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Baekhyun is debating over peaches, happily picking the best ones; for the first time in a long while there is no stubborn toddler demanding for just any peach right now. Said toddler is sitting in her stroller, parked in front of Chanyeol, who is sitting on a bench just a few steps away. Baekhyun never knew shopping is so much easier when you do it with a helping hand. The famers’ market is a very familiar place by now, but this is by far the most comfortable shopping trip he’s ever had here. Chanyeol is around to help him carry things or split the shopping list, they share the time they have to spend with Lay to keep her cheerful, Baekhyun feels more coordinated and safe, and Chanyeol knows some surprisingly useful information about fruit.

Baekhyun imagines bringing Chanyeol along at the supermarket as well; oh, that would be lovely, wouldn’t it?

It’s not very crowded today but the market is very bright and full of voices. Even though Baekhyun can easily spot Chanyeol and Lay from where he’s shopping if he glances to his left, he can’t hear a thing of the animated tales Chanyeol is telling her while feeding her an orange –the lady who sells them has a soft spot for Lay and she always gifts her an orange when they come here. It’s Saturday, so many people are sleeping in, and Baekhyun would have followed their bright example, if only his kitchen was not suffering such great shortages of edible supplies. Chanyeol offered to do the shopping –since he is cooking in the same kitchen, he said– but Baekhyun kind of likes this market, so he refused; a stubborn war over the sense of responsibility ensued, and they ended up coming together. It’s not very surprising for their standards; this sort of thing used to happen all the time in the past.

Baekhyun finishes with the peaches and he nearly skips to where Chanyeol and Lay are. They don’t notice him at first, too engrossed in whatever they are doing, which involves Chanyeol making cute and angry faces while pushing a piece of orange through Lay’s lips, since she looks too mesmerized by the story to do anything for herself. Baekhyun walks closer, barely withholding his laughter.

“And then the unicorn said- oh, daddy is here!” Chanyeol suddenly exclaims when he notices Baekhyun, his story forgotten and replaced by a large smile that reflects the sunshine and nearly blinds Baekhyun. Lay cheers in her seat –it’s doubtful whether she realized Baekhyun joined them or if she thought the unicorn said that though.

“Was the unicorn looking for daddy too?” Baekhyun chirps playfully and hops –yes, he hops, bunny-style, cause he’s so cheerful today– until he stands behind Chanyeol, leaning with both hands on Chanyeol’s broad shoulders and smiling down at Lay. The little girl smiles at him and mumbles happily with many gestures, but none of it makes sense. Chanyeol chuckles and cleans her mouth with a baby wipe from the orange juice; the offended face she makes when she tastes a bit of the baby wipe’s soap when she accidentally opens her mouth makes both Chanyeol and Baekhyun laugh.

“We just finished our fruit” Chanyeol explains, wiping his fingers as well and wrapping the orange peels in a bundle to throw away at the nearest bin.

“Good, honeycomb~” Baekhyun coos at his daughter and then starts nodding to himself “We should go then; we need to go home and do the laundry” He says it like it’s fun, he says it like he means it, but boy, does he not want to do it. He doesn’t want to leave so soon –and return to house chores, no less– so he doesn’t even budge from his comfortable perch on Chanyeol’s shoulders, even though he knows he’s contradicting himself. It’s Saturday, cut him some slack.

“Sure, just…” Chanyeol seems willing to follow the plan that Baekhyun actually doesn’t want to follow –that traitor– but he hesitates for a moment, picking up the stuffed toy Lay chose to bring to the farmers’ market today. It’s a small, white bunny, wearing a farmer’s hat –how appropriate– and holding a proportionately big, red radish. It’s one of the toys his mother usually keeps at her house for when Lay visits, but she wouldn’t part with it the last time they visited; toy exchange happens sometimes, it all depends on Lay’s mood. “What’s this guy’s name?” Chanyeol wiggles the cute toy in front of Lay, who looks at it as if it’s alien; she probably doesn’t remember taking it with her this morning, she wasn’t even all that enthusiastic about it.

“Hmm, I don’t think he has one yet” Baekhyun answers for her. He and Lay name all her stuffed animals, but his mother is content with calling them ‘a bunny’, ‘the bear’, ‘that blue little bird’ –she doesn’t even call birds ‘chirpies’; where’s the fun in that? Baekhyun leans his head on the top of Chanyeol’s head; he is being super clingy, it’s the sunshine.

“Who’s this, mochi? What’s his name?” Chanyeol asks her with a smile, not seeming to mind Baekhyun one bit. The little girl blinks and then looks at Chanyeol first, and then Baekhyun, at a loss. Baekhyun hums thoughtfully, trying to come up with a name. They have plenty white bunnies and he has run out of names for this one, but maybe…

“Let’s call him…Monsieur Radis” he chirps, finally detaching from Chanyeol and smiling brightly at his daughter. Lay explodes into giggles, so many that it surprises Chanyeol and Baekhyun. ‘Mr. Radish’ is not exactly the most original name, but Baekhyun’s attempt to make it interesting by translating it to French seems to have a particularly hilarious sound to Lay.

“I think she likes it” Chanyeol says and shares a smile with Baekhyun, who nods. He waits till Lay quiets down before he continues; you don’t just decide on a name and give it, you have to teach the teddy bear to know its name. Also known as: Baekhyun’s miserable attempts at getting any proper word out of Lay. It never works, not even with her favorite teddies, but it doesn’t hurt to try and it’s fun.

“Tell him his name, honeycomb; you should teach him how to say it. Mon-sieur Ra-dis~” he enunciates the syllables and she laughs even more. Chanyeol and Baekhyun can’t control their smiles as they watch her, and many passer-bys look their way with a smile as well; baby laughter is the purest, most angelic of sounds, after all. Lay starts talking to the stuffed animal with a hint of determination at first, but it vanishes quickly in the midst of her gibberish, to be replaced by giggles.

((Your name is Mushieh Radee! Daddy, that sounds so funny! Say it again! Say it again!))

---

Before anyone notices, their routine changes. It’s small changes that add up to a greater sum, but they don’t see it, because it’s still convenient, comfortable and easy; and it feels nice. Chanyeol cooks breakfast every morning, unless it’s the weekend; Baekhyun really likes to practice his breakfast-cooking skills on weekends. Sometimes, Chanyeol bakes cakes, tarts, cookies and other delicacies the night before, and serves them with a cup of coffee or a glass of milk; it makes Baekhyun feel like a child again, even though he feels a little guilty that Lay can’t eat as much. On weekdays, Baekhyun doesn’t have to race through his routine to get ready for work anymore, since Chanyeol is watching over Lay. Baekhyun can’t leave without a kiss, then Chanyeol always waves goodbye with Lay from the doorstep.

He gets through the day at the office fueled by his expectations of everything they can do after he returns home. He used to call during his lunch break to check up on them every day, but he’s busier nowadays and he doesn’t always call; besides, Chanyeol hardly ever needs parenting advice. Sometimes, Chanyeol calls him to cheer him up, with Lay mumbling her own encouragements to her daddy; Baekhyun gets so positive and motivated afterwards. Most of his coworkers-who-are-also-friends have heard of Chanyeol by now, because Baekhyun gets so excited talking to them about him and Lay, and they all insist that they should meet him sometime.

In spite of Chanyeol’s initial worries, he has turned out to be a natural talent in parenting. Baekhyun has seen for himself how skilful Chanyeol is with his child, handling her successfully even when she is being stubborn and complaining. He understands Lay as well as Baekhyun does, he can keep her entertained and he can feed her greens, imagine that. Lay is learning things and acquiring new skills much faster than before –and the same can be said about Chanyeol. He can hold her, feed her, dress her, tuck her in, change her diaper and bathe her now. Chanyeol is very proud of himself for his achievements, always turning to Baekhyun like a puppy waiting to be praised by its owner.

In order to keep his weekends free, Baekhyun stays at the office until later than usual on some days to finish his assigned tasks. He always calls to let Chanyeol know and he always feels horrible about it, even though Chanyeol never complains or objects. Baekhyun feels guilty for keeping him from his work, even though Chanyeol assures him that he is not neglecting it because of Lay. If Baekhyun comes home on time, he usually finds Chanyeol and Lay playing around or tending to the flowers in the garden. Sometimes, he finds them doing chores, like that time when Chanyeol was preparing for laundry and Lay was sitting on the bathroom floor beside him, throwing socks inside the laundry basket. If Baekhyun comes home late, depending on the day, he catches them right before or right after dinner –a plate of food is always reserved for him–, once he caught them during bath time, and a few times he found them cuddled together and sleeping on the rocking chair with a story book. They had already called to say goodnight first.

Chanyeol spends most of his days in Baekhyun’s house, even the weekends, practically living with them; he has space in the closet, a toothbrush in the bathroom and his side on the bed. Chanyeol sleeps over nearly every night, sharing the bed with Baekhyun ever since the night Lay was sick; yeah, Baekhyun is still squealing over that fact. Occasionally, however, Chanyeol leaves them in the evenings, because he has to work on his compositions or because he has a business meeting scheduled with his coworker, named Luhan. Baekhyun still cooks dinner for three, because he’s grown used to it. Sometimes, he wonders what Chanyeol might be doing when he’s not around; is he taking a long shower, or baking a cake, or composing? The house sounds very quiet without his soft, rhythmic breaths at night, and the bed feels awfully cold and lonely. Chanyeol always hugs Baekhyun super tight the next morning over breakfast.

---

Chanyeol finishes serving their breakfast, making Baekhyun’s plate extra pretty and full with his favorite bacon to cheer him up, since he remembers he mentioned a few days ago that he has a big presentation at work today. Baekhyun doesn’t talk about his work projects much, but he has been nervous about this one over the past few days, if his tossing and turning at night is any indication; Chanyeol had to spoon him all night for two nights in a row if he was to sleep peacefully. And today, Baekhyun is taking his time getting ready, preening himself in the bathroom; Chanyeol thinks he’d be gorgeous anyway, but if Baekhyun feels more confident after making an effort and spending time on his appearance, then Chanyeol won’t object to anything that will make him feel better.

He decides to wait for Baekhyun to start his breakfast, so he takes the remaining time to feed Lay. She’s getting better at eating by herself –only half the food misses the target– and sometimes she prefers minimum involvement by the adults, like today. She makes effort after effort with endearing stubbornness, naturally making a mess in the process. Chanyeol cleans up and keeps her company, making sure she won’t choke, like they always do when she wants to try eating alone. She’s growing so fast; now Chanyeol knows the emotional trouble mothers go through.

She is successfully munching on a piece of zucchini when Baekhyun rushes down the stairs, dressed in his crisp suit, chanting “I’m late I’m late I’m late” He scampers to his seat, picking up his chopsticks before he has properly sat down, in a hurry to get some food in his system before leaving for work. His impatient expression clashes cutely with his smart appearance; smooth skin, hair styled to perfection, straight tie and dark suit. Chanyeol raises an eyebrow at how fast Baekhyun is trying to eat, worrying that maybe he needs to supervise two people eating lest they choke on their food. If he eats so fast, he’ll get a stomachache… Chanyeol glances at the clock, concerned.

“Not really” he observes calmly; Baekhyun is not late at all. In spite of the additional effort, he’s on time like any other day. Baekhyun gives him a look, but very briefly, his hands busy with picking food for his bowl at the speed of light. He is so on edge that his speech comes out just as fast.

“Traffic is horrible this time in the mornings and vacation period is starting, which means more people will be in the street, and I am lat- oh!” he stops abruptly after knocking over a glass of water in his haste. There is not any real damage except for a wet tablecloth, and Chanyeol is already dubbing it with paper towels to avoid any of the water reaching and soaking Baekhyun’s suit. He doesn’t give any negative reaction, feeling fully prepared to be supportive and fix anything that bothers Baekhyun today. Baekhyun, on the other hand, grumbles displeased with the accident he caused, and he grabs some towels to help Chanyeol, but the latter pushes his hands away gently –the point is to keep Baekhyun in immaculate condition and Chanyeol can take care of such a simple thing by himself.

“Why is your daddy so clumsy when he’s nervous?” he asks Lay, flashing a teasing smile at Baekhyun. The shorter huffs offended, dropping the piece of food he is holding into his bowl. Baekhyun doesn’t like sharing his troubles but he is fairly easy to read, especially for Chanyeol, who has seen him in practically every emotional state imaginable.

“I’m not nervous, I’m just late” he retorts incredulously, looking at Chanyeol, who has just finished his patchwork on the wet tablecloth. Lay mumbles something and Chanyeol raises a brow.

“You can’t fool us, we’re first class, world-renowned Baekhyun experts” he states matter-of-factly, pointing at Lay and himself with poise. Baekhyun takes a breath to refute but he only manages to gape afterwards, mutely opening and closing him mouth. Chanyeol smirks, his victory becoming clearer with every passing second of speechlessness on Baekhyun’s part, and Lay mumbles something again, somewhat lost in the transaction between the adults. If tall man is teasing daddy, why is daddy not laughing and imitating a fish instead? Daddy is being moody. In the end, Baekhyun sighs in surrender.

“Oh fine, I’m a little nervous” he mumbles begrudgingly, devoting his gaze to his food, just to spare himself of Chanyeol’s triumphant smile. Baekhyun has a cute way of eating when he’s pouting, being disappointed, offended or sad, and that is by stuffing his mouth continuously, until it’s too full and he has to chew halfheartedly a couple of times, just enough to swallow, before stuffing his mouth again. He looks so defeated and childish, his cheeks puffing out with every bite he shoves past his lips, eyes droopy and downcast, the very picture of gloom.

“Now your daddy is being messy because he’s moping” Chanyeol pretends to inform Lay in a causal voice, certain that if he flaunts his confidence in how well he knows Baekhyun, he will coax a reaction out of the stressed, depressed and well dressed man across from him. He can’t send him to work like this; he needs to clear the clouds to let Baekhyun’s natural sunshine shine through.

Baekhyun closes his lips around a spoonful of rice and looks up at Chanyeol with a wounded look of betrayal in his eyes, one which is normally paired with a killer pout, if not for his stuffed and puffy cheeks. He holds it for a moment and Chanyeol waits patiently for his reaction; Baekhyun chooses to get up and turn around to leave the table in a form of silent protest –taking his bowl with him nonetheless. Talk about lackadaisically moping children. Chanyeol springs up from his seat and walks around the table, catching up with Baekhyun easily, because he wants to be caught, dragging his feet and hunching his back to show just how miserable he feels from the treatment Chanyeol is giving him. Chanyeol sneaks behind him and closes his arms around Baekhyun’s waist, back-hugging him; Baekhyun keeps pouting but he doesn’t protest or try to break away when Chanyeol pulls his back against his chest.

“Baek, I’m teasing you, lighten up” he says calmly, chuckling and ruffling Baekhyun’s hair playfully; he has styled it so meticulously that nearly all the strands fall back to their original place, except for a few stubborn ones which remain tussled on his forehead. Baekhyun takes a moment to swallow all the food he has in his mouth and then the almighty pout comes forth, making Chanyeol’s heart flutter. He gives Chanyeol the side-eye like a stubborn child, his plum lower lip jutting out dejectedly.

“You ruined my hair” he complains dully, slumping against Chanyeol. Somewhere at the back of his mind, Chanyeol files the information that not all days are appropriate for playfully messing with someone’s head, for future reference, but for now, he cranes his neck to inspect Baekhyun’s ‘ruined’ look. It’s endearing how Baekhyun keeps pouting and doesn’t move to change his moping stance, but he follows Chanyeol’s actions with the corner of his eyes.

“It’s an enhancement” Chanyeol decides in the end, nodding in assurance. It’s not the perfect, sleek side part, but those tufts of hair sticking out or curling on the side of Baekhyun’s head make him look younger, more laidback, like he has threaded his fingers through his hair, and truthfully, they make him about fifty times sexier. “I like a touch of bed-head style on you” Chanyeol blurts, adding a big smile to distract anyone watching from his big red ears. Baekhyun’s pout turns to a lop-sided, unconvinced expression, his eyes glancing from his bowl to Chanyeol and back.

“I hope my audience will like it” he ends up muttering, stirring the contents of his bowl and pretending to be interested in it. Chanyeol chuckles and squeezes him closer, ignoring their already inappropriate proximity. If he could, he would hug Baekhyun like this and keep him in his pocket forever. No one is allowed to dislike his Baekhyunnie or make him sad today.

“They’ll be amazed” he reassures him, and Baekhyun flashes a hesitant smile, cheeks pink from the compliment. Holding back the urge to plant a kiss on his cheek really hard, Chanyeol takes a step back, putting some distance between his chest and Baekhyun’s back, but he keeps his hands on Baekhyun’s small waist, guiding him back to the table. Baekhyun does as he is being made to do obediently, taking a seat and then looking up at Chanyeol, who smiles down at him kindly. “Now sit down and eat your breakfast”

---

Today is not just another ordinary day; in fact, there are many things happening differently but Baekhyun and Chanyeol have it all under control. Except maybe for Chanyeol’s tie; that thing never seems to be under control.

It’s a weekday, so Baekhyun has to go to work, but on this particular day, Chanyeol has to go to work too. Luhan called a few days ago and he more or less begged to see him soon for a meeting with the higher-ups, and their meeting couldn’t be scheduled sometime during the weekend, or wait till next week. Chanyeol always feared this day would come, when he wouldn’t be able to stay with Lay in the morning, and he apologized to Baekhyun repeatedly, for letting him down –Baekhyun said he even mumbled it in his sleep every night since Luhan’s call. Chanyeol feels very disappointed in himself and guilty on that matter, as if he is betraying Lay and Baekhyun’s trust. But Baekhyun took it surprisingly well, in spite of the short notice, assuring Chanyeol they would figure something out and smiling at him brightly every time he apologized.

They ended up calling Chen for babysitting purposes, having everything prepared for Lay’s meals and entertainment. She is currently sitting in her high chair, already finished with her breakfast and spending her time playing with a pink toy horse, watching the adults getting ready to go. She doesn’t seem particularly unsettled, which is auspicious news for Chen, sparing him a mighty tantrum –at least for now. Baekhyun will be driving Chanyeol on his way to work, so they’re both getting ready at the same time –needless to say in the same house, since Chanyeol is spending pretty much all nights of the week here– but they haven’t met any trouble; they move like clockwork in perfect coordination, and Lay never misses them if she needs them.

“Whip-woo, Mr. Park!” Chen exclaims, standing at the bottom of the stairs when Chanyeol passes by him, heading to the lobby mirror to fix his tie. Chanyeol had forgotten what it sounds like to be wolf-whistled at. He grimaces when Chen calls him Mr. Park; they’ve been on first-name basis for a long while, but the teenager whips up the traditional way of calling him every now and then to tease him.

“Oh please, don’t call me that; I feel even older wearing this thing” he complains, trying to fix the tie around his neck like a clumsy child; he’s not very comfortable with ties, they make him feel much older than he is. Chanyeol spots Baekhyun hopping down the stairs, dressed and ready. He stops behind Chen and he puts both hands on Chen’s shoulders, leaning over to look at Chanyeol.

“He cleans up nicely, doesn’t he?” he asks Chen, making eye-contact with Chanyeol in the mirror. He smiles at the taller mischievously, eyes shining with something akin to pride, and Chanyeol’s tongue twists around itself at the compliment. Baekhyun has seen him in a suit and tie before but he has never commented on it; Chanyeol feels his ears turn bright red and his fingers become useless, fidgeting with the tie nervously but not very efficiently. Baekhyun can be playful and forward sometimes like so, and it never fails to make Chanyeol a flustered, blushing mess.

“You look hwat, and I don’t say that for just anyone” Chen agrees, but his compliment doesn’t have half the effect Baekhyun’s words and his smile had on Chanyeol. Well, at least Chanyeol is still considered hot among teenage population, that’s comforting. Baekhyun has already fled to the kitchen, from where he can be heard cooing at Lay. Chanyeol keeps his eyes on the knot he is trying to make with his tie, managing something halfway decent, still feeling flustered and faintly pink.

“Thank you, but I still hate this thing” he grumbles, giving up on his tie and looking up at Chen miserably; these are grownup struggles right here. Why does Luhan make me wear this thing for meetings? Chen smirks and scrutinizes him from head to toe, eyebrows rising.

“It looks good. Reaaaally good” he purrs appreciatively, not bothering to hide the fact that he is checking Chanyeol out and he is enjoying the view. Chanyeol shuffles his feet uncomfortably under the shameless ogling of Chen’s sharp eyes, catching them lingering on certain places; he is a bit flattered and a bit shy, but mostly uncomfortable. He is more than a decade older than Chen, not to mention they play Mario Kart together every week, this sort of transaction has no place between them! Chanyeol is about to stutter something, but Baekhyun appears suddenly, assessing the situation in milliseconds and proceeding to glare at the younger.

“Stop drooling, Chen” he deadpans; but if Chanyeol had to guess, from the possessive glint in his eye, he’d say there might, possibly, be a hint of jealousy in there. Either way, Chanyeol is thankful for the support. Chen dissolves in loud laughter and Chanyeol manages to pass the whole thing as a joke, laughing along. Baekhyun puts his hands in his pockets and shrugs with a small smile –it’s illegal how gorgeous he looks when doing it.

“Baek, help me with the tie?” Chanyeol asks, blinking at Baekhyun pleadingly, with a small, hopeful pout. Baekhyun is an expert at dealing with ties, his skilled fingers know more than five knots and he can tie each in less than thirty seconds; Chanyeol has watched him do it every morning. It’s his guilty pleasure.

“You’ve seen me do it countless times” Baekhyun rolls his eyes at him but he comes closer nonetheless, taking Chanyeol’s tie in his pretty fingers; Chanyeol smiles down at him happily without any comments, accepting the half-serious judgmental look Baekhyun sends him and still being grateful. Of course he has seen Baekhyun knotting his tie in the mornings, he’s been watching him intently every morning to be exact, but he never pays attention to the technical details, because he gets too mesmerized by the way his fingers move, and his heart malfunctions at how amazing Baekhyun looks when he’s focused in the mirror, grooming himself. He’s a perfect heartbreaker and Chanyeol finds him very seductive in those moments for some reason. “You’re a grown man, what sort of survival skills do you have?” Baekhyun complains teasingly, finishing up his work and patting Chanyeol’s chest.

“Thank you~” Chanyeol grins at Baekhyun brightly and he wraps an arm around his waist to move him out of the way, so that he can run to Lay’s side –he doesn’t notice that Chen’s eyes widen at the closeness his gesture brings between him and Baekhyun, because Chanyeol is used to being so touchy with his adorable short guy. “Mochiiii, we’re going~” he coos, kneeling on the floor next to the little girl. She smiles at him, mumbling like she does when Baekhyun is about to leave, and Chanyeol’s heart melts. “Be nice, okay? We’ll bring you ice cream!” he promises enthusiastically, kissing her little hands. He feels bad enough they will be leaving her alone –almost, if you count Chen–; he thinks ice cream is the least compensation they can provide when they get back –they’ll bring ice cream for Chen, too.

“Love you, honeycomb~” Baekhyun kisses her temple, standing over Chanyeol, who is still on the floor, cooing and caressing her. “If you need anything, call either one of us, okay?” Chanyeol registers Baekhyun’s voice in the background, but he is too busy pampering Lay and promising her the fifteenth ice cream flavor. He would cancel everything if he could; how can he part with her?

“Yes, I know” Chen reassures them. Then suddenly, Chanyeol feels two arms wrapping around his waist and pulling him up with some effort, and he flails a bit in surprise.

“Yeol, we were leaving, remember?” Baekhyun huffs and puffs behind him, dragging him away with a vice grip around his waist. Chanyeol stumbles backwards, off balance, but Baekhyun is still holding him securely. Neither cares they’re way too close and touchy this early in the morning; Baekhyun is even chuckling playfully in between his labored breaths while trying to make Chanyeol’s much larger body move.

“Yes, yes, right” he mumbles, gathering his senses and rationalizing the cruel feeling of separation he feels for the little child. Baekhyun releases him with a sigh and Chanyeol realizes he has managed to drag them further away than he thought Baekhyun capable of. He looks around, bewildered.

“Door, this way” Baekhyun points accordingly, and Chanyeol follows his lead like a good duckling. Chen is having a premature aneurism with how much he is cackling at the show.

“You guys are so cool; totally relationship goals” Chen muses, wiping his eyes from mirthful tears and smiling at them, leaning against the doorframe. Chanyeol freezes a little, awkwardly standing in front of the door next to Baekhyun with half his shoe on. Did he just say relationship goals?!

“We’re what?” Baekhyun quirks a half-curious, half-horrified eyebrow at Chen, standing stiffly, as if he has forgotten he needs to be somewhere else soon. The fact that he missed the words that rang so loud and clear to Chanyeol is a bit heartbreaking –but of course Baekhyun doesn’t see them this way, he must think it’s weird. Chanyeol gulps uncomfortably and panics; he is not planning to start this conversation –if he ever starts it– because of a teenager who has perfect cheekbones and a big mouth. He ends up yanking the door open and dragging Baekhyun out of the house before Chen has time to elaborate, squeaking like a cornered mouse.

“We were leaving!”

---

It’s late at night but neither Baekhyun nor Chanyeol are sleepy so, after each one showers, they head downstairs to watch a movie or a late night drama. They’re sitting on the couch, Chanyeol facing the screen, but Baekhyun is sitting with his back against the armrest and he has to keep his head turned to the side to watch anything on tv. After he plopped down on the other end of the couch, Chanyeol scooped Baekhyun’s feet and brought them on his lap, that’s why Baekhyun ended up like this. Baekhyun wanted to protest but Chanyeol didn’t say a word, and after he started rubbing Baekhyun’s feet, anything that the latter might have wanted to say melted in the sea.

But Baekhyun is still pouting, because he is confused with this treatment. He and Chanyeol had a small tiff earlier in the evening and Baekhyun yelled unfairly loud at him; shouldn’t Chanyeol be mopey and distant? Baekhyun doesn’t understand why he deserves an amazingly relaxing foot massage by Chanyeol’s magical fingers, after he yelled at him over something that wasn’t worth so much fuss in the first place. He was stressed and tired, and Chanyeol made a mistake; you can’t expect people who live together to never fight with each other. There will naturally be tension and anger and disagreements; it’s two people trying to share one life, after all. Baekhyun knows he can survive quarrels with Chanyeol; in his past experience, they’re both good in dispute resolution and very forgiving. But they hadn’t had an argument in a while and now it sits heavy on Baekhyun’s conscience. Lay has been peacefully asleep for some time now, and the tv is nearly mute, so the house is very quiet and Baekhyun can practically hear his guilt whispering in his ears.

“Chanyeol…” he breaks the silence at some point, his voice coming out quiet and apologetic. Chanyeol turns to him instantly, since he hadn’t been watching whatever is on tv anyway. Baekhyun lowers his eyes guiltily. “I’m sorry I yelled at you”

“You already apologized, Baek” Chanyeol reassures him kindly, his hands resting on Baekhyun’s ankles; Chanyeol always said his ankles are so small that he can close his fingers around them, and apparently it’s true. Baekhyun bites his lip; of course he apologized, the moment he realized he was overreacting, and then they talked things out with Chanyeol, but he still feels bad about it. “Besides, you were right; I shouldn’t have given her two peaches” Chanyeol continues, his thumb stoking Baekhyun’s ankle absentmindedly. Baekhyun lifts his eyes to look at him; of course he shouldn’t have given her two peaches, they are lucky she didn’t get a stomachache or a sugar rush. Things like that seem trivial, but at some point they might be important, and if Chanyeol is in this parenting game with Baekhyun, they need to figure them out. Chanyeol pouts thoughtfully. “I need to grow tougher; her puppy eyes will be my demise” Baekhyun laughs at that, finally relaxing and feeling lighter.

“She looked so mad at me when I was yelling at you, did you see her?” he says after he calms down, resting his head against the back of the couch lazily, still smiling. She looked so offended that he was yelling at Chanyeol, glaring at him with a big frown between her eyebrows and puckered lips –it’s clear whose side she was on. Chanyeol smiles widely, remembering how funny the expression looked on her small face.

“She reminds me of you when she makes those stubborn faces” he murmurs quietly, his smile turning fond and soft. Baekhyun’s ears turn slightly pink. They stay silent for a while, Chanyeol going back to rubbing Baekhyun’s feet and Baekhyun watching him; maybe it’s because he plays so many instruments that his fingers are slightly rough and very precise, locating the right place and then pressing down in the right angle with the right amount of pressure. He is very good at this and Baekhyun’s stomach sometimes tickles in pleasure, but he is too relaxed and too tired to take it seriously –this is completely not-sexual in any case. He is nearly lulled to sleep from Chanyeol’s touches.

“She reminds me of my sister when she smiles…” he mumbles softly, his lips curling into a melancholic smile. Chanyeol’s touch stutters for a moment, realizing the change in the air and Baekhyun’s mood; he’s never told Chanyeol much about his sister’s death, but he feels oddly reminiscent tonight. “When I got back from abroad, my sister was already seven months pregnant” he is almost whispering, his eyes gazing at Chanyeol’s hands but not really seeing them; he sees his sister at the airport, waiting for him with a baby bump the size of a small hill. “She looked so pretty. I was so happy for her and I was so excited that I’d be an uncle! I bought half of Lay’s toys back then” he smiles, despite the familiar sting of tears behind his eyes. “My mother was being fussy as always, so my sister was very relieved to have me back. I stayed by her side through the last two months; we went through the cravings and mental breakdowns together” Baekhyun giggles; he has good memories of his sister’s pregnancy. They grew closer during those two months and she was such a crybaby momma that hell, he felt pregnant too sometimes! He blinks and quickly wipes away a small tear that escaped. Chanyeol keeps listening attentively; god, he is not breaking down in front of Chanyeol, this is not happening. “Do you remember, that time when I was sick with a high fever that made me almost delusional, and I asked you to dance?” Baekhyun changes the topic. His smile takes a different meaning now, remembering that night a few years ago.

“Ahhh, yes” Chanyeol smiles too “The only time in my life I’ve danced in my pajamas and the only time I didn’t step on my partner” he teases and they both chuckle. They must have looked so silly.

At the time, Chanyeol was staying with Baekhyun for a few nights, to be his personal nurse –even though Baekhyun insisted he didn’t need one, never mind he was hallucinating ladybugs on the ceiling–, and on one night, Baekhyun asked him to dance. There was no important reason; he just really wanted to dance. He didn’t care if it was two a.m., if he was wearing his pjs and looked like a wreck from the fever, if Chanyeol was the least graceful dancer everybody knows, if there was no music and no point. Chanyeol tried to get him to sleep but he couldn’t resist his whiny patient in the end, and they ended up swaying in each other’s arms in the middle of the living room, Chanyeol humming a small tune under his breath and Baekhyun feeling so happy, like he has felt very few times in his life –until he blacked out.

“Yes, that…” he says with a small smile, his eyes dropping to Chanyeol’s hands again. “I kept thinking about it during her funeral, I don’t know why” he confesses. He hasn’t told this to anyone, not even Sehun. His sister’s funeral was one of the darkest, most heartbreaking experiences of his life, and yet, in between his crying fits and depressed thoughts, the tune Chanyeol was humming that night would pop up in his head and he would play the scene behind his eyes like an old movie, again and again, as if it would protect him from the pain.

“And that’s…a good thing?” Chanyeol guesses uncertainly, looking at him with a strange expression between concern and amusement. Baekhyun chuckles when he looks at the funny face he is making, his heart squeezing no longer.

“Yes, it is” he jabs, kicking Chanyeol’s thigh playfully. Chanyeol sighs in relief and then laughs too, until they are left gazing at each other with small smiles on their lips. How can he be so perfect in such moments? How can Baekhyun be graced with such a creature? As a neighbor, as a friend, as a best friend, as a personal chef, a nurse, a babysitter, a shoulder to cry on, a pillow to sleep, a warm cuddle bear and so many other things, Chanyeol has always been by Baekhyun’s side. Would Baekhyun be able to survive without him? Probably, he can do it. But he doesn’t want to do it. Baekhyun’s smile quirks a bit. “Yeol, I know I have no right to say this after abandoning you, and I know my life circumstances are very different from what they used to be but…” he starts playing with his fingers, his cheeks feeling a bit warmer “you’re the best thing I never knew I needed” he mumbles timidly, his fingers twining tightly on his lap.

He risks a blink after a moment of speechless silence, but Chanyeol suddenly springs to his feet when he catches Baekhyun’s eye. The taller looks like a spooked deer, but some of his octopus nature shines through as he tries to scamper away, his limbs stumbling over himself and making for a very funny tumble, which Chanyeol intended to be an attempt to escape Baekhyun’s vicinity. Baekhyun has to admit, it hurts and stings like hell to see Chanyeol trying to literally run away from him right after he said something so heartfelt, and he almost tears up; but then he sees Chanyeol sitting down when he reaches the corner of the living room, facing the wall. That’s very…strange. Even for Chanyeol’s standards.

Baekhyun slowly gets up and approaches Chanyeol carefully. The latter has curled up into a ball, his knees drawn against his chest and his face hidden behind them, still facing the wall and holding his ears with his hands. He looks like a scared kid, maybe. What the hell have I done to this poor soul? Baekhyun kneels down on Chanyeol’s side, still keeping a bit of distance between them; he feels oddly dangerous after causing that reaction.

“Hey, are you okay? I’m sorry if I said something…” he reaches out, keeping his voice soft. They’ve said a million things worse than what he said in their time of friendship, why is this happening now? Chanyeol huffs and Baekhyun freezes, fearing of another puzzling reaction, but the taller only lifts his head a bit from his knees, just enough to glance at Baekhyun with the corner of his eye. Baekhyun can’t make out his expression in the shadows.

“Why do you say such things to me? You know I’m shy!” Chanyeol protests fiercely like a complaining child, pouting and hiding behind his knees again.

Baekhyun is a little bit shocked right now.

But when the initial shock fades, a big smile stretches across Baekhyun’s lips. Kitten angels in heaven help me, Chanyeol is being so painfully cute! His eyes gravitate to Chanyeol’s large ears, sloppily covered by his hands, and they are indeed a very bright shade of red; he guesses his cheeks must be red too, and that’s why Chanyeol is facing the wall, his whole body trying to shrink and become as small as possible in embarrassment. It’s a bit of an unorthodox way to react, but it’s so endearing how he panicked and ran to hide from view. Baekhyun is dying to flick his ears or jump on him for a hug, but he doesn’t want Chanyeol to freak out even more, so he’s giving him space. Space; Baekhyun repeats the word in every language he knows or can imagine to restrain himself.

“There is cherry pie, with chocolate in the kitchen. Want some?” he ends up chirping after a while. He’s not sure this will work, but he hopes so. If Chanyeol doesn’t want to be scarred forever by one of Baekhyun’s hidden inner monster’s cuddle attacks, he’d better take up the offer, because Baekhyun can’t think of many other things that can distract his inner monster right now. Chanyeol lifts his head a little and looks at Baekhyun just like before.

“Is it good?” he mumbles stubbornly with a halfhearted pout. Baekhyun lights up with an enormous smile and wiggles in place full of excitement. This is working!

“My favorite chef made it and it tastes amazing!” he exclaims cutely, giggling at how silly this is; of course Chanyeol knows it’s good, he made it. Chanyeol’s tight lips crack a small smile, his posture relaxing a bit. “We can steal and share a slice, it’ll be our secret” Baekhyun whispers mischievously, reaching for Chanyeol’s hand and pulling him up, then dragging him to the kitchen. This is silly too, because there’s no one to keep it secret from, but nobody cares to point it out.

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