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as things are/as they will be

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Renjun turns up at exactly ten-thirty pm, unannounced, takeaways in hand, overnight bag slung over his shoulder, pulling his scarf off as the door shuts behind him. Chenle rushes to take the food from him, almost dropping it then letting out a whine — because he’d gone to the radio in his pajamas, and he’s still wearing them now.

"Who's fault is that?" Renjun asks, smiling, and Chenle grumbles, leaning in to press a kiss to his cheek.

As he does Renjun starts to yell, and Chenle nearly drops the takeaway bag again. He turns on his heel and slides across the floor to try stop Daegal from devouring the dirty sock she’d managed to sniff out in the ten seconds he’d left her alone.

“That was dramatic,” Renjun says, afterwards, standing hip to hip with him in the kitchen. Daegal is now safely back in her pen, gnawing on her burger toy, and the room is filled with the delectable smell of the food Renjun had bought with him.

“She seems to be in that stage where everything looks like food to her,” Chenle says. “I don’t want to have to take her to the vet because she swallowed my socks.”

“They’d probably poison her,” Renjun says, nodding sagely. “I can’t believe you’re letting my daughter consume such terrible food.”

Chenle bumps their hips together, maybe a little too violently judging by how the spoonful of ramen Renjun had been blowing on gets spilt all over the bench.

“It’s not my fault,” Chenle says. Renjun gives him the evil eye, reaching over to grab the sponge, scoop the spilled noodles into his palm and then throw them in the sink. “She just opens her mouth and—” he makes a chomping motion.

“Maybe don’t leave your socks out, then.”

“I know,” Chenle says with a sigh. "I forget sometimes." He turns around and leans against the counter, looking over to the living room — which is currently strewn with dog toys. Daegal is on her back in her pen, kicking at a plushie and chewing on it vigorously, and there’s something about just looking at her that makes him feel warm and gooey inside. “Who knew being a father would be so hard?"

“It’s okay,” Renjun says. He rubs at Chenle’s elbow for a second, before pressing a light kiss to his cheek. At that, Chenle melts, and he turns his head to the side, reaching up to cup Renjun’s jaw and kiss him on the mouth, leaning into his warmth, Renjun’s hands coming up to circle his waist as he holds him tight.

“That’s better,” Renjun murmurs, when they break apart, punctuating it by pressing a peck to his mouth. “Thought you weren’t going to kiss me hello.”

“I was a bit preoccupied.”

“Better late than never.”

They stay like that for a while, their kisses slow and dripping like sweet honey, until Chenle’s stomach decides it’s time to break the mood with a loud gurgle. He pulls away, and Renjun laughs, his cheeks flushed and fingers still digging into Chenle’s skin.

“Hungry?” he asks.

“Apparently.”

Chenle steals another quick kiss, but doesn’t move, and Renjun rests his chin on his shoulder, staring up at him with a dopey grin on his face until Chenle shrugs him off, his cheeks burning at the domesticity of it all.

“Cute,” Renjun murmurs. He pats Chenle's belly. "But let's eat already."

"What are you, my mother?" Chenle asks, picking up his carton of fried noodles and pulling a pair of chopsticks from the draw.

"Someone needs to take care of you now you're living alone."

"I'm an adult," Chenle grumbles. He walks over to sit on the couch, right beside the picture of him and Mark and directly opposite where Daegal has completely abandoned her toy to stare at him and whimper. "I can take care of myself."

Renjun just laughs. The warmth of his body leaves an impression on Chenle's skin, even when they're separate, and Chenle has to stop himself from reaching out to Renjun as he passes by him, still so desperate for his touch.

They've been 'together' for over a year at this point (and kissing for way more), and Chenle still feels like he's not allowed certain things around Renjun. He still feels like he’s not allowed to ask for things like holding hands and date nights, even if Renjun will organise them for himself.

Even if — when they’re standing in the waiting room together, waiting to go live — Renjun will always seek him out. Pinch his cheek, punch his shoulder, tell him he looks unrecognisable in actual clothes. Cup his jaw and press his thumb to the corner of Chenle’s mouth, stroking back and forth over the stubble Chenle had missed that morning when he’d shaved.

“You’re always in such a rush,” Renjun mumbles. “Idiot.”

(Because it wouldn’t be Renjun if the gentleness of the gesture wasn’t tempered in some way. If he couldn’t put up a front and pretend he didn’t care so much.)

(Chenle knows. He gets it.)

Here, he's lucky Renjun reads him. He's lucky he knows him well, and Renjun sits down beside him, thigh to thigh, stealing the food straight from Chenle's lap and giving him such a dazzling smile he forgets the choice insult that had been sitting on the tip of his tongue.

 

 

 

 

After they finish up dinner Renjun goes directly to Daegal’s pen and picks her up, burying his face in her fur and asking her if she'd missed him, as if he didn't see her almost every day.

Now he’s lying on his back on the rug in the living room, various toys and dog clothes strewn around him, and Chenle is sitting on the couch, video game long abandoned just so he can devote his full attention to the two of them.

“Up we go!” Renjun coos, lifting Daegal up and waving her around, making airplane noises at her as she glances around the room, her legs wiggling before Renjun puts her back down on his chest.

As soon as Renjun lets her free she immediately lunges for him, tongue out, determined to lick at his face until he squeals and pushes her away, laughing and squirming.

“Your daughter is misbehaving!” Renjun says, holding her at arm's length.

“Why is she only my daughter when she’s being naughty?” Chenle says. He aims for annoyed, but it mostly comes out fond, the sight of Renjun planting smooches all over Daegal’s face far too cute for him to be able to pretend.

“Because I get all the good parts and you get all the stinky parts. I’m the cool dad. You’re the smelly one.”

“You’re so mean,” Chenle says, laughing. “I’m the one who has to clean up when she makes a mess on the floor, and you get to be the cool dad?”

“Exactly,” Renjun says. He lifts Daegal up again and starts to talk to her in a baby voice, swaying her slightly as he does so. “Isn’t that right? Renjun is cool! Chenle is stupid! Tell me who your favourite dad is? It's Renjun, isn't it?”

Daegal tries to lick his face again, and Renjun just laughs, making kissing noises at her as her tiny paws tread water in the air, her desperation to slobber all over his face absolutely palpable.

Chenle whines, but he doesn’t do much more — he can’t, really. Seeing Renjun play with Daegal like this makes something strange churn in his stomach. Something that makes him want to cover his eyes and hide. He’s only nineteen — he can’t think like this. He can’t look at Renjun as he cradles Daegal and tells her how he loves her, and think about how he wants to see this for the rest of his life.

Every time the word daughter passes Renjun’s lips, it’s like something strange happens to Chenle. A camera flash illuminating all the daydreams stored in the recesses of his mind, and just for a moment he allows himself to wonder. He allows himself to imagine a future where he and Renjun are always like this. Always like this, and something a little more. He allows himself to imagine dropping to one knee with a ring in his hand, and the way Renjun’s eyes might glitter. The two of them building a life together; building a home.

Chenle allows himself this, because dreaming is free; though he knows he’d pay any price if it afforded him this happiness. The warm glow in his bones, and when Renjun tilts his head back to smile at him — upside down, everything about him painfully familiar — Chenle’s heart feels fit to burst.

 

 

 

 

They fall asleep on the couch: Daegal in Renjun’s arms, Renjun in Chenle’s arms, Chenle’s eyes drooping as the movie credits roll, and just when he thinks he’s about to doze off Renjun starts to rub his cheek against his arm, nuzzling him like a cat.

“Hello sleepyhead,” Chenle says, and Renjun chuckles, chest vibrating where Chenle’s arm rests against it.

“Hello to you too,” he says.

“I think you fell asleep before the puppy,” Chenle says.

Renjun yawns, smacking his lips and wiggling slightly against Chenle. “It’s been a long day.”

“What did you do? Wake up at three pm and haul your ass over here when you got hungry?”

“I helped Jisung decorate our room, actually,” Renjun says. His voice is still rough with sleep, and Chenle can’t help but press a kiss to the crown of his head, burying his nose in his hair and breathing in the scent of his shampoo. “He ordered a bunch of lights and then we both realised we had no idea what to put them up with so we just ended up taping them to the bed.”

“Are you allowed to do that?”

“No-one stopped me, so… I guess? We already have a bunch up anyway, remember? I helped him decorate for Christmas.”

“Oh yeah.” Jisung had sent him pictures — tinsel and fairy lights winding all over his bunk bed, baubles and glitter, something to make their room a little more homey. “It’s been so long since I’ve been over to the dorm. I kind of forgot.”

“It’s okay. You don't visit. You can tell us you don’t like us anymore.”

“Shut up,” Chenle says, flicking Renjun on the chin. “You know I can’t leave Daegal alone without a sitter.”

“I know,” Renjun says. “That’s why we bring the dorm to you.”

There’s a pause. Renjun plays with the drawstrings on Chenle’s hoodie, and Chenle shuts his eyes, still breathing him in, listening to the sounds that pierce the stillness of the room. A car horn, far far away. Daegal snuffling in her sleep. His own breath in his ears. The beat of his heart.

The soft sound of Renjun’s lips parting as he presses a kiss to Chenle’s arm.

“I love being like this,” Renjun says, and Chenle will never get tired of hearing it. Never in a million fucking years. The gentleness in the statement, the low rumble of his voice. The way his lips brush against Chenle’s skin before he breathes out a sigh. “I love you.”

“I love you, too,” Chenle says, automatic, and his heart thuds. He cards a hand through Renjun’s hair, and Renjun looks up at him, wrapping a hand around the back of Chenle’s head and pulling him down to slot their lips together.

It’s a gentle kiss — something that speaks volumes, something that persists until Daegal starts to squirm and Renjun breaks away, laughing.

“You woke the baby up,” he murmurs, and Chenle steals another kiss from him, warmth blooming inside him.

You woke her up,” Chenle says.

“Let’s take joint blame,” Renjun says. He quirks his lips, then sighs. “I can’t help it if I like kissing you.”

“That’s so disgusting,” Chenle says. “You’re so sappy.”

“Says you. How many times have you made me watch Titanic?”

“Only twice.”

“It’s definitely at least three times,” Renjun says. He traces patterns on the back of Chenle’s hand, fingers deft, touch light. “And then you always get upset that Jack didn’t cling on to the door and argue—” he cuts himself off with a giggle, something pure and sweet, and Chenle doesn’t need to look to know Daegal is licking his hand.

“Looks like someone agrees with me,” Chenle says. “I knew she was on my side.”

“She just wants my attention because I’m her favourite,” Renjun says. He coos, scratching at Daegal's ears, then sighs. "Though we should put her to bed, before she wakes up properly and wants to play with us again.”

"Mmm," Chenle agrees. "God. Do you think this is what having kids is like? She takes up so much of my time."

It's something dangerous to ask. Edging a little closer. When he and Renjun had gone to adopt Daegal he'd thought the same thing; that she was their kid now. They were raising her, living some kind of life he’d thought this career would never afford him.

"From what my cousins say, probably,” Renjun says. “Though I bet Daegal is nicer. At least she won’t call you ugly."

“I don’t speak dog. For all I know she could be.”

“She’d be wrong, then.”

“Why are you being so nice to me? What do you want?”

"I don't want anything," Renjun says.

Chenle runs his fingers along Renjun’s arm. “Are you sure?” he asks, voice low. “I can think of some things you might want…”

“Right now I want Daegal to stay asleep,” Renjun says, voice serious. “I seem to recall her barking while your hand was down my pants last time.”

Chenle frowns. Renjun does have a point.

"Yeah, okay," he says. He presses one last kiss to Renjun's head. "You pick her up, then. I'll get her bed ready."

 

 

 

 

It's a coordinated effort, but they manage to tuck Daegal in together without much fuss. Chenle refills her water dish and Renjun coos at her as he places her gently in her blanket nest, and she does little more than let out a few sniffles, probably still exhausted from playing with Renjun. Chenle's still not sure how something so tiny can hold so much energy in her fluffy little body, but her battery truly seems to be empty for once.

Renjun walks him backwards to bed, lips on his, hands wrapped around his waist, holding their bodies together as he presses kisses to his mouth, breathing steady, anchoring him to this world.

Sometimes they're fast; they're vicious, pushing and pulling at each other, clawing for every second they're given. But in times like these — when it's just the two of them, when the world slows to a crawl — Chenle indulges. He breathes Renjun in, climbing into his lap, letting it fill him up. Dark, room, no sound, just a gentle softness, just this overwhelming love that fills him up. Just their hands brushing skin, the rustle of their clothes. Renjun sighing against him, and Chenle knows he could be like this for the rest of his life.

He wants to. It feels like a strange time to realise it, but maybe this kind of world breaking revelation doesn't have to come with anything else. Nothing but promises. Nothing but a thing that Chenle holds tight within him. Warm, sure, the core of a star. Sweat slick skin, the way Renjun says his name; reverent, forceful.

If Chenle is sure of one thing, it is the fact that he is so deeply in love it terrifies him sometimes.

 

 

 

 

When he wakes up the morning light is pale and grey, leaking through his curtains, spilling onto the floor in long strokes, and Renjun is there — eyes lidded, smile sleepy. In the kitchen Chenle cooks breakfast and Renjun winds his arms around his waist, pressing his nose against his neck and kissing him softly — one, two; a rhythm like the beat of his heart.

“You’re so nice like this,” Renjun says.

“When I’m making for food for you?”

Renjun hums, nuzzling at him, slipping his hands under his shirt to splay against his stomach and swaying slightly. “Just all of this,” Renjun says. He breathes deep. “I wish we got to do this more.”

“You should come over more, then,” Chenle says, and he hopes Renjun understands. “Leave your things here. Stop bringing a bag. I want this to be your home, too.”

Renjun stills. Just for a fraction of a moment, and Chenle’s heart pounds; a worry that he’s gone too far.

“Yeah,” Renjun says, and Chenle melts. He reaches down and places his hand over Renjun’s, only the fabric of his shirt separating them, warmth burning through. Renjun kisses the back of his neck again. “You, me and our girl. Let’s make it our home.”