chanyeol’s fifteen and just grown out of the awkward recesses of preadolescence when people start looking at him differently, and he doesn’t quite understand why but he doesn’t mind it, either. he kind of enjoys it, he thinks - that people notice him. it makes him feel good in a world where not many things make him feel anything consequential to begin with.
in his mind, he calls it the phenomenon of the second glance: just being looked at is not enough. it’s when people pass him on the street and look back - that’s what he really likes.
in high school, chanyeol goes out with any number of girls. sometimes they stick around for only a few days, a couple make it to a few weeks. rarely do any of them make it past two months, and more than once he finds himself accidentally seeing two girls at the same time. he never gets a bad reputation, though, no matter how many girls he dates. all he has to do is smile apologetically and explain, “i didn’t know you were serious,” and everybody decides it isn’t his fault - chanyeol, they say, is just too nice, because he never turns down a girl and gets taken advantage of because of that.
so he kisses as many girls as ask him to kiss them, and fucks as many girls as ask him to fuck them. it’s okay, he figures. after all, he is the one giving to them, isn’t he?
the first boy he goes out with is named joonmyun. he doesn’t particularly feel anything for joonmyun but chanyeol dates him because joonmyun’s a senior, president of his class, well-known and well-reputed to the school at large despite being (in chanyeol’s opinion) about as interesting as wallpaper. to chanyeol, joonmyun is a mystery, because joonmyun is so plain and yet so many people like him: he doesn’t understand how that can possibly happen.
chanyeol doesn’t remember much about joonmyun as a person, but he remembers joonmyun’s body well. he doesn’t remember what it was like dating him - if they ever held hands in public, or called each other by pet names - but he can still recall vividly joonmyun’s face when he’d sunk himself on chanyeol’s dick, eyes closed and eyebrows furrowed, his hands pressed into his mouth almost as if in prayer.
he remembers, even though they only have sex once. when all is said and done, joonmyun distangles himself from chanyeol’s bedsheets and looks him in the eye and says, hesitantly, “somehow, it feels like - you’re unexpectedly empty.”
they stop seeing each other after that. when joonmyun graduates a few months later, chanyeol skips the school ceremony and meets a girl in an empty classroom instead.
his last year in high school, chanyeol makes a list of all the places on school grounds he’s kissed another person and decides, without any rhyme or reason as to why, to complete it before he graduates. he fails, but only because he never quite works up the nerve to try it in the principal’s office.
but the list, as with most things, doesn’t really matter. it amuses him for a little while, and then he forgets.
if joonmyun’s the first boy chanyeol goes out with, then yifan is the first man. they meet outside a club in seoul the summer between high school ending and university beginning - chanyeol tries to get in even though he’s only nineteen, but yifan sizes him up in about three seconds flat. “you’re underage,” yifan says, and raises an eyebrow. “aren’t you?”
chanyeol hasn’t been picked out as too young in years. “how’d you know?” he asks.
yifan shrugs and doesn’t answer. but it’s because he doesn’t answer that chanyeol’s curiosity is piqued. it is the first time chanyeol is so fascinated by another human being: he doesn’t manage to get into the club that night, but he does get yifan’s number, and he thinks that’s a pretty good trade.
chanyeol likes it when people notice him because he does not see anything to notice when he looks at himself in the mirror. he’s tall and he’s good-looking (he supposes) and objectively speaking, he has a nice smile - but when he stares at his reflection, there’s nothing in there he sees that seems special.
most of the time, it doesn’t bother him. but sometimes, he has to wonder what there is about him that makes people think he is something worth looking at.
“you don’t get it,” yifan says, as chanyeol starts unbuttoning his shirt. “it’s because there’s nothing - so everybody can just fill in what they want.”
chanyeol frowns. “i don’t like that,” he replies.
“then change yourself,” yifan says. chanyeol doesn’t reply except to pull down yifan’s pants and cup his cock. the conversation ends there, and chanyeol doesn’t ask again.
yifan’s the first person chanyeol thinks he could fall in love with, but yifan breaks things off a week before chanyeol starts university. “you won’t fall in love with me, not the way you are now,” yifan explains. “you don’t even love yourself. you can’t fall in love with anybody like that.” chanyeol thinks that he sees something like pain in yifan’s eyes, but he’s not sure.
chanyeol expects it to hurt, but it doesn’t - not really. not a few days into his first semester, it fades and becomes a memory.
he meets byun baekhyun in multivariable calculus. they sit next to each other and exchange numbers the second class so they can check their homework against each other, but they end up breezing past the acquaintances stage quickly and baekhyun becomes the first friend he makes at university. he’s not sure what he likes so much about baekhyun, but it’s easy to talk and joke with him, as if they’ve known each other for years instead of weeks. it’s comfortable, he thinks, because it feels like baekhyun doesn’t expect anything from him.
chanyeol was always around other people in high school, but it’s only in university that he starts making friends: first comes baekhyun, then kyungsoo and jongdae, all of whom are short but warm, with voices that carry with natural melody. he stops messing around with girls and starts hanging out with the three of them, instead. sometimes he still kisses girls or even sometimes other boys at clubs or at bars, but he doesn’t go on dates and it’s better that way - less complicated, more fun.
math is interesting, chanyeol thinks. you have your inputs and your outputs and your function: as long as you know enough about the rules of system you can almost always make it work the way you want it to. sometimes, he feels like people are like that too. at other times, he thinks they’re not and wishes they were.
the system he has going now, though, is one he thinks he is comfortable with. the inputs: his friends, his studies, the occasional nameless people he kisses when he gets restless at night. the outputs: he has fun, he doesn’t worry, he is content. it is a good place to settle in equilibrium.
the function changes when baekhyun introduces him one day as, “park chanyeol, my best friend,” and looks up at him, grinning. best friend. the phrase is something chanyeol’s never thought about before, because the thing is - he’s never had a best friend. how do you treat a best friend? how is a best friend different from a just normal friend? what are the terms of the relationship? what is expected best friend behavior? and what do you get in return?
chanyeol is a mathematician, so he simplifies the equation to something he knows how to solve: he kisses byun baekhyun. “i really like you, baekhyun,” he says, which is true. “i want to go out with you,” he adds, which is not.
baekhyun’s cheeks burn red, but he doesn’t say no when chanyeol leans in and kisses him again.
chanyeol dates baekhyun for four months, longer than anybody before. they still study together and go out to lunch together and crack jokes together, like before, but at night chanyeol takes baekhyun’s clothes off and fucks him, holding on to his arms and pressing his back so hard that bruises show up the next morning. he always apologizes, but baekhyun always says it’s okay even as he winces with pain, so the next time he happens again - things repeat.
the sex is great, chanyeol thinks. he never even notices baekhyun is drifting further away from him until baekhyun is already gone.
“i don’t want to do this anymore,” baekhyun says one night, eyes closed and hands clasped together over his stomach. there is something in his face that reminds chanyeol, strangely, of joonmyun’s expression the first time they’d had sex. “i want my best friend back.”
“i don’t think it’s that easy,” chanyeol replies.
baekhyun opens his eyes and sits up. “i could still think of you as my best friend, park chanyeol,” he says softly.
there are many things chanyeol doesn’t know about, but he recognizes an ending when he sees one. “maybe i never really thought of you as my best friend,” chanyeol says, and for once he isn’t sure if he’s lying or not.
baekhyun leans back and exhales deeply. “i thought you would say that,” he says.
chanyeol sleeps easy in his own bed that night - he’d almost forgotten how comfortable it is, when there’s only one person in it.
baekhyun doesn’t sit next to him in multivariable calculus anymore, or answer his calls or texts. there’s a part of him that’s sad about it - there’s another part that’s relieved. hanging out with kyungsoo and jongdae becomes awkward, so he stops. he starts dating again, but the people he dates seem so boring that not even their bodies can bring him much comfort.
lately he thinks a lot about joonmyun, yifan, baekhyun. he wonders if that means he regrets.
from the dictionary of obscure sorrows:
n. the moment you realize that you’re currently happy—consciously
trying to savor the feeling—which prompts your intellect to identify it,
pick it apart and put it in context, where it will slowly dissolve until
it’s little more than an aftertaste.
fandom: exo, chanyeol-centric (suchan, krisyeol, baekyeol)
rating: pg-13 for non-explicit sexual material
summary: people look at chanyeol like he's something special, but he doesn't see it - maybe that's why he doesn't know how to recognize something special when he's got it. (“you don’t get it,” yifan says, as chanyeol starts unbuttoning his shirt. “it’s because there’s nothing that people look at you - because everybody can just fill in what they want.”)
notes: written for the prompt "He’s not thinking anything. He’s just a heartbreaker; he’s a wolf. He’s a womanizer, a Don Juan, a Casanova — you want all the synonyms? He’s not a mean person, and he’s not unconscious, but he’s not conscious of how much harm he can do to other people. He’s a player, and when he’s looking in other people’s eyes, he needs to see this sparkle, and this look and feel that he is this dominant force, and that he’s the reason for that sparkle.
And these people who want to be loved by everyone, but who can love anyone but themselves, he’s one of those."