Title: mango, peaches, and lime
Word Count: 7,600
"Hit!" Two long fingers tapped the surface of the table. The next card came sliding over in a split second. Ace of Diamond.
"Hit!" The fingers tapped down again, the whole hand this time. Kris glanced up, noting the guy's bright eyes and a wide crazy grin showing off two perfect rows of too many shining white teeth. Blond curls, Asian, not Chinese, probably Korean. He was dressed in a dark navy suit with subtle pinstripes, sleek Italian glam and undoubtedly worth a fortune. A small bowtie adorned the collar, a bit of preppy kitsch rather than overdone luxe. A small glance, and Kris decided he had seen this type around here. Korean chaebol princes and princesses enjoying a weekend trip to the Asian Las Vegas, gambling away the bottomless fortunes of their family's empire for a bit of thoughtless fun.
That still didn't really explain the guy's stupidity. He was on soft eighteen. Then again, it wasn't Kris' job to care about how his customers wanted to set their money on fire, so he slid a card over in one fluid movement, flipping it over next to the Ace of Diamond.
Six of Hearts. Burst. Kris flipped his hole card over. Twenty. Dealer won. He collected the chips. Teeth-rich guy dropped a couple more of the red chips into his box, the smile never really faltering. Kris inwardly rolled his eyes. The guy had managed to blow six thousand in the last hour. Then again, this was a floor where the table minimum was one thousand. It was a quiet night, as far as quiet nights in Macau's most prestigious high-stakes casino went. This was the VIP floor, the lush red room more intimate and cozy than the ritzy extravagance of the rest of the city's casino empires, the air hazy with cigar smoke and the steady hum of the heavy-handed clientele. The baccarat tables were much more crowded tonight, leaving Kris with a handful of tourists around his blackjack table.
Teeth-Rich had wandered in sometime past midnight, his gait unsteady but eyes bright in that decidedly more than mildly tipsy phase. Easy money, Kris had assumed, and he was always right. The guy had an awfully pretty face until he started grinning, dropping down on a seat at Kris' table and pulling out a wad of cash. He was loud, Kris quickly realized. Nothing so obnoxious like a bad drunkard to guarantee security, but over-excited and hyper like a kid in a candy store, laughing like a mad seal with a voice surprisingly thunder deep, a total disconnect from the pretty face. He had more than once tried to initiate a high-five with the hawk-like middle-age Chinese man next to him after every big win, shouting his cheer in mangled street English, and the bewildered man had started to oblige after the third fumbling attempt that nearly managed to make him drop a burning cigar on his sleeve.
Somehow on the second hour, Teeth-Rich caught on to the fact that Kris understood Korean. This was only after Kris had had enough of Teeth-Rich trying to engage him in an English rap battle as means of introduction.
"Has anyone ever told you that you have very offensive eyebrows?" He was leaning over with both his elbows on the table now, chin in hands as he stared up into Kris' face. "They make you look angry, even though I know you're not angry. No one can be angry in the presence of Happy Virus. That's an offense."
What the hell was a Happy Virus? Kris merely raised an offensive eyebrow as he dealt a new hand. Blackjack for him. Dealer won. He calmly collected Teeth-Rich's little pile of chips as the guy gawked with his mouth open in mock-outrage.
"You don't really know what you're doing, do you?" Kris let a small smirk tug at his lips as Teeth-Rich kissed each of his chips before dropping them into the box this time. The table had temporarily cleared out for a short while, leaving only Teeth-Rich facing him.
"Nah... not really." Teeth-Rich leaned back, an exaggerated pout on his lips. "I was just bored. Last night in Macau."
"With money to burn." New hand, Teeth-Rich still refused to stand at eighteen.
"With money to burn," Teeth-Rich shrugged, turning on his blinding smile again. "You know what, you're not so bad if I ignore the angry eyebrows." Kris could feel appreciative eyes roving over his body underneath the uniform white dress shirt and black waistcoat. He was no stranger to that kind of gaze or that kind of barely veiled interest. "How about that, let me buy you a drink."
"When do you get off work?"
"In the morning?" Teeth-Rich blinked up at him. It was a little past three then. "Oh. Maybe breakfast then?"
The words "maybe next time" were already on the tip of his tongue, an automatic dismissive response, but then Kris glanced up to see Teeth-Rich's ridiculously earnest expression on that pretty face, and he paused to think it over. Free food, decent-looking guy who didn't seem like a psycho stalker despite the crazy teeth. There was nothing to lose, really. He always twent for breakfast after his shift, and the guy was leaving for another country in the next twenty-four hours anyway, it wasn't like they would ever see each other again. There would be no next time.
"Fine. Seven-thirty, hotel lobby, the one connected to the casino."
He didn't need to look up to know Teeth-Rich was flashing his pearly white in the strongest wattage. "You make hanging out with a handsome guy like me sound like such a chore." He took a final sip of his neon toxic green drink before standing up, fingers still playing with a couple of shiny black 500 chips. "Don't be late, Angry Bird." Teeth-Rich placed a kiss on the chip in his hand before placing it on top of a small stack, and then slid the rest of his chips over towards the dealer's side. Teeth-Rich made his exit with a butterfly kiss and an exaggerated wink that didn't fail to make his face distort into some resemblance of a surrealist cartoon.
Kris looked down, eyeing the small fortune of a tip he had just made for the night. Easy money, indeed. He had always been right.
Two hours before the end of his shift, the fire alarm erupted in the building, the shrill sound deafening as it pounded against his head. Everyone seemed to be frozen for minutes until they realized the sounds weren't stopping, this was not some technical malfunction or random fire drill, and everyone staggered away from their tables. The confused and slightly panicked crowd pushed their hasty way out of the casino, some people still grasping at their chips, eyes dazed after hours spent staring at red and black.
When Kris finally made his way out to the emergency meeting point in park on the other side of the hotel casino, he saw it. A blazing fire raging on 8th floor of the hotel casino, black smoke breaking out from the windows, the flame flicking at the side of the building, charring everything black with heat. People were shouting and running from all directions, firetrucks coming in with lights flashing and sirens blaring, but all Kris could see was the way the hot orange fire blazed up the murky early morning sky, strong and uncontrollable.
He thought he might have seen a tall dark shadow in one of the windows, figure stark against the fire, but when he blinked again there was nothing there but fire and destruction.
When the fire was eventually out, leaving nothing behind but charred rubbles and ashes and they finally let everyone go, it was already past seven. He had almost forgotten about the promised breakfast date until he saw a mop of blond curls high above all the other heads in the crowd. He thought about walking in the other direction, but then a familiar grin was already there, flashing two rows of perfect shiny teeth at him. Teeth-Rich walked fast.
"Exciting night?" The guy's eyes flickered up to the blackened hole in the middle of the casino building. He had obviously gone back and changed out of the suit and the bowtie, now looking much more casual and young in a pale pink blazer and white tee.
"More like headache-inducing," Kris snorted. Up close, Teeth-Rich was tall. Probably as tall as he was. When Kris turned to look at him, his eyes met the guy's shoulders instead of the top of the head like he usually did with other people. Kris dragged his eyes back up. "Breakfast?"
"My name is Park Chanyeol." Teeth-Rich beamed at him.
"Kris." He nodded, already weaving his way out of the crowd, expecting Teeth- Park Chanyeol to follow.
"You don't have a surname?" Chanyeol was already at his elbow.
"Do you want noodles or congee?"
He ended up with a bowl of wantan noodles, Chanyeol with a bowl of seafood congee and way too many supplements, the two of them nestled away in a tiny booth inside a small family restaurant off Happiness Street. Chanyeol had no grace even in eating, which wasn't a surprise. Kris marveled at how the guy was as hyped up as he had been five hours ago. It was as if he had been gobbling down caffeine pills all night long.
"I know my face is a world's wonder, but please look at your noodles, too." Chanyeol said in the middle of a mouthful of fishball. Kris grimaced and used a chopstick to pierce right in the middle of the ball in Chanyeol's mouth. He left it there and went back to his noodles as Chanyeol chomped around the chopstick.
"So how was Macau as the dream holiday?" Kris asked as Chanyeol munched slowly on his cuttlefish. "Is it your first time here?"
"First time, yeah. Business, not pleasure though." Chanyeol grinned, remembering to chew and swallow before he spoke this time.
Kris hummed, mildly surprised. Teeth-Rich looked a bit young and crazed for family business on his own. "What kind of business?"
"Kicking ass and taking names."
"What, like an international gangster?" Kris grinned, amused.
"Something like that, yeah." Chanyeol laughed and raised his hand for a fist bump, "Yo!" Kris shook his head, but obliged anyway, a smile still tugging at the corner of his lips.
When Chanyeol went off to find the bathroom, Kris checked his phone.
Breaking news at nine. A fire broke out early in the morning on the eighth floor of the Casino Victoria. Luckily it was an office floor and no customer was hurt. However, a body was found, charred to the bones. Identity to be confirmed by the police, but trusted sources suggested that it was Jason Luo, 52-years-old, owner of the casino, who was found dead in his own office. Cause of fire still unknown.
Kris leaned back against the chair, letting out a small sigh.
Late summer going on autumn, yet the oppressive heat was still heavy in the air, even in the middle of the ocean. Kris pressed his fingers around the ice-cold champagne glass, hoping for the coolness to trickle into his body somehow as he made his way towards the railing of the ship deck, away from the crowd. Some fancy evening cruise off the coast of Jeju Island, and all he could think about was how the wood-paneled floor of the Sapphire Blue's sky deck looked annoyingly mismatched. As far as private cruise ships went, this one was opulence with all the obligatory new money bad taste, the decor loud and obnoxious, the deck lined with neon blue lights and curvy gold-etched lettering.
He leaned against the railing, draining his glass. At least the one thing with good taste around here was the drinks.
"Another one for you, sir?"
Speaking of loud and obnoxious. Kris glanced up, and the hand that was already reaching out towards the offered tray stilled when his brain caught up with his eyes. Wide bright eyes verging on crazed, two rows of perfect shiny white. Except the hair was cut short this time, straight shiny blond tucked behind large elf ears instead of curls, and Teeth-Rich was dressed in the discreet all-black uniform of the cruise's waiting staff instead of his fancy suits. It took him a while to remember Teeth-Rich's name.
"Did your parents make you get a real summer job?" Kris asked, bemused as Chanyeol pushed the only glass of champagne left on his tray into his hand anyway after taking his empty glass.
"Hey, maybe this has always been my real job!"
"Enough to fund your high-stakes Macau gambling in the weekend?" Kris stared.
"Well, cruise ship waitstaff get good money. Maybe just as good as casino dealers do over there." Chanyeol raised his empty champagne glass in mock cheer, his gaze roving over Kris' body and his sleek black tux, eyes catching on the small diamond cufflinks. Chanyeol's smirk was way too smug, and Kris rolled his eyes, consciously tugging on his sleeves.
"Hey, I get off work at twelve." Chanyeol was smiling now, tilting his head a little so the blond hair was falling over his eyes. "Let's go for a drink."
Kris snorted. "I have a flight in the morning."
"Let's do breakfast then." Chanyeol grinned, sending him a final cheer with the empty flute, disappearing into the crowd before Kris could protest. Chanyeol had never actually told him where and when they would meet up.
Kris looked down at the glass of champagne he was holding, hot fingers pressing around the icy cold surface as he held it out sideway and tipped it over, pouring the content into the shimmering ocean below. Kris shook his head, pushing himself away from the railing, smoothing down the lapels of his tux jacket.
The Sapphire Blue only went up in flame after all the passengers had drunkenly gotten off the ship at Dodu Port. People screamed and shouted, but they all gathered around the port, staring in awe and fascination as though they were marveling at a giant bonfire. The fire shimmered and danced on the dark surface of the water, orange light catching like gold flecks and fireflies in the reflection. It lit up the midnight sky, the sight jarring and gorgeous against the backdrop of the majestic old volcanic mountain Hallasan. Bright lights and dark smoke, he really wasn't at all sorry to see the ship go up in the flame, the garish beast crumbling down to a blackened mess of melted metal and charred ash.
He returned to his hotel room sometime past midnight, falling asleep with the ferocious fire licking behind his eyelids.
Kris woke up to soft full lips pressing against his own.
Instincts had his hand shooting out and grabbing the neck of whoever was leaning over him, but his fingers grasped nothing but empty air as he bolted up in his bed, nails digging deep into his own hand, burning hot.
"A bit grumpy in the morning, aren't you? Good morning to you too, Sleeping Beauty."
Kris' shoulders tensed, his hands flexing slowly as he felt the heat rush under his skin. The dark shadow standing just out of his reach was unmistakeable. "How the hell did you even get in?" He groused out, glancing over to see the wide open glass windows just behind the tall figure, the early morning winds blowing warm and humid into the air-conditioned room.
"Or do you prefer Snow White? Your hair is more dried dead hay than ebony black, but I'm willing to overlook that tiny detail." Teeth-Rich smiled at him, all teeth and way too obnoxiously chirpy for the early morning. Casual jeans and oversized t-shirt this time, straight shiny blond hair still tucked carefully behind elfin ears. He looked perfectly cute and harmless until Kris remembered he had never told Park Chanyeol where he was staying, and the guy had just broken into his room at - Kris glanced at his clock - six thirty in the morning. And he just happened to be holding Kris' passport.
"But you used to have ebony black hair! So long, too! This is so cool!" Chanyeol's mouth was shaped in a perfect O as he studied at the front page in wide-eyed curiousity. "Very Hong Kong mafia! Is that what you are, Wu Yifan?"
Kris jumped out of bed and snatched the offending document out of Chanyeol's hands. The guy shouted in protest, but grinned and took a step back when Kris glared at him.
"Chanyeol, get out."
"But why? We've got a breakfast date this morning, did you forget?"
"I need my beauty sleep." Kris threw himself back on the bed, but the lines of his body were still tense, ready for the slightest wrong movement. His eyes followed Chanyeol as the guy made his way to the large working desk and poked at an open bag on the surface with two fingers.
"Holy shit, what are all these things?" Chanyeol's eyes widened as he leaned down closer for a better look, fingers running over what was inside one by one. "Okay wait, maybe you're not Hong Kong mafia, but a beauty product black market dealer!" He pulled out a lotion bottle, throwing it in the air in a perfect arch before catching it with one hand. Chanyeol was loud and obnoxious now, but Kris remembered how he had slept like the dead until Chanyeol decided to wake him up with a kiss. Who knew how long the guy had been in his room until then.
Kris sighed, standing up and walking over, snatching the bottle out of Chanyeol's hand. Except this time, Chanyeol's hand held on to his own, long fingers intertwining with his, the drag of bare skin burning hot against his palm. Chanyeol had a surprisingly strong grip and clever fingers. Kris' eyes flickered up to see the pout on those full lips.
"Shut it and go get your own breakfast, Phoenix."
Chanyeol's hand stilled in his grasp, and Kris wrenched his hand away.
"I like it better when you call me Chanyeol." He pulled himself back, and Chanyeol was sitting high on top of the desk now, body posture all sprawled out and relaxed with that underlying sense of smug confidence and reckless challenge, both hands holding his weight as he leaned back, long legs swinging. If Kris looked long enough, he could almost make out the bright shadow of giant phoenix wings on the wall. The familiar smug grin on Chanyeol's lips was toned down, but there was a sharp edge to it that Kris couldn't look away from.
"I like it better when there's no annoying pyromaniac wrecking havoc in my room at six in the morning."
Chanyeol was pouting again now. "C'mon, the least you could do after taking away my assignment last night is treating me to breakfast." Chanyeol's grin widened as Kris' eyes snapped back to stare at him. "The man's skull was already crushed into black ash when I found him in his cabin. The floor was still crackling with the heat. I only helped with the clean-up."
Kris was silent for a beat. "And the theatrics."
"You can't say it wasn't a good show." There was that smug cat-like smirk again. "I know how to put on a good show."
Kris remembered the blazing fire tearing apart the night sky and the dark water. He remembered the heat unfurling in soothing coils against his fingers. "Fine, breakfast. And then you never, ever step into my bedroom again."
Chanyeol's arm was suddenly heavy around his shoulders, shiny white teeth too close against his ear for comfort. "We'll have to see about that."
Breakfast was a simple affair down the beach, at Chanyeol's insistence. Local grilled okdom and galchi fish soup, largehead hairtail and cuttlefish, a spicy stew of vegetable, soybean paste, and red pepper paste, better than any hotel fare. Chanyeol's enthusiasm over fish was contagious, and soon they were slurping away, hunched over on tiny seats too small for their oversized legs.
"I feel like I could breathe fire right now." Kris said as he down the glass of water in one gulp, mouth burning from the hot pepper.
"Can you?" Chanyeol suddenly perked up from his piece of broiled fish, eyes widening in excitement.
"No," Kris deadpanned, picking up his chopsticks again. Chanyeol pouted, looking oddly disappointed.
"When did you know who I was?" Kris asked sometime between demolishing the grilled okdom and the last bowl of spicy stew.
"A friend told me The Dragon had been there as well after I already left Macau. Then I saw you on the ship last night, on the job, and it clicked. Didn't manage to catch you taking down the mark, but you disappeared, so I knew. Funny how we've never crossed paths until now."
"This profession is not exactly one prime for social networking and warm-hearted friendships." Kris rolled his eyes.
"And yet you said yes both times I asked you out for breakfast." Chanyeol grinned up at him, smile bright and perfect with a piece of green scallion stuck between his front teeth. Kris sighed and went back to his own soup bowl.
Lu Han was drinking something obnoxiously pink in a margarita glass, Yixing was off somewhere in search for his fifth dessert, and Kris decided social networking on his job brought the worst kind of friends.
"This reminds of that time some crazy client asked me to bring them the mark's brain in a container filled with ice. I didn't know squat about surgery or brain removal, it was so messy. Some people, ugh." Lu Han scrunched his nose as he repeatedly jammed the straw into the crushed ice of his strawberry daiquiri. Kris pinched the bridge of his nose and gently tugged his friend away from the crowd of classy-looking people in glamorous cocktail dresses and shiny tuxes innocently enjoying their champagne and foie gras. Or whatever that murky brown thing was.
It was some China-Korea Friendship Cocktail slash Dinner Buffet Reception at the Fairmont Beijing, and it was only Kris' second night back to Beijing on a short holiday after Yixing and Zitao insisted that he had to visit them before they finally hunted his ass down to check whether he was really still in one piece. Zitao, the ungrateful brat, didn't even bother showing up when he finally came. Some urgent last-minute hit or other in Qingdao, Lu Han had told him with a pout. They were only supposed to go for a simple dinner for the night, but Yixing's social networking somehow got them on a limousine to the Fairmont with the promise of free food and free alcohol. It wasn't too bad, until Lu Han decided to update him on his latest adventures over drinks and dinner.
The crowd were suddenly clapping, and Kris turned away from Lu Han's chatter to look at the stage. A Korean representative of the sponsor would be introduced now, the host said, and his heart almost fell out of his ribcage when familiar long legs came into view. It was Teeth-Rich in all his billion-won movie star glory, eyes bright and blond hair artfully pinned up, looking even more like an elf with that absurdly pretty face tonight. Kris barely heard what the man was saying, something about the Park family's company being a great supporter of the fund, then a large flower bouquet was shoved into Chanyeol's hand and he walked off the stage, disappearing into the crowd.
"I have to go," he patted Lu Han on the shoulders as the shorter man jabbed him in the ribs after he realized Kris wasn't even listening anymore. Lu Han shouted something after him, but Kris barely made out the words. He weaved through the crowd, eyes trying to catch a skyscraper blond head rising above all the other low-rise buildings, and it wasn't long before Park Chanyeol appeared in front of him at the fruit stand of the buffet, munching on a juicy peach.
"So you really are a chaebol heir." Kris let his eyes rake up and down the younger man's tall form in his perfectly fitted Italian suit. Chanyeol looked like he belonged on the runways of Milan's Pitti Uomo in a late summer afternoon.
"I don't know about chaebol, but I do have a private beach." Chanyeol laughed, the sound surprised and delighted as he stared at Kris.
"Is that a come-on?"
"I'll send an engraved invitation." Chanyeol leaned in, whispering hot against his ear. "I'll even send a cruise ship to pick you up. Too bad, I gotta work first for all that hard-earned money." Chanyeol's eyes flickered away, and Kris followed his gaze to see an old man in a white suit laughing obnoxiously. Business before pleasure then.
"I have to go now, but let's meet later for breakfast." Chanyeol winked at him, looking ridiculously suave and gorgeous as he slunk off into the buzzing crowd with his half-eaten peach. Kris stared after him for a few beats before shaking his head, making his way back to the bar where Lu Han had been staring holes into his back the whole time, flanked by Yixing who was spotting his most infuriating smirk.
"He's cute. Who is he, your new catch?" Lu Han waggled his eyebrow, a deceptively innocent grin playing on his lips as he sipped on his strawberry daiquiri.
"That was The Phoenix." Kris took a new glass of champagne, calmly watching Lu Han violently choke on his drink. He subtly moved away as Lu Han sprayed his drink all over his own criminally expensive Armani suit. Yixing thumped Lu Han in the back, nearly sending him tumbling forward and crashing into the bar.
"He is what?!" Lu Han choked out between pained coughs, face scrunching up in clear distress, resembling much of a crumpled tissue. Beijing's top elite assassin was so graceful and classy. Kris wondered if this guy had ever heard of anti-wrinkle cream. "Did you just say he is The Phoenix? The Phoenix? Since when did you hang out with The Phoenix?"
Kris counted the months in his head. "Since five months ago now."
"But why?" Lu Han spluttered, "He's completely nuts! Psycho! Cracked in the head! His screws are so loose you can probably pick them off with a toothpick!"
"Just two minutes earlier you said he was cute." Kris leveled him with a judging stare.
"Well, that was before I knew who he was! Ugh, I should have known, his teeth were too good for him to be normal." Lu Han grimaced, dabbing at his suit with a bunch of tissues helpfully supplied by Yixing. "His dental hygiene is too exceptionally flawless. Have you seen those teeth? Haven't you heard the rumours?"
Kris had heard plenty of rumours, thank you very much. The Phoenix was not South Korea's most notorious and deadly assassin for nothing. "He seems like a cool guy."
"Oh my god," Lu Han winced, pulling out his phone and furiously typing out something, "I have to tell Zitao about this. Kris has gone mad and is now dating The Phoenix. Please send help. ASAP. What do you guys even do together anyway? Burning all the cities down together?"
"We're not dating, I've only met him three times." Kris rolled his eyes, "And we just go out for breakfast. Food." Noodles and congee and spicy fish soup.
He picked up Chanyeol at his hotel in the morning. A congee restaurant this time up Andingmen, just on the other side of Ditan Park. Chanyeol looked oddly sleepy, mumbling around his mouthful of hot rice soup and succulent duck slices.
"Job ended early, so I actually went to sleep last night." It was cute, how the pout was Chanyeol's default expression when he was sleepy and quiet. Kris hummed, spreading out a newspaper on the table next to his bowl. Fire broke out in the presidential suite at the Fairmont Beijing last night, one body found. Some politician who had recently gotten into a scandal.
"You were born rich, probably got five housekeepers and three chauffeurs growing up in your little mansion of a house. Why did you even go into this line of work? You obviously don't need the money." Kris leaned back, eyes tracing Chanyeol's long fingers. Perfect manicured nails, soft-looking palms. Chanyeol shrugged.
"Boredom. It's just something to do, something I'm good at." Chanyeol's eyes suddenly flickered up, the glint in his gaze sharp as he stared straight into Kris' eyes. "Why would I want to lounge around at my beach house doing nothing when I could be out there in the world, setting it on fire?"
"I don't know, that sounds like a sweet life." Kris smirked, hand reaching out to touch the tip of Chanyeol's fingers. The faintest sparks of flame flickered between their fingers. Chanyeol's expression smoothed out, his smile soft and adoring.
Bangkok didn't come as a surprise after Busan, Osaka, Wuhan, and Singapore. They met in the hotel lobby, both checking in at the same time.
"Don't tell me you are-" Chanyeol's mouth opened, then snapped shut at Kris' raised eyebrow.
"Well, at least I know I'll have a date for breakfast tomorrow." Kris shrugged as the receptionist handed him his key card.
"Please enjoy your stay, Mr. Li," she said, and Kris nodded in thanks, ignoring Chanyeol's flabbergasted expression as he picked up his briefcase and walked off in search of the elevator.
"So what are you now, Mr. Li?" Chanyeol called out from halfway across the lobby. Kris glanced back, a smirk playing on his lips as he tugged on the lapel of his sunshine yellow suit jacket.
"Internet fashion entrepreneur."
He turned the corner before Chanyeol's choked laughter could reach his ears.
The mark was far from easy to corner this time, a Korean drug lord who had been hiding in Bangkok for the last eight months, but the thrill of the competition had Kris pulling out all of his tricks. It was Chanyeol who found out where An Seungho was staying first, but it was Kris who had been following Chanyeol that moved faster.
It was just past two in the morning of the third day when Kris finally managed to have An Seungho pinned down on the surface of a deserted skywalk rising high above the humming city. The ground was still warm from the daytime sunlight, the night air heavy with heat even in the middle of January. An Seungho was crawling now on his arms and his upper body, his elbows already scraped raw and bloody on the hard ground in his hasty desperation. It was a waste of energy anyway, his legs were already useless. There were blackened holes on his thighs and legs from where Kris had clawed his fingers in, all the way deep to the bones, the flesh oozing red and melting against the charred bones. The smell of smoke and burnt flesh were still acrid in the air.
It was then that Chanyeol found him, his footsteps light against the skywalk despite the heavy steel-capped boots.
"Oh, you were faster." Chanyeol sighed, looking down at the crawling man, slowly making his way towards Kris in a wide arch. Fire was flickering around his fingertips and under his feet, but Chanyeol made no move towards the mark. An Seungho was spitting curses now, his eyes crazed with the searing pain.
"I know who you are," the man hissed, barking out laughter rough with anger and agony, "so the rumours are true after all. The almighty Phoenix, now reduced to nothing but The Dragon's little girlfriend."
Chanyeol paused on his track. He turned very slowly towards An Seungho, and when Kris finally caught sight of his eyes, there was no trace of emotion in them. It was jarring, the sudden emptiness. He silently walked towards the fallen man, kneeling down next to his legs. An Seungho tried to crawl away, but Chanyeol's hands were already wrapping tight around his ankles. Chanyeol had a surprisingly strong grip. The man thrashed in his grasp, but it was already too late as fire burst out from Chanyeol's fingers, the ring of fire licking up the legs starting from the ankles. The man screamed, his upper body rolling and twisting as he desperately tried to wrench himself away from the fire, but he was already choking from the smell of burnt polyester and his own charred flesh.
"Chanyeol," Kris called out, but Chanyeol ignored him. The wails were starting to get grating, and Kris sighed. Chanyeol's fire had no intention of killing, the flame flicking up very slowly and carefully controlled. This was just pain for the sake of agony. He walked over to the thrashing men, kneeling down next to his head. Kris peered up at Chanyeol's face, the light of the fire throwing harsh shadows on his expression.
"Chanyeol," he called out again, and this time Chanyeol let go. Kris thrust two fingers into the mouth of An Seungho, and the screams abruptly cut off as his tongue burned into ash inside his skull. His eyes popped open in terror, and they remained so as Kris crushed his jaw into ashes with long fingers.
Chanyeol kissed him that night in the hotel corridor just outside his room, hot tongue flicking between his lips, before Kris pushed him into the room, slamming the door closed behind them. Heat pooled low in his stomach, and they both gasped into the kiss when Kris' whole body threw Chanyeol onto the bed. Kris thought he felt fire licking up his spine when Chanyeol's hands roamed all over his back, but the thought was lost in the blazing pleasure of Chanyeol's shivery hot flesh pressing flush against him.
They both sank into sated sleep with the smell of smoke haunting the insides of their heads.
Chanyeol was nowhere to be seen when he woke up, spread out across the burnt sheets of the giant king bed.
When Kris finally completed his early morning moisturizing routine and found his way down to the hotel's restaurant, he found Chanyeol sitting at a small table for two, staring morosely into a bowl of plain congee. He slid into the opposite seat, peering up at the younger man's face.
"Why... are you sad?" He tried his best fairy godfather voice, speaking in slow, accentuated syllables. Chanyeol's hair was shaped like a mushroom this morning, fluffy and puffy at the sides. It was the right shade of dirt brown, too. Kris thought Chanyeol was looking oddly sad for someone who had put that much effort into hair styling this morning.
"They're out of salted egg at the buffet." Chanyeol's lips pursed. They sat in silence for a moment, before Kris' chair scraped back and he got up. He returned five minutes later with a plate of mushroom omelette and a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice. Kris set the plate down in front of Chanyeol, then sipped on the orange juice himself.
"Are you upset about last night? Because I'll split it with you to make it fair."
Chanyeol stirred his congee with the butter knife, looking distinctly put out. "No, it's just..."
"I'll make it up for you." Kris said with conviction. Chanyeol looked up to stare at him, eyes narrowed in suspicion. "You can ride me next time."
Chanyeol spit out the spoonful of congee he had just stuck in his mouth, rice and spit spraying. Some little kids at the next table stopped to stare.
"On the back of my dragon form." Kris gently picked up a large cloth napkin, dabbing at Chanyeol's face. He squeezed Chanyeol's cheeks under the napkin once, then tucked the napkin into mushroom head's left hand.
"Do you really have a dragon form?" Chanyeol stared, wide-eyed.
"No," Kris shrugged, a smile tugging at his lips as Chanyeol threw the napkin at his face. "So what, do you want to be my boyfriend?"
"No, not really." That was what Chanyeol grunted at him, but Teeth-Rich was flushing, his eyes darting away.
"I'm actually a handsome and talented university student," Chanyeol told him this when they eventually bumped into each other on the street of Seoul by accident. It was as much an accident as it could be after Kris had spent the last three days following him around. Chanyeol really had just gotten out of class, the backpack on his shoulders heavy with textbooks and papers.
"Are you busy tonight?" Kris snorted, tugging at the strap of Chanyeol's backpack.
"Yeah," Chanyeol nodded, sighing.
"Let's go for beef ribs soup and some kimchi pancakes after you're done." His knuckles brushed the soft hair behind the nape of Chanyeol's neck. His hair had gotten longer again.
Seoul night in March was wet and cold. The drizzling rain had stopped just before the sun went down, but there was still that scent of damp fresh earth in the air. Kris pulled his long coat tighter around his body. High up here, flying across the roofs of concrete buildings and glass towers, it was colder than he had expected. When he arrived, it was to the scene of Chanyeol actually being pinned down on the rooftop of a concrete factory building by a figure in black. Still, it wasn't long before the young man reached out and clasped his hands around his attacker's wrists, fire bursting under his touch. The man in black growled but did not relent, and Kris winced as he socked Chanyeol in the face with his elbow, making that flawless face scrape against rough cement. Kris was already imagining it, the marks red and painful on Chanyeol's cheek.
Still, he was hanging back, just observing the fight. Chanyeol's sharp knees kicked his opponent over, and even from a distance, Kris could hear the loud crunching noise the man's bones made as Chanyeol's favourite steel-capped boots came down hard on his hand. There was a scream, a flash of silver, and when both of them violently pulled away from each other, there was blood running down Chanyeol's jaw. His opponent was holding a short dagger in his good hand, the blade dripping red. The cut looked deep, and Kris frowned in dismay as he wondered whether it would leave a scar.
Then Chanyeol laughed, the sound loud and rumbling deep in the chilly night air, and Kris realized he was enjoying this. This was all fun and games, The Phoenix playing around with its prey in its last hours. Chanyeol was grinning, his eyes bright in the night, blood smeared all over half of his face, and Kris realized he had never looked so beautiful. There was a vibration in his frame, the pulse of power just waiting to burst out from under his skin. Chanyeol had always seemed like that to him - always thrumming with energy, always so bright and warm, but right that moment, he saw that energy transform into what The Phoenix really was.
Fire. Fire burst out along Chanyeol's arms, and each step he took left behind a sizzling flame on the ground. His opponent was fast and cunning, but no mere human could be The Phoenix's match. He watched as Chanyeol backed his prey into a corner, surrounding them with blazing fire and a grin on his lips. There was nothing methodical about the way Chanyeol worked. He reached out to hold the man's broken hand first, an imitation of intimacy, the twisted flesh and bones bursting into flame and shriveling down to charred melting bones in mere seconds. The place where the hand was burned off was raw red turning black, flesh and bone marrow being cooked in the heat. It was too fast for the man to even scream.
The look of paralyzing fear on the man's face was stark in the light of the fire. That same look of fear had been there ever since the very beginning. Humans had always been scared of fire.
He let small burst of flame flick along the man's skin then, leaving behind blistering red burns in its wake. There was screaming then. Chanyeol's hands slowly trailed up to hold the man's face between his hands, a low flame simmering under his fingertips, licking burns at the man's face. His fingers were digging deep lines into the man's cheekbones. The fire was bright in his eyes as he watched the man's skin fleck into ash under his fingers, revealing bones under a mess of red and black. He couldn't see the dagger the man was still holding from that angle, but Kris could.
By the time Chanyeol realized the shift of movement under him, it was too late, and he let out a loud gasp as he jerked away. There was sudden deafening silence. The screaming had stopped.
The dagger had never made it, and his mark was floating in the air with a punctured skull. Except he wasn't really floating, and Chanyeol coughed out a laugh as he caught sight of Kris' face behind the very dead man. Kris was holding his body up with just a single hand, long fingers digging deep into the man's skull, a darker flame flicking fiercely around his fingers. He tilted his head, staring straight at Chanyeol, and silently crushed the man's head into charred ashes. The body, littered with sizzling burns, dropped to the ground.
Kris curled and uncurled his hand, flicking it to get rid of the human ash and the flickering flame on his fingers. He stepped over the body, coming to stand in front of Chanyeol. The younger man pouted when Kris reached out to touch the bright red mark on his cheek.
"He put up a good fight. I was surprised."
"Ehh, he was okay. Some professional hitman. Guess he ran with the wrong crowd." Chanyeol shrugged, gingerly touching the cut on his jaw. Kris gently pulled his fingers away. Chanyeol frowned at him. "Why did you come? Trying to one-up me on the job? This kill was still totally me all the way, don't even dream of splitting it."
"You were going to be late for our date. And now we can't even go with your face like this."
Chanyeol slapped his hand away, his lips twitching up in a mocking sneer. "Please, the only time when it's unacceptable for us to go out together in public is when I finally burn off your angry bird eyebrows. Your face-"
Kris' thumb was warm on his lower lip. Chanyeol had always been warmer than the average person, but Kris... his touch had always burned just little hotter. Chanyeol's eyes flickered up as Kris' hands brushed up a lock of his hair on the side. His mouth formed an 'o' when he realized his hair was not falling down again - it had been pinned back neatly.
"You like my hair pinned up."
"I do." Kris nodded, still fixing some stray hair. Chanyeol's head dipped lower for Kris to work on it.
"Since when do you carry bobby pins around on you?"
"I use them sometimes. Keeping my hair out of my face when I apply my face cream at night. Say 'thank you, hyung.'" Kris was smirking at him, and Chanyeol could only pout.
"...Thank you, hyung." He mumbled under the gentle touch of Kris' fingers.
"So you're done for the night?"
"I still have to burn down this factory building." Chanyeol was still pouting, but a wide grin was tugging at the corner of his lips. It was hard for Kris not to return that grin. Chanyeol's eyes were bright, and the fire around them was warm and intoxicating.
"You know, we could burn down the city if we wanted to."
"Yeah?" Chanyeol tilted his head, the grin turning into a slow, heated smirk. Kris leaned in to kiss him.
Chanyeol's lips were soft against his own, warm and comforting. Just an innocent peck, and then suddenly Chanyeol was pulling him in, hot body crashing against his, and the kiss deepened. He licked over Chanyeol's plump bottom lip and gasped when Chanyeol's perfect sharp teeth bit down lightly on his lip. The first hint of their tongues touching turned him dizzy, and he could feel it - he could see in his mind's eyes, the fire unfurling from Chanyeol's body, bursting into a sky-high phoenix behind his back, its blazing wings stunning and ethereal in the night sky. He could feel his own flame bursting out from the very core of his body, the normally sleeping dragon awakening and rising up, answering the fire of the phoenix.
They were intertwined in the fire and the heat, dragon and phoenix roaring high up in the sky, and when Chanyeol laughed against his lips, the whole world around them burst into flame.
They would burn the world down into ashes just because they could.
Chanyeol's hand was still burning hot in his when they stumbled into a small restaurant in Hongdae together, six in the morning, eyes bright and shoulders brushing.