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Chanyeol is tying up his shoelaces while talking faster than any rapper Baekhyun has ever heard on the radio; seriously, does he even breathe?

Baekhyun is only half listening to him, his mind preoccupied. A part of him is worried that Chanyeol is not leaving fast enough, even though the taller is doing his best, fumbling to gather his things and leave with no evidence of his former presence. It’s not his fault he stayed over for longer than they had planned; it was Baekhyun who took longer to return from the grocery store and then he had to shower, so Chanyeol stayed with Lay till now. Sehun will be here any minute and they agreed it would be less complicated if Chanyeol left before he arrives, to avoid awkward greetings –especially since Baekhyun hasn’t told Sehun about Chanyeol waltzing back into his life, and Sehun is not exactly known for his discretion…

A bigger part of him is worried that he can’t apologize enough to Chanyeol, for essentially kicking him out, after everything he has done to help. Chanyeol did so much to prepare for today while Baekhyun was at work, cleaning the house and baking snacks on top of taking care of Lay. Baekhyun watches Chanyeol pocketing his car keys, his deep baritone sounding like a constant, unintelligible hum to his ears, since he’s more concerned over their current situation than the laundry Chanyeol did this morning. He feels horrible. Chanyeol shouldn’t be leaving like this; he shouldn’t be leaving at all. He pouts thoughtfully; he’s being really unfair to him, isn’t he?

“…I think she was trying to help but well, she fell into the laundry basket, oh, I’ve already put a peach in the fridge for her afternoon snack and your dinner is ready; I made one of your favorites, it’s in the oven. And Baekhyun” Chanyeol suddenly straightens his body and Baekhyun flinches out of his slouched position, standing tall as well –but not as tall as Chanyeol. Chanyeol looks serious. “Promise me you won’t forget to eat” he asks, staring right into Baekhyun’s eyes with concern. Baekhyun hadn’t thought this would be about his lacking nutrition habits –he admits that he might have forgotten a couple of meals. But now that Chanyeol is around, Baekhyun has someone to worry about such things and nag benevolently, and he ought to say it’s not as annoying as he thought it would be.

“I promise” he ends up mumbling, pinching Chanyeol’s arm patronizingly when the latter grins victoriously. He is a bigger mom than Baekhyun is sometimes. Chanyeol is quick to open the door and get out of the house, and Baekhyun jumps after him instantly, back-hugging him as tight as he can. Why am I stalling? Chanyeol’s ribs probably hurt from how much he is squeezing him, but Baekhyun is feeling guilty and he needs to ease his conscience for a few moments –his methods are a bit unconventional is all. “Thank you for everything” he whines pitifully against Chanyeol’s back; the taller chuckles and pats Baekhyun’s hands. The shorter doesn’t notice how forced and awkward Chanyeol’s gestures are, so he keeps pressing his nose against Chanyeol’s shoulder blade.

“You might want to let go of me now” Chanyeol whispers with a bit of a strain in his tone of voice, and only then does Baekhyun realize that Chanyeol’s body is also very stiff.

“Huh?” he quirks an eyebrow in bewilderment and lets go of Chanyeol’s statue, stepping around him to see what’s wrong. His eyes widen instantly, the blood draining from his face. “Oh…” Trouble. Big trouble. Of course this would happen, damned, cursed luck… “Sehun” he pushes the name past his lips with effort; it sounds very blank and shocked, much like he feels right now.

It’s the first time in months Sehun is visiting Baekhyun and Lay at their house, and he had been planning it for a week, even hiring a puppy-sitter for the evening for his precious dog, Vivi. It would be just Baekhyun’s luck that, upon arrival, Sehun would find another man coming out of Baekhyun’s house; and Baekhyun had been shamelessly clinging on him in public, oh great. He can already imagine the upcoming interrogation; it’ll be embarrassing and traumatizing as always. That’s what best friends are for.

They just stare at each other for some time. Sehun’s knowing smirk is not a good omen.

“Hello hello…” he says at last with a playful lilt in his voice. Sometimes Baekhyun wonders if his best friend has made it his purpose in life to embarrass him in the least convenient moments and he prays that he won’t say anything overboard this time at least. Sehun rests a hand on his hip like a supermodel and proceeds to check out Chanyeol very obviously, smirking appreciatively. Ugh, best friends. Baekhyun jolts into his functioning mode again.

“Hi, I thought you’d be coming over at six” he tries to sound casual but the surprise is still detectible in his voice. Sehun –who had been shamelessly feasting his eyes on Chanyeol’s appearance previously; Baekhyun might or might not feel slightly irked about that– turns to Baekhyun, his expression turning blank.

“It’s six thirty” he deadpans. What? Baekhyun gulps down his shock; he didn’t check the time earlier –knowing he was late was enough– but it’s so late already? Somewhere between kissing Lay and brushing his hair he lost track of time. Sehun rolls his eyes at the dumbfounded Baekhyun and turns to Chanyeol again, smiling a bit; if Sehun smiles at you before he even knows your name, he’s flirting with you –trust Baekhyun, he has studied Sehun all his life. You mean to say he’s flirting with Chanyeol right now?! Baekhyun gasps in his head. Okay, he’s definitely irked. “Hi, I’m Sehun, Baekhyun’s friend. Who might you be?” cue the seductive head tilt and slow blink.

Baekhyun was worried that Sehun would say something embarrassing but he never thought something like this would happen! There are sirens blaring inside his head, his stomach turning irritably. Chanyeol hasn’t moved a muscle and it takes him a couple of mute tries before he actually speaks.

“The…babysitter?” he guesses timidly. It might have worked if it wasn’t a question. Or if Baekhyun hadn’t been leaching on him when they came out the door –he would never back-hug just any babysitter, what do you take him for, he’s not that desperate. Sehun raises an eyebrow, clearly unconvinced. It’s obvious that Chanyeol is not your standard babysitter in the Byun household; but what else should they say he is? He and Chanyeol never felt the need to define their relationship, for better or for worse; they’re just Baekhyun and Chanyeol.

This is exactly the sort of awkward situations Baekhyun had wanted to avoid.

“My neighbor” Baekhyun pipes up; unfortunately, his voice came out too high-pitched to be casual. Now Sehun has an eyebrow raised at him; Baekhyun belatedly realizes that Chanyeol being his neighbor wouldn’t explain things either. Chanyeol scuffles his feet uncomfortably and shakes his head, in the same time Baekhyun does.

“A friend” they say in unison, surprising each other. Sehun raises both eyebrows at them incredulously, confused and certain that they’re hiding something –since they’re acting so inconspicuously...Baekhyun feels like a withering lily in a winter valley and Chanyeol gulps under the pressure.

“I’m paid in food” the taller adds after a moment, very unhelpfully. Baekhyun turns to him appalled; he would smack him if he could reach him, but Chanyeol suddenly remembers his haste to leave, panicking and stumbling as he walks away, much to Sehun’s amusement. Baekhyun can’t blame him; Chanyeol is adorable when he’s flustered. “Uh, I really have to go now. Stuff to do and…yeah. Bye!” he waves over his shoulder, sprinting the way to his house as fast as his clumsy, long limbs allow. Sehun smiles with interest and waves after him.

“Bye, cutie” he calls shamelessly –the neighbors have definitely heard that. Baekhyun would point it out, but he finds it more important to distract Sehun from Chanyeol right now; Sehun has that predatory look in his eyes, which Baekhyun doesn’t appreciate at all when it’s directed at his Chanyeol. He rolls his eyes and grabs Sehun’s hand, towing him inside.

“I told you he’s my neighbor” he grumbles under his breath, as if to prove a point –Sehun probably doesn’t hear it over the sound of the door closing.

“He’s a weird nut. Who was he?” he asks with a faint smile still lingering on his lips, taking off his fashionable jacket and shoes. Baekhyun is not happy with how things turned out but he guesses there’s no point to lie, is there? Now that they are safely inside the house, he heaves a sigh, his shoulders deflating.

“He’s Chanyeol” he mumbles halfheartedly. Sehun doesn’t even glance at him, still smiling.

“He’s cute” he chirps, not recognizing the name at first; Baekhyun frowns and grits his teeth at the comment. Yes, his Chanyeol is cute; Baekhyun’s blood is starting to boil. Sehun had started heading to the living room but he whirls around a moment later, eyes wide in surprise; of course he’d recognize the name eventually, he has been hearing it from Baekhyun for years, after all. “Wait. Chanyeol, your unrequited crush for the last three years?!” he exclaims so loud that it echoes up the stairs, looking at Baekhyun as if he’s green and just fell from the sky.

“Can you keep your voice down, thank you” he chides, glaring at Sehun strictly. There is no reason to trumpet his feelings for his best friend and current babysitter; they would most probably bring only harm to his relationship with him if anyone heard it by accident, not to mention it hurts to hear those feelings on the lips of others, when he can never bring them on his own. Even this thought brings a lump in his throat, it makes his lungs feel heavy and his heart aches. He always says he doesn’t want to break a beautiful friendship and disappoint Chanyeol, but honestly, he is such a coward.

Unrequited crush, huh? Baekhyun scoffs internally. Could it get any more true? He must be really useless in love, if he can’t make it work even with someone like Chanyeol. Pinning after your best friend for three years, even though you’ve been apart for more than half that period of time, check. Being all sorts of foolishly excited and eager to have him back in your life, check. Torturing yourself by inviting him to live under the same roof and raise your child with him like a married couple, check. Secretly loving him for years but never saying a word to him about feelings, check.

Feeling butterflies squirming when he looks at you, seeing the sun in his smile, crumbling under his touch, getting hypnotized when he speaks, being lulled to sleep with thoughts of him, cherishing his heartbeat, feeling accepted and special and happy when he’s with you. Check.

“How did this happen? Why didn’t you tell me! He lives across the street? Since when? Is he still single?” Sehun bombards him with questions, giving him no time to answer any of them. Baekhyun stutters, confused and a bit upset after the unexpected onslaught of emotions. He really should have dealt with those before it came to this, but it’s so easy being around Chanyeol again, and he kind of forgot he had to protect his heart.

((Uncle Hunie! Did you bring Vivi puppy? No? Can we play then? I want flowers and pennies that appear from nowhere like poof! I checked, there’s nothing behind my ears this time!)) Lay appears in the doorway, mumbling excitedly at Sehun. It took too long for the adults to come back and she got curious; what if they were playing without her? Her daddy looks a bit pale though…

“Where’s my sweet little girl~” Sehun is a goner as soon as he hears her, being the softest person in existence when she is concerned. Baekhyun’s lips crack a small smile, watching him running to her with a big smile and scooping the giggling child in his arms, tossing her in the air and promising he has brought her the prettiest dress she’s ever seen. Baekhyun shakes his head to clear his thoughts and follows them to the living room.

Sehun’s visits are always nice. He might not be very expressive at times and he tends to be sassy, but he’s very playful and honest, like a breath of fresh air. They’ve been friends since childhood, so there is little they don’t know about each other, but there is always something to say, something to laugh at, something to discuss. They’ve seen each other at their best and worst, they’ve been there for each other in times of need, happiness and sadness, and they have a way of being exactly what the other needs each time; a best-est friend with a new bike, a pick-me-up during rough times, a shoulder to lean on, an accomplish to steal the cookies, the only person they’d go to Disneyland with, a mother, a therapist, a blood donor (when Sehun was ten and he had to undergo a surgery; Baekhyun lied down on a hospital bed and refused to leave if they didn’t take his blood for his friend, who was worried about receiving a stranger’s blood). After his sister’s passing, Sehun is the closest thing Baekhyun has to a sibling.

They talk over tea and puppet games with Lay, about Sehun’s work, his puppy, his last known relationship which flopped and they haven’t thrown enough shade on the blameworthy, unfortunate guy, and that cute new intern from accounting he’s currently flirting with. Of course Sehun would want to know everything about Lay’s school and the end-of-the-school-year festivities, about her newfound love for cakes and everything about all her new toys, including Monsieur Radis –Lay still cackles like crazy at the sound of the name. The conversation stirs to Chanyeol inevitably, since he is Lay’s babysitter, and Sehun is dying to know more about him and how he has reappeared in Baekhyun’s life. Baekhyun explains how it all started and then he shares some stories of their life together since the taller started babysitting Lay.

The question about feelings is a tough one. Baekhyun wants to be honest with Sehun but there are some things he hasn’t thought about, not even for himself. It’s difficult to answer some questions and some are painful if he’s sincere. Baekhyun concludes that yes, of course he still has feelings for Chanyeol, perhaps too many of them and too deep, and they’re all slowly becoming vibrant again. The longer Chanyeol is around, the more Baekhyun’s world will start looking like a Leonid Afremov painting, the happier he’ll get, the more he will want him, the more complete and balanced he’ll feel, the more afraid he’ll be of losing him. Baekhyun is also afraid of what might happen to him when the colors of his world become too radiant and blind him, what will happen when his feelings grow so much that he won’t be able to hide them anymore, what could happen to him and Chanyeol then.

He knows he has to think things through while there’s still some time left, he has to settle his feelings, he knows he has to…but he is also so so afraid of touching them.

He promises Sehun that he will think about it more, he’ll call him if he needs him and that he will take care of himself. They start random conversations after that, talking out the tension which has built up around them. Lay starts playing with them again instead of playing by herself, giving them toys, climbing on Sehun and singing with him –Sehun’s singing is what the rest of the world calls torture. She is thrilled when Sehun starts performing magic tricks for her, clapping and giggling. Baekhyun can’t help but notice that Lay hugs Sehun less and very differently from the way she hugs Chanyeol. In spite of Lay’s capriciousness and Sehun’s god-awful, tone-deaf croaking however, those two are having a great time together and Baekhyun cheers up soon.

“So, hot guy is your babysitter now?” Sehun asks casually, toying with a seal stuffed animal. Baekhyun would roll his eyes –how curious can Sehun be and how much emotional conflict does Baekhyun have to endure today?– but he detects something playful in Sehun’s tone, so he merely looks up at him curiously. They’re all sitting down on Lay’s mat and Baekhyun is currently cutting her peach into slices, feeding her every now and then. Sehun smirks in a very distinct way when he asks “Or is he something like, Lay’s new daddy?”

Mistake this not, dear friends. This is not Oh Sehun asking for answers. This is Oh Sehun planting ideas. As if Baekhyun couldn’t live without such thoughts coming from outside his head. Because Oh Sehun is a sneaky little brat of a best friend, that’s why.

“What, no!” he objects immediately, sparking with hints of embarrassment. Baekhyun has never thought of anyone else as Lay’s daddy –even though Chanyeol admittedly looks good for the part. Besides, what Sehun is aiming at with this question is to imply a romantic relationship between Baekhyun and Chanyeol, which Baekhyun is sure doesn’t exist. If it did, he would know. Or would he? “He helps me with Lay when I’m busy at work, that doesn’t mean we’re together” he refutes. He speaks the truth but for some reason he feels his cheeks pinking, so he averts his eyes quickly and focuses on the fruit again. The fruit is safer.

“But you wish you were” Sehun retorts and Baekhyun can hear the self-satisfied smirk in his voice. What is he supposed to say, no? After everything he’d been saying a few conversation topics ago? He keeps his eyes on the fruit, mumbling under his breath about best friends who bully innocent people with long-term crushes, and he ends up eating the last slice of peach, just as an excuse to stop his lips from talking. Sehun laughs loudly at the way he’s eating and pouting, and then he turns to Lay. “What do you think of this baby girl?”

((I think daddy is eating my peach. Daddy, what are you doing?!))

Sehun chooses to interpret her words as an accusation, not at all favorable to Baekhyun on the matter of his wishful thinking concerning his relationship status and Chanyeol, and he looks at Baekhyun knowingly, making an ironic grimace. “Oh really.” he says flatly. Baekhyun chuckles at this, wiping his hands with baby wipes, Sehun chuckles too, and the tension is gone.

“You little traitor!” he accuses Lay playfully and she squeals, recognizing her daddy’s mood as the one when they play chase. She starts crawling away instantly, as fast as her chubby hands and knees allow her, and Baekhyun roars and starts after her on his hands and knees as well. She giggles and squeals even more whenever he finds him close behind her, if she checks over her shoulder, and she tries to escape to no avail; Baekhyun always has her at arm’s length. He scoops her close when they reach the dining room –better not mess around chairs, she might stumble on them– and she tries to squirm away halfheartedly, laughing loudly when he tickles her soft spots. Sehun coos behind them. Baekhyun kisses her temple and soothes her with hugs afterwards, bringing her back to the play mat with the rest of her toys. “Will you stay for dinner?” he asks Sehun with puppy eyes, realizing it’s already so late. He likes having him around and Chanyeol made plans with his coworkers for tonight so he will be eating out –and Baekhyun will be eating and sleeping all alone tonight…

“I can’t, sorry…” Sehun pouts, displeased that he can’t stay “But I’d eat something sweet before I go!” he chirps, grinning with all his teeth at Baekhyun. If there is one person on Earth with a bigger sweet tooth than Baekhyun, it would be Sehun. Their likeness on the matter came in handy whenever they craved cookies from the forbidden jar in Mrs. Oh’s kitchen. Baekhyun smiles and trudges to the kitchen.

“Let me see what I have…” he mumbles, opening the fridge. He is sure he heard Chanyeol mentioning something about dessert before he left…And there it is! Fresh and colorful and pretty! “Oh, we have cheesecake!” he exclaims, hopping on his heels. He hasn’t had cheesecake in so long; he thinks he complained to Chanyeol about it the other day too. It’s with strawberries; his favorite.

“Great!” Sehun agrees from the living room and Baekhyun takes out the dessert and serves two generous portions quickly. He hands Sehun his plate and Lay looks at it with interest; she can recognize Chanyeol’s yummy creations by now. Baekhyun picks a soft spoonful for her from his slice, but that’s all she’ll be getting. Her eyes get all sparkly. “This looks homemade…” Sehun muses, examining the sweet. Baekhyun only nods in confirmation, his mouth too busy being open in demonstration so that Lay will open hers too and they won’t end up messy. Sehun raises an eyebrow and gives him a good look, suspicion written all over his face. “But you don’t know how to make cheesecake” he points out, squinting his eyes at Baekhyun. Baekhyun presses his lips closed tightly and gulps once.

“Actually…Chanyeol made it” he admits, his eyes lingering on his slice shyly.

“He cooks for you too?!” Sehun exclaims loudly, his spoon halting halfway to his mouth. Baekhyun huffs and makes a vague gesture which neither confirms nor denies the fact. They both taste the heavenly smooth and sweet-sour dessert in silence; there is no room for many words when desserts are present. Sehun moans quietly at how delicious the cheesecake is and Baekhyun picks his next spoonful reverently. “Please tell me he’s still single” Sehun whines, like he desperately wants to marry Chanyeol for his cooking skills.

“I guess so…” Baekhyun answers with a shrug. When they first started catching up, Chanyeol said there was no one important in his life and he hasn’t mentioned anyone since, or going on any dates –except for the one with his coworkers tonight.

Wait. He wouldn’t find someone tonight, would he? There are many people going out on Friday nights, all dolled up and sexy and available…Oh my god, what if he goes out and meets the love of his life tonight?! What if it will be some hot, young and kind and perfect guy, funnier and cuddlier and prettier than Baekhyun, and they’ll start dating and Baekhyun will be suffering, and then Chanyeol will adopt perfect babies with his soul mate and- this is DISASTER WHY DID HE EVER AGREE TO HAVE SEHUN OVER?!

“You live with him and the best you can do is guess?” Sehun asks incredulously, derailing Baekhyun’s train of thought, which was bound to crush and burn anyway. Baekhyun flinches and blinks at Sehun as if lost on the subject they’re discussing. Sehun rolls his eyes. “What have you been doing with your life? Who wouldn’t want a tall, toned, masculine, charming, sensitive, husband-material, cute musician with a voice made for i-n-t-e-r-c-o-u-r-s-e?” he wiggles his eyebrows at Baekhyun suggestively, avoiding to say even the more sophisticated equivalent word of the act in front of Lay.

“How can you spell such big words so effortlessly?” Baekhyun marvels, choosing to ignore Sehun’s innuendo. But Sehun doesn’t want to let it go as easily, it seems.

“Has he been cherrying you?” he asks curiously, leaning closer to Baekhyun, who leans back in favor of preserving some personal space. He looks at Sehun in bewilderment. What does it mean to ‘cherry someone’? Baekhyun is not sure he wants to know, but Sehun keeps looking at him intently, waiting for an answer. When he realizes Baekhyun is still clueless, he glances to the ground pointedly, mumbling “You know…” and then resumes staring. Baekhyun bewilderedly looks to the ground too and- oh my god, Sehun wasn’t looking at the ground, he was looking at his crotch! Baekhyun blushes to the tips of his ears.

“No! I told you, we’re not dating!” he protests fervently, his cheeks burning. Why would Sehun think something like that? Why did he have to put the idea on the table at all? Chanyeol and he- they’ve never done something like that, ever! They have never even changed clothes in front of each other! Even when Chanyeol was in the shower with Lay, Baekhyun didn’t have the mind to check him out or sneak a peek, because his child’s suffering was obviously more important. Sehun raises an eyebrow, making one of his signature sass expressions, and he lifts a finger, ready to spew out some nonsense about friends with benefits for sure, but Baekhyun interrupts him. “And before you say something smart, I respect Chanyeol, I’d never do that to him” he clarifies sternly. Sleeping with Chanyeol is out of the picture. Sehun makes a pained grimace.

“Come on, Baekhyun!” he whines for a moment and then he turns more playful, but still somewhat serious, like he believes the things he says. “I’m concerned about you; you’ve been gathering dust bunnies for years! And this guy is practically made for it!” Baekhyun gasps, scandalized, and he covers Lay’s ears with his hands.

“We’re not talking about my dust bunnies in front of my child” he shushes Sehun promptly. It’s true –not that he has been gathering actual dust bunnies of course, but, figuratively speaking– his bed hasn’t seen any action in years –truthfully–, and Chanyeol is obviously a perfect nominee for a whole new level of erotic pleasure waiting to happen, but Baekhyun can’t afford to think like this. He has other priorities in his life for one thing, and Chanyeol is his friend, for another. Sehun gives him a look as if he’s gone insane, but he doesn’t comment any further –which is good, because Lay is very young to understand, but still too young to listen to what adults do in bed when they’re not sleeping, and way too young to know about her daddy’s sexual frustration and his undisclosed lust for the babysitter.

Lay secretly knows what adults do in bed when they’re not sleeping; they’re napping!

They wrap up Sehun’s visit smoothly; Lay gets a bit annoyed by Sehun’s too many kisses but she hugs him back nonetheless, Baekhyun gets a hug and a pat on the butt –‘checking if it’s still there; your butt is my second most favorite butt in the world, you know that’ Sehun says–, and then Sehun goes to bring Lay’s new dress from the car which they remembered last minute. Baekhyun prepares a plate of cheesecake slices for his friend to take home, and they exchange goodies at the door. Sehun is thrilled with the cheesecake and he makes Baekhyun promise he will thank Chanyeol on his behalf –with a long hug, specifically. They end up chitchatting on the doorstep quietly, the streetlamps lighting up. Sehun asks if Baekhyun will be okay with Chanyeol and if Sehun can meet him properly sometime; Baekhyun answers ‘probably’ to both questions.

“Baekhyun, I know you’re still in love with the guy –I’m being serious here” Sehun is quick to reassure him when Baekhyun sighs, not really enthusiastic about reopening that subject, especially when he will have a whole night alone to think about it. He doesn’t say anything to stop his tall friend though, because Sehun is giving him that honest look, like when he told Baekhyun he would always be there for him and Lay after his sister’s passing. “You should have seen yourself earlier; I haven’t seen you so happy in years. You’ve always been in love with him, since the first day you met him” Sehun says calmly, struggling to keep eye contact with Baekhyun, who needs his moments to look at the wall and recompose himself. He feels like a storm cloud is building in his chest, escalating quickly and about to wreck havoc; but then Sehun smiles and it keeps Baekhyun together for a while longer. “Of course you’d denied it for the first month and then you gave me the ‘I don’t want to ruin our friendship’ crap when I kept telling you to go after him, but now we’re here. He’s still hot and if he’s still single, you have to do yourself that favor and date him. At least try it, or you’ll die a lovesick person” he finishes with an earnest look. Baekhyun is close to tears with how thoughtful and marshmallow-soft this brat can be at times. Sehun quirks an eyebrow mischievously. “He’s still single though, right?”

“Yes, he’s single…” Baekhyun chuckles halfheartedly. Sehun smiles and uses his height to his advantage, pulling Baekhyun into a headlock and ruffling his hair, as if Baekhyun is a kid. Baekhyun protests and tries to squirm away; they are on his front porch, the whole neighborhood can see them! “I combed my hair for you, you rascal” he grumbles lightheartedly, pushing Sehun away and combing his hair down with his fingers. Sehun pokes his tongue out defiantly and Baekhyun is quick to mirror his gesture –so what if he’s nearly thirty?–, giving up on his ruined hair. No one else will see him tonight anyway. They giggle together and Sehun turns to leave, but he stops short after a few steps.

“Oh and, Baekhyun?” he calls as quietly as possible, not to disturb the silent neighborhood. Baekhyun raises an eyebrow at Sehun’s sassy pose. “I don’t judge, but let me tell you: hitting on your babysitter is so cliché” he winks and walks away, leaving Baekhyun laughing behind him. So much for not judging…

---
Chanyeol knows something is wrong when Baekhyun shuffles downstairs and refuses banana caramel pancakes for breakfast. Baekhyun knows Chanyeol knows, because he never refuses pancakes for any meal of the day –especially Chanyeol’s super yummy pancakes.

“Baekhyunnie, are you okay?” he frowns with concern, leaving the pan aside and coming over, sitting down next to Baekhyun, whose head feels too heavy to hold upright and he has resorted to propping it against his fist and staring at the wall impassively. Baekhyun is not okay, but there is nothing specifically wrong with him either, so he doesn’t know what to say. Besides, yes and no both feel too heavy to put on his lips right now; he’d rather not exist for a while.

He woke up feeling really…off. He feels irritable, tired, glum, sour, disappointed; he can’t describe the ugly mixture he feels to its fullest. It’s like he is suspended, indecisive, alone. It’s terrible. He wants to be somewhere but nowhere, he wants someone but no one. He has no idea why he woke up like this and he doesn’t know how to change it. He wants today to stop right now, and at the same time he wants to go through it and be done with it. He feels like he might snap any moment, even though he generally feels too given up to do anything at all today. He wants to hide under his blanket and mope until it’s over. He feels like a ticking bomb, and all he wants is to tick all his ticks quietly, without exploding on anyone. But he has responsibilities and he just can’t.

As if Lay has sensed her daddy’s bad mood, she stops eating and mumbling like every morning, and she simply sits in her high chair obediently, watching with innocent eyes the two men in the kitchen. Baekhyun keeps looking at nothing on the wall across from him, finding the silence comforting for the sole reason it is uneventful, which means nothing bad can happen. A hand finds its way on Baekhyun’s neck, squeezing and rubbing, making him feel a little better about himself, and he pouts but he leans into the touch.

“Give me a tiny bit of attention please?” Chanyeol’s deep voice is soft but Baekhyun’s foul mood is too heavy for him to feel any guilt. Thankfully, Chanyeol doesn’t mention that Baekhyun has to be at work in less than thirty minutes and he hasn’t bothered changing out of his pajamas yet. Baekhyun turns halfheartedly and gives him a half-hostile, half-pitiful gaze. Chanyeol takes a good look at him, honest wide eyes examining him carefully but never judging. He’s doing that thing again, when he’s reading all the way into Baekhyun’s soul. “Bad day?” he guesses after a few long moments of silence, and Baekhyun nods. But he lacks motivation to such an extent today, that his head falls forward too much and lands on Chanyeol’s shoulder with a thump.

Without any further explanation, he is pulled into a broad chest, a large hand rubbing soothing circles on his back. He doesn’t question the affection; it feels nice, the only thing that’s actually nice without any bad side. Silent moments pass, all the while Chanyeol’s hand keeps stroking and massaging his back in a calming way. Baekhyun sniffles, inhaling the familiar soap-and-cotton scent of Chanyeol, and damn, even after all these years, Chanyeol can still do that, he can make everything seem better. Sehun’s words squirm in his memory, but he shuts them off; he can’t deal with those too right now. Chanyeol lets him be miserable for an unidentifiable while, until he pats his back and detaches himself, leaving for the kitchen with a short “Wait here”

Baekhyun pouts and lowers his head to the table, wondering why the world is still spinning after his only support and motivation to get through the day has left him. Lay leans her head to the side, trying to match his perspective, and it brings a small smile on his lips, even though he doesn’t feel any better. Chanyeol returns to the kitchen with a phone in hand, looking determined. He takes his former seat and Baekhyun loses no time to gather himself and slump against the taller again; Chanyeol welcomes him back in his arms, playing with Baekhyun’s hair distractedly.

“Hello? Mr. Minseok?” he says and Baekhyun looks up at him curiously. He’s calling Baekhyun’s boss? For all his bewilderment, Baekhyun doesn’t even have the strength to protest or ask about it. “I’m calling on behalf of Baekhyun. He’s not feeling very well today, so he won’t be coming to the office” he explains and Baekhyun’s ears, curious as they might be, can’t pick up what Minseok answers. Chanyeol remains pretty calm. “Oh no, it’s nothing too serious, he’ll probably be okay by tomorrow. Yes, I’ll give your well wishes to him. Thank you, sir, and good day” he smiles and ends the call, ruffling Baekhyun’s hair victoriously. Baekhyun sighs, feeling a bit more relieved now that part of his obligations has been settled. What would he do without this giant sweetheart?

“Thank you” Those are the first words Baekhyun has croaked out today and he’s proud of himself, if he may say so. Chanyeol leans his cheek on the top of Baekhyun’s head, his hand rubbing down the smaller’s arm. Baekhyun tries to snuggle closer, because this is starting to feel really nice, it might even fix his mood.

“Mmm, now go get dressed” Chanyeol instructs calmly, already expecting it when Baekhyun jerks away from him and glares daggers, his thankfulness turning into hostility in less than a blink; he doesn’t take orders kindly today. Moreover, in his current mood, he’d rather he stayed inside all day, preferably somewhere near his bed without anything breathing in vicinity.

“No.” he refuses stubbornly. Chanyeol stares him down without hesitation.

“Yes” he insists, just as adamantly. Baekhyun can see his exploding time approaching fast, but Chanyeol moves quickly, giving him no time to retort. He wraps his long arms around Baekhyun and hugs him pleadingly. “Please, Baekhyunnie~” he whines unexpectedly; and there goes the last of Baekhyun’s will to resist him, having him wrapped around him so warm and endearing. He buries his face in the crook of Baekhyun’s neck, trying to be cute, whimpering and mumbling “please, please, please” like a stubborn, pleading little child. Baekhyun melts in his chair spinelessly and sighs.

“I hate you”

Why does Chanyeol look up and smile at him so close to his face it’s like the scorching sun?

Baekhyun gets ready without any particular resolve, opting for a pair of jeans and a white t-shirt in appropriate size, but he hides under a large light blue cardigan nonetheless. Chanyeol is wearing a dark blue sweater and jeans, so he guesses he won’t be over-or-underdressed if they’re similar. He picks a cute teal dress for Lay, following their blue dress code on a whim. Spending time with her improves his mood a little, even though he’s still not completely free of the grey cloud looming over his head. Lay is more conversational than her usual squealing and giggling, which helps, and she doesn’t move around much while he’s pinning her hair back with a blue bow. He doesn’t know what Chanyeol had been cooking downstairs –no pun intended– but when he comes down, the taller is waiting by the door, ready to go.

Before long Chanyeol has Baekhyun and Lay strapped with their seatbelts and he is driving them somewhere. Baekhyun doesn’t know where, because his eyes are blinded by Chanyeol’s bright smile and he doesn’t feel like looking outside, it’s too tiring. Thankfully, Chanyeol and Lay don’t make too much noise this time, and if Lay tries to get a reaction from the adults, Chanyeol answers her cheerfully. They drive for a short while, until they stop in a parking lot. Only after Baekhyun is outside does he realize that Chanyeol has brought them to a park, with planes of green grass, dotted with trees and flowers, and decorated with pathways.

“What are we doing here?” he asks with a confused and slightly uncooperative frown, shielding his eyes from the sun. Chanyeol fishes Lay out of her seat and she squeals when she sees the sunlit park. Chanyeol kisses her cheek.

“We are having quality time outside the house” he says, giving Lay to Baekhyun while he locks the car. Baekhyun hugs his excited child but his complaints are on the tip of his tongue.

Chanyeol leads them to the shade of a tall tree after a short walk, where it’s quiet but sunny and pleasantly warm. He lays out a tablecloth and settles down with a basket he produced out of nowhere. He seems very determined to spend the day here and Baekhyun would be unfair if he said he hates the idea. He’s not as excited as he would be on any other day, but he can be nice and try to enjoy this, for Lay and Chanyeol’s sake. He sits down next to Chanyeol, letting Lay crawl on the tablecloth to the edge of it, where she plays with the grass, giggling when it tickles her skin.

“I run on the other side of this park and I discovered this by accident. Other parents told me it’s actually pretty popular for family picnics here, because it’s so quiet and pretty” Chanyeol explains, catching Lay and tossing her into his arms playfully, before she has time to dig her fingers in the dirt.

They spend time together and it’s nice; nicer than Baekhyun thought it would be. His mood improves gradually. Lay plays with her toys near them, babbling things and giggling, or giving them to Baekhyun or Chanyeol occasionally. Chanyeol saves the day when she gets hungry, taking out a peach from his magical basket and slicing it for her. Of course it takes two to feed her, so that they won’t get completely dirty and sticky. Baekhyun talks more, smiles more, he feels lighter. They settle across from each other and overlap their legs to create a small cage for Lay, who sits there and watches in amazement as Baekhyun and Chanyeol blow soap bubbles in the air –Chanyeol really came prepared. Baekhyun finds himself giggling too, watching his iridescent bubbles float next to Chanyeol’s and then travel up and away. It’s pretty, and Chanyeol looks happy too.

Around nap time, Baekhyun realizes his foul mood has been completely erased. How could it not? Chanyeol is a happy virus and no one can stay immune to his charm, not to mention that Lay is the cutest sunbeam in existence. The three of them settle down when it’s nap time, lying on the tablecloth with serene sunlight triggering nature’s comforting noises in the park around them. Small animals are shuffling around in the foliage of the tree overhead, as the bright midday sun is sneaking through the leaves, creating kaleidoscopic patterns on the ground. The shadows sway with intermittent breeze, which makes the grass blades bow and shiver.

Baekhyun hasn’t felt so relaxed and content in a while, his head pillowed on Chanyeol’s arm. It’s not the most comfortable of pillows, but it smells like Chanyeol and fresh air, and he likes that. Lay is snuggled between them, sleeping with her back turned to Baekhyun. She is curled on her side, which is unusual for her, but she was admittedly very tired after playing around with them all morning; she looks so beautiful and peaceful, with one of her hands placed over her face to block out the bits of sun that sneak around under the shade of Chanyeol’s body. Baekhyun is not sure if Chanyeol is sleeping too, but he has his eyes closed in any case. The sun is casting moving shadows and spots of light on him as well, but even in this strange lighting, he looks beautiful. His looks relaxed, a mixture of smooth skin, plum lips and large ears; without the distraction of his expressive big eyes, the lines of his face look more mature, less boyish and more masculine. But his youthfulness is still there, in his black hair tossing around in the breeze, in his little dimple showing when he quirks his lips, in his floppy ears and his rosy cheeks, in the playful twinkle of his auburn eyes.

Eyes?

Baekhyun startles a little when he realizes Chanyeol has opened his eyes by now, and he has been watching Baekhyun watching him for who knows how long. Baekhyun doesn’t even want to imagine what sort of expression he had been sporting, but he is sure he’s blushing slightly as of now. Chanyeol’s eyes catch the sun prettily when he smiles, his lips curving upwards; he doesn’t seem to mind Baekhyun’s creepy stare and he only ruffles Baekhyun’s hair playfully, watching Baekhyun lower his eyes in embarrassment. He only has to bend his wrist a bit to bury his fingers in Baekhyun’s hair at the back of his head and he keeps playing with Baekhyun’s hair absentmindedly, making the shorter blush even more at how nice it feels.

“Are you feeling any better?” Chanyeol purrs after an unidentifiable while, his voice coming out a bit lower than usual, since he is so relaxed, but it sounds like he already knows the answer. Baekhyun looks up at him and Chanyeol smiles again, his fingers scratching behind Baekhyun’s ear. He feels so calm and content in this moment, as if everything in his life has finally aligned –something he thought he wouldn’t feel anytime soon without a miracle happening, really.

Yes, he is feeling better; better than he felt this morning, much better than he has felt in years. He is always swarmed with responsibilities and worries; and he is not complaining! He is managing a child’s upbringing alone and he is proud of it. Just, sometimes, Baekhyun gets too caught-up in daily struggles, and he forgets to be kind to himself; and then a Park Chanyeol comes into the picture, with his endearing ears and stubborn pouts and clumsy accidents, reminding him that he has a life to live too. Baekhyun had forgotten that on some days you just need a hug.

“How did you know?” he whispers, smiling back. Had anyone told him that his severely foul mood this morning would change so easily because of soap bubbles, a tree, peaches and two adorable, playful and noisy people, he wouldn’t have believed them. But here he is, peaceful and happy, and he almost doesn’t recognize the person he was this morning. No one but Chanyeol can help him improve so much, because only he knows the way, even when Baekhyun feels completely lost. How do you always know?

Chanyeol grins triumphantly and points at Lay with his free hand. “Mochi told me” he stage whispers playfully. Baekhyun can’t hold back the chuckle that bubbles and spills out from behind his lips, and Chanyeol chuckles at his own joke with Baekhyun in chorus; but they quiet down immediately and hold their breaths when the little girl between them stirs, lest she wakes up.

---



“Chanyeol, have you seen my-”

“Shhhhh Jaq and Gus are about to steal the key!” Chanyeol shushes him with a loud, baritone squeal, making Baekhyun flinch in surprise. He was only going to ask if he’s seen his phone, because it has died out of battery and he can’t locate it at the moment. He stops on his tracks by the doorway on his way to the living room and pouts, feeling bewildered and slightly neglected; Gus who and what key, what even? He speed-walks into the living room, ready to complain and whimper for some attention and affection, but his words die on his lips as soon as his eyes take in the sight.

Chanyeol and Lay are in the living room, Chanyeol sitting on the couch with Lay sitting in his lap, framed by his long legs. Chanyeol is wearing his glasses, those with the big black frames, his hair is messy and fluffy, and he looks so dorky, but also perfectly at home and oh, so cuddly. Lay is clutching the sleeves of his large grey hoodie with her little hands where Chanyeol’s forearms are crossed in front of her securely, her body leaning towards the television screen, poised with suspense. They are watching Cinderella together, both having equally wide eyes and mouths parted in fascination.

Baekhyun wants to scream at the sheer amount of cursed cuteness they exclude.

How is Baekhyun supposed to live with this? His brain can’t process this anymore. How is he supposed to handle a grown man looking so enthralled by Cinderella, as if it’s Marvel’s latest action superhero production? It’s not fair that he looks as adorably mesmerized as the little girl, who has never seen the movie before and is entranced by the princess sparkles. How can Baekhyun overlook how comfortable and content his daughter looks, nested near Chanyeol and feeling perfectly in place? She has turned a tall, handsome man into her comfy throne, using his proportionately huge limbs to her service and exploiting his warmth, all snuggled up and cute in his embrace.

How is he supposed to cope with his feelings, when the domestic picture before his eyes is so perfect, as if Chanyeol has been made to complete their family?

With a concealed, wistful sigh and softly blushing cheeks, Baekhyun walks closer to the pair with swift, short steps, his ill feelings of offence forgotten. They don’t seem to notice him as he takes his seat on the floor somewhere near them, joining them silently to watch the rest of the movie. But shortly after he settles, he feels Chanyeol’s hand ruffling his hair as if he’s an obedient puppy, and Baekhyun smiles to himself, leaning in to the touch. He feels much better now.

They watch Cinderella get married, with that puffy white dress taking up half the screen, as if mocking Baekhyun, who’ll probably never get his moment like her as his mother loves to remind him, but Lay waves back with both hands and a big smile when Cinderella waves goodbye from her carriage, making all bad thoughts go away. Chanyeol coos and waves cheerfully as well, and Baekhyun lifts his lazy bum off the floor so that he can reach Lay’s cheeks and peck them. Why is his daughter so cute, seriously.

Baekhyun excuses himself to continue his search, leaving Lay in Chanyeol’s care once again. Their voices can be heard everywhere inside the house, even when Baekhyun is searching the rooms upstairs; he can hear very clearly every question Chanyeol asks about the movie, every mumbled and jumbled answer from Lay, every squeal she lets out when Chanyeol tickles her and every playful roar he makes for her entertainment. Distracted as he is, with half his attention focused on listening to Chanyeol and Lay, it takes a while until he finds his phone inside a dresser drawer –however it might have gotten in there. He starts charging it immediately –smiling at his lock screen, which is a picture of Lay and Chanyeol from their very first ice cream date, when Chanyeol first held her– and he hops down the stairs, thinking of Cinderella’s happy ending and failing to notice the house is suspiciously silent. He bursts into the living room but he halts not even five steps later.

Chanyeol and Lay are asleep.

They look so peaceful, as if they hadn’t been giggling and playing around only a few minutes ago. Chanyeol is lying on his back, occupying the entire couch in length and width, and Lay is sleeping on him, starfished on her front against Chanyeol’s chest. Chanyeol’s arms are holding her safely in place, and she’s drooling a little on his hoodie, thoroughly worn out from the day’s activities. Their difference in size is even more evident in their current position, with Lay’s body from head to toe being about as tall as the distance from Chanyeol’s shoulders to his hips. She is splayed like a small, squishy blanket, and Baekhyun kneels down beside the couch without a sound, smiling as he watches her even breaths and her squashed cheeks against Chanyeol’s chest.

His eyes stray to Chanyeol after a while. Chanyeol has a knack for putting Lay to sleep –and somehow putting himself to sleep as well in the process. It’s not very convenient, but Baekhyun can’t say he doesn’t find it cute. Chanyeol looks so innocent when he is sleeping, black hair tangled, pink lips parted and large eyes fluttering behind closed eyelids. Baekhyun had no idea someone can look relived in their sleep, but there is something in the lines of Chanyeol’s face that looks so, and Baekhyun feels a pang of guilt for making him suffer his daughter’s energetic antics every day. It must be very tiring for him…Maybe I should ask for a day off so he will get some rest.

Baekhyun fails to remember that Chanyeol chooses to spend his day with them even when it’s the weekend and there is no need for his assistance, since Baekhyun is at home and perfectly capable of looking after Lay.

As cute as they might look, Baekhyun can’t let them sleep the night in such a hazardous position, so he decides to wake Chanyeol and take Lay upstairs to her crib. Chanyeol has always been easy to wake, with a small noise somewhere near, with a shake on the shoulder or a loud whisper of his name, but Chanyeol told him once that he doesn’t like waking up like this, always startled. After having to jump up and run to a crying child in the middle of the night for several months, Baekhyun can perfectly understand how waking up with a start only makes you feel more tired. He remembers there was one way, however, that Chanyeol didn’t mind waking up to –he discovered it unexpectedly during one of their sleepovers.

Baekhyun’s fingers hesitate, unsure, since they haven’t done this in a while. Is it okay if he remembers these things? How hung up on someone can a person be? Frowning at his troubling thoughts and shoving them at the back of his mind forcefully, Baekhyun finally moves to take one of Chanyeol’s hands in both of his own. He tries not to jostle him much, bringing Chanyeol’s larger hand closer. Chanyeol has nice hands, not remarkably pretty, but strong and steady, warm and a bit rough from playing instruments all his life. Baekhyun remembers playing with their hands on the night he discovered Chanyeol’s weak spot, when his fingers slipped and brushed over Chanyeol’s wrist; the taller had shivered and stirred in his sleep that night, almost squishing Baekhyun on the couch in the process.

Baekhyun hasn’t held Chanyeol like this in a while, not just his hands but any bit of him. He used to love letting his touches linger on Chanyeol’s shirts, his knees, his hands, his neck, his ears, his hair, anywhere…but that doesn’t happen anymore. He was safe inside the context of their friendship back then, but now, even though they are undoubtedly friends again, Chanyeol seems more aware and Baekhyun has to be more cautious not to give himself away –and that might be the only thing that has changed in the past two years. He smiles fondly at the memories and strokes his fingers on the inside of Chanyeol’s wrist. The skin is soft there, the veins showing underneath, and Baekhyun keeps brushing his fingertips in various patterns, until Chanyeol stirs in his sleep. Two large brown eyes blink at him slowly, curiously.

“It’s okay, you fell asleep” Baekhyun explains with a calm smile, gently dropping Chanyeol’s hand. Chanyeol blinks his eyes wider, trying to wake up without moving, and Baekhyun puts a hand on Lay’s back, holding her in place so that Chanyeol can stretch his arms.

“Sorry” he mumbles, his deep voice sounding like a velvety hum. Baekhyun shakes his head nonchalantly and starts peeling Lay off of Chanyeol’s chest carefully. She’s sleeping so deep that she doesn’t even stir while Baekhyun lifts her from Chanyeol and holds her against his chest. Chanyeol is very still in the meantime, afraid of ruining Baekhyun’s attempts to keep her peacefully asleep, but he seems more awake with every blink. “Where you searching for something?” he asks once Lay is completely inside Baekhyun’s arms. He looks uncertain, frowning cutely, and Baekhyun smiles. So, he had been paying attention before he shushed him? It seems so funny to think about it now, after that long ordeal is over.

“I found it” he reassures him, watching Chanyeol’s frown smoothing out. Baekhyun stands up and nods at Chanyeol. “Go lie down upstairs, I got her” he whispers; it won’t even take effort to put her in her crib to sleep, so he doesn’t think he’ll need any help. Chanyeol nods obediently and gets up, following two steps behind Baekhyun as they go up the stairs, hovering behind them protectively.

“Don’t be late, okay? Your hands are cold” Chanyeol says with concern before they part for the bedroom and the nursery room. Baekhyun nods and walks to Lay’s room quickly, to hide his pink ears; Chanyeol noticed his hands were cold earlier? Why is he so considerate and perfect? He’d better go to bed soon then. Chanyeol’s words would sound strange to anyone who doesn’t know, but they make perfect sense to them; when Baekhyun is cold, Chanyeol warms him up before they sleep –excuses for cuddles much?– and since tonight he’s sleepy, he is worried he’ll fall asleep before Baekhyun comes to bed.

And that’s pretty much the story of Baekhyun’s life, how he falls for Chanyeol’s sweet and fluffy marshmallow soul again and again.

Baekhyun places Lay under her covers easily, making sure she’s neatly tucked in, and then he stays for a couple of moments to watch his sleeping angel. She looks so serene; she’s truly the most precious thing he has in his life. He makes sure to run the way to the bedroom, in hopes Chanyeol is not asleep yet, and luckily, Chanyeol shifts under the covers when he hears him approaching the bed. Baekhyun dives under the sheets, wiggling closer to Chanyeol, who searches blindly for his hands and holds them when he finds them. It takes maybe a minute until he’s out like a light, holding Baekhyun’s hands, and Baekhyun smiles at his other angel, deciding that he doesn’t need Cinderella’s moment, because he gets so many more beautiful ones.

---

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