#exosnet Tumblr posts

  • baldyeol
    23.07.2021 - 17 hours ago
    나의 아버지 | D.O. 디오 '공감' Highlight Medley
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  • seshun
    23.07.2021 - 17 hours ago
    D.O. 디오 ['공감 Empathy'] Highlight Medley 🍃
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  • taemin-jaemin
    23.07.2021 - 20 hours ago

    Hellfire [Baekhyun’s Ending]

    Chapters: Main Part | Baekhyun’s Ending | Onew’s Ending

    Pairing : Baekhyun x female reader, Onew x female reader

    Genres:   Hades! Baekhyun, dead lover! Onew, angst, fluff, probably horror TBA

    Summary: All you wanted to do was find your dead lover Jinki and bring him back to life. But a ceratin lord of the underworld makes things difficult for you. At the end, whom would you choose to live with?

    Warnings: none here

    A/N: Y’all better read Jinki’s ending too- ANYWAYS YES ITS OUT FINALLY! Let me know if you liked it!! 

    Series:  Part of my Who do You love Series.

    WC: 700

    Tagging: @fifty-shades-of-mischeif @junjungsunwoo @midnightmoi @whatudoing @xavi-in-kpopland @nctisthecity @shinee-ingdubu @jennxx3 @byunscookie @buttvi @maijinki @jimineos @byeol-bby @aquamarinenymph @yeol-jae @zyxzjsartist @goldenmedals @stephanielove @agrinwithoutcat @ downward-spirals @brennamoon00 @echodawn22626 @aajjks @nightq11 @ikatstratford @baekingvanillacookies @duojungoo ​@bobohumyonlyboo​ @justineasian​ @thefrivolousbitch @bat-stellaratlas​ @coffee-prince-kyungsoo​ @a-teez-4-exo​ @rainbowsalt0412​ @worshipwha @thegoodthebadandtheempty​ @multifandomass​ @b4ek @sugarmellow​ @shiuli-loves-shinee​ @avengersficwriter @delightpcy​ @unknownt-123​ @hemlockbeauty​ @petalskook​ @dreamyyang @softforqiankun

    Networks: @kpopscape @k-dinernet @kwritersworld @multifandomnet @knet-bakery @supermwritersnet @exosnet @exo-writers-net @prism-nw​

    Baekhyun leaned in. "Will you take him and go? Or will you let him go into Elyxion for the perfect human being he is?"

    She could feel her heart beating painfully slow in her chest.

    Wasn't this the moment she had waited for? Then why was she hesitating?

    She just had to choose Jinki and go right?

    But there was something about the way Baekhyun was breathing heavily beside her, something about the way Jinki was smiling at her...

    "Love." Jinki called her. With a jolt, she realised her hands were sweaty, breaths coming out as pants.

    "It's okay, baby." he said, his soothing voice calming her. "It's okay. Remember, I'll always be with you. Remember, I want you to be happy. Only then I can be happy."

    "Jinki." she breathed, and his smile widened. "Don't you want to see the sunshine? Don't you want to play the piano-"

    "I do. But I don't want to go back either." he said, his smile now holding pain instead of happiness.

    "But-but what about evil?" She asked. She couldn't understand why her voice was shaking.

    "I did my part. Now I think I can rest. Whatever will make you happy will make me too."

    "I-I-" for the first in their relationship, she was hesitating to choose Jinki.

    No. That was wrong. She wasn't hesitating to choose him. She was hesitating to choose herself.

    He deserved peace, didn't he? After all that he had done for this world, maybe he deserved it.

    As for Baekhyun, he was so similar to her. Their pain and love were similar.

    "Jinki." she whispered. "I love you and I would have selfishly wanted you, but I want you to be happy. And so, I've decided to let you go. I want you to be happy."

    He smiled back at her mouthing an I love you as Baekhyun cleared his throat.

    "I guess...its time to go then." he said.

    They smiled at each other for one last time and he disappeared. The pain returned to her chest, but this time it was less.

    The day passed on as usual. She just sat beside Baekhyun, numb from what she had done.

    She wanted to hate herself, but she couldn't find anything wrong with what she did.

    She had let him go. She freed him.

    And she had chosen Baekhyun.

    Before she knew, they were standing inside his manor and still feeling numb, she followed him into the house. He walked her to her room but didn't leave even when she went and sat down on her bed.

    "What?" she asked, as he stood in the doorway, looking as though he wanted to ask her something.

    At first, he hesitated. But then he walked towards her and sat down beside her on the bed.

    "Why did you let him go?"

    "Because of you."

    "What?" Baekhyun asked.

    She sighed. "I thought of what you said. And I realised I was being selfish. So I let him go. And I decided to stay back."

    He blinked at her rapidly like he couldn't believe what she was saying.

    "B-But why are you staying back?"

    At that question, she smiled at him. Gently, she raised her hand and cupped his soft face in them.

    "Because I want you to be happy." she whispered.

    He removed her hands from his face and wrapped them in his hands instead.

    "What about your happiness?" he asked.

    "If you are happy, even I am. Because I love you."

    No sooner had those words left her lips, he pressed his lips against her.

    His lips were warm against her, and she felt herself melt against his touches. He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her in deeper.

    Pushing her onto the bed, he deepened the kisses and she felt as though her heart would burst open from happiness.

    "Baekhyun." she breathed against his lips as they gasped for breath. "I love you."

    "I love you too." he muttered, the slight brushing of his lips against hers caused sparks to explode in her heart.

    "Will you marry me?" he whispered, his eyes wide.

    She smiled at him, her heart giving a squeeze for the amount of love she had for the man who held her in his arms.

    "Yes."

    A/N:It would be great if you guys could say what you think of this story as it would help me improve my writing. It can be either in the comments section or in the reblog tags. Thank you! Next is Jinki’s!

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  • baldyeol
    23.07.2021 - 1 day ago
    handsome prince in the rain
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  • baldyeol
    22.07.2021 - 1 day ago
    Chen | 170709 SBS Fantastic Duo (판타스틱 듀오)
    #chen#jongdae#kim jongdae#exo#exosnet#jongdae gifs#chen gifs#handsome prince #sigh blonddae my beloved... he's so dreamy.... #ignore how the first gif doesn't match u don't see it
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  • exo-xiupremacy
    22.07.2021 - 1 day ago
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  • myeoning-call
    22.07.2021 - 1 day ago

    Suhito LOVE 💕 ᕱᕱ

    #exosnet#thekpopnetwork#ultkpop#suhosnet#suho#exo#kim junmyeon #suhito love missing hours #did i mention I love him at all? #my edit
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  • delhyun
    22.07.2021 - 1 day ago

    SEHUN x ESQUIRE KOREA AUGUST 2021

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  • briskythesovietspy
    22.07.2021 - 1 day ago

    Karaoke date with Yixing for Chinese Valentine’s Day

    #zhang yixing#yixing#lay#exo#exosnet#lay zhang #the dream tbh #also where do i get one of those bubble balloons? #xinggif#gif#mine
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  • baldyeol
    22.07.2021 - 1 day ago
    D.O. 디오 'Rose' MV Teaser | The 1st Mini Album [공감]
    #d.o. #do kyungsoo#kyungsoo#exo#exosnet#kyungsoo gifs#exo gifs#*mine#*my gifs #i feel too sick to colour these properly sorry
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  • seshun
    22.07.2021 - 1 day ago

    Since I have a full schedule for this year with drama shoots, I'm going to do my best on that. Can't forget golfing too. That's my plan for the rest of this year.

    Sehun ✧ 210722 Esquire Korea interview
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  • exo-xiupremacy
    22.07.2021 - 1 day ago
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  • ljinki
    22.07.2021 - 1 day ago
    — 공감 “empathy” by D.O. 디오, the 1st mini album.
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  • taemin-jaemin
    22.07.2021 - 1 day ago

    Stuck teaser

    Pairing : Taemin x female reader, Chanyeol x female reader

    Genres : Sweetheart! Taemin, Playboy! Chanyeol, best friend to lovers au, mafia au, fluff, angst, TBA

    Summary : You find yourself leaning towards Lee Taemin, the sweetest boy you’ve ever met. But he’s got a deep secret. And your best friend Chanyeol tries to warn you about it. But would you trust your playboy best friend or the sweetheart with a dark secret? As requested by @yeol-jae​​

    Warnings: TBA

    Series:  Part of my Who do You love Series.

    WC: TBA

    I sucked in a breath as I stared at him getting out of the gleaming black car, pretty sure I was well hidden behind the huge tree beside the school entrance.

    Was I doing questionable things? Abolutely yes.

    Was I stalking? Not really. Everyone has their doubts.

    But did I have cruel intentions? No at all.

    As Lee Taemin looked at the school grounds, every conscience left in me was thrown out of the window.

    As always, I felt my heart flutter whenever I was near him. 

    He was an absolute beauty. A true gentleman. A complete sweetheart. He always gave me the feelings I never forgot. 

    I watched him in awe, as he lifted the bag onto his shoulder and began walking towards the school grounds.

    As he came closer, I turned around to disappear but let out a scream as all of a sudden, a tall boy appeared out of nowhere and pinned me against the tree.

    “Park Chanyeol!” I screamed, just as Taemin turned around the corner and saw us stuck in this awkward position.

    And just at that moment, Chanyeol leaned in to kiss me.

    If you want to be added to the taglist, please like / comment / reblog / send an ask!

    #kpopscape#kwritersworldnet#kdiner#multifandomnet#wkcnet #prism.nw #supermwritersnet#exosnet#exowritersnet#chanyeol#taemin#park chanyeol#lee taemin #chanyeol x reader #taemin x reader #park chanyeol x reader #lee taemin x reader #shinee#exo#superm #exo x reader #shinee x reader #superm x reader #exo chanyeol#shinee taemin#superm taemin
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  • kyungseokie
    22.07.2021 - 2 days ago

    — chasing stars

    (header credits: @kissyzoe)

    pairing: oh sehun x reader (oc; female) [ft. kim jongin]

    genre: one-shot, romance, humour, angst, fluff, soulmate!au, travel!au.

    summary: in a world of soulmates, everyone has different tokens for how they meet their person. you declare yourself an anomaly once you turn twenty-eight—with no odd hyperfixations, no unsolicited exclamations inked on your skin, and no changes in the palette of the world you see with your eyes; your best friend, Jongin, eventually steps into the same boat as you with regards to his lack of a known soulmate, so the two of you decide upon making good on your marriage-after-thirty pact—because loneliness is a bitch, because everyone else you know (who is easy on the eyes and on the heart) is already off the market, because what if you two not having a soulmate is it, you know?—and while the feeling of being the odd one out deserves all the expletives, maybe your destiny is meant to be called something even worse because the last thing you’re expecting is to meet your other half on your bachelorette trip to France.

    warnings: suggestive content and implied smut; mentions of anxiety and therapy; mentions of adultery (no one cheats on anyone, tho); mentions of pregnancy (not of the reader), idiots-in-love shenanigans lol

    word count: 17k (i’m not sorry, i think)

    tagging: @5am-rainyandgrey and @yeoldontknow for reading this and encouraging the mess that this story is even though it’s quite far from how i usually write, and LOL hey @j-pping thank you SO much for your ‘writing sehun 101’ tips, this is for you <3

    author’s note: here’s my final entry for @supermwritersnet’s around the world in 31 days event! please enjoy the works being contributed to it! this was quite a bit of fun to write because of how lighthearted it is, and i’ve been wanting to write a soulmate!au for literal ages so hope you enjoy <3

    “It’s a wedding, not a Sailor Moon cosplay.”

    In retrospect, it makes complete sense that you agreed to marry this man after two orgasms and a bottle of your best wine—not in that order. So much for the autonomy that you console yourself with.

    Jongin whines through the whispers of static on the phone call. “You’re complaining like I wouldn’t look hot as Tuxedo Mask!”

    Your face is smushed into the blistering orange of a packing cube—it was on sale, so capitalism can go fuck itself—and the room is an explosion of toiletries and strewn outfits as you stay curled up on the floor. Any other day, you’d have laughed your best friend’s antics off, maybe invited him over for dinner and convinced him out of his stupid new idea(s) in whichever way seemed appropriate—you resort to mild, amicable violence most often, but sometimes seduction and a well-cooked meal worked just as right with him.

    Today, though. Today you’re tired, awash with second thoughts, and Jongin’s exciting new prospect isn’t helping your trampled spirits. You wonder how different things would be if this was you going over wedding plans with your soulmate—yes, there was, and still are, times when you see the silver lining of your atypical fate, when you appreciate your conscious choice of a life with your best friend, but amidst all the hubbub of your impending trip to France, the ghosts of lonely years past have returned to pay you a visit and leave their hauntings with you.

    “Jongin.”

    The voice on the other end sighs. “Okay so maybe it was a little too avant-garde of an idea but it could be fun because wedding outfits are fucking expensive anyway so why not go all out—”

    You know he’s cut himself off when he picks up on the gravity of your silence. For a moment, it’s just the two of you sharing echoes of your breaths, and it’s the only time throughout the day when you think you’ve known peace. The group chat with the bachelorette posse had been borderline unbearable all morning—you make a mental note to take an apology dinner over to the Kims before the trip because in all reality, despite your textual blurb of annoyance towards Jongdae and his recent one-track mindedness about his wife’s pregnancy and all the general girl code rules his presence will break, you’re somehow so glad that he’s tagging along. He’s never been anything except the voice of reason in your little squad of found family—except for when he thought gifting you the Fifty Shades trilogy as a Christmas gift was a wise move, but you’ve let it go after the countless times he’d proofread your Korean assignments for uni—and you have a feeling, scuffling against the back of your mind, about this trip being something completely off the wall in ways where you’ll have to cave and call him in for support.

    “You still there?”

    The honeyed tenderness in Jongin’s voice makes you hold back a sniffle. You nod in reply, and then remember that it’s not a video call. “I’m here. Feeling kinda awful.”

    “Is this about you snapping at Jongdae hyung?”

    You roll your eyes. “And yet people say that it’s only women who spill tea.”

    Your to-be husband laughs. “It wasn’t as much gossip as it was him texting me to ask if we’re doing okay, or if there’s trouble in paradise.”

    “Unlike him and Sora, we didn’t start seeing colours only after meeting each other so there isn’t much of a paradise to begin with.”

    Jongin hums, the soundbite bringing in a wave of familiar softness. “You’re scared about leaving.”

    You rub the heel of your palm into your eye until you see stars, and when you reopen your sights, your ceiling looks like an overexposed wall of light. “Shut up.”

    “You think you won’t be ready to get married once you come back and nothing has changed.”

    “Quite the opposite, actually.”

    Jongin does his ah of recognition—he has somehow picked that habit up from Minseok. “You’re hoping for this trip to change something in you and you’re worried it actually will.”

    You nod against the surface of the packing cube. “This is nice, what we have. Right?”

    “Comfortable, yes.”

    Despite yourself, you venture. “What would you do if you met your soulmate today?”

    The static keeps you company while Jongin thinks over your question. “Do you want me to be honest or realistic?”, he asks.

    “Give me both.”

    “Okay.” You hear the ding of a microwave on the other end, and you smile. He’s probably heating up the tofu stew you meal-prepped for him this past weekend. “The honest way would be to ask you to meet and tell you everything over takeout and a couple drinks. The next day we’d have to go and cancel all our bookings and reservations, in hopes that we can save some bucks, and over the weekend, I’d break the news to the squad and let you guys meet my soulmate.”

    You concede—that’s actually a lot more coherent than what you’d expected of him. “What about the practical version?”

    Jongin chuckles through a mouthful of food. “We’re already in it.”

    “We are?”

    “We’ve known each other for seven years. Been best friends for five. I held you through months of therapy, and you didn’t leave my side when dad passed away. You can cook well enough to feed a little village, and I can’t even crack open an egg without injuring myself sometimes. My capricorn sun often can’t stand your gemini moon, and I still get you just enough to spend my life with you. Me walking into my soulmate tonight in the dairy aisle of the supermarket will not change anything unless we both want it to.”

    If you weren’t crying earlier, you’re definitely doing so now. “You deserve your fairytale, Nini. We both do.”

    “Oh, of course we do. But everything is a choice.” He pauses to finish his bite of food, and you hear the click of chopsticks. “Maybe I will choose them over you if it really happens, or maybe you will do it if you meet yours. But even with them, we’re not exactly relieved from the act of choosing. Love is always a choice.”

    You wipe a drying tear off your cheek. “You love me now, Kim?”

    “It’s the bulgogi stew. And the blowjobs.”

    You snort. “Right.”

    The airport is not too crowded this early in the morning, and you’re grateful for that. Winter hasn’t said its goodbyes just yet, but the tail end of her yearly visit is giving way to flecks of green on the trees through the last of the snow. You’re well ahead of time so you’d spent the last fifteen minutes video-calling your dad and now you’re just waiting for the rest of your squad to arrive while you sit in Jongin’s car, snickering at him for the nth time when yet another empty plastic bottle rolls out to the spot beneath his feet and makes the most atrocious noises.

    “Can’t believe you get laid with your backseat looking like it was cursed by a trash goblin.”

    Your best friend scoffs. “Don’t act all high and mighty when our first time also happened in there.”

    Of course he’d bring that up—in your defence, you were full of hard liquor in ways that absolutely dismantled your coherence, and you’ve always been a tactile drunk. While Kim Jongin might be fucking oblivious to most conventional forms of flirtation (hot people problems, you think), an open—albeit inebriated—invitation to break his three-month long dry spell wasn’t one he had immediately kicked away. He’d lasted from somewhere around the time Junmyeon and Minseok started calling the two of you alternatively on your phones, until Jongdae had sent the text to end all texts ever.

    my complete understanding of burning desires aside, why would you two do it right outside my house? after leaving my party?

    and jesus, why in jongin’s car? it’ll be a heritage site for stray cats and raccoons someday if he doesn’t clean out his backseat.

    The man was right, even though you’d conveniently left him on read. The post-coital haze had been too pleasant to do anything except lie back and let your impromptu bestie-with-benefits coax your orgasm out of you since he’d come quite a bit before you could’ve had the chance to.

    “Even Jongdae thinks your car is a hazard to humankind.”

    “Well, the next time Jongdae hyung gets drunk and wants to pass out so we can drive him back to the love of his life, he’s walking home.”

    You laugh, your feet curling within your shoes as you take in the cadence of Jongin’s chuckle and the first glow of the sun against the planes of his profile. Looking at him in such a candid way, you don’t think you understand your worries about spending the rest of your natural life with him—your future can’t possibly look any easier, any more familiar than him, but maybe that has been your issue. You don’t know if you want to be able to predict the rest of your life already.

    “You’re staring.”

    You kick at his ankle, and he doesn’t hesitate to fight back. “I’m just committing your face to memory in case I find myself fancying a Frenchman handsome and single enough to drop your ass.”

    Jongin tugs your feet up onto his lap and keeps them pinned down. “Don’t be hitting my phone up when he makes fun of your Tumblr shrine for Yoo Yeonseok and doesn’t want to hold you when you rewatch Mr. Sunshine for the millionth time and cry over Dong Mae’s death.”

    You gasp, landing a smack onto his arm, which he rubs out with a grin on his face. “Stop bringing him into this! You know how I feel about him!” You sniffle. “He loved Ae Shin.”

    Jongin ruffles your hair—a gesture you keen into, making him laugh. “We’ll watch it again when you come back home. When we have time.”

    “We’ll probably be married by then.”

    “Yeah. Maybe it’ll be our first drama night as a couple.”

    You snort. “No better way to begin your married life than watch the saddest fucking show in existence.”

    The yell that halts your conversation is one from up ahead, and Jongin is crumbling into his seat out of laughter from the… questionable celebratory dance Mina does the moment she’s out of the car. Jisoo stays in for the time being, but you cackle when you see her filming her friend’s unsolicited performance through the open window. Sora emerges last, swatting away Jongdae’s proffered hand of support, and you can already see her doing it throughout the trip every time her husband goes overboard with his attention towards her temporarily compromised range of mobility.

    “Hey.”

    By the time you pull your eyes away from the chaos that is quickly unfolding before you, Jongin is already kissing you. It’s not a kiss too long or hard by any means, and you giggle into the ease of it. The movies have always made a big deal about kisses that last ages—ones that bruise and ache from ages worth of history, and that one hopefully naive part of you will always miss not knowing how it feels, but, you think, this is good. Nothing you can complain about.

    “Text me when you land?”

    You press another peck to his skin—this time, to the golden sheen of his cheekbone—and get to unbuckling your seatbelt. “I’ll call you.”

    When you finally leave the warm cocoon of Jongin’s car, Mina practically tackles you onto the walkway from the strength of her embrace until Jisoo tugs her away just enough to allow herself to squeeze in and do her greetings. Piles of baggage are wheeled away and taken care of, and right before you disappear through the entrance of the terminal, you turn to look back, skimming through the sea of faces and finding your way back to Jongin. He stands with Minseok now, talking about something avidly, running an unbothered hand through his soft brown hair, and soon after, you’re swept away into pre-flight procedures. You don’t think of him again until you’re miles off the ground and minutes away from sleep, but when you do, you wonder if you should’ve made some subtle, unspoken promise about coming back to him no matter what—including the far-flung possibility of meeting your soulmate in unknown territory.

    Maybe he didn’t ask for such a guarantee because he doesn’t expect one from you—irrespective of how he’d feel if such a crisis arises—and perhaps you didn’t give him one because you’re still not sure if you can afford to make it.

    Montmartre is something out of a dream as you follow the guide’s voice—towering spires and spacious streets that clasp at your breath and make you wish you could stay forever. The mission for today is the Paris Movie Tour, and you mentally lean into the echoes of the travel guide’s story about the year when the French capital had homed over nine hundred different shoots for film, television, documentaries and advertising campaigns. Flipping out your phone, you film some of the tour and save it for later when you’re back at the hotel and can send it over to Junmyeon—he’s always been your fellow cinema enthusiast, the only one who’d fight alongside you on movie nights when everyone would vote for horror (by everyone, you mean Jongin and Mina) and you two just wanted to enjoy some quaint indie flick, so this video is your subtle way of telling your friend that you’re thinking of him. The act of missing people has always been a difficult one for you to navigate—given the way you grew up, the idea that reliance turns into weakness when left unchecked has always been forged into you, so even when you did find yourself a family away from your biological one, it took you ages to openly express the gravity each one of them held in your heart (they eventually figured out the key to the lock of your painfully filtered mind—soju—and still refuse to let you live down your multiple monologues of drunk affection towards them).

    The sun has already begun to inch onto the other side of the sky, and it’s been roughly sixty minutes into the three-hour duration of this tour. Paris is about seven hours behind Seoul, you’d told your best friend the night before you left, and so, at least from your end, video calls were a no-go outside of aligned mealtimes and emergency situations. (Jongin had conveniently skipped that memo and called you at two am the other night because you have to look at this set of breakfast pancakes I made.) You pass by Cafe Les Deux Moulins—one of the highlights of your favourite movie, Amelie—and a myriad of florist stores as you walk along, stopping to stare at the view of the Moulin Rouge, inwardly sighing at the cinematic memory of Christian and Satine falling in love, and then pause at a streetcorner to film the melody of an accordionist who has acquired quite the buzz of spectators around him.

    “Do you like the tour so far?”

    It takes you a moment for your gaze to meet the man’s eyes—it stays stuck to the intricate line of ink that sits along his neck, and you’re ready to do an especially embarrassed greeting and run back to follow the rest of the tour, if he hadn’t taken it upon himself to engage your evident fascination about it.

    “It’s a quote in Latin that I’d picked up in high school, but there’s more to it.”

    You finally smile, extending a hand out to him. “I’m Y/n. I love the tour so far. Sorry about the staring.”

    The man chuckles, his eyes turning into little crescents behind his rimmed glasses as he shakes your proffered hand and does a tiny bow. “Not your fault that the tattoo is impossible to miss. I’m Kyungsoo.” The two of you pause to speed up until you reach the tail end of the movie tour. “Are you a tourist, or are you here for work?”

    “Here for my last vacation as a free woman. What about you?”

    “Oh! Congratulations on the wedding!”, Kyungsoo exclaims, and you can’t help but grin at his enthusiasm. “I’ve been here for a while. Studied at Le Cordon Bleu, worked at almost every three-star restaurant here until I started up a place in Nice with a friend.” You don’t miss the subtle roll of his eyes at the mention of his business partner—his name is Chanyeol, you learn later on in the day—and it reminds you of Jongin. “He can barely hold a knife without being a threat to humanity, but he’s mostly handling the finances and the networking since I prefer to stay behind the scenes and not hold back on some extra euros when it comes to gourmet bread and fresh produce.”

    You stay in step with your new friend, and the tour guide’s voice emerges back into prominence again. He’s speaking about Amelie again, specifically the scene about the female protagonist meeting her lover on the stairs that lead up to the Sacre-Coeur, and how the entire movie is wrapped up in the scenery of Montmartre. Kyungsoo mentions his love for cinema and how it helped him learn French when he first decided on moving here, how his culinary business now leaves little time for him to engage with the arts, and how this little trip to Paris is also, essentially, just a little detour from the work that’s waiting for him when he gets back to Nice.

    “Having the right people to help take the edge off things when it’s all too much”, you think out loud, “is important. I’m glad you have your little bunch of them.”

    He nods, and the sun sits almost too well against the curve of his smile. “Where are yours, though? I thought this was your bachelorette trip?”

    “One of them is pregnant and still pretty jetlagged, so her husband is taking care of her as we speak. The other two drunk their heads off last night and didn’t even make it to breakfast this morning so”, you finish with a shrug. “Here we are.”

    The tour pauses for a respite, and everyone rushes off to crowd into the nearest cafes for their chosen beverages and treats. Kyungsoo leads you to one of the places he used to frequent back when he still lived in Paris—the iced coffee there is just as curiously wonderful as his French—and before long, you two are sitting on a sunlit bench, sipping on your chilled, caffeinated drinks of choice.

    “How’s the future husband doing?”

    You laugh. “His last text was about wanting to know where he keeps the laundry clips, so I’m sure you can make a guess.”

    Kyungsoo snorts, almost choking on his iced americano. “He’s just accustomed to having you around. I swear by mise en place at all times, but I still tend to lose my mind when my girlfriend is away and I can’t find something.”

    “What’s she like?”

    The radiance that lights up his face could have just about dwarfed the sun, and you can’t help but lean in to listen closely. “Her name is Tara and she’s nothing short of madness, but then, who is?” He turns towards you, smiling. “I think that’s what being soulmates is about. Being the secret ingredient to each other’s recipes. You can have a meal without it and be content, but when you add it, you find perfection.”

    The milky sweetness laced to the inside of your mouth is slowly blanched away, and you think you’re somewhat insane for not letting this specific conversation die out. “When you mentioned something more to the tattoo, was it about her?”

    Kyungsoo smiles in silent affirmation, letting his fingers touch upon the line of ink. “I’d just gotten this, had walked into her on my way out of the parlour, and was a quarter of my way into an apology about not having my glasses on. Turns out, we’d gotten the same quote inked on the same day from the same place. She’d had hers done around her wrist minutes before me.”

    You think you’re lucky because he doesn’t ask for your soulmate story, and you find yourself holding off on your mentions of Jongin for the rest of the movie tour. Kyungsoo talks further about his restaurant, how he’s focused on making things as farm-to-table as possible, and how he’s been meaning to visit his parents in Ilsan around fall. In the spirit of reciprocation, you talk about your two human sized brain cells, Minseok and Junmyeon, and your cat, Miso—he almost laughs himself down onto the street when you show him a video of Jisoo vying for the fluffball’s attention, and ultimately failing, but one sweet call of his name and he’s winding himself into a living scarf around Jongdae.

    The sun is a veil of vermillion thrown over Paris when the tour finishes, and after an unexpectedly warm hug from Kyungsoo, he hands you a card of the restaurant—Kimchi Kasita embossed in gold onto a surface of sienna—and you promise that you’ll visit before you go back home.

    “Nice and Provence are on the weekend itinerary, I think. I apologise in advance for the insanity my squad will be bringing to your doorstep when we meet again.”

    Kyungsoo does his endearing triple laugh and pulls his jacket closer around him. “I have an old friend flying in later this week, and Chanyeol is always a force of nature when it comes to entertaining new faces, so there will be competition waiting for you.”

    That night, when you sleep, splayed like a starfish in the comfort of your suite, you dream—of a field of sunflowers and an array of cypresses in the distance, and a man waiting for you right in the middle of it all. When he turns around to your touch at his arm, it’s a blur of sunlit unfamiliarity, but even in your lack of consciousness, you’re more focused on the fact that it’s not Jongin.

    “If I have to even look at one more piece of cheese, I’ll—”, Sora stage-whispers, with a butter knife in her hand, “—pack my bags and fly home.”

    You stuff your cackle into your especially long sip of wine, and Mina pats the distressed mother-to-be on her arm in consolation as Jongdae looks up the nearest Korean takeout places on his phone. The moon is a perfect pale crescent against the backdrop of your balcony, and the Eiffel Tower glitters like a midnight mirage beyond the veil of the curtains. Your schedule for tomorrow—just some sightseeing and bookstore-hopping—isn’t heavy enough for you to forego some post-dinner shenanigans and so you’d called the group over to your room for a couple drinks.

    Clearly, the eldest of the ladies was taking it quite hard.

    “Virgin drinks for a pregnant woman. The irony is cruel.”

    Jongdae looks up at his wife for a quick few seconds before going back to browsing through a Tripadvisor list of places that serve Asian fast food post midnight, while you quietly push another serving of a vir—ahem, a non-alcoholic mint julep towards Sora. You’re going through your photos from the day when he sits up in his chair, looking triumphant for the first time in what seems like ages.

    “Is anyone up for a nice, nineteen-minute walk across Paris? I sure am!”

    Jisoo is drunk enough to not hold back her snort, and Mina is barely holding the fort down with Sora as the latter does a deadpan stare at her husband’s sudden enthusiasm. You tap Jongdae’s hand under the table, clasping it in encouragement as you shake yourself out of the rose-tinted haze your glass of wine has been casting upon you. Slipping into your coat after a couple falters, you pocket your phone and look back at your friend, who looks like he fell out of the skies in the face of your offer to help him, but he leaves his seat and dons his jacket, ready to go in seconds. Sora seems like she’s mellowed out of her mood now, visibly sad that her cravings have two people venturing across the city after dark.

    “We’ll be back”, your friend announces. You just make a thumbs-up gesture because why repeat the same thing? Language is weird right now.

    Paris is a constellation of city lights as you and Jongdae walk past the closed faces of cafes and patisseries, and there’s a piano record playing from one of the apartments that makes you smile despite the chill that kisses your face. You catch your companion looking your way once, then twice, and on the third time, you skip ahead of him and block his way.

    “Why are you being weird?”

    Jongdae huffs. “I was just making sure you’re okay.”

    “You could’ve at least tried with that excuse.”

    He almost trips over his feet in his attempt to step off the pavement and smack you, making you chuckle. Taking his arm, you resume your walk, and he pinches your cheek. “You’re drunk, you dumbass. Also, I thought you were still mad at me.”

    “You know I’d just been having vacation jitters. When I yelled at you on the group chat.”

    The pathway broadens, and a chain of still-open restaurants begin to show up. “Is it just that, though?”

    You pause, looking at Jongdae but also looking past him because this man is too perceptive for your liking and you think you’re fine. You’re still young and independent and having a good time with your closest friends, and you’re absolutely fine with making a practical choice of matrimony, being realistic about not wanting to stay steeped in your loneliness, and never knowing what went wrong with your stars.

    “Just that.”

    Jongdae scoffs. “Bullshit.”

    You smack his arm out of your instant impulse, and he smirks at being proven right while rubbing the impact out. Haru Haru greets you with a whiff of kimchi and the sound of sizzling meat, and you welcome this slice of home away from home with the biggest grin—you’re certain that you’ll be finding yourself back here again during your time in Paris. While Jongdae orders a miniature buffet for his wife and their tiny unborn bean, you stroll around the periphery, looking at the vending machine full of packaged kimbap triangles, boxes of chocolate flavoured Pepero, and that one brand of canned cold coffee that you thought you’d never see anywhere outside of Korea because of how cheap and stupid good it is. The late night chill is working at the wine-stained buzz you’d let yourself fall into earlier, and you skim your pockets for change so you can buy the coffee—you’d need the caffeine to keep your eyes open on the walk back, now that the alcohol crash is on the horizon.

    You feed your money into the machine with some difficulty, and put in the number for the coffee, waiting for it to roll out and drop into the bottom panel with all the giddy joy of a twelve-year old. You wait, then wait some more, and are still waiting, beginning to fume from the inside out when the machine whirrs uselessly and nothing happens. Ready to go find the manager and ask for help, you step back, right into a pillar of something firm.

    Something human, clearly, because you’re steadied by a wreath of arms and the scent of cedar and bergamot, and you slip out of it—maybe somewhat reluctantly, but that’s not the point—just when you hear the clatter of your long awaited beverage from within the machine. The stranger lets you go, and you scramble forward, gleefully accepting the chilled drink and stepping back, turning back to the man behind you.

    His eyebrows seem to have a life of their own, you think, and from what it seems, they’re supremely curious at the moment. His hair is a perfect black, almost too black to be natural, and you wonder what colour he’d been donning before it. The steely blue of his jacket sits annoyingly well against the flush of his skin, and he’s… tall. The antithesis of all your friends, except Jongin. Like, really tall. The charming kind of tall. The ‘makes me wonder how far up he’d be if I got on my knees’ kinda tall—

    “You okay there?”

    You blink, then nod repeatedly, vehement with your reassurance. “I’m great. I’m getting married.”

    Nicely done, Y/n.

    The man curves a perfect brow, and you’re ready to hate him. You’re just here to get food for your friend and the tiny one in her belly, not to make small talk with some smooth, suave stranger and wonder how his eyes would look if you got really close and tugged him into the fluorescence of the streetlight, or how his hair would feel if you pulled it just a little bit—

    “—look familiar.”

    Oh, he’s close. He’s talking. You didn’t even hear what he said, fuck.

    Did you become a Master of Political Science by not winging through bullshit? Hell no. You fold your arms in front of you. “Bet it’s the millionth time you’re using that line tonight.”

    Defying your expectations, he laughs. Something in your system turns soft from the crystalline ring of it, and you detest the entirety of the feeling.

    “I’m sad that you think I’d try a million times and fail at every single one of my attempts.”

    He can’t be flirting with you. It’s bad for your health, for your weak decision-making skills and for your strong sense of loyalty. You regret every sip of wine that sings through your system right now, but didn’t you tell him that you’re getting married? That should count as a prime, proactive measure against… well, whatever it is that you’re biologically attuned to yearn for once you’ve had a couple drinks.

    “But if you really are interested in the truth, then I’ll tell you that it’s the second time I’ve used it tonight.”

    The scoff that escapes your throat in reply should’ve singlehandedly driven him away, but his open stare doesn’t part from yours, and you feel emboldened from it. “So you did fail once.”

    He steps closer, and your heart does the most ridiculous set of cartwheels within the home of your ribs. In your head, this is all unfolding like the premise of an AO3 fanfic, and you make a mental note of getting rid of all those bookmarked stories you have when you’re home—clearly, you’ve gotten quite far with your indulgences. Keeping his eyes on the coffee you’re yet to open, he smiles at you. “Aren’t you going to try it? You’d wanted it quite badly.”

    Well, he doesn’t have to know that there are a couple other things right now that you want just as bad, if not worse—but you’re allowed to be honest with yourself, aren’t you?

    “I think I’ll just take it home. Enjoy it by myself.”

    The stranger leans in, and all of your blood begins to simmer against the inside of your skin from the implications of his movement—and then he swerves himself past you, feeding a couple bucks into the vending machine, seeking a box of Pepero and a can of coffee identical to yours. You sigh, letting yourself breathe, now that he’s put some distance between you and himself, and there’s a tsunami of coherence that dawns upon you with every moment that you watch him do his thing. He seems kind, is evidently attractive, swift with his words—all the things Jongin also is. Not that it’s a comparison, but it obviously is. It doesn’t make a lot of sense for you to be into someone so quickly despite him, from first impressions, not being so different from the person you’re accustomed to.

    The man stretches down to receive his choice of treats, and his grey t-shirt rides up, along with his jacket, to expose a sliver of skin around his back and above the waistband of his jeans. You hate him, you really do, but you also can’t help but stare at the little crescent scar on his hip.

    “Y/n?”

    Sometimes, you’re lucky. Other times, you get lucky. Tonight, you’re feeling the former by not trying for the latter—not without effort, though—and the universe has decided upon Jongdae to help you do that.

    From the looks of the expression of the stranger’s face, he’s beyond amused about unraveling some of the mystery around your identity. “Nice to finally know your name, Y/n. I still feel like we’ve met before.”

    You hold back a smile, frustratedly so. Jongdae’s silhouette gets more prominent under the lights outside the restaurant as he calls for you again, and you wave out to him before turning back to your unexpected, and untimely, acquaintance. “I… have to go. Enjoy your coffee.”

    He undoes the top of the can in response, taking a sip and smiling at you. “You, too.”

    You’re already turning away, definitely not thinking about the sight of his coffee-drenched mouth, taking brisk steps towards Jongdae who has already started on the way back to the hotel. Another call of your name makes you look back at the vending machine, where the man still stands, drinking his canned beverage.

    “I’m Sehun.”

    You tilt your head, trying to ignore the immediate knowledge of how smooth his name feels on your tongue. “I never asked.”

    Tossing the now empty can into the bin nearby, he levels your gaze with a knowing look of his own, but not without a quirk of his lips. “You didn’t have to. I’m just being fair, since I know your name.”

    You bite onto the inside of your cheek to keep yourself from grinning. “Good night, Sehun.”

    The rest of your way back, you pointedly distract yourself from your friend’s stare against your temple, the paper bags of food in his hand whispering in the silence, and when you reach your room, Sora is asleep in your bed, Mina is knocked out right beside her, and Jisoo has a corner of the table digging into her cheek from the position she’s snoozing in. Jongdae takes the couch and asks you to take his suite with his wife, but not without an apology—not that you’d have wanted one, you just wanted to be alone with yourself and hopefully get some sleep without having to watch the sky turn blue behind the balcony curtains.

    With your phone, your toothbrush and a change of clothes in your hand, you slip into your room for the night, and your soft bossa nova playlist keeps you company as you brush your teeth, hydrate and freshen up before tumbling into bed. The music exhausts itself eventually, but you remain awake, skimming through your camera roll and looking at pictures—mostly, the ones of you and Jongin. There are not as many of them as you’d expected, and something in you is saddened by the knowledge. Pulling up your messages, you type.

    send me a selfie when you can. however you like.

    You’re making progress on slipping into sleep when your phone dings. It’s not a picture, but a video, where Jongin is having a very serious conversation with Miso about not chewing on his shoelaces.

    we miss you too, the caption says.

    You laugh at the video until you’re sniffling, then leave it on read for the night. 3am conversations have never been anything but painfully honest, in your experience. The can of coffee sits on the table, leaving wet stains of condensation on the glass as your screen blinks out.

    When you finally fall asleep, you dream—of a school playground, of scores of kids swinging from monkey bars and running around the jungle gym. A little boy, with sharp eyes and dark hair that kisses his forehead, chases a football and kicks it into the goal, and everyone screams in joy. He seems to be fascinated with something behind it all, looking past the throng of childlike faces, to the other side of the playfield, where a little girl sits with her friends, having lunch, and even when you wake up the next day, you’re still wondering why the girl had looked like the you from those middle school yearbook pictures.

    The TGV runs past blurred rows of yellow and green as it sprints along towards Nice. Most of the guests seem to be taking advantage of the cool blue of the early hour and catching up on sleep, and you wish the man sitting in front of you was doing the same—maybe switch seats to go snuggle with his wife and do married people things—but he’s here, wide awake, staring at you while you habitually, and maybe somewhat anxiously, scroll through your camera roll and pretend to look at random stuff, hoping that you’ll be able to stand this delicate duel for the next five hours and knowing that you could never.

    You remember enough of what you did the other night—and with whom you did what you did, because no one forgets visuals like that—but amidst daily itineraries and more drunk shenanigans (mostly from Mina, because you’ve kept a hold on your wine these past few days in case you’re greeted with more Sehun-like temptations in and around Paris), neither have you had the time to process any of it, nor has Jongdae managed to squeeze into any space where he can discuss what he’d witnessed with you.

    “It really meant nothing.”

    You detest the way he just sits and keeps his gaze levelled with yours in a silent go on, i’m listening manner. It makes you feel like a lone wolf trapped into surrender, on edge and under scrutiny, and while you know Jongdae is more curious than critical—it’s just his stupid virgo sun making it impossible to know which of the two modes he’s in—you’re still no less in the dark about what he thinks of you and what he’d seen.

    “I’d told him I’m getting married and he backed off as soon as I did.”

    Your friend does an exaggerated nod at that, and you want to punch him so bad—you’re not sure what the rules for public violence in France are, or you’d just take your chances—and you grit your teeth, sighing before speaking again.

    “Listen, I was somewhat drunk and he was somewhat attractive and I overstepped maybe three salient features of loyalty but I really didn’t mean to. I didn’t touch him or kiss him or sleep with him so can we let this stay in the past like that end-of-semester party where me and Minseok had a drinking contest that ran for an hour straight and somehow he smooched you and I ended up going home with that performance arts freshman?”

    The way Jongdae’s lips quirk up is your first win of the day, and you hold back on your triumphant grin; you do feel a bit miffed about having to pretend that you didn’t remember your fling for that night—her name was Nayeon and… well, you two had fun until she found her soulmate—but you did mean it in all seriousness when you said that ever since you’d developed relation-shit patterns with Jongin, you hadn’t been with anyone else.

    “The funny thing is, I never said I’m mad or upset about what you did. I don’t think it’s my business anyway.”

    You gape at Jongdae’s words, then kick at his feet before turning away to look at the French vista that ran past your window. “You didn’t have to say it. I’ve been feeling you think shit up about me since that night.”

    When he leans towards you, what you’re expecting is a retaliation of your earlier bout of violence—a smack on the arm, or an especially hard tug on your cheek—but you’re confused when he pulls at your hand and holds it within his own. This is—what is he doing? Is he using reverse psychology on you now? To make you spit out your original thoughts on Sehun? You stare down at where his two hands envelope your left one.

    “What is my business, though, is to let you know that the most evident excitement I’ve seen on your face in months was when I watched you hang out with that dude.”

    You narrow your eyes, deeply baffled by his words. “Are you asking me to cheat on Jongin?”

    “First of all, you’d never do that to Nini, and I’d never insinuate something like that.” Jongdae makes the most exasperated face in response to your question, like you couldn’t be any more dense. “Secondly, you’ve been terrified about not knowing what went wrong for you to be missing a soulmate, and you’ve been using that as leverage to tell yourself that what you deserve can’t be anything beyond what you already have.”

    You tug your hand away from his, and he frowns, shifting back into his seat. “There’s nothing wrong with what I have. Jongin even said he loved me.”

    “I never said that what you two have is less than what anyone else has with their soulmate.” Jongdae sighs, moving his head from side to side to meet your eyes but you avoid him. “Hell, if anything, the two of you don’t have to go through that stupid feeling that comes from wondering if your person only loves you because the universe meant to put you two together.”

    You wring your hands within the space of your lap. “Then what do you mean?”

    Your friend does his signature expression of empathy—it’s when he presses his lips together and they curl up at the edges and he looks more like a concerned cat than a worried human but you’ve done your time in the Kim Jongdae for Dummies phase and you’ve long graduated since then.

    “What I’m saying is that your triumph against your loneliness shouldn’t have to come at the cost of your personality.”

    You sigh, perplexed. “But I’m not lonely! We’re literally here because I’m getting married and Jongin is my best friend and I care about him and he looks after me too and—”

    “Do you love him?”

    That shuts you up right away—more so from the embers of anger that sputter across your thinking mind than anything else. “Of course you’d ask that, you can just throw that word around because you have a soulmate and I don’t—”

    Jongdae cuts you off again. “This is not about having soulmates. Do you love Jongin? If you’re going to spend the rest of your life with him, it shouldn’t be a difficult question.”

    The fear that streams down your spine in that moment is visceral, ice cold, but you try to reason through it. “I’ve known him for so long. We’ve been through so much with each other.” You look up at your friend, and his stare falters from the tears that shimmer in your eyes. “He stayed with me through therapy, Jongdae.”

    Silence overcomes the conversation for a while, and you breathe through the sob that threatens to leave the wishwell of your voice. Looking back down at your phone, you wake it up and notice that you left it on a picture of Jongin—of him hugging his pocket-sized dog in victorious relief after winning some ridiculous video game tournament—and you swipe it away and lock your phone. You consider the gravity of the act you’d just mentioned—Jongin tending to the scared, scarred universe of you for what had seemed like light years back then; he’d held you for days, weeks, months, through repeated oscillations between never getting out of bed and having panic attacks in your workplace restroom—and you are no longer capable of knowing a life without him. A blurred row of cypresses stare back at you from beyond the train window, as if collectively waiting for the answer to the question that looms in the air.

    “I do, I love him”, you finally utter, “I have little complaints with the future I can foresee for us.”

    Jongdae mulls over your answer, picking at a piece of lint on his trousers, then looks back up, straight ahead at you. “And he feels the same way. Anyone can see that. But let me rephrase—are you in love with him?”

    You don’t want to be enraged, but you don’t understand why he’s bringing this up now—when plans have been pushed into prominence, when ideologies have taken the reins away from ideals. “What difference does it make? We care about each other, isn’t that enough? We’re not soulmates.”

    “The difference, mademoiselle”, your friend says, and you frown at his attempt at humour, “between loving and being in love is faith.”

    Daylight dances its way across acres of sunflowers, and the sea sings its hymn in the distance—a glimmering sheet of blue beyond the countless rows of yellow. “Will you explain further, or do I have to stare at you hoping that you’re enlightening me through telepathy?”, you quip.

    “I was letting you think, but of course you wouldn’t have the patience.” Jongdae chuckles, then takes your hand again. “When you love someone, you make a choice. You will continue choosing them until you have a reason not to, and the crossroads you then arrive at will decide the rest of your course.”

    You pick at the chipped blue enamel on your fingernails. “And how is being in love any different?”

    The sun could have fit into the glow of Jongdae’s smile. “When you are in love, the choice you have is irrelevant. Your heart is your only option, and it believes in them. They’re your faith.”

    “Are you”, you think out loud, “saying that I’m not in love with Jongin because I am choosing to be with him?”

    Jongdae leans onto the backrest of his seat, closing his eyes—something he should’ve done first thing after boarding, you think. “I am suggesting that you have no idea about what it means to not have to choose him.”

    For the rest of the train ride, you go back and forth between watching the scenery of the French countryside and the peace on Jongdae’s face as he naps. Right before the train enters Nice, you end up falling asleep, and your dreams comprise that same sharp-eyed boy, now older and taller, in an auditorium, clapping as someone finishes a speech. What puzzles you more is that you see your father in the seat right behind him, applauding just as cheerfully, tears gleaming in his eyes.

    Nothing in conventional French cinema justifies the charms of Old Town, Nice. The sun is a halo of gold behind the soft veil of cirrus clouds, and locals stroll along the cobbled streets as you walk ahead towards your destination, with Kyungsoo at the helm of your squad. A stray cat meows at you and skips away when you lean down to pet it.

    “Did you catch up on your sleep on the way here? Chanyeol has been planning drinking games for the last two days.”

    “Excellent.” You speed up a few steps to come up to Kyungsoo’s side as he laughs. “And what have you been cooking up for us?”

    The man smiles, almost playful with his expression. “I’ll be making dinner, but as of lunch, it’s my girlfriend hosting us. I had a long workweek and she takes our weekend leisure quite seriously.”

    “I can’t wait”, you grin. The street opens into a marketplace, and the scent of fresh fruit and bread overcomes you. “It’s wonderful here. I thought Paris would be it, but I love Nice a lot more already.”

    “My other friend said the same thing after getting here. He also flew in from Seoul this week.”

    You’re about to reply—something sweet about how happy you are to be hosted by him, how you can’t wait to get to know his friends—when Mina and Jisoo flank the two of you on either side, with a cat in tow—the same one that had evaded your affections earlier.

    “Miso would never”, you smirk at Jisoo.

    She scoffs, holding the cat up like they’re Rafiki and baby Simba and she’s about to start singing Circle of Life. “That’s because Miso is a fool, much like his human parents. Do you have cats, Kyungsoo?”

    “A dog, actually.” A row of apartment buildings come into view, little balconies of wrought iron frames with floral vines lacing around them—one of them has Ella Fitzgerald crooning through it on full volume, and you look up in delight. Kyungsoo confirms your joy with a silent nod. “Not her usual daytime playlist, but that’s still her place.”

    Jongdae and Sora take the elevator while the rest of you go up the stairs, and when you reach the door, it’s already open. The aroma of cumin and braised meat greets you in, and while Kyungsoo leaves his jacket on the couch to go see the chef for the afternoon, you’re pulled to the other side of the room where the music plays from, ready to see a shelf of carefully curated vintage records.

    What you don’t expect is the presence sitting there already—a familiar tower of dark hair and sharp eyes steeped in casual, curious charm, all wrapped up in a white shirt and blue jeans. Sehun.

    “Oh, hello.” You turn and find a woman, dressed in green with a pale blue apron tied to her front. Her hair sits in waves of dark brown around her shoulders, and she tsks at the garment thrown haphazardly over the couch. Picking it up, she hangs it onto the coat rack near the balcony door, and then walks over to you with a smile. “I’ve been quite the careless host, haven’t I?” The dimple on her left cheek stands out as she speaks, and you think you already like her.

    “Hey now. Two independent, reasonable adults can introduce themselves, can’t they?”, Sehun retorts before you could think of something.

    “Calling yourself a man of reason is quite the example of overconfidence, Oh Sehun.”

    You’re laughing before you can hold yourself back, and your cheerful host seems to enjoy it from the way she puts her arm around you in camaraderie. Sehun looks amused, and is yet to untether his eyes away from your own.

    “I think I’m okay with being a scapegoat if it brings joy to such beautiful women.”

    You nip at the inside of your lip to keep yourself from smiling at him—or making any gesture of encouragement whatsoever—and in your attempt of finding a perfect distraction, you turn to your new friend. “I’m Y/n, and you must be Tara. Kyungsoo never shuts up about you because I never let him.”

    She laughs, leading you onto the balcony, and you inwardly sigh when you hear footsteps from behind. “He speaks quite little and holds back too much, so it's good to let him talk when he does. I hope you’re loving Nice so far.” She tugs Sehun in with the two of you. “This one says he loves it here more than anywhere else in France. I think I do, too. Paris feels like a sensory overload, it’s very… shiny.”

    “I can’t believe you found the word for it.” Jongdae steps in from behind, patting your arm in acknowledgement. “I’ve been trying to come up with that for days, and all I could think of was glamorous.” From your oblique vision, you can see Sehun evaluating your friend’s presence, and he looks away when you catch him doing so.

    Tara smiles. “Glamorous, it is! How else would we have all those movies and fashion shows? But Nice feels right, it feels like home.”

    Jisoo also joins the little gathering on the balcony, her cat still in her arms—she’d named him Buchu during the walk, but you’re expecting changes in nomenclature once the alcohol is brought out—and announces Sora’s recent words about passing away from sheer joy because of something Kyungsoo served her. Everyone runs in to see her on the couch, looking the happiest she’s been since the lot of you set foot into France.

    “I officially declare that the best choice Y/n has ever made”, she says, grinning deliriously as she digs into a bowl of sweet vermicelli, “is to befriend Kyungsoo.”

    The abovementioned chef does his signature triple laugh, and then walks over to his girlfriend. “I think I should hand over the restaurant to this one, then. Since she made it.”

    Tara smirks at her lover. “Would you like to go teach Sartre to a room of nineteen-year olds, then?” Laughter fills the room from the immediate alarm that passes across Kyungsoo’s face.

    A quick tour of the apartment is done, and lunch is saturated with humour, multiple helpings of biryani, and storytelling—Chanyeol doesn’t make it because he was out interviewing a dessert chef for the restaurant, but promises to be there with his wife for dinner—and amidst the sweetness of saffron kheer, Tara chuckles through her story of how she and Kyungsoo never knew that they’d been living under the same roof until they’d actually met, and when he offered to walk her home after, they were so baffled when she pointed him towards his own building.

    “It was that evening when I figured out that she’s the one who blasts Adele on full volume whenever it rains”, the chef smiles through a mouthful of his dessert.

    “Hey, now”, Tara rolls her eyes, “You’re lucky I never told you of the horror I felt when I realised that it’s you who listens to Shawn Mendes on weekends.”

    “Now you have”, Sora pipes in, and everyone laughs.

    Later on, when everyone is seated in the lounge, engrossed in Mina’s animated narration of the hilarious pastry crisis at Jongdae’s wedding, you excuse yourself for a trip to the restroom, and on the way back, you find Sehun on the stairwell that opens into the balcony. A breeze brings in the melody of an accordion from somewhere in the distance as you watch the clouds float across the face of the sky, and you’re still considering the degree of politeness it will take to break the bated breath of this silence when Sehun decides he’s had enough of it.

    “You’re really here”, he whispers into the open air, knowing he has your attention. “This entire week, I’ve been dreaming of you.”

    His proximity is a temptation of the worst kind, and you’re yet to understand why any of this would affect you—or him—so much simply from crossing paths one time. Closing your eyes from the overwhelm of it all, you let yourself breathe, and you know you’ve taken long enough when Sehun’s thumb brushes against the inside of your wrist, and he looks evidently lost when you pull away from him.

    “I just… really don’t know what to say to that.”

    “You could start with a ‘hello, I’ve been thinking of you too’?”, he jokes as an attempt to quell whatever he thought was keeping you from opening up to his appreciation, “and perhaps continue with a ‘I’m glad we’re getting another chance at hanging out today—”

    “Sehun”, you say, trying to reason through the haze of guilt that overcomes you. When his grip on your hand tightens upon your call of his name, you’re sure your blood has turned to rocket fuel. “I was drunk when we met, my inhibitions weren’t in place and I’m sorry that I encouraged… all of this.” When he attempts to debate your words, you stop him with a hand to his wrist. “But I am getting married and have someone waiting for me back home.”

    Contrary to your every expectation, just like the previous time, he laughs—but the sound is devoid of its crystalline amusement. “That makes no sense.”

    You sigh. “It doesn’t have to. I’m just saying things the way they happen to be.”

    “Really?”, he asks, turning to you with hurricanes for eyes. Taking your left hand, he pulls it up, closer enough to his face for you to feel the heat of his breath on the tender inside of your wrist, making shivers slip down your spine. “Where’s your ring?”

    Jongin and you had never been through an actual, conventional engagement because he’d never had to propose—it was a decision of convenience arrived at after a wine-induced heart-to-heart and two rounds of sex on his couch. You look away, exasperated at Sehun’s eagerness to unravel your every secret, but helplessly endeared by his efforts. “I… left it in my suitcase at the hotel. In Paris.” Exhaling an awkward laugh, you grasp at more words to strengthen the fortress of your lie—telling him of your autonomous agreement to marry your best friend of five years, because neither of you had a soulmate, did not even seem like an option, let alone a choice. “It’s expensive, I didn’t want to lose it while I’m here.”

    “That’s such bullshit.” If you were barely holding onto coherence while struggling through falsehood, you’re pretty sure he’s rendered you transparent with the furnace of his touch. You try to break free, but the relentless gravity of him is something you’re now warming up to, weakening into. “I could feel you trying to lie even before you did.”

    “No, you couldn’t”, you push back at him, open palms pressing against his shoulders despite being in the wrong, and something in you chafes from the sad violence of it all. “You just—you don’t know me. We know nothing about each other. I don’t know when your birthday is, you’ve never met my cat.” As the words stream past your trembling lips, your mind detests the idyllic, impromptu image of Sehun in the sacred space of your one-bedroom in Seoul; him in your kitchen, pouting at the toaster for making him wait for his first morsel of the day; your skin against his on the couch as he persuades you into pleasure with a movie playing in the background; his laundry mixed with your own, your clothes smelling like him. You shake yourself out of such desires of stability, bitter betrayal—towards Jongin—filling the cracks of your heart and threatening to seep past your eyes. You look back up at Sehun. “I don’t know your coffee order, I don’t know if you have a sibling. I didn’t even know your last name until Tara said it. You still don’t know mine. What I do for a living, which songs you listen to when you stay up at night, how we like our breakfast eggs… there’s nothing familiar about us, no common ground we share.”

    Sehun sighs, the helpless lilt to it chipping at your emotional restraint. “To have those things, you’ll have to make the choice to get to know me.”

    A haunting of your train ride with Jongdae rears up into consciousness, robbing you of your language, making you shake your head and fidget with the sleeve of your blouse. Whatever Sehun’s next attempt at persuasion was, you watch it shatter against your vehement decline.

    “Attraction isn’t enough”, you rasp, “I can’t choose two conversations over a lifetime, Sehun.”

    “Stop saying my name, then!” The chasm of your guilt only widens from his outburst. He runs an agitated hand through his hair, flecks of soft brown kissing his forehead. “You—I don't know how you make it sound like you’ve been saying it forever,” he utters, leaning away, and the distance resembles a canyon of light years that keeps you apart. “Like I’ve been hearing it forever. It’s too much.”

    Holding back a tide of tears, you nod in understanding and step past him—you’re pretty sure Sehun now holds the pedestal of being the only person who has made you cry within a total of two meetings, but you’re equally incriminated, if not more, in the creation of this chaos. You move towards the stairs that lead down to the street so you can go take a walk and get a breather, but you’re being pulled in yet again, your back pressed into his chest, the scent of cedar and bergamot enveloping you.

    “Sehun, please—”

    “There’s no fucking reason”, he says, “for this to happen if you’re marrying your soulmate. You’d have never cared enough, never noticed me enough. And I think I’d have known already.” He puts a finger to his heart. “I’d know it. In here.”

    You’re sure he feels the way your heart seizes up from the impact of his words, because he’s back to holding you closer than ever. Your awareness of your weakness, of your deplorable desire to believe in him gnaws at you. “This is only the second time we’ve crossed paths. Your soulmate is somewhere out there, waiting, while you waste time with a woman who’s getting married—”

    “Y/n”, he whispers, and your breath trips over the low octave of it, “you can either break my heart right now and tell me that you were never into me and I just came onto you with my false hopes.” He sighs, but the clear edge of disbelief never leaves his gaze. “I will apologize and stay away for the rest of your time here.”

    You swallow back a sigh, and you don’t have a single memory of how your arms slipped up to sit around the collar of his shirt. “Or?”

    “Or”, Sehun whispers, folding himself further into you until you’re against the balcony rails again, “We can wait and watch the sunset while I tell you how good you look in white.”

    It would take nothing for him to kiss you right now, you think—a touch of an incline to his neck and his breath would be pressed right against your own—and it’s no secret that it’s taking quite a bit out of him to not be doing so. The pale tint to his knuckles as they clutch onto the railing behind you stand out as clear evidence of his restraint, and you silently thank him because your own resilience isn’t doing too well either.

    “I mean it, though”, you finally say, your guilt resurfacing back into your voice, “I am engaged and it’s … unjust. For you, for him.” Jongin’s name is left unsaid, but never overlooked.

    There’s a glint of that devious curiosity in his gaze again, the kind you’d seen that night—the one that has robbed you of your every ounce of rest because you’ve rarely ever felt so engaged, so enthralled by the nuances of someone. “Walk with me.”

    Your eyes go wide at his request, head immediately shaking in dissent. “Sehun—”

    “It’s just a lap around the block”, he says, his expression clear of any deceitful traces except for the faintest curl of his lips. “We’ll talk, get gelato from this one place, and come back before anyone even knows we’re gone.”

    This is meant to be a date, you can tell, and you hate how every cell in your body draws you into him despite the hurricane of regret that’s going to drown you when you’re alone tonight. The okay that sits at the end of your tongue is ready to meet him, and he knows that—but familiar calls of your name disrupt your little unsaid agreement with him, and you skip away towards the lounge to avoid any immediate inquisitions, only to be tugged back into the shadows once more.

    “Meet me right here”, Sehun rasps against your bare neck, his quiet plea birthing little tremors against the silk of your skin, “after dinner.”

    Then you’re pushed through the doorway of the balcony, right into the music of your name being repeated over and over, and for the rest of the afternoon, you sit within a circle of found family, sharing your carefully tailored stories about your future husband—ones that don’t involve the mention of your nonexistent soulmate tokens—as Sehun watches you from afar, his disbelief about your marital engagement only magnifying with every excited question you answer.

    “The next round’s on me! Everyone, drink up!”

    “This is not a bar, Chanyeol.”

    Kyungsoo’s quick retort goes unheard as everyone yells in joy, a circle of celebration in Kyungsoo's living room as his friend pours out shots of soju. Jongdae is on the couch, keeping off the inebriation in solidarity with his wife, while Mina and Jisoo giggle at each other on the other end of it, minutes away from crashing—either into sleep or into a kiss. Natsu—Chanyeol’s wife, stellar translator, and perfect choice when it comes to giving Chef Doh a run for his money—keeps the parents-to-be engaged with stories of her own seaside wedding in Milan, and when Tara comes back in with a fresh platter of kimmari, Sora looks so relieved you’d think her doctor had just agreed to prepone her C-section.

    Meanwhile, you’re on the floor, fresh off your sixth shot and feeling your body relax into the edge of the ottoman against your back, while Sehun sits right across from you, leaned against the armrest of the couch and sipping on a beer, cheeks flushed from the soju he’d downed about ten minutes ago. You scroll on your phone, simply as a measure of distraction from the steady stare pinned onto you, and on a whim, you raise your phone camera, wanting to capture some of the chaos from tonight, but are instead ensnared into the vision of Sehun’s laughter as he watches Chanyeol mimic the choreography from the Wonder Girls song playing in the background. There’s a delicate, dreamlike balance to how his joy shows itself to the world—a concoction of observation and expression, a dance between quietude and amplitude—and your breath catches on itself from the way the light sits on the edge of his jaw, a livewire of temptation. Your attempt to hide from your acknowledgement of him is in vain the moment he recovers from his humour and finds your gaze again, propping his head onto his arms as they meet the floor, posing in what is probably his silent version of the “paint me like one of your French girls” scene from Titanic. You snort, taking a snap, and toss your phone back to the floor beside you as he rolls out to the space near your feet. Before you can object, he’s gripping your feet and tucking his head onto the surface of your joined ankles.

    “Hi.”

    You laugh, feeling oddly content. “Bonsoir, monsieur.”

    “I missed you.” Sehun picks at the red enamel painted on your toes. “It’s stupid. We’re literally in the same room.”

    Some naive, hopeless part of you melts at his candour. All day you’ve been wishing he’d stop testing your resilience, but right now, you don’t think you do. The alcohol has emboldened your honesty, if anything. “We never got that ice cream.”

    One of his hands slips upward, stopping at your knees. “You changed your clothes after dinner.”

    “So did you.” You smile, letting your fingers find the sleeve of his t-shirt. “Orange looks cute on you.”

    It’d been Chanyeol’s idea—to freshen and lighten up before the drinking begins, because no one will have the energy or the effort left in them to do it later. You’d put on a grey shirt, one you’d been wearing to bed in Paris, with a pair of washed out denim shorts, and Sehun seems to be quite fond of how it left your legs unguarded to his thorough appreciation.

    “Cute is a euphemism for you’re alright, I guess.”

    You snicker. “Well, what attributes do you want me to assign to you?”

    Sehun stares up at you from his chosen headrest of your feet. “Wonderful. Handsome. Sexy. The best person you’ve ever laid eyes on.”

    You take a sip of your beer to keep from laughing out loud. “That last one isn’t even an adjective.”

    Sehun shuffles up, then up some more, until his hair brushes the dip of your lap. Sighing, he pulls at the frayed end of a denim thread. “Good thing we aren’t going for that walk.”

    “Oh.” It takes everything in you to hold back your impulsive frown. “I thought you wanted to?”

    “I do.” Sehun looks away, his words making his mouth part against the skin of your knee, and your heart stutters from the action. “But you’re beautiful and we’re drunk and I’ll end up kissing you.”

    Your grip on his shirt tightens, and he takes hold of your wrist before you can say something, anything, to undo the tension that surrounds the two of you. The party and all of its participants are nonexistent to you at this point—your world has shrunk into an oyster of Sehun’s making, and you’re terrified of being seen as the pearl you’re not ready to be.

    “I know”, Sehun thinks out loud, wincing as he moves out of your touch and positions himself directly against the floor. “I don’t have the right just yet.”

    Your hair meets his arm when you stretch out alongside him, your head too dizzy and unfocused to continue sitting up. He looks surprised to watch you follow his movements, but doesn’t waste time in welcoming your closeness, and when your faces are finally in parallel, you realise you’ve underestimated the extent of his grace all along—the delicate colour to his mouth, the shadow of his eyelashes against his cheekbones, the pale scar against the soft gold of his skin; the crest of his adam’s apple, the flecks of brown that kiss his forehead, the slope of his nose, the faintest curl of contentment as he stares at you. Your inebriation lets you have a misguided autonomy over your sense of touch, and your fingers find the line of white on his cheek.

    “How did you get this?”

    A game of spin the bottle is taking place in the background, you only notice now from Chanyeol’s complaints about Tara choosing truth again. Sehun shifts closer, his left arm finding the small of your back immediately, as if his blood carries the memory of your shape. “Inter-city soccer match. Almost got scouted after that one.”

    “I can see it”, you chuckle. “I’d always been into lean-muscled jocks.”

    Your companion rolls his eyes, but his smile doesn’t leave the ends of his mouth. “It’s hardly a secret that I’m your type. How could I not be?”

    “Coincidences are a real thing, good sir.”

    “Nope”, Sehun quips immediately. “All of this… the way we met… there’s something to it.” He lets go of you, shuffling onto his back, and your eyes, despite the haze of alcohol, don’t overlook the rhythmic rise and fall of his chest. “I’d share my thoughts, but you wouldn’t like it.”

    Aligning both of your arms into a pillow under your head, you nudge his knee with your foot so he turns back to meet your gaze. When he does, you smile. “Tell me.”

    Someone—probably Tara—raises a dare of five spoonfuls of tabasco without water breaks. An audible exhale leaves Sehun, and he seems shy in the face of your open invitation of his mind, angling his frame back into your undivided attention. “Two people from the same city travel across the world for completely different reasons, cross paths one night and have a conversation, forget to exchange numbers and are sure of never meeting again, but keep finding each other throughout their trip for no clear reason whatsoever.”

    “Isn’t Kyungsoo a good reason?”

    Sehun scoffs. “He still gets flustered when his girlfriend compliments him. It’s quite odd of him to just go up to someone and spend three hours talking to them, don’t you think?”

    Your knees press into the ends of his thighs as you get closer to him. “Maybe I just had that effect on him.”

    “You have it on me, too.”

    When his palm finds the dip of your back again, a frisson of thrill runs down your spine. His arm is splayed under your head, and your hand traces the thunder of his heartbeat as you hold his gaze and watch him lean into you. Fear and wonder blend to birth dangerous waters of temptation, and you’re neck deep in it as you find yourself drowned in them as you swim ahead towards Sehun.

    “If you were mine”, he whispers against your hair, “you wouldn’t leave my room until the weekend was over.”

    Your throat is parched in the wake of your wants, and your hands clasp at his collar as his forehead rests against your own. “If I was yours, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”

    It’s a wonder that your heart continues to beat through the moment when Sehun’s nose touches yours, and slim, slow hands slip under your shirt, smoothing upward along the lines of your back. He’s going to kiss you, you’re sure from the reckless abandon you now see in his eyes, and you’re certain that you’re going to let him—he will taste the air in your chest, will name it after himself; he will know the salt of your skin, will kiss it and mark it and commit it to memory; he will touch you, will turn you inside out until he’s learnt his way through the cosmos of you, and nothing about you will ever be the same again once he has left his song in your blood, and that’s all you’ll have when you leave next week and go back to a life of predictable, predetermined choices.

    “Sehun”, you say when you feel his breath against your mouth, “you can’t kiss me.”

    His hands find the warmth of your hair, and you feel like you might just catch fire when your lips brush his own, your eyes closing in the face of his desire.

    “I can, but I won’t.”

    Ice fills your being as Sehun folds himself away from you, and he takes your wrist, kissing silent apologies into it despite knowing that they’re unrequired, that they’re the mirror of the reality you two must live in. You hiccup into a sob, try to hide it with a cough, but Sehun keeps a hand on your head, soft caresses lulling you, and the two of you fall into sleep while everyone else still drinks and rejoices into the night—Jongdae being the sole, sad witness of it all as Sora dozes against his arm.

    That night, you dream—yet again, of sunflowers and cypresses, of a summer breeze and the silhouette of a man. When you put a hand to his shoulder, he turns, and you’re faced with Sehun and the boundless radiance of his smile.

    You’re here, he says. I’ve been waiting.

    I’ve been here before, you tell him, but I never knew it was you.

    Sehun chuckles. I think I knew. From the very first time.

    Morning arrives with a sledgehammer to your hungover brain and an icy bucket of regret to your conscience. The sun finds a seat against the brown of Sehun’s hair, and a tremor runs through you from your last memory of the night before—the heat of his breath, the tension of his touch, the almost of his kiss. Shifting the blanket onto him—you’d have to ask around to know which angelic being provided you with that layer of warmth, but that means answering questions about the compromising position they must’ve found you two in, so the gratitude will perhaps remain unspoken—you count yourself down to ten, taking in the vista of Sehun’s oblivious beauty. Your fingers find their way back to the little white scar on his cheek, and you scold yourself when he mumbles a sleep-laced version of your name.

    A sizzle of food from the kitchen gives you just enough incentive to crawl off the carpet and amble ahead, clutching your head the entire way, and the smell of bread and coffee triggers an appreciative rumble from your gut. Kyungsoo stands behind the stove, plating up a pair of sunny-side-ups, pointedly avoiding your gaze, while Tara arranges a tray of toast and scrambled eggs, then puts it in front of you alongside a big glass of water, a tight smile adorning the curve of her lips.

    So they saw it all, and they hate you now. Great.

    You chug down the water in seconds, then scarf through the contents of your plate, your headache just starting to ebb, and Tara sighs in distress while you’re on the tail end of your breakfast. When you get past your hesitation to meet her eyes, you find the couple frowning at each other.

    “This cold shoulder business is ridiculous, Soo”, she asserts, “it’s not their fault it happened this way.”

    Clicking off the stove, Kyungsoo takes off his apron, then slips onto a kitchen stool and finds your gaze. He’s definitely unhappy, you can tell—you’d give him his benefit of doubt if he’d skipped on wearing glasses, but there they were, perched onto the bridge of his nose, and yet, he was staring at you with all the distaste he could muster.

    “Sehun is the one who’s stupid here”, he mutters, and his partner leaves her platter of fruit and comes to stand by your side. You push away the last of your eggs and stand in your attempt to leave them alone, but Tara quietly asks you to settle back down with the fiercest of pleas in her eyes. “I’d repeatedly asked him to be sure of how he feels—”

    “It’s my fault”, you say, and you want to kick something from how his face softens at your words, “he’s determined about what he knows, and”, you pause to recollect the dream you’d had, “I understand why he is. But I’ve made commitments and I can’t go back on them now.”

    Kyungsoo looks away, visibly sorry for his prior demeanour, and Tara seems like she’d know peace if she could throw something, preferably herself, against a wall. “Y/n, I don’t think you understand the importance of this—”

    “Actually, I do”, you rasp, pulling away from Kyungsoo when he comes up to put a gentle hand on your head, “I’m breaking Sehun’s heart without ever promising him anything, so if I can salvage anything, it should be my relationship with the person waiting for me back home.”

    The exasperated huff the chef lets out is especially loud within the tense silence in the kitchen, and you expect a bitter glare when you meet his eyes, but he simply reiterates his touch to your back in support. Tara stands back while he takes the chair beside you, and you finally let your tears fall.

    “I’ve known Sehun since middle school”, Kyungsoo reminisces, handing you a cup of coffee, “and he’d walked up to me after soccer practice one day and asked to eat lunch together because he had something to share. About this person he’s crushing on. She used to be on the dance team, and he’d go watch her from one of the windows of the practice room.” He laughs—a wry, helpless sound. “When he called me earlier this week, I was expecting him to ask for a TGV schedule or a map or my help with literally anything in the world that doesn’t have to do with a long lost girl we’d never heard of once we’d finished school.”

    You stare at him, perplexed, when Jongdae walks into the kitchen, and Tara hands him a platter of bread, fruit, and two bowls of soup. He casts a momentary glance at you before leaving wordlessly, and you hold back a sniffle. “Now he hates me, too.”

    “No one hates you”, Tara whispers, and you welcome the warmth of the coffee as you take a sip, “I just think that the people who care are waiting on you to prioritize yourself for once.”

    “That’s all I’ve ever done”, you sob. “I’ve been thoughtless and selfish. I didn’t think twice before flirting with Sehun, I never told Jongin about any of this while he waited for me at home, I didn’t listen to Jongdae when he asked me to question why I was wanting to get married.” You hunch over the kitchen counter, a spasm of heartache overcoming you. “And now I’m here, wasting your time when I should just get out of here.”

    “I’m not finished”, Kyungsoo asserts with the quiet gravity of his voice. He takes a sip of his own tea before resuming. “Sehun had told me your name, of how familiar you’d looked, of his dreams that began in Paris, but he wasn’t as sure of himself back then as he is now, and my opinion on this matter doesn’t count for as much as yours.” Jisoo’s cat—she’d named him Yuzu after three shots last night—skips into the kitchen with a meow, the smell of food luring him onto your lap. “He even called his mother and asked her to send him pictures from our school yearbooks.”

    Your tears stream freely once your friend pulls up the pictures on his phone, and dreamlike fragments from your nights in Paris link themselves in your head—dark hair, sharp eyes, lanky legs kicking at footballs, awed clapping at school events, shy requests for pencils that were never returned. Yuzu purrs in your lap when you take Kyungsoo’s phone and zoom into the photos, a line of younger, familiar smiles greeting you as you read through the names.

    Oh Sehun, soccer team captain.

    Doh Kyungsoo, swim team athlete.

    Y/ln Y/n, valedictorian.

    “We should’ve been together all this time”, you finally say, taking in the dawn of all the truths you’re faced with, “but we never touched.”

    “It’s quite insane, if you ask me”, Kyungsoo chuckles, a rare smile adorning his lips, “going by the number of papers and pencils you’d given him, your hands should’ve touched at least once. It’s equally ridiculous that you’ve been dreaming of him for a week without recognising his dumb face.”

    Tara ruffles her boyfriend’s hair in response, and he leans into it. “Such things never make sense, Soo. We know that better than most.”

    Footsteps resound at the doorway of the kitchen, where Jongdae stands, holding out your phone—the illuminated screen flashing with Jongin’s call, chiming all too loudly for a Sunday morning as eventful as this one, and the bear emoji beside his name mocks you. You keep your eyes tethered to your friend as you receive the device, and clasp at his wrist when he tries to leave.

    “Find me when you’re done talking to Nini”, he says before slipping past your grasp.

    The slant of sunlight that obliques itself across the living room, and Sehun still sleeps peacefully, occasionally shifting or pulling the blanket closer in a childlike manner that kicks further at the shambles of your heart. His hair glows like a meadow of burnt gold as you walk back into the kitchen, your two friends looking at you expectantly.

    “Do you know if the TGV is available on Sundays? I think I need to go.”

    Two pills of Tylenol, a shower, and a brisk walk later, you’re on your way back to Paris, and as the train whisks out of the station, you think you see Sehun stumble onto the platform, breathless and frazzled as he looks for the boarding schedule on the monitors, but he becomes a glimmer of blue in a matter of seconds.

    You spend a solid half hour in the shower once you’re back to your suite, and you hear another call from Jongin chime out while you’re curled up in the tub, bone deep in your defeat. It’d been a good seven hours since his morning call, and you’d not had the courage to return it or reply through a text. A slew of messages await you once you’re dry and dressed—you start with Jongdae’s paragraph-long worry with a promise to see him at lunch on Monday, and respond to Kyungsoo at the very last, his words about Sehun having gone to look for you only confirming what you’d seen, so you apologise for leaving him and your friends out there at such short notice, and end with your gratitude for hosting you despite everything that happened. You see him read the text almost immediately—unlikely for the person you perceive him to be—but don’t wait for his response. Firing your laptop on, you wait for the wifi to connect and when it does, you call Jongin.

    “Y/n, oh my god, I haven’t heard from you in days”, you hear your best friend before you even see him on the screen, and when you see Miso snuggled into his arms, you’re bursting into tears, inconsolable.

    “Why are you crying?!” From the corner of your tear-stained vision, you see him making calls while keeping a perplexed gaze on the screen, and you gesture for him to hang up—you’re pretty sure he’s calling Jongdae, and you don’t want to get to that part of the story just yet.

    “Before I say anything, you need to know I’m so sorry.”

    Jongin looks like he’s running a fever by now. “Just tell me what happened, we’ll figure it out. It’s terrifying to see you like this.”

    You’re still hunched over the table, broken sobs making your chest heave, and you hear your cat meow indignantly through the screen before the sound is gone. When you look up again, your best friend is folded in his chair in worry, frantically tapping away at his phone—texting the group chat, because you can hear your phone going off from where it sits on your bed.

    “Nini, stop texting them.”

    “You never call me that unless something’s wrong!” He sniffles, and you wipe your eyes in regret of your slip-up. “I don’t care if you started a fire or pushed someone off a cliff or got arrested or did something worse than anything I can come up with. I won’t leave you alone.”

    You’re clasping at the edge of your chair, your eyes downcast in turmoil. “I met someone.”

    “Okay.” Jongin visibly sighs, obviously having expected something much more grave. “Breathe. You’re doing well. What happened, then?”

    You shake your head, tears slipping past your eyes once more. “I—we were out getting food one night. Me and Dae. And I was getting a coffee and he was there.”

    “Y/n”, your best friend says, his voice tensing up once more, “did he do something to you? Listen, ask hyung to stay with you, and have a talk with the security unit of the hotel. I will fly out as soon as I can—”

    “He’s my soulmate.” Your bones feel like they could melt into thin air from your own acceptance of your fate. There’s a painful silence on the other end, and you hiccup another sob into your hand. “I figured it out this morning, and I left him in Nice because I had to tell you.”

    You’re sure your world is moments away from falling apart when Jongin disappears from the screen, not returning for a while. Crumpled in your chair, you start crying again, only catching the tail end of a chime as your phone rings on the other end of the room, and when he comes back into your vision, Miso in tow, you feel unhinged from the relief that overcomes you. His eyes look misty, and your heart breaks for the millionth time that day.

    “It’s the weirdest thing”, he says, a tired chuckle leaving him, “because the first day you skipped on calling me, I joked with myself about you forgetting me because you found your soulmate.”

    “Jongin—”

    He gestures for you to pause, turning away to wipe his tears. “It didn’t mean anything. I just missed you and it’s unlikely of us to go without a text, at the very least.”

    “I felt horrible about how happy I was around him.” You look down at your hands, clenching them into fists as the tremor in them ebbs away. “Like I was betraying you. But I miss you, too. I can’t wait to see you.”

    Jongin chuckles, but his eyes remain avoidant. “You better be ready. There’s work to do. I hate talking to customer service, they’re so snippy about cancellations.” When you crack a smile, he does a sassy whoop and lets your cat onto his desk. “Did you hear that, sir? You’re getting a new dad. I’ll be out of your hair since you hate me so much.”

    “Nini”, you reply, your heart feeling sore and yet, there’s still things left to be said. “I know we’ll have to call off the wedding, but I left him without a word for a reason.”

    “You—”, he croaks from somewhere below the screen, perhaps struggling with another piece of footwear that Miso has set his teeth into, “—better not have left him without your number.”

    An involuntary laugh exits you—there will never, and you mean it, be anyone who gets you the way this man does. “Unfortunately, I did. I don’t want to promise him anything without putting you first.”

    “I’ll miss being this important once you two get together.”

    “Jongin.”

    “I know, I know.” Your best friend laughs. “Bros before hoes and all that. Bet he’s not as cute as me anyway. Your taste in people is the worst.”

    “You’re a part of that cesspool, idiot.”

    “Still bad at dirty talk”, he coos, and you flip him off through the screen. “You should call him once we’re done here.” Shaking your head, you mean to object, but Jongin stops you immediately. “You can’t be expecting me to keep you tied down just because your other half exists and mine doesn’t.”

    “Yours does, too. We just gotta keep looking.”

    That makes him laugh—not his usual cackle, but a rare, rich sound of honest clarity. “I’m over the fucking moon for you. I really am. I’m sorry it doesn’t seem that way.”

    You nod, holding back tears at his sudden candour. “I love you. Nothing fucks with what we have. I mean it.”

    That shifts something because Jongin finally cries—a real sob that doesn’t help the mist that lines your own eyes. For a while, you two simply mourn all the almosts and what ifs that will now be no more, share the remorse of what could never be, even though it comes with the dawn of better, brighter possibilities. Contrary to what you’d been thinking throughout your trip and even before, a life with your best friend, you realise as you watch him cry and compose himself back together into the fine line of a smile, wouldn’t have been far from perfect—it’d have been too easy, too good to be true, too aligned with yourself for your liking, and you’d have forever detested yourself for never having a reason to justify your discord with it.

    “Go find him before I change my mind”, Jongin says, his laugh beaming through the last of his tears like liquid light. “We might just have to duel at high noon for your hand.”

    You hiccup through your sip of water, then grab a tissue to dry your eyes. “It’s not in marriage that you’d need my hand for. I can tell.”

    “Hands are quite versatile.”

    “Just like you in bed.”

    Your best friend flips you off, shooing you away. “I love you. Get out of here. And go kiss that dude or something, I don’t know.”

    You nod, saying goodbye—after making an exclusive agreement to text him, no matter what—and logging off. As you go through your phone, you look through the texts that have come in, waiting for your attention, and you answer the one that you think needs a resolution before everything else.

    chefsoo [4:36pm]: sehun just took the last train back to paris.

    Your heart does an entire set of somersaults against your ribs from the implication of that one sentence, and while you have struggled with indecision forever, have always wanted to choose the sanctuary of your reality over the mirage of your dreams, you’re not as torn this time. You don’t think you’ve had stakes higher than this ever before, but the choice has also never been this simple.

    you [6:38pm]: i’ll be waiting. if you could tell me where he’s staying, it’d be great.

    The air hums with the melee of tourists and ferries, a distant melody from where you sit in the foyer of the Mandarin Oriental. Paris is minutes away from dusk, and the sun still hangs on the edge of the horizon like a penny being held away from the eager hands of a child. Twilight colours the Seine in pink and gold, and the stars have just begun to dot the blue that seeps across the skies like ink on a blank page. Couples disappear through the gateway of the hotel, hands entwined as they walk into the evening that descends upon the city. Your hands feel clammy against your phone as you reread the texts from your friends—Sora had taken it upon her kind self to order a boatload of room service to her suite for a sumptuous Monday lunch earlier that day, and as the posse hangs onto the coattails of the round trip to Paris, unspoken advice and unsaid thoughts were finally voiced. Mina had kept a soft hand on your shoulder throughout the meal, and Jongdae hadn’t left your side until you’d finally excused yourself to go get ready for an evening that is surely going to change the course of your future.

    jisoo [4:13pm]: if he doesn’t feel the same anymore, he’s a fool. but then, most men are.

    mina [4:15pm]: maybe she (my wonderful, amazing, sexy girlfriend) snapped.

    jongdae [4:35pm]: not helpful when y/n has been shaking in her boots all day.

    sora [4:37pm]: official petition to let y/n have some peace while she waits for sehun.

    jongdae [5:04pm]: right, because she’s not getting any of it once these two idiots are together. we’re all gonna make sure of that.

    Managing a smile despite the thunder of your blood that roars in your ears, you type.

    you [6:14pm]: i love you guys. but our target is yet to show up.

    You watch a little boy holding a pink balloon as a girl in front of him rips into a pack of candy, offering him one and feeding it to his open mouth. A bunch of messages arrive with a soft ding.

    jongdae [6:17pm]: not to try being a psychic or anything but it’d be hilarious if you went looking and found him at that vending machine.

    sora [6:18pm]: that’s hardly funny, dae. i think it’d be pretty poetic. things coming full circle.

    mina [6:18 pm]: i’d be lowkey jealous if it all turned out that perfectly, omg.

    jisoo [6:20pm]: given the mess that y/n went through over the weekend, i’d say she deserves that kind of magic.

    Giving it another string of minutes, you watch the receptionist looking bored at her desk, and the flux of people moving through the entrance dwindles as Paris nears dinnertime. The two kids hold hands and walk into the soft blue of the evening, the pink balloon dancing to the breeze that floats in from the Seine.

    you [6:31pm]: i’m going back to haru haru. maybe dae is right.

    sora [6:32pm]: tteokbokki! pls!

    sora [6:32pm]: just kidding. go kiss your man. we better not find you in your room tonight.

    Walking back to the entrance, you pass by the receptionist and use your beginner level French to thank her and compliment the strip of blue in her hair—it rouses her out of her lull, and she goes back to penning names onto the register with a faint flush of colour on her cheeks. The cool air soothes the sheen of sweat on your skin as you exit, and maneuvering yourself past the mingled throng of locals and tourists, you switch onto a route that will lead you into the avenue of Asian restaurants in Paris. The gentle hymn of the Seine sings underneath the path you walk across a bridge that overlooks the glimmering horizons of the city, and you scan faces for familiarity as they move past your sides. A sudden wave of despair seems to come upon you as the crowd lightens, giving you space to catch your breath. In your stubborn need to keep your confidence intact for tonight, you’d forgone the consideration of things going wrong—of never seeing Sehun again; of him having asked Kyungsoo and Tara to stop helping you, since neither of them had texted you all day; of the possibility that you might just have to bear the cross of your headstrong mistakes with Jongin and Sehun, forever—and you quickly step up to catch onto the railing of the bridge before your knees decide to give out. This trip had been nothing short of insanity, and there is still more scope for misfortune than for success, but as you watch the last of the ferries coming back home along the river, you think this will always be an experience worth coming back to.

    “April 12th.”

    Your heart stutters and halts on itself from the voice behind you, and you’re sure your tears will forget all their limits and knowings of being in public when you turn around to meet the open warmth of his gaze, but he takes a step back when you move ahead to touch him. A familiar can of coffee sits in the grip of his left hand.

    “Sehun.”

    He nods. “My birthday is on April 12th. You’d said we don’t know enough of each other. I’m telling you, in case it changes your mind about us.”

    A tear slips past the fortress of your eyes, but you smile through it. “My cat’s name is Miso, and you can meet him when we’re back in Seoul.”

    This time, Sehun doesn’t decline your touch, but instead, he steps further into it. “I usually order iced Americanos at Starbucks, but at home I like it black with a hint of cream. I also have an elder brother who will be absolutely ecstatic about meeting you, should you say yes.”

    You chuckle, drying your eyes onto the kerchief in your hand. “I work for a legal firm, and I like my eggs scrambled.”

    “I thought you’d maybe like them fertilised.”

    That earns Sehun a well-deserved smack on the shoulder, and he pulls you to him in the aftermath—close enough for you to have to relearn the rhythm of your heart, and for him to press his smile to the side of your head, basking in the dawn of your scent. Tossing the empty can into a bin, he turns back to meet your gaze.

    “I like mine poached, and my late night playlist mostly has Daniel Caesar on it.”

    You raise an eyebrow in interest. “That’s good taste. Quite sexy of you.”

    Sehun scoffs, then leans in until your noses are touching. “If I knew it was my playlist that’d score me that compliment, I’d have shown you all of them back in Nice.”

    “You’re not wrong”, you whisper, uncaring of who watches you slip your hands beneath his crisp leather jacket. “But I wouldn’t have been able to kiss you about it.”

    When your back meets the cool metal of the bridge behind you, a sudden laugh leaves you without a reason, and you think it’s the happiest sound you’ve ever heard from yourself. Night arrives upon Paris with a scatter of stars and a promise of restless, limitless opportunities, and you can’t help but wonder if you’re dreaming when Sehun nudges your forehead with his own, brows furrowed in obvious curiosity of your wandering mind.

    “Just thinking”, you say, and Sehun visibly sucks in a breath when your hand finds the small of his back, “why none of this happened in Seoul. It’d have saved us a lot of trouble.”

    “That’s easy”, he replies, smiling right against the awe of your parted lips. “It’s because we’re cool enough for a first kiss in the capital of romance.”

    Your mind comes up with a million replies to his witty remark, but none of them are ever voiced—because Sehun kisses you. You clutch at the ends of his jacket to get him closer, and he undoes the looping yarn of your breath with the heat of his mouth. His hands find the soft darkness of your hair as the kiss deepens into what you could only call as delirium, and you reciprocate with the feverish envelope of your hands against his jaw. When you pull away with a coy nibble to his swollen lip, Sehun looks flushed and breathless in ways that immediately ruin whatever moral resolve you had about taking things slow. His fingers are unbothered in the way they squeeze past the hem of your blue blouse and meet your skin, like a subtle, appreciative nod to the way your own touch refuses to part from the planes of his back that live underneath his shirt.

    “We could never”, Sehun pauses to catch his breath, gravitating towards the scent of your hair, “do that in Seoul. Some ahjumma would have us reported for public indecency.”

    You laugh, and are astonished at how rich and jubilant it seems. It’s him, you think. It could've only ever been Sehun. You’ve never sounded so liberated to your own ears ever before. The Seine hums into the night, and a full moon smiles onto the water as you pull him in for another kiss.

    “Thank God for Paris, I guess.”

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