Warnings: sexual orientation denial, unresolved sexual tension, slow build up
Summary: Kris has spent the majority of his adult life offering "coaching services" to individuals who are maybe a bit too complex for eHarmony. His last gig before retirement should be the easiest million bucks he's ever made.
Or, you know. It won't be.
Park Chanyeol is Kris' last client, and oooh wee does Kris have his work cut out for him.
Notes: you know i will never stop, right?
this has been crossposted to ao3 so you can read it all in one piece instead of clicking on 'next' (unless you're into that, which i won't stop)
comments are enabled.
thank you so much to my darling christie for beta reading ♥ you are a life saver ♥♥
“Are you sure this amount is correct?” Kris adjusts his spectacles on the tip of his nose, his eyes counting three commas on the check made out to him and dated for today.
The older couple sitting across from him look grave. The man responds, “Our son needs all the help he can get, Mr. Wu.”
The man's wife is slightly tearful, holding a tissue up to her nose, exclaiming, “He's a good boy, Mr. Wu! He just needs direction!”
The man clears his throat. “He does exceedingly well as the heir to my company, but he needs guidance on being a successful heir to the family, as well.”
“I’m not even asking for grandbabies,” the woman sniffs. “I just want to see him settle down!”
Kris glances back down at the check. It's the most zeroes that have ever been attached to his name in one sitting - and he has helped plenty of wealthy people in the past decade. Then again, the couple sitting in front of him are the breadwinners of the country's most successful fortune five-hundred company, so the amount penned in neatly on the check is hardly a surprise. Trying to keep a professional demeanor, Kris nods, long fingers reaching up to take off his glasses as he sends the elderly couple a charming, reassuring smile. “Mr. and Mrs. Park, I will have your son turned around and married in a year, per your request.”
The woman bursts into tears, “Thank you! Thank you!”
The couple stands and Kris shakes Mr. Park's hand, flashing a confident smile. Kris has spent the majority of his adult life coaching people on how to be successful; in business, school, and even personal matters. It sounds like Mr. and Mrs. Park's son will be an easy task - a good ol’ heart-to-heart about acting like a grown man and settling down should do the trick.
The easiest million bucks Kris has ever made.
This is going to be the hardest million bucks Kris has ever made.
Park Chanyeol knows what his parents have set him up to do, and while he doesn't seem bothered by it, Kris can tell he has his work cut out for him. Chanyeol's hair is shaggy, clothes about a size too large, smile a bit too… much at the edges - and when they shake hands, Kris is pulling away with almost bruised fingers. Vigorous. Not a bad quality by any means, but when the time comes for Chanyeol to shake the hand of an elderly potential business partner… yeesh.
“So coach,” Chanyeol says from across Kris, where they're seated in a little nondescript cafe. “What's step one to making me the world's best heir?” he slurps his milkshake through the straw.
“Step one: don't call me 'coach’.” Kris then stares pointedly at Chanyeol's drink. Chanyeol continues to slurp. “Step two: we're going to start with manners.”
Chanyeol lets out an insufferable sigh, “Ok but - part of my charm is that I don't give a shit.”
“You're not going to find an heiress with your potty mouth and bad table manners.” Kris drawls, crossing his legs and leaning back in his chair.
Groaning, Chanyeol slouches terribly in his seat, pouting as he adjusts the straw in his cup so it no longer makes that horrendous sound. He mumbles around the plastic, “Sorry.”
Humility. Chanyeol is probably the most… normal client he's ever had, in retrospect. Sure, he's a little rough around the edges, but he's so… real. A young, successful, handsome guy just trying to do his own thing. Wrapping his long fingers around the steaming mug in front of him, Kris lets down some of his professional walls. “Chanyeol, it's not my job to change you. It's my job to refine you.”
“Like wine, I'll only get better with age?” Chanyeol sends a wry, but guarded smile. “I'm thirty-two years old, Kris. I've been single since high school and I've been working for my dad's company since I got my driver's license. I know they want me to get married but… I don’t know if I’m cut out for that life, y’know?”
Kris understands, to a degree. He's been single for so long, focusing on helping other eligible young bachelors and bachelorettes find their counterparts, that sometimes he feels as though he's lost a grip on his own dating persona. Every time he helps a client he projects a little of his own mojo into them, and honestly, Kris thinks that’s the reason he’s so dang good at his job.
But while he can relate to Chanyeol, he still has a task to carry out.
“Our timeline is one year from today. That’s the contract I signed with your parents.” Kris takes a sip from his latte. He can't relate too much and lose sight of the goal. Stay professional.
Chanyeol, though reluctant, concedes with a nod, his lips pouting even further. Filial and honest. A good son.
Chanyeol isn't so bad.
Chanyeol is terrible.
It seems as though he'll marry his job before he'll marry a suitor and Kris struggles for two weeks straight trying to get him to join him for a lesson. After the fifth “maybe tomorrow!” text Kris loses his infamous cool and drives directly to Chanyeol’s office, flashing a handsome, terse smile to the beautiful, bored looking secretary.
“Is Mr. Park in?” Kris asks, resting a cool elbow on the high counter.
The secretary, Ms. Oh according to the placard, doesn't look up from filing her nails. “Senior or Junior.”
Kris’ smile doesn't waver. “Junior.”
“No,” she replies blandly.
The sound of her filing makes Kris’ left ear twitch. “Is he out on lunch?”
“No,” Ms. Oh blows on her nails, and then spares Kris a bored glance. “You must be Mr. Wu.”
Kris feels like his face is going to freeze in the expression he's wearing. She starts filing again. His eye twitches. “I am. Can I leave a message?”
“No,” she replies.
Kris takes a very deep, very slow breath. “Then may I wait for him?” Ms. Oh shrugs and Kris clenches his jaw before rapping his knuckles on the counter, pointing a finger gun at the secretary and forcing a laugh and a fake, fake smile. “Thank you.”
She ignores him. He moves to one of the cushy waiting chairs, sitting down a bit stiffly. He pulls his phone from his pocket and thumbs out a text, trying not to jab his nail into the screen.
To: Park Chanyeol
If you're not letting me into your office in the next 60 seconds I will take your secretary out for a well-deserved lunch.
He slides his phone back into the pocket of his slacks and then crosses his legs with all the patience of a saint, lacing his fingers over his knee and closing his eyes, regulating his breathing and trying to relax his facial muscles.
Forty seconds later the door marked PARK CHANYEOL swings open and out comes Chanyeol in a pair of skinny jeans and a band tee, hair tousled and lips flushed like he just…
Kris blinks as another body engulfed in a huge hoodie scurries out of the office and into the open elevator, slamming their hand on the button fiercely until the doors close.
“Heya!” Chanyeol greets. There's a hickey right next to his adams apple.
Standing up slowly, Kris pinches the bridge of his nose. “Chanyeol.”
“Sehun’s a lesbian,” Chanyeol blurts, “she wouldn't go to lunch with you even if you offered to pay.”
“He finger-gunned me,” Ms. Oh tattles with a drawling voice.
Chanyeol grimaces. “No.”
Kris glances at Ms. Oh, who spins around in her chair so she doesn't have to look at the two men. Gathering strength, Kris levels Chanyeol with an even, dark stare. “In your office. Now.”
Chanyeol awkwardly shuffles to the side so Kris can brusquely enter his office. Kris stands at the window, shoving his hands into his pockets and counting backwards from one hundred in every language he knows. Chanyeol sits down gingerly in his chair, looking like a kicked puppy.
“Do you understand my purpose, Chanyeol?” Kris asks the window, after deciding he’s calm at the number sixty-three.
“Uh… Yes?” Chanyeol replies blearily.
“Then why, pray tell, are you still behaving like a frat boy?” Kris tries to not make his words too venomous.
...It doesn't work.
He hears Chanyeol sigh. “I'm sorry.”
“Here's the thing,” Kris turns around to look at Chanyeol. “You have no problem apologizing for your behavior, yet you refuse to control it. Humility is only an attractive quality if it is actively honest.”
Chanyeol hangs his head. “Yeah…”
“Your parents are counting on you to complete these lessons and do well for your family and the company.”
“If you're aware of the stakes, then why can't you commit?”
Chanyeol finally raises his gaze, his smile self-deprecating. “I'm not ready.”
Feeling his anger deflating, Kris relaxes a little and moves to sit down across from Chanyeol. “I'm here to help you be ready. But you have to allow me to help you.” He leans back in the seat. “Having a petit dejeuner at work is not a good start.” He gives the other a pointed look. “Nor is it professional. Especially to have your secretary cover for you.”
Chanyeol laughs lightly and runs a hand through his hair. “She wasn't covering, she's just a bitch naturally and deflects people because she's rude. That's why I hired her.”
Kris hums softly, and then sends Chanyeol a half-stern, half-imploring glance. “Just meet me halfway, Chanyeol.”
Sighing, Chanyeol nods and ruffles his hair. “I've been a dick. I'm sorry, Kris. Let's meet after work?”
Standing up, Kris smooths his tie against his shirt and nods. “Let's. At the cafe.” He turns to leave and when he's at the door, Chanyeol's soft voice stops him.
“I’ll do better.”
Kris doesn't say anything, but the tone of Chanyeol's voice lets him know he's getting the truth.
A rocky start, but things are looking up.
“'Things I look for in a partner’?” Chanyeol reads the heading of the paper Kris hands him. He glances up and raises a brow. “Are we match.com now?”
“In order to successfully set you up on dates, I need to know what you're looking for.” Kris says, tablet propped up on its stand as he flips through some of his previous clients, looking to find someone remotely similar to Chanyeol. Maybe the dates that didn't work out for them would be willing to have a second chance with Chanyeol.
“I haven't really given much thought to it,” Chanyeol admits, picking up a pen and frowning. “I've dated casually…”
“Well,” Kris says, looking at Chanyeol over his glasses, “time to date seriously. You can start off with whatever qualities you absolutely do not want in a partner. That's usually an easy list to come up with.”
They fall into silence, Kris making notes on his little notepad in his neat scrawl as to what women on his roster might give Chanyeol their time of day. Most of them are prim and proper… And while Chanyeol is incredibly visually appealing, his mannerisms leave something to be desired. Hm.
After about five minutes of silence, Chanyeol sighs. “I can't think of anything.”
Kris glances at the blank piece of paper in front of the other. “You can't think of anything that… annoys you? Or gets on your nerves?”
Shaking his head, Chanyeol starts flipping the pen in his fingers. “Not really.”
“You're never annoyed,” Kris clarifies.
“Not really, no,” Chanyeol says, shrugging. “It's kinda mean, isn't it? To be annoyed by something someone does.”
“Loud chewing,” Kris starts, “talking really loudly, pen tapping, foot jiggling… Being late constantly, using the word “like” a lot, incredible vanity?”
Chanyeol tilts his head. “Most bad habits are things people are unaware of. Why would you punish them for something they don't know they're doing?”
Kris stares. Is Chanyeol… For real? Kris is the King of Class, but even he has his limits. For Chanyeol to be so… pure…
“Well,” Kris idly wiggles his foot, and then concedes. “I suppose you're right.”
“I just want to be with someone good,” Chanyeol says with the most determination he's had since they met.
Kris chuckles. “Don't we all?”
“What do you look for in a partner?” Chanyeol asks, still flipping the pen. He glances at Kris’ left hand, clearly noticing the lack of ring. “You're single?”
“I am,” Kris says, returning his attention to his tablet.
“Because I put a lot of time and effort into helping others find good relationships,” Kris answers honestly, not looking up. “Potential significant others find it… disheartening when I can't give them enough time or attention. Understandably.” He taps on the profile of a cute florist, reading over her details.
“But what you do is so awesome,” Chanyeol says, disbelief in his voice. “You help suckers like me find happiness.”
“And I also dedicate a lot of my personal time to the task,” Kris says, looking up.
“Oh,” Chanyeol frowns. “Yeah… I guess that could be a bummer.” He rests his elbow on the table, cheek in hand. “But it's not a twenty-four-seven deal. Like, you set your own hours and are home at night and in the morning, right? Just like any other self-employed entrepreneur.”
“Mhm,” Kris hums, looking back down at his tablet. The florist, Joonmyeon, is still single.
“It can't be that bad. Besides, it's humanitarian work. That's something to be proud of someone for.”
“It's not twenty-four-seven, but I am on call, in a sense. Anytime you need me, I have an obligation to help you. Day, night, weekends, and holidays.” He hits 'message’ on Joonmyeon’s profile. “My clients takes precedence over everything else.”
Chanyeol hums in agreement. “You're a really good guy, Kris. You deserve someone who is proud of you and doesn't hold you back from your passion.”
Kris’ eyes flit up to regard Chanyeol quietly. Of course, Kris has given a lot of thought to his lack of romance - he has spent countless nights alone in bed wondering if he'll ever be able to fall asleep with, and wake up to, someone. Setting people up for a living is starting to get bittersweet.
“I think our first endeavor,” Kris decides to steer the conversation away from himself, “will be Joonmyeon. She's beautiful, smart, and talented. She owns a floral shop.”
Chanyeol brightens a little, “Do you have a photo? I love flowers.”
Kris turns his tablet so Chanyeol can see. Joonmyeon is classically beautiful, with long black hair and a broad, kind smile. “She comes from an esteemed family, too. She's a very qualified bachelorette.”
Chanyeol nods, “She's super pretty. But-” he deflates a little, “-are you sure she'd be into me?”
“It takes a bit for her to warm up, but Joonmyeon is secretly a softy.” Kris offers a small smile. “Unfortunately the last man I set her up with saw fit to marry a secret girlfriend.”
Chanyeol lets out a breath, “Shitty.”
Kris clears his throat.
“I mean-” Chanyeol coughs. “That sucks. Uh, sure. I'd like to meet her.”
“Good.” Kris replies, pulling up a few profiles of some other women, as well. “She'll be a good start, but I would like to set up a few others, too.”
Chanyeol taps his pen idly on the table. “Good idea, in case Joonmyeon runs for the hills after meeting me.”
Kris snorts, “You're not that bad, Chanyeol.”
“Bad enough that I need a love coach,” Chanyeol mutters in reply, but his eyes are glimmering, like he's proud of being difficult.
Rolling his eyes, Kris starts gathering his things. “I will let you know the time and date I set up with Joonmyeon. In the meantime, please make sure you own clothing other than jeans and sweats.”
Chanyeol salutes as Kris stands, “Got it, coach.”
“And get a hair cut.”
As he leaves, Kris hides a smile. Only the most uppity, snotty person wouldn't want to date Chanyeol.
“Don't be so snotty, Joonmyeon,” Kris reprimands the woman over the phone, his tone on the verge of going from a gentle chastise to being offended.
“Kris, look.” She huffs softly, and it sounds like she's in the process of transplanting something, judging by the soft metallic sound of a spade digging into dirt. “He's super gorgeous and looks amazing in a suit but don't you think he's…” she trails off suggestively.
“He's a little rough around the edges because his parents didn't turn him into a privileged robot,” Kris defends. Why is he so defensive? “Did he eat with the wrong fork? Use his pants as a napkin?”
“No, Kris, he was the picture of proper,” Joonmyeon says, exasperated. “I just don't think I'm his type.”
Kris snorts softly, “Myeon, you are everyone's type.”
“Not his,” she insists. “And not yours.”
“What did he say?” Kris frowns, ignoring her last words. He's sitting on the couch in his living room, the television on mute and his laptop on the coffee table. “Did he offend you?”
“I'm not saying anything like that, Kris, he was an amazing date and I would love to see him again.”
“So… Why aren't I setting up a second date?” Kris is utterly perplexed.
“I thought you would have figured it out by now,” Joonmyeon says impatiently, “considering how you are.”
“Figured what- how am I?” he gets a little derailed by her comment.
Joonmyeon lets out a frustrated sigh, the sound of her slamming her spade down on the counter clanging in Kris’ ears and making him wince. “You're both so dense! Call me back when you find me a man that actually wants to settle down with a woman!” Click.
Kris stares at his phone in disbelief. Joonmyeon has never lost her patience with him, ever. Scratching his head, he thinks about her words. Jesus, did Chanyeol tell her he doesn't want to be doing this? Kris dials Chanyeol, sinking into the couch and pinching the bridge of his nose.
“Yullo,” Chanyeol answers.
“Can you tell me why Joonmyeon just told me you aren't taking her out on a second date?” Kris grumbles.
“Huh?” He can hear Chanyeol’s pout through the phone. “Oh… She didn't tell me that.”
Kris immediately feels bad. Chanyeol didn't know that Joonmyeon wasn't into him? Great. Just great. “Well- I just got off the phone with her and she made it sound like you weren't very interested in her at all.”
“But I was!” Chanyeol says immediately. “We talked about everything and anything. She laughed at my jokes and was interested in my music. I invited her to an open mic night and she said she'd love to come.”
“Did you invite her casually or did you make it sound like it could be a second date?” Kris asks, tilting his head back to stare at the ceiling.
“I guess…” Chanyeol ponders. “I guess I made it sound really casual.” His voice strains. “Oh man, I fucked up, huh? I didn't make her feel special, like I was just inviting her. Oh man.”
“Calm down,” Kris sighs softly. “It's ok, Chanyeol.” he chews his lip. “I'm not calling to punish you. I'm following up so I can help make the next date as successful as possible. But…” he licks his lips. “She got the impression that you don't want to settle down.”
Chanyeol falls silent for a beat, and then speaks softly. “I do. I mean, going about it in this way, with a coach and stuff, is kinda weird but… I want it. To settle down with someone. To not be alone anymore.”
“Ok,” Kris says softly. “Joonmyeon just wasn't a good fit. And that's ok, Chanyeol.”
“You sure?” Chanyeol sounds pitiful.
“It's just strike one,” Kris tries to sound encouraging. “You're still in the game.”
“Yeah,” he can hear a tiny smile on Chanyeol's lips. “Yeah, I am.”
Strike two comes after a date with Luhan. She's gorgeous, with a tall modelesque body and a porcelain face. Despite her looks she's a bit of a tomboy, and Kris thought she would be an amazing match. But the day after their date Kris gets a text from her, and he frowns in confusion at the message.
Cute dude. Maybe you should re-evaluate his “type”, though. :*
This time, Chanyeol calls Kris first.
“Don't be mad,” Chanyeol starts. “Luhan and I are gonna see each other again.”
“Oh really,” Kris replies blandly.
Kris resists a groan, leaning heavily on a hand against the door frame to his kitchen. “Well, it's a start.”
“She was super cool,” Chanyeol is almost gushing. “We both like the same soccer team and did you know how much she eats? We had a street food competition to see who could eat the most-”
“Chanyeol,” Kris interrupts. “It sounds like you two hit it off. Why won't you be dating?”
“She said she likes me but she has a feeling we wouldn't be right, in the end.” Chanyeol sounds a little clueless. “Makes sense though. She felt more like a bro than my future wife.”
Kris presses his forehead against the door frame, exhaling slowly. “Ok. I have someone else for you to meet.”
“Ok, Kris,” Chanyeol says cheerfully. “I trust you.”
Kris hangs up, and starts to question his authenticity as a love coach. Two failed dates in a row? Is this a Sign that he needs to retire? But the Parks gave him a milli advance - he can't just quit. He has to see this through.
It's only been three months.
“It's been three months,” Kris says, fingers wrapped around his iced mocha. He and Chanyeol are at their usual cafe; to keep things professional they haven't been to each other's homes, although Kris has the fleeting thought that he should see Chanyeol's place to make sure it's not a pig sty.
Chanyeol laughs awkwardly. “Yep.”
“You've had three dates,” Kris says. He doesn't have his tablet, or even his phone out. He needs to have a heart to heart. “Each woman says that you were amazing… but it was them who weren't your type. I find this interesting, because you told me that you don't fancy a specific type.”
“I don't,” Chanyeol plays idly with his straw, plunking it around in the ice of his energy drink blend.
“Joonmyeon and Luhan echoed each other, but Kyungsoo actually was laughing when she called me. Laughing. Kyungsoo doesn't laugh.”
Chanyeol smiles to himself, “She was nice.”
“I had the thought that opposites might attract,” Kris says, borderline exasperated. “And I was right: she did like you, but when I asked when I could set up the second date, she just laughed even harder and hung up.” Kris rests his palms flat on the table, staring Chanyeol down. “What are you doing to these women?”
Chanyeol shrugs, grinning. “Dating them?”
Kris presses the heel of his palm to his forehead. “This is it. This is the end of my career.” He closes his eyes. “I have never had three people reject a client of mine.”
“Hey,” Chanyeol frowns suddenly. “It's not your fault. Look- why don't you tag along on the next date? Make it a double. I promise, I'm doing my best!”
Kris cracks open an eye. “I have never tagged along on a date.”
Chanyeol gives him puppy eyes, “Please? I do so much better when you're around.”
“That might win someone over on a date, but what about when I'm not there?” Kris shakes his head. “It's not a good idea, Chanyeol.”
Chanyeol continues giving him puppy eyes. Kris pointedly ignores him, weighing his options. If he accompanies Chanyeol on a date, he'd be able to properly coach him afterwards on anything he didn't do well with. On the other hand, Chanyeol might get too nervous, or worse - too comfortable - with Kris right there. But the opportunity to help Chanyeol figure out why his dates are failing…
Sighing, Kris glances back at Chanyeol, whose bottom lip has started quivering. “Fine. Next date is a double date.”
Chanyeol grins huge, “Hell yeah!”
Kris has set up a formal double date at a local Italian joint, complete with reservations and coat check. He's waiting out front in a three piece black suit, his pocket kerchief crimson red and his blond hair slicked back. He had told Chanyeol to meet him ten minutes before their dates so they could have a little pep talk; when Chanyeol arrives, though, Kris finds his tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth.
Now… he's always known that Chanyeol is good looking. Questionable fashion at times, and an affinity for snapbacks that give him awful hat hair, but Kris is ill-prepared for what Chanyeol looks like when he's dressed to the nines. Chanyeol's legs are miles long in tapered, charcoal slacks, shoes shiny and belt buckle clean. His blazer trims his slender waist perfectly, his skinny tie is straight against the buttons of his shirt, and his normally wild auburn hair is trimmed and coiffed neatly, shining softly with product under the streetlights.
“Hey!” Chanyeol smiles and Kris is just… stricken, as he approaches. “Woah, you look good. Kinda like you're going to a funeral but hey, you're a real lady killer,” he elbows Kris and winks, “so it fits.”
Kris clears his throat and shakes himself mentally, offering a smile. “You clean up much better than expected.”
Chanyeol grins, “Well when I realized I'd be next to you, I made sure to do some shopping.”
Kris reflexively reaches out to adjust the little navy blue kerchief in Chanyeol's breast pocket, “You didn't need to try that hard.”
They share a smile and then the sound of a woman clearing her throat makes them break apart - Kris smiles warmly at his date, Zitao, who has her friend, Minseok, at her side.
“Zitao,” Kris holds his hands out to the stunning Chinese woman, and when her delicate fingers grasp his he pulls her in to kiss her cheek. “Thank you for coming on such short notice. I wasn't sure if you'd be in the country.”
Zitao lets out a nasally giggle, “Even if I weren’t, I'd catch the next plane back so I could have an evening with you.” She's radiant, her eyes glimmering as she looks at Kris through her lashes.
Chanyeol shifts a little uncomfortably, and because he's hard to miss, Zitao’s eyes flit to him.
“Oh,” she says, her smile widening. “Hello.” She reaches for her friend, gently tugging her closer. “My name is Zitao. This is my best friend, Minseok.”
Minseok is… a unique beauty, Kris notes. Big eyes, small mouth, long brown hair. Her face is angular in some spots and round in others and she's… adorable, actually.
“Nice to meet you both,” Minseok says. Her voice is so sweet.
Chanyeol extends a hand, bringing Minseok’s up to his lips for a sweet, soft kiss, his eyes trained on hers. “A pleasure.”
Kris can't decide if a hand kiss is charming or greasy, but Minseok’s smile widens, and that's all that matters. “Well, shall we?” he prompts, placing his hand on the small of Zitao’s back to start leading them inside.
The restaurant isn't five star, but it's not quaint by any means. The lights are low and candles decorate the tables, and after the hostess seats them at a round table, the gentlemen pulling out the chairs for the ladies, Zitao preens a little.
“It's been a long time, Kris,” she says, long fingers sliding through raven locks to gently push her wavy hair behind her shoulder. Kris’ eyes follow the movement and the subtle way it draws attention to her plush breasts, before he looks back up at her smirking features. “I see you're still in business.”
Kris hates it when Zitao does this. He had taken her out a few times, years ago, when he had thought to try the dating scene himself. Zitao is gorgeous - intelligent and charming, too - but also very used to being worshiped. Kris couldn't get down on a knee for her, let alone think to call her on the nights they didn't spend together, and Zitao had dumped him. He holds no hard feelings against her, because he understands the stress he put her through, and he still tries to see her from time to time. Zitao, however, still carries a torch for him, even though she holds him accountable for their failed relationship.
“I am,” Kris finally replies. He glances at Chanyeol, “Although this hardly feels like work.”
Chanyeol grins, then gives his attention to the women. “How do you two know each other?”
“University,” Minseok replies. Her voice is so soft. She tucks some hair behind her ear, her eyes trained on Chanyeol, before they slide to Kris. “I've been thinking about contacting Kris, myself,” she admits, a bit shyly. Her gaze moves back to Chanyeol, “How lucky for him to find me first.”
Chanyeol grins and sits up a bit straighter. “There's no one better.”
Kris stays cool under the praise, and promptly switches the topic. “Minseok, Zitao tells me you run a second hand music shop.”
Minseok brightens, and Chanyeol immediately grows more interested.
“Really?” Chanyeol grins. “I love music. I play! Where is your shop?” Chanyeol scoots his seat over a little so he's not leaning his long body around the table to talk with Minseok.
Satisfied that the spark has been lit, Kris turns his attention back to Zitao. She's eyeing him curiously, and Kris’s jaw clenches before he smiles under the weight of her gaze. “How have you been?”
“I've been well,” she replies in Mandarin.
Kris’ gut falls. She's going to say something she doesn't want anyone else to hear.
“Ah. So…” Kris tries to not fidget. Even though he's a confident man, Zitao has a way of ruffling him.
“So I didn't think you'd still be single,” Zitao says, sipping her ice water.
“Business is good,” Kris replies.
Zitao’s eyes flit to Chanyeol. “I see. Very good.”
Kris arches a brow, “Did you want to be set up with him?”
Zitao laughs, “Don't be silly. He's very desirable, but I know better.”
“You're a good friend,” Kris says. “Thank you for bringing her here.”
“To be honest,” Zitao traces a manicured finger around the rim of her glass, “I called Joonmyeon after I agreed to come here. She had mentioned that she went on a client date recently.”
Kris deflates. “She told you that it flopped?”
“She said he's amazing,” Zitao glances over at Chanyeol, who is in the middle of animatedly explaining his favorite technique to string a guitar. Minseok actually looks very interested. “Handsome, funny, intelligent, relatable, perfect smile.” Zitao's gaze levels with Kris. “Almost like he's too good to be true.”
Kris is taken aback by how… incriminating those words sound. “Are you insinuating that I've coached him to be something he's not?”
“On the contrary, he's very real,” Zitao says, shrugging and leaning forward a bit. Her cleavage softens a little, but Kris keeps his eyes on hers. “But something's a little… off, isn't it?”
Kris frowns. “It's not uncommon to be single at his age, anymore.”
“And you?” She asks, her feline smile sharp at the corners.
“And me?” Kris is thrown off. “What about me?”
“You're single at forty-one because business is good, hm?” Zitao purrs. She takes another sip of her ice water, her glossy lips leaving a faint ring around the plastic straw.
A waiter drops off menus and a bottle of champagne, and Kris’ ears buzz with Chanyeol’s voice as he suggests his favorite menu item to Minseok.
“I don't follow.” Kris says, picking up his menu and staring at the words.
“Two of the most handsome, eligible bachelors in the city can't keep a girlfriend but can spend so much time together,” Zitao's voice is smooth as air. “Haven't you wondered, Kris, why the three dates you set up with Chanyeol can only see him as a friend, if he's so great?”
Sure, Kris had wondered. But Chanyeol isn't fit for just anyone. He's unique, with an energy about him that requires a certain personality to keep it under control. To be honest, Kris has never met anyone like him before - professionally or personally.
“It's hard to pin his type,” Kris reasons, adjusting his grip on his menu.
“Really? Because I think I know his type, from just the past half hour.” Zitao leans back in her seat, crossing her legs and sending Kris a knowing smirk.
“And his type is…?” Kris decides to play along, even though Zitao is a wildcat and he's probably close to being bitten.
“I think… educated,” Zitao hums thoughtfully. “Successful. Driven. Light hair, dark eyes…” She gives Kris a pointed look. “Fills out a suit well.”
Kris’ throat goes dry. “You just described me.”
“Yes, you,” Zitao laughs, leaning forward and sharing a secretive smile. “You, whom Chanyeol keeps sparing his gaze to whenever he isn't talking. You, whom Chanyeol is surely wondering what your history with me is.”
“He's only interested because we're speaking Mandarin,” Kris says, to keep himself from going into shock.
“Are you sure?” Zitao asks, looking all sorts of satisfied.
“Kris?” Chanyeol's hand is warm as it rests on Kris’ knee. “You ok, man? You look like you could use some air.”
Abruptly, Kris stands up, his skin burning under his pant leg where Chanyeol touched him. All of the implications Zitao has spun are flurrying around in his head. Of course. Of course. How could he have been so dense? These women all figured out Chanyeol's sexuality and Kris has been fumbling along on an impossible task, oblivious to how badly he'd fail. What's worse, is that the women all tried to hint to him, without directly exposing Chanyeol, and Kris has been so stupid--
“Excuse me,” Kris says, stepping away from the table. The walk outside is a blur, his long legs carrying him out to the balcony where he leans against the railing, staring out at the fountain. String lights decorate the landscape and Kris takes a moment to just breathe, and take it all in.
Chanyeol is gay. He was so casual with his dates because he wasn't remotely interested in them - and Chanyeol either doesn't realize his own sexuality, or he’s going through this process on purpose. For whatever reason, Kris has no clue. Pressing his fingers to his temple, Kris closes his eyes. He thinks about Chanyeol's parents, he thinks about the million dollar check he promised to not cash until Chanyeol got hitched - holy shit.
His career is over. This really is it.
Kris straightens, casually adjusting the cufflinks on his sleeve as Chanyeol approaches. Zitao's words come hurtling back into his brain when he meets Chanyeol's gaze, and Kris loses all tact in one swift moment.
“Are you gay?”
Chanyeol blinks, obviously taken aback by Kris’ question. “Uh-”
“That one time when I caught you in your office, that was a guy, wasn't it?” Kris presses on, facing Chanyeol and grabbing his blazer by the lapels, giving the man a soft, but meaningful shake. “You need to come clean right now, Park Chanyeol.”
“Woah, hey, Kris-” Chanyeol reaches up reflexively, his eyes wide as he grasps Kris’ wrists. “Calm down-”
“Calm down?” Kris repeats incredulously. “Calm down? I have spent the past four months of a year long contract coaching you, prepping you, setting you up on dates, and you didn't even have the decency to tell me that you don't even like women?”
“Hey!” Chanyeol manages to wrestle Kris’ hands off of his blazer. “I've been trying to find a woman that I wouldn't mind spending the rest of my life with. I've been trying.”
“Why?” Kris is growing agitated. “Why would you do that?”
“Because I can't let my parents down!” Chanyeol is visibly flustered, his cheeks pink and eyes wet.
Kris falls quiet, frowning. “You would sacrifice who you are…?”
“I know- I know it seems crazy.” Chanyeol exhales and runs a hand through his hair, making a few locks stick up. “But… My parents don't know, and if I tell them, they'll disown me. I'll lose everything.” Chanyeol's gaze drops. “I actually want to inherit the company.” He takes in a breath, then levels is gaze with Kris’. “I would be ok marrying someone that I'm not romantically involved with, to make my parents happy. I just need help finding a girl who wouldn't mind the same.”
Kris runs his fingers through his hair, disrupting the way he had it slicked back. What a sight, the pair of them, looking disheveled and frustrated. He lets out a heavy sigh, covers his eyes, and then throws his hands up in surrender. “You're the worst client I've ever had.”
“Please,” Chanyeol clasps his hands under his chin, eyes begging. “Please help me.”
Kris’ heart aches. He has no choice. He signed a contract with Chanyeol's parents and honestly, Kris was planning on retiring with all the zeroes on the check they handed over. Chanyeol is likely his last client… ever. And, well, Kris hasn't failed yet.
Chanyeol engulfs Kris in a bone crushing hug, which Kris awkwardly returns with a few pats on his back. His goal has shifted from finding true love, to finding a beard. Great.
“Thank you- thank you!”
Kris tries not to think about how pleasant it is, being hugged by Chanyeol.
“Well, this is pleasant,” Kris announces unnecessarily.
Across from him, Chanyeol looks mildly uncomfortable. “Uh… sure.”
They're at a restaurant for brunch under the guise of a date. Kris had the bright idea to give Chanyeol a one-on-one lesson on properly courting someone - and who better to teach than Kris, himself? Chanyeol had seemed hesitant but also recognized that he needs the help, so Kris had them meet in a quaint mom n’ pop brunch bar.
“How has your morning been?” Kris asks, unfolding his cloth napkin and draping it over his lap.
“Good…” Chanyeol fidgets in his seat, before leaning forward and whispering. “Kris, this is-”
“Why thank you for returning my question and taking a greater interest in what I, as your date, had to say.” Kris interrupts.
Chanyeol pouts. “I don't think I can do this.”
Kris hums. “Well. Then you play the role of the woman, and I will be your suitor.” He smiles broadly. “Give it a try, ok? Roleplaying like this is a great way to get you comfortable with date flow.”
“Yeah, until it comes out that I'm gay, need a beard, and am actually horrible at non-casual interactions,” Chanyeol is still pouting, as he folds his arms and sits back a little. He sighs, “Ok. Woo me.”
Chuckling, Kris nods. “Ok. How has your week been?”
It's obvious Chanyeol thinks that's a stupid question, but after a moment, he seems to let down his walls and play along. “Stressful.”
“Oh?” Kris arches a brow. That's an honest answer. “How so?”
“My dad has been a little more… strict, than usual, about how the office is run. Well- how I run the office.” Ruffling his hair, Chanyeol laughs a little and then shakes his head. “Nah, let's not talk about work.” He adjusts himself in his seat so he leans forward a little, showing physical interest in the task at hand. “At night I've been working on some music and I feel like I'm making a breakthrough, which helps the stress.”
The subject change is a little jilted, but Kris appreciates that Chanyeol knows he shouldn't talk about work. Tilting his head, Kris starts to get interested. “Writing?”
“Yeah,” Chanyeol’s shoulders relax, and his smile brightens. “I've been working on a song for about six months now. I had the melody on the guitar for a while but lyrics weren't coming to me.”
Chanyeol’s smile and energy are contagious, and Kris finds his own lips tugging at the corners. “But you have lyrics now?”
“Just the chorus and the bridge,” Chanyeol looks a little sheepish, but he's still smiling. “I have to fill in the gaps but it's less daunting now.”
“I'd like to hear it sometime,” Kris says warmly.
Chanyeol blinks. “Really?” He leans forward a little, looking genuinely surprised. “Really really?”
Kris laughs, “Really really.”
Chanyeol's expression changes from surprised to satisfied and maybe a little shy. “Ok. I'll let you know when it's finished.”
The waitress approaches their table and sets down two glasses of ice water, smiling coyly at Kris. “It's good to see you, Mr. Wu.”
“Thank you, Jiyeon,” he gestures towards the man opposite him. “This is Chanyeol. Chanyeol, Jiyeon.”
Her eyes light up, “A pleasure to meet you, Chanyeol! I'm so glad to see Mr. Wu here with someone.”
Chanyeol is smiling as he lofts a brow, “Is he usually here alone?”
“Always,” Jiyeon clarifies. She blushes and covers her mouth, looking to Kris, who has an amused smile on his features. Jiyeon is a high schooler and has always seemed to be a little infatuated with him. He finds it cute. “Not-- not that that's sad or anything! I just always wondered when you would finally have a boyfriend and bring him here.”
Kris waves an idle hand, “It’s fine.” He blinks, and then looks back up at her with his brows furrowed. “Boyfriend?”
Jiyeon is busy smiling dreamily at Chanyeol, “You're really lucky. Mr. Wu is an amazing man and I'm so glad to see him so happy with you~”
“Jiyeon--” Kris’ chair legs scrape as he shifts awkwardly, impatiently in his chair.
“I'll get your usual, Mr. Wu!”
Kris feels hot under his collar. “He's not--”
“I'll have a ham and egg croissant, please,” Chanyeol orders, and Kris can see his shit-eating grin from eight thousand miles away.
Kris watches Jiyeon scurry off to the kitchen, and then sends Chanyeol an exasperated look.
Chanyeol shrugs, sipping on his water, eyes smiling at Kris over the rim of his glass. “You look so happy~” he mocks in the worst echo of a woman's voice. Kris huffs, and Chanyeol laughs. “Loosen up. I get why she thinks we're dating, you always look so grumpy. I'm pretty sure you never smile when you're alone.”
“Who smiles when they're alone?” Kris grumbles, tapping an irritated finger on the table.
“Hey,” Chanyeol's voice softens a bit. “She didn't mean to offend you.”
That makes Kris glance back up at the other. Offend? Is he offended? He doesn't think so. Flustered, yes, but he is definitely not offended at Jiyeon’s assumption. So why is he being such a tightwad? Clearing his throat, Kris sits on the edge of his seat, fixes his posture, and lets his face relax into a soft smile.
“You're right. I suppose it’s best if she thinks we’re really on a date, anyway. Makes it more authentic,” Kris says.
“Business on the brain as usual,” Chanyeol says with a little bit of disappointment in his voice. Kris glances up inquisitively, and Chanyeol takes the cue to continue talking. “Just, like-- you’re always so serious. Relax a little.” he lofts a little smile. “We’re on a date, remember? Pretend for a little bit that I’m not your client. The more real you are, the more real I can be, and we can get down to the bottom of this whole mess.”
“This mess is all because you’re not attracted to the gender I’m trying to set you up with,” Kris replies helpfully, even if his eyes are glimmering with amusement.
“Which is why you’re going to help me find a beard,” Chanyeol says, flashing a bright smile.
Kris rolls his eyes a little, rubbing a hand over his face to conceal the fact he’s about to laugh. “I can’t wait to retire.”
Jiyeon returns with their food and a shy smile, the men thanking her as they pick up their utensils. She leaves them, and Chanyeol crams a big bite in his face before inquiring, “You’re gonna retire?”
Kris stares down at his minestrone, enjoying the way the steam curls up into the air. He picks up his spoon first, intending on enjoying the broth as he replies, “Yeah. After I get you set up.”
Chanyeol looks surprised. “Seriously?”
Arching a brow, Kris takes a sip of his broth. “Is that surprising?”
“Well I mean, kinda,” Chanyeol stirs the straw in his drink thoughtfully. “What are you going to do?”
Kris blinks. Huh, he’s never been asked that before. What will he do when he stops being a love coach? Thoughtfully, Kris takes a few more sips of soup, before he shrugs.
“I don’t know.”
“You don’t know,” Chanyeol deadpans.
“I don’t know,” Kris repeats, a bit defensively.
“I hardly doubt that,” the other says seriously, picking up the dill pickle spear on his plate and crunching on it. “No way Kris Wu doesn’t know what he wants to do with his life after he’s all done making millions of dollars.”
Kris stares down at his soup. “... I really don’t.”
Chanyeol is still grinning, “So figure it out.”
“Sound advice,” Kris says, rolling his eyes, “I’ll get right on that.”
“What about finding your own love?”
“Why is everyone so interested in my love life?” Kris tries not to huff immaturely. “What if I just want to buy a yacht and go relax, alone, in the middle of the tropics?”
Chanyeol licks some mayonnaise off of his thumb, “Then I suppose you would.”
“Use your napkin,” Kris says idly.
Obediently and without thought, Chanyeol grabs his napkin so he can set his sandwich down and clean his fingers. “Do you really enjoy solitude like that?”
Kris shrugs. “I’ve gotten used to it.”
Chanyeol tilts his head, “That doesn’t mean you have to enjoy it.” He smiles big. “But-- I do also know that you don’t need a significant other in order to fully enjoy life. So… whatever makes you happy, Kris, you should do it. No matter what it is.”
Kris quietly contemplates Chanyeol’s words as he stirs some barley around in his bowl. Chanyeol is right - Kris of all people knows better than anyone that one doesn’t need a significant other in order to find fulfillment. But it’s hard to imagine himself as one of those people. He would like to, eventually, spend romantic time with someone… and he knows that after Chanyeol is married off in whatever life he chooses, Kris will have full reign to finally do something about his personal life. That doesn’t mean he knows what he’s going to do, by any means. As far as Kris can tell, imagining anything beyond the impossible task of marrying off a gay man to a willing woman is like staring at a brick wall at the end of the tunnel.
“I suppose I’ll have to think about it, then, hm?” Kris finally says, spooning some more soup into his mouth instead of playing with it.
Chanyeol grins huge, “And when you figure it out you should definitely tell me. I wanna know what the infamous Kris Wu decides is his true happiness.”
Kris snorts a little, taking a drink of his ice water. As the ice clinks around in his glass, he supposes that this faux date could have gone worse.
He’s actually… enjoying himself.
“I enjoyed every moment of it,” Kris laments into the phone, sinking as far into the couch as possible as he covers his eyes with his hands.
On the other line, Zitao sounds almost bored. “So you have finally realized why you haven’t had any personal success with women?”
“I’m not saying I’m gay,” Kris says, a bit tightly. Then, “Not that there would be anything wrong if I were gay.” He pinches the bridge of his nose. “But… Even I would be an idiot to not realize that I’m attracted to Chanyeol.”
“And why wouldn’t you be?” Zitao drawls. “He’s the perfect catch-- for a gay man.”
“I have to give his parents back the check,” Kris says, voice pitching slightly with panic. “I have to give them the check back, I’m not fit to help Chanyeol find some girl he can pretend to love and be married to just so he can inherit his dad’s company. And you know what?” Kris balls his hand into a fist, pressing it against his forehead. “It’s not even that Chanyeol wants to inherit the company for the money. He actually enjoys the business and wants to be his father’s successor. He’s just-- so--”
“Pure?” Zitao hazards a guess, before letting out a huff.
Kris is tight-lipped. “Yes. After lunch we went on a walk to a park, and this little girl was crying for some reason, and Chanyeol bought her an ice cream cone and sang her the Gwiyomi song. Her mother looked at us like we were the friendly gay couple from the neighborhood doing our good deed for the day.”
“I understand you’re having your midlife crisis, Kris,” Zitao says with a sigh, “but the only person who can help you through it is Chanyeol.”
“What?” Kris splutters a little as he sits up, alarmed. “Why?”
“Because it’s time for you to be coached on love, idiot.”
Kris flops over onto the couch again, bringing a throw pillow over his face. “It won’t work. I can’t. I have a strict policy against dating clients. And-- it would throw a wrench in our plan. I can’t tell him how I feel.”
“Minseok knows,” Zitao suddenly says.
Kris quiets. “What.”
“Minseok knows that Chanyeol is gay,” Zitao says. “Did you know that Minseok is asexual?” She says it like she’s bringing up the fact that it’s currently raining outside.
Kris slowly pulls the pillow away from his face, deciding suicide by suffocation can wait. “Meaning…”
“Meaning,” Zitao sounds classically annoyed, “that Minseok could be -- and is willing to be -- the perfect beard for Chanyeol.” Kris’ silence urges Zitao to start explaining things to him like he’s five years old. “She could be his beard. She likes him a lot as a person, but as far as romance goes… that’s not her game. I had already told her that I thought he was gay before we went out on that double date, but seeing the way he looked at you really proved my point. And she didn’t run for the hills. Did you know they’re texting?”
“No,” Kris pouts. Chanyeol was keeping it a secret from him?
“Well, they are texting. And enjoying each other. And I think Minseok is your blessing in disguise and you need to take advantage of this. You can have Chanyeol married when the year is up, cash your check, and be confident in the fact that Minseok is going to be a good, unromantic wife to Chanyeol.”
“And then what?”
Zitao sounds like she’s going to rip her hair out, “AND THEN YOU DATE CHANYEOL WHILE HE HAS A BEARD.”
“This isn’t a movie, Zitao,” Kris says, finally sitting up and setting his spine straight. “There’s no way that would work.”
“Why can’t it?” Zitao sniffs. “Just because life isn’t a movie doesn’t mean you can’t have a happy ending.”
Kris pulls his hair idly in mild frustration. “How could I even think of doing that? Lying to Chanyeol’s parents?”
“You’re so willing to help him lie to his parents already.”
“I don’t want to be in a secret relationship,” Kris counters.
Zitao huffs. “Well that’s my solution and if you can’t think of anything better, I will be expecting an invitation to his wedding with a ‘Thank you Zitao’ card inside the envelope!” Click.
Kris stands up and stares at his phone in disbelief. It can’t be that simple. Things are never that simple. Being in a homosexual relationship isn’t that simple -- not that he has anything to compare it to, since he’s never even considered being in one until today. But all of the stress is adding up and sitting heavily on his shoulders; firstly trying to find someone to marry Chanyeol, secondly finding someone to marry Chanyeol that doesn’t mind the Actual Situation, and thirdly… Kris’ own warped, confused feelings.
Talking with Zitao did shed some light on the situation, from all angles really, but as Kris makes his way into the kitchen, he can’t help but feel disoriented. Had he really decided in a day that he was attracted to Chanyeol? Or was it actually the build up that Zitao implies happened, from day one? Kris has always, always looked at his clients objectively and with indifference, until Chanyeol. He knows that. All of his other jobs have been so streamlined and easy, he had almost been getting bored, until Mr. and Mrs. Park contracted him.
...What did he come into the kitchen for?
He grabs a bottle of scotch from his liquor shelf, and then a glass, and then an ice cube. Fixing himself a strong drink, he takes a sip, and then stares out of the window above the sink.
First things first: Kris needs to confirm the beard. Is Minseok really ready to commit to a man like this, even though she won’t get any romantic gratification out of it?
That will be his first order of business.
Well-- after he drinks himself to sleep.