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'Til The Morning Sun You're Mine

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Summers in Napa Valley are hot and dry during the day, but perfect and serene at night. It's not the most popular time to visit the area, but plenty of tourists pass through between June and August and those in the Bay Area and SoCal like to make their way up for long weekends. The heat casts a filter of dusty yellow over the back dirt roads and the local vineyards they lead to, stretches of grapevines and olive trees blanketing the low rolling hills.

Jongin's mother had the foresight to purchase a luxury property just outside Sonoma and the foresight to have a son who could be taken advantage of to manage it on his summer breaks. While his friends from Stanford were off doing research internships or backpacking through Patagonia, Jongin was playing general manager for folks renting the private guest house on their estate. It wasn't all bad; many guests were friendly and some from countries Jongin's wanted to visit for years. But between showing guests how the lock pad worked and delivering extra towels, there's little to do. The only other interaction he gets is with the charming cleaning lady who stops by once a week to tidy their rustic, country-style villa. But she's always in and out in under an hour because Jongin is only one person and can only use so many rooms.

He does not know about the person who his mother hired to help with all the outdoor work until that person shows up at the door asking Jongin for keys to the third garage stall.

"His mother and I go way back," Jongin's mom says when he calls her to make sure a serial killer didn't just show up, watching from the front door as this stranger navigates their garage with ease. "Chanyeol's helped out for a couple summers now. His family has a cozy place in St. Helena."

In her world, cozy meant any home costing less than $2.5 million.

"What's he doing here if his family can afford a home in St. Helena?"

"I don't ask questions when someone offers to clean our pool for free, dear."

"He's doing this for free?"

"He's only a year or two older than you. Maybe you can be friends."

Jongin has no interest in making friends with the pool boy. He watches Chanyeol hook up the water hose and backs away from the door quickly when Chanyeol looks up and catches him staring.

"He's a charming young man. You could do with more charming friends."

Jongin heads back into the house and thinks about what to make for lunch. Their unnecessarily large refrigerator greets him with a carton of eggs, three bottles of Stella, and half a round of brie. "Are you saying Sehun isn't charming?" he asks, eyeing the two pizza boxes in the trash. If he orders pizza for the third time this week, the delivery person will think he's sad and lonely. "I'm telling him you think he's boorish."

His mother laughs, light and pleasing as always. "Don't eat alone all the time." In the background, Jongin suddenly hears the bustle of New York City traffic and wonders if his mother had stopped into Hermes again. "Invite Chanyeol to join."

He'd rather not. "I'll think about it."

He finds a frozen pasta meal deep in the freezer that's only 6 months old. It only comes out half burnt and he eats it in front of the TV while he resumes his binge watching of Planet Earth 2. During the silences, he can hear his mother's rose bushes being watered.

+

Chanyeol comes by on Mondays and Thursdays. He and Jongin do not talk outside the polite greetings in the late morning when Chanyeol stops by for the garage keys and to say goodbye when they're returned a couple hours later. Basic decency is what keeps Jongin from leaving the keys under the doormat.

He doesn't know how Chanyeol can work under the midday sun. It's not exactly Death Valley out there, but there's little shade and Jongin's own skin complains watching Chanyeol spend hours pacing the length of the pool to make sure it stays pristine. Some mornings Jongin does laps so that Chanyeol's efforts don't go to waste.

A heat wave hits the second week of June. The weather man recommends everyone to stay inside where there's air conditioning. Jongin does not expect Chanyeol to show up, but the doorbell rings like clockwork right before he's about to have cereal for lunch.

He has the keys in his hands, but hesitates in giving them over. "You don't have to do anything today."

"I'll be okay," Chanyeol says and his smile is a little disarming. His bangs fall into his eyes when he leans in to take the keys from Jongin. "Thanks, though."

Chanyeol spends the lunch hour trimming the hedges. It's so hot out that the air bends and even the cicadas are quiet. An alert pops up again on Jongin's phone warning him not to spend excessive time outside, but to stay hydrated if it's unavoidable. The bottle of water he grabs from the fridge is already covered in condensation by the time he's taken two steps outside. Chanyeol's back is facing him, but he turns at the sound of Jongin coming down the gravel path.

Jongin holds the bottle out without a word. Chanyeol glances between it and Jongin, but takes it with a smile. He twists it open and guzzles half of it in seconds. A bead of water escapes but disappears indistinguishable in the trails of sweat along his throat.

The heat is stifling and Jongin can barely breathe. He spins around and marches back into the house.

"Thanks!" Chanyeol calls after him.

The air conditioning washes over him like jumping into cold water, but his face stays warm remembering the bob of Chanyeol's Adam's apple. The heat is messing with his head.

+

The following Thursday the doorbell rings again not ten minutes after Chanyeol shows up. Jongin opens the door to find Chanyeol with his hand against his chest, bleeding all over his shirt. Jongin's not good with blood and immediately feels faint.

"Oh no," he hears Chanyeol say, his vision suddenly shaky. He swallows down the nausea creeping up on him and turns away, weakly waving Chanyeol inside.

He leaves Chanyeol in the kitchen with the first aid kit and goes to lie on the couch, taking deep breaths. He doesn't know how much time passes when Chanyeol gives an all clear. Jongin sits up slowly. Chanyeol has left to put away the aid kit and is shirtless when he returns, ruined t-shirt balled up in his hands.

"Jesus," Jongin says under his breath. He shouldn't be surprised to see the six-pack abs Chanyeol is sporting. They match Chanyeol's arms that Jongin has convinced himself he doesn't look at either.

"Are you okay?"

Jongin slumps over and presses his face into the armrest. The couch sinks next to him and Chanyeol hands him a glass of water. Jongin drinks it and Chanyeol holds out a fun size Kit Kat bar next. He stares at that one in confusion.

"Chocolate helps with nausea," Chanyeol says, unwrapping it for him. Jongin doesn't believe it, but eats it anyway.

It helps.

"What happened?" Jongin says, nodding at the bandage wrapped around Chanyeol's palm. His voice is weak, but even.

"Lost a battle with one of the gardening tools."

"You don't need to go to the emergency room?"

Chanyeol winks at him. "I'll be all right, it looked worse than it is," he says, and keeps staring. Jongin checks for chocolate smeared on his face, but finds nothing.

"Why are you looking at me like that?"

Chanyeol rests his face on his good hand. "Because you're nice to look at."

It's not the first time Jongin has heard those words. It's the first time he's heard it from another guy. Jongin's caught off guard, but moreso at how little that detail matters and how the compliment is not entirely unwelcome.

"Thanks, I guess," he says. Being good at accepting compliments was a separate issue.

"You're welcome," says Chanyeol, standing up. "I'm going to head back early today. I'll get everything done on Monday."

"You're not even getting paid." Jongin's eyes are level with Chanyeol's stomach. He forces his gaze up.

After making a quiet, considering noise, Chanyeol leans down and tips Jongin's chin up. "I'll be coming for the company from now on, I suppose." He's close enough that Jongin can see each individual eyelash. Jongin jerks back like he's been burned, uneasy about the violation of personal space. Chanyeol doesn't seem bothered and says, "See you next week."

Jongin calls Sehun after dropping off more toilet paper at the guest house while the occupants are out. Two couples from France were staying the week and one of them had brought with a shepherd lab puppy that Jongin couldn't stop playing with for a solid hour when they checked in yesterday afternoon.

"What I'm hearing is the pool boy is hitting on you."

"He's not a pool boy," Jongin says, though not sure why he finds it important to clarify. "And. I guess that's what he was doing."

"Tell him to knock it off. Tell your mom to tell his mom to tell him to knock it off." Nothing Sehun says is ever helpful, but he's still Jongin's top speed dial anyway.

Jongin paces around the 10-person dark oak dining table that's never once been used to entertain that many. "It's not harmful. I don't want to be mean about it."

"What, do you like it or something?"

"Getting complimented is nice. He's just very, blunt about it and you know I get awkward about these things."

"I don't know what you want me to help with then."

Jongin falls into one of the chairs and drops his head into the table with a dull thud. "I never said I needed your help," he mumbles. "You're my friend, I'm calling to share what's happening in my life the way friends do."

"Well, that's boring."

Jongin smiles. "You can have a turn too. How's Junmyeon doing out in the desert?"

Junmyeon was Sehun's boyfriend of two years. Their meeting was the classic TA and undergrad cliche. Sehun started going after him a week after he stepped into that biochemistry lab, but Junmyeon made him wait until after the semester was over to start dating. Honestly, Jongin had been pretty impressed he managed to keep Sehun at an arm's distance for that long. Junmyeon had gotten a forensic anthropology internship with the FBI office in Los Angeles and was put on an assignment near Death Valley when a few skeletons were discovered by some hikers a week ago.

"He loves it, that nerd. It's taking a while since they can only work in the early morning and after the sun goes down, but they should be done soon. I keep reminding him to slather on the sunscreen like I'm his mother."

"That's adorable."

"Well, I'm not banging him if he comes back looking like a boiled lobster."

"That's less adorable."

"You asked."

Not really, but Jongin knows not to pick an argument with Sehun over such things. "I'll text you updates."

"Only send them if you start fucking the pool boy."

"Still not into guys."

"That's true. If I didn't do it for you, you're definitely a zero on the Kinsey."

"Goodbye, Oh Sehun," Jongin says, hanging up without bothering to hear his friend's reply. Worse things have failed to offend Sehun.

As Jongin settles into bed later that night, he can't decide if he's dreading or looking forward to Monday.

+

Monday comes and goes. Chanyeol shows up, waters the garden, mows the lawn, and leaves. The bandage on his hand is the only evidence that last week even happened. Jongin isn't going to bring anything up if Chanyeol won't.

Tuesday morning the bathtub in the guest house stops draining. For a pseudo-landlord, Jongin doesn't actually know how to fix anything. He's looking up plumbers in the area when he walks by Chanyeol's number stuck to the fridge. There's no reason to guarantee Chanyeol will know what to do, but Jongin has a feeling and texts him anyway.

Chanyeol replies he'll be over in an hour. Plus a smiley face.

Jongin meets him at the end of the long driveway leading up to the guest house. Chanyeol gets out of his red California-typical hybrid SUV wearing a black tank top, white basketball shorts, and flip flops. His Warriors baseball cap is on backwards and a pair of aviators covers half his face. He is the epitome of a California boy.

"Thanks for coming over," Jongin says, letting them into the house.

Chanyeol drops his hand on Jongin's shoulder and lets it slide down his back. "I was looking for something to do today anyway." If he notices the way Jongin tenses up for that split second, he doesn't say anything about it.

Jongin shows him the bathroom and the tub that now has a ring of soap scum around the bottom.

"Seems harmless," Chanyeol says, shrugging. "I'll need a plunger and screwdriver."

Jongin treks to the main house and comes back with both.

"How are you with gross things?" Chanyeol says. Jongin makes a face and Chanyeol laughs. "You can wait outside then. This won't take long."

Jongin busies himself in the living room with a game on his phone. He hears the shower turn on and off fifteen minutes later, and Chanyeol appears soon after.

"Fixed," he says, scrunching his nose. "There was enough hair stuck in the drain to look like a small rodent."

Jongin nearly gags. He gets up without a word and leaves the guest house, assuming Chanyeol will know to follow. Back at the main house, he lets Chanyeol know to leave the supplies in the downstairs half bath and heads to the kitchen. He'd restocked on Stella over the weekend and pulls two bottles out, popping the caps and handing one wordlessly to Chanyeol when he walks in.

"You really like giving me things to drink without asking," Chanyeol says, but he takes the bottle and parks himself on a bar stool across from Jongin.

"You don't take money," Jongin says, and Chanyeol tips his beer to say point taken.

They both stare out the ceiling to floor windows leading out to the pool deck and back garden. The house is situated on a knoll and provides them sweeping panoramic views of Sonoma and Napa. When a breeze comes through, the trees give way in gentle waves, and sunlight flickers through the leaves across the walls of the house.

"You hungry?" Chanyeol says after a decent five minutes of silence. Surprisingly, it didn't feel uncomfortable.

As if on cue, Jongin's stomach grumbles. "I don't have much in the fridge. You good with pizza?"

"I don't associate with people who aren't good with pizza."

They order an extra large pepperoni with extra cheese. Chanyeol makes an obscene noise when it arrives. They decimate half of it in five minutes before Jongin is no longer too starving to make conversation.

"Why are you doing all this work for free?"

Chanyeol chuckles and shrugs. "It's something to do in the summer," he says, wiping pizza grease off his mouth with a paper towel. "Plus our moms know each other and it's not like I'm hurting for cash if I really need it." He takes his cap off and musses up his bangs, then puts it back on. "I think it's just my parents' way of making sure I don't grow up too spoiled or full of myself like all the other rich kids."

Jongin gets it. For all the nice things his mother likes to buy, she always made sure to go off on him anytime she caught him being dismissive of those less fortunate. He's more or less grateful for it now, but growing up it felt like she wanted to alienate him from his friends — most of whom he realizes now aren't actually worth knowing but he keeps them around anyway to use for networking after he graduates.

"You're not getting paid either to stay out here, right?" Chanyeol says, picking up another slice. He angles his head to the side and catches a big glob of cheese in his mouth before it slides off. It's really unattractive.

"Yeah and I'm bored out of my mind."

Chanyeol grins, the corners of his eyes crinkling. "That's why you have me now," he says, shooting his pointer finger at Jongin and clicking his tongue.

Usually, Jongin doesn't open up to people quickly enough to make jokes after only a couple of meetings. But something about the easy confidence in how Chanyeol carries himself rubs off.

"Jury's still out on whether or not you cure my boredom," Jongin says, giving a wary look. Chanyeol takes it in stride and slings his arm around Jongin's shoulders.

"I'll work hard to make my case, then."

He sounds serious about it, but Chanyeol is clearly also one of those people who gets along with everyone, always knowing exactly what to say. Jongin doesn't probe further in case there's nothing behind it, though he wonders why it even matters whether Chanyeol sincerely wants Jongin to like him.

Chanyeol takes off in the mid-afternoon. Before he leaves, he stands next to the open door of his car and calls out, "Are we in a mutual texting relationship now or should I still wait for you to make the first move?"

Jongin clams up, honestly not knowing how he wants to answer. "Sure," he ends up blurting out, and prematurely cuts off the conversation by closing the front door.

Through the window, he sees Chanyeol laugh and mouth something to himself as he gets into the car. He doesn't stay to watch Chanyeol leave.

+

Jongin goes back and forth on whether to invite Chanyeol to stick around on Thursday. Chanyeol makes the decision for him when he shows up with four bags of groceries. His shirt is sleeveless again.

"I didn't know what you'd like, so I went with some staples," Chanyeol says with his head in the fridge. From what Jongin can tell, staples means a lot of meat and pasta. "The grill works, right?"

Jongin's never used it, but he says, "I think so."

"Great." Chanyeol tidies up the empty bags and presses his hand to Jongin's chest as he walks by. "We're doing burgers tonight."

The words I didn't invite you to stay are on the tip of Jongin's tongue, but Chanyeol's long gone and he wouldn't have meant the words anyway.

In late June, the sun doesn't start to set until well into the evening. Chanyeol has his aviators on again as he mans the grill, dancing lazily along to some summer playlist crooning from his phone. He's not very good, but he can follow a beat, at least. Jongin walks up and sets down a bottle of some random Belgian ale he picked up earlier while Chanyeol did his rounds around the pool with the skimmer. Chanyeol says thanks by clinking their bottles together before taking a sip.

"Medium?" Chanyeol says, pointing the burger flipper at Jongin.

"Medium well."

"Burger twins!"

Jongin rolls his eyes and goes over to the outdoor dining table, sprawling out on one of the long benches. He closes his eyes and lets the warmth from the sun-baked bench relax his muscles. He hears the sizzle of the grill and Chanyeol humming along to the next song in the playlist. If he concentrates, he can also hear the breeze blowing through the trees and birds landing and taking off amongst the branches.

Chanyeol's footsteps grow closer, his flip flops dragging across the patio. He sets two plates down on the tabletop. Jongin expects him to say something, but there's only silence. When Jongin opens his eyes, Chanyeol is standing over him, arms loosely crossed and a gentle smile on his face.

They stay like that, watching each other. Jongin doesn't know why he doesn't say anything, doesn't know why his heart speeds up just a tiny bit. He's not really looking at Chanyeol, but at the reflection of himself in Chanyeol's sunglasses. The playlist moves on to the next song and like a switch that's been flipped, Chanyeol's smile brightens and he stoops down to pat Jongin's knee.

"Food's ready."

They eat side by side and make small talk. Jongin tells him about the group of four girls from Spain who are supposed to arrive in a couple days.

"Are they hot?" Chanyeol says, opening a family size bag of potato chips to share.

Jongin opens his phone and shows Chanyeol the profile photo of the girl who made the reservation.

"Holy shit, she looks like a model," Chanyeol says, zooming in on her face. "What if they're all models?"

Jongin stuffs some chips into his mouth. "Are you going to try and hit on them?" he says. "They're coming for vacation, have some morals."

Chanyeol shakes his head. "Not really my type," he says, sliding Jongin's phone back over. "Just saying it would be cool if they were and you became friends and could say you were friends with famous people."

"Is that seriously your reasoning?"

Chanyeol shrugs. "I'm a simpleton."

"My mom says you go to Berkeley."

"I do." Chanyeol lifts up the lanyard hanging from his pocket, the words UC BERKELEY repeating prominently.

Jongin looks at him suspiciously. "Which school?"

"Haas."

Jongin groans and covers his face. "Of course you do."

Chanyeol laughs. "What does that mean? What are you majoring in then?"

"I don't want to tell you. You don't deserve to know."

"This is discrimination against business majors," Chanyeol says, still sounding incredibly amused. "What university do you even go to?"

"Stanford," Jongin mumbles into his palm, not-so-subtly glancing at Chanyeol to see his reaction.

Chanyeol leans back a little, a hand held to his chest. "Okay, mister smarty pants."

Jongin shoves at Chanyeol's shoulder, making Chanyeol laugh again as he moves to keep himself from tipping over. "Shut up."

"Seriously, what's your major?" Chanyeol says, then holds out his hand to pause. "Sorry, I mean double major. You'd be a shameful Asian if you didn't double major."

Jongin rolls his eyes, but can't argue against Chanyeol's logic. "Comparative literature and communications, okay?" he says, preemptively tossing a chip at Chanyeol.

Just like that, Chanyeol's eyes light up like homes the weekend after Thanksgiving. Jongin can't tell if he's about to be ridiculed or Chanyeol is genuinely excited, though the latter makes no sense. "Oh my god," Chanyeol says, covering his mouth with both hands.

"What?"

Chanyeol moves his hands to rest on Jongin's arm as he leans in with his eyes wide. "That's adorable," he says, biting his lip. "Now I want to dress you up in preppy sweaters and have you wear those round wireframe glasses. Maybe a little beret too."

Jongin stares at him.

"Will you recite poetry to me?"

"Fuck off," Jongin says, but a laugh bubbles up in him. "You're messed up."

After they clean up, for a split second, Jongin thinks about pulling out a bottle of wine and asking if Chanyeol wants to stay even longer. The sun is just starting to slip below the horizon and Jongin is feeling unusually sociable. He's about to say the words after Chanyeol finishes scrubbing the grill, but Chanyeol stretches his arms up and yawns.

"Shit, I'm getting old," Chanyeol says, sighing.

"Is it your bedtime?"

"Hell yeah, it is," Chanyeol says, glancing at his watch. "It'll be dark soon, so I should head out now."

They walk around the outside to where Chanyeol is parked. Chanyeol's already gotten in and is fastening his seatbelt when Jongin steps up to the open window.

"Before the Spanish models get here," he says, tapping his fingers against the glass lightly. "Do you want to come by this weekend?"

"Are you asking me on a playdate?"

"I rescind my invite."

Chanyeol grins. "Too late, I already know where you live. I'll clear my schedule."

Jongin's still standing outside when Chanyeol drives off. Chanyeol has one bare arm slung out the window, the setting sun deepening the tan he's gotten over the weeks. Before he turns the corner, he lifts his hand in a small wave and Jongin waves back before he even realizes what he's doing.

Once the sound of Chanyeol's car has faded away, Jongin takes his phone out. His fingers hover over the keyboard, unsure.

8:12pm jongin: how do i find out if im not a 0
8:13pm sehun: ohhhhhhhhmygodddd

+

The sun's barely up when Jongin's phone starts ringing repeatedly. He paws at it and sees it's Sehun video calling him. He picks up and lets the phone lie on the bed, camera facing the ceiling.

"Do you know what time it is?" he grumbles, face pressed back into the pillow.

"Sorry, time zones." Sehun has gone back to Seoul for a month and keeps forgetting that South Korea and the US were on opposite hemispheres. Moments like these, Jongin wonders how Sehun managed to get into Stanford at all. "Whatever. What the hell happened? I've been out of the country for barely a week."

"Nothing's happened."

"Last we talked there was a pool boy hitting on you and suddenly you're texting me you like dick."

Jongin finds the energy to flip off the camera. "That's 100% not what I texted you."

"Look me in the face and say that."

Groaning, Jongin moves the phone until it's inches from his face and tips it onto its side. His right eye and nose fill most of the screen. "I did not text you that I suddenly like dick."

"Maybe not literally," Sehun says. Jongin squints at the screen for a few seconds before figuring out Sehun is in a McDonald's. "But figuratively that's exactly what you said."

Jongin rubs his face. "Look, what time is it over there?"

"Nine."

"I assume since it's Friday you'll be up for a while. Can I sleep for a couple more hours before I let you interrogate me?"

"Ugh, fine. Two hours."

Jongin happily ends the call and throws the covers over his head.

+

Jongin only manages another hour of sleep. He decides to go for a run to clear his head and prepare for Sehun's barrage of questions about his sexuality. It would probably be best to figure out some answers first, so he slips his earbuds in and heads out to the trailhead up the road.

It's not that at some point yesterday Jongin actively decided he was physically attracted to Chanyeol. But emotionally, he supposes, there's something that Jongin is latching onto. Sehun had been his roommate freshman year and it still took him two months to fully warm up to him, six months until he was actually sharing with Sehun things about his personal life.

But Chanyeol makes things easy, though Jongin can't pinpoint the reason why. Maybe it's the familiarity Chanyeol treats him with, as if they've known each other for years already instead of mere weeks. Jongin is rarely the one inviting others over, but yesterday he wanted to do it twice.

And Jongin can't even say for sure that it's attraction or he just really likes hanging out with the guy, though he can already hear Sehun's voice: What's your reaction when you picture you guys banging? Which is not a question Jongin is ready to confront. Sure he's open-minded about things, courtesy of Sehun's lack of filter over the years, but self-discovery is a different realm.

He reaches the ridge at the highest point of the trail and takes a breather on an empty bench. He lets himself consider what kind of questions he is ready to confront, thinks back to yesterday when Chanyeol had watched him and wonders if the way his heart raced was because of anticipation. Though what he was anticipating, he isn't sure.

Did he want to... If Chanyeol had, would he have...

Jongin shakes his head and stands, stretching his legs before he begins the journey back. Sehun is going to call him again soon and he wants to fit in a shower before Sehun lectures and psychoanalyzes him for an hour.

+

"Tell me everything, don't leave out a single detail no matter how trivial you think it is."

Jongin finishes drying his hair and tosses the towel into the hamper. His phone is propped up against the vanity and he watches Sehun smooth out his face mask, his bangs tied up like a sprout growing out the top of his head. "I mean it when I say nothing happened. He made burgers because presumably he thought I was sad and pitiful always ordering pizza for one all the time and we chatted."

"Recite back to me your conversation verbatim."

Jongin rolls his eyes. "I made fun of him for being a business major and he teased me for doing comp lit," he says, shrugging. "Before he left, I invited him to hang out again this weekend."

Sehun shakes his head. "No, that's not what I'm looking for. Something made you send that text to me. What was it?"

Jongin sighs and buries his hands in his hair, elbows perched on the vanity. "I don't know. I don't think I was even being serious when I sent that to you."

"You do know and you're purposely avoiding it."

Jongin drops his head into his arms and makes a noise of frustration, mostly at Sehun poking right where he needs to. "There's these moments," he says, sitting up and gesturing vaguely in the air. "Where he just, gets close to me and I don't know what he means by them, if he means anything at all."

"Define close."

"Sometimes physically," Jongin says, shrugging. "Mostly physically, like just. In that invading someone's personal bubble kind of way. But it doesn't bother me?"

Sehun pulls a face, or as much of one he can manage under his mask. "Encroaching your personal bubble always bothers you."

"I know!"

"Still, it makes no sense that someone getting behind your prickly defenses causes reevaluation of your sexuality."

Jongin rubs his cheek, considering how much he should say. "I don't know, he is… attractive," he says, staring off outside for a moment. "But I acknowledge Junmyeon is attractive all the time and he doesn't make me feel anything."

Sehun's mouth stretches into an unamused flat line. "Glad to know."

"I think it's just cabin fever. It makes sense that I have a limit on how much time I can spend alone."

Sehun peels off his mask and tosses it. "Well, let's test," he says, patting his face. "Imagine kissing him."

There it is. It's pretty tame given how blunt Sehun's been in the past, but Jongin is still not prepared. "I don't see how that helps."

"Would you kiss him? Please answer the question."

Jongin rubs his temples. He pictures yesterday again and the easy way he and Chanyeol bantered, how Chanyeol had smiled and taken Jongin's affront in stride. He remembers how close Chanyeol's face had been to his and imagines that distance between them growing smaller instead of how he had moved away.

"Fuck," Jongin mutters and presses the heels of his palms to his eyes. "Motherfucker."

"I'll take that as a resounding yes."

+

The only thing that keeps Jongin from cancelling on Chanyeol Saturday is that he'd have to explain why he wants to cancel. He has no good excuses and Chanyeol would inevitably be over on Monday anyway. So when Chanyeol asks if 4 o'clock is a good time to arrive, Jongin says sure, but not before staring at the text for a good twenty minutes first.

After he let himself think about kissing Chanyeol once, he can't stop thinking about it at all. It's not that the realization he wants to kiss a guy is what's shaking him. Or, sure, that's 30 percent of it. But most of it is his panic around even wanting to be with anyone romantically after only knowing them for three weeks. Two if he gets rid of the week where he and Chanyeol didn't talk at all.

"Just because it took you and Krystal forever to go from friends to dating doesn't mean it's going to be like that for everyone you meet," Sehun had said. "I knew I liked Junmyeon the moment I saw the back of his head."

But Jongin isn't Sehun. He had sat behind Krystal in their Literature of Dehumanization class for a month and a half before they even spoke two words to each other and it was finals before he asked her out. Once they did start dating though, he fell hard and their subsequent breakup a year ago still gets to him on days when his bank of emotional energy is running low and there's nothing to distract him from trying to figure out when and why everything unraveled between them.

Chanyeol arrives with groceries again, just one bag this time, and a bottle of Pinot noir from a winery Jongin recognizes near his place. They'll have to drink it tonight because this house has so many bottles already, he shouldn't be hoarding more.

"My mom didn't hire you to be my personal chef," Jongin says, placing the wine in the cooler so it's the right temperature for later.

"Technically, your mom didn't hire me for anything," Chanyeol says. "I volunteered to take care of the outdoor work and I'm volunteering now to feed you so you're not starting the next school year with scurvy."

Jongin sputters a little. "I've been taking care of myself just fine."

"I'd categorize it more as marginally tolerable."

"Do you go around cooking for everyone you know?"

Chanyeol hums and shakes his head. "Lately, just you."

Jongin really thought the answer was going to be different. He doesn't know how to handle the attention so he clears his throat and says, "Stop being so obsessed with me."

Chanyeol's smile, like always, reaches his eyes and lights up his whole face.

+

It's too early to eat still so they check off being typical college boys and play video games to pass some time. For a couple hours, the only sounds in the house are their loud, panicked noises as they play Overwatch.

"I think my hand cramped up," Chanyeol says, shaking it a few times at his side as they make their way back to the kitchen.

"Okay, old man."

"Shut up and get off my lawn."

Jongin sits at the island and slumps forward over the surface top, watching Chanyeol move around the kitchen. Now and then he points to different cabinets when Chanyeol is looking for something in particular.

"How old are you anyway?" he says, as Chanyeol grates a mountain of cheese into a bowl.

"22."

"Are you a super senior?"

Chanyeol laughs and shakes his head. "I took a gap year after high school." He grabs a few eggs, cracking them with one hand into another bowl.

"Did you like it?" Jongin says, resting his chin on the counter.

Chanyeol starts cutting up some sort of cured meat Jongin doesn't recognize. "Yeah, it was good for me. I got caught up in getting into good schools senior year and I figured if business school was really what I wanted then I'd still want it after a year."

"What did you do?"

Chanyeol grabs a pan from the ceiling rack and heats up some olive oil. "Spent most of the year in Thailand. I split my time between teaching English to elementary schoolers and helping out with marine conservation. I'm a licensed scuba diver in case you're ever in need of one."

"Overachiever," Jongin mutters, but on the inside he's a mixture of impressed and worried about how well rounded Chanyeol is.

The pot of water Chanyeol put on the stove earlier comes to a boil. He drops two handfuls of spaghetti in, then turns to sauté the meat. Within seconds, the entire kitchen smells like delicious cooked fat and Jongin's stomach grumbles. Watching Chanyeol cook is a bit mesmerizing. Jongin would have never pegged him as someone who knows his way around the kitchen, but Chanyeol seems right at home in front of the stove. His movements are orchestrated and calm and he even does that fancy thing where he flips and tosses food right in the pan.

Minutes later, a steaming plate of spaghetti alla carbonara is placed in front of Jongin. In that moment, he is undeniably smitten.

Which he expresses by staring at his food and saying, "What the fuck, are you even real?"

Chanyeol looks genuinely concerned. "You don't like it?" he says, peering at Jongin's face. "Shit, you're not allergic or anything, are you? I've seen you eat cheese and meat, though…"

"No, no," Jongin says quickly. "I just meant this is really impressive. Where'd you learn to cook like this?"

Chanyeol makes a big show of sighing in relief. "My mom actually owns an Asian-Italian fusion restaurant out in Daly City," he says as he cleans up the work area, setting everything in the sink to soak. "I ended up picking up some stuff over the years."

Jongin picks up his fork, ready to dig in when Chanyeol says in a panic, "Wait!", and shuffles over to the wine cooler.

"Can't forget this," Chanyeol says, taking out the wine he brought with. He pops the cork and pours them both a glass. "2013 is supposed to be really good year, but honestly all wine is the same to me."

Jongin slides the bottle over to himself. "This is the 2014 batch."

Chanyeol hops onto the chair next to Jongin. "Like I said, all wine is the same to me."

"You're a jerk," Jongin says with no bite behind his words. He twirls some pasta onto his fork and eats it in one bite.

And he has to physically stop himself from moaning at how good it is, turning his face away from Chanyeol slightly. He can't show weakness.

"How is it? Not sure if I went too heavy on the romano."

"It's edible," Jongin says, shrugging, even though he's already shoveling more into his mouth.

Chanyeol's smile is knowing. "I'll take edible."

They eat mostly in silence, though there's not much Jongin is focused on except cleaning his plate. He knows Chanyeol is watching him throughout, his body naturally turning toward Jongin every time he takes a sip of his wine. And that, annoyingly, is good too, and Jongin isn't even a big fan of wine usually.

If there were candles and a rose centerpiece and classical music playing in the background, this would undeniably be a date. Jongin doesn't say that out loud because Chanyeol might agree, or worse, make it into a joke.

Jongin volunteers to clear the dishes, which is really rinsing everything off and loading the dishwasher. He's started on his second glass of wine just before, which means there's enough alcohol in him where everything amuses him and makes him happy. He presses the button to start the cycle and claps his hands when it beeps in acknowledgment.

"Are you that happy about a dishwasher right now?"

Jongin spins around to find Chanyeol watching him with an amused smile. "Of course," he says, pressing his palms to his cheeks. They're getting warm. "It means I don't have to wash dishes."

"You're adorable," Chanyeol says. He hands Jongin his wine glass and takes his own with the bottle. "Come on, it's nice outside."

"We live in California, it's always nice outside," Jongin says, but he follows Chanyeol out onto the deck anyway.

There's a sitting area outside big enough to fit ten people and the table in the middle has a built-in fire pit encased in glass. Chanyeol settles into a sofa for two people and Jongin stands there trying to decide where he should go.

"What are you doing?" Chanyeol says, patting the spot next to him. "Sit down."

A tiny, still sober part of Jongin's mind says this is dangerous. But the majority tipsy part goes for it without a second thought. He curls up on the opposite end and draws his feet up, cradling his wine glass against his knees. He waits for Chanyeol to speak because Chanyeol's good at directing the conversation and he brought Jongin out here in the first place.

But Chanyeol's just watching him the way he's been doing all evening. He's turned his body toward Jongin again, one leg on the sofa, his cheek propped against his hand. It makes Jongin anxious.

"What?" Jongin says, unable to stand the silence.

Smiling, Chanyeol shakes his head. "Just looking at you," he says. "Wine makes you interesting."

"I don't know what that means."

"It's nothing," Chanyeol says and hits Jongin's shin lightly. "Tell me something."

"Like what?"

"Like why you picked literature."

That's too hard a question for how not sober he is. Jongin scrunches up his face as he thinks. "I don't really know," he decides, resting his chin in the little valley between his knees. "I like learning about people through their writing. It's intimate, but not intrusive. People let their guards down and show you everything, sometimes the ugliest parts of themselves. But those same things can be the most beautiful." He shrugs and bites his lip. "I don't know if any of that made sense. It was really corny, right?"

Chanyeol shakes his head. "It was a perfect explanation," he says, and he looks like he's going to say something else, but instead he reaches for the Pinot and empties the bottle between the both their glasses.

Jongin groans. "I never drink this much wine," he says, staring into his glass. "I shouldn't."

"You are getting a little red."

Jongin frowns and sets his glass down. "I'll just take a break."

Chanyeol chuckles and does the same. "I was kind of wondering what kind of a drunk you'd be, but you're exceeding my expectations."

"What does that mean?"

"Nothing," Chanyeol says, and Jongin is getting frustrated at how he won't explain things. "Here, give me your hand."

"Why?" Jongin says, even as he reaches his right hand out.

Chanyeol takes it and flips it palm up. "My sister has been into palm reading lately," he says, tracing over Jongin's skin. "I think it's bullshit, but maybe it'll work on you."

All that astrology stuff doesn't really do it for Jongin either, but he stays quiet while Chanyeol explains each line on his palm.

"This line says you're compassionate and introverted, prefer creativity in your work. This one says you're loyal and like surrounding yourself with like-minded people."

"You're just making guesses based on what you've seen," Jongin says, trying not to focus too much on the warmth of Chanyeol's hand underneath his. "Tell me something you wouldn't know about."

Chanyeol hums. "Should we look at your love line?" He smooths his thumb over the top of Jongin's palm. "You're picky and don't love easily, but when you do find someone, you're selfish about it and want them to only focus on you."

That doesn't sound very nice. Jongin opens his mouth to complain but suddenly recalls what Krystal had said the day she broke up with him: I can't keep up with what you need. I have my own life.

"You okay?"

Jongin draws his gaze up and follows Chanyeol's arm to where he's still holding onto Jongin's hand.

"You don't like what I said?"

"Is that really what it means?" Jongin says, peering at his hand like the words will materialize above it. "Someone else said something like that to me before."

Chanyeol shrugs. "People who believe in this kind of stuff think that's what it means. I don't believe in it though."

Jongin assumes Chanyeol's just trying to make him feel better, catching on that he's bothered by something more than just a silly palm reading. He nods and expects Chanyeol to let his hand go, but that doesn't happen. Instead Chanyeol shifts forward and lets their hands fall into his lap.

Chanyeol rubs soft circles into the fleshy part below Jongin's thumb. Jongin tips his head against the backrest and watches as if in a trance. When Chanyeol stops, it's only to move on to something else, slotting his fingers between Jongin's to push his hand back, stretching out the tendons in Jongin's wrist. It's so nice and relaxing that Jongin could fall asleep.

After a minute or two, Chanyeol sets Jongin's hand down, then just sits there quietly. The sun has almost set and Chanyeol's face is lit up by the fire. Jongin breathes in, breathes out, and gives Chanyeol his other hand.

This is one of the most intimate things Jongin has ever experienced and they're both still fully clothed. The press and slide of Chanyeol's thumbs along his palm send a small shiver up his spine. He wants to move closer, to curl up as small as possible against Chanyeol's side, knowing that Chanyeol will just let him stay as long as he wants. It's a scary thought because it's so unlike him to want something like that so quickly.

And yet he's unable to ignore this pull.

As Chanyeol continues, Jongin is boldened by the second glass of wine and reaches with his free hand to graze his fingertips down Chanyeol's upper arm. He sees rather than hears Chanyeol's sudden intake of breath and that just spurs him on more. Even after Chanyeol has stopped moving, Jongin's greed is out in the open with his defenses down. He brushes his hand up and down Chanyeol's arm, waiting for Chanyeol to stop him, and when that doesn't happen, gathers up all his courage to move his hand higher until it's resting against the side of Chanyeol's neck and he can feel Chanyeol's pulse quick below his palm.

Despite that, Chanyeol looks calm. He makes steady eye contact and says, "Do you want to talk about this first?"

Jongin doesn't want to lose this confidence. He shakes his head and pulls on Chanyeol's hand that's still entwined with his. Chanyeol moves closer without any resistance, maneuvering Jongin's legs to rest over his lap. Suddenly their faces are inches apart and everything is very real to Jongin.

"You look good up close," Chanyeol says.

Jongin kisses him.

It's soft and chaste, only a little unsure. He pulls back to get a read on Chanyeol and to check if he himself is okay. His nerves are acting up, butterflies in his stomach, but that's just because of the way Chanyeol is smiling at him and petting his side as a gesture of comfort.

He wants more.

They don't stop this time. Chanyeol eases Jongin against the back of the sofa and kisses him until his insides turn to jelly. His tongue teases and flicks against Jongin's top lip until Jongin's own meets it, shy and hesitant. The touch of Chanyeol's hand on his skin takes him by surprise, but it stays put on his waist and eventually he relaxes, even arches into the touch when Chanyeol's lips start kissing along his jawline.

"You're so fucking gorgeous," Chanyeol says, and Jongin has never been complimented in such a way and is caught off guard by how much he likes it. "I almost jumped you that first day the moment you opened the door."

Jongin's breath comes a little heavier. He knows the alcohol is making him more daring, but doesn't know how much it's affected Chanyeol's own judgment. It only goes so far though.

"I don't think I can do more than this," Jongin says, nervous when Chanyeol's hand strays to his thigh. "Tonight, I mean. Like this. It's a lot."

Chanyeol shakes his head and says, "Yeah, yeah, of course, we won't do anything you're uncomfortable with." He slows down again, brushing Jongin's hair back while he presses their lips together lazily.

They kiss until the night is pitch black and dotted with stars. Jongin has sobered a little and with it his anxiety grows. He accepts one more kiss, then hides his face against Chanyeol's neck. Chanyeol rubs his back and doesn't push him for more.

After a while, Chanyeol says, "Can I stay here tonight?"

Jongin bites his lip, hesitating.

"I'll take one of the guest rooms."

Instead of answering right away, Jongin untangles himself and takes Chanyeol's hand as he stands up. "Sure, I'll show you where it is," he says, threading their fingers together.

The short walk back into the house and upstairs is silent. He gives Chanyeol towels and a pair of his own t-shirt and sweatpants. They'll be a little small on Chanyeol, but would do.

He doesn't go beyond the threshold of the guest room, leaning against the doorjamb and biting his nail. Chanyeol sets his borrowed items down on the dresser and comes back to kiss Jongin on the forehead.

"Go on," he says, even though he grasps Jongin's wrist loosely. "I can take it from here."

Chanyeol's got a couple inches on him, so Jongin has to tilt his chin up to kiss him. He licks his lips when he pulls away. "Good night," he says quietly, slipping out of Chanyeol's grip.

He resists the urge to look back when he heads to his room, but definitely hears Chanyeol's door close after he's out of sight. By the time he's under the covers, exhaustion has caught up with him. He thought he'd stay awake worrying, but succumbs to a dreamless sleep almost immediately.

+

Morning arrives too soon and greets Jongin with a wine hangover. He had forgotten to draw the shades last night and his head is pounding with the California sun bursting into every corner of the room. He sits up with a groan and stays like that, eyes closed, until he stops feeling like someone is taking a chisel to the back of his head.

It takes him almost an hour to get up, shower, and dress. When he finally leaves his room, after popping a few painkillers and putting on his sunglasses, he registers the sounds of someone cooking and then the smell of coffee and bacon. Delicious, greasy bacon.

Same as last night, Chanyeol is behind the stove when Jongin makes it downstairs. His hair is a mess and he's in yesterday's clothes again. There's a whole orchestra happening: bacon and sausage sizzling in a pan, the coffee pot percolating away in the corner, Chanyeol spooning pancake batter onto the griddle. Was there even ingredients for pancakes in the house? There's definitely no syrup.

Chanyeol finally spots him and says, "Good m— oh wow, maybe not."

Jongin takes a glance at his reflection in the oven door. He barely looks human. It doesn't matter, the throbbing behind his eyes means all he cares about right now is inhaling some coffee. He turns back and Chanyeol is already setting a freshly poured cup on the counter.

"I assume you need some of this."

Jongin could hug him and kiss him and, honestly, profess his love. Instead, he whispers a hoarse thank you and crawls onto the chair and inhales the sweet smell of caffeine.

"How do you like your eggs?" Chanyeol says after he's built a decently tall stack of pancakes.

Jongin gives him a look to say, are you really asking my egg preferences right now?, but it gets lost behind his shades.

Chanyeol laughs and says, "I'll just do scrambled for both of us."

Five minutes later, a plate filled with everything good in the world slides in front of Jongin. There's even a square of butter melting on top of the pancakes as if pulled straight out of a food magazine. He's never letting Chanyeol out of his sight.

But the small plate of toast cut into triangles and a bowl of fresh cut fruit are the last straw.

"Please stop," Jongin says. He wants to clarify that he means it in a good way, but words aren't the easiest thing for him right now.

Chanyeol seems to understand anyway, smiling sheepishly. "Sorry, I actually really like cooking for people, but I don't get to do much of it these days. You're getting the brunt of it."

Jongin tugs on the hem of Chanyeol's shirt weakly, making him sit down. Halfway through breakfast, the painkillers have finally kicked in.

"I didn't even know we had stuff for pancakes in the house."

"You didn't," Chanyeol says, picking up the syrup and drowning his sausages. "I went out this morning."

Jongin doesn't even know how to begin to respond to that. One, that Chanyeol specifically went out to buy things just to make him breakfast. Two, that Chanyeol is apparently so unaffected by the wine last night that he could do those things while Jongin feels like there's a clamp around his skull.

"Why aren't you suffering?"

"Because I'm older and wiser," Chanyeol says, getting up to grab the coffee pot. He refills Jongin's mug. "I drank a bunch of water before I went to bed."

What an amateur mistake Jongin made. He shovels more eggs into his mouth. Chanyeol is still standing next to him.

"Do you want to talk about last night?"

Jongin pauses with a corner of toast in his mouth. He doesn't actually know if he wants to, hasn't even given himself time to process what happened.

"I just need to know you didn't feel like you were forced into something," says Chanyeol when Jongin doesn't speak.

Jongin shakes his head. "I had already been thinking about it. I wanted it."

Chanyeol visibly relaxes. "That's good," he says, lifting his hand to rest it on Jongin's nape. Unable to stop it, Jongin flinches and Chanyeol pulls away immediately. "Sorry. That wasn't okay?"

"No, that isn't — what I mean is," Jongin says, taking his sunglasses off because he feels dumb having a serious conversation with them on. He struggles with finding the right words. "I've never… liked a guy before. I'm not saying I thought last night was a mistake, but I don't really know what I'm doing and this is all sort of scary and confusing."

"Oh." Chanyeol takes his hand away.

It's hard not to see that as a sign of rejection, but Jongin keeps going. "I hope I didn't mislead you," he says, staring down at his half-eaten pancakes. "Sorry if you had expected something else."

Chanyeol leans against the counter and crosses his arms. "Did you like kissing me?"

Jongin bites his lip. "It was nice," he says. "I liked it and I don't want to be afraid of exploring more things. But I also don't want you to feel like I'm using you."

"I'd only feel like that if that's what you were doing."

Jongin shakes his head. "I'm just trying to figure things out." For now, he keeps information about how much he likes Chanyeol's company to himself.

"Since you're being very honest with me, I'll be honest with you too," Chanyeol says. Jongin holds his breath, waiting for the bad news. "I'm attracted to you and want to sleep with you. Does that make you uncomfortable?"

It does, but mostly because Jongin's not good with compliments. "That's too honest," he says, drawing his shoulders up in embarrassment.

"You being cute about it isn't helping."

"Oh my god, stop," Jongin says, covering his face with both hands.

"Okay, sorry, I'm being cruel," Chanyeol says, laughing a little. He pulls Jongin's hands away and makes Jongin face him. "How's your hangover doing?"

"Better," Jongin says and places his hands on Chanyeol's chest. "I'm never drinking red wine again though."

"Noted," Chanyeol says, smoothing both thumbs across Jongin's cheekbones. "I want to kiss you again. Is that all right?"

Jongin doesn't even pretend to think about it, was already hoping for it. He nods and licks his lips absently.

The kiss is soft and sweet and makes Jongin's toes curl. His hands drop to Chanyeol's waist, holding on to his shirt loosely as it evolves into something deeper, but still lazy. Kissing has never been Jongin's favorite, but with Chanyeol he has difficulty stopping.

But they do stop, eventually. Chanyeol's lips are shiny and red and Jongin imagines his own to look the same. If a bunch of Spanish maybe-models weren't arriving in a couple hours, Jongin might have the courage to venture a little further.

It's not great timing. Chanyeol is doing a decent job of downplaying how affected he is, but some of it seeps through anyway. It's a little nerve-racking for Jongin, but gives him a power trip too that he's never experienced before. He likes it.

"See you Monday," Chanyeol says, after helping Jongin empty and reload the dishwasher. Something mundane to distract them both.

It takes a long time after Chanyeol leaves for Jongin to sort himself out, to think about things like checking in with the cleaning lady and making a toiletries shopping list for his next trip to Costco and not the image of Chanyeol's messy bird's nest hair that Jongin had wanted to sink his fingers into so he could push Chanyeol onto his knees and —

No, Jongin does not think about anything like that.

+

"Does Junmyeon look pink to you?"

Jongin opens the photo Sehun just sent him. "Oh yeah, he's definitely a nice medium rare there."

"I leave the country not even two weeks!"

Jongin rolls onto his stomach on the couch. A basketball game he stopped paying attention to ages ago continues in the background. "Don't you call him everyday?"

Sehun messes up his hair. He's sitting in bed, propped against the headboard. The sun streaming in gives him a halo. Jongin thinks he looks horrible. "Yeah, but he always forgets by the time he gets on site. I'm not waking up at 3 in the morning just to nag him to wear sunscreen."

"Do you want me to nag for you?" Jongin says, scrolling through his social media apps. He likes a couple of Sehun's photos taken in Hongdae the night before.

"Do you mind? Whenever you can. Honestly, I can't believe someone older than us is so bad at taking care of himself."

Jongin sets a recurring calendar reminder for himself: nag sehun's bf to not become a lobster.

"Anyway, what's going on with you? Have you banged the pool boy yet?" Jongin turns red and forgets that Sehun can see him. "Oh my god, did you actually?"

"No!" Jongin says, his voice almost breaking. "We haven't done anything close to… that."

"We."

Jongin groans and presses his face into the couch cushion. Maybe he can just suffocate. "I kissed him," he mumbles, hoping Sehun won't hear him, but he knows better. "We kissed. A lot." He doesn't know why he keeps offering up more details.

"And? Are you in high school?"

"Considering I've never liked a guy before, much less slept with one, can you chill on the peer pressure?"

Sehun sighs. "All right, fine," he says, eyes tracking the screen, clearly browsing something else. "So what? A weekend of making out and you guys are done?"

Jongin gnaws on the inside of his cheek. He can't believe he's about to ask Sehun this. "Can you tell me what stuff I need to — do more?"

Sehun pauses for a moment, processing Jongin's question. "Did you just ask me to help you with a gay sex shopping list?"

Jongin sits up. "Nevermind, I'll just google what I need," he says hastily.

"Relax," Sehun says, clearly keeping the conversation casual more for Jongin's benefit. "Condoms and lube, that's it. Make sure you get latex-free in case he's allergic."

Jongin leaves his phone on the couch and rubs his face. "Okay, thanks," he mumbles.

"Do you want me to send you 'how to' articles?"

"Please don't," Jongin says, picking up his phone again. He sighs and stares off into space.

"Stop overthinking. It's not that much different from straight people sex."

"I'm trying not to make it into a big deal. I'm trying to be casual and open-minded and 'sexuality is fluid' about it, but I'm also me so I'm not doing a very good job."

"Is it having sex with a guy that's getting to you or the part where this guy is just strolling into your personal bubble and you like it? Because from where I'm standing, the real issue is one of those and you're just trying to cover it up with the other."

Sehun's right, of course. "I wish I never met you," Jongin says.

"Well, I think it's good. You've been mopey about Krystal for a long time, way longer than what's healthy. I wouldn't have guessed gay summer romance as what would get you out of that funk, but I'll take it."

Jongin doesn't tell him about how Chanyeol's already cooked for him three times and they're doing really domestic things like loading the dishwasher together. He doesn't talk about how much he liked just sitting with Chanyeol in front of the fire and the way his chest constricted watching Chanyeol touch his hands. It's true that he's uneasy about how close Chanyeol and he have gotten in a matter of days, but he doesn't admit that as much as it scares him, he already doesn't want to give it up. He doesn't say that this is already barreling out of control to something worse than how he felt about Krystal.

"Yeah," Jongin says, offering Sehun a small smile. "I guess it is good."

+

Monday morning, Jongin makes his Costco trip. On the way back, he stops by the drugstore and walks up and down all the aisles twice before making his way along the one that actually has what he's looking for.

In the checkout line, he buries the condoms and lube behind a bag of peach rings and a can of chicken soup. A mother with a toddler in her arms gets in line with him.

Jongin pays and leaves without making eye contact with anyone.

At home, Chanyeol pulls into the driveway while Jongin is unloading packs of 48-count toilet paper and paper towels from the trunk. He takes the bag from the drugstore before Jongin can stop him and looks inside.

Jongin does not make eye contact with him either and scurries into the house without a word.

But not before noticing the weekender bag Chanyeol had brought with him.

+

While Chanyeol waters the back garden, Jongin sits at the dining table and pretends to be busy on his phone. It is just coincidence that he also has a direct view to the garden. If, later, Jongin chooses to lounge outside and get some sun in just his swim shorts at the same time Chanyeol is cleaning the pool, that's also just coincidence.

Chanyeol doesn't ask to stay and Jongin doesn't extend the invitation. Instead, Chanyeol takes a mid-afternoon nap next to Jongin after he's done. While he dozes, Jongin only gets through 10 pages of the novel he's reading and doesn't remember any of the plot.

For dinner, Chanyeol makes a beef stew. He calls Jongin into the house while it simmers and pins him against the fridge to kiss him slow and filthy until Jongin's knees are weak and he's half hard, arousal pressing against Chanyeol's thigh.

There's a moment when Chanyeol looks at him, gaze heavy and unmistakably filled with desire, but still a pause to let Jongin say no. Jongin doesn't take it and flushes when Chanyeol pushes his shorts down and lifts him up onto the counter. Within minutes, he's coming down Chanyeol's throat with a choked moan, Chanyeol's shirt bunched up in his hands.

Chanyeol doesn't let him feel awkward after about being bare-assed in the kitchen. He kisses up Jongin's stomach and chest, his fingertips following the trail his mouth leaves, and making Jongin feel like he's something precious and fragile. Jongin hops down and reverses their positions, pulling Chanyeol into a wet, messy kiss as he shoves his hand down Chanyeol's shorts. He tastes himself in Chanyeol's mouth as he jerks him off with long, firm strokes and is filled with a sense of pride when Chanyeol buckles against him and spills into Jongin's hand.

Afterward, Jongin's out of breath like he came for a second time, dropping his head to Chanyeol's shoulder as Chanyeol grows soft in his sticky palm. His heart beating a mile a minute is loud in his ears from the adrenaline of what they've just done, but Chanyeol's hand drifting up and down his spine counters it somewhat.

"That was nice," Chanyeol says quietly.

Jongin swallows thickly and nods, slipping his hand out of Chanyeol's shorts before it gets weird. Chanyeol reaches for a paper towel and cleans Jongin off, who is quickly becoming too aware of his nudity. Chanyeol is the one who bends down and grabs the discarded swim trunks, wrinkling his nose when he hands them to Jongin.

"I'm going to go change my underwear," Chanyeol says, letting his hand skim over Jongin's stomach. "The stew should be ready in about five minutes. Do you want me to grab you a shirt?"

Jongin nods and slips his trunks back on after Chanyeol disappears around the corner, then immediately grabs the surface cleaner from under the sink to completely disinfect the counter.

If Chanyeol looks around the kitchen oddly when he returns, Jongin takes his t-shirt and pretends nothing is out of sort.

+

There happens to be a re-run of Avengers on TV. Chanyeol takes the corner chaise and drapes his arm over the back, a silent invitation without any pressure. Jongin sits next to him and has to psych himself up first before he scoots closer and lets his body lean against Chanyeol's.

All Chanyeol does is squeeze his arms around Jongin's shoulders to show he's pleased.

This is not a position Jongin's been in before — literally. Of the few girlfriends he's had, he was always in Chanyeol's spot, being the one his girlfriends cuddled up to, the big spoon. Which is stupid, he knows, that holding someone versus being held have gender roles attached to them, but it doesn't cancel out the fact that this is new.

And he likes it. He realizes it's what ultimately draws him to Chanyeol, the sense of safety he feels whenever Chanyeol is around.

By the middle of the movie, Jongin has shifted even closer with his head tucked under Chanyeol's chin and one arm around Chanyeol's waist. His back is starting to hurt though from the weird angle and he fidgets every couple of minutes trying to get comfortable.

"Are you okay?" Chanyeol says, sounding amused more than anything.

A little embarrassed, but also a little emboldened, Jongin straightens and blurts out, "Can we spoon instead?"

It's clear Chanyeol is caught completely by surprise, but recovers quickly. "Uh, yeah. You want me to be the big spoon?"

"Please," Jongin says, standing to give Chanyeol room to lie down. When he settles in again, Chanyeol's bottom arm slips under Jongin's neck and the other slides around his waist. This is infinitely more comfortable and Jongin lets out a pleased sigh, relaxed enough to take Chanyeol's outstretched arm and pull it to his chest.

Chanyeol catches on and hooks his leg over Jongin's hip, completely enveloping him. "You're seriously the most adorable person I've ever met," he says, kissing the back of Jongin's neck.

Jongin hums, content to fall asleep if he wanted to. If, being the key. He turns his head and smiles a little when Chanyeol drops a kiss to the corner of his mouth. He twists his upper body a little, just enough to curl his hand behind Chanyeol's neck to kiss him properly.

They keep it lazy and unhurried for a while, though Chanyeol's hand sneaks under Jongin's shirt to pet his stomach and trace along the waistband of his shorts. Jongin is the one who initiates more, licking into Chanyeol's mouth and sucking on Chanyeol's bottom lip as he draws back to pull a moan out of him.

"We should stop," Chanyeol says, eyes closed as he mouths at Jongin's jaw, "because I'm going to want more soon."

Jongin can feel Chanyeol against the back of his thigh; he's not fully hard yet, but it probably won't take much to get him there. He responds by grabbing Chanyeol's thigh as he arches his hips back, testing.

Chanyeol groans under his breath. "Fuck, are you sure?"

"I bought stuff this morning," is all Jongin says.

"I know," Chanyeol says, sneaking his hand up Jongin's thigh. "We don't have to do all of that immediately."

"Okay," Jongin breathes, a little relieved honestly. "But something more than earlier."

Chanyeol nods and nudges Jongin to sit up. "Let's get rid of some clothes first," he says, tugging his own shirt off before ridding Jongin's of his.

Immediately, Jongin pushes Chanyeol onto his back and hovers over him, surprised after the fact, but Chanyeol just looks at him in amusement and runs his hands down Jongin's chest. Jongin takes his own time openly staring at Chanyeol's abs, flushing at the little spark that heats deep in his gut when Chanyeol flexes against his hand. Briefly he glances up to see Chanyeol watching on patiently, even if the growing tent in his thin sweats says differently. Jongin breathes in slow and hooks his fingers underneath the elastic.

"I kind of wish I were a little drunk for this," he says, not really knowing where to look.

"I'm pretty sure I need you sober these first few times," Chanyeol says, lifting his hips and pushing his bottoms down for Jongin, everything all in one go. After, he lets his long legs fall on either side of Jongin's hips and runs a hand through Jongin's hair. "On a scale of 1-10, one being totally chill and ten being you're about to bolt, where are you at?"

"Solid five?" It's not like this is the first time Jongin's seen another dick. It's not even the first time he's seen another erection. After all, he's walked in on Sehun and Junmyeon enough times. But it is the first time he's purposely looked at one and this close up too. Not that he's actually looking yet.

"I can work with that," Chanyeol says, cradling Jongin's face. He keeps Jongin's eyes locked on him while he guides Jongin's hand down to his cock, wrapping their fingers around it in a firm grip.

Earlier, with the haze of his orgasm and Chanyeol's clothes blocking the view, Jongin didn't really think about the fact that he was touching another guy's dick on purpose. That's not possible now. He watches Chanyeol's eyes flutter shut and drinks in how he arches a little when Jongin brushes his thumb over the tip. It's a rush to see Chanyeol react openly to such small things and makes him more confident.

Chanyeol's expressions are wonderful to watch, but Jongin forces his gaze down, past the stuttered rise and fall of Chanyeol chest, past the way his stomach sucks in when Jongin twists his hand on an upstroke, until he's seeing the way Chanyeol fits in his hand and watching precome gather at the tip before he smears it along the shaft. He's just following instincts when he moves back and bends over to lick at the head gently.

"Shit," Chanyeol hisses, leaning up on his elbows. "You don't have to."

But Jongin ignores him and does it again, slower, with a little more pressure and loves the way Chanyeol moans and drops his head back. The taste isn't good or bad, nothing too different from his experiences with other people and truthfully, himself. He knows his technique is awkward, so he tries to make up for it by doing to Chanyeol what usually feels good for him, like swirling his tongue around the head and flicking it against the underside. He's grateful for how noisy Chanyeol is because it doesn't give him a chance to be self-conscious when he tries to take most of Chanyeol's length in his mouth, gagging a little when it brushes the back of his throat.

"Oh my god, seriously you don't have to," Chanyeol pants, cupping Jongin's face and pressing his thumb to the corner of Jongin's mouth. "You're getting me close already."

Which only spurs Jongin on more. He moves his lips along Chanyeol's cock faster and sucks harder, moaning around him on purpose.

"Fuck, I'm gonna—" Chanyeol pushes weakly at Jongin's shoulder and Jongin sits up, stroking Chanyeol hard and fast until he's coming onto his own stomach with a groan. The last couple of spurts get on Jongin's hand and he slows down as Chanyeol slumps into the cushions.

Jongin is stupidly aroused, but lets Chanyeol take a moment to recover. He rubs his clean hand over Chanyeol's thigh, biting his lip, then lifts the other up to lick at it curiously.

"Fuck, are you trying to kill me?"

Jongin straightens up in surprise and presses his lips together.

"Come here," Chanyeol says, catching Jongin's elbow to pull him down for a kiss that's lazy and sloppy, Chanyeol licking into Jongin's mouth to taste himself. "You're amazing."

If Jongin were someone who preened, that's exactly what he'd be doing right now. He's gradually getting used to how open Chanyeol is with his compliments and praise and he really, really likes it. He takes Chanyeol's discarded underwear and cleans his hand off, then Chanyeol's stomach. He's barely tossed it aside when he gets pulled down chest to chest, Chanyeol's large hands running down his back to his ass, squeezing firmly.

"Tell me what you want," Chanyeol says, his voice low and dangerous, and heat goes straight to Jongin's groin.

"I don't know," Jongin says, nearly whining, but he's already grinding his hips down, riding Chanyeol's thigh. "Not like this though. Please."

Chanyeol groans. "If you're going to ask nicely like that," he says. "Let me go grab the lube."

Jongin freezes and looks up. "I thought we weren't going that far."

Chanyeol shakes his head. "Something else," he says, sliding his hands under Jongin's shorts. "Want to use my fingers on you. You wanna try or is that too much?"

Jongin swallows. "For today, too much," he says, hesitant, but Chanyeol kisses him softly.

"Okay," he says, and rolls Jongin over. He distracts Jongin with another kiss as he strips him and Jongin's attention is back to how hard he is.

"Please touch me," Jongin says, knowing he can just take himself in his hand, but he wants Chanyeol to bring him off.

Chanyeol sits up and pulls Jongin's lower half onto his lap, wrapping Jongin's legs around himself. "You're fucking gorgeous," he says, his hands roaming every inch of Jongin's skin except where Jongin wants him most. Jongin's about to go out of his mind when Chanyeol finally wraps a hand around his cock and his entire body stiffens, shuddering when Chanyeol tugs up slow and tight. "Watch me," Chanyeol says and Jongin swears he blushes all the way down to his chest.

The sight of Chanyeol's hand around him makes Jongin's dick jerk and he covers his face in embarrassment, even though he can hear Chanyeol curse under his breath. The lazy, smooth slide is almost too slow and he has to fight the urge to thrust into Chanyeol's grip. He just wants to come, doesn't know how to deal with this borderline teasing he's being put through.

Slowly, painstakingly, Chanyeol speeds up his strokes until Jongin is panting, thighs trembling with how close he is. That's when Chanyeol decides to let go.

"No, please," Jongin gasps, thrusting up into nothing. His cock is an angry red, a fat drop of precome sliding down the side. "Chanyeol, please."

"Gorgeous," Chanyeol breathes out, taking Jongin's cock in his hand again, but he doesn't move it. "Come on, take what you need."

So Jongin starts thrusting into Chanyeol's fist, chasing his orgasm and he's so close, but the friction is just short of enough. But then Chanyeol presses his thumb under Jongin's balls at the same time he tightens his grip by a hair and Jongin comes suddenly with a hitched gasp, digging his nails into Chanyeol's thighs.

"There you go," Chanyeol says, working both hands until Jongin is jerking away, sensitive, curling in on himself as he catches his breath.

Chanyeol disappears and comes back with a damp towel, cleaning Jongin off gently. "You good?" he says, carding his fingers through Jongin's hair.

Good is an understatement. Jongin's only come that hard maybe a couple other times and it's not like he's a stranger to rubbing one out. "What did you do to me?" he mumbles, making Chanyeol laugh.

"That wasn't even anything," Chanyeol says, petting Jongin's side. "I got a whole bucket of things to show you."

Jongin stretches and then goes boneless. He hugs Chanyeol's waist. "Want to stay the night not in the guest room?"

Chanyeol brushes a stray lock of hair from Jongin's eyes and answers with a smile.

+

Jongin quickly becomes spoiled.

In the morning, Chanyeol wakes him up with another blowjob, this time taking it slow, swallowing nearly Jongin's entire length over and over again until Jongin comes with a soft sigh.

They break open the lube when Jongin returns the favor by straddling Chanyeol and grinding his ass back, wet and messy. He pins Chanyeol's arms down and makes a quiet noise each time the head of Chanyeol's cock brushes over his hole. He thinks about what it'd be like to be fucked, to have Chanyeol fuck him, and he's pretty sure Chanyeol's thinking the same thing when he shoots up Jongin's back with a strangled moan.

They shower together and waste a ton of water when Chanyeol makes Jongin ride his thigh to another soft, quiet orgasm, two fingers pressed between Jongin's asscheeks.

When they finally get dressed, it's late morning and Jongin is starving. Chanyeol makes them omelettes and again Jongin is struck by how easy this rhythm is between them. He doesn't dwell on it too much, not wanting his habitual over thinking to ruin things.

They share more about themselves. Jongin learns that Chanyeol used to cook for his family a lot, but ever since his older sister got married and he went to college, his parents have taken to traveling the world and now there's no one left for Chanyeol to feed. Until Jongin, that is, explaining the overkill.

Jongin talks about his own sisters, but mostly about the nieces he adores. He even shows Chanyeol photos he's taken since they were born and is proud and pleased when Chanyeol coos over them.

"Seems like you're the type to want kids of your own eventually," Chanyeol says, shifting all of his attention to Jongin after they've finished eating. He's no longer taken aback by it, but it still uses a lot of Jongin's energy to process that one person can be so focused on him.

Jongin shrugs. "I'm still in school, I don't know anything about what I want yet."

"You'd be a cute dad," Chanyeol says, clearing their plates.

Jongin scrolls through his phone without really looking at anything. "I don't think we're at a point where you can make comments about what kind of parent I'd make."

Later, when Jongin is actually able to read his book by the pool, Chanyeol looks over and says, "So at what point can I start making those comments?"

Surrounded in stillness, Jongin turns the page and pretends he doesn't hear the question.

+

Fourth of July rolls around.

The guest house has been booked for a week and a half by a group of college girls from New York. Jongin is dreading the worst and imagines entering a disaster zone after they leave and the damage claims he's going to have to fill out.

"You're being a little presumptuous, aren't you?" Chanyeol says.

Jongin has a blanket spread out in the backyard and is lounging on his stomach in the sun. He had Chanyeol help with putting sunscreen on his back and warned him not to try anything, to which he got a pout, but otherwise it was applied methodically without fuss. He looks at Chanyeol who's moved from watering the rose bushes to the tulips.

"Would you trust yourself on a July 4th vacation with your friends?"

"My idea of a good time could be staying in and playing board games."

Jongin closes his eyes. "Is that true?"

Brief silence and then, "Well, I do like a good board game, but no."

"Exactly."

In the late afternoon warmth, Jongin dozes off. When he wakes again, Chanyeol is sitting cross-legged next to him, leaning over at a weird angle. There's the distinct click of a camera shutter. And another. And another.

Jongin doesn't like when his picture is taken without permission, but he doesn't have it in him to yell at Chanyeol right now. Whatever annoyance he does feel disappears completely when Chanyeol starts stroking his back, occasionally lingering at the top of his spine to massage his neck. The second time he drifts off and wakes, Chanyeol is reapplying sunscreen to his back, more gently this time, and he leaves a kiss behind Jongin's ear when he's done.

"You're going to get tan lines," Chanyeol says, tracing along the waistband of Jongin's shorts.

Jongin hums. "What are you implying?"

"It just looks funny," Chanyeol says, his hand disappearing and reappearing on the back of Jongin's thigh. "When most of you is tan but your butt is still blindingly pale."

"I see."

Chanyeol slides his hand further up Jongin's thigh, rubbing absently. "I'm just saying. Out of concern."

"Your concern is noted."

He can practically hear Chanyeol's pout, but nothing else is said. Jongin rolls onto his back and something falls off his head. Sitting up, he finds a surprisingly well crafted ring of flowers on the ground.

"Did you make this?" he says, studying the crown of purple and pink lilies, with baby's breath tucked in the spaces between.

"Depends." Chanyeol takes the flowers and places it back on Jongin's head. He takes a photo and show it to Jongin after. "Do you like it?"

It's an undeniably good picture. Jongin's gaze is just off center, his eyes clearly on the person behind the camera, and the sunlight streaming in past the trees creates a glow around him. The flowers sit almost daintily atop his head and makes him look, well.

"You're gorgeous," Chanyeol says, setting his phone down. He reaches over and tucks Jongin's hair back behind his ear, then lets his hand rest curled behind Jongin's neck. "Every time I look at you."

The ground could open up right now and swallow Jongin whole and it still wouldn't stop the crippling embarrassment filling every inch of him. "Shut up," he says, shoving Chanyeol's shoulder to push him away, but Chanyeol with his ridiculously long arms just drags Jongin down with him.

The flowers fall off. Jongin picks it up and places it on Chanyeol's head instead. "You're always too honest," he says, avoiding the way Chanyeol stares right at him.

"You don't like it?" Chanyeol says, drawing circles on the small of Jongin's back. "Like, really. I don't want to make you uncomfortable."

Jongin sighs. "No, it's fine," he says, moving off to the side. He uses Chanyeol's arm as a pillow and lets Chanyeol play with his hand, interlacing their fingers together. "I just don't know how to handle it sometimes, what to even say when you call me — those things."

"Gorgeous," Chanyeol says, chuckling. "I call you gorgeous because you are."

"That's what I mean!" Jongin says, poking Chanyeol's chest. "How would you respond if I said that to you?"

Chanyeol grins. "I'd say: I am, aren't I?"

Jongin rolls his eyes. "Well, some of us don't have as much confidence as you do."

"You'll get there," Chanyeol says, matter of fact.

"I like myself as is," Jongin says.

Chanyeol pulls Jongin's arm across his waist and kisses his forehead. "Then seems your confidence is just fine."

Jongin ponders this and finds Chanyeol's phone, placing it back in its owner's hand. "Take some photos of us."

This time, Jongin still doesn't look at the camera, but only because he's too busy laughing into Chanyeol's kiss to care.

+

Chanyeol has Jongin naked on his stomach, leaving a trail of kisses down his spine when he says, "My friend texted to say he's having a belated July 4th get together next weekend. You think you can make it?"

Jongin frowns into his arm. "Make it where?"

Chanyeol straddles Jongin's legs as he brushes his palms across Jongin's shoulders. Jongin barely hides a shiver. "To my friend's thing. He lives near campus. It's not going to be a huge party or anything. Just friends and friends of friends."

"You want me to meet your friend?"

"Friends plural. I do have more than one friend."

Jongin flips over, causing Chanyeol to slide off. "You want me to meet your friends," he says, like repeating it will result in a different answer.

This time, Chanyeol seems to hear the real question. "You don't have to if you don't want to," he says, holding Jongin's hand loosely. "But yes, I'd like it a lot if you came."

This is another moment which highlights how different they are. Chanyeol is ready to have all his friends know about Jongin, but Jongin hasn't even told Sehun Chanyeol's name yet. Sehun still refers to him as 'pool boy' on their semi-regular calls.

"How many people?" Jongin says, not entirely sure if he wants to say yes or no. He's not great at meeting new people and he doesn't know if Chanyeol's friends know anything about him.

"Maybe 20? It'll be a backyard barbecue thing."

Jongin bites his lip. "Can I think about it and tell you my answer later?"

Chanyeol pins Jongin's hands above their heads and kisses him sweetly. "Of course. And it's okay if your answer is no."

Chanyeol's words make Jongin's chest tighten in a not really bad way, but he isn't sure if he's ready to call it good either. It does, however, do enough to make him say, "I want to try tonight."

It takes a moment for Chanyeol to catch on and his eyes widen slightly when he does. "Are you sure?"

Jongin nods, confident.

The box of condoms he had purchased a couple weeks ago has still gone mostly unused. Mostly, because a few nights ago, Chanyeol had asked if Jongin wanted to fuck him and, after the mental recovery, let Chanyeol talk him through prep. It had been — well, not life changing or anything, but still pretty amazing, watching the way Chanyeol took his fingers and then him. At one point he had to stop if he wanted to last more than two minutes, and had felt a rush when he made Chanyeol come first, barely having to touch him at all.

Chanyeol kisses him again, a little rough around the edges, but still warm and reassuring. Jongin directs all his attention to kissing back so his nerves don't get the best of him.

They still bubble up when Chanyeol moves away to grab the lube from the nightstand and a condom from the drawer. He closes his eyes for a moment, listening to Chanyeol settle back in.

"We really don't have to," Chanyeol says, his hand warm when it rests on Jongin's stomach. "I don't want to force you into anything."

Jongin shakes his head, pulling Chanyeol down again. "I want to, really," he says, spreading his legs some and he doesn't miss the way Chanyeol's gaze darkens. "I promise I'm okay."

Nodding, Chanyeol sits back and runs his hands along Jongin's inner thighs. It tickles slightly and makes Jongin squirm, trying not to laugh. That lessens the tension somewhat and he's able to relax a little, even when he sees Chanyeol pour lube onto his fingers.

"Just going to start with one," Chanyeol says, and Jongin nods. Part of him hopes Chanyeol won't be narrating this whole experience.

The initial touch causes Jongin to tense briefly, from surprise and the cold of the lube. He gets over it quickly by taking a deep breath and stares at the ceiling, willing himself to stay relaxed. Chanyeol's finger slides in slow, but steady, and the foreign pressure feels weird more than uncomfortable.

Of course Chanyeol is watching his face like a hawk, ready to stop at any sign of distress. Jongin offers a small smile and a nod, breathing in and out evenly as Chanyeol starts to move. Again, it's not bad, but he distinctly remembers Chanyeol enjoying this part more than him and voices this out loud.

"That's because I haven't done this yet," Chanyeol says, then curls his finger slightly as he draws back and Jongin practically sees stars. Heat races down his spine and pools in his gut. His cock, which had been soft still, fills embarrassingly fast as Chanyeol fucks him a couple times with just one finger.

"Oh my god," Jongin groans, throwing an arm over his face. Peeking under, he can see Chanyeol look a mix of awed and up to no good.

"Shit, you're sensitive," Chanyeol says, staring at Jongin's cock sticking straight up in the air. "Have you never done this to yourself before?"

Face still hidden, Jongin shakes his head. "Fuck, this is embarrassing," he mumbles, closing his eyes when Chanyeol makes him move his arm away.

"It's not," Chanyeol says, twisting his finger in a very calculated way that forces a loud gasp out of Jongin. "It's fucking hot. Can I add another?"

Jongin nods, already feeling like putty. He stares at the ceiling when he feels two fingers press against him and bites his lip when Chanyeol pushes inside. He definitely feels it this time and tries to relax like Chanyeol's telling him to, but it's no use when Chanyeol crooks his fingers just right and he clamps down, a shudder rolling through him.

"Fuck, fuck," Chanyeol murmurs, sloppy when he kisses Jongin. "Can't believe how good you are."

Jongin doesn't know how he's going to get through this when just two fingers are getting him this worked up. The second he relaxes in the slightest, Chanyeol moves to press against his prostate and Jongin is gone again, gasps and moans leaving him when he's usually quiet during sex. It's actually a little scary, how these reactions are out of his control, and he reaches down to grip Chanyeol's wrist to get him to stop, curling onto his side.

"Did I hurt you?" Chanyeol says, removing his fingers.

Jongin shakes his head quickly. "It's just a lot," he says, taking a deep breath. "It's good, I'm just."

Chanyeol rubs Jongin's side. "Too intense?"

Jongin nods. He's still rock hard and if he had let Chanyeol continue he probably would've come in under a minute. "Why isn't it like this for you?"

"I wish I were as sensitive as you," Chanyeol says, coaxing Jongin onto his back again. "Also full disclosure, I'm going to do this to you so much from now on."

Jongin groans picturing it, conflicted between the anxiety it spikes but also wanting it just as much. He feels Chanyeol's fingers again and bites his lip, his face heating up when he catches how hungry Chanyeol's gaze looks when he presses in. This time, Chanyeol forgoes being gentle and immediately starts massaging that spot and Jongin outright shouts in surprise, covering his mouth to try and hold it in.

His cock is leaking precome nonstop and it collects in a sticky pool on his stomach. His orgasm is rushing up on him and he whines, pushing Chanyeol away again as he scoots up the bed, breathing hard.

"I don't — I was going to," he says, trailing off when he sees the tent in Chanyeol's underwear. He swallows, finding his voice again. "I want you to fuck me."

Chanyeol moves like lightening, shucking his boxers off and practically pouncing on Jongin, pulling him into a kiss that goes right to Jongin's dick, not that he needs the extra motivation.

"Are you prepped enough, though?" Chanyeol says, reaching for the condom. He unwraps it and rolls it on. "I only did two fingers."

Jongin looks at Chanyeol's cock and closes his eyes briefly. "Just. Use a lot of lube."

"Well, that's a boost for my self-esteem," Chanyeol says, situating himself between Jongin's legs.

"Please shut up, that's not what I meant."

"I'm going to pretend it was," Chanyeol says, pulling Jongin higher on his lap. He's been extremely generous with the lube and Jongin is already dreading doing the laundry tomorrow.

The press of Chanyeol's cock against Jongin makes them both go quiet. Jongin gives one nod and forces himself to stay relaxed when Chanyeol starts to push in.

"Fuck," Chanyeol mutters, strained, going slow. Jongin can tell how much he's controlling himself and rubs his arms in appreciation while he works through the stretch.

Chanyeol gives Jongin a second when he's all the way in. Jongin mostly marvels at how he has an entire dick in him right now, both a size thing and a 'this is really happening' thing.

"Tell me you're good," Chanyeol says, forehead pressed to Jongin's shoulder.

Jongin cups Chanyeol's face and tilts it up for a kiss as he shifts his hips to test how it feels. He had fretted and built this part up so much, but Chanyeol had made it easy. He presses a more chaste kiss to Chanyeol's lips and nods.

"I'm good."

The first thrust Chanyeol only pulls halfway out, but leaves Jongin weak already. The push pull slide over his prostate is a different intense than when Chanyeol was using his fingers. He doesn't see himself lasting any longer like this.

Soon, Chanyeol is fucking him with deep, heavy thrusts, his hips slapping against Jongin's ass. It's the most serious Jongin has ever seen him and he would make some smartass comment about it if he didn't find it so sexy and if he could focus on anything other than the blinding white pleasure spreading through him which each drop of Chanyeol's hips.

He doesn't recognize he's coming until it's too late, choking out Chanyeol's name as the tension in his gut suddenly snaps. It's intense and foreign and Jongin watches incredulous as he spills onto his stomach without being touched, moaning loud as Chanyeol fucks him through it.

"I'm gonna keep going," Chanyeol says, visibly affected by seeing Jongin come. Jongin isn't even able to give an answer as Chanyeol starts fucking him faster, gasping as the pleasure quickly turns into sensitivity.

It hurts, but in a good way, and in the back of his mind Jongin knows he's making too much noise again, breath hitching between moans of Chanyeol's name, but he can't stop. His body jerks each time Chanyeol's cock rubs over his prostate and he stares up at Chanyeol, breathless.

"I can't," he whines, figuring out what Chanyeol wants from him.

But Chanyeol just kisses him hard and grips his waist tighter. "You can," he says, snapping his hips and grinding against Jongin. "Come on, be good for me."

Jongin arches at those words, trembling as he tries to grind back.

"Do you like when I tell you to be good?" Chanyeol says, sliding his hands up Jongin's sides. He pulls Jongin's arms over his head and pins them there with a single hand. "The way you like when I call you gorgeous."

Jongin's next inhale is a shuddering gasp, Chanyeol's touch and words leaving him exposed. Chanyeol's right, but he doesn't want to admit it, not that he can form words right now anyway.

"Come for me again," Chanyeol says, hitching Jongin's hips higher. He's rubbing right over Jongin's prostate with every push and pull and it's so much, but it's also so, so good.

"Fuck," Jongin sobs weakly, back arching as Chanyeol gets him closer and closer.

"Come on, come on," Chanyeol says, lips pressed to Jongin's pulse point. "Show me."

When Jongin comes for the second time, it's exhausting. His cock is barely half hard and spits out a pitiful amount of come. The pleasure is too sharp, overwhelming, and just short of painful, but Chanyeol is telling him he's perfect and gorgeous and good so he rides it out, trembling and swallowing large, gasping breaths.

He feels Chanyeol come moments later, buried deep, and whines softly when Chanyeol's nails dig into his skin. After, Chanyeol presses his face to Jongin's neck, his shoulders heaving with how hard he's breathing, and suddenly all Jongin wants is to kiss him but he's too wiped out and boneless to ask for it.

Eventually, Chanyeol pushes up enough to nudge Jongin's cheek with his nose and Jongin automatically turns his face to kiss him lazily, needing the comfort still as they recover. When they part, Chanyeol considers him with a look that's unsettling, too laden with something Jongin doesn't want to put words to, but the moment passes and Chanyeol kisses him one more time before detaching himself to clean up.

No longer distracted by being fucked into next year, Jongin realizes how gross he is, covered in his own bodily fluids. Chanyeol appears with a damp towel just then and wipes him down, gentle as always, and Jongin almost pulls him down for another kiss.

Chanyeol is surprisingly quiet when he crawls back into bed. Usually he's peppering Jongin with questions or rambling about some obscure topic which Jongin only half listens to.

Tonight, he just pulls Jongin in with a quiet "good night" and Jongin, drained, falls asleep before he can decide if he's imagining being held closer and tighter.

+

That odd tension doesn't reappear again.

The girls from New York leave on Wednesday morning and the worst they leave behind is a bunch of empty wine bottles in the backyard, which exceeds Jongin's expectations. The cleaning lady shows up around noon to tidy up the house.

She leaves at two and by 2:30 Chanyeol has Jongin naked out on the daybed by the pool, working three fingers into him until Jongin is coming with a broken moan onto the towel laid out beneath.

"Fuck," Chanyeol hisses, leaving his fingers in while Jongin clenches around them, his other hand pumping Jongin's cock slowly. It's no secret he has no intention to have this be Jongin's only orgasm.

It had taken a little bit of coaxing to get Jongin's clothes off outside, promises of how private the property is. But the open air is nice against his skin and he sort of likes the thrill of knowing that someone could see him, but it won't really happen.

He's barely recovered when Chanyeol starts fucking him again, slow at first knowing that Jongin is sensitive but gradually speeding up.

"You can take it," Chanyeol says when Jongin whimpers, his body trying to move away. He kisses Jongin's hip and pets his back, murmuring more encouragements when Jongin starts to fuck back onto his fingers.

Jongin's entire body tenses for a drawn out moment before he comes again, shaking and panting hard. He focuses on Chanyeol's hand stroking the back of his thigh as he comes down and surprises himself when he stops Chanyeol from slipping his fingers out, wanting something to squeeze around as he works through the aftershocks.

"Holy shit, you're amazing," Chanyeol says, undeniably in awe.

Jongin slumps onto his side and makes a quiet noise when Chanyeol's hand falls away in the process. His cock lays soft, but heavy against his thigh. His mind screams that Chanyeol is too far away, but he doesn't say anything out loud.

Chanyeol is also too clothed, still in his tank and shorts. His erection is obvious, but it's like he doesn't even notice.

"You haven't given me an answer about this weekend yet," Chanyeol says, walking his fingers up the side of Jongin's thigh.

That's the last thing Jongin expected him to say. He hasn't given an answer yet because he still doesn't have one. When he had called Sehun about it the other day, it left him more confused than before.

"What are you so hung up on?" Sehun had said and Jongin couldn't answer that either. "You guys are fucking, he's a nice dude and wants you to chill with him and his friends."

But that was exactly it: you guys are fucking.

They've never talked about what this is. If, on the days they don't see each other, Chanyeol is fucking someone else too. And if he isn't, what does he see Jongin as?

Jongin doesn't ask because both possible answers scare him in different ways.

"Hey, you really don't have to go if you don't want to," Chanyeol says, brows furrowed in concern. He moves to spoon up behind Jongin, kissing his shoulder. "You look terrified. It's not a big deal."

It's not a big deal, but Jongin's been agonizing over it for days.

"But you want me to," Jongin says, as they both ignore Chanyeol's dick pressing into the small of his back.

"Yeah."

The thing is if Jongin really wanted to say no, he would've done so already. So he takes a deep breath and says, "Okay, I'll go."

"Really?" Chanyeol says, sounding so hopeful and excited that it makes Jongin's chest ache a little.

Jongin nods and turns back to kiss Chanyeol softly. "Now are you going to fuck me or not?"

Chanyeol does, just as they are on their sides. The position doesn't let him go fast, but it's still good and he manages one more orgasm out of Jongin, pressing in deep and pausing to let the pleasure work through Jongin's body, so it's not too overwhelming. When Chanyeol finally comes, Jongin thinks about how quickly Chanyeol's become in tune with Jongin's body and how it's always his focus each time they're together like this.

After, Chanyeol keeps him close and murmurs praise into his ear as if Jongin was the one doing all the work. For once, Jongin shoves down his worries and lets himself bask in it, feeling sated and secure.

Happy.

+

Chanyeol does most of the talking during the hour long drive into the city. Jongin is curled up knees to his chest in the passenger seat, occasionally reaching over to skip past songs streaming from Chanyeol's phone.

He listens to Chanyeol talk about his friends who'll be there.

"I think you'll like all of them, but you'll probably get along with Kyungsoo the most," Chanyeol says, resting his hand on Jongin's knee. "He's a bit quiet too, but he's good about not putting up with the rest of our antics."

They're 20 minutes out, just crossing the bay when Jongin says, "Do they know about me?"

Chanyeol doesn't seem to understand. "Yeah? I mean I told them you were coming."

"But how." Jongin stops and shakes his head. "Sorry, nevermind."

Chanyeol exits the freeway and comes to a stop at a light. He reaches across for Jongin's hand. "What is it?"

Jongin forces a smile. "It's nothing. I'm just a little nervous." He can tell Chanyeol doesn't believe him, so he squeezes Chanyeol's hand to keep him from pushing the issue.

The sounds of a summer backyard barbecue are clear the moment Jongin gets out of the car. Chanyeol grabs a pack of beer they bought along the way and slings his arm around Jongin as they make their way around back.

"Park Chanyeol!!!"

Chanyeol leaves Jongin's side to greet his friends in a flurry of back thumping hugs and equal amounts of yelling. Jongin stands back awkwardly until Chanyeol turns back and waves him forward.

"Guys, this is Jongin," he says, hand pressed against Jongin's back. "He goes to Stanford."

A series of impressed teasing leaves Jongin's face red. He waves shyly and says a quiet hello.

"Now Kyungsoo won't be the sole resident genius," the one Chanyeol introduced as Jongdae says. His grin makes him seem easygoing and approachable. "He goes to Stanford too."

Kyungsoo does look like someone Jongin would get along with. He rolls his eyes at Jongdae, but smiles openly at Jongin. "Ignore them, they're insufferable when they're all together."

"How did you meet them if you don't go to Berkeley?"

"Yeah, where did we find you?" That's Baekhyun, the one who had screamed Chanyeol's name.

"I don't know, but I wish you hadn't," Kyungsoo deadpans. It draws a quiet laugh out of Jongin.

"Anyway, glad you're here," Jongdae says, dragging Chanyeol toward the grill. "Baekhyun almost caught everything on fire and I actually want to eat something that's not a briquette today."

Chanyeol's laughter and Baekhyun's defensive squawking echo behind them. Jongin startles a little when Kyungsoo presses a beer into his hand.

"Come on," he says, tipping his head. "I'll introduce you to everyone else."

+

Just as Chanyeol predicted, Jongin finds Kyungsoo easiest to relax with. When he's not by Chanyeol's side, he's sitting next to Kyungsoo somewhere chatting about anything and everything.

Including Chanyeol.

"I'm glad you came," Kyungsoo says as they watch an extremely inelegant game of beer pong. Baekhyun and Chanyeol are losing badly. "We were all curious to meet the guy Chanyeol wouldn't stop talking about."

Jongin blushes, but also bites back a smile. He picks at the label on his bottle, wilted from condensation. "Has he," says, picking the right words. Not dated. "Talked about a lot of guys before?"

Kyungsoo studies him, clearly seeing through his question. "Only a couple. But it's been different when he talks about you."

"Oh," Jongin says quietly.

"Is that okay?"

Jongin shrugs, not sure how much he wants to share about something so private to him. "Yeah, I guess so. I'm just not used to it, being around someone so, I don't know."

"Someone with no filter," Kyungsoo fills in, laughing a little. "You can say it, it's no secret around here."

Jongin smiles. "We're just very different in that regard," he says. "I haven't even told my best friend Chanyeol's name yet."

"Are you uncomfortable that Chanyeol's told us about you?"

Jongin shakes his head quickly, but then shrugs. He looks over at Chanyeol and their eyes meet for a second. Chanyeol waves at him with both hands, channeling an overexcited puppy, and Jongin smiles in return. "We haven't had any conversations about what we are," he says, looking back at Kyungsoo, then at the ground. "He's also, um, the first guy I've been with, so this is all very new."

Kyungsoo rests a comforting hand on Jongin's arm. "Just ask him," he says, squeezing before he lets go. "Things are never complicated with Chanyeol."

"I know," Jongin says, rubbing the back of his neck. "I'm still trying to figure out what answer I want to hear."

Kyungsoo doesn't say anything else and Jongin curls up in his chair, lost in his thoughts as he continues watching Chanyeol. It's like seeing a different person since Chanyeol's never this loud or raucous with him. He laughs quietly when Chanyeol uses his height and pulls Baekhyun into a headlock, yelling that it's his turn to drink.

A few people take off as the hours go by, but even more people show up once the sun starts to set. Baekhyun's girlfriend is one of them, accompanied by a few of her friends. Jongin's blood runs cold when he sees a familiar silhouette amongst them.

"Taeyeon!" Chanyeol shouts, getting up and running over to greet Baekhyun's girlfriend in a hug. She is tiny and practically disappears into his body with a squeak.

Jongin mumbles to Kyungsoo that he needs the bathroom and disappears into the house. He locks himself in the downstairs one and tries not to panic.

Krystal's here.

Why is she here? How does she know Chanyeol and his friends? Did she see Jongin?

Someone knocks on the door and Chanyeol's voice calls him from outside. "You okay? You've been in there a while. Kyungsoo said you looked a little sick."

Jongin takes a few deep breaths that don't do anything to help. He can't stay in here forever, but he also can't bring himself to open the door.

"Jongin? Can I come in?"

Jongin's mind blanks. He fumbles for his phone and calls Sehun, praying he'll pick up.

"Mmphhello?"

Oh, thank god. "Krystal's here," Jongin says in a rush, crouching down. "I'm locked in the bathroom. Chanyeol's outside. Please tell me what to do."

"Wait, hold on," Sehun slurs. "What?"

"Chanyeol invited me to a friend's thing and Krystal just showed up. I don't know what to do!"

"Who's Chanyeol?"

Jongin tugs at his hair. "The guy. The pool boy. Sehun, please."

"Jongin, seriously, are you okay?" Chanyeol sounds a little scared and Jongin feels bad, but his brain is shutting down on him.

"Is that him? Tell him you're fine, that you'll be out in a couple minutes."

Jongin does as told.

"Are you sure?" Chanyeol says, relieved.

"Yeah," Jongin says, making his voice steady. "Sorry for worrying you."

"All right, come find me when you're done."

Jongin waits for his footsteps to disappear. "Fuck, Sehun. What the fuck."

"Dude, you're fine. Just relax."

"I'm not fine," Jongin says, squeezing his eyes shut. "The ex whose breakup fucked me up for months is here and I'm here with another guy."

"So? You think she's gonna judge you for liking dick? Or she's gonna tell everyone in detail why she broke up with you?"

"I don't know!"

"You wanted to avoid her forever, I get it. But it didn't happen. Honestly, you should use this opportunity to get some closure."

"Nothing you're saying is helping."

Sehun sighs. "Look. We're best friends, so I'm going to use my right to be brutally honest. You need to get over her. She didn't cheat on you or lead you on. All she did was end the relationship when she knew she and you had different expectations. Stop thinking you could've done something to change that. It's also not fair to the person you're seeing."

Jongin really hates it when Sehun is right, but he always ends up grateful he has someone to knock sense into him.

"Your two minutes are up. Go be an adult."

Dread still sits heavy in Jongin's stomach. He hangs up and looks in the mirror, trying to psych himself up. It doesn't really work, but he forces himself to face reality anyway. He can't have Chanyeol's friends remember him as the guy who hid in the bathroom for an entire evening.

It's easy to spot Chanyeol outside since he towers over almost everyone. He's standing around chatting with Kyungsoo and Baekhyun and Baekhyun's girlfriend. Krystal is there too. The urge to vomit is back.

Chanyeol notices him, obviously having been monitoring the door waiting for Jongin to come back. He waves Jongin over and it takes a second for Jongin to get his legs to work, his feet feeling like blocks of lead with each step.

Jongin focuses on a spot over Chanyeol's shoulder when he walks up, though his back prickles knowing Krystal's recognized him by now. She doesn't say anything.

Chanyeol touches his wrist lightly. "You okay?" he says quietly, so only Jongin hears. "Do we need to leave?"

Jongin gives a weak smile and shakes his head. "I'll manage."

Chanyeol frowns for a second, but doesn't push. He turns back to the group and introduces Jongin. It's then that Jongin realizes it's not just Krystal he knows. A couple of her friends are present too and he can tell none of them miss the way Chanyeol has his arm slung low around Jongin's waist. He made a mistake. He can't do this.

Jongin jerks away like he's been scalded. It only keeps everyone's attention on him. Chanyeol is frowning again when he says, "What's the matter?"

Jongin shakes his head. "Sorry, I'm just going to. Get something to drink."

He walks away quickly and heads over to the coolers. Jongdae is standing nearby and slaps his shoulder.

"I know we just met today, so sorry if I'm being too blunt, but you look like you're gonna be sick."

Jongin rubs his face and grabs a bottle of water. Alcohol is the last thing that would help him right now. "I know," he says, after downing half of it. "Um. My ex is here."

"Oh. Does Chanyeol know?"

Jongin shakes his head. "My ex probably also didn't expect to see me with a guy."

"Ohhh, it's an ex-girlfriend. Yeah, that all explains why you'd look sick."

Jongin laughs a little, finding it strangely comforting that Jongdae is treating this so casually while he's about to have a mental breakdown.

Jongdae glances past Jongin's shoulder. "Not sure which one your ex is, but some girl is walking in this direction right now and I definitely don't know her." He pats Jongin again. "Good luck."

Jongin counts to three in his head and turns around. Something twists in his chest the moment he makes eye contact with Krystal, and all the feelings he had for her threaten to drown him. She hasn't changed in the least, still as pretty as the day they stopped talking.

"Hi," she says, offering a small smile. Her hair has been dyed a warm auburn and falls in soft waves past her shoulders. "I didn't expect to see you here."

It takes a second for Jongin to find his voice. "Yeah, um, me neither."

"How have you been?"

Jongin presses his lips together. "Are you asking expecting a polite answer or an honest one?"

Krystal looks a little surprised at Jongin's bluntness. He's surprised too. "The honest one, I suppose," she says. "I know I broke up with you, but that doesn't mean I stopped caring."

"Don't say things like that," Jongin mutters.

"It's true though," Krystal says, brushing her hair back. She moves to stand next to Jongin and watches the others milling around. "People told me you took the breakup badly. But I already knew when I did it you weren't going to handle it well."

Jongin wishes he had taken Chanyeol's offer to leave. "Thanks for the vote of confidence?"

"Because I knew you, Jongin," she says, and it's not accusatory, just nostalgic and a little regretful. "I saw how you looked at me, how you probably had all these plans for us."

She isn't wrong. If they had stayed together, Jongin would be looking at engagement rings by now.

"I knew what you wanted was more serious than what I could ever be ready for," Krystal continues. "I'm sorry for hurting you like that, for blindsiding you when you thought we were perfect, but I don't regret it."

Jongin's chest hurts. "Was there anything I could've done where you would've stayed?"

Krystal turns to him and suddenly all Jongin wants to do is hold her because the way she's looking at him reminds him so much of when they were together. That shatters when she shakes her head. "You were already in love with me, but I didn't love you."

Finally hearing it out loud hurts more than Jongin wants it to. He laughs bitterly once and kicks at the ground, but there's also this sense of relief that washes over him. Maybe now he really can stop obsessing over what went wrong, what he could've done better.

"I really loved you," he says, looking at her again.

She doesn't waver. "I know."

"I was so in love with you." This time he says it with an acceptance that they would've turned out the same no matter what. Krystal loops her arm around Jongin's and rests her head on his shoulder.

"But there's someone else now, right?" she says. Jongin suddenly realizes Chanyeol must be watching, but doesn't want to look over to have it confirmed. He carefully moves away from Krystal, not wanting his actions to be misunderstood by anyone. Krystal doesn't seem to mind. "I asked Taeyeon about Chanyeol. He sounds like a great guy."

Jongin nods. "He's. It's new."

Krystal bites her lip before smiling at him. "Even if it is, he looks at you like you're the only person here."

Jongin ducks his head. He doesn't know how to accept that kind of compliment or how to talk to his ex about the new person he's with. "We're not even really official."

Krystal laughs, tucking her hair behind her ear. "Sweetie, you guys are official. You might not have said it out loud to each other, but it's clear to everyone here."

Jongin's stomach does flips at the thought.

"Also, I think he's been itching to check on you since I came over," Krystal says. She leans up and kisses him on the cheek, barely a brush of her lips, and rubs his arm. "Don't be a stranger in the future, okay?"

Jongin's still watching her walk off to join her friends again when Chanyeol appears by his side. He looks over and is surprised to see that Chanyeol seems nervous.

"There's some stuff I need to tell you later," Jongin says unprompted. There's too many people around, but he wants to be the one to reassure and comfort this time, so he steps close and slides his arms around Chanyeol's waist.

Baekhyun walks by making gross cooing noises, but Jongin ignores him with minimal embarrassment. If they're being teased anyway then he might as well go all the way and leans up to press his lips to Chanyeol's. It's chaste and sweet, but he can feel Chanyeol relax.

"I'm glad you're feeling better," Chanyeol says.

This time, Jongin doesn't miss the way Chanyeol looks at him.

+

There's a noticeable difference between them after they return from Baekhyun's. Jongin initiates more of their physical contact, sometimes dragging Chanyeol onto the couch to spend entire afternoons making out until their lips are red and numb.

On the hottest days, they skinny dip in the pool, wrestling around in the water until they're aroused from all the contact. Then they fuck on the daybed where they've recently discovered how much they like it when Jongin rides Chanyeol; Jongin because he can control how quickly he gets off and Chanyeol because he can watch it all happen.

July comes to a close and they still haven't spoken about what happened at Baekhyun's yet. Jongin knows Chanyeol has been waiting for him to bring it up, has been so patient while Jongin figures out everything he wants to say.

Jongin returns from another bulk shopping run to Chanyeol already in the kitchen. It smells like pasta tonight. While he's putting everything away, he thinks about how normal this has become. He runs errands or lounges around the house, hasn't worried about what to eat for dinner for months because Chanyeol is always making something and freezing the leftovers. He thinks about how long others have to be together before they get to this point and wonders if it matters that they're doing everything out of order.

He shuffles back to the kitchen and watches Chanyeol for a bit. Chanyeol's baseball cap is on backwards and he's shirtless with just a pair of loose sweatpants on, dancing old man moves again as he stirs something in a pot. Jongin finds him utterly attractive.

Chanyeol spins around to grab something and startles when he sees Jongin, letting out a clipped shout. "Oh my god, are you stalking me? Why are you just standing there like a creep?"

Jongin pouts and walks over, punching Chanyeol in the shoulder. "I don't look like a stalker or a creep."

Chanyeol loops one arm around Jongin's waist and pecks him on the lips. He tastes like tomato sauce. "I know, you look like someone's cute boyfriend instead."

Jongin's eyes widen, but Chanyeol's expression is calm and unreadable. "I'm not cute," he says, quiet and nervous. Chanyeol's sudden smile is hard to look at directly.

"You're a little cute right now," says Chanyeol right before he gives Jongin a kiss that makes Jongin's stomach do flips.

Just like that, the inconsequential issue of what they are is resolved. Nothing is different. Chanyeol makes Jongin taste the pasta sauce and Jongin says it needs more kick. While it simmers, Chanyeol pushes Jongin into a chair and straddles his lap, shutting up Jongin's complaints about his weight with more toe curling kisses.

While they eat, Jongin finally talks about Krystal. He talks about how hard he fell for her and how hurt and humiliated he was to find she didn't feel the same. How he spent a pitiful year obsessing over what could've been different.

"It's not pitiful," Chanyeol says. He's listened without any judgment this whole time and hooks his ankle around Jongin's as a small gesture of comfort. "You were hurt. There's no wrong or right way to deal with that."

Jongin pushes his spaghetti around and sits back, picking at his cuticles. "Being with you is scary in the same way," he says, staring at his hands. "You came out of nowhere and it's only been a couple months but you're making dinner for me all the time and honestly, I still don't think I've fully processed that I'm with a guy and—" He stops to take a breath and covers his face with his hands. "Sorry, I don't know where that came from."

"Do you want to be with me though?"

Jongin drops his hands. "What?"

"Two months ago I asked if you liked kissing me, you said yes, so we went from there. Now I'm asking if you like being with me."

"It's not that simple."

Chanyeol shrugs. "To me it is."

Jongin tries to figure out how the mood shifted so much. "The questions important to you are different than what's important to me."

"Tell me what they are. I'll answer all of them."

Will you think I require too much attention? Will you think I'm boring? Will you get annoyed when I want things to happen a certain way? If I admit I'm falling for you, will you tell me the same or will it hurt with you too? How much would it hurt with you?

"I need some air," Jongin says, despite the fact that the patio doors are wide open. He walks outside and sits at the edge of the pool. Chanyeol doesn't follow him out.

He takes his phone out, knowing he needs some sense knocked into him again.

7:24pm jongin: im fucking up w chanyeol
7:26pm sehun: im calling ur stupid ass

Jongin picks up on the second ring.

"Explain," Sehun says instead of hello.

Jongin rubs his face. "I was telling him about Krystal and then things, I don't know, spiraled into talking about us and I did my usual thing."

"Where you overthink things and get scared of everything that could possibly go wrong but hasn't even happened yet."

"I — yeah. That. Thanks."

"He's not Krystal."

Again, right to the point. Jongin lies back on the deck and closes his eyes. "I know that."

"Do you?"

"Yeah, it's just," Jongin says, biting his lip. "It's worse than how it was with her. There's lots of stuff I haven't told you."

"Christ. Let me sit down for this." Jongin listens to Sehun talk to someone and hears Junmyeon's voice in the background. He must be spending weekends up here again now that Sehun's back stateside. "Okay, go ahead, tell me how it's worse."

Jongin tells him about the domesticity and all the things Chanyeol does to take care of him. The evenings where they just lounge around outside and Chanyeol asks Jongin to read aloud from his book even though he has no context of the plot and cards his fingers through Jongin's hair. All the dumb jokes Chanyeol cracks that shouldn't be funny, but Jongin can't stop laughing at them anyway. All the physical affection he doesn't even register until he realizes Chanyeol's spent half the day hanging off of him.

"Stop, stop, stop. I'm about to drive up there and literally kick your ass."

"Why?"

"Is pool boy still there or did he go home?"

Jongin cranes his neck back. He can see Chanyeol cleaning up in the kitchen. "He's loading the dishwasher."

"Jesus effing Christ, I cannot believe you two. Get up and walk over to him."

"What?"

"Get up right now."

Jongin stumbles to his feet and faces the house. Chanyeol looks up as he washes his hands. A part of Jongin expects him to look annoyed, but he can't detect anything of the sort. "I don't understand what you want me to do."

"Stop questioning and do as I say."

Jongin lets out an aggravated groan, but makes his way back inside. He stops at the entrance of the kitchen. "I'm here," he mutters.

"Right in front of him?"

"...Mostly."

"Kim Jongin, my car keys are in my hand, so help me god."

"Will you chill out?" Jongin says, rounding the kitchen island until he's standing a foot away from Chanyeol, who's watching him mostly in amusement. "Okay, now I'm really here."

"It's like pulling teeth. All right, look at him and repeat after me: I apologize for being a coward about my feelings when it comes to people I'm head over heels for."

Jongin's goes stock still. He can't even formulate a reply. The quirk of Chanyeol's brow says he can hear everything on the other end.

Sehun barrels on: "My ex-girlfriend really fucked me up because once I open up to someone I am very emotionally fragile and I am terrified that I like you more than you like me."

"Oh Sehun," he manages to grit out "Shut up."

"But I'm practically in love with you, so please assuage my irrational fears by telling me you're head over heels for me too and keep being cute and domestic with me."

Jongin is gripping the phone so hard the edges are digging into his bones. Chanyeol steps in and pries it away.

"Sehun, right?" he says, taking a few steps so Jongin can't hear the rest of the conversation. "Yeah, thanks. I think I can take it from here." He laughs a little. "I'll work on convincing him not to murder you too."

Chanyeol sets the phone on the counter then wraps his arms tight around Jongin, not saying a single word. Jongin is still shaking from anger at being exposed like that and it takes a while for him to stop seeing red. When Chanyeol pulls back, he cups Jongin's face with both hands and sweeps his thumbs under Jongin's eyes.

"I'm not saying this because I think you're a coward or irrational, but because I want you to know. I've been head over heels for you for a while."

Jongin doesn't allow Chanyeol to let go of him for a long time.

+

Eventually Jongin forgives Sehun. It takes a lot of unreplied to texts and missed calls, but he does. Sehun actually sounds like he's about to cry when Jongin finally answers one of his calls after Junmyeon texts him to say the cold shoulder has gone on long enough.

"Why'd you do it?" Jongin says, waving at Chanyeol when he runs in to grab the garage keys. He still can't believe Chanyeol insists on doing yardwork. ("I promised your mom!")

"You would've too if you had heard yourself," Sehun says. "You never spoke about Krystal that way. I didn't want you to lose out on something good just because you were scared."

Jongin falls onto the couch. "I guess your intentions were good, even if your execution was shit."

"Sorry about the shit execution."

"Whatever," Jongin says, mostly uncomfortable at having real heart to hearts with Sehun. "Do you and Junmyeon want to come up before the semester starts? You can meet Chanyeol."

"Will he cook for us?"

"Probably. But I'm not going to make him."

"Please make him. Junmyeon almost burned down the kitchen the other day just boiling water. I don't even remember what real food tastes like."

They talk for another hour about the classes they signed up for, the schools Junmyeon is planning on applying to after he completes his Ph.D., and if they should head back to Seoul together over winter break.

When Chanyeol comes in a couple hours later, there's a sheen of sweat covering his entire upper body and patches of dirt covering his face and arms.

"What were you even doing?" Jongin says, though he's secretly into this sort of rugged look.

"Fighting weeds."

"I invited Sehun and Junmyeon to come up next weekend. You're free, right?" Jongin grabs a bottle of water from the fridge and hands it to Chanyeol who chugs it all.

"You want me to meet your friends?"

"Friend, singular," Jongin says, hooking his fingers in Chanyeol's belt loops. "Junmyeon's just a non-negotiable part of a package deal."

"Can I think about it and tell you later?"

Jongin blinks, expecting Chanyeol to be excited about meeting people in his life. "Oh, uh. Sure."

Chanyeol laughs and hugs Jongin tight. The sweat and dirt getting on Jongin is gross. "I'm kidding," he says, kissing Jongin's forehead with a loud smack. "I would love to meet them. They're not allergic to shellfish, are they? I've been meaning to try a new paella recipe."

"Sehun's going to leave Junmyeon for you."

"He can try, but I'm already taken," Chanyeol says, locking his hands together behind Jongin's back. "And my boyfriend is really hot."

Jongin prods Chanyeol's side, making him yell out and twist away, but he doesn't actually let go.

"Serious question," Chanyeol says later, when they're out on the patio, a bottle of red wine open on the table. Jongin's still figuring out how Chanyeol's managed to sneak that back into their diet. He looks up from where he's lounging against Chanyeol's chest. "Can I tell my family about us?"

Jongin stares a little too long.

"Or at least my sister," Chanyeol says, his tone a mix of hope and worry. "She wouldn't tell anyone else."

Jongin sits up and twists around. It's another one of those rare times when Chanyeol actually looks nervous. Jongin himself is still processing the question. "You already want to tell your family about me?"

Chanyeol scoots forward and rests his chin on Jongin's shoulder, winding one arm around Jongin's waist. "Just my parents and my sister. It's not like they don't know who you are. It'll be nice to introduce you properly, that's all."

Jongin worries his bottom lip. "They'd be okay with it?"

"Pretty sure," Chanyeol says, nosing behind Jongin's ear. "They already know I like guys."

"You want to introduce me?" Jongin says, the other part of what Chanyeol's saying catching up to him.

"Yeah, my boyfriend."

Beneath the uneasiness, something warm and good blooms in Jongin's chest. He's certainly not ready to tell his own family yet about this new relationship, but the idea of Chanyeol's family knowing wouldn't be so bad.

"Okay," Jongin says.

Chanyeol's excited face pops around. "Yeah?" He looks happy, his eyes bright and too many of his teeth are showing. It makes Jongin weak.

Jongin pecks Chanyeol on the lips. "Yeah," he says, the answer coming more easily this time. And then: "Boyfriend."

Chanyeol's smile lights up the sky like the morning sun.

+

The air outside feels good on Jongin's face. He rolls down the window all the way and lets his arm hang out the side as Chanyeol drives them down the back roads of Sonoma. His phone buzzes and it's a bunch of photos Sehun's sent of himself and Junmyeon in Paris, both of them looking stupidly model-esque.

"Is that Sehun?" Chanyeol says, turning down the music. "Tell him and Junmyeon I say hi."

Jongin snaps a photo of Chanyeol driving, the wind blowing through his hair and Jongin's reflection staring back at him in Chanyeol's aviators. He replies to Sehun with it and says: he's saving steak night for when you guys get back.

Not one minute later, Sehun responds with: tell chanyeol if i weren't taken id suck his dick

"Sehun's still trying to leave Junmyeon for you," Jongin says, setting his phone down.

"Kid needs to take a hint," Chanyeol says, reaching across the center console for Jongin's hand. "Someone's had dibs on me for over a year now."

Jongin rolls his eyes, but lets Chanyeol's fingers slip between his. He watches the scenery go by for a while, then turns back. "My dad asked if you can go golfing with him next Sunday."

Chanyeol laughs. "Again?"

"I warned you," Jongin says, resting his bare feet up on the dashboard. "His early retirement isn't going to last. His obsession with golf will disappear soon and then he'll be bored again."

"I guess it's better than your mom making not so subtle comments about marriage and babies."

Jongin groans and hides his face. "Stop reminding me," he says, still not believing that six months ago his mom was sitting shocked speechless that her son was dating another man. Now she sends Jongin photos on her travels with comments like: this would make for a lovely venue wouldn't it? how do you feel about destination weddings?

"I think it was your carbonara that won her over, honestly," says Jongin.

"Well, it won you over too," Chanyeol says, shooting over a smug grin. "Like mother, like son."

"Shut up."

Chanyeol laughs. "It's fine, I kind of like the comments."

Jongin decides he'll unpack the meaning behind those words another day.

"Speaking of weddings," Chanyeol says. "Baekhyun's going to propose."

Jongin's mouth drops. "Really?"

Chanyeol nods. "He's dragging me, Kyungsoo, and Jongdae out to help pick out a ring next week. Feel free to come suffer with."

Jongin actually considers it given how amusing a stressed Baekhyun would be. "I'm okay," he says, wanting Chanyeol to have time with his friends. "But please film the entire thing for posterity."

"Oh, definitely. I'm going to video document every embarrassing moment leading up to the wedding and then play it at the reception. He's going to hate me, it'll be so great."

They spend the rest of the drive mostly in silence except for Chanyeol occasionally crooning to the playlist of indie songs he became obsessed with when he returned to Korea for Lunar New Year. Jongin doesn't stop him; his voice is nice.

As they take a familiar exit, Jongin's phone buzzes again.

1:12pm krystal: baek says there's no lime for the guac can u guys pick some up?
1:13pm jongin: what do we get for doing such a huge favor
1:15pm krystal: he says he will let u make out with him
1:15pm jongin: HARD PASS
1:16pm krystal: you get baek not making out with u
1:16pm jongin: >:[

Jongin passes along the message.

"What are we, his butlers?" Chanyeol says, which means, yes, of course we'll run some errands. They end up getting more drinks and some other snacks too.

When they finally arrive at Baekhyun's, there's already plenty of other cars lining the curb. Kyungsoo pulls up at about the same time and Jongin waves at him excitedly.

"I didn't know you'd be here," he says, since Kyungsoo had gone home to D.C. for most of the summer.

"Baekhyun needs me for something next week, so I figured I'd come back a few days early for this," Kyungsoo says, returning Jongin's hug.

"Chanyeol told me about it already."

"Are you coming too?"

Jongin shakes his head. "Chanyeol's going to record it all though."

Kyungsoo laughs and grabs one of their grocery bags. "That'll be fun to see at their reception," he says, pausing. "Assuming she says yes."

Jongin hits Kyungsoo's shoulder. "Stop it, she will. They're good together."

"KIM JONGIN!!!"

There is a flurry of sandy blonde hair that darts out from the left and then a body slams into Jongin almost hard enough for him to fall over and drop the case of beer he's carrying. Luckily Chanyeol is right behind to steady him.

"I missed you too, Baekhyun," Jongin says. "Even though we just saw each other last weekend."

"That's a whole week ago," Baekhyun says, latching onto Jongin's arm. "Hey, what are you doing on Wednesday?"

Jongin laughs and shakes his head. "I already told Chanyeol you guys should go on your own."

Baekhyun pouts, looking completely unlike the graduate student he's supposed to be. "You'll be a groomsman though?"

Jongin doesn't know how to reply to that, more floored by what the question implies. That in just under a year, Baekhyun sees him as someone important enough to be part of his wedding party.

"If she says yes," Kyungsoo interrupts, always deflecting when Jongin needs it.

"Don't say that!" Baekhyun says, finally letting go of Jongin to punch Kyungsoo's arm. Kyungsoo only laughs and pulls Baekhyun into a headlock, ruffling his hair. As they walk away, Jongin hears Baekhyun ask, trying his best to sound nonchalant, "You do think she'll say yes, though, right?"

Jongin follows Chanyeol to the fold-out tables and drops off all the food and drinks they've brought along. "Are you going to be the best man?" he says, to which Chanyeol laughs good-naturedly.

"He's probably going to ask his brother," Chanyeol says, gathering all the plastic bags and twisting them into a wad to throw away. "The best man speech would be too much pressure for me anyway."

"I've never seen you in a suit," Jongin says, opening a bag of chips and pouring them into a large bowl. Chanyeol hugs him from behind and he can feel the smirk against the side of his neck.

"How irresistible would you find me?" Chanyeol says. "Be honest."

Jongin's lip curls in an unimpressed sneer, but he doesn't bother pushing Chanyeol away. "You just worry about yourself when you finally see me all dressed up."

Chanyeol laughs as he lets go, placing both hands over his chest. "I already know you'll take my breath away. I probably wouldn't survive."

It's difficult for Jongin to try not to roll his eyes so hard they fall out of his head. It's equally tough keeping the blush off his face. "You said you were going to stop saying cheesy things to me."

"No, I said I was going to try." Chanyeol spins Jongin around and steals a kiss. "Besides, you actually love it. And me."

A few months ago, after finals had ended for them both, Jongin had been over at Chanyeol's apartment lounging on the couch and watching an episode of One Piece on his phone waiting for Chanyeol to cook dinner. He had fallen asleep midway through and woke up to Chanyeol sitting on the narrow strip of the sofa, his fingers carding through Jongin's hair. He had asked Chanyeol what he was thinking so seriously about and Chanyeol replied, so easily, too easily, like everything he does that floors Jongin: "How much I love you."

Jongin hadn't been able to say the same words back and instead blurted out if dinner was ready. Chanyeol had laughed and, since then, has never brought up Jongin's lack of verbal reciprocation even though he's only professed his feelings an increasing amount of times.

Behind Chanyeol, Baekhyun and Jongdae are arguing, Baekhyun wielding a pair of tongs and Jongdae refusing to let him anywhere near the grill. Kyungsoo doesn't even bother to mediate and steps away to greet Taeyeon when she arrives with her usual group. Out the corner of his eye, Jongin sees Krystal wave to him, but he's still fixated on Chanyeol whose expression has gradually twisted into confusion at Jongin's prolonged silence.

"I was just teasing y—"

"—I do love you."

Together, Baekhyun and Jongdae manage to light a kabob on fire and Taeyeon meanders over with a sigh to douse it out. Kyungsoo calls Chanyeol's name to get over so people can finally have something edible, but it's like Chanyeol doesn't even hear anything that's going on around him.

Jongin's words catch up to him and he averts his eyes, pivoting away to busy himself with arranging the beer bottles by color. He doesn't think Chanyeol's ever been this quiet this long around him, but he's too embarrassed by his sudden confession to look him in the eye.

"Say it again."

Jongin nearly curses when he turns and finds Chanyeol's face barely an inch away. "No, go away," he says, ducking around Chanyeol. He quickly locates Kyungsoo and makes his way over, though it's impossible to ignore Chanyeol's sudden, bright laughter.

"What did you do to him?" Kyungsoo says once Jongin's within earshot.

"Nothing," Jongin says, his face still burning up.

Kyungsoo starts laughing. "He's smiling so hard it's actually making me concerned for his health."

Despite himself, Jongin smiles too and risks a glance at Chanyeol. He doesn't even care when Chanyeol makes a giant heart above his head with his arms for everyone to see.

In fact, there's not a single thing Jongin would want to change about this moment.

 

 

(Kyungsoo sends Jongin a photo during their shopping trip. Baekhyun and Jongdae are heads down clearly arguing over what they like best. But Chanyeol is standing a good body length away looking at a completely different glass case. He's chewing on his bottom lip, his expression pensive and serious, but obviously daydreaming.

The follow up text reads: might have to make a decision about destination weddings after all.)