’s thrown away the key and has no intention of finding it again. “It’s good that you visit her. Thank you.”
“She’s like a mom to me, you don’t really have to thank me. And you know that.”
He does. “I know.”
They don’t talk more about it. Jinri finishes her tea and says no to dinner before showering and changing to pajamas. Chanyeol does the same, and soon they’re watching a movie, Jinri with her feet all tangled up with Chanyeol’s and they’re fighting for more space on the couch. She eats up almost all the strawberry pudding, leaving only the chocolate flavored for him. Chanyeol complains loudly, snatching the last one from her and earning a kick in the stomach but they’re good. They’re more than good, he thinks and when Jinri wakes up early to catch the first train home, he thinks that he’d rather have her stay here. Having your best friend back by your side is a nice feeling. Nonetheless, he takes the bus to the train station with her, holding her hand.
“You should visit me more,” Chanyeol says, arms around her, and leans down to kiss her hair. “You should meet Baekhyun.”
“Ah, the guy you choose to call your best friend over me?” she teases and pulls away. “You should go visit your mom, and me, too. I’ll come up more often. Stop being an irresponsible kid.”
“I will,” he assures, pushing away some hair from her eyes. “You should cut your bangs, brat. They’re too long!”
“Your clothes are horrible. I’m moving here when I start University next year, and then I’ll take you out to shop.”
“You sound just like Baekhyun,” Chanyeol says. “I don’t need two people in my life who bully me because of stupid clothes.”
She laughs, and then picks up her backpack. “And Chanyeol. You should…find someone.”
Chanyeol freezes. She knows what he thinks about this and she knows she shouldn’t step over the line. Chanyeol knows that she knows. But she doesn’t tear her gaze away from him and instead sighs. “Find a boy who will be good to you. Please. I worry about you.”
He swallows down the lump in his throat and nods weakly. Jinri steps into the train and leaves Chanyeol with an empty feeling, but he’ll be okay.
“Chanyeol?” he hears someone call his name when on the way to work and turns around with raised eyebrows. It’s, he realizes with surprise, Joonmyun running up to him, struggling with heavy books and glasses sliding down his nose. He’s wearing a sweater in the middle of summer, and it’s ridiculous, the sweater’s too big for him, hiding his hands even and Chanyeol grins brightly. It’s a pleasant surprise, really.
From looking at the stack of books in Joonmyun’s arms, he is guessing that Joonmyun has just returned from the library nearby. “I didn’t know you wore glasses?” Chanyeol says, still grinning as he reaches out with both hands to take the books from Joonmyun. He does it without realizing.
“Let me,” Chanyeol insists, pushing the shorter boy’s tiny hand away gently. “I’m stronger.”
Joonmyun laughs softly and reaches up to adjust his glasses. Looking super cute. Chanyeol is feeling funny inside, like there are butterflies flying around in his stomach, and he’s not really sure if that’s a good thing or not. “Of course you wouldn’t know; we’ve met two times. You don’t know much about a person after so little time. But well, I only wear glasses when I’m reading. I just forgot to take them off.”
“I see.” Chanyeol glances down at the books and tilts his head. “Ah, you sure read a lot of Kim Young Ha.”
“I do.” Joonmyun nods, and there’s something bright in his eyes. Chanyeol recognizes that look, somehow. It’s like Chanyeol when someone mentions music. He assumes that maybe Joonmyun just really likes books. He did stand by the bookshelf the first time Chanyeol saw him, looking so lost in his own world. “Where are you going, Chanyeol?”
Chanyeol would, honestly, like to tell Joonmyun how plain he thinks Kim Young Ha’s voice is in his stories — emotionless, really — but he thinks he can save that conversation for later. “I have clothes to return to you, but I’m on my way to work so I don’t think I can run home to grab them. Next time?”
Joonmyun chuckles and Chanyeol decides that he really likes him. He’s an interesting person. He takes the books from Chanyeol and nods. “Next time, then.”