Author Topic: chacun voit midi à sa porte [⚜] writing storage  (Read 3414 times)

Offline arielle

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Re: chacun voit midi à sa porte [⚜] writing storage
« Reply #15 on: January 18, 2018, 04:09:27 PM »
Chapter Five of Interning: Paddle, Paddle, Paddle that Dragon Boat ❞

The following Friday, the company van arrived at the lake at seven in the evening. Yixing, Kris, Tao, Sehun and Baekhyun poured out onto the parking lot along with a string of other interns, and scattered off towards the main space for the tents and stands that would cater them the following day, during the race.

Lu Han's car made it to camping area less than half an hour later. Chanyeol's Land Cruiser stopped behind it within a few minutes; the younger intern coming out with a rolled up sleeping bag over his shoulder.

"Where's the sleeping place?" Lu Han interrogated through a yawn, not bothering to say hi.

Chanyeol pointed behind the nearest tent with a smile:

"Over there," he said and headed off in the opposite direction. "It's one of those underground compounds that served as bombing shelter during the war or something..."

"Hold on, where are you going?" Lu Han frowned.

"Um, Baekhyun said to find him at the refreshments tent, his supervisor is helping there," Chanyeol called out from over his shoulder as he headed for the lake, "I'll meet you up at the dormitory later!"

Lu Han watched him leave with a repressed smirk of amusement. He eventually snorted and studied the peacefulness of the rustling forest surrounding him, before squinting at the entrance of the said bombing shelter. The opening leading to the underground compound seemed unlocked for now, the grillage swinging slightly under the waning sun. He rearranged his orange beanie and headed for the door when Sehun unexpectedly popped out of the tunnel, stopping at his sight with an underwhelming nod and snuffle for all greeting.

Lu Han returned the gesture:

"Hey, how is it down there?"

"Liveable. But kind of gross," Sehun replied. "Then again, you live with rats at the moment, so..."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"There are something like ten shower rooms and twenty dorms down there, all of them with twenty bunk beds," Sehun explained expressionlessly, "They spread over three levels, so I'd go down quickly if I were you. Unless you want to sleep seven feet above the ground...Where's your sleeping bag?"

"I don't have one," Lu Han frowned. "Am I supposed to have one?"

"How on bloody earth are you going to sleep otherwise?"

"I thought they'd provide...oh fuck it, never mind." Lu Han dug into his pockets in annoyance, "I'll deal with it some way or another."

"It's two nights. ..You'll freeze to death."

"No I won't, I'll just wear more layers, or something," he rolled his eyes, and Sehun opened his mouth, only to be interrupted by a third voice behind them.

"Oi, you two."

Lu Han turned around, but not before noticing that Sehun's expression had suddenly frozen into sheer terror. The man who was heading towards them had a pair of keys swinging around his finger, red tie skilfully secured, severe eyes over bulging lips and an air that seemed to say ‘I-don't-have-time-for-any-of-this-shit'.

"Changmin," Lu Han greeted their team coach with a nod, "hi."

"It's not 'hi'," Changmin grabbed the keys in one hand with a snort, "you're late. This dragon boat race is a firm-wide event. Company tradition. Told you guys to arrive at quarter past seven, latest."

"Traffic jam, sorry," Lu Han lied while Sehun muffled some apologies. "To be fair, Yunho isn't here either, though."

"Yunho's never a good example for anything," Changmin dropped in distaste. "I'm here to hand your dorm keys to your team captain. Where is he?"

"What team captain?"

"What do you mean, ‘what team captain', you guys are supposed to have decided on a team captain by now. The captain leads your team in the dragon boat race tomorrow."

"We never talked about a team captain," Lu Han frowned.

"You don't have a...?" the senior consultant passed a hand over his face, "God help us."

"I can keep the keys until we find a team captain," Sehun murmured, but Changmin threw him a look.

"No, it's okay. Just gather all our team members down in your dorm before eight, we'll have a briefing, with or without Yunho. Be there," the elder man glared, "no late comers."

"Um, sure." Lu Han nodded.

"And Lu," Changmin said before leaving, causing Lu Han to look up, "don't know how your supervisor allows you to keep that during work... but you might want to take off that beanie."

Lu Han glanced down at the ground, feigning to pull the headwear off, only to drop his hand back to his side as soon as he was certain that the consultant had already gone. Sehun let out an audible sigh of relief at his side, causing him to cock an eyebrow:

"Wow there, big baby, don't piss your pants. You look scared to death."

"I'm not scared," Sehun furrowed his brow instinctively. "And also, I am not going to piss my pants."

"Please. The tough guy behaviour doesn't even remotely suit you," Lu Han sneered with a shrug. "He does look like the kind of guy who'd appear in your worst nightmares... but he's just a team coach."

"He's my supervisor as well."

Lu Han's neck snapped back.

"Huh," he smiled mockingly. "Shim Changmin's your supervisor?"

"He hates my guts," Sehun emphasized, the traumatizing memories swirling in his eyes as he spoke, "I never get any of the bloody stuff he gives me; each time he catches me asking Minseok for explanations, he notes down stuff on his notepad like he's writing my death sentence and each time I flunk one of his tasks he looks like he's going to go after my family when I'm asleep. I think one day he's going to bloody snap a vein because of me because even Jongdae said he can hear him shouting at me from the O&O department."

Lu Han cackled and pulled the grillage open: "I don't envy you one bit."

Sehun threw him a vicious look:

"I heard from Jongin that you were rolling on the floor of your department, the other day."

"I was not rolling on the floor, for fuck's sake," Lu Han blurted out with an angry hand gesture of indignation.

Sehun mimicked the movement exaggeratedly and then slipped through the open doors while Lu Han was busy staring at him in outrage.

"Thanks for holding the door," the younger man darted his tongue out at him.

"You little twat," Lu Han spluttered before following him into the tunnel and walking behind him in silence.

Sehun turned to face him a few seconds later, seeming marginally more reserved:

"You can borrow my coat if you want..." he said, "Tonight. I brought a winter coat with me just in case it would rain; you can use it as a duvet."

"That'd be lovely, thanks," Lu Han grumbled without looking at him.

Sehun sped up to stand in front of him:

"Will you ever take off your beanie?"

"No," the elder intern spat, then overtook him as he headed for the staircase.

"How did your week go?" Yixing came tumbling down from the higher bunk beds and graciously dropped in front of Kyungsoo with a dazzling – but slightly unfocused – smile.

"Um, great." Kyungsoo hesitated, tried to smile back. "Working on an acquisition case. It's kind of refreshing."

"Are you ready to paddle tomorrow?" the intern said peacefully while Jongin snorted softly on the bed above them. "I am totally hyped. I feel like I'm here to fulfil the mission that I was born to do."

"You said that about winning mah-jong last week too," Tao noted sullenly from the spot near the door, where he was fighting to open up his sleeping bag.

"I've never paddled in my entire life," Joonmyun admitted with a worried look on his face, "I watched videos on Youtube all night yesterday, so I think I know where to put my hands and feet but, um, sorry if I underperform tomorrow."

"Don't worry, buddy," Yixing smiled, "we're all on the same boat after all. See what I did there? Boat? Dragon Boat?"

"Okay, Yixing," Kris sighed, "you're getting a little too carried away, here. Slow down."

"That's not what your dog said last night," the younger man sang lightly, and all the other interns instantly spun to look at them.


"No, no," Kris hurriedly intervened, eyes shutting in consternation, "No. My mum's in town for a week and she brought my husky over, who's always excited, so Yixing and I had to walk him yesterday night. We just walked him. Okay? Not..."

"Not judging," Jongdae shrugged from over his bunk bed, and Kris opened his mouth to protest.

"Ace is so affectionate," Yixing remarked with another fond smile.

"Alright, stop." Kris raised one hand. "Not another word from you."

"Group EXO," Changmin's voice suddenly boomed through the opening as the tall consultant appeared through the doorway, with Yunho grinning behind him. "Are you all here for the briefing?"

"Chanyeol's in the bathroom," Baekhyun explained, "he drank too much at the refreshments tent earlier on."

"I'm back," the said intern piped up and rapidly bent down to slide under Changmin's extended arm in the doorway. "Sorry."

"Okay, here's the drill," Changmin began flatly, "tonight, dinner in half an hour in the main tent. Then, it's free time until you sleep. As I said, however, the summer internship programme's dragon boat race has become an annual company tradition at TTM, so many of the higher ups are actually here to watch the event, and you would be well advised to use this time as a networking opportunity."

"But really, you're free to do whatever you want as long as you stay safe. So if you feel that the air is too stuffy around the tent, you're not forced to stay." Yunho smiled. "It's actually free time."

"But you might want to use that as networking time," Changmin repeated, "also, strictly forbidden to wander off into the forest around the lake. That's a hundred percent off limits."

"But if you're responsible, and I'm sure you all are, you can take a stroll through the little woodland paths. It's really lovely there when it's sunny."

"Curfew is at midnight."

"But you're all grown-ups so you can chat quietly until you feel ready to sleep."

"Yunho," Changmin said, "you need to stop."

"Sorry, I just don't want to scare them."

"Tomorrow, the real thing starts. Breakfast at six in the main tent," Changmin elaborated sternly, "From seven thirty onwards, each team gets thirty minutes of training on how to handle a dragon boat, you need to choose one drummer to keep the rhythm and one guy to be the coxswain."

"What's that?" Baekhyun frowned.

"Steersperson." Yunho clarified.

"Actual race starts at one sharp." Changmin hammered on, "you get three chances. Winner's based on the sum of your time records, not ranking in the actual rounds, so you have a chance at winning even if you don't finish first in all races. Got it?"

The room nodded soundlessly. Their team coach then lowered his arm, only to fold them over his chest.

"Good. Don't forget that this is a team-building activity which counts as part of your graded assessments, so winning tomorrow will get you points that will be recorded on your team board, and eventually, towards whether you are shortlisted for the job positions."

"But we also want you to have fun," Yunho quickly said, "because this is one of the times you can do something quirky that you wouldn't do in any other internship and we want you to enjoy the sportive exhilaration-"


"Okay, I'm sorry..."

"One last thing," Changmin exhaled and looked at them, "I need one team captain for the purpose of this activity, to keep your dorm keys and to make sure everyone's doing the right thing at the right time. Volunteers?"

"Minseok is the oldest," Lu Han noted casually, and the Princeton graduate hissed at him.

"Minseok, are you up for the job?"

"Well," Minseok shifted his gaze uneasily, "I think we need someone more athletic than me on this one."

Chanyeol leaned towards Kris in curiosity: "Don't you play basketball?"


"Well, then, here we go," Changmin stated, and tossed the keys in Kris's direction, who caught them with a bewildered look on his face. "You're team leader for EXO. Don't let your team down."

"Wait..." Kris stammered, "I don't-"

"Dinner in twenty minutes!" the consultants simply declaimed before leaving them alone in the bright neon lights of the dormitory. Lu Han immediately rolled onto his stomach and stared at Kris with a derisive smile:

"You just won the lottery, team leader. Good job."

"I don't want to be team leader," the Economics graduate retorted, letting the keys dangle from the tip of his fingers: "can someone else take the role? I don't think I can..."

"Don't be ridiculous, you'll do a great job at it," Tao firmly declared and threw his sleeping bag onto his mattress.

"Of course," Chanyeol nodded enthusiastically, "you'll be brilliant, I'm sure."

Jongdae smiled widely before popping open a bag of chips. Jongin was looking at his phone while touching his lips, and Minseok was already heaving a sigh of relief whilst staring up at the ceiling, before leaving the dorm with Lu Han behind him, the two of them starting a discussion about the most recent football matches.

Kris stared at them wordlessly, mouth open, and then Yixing was in front of him with a peaceful smile.

"Congratulations, leader."

"Oh," Kris breathed out and cleared his throat, the keys still in his hands. "Well. Hmm. Eh. Yeah."

He then paused and brutally spun around, charging out of the room under the other intern's dumbfounded face:

"Yifan, where are you going?" Yixing blinked.

"Hasnnsghsh," the elder intern simply emitted before disappearing into the tunnel in an abrupt wave of internal panic, "I'll see you guys at the dinner table."

"Wait, Yifan. Yifan!"

He should have specified that he wanted to get some fresh air alone. Soon, hurried steps were echoing behind him and before he could even make it to the grillage, Yixing had already caught up to him with an intense look on his face.

Kris saw him and closed his mouth, then sidestepped him and marched forward.

"Yifan," the other intern persisted, "Hey, you okay?"

"Of course, I'm okay. I am totally okay, calm down." he then stopped and brandished the keys in front of his colleague's face. "I'd feel even better if you accepted to be leader in my stead, actually. What do you say?"

The younger man halted, blinking:


"Thought so," Kris laughed curtly and strode off, only to have Yixing follow him. "No one wants to be leader, it's a shitty job as any."

"I genuinely think you'd do a good job," the McGill graduate hopped after him as he walked up the pebbled alley, "Why are you panicking about it? No one expects you to be a perfect leader, even though I'm sure you're a fire-cracking one..."

"Yixing, stop it. I just need a moment by myself..."

"No, really. I mean it." the younger intern raised his voice, "First of all, you're uh, you're snarky..."

"How does that have anything to do with being a leader?!"

"Secondly, you have a resting bitch face..."

"That's..." Kris frowned incredulously. "Thanks."

"Also, you're old..." Yixing paused, "...der than most of us, so you can make use of that as a form of authority."

Kris glanced back at him and produced an unimpressed sound.

"You don't have to feel stressed about it," Yixing suddenly said as he ran up to him, "you don't even have to do well, if that means anything to you."

"No, that does not mean anything to me," Kris grumbled.

"Yifan, I'm serious. You're better at this than most of us, and it's only a tiny added amount of responsibility, that's all."

"Yeah, but what if I don't want that added amount of responsibility," Kris spun around. "What if I don't want to be responsible for winning those points or losing them for the team, what if I don't want to be the one thinking ‘Fuck, I bloody messed up', or ‘Shit, I let everyone down' if we lose all those races tomorrow like a beginner? What then?"

Yixing braked behind him and contemplated his face without heat.

"So that's what it was about?"

"What is?"

"You're just scared because of what Changmin said about not letting your team down? You're scared of disappointing us?"

Kris stood there for a moment, then turned around without replying and stormed towards the parking lot. The younger intern trotted after him:

"Yifan. Calm down."

"What," he turned around, "our team is literally composed of a fluffy accountant in oversized sweaters, an aloof lawyer, a redbull-addicted hacker and his unattainable one-sided crush, two geeky engineers, a Scottish oddball, one social media-crazed hipster who doesn't know when to shut up, a fucking bohemian hippie, a diva running on two hours of sleep a day, and Sehun...And with that, you expect me to keep calm?"

"Yes!" Yixing exclaimed.

"What the fuck," Kris emitted weakly and turned on his heels, starting to walk off at a much slower pace now.

Yixing profited from his decreased speed and started trailing behind him:

"Am I the fucking bohemian hippie?"

"...You might be."

There was a silence, and then Yixing was back at his level, sliding his arm comfortably in his, making him blink down at their intertwined arms.

"What are you doing?" he mumbled.

"Nothing. Just showing that I'm not disappointed in you for your childish outburst or your tiny stress-intake capacity or anything."

Kris studied the younger man's face for a while, before finally letting out a tiny snort.

"Well," he said, "cheers for that."

"Come on," Yixing hummed indifferently, "let's check out the convenience store before going to dinner... We could get some midnight snacks for the others, like shrimp crackers. Everyone likes shrimp crackers."

"You think they'll be okay?" Baekhyun glanced at Chanyeol as the taller intern stood up from their table in the main tent, his emptied plate in hand.

"Yeah, of course they will," he nodded. "They just texted me saying they'd be back from the convenience store in ten minutes."

"Oh," Baekhyun snorted, chuckling at his plate of food, "okay, I see."

"They've got cream puffs at the desserts table," Chanyeol stated, pushing up his glasses with his vacant hand, and squinting into the distance, "I'm going to grab some before they're gone."

"Cool, you do that," the elder intern simply hummed. "Go get'em buddy."

"You want anything?"


Baekhyun looked up to Chanyeol's expectant face, and the younger intern simply nodded at his remains of mashed potatoes and vol-au-vent.

"You want any dessert? I can pick some up for you."

"Oh, uh," Baekhyun took a peek at the mount of delicacies on the furthest table of the tent, "some strawberry cheesecake would be very nice, thanks."

Chanyeol bobbed his head and easily picked up his empty pint.

"I'll fill up your glass while I'm at it."

"You don't have to..." Baekhyun started, "Chan-"

But the younger intern was already striding towards the desserts table, momentarily braking to say hi to his supervisor, and starting a brief polite chat with her. Baekhyun watched him for a little while, until he felt the bench creak next to him and a familiar Scottish accent in his ear:

"Nice bloke, aye?"

The Columbia graduate turned around, and jolted at the sight of an eerily grinning Jongdae sitting dangerously close, a pint of foamy golden ale in his hand. The sight caused him to gulp and look back in Chanyeol's direction:

"You mean, Chanyeol?"

"Uhuh," Jongdae leered through his pint.

"Yeah... he sure is."

"So you fancy him?"


Jongdae stared at him in a ‘you-heard-me-perfectly' kind of way and Baekhyun faltered.

"I...I don't know, why?"

"Let me diagnose you," the younger intern rubbed his hands together like a spiritual guru and lifted them up in Baekhyun's direction, closing his eyes: "Tell me my child, does your heart beat faster when he's around you?"

"What are you doing?"

"Gotta play the game. Tell me: does your heart beat faster?"

"...No." Baekhyun frowned.

"Ah, then when you two are in close proximity with each other, do you feel this warmth inside of you?"

"Um, no...?"

"Do your pupils get dilated?"

"How the hell am I supposed to kn-"

"When you guys talk and he smiles at you, does he take your breath away? Does he dazzle? Does he make you feel like that smile is the only thing you'll ever want to see for the rest of your life?"

Baekhyun stared back at him.


"Well, then, you don't fancy him."

Baekhyun sat back onto his bench, wondering how it was possible that he could feel both so relieved and so disappointed at the same time.

"I don't?"

"Nupe," Jongdae said, wiping the foam around his mouth with the unused corner of a napkin. "Don't think you're quite there yet."

Outside the tent, a good ten metres away from them, Minseok, Joonmyun and Lu Han were doing their own simulation of paddling a dragon boat, moving their arms inanely in the air while Joonmyun shouted vague words like ‘HOLD' and ‘SIT UP', and Lu Han stopped every two seconds to reposition the corners of his beanie.

Baekhyun cleared his throat uneasily.

"He...uh, I genuinely think he's kind."

"Chanyeol? He sure is." the other man sneered, "'s got the heart of a flower as well. Heard about Lu Han's rat problems and went around buying rat poison and rat traps, which he then personally installed around Lu Han's flat... Didn't ask for a penny. I would have charged five dollars a trap, but oh well..."

"Yeah, he's pretty generous," Baekhyun agreed morosely. "Awesome guy, really."

He observed Chanyeol's animated figure from afar, watching the younger man's huge hands movements as he waved to his supervisor and almost knocked another consultant's plate over, bursting into thousands of apologies while his supervisor laughed at him. Baekhyun smiled when he felt Jongdae nudge him with his elbow.

"Just don't use him and then break his heart, alright?" the younger intern smirked.

Baekhyun's heart skipped a beat, forcing him to look back down at his plate. Two seconds later, Joonmyun's voice came blaring from outside the tent:

"Jongdae, we need four people for symmetry!"

"Sorry, coming right away," Jongdae laughed and left his pint on the table before skimping away and leaving Baekhyun alone in the tent. He sat there unmoving for a while, unable to tell his thoughts apart. Then, the buzz from his phone shook him awake, and he dazedly glanced down at the new message on the screen.

"Hey, long time no talk. What's going on?"

He heaved a sigh, and lowered the mobile. A pat on his shoulder asked for his attention. Chanyeol was back with the plates of desserts and a filled pint of beer.

"They ran out of cheesecake," he said, "but you like the company cafeteria's éclairs, so I got you some. Is that okay?"

Baekhyun pushed the phone back into his pocket and mustered his most genuine smile of gratitude:

"That's awesome, thanks."

"If no one's taking a shower right now, I'm going," Kyungsoo said, towel in hand, as they all dawdled around the dormitory.

The others did not bother with a reply. Only Joonmyun mumbled something through his improvised pillow, but he was already dozing off, compellingly carried towards a world of dreams by the strawberry scent of his newly washed and conditioned hair, and the sweet fragrance of coconut body lotion.

Kyungsoo slipped out of his bunk bed whilst taking care in not knocking his friend awake, and then walked out of the dorm. The underground compound was a maze of painted white walls and identical pipes. He bumped into a number of other interns on his road there and asked for the way three or four times before finally finding the boys' shower rooms, which were currently resonating with the sounds of dripping water and guys asking each other where the hot water handle was... He was glad that these were shower cubicles aligned next to each other, and not open spaces. Kyungsoo had always hated the awkwardness of public shower rooms, with all those naked bodies facing each other under similar water taps. Cuddling the towel closer to his chest, he walked along the line of cubicles until his eyes caught sight of a half-open one, at the end of the line.

Without hesitation, he pushed the door inwards, ready to step in when his gaze suddenly fell upon a broad, tanned back rustling with water, and a round pair of firm buttocks. Kyungsoo's eyes shot wide open, and at once, the buttocks' owner turned around and he let out a yelp, because it was Jongin, dark hair steamy and wet, with a surprised look on his face.

"Oh my...shit, I'm sorry, fuck!" he blurted out, cheeks burning as he tried to slam the door close, "sorry. I'm so sorry."

As soon as the booth was shut, he flattened himself against the wall, ignoring another intern who passed him by with an incredulous look on his face, and yelled out angrily:

"You could have locked the door, you moron!"

Jongin came out of the cubicle a few minutes later, a towel around his waist and their gazes barely crossing before the younger man sheepishly looked away with the beginning of a smile.

"The lock's broken on that one," he mumbled softly while passing the shampoo to him.

Kyungsoo remained stupidly rooted to the spot until Jongin had disappeared, then promptly paced into the emptied cubicle and slammed the door shut, in an attempt to hide his utter mortification.

"Lu Han, can you turn off your phone?" Baekhyun grumbled in the obscurity. "That's all I can see in this darkness and it's driving me insane."

"Sorry, will do in two seconds," Lu Han closed the Facebook window, ignoring Sehun's annoyed shifting on his right.

"It's two forty-five," Kris grunted, lying comfortably on his stomach with his arms folded underneath his chin, "we're waking up in less than three hours."

Tao immediately whimpered into his sleeping bag, "fuck my life."

"Lu Han," Minseok murmured in the darkness, "I'm sleeping across the room and I can still see your phone light – cut it out, please."

"Okay, here we go," Lu Han smiled and the blue glow of the mobile disappeared, attracting a wave of relieved groans and groggy shifting.

"I pity Sehun and Yixing, really," Minseok noted flatly before yawning in the newfound darkness. "Sleeping next to you must be a chore."

"You bet," Sehun muttered, facing the wall.

"Pffffffft," Lu Han simply snorted while propping himself on his elbows. "I'm definitely not the worst in this room. Besides, Yixing's already sleeping like a baby next to me, so it's not like I'm disturbing him. Right?"

He turned to the boy on his side, and froze, the smile slowly disappearing from his face. On his left, Yixing was indeed snoring softly like a new-born child, his lips parted fragilely and chest heaving relaxingly under the covers, but... the guy slept with his eyes open. The white part of his eyeballs was in fact showing in proportions way larger than any amount Lu Han found reassuring in a normal human being, and Jesus Christ, it was terrifying... Repressing a shudder, he delicately took the other intern's face between two fingers, and gently turned it in the other direction.

"What are you doing?" Kris suddenly said from Yixing's other side.

"Making you look at how cute he is?" he tried, pushing Yixing just a little to making sure he could not see the other man's eyes anymore. "Look at him snoring softly; isn't he sweet."

"Fucking hell," Kris dropped, eyes widening in terror at the sleeping intern's white eyeballs.

"Yeah, enjoy," Lu Han nodded and lied down, then gasped when the younger intern gently grabbed Yixing's chin and slowly turned it back towards him. "What the fuck are you doing?"

"You keep the view, I don't want to have nightmares," Kris whispered, burying himself into his sleeping bag. "Bye."

"No way in hell."

He smoothly placed both hands over Yixing's cheeks, taking a thousand precautions not to wake the slumbering younger man up as he nudged his face back in Kris's direction.

"Stop it," Kris hissed, before guiding the other intern's head back towards Lu Han. "Stop doing that!"

"No, you stop it," Lu Han rustled back, fingers on the snoring Yixing's temples again, "he's fucking disturbing, I'm not getting any sleep if he's facing me."

"Just deal with it, don't push it onto me."

"Stop moving him," Lu Han whispered harshly as Kris nudged Yixing's face towards him for the fifth time, "you'll wake him up...!"

"What are you guys doing?" Minseok grumbled drowsily from across the room.

"Nothing," Lu Han said.

Yixing snored between Kris and him. They looked at each other.

"Okay, he faces the ceiling," Kris stated. "This way we get one eye each... Kinda. And if he falls on either side again, no one touches him. Okay? We just deal with it and take those scary ass eyeballs on like a man."

"Like a man?" Lu Han's eyes glowed with a strange light.

"That's right, you heard me. Like a bloody man," the Economics graduate sneered before slipping deeper into his sleeping bag again and turning to face the empty bed on the other side, "Good night, Lu Han Lu."

"It's motherfucking Lu Han," he started, then paused as he saw Yixing's lips twitch in his sleep. With a groggy sound, the younger man's head tilted and soon fell over onto his side, white eyeballs staring at him over peaceful snores.

Lu Han closed his mouth and pursed his lips.

Well, fuck.

He heaved a sigh and rolled onto his right, resigning himself to face Sehun's snoozing figure on the other side. The younger intern was already curled up into a ball, drooling face half-buried into his sleeping bag and looking altogether like a gigantic overfed caterpillar that somehow forgot to go into cocoon stage.

"Wonderful," Lu Han thought sarcastically.

A chilly shiver later, he slowly brought his legs up, dragging Sehun's heavy winter coat over his body to shield himself against the cold. Then, tugging his beanie over his face as an improvised sleep mask, he took a deep breath – incidentally inhaling the remains of cologne impregnated on the coat's collar – and relaxed his shoulders to drift into overwhelming, restful peace.

I swear I'm not doing this to the China line because I hate them — Seli, don't come for me.
« Last Edit: August 23, 2019, 05:35:22 PM by arielle »

Time to ask: did you get a grip on the truth? We are here to bring change to our world. Take a side, make it right—or get out of our way right now; you cannot stop us!

How many times did you look away when someone cried for help?—acting like you didn't know. We won't accept excuses without sincere actions; unmasking all you traitors!

Offline arielle

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Re: chacun voit midi à sa porte [⚜] writing storage
« Reply #16 on: January 18, 2018, 04:48:03 PM »
Chapter Six of Interning: Modern Alliance ❞

The dorm woke up at dawn in a chaos of drills and expletives. Minseok's alarm set off at five thirty-one, in a terrifying ruckus of machine guns shooting and bombing sounds, punctuated by soldiers shouting in the background. Joonmyun immediately tried to sit up in alarm and knocked his face against the bed above him, falling back onto his side with a cry of pain; Tao curled up into a ball and started to sob into his mattress, while Chanyeol got his feet tangled in a discarded sweatshirt and tumbled off the bed, shaking the entire room with the crash that ensued.

Lu Han opened his eyes to the blinding whiteness of the dorm lights being turned on, and blinked himself back into alertness, only to find a pair of feet resting over his stomach like a throned cat in its litter. Following the legs up to their poor excuse of an owner led him to a Sehun lying diagonally in his sleeping bag, with his face digging in the wall on the other side, the younger man still snoring loudly in the general pandemonium of complaints.

Lu Han let out an exclamation of indignation:

"Feet off, you worm," he yelled and threw the outrageous legs over his head, not trying to stop the younger man when he slipped and tipped over the bed, landing in an ugly crash over the pile of travel bags on the floor.

The said 'worm' immediately sat up with a bird nest in his hair.

"What the bloody hell," Sehun shouted through half-glued eyelids and a haggard glare: "the fuck was that for?"

Lu Han rolled his eyes, then realised with a jolt that his beanie was slowly sliding off his head. He rapidly pushed it back and slipped off the bunk beds while the rest of the dorm grudgindly crawled out of their sleeping positions, and Sehun grumbled something unintelligible on the floor. Without remorse, Lu Han skipped over him and walked out of the room to aim for the bathroom, red towel in hand.

They were together again in the locker room, ten minutes later, with Sehun holding a toothbrush and toothpaste in his hands as he leaned against the cubbyholes:

"I thought I was going to die," he carped resentfully.

"Well, price you pay for letting your feet wander all over people without their permission," Lu Han huffed haughtily, wiping his face with a viperous look, "It's gross and inacceptable. You need a lesson on private space and wires to tie you down in your sleep."

"No need to overreact," Sehun rolled his eyes, following the elder man as he paced towards their team's cupboard. "Not like I stepped onto a dead frog before going to bed."

"I'm not overreacting."

"Uh," the Oxford student snorted through his nose, "yes, you clearly are."

"I just hate sharing my bed with people. You can have my sandwich and all that crap, but bed sharing?" Lu Han made a dismissive sound. "No. No one but me steps onto my bed, and that includes feet, arms, drool, anything."

"Bloody hell, it's not even your bed, it's a dorm bed."

"I'm sleeping on it, so it's my bed," he retorted.

"How would you deal with girlfriends coming over, then?" Sehun crossed his arms and cocked an eyebrow.

Lu Han paused, thinking about it fleetingly before resuming his task and folding his towel into four.

"I make exceptions for people I like," he said.

The younger man looked up briefly, then lowered his gaze and kicked the air around them.

"Is it true that you like Minseok?"

At this, Lu Han placed his hand on the knob of their team cupboard, and craned his neck to stare at Sehun's lean silhouette in the locker room.

"Did Tao tell you that? Because if Tao told you that he's getting into trouble."

"No, a birdy told me that," Sehun replied on the beat, "an ugly bird with a red ass and a gangster tattoo on its chest. Is it true, though?"

"Maybe," the other intern shrugged, folding his emptied backpack and tossing it into their locker. "Why? Does it bother you or something?"

"Meh," Sehun emitted, playing indifferently with the tip of his toothbrush. This elicited a cocked eyebrow from Lu Han.

"Have a thing against guys fancying other guys?"


"Thought it might be one of your Bible things," Lu Han snorted and closed the cupboard before turning the key. "Like Jesus asked you not to hang around with bi people or something."

"Love is love whomever you find it with," Sehun countered tersely. "Religion has nothing to do with that."

"So why are you asking, then?"

Sehun shrugged, shoving the toothbrush into his mouth, "Just because."

Lu han squinted at him. Sometimes, he had the world's trouble understanding this guy.

"Okay," he left the cupboard and aimed for the door, "anyways, if I catch your feet on my bed again..."

He stopped before reaching the exit, and Sehun snorted behind him:

"What, you'll kick my ass?"

The younger man tried to overtake him and Lu Han's hand closed around his wrist like a metal wire, dragging a shocked yelp out of him.

"What the-"

"There's a rat."


"There's a motherfucking. Rat." Lu Han spat, eyes widened in horror as he stared at the door.

"What?!" Sehun jumped and retreated with his toothbrush in hand, before noticing the mass of black fur next to their only exit.

Why, yes, indeed, Lu Han was right. There was a rat.

A big, fat rat.

Not the slim ones that flee upon sight and escape so fast that you can barely see anything but a streak of shadow running along the wall. No. This was a huge, portly rodent as big as a guinea pig, sitting comfortably next to the door and staring at them like it was the guardian of the underworld.

Sehun immediately screamed his head off.

"What the-"

"Bloody fuck," he yelled, jumping behind Lu Han to grab him by the shoulders, "kill it, kill it now!"

"Wha- No - I can't," Lu Han retorted, his voice going up one octave.

"What do you mean you cant-"

"Have you seen it?" the elder man barked while struggling. "It's fucking disgusting!"

"But...I thought you killed rats every day in your flat?"

"Well, that uh," the elder intern looked side-ways as he backed up, "My flat isn't actually infested by rats. It's infested by mice."

"What?" Sehun yelped. "You lied?"

They both shook on their knees when the rodent squeaked, wriggling its nose at them.

"No, I technically just exaggerated a bit," Lu Han finally replied and fought against Sehun's hands to hide behind the younger intern, "anyways I am not touching that monster, you hear me, you go and smash its skull with that toothbrush!"

"Are you mad?" Sehun barked.

"I thought English Literature students were oh, so bloody useful," Lu Han scoffed.

"I study English Literature, not motherfucking pest extermination!"

The next moment, the door slammed open into the fat rat, making both of them scream, Lu Han jump, and land into Sehun's arms.

Changmin appeared on the doorstep, glaring at the two of them in dismay.

"I can hear you two shouting from all the way down the corridor. You both need to shut up."

" killed the rat," Lu Han stuttered, arms still around Sehun's neck.

Changmin looked down at the tail sliding out from beneath the metal door, and slapped a hand over his forehead.

"I'm pretty sure it was painless, though," Sehun offered, still green in the face.

Changmin glared at him and designated the hallway:

"Get out this instant," he ordered, "go to fucking breakfast."

Lu Han hopped off Sehun's arms and went fleeing with him, only stopping once they reached the open air to throw each other scathing remarks and annoyed slaps.

"Can't believe you can't even take care of one obese rat," the elder man grunted.

"What? You-"

"You guys get loads of these in London anyways."

"I am from Cambridge," Sehun stressed, and dealt one last slap on the elder man's arm, "I was raised in proper conditions. Clean environment. Living in a safe and hazard-free location."

"Basically, you haven't lived at all," the other man snorted.

"You couldn't take care of it either!"

Lu Han did not seem to listen:

"I bet you if your girlfriend and you got into a fight, she'd be the one to protect you and not the opposite."

"That is not true, I'd be the one to protect...her," Sehun scowled, looking downwards at the word.

Lu Han hit him on the arm again to have him pay for the previous slap he had apportioned, only to be immediately countered by the younger man. The Australian graduate pursed his lips and smacked him once more, only to get an identical slap in return.

"You need to stop."

"Stop first, then," Sehun challenged, and Lu Han gave him another wallop.

"No, you stop first."

Sehun whacked him on the shoulder. Lu Han whacked him on the head.

"Ow," the literature student gaped in bafflement, "that really hurts, you barbarian."

But his colleague only guffawed at his expenses and leisurely left the grillage, pursued by Sehun who trotted after him with a malcontent grouch.

"Who's the immature one, now?" he shouted.

The quick hits did not end, and followed them all the way down to the tables at the main tent.

A few hours later, the sun had risen high above the undulating waters.

"Are you guys ready to paddle?" Yunho shouted excitedly on the wooden dock of the lake.

"Yes," Yixing raised both hands in the air, almost knocking Lu Han over with his paddle.

"I can't hear you guys. Louder! Are you guys ready to paddle?!"

"Yes!" they responded unenthusiastically.

"You too, Changmin," Yunho said, "come on, are you-"

"Don't," the younger consultant gave him a glare, and he recoiled with a shudder:

"Ha ha, okay... Well! We'll be supporting you guys from the shore," the elder team coach smiled and gave Kris a tap on the shoulder: "Lead your team to victory, okay?"

The LSE graduate nodded vaguely, but within seconds, his face had turned a little grey.

"Have any of us ever paddled before?" Jongin asked apathetically, leaning on his paddle like a cane while their supervisors slowly left the dock.

Weedy shaking of heads responded to his question as the others started to lumber towards their fastened dragon boat. Kyungsoo gave him a look before taking his own place on the yellow and red vessel.

"Can't be too hard anyhow," Lu Han claimed gruffly while installing himself on the last row, "we had the training this morning."

"Thirty minutes of training, yes," Jongin stressed with a sarcastic smile.

"It's too late to think about it now," Kris waved, gently directing Jongdae towards the steering oar blade, "Yixing, you take the second row with me. Jongin and Minseok take the fourth. Tao, I need you by the drum."

"Are you sure this sitting arrangement is a good idea?" the younger intern asked sceptically, holding the drumsticks beneath his arm like nunchucks. "I mean, Chanyeol's sitting next to Baekhyun."

"What's wrong with that?" Chanyeol sounded genuinely hurt.

"Who cares," Lu Han shrugged as he positioned himself, and Jongin sat in front of him, "let's just get this done and over with."

"Everyone, to the starting line," the megaphone announced at the same time, and the dragon boats around them started to move towards the centre of the lake, where a string of buoys were floating to mark their starting point.

Kris grabbed his paddle and dug it into the water.

"Okay guys," he raised his voice, "let's turn this bloody boat around and move our asses over to that starting line, alright?"

The rest of the team nodded.

With a heaving sound, the paddles entered the water...and everything went down to hell.

Ten paddles burst into unbalanced moves, wooden blades jarred into each other, the vessel oscillated dangerously as Jongdae drew onto the T-handle, causing an awful creaking noise to break loose beneath them. Joonmyun yelped and lifted his paddle above his head, tipping the entire boat by the same occasion.

They all froze on the spot, and waited for the craft to stabilize, looking at each other in scepticism.

"This is going well," Kyungsoo observed with a stoic face.

"Okay, let's try again," Kris cleared his throat.

"Don't forget to keep the rhythm," Tao noted broodingly. But the paddles had already penetrated the waters again.

This time, slowly but surely, their boat steered out of the bay and stiffly made it to the starting line, as they repositioned themselves between the eleventh and thirteenth boats of the lot. Music was blaring from outside the shoreline's tents. The referee was standing on a floating platform, holding up a gun in the air.

Sitting behind his drum, Tao sketched another uncertain frown at the ten paddlers in front of him, and lowered his sticks.

"Guys, I'm really not convinced by our position-"

"On your marks," the megaphone suddenly announced, "get set..."

Joonmyun abruptly started reciting in a high-pitched voice: "Five long strokes then ten sprint strokes, five long strokes then ten sprint strokes..."

"We'll settle the positions later," Jongin spoke for Tao's benefit.

Then, the gunshot shattered through the air with a puff of smoke.


"Take it away," Kris commanded.

"Take what away?" Yixing shot up and blinked.

"It means paddle," Kris shouted from next to him as he swept. "Just bloody paddle, for Christ's sake!"

Wading water sounds surfaced all around; racing commands cutting through the air like war cries, echoed by Tao's drumming sounds that were now bouncing against a dozen other drums on either side of them, leaving a hullaballoo of thumping and pounding as their dragon boat began to dwindle at the end of the queue. Lu Han soon jerked and let out an angry exclamation from behind Jongin's back:

"You're one stroke ahead of the beat, you idiot!"

"Well, you're one stroke behind the beat, you idiot," the lawyer snapped back from beside a grimacing Minseok.

In the third row, Joonmyun and Kyungsoo were struggling to untangle their paddles from the ones ahead and behind them.

"How many long strokes have we done?" the elder of the two shrieked.

"Chanyeol, you're paddling too fast," Baekhyun protested and the taller intern, in a panic, stopped paddling altogether. Yixing let out a small yelp from behind him as their paddles collided.

"Guys...Guys. Guys," Tao cringed as his face reddened, "keep up with the fucking rhythm!"

"I can't hear the fucking rhythm," Lu Han shouted back.

They waddled in the water pitifully, moving by tiny spurts, as Kris lifted his eyes to the sky.

"Wow, that's quite a bit of distance we're losing here," Jongdae whistled appreciatively from beside the steering oar blade, as he stared at the other boats near the ending line.

They finished the race half a minute later than the penultimate dragon boat.

"This is not okay," Tao grumbled as they paddled back towards the starting line, "no one's paying attention, we're all over the place."

"Well, the music from the shore is too loud, so I get confused by the other teams' drums," Sehun tried to justify himself.

But Yixing only smiled placidly:

"Guys, we still have two chances," he said, "just think of this one as a warm-up."

"I'm warmed up alright," Joonmyun lamented from his side of the boat, head buried in his left arm with his neck drenched in sweat.

Kris simply bit down on his lip and watched as the other teams gathered around them with fuzzy chatter, feeling more and more demotivated by the second. It was hard not to think of this as a hopeless struggle.

"Yifan," a hand waved in front of his face, "Yifan, wake up."

Kris gently put Yixing's hand down and repressed another audible sigh, under the younger man's inquisitive gaze.

"Don't give up," the serene intern said.

"I'm not giving up, it's just..." he shook his head. "Never mind."

"We are never going to get the jobs, if we paddle like that," Baekhyun commented casually, though his expression mirrored a dash of disappointment which made Kris's spirits sink even more.

A dragon boat numbered "Six" leisurely drifted past them on their way to the floating markers, and one guy waved a feminine handkerchief at them:

"Didn't wake up this morning?" the intern shouted while blowing them a kiss, "it's okay, you can go back to bed."

"Wow, now that really pisses me off," Lu Han groused.

They watched the boat leave towards the starting line with identical expressions of indignation.

"Especially coming from a guy with Frozen's Anna on his handkerchief," Jongdae whistled after a gap, "nice."

"Anyways, Yixing is right, we still have two chances," Kris exhaled despondently as they finally relocated themselves next to the other teams. "Let's get our shit together... alright?"

"Think of yourselves as pirates, if that helps," Yixing nodded, as he pointed at the vessel underneath them, "Mighty pirates. This is the Black Pearl."

"Pirates don't use dragon boats," Kyungsoo stated.

"Just-" Kris paused, discouragement filtering through him, "concentrate."

They straightened their backs with unintelligible complaints and lifted the paddles above the water.

"Five long strokes," Joonmyun repeated quietly like a mantra as he sat up, "five long strokes, then ten sprint strokes."

The starting gun shot resounded a few minutes later.

"Take it away!" Kris bellowed.

But amidst the swearing and the conflicting paddle strokes, their second race finished with a mediocre ranking of ten out of thirteen. Tao smacked his head against the drum in exasperation.

"Thirty minutes break!" the megaphone proclaimed and they floundered back to shore like a flock of wet ducks.

"I can't do this," Lu Han flung his paddle on the floor of the dock as soon as they arrived. "Fuck this, man, we are horrible at this..."

"Brother Lu, you can't give up now," Yixing began, but Kyungsoo cut him wryly:

"No. He's right, we suck at this and it's hopeless. There is no way in hell that we're going to win now."

"Maybe we'll do better in the third race," Jongdae shrugged.

"How can you still say that?"

"I feel like my lungs are about to collapse," Joonmyun wheezed from beside the boat, and Minseok bent down to give him a bottle of water, "you think it's possible that my lungs are collapsing? I'm only twenty-three."

"We can say goodbye to the jobs, now," Jongin sneered. "We're probably going to end up last, at this rate."

"Look, I'm going to fucking tell you why we're so horrible at this," Tao suddenly snapped, brandishing his drumstick dangerously at them. "It's because no one is fucking listening to the beat and everyone's just off doing their own little thing. Chanyeol's paddling way too fast for Baekhyun to keep up... Yixing is busy watching water ripples like it's an aquatic show, Kris shouts orders that no one even bothers to follow, and Lu Han's like in his own motherfucking contest of how many times I can hinder Jongin's paddle with my own..."

"No, I'm not," Lu Han refuted.

"Plus," Tao continued without caring, "I said from the beginning that our sitting arrangement made no sense whatsoever. And no one listened. So who's laughing now?"

Sehun pointed at the team who won the second race and was now whooping hysterically next door:

"They are."

"Do not challenge my patience, Oh Sehun," Tao lifted one hand menacingly.

"Look, you're right." Kris stammered in frustration. "We're terrible. We really are. There is no way we can catch up with the other teams' scores at this rate, and we're going to flunk this first challenge like a bunch of losers."

"That's not what a leader should be saying, you idiot," the younger intern blared instantly, causing Kris to shut up on the spot, "I'm telling you why we suck, and now you are all going to do what I say, right this instant, or I will be sticking this drumstick up your ass – and trust me, I am running on too little sleep to care about the ethical consequences of my actions."

They all blinked and waited deferentially, too dumbfounded by the younger man's threat to speak a word. With a deep breath, Tao pointed at Chanyeol and Baekhyun first.

"You two need to separate. One of Chanyeol's stroke is equivalent to two of Baek's. It makes no sense to put you two together."

"Then, where do I go?" Baekhyun folded his arms. His hair was still dripping with water, having been splashed mercilessly when Chanyeol's giant strokes had pitched the boat in all directions.

"Middle row with Kyungsoo ," Tao griped. "You guys have similar heights and similar way of paddling from what I've seen."

"You mean," Baekhyun's eyebrows arched, "we're both short."

Tao continued without listening:

"Minseok's good at adapting to others' rhythm, and Joonmyun is the only one who tries to follow the drum, so the two of you should get the first row together. Then, Lu Han and Yixing take care of the second row, to set up a rhythm for the rest of the team to follow."

"I'm liking this," Yixing smiled cheerfully. "It's so orderly."

"The tall ones sit behind, to keep the speed going," Tao instructed. "Sehun and Jongin, you get the fourth row. Kris and I will take the fifth."

"Should I just keep steering, then?" Jongdae asked good-naturedly.

"Yeah, you're alright," Tao nodded and handed his drumsticks to Chanyeol. "You've got a good sense of rhythm; you can do the drumming."

"Sure," Chanyeol smiled sheepishly.

"And you," Tao pointed a stern finger at Kris, who gulped, "you need to stop moping around, and start taking your leader job seriously."

"Okay," Kris swallowed at once, and Yixing smiled amusedly at the two of them.

"Look, guys," Tao stared at them resignedly from over his eye bags, "I don't care about the final result. I don't even care about whether we finish last, or if our three times add up and we don't get past the penultimate place. But looking at you guys waddling away in your own little world like a bunch of ducks is freaking excruciating."

"Thanks," Lu Han pined.

"What we need right now," the Chinese intern picked up instantly, "is solidarity."

Yixing immediately began humming in a heavy northern English accent:

"Solidarity, solidarity; solidarity forever..."

"I know you watched Billy Elliot this weekend," Tao interrupted, with a glare, "but stop singing about it."

"You just don't understand how motivating that musical is," the elder intern retorted with a disapproving click of his tongue, "it's the story of a little boy embracing his love for ballet."

"That sounds...kind of interesting, actually." Jongin smiled.

"Anyways. Whatever motivation we have for doing this," Tao ended up declaring with a weary sigh, "let's put in some team effort, alright, because we're all in this together."

"That's...a high school musical reference, but I'll take the point," Lu Han remarked with a smirk.

"Tao's right," Chanyeol ultimated declared as he crossed his arms. "We should simply put in our best and forget about winning. It's all about team effort after all. Forget the points."

"Forget about the points," Minseok repeated pensively and nodded quietly to himself. "I can do that."

The rest of the group nodded in agreement as they slowly sobered up, gathering into a circle over the creaky wooden dock. Kris cleared his throat and glanced at them with a tentative smile.

"Alright," he took an assertive tone, and extended his hand into the centre of their circle: "Team EXO."

The eleven others placed their hands over his own, throwing curious peeks at each other.

"EXO! Let's go!" Kris said.

And a discordant wave of hollering tailed him at different intervals with chaotic hands flying up before flopping back down like a pile of plummeting pancakes. The team stared at each other in doubtful silence, but Kris clapped his hands together and shrugged:

"Yeah, that's good enough for us. Let's go."

Ten minutes later, they were back behind the floating markers and between the other dragon boats, their faces glowing with a new flame of determination under the blinding sun.

"On your marks," the megaphone cut through the heavy summer air, "get set..."

"By the way," Kris spoke softly for Tao to hear as they both lifted their paddles up, "thanks a lot for that... I mean it."

The younger intern looked back at him in surprise, then flushed embarrassedly before facing the front again.

The gun shot detonated.


"Take it away!" Kris shouted.

At once, the ten paddles swerved and leaped into the water, pushing their boat forward in one big harmonized push. With a deep shove, Kris brought the oar back to him and then pulled again. The paddles plunged. As Chanyeol's drumming resounded like a muffled thumping in the distance, and Joonmyun's panicked mantra continued like a broken hymn, he dimly realised that their dragon boat was agonizingly starting to gain speed this time. Instead of dwindling at the back of the line, they were hurtling ahead, deep strokes coordinated and efficiently spread.

"Paddle," Joonmyun suddenly wheezed at the front, "paddle for your lives!"

"Paddle for EXO!" Tao screamed furiously.

"Solidarity, solidarity; solidarity forever!" Yixing yelled at the top of his lungs.

"Guys, this is magical," Jongdae guffawed from behind them all, while holding the T-handle in place, "I wish you could see this from where I am, it's like Jesus gave us wings."

But Kris could see it. Almost like a miracle, their vessel had run over water and gradually taken up second place in the race. They could do this. They could turn the tables around for real.

"Victory-!" he roared. And then a fruit fly flew into his mouth and he started choking on his own spit.

The next second, Jongdae's slipped off the end of the boat and toppled into the water, letting go of the T-handle. Their vessel swung ninety degrees to the left. The entire crew oscillated. Then, a dragonfly buzzed past their boat and Baekhyun threw his paddle in the air with a terrified howl, while Chanyeol's drumstick flew out, smacking Joonmyun on the top of the head. In the second row, Lu Han and Yixing fell into an awkward hug.

"Jongdae," Sehun turned around apprehensively and tried to stand up, causing Kris to croak:

"Wait, don't do that-"

With an awful burbling sound, the water poured into the left side of the boat and Sehun smashed face first into the lake. Jongin immediately followed suit, accompanied by Kyungsoo, Joonmyun, and Lu Han, who let out a long and powerful ‘FUCK' before disappearing amid the waters. The next thing Kris knew, the boat was upside down and he was flailing underwater, struggling to swim to the surface.

"Holy shit," he emerged and gasped an instant later, hair drenched in greenish water. Tao resurfaced next to him, with violent coughs and liquid running out of his nose.

Sounds of alarms being rung ashore reached their ears. Kris slowly floated towards the capsized boat, checking that none of them were missing, as Lu Han began to hold onto the tipped vessel with expletives muttered under his breath. Jongdae had succeeded in reaching them, and had even managed to retrieve a spluttering Joonmyun from underneath the ripples, who was holding onto his oar and staring haggardly at a laughing Yixing and appalled Minseok.

"This is literally the worst," Tao dropped categorically while wiping his nose.

Kyungsoo looked like a bearded collie, patches of algae splattered all over his eyes. With a groan, Kris watched the first team celebrate their victory near the finishing line with a wave of raging roars. Then he lowered his chin against the foot of their upturned boat, and heaved a bottomless sigh:

"Well. At least, we tried."

"You alright?" Chanyeol inquired as he reached the beach, and Baekhyun stumbled behind him. "Do you need help?"

"What?" the elder intern asked, shaking the water out of his shoes and grimacing at the squishy mess that his socks had become. "Oh God..."

"I asked if you needed help," the NYU graduate extended one hand, while the rest of the team splotched past them, grumbling under their breaths.

"No, I'm fine..." Baekhyun replied, then looked down at the mud beneath his feet and shrugged, "ugh and after all, why not."

"There you go," Chanyeol grinned, grabbing the other man's hand as he supported him through the slippery muck. Baekhyun staggered a little before finally reaching him, knocking gently against his chest as he did.

"Thanks for that," the Columbia graduate cackled before looking back at the centre of the lake, where their dragon boat was still floating upside down, surrounded by lifeguards on canoes, "look at the mess we've made."

"It's pretty amazing," Chanyeol agreed with an appreciative smile.

"I heard a lifeguard complain to his colleague as they helped us on the canoe, earlier on," Baekhyun snorted, "he said he hadn't seen a boat capsizing that quickly in ages."

"Well, we're marking history, then."

He beamed when Baekhyun offered him a chuckle of mirth, then shook his head forcefully and the elder man immediately groaned, wiping the spraying water off his face.


"That's alright," Baekhyun commented, before giving him a teasing arching of the eyebrows and an eloquent smile, which only caused Chanyeol to tilt his head.


"You were right..." the elder intern simply said.

"About what?" Chanyeol was confused.

"About us being fine on the long run," the other man elaborated, "for a second there, we were ready to win that race. We were out to kick ass."

"...before we capsized."

"Yeah, but we worked together as one for like a whole minute or something," Baekhyun sneered whilst throwing his life jacket away and squeezing the water out of his shirt, "like you said we'd be able to."

"Oh, well," Chanyeol smirked with a slight shrug, "what can I say? I am a brilliant judge of character, and I never get it wrong when it comes to my opinions about people."

"Damn. So much for modesty..."

"It's true," he laughed genuinely, "when I say someone's nice, I am never wrong."

Baekhyun was about to throw a snarky riposte, when Joonmyun trudged past them with water dripping from his hair:

"My mother says you'll catch all sorts of weird diseases if you don't shower immediately after swimming in lake water," he remarked with an exhausted expression, "you guys should go to the shower rooms too."

"Will do in two seconds," Chanyeol nodded quickly.

"I'm serious," Joonmyun insisted, "there's hepatitis involved. You don't joke around with hepatitis, guys."

"Joonmyun," Jongdae brightly called from the top of the slope, "they found your left shoe."

"Oh, thank God...!"

"Do you think we'll finish last?" Baekhyun frowned in concern as soon as the elder man was gone, thanking Jongdae for his newfound shoe.

The NYU graduate shrugged light-heartedly.

"Who cares, it's only the first assessed event."

"Right," Baekhyun nodded vacantly, then shook himself awake and left the shore at last, "right, you are right. It doesn't matter, there'll be other ones."

"Are you..." Chanyeol hesitated, looking for the other intern's eyes, "are you very worried about getting that analyst job at the end?"

"Well, I mean, who doesn't want a job, right?" the elder man showed a bitter smile as he turned around, "it's not easy getting any kind of job nowadays, after all. Doesn't mean I want to be a competitive, backstabbing bastard, though," he laughed and lifted one hand, "please don't change your judgment of my character on that."

"I wouldn't change anything," Chanyeol blinked disconcertedly, "I just think you're a smart person, who's very hard-working and capable and likeable, and I don't see why you think there wouldn't be at least one place, somewhere, who would want to hire you."

The Columbia graduate turned with a flabbergasted expression and Chanyeol rapidly bit on his tongue. He cleared his throat and dug his hands into his pockets:

"Well...that's what I think, anyways," he glanced up apprehensively before trying to crack a smile, "but I'm no employer, so don't sue me if you do end up unemployed."

"What happened to your fire-cracking confidence about never being wrong?"

The NYU graduate looked up to see the elder man smiling.

"You're very likeable too, Chanyeol," he said, "thanks for being a friend."

Chanyeol felt his mouth dry up as the other intern slowly dragged himself out of the slush on the shore.

"Um, Baekhyun..."

The Columbia graduate turned around, a questioning air on his face.


"I was just thinking, um," Chanyeol stammered, "Well. It's kind of embarrassing..."

Baekhyun had a strangely expectant look on his face.

"Go on."

"I was just thinking..." the younger intern looked up, wide-eyed, " have some mud there on your face."

"Oh," Baekhyun touched his cheek, rubbing it a few times, "there, is it gone?"

"Hnnnn," Chanyeol nodded frenetically.

"Cool," the other man tried to show a grin, "Thanks..."

"No problem."

Baekhyun smiled again, then eventually turned around sheepishly.

"Actually, that's not what I wanted to say at all," Chanyeol spluttered immediately, causing the elder man to halt once more and to gaze back at him with the beginning of a mystified frown:

"What is it that you wanted to say, then?" he asked.

"Well," Chanyeol began difficultly, "I was just wondering-"

"Hey, guys," Sehun emerged from behind the fence, coming back from the area with a skewer of barbequed meat in his hand and a towel around his humid hair, "I don't know if they told you already, but we have grilled meat near the tents. There's like a cocktail party going on up there."

The two elder interns stared at him wordlessly, and Sehun simply twirled his skewer with a shrug:

"You should come."

"We're leaving right away," Baekhyun gave Chanyeol one last hesitant glance before spinning around to face the youngest intern, "we were just chatting about, um...anyways, I still haven't showered yet."

"You should," Sehun frowned in aversion, "Joonmyun told me that you could get hepatitis-"

"Yeah, we heard," Chanyeol nodded.

"I guess it's time for us to move our asses," Baekhyun cleared his throat before picking up his dirtied shoes, "I need a hot shower right now. I think I'm catching a cold..."

He left the premises of the dock in swift, light steps, and Sehun soon gave Chanyeol a dubious look.

"Are you two okay?"

"Totally fine," Chanyeol mumbled, wiping his glasses dejectedly.

"Really, because you look a little w..."

"I just need a Redbull," the NYU graduate nodded at his colleague, and then offered a unconvincing grin. "Should we go get refreshments at the tent? Ha ha."

He then gave Sehun a vigorous slap on the back before silently marching away in the direction of the spreading barbeque smoke, and the younger intern remained rooted on the spot for a little while, nibbling on his grilled onions with a mildly baffled look.

"Thank you for kicking my ass," Tao heard someone say as he sat down in the tents, with a glass of beer in his hand.

Kris was standing behind him with a similar glass, and when he creased his brow, the elder man sat down next to him.

"I didn't kick your ass."

"Figuratively," Kris specified, then let a small smile break. "I was being a wanker, and you kindly – but effectively – snapped me out of it."

"Oh," Tao flushed, then grumbled in discomfiture, "I just did what I thought would be helpful for the team."

"Yeah. You did." The elder man easily conceded.

Tao seemed like he was going to sulk for a fleeting moment, only to direct an earnest and diffident look at Kris a few seconds later:

"You know, I applied to LSE, once."


"Kind of a good thing I didn't get in though," Tao murmured, looking away. "Would have been scary to live in England for three years. It's far from home."

"You'd get used to it," Kris said honestly.

"Maybe," the younger man pursed his lips, "I haven't tried. But now, I'm not in an ivy league university, so..."

"So nothing," the Economics graduate stated calmly, "look at Jongdae's background and look at us; did that make much of a difference, in the end?"

"No. You're right." Tao lowered his glass contemplatively, "Sometimes, it doesn't. Sometimes it all depends on the person."


"I would still have had a hard time getting used to living abroad, though."

"Meh, probably not. Nothing in the world is impossible to you," Kris smirked comfortably at him, "after today, I've learned that fact."

Tao looked surprised for a moment, then pursed his lips in mild embarrassment and faced the front again.

"Please don't say stupid shit like that."

"I mean it. For today. I needed it."

"Yes, you did," he muttered, "if we'd let you do whatever the heck you wanted, you'd have led us straight into the pits of hell. No one scolds you enough."

"Yixing does," the elder man looked up dreamily, "kinda."

"Yixing scolds people?"

"No, he kind of just...lectures and digresses," Kris reflected pensively before drinking from his beer.

Tao peeked at him, then rolled his eyes with a sigh.

"I think he goes way too soft on you. We all do."

"I think so too," Kris admitted quietly, then winced, "though I don't know if Yixing goes soft on me, actually, the guy makes me go through some scary ass tasks..."

"His way of saying you mean a lot to him, probably," Tao pondered, then shrugged when the other man stared at him, "Don't listen to me, I don't know what I'm saying, I don't know what Yixing thinks most of the time."

"No one knows what Yixing thinks most of the time."

"Exactly, he's a psycho," Tao noted, "but he's also a good guy."

"Well, he certainly means a lot to me," Kris said tranquilly.

Tao observed him in silence, then a small smile – of affection or understanding, who knew – graced his lips and he turned towards the front again. Meanwhile, the elder man simply exhaled and nodded with his voice falling to a mere, meditative breath.

"Yep," he ruminated quietly, "that's right, he means a lot to me."

They remained side by side at the table, sipping on beer quietly and enjoying the music playing inside the tent.

Sitting by the dock a sinewy path away, with his legs dangling over the water, Kyungsoo wiped his phone against his jeans and then tried to turn the power button on, in vain.

"Fuck," he grumbled under his breath, as his deceased device laid hopelessly within his grasp, "I knew it."

"You alright?" a low voice spoke from somewhere behind him, and he turned to see Jongin's toned figure leaning over him, two cans of coke in hand and his hair still humid from a recent shower, as the last rays of sunset casted mesmerizing flares of orange and gold onto his face.

Kyungsoo swallowed, momentarily forgetting his previous ordeal to stare at the beautiful ripples of water reflecting against Jongin's silhouette. Then, he inhaled sharply and nodded, inspecting his phone.

"Um," he explained, sounding much more collected than he actually felt, "yeah, I left my phone in my pocket during the dragon boat race and it got drowned when we capsized. Can't turn it on anymore."

"Oh," Jongin grimaced slightly and sat down by his side, "crap. Did you have a lot of stuff on there?"

"Mostly pictures and numbers. And music," his brow furrowed, "a lot of music."

"That's...terrible. You have my most sincere condolences," the younger intern alleged solemnly before handing him a can.

A timid, fledging smirk found its way across Kyungsoo's cheeks before he could help it.

"You don't sound like you mean it for two bucks," he said, and Jongin looked candidly troubled:

"I do! My playlist are the most important things on my phone," the law student stammered, eyelids fluttering, "I...I would totally hate to lose all of them under a buggin' capsized dragon boat, besides..."

"I'm just joking," Kyungsoo re-joined, face impassive, "great joke, ha ha. You didn't find that hilarious?"

Jongin simply stared at him, wide-eyed.

"Never mind," the elder man smiled again at his can, opening it with one hand while the other intern continued to scrutinize him in bemusement. "Thanks for the drink by the way, I was croaking."

"You're welcome."

He dimly realised that Jongin looked very shy today.

The whispers of lake water lapping the supporting structures of the dock were momentarily muffled by a horrified shriek near the tents' area. Tao was now staring in bottomless outrage at a fallen piece of beef on the ground, in front of his table, which had just dropped off his plate after an unfortunate collision with Kris's back. The elder man had been trying to take an empty bottle of beer away from a tipsy Yixing's grip, apparently.

Kyungsoo and Jongin watched Kris apologize to the gobsmacked Tao for a minute or so, then the UCL student rotated to gaze at him:

"I'm going to have to give you my number again, am I not?" he smiled bashfully.

"What for?" Kyungsoo blinked back into focus.

"To schedule a time for dinner next week," the younger intern laughed, "now that your phone broke."

"Oh, yes, that." Kyungsoo did his best to ignore his warming cheeks, "yes, right, I was wondering if that was still going on."

"Of course it is."

"Right," the Harvard graduate nodded.

"Un...Unless you don't want to," Jongin rectified by precaution.

"No," the elder man rapidly shot that possibility down, "No, I'm cool with dinner on Wednesday. Saves me some grocery shopping to do, too."

"Should I...pick you up at your flat, then? Let's say, eight?"

"I, uh...yes, that would be great, and uh, that would be very nice of you, thanks." Kyungsoo kind of crowed out with his coke on one knee.

A warm smile enlivened Jongin's features just then, one that sent a characteristic tingling feeling down the elder man's spine, as many of Jongin's minute actions had done since they'd known each other, not so long ago. A part of Kyungsoo wondered if the teasing attraction he felt for this reticent and introverted law intern could one day be defined into clear-cut, concise words.

But the greater part of him simply wondered whether Jongin felt the same.

"Listen, I usually don't accept dinner invitations from someone I've only known for two weeks," he declared casually after a while.

"I know," Jongin smiled bashfully, "I usually don't invite someone out to dinner when I've only known them for two weeks."

His pulse drumming steadily in his ears, Kyungsoo glanced at the tents' area once more, where night had already fallen and the tipsy Yixing was now languidly serenading Kris and Tao in Chinese, under the two other men's exchanged gaze of both concern and helplessness. Then, Joonmyun arrived towards them with anxiousness in his eyes, and Yixing immediately began to hit his thighs with his fists, chanting for Joonmyun to sing them a Taylor Swift song.

With a smile, Jongin lifted his can of coke to his lips and coyly looked at the vast lake before them:

"You know," he admitted, "I actually had a pretty good time this weekend, in spite of all that went wrong with this silly event."

"Seriously?" Kyungsoo gawked.

"I had fun," Jongin confirmed with a small laugh, looking at his feet, "somehow."


"But don't let Lu Han know," the law student chuckled and glanced at the tents, "he wouldn't let me live it down, I think, and I don't believe I'm ready to have a crazy Australian making fun of me 24/7 on Facebook just yet."

"I never thought you'd enjoy this," Kyungsoo said genuinely, "we lost pretty badly."

"I'm not as competitive as I seem," Jongin simply whispered, then lifted his can of coke towards Kyungsoo's to have a toast, "...cheers?"

Kyungsoo simply studied him in silence, then quietly knocked his can against the younger man's, muttering a small 'cheers' in return.

They settled into calm and comfort, basking in the soothing summer breeze and the peacefulness of their surroundings, until Joonmyun finally yielded to Yixing's pleas and started to emotionally sing Carly Rae Jepsen's ‘Call me maybe' into a plastic cup, which caused Kris to pass a hand over his tired face: "That's not even Taylor Swift."

Above them, the sun had run its course, and now the satin over the sky had been sprinkled with scintillating stars, the lucent glow of the moon slowly gliding over crystal waters.

Kyungsoo took a deep breath and kept his eyes on the horizon, intensely conscious of Jongin's bodily warmth next to him, and at the same time, feeling intensely complete because of it.

I have nothing to say for this one. The whole dragon boat event was never even my idea, so...I can't be blamed for this one.
« Last Edit: January 18, 2018, 07:00:54 PM by Arielle »

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Offline arielle

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Re: chacun voit midi à sa porte [⚜] writing storage
« Reply #17 on: January 18, 2018, 07:55:07 PM »
Chapter Seven of Interning: Love, Actually ❞

In economic terms, Yixing was like the Keynesian model of aggregate demand, all predictions of his movements were fruitless, and he affected Kris's short run output by a spasmodic heap.

"We should abolish the copyright system and share all the music with the people," Yixing was now saying as he slipped an arm into his, on their way to their morning group meeting with Changmin and Yunho. "It's a tool for tyrants to feed on creators. Exploitation is humanity's greatest foe."

The LSE graduate had given up trying to understand, but he glanced at their intertwined arms from the corner of his eye, and heaved a fatigued sigh:

"How would you go about doing that, then?" he simply indulged, without commenting on their slightly dubious and inappropriate stance, "Intellectual property is part of the law, you know."

"The law is just words, let's rip the statute into shreds."

"Are you bloody mad?"

They walked into the conference room side by side, and Yixing naturally raised his other arm to wave at their teammates around the table:

"Hello, comrades. How are you feeling this morning?"

"Still very sore from the weekend," Joonmyun confessed despondently while massaging his own arms. "I can't feel my biceps from all that paddling."

Tao immediately cocked an eyebrow at him:

"It's already been three days."

"Don't worry, we shouldn't be getting any more physical assessment from now on," Chanyeol spun around on an office chair and Joonmyun acquiesced with a discouraged sigh.

Jongdae smiled and scratched his nose: "I heard we're getting a brand new assignment today."

"That ...very probable - where's Lu Han?" Yixing asked, looking around the room in search of the elder man's characteristic beanie.

"Not here yet," Kyungsoo elucidated for him.

"He's stuck in a traffic jam," Tao explained while lightly shaking his phone, "I follow him on Twitter."

"He updates his Twitter while he's in a traffic jam?" Kris furrowed an unimpressed eyebrow.

"Sehun isn't here either," Yixing noted lightly.

"I'm here," came the student's typical grating voice, and they turned to see the said younger intern walk in through the door, pale cotton shirt tucked into cream-coloured pants, his bag thrown onto the table in one careless move.

"Wow, careful there," Baekhyun lifted both palms up as the bag slid over to him and Sehun briskly apologized.

"Sorry. I got delayed when getting ready."

"That's okay, the team coaches aren't here yet," Yixing tapped on his chair's backrest comfortably. "It's so rare of you to oversleep, Sehun."

"I, um, didn't oversleep."

"Something seems off with you today," Tao tilted his head to one side while studying the younger man, who immediately looked flustered.

"What? Nothing's wrong with me, what are you talking about."

"Denial is the best way to prick someone's curiosity, mate," Jongdae grinned slyly, immediately slithering over to stare. "So what is it that you're hiding?"


"He said 'nothing'," the Scottish intern looked at a wisely nodding Baekhyun next to him: "That means something."

"What are we looking for?" Joonmyun enquired uncertainly.

"You do look a bit different today," Minseok concentrated and folded his arms. "Maybe it's the jacket?"

"No, Sehun always wears trench coats to work."

"There's nothing different. I really don't see what any of you are talking about," Sehun frowned, trying to put some of his gelled hair back behind his ear as usual, only for his fingers to brush against the bottom of a woollen beanie; and Baekhyun immediately jumped:

"That's it! That's what's weird; Sehun is wearing one of Lu Han's fucking beanies!"

The accused froze instantly, his cheeks flushing bright pink as Yixing's mouth opened into a perfect 'O'.

"Oh. Oh, that's right."

"Uh. Wait."

"That's...interesting," Jongin, who had not said a single word until now, simpered into his chest.

"No. Wait," Sehun began, "Guys..."

"It's a nice beanie," Minseok commented, still sitting on the table. "You look exactly like Lu Han with it."

"I think that's the point," Jongdae spluttered between two coughs.

"Guys, it's not what you think," Sehun scathingly negated, "First, that is my beanie, not Lu Han's. Secondly, I just wanted to change my style today, I'm not actually putting it on to look like anyone or anything..."

"You do look exactly like him, though," Kyungsoo dropped from his spot near the end of the table.

"Look, Sehun, it's useless to deny it," Kris sighed, "ever since our conversation last week in the dorms, everyone here knows that you have a massive crush on Lu Han."


"Except Lu Han himself, of course," Tao added with an eye-roll, "but he just happens to be dense like that."

"What the bloody hell, did you-" Sehun fought with the words and furiously motioned with his hands: "did you just spread the bugging news like a newspaper?"

"People have an equal right to knowledge, Sehun," Yixing nodded with a sweet motherly smile, "your news deserved the headlines."

"Don't worry, bro, we got your back." Chanyeol assured.

"I can't believe you guys, you're a bunch of gossip-hungry vultures," the Oxford graduate flushed, "all it took was a week!"

"Which is pretty much the amount of time it took you to fall for him," Kris specified flatly.

"And to start to dress like him," Jongdae leered shrewdly, while the younger intern protested:

"I'm not -"

"Please, Sehun, everyone knows beanie rhymes with Lu Han; it's pretty much become a convention." Baekhyun said pointedly with a wink.

Minseok nodded slowly, in a pensive fashion.

"I've never seen Lu Han without some kind of thing on his head, to be honest."

"You know, this raises a very important question, actually," Yixing opened his hands out and wriggled an eyebrow at everyone: "Why does Lu Han wear a hat on his head at all times? It's a very good question, don't you think? Has anyone ever seen him without something on his head?"

"No," Chanyeol shook his head.

"There is a mystery in here," Yixing narrowed his eyes, "and we need to solve it."

"I think he probably just really likes hats to be honest," Kris snorted as he left his seat and started making himself a cup of instant coffee.

But Kyungsoo played with his pen and shrugged:

"Or else, he's got a social stigma related to his head... Like his hair stinks and he needs hats to cover it or something."

"Rumour has it he has a third ear on his head," Yixing whispered ominously.

"That's gross."

"I heard that it's because of a spiritual abhorrence for authority," Joonmyun declared placidly, pushing up his glasses on the bridge of his nose, "taking your hat off indoors is a convention that speaks of respect towards others and deference. Lu Han, who is of a rebellious nature, must wear hats to go against that convention."

"I think you guys are just reading too much into it," Sehun affirmed, seemingly appalled.

Yixing squinted harder: "Or are we not reading enough?"

"I believe in the third ear theory." Chanyeol frowned, then began to look frankly scared: "Or what if it was a third eye?"

"What if it was a pair of lips," Jongdae cackled merrily, then raised a pacifying hand when the hacker's face whitened in fear, "dude, I'm just kidding."

"Maybe," Jongin remarked emotionlessly, "he is balding."

The entire room stared at him, the thought slowly settling down into everyone's minds and nesting itself in their little brains.

"By God," Baekhyun mumbled quietly, "he could be balding..."

"Like George?" Yixing asked.

"Who the fuck is George?" Kris frowned in bewilderment, then pulled another face in realisation: "George, as in... George W. Bush?"

"No, silly," Yixing rolled his eyes, "George as in George Washington, of course."

"Why would you call either of them just 'George'?"

"I don't think Lu Han's love for beanies sprouts from a balding problem, to be honest. He has a perfectly healthy fringe," Joonmyun said seriously, "which means that even if he was balding, he should be balding like a Thomas Jefferson, rather than a George Washington."

"Who's balding like a Thomas Jefferson?"

They all turned to look at the door at once, and backed up like one man towards the wall - Joonmyun almost falling off his chair in the process - as they saw Lu Han marching in with a Nero coffee in his hand, sporting a vividly red beanie over his hair. The Media and Communications graduate stopped at their visible panic, and gave them all a skeptical frown.


"Nothing," Jongin replied on the beat, "nice hat, by the way."

"Thanks, it's new," Lu Han pursed his lips, still throwing hesitant peeks at the other eleven interns while placing his coffee down, "what's the matter with all of you?"

"Just discussing Norwood ratings and balding US presidents," Yixing said with a dramatic sigh, "you missed all the fun, brother Lu."

"I don't know if I'd get a kick out of talking about balding US presidents, but okay." Lu Han glanced around the room, strolling past Sehun, who was standing sheepishly by the door with his black beanie still on his head. "Where's Changmin? And Yunho?"

"They should be coming soon enough, but they're not here yet," Chanyeol elucidated with a hesitant smile.

"Oh. Good." Lu Han nodded.

Then he casted a casual look over Sehun's attire, before walking past him and giving his beanie a quick pat of the hand:

"Really cool hat, by the way," he said.

Then he went to sit down around the table, ignorant of the way in which Sehun's face abruptly flushed at the mention, of how Kris suddenly choked on a suspiciously small sip of coffee, and oblivious to how the whole rest of the room had instantly burst into repressed chortles that hid behind twitching hands and lips.

"Okay, guys," Changmin marched coldly into the room five seconds later and proclaimed: "your next project as a group. Very important in any company – three letters; CSR – why are you all giggling?"

"No reason," Joonmyun squeaked into his hand, half-afraid and half-chuckling.

Changmin gave them all a look that, in spite of its silence, spoke volumes about his evaluation of their shared acumen. When Lu Han drank a sip of coffee, and simply looked at him with an oblivious shrug, the older man ultimately rolled his eyes:

"Alright," he sighed in exasperation, "well, I'm going to need you all to graduate from middle school for a moment to give you instructions on your next project. As I was saying, CSR..."

"What is CSR?" Sehun piped up.

"Corporate Social Responsibility," Jongin shot back, "doing corporate acts for the social good and all that."

"Thank God some of you are still on the right page," Changmin slurred and grabbed a sharpie while Sehun blushed, "at TTM, we believe CSR to be an essential element of good work ethics, and our willingness to regularly provide help to local charities, as well as sending volunteers to support events prepared by non-profit organizations, are a fraction of what makes us a champion of corporate social responsibility. As interns, you are expected to show that you are able and willing to help us with our CSR initiatives. Hence, your new project..."

" to do charity work," Lu Han emotionlessly stated and cocked an eyebrow. "Right?"

"That's correct, but put that eyebrow back where it belongs, you guys are way too low on the group rankings to be judgmental about our assignments."

"Are we expected to raise money for a local charity?" Minseok enquired.

"That is exactly it," Changmin confirmed flatly. "Any questions?"

"How are we expected to do it?" Kris asked.

"Well, that is it," the consultant said, and threw the sharpie in the intern's direction, who caught it with a befuddled gaze.

"What does that mean?" Lu Han turned from Kris to the consultant.

"That's where your teamwork comes in. It's up to you to decide what charity you'll do work for, what kind of fundraising events you'll be organizing for it, and how you are going to bring it to completion," Changmin leered as he crossed his arms, almost mockingly. "You have until the Sunday of the fifth week."

"That's...two weeks and a half."

"Which is ample time."

"To raise how much?" Jongin nodded.

"Not much," Changmin shrugged. "$4,000."

The law student's eyes shot up.

"Anything above that is a bonus."

The room fell into contemplative silence. The consultant leaned against the whiteboard.

"Any remarks you'd like to make?"

"I love doing charity work," said Yixing with a smile.

"Good for you," Changmin sighed, "because my opinion is that over the next two weeks, the twelve of you are going to be doing plenty."

"That was very amusing," Yixing tweeted cheerfully as he and Kris called for the elevator to go to their own department, a stack of photocopies in hand.

The Economics graduate cocked an eyebrow at the choice of words.


"Sehun is an adorable kid."

"Oh. Oh, that."

"The beanie?" Yixing smiled with his eyes, "The way he got embarrassed when Lu Han complimented it?"

"Glad to know you had fun during the meeting," Kris uttered, before heaving a sigh, "do I need to remind you that we also got a team project out of that, and a monstrous scolding from Changmin for being so badly organized?"

"Badly organized is part of our charm."

"We are currently ranked last on the team board," Kris declared.

"Why are you all stressed now, Mr. Wu Yifan?" the younger man smiled. "You're not team leader anymore."

Kris pursed his lips to conceal the spurt of relief which flowered in him at that thought. Before separating from the group meeting, he had kindly advocated in front of Changmin that they should change the leader of their new project for the sake of giving everyone else a chance, and immediately, Minseok had refused the title with vehemence, saying that he was too inadequate for it and that Lu Han should do it instead. Had ensued a pass and tossing of the leader title between absolutely every member of the team, before Kyungsoo had finally flung the burden into Joonmyun's arms, and the elder man had felt too guilty to refuse.

Yixing was now smiling shrewdly at Kris with a playful glint in his eye:

"You're secretly relieved, aren't you?"

"Let's concentrate on the work, shall we?" the elder man declared instead, "we need to decide what charity to choose and that will take some time."

"Oh, ignoring me won't get you anywhere, Mr. Wu Yifan."

"You're the only one who calls me Yifan."

He stopped, glancing at Yixing from the side, his heart skipping slightly with anticipation.


The doors of the elevator opened, and before he could even register who was in it, Yixing's hands had grabbed him by the front of his shirt, and tossed him behind the line of tall potted plants beside the lift doors. He fell against the wall without understanding what was happening to him, and then Yixing's finger was on his lips, telling him to shut up.

He finally grasped the situation when he heard Chanyeol's deep voice through the foliage of the fake potted plants.

"Sorry that I can't help you on Friday, Baek," the Business Tech intern was saying with regret in his tone, "I would have liked to, but my sister is coming over to visit and I can't just leave her alone in the flat."

"Man, don't worry about it," Baekhyun laughed, "seriously, you're already helping me a lot. I'm the one who should feel horrible for making you stay overtime all the time...And I do feel terrible. So don't apologize."

Kris glanced over at Yixing next to him, and the other man's eyebrows danced suggestively.

"I'm sorry," came Chanyeol's soft apology, and Baekhyun immediately punched his arm:

"What did I just say?" a chuckle, "No 'sorry' is acceptable."

"But I'm-"

"Ah, ah? No but's-"


"No apology, I said." Baekhyun flicked the taller man's arm again. "You're too nice, Chanyeol, it's gonna get you into trouble someday."

There was a lengthy silence bordering on the awkward end of things, and Kris saw Yixing cringing a bit, joining his hands together as if to pray. Baekhyun's voice spoke up a few seconds later, the elder man clearing his throat:

"I'll see you later, alright?"

"Wait, Baek, um." Chanyeol stammered, "you told me you liked Marvel, right?"

Yixing's face brightened by a thousand watts, and Kris had to be the one placing a hand over the younger man's mouth, this time.

Baekhyun was bustling, now:

"Are you kidding?" he exclaimed, "I fucking love Marvel, it's the one thing I can't get enough of after Naruto."

"Well, the Winter Soldier is out this week," Chanyeol's smile was reflected in his tone. "I was wondering if you'd want to watch it sometime."

"Of course, I'd want to!"


"Let's do that," Baekhyun replied at once, "when are you free? Obviously not Friday, but..."

"Um, Thursday after work?"

"Ah, uh," the elder man sounded troubled, "actually, Thursday isn't so convenient for me."

"Make it today, you silly ducks," Yixing hissed against Kris's hand, and Chanyeol asked pensively:

"Actually, what about tonight?"

Yixing squeezed Kris's arm so hard the elder man almost yelled.

"That could work," Baekhyun seemed to consider it, "Actually...yeah, that could really work."

" you want to meet in the lobby at, say, seven?"

Kris peered through the plastic leaves, finally seeing the two other interns standing next to each other, with Baekhyun beaming a smile:

"Yeah, that sounds cool." he then punched Chanyeol's arm: "Holy shit, I can't believe I'm watching it, I've been waiting for it to come out for ages."

"I've been waiting for you two to come out for ages," Yixing whispered loudly and Kris slapped a hand over his lips again.

"Same here," Chanyeol grinned from ear to ear, "cool, let's work hard then, and tonight, movie time."

"Olé," Baekhyun jumped and hit his heels together as he skipped away, making Chanyeol laugh, "come on, you giant, we're going to be late."

"Baek, people could be around the corner..."

They vanished through the adjacent corridor, and Kris let out a breath he didn't know he was holding. By his side, Yixing was cooing and weeping audibly into his fist.

"It took them so much shorter than I was expecting...!"

"You sound like a matchmaker," Kris remarked, appalled, "or a meddling mother."

"I hope their date goes well tonight," Yixing ignored him and closed his eyes, crossing two fingers together. "May everything go according to plan, may the two of them be happy forever."

"Why are you so concerned about other people's love life and happiness when you," Kris began and halted, but Yixing looked at him.

"When I what?"

"Nothing," he said, standing up, "come on. Our photocopies are all over the place."

Yixing offered him a curious look, but as he bent over to start retrieving all their fallen papers, the younger man simply smiled again, and peacefully joined in to pick up the scattered sheets.

When Kyungsoo stepped out onto the porch of their apartment building that night, he did not expect to see Jongin waiting for him by the door of a jet black car, garbed in a dress shirt, dark pants and suspenders. It took him a full minute to register the sight. Because who, nowadays, still found it fitting to wear suspenders? But apparently, Jongin did, and Kyungsoo internally thanked the Gods that he did, because Jongin looked absolutely breathtaking in those.

"Um," the Harvard graduate emitted, glancing side-ways before finally daring to meet the younger man's eyes. "Hi."

"Hello," Jongin smiled, "sorry for calling you out before you were ready."

"No, uh, I'm sorry I was late," Kyungsoo rectified before walking down the steps and coming up to the other intern's level. "You, uh, look good."

"Thanks," the younger man immediately lowered his gaze, before lifting his chin and taking a breath, "you look stunning too."

Kyungsoo simply shrugged and pursed his lips, watching the cloudy sky above before scrutinizing the empty residential street with its parked cars and straying cats. Jongin soon pulled the door of his own vehicle open and invited Kyungsoo to get in:

"I'll drive," he said with a bashful smile, "after you."

"You sure you want to drive?" the elder man asked tentatively, "I mean, you're from England, and everything must be the wrong way up for you."

"I'm used to it. I drive every day to work and I don't get into accidents, so," the law student chuckled, "I wouldn't have suggested to drive if I wasn't confident about it."

"Alright, I'll trust you."

"You'll be in safe hands," Jongin said amusedly. "Promise."

Kyungsoo simply wondered if it was an English thing to act so gentlemanly and courteous all the time, but he was feeling a little self-conscious, all of a sudden. The younger man did not actually seem nervous to be with him. Kyungsoo in fact wondered whether he was not the tenser one of the two.

Jongin soon slipped into the driver's seat on the other side and exhaled while offering him a questioning look:

"All good?"

"All good," Kyungsoo blinked. "Where are we going to eat?"

"You suggested Thai last time, so I asked Tao about good Thai places in the area, and he said there was a really good one close to the university," Jongin turned the ignition on and placed his hands on the wheel, "so I made a reservation. I hope you don't mind? We can change if you want."
"No, I don't mind anything, I know this city as well as you do."

He paused, then looked at the younger man.

"I love Thai," he said earnestly.

"Then let's try it," Jongin grinned. The car pulled out of the parking place, "off we go, on a culinary adventure."

Once they were on the road, Kyungsoo realized that the initial apprehension he'd felt had rapidly turned into anticipation. Jongin had connected his phone to the car using a USB cable, and they were now listening to downtempo and pop songs whilst the law student hummed and nodded accordingly, making Kyungsoo smile to himself and move along.

A tune soon ended and his eyes widened when the next began:

"I had a dream the other night..."

"I didn't think you'd listen to this," he blurted out loud, while Jongin speeded on the wider city roads, glancing at him with a smile.

"That's one of my favourite songs, ever."

"I really like it too," the elder man blinked, nodding his head automatically as the guitar riffs droned on. A hum pulled at his vocal chords, escaping through his lips.

"You know the lyrics?" Jongin threw a peek at him.

Kyungsoo simply acquiesced, watching the night lights of the city fly past them. He tilted his head and started on the following verse:

"And I had the week that came from hell,

And yes, I know that you could tell,

But you're like the net under the ledge..."

From the corner of his eye, he caught Jongin giving him a surprised look he could not quite bother to explain. Without meeting the other man's gaze, Kyungsoo rested his elbow against the car door and continued singing:

"When I go flying off the edge,

You go flying off as well."

Jongin smiled, and Kyungsoo found himself returning the move:

"And if you only die, once...

I wanna die with-"

The 'you' resounded with the echo of the beat and they head-banged at the same time, before bursting into laughter at their own ludicrousness. Jongin shook his head as he stared at the road with remains of chuckles shaking him.

"I do that every time when I'm alone," he confessed with mirth, while the music bounced against the vehicle walls, "it's just so catchy."

"It's a good song," Kyungsoo reclined against his seat and smirked contentedly. "One of the ones I like most from them."

"You sing it well," Jongin glanced at him timorously, "you have an incredible voice."

"I..." the Harvard graduate stalled and gargled, momentarily blocked on what to say, "well, I...took a few lessons when I was in university."

"I was forced to be part of my school choir throughout high school," Jongin snorted, eyes on the road, "and I still don't sing half as nicely as you. I think it's raw talent that you have."

"I'm not going to make a living out of it, though, that's for sure," Kyungsoo sneered, "so it's not like it makes a difference."

"Keep it as a hobby," Jongin smiled.

"Yeah, maybe I should."

"I think you could totally sing Maroon 5 songs like they're your own."

The elder man chortled against his fist and gestured towards the phone: "Put one on, I'll do it."

Jongin grinned.

As the evening pressed on, Kyungsoo enjoyed himself and Jongin's company – probably much more than he should have, he thought. But they simply seemed to fit, the two of them together. It made no sense: Jongin felt like a part of himself that he was discovering for the very first time. And as they got served their food in the Thai restaurant with rubicund lights, the law student admitted that he was thinking the same thing.

"It's kind of cheesy," Kyungsoo dropped against his chair, "don't you think?"

"Maybe. I don't know, I don't often deal with feelings like that, what about you?" Jongin replied, then smiled and chortled into his fist when the elder man gave him a consternated stare, "okay, I'm sorry, I need to stop saying corny things."

"Yes, you do. At once," Kyungsoo widened his eyes.

"Not a romantic, I assume?" Jongin softened, looking entertained, "'romance is for the weak', kind of person?"

"I believe in working hard, harder and even harder for a relationship," the other man declared, "soulmates don't come for free."

The law student choked on his drink and coughed into his sleeve:

"I didn't think of it that way."

"What did you think of, then?" Kyungsoo blinked a few times.

"I thought soulmates made it just a little bit easier," he shrugged, smiling, "maybe not much, but still a small, substantial difference."

Kyungsoo found that remotely endearing, but did not say that out loud.

"This said, I'm also an advocate of hard work," Jongin underlined as he picked at his curry, "I think you're right when you say nothing comes for free."

"Like getting the job at TTM."

Jongin raised his eyes at those words, pausing in his food-picking to grant him a curious smile.

"That's funny," he said, leaning forward, "I was thinking the same thing."

"It's what you told me the first time we met, right? The TTM system is just there to prepare us for the harsh reality of the work environment we're aiming for, or something."

"I was pretty negative," the younger man seemed embarrassed.

"Let's play a game, then," Kyungsoo suggested tranquilly. "Who would be the most likely to backstab the EXO team to get the job?"

Jongin broke into a grin, shifting on his chair as the oriental music lulled them on in the restaurant.

"Fair enough, let's do it," he squinted and smiled, "Lu Han?"

"Lu Han wouldn't bother to backstab, he'd just openly stomp his way out of the mess if it came down to it. My turn: Baekhyun."

"Baekhyun's competitive, alright," the younger intern admitted pensively, "he's ambitious, so there's a possibility. But he also looks distracted by something and uncertain about his career choices so I'm not sure he'd be ready to play foul if that was the only way he could get the job. He's more of an honest player than a rogue."

Kyungsoo stared at him flatly.

"Are you a psychologist?"

"No, that's Sehun's degree, not mine," Jongin laughed with his glass against his lips, "actually, let's do him next. Sehun."

"Sehun would backstab an ant, that's pretty much all he could backstab, really."

"Agreed. A hundred percent agreed." the younger man mused, "what about Kris?"

"Harder to say..." Kyungsoo shrugged, "he might if the occasion arose, or else, he'll just settle."

They brooded over it for a while, then the elder man lifted his chin again: "Jongdae?"

"He looks very indifferent, don't you think?" Jongin narrowed his eyes, "it's interesting, actually, I'd say he's here for the experience rather than the job."

Kyungsoo observed his face attentively.

"Are you here for the job?"

The law student glanced at him.

"Are you asking if I would backstab?" Jongin smiled.

"Would you?" Kyungsoo enquired serenely, "if it came down to it."

"I really want the job," the law student acknowledged easily, then looked meditative, "now, would I backstab to get it? I don't know."

"Even if it was your only way?"

"Even if it was my only way," Jongin nodded, leaning on his elbow, "I don't know, it's hard to say. I'd like to think, though, that I would never have to make that choice and that it would never come to these extremities anyways."

"That's cheating, that's against the rules of the game," Kyungsoo said, "you can't play the hypothetical card when the game itself is hypothetical."

"What? Okay, you answer then: would you backstab team EXO if it came down to it?" Jongin guffawed.

"Yes," the elder man replied without missing one beat, keeping a poker face on, "I'd betray the shit out of every single one of you. With no regrets."

The younger intern laughed into his sleeve, and Kyungsoo could not repress a genuine smile. Jongin had really nice teeth, he'd just noticed. His face also radiated and his shoulders shook like a child's when he chuckled – it was strangely endearing; even though Kyungsoo hated children. He could make an exception for this one.

"Let's go dancing after this?" Jongin invited after a while.


"Please, please, please? Pretty please?"

"What makes you think I'm a dancing person?" the Engineering graduate scoffed, arms crossed, but the other man was awfully good at melting his defences, and he knew that amusement was rapidly beginning to tug at his lips.

"Nothing," he soon shrugged. "But I like dancing. And I want to dance with you."

That was it. The smirk broke through.

"You want to 'dance with me'?" he arched an eyebrow.

"That's right," Jongin started humming discreetly, eyes fixed on him with a teasing sneer as he swayed, "Quiero bailar contigo...Por favor."

Kyungsoo let the younger man wiggle for a few moments more, before finally swallowing his smile, lowering his gaze and placing his cutlery down.

"It takes more than that to woo me," he said.

"If you came dancing with me, maybe I'd have a better chance at wooing you."

"Maybe." Kyungsoo cracked his neck nonchalantly, "let's find that out after dinner."

Jongin stared at him with surprised eyes for a long time, and then broke into a brilliant grin.

"That was great," Baekhyun chipped contentedly as he skipped out of the screening room with sparkling eyes and Chanyeol swiftly caught up with him, "Best movie I've seen in a while. So satisfying."

"I completely agree," Chanyeol nodded happily as he looked down at the other man, "did you see that moment when Bucky appeared in the middle of the road?"

"I had goose bumps," the elder man spun towards him, "one of the most chilling scenes, hands down."

"I felt a shiver down my spine too," Chanyeol grinned.

They walked down the red carpeted stairs until the lobby of the cinema, where Baekhun stopped to throw his empty popcorn bucket and to put on his jacket.

"Now I'm starving," the elder man pouted as he pulled on one sleeve.

Chanyeol watched him with barely restrained adoration. He could hardly believe Baekhyun was here tonight, just the two of them without all the bumbling chaos of the Business Tech department and the ever growing pile of odd jobs, some droningly boring, some nerve-wracking and tough...It was just Baekhyun smiling at him and laughing freely without having to think about confusing technologies and computer stuff.

It was just them...on a date.

Baekhyun was looking into his eyes, now.

"Why are you grinning creepily like that?"

"What? Huh? No, nothing," Chanyeol shook his head frenetically, "I'm starving too. Let's go somewhere."

"Should we look for a place nearby?" Baekhyun dug into his pockets, "some place at a walkable distance..."

"I could drive," Chanyeol frowned, "the car is right there outside the cinema."

"Yeah, but I feel bad for having you drive me around the entire evening," the Columbia graduate hummed as he walked away, then threw the taller man an amused smirk, "that, plus, you are a terrible driver."

"Hey..." Chanyeol laughed. "It's not my fault that the parking space was so small and I chose to hire a Land Cruis-"

"Whatever you say, whatever you say," the elder man chortled and scampered away. Chanyeol watched his silhouette from the back and thought he was the luckiest man alive.

"Wow," Lu Han declared as he strode into the Risk department at nine-fifteen, and found Sehun sitting alone in the completely emptied department, "I asked Minseok to wait for me in your department so I could give him a ride home, not you."

The Oxford graduate raised his eyes from his computer, where he was staring with his eyes too close to the screen.

"Minseok had business to do tonight," he explained, "he told me to tell you that he wouldn't be able to wait."

"Oh." Lu Han blinked, taken aback. "Wait, did you...did you stay here all this time in his stead, to tell me that?"

"No," Sehun scrunched his nose, "I had work to finish."

"Oh, okay." the elder man huffed with relief, "man, I almost pitied you for a second."

"Hey," the younger intern scowled, "I am the last man standing in this department and I'm overworked by my superiors: I am very pitiful."

"That's not something you should say like you're bragging about it," Lu Han looked utterly unimpressed, "plus," he pointed at the screen, "you shouldn't sit so close to that when you're working. It'll destroy your vision, you know."

Sehun sheepishly looked down at his hands before mumbling something unintelligible under his breath and clicking away at the tabs onscreen.

"Are you almost done?" Lu Han glanced at the computer.

"Almost," Sehun raised his eyes, "why?"

"Nothing much, but since you're here instead of Minseok, and you're oh, so pitiful, I was thinking of giving you a ride," the elder man twirled his car keys on one finger, "you live in Tao's building, don't you?"

Sehun gaped at him vacantly without replying.

"Sehun," Lu Han placed one hand on the desk, "I am a man of little patience."

"I'll be done in five minutes."

The Sydney graduate blinked, frowned and drew back with his keys.

"Okay, cool. I'll see you in five minutes in the car park, then."

"Well, that was a good meal," Baekhyun commented as they stopped in front of Chanyeol's Land Cruiser again, but the elder man lifted one hand when he pulled the passenger's door open.

"Wait, wait, wait," he grinned, then tossed the keys in Baekhyun's direction.

The Columbia graduate only stared at the object bemusedly.

"What's this for?"

"Didn't you want to drive?" Chanyeol smiled, going towards the passenger seat. "So let's see how much of better driver you actually are."

"Are you serious?" the elder man held the keys with both hands and offered an amused gaze, "is that a challenge?"

"It's whatever you want it to be," the younger man winked and took a seat on the passenger's side while Baekhyun quickly skipped around the car. He nodded at the steering wheel when the other man slipped into the driver's seat: "Just don't crash the car, please. It's not mine, I'm only renting it."

"Please, I'm good enough to be an F1 driver," the Columbia graduate scoffed before fumbling for the clutch below his seat.

Chanyeol watched him affectionately as he struggled with the seat's distance for a little while, diverting his gaze only when the elder man threw him a quizzical look.


"Nothing, it's just...cute that you're too short to reach the pedals."

"Or maybe, you're just a giant," Baekhyun laughed with disbelief and shook his head when his hilarity redoubled. "Did it occur to you that I am actually average-sized for an Asian man?"

"No, but it did occur to me that being short isn't a bad thing," Chanyeol tried to maintain a steady voice, "good things come in small packages."

"Don't insult yourself," the other intern smirked playfully, readjusting the seat one last time.

Chanyeol chuckled and looked outside the window before lowering it:

"You think Kyungsoo and Jongin are still out at this hour? They're on a date too tonight."

For some reason, only pure silence welcomed his words, and he soon furrowed his eyebrows, peeking behind his shoulder in confusion.

The elder man was gawking at him, one hand frozen on the wheel and his eyes wavering slightly with what Chanyeol recognized as a hint of alarm.

"Baekhyun?" he murmured worriedly.

The other intern wobbled slightly: "...Too?"

"Wh..." Chanyeol hesitated, abruptly feeling his heart tighten in apprehension, "What?"

"You said 'too'," Baekhyun simply uttered.

Suddenly, Chanyeol lost all his will to smile. He was the one petrified by fear, now.

"Well, aren't we-" he croaked, swallowing the rock in his throat, interrogating the elder man with his gaze, "I thought we..."

He paused, his entire body turning cold when he saw the sheer anxiety on Baekhyun's face.

"Aren't we...?" he murmured.

Baekhyun only stared at him mutely with his face as pale as a ghost. When the Columbia graduate suddenly looked away, Chanyeol felt the prickle in his heart turn to a full on stabbing, cutting his breath off.

Baekhyun struggled for a phrase to say:


Chanyeol abruptly burst out laughing. The elder man jumped back.


"I'm so sorry," were the first words that came out of his mouth, when the panic settled down and the ambulances finally stopped honking inside his head, "I'm so – so sorry, I didn't mean to assume, I didn't mean-"

"No." the other man swiftly raised one hand, "No. Chanyeol, it's me."

"I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable-"

"No. Chanyeol, hang on." Baekhyun reached out, his eyes still wavering, but his tone growing steadier now, "I'm...I'm the one who's sorry. I – I didn't think that today...I didn't think that today was supposed to be a...a..."

"A date."

"A date, that's right, a date. But Jesus, I should have known."

"I thought-" Chanyeol garbled.

"Look, it's all my fault." Baekhyun shook his head. "I'm sorry."

Chanyeol watched, buried up to the nose in pain, disappointment and shame, as Baekhyun let his eyes travel all over him and trail off in regret:

"God, I'm such a jerk..."

"Baekhyun, look, I'm the one who's sorry," he begged, "let's not be uncomfortable with each other, yeah?"

The elder man glanced up at him, face stricken with discomfort.

"I'm...I'm the one who went off assuming things on my own when you didn't even say anything," Chanyeol said, "So it's my fault. Mine. I mean... it's very normal for two guys to go watch a movie together and grab some food afterwards, and – and –and you never said it was meant to be a date, I shouldn't have just assumed that it was one."

He tried to smile, but the agony on Baekhyun's face only increased.

"It's not your fault for not liking me back," Chanyeol assured, "right? Please don't look at me like that," he hated the way he sounded, all weak and pleading, "please. Just smile, please."

"I'm..." Baekhyun stalled, as if his breath had been cut short, "Chanyeol, I'm such a-"

"No, no, no," Chanyeol hushed. "You didn't know, it's not your fault."

"Except I kind of did know," the elder man said and let his hands drop back into his lap.

The younger intern took a sharp breath.

"You," he started. "you...did?"

His head was blaring with honking ambulances again, except this time they were accompanied by an army of miniature versions of himself, running in his brain and fleeing from the tidal wave of humiliation which had flooded his entire nervous system. One tiny Chanyeol had settled next to his eardrum and was now tapping impatiently with his foot while wearing a disgusted look: "Great. Just great. Not only did you wrongly assume that he likes you back, but you also fucked up by blatantly pushing your feelings onto him like an obnoxious animal on heat. What is wrong with you-"


"Huh?" the younger man's head snapped up. "What?"

"You, uh, you look about to faint." Baekhyun frowned.

"I'm okay," he gurgled.

"I was just saying..." the elder man hesitated, "I think I let myself bask in your kindness because it felt so, so nice and I was too much of a coward to face the issue. But actually," he sighed, "I don't even deserve it, Chanyeol. None of the stuff you did for me."

"No," at this, the NYU graduate immediately shook his head. "No. Don't say that."

"I'm sorry," Baekhyun said genuinely.

Chanyeol's eyelids fluttered. He looked down, not remembering feeling as bad as this since the day his first ferret died.

After an excruciating silence, only interrupted by the incessant whizzing and swishing of cars soaring past on the wide roads of Los Angeles, the NYU graduate finally raised his head and gazed at Baekhyun, but the other man was staring at the bottom of the steering wheel. He took deep, slow breaths and pulled back with quiet moves, leaning against the door vacantly.


"Do you need space...?" he decided to ask, causing the Columbia graduate to jolt and stare at him.

"I..." the other man stuttered. "Huh?"

"Do you?" he questioned again, gentler this time, "need space, I mean. Because I don't mind giving you space if it makes you feel better."

"I..." the elder man seemed to choose his words carefully. "I don't want space. I just...need time. The truth is, Chanyeol, I'm not entirely clean from my previous relationship yet."

"Pre..." Chanyeol flushed in mortification. "Right."

"But I don't want us to be uncomfortable, please, if that's not too selfish of me to ask."

"No, it's alright," Chanyeol waved feebly, observing his feet with newfound interest, "I'll give you both space and time. You don't have to worry about anything."

"I haven't told you the full story yet," Baekhyun murmured guiltily.

"You don't have to if it makes you uneasy, Baek," he whispered back, "it's okay."

He wondered if it was really okay, though, because a part of him was shriveling up and dying inside, another part was slapping him hard and shouting at him for being an idiot and ruining this entire evening for the both of them, and then yet another part of him was curled up into a ball in a corner of his soul, sucking his thumb like a baby and internally asking himself over and over: 'why, why, why, why, why, why, why does it have to be like this' like a mantra, making his head feel like it was about to explode.

He was actually boiling with curiosity.

But Baekhyun needed time. So his curiosity could go back in the God damned drawer it came from.

"Should we go home?" he gurgled after a while, sitting upright again and showing a wobbly grin, "I still haven't seen you drive. Do you know the way back?"

"Please," Baekhyun tried with a wonky laugh which was hollow, but better than nothing, "you're underestimating me again, and I can't have that."

Chanyeol simply kept the smile on, and waited as the elder man turned the ignition on, safely bringing them out of the parking lot after a few nudges. Then, the Land Cruiser reached the road, and a weird-looking shelled bug flew right in through the window with a deafening buzz. Baekhyun immediately jumped back with a terrified roar:

"Holy fucking shit, Chanyeol," the elder man screamed, "kill it – fucking kill it!"

"Baekhyun, the road," he caught the steering wheel in a panic, maneuvering the car as they slithered between lanes in a concert of honking outside, "the fucking road!"

"Thanks for the ride," Sehun said to Lu Han as they stood on the sidewalk in front of the accommodation's entrance.

The elder man was now standing next to his vehicle, the red beanie still safely crowning his head as he lit up a cigarette.

"No sweat," Lu Han shrugged and took his first drag. "I was planning on giving somebody else a ride anyways. So don't feel too special about yourself, potato."

"Hey," Sehun jutted out his chin, and lifted his fist. "I'm not a potato."

"Prove it."


"Prove to me that you're not a potato."

"How do-" the younger man scrunched up his face, "I shouldn't even have to do that!"

Lu Han feigned innocent limpidness, ducking behind his car with the expression of a contrite nun, as if the other intern would hit him if he didn't. As the elder man concealed himself, Sehun studied Lu Han's car with one sweeping glance. Grey, simple and unadorned, it was a bit like Lu Han himself, really – save the grey part, because Lu Han was very vibrant. Naturally vibrant, and stunningly bright like the sun.

He took a deep breath and turned towards the door.

"Right, cool. I'll see you tomorrow."

"Hey, I just realized," the other man suddenly called him back, "what happened to the beanie?"

Sehun braked on the doorstep, swerving on his heels.

"Huh?" he blinked.

"Your beanie," Lu Han sneered, "the black beanie you wore this morning."

"Oh," Sehun touched his hair, mortified again, as the elder man walked up to him, "uh. I put it back in the bag... Wasn't working for me."

"Really? Shame," Lu Han wriggled his nose and shrugged, "I quite liked it."

"Well, I thought it looked terrible. Beanies aren't meant to be worn by everyone," the younger man swallowed, and cleared his throat, "For instance, when are you taking yours off?"

Lu Han casually flipped him off, completely oblivious to Sehun's inner turmoil, and then dropped the cigarette on the ground, extinguishing it with his foot.

"When you come to my funeral, that's when you'll see me take it off," the elder man grinned. "See you tomorrow."

Sehun waited until Lu Han was almost in the car, and then threw everything out of the window and blurted it out at last:

"Actually, I wore the beanie this morning for a reason."

As he paused near his car, Lu Han blinked at him obnoxiously.

"What reason?"

"I actually, wore it to get your attention," Sehun declared (rather monotonously, he thought, for someone whose heart was actually screaming for the fire department to come). Syllable by syllable, he spoke as if it wasn't his own feelings he was talking about: "I wanted you to notice that I was wearing it, and I wanted you to pay attention to me."

"Why the fuck would you want that?" Lu Han frowned incredulously.

"Because I," Sehun stated very flatly, "like you."

Lu Han gaped at him with his mouth open...and all at once, the world stopped, there, on the sidewalk. It stopped, not by Sehun's bidding, mind you – because Sehun was actually begging Time on his knees to start again, to fast-forward to the moment where the alarms in his head would stop ringing and drool would start falling from Lu Han's gaping mouth so he could make fun of it... And in all honesty, this was not a moment Sehun wished to immortalize. This was not a moment like he'd dreamed them, romantic and superbly cool, touching to the core or beautiful like a paragraph from Dickens's book.

If anything, this was more like a second-grader's diary entry, with ghastly ink stains and a mine field of syntactic mistakes.

But there they were, standing on the sidewalk of that primary school motherfucker's scribbles, and Time had decided to stop right there and then to take a piss at them, cackling in the wind while Lu Han gawped and stared on... and on... and on...

Wow, I love drama, lol.

I'm having flashbacks to my economics class back in third year. My professor was... eccentric, to say the least.

I swear nothing too terrible will happen to any of them. This is a romcom, so... don't expect too much angst and whatnot out of this. :'^)

The conversation between Kyungsoo and Jongin is one I had with my roommate, when I was bouncing ideas off of her. Actually, a lot of Kyungsoo's dialogue in this fic (as a whole) is credited to her. <3

Time to ask: did you get a grip on the truth? We are here to bring change to our world. Take a side, make it right—or get out of our way right now; you cannot stop us!

How many times did you look away when someone cried for help?—acting like you didn't know. We won't accept excuses without sincere actions; unmasking all you traitors!

Offline annika

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Re: chacun voit midi à sa porte [⚜] writing storage
« Reply #18 on: January 19, 2018, 03:53:08 PM »
i binged everything you posted in here and .. oh my go d

Let's get real, what's your deal? Do you still believe you will ever be able to take us down? Three letters on the wall: L-O-L! You have lost again; don't take it too hard.

No surprise, after all—you chose the wrong rival. We are more than some bored teenagers. Bad luck, underestimating us was your worst choice—so don't sweat it, grownups.

Offline arielle

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Re: chacun voit midi à sa porte [⚜] writing storage
« Reply #19 on: January 25, 2018, 03:39:13 PM »
Chapter Eight of Interning: Shakespeare in Love ❞

Funnily enough, Minseok thought, Sehun hadn't come around to ask him any questions, this morning.

In fact, there was not much sign of Sehun being in the department at all... Usually, the English Literature student would be in by eight-thirty, trying to compensate inaptitude with excessive zeal, and as soon as Minseok strode to his desk with his bag, Sehun would sail in from the West and clamp some documents in front of him with a desperate look on his face and a distraught 'Help me, please'.

This morning, however, Sehun did not appear at his desk until almost nine-thirty. Minseok had gotten enough time to go through all his morning filing tasks, before the characteristic shadow finally came towering over him and he looked up to meet Sehun's grey face, backlit by the office lights.

"Hey," Minseok greeted. "Need any help this morning?"

"Yeth, pleath," the other man answered with a baffling lisp.

The Princeton graduate stared at him with a dubious frown, while taking his file, "Um, you okay?"

"I chipped off a tooth yethterday," Sehun drawled, then opened his mouth and revealed – like he had said – a big black crack over one of his upper front teeth, which made Minseok's jaw drop of its own accord. "Getting an appointment to ffix it next week. Yitthhing tried to glue the piethe back on but it wouldn't thtick."


Sehun lisped reticently, his cheeks flushing at an alarming speed:


Minseok watched him blankly.


"Yixing?" he frowned, "wait, you mean, you did this to yourself at home? At the dorms?"

"No, not the dorm, but," the younger man blushed harder, "it'th a long thtory."

"I have all day," the elder intern shrugged, too curious to care.

Sehun was about to answer when he caught sight of someone entering the department through the glass doors, and his face turned green. Minseok craned his neck, only feeling more confused when he saw Lu Han lumbering heavily towards them, his face a mask of utter displeasure and mild bafflement.

"Hi Lu Han-" he waved.

And Lu Han ignored him completely to get up in Sehun's face:

"You, come with me. Right now."

The eldest intern stared: "Um...what?"

"Hi to you too," Sehun retorted wryly, though his cheeks had grown scarlet now, and Minseok looked at each of them in turn:

"What's going on here?"

"Nothing you should worry about, Minseok," Lu Han assured fleetingly. "Just dealing with some stuff we left hanging yesterday evening."

"You left hanging," Sehun corrected pointedly, with an arched eyebrow: "you left me in Yithing's kitchen with Tao and Krith and then left without thaying goodbye even though I'd jutht thplattered my fathe over the thidewalk trying to hold you back."

"Splattered your face–" Minseok's eyes narrowed furiously in bewilderment. "What?"

"I was shocked, no, gobsmacked illustrates it better," Lu Han stated dryly, "you can't blame me."

"Thtill an inconthiderate bathtard," the younger intern spattered, spit flying through the air.

Lu Han shut his eyes, wiping a hand over his face before sighing heavily:

"Look, if we can just sort this out somewhere..."

"I'm budthy," Sehun showed his files with a haughty sniffle.

"Well, then," the elder intern clicked his tongue and jutted out his chin, "if you want your answers here, I'll do it."

"What answers?" Minseok squinted.

"If you thay it in front of Mintheok, you'll be a doubly inconthiderate bathtard," Sehun warned with one finger pointed at Lu Han's chest.

"Me? A bastard?" the elder man flicked his hand away, "I'm the one who should be traumatized, I got confessed to by a minor."

Minseok heard his jaw pop with the force of its drop. But Sehun looked more irritated by the elder man's answer than embarrassed at being publicly ousted like that:

"Ecthcuse you, I live in the UK. We're adult'th at eighteen."

"Uh, you're doing this internship in the States, so rules of the host country apply."

"You guyth are jutht colonies."

"Ex-colony," Lu Han emphasizes, "hear my wings flap. Hear that? It's the sound of independence, motherfucker."

"What are you guys actually talking about?" Minseok opened his palms in incredulity.

"I apologize for leaving you alone in that kitchen with Yixing and Kris," Lu Han jabbed his finger one last time into Sehun's ribs, "but if you hadn't tried to stop me while I was walking away you wouldn't have fallen off the sidewalk in the first place, so that's your fault. It's also your fault that I walked away because if you hadn't come up with that crazy confession out of the blue, I wouldn't have tried to walk away."

"You didn't try to walk away, you literally thcrambled for your car and tried to drive away from me," Sehun rolled his eyes.

"Guys," Minseok began.

"Either way, you dropped a wild bomb on me yesterday night."


"Guys," Minseok sighed.

"A wild bomb?" Sehun said heatedly, "how elth was I thuppothed to confeth? Thend you anonymouth flowers?"


The two interns turned like one man, faltering slightly when they saw Changmin beside Minseok's computer screen with his arms folded, his hip against the table edge and an utterly unimpressed expression on his face.

Lu Han straightened up and cleared his throat.


"You two are utterly hopeless," Changmin declared slowly. Very slowly. "U-tter-ly hope-less. I can barely believe just how unreservedly hopeless you are."

"I know I'm not usually working in this department," Lu Han began carefully.

"No, you're right, you aren't," the consultant designated the door with one extended arm, "so get out of here, right this instant."

Lu Han opened his mouth, exchanged one last angry look with Sehun who returned a discontent frown, then tried to walk away from the department, only to turn around with a bitter glare:

"We're never ending up together," he declared firmly.

"Fine," Sehun rancorously spluttered back. "No one likth you anyway."

"Well, you-"

"Lu," Changmin closed his eyes dangerously.

"Lu Han," Minseok sighed simultaneously, and Lu Han lifted up both hands in surrender.

"Alright. Fine," he spat. Spun on his heels. Then suddenly hesitated and whipped his head back with a slightly distrustful expression: "It wasn't a joke, right? When you said that yester-"

"Get out," Sehun, Changmin and Minseok said in chorus. And Lu Han scampered away from the Risk department at last, not turning back a single time.

"Jesus Christ," Changmin shook his head and passed a hand over his hair, "now, Sehun finish drafting that letter for me before lunchtime. No slacking."

Sehun nodded dejectedly, and Minseok offered him a hand:

"I'll help you," he whispered quietly with a compassionate look, when the supervisor was out of sight.

Sehun glanced down at him, smiled slightly, and sat down in front of Minseok's desk with a sheepish but grateful expression.

"Thank you," he uttered honestly. And Minseok simply laughed, taking his folder to tap him lightly on the head.

Five hours and a hasty lunch later, Lu Han came back to Sehun with a mysterious, sealed scroll.

"These are all the reasons why we shouldn't end up together."

He then unrolled the document in front of him and the taped up sheets hit the floor with a dead 'clunk', rolling for another metre or so before hitting the feet of the table behind him. Sehun seized the paper and scanned it quickly.

"It jutht thays 'you're too young' like, five hundred timeth."

"That's how many times you need to be told that you're too young."

"I wish you two could have as much motivation for our charity project as you have for your star-crossed lovers issues," Minseok commented from the nearest laptop, and Jongin muffled a laugh as he distractedly played with Kyungsoo's vest.

Without listening, Luhan picked up one end of the roll and pointed at it for Sehun's benefit: "Also, if you read between the lines, there is a lot of subtext in here, like 'our personalities don't match', 'You don't like Angelina Jolie', 'You think the Hunger Games are a load of bullshit'..."

"That ith true, the Hunger Gameth are a load of bullshit."

"You just don't know how to appreciate all the beautiful themes-"

"Lu Han, you've already proved your point," Minseok exhaled loudly from a chair in the corner, "now you're just being obnoxious, just drop it already."

"You know," Sehun narrowed his eyes viciously, "for thomeone who doethn't like me back, you're awfully inthithtent on this topic."

"Sorry, repeat that?" Lu Han blinked in insincere ignorance, "I didn't hear you in all that flying spit and serpent hissing."

"Lu Han." Minseok rebuked.

"Did we miss something here?" Joonmyun whispered to an equally confused, but immensely entertained Jongdae.

"I'll tell you guys why it's like that," Tao quietly told them with a knowing air, "they're both Aries." he wiggled his eyebrows when the two O&O interns frowned sceptically at him, "it's like putting fire against fire. It's just doesn't work."

"I won't have my love life decided by some stupid star signs shit, thank you; plus, I was born on the 20th April, so I'm half Taurus at least," Lu Han spat without looking at them, and Tao rolled his eyes, as if proving his point:

"See? Aries...Stubborn as fuck."

"Never mind that," Kyungsoo waved dismissively with a groan, "can we decide what we're going to do for that CSR project already?"

"I thought we'd decided already," Kris cocked an eyebrow.

"Joonmyun?" Minseok glanced sideways.

"Oh. Right," their new team leader jolted in shock, and rapidly fumbled for his sheets before readjusting his glasses: ", to recapitulate, everyone voted by email for the cause we're going to be working for and we all agreed on 'baby elephants in Africa'." He paused. "Everyone okay with that?"

"Yep," Jongdae leaned back nonchalantly with outstretched arms. "Fine by me."

"I love baby elephants," Yixing smiled dreamily.

"So now, what we need to do is decide what kind of charity event we want to organise to raise $4,000 for those baby elephants," Joonmyun then scrunched his nose, "frankly speaking, $4,000 really is nothing when I look at it like that."

"It's two weeks and a half, though," Kris rubbed a hand over his eyes. "And we're only twelve."

"Yeah, but I feel like we should be more ambitious," Joonmyun scratched his nose pensively, "you know? Like, this is our chance to turn the tables around on the team board. We should try to aim higher than the other teams."

"What do you suggest then?" Baekhyun perked up from his seat, where he was spacing out with his head over folded arms.

"Let's raise the bar to $10,000, and see where that leads us," Joonmyun said.

"Are you crazy?" Lu Han exclaimed, "what kind of charity event can you do in two weeks that could bring back 10,000 bucks?"

"We need to be creative," the Harvard graduate admitted, but did not sway, "Chanyeol, didn't you say you had something in mind, when you talked to me by email?"

"Uh...huh?" the lanky intern blinked, snapping back into focus. "Sorry, I didn't catch that."

"Geez, what is it with everyone's focus today?" Tao yawned like a cat.

"This morning, by email," Joonmyun asked patiently, "you said you had a sudden idea about the fundraising."

"Oh, yeah, that's right." Chanyeol jerked and sat up before throwing an uncertain look around the room, "so, friend runs a pretty popular bar downtown," he said. "and...sometimes, he invites me there to play the guitar. There's a little stage there and you can go up there by paying a small fee, but I usually go for free since he's my friend."

"I have a bad feeling about this," Lu Han stated.

"The thing is, I also play the drums," Chanyeol articulated with care, "and I have friends in Los Angeles who play the bass, and the guitar..." he paused, looking at everyone in the room, "if I ask my bar owner friend, we could set up a charity concert."

Silence fell upon the group as they stared at Chanyeol, who rolled his shoulders:

"No one said in the rules that you couldn't get some external help involved. Right? With a concert, and the right publicity, you could raise a lot of money in very little time. Make it three days of performances: Friday evening, Saturday and Sunday. I think we could definitely hit the target amount."

"I think that's a brilliant idea," Yixing smiled.

"How would you advertise it, though?" Jongin swerved on his chair. "Without advertisement, no one's going to come and watch."

"Well, first of all I can ask all my involved friends to publicize it for us," Chanyeol declared, "they're into music and all that jazz, so they know the kind of crowd who'd like to come to this kind of events. Secondly, we could advertise it publicly, through our other fundraising events."

"Through our what?"

Sehun blinked, slightly confused: "I thought this wath our fundraithing event."

"Well, we probably won't hit our target with just that, right?" Chanyeol derided as he tried to explain, "unless we're like, so amazingly good that everyone comes craving for more or something...We're probably going to have to accompany that with online advertisement, and other regular events. Like bake-sales or something."

"Basically, we'll need volunteers to bake cookies and to sell them in the streets, or in other public places," Joonmyun elaborated, "and while you're doing that, explain our cause to people. Advertise the concerts."

"I can volunteer for baking cookies," Yixing raised his hand with a smile, "I am a master chef."

"I'll do it with you," Kris declared, "and I'll sell it with you as well. Since I can't contribute to the musical part of things..."

Sehun lifted his hand tentatively, "I can do the cookieth too."

"I need people to volunteer for the band, though," Chanyeol bit his lips, "we need a second guitarist to come with us. An electric guitarist."

"I can do that too," Yixing smiled placidly, making everyone stare at him.

"You can?" Minseok blinked.

"Yeah," the younger man beamed. "I love music."

"Any keyboard players?" Chanyeol asked.

Baekhyun seemed like he wanted to raise his hand, but eventually changed his mind.

"I'll do it," Jongdae volunteered pleasantly. "Haven't played in a while, but it should come back in time, with a bit of practice."

"Brother Lu," Yixing teasingly winked, "why don't you sing for us?"

"In your dreams, hipster manatee," Lu Han scowled.

"Well, then, Lu Han, you should participate in the bake-sales," Minseok remarked pointedly, "...with Sehun, why don't you?"

"What?" both Sehun and Lu Han started.

"I, uh..." Baekhyun finally spoke up, "I'll participate in the bake-sales too, I'm a great salesman. And an amazing baker."

"Then, I want to be paired up with Baekhyun," Lu Han said.

"No, you and Sehun don't know how to bake," Kris snarled in disapproval, "you two should be strictly in charge of sales."

"Baekhyun, Kris, Yixing, Tao, Minseok and I will be in charge of baking," Joonmyun divided carefully as he glanced at Lu Han, "and then, Kris, Yixing, Sehun and you will be in charge of selling in one part of town...while Minseok, Baekhyun and I sell in another part."

"Can't I sell too?" Jongdae pouted.

"Only if you have time," Joonmyun frowned, "you need to practice your uh, piano and all that."

"One question." Jongin suddenly chortled, "what are Kyungsoo and I doing?"

"Ohh, shoot," their team leader placed a hand over his mouth, visibly troubled, "Ah! I know, you guys will be in charge of all the advertisements online."

"Can do," Kyungsoo nodded.

"Sounds like we've got a plan, don't we?" Joonmyun smiled tentatively. "Let's get it going then. Tonight, we're going cookie baking."

"I love cookie baking," Yixing hummed heartily that night, when they were back in their flat kitchen, armed with cookie cutters and bowls of dough.

From his spot near the microwave, where he was busy battering the cookie mix with an electric whisk, Tao let out a snort and looked to the ceiling:

"The day you say you don't love something, I'd be more surprised."

"Are you guyth thure I can't help?" Sehun asked with the hint of a plea on the edge of his voice while sitting at the kitchen table.

"No," Kris snapped immediately. "Not after I've seen you burn that lasagne in your flat last week."

"It wath jutht a one-off thing," the younger man mumbled inarticulately.

Yixing applied the cutters to the flattened dough Kris was handing him on a tray, and began making star-shaped biscuits with a knowing smile.

"Sehun, if you are worried about selling these with Lu Han this weekend, don't be. Lu Han is just a really big immature idiot, he'll come around in due time."

"Can't you be the one in charge of thales near Beverly Hillth with Lu Han?" Sehun inquired.

"I can't," Yixing shook his head on the beat, "I'm already doing sales with Yifan in Little Tokyo."

"Tho?" Sehun looked confused, "we could technically change with one another."

Yixing seemed taken aback for a second, then he opened his mouth to protest when Tao swiftly intervened:

"No last minute changes," he groused and placed his dish down. "You shouldn't try to evade your personal issues by sweeping them under the carpet. If it's awkward between you and Lu Han right now, you should deal with it while it's fresh. Get over yourself."

"What am I thupposed to do?" Sehun exhaled loudly out of exasperation, "he'th the one who ith acting like a middle-thcooler and pushing all my buttons, not me."

"Do you want me to read the horoscope for Aries to you?" Tao suggested.


"Alright, then," Tao took up his mixer once again and turned it on. "Force him to deal with it like a grown-up man."

He had just finished his sentence when a beeping sound from Kris's phone caused the eldest intern to place his oven gloves down. Both Tao and Sehun threw him a glance:

"Who's that?"

"Joonmyun," Kris elucidated, clicking through the message, "asking us if we have extra flour, they've ran out on their side."

"We do have extra flour," Yixing hummed without turning away from his platter. "Sehun, why don't you make the trip and pass it on to them?"

"Never drove in the US," Sehun remarked with a helpless shrug.

"I'll come with you," Tao clicked his tongue, before pushing the dough onto the counter where Yixing and Kris were standing: "We'll be back in forty minutes, give or take. You two will be alright?"

"I'm sure we'll manage," Kris said expressionlessly, "have a safe trip."

"Sorry for the trouble," Yixing declared in a singing tone while keeping his eyes on the biscuits in front of him.

Tao only waved the apology away with an indifferent hand gesture, and grabbed his jacket while Sehun carried the packs of flour behind him. Once they were gone from the flat, Kris and Yixing remained side by side in front of the counter, each minding their own business in smothering silence for an indeterminable amount of time before Yixing finally let out a soft exclamation:


In front of him lied five lines of neatly defined stars of dough.

"Well, then," Kris said calmly, moving the tray away, "we just have to wait ten minutes for the previous batch to be ready. Then, we can put those in."

"Good." Yixing agreed gently. "Very good."

They stood in front of the counter without a word; Yixing, suddenly captivated by a piece of humid flour beneath his nail, and Kris seemingly answering a text on his phone. As soon as he lowered the device, however, the younger man threw him a disarming glance.

"Um." The elder intern blinked, "what?"

"You know," Yixing said, dead serious but unalarmed, "I didn't even think about it before he mentioned it earlier."

"Who? Mentioned what?" Kris creased his brow, slightly embarrassed.

"It seemed completely natural to me that I should be doing my cookie sales with you," the other man expounded. "So when he said I could actually do it with Lu Han, the idea kind of caught me off guard."

Kris simply closed his mouth, unsure of how to respond, but somewhat anticipating the rest of what was on Yixing's mind.


"So, it's funny!" Yixing stated rather firmly, a look of concentration slowly dawning on him as he started observing the movement of the clock on the microwave. "It's funny how the brain works... I never thought of it this way. I think I need to reorganise my thoughts a bit."

"Uh...I really don't know what you're talking about?"

Yixing glanced at him in surprise once again, then gradually smiled.

"Me neither."

Kris was now baffled without trying to dissimulate it. He groaned and passed a hand over his face before turning to lean against the counter.

"Yixing, sometimes you don't know just how bloody much you confuse me."

"Right now, I'm a bit confused by myself as well," Yixing admitted effortlessly and let out a small laugh.

Kris thought he would say something else, but the younger man fell silent after that. Preferring a smiling Yixing to a ruminating one by a milestone, the Economics graduate soon slapped his oven gloves over the counter and cleared his throat to get the other intern's attention:

"You know, we don't even know if those cookies taste good or bad – none of us tried it yet," he noted.

"You're right," the younger man immediately lit up like a firework spark in the night, face illuminated by a meaningful grin, "that's unacceptable; what if the cookies were inedible? We should take a few right now to test them on children in the neighbouring blocks."

"I was rather thinking of just trying one or two ourselves, but sure." Kris sneered without ill intentions. "If you say so."

"I say so," Yixing nodded. "Come on, let's get a few cookies out of this burning hell called oven. And then, grab your jacket."

Perhaps, Kris thought, today was not the day to say everything he had on his mind.

But he could suck it up, and deal with it like a grown-up man.

Sehun mildly wanted to die of shame.

"It's only $2.60, for baby elephants in Africa," Lu Han was hammering down on a mildly offended mother and her son, "don't you care about baby elephants? You don't want your child to become a decent person?"

"Lu Han-"

"If your son grows up to be a human without any feelings for society, what kind of future does this planet have?" Lu Han shouted as the woman swiftly pulled her child along, down the streets of Beverly Hills. "Hey, I'm speaking to you!"

As he noticed a few passing couples throwing them a puzzled glance, Sehun cleared his throat and tried to smile:

"We have an upcoming conthert; pleathe come."

They looked at him with a mild grimace and hurried on their way.

"It's fucking useless," Lu Han groaned, giving a frustrated slap to his basket filled with cookies, "we're not going to sell anything."

"Not if you thcare everyone off before they even get what we're thelling," Sehun lisped resentfully, "you've been inthulting people all morning."

"I need a coffee," Lu Han simply grumbled, looking around them for a place to sit down and buy a drink. "There. Starbucks."

"We haven't thold a thingle cookie yet," Sehun objected.

"We'll do it after coffee," the elder man shook his head and repositioned his snapback. "It's way too early for a weekend right now. I shouldn't even be awake."

Sehun followed him reluctantly. He could barely believe that he had even been anxious about Lu Han's potential behaviour over his unrequited concession of the other day. The elder man had been nothing short of obtuse so far, not mentioning their Wednesday incident one single time, as if he had already forgotten about it, and spending the entire morning just complaining about every living thing under the sun – which included Sehun's company. Not only that, but Lu Han was a terrible salesman. He was aggressive, blunt and intolerant. Every time he talked to someone on the street, it sounded like an invitation to battle.

As they entered the Starbucks, Sehun rubbed his hands over his face for the fifteenth time.

"You're like a rabid dog," he said to the elder man as he headed for the counter, "thtop talking to people ath if they owe you money."

"Look, if you want to complain about how I do things, you should at least be able to sell something yourself," Lu Han scoffed as the barista walked towards them:

"Hello, anything to drink?"

"Double expresso shot," the Media & Communications graduate said, then gave Sehun a twitch of the eyebrow while reaching for his wallet.

The younger man widened his eyes.


"Order what you want," Lu Han nodded at the barista.

"Oh, expretho macchiato, pleathe," Sehun managed.

Lu Han placed a ten dollar bill on the counter wordlessly, and Sehun blinked, wanting to say something about paying for himself, when the Starbucks employee smiled at Lu Han again:

"Anything to eat?"

"No, thanks," the intern shook his head.

"What about your little brother, then?"

"Hith what?" Sehun exclaimed in a squeaking voice.

Lu Han immediately covered his mouth and let out a weird muffled noise, which suspiciously sounded like laughter when Sehun thought about it, but he was too flabbergasted to chide on it. Instead he looked at the barista and blurted out in vexation:

"I'm not hith little brother!"

"Oh, I'm sorry, it's just – I'm really sorry," she quickly apologized, "the two of you looked so similar, the way you spoke and everything..."

"Hang on, the way we speak is similar?" Lu Han raised his head with concern now.

"I'm taller than him; if anything I should be hith older brother!" Sehun stammered.

"Look, just forget what I've said," she invited with a tiny laugh, "alright? So, um, anything to eat?"

"No, thanks."

"What about you, sir?" she smiled at Sehun who glared back.

"Nothing either, thank you."

As soon as they got out of the place twenty minutes later, however, he was shaking his head with vehemence:

"I can't believe she thought that. That'th crazy."

"It's pretty damn hilarious, though," Lu Han cackled as they walked back towards his car, parked between a truck and a sports car down the alley, "apart from the 'similar way of speaking' part. There is no way that I speak similarly to you. No way."

"Bethides, how did she even know I wath the younger one?" Sehun added with a sense of dread. "Do I look that much younger? Ith that what everyone thinkth when they look at uth? That I'm your younger thibling?"

"What would you rather have them think, that we're a couple?"


He thought maybe Lu Han was going to be angry at him, but the elder man simply smirked:

"Good, 'cause that ain't happening."

Feeling cheeky today, Sehun stopped walking and stared dead into Lu Han's eyes.

"Why not?"

"Why –" the elder intern snorted, "Hmm, let me see. Well, firstly, I regret to inform you, but I only date very sexy people and you're really not sexy at all."

"So ith Mintheok thexy?" Sehun challenged.

"Minseok is hella sexy, but that is not going to work," Lu Han stuck a finger up, almost getting Sehun's nose in the process. He then turned away towards the car again, "not going to work because Minseok's straight. I asked. But that is not the problem. The problem is – you are not sexy for two cents."

"I could be."

"You really couldn't," Lu Han opened the car door on the passenger's seat and pointed at it with a smile, "now get in the car, we're trying a different avenue."

Sehun almost obeyed, lowering his head with a grumble, when suddenly an impulse he had not even seen coming took hold of him, and he backed away from the passenger seat like cattle from the slaughterhouse. Lu Han gave him an incredulous look.

"What's your problem?"

"I'm going to drive."

"You can't drive," the elder man cocked an eyebrow.

"I actually do have an international lithenthe," Sehun blurted out, "I jutht don't feel comfort- um...anyways. I'm going to drive."

"Dude, there's no way I'm letting you touch my-" Lu Han broke off when the younger man snatched his keys and headed for the driver's seat, "Hey!"

Sehun slipped behind the steering wheel before Lu Han could come around, and hurriedly closed the door. The Australian graduate shook his head and knocked on the window. When the other intern failed to unlock the door, he walked around and slipped into the passenger seat:

"Is that how you're trying to show you're sexy?" he snapped, "by driving when you don't know how to drive?"

"I know how to drive, I jutht thaid I had an international lithenthe," Sehun grunted, fumbling with the car keys. "I jutht never uthed it in the Thtates."

"Have you ever used it anywhere outside the UK?"

"...No," Sehun mumbled.

"Say that again?"

"I thaid, no," the younger man dropped, groping around some more, "hey, ith thith car a manual?"


"Huh," the Oxford graduate faced the front and the car rumbled.

"Why?" Lu Han frowned worriedly.

"I haven't driven a manual in a while..."

"Dude," the elder man immediately reared, "get out of that seat, man. You're going to get us into a car accident or something."

"No, I'm not. Thtop dithtracting me. How do I reverthe...?"

"Wait, no. No. Don't do that-" Lu Han began, then jumped when Sehun crashed the car into the sports car behind, which immediately began to wail in alarm. "Oh, my fucking God."

Sehun faltered at his own blunder, mortified, before hastily following Lu Han as the elder man rushed out of the car to check the damage done.

They had barely started to inspect the car hood when the owners of the sports car arrived down the street, two hulking young men in polo shirts – students by the looks of it, who pointed at them with an accusatory finger:

"Dude, what the fuck did you guys do to my car?" the first one said, lowering his sunglasses and his cup of iced drink, "that's a brand new car, you fuckers, you better pay the God damn damages-"

"Calm down," Lu Han instantly raised one hand, "calm down, alright? I just looked, your vehicle didn't suffer any damage. It's just the alarm that went off."

"If there is a single scratch..."

"There is no scratch," Lu Han pacified them while sounding exasperated, "Jesus Christ. My car is the one that got a bump, okay? Not yours."

"You better not try to lie," the bulky student growled, "because if I find anything..."

"He thaid there wath nothing," Sehun stood up in front of Lu Han and stated angrily, "bethides, even if there wath, I'd be the one paying the damageth, so you should be talking to me. Not him."

The two students glanced at him with an arched eyebrow:

"What does your little brother want, now?"

"I'm not hith little brother," Sehun glowered, outraged.

"Dude, learn how to speak before you try to sound menacing," the first student laughed this time, and something seemed to click in Lu Han's head, because he dismissively shoved Sehun backwards and approached the two brutes again:

"Now wait a minute. If you're starting to make fun of that dumb fuck's lisp, then you're plainly looking to get your face smashed."

Sehun frowned. "Who'th a dumb fuck?"

The second guy only snickered: "What so he even needs his older brother to stand up for him now?"

"I'm dead serious," Lu Han informed him.

"Okay, so the baby needs his older brother to talk for him because he can't talk, but the older brother actually finds his little brother to be ******** as well," the first student guffawed. "Right. This is the saddest thing I've ever seen..."

And then, Lu Han abruptly pulled back and threw his head forward again, forehead smashing against the other man's skull with a dead sound that caused Sehun's jaw to drop in shock. The hulky young man fell on the ground with a stream of swearwords, his beverage splashing all over the concrete, and the second guy stepped back with a flabbergasted squeak.

Lu Han seemed more furious than in pain, pointing a finger at the two students in turn:

"You two better get the fuck out of here before I decide to pummel you to the ground," he warned. "You hear me? Get the fuck out."

"Lu Han, wait...L..."

"Get. The. Fuck. Out." Lu Han articulated heatedly as the two students scrambled to their feet and got into their car, not even caring for the spilled drink on the floor.

As soon as they drove away, Lu Han straightened his T-shirt and shook his head in disbelief:

"Jesus Christ. Kids nowadays."

"You didn't have to do that," Sehun mumbled in mortification, "but thankth."

"They don't get to piss me off, act like self-entitled douchebags, and then expect to get away without me kicking their sorry ass," the elder intern laughed coldly as he inspected the scratch on his car and whispered: "son of a bitch, that car actually knocks harder than it looks."

"I'll pay for it, for real."

"We'll settle that later," Lu Han grunted and opened the door on the passenger's side: "now, please get in the car and stay away from the steering wheel, princess."

"I'm not a printheth."

"Not a printheth," Lu Han repeated exaggeratedly and Sehun scowled at him:

"You're making fun of my lithp too."

"I'm entitled to because I caused it," he stuck out his tongue while the younger intern took his seat with a vicious little squint of the eyes.

"Thon of a bit'th," Sehun whispered.

"You want me to knock off that second front tooth, too?"

"...No thank you."

Lu Han shut the door and walked over to the driver's seat. As soon as he sat down, however, he reached over and got a huge cooler box from beneath the backseat, which he placed between Sehun and himself, before opening it and drawing out a whole range of ice lollies and cones.

The younger intern offered him a bewildered look as the other man gestured towards him with the sticks in hand:


"Choose something," Lu Han nodded, "I got them as, like, a celebration for whenever we finished our cookie sales today, but considering that we're getting nowhere near that, might as well..."

"Thankth, you didn't have to," Sehun faltered.

"No, you're right, there's a lot of things I don't have to do; but I feel like it. So take one before it all melts."

The Oxford student indulged, picking a Solero, and Lu Han instantly gave him a look.

"Solero, really?"

"What, are you even going to judge me on that?"

"No, I'm just saying..." the elder man shrugged and chose a cone himself before putting the rest in the ice box.

They ate in silence for a while, and then Lu Han, who was looking out of the windshield with a pensive air on his face, suddenly said:

"See, nothing's changed much in the end."

Sehun's head instantly shot up to stare at him. That statement made a lot of sense out of their morning, all of a sudden; because, he realised, that was it. It was Lu Han's primitive way of patching things up between them and telling him that it was okay – okay for Sehun to like him even though it was one-sided, and okay because it wouldn't make things awkward between them if he continued to.

Sehun sucked on his ice pop without replying, and without looking at Lu Han in the face. The cold actually hurt his teeth, but he didn't mind it all that much.

"Okay, now, next problem." Lu Han said as he put one hand against the steering wheel and heaved a bottomless sigh: "How the fuck do we sell those damn cookies?"

Sehun considered their predicament for a little while licking his lips, then the idea dawned on him like a blooming bud in his mind.

"I have an idea," he declared, tapping Lu Han on the shoulder, "find a thity square. A plaza of thome thort... thomewhere with a lot of people pathing through."

"And then what? Start juggling with the cookies?"


"Look, I'll tell you what, I refuse to sing. No matter what."

"No thinging, I promithe," Sehun guaranteed. "Jutht trutht me."

The elder man only offered him a half-interested glance, and eventually bit into the biscuit part of his cone to hold on to it while he turned the ignition on.

"Alright," he stated, "let's give this a try."

Kyungsoo didn't know what to expect when he arrived in Chanyeol's living room after being summoned on a Saturday afternoon, but it certainly wasn't this.

"You want me to do what?"

"Look, I'm so sorry for asking you all of a sudden," Chanyeol explained, as Jongdae happily fidgeted on the keyboard behind him and Yixing looked for a place to plug in his amplifier, "but you're the only one who can be our lead vocalist. I mean, Lu Han is adamant that he won't take part in the on-stage part of things, Kris is willing but his voice is a nightmare, and Minseok refuses to admit that he can sing. He keeps pretending to make these awful screeching noises whenever I ask him to hum his favourite song as a try-out, it's horrible."

"What makes you think that I can sing?" Kyungsoo shook his head incredulously.

"Because, you were specially recommended by Jongin yesterday, after work hours," Chanyeol replied. "He vouched for you like...three thousand times."

Kyungsoo instantly felt a disagreeable warmth creeping up his cheeks and had to bit on his tongue not to show it. Dear Lord; there went the oh, so annoying blood vessels that could not control their influx of blood in the right place at the right moment. What had these past few weeks done to his reputation as a scary dark lord? He was losing his touch, this was a disgrace...

"Kyungsoo," Chanyeol called him back to earth.

"Yes," he shot back very calmly, his features a marble statue, "well. What did Jongin say exactly?"

"He said you were an amazing singer, and that if we didn't make you sing for the band, it would be the biggest mistake we could make for our concert. An outright catastrophe, he said."

"Well, that's um, very kind of him, and I don't think I deserve the compliment, although he is very nice for saying it. I hope you'll tell him that."

"Why don't just tell him yourself?" the NYU graduate blinked.

"For the same reason that he didn't actually ask me if I wanted to sing for this concert or not," Kyungsoo said through pursed lips, then looked around at the oversized flat and Chanyeol's friends, who were now starting to play a few notes on the bass and guitar, "what about Baekhyun, then?"


"I've heard that guy sing "Pretty Woman" as he walked down the aisles in the Business Tech department. He doesn't sound half as bad."

"No, he doesn't. He sings great." Chanyeol nodded, looking down at his thumb, "it's just..."

Kyungsoo watched with mild consternation as the elder man's face turned from eagerness to bad reminiscing to gloom to bottomless depression. He eventually took the NYU graduate into pity and rolled his eyes.

"Alright, I'll sing," he dropped. "I just can't guarantee that it'll sound decent for a concert, though."

"That's awesome," Chanyeol instantly brightened up. "Thanks a lot. I'm sure you'll sound great."

"You need to sort out your problems with Baekhyun," Kyungsoo informed him instead. "I mean, this couple of days with you guys in the department have just been awkward as fuck. Do you know that this is not elementary school heartbreak? You're twenty-one for Christ's sake."

"It's only been two days..."

"Two days is too much," Kyungsoo stated with a glare. "I'm not going to act as the messenger between you guys and pass him your comprehensive "how-to-do-IT" notes forever, Chanyeol."

"I just promised him that I'd give him some space..." the elder man panicked. "It's only temporary. I'm just leaving him some room to breathe before he's ready to face me as a friend again. We agreed that it wouldn't make things awkward between us."

"It's not working."

"It's temporary," Chanyeol assured once more, nodding to himself. "He...he just needs some time."

Kyungsoo could only look to the ceiling again, wanting to remark that it was probably Chanyeol himself who 'needed some time' more than anyone else, but much too tired to argue with the elder man on this topic. He smiled at Yixing when the Chinese intern cheerfully waved at him, guitar over his neck and shoulder, and then studied Chanyeol with an expectant nod:

"Alright, then. What songs are we doing?"

"Well, I've made a small selection. But of course you're free to add things as we go along...I thought of things we could re-arrange as a band, and came up with 'Thinking Out Loud', 'No One Else Like You', 'Staring at the Stars'..."

"We should put an Adam Lambert song somewhere in there," Jongdae slipped past with a shrewd face, "just saying."

"Were you the one who suggested 'Something I Need'?" Kyungsoo suddenly asked as he pointed at one of the names on the list, and Chanyeol peeked up at him:

"Nah, that's Jongin's idea. He suggested it when I talked to him the other day... But hey, it's a really good song."

Before he could stop it, a small smile graced Kyungsoo's lips.

"Actually, he shouldn't be taking very long..." Chanyeol glanced at his watch and the younger man stared at him:

"What, he's coming?"

The doorbell rang at the same time, and Jongdae, who had just come out of the bathroom, pulled it open, allowing Jongin's head to peek through.

"Hello," the law student smiled in amusement and displayed a pile of carton boxes and plastic bags in his hands, "I brought pizza and coke, for those who like that sort of thing."

"Oh my God," Yixing exclaimed delightedly, "you're a saint."

"We haven't even started rehearsing," Chanyeol grimaced while the Chinese intern waltzed across the room to take the food away from their new audience.

Kyungsoo only gazed at Jongin in pure wonder, blinking stupidly as the younger man showed him a leer and walked up to him.

"Are you, um, here to watch the practice session?"

"I wouldn't have missed it for the world," Jongin simply responded with a smile as he threw his jacket on the nearest chair.

Lu Han and Sehun arrived at the plaza around two in the afternoon, under a beating sun and sluggish air, which caused Lu Han to almost take off his hat, before the younger man pushed the basket of cookies into his hands.


"I need your cooler box," Sehun clarified and picked it up in his arms before getting out of the car, "okay, here we go..."

"Are you planning on selling the ice cream as well?" Lu Han cocked an eyebrow, "might actually work better than cookies, considering the weather. We should have talked to the other guys about that."

Sehun failed to reply. With a perplexed frown, Lu Han followed him as he walked to the centre of the square and placed the ice box on the floor, before suddenly climbing on top of it under the Australian intern's dumbfounded eyes.

"What are you doing? You look ridiculous."

"Do you think I'm very vithible, though?" Sehun inquired instead with a concerned look.

"Damn right, you're visible," he hissed, "you look moronic as well. Get off there, this is embarrassing. There are tons of people here."

"I know, that'th the point. Can you put the cookieth on the floor with our pothters on it?"

"Like this?" Lu Han complied reluctantly, still feeling slightly mortified.

"Yeah. Now thtep away."

"What the hell are you trying to do?"

"Work English Literature magic," Sehun responded while clearing his throat.

Lu Han stepped back with a dubious glower, when with a clear voice and woeful tone, the Oxford student suddenly began to blare:

"To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow – creepth in thith petty pathe from day to day, to the latht thyllable of recorded time; and all our yethterdayth have lighted foolth the way to duthty death," he waved with his hand, "Out, out, brief candle! Life'th but a walking shadow, a poor player, that thtruts and frets his hour upon the thtage, ..."

Lu Han looked around him while wanting to crawl six feet underground, and sure enough, a few people passing by were already pausing to watch the booming young man and his wide dramatic moves, rhymes popping out of his mouth like a bubbles:

"It ith a tale told by an idiot," Sehun declaimed dolefully, "full of thound and fury – thignifying nothing!"

"He's reciting Shakespeare," a middle-aged woman observed as she stopped by with her husband.

"It's Macbeth," someone else commented, standing next to Lu Han to watch. "I haven't heard this since eighth grade."

"Thou cometht to uthe thy tongue; thy story quickly," Sehun leaned towards another passer-by as he delivered his lines, and the person quickly chuckled as they walked away.

By now a small group of people were slowly gathering around the Oxford student and his ice box, and as some of them noticed the basket on the ground, they stepped into the circle to throw in a coin or two.

"She would have died later anyway," Sehun discoursed dramatically, "That newth was bound to come thomeday. Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow. The dayth creep slowly along until the end of time."

"Is that your younger brother?"

All of a sudden, a tourist and his wife had slithered behind Lu Han and made him turn with a jolt.

He stared at them blankly, wondering what to say, while they smiled expectantly at him:

"Uuuuuuuh..." he pointed at the other intern on the ice box. "Him?"

"Yes. He's rather daring," the woman said and smiled encouragingly. "is he your little brother?"

"Oh yeah, right, ha ha," Lu Han nodded with a troubled laugh, then glanced at the orating Sehun, and back at the tourists again. "He's sixteen," he dropped with a serious face.

"Oh, my. It takes some guts to do stuff like that at this age."

"Yeah, yeah, he is really into it," the elder intern agreed with conviction.

"Not to be rude or anything, but is it me or he has a funny way with his...I mean."

"Oh! Well, uh, you see..." Lu Han thought about it for a second, hesitated, then blurted out all at once, "he's got a speech impediment."

"Oh...I see," the couple looked contrite.

"Yeah, he's got that since he was small," the intern said to everyone who was standing close to him, "but we always told him to do whatever he wanted to do. That's why he's up there. He loves acting. He wants to be go into drama school when he's older, he's just that good. Now," he pointed at the box, "he's pursuing his dreams while standing on that ice box. He's going for it. Right there."

"I think it's great," a smartly dressed old man remarked, and stepped forward to throw a five dollar bill into the basket beneath Sehun's feet. A few people immediately followed suit, while Sehun placed a hand over his chest:

"—Arm, arm, and out! If thith which he avoucheth doeth appear, there ith nor flying henthe nor tarrying here. I 'gin to be aweary of the thun, and wish th' ethtate o' th' world were now undone ."

"You can have a cookie too, if you want," Lu Han explained to the tourists who were still standing next to him. "We're doing this as a charity project. This is like a prelude to the concert we're putting up in town."

"A concert? When's that?"

"Um, in two weeks' time," he bit his lower lip, "but I guys are travelling, right? You probably wouldn't be here."

"Oh, actually, we're staying a month," the man laughed.

Lu Han opened his mouth.


"We'd be interested to come," the wife kindly smiled, "do you have a flyer or something?"

"How much did we get...?" Sehun asked as he finally stepped down from his box a good two and a half hours later, after finishing half of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

"You," Lu Han emphasized as he flicked through the coins and in the basket, "have earned us a hundred and thirty-two dollars exactly."

"That'th... not a lot."

"Yeah, but it's only five o'clock," Lu Han smirked, while handing him a bottle of water, "you can still give us a round two, can't you?"

"I haven't done monologues thinthe high thchool," the other man confessed before drinking a long gulp.

"I'd be more worried if you did that on a daily basis, to be honest," he snorted, then kicked an empty bottle on the ground. "How the hell do you know all that by heart...? Like, you don't even blink when all that crazy stuff sprouts out of your mouth."

"English Literature," Sehun simply looked down his nose. "Thee? Told you it wath useful."

Lu Han sneered, giving him a soft punch on the shoulder.

"Do you know how to recite all that stuff in another language, too? French, perhaps?"

"I do thpeak French, actually. I learned it at thcool," he sniffled, "Je parle un petit peu le franthais."

Lu Han smiled against his will.

"Dude, I'm pretty sure that's not how you say it."

"Yeth it ith. Bonjour, Paris. J'aime les baguettes."

"Did you just say you like baguettes?" the elder man laughed out loud, then shook his head in disapproval. "That's so racist."

"How ith it rathist, baguettes aren't even people."

"It's discriminatory against loafs," he listed gravely. "And toast..."

"That doethn't even make thenth," Sehun scowled.

"And croissants, for that matter..."

"Croithants are French too!"

Lu Han simply cackled, holding his sides as he saw the younger man's bemused expression. After a break, he eventually deigned to smile with honesty, the remains of a chuckle still hanging by the corner of his lips.

"Listen, I admit it," he started and glanced at his shoes, "what you did just now, with the Shakespeare, it was...well, it was pretty cool."

Sehun's face instantly illuminated with a smug grin.

"You mean to thay it was bloody thexy."

"Ehh, no, I don't think I ever mean to say it was 'bloody thexy', but yes, okay. Maybe it was a tiny little bit sexy," he gestured with his index and thumb, pressing them together with a sheepish smile, "like, a tiny bit. Just this much."

Sehun shrugged:

"That'th good enough for me."

"You're really easily satisfied, aren't you."

"No," Sehun shook his head, flashing him a deadly serious gaze, "I jutht lower my thtandards thpecially for you."

Clicking his tongue in annoyance, Lu Han smacked the younger man on the back of the head with his basket and scampered off under Sehun's lisping protest.

"Did you come alone, or are you accompanied?"

Kris raised his eyes to the sight of a Yixing on the basketball court of the dorms, holding a ball under his arm and wearing a beautiful grin on his face.

He cocked an eyebrow and unfolded his legs.

"Wow, seriously? Pick-up lines at two in the morning on a weekend?"

"What are you talking about, that's the perfect time for pick-up lines." The younger Chinese intern smiled at him. "I saw you sitting outside on your own from my window."

Kris did not reply in time, too busy watching the other man's laugh lines and emotive eyes. He almost failed to react when Yixing abruptly tossed the ball into his hands.

"Come on," he said, skipping on his feet and bending his back to warm up, a sly smirk gradually lighting up his features, "I came down specially for you. So let's not waste time. Play."

"Why were you spying on me in the first place?"

"I don't know," Yixing shrugged, then clapped his hands, "you coming?"

Kris dribbled a few times slowly, as a sneer overtook him:

"You won't say I didn't warn you."

"Why? Are you really good?" Yixing tilted his head in amusement.

Without answering, Kris rushed forward, dribbling quickly across the field, about to bypass Yixing when the younger man brought his body towards the ground and stole the ball away from him.

Kris spun around with a blink, and the other intern laughed out loud:

"Hah," he grinned, letting the ball bounce crisply against the ground, "who's surprised, now?"

With a disbelieving smirk, Kris dived and swerved to Yixing's side, who dodged him with the ball. Instantly, he braked on his feet, skittered to Yixing's other side and smacked it out of the younger man's hand, before dribbling towards the goal and slamming the ball through the net in one smooth jump.

Yixing whistled as he walked back with the ball under his arm.

"Impressive, Mr. Wu Yifan," he beamed gently. "You've got other tricks like that?"

"You're not too bad yourself." Kris snorted, "Are you playing seriously right now?"

"Are you?" the younger man smiled.

Kris stared into his eyes, inhaling deeply.

"I am."

Yixing observed him calmly for a while, completely still, then pursed his lips.

"Come and get it, if you can," the elder man challenged tranquilly, slowly dribbling from one hand to the other.

With a sudden light in his gaze, Yixing lunged forward, snatched the ball from Kris after a feint, dribbled, and took two large strides to mark a gracious three-pointer under the elder man's riveted eyes.

As the ball fell back onto the ground and bounced off with an airy sound, Yixing turned around to look at him with an elated smile.

"I was serious just now," he said.

"I know," Kris smiled back.

The ball rolled off the field, knocked against the watching stands, and slowly came to a stop.

I only just realised that I haven't updated this in...about a week. Oops.

Time to ask: did you get a grip on the truth? We are here to bring change to our world. Take a side, make it right—or get out of our way right now; you cannot stop us!

How many times did you look away when someone cried for help?—acting like you didn't know. We won't accept excuses without sincere actions; unmasking all you traitors!

Offline arielle

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Re: chacun voit midi à sa porte [⚜] writing storage
« Reply #20 on: January 27, 2018, 02:10:37 PM »
It seems as though I'll have to go back and fix all the chapters and correct the characters that were replaced. I'm...not terribly frustrated though; it really shouldn't take too long. They're very simple fixes.

Note to self: ‘ (—) and – (–) and ç (ç) and ’ (') and é (é)
« Last Edit: January 31, 2018, 12:59:03 PM by Arielle »

Time to ask: did you get a grip on the truth? We are here to bring change to our world. Take a side, make it right—or get out of our way right now; you cannot stop us!

How many times did you look away when someone cried for help?—acting like you didn't know. We won't accept excuses without sincere actions; unmasking all you traitors!

Offline zuka

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Re: chacun voit midi à sa porte [⚜] writing storage
« Reply #21 on: January 31, 2018, 03:20:00 AM »
your writing is as always so amazing and at times while reading this i laughed so hard i choked,,

the way you write all the interactions and dynamics between the characters!! is so engaging? i also really like the small idiosyncrasies you gave each of them and rly yixing is too powerful everything he does ?? breaks me?? his eyes being wide open as he slept peacefully and luhan and kris desperately turning his head away from themselves i WEPT

thank you sm for sharing :'^) my eyes have been blessed :'^) im going 2 crack a rib one day laughing at something from this fic but i won't even be sorry it's That worth it!! to be fair this fic is probably worth around 3+ ribs tbh. thank you!! for writing this to begin with !! i'm not v eloquent when leaving comments but this fic gave and keeps giving me Life and i adore it!!
icon by ぐらタン

Offline arielle

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Re: chacun voit midi à sa porte [⚜] writing storage
« Reply #22 on: January 31, 2018, 01:16:39 PM »
Oh my god, please don't choke... (°o°;)

I...did my best. I think I'm actually better at angst, but I did my best to make this as comedic as possible. cx Tbh, if there's anything I learned during my college years, it's that most people aren't just character tropes. As much as I adore fantasy and all that, I think real/normal people are pretty fascinating too. :^) And yes, that part was fun to write! Yixing's a bit of an oddball, but... well, the thing to keep in mind is that they were all selected for a reason. He may be terribly eccentric, but he knows what he's doing, lol.

It's no trouble, really! Please don't sacrifice your ribs though omg I don't...need your ribs...please keep them. The fic was written at the request of my peers...and I thought'd it be a nice way to reminisce about my college years (okay, I'm not that old...I'm just in my first year of grad school - I'm around the average age of the EXO members in this). Really, it's fun though; I'd hardly consider it a 'chore'. ;^)

Dw, I'm not that eloquent when responding to comments, so you're fine!!

Time to ask: did you get a grip on the truth? We are here to bring change to our world. Take a side, make it right—or get out of our way right now; you cannot stop us!

How many times did you look away when someone cried for help?—acting like you didn't know. We won't accept excuses without sincere actions; unmasking all you traitors!

Offline ayumi

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Re: chacun voit midi à sa porte [⚜] writing storage
« Reply #23 on: February 12, 2018, 03:23:04 AM »
Thx for sending this to me. Glad to see you included so many of our heart-to-heart talks in the Interning!AU lmao. You'll find me touched.

This is a track.

Comment vous dire... La vérité finit toujours par se découvrir. À chaque jour suffit sa peine, chacun trouve chaussure à son pied. Le temps blanchit les têtes sans mûrir la raison.

How do I tell you... the truth shall always be discovered. Each day has enough grief, everyone finds bespoke shoes for their feet. Time whitens heads without ripening reason.

Offline seliane

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Re: chacun voit midi à sa porte [⚜] writing storage
« Reply #24 on: February 14, 2018, 08:02:49 PM »
"The day will come, when you have to choose between being an asshole and a better person...!" <- lmao ayumi it's u...ur a grandpa now

when will u post the next chapter for this bc i'm highkey dYING OF ANTICIPATION

How long has it been? Hope I'm not dreaming, looking good too aren't you? It's time to unwind. Eager to catch your smile — ain't shown it in a while, so set free the mind!

Don't need no words, we'll dance the night away together. Passing hours, embrace the feeling forever. It's all ours till the sunrise signals closure, come on, don't be shy now. Won't you take my hand?

Offline arielle

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Re: chacun voit midi à sa porte [⚜] writing storage
« Reply #25 on: February 14, 2018, 08:41:21 PM »
Lol, I thought you'd appreciate it. Glad to know that what I thought was correct. <333

Soon - don't worry! I have the next few chapters written; Ayumi's going to beta them for me when she can, and then they'll go up... I still need to edit all of my old posts though. It's easy to make out everything in spite of all the odd symbols, but it still bothers me. cx

Time to ask: did you get a grip on the truth? We are here to bring change to our world. Take a side, make it right—or get out of our way right now; you cannot stop us!

How many times did you look away when someone cried for help?—acting like you didn't know. We won't accept excuses without sincere actions; unmasking all you traitors!

Offline arielle

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Re: chacun voit midi à sa porte [⚜] writing storage
« Reply #26 on: June 18, 2019, 12:12:49 AM »
I opened this thread and started laughing at the odd symbols from That Incident... maybe I really do write too much. I'm just hoping not to exceed the character limit and break something. Again.

On another note, I'm considering starting a Persona fic. I mostly write EXO things for friends but... I've been slammed with nothing but P5R and old P3 and P4 memes in my chats. It's getting to me... and tbvh I think I'm also just letting it happen. Time to start planning, lol.

Time to ask: did you get a grip on the truth? We are here to bring change to our world. Take a side, make it right—or get out of our way right now; you cannot stop us!

How many times did you look away when someone cried for help?—acting like you didn't know. We won't accept excuses without sincere actions; unmasking all you traitors!

Offline seliane

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Re: chacun voit midi à sa porte [⚜] writing storage
« Reply #27 on: June 18, 2019, 03:08:07 PM »

wow you too? [sarcasm]gee i wonder why[/sarcasm]
i'm nearly done with my fes playthrough... then ig i'll end myself by playing the answer and arena at the same time ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

but jfc i forgot how tedious tartarus can be. tartarus makes me want to persona 3 portable myself-

How long has it been? Hope I'm not dreaming, looking good too aren't you? It's time to unwind. Eager to catch your smile — ain't shown it in a while, so set free the mind!

Don't need no words, we'll dance the night away together. Passing hours, embrace the feeling forever. It's all ours till the sunrise signals closure, come on, don't be shy now. Won't you take my hand?

Offline arielle

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Re: chacun voit midi à sa porte [⚜] writing storage
« Reply #28 on: June 20, 2019, 11:35:16 PM »
Still so much to clean up in here, what with the whole mess with the symbols from a while back.

Also I've been working on that AkiMitsu thing I said I would do, and the outline's completely finished. I was going to do a oneshot, but it looks like it's going to end up being multichapter. Rip original plans. I've already got 10,000+ words and I just started writing last night... @ATLUS @Persona Franchise please release me, holy f-

"I want to Persona 3 Portable myself" GOD, that's a mood.

Edit: ALSO, can I just get out that Mitsuru is so powerful as a woman... I respect her so much, I literally could not respect her any more than I already do, even if I tried. I love how much she and Akihiko respect each other, it's awesome. Also I'm writing Shinji as the "tired, exasperated uncle", so you all know how this is gonna go.

Last thing, I decided to set it after P4A, so you guys can find small P4 references. And P2 references. Along with some P1. I even decided to drop some Catherine references, I hope you guys'll like them. ;^)
« Last Edit: June 20, 2019, 11:39:52 PM by arielle »

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Offline seliane

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Re: chacun voit midi à sa porte [⚜] writing storage
« Reply #29 on: June 20, 2019, 11:55:05 PM »
!!!!!!!!! im crying sdhjksldfjhdj pls share ur work

also i think i'm halfway thru tartarus but hhngh.... HARD MODE IS BRUTAL LMAO WHY DID I CHOOSE THIS

mitsuru can snap my neck and i'd say thanks!! she's the empress arcana for a reason!!!!! but shdjklsdfj whenever she's mentioned i keep thinking about things like:

mitsuru kirijo: i want to thank you all for electing me as your student council president
mitsuru kirijo: some of you might be worried that i'm a member of that one club with “extermination” in the name, the one with the red armbands where we all walk around with guns
mitsuru kirijo: but listen
mitsuru kirijo: don’t even worry about it

AND REFERENCES... u spoil us so much......

How long has it been? Hope I'm not dreaming, looking good too aren't you? It's time to unwind. Eager to catch your smile — ain't shown it in a while, so set free the mind!

Don't need no words, we'll dance the night away together. Passing hours, embrace the feeling forever. It's all ours till the sunrise signals closure, come on, don't be shy now. Won't you take my hand?