“And don’t forget to call,” Kun says, stowing Chenle’s suitcase in the back of the car. Chenle rolls his eyes emphatically, looking over at Ten where he’s sitting in the driver’s seat. Ten shakes his head while Kun continues to worry. “Whenever, you understand me, whenever you need to talk to me you can call or you can text, I’m always available, okay?” He says and Chenle shakes his head at his dad.
“That’s not true,” he accuses. “I’ll be fine, baba. The program’s only a month long, it’s not even that big of a deal. I’ll be home before you know it,” he assures him. Kun sighs deeply, truly has no idea when his baby became so self sufficient. “You wanna hug?” Chenle asks and Kun swoops in to wrap his arms around his son.
Chenle hugs him back tightly, Kun squeezing him around his shoulders. It’s only a month but it’s the start of so much more. He’s only turning 13 but he’s already been invited to this incredible prestigious music program in Korea and soon he’s going to be going to secondary and then college and it’s all just so much to think about. When did his baby get so big? Why did he ever blink?
“We gotta get going, your plane’s in two hours, Lele,” Ten reminds them, leaning towards the passenger side window.
Kun lets go of Chenle reluctantly, ruffles his hair once more, making the boy harrumph about it.
“Have fun, okay? Text me when you take off and call when you land and call when you get in, okay?” Kun tells him and Chenle agrees. “I’ll see you in a month?”
“Just a month, baba,” Chenle reminds him. “I love you.”
“I love you too, kiddo,” Kun tells him. He hugs him once more, presses a kiss into his hair before pushing him gently to the front seat.
Chenle climbs into the passenger seat confidently, and Kun lingers at the door. Ten wink at him from the driver’s seat and Kun shakes his head to himself as Chenle buckles in.
“Phone, wallet, passport?” Kun asks and Chenle nods decisively. “Okay. Get out of here before you’re late,” Kun tells him. Ten starts the car and Kun steps back as Ten pulls away from the curb. Chenle turns and leans out the car window, waving until they turn the corner. Kun wraps his arms around himself. Can’t believe it’s just gonna be him and Ten for a whole month in this apartment.
“I got it!” Hyuck defends, yanking his duffle out of his dad’s hands. Johnny sighs heavily, feels so useless. He’s thankful that Donghyuck grew into a confident, self sufficient kid, wants to go to this music program (God, all the way in Korea) on his own but he just wants to feel useful. It drives him crazy knowing he’s going to be without Hyuck for an entire month as it is, he just can’t imagine it.
“Can you let your dad carry something?!” Johnny complains and Hyuck launches his backpack at him. Johnny groans as it hits him in the stomach, shaking his head at his son. “You’re a little punk, you know that,” he teases his son, swinging the backpack onto his shoulder as Hyuck heaves his duffle onto his shoulder.
“You raised me!” Hyuck retorts and Johnny grabs him by the shoulder, ushers him towards the doors.
“God, what am I gonna do in the house without you? It’s gonna be so quiet Jae and I are gonna go crazy,” Johnny says, the two of them falling into step as they walk from the parking lot towards the building. Hyuck gives him a big ol’ cheesy grin, eyes twinkling.
“I’m sure you’ll think of something,” he brushes off. “Just think, all that time with Irene,” Hyuck mocks his father and Johnny hip checks him towards the wall, Hyuck stumbling a bit as he giggles.
“I really gotta stop sending you to public school,” Johnny says. “Boarding school is totally an option, you know,” Johnny says and Hyuck squawks indignantly, making Johnny laugh loudly. “Nah, I’d miss you too much. But you know, you could lighten up a bit on Irene. I like her and if you gave her half a chance, I think you might too,” Johnny suggests but Hyuck only harrumphs as they set into the building. “I know you don’t like the idea of sharing your dad but-”
“That’s not it,” Hyuck interrupts. “Look dad, if you like Irene that’s your business but I just don’t. No big deal,” Hyuck brushes off and Johnny falters a bit, reaches out to hold onto his son’s shoulder. Hyuck steps back a bit to look at him.
“Just give her a chance, okay?” Johnny says and Hyuck shifts his weight awkwardly. “When you get back we’ll do something together? How about camping, you loved going camping with me when you were younger. We’ll take the weekend, head out towards the lake and you can get to know her? Okay?” Johnny suggests and Hyuck nods.
“Okay, dad,” Hyuck agrees. “But we gotta go or I’m gonna miss my flight.”
Johnny walks Hyuck all the way to the international security and then double checks everything with him.
“Passport, wallet, phone?” Johnny asks and Hyuck reveals all the items as his dad says them. “Alright, bud,” Johnny said, handing his son his bag back. Hyuck takes it with a grin, swinging it around onto his bag. “I’m gonna miss you, kid. And don’t forget to call me when you land, when you get in, text when you take off,” Johnny says and Hyuck agrees. “C’mere, Duckie,” Johnny says and Hyuck steps into his dad’s hug.
Johnny squeezes his son something fierce and gets a hug just as tight in response. His baby’s growing up and he really doesn’t know how to take it. Jaehyun keeps telling him that he knew Hyuck wasn’t gonna be little forever but it just… it’s hard to realize. That Hyuck is already fourteen and in four short years he’ll be off, in college, living his life. Johnny doesn’t know when he blinked but he wishes he could take it back.
“Dad…” Hyuck whines but Johnny keeps him in a hug. “Dad, my plane.”
“Can I have just one more second,” Johnny whines and Hyuck indulges him, grips the back of his dad’s jacket like he used to when he was just a teeny tiny thing.
“I’m gonna miss you too, appa,” Hyuck mumbles and Johnny kisses the top of his head before he lets him go.
“Have a good flight, take care and have fun,” Johnny tells him and Hyuck nods decisively. “Get outta here before I don’t let you go at all.”
Hyuck rushes off to security and Johnny loiters until he’s through. Johnny sticks around until he’s all the way through it and put himself back together on the other side, waving from across the ropes and the metal detectors. Johnny waves a hand, already missing him.
“Yeah, dad, I just got in,” Hyuck says as he pushes his way into his dorm. The boy on the other side startles where he’s lounging in bed, headphones in and phone in his lap but doesn’t comment as Hyuck fumbles his way into the room. “I just got into my room.”
“You have everything, right?” Johnny double checks. He’s standing in the big open living room, pacing the length of it as he looks out across the vineyard. The house has always been big but it feels so much bigger without Hyuck tumbling around in it. Jaehyun walks in from the backyard and lifts a brow at Johnny, who’s glued to his phone. Hyuck, he mouths and Jaehyun’s mouth falls open in understanding, walking away from the worried father.
“Yeah, dad, I made sure I grabbed everything,” Donghyuck assures him, tossing his bag onto the spare bed. The boy in his room watches him with one eye while Donghyuck puts his things up. “I was just calling to let you know I got in. I gotta unpack though and I’m tired as heck, I’ll call you a little later, okay?”
“Yeah, yeah, okay,” Johnny agrees. “What time is it?”
“Nine in the morning,” Donghyuck retorts. “I gotta go. Talk to you soon.”
“Alright, take care, Duckie. Talk soon. Love you.”
“Love you too,” Hyuck humors his dad and then hangs up, tossing his phone onto the empty mattress. The room is small, and there are two twin beds shoved into the room, a narrow walkway between the two of them, accompanied by a pair of wardrobes and desks at the end of the beds. It looks like a generic college dorm and Hyuck can already tell it’s gonna take a bit of doing but he might be able to make this look like a home.
“Hey,” the kid in the room greets him and Hyuck turns to view him. “You speak Korean?” He asks in accented English, pulling his headphones out of his ears.
“I do,” Hyuck replies in Korean and the boy grins. “Suh Donghyuck, you?” He says as he disentangles himself from his bags.
“Na Jaemin. Welcome to the program. First year?” He asks and Donghyuck nods. “Sick. Me and a couple of my friends have been coming here for the past few years, they usually start extending invites at like 12 so you must be a late entry. America?” Donghyuck nods again. “Sounds about right. We don’t get a lot of Americans here. You must be talented.”
“I haven’t been taking vocal lessons since I was six to not be talented,” Donghyuck retorts and the guy, Jaemin, grins even bigger.
“I think you’ll fit in fine. You need some help?” He asks, nodding to his bag.
“God, yeah,” Donghyuck agrees and Jaemin jumps off his bed to help him untangle his bags and get settled in.
“How was the flight, it wasn’t too long was it?” Kun asks, sitting down in his study.
“No, it was fine,” Chenle assures him, tossing his last pillow into place before climbing up into the bed. “I think there’s a lot of people from different countries here though, they have the signage in Korean and Mandarin and Japanese and English. I haven’t met anyone who speaks English yet but-”
“Well, you have options if you need to read something,” Kun jokes. “You’re settling in okay?”
“Yeah, I’m good. My roommate isn’t in yet but his name is Jisung, it’s on the door. I asked one of the RAs and we’re grouped by age so he’s probably around 13 or so,” Chenle explains. “I’m gonna go though, the plane ride made me sleepy so I’m gonna take a nap before I have to start the courses tomorrow.”
“Okay, Lele. Don’t oversleep, okay?” Kun tells him and Chenle agrees easily enough. “Take care. Call if you need anything. I love you.”
“Love you too, Baba,” Chenle replies before hanging up.
He’s just settling down when the door opens. Chenle sits up in bed as a boy comes in, lugging a heavy duffle bag as well as his backpack. Chenle jumps off his bed, offering a hand which the boy accepts gratefully. Chenle can only assume this is Jisung and between the two of them they manage to get his duffle and his backpack up onto his empty bed, untangling the straps until he can free himself.
“I think I brought too much stuff,” he groans in Korean. “Thanks for the help. Chenle, right?” Jisung asks and Chenle agrees.
“Yeah,” he replies. “You must be Jisung. You’re from around here?” he asks and Jisung nods.
“Yeah, I was born here, actually. I lived out in Busan for a few years but most of my life has been in Seoul. And you?” He asks.
“I’m from China,” Chenle explains and Jisung nods, mouth falling open in understanding. “This is my first year here so… everything’s pretty new.”
“My hyungs have been coming since they were able to and I was here last year. If you want help around the program I can totally help you,” Jisung offers. “It’s pretty straightforward once the courses start but if you need it-”
“That’d be great,” Chenle agrees immediately and Jisung grins at him cutely. “Thanks.”
Classes start the next day and Chenle finds out pretty quickly that a lot of these kids are competitive. It doesn’t even have to be for a class, students will try to outdo each other in dance in the hallway, in vocal performance, who can sing the highest note before the teacher even gets in for the course. They’re talented, of course, and Chenle knows he is too, there’s nothing his baba and Ten ge tell him more than that, it’s just overwhelming to suddenly be just another fish in a sea of immensely talented kids.
“There, those are my hyungs,” Jisung says during lunch and Chenle follows his gaze across the room to where a group of four boys are sitting. They don’t look much older than himself and Jisung leads him over to the table with a smile. Chenle slides into a seat as Jisung begins talking to them, the grinning boy and the boy with a sweet eye smile seeming to be excited to meet him.
“Ah, hyungs, this is Chenle, my roommate this year. Chenle, this is Jaemin, Jeno and that’s Renjun, he’s from China too,” Jisung introduces him and Renjun’s eyes brighten immediately.
“Oh, you’re from China? How are you?” He asks, immediately jumping into Mandarin and Chenle responds in kind.
“I don’t know you though. Are you new to the program as well?” Jisung asks, turning to the boy all the way at the end next to Renjun.
“Yeah, I’m Donghyuck, I just started this year. You can call me Hyuck, kid,” he says and Jisung scrunches his nose but doesn’t retort to the way Hyuck calls him ‘kid.’ Chenle turns to him then and Hyuck offers a hand to him. “Chenle, right?”
“Yeah. Nice to meet you,” Chenle says, shaking his hand. There’s something about Hyuck that strikes Chenle as familiar but he can’t put his finger on it. Seems rather impossible given the fact that Chenle’s never even set foot in Korea before, and the way this guy speaks Korean suggests he’s not that proficient either. Weird, but Chenle brushes it off as a fluke before tuning back into the conversation between Jisung and his hyungs.
The six of them run into each other frequently, especially since so many of them are taking vocal courses. Renjun, Chenle and Hyuck share at least three courses, which turns into the three of them messing around in the back of the classrooms while Hyuck teaches the other two how to play paper football. It’s a pretty good start to a music program from where Chenle is standing and it’s fun. He’s having a lot of fun, both in classes as well as out of them.
The first weekend is when Jaemin suggests they go off campus. The music program is held on a college campus in the middle of Seoul while the university is off for the season so while there’s plenty of places for them to run around and mess about, going off campus just seems more fun. They spend a lot of hours in classes or practicing or in their dorms so they’re all more than willing to jump at the chance to head out.
“Oh, damn,” Chenle says just past the dorm entrance. “I left my wallet upstairs. I’ll be right back,” Chenle says and the others wave him off as he runs back up to grab it. He’s pretty sure he left it in his desk but it’s been a while since he had to take it out so he ends up doing a pretty thorough search of his room in the process.
The door opens a few minutes into his frantic searching and Hyuck leans in the doorway, shaking his head.
“C’mon, man,” Hyuck goads him in English, something he’s taken to doing ever since he found out Chenle speaks English.
“Shut up,” Chenle whines. “I don’t know where I put it. Can you check my bag on my desk for me,” Chenle asks, feeling around for his suitcase under his bed. Maybe he shoved it in there?
Hyuck scoffs but walks over to his desk, unzipping the backpack. There’s a bunch of notebooks, writing utensils all over the bottom of it but nothing like a wallet. He starts unzipping the other compartments, glancing up at Chenle’s wall as he does so when he stops.
Chenle’s wall above his desk is stickered with photos. There’s lots of them, him and his friends, him and a gentleman that he looks close with but looks nothing like him. There are more than a few of a man that Hyuck recognizes, he knows him for sure but his eyes trail to the half of a photo stuck further up, on the right side. Hyuck tucks his fingers underneath the edge of it, pulling up gently so the tape adhesive lets go.
“Chenle…” Hyuck says slowly as Chenle bounces up from the floor.
“Found it, in my damn suitcase. I don’t know why it put it there,” he complains, shoving it in his back. He looks at Hyuck then and then the photo in his hand. “What’re you doing?” He asks, stepping closer.
“How do you have this photo?” Hyuck asks, turning it around to face him.
“My dad gave it to me,” Chenle says, reaching out to take it from his hand. “It’s my other dad. It’s the only photo he has of him anymore. He used to keep it in his sock drawer but he caught me staring at it a hundred times so he gave it to me, told me to take care of it. It’s the only copy because it was ripped right-”
“Right down the middle,” Hyuck finishes and Chenle lifts his eyes to look at Hyuck. “That’s your other dad but that’s my dad,” Hyuck says. “The guy in these photos-”
“Some of them are my dad, some are my Ten ge,” Chenle explains. “What-”
“I have the other half of this photo,” Hyuck interrupts. “C’mon,” he tells him.
Hyuck tears out of the room before Chenle can even argue, and Chenle shoves the half of a photo into his pocket, running after Hyuck as he takes the stairs two at a time to get to his room. It’s on the third floor and he pushes the door open with reckless abandon. Chenle skids into the room behind him and Hyuck snatches a photo off the wall, pressing it against his chest before turning to look at Chenle where he’s stopped by the doorway.
“I have the other half of that photo,” Hyuck says, walking towards Chenle. “My dad gave me this because it’s the only photo he had of my other dad. There’s only one copy because it was ripped-”
“Right down the middle,” Chenle finishes. “Okay, well, on the count of three, you show me yours?” Chenle suggests, taking his photo out of his pocket and Hyuck nods.
“Three,” they say in unison and turn the photos towards each other.
The rip lines up perfectly, and completes the selfie their dads took together. Hyuck breathes in deeply, can’t believe that it’s the exact match. Chenle’s eyes widen in surprise. Neither of them have ever seen the other half of this photo.
“That’s my dad,” Chenle breathes, astonished. It’s a younger version of his dad, probably only in his twenties. He looks so happy, carefree. Chenle had never thought about the other half of the photo, figured it was just a person that his dad didn’t care much about, he had only kept the half that mattered. It was him, the whole time.
“That’s my dad,” Hyuck says, voice trembling. His dad doesn’t look like that anymore, his hair is darker and starting to gray at the temples, he’s got laugh lines but he’s still handsome, at least Hyucks thinks so. Next to Chenle’s dad he looks so happy, like there’s nowhere else in the world he’d rather be, a couple of young adults taking a cute photo together.
“Hey, where are you guys?!” Renjun calls up the stairs and Chenle lowers the photo as he turns towards the door. Hyuck lifts a hand to his face, finds he’s been crying and he had no idea.
“I don’t really want to go to lunch anymore,” Hyuck says, voice a little clogged. Chenle turns back and sighs.
They beg off lunch, insisting they couldn’t find Chenle’s wallet and Hyuck volunteers to stick around campus with him. They tell the others to go on and they do, even if Jisung is reluctant. Hyuck and Chenle sit in the cafeteria with their photos sitting next to each other on the table, Hyuck all scrunched up in his seat while Chenle traces the line of the rip.
“Why didn’t they tell us,” Chenle finally says. “All these years later and we have to find out through some freak accident, and in Korea of all places. Baba always led me to believe I was an only child but I had an older brother this whole time,” he sighs, throwing himself back in his seat.
“I know,” Hyuck sighs. “Dad did the same thing to me. He said I had another dad once but he never said this. This sucks,” Hyuck bemoans.
“What’s he like?” Chenle asks because he’s curious. He truly doesn’t know if he’s ever going to see Hyuck again after this but he has to know. He has to know what his other dad is like because his baba has never talked about him. Hyuck turns to him with a smile.
“Well, he doesn’t look like that anymore,” Hyuck says and Chenle squeaks a laugh. “He’s great. He’s a great dad. He’s like my best friend. He raised me out in California, after we moved from Chicago when he finally got the vineyard running. I was still really young when it was built so I’ve lived practically my whole life on the vineyard. He’s kind of a goof and he's always playing pranks,” Hyuck says and Chenle grins widely. “He’s like a big kid sometimes. He runs the vineyard, our family name is on all the bottles.”
“That’s cool,” Chenle says.
“What about baba?” Hyuck asks. Chenle hums, crossing his arms over his chest.
“Baba’s a great dad,” Chenle finally says. “He’s a little overly worried sometimes but it’s just because he loves me. He works really hard but sometimes he takes me with him to the studio, he’s a designer for wedding clothes,” Chenle says and Hyuck’s eyes widen. “He gets all stressed out about it but he always does a really great job. He’s pretty serious but he’s also kind of like my best friend. He’s always there for me. He told me to call him literally whenever and I know that’s not actually possible but I also know that if I said there was something wrong he’d fly out here in a minute, y’know?”
“He sounds great,” Hyuck says. “He’s never been remarried, has he?”
“Nah,” Chenle brushes off. “I don’t think Baba’s ever even thought about getting remarried,” Chenle admits. “He works a lot and he always says he’s too busy raising me and Ten ge to ever think about dating.” Hyuck snorts, remembering all the stories Chenle has told him about his live-in gege, Ten. “What about dad?”
“He’s got this… really awful girlfriend right now,” Hyuck admits. “I don’t think it’s gonna last though. He really wants me to like her but she hates me, so I hate her back,” he explains and Chenle snorts. “They won’t stay together, she doesn’t have the gumption to try and get me to like her.”
“You really think that?” Chenle asks and Hyuck turns to him with a grin.
“I really do.”
They spend most of lunch like that, talking about their dads. They try to steer clear of the idea of them separating, what might’ve caused it, why they stayed apart. Hyuck is more than willing to share anecdotes about his dad, about Jaehyun, Johnny’s best friend and half caretaker. He’s practically Hyuck’s uncle and all the while Chenle tells him more about his own dad, about Ten and their cats Louis and Leon who just love to jump on things and generally get in the way.
“They only like Ten!” Chenle says and Hyuck laughs as they leave. “Sometimes Louis likes Baba but he usually only likes Ten, and Hendery, my friend from school. He’s so weird.”
“I wanna meet your kitties,” Hyuck whines and Chenle rolls his eyes.
“Like that’ll ever happen,” Chenle says. Hyuck reaches out then, grabbing Chenle by the arm before he can get very far. Chenle stumbles back on the sidewalk, falling back to stand next to Hyuck, who is looking at him with big, round eyes and a mischievous smile on his face. “Oh no, you got that ‘I’m gonna get us yelled at by the instructor’ look again.”
“I have the most brilliant beyond brilliant idea,” Hyuck says. “You want to meet Dad and I want to meet Baba, and your cats,” Hyuck points out, making Chenle shake his head. “Let’s switch places.”
“Are you insane?” Chenle asks. “We can’t do that. We have round trip tickets back home.”
“C’mon, Lele, think about it,” Hyuck says and Chenle turns to look at Hyuck, brows lifted. “You’ve always wanted to go to America, I’ve never been to China and we can always talk Ten and Jae into helping us. They can change our tickets for us. They can pick us up at the airport to surprise Dad and Baba. And if we do this, they have to meet, right? It’s the only way to switch us back.”
“You think Ten ge and Jae are gonna help us?” Chenle asks. “That’s gonna be a mess, they’ll never agree.”
“Oh please, little brother,” Hyuck says and a smile twitches it’s way onto Chenle’s lips as Hyuck swings an arm around him. “Have some faith in your hyung. I can convince anyone of anything.”
It takes some adjustments but the two of them manage to get Ten and Jaehyun on video chat at the same time. They commandeer Chenle’s room to do this, and sit away from each other at the beginning of the chat. Hyuck insists it’s to lure them into a false sense of security. Chenle isn’t so sure this is going to work but Ten ge’s been trying to get him on video chat since he left so it’s nice to have some time to catch up. Jaehyun regales Hyuck with how mopey his dad’s been and Hyuck giggles as Jaehyun puts emphasis on Johnny’s pouty face.
“Hey, hyung,” Hyuck says about 15 minutes into the chat. “I gotta ask you something.”
“Gege, can I ask a favor?”
“What is it, Lele?”
“Well, you see,” Hyuck says, picking up the laptop. He sits down next to Chenle on the bed, and they both angle the laptops so their guardians can see the both of them. Jaehyun’s mouth falls open in surprise while Ten’s eyes widen to the size of dinner plates. “I think someone has some explaining to do to the two of us and we want your help to do that.”
“I keep that photo of Dad that Baba gave me with me all the time, Ten ge,” Chenle reminds him. “Hyuck saw it the other day and he told me he had the other half.”
“It’s a perfect match, Jae hyung,” Hyuck insists. “It’s the exact same photo.”
“God, Johnny’s an idiot,” Jaehyun mumbles, pressing a hand to his forehead. “The absolute impossibility of this,” Jaehyun groans. “You were never supposed to find out.”
“That’s so unfair!” Chenle bursts out and Ten looks incredibly apologetic.
“Lele, baobei-” Ten begins.
“Chenle’s right, Dad and Baba were just going to spend our entire lives acting like we didn’t have a sibling. That’s not fair to us, guys,” Hyuck points out and Ten sighs. “So, we were gonna ask you guys to do us a favor. I want to go to China.”
“And I want to go to America,” Chenle says.
“No,” Jaehyun says.
“Absolutely not,” Ten insists. “Your father will kill me the moment I come home with the wrong child. You’re not going to America, Chenle.”
“You’ve never even been to China, Hyuck,” Jaehyun points out. “You know conversational Mandarin, that’s not enough. You’re not going to China.”
“If you fix our tickets, it won’t even matter,” Chenle points out. “Ten’s picking me up from the airport and if you tell Dad that you’re picking Hyuck up they won’t even know until we get home. And by that time, it’ll be too late. If they want to switch us back, they’ll have to do so in person.”
“You’re trapping your parents?” Ten asks.
“Something like that,” Hyuck says. “Please,” he insists. Immediately the both of them have their hands clasped, eyes big and rounded and their lower lips sticking out in pitiful puppy dog pouts.
Ten has never hated Kun more in his life. He knew this might happen and he still picked Chenle up and left the fucking country because ‘it’s what’s best for us’ when it so clearly was not. This was always a possibility, that at some point in their lives Chenle and Hyuck could maybe cross paths and the older they got the worse it was going to be. He pretends like Hyuck wasn’t part his and Chenle wasn’t part Johnny’s when the fact of the matter was, they were almost inseparable as toddlers and this wasn’t fair.
Jaehyun wants to remain grounded. He wants to keep his stance and tell Hyuck no. No, he wasn’t going to change his ticket and fly to China of all places. Absolutely not, but at the same time, he can’t imagine what Hyuck must be going through. All these years he’s known what Kun looks like, Johnny let him have that photo and yet he never did a damn thing about letting Hyuck know him. Taking the two of them away from each other because of their petty inability to get along was totally and completely unfair and Jaehyun knows that.
“Okay,” Ten says. “I’ll change your ticket, Lele.”
“Don’t make me regret this, Hyuckie,” Jaehyun says and the two of them break into the biggest grins either of their guardians think they’ve ever seen on their kid’s faces.
Jaehyun hangs up the video call, locks himself in his room and finds the phone number he hasn’t called in almost ten years.
“Hey, Ten,” Jaehyun sighs and Ten groans into his ear.
“I can’t believe we just agreed to do that,” Ten says. “They’re gonna kill us. I’m gonna walk through that door with Hyuck and Kun is going to strangle me where I stand,” he says and Jaehyun sighs, leaning against his door.
“I can’t fucking imagine what Johnny’s going to look like if I come home with Lele from the airport,” he says, swallowing. “It’s been ten years, Ten, what the fuck are we doing, listening to a couple of kids.”
“They want to know their dads,” Ten reminds him. “And let’s not pretend we aren’t being a little selfish about this. I haven’t seen Hyuck since he was four. I’m going to cry the minute he walks through that gate and he’s going to be so embarrassed and I won’t even care because he’s so big now, Jaehyun.” Ten’s voice breaks and Jaehyun leans his head back against the door.
“I know,” Jaehyun sighs. “I can’t believe it either some days, how big he’s gotten. He’s such a little punk, Ten, he’s so self sufficient and sassy and god, I love that kid,” he says and Ten sniffles a little. “But Lele. I haven’t seen him since he could fit on my hip, what happened to him. He’s almost as big as Hyuck is.”
“He sprouted like a weed. Kun thinks he’s gonna be taller than him.” Jaehyun laughs breathily into the phone, lifting his sleeve to wipe his nose. God, he misses that kid so much. Damn, he missed Ten so much. “Thanks for not changing your number,” Ten murmurs into the phone.
“I called you,” Jaehyun retorts and Ten laughs down the line. “I’ll change his ticket tomorrow and text you his information. Be there when he lands, because I know he thinks he knows Mandarin really well but he really doesn’t and I don’t want anything to happen to him.”
“I’ll be there half an hour early,” Ten promises and Jaehyun huffs a laugh. “I’ll change Lele’s today, I still have some time. I’ll text you too and I know Lele’s pretty good at English but-”
“I’ll show up as soon as I possibly can. I’ll camp out if I have to,” Jaehyun promises and Ten giggles into his ear. “Give Hyuck a big kiss for me and the idiot. We’re gonna be missing him something terrible.”
“Do the same for us for Lele,” Ten says. “God, Kun’s gonna lose his mind.”
“Johnny’s gonna go nuts. Good luck.”
“Same to you.”
Three weeks is an incredibly short time but Chenle and Hyuck manage to make the most out of it. Jaehyun and Ten email them their new tickets the minute they’re available and it doesn’t feel real. If the others notice a shift in their relationship they don’t mention anything and the following weekend they do actually all go out together once Chenle unearths his wallet once more. Chenle and Hyuck photocopy their photo, after they manage to tape it back together and insist they both keep a whole copy while also taking their halves back to America and China, if only to prove a point.
The music program is a little lackluster in Chenle’s opinion but he has a great time all the same. It’s not about the classes or the instructors and the overly ambitious concert they throw that all the international students are given a copy of to take home, it’s about his friends. He and Renjun get on like a house on fire and he really doesn’t want to leave Jisung’s side, possibly even more than Hyuck when the four week long music program ends.
Hyuck leaves with a handful of new numbers and Jeno squishing the damn life out of him before he has to catch the shuttle back to the airport. With the change in tickets Chenle will be leaving later in the day to get home early in the morning in California. Jaemin teases Hyuck all day about his long flight even though Hyuck knows it’s not going to be such a long flight after all.
“Take care, okay?” Chenle says and Hyuck wraps his younger brother up in a hug. It’s been such a short time but he’s really felt like Chenle is his little brother.
“I will. You too. Give Jae a hard time for me, okay?” Hyuck says with a wink and Chenle laughs.
“As long as you do the same to Ten for me,” Chenle says and Hyuck agrees. “And give Baba a hug for me.”
“And you give the same to Dad.”
“Attention International Music Scholar Students, the shuttle departing for the airport will be leaving momentarily,” the PA system announces. It says it three more times, in Mandarin, Japanese and English and Hyuck squeezes all his friends once more before running for the shuttle before it can leave without him.
Chenle holds tight to his passport and ticket, watching his older brother climb up onto the shuffle and off into the great unknown that will, eventually, deposit him right in his Baba’s waiting arms.
Chenle, however, was not expecting the plane ride to be nearly as excruciating as it was. 11 hours in a plane is a lot more terrible than the hour and 40 minutes he spent from Shanghai to Seoul and he would love to get to thank his brother in person for neglecting to warn him about that. He feels tired and sluggish and his brain is only functioning at about 40% capacity when he tumbles from the terminal into baggage claim.
“Chenle!” Someone calls out and he swings around so fast he almost topples over. The man running towards him is undeniably Jaehyun, tall and broad with dimples and Chenle doesn’t even get a word in before he’s being picked up off the ground and swung in the air. Chenle doesn’t even remember the last time his baba or Ten were able to do this so he squeaks with laughter as Jaehyun hugs him tightly.
“Oh my God, you’re so big!” He says and then sets Chenle back down, Chenle giggling to himself as Jaehyun crouchs a bit in front of him. “I don’t know if you remember me very well but you were big enough to fit on my hip the last time I saw you.” He gives Chenle a gentle shake and Chenle throws his arms around Jaehyun’s shoulders again, already feeling a little more at home. “I can’t barely believe what you look like now, Lele Bear.” He mumbles, squeezing him tightly.
“Lele Bear?” Chenle asks, pulling away and lifting a brow.
“Too old for it?” Jaehyun asks, straightening up. “I know but your dad is probably going to have a heart attack and the first thing he’s going to say is ‘lele bear’ and you should probably know that. That’s what we used to call you, kiddo,” Jaehyun says, ruffling his hair.
“Hyuck said… dad calls him ‘duckie’,” Chenle says and Jaehyun sighs, swinging an arm around Chenle’s shoulder, tugging him into his side, wandering towards the baggage carousels. “Is that the same thing?”
“Exactly the same thing,” Jaehyun confirms. “Let’s get your bags and get you the vineyard. You’re gonna love it.”
“Hyuck’s already told me about it,” Chenle says and Jaehyun barks a laugh, Chenle lifting an arm to wrap around Jaehyun’s waist.
“Of course he has. I promise whatever Hyuck said pales in comparison to the real thing.”
It’s not a very long drive back to the vineyard but the road is windy and lined with grape vines as far as the eye can see. They’re in wine country, Jaehyun said and when Chenle looks over at Jaehyun there are some vague recollections gathering in the back of his brain. He was only three but he swears he remembers those dimples. Jaehyun’s are deep and they show up a lot. He already feels at home here, like there’s something he’s been missing his whole life and things are finally starting to click into place.
Jaehyun pulls up to the front of a house and it is beautiful. Hyuck showed him some photos from his instagram, from their dad’s instagram, but Jaehyun was right. The vineyard is sprawling in front of the massive house that Hyuck said was built when he was just a kid and Chenle looks up the building as Jaehyun steps out, still not believing this is real.
“Jae!” Johnny yells from the depths of the house and it puts Chenle’s nerves on high alert. Jaehyun’s head shoots up from where it was previously stuffed in the trunk of the jeep. He walks to the front of the jeep quickly, opening the door to let Chenle jump out and just as quickly steps in front of him as Johnny walks out from the house, a smile on his face. “Please don’t tell me you’re hiding my kid from me. It’s been a month, man,” Johnny says and Jaehyun lifts a hand to run it through his hair.
“Not at all,” Jaehyun assures him. “I just think you should know, this was Hyuck’s idea,” he warns and Johnny’s brow creases and he tilts his head but his smile doesn’t disappear.
“This sounds… ridiculous. What did that boy do now?” Johnny asks. Jaehyun grimaces and then steps out of the way allowing Johnny to see Chenle.
The change in his face is instantaneous, the way it changes from nervously amused to shocked in barely a second. He turns his head to look at Jaehyun, who shrugs a shoulder while Chenle drops the bag in his hand on the gravel drive, stepping towards Johnny hesitantly.
“Hey, dad,” Chenle greets him softly and Johnny breathes a deep, shaky breath. “Are you mad?”
“Lele Bear,” he says breathlessly and it’s less than a second before Chenle is picked up again, the second time in a single day. Johnny hugs him so tightly it’s like he can’t even breath, but he doesn’t care because this is the first time in his life he’s ever gotten to see his other dad in person and get to remember it. The first time he’s gotten to hug him and he feels it when Johnny presses a kiss to his temple, squeezing him so tight it almost hurts.
Johnny sets him back on the ground and kneels in front of him, runs his hands from Chenle’s hair to his shoulders, down his arms and takes hold of his hands. He looks like he’s about to cry and Chenle has a feeling he already is and that’s a weird feeling. The Qians have never really been criers.
“What’re you doing here?” Johnny asks. “How did you get here? Does your Dad know?” He asks all in quick succession, his eyes glancing up to Jaehyun a few times in anxiety.
“I said it was Hyuck’s idea,” Jaehyun says, nervously.
“He doesn’t know,” Chenle admits and Johnny sighs, hanging his head. “I’m sorry, I just- Hyuck and I met at the program. We found out because we have your pictures and he really wanted to meet Baba and I really wanted to meet you so we asked Jaehyun and Ten ge to help us fly to the other’s country and- God, are you mad?”
“No, no, Lele,” Johnny says, lifting his head. He runs his thumb under Chenle’s eye gently, wiping away his tears. “No, Chenle, I’m not mad. I’m just- confused. I- you met at the program?”
“Yeah,” Chenle confirms. “We were both in the vocal program and we started hanging out. I have- I have your half of that photo.”
Johnny turns his head to look at Jaehyun, who grimaces in reaction. That damned photo from when they first started dating. They’ve kept them for eons it must’ve been and Johnny knows exactly what Chenle’s half must look like and goddamn Kun. Johnny may not be much better for giving Hyuck his own half but what could they do about it now?
“Let’s, uhm, finish this conversation inside?” Jaehyun suggests and Johnny straightens up, brushing his jeans off as he does so. Chenle picks up his bag while Jaehyun tugs Chenle’s suitcase from the back of the jeep, carrying it into the house. Chenle lags a few steps behind Johnny and Jaehyun reaches out for him, tugs him into his side.
“Hey, Lele,” he says softly and Chenle lifts his eyes. “It’s gonna be okay, kid.” Chenle just hopes Jaehyun is right.
An hour and 40 minutes is a much more manageable flight, Hyuck discovers, as he steps off the plane and into the terminal. He’s thankful for the little pictures next to every word because Mandarin still isn’t quite his forte even if he can speak it decently. It’s a short walk down to the Shanghai baggage claim even if it is a little more crowded than San Fran and he makes it down the steps only to see Ten already standing in the baggage area, looking around for him.
“Ten!” Hyuck shouts and Ten whirls around to see him. Hyuck all but throws himself at Ten, causing the man to stumble a bit. He laughs softly into Hyuck’s hair as he holds onto the little twerp that he has missed more than he can ever imagine. He’s so big and bright and Ten squeezes him tight. Can barely believe he’s seeing him after all these years and is so thankful his tear ducts are listening right now.
“Hey, Duckie,” Ten says and Hyuck giggles into his chest. “God, you are so big now, I used to be able to pick you up,” Ten says, pulling away to look at him. He brushes Hyuck’s hair away from his face affectionately, ruffling it a bit on the top. “I’m so glad you’re here.”
“I’m glad I’m here too,” he admits and Ten wraps him up tightly one last time before swinging an arm around his shoulder, tugging him towards the baggage. “So, how much longer until I see Baba?”
“Not much longer at all. Traffic’s a bear at this hour but I think we’ll be able to squeak home in just about 40 minutes,” Ten tells him. “If we can find your baggage that is,” he sighs. Hyuck looks out across the baggage carousel and spots his bright yellow duffle immediately. He leaves Ten’s side to yank it off the moving belt and comes back over to Ten quickly. “Like father like son,” Ten sighs. “Gimme the bag, I will not be able to carry that.”
Hyuck laughs while he hands over his backpack, Ten jerking his head towards the parking garage.
Shanghai is so much busier than Chenle explained, or maybe he did and Hyuck just massively underestimated what his brother was saying. San Fran is busy but this is absolutely undeniably the craziest traffic Hyuck has seen in his life. He leans a little bit out the window as they slide out of the highway and onto proper streets though, amazed and awed by all the things he’s seeing. The way Shanghai manages meld new and old, past and present and future, flashing before his eyes as he takes it all in, the afternoon sun glinting off the towering skyscrapers as well as the curved tiles of standing temples.
As Ten turns into a more residential area, Hyuck sits back in his seat. It’s still unbelievably beautiful with tall, shiny apartment buildings stacked on top of the other, businesses all smushed in block after block. It makes his heart race knowing he’s getting closer and it feels good. It feels like he’s finally about to find the one thing he could never put his finger on. The one that’s always been missing from his life that his dad has always tried to help him find but never could.
“Home, sweet home,” Ten says, pulling into an underground parking garage. He rolls right into a parking spot and shuts the car off, turning to Hyuck with a smile. “You ready to see your dad?”
“So ready,” Hyuck confirms and Ten winks before climbing out of the car, going to help him with his things.
Hyuck can’t believe that his other dad lives like this. The apartment building is over ten stories high and Ten waves to the receptionist on his way through to the elevator, punching the number seven before leaning back, letting the doors slide shut.
“No way,” Hyuck says as the elevator slides up into the air.
“You think your dad lived in a house?” Ten asks, stepping out as the doors open again.
“Oh, I am not in Cali anymore, Ten ge,” Hyuck says and Ten barks a laugh, reaching over to wrap an arm around Hyuck’s shoulders.
“Nah, you’re not. But I think you’ll like this too,” Ten assures him and Hyuck nods, the two of them walking down the hall until they reach the apartment, The Qians engraved on a plaque next to the door, above their apartment code W7.
Ten lets them in with a key fob and Hyuck steps in, his breath taken away by the way it looks.
Kun may live in a highrise but his apartment is covered in comfort items. The sofa is black leather, looks overstuffed, and covered in blankets and throw pillows. The flooring is a soft, warm brown carpet and the walls are painted beige. Hyuck can’t get enough of the way the apartment looks, sets his duffle on the floor by the couch while Ten tosses his keys to the side, toeing off his shoes.
“Ten?!” Someone calls out and Hyuck turns his head to the stairs. It’s a lofted apartment and Ten steps over to Hyuck, resting a hand on his shoulder. The voice that calls out for them is warm, and fills Hyuck with a kind of comfort he never thought he’d need. He looks at the stairs, anxious for the moment the man steps down them.
When he does, Hyuck’s breath catches. Kun steps halfway down and then freezes on the wooden stairs, his eyes wide in surprise. He steps further down the stairs, onto the landing and approaches slowly, eyes darting between Ten and Hyuck.
“It was Chenle’s idea,” Ten says, letting his hand fall away from Hyuck’s shoulder. Kun looks at him with something that looks almost like thinly veiled fear. Donghyuck steps closer to him, and offers him a shy smile.
“Hey, Baba,” he greets him and Kun gasps on his breath.
“Oh, Duckie,” Kun breathes. He reaches for Hyuck and in a moment Hyuck falls into Kun’s arms. Kun hugs him so tight, can feel tears building in his eyes and tries to remain strong even though he can feel Hyuck shuddering in his arms. His poor baby, whom he hasn’t seen in almost ten years and he’s missed him so, so much. He runs a hand down Hyuck’s back gently and pulls away, getting down on a knee to look him in the eye. God, he’s so big, Kun can’t even believe it and lifts his hands to cup Hyuck’s cheeks, wiping away the wetness.
“I’m sorry,” Hyuck sobs. “I know you weren’t expecting me, it’s just that Chenle and I met at the music program and we got talking and we found out about you and dad and he wanted to meet dad and I wanted to meet you so badly, I’m so sorry.” Kun shakes his head as he continues to wipe at Hyuck’s cheeks gently. He thinks Ten is crying but if he looks he’s going to cry and then they’re all going to be crying and nothing is gonna get done.
“No, baby, don’t be sorry. I’m not mad, I promise I’m not mad, Duckie,” Kun says. “I just don’t know how you got here and what about your dad? Does he know that you’re here?”
“No,” Hyuck whines. “Dad doesn’t know. He has no idea but Chenle’s on his way to see him and Ten and Jaehyun helped us change our tickets so I would come to Shanghai and Chenle would go to California. You promise you’re not mad?”
“I’m not mad, I’m not mad at all,” Kun assures him. “Come here, baby,” he says, tugging Hyuck back into his arms. It’s been so, so long since he’s gotten to hold Hyuck and Hyuck is different now. He’s fourteen by now and he’s taller and he’s getting so big and broad, just like his dad and Kun can’t believe this.
Kun pulls away after a moment and wipes at Hyuck’s cheeks with his sleeves, tugs him in close to press a kiss to his hairline. When he pulls back Hyuck’s sobs have died down to sniffles and he looks over to see Ten facing away from them, clearly wiping at his own face. God, for acting like such a stone cold bitch Ten certainly is a crier.
“Well, standing in the foyer and crying isn’t gonna get anything done,” Kun says, lifting a hand to his own face. Oh, God, he’s been crying too and he didn’t even notice. “I assume you and Chenle figured you’d be staying in his room. C’mon, I’ll show you up, okay?” He offers a hand and Hyuck takes it easily, reaching over with his free hand to pick his duffle up.
It’s bright yellow, eye searing, and Kun feels like he recognizes it for some reason. Hyuck handles it like a pro, swinging it over his shoulder and Kun guides him over to the stairs. He pauses and turns back to Ten, who seems to have finally gotten himself together.
“Ten, you wanna come?” Kun asks and Ten waves a hand at them.
“No, no, you go on!” Ten calls out, walking towards the kitchen. “I’m gonna make lunch or whatever,” he says, disappearing around the corner. Kun shakes his head and tugs on Hyuck’s hand gently, the two of them headed up the stairs together.
Chenle’s room is small but Hyuck expected that in an apartment. It’s cute though, the way it’s tacked with pictures of his favorite musicians. His bed is neatly made and his desk is clean, and Hyuck knows that Chenle must think his bedroom is a pit when he gets there. Hyuck tosses his duffle onto the bed and unzips it while Kun leans back against the doorway, watching Hyuck settle in.
“Duckie,” Kun starts and Hyuck turns to him immediately. Oh god, he still answers to ‘duckie’ like that, which means Johnny absolutely kept calling him that while Kun never called Chenle Lele Bear. It was a distancing thing, trying to pretend that all those little nicknames they had weren’t going to follow them out here. Even so, his eyes find the bear Johnny’s mom made Chenle when he was just a baby sitting on the corner of his dresser of their own accord, memories jumping to the forefront of his mind. When he looks back over Hyuck is looking at him expectantly, clearly used to the term of endearment and Kun drops his arms from where they’re crossed over his chest and comes over. “C’mere,” he says and Hyuck lets him hug him again.
There’s a part of Kun that never wants to let go. Never, ever again does he want to let go of his precious baby. Ten years he went without seeing Hyuck because he thought he could do it. He thought if he left and he took Chenle and Johnny got Hyuck they could build their own lives. They could leave what once was in the past but it’s just not possible because even before he saw Hyuck, he thought about him all the time. He always wondered how his duckie was growing up and now he’s here, he’s in his arms again and Kun doesn’t want to let him go.
“Baba?” Hyuck says, voice small and Kun sighs softly. Hyuck didn’t even call him that as a baby but it sounds so nice to hear.
“I’m sorry,” he whispers and Kun presses a kiss to his head. “I just wanted to meet you so bad,” Hyuck admits and Kun pulls away to look at him. “Dad- Dad gave me this picture of you and when I saw you in Chenle’s photos I just… I figured it out, I guess. And Chenle has Dad’s photo so…”
At least Kun wasn’t the only one giving his son photos he shouldn’t have.
“What photo did your dad give you?” Kun asks. Hyuck lets go of him to dig into his bag, pulling a tin from the bottom of his duffle. It’s a little metal tin and when he lifts the lid he sorts through photos of celebrities and a few of his family before pulling two pictures out. He hands them to Kun and Kun sighs deeply.
They took this photo forever ago. They didn’t take many photos of just the two of them when they got married and settled in, but this is from when they first started dating. The original is all crumpled and it’s ripped in half. Kun still remembers doing it and he regrets it but the photocopy is from Hyuck and Chenle’s rudimentary attempt to put it back together. It’s wonky because of the tape but you can get the gist of it, the two of them smiling into the camera, matching peace signs and big grins.
“When did you take that photo?” Hyuck asks, jumping up on Chenle’s bed. Kun gently pushes the duffle to the side and sits down next to Hyuck, photos still in his hands.
“A long time ago,” Kun says. “We were still kids then, at least it felt like it. We had just started dating and I don’t even remember why we took the photo,” he admits. “Your dad wanted to keep it as a memory, got it developed properly, got it framed and then… well,” he sighs, handing them back to Hyuck. “Things happen.”
He looks away from Hyuck then, his eyes finding the beat up, canary yellow duffle bag and he huffs a laugh.
“Where did you even get this, it’s an eyesore, Hyuck,” Kun says and Hyuck giggles as Kun gets up, starts unpacking it with him. Hyuck sets his photos and the tin aside on Chenle’s bedside table and gets up on his knees while Kun stands at the end of the bed, the two of them emptying the duffle together.
“Jaehyun gave it to me,” Hyuck explains. When was the last time Kun even heard Jaehyun’s name? “Said it was Dad’s and Dad wanted to get rid of it but like, why get rid of a perfectly good duffle, so Jae gave it to me. I took it with me to the music program,” Hyuck says, digging a few shirts out the bottom of it.
Johnny had this duffle when they moved in together. Kun spent so much time telling him it was an eyesore and he should donate it to someone else, get something a little more useful, like an actual carrying case or a suitcase but he just refused to get rid of it. At least it did, eventually, come in handy, and the color really suits Hyuck’s personality.
He’s so bright.
They manage to empty out his duffle and throw his dirty laundry into the hamper for them to run through the washer. Ten calls them down to eat lunch and Hyuck wraps himself around Kun’s side, Kun’s arm settling across Hyuck’s shoulders as they head back down the stairs. Kun presses a kiss to the top of his head gently, and they find Ten in the kitchen, toodling around to finish lunch. Ten isn’t much of a cook, that’s generally Kun’s territory, so it’s a miracle he’s even managed to make a decent meal but Kun supposes he keeps Ten around for something.
Something other than if he didn’t have him when he and Johnny divorced, he would’ve had a total mental collapse.
“It smells good, Ten ge,” Hyuck says and he bounces away from Kun’s side to Ten’s easily. Ten smiles at the kiddo and Kun leans against the wall, watching the two of them.
“Well, I hope you like it, it’s probably not like what you eat back home,” Ten says but Hyuck just shrugs his shoulders.
“Dad makes all kinds of stuff. Jaehyun’s an okay cook but to be honest, neither of them are very good at Korean. We usually only eat that when Grandma’s over, she’s a much better cook than Dad is.” He pauses and looks over at Kun. “Don’t tell him I said that.”
“She did always give your dad a hard time about feeding me when she came to visit us,” Kun admits with a little smile and the grin he gets from Hyuck is blinding.
How he could have ever walked away from this kid, he doesn’t know.
It’s a tense few moments in the house and Jaehyun ends up taking Chenle up to his room while Johnny walks a rut into the carpet. Chenle tosses his bag down on Hyuck bed and then promptly follows it, Jaehyun setting his case down by the door. Chenle groans into the pillows and Jaehyun sits down next to him, rubbing his back.
“He’s just shocked, kiddo,” Jaehyun says. “He’ll get over it. And to be honest with you, he was kind of leading up to telling Hyuck something important when he got back so this… kind of throws a wrench into things.”
“What kind of things?” Chenle asks, rolling over in bed to view Jaehyun.
Jaehyun nods to the window at about the same time an absolutely unbelievably girlish giggle floats up through the open window and Chenle gets up to look out. Jaehyun heaves the suitcase up onto the bed while Chenle kneels on the window seat. There’s his dad and some leggy woman Chenle has never seen before but he can only assume is Irene.
Hyuck hadn’t spoken at length about her but she’s exactly the kind of woman Chenle expected. She’s short but she’s Asian and tiny with a pretty smile. His dad looks stressed out while he speaks to her but she’s got her hands all over him, touching his chest and his shoulder and Johnny’s hand is resting on her hip. Chenle lifts his phone and zooms to take a couple of sneaky photos.
“Her name’s Irene Bae. She’s a publicist that your dad hired for the vineyard a year or so ago. Hyuck’s probably already given you the down low but if you ask me, she’s done a better job of selling herself than the grapes,” Jaehyun says and Chenle grimaces as the two of them walk down the yard.
“What do you mean?”
“Look, Chenle, I’m gonna be frank with you,” Jaehyun says and Chenle looks back at Jaehyun as he tosses Chenle’s dirty shirts in the hamper. “Your dad is not some kind of suave, debonair type. He lives in snapbacks and oversized tees and owns a fake Rolex. So I gotta ask myself, what’s a pretty, young, leggy woman like that doing with a guy like him,” Jaehyun comments while Chenle adjusts his phone, taking a few more photos.
It’s gross, the way Johnny has his hands all over her. He smiles at her all gently while she slides her hand up his neck.
“Then I realize,” Jaehyun says, tossing a pair of jeans at the hamper, “there’s about a million reasons why that girl is giggling and they’re all sitting in Bank of America.”
“So you don’t think she even really likes him?” Chenle asks, looking over his shoulder. Jaehyun shrugs his shoulders, resting his arms on his case as he leans towards Chenle.
“Hyuck and I have talked about this. She puts forth minimal effort to get to know Hyuck, knows he’s part of the deal and they can’t stand each other. Johnny thinks they’ll get over it but I just don’t see it happening. And honestly, this girl has your dad eating out the palm of her hand.” Chenle frowns, more than a little disgusted. “They do everything together, everything that Hyuck doesn’t butt his way into. But you know what,” Jaehyun says, turning back to his case. “Meet her, see for yourself. Don’t let me influence you.”
Chenle does not like the sound of that one bit.
When Chenle comes back down, Johnny is in the living room again and, thankfully, he’s alone. Chenle wanders towards him and Johnny looks over at him, gives him a shy little smile before patting the space next to him on the couch. Chenle comes over and sits down next to him and Johnny rests a hand on his knee.
“I might’ve given you the wrong impression when you got in,” Johnny says. “And I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make it seem like I’m not happy to see you or that I don’t want to see you because it’s not that at all, Lele,” Johnny says and the way he says it is so unlike his baba but so comforting. Johnny gives him a soft smile. “I’ve missed you so much. I just- I didn’t think I’d see you again.”
“Well, why not?” Chenle asks and Johnny sighs, leaning back in the couch. Chenle looks at him with big eyes and Johnny doesn’t really know what to say.
How do you tell your son that you expected that his dad would raise him for the entirety of his life if only so you’d never have to cross paths ever again as far as they could see of the foreseeable future? How do you tell the child you were seconds from adopting as your own that you didn’t because you couldn’t reconcile your differences with his father and instead turned it into a messy, angry divorce that took him away from the only boy that he was totally and completely inseparable from as a baby?
“Because, Lele, you belong to your dad,” Johnny says as delicately as he can. “And Hyuck belongs to me and that’s just how it goes. And I’m glad you and Hyuck got to meet and you wanted to see me because God knows I wanted to see you,” he says and Chenle’s lips tilt up a bit at the corner. “But that’s just not how it works.”
“It’s just not fair,” Chenle says and Johnny sighs. He lifts his hand to wrap his arm around Chenle and Chenle falls into his side, wraps his arms around Johnny’s middle and Johnny hugs him tightly. Chenle throws his legs over his lap and it’s like Chenle’s a baby all over again. And maybe, if Johnny holds him tight enough for long enough, he can pretend that ten years haven’t gone back and he hasn’t missed out on all these big milestones in his baby’s life and they can just go back. He can pretend Chenle’s still a baby and they can have a do over and not take Hyuck and Chenle away from each other, away from their other dad, like that.
But they can’t so this will have to do.
“I know it’s not,” Johnny says and Chenle buries his face in Johnny’s shoulder. “I know it’s not fair, Chenle, and I know your dad and I weren’t being fair when we came up with this arrangement and I really, really wish we had come up with something better than this.”
“This sucks,” Chenle groans and Johnny chuckles, pressing a kiss to the top of Chenle’s head.
“I agree, this does suck,” Johnny says. “But you’re here now and I want you to know,” he tells him, pulling back to look Chenle in the eye, “I love you. I know it doesn’t seem like it but I do. I love you so much and I wish we had come up with something better than this so you always knew that but I do. I love you, Lele Bear.”
“I love you too, Dad,” Chenle says and it’s the only thing Johnny’s ever wanted to hear from his baby.
They remain on that couch for an impressively long amount of time, just sitting together before Jaehyun shows up and suggests getting dinner started.
Johnny cooks while Jaehyun scrounges around for all their cutlery. Hyuck mentioned they don’t usually eat in the dining room and that’s obvious, the way Jaehyun throws bowls down next to Johnny as he cooks, makes no move to try and set the table. It’s kind of refreshing and Chenle rests his chin in his hand as he watches his dad cook dinner, bumping Jaehyun out of his way with his hip.
“I’m good, I’m not that good,” Johnny says, putting the noodles and broth into bowls. It’s a homemade ramen and it smells incredible. “Don’t tell your dad but this broth is home remedied from the store,” Johnny says as he sets the bowl in front of Chenle.
“Baba does that all the time,” Chenle says and Johnny’s mouth falls open in over dramatic shock.
“He yelled at me for that when we were younger. Oh, I’m gonna get him for that,” Johnny says, putting the pots in the sinks, rinsing them out before joining Chenle and Jaehyun at the bar, twirling his chopsticks in his hands. “What other kinds of shortcuts does your dad take when he cooks now. I’m interested,” Johnny says and Chenle giggles as he begins eating.
Dinner is a casual affair and Johnny asks Chenle quite a bit about the music program. He’s practically bursting with it as he tells Johnny about the courses, the people he met, his roommate and getting to know Hyuck. Johnny listens attentively as Chenle goes on and on about Jisung, the adventures they had in Seoul. It’s cute, the way he gets so animated. He’s quite the social butterfly, Johnny realizes, the way his stories glide effortlessly from the music program to his friends back home. He has a little group of boys back in his apartment building that he’s friends with and when he goes on about Yangyang, Johnny can picture them much the same way he can picture Hyuck and Mark, the boy who lives down the road with his parents and the way they run up and down the lines of grape vines.
“Hey, Dad,” Chenle says after dinner as they start doing the dishes together. Johnny told him he didn’t have to but Chenle said he does the dishes with his dad and Ten ge all the time (damn, Johnny misses Ten) and picks up a dish towel to dry and put away while Johnny washes and rinses.
“Yes, Lele?” Johnny replies. A smile makes its way onto Chenle’s lips of his own accord and Johnny loves that. That something as little as a nickname makes Chenle smile like that.
“Hyuck told me… about Irene,” Chenle says and Johnny nods, as he hands his son a bowl. “So like… can you tell me about her?”
Something tells Johnny that after all of this there’s no way he and Kun are going to be able to go back to their previous arrangement. Hyuck and Chenle know about each other. They spent an entire month getting to know each other in a different country, making memories together, and they’re close now. Even if they wanted to, their sons would pitch a fit and that’s just the way it is now. Chenle is going to be a part of Johnny’s life the same way Hyuck is going to be a part of Kun’s when this is all over, the inevitable switch back they’re going to have to do, and that’s something they’re going to have to deal with.
Johnny and Kun are going to have to be a part of each other’s lives now, no matter how uncomfortable that might be.
“Irene is… my girlfriend,” Johnny says. “She’s a really nice girl and I like her a lot and I know Hyuck has probably told you a few things about her-”
“But I don’t know her,” Chenle says, trying to give his dad the benefit of the doubt. He still doesn’t have a good feeling after his conversation with Jaehyun but he owes his dad this, he feels. Johnny gives him a little grin and hands him a clean bowl.
“Well, Hyuck and she don’t get along right now. I think it’s just growing pains but if you want to meet her, you can,” Johnny allows and Chenle offers him a little smile. “I know it’s weird, that you’re just getting me now and you’re gonna get my girlfriend at the same time but… I think she’s going to be a… kind of permanent fixture in our lives soon so, maybe it is best you do, meet her that is.”
Chenle doesn’t like the sound of that either but he gives his dad a shy smile and hopes that Jaehyun and Hyuck are just being dramatic.
Johnny lingers around Hyuck’s bedroom door for a lot longer than he would usually, Chenle curled up in Hyuck’s bed. He still can’t believe Chenle is here, in California, with him. Ever since he knew he’s had a low ache of concern in the back of his mind about Hyuck but it’s been hard to focus on both at once. It’s just been so long since he’s seen Chenle he doesn’t want to leave him alone for a second. He doesn’t want to walk away because he’s worried that if he does he’ll disappear into thin air, like he was never here at all.
His phone rings as soon as he gets down to the living room and he snatches it off the coffee table, taking a deep breath when he sees the caller ID.
“Johnny?” He sounds just the same.
“Hey, Kun,” Johnny replies.
“Oh my God, is he there? Is he safe?” Kun asks and Johnny can only assume Hyuck has already gotten into Shanghai, probably a hell of a lot earlier than Chenle got here but the time difference caused him to wait to call.
“Yeah, he’s here. He’s… he’s fine,” Johnny confirms and Kun sighs into the phone. Johnny sits down in the recliner, leans back and closes his eyes. “What about Hyuck, is he okay?”
“He’s okay, he’s here, with me. I think you should be a little more worried about Ten poisoning him than anything but he’s alright for now.” Johnny snorts softly. Ten never really was the chef in their friend group, that usually fell on the two of them more often than not. His baby is okay though and that’s… that’s really all he could ask for in the grand scheme of things.
“Johnny,” Kun says softly and Johnny sighs.
“Please don’t say it, okay? Today has been a helluva day as it is, please don’t say it,” Johnny says and Kun sighs again. “You gave him my picture?”
“You gave Hyuck mine,” Kun replies and it’s not accusatory but it is in that pointed tone of voice that brooks no argument that he had. “Sending them to the same music program, giving them the same photo… I guess we think more alike than we thought.”
The silence that overcomes the conversation is awkward, to say the least. Kun finds himself worrying his thumbnail between his teeth as he pulls his knees up to his chest in bed. It’s well past the hour he should be out of bed but he couldn’t think of a better place to have a private conversation than in here. Besides, he’d rather like to be in a place of comfort while he phones his ex-husband he hasn’t spoken to in almost ten years because their sons decided to switch places on them.
“Kun,” Johnny begins.
“Look, now’s not really the time-”
“It’s- it’s not about that. I mean, if I want to go into detail about all the things that we both fucked up that caused us to split up, you’re right, now’s not really the time for it,” Johnny says and Kun shifts further into his blankets. “But I wanted to say I’m sorry for this terrible arrangement we came up with. I know we agreed on it but I should’ve said something. Because I hate not seeing him and I know you must hate not seeing Duckie and I’m sorry that I didn’t say something sooner.”
“It was my idea,” Kun admits. “And you’re right, it was a terrible one. I just- at the time, I couldn’t think of a better plan. The impracticality of shuttling them from Chicago to Shanghai just didn’t sit right with me but you’re right. I’ve missed him something awful.”
“When we do trade them back,” Johnny says and the inevitably of it makes Kun’s stomach twist in knots, “we really have to find something better.”
“I know,” Kun admits, no matter how much he doesn’t want to. No matter how much he wants to keep this arrangement, if only to not have to see Johnny, it’s not possible anymore. And they both know it.
Kun hangs up the phone and drags himself from his bed after a series of moments where he considers his life and how it got to his point. He and Johnny didn’t even touch base on the fact that they’re going to have to switch their kids back eventually beyond its inevitability, because it’s not something they really want to talk about. Just being on the phone makes Kun’s heart beat double time in his chest, which he hopes is just anxiety. He can hear Hyuck’s laughter downstairs and knows he’s going to go down there to see he and Ten messing around in the kitchen and his heart squeezes in his chest because this is something he should’ve been hearing his whole life.
If he closes his eyes he can imagine Chenle’s squeaky laughter filling the spaces inbetween and picture Johnny running around with their kids. A house and a yard and the way the sun used to make Johnny’s eyes shine amber honey brown when it would set in the evening.
But he opens his eyes and knows it’s just a fantasy. It’s not real and this is the life he chose and there’s nothing he can do now other than accept those facts and move on.
When he does finally extract himself from his bed, he finds exactly what he expected. Except Hyuck is sitting on the counter and Ten has finished breakfast, plating the eggs and bacon and toast and Kun does not remember buying that but he also knows Ten is a bit of sneaky shopper himself. Hyuck has a piece of bacon between his teeth and there’s already coffee on the counter.
“Hand me a mug from behind you, Duckie,” Kun says and Hyuck reaches behind himself, snatches a couple of mugs from the cupboard and hands one to Kun, the other landing on the counter next to his thigh. Kun eyes it for a second before pouring a cup, only to hand it to Hyuck, who takes it with a smile, the bacon having disappeared a moment before. “How did I know your dad got you on the habit?” Kun comments, taking the second mug from the counter to pour himself a glass.
“You know Dad, he loves his coffee,” Hyuck says and he takes a sip of it black. Kun pulls out a carton of almond milk and sweetener from the cupboards for his own, something Johnny never failed to complain about. “He lets me try his wine too. He’s taught me a lot. Like, and no offense Baba, but you buy cheap coffee.”
A laugh jumps out of Ten before he can stop it, lifting his wrist to his mouth as he glances at Kun from the corner of his eyes, scraping the pan clean with the spatula under the running water.
“Well tell me then,” Kun says, leaning his hip against the counter, stirring his coffee, “does your father still drink Americanos?” He lifts a brow and Hyuck fights a smile into the lip of his mug. Kun looks at Ten and Ten shakes his head.
“I’m shocked your father hasn’t died of a heart attack,” Ten comments mildly. “All that caffeine he drinks,” Ten mutters.
“He drinks reds,” Hyuck offers as an explanation and Kun snorts into his coffee, lowers his cup as his phone starts ringing. Ten gets into it with Hyuck about his father’s health situation and how red wine does not cure caffeine addictions as Kun answers it.
Ten ushers Hyuck off the counter and Hyuck hops off to sit at the kitchen table with Ten, Kun making his way over as he listens to the gentleman on the line complain about the newest shoot. It’s really a minor problem and they could very well fix this without Kun coming in but it’s really just like a photographer to insist Kun comes in when Kun’s already expressly told everyone he was taking some time off to spend with his son when he got back from his music program. He hums at all the right points as he leans back in his seat and Hyuck looks at him with wide eyes, dipping the corner of his toast triangle into his runny eggs. He’s really just like his dad.
“Oh, hold on,” Kun says. He pulls the phone away from his ear, holding his opposite hand over the receiver. “I know I said I was going to be off for a bit but they’re insisting I come in for the shoot. Would you hate coming down to the studio with me?” He asks and Hyuck’s eyes brighten.
“I’d love to!” He says and Kun smiles, going back to his phone call, letting the assistant on the phone know he’ll be down just after breakfast.
He dresses and even lends Hyuck one of his jackets. He fills it out much better than Kun was expecting which is kind of a slap in the face about how big and tall Hyuck is getting. They walk down to the studio since it isn’t far and Kun keeps his arm around Hyuck the entire time, Hyuck leaning into his side.
The walk down Kun asks him about the music program and things back home and discovers that Hyuck can talk about just about anything. He’s as chatty as his dad and has the exact same charisma, the way a bland story can turn into a grand adventure just from the way Hyuck is telling it. He tells him about the boy he roomed with at the music program and his friends from back home, goes on about Mark for a length of time, his best friend that lives down the road. It reminds him a bit of Chenle and Yangyang, and Kun tugs him in close, kissing the top of his head when they end up stopped at a crosswalk.
They walk up to the studio, his baba’s little store front that’s really just a small black box with Qian Kun Designs written on the front of it in Chinese and English. Hyuck comes to a stop in front of it and stares up at the mannequins in the front window. There’s three of them, two of them in dashing suits, one of them a simple black number while the other is a gorgeous gray pinstripe and the one in the middle is wearing a long, tulle skirted wedding dress. They’re all absolutely stunning and Kun looks with him for a moment.
“You designed those?” Hyuck asks in wonder and Kun shrugs a shoulder.
“It’s what I do,” he replies simply as though that’s what it is, simple. “Sometimes I feel as though the dresses are a bit too… much, but I think this one turned out alright. You don’t hate the pinstripe suit?” Kun asks, looking down at him.
“No, it’s great!” Hyuck insists. He turns to Kun then. “You know who I think would look great in it,” he says and Kun lifts a brow, half expects him to say his own dad when he says, “You.”
“Me?” Kun says on a laugh. “Alright, well I think this change in scenery has made you a little loopy,” Kun says and Hyuck giggles into Kun’s jacket and he tugs his son into his chest. “C’mon, let’s see what the fuss is about inside,” he says, turning Hyuck around to get into the shop.
In the back of the shop is the studio and Kun leads them down the hall to where they’re taking photos of his newest gowns. It’s a very classic wedding dress silhouette, cinching at the model’s waist and draping down prettily and Kun calls out to the room as a whole as he gets in. Hyuck can’t believe what he’s looking at, a whole army of people in the room. There’s a man that runs up to speak with Kun immediately that Kun talk down while wandering up to the photographer, seeing what the problem is.
Hyuck stands back while Kun commandeers the attention of everyone in the room. It’s a lot like watching his dad work with men at winery parties, the way he can stop people in their tracks with just a word. He knows how his dads might’ve fallen for each other now, catching each other’s attention like that. His baba is incredible and he’s all smiles as the shoot moves on from it’s momentary standstill. Kun glances over at him and Hyuck grins back, Kun turning his attention back to the shoot for a moment and Hyuck sighs.
“My baba is so cool,” he mutters, watching the way he steps up to help adjust the dress, the veil.
They don’t stay long but Kun does linger to thank the assistants, the photographer, insisting that it was no problem even though Hyuck knows that’s just him being nice. He ushers Hyuck back out the door shortly thereafter and rather than head back to the apartment right away, Kun detours to take him out on the city.
“First time in Shanghai, probably shouldn’t spend all day in the apartment,” Kun says and Hyuck grins up at him as they start walking around.
“Can I ask you something,” Hyuck says and Kun turns to him, expectant. “You spend all this time around wedding clothes, designing wedding clothes, does it ever make you think about getting remarried? Or like… your first wedding?” Hyuck asks and Kun sighs, shaking his head to himself.
“Well, to be honest, Duckie, I can’t say it does. The thing is, neither of us even wore suits at our wedding,” he admits and Hyuck scoots in closer, letting Kun rest an arm around his shoulders again.
“Well, why not?” Hyuck asks.
“Honestly, it wasn’t that type of wedding,” Kun says. “C’mon, if you’re gonna grill me about your dad, let’s at least get lunch,” Kun says and Hyuck lets himself be guided into a cafe where Kun orders for them and even indulges Hyuck in an iced coffee. Hyuck folds myself into the little two seater booth and Kun rests his hands on the table.
“What kind of wedding was it?” Hyuck asks and Kun huffs at him, setting his work bag on the ground.
“It was very small, there weren’t very many people there, my parents didn’t even come,” Kun confesses. “We got married in a botanical garden in Chicago, it was a very small ceremony, hardly anyone was there other than our friends. We had the reception in our tiny studio apartment and that was that,” Kun explains, thanking the waiter as he drops off their lunch. “Not much to be said about it, to be honest.”
“Okay, but what about when you met?” Hyuck asks, adjusting his plate in front of him. “Dad doesn’t talk about it either.”
“Oh, goodness,” Kun sighs, stirring his drink with his straw. “We met in college. I’m sure you know your dad went to a technical school for photography but left with a degree in business of all things as his major instead,” Kun says and Hyuck nods as he tucks into his sandwich. “I was a study abroad student, I went to the technical school for a degree in textiles and actually finished that degree. We met at a friend’s party, as silly as that might sound.”
“Was it love at first sight?” Hyuck asks and Kun snorts into the sip of his drink.
“I think you’re old enough now that I can admit that no, it was not, especially not two drinks in,” Kun says and Hyuck giggles a bit. “Ten introduced us actually and we started hanging out after the party. We dated after awhile, that’s actually when we took that photo your dad gave you. We got married after we graduated.”
“So?” Hyuck prompts.
“So what?” Kun asks, taking a bite of his own lunch.
“So why did you divorce?” Hyuck asks and Kun sets his own lunch down. It’s a hard thing to nail down, the exact reason.
He could say it was financial disagreements. Struggles raising both of them at the same time. He could say it was the culmination of petty arguments they were both too stubborn to let go of. He could say it was fear. At the end of the day, it was a lot of fear. The unknown seemed to hang over their heads like a dark cloud. Meeting rent, raising kids, paying utilities all while they both try to get their dreams off the ground. It wasn’t impossible but it felt like it. Being 25, raising two kids and working dead end jobs without truly knowing how to give themselves a better life. It was hard.
In a way, Kun could say it was his fault. In others, he could blame Johnny. But in the end, neither of them tried hard enough and their divorce was… inevitable as things broke down between them. When he packed his bags at the end of their last fight he didn’t feel good about it. He didn’t feel good about signing the divorce papers and taking Chenle and moving to the other end of the world but it felt necessary. It felt like the only thing he could do, the only thing he had left to control when things were spiraling and he had regrets. So many of them but this is where he is and he’s come to accept it.
“Sometimes,” Kun begins and he already knows this won’t be enough. Hyuck’s a big kid now, he’s already fourteen, can handle the reality of it but, he doesn’t want to say it. Part of him doesn’t want to own up to it, he thinks. “Sometimes,” he starts again, “things just don’t work out. And that’s… not anyone’s fault, that’s just the way it is.”
Hyuck clearly does not like that answer but he doesn’t argue it and Kun reaches across the table, takes Hyuck’s hand in his and squeezes it gently.
“I know that’s a bad answer,” Kun says because he feels like he needs to be honest with Hyuck about it. “I know it’s not what you want to hear but it’s hard to explain. But I just want you to know, what happened between your dad and I, it doesn’t change the way I feel about you. I love you so much, Duckie. More than you can imagine.” Hyuck gives him a shy smile. “I promise. Okay?”
“I love you too,” Hyuck says and Kun offers him a soft smile in return.
“Hey Lele,” Johnny says the next day at breakfast and Chenle glances over his shoulder as he and Jaehyun eat breakfast at the bar. “When you get a sec, come on down to the pool. I got someone you wanna meet,” he says and he’s smiling while he says it.
“Okay, Dad,” Chenle agrees.
“Okay, Lele,” Johnny parrots back with a smile before slipping away from the door. He leans back and Jaehyun leans forward on the other side of the bar, spotting the woman from yesterday out on the terrace with him. He slides an arm around her waist, her hands landing on his shoulder as they walk down the steps. Chenle looks back at his food while Jaehyun lifts an unconvinced eyebrow.
“Just don’t let her trick ya, Lele Bear,” Jaehyun says and Chenle lifts his eyes to look at him. “She’s a publicist. She gets paid to make things look better than they are,” he says, giving him a pointed look. Chenle smiles before glancing over his shoulder again.
Chenle runs down after changing, wanders up to where Irene and his dad are, Irene lounging in a camisole and what looks to be the skirt of a power suit while his dad looks… like his dad. He’s wearing an open button down over an undershirt, jeans with rips in the knees and scuffed boots. Jaehyun was definitely onto something but Chenle walks up to them slowly, with a little hesitant smile on his face, sunglasses perched on the end of his nose.
“There is he,” Johnny says, standing up from where he was sitting on the end of the lounger. “Lele Bear, this is who I was telling you about,” he says, walking over to rest an arm over his son’s shoulders. “Chenle, this is Irene Bae,” he introduces and Chenle lifts a brow, concealed by his glasses.
Irene looks up from her fruity cocktail with a smile. It’s much too wide to be totally genuine but she puts on a good show. She’s definitely pretty, with rather classic Korean features, the kind of features that girls from there strive to have. She even does her make up to play up the look, dewy cheeks and big, almond shaped eyes, long lashes, perfectly arched brows and a pout that’s blotted with tint just so. Her hair is long, pitch black and shiny, clipped back with barrettes by her left ear and she’s got a mean pair of heeled sandals on her feet.
“Hi,” she greets him.
“Hello,” Chenle replies, lifting his sunglasses to rest on top of his head.
“Irene, this is my half son. My ex took Hyuck for a bit when he finished his music program so Chenle will be staying with me for a little while.” It’s not technically a lie but Chenle can’t fault his dad for sugar coating the truth a little bit. Hard to explain what he and Hyuck did, after all.
“Well, it’s lovely to meet you,” she insists. “Chenle, is it? That’s a Chinese name, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, I live there most of the year,” Chenle explains. “Bae is a Korean name, isn’t it?” Chenle asks and Irene nods.
“It is. I’m Korean myself, like your dad. You know, I’ve met Hyuck before but you dad was just telling me about you the other day and the way he talked about you suggested you were still young. You must be close to Hyuck’s age, aren’t you?”
“I’ll be thirteen, soon,” Chenle comments. “How old are you?”
“Okay,” Johnny interrupts. “Your curiosity is really getting the better of you, Lele. I’m gonna grab a bottle of something to celebrate this joyous occasion and I’ll be right back, hm?” He says and Irene nods with a smile. Johnny pats Chenle on the head before walking away.
Irene turns as her phone starts ringing, picking it up. This, Chenle is used to, the way his baba sometimes has to take calls for work. Irene winks at him, giving him the universal sign for ‘one moment’ as she speaks to whomever she’s on the phone with. Chenle turns away, rolling his eyes as he walks to the pool. His sunglasses and t-shirt land on the ground next to his sandals as he dips his feet into the pool.
“Oh, yes, I am writing it all down,” Irene says and Chenle glares over his shoulder as it’s clear she’s a) not doing that and b) doesn’t care that she’s not. “Yes, that sounds like a worthwhile cause but I’m looking now and it seems that Mr. Suh is going to be out of the country on those days.” Chenle glances back, doesn’t remember his dad mentioning anything about a vacation. “Oh of course, I’ll be sure to mention it to him. Thank you,” she says and hangs up the phone. Chenle shifts a little on the edge of the pool while Irene moves to the end of her lounger, her phone left on the poolside table.
“So, Lele,” she says and the nickname leaves quite a bit to be desired coming from her mouth. “Your dad said you were at a music program this past month, the same one as Hyuckie. How was it, a lot of fun?” She asks.
“My dad’s going out of the country?” He asks and Irene glances back, as though surprised to be caught in her lie.
“Oh, no,” she laughs. “I just had to tell a little white lie to get him out of something.” Chenle forces a smile. “You know, the way your dad talks about it is much the same he talks about Hyuck. It’s clear you guys are really close, even if you are his half son. That’s so sweet,” Irene goes on and Chenle smiles as he stands up.
“Dad and I are getting really close. We don’t see each other very much so it’s great to get to spend this time together,” Chenle says and then promptly jumps into the water.
Irene jumps up with a yell, surprised at the sudden splash. Chenle bobs back up, putting on a good show of being surprised. Two can play that game, Chenle considers as Irene clears her throat, reaching for the towel.
“Oh, I’m so sorry. Did I get you wet, Irene?” Chenle asks and Irene dabs at the front of her tank top gently and the front of her skirt, the light gray houndstooth speckled with water droplets.
“Just… a little… Lele,” she says. She settles down after a moment, tossing her hair over her shoulder. She bends over a bit in front of the pool with a smile, hands on her knees. It’s a little more forced this time. “Hey,” she begins and Chenle lifts himself up in the inner tube, “I just want you to know, I know we don’t know each other very well and I’m sure your half brother might have had some things to say about me but I don’t want that to get in the way of our relationship. You’ll give me the benefit of the doubt, won’t you?”
“Of course,” Chenle agrees. “I couldn’t agree more. I know my brother can be kind of dramatic but he’s always been quick to judge. I mean what can you do when your dad’s gone through seven- sorry, eight women in the past few years. I try to give them some time but, they don’t really stick around long so Hyuck’s taken to snap judgements.”
“I’m number eight?” Irene asks, straightening up.
“Look, Irene, you want the low down?”
“What is the low down?” She asks, curious.
“The information on the other women. I can’t say I blame you, Hyuck’s just not really the sharing type,” Chenle says with a little smile. “I’m sure you’ve noticed my brother can be kind of… sensitive. I feel like the least I should do is let you know. Every year it’s a new woman in my dad’s life, and it’s always the same routine. Horse rides through the vineyard, romantic dinners with a bottle of his special reserve label wine, moonlight swims-”
“Here we are, a bottle of my special reserve label,” Johnny says walking back up with a bottle and two glasses. Chenle gives Irene a pointed look and Irene looks away with a little pinch in her smiling lips, looking up and away as one of her hands comes up to rest on her jaw. “So, I hope you two found something to talk about while I was gone,” he says, walking up to her side and resting his arm around Irene’s waist.
Chenle pinches his nose and slips under the water through the inner tube.
“Does that mean yes?” Johnny asks, skeptical.
“Oh yes,” Irene replies. “We did.” She turns to Johnny with a pleasant smile.
Chenle phones Hyuck that night, hiding in the bathroom with his phone pressed to his ear. Hyuck snatches his phone off the bedside table, slipping into the bathroom himself, answering it as softly as he can.
“What?” Hyuck hisses.
“Hyuck, we got some serious problems,” Chenle says.
“What kind of problems?” He asks, sitting on the closed toilet.
“It’s Dad and Irene. There’s something not right going on,” Chenle insists, pacing the bathroom. “You gotta get Baba out here asap.”
“Are you out of your mind?” Hyuck retorts. “I’ve had a day and a half with him, and you expect me to just up and bring him back to California with me? He hasn’t even said anything about sending me back yet and I am not going to upset this very delicate balance, Lele.”
“Hyuck, there is something very weird about Irene and Dad. I know you said that there’s no way Irene is gonna stick around but they’re being super weird and not saying something and I really, really don’t want to know what it is so if you could bring Baba out here immediately I think that might put some brakes on whatever Dad and Irene are doing,” Chenle explains, sitting on the edge of the bathtub.
“I’m just getting to know Baba!” Hyuck points out. “My whole life and you want me to condense that down to a mere 36 hours. He’s so cool and his job is so interesting and I got him to talk about dad and their wedding and how they met, it was so sweet, Lele-”
“Hyuck, this is an emergency!” Chenle insists. “I need you to bring Baba out here, there is something going on and even Jaehyun knows what it is and he’s not telling me because ‘Dad needs to tell us himself’ and I don’t know what to do.”
“Do what I’ve been doing. Butt in as much as physically possible, be a nuisance, as annoying as you possibly can. If Irene hates you, maybe it’ll drive her away or at least get Dad to pay attention,” Hyuck suggests.
“I’m doing my best but it’s a little hard when I barely know the guy,” Chenle insists. “Hyuck, I could really use your help.”
“Irene hates me, just be more like me.”
“Yeah, that oughta do it,” Chenle quips sarcastically. “How much longer do you want me to keep this up? I’m worried they’re gonna break some news that I really don’t want to hear, Dad said something about a ‘permanent fixture’ in our lives and I do not like the sound of that.”
“He wouldn’t!” Hyuck insists. “Not without telling me first. Don’t panic. Gimme a few more days and I’ll see what I can do.”
“A few days?!”
“I’m doing my best, Lele. Talk soon.”
“Hyuck!” The line goes dead and Chenle is left staring at his phone as the screen turns back. “Thanks for the help, hyung.”
The next day turns into Johnny showing Chenle around the vineyard. It’s a nice place and they even drop by the winery for a little while. Chenle looks up at the great big barrels of wine in awe, all of them stamped with Suh Cellars. Johnny gives him the short version of how it works and Chenle can’t believe this is his dad’s job. Baba’s job is great but this is just so huge and hard to fathom.
“You know, Lele,” Johnny says as they’re walking through the storehouse. He’s dressed in slightly nicer apparel with a tie over a button down but the sleeves are rolled up, his slacks are dusty and his boots are scuffed. It’s kind of funny, just how out of sync his dad is in comparison to his baba. “I’m glad you wanted to come down with me. I actually wanted to talk to you about something.”
“I wanted to talk to you about something too,” Chenle says and Johnny looks down at him in surprise.
“You do? You go first,” Johnny says.
“No, you,” Chenle insists.
“Well, I wanted to talk to you about Irene,” he begins and Chenle stops him before he gets started.
“And I want to talk to you about Baba,” Chenle interjects and Johnny stops walking, turning towards Chenle. “Wait, what about Irene?” Chenle backtracks, suddenly a little more curious about what kind of commentary Johnny might have about his girlfriend.
“What about your baba?” Johnny asks.
“Dad, I can’t help but wonder about what happened between you and Baba,” Chenle says and Johnny sighs, rubbing the back of his neck as he starts walking again. Chenle fiddles with the ends of his flannel, a bit too long because it’s actually Hyuck’s. “Hyuck says you don’t talk about him and Baba doesn’t really talk about you and this arrangement, the two of you living on the other side of the world from each other…” Chenle trails off and Johnny groans.
“I know, it’s not great,” Johnny admits. “And I wish there was a better way but at the time, Lele, it just didn’t work out. But you know, it’s funny, you mention someone like your Baba,” Johnny says, pushing open the doors to the storehouse. “Because I’ve been thinking about you and Hyuck and how much time you might end up spending with me, the idea that you might think something’s missing in your lives and I would really hate that.”
“You do?” Chenle asks, a smile on his face.
“I do,” Johnny agrees. “Which brings me to- Irene,” Johnny says in surprise as she pulls up in front of them in a golf cart. Chenle shifts his weight as she parks in front of them climbing out with a lady that Chenle doesn’t know.
“Hi,” she says, stepping out. “Hello, Lele,” she greets him, walking up to them. Chenle responds in kind, politely. “Chenle, this is my assistant Seulgi. Seulgi, this is Johnny’s half son, the one I told you about.”
“Oh, hello,” she greets enthusiastically. “How are you?”
“Hi,” Chenle says.
“Did you tell him yet?” Irene asks softly, sidling up to Johnny. He shakes his head no.
“Well, if you’re free later, how about the three of us get together, have lunch?” She suggests with a big smile, glancing between Johnny and Chenle.
“I would but I told Chenle I’d spend the afternoon with him,” Johnny says, coming back over to rest his arm on Chenle’s shoulders and Chenle wraps his arm around his dad’s waist, leaning into his side with a grin.
“Well, that’s no problem, I have plenty to do,” she says, walking back to the cart with Seulgi. “I’m working on a new label design, Johnny, featuring you, of course. I think you’re gonna love it,” she says, getting comfortable in the cart. “I’ll see you tonight for dinner, love. Bye, Lele.” Chenle replies back as Irene backs up to pull out, out of earshot.
“The first change I make is to send that two faced little brat back to China where he came from and the other one goes off to boarding school in Korea,” Irene says with a smirk.
“Oh, hello, Ice Queen,” Seulgi comments and Irene grins.
“Proud of it, babe,” she replies, putting the cart in drive and pulling away.
Johnny takes Chenle out horseback riding, which is not something Chenle’s ever done but gets the hang of it rather quickly. Hyuck’s horse, Sunflower, takes to him immediately and they spend the afternoon riding through the vineyard. Chenle finds out just how fast Sunflower can go and that he’s quite a bit more adept at riding than he originally thought, Sunflower beating Johnny and his horse out to the edge of the vineyard.
“Whoa, whoa, give that horse a rest!” Johnny calls out and Chenle comes to a stop and Johnny comes around to his side. The horses take a break while Johnny smiles at him. “You picked that one up quick, Lele Bear. A lot faster than I think your dad might,” he says with a wink and Chenle laughs.
“I don’t think anything like this is Baba’s forte, to be honest,” Chenle says. And Johnny laughs, adjusting himself on the saddle a bit.
“So Lele,” Johnny begins. “I gotta ask you something?”
“What is it?”
“What do you think of Irene?” He asks and Chenle looks at him, expectant.
“As what, Dad? Your girlfriend, a publicist?”
“Just… what do you think of her? As a person?” Johnny reiterates and Chenle sighs.
“I mean… she’s pretty. She seems… good at her job and she’s witty and she seems to like you. I dunno, Dad, I don’t know her. She’s still kind of a stranger to me. Why do you want my opinion so bad?” Chenle asks and Johnny sighs.
“Well, here’s the thing about her. You remember what I said before, about her being more permanent? We-”
“Race you back to the ranch, Dad,” Chenle interrupts and Johnny pulls back on his reins as his horse startles with how quickly Chenle takes off.
“Lele! Lele, I wanted to talk to you about- oh God,” Johnny groans before taking off after him.
Chenle manages to get Sunflower in the stables and onto his feet quickly, before Johnny even makes it in and then runs all the way back to the house through the vineyard. He’s panting, huffing and puffing in his boots and jeans and flannel by the time he makes it to the yard, running through it and up the stairs, through the terrace and into the living room. He’s so tired, he throws his hat on the table and bends over at the waist, panting.
“Damn, Lele, you run a marathon?” Jaehyun asks and Chenle jumps in surprise.
“Jae hyung, you startled me,” Chenle said, clutching his chest. Jaehyun sets his gloves down and comes over, lifting a brow.
“You okay, kid? You seem worked up,” he says, getting down to a knee in front of him. “What’s going on?”
“It’s just- it’s Dad and it’s Irene and I don’t know what he’s going to say because he keeps trying to talk to me but I came all this way and Hyuck is back in China and I really don’t want Dad to say something crazy because what about my dad? What about our family, what are we supposed to do if Dad does something crazy, something like- like-”
“You gotta calm down, Lele Bear,” Jaehyun says, resting his hands on Chenle’s shoulders, Chenle taking a deep breath. “What is this about your dad and Hyuck? Chenle, you don’t think-” Chenle sighs, plays with the cuffs of his flannel, staring at the floor and Jaehyun deflates a bit. “Oh, Lele, that was the plan all along, wasn’t it? Get your dads back together? Chenle, you have to know that that plan isn’t without some speed bumps. Thinking you and Hyuck would just… be enough to get them to reconcile.”
“We just- I don’t want this to be our future,” Chenle says and Jaehyun runs his hands down Chenle’s arms, holding onto his hands. “I don’t want Hyuck and I to have to keep running back and forth, China to America because if they don’t get back together the only other option is keeping us apart and I don’t want that either. And it’s not like either of them have gotten remarried, I mean, almost ten years and they’re still single. I just want them to be happy, why is that so hard,” Chenle sighs and Jaehyun tugs him into a hug.
“I don’t know,” Jaehyun sighs into his hair, hugging Chenle tightly, rocking him side to side gently. “I don’t know, baby, I wish I did. I wish there was a way to fix all this but we can’t change your dads minds. Surely you must know by now that they’re both too stubborn for that.” Chenle huffs a wet laugh into his shoulder. “I’m sorry, Lele, I wish there was something I could do but I just don’t have an answer.”
“Chenle,” Johnny says, coming into the room. Jaehyun pulls away from Chenle and gets to his feet, ruffling his hair gently. “Lele, I was trying to talk to you. Everything okay?” He asks, taking in Jaehyun’s sad expression and the way Chenle shifts his weight awkwardly.
“Yeah,” Jaehyun says. “Yeah, it’s fine. Hey, I’m gonna make you some lunch, okay?” Jaehyun says and Chenle nods. Jaehyun rubs his shoulder briefly before walking away and Johnny sighs, setting his hat down before sitting on the edge of the coffee table.
“C’mere, Lele,” Johnny says and Chenle wanders over, sitting in the recliner in front of him. “We gotta talk.”
“Okay,” Chenle says, swallowing. “Go ahead.”
“Alright, well, Lele,” he says, clasping his hands in front of him. “I want to know your opinion on Irene because I want to know what you think about Irene being part of the family,” he says and Chenle gulps down the fear climbing up his throat.
“What do you… what do you mean?” He asks and Johnny shifts his weight, uncomfortably.
“Well, Lele Bear, Irene and I are gonna get married,” he says as delicately as he can.
“What?!” Chenle says, jumping up and Johnny grimaces. “That’s insane. How can you marry her, I barely know her and you know how Hyuck feels about her!” His language trips over itself a few times after he gets those words out, the words tumbling through Korea and Mandarin and what Johnny thinks might be Japanese. He’s not entirely sure but he watches Chenle pace back and forth, twists around to look at him before reaching out to take his hands, tugging him back towards him.
“Lele, Lele,” Johnny says, interrupting him and Chenle peters out before stopping. “You have to calm down,” he says and Chenle takes a deep breath. “I know two of those languages, were you speaking Japanese?” He asks and Chenle swallows.
“I took some courses back home,” he says and Johnny settles back on the edge of the coffee table. “Alright, you’re right. Let’s talk about this, calmly and rationally,” he says and Johnny nods, brushing some of Chenle’s hair from his eyes.
“Yeah, and in English, would be great. Korean is also okay. Mandarin is also okay,” Johnny tries for a joke and Chenle’s lips tilt a little at the corner. “Lele Bear, what’s going on?”
“Nothing, it’s just- Dad, you can’t get married. It’s going to ruin everything!” He says and Johnny sighs as Chenle runs off on him. He gets to his feet, calling out for him. Chenle is already out the door, across the terrace and down in the lawn but he tries.
“Lele! Chenle!” He calls. He looks over at Jaehyun standing at the half door and gives him a pointed look. Jaehyun shrugs.
“Don’t look at me, I don’t know a thing,” he says before closing the shutters. Johnny groans, lifting a hand to rub his forehead. This is not at all how he wanted this day to go.
Chenle ignores him for the entire length of the day, even takes his dinner up to his room. Johnny knows Jaehyun knows something but he continues to act as though he doesn’t. Johnny hates feeling so out of the loop, especially since the very last thing he’d ever want to do is chase his son away from him. He lingers at the base of the stairs for a prolonged period of time, can hear Chenle doing his nightly routine but doesn’t approach him. Doesn’t think he can.
It’s almost eleven when Chenle calls Hyuck again, slides into the bathroom to avoid bothering his dad and Jaehyun.
“Baba needs to be out here as soon as possible,” Chenle informs him. Hyuck sighs but Chenle plows on regardless. “Dad is getting married, Hyuck!”
“What?! No!” Hyuck explodes. He jumps off the toilet so quickly, he knocks a few things off the counter. There’s some soft swearing, Chenle rolling his eyes as Hyuck cleans up what he dropped. “Is he crazy? Getting married?! I’m not even there, what is he talking about?”
“I don’t even know, he takes me out riding with him and starts going on about Irene as a person-”
“Not great,” Hyuck comments.
“I agree. But he says she’s going to be part of the family, says he’s going to marry her. You need to get Baba out here, stat, or before we know it we’re going to have a mom!”
“Don’t say that, that’s a cursed thought!” Hyuck insists. “I’ve never had a mom in my life and I’m sure as hell not about to start now. What are we gonna do, how am I supposed to explain that I want to go home, right now, immediately and not look suspicious?”
“You’re smart, you’ll figure something out,” Chenle says and Hyuck rolls his eyes.
“Great, thanks. Get me a time and place and I’ll get Baba out to you as soon as I can, okay?”
“Make it fast, something tells me Irene’s gonna want a rush on this wedding.”
“Over my dead body.”
“I think that’s the idea.”
Hyuck hangs up and taps the edge of his phone against his palm. Time to think of a plan.
It’s not that late in the evening but it is a Saturday so Kun thinks he can get away with crawling into his blankets and pajamas a little early. It’s only about eight and he has his reading glasses perched on the end of his nose as he revises his sketches. They’re still a little rough and he lets his pencil fill in some of the empty spaces, making notes along the sides of his sketchbook. He’s got it balanced on his knee, blankets pulled up around him and he glances up only when he hears a soft knock on the door.
Hyuck creeps in the room and Kun smiles. Hyuck climbs up into his bed, settling himself down next to his baba. He’s also already dressed for bed and he pulls the blankets up to his chin, burrowing down and over, into Kun’s side. Kun moves his pencil to his other hand, places a hand on his sketchbook to keep it in place and drops his hand to brush through Donghyuck’s brown hair.
“What’s up, Duckie?” Kun asks.
“It’s almost August,” he comments and this is true.
The music program was right in the middle of the summer, started in the middle of June and went on into the middle of July. It’s just about a week out from August now and summer is beginning to wind down around them. It’s stifling when they have to leave the apartment, leaving them to mostly hide inside, aircon turned all the way up. But the worst part about the inevitable end to the summer means that Donghyuck has to go back to school soon. He’ll be starting his freshman year at high school this fall and there’s a lot to do before he can go back.
Which means his time with his baba is running out, rapidly. And it was a pretty painful realization when he realized this will be the easiest way to explain going back home, even if he kind of doesn’t want to.
“Yes, it is,” Kun says softly. “The summer’s almost over.”
“And I have to go back home soon.”
“Yes, you do.” There’s a sadness to Kun’s voice that betrays how much he really doesn’t want that to be true. Of course he misses Chenle something fierce, these past few weeks without him having been feeling a tad bit empty even with the big, bold brightness of Hyuck filling in the spaces, but sending Donghyuck back feels not right. Now he’s certain that no matter what he and Johnny do they’ll have to stay in touch, much to his chagrin, but he doesn’t know how often he’ll get so see Hyuck. Everything is so vague and uncertain and Kun doesn’t want this summer to end either.
“So I called Dad.” Kun tries not to tense up but it’s all for naught. He’s still got a reflex of tensing up and his heart skipping in his chest when he so much as thinks about Johnny. “He mentioned that you guys are going to have a lot to like… a lot to talk about, y’know.” Kun nods slowly. “So, we agreed it might be best if we head back soon.”
“I’m sorry, but I can’t handle this,” Kun says, throwing open his closet door. Ten looks over his best friend, standing stock still as he takes him in.
Kun is normally the most put together person Ten’s ever seen in his life, all fitted jeans and slacks, button downs and sweaters but he’s wearing a stretched out sleep shirt from his days at Chicago Tech and joggers. He’s got a window cracked open because he’s got a cigarette in his fingers, which he has not smoked in nothing short of 12 years. His glasses are halfway down his nose and his hair is a mess from the amount of times he’s run his fingers through it.
Ten’s been trying to help him pack ever since Hyuck said, “in a few days,” when he told his baba how soon he and Johnny proposed they get together but Kun’s been a mess ever since. His suitcase is still empty but they leave for the airport in less than an hour. Ten has managed to amass a few articles of clothing onto the bed but it’s pretty much completely random because Kun’s been pacing a rut into the carpet and generally been in the way.
“I haven’t heard from Johnny Suh in ten years and suddenly I spend a few days with my half son and I- I’m flying across the world to-” he’s been wandering around as he speaks, taking one of the shirts Ten’s got in his hands just to do something, throwing it at his suitcase rather than in it, then stops and turns to look at Ten, a hand on his hip, the other one holding the cigarette aloft. “I’m not mature enough for this!”
“You are,” Ten assures him. “Kun, you’re panicking. You don’t panic. What the fuck is wrong with you?” Ten asks and Kun takes a long drag from his cigarette. Both windows are open because they live in a non-smoking building, which was usually no problem, until now.
“Look,” he says after blowing smoke. “If the man didn’t drive me so absolutely crazy, I would still be married to him,” he says pointedly and Ten slumps a bit. “We came up with this arrangement-”
“You. You came up with this arrangement,” Ten interjects because Ten is nothing if not willing to bring Kun back down to earth. And Kun takes another long drag, shaking his head. “Kun, I love you, you’re my best friend, but you can’t blame Johnny for this. He did what you wanted because that’s all he’s ever done, what you want. He adored you and yeah, you drove each other kind of crazy but you can’t tell me that you went into that marriage not knowing that.”
“I just- God, Ten,” Kun groans, lifting his free hand to rub his brow. “I feel absolutely insane right now, just thinking about it. I mean look at me,” he bursts, waving his free hand around, gesturing wildly to the room.
Ten has done absolutely nothing but look at Kun for the past hour and a half and he knows what he’s talking about.
“Have you ever seen me like this?” He goes on and Ten opens his mouth because he definitely has some thoughts he could voice but Kun crams the smoke into his mouth the next second and points a finger at him, dropping his hand to his hip. “Don’t answer that.”
Hyuck creeps up to the doorway, hiding behind the edge of it while Kun and Ten keep talking, Kun eventually throwing his cigarette into the ashtray, going over to his vanity to try and fix his hair while Ten finally gets some free range to actually pack Kun’s clothes, his own bag already packed up. Honestly, sometimes Ten doesn’t know how Kun ever functioned without him.
“What if he doesn’t recognize me,” Kun mutters. Ten glances but doesn’t reply, not that it matters because Kun immediately says, “no, don’t answer that either.” He runs a comb through his hair trying to make it look decent while Ten collects some clothes for Kun to change into so they can actually catch their flight.
“Have you considered what Johnny’s going to look like?” Ten asks, rolling up a pair of jeans.
“Hyuck showed me some photos,” Kun says, turning around. Hyuck leans his head against the doorway with a smile. Kun rests his hands on the edge of his desk, fingers curled over the edge of it as he leans back. “He looks… I know it’s instagram and it’s always going to be everyone’s favorite photos of themselves but-”
“That hot, huh?” Ten asks, lifting his brows. A smile makes it’s way over Kun’s lips, shy and sheepish. Hyuck leans a little further forward.
“Yeah,” Kun confirms and Hyuck fist pumps a little. “I mean… he’s always been like that, y’know? Cute and also sexy, that…”
“Boy you take home to mom that kisses the hell outta you when no one’s looking?” Ten supplies and Kun bites his lower lip as he looks at the floor.
“He’s still got that stupid smile. You know, the one that always managed to make me go weak in the knees.”
“Don’t forget who had to endure every second of your relationship,” Ten reminds him and Kun rolls his eyes, pushing off from the vanity to give him a hand. “I thought I’d have to catch your ass on more than one occasion at that stupid party of Yuta’s,” Ten lays on, giggling softly as Kun hip checks him out of the way.
“Baba, I’m all set,” Hyuck says, announcing himself before walking in. Kun glances around, hands on his hips.
“Right, me too… uh… almost,” he stumbles and Ten bites so hard on his lower lip it turns white with his suppressed laughter.
“Baba, your suitcase is totally empty,” Hyuck remarks and Kun sighs as he turns to look at it.
“Right. You spoke to your father, right?” He deflects and Hyuck nods decisively.
“Sure did, just got off the phone. He said he’s really anxious to see you.” It’s a complete lie and based on the look Ten is throwing him from behind Kun he knows it’s a lie but Kun’s too nervous to notice so he only breathes a short huff, a surprised expression coming up on his face.
“Oh, really? Did he sound… anxious nervous like he’s dreading it or… anxious excited like he’s looking forward to it?”
“Anxious excited,” Hyuck replies, maybe too quickly based on the way Ten ducks his head, shaking it to himself. Kun looks unprepared for that answer though, lifting a hand to push his fringe away from his eyes, detouring to adjust his glasses properly onto his face as he lowers it again.
“Oh, good,” he mumbles.
“He said that he’ll meet us tomorrow at noon at the Sooman hotel in downtown San Francisco,” Hyuck rattles off. The Sooman is as uppity as it gets but Chenle said that was where Irene was dragging their dad for the weekend to look at reception halls and ballrooms for the wedding. He had just barely managed to squeak his way into the party, getting Jaehyun to come too. Irene wasn’t going to like it but if everything worked out it wouldn’t matter what Irene didn’t like.
“Oh, that’s… soon,” he says. “Okay, uhm… Hyuckie why don’t you run down and grab our tickets from the table, just make sure everything’s there?” he suggests and Donghyuck nods before all but skipping down the hall and stairs. Kun falls onto the bed, head in his hands.
“Don’t worry, Kunnie,” Ten says, rubbing his shoulder. “What could go wrong, I’m going with you after all.”
“What would I do without you?” Kun groans. Ten laughs, lifting his hand to pet Kun’s hair.
“Perish, but can I offer a suggestion?” Ten asks and Kun lifts his head to look at him. “Kunnie, I love you and I want what’s best for you, but if I was you, seeing my ex husband for the first time in ten years and still looking as killer as you do,” Ten says, getting a choked laugh from Kun before he disappears into the closet. When he returns he’s got the rough draft of the pinstripe suit that sits in the window of Kun’s shop in his arms.
It’s charcoal with thin, almost negligent black stripes running through it. He had made it on a whim and without a model he had had to use his own measurements, meaning there was a whole suit sitting in the back of his closet that was technically finished but lacked the refinement of his normal works.
“C’mon,” Ten says, presenting it. “You’d kill it.”
The suit does not get worn but it does get put in his bag. He doesn’t think it’s gonna get much use but he gets dressed like he normally does, throwing his sweats in the hamper while he tugs on his fitted jeans and a button down for the plane, Ten wrapping himself up in an oversized cardigan.
They make quick work of their bags, collecting them all and putting them in the trunk of the car. They have an international flight to catch and Hyuck doles out the tickets while Kun double checks to make sure they all have their passports, Ten flashing the Thai cover on his own before tucking it into his carry on, the three of them climbing into the car to get to the airport. Kun still feels a little jumpy but Hyuck gives him an encouraging grin from the backseat as he looks back to back out.
Irene is waiting in the lobby when they show up, Chenle and Jaehyun sharing a look as they walk up to meet them. Irene looks vaguely annoyed to see Jaehyun and Chenle walking up with them but they both figure Irene generally always looks vaguely annoyed with them so it’s pretty unsurprising. Her face smooths out into the cutest little fake smile as she walks up to meet them, long legs on full display in her tight little black dress as she rests her hands on Johnny’s shoulders, pushing herself up to her toes to kiss him.
“Lovely to see you all again,” she lays on but Jaehyun and Chenle share a look as her attention focuses back on Johnny. “What do you suppose we get you three checked in and we’ll go looking a bit before we get back around to doing lunch, hm?” She suggests and Johnny nods.
“That sounds like a great idea.”
Outside, a car pulls right up to the front of the building and Ten steps out, pulling open the backdoor to help Kun to his feet. Hyuck pushes his baba to his feet, Kun stumbling over himself as he drains the last of his miniature bottle of wine. He’s flushed, not terribly so but he’s certainly not sober and Ten takes both of his hands in his while Hyuck shuts the door behind them, the driver unloading their bags from the trunk.
“Have I mentioned that that flight was much faster than I imagined,” Kun comments, waving a hand around.
“Only several times since we got in,” Ten quips softly. “You know I don’t think I’ve ever seen you quite so thirsty before, Kunnie,” Ten says, just shy of a grumble as Kun slides his jacket off, slinging it over his shoulder instead.
“Well, would you believe I haven’t had vodka since our college years, Tennie,” he replies, voice slurring a little bit as he struggles to grasp English in his alcohol addled state.
“Could’ve fooled me,” Ten says, voice a bit louder and pointed. If it wasn’t for the fact that they were supposed to be seeing Kun’s ex husband, who has, admittedly, seen Kun in much worse states than this, Ten would be taking the piss out of him but this is rather inconvenient. They’ve been in America for only a short period and the three of them don’t look haggard but they look as one might expect from a 12 hour flight, especially when Kun has been drinking all the time he’s not been sleeping.
Ten essentially has to help Kun into the building and Hyuck pauses at the door to take a deep breath. Oh, this was so not according to plan.
It’s a tedious process, walking about the ballrooms with Johnny and Irene, but Jaehyun makes it bearable, leaning down to make scathing remarks about the architecture and how Irene would look next to it. Chenle has to hide his giggles into his hands on more than one occasion and they make their way back around towards the lobby after a series of moments. Irene could really drone on about anything, especially anything that involves the wedding, it seems, going on about guest lists and the spaciousness of the rooms they saw. Chenle and Jaehyun all but speed walk away from them as they reach the lobby again.
They almost run head first into Hyuck and Ten in the lobby, the four of them stopping in the middle of the room. Hyuck looks over at where Kun is still deeply in conversation with the receptionist despite having told he and Ten to go on, while Chenle glances back to see Irene and Johnny tucked into an alcove looking like Irene is trying to eat his father’s ear.
“Go, go, go,” Jaehyun says, he and Ten ushering the two of them towards the elevator. They make a dash for it, running into the silver box hoping to avoid whatever explosion might happen if Kun sees Johnny already. Better to just not be involved.
Irene walks Johnny over to the elevator not long later, catching the second one and wrapping herself around him. Johnny’s hands fall to her hips while her arms end up around his neck, her mouth on his neck. In the safety of the elevator Johnny almost misses it until he glances up and sees Kun. Or at least he thinks he does, walking back towards the elevator with a bag around his shoulders and a keycard holder in hands. He looks up and Johnny couldn’t forget those eyes or that darling little beauty mark if someone asked him to.
Kun lifts a hand while Johnny lets go of Irene, leaning forward until the silver doors slide shut completely.
“Seo Donghyuck!” Kun calls out when he finally makes it up to the floor. Both doors open despite the fact that he called out for Donghyuck specifically. He does not, however, doubt that his son is involved in this in some way but his head hurts and he can’t focus on both of them at one time. “Ugh, stop that!” He groans, lifting a hand to rub his face.
“Hey, Baba,” Chenle says, hesitantly. Kun looks at him, lowering his hand after a moment. He opens his arms and Chenle runs into them, the familiar arms of his baba wrapping around him.
He’s loved being in California, spending time with Johnny, getting to know his dad, but Johnny wasn’t his baba. He never would be. He had missed Kun terribly, even if he wouldn’t admit to it. Kun hugs him tightly, and while Chenle has some commentary to make about his father’s appearance, and even more about the smell of him, it can wait. He had missed him. Missed this.
“Get over here,” Kun says after letting up on his hug a bit and Hyuck squishes his way into the hug.
They’re too big for this, so much bigger than when they were babies and he could wrap them up in his arms no problem. Now he struggles a bit to fit them both in his arms but goddamn if he isn’t going to try. For so many years he’s missed out on this, both of his boys, together again, and he just wants it for a moment. Just a few seconds that he can hug the life out of his babies like he should’ve been doing for this damned decade he messed up.
“Ugh,” Kun sighs, letting go of them. “I’m so glad to see the both of you,” he says, pushing some of Chenle’s hair from his eyes. “But you’re both in so much trouble,” he warns.
“Hey, hi,” Jaehyun says, leaning out the doorway Chenle stepped out from. “Yeah, may I suggest we continue this conversation inside?” He says, waving to the opposite door. He pulls the door shut behind him and then ushers them into the opposite room, pinching Hyuck’s cheek affectionately. He manages to get the kids in the room before turning to Kun. “Hey, I know it’s been awhile-”
“Good to see you too, Jaehyun,” Kun says, giving him a brief hug. Jaehyun freezes momentarily before Kun steps away and into the room. Jaehyun stops short with a little pleased smile before nodding and shutting the door behind all of them.
“Alright,” Kun says, dumping his things on the couch and beginning his pacing in front of his kids, Chenle and Hyuck sat on the coffee table. “One of you suggested to me, or maybe both of you, my brain’s a little foggy,” he admits and Chenle gives Hyuck a pointed look, who only shrugs in response, “that your dad knew that I would be here today. However, I can assure you, the man I just saw in that elevator had no idea that we were on the same planet, let alone the same hotel.” Kun says, pointedly. Jaehyun stands in the back of the room grimacing while Chenle and Hyuck share a panicked look.
“You saw dad already?” Chenle asks. It wasn’t crazy to suggest, the way they all booked it from the lobby to avoid a possible catastrophe but it was a nice thought, that maybe they hadn’t run into each other.
“Yes I did,” Kun tells them. He falls onto the couch with a sigh, hand over his face. “The man went completely ashen like he’d just seen the grim reaper or something,” he groans. “Can someone in this room please get me something cool for my head, or a pain reliever?” He asks the room as a whole. Hyuck gets up to grab him a cold wash cloth while Kun lies on the couch.
“Don’t you two think I’ve thought about what it would be like to see you dad after all these years,” Kun comments, head tipped back on the arm rest, mostly talking to the ceiling while Hyuck rings out the washcloth in the attached bathroom. “Let me tell you, me waving like a mindless idiot while Johnny Suh is wrapped up in some attractive woman’s arms is not exactly what I had in mind,” he sighs, taking the washcloth Hyuck offers, laying it over his forehead.
The timing is just right for Ten to come strolling out his room, decked out in his tight swim trunks, towel thrown over his shoulder and glasses perched on the end of his nose. Hyuck tilts his head in the chair as he surveys his gege’s chest tattoo that really compliments the one on his arm while Chenle snorts, Kun gasping in surprise.
“Ten, what are you doing?” He groans, unfolding the washcloth to cover his eyes.
“Going for a swim, do you mind?” He asks, pointedly and Kun waves a hand, still not looking.
“Go ahead, have fun, someone ought to,” Kun mumbles. Ten shakes his head as he walks towards the door, only to stop abruptly as he looks at Jaehyun. Jaehyun walks slowly towards him, arms crossed over his chest as he looks Ten up and down, lower lip between his teeth. Ten shifts, pushing his sunglasses to the top of his head, nestled perfectly in his blond hair while Jaehyun grins at him so hard his dimples show up. Not that that’s hard, from what Ten remembers.
“Tennie,” Jaehyun says and Ten pretends to bristle, rolling his eyes.
“Jaehyun,” Ten replies shortly. “Didn’t think I’d see you today.”
“Yes, well, I was dragged along as well. You look good,” he comments and Ten shifts his weight with a minorly pleased smile on his lips.
It’s been ten years but both of them can clearly see the other didn’t stop taking care of themselves. Ten wonders briefly if Jaehyun still has those abs he used to bite when they were college. He’s done a good job of keeping his own figure, he has a chest tattoo he has great pride in after all and he knows that look was definitely Jaehyun checking him out. There might just be other perks to this visit than just getting his two best friends to get their shit together.
“Please, get a room,” Kun groans even though his eyes are covered and the kids giggle while Ten turns to glare at his friend. Kun removes the washcloth after a moment, giving Ten a pointed look back while Jaehyun averts his eyes, tongue in his cheek.
“Anyway,” Kun says, sitting up, “I believe the both of you have some explaining to do, such as why you brought me all the way here without telling your dad that I was going to be here?”
“Oh, shit, I left my phone in my room,” Jaehyun says. “I gotta… go get that.”
“I was just on my way out,” Ten says, gently pushing Jaehyun towards the door. “We’ll let you guys talk this out-”
“Hold on,” Kun says sharply and the two of them stop short, turning to look at him with grimaces on their faces, the boys also looking terribly nervous. Kun takes a deep breath, closing his eyes for a moment before surveying the room, the four of them all looking rather uncomfortable about this situation. “Oh goodness. Does everyone know something that I don’t?” He asks, leaning back in the couch, feeling worried all of a sudden.
“Baba, Dad’s getting married,” Chenle says gently. Kun sighs deeply, tipping his head back to lean against the back of the couch.
There’s a few suspended moments where Kun can’t believe this. He should, he really truly should, he couldn’t expect Johnny to just put his whole life on hold just because they had a divorce. They had a divorce for god’s sake, that was a rather permanent arrangement, and for ten years it’s just been him and Hyuck. Of course Johnny might want to move on, get married, have another life, Kun doesn’t fault him. It feels like a bit of a kick to the stomach anyway though, which is just awful because he has no right to feel so hurt but he really, truly does.
“She’s just awful, Baba,” Chenle goes on when the moment passes.
“She’s terrible, just the worst and the only way he might not get married is- well, you tell him,” Hyuck says, looking pained all of a sudden. Chenle sighs but moves to sit next to his baba and rest his hand on the couch with a little hopeful smile.
“Is if he sees you again,” he states and that pulls the rug right out from underneath Kun.
“Wait a minute, you’re not trying to set us up, are you?” The nervously optimistic looks on their faces are confirmation enough and Kun catches movement out of the corner of his eyes, Jaehyun and Ten trying to escape again. He turns his head, calling out, “Stop!” They freeze like a couple of kids caught red-handed. “You two knew about this?!”
They turn around and look ready to protest but Kun levels them with a glare and they relent, looking vaguely guilty about the whole thing.
“It’s not perfect, but the kids have a point,” Ten argues. He and Hyuck spent hours leading up to their return to America talking about it, the idea of getting Kun and Johnny back together. Ten didn’t think it was a perfect plan but he had never seen either of his best friends as happy as when they were together. For so long they were so happy together and Chenle had already spilled it all to Jaehyun. It was crazy and unlikely and he knew what Johnny was like but he also knew if anyone was going to be easy to convince, it was Johnny. He had always been head over heels for Kun, they had their arguments, disagreements but he didn’t pack his bags. Kun did and all he ever did was try to make Kun happy. Maybe Jaehyun wanted to be resentful of that but he wasn’t because Kun really did love Johnny, he was just scared and Jaehyun, for all he wanted to blame Kun, could see that too.
“C’mon, Kun, you have to see their point of view on the whole thing and it’s like, kind of sweet?” Jaehyun suggests and Kun shakes his head, slowly getting to his feet.
“Alright, alright,” he mutters. “Let me make this abundantly clear to everyone in this room: Johnny Suh and I have absolutely nothing in common.”
It’s a straight up lie. He and Johnny have a lot in common and even all the things they don’t they compromise on. They always have and Kun has always wondered if that fight hadn’t gotten so completely out of hand, maybe this wouldn’t be their future. Maybe things could’ve been different, if he hadn’t packed his bags, hadn’t screamed and argued and pushed and pulled until Johnny broke and there was nothing left but all their grievances spilled on the floor of their apartment. If he hadn’t gotten mean and spiteful and started throwing things, their photo shattered on the floor and a hairdryer thrown through the door of their bedroom. It was all just a bunch of stress and a bad day and so much they weren’t saying until it all built up and then Kun was slamming the door to their apartment on his way out and divorce papers and an apartment in Shanghai and that was that.
The end of so much that Kun wishes he could take back, and even though some days he feels this was best, most are left wondering what if it wasn’t.
“Anymore,” Kun amends, clenching and unclenching his hands by his sides. “Besides, in case you haven’t noticed he seems quite happy with his leggy, tight skirted, barebacked fiancee.” Those words bite out a little more harshly than they should but Kun is just a person. “And I want the two of you,” he turns, pointing to his sons, “to explain to your father that I am here for one purpose and one purpose only. And that, is to switch the two of you back. Now let’s do what we have to do and be done with it. Understood?” He says, sharply.
For all that Johnny is pretty certain that was Kun, he just can’t believe it would be. Why would Kun be here, what reason would he have to be here? They haven’t even spoken about switching the boys back yet, why would he bring it upon himself to come all the way here without warning Johnny first. Even so, he makes quick work of running back out from the hotel room, hoping he looks presentable, even combing his fingers through his hair quickly before making his way down to the lobby, scoping out to see if he can find him.
He’s wearing his best sports jacket and slacks but he feels dressed down, but he really always did around Kun. Kun had the ability to make sweats and their ugly Chicago Tech shirts look nice so Johnny tries to be calm, talk himself down because it was a mistake right? Kun isn’t here. He slips past the bar out towards the gardens, narrowly missing Irene as she’s out looking for him.
She settles down at the bar as Kun lifts his head from the bar to view the tender. Bloody Marys have never been his type of drink but he’s desperate for anything to make his blasted headache go away. He only spares the pretty young woman at the end of the counter in her beige jacket and sensibly heeled boots a glance as she orders a dry martini, signing his name on the bill the tender gives him. She, however, is more than a little nosy and glances over at the check, eyes going wide as she recognizes the signature on it.
“You’re Qian Kun?” She asks and Kun looks startled to be recognized.
“Uh, guilty,” he says awkwardly but Irene squeals excitedly, moving over a seat to sit directly next to Kun.
“Oh, my goodness. I just saw the most incredible wedding dress by you in Vogue the other day. I faxed your office just yesterday but they said you were going to be out of town for a few days and weren’t sure you could make another. I can’t believe this! This has to be fate. I’m Irene,” she spits it all out so fast Kun can barely keep up with her, especially with his burgeoning headache but he takes the hand she offers with a polite smile, shaking it.
“Nice to meet you.”
Johnny makes a circle through the gardens, back through the lobby and by the time he makes it out to the pool he feels crazy. He must be out of his damn mind, looking around for a man who is most certainly not here but he just can’t shake the feeling that Kun is here. He didn’t make him up and he walks through the tables, past the loungers and then pauses at the far end of the pool.
Across the way, all the way at the other end of the pool, there Kun is.
It’s like he’s taking him in in slow motion. He’s still just as breathtaking as he was when they were younger. He’s got a few more laugh lines, his hair is a warm brown shade, much like the color he kept it when they were in school. He’s wearing a pair of fitted jeans and dress shoes, his jacket slung over his arm and his button down is unbuttoned at his throat. He turns his head, pushes his aviators onto his face and Johnny could swear his heart has stopped beating entirely.
Fuck, he’s missed him.
He dismisses everyone around him to get closer. He doesn’t know what he’s going to do if he does, especially since he’s walking on the completely wrong side of the pool as him and he trips over his feet to get to him. He stumbles into a few people, trips over a table and Jaehyun looks up from the lounge he’s on, already dressed down in his swim trunks and a plain white t-shirt, sunglasses on his face.
“Hey, boss, you okay?” Jaehyun asks as the tiny table goes flying but Johnny brushes him off, his eyes skipping over the man next to him as he turns his head and runs into a gentleman holding towels. They both duck to avoid each other and Jaehyun shouts, Chenle yells, another voice that Johnny thinks he knows screams a warning but it’s too late. He loses his balance on the edge of the pool and goes crashing right into the shallow end.
He’s lucky he doesn’t brain himself on the tile floor of the pool but the splash is more than ridiculous, a massive tidal wave that evens out as it continues through the pool. Johnny straightens himself out while Chenle throws a hand over his mouth, Jaehyun grimacing while Ten turns with his phone, snaps a couple of photos of his long time best friend making a fool of himself in front of his ex husband.
Kun is across the way, stood on the other side of the pool right where Johnny fell in and he’s got a hand over his mouth, trying to conceal his laughter. Johnny plants his hands on the edge of the pool and lifts himself out of the water in front of him, sopping wet.
He wrings out the end of his jacket but his slacks are a lost cause, his boots squelch with every step and Kun lifts his glasses to rest on top of his head. Johnny approaches slowly and Kun crosses his arms over his chest. Johnny knows he looks stupid, he’s soaking wet in his suit while Kun looks effortlessly handsome and suave and Kun bites his lower lip, looking him up and down.
“Hi, Kun,” Johnny greets him.
“Hello, Johnny,” Kun replies. “Oh goodness, there you are. Just as much of a clown as you always were.” Kun can’t help himself and Johnny chuckles a self deprecating laugh. He knows he looks stupid, has always been the kind to be able to laugh at himself and Kun is glad to see that that hasn’t changed a bit.
“Is there, uh, something going on here, that I should know about?” He asks, running a hand through his hair. It’s going to dry in that vaguely wavy state Johnny’s hair has always been in unless he applies product. Kun shifts awkwardly. “Because I am… stunned, to see you, so suddenly,” he says and Kun bites his lip. “But you don’t look so stunned to see me.”
His wrings out his tie, which is honestly ridiculous, but that’s really the least of everyone’s concerns when he’s soaked to the bone everywhere.
“Well,” he starts again when Kun doesn’t say anything, “we never said anything about when we were meeting up with the boys, so I was… not expecting this.”
Kun struggles with words for a few moments but he can always count on his sons to have his back.
“Dad,” Chenle says, walking up to them and Johnny turns to look at him. “I can explain.”
“We can both explain… kind of,” Hyuck says, meeting up with them and a smile takes over Johnny’s features. “Chenle and I both thought it would be best if you guys saw each other again, and we didn’t really know how else to get you guys together because it just seemed like you guys really didn’t want to see each other.”
“So I told Hyuck we were gonna be here and he brought Baba and Ten ge so you guys to talk and… are you mad?” Chenle asks and Johnny shakes his head despite it all.
“Not at all. Get over here, the both of you,” he tells them, the both boys go to their dad, Johnny wrapping his long arms around his kids. Hyuck buries his face into his dad’s chest despite the fact that he’s soaking wet because he’s missed this. His baba isn’t his dad, no matter how much he loves him and he missed his dad. Chenle pulls away but Hyuck steals one last squeeze.
“Baba’s amazing, Dad. I don’t know how you ever let him go,” he mutters and Johnny sighs, tightening his hold on his son for an extra moment before letting go.
“Why don’t you boys go on, let your dad and I talk for a minute,” Kun suggests and the boys take that invitation readily, disappearing in a second. Kun shakes his head as they dart off, probably to start trouble with Ten and Jaehyun while Johnny wanders closer, sighing deeply.
“Sometimes I just don’t know how I raised that kid,” Johnny says as he sits down on a lounger, taking a towel from a table nearby. He pats his face dry and finds a raw spot on his eyebrow, probably from how he fell into the shallow end. Kun gets close, brushes his thumb over the spot and Johnny looks down at him with big eyes.
“Uh, take a seat, I’ll give you a hand,” Kun says. Johnny lies on the lounger and Kun sits by his side, setting his jacket aside as he asks a passing employee for a first aid kit. She comes back quickly and Kun flips it open, Johnny leaning back on the lounge, towel in his lap.
“So, uh, how you been, Kunnie?” Johnny asks and then catches himself. “Sorry, I imagine most people just call you Kun now.”
“No, uh, Ten still calls me Kunnie on occasion,” he replies, digging through the kit to find the neosporin and a bandaid for the scrape. He lifts his head from the kit to see Johnny still looking at him, with that delicately fond look in his eyes. Kun used to be intimately aware of that look, it was one he saw directed at him all the time but it’s been quite a long time since he’s seen it and it takes his breath away for a moment.
“You know,” he says, leaning in closer and Kun jerks back reflexively. It’s not very far because Johnny has always been magnetic like that, drawing Kun in so close, so shamelessly and Kun swallows. “You haven’t changed a bit,” he says. Kun laughs a shy sound at that, ducking his head a little.
“Well, I just don’t think that’s true,” Kun replies. “I have a lot more wrinkles now, I can assure you.”
“There you are!” Someone says and they look over to see Irene standing nearby. Kun is only vaguely aware of this girl but Johnny’s eyes widen in surprise. “Oh. Oh, good, you’ve met. Baby, Kun designs wedding gowns and he’s going to make- you know, wait,” she stops suddenly and the both of them stand up quickly, Johnny lifting the towel to rub the back of his hair.
“I’m confused. I don’t understand. How did you two meet and Johnny, why are you all wet?”
“You’re making my fiancee's wedding gown?” Johnny says. There’s a question there and Kun turns to look at him, feeling equally as shocked and confused.
“I didn’t know she was your fiancee!” Kun replies quickly but there are more things than just that to address in Johnny’s comment, Kun thinks. Johnny laughs a disbelieving sound and turns back to Irene.
“How did we meet? How did you two meet?” He asks, waving a hand back and forth between them.
“Am I missing something here?” she asks.
“You know, this is a small world,” Johnny comments rather than answer any questions and that always drove Kun crazy, the way he’d deflect but this might just be the one and only time Kun will truly appreciate it.
“How small?” She asks, moving a hand to play with her engagement ring.
“Well, you see, Irene,” Hyuck says, walking up, as he has a tendency to do whenever the time calls for him. Or whenever he really wants to bother Irene, which is most of the time. Chenle wanders up with him and Irene’s eyes narrow minutely, looking at the both of them. “Sorry about this past summer, you see you had to spend it with Chenle because I was spending it with our other parent.” He throws an arm up onto Chenle’s shoulder and then turns towards his dads. “Which… this is him, our other dad, Qian Kun,” Hyuck introduces him and Irene’s eyes turn approximately the size of dinner plates.
Kun gives Hyuck a restrained glare, eyes widening at him.
“This is your… other dad?” She says, carefully enunciating like she isn't quite sure of what she’s implying by saying it.
“Yes,” Chenle and Hyuck say in unison, just a tad annoyed.
“You… were married to him?” She asks, pointing from Kun to Johnny.
“Yes,” Kun says, a little awkwardly while Johnny chuckles to himself, trying to make the situation a little less heavy than it could be.
“Well, it certainly is a small world,” she comments.
“And getting smaller,” Johnny says, tugging at his tie a little.
“And what a coincidence, all of us being here on the exact same weekend,” Irene says, smile more than a little forced. Kun is starting to understand why the boys don’t like her so much. “How sweet.”
“And just what kind of fool does that make me look like?!” Irene shouts. Kun would feel bad about eavesdropping if Irene wasn’t screaming loud enough to tell the entire hotel that’s going on in the room. Kun rests his head against the doorframe as they fight. He can’t hear Johnny, Johnny’s talking too low and soft to actually be heard through the wood of the door but he can hear everything that’s coming out of Irene’s mouth. He sighs softly as he listens to the fight peter out, but not without Irene getting a few last shrieks in about how stupid Johnny’s made her look and what an absolute joke their wedding would’ve been.
The door swings out and Kun narrowly avoids being hit with it, dodging out of the way but behind the door so Irene doesn’t see him as she storms her way down the hallway. He catches the door before it can swing back and lock him out. The room is eerily silent and Kun chances a look into the room, sees Johnny sitting on the couch, head tipped back onto the sofa, eyes closed.
He walks into the room and lets the door fall shut behind him, quietly, gently. Johnny doesn’t even look up, stays stock still where he’s sitting on the couch. Kun approaches slowly, takes him in.
Ten years and Johnny still looks just the same. He’s still long and wide, bigger than life, the way he’s tall and broad but also personality wise. Kun notices he’s changed, in a pair of jeans and an undershirt, something simple and comfortable. There are slight changes to him, just in general, the way his black hair now sports a little bit of silver near the temples and peppered throughout and his whiskers when he laughs are deeper but it doesn’t diminish his handsomeness.
Kun sits on the edge of the coffee table and Johnny finally moves his head, tips his chin down with his eyes open and meets Kun’s eyes. His beautiful honey amber eyes still make his heart skip a beat and Johnny smiles at him, something small and exhausted and leans forward, resting a ring on the table. Kun feels terrible.
“She threw this, at my head,” Johnny says, setting it down. “It’s smaller than a hairdryer,” he shrugs off and Kun chokes a little laugh. God, that was a terrible fucking day. “I’m right, right?” Johnny asks and Kun tilts his head a bit. “It was a hairdryer?”
“Yes, it was a hairdryer. I didn’t hurt you, did I?” Kun asks as he gets closer, sitting on the other side of the sofa. Johnny shakes his head, scoots to the edge of the couch with a sigh.
“No, you missed,” Johnny teases him and Kun looks away, bashful all of a sudden. “You know I… I’m sorry,” Johnny says and Kun hates this.
“Don’t,” Kun says. “Don’t say that. Don’t apologize, it was… it was all my fault.”
“You weren’t the only one fighting,” Johnny replies and Kun gives him a sad look. “You know, since you’re here. And maybe this is… this is a bad time, considering everything. But I just feel like… we should talk about everything.” Kun shakes his head but Johnny reaches for his hand. Magnets, Kun thinks distantly. “I just feel like we let everything end so fast. I sometimes…” he trails off, hesitant. “Sometimes I have a hard time remembering it.”
“Me too,” Kun says.
It’s not a total lie because sometimes he does have a hard time remembering their last fight, the way things escalated so completely out of control. So much of that day is a foggy, hazy mess because he can’t remember waking up, going to work, working, coming home but he can remember the way he and Johnny yelled at each other. The way they said things they didn’t mean, how Kun tried to say this was all a mistake, that he never should’ve married him, that Johnny was wasting his time. God, he never meant any of it, he was just so angry at how lost and confused he was at the time it all bubbled over until the only person he could pin it on was the person he loved the most.
“You don’t remember the day you packed?” Johnny asks, as though he’s afraid of bringing it up.
“No, not- that I remember.”
He’s sure it must be branded into both of their memories. The way they yelled, the sound of Hyuck and Chenle crying in the other room because they didn’t understand, both too young to understand why their dads were yelling, the way Kun threw all the belongings of his he could manage into a single suitcase. Johnny spent the first half of the fight trying to get him to stop, to calm him down but Kun was alway the type to push, to instigate so he needled, he tugged and nagged and bothered until Johnny was saying, “then just go if you don’t want to stay!”
It was like the permission Kun was waiting for.
“So… what went wrong?” Johnny asks and isn’t that just the million dollar question.
“I don’t know,” Kun admits. His fingers curl over Johnny’s because it’s instinctual, the desire, the need to have and keep Johnny close to him. “We just… we were so young and stupid and scared. We were both so scared all the time and we had two kids to worry about and neither of us were really that happy, chasing our dreams while trying to keep a roof over our heads, feed and clothe our kids. We found stupid, petty reasons to fight. I did, mostly.”
“I let those happen,” Johnny says. “I told you, you weren’t the only one fighting. You weren’t the only one out here getting angry over inconsequential things and starting fights that didn’t ever really have an end. We both made mistakes.”
“But I- Johnny, I left,” Kun says and Johnny’s eyes fall to the floor. “I packed up all my things, took Chenle and ran to China because it was all I could imagine. And… and you never came after me.” Johnny’s head lifts and Kun shrugs a shoulder.
“I didn’t know you wanted me to,” Johnny whispers, like it’s a confession he can’t say too loudly or it’ll break everything they’ve built in this hotel room, just the two of them.
“Well… it doesn’t matter now, does it?” Kun says. He untangles his hands from Johnny’s and whatever they’ve created, it pops like a soap bubble. Air rushes into the room and Kun edges away from Johnny, trying to put some distance between them. He’s searching for something to keep him afloat because being so close to Johnny, it’s like he’s drowning in honey.
It’s the closest they get to actually talking about it and the weekend runs out on them. Kun and Johnny both spend a lot of time on the phone, calling around for their jobs while Johnny cancels wedding plans. Irene made it more than clear that she wasn’t interested in staying around, too worried about what people might think of her husband’s ex husband to see it through. Hyuck always knew he hated her but what he and Chenle can’t stand is the way their dads refuse to spend more than five minutes together in the same room.
“It’s just not fair,” Hyuck says, running around the room Sunday morning while Johnny packs his things to drive back up to Napa. “Baba and Ten ge flew all the way out here and they’re only going to stay the weekend. C’mon, dad, you know the vineyard is big enough to house them for awhile, why don’t we just let them stay with us a little longer.”
“They have a flight, Duckie,” Johnny reminds him, zipping up his bag. “I want to see them go as much as you do, but they already have a flight booked for this afternoon and I’m sure Kun is busy with work. We shouldn’t inconvenience them.”
“Baba,” Chenle whines to his father while Kun brushes him off, folding his own clothes. “When are you ever in America? You didn’t even get to see the vineyard, it’s beautiful! C’mon, you’re always at the studio, you should stay a little while, just a little bit longer.”
“Chenle, we need to go home,” Kun insists. “It’s not our business to try and overstay our welcome. I’m sure Johnny doesn’t want to house us.”
“He already asked us to stay!”
“Baba said he wanted to stay in the country, he just doesn’t have a place to stay!”
Johnny eyes his son, unsure he should believe him. He knows Hyuck is prone to white lies to get what he wants, especially as of late. But he does want to see Kun more, he wants to talk more about their past. He feels like so much of their past remains open and trying to find its way into their future. He hates that feeling, that he’s got a chance to really make an effort with Kun but their past keeps rearing its ugly head and making it hard to move forward.
“He did?” Kun asks, pausing. “You’re not lying again, are you?”
“No,” Chenle lies. “Hyuck told me to tell you. We got talking about it so Hyuck asked Johnny. I really wanna stay, just a little longer. And I think you’d really like it,” Chenle lays on. He comes around to the side of the bed, holding onto Kun’s arm and giving him his best puppy eyes. “Please, Baba. I think you’ll really, really like it.”
“Pack your things,” Kun tells him and Chenle deflates. “You still need to get all your things if you’re going back to the vineyard. C’mon, we don’t have all day.”
“Yes!” Chenle jumps to kiss his baba’s cheek, Kun giving him a soft smile. Chenle springs into action, beginning to pack up his things while Ten wanders into Kun’s room. Kun sighs, and Ten lifts a brow.
“So we’re staying, huh?”
“Don’t act like you aren’t interested in getting some more time with Jaehyun,” Kun warns and Ten scoffs but Kun knows better. He puts his hands on the bed and leans towards his friend while Ten wanders closer. “You and Jaehyun have more baggage than Johnny and I and that is saying something. You can’t just go around acting like our divorce was the end all be all of your relationship. You need to sort that out yourself.”
“There was no relationship,” Ten hisses.
“My ass!” Johnny explodes while Jaehyun rolls his eyes, shoving his clothes in his bag. “You can pretend all you want but if Ten is coming, you are going to talk to him.” He crosses his arms over his chest, staring his best friend down. “I know you both spent your college years acting unafraid and running from commitment but it’s time to grow up.”
“Ten isn’t the type to settle down,” Jaehyun says. “He never has been.”
“Well, then I guess it’s time for everyone to put on their big boy pants and figure that shit out,” Johnny replies. Jaehyun frowns at him. “Jae, c’mon. You have always had a thing for Ten. You don’t know how he’s changed, and he doesn’t know how you’ve changed. This could really be a chance for the two of you.”
“Yeah? Then take this chance with Kun,” Jaehyun retorts.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Kun brushes off. Ten rolls his eyes, sitting on the opposite side of the bed of Kun’s suitcase. “That’s not the same thing at all.”
“You’re such a shit,” Ten curses at him and Kun widens his eyes in a subdued glare. “You know I’m right. Look, you think you have to come out here and be brave and push him away because you don’t want to mess up again. I get it. You’re scared. But Johnny’s always been the one for you. He has. You can’t pretend that’s not true,” Ten tells him and Kun falters a bit where he’s trying to shove a pair of jeans rather forcefully into his case. “Just… do everyone a favor and let your walls down a bit. You know Johnny’s always been the type to knock them down anyway.”
They lose Chenle and Hyuck almost as soon as they pull up to the vineyard. Kun hesitates around the car while Ten heads up with the bags, Jaehyun taking them from him with a smile, heaving one up onto his shoulder. Ten rolls his eyes emphatically, carrying his own pointedly. Jaehyun laughs softly while bumping their shoulders together. Kun walks up towards the edge of the drive, looking across the acres in front of him, a sprawling vineyard spreading out in front of him.
“Impressed yet?” Johnny asks, coming up behind him. Kun glances at him and then back at the vineyard. It is impressive but he’s not going to give Johnny that kind of satisfaction, never has, so he shrugs a shoulder, crossing his arms over his chest.
“I guess you got somewhere after all, huh Suh?” Kun comments and Johnny laughs softly, standing next to him.
“Oh, c’mon you can be a little nicer to her. Suh Cellars is my baby after all,” Johnny says and Kun rolls his eyes, shaking his head.
“Suh Cellars. You went with that?” he says, turning away from the vineyard to walk up to the house with him. Johnny falls into step with him and pretends to look offended.
“Of course, what else would I call her?” He replies, making Kun grin and shake his head. “I know it’s a bit of a drive up here from San Fran, what do you say I make you guys dinner? You must be hungry,” he suggests and Kun tilts his head back and forth as though he’s considering it.
“Well, I suppose,” he says, trying to suppress his smile. “You still know how to cook then?”
“You think I keep Jaehyun around because he can cook?” Johnny asks, walking up the steps with him. Kun laughs while Johnny pulls open the door for him. “After you.” He waves to Kun who thanks him softly before stepping into the house.
Kun would be lying if he said he didn’t find Johnny’s home impressive. It’s beautiful, and it’s situated right on the edge of his vineyard, close to his job. Hyuck told him all about the acres upon acres of grapes, the way he and Mark would run up and down them when they were a bit younger but it’s still hard to imagine. He’s looking right at it, all the fruits of Johnny’s labors both figuratively and metaphorically, and he can’t quite believe it. Kun leans against the bar while Johnny makes a simple alfredo and it comes back. That yearning, the way that if he closes his eyes he could pretend this was his whole life and that if he crossed the bar to get to Johnny he could kiss him and there would be no consequences.
They eat at the table this time, which causes Kun to lift a brow when Jaehyun says, ‘this time.’ Johnny doesn’t comment further but the six of them all manage to get themselves around the table, even if it is a bit of a tight fit. Kun ends up with his knees bumping Johnny’s the entire meal but it’s not so bad. In fact it’s kind of funny, the way they all manage to get together and share stories and laughter and it might be one of the best meals Kun’s ever had.
Johnny wanders out to the terrace after dinner, once Jaehyun and Ten have disappeared to god knows where and the boys are hiding in Hyuck’s room. They gave him a bit of a look when he dropped in to check on them but he only closed their door before making his way to his cellar, unearthing some of his best wine.
Kun is out there when he walks out, arms resting on the railing as he looks out at the vineyard. Everything is covered in a golden glow from the setting sun and Johnny can see the way his hair shines just the same. He edges his way out through the open doors and sets the glasses and a bottle on the table out there. Kun glances and then away, a little blush on his cheeks.
“Won’t you have a glass with me?” Johnny asks, pouring. The bottle is open already and Kun walks over to take the glass offered to him. It’s a crisp red, deep burgundy in color and Kun can smell the rich age of the wine before he takes a sip. It’s a bit dry but not terribly so, just the way he likes his wine and he hums as he lets the flavor coat his tongue before swallowing.
“What do you think?” Johnny asks, taking a sip of his own.
“It’s good. Your own?” Kun asks. He sets his glass down and reaches for the bottle to read the label.
“Yeah,” Johnny says. Kun looks over the label, finds it a Cabernet Sauvignon, no surprise there. It is indeed a Suh Cellars bottle but the year is a ways back. It’s been a while since this was produced and Kun lifts his eyes to meet Johnny’s, who’s looking at him a little bit shyly.
“Yeah,” Johnny replies. He reaches over, taking it from his hands to set it aside. He picks up Kun’s glass again, pressing it into his hands. “It’s the first batch I ever produced here. The first Suh Cellars.” Kun’s mouth falls open a bit in surprise. “You like it, right? I know Cabernets have always been your favorites.”
“Yeah,” Kun chokes out. “Still are. It’s really great, Johnny,” Kun says. He sets his glass down again, stepping away to rest his arms on the railing again. Johnny sets his glass down next to Kun’s and joins him at the railing. He leans a little bit into Kun’s space and Kun drops his chin to his chest, avoiding his eyes.
“Kun,” Johnny says softly. “You know, you don’t always have to do this.” Kun turns his head slightly but not all the way, a little afraid of looking entirely at Johnny. “You don’t always have to be the one to pull away.”
“I guess sometimes I’m just scared that if I don’t I’m gonna be the one getting hurt, y’know,” he says. He turns around and rests his forearms on the railing, leaning back against it. Johnny watches him for a few long moments while Kun appears to be trying to gather his thoughts. “Johnny, why did you want to marry Irene?” He asks and Johnny’s startled.
“What does it matter?” Johnny asks but Kun lifts his head and looks him dead on.
“It just does. Did you love her?” He asks and Johnny shakes his head.
“No. I don’t think I ever really did. She was… convenient, I suppose. She walked into my life and she was an easy choice, someone pretty and interested in me and I thought, this is what I’m supposed to do,” Johnny admits and Kun swallows, eyes falling to the ground. “It’s been ten years and I just kept feeling like I wasn’t enough for Hyuck. He’s always going to have me but I just worried there was something missing the whole time and I thought if Irene could fill it, maybe I wouldn’t feel so guilty. It was a mistake, it was always a mistake but I thought I could keep it up. I could just keep pretending.”
“Forever?” Kun asks and Johnny sighs, looking away.
“I said it was a mistake, didn’t it?”
“Why didn’t you love her?”
“I don’t know how I’m supposed to love anyone when I still love you,” Johnny says and Kun lifts his head. There’s a little rueful smile on his lips as he looks back at him. Johnny steps closer and Kun feels caged. He could move away but he doesn’t want to. “Besides the fact that I was blinded by responsibility when Hyuck clearly couldn’t stand her and there are a hundred and one people I should’ve tried to marry before Irene,” he tries for a joke and Kun breathes a little laugh, shaking his head. “I still love you, Kun. And I know that what happened between us still happened but I would like to move past it.”
“What do you expect me to do, Johnny?” Kun asks. “Don’t you think we’ve missed our chance? Don’t you think ten years is a little too long to wait? I waited, I thought- I wanted you to chase me and you never did.”
“I never knew you did,” Johnny replies immediately. He lifts a hand to cup Kun’s jaw and Kun’s eyes fall again, a poor attempt to hide the way they’re tearing up. “Kunnie, how was I supposed to know. I thought this was what you wanted. I thought you wanted distance and I didn’t want to take that from you.”
“I never wanted that,” Kun admits, lifting his eyes, tears threatening to spill over. “I thought I was doing what was best for me, for Chenle, but it never was. And all these years later I’m standing on your terrace and all I can think about is the fact that we could’ve had this. If I hadn’t been so stupid, if we hadn’t fought so much, if-”
“Ifs aren’t doing us any good,” Johnny says brushing an escaped tear from Kun’s cheek. “They’re completely empty, thinking about what if. I don’t care about what if because that’s over. We lost those chances but I’m right here. Kunnie, I’m right here if you want me to be. All you have to do is say the word.”
“I’m scared,” Kun admits. “I don’t want to mess this up again.”
“We’ll never know if we don’t try.”
Kun crosses the short distance between them, pressing their lips together. Johnny holds firm to his jaw while Kun slides his arms around Johnny’s waist, hands resting low on his back. Johnny crowds him back against the railing, his free hand holding onto it as he kisses Kun long and slow and meaningful.
Kissing Johnny is just the same as he remembers it being but at the same time it’s so much better. It’s their first kiss and their thousandth all at once, relearning the taste of each other, the push and pull of their lips against each other’s. It’s the way Johnny tilts his head to kiss him just a bit deeper and Kun lets him, likes the taste of the Cabernet off Johnny’s tongue more than from the glass and digs his fingers into Johnny’s lower back.
Kissing Johnny is like coming home.
The scream Ten lets out is nothing short of terrifying but Kun merely buries his face in Johnny’s neck, laughing. Johnny’s arms are tight and comfortable around his middle while Kun’s got his arms around Johnny’s shoulders, Ten still screaming out on the vineyard. There are people snapping pictures and if Kun lifts his head he’s pretty sure Ten and Jaehyun are going to be kissing each other stupid, and rather inappropriately for a family friendly event such as this one.
“Should we be mad they’re ruining our wedding like this?” Johnny mumbles into his ear but Kun only continues to giggle, lifting his head to shake it at Johnny.
“If Jaehyun didn’t ask tonight he might never have asked. I’ll allow it,” Kun says and Johnny leans forward, kissing him. It’s still just as wonderful and beautiful and incredible and Kun slips a hand up into his husband’s hair, forget the gel and all the careful crafting from Ten’s hands. If he wants to bury his hands in his husband’s hair he will damn well do it and no one is going to stop him.
It’s his wedding after all.
This wedding is a much bigger deal but Ten and Sicheng started insisting when Kun so much as suggested he might be thinking about asking Johnny to marry him. Johnny asked last time so Kun wanted to do it this time and Ten and Sicheng were near insufferable the whole time, telling him he had to wear a suit and they had to have a big cake and a big ceremony and a lot of decorations.
They only did a couple of those things. There are burgundy and silver decorations all over the place, balloons and streamers tied to chairs and the giant archway where guests are taking pictures and all down the railing of the terrace out the back of the house. There’s a massive cake for all 40 people that showed up. This time they invited as many relatives as they could fit in Johnny’s garden, the back garden by the vineyard being the decided upon location. Ten pitched a fit but at least everyone is in formal wear which is much better than their last wedding.
Johnny looks dashing in black and Kun even designed his own suit, much to Donghyuck’s enjoyment, who had quite a bit to say about it, sitting up on the bar while Kun did his sketching at the table. Kun was worried it was going to look a little bit cartoon villainy or like he was trying to be a mobster from the 20s but the black pinstripes on white are actually not that bad. He likes the way it looks and he really likes the way Johnny hasn’t stopped putting his hands on him from the moment he was given the go ahead, mumbling in his ear about tearing the suit off of him the moment he got the chance at every turn.
All their old college friends are here as are their current work friends, some of Kun’s even flying all the way from China to see him, his parents even showing up this time. It’s a little overwhelming, the fact that their second marriage is so much bigger and crazier than the first but it’s okay. It’s actually kind of nice, getting a do-over to do everything right.
They do still have their ugly polaroid photos from their first marriage though and they are definitely being kept. Those are treasures now.
“Kun!” Ten screams and Kun extracts himself from his husband’s arms only to get tangled up with his best friend. Kun laughs into his hair as Ten hugs him, squeezing him so tight he can barely breathe. He pulls back and Kun grabs his hand to admire the ring. It’s got five beautiful diamond insets, it’s so simple and beautiful and elegant and it looks incredible on Ten. Jaehyun made a great choice and while Kun would like to be annoyed at Jaehyun for proposing at a wedding like some sort of crazy person he can’t help but be so happy he could burst.
“Don’t throw the bouquet, it’s not worth it!” Doyoung shouts from one of the tables and Ten yells at him to shut up. Everything is so loud and wild and Kun feels bubbly with champagne, with joy, with excitement, he can’t even be upset by it at all.
“Baba!” Donghyuck shouts and Kun turns to see his son coming around the corner of the house. He’s got a camera around his neck, a camera he thinks might actually be his father’s. Yukhei comes dashing around the corner after him, catching up with his boyfriend a minute later. They’re both out of breath and Kun can’t believe they’re both running around like this in suits. Well, half of their suits, Donghyuck and Yukhei’s jackets are both hanging on the backs of chairs somewhere because even though it’s fall it's still a little warm.
September is still a better anniversary than April though, in Kun’s opinion.
“I wanna photo of the newly wed and the newly engaged!” Hyuck tells him and Ten throws himself at Kun. Ten’s being sillier than normal, a little tipsy on champagne and he shows his hand off for Hyuck’s camera, hamming it up. Kun looks over to try and spot his husband only to find Johnny talking to Jaehyun next to the terrace, Chenle and Jisung practically climbing Jaehyun as they congratulate him.
Chenle is much too big for that at 16 years old but he’s still got the same energy as he did when he was younger, a bouncy thing much like his older brother. It’s weird for Kun to get used to it all, Chenle and Hyuck already being 16 and 17, with boyfriends of their own. Jisung is a great kid, spending the summer after their month at the music program with them, and Yukhei’s a bit of an airhead but he’s sweet to Hyuck. Time really is going by far too quickly, Kun doesn’t know what to do with himself. One day he was bringing Hyuck home and now Hyuck’s dropping his camera to stop his boyfriend from tickling him, stealing kisses.
Weddings are always such a production and it’s not long before Kun loses track of Johnny entirely. He’s got a million people to thank for coming, to ask about the family with, to share sentiments with. It’s a little weirder than their first wedding because… well because they’ve already done this before and their college friends are full of it. Yuta won’t stop making third wedding jokes and Taeil keeps saying he didn’t have to dress up like this last time. It’s par for the course with their friends but it’s still ridiculous.
Jaehyun and Ten disappear, probably to celebrate their engagement, knowing them, and Kun finally stumbles upon his husband a series of minutes later, or maybe hours, time is very fluid given his state of happiness and inebriation. He’s hiding around the corner of the house and when Kun finds him Johnny tugs him in by his jacket lapels and kisses him, long and hard and perfect. It’s so perfect, getting to kiss him again, getting to have this again.
It’s been three years since they decided to give this another shot. They didn’t want to pick back up where they left off, there was too much wreckage and fear and uncertainty to pick it back up so they attempted to turn back time, start all the way at the beginning. It’s been the best three years of Kun’s life, maybe even better than the four leading up to their first marriage but it’s hard to say. Their lives are so different now from then but it’s been an incredible ride.
“I love you,” Kun mutters into Johnny’s lips. They’ve turned themselves around, Kun’s back against the outside of the house, probably getting his white suit dirty but he couldn’t care if he tried. Johnny grins into his mouth, lifting a hand to brush some of Kun’s unruly fringe away from his eyes, the other resting so low on his back he’s practically got a handful of Kun’s ass.
“I love you too,” Johnny whispers. He kisses him again, full and deep and maybe a little bit dirty. It’s definitely not as innocent as it should be considering they’re surrounded by their friends, family, their sons wandering around here somewhere. But Kun isn’t going to stop him, is still trying to memorize every single kind of kiss Johnny has to give him, wants to never forget a single one of them again.
All of them still feel like coming home.