Summary: A new apartment in Berlin, new roommates, it's a new start for Tao. It could be everything he wanted... if only Chanyeol wouldn't hate him.
A/N: This fic is heavily inspired by Exo's “die Jungs” photoshoot (so if you haven't already, you should definitely watch their Behind the Scenes, esp. 0:54-6:08 and 10:13-15:32 which show the apartment)
Stepping out of the bright yellow tram, Tao fell in love immediately. The street was lined on both sides with typical altbau apartment buildings, each section a different pastel colour. The rustling autumn leaves in the linden trees provided a pleasant shade as Tao strolled down the street in search for the right house number. He'd been to this part of Berlin before, but this time it was to move into his new apartment. Passing by a tattoo studio, an organic food store, a Vietnamese deli, and a playground, it took him a while to reach his destination because he couldn't resist peer into the windows of several little independent designer stores.
To get to his new apartment, Tao entered through a graffiti-covered front door, then followed the corridor out into a small inner courtyard, nothing more than a quiet, paved square crammed full with old, rusty bikes and garbage containers. On four sides it was surrounded by walls several storeys high and when Tao directed his wandering gaze upwards, the clear sky lay on top of everything like a square, blue lid. High windows in neat rows blinked in the afternoon sun and Tao wondered behind which his new room was waiting for him. Some of the windows were cracked open, filling the air with the smell of early dinners being cooked.
To Tao's right, a door much like the outer front door led from the courtyard into the side wing where Tao's new home would be. He took the stone stairs to the third floor–there was no elevator but he was pretty athletic anyway–and fit his new keys into the lock. With a deep breath, he pushed the apartment door open.
Several pairs of shoes, strewn across the hardwood floor in the hallway, told Tao that his roommates were at home, at least some of them. He set his duffel bag and the small suitcase he'd brought down. The rest of his stuff he'd move over here from his old place bit by bit. There were some hooks on the wall by the entrance, so he hung up his light coat, toed off his shoes, and went further into the apartment where he could hear voices. But there was no one in the spacious, homely living room, so Tao called out a “hello?” and peeked into the next room, the kitchen, almost timidly, being new and all.
Sitting on two of the four chairs around a simple wooden kitchen table were two guys about Tao's age. They jumped up to greet him as soon as they saw him, one with a nice smile, the other, slightly taller, guy shyer but just as welcoming. They introduced themselves as Suho and Kai in German, then the one called Suho asked him if he spoke Korean. Being able to talk to them in Korean, the language he was most comfortable with after his mother tongue, Tao breathed a sigh of relief. He had studied in Korea for four years before he'd followed his boyfriend to Germany where he'd been studying business for a year now. But the language with its harsh sounds and too many consonants still fell awkwardly from his tongue. They made some small talk and Tao learned that the two had met at the Berlin University of the Arts, Suho majoring in performing arts and Kai in literature and painting.
“Ah, so the canvases and all the books are yours?” Tao said to Kai, referring to the painting utensils he'd seen propped up everywhere in the living room and the huge, overflowing bookshelf that took up the majority of one wall.
“Not only me. Hyungs like to read too, and some books were left here by previous tenants. Same with the furniture,” Kai laughed a little, “that's why nothing matches.”
“I like it,” Tao said and he meant it. Then he offered a brief version of his own story, how he'd lived with a friend–he left out the boyfriend part–and how said friend had left him with barely so much as a goodbye at the end of last semester when his parents took him home to China where they'd gotten him into a promising position in a big company. Tao didn't want to stay in their shared apartment alone. It was full of now unpleasant memories and very empty of everything else. Luckily, Tao's best friend in Korea, Sehun, knew someone who was acquainted with a Korean lady who'd come to Berlin as a nurse, got married, and now owned and rented out this apartment to Korean exchange students–a bit like a hasukjib. Sehun had put in a good word for Tao and that was how he'd gotten a new place to move into.
Leaving Kai to finish the meal he'd been having in the kitchen, Suho gave Tao a tour of the rest of the apartment, chattering and introducing everything in a way that made Tao's lips quirk up into easy smiles every now and then at how motherly it all felt. Suho was the oldest of the bunch and readily took on the role of the caring hyung.
Besides the kitchen, the living room, and the hallway, there was a tiny bathroom, a study with two huge desks, and two bedrooms, one of which was shared by Suho and Kai. Tao marvelled at the very high ceilings and the polished hardwood floors, light flooding the rooms through high windows and light curtains, the mismatching and well-worn furniture giving off a homely feel.
“And this,” Suho said and opened the last door with a flourish, “is your room. Chanyeol, who's going to be your roommate, isn't home right now. You'll meet him later. Just make yourself comfortable, and if you need anything, don't hesitate to call me or Kai. Do you want help with your stuff?”
“No, it's fine, thank you,” Tao said as he stepped into the room, looking around and taking everything in. Two beds with wooden frames stood against opposite walls which were painted a neutral off-white but plastered with posters of bands and movies Tao didn't know. One bed was untouched but the other one obviously used; the blankets were crumpled and Rilakkuma bears and a phone charger drowned in pillows and the messy pile of the cover. On top of it all, an acoustic guitar was balanced precariously.
Suho retreated discreetly and left Tao to make himself at home. He lugged his stuff in from the hallway and put his clothes onto hangers in one of the two wardrobes which he assumed was his to use since he'd found it empty. Chanyeol still hadn't returned so Tao decided to poke around the room a bit more, trying to learn what he could about him. He was definitely into music, that much was clear. In addition to the guitar, Tao discovered a keyboard by the window and even a collection of vinyl records. Liking music himself, Tao was happy at the prospect of bonding over it with his roommate. He hoped their tastes would match. Next, he took a curious peek into the other wardrobe, finding comfortable as well as pretty stylish clothes in a size similar to his own, so his roomie had to be about as tall as him. A massive collection of snapbacks filled the entire top shelf.
Humming, Tao picked one that he liked particularly well and placed it on his head. In search of the mirror he thought he'd seen on one of the walls earlier, he noticed that one part in the back of the room was separated by a curtain. Curiously, he looked behind it and found the least thing he'd expected in a bedroom–a bathtub. Maybe it simply hadn't fit into the tiny bathroom, or it was a very eccentric piece of furniture. Tao was just leaning over to test the water tap when he heard the door opening and looked up to see who was entering. The tall, brown-haired guy made a sound of surprise when his eyes fell on Tao and he waved, showing a bright grin, before his gaze reached the familiar snapback on Tao's head and the smile slipped right off his face. In a matter of seconds, he was up in Tao's space and ripped the hat off, leaving his hair in a mess. Eyebrows set into an angry frown, his deep voice boomed. “Don't touch my stuff!”
That wasn't how Tao had wanted his first meeting with Chanyeol to go. And their relationship only took a nosedive from there.
One Friday night when Tao got dressed up to go clubbing, carefully drawing on some eyeliner in front of the mirror, he could feel Chanyeol's glare boring into his back. He thought he even heard a depreciative mumble of “conceited”. But when Tao turned around to meet his gaze, Chanyeol averted his eyes and ignored Tao completely until he was out of the door. He treated Tao like air a lot which left Tao with a constant, low thrum of sadness and regret, a feeling like a missed chance.
But the fights were even worse.
One time, Chanyeol yelled at Tao after he'd been on skype with Sehun for hours, talking animatedly about everything, from his laments about his classes and the dog poop and cigarette butts on the sidewalks to his excitement about the great americano in the new café down the street and the beautiful pictures he'd taken on his last stroll through Treptower Park. Tao hadn't noticed how time had flown but it was dark outside when he closed the lid of his laptop to a very agitated looking Chanyeol who got up from the keyboard chair and flung his headphones off his ears.
“It's nice you're having such a great time with your fucking boyfriend but I have to work here. I have to get this fucking composition done till tomorrow. How the hell am I supposed to do that with all the noise you're making. And this isn't the first time. Is it fun for you?” spat Chanyeol, talking himself into a rage as he approached Tao who was sitting on his bed. “You're such an inconsiderate piece of trash. If you don't shut up next time, I'll make you.” Chanyeol even went so far as to grab Tao by the collar of his shirt and shake him, his furious grimace only centimeters from Tao's face.
Tao felt bad that he'd disturbed Chanyeol. But with him invading Tao's space and shouting at him like that, Tao's guilt was overpowered by anger. If anything, Chanyeol was the inconsiderate one, always tinkering with his musical instruments regardless of whether Tao was trying to get through one of his boring reading assignments or not, but of course Chanyeol thought his dumb music major was so much more important. Tao wouldn't let someone like Chanyeol tell him he was inconsiderate, especially not today. He'd just gotten excited while talking to his best friend, that could hardly be held against him. On the contrary, he'd been so happy but his asshole of a roommate had to go and ruin it.
“Sehun isn't my boyfriend, fuckface.” Tao said and grabbed Chanyeol's wrists, intending to push him off. Out of all the thoughts in his head, Tao didn't know why this was the only one he could articulate in that moment. But strangely, it seemed to make Chanyeol lay off him. He stopped trying to shake Tao, only giving him another glare, this one sort of confused, before he released him with a shove that made Tao fall back on his bed. And, fuck, for a split second Tao wanted to pull Chanyeol down with him and crash their lips together, settle their quarrels with a hug and... more, feel Chanyeol palm between his legs with hot, angry hands.
Hell, where did that desire suddenly come from? Tao jumped up and stormed out of the door, grabbing his coat from the hook in the hallway and jamming his feet into his shoes. He stomped down the street, nearly bumping into a couple. Even this late, there were still many people out and about, drunk but mostly harmless party-goers. The night air was clear and, having turned around a corner and walked down a smaller, quieter cobblestone street, Tao's anger had simmered down, only leaving an inconvenient burn in his lower stomach, inconvenient because he knew this feeling all to well and the least person he wanted to want that way was Chanyeol.
Of course he'd noticed that Chanyeol was just the type he usually found himself falling for, tall, handsome, long legs that Tao'd love to see wrapped around his waist, big hands that... But, no, despite all the things they found out they had in common–from their love of music, animals, and good food, to habits like sleeping in whenever possible, and even a bunch of personality traits–they just clashed badly. Though tonight, with the memory of Chanyeol's face up close still fresh in his mind, Tao thought he'd really looked stressed, eye-bags, chapped lips, hair dishevelled as if he'd pulled it in frustration. Tao did feel sorry for disturbing him. He'd dreamed of studying music at one point in his life, too, but his parents had talked him out of it and enrolled him in business school. “Study something useful,” they'd said, “you'll thank us later. We know what's best for you.” But his heart wasn't in it. He didn't want to ruin it for Chanyeol who was living his dream.
On his way back home, he passed by a snack bar that was still open, selling falafel and kebab to hungry passer-bys which gave him an idea. He sneaked a box of take-out and a water bottle on Chanyeol's keyboard chair when he was on a toilet break, then jumped into his bed and pretended to be asleep with his earphones in. He couldn't turn around and look or he'd blow his cover but he fell asleep trying to suppress the quirk of his lips as he imagined Chanyeol's face upon finding the note he'd stuck on it that said “I'm not apologizing! But, hyung, you have to eat and drink”.
The next time he ran into Chanyeol was when he got home after his classes and as soon as he opened the door, a delicious smell wafting through the apartment made his stomach growl and lured him into the kitchen. His hopes that either Kai or Suho were cooking and he could sweet-talk them into feeding him were crushed when he saw Chanyeol's tall form standing at the hearth instead. His steps slowed down, and he was right in the middle of an awkward half-turn, thinking he'd rather avoid the kitchen for now when Chanyeol noticed him and, uncharacteristically, greeted him with a smile. But soon after, he seemed to remember that they weren't exactly best friends and schooled his features into a neutral expression. It was like a curtain of clouds being drawn over the sun and made Tao a bit mad that Chanyeol was so petty he wouldn't even keep smiling at Tao.
“How long's that going to take?” He asked grumpily, pointing at Chanyeol's pot. “I need the kitchen.”
Chanyeol poked the contents of his pot with a wooden spoon. “The potatoes are going to take a while. But there are three other burners, what's stopping you?”
Tao stepped closer to scrutinize Chanyeol's pot. “Why are there potatoes in your kimchi stew?”
“Because why the hell not? They're cheap here in Germany.” Chanyeol shrugged and then proceeded to ignore Tao who was rummaging around in the kitchen cabinets, looking for food and the utensils he needed to prepare it, ending up with empty hands and a dejected wail. “I don't know what to make.” A growl of his stomach could be heard even over the bubbling of the pot on the stove.
Wordlessly, Chanyeol lifted the lid, ladled stew into a bowl–no potatoes–and set it in front of Tao.
“Chanyeol...” Tao said, suppressing the urge to pinch himself. He had to be dreaming, Chanyeol was only ever nice to him in his dreams. The stew smelled mouth-wateringly delicious. Tao swallowed and grabbed a spoon from the cutlery drawer after quickly throwing his arms around Chanyeol's middle.
“Yeah, yeah,” his roommate grumbled and shoved him away, ears red. “You have to eat and drink, too, so you have the strength to learn some respect. Really, calling me hyung for the first time, but the rest of that note just showed what a rude little brat you are.”
“Am not,” Tao said in between bites as he dug into his meal. Chanyeol cuffed him in the upper arm to which Tao replied with a light punch to Chanyeol's stomach, enough to send a huff of air out of his lungs. Tao was pretty sure he hadn't hit hard enough to hurt seriously, so it had to be theatrics when Chanyeol wheezed. “Damn, you pack a good one.”
“I used to do martial arts,” Tao said, pleased as punch.
“In other words, I've got no chance if I fight fair?” Chanyeol's eyes narrowed into a sly smile. When he slowly lifted the ladle in his hands like a club, Tao jumped up from his seat, ducked under Chanyeol's arm and escaped from the kitchen, cradling his bowl of stew to his chest. Better not take any chances.
“Not even a thank you for the food?” Chanyeol yelled after him. Tao snickered.
A few days later, Tao placed a colourful paper bag on Chanyeol's bed and hung around their room playing on his phone until Chanyeol found it. He saw the bag but obviously didn't realize it was a present, because he snatched it up and thrust it at Tao. “Don't put your shit on my bed.”
Tao felt himself smirk. He was starting to find it kind of amusing how easily he could enrage Chanyeol who usually wasn't the type to lose his temper, ever. Tao took the bag and made a show of holding it up and reading the little note strapped to it.
“'To Chanyeol: Thanks~,' it says. But I guess if you don't want it, I'll take it back. I bet this looks better on me anyway.” With those words, he reached into the bag and produced a snapback in a black and white houndstooth pattern and some lettering printed on the front. He strutted over to the mirror and set the cap on his head, turning it this way and that, but soon Chanyeol snatched it from his head just like the first time they'd met.
This time, though, Tao went after Chanyeol who danced backwards and hid the cap behind his back, always holding it out of Tao's reach, not matter how hard Tao tried to get it back. He even twirled it tauntingly around his fingers, holding it out of reach just as Tao lunged for it. Chanyeol held it so high up behind his back that Tao couldn't grab it, even standing almost chest to chest with Chanyeol, on tiptoes, wriggling the fingers on his outstretched arms. Damned tall opponents. He sunk back on his heels and pouted at Chanyeol who only sneered at him.
“Give it back,” Tao demanded.
“No, it's mine. You gave it to me.” They battled with their glares, neither even thinking about backing down until... Chanyeol swiftly placed it on Tao's head, visor pointing backwards, and grinned. “But you may borrow it if you ask nicely.”
Since Chanyeol kept holding on to the visor with both hands, his arms enclosed Tao who in turn was stuck with his arms lifted over Chanyeol's shoulders. Almost like they were embracing each other. As soon as Tao realized this, he tried to push the thought far away but it persisted and he became hyper-aware of Chanyeol's closeness.
“I don't want it anymore,” he said, pushing his lips out even more, hoping his voice wasn't shaking.
Like a pair of glowing coals, Chanyeol's eyes dropped to Tao's puckered lips and when they came back up and met Tao's gaze, realizing that Tao had noticed their trajectory, Chanyeol pushed so roughly out of Tao's arms that Tao stumbled, the backs of his knees hitting the bed frame. He could just barely catch himself on his hands, managing not to hit his head against the wall. He got up into a sitting position and caught Chanyeol's gaze who was kind of frozen in the doorway, half out the door with the handle in his hand. There was a redness in his round cheeks, a slight panic in his eyes, and his plump lips shone with a natural gloss. Heatedly, Tao pictured pressing him against the door frame and ravishing him.
After this incident, though, Chanyeol went out of his way to avoid Tao.
“Why can't he just be with me the way you are with Kai?” Tao whined one late afternoon when he and Suho were the only ones home. Suho always had an open ear and good advice when Tao came to him with his worries. Tao hugged a pillow to his chest, resting his chin on top of it, and watched Suho set his mug full of tea down.
“I don't think you want that,” Suho said, chuckling lightly. He was so mild-mannered, the way he hid his laugh behind his hand, so different from Chanyeol whose laugh was loud and full.
“Why?” Tao asked with a pout.
“Well, we get mistaken for a gay couple all the time.”
They heard the entrance door opening and a moment later Kai came into the living room, scuffing his socked feet tiredly, and let himself fall onto the couch where Suho was sitting. Making pitiful noises, he draped himself over Suho's thighs, arms stretched out lifelessly and his face buried in Suho's lap. “Rough day?” Suho asked quietly, fondly, and pushed a hand under Kai's sweater to rub his bare side. Kai turned and wriggled until he lay comfortably on his back, nodding. “But it's starting to look up,” he said and smiled up at Suho, arching his chest into Suho's petting hand like a cat.
'Mistaken, huh?' Tao thought as he watched the strangely intimate scene, a bit jealous that he could only hold a pillow. He'd seen Chanyeol hugging his friends, being affectionate with his sister when she'd come over from Korea to visit a few weeks ago, he'd seen Chanyeol coddle Kai, too. As someone who loved, almost craved, close physical contact, Tao thought he and Chanyeol would make a good team. They could share the huge rattan love chair no one really used, Chanyeol playing his guitar and Tao doing his readings for class, both minding their own business but with the added benefit of feeling someone comfortingly pressed up against their sides.
“I just don't get why he doesn't like me,” Tao sighed.
Suho shook his head slowly, thoughtfully. “He loves making friends. Getting along with people easily is something he prides himself on. But he's also pretty stubborn, so it's possible that something happened between you two he's stuck on.”
Tao thought back to all the fights they'd had since the very first moment. He sunk deeper into the couch with a look of dejection on his face.
“Chanyeol? I think he likes you,” Kai said out of the blue, startling Tao who'd thought the boy had fallen fast asleep under Suho's hands.
“But that's what I've just been saying.” Tao said, frowning. “He doesn't.”
“I meant like like,” Kai emphasizes. To Tao he sounded like a child who was trying to be wise. What did he know. Chanyeol couldn't even stand Tao being close to his things, fat chance he like liked him. Directing a doubtful glance at Suho whom he trusted more to make sense, he only got a vague shrug in return, and so they dropped the topic.
Tao wished he could stop thinking about it, too. But his roommate kept popping up in his head as if everything he saw reminded him of Chanyeol. Sometimes he'd burst through the door of their shared room, yelling something like “Chanyeol! There's this trailer on TV, you have to watch-” only to find the room as empty as a bird's nest in winter. More often than not, Chanyeol spent the night at a friend's place these days. He really did all he could to avoid Tao, even going so far as to pick up a change of clothes or whatever else he needed when he knew Tao had classes.
The only advantage was that Tao could be as noisy as he wanted. But even that palled when there was no Chanyeol around to tell him off. It wasn't that Tao missed the fights with Chanyeol, he just missed Chanyeol. He took the lonely acoustic guitar, set it on his lap, and strummed a few simple chords. “That was terrible,” came a laughing voice from his laptop. It sat open beside him on the bed, a big skype window showing Sehun's face. Tao had told his best friend everything, and Sehun had listened to him talk about Chanyeol for hours.
“Yeah, I know,” Tao laughed dryly at himself as he let his fingers glide over the chords which produced more off-key sounds, “I had guitar lessons back at school but I forgot everything. I wish Chanyeol would appear magically and teach me.”
“You know if he'd magically appear and find you with his guitar, he'd suckerpunch you into next week.”
“I almost wish he would.” Tao sighed.
“Whoa there, keep your little kinks to yourself, man.” Sehun chuckled. He could be such an ass sometimes, and Tao would probably terminate their best friends for life contract if his face wasn't so cute. Setting the guitar aside in favour of jabbing his finger into the screen, Tao yelled. “Oh Sehun, I will have you know that I'm not a masochist! I don't really want him to punch me. I guess I just... I just want his attention.”
Even though he'd already told Sehun every minute detail, admitting he liked Chanyeol still made Tao bashful so he buried his chin in the neckline of his shirt and nibbled on the hem line. It was one of Chanyeol's, a loose black tank top with large arm holes, but Tao wasn't being creepy, it was just that the one shirt he owned in that same style was in the laundry. He would have asked Chanyeol if he could borrow the shirt but he wasn't here. So he'd just taken it. And it wasn't like he'd smelled it to see if it smelled like Chanyeol or anything. Living in the same room, all of their stuff smelled the same anyway.
“Tao?” The call of his name and the door opening unexpectedly almost made Tao's heart stop, but the quiet voice belonged to Kai, not Chanyeol. “I found this ad in the paper. I thought you might be interested in it. You said you used to do yoga along with your wushu, right?”
He handed Tao a small newspaper clipping, sitting down gingerly on the edge of his bed as he waited for Tao to read through it and reply. Tao squinted at the German words, pretty sure he'd understood them correctly, but he wondered if Kai had because this didn't make sense. He looked up with a confused frown.
“You do know that the German word for friend can mean just friend or boyfriend, girlfriend? I bet this isn't just partner yoga but couple yoga. What am I supposed to do with it?”
Kai hung his shoulders at Tao's unenthusiastic response to his idea. “I know that, but-”
“Or did you mean to ask me to go with you?”
“Nooo,” Kai broke into laughter, “I meant, for you and Chanyeol, you know? To help you get along. And you're both not morning persons. This 'morning yoga' course sounds like a relaxing way to wake up... and I thought it could aid your harmony and cooperation.”
“I'll consider it. It's sweet of you to tell me. But you should really consider going, too,” Tao chuckled and pulled Kai into a one-armed hug, tousling his soft hair with his free hand. “I never find you not sleepwalking when you have to be up before ten. I don't know how you don't bump into things all the time. You even eat with your eyes closed.”
Teasingly, he added, “I'm sure your favourite hyung would go with you,” and laughed when Kai floundered, blushing and denying, “We're not like that!”
Tao wasn't so sure about that when he got home earlier than usual one evening, their professor having dismissed them after collecting the due assignments, and found his usually quiet roommates chasing each other through the apartment, laughing and stumbling over everything in their way. Kai was waving a collection of papers–one of Suho's theater scripts–and gave full-throated, overdramatic renditions of the lines while running away from Suho. With a quirk of his eyebrow, Tao also noted that Kai was wearing a shirt several sizes too small for him, and the only one with that size in this apartment was Suho, so he decided to slip into his room quietly and leave them to do... whatever it was they were doing.
With the same spark of hope as every day, Tao opened the door to his room but was disappointed like every other time. Chanyeol wasn't there. Aimlessly wandering through the room, not knowing what to do with his extra free time, Tao let his fingertips run over the ears of Chanyeol's plushies and over the smooth plastic keys of his keyboard until he decided to run a bath.
Stripping down and sinking into the hot water, he let it work its relaxing magic and just luxuriated in it for a long while, casting all negative feelings out. Through the curtain, the light took on a warm, yellow-orange glow like a mood light and Tao leaned his head and arms on the rim of the tub, closing his eyes. The fragrant water gently caressed his body, making him feel wonderfully lazy and sleepy. The tub was big enough to stretch out his legs completely and he began daydreaming about how nice it would be if it housed another person... Chanyeol. They were both really tall, but Chanyeol was a bit bow-legged anyway, so Tao would fit between his legs perfectly, maybe even hook his ankles around Chanyeol's slim waist.
Or he'd sit on his knees, and dream-Chanyeol would let Tao slide closer and hook his arms around Chanyeol's neck, and lean in to press kisses to his lips. He'd run his hands down Tao's back, appreciating the downward curve as Tao'd arch his spine like a cat, rubbing his chest and belly against Chanyeol's, the slide of skin on skin hot and slick from the bath water. He'd stick his butt out, put on a bit of a show for Chanyeol who'd grip him hard, dig his fingers into the giving flesh.
At this point, Tao became aware of the heat rising to his face as arousal spread through his body. He took himself in his hand and brought his cock to full hardness, stroking lazily and enjoying the easy glide of his wet skin. Bending his legs, not caring that the tops of his knees were now sticking out of the water and cooling in the air, he opened his legs and slid one hand down past his balls. Timing his touches with his fantasy, he imagined it were Chanyeol's fingertips that breached the entrance to his most intimate place. Filling himself up like this, he came soon after.
He drained the soiled bath water and climbed out of the tub to wrap a towel around his hips. Just as he stepped in front of the mirror to check his face for any blemishes, the door opened.
Tao looked up and his gaze met Chanyeol's.
His heart leapt, yearning to just take Chanyeol into his arms and forget about their stupid disputes. He wanted his roommate back, Chanyeol whom he had missed more than he'd even realized until now. Chanyeol who had just fingered him to orgasm in his fantasy. The pleasant thrum was still buzzing below his skin and he could feel his cock stirring in interest again just at the sight of Chanyeol.
But it was clear that Chanyeol hadn't expected him to be home.
He was standing rooted to the spot in the open door, eyes sweeping over Tao's form for a long moment. Tense silence stretched between them until Chanyeol parted his lips and moistened them with a brief swipe of his tongue. “I just came to get some stuff. I need my charger,” he declared tersely.
Tao wondered why Chanyeol was staring at him pointedly instead of saying or doing anything else until he noticed the device plugged into the power outlet at his feet. He couldn't believe how ridiculous Chanyeol was acting right now. He sent a scathing smile his way and asked. “Am I in your way?”
“Could you hand me the charger?” Chanyeol asked, reluctantly accepting that Tao wouldn't just vanish into thin air when it was convenient for him. He would have to interact with him and talk to him like a normal human being. Still, Chanyeol crossed his arms in front of his chest and didn't come a single step closer.
So Tao said “no” and turned back to the mirror, knowing full well that he was provoking Chanyeol. What he didn't expect was Chanyeol crossing the room with thundering steps and pushing him roughly. Tao's back collided with the side of the wardrobe that stood there, jostling its frame, and he flinched when Chanyeol punched his fist into the wood right beside his head. He'd really made him furious this time.
Chanyeol caged him in bodily, one hand pinning his shoulder hard against the wardrobe, the other pressed against the wood beside his head. He was so close that Tao felt his angry pants of breath fan over his lips and throat, and he subtly shifted to bare more of his skin. His cock twitched and being almost naked except for a towel around his waist, he wanted Chanyeol, wanted him to turn him around and take him against the wardrobe.
“I hate you.”
And that sobered him up pretty fast. The words hurt like a punch in the chest. Even with all their fights, Tao had believed that there was already a sense of friendship between them that couldn't be destroyed by anything. He'd thought once Chanyeol had calmed down, he'd come around and move back in, and they'd continue their bickering in between leaving secret little tokens to show how much they actually cared about each other. Hearing Chanyeol speak the word “hate” now, Tao had to wonder if he'd been mistaken all this time. Were they irreparable? The thought made tears prickle in Tao's eyes. Cursing that he'd always been someone who cried easily, he took a shaky breath, tried to swallow the tears down, and steeled himself to look into Chanyeol's eyes.
“You hate me?” Fuck, his voice broke pathetically.
Chanyeol hung his head. His hand with which he'd pinned Tao's shoulder against the wardrobe released the pressure and slid up, collecting the water drops, remains from his bath, that were still dotting Tao's collarbones. He let his hand curl along the nape of Tao's neck, an almost caress. When he spoke, he didn't look at Tao.
“I hate that I don't hate you. I hate that you had to be my roommate. Why couldn't it have been someone I don't care about? I hate that you're so, shit, so gorgeous. I hate that I want you. I hate that you like my music. I hate that you're so cute when you're scared of bugs but I hate it even more that you never call me to help throw them out. I hate that you can't shut up when you skype with your friends but you never talk to me. ...I hate that it's mostly my fault,” he ended with a sigh.
Chanyeol's face mirrored his pain from the inner turmoil he was going through. He was an open book with a clear font and big illustrations and didn't hide any of it. Tao often wore his heart on his sleeve, too, and knowing how vulnerable that left a person, he felt any remaining traces of resentment and self-pity melt away from in his chest, leaving his heart raw and aching for Chanyeol.
“Fuck, I've been running away from myself all this time. What a coward I am, I've already run away to a country where I could just walk down the street hand in hand with the person I love in broad daylight. No one would turn and stare–I could even legally marry–but I'm still afraid. Do you think I'm disgusting? For the record, I like girls, too. But I'm more into guys. Especially,” Chanyeol swallowed, “hot guys standing around half naked in my room. You should better get dressed.”
“Why?” Tao said with an air of defiance. He hated the dead look in Chanyeol's eyes, the self-depreciating words he said, and Tao would rather rile him up again, see him alive with the fire of anger. But Chanyeol didn't rise to the challenge in his question. Instead, he dropped his hand, releasing Tao, stepping backwards until he hit the wall, arms crossed behind him and head dropping back against the ingrain wallpaper. He coughed out a humourless laugh before he answered.
“So that I can stop deluding myself into thinking I have a chance with you.”
Tao's first reaction was the urge to punch Chanyeol in the chest, in the arms, in every open surface he could pound some sense into, to shout “why didn't you tell me sooner?” It could have saved them so much pain. But then he got a great idea and had to suppress a smirk. Oh yes, getting back at Chanyeol a bit for the shock he gave Tao when he said he hated him. Even now, especially now with Chanyeol's heart laid out for him, he couldn't refrain from a little bit of mischievousness. Payback time.
“Yeah, you should stop deluding yourself,” he said in the most aloof manner he could muster. Chanyeol's face fell and seeing how he struggled to fix it in a brave attempt to bear the rejection made Tao take pity on him. So instead of letting him stew a bit longer, he continued, “-and better get the fuck over here and kiss me.”
The face Chanyel made was priceless. It had such utter disbelief written all over it that Tao couldn't hold back anymore and broke into a huge grin, the one that made him self-conscious because he knew he looked stupid, but Chanyeol didn't care. He sunk down, clutching his heart and groaning.
“You asshole, I really thought that was it.”
Tao shook his head no, his smile softening. He reached out and grabbed Chanyeol's wrist, tugging. “I want you, too,” he admitted. Chanyeol let himself be pulled in, his body slumping into Tao's so that he nearly crushed him under his weight and stumbled a little.
“You suck.” Tao pulled a face and struggled to heave Chanyeol up.
“Yeah, but you probably suck better,” Chanyeol said, the twinkle returning to his eyes, and Tao flushed as want rolled through him like a hot wave. He grabbed a fistful of Chanyeol's hair so he couldn't move his head anywhere and slotted their lips together, claiming their first kiss. Chanyeol made a beautiful, deep sound at the back of his throat and slid one hand between their bodies to tug at the knot that held the towel around Tao's hips, letting it fall away.
Later when they were curled up together in bed, sticky and content, Tao remembered something and he asked. “Hey hyung, there was this ad in the paper. What are your thoughts on couple yoga?”