Word Count: ~9300
Summary: When Chanyeol, a session drummer at a recording studio, finds out his boss is taking on a new client, he doesn't expect it to be someone he's this familiar with.
|On Sunday morning, Chanyeol stirs with a jolt at 7 o'clock on the dot when his phone buzzes loudly next to his ear. It can't be his alarm--he never sets one on the weekend--so he's wondering which of his idiot friends is awake this early after a Saturday night spent bar-hopping until 3 a.m. He peers at the screen, blurry-eyed and hungover, only to see his boss' name and a message about a new client recording with them the next day.|
|Park Chanyeol (7:02 a.m.):|
this couldnt have waited until noon, hyung?
|Chanyeol drags a hand across his face and drops his phone on the nightstand, rolling over and burying his face in one of several pillows on his bed.|
Chanyeol snarls at nothing in particular and throws his arm out, fumbling blindly for his phone.
|Lee Donghae (7:05 a.m.):|
i just got the news
it's going to be really exciting
Lee Donghae (7:06 a.m.):
but i'm not telling you who the client is, you're gonna be so surprised
|Chanyeol opens one eye fully, eyebrows furrowing. Most of their clients are indie bands and small-time solo artists; famous in their own right, but not well-known to the general public.|
|Park Chanyeol (7:07 a.m.):|
how famous are we talking here
|He knows by the time it takes for Donghae to respond to his message that he's trying to figure out how to give details without spilling the beans. Finally, a few more cryptic texts arrive.|
|Lee Donghae (7:11 a.m.):|
let's just say we might have to fight off some sasaengs with a broom at some point
apparently this guy is a fan of one of the artists we've done work for, u rmbr yixing??
Lee Donghae (7:12 a.m.):
he liked the sound we helped him create, so he wants us to do the same thing for him
|Park Chanyeol (7:13 a.m.):|
so what am i contributing here, do you need me for setup or just to sit behind the desk, or…
|If this guy is as big of a deal as Donghae's implying, he'll probably have his own session musicians; Donghae probably just wants him to mic the instruments and help with soundcheck and playback.|
|Lee Donghae (7:15 a.m.):|
i'll prob need u to help me mix the tracks at the end but they need a session drummer so you're it bro
he liked ur work on the last record we did for yixing, said it was "innovative" or something
|Chanyeol's not really sure how innovative his repertoire is, but it's nice to be called out for a job well done. And if it's as big a client as Donghae says, he might be looking at a pay raise, or at least a decent bonus after recording ends.|
Chanyeol texts a quick "see you tomorrow" to Donghae, then drops the phone on the bed and rolls over, allowing his body to relax into sleep for another five or six hours.
Chanyeol rolls into his parking space at the studio the next morning at 9 o'clock sharp, humming the latest Kim Jongdae OST under his breath as he lets himself inside and stashes his jacket and backpack in the office he sort of shares with Donghae. He stills his movements for a moment, hearing the sound of several voices coming from the direction of the studio.
"Hyung?" Chanyeol strolls down the hall toward the sound booth.
"Ah, here he is…" Donghae's voice floats out into the hallway; the door of the lounge adjacent to the studio is open, which means their new clients must have arrived ahead of schedule. Donghae pokes his head out and grins at Chanyeol. "Come on, let me introduce you!"
Chanyeol pauses to smooth his t-shirt and rake a hand through his hair before stepping into the lounge, trying to give off an air of confidence with his wide smile and strong handshake.
"This is Kim Junmyeon, a representative from the record label," Donghae says, guiding Chanyeol to the first man in the room, a short fellow with impeccable dress sense and a pleasant, businesslike smile. They exchange brief pleasantries before Donghae is shoving him at another man in a suit, this one with shrewd, cat-like eyes and hair pushed back from his forehead. "And here is Kim Minseok, our artist's manager."
"Pleased to meet you," Chanyeol says, bowing politely.
"And I'm Byun Baekhyun," another voice says. Chanyeol turns around to find its source: a kid about his age with floppy brown hair and a permanent smirk on his face, dressed down compared to the suits from the label; he's wearing a graphic t-shirt under a black blazer, and a pair of jeans with lace-up boots. "Vocal director."
"Why does that name sound familiar?" Chanyeol lifts an eyebrow as he extends his hand to shake with Baekhyun.
"Because I'm ridiculously famous," Baekhyun deadpans, although he can't keep the smirk away for long. "Nice to meet you, Chanyeol-ssi."
"Sorry, sorry," another voice, higher, pipes in from behind Chanyeol. "Had to take that call, you know how moms are."
"Ah, here's the man of the hour," Donghae says, and Chanyeol turns toward the newcomer, only for his jaw to slacken, eyes widening. "Chanyeol, this is our new client, Kim Jongdae."
"Holy shit," Chanyeol whispers, then covers his mouth in embarrassment.
Donghae laughs. "Sorry, I thought I'd surprise him. He's kind of a fan."
"Kind of?" Baekhyun barks out a laugh, and Jongdae's entire face lights up in a smile, his eyes narrowing to little crescents.
"Well, I'm a fan of yours," Jongdae says to Chanyeol directly, offering him his hand to shake, which Chanyeol does after a moment of staring, stunned, at Jongdae's fingers, "so I guess we're even, Chanyeol-ssi."
"Hyung," Chanyeol says weakly, looking over Jongdae's head at Donghae. He releases his grip on Jongdae's hand, albeit reluctantly. "You could have given me a little warning!"
"Don't be upset with Donghae-ssi," Jongdae says. "It was really my idea. He told me you were a fan and I thought it would be a nice surprise if you didn't know we'd be working together."
"Jongdae likes a good prank," Baekhyun pipes up, and they share an impish smile.
"And Chanyeol is frequently the butt of my jokes," Donghae laughs. "I believe this is going to be a very successful business relationship."
Chanyeol flops onto his bed after he gets home from work and stays there until his roommate, Kyungsoo, gets home an hour later.
"Chanyeol?" Kyungsoo's voice is muffled behind the door. He knocks twice, then sticks his head in. "I brought home dinner, you--" He pauses. "Are you okay? Why are the lights off in here?"
"You are not going to believe what happened at the studio today," Chanyeol groans, sitting up in bed as Kyungsoo flicks the light switch.
"Oh yeah, your new client came in today," Kyungsoo says, leaning against the doorway. "Who is it, anyway?"
Chanyeol points at the poster on his wall - the jacket photo from Jongdae's most recent album.
Kyungsoo stares at the poster for a moment, shifts his gaze to Chanyeol, then back to the poster, then back to Chanyeol. "You're shitting me."
"I shit you not, roomie," Chanyeol says. "My dreams are coming true and I am not equipped to deal with it."
"Holy shit," Kyungsoo says, coming into the room and crawling onto the end of Chanyeol's bed. "What's he like? He seems nice enough in his interviews."
Chanyeol drags a pillow into his lap and hugs it, pressing his chin into the top of it. "He's really polite, but more friendly after we were introduced and had talked a little. Like one of those people who treats everyone like they're his new best friend?" Chanyeol drags a hand through his hair. "Dude, the pictures do him no justice. He's so fucking cute, I thought I was going to barf up my heart when he decided, 'hey, we're the same age, let's speak informally' and called me 'Chanyeollie.'" He looks up at Kyungsoo with wide eyes, feeling helpless. "Hyung told him I was a fan, and Jongdae said he was my fan."
"Did you freak out?" Kyungsoo says in a low voice heavy with sympathy, as if expecting the worst.
"I probably would have if his vocal director wasn't there," Chanyeol admits. "His name's Baekhyun, Byun Baekhyun, and I have a bad feeling he knows I'm not just a big fan."
"Oh dear," Kyungsoo says. "He looked into your eyes and saw the dirt in your soul, huh?"
Chanyeol buries his face in the pillow. "Fuuuuuuuuuuck, I hope not." He looks up at the poster again. "I have to take that down, don't I? It's weird to be a huge fan of someone you're going to be working with for the next month, isn't it?"
Kyungsoo cranes his head to look at the poster. "Well, it's not like you photoshopped his head onto a porn star's body or anything, and it's not like he'll ever know it's here unless you tell him."
"Is it wrong that part of me wants him to know I'm into him?" Chanyeol falls sideways on the bed, still clutching his pillow. "You see those rumors on the internet…"
"But that's what they are," Kyungsoo says, his tone growing a little more serious. "They're just rumors, probably started by anti-fans."
"How could anyone as perfect as Kim Jongdae have anti-fans?" It makes Chanyeol a little angry just to think about it.
"It's the entertainment industry. You could be a literal saint and people would find a way to hate you." Kyungsoo rolls his eyes. "Anyway. All I'm saying is don't do anything that's going to jeopardize your career. Or his. Especially his." He slides off the bed, brushing off the front of his pants as he straightens up, and offers a hand to Chanyeol. "Come on, dinner's probably getting cold. A little chicken and beer ought to cheer you up."
"You're probably right." Chanyeol grabs Kyungsoo's wrist and pulls himself up. "Thanks, pal."
The first few days of working with Jongdae's team go smoothly enough. Chanyeol plays his drum parts well in spite of the short amount of practice time he's had, and manages to handle some miscellaneous percussion thrown his way as well; a bit of tambourine here, a nice glockenspiel intro there. On some level he thinks Baekhyun must be fucking with him, making these suggestions to Jongdae and his manager, but it means Chanyeol gets to show off a little, so it's not all bad. Baekhyun even looks impressed after Chanyeol does a bit of improvising on the timpani during a break between takes.
"Is there anything you can't play?" Baekhyun drops sideways into a puffy leather chair, legs hanging over one arm of the chair. Jongdae grabs a bottle of water from a nearby table and perches on the other arm, waiting for Chanyeol's answer.
"Well, I started off playing violin as a kid," Chanyeol says, putting the mallets down and walking around his drum kit to sit on the couch near Jongdae and Baekhyun, "but I really hated it, it felt so… stuffy, I guess? And it made my neck hurt like hell. But my parents really wanted me to take up an instrument, so we compromised with guitar."
"So how'd you start playing the drums?" Jongdae inquires.
Even though they're the same age, even though they could be friends in another life, Chanyeol feels his ears go hot every time Jongdae addresses him. He clears his throat and forces himself to look Jongdae in the eye when he responds. "A friend of mine in middle school wanted to start a band, only we didn't know anyone who played drums. So, since he could play the guitar, I volunteered to bang around on the drum kit until I figured out what the hell I was doing."
"Which you obviously did, at some point," Jongdae says, smiling. He nudges Baekhyun, adding in a stage whisper, "We're working with a prodigy! How cool is that?"
"I wouldn't go that far," Chanyeol laughs, attempting to finger-comb his hair over his ears, which are surely bright red. "And I should be the one singing praises, it's--" Chanyeol swallows. "Working on your album is probably the coolest thing I'll ever do."
"I highly doubt that," Jongdae says, eyes twinkling as he lifts his water bottle to his lips. "I bet you'll do lots of great things in your life. This is only the beginning!"
Chanyeol smiles and is just about to relax into the couch when Donghae pops his head in. "Hey, five more minutes and then we're going to run through track two one more time. Everyone all right?"
"Yep!" Baekhyun chirps, and Jongdae and Chanyeol offer simultaneous thumbs-up before looking at each other and laughing.
"I'm gonna run to the bathroom quick," Chanyeol says, easing himself off the couch and striding out of the studio and down the hall to the men's room. It's small; just a stall, a urinal, and a pedestal sink with a mirror.
Chanyeol quickly relieves himself and washes his hands, taking a look at himself in the mirror while he scrubs under his fingernails. His face isn't as red as he'd imagined it would be, but he splashes himself with cold water anyway. He's fumbling blindly for the paper towels when the door opens, startling him.
"You couldn't wait another thirty seconds?" Chanyeol yelps, dripping all over his shirt as Baekhyun slips into the bathroom.
"Hey, when you gotta go, you gotta go," Baekhyun says matter-of-factly, shrugging as he comes to a stop in front of the urinal and unzips his pants.
"Sure you do," Chanyeol says, rolling his eyes and folding a paper towel in half to dry off his face. "I'm gonna go."
"Hold on a sec," Baekhyun says, finishing up and tucking himself back into his jeans. "You know, from everything Donghae told us about you, I wasn't expecting you to be so shy."
"Well, we aren't usually working with national superstars," Chanyeol says, soaking up the droplets of water from the collar of his t-shirt.
"Yeah, but..." Baekhyun squeezes in beside him at the sink, their eyes meeting in the mirror. "I've been watching you, and you aren't like most of Jongdae's weird starstruck fans."
"What do you mean?" Chanyeol feels his heart attempting to evacuate his ribcage.
"Calm down," Baekhyun says, lifting his eyebrows as he turns on the faucet to wet his hands. Chanyeol tries to school his deer-in-headlights expression into a slightly more neutral one. "It's pretty obvious you have a crush on him, you're just not like most fanboys about it, that's all."
Chanyeol's heart sinks into the pit of his stomach. "Oh, god, you're going to tell him, aren't you? I'm sorry, I need to go drown myself in the toilet--"
"Chill," Baekhyun says in a low, soothing voice, drying his hands and tossing the used paper towel in the trash. "I'm not going to tell anyone."
"Oh." Chanyeol's heart rate begins to approach normal levels. "Why not?"
Baekhyun just stares at him. "What kind of monster do you think I am? I'm gay, I'd never out someone like that!"
"Sorry." Chanyeol lifts his hands in a gesture of peace. "You're just kind of hard to read, and you kind of give off this gossipy shit-talker vibe..."
"Eh, you're not wrong," Baekhyun allows, laughing a little at Chanyeol's candor, "but seriously, I've had it happen to me and it fucking sucks. So your secret's safe with me. Besides, it would put Jongdae in an awkward position."
"Why do you say that?" Chanyeol thinks he's being sneaky, but Baekhyun just purses his lips and lifts his eyebrows, opening the bathroom door with an air of nonchalance and stepping out into the hallway, Chanyeol at his heels.
"I don't talk about Jongdae's personal life." Baekhyun turns around suddenly, and Chanyeol trips over his own feet and nearly knocks them both down. "He's really good at pretending that his fans'…" Baekhyun makes a face. "... exuberance doesn't freak him out, but he doesn't have much of a private life and it's frustrating. So. We're not having this conversation."
"I'm sorry, I wasn't trying to be nosy--"
"You were," Baekhyun says in a no-nonsense tone, but his trademark smirk is still tugging at his lips. "I'm just saying that I know what you're asking, and I'm not answering that question for you. Now--" He shakes his hair out of his eyes. "We'd better get back before Jongdae thinks I followed you into the bathroom to-- well, you know."
"Did you?" A cocky grin creeps across Chanyeol's face.
"You wish," Baekhyun snorts, and pushes past him.
Chanyeol endures a few days of pointed glances and self-satisfied smirks from Baekhyun every time he even says so much as "hello" to Jongdae before he turns to his roommate for support. Kyungsoo agrees to drop by for a while to watch the recording on Saturday afternoon, with Donghae's permission.
"Obviously you're sworn to secrecy about anything you may hear within these walls," Chanyeol says as they pull into the parking lot, and Kyungsoo rolls his eyes.
"I work in a law office, Chanyeol. I think I know a little more about non-disclosure agreements than you do."
"I'm just saying," Chanyeol protests as they get out of the car and head inside. He lets Kyungsoo through the door first, raising his voice to yell for Donghae. "Hyung?"
"In the lounge," Donghae shouts back, and Chanyeol beckons Kyungsoo on, turning the corner into the studio's green room, where Baekhyun is running vocal warm-ups with Jongdae. Donghae smiles when he sees them come in. "Oh, hey Kyungsoo."
Baekhyun stops tapping out scales on the keyboard, and Jongdae turns around, his face lighting up. "So this must be the roommate Chanyeollie's told us so much about," he says.
Chanyeol grins when Kyungsoo's eyebrows start creeping toward his hairline. "Good things, I hope," Kyungsoo says, looking at Chanyeol with suspicion in his eyes.
"Of course," Chanyeol scoffs, and Jongdae nods, laughing. "Anyway, guys, this is my roommate, Do Kyungsoo. Kyungsoo, this is Kim Jongdae and his vocal director, Byun Baekhyun."
Kyungsoo looks mildly starstruck when Jongdae offers his hand to shake, but he rebounds much more quickly than Chanyeol did when he met Jongdae the week before. "It's really great to meet you," Kyungsoo says. "Chanyeol really enjoys working with you."
"He's a lot of fun to work with, too," Jongdae says, his eyes flicking toward Chanyeol, whose chest swells with happiness.
"Quit hogging the guest," Baekhyun whines, playfully pushing Jongdae to the side so he can shake hands with Kyungsoo. "I'm Baekhyun, the real star of this operation."
"Pay no attention to him, he just likes to think he's more important than he actually is," Jongdae says, punching Baekhyun in the shoulder a few times, enough to make him burst into a fit of giggles.
"As you can see, the work atmosphere here at DH Studios is nothing but loving and respectful," Donghae snickers, watching Baekhyun put Jongdae into a headlock. Chanyeol pulls on Baekhyun's ears in an attempt to help Jongdae out, earning a kick to the shins for his efforts.
"You guys are so mature," Kyungsoo comments, taking a seat near Donghae. "How did I get this lucky?"
"Please, this is way better than whatever you had planned today," Chanyeol laughs breathlesssly, shaking Baekhyun off his back, which he's attempting to climb up to get a better vantage point from which to beat on Jongdae.
Chanyeol straightens his own t-shirt before getting a good look at Jongdae, who's looking thoroughly disheveled. He sucks in a breath and takes the opportunity to fix Jongdae's collar, his stomach flip-flopping when Jongdae looks up at him with big eyes and a tiny smile.
"Thanks," he says, running a hand through his hair, and Chanyeol drops his hands and steps back, his heart beating double-time.
"Okay…" Baekhyun shoots a weird glance at Chanyeol and sits back down at the piano, playing a dissonant chord to get everyone's attention. "Go away, Chanyeol, we have work to do!"
Chanyeol wrinkles his nose at Baekhyun and scowls. "Fine. Come on, Kyungsoo, help me set up the recording booth."
"No, he can stay," Baekhyun says with a shit-eating grin, but Kyungsoo gets up anyway, much to his dismay.
"Maybe later," Kyungsoo suggests, following Chanyeol out of the green room. When they're out of earshot, he adds, "Is he always like that?"
"Loud and annoying? Yes," Chanyeol says, opening the door to the sound booth and turning on the lights. "But he was being kind of show-offy, so I'm thinking…"
"He wants to bone you," Chanyeol says in a casual tone, playing with the settings on the soundboard. Kyungsoo is silent for a few moments, so quiet that Chanyeol actually looks up to see if he's still in the room. When he catches the look of horror mingled with curiosity on Kyungsoo's face, he bursts out laughing.
"I am not doing any kind of weird double date thing with you, ever," Kyungsoo says vehemently, voice low.
"You say that like I actually have a chance with Jongdae," Chanyeol snorts.
"You probably don't, but what was that thing in there with the shirt?" Kyungsoo sinks into one of the chairs at the mixing desk. "You guys looked like you were having a moment before that kid--"
"Baekhyun," Chanyeol supplies helpfully, grinning.
"Whatever." Kyungsoo gestures dismissively with his hand. "Before Baekhyun interrupted you, I mean."
"You think so?" Chanyeol sits in the other chair, swiveling around while he remembers the look on Jongdae's face, the way his hair falls across his forehead, the glare of the fluorescent lighting against the tip of his nose. Kyungsoo nudges his foot and Chanyeol looks up, Jongdae's smile dissolving into memory. "Baekhyun knows, but he won't tell me anything about Jongdae, so I'm kind of at a disadvantage here."
"Well, my point from the other day still stands," Kyungsoo says, crossing his ankles and leaning back in the chair. "Don't do anything that's going to get him in trouble."
"Yes, mom," Chanyeol groans, rolling his eyes.
Baekhyun has an appointment on Wednesday, but Jongdae comes to the studio anyway, wanting to learn a little more about the process of mixing the tracks to create the final songs that will go on the album.
"What are you doing?" Jongdae asks, spinning around in his chair while Chanyeol sits at his laptop, one earbud in his ear, the other dangling down toward his lap.
"Trying to clean up the guitar track we recorded yesterday." Chanyeol looks up to see Jongdae looking at him with a curious tilt to his eyebrows. He offers the earbud to Jongdae, who wheels himself closer, their fingers brushing when he takes it from Chanyeol's hand. "Here, listen."
Chanyeol clicks play on the original track and laughs when Jongdae winces and reaches forward to lower the volume on Chanyeol's MacBook. "See how it's too loud and has that fuzz, like the amplifier is on too high?" Chanyeol says, and Jongdae nods. "I'm doing some noise reduction to clarify the sound, so the end result is something like this."
Chanyeol switches to the other track and hits play, and Jongdae's eyebrows relax. "This is much better," he says, taking the earbud out and handing it to Chanyeol. "How'd you learn to do all this, anyway? It must have taken you a long time to get so good at it."
Chanyeol's ears start to burn, but he smiles to himself, flattered. "I'm not an expert by any means, not like hyung. He does all of the final mixes. I was really only hired as a session musician, but when he found out I was interested in learning how the mixing desk works he sort of took me under his wing, and I caught on pretty quickly. So he lets me do the individual tracks if he's busy working out new contracts or he has to go out of town or something."
"You're so lucky to have such a cool boss," Jongdae says, leaning back in his chair. "I'm envious."
"I never thought I'd hear the next big thing say that to me," Chanyeol chuckles, but Jongdae has a weird expression on his face, one that Chanyeol isn't sure how to read. "Your manager seems nice enough, though."
"Minseok-hyung is a really good manager, he's always looking out for me," Jongdae says quickly. "I'm really grateful to everyone at the agency, I wouldn't be here without them. I just wish everything were a little simpler sometimes."
Chanyeol nods, offering a wry smile to Jongdae. "Honestly, I don't think you could pay me enough money to put up with the stuff that comes along with fame," he says.
"Yeah, that's the terrible part," Jongdae sighs. "People find out you have a talent, they want you to share that talent with the world, the world thinks it's great, but then they never leave you alone again." He shakes his hair out of his eyes. "I mean, I'm really grateful, because I'd never be able to do any of this if nobody cared about my music, but at the same time…"
"... It sucks having to worry about what all your fans will say if you do something they don't like," Chanyeol finishes for him with a tentative lift of his eyebrows, and Jongdae nods.
"I try to be myself as much as I can, but it only goes so far," Jongdae explains. "Like… I'm never allowed to be angry, or depressed, or tired, because people will think I'm being ungrateful and immature and unprofessional, even though they have those same feelings and no one thinks anything of it. Because they aren't in front of a camera, or being interviewed by journalists, or badgered by stalkers."
"Well, for what it's worth," Chanyeol says, reaching over to give Jongdae's shoulder a comforting squeeze, "There's nothing you could do to make me think poorly of you, and I swear, that's not some kind of brainless devoted fan crap. You're a cool guy, and you work hard, and I'm having a good time getting to know you."
"Well, I hope you'd look down on me for committing a felony or something," Jongdae jokes, "but I appreciate it, really. It's nice to know there are people around who don't have such serious expectations of me."
"I just want you to keep putting out great music," Chanyeol says with a grin, "and we'll be making sure that happens with this album, so no worries here."
"That means a lot to me," Jongdae says. He's quiet for a moment, then adds, "I'm sorry for interrupting your work, you probably have a lot of editing to do."
"No, no," Chanyeol says, waving a hand. "We're a bit ahead of schedule with the recording process, hyung said, so I'm happy for the distraction." His internal organs feel a little less like they're melting today, maybe because Baekhyun isn't making faces at him every time he opens his mouth, but he definitely feels more comfortable around Jongdae, like maybe they could be friends after the album is done. "We haven't really had a chance to talk much, you know?"
"Yeah, seems like I'm always stuck in the booth or Baekhyun's making me gargle salt water or do those weird yodeling warm-ups," Jongdae giggles, and Chanyeol is overcome with fondness. He's the total embodiment of cute, and Chanyeol can't help but want to scoop him up and put him in his lap.
"How'd you meet Baekhyun, anyway?" Chanyeol pushes the thought of Jongdae's pert little ass out of his head and crosses his legs, willing away his boner.
"It's kind of a funny story," Jongdae says. "We actually auditioned on the same day for the company, and we were waiting together to be called in for the audition and we hit it off. Same age, similar interests, obviously really into singing. So we made this pact, right, that if one of us didn't pass the audition, he'd support the other one." He smiles. "I did him one better, though. When I found out he didn't pass the audition and I did, I was so upset, I begged them--well, maybe blackmailed is a better term--to take him on as my vocal coach." He laughs sheepishly. "So here we are, three years later, and he's been behind me one hundred percent. And the company has been really happy with his work, so it couldn't have gone better. He's a great friend. My best friend, honestly."
"Yeah, it's clear he really cares about you," Chanyeol says, and Jongdae positively beams. "You're lucky to have someone like him in your corner."
"Kind of like you with Kyungsoo," Jongdae says, and Chanyeol lifts an eyebrow. "We had a chance to talk a little when you brought him in over the weekend."
"I'm kind of worried Baekhyun wants to eat him," Chanyeol snorts, ruffling his hair, and Jongdae practically cackles.
"Baekhyun likes them hard-to-get," he says. "Me, I just like simplicity. You get along, you like each other, you fall in love. To me, that's perfect. But Baekhyun's not happy unless he's on the prowl."
"I have to say I agree with your line of thinking," Chanyeol says, fiddling with the computer so he doesn't make too much eye contact. "There's something to be said for the excitement of chasing after someone, though, I guess."
"Maybe," Jongdae says with a secretive smile, and Chanyeol can't tell if he's flirting or if that's just his thinking face. There's a sudden buzzing, and Jongdae pats his pockets to grab his phone, smiling a bit when he sees the screen. "Ah, this is my mom, I have to take this. I'll be back in a little while."
Chanyeol grins. "Sure. I'll see you later."
Jongdae slips out of the sound booth before he answers the call, leaving Chanyeol with only his work to distract him from that funny little smirk on Jongdae's face.
"So," Baekhyun says, during lunch on the day marking the halfway point of the recording process, "I think we should have a night out. You know, to celebrate our hard work and all that. We deserve it."
"What makes you so sure of that?" Donghae jokes, clapping Baekhyun on the shoulder when he puts on his sad face. "I'm just kidding. It sounds fun, I'm in. I'll even buy the first round of drinks."
"What a great hyung." Baekhyun's grin is blinding. "Chanyeollie, you should bring Kyungsoo. He looks like he doesn't get out much."
"I'm sure he'll be so pleased to hear you've noticed that about him," Chanyeol snorts. "I'll run it by him."
Which is how Chanyeol ends up dragging a reluctant Kyungsoo out to a nightclub in Sinsa on a Tuesday evening.
"Do I smell okay?" Chanyeol says, his brow furrowing as he stick his neck out for Kyungsoo to sniff.
"You are so weird," Kyungsoo groans, looking quickly to his left and right before leaning in for a quick whiff. "Yes, you smell fine. And no, you didn't overdo it on the cologne."
"Do I have anything in my teeth?" Chanyeol smiles even wider than usual
Kyungsoo punches him in the arm. "I'm not your mirror!"
"Some friend," Chanyeol sniffs, offering his ID to the bouncer before entering the club. Baekhyun flags them down a few moments after they walk in.
"You really are freakishly tall," he says when Chanyeol and Kyungsoo slide into their booth, the table already laden with glasses.
"What he means is, you stand out," Jongdae clarifies, elbowing Baekhyun. He smiles, inclining his head toward Kyungsoo. "Hi, Kyungsoo, glad you could make it."
"Thanks for the invite," Kyungsoo says, raising his voice a little to be heard over the music.
"It was my idea!" Baekhyun all but shouts, leaning over the table. Jongdae's only just able to keep him from knocking over his martini glass.
"Be chill," Donghae says, petting Baekhyun's hair absently while he swirls the ice in his drink. He grins, looking at bit dazed. "Hi Chanyeollie."
"Hey, hyung." Chanyeol claps him on the shoulder. "I'm gonna go get a drink, anyone want anything?"
"Tequila!" Baekhyun says, Jongdae shaking his head vehemently just behind him.
"I'll go get something for you, Baekhyun," he says, climbing onto his seat and hopping over the back of the booth. "We'll be right back."
Kyungsoo flashes Chanyeol a look of desperation that clearly screams don't leave me with this hot mess, but Chanyeol just grins and slides out of his seat, following Jongdae to the bar.
"Baekhyun would rather eat glass than admit it," Jongdae starts, leaning against the bar while they wait for the bartender to finish with another patron, "but he spent, like, two hours figuring out what to wear and what to do with his hair tonight after I let it slip to him that you were definitely bringing Kyungsoo."
"Kyungsoo would murder me if he found out I told you this," Chanyeol replies, "but he likes the attention. I'll bet you 50,000 won that I'll wake up tomorrow morning and find Baekhyun in my bathroom, brushing his teeth, and that I will show up to work with a black eye for saying anything to Kyungsoo about it."
"You're on," Jongdae laughs, sticking his hand out to shake with Chanyeol on it. "I'll expect a full report in the morning."
Chanyeol is finally able to get the bartender's attention, ordering a tray of tequila shots in spite of Jongdae's protests, a bottle of soju, and a pitcher of Hite. He's about to hand over his credit card, but Jongdae pushes his hand down and politely asks the bartender to add it to his tab.
"You can get the next round," Jongdae says, hushing Chanyeol's protests as he lifts the tray of shots, being careful not to spill any of the liquor. Chanyeol puts the bottle of soju into the topmost glass in the stack the bartender hands to him, and grabs the pitcher of beer with his other hand, and together they slowly make their way back to the table.
"I love you so much," Baekhyun says seriously, clasping Jongdae's hand after he puts the tray of shots down.
"Somaek, Kyungsoo?" Chanyeol holds out the bottle of soju to his roommate, while Donghae helps himself to a glass of beer.
"God, yes," Kyungsoo groans, snatching the first empty shot glass in front of Baekhyun, who's licking salt off his wrist in preparation for the next one.
"Chanyeollie, do a shot with me," Baekhyun crows, holding a glass and a salt shaker out to Chanyeol.
"Only if Jongdae does one too," Chanyeol says, and Jongdae lets out the most endearing whiny laugh.
"Sure, let's pile on the one who can't hold his liquor," he complains, but licks his hand anyway, shaking salt onto the wet skin. Chanyeol gets so distracted watching him lick the salt that he almost forgets to lick his own hand, but Baekhyun kicks him under the table and holds his glass up with a pointed smirk.
"I hate you," Chanyeol mutters, tossing back the shot and fumbling for a wedge of lime to suck on. Jongdae throws his lime down when he's finished, squinting and yelling at the combination of salty, bitter, and sour flavors. Kyungsoo slams down his glass, having shotgunned a soju bomb, and shakes his head.
"Oh, I love this song," Donghae says suddenly, getting out of his chair and wandering onto the dance floor. Baekhyun pauses to listen more clearly before his eyes light up and he tugs on Jongdae's arm.
"Ahhh, this song is so fun!" Jongdae yells over the thumping bass, which Chanyeol recognizes as one of Shinhwa's more recent releases. "Are you guys going to dance?"
"I don't dance," Chanyeol and Kyungsoo say simultaneously.
"You do now," Baekhyun snorts, grabbing Chanyeol by the ear and pulling him bodily from the booth, while Jongdae cutely wheedles Kyungsoo out of his chair. Baekhyun throws his arm around Chanyeol's shoulder under the pretense of putting him in a headlock, but he whispers in Chanyeol's ear, "I'm doing you a favor, trust me."
Chanyeol isn't really sure what qualifies as a favor from Baekhyun, but he downs another shot of tequila and allows himself to be dragged onto the dance floor anyway, feeling the buzz start to kick in as he sways to the beat of "This Love." Jongdae is beside them, holding Kyungsoo's limp, unwilling arms while he shakes his ass in time with the chorus, and Chanyeol is suddenly overwhelmed by how tiny he is, like a breath of wind could blow him away. He's got such presence onstage and in the studio, but behind all that is just a scrawny kid from Gyeonggi-do with big dreams and a bigger voice.
And a really cute ass, Chanyeol's dick reminds him, making its presence known at a bad time as usual.
Nobody asked you, Chanyeol thinks, tearing his eyes away from Jongdae. Baekhyun's hips are still gyrating in front of him, and Chanyeol wishes he were that coordinated, but he settles for bumping around between Baekhyun and Kyungsoo and trying not to look at Jongdae, who's got his eyes closed and his lower lip pulled between his teeth as he dances.
"I need another drink," Chanyeol says after the next song, gesturing toward the table since he's pretty sure no one can hear him over the pounding dubstep blasting out of the speakers. He pushes through the crush of people crowding onto the dancefloor and sinks into the booth, pouring himself a glass of beer and draining half of it in a few gulps. He knocks back the rest of it after a few deep breaths, letting his head droop against the back of his seat while he waits for the weightless feeling in his legs to kick in, his arms already tingling from inebriation.
"Hey," someone chirps from behind him, and Jongdae's head suddenly appears next to his, leaning over the back of the booth. Chanyeol notices he's wearing a little eyeliner around the outer corners of his eyes and suddenly wants to yank Jongdae into his lap and French kiss him until they pass out from lack of oxygen.
"Hi," is what he says instead, and Jongdae drops into the booth beside him, reaching for the salt shaker.
"I had to leave," Jongdae explains, hitching a thumb toward the dancefloor. "Baekhyun was trying to work his magic on Kyungsoo and it was making me feel uncomfortable."
"Was it working?" Chanyeol grins.
"Kyungsoo must have put more soju than beer in his glass, because he hadn't punched Baekhyun by the time I left," Jongdae laughs, licking and salting his hand and nudging Chanyeol to do the same. "Baekhyun kind of sidled up to him and was whispering something in his ear. It was very… intimate, I guess. You might owe me that money after all."
Chanyeol groans, although he's still smiling even as the tequila burns down his throat when they take a shot at the same time. Everything feels warm and hazy under the veil of intoxication; no worries, no fears. Jongdae's arm feels electric, pressed up against his own, and Chanyeol's head lolls to the side so he can look at him in the glow of strobe lights and colored lasers illuminating the slope of his cheekbones and the length of his eyelashes.
"You are going to be so hungover tomorrow," Jongdae laughs over the music, and it's the prettiest noise Chanyeol can imagine.
"I know," Chanyeol giggles helplessly, but when he calms himself down, he says, "You know, it's weird being your fan now that I kind of know you as a person."
"Is that why you're acting so normal these days?" Jongdae lifts his eyebrows and smirks at Chanyeol's indignant expression. "It's okay if you're not my fan, because at least I got a friend out of the bargain."
Chanyeol's heart leaps. "We're friends?"
"Shit, yeah," Jongdae says, slinging an arm around Chanyeol's shoulders. "I mean, we've only known each other for a couple of weeks, but I really like you, so yeah, we should definitely stay friends after the album is done. Seriously. I mean it."
"You have to promise," Chanyeol says, lifting his hand. Jongdae links pinkies with him and presses their thumbs together.
"It's official," Jongdae shouts, grinning widely and flinging his other arm around Chanyeol's chest, squeezing him tightly in a hug. Chanyeol reciprocates a little more gently, patting Jongdae's back while his face sinks into Jongdae's hair. It's… intimate, like Jongdae said before, and there's something uncomfortable about it.
It's the dishonesty, Chanyeol realizes, pulling away slowly to pour himself another beer.
"Are you okay?" Jongdae drags a hand over his face, smudging his eyeliner.
"You know I'm gay, right?" Chanyeol blurts out, sucking down more beer to hide his face from Jongdae.
"I imagine a lot of my male fans are," Jongdae says, and he's quiet for a few moments. "But it's nice that you're being open about it. Not a lot of people are."
"Unless they're Baekhyun," Chanyeol snorts, nursing his glass. "He's a bird of a different color, or-- whatever-- bleh--" He makes a face and puts down his beer, suddenly nauseated. "I have to-- go--"
Jongdae springs out of the booth and Chanyeol shoves his way through the mess of people in the club. There's an endless line for the bathroom; he has to go outside, and only just manages to find a trash can before he pukes up the scant food and copious amounts of alcohol he'd managed to imbibe in little more than an hour. He spits out the last bitter traces of bile and wipes his mouth with a shaky hand, sitting down on the curb with his forehead against his knees.
"Now I know you're not okay," Jongdae says from behind him, joining Chanyeol on the curb with a wad of wet napkins in his hand. He pulls one off the stack for Chanyeol to wipe his mouth and hands with, and presses the rest to Chanyeol's forehead, his other hand rubbing soothing circles into Chanyeol's back.
"No, I actually feel a little better now," Chanyeol says, and burps. Loudly.
"I guess so," Jongdae laughs, moving the napkins to dab sweat from Chanyeol's cheeks, pinkened by booze and embarrassment. "You should go home and get some rest, rehydrate and all that. We have work to do tomorrow, after all."
"Don't remind me," Chanyeol groans, staggering to his feet. He mops a little more sweat off his face before chucking the used napkins in the trash, and Jongdae manages to hail a cab for him. "But thanks for looking after me."
"It's what friends do," Jongdae says.
"I must be a terrible friend for leaving Kyungsoo here, then," Chanyeol laughs weakly, opening the taxi door.
"Don't worry," Jongdae says with a somewhat lecherous grin. "I'm sure Baekhyun will make sure he gets home safely." He flaps his hands at Chanyeol. "Go on, go home. I'll keep an eye on them. See you tomorrow."
As it turns out, Baekhyun is nowhere to be seen the next morning when Chanyeol wakes up, and Kyungsoo hasn't said a word about him. It's not until later in the week when there's a massive crisis at the studio that it even comes up again.
"We have a problem," Kim Minseok says when he drops by the studio that morning, offering his tablet to Donghae and Chanyeol while Jongdae slumps into a chair, looking stricken. Beside him, Baekhyun looks like he's going to shoot fire out of his eyeballs. Donghae hits play and they watch a clip from a press conference where a noted songwriter admits to plagiarizing the melody to one of his recent hits from a lesser known artist.
Chanyeol looks up with confusion. "What does this have to do with us?"
"He wrote a few of the tracks on the album," Minseok sighs. "The company doesn't want Jongdae tied to anything like this, especially if he stole material for the songs he wrote for Jongdae. So either we cut a couple more songs and just release a mini-album, or the release date is going to get pushed back, which is going to upset the fans and set off a media firestorm and probably hurt the company's stocks. It's a mess."
"I can't believe he did this." Jongdae's voice is hollow. "The ballad he wrote was going to be the title track. What the hell are we going to do? There's no way we can hire someone to write three tracks on such short notice. Songwriters would laugh in our faces."
"We're probably going to have to push the album back," Minseok says in a low voice. "I need to call the company, please excuse me--"
"Wait a second," Donghae says, holding up a hand. "Why don't you let us do it?"
"I don't think the company would go for that," Minseok hedges, but Donghae plows on anyway.
"No, listen, this may actually work. The album is going to get pushed back anyway, right? Jongdae has already released two mini-albums, the fans are going to be frustrated if he doesn't have his first full album already, so we might as well make sure they get it." Donghae walks around the table. "And we have a slightly different style here, so we might be able to showcase another side of Jongdae, which would be great for the fans to hear. I have pieces I've been working on for fun, just melodies here and there, but I could finish them for this. And we have help, too." Donghae looks at Chanyeol and Baekhyun.
"What, me?" Chanyeol snorts.
"Don't give me that," Donghae laughs. "I taught you everything I know! You understand how to layer sounds, I can trust you with the instrumentation. And Baekhyun-- you can work with me to supervise the vocal writing, since you know Jongdae's voice the best."
Baekhyun looks excited, but bites his lip when he turns to Jongdae. "What do you think?"
"This would be a great chance for you to get your feet wet in producing your own music," Donghae says, sitting down in the chair across from Jongdae. "Tell us what you want to do, and we'll make it happen.
Jongdae looks at Minseok. "Hyung, is this a possibility?"
Minseok looks anxious. "I need to make a few calls, but honestly, this seems like our best option. I'll try to make it sound like it was their idea in the first place."
He ducks out of the green room, leaving them silent and worried. Those fifteen minutes of Minseok being on the phone feel like the most stressful minutes of Chanyeol's life, but the ecstatic smile on Jongdae's face when Minseok comes back with good news makes every second worth it.
The agency is interested in the work samples Donghae sends over by courier the next day, which makes everyone breathe a little easier; they won't have to start completely from scratch - they just have to tweak things to fit the rhythm for the lyrics. Once he works out the melody and harmony parts with Baekhyun, Chanyeol can put together demo tracks using guitar, bass, and drum synthesizers in Finale and Garage Band, playing around with different soundscapes to add depth to the tracks. Ultimately they'll have musicians record the different parts, but the demos give Jongdae enough of a foundation to start rehearsing the vocals rather quickly in the process; a good thing, since he'd started to feel a bit left out, he confides in Baekhyun after a couple furious 14-hour days.
"I wish you'd told me," Chanyeol sighs when Baekhyun relays the information to him over a caffeine break in the studio kitchen, the two of them leaning against the counter and sipping Cokes.
"Well, you know Jongdae," Baekhyun says, and Chanyeol thinks he might actually mean it. "God forbid he let himself have a negative emotion."
Chanyeol's silent, weighing the words before he asks, "Do you ever think you're the one who got the lucky end of the deal?"
Baekhyun lifts an eyebrow. "He told you about our arrangement?" Chanyeol nods, and Baekhyun sighs. "Honestly, when I see what he goes through, sometimes I'm glad things turned out the way they did. I don't think I would have handled it as well as he does. It's probably why they picked him over me."
Chanyeol lets Baekhyun's words roll around in his head for a minute. "You're nice like this, you know. I think Kyungsoo would like this Baekhyun more than stalker-with-a-crush Baekhyun."
Baekhyun grins to himself. "Ah, Kyungsoo. How is that mysterious housemate of yours?"
"Hard to read as usual," Chanyeol says. "Hey, whatever happened with you guys that night we went out? I went home early and Kyungsoo never said anything about it."
"I'm crushed," Baekhyun deadpans, that smirk still creeping around the corners of his mouth. "But don't worry, I'll find the key to his heart someday."
"You're like a cockroach," Chanyeol laughs. "A cockroach of love. Nothing can keep you down for long."
"That's an optimistic way of looking at it," Baekhyun laughs.
"Well, they don't call me the happy virus for nothing." Chanyeol grins and drains his soda, then grabs a bottle of water from the fridge. "I'm gonna go see how Jongdae's doing."
"Okay," Baekhyun says in a sing-song voice, and Chanyeol walks down to the studio.
Donghae's locked in his office working on the title track, but Jongdae's hanging out near Chanyeol's desk playing on his phone.
"Hey," Chanyeol says, offering him the bottle of water. "How's the rehearsing going?"
"My throat's tired," Jongdae says with a little smile, cracking open the cap. "Thanks."
Chanyeol plugshis earphone jack splitter into his laptop and passes a pair of headphones to Jongdae. "Baekhyun said you were feeling a little bored."
"He's just exaggerating," Jongdae protests, sitting up a little straighter in his chair, but Chanyeol casts a knowing look at him and he smiles sheepishly. "Okay, maybe a little."
"This is a judgment-free zone," Chanyeol declares, pushing the computer across the desk so Jongdae can see the screen. "You're allowed to feel mad, or frustrated, or bored, or stressed, or whatever. Everyone's entitled to their feelings, Jongdae."
"It doesn't feel like it sometimes," Jongdae says, but he smiles and puts one earbud in. "What are we doing today?"
"Whatever you want," Chanyeol says, pulling up the demo he's been working on. "Wanna get your first production credit?"
"Seriously?" Jongdae's expression lightens. "What do I do?"
Chanyeol plays a few seconds of the track, then changes the guitar synth to one that sounds like an acoustic piano. "Play around. See what sounds right to you. Like this ballad--" Chanyeol pulls up another file with a lush orchestral backdrop to demonstrate. "This instrumentation has a lot of depth to it; it's romantic, almost heroic. But if you pull back some of the layers--" He mutes all but a few of the violin tracks, adds a quiet piano in the background, and plays the result. "It's a lot more stripped-down, sounds more vulnerable. The melody is the most memorable part, but you can enhance it by altering the sounds around it."
"Wow," Jongdae breathes, playing a few more seconds of the track. He looks up at Chanyeol. "What you do is so much more impressive than what I do, seriously. This is so cool."
"No way," Chanyeol scoffs, brushing off the compliment. "A voice like yours doesn't come around that often."
"But your work is what makes my voice sound great," Jongdae says, pulling the headphones out of his ears. "You said it yourself - enhancing the melody, giving it a different feeling. The two versions you just played for me were so radically different, it was like hearing two different songs, even though the words and the tune were the same. That's amazing." He smiles, eyes bright. "You're amazing."
Chanyeol flushes and looks at the computer screen, suddenly speechless.
"Hey," Jongdae says, and Chanyeol's skin practically sparks when Jongdae reaches up to tilt Chanyeol's face enough for their eyes to meet. "You know how you said I'm allowed to have feelings? You're allowed to be proud of yourself. You should be proud of yourself."
Chanyeol's face is burning under Jongdae's fingertips, and his heart jumps when he lifts a hand and curls it around Jongdae's wrist. Jongdae seems to come back to himself and withdraws his hand from Chanyeol's face, but he doesn't yank it out of Chanyeol's grasp.
"I'm sorry," he says, and Chanyeol shakes his head.
"You don't have to be sorry."
"No, I'm sorry for other reasons," Jongdae says. "You were honest with me that night in the club, and I've been sitting on my hands never feeling like I could trust anyone--"
"What do you mean?" Chanyeol loosens his grip on Jongdae's hand. That night is kind of foggy in his memory. "Honest about what?"
"You know," Jongdae says. "That you're gay."
Chanyeol freezes, but Jongdae grabs his hand when he sees the anxious look in Chanyeol's eyes. "Don't freak out. I am too. I don't know why I didn't just tell you then, but I guess you still wouldn't have remembered."
"Why are you telling me this now?" Chanyeol stammers, ignoring the way Jongdae's fingers tighten around his own.
"Because I don't get to feel many things around most people, not when I'm Kim Jongdae, idol singer," Jongdae says, "but around you, I am just Jongdae, the kid with a crush on his funny, cute coworker. You make me feel like myself when I don't, and I don't know-- I can't explain how important that is to me." Jongdae leans in. "You make me free."
"So--" Chanyeol's breath hitches. "What happens now?"
"Now?" Jongdae's grin returns. "Now, I kiss you."
Kissing Jongdae is different than he thought it would be - mostly in that it's actually happening in real life - but there's one thing that stays the same: the sheer joy coursing through Chanyeol's veins. Wild horses couldn't kill this buzz.
"Well," says a smug voice, and Jongdae and Chanyeol spring apart to see Baekhyun standing in the doorway. "My work here is done. If anyone needs me, I'll be sending Kyungsoo inappropriate pictures from the kitchen."
As soon as he's gone, the two of them burst into laughter.
"Was he really that involved in this?" Chanyeol gestures between the two of them.
"I told you already," Jongdae says, looping an arm around Chanyeol's neck. "He just likes to think he's more important than he actually is."
"I think Kyungsoo will disabuse him of that notion pretty quickly," Chanyeol says, resting his forehead against Jongdae's.
"Shut up and kiss me."
Chanyeol smiles. "As if I could say no."
|First, to my fans~~~ this album is for you!!! Thank you for your patience, and I really hope you like it. Many thanks to everyone who contributed to this album and looked after me during the process of making it: everyone at EXO ENT., especially Kim Junmyeon and the best manager ever, Minseokkie-hyung! I couldn't have done it without you. All of the writers and composers who created these beautiful songs for me, thank you so much for your hard work. Our amazing studio team - Lee Donghae, you saved this album. Baekhyunnie, my best friend, thanks for taking care of my voice~ and last but not least, Chanyeollie, my biggest fan and a really great friend. I love all of you~!!|
author's note: this bears probably no resemblance to how the recording process works. i googled a few things but i am a naturally lazy creature and i just used shit i made up to further the plot. i studied music in college to some degree, so i know my way around programs like finale and audacity and i've dabbled in garage band and logic pro, but some of the technical stuff may be off. my apologies to anyone who actually has experience in this field and is just totally shaking their fists at me in frustration!
originally written for chinguline. this is one of my less competent efforts, imo, but that's what i get for procrastinating.
title is from the awesome 80's song of the same name by the band boston. airband!!!