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Chanyeol plays the next note but it doesn’t sound right. It didn’t sound right the eight times before that either. He sighs and turns his face to the ceiling, his neck cracking. He’s been composing for hours and he feels very tired, even though his body has been idle all this long. He’s been very productive today but that comes at a certain price. His eyes sting slightly and his fingers feel numb from tinkering with the guitar and the piano all evening, creating melodies and testing them on repeat before writing them down and recording them. On the days that inspiration decides to hit you hard, you might have to suffer a little, but the result will be worth it.

He rubs his eyes with his hands –it’s uncertain if he succeeds to soothe or irritate them– and a dull throb becomes more prominent above his ears. He had been able to ignore it until now, but he doubts it will subside or that he will be able to ignore it further. If he pushes himself any more, it will only become worse. It’s decided then; he has to stop for today.

He takes a few minutes to note down some things he’d like to work on tomorrow and then he starts tidying up his instruments and music sheets; he likes his corner of the room to be pretty and tidy. Since a few weeks ago, Chanyeol has his own space in Baekhyun’s home office, ‘the music corner’ as Baekhyun jokingly refers to it, and Chanyeol is very happy about it for some reason. Baekhyun decided to give him that space, so that he can work any time, any day, without having to go back and forth between their houses –the only valid reason Chanyeol visited his house anymore– and he encouraged him to bring as many things as he’d like and feel free to use the room as he likes or change it to suit his ‘artistic taste’. He even offered they changed the room and turn it into a studio for him, since Baekhyun doesn’t make serious use of it as an office! Even though Chanyeol thinks his thoughtfulness is very touching, he doesn’t feel so comfortable to barge in and take over Baekhyun’s former space completely, so he refused the offer to set up a fully equipped studio, and he only rearranged a couple of furniture and brought over his most necessary instruments. Baekhyun was delighted, jumping around like an excited child.

With a fond smile on his lips, Chanyeol looks out the window and it’s already dark outside; time flies. Maybe he should go downstairs and check on the other two, and then prepare dinner if Baekhyun is too tired. He ruffles his hair, his head still throbbing, but he thinks it might get better and bother him less if he’s with Baekhyun and Lay. His eyes fall on the most recent addition on the wall; three frames with CDs and fancy writing, his awarded music so far. Baekhyun insisted they hang those; previously, they had been gathering dust in a corner of Chanyeol’s house, but Baekhyun really wanted to display them, arguing that Chanyeol should be proud of them, just like Baekhyun is proud of Chanyeol.

Without realizing, Chanyeol is still humming tunes while going down the stairs, his mood light in spite of his exhaustion. He slows down when he reaches the ground floor, his ears picking up on Baekhyun’s voice and Lay’s mumbles. He rounds the corner with a smile, finding them both in the living room, even though they don’t notice him at first.

“Oh yes, honeycomb~” Baekhyun coos at Lay, his back turned to Chanyeol. Well, his butt turned to Chanyeol, more accurately. Baekhyun is on the floor by Lay’s play mat, on his elbows and knees, so that he can be eyelevel with the toddler, who is on all fours. His posture reminds Chanyeol of a cat, but that’s secondary to the fluster that comes over him at the sight; Baekhyun’s rear view is too heavenly and too sinful for this world, from his hips that flare after his narrower waist, to the fine curves of his things, to the round swell of his ass. It really challenges Chanyeol’s restraint sometimes. “We’ll have spaghetti and meatballs for dinner, like the puppies in the movie” Baekhyun tells Lay in an excited voice and Lay giggles, leaning forward to give Eskimo kisses to her daddy.

“Can I have some too?” Chanyeol interrupts them, approaching slowly. Baekhyun flinches in surprise and straightens his body instantly, turning around.

“Chanyeol, you startled me!” he calls, looking up at him from where he is kneeling. His eyes are wide and his fingers are fidgeting after Chanyeol’s unexpected appearance. Chanyeol sends him an apologetic smile and Baekhyun tilts his head in confusion –Lay has already moved on to her toys. “Is something wrong?” he guesses with a concerned pout.

“Just a little headache after working too much, I’ll be fine” Chanyeol reassures him. Baekhyun slants his lips to the side, unconvinced, and then he lights up with a new idea.

“Come sit here with us” he chirps, scooting to the side and making room on the play mat. Chanyeol doesn’t have enough energy to resist him, so he crawls on all fours and sits down on the spot Baekhyun is patting indicatively. Lay is already piling toys on him the next moment, wanting to play, and Chanyeol starts sorting through them with a smile, but suddenly, Baekhyun leaves his side and climbs on the couch behind Chanyeol. “Honeycomb, his head hurts; will you kiss it better?” he tells her from his perch behind Chanyeol. Chanyeol is about to ask what’s going on, but then Lay exclaims her answer and starts climbing on Chanyeol, distracting him.

((His head is ouchie?! Yes, daddy, I’ll chu~ it at once!!))

For her size, Lay is very good at crawling her way up another human, fisting Chanyeol’s shirt to pull herself up and digging her legs and knees on him to find something to stand on. His stomach is used to it by now. Chanyeol’s hands are waiting to catch her if she falls but she doesn’t. She reaches high enough by herself and then Chanyeol makes it easier for her by bending down a bit, so that he can have access to his cheeks –her stamina is great but he’s just too tall to manage all by herself. She focuses on his cheek with adorable determination, and then she plants one big kiss on his skin with her pretty little lips. Chanyeol smiles at her brightly, her big chocolate eyes expecting a reaction. Her kisses are magical.

“Aww, thank you Lay, I feel much better already” he says, playing it up for the little girl, who cheers and slides down his torso, landing on his lap. She doesn’t bother moving from there, getting comfortable and picking one of the surrounding toys to play with. Chanyeol smiles down at her sweetly, his hand stroking her back adoringly; if only he could squeeze that little munchkin sometimes.

Baekhyun hums behind him, reminding Chanyeol of his presence, and then Chanyeol feels fingers rubbing his ears. He flinches a bit at the unexpected tingles it sends down his spine. Baekhyun is not deterred and he keeps rubbing Chanyeol’s ears and his temples, and then he buries his fingers in Chanyeol’s hair, pressing down on his scalp. Chanyeol closes his eyes and groans quietly at the sensation, his whole body relaxing. Lay turns to him for a moment but she guesses he’s just napping, so she goes back to playing with her toys. Baekhyun’s beautiful fingers work their way downwards, massaging the back of Chanyeol’s neck and then his shoulders, loosening the knots; it feels so good that Chanyeol bites his lip to keep from moaning. It’s been a long time since someone gave him so much attention and it feels so good.

After some time, Baekhyun leans over Chanyeol’s shoulder and kisses his temple quickly. “I’ll get you an aspirin” he whispers and then gets off the couch, leaving Chanyeol to stare after him in a daze.

---

Baekhyun stretches lazily in his seat –and oh my god, did something just crack? How out of shape can a person be? He inwardly cringes at how fast his body is aging; can’t he have ten more years to spend them like his twenties? He stares at the ceiling of his home office for a while and then glances at the time on his laptop; he’s been working for a couple of hours since he got home and he feels so tired, his exhaustion building up since the morning. He usually doesn’t take work outside the office, but everyone at work makes exceptions for when business is booming –which means more numbers for Baekhyun, oh joy. He rubs his eyes but he finds little comfort; numbers are swirling everywhere and his brain feels like mush. He needs a break.

He gets up, leaving everything as it is; it’s not going to go anywhere while he’s away, sadly. His eyes fall on Chanyeol’s instruments across the room, tidy and polished, looking so prim and proper. He smiles; he likes them. He likes sharing the entire day with Chanyeol, he feels happier that Chanyeol gets to do something he likes without any inconvenience, he likes the fact that there’s a piano in the house after so many years –and don’t get him started on how excited he gets whenever he sees those awards on the wall; his Chanyeol did that! He likes the instruments and the piano and the consoles and the headphones, the evidence of his music, something so personal for Chanyeol, present in their shared space. He can almost picture him, hunched in his corner while composing or tampering with buttons and nodding to the rhythm through his headphones…Baekhyun knows when Chanyeol visits this room, since more often than not he has to stay alone with Lay downstairs during that time, but he has never managed to hear a single note; pity.

As soon as he’s out of the room, Lay’s bubbly voice can be heard, mumbling breathlessly and giggling, accompanied by Chanyeol’s voice, also mumbling and growling sometimes, but not as loudly. Baekhyun is more curious about the strange thuds he can hear as he goes down the stairs, but it soon becomes evident that they are playing chase on all fours across the living room –Chanyeol even moves the coffee table to the side every time they play like that, to minimize chances of any accidents.

When Baekhyun turns the corner, Chanyeol has just caught Lay on his lap, and he is tickling her playfully; her laughter reverberates inside the house, bringing a smile to Baekhyun’s lips. Then Chanyeol proceeds to pick her up and fold her over his shoulder, her legs dangling on his chest and her arms on his back, while Lay is squirming and squealing. Chanyeol is holding her with both hands of course, but the position seems unusual enough to make Lay laugh loudly, even though her face has started turning red slowly from the blood flowing to her head.

“Hear ye, I’m selling a pretty lamb~” Chanyeol singsongs like a salesman. Lay giggles and tries to lift her head higher to look around. Baekhyun runs to them playfully, sitting right behind Chanyeol where Lay can see him.

“And how much does it cost, good merchant?” he plays along, smiling at his child when she squeals and starts babbling fast at her daddy; she’s a pretty lamb now and it’s so much fun! She’s excited and happy, and so red faced, like a little strawberry. Chanyeol turns around the tiniest bit, perhaps slightly surprised that Baekhyun is here with them unexpectedly, but he doesn’t say anything, listening to Lay giggling because she sways on his shoulder when he moves.

“One kiss for the merchant and two for the lamb” Chanyeol names his price and Baekhyun giggles behind him. He kisses Lay’s cheeks loudly –she has started drooling from laughing with her mouth open for so long– and then he pecks one of Chanyeol’s hands which are holding her. It’s a perfectly valid kiss, no matter if Chanyeol groans in disappointment. He lets go of the little girl when he feels Baekhyun holding her securely and pulling her over Chanyeol’s shoulder, bringing her to his chest for a hug. And so, this little lamb is his again. Chanyeol turns around so that they’re facing each other. “Sorry; were we being too loud?” he apologizes timidly, smiling slightly and patting Lay’s back. She’s very restless, squirming in all directions, but she doesn’t want to leave her daddy’s lap either, even though he’s not holding her, letting her do whatever she likes. Baekhyun shakes his head and smiles at him reassuringly.

“No, I just needed a break. There were too many numbers- aw” a muffled groan escapes him when Lay plants a knee in his gut; it happens sometimes. Chanyeol makes a funny grimace in attempt to withhold his laughter, and he picks Lay off of Baekhyun’s lap, leaving her on the floor to crawl around and play. She’s obviously very hyper to stay in one place; she’s at that stage where all you can do is let her move around and go crazy until she nearly passes out in exhaustion. If you try to stop it, chances are she’ll be in a very sour and uncooperative mood for the rest of the day. Chanyeol recognizes her wild phase too, and they exchange a meaningful look. Baekhyun has to admit, it didn’t use to be his favorite time to play with her when she’s like this, because, unlike her, he gets tired easily; since then, it’s been proven that Chanyeol alone or their joint effort is much more productive, less tiring and more pleasant. Chanyeol shrugs his shoulders and smiles.

“Do you want to play with us?” he suggests, but there is no pressure; he looks ready to handle her alone if Baekhyun is too busy to stay with them. Baekhyun decides to extend his break. He smiles mischievously.

“Whenever do I not want to play with you?”

They start a game of chase in the living room. It’s not very clear who is chasing whom, but Lay doesn’t bother with such details; she just likes crawling around and giggling. Baekhyun nearly stumbles over Chanyeol’s long limbs twice and he is pretty sure Chanyeol somehow managed to hit his hand on the coffee table in the corner. Lay is happily squirming until she starts getting tired, her battery power diminishing. She still laughs and chases them, but she has moments when she stands still, looking at the floor with a goofy smile on her lips. The adults stop playing for those moments too, waiting till her next burst of energy to resume crawling around. Baekhyun finds her so cute when she’s dazed like this and Chanyeol is shaking with silent laughter.

At some point while Baekhyun is running on all fours after Lay, he feels a hand closing around his ankle and pulling him back, ruining his balance. Even though he kicks in surprise, Chanyeol’s iron grip doesn’t loosen and Baekhyun squeals when the world swirls out of focus for a moment; and then he is lying with his back on the living room floor, looking at the ceiling, with a very smug Chanyeol holding both his ankles so that he can’t leave. When did he become the victim of the chase? Baekhyun squirms and kicks playfully, but Chanyeol won’t budge; he smiles widely and pulls Baekhyun’s leg playfully.

“I caught him, Lay! Come on, we have to tickle daddy!” he exclaims enthusiastically. The toddler, who had been crawling away until a moment ago, turns around with sparkles in her eyes and hastily paddles back to them. Baekhyun pretends to be devastated and trying to escape –kicking Chanyeol’s knees in retaliation for making him the victim– as Chanyeol encourages her to attack him. Lay’s idea of attack is to fall face first on Baekhyun’s stomach with a squeal and a giggle; Baekhyun is ticklish on his stomach so he starts convulsing with laughter the more she buries her little nose against him, but Chanyeol holds him still, enough so that he won’t hit Lay by accident.

It seems Lay is spent after that, slumping against Baekhyun’s body with a silly smile and glazed eyes. Baekhyun smiles down at his daughter, combing his fingers through her hair comfortingly. Chanyeol rubs his ankles with his thumbs in apology for holding them so tight, and then he goes to Lay’s side to check on her.

“Good job, mochi” he says with a smile and a wink. Lay’s smile widens and she tries to pick herself up to move to Chanyeol. They are all surprised when she does it effortlessly; they thought she had exerted the last bits of her energy on tickling Baekhyun and she’d take a while to recharge before moving again. Even Lay seems surprised, and she decides to go to her toys instead of Chanyeol, so that she can have fun on her play mat for as long as she can. Chanyeol helps Baekhyun up to a sitting position –and gets lightly slapped on the arm immediately after.

We have to tickle daddy?” Baekhyun enunciates in a whispering voice, giving the taller an incredulous look. Chanyeol shrugs his shoulders innocently but his lips are pressed tightly to hold back his incriminating giggles, and Baekhyun purses his lips stubbornly and starts poking him everywhere he can reach in retaliation. Chanyeol tries to gather his limbs to protect his body and he squirms on the floor under Baekhyun’s attack, but he doesn’t make a sound, no matter how successful some of Baekhyun’s jabs might be. Their escapades are very lively but entirely mute, save for a few thuds and muffled grunts; it’s funny that Lay doesn’t even notice them. Their limbs get tangled but nobody cares and Chanyeol doesn’t complain, even though Baekhyun is sure some of his pokes get accidentally aggressive and they might leave tiny bruises under Chanyeol’s clothes.

On a side note, in such proximity, Baekhyun can smell faint traces of Chanyeol’s cologne. It suits him very well, admittedly. Baekhyun remembers seeing the fancy bottle next to his own on the vanity inside the bedroom a few days ago, and he kind of liked how pretty the bottles looked together. Chanyeol is not the type to wear cologne every day, but today he had a meeting with his coworker Luhan, so he sprayed some on before leaving the house in the morning. Baekhyun is not saying he’d rather Chanyeol went around unkempt of course, but it bugs him a bit that Chanyeol took the time to wear cologne for that Luhan guy. Yet, Baekhyun thinks he’s unreasonably bothered; Chanyeol always makes an effort when he thinks something or someone is important and he wants to make a good impression –he even wore a blazer to the daycare performance, for crying out loud. But still, Baekhyun can’t deny the tinge of bitterness he feels when thinking of a gorgeous-looking Chanyeol, spending a nice coffee date with some pretty guy from work. Baekhyun had two cups of coffee today, to stay awake enough at work, both bleak and bitter, and he drank them alone over his papers…

Baekhyun is about to pounce on Chanyeol and tackle him to the floor, planning to use his body weight to pin him down and tickle him to submission, but Lay babbles something at them, which sounds faintly like a question, interrupting his magnificently wicked plans. Chanyeol grabs the chance to scamper away, and he rushes to Lay’s side to help her out with whatever is troubling her, leaving Baekhyun behind. He has the audacity to stick his tongue out at Baekhyun mockingly once he’s deemed safe, and Baekhyun gasps, squinting his eyes at him viciously and inwardly promising to get him back for this injustice, when they’ll go to bed. It’ll be just the two of them, no one can save him there.

He takes a few moments to calm down and compose himself, and then he approaches the other two, sitting on the play mat with them. Lay is tamer now but it’s still fun playing with her, building a castle for her teddy bears –or her toy horses, she can’t decide. Chanyeol demonstrates the right way to build walls and Lay makes them crooked anyway. Baekhyun is in charge of supplies, giving Lay building blocks in the color she wants every time. They could do this for hours.

“Would you mind if I worked on the dinner table? I want to be with you guys” Baekhyun mumbles after a while, pouting at Chanyeol pleadingly. He doesn’t want to leave them; can’t his work disappear? Watching her struggle with the walls that keep collapsing is much more interesting. Chanyeol looks up at him in surprise, his eyebrows rising. Lay searches for her next building block in the midst of the colorful piles which are scattered around them, and she fetches it for herself.

“Wouldn’t you mind? We’re kind of noisy” Chanyeol warns, adding an uncertain little smile. Baekhyun’s heart stutters, even though this is a very inconvenient moment for it to do so; he can’t help it. Dimples; fucking dimples. He shakes his head –mostly to clear his thoughts– and then he smiles widely. He knows those two tend to be loud when they’re playing together, which will probably threaten his concentration on his work, but even that is part of the point. He just…doesn’t want to be alone.

“I’ll get my laptop”

---

Chanyeol has heard about the rough side of parenting –and witnessed it a couple of times with Lay, too. It is impossible to avoid tantrums and compulsive crying fits, even if your child is the most cheerful and agreeable angel. He knows children are not always smiles and sunshine, which is understandable, because they’re tiny humans, and they must have their issues too, so, sometimes they need to cry out their frustrations until they are too tired to remember the reason they got sad in the first place. Baekhyun had warned him that this happens occasionally with Lay, too. Just like any other child, she starts crying inconsolably at times, and it’s very hard to comfort her because at her age she can’t explain what troubles her. Chanyeol thought he could handle such a situation.

He can’t.

It’s been fifteen minutes since Lay started crying and she won’t calm down no matter what he tries. It started very suddenly, right after they finished her bath and Chanyeol dressed her in her onsies, getting her ready for bed like they’ve done many times before. Her mood was very chirpy and happy during her bath and she was giggling, but she was already half asleep when he tucked her into bed. Two seconds later, she scrunched her nose and started whining. The whining quickly escalated to screams and hopeless wailing, piercing the night tranquility. Chanyeol leaned over the crib and cooed at her, rubbing her tummy to calm her down, but it didn’t work. She was still sobbing, so he tried to calm her with Mr. Brownie, her favorite brown teddy bear with the big, red bowtie, but she wouldn’t even look at it. He picked her up then, cradling her comfortingly and trying to soothe her, singing to her, mumbling, kissing her hair and using all the tricks he learnt from Baekhyun, but nothing has worked so far and he has run out of ideas. He checked her temperature, he tried to ask if anything hurts, he gave her some water and other toys, but nothing has done the trick.

It’s torture by now. She doesn’t stop no matter what he does or where he takes her in the house, as if every room is giving her more reason to cry instead of distracting her from her worries. He doesn’t quit trying though, going up and down the stairs and touring every room of the house multiple times, especially the spaces that are most familiar to her. He is desperate to soothe her. It’s not so much due to his mild headache and the late hour, as the squeeze he feels around his heart with every wave of new cries and tears. Not even Lay’s tantrum at the doctor’s or her feverish night could have prepared him for this, and they were bad enough as they were; he never thought it would feel this bad to hear her cry and feel so helpless. He is starting to understand why Baekhyun cries when she’s crying.

“You miss daddy, I know” he tries to comfort her, cradling her small head against his shoulder. Baekhyun had to stay at work today much later than usual, and Chanyeol has been hoping he will magically appear any moment for the past twenty minutes. His shirt is damp from her tears and she is clutching at the fabric frantically, screaming against it; he doesn’t know how else to comfort her. Chanyeol is one step away from bursting into tears himself.

Usually, when Lay is having a crying fit, Baekhyun and Chanyeol work together to soothe her, holding her, caressing her, distracting her, kissing her. It doesn’t always work as great, but it makes her cries more bearable. Sometimes, when either of them is away from home and the one left behind is having difficulties, they call, so that she can hear both their voices and calm down a bit. Chanyeol glances at the clock; he can’t call Baekhyun so late, he might be driving back and he won’t be able to talk to her and soothe her through the phone. It looks like he’s on his own on this one.

“I miss him too, mochi” he murmurs in her ear, pressing his lips on the crown of her head. He closes his eyes, swaying her gently, and wishing Baekhyun was here to cry with them. “Should we go to daddy’s room, sleep on his pillow?” he suggests, blinking away small droplets in his eyelashes. Maybe Baekhyun’s scent will help her calm down a little. Lay sniffles, her whole body flinching, and he kisses her damp cheek. “Come, sweetie” he murmurs, walking her to the double bed and pulling away the covers on Baekhyun’s side with one hand. She curls against Baekhyun’s pillow immediately after he puts her down; of course she’s missing her daddy. It’s the world’s most important thing for her and nothing will ever replace him.

He tucks her in and crawls to his side of the bed, getting under the covers too and extending one hand to hold her in place. She grabs his other hand from his pillow and holds it close to her with both hands; she is trembling and Chanyeol strokes her hair comfortingly. She blinks at him with puffy, tired eyes, and she pouts miserably. Chanyeol gives her a reassuring smile. It looks like the worst is over; he inwardly sighs in relief.

Then suddenly, she lets out a strange quipping sound and her entire body convulses on the bed. Chanyeol flinches in surprise and Lay looks back at him with surprised and bewildered eyes. Was that what I think it was? They stare at each other with wide eyes for a few moments of absolute stillness between them, a little lost and a little expectant, and then it happens again. Lay grows even more confused, looking at her own chest as if there’s something weird about it, but Chanyeol chuckles.

“You got the hiccups” he whispers in the near absolute darkness, scratching behind her ear when it happens again. She cried so much that she got the hiccups, how adorable. Lay gives him a curious look, not so afraid of this strange thing that is happening to her anymore, because tall man is smiling, so it can’t be something bad. It’s really annoying though; she can’t even speak because it’s making her swallow her words!

((Cup-cups?))

“Try holding your breath, like this” he whispers and then demonstrates how to hold one’s breath. Lay tries, pressing her lips tightly like he is doing, but she keeps breathing through her nose, missing the point of the exercise; she’s still too young to do it right. Chanyeol giggles at her cuteness and her confused frown. “Here, have some water for now and it will pass” he coaxes gently, giving her the water bottle which he had been carrying around all night. She holds it with both hands, drinking some water while lying on the pillow and looking at Chanyeol with the corner of her eye. This better work; cup-cups are really weird and she doesn’t want to have them. She gives the bottle back and lies on her side again, pulling Chanyeol’s hand close to her like it was before.

“Let’s sleep, baby, hm?” he mumbles, nuzzling his way closer to her on his pillow and kissing her forehead. Lay yawns cutely –followed by a hiccup, of course– and squirms closer to his chest. Chanyeol makes sure there is enough room for her to breathe and then curls an arm around her to make sure she won’t roll away and fall from the bed. Chanyeol yawns too, his weariness catching up with him after a long night. His eyelids become heavy soon and he falls asleep thinking of how cute she is when hiccupping and how much she’s like Baekhyun. Lay falls asleep mumbling up at him, even though he doesn’t notice.

---

((Tall man, you’re not my teddy bear. What are you? You look at me like daddy does, you play with me, you take care of me, you hold me when I’m crying, you tuck me in for nighty-night and you do eeeeverything else like my daddy; even tickle-giggles! You love me too, right? I’m your mochi, right? You want daddy and me as a family, right? Daddy says a family loves each other for always. I will love you for always; daddy will love you too. I hope you want us as a family. So I will adopt you as my daddy. You’ll be my daddy too, now. For always. Daddy, okay?))

---

The weather is horrible today, which is very unusual for a day smack in the middle of summer, but it happens sometimes. Summer storms are the strangest sort of storms; very humid and very windy, but not too cold or too heavy. It’s just really loud. The sky is full of jagged, grey clouds, and there hasn’t been a hint of sunshine all day. It’s drizzling constantly, sometimes raining hard for a couple of minutes, and then shimmering down to a drizzle again. It’s very quiet outside, since everyone is choosing to spend the day indoors. The wind is strong, whipping the rain until it clashes on the windows, and white lightning can be seen every now and then, followed by loud thunder. Fortunately, the weather forecast says it will be over by tomorrow.

When Baekhyun woke up to gloomy weather this morning, his mood dropped to the floor, and not even Chanyeol’s comforting squeeze on his neck could do anything to fix it. He likes the rain, but not when he has to drive to work, or go outside in general. It’s so windy that his umbrella broke before he even reached the car –not the greatest way to start the day. Everyone was complaining at the office and street traffic was a nightmare, especially on his way back home. Now, all Baekhyun wants to do is let his ruined clothes and shoes become his problem for another day, change into his comfortable and dry home clothes, and spend the rest of his day cuddling his daughter.

He uses his briefcase as a shield from the rain as he runs from the car to the front porch, but the gusts of wind are so irregular that rain seems to be falling from everywhere, not just from above. He gets another mud stain on his slacks –he doesn’t even want to look at it, he’ll simply toss it in the laundry basket– and tufts of wet hair get into his eyes. Thankfully, he doesn’t have to look for the key to open the door, because Chanyeol is waiting right behind it, swinging it open as soon as Baekhyun is there. He is holding a towel in one hand and he has that expectant look, with wide eyes and a faint smile on his face; Baekhyun wouldn’t be surprised if Chanyeol suddenly popped two puppy ears and a wagging tail. He sometimes finds Chanyeol waiting for him like this when he comes back, and he has to admit it feels somewhat nice to know that someone cares, that someone wants him to come back safely.

“How was your day?” he asks with interest, closing the door behind Baekhyun and offering him the towel as soon as he puts down his briefcase. Baekhyun accepts it gratefully, wiping his face and then throwing it on his hair.

“Not so great” he admits with a sigh. Chanyeol doesn’t say anything; he simply stands on the side, keeping him company. Baekhyun can’t guess why Chanyeol would want to stay with him when he is pouting, irritable and gloomy, but his presence is oddly comforting. The heat of the house surrounds Baekhyun and his cold cheeks warm up, just like the tips of his toes when he kicks off his shoes. He takes off his water stained jacket and he feels a bit better; his mood is still heavy and he feels tired from all that rain, but at least it smoothes around the edges and he relaxes a little. He is finally home and he won’t have to go out until tomorrow morning, when it will be sunny again. He thinks of going to the living room to give his daughter a kiss, but he glances down at his legs and changes his mind; his pants are messier than he thought, he should change out of them first. “I’ll go change” he mumbles halfheartedly, stepping inside the house.

Suddenly, Chanyeol engulfs him in a big hug, squishing Baekhyun’s face against his chest. Chanyeol is warm and he smells a bit like Lay and Baekhyun –they all use the same soap sometimes. Baekhyun only manages to catch his towel before it slips to the floor, still a little disoriented by the sudden move.

“You did great today, Baek” Chanyeol reassures him, caressing his back. His voice rumbles in his chest under Baekhyun’s ear and he smiles a little, hugging Chanyeol back. Slowly, he relaxes against Chanyeol, breathing calmly with his eyes closed. It feels like he is taking away some of Baekhyun tiredness, keeping him safe and giving him a moment all to himself to feel better. He’s like a big pillow shielding him from the world, banishing away his worries and making everything seem better. He feels much better; he really needed that hug.

“Thanks” Baekhyun mumbles, squeezing Chanyeol one last time before he lets go of him. He rushes upstairs to change out of his clothes and Chanyeol stays downstairs with Lay. He doesn’t take any unnecessary trouble, wearing loose sweatpants and a large t-shirt, combing his hair with his fingers only as he hops down the stairs and runs to the living room. It’s been one of the fastest routines he’s ever done and his mood feels very light compared to before, as if the person who came in through the door a while earlier was a stranger and not him.

“Honeycomb~ I’m back!” he calls, bursting into the living room and running to her side. He picks her up from the couch, where she had been playing with the pillows, and he hugs her tightly, kissing her cheeks. Chanyeol goes to the kitchen with a smile on his lips, giving them a moment. “How is my little bunny doing?” Baekhyun coos, patting her hair. He keeps his tone cheerful but he can tell something is off about her; she’s not giggling and mumbling excitedly like other times, opting to silently cling on him with a small smile.

“She’s been a bit nervous since this morning; I think it’s the weather” Chanyeol emerges from the kitchen after taking out of the fridge his most recent creation, a layered peanut butter and jam cake, perfect for this weather. It’s missing a few slices –they were served as their dessert after dinner last night, and they also gave some to Mrs. Kim for little Jongin who loves peanut butter and jelly. Baekhyun presses his lips thoughtfully; Lay doesn’t have any problems with the rain but she hates thunder, especially when it’s loud.

“We don’t like this weather much, do we?” he asks her, wrinkling his nose and shaking his head with her. Lay has such big, timid eyes when shaking her little head in denial.

“How about we set a tent here in the living room?” Chanyeol suggests cheerfully, walking closer to them with a hopeful smile. Baekhyun quirks a bewildered eyebrow at him; where are they supposed to find a tent, he hasn’t gone camping a day in his life. Besides, Lay doesn’t look in the mood to play much, let alone make up new games. “We can use bed sheets and pillows” the taller says. Lay doesn’t even glance at him, tucking her head in Baekhyun’s neck tiredly. Baekhyun pats her back and rocks her in his arms a bit for comfort; she is not very happy today. He looks at Chanyeol and then he glances down at Lay pointedly; it’s obvious she’s not interested. “It’ll be like a warm little space, where nothing bad can reach us” he tries to lure her; this time, Lay does blink his way. Baekhyun’s eyes widen; if course, that could work! If she can’t see the rain outside and they are all huddled close to each other in a small space where everything looks under control, safe and carefree, she’ll be less scared and more cheerful.

“That’s a good idea! What do you say, honeycomb?” Baekhyun encourages her and Chanyeol starts to smile. Lay lifts her head to look at them both pensively; she doesn’t seem opposed to the idea. But just then, the first loud thunder reverberates inside the house, sounding so close that it seems like the walls are shaking. Baekhyun flinches at the same time Lay screams in fear and starts crying, shriveling close to him and trying to hide in his arms. Baekhyun hugs her tightly, patting her back to calm her. “Shhh, it’s okay, it was just thunder outside, it’s okay” he mumbles soothingly, kissing her hair repeatedly while swaying her. She keeps whining with tears in her eyes, clinging on him and shaking in fear. Her mood all day is only making things worse now, because she’s inconsolable. More thunder roars outside and she starts sobbing, squirming in his hold to seek protection. Baekhyun’s heart hurts to see her so frightened, feeling her little heart beating painfully fast under his hand. “Aww, don’t be scared, sugar buns~ daddy is here” he nuzzles her ear and kisses her again, caressing her and humming. He hopes his affection will soothe her, because if she keeps crying like this, there will be two of them crying soon. Bright lightning strikes outside and Baekhyun holds her even tighter, prepared for the loud growl of the sky that makes the windows buzz. Lay flinches in his hold, her shoulders shaking and her voice rising, until it’s quiet again outside, and she pulls back from her hiding spot.

“Daddy!” she calls helplessly, twisting in Baekhyun’s hold. Baekhyun bites his lip in concern, feeling just as helpless as she is, and having half a mind to take her upstairs and hide under the covers with her until the storm is over. She doesn’t understand thunder and they have no way of explaining it to her in way she will understand; it must be terrifying for her.

“Yes, my little love? I’m right here” he reassures her, trying to make eye contact with her panicky, watery gaze. It’s confusing how she doesn’t meet his eyes, even though she has every chance to do so. Maybe she is too distraught.

“Daddy, daddy!” she calls again, this time twisting almost dangerously in Baekhyun’s hands. Baekhyun catches her swiftly, feeling extremely alarmed, and when he looks beyond her little quivering body, all he sees is Chanyeol, strangely enough. Chanyeol, who is standing quietly, watching them with an expression that paints all over his face how worried sick he is, with wide eyes and a trembling pout. His shoulders are slightly hunched in anxiousness and he looks pale. His wide eyes glance from Lay to Baekhyun and back to lay restlessly, the rest of him seemingly frozen in shock. Baekhyun shakes his head in confusion.

But then he notices Lay.

The little girl is leaning away from Baekhyun, doing grabby hands at Chanyeol. Tears are running down her cheeks and she is crying loudly, arms extended towards the taller man, seeking out a protective embrace in desperation. She keeps calling for ‘daddy’ but her attention if firmly set on Chanyeol. Baekhyun feels like the lighting from outside just ran down his spine.

She is calling Chanyeol ‘daddy’.

Another loud thunder echoes in Baekhyun’s ears but he is too shocked to register the sound of it. Lay wails and tries to reach Chanyeol even harder, until the taller unfreezes, just when Baekhyun freezes, and he rushes closer, taking her in his arms from Baekhyun’s numb hold. Baekhyun watches dumbstruck while his child latches on Chanyeol, plastering herself against him and holding onto him with tight little fists, clinging to save her life.

“Whoa, okay, okay…” Chanyeol mumbles, still quite surprised with this predicament but also worried for the frightened little girl. He tries to soothe her just the same way Baekhyun did, caressing her and rubbing her back, letting her hide in his chest. Lay is still whining and crying, because the booming doesn’t stop; she hopes she can find safety by taking refuge in both her daddies’ arms. If they both hold her, she will be safer. Baekhyun watches his child, speechless. His heart cracks a little.

“How….?” He chokes out, but the lump in his throat suffocates the rest of his words. His stomach drops as he lifts his eyes to look at Chanyeol, and the rain keeps falling outside.

“I don’t know either” Chanyeol admits quietly, his voice straining with emotions which are struggling to stay afloat in the midst of his surprise. He looks just as clueless as Baekhyun, his large eyes searching Baekhyun’s gaze for answers that are not there. How did this happen? What does it mean? What are they going to do now? Lay’s cries and thunder don’t reach their ears, which are ringing after this revelation. Chanyeol’s expression slowly turns pained, his eyes apologetic; he looks on the verge of tears. He reaches out one hand and holds onto a fistful at the hem of Baekhyun’s shirt pleadingly. “Baekhyun, I’m sorry…” he says quietly, concerned and breathless.

Baekhyun swallows the lump in his throat and shakes his head; it’s not Chanyeol’s fault, there is nothing to apologize for. Chanyeol didn’t ask for this; Baekhyun didn’t either. It’s something that’s done now, however, and the child still needs them. They can try to solve this puzzle after she won’t be scared anymore.

“Just hold her, we’ll figure this out later” he mumbles, focusing on Lay, patting her back and caressing her hair. She calms down much faster when she has both Chanyeol and him.

The storm eases into silent rainfall after some time, and Lay seems more peaceful. As time passes, she even turns chirpy and playful. Neither of the adults shares her optimism, watching her play with her toys and smiling at her with effort. Their minds are crowded with questions and thoughts, but no one dares voice them out. The hardly speak to each other, exchanging only necessary words for dinner or anything else. It’s never been so quiet around the table while they’re eating. Lay finds it really strange; the grownups won’t even look at each other in the eye. Baekhyun’s gaze always stops on Chanyeol’s lips, unable to move further, as if he has a physical restriction which forbids him to look at his eyes. Chanyeol’s eyes always focus on Baekhyun’s ear or his neck or his hair instead of his eyes, missing the target, as if his gaze needs to be recalibrated. When they decide to bathe her and put her to sleep to wrap up the day, it becomes apparent that they’re very awkward with each other.

“Daddy~” Lay singsongs, giving one of her duckies to Baekhyun; her daddy is not playing with the bubbles today and he is not making any funny noises, so maybe he wants a toy. Baekhyun accepts the toy with a faint smile, his eyes swarming with bittersweet thoughts. How can one word bring so much trouble? How can it look so pretty on Chanyeol and yet make Baekhyun feel so guilty? What is he going to do; this can’t go on. Chanyeol has already stared avoiding him, standing as far as he can while they’re giving Lay a bath. Baekhyun never wanted things to be this way, even though he might have secretly wished at some point that someday Lay will call Chanyeol daddy too. Oh my god, how could he? He blushes at the thought. Lay picks up another of her duckies from the tub. “Daddy~” she singsongs like before, only this time she offers it to Chanyeol.

“No, Lay” Chanyeol accepts the toy so that he won’t hurt her feelings, but he shakes his head sadly. He twirls the toy in his hands with a small smile that doesn’t reach his eyes and then he sends it floating back to Lay. Baekhyun takes a deep breath, the familiar sting of tears appearing behind his eyes inexplicably. Of course Chanyeol wouldn’t want this. It feels like he is returning more than just a toy to her. “This is daddy. I’m Chanyeol, your Chanyeol” he explains, trying to smile at her again. Lay frowns thoughtfully and turns to Baekhyun.

“Daddy?” she asks; Baekhyun gulps and smiles a little.

“Yes, honeycomb” he encourages her, but she doesn’t babble anything at him. She keeps staring at him for a bit, and then she turns to Chanyeol with a serious face.

“Daddy.” It’s not a question this time. A chip of Baekhyun’s heart falls off. Chanyeol sighs.

“She’s tired. We’ll try this again tomorrow” he reassures Baekhyun and maybe himself too. Baekhyun only nods, not knowing what to say or how to look at Chanyeol. He’s tired too; maybe it’s for the better if they talk to her tomorrow.

It’s the first night Baekhyun and Chanyeol sleep on their sides of the bed each, without touching each other at all throughout the night.

---


Chanyeol keeps staring. He will not lose.

He’s sitting right across from Lay, who is perched securely on her high chair. It’s snack time, but they are having it at the dining table today, because Chanyeol wanted to discuss something important with her –she needs to understand it’s as crucial as choosing an ice cream flavor– and he needs her full attention, which would be impossible if they were anywhere near her toys. He sliced a peach for her –Baekhyun seems to have a never-ending supply of them– but she’d rather stare at him than eat it for now. They are in the middle of a serious staring competition, silence stretching eerily inside the house. For a one-year-old, she is doing pretty good, if he may say so.

“Chanyeol. Can you say my name? Chan~ Yeol~” he tries, for the third time since this conversation started, introducing his name in a singsong voice to make it more appealing, and smiling widely, trying to lure her. Lay blinks at him impassively. There are definitely Baekhyun’s stubborn genes in her.

“Daddy.” She answers calmly –just like she did the previous two times. Chanyeol whines pitifully but she doesn’t pay him any heed, picking her blunt children’s fork and chasing the small pieces of fruit on her plate. Chanyeol watches her closely, feeling like a kicked puppy. Why is she ignoring him? It’s obvious she understands what he is trying to tell her, so why does she keep choosing to overlook his instructions so pointedly?

After yesterday’s events, he and Baekhyun agreed that they’d talk to her today. Last night was one of the most awkward, cold and lonely nights Chanyeol has ever had. He wanted to hug Baekhyun so bad and tell him that everything will be okay, but how could he say that, when things are obviously not okay? This wasn’t supposed to happen; at least, not now! Of course he had hoped someday she’d call him daddy, after he and her actual daddy would have sorted through their feelings –and would have, preferably, come to an agreement that they should be together as something more than friends, because honestly Chanyeol doesn’t feel like he belongs anywhere else and he doesn’t think that will ever change. He’s wanted this for the past three years –and dreaming of it all the previous years of his life– even though he has never said it, because he can’t. Even now, he can’t.

Chanyeol feels like it’s his fault they’ve come to this. He has devoted his heart to Baekhyun, that much is a fact, but he should have been more clear with his intensions. All this time, he’s been living the dream like the luckiest man alive, without a care in the world. He’s been the happiest he’s ever been, giving love to Baekhyun and his daughter –and perhaps he gave too much, and now they’re here. Baekhyun doesn’t blame him; he says she’s a child, things like that happen sometimes. They talked about it this morning; it was very awkward and every sentence they spoke felt incomplete, but they managed to come to terms with it for now. Everything goes better if they work as a team, and that’s what they agreed to do. Chanyeol is so thankful he doesn’t have to keep his eyes on the ground in shame in front of Baekhyun anymore.

He almost gets sidetracked by the way she’s focusing on her food cutely, swinging her legs in excitement and making a small mess which she loves to be proud of afterwards.

“How about you call me ‘uncle’ or ‘oppa’?” he attempts, just in case his name seems too difficult for her little tongue. He leans toward her hopefully, focusing on her stained little lips and waiting for her next words like they’re a mad man’s salvation. Lay wiggles on her chair, eyeing the peach slices in front of her.

“Daddy~” she sings, suddenly looking up and smiling at him with all her four teeth. Something in his chest rips at the sweetness of her gesture. But she can’t be calling him daddy, even though his wishful thinking begs to disagree. ‘Daddy’ is a sacred word which should be used by her only for Baekhyun, because Baekhyun deserves her, he’s the right person for her, while Chanyeol…well, Chanyeol is trying to become a person who’d deserve Baekhyun. Chanyeol sighs and his shoulders deflate. It seems he stands little chance against the stubborn Byun genes. She giggles, finding his misery amusing, and then she goes back to her snack.

“I know you understand everything. Why are you doing this?” he pouts helplessly but he is ignored. She hums thoughtfully when a fruit slice gets obliterated due to her zealous stabbing; Chanyeol’s bribe –or peace offering, depending on your point of view– doesn’t seem to be working in his favor very well. But he won’t surrender just yet. Chanyeol scoots closer, sitting on the edge of his chair and leaning over the table, so that his small, encouraging smile may be in her peripheral vision. “At least call me Channie?” he asks in a cute voice. Lay looks at him with wide eyes. Will she finally…

“Daddy!”

Chanyeol chokes on a whimper. Hopeless, this is hopeless.

“Am I interrupting something?” Baekhyun’s voice comes from the doorway and Chanyeol whips his head around to find said person leaning against the doorframe, with a confused frown between his eyebrows. They haven’t had steady, direct eye contact like this since yesterday and Chanyeol feels distraught it’s happening all of a sudden.

“Baekhyun, you’re back!” he gasps and his cheeks pink, realizing that Baekhyun has witnessed at least some part of his rather embarrassing conversation with the toddler. He knew Baekhyun would come home early today, since he had very specific things to do at work and he had already estimated he’d be done with them sooner than usual, but he hadn’t expected him to come back so soon. Baekhyun looks like he’s in a better mood than last night and very casual, nothing like his awkward fidgeting this morning. He waves a dismissive hand.

“Yes, but don’t mind me; this is interesting” he says, eying both Chanyeol and his daughter with curiosity and interest –and maybe a slight bit of reprimand for being left out. Lay explodes in fast-paced babbling nonsense; very expressive, however. Her expressions and gestures try to explain her intonation, and it’s endearing really, how she struggles with language, but both adults frown when she starts pointing at Chanyeol insistently, calling him ‘daddy’ again and again during her speech.

((Daddy, thank the pink flowers you’re back! Daddy keeps trying to make me say strange names. I don’t want to call him strange names. I want to call him daddy, like you! I won’t be confused, I promise! Do I have to teach him his name, like when I get new teddy bears? Oh, I can do that! Hey, daddy, look at me! You’re daddy, okay? Daddy!))

“No, I am Chanyeol” Chanyeol tries again, clutching his chest pleadingly. He is looking right into her eyes; which means he gets a startlingly clear view when her expression changes to annoyance, her eyebrows meeting over her eyes menacingly, her lips pouting in irritation and her cheeks tinting pink. She looks like a little bubbling pot about to overflow.

“DADDY!” she yells in a final tone, kicking the air and pointing an imperative finger at him. Baekhyun rushes to soothe her while she’s still early into her unexpected tantrum, before it gets out of hand. Chanyeol can’t believe it has come to this.

“I give up.” he sighs and slumps against the table in defeat.

---

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Date: 2016-11-17 12:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mila turd� (from livejournal.com)
I just beed them to realise their mutual feelings already ;-; xD

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