The S Dorm is one of the nicer places that Charis has ever lived. He appreciates that it’s not lonely. As soon as he walks in, he’s greeted by the familiar cheery citrus colors, bright, warm oranges and yellows. The lounge is where they spend most of their time when they’re not in their rooms. It’s the middle of the day, and most people aren’t around yet, still off doing their separate things.
“Where have you been?” Mouse asks as soon as Charis walks into the lounge.
Mouse is tall and lanky, and he can cover most of a couch all by himself. His long, black hair is tied in a messy knot atop his head. He’s sprawled out completely on one of the lounge couches, tapping away on his phone without looking up.
Now Mouse glances up. “What’d you get?”
Charis digs around in his pink shopping bag and tosses a white beanie at Mouse.
“For me? Aw, Charrie, you shouldn’t have.”
He says that, but he still folds the hat up and carefully tucks it into his side, right next to the ribs covered by his black t-shirt. Mouse usually wears all black, but he’s got a soft spot for soft things, like this knit hat. He hides it away in case Charis gets any ideas about taking it back.
“I got a new pair of glasses, too. I have to pick them up on Sunday.”
Just then, Kim Joon walks in with Jang Miyong, the lead dancer and rapper of their group, respectively.
“Oh, hey, Charis is back,” Miyong says.
Miyong is the youngest of them, still only 17.
He goes to sit on the couch—directly over Mouse’s legs, so Mouse has to either pull them back or get squished, which he does, looking mildly affronted.
“’Lo,” Kim Joon says, nodding to Charis while he goes to sit in the newly vacated space on Mouse’s couch beside Miyong.
They make a kind of strange pair—at least Charis had thought so at first. Miyong is bright and sunny. He never minds insinuating himself into the others’ spaces, never worried about getting underfoot. He wants to know what people are doing and why, will ask a million questions. Mostly, it’s very endearing, but Charis would have thought that their taciturn dancer would be bothered by it. In the beginning, they had all spent time trying to redirect Miyong lest he bother Kim Joon.
“I don’t mind,” Kim Joon had finally said at last.
Nowadays they’re often found together. Charis doesn’t know what they talk about. He usually doesn’t see Kim Joon talking to anyone.
“Charis bought a pair of glasses,” Mouse says, newly relocated with his legs tucked under him, looking mildly more civilized, as he taps away on his phone again. His haphazard bun is starting to fall, with wisps of hair faintly escaping it. With one hand, he reaches up and undoes his hair tie, fingercombing it loose until it drapes nicely over one shoulder again.
“Is something wrong with his eyes?” Kim Joon asks.
“No, he’s just trying to look like an intellectual.”
“I’m just trying a new style, that’s all.”
Miyong nods sagely, his large eyes clear and wide. “It’s good to try new things, especially with fashion.”
Miyong is largely regarded to be the beauty of their group. With his big, round eyes, long, curly black lashes, and heart-shaped lips, he looks like an innocent darling. His hair is fluffy and sleek black, neatly trimmed in a way that feathers around his clear, small forehead and gives him a clean and fresh appearance.
Not that Charis is a slouch either. He’s often paired with Mouse in photoshoots because his cool, wintery coloration sets off Mouse’s darker features and pale olive complexion nicely.
Charis goes to put the rest of his purchases away in his new room. When he gets out, the others have made themselves more comfortable, seemingly settling into the lounge for the night. Miyong and Kim Joon are both drinking tea, and there’s a third steaming cup across from Mouse’s elbow on the coffee table.
The sun is starting to set beyond the big, clear picture windows that give them a view of the city lights. The sunset stains the sky with bright-colored clouds that break up the deep blue moving toward the horizon beyond the window.
“Where are the others?” Charis asks. He’s not used to the quiet.
“They went back to grab the rest of Kiki’s things from K dorm,” Kim Joon says.
Charis nods, already rolling up his sleeves as he heads toward the kitchen. “Are they coming back tonight, do you know?”
“They should be back soon,” Mouse says, finally setting his phone aside. He leans over the back of the couch and looks toward Charis in the kitchen. “Do you need help?”
“Mm, no, I’m fine.”
Sometime over the last twelve months, Charis has ended up doing most of the cooking for their group. He washes his hands under the stream of cool water from the tap, his chunky, cream-colored sweater pushed up to his elbows. He washes them carefully, making sure to get under his trimmed nails and between every finger and knuckle of his fine-boned hands. His skin looks almost translucent under the strong overhead lights hung high overhead. The kitchen is open-plan, like the lounge. It might be a bit small, objectively speaking, but it’s so much better furnished than their old kitchen in K dorm. To Charis, it feels like a masterpiece.
He pauses with his hand on the chrome handle of the fridge.
“I’m thinking hot pot tonight. Any objections?”
There’s a chorus of “no,” “of course not,” from the lounge.
“Hot pot sounds great,” Miyong says earnestly.
It brings a gentle, genuine smile to Charis’ face.
He takes out the electric hot pot and fills it with water, plugging it in and setting it to heat up on the counter while he halves an onion and carefully peels its paper skin off. By the time he’s through preparing it and the garlic, the water in the pink pot is already simmering gently. He scatters the aromatics into the pot, adds a packet of spicy instant bulgogi broth, and lets it simmer while he cuts the rest of the veggies.
He fishes the onion halves and soft garlic out of the soup and sets it in a bowl off to the side to be used for something later.
By the time the kabocha is neatly diced, the cabbage and mushrooms are sliced, and the beef is neatly laid out on a plate, the entire kitchen is steamy and fragrant. The perspiration in the air clings to Charis’ skin. He carefully unplugs the hot pot and brings it to the table, running an extension cord to plug it into the wall. After that, trays of neatly sliced vegetables, meats, and tofu appear on the table.
“Ahh!” Miyong is the first to the table, his face lighting up happily as he sees what his hyung has prepared for them.
“Hyung, it looks amazing!”
The others also come to the table, albeit a bit more slowly. Still, even they’re hardly dragging their feet. The scent of Charis’ cooking really is too good. He usually makes them healthy things that enable them to maintain their weight and strength, but he manages to make even nutritious food smell and taste so good.
Charis smiles. “I’m glad. Are Soohyun and the others back yet?”
“Here we are,” Soohyun answers as he comes up the steps. Kiki and Xiao Yu are right behind him. Kiki offers him a smile, and Xiao Yu gives him a small salute.
“This looks amazing,” Xiao Yu says.
“Long day?” Charis asks. His members all look pretty tired, especially their oldest, their group leader, Soohyun.
“We just ran into a little trouble on the way back,” Soohyun says.
Charis is a little curious, but Soohyun doesn’t offer any more information, and when he says it, Xiao Yu’s mouth pulls tight, and even Kiki looks troubled. Charis might ask Soohyun about it later.
For now, he just does his best to clear away the gloom with the taste of normalcy. He offers them a smile and says, “Well, go wash up, then. The food is ready.”
“Aye-aye, captain,” Soohyun says with a warm and rugged smile of his own. Despite how tired he looks, his smile is very warm. His lightly highlighted hair falls around his forehead and accentuates his good looks.
They all disappear into their respective bathrooms and look considerably more refreshed when they come back, dressed in more comfortable lounge clothes with their makeup taken off.
There are no cameras in the house today. They’re still settling in, and there had been some moving footage, but they don’t need to produce any behind-the-scenes content today. It’s a rare moment to just breathe and relax in their new home together.
They’re all hungry and excited to eat, but Charis makes them wait until everyone is present. No one minds. Even Miyong, the youngest and most excitable among them, is okay with it. It helps that Kim Joon stuffs a sweet baked bun into his hand to tide him over, and he stuffs his cheeks with it like a chipmunk, happily chewing on the toasty, shiny egg bread until the rest of their group joins them.
Their dining room is just off from the open kitchen, a long, rectangular table with seven chairs, one for each of them, just off from the lounge area. The lights overhead are shaded by colorful plasticine lamp shades in cool pastel colors.
When they start eating, the table is lively. There’s plenty of food to go around, but Miyong and Kiki nevertheless get into a chopstick fighting match over the beef. The sound of their metal chopsticks clicking and clacking is punctuated by sharp laughter, especially when Xiao Yu comes in from the side to steal the last cut of beef belly from right out between their preoccupied noses, to the sound of Miyong’s outrage and Kim Joon’s smothered laughter.
Charis has his long, nearly blond hair tied up with a chopstick of his own. Tendrils of it escape and frame his face, and even his icy face is softened and transformed by traces of laughter as he watches his family fight and bicker and squabble with each other lovingly. A playful argument goes up around the table, with Miyong raising his voice and Xiao Yu’s arrogant tones rebutting him. Mouse, of course, serves as the instigator. He’s seemingly refereeing but in fact just stoking the flames higher.
Charis pauses midway through putting a bite of cabbage in his mouth, snorting softly, the sound mellowing into true, soft laughter as he shakes his head and watches. He catches the eye of Soohyun across the table, who watches him. Soohyun’s eyebrows raise, and then he rolls his eyes in such a stark gesture of fond exasperation.
It makes Charis’ smile grow. These people, this family.
It’ll be time soon to pile all the dishes into the kitchen and clean up, but for now, he just shakes his head and smiles back, pillowing his head on his hand and watching his family.
Hello! I'm nervous to share more of my original writing, but I'm also going absolutely crazy with so many WIPs on my hard drive and all these characters knocking around in my head while I'm all alone, so I thought maybe I'd start trying to share a little.
I hope you like it! There are a lot of characters upfront, sorry. I can share a character glossary if it becomes unmanageable 🙈