Pairing: Chanyeol/Kyungsoo, mostly gen
Summary: Record store!AU - Kyungsoo is working at a music store with a tyrannical boss and possibly (probably) insane co-workers when a boy and his band decide to break the monotony of his day.
Warnings: Some mentions of drug use.
Notes: No honorifics/stage names/etc. used. The location is set vaguely but it can be assumed it's somewhere in America. Also hello EXO fandom, I suppose I am actually officially a part of you, now. ;________; (This will probably have a sequel(s?).)
The shrill, piercing sound of feedback rang out throughout the enclosed area for about half a second. As a heavy guitar riff shook the walls, rising in pitch to sound like the purring of a car motor being gunned, Kyungsoo lifted one foot dramatically onto a chair. The song started in with a clamor of guitar and hard-hitting drums and Kyungsoo grabbed his makeshift microphone, doing his best impression of a devil-may-care lead singer of a heavy metal band by scrunching his face up and pursing his lips as he banged his head to the beat. He held the microphone close to his face as he started singing, or rather, shrieking, along with the lyrics loud enough to be heard over the chorus of screams coming from the imaginary crowd before him. Raising one arm, hand extended out palm-upwards to the crowd, Kyungsoo implored the crowd to join him in his tribute to the great legends of rock ‘n roll with a crook of his fingers, singing at the top of his lungs. The second the music crescendoed into the chorus, his chair footrest was kicked away to allow him room to jump around in circles, waving his arms wildly, belting each and every word like his life depended on it. Just as he reached the last note of the chorus, long and drawn out and as wild as the nights he liked to imagine himself participating in as a world-renowned rock star, microphone clutched to his mouth in both hands, eyes squeezed shut so tightly he could see spots, the music suddenly cut off and left his ears ringing.
Kyungsoo whirled around in place to see his boss and one of his co-workers standing there with raised eyebrows, Kris still with a finger on the in-store radio’s power button.
“I asked you to open,” he deadpanned, “not blow my speakers out.”
“Dude,” Jongin shook his head, “every single morning.”
“Sorry,” Kyungsoo mumbled, eyes wide. He slowly set the rolled-up magazine he’d been singing into down onto the counter next to the cash register.
“I’ll be in the back,” Jongin said quickly, dashing out.
Kris looked Kyungsoo over with an amused half-grin.
“Kyungsoo?” he waved his hand. “The store? Opening up?”
“Right,” Kyungsoo said slowly, turning around and grabbing his broom to go back to neurotically sweeping the main floor.
He sighed. Monday shifts were the worst.
He liked to joke that the reason he took the job at the record store was because it was his last resort and no one else would hire him. It’s only partly a joke, in all honesty. Kyungsoo had gotten an interview for a barista position at the local coffee shop that he had botched horribly by both spilling hot coffee all over his interviewer’s hands and then trying to laugh it off as a joke. He had also ruined his chances at working at the library, at a Mongolian grill and at a retail store at the mall in various other misguided attempts at seeming employable. Kyungsoo seemed to attract bad luck like shit attracts flies. He still didn’t know whether his worst luck of all was getting hired by EXO.
It wasn’t that he didn’t enjoy the atmosphere. Even before getting hired at the record store, Kyungsoo had lived and breathed music. He enjoyed talking about it and enjoyed discovering other people who were just as interested even more. When he was in high school, he had played in the school band and he was the best of all of his friends at reading music. He might have even had a future there if he had taken a bit more initiative when he had the chance, but his musical career had fallen short after high school and his interaction with music had become limited to the time he spent singing to himself in his car and in the shower. He wasn’t prepared to branch out into real world opportunities, satisfied with simple fantasies about being a musician that he dreamed up and never talked about to anyone. His time to shine had come and gone and when he was offered a job in a store filled with music, he had figured that it would be his best and only chance to indulge further in his secret wishes and dreams.
When he had taken the position, however, he hadn’t factored in the people he’d have to be working with. His co-workers were the sort of motley crew (not to be confused with Mötley Crüe, the group he’d been caught singing to that very morning) one could only find in a work of fiction. There was Kris, the head honcho of the outfit, who was notorious for attempting to dole out tasks to his employees that were nearly impossible and often required great feats of imagination in order to fulfill them. Kris was mysterious, untouchable, and he had a certain “X” factor about him that caused everyone he encountered to easily lend their respect and loyalty to him. Kyungsoo heard that “Kris” wasn’t even his real name. He ruled over them with a heavy hand, took no bullshit, accepted no excuses. He was only ever lenient (an unfair amount, even) to his “assistant”, who Kyungsoo surmised had apparently been working there since he was in diapers. Zitao was a piece of work, himself, but Kyungsoo supposed even strong, bullheaded men like Kris had their weak spots.
Zitao was officially the Assistant Sales Manager, unofficially Kris’s shadow and the employee who did the least actual work around the store. He rarely left his sanctuary in the back room and when forced to do so, he’d make his grumpiness about the situation very clearly known. According to rumor, Zitao could kill a man with his pinky finger and took side jobs as a ninja spy, so there was not a lot of complaining about Zitao’s various questionable fringe benefits. Kyungsoo was very reluctant to be the first to test the rumors and possibly suffer a cracked skull or a sudden case of heart-pulled-out-of-chest-still-beating.
Jongin was just a punk kid. That’s what Kyungsoo had immediately filed him under in his head, his first day on the job. He had seemed rude and indifferent on that day and it had taken Kyungsoo a long time to figure out that Jongin was merely tuning him out, just as he tuned out about ninety percent of everything else at work. Jongin was supposed to still be in high school but he had dropped out with only one year to go to become a bum. Or a dancer. Or something. Kyungsoo still wasn’t completely sure what Jongin’s story was — the kid was nearly as enigmatic as Kris and he kept his secrets well. One thing Kyungsoo was certain about was that Jongin’s limited attention span regarding anything any of his co-workers said to him was probably directly linked to the pot he smoked in the break room in between shifts at the front of the store. It would certainly explain the glassy, spaced out, half-lidded looks shot at him every time Kyungsoo went back there to try to explain that there are two cash registers because there are supposed to be two employees working the front at all times.
There was a new guy named Minseok about whom Kyungsoo and Jongin had a running bet to see how long he’d last in the job. His first official day on the job was that day and Kyungsoo had been instructed to show him around a bit. Kyungsoo was not looking forward to this. Minseok had seemed nice and completely normal during his interview. Kyungsoo was fairly certain he was going to run from the store screaming as soon as his shift ended and never return.
Yixing was the store’s saving grace and the main reason Kyungsoo had not immediately given up on the job after his first day himself. Yixing had been the one to train Kyungsoo on his first day and he had practically held his hand as he guided him through every single one of Kris’s stressful procedures and meticulous requirements. Yixing was Kris’s first actual employee and he had practically helped raise EXO Records from the ground up. Perhaps because he was so accustomed to Kris’s expectations, Yixing had been promoted to Sales Manager and he oversaw much of the happenings in the front of the store, allowing Kris to work fully from his small office in the back of the store while offering minimal input here and there. If Kyungsoo was asked, he would say that EXO Records was still afloat mainly because the teamwork between Kris and Yixing was damn near perfect and their easy exchange of ideas and goals had been developed and fine-tuned with the most precise attention to detail since day one.
Workdays for Kyungsoo mostly consisted of breathing exercises to be able to deal with Jongin’s flighty whims and Zitao’s up-and-down mood swings, trying not to piss Kris off by not accomplishing whatever random tasks he’d been given in addition to his normal interaction with customers and begging Yixing to come and help him and save his ass from sudden minor catastrophes and the wrath of the more sensitive customers. Kyungsoo had already been working there for over half a year and he liked to think he had moved past the stages of confusion and utter chaos newer employees experience, but the store was somewhat understaffed for the amount of traffic the place got and Kyungsoo still found himself in way over his head at the worst of times. At the very least, during the early morning hours and the lazy early afternoons when customers were infrequent and Kyungsoo found himself with a bit of extra time on his hands, he had the luxury of playing whichever songs he took fancy to on the speakers and the pleasure of being able to sing and dance around in a place where enjoying music was the norm and no one looked at you funny for doing it.
Sometimes, Kyungsoo thought that those moments were what drove him to get out of bed every morning and march himself down to that record store on the corner, whistling a tune and paying little attention to anything else other than the music feeding through his headphones, seeping into his pores and galloping through his bloodstream.
Kyungsoo was waiting for the new guy to show up when Yixing strolled out of the back of the store with his usual morning smile.
Before Yixing could even say “Good morning!”, he pounced.
“Kris wants me to train New Guy and I cannot do this because I am useless!” Kyungsoo wailed. “Hi Jongdae!”
Jongdae greeted him from where he was trailing behind Yixing with a large cardboard box.
“Put them down right over there,” Yixing directed Jongdae. He turned to Kyungsoo. “Of course you can, Kyungsoo. You know your way around by now.”
“Not well enough!” Kyungsoo argued. He sighed and looked at the two of them longingly. “Why aren’t you training him?”
“I have a few errands to run for the benefit,” Yixing said, helping Jongdae to open the box.
“Then what if Jongdae trains him?” Kyungsoo asked hopefully.
Jongdae raised an eyebrow.
“Jongdae doesn’t work here,” Yixing reminded him patiently.
“He still knows how to do my job better than I do,” Kyungsoo frowned. He pinched his eyebrows together. “I just put myself down.”
“Yes, you did.”
“It’s true, though. Ugh, what even happens during training? I don’t remember any of what you told me when you trained me.”
“Ah, thanks,” Yixing grinned ruefully. “I’m glad you took all of my encouragement to heart.”
“Sorry,” Kyungsoo smiled sheepishly.
“Here, I’ll write out a list of things to show him so you’ll have something to go off of,” Yixing said, walking over to the cash register. He grabbed a pen and a notepad and started scribbling as Kyungsoo gazed at him fondly.
“You are seriously the best,” he gushed. He looked up to where Jongdae had planted himself on the floor, sorting through the box. “What is that, anyway?”
“Kris asked me to go around asking people for old CDs and records to donate to the store,” Jongdae said, making neat stacks on the floor. “I guess I should go let him know I’m done.”
“I’d advise against talking to him right now,” Yixing spoke up. “Kris isn’t in a very good mood.”
“What happened? Did Jongin do something?” Kyungsoo blanched. “Did I do something?”
“No, it’s the benefit,” Yixing sighed. “It’s less than a week away and we still don’t have a single band signed up to play for the concert.”
“Oh, shit,” Kyungsoo muttered. “I didn’t even realize how close it was getting.”
“Maybe I could ask around,” Jongdae suggested. “I know a couple guys with bands.”
“Please do,” Yixing nodded. “That would be immensely helpful.”
Jongdae smiled up at them and set the CDs aside to look through his phone contacts. Kyungsoo took the list from Yixing when he finished writing and read it over while Yixing returned to Jongdae’s side.
“You really should get Kris to pay you for all the work you do around here,” Kyungsoo piped up.
“He asks me all the time to just apply,” Jongdae laughed. “I’m way too busy with school this semester.”
“We’re glad to have you around whenever you can spare the time,” Yixing assured him, patting him on the shoulder. He stood up. “I need to go. Kyungsoo, you’re in charge.”
Kyungsoo made a small noise of acknowledgment, wringing his hands a bit. Yixing offered him a reassuring smile before he slipped out the front door, leaving Kyungsoo to fend for himself.
Not even ten minutes later, a mousy little guy with short hair wandered in. Kyungsoo perked up.
“Welcome to EXO Records,” he chirped. Blinking, he added, “Oh, New Guy! I mean, you’re Minseok, right?”
The guy walked up to the register with a wide smile. “Yup, sorry I’m a little bit late.”
Kyungsoo asked Jongdae to watch the store and then whisked Minseok away into the back to show him to his locker and introduce him to everyone.
“This is Zitao,” Kyungsoo said as they stopped in the employee area. “He looks scary, but he’s actually pretty nice.”
Zitao glanced up from where he was laying out over the couch with an open book on his chest. He regarded Minseok for a few brief seconds and then went back to reading. Minseok laughed nervously.
“Tao, you’re supposed to be unloading,” Kyungsoo reminded him.
“I’m busy,” Zitao replied, turning the page.
Kyungsoo turned back to Minseok with a discreet roll of his eyes. He nudged his arm and walked towards the break room.
“And this is where Jongin usually hides. I’d bet anything he’s in here right now.”
Kyungsoo opened the door and automatically held a hand over his nose and mouth to protect himself against the stench inside. Minseok coughed lightly at his side.
“Jongin, this is the new guy, Minseok,” Kyungsoo said.
Jongin looked up slowly from his usual chair, eyes bloodshot. He waved his hand vaguely.
“Also, when you’re done smoking illegal drugs at work and putting everyone’s health at risk, could you possibly come help out in the front? Customers don’t ring themselves up.”
“I guess,” Jongin slouched in the chair, licking his teeth lazily.
“Uh huh,” Kyungsoo said, “well, you know, if you have the time.”
He shut the door with a frown of disapproval and began escorting Minseok, who’d hardly spoken a word in the past fifteen minutes, back to the front.
“You’ll meet the boss later. He’s pissed off right now. You don’t want to leave that kind of a first impression, believe me.”
“Okay,” Minseok agreed shakily.
Kyungsoo stopped him at the entrance to the front, smiling.
“We’re all a little bit crazy here, but I promise you’ll get used to it eventually. And then you just kind of become one of the crazies! Haha.”
“Haha,” Minseok replied uncertainly, eyes wild.
Kyungsoo cursed to himself. Definitely wasn’t going to last the day.
His horrible Monday brightened considerably towards noon, showing promise when Minseok rang up a customer without his help for the first time and shot him a victorious and grateful smile a second later. Kyungsoo let pride well up in his chest and ignored how ridiculous he was being, making such a big deal out of one customer. Still, he supposed it was sort of like watching your baby take its first step on its own or watching your first child leave the safety of the nest and strike out into the world after graduation. Or perhaps he was taking his mother metaphors too seriously again.
He left his post at the second cash register as the customers dwindled down to a brief slow period to wander around the store, fixing CDs and rearranging the ones people had moved out of their designated spots. He crouched down on the floor to pick up one that had fallen down, thankfully still intact. Just as he was grabbing the plastic casing, an ominous-looking shadow fell over his body and he froze. Kyungsoo blinked at the scuffed tennis shoes in his line of vision and slowly tilted his head back to follow the seemingly endless legs up to a bright face.
“Hey,” the face said, with a voice so deep Kyungsoo thought for a moment that he’d inhaled too much of Jongin’s illegal substances and the shoes were talking to him, “do you work here?”
“Um,” Kyungsoo said. He stood up, brushing his pants off, and the other was so tall he still had to crane his neck to talk to him. “Uh, yes. How may I help you?”
“Lu Han said that Jongdae said that you guys needed a band to play or something? A concert?”
Kyungsoo took a second to follow that line of thought. “Oh. Yes! Are you a band? I mean, are you in one?”
“Yup,” the taller boy grinned. His grin was rather catching. Kyungsoo found himself smiling back stupidly for no reason.
“Thank god,” Kyungsoo huffed. “I was starting to worry we’d never get anyone.”
“So, the concert...are there details or is there a flyer or anything?” the boy prompted.
Kyungsoo whacked himself on the forehead with a light laugh. “Of course. Sorry. The benefit concert is for Autism Speaks. We have flyers in the back, I think. I can grab some for you.”
“Great,” he nodded. He opened his mouth suddenly, as if catching himself, and continued, “Sorry, I’m Chanyeol.”
Kyungsoo put the CD case aside to shake his hand. “Kyungsoo.”
Chanyeol’s grin spread a bit further, warming on his face. “Kyungsoo,” he repeated quietly to himself. His gravelly voice made the name sound almost strange on his lips, as if Kyungsoo had never heard anyone say his name like that before.
“Uh, okay,” Kyungsoo babbled, “wait right here.”
He hurried into the back to grab flyers from the stack by Kris’s office. Poking his head in to gauge the amount of tension in the lion’s den, Kyungsoo chewed on his lower lip nervously. He rapped on the door frame with his knuckles.
Kris looked up from a sheet of paper in his hands, his expression as cool as a cucumber. It was safe enough.
“This guy might sign his band up for the benefit,” Kyungsoo beamed.
Kris leaned back in his chair, clearly pleased by the news.
“Tell him to bring them in later today or tomorrow. I want to hear them first.”
Kyungsoo slipped back out into the front with the flyers in hand. He handed them to Chanyeol, who was waiting with a curious half-grin.
“My boss says to bring everyone else in today or tomorrow so we can hear you guys play,” Kyungsoo relayed the message.
“Sounds good,” Chanyeol nodded, glancing over the flyers. He looked back up. “Thanks, Kyungsoo.”
Kyungsoo found himself listening intently to his own name yet again. There was something about Chanyeol’s voice that was oddly entrancing. It gave him a weird little feeling in his belly.
Kyungsoo watched Chanyeol walk out of the store. Before he could carry on being distracted for too long, Minseok called him over, pale-faced and swamped with customers. Kyungsoo hurried to his rescue and opened the other register to get the line moving faster, slapping his customer service face back on and adding a little extra cheer to his cashier dialogue.
When Zitao ventured out of the back with slips of paper in his hand, Kyungsoo could smell trouble. Any time Zitao came to the front of the store, something unfortunate happened. He watched his approach with a wary gaze as Jongin leaned on the counter beside him, actually working his own register now that it was afternoon. Minseok looked up from where he’d been assigned to getting familiar with the store stock catalogues.
“You are cordially invited,” Tao said pleasantly with a little flourish of his hand, offering a paper to Jongin.
“What,” Jongin replied dryly, flipping the folded paper open. He scoffed loudly. “Are you for real? You guys are seriously doing this?”
“What?” Kyungsoo asked hurriedly, snatching the other paper out of Zitao’s hand. He started reading, apprehension growing in his gut.
Please join us for a celebration of love and friendship as Zhang Yixing and Do Kyungsoo take the plunge into blissful matrimony—
“What?!” Kyungsoo shrieked. “Why me? Why am I the bride?!”
“More importantly,” Jongin continued, “why are you doing this?”
“You know why,” Zitao snapped, bustling over to deliver an invitation to a bewildered Minseok.
“For fuck’s sake, you’re taking this whole thing way too seriously. You’re being idiots.”
“We’re trying to save the store, Jongin. That’s what we’re doing.”
Kyungsoo put the paper invitation down on the sales counter and leaned his head into his hand heavily.
“Yixing would never leave us,” he sighed. “You’re being paranoid. I can’t believe Kris actually went along with this.”
“Fuck, he’s coming back!” Jongin hissed, grabbing Kyungsoo’s invitation and hiding it under a magazine with his own. “Don’t you dare say anything to him, Tao.”
Zitao curled his lip and sauntered over to the front door just as Yixing loped in. He produced another invitation with a slight bow.
“Your presence is requested, sir,” he sneered.
Yixing wrinkled his brow in confusion, taking the invitation and reading. His face went blank.
“Back room,” Zitao instructed. “In one hour. Be there.” He spared a warning glance at Kyungsoo. “Both of you.”
Kyungsoo stared at him with a helpless look as Zitao walked back out, disappearing with a smug grin. He looked around the store for a broom or anything he could use to chase the boy down and wipe the smile off his face, ninja skills be damned.
“Yixing,” Jongin said slowly. “They’re just crazy. You know how they are.”
“I knew they’d be like this,” Yixing shrugged slowly, moving to the counter to take his backpack off. “It’s nothing.”
“Are you sure?” Kyungsoo frowned. “We could go throw ice water on Kris.”
“No,” Yixing laughed. “I’ll just let them have their little wedding. I don’t care.” He turned around to lean back against the front of the counter, resting his elbows up on top. “Nothing is going to change my mind. I’m still asking her to marry me.”
Kyungsoo nodded. Yixing had broken the news to them on Friday, just before closing up for the night. He and his girlfriend had been steadily dating for years, so it was no surprise to him when Yixing mentioned his plans to pop the question. It hadn’t even entered his mind that this could mean a job change for Yixing, but he supposed Kris and Zitao, who had been with him the longest, who probably thought they couldn’t run this store without him, had taken the news especially close to heart. Still, he thought this was being a little overdramatic.
“I really don’t think veils suit me,” he whispered, catching Jongin’s eye with a worried pout.
Jongin hit him over the head with the magazine.
A group of boys came through the door just after two o'clock and Kyungsoo stood up, walking up towards the front to greet them. He stopped when he recognized the boy leading the pack with frizzy strawberry blond hair and a pair of drumsticks sticking out of his pocket.
“You’re back!” Kyungsoo squeaked, ruining the air of nonchalance he’d been intending to open with.
“I brought the band,” Chanyeol gestured to the boys behind him. “Is your boss around?”
Kyungsoo nodded and set the box he was holding aside. “Let me take you to him. Jongin! Register.”
Jongin slipped past him, giving all the boys a cursory glance of appraisal on his way to the sales counter. Kyungsoo rolled his eyes and guided them to the back, feeling like Peter Pan leading his band of wild boys. They went past Zitao boredly explaining unloading shipments and stocking to Minseok in the employee area. Zitao looked over to glare death at him, probably for giving him something to do other than sleeping on the couch.
“Ahaha,” Kyungsoo laughed it off, trying to convey with crazed eyes that this was not the most appropriate time to be misbehaving in front of regular people.
He ushered the group past them and knocked on Kris’s door, peeking inside.
“Boss, the band’s here.”
“Bring ‘em in, Kyungsoo.”
Kyungsoo shuffled inside and waited for all the band members to file into the office, standing against the far wall in a line. He shut the door once everyone was inside and turned around to watch Kris sizing the line up, eyebrows raised.
“You have five people in your band?” he asked incredulously. “That’s pretty big, for a rock band.”
“Uh, I guess we should introduce ourselves,” the boy standing closest to Kris spoke up. “We are Lu Han and the Sirens.”
“Lu Han and the Sirens,” Kris repeated under his breath, scribbling on a sheet of paper. “And you’re Lu Han?”
“What? No, I’m Joonmyun,” the same boy said. “I’m the lead guitarist.”
Kris nodded, scribbling some more.
The next boy looked very young, eyes squinting cutely as he watched Kris write. Kyungsoo felt the sudden strangest urge to fawn over him.
“I’m Sehun,” he said as Joonmyun finished talking. “I play bass.”
“Baekhyun,” the next in line spoke immediately. He grinned to himself, standing with his feet spread apart and his arms behind his back. “Lead singer.”
“I’m Chanyeol,” Chanyeol said, gaze sliding to Kyungsoo and focusing on him instead of Kris. Kyungsoo felt his face heat up, eyes dropping to inspect his feet intently. “I’m in charge of the drums.”
“And I’m Lu Han,” a soft voice followed. Kyungsoo looked up at the boy bringing up the end of the line, with the most exquisite features Kyungsoo had ever seen on a boy. Kris seemed similarly starstruck, not even writing Lu Han’s name down. “I play keyboard and sing back-up.”
“I can see why the band is named after you,” Kris looked back down at his paper, jotting a few notes.
Kyungsoo craned his neck to try to see what he was writing as Joonmyun spoke up again.
“Lu Han has the most fans,” he shrugged. “We thought it would benefit us more, marketing-wise.”
“That’s smart,” Kris grinned. “I like that.”
He finished writing and set his pen down on top of it.
“Will you be able to play for about an hour? Do you have enough material?”
“We only have six actual songs,” Joonmyun said, shuffling closer to Kris’s desk. “But we have some other songs we’re working on that we could try out and we have a lot of covers.”
Kris murmured his approval. “The benefit is this coming weekend. We’ll have booths set up for selling CDs, posters and some t-shirts. Jongin is going to dance and Yixing and I are going to have a short performance. After Jongdae gives his talk about autism and explains the background behind the foundation and the charity, we’ll get you guys set up to play and you can start around nine.”
“Sounds good,” Joonmyun nodded.
“I still want to hear you play first,” Kris continued. “I’m a big fan of trying before buying, if you know what I mean.”
“That’s fine,” Joonmyun agreed immediately. “We can play a couple songs for you here if you have the equipment?”
“We have guitars and a drum kit. No keyboards, though.”
Lu Han shrugged easily. “I can just sing. No big deal.”
“Oh, speaking of which,” Kris turned to Kyungsoo suddenly. Kyungsoo felt his heart sink. “Were you going to sing for us after all?”
Kyungsoo avoided his knowing gaze. “No. I don’t think so.”
Kris smirked, eyes boring into Kyungsoo’s face. “I figured you’d back out. That’s fine. Yixing can do the singing.”
Kyungsoo noticed that Chanyeol was now giving him curious looks. He cleared his throat and moved back to the door. “So, where should we set up?”
“We can have a little show on the main floor,” Kris suggested. “Give the customers something new to listen to.”
Kyungsoo opened the door. “Great, I’ll tell Zitao and Minseok to help me move the equipment.”
They were barely making their way past the empty couch in the employee room when Zitao’s voice crackled over the speakers, loud and jarring.
“Attention, EXO employees. Report to the back for a very important emergency meeting.” He broke into humming the wedding march and Kyungsoo’s jaw went slack, his face a picture of horror and embarrassment. “Yixing and Kyungsoo, don’t even think you’re getting out of this. This wedding is happening, whether you like it or not.”
“Oh, no,” Kyungsoo moaned.
He felt someone grab his arm from behind him and he turned to see Chanyeol blinking right in front of his face.
“You’re...getting married?” he asked in a hushed tone of concern, fingers squeezing his wrist.
“Oh,” Kris interrupted, looking around at the group, “looks like we’re going to have to put off the talent show for a little bit. Since you’re all here, though, I think we’re supposed to have witnesses when someone gets married. Will you all do us the honor?”
“Um,” Baekhyun said slowly, trading glances with Joonmyun, “sure?”
“I brought the veil,” Jongin said suddenly from behind them, walking up to the group and holding an ugly, dirty white lampshade.
Kyungsoo stared at the lampshade blankly, his soul departing his body in a rush of shock from the overwhelming indignity of the situation.
At a loss for words, he decided to express his feelings to the room at large with a swift and emotional proclamation.
“I really fucking hate this job.”
“We are gathered here today,” Kris began, standing before them with a tattered Black Sabbath album balanced on one hand, his other palm resting over the top of it, trying his very best to look the part of a priest but not in the least priestly himself, “to witness the coming together of two complete morons who have no idea what they’re about to do to each other.”
Kyungsoo coughed wildly, eyebrows flying all over his face as if trying to communicate in Morse code with Kris the need for him to tone it down, while Yixing simply continued to calmly smile at Kris, unperturbed.
Jongin and Jongdae were standing awkwardly to one side of Kyungsoo while Zitao and Lu Han were standing parallel to them at Yixing’s, a mockery of bridesmaids and groomsmen. The rest of the Sirens were all squashed together on the couch adjacent to this bastardized version of a wedding ceremony, forced into bearing witness to something so ridiculous and cheesy Kyungsoo didn’t know how he was ever going to face any of them after this.
“Do you have any vows?” Kris asked them suddenly.
Kyungsoo raised the lampshade to stare at him. “We don’t even have anything to vow to.”
“Then I’ll do it,” Kris insisted, setting the album aside. He turned to Yixing. “Do you vow to stay faithful to this job, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, from this day forward until death do you part?”
“You’re,” Kyungsoo gasped, aghast, “you’re marrying him to us, aren’t you.”
“What the fuck, Kris,” Jongin added.
“Let the man answer,” Kris snapped at them, effectively silencing the peanut gallery.
“Is that what this is about?” Yixing asked. “You want my word? That I’ll stay?”
“What I want,” Kris repeated, “is your answer.”
Yixing sighed. “Yes, of course.”
“Say it right.”
Kris folded his arms across his chest.
“And do you promise to be honest and let me know if that ever changes, for whatever reason?”
“I do, Kris.”
Kris lowered his head, silent. Beside Yixing, Zitao shuffled his feet and leaned against his arm.
“I’m sorry,” he murmured. Everyone turned to regard the young assistant. “I guess I just got scared. I don’t like the idea of all of this changing.”
Zitao looked around. Jongin glanced at Kyungsoo, who slid his eyes up towards Yixing and back to Kris, who lifted his gaze back up from the ground to Zitao’s pale face, eyes narrowed.
“Nothing is going to change,” Yixing assured them. “I’m still going to be here. You guys know I wouldn’t just run out on you.” He eyed Kris. “You know me better than that.”
“Well,” Kris said slowly, “we’re all a family here. That means you, too, Jongdae,” he added, slipping an arm over Jongdae’s shoulders. “We’re all in this together. I just worry over you all too much for my own good, sometimes.”
“You sound like an old man,” Jongin teased lightly, but he let Yixing’s arm settle over his own shoulders with a small grin.
“And you,” Kris started, actually sounding the part of an irritated father now, “you’re just a kid. You should be in school, Jongin.”
Jongin’s mouth tightened. Yixing poked his side.
“He’s right,” Yixing frowned. “I think you should go back or at least get your GED. It’s such a waste, just giving up.”
“A waste.” Jongin laughed shortly. “You want to know what a waste is?”
Jongin glared at Kyungsoo, who started, alarmed to find himself pulled into the conversation.
“Having a voice like yours,” Jongin announced, “and giving up singing just because one piece of shit judge trashed you. That guy knew nothing about music and you still let him get to you.”
“Hey, hey,” Kyungsoo backed up. “Let’s go back to discussing school. Your education’s more important than my stupid voice, alright?”
“He’s right, though,” Kris cut him off. “You should sing again.”
“I told my sister you were singing for the benefit,” Jongdae commented. “She started screaming and telling all her friends she wanted to go watch you.”
“I want to hear you sing,” Chanyeol said.
Everyone turned around to look at the couch. Chanyeol backed up into it, blinking.
“Well, I do,” he defended himself.
Kyungsoo let a smile tug at his face, locking eyes with Chanyeol. “I’ll think about it.”
There was a collective turning of heads as the intercom went off, frantic breathing filling the room over the background noise of a crowd of customers.
“Help! Please. Somebody. Oh my god.”
Jongin rolled his eyes, disentangling himself from Yixing’s arm. “I’ll go save the newbie.”
“His name is Minseok. And send him back here.” Kris sighed, long-suffering, rubbing at his forehead. “I guess he should start getting in on our team huddles. He’s one of us, now.”
“I feel so bad for him,” Kyungsoo joked. He cracked a lopsided grin when Zitao rubbed at his shoulders good-naturedly.
“Oh, good, Minseok,” Kris said over their heads. Minseok was weaving towards them, looking like he’d aged ten years in the past half hour. “Help these guys grab the band equipment. We have an impromptu show to put on.”
“Whoops,” Kyungsoo turned to the couch, suddenly remembering their guests. “Sorry you had to see all that.”
Sehun snorted. “You should see our Saturday family meetings,” he quipped, looking askance towards Joonmyun with flat eyes.
“See, Jongin thinks that our natural state as human beings is naked,” Kyungsoo explained, hands waving about wildly. “But Kris won’t let him not wear clothes to work.”
“I have a hard enough time keeping that punk kid out of jail when he’s clothed in public,” Kris griped from where he was fiddling with their old Ibanez amp on the floor by Joonmyun’s feet.
“Yet you don’t even try to put a stop to his break room law-breaking,” Kyungsoo complained. “I can’t even take my breaks anymore because I end up inhaling too much and accidentally getting stoned, and then my customers just stare at me funny for the rest of my shift.”
“Then maybe you should, I don’t know, not take a break in there?” Zitao rolled his eyes. “There’s other places to sit around.”
“Like the couch you refuse to let anyone sit on when you’re there, which is all damned day?”
“There are chairs, Kyungsoo. Several, even.”
“Uncomfortable chairs! Chairs that I think Kris picked out specifically because he resents our shitty work ethic and wants to inspire us to take shorter breaks and get more work done.”
“There you go, conspiracy theorizing again,” Jongin swept in with a hi-hat. He always had a habit of popping up out of nowhere just in time to cut Kyungsoo down somehow or derail whatever argument he was trying to make.
Chanyeol chortled to himself, taking the hi-hat to attach it to the kit. Kyungsoo watched him work with a sort of awed fascination, wide eyes glued to the knobs of Chanyeol’s knuckles and the curves of each long finger.
“And so that’s why you don’t like Jongin,” he latched back on to Kyungsoo’s original trail of thought, “because when you were introduced on your first day, he was in boxers.”
“And also he was a complete dick to me for the first entire month of knowing him,” Kyungsoo glared in Jongin’s direction.
Jongin smirked at him. “We get along now, though, don’t we?”
“Took long enough,” Kyungsoo sniffed delicately, a soft pout on his lips.
“He doesn’t like anyone at first, you know that,” Kris interrupted, testing the microphones. His words reverberated around the store, making Minseok and Yixing look over from the registers. Lu Han was with them, spinning around on a stool behind the counter. He’d been tailing Minseok since they left the wedding in the back, making big doe eyes at him. Kyungsoo was starting to get creeped out on Minseok’s behalf, but both Minseok and Yixing seemed completely at ease with their tagalong, even sharing the secret stash of Tootsie Pops under the counter with him.
“He isn’t like that with Minseok,” Kyungsoo pointed out. “Or nearly as bad, at least.”
“That’s because Minseok isn’t anywhere near as annoying as you,” Zitao explained. He finished helping Sehun with the bass amp and immediately flopped onto the floor beside Jongdae as if exhausted from overexertion. He started wiggling around until Jongdae indulgently lifted an arm to let him settle against his side.
“Sometimes I get the feeling no one likes me,” Kyungsoo exclaimed, indignant.
“I like you,” Chanyeol piped up, testing the pedals with a flurry of foot movement.
Kyungsoo immediately reddened. He still couldn’t figure out how to control his reactions to the drummer’s sudden, random compliments and outbursts of honesty. It wasn’t so much that he was unused to being flirted with, but more like he rarely felt a mutual attraction. Kyungsoo was notoriously picky and his crushes were few and far between and very rarely actually returned. He felt like he was breaking new grounds, exploring new territory, and he felt awkward and hesitant now that he couldn’t plan his next move.
Chanyeol hardly seemed to notice any of this, anyway, simply running through a brief warm up that Kyungsoo couldn’t tear his eyes away from. He had always admired drummers for their coordination, something Kyungsoo found he was often lacking, and Chanyeol had turned out to be an outstanding drummer. Kris whistled to himself once Chanyeol stilled again.
“Let’s get started,” Joonmyun said, once the sound was properly set up. “Lu Han, come on over and take a mic. Baekhyun, take this one. Sehun.” He glanced around. “Sehun?”
“I saw him disappear with Jongin,” Baekhyun said, thumbing towards the back of the store.
Kyungsoo froze. “He’s probably corrupting him as we speak.”
“I wouldn’t worry about that,” Lu Han spoke up, Tootsie Pop stick poking out of his mouth. “I seriously doubt Sehun is even capable of being corrupted anymore.”
“Oh,” Joonmyun frowned. “I almost forgot about that time.”
The two of them stopped to stare at Baekhyun and Chanyeol as Baekhyun crossed his arms haughtily, eyes narrowed.
“Oh my god, it was Disneyland, okay,” Chanyeol hissed, throwing his drumsticks down. “The happiest place on earth. If that isn’t meant to be innuendo then I don’t know what is.”
“Thank you,” Baekhyun’s voice rang out around the store, washing over the customers now standing around and cheering animatedly with their purchases and wanted items in hand, store activity slowly resuming from the sudden pause that came with the first guitar riff ripping through the air. “That was ‘MAMA’ and we are Lu Han and the Sirens!”
A cheer exploded from the customers once more and Kris clapped his hands to the side of the makeshift stage area, a satisfied smirk on his face. He stepped up to the microphone as Baekhyun nodded at him and stepped back to make room, grabbing it.
“If you want to hear more, make sure you drop by the Autism Speaks Benefit Concert this coming weekend. Starts on Saturday at 7:30. Don’t miss it,” Kris announced, sounding much more like he was saying, don’t miss it, or else.
Joonmyun approached him, guitar still slung low on his body, eyes bright.
“Is that a yes?”
“That’s a yes.”
Chanyeol high fived Sehun over his drum kit and Jongin ran over to bombard them with questions about their music. Yixing walked over to where Kris and Joonmyun were now standing, heads put together in heavy discussion. All around him, the store buzzed with activity and Kyungsoo watched, eyes wide, breath coming a tad uneasily because his ears were still ringing and his skin was still humming because Chanyeol — the sleeves of his button-down shirt pulled back over slick arms, head tossing the soft flyaway curls falling out of his ponytail as he rocked his entire body with each slam of his drum sticks onto the smooth heads and press of his foot on the bass pedal — Chanyeol had looked so good playing the drums he’d barely kept himself from screaming out loud.
As if hearing his thoughts, Chanyeol suddenly looked at him, a grin taking over his face as smooth and slow as honey. He beckoned him over and Kyungsoo didn’t know what to do with himself for a second, almost tripping over a magazine rack trying to get around the sales counter. Minseok shot him a desperate look as he left but he ignored him. Kyungsoo figured he’d be okay for a minute or two.
“Hey,” Chanyeol spoke up, tucking his hair behind his ear, a couple rebellious strands still sticking to his temple. “Did you like it?”
“Loved it,” Kyungsoo breathed a bit too eagerly, and then laughed. “I mean, yeah, you guys are great.”
“Good,” Chanyeol set his drum sticks down. He grabbed a bottle of water, uncapping it and taking a swig. Kyungsoo forced himself to look away when he caught himself watching the bob of his Adam’s apple.
Chanyeol wiped his mouth.
“So do you work here every day, or...?”
“What? Oh, yeah. Every day, morning to close.” He paused. “There isn’t really any such thing as part-time in this place...”
“Brutal,” Chanyeol huffed. “Do you like it?”
Kyungsoo glanced back, at Kris slapping Yixing on the shoulder and Joonmyun chuckling at them, at Zitao sitting on the floor with Jongdae as Baekhyun crouched next to them, chin on his knees, at Jongin slyly leading Sehun towards the back of the store again, looking around with a covert smirk, at Lu Han standing behind the second register with a natural flair that spoke of past retail experience as he shot Minseok a reassuring grin, and finally settling his eyes on Chanyeol’s expectant, toothy smile.
“Yeah,” Kyungsoo shrugged. “Yeah, I really do.”
Chanyeol slipped off the throne, towering over Kyungsoo with a warm presence that licked heatedly at the depth of Kyungsoo’s stomach. Kyungsoo’s lips parted slightly, eyes dipping down and back up slowly.
“Good,” Chanyeol said easily, “then I know where to find you.”
“Yes,” Kyungsoo agreed, locking eyes with him. “You do.”
Chanyeol stared back, knowingly and with clear intent.
Kyungsoo had a feeling his horrible Monday, as well as many Mondays to come, had just taken a turn for the much, much better.