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“Toben-ah,” Chanyeol grins widely scooping up the toy poodle into his arms.

 

“Toben-ah, behave.” Yoora says, reaching over to soothe the puppy who is thrashing wildly in Chanyeols arms.

 

Chanyeol tries not to the fact that Toben seems to have become possessed wriggling erratically in Chanyeol’s arms, dampen his mood.

 

It’s hard though, the little puppy is using all its power to fight against Chanyeols hold.

 

With a sigh, Chanyeol lets him down, “There.”

 

Yoora frowns, “Tobenie, be good.” Toben tilts his head slightly and Chanyeol can almost hear Toben’s thought—a singular, loud resounding no.

 

Yoora must not pick up on it because she straightens up, smoothing non-existent wrinkles from her dress. “Thank you, Chanyeol, really.”

 

“It’s fine Yoora, I don’t mind.”

 

“I just know Toben’s a bit of a handful.” She’s rummaging through a small bag as she talks. She pulls out a set of keys and hands them to Chanyeol.

 

Chanyeol pockets the keys, “It’s only five days.”

 

“I really do appreciate it Chanyeol.” Yoora smiles appreciatively, grabbing a small container from the kitchen drawer and handing it to Chanyeol. “His treats. Only give him one for good behavior; I’ve been trying to instill a positive reward feedback. Although I’m not sure how great it’s working.” Yoora sighs forlornly. “And don’t fall for his puppy eyes—he knows he’s cute and milks it.”

 

Toben barks happily at that, seemingly in on the joke, agreeing with Yoora.

 

Now that he’s on the floor, Toben seems a lot more relaxed, presses happily against Yoora’s ankles. His eyes are alert on the little container Chanyeol is holding. Chanyeol shoves the small container in his front pocket, and Chanyeol swears Toben’s eyes narrow.

 

It’s not exactly a secret that Toben and Chanyeol have a love-hate relationship (namely Chanyeol loves Toben and Toben hates him).

 

Chanyeol is a little worried about the next five days, but he’s also excited. He thinks maybe, just maybe he could bond a little more with the small poodle and get his fix of dog ownership enough to stop his impulses next time he sees a cute dog on the street and gets the sudden urge to go straight to a shelter.

 

“The dog park is only like a block from here. Toben’s pretty good about other dogs, so he’s used to being off his leash. I should be gone by the time you’re back.” Yoora seems to be running through a mental checklist. “You can call me if you need anything obviously. Or call mom—she won’t be able to come but she knows her way around and she knows Toben better than me.” Yoora sighs again. “You know where everything is, make yourself at home. Water my spider plant yeah? Don’t let Toben near it either.”

 

“Yoora breathe,” Chanyeol says.

 

“I’m just nervous.” Yoora glances down at Toben, before looking up at Chanyeol. “He really is like a small child, Chanyeol.”

 

“I’ll take good care of your place and Toben. Maybe we’ll even visit mom tomorrow huh, Toben-ah? Bet she’d like to see him.”

 

“I’m sure she’d appreciate the cuddles while she rests.” Yoora chews on her bottom lip. “Call me too if anything changes with her.”

 

“Yoora, you’ll only be gone five days. Mom’s ankle is doing better remember? She’ll be fine, stop worrying so much.” Their mom had broken her ankle just a week ago, meaning Chanyeol and Toben would be roommates for the next five days. His sister was still very on-the-fence about that development. “Now get me Toben’s leash and we’ll head out so that you can sneak out and not miss your flight.”

 

Yoora sighs but smiles tentatively. “Fine, fine. Don’t think I won’t be spamming you with texts.”

 

“You better not be spamming me, go and enjoy your time off, Yoora. I’m serious. I better forget you even exist and think I live here now.” Chanyeol teases, glancing around the apartment as if assessing his new space.

 

Yoora swats him playfully, “Here.” She grabs Toben’s leash from a hook, which must trigger something in Toben because he zooms into the living room, does a lap, before returning happily to gaze up at Yoora lovingly. He doesn’t have the same look when Yoora hands over the leash to Chanyeol.

 

Chanyeol reaches down to hook the leash on Toben’s little harness, but Toben wriggles around.

 

“Toben-ah,” Chanyeol and Yoora say at the same time.

 

“He’s a little devil, but it’s important to be firm with him.” Yoora smiles lovingly at the small puppy.

 

“Toben-ah,” Chanyeol squats to get closer to Toben, eyeing the puppy’s watery eyes. “Toben, do you wanna go for a walk?”

 

Toben obviously doesn’t respond (although Chanyeol had been hoping for maybe a bark or a cute twitch of his head). Chanyeol reaches over to attempt to clip the leash, but Toben is quicker, biting on to the blue leash.

 

“Toben-ah!” Yoora scolds. “It’s better if you wrap it around your hand and then clip it—that way there’s no exposed part for him to bite.” Yoora demonstrates as she talks, wrapping an invisible leash around her wrist to show Chanyeol how to do it.

 

Toben is still gripping on to the leash, playfully tugging as Chanyeol attempts to take it back. The leash is slobbery when Chanyeol gets it, and he grimaces a bit, wiping it on his shorts. Yoora laughs, “Put it on him like I said and then give him a little treat. He’ll get used to you.”

 

Chanyeol had high hopes too, but despite both Yoora’s and his mom’s reassurances that Toben would warm up to him, Toben seemed to be on a mission to make Chanyeol’s life as difficult as possible whenever possible. He had hope though that being forced to spend one-on-one time would really bridge the gap. Chanyeol had dreams of him and Toben playing at the dog park, or maybe cuddling on the couch. His landlord didn’t allow pets and he needed his dog-owner wish fulfilled somehow.

 

Chanyeol follows Yoora’s instructions, wrapping it around his wrist and then reaching over to clip it. Toben still wriggles like his life depends on it, but Chanyeol knows it’s all a game because Toben just as easily could run around making it all more difficult. When Chanyeol finally clips it he lets the leash go and Toben yips happily as Chanyeol straightens out. Chanyeol’s at least glad Toben seems excited about the dog park. Following Yoora’s instructions, Chanyeol gives him a small treat and then smiles, “Okay, dog park it is.”

 

_____

 

The walk to the dog park is a small battle in and of itself.

 

Toben had been pretty cooperative on the way down from Yoora’s apartment, but as soon as they got to the street Toben had decided to sit down. No matter how much Chanyeol had coaxed Toben and had tugged on the leash Toben had completely refused.

 

Chanyeol had become exasperated, had kept receiving weird looks from passerby’s and had given up, scooping Toben up into his arms. The dog park was a short walk away and Toben was so tiny it wasn’t a real problem. It was more the fact that no matter what Chanyeol did it seemed like Toben had decided he was in charge.

 

The dog park was fairly busy when they arrived. Remembering that Yoora had said Toben was used to the dog park and was friendly, Chanyeol makes his way over to one of the benches, Toben trotting along happily.

 

Toben was so small, and looking at some of the other dogs gave Chanyeol some concerns. Although Toben was a handful, he wasn’t aggressive, and Chanyeol figures all the dogs are supervised so he leans down and unleashes Toben with a firm, “Be good.”

 

Chanyeol reaches into the bag Yoora had given him, pulling out a small bone squeaky toy and waving it a bit to catch Toben’s attention. “We can play.”

 

Toben looks up at him with big doe eyes, but doesn’t react to the toy. Chanyeol waves it a bit more, “Look buddy, you wanna play fetch? Do you know how to play fetch?” He throws it a few feet away.

 

Toben stands there, frozen, and then sits down. “Toben-ah, the toy buddy.”

 

Toben doesn’t respond, closing his eyes.

 

“C’mon, Toben. There’s no way you’re tired already. You didn’t even walk.” Chanyeol knows that no one is actually paying attention to them but he still feels slightly stupid. The toy is sitting a few feet away and Chanyeol wonders if maybe it was the half-hearted throw. He goes and picks it up, and waves it again trying to get Toben’s attention.

 

“Okay, Toben-ah. For real this time. You ready?” He waves the toy around trying to rouse Toben up before throwing it more forcefully. It goes further this time but Toben doesn’t react.

 

Chanyeol tries to contain the impatience he can feel bubbling in his chest.

 

“Fine, let’s just sit here and rest.” Chanyeol sits dejectedly, glaring slightly at Toben. Two can play that game. He crosses his arms childishly and closes his own eyes, peeking at Toben after a few moments. No movement. In fact, it truly seems like Toben has decided to sleep.

 

After a few moments of no movement, Chanyeol sighs and takes out his phone, snapping a few pictures of the puppy. He considers sending one to Yoora but decides against it. He doesn’t want to broadcast his failure to his sister yet, chances are she’s still at the apartment too.

 

Chanyeol’s scrolling through his contacts considering who to spam with the cute pictures of Toben, when a brown dog bounds up, bone toy in its mouth. The dogs eyes are shiny and the dog is happily upturned to offer the toy up. Chanyeol takes it delicately.

 

“Good baby,” he coos, petting the dog slightly. He’s not sure on the etiquette for this. Usually he would never pet a dog without asking the owner first, but also they’re at a dog park and they basically (kinda sorta) played fetch together.

 

The dog wags it’s tail and looks up expectantly at Chanyeol. Chanyeol wishes he could give the puppy a treat but instead settles for praising the puppy again, “Such a good baby huh? You’re so obedient and friendly.”

 

The dog barks happily and Chanyeol spares a glance at Toben, who is most definitely sleeping. The dog barks again and Chanyeol looks over, “What’s up buddy?”

 

“Ah, ah, ah. I’m so sorry.” Chanyeol glances up and finds a man hurrying towards him. In his arms is a fluffy white dog. “I’m so sorry about Monsieur. I think he wants to play fetch even though he knows we’re leaving.”

 

The man stands in front of Chanyeol, trying to scoop Monsieur up while balancing the other white dog in his arms.

 

Chanyeol smiles, the man seems overwhelmed, carrying one dog and trying to scoop Monsieur up, and also balancing a black bag that looks distinctly like a diaper bag but that Chanyeol assumes holds everything needed for a trip to the dog park. “Here, I can help.” Chanyeol leans over easily and scoops up the Monsieur. “Sorry we couldn’t play more, buddy.”

 

“Ah,” the man straightens out, shuffling the white dog so there’s enough room for Chanyeol to hand over Monsieur. “He must like you.”

 

“You think?” Chanyeol can’t help the excitement that colors his voice. The dogs in his life (Toben) weren’t necessarily super keen on him. The dream of dog-ownership revives itself as Chanyeol replaces the images of Toben with Monsieur. He has half an impulse to take Monsieur and run.

 

The man nods, smiling. “Definitely. Is that your puppy?” The man points to a sleeping Toben with his chin.

 

“Huh?” Chanyeol glances over, noticing that Toben is stretching like a cat, awake from his nap. “That’s Toben.”

 

“Toben,” the man says slowly, as if trying out the name. “Cute.”

 

Chanyeol smiles wider, feeling pride swell in his chest at the approval. “Like Beethoven.”

 

The man laughs, “This is Vivi,” he raises the white dog up, “and you know Monsieur.”

 

Chanyeol scoops up Toben, who was circling the man like a wolf. “Sorry, he’s a bit… of a handful.” He wriggles a little in Chanyeol’s arms but then let’s his little body go limp.

 

“He’s a puppy. He’ll grow into it.” The man smiles. “Monsieur here is still growing into it too; he can get a little rowdy sometimes. But Vivi is an absolute angel.”

 

Chanyeol nods, absorbed by the way the man’s facial expression had turned gooey. “That’s what my sister and mom say too. Toben just doesn’t seem to like me very much.”

 

Chanyeol instantly colors, embarrassed by his eager tone and honesty. “I’m sorry, I don’t know why I said that.” Chanyeol shakes his head a bit, willing for the ground to swallow him, he buries his face in Toben’s soft fur a little, hoping his cheeks aren’t too red.

 

The man is very handsome, tall and lean with broad shoulders and playful eyes and Chanyeol wishes he hadn’t basically admitted that his sister’s toy poodle apparent hatred for him was keeping him up at night.

 

“You’re cute.” The man laughs. If possible Chanyeol feels himself blush deeper, his heart thumping.

 

Chanyeol smiles. He’s about to say something stupid like you’re cuter. The man really is cute though, and Chanyeol finds it endearing how funny he looks balancing two dogs like toddlers.

 

The white dog, Vivi, shifts a little and the man smiles softly. “I should go. It’s almost naptime and as much as I love them both, if I don’t get these two to the car to go home they’ll become unbearably cranky.”

 

“It’s okay,” Chanyeol tries not to show any disappointment.

 

“Maybe I’ll see you around,” the man says, starting to walk off. “I’m sure Monsieur would love to play some time.”

 

_____

 

Chanyeol feels a bit silly dressing up for the dog park, but that doesn’t stop him from slipping into jeans that cling to his thighs. They’re his favorite jeans to wear when he goes on a night out, and they’re a bit much for a dog park but the small chance he might run into yesterday’s dog owner is enough.

 

Toben is just as uncooperative in getting his leash on, but this time he trots along happily all the way to the dog park. Chanyeol heads over to the same bench as before, scanning the park as he goes. When he sits and still hasn’t seen the man he starts looking at all the dogs, trying to spot any dog that even remotely resembles Monsieur or Vivi. There’s a brown long-haired Chihuahua that he briefly mistakes for Monsieur but it’s smaller and after blinking and squinting he knows it’s definitely not Monsieur.

 

He turns back to Toben who is chewing happily on a teething toy. “Wanna play fetch?” Chanyeol waves around the same squeaky bone from before and throws it. This time Toben does respond and chases after it.

 

Chanyeol could jump up in joy when Toben returns and drops the bone off. They do a few more throws before Toben seems tired and sits down, going back to chewing on his toy. Toben hadn’t wanted to let go of it all day.

 

“Monsieur wanted to say hi,” the man is standing in front of Chanyeol, leashes in his hand. Monsier is tugging against his, moving eagerly towards Chanyeol.

 

“Hi, Monsieur, nice to see you again.” Chanyeol leans down a little to get closer to Monsieur. “Can I pet him?”

 

“I think he might actually go ballistic if you don’t.” The man laughs, releasing Monsieur and Vivi from their leashes. Vivi stays put but Monsieur rushes towards Chanyeol. Chanyeol reaches down, giving Monsieur pets and belly rubs.

 

Toben wonders over, nose upturned slightly, examining the situation.

 

“Toben-ah, this is Monsieur and Vivi and—” Chanyeol looks at the man questioningly. All night he had kept regretting the stranger’s name, running through different names for him. It had all been part of his fantasy—Monsieur, Chanyeol, and Dawoon(?)Youngsoo(?)—watching TV and cuddling together. Simple daydreams where the man happened to share a name with all of Chanyeol’s crushes from when he was in primary school.

 

“Sehun.” The man smiles.

 

Chanyeol nods, Sehun fit perfectly. “And Sehun. Do you remember them?” Chanyeol suddenly gets self-conscious talking so seriously to Toben. He glances up at Sehun, but there’s no hint of judgement in Sehun’s gaze. His eyes are warm and he waves softly at Toben.

 

“Hi, Toben.”

 

Toben goes over and sniffs Monsieur, before pressing himself closer to Chanyeol.

 

“He’s not usually this shy,” Chanyeol frowns.

 

“It’s okay.” Sehun smiles. “Do you mind if I sit here?” Sehun nods towards the bench, and Chanyeol scoots over a bit, making more room as Sehun sits.

 

“Vivi is very calm.” Chanyeol points out.

 

“Yeah, he’s a calm baby.” Sehun pets Vivi softly, and brings him up, sitting him on his lap. With his free hand Sehun starts digging through his bag and produces a small bone toy similar to the one Toben has. “Monsieur, wanna play?”

 

Monsieur wags his tail happily, watching Sehun as Sehun waves the bone slightly. Sehun throws it and Monsieur runs off like a jet.

 

“I think that’s why he picked up the toy, they’re nearly identical.”

 

Sehun nods once, “Yeah, I thought so too.”

 

Toben is watching everything carefully, teething toy still in his mouth. His chewing is slower though, not as aggressive as before, his attention divided.

 

Monsieur returns with the toy in his mouth and Chanyeol smiles. Monsieur really is cute (and it’s not just because he actually likes Chanyeol).

 

Monsieur and Sehun start off a slow game. Chanyeol watches a bit envious and a bit in awe.

 

“You’re really good with them,” he mutters.

 

Sehun laughs a little, “I’ve had Vivi for a while. Monsieur isn’t always so obedient. Are you still worried about Toben not liking you?”

 

Chanyeol flushes at the reminder. “Only a little bit. Today’s walk here was successful though—I  didn’t have to carry him and we only fought a little trying to get his leash on.”

 

Sehun smiles, “How old is he?”

 

“Toben? I think he’s less than a year old.” Chanyeol furrows his eyebrows trying to recall when Yoora had brought him home. He was drawing a blank. It hadn’t been so long had it?

 

“He’s still teething,” Sehun points out.

 

Chanyeol nods, “Yeah. That toy is supposed to help.”

 

“I figured.” There’s a lull in the conversation and Sehun and Monsieur keep playing. Monseiur seems tired out, and when Sehun throws the toy he starts wondering off, attention caught by a bulldog rolling a red ball between its paws.

 

Sehun grabs Vivi and sets him down, patting him softly. Vivi starts sniffing around before settling down in a patch of shade.

 

“So, do you come here often?” Chanyeol cringes almost as soon as the words are out of his mouth. “I meant—”

 

“I get what you mean,” Sehun giggles. “We come here sometimes. The dog park near our apartment is having some drainage issues with the sprinklers and it’s all flooded. I think Monsieur likes this park better though.”

 

“How can you tell?”

 

Sehun raises an eyebrow, glancing at Chanyeol. “He told me.”

 

“What?”

 

Sehun giggles at that, “I’m kidding. He’s just more playful? I think he likes the car rides to be honest. He’s always in a good mood after.”

 

Chanyeol nods, humming appreciatively.

 

“Monsieur loves playing with other dogs too, Vivi is good company but he’s a lot lazier, see.” Sehun nods towards where Vivi has settled down, his big eyes blinking lazily.

 

“Toben seems to be following suit,” Chanyeol points towards Toben, whose laying in a similar fashion to Vivi, chewing on his toy like his life depends on it.

 

“Toben seems a bit like a firecracker though,” Sehun smiles.

 

“He is.” Chanyeol pauses. “He’s really good with my sister and my mom, it’s mostly just me.”

 

“Ah,” Sehun nods.

 

“We were playing earlier but he gave up.” Chanyeol points to where the toy had been abandoned, it’s only a few feet away from Toben.

 

“That’s progress.”

_____

 

Chanyeol feels silly as he battles against Toben to get him in his carrier. His mom is watching him with playful eyes from where she’s sitting on the couch.

 

When Chanyeol had woken up that morning he had the urge to head straight to the dog park. It was Monday though, and as much as he wishes he could ignore all his responsibilities he had settled on Yoora’s kitchen table to start on some work. He’d only gotten to lunch time before he had decided an impromptu trip to his mom’s house was needed (courtesy of Toben whining and pawing at the front door as if he were a cat). He had figured he could finish the rest of his work that night, he’d sent in drafts of the most important papers and didn’t have any phone calls or pressing e-mails to answer.

 

Chanyeol’s mind had also been distracted by thoughts of Sehun (it was nice to have a name to the face). The day before Sehun had offered a few tricks to get Toben to view Chanyeol as the authority figure and although they definitely hadn’t worked, Chanyeol appreciated the effort. Sehun had a sweet, calm presence about him and even though usually anything relating to Toben listening to him brought out Chanyeol’s impatience, Sehun had a way to make it not seem so bad. Sure, Yoora and his mom constantly reassured him Toben would come around, but it was so easy for them to say that when it was clear Toben adored them. In fact, having Sehun around was kind of nice because it seemed like Toben didn’t particularly care for him either.

 

They’d gone and visited Chanyeol’s mom around lunch. Chanyeol brought along some take-out and Toben had been over-the-moon to see Chanyeol’s mom. But Chanyeol could see his mom’s eyes droop and he knew it was time to go and let her rest.

 

Toben however did not seem on board with that idea. He was running around like a chicken with his head cut off, yapping loudly and Chanyeol felt like he was close to losing it. He tried to recall some breathing exercises from a meditation video he had seen a few months back, but either he didn’t remember them and wasn’t doing them correctly or they didn’t work.

 

“Having a dog isn’t all it’s cracked up to be?”

 

“Not just any dog.” Chanyeol pouts. “Toben just hates me.” Chanyeol momentarily gives up, straightening up and watching as Toben settles down, seemingly feeling victorious. “There’s this guy at Yoora’s dog park that has two dogs and you should see the way he handles them. The puppies are angels, unlike someone who shall remain nameless.”

 

His mom laughs, “Toben just messes with you because he knows he can get a rise out of you easily.”

 

“I think he just hates me.” Chanyeol says, moving towards Toben and scooping him up in a swoop. Toben thrashes wildly and Chanyeol attempts to calm him with promises of treats, and playtime, and anything else he can think of. After a few moments, Toben seems resigned, slumping in Chanyeol’s arms. Chanyeol places him gingerly inside his carrier, and places a few treats inside.

 

He bids goodbye to his mom, reminding her to rest and then heads out. He drives straight to the dog park. He knows at this point it might be a bit ridiculous and there’s really no guarantee that Sehun will be there, but he thinks there’s a high chance he might be. He also’s highly aware Yoora comes back in two days and his opportunity to get to know Sehun further are growing slimmer. He’s resolved to get Sehun’s phone number.

 

He had thought about it all last night, rolling over in Yoora’s guest bed. He knew virtually nothing about Sehun, sure. But he liked how good he was with his own dogs, and Sehun had been nothing but reassuring and kind. He enjoyed the simplicity of his company. Chanyeol figured that was enough to ask for a phone number, it wasn’t like he was proposing.

 

It was later than usual when he got to the dog park. There was also fewer people around, it being a Monday. Unlike the last two days though Toben seemed positively ecstatic to be there, running off as soon as Chanyeol takes off his leash.

 

Just like yesterday, Chanyeol scans the dog park, feeling like a man on a mission. After a few times he gives up, shoulders slumping. No Sehun in sight. He heads towards his bench, calling to Toben.

 

He almost trips over himself when a brown fluff runs towards him at full speed, bouncing up to paw at Chanyeol’s shins. “Ouch,” he says as a little nail digs into him. “Monsieur?”

 

“I am so, so sorry.” A man stands before Chanyeol. He’s shorter than Chanyeol, but then again, so are most people, and he’s quite pretty. Dark eyes examining Chanyeol’s shin where the dog had dug in his nails. His eyebrows are furrowed, eyes concerned, as he asks, “He ran off before I could react, did he hurt you?”

 

“Ah, it’s okay, really.” Chanyeol feels a bit flustered at the attention.

 

“I figure you know him?”

 

“Huh?” Chanyeol feels a bit lost. The dog is bouncing around, barking happily, tail wagging, and Chanyeol seems to have lost Toben, plus this man is examining him intently. Chanyeol shifts a bit, trying to compose his thoughts. “Sorry, no.”

 

“But you said his name? You said Monsieur, I heard you.”

 

“He just looks like another dog I know.” Chanyeol frowns, he’s not sure if the man is being argumentative or not, but Chanyeol feels his defenses rise.

 

“Do you know Sehun? I think Monsieur knows you.” The man is pointing at where Monsieur is still looking up at Chanyeol, tail wagging.

 

“Ah, I do.” Chanyeol feels disoriented. “Is he here?” He can’t help himself when he turns his head, scanning the dog park looking for Sehun.

 

“Sehun?” The man frowns. “No, he’s not. I’m Junmyeon by the way. How do you know Sehun?”

 

He holds out his hand and Chanyeol shakes it. “Chanyeol. I know him from here.”

 

The man, Junmyeon, nods. “Well, I’m heading out. I’m really sorry about Monsieur and the scratch though, really. Monsieur’s not the most attentive to me.”

 

“It’s okay, really. It’s not a big deal.” Chanyeol offers a tentative smile, there’s something a little satisfying about such an attractive man having the same problem Chanyeol’s having with Toben. It makes Chanyeol’s relationship with Toben feel a little less cursed, a little more common.

 

Chanyeol is starting to feel a bit gangly next to the man though, he wonders if he looks a little silly with Toben who is so small and what the Junmyeon thinks of that. On instinct, he looks around for Toben, spotting him near the bench they’ve made their spot, already dozing off.

 

He turns his attention back to Junmyeon and wonders how he knows Sehun and why he has Monsieur. He thinks to ask, but stops himself, feeling like it might be a bit too personal. It’s not like he really knows Sehun, even if he wants to.

 

Junmyeon squats down and scoops Monsieur up, and Monsieur licks his hand happily. Despite the man saying Monsieur wasn’t attentive to him, Chanyeol thinks him and Toben still take the cake. There’s no way Toben would ever let him carry him so easily, and Toben had never shown affection like that. Chanyeol decides maybe Toben is particularly difficult.

 

 “Say bye to Chanyeol, Monsieur.” Junmyeon grabs a little paw and waves at Chanyeol, it’s adorable. Chanyeol kinda wants to scoop them both up and hug them close. He mentally adds Junmyeon to his stockpile of future dog owner plans (it’s up to Monsieur, Chanyeol, Sehun, and Junmyeon cuddling on the couch now). It’s a nice dream if wholly unrealistic.

 

“Bye Monsieur. Take care.” Chanyeol pats the brown puppy, giggling a bit as the puppy licks his hand lovingly.

 

_____

 

Chanyeol feels a bit dejected the next day. His mind had raced last night and he’d come to the conclusion that Junmyeon was Sehun’s boyfriend.

 

Exhibit A, Monsieur seemed very comfortable in Junmyeon’s arms (his counter to this was that Sehun had stated Monsieur was generally friendly and Junmyeon had said Monsieur wasn’t very obedient with him—but he clearly wasn’t so disobedient). The jury was still out on this one but Chanyeol thought coupled with everything else it weighed in favor of the category: yes dating.

 

Exhibit B, Junmyeon was attractive. Sehun was also attractive. Hot people attracted hot people. It honestly truly would be a waste if they weren’t dating (despite Chanyeol’s own hope for his own date with Sehun).

 

That was the extent of his thoughts but it was enough for him to drag his feet a bit more. He’d mostly given up on the idea of getting Sehun’s phone number, but he still felt himself gravitating towards the park around mid-afternoon (and plus, Toben could always use the playtime, his reasoning wasn’t in complete self-interest).

 

This time he spots Sehun almost as soon as he walks in. He’s on the bench Chanyeol and Toben have made their own, legs crossed and on his phone. Vivi was nowhere in sight but Monsieur was nearby running around playfully with a black puppy.

 

Chanyeol doesn’t hesitate as he heads over. “Sehun!”

 

Sehun looks up, squinting against the sunlight. “Hey.” Chanyeol takes a seat and smiles happily, his mood instantly brightening.

 

“Are you Chanyeol?” Sehun asks.

 

“Huh? Yes.” He’s confused by the question, and looks at Sehun again just to make sure it is Sehun and not someone who looks eerily similar. He has half a mind to reach over and flick Sehun’s head to make sure it’s actually him but Chanyeol stops himself before he embarrasses himself too much.

 

“You never told me. Well maybe you did but maybe I forgot and I wasn’t sure if you had or hadn’t but then I felt too embarrassed that I didn’t know so I didn’t ask. But then Junmyeon—from yesterday, you remember—he said he met you and I was confused but then I figured it was you. I just had to check, even if I feel a bit silly for not knowing.”

 

“I honestly think it’s on me. Monsieur had come up and then the next day I felt like we already knew each other. I just blanked out.” Chanyeol explains, feeling bad at the way Sehun had turned a soft shade of pink. “No need to feel bad. I should start over—I’m Chanyeol.” Chanyeol feels his own face heat up at the thought that he had been so enamored by Sehun and had somehow completely missed introducing himself.

 

“Sehun,” Sehun smiles softly, shaking Chanyeol’s hand.

 

“No Vivi?” Chanyeol can still feel the heat coloring his face, but he tries to move on anyway, hoping he doesn’t look to red.

 

“Not today. Once or twice to the dog park a week is enough for him. Monsieur usually wouldn’t be coming so often, but he’s been getting spoiled.” Sehun smiles shyly.

 

“Yeah, I saw him yesterday.” Chanyeol nods, looking over to where Monsieur is playing happily.

 

“With Junmyeon, yeah he mentioned you.” Sehun smiles before he furrows his eyebrows, “He said Monsieur scratched you? I’m so sorry. We went to the groomer’s this morning so hopefully he won’t be scratching anybody anytime soon.”

 

“It was the smallest scratch, really, no worries.” Chanyeol tries not to frown at the mention of Junmyeon. Exhibit C, they catch up each other on their days (opposing side points out all the errors with that conclusion but Chanyeol ignores it).

 

“I feel really bad. Lemme make it up to you?”

 

Sehun is looking at Chanyeol. His gaze is gentle and Chanyeol finds himself nodding even as he says, “You really don’t have to.”

 

“I want to. I have to head out now, I have a work meeting this afternoon and I need to drop off Monsieur with Junmyeon. But let’s get coffee sometime yeah?” Sehun stands up and calls Monsieur over and Chanyeol feels his soul leave his body and float above him.

 

If he had known he was going to get asked out for coffee (a date? not a date?) he would have tried a bit more than just basketball shorts.

 

“Here, type your number in and we can schedule something.”

 

_____

 

Chanyeol glances at his messages again and takes a screenshot, before sending it to Kyungsoo.

 

“Do you think I’m supposed to bring Toben along?” Chanyeol had dropped off Toben that morning at his mom’s place, so he was really hoping the answer was no. He really wasn’t sure if Sehun’s messages implied dogs would be around or not.

 

Currently, Chanyeol was sorting through his own closet trying to find something appropriate for coffee (date? not date?) and a (dog?) walk.

 

Kyungsoo on the other side of the phone made a thoughtful noise. “I know that as a dog owner myself I should be able to read minds, but I actually don’t know.”

 

“Well do you think the walk implies dogs will be there?”

 

“Chanyeol I don’t know. Didn’t you say he had a boyfriend?”

 

“I said maybe boyfriend.”

 

“Maybe you should sort that out before you worry about whether it’s a date or not.”

 

“I can’t exactly ask that over text now can I.” Chanyeol examines a pair of shorts and glances outside. “Are shorts a good casual look?”

 

“Please wear pants no one wants to see your knobby knees.”

 

“I didn’t call you to get insulted.” Chanyeol pouts. “C’mon help me.”

 

“Wear jeans.” Kyungsoo says. “Something lightweight on top, you don’t want to be sweating buckets.”

 

“You’re right,” Chanyeol reaches over for a t-shirt, he tries to avoid the silliness he feels at the way his floor is littered with clothes for him to have settled on a t-shirt and jeans. “Okay, I’m gonna finish getting ready, please wish me luck.”

 

“Good luck, text me when it’s over so I know you didn’t die.”

 

“Just admit you’re interested in my romantic life and want this to work out.”

 

“You know what, don’t text me.”

 

_____

 

“Where’s Toben?”

 

“Toben?” Chanyeol feels a deep blush creep on to his neck. Sehun is standing outside the coffee shop where they had agreed to meet with Monsieur and Vivi. Monsieur is wagging his tail happily when he sees Chanyeol. “He’s uh with my mom. Hi baby.” He squats and pets Monsieur, avoiding Sehun’s gaze. “I didn’t know to bring him.”

 

Sehun’s eyebrows furrow. “I guess that’s my fault. But this is better. You can walk Monsieur. He missed you.” Sehun hands over Monsieur’s leash. “Let’s get coffee first, yeah?”

 

The coffee shop is mostly empty and must be one Sehun frequents because the barista waves to him happily. “Sehun, how are you?”

 

“I’m good. Just stopping by.”

 

“Usual then?”

 

“Yes, please.” He turns to Chanyeol. “What do you want, I’m buying.”

 

“You don’t have to.”

 

“It’s an apology remember.” Sehun says, tapping Chanyeol’s arm lightly.

 

Chanyeol ignores the electricity that shoots up his arm and nods. “Just an Iced Americano then.” He feels very cliché but in the best way possible. He’s really hoping this is a date.

 

“Two Iced Americanos then.” The baristas nods as Sehun pays. Chanyeol shifts from foot to foot and glances down at Monsieur who is looking up at him with watery eyes.

 

“Monsieur really likes you,” Sehun says, as they move towards the end of the counter to wait for their drinks.

 

 “He’s a cute baby.”

 

Sehun nods, “He is.” The barista sets their coffee down and Sehun grabs them, handing one to Chanyeol. They head out, towards the walking trail near the river, Vivi and Monsieur shuffling in front of them. “How’s your rocky relationship with Toben?”

 

“Ah, I think we might be able to tolerate each other one more night.”

 

“One more night? Are you planning on being arch-nemesis again?”

“My sister comes back tomorrow so today is actually my last full day dog-sitting. We might go back to arch-nemesis again.”

 

Sehun nods, the smallest of frowns on his lips, “I didn’t know you were dog-sitting.”

 

“Oh, uh, yeah.” Chanyeol racks his brain to see if he had mentioned it or not and blushes a bit when he realized it had never been brought up. “My sister’s on vacation and my mom was supposed to take care of him but then she broke her ankle and I stepped in.”

 

“I see.” Sehun nods.

 

Chanyeol feels like this isn’t going exactly like he thought it would.

 

“I guess I won’t be seeing you at the dog park much more often.”

 

“Ah, no maybe not.”

 

“Since your sister will be back.”

 

Chanyeol gets the urge to tell Sehun they can still hang out but he’s not so sure they had been hanging out up to that point. There had always been puppies involved, even now on their maybe/maybe not date. Chanyeol stays quiet.

 

“Is the irrigation at the park near your house fixed?”

 

“Hm, no, not yet.” Sehun gives him a slight smile.

 

“Maybe soon.”

 

“Maybe.” Sehun seems thoughtful as they walk and Chanyeol racks his brain to think of something to say.

 

“Is Junmyeon your boyfriend?” Chanyeol wants to slap himself as soon as the words leave his mouth. Definitely could have phrased that better.

“No,” Sehun stops walking, Vivi stopping obediently. Chanyeol struggles a bit more with Monsieur but he manages to stop too. “Junmyeon’s a friend. Chanyeol, I didn’t know Toben wasn’t your dog.”

 

“I, uh. I’m sorry?” Chanyeol feels like his head is underwater, Sehun is frowning at him. “I like dogs, I promise. I just can’t own any cause of my landlord.” His heart is racing, he hadn’t known this would be such a big deal. Do dog owners only want to hang out with other dog owners? He really liked Sehun though and he’d never heard something like that before. “I love all animals I promise. I used to own ferrets? When I was younger… you can ask my old friends about it. I started this ferret club when I was at a school.”

 

“A ferret club,” Sehun looks just as lost as Chanyeol feels.

 

“I love dogs.” Chanyeol ends. He feels silly, thinks maybe he should just hand over Monsieur’s leash and go home.

 

“I, I get that.” Sehun laughs. “Chanyeol, I’m sorry. I know this is sudden, but I just—I think you’re cute and I want to get to know you. I don’t know if I’ve been misreading this whole thing. I thought I had more time, but then, if you’re not gonna be at the dog park…” Sehun trails off.

 

“Wait, no you’re not misreading anything.” Chanyeol feels relief wash over him. “Sehun, I, I wanna get to know you too. Even if it’s outside the dog park. I mean, especially if it’s outside the dog park.”

 

Sehun laughs a little. “Good.” He pauses briefly, “I’m sorry about bringing Vivi and Monsieur along to this, really. I just figured you’d bring Toben.”

 

“I almost did,” Chanyeol reassures. “But I really don’t mind. Vivi and Monsieur like me better than Toben does and I like that. Well at least Monsieur does.”

 

Sehun laughs. “Vivi takes a little bit of warming up, but you’ll see, in no time he’ll be begging for cuddles.”

 

Chanyeol laughs brightly at that, he likes the implication that they’ll be more time. He adds Vivi to his mental picture of them cuddling on the couch, removes Junmyeon too (a bit of regret on that end, the man really is attractive).

 

They’re still standing on the walkway and Monsieur seems to be getting antsy, tugging a bit on the leash.

 

“We should probably start heading back,” Sehun notices Monsieur. “Wanna switch?” He offers Vivi’s leash and Chanyeol takes it, handing over Monsieur’s. Vivi doesn’t seem too enamored by the idea of having Chanyeol holding his leash and Chanyeol worries this is Toben 2.0 but Vivi licks his paw and waits patiently. Sehun’s dogs really are well-behaved.

 

“Wait, Chanyeol.”

 

“Yeah?” Chanyeol turns to Sehun and feels Sehun’s lips against his own. It takes all his will to not let go of his drink or the leash as Sehun kisses him. Sehun’s lips are perfect, soft and firm and Chanyeol feels completely intoxicated. He feels like his heart is about to jump out of his chest from pure happiness, as Sehun presses closer against him.

 

Definitely a date.

 

Sehun pulls away and it takes everything in Chanyeol to not lean over and kiss him again. He feels dazed.

 

“I like you.” Sehun says softly.

 

“I like you too.”