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All week he had been trying to think of an excuse to visit them, but sadly, nothing came to mind. So, after a few days of endless pacing around in his house, tossing and turning at night, a few burnt batches of cookies and an epic defeat by Chen at Mario Kart, Chanyeol gave up his quest with a heavy heart. He can’t see how a lonely bachelor like himself can fit in the daily life of a certain happy family across the street, much as he’d wish he could. They seem so far away and he feels so unnecessary. If he can’t find a reason to approach Baekhyun and Lay, maybe there is no reason for him to be there at all and meddle with their lives, maybe it’s simply not meant to be, maybe this isn’t a second chance with Baekhyun from the gracious universe like Chanyeol likes to imagine in secret for the past few weeks, every night before he goes to bed.

Maybe Chanyeol is cursed to wilt and fray, lovesick for something which is always so near yet so out of reach, always the most unattainable of all the things he’s ever wished for on Christmases and birthdays. Three years ago he had the perfect chance but he let it go in favor of making precious memories. Falling in love with Baekhyun was the easiest thing Chanyeol has ever done; admitting it to him has always been the hardest. In fact, even though the opportunities were plenty, he never confessed, afraid it would break their beautiful friendship. And now, he feels like there is even more at stake beyond their friendship; there’s Baekhyun’s life, and Chanyeol’s life, and a child. Chanyeol doesn’t want to make mistakes with Baekhyun, but that only means he’s doomed to gather feelings forever, quietly and secretly, and Baekhyun will never know.

In which case, he needs to reevaluate his life and find a way to live quietly, without any aspirations or new dreams, the natural outcome after spending a few months –or possibly years– feeling helpless and thinking life is pointless, refusing to go out in the sunlight and eating endless amounts of ice cream, because fate is cruel and refuses him happiness. There is no rest, no comfort, no hope for the lovesick people who are denied of their destiny –twice in their lives– so he shall accept the life of a hermit, doomed to live in suffering evermore, devoting his life to his love which will never be acknowledged.

But let’s not get dramatic yet, because he doesn’t have any solid reason to be so desperate.

So far, things with Baekhyun are…okay. He usually greets him and his daughter on the street if they happen to cross paths, before scampering away to hide inside his house and watch them sparkle in the afternoon sunshine outside, poised behind his window. He has been acting very ridiculous, borderline stalker, with all his six foot limbs awkwardly tangled and poorly hidden behind a piece of glass with the best view of the Byuns’ front yard, but it has become part of his daily routine, a necessary part of his everyday life, to watch Baekhyun and Lay leave their house for a walk, for shopping or to play in the yard. They always look so happy and for some reason it wrecks his heart that he can’t be happy by their side. This longing Chanyeol has been feeling should not be, he knows it, but he can’t help it. He gets moody and he can’t focus on his compositions if he doesn’t see them, as if the angels refuse to whisper melodies to him.

A man can live like this only for so long.

There was no arrangement this time or any special occasion; Chanyeol simply felt like baking a peach pie and visiting Baekhyun and his daughter. He is being impulsive but hopeful, because he can’t bear the feeling of the butterflies dying one by one inside his stomach anymore; it makes him sick. Maybe Chanyeol can’t have a chance at something special with Baekhyun, but he can try to be happy knowing him, right? Chanyeol has convinced himself he needs to spend some time getting to know to Baekhyun again, because Baekhyun is the same but also different now, and those differences pull Chanyeol in like never before, as if Baekhyun is now a magnificent creature, more radiant and attractive and wonderful than he used to be. Chanyeol wants to know this creature as well as he used to know the old Baekhyun once, he wants to stay near and grow in a small corner under its brilliant light.

The sun has not started to set yet when he leaves his house in bare essentials, not even bothering to bring his phone. It’s not like he needs any of that –and the thought that he can leave behind everything he has in life so easily is somewhat terrifying, but it also makes sense; Baekhyun has always had a way of climbing up Chanyeol’s survival priorities and, even though this time it happened much sooner than the last, it’s clear that he has reclaimed his spot very near the top of that list once again. With a peach pie in hand, waving kindly at the neighbors and their children playing outside –god, they’re everywhere– he crosses the street and knocks on the door.

There’s no answer at first and Chanyeol fears for a moment that they might not be home. It’s a weekday, so maybe there is shopping or an outdoor activity on their schedule; but then Chanyeol remembers that he has stalked his neighbors today as well, and he doesn’t remember seeing Baekhyun leaving the house or having any guests, so he must be inside. He knocks again, and then he hears the voices from inside. There are Lay’s distinct giggles and squeals, and Baekhyun’s voice saying things Chanyeol can’t make out and exclaiming or laughing in between “vrooooom”s and “pheeeeews” and other childish noises. Chanyeol smiles; this much hasn’t changed about Baekhyun, playful as ever.

The door opens suddenly to reveal a considerably out of breath Baekhyun, with rosy cheeks, tussled hair and ruffled clothes, holding an equally flushed and smiley Lay. Baekhyun’s eyes widen when he sees Chanyeol, but it’s a good sort of surprise that appears on his face. “Oh, Chanyeol, hi!” he greets, shifting Lay in his arms to hold her better. It’s obvious that Chanyeol has interrupted their games, but neither seems to mind. He holds the round plate he’s brought for them higher and smiles his best smile.

“Peach offering?” he hopes that pun was not too lame. At least Lay appreciates it, because she recognizes the word and her eyes widen, looking at the pie as if it’s an unheard of wonder of the world, her lips gaping. Baekhyun blinks at the plate in surprise for a moment, as if he’s not sure what it is right away due to its sudden appearance, and then he narrows his eyes at Chanyeol, but the smile keeps playing on his lips, betraying his stern expression.

“You just want to feed her again, don’t you?” he accuses and Chanyeol laughs heartily at that. It’s true that he made peach pie because he thought Lay would like it, but it wasn’t his intension to feed her again; feeding her is a wonderful experience but he doesn’t want to give her too many sweets, because Baekhyun would get mad and because it doesn’t seem right to give too much sugar to a child in any case. But if this accusation just now was also an offer, Chanyeol would be delighted to do the honors of feeding her this pie. He grins and shrugs his shoulders mischievously.

“Maybe” he says, trying to hold back more laughter when Baekhyun gives him that cute, unconvinced, but-not-really-annoyed expression. Baekhyun holds that face for a second before smiling widely again and making way for Chanyeol to enter the house.

“You’ll have to bring it to the kitchen yourself though, because I’m holding a delicious little peach here” he calls over his shoulder on his way to the living room, leaving Chanyeol behind to take off his shoes and close the door with one hand. When talking about delicious peaches, Baekhyun holds Lay with both hands and nuzzles her tummy, making the child squeal loudly and giggle again, her little hands trying to push Baekhyun’s face away because she’s ticklish. It’s one of the most unguarded moments Chanyeol has seen of Baekhyun and he likes it. Oh, he likes it very much.

“I see” he walks to the kitchen, feeling more familiar and comfortable with the place than he probably should, considering he’s been in here only a handful of times, but after he puts away the pie, the mess in the sink hits him. “Whoa, what happened here?” he gasps, moving closer to inspect the blackened pots and lumpy bits of what might have been edible once, the chopped and charred bits of food and lots upon lots of used and dirty kitchen utensils. This pile looks like the remnants of a culinary disaster.

“Hm?” Baekhyun has to look up from where he is sitting on the floor next to Lay’s play mat to understand the source of Chanyeol’s shock. He glances at the mess without a hint of stress or regret, and then he looks at Chanyeol’s surprised face. “Oh, my Thursday jinx is back, it comes and goes, nothing much” he dismisses, waving a hand nonchalantly before returning his attention to Lay. “But your food came out alright, don’t worry, honeycomb” he reassures her with a smile and Lay gifts him with a toy lion.

After taking a moment to overcome the initial shock, Chanyeol shakes his head and smiles a little. He hadn’t heard of Baekhyun’s Thursday jinx in a while, he had almost forgotten about it. For some reason –maybe accumulated stress or tiredness from the week– Baekhyun tends to have various unlucky moments on Thursdays, and he calls that his jinx, claiming Thursdays don’t like him. It’s adorably childish, like Baekhyun is at heart, and it’s part of the reason why they used to have movie nights on Thursdays, to ensure an uneventful evening and edible dinner, cooked by Chanyeol. Hearing Baekhyun mention it so casually after all this time brings a warm, fluttery feeling inside Chanyeol’s chest.

“Do you want me to cook something?” he offers, already rolling up his sleeves. Baekhyun doesn’t look like he plans a second attempt at dinner for today and Chanyeol would hate to leave him with an empty stomach till tomorrow morning. Besides, it will be like the old times, won’t it? In spite of Chanyeol’s agreeable proposition, Baekhyun turns to look at him with wide, scandalized eyes.

“Of course not, Chanyeol!” he refuses adamantly, making that fluttery little something inside Chanyeol die. He hopes it doesn’t show on his face. Baekhyun continues, seemingly not noticing Chanyeol’s reaction at all, even though he’s looking right at him. “You’re our guest, for one thing, and for another…I was hoping to use this as an excuse to order takeout; it’s been forever” he rolls his eyes dramatically before attending to Lay once again, and Chanyeol’s lips crack a smile involuntarily. Baekhyun never was a big fan of fast and fatty food, but he always allowed himself the guilty pleasure of it every now and then; Chanyeol can only guess those times are long gone after having to search for possibly harmful preservatives in everything and having to cook for a child every day as well. “You still eat peppers and mushrooms on your pizza, right?” he asks suddenly, lifting his head to look at Chanyeol.

It takes a moment to register the question and Chanyeol’s thoughts travel down many paths. He still remembers Chanyeol’s order? How? Chanyeol had always been the one to call for food orders, because Baekhyun didn’t like making phone calls in general.

“Yes” he answers tentatively, getting his thoughts back on track. Does that mean he is invited for dinner? Baekhyun flashes a brilliant smile.

“Fetch me the phone” he orders, pointing at the dining table. Lazy as ever; the comment is on the tip of Chanyeol’s tongue but he doesn’t say it. Instead, he brings Baekhyun the phone. He can’t believe a simple visit has turned out like this.

They spend their time waiting for the food being busy with Lay or the tv. Baekhyun is set on finding a movie to watch and he’s willing to click through all channels and all other available satellite options at the speed of light. Chanyeol doesn’t know how to say that he won’t mind even if they end up watching history channel, because he’s here and that makes him pretty happy in itself. Lay is playing with her toys peacefully on her play mat between the two men, giving toys to Chanyeol and inviting him to play with her every so often. When it looks like Baekhyun has found a movie half to his linking but meh, what to do, the doorbell rings and the smaller jumps up and runs to get it. He almost trips on his too large and somewhat long sweatpants, making Chanyeol burst into giggling fits. Baekhyun returns with boxes which smell like their next meal, and he splays them on the coffee table. Lay looks very interested in those yummy boxes she hasn’t seen before, but Baekhyun brings her dinner from the kitchen before she has time to beg her way to a slice of pizza or even lay eyes on it.

“What, they put mushrooms on mine too, why?” Baekhyun complains when he opens his box, after feeding Lay half her meal. Chanyeol is on his second slice and he feels the need to check what he already knows, that only Baekhyun’s order got mixed up. He has been eating it already, wouldn’t he know if it weren’t his order? A moment of awkward stillness passes, because it’s not like it would be any use if Chanyeol offered his own pizza to Baekhyun. Then Baekhyun grumbles and starts picking out the mushrooms from his pizza, casually flinging them to Chanyeol’s box. It should be offensive, but it feels like not a day has passed since they used to share plates and food, so it brings a smile on Chanyeol’s lips, who accepts the extra condiments gratefully.

They watch a movie which is interesting but not too exciting in the visual effects department, because Lay might not be watching but she’s still in the room and they don’t want to agitate her. The physical distance between them sitting on the floor would have felt awkward if not for Lay, fitting her tiny body and her toys there, filling their silences with her babbling and other noises, completely comfortable with her place and their presence. The movie is about to get predictable after the three quarters mark, Chanyeol is full and a tad bit drowsy, Lay is still clanking her toys and the sun outside has set, when Baekhyun suddenly pauses the action sequence. Chanyeol turns to him curiously.

“Okay folks, I hate to ruin the fun, but it’s bath time for a certain angelfish here” he announces, looking down at Lay, who lights up and exclaims her own words; Chanyeol can tell she’s looking forward to it.


Baekhyun picks her up with a smile and starts for the stairs, leaving Chanyeol behind. Chanyeol is not sure what to do; should he stay here, clean up, call it a night and go home? What do people do in such situations, when they’re clearly unnecessary outsiders to someone else’s reality? But then Baekhyun stops halfway to the stairs and looks back, with Lay still in his arms. “Chanyeol, are you coming?”


“Sure!” he agrees and picks himself off the floor quickly with renewed vigor. He’s always been curious about baby baths and now he gets to see one in person!

Baby baths are more complicated than he thought. There are at least five bottles, two towels, diapers and combs and pjs involved, bath toys, a soft sponge and baby toothpaste on top of everything else. And Baekhyun does this every night? Chanyeol observes carefully, standing on the side unobtrusively, while Baekhyun undresses Lay with practiced ease, distracting her and buying some time until the tub has enough water and soap bubbles in it. Baekhyun’s bathroom is pristine, made of marble and glass, soft rugs covering the cold floor and flowers decorating the sides of the mirror over the washing basin. There is so much light that Lay’s baby skin looks almost translucent, and Chanyeol is so charmed by her dimples and dark eyes while Baekhyun talks to her pointlessly.

“Can you check the water temperature?” he asks unexpectedly, addressing Chanyeol for the first time since this ritual started, and Chanyeol feels stunned but he scampers to the bathtub immediately, happy to be of service. He checks the temperature with his fingers and it seems okay for babies; not too hot, not too cold, very natural.

“I think it’s fine” he says, turning around from where he is kneeling by the tub, only to find Baekhyun right beside him, holding Lay in his hands and already lowering her to the water.

“Yeah, it’s good” he confirms when his hands reach the water, and Lay seems very content as well. Baekhyun reaches for some toys, aligned on a shelf by the tub, and he gives them to Lay, who picks them up immediately, pushing them underwater and watching them float back up. “Here are your rubber duckies, honeycomb; what color are they?” Baekhyun tries with a radiant smile that shows he is enjoying himself too. Lay points at the soft sponge in Baekhyun’s hand before going back to playing with the toys and chasing bubbles. “Yes! Smart girl” Baekhyun approves and reaches for the first of the bottles, shampoo.

No one says Chanyeol has to stay there but no one says he has to leave either, so he scoots to the side out of Baekhyun’s way, and watches quietly while Baekhyun’s fingers work quickly and efficiently to bathe Lay. She doesn’t even seem to notice him at first, too busy humming songs and clutching bubbles. Chanyeol catches himself taking mental notes on everything Baekhyun does –why is he doing that? But soon the fun part starts and he forgets to rationalize that question. Lay is having a lot of fun with the games Baekhyun makes up for her. He builds bubble castles, and beards on his face, and towers in his palms, he tells fragments of stories, songs, he makes faces and tickles her, carefully, to avoid accidents. Lay doesn’t like wet things but she loves bubble-bubble, because her daddy makes it awesome.

It’s all fun and games, and Baekhyun is in the middle of his dragon impersonation that is making even Chanyeol laugh with its silliness, until Lay scoops a big dollop of bubbles and hurls them at Chanyeol’s face unexpectedly. Baekhyun stops immediately, looking at Chanyeol with wide eyes, Lay blinks, still smiling expectantly, and Chanyeol just stands frozen, with an almost sneezing expression and a pile of lavender-scented bubbles sticking to the edge of his eyelashes, sliding on his cheek and dribbling down his chin to his shirt. Lay breaks the silence.

((It’s bubble-bubble time! And tall man is here, but he has no bubbles. So, I gave him some! Now he can have fun with us, daddy! Isn’t it the point to have bubbles?))

“I’m so sorry, Chanyeol” Baekhyun rasps, but when Chanyeol opens one eye to look, Baekhyun bursts into loud laughter, unable to hold his apologetic stance when he finds Chanyeol’s appearance so funny. Chanyeol can bet he looks downright ridiculous. Baekhyun’s eyes disappear in crescents and he clutches his stomach, nearly tearing up and doubling over in laughter; Chanyeol hadn’t seen this almost-hysteric, hearty laugh in years. Baekhyun’s voice echoes loudly inside the bathroom and Lay joins him with some triumphant mumbles –she knew her daddy would get it!– and there is only so little Chanyeol can do not to dissolve in loud laughter too. It takes them quite a few obnoxiously loud minutes to get it out of their system, and Baekhyun wipes his eyes, face red, and tries to mumble another apology, but fails.

“Nah, it’s okay” Chanyeol pants when he calms down, his ribs and his cheeks aching from so much laughter. It’s late at night and he’s in a bathroom with a toddler and her gorgeous, most amazing father, and maybe his shirt is a bit ruined, but who cares? He only wanted to look presentable for the people in this room anyway. He turns to the child and tries to keep a straight face. “Thank you, Lay”

The rest of the bath routine is uneventful; if anything, Chanyeol is included in the games, joining Baekhyun in his impersonations and stories and ruffling Lay’s silky hair. Brushing her teeth at the end would be the trickiest part, but Chanyeol catches onto Baekhyun’s tricks easily and they perform their routine effortlessly to achieve the desirable results, almost as if they’ve done it a dozen times before, and Baekhyun gets bitten only once, so cheers for them! Lay is very cooperative while Baekhyun pats her dry, and then he gives her a light comb to try to do her own hair while he lathers baby cream on her skin. Somehow, no matter what Baekhyun does, from changing her diaper to wiggling her into her pajama bottoms, he manages to interact with her, praise her, respond to her, make her giggle with his pokes on her soft tummy and then soothe her with gentle caresses of his delicate fingers. It’s a new level of parent magic that Chanyeol has never seen before, and by the time Lay is dressed and dry, she is also so sleepy that she can’t keep her eyes open.

“I’m going to put her to sleep; it shouldn’t take long” Baekhyun says, picking her in his arms. She slumps against him with no will to stay awake whatsoever, eyes droopy and unfocused. Chanyeol smiles at how fluffy she looks in her bear pjs, with matching hood and ears of course. He wishes her goodnight quietly, patting her head, but she hardly blinks. Baekhyun gathers her close and kisses her forehead with a smile, before turning to Chanyeol. “Wait for me downstairs?” he whispers, and Chanyeol nods obediently, parting with Baekhyun to head down the stairs while he and his daughter disappear in another room.

Chanyeol huddles in the corner of the couch and waits patiently, absently watching the scattered toys around him. He is lost in blank and insignificant thoughts for some time, silence floating around him, but he feels as comfortable as if he were in his own house. The entire place is so characteristically warm and welcoming, and it reminds him of Baekhyun everywhere he looks, and maybe that’s why he feels like he’s known this house all his life. Baekhyun emerges from the darkness not very long after Chanyeol perched on the couch, shuffling his feet slightly in his long sweatpants, his t-shirt shifting around his form as he walks from being so large in comparison to his frame. He looks so small and harmless. His expression is relaxed and somewhat thoughtful, until he walks into the living room and tunes back into reality, his eyes focusing on Chanyeol.

“All set?” Chanyeol asks, perking in his seat, ready to unfold himself to make some room for Baekhyun on the cushions. He wonders if he should ask why Baekhyun was so thoughtful a moment ago, but he decides not to.

“Yeah, don’t get up” Baekhyun waves a hand nonchalantly, signaling for Chanyeol to stay in place, and so the taller shrinks back in his seat. It’s unusual for Baekhyun to refuse a comfortable seat; he used to be like a cat, sassily claiming the most comfortable places in a house as his own. Chanyeol doesn’t press any further, guessing that he must have his reasons. Baekhyun walks soundlessly and once he is close enough, he plops down on the mat in front of the couch; only to jump up instantly. “Aw!” he hisses, searching blindly under his back and fishing one of Lay’s toys. Chanyeol wrinkles his nose, empathizing with the mean sting of sitting or stepping on unexpectedly sprouting toys. Baekhyun sets the toy aside, shaking his head and mumbling “I never learn”

“There’s plenty of room up here, if you’re interested” Chanyeol pipes in –and maybe, just maybe, he is selfishly hoping Baekhyun will take the offer and relocate his fine rear up next to Chanyeol, so that this might feel more like the complete experience of their Thursday movie nights. Chanyeol vividly remembers to this day, comfortably tangled limbs and serving as each other’s pillow, Baekhyun’s cold fingers sneaking in Chanyeol’s pockets or combing through his hair soothingly just before he fell asleep next to him. Baekhyun doesn’t even glance at Chanyeol or the couch, getting comfortable on the floor; Chanyeol deflates and wonders if Baekhyun ever misses it too, their closeness and their hugs, or if he is the only one hopelessly lingering on those memories.

“I’m used to sitting on child-level places. Now play the movie” Baekhyun whispers, with an excitement that Chanyeol misinterprets as related to the movie. The thought that the movie is pretty predictable and Baekhyun might be excited over the fact that this is happening at all after all these years, escapes Chanyeol’s mind.


Chanyeol wakes up, not so much from the sound itself but from the horrible feeling it stirs in his chest. He has heard children cry before, but it never sounded so heartbroken and helpless, echoing inside an unjustly quiet and cold house; it’s making his stomach turn with how bad his heart hearts, his chest filling with worry and concern. The loud cries are coming from upstairs –wait, what upstairs? Where am I?

Chanyeol blinks in confusion and the darkness slowly starts forming into shapes, blurry outlines and shadows which look nothing like his house. He can see a small light, glowing faintly from behind one of the walls, and the more he looks around, the more familiar the place seems. And then it hits him; this is Baekhyun’s living room. It takes another moment until he remembers how he ended up here, but it doesn’t take a genius to guess he fell asleep on the couch during the remaining time of the movie –did he even watch the ending? He’s never been good with staying awake in front of a screen; it hypnotizes him for some reason, until he can’t keep his eyes open anymore. It looks like Baekhyun left him there to sleep instead of waking him up and sending him back to his house; Chanyeol can tell that he even tried to make him comfortable, removing some of the couch pillows to give him space, placing one under his head to relieve the strain of his neck, leaving a discreet light on for him in case he needs anything and covering him with a warm blanket.

He doesn’t remember having his phone with him, so he can’t check the time, but he is sure it’s not daytime yet. That is of little importance, however, because the most pressing issue in Chanyeol’s head is the heart wrenching cries of Baekhyun’s little girl. Probably all children have this sort of nightly habit at some point in their lives, but he’s never witnessed it for himself, and he feels like a horrible person to leave her crying like this and do nothing to help her. Somewhere deep down, he knows it’s not his business or his responsibility, that she’s not his child and Baekhyun might be by her side already, trying to soothe her. But even deeper than that, he fears she is scared and alone, and the thought of her ever being as such is death for him. He doesn’t know why exactly, but Chanyeol decides to go upstairs and check, and that’s that.

Drowsy and sluggish, of course he would step on one of Lay’s toys as soon as his feet touch the ground –thankfully, it was something soft and squishy, and it didn’t hurt or trip him much. He tries to focus for the rest of the way to the stairs, not to trip over his own feet and break anything; the light gets brighter as he approaches the stairs, turning out to be one of the lanterns above the steps. The cries are loud as ever and he draws courage, bracing himself and starting his way up the stairs mechanically, step after step. He gets to the top unscathed and from there it’s easy to navigate to Lay’s room, because she is screaming her lungs out, shattering the deep quiet of the night.

He pushes the half-open door to find the nursery booming with the child’s wails and whines. The room has fairy lights in one corner and another light is glowing faintly from something decorative that’s hanging from the ceiling, so Chanyeol can easily see where the crib is. Baekhyun is not around, probably sleeping too deeply to take notice of the commotion. Chanyeol walks to the crib and places both hands on the railing, looking down at the little girl.

“Baby, are you okay?” he coos, and his deep, rumbling voice catches Lay’s interest and she stops her loud tantrum to look at him. She blinks her wet, deep eyes, cheeks flushed and drenched, her hair fanning on the pillow, and the sheets one giant, tangled mess around her. She looks so soft and tired, wrapped in her white linens like a smooth cinnamon roll. She looks at him pleadingly and uncertainly, her lower lip still trembling. Chanyeol reaches down and soothingly rubs her stomach above the covers; he can’t help but smile at how small and squishy she is. “Look at you, being a cute mochi” he quips, blinking down slowly and sleepily. She returns the peaceful look for a moment, but then she sniffs and whimpers, and a new wave of tears threatens to appear, making Chanyeol panic a bit. So he does what he thinks people do on such occasions; he strips away the hot sheets and picks her up.

“Come here, let’s wipe those tears, hm?” he says calmly, gently wiping her face with his hands before she settles in his arms, leaning on his shoulder for comfort. Chanyeol cradles her small body close to him, kissing her temple for reassurance; the poor thing is shaking. He starts pacing around the room slowly, caressing her back and toying with that cute little bear tail her pajamas have on the back. “Everything is okay now, don’t cry, my little mochi” he mumbles in a deep and hopefully relaxing voice, humming and cooing in between long intervals of silence.

Chanyeol feels a little like he is sleepwalking with a child in his arms, tracing the same steps over and over inside her pretty room. He gazes at every object without really seeing it, his mind distracted and slow with sleep, but his lips still manage to find soothing words and whisper them in Lay’s ears, sometimes more coherently, other times like a low grumble of his voice in his chest. The little girl stops trembling after a while of little touches and brief kisses, and she only looks thoughtful, perfectly comfortable with being perched on Chanyeol’s tall shoulder and observing her surroundings. A few times she whines, disturbed, and nuzzles her face in his throat; Chanyeol only breathes and rubs her back in those moments, giving her time to calm.

“Are you sleeping yet?” he asks after a while. This feels great and Chanyeol honestly wants to cuddle her forever, but his legs are getting tired and heavy, and he doesn’t want to collapse. He shifts to take a look at her face but, even though she looks tired, she is undoubtedly wide awake, big eyes blinking back at him. All this time he’s been putting himself to sleep more effectively than lulling her back to her dreams. It’s still dark outside though, and even Chanyeol knows children are supposed to be sleeping at this hour. “What should we do to help you go back to dreamland?” he wonders, looking around for any ideas. Lay snuggles closer to him and a part of his soul melts at the sweetness; how does Baekhyun ever part with her? That’s when his eyes land at a rocking chair in the corner of the room and a small library next to it; the bells of salvation ring. “Let’s read a book, shall we?”

He sits down and his legs are so numb that he can’t feel any relief from finally sitting; he can’t feel them at all. He gets comfortable with Lay in his lap and he leans to the side, trying to read the titles on the spines of the books; it’s all children’s fairytales and collections of poems. Lay is mimicking him, peering at the books curiously, so Chanyeol points to one and then the next, giving her a say in which book to read. “This one? No? This one then?” he picks the one she nodded at off the shelf and brings it to his crowded lap; Lay moves effortlessly, climbing further up his torso and clinging against him, leaving just enough room for him to open the book and turn the pages. “Ohh, good choice” he muses when he sees the beautiful colored pictures of flaxen haired princesses, fields of flowers and castles. Lay fists his shirt in her fingers, even though she is still securely caged in his arms, and she looks down at the pictures as Chanyeol starts reading as quietly as he can.

“Once upon a time…”

Baekhyun jolts awake. My child. Why is it so quiet? Oh my god, what happened to my child?!

His heart starts palpitating uncomfortably before his eyelashes unhinge, and he scrambles off his pillow, running his hands over his face to force himself awake. He hasn’t slept so serenely in a long time and his fatherly instincts keep kicking in his stomach. Why is she so quiet; she usually wakes up with a ruckus before dawn… Nightmares form behind his eyelids, consciously plaguing his thoughts with accidents that could have happened to his child in her sleep. What if she choked, or slept on her stomach, or suffocated against her pillow? He whines when his feet touch the cold floor but he scurries across the room anyway, with uncoordinated limbs and technically half-blind, his worry motivating him to run to his daughter’s room.

He stumbles through the open door, his bleary eyes searching in the soft sunlight from the window. He freezes halfway across the room, realizing there is only a lump of pillows and sheets in the crib instead of his child. He gasps and turns around, blood running frozen in his veins, but his fright evaporates in an instant when he finds Lay, safe and alive, sleeping soundly…on Chanyeol? He blinks in bewilderment, taking a step closer to the rocking chair in the corner of the room.

Chanyeol is sitting in the rocking chair, lying as comfortably as anyone as tall can fit on it, with a book dropped by his feet. Lay is curled in his lap, her little hands clutching Chanyeol’s shirt, her flushed face buried in the fabric. Chanyeol’s arms are wrapped around Lay securely, his head leaning to the side. He looks so childish himself, his fringe falling across his eyes and his lips pouting in his sleep; it reminds Baekhyun of the times the giant would fall asleep on the couch while they would be watching a movie on Thursday nights –not any different from what happened last night as well– and Baekhyun would push the hair away and kiss his forehead, carefully, clandestinely and softly, not to wake him.

“She’s sleeping” Chanyeol purrs sleepily all of a sudden, keeping his eyes closed even though he’s obviously awake and aware of Baekhyun’s presence in the room. Baekhyun drops the creepy stare and fusses with his bed hair, suddenly dawning on him how un-presentable he looks –not that Chanyeol hasn’t seen him disheveled from sleep before, but well, it’s been a few years since then. Chanyeol cracks one eye open to look at Baekhyun under heavy lashes. “Should I wake her?” he asks, opening both eyes slowly. Baekhyun presses his lips in an embarrassed, thin line and nods. Chanyeol sits up bit by bit, not to jolt the sleeping little girl. He scoops her in one arm, caressing her hair and the lines of her face with his free hand. He hums and coos at her, handling her so gently, as if she’s made of clouds.

Baekhyun wants to scream at how fatherly Chanyeol looks in that moment.

“Mochi~ wake up” he calls, his eyes sweet. Baekhyun smiles at the nickname, feeling so peaceful. This affection seems so right to him, even though it doesn’t make sense.

“How did you end up like this?” he whispers as Lay stirs in Chanyeol’s hold. Chanyeol rubs her back soothingly, kissing her temple.

“She was crying last night and I thought you could use the rest, so I came over” he explains, his deep voice reverberating, laced with sleep. Baekhyun’s eyes widen in fluster and he starts rambling his brain out of his mouth.

“I’m so sorry, Chanyeol. I must have been more tired than I realized” he apologizes swiftly. How can he not have heard his own child crying in her sleep?! He must have slept like the dead. “She usually sleeps through the night and wakes up early, but her sleep patterns are still adjusting, so she wakes up in the middle of the night sometimes. I’m sorry she woke you; you didn’t have to take care of her” he murmurs while Chanyeol is still busy with his daughter. The taller looks up at him with a frown at the end.

“I like taking care of her” he mumbles, as if he’s bewildered by Baekhyun’s words. Baekhyun cocks his head to the side, slightly confused too, but Lay tugs on Chanyeol’s shirt just then and Chanyeol instantly turns his attention to her with a big smile. Baekhyun wrings his hands, eager and itching to snatch her in his embrace. “Good morning, mochi! Daddy is here” he lifts her, helping her to sit in his lap, and points at Baekhyun, who waves at her with a smile. The little girl stops rubbing her eyes cutely and they open wide, turning to her daddy. She explodes in mumbles and grabby hands instantly, trying to get to him.

“Aw, honeycomb” Baekhyun coos, rushing the few steps closer to the pair. Chanyeol hands her over from his seat and Baekhyun nuzzles her while holding her close. She smells like chamomile and clean linen and…a bit like Chanyeol. The scent makes the butterflies twirl and dance inside Baekhyun’s stomach and it’s really too early for this, so Baekhyun distracts himself by baby-talking to her some more, trying to ignore Chanyeol as a whole. “Did you sleep well? Was Chanyeol a good pillow? Let’s change you” he chirps and waltzes her to the dressing table; she giggles but her eyes are red from crying last night. It mustn’t have been easy to soothe her and Baekhyun feels double guilty towards Chanyeol; it seems letting him sleep on the couch wasn’t any better than waking him up and sending him home after all.

For the next ten minutes, Baekhyun is too busy with her. He follows the usual steps to change her into a clean diaper and fresh clothes, his sleep evaporating soon. He almost manages to forget about Chanyeol being in the same room, freshly awakened, gorgeous and defenseless, so soft and cuddly. Almost. So, when he catches his heart fluttering at things he shouldn’t be thinking, he tries harder to distract himself, baby-talking and cooing at Lay, kissing her red cheeks and her small hands, playing with her and ticking her neck. She is babbly, like every morning, and she laughs heartily when his fingers poke her sensitive neck. Baekhyun loves it when she laughs like this, her whole body shaking and her eyes glazing, as if the feeling takes her over completely. He hopes that makes up for her tears last night.

“That might be the prettiest thing I’ve ever heard” Chanyeol suddenly mumbles, magically appearing behind Baekhyun. And he was just about to get over him being in the room…Baekhyun’s smile freezes and he gulps uncomfortably, assessing the proximity between them. Chanyeol is standing close behind him, looking over his shoulder and literally breathing down his neck; Baekhyun almost felt the rumble of his chest when he spoke and he swears he can feel his body heat against his skin. He can do better than pull an error mode right now though, so he steps to the side, giving Chanyeol a better view of Lay lying on her dresser table –removing himself from the tight spot in the process.

“Do you want to do it?” he offers, looking at Chanyeol. The disoriented, sleepy blink Chanyeol gives him should be illegal and it takes all of Baekhyun’s willpower not to pounce on him and hug him and cuddle him for all he’s worth. Nothing has changed during the past two years, has it? Baekhyun clears his throat. “It’s like, incy wincy spider~” he demonstrates with his fingers in the air. Chanyeol still looks somewhat confused but he nods dutifully in the end.

“Okay” he agrees quietly and takes position; you’d think he’s planning on mixing dangerous chemicals instead of touching a child, whereas Lay has the biggest grin of anticipation on her lips. It’s cute. He takes a deep breath and starts poking her tentatively. “Incy wincy spider crawls up the-” he doesn’t get to finish before she bursts into loud laughter again, pushing Chanyeol’s hand away with her tiny hands. Chanyeol looks a little less sleepy when he smiles affectionately. Look at him being perfect… Baekhyun decides to be brave today and do one thing right at least, as a host.

“May I offer you a proper bed to sleep for a while? It’s a bit messy but…” he shrugs, pointing in the direction of his room with a meek smile. He didn’t concern himself with the covers when he got up to run to his child, but he changed the sheets last night, so they should be relatively fresh on the side of the bed he doesn’t use, and he is sure his bed is infinitely better than the couch. Chanyeol thinks about it for a moment; he’s probably still sleepy but that doesn’t make Baekhyun fret any less that his offer was inappropriate. They’ve shared beds with each other before –in a completely platonic way– so he didn’t think much of it, but what if Chanyeol doesn’t see it that way anymore, what if he grew out of this sort of comfortable arrangements between friends?

Chanyeol ends Baekhyun’s mental race with a drowsy smile of his plum lips. Why is he so gorgeous, with ruffled hair and puffy eyes? “Thanks Baek” he purrs, in his deep velvet voice, and Baekhyun freezes, eyes wide. Omg he called me Baek in that voice oh god HeLP.

“We’ll call you for breakfast” he manages to stutter with a forced smile, as Chanyeol walks out of the nursery, heading to Baekhyun’s bed when he looks like that and just- life is unfair. So unfair. Baekhyun would sell parts of his soul to have Chanyeol napping in his bed under different circumstances –so different that it would end up being another life– and now he’s in this weird situation, where he’s an emotionally conflicted mess, he has to make breakfast for his chirpy child, he’s still embarrassed for the stiff and awkward way he acted around Chanyeol last night and this morning –he’s not good at keeping distance from people, especially when all he wants is to cuddle up to those people– and Chanyeol is sleeping on his pillow for all the innocent sleepover reasons, instead of everything more complicated or naughty Baekhyun would have imagined. Whose life is this?

Baekhyun is halfway down the stairs with Lay in his arms, thinking about breakfast, when his smile freezes for a moment; Chanyeol will be leaving his house later today, wearing the same clothes he wore when he came in last night. What will his neighbors say?!



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June 2017


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