“We’re going drinking.” Jongdae stood with his hands on his hips, staring down at where Chanyeol was lying on the floor in his small room.
“We have to work tomorrow,” Chanyeol reminded him. While they were making excellent progress on the school – it should be done in a couple of weeks– there was still days of back breaking labor to undertake.
“You are depressed and it is making me depressed. I’m going to get you drunk so you tell me what is bothering you.” Jongdae kneeled down and grabbed Chanyeol’s arm, trying to yank him up.
Chanyeol complained but in the end he agreed to go have a couple of drinks with Jongdae. There was no way he would get drunk and there was no chance he would tell Jongdae the truth but he wanted to get the man off his case.
After everything was said and done, going out to drink with Jongdae was not the best thing he could have done for his mental state– because of what he overheard.
He was a former soldier, anyone could see that. And it wasn’t just his military issue coat that told Chanyeol as much. It was the way he sat stick straight, the way he talked. His haircut. His wounded arm. The way he pounded shot after shot like he was drinking to fill up a void.
Jongdae ignored the man, taking his own share of shots as he pried Chanyeol for information. When he didn’t get anywhere he switched the topic to his love life, whining about how poorly his hunt for a wife was going.
Chanyeol sipped a beer, trying to listen like a good friend. Yet he could overhear the soldier at the table behind them talking to someone, and the little snippets of conversation he heard interested him. First it was about the war, the battles he fought in, his hatred for the American soldiers he thought looked down on him. But then he mentioned a few names and Chanyeol couldn’t stop listening even if he wanted to.
“Do Kyungsoo, yeah I know him,” The man was slurring his words, clearly intoxicated. “Was there when he got shot, served the er right after what he did.”
He was talking to a woman, who Chanyeol wasn’t sure. Thankfully Jongdae got up to go to the bathroom, making it less awkward for Chanyeol to glance behind him to see the two. They weren’t talking very loudly, which turned out to be a good thing considering what the man spoke of.
“What do you mean?” the woman asked. She looked to be thirtysomething, with a lot of makeup and a rather revealing outfit on.
“He and this other guy, Kim something, were together. Disgusting. I mean caught him bed doing what two men should never do together.” The man spat on the floor, like he was trying to get rid of a curse.
The woman exclaimed surprise, “I never would have thought!”
“Yeah. Should have died for what he did.” The soldier grunted. He wobbled in his chair, falling to the floor a second later.
Chanyeol sat unmoving, his body tensing as his mind reeled. Kyungsoo was gay? Kyungsoo liked men? No, it couldn’t be. Could it? His blood ran cold. It was an added layer of confusion if it was true. It messed things up, made things possible, put things into perspective.
Could Kyungsoo have believed Jongin but didn’t care because he was gay too?
“You look like you have seen a ghost,” Jongdae laughed when he got back to the table and found Chanyeol staring into space with a serious and troubled look on his face.
“Ah no, just tired, “Chanyeol answered, snapping out of it.
“Fine we can go.” Jongdae grabbed his light jacket, which he had slung over the chair. “You better be happy from now on.”
“Yeah, I will be,” Chanyeol mumbled. But the truth was he might be more upset than before.
Less than twenty four hours later a blue pickup truck pulled in front of the construction site, the noise from the exhaust causing everyone to glance over to see who had arrived. When Chanyeol spotted the familiar face behind the wheel he swallowed, dread pooling in his stomach.
Kyungsoo alighted the truck and limped towards the site. Chanyeol hurried to meet him, afraid for why he had come. He hadn’t seen him since he had left the farmhouse, though his mind was still filled with him. With Ji Hyo and Baekhyun too. He wondered how they were doing, if they were happy.
“Hey,” Chanyeol greeted, his heart rate picking up as he faced the farmer.
Kyungsoo looked tired, his back slightly bent as he gave Chanyeol a pensive look.
Two words without an explanation. Two words without any kind of emotion behind them aside from the look in Kyungsoo’s dark eyes.
Chanyeol swallowed. “I’m not sure that is a good idea.”
Two words became five, and they were an arrow to Chanyeol’s chest. A pain. An unknown. Another vague statement that could mean a thousand different things. More complications. “Come back, I miss you.”
He could miss having his occasional help around the fields. His rent money. The way he would chase Baekhyun around in the evenings and tire him out. Or the way he chattered when there were heavy, pregnant silences in the house.
“Why?” Chanyeol wasn’t going to throw himself back into ambiguity, into the unknown, into what-ifs that ate at him and made him crazy.
“Some things can’t be explained.”
If Chanyeol looked hard enough he could see the moisture that was in Kyungsoo’s wide eyes, at the despair that he was trying to hide. And he could read into the comment many things, but all of them were revolving around a topic neither man would dare to bridge. A topic that maybe they both knew about, maybe they both guessed about, but would never speak of.
And that was the best case scenario, Chanyeol realized as he stood staring into Kyungsoo’s dark brown eyes. The best case scenario was ambiguity but hinted at understanding. It was being vague about something that could never be talked about. It was what-ifs, but it was what-ifs based on a shared understanding. And was this an understanding?
“I know what you saw, that day we planted. And I understand.” Kyungsoo said quietly, barely above a whisper. And that was it, it was enough. It was confirmation, it was the most solid thing he would say and the most solid thing either man would admit to. It was good enough and suddenly a load was lifted from Chanyeol’s shoulders.
“Okay,” Chanyeol heard himself say. “I’ll come back.”
Kyungsoo smiled weakly. “Thank you. You can ride home with me.”
Home. Chanyeol’s chest constricted at the thought.
Baekhyun hugged him the moment he stepped foot in the house. He wouldn’t let go, gluing himself to the man like he would disappear.
During the ride to the farmhouse neither Kyungsoo nor Chanyeol said anything, both lost in thought. Both feeling a sense of awkwardness that would probably not instantly go away even if they wanted it to.
Ji Hyo was ecstatic as well, giving Chanyeol a big hug and shoving a bowl of his now favorite loach soup his way.
Chanyeol chatted with the woman, then played toy planes with Baekhyun for a while. When he got off to bed he told Kyungsoo goodnight, which was the most they had talked besides when Kyungsoo asked him to return.
It will be awkward for a while, Chanyeol thought. But he came to the conclusion being back here and being awkward was better than being depressed and away. He could deal with awkward as long as he was home.
Home was, he realized, such a new concept to him.
It took a few days before their evening routine was resumed. The weather was warm now, summer approaching quickly. The crickets were out now, and their chirps punctuated the night time whenever Chanyeol wasn’t drowning them out with his guitar.
Music, it seemed, help to kill the awkward feelings. The first night they went back to the porch Kyungsoo sang more than he had ever sang before, even requesting a few songs he knew Chanyeol knew how to play. It was like this that happiness seemed to slip back into their lives, alongside an easiness that had been missing since Chanyeol had divorced himself from their existence.
In a few days’ time it was like nothing had ever happened. When Ji Hyo and Baekhyun went into bed Kyungsoo and Chanyeol shared a glass of soju and talked, the subject that they had skimmed over days before suitably buried and not likely to be mentioned ever again.
It was easier now to talk, for some reason, like they were on the same page for the first time since they had known each other. Granted it was for all the wrong reasons, but it was there, palpable between them.
“Do you ever think of singing somewhere local?” Chanyeol asked over his soju glass.
Kyungsoo shrugged. “I guess I don’t really want to get up in front of people, so no.”
Chanyeol could understand considering Kyungsoo still looked embarrassed when he sung in front of his family.
“I never could have been a singer the more I think about it,” Kyungsoo mused. After a brief pause he added, “The school is almost done, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, a few more weeks.” Chanyeol suddenly had an idea. “Do you want to come see it tomorrow? I can show you inside.” The walls were all built now and the roof was mostly done. There were stone masons working on the outside while Chanyeol helped with the finishing touches on the interior. It was immensely satisfying to see the building almost complete, knowing he had helped. And to be honest he kind of wanted to show it off.
“Yeah, I would like to see it.” Kyungsoo smiled, like he genuinely was interested.
Kyungsoo came at the end of the work day. Jongdae talked his ear off for a few minutes, leaving Kyungsoo flustered and stuttering over the energy Jongdae exuded. Chanyeol chuckled, saving him finally by steering him inside the building.
“It is coming along nicely.” Kyungsoo looked around the classroom, running his hand over the bare wood planks that had been left by the workers. There was still finish work to be done, leaving exposed walls and lumber lying about.
Chanyeol wiped his hands on his pants, the sawdust leaving tan streaks on the black cotton. “Do you want the grand tour?” Kyungsoo nodded, flashing a small smile. The sight did something Chanyeol. Kyungsoo with his lips slightly upturned made his chest tighten. He ignored the feeling, walking to the eastern wall and pointing towards a make-believe blackboard. “This is where I shall amaze the students with my teaching.”
“Is that so?” Kyungsoo raised his eyebrows.
“Yep, and there,” Chanyeol waved his arms towards the middle of the classroom, “Are where all of my eager students shall sit, hanging on my every word.”
“And where is the real school?” Kyungsoo shot back, smiling widely.
“You wound me,” Chanyeol clutched his chest in mock anguish.
“I do what I can,” Kyungsoo joked, walking towards a pile of lumber leaning against the corner of the room. “Is it pine?” He reached forward and began inspecting the wood.
Chanyeol saw the pile shift before Kyungsoo, and reacted without thinking. He pulled Kyungsoo away seconds before the wood came crashing to the ground. He wrapped his arms around Kyungsoo protectively as he pressed him into his chest. After the clanging of the lumber stopped he stilled, frozen in the position.
Kyungsoo pushed back, but only slightly.
“Are you okay?” Chanyeol asked looking from the lumber to Kyungsoo in concern.
“Yeah. I…” Kyungsoo moved back, reminding Chanyeol what position they were in. The taller man let him go, dropping his arms. “Thanks.”
“No problem.” Chanyeol smiled. Except it was a problem. Because his body hadn’t wanted to let the smaller man go. And no matter how buried certain things were, he couldn’t control his body all of the time. And that was not acceptable.
The flush on Kyungsoo’s face seemed to mirror his own embarrassment. “We need to go.” He limped from the classroom, looking a little upset.
Chanyeol trailed after him, hands in his pockets and his mood souring.
Later that night they sat on the porch, the incident from earlier buried.
But how much will we bury until it becomes too much, Chanyeol wondered. Everything, he reminded himself. That was the only way this would work.
As May turned into June, Chanyeol fought his feelings. As May turned to June, he started to feel like Kyungsoo was fighting with him.