Title: Say anything (but say what you mean)
Length: 37735 words
Summary: The only thing that's scarier than a cockroach infestation, Kyungsoo thinks, is falling in love.
Author's note: Recepient-nim, I hope this is to your liking! Your prompts were really great and I really had fun writing this. :) Also, many, many thanks to Z for the hand-holding, beta, cheerleading, you name it. :) A tiny track list for this fic: Mae's Suspension, Gavin DeGraw's You Got Me, and Snow Patrol's Open Your Eyes.
"So," Jongdae says, wiggling his eyebrows before continuing, "We all know about the new hire, right?"
"We don't," comes Kyungsoo's curt reply as he unzips his costume, then shimmies out of it the rest of the way. "Because unlike some of you, I don't have time to gossip." He had to fill in for Jongin earlier and assume the role of some weird creature in an oasis, but Jongdae had unceremoniously relegated him to the 'mysterious immovable creatures' department right before his shift started. So he just stayed rooted to his spot, spent a whole three hours standing and just staring at people – that's right – as they passed him by, and hoped they'd notice the way he looked at them, eyes wide and expression void of any emotion. It had been harder to mask boredom before, but he's already been doing this for three years. Lack of emotion is almost a default expression for him now, even in the face of something scary.
The truth is, at this point, nothing scares him shitless anymore. Aside from cockroaches, maybe. Those things are the work of the devil.
"Thank you, Kyungsoo. You are the nicest, sweetest–" Jongdae chokes when Kyungsoo slaps him hard on the arm. "–most powerful zombie in all of Scaredy Cats– If you do that one more time, I swear to God I am condemning you to the immovables forever!"
"All bark, no bite," Kyungsoo says, humming, then hangs the costume in the closet. Jongdae kicks him in the ass, but apologizes soon after and pats the sore area gently.
The other scare givers start to return from the last shift – Sehun in his ghost costume, Baekhyun in his best imitation of Count Dracula that only makes look like a kicked puppy than anything else, and Joonmyun who is dressed in rather casual clothes, save for the messy bloodwork on his polo and legs. This is it, Kyungsoo's tiny family of scare givers, the only circle of friends he's retained from when he graduated from university and got hit by some unfortunate disease that has rendered his vocal chords weak and his dreams unreachable. Part-timers don't stay until the evening, but then that's better – less people to crowd Jongdae's office that's also the dressing room, less people to look after and pay attention to. Less people to bump into after a long day spent trying to scare the living daylights out of scare takers.
"As I was saying, the new hire," Jongdae reiterates. "He's coming in tomorrow. Please treat him nicely."
Baekhyun shoots Kyungsoo a look that more or less says oh, you don't have to worry about us, Jongdae. Kyungsoo, however–, so he nudges Baekhyun with his elbow even before Baekhyun can open his mouth to speak. Jongdae gives Kyungsoo a big smile, then says, "And I'm assigning you to train him." Baekhyun's crazy grin dissolves into laughter and he starts slapping Kyungsoo on the lap, so Kyungsoo pushes him aside until Baekhyun falls on Sehun (and Sehun rams his feet into Joonmyun, and Jongdae just shakes his head at them and mumbles, kids.).
"Why me? Why not…" Kyungsoo looks around, the points at Joonmyun. "Joonmyun-hyung's more patient with students. If you want the new kid to resign on his first day, sure, give him to me–"
"You're the best scare giver we've got," Jongdae replies, smiling. "Please?"
"No buts," Jongdae says with finality, then snakes an arm around Kyungsoo. He gives Kyungsoo's arm a light squeeze, and Kyungsoo only frowns all the more, the downward pull on the corners of his lips straining his cheeks. "Besides, it's been a while since you last partnered up with anyone. Joonmyun-hyung's already got his arms full just making sure Baekhyun and Sehun don't screw up."
"We heard that!" comes muffled voices from the floor. And then another– "Don't worry, we're alright! Just tangled on the floor, nothing unusual!"
There's a reason why I do this scaring thing alone, Kyungsoo wants to say, but Jongdae has long left in favor of addressing the pile of humans on the floor. Gingerly, he helps Baekhyun up, then pinches Baekhyun in his side before Baekhyun could walk away.
Confession time: ants actually scare the shit out of him when they attack in large groups. Also, massive groups of people.
Ultimately, having to place his complete trust in someone he hardly knows and trust that everything will work out just fine.
☹ ☹ ☹
'New Guy' turns up at work early the following day – eight in the morning, an hour earlier than the usual clock in time. "I'm impressed," Jongdae says, and New Guy looks at him (down at him; he's too tall, like he's 90% limbs and 10% everything else) with a huge grin on his lips. "If the others actually came in early then maybe we could have a theme park in the morning, then transform it to a horror house in the afternoon!"
"Too much work. And shouldn't it be the other way around?" Kyungsoo mumbles, slipping past the small space between the door and New Guy. He makes a beeline for his make-up case, then checks the schedule on the board. "I don't have a morning scaredule?"
"Hah! Funny! Scaredule," New Guy blurts out, and Kyungsoo looks at him with wide eyes. There's a thick blanket of silence for a while and, when Kyungsoo looks at Jongdae, there's the same brand of surprise in the way Jongdae cocks an eyebrow at New Guy. "Whoops, sorry. Is that… what you call your scaring shifts?"
New Guy has big eyes that almost pop out of their sockets when he widens them, shifting between looking at Kyungsoo and at Jongdae in search of an answer. Jongdae keeps it in much longer, does that thing where he sort of chews on his bottom lip and the inside of his cheek and looks at anything but the person he's supposed to be talking to, and Kyungsoo keeps blinking, like that will make New Guy retract his statement and maybe summon a hole in the ground that can eat him up. Maybe he'd get stuck somewhere in the middle, what with his long legs and all – he probably won't fit in the caskets they use for the final leg of the scare journey. He probably won't fit in any of the costumes at all.
Jongdae cackles after a while, finally losing it, and envelops New Guy in a hug like they've know each other for a long time already. But then that's just how Jongdae is – extremely touchy, be it with people (living or dead) or things, especially things. He gets strangely attached to props that need to be disposed, claiming that they have already carved a fond memory in his heart. In reality, he just wants to make profit out of them, but then who likes old, rickety things that can only be used in horror houses? The value disintegrates along with the spirits.
Working in a horror house requires a twisted sense of humor and home. Desperation and boredom also work.
"Oh yeah, introductions," Jongdae says now, quickly gesturing for Kyungsoo to come over. "Kyungsoo, this is Park Chanyeol. As you already know, he's new and you'll be teaching him to make people shit in their pants." Jongdae grins, canines peeking, and Chanyeol furrows his eyes a little but keeps his smile intact. "Chanyeol, this is Do Kyungsoo, our best scare giver here in the house. He bites from time to time, but don't be afraid – he's actually a cute lil' pug on the inside."
"I'm not a pug," Kyungsoo grumbles, but turns to Chanyeol with a small smile anyway. "Pleasure to meet you. Jongdae couldn't stop talking about you yesterday."
"Oh?" There's a hint of amusement in the way Chanyeol's eyes light up, almost twinkling. The pale green of his sweater softens the sharp angles of his face, and his hair bounces a little when he laughs. He looks like one of those male protagonists in an anime or manhwa, or even one of those princes he used to see in Lotte World of Everland. Kyungsoo can't picture him in a zombie outfit at all.
"Are you sure about this?" he whispers in Jongdae's ear much later, while Chanyeol tries out some of the costumes in the closet, and Jongdae only chuckles and ruffles his hair.
"A hundred percent sure," Jongdae replies, grinning. "Possibly the best decision I've ever made."
☹ ☹ ☹
Chanyeol isn't that bad – he's a pretty average scare giver, but it's mostly because he can tweak his voice such that he sounds like someone from the underworld. "It was the talent I showed when I applied. Pretty cool, huh?" he even brags, and Kyungsoo laughs through his nose and feels his throat constrict with something that shouldn't be laughter.
"Would be better if you could actually scare little Jonginnie there," Kyungsoo says, and Chanyeol frowns at him before assuming his place behind Jongin again, crouched low and hands behind his back just like they've practiced.
Jongin isn't exactly the easiest person to scare – that would be Zitao, but he's on leave for the next two weeks, visiting his parents in China for the first time in two years, or was he going on a vacation in Japan? – but he's the closest to ZItao that they can practice on. Jongin is jumpy, as far as startling someone goes, and has the craziest reactions when he's scared out of his skin, so Kyungsoo instructs Chanyeol to creep up to him in three simple steps – one, slide a hand up his back, then grip his shoulder really tight; two, pull his shoulder back until they're face to face; and three, lean in dangerously close and look at Jongin with wide eyes until Jongin screams his lungs out. Chanyeol always seems to have a hard time keeping the whole scaring act together and cracks up as soon as he sees Jongin's face, but at least Jongin threatened to punch him in the face when Chanyeol whispered boo in his ears.
Chanyeol completes the process this time, except he starts laughing as soon as he sees Jongin's eyes go wide and his nostrils even bigger. "Fuck you! I'm not some dummy you can practice on!" Jongin exclaims, slapping Chanyeol's arm repeatedly, then makes a beeline for Kyungsoo as soon as he sees Kyungsoo peeking from a corner. "You, too! I trusted you, Soo! You traitor!"
Kyungsoo ducks and Jongin almost runs into the wall. He makes his way to where Chanyeol is – still on the floor, slapping the tiles with each sliver of laughter that slips from his lips – and pats his shoulder. "Okay, that was good. He was close to being scared shitless," he says, rubbing Chanyeol's arm until Chanyeol's laughing fit comes to a halt. Chanyeol is still wheezing, though, when he resurfaces, beads of tears at the corners of his eyes. He looks like one of those Line characters who always has his eyes crossed while laughing his ass off, except he's actually real and his head is rested on Kyungsoo's shoulder.
Kyungsoo tries hard not to jerk. Chanyeol's fluffy hair is in his face and it's becoming increasingly hard to breathe with the tuft blocking air's way.
"You should've seen his face–" Chanyeol's close to crying now, it's almost hilarious. Kyungsoo leans back, giving Chanyeol more space, but Chanyeol only follows. "His nostrils were so big, I could almost see his nose hair–"
"That's gross, Chanyeol."
"But that's the look of fear!" Chanyeol looks up now, and from this distance or the lack, thereof, Kyungsoo can see the tiny freckles on his cheeks, the pimples lined along the side of his nose. He makes a mental note to teach Chanyeol proper ghost make-up application; Chanyeol could learn a thing or two about that. "Your worst, ugliest face possible, the kind that you don't want people to ever take a picture of–"
Chanyeol has his arms on either side of Kyungsoo, and Kyungsoo exhales through the tiny opening of his mouth – slow, gradual, like he's savoring every last breath he has and counting down until Chanyeol pulls away and stands from where he is. Chanyeol doesn't, though, just stays there and leans even closer to tap Kyungsoo's nose with his finger thrice. Chanyeol says something that sounds a lot like, "And that's close enough to fear," but Kyungsoo can just be hearing things, really. He's always had difficulty hearing sounds properly at such close proximity.
"You were missing the running away part," Kyungsoo says after a while, then tears his gaze from Chanyeol. He looks at his shoes, then Chanyeol's own – they're worn out around the edges, but the body of the shoes isn't as tattered. "That's very important because we have to lead the scare takers to the next room."
Chanyeol snorts, leans back until he's sitting on his ass, then looks at Kyungsoo in the eye. "Okay," he says, simple and curt, and gives Kyungsoo a long look before standing from where he is. His hand looks imposing when he extends it in Kyungsoo's direction, but Kyungsoo takes it, anyway, holds onto it as he tries to get up from being seated on the floor.
Chanyeol's fingers wrap around his tiny fist before he can drop is hand to his side. Chanyeol's fingers are cold – from laughing too much or from working too hard to scare someone, Kyungsoo can't exactly tell – and Chanyeol keeps his hold on him long enough to transfer some of that cool brand of warmth to seep through Kyungsoo's skin.
There's a tingling sensation in his nose, in the part that Chanyeol had touched earlier, like a nagging sneeze you can't get rid of.
☹ ☹ ☹
By the time the start of the evening session hits, Chanyeol has already made friends with almost all of the scare givers. Joonmyun isn't exactly the most difficult of people to deal with, but Chanyeol has made Joonmyun feel comfortable enough to exchange hugs with him at every possible time. Jongin, who initially wanted to maim Chanyeol the first chance he got, had somehow warmed up to Chanyeol as well, discussing Fire Emblem at length with him over their afternoon snack. Then there's Sehun asking for a portion of Chanyeol's muffin nicely, something that Jongdae has never been able to achieve. So Kyungsoo walks up to Jongdae, hands on his hips as he asks, "Where exactly did you find him?"
"See, that's the thing – I didn't. He found me," Jongdae replies in that dramatic tone of his that he wishes he used in musical performances at amusement parks and not in horror houses. "Well, I'd like to think of it that way. It hadn't even been three hours since I put up the job opening and he already sent his application." He snaps his fingers. "Just like that. Magic."
"Where did you find him?" he asks again, an eyebrow cocked this time. Jongdae leans back, propping his arms under his back.
Jongdae takes a deep breath before looking around them and pulling Kyungsoo closer. Jongdae has always loves making a movie out of every scene of his life. Must be part of his frustration to be a movie or a musical actor, or maybe Jongdae just really loves theatrics for the aesthetics of it. "He's a friend. From way way back," Jongdae whispers after a while, then looks at Chanyeol over Kyungsoo's shoulder. "We sorta go way back, Chanyeol and I."
"Sorta go way back is pretty vague."
"Sorta go way back is all you have to know." Jongdae winks to punctuate his statement, then twirls on his heel before turning to the other scare gives. "Okay, you guys, get ready now. Evening session starts in ten minutes! Get ready!"
Soon, the comfortable noise dissipates, and Kyungsoo's left alone in the room, with Chanyeol halfway out the door. "You're heading out for your shift, right?" Chanyeol asks in that steady, soothing deep voice of his, and Kyungsoo briefly forgets that he's in a horror house, that he works here and that he's supposed to be retouching his make-up for tonight's zombie attack. With a deep breath, he pushes himself off the desk and takes big strides to the door, catching up with Chanyeol.
"You'll be watching from the big head tonight," he says as they walk to the control room. From the reflection in the mirror, he can see the small smile on Chanyeol's lips. "I want you to pay attention even to the smallest details, okay? The slight crack of the head, the stutter in the steps–"
"The vacant stare and soulless eyes, yes," Chanyeol continues, laughing a little. "I've been listening, sonsaengnim~"
"Shut up," Kyungsoo grumbles. "The walls are thin. The scare takers on the other side will hear you."
But the walls are thick – they've been thick for as long as Kyungsoo can remember, since the horror house's inception – and so is the enthusiasm in the undertone of Chanyeol's voice as he says, "Ah, they're here! This is exciting!" So he takes a step to his side, away from Chanyeol, and keeps a thin sheet of something between them, anything to keep Chanyeol's low, velvety tone from wrapping around his mind and drowning out the voices in his head, the small scare devices he uses to make freaking people out more effective.
He slips his compact powder back in his pocket and cracks his neck as they stop in front of the door to the zombie zoo. Chanyeol has fallen silent now, but the grin on his lips is still as big as ever and there's still a glimmer in his eyes. What is wrong with you? Kyungsoo wants to ask, but there's work to be done, people to be freaked out, and a scare student to be taught, so he takes a deep breath and turns the knob, then looks over his shoulder. "Watch."
Chanyeol gives him a thumbs-up and a close-lipped smile, and Kyungsoo feels this weird, sinking sensation at the pit of his stomach. He can't be possibly scared of being in a horror house anymore. He's been doing this for years and yet he can feel a foreign brand of cold wrap around his fingers, around his throat.
Chanyeol's only been here for a day and yet he looks so calm and at ease with the whole horror scene. "I'll keep my eyes on you," he says after a while, then winks. "No one else."
"Pop quiz tomorrow," is the only thing Kyungsoo manages to say before pushing the door open. He doesn't look over his shoulder, doesn't look back, and shuts the door behind him as soon as he can, letting his hand drop from the knob at the first sound of the soft 'thud'.
☹ ☹ ☹
Half past seven in the morning is an ungodly hour to be on the way to work, but Kyungsoo does it, anyway – day in and day out, just to avoid the early morning ruckus. He usually spends an entire hour to properly boot his brain, after all, and the walk from the bus station to the horror house speeds up the process by a good ten minutes. The erratic rains of summer make the walk a chore more than anything else, though, so today Kyungsoo comes in in rain boots and a raincoat at least two sizes bigger than him. It's a comfortable enough fit, unlike the raincoat he borrowed from Joonmyun in the past.
He turns a corner and speeds up his pace when rain stars pouring down harder. He makes it to the back door of the office, and quickly takes shelter in the shed as he rummages through his things for the keys. He's the only one Jongdae trusts enough to give a spare key to; it's not as if the others have actually expressed interest in coming in early, after all.
"Hey," comes a low voice to his right, and he jumps at the sound. When he turns to his side, Chanyeol's laughing lightly, hand cupped over his mouth. "Not a morning person, huh?"
"There's a reason why I work in a horror house," Kyungsoo mumbles, then fixes his attention back to the knob. He slips the key in and unlocks the office, then gestures for Chanyeol to come in. "Just leave the umbrella in the rack; no one will steal that."
"Didn't even cross my mind," Chanyeol admits. He gives Kyungsoo a curt nod as he walks past him, then dries his rubber shoes on the floor mat. "Yours gets stolen a lot?"
Kyungsoo shrugs. He can't bring himself to snort just yet; he hasn't even had his coffee yet but Chanyeol's already making him think. It's criminal. "Only by Baekhyun, although he calls it 'borrowing my things'."
Chanyeol laughs, but he doesn't look up at Kyungsoo. Instead, his eyes are fixed on his shoelaces as he works on them, slipping out of his soaked shoes. "He does have a point, you know. I mean–" Chanyeol wiggles his toes, completely dry, and slips into his slippers. "It's not really stealing if you see him on a daily basis and there's a chance that he'll return it?"
Kyungsoo slumps against the wall in a corner and closes his eyes. "I'm not awake enough for this, Chanyeol." A deep breath, then, "wake me up when the other start coming in."
Out of the corner of his eyes, he sees Chanyeol nod, and he wills himself to regain the energy he'd just spent talking to Chanyeol at an early hour.
He doesn't rouse until thirty minutes later, when he hears the sound of something falling and realizes that it's just Chanyeol accidentally kicking something in his sleep, body jerking mid-slumber. He motions to stand, pushing himself off the bench, but the jacket that slips down his arms catches his attention. It's the one Chanyeol was wearing earlier under the windbreaker. Chanyeol hadn't looked particularly comfortable with the cold, and yet there his jacket was, draped over Kyungsoo instead of himself.
"Silly kid," Kyungsoo whispers as he gets up, then places it on Chanyeol, movements small and careful so as to not wake the other up. Chanyeol chews on air and mumbles something Kyungsoo can't seem to make out, so he leaves him be and begins to make his way to Jongdae's office. Jongdae made a few last-minute changes last night before sending them home, and while Kyungsoo doesn't have the worst memory, his information retention is shit past ten in the evening. He remembers his scaredule being kept light in the morning so he can run Chanyeol through a few scare routines, but the evening shift will be packed as always – zombie zoo is always a hit in the evening, especially on weekdays. He can't say he minds, though – having a packed schedule helps to keep him from thinking too much.
He did that a lot, back in his old job as a trainee in a talent agency – he was always thinking about his appearance, whether he sounded good enough of not, if he was actually improving and had a chance to debut despite the equally talented competition. If his voice was enough to carry him through and make him emerge at the top. Now, as a scare giver in Scaredy Cats, he doesn't have to think about being the perfect idol and making everyone like him. Here, he only has to find the perfect timing to launch an attack at a scare taker and give everyone the scare of their lives.
He looks up at the board and scoffs. He'll be taking the early morning rounds and cleaning schedule, and then he'll have a couple of sessions with Chanyeol in the morning. Chanyeol's schedule is mostly empty, save for the notes on the sessions he'll be taking with Kyungsoo, then the very last scare stint in the evening. This is like the calm before the storm, Kyungsoo thinks, where Jongdae gives him the relatively light stuff before dumping work on him, but then training Chanyeol is supposed to be part of the storm – it's more difficult to act human than pretend to be dead.
"I hope you're okay with the schedule," comes Jongdae's voice from behind, and Kyungsoo only flashes two thumbs up in response before slipping from Jongdae's office. He'll need more time to calibrate himself for human interaction. He's been doing this his whole life, but still hasn't mastered its art.
Kyungsoo starts his morning session by taking a garbage bag with him and dragging Chanyeol to the exits from the holding room. Day two means he'll have to learn the secret passages, pathways that link one section of the horror house to the other. It also means more talking for Kyungsoo and the promise of compensatory coffee from Jongdae later.
"So we have three exits from our room – the horror harbor – right?" Kyungsoo says, then pauses to check if Chanyeol's listening. Chanyeol nods, then shifts his gaze from one door to the next. "The door on your right leads you to the start of the fright train, while the one in the middle leads you to the loco lobby. That's where Joonmyun-hyung and Baekhyun usually are." He gestures for Chanyeol to move to the leftmost door, then turns the knob tentatively. "And this leads straight to the control room."
"The one near the zombie zoo, right?" Chanyeol asks, then scrunches his nose. Kyungsoo nods in response and opens the door, holding it open until Chanyeol gets inside. "The room behind the big face that's actually the marker for the zombie zoo, I mean?"
"Yeah, that one," Kyungsoo affirms. He still remembers the look on Chanyeol's face when the scrambled out of the big head, stretching his arms over his head. "It's a big head for tiny people!" Chanyeol had said then, and Kyungsoo recalls nudging Chanyeol in his side with his elbow. So it's not Chanyeol's being alert and good with directions that's at work; it's the trauma of muscle memory making his mind machine work at this hour.
"Two paths from there – you can go left to the 'backyard' where the Sehun usually lurks, or right to the area just between the zoo and the loco lobby." Kyungsoo presses his lips thinly, furrowing his eyebrows as he tries to recall the other sections of the horror house. "Just beyond the 'backyard' is the oasis. That's where Jongin scares the shit out of people."
"Oh yeah? What does he do?"
"Lies in bed with them in a well-lit place. Paradise, even," Kyungsoo begins. Chanyeol cocks an eyebrow at him, muttering, huh, and Kyungsoo continues, "But he gets in the sheets in ghost costume. Complete with the red contact lenses."
"Shit. That's freaky." Chanyeol shakes his head. "I'm never pulling a prank on him again, ever!"
But Chanyeol does, just before Jongin exits through the backyard – Kyungsoo watches as Chanyeol lies flat on his stomach and waits until Jongin's in front of him before grabbing Jongin by the ankles. Jongin jerks, screams, and starts kicking around, and Chanyeol doesn't even mind it when he takes a few blows to his arms. "I am going to deal with you later–" Jongin says through gritted teeth, jabbing Chanyeol lightly on the arm. Kyungsoo raises an eyebrow at Jongin, and Jongin grumbles before continuing, "–hyung!"
"I'm very, very scared!" Chanyeol teases, and Jongin only sticks out his tongue at Chanyeol in response. Chanyeol blows a kiss his way and Jongin ducks, lips still poised in a scowl when he exits the backyard and makes his way to the oasis. Kyungsoo stays rooted in his spot – behind the supposedly dead bushes, on his knees, shaking his head as he watches Jongin leave.
"How was it?" Chanyeol asks, wiggling his eyebrows in question. His lips are stretched wide in a grin, and the corners of his eyes crinkle.
Kyungsoo's stomach lurches. "Not bad."
"I'll do better," Chanyeol promises, locking his arms behind his back, and Kyungsoo lets him walk ahead, a few good steps in front of him. This is a test to see if Chanyeol can find his way back without Kyungsoo to guide him, a test to see if Chanyeol knows the horror house well enough despite having started only 48 hours ago, if he's good enough to be left alone and work on his own scare tactics. They reach the fork, and Chanyeol looks to both his left and his right before looking over his shoulder. "I'm kidding; I'll get lost in this maze."
"Straight ahead," Kyungsoo whispers. Chanyeol nods and resumes in his steps, dauntless, like he hadn't just admitted not knowing where to go earlier. Strange kid, Kyungsoo says to himself, and laughs at the print on Chanyeol's shirt – big and bright letters spelling out 'NO FEAR'.
Everybody has fears, even knights and heroes and ordinary people who are crazy enough to delve into wild adventures. It's those who claim that they're not afraid of anything who have the greatest of fears, the most remorseless of ghosts.
☹ ☹ ☹
Chanyeol's first full scare stint happens on a Thursday, during the last scare journey of the night. He's been assigned to the zombie zoo today, and Jongdae had specifically told Kyungsoo to make sure Chanyeol doesn't get maimed by the scare takers. "Fair warning: they can get more violent than Jongin," Jongdae had said then, and Chanyeol had this weird mix of worry and fear and excitement on his features that soon dissolved into laughter – choked laughter.
Kyungsoo wiggles his fingers before stepping inside the box he usually hides in. He hasn't partnered with anyone since Jongdae retired from fright duties and focused on making sure everything went smoothly, and he hasn't really had the need to seek anyone's help freaking anyone out. You're a natural, the best scare giver ever, he remembers Jongdae telling him one time. Like you're so used to dealing with fear and knowing what makes feel the same fear that courses through your veins. It's not easy, though – one has to let fear consume him first, then translate it into body language, like a twitch of the eye or a quirk of the lip or the slow rise of the shoulders, the gradual widening of eyes. Small actions that elicit big emotions, stir the strongest storms inside people.
Humans respond to fear with their own brand of fear, as well, after all. And after that, the adrenaline rush that flushes fear out of your system – two negatives making a positive.
"Are we supposed to make the boxes move a little at first?" Chanyeol asks before crouching inside the box. He's too tall for it, and the tuft of his hair still peeks from the top of the box, so Kyungsoo quicks mumbles 'yes' before pushing Chanyeol further down. "Hey, I can't breathe–"
"Be quiet. They'll be here anytime–"
"But how will I know if they're already here if I can't see a thing?"
Kyungsoo furrows his eyebrows and looks for holes in Chanyeol's box, but he ends up with nothing. Rolling his eyes, he gets out of his box and kicks Chanyeol's own. "Let's switch boxes," he says, albeit grudgingly, and Chanyeol blinks up at him. "I said, let's switch boxes. Mine's bigger than yours."
"How will you know if they're already here, then?"
"Stop thinking about things too much. Jesus–" He grabs Chanyeol by the wrist, yanking at it to get Chanyeol out of the fit he's gotten himself in. "Just feel the fear and embrace it, then do what your body tells you to."
What Chanyeol does, however, is to trip when he tries to get out of the box, at the same time that the people start coming in. He looks at Kyungsoo with wide eyes and light movement of the lips, mouthing, h-e-l-p!, and Kyungsoo squints at him before kicking the side of his leg. "Crawl," Kyungsoo instructs, lying flat on the ground now, and Chanyeol matches his pace, slow and steady forward movements that are timed with the footsteps of the scare takers. Kyungsoo takes a deep breath, keeps his eyes locked on the people and waits – for the right moment, for fear to rush up his arms, his veins, his whole body, for the background music to grow louder and drown out the other voices in his head. One of the scare takers takes a step forward, less than a foot from them now, and Kyungsoo reaches out, cold fingers wrapping around the person's ankle.
The first shriek makes him smirk; the forward motion of the leg gives him the rush he needs. "Now," he whispers to Chanyeol, and Chanyeol gets up, stutters in his movement like an awkward zombie, and the entire group starts screaming and running around. One of them runs into Chanyeol and falls to the ground, and another points at Kyungsoo with an accusing finger and Kyungsoo crawls closer and slowly gets up, dragging one foot behind him for effect. It's Chanyeol low groans that drive them to the next room, though, out of the zombie zoo and into the backyard where Sehun waits for his victims.
The eerie red light softens, and white light mixes with the warm hues. Chanyeol falls flat on his back, laughing lightly as he says, "That was fun!"
Kyungsoo dusts himself off and bends his knees, trying to feel his joints again. "Pretty good, if I may say so myself," he comments, and Chanyeol's eyes light up. That's not how zombies look, he wants to say, but he feels his throat constricting, tightening at nothing and everything that he wants to say. His fingers are colder than ever, and his stomach is turning again, and there's a familiar feeling clawing at his chest. It feels a lot like fear, but not the brand that they sell here in the horror house by the screams; it's the kind of fear that makes his toes tingle and tickles his nose.
"I just gave someone the scare of his life," Chanyeol says, loud and proud, and quickly clasps a hand over his mouth when he realizes that oh, the walls are thin – they'll hear us on the other side. Kyungsoo shakes his head and chuckles, then extends a hand in Chanyeol's direction. When Chanyeol takes it, cold fingers wrapping around Kyungsoo's equally frozen and numb ones, he pulls Kyungsoo down and erupts into a peal of laughter.
"I think I've figured out one of your fears," Chanyeol whispers, but Kyungsoo can't tell if it's actually Chanyeol's voice that he's hearing or the loud thumping of Chanyeol's chest where half of his face is pressed close to. He doesn't reply, doesn't look up at Chanyeol, but he does give Chanyeol's leg a light kick. It's not falling that he's afraid of; it's the resounding 'thud' in his ears that makes him realize how hard he's fallen that cripples him in fear.
☹ ☹ ☹
Kyungsoo runs into Chanyeol in the mall on a Saturday, while trying to balance three paper bags' worth of groceries in his arms. "You need help with those?" is Chanyeol's greeting that almost goes unnoticed, and Kyungsoo has to crane his neck, vision breezing past the tower of grocery bags and locking onto Chanyeol's eyes. It not a chore, really, having to carry these items all the way to the bus stop, but with the rain pouring outside and him only having two arms instead of three, he decides to relent and let Chanyeol take one of the paper bags.
Without the bags shielding his eyes, he can see Chanyeol more clearly now – dressed in jumper shorts that reveal all fifty feet of his legs, and a bright yellow shirt that brightens up his face even more. The dark circles under his eyes are more pronounced today, though, unlike how they usually are during weekdays, but maybe that's because there's no make-up to cover the scars of sleepless nights on Chanyeol's face.
A bright, red pimple on Chanyeol's cheek glares down at Kyungsoo. He takes a deep breath, then asks, "What's with the outfit?"
"Part-time work at Seungjin Toy," Chanyeol replies, chuckling as he ends. He pulls at the hem of his shorts with his free hand, then gives up when he sees people giving him funny looks. "Pretty fun, to be honest. I get to play Just Dance 4 with kids who want to try out the game."
"Oh, you mean part-time play at Seungjin Toy," Kyungsoo teases. Chanyeol raises an eyebrow at him, but there's a small smile playing on his lips. "You get free games there?"
Chanyeol frowns. "Not the part-timers, but the regulars do. After earning a certain number of points, at least, because we rotate in tasks." Chanyeol pulls at his shorts again, then groans when one side ends up riding up all the more. "So I'm entertaining kids for the first two weeks. After that, I move to the selling-to-the-adults department."
Kyungsoo snorts. "You'll probably sell a lot. You seem to love playing games."
"Only the interesting ones," Chanyeol says, grinning. Kyungsoo looks over his shoulder – the rain's pouring much harder now. Perfect timing. "You should probably wait for the rain to stop."
Letting the rain pass means letting the poultry sit in the paper bags for an extended period time and trying to come up with something mildly interesting to talk about with Chanyeol. He doesn't know Chanyeol well enough to gauge his interest in things – it's only been a week since Chanyeol was hired to be a scare giver, only a week since Kyungsoo had started teaching him the ways of the spook. Chanyeol hasn't even mastered the art of scaring people down to the bones yet, doesn't even have the secret pathways memorized yet. If Kyungsoo does decide to let the rain pass, he'll only be creating a storm in the tiny space between him and Chanyeol. It's not the best idea.
"Can't. I have poultry in the bag," Kyungsoo says, cocking his head in the direction of said bag. Chanyeol scoffs and rolls his eyes. "I'm serious, I've got chicken here. I can't let them–"
"There's always the package counter," Chanyeol answers. He's grinning again, canines peeking from the corners. The corners of his eyes lift, wrinkling just a little. "Or my car. Yeah, I can probably drop you off or something. Can't possibly leave you traveling with all those paper bags..." Chanyeol scrunches his nose, like he's actually considering taking Kyungsoo home for the sake of Kyungsoo's dead chicken. Kyungsoo gulps hard. "Where do you live?"
"Somewhere far," Kyungsoo quickly replies. He takes the paper bag Chanyeol is holding, then says, "Seriously, you don't have to do this."
Chanyeol waves him off and reaches over to ruffle his hair. "What's a ride to whereverland? C'mon, tell me. Bokjeong? Yangji?" He worries his bottom lip again, and Kyungsoo's mildly concerned about that nasty red cut on the flesh. "Gwangju's my limit, though, but if you live near the horror house– Nah, probably not. Why would you be in Garden5 if you lived down south–"
"Chanyeol," Kyungsoo interrupts, then kicks Chanyeol's leg the bring him back to the conversation. Chanyeol's eyes are wide open now, fixed on him and no one else, and Kyungsoo can almost see himself reflected in Chanyeol's eyes. He swallows for a while, almost choking on his own spit before admitting, "Bokjeong. But seriously, I'll live."
"I won't require you to talk. You can even pick the music." Chanyeol bumps his hips into Kyungsoo's, and Kyungsoo only leers at him. "Come on..."
There really isn't a reason to say no aside from his dead chicken having to stay warm in the paper bags for an extended period of time, so he shrugs, rolls his eyes, exhales loudly before he says, Okay. Fine. Thank you." Chanyeol's features light up with something, the corners of his lips tugging up too abruptly and his eyes turning into slits. Kyungsoo is left with nothing to do but to watch Chanyeol walk, leading the way to the parking, throwing him occasional glances over his shoulder.
His stomach lurches. It's only been an hour since he's had lunch, and coffee time isn't until two hours after. It's probably the air conditioning being turned up too high at the peak of heavy rains, or maybe all the cold items in the paper bag slowly attacking him. Or maybe it's Chanyeol's easy confidence and his being more alive than most people that makes Kyungsoo's stomach turn, makes him tremble, shakes him up and leaves the sting of fear clawing at his chest. He shakes his head and keeps his eyes on Chanyeol, careful not to lose him, and doesn't forget to thank Chanyeol again when he finally gets in his car. It's warmer here, inside, yet his fingers are still cold; the sweat trickling down his cheeks even colder.
"Buckle up," Chanyeol says, commands, his voice grabbing Kyungsoo by the wrist and making him follow. He hands Kyungsoo his iPod and starts the engine, then turns his hazard lights on as he exits his parking spot.
Kyungsoo balls his free hand into a fist, then goes through Chanyeol's playlists with his other. Rain begins to pelt down on the glass of the car and Chanyeol starts humming, like this music is enough for the trip. Kyungsoo hits 'play', nonetheless, and drowns himself in Chanyeol's music. Chanyeol's velvety tone still soars above all the noise.
☹ ☹ ☹
Chanyeol has a story attached to every song that comes up. Every Jason Mraz song is for his past love back in college, and most of Gavin DeGraw's songs are dedicated to his lowest points in his life – getting a failing mark in a quiz for the very first time, consequently getting a spank on his ass to make him repent, and nearly missing the required GPA so he could graduate with Latin honors. "It just doesn't look like it, but I almost graduated with top honors," Chanyeol explains now as they pass a playground. "If I didn't get a low grade for Accounting then I probably would have gotten a better GPA."
"Pressure from parents?" Kyungsoo asks, faint, almost tentative. Chanyeol shrugs in response.
"Both from my parents and myself," Chanyeol answers after a while. The percussion for Sam Smith's song fades out, and Chanyeol pulls over when Kyungsoo points at a building. "This is it?"
Kyungsoo's officetel building isn't the most striking of establishments, even being sandwiched between an commercial building and another officetel, but it's easy to spot with the bright yellow exterior. Even in the gloomy weather, the building pops out like pictures in a storybook for children. Kyungsoo smiles a little when he sees Chanyeol tilt his head to get a better look at the building, then mouths wow while he nods. "Doesn't look like a place a guy working in a horror house would live in."
"I actually like bright colors," Kyungsoo retorts, and Chanyeol snorts. "On furniture. Clothes, not so much." He reaches for the paper bags at the back, then turns to Chanyeol. "So yeah, this is my stop."
There's a tentative smirk on the curve of Chanyeol's lips before he breaks into light laughter, eyebrows furrowed as he turns off the engine. "I can't just leave you with your paper bags. You might trip on your way up." He snatches one bag from Kyungsoo's grasp, then says, "Lemme complete the mission so I can level up, c'mon."
Kyungsoo really isn't the type to let people order him around or have his way with him, but he doesn't really have a choice now, does he, when Chanyeol's already on the other side of the car? He doesn't really have a choice now that Chanyeol is tapping his foot, saying, "You're not going to make me wait out here, are you?" With a deep breath, he steps out of the car, bags in tow, and takes quick steps to the entrance of the building. Chanyeol follows, still humming the Jason Mraz song from a few stoplights back. There's a bounce in his step.
☹ ☹ ☹
Somewhere between reaching for his keys in his pocket and actually opening the door, Chanyeol convinces Kyungsoo to let him in.
"I'll help with putting these in the cupboard," Chanyeol says, taking some of the instant noodles. He shuffles them inside in neat stacks, bowls facing front. Kyungsoo chuckles – maybe keeping Chanyeol around for when he has to put his grocery in its proper place isn't so bad, even if the rain has already begun to pour harder.
"You probably part-time in the supermarket, too," Kyungsoo casually mentions, and Chanyeol's fingers tremble. Chanyeol's laughter is faint, almost inaudible, but the shaking of his shoulders isn't. "Are you?"
Chanyeol turns on his heel and leans against the counter. Kyungsoo can see the dark spots of water on Chanyeol's shirt, the bands of his sleeves, his collar. There's still some on his bangs; Chanyeol simply blows at them and wrinkles his nose when the droplets fall on his eyes. "Nah, I can't pull off having two part-times on top of the scare job."
Kyungsoo snorts. "Yeah, it can be draining," he replies. He checks and double-checks the last paper bag on the desk, then turns to Chanyeol once he's sure its been emptied. "Happy so far?"
Chanyeol looks up at the ceiling, like there's something really interesting about the emptiness of it or how it's painted a nice, clean white. In this lighting – softer than that in the horror house but not any brighter than the early morning light – Chanyeol looks more human than zombie even if he's working two jobs. Kyungsoo keeps his eyes on him, watching as Chanyeol's eyes flit from one empty space to another, as a corner of Chanyeol's lips quirks up, then down, then back up. There's an answer written on the curve of his lips, but Kyungsoo knows better than to put words in people's mouths. So he waits – for the standstill to be broken, for Chanyeol to resurface, for the bright grin that he's come to grown accustomed to seeing on Chanyeol's lips to appear again.
"Very," Chanyeol whispers after a while. He taps one foot lightly, then looks back down at Kyungsoo. "Doesn't feel like working in a horror house, actually. I can even convince myself that I'm working in an amusement park."
Kyungsoo chuckles, then takes the empty paper bag, folding it before throwing it into the trash can. Enjoy it while it lasts, Kyungsoo would normally say, but he can't argue with Chanyeol. For a horror house that offers the widest selection of scare stints, Scaredy Cats doesn't feel like one. Kyungsoo doesn't feel the weight of his ghosts chaining him down, nor does he feel the need to run away at the first sign of his fears. The others don't seem to be haunted by their own ghosts, either. If there's one thing that Scaredy Cats has done for him, it's probably to scare the shit out of his bitterness over having to leave the talent agency. When fear meets fear, they clash until they defeat each other, and all that's left is an empty space for something good to actually happen.
"Might be too early to tell," he says, smirking. "Maybe, one day, you'll encounter your fears there and be scared down to the bones."
Chanyeol shrugs, then pushes himself off the counter. He's taking small steps now, each one foot apart, and stops just before the tips of his slippers touch Kyungsoo's own. "What are you afraid of?" Chanyeol asks, voice steady and calm; his eyes are focused. Kyungsoo feels a peculiar hitch in his breath as he tries to summon the word 'nothing' up his throat, but he quickly swallows it down with the rest of his lies.
"A cockroack invasion, I guess," he mumbles. Chanyeol scoffs, snorts, breathes noisily through his nose. He presses hard on the base of his ear and pulls at it. "And what are you afraid of, hmm?"
Chanyeol looks up, eyes wide and lips poised in a small 'o'. There's a thick blanket of silence for a while, until Chanyeol presses his lips together and hums a steady tune. "Silence," he answers soon after, and Kyungsoo nods slowly, counting the seconds until the next few words slip from Chanyeol's lips.
"Complete silence," Chanyeol whispers, cutting through the white noise. "The deafening kind."
☹ ☹ ☹
Chanyeol goes home a little after dinner, once the rain has subsided. His car roars to life and Kyungsoo watches as the rain blurs his vision, the retreating figure of Chanyeol's car, the road they'd traveled earlier. There's still chicken to be cleaned in his fridge, dishes to be washed, a quiet apartment to return to. Complete silence, Chanyeol's voice rings in his ears, and he shrugs it off along with the weird look on Chanyeol's face – a steady, unmoving expression, no smile to pull up the corners of his lips.
Kyungsoo shuffles back to his apartment and plugs on his earphones. The white noise Chanyeol had filled earlier seeps through the ear buds just before a song comes on.
☹ ☹ ☹
"So I bought a portable chair since Jongdae won't give me the keys to the office," Chanyeol says as he brandishes his new find from behind his back, holding it like a sword. "Touché!"
"And for a very good reason," Kyungsoo says as he taps Chanyeol's side, motioning for him to move. He takes the key from his bag and slips it in the hole, then nudges Chanyeol with his elbow to make more room for himself. He doesn't even have to look over his shoulder or to his side to know that Chanyeol will be hovering him, trying to find an opening so he can snatch the key away from Kyungsoo. Only two weeks into being with Scaredy Cats yet Chanyeol has already developed a routine that Kyungsoo finds easy enough to fall into. It's not as if he has a choice, though – Chanyeol dragged him into this, grabbed him by the back of his shirt and forced him to get used to his early morning noise. Kyungsoo's still too drunk with sleep to fight back, so he lets Chanyeol have his way. There's always the promise of getting back at Chanyeol, anyway, while their carry out their fright plan in the zombie zoo.
He makes a mental note to remind Jongdae about getting a bigger box for Chanyeol. Maybe they should just rework the set to spice things up a bit, offer something new. At some point, the customers will get tired of getting freaked out by the same thing, and while Kyungsoo isn't so big on change, he could use something to shake him out of the year-long dry spell.
"Maybe if you weren't so rowdy, Jongdae would actually give you a spare key," he tells Chanyeol now as they make their way to Jongdae's office. They have a staff meeting during lunch time, and something scribbled in code that Kyungsoo can't seem to make out.
Chanyeol moves closer, tapping the space where the weird writing is scrawled on. "We have a new routine for… the backyard?" Chanyeol looks at Kyungsoo, eyebrows furrowed and lips pursed. "Are the zombies even allowed there? I thought only plant-like creatures like Sehun are allowed to enter?"
"If this is Jongdae's idea of a Plants versus Zombies spin-off, I'm out of here," Kyungsoo grumbles, then rolls his eyes. "That game is so–"
"Last millennium," comes another voice, higher than that of Chanyeol's but not any more vibrant. Jongdae stands at the doorstep, sunglasses perched low on the bridge of his nose. He squeezes Chanyeol's arm before making his way to his desk, and Kyungsoo cocks an eyebrow a little. "I just… thought of mixing things up a little, letting Chanyeol explore things and discover what he really likes–"
But he likes it in the zombie zoo, Kyungsoo wants to argue but, instead, he bites the inside of his cheek.
"Oh?" Chanyeol chuckles. "You're giving me a choice?"
Kyungsoo darts his gaze from Chanyeol to Jongdae and back again. There's a challenge in the way a corner of Chanyeol's lips is tugged up, in the way he cocks an eyebrow at Jongdae and Jongdae just looks up at him, gaze steady and focused. This isn't a battle, doesn't feel like a match to see who will outlast the other, but Kyungsoo feels as if he's not supposed to be here and that he's supposed to be busying himself with doing his rounds in the zombie zoo. Or maybe working on a bigger box for Chanyeol if Chanyeol so decides to stay in the zoo with him.
–like Chanyeol isn't supposed to be snaking an arm around his shoulder and saying, "Nah, I'm happy in the zombie zoo with Kyungsoo." Chanyeol ruffles his hair, and he snarls in response. "And I think Kyungsoo's pretty happy with my progress as well, yeah?"
Kyungsoo shrugs, applying more force than the usual in an attempt to make Chanyeol drop his hand to his side, but Chanyeol is unmoved, keeps his hand on Kyungsoo's shoulder like it's always meant to be there and that his cold fingers are supposed to tickle Kyungsoo's skin. "You're okay, I guess," he mumbles loud enough for Chanyeol to catch, and Chanyeol's eyes widen, a slow-forming grin ripping through his tight-lipped smile, lighting up his features.
"You guess? You're not sure?"
Kyungsoo shrugs again, and this time Chanyeol pinches his arm. "I don't know. I haven't had coffee yet."
"Coffee's on me, then," Chanyeol says, humming, and gives his arm a squeeze before turning on his heel, twirling away. When Kyungsoo looks up at Jongdae, Jongdae's gaze is unreadable, and his lips are pressed together in a thin, thin line.
☹ ☹ ☹
Kyungsoo pulls the hood of his jacket over his head when they go out, then double-checks his pockets to make sure he has the coffee order slip with him. Sehun has the weirdest, most complicated coffee order ever, and Jongin's is only slightly less complicated, if the multiple corrections on the paper are anything to go by. It's a good thing that Joonmyun's and Jongdae's are fairly easy to remember – chai tea latte for Joonmyun, and vanilla latte for Jongdae – but Joonmyun just had to scribble a note somewhere in the bottom that says, please make sure that the drink is warm instead of hot. 140 degrees~ c: So he blows at his bangs instead of mumbling a reaction. Blaming the lack of coffee in his system gets trite after a while.
"They do this to you all the time? Make you pick up their coffee, I mean," Chanyeol asks after a while. They cross the street, Chanyeol without looking at either side of him. Kyungsoo grabs him by the back of his shirt when a motorcycle speeds past them. Chanyeol mumbles what the fuck under his breath, but quickly resurfaces with a small smile. "You seem like the responsible type."
"I am, but I don't take orders from people," Kyungsoo simply says, shrugging. He lets go of Chanyeol's shirt once they're back on the sidewalk, safe from speeding motorists and rude people. Chanyeol's walking twice as much steps as he is, despite his longer legs. He always looks as if he's so hesitant to take big strides and lunge into something head-first, but Chanyeol's arms are different story. They're always draped on someone, slung around Joonmyun's shoulders or Jongin's, flailing mid-air in Chanyeol's attempt to communicate something he can otherwise express in words. It's like his arms and his legs are two different people making up the entirety of a giant – Park Chanyeol, sometimes hot, sometimes cold, but most of the time so dangerously warm.
"The early morning walk helps in uplifting your mood," Chanyeol offers. He chuckles, then leans away when Kyungsoo motions to jab on his arm. "I was kidding! Can't take a joke?"
"And you can't take a hint," Kyungsoo mumbles. "Me and noise? Not a good combination. Tragic love story."
"I told you that silence freaks me out, right?" Chanyeol nudges him in his side. "C'mon, help me out here. There's a little boy who's writhing in fear–"
Kyungsoo snorts. "That's not you."
"–and he just needs to hear your voice for a few minutes to fill the silence." Chanyeol ruffles his hair, grinning, then continues, "Easy enough, yeah?"
Easy isn't gratifying, though. Easy isn't what makes success stories so moving, or what makes something life-changing. Easy doesn't sit well with him and it frustrates him how easy it is for Chanyeol to tug at his wrist, grin at him, swing his arm and convince him to do something he isn't accustomed to doing. I think I've figured out one of your fears, he remembers Chanyeol mentioning before.
He winces when he feels Chanyeol squeezing his arm lightly. Well this is another one, Park. One more discovery and you're out. "What do you want to talk about?"
"Anything," Chanyeol replies, grinning. After a while, he adds, "You. Talk about yourself." Chanyeol demands information from people like he's been waiting for his coffee order for at least ten minutes already even if it's supposed to be easy to prepare. He commands attention – a steady grip on Kyungsoo's wrist, eyes focused on nobody but Kyungsoo, and lips quirked up in a small smile. "Hobbies? Things you're passionate about? Likes and dislikes?"
"Freaking people out, freaking people out, and…" Kyungsoo worries his bottom lip. "Coffee for 'likes', noisy people for 'dislikes'. How did I do?"
"Awful, Soo. Try harder." Chanyeol nudges him in his side, then slings an arm around his shoulder. "If we're going to be stuck with each other in the zombie zoo, we better work on our relationship, yeah?"
"Relationship," Kyungsoo mumbles, snorting, and Chanyeol pinches him in his side. Earlier, when Jongdae broached the topic of Chanyeol being separated from Kyungsoo in order to give him an opportunity to explore his scare skills, Chanyeol declined and said he was happy with where he was at the moment. He made a decision, right then and there, to barge into the doors of Kyungsoo's life, drag his suitcase behind him, and let the luggage leave marks on the floor of Kyungsoo's apartment. Chanyeol hadn't even asked him what he wanted, and it wasn't as if Kyungsoo made a move to retaliate. Somehow, that's how things are with them – Chanyeol taking the lead, going on his merry way with Kyungsoo following closely behind, and Kyungsoo making sure Chanyeol doesn't veer from the path. Chanyeol calls the shots but Kyungsoo is the one who executes them, aiming perfectly-timed shots to the corners.
Chanyeol says he can't see through the boxes and Kyungsoo improvises. They still manage to freak people out, and at the end of the day that's what's important – delivering, keeping promises, maybe even outdoing oneself.
"Partnership sounds too… business-y." Kyungsoo tries to imagine Chanyeol in a suit instead of the kiddie outfit he wore the weekend he spotted Chanyeol in the mall. Chanyeol would look perfect in tailored pants and a dark blazer but he'd look like a kid playing pretend, as well. "Relationship works, doesn't it?"
"We could. Make it work, I mean," Kyungsoo replies. He takes a step forward and digs deep in his pockets for the list. He clears his throat and looks up to meet Chanyeol and says, in his best Chanyeol imitation, "Easy enough, yeah?"
"Stop copying me," Chanyeol grumbles, slapping his arm, but the smile on his lips betrays him. Kyungsoo's heart is a traitor, too, leaping out of his chest only to fall back in, setting his heart beating faster, and running a sliver of cold down to his fingertips. He gives the order to the barista and doesn't move when Chanyeol presses closer, when Chanyeol snakes an arm around his waist and whispers a correction to Jongin's order in his ear, when Chanyeol laughs against his skin when the barista writes the wrong customization notes on the coffee cup.
"That would be all," he says to the barista. Chanyeol pulls away, slow and easy, the pads of his fingers leaving the last traces of warmth on Kyungsoo's skin. Half of him feels relieved; the other half, uncertain of the fit of his body against empty space. Shrugging, he turns on his heel and wraps his arms around himself. It's cold outside and this cardigan isn't as thick as the other ones he owns, that's all. It has nothing to do with missing the warm press of Chanyeol's body or the way Chanyeol's laughter – rich, in his ears – leaves him wanting more.