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Aestiferous

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December rolled around, the cold weather growing and amassing, winter moulding it into a snowball. Time passed by too quickly, as if it had walked by one of the season’s mischievous traps, sliding over a frozen pool and landing days away from where it had first started its path.

 

A week before Christmas, Baekhyun was frustrated and strangely anguished. Chanyeol wasn’t there to witness it, his presence wasn’t required for Baekhyun to suffer and fail while digging into his brain for any idea, anything that would help him make out what exactly he would gift the other for Christmas. He had never struggled so much.

 

Usually, he didn’t spend Christmas with anyone, preferring to spend it alone or with Junmyeon but this was different. Baekhyun hadn’t gifted anything to Chanyeol. Gifts were a mandatory part of showing love. It was in Baekhyun’s interest but he didn’t know what exactly to gift the other. He had even missed the occasion to do it on his birthday but there was the possibility of seeing each other on Christmas or a few days before or after or whenever. Hopefully later than sooner.

 

One morning, when snow drizzled down the sky like icing on cake and prevented him from going out and browsing through malls and stores for the third time, Baekhyun finally cracked and grabbed his phone. He had tried distracting himself with work but he was getting too worked up about the issue, unable to ignore it. He didn’t even know if this mattered, they hadn’t discussed Christmas.

 

It didn’t matter. Baekhyun had to make an attempt. 

 

What do you want for Christmas? he texted the other, praying to whoever would hear him that Chanyeol could just tell him whatever he wanted so he could buy it and get it done with.

 

But that wouldn’t imply a lot of effort. Why couldn’t he just come up with anything? He had bought dozens of gifts before, some of them for special occasions, a lot of them in exchange for love.

 

Your happiness, Chanyeol replied. Shared with me. Let’s spend Christmas together?

 

And maybe Chanyeol had a flame strong enough nestled in him to melt away the snow and the frustration, maybe even a part of Baekhyun. He could feel it deliquescing inside of him, with an odd sound, as a smile flourished on his lips in rhythm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baekhyun wondered if it was possible to actually get addicted to someone’s warmth.

 

In a way, he knew that he had always been dependent on that kind of feeling. This time, it was different. This time, it wasn’t that sensation in general that he felt himself growing dependent on but Chanyeol.

 

That weekend, they hadn’t seen each other at all. Baekhyun had been busy with work, 4C’s holiday collection would launch in exactly two days. Chanyeol had also had classes the whole of Saturday along with dinner at his parents’ house on Sunday. It was an alien feeling, the restlessness, the fidgety movements that came with it as Baekhyun was sprawled on his couch on Monday morning. His fingers were typing over his keyboard and stopping every few seconds to allow him to glance at his phone, his teeth digging and pulling at the skin of his lower lip, foot swinging back and forth against the armrest.

 

They hadn’t completely cut off contact. Chanyeol had texted him yesterday and even sent him a picture of him cuddling with Toben but Baekhyun hadn’t seen him, hadn’t felt him. This wasn’t completely unfamiliar either. It wasn’t the first time he’d grow antsy after a few days spent away from people who cared and loved him but he wasn’t used to yearning one particular person’s presence. Maybe it was just because Chanyeol became some kind of habit to him.

 

Maybe if he chose not to ignore it and actually play on it, it would benefit him. He wouldn’t even have to lie. Chanyeol would like it. They always did. Chanyeol might like it and might feel like an indispensable part of Baekhyun’s life. In a way, like many others before him, he was.

 

Making his mind up, Baekhyun launched his hand towards him phone, grabbing it and typing a message in the matter of a few seconds. 

 

The reply took half an hour to come and it was only halfway through that time that Baekhyun remembered Chanyeol had classes to give, students to take care of, and couldn’t give his entire attention to him at any time of the day. It was a bit upsetting, but when his phone lit up with Chanyeol’s notification, he forgot all about it.

 

I wanna hug you

 

please do so

but that’s so random hehe

 

He smiled. Curiosity. That meant Chanyeol liked it and wanted to know exactly why that thought was suddenly sent to him.

 

We haven’t hugged since Friday!!

 

He expected a reply after that but it didn’t come. Chanyeol must’ve only replied to him in the few minutes of break he had in-between classes. This time, Baekhyun didn’t mind. He spent the following hour working even more efficiently on the last review of the company’s marketing plan, going through data and analysis of the reactions they had gotten so far since the announcement of their collection almost two weeks ago. 

 

When the reply came, Baekhyun stopped typing on his laptop mid-sentence and grabbed his phone again.

 

you’re so cute

wanna have lunch together?

then you can hug me AND eat

double the happiness for you

 

Baekhyun laughed a bit at that. He was right.

 

When? 

What hour? Minute? Second?

Where?

 

I’ll be free starting from 12:15:00 :D

I have classes in the afternoon so we can’t really go too far from the academy

wanna go to that sashimi place? we went there once and you liked it

I’m already hungry I feel like my stomach’s shrinking and kinda dying on me

 

Alright 

Your handsome knight will save you from starvation 

And breathe life back into you with the Absolute Kiss

 

stop being lame or I won’t eat with you

 

:( 

 

Baekhyun grew restless and fidgety for a whole new reason after that. He counted down the minutes that separated him from what he craved so much. 

 

This time, it was with fuzziness in his fingertips rather than restlessness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"What about you? What do you do?"

 

If there was one thing that Baekhyun didn’t like about Christmas it was the mandatory Christmas outings that came with it for the company. It wasn’t much, a dinner offered to all the employees in a restaurant rented by the company, also paid by the company as a gift and show of gratefulness for everything they had done for 4C through the whole year. Or something equally as useless. A mere dinner spent talking about even more work wasn’t really a gift, in Baekhyun’s opinion.

 

On the contrary, it rather felt like a nightmare to him. Especially since this year, both his father and his brother couldn’t attend and once again, he was chosen as some kind of rebound. The only good thing about this was that he could arrive as late as possible and leave as early as possible without anyone having the courage to comment on it.

 

That had been the case half an hour earlier. He had arrived late, too late but most people were already too merry and tipsy to even notice his presence. Most employees didn’t even know what he looked like in person, the most they had seen of him were scarce pictures online or quick glimpses in the highest floors of the company.

 

The beautiful woman sitting in front of him was one of those people.

 

"I’m an intern too. I started last week," he smiled shyly, eyes carrying stars of disbelief and pride at being able to work in such a big, successful company.

 

She was already too tipsy to notice but Baekhyun still put on an act. After showing himself to a few higher-ups and sharing small conversations filled with tasteless jokes and overused wishes of happiness in the new year, Baekhyun had managed to untangle himself from their grasp. He had plopped down in front of an unfamiliar young woman who seemed to be alone and awkward.

 

"It’s difficult to adjust, isn’t it?" she said and Baekhyun politely filled her glass up a little. She was technically his senior in this conversation. In the fifteen minutes they had spent together, he had figured out that Jihyo didn’t pay much mind to hierarchy amongst interns but her cheeks still flushed at the gesture.

 

"It is," Baekhyun said, fingers holding onto his chopsticks. He brought a few grains of rice into his mouth. He wasn’t really hungry. "But you seem to have adjusted well."

 

"I got used to it, I guess. They don’t let me do much, I mostly collect data from the tests but even watching them tweak with formulas and textures of products is amazing."

 

She seemed to like what she was doing. She had a big grin on.

 

"I’m sure they’ll let you do more exciting stuff soon. You seem really passionate about it," he reassured her, fueling the heat pitted under her cheeks.

 

She took a sip of her drink and Baekhyun looked around. It wasn’t difficult to locate the source of the eyes he had been feeling on him for the last minute or so. He caught his father’s secretary’s gaze and she immediately turned away, leaned closer to the woman sitting next to her and whispering something. The subject of their conversation was obvious at that point.

 

He looked back to Jihyo and leaned a little closer to her, lowering his voice.

 

"These two always seem to be gossiping about something," he commented with a friendly smile.

 

She followed the trail of his gaze and the confusion on her face cleared up when she saw who Baekhyun was talking about. She rolled her eyes, the gesture uncoordinated because of the alcohol slowly dripping into her veins.

 

"They always have something to gossip about," she snorted.

 

"You seem to have heard them a lot," he hummed, looking at her curiously.

 

She looked down, smiling. No one else had talked to her even once since Baekhyun arrived. Maybe she was happy to have finally made a friend. She leaned closer and lowered her voice too.

 

"They’re always talking about the CEO and his son."

 

No surprise, just a taste of something unpleasant in the back of his mouth.

 

"What do they say?" he asked, raising his eyebrows in curiosity.

 

She looked around quickly, hesitating only a second before answering.

 

"You heard about the CEO, right? His health is deteriorating. He hasn’t been to the company in weeks."

 

Baekhyun actually hadn’t heard that. There was no one to tell him and there was no will in him to question anyone about it.

 

"What does that have to do with his son?" he asked, letting confusion pull his eyebrows into a frown.

 

"Well, apparently, he usually comes in to work in the CEO’s stead but he hasn’t been seen in a while, I think. On the last meeting the CEO attended, someone asked about his son and I heard he suddenly got really angry and called him useless or something like that."

 

The unpleasant taste in his mouth grew stronger. He had heard those words many times, from his father’s own mouth but it was different to hear it reported by someone else.

 

"That’s what they’re gossiping about?" he asked, unimpressed.

 

She seemed to understand it and immediately shook her head, eyes widening with the eagerness of someone pleasing a new friend to tie their friendship together for a long time.

 

"That short haired one is the CEO’s secretary. She always spreads rumors about him." She leaned even closer and let her voice drop down a whisper. "About his sexuality."

 

Baekhyun put his chopsticks down and laced his hands together on his lap, under the table. That one was new. New and very unpleasant. He had never shown any sign of his private life in the company, he had no idea where this was coming from.

 

"What about it?" he asked, whispering back as if he shared the outrage she seemed to feel at the mention of sexuality.

 

She looked around again quickly. "They say he’s… a homosexual."

 

"Really?" he gasped, ignoring the slight sting of his fingernails digging into the flesh of his palm. "How do they know?"

 

He didn’t like this. Not because he was ashamed of being attracted both to men and women, merely because a lot of people, most people in this company and in this country would see that as a stain, a flaw, something he would have a hard time correcting. It wasn’t something he wanted to, and could, change.

 

Anger prickled a little through him. He really hated this. This mentality.

 

"Well, she says she heard the CEO calling him disgusting and a monster a few times," Jihyo shrugged. "And they say he also looks a bit feminine."

 

For a second, Baekhyun didn’t break the façade. Then, as if something had pierced it from inside, he felt it crack once and then crumble down entirely.

 

"And what? Does that mean he can’t be a man? Does that make him a monster?"

 

She pulled away at once, her eyes widening as her lips parted, not a sound slipping through. His voice hadn’t been loud. It had still remained as a whisper. He had still managed to at least control that about his reaction.

 

And Baekhyun shouldn’t do this. He shouldn’t snap and lose control like this. He didn’t like it. He felt disappointment swirling in his stomach a little but anger stabbed through fiercer, pulling his attention away. He had never reacted this way. It washed over him like relief. This reaction.

 

It was a bit destabilizing, unsettling. The sourness kept spreading in his mouth, down his throat. She was speechless, still looking at him in surprise. Baekhyun wasn’t sure what she was seeing in his expression. He wasn’t sure why being called a monster pushed that reaction out of him now, after so many years of tolerating it.

 

Deeming it the right moment, he got up and left without a word, dragging himself far away from a place that made his skin itchy enough for it not to feel like his own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"You really said that to her?"

 

Junmyeon’s voice was full of intrigue as it hummed against Baekhyun’s ear through his phone. He sighed, looking at the taxi driver through the rearview mirror to give him his address. He hadn’t taken the car just in case he would drink but now, he regretted it deeply. It had taken him five whole minutes to hail an available taxi.

 

"I did, Junmyeon," he repeated for what felt like the third time. There had been nothing but surprise in Junmyeon’s voice from the very first moment Baekhyun called him a few minutes ago and naturally recounted him what had happened. "I don’t know why either. It just. Felt like too much?" he said, exhaling those words.

 

"Well, you weren’t wrong. Hearing that from your father is one thing but a complete stranger spreading that through your entire workplace is another," Junmyeon hummed, his careful tone passing through the line. Baekhyun looked out of the window. "But don’t think about it too much," Junmyeon said again when Baekhyun didn’t speak. "It’s just bullshit. It’ll probably die down soon, they don’t even have anything to base that rumor on."

 

"You’re right," Baekhyun sighed again. "It’s not even the rumor that pisses me off. I mean, it’s not like I’m going to be there and see them give me a nasty look. I just really hate it when they make assumptions. This is all his fault. If he at least didn’t treat me like that in front of people, this wouldn’t happen."

 

Baekhyun heard it enough already. Monster. That cursed word. He didn’t need to hear it from another voice.

 

"Hey, it’s okay," Junmyeon said softly. Baekhyun tilted his head up a little. He felt stifled. "If you want I can tell my mom she talked bad about you and make her attend the next company meeting. Then, we’ll see who’s the best gossiper."

 

That pulled a little laugh out of Baekhyun. He knew Junmyeon wouldn’t do that, he knew it was something said with the intention of soothing him. He was also aware that no one could beat Junmyeon’s mother when it came to gossiping.

 

"No, what if she gets aggressive? Remember that one time she went to our school because you let it slip that some girl kept telling you that you dressed like an old man?"

 

"How could I forget that," Junmyeon sighed a chuckle out, exasperation and fondness crackling through the phone. "She argued with the girl’s mother about rudeness. She also personally chose my clothes every morning for an entire month. It was hell."

 

"It was heaven for me. You always sulked in class and I didn’t understand why. She did dress you way better than you dressed yourself," he confessed, smiling a little to himself.

 

"That’s not a very nice thing to say," Junmyeon protested, voice loud but not losing its gentleness.

 

Baekhyun did nothing but laugh and Junmyeon joined along a mere second later, their laughter mixing in naturally. With every note that left his mouth, Baekhyun felt as if whatever had been pressing down on his chest was being pushed away.

 

"Thank you," he said once they both calmed down, soft, sincere.

 

"No worries," Junmyeon answered and Baekhyun could almost hear the smile in his voice. "Call me again. Whenever you need."

 

"I will. I have no hesitation when it comes to pestering you," Baekhyun said, mirthful.

 

Junmyeon’s laughter was the last thing he heard before the line cut off, the sound leaving a smile on his face even after he brought his phone down to his lap. He exhaled. They were not even halfway through the journey back to his apartment, the roads were a little too clogged up at this hour.

 

Baekhyun looked away from the window and down at his phone again. He could still feel the ghost of Jihyo’s voice whispering in his head. He could sense it merging into a deeper, scratchier, greasier voice from time to time. Whispers were cold. A shiver ran down his spine. He pulled the lapels of his jacket closer together. He gazed down at his phone. He unlocked it, opened his messaging app like he had done so dozens of times before, whenever the same cold breeze swept through him.

 

Wanna come over tonight? Now? he sent as a reply to Chanyeol’s latest message he had been ignoring through the company dinner. It took a few seconds for a single thumbs up emoji to be sent to him and Baekhyun locked his phone again, leaned back against his seat and relaxing through the rest of the ride.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chanyeol arrived only a few minutes after Baekhyun reached home. 

 

Still a bit restless, he had cleaned around the house, or at least, tried to find something to clean, and then took a look inside the fridge. There was nothing to see. He hadn’t gone grocery shopping in a while. They would have to order in.

 

It was in the middle of that thought that the bell rang and Baekhyun rushed towards the door, swinging it open at once, pulling Chanyeol inside, closing the door again, and pressing him against it all in a flurry of movements. He reached on the tip of his toes and pressed their lips together for a revitalizing kiss.

 

Chanyeol, despite the hurry through which Baekhyun had put him, didn’t really seem to mind. He firmly pressed his lips back against Baekhyun’s, cradling his cheek with a careful hand. Baekhyun leaned into the touch and melted against his chest. He was wearing another puffy coat that cushioned Baekhyun’s body against his and when Baekhyun felt his thumb stroking the apple of his cheek, he slowly exhaled through his nose. 

 

It was a bit foreign. A mere kiss being enough for Baekhyun to forget whatever tormented him. It took much more than that usually, but Baekhyun knew that this was enough. It would be enough to just kiss Chanyeol like this, ardent, his lips slotting emotions into Baekhyun.

 

It was only when Baekhyun felt something wet on his chest that he regretfully broke apart from the other, looking down at his shirt and seeing a few darker spots on his coat. He noted the slight dampness on a few strands of his hair when he looked up. It must’ve started raining while Baekhyun was fidgeting inside. He met Chanyeol’s gaze for a second before closing his eyes again when the other leaned down for a last, tender peck.

 

"I missed you too," Chanyeol whispered against his lips before grazing the tips of their nose together.

 

Baekhyun huffed and pulled away. It wasn’t really a snort, nor was it laughter. Relief.

 

"Was it raining?" he asked, still leaning into Chanyeol’s touch against his cheek.

 

Chanyeol nodded, gaze draped over Baekhyun’s features. 

 

"Did something happen?" he asked softly. Concern fitted the droop of his eyebrows.

 

Baekhyun stared back at him. "How do you know something happened?"

 

"You don’t usually kiss me like this," Chanyeol explained. 

 

Baekhyun couldn’t really figure out what was the difference between this kiss and all the others they had shared before. Chanyeol didn’t say anything else.

 

"You’re smart." When Chanyeol gave him an unimpressed look he reached to press a small kiss against his cheek, right where he knew a dimple was hidden, beneath layers of cotton-candy fibered skin. When he pulled away, it was there, almost like the dent of Baekhyun’s lips rather than Chanyeol’s smile. "Something did happen."

 

"Do you want to talk about it?" Chanyeol asked as he moved to take his coat off, hanging it besides Baekhyun’s before grabbing his hand and pulling him to the living room.

 

Chanyeol knew his house by heart now, knew exactly where Baekhyun’s phone charger always was, could find pots and products with no problem in the kitchen, knew the exact spot Baekhyun’s favorite shirt was tucked into in his closet. Chanyeol spent a lot of time in his apartment. 

 

They plopped down on the couch together, Chanyeol’s fingers still laced with his.

 

"Just rumors. At the company. About me," Baekhyun eventually said, watching as Chanyeol played with his hand, tracing the length of every single one of Baekhyun’s fingers, circling the very tip of his nails.

 

"What kind of rumor?" he asked, voice as soothing as the caresses on his fingers.

 

"About my sexuality, I guess," he snorted. It didn’t matter that much now. Not now that he was away from those cold people and so much closer to Chanyeol’s comforting presence. 

 

Chanyeol stopped playing with his fingers and looked at him instead, eyebrows furrowed. 

 

"Did they say anything really humiliating?"

 

He seemed upset, for Baekhyun.

 

"I don’t wanna talk about it," he said, however, wanting to shut that topic off and focus on something else. "Are you hungry?"

 

Chanyeol frowned for a second before letting it go with a sigh and bringing Baekhyun’s hand up to his lips to press a kiss on the back of it. Baekhyun felt something in him liquefy bit by bit at the action. Must be the icy whispers. 

 

"What do you wanna eat?" Chanyeol asked once their laced hands fell back on his lap, as if it was now natural for him to cook for Baekhyun. Once again, the thought that they spent a lot of time together struck him again.

 

"You can’t play the chef, unfortunately. There’s nothing in the fridge."

 

"You didn’t go grocery shopping?" Chanyeol frowned, voice instantly taking on that reproachful edge. 

 

"I’m a busy man," Baekhyun said in his defense, raising his eyebrows in a mock disdainful expression.

 

"Stop lying," Chanyeol snorted. He tugged on Baekhyun’s hand a little. "I wanted to cook for you. How am I supposed to make you feel better then? I can’t even feed you."

 

Baekhyun wondered if Chanyeol really didn’t know that his presence alone made Baekhyun feel better. Maybe it shouldn’t be surprising. Most people didn’t know.

 

"But you can call and order pizza if you want to make me happy," he said, nudging the other with his elbow.

 

Chanyeol snickered at him but still slipped his phone out of his pocket. Baekhyun watched him, leaning his head against his shoulder as Chanyeol gave their order, Baekhyun’s favorite and a pizza that he would probably try out for the first time. He never ordered the same thing twice. Two pizzas was probably too much but they could eat the leftovers tomorrow for breakfast. Maybe Baekhyun could even coax Chanyeol into going grocery shopping with him. They had never done that. He wondered if Chanyeol was the kind to grab everything and dump it into the cart or carefully analyze every single aisle for the very best product, both quality and pricing wise.

 

"Done," Chanyeol declared after hanging up and Baekhyun sat up properly again to look at his playful smile. "What’s next on our How to Make Baekhyun Happy List?"

 

Baekhyun let out a small chuckle. He didn’t even have to think. He still hummed for a bit, just to play along, only to slide onto Chanyeol’s lap afterwards, arms draped over his shoulders as he felt Chanyeol’s hands naturally hold onto his waist. Their eyes met, Baekhyun dived into two pools of endless affection, heated at the perfect temperature by the small crinkles that were lined around Chanyeol’s eyes whenever he smiled.

 

"Kissing me," he said, breathing those words right into Chanyeol’s mouth.

 

And as if that was all Chanyeol had wanted to hear, he kissed Baekhyun.

 

His lips were velvety against Baekhyun’s, his lower lip plushy as it pressed right below Baekhyun’s own lower lip, embraced it with a kiss. The puffs of air Baekhyun could feel landing on his skin were delicate, weightless. Baekhyun’s hand slithered towards Chanyeol’s neck, fingers drawing abstract curlicues on the smooth skin before continuing their surge to the back of Chanyeol’s head, tangling with his hair. Most of it was already dry now.

 

He tilted his head when he felt one of Chanyeol’s hands find its way down along his thigh, not adventurous, only comfortable once it found a nice spot, his thumb cascading down the inner side of his thigh but not diving down farther. Baekhyun scattered satisfied pecks over Chanyeol’s lips, on one corner, on the other, then further away, right next to his lips, where his cheek softened his face. Another hand slid to his lower back, pulling him closer to Chanyeol. Baekhyun’s fingers glided down again, falling down the slope of Chanyeol’s neck and resting on his shoulder, gripping the soft fabric of his hoodie. His lips continued their ascension towards Chanyeol’s cheek, up to the highest point only to deviate a little to the side, closer to his temple.

 

He pulled away for a fleeting while, catching a bit of redness marking his lips’ destination. He pressed a kiss right on the tip of Chanyeol’s ear, where the skin was flushed, soft, so malleable. It stuck out a little, almost like the beginning of a fold, dropping a little forward. Chanyeol let out a small whine, not shy nor embarrassed. He always acted as if he hated it whenever Baekhyun touched his ears but the smile he failed at containing kept telling Baekhyun otherwise. He repeated the gesture, kissing the reddened tip of his ear but this time, much more loudly, drawing a groan out of Chanyeol who tugged on his shirt with the hand on Baekhyun’s back to pull him away.

 

Baekhyun laughed softly at the droopy eyebrows and the naturally wide, sublime eyes. The tip of Chanyeol’s ears rubified even more. He puckered his lips, asking for a kiss. Playful, Baekhyun also puckered his lips exaggeratedly and quite heavily pressed them on Chanyeol’s as he brought both his hands to cup his cheeks. He shook his head a little, keeping their lips slotted together in a childish, mirthful kiss that made Chanyeol muffle a laugh into his mouth. It sounded sweet. 

 

When he pulled away, Chanyeol was grinning, his cheeks a little squished under Baekhyun’s hands and his lips still a little puckered up as a result. Kissing Chanyeol was so nice, even if they weren’t even properly kissing anymore but just playing with each other, childish, comfortable, and joyful. Baekhyun really liked kissing Chanyeol. He had never felt so natural when kissing anyone else.

 

Chanyeol seemed to nurture the desire to stray their kisses towards a more serious path, however, and he freed himself from Baekhyun’s playful hold to press a kiss right below his ear instead, on the small slope between his jaw and his neck. Baekhyun closed his eyes and let his body unwind, enjoying the warmth that pooled wherever Chanyeol’s lips pressed. Usually, he never really kissed the left side of Baekhyun’s neck as it was most of the time slathered in a coat of makeup to conceal his tattoo and it was the case today too but Chanyeol’s didn’t seem to mind. He peppered kisses down the length of his neck and Baekhyun tilted his head to give him more access to his skin.

 

Soon, he felt sturdy fingers coming together on the collar of his shirt and Chanyeol undid the first few buttons one by one. Baekhyun was still wearing his business attire, the tie already taken off earlier but the light blue shirt and the grey slacks still hugging his figure. They had never really taken each other’s clothes off before. Neither of them had even slipped in any kind of nudity, even minimal, but it happened to their hands to stray under clothes once in a while. This was new and Baekhyun felt an unprecedented kind of excitement bubbling in his chest.

 

Chanyeol didn’t seem to have that in mind as he pulled away from where he had been kissing Baekhyun’s neck once he was done unbuttoning part of his shirt, swollen lips arched into a smile.

 

"I just like seeing it," he said and Baekhyun didn’t get what he was referring to. Not until Chanyeol grabbed one lapel of the shirt and pulled it down to reveal the black lines that had been hidden underneath.

 

He leaned down and pressed the petals of his mouth right on the plum blossom inked on the skin draped over the ledge of his collarbone, only a centimeter shy of his chest. Baekhyun could almost feel the flower coming to life under his lips, swelling, as if it wanted to reach out to Chanyeol and cling to him for light, for life.

 

"Why?" Baekhyun whispered, gaze melting over Chanyeol.

 

"Because it’s hot," was Chanyeol’s first answer, mirth fluttering in his eyes as enchantingly as a flame’s dance as he looked up at Baekhyun. He pressed his lips against the same flower again before mouthing along the crooked branches, following their path upwards. "Pretty," he mumbled against Baekhyun’s skin, breathing heat right into him, enough to push the air out of him and replace it with graceful steam. It didn’t feel asphyxiating. Chanyeol pressed a kiss right where the dark branches were sliced off, on the delimitation between Baekhyun’s skin and the makeup concealing the tattoo. "Because it’s you."

 

It was at that moment that Baekhyun realized it.

 

Chanyeol loved him. Chanyeol was in love with him.

 

That realization wasn’t pulled out of despair flowing from the other, nor sadness. Not possessiveness either, nothing Baekhyun was used to drawing conclusions from. 

 

While that realization grew in his mind a little more with each kiss Chanyeol planted along his collarbones, its source remained unknown to Baekhyun. He didn’t know why it was at that exact moment that he felt it. Maybe it was in those words, uttered directly out of Chanyeol’s heart, gradually fading from mirth into sincerity. Perhaps it was in the daintiness Chanyeol put into kissing him, into handling him. Not just today but every day. It may also be rooted in the way Chanyeol looked at him, each glance falling on Baekhyun like petals scattered from the sky, careful, soft, pure, and so selfless in their beauty.

 

That was when he heard it again. 

 

That rhythm. That unfamiliar sound. 

 

An enthralling tune that took his attention off everything else yet made him entirely aware of the way Chanyeol wrapped his arms around his waist and pulled him closer to rest the side of his head against Baekhyun’s chest, a cocoon of amenity that echoed with that sound.

 

Baekhyun didn’t know where it came from. He could hear it in his fingertips, right where Chanyeol’s ear was pressed against his chest, on the barrier between his skin and the fallacious cover draped over his plum blossoms. He had heard it before, once, maybe twice, but had never figured out what it was. 

 

Was it joy? A peak of happiness brought on by what he had just realized? Relief? An accumulation of warmth on the verge of overflowing? Triumph? A vicious kind of satisfaction? A manifestation of that horrendous creature he was told to be?

 

Suddenly, the sweet, alien tune was broken by the shrill ringing of the bell. Chanyeol pulled away from him with a startle, jumping enough to make Baekhyun lose his balance and grip his shoulders to prevent himself from falling off the couch. He looked up at Baekhyun with wide, startled eyes and Baekhyun couldn’t help but laugh as he slid off his lap to sit on the couch again.

 

"It’s not funny, I almost died," Chanyeol grumbled under his breath.

 

"I’m the one who almost fell down and split my head against the floor," Baekhyun retorted before the bell rang again and he furrowed his eyebrows. "It usually takes them much longer to deliver."

 

Chanyeol hummed in agreement. "Well, I’m very hungry anyway so it’s not a bad thing."

 

Baekhyun smiled. "Can you go open it?"

 

"Why can’t you? This is your house," Chanyeol quirked an eyebrow.

 

"I’m naked," Baekhyun deadpanned, gesturing to the undone buttons of his shirt. "And I almost died."

 

Chanyeol snorted but still got up to his feet. "You’re just lazy," he called out as he headed out of the living room.

 

Baekhyun smiled to himself as he watched him leave and buttoned his shirt up again. It was silent. There was no unfamiliar sound anymore. He furrowed his eyebrows. Maybe he had imagined it.

 

He looked up when the silence was chased away by footsteps and the characteristic scrunching of plastic bags. When Chanyeol walked in again, it wasn’t pizza boxes that he was carrying and he wasn’t alone either.

 

"Junmyeon?" Baekhyun asked in surprise as he stood up.

 

His best friend looked cozy in his coat, fingers hanging onto grocery bags as he smiled a little. It wasn’t his usual smile. Baekhyun didn’t know what was different about it. He looked up at Chanyeol who was standing next to Junmyeon, a bag of groceries held in his hand too. He smiled sheepishly.

 

"I didn’t really want to let anyone in since it’s your house and not mine, but you said he’s your best friend before so," he trailed off before turning to Junmyeon and moving to take the grocery bag he was holding from him. "I’ll just bring these to the kitchen."

 

Junmyeon let him do, giving him a grateful smile. Baekhyun still said nothing, watching with disoriented eyes as Junmyeon and Chanyeol interacted, two different parts of his life coming together so easily. 

 

"What brings you here?" he asked when Chanyeol left to the kitchen, stepping closer to him.

 

Junmyeon took his coat off before answering.

 

"I thought I’d come by to make sure you’re okay." He was looking down at his scarf as he took it off rather than at Baekhyun. He had a faint, careful smile on. "I didn’t know you had company."

 

Baekhyun wasn’t sure what to say. 

 

This was out of the ordinary. Junmyeon had never directly met one of the people Baekhyun was involved with before and here he was, standing in the same house as Baekhyun and Chanyeol. Unease dug into his stomach sharply. He gave Junmyeon a grin and leaned closer.

 

"Were you worried about me?" he cooed, playfully pinching his cheek.

 

Junmyeon huffed out a laugh and batted his hand away. Despite the unfamiliar situation, Baekhyun was still happy to see his best friend.

 

"I was," Junmyeon shook his head, as if it didn’t make sense that he worried about Baekhyun. "But you seem to be in good company."

 

There was no particular emotion in his voice. It still took Baekhyun a beat to find a reply.

 

"Yeah," he said, feeling a little awkward out of nowhere. "That’s Chanyeol."

 

"You usually don’t let them in your house," Junmyeon commented, lowering his voice. Baekhyun was grateful.

 

"It just happened. It’s easier like this. I think I told you before."

 

Junmyeon hummed.

 

"Well," he sighed, still smiling a little. "I guess I’ll just leave then. I don’t want to disturb whatever you’re doing and make it all awkward," he said, gaze trailing over Baekhyun. He wondered if what they had been doing could be seen. 

 

He frowned.

 

"You don’t have to leave." Junmyeon quirked an eyebrow. "I mean, it’s okay. You’ve seen him a few times already anyway. And well, this could be interesting."

 

Junmyeon chewed on his lower lip for a second, watching him.

 

"Are you sure? I don’t want to ruin what you worked on."

 

And maybe Baekhyun should let the other leave. He never mixed Junmyeon into whatever he did with other people. He never let the other see him in such situations. Not because he was ashamed of what he did, what he needed to do, but merely because Junmyeon was apart. He was an anchor in his life, someone Baekhyun held up higher than others. But this was Chanyeol. 

 

He had already met Chanyeol’s friends, a couple times. It would be weird if Junmyeon left after seeing Chanyeol. At one point, Chanyeol might want to meet his friends too. This would help secure their relationship even more. It was a good idea.

 

"Come on, we all know you’re smart enough for this," he nudged the other, taking the coat and scarf from Junmyeon to drape them over the armrest of the couch. "I’ll need to share my pizza with you but it’s okay. You can pay for it by treating me to dinner another time."

 

Junmyeon gave him a look but didn’t refuse. Together, they headed towards the kitchen. 

 

Chanyeol had already sorted half of the groceries, put products into their place, and he turned around when he heard them walk in, smiling a little as he closed the fridge.

 

"Good thing you brought groceries with you because the kitchen was basically empty. Since this one’s a lazyass," he said, nodding towards Baekhyun with mock reproach.

 

Baekhyun looked at Junmyeon. "I’m sharing my pizza with you. Remember that before replying to him."

 

Junmyeon snorted at him, shaking his head a little. "Go on, show Chanyeol what kind of person you really are."

 

Chanyeol laughed at that and Baekhyun narrowed his eyes at Junmyeon while the latter smiled. He wasn’t upset. Maybe a bit relieved that Junmyeon and Chanyeol might get along. This would make things less awkward.

 

"Oh, you buy that brand of sesame oil too? It’s my favorite," Chanyeol said as he held the product, grinning at Junmyeon as if he had just found a big common interest shared between the two of them.

 

"I think it’s the best. The price is decent too, I always get this one," Junmyeon nodded as he stepped forward to help Chanyeol sort the rest of the groceries.

 

Baekhyun took a seat at one of the stools behind the counter and watched them, a light smile tainting his lips.

 

Sesame oil wasn’t the only shared interest Junmyeon and Chanyeol had, as it turned out. Baekhyun watched them as Chanyeol, lively as ever, found all kinds of conversation topics to get to know Junmyeon better. Junmyeon’s replies were polite at first, not unexpectedly, but as soon as Chanyeol mentioned Star Wars out of nowhere, as if that was a default topic the same way the weather was, Junmyeon lit up and, still not unexpectedly, started rambling about his favorite universe and movies.

 

Baekhyun watched them turn into complete nerds right under his eyes, oddly pleased. Maybe because it was the first time Junmyeon actually interacted with anyone who had Chanyeol’s position in his life and it was going along well. Maybe because Chanyeol was obviously doing everything he could to somehow get Junmyeon to open up. The only time he regretted letting Junmyeon stay was when Chanyeol suddenly asked about his childhood and Junmyeon, rather eagerly, spilled anything remotely embarrassing he could remember.

 

The rest of the evening went along pretty well. Baekhyun had never imagined how nice it would be to have both Junmyeon and someone who loved him and cared for him on a different level at the same place, at the same time, with him. It was a delight to have both Junmyeon and Chanyeol smiling at him, making him smile, catering to him in that way they both always did, a bit differently. Junmyeon helpfully tapped his back when he choked a bit on one of the olive slices that was on his pizza and Chanyeol filled his glass with cider without him ever having to ask for it. At one point, the cheese slid off the slice Baekhyun was biting on and simultaneously, Junmyeon handed him a napkin while Chanyeol held his hand under his chin so he wouldn’t spill anything on his dress shirt. It should’ve felt awkward, maybe a bit embarrassing but Baekhyun only basked in the care and attention given to him.

 

Junmyeon seemed rather comfortable as well, no longer worried. Probably because he could embarrass Baekhyun with childhood stories. Baekhyun returned it to him and Chanyeol witnessed a sort of embarrassment battle. Neither of them won, in the end. They talked about anything and everything, the latest soccer games, politics, and the movies set to be released next year.

 

By the time Junmyeon left, grinning and familiar enough with Chanyeol to let the latter hug him while patting his back, Baekhyun felt happier than ever, the reason why he had been so upset hours ago entirely forgotten. 

 

"You know," Chanyeol said when they were sprawled on the couch a while later. "Sometimes you tell me I’m smart, right? I think I’m smarter than you sometimes."

 

Baekhyun looked down at him in confusion, fingers momentarily stopping their movements in Chanyeol’s hair from where he was resting his head on Baekhyun’s lap.

 

"What do you mean?"

 

Chanyeol sat up and nudged him with his elbow, eyes sparkling with amusement.

 

"Or maybe you’re just blind."

 

"I sure am blinded by your cuteness," Baekhyun said, knowing that this answer would make him the winner despite the incomprehension.

 

Instantly, Chanyeol frowned and pushed him with a hand on his shoulder.

 

"Do you have to always win?" he whined.

 

Baekhyun grinned, smug.

 

"I can only win with you in my life."

 

Chanyeol groaned.

 

This time, instead of pushing Baekhyun away, he chose to kiss the laughter off his mouth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas rushed over to them a few days later, dusting snowflakes over them as presents, and with it came Baekhyun’s promise to spend the day together with Chanyeol.

 

They hadn’t really made any plans for the day. Chanyeol didn’t seem to be the kind to even like doing plans, which drove Baekhyun a little crazy. He preferred having a complete schedule whenever it came to outings but Baekhyun still didn’t refuse when Chanyeol offered a spontaneous trip to a ski resort in Gangwon-do.

 

It was a drive of an hour and a half away from Seoul so they had to leave pretty early in order to enjoy a full day there and come back that same night since Chanyeol had to attend another event the next day. It was the longest trip they had taken together but it felt short enough with Chanyeol driving, occasionally letting go of the wheel with a hand to dramatically sing along to radio songs with grand, exaggerated movements. Baekhyun scolded him around three times before convincing the other to not ever let go of the wheel but that didn’t make the trip any less pleasant. Baekhyun’s cheeks cramped a little by the time they got off at the resort.

 

Now, however, it wasn’t exactly his cheeks that hurt. His pride was starting to bleed.

 

"Why do I keep falling?" he grumbled as Chanyeol grabbed his hands and pulled him back up to his feet.

 

He had a mask on, making it impossible for Baekhyun to see anything but his eyes and even that was covered by ski goggles. He could see that his eyes were curved into a beam so it wasn’t difficult to figure out the other was very entertained by the situation. Baekhyun kind of wished it was impossible to see it.

 

"It’s okay, you’ll learn. It’s not that difficult," Chanyeol said through his mask before bursting into laughter when Baekhyun lost his balance, his two feet plastered to the snowboard and his two arms flailing around until Chanyeol caught them and steadied him again. 

 

"Don’t laugh!" he groaned even if laughter could still be heard in his own voice. It was difficult not to follow along when Chanyeol’s laugh was so contagious. He also looked rather funny in his full snowboarding attire, with that puffy jacket on.

 

"I’m laughing because of you!" Chanyeol argued back and it took him a few seconds to finally calm down and sigh a little, as if laughing so much had exhausted him. Then he brought a hand up and patted Baekhyun’s head. "Watch and learn from the snowboarding master, child."

 

"Just shut up and go," Baekhyun groaned, pushing him away a bit too harshly. Satisfaction defrosted his body when Chanyeol flailed around a little, losing his balance. He didn’t fall. He hadn’t fallen even once since they had started a while ago. It fueled the competitive flame in Baekhyun.

 

Chanyeol shook his head at him one last time before turning around, giving Baekhyun a last look over his shoulder, and lunging himself down the slope. He glided perfectly on the snow, comfortably, as if he had done this all his life, as if he was part of the snowboarding track and the puffy snow beneath his board held onto him tightly to prevent him from hurting himself. Baekhyun watched in amazement as he somehow jumped and swirled around once before landing on the snow perfectly and continuing to slide down.

 

He was good at this. He was too good at this. Chanyeol was way too good at everything he did and while half of Baekhyun felt a bit annoyed and competitive about it, the rest of him couldn’t help but liquify into a puddle at how attractive it was. There really was nothing Chanyeol wouldn’t attempt and end up being perfect at.

 

Soon, Chanyeol stopped, so easily Baekhyun almost wanted to cry because every time he tried to stop himself from sliding, he either couldn’t until meters away or he simply crashed down. A small chuckle escaped his lips, muffled by his own mask when Chanyeol turned around and flailed his arms around like a hyper child, waving at Baekhyun and urging him to join.

 

Baekhyun took a deep breath in, gave himself an internal, small pep talk, and then slowly, carefully started sliding down the slope the same way Chanyeol had. However, while Chanyeol had looked confident and in his element, Baekhyun felt awkward with his arms stretched out for better balance. He could feel the wind slapping his face a little even through the mask and the goggles. He was at least a bit steadier this time and as he approached Chanyeol, he could see him waving excitedly and could even hear him scream praises and encouragements at him as Baekhyun passed right by him. 

 

He wasn’t supposed to slide right past him.

 

It took Baekhyun a few seconds to slow down enough to stop. This time, he did actually take a shorter time to stop but before he could steady himself, he found himself plopping down on the snow face first and rolling once before actually stopping. He remained like that, discouraged, a bit tired, laying on the snow until he heard a familiar laugh and Chanyeol glided towards him. Baekhyun let out a long, loud groan.

 

"You were better this time," Chanyeol tried comforting him as he leaned down to grab his arms and pull him up. He couldn’t conceal his laughter.

 

"You’re not supposed to spend Christmas laughing at me!" Baekhyun complained half-heartedly, words slurred and muffled. "We’re supposed to share happiness. You’re the only happy one right now."

 

He continued grumbling to himself as Chanyeol pulled him up and he dusted the snow on his skiing attire. Once he realized that Chanyeol wasn’t saying anything, wasn’t even laughing, Baekhyun looked up at him curiously. He caught him leaning closer. Chanyeol’s eyes were smiling through his goggles and his lips felt curved when Chanyeol quickly pressed them against Baekhyun’s, the fabric of their masks preventing them from actually touching and their goggles clashing together a little bit. Had it not been impossible for anyone to recognize them with this attire, Baekhyun would’ve been worried about doing this in public. However, he felt a smile burgeoning on his lips.

 

"You’re so cute," he heard Chanyeol mumble.

 

Baekhyun leaned closer to him again. Instead of kissing him like Chanyeol was probably expecting him to, he pressed his hands against his chest and pushed hard enough for Chanyeol to actually fall for the first time. He even rolled down the track a little bit.

 

This time, it was Baekhyun laughing while trying to pull him up to his feet only to lose his balance and crash down, half of his body landing on Chanyeol who groaned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The trip back home was quieter, exhaustion pressing down on them a little bit. It wasn’t less enjoyable, though. The radio perfumed the car with the calmative air of ballads and the DJ’s voice recounted stories soothingly. Chanyeol was still rather energetic, reacting to the narrations with touched coos, loud laughter, or comfortable conversation by asking Baekhyun if he had a similar experience.

 

Maybe it was because night made everything a bit calmer but Baekhyun, despite the exhaustion, still felt comfortable and cozy as Chanyeol drove them back to his apartment.

 

It wasn’t too late yet but they had spent a full day at the ski resort. They hadn’t only spent it snowboarding or even skiing, Chanyeol had dragged him to the arcade and the billiard room offered by the resort. Baekhyun almost jubilated when he beat Chanyeol in almost every single game they played, causing the other to treat him to hot cocoa as the loser of the games was supposed to. They hadn’t had the occasion to visit the Garden of Morning Calm near the resort but they made plans to come back another time at night to witness the Lighting Festival.

 

When they arrived home, the first thing that Chanyeol did was plop down on the couch and groan that he was tired.

 

"You should wash up," Baekhyun suggested, nudging his shoulder.

 

"Washing up is too tiring. And I didn’t even bring any change of clothes or pajamas," Chanyeol groaned again but still sat up properly. When he looked at Baekhyun, his eyes gleamed as pristine as snow under the sun. There was no pain when Baekhyun stared right into the reflection. "This was the best Christmas date ever."

 

"It’s not like it would be your first time wearing my clothes as pajamas," Baekhyun snorted before narrowing his eyes. "You’re only saying that because you got to watch me fall around a hundred times," Baekhyun huffed. His entire body was kind of sore. He had never thought falling on snow would hurt so much. 

 

"That was the best part of it, of course," Chanyeol agreed without hesitation. Baekhyun pulled on his hair a little, satisfied when he groaned in pain.

 

"The best part hasn’t come yet. We haven’t exchanged gifts," Baekhyun smiled, unable to contain the excitement feathering through him, tingling him a little.

 

He had struggled a lot to come up with a good present but in the end, he was proud of his choice. Even if getting his hands on it had also been a different kind of struggle.

 

Chanyeol’s smile grew wider, a little more excited and Baekhyun laughed at him.

 

"But first, we have to wash up. And eat. I’m hungry."

 

"Then you can wash up while I prepare a few side dishes and then I’ll wash up and then we can eat ramyeon," Chanyeol declared, already standing up and pushing Baekhyun towards the hallway that would lead to the bathroom.

 

It didn’t take him too long to wash up. The water cascading down his body almost felt like an efficient massage and Baekhyun could’ve spent a whole hour in the shower but he knew Chanyeol probably felt as tired as him and yearned to trade places. He washed up as quickly as he could and when he got out, Chanyeol had already prepared a few side dishes to go along with the cup ramyeon on the table.

 

After telling Baekhyun that he could wait a bit to boil the water, he went to the bathroom and washed up too. There was a content grin on his face when he came back to Baekhyun pouring boiled water into the cups. His hair was too long, even longer now that it was damp. He was wearing Baekhyun’s favorite sweater again. It wasn’t really something appropriate to wear to sleep but Chanyeol seemed to be comfortable in it so Baekhyun never called him out on it.

 

They ate, making easy conversation, Chanyeol telling him about his students’ Christmas cards to him and his mother’s offer for Baekhyun to come over for dinner this weekend. He hadn’t gone back to Chanyeol’s parents’ house since the first time but it sounded appealing to him. He sometimes still thought about how content and at home he had felt in that cozy, welcoming family house. Moreover, seeing Toben jump around Chanyeol live rather than through videos was also something that he missed.

 

"We’re done eating," Chanyeol announced when Baekhyun was chewing on the last noodle a few minutes later.

 

He had already finished eating a while ago and had impatiently watched Baekhyun eat calmly while taking his time much more than necessary. There was something comely about watching Chanyeol fidget a little in his seat, fingers drumming randomly on the counter’s surface before gliding over it with as much delicacy as when they did it over a piano keyboard.

 

"We are," Baekhyun replied casually, nodding. Chanyeol’s smile widened.

 

"Then it’s presents time!" he called out excitedly, standing up and grabbing the empty cups along with the chopsticks right from Baekhyun’s hand to clean everything up in a matter of seconds.

 

"I’m starting to think you’ve been together with me all this time just for a Christmas gift," Baekhyun teased the other as Chanyeol grabbed his hand and pulled him to the bedroom.

 

"I’m excited about what you’re going to give me too but I just want to give you your gift first," the other explained, looking at him over his shoulder with a wide grin that made his eyes crinkle in the corner, affection drizzling into the lines.

 

"Is that why you locked me out of the bedroom for five whole minutes this morning just to find where to hide it?" Baekhyun asked, still a bit amused by what Chanyeol had done before leaving for the ski resort.

 

"What? It worked at least. You still haven’t found it," he huffed as they stepped into the bedroom. "On the other hand, I found my present. You just put it next to your sweaters," Chanyeol mumbled, shaking his head as if he was disappointed.

 

"I don’t need to hide it. I trust you."

 

"It’s just the Christmas spirit!"

 

Baekhyun shook his head, letting go of Chanyeol’s hand to open up his closet and take out the medium-sized box wrapped in red and golden paper. He turned to Chanyeol and quirked an eyebrow.

 

"Aren’t you getting the gift?"

 

"Nope." He eyed what Baekhyun was holding. "Just sit down and close your eyes."

 

"Why?" Baekhyun curiously asked as he stepped closer to him again.

 

"It’s for the gift," Chanyeol said before pressing on his shoulders to make him sit on the bed. "Close your eyes," he urged him.

 

He was really adorable. With his fluffy hair, Baekhyun’s favorite cozy sweater on, the sweatpants that weren’t long enough to cover his ankles, and his bare feet. Baekhyun felt an ebullient warmth fluttering in him. He put the box next to him, carefully, and then closed his eyes.

 

There was a few seconds of silence before the first strums of guitar caressed Baekhyun’s ears. It was accompanied by a deep, mellifluous voice humming to him and asking him to open his eyes. Baekhyun opened his eyes. It was Chanyeol’s voice, wreathing all around him like a crown of petals, enveloping him in the melody of a cajoling lullaby. 

 

His gaze dived into Chanyeol’s, into the two pools of overflowing affection and love. Baekhyun could sense it trickling onto him, drop by drop, pure, and so lucent he could almost feel every dewdrop dribble down his back. It was summery warm, aestiferous, in the melody, the voice, the emotion breezing through it all and tingling every corner of Baekhyun’s soul, every part of his figure.

 

Chanyeol wasn’t singing now, he wasn’t playing the guitar either. He stepped closer to Baekhyun and settled on the bed, next to him, phone held in one hand and his other one gripping a thin, square object covered in blue, sparkling paper. The song was playing from his home speakers, Chanyeol had probably connected it to his phone. Baekhyun recognized the song, he had heard it once, from another voice, a voice that hadn’t breathed comfort into him the same way Chanyeol’s was doing now. Little Star was the title, he remembered it despite not having a clue as to who the original singer was.

 

At the moment, that didn’t matter. At the moment, all Baekhyun could do was listen to the comforting words Chanyeol’s voice was crooning to him. He could only see the soft smile spread on his lips, the satiny gaze draped over Baekhyun, caressing his skin into shivers for the entire duration of the song. He could only hear Chanyeol promising him that he would watch over him all night. Confessing to him that he couldn’t take his eyes off him when he was fast-asleep in his arms. Coaxing him to just close his eyes because Baekhyun would dream and Chanyeol would forever watch over him.

 

The song fizzled down with a velvety hum and a few last silken notes. Baekhyun felt those last few melodious seconds permeate into his breath, linger in his throat, echo inside of him until his whole body felt too narrow and yet too broad to contain it all.

 

For a short while, Baekhyun couldn’t say anything. For a brief moment, he could only think about the fact that Chanyeol had recorded this song for him. The only thing he could feel was that overflowing emotion bubbling out of him. He didn’t know what it was. Maybe it was a blend of too many emotions for him to even decipher it. Chanyeol smiled at him, soft, as if he could sense how soft Baekhyun himself felt, and handed him what he had been holding until now. 

 

Baekhyun took it, his fingers slow and rushing, light and heavy, as he carefully tore the paper down. It was a CD case, on its front, written a bit messily on a baby blue colored paper were the words Melodies for Baekhyunnie’s Sleepless Nights. Baekhyun felt himself gulping something heavy down. He glanced at Chanyeol, losing himself amongst the astral gleams in his wide eyes for a second before opening the case and finding himself wandering amongst even more stars. They were drawn over the CD with a black marker, along with note keys, clouded around the same words written on the case.

 

"It’s all lullabies and calming songs," Chanyeol said. It almost sounded like he was still singing, with that same abloom voice. Baekhyun looked at him, took in the attentive eyes and the concern obvious in the way he was chewing on his lower lip. "What you just listened to was the first track, there’s twelve of them. I’m not singing in all of them, it’s just piano or guitar sometimes. The CD’s just to be kind of old fashioned," he chuckled sheepishly. "There’s also a file of it, I’ll send it to you later. I thought it would be nice for when you have nightmares."

 

"How do you know I have nightmares?" Baekhyun heard himself mutter. This was such a small gesture but the CD he was holding felt heavier than anything he had ever carried, filled with Chanyeol’s love, care, and affection.

 

Chanyeol shrugged.

 

"Sometimes, you move and mumble a lot in your sleep. It usually stops after I hum to you a little."

 

"I never noticed," Baekhyun breathed out. 

 

It wasn’t surprising for his nightmares to be noticeable to Chanyeol, not that much, but he had never even been aware that not only did Chanyeol wake up because of them but he also soothed Baekhyun in his sleep.

 

Chanyeol beamed, wiggling his eyebrows in that obnoxiously smug way he always did.

 

"I guess I’m a sneaky lullaby too."

 

And Baekhyun laughed. Hard, loud, suddenly, without any proper reason. He laughed and Chanyeol watched him, still grinning, gleaming so brightly even as Baekhyun’s voice broke a little and the laughter died down. This wasn’t a proper reaction. He didn’t know what was the proper reaction to give the other. This had never happened. 

 

Chanyeol was the only person to go out of their way and record twelve lullabies just so Baekhyun could sleep at night.

 

He didn’t know how he was supposed to thank the other. He didn’t know what he was supposed to say. He hadn’t imagined this would ever happen. He didn’t even know what exactly was happening. His chest felt stuffy, his throat felt clogged up. His mind was a swarm, thoughts whizzing through his head one after the other without ever stopping and giving Baekhyun the occasion to read them. 

 

He felt happy. That was the only emotion he managed to make out. That was the only emotion that nudged him to wrap his arms around Chanyeol and pull him into a hug.

 

He said nothing for a while, still unable to gather his thoughts, yet alone his words. He hooked his chin on Chanyeol’s shoulder and felt the other rest his head on his shoulder too, folding himself over Baekhyun, the same way he always did whenever he hugged someone he appreciated a lot. His hands rubbed Baekhyun’s back, as if he could somehow sense how much of a mess Baekhyun had been rendered to with a mere Christmas present. Maybe he could. Baekhyun wasn’t really in control of himself.

 

"Thank you," he whispered after a while, still hugging the other tightly, maybe a bit too tightly but he couldn’t help it. This was so foreign. Losing control of his entire being, his whole system crashing down and leaving him bare in this way. He should hate it. He didn’t. He just didn’t understand it. "This means so much," he continued, voice quivering with sincere throbs.

 

"I’m glad you like it," he heard Chanyeol say, voice muffled against Baekhyun’s sweater. "You can listen to these whenever I’m not here to make sure you’re okay."

 

"I love it," he said again before taking a deep breath and pulling away with reluctance. He loved Chanyeol’s hugs. "I’m going to listen to all of them as soon as possible. Maybe we can do it together later?" he asked just because he knew Chanyeol would add all kinds of comments about the song choice, the musicians they belonged to, and all those little passionate details.

 

Chanyeol nodded, his arms still wrapped around Baekhyun’s shoulders and the movement causing him to shake Baekhyun a little. Baekhyun smiled. He was alluring. So loving. He could feel it still fluttering through his entire body. The remnants of that odd bundle of emotions.

 

"But first, you have to give me my present," Chanyeol reminded him, curiously eyeing the box sitting next to Baekhyun on the bed.

 

Baekhyun chuckled. He had forgotten about it. He wondered if Chanyeol would laugh too when he realized that they had had similar ideas. 

 

He grabbed the box and handed it out to Chanyeol, watching in anticipation as his eyes lit up with excitement. The silver ribbon was easy to undo, he pulled one string of it and took it off the box only to carefully lay it on the bed, as if that in itself was part of Baekhyun’s gift to him. Endearment bubbled in him as Chanyeol slowly lifted the lid off the box, one of his eyes closed as if what he was about to see could burst to his face. As soon as he managed to catch a glimpse of what was inside, he gasped, eyes widening and the lid carelessly discarded somewhere on the bed.

 

"It’s really pretty," he breathed out in amazement.

 

Baekhyun laughed. Maybe some of his laughter remained trapped in his chest - he felt it bloat a little. 

 

"You don’t even know what it is yet," he said softly because Chanyeol looked so amazed, so absorbed into his scrutiny that Baekhyun didn’t want to startle him. He just wanted to watch him.

 

"It’s still pretty," he mumbled, biting on his lower lip and reaching inside the box to take its content out.

 

The small, egg-shaped object looked smaller than it was in Chanyeol’s broad, sturdy hands. He handled it with care, pushing the box away to rest the black egg on his lap. It was planted on a golden stand, four little silver beads stuck to the platform to ensure that it would stand properly once put on a flat surface. The platform stretched into four little curved branches that tied it to the smaller stand the egg was perched on. It was black, glistening as the light reflected on it but it was decorated with intricate swirls and curlicues all over the surface, golden and silver to match the stand.

 

Right in the centre of it, there were two rings, Chanyeol traced them in amazement with the tip of his fingers. They delimited the two halves of the egg-shaped box and indicated where it would open into two. Baekhyun followed Chanyeol’s finger with his gaze as he trailed it up to the top of the egg, where a golden ‘C’, a small crescent moon, was planted on a short spike.

 

"It’s really beautiful," Chanyeol repeated, fascination dripping from his voice, gleaming right into Baekhyun’s eyes. It wasn’t an unpleasant sight.

 

"Open it," Baekhyun softly urged him. As much as he could watch the bare emotions on Chanyeol’s features for as long as he wanted to, he still felt impatient to see the other’s reaction to the rest of it. "There’s a little lock between the two lines. You just have to press on the button to undo it and then you can open it."

 

Chanyeol followed the instructions, unlocking the egg with the utmost care, as if he was scared to break it. Baekhyun contained his laughter, his endearment, his joy, and watched as Chanyeol pulled the top half of the egg open to reveal a small, black, curled figure resting on a golden cushion crafted into the same glistening, sturdy material as the rest of the egg.

 

Chanyeol pulled the egg up closer to his face, eyes widening in disbelief as he seemed to realize something.

 

"Is that Toben?" he asked, voice a bit higher than usual, pulled up by the amazement in his eyes. 

 

"That’s him," Baekhyun hummed, looking at the tiny dog. It was carved into a material that didn’t let it look as fluffy as the real Toben did but Baekhyun was still glad Chanyeol had recognized the small black dog bundled into himself, peacefully sleeping. "Caress his head," he directed Chanyeol with a quiescent voice.

 

Once again, Chanyeol followed the direction without hesitation, reaching to pat the tiny figure’s tiny head with the very tip of his finger, careful, as loving as he was when caressing his real little ball of black fluff. The grin on his face parted a little in amazement when the dog reacted to his touch and the golden cushion promptly started turning in a slow rhythm, matching the first few piano notes that were diffused from a speaker hidden somewhere inside the mechanism.

 

The tune was familiar enough for Chanyeol to recognize it. His eyebrows raised a little, not in surprise, not in irritation, it was that expression again. The one he always had whenever something hit somewhere deep inside of him, wherever that was. The touched one that made him look so soft and made Baekhyun wish he could wrap that softness all around him and never take it off. Like his favorite sweater.

 

He looked at the tiny dog for a few seconds before looking at Baekhyun, smile wide but lips pressed together in a tight line, as if that smile could lead to something else and he wanted to keep it inside of him for the time being. A dimple was there, peeking at Baekhyun even as Chanyeol looked down at the music box again. Baekhyun remained silent, letting Chanyeol listen to the melody, the corner of his lips tugging his face up into a smile as Chanyeol let out a soft sound, a chuckle, maybe something that could sound like a sob had it not been for the grin still draped over his features. He brought the egg-shaped box up, closing his eyes and pressing his ear right against it for a few seconds, as if he wanted the sweet, sorrowful tune to fuse right into his mind and never stop playing.

 

It was only a few seconds left to the end of the song that he pulled the box down again and Baekhyun chewed on his lower lip. His cheeks hurt from smiling too much.

 

The last note glided over the otherwise silent room and then, Baekhyun heard his own voice sweetly spoken from the box.

 

"Merry Christmas, Chanyeol-ah."

 

This time, when Chanyeol looked up at him again, his eyes weren’t gleaming but glistening, happiness gathered there, on the brink of overflowing. 

 

Baekhyun smiled again, despite the pain in his cheeks. This hadn’t been the reaction he had expected. He thought Chanyeol would jump around in excitement, at most, not look at him in silence once the tiny Toben laying inside the egg stopped spinning. He was touched, emotional, just because of such a tiny thing and Baekhyun felt affection flourishing somewhere inside of him. Chanyeol could draw enormous happiness from the littlest things.

 

"You’re the one playing?" Chanyeol eventually asked after a short while spent looking at the box and sniffling a little to himself. He looked adorable. He was adorable. That was all Baekhyun could think about for a second before nodding, surprisingly not trusting himself to actually say anything. Chanyeol tilted his head a little, smile growing, still tight-lipped, still shining with emotion. "Why this song?"

 

"River Flows in You was the first song I heard from you. It’s the first video that started everything." He was still gripping on the CD case. He must’ve grabbed it again without even noticing. He smiled. "It was your first lullaby that helped me sleep."

 

Chanyeol laughed at that. Not a sound that carried amusement to Baekhyun’s ears, just a sweet note that spoke of disbelief, maybe delight. Maybe Chanyeol was feeling the exact same bundle of emotions that vibrated in Baekhyun’s chest ever since the very first note Chanyeol had dedicated to him. The first track of the airs he had compiled for Baekhyun’s sleepless, Chanyeol-less nights.

 

"We had similar ideas," Chanyeol mumbled, looking down at the egg that he carefully closed again, lips digging into his smile. He wondered if Chanyeol’s cheeks hurt too.

 

"We had," was Baekhyun’s only reply.

 

And maybe they really shared more than happiness, more than presents, more than unprepared emotions this Christmas. Maybe they shared the exact same thoughts as well because when Baekhyun finally felt that something in him overflowing and pushing him to carefully put the CD case on the floor, right next to the bed, Chanyeol sat the music box down on the nightstand.

 

The love glistening in Chanyeol’s eyes was the last thing Baekhyun saw before their lips pressed together and emotion was breathed into his mouth. 

 

Chanyeol’s lips were soft as always but the swirl of affection stirring Baekhyun’s stomach felt softer than anything else he had ever felt. Chanyeol loved him. 

 

Chanyeol loved him and Baekhyun could feel it in the way he fondly moved his lips against his, in the way his arms sneaked around Baekhyun’s neck to draw him closer until their chests were pressed together, as if he wanted to feel every single part of Baekhyun. He could feel it in his own chest, in the flames that Chanyeol was harvesting with every single kiss. In the safety, the comfort, and the affection that Chanyeol filled him with.

 

Baekhyun felt himself falling down when Chanyeol pulled him along as he shifted to lay down on the bed, not a single centimeter standing between their bodies, nothing breaking the streak of emotions Chanyeol was drawing on his skin with every caress of his fingertips against Baekhyun’s neck. He settled properly between the other’s parted legs, pressed his lips harder against Chanyeol’s, more yearningly as he kissed his lower lip, the shape of his cupid’s bow. 

 

Baekhyun could feel it. It was welling. He let it drip onto Chanyeol through a kiss to his cheek, right where his dimple was hidden, one to the tip of his nose that scrunched up adorably and pulled a chuckle out of him.

 

Their eyes met again. Chanyeol’s were glittering, smiling, whispering him words of love that Baekhyun could hear even though not a single sound escaped his beautiful mouth. He felt his whole body loosen up a little, liberated, unpleasant stains and lingering tension erased by trust and confiance. 

 

Chanyeol offered him an ocean of love. Baekhyun wanted to nosedive into that love. It seemed endless, safe, abounding enough for it to never dry down.

 

Chanyeol was the one to pull him closer again for another kiss, his fingers painless but sturdy in Baekhyun’s hair. Baekhyun felt himself melt into the kiss, felt Chanyeol collecting him by nibbling on his lower lip, harsh and careful, tender and eager as a velvety tongue swiped over Baekhyun’s lip to take the sting away. Baekhyun brought a hand up to cradle Chanyeol’s cheek, thumb tracing over the highest point of it, tongue drawn into the other’s mouth. He felt Chanyeol exhale softly through his nose, his breath breezing against Baekhyun’s cheek. 

 

Baekhyun untangled his lips from the other’s, pressed them against his cheek instead, traced over his jaw, and cascaded down the length of his neck, leaving kisses behind to anchor himself in case he would get lost in the density of the love palpable on every single patch of skin Chanyeol’s body offered to him. His neck was warm, Baekhyun drunk it all in, kissing, sucking tenderly, not enough to leave a mark on skin but enough to leave his own mouth tingling a little. He felt a hand sliding under his shirt, on his waist, fingers holding onto him, felicitous, loving. Baekhyun let his lips tickle Chanyeol’s ear with frisky kisses, composing a titter by kissing his lobe, making his shoulders quiver a little and draw into themselves as if he wanted to escape it but had no real will to at the same time.

 

It was a smile that Baekhyun pressed against the bump right in the center of Chanyeol’s neck, it was a heavy breath that Chanyeol exhaled as his fingers ascended Baekhyun’s back under his sweater, twirling around every single bump under his skin. Baekhyun felt fire soaring under Chanyeol’s fingers, the flames that he had planted there himself, watered with a few drops from that ocean of love that Baekhyun had been soaking himself in for what felt like forever. He still couldn’t explain it to himself. The way Chanyeol’s feelings for him felt greater than anything else Baekhyun had ever experienced.

 

He pulled away, brought his face closer to Chanyeol’s again. It was a smile that welcomed him. A serene, amorous one. He was handsome. Chanyeol was beautiful as he laid on Baekhyun’s bed, head comfortably nestled against the pillow, hair a bit of a mess but falling artistically over his forehead, grazing his eyelashes as he looked up at Baekhyun, waiting, maybe curious. The tip of his ears were red. Baekhyun felt something in him cooing, swooning silently, melting away. He was adorable. How could someone be so adorable? He was Baekhyun’s. He loved Baekhyun.

 

Chanyeol was the one to raise his head off the pillow a little to catch Baekhyun’s lips into another kiss, pulling him along as he laid back down again. Baekhyun’s fingers trailed down his cheek, traced the edge of his jaw, a fingertip pressed under Chanyeol’s lower lip, right under where their lips were locked together. It didn’t linger for long, continuing its path down the side of Chanyeol’s neck, taking its time, as if Baekhyun was an amazed explorer walking through an undiscovered garden full of colors, textures, and meanings. 

 

Soon, he was at the gates of Chanyeol’s collarbones. He pulled away a little, their lips remaining close enough for Baekhyun to breath in every single puff of air leaving Chanyeol’s mouth. His hand slid down, down under the collar of Chanyeol’s sweater, of Baekhyun’s favorite sweater, tugging the fabric down a little, a question in his eyes. Chanyeol’s smile was the key that allowed Baekhyun to unlock the gates. 

 

His fingers ascended to the hem of his sweater and pulled up again. He took Chanyeol’s sweater off, pulling up as the other untangled his hands and arms from Baekhyun’s hair and shoulders to raise them up above his head instead. The collar of the sweater got stuck on his ears for a second and Baekhyun laughed as he pulled a bit harder and managed to take it off, laughter growing when Chanyeol blinked a few times once he was freed from the piece of clothing, hair even messier than before. He let out a small whine when he realized that Baekhyun was laughing at him but soon joined along.

 

Baekhyun pressed another kiss against his lips, then a few sincere words.

 

"You’re adorable," he whispered.

 

"Adore me then," Chanyeol replied, mischievously wiggling his eyebrows.

 

Baekhyun shook his head fondly and dived down to press a kiss right between Chanyeol’s collarbones, his mouth fitting perfectly.

 

Chanyeol’s skin was soft under his lips, it felt like kissing a drop of water, letting it suffuse into him and quench a thirst he had been victim of for so long. It was smooth, almost like silk as Baekhyun kissed his chest, carefully, heartily. Baekhyun never once parted his lips from Chanyeol’s skin, enjoying the texture, the taste. Cotton candy. Chanyeol’s skin tasted and smelled sweet, a remnant of the shower gel he used. The one he had bought specifically to leave it in Baekhyun’s bathroom, the eye catching pink and purple packaging disturbing the row of white products Baekhyun used. Baekhyun never removed it.

 

His fingers tangled in Baekhyun’s hair, grazing the tip of his ear, his nape, then the tip of his ear again, tugging on it a little when Baekhyun took the little pink bud of his nipple into his mouth, sucking on it. He heard Chanyeol’s breath hitching, his fingers tugging on Baekhyun’s hair, his chest heaving the slightest bit, a sign of pleasure more than exertion. 

 

Baekhyun pulled away when he felt Chanyeol tugging on his shirt, letting go of the small, now puffy nipple with a last, gentle tug of his teeth and looking up at him. It didn’t take him long to understand what Chanyeol was asking for and with a smile, Baekhyun took his own sweater off, discarding it somewhere on the floor. Chanyeol’s gaze was heated as he trailed it over his body and Baekhyun basked in it, letting Chanyeol look at him him as much as he wanted to, his hand resting on Chanyeol’s thigh, thumb caressing his clothed skin.

 

Then, Chanyeol grabbed his hands and tugged him forward, making Baekhyun stumble down on him a little, their chest crashing together, their laughter mixing in between them, their skin grazing, the contact sending sparkles down Baekhyun’s spine. It was warm. And soft. Everything about Chanyeol was warm and soft and Baekhyun felt something in him puffing up with the breath that he stole away from Chanyeol with another kiss. 

 

This time, Chanyeol’s fingers slid up his arms, slowly, as if he was enjoying the fiber of Baekhyun’s skin, the muscles tensing up unconsciously under his touch. He pressed Baekhyun closer to him when Baekhyun deepened the kiss, slipping his tongue in the heat of Chanyeol’s mouth.

 

His hands slid down Baekhyun’s back, parted ways and held onto his waist, a hand remaining there while the other traveled around a bit until a thumb and the hill of a palm could press against Baekhyun’s abdomen. It had been a long time since he had last gone to the gym, the muscles were faint, almost on the verge of fading out. There was no visible lineation on his abdomen anymore but Baekhyun still felt Chanyeol groaning into his mouth as he traced the faint hardness on his abdomen. He didn’t consider himself in his prime condition but Chanyeol seemed to be enjoying him so much as he was.

 

Baekhyun felt the first sparks of arousal coming to life under Chanyeol’s touch and he dragged his lips away from the other’s, taking on the same path as earlier down towards Chanyeol’s chest, sucking, nibbling, and kissing. Chanyeol’s hands fell away from his body as Baekhyun lowered himself down along Chanyeol’s. It was even less muscled than Baekhyun’s body - only his arms bigger from playing drums. His stomach was rather flat under Baekhyun’s lips, the very faint pudge being the only shape Baekhyun could see, gathered in a little hill around his belly button. He scattered open-mouthed kisses around his navel, a sensitive part of his body judging but the way he could feel him contracting under the kisses. 

 

Chanyeol’s fingers found their way in his hair again and suddenly, Baekhyun felt an untamable urge. He pressed his lips better against Chanyeol’s tummy and without any warning, blew a raspberry into his skin. Instantly, Chanyeol squirmed under him and let out a cute, high pitched laugh, tugging on his hair to pull him away.

 

"What are you doing?" he slurred when Baekhyun looked up at him. His eyes were smiling at Baekhyun, sparkling, as if someone had locked glitter in those two precious gemstones. His cheeks were flushed, glowing.

 

"Cute," was the only thing Baekhyun said, leaning down again to mutter those words against Chanyeol’s tummy. Baekhyun didn’t know why he suddenly seemed so much more lovesome than usual. He didn’t know how that was even possible. 

 

Chanyeol beamed at him, teeth sunk into his lower lip, affection flowing from his eyes right into Baekhyun. It felt heavy, enough for him to tilt his head down and press his lips against his navel again. He liked that laugh. Hearing it felt nice and only fueled the arousal. It was a new sensation. Baekhyun didn’t feel devoured by the heat and the urge to touch and be touched. He only felt the deep desire to hear, see, and make Chanyeol feel pleasured. As if that alone would be enough for Baekhyun to feel good, to feel loved, to feel pleasured.

 

Chanyeol didn’t seem unaffected by it all. Baekhyun’s hand grazed his cock  when he brought it up to hook his fingers on the hem of his sweatpants. Not yet tugging them down, he simply pressed more kisses, decorating Chanyeol’s hipbone with them and then moving down to the slope between his hip bone and his tummy, dragging his lower lip against the skin. He felt muscles contract under his ministrations and Chanyeol’s hips bucked up a little. Baekhyun smiled, looking up to meet the other’s eyes and pressing another kiss on that same patch of skin, tugging it with his teeth a little afterwards and watching as Chanyeol’s lips parted, his fingers tightening their hold on a few strands of Baekhyun’s hair.

 

Baekhyun played with that erogenous patch of skin, tracing out its barriers by mapping where exactly he had to press his lips for Chanyeol’s body to contract. It arched up when he slid a little to the right but relaxed again when he slid a bit too much to the right. He let out tiny sounds of pleasure, sweet to Baekhyun’s ears, as low as his singing voice but not as deep as his talking voice. 

 

After a while, Baekhyun felt Chanyeol’s hands locking around his arms before he was pulled up, way too easily. In a split second, Chanyeol exchanged their position, Baekhyun laying on his back while the other pressed his body down between his parted legs. Heat jolted through Baekhyun’s body when their crotch grazed together but his sound of pleasure was muffled by Chanyeol’s lips, the kiss losing its delicacy now, sloppier, his lower lip sucked into Chanyeol’s mouth. There was a little more urgency in their liplock. Baekhyun tilted his head, allowing Chanyeol to deepen the kiss, their lips moving together in an organized mess, their tastes blending in each other’s mouth.

 

Baekhyun felt dainty fingers grazing a nipple, circling over it. He let out a deep breath through his nose and it seemed to tickle Chanyeol’s cheek because he felt his lips stretching into a smile and he pulled away just before their teeth could clank together.

 

"Let’s not be unfair," Chanyeol whispered, against his chin, where he pressed a kiss.

 

Baekhyun quirked an eyebrow, before the expression morphed into one of ease and content when he felt Chanyeol’s puffy lower lip drag against the skin of his neck, right where he knew branches were inked into his body. Baekhyun parted his legs a little, to allow the other to settle down against him properly, moaning a little when he felt Chanyeol’s arousal rubbing against his. He felt his own better now that he wasn’t too busy kissing Chanyeol’s soft body, taking in his delectable reactions, the steamy sounds escaping his lips.

 

Baekhyun smiled when Chanyeol nestled kisses between the branches on his tattoo, his lips pressing against plum blossoms, fitting perfectly. But Baekhyun felt like Chanyeol was the one breathing life into him. And love. And affection.

 

His mind then clouded, mist gathering there when Chanyeol bucked his hips up a little against Baekhyun’s, rubbing their erections together though the layers of clothes. Baekhyun felt the heat even through the fabric. He tilted his head back and closed his eyes when Chanyeol nibbled on his collarbones. He held onto the other’s waist, feeling every single drag of his body against his, every single spark of pleasure gradually growing the more Chanyeol rolled his hips against his. 

 

Through the clouds of pleasure in his mind, Baekhyun discerned the need to touch the other, to feel the smooth texture of his skin again. Obeying to it, he slid one hand up Chanyeol’s back, hooking it on his shoulder, holding onto him to assure he wouldn’t stop grinding against him and take the amplifying pleasure away. His other hand glided down Chanyeol’s waist, fingers sneaking under the hem of his sweatpants, palm pressing against a bare asscheek, fingers digging into the flesh, pulling closer, just so he could feel Chanyeol pressed against him harder.

 

Chanyeol pulled away from the crook of his neck, where his teeth had been playing with Baekhyun’s skin for a while, and brought his face closer to Baekhyun’s. A low whimper escaped his lips, Baekhyun felt it tickle his own mouth as he looked into his eyes, exertion distributing Chanyeol’s breath on his skin unevenly. His eyes were hooded, lids pulled down by pleasure but not enough to hide the fluttering heat in his orbs. Chanyeol always looked at Baekhyun like this. Soft. That was the only word Baekhyun could think of right now, when his mind was clouded with pleasure and the handsome shape of Chanyeol’s features. 

 

He kneaded the skin he was holding in his palm, fingers digging and then sliding a bit to the side as Chanyeol was still grinding against him. The movement made Baekhyun pull his asscheeks a bit apart, a single finger venturing down, grazing his entrance. Chanyeol’s hips bucked against his once, the gesture uncontrolled. When he gained his previous rhythm again, hips rotating against Baekhyun’s, rubbing, seeking friction and faint pleasure, his teeth sunk into his swollen lower lip. The cherry of his skin contrasted with the white of his teeth. 

 

He brought his other hand down and slipped it inside Chanyeol’s sweatpants too, giving the same attention to Chanyeol’s other asscheek. He only had to raise his head the tiniest bit to free Chanyeol’s lip from the hold of his teeth and sink his own into the flesh instead. His hands slipped down, tugging the back of the sweatpants down, Chanyeol’s underwear following along as he bared Chanyeol’s ass, making it easier for himself to knead the flesh without the constraints of clothes. He felt Chanyeol shiver against him.

 

Without any warning, Baekhyun reversed their position. Although, with a bit more difficulty since Chanyeol was taller and heavier than he was. He had the nerve to laugh as he watched Baekhyun struggle for a bit. Once Chanyeol was on his back and Baekhyun was nestled between his long legs, he pinched a nipple as some kind or revenge, pulling a whine out of Chanyeol. He raised himself off the other a little bit, intending to give him a smug look but somehow, his hand slipped and he crashed down against Chanyeol, his lips bumping against his chin and their crotches colliding. Baekhyun felt pleasure at the friction but it was laughter that escaped his mouth, Chanyeol’s deeper laugh not drowning his but emulsifying together to perfection.

 

This was unfamiliar. This almost didn’t feel like having sex, making out, or a prelude. This felt comfortable. As if this wouldn’t be their first time but their hundredth. Yet, Baekhyun had never explored Chanyeol’s body so much, discovering moles scattered across his skin, the shape of his hips, the taste and texture of his skin, and the various sounds the other let out depending on where Baekhyun pressed his lips or his fingers. He had never been so comfortable, so peaceful, so free in this position.

 

"I don’t think you’re supposed to kill me while trying to have sex with me," Chanyeol said, voice bubbling with the remnants of his laughter.

 

"I think you’re the one trying to kill me with your cuteness," Baekhyun retorted, already grinning at the reaction he knew Chanyeol would give him.

 

As expected, he groaned and Baekhyun kissed him before he could say anything. Chanyeol seemed to try mumbling a few things, probably complaining about the cheesiness but Baekhyun simply deepened the kiss, smiling against his lips. This time, his hand reached for the bedside table and he blindly pulled the drawer open, fumbling for lube and a condom. It would be easier to break the kiss and look for it but Chanyeol’s kisses had always been addictive. It was hard to sometimes stop himself from kissing the other and this was one of those times. 

 

Chanyeol didn’t seem to mind, merrily kissing Baekhyun, pressing his lips against the corner of Baekhyun’s, and then right above his upper lip, where Baekhyun knew a small mole was doted on his skin. When Baekhyun found what he was looking for and pulled away, Chanyeol was smiling at him. The goofy kind of smile, glistening with happiness, rosy with content, lively petals basking in sunlight. Baekhyun took a deep breath in, gaze constantly shifting from Chanyeol’s eyes to his lips. Both were equally mesmerizing. He didn’t know what to focus on.

 

Ultimately, he decided to focus on pleasuring Chanyeol. He pulled away, sitting between the other’s legs and looking down at his crotch, fingers dumping the lube and condom on the bed. His pants were tugged low, hooked right at the beginning of the swell of his erection since the backside was still tugged down under his ass. He looked comfortable, patient as he laid there, watching Baekhyun with half-lidded eyes, arms folded over his tummy, the corners of his lips tugged into a faint smile.

 

Baekhyun returned the smile and grabbed the waistband of both his sweatpants and underwear to take them off. The fabric slid over Chanyeol’s thighs with ease but his legs were too long and to make it easier for Baekhyun, he raised them a bit. Baekhyun struggled to take them off, stretching his arms when Chanyeol raised his legs straight up. He couldn’t reach his feet and Chanyeol, with a smug look on his face, had to fold his legs against his chest for Baekhyun to take them off.

 

"Your legs are already so long, why are you making it more difficult for me?" he scolded the other once he finally managed to take the clothes off and drop them on the floor, laughter in his voice.

 

Chanyeol quirked an eyebrow, mirth swirling in his eyes. "It’s not my fault if you suck—" he started but the last of his words was lost in a surprised moan when, without letting him finish his sentence and win the banter, Baekhyun leaned down to press his lips against the crown of his cock.

 

It was flushed, rosier than the rest of the skin, and tasted a bit sweeter than the rest as well. Or maybe that was because the pleasured tune leaving Chanyeol’s mouth sounded sweeter, more sugary rich than anything else. His cock was curved against Chanyeol’s pelvis and Baekhyun pressed open mouthed kisses down the underside, one of Chanyeol’s hands holding onto his shoulder, his fingers digging into it. 

 

He didn’t do much, however, pulling away after one last kiss to the base of his cock, where the skin started wrinkling a little and fading into his sack. He licked his lower lip, the bitter taste of precome spreading into his mouth as he grabbed the lube and uncapped the little bottle to coat his fingers with the translucent, gooey product. Then, he tapped Chanyeol’s thigh to silently ask him to fold his legs a little. Chanyeol parted his legs, bending them on the knee to make it easier for Baekhyun to reach his hole.

 

The first thing that Baekhyun noticed was the tiny mole on the patch of skin linking Chanyeol’s asscheek to his left thigh. His skin was still just a shade darker than Baekhyun’s but he had lost the tan that had darkened it back in August. With that came the realization of how long Chanyeol had been in Baekhyun’s life. He bit on his lower lip. It made him feel weird. He chose to focus on the pink of Chanyeol’s entrance and carefully, he brought a single finger to graze against it. Chanyeol made no sound but Baekhyun caught him tensing up a little bit. He looked at his face - his were eyes focused on Baekhyun’s hand, an obvious sign of lust rather than discomfort. 

 

He circled his entrance with his finger, his other hand holding onto his thigh, thumb soothingly caressing his skin in the same pace as he spread lube over before slowly, carefully pushing the finger in. He wasn’t sure whether this was Chanyeol’s first time or not, it didn’t really matter, Baekhyun still wanted to be careful. The ring of muscle gave way pretty easily and once the tip of his finger breached in, it was easier to push more into the layers and layers of warmth. He glanced at Chanyeol’s face for any sign of discomfort and focused back on his own finger when he found none. Baekhyun felt his stomach twisting in anticipation at the thought of feeling the fleshy warmth wrapped around his cock, cradling his arousal and cajoling it.

 

He slowly thrusted his finger in and out, watching the slight, negligible pull of the pinkish skin against his finger, smooth and pretty. When he pushed a second finger in, it was a bit more difficult to rock them into Chanyeol but a few seconds of attention and care was all it took for his walls to give way a little, adjusting to the size of Baekhyun’s fingers. Chanyeol’s chest was heaving a little, his teeth sinking into his lower lip, tongue sometimes slipping out to wet it before his teeth took over again. He looked impatient but calm and Baekhyun was reassured that it didn’t feel too painful. To make sure to prepare the other properly, he crooked his fingers a little, working on loosening his walls.

 

His other hand felt left out so Baekhyun brought it up and wrapped his thumb and index finger in a ring right at the base of Chanyeol’s cock. His hips twitched a little, his lips parting in a loud gasp. His hair had been damp from the shower earlier but now it looked even damper against his forehead, curtaining his eyes. Baekhyun wrapped the rest of his fingers around his cock and stroked them up until only the red tip of Chanyeol’s cock peaked out of his hand,. His skin was hot in Baekhyun’s palm and his hand was just a little cooler when it wrapped around Baekhyun’s wrist and tugged down, guiding Baekhyun’s hand to stroke him at the exact same pace as his fingers thrusted in and out of him. It was as accurate as when they played piano together, Baekhyun started the song and Chanyeol followed along, not a single note out of place or delayed.

 

By the time Chanyeol felt looser around his fingers, Baekhyun felt a little swell grazing his fingertips and he spent a few seconds just massaging it, stimulating the bundle of nerves until Chanyeol’s back arched off the bed and his nails dug into Baekhyun’s wrist. His neck was flushed, his eyes closed, lashes fanning over his skin. Translucent beads crowned the slit of his cock, sliding down and spreading over Baekhyun’s hand. He was beautiful. His voice, when pleasured, sounded hoarser, but soothing as the lullaby he had sang to Baekhyun earlier. 

 

The thought made something flourish in Baekhyun’s stomach. The thin sheen of sweat coating Chanyeol’s carved collarbones and his chest only made the thought light up more vividly in his head. As if Chanyeol himself nourished it, watered it. He was beautiful, lost in pleasure, his walls tightening around Baekhyun’s fingers once in a while. He had wrapped his long legs around Baekhyun’s waist at some point, pulling him closer. He wasn’t guiding the pace of his strokes anymore, Baekhyun had taken over and stopped a short while later, letting go of Chanyeol’s cock, painfully aware of how left out his own felt in his pants. He slowly pulled his fingers out of him, with a faint squelch, and caressed the clenching ring of muscles with his wet fingers, soothing it.

 

Chanyeol opened his eyes and met Baekhyun’s, a smile spread on his lips. Baekhyun himself returned it before he pulled away from the hold Chanyeol’s legs had on him and moved to finally take the rest of his clothes off. Chanyeol observed him, Baekhyun noticed his chest puffing up once with a deep intake of breath as his gaze dropped to Baekhyun’s cock. Satisfaction spread through him but Baekhyun didn’t linger on it too long, slowly growing impatient. He missed the sweet moans of pleasure Chanyeol let out so delightfully.

 

He grabbed the square pack of the condom and ripped it open, careful as to not damage it. He bit onto his lower lip while rolling it onto his cock and squirted lube on his palm afterwards to coat his length with the product. That simple gesture brought a huge wave of relief and pleasure through him. Baekhyun only then realized that he had put himself at the second plan just to focus on Chanyeol’s own pleasure. 

 

Once done, he grabbed onto Chanyeol’s hips and intended to pull him closer but his eyes caught sight of the mole on the underside of his thigh again and suddenly, Baekhyun was filled with an urge that he didn’t ignore. Leaning down, he pressed a kiss right against the tiny island lost on the ocean of Chanyeol’s skin.

 

"You have a mole here," he mumbled against his thigh before straightening up again yet melting at the grin Chanyeol offered him.

 

"You have one right here too," Chanyeol said, stretching his hand out and grazing the patch of skin right next to Baekhyun’s cock.

 

Baekhyun smiled, teasing.

 

"I guess you looked at me long and well."

 

Chanyeol didn’t say anything, mirroring his smile.

 

Baekhyun pulled him closer by the waist, keeping a hand there while the other wrapped around his cock and he guided it against Chanyeol’s entrance. He heard the other’s breath hitching when the lubed tip of his cock pressed against his entrance. He felt heat spreading to his stomach, his chest, his fingertips as he glanced at Chanyeol one last time before carefully pushing in. 

 

Despite the preparation, he  didn’t give too easily. Baekhyun made sure to be attentive as he pushed in, inhaling deeply as he felt the velvety layers of warmth wrapping around his cock, tight, tender, and incredibly wet and smooth. Chanyeol’s lips fell open, not a sound leaving him but his eyes hooding, his features tensing up and relaxing at the same time, both pleasure and discomfort battling over him. Baekhyun buried himself in up to the hilt and took a short moment to let Chanyeol adjust despite the lack of pain in his eyes.

 

It was febrile. Velvety. Baekhyun felt suffocated and cocooned into a comforting blanket at the same time. He could almost feel every fiber of flesh around his skin, the irregular texture, smoother yet harsher than Chanyeol’s skin under his thumb as he caressed his hip. He let his thumb slide down a little, to the skin right next to his hipbone, that spot he knew would make pleasure shoot through Chanyeol’s body. It did, Baekhyun felt his walls clenching around him once, if that was even possible, before slackening a little again. Baekhyun smiled at him. Seeing Chanyeol like this just made him happy. The red tip of his ears, the flush on his chest and neck, the affection fluttering in his eyes. 

 

Slowly, Baekhyun started moving, grinding against him more than thrusting, rotating his hips a little and pulling back only to push in again. Chanyeol’s hand wrapped around his wrist again, tight, as if he needed to hold onto Baekhyun to anchor himself. Then, Baekhyun started widening his thrusts, pulling almost all the way out only to slide in again, almost agonizing over how slow this was but feeling no real will or urge to quicken the pace. He could feel every single centimeter of his flesh dragging against his cock and pleasure rippling through him, in small waves that gradually expanded through his whole body.

 

Chanyeol seemed to be sharing the pleasure, his grip tight on Baekhyun’s wrist, his breathing pattern irregular, loud, and his chest heaving. His eyes were closed at first and Baekhyun closed his too, just to feel the pressure surrounding his cock a little better, his hips slow but never irregular or careless as they thrusted into Chanyeol. His own hands were gripping the other’s waist. The cloudy warmth Chanyeol’s body confined him in felt a little looser and yet even tighter at the same time, a delectable sensation Baekhyun could easily grow addicted to. The way Chanyeol was looking at him though, that he would never get accustomed to.

 

He stopped moving, the halt causing Chanyeol to let his eyes flutter open delicately and immediately suck Baekhyun into the tender emotions he was sure he could feel in his own body - the affection,  the bareness, and the satisfaction. Of being here, now, with Chanyeol. With Chanyeol.

 

 Leaning closer to him, Baekhyun supported himself on his elbows, on each side of Chanyeol’s head, the movement causing him to shift a bit and bury himself deeper into Chanyeol, deeper into lust and arousal and pleasure and the incredible amount of love waiting for Baekhyun right inside his dark eyes.

 

He resumed his thrusts, still slow, still careful, but not weak, letting the both of them feel every drag of flesh, every peak of pleasure, every clench, and every dig into more delight. Their lips grazed together - Baekhyun breathed Chanyeol in. He breathed the affection, the air, the fervor with which Chanyeol let him know he cherished Baekhyun, through nothing but his eyes. Strong arms wrapped around him. Baekhyun pressed a kiss against Chanyeol’s moan. Short kisses, because he adored kissing Chanyeol but neither of them were clearheaded enough for a proper kiss, for anything more than tender pecks, on a plump lower lip, a mole above an upper lip, a corner, a chin, a jaw, the ripe apple of Chanyeol’s cheek, and the hoarse chuckle escaping Baekhyun.

 

Baekhyun traced a finger over Chanyeol’s ear, the whole shape of it, widening his eyes as a way to let the other know he thought his ears were wide. Chanyeol abruptly clenched around Baekhyun’s cock, on purpose, as some kind of revenge for teasing him about his ears. He huffed a laugh out when Baekhyun, surprised but not displeased, snapped his hips forward and broke the regular pace he had set.

 

He heard it again, amidst the faint slap of skin against skin, underneath the dulcet moans embracing his ears. The sound he’d been hearing, feeling in his head, in his fingertips, so often when he looked at Chanyeol lately. At random moments. With seemingly no particular provenance. An unfamiliar rhythm. Forgotten when Chanyeol called his name in a peak of pleasure, each sound huffed out of his mouth growing louder and then falling completely silent, his body tensing up as his lips remained parted but no sound left him for a moment. 

 

Baekhyun felt heat devouring him. Chanyeol’s legs slipped down a bit from where he had them wrapped around Baekhyun’s waist, his features twisted by the delirium of his nearing orgasm. He  tightened around him, tight but not tight enough until Baekhyun wrapped his damp hand around Chanyeol’s cock and stroked him. The pace didn’t match the one of his thrusts but it seemed to be enough for Chanyeol to arch his back beautifully, his hips bucking up the slightest bit as he squeezed around Baekhyun, trapping him in pleasure. 

 

Baekhyun threw his head back, felt Chanyeol clamping around his cock delightfully, felt the searing drops of come smearing under his hand as he continued stroking him through breathy moans that finally billowed out of his mouth. Chanyeol’s body quivering as he came was a wonderful sight, the arch of his back, the way his abdomen clenched, hipbones protruding a bit, artfully sculpted by the pleasure quaking through him. Bliss soon diffused through Baekhyun’s veins, blazing through him like wildfire.

 

His hips twitched against Chanyeol. He thrusted into the other’s sensitive body, feeling him clench and unclench around his cock, each fiber of skin now so delectably clear against Baekhyun’s own, even through the condom. It only took a few thrusts for Baekhyun to feel heat curling in his stomach, twirling and hugging him from inside as his hips slammed against Chanyeol’s, breath escaping him in a long moan, Chanyeol’s own now weak whimpers echoing in his head. It anchored his mind, prevented bliss from slipping it away from his fingers and for a fleeting moment, Baekhyun felt himself going idle.

 

When he opened his eyes again, his whole body was tingling with the vestige of his climax. When his mind stopped spinning, he noticed that Chanyeol was looking at him, breathless, flushed, hair a mess but gaze soft, content, driblets of pleasure glittering in his dilated pupils. He was still twitching a little around Baekhyun. He started pulling out, not because he was tired of the heat, he would never be, but because he didn’t want them to feel any discomfort or pain from oversensitivity. When Baekhyun completely slipped out of Chanyeol, he heard a groan, not of pleasure. He looked up at Chanyeol again, dragging his gaze away from his twitching, reddened entrance, and saw the discontented frown pulling his eyebrows down.

 

Chanyeol seemed to realize what he had just let out and he bit on his lower lip, widening his eyes as if he was surprised himself of his reaction to Baekhyun leaving him empty. Baekhyun grinned, pleased, so full with the other’s love and affection that it suddenly gushed out through the first note of a chuckle. When Chanyeol mirrored that note to perfection, it soon grew into boisterous, uncontrollable laughter and Baekhyun was laughing so hard, so unexpectedly, so happily, that Chanyeol had to be the one to take the condom off him and tie it before dumping it on the bedside table to throw out later.

 

Baekhyun was still chuckling a little by the time Chanyeol pushed him to lay on his back and then snuggled up to him, nuzzling his nose against the crook of his neck. Baekhyun took a deep breath in. He wrapped his arm around the other’s shoulders, pulling him closer. Chanyeol draped an arm over his still slightly heaving chest. He was warm. It wasn’t enough. Baekhyun grabbed one of Chanyeol’s thighs and brought his leg closer, draping it over his hips, Chanyeol’s thigh grazing his softening cock. His chest was pressed against Baekhyun’s side now. He was so warm. Baekhyun closed his eyes for a short while, content.

 

Feeling the other’s gaze on him, he opened his eyes again and looked down, meeting his eyes, letting them light genuine affection over him. After a few seconds of silence, Chanyeol reached up, puckering his lips a little, and Baekhyun leaned down to meet him halfway for a tender, enlivening kiss. Playful, the hand that wasn’t holding onto Chanyeol’s shoulder reached to grab onto an asscheek, resulting in Chanyeol moaning softly into the kiss. Baekhyun let his fingers venture to the side, kneading the flesh, parting it a bit from its twin until a finger could find Chanyeol’s entrance again. Chanyeol parted from the kiss, breath honed against Baekhyun’s lips as he traced over the still sensitive hole that twitched under his touch.

 

"Looks like you’re missing me already," Baekhyun said, voice a bit scratchy from pleasure, from moaning, maybe from something else he couldn’t identity.

 

Chanyeol quirked an eyebrow, just as playful, as he dug his fingers into Baekhyun’s waist, enough for it to sting a little.

 

"Isn’t that just you thinking so because you’re the one already missing me?" he hummed, singsonged.

 

Baekhyun couldn’t help but kiss him again.

 

That night, Baekhyun soaked himself in Chanyeol’s warmth once more as sweet lullabies and a loving voice harmonized in the background. 

 

By the end of the twelve tracks, Baekhyun felt so full of warmth, it was hard to imagine himself ever sensing even the coldest of breezes fuming against his skin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baekhyun stepped into the new year with Chanyeol’s lips pressed against his.

 

Maybe because he started the year with a pleasant kiss, the rest of January was nothing but pleasant. Chanyeol was with him through most of it, through messages, long phone calls, snuggles on Baekhyun’s couch, naps on Chanyeol’s bed, and kisses whenever either of them wanted.

 

Christmas pulled them closer than before. Chanyeol loved him. He had still not pronounced those words out loud but Baekhyun didn’t need to hear it to know. Looking into Chanyeol’s eyes was enough for him to see exactly what kind of emotions the other wanted to wrap Baekhyun in through his gaze alone.

 

He felt farther from his family than ever. He had not gotten a single news of his father and not a single call from his brother for months, not even through the new year. He didn’t mind. He felt closer to happiness and fuller with love than ever.

 

Nightmares still haunted his nights but Chanyeol was often there to hold him through it, even when Baekhyun wasn’t conscious of it. When Chanyeol wasn’t there to embrace him, it was his voice and the musical notes of his love for Baekhyun that were there to lull him back to peaceful slumber. The playlist Chanyeol had sent him was his most played one yet.

 

He felt better than ever, like a plum blossom finally looking up to the melting snow and the lively spring beam.

 

He was so used to feeling like an artist plucking flowers from life and stealing their beauty for himself but now, he felt just like a flower, maybe a bouquet, and Chanyeol was always right beside him, like a pretty bow enhancing flowers’ loveliness. 

 

Sometimes, Baekhyun wondered why. Most of the time, he couldn’t understand why. Eventually, he told himself that it was nothing unusual, nothing out of the ordinary. He had crafted this for himself. He was only harvesting the same crops that he had fed on time and time again through his whole life.

 

In retrospect, he should’ve known that even the first few steps spring took were over still iced ground.

 

It wasn’t spring yet. Snow hadn’t melted. Flowers hadn’t bloomed.

 

January wasn’t March.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baekhyun’s cheeks often hurt whenever Chanyeol came over to spend the night in his apartment.

 

Most of the time, they liked watching movies together and Chanyeol was the kind to get easily distracted, focusing on snacks more than cinematography, and had a comment to make about almost every single line said by the actors. Baekhyun could’ve been annoyed, he should have been annoyed but Chanyeol’s comments made the movies more enjoyable and made Baekhyun laugh hard enough for it not to ever bother him.

 

The only inconvenience was Chanyeol’s tendency to make Baekhyun wash the dishes manually rather than letting him dump everything in the dishwasher and then laze around some more on his couch. It was a waste of water, according to him, and Baekhyun couldn’t even argue since he had the habit of letting the machine run even for four plates and two glasses. He had tried arguing tonight, however, and that had merely resulted in Chanyeol leaving him for some bonding time with the sink so Baekhyun could see that it’s not dangerous but very friendly while he took a shower.

 

Baekhyun supposed that would at least be a good way for him to get rid of one more flaw. Moreover, he had required quite a big amount of kisses for Chanyeol to convince him so he wasn’t the true loser here.

 

Right when Baekhyun was done rinsing the last plate and had cut the water off, the doorbell rang. He wasn’t expecting anyone. Maybe it was another one of Junmyeon’s impromptu visits. He had talked about being bored earlier, through messages, but he had been at home, dining with his parents. Maybe he had decided to visit just to clear his head up after another round of marriage pressure from his mother.

 

After drying his hands on a napkin, he headed towards the door. There was no sound of water flowing coming from the bathroom - Chanyeol would probably get out soon.

 

He opened the door and felt something in him closing off at the dark, murky eyes that confined him in the familiar fog that spread around him. 

 

It was his father. Standing in front of him, with his pale yet yellowish skin, the deep wrinkles on his face, the bleary yet sharp look in his eyes, and the sour, disgusted twist of his mouth. 

 

He was supporting himself on a cane. He was dressed in a suit, wrinkled, too baggy on him. He had lost weight, gained illness. 

 

Maybe it was because they hadn’t crossed paths in too long but Baekhyun felt as if the fog, the smoke had grown stronger, sharpened into metal spikes as it closed on him.

 

"What are you doing here?" 

 

His voice was not as strong as he wished, not as accusing as he thought it would be. He felt himself tensing up yet weakening. His shirt felt tighter, his throat clamped up on him, and he felt infected ants coursing over his entire body.

 

The man’s voice was greasier, weaker, yet more harmful than ever as it croaked into Baekhyun’s ears.

 

"I haven’t seen your damn face in four months. You’re neglecting the company too."

 

He felt himself shrinking, his arms sticking close to his sides, his entire body recoiling into itself.

 

There was no concern in those words. 

 

He was looking at Baekhyun, talking to him as if he was deeply disturbed by his existence alone. It wasn’t worry in the ill man’s voice, there was nothing but accusations. As if Baekhyun had to show his face to him despite the poor treatment he received, as if it was Baekhyun’s duty to stand there and let his father look at him as if he was the scum of earth, a stain he couldn’t get rid of no matter how vigorously and mercilessly he brushed it.

 

As if the company was a privilege to the undeserving him and he was ungrateful not to present himself everyday and be humiliated under the eyes of strangers that fed on rumors and harmful words.

 

And Baekhyun could see all that in the old man’s eyes. He could feel it in his breath, in the memories fogging his mind. He could live those emotions in his shrinking body, the slight tremble in his fingers, and the knot in his neck. As if he had been conditioned to stay silent and let the other treat him like a monstrous creature.

 

He wasn’t. That wasn’t what he was.

 

He felt something in him open up, unlocking, slicing through his lungs and trying to suck out the heavy wafts of smoke that had gathered there.

 

"Why do you think we’re not seeing each other?" he questioned, voice still choked down by the fog. Weak. Unfamiliar. Unpleasant. That wasn’t his voice. He wasn’t himself whenever his father was there. His voice was a little stronger when he spoke again. He forced accusations out from where they were hidden. "Why do you think I’m not stepping into your company?"

 

Not enough. 

 

Still not strong enough. But the smog wasn’t only in his body, it was in his mind too. And he hated it. He hated it so much. He could feel every single fiber of that hatred running through his veins, planting into his limbs, infecting him like poisoned vines.

 

The old man snorted, sly, shaky, sending unpleasant bites through Baekhyun’s whole body. Baekhyun felt his nails digging into the tender flesh of his palms, the sting not enough to distract him from the acid coursing through him.

 

"You’re really an ungrateful piece of shit," he said, without remorse, hesitation, or respect for who was supposed to be his son.

 

And that was the last straw. Baekhyun felt anger spreading through him, leaving ashes in its wake, each burnt flake piling up in his lungs. He parted his lips, intending to spit it all right back out.

 

"What’s going on?" a voice cut him off before he could say anything. 

 

When he turned towards its source, his gaze fell on Chanyeol.

 

He was standing there, only a few steps away, eyebrows furrowed, hair damp, Baekhyun’s favorite sweater hugging his chest, and his eyes constantly flickering between Baekhyun and his father. His cheeks were flushed, a remnant of his shower. Baekhyun felt the fire under his skin suddenly glaciating.

 

He had heard. He had probably heard. 

 

Chanyeol wasn’t the kind to step into a private conversation. He had probably heard Baekhyun’s father’s voice. He had probably sensed the tension in Baekhyun’s own words. 

 

"So what they keep saying is true," the old man croaked, words barely intelligible between the wheezes and the cough at the end of his sentence. He was trembling, Baekhyun could see the cane he was gripping in one hand shaking a little. In spite of his unhealthy appearance, his voice echoed strongly in Baekhyun’s head, his voice reaching through the fog.

 

Suddenly, Baekhyun felt part of himself shrinking further. Suddenly, the smoke felt too heavy in his chest, crowding into his windpipe.

 

He heard Chanyeol stepping closer to him. He could feel his gaze on him. He probably was confused. Baekhyun couldn’t look. He couldn’t do anything but stare at the ill man, take in the way he was looking at Chanyeol, his eyes beady as he trailed them over Chanyeol. Baekhyun felt discomfort twisting his stomach painfully. Maybe not discomfort. He couldn’t tell. Words blurred in his head. They refused to come out of his mouth.

 

Baekhyun hated this with every fiber of his being. Sentences formed in his head. Accurate, proper, understandable. They always did, whenever his father said something. He had the answers tucked in a corner of his head, ready to be fired. It never happened. It never happened because something blocked them inside of him. No matter how hard he pushed, the words he knew he was supposed to throw at the other refused to obey. He hated this sensation of helplessness, the way he turned so ridiculously weak in front of a dying man.

 

With a scoff, his father directed his crawly gaze back at him. Chanyeol said nothing, he stood there, next to him. Baekhyun didn’t look at him. He had a hard time breathing. He could feel his limbs shivering weakly.

 

"That was the only side of you that wasn’t monstrous and now you’ve completely ruined it too."

 

"Just what side of me is monstrous?" a voice suddenly screamed. Baekhyun only realized that it was his when his chest felt the tiniest bit lighter. His head was exploding, fuming, as if something was trying to get out, as if part of it was fighting for the words to finally escape his mouth. He could barely hear himself. His nails dug deeper into his palms. "What the hell makes me a monster?!"

 

There was no reaction for a second. Then, the old man’s features twisted in a hideous expression.

 

"How would I know?" he argued, coughing when his voice came out much louder than its capacity, spit flying off his mouth. None of it touched him but Baekhyun felt more stained than ever. The man’s eyes were big, almost jutting out of his head, bloodshot, two dark beads swimming in infested pools of yellowed white. "That’s just what you are. How you were born. A monster."

 

Baekhyun shook his head. Did he? He wasn’t sure. He felt that word punching into his guts, piercing into his head and twirling around, shaking everything up, winning the battle that had been ongoing in his head, putting an end to a small victory that flourished for less than two sentences.

 

A monster. He hadn’t heard that word in so long. He hadn’t felt it spread into his body through streaks of black, heavy, oppressive smoke. He was full of it again. He couldn’t breathe. 

 

"You always ruin things and destroy everything and just why?" 

 

That same voice echoed loudly, too loudly amidst the turmoil in his head. It felt so close to him, like a whisper into his ears, and yet so far away, like an alarm he would never be able to turn off if he didn’t directly run towards it and crashed against the system. He heard a wheeze. Was it his? Or was it his father’s? 

 

He felt his ribcage pressing into his heart. That wasn’t possible. He knew that wasn’t possible but it was painful. He could hear the pain screeching in his head.

 

"Why? Why was it you?" 

 

A cry. Did it sound like a cry? Or was it Baekhyun’s soul wailing in pain? 

 

"Why were you even born? You even killed your mother."

 

He was still shaking his head. His whole body was still shaking and Baekhyun felt the panic fading into the fog, sneaking around his throat, his heart, and squeezing, as hard as possible, as painfully as possible. 

 

He caught movement from a bleary corner of his eye. His hand shot up on its own, clutching Chanyeol’s wrist tightly, preventing him from stepping towards his father. He couldn’t. Chanyeol shouldn’t. He shouldn’t hear this. He shouldn’t witness this. This wasn’t Baekhyun. He shouldn’t interact with the old man. He didn’t deserve it.

 

When his father’s gaze crawled down to where their bodies connected, Baekhyun felt millions of tiny ants creeping over his skin, some of them slithering into his throat, scratching, hurting, asphyxiating him.

 

"Disgusting," was the only words the dying man sentenced them with.

 

He felt Chanyeol tensing up under his touch. Baekhyun flinched.

 

It was that look. The one that made Baekhyun feel like he was undeserving of the air he couldn’t even breathe.

 

Why?

 

Monster.

 

That word echoed in his head. It wasn’t pronounced by his father. Or maybe it was. Baekhyun felt everything around him turn idle.

 

Because he was a monster.

 

He had been deemed as such the day he had pushed his mother down the stairs, pushed her to her death. He parted his lips. Only a thin streak of air slipped into his mouth, swarmed by a wheeze. He had killed her. But why couldn’t he remember? He remembered pushing her. He remembered standing over her as her wide, frightened eyes grew dull. He remembered it. Each memory flashed in his head, distorted by the lack of oxygen.

 

Then why didn’t he remember his exact thoughts while pushing her? Why couldn’t he recall the expression she had on when his small hands struggled against hers and pushed her down? Did it matter? It didn’t. There must be a reason. There must be a reason why his father had deemed him a monster all those years ago and still slapped him with the same accusations now. He couldn’t breathe. He couldn’t think. Breathing was painful. Monsters weren’t made to breathe.

 

But that was not him. That wasn’t Baekhyun. That wasn’t what he was. Was it? Was it?

 

He looked at the ill man. His lips were moving, he was talking. Baekhyun felt the bone on Chanyeol’s wrist digging into his palm. He couldn’t hear him. He couldn’t hear whatever the old man was saying, his ears clogged by thoughts that buzzed through his head, whizzing past without any mercy, any order.

 

It wasn’t. It wasn’t Baekhyun.

 

He felt his lips moving, his mouth hurting, his head exploding. The shrill screech of thoughts came to a stop when his own voice sliced through him in an even louder scream, filled with despair, sadness, and maybe, just maybe, plea.

 

"Get out," he heard himself scream but it felt like he was nothing but a witness, squished against the walls of his own house, pinned against cold ice with rusty nails that infused into his blood. "Leave," he wailed, louder. Louder. Louder. The smog kept getting louder. "Leave. Never come back."

 

There was a few more words spat out at him before the old, cruel man turned around and left on his shaky leg, his wooden cane shaking more than anything. Baekhyun didn’t hear those words. His own thoughts were cruel enough for him not to even be able to focus on anything else. 

 

As soon as the man was out of sight, Baekhyun strode towards the door and slammed it shut with trembling hands, his fingers tight around the knob yet loose, his skin inflamed, damp, sliding against the handle. He felt his chest heaving but there was no air reaching him. He could feel himself trying, wheezing, but failing to breathe properly. His legs were wobbly. His mind quivered. The echo of his father’s words was still loud and clear.

 

In a surge of physical weakness, Baekhyun leaned his forehead against the door. He heard a loud thump, he couldn’t feel it, it wasn’t enough to distract him from the fog, nor was it enough to scare it away. The surface felt overheated against his frozen skin. Icy spikes refused to melt in his throat, refused to let him breathe. Panic. He was panicking. Panicking made it even harder to breathe. 

 

He squeezed his eyes shut. He felt himself turn around but it didn’t feel like he was turning around. It felt like someone was poking his body with sharp icicles until he turned around, pressed his back against the door, and slid down, down, down until the floor finally caught him. His legs were pressed against his chest, heavy. It made it even more difficult to breathe. He didn’t have the strength to stretch them out and make anything easier for himself.

 

He couldn’t. Not when she had died.

 

He had forgotten. He had almost forgotten. Everything about it. About what he was. What he had shaped himself into. That he was a monster. But he wasn’t. He knew he wasn’t. Then why was his father telling him he was? Why wasn’t his mind telling him he wasn’t? He clutched his head between his hands, fingers pulling at his hair, hoping that if he pulled hard enough, it would uproot his thoughts and eradicate them once and for all. 

 

Baekhyun knew he wasn’t. He missed her so much that some nights, he couldn’t feel the life thrumming in his veins. How could he have done that to her? He couldn’t. There was no way.

 

Then, amidst the streaks of smoke and the sizzling voice in his head, a warm breeze reached to him. A voice muttered something, distorted, cloudy until he felt strong but mindful hands grab his and pull them away from his hair. He looked up, sight a bit foggy. He blinked. Once, twice. The comfort wrapped around his hands felt safe and protective. Like his favorite sweater. He blinked again and Chanyeol’s eyes were staring into his. He blinked again, parted his lips, but a wheeze, scratchy, croaky rattled his chest, sucked him in.

 

"Baekhyun," he finally heard. "Breathe," he heard again and when his gaze dropped to Chanyeol’s lips, they were moving. Red, the color of warmth. Baekhyun focused on them and soon his voice was clearer, as loud as Baekhyun’s panicked gasps for air. "Breathe with me."

 

He clenched the hands holding onto his, anchoring himself. His eyes were burning. Chanyeol was making exaggerated breathing motions. Baekhyun mimicked him as best as he could, gasping in time with Chanyeol’s inhales, at first. 

 

It felt like an eternity but after a while, he felt his chest loosening, ribcage peeling away from his lungs and letting them slowly fill in with air. Once he had memorized Chanyeol’s breathing pattern, Baekhyun closed his eyes and pulled air in, wheezes fading away into less panicked, but still breathless inhales. His chest hurt. His throat hurt. His head hurt much more. His fingers hurt too. Chanyeol was clasping them too tightly.

 

He couldn’t hear the other breathing loudly with him anymore. He blinked his eyes open, chest heaving but not gasping anymore. Then, he looked into Chanyeol’s eyes and felt the air sucked out of him all over again. 

 

"Why are you crying?" he heard himself ask, voice hoarse yet weak, tender, from the remnants of pain but also because of the glistening, wide eyes Chanyeol was looking at him with.

 

He wasn’t crying. Not yet. His eyes were gleaming, on the brink of overflowing as his hands held tightly onto Baekhyun’s. As if Baekhyun might crumble down if he let go for a single second. His eyes were too sparkly, sparkly enough for Baekhyun to suddenly feel unable to focus on anything else, but too sparkly for him to even look properly and understand the reason behind the shimmer in Chanyeol’s sad gaze.

 

Chanyeol didn’t reply. Instead, he let go of Baekhyun’s hands. A wave of panic hit Baekhyun instantly but before he even had the occasion to properly feel the sting, he was engulfed into a tight, mending embrace. 

 

Confusion fused into Baekhyun at the same pace as comfort but his arms were much slower as they wrapped around Chanyeol. He was hugging Baekhyun so tight, he feared his bones breaking for a second before he realized that he was clinging onto Chanyeol just as hard. He heard Chanyeol take a deep breath that he sighed right out through mumbled words that Baekhyun couldn’t decipher. The relief, however, was crystal clear as it tinkled into his ears.

 

When Chanyeol pulled back, his tears had already overflown, nothing but wet streaks left on his cheeks. Baekhyun’s throat puffed up painfully. It didn’t feel nice. Tears didn’t look nice on Chanyeol. He watched as his hand reached up, cradling Chanyeol’s cheek, his thumb carefully brushing his under eye free of a tear’s trace. He didn’t understand. He still felt cloudy, confused, his mind registering his own motions a bit too late, but he didn’t like this sight.

 

Chanyeol let out a small, wobbly laugh. He shook his head, not enough to make Baekhyun let go of his cheek, but enough to let him figure out Chanyeol himself found this a little odd, maybe a bit ridiculous.

 

"I just," he said, stopping to take a deep breath. His hand draped over Baekhyun’s, on his cheek. His eyes were still glistening, as if tears could form and cut Baekhyun’s breath off anytime. "I never saw you like this."

 

Baekhyun deflated. He looked away, shame suddenly peeking into him. He must look so pathetic to Chanyeol. 

 

"I’m sorry," he mumbled, loathing himself for letting go of everything just like that, letting Chanyeol see this side of him. Loathing that man for reducing him into something he never was.

 

Chanyeol shook his head, sharply, firmly. When Baekhyun looked up at him again, he realized Chanyeol was kneeling between his legs. His eyebrows were furrowed and his eyes had a soft glassy sheen to them again.

 

"Why are you apologizing?" he said strongly and Baekhyun was taken aback by the sudden anger in his voice. He had never heard it before. "You didn’t do anything wrong. He doesn’t have the right to hurt you like this. He doesn’t have the right to say these things to you. No one does."

 

Baekhyun’s hand fell away from Chanyeol’s cheek when the latter ran a hand over his face, as if what he was feeling was strong enough for him to even forget Baekhyun was touching him. He looked agitated, upset, almost angry.

 

And Baekhyun understood. Then, he understood.

 

"You’re crying because he hurt me?"

 

He sounded surprised to his own ears. Weak again, but not from pain, not from sadness. This was something different. This, he hadn’t felt it before. This light feeling spreading through him, clutching his chest but not unpleasantly, not stifling him. It felt clear. Fresh. 

 

Once again, Chanyeol didn’t reply.

 

Instead, as if he hadn’t even heard Baekhyun, he looked at him again, frowning, and reached to hold his face. The press of his palms against Baekhyun’s cheeks was careful despite the anger flaring in his eyes. 

 

He wasn’t angry at Baekhyun. He was angry for Baekhyun.

 

"Listen," he said and that single word alone sounded urgent. "I have no idea what happened. I don’t know why he said that but you’re not a monster. You’re not," he repeated, still as urgent, as if he thought Baekhyun had to hear those words as soon as possible. 

 

And maybe Baekhyun had to. Maybe he would’ve felt this odd, pleasant, comforting feeling wash over him sooner. 

 

"You’re not a monster. You’re just Baekhyun. You don’t deserve being treated like that. You don’t deserve being hurt like that."

 

His voice broke, stumbling down along his last words. He bit into his lower lip, as if that would help him contain the puffed up tears in his eyes.

 

Baekhyun heard an echo in his head as he looked straight into eyes that were crying for him. It wasn’t Chanyeol’s words.

 

It was that sound again. That acousmatic sound, that tune he had heard so many times without ever being able to identify its source of provenance. That regular beat he could feel in his head, in his chest, in his fingertips, in the pit of his stomach, and right in the crook of his neck when Chanyeol hugged him again and nuzzled his nose against it.

 

"You’re not a monster," he mumbled into Baekhyun’s skin. Baekhyun felt those words trickling into him, felt himself imbibing them, like a withered flower.

 

And it was stupid, so foolish of Chanyeol to pronounce those words with so much assurance when he knew nothing about Baekhyun. That melody pulsed in Baekhyun once, twice, thrice, strong, loud, reverberating through his whole chest. Chanyeol squeezed him tighter in his arms.

 

But did he really not know anything about Baekhyun?

 

He knew Baekhyun’s favorite and most despised dishes. He felt it beating. He knew the exact amount of sugar Baekhyun liked in his tea. Another beat. He knew how to play Baekhyun’s favorite songs on the piano. A beat. He knew Baekhyun better than anyone. He could feel it clearer now. Beating in his chest.

 

He had known the exact words Baekhyun needed to hear at the moment. Without Baekhyun ever hinting anything.

 

Chanyeol pulled away, slowly, his warmth lingering against Baekhyun’s chest, in his chest. Nestled right next to that sound. That beat. 

 

His eyes were sparkling, still shimmering. His eyebrows were furrowed, his lips pressed into a tight line but curved up just a little bit at the corners. His fingers were careful when they glided under Baekhyun’s eyes, wet when Chanyeol pulled them away. He hadn’t even realized he had started crying. He couldn’t feel anything but Chanyeol and the tune in his body. 

 

It was odd. Unfamiliar. It felt strange. In his chest. He looked into Chanyeol’s eyes, leaned into his touch when he cradled his cheek, took a quivering breath in when his thumb caressed the skin under his eye, spreading wet warmth around. He felt it. That beat thumped against his ribcage, once, twice, then quicker, even quicker, at a pace that Baekhyun couldn’t keep up with. A pace that was foreign, that should’ve worried him, should’ve felt unnatural.

 

It didn’t feel anything. He couldn’t feel anything else but that sound plowing against his ribcage and the realization that slammed into him at once.

 

It was beating in his chest, in his core, in the deepest part of him.

 

It kept quickening, spreading through his whole body, expanding into his soul. Like a withered flower going wild at the first tingle of sunlight.

 

His heart wasn’t the root of that drumming tune. Chanyeol was.

 

It was that song. 

 

The song that Baekhyun had heard many times in his life, whenever he rested his head on someone’s chest, the sound of a heart beating for him and only him.

 

This time it was the sound of his own heart. 

 

Beating for Chanyeol and only Chanyeol. 

 

Chanyeol leaned down, kissed him, tender, careful, loving, and all Baekhyun could hear was the drum Chanyeol played in his chest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was Chanyeol who pulled him up and away from the floor. It was Chanyeol who gripped his hand and dragged him to the couch as if this was his own home, as if he belonged here, as if he could do this for the rest of his life. 

 

It was Chanyeol who took him in his arms again, hugged him, held him together as if he knew part of Baekhyun was breaking. What he didn’t know, was that part of Baekhyun felt like it was weaving back together. With that odd, familiarly foreign sound in his heart, the beat against his chest soaring with every stroke of Chanyeol’s fingers in his hair, every strum against his heart.

 

Baekhyun’s heart was beating for someone. 

 

Baekhyun was in love. 

 

Was he? Was this love? He could only feel fear. He still felt breathless. But was it from love or from fear? 

 

"Do you want to talk about it?" Chanyeol mumbled into Baekhyun’s hair. 

 

It took a while for Baekhyun to hear the sound of Chanyeol’s voice over the worrisome cacophony beating through his whole body. There was no curiosity in his voice. Only concern. He was offering his ears to Baekhyun, just in case it might make him feel better.

 

Baekhyun pulled away. Chanyeol’s arms fell off from where they were circled around his shoulders. He didn’t feel the warmth of Chanyeol’s chest against his cheek anymore. He wondered if Chanyeol had heard his heartbeat. He felt his stomach twisting up.

 

He met Chanyeol’s eyes. Eyes that he was in love with. Eyes that loved him back.

 

"My mother died because of me," he blurted out through the dry weeds rooted in his throat, scratching, piercing, stifling. There was no change in Chanyeol’s expression. Baekhyun closed his eyes. Opened them again. Looked down. "I think," he added. He took a deep breath in. Exhaled. "I’m not sure. I don’t- I’m really not sure."

 

Then, like a path of flowers blossoming one by one, words spread out of Baekhyun’s mouth. Every single word that had never had the occasion to see the sunlight. 

 

It was easy to tell Chanyeol everything. It was more difficult to do it while looking at him. It was even harder not to let the words in his head stumble and crash against each other, disturbed by the thoughts flashing in his mind. Love. He was in love. The more he thought about it, the tighter his stomach knotted together. It was almost like an alien thought, not his own. He could hear it in his head more than he could think it. Like an echo. To the beat of his heart. A dawning. An awakening. He was in love with Chanyeol.

 

Chanyeol who silently listened to him. Chanyeol who looked at him with the same tenderness in his gaze as Baekhyun told him about the sharp edges of a staircase. Chanyeol whose touch was serene as a lake laying under the sky while he held onto Baekhyun’s hand, one of the hands that had pushed her in the memories Baekhyun was recounting. Chanyeol who had been by his side for so long. Chanyeol who knew him better than anyone, even if Baekhyun had no idea how that came to be, had never noticed. Chanyeol.

 

"Do you think you did it?" were Chanyeol’s first words when Baekhyun’s story died down.

 

He parted his lips. Formulated a reply in his head. It refused to come out, was refused to come out, roped inside by smoke. It took him a few seconds. Chanyeol waited patiently.

 

"All my life, I thought I did," Baekhyun said, pushing that one thought out of the jumble in his head. He heaved a breath in. "But sometimes. Sometimes, I remember. How much I loved her. How much I still love her. And it just feels impossible. It doesn’t feel like I could’ve done that. I remember it. Pushing her. But I don’t remember it. I don’t think I was capable of doing that."

 

Chanyeol’s thumb started drawing figures on the back of Baekhyun’s hand, easing the knot of panic that had tied around Baekhyun’s throat, pulled tighter by each word that left him.

 

He stayed silent for a bit, gathering his head together. There was nothing but uncertainty swimming in his mind, in his stomach, over the ripples spread around through his heartbeat. It was still too high. It calmed down a little, then he looked at Chanyeol, remembered, and suddenly, it slammed against his chest all over again. Was that normal? Was that dangerous?

 

Why was this happening to him? How could this happen to him?

 

"But sometimes," he said again, after what felt like an hour. "Sometimes, I can imagine it happening." His breath shivered as it slipped out of his mouth in a sigh. "I can be bad. Sometimes, I can be really bad. I can be a monster and I think I could’ve—"

 

"You’re not," Chanyeol cut him off, voice as sharp and tender as his gaze. "You’re not a monster. Someone with a smile so bright and sincere cannot be a monster, Baekhyun."

 

Baekhyun deflated. Closed his eyes. Shook his head. As if that would merge the two factions battling in his head together. It didn’t.

 

Chanyeol exhaled. Baekhyun breathed it in. For the first time ever, he wasn’t sure what he was breathing in, why he was breathing it in. He was offered an embrace again. He dived in.

 

Chanyeol hummed to him, one of the twelve lullabies he had offered Baekhyun. He only broke the tune to repeat those words, from time to time. You’re not a monster. As if he could always feel the exact moment Baekhyun craved to hear them again.

 

And Baekhyun wanted to believe him. Baekhyun wanted to trust Chanyeol’s belief in him. He wanted to trust his own faith in himself. 

 

But what if? What if?

 

Chanyeol didn’t know. Chanyeol didn’t know him. Chanyeol didn’t know what Baekhyun could do. 

 

Baekhyun himself didn’t know.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That night, Baekhyun couldn’t sleep.

 

That night was spent, for the most part, wide awake. His eyes weren’t the only thing open. It felt as if all his senses were suddenly heightened as Chanyeol laid next to him, wrapped around him.

 

He had pulled Baekhyun to his chest a while ago, in his sleep, naturally, like he had done dozens of times before. And yet, everything about it felt different to Baekhyun tonight. Everything about it felt raw. Tender. 

 

He could see Chanyeol. Could look at him. It felt like Baekhyun was looking at him for the first time. As if the light cascading from the windows fell on him a bit differently than usual. It didn’t. It was the same night sky. It wasn’t the sky that was different. Maybe it was Chanyeol. Or maybe it was Baekhyun’s gaze, as it trailed over Chanyeol’s face. 

 

His hair had been cut shorter not long ago. It didn’t reach his eyes anymore, just ruffled over his forehead. It was a cleaner cut that made his ears stick out a little more than usual. Baekhyun hadn’t been able to take his eyes away from him the first time he had seen it. He had looked different than he did now. Had he? He wasn’t sure. What he knew was that Chanyeol’s features were sharper now, as if Baekhyun could really see them. The smooth skin of his forehead, his thin eyebrows, tugged up a little on the corners closer to his nose. Adorable.

 

His eyelids were curtained over his eyes smoothly, not a single disturbance. His eyes looked beautiful even closed. The same way a garnished garden would look just as beautiful whether the sun was shining on it or not. His eyelashes hovered over the plain skin of his under-eyes, fluttering once in a while, like frail leaves ruffled by a delicate puff of wind. His nose sat perfectly at the center of his face, little imperfections scattered over his cheeks like small stones lost on a field of mushy grass, beautifully shaped enough for anyone to feel wonder at the discovery.  

 

His lips budded into a sleepy pout, lower petal jutting out a little but not enough for it to properly bloom yet. It was dark around, Baekhyun couldn’t see their exact color but he knew they were an exquisite rosy shade.

 

He was handsome. Beautiful. A sight that Baekhyun had been a spectator of so many times before, without ever getting tired of it. Too long. This sight had been his for too long. And he wasn’t tired of it. Yet? Would it ever lose its appeal? He couldn’t tell.

 

He could see Chanyeol. Not only could he see him under a new light but Baekhyun could also feel him. His arms were strong around Baekhyun. One of them was resting right under Baekhyun’s neck, stretched on the pillow, while the other was curled around his shoulders, light yet heavy. It felt heavy. Not enough to crush him. Enough to make it easier for him to breath. Enough for him to feel it, resting across his body, cradling him, comforting him, protecting him. The warmth. It was there. Without Baekhyun having to seek it out, pull it in, wrap it all around himself until he could breath so easily it was almost stifling.

 

He could breathe him in. The scent. Of love. Acceptance. Dedication. Bare. Plain. Natural. Cotton candy. That bottle of body wash Chanyeol had left in his bathroom. Baekhyun felt a sudden jolt of laughter quivering in his chest, begging to be let out. He held it in. How had he not realized sooner? 

 

It all made sense now. How slow he had been. How casual. How messy, imperfect, and unconventional he had been with Chanyeol sometimes.

 

As if rejoicing at those words, his heart leaped in his chest. Again and again. Beating.

 

He didn’t understand. He couldn’t figure it out. How. It didn’t feel unpleasant. He had fallen in love.

 

He had fallen in love. Baekhyun was in love. It felt a bit unreal. Was that the reason why everything was always so nice with Chanyeol? So amplified? Was he really in love?

 

As if it wanted to give him an answer, Baekhyun felt a tingle in his heart. He had never felt that tingle when anyone had given him the words I love you. But he felt it now. As those words echoed in his own head, as he looked at the unconscious twitch of Chanyeol’s eyebrows. How could he be sure that this was love?

 

He didn’t know what love was.

 

He knew its main features, the symptoms, the process, the right amount of emotion it needed to be watered with in order to blossom exactly when he wanted it to. He had no clue about what love felt like from the perspective of the one offering the bouquet.

 

Bringing his hands together against his own chest, fingers holding onto his pajama top, Baekhyun tried thinking about love. For a while. A long while.

 

All he could think about was Joohyun, Junki, Jongin. Countless names. Most of them he had forgotten, all of them probably still carrying scars in the shape of his name in their heart. All these people had been hurt. Because they had fallen in love with him. Some of them had moved far away, some of them had been ruined, some of them still reached out to him sometimes, through a message, a call, unanswered.

 

Baekhyun had been the one to ruin them. He had been the one to carve himself into their life through pain, stollen memories, exploited feelings. Their end had always been soaked in tears, screams, curses, pleas, and pain. One of the most beautiful feelings they had all tasted had been monstrified for his own gratification.

 

How could someone as monstrous as him be in love? Could monsters even feel love? Did that make him more human? Or did that only worsen his case?

 

He wondered when it started. He knew that Chanyeol loved him. Baekhyun loved him back. Had Baekhyun ever wanted to love? Maybe. He had sometimes wished the ardency he breathed in from people would never leave him. He had never once felt wintery with Chanyeol.

 

But all Baekhyun had given to his loving flowers was an endless drought and an unending spell of cold. He had done so many unfixable things through love. Those same things could be done to him through love. Baekhyun could still do all of it to Chanyeol.

 

He felt an ice spike planting into his heart. He wasn’t sure whether it had been sharpened by the thought of what he could do to Chanyeol or the the thought of what Chanyeol could do to him.

 

It didn’t melt, despite the embrace Chanyeol never took away from him. It permeated. Further, through his whole body, in small streaks that bonded around him and suddenly tightened everything, including his breath. He knew that sensation. Panic. Smoke. He didn’t like it.

 

That night, he didn’t snuggle into the warmth. For the first time, it felt awkward to him. 

 

The next morning, Baekhyun peeled himself away from Chanyeol. It was more difficult than usual. As if now, his heart didn’t want to draw apart from its newfound, inner source of warmth. 

 

He vanished before Chanyeol could wake up, leaving nothing but a lie about having to work to greet him in his stead.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Those cold thoughts remained in his head for the next few days.

 

The possibility of keeping away from Chanyeol in order to restore everything in him back into order had crossed his mind but he hadn’t acted upon it. It would be weird if he suddenly put some distance between them when nothing was wrong, as far as Chanyeol knew. Moreover, he wasn’t sure he wanted to do that.

 

Most of the time, the thought of being in love was frightening enough for him not to even feel himself breathing anymore but sometimes, just sometimes, it felt incredibly soothing. Nice. Incomprehensible but delightful. He wasn’t sure why either.

 

He looked down at the source of his concerns. His heart swooned a little in his chest when all he could see was the messy strands of hair, the way Chanyeol was resting his head against his shoulder preventing him from seeing anything else. They were watching a movie on Chanyeol’s laptop, huddled together on the couch. From what Baekhyun had gathered, it was a romantic comedy, about falling in love with a best friend, or a rival. Baekhyun had not paid enough attention to figure it out.

 

As he watched, in a blur, the main character falling in love with someone to the soundtrack of Chanyeol’s loud laughter and commentary every few minutes, Baekhyun wondered when it had all started. 

 

When did he start loving Chanyeol? Did love start the moment you realized you were in love? But he had felt the odd heartbeat a few times before. But did it count if you didn’t know what that sound was? When did love start exactly? Did everything before the realization occurred not count? 

 

He didn’t think it counted. Everything had been an act for him, hadn’t it? It had all started with his desire to be loved by that handsome stranger playing soothing melodies on the piano, that charming man he had seen in the subway a few times. Everything had been calculated, traced, crafted. Even their Christmas night. Baekhyun had chosen to give the music box to Chanyeol because he knew it would make him feel happy, cared for, and moved, to some extent. He had seen that small, black and golden egg seated on Chanyeol’s bedside table earlier.

 

Then it didn’t count. Did it? Or did it not?

 

Questions and thoughts fuzzed in his head, fast, buzzing, whizzing past his consciousness before he even had the occasion to register them, another question born without him even having properly formulated the previous one.

 

He felt clueless. Stupid. Out of control. His head was a mess. He hated it.

 

His limbs felt awkward around Chanyeol. Not stiff, simply out of place. They were cuddling, Baekhyun’s arms wrapped around Chanyeol’s shoulders, pulling him against him. Chanyeol loved cuddling. Baekhyun was holding him only because he wanted Chanyeol to feel safe and loved and to get attached to the way Baekhyun made him feel. It had always been this way. It had always been why. Or had it? Wasn’t Baekhyun now cuddling him because he felt all those sentiments irradiating from Chanyeol?

 

"What’s wrong?"

 

Chanyeol’s deep voice pulled him right out of the maze in his head. When he looked down at him, he met his eyes. He was looking up at Baekhyun curiously, eyebrows faintly furrowed in concern.

 

He pulled his lips into a smile, giving the other a curious look.

 

"Nothing. Why?" he asked, hoping that Chanyeol couldn’t hear the thunder clashing against his chest. 

 

Why did his heart start beating in the most inconvenient times now? Did that come along with being in love?

 

"You’re kinda stiff," Chanyeol answered, poking him in the chest but not losing the concern on his features.

 

Baekhyun forced a chuckle out of himself. He hoped that contact wasn’t enough for Chanyeol to feel the heartbeat. It was a frightening possibility.

 

"It’s just an impression," he said, tightening his hold around Chanyeol, slowly swaying him a little in his arms, hoping that it would be enough for him to let go of the subject.

 

It wasn’t. For a short while, Chanyeol frowned at him, worrying his lower lip under his teeth.

 

"You’re really quiet nowadays," Chanyeol said softly, unsure. Baekhyun felt something in his stomach twisting at the unfamiliar tone. "We haven’t even seen each other in two days and you’re so tense. Did something happen at work?"

 

Baekhyun knew what he meant by that. They hadn’t talked about his father again, but Chanyeol knew now. He knew about it and was now asking if something similar had happen again. 

 

The knot in his stomach tightened, wrenching his throat along. He hadn’t been to work. He hadn’t stepped into the company. He had even stopped actually working from home. Work was naught but Baekhyun’s excuse to explain his sudden decrease in availability for Chanyeol, the sparse messages, and the fact that, while they used to see each other almost every day, they had only seen each other three times this past week.

 

"No," he said, softly, too softly, softer than what he intended. He wasn’t in control anymore. "I’m okay," he added, giving the other a reassuring smile.

 

Chanyeol didn’t seem to buy it.

 

"Then what’s wrong? Did I do something wrong?"

 

And Baekhyun wondered. He had spent hours wondering what exactly had Chanyeol done for him fall in love with him. Why him? Why him out of the dozens of people that had loved Baekhyun with all their heart?

 

Chanyeol was looking at him, eyes glimmering with an expectant shine but a little clouded by concern and the insecurity that Baekhyun could feel flowing through Chanyeol’s, now, stiff body.

 

He was waiting for an answer. Baekhyun should give him one. He should reassure him, tell him not to worry, and wave those insecurities away to protect himself. But his tongue felt heavy in his mouth, turning to steel the more Chanyeol looked at him with that gut-twistingly unpleasant emotion in his eyes. The spike of panic planted in his heart vibrated once and then pounded against his ribcage, sending waves of pain through him.

 

Baekhyun should speak. He should say something. Anything. He always had something to say. Always had the right words waiting for him to pluck out of his mind and offer to someone in a decorated, eye-catching bouquet. 

 

Now, Baekhyun couldn’t find them. He couldn’t find any word in his head, any proper formulation, any emotion to convey through them. Words had always been his weapon but Baekhyun felt like he had lost his hands, unable to grab anything to ambush his opponent.

 

He didn’t know how to talk to Chanyeol anymore. He didn’t know what words to give him, he didn’t know what words the other wanted to hear. He had no motive anymore. He wasn’t talking with Chanyeol as someone who had an aim to work towards. He was talking to Chanyeol as someone who had fallen in love with him.

 

Or did he still have a motive? Isn’t everything about love done with a motive?

 

He gulped his thoughts down and shook his head, gathering himself. He couldn’t lose his grip. 

 

"The only wrong you’re doing right now is speaking instead of kissing me," Baekhyun said, leaning down to whisper his words through a smile, right against Chanyeol’s lips.

 

He kissed the groan away from Chanyeol’s mouth, used to the other’s amusing reaction to his cheesy words. When they focused back on the movie, Chanyeol was holding onto his waist tighter than before.

 

Baekhyun didn’t stay over that night.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"It feels like you belong to me."

 

Chanyeol’s voice was as weightless as the graze of his fingertip against Baekhyun’s neck. It glided down the slope, carefully tracing the marks that Baekhyun knew had blossomed on his skin, where Chanyeol’s mouth had pressed a while ago.

 

He smiled, staring at the other’s features as Chanyeol’s own gaze was focused on Baekhyun’s skin.

 

He didn’t know how he had ended up here. They hadn’t seen each other in two days, Baekhyun had avoided replying to Chanyeol’s messages as much as possible. He had tried thinking as much as he could in that time, about Chanyeol, about himself, about what he felt for Chanyeol. It was scary. Staying away made him feel even worse. It was frightening, the way he had gotten so used to Chanyeol that he grabbed his phone on the first random through crossing his mind to share it with Chanyeol.

 

It hadn’t been too bad. Baekhyun had been able to come to a few conclusions. Love wasn’t something he wanted to involve himself with in that way. Especially not with Chanyeol.

 

And yet, when his phone had chimed this morning with a picture of Chanyeol’s exaggerated sad expression along with a message about missing him, he had rushed to get out of his house. All it took was that. A call. A desperate call. Those, he was used to. What was foreign was his feeling the same despair conveyed to him through that call.

 

Even now, the fear clenching around his heart was enough to blur his mind for a short while. It was only when Chanyeol met his gaze that Baekhyun found his voice again.

 

"Why is that only a feeling?" he asked, smiling at the other even as something in his stomach felt like it was burning.

 

Chanyeol shrugged, or at least tried his best to shrug with one of his shoulder mushed against the bed. The blanket slid down a little bit, baring the smooth skin of Chanyeol’s shoulders.

 

"I think you’re the kind of person that will never truly belong to anyone," he said, voice falling down to a whisper.

 

Baekhyun felt each of those words freezing into spikes in the air before piercing through his chest. That wasn’t Chanyeol’s intent. That was simply the way Baekhyun’s mind interpreted it and while part of him hated himself for reacting like that to something so simple, the rest of him felt like it was falling to pieces.

 

Each of those falling pieces screamed at him that he belonged. Baekhyun felt like he belonged. 

 

At that moment, as he laid there, in Chanyeol’s arms, in Chanyeol’s love, with his heart jumping at each of his words before crashing down painfully again, Baekhyun felt like he belonged to Chanyeol.

 

Chanyeol’s eyes were dripping with sleep when Baekhyun dived into them. His bare skin was pleasant to the touch, much too pleasant. More pleasant than anything else he had ever laid his hands upon. 

 

"Maybe it’s just you who can’t see it," Baekhyun answered, breathed out. That breath was tainted with love, care, and affection as he watched Chanyeol’s features scrunch up with a little yawn. He was used to breathing in those perfumes. Not breathing them out.

 

Baekhyun wondered if Chanyeol could smell the fear reeking off him. That was all he could feel in himself. That was all he could see around himself, like a stripped tree stuck in the middle of a snow storm, locked in place by its own roots.

 

Chanyeol smiled at him. That usual smile, the one that was big yet small at the same time, his lips pressed together a little bit, part of his cheeks pooled into dimples. The peace Baekhyun felt in his chest was nothing compared to the storm of fear trashing his insides.

 

He returned the smile, grateful that it was night, that it was dark in the room for he wasn’t sure of what was displayed on his face. He was never sure anymore whenever he was with Chanyeol.

 

Chanyeol gravitated closer to him, pressed their lips together for a chaste, calming goodnight kiss before turning around, shifting a little until his back was pressed against Baekhyun’s chest. Naturally, Baekhyun’s body curled around his bigger one, nose nestling into his hair, arm draping over his waist to keep him close. His heart made a little delightful dance in his chest. 

 

Baekhyun hoped Chanyeol was too busy listening to the melodies in his head to pay attention to his unique creation in Baekhyun’s heart.

 

In the morning, he was gone when neither Chanyeol nor the sun were up yet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baekhyun didn't go home. 

 

Home was filled with Chanyeol and it made him feel stupid not to have realized it before.

 

Instead, Baekhyun went to his first anchor.

 

His finger hurt a little bit as he jabbed it incessantly against the doorbell but he couldn’t pay attention to the sting nor to the fact that the sun was barely even painting its unending canvas in warm hues as he stood in front of Junmyeon’s apartment door.

 

His hair was a mess. He hadn’t checked but he knew it. He could feel it, in the way some strands fell in front of his eyes and stung a little bit as he blinked too quickly, much more quickly than needed. He could feel it in the way his fingers itched, his skin crawled, where Chanyeol’s lips had pressed hours ago, where Chanyeol’s hands had loved. He almost wanted to scratch at his skin. Maybe if he became a new person, he’d return to what he used to be. Before Chanyeol.

 

He couldn’t stop ringing the bell. It almost sounded like a siren, loud in Baekhyun’s ears, latching into his temples and biting, scratching, beating. The sole of his feet was drumming against the floor, impatient, agitated, not a rhythm, a cacophony. 

 

The door opened. Junmyeon’s hair was a mess, his eyes hooded, and his sleepy features frowning irritatingly. Baekhyun said nothing. Junmyeon looked at him for a fleeting second, maybe trying to figure out if Baekhyun was really there. He frowned even more. He grabbed Baekhyun’s hand, silently, and pulled him inside.

 

"What’s wrong?" he asked, voice hoarse from sleep.

 

Baekhyun should feel bad for waking him up so early. He couldn’t. Not when he hadn’t gotten one good night’s sleep since the realization. 

 

He shook his head, freed his hand from Junmyeon’s. He felt stuffy, airless, his heartbeat was too loud. He started pacing in the entrance hall. That had a rhythm, a fixed pace. That might be soothing. It wasn’t. He parted his lips. Looked at Junmyeon, saw the confusion and the concern. He had a frown on. Chanyeol’s frowns were often accompanied by widened eyes. Baekhyun brought a hand up, tangled it in his hair, pulled. He had to stop thinking about Chanyeol. He had to stop. 

 

A hand grabbed his wrist, firm, familiar, not as comforting as Chanyeol’s. Chanyeol’s touch wasn’t comforting nowadays. It was frightening. Scary. Resonated in Baekhyun with terror.

 

"What happened?" he asked, urgency piercing through his voice.

 

Baekhyun parted his lips. Closed them again. Words didn’t come.

 

There must have been something telling on his face, Junmyeon pulled him towards the bedroom. Baekhyun let him do. He didn’t have control anymore. The comfortable mattress was a familiar anchor when Junmyeon made him lay down on it and joined him under the blankets afterwards. The blinds were open, Junmyeon didn’t like sleeping in total darkness so he never closed them, always letting the sun paint his sleep and wake him up tenderly. Baekhyun couldn’t see it now.

 

Junmyeon spoke, Baekhyun didn’t hear it. He couldn’t, not over the thoughts clashing through his head. Why had he fallen in love? Why was it Chanyeol? Love wasn’t a pleasant feeling, not when you were at the giving end of it. Love could ruin people. Baekhyun knew. He knew it very well. It could ruin him. Baekhyun. It could also ruin Chanyeol. He could ruin Chanyeol. 

 

A new storm of fear savaged his head as soon as those words flashed in his mind. He couldn’t do that to Chanyeol. He loved him. No matter how scared he was of it. Baekhyun loved Chanyeol and now, the mere thought of Chanyeol hurting, nonetheless because of him, was enough for his stomach to cramp up a little. Because he had no choice. He would end up ruining Chanyeol. That was what Baekhyun did. Smoke filtered through his windpipe, familiar but repulsive.

 

A soothing touch on his cheek helped him gather his mind enough to look at Junmyeon. He was closer now, much closer. Baekhyun could see the concern, the panic in his eyes. He was close, too close. He wanted to kiss Baekhyun. Junmyeon was about to kiss him. He always did when Baekhyun couldn’t breathe, couldn’t focus on breathing. 

 

Before their lips could meet, Baekhyun jolted away. At once, as if electrified.

 

"I fell in love," he said. Not an explanation. A realization. 

 

He didn’t want to kiss lips that weren’t Chanyeol’s.

 

It was the first time Baekhyun pronounced those words out loud. Junmyeon looked at him and maybe he was electrified too. Baekhyun’s lips tingled. It wasn’t unpleasant to say it. That was the scariest thing about it.

 

Junmyeon pulled away, laid back down. They were facing each other. Baekhyun could see him now, he was looking at him, maybe with a little bit of dread, not sure what Junmyeon would say. Maybe Junmyeon wasn’t really electrified, however. He tugged his lips into a smile, reassuring, faint.

 

"With Chanyeol?"

 

Baekhyun took a deep breath in, let it all out again with a strangled laugh, akin to a dry sob. 

 

Of course. Of course, this was Junmyeon.

 

"How did you see it before I did?" he muttered, more to himself than to the other, voice muffled behind his hands when they rubbed his face. He pulled at his own features, trying to gain control over them again. It didn’t work.

 

Junmyeon said nothing. His smile widened. Or retracted into itself.

 

"Because I see you," he said, voice breezing through Baekhyun, sweeping a few dry thoughts away. Baekhyun felt the crumbles gather in his throat.

 

"Why?" he croaked. "Why did I have to fall in love? I hate this."

 

Junmyeon frowned. His hands were careful as they grabbed Baekhyun’s and pulled them away from his face. It felt hot, numb from rubbing it too much. He held them and pulled Baekhyun closer to him. Baekhyun clung to him, as tight as a desperate man holding onto a lifeline in the midst of a peaceful yet terrifying ocean.

 

"No, you shouldn’t," he said, coaxing Baekhyun to look at him with the cajoling tone of his voice alone. "It’s a beautiful feeling."

 

"I’ve never felt something more disturbing in my life," he snorted.

 

This mix between joy and confusion and sadness and panic and fear and acceptance and rejection made Baekhyun feel like a puppet tied to a dozen strings. Each of them pulled him to a different side. It was exhausting. He felt exhausted. He wanted this to end. He didn’t know what kind of end he wanted it to take.

 

"That’s because you’ve always ignored its beautiful sides," Junmyeon said and he sounded so sure, so stable. Sometimes, Baekhyun forgot that Junmyeon knew him better than he knew himself. "You’ve refused to see it and now that it’s shoved into your eyes in its purest form, you’re afraid."

 

"It’s not pure," Baekhyun retorted as soon as the last syllable of Junmyeon’s sentence left his lips, before even realizing it. "It’s dangerous. It ruins the life of many people." A lump of memories pooled in his throat, right next to the crumbles. His voice was saturated by them when he spoke again. "I ruined them. Through love."

 

Junmyeon sighed, Baekhyun looked at him. He was smiling. It wasn’t a happy one. He looked a bit sad, pensive. His arms wrapped around Baekhyun and pulled him closer. Their faced rested only a breath apart now, their eyes finding each other. Baekhyun couldn’t find the name of the shadowed glint he caught in Junmyeon’s. 

 

Out of nowhere, Baekhyun wondered again. Why Chanyeol? Why not Junmyeon? 

 

In a way, he was glad it wasn’t Junmyeon. Losing Junmyeon would feel like losing the biggest part of himself. Losing Junmyeon would mean losing the only person who selflessly made sure that Baekhyun was breathing, who tirelessly gave Baekhyun his breath back whenever he had a hard time finding it. It would mean losing the acceptance and the understanding that had been given to him since day one, through a smile, a gaze, an embrace, sometimes a heated but cooling touch.

 

"It’s not dangerous when it’s sincere," Junmyeon said and his voice was soaked with unfamiliarity, a tone Baekhyun had never felt the drip of on his skin. He wasn’t looking at Baekhyun, not into Baekhyun’s eyes. He was looking somewhere right above Baekhyun’s eyes, not straying too far, but not falling right into him either. He sounded sorrowful and delighted at the same time. "It isn’t dangerous when it’s sincere. It’s beautiful, Baekhyun. It’s pure, and heartfelt, and it gives every breath you take in a new meaning. It gives every thought in your head a new meaning."

 

And he wasn’t wrong. As Baekhyun listened to him, looked at him and tried to comprehend his words, something deep in his core knew that he wasn’t wrong. He breathed easier since the realization. Every thought in his head meant something he had never noticed before.

 

He said nothing. He was afraid of what word, what sound could leave his lips. Junmyeon’s gaze slid down into his, he beamed, cheeks bunching up a little bit, eyes mooning at him, as captivating as sunrise’s palette spreading outside. His fingers weaved through Baekhyun’s hair. Baekhyun’s chest quivered a little.

 

"It’s the most painfully beautiful thing in the entire world."

 

"How do you know?" Baekhyun heard himself ask. This was different. He had never seen Junmyeon like this. "Have you felt it before?"

 

Without an answer, Junmyeon closed his eyes. Maybe he was still sleepy. Now, Baekhyun felt a little bad for having woken him up. Junmyeon was busy, so hardworking, so soothing when he reached to press an affectionate kiss on Baekhyun’s forehead. Baekhyun closed his eyes.

 

"I wished for you to feel it for a long time," were the words whispered against his skin. Junmyeon pulled away. When Baekhyun’s eyes opened, he was smiling. The same way he always smiled at Baekhyun. Baekhyun felt his lips tugging up into a short smile, one weak enough to almost immediately crumble down again. "I’m happy you feel it now."

 

As he looked at the same unfamiliar gleam in the other’s eyes, Baekhyun felt like he was missing something. There was something he couldn’t see, couldn’t understand. Junmyeon ruffled his hair, Baekhyun couldn’t find it in himself to smile again. He didn’t understand.

 

Junmyeon seemed to be happy for him but Baekhyun wasn’t. 

 

He was soothed, but not reassured. Junmyeon had calmed him but his words weren’t enough for Baekhyun’s mind to reshape itself entirely.

 

They fell into silence and Junmyeon’s hold around him remained tight throughout the entire morning. 

 

He was thankful, in that moment. 

 

He feared that pieces of himself he had carefully glued together all his life would finally shatter and mould into something new.

 

Something that he wouldn’t be able to morph into the shape he wanted. Something that had no shape. Something that would turn him into a puppet. Something that would tug and toss him around. Just like the memory of a summery voice and a heartfelt gaze always tugged the corners of his lips into a beam he couldn’t diminish.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When the sun set again, Baekhyun’s decision was taken.

 

He was in love with Chanyeol. When he thought about it, it wasn’t really difficult to figure out how that happened anymore. It was Chanyeol. 

 

Loving Chanyeol was alright. It was okay. For him, it wasn’t bad. Not too much, at least. He appreciated the feeling, liked the thought, loved Chanyeol.

 

What he couldn’t bring himself to accept was the consequences of this feeling for Chanyeol. It could turn into a disaster. Baekhyun would hurt him, could ruin him, and he loved Chanyeol. He didn’t want to hurt him. The prospect alone was enough for Baekhyun’s mind to cloud with sinister storms.

 

Surely, that would happen. That was the only way Baekhyun knew to use love for. Baekhyun only knew how to be loved, he had never learned how to love. He knew a billion ways to suck the warmth out of someone and live them with naught but the shell of themselves. He had no idea how to breathe his own warmth into them without burning them to ashes from inside.

 

Sparing Chanyeol might be the right way to love him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was only three days later that Baekhyun managed to drag himself to Chanyeol’s apartment.

 

They hadn’t communicated at all in these three days. Baekhyun had ignored his messages, his calls, and had even taken to crashing at Junmyeon’s apartment through those few days to make sure Chanyeol wouldn’t be able to find him and crumble his resolution down.

 

It had felt like an eternity. Baekhyun had gone through many up and downs, building all his logic up from the start only to shatter it and then restart over. He had forbidden Junmyeon to talk about it. Junmyeon was always right. Baekhyun wanted to listen to himself. He didn’t want to hear that what he was doing was wrong.

 

The door opened and it was a stone cold façade that Baekhyun displayed to Chanyeol. At first, it was surprise that Chanyeol looked at him with before abruptly, he frowned, his eyebrows arching in that concerned way as soon as he assessed Baekhyun.

 

"Where have you been?" he asked, voice weak but soaked with the same relief that seemed to press his body up against the door.

 

There was not even a single trace of anger. Chanyeol wasn’t even angry at Baekhyun for having ignored him for three whole days. There was nothing but worry in those beautiful doe eyes, a faint darkness shadowing the skin under his eyes and Baekhyun hated himself a little bit. Maybe he had trouble sleeping. Baekhyun hoped his unexplained absence wasn’t what kept him up at night. That was what he wanted to avoid. That shouldn’t happen. That was something he would never be able to avoid.

 

"I was busy," was the only reply he deemed correct, pronounced with no particular emotion in his voice or face.

 

Chanyeol frowned further. There was an unfamiliar glint in his eyes, one that Baekhyun had seen on many other people but had never expected to see in Chanyeol. Insecurity. That blend between confusion and insecurity that spoke volumes about Baekhyun’s effect on Chanyeol. He gulped the emotions down, clenched his jaw, forced himself to stay silent and say nothing, no apology, no confession, nothing that would only harm Chanyeol more than he already had.

 

He stepped closer and Chanyeol stepped back, allowing him to enter. Baekhyun didn’t look at him as he walked past him and headed towards the living room, feeling every fiber of his skin screech in pain and sigh in relief under Chanyeol’s unwavering gaze.

 

He could do this. He had to do this. It was for the best.

 

"What do you mean by busy? Are you okay?" Chanyeol’s voice soared from behind him. Baekhyun didn’t look at him and plopped down on the couch instead. He pressed a hand against the armrest, took in the comfortable velvety fabric. This would be the last time.

 

"With work," Baekhyun said despite himself. He didn’t want to reply, he didn’t want to lie to the other but he didn’t want to leave him hanging without an answer.

 

Relief engulfed him when Chanyeol sat down next to him but left a bit of distance between them. That could mean that he felt it. Chanyeol knew him very well. Not as much as Baekhyun knew himself, though, and it was his duty to ensure Chanyeol wouldn’t suffer the consequences.

 

He seemed to buy it. Baekhyun wondered if Chanyeol would believe everything he’d say. He hoped he would.

 

"Did something happen?" Chanyeol asked softly,, reassuringly. He grabbed Baekhyun’s hand, no hesitation, just a lot of care.

 

Baekhyun’s heartbeat skyrocketed, begging him to cling to that broad hand and never let go. He felt his fingers twitch just the tiniest bit in Chanyeol’s hold and that was enough to rip his hand away from it. He looked away, unwilling to see the expression of shock, maybe of disappointment, that Chanyeol would be sporting.

 

Something in his chest twisted. He took a discreet, shivering long breath in. This was better. Hurting Chanyeol like this, at once, was better than hurting him until he crumbled down to ruins under Baekhyun’s touch.

 

And yet, Baekhyun’s tongue seemed tied up in his mouth. 

 

The words were there, right on the tip, lined up along his throat, but he struggled to push them out, fought himself and lost the battle when his eyes gravitated towards Chanyeol. He looked handsome as always. Confused. His hand was hovering where it had been holding Baekhyun’s a second ago, as if the surprise prevented him from pulling it away. Incomprehension stared at Baekhyun from his eyes, nestled right besides hesitation.

 

Baekhyun wanted to hug him. He wanted to wrap his arms around him and protect him from everything else, make sure that he was cared for, satisfied, happy.

 

"Baekhyun," he called out, weakly, not pained, maybe scared of hurting Baekhyun. "Are you—"

 

"Let’s break up."

 

His own words echoed in his head, like a sentence, irrevocable. Each echo pounded right against his heart, heavily enough for Baekhyun to feel it fissuring. It was painful. Each wave of pain rode up the former as he forced himself to look right into Chanyeol’s eyes, forced himself to sound sure, bored, unaffected. 

 

It was agonizing. He had never imagined it this way.

 

Chanyeol’s lips remained parted, the words Baekhyun had cut off hanging between them.

 

Baekhyun hadn’t heard them but he could feel them piercing through his heart. Chanyeol was so kind. So kind, so generous, so caring, so selflessly loving. Chanyeol didn’t deserve this. Yet, Baekhyun couldn’t imagine himself regretting to have ever met him.

 

"Break up?" Chanyeol repeated and Baekhyun wasn’t sure what emotion he was speaking with. There was no true surprise in his voice. "Why would we?"

 

Chanyeol gathered his hands on his lap. Baekhyun glanced at them for a fleeting moment. He wanted to hold them. He looked back up at Chanyeol, locked himself into his gaze, bit on the inside of his cheek to gather himself together. He had to do this. Even if his heart was clenching so painful in his chest, pumping poison into Baekhyun’s veins in protest. He had to do this.

 

He parted his lips, ignored the the numbness in his fingers, the way his throat felt puffed up, his chest too narrow. 

 

"None of it was real. Between us," he said, harshly, slowly, pronouncing every word clearly so Chanyeol would understand what he wanted him to. Chanyeol’s expression didn’t shift. Baekhyun gulped, poured sizzling pain into his voice. "I planned it all. Calculated it. We didn’t meet by accident. I didn’t take your piano classes just because I missed the piano. Nor because you were cute and I wanted to be closer to you."

 

He stopped himself. 

 

That part wasn’t supposed to slip out. 

 

He tightening his grip on his own fingers. Chanyeol’s eyebrows furrowed a little.

 

"I just wanted you to fall in love with me. Everything I told you, everything I gave you, every dinner or lunch we had together, they all had a specific purpose. None of it was sincere. I said exactly what you wanted to hear, I did exactly what you liked just so I could be perfect in your eyes and you could fall in love with me. In fact, when we first met, I was already seeing two other people. You were just an addition, in the same category as them. You were just handsome and I wanted you to love me like these two other people did."

 

It hurt to say all that. It hurt because it was true. He could feel every single syllable slipping past his mouth slicing against his thorax first, cutting the skin and leaving salt behind, amplifying the pain. It was all true, in a way, and Baekhyun hated himself for it. He hated himself for having treated Chanyeol in such a way. This wasn’t what Chanyeol deserved.

 

"It was all lies," he spoke again when Chanyeol remained silent. Baekhyun wondered if his heart was breaking. He hoped that Chanyeol didn’t love him too much. Not enough for his heart to break, at least. "Between us. It was all lies. You’re just another distraction, another game that I won and I want to end it now. There’s no point continuing to play if I’ve already won it, is there? So I want to end it."

 

For a moment, when Baekhyun was done speaking, he felt proud of himself. Proud for not having wavered, not in his resolution nor in his voice that remained steady and cold through the entire speech that he had crafted through days spent away from Chanyeol.

 

Regret clenched around his heart as soon as the realization that he had done it hit him. 

 

He had done it. He had broken up with Chanyeol. There would be no more smiles for him. Chanyeol wasn’t smiling now, simply looking at him. Baekhyun looked away, the sight burning his eyes. Chanyeol wasn’t his anymore. But Baekhyun would remain Chanyeol’s and he wasn’t sure whether he wanted to laugh at himself or cry for the miserable turn his life had taken. He was now on the receiving end of everything he had given to countless people and the worst of it was that Chanyeol wasn’t doing anything, it was all Baekhyun.

 

Silence fell over them. The longer Chanyeol said nothing, the more Baekhyun felt his heart growing and cracking and pressing down against his lungs and stifling him and gathering breath in his throat instead, to the point that it felt like his whole body would burst from the inside.

 

Baekhyun didn’t close his eyes but braced himself. He braced himself for what Chanyeol would say. He braced himself for the tears and the accusation and the pleas and the regret and the anger and the pain that his whole body would be soaking in as soon as Chanyeol threw it all to him.

 

He glanced up, heart beating right on the tip of his tongue. Chanyeol parted his lips to speak, Baekhyun gulped everything down and prepared himself to make this his last memory of Chanyeol, an unpleasant one he wished he never had. He looked away. He didn’t want to see what he had done to the other. He was ready. He told that to himself. He was ready for it all.

 

What he didn’t expect, however, was the laughter breezing through him instead of heartbreak punching through his heart.

 

Chanyeol laughed. He was laughing. 

 

Baekhyun looked up at him, heart frozen in his chest. He was laughing. Hard, loudly, his eyes closed, his lips parted wide open, his body leaned forward a little bit under the strength of the laughter raking through him. 

 

Baekhyun looked at him, blank. Surprise filtered through him as he sat there, flabbergasted, watching Chanyeol laugh without being able to figure out why.

 

"Why are you laughing?" he couldn’t help but ask when a few seconds passed and Chanyeol hadn’t calmed down nor given him an explanation. His face was now scrunched up into that pained expression he had whenever he laughed too hard.

 

"Your face," Chanyeol wheezed out, laughing even more as Baekhyun blinked, completely taken aback. "That speech. So dramatic. You’re—You’re trying so hard to look mean."

 

The last of his sentence was lost in another fit of laughter and Baekhyun frowned. What did he mean by that? Why was he laughing? Why wasn’t he asking for more explanations? Why was Chanyeol taking this as a joke while Baekhyun could still feel his insides ripping apart?

 

"I’m not trying to," he snapped, dry, harsh, through gritted teeth. Not because he was angry but because it was difficult not to smile when Chanyeol laughed. "It’s the truth."

 

Chanyeol let out a long, loud sigh, almost like a whine as he straightened his back again. Baekhyun wasn’t sure what he was supposed to do or say. He wasn’t used to this, Chanyeol was supposed to be angry at him, sad that Baekhyun had played with him, he should already be screaming and crying by now.

 

Instead, Chanyeol let out a tiny, weak fit of titters while bringing a hand up to rub his face.

 

"Baekhyun," he said, grinning with the remnants of his confusing laughter. Baekhyun couldn’t even frown when there was so much fondness in his name. He felt himself wavering a little but held on tight, even if he could feel his cheeks cramping up a bit from holding in a smile. Chanyeol looked at him, gaze melting Baekhyun the slightest bit. "You’re really not as good of a liar as you think you are."

 

Baekhyun lost his words for a moment.

 

"What?" he said, stupidly, feeling his entire grip on himself crumble down bit by bit, his eyebrows raising a little.

 

Chanyeol sighed. That sigh he always let out after laughing for too long. Relaxed, joyful. As much as it was confusing, maybe even a little irritating that Chanyeol was laughing so much when Baekhyun was delivering a painful speech he had worked on so hard, Baekhyun felt endearment blooming from its roots in his heart. 

 

"You’re not telling me anything I didn’t know already," Chanyeol answered, so casually as Baekhyun’s heart froze in his ribcage, stuck.

 

"What?" he asked, once again through gritted teeth, his voice wavering a little.

 

He didn’t know what was going on. He couldn’t read this. This wasn’t planned. He was a mess.

 

Chanyeol shook his head, let out another chuckle and Baekhyun hated himself when he couldn’t bring himself to hate that sound and let it anger him.

 

"You know, the first time you saw me on the subway wasn’t the first time I saw you." He had a smile on, that knowing, dimpled smile. Baekhyun felt it stir his stomach. "I saw you quite a few times before that. Always with a different person. Holding their hands, kissing them, alternating between them. They all looked very enamored."

 

Baekhyun’s heart dropped to his stomach heavily. That was not supposed to happen. That had never happened before. Why was everything about Chanyeol so different than what he was used to? Why had Baekhyun never thought about this? Then why? If he knew, if he had figured it out, then why had Chanyeol never said anything? Why had he fallen in love with Baekhyun? 

 

Maybe that was why Chanyeol had never acted on him first despite being a rather confident person. That same confidence was gleaming so openly in his amused eyes as he looked at Baekhyun. He felt stupid. Weak.

 

But he wasn’t. That didn’t change anything. That only played in Baekhyun’s favor. He frowned. Chanyeol quirked an eyebrow.

 

"Then you should know that I’m not lying. You’re one of those people. There’s nothing different. If you saw it, then you have the proof. I was playing with you. Nothing else."

 

Chanyeol hummed, nodding a bit. It looked fake, as if he wanted to spite Baekhyun. It had that effect, in a way. Baekhyun wanted Chanyeol to believe him. Only then would he be able to protect him. Even if he hated everything about this.

 

"You played with me," Chanyeol repeated, mused. "So you never loved me?"

 

Baekhyun bit his tongue, threatening it into obeying to him and not his heart.

 

"No," he said, voice cold and harsh as a wall. Baekhyun felt himself continuously crashing right into it, enough to feel his limbs trembling a little."No, I never loved you. I never loved anyone and I don’t love you either. I don’t."

 

"I see," Chanyeol nodded, frowning a little as he looked down. Baekhyun felt victorious and like a starving man all at the same time until Chanyeol looked back at him again, an eyebrow raised with mirth. He was fascinating. Baekhyun felt every fiber of his existence yearning for him. "Then why are you holding my hand exactly?"

 

Startled, Baekhyun looked down. His eyes widened when he saw that the fingers he had been gripping all along weren’t his own but Chanyeol’s hand trapped between the two of his. 

 

He hadn’t realized. He hadn’t noticed his body had betrayed him. He let go at once, as if burned by the touch he loved so much, and looked back up at the other with wide eyes.

 

He was grinning, cheeks bunched up, lines drawn on the corners of his eyes, and dimple peeking at Baekhyun. Even now, there was not an ounce of anger in his eyes. His hand remained on the couch, between them, as if he’d allow Baekhyun to hold it again if he wanted to. And he wanted to. He wanted to hold onto Chanyeol now more than ever, when even the nasty words Baekhyun had given him were not enough to make the other’s eyes turn anything other than affectionate and caring.

 

But he didn’t. Because he shouldn’t. This was ridiculous but he shouldn’t.

 

"That’s," he said, starting a sentence he couldn’t find the end of when Chanyeol tilted his head a little, patiently waiting for an answer. He looked unimpressed, delighted. Soft in his pajamas. That oversized, pastel pink shirt that made him look as fluffy as a cloud of cotton candy. "That’s because," he tried again, voice coming out like a squeak from how hard he was trying to keep a grip on himself. "Because physical contact is an efficient way to manipulate people?"

 

He sounded ridiculous. Unsure. Lame. Chanyeol looked at him as if even in this situation, Baekhyun made him happy.

 

He hummed again. Nodded again. It was growing terribly disarming. Adorable. He had missed Chanyeol. He still missed him. Baekhyun felt like he was bursting. Maybe in tears. Maybe in love.

 

"You’re trembling."

 

"It’s cold," Baekhyun threw out the first reason in his mind, pressing his lips together afterwards. 

 

Chanyeol leaned forwards a little bit, just a little bit, and Baekhyun realized then that he was almost folded in half, leaned towards Chanyeol himself. Chanyeol’s voice was lowered down to a teasing whisper when he spoke again.

 

"So it’s not because you want to hug me so much that you’re shaking?"

 

And at those words, Baekhyun felt something in himself melt down, entirely, flooding through him and soaking his voice when he surrendered himself to the next words Chanyeol coaxed out of him with that smile and that affection and that happiness and that emotion.

 

"I fell in love with you," he blurted out, looking into Chanyeol’s eyes because nothing at that moment was strong enough to make him look away. 

 

Not his own resolve, not his fears, not his insecurities, not the smoke, nor the fog. Nothing was stronger than this and Baekhyun rubbed his face with both hands, spreading the warmth that lingered on his palms from Chanyeol’s fingers, mumbling his next words against them. 

 

"I fell in love with you and I don’t know what to do. I really don’t know what to do. Just. Just help me. Do something. I really have no clue about this but I’m in love with you, Chanyeol."

 

It was messy. Baekhyun could barely even make out his own words but what he couldn’t ignore was the overwhelming relief draping all over him, soothing him, as if his own words were the key to a safe haven he had sought his entire life.

 

He heard another puff of chuckles, felt it tickling his skin, felt it pooling in his chest and bathing his heart in tenderness.

 

"Come here," Chanyeol whispered before pulling him into his arms.

 

Baekhyun let him do, burying himself in his embrace, squeezing his eyes shut and resting against Chanyeol’s chest. Then, he felt stupid. 

 

Stupid to even think he would ever be able to rip himself away from this feeling of fulfillment. He wrapped his arms around Chanyeol’s waist as the other enveloped his shoulders in his own arms. His body felt lighter. Baekhyun wondered if it was the warmth in him that made him feel like he could soar into the air.

 

He heard Chanyeol sigh, short, fond, amorous. Baekhyun felt each of those emotions echo in his own chest.

 

"Do you think I didn’t know that already?" Chanyeol mumbled against Baekhyun’s hair, his voice cajoling enough for Baekhyun to look up at him without untangling himself from his embrace. 

 

He took a deep breath in as Chanyeol smiled down at him. He could breathe. Now, he could breathe.

 

It still didn’t make sense. Some things were still a blur in his head. Chanyeol was smart. Baekhyun felt like a fool.

 

"But I never told you I love you before," he said because he hadn’t, not until this exact moment.

 

Something bubbled in his chest at the realization that he had said it. He had told Chanyeol that he loved him. That made him happy. Relieved. That the other knew now.

 

Chanyeol shrugged, mushing Baekhyun’s mouth into his chest with the movement. One corner of his lips was lifted up higher than the other. Baekhyun felt it tug at his heart.

 

"I guess I’m smarter than you then," was all he said.

 

Baekhyun could’ve said anything at that. He had questions to ask, answers to give, but at that moment, there was only one thing he craved to hear.

 

"Then you love me too," he said, asked, voice smaller than intended but it didn’t matter. 

 

He didn’t feel like himself. He felt so vulnerable, like a root buried under layers of snow. Chanyeol snorted. His smile was the first ray of sunlight freeing Baekhyun from the cold.

 

"Yes, you big baby," he said, laughing when Baekhyun groaned and stabbed his tummy with his finger. The smile lingered. "I love you too."

 

Baekhyun felt those words burying deep inside of him and sparking a fire. He didn’t think it would dim down anytime soon.

 

He had also never thought he’d end up like this when he had woken up this morning. He hadn’t thought Chanyeol would still be holding him, smiling at him, loving him as he asked Baekhyun to tell him everything.

 

Baekhyun did. He bared himself to Chanyeol. Because he could. Because Chanyeol loved him and he loved Chanyeol just as much. He told him about everything, the warmth he craved, the eternal winter his mother’s death had trapped him in, and the smoke from his father’s cigarettes hoarding into his lungs and not fading away unless he felt that warmth. 

 

He told him about everyone he encountered in life, everyone he remembered. He told him about them, what he did to them, what they gave him, and Chanyeol didn’t look pleased but he never showed a sign of repulsion either. He listened, tried to understand, sometimes laughed, sometimes mused as if he was discovering a new side of Baekhyun. It wasn’t a side Baekhyun was proud of, he had never been, but Chanyeol’s arms never once loosened around him and that was enough for him.

 

"And what exactly made you think breaking up would be the best thing to do?" Chanyeol asked once Baekhyun was done.

 

There was no judgement or amusement in his voice anymore, just mere curiosity.

 

Baekhyun bit his lower lip. He didn’t know how much time had passed since he had first stepped into Chanyeol’s apartment with that decision but he felt completely foreign to it now. For a second, he couldn’t even remember, not with Chanyeol’s fingers carding through his hair, his thigh a comfortable pillow under Baekhyun’s head.

 

However, it was still there. The hesitation, the insecurities, and the fear. That blood-curling fear of erasing Chanyeol’s smile one day.

 

"Love hurts people," he said softly, looking up at Chanyeol. 

 

He felt a little sleepy, cozy as the toll of the past sleepless nights was slowly winning over him. At the same time, he knew he wouldn’t sleep tonight either. Not because of fear and suffocation. But because he could breathe easily, because his heart beat for Chanyeol and he was overjoyed. 

 

"How so?" Chanyeol asked, gaze following the fingers he trailed over Baekhyun’s cheek. Baekhyun felt him press one of them right above his upper lip, right on the mole there.

 

"I just told you," he said, mumbled, Chanyeol’s finger preventing him from speaking properly.

 

Everything had turned back to normal. Chanyeol had made sure to let Baekhyun know through even more laughter than he was the only one to dramatize everything and get caught up in crazy thoughts. Baekhyun had groaned but couldn’t deny anything.

 

Chanyeol smiled, tugged one corner of Baekhyun’s lips up with a finger to match it.

 

"Love isn’t just something to hurt people with, you know."

 

His voice pooled in Baekhyun’s chest, like the very first sip of his favorite tea after a day of winter winds. 

 

Baekhyun pressed his lips into a tight line.

 

"I don’t know how to do anything else with love."

 

Chanyeol pulled his finger away from his mole to tap it once against the tip of his nose.

 

"I guess it’s time for me to change my vocation. From piano teacher to love teacher," he said, lowering his voice drastically and wiggling his eyebrows.

 

The ridiculous sight pulled laughter out of Baekhyun. Chanyeol grinned, even after the happy notes Baekhyun created died down a little and buried themselves back into him.

 

"Actually, I’d like that," he said, smiling a little before letting out a long sigh. "I hate to say this but I’m actually clueless about this whole loving someone thing."

 

"I can see that now," Chanyeol snorted. His fingers tangled in Baekhyun’s hair again. "But you’re kinda wrong. You don’t only hurt people through love. You make me happy."

 

Elation fluttered through him at those words and it was at that moment that Baekhyun promised himself to do everything to ensure Chanyeol would never regret this moment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As expected, Baekhyun couldn’t sleep that night.

 

Instead, he was watching the sleepy flutter of Chanyeol’s eyelashes as he struggled to stay awake with Baekhyun. He didn’t know why Chanyeol always did that, always wanted to be awake when he was and fall asleep when he did. Baekhyun didn’t mind. That meant every moment of his conscious was spent with Chanyeol.

 

They were on Chanyeol’s bed, midnight had left them behind a long time ago, but Baekhyun felt wide awake as his eyes traced over Chanyeol’s face. His eyes were droopy, his hair a mess, his pink shirt adorably tugged down his shoulder. He was resting his head on Baekhyun’s pillow, their legs tangled under the blanket. His calloused fingers were resting on Baekhyun’s arm, he was hugging it against his chest and said nothing as he let Baekhyun admire him.

 

He could still feel it. In his chest, in his stomach, in the tip of his fingers, and in his head. In his heart, that emotion blossoming into a flower that rested at the tip of his tongue. Without hesitation, he offered it to Chanyeol.

 

"I love you," he whispered into the darkness, hopefully right into Chanyeol’s endless heart.

 

It was such a nice feeling. Foreign but not alien anymore. Not since he had accepted it, not since Chanyeol had told him that he could feel it in everything Baekhyun had been doing with him lately. Not since Chanyeol had smiled at him while telling him that Baekhyun’s love made him happy.

 

Maybe it also made Baekhyun happy. Loving Chanyeol made him happy. Giddy. Elated. Enough for him to let out a quiet laugh when Chanyeol opened his eyes and looked at him. Baekhyun loved those eyes. They loved him back.

 

"I love you too," Chanyeol said, taking Baekhyun’s flower and returning it through a breathtaking and colorful bouquet.

 

Baekhyun felt flowers growing in his throat, in his chest, under Chanyeol’s touch. It didn’t smother him, simply cleansed the air he breathed.

 

"No but I love you," Baekhyun said, eyes wide, smile wider, the love he grew for Chanyeol even broader. "Can you believe that?"

 

He had never felt this before. He didn’t even know what it was in him that indicated that he was in love with Chanyeol. He just knew that he was so glad he could taste this feeling now. 

 

Loving Chanyeol felt sweeter than having been loved by a hundred strangers.

 

Chanyeol laughed, small, loud, drowsy, awake. In love with Baekhyun. Loved by Baekhyun.

 

"I mean," Chanyeol said, hugging Baekhyun’s arm tighter to his chest as a yawn cut him off mid-sentence. When his features relaxed again, it was in a smug, playful smile. "If I were you, I’d love me too."

 

He didn’t know what it was about Chanyeol. Maybe there was a billion reasons, maybe there was none. Either way, Baekhyun felt every fiber of his soul burgeoning into sparks.

 

"I’m really glad it’s you that I fell in love with," he realized, out loud.

 

Chanyeol looked at him, idle for a bit. He lit up into a smile, spread warmth through a tiny chuckle.

 

"I’m really your first love, aren’t I?" he commented, maybe realized out loud too.

 

Baekhyun smiled until his cheeks bunched his eyes up into two tinier grins, until he was so happy it was almost painful. It wasn’t really. Not when Chanyeol looked at him as if he wanted to wrap him up in a sweater knitted with his love through his gaze alone. His favorite sweater.

 

Silently, Baekhyun nodded. His throat tightened. His eyes burned a little. Was it because he loved Chanyeol too ardently? Was it enough to mist his eyes a little? 

 

Chanyeol saw him through the mist, reached out to him, and pressed a tender kiss against his forehead. His eyes closed. His smile never dimmed down as Chanyeol laid back down and turned until Baekhyun felt his back pressing against his chest, his hands grabbing Baekhyun’s to pull his arms around him, like a safety blanket.

 

That warmth. It was in him now.

 

With all his beating heart, he hoped that Chanyeol could feel it too. That he could soak it in the same way Baekhyun felt full with Chanyeol’s love.