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The boots of the students creak against the ridiculously expensive hardwood floor in a distorted rhythm. Bodies mingle into the hallway in a sea of tailored navy blazers. On the walls hung portraits that look too ancient to be economic. The sound of a giant traditional metallic bell rings through the corridors.

 

Everything about Kings High and it's people screams elegance and sophistication to a level that Baekhyun knows he is too practical to even dream of achieving. Yet, here he is. His thin-rimmed glasses rest upon his nose while his droopy eyes peek over them to steal glances at the students who are simply minding their own business. Though Baekhyun has always considered himself to be somewhat misanthropic, he cannot help but hold a certain fascination towards these students, accompanied by a burning desire to be a part of this crowd.

 

The sound of throat-clearing brings Baekhyun out of his reverie. His head snaps towards the middle-aged man who gestures to him to step inside. Perhaps it's his own inner paranoia, but the man feels to be exuding hostile vibes. There is no way a regular school employee knew how he got here, right?

 

Baekhyun confidently makes his way towards the office counter, and leans in-

 

"Byun Baekhyun." He states and presents his admission letter and other documents systematically.

 

"I'm aware." The man glares coldly before taking, or what Baekhyun would like to term as snatching, the admission letter, and documents. As the man scrutinizes the details, Baekhyun takes a quick glimpse around the area. The administration room of Kings High had an interior similar to that of the whole school, a perfect blend of classical and modern. Hardwood flooring, royal print wallpaper, antique-looking lamps with the latest technology bulbs for lighting. Kings High was indeed a place deemed for modern royalty.

 

"Mr. Byun," the man calls out, clearly agitated. "Here's your class schedule and the key to your room. Three sets of Uniforms, a rulebook and the other necessities have already been delivered to your room. Welcome to Kings High." The official says in a monotone, his eyes uninterested and focused on his computer screen. The silence that follows marks the clear end of the conversation. Baekhyun collects his class schedule and key and then turns to leave.

 

Walking down the hallway, Baekhyun feels an odd sense of pride. He's finally here, at this hundreds of years old institution that was the home of some of the world's finest men. 

 

He zones out of the intentionally loud whispers and avoids the prying eyes. He knows he is a misfit, starting from his cheap cotton shirt and his baggy pants to his very demeanour and walking style; he's sticking out like a sore thumb among these polished boys and their demeaning gaze. But Baekhyun is headstrong. He came determined to do whatever it takes to survive at Kings High because this place is the key to his dreams and ambitions.

 

The school campus is too big and the wooden hallways look identical enough for any first-timer to get lost. Sighing to himself, Baekhyun looks around in hopes of asking someone for directions. He spots an approachable boy, leaning against a windowpane with his nose buried in a textbook.

 

With wary steps, Baekhyun makes his way towards the boy, "Excuse me?"

 

The boy looks up, startled. His expression is almost comical and Baekhyun can't help but find him endearing. "Yes?" The boy looks at Baekhyun curiously, but not in a condescending way the other students do.

 

"Can you please tell me the way to the hostel rooms? I seem to be a bit lost." Baekhyun says, with a sheepish but charming smile that has proven its entrancing capabilities from time to time.

 

The boy blinks, visibly taken aback by Baekhyun's pulchritude. "Umm.. hostel rooms… yeah…" He says, dazed.

 

Baekhyun internally smiles, his fastidious eyes quick to catch the slight scarlet hue the boy was now sporting.

 

"So which way do I go?" Baekhyun asks, with an innocent-looking pout, and pretends to be oblivious to his companion's flustered state.

 

"That depends, actually. Which wing is your room in?" The boy scratches the nape of his neck and avoids eye contact.

 

"Wing?" Baekhyun asks confused, but before the boy can answer, it strikes him to examine his room key for that detail. "It says ‘Wing Nostradamus’? What is that?" Baekhyun looks at the boy, with creased eyebrows and questioning eyes.

 

"It's like different houses. We have Nostradamus, Galileo, and Copernicus. Don't ask me why, though. Who knows what was going on in the founder's head?" The boys chuckles with a shrug.

 

"I'm Baekhyun." He extends his hand. The boy looks at the extended hand-the extended invitation of friendship-and smiles. Baekhyun notices how the boy’s dimples add to the kindness on his face.

 

"Yixing." He shakes Baekhyun's hand. Baekhyun smiles in delight. He had not expected people to be this friendly, but he was glad to have found Yixing.

 

"Pleased to meet you," Baekhyun says, genuinely happy.

 

"Me too." Yixing says, "I'm from Nostradamus too. Us wingmates need to stick together, eh? Come on, I'll show you the way."

 

They talk as they walk; Baekhyun is curious about every little thing related to the school, and Yixing, who has been studying here since elementary, answers his questions gladly

 

Engrossed in their conversation, somewhere along the way, they end up taking a wrong turn. 

 

Upon the realisation, Yixing stops in his tracks. "Um, I think we made a wrong turn." He says, visibly embarrassed. Baekhyun notices that Yixing has a habit of scratching his nape whenever he is flustered or embarrassed.

 

"It's alright." Baekhyun smiles, trying to make him feel comfortable. "As long as you know which way we need to go from here."

 

"Yeah, umm," Yixing contemplates their location for a moment and points backwards, "We need to retrace a little and then go left."

 

"Okay," Baekhyun nods. "Where are we now, though?"

 

Yixing does something that looks like a mixture of a shrug and a shudder. "Somewhere we don't wanna be. Down this hall is the Chairman's office. Come on, let's go." They turn to leave, Baekhyun's eyes lingering in the direction of the Chairman's office for a moment too long.

 

Talking to Yixing seems easy. The boy is laid back and not snobbish like Baekhyun expected the boys in this posh and prestigious school to be. In fact, he believes they can be good friends in the future. However, his perception of Yixing soon changes.

 

Upon spotting his room, Baekhyun's steps quicken. "This is my room. Do you wanna come in?" He turns to Yixing with an anticipating smile.

 

Yixing stares at the number on the door with a frown. "You're room number 461?"

 

Baekhyun nods, not sensing anything off yet. "At least that's what this key tells me." He waves his key in the air. "461 Nostradamus."

 

"You're… you're the scholarship kid?"

 

Oh.

 

Baekhyun nods silently again, but Yixing barely notices it. His eyes are raking Baekhyun up and down, and the friendly twinkle in his eyes leaving the moment he notices the crummy clothes.

 

Yixing may be an ignorant man but Baekhyun is not. He sees everything. He watches the sudden change in Yixing's demeanour, the way his smile turns from a genuine, gentle one to a phoney, forced one.

 

Baekhyun sees everything but he pretends to be ignorant.

 

"You know what, I'm actually kinda tired and want to sleep. I'll head in if you don't mind. I'll see you around." He fakes a yawn and blinks a few more times than regular.

 

"Yeah, yeah, sure. Bye." Yixing, relieved yet oddly troubled, gives Baekhyun a small wave and rushes away.

 

Baekhyun tries not to let the minor incident get to his head. He came here with a purpose. He doesn’t need friends or companions for his time here; what he needs is to reach his target.

 

The evening passes by in a rush. Baekhyun keeps himself busy between settling in his room and anticipating his first day at Kings High tomorrow. His room is pleasantly modest compared to the school he has witnessed so far with a single bed shoved in a corner and a few essential furniture scattered throughout the room. Exhausted and excited, Baekhyun dozes off into a deep slumber almost as soon as he closes his eyes.

 

The next morning is a trepidatious affair, as Baekhyun double checks his routine and dresses himself in the foreign fabrics of his pristine school uniform. Looking at his own reflection, Baekhyun feels his heart flutter at the familiar stranger staring back at him. He looked just like any regular student of Kings High, someone who had a bright future and a place in society and not the struggling deprived village boy truly was.

 

His first class is Chemistry, one of his favourite subjects, and Baekhyun doesn't want to be late. But he is yet to be accustomed to the identical hallways, often ending up taking wrong turns. As a result, he finds himself rushing hastily to reach on time.

 

He bumps into someone, too much in a haste to notice who it is. He murmurs an instinctive soft apology and is about to go on his way when he feels someone pull him backwards by grabbing his blazer.

 

"Where do you think you're going?" A voice demands.

 

"How dare you bump into me and leave like that? Apologise properly." Another voice commands.

 

Baekhyun steadies himself and looks up to see a pair of tall, intimidating looking boys with a displeased expression on their faces, looking down at him.

 

Too much hair product. Baekhyun immediately thinks as he scans their appearance. The one who grabbed his blazer has tanned skin with sharp features and honey brown hair, while his friend-the one Baekhyun originally bumped into-has pale skin and raven hair with equally sharp features. Despite having similar heights and sharp jawlines, the two boys look nothing alike. However, both of them reek of an elitism that screams at Baekhyun to keep his distance.

 

"I'm sorry." Baekhyun apologises out loud, partly because it is indeed his fault but mainly because he doesn’t wish to cause a scene and delay himself further.

 

"That's it? That's all you have to say?" The pale boy raises an eyebrow, looking irked.

 

Baekhyun rolls his eyes. Does he want me to get on my knees now or something? He doesn’t understand what the big deal is about; he admits he has indeed bumped into Mr. Hair Product but a light bump is something people experienced every second day.

 

"Did you just roll your eyes at me?" The boy asks incredulously, another over-exaggerated reaction according to Baekhyun.

 

"Sehun, I'll deal with him." The sunkissed boy steps between them. "You." He glares at Baekhyun with a finger digging deep into his left pectoral. Baekhyun reflexively takes a step back. "How dare you?" The tanned boy jabs at him again, angrily. "Who do you think you are, huh?" Another ferocious jab. Baekhyun feels a sharp sting through his muscle.

 

One of the bystanders supplies the information regarding Baekhyun being the new scholarship student, and the boy snorts. His laugh is condescending and demeaning. Baekhyun can't help but feel small.

 

"A stupid village geezer has the audacity to bump into one of us and rush off without apologising?"

 

"I-I..." Baekhyun searches for his regular confident voice of defiance but fails.

 

The boy keeps pushing him back with sharp, painful jabs until Baekhyun's back hits against the wall.

 

"How high and mighty do you think you are to roll your eyes at Sehun?"

 

Baekhyun gulps, staring back at the boy, unsure of what he should do next. His chest is aching from the constant finger jabs and he feels the gaze of the students burning holes in him.

 

The boy opens his mouth to say something but a voice interrupts, "Jongin, we're late for class. Let's go."

 

Baekhyun's eyes scan his surroundings to search for the source of the voice and his curious gaze lands upon a boy at a distance.

 

The boy is leaning against a pillar, with headphones hanging around his neck. His eyes were closed, a strained expression adorning his face like he's too annoyed with the ongoing commotion. He's tall, maybe even taller than the two that were bullying Baekhyun right now. And utterly, breathtakingly gorgeous.

 

Baekhyun can't seem to stop himself from staring. Silver hair, big elf ears, perfectly sculpted nose. The boy looked like a model in the middle of a photoshoot.

 

Baekhyun blinks, stunned. The boy opens his eyes, and looks in Baekhyun's direction-past Baekhyun, towards Jongin. "Come on, let's get going."

 

Jongin sighs, pulling Baekhyun forward by grabbing his blazer only to harshly push him against the wall.

 

Baekhyun winces, eyes closing reflexively. When he reopens his eyes, he finds the mass of students that surrounded him are already dispersing, satisfied with the dramatic exchange they witnessed. Sehun, Jongin, and the handsome stranger are nowhere in sight.

 

Shaking his head to himself, Baekhyun hurries to class.

 

Despite losing time due to the commotion (and getting lost, multiple times), Baekhyun reaches his class on time, in fact with a few minutes to spare. The moment Baekhyun enters the class, the room erupts in whispers and hushed discussions. Baekhyun ignores them, already expecting such a response, and searches for a place to sit. The class is packed with only one seat available at the very back of the room. Always being the first bencher, Baekhyun sighs in disappointment and makes his way towards the bench. He dares to look up once, at the faces staring at him. Baekhyun feels a twist in his guts. The taunting, mocking expressions on the faces mirror each other. They are all looking at him like he's an outcast, someone inferior. There's also a strange anticipation on their face that Baekhyun cannot understand. He hears a stifled laughter coming from a distance when he reaches his bench and soon sees why.

 

The oakwood bench was decorated with an array of distinct writings, each word feeling like a slap on Baekhyun's face.

 

Dirty beggar. Filthy peasant. Charity Case. Trashcan. Dirtbag.

 

Insults targeted at him, at the poor village boy who could only afford this school if on a scholarship, are written all over the desk, in colourful markers and diverse handwritings. Baekhyun takes a deep breath.

 

"Like your welcome gift, Byun?" One of the boys smirks at him. His blazer has his name embroidered on it. Kim Heechul.

 

These boys take vanity to a whole new level, don't they?

 

Baekhyun knows what kind of a response the boys expect from him. They expect him to throw an angry fit or better yet, cry. But Baekhyun knows he's stronger than this. His face will never betray his inner storms.

 

"It's creative." Baekhyun shrugs, with pretended nonchalance. "Most of you have terrible handwriting though, maybe work on that a little?"

 

He can see his classmates fuming with rage, but they're too shocked to react. With a smirk, he continues.

 

"Oh, this one has half-decent handwriting." He points at a word scripted on his bench with fake cheerfulness. "Byun Baekhyun is a big ugly l-o-o-s-e-r." He reads out loud and laughs. "Seriously, which high school student still can't spell loser properly?"

 

Then, he delivers his final blow. "Are you all sure that I'm the one who's not supposed to be here?" Baekhyun knows his words will trigger the boys to lash out at him, and he mentally prepares himself for it.

 

Heechul along with another boy with sharp eyes jerk up from their seats in fury and charge towards Baekhyun.

 

Fortunately, the professor enters right then and the boys have no choice but to return back to their seats, not before giving Baekhyun a final glare though.

 

A crumpled paper ball lands on Baekhyun's table mid-lecture.

 

You don't belong here. Go back to the gutter you came from.

 

Baekhyun sighs to himself. It's going to be a long semester.

 

His next class is quite uneventful, other than the stares and the whispers. But Baekhyun already knows that he'd have to get accustomed to those. When the bell rings, Baekhyun gathers his belongings to make a quick and quiet exit. He wants to leave before the students have an opportunity to create any sort of drama.

 

As he makes his way through the maze of desks, swiftly but in haste, he stumbles upon something and falls dramatically. He tries to block his face from getting hurt by using his hands as a shield. However, his head still bumps hard on the ground and he twists his wrist.

 

Laughter surrounds him as he groans in pain and struggles to get up. Once he is back on his feet, he looks around to investigate the cause of his fall. A leg is still shamelessly extended in the path and the culprit behind Baekhyun's drastic fall is smirking at him. Baekhyun identifies the boy to be Kim Kibum, or at least that's what Baekhyun thinks he heard during attendance.

 

"Have a nice day, Byun." Kibum gives a sarcastically sweet smile before exiting the room with cheerful whistling.

 

The day continues with similar hostility, and Baekhyun couldn't be more glad when it's finally time for lunch break.

 

The lunch cafeteria is bigger than anything Baekhyun has ever seen. Dishes that Baekhyun can’t even name are lined up along one end of the room, with uniformed servers standing behind them. Baekhyun can't help but stare in awe. Coming from a countryside village, Baekhyun isn't accustomed to seeing anything so sumptuous. With giddy little steps, Baekhyun makes his way to get in the food queue, excited and fascinated by his surroundings, having utterly forgotten the struggles of the day.

 

Once his tray is full, his eyes scan the room for a place to sit. There are some people staring at him still, of course. But the intensity of the prying eyes towards the new intruder has died down, and most people are busy minding their own business.

 

Locating a place to sit to eat his lunch peacefully, however, proves to be rather difficult since Baekhyun finds it rather difficult to approach any table given that all students instantly grimace on seeing him.

 

Baekhyun spots his first set of bullies in Kings High, Sehun and Jongin, at a distance, chattering merrily with a few other boys. He notices how the nameless, gorgeous boy from the morning is with them, but not paying particular attention to whatever conversation is going on around him and just quite focusing on his phone while nibbling a piece of salad.

 

He looks like a scene from a movie, the kind with a beautiful serene piano playing in the background. He looks like he's lost in himself, with the universe captured in his mind. His almond eyes, the prettiest almond eyes Baekhyun has ever seen, look bored and detached. His shiny silver hair is ruffled, but somehow that makes him look more attractive than he did in the morning with well-styled hair. Baekhyun wonders who did that to the boy's hair and whether…

 

Baekhyun's train of thoughts comes to an end abruptly and someone's shoulder brushes against Baekhyun's back. Baekhyun realises that he is standing in the middle of the way and causing hindrance to other students.

 

With a slight shake of his head, Baekhyun once again starts looking around for a place to sit.

 

He spots a familiar face and heads over with a smile, the upsetting happening of yesterday already forgotten.

 

"Yixing." Baekhyun greets cheerfully as he reaches the table.

 

Yixing looks up in surprise, as do the two other students he is sitting with.

 

"H-Hey." A nervous and awkward chuckle escapes Yixing, as his eyes dart towards his friends.

 

"Xing, you're friends with the Charity Case?" One of them asks, unbothered at his offensive choice of words while Baekhyun stood right in front of him.

 

"I-I met him once yesterday." Yixing quickly clarifies.

 

"Yeah, and he was really nice to me," Baekhyun adds, with a smile. "Can I sit here, if you guys don't mind?"

 

The two boys look at each other and then at Yixing.

 

"Baekhyun? Can I have a word with you in private first?"

 

Baekhyun doesn't get to answer as Yixing is already dragging him away from the cafeteria. He doesn't resist, although a feeling of dread drops in his stomach.

 

Once they are in a secluded hallway, one that Baekhyun has never been to before, Yixing finally turns to face Baekhyun.

 

"So what is it that you wanted to talk about?" Baekhyun smiles, more to reassure himself that everything is fine than anything else. "Can you make it quick? I'm kind of hungry." He elevates the tray in his hands to show Yixing.

 

"Look, Baek, you're a great guy." Yixing nervously begins. "Y-you're a great guy and I like you."

 

"Thanks, I guess? I like you too." Baekhyun lets out an awkward laugh.

 

Yixing shakes his head. "I'd have really liked being friends with you, trust me I really would have. But I can't."

 

Baekhyun remains silent, his eyes staring intensely into Yixing's. If Yixing was hesitant about his words before, he's more uncomfortable now. But Baekhyun has no intention of looking away.

 

"It's nothing personal. I hope you understand that." Yixing tries to explain. "It's just that being friends with you would make me a target of bullying too. If you haven't already figured it out, people around here aren't really happy with your arrival and they'll make sure that you're well aware of that."

 

"So you... you want me to stay away from you so that these people don't target you as well?" Baekhyun asks bluntly, his face devoid of his anger, rage, frustration, and sadness.

 

"I already get enough shit for being a nerd." Baekhyun is barely listening to Yixing's attempts at justifications anymore. "I can't afford to be the scholarship boy's friend too. I'm not saying-"

 

"Yixing." Baekhyun interrupts him. "Just go."

 

Yixing stares at Baekhyun with guilty eyes. He opens his mouth to say something and then closes it again. Finally he murmurs a soft "I'm really sorry" and leaves.

 

Once Yixing is out of sight, Baekhyun takes in a deep breath and lets his eyes glisten with droplets. But he doesn't cry. He promised himself that no matter what happens in this school, he wouldn't shed tears because of it.

 

He tries telling himself that Yixing is being logical. He's looking out for himself and if the tables were turned, it's probably what Baekhyun would have done too. After all, this is a world for the survival of the fittest. Kill or be killed. But after all the hardships of the day, all the bullying and hostility he faced, even this simple rejection feels like a burden too heavy.

 

After a good fifteen minutes, Baekhyun heads back to the cafeteria, face dull and appetite gone.

 

He locates an empty table (probably abandoned by the students due to the spilt food all over the table) and sits there. He unenthusiastically stabs food with his fork, distracted and lost in thoughts.

 

He doesn't notice the boy who's approaching him, or the group of students nudging each other at the back, excited for the upcoming chaos.

 

"Well, well, well. Look who it is?" Baekhyun looks upon hearing a mocking voice. It's the boy from his Chemistry class, the one with the sharp cat-eyes. Jaebeom was his name, Baekhyun knows now.

 

"Leave me alone," Baekhyun mutters, looking down at his food again, not in the mood to deal with any more drama at the moment. 

 

"Watch your attitude." Jaebeom snaps back. "You think you're something special? Huh?"

 

Baekhyun doesn't reply and continues to stab his food.

 

"It disgusts me how a low life like you is getting to eat the same food as us." Jaebeom picks up a slice of potato fry and throws it at Baekhyun. Baekhyun doesn't respond, instead, he also picks up a piece of potato fry and takes a bite, nonchalantly. This seems to infuriate Jaebeom further.

 

"I'm talking to you, you shithead," Jaebeom shouts, garnering the attention of the whole cafeteria. Baekhyun looks up, but not at Jaebeom. His eyes meet the curious gaze of the silver-haired boy from before. He, along with Sehun, Jongin and his entire table have paused their activities to look at the ongoing commotion. The boy's eyes are strictly on Baekhyun and they do not flinch away when Baekhyun stares back at him. It is Baekhyun who has to look away, flustered. His eyes land on Yixing next, who looks uncomfortable at the scene unfolding in front of him. His eyes are guilty and hesitant and eventually, they lower with shame unable to look at Baekhyun anymore.

 

Something-pride, ego or hurt-within Baekhyun flickers.

 

"Look at me." Jaebeom continues.

 

Baekhyun rolls his eyes, "I said I’m not in the mood for this. Leave me alone."

 

"Leave you alone?" Jaebeom repeats, mockingly. "Alright. I'll leave you alone."

 

He picks up the glass of raspberry juice set on Baekhyun's food tray with an evil smile. Everyone watching the spectacle unfolding holds their breath, predicting things to go a certain, very specific way.

 

As Jaebeom tilts the glass over Baekhyun's head, hoping for the liquid content to pour all over Baekhyun and provide him a humiliation worth remembering. But, swift-reflexed and sharp instinctive, Byun Baekhyun is faster. He moves out of his chair before the liquid raspberries touch his hair.

 

On a usual day, Baekhyun would have left it to that. He isn’t the type to physically fight back, not because he can't but mostly because he never found the need to. A few verbal insults and his nonchalant indifference to whatever is thrown in his way is always enough to have his rivals fuming. But today, perhaps because of everything that he went through, Baekhyun finally loses his cool.

 

Everything happens too fast. Jaebeom attempting to pour the juice on Baekhyun, Baekhyun dodging it, and snatching the glass from Jaebeom's hand to pour the content on him instead.

 

Jaebeom stands still in shock, dripping wet from the red sticky liquid, trying to process what had just happened. The audience in the cafeteria stares in shocked silence.

 

On recovering from the initial shock of the unexpected, Jaebeom charges towards Baekhyun with the rage of a hurt pride. He grabs Baekhyun by his shirt collar, and lifts his fist to punch him.

 

"I wouldn't do that if I were you." Baekhyun whispers, unfazed by Jaebeom's aggressive outburst. "There are cameras here. And physical assault will just lead to your suspension."

 

Jaebeom cannot help but hesitate. The struggles between pride and rationality is clear on his face. His fist drops, accompanied by a low but dangerous growl and a "I'll make sure you pay for this". He charges out of the cafeteria, stomping his feet like a seven-year-old with a tantrum.

 

While the cafeteria gapes at Jaebeom's retreating figure, Baekhyun settles back into his seat, unperturbed by the incident.

 

The regular bustle of lunch period resumes soon as people realise nothing eventful is further going to happen. Baekhyun goes back to stabbing food with his fork while occasionally taking a bite. He pays no attention to the whisperings and finger pointings, focusing on his food while being comfortable in his own world.

 

Somewhere near the end of lunch, Baekhyun feels a hand brush his shoulder and hot breaths tingle his earlobes.

 

A deep husky voice whispers, "Well done on the stunt you just pulled."

 

Baekhyun turns in haste but the owner of the voice is gone. He's met with the backs of three figures exiting the cafeteria, though. And Baekhyun just knows who exactly the owner of the voice might be.

 

School is gonna be interesting. Very interesting.

 

***

 

A week passes by, as unsmoothly as Baekhyun expected it to. The students continue harassing him and he continues to pretend that the hostility of the students does not bother him. He’s not here to make friends, he reminds himself. He’s here for a job; one that he needs to get working on soon.

 

But despite his attempts at self-isolation, Baekhyun couldn’t help but hold a certain fascination towards the silver-haired stranger whose name, he eventually learns, is Park Chanyeol. Baekhyun finds out a lot about this particular Park Chanyeol all thanks to his nifty ability to eavesdrop and Chanyeol’s consistent tendency to remain the centre of gossip.

 

Park Chanyeol, the golden boy, is the only son of Chairman Park, making him the sole heir to Kings Corporation.

 

The same Chairman Park whose office Baekhyun is breaking into right now.

 

Baekhyun sighs to himself, remembering how he got into this situation in the first place.

 

FLASHBACK

 

Baekhyun knows he is treading on thin ice, but the egoistic and vindictive part of him is pushing him forward.

 

Sitting in this overly dull office, with vanilla walls that have no paintings or decorations and interior kept to its bare minimum, Baekhyun can understand why government officers are usually so vapid and easily irritable. Four closed walls like these can drive anyone insane. 

 

The man he came here to meet enters soon. Dressed in a sleek black suit that's too expensive for his dingy office, Mr. Choi looks like a man who strictly talks business and knows only professionalism.

 

Baekhyun immediately jolts up upon sensing his presence and bows in a customary fashion. The man only acknowledges him with a nod and murmurs a, 'please have a seat'. Baekhyun immediately compiles.

 

"I must say, Mr. Byun, your persistence is rather impressive." Mr Choi comments, his face stoic, as he seats himself. "But I'm afraid there's nothing I can do to help you. We've given the school full freedom for the selection process."

 

"I understand, Mr. Choi. But if I may-" Baekhyun begins, but is immediately cut off by the impatient man.

 

"If you have any grievances regarding the selection for the scholarship, you are to contact the school authorities, not us." Mr. Choi dismisses Baekhyun, and turns his attention towards his computer. "I'm a busy man, Mr. Byun. I do not have the time to entertain school students and their whiny complaints."

 

"Mr. Siwon Choi." Baekhyun snaps, but immediately composes himself. The man is already evidently prejudiced against Baekhyun, he needs to keep his cool and not act like an immature child that Mr. Choi already thinks him to be. "I understand, you are a busy man. Therefore, I suggest that letting me speak my matter rather than jumping to any conclusions would save both of us our time."

 

Mr. Choi is slightly irked but agrees, "Very well, what brings you here Mr. Byun? If not to complain about not being selected for the scholarship to Kings High?"

 

On finally getting the window he needs, Baekhyun mechanically presents Mr. Choi with the documents he has brought along. Mr. Choi accepts them with a sceptical look, enquiring, "What are these?"

 

Baekhyun grimly replies, "It's better if you take a look yourself, Sir."

 

Mr. Choi looks through the documents, the distinct sound of shuffling of paper being the only sound in the room. His face doesn’t betray any emotions, unlike what Baekhyun expected. Baekhyun imagined shock or accusation or anxiety, any loud, incredulous reaction but Mr. Choi is too calm for someone who has just seen such scandalous evidence of corruption.

 

Once done scanning through the documents, Mr. Choi looks up and addresses Baekhyun, "Mr. Byun, I hope you realise the gravity of these allegations."

 

Baekhyun nods with conviction. "Yes, Mr. Choi. I have given a lot of thought to whether I want to do this or not. But I've decided revealing these documents is what I should do."

 

"I see, then Mr. Byun, you must already know that what you're doing is illegal. Forging documents is a crime."

 

What?! Baekhyun's head jerks up in shock.

 

"The documents are one hundred percent authentic, Sir." He protests.

 

Mr. Choi raises an eyebrow. "You don't seriously expect me to believe that a high school student accessed the bank account details of one of such a prestigious institution, do you?"

 

Beakhyun nods, "It sounds too far-fetched, I know. But I happen to be Junior Level National Champion in Cyber Security, Mr. Choi. I could use your computer right now to access the database of the office next building."

 

"You? Good with computers? You don't even have proper cell phone reception in your village, Gidaedong?" Mr. Choi says in downright disbelief.

 

"You'd be surprised, Mr. Choi, how far desperation and ambition can take a simple village boy." Baekhyun says with a rueful smile.

 

"Let's say that I do believe you. These documents still happen to be illegally fetched." Mr. Choi folds his hands over his chest.

 

"I'm aware. But I needed to expose this scam." Baekhyun says, with a strange determination floating in his eyes.

 

"At the risk of losing a good future? Not a wise decision, Mr. Byun. This attempt of yours at avenging your bruised ego can cause you heavy penalization, if not jail time."

 

"With all due respect, Mr. Choi, I know the laws of this country enough to know that with the right measures, I can get by easily without any charges," Baekhyun smirks, his eyes challenging. "So now if you're done trying to intimidate me, shall we get to business?"

 

Mr. Choi laughs. "You seem quite sharp for someone your age, Mr. Byun."

 

"I'm aware of that fact." Baekhyun nods in agreement.

 

"And confident too." Mr. Choi adds. "That's what got you investigating on this in the first place, isn't it?"

 

"That's right. I knew my interview went too well for me to have not gotten the scholarship. I couldn't be too sure though, of course. There were other really great students too. But once I checked the name of the student who had received the scholarship, I knew something was not right." Baekhyun narrates in a spiteful, bitter tone, while Mr. Choi listens in silence.

 

"The boy, Kim In Ho, I was talking to him before the interview. Smart boy, no doubt. But the guy doesn't even know the Earth's escape velocity. He said it was 9.8 meters per second." Baekhyun laughs, condescendingly. "And I have to believe that out of everyone that was interviewed he got the scholarship."

 

Mr. Choi interrupts. "How did you find the paper trail for the money though?"

 

Baekhyun shrugs. "It took time. I was almost positive that the scholarship was not as systematic and to the books as people were made to believe. Money was definitely involved in this. And my suspicions only confirmed when I checked the records of the past scholarship students. All from well-off houses! Tell me, does it make sense for scholarships to be given to students whose families could already afford the tuition fees for ten poor kids like me?!" Baekhyun asks, incredulous.

 

Mr. Choi sighs, sympathetic towards Baekhyun's aggressive outburst. "That was the only condition on Kings High's part. They were willing to implement the scholarship policy of the government as long as they get to choose the scholarship recipients. They said they believed that a benefit like a scholarship should be provided to students based on their intellect, not their family background."

 

Baekhyun's sardonic laughter echoes through the room. "What's the point of waiving fees if it doesn't benefit the ones in actual need? The government actually is dumb enough to let this bullshit happen?"

 

"Language, Mr. Byun." The man chides. "I understand that you're upset, but I'd appreciate it if we'd focus on solving the matter rather than complaining about the incompetence on our part."

 

Baekhyun nods, unhappy with his own impulsive reaction. He knows he needs to word his every reaction carefully, or the consequences can be disastrous. "I apologise, Mr. Choi. So, what do you suggest we do now?"

 

Mr. Choi takes a deep breath. "With the evidence you have provided, an investigation regarding the unfair practices for scholarship candidate selection will not be difficult to get approved."

 

"That's great, then you can-" Baekhyun starts, ebulliently but is cut off.

 

"Patience, Mr. Byun. I'm not done yet." Mr. Choi looks exasperated. "Even if we do get an investigation on this matter started, it wouldn't really do much damage to the school. The school will probably be given a warning to not further continue such malpractices like bribery. Or, at most, the school's control over the scholarship decisions will be taken away."

 

"If the government alone controls all scholarship related decisions, then finally poor needy candidates will get the opportunity they deserve, rather than rich spoilt kids for whom the scholarship is just another notch in their belt." Baekhyun contemplates. "That's all I want really."

 

"Perhaps. But that's not all that I want." Mr. Choi points out, sharply and confidently.

 

"And what is it that you want, Mr. Choi?" Baekhyun's eyes narrow, sensing ulterior motives behind the man's words.

 

"What I want is to put an end to all malpractices that go on in Kings Corporation, not just their school."

 

Baekhyun nods. Kings Corporation spread beyond just the prestigious Kings High. It is one of the most powerful multinational companies in the country, spreading from construction to real estate to hotels to clothing lines.

 

"The inquiry regarding the scholarship is too small, to bring about any change in the foul ways the management of Kings Corporation runs." Mr. Choi continues. "My colleagues and I have received multiple reports about the company's slush funds and tax evasive techniques, but we just don't have proof concrete enough to take down such a huge corporation."

 

Baekhyun can see the frustration visible on Mr. Choi's face. It makes Baekhyun think about how much time this man must have put in chasing leads regarding this case that were ultimately buried under corrupt policies of power and money.

 

"The Chairman of Kings Corporation is a cunning man. He's managed to dodge all our attempts to take him down." Mr. Choi shakes his head in disappointment. "The company would be in much cleaner hands if he were to step down and his younger brother were to take over."

 

"I'm assuming you're telling me all this because you have something in mind?" Baekhyun finally asks. "And it involves me."

 

Mr. Choi nods, satisfied. "You're quick to catch up with things, Baekhyun. You're witty and smart too. A model student, but knows how to get things done without getting himself into trouble."

 

Baekhyun narrows his eyes, suspicious of the sudden cajoling.

 

"Say, Byun Baekhyun, would you be interested in studying at Kings High?"

 

Baekhyun blinks a few times, processing what he just heard. "W-what do you mean by that?" He stutters, not sounding as confident as he usually does.

 

Satisfied to see he has taken Baekhyun off guard, Mr. Choi smirks. "I could get you in, on a scholarship too. But in return, I need you to bring me evidence of not just the corruption at Kings High but the whole Corporation. You'll need to-"

 

"-break through the firewall of the Corporation's database through the Chairman's computer at the school." Baekhyun completes.

 

"Precisely." Mr. Choi looks impressed. "So are you in or out?"

 

Baekhyun takes a moment to think it through. "Doesn't sound like a bad deal. I get a graduation degree from one of the best institutions in the world and also help make the world a little better place. But I need assurance regarding my security. If I get caught and get kicked out of Kings High, no good school will take me in."

 

"I assure if, in case of any unfortunate event of you getting caught, I'll make sure it doesn't affect your chances of attaining an education from any other institution."

 

"With all due respect, Sir." Baekhyun begins, polite but stern. "You cannot expect me to just take your word for it."

 

"You'll have to take some risk, Byun. I'm taking a risk by trusting you too." Mr. Choi tries to reason.

 

"If I don't hold my end of the deal, for you it'll just be a waste of time and effort. If you don't hold your end of the deal, for me it'll be a loss of my reputation and future. It's fair for me to  be a little cautious when I'm the only one who has something to lose, don't you think so?"

 

Mr. Choi sighs. "Alright, I'll work up a guaranteed backup option for you in case you get caught," before Baekhyun can say anything, Mr. Choi adds, " on paper, happy?"

 

Baekhyun nods with a satisfied smile. "Now that’s out of the way, how are we going to get me in?"

 

Mr. Choi smirks. "Leave that to me."

 

"Just to satisfy a curious cat, though," Baekhyun quirks an eyebrow, "How are you going to do it? They already have selected, or rather made the arrangement, for a scholarship student. And there's no way you're funding my tuition expenses."

 

"I'll pull some strings to get you the scholarship instead of the other boy."

 

"I literally just presented you with the money transactions of the payment the school received from the Kims'." Baekhyun states.

 

Mr. Kim rolls his eyes. "I'm well aware of that, Byun. In case you haven't noticed I've been working here for 15 years, I don't need you to point out the obvious to me."

 

"I'm sorry." Baekhyun immediately apologises. "I just don't understand how you're going to do it."

 

"They'll be more than willing to return the money and take you inside if I recommend you that strongly. Nothing a corrupt institution loves more than a little nepotism. They'd do anything to stay on my good side." Mr. Choi sounds confident, so Baekhyun doesn’t push further.

 

"Alright, Mr. Choi. I should get going now." He gets up and bows.

 

"I shall be contacting you soon again, Mr. Byun." Mr. Choi remains seated and nods in acknowledgement. "I have a good feeling about you. Congratulations on getting into Kings High."

 

Baekhyun doesn't reply. He is not sure if he is doing the right thing or getting himself into unnecessary trouble.

 

Only time will tell.

 

END OF FLASHBACK

 

Baekhyun shakes his head, focusing on the job in hand. He needs to not get caught because the alternative is something Baekhyun would rather not dwell upon.

 

Having strategically timed his little adventure to the Chairman's office, Baekhyun is certain that being seen by other students is highly unlikely. And with his exceptional skills at hacking, Baekhyun has already managed to manipulate the security cameras according to his convenience. 

 

But one can only be so safe. Baekhyun still needs to keep his mind straight, in case he has to face any unexpected hurdle.

 

He tiptoes his way into the office, swiftly unlocking the door with a wire, a trick he has picked up being the snoopy kid he always has been. With his heart pounding like a hummingbird's, and tiny droplets of sweat forming on his forehead, Baekhyun steps inside.

 

The room smells like expensive cologne with a hint of the stench of leather. It is too dark for Baekhyun to see anything significant about the interior. He makes his way towards the computer sitting on the corner of the desk and turns it on. The sudden influx of light makes him flinch but being someone who deals with electronic screens day and night, Baekhyun's eyes soon adjust. He starts typing ferociously; programmes and codes that could sneak past the system's firewall undetected.

 

Even though he is immersed in his programming, Baekhyun continues to be wary and conscious of his surroundings. He keeps his ears open and every now and then turns towards the door ensuring that he does not have any unwanted company.

 

Around fifteen minutes after Baekhyun entered the room, he hears footsteps. Footsteps that are loud enough for Baekhyun to know that their owner is not trying to be subtle or stealthy, which also means that they are most likely to be unaware of Baekhyun's presence.

 

Baekhyun quickly switches off the monitor. Darkness is an intruder's best friend. He tries to hide himself under the table. But in his attempts to conceal himself, he ends up knocking into something hard and small in the dark.

 

Shit.

 

The object falls on the floor with a sharp, metallic clang. Baekhyun holds his breath. If the person outside was unaware of him before, he would have surely have realised by now that someone has broken into the Chairman’s office.

 

The footsteps fasten and Baekhyun can soon see a silhouette outside the translucent glass on the door. Expecting an enquiring voice or the creaking on the door, Baekhyun hides himself completely under the table. Hugging his knees close to his chest and burying his head between them, Baekhyun prays for a miracle to save him. It has only been one week, he didn’t want to get kicked out so early, not when he still had so much to learn from this institution.

 

A few minutes pass and everything remains silent. Baekhyun finally dares to get up and inspect whether it's safe for him to leave or not.

 

The silhouette is gone and so are the footsteps, so he quickly shuts down the computer, erasing all signs of any outside intrusion. He can come back another day, he decides. It's best to leave for today.

 

***

 

By now, everyone at Kings High, even the ones who bullied Baekhyun, had to admit-begrudgingly so-that Byun Baekhyun is perfect at everything he did. He has the looks, the grades, and is even good at sports (surprisingly so, since he had such a fragile-looking demeanour). Watching him excel at everything made the other students envious.

 

Currently, they are playing dodgeball, and every attack from the rival team is targeted at a specific person: Baekhyun. Even his own team members seem to be subtly trying to get him hit. But Baekhyun, having really fast reflexes, dodges every attack swiftly.

 

Until one.

 

Baekhyun did not see it coming. His attention had been momentarily diverted to check on his untied shoelace when the ball was thrown at him. No one from his team shouted at him to dodge, but something in his gut told him to look up.

 

He shouldn’t have. Because the moment he does, he feels the sharp sting of the ball smashing into his face. Baekhyun falls backwards from the impact, his head hitting the ground hard and he groans.

 

He realises that the students have gathered around him, but his eyesight is blurry and his head feels too dizzy to analyse his surroundings. Hurt, physically and pride-wise, Baekhyun attempts to get up but feels an instant head rush and is falling back on the ground before he knows it.

 

“Excuse me, make way!” Someone screams in the distance, but Baekhyun couldn’t care less. He closes his eyes with a groan, hoping for this humiliating scenario to end soon. A moment later, he feels a pair of strong, sturdy hands attempt to lift him up.

 

Oh, no, no, no. No way in hell, I’m gonna let some fucker carry me out of here.

 

“Put… me… down…” Baekhyun’s voice comes out as a struggling plea, instead of the authoritative command he was hoping for. He tries opening his eyes, but it seems to take more effort than what Baekhyun can provide.

 

“Yeah, not happening. You can’t even lift your head on your own.” The reply comes stern, the huskiness of the voice making it sound stricter and at the same time more dependable. Baekhyun wants to protest, but his consciousness drifts off before he can.

 

When Baekhyun wakes up again, there’s a throbbing pain in his head. It takes him a few consecutive blinks to get his eyes accustomed to the light. He looks around and finds himself in an unfamiliar room. Everything around him is too white: the cotton sheets, the railings of the bed, the tiles, the wallpaper.

 

He struggles to get up as hazy memories of the accident return to him.

 

"You're up." A voice says, and Baekhyun's eyes immediately jerk to find it's owner.

 

Park Chanyeol, looking concerned and exhausted, is sitting on a stool near Baekhyun's bed rather uncomfortably. His posture is slouched and his eyes look drowsy, perhaps from tiredness, and Baekhyun finds it surprising since he's never seen the boy look anything but picture perfect. Exhausted Chanyeol, however, still continues to look as attractive as the regular model-like Chanyeol.

 

Baekhyun hopes that his face isn’t too red, something that often happens when Baekhyun is around Chanyeol (Baekhyun has no idea why). Usually, Baekhyun couldn’t care less which shade of scarlet his face was sporting, but with Chanyeol looking at him- really looking at him for the first time here, he can’t help but feel conscious of his appearance. He wouldn’t want Chanyeol to think that it was him who was making Baekhyun flustered (that was not the case, Chanyeol was just coincidentally always there when something like this happened, or so Baekhyun liked to believe).

 

"Chanyeol? What are you doing here?" He asks, creasing his eyebrows. He looks around and immediately adds, "And where am I?"

 

"The Nurse's Office, where else?" Chanyeol gives him a bland look. "I carried you here. Not as light as you look, Byun." He chuckles.

 

If it wasn't so before, Baekhyun's face was definitely shading scarlet now. "You carried me? Why thank you, my benevolent Lord." Baekhyun mutters sarcastically, loud enough for Chanyeol to hear. He doesn't like the idea of being carried like a damsel in distress.

 

Chanyeol laughs in return. It was strange how this was their first proper interaction and yet they were behaving like old acquaintances.

 

"You give me too much credit, Byun. The only reason I helped you get here is because I'm the one who caused this ruckus in the first place." Chanyeol shrugs. "Sorry about that, by the way."

 

Baekhyun lets out a small gasp. "You?! All this time, I've never even seen you play!" He was expecting it to be one of the bullies who'd hit him, not Park Chanyeol.

 

"I'd stepped aside since there wasn't any real game going on. The boys weren't going to start playing till they'd gotten you out, so I didn't see any point in me wasting my energy." Chanyeol says, eyeing his phone after a sudden buzz.

 

Baekhyun was momentarily amazed at how casually Chanyeol was talking, like the whole class targeting Baekhyun was not ethically wrong and basically bullying. But then he realized, it was indeed casual to Park Chanyeol. Just because Chanyeol had never bullied Baekhyun, or because Baekhyun thinks it was Chanyeol who had whispered to him that day, doesn't mean that Chanyeol cares about Baekhyun. He couldn't be any less concerned about Baekhyun being bullied.

 

Baekhyun felt a tiny sting in his chest but set his mind on ignoring it.

 

"And then what made you change your mind today?" Baekhyun asks, rolling his eyes.

 

"Something Heechul said," Chanyeol replies, not looking up from his phone.

 

"What?!" Baekhyun snaps, reflexively sour at the mention of Heechul's name. Nothing good can come out of the involvement of that particular son of satan.

 

Chanyeol finally looks up. "Aren't you a curious little one?" Amusement is dripping in his tone, and Baekhyun hates it.

 

"I think answering my questions is the least you can do, you know, since you hit my face with a ball," Baekhyun says, giving Chanyeol a pointed look.

 

Chanyeol eyes Baekhyun, with a small smirk playing on his lips. Baekhyun wants to punch him.

 

"Fair enough." Chanyeol finally says. "Heechul and Eunhyuk were talking and I overheard them say that you might just be a better player than me." Chanyeol pauses. Just when Baekhyun thinks Chanyeol has nothing further to say and opens his mouth, Chanyeol speaks up again. "I'm really sorry, though. I know my throw was a total foul. I just tend to get a little too… competitive."

 

Chanyeol looks at Baekhyun with sudden sincerity, making Baekhyun bite back the sarcastic comment he was about to make. "Hey, no blood, no foul." He reassures.

 

"Actually, your nose did bleed a little, so…" They both chuckle.

 

"It's okay really, Chanyeol. What’re sports without a little tumult?" Baekhyun says.

 

Chanyeol smiles a blinding smile and Baekhyun's breathing momentarily pauses.

 

"All right then, I should get going." Chanyeol scrunches his face and points his thumb towards the door behind him.

 

Cute.

 

"Yeah, thanks for staying till I woke up." Baekhyun tries to be polite.

 

Chanyeol shakes his head. "I just stayed so that I could woo you with my charms. You looked like the type who'd hold a grudge otherwise."

 

Baekhyun quirks an eyebrow. "Who said I'm charmed? I'm already plotting revenge in my head." He said, teasingly.

 

Chanyeol fakes a gasp and places his hand on his chest. "How could you? Here I thought I'd sweet-talked my way to your heart."

 

Not so soon, Park. Not. So. Soon.

 

"The doors to my heart are rocks and bones of men who died trying to get in, not the easy pathway you think it is." This tone is teasing, but his words are grave. Baekhyun doesn't know what they are both playing at, but he can only hope that he doesn't turn up on the losing side.

 

Chanyeol tilts his head to the side and his eyes glint with an emotion Baekhyun can't pinpoint on. "Sounds like the kind of challenge I just can't resist."

 

And Baekhyun hates it. Baekhyun hates how he opens and closes his mouth because he can't retort with something witty. He hates how Chanyeol's easygoing demeanour doesn't leave for even a second. He hates how he's staring at Chanyeol with his eyes wide in shock and cheeks red. But what he hates the most is the little snicker Chanyeol lets out before wordlessly getting up and leaving.

 

When Baekhyun is finally allowed to go back to his room (more like Baekhyun begs the nurse to let him go back so that he's not bored to death), the sun has already set and little twinkling stars are slowly beginning to peek through the sky.

 

Baekhyun feels weird. He's annoyed; at Heechul knowing that he must have provoked Chanyeol on purpose to hit Baekhyun; at himself for not being fast enough to dodge the ball and acting so weak in front of a crowd that wants to see him break; at Chanyeol for his cocky behaviour and the effect he had on Baekhyun. But he's also feeling strangely giddy for reasons he cannot comprehend.

 

When he finally reaches his room, a rotten smell hits him. Scrunching his face in disgust, Baekhyun quickly opens the door and goes inside.

 

He doesn't need to investigate to find the source of the smell because his wardrobe is wide open and to his horror, stained with things starting from raw eggs to rotten tomatoes.

 

Baekhyun quickly rushes over to check the damage done and finds a note neatly placed on top of his now messed up and smelly clothes.

 

"An insect like you should be in the gutter, not Kings High."

 

Baekhyun felt his fists curling with rage. He had no idea who was behind all this, but he craved for a target to release his rage upon. His clothes were all ruined, destroyed beyond repair. All his clothes-

 

A sudden thought crosses his mind and Baekhyun rampages through the stinking, dirty clothes to search for something. All thoughts of rage, the disgust of touching these stinky clothes with his bare hands; all emotions are replaced by a panicky despair as he goes through the mess to his beloved possession.

 

He does find it, at least, but in the condition he was dreading it to be in. The white sweater has been stained with black and brown marks and reeks strongly of soy sauce. Baekhyun falls on his knees. His sweater, the last gift his grandmother had given him, was gone. Baekhyun's mind flashes with the smiles of his grandmother; her wrinkled, unsteady hands slowly knitting the white wool with her wooden needles. And now it was destroyed.

 

Baekhyun had faced a lot of hardships in this school so far, both mentally and physically. But he’d never let himself break down. Byun Baekhyun didn’t break down. Byun Baekhyun couldn’t afford to break down. But today he did. For the first time in the two months since Baekhyun came to this beyond-his-reach school, Baekhyun cries. He cries till his eyes are swollen and he’s reduced to nothing with a curled up ball of dry hiccups and choked sobs.

 

He lays on the cold hard floor which somehow felt friendlier than the soft bed with fancy sheets, waiting for exhaustion to wrap him in a blanket of sleep and numb his emotions. He thinks about the privileged boys that study here, for whom ruining Baekhyun's clothes is nothing more than a joke. He thinks about Chanyeol, wondering if the boy who was born with a silver spoon in his mouth will ever be able to understand the value of the sweater beyond its materialistic worth. He thinks about his purpose here, at Kings High, pretending to fit right in with a herd of swans when he knew he was a small duck. He thinks whether this place would change him too, turn him into something he was not, something cruel and rotten like the other students that study here.

 

In that moment, Baekhyun wanted to quit. He wants to leave everything and go back to Gidaedong, back to his home. He wants to turn back time and find sanctuary in his grandmother's loving embrace again. At that moment, Baekhyun craves the simplicity his life once had, even though he knows he's too ambitious to be satisfied with that.

 

Finally, a dreamless sleep relieves him from his misery.

 

***

 

The next morning witnesses an uncharacteristic change in the weather, the sunny sky has been replaced by dark, grim clouds that were looming over the sky and bringing a sense of dull depression with sudden outbursts of angry growl-line thunder. One could almost say that the day was trying to match its weather with Baekhyun's mood.

 

Baekhyun woke up numb and exhausted and continued to stay that way for the rest of the day (other than an occasional snarl or two to let people know he was in no mood for their funny business today).

 

Currently, he was quietly making notes to pass time before the class began. A tap on his shoulder breaks his concentration and he looks up. Yixing stands in front of him, nervous and hesitant. He opens his mouth to say something, but shakes his head and continues to stand wordlessly instead.

 

Baekhyun rolls his eyes, he was low on patience today. “If you have anything to say then say it, otherwise stop wasting my time.” He snaps.

 

Yixing visibly flinches at Baekhyun’s harshness. On a normal day, Baekhyun would have felt a mild sense of guilt over his unnecessary rudeness but today, he couldn’t care less. People treated him way worse here, but he didn’t complain. So others should be able to bear at least a hard word or two right?

 

“Yeah, well, I…” Yixing begins but pauses and hesitates again. His face is red and he is clearly nervous and Baekhyun’s death glare is not making things better for him.

 

“Hurry up, would you? I haven’t got all day for this.” Baekhyun probes.

 

Finally taking a deep breath, Yixing says, “I-I heard about what they did to your room...”

 

Baekhyun stiffens, but soon composes himself and tries to act calm. “And what about it?” He says with pretentious nonchalance. No one at this school is worthy of having intimacy with his private emotions.

 

“You must be short on clothes right now. We can share some of mine. They’ll probably not fit you right but it’s workable.” 

 

Baekhyun softens a little and is about to thank Yixing for his offer to help. But that very moment, Yixing suspiciously looks around with fearful eyes, making sure that nobody else was paying attention to their exchange. The little gesture makes Baekhyun turn sour again. Why is he even bothering to help if he is still scared of associating himself with Baekhyun?

 

"I can manage on my own, thanks." Baekhyun gives him a fake smile.

 

"But how? Most of your clothes are ruined. Let me help." Yixing insists.

 

Why is he so persistent when he's so scared of what others are going to think?

 

"I had my other sets of uniform and a few clothes sent out for dry cleaning and some clothes in a small bag that I was just too lazy to unpack, so there are some survivors. Don't worry." Baekhyun laughs out loud, drawing a few eyes towards them.

 

Yixing immediately panics. "O-okay, then. If you say so."

 

"Yup," Baekhyun replies with a sickeningly sweet smile.

 

"I should leave you to your notes then." Yixing leaves before Baekhyun can respond, as Baekhyun expects him to.

 

Baekhyun sighs, wondering whether he should have kept his pride aside and accepted Yixing's help. What he told Yixing was true. His procrastinating habits had finally come handy and had indeed saved him some clothes but not enough to last a whole semester with ease.

 

But Baekhyun prefers struggling with the lack of clothes over taking help from someone who wouldn't even talk to him freely in public.

 

The day goes smoothly, for a change. Surprisingly, no one bothers Baekhyun and he is too absorbed into his own world to care why.

 

Baekhyun is on his way back to his room when he comes across them. Kibum, Heechul, Jaebum, and a bunch of other students that Baekhyun likes to call ‘The Bully Gang’. Baekhyun knows that any interaction with them will only cause more trouble, so he decides it is best to silently walk past them, ignoring all their catcalls.

 

Things don’t go so peacefully, of course. As soon as the boys notice Baekhyun passing by, they decide to trail behind him.

 

“Yo, Byun! What’s the rush, huh?”

 

Baekhyun’s footsteps fasten. He wants to get back to his room, avoiding any commotion.

 

"Come on, Baekhyun, don't ignore us!"

 

"Where's that sharp tongue of yours today?"

 

"Look at you running away like a scared little garbage rat that you are."

 

"That's why we made your room smell like a garbage can too."

 

Baekhyun stops. He knows he needs to leave, he shouldn't be listening to them. But his feet are frozen.

 

When the boys realise that they have managed to hit a nerve, they start talking louder.

 

"Everything about him is already trashy, anyway."

 

"He even looks like he lives right in the trash can."

 

"No way he looks like a Kings High student. Such a disgrace to our school."

 

"And his clothes are all so cheap and dirty."

 

"We actually did you a favour, Byun. By ruining those god-awful clothes. Maybe you'll buy something decent now."

 

Baekhyun is unable to control his rage any longer. He finds himself striding towards Heechul before he can even collect his rational thoughts. He throws a punch at Heechul, which the latter easily dodges. Baekhyun tries punching him again, but this time too, he fails to hit Heechul.

 

Baekhyun knows he needs to stop throwing angry, reckless punches and calm down. But his mind is drowning in a fury too deep to do so. Somewhere between the hasty haze of frenzied punches, Heechul manages to push Baekhyun hard enough for Baekhyun to stumble backwards and fall.

 

"How dare you, you little bitch?!" One of Heechul's followers shouts while Heechul stands there smirking and dusting his jacket.

 

"Let it be, Taeyong. I already showed him his real place. Beneath us, on the ground." Heechul says, somewhat pridefully. The boys laugh and Baekhyun is only enraged further.

 

He gets back up and pins Heechul against the wall before Heechul can even react. He lifts up his fist ready to hit Heechul when a voice stops him.

 

"Enough!"

 

Everyone turns towards the source of the command only to find Park Chanyeol, approaching them with a bored yet irritated expression.

 

"Stay out of this, Park. I can defend myself." Heechul rolls his eyes, lightly pushing Baekhyun off of him. Baekhyun, caught off guard by the sudden appearance of Chanyeol, stumbles back but holds his ground.

 

"I honestly have no interest in what you can or cannot do, Heechul." Chanyeol states, letting out a breath in exasperation. "But unfortunately, I'm in charge of hallway duty this week so any stupidity you do, I'll have to be answerable for that."

 

"Dude, you don't need to lie to look good in front of Byun. No one cares what he thinks anyway." Kibum pipes in, with a condescending laugh.

 

"I don't think I need advice from a guy who peed his pants in the middle of class last year." Chanyeol quirks an eyebrow and all the boys, including Baekhyun, snort. "And I don't have to prove myself to anyone, got it?"

 

Kibum, enraged at the unexpected insult thrown his way, tries to argue back. "Oh yeah? You want us to believe that Park Chanyeol, the Park Chanyeol, who never involves himself into anything other than his own business is poking his nose into a fistfight that has nothing to do with him just because he is in charge of hallway duty this week?"

 

Even Baekhyun finds it strange. Park Chanyeol was a lot of things but unnecessarily nosey was not one of them. He hated unwanted attention and did everything in his power to avoid such scenarios.

 

"And if you were really concerned about violence in the hallways, then you would have interrupted them when you saw Heechul push Baekhyun to the ground." Kibum continues, his voice spitting acid.

 

Chanyeol's eyes widen in surprise like a thief caught red-handed.

 

"Don't look so surprised, Chanyeol. I saw that you came over right when that happened. But you didn't say anything then. I mean, it makes sense. Byun deserves to be bullied but you don't have to pretend to be the hero by butting in now."

 

Baekhyun had been staring at Chanyeol the whole time. A gut feeling telling him that Chanyeol not meeting his eyes was intentional. Chanyeol looks at him for the first time, when Kibum finishes speaking and the look in his eyes tells Baekhyun that Baekhyun was right, Chanyeol had indeed been avoiding eye contact.

 

They hold each other's gazes for an eternity long moment before Chanyeol's eyes harden and turn back to Kibum.

 

"I don't think I need to explain anything to anyone. But I do think that you need a reminder that you're talking to." Chanyeol's voice is calm and yet there's an authoritative, menacing edge attached to it that Baekhyun had never heard before. "I'm Park Chanyeol."

 

Baekhyun is not sure whether it's the name itself or the power the voice of the owner holds, but the boys seem to cower in fear and lower their heads as soon as the words leave Chanyeol's mouth. Baekhyun watches in silence, astonished and in awe by this new side of Chanyeol that he had never seen before. The Chanyeol he knew was always too distant from things. Baekhyun would always find Chanyeol standing somewhere far away, drowning in his own world rather than involving himself in the lively buzz around him. Chanyeol just always seemed so--- serene. It was strange to see Chanyeol like this, aggressive and so powerful, like a blazing phoenix.

 

Baekhyun mentally reprimands himself for finding Chanyeol attractive in this situation. Chanyeol was using his higher social status, his place as the Chairman's son, for proving his dominance over the others; one of the things that Baekhyun despised more than anything.

 

"I don't want to waste any more time on this. Get out of my sight, all of you." Everyone starts scrambling, including Baekhyun, when Chanyeol grabs Baekhyun's forearm. "Not you, Byun."

 

Baekhyun raises an eyebrow, quizzically.

 

"You need to come to the Nurse's Office with me. You're hurt." Chanyeol says pointing at Baekhyun's hand and Baekhyun finds his elbow is indeed bleeding. It's strange how now that he had finally noticed the cut, he can suddenly feel its stinging pain.

 

They head towards the Nurse's Office in silence. Chanyeol doesn't let go of Baekhyun's hand and Baekhyun doesn't ask him to. Nurse Kim isn't there when the duo reaches her office so Chanyeol takes the liberty to get the first aid kit himself and starts cleaning Baekhyun's wound.

 

Chanyeol works in silence, too focused on the wound. And Baekhyun sits in silence, too flustered by the closeness of a certain elf eared boy.

 

"You owe me one, you know,"  Chanyeol states while his eyes are focused on finishing the final bandaging.

 

"Excuse me?" Baekhyun turns to him in disbelief.

 

You literally just stood there while Heechul pushed me and stopped me from hitting him back, but I owe YOU?!

 

"I just saved your ass from suspension and a possible assault lawsuit." Chanyeol shrugs, unfazed.

 

Baekhyun pauses. Chanyeol is right. He'd been so immersed in his own anger that he'd forgotten they were in a CCTV supervised zone. If he had hit Heechul, suspension was definite and in no way were the owners of the Kim chain of Hotels and Resorts going to leave Baekhyun alone if he bruised the questionably pretty face of their youngest son.

 

He massages his forehead with his free hand, frustrated at his own stupidness.

 

"You can file a complaint against Heechul for pushing you if you want," Chanyeol says, though his tone suggests that he is completely uninterested in the matter.

 

"No need, I attacked him first." Baekhyun shakes his head with a sigh.

 

"I wasn't there when that happened." Chanyeol says, "I guess you don't have much of an option other than forgetting about it. You're usually good with your temper, what happened today?"

 

"You're usually good at keeping yourself out of things that don't involve you, what happened today?" Baekhyun shoots right back at him.

 

Chanyeol laughs. "I have a challenge to win, remember?"

 

Baekhyun rolls his eyes. "Chanyeol, thank you for stopping me but your efforts are about to go futile because I'm really tempted to beat the crap out of you right now."

 

"Oh, you ungrateful tiny, little thing." Chanyeol teases, with a smirk playing on his lips. "You owe me one, for real."

 

"I do." Baekhyun sighs. "But don't ask for any extreme favours, because I don't care if you even gave half your inheritance to me, I still won't do anything I don't want to."

 

Chanyeol chuckles. "Not a moral one, are you?"

 

I usually am. But you keep making my moral compass spiral out of control.

 

"What do you want really?" Baekhyun asks, huffing in exasperation.

 

"Homework."

 

Baekhyun tries to stifle a laugh but fails. "Homework? Really? That's it?"

 

It made sense. Rumour had it that Chanyeol was terrible in studies with barely passing grades, but everyone already expected that. Spoilt son of a wealthy father who already had his whole future set; why would he waste his effort in working hard to earn what's being handed to him?

 

Chanyeol grins shamelessly. "Why? What were you expecting? That I was going to ask for nudes?"

 

 Baekhyun's laugh turns into a choke and Chanyeol bursts into a boisterous laugh at that. "You're cute, Byun. Cute and class topper, such a perfect man."

 

"Class topper? How did you know that?" Baekhyun asks in confusion, knitting his eyebrows together. "Student results are private and I didn't tell anyone my grades. Even if I had, no way you know the grades of each and every student in my class."

 

"I have my ways to find out." Chanyeol smirks, "I’m Park Chanyeol."

 

Baekhyun closes his eyes in frustration and inhales a deep breath when he hears Chanyeol's laughter. He glares at him and snaps, "What?"

 

Chanyeol shakes his head while continuing to laugh. "Nothing. I was just kidding. I hate using my father's name to get things done, honestly. It's more of a blow at my ego than a privilege really." Chanyeol keeps the tone casual but Baekhyun can see the awkward sincerity in his eyes.

 

Then why would you do that back then? Just to save me?

 

Baekhyun shakes away the thought. No way Chanyeol is doing this just for Baekhyun. He must really desperately need help with his homework. That must be it.

 

"So then how did you find out?" Baekhyun asks.

 

"Broke into the administrative office and checked the student records," Chanyeol says it like breaking in is no big deal. For someone who broke into the Chairman's office once and almost had a heart attack, Baekhyun disagrees.

 

"You did what?" Baekhyun almost shouts, with wide eyes.

 

Chanyeol winces and places his hands over his ears, "Lower your voice! And it's no big deal. The boys and I do it all the time."

 

Baekhyun gives him a judging look and narrows his eyes.

 

What a hypocrite I am! He mentally chuckles.

 

"Oh, quit pouting. I was desperate to get help with my homework, okay? And it's not like any harm came out of my little trip to the forbidden room." Chanyeol quickly defends himself with raised hands. 

 

"Fine," Baekhyun says, "I'll do your homework for you."

 

Chanyeol gives a pleased, toothy grin that Chanyeol is not actually as suave and chic as he wants people to think he is. In reality, Park Chanyeol is a ten-year-old dork.

 

"Great!" Chanyeol says, enthusiastically. "You can do it at my place. I'll take you over this weekend. It'll be convenient."

 

Baekhyun wonders what difference could it possibly make, working in Chanyeol's room rather than his own but he doesn't give it much further thought.

 

***

 

His unasked question gets answered when he finally steps into Chanyeol's room.

 

Chanyeol had reminded him every day about their weekend meeting and had personally waited for him at the entrance of the Copernicus Wing to guide Baekhyun to his room.

 

The moment he enters, Baekhyun gasps out loud. Chanyeol's room is not just a single room, it's a whole collection of five or six rooms, each twice the size of the place Baekhyun lives in.

 

"This place is huge ." Baekhyun says in awe.

 

Chanyeol shrugs, "Yeah well. Me, Sehun and Jongin live together. So yeah, we needed a big space."

 

"This is way too big for just three people." Baekhyun says, more as a fact than a judgemental remark.

 

"My father is the Chairman, what else do you expect? Plus, the two brats I share this place with are Oh Sehun and Kim Jongin." Chanyeol laughs with a sense of fondness attached to it. "I'd like to see those two try and live in regular sized rooms."

 

"You three are really close." Baekhyun says, with a small smile. 

 

"We grew up together." Chanyeol smiles back at him. "They are probably the only two people who don't see me as the heir of Kings Corporation but as Chanyeol. Just Chanyeol."

 

Baekhyun wonders if he should say something like ‘You're just Chanyeol to me too’ but decides against it. They don't know each other well and honestly, that sounds way too cheesy for Baekhyun to say out loud. 

 

"Speaking of Sehun and Jongin," Chanyeol's eyes dart towards the room from where sudden footsteps are heard. "Here they are."

 

In come Sehun and Jongin, both of them in casual clothes with hands in the pockets of their expensive sweatpants.

 

"Oh Yeol you're ba-" Sehun stops mid-sentence when he sees Baekhyun there.

 

"What's he doing here?" Jongin asks sharply, making a shudder run down Baekhyun's spine.

 

Baekhyun has never run into any trouble with the duo since the little incident on the first day but he still feels a little wary of Jongin.

 

Chanyeol does not answer Jongin. Instead, he grabs Baekhyun's hand and leads him towards the study room. "C'mon." Baekhyun quietly follows while looking around the place. The study room looks like it's straight out of the movies, with dark walls and wooden bookshelves and furniture designed to be a classy shade of gold and mahogany.

 

"Here." Chanyeol pulls a chair for Baekhyun to sit on. Baekhyun nods and sits, still looking around in awe. Chanyeol places some worksheets and a bunch of books on the table in front of him.

 

"You can get started now. I'll let you work in peace." Chanyeol positions himself on a couch nearby. "Tell me if you need anything." With that, Chanyeol proceeds to lie down and puts on his headphones.

 

Baekhyun rolls his eyes and starts working. Doing someone else's homework is tedious work but Baekhyun tries his best to do it with utmost perfection. He's halfway done when Sehun and Jongin come in. On seeing Baekhyun working, they turn to Chanyeol. "What's he doing?" Jongin asks.

 

Chanyeol removes his headphones, looking confused. "What? I didn't hear you."

 

"I asked, what is he doing?" Jongin repeats, a little irritated.

 

"Oh, my homework."

 

Sehun chuckles. "Village boy is trying to suck up to the rich kids now, I see."

 

Baekhyun has been listening to the whole exchange while keeping his head down, eyes focused on the worksheet in front of him. He expected Chanyeol to protest or at least tell Sehun the truth about how it was Chanyeol who had asked Baekhyun to do his homework but all he's met with is silence.

 

He looks up to find Chanyeol staring right at him but Chanyeol averts his eyes as soon as their gazes meet. 

 

"Hey Baekhyun, do my homework too while you're at it." Sehun laughs.

 

"Why don't you and Jongin get a room and make out or something?" Chanyeol sounds irked.

 

Jongin laughs. "Not a bad idea actually. Shall we, babe?" He holds out his hand with an amused smile.

 

"Yes, we shall." Sehun cracks a grin while taking his hand and they both head out.

 

"Please, go, and leave us alone. Don’t be too loud." Chanyeol shouts at their retreating figures.

 

"No promises." The pair shout back in unison that is followed by a loud laughter.

 

"Sorry about that." Chanyeol gives Baekhyun a guilty smile. "No one will disturb you anymore now."

 

Baekhyun gives him a fake polite smile and gets back to doing the homework. He feels oddly disappointed and upset that Chanyeol didn't say anything to Sehun, his heart heavy with the weight of shattered expectations.

 

I'm just returning him a favour. It doesn't mean anything. I'm not here to make friends anyway. 

 

If only Baekhyun's heart believed the words Baekhyun's mind kept on chanting.

 

Chanyeol and Baekhyun did get friendly after that, though. They'd smile at each other in the hallways or often team up during gym class. But Chanyeol still never showed any particular interest towards Baekhyun and Baekhyun never dared to believe that they were more than mere acquaintances; that they could be real friends. He wouldn't be able to bear another rejection at making any emotional connection, especially if it came from Park Chanyeol.

 

Things start looking better for Baekhyun. He still gets bullied but only by some few rather intransigent, pigheaded students. Most other students, though still not fond of him, have overgrown the initial repulsion and hostility they had towards Baekhyun. He is still alone, with no one to talk to, but at least he's not hated anymore. That's more than enough for him to live with.

 

Sehun and Jongin too seem to have warmed up to him (which means they don't glare at Baekhyun anymore when they pass him in the hallways).

 

Baekhyun finally feels settled and at ease at Kings High. The thought makes Baekhyun smile, as he arranges his freshly washed clothes into his wardrobe. It is evening time and Baekhyun is already done with all his chores and homework. He wants to get in bed early because all the work is making him feel rather exhausted.

 

A knock disrupts Baekhyun's workflow and he heads towards the door wondering about who it could be.

 

Baekhyun opens the door to a panting and somewhat shaken Mark Lee standing there. His figure is bent with hands on his knees, gasping for air.

 

"You need to hurry to the science lab quickly." He barely manages to speak comprehensibly, breathing heavy breaths.

 

"What? Why?" Baekhyun asks, confused but concerned. Mark is one of the nicer people in the school who has never done anything to bully him or shown any bad behaviour towards Baekhyun. In fact, these days, Mark will even talk to him sometimes about schoolwork or general small-talk things.

 

"The boys… they are going to do something to your project for the science exhibition. I heard them talking about it. They are heading to the lab right now." Mark rambles on, too fast from the nervousness, but Baekhyun understands. He nods and heads in to grab a jacket. With winter approaching and the chilly sting of the evening wind, Baekhyun's sheer cotton t-shirt that he often wore to sleep wouldn't be providing him much protection, so a jacket was a must.

 

"Thanks, Mark," Baekhyun says, as he hurries to leave. "I really appreciate you telling me."

 

He has only taken a few steps when he hears Mark call out his name. Baekhyun turns to find Mark staring at him with hesitant, fearful eyes. "Just don't… please don't tell anyone you found out from me."

 

Somehow, things are always the same at Kings High. Baekhyun sadly thinks to himself but after all his time here, he's not sour about it. Baekhyun understands. "I won't." He promises. "Thank you, Mark. Really." Mark gives a small smile and nods. Baekhyun nods back before turning to leave.

 

Baekhyun runs like his life depends on it, thankfully the hallways are mostly empty otherwise bumping into people and slowing down would have been inevitable. The boys would be taking it too far if they were going to mess with his grades, he thinks bitterly as he runs. But when he reaches the lab, everything is awfully quiet.

 

Baekhyun rushes towards where his project is kept, too much in a hurry to even switch on the lights. But he finds his project there untouched and in the same condition as he had last left it. He stands there confused for a moment before it suddenly occurs to him that this might be a setup. When he turns around, he finds out that all this is indeed a trap.

 

Heechul and Kibum stand, leaning against either side of the entrance, with an ominous smirk plastered on their faces.

 

"I can't believe it actually worked." Heechul sniggers. "All we had to do was threaten your science project and you came running like a headless chicken."

 

So Mark…

 

"And as expected, Mark Lee, that kid is too kind for his own good. I gotta say I was a little skeptic when Heechul said Mark would be the perfect bait for the job but looks like he was right." Kibum adds. "A little acting and the dumbhead was easily convinced that we were going to ruin your science project." He pauses to snicker. "I mean who does that? It's so childish."

 

Rich coming from you. 

 

"But anyway, Mark bought it and merrily went to warn you about it, ultimately luring you here right under our claw."

 

So Mark was genuinely trying to help me. A small speck of happiness spreads through Baekhyun's heart.

 

"What do you want?" Baekhyun sneers at them.

 

"What do we want? We want you out of our school and our lives." Heechul shouts. "We want you to go back to the miserable excuse of a village where you belong."

 

"But for now, we'll settle with wanting you to spend the night here," Kibum says, calmly unlike his companion. "Enjoy your stay, Byun. Maybe you'll befriend the skeleton."

 

Baekhyun knows there's no use in making a sudden run. The distance is too much for him to escape before they close the door. So, he just stands there, glaring at them as they smugly wave him goodbye while trying to devise an escape plan in his head.

 

"Have a nice night, Byun." Heechul shouts from the other side.

 

"And don't even think about escaping. We've planned this for too long to have any loose ends." Kibum adds with a laugh.

 

Baekhyun doesn't reply. Every curse or angry shout from him will only add to the satisfaction of the two boys outside and Baekhyun won’t let that happen. On not getting any reaction from Baekhyun, the two boys finally decide to leave.

 

Baekhyun looks around the lab to work out his escape plan. First, he heads towards the switchboard to illuminate the place but the lights do not turn on. They must have turned down the main switch.

 

Sighing to himself, he tries to find another light source. With moonlight seeping in through the windows, the lab is not completely in dark but covered in a thin veil of white light. Unable to find anything helpful, Baekhyun heads towards the entrance investigating for something-anything- to figure his way out.

 

The lock on the door is an automated biometric scanner that can only be opened by the fingerprints of faculty. It is too high tech for Baekhyun to break, so he doesn't bother trying. He thinks about how extensively had the boys planned this, to have collected the fingerprints of a faculty in advance.

 

He helplessly roams in the lab, desperate and unwilling to give up. Time passes and the evening turns into night. The temperature lowers enough for Baekhyun's jacket to become defenceless and the boy hugs himself to try to keep him warm. The vast lab feels exceptionally lonely and unwelcoming. The dimly lit surroundings made Baekhyun's usually favourite place in school now look haunting and spooky.

 

His stomach grumbles in hunger loudly. Baekhyun looks at his watch to see that it's way past dinner time already. He feels exhausted and his body is on the verge of breaking down. He seats himself on the floor with his back against the wall and hugs his knees, feeling defeated.

 

He wonders if anyone noticed his absence or was concerned about his whereabouts. He shakes his head, chuckling humorlessly. Best not get ahead of myself. He knows no one is going to come to rescue him. The world doesn't work like that.

 

Fiction and fairytales make people believe that there's a knight in shining armour for every damsel in distress, that there's a hero for every helpless in need. But reality doesn't work like that. In reality, one’s cry for help is only heard when aiding someone brings glory to the hero. So best help yourself, because no one else will. It is a pessimistic and cynical outlook, Baekhyun is aware. But optimists don't run the world. And Baekhyun plans to be a leader, not an invisible nobody. So he must get out of here on his own; to prove to himself that no matter what anyone says, he is worthy of belonging at Kings High.

 

With newfound confidence, Baekhyun gets up again. And he thinks. There must be something that he is missing. The door is locked. The windows are too high for him to jump from. And the place is too deserted for him to scream for help. So what can he do?

 

If only the door lock was a normal one instead of one of the most advanced biometric scanners, Baekhyun would have made his way out a long time ago.

 

During his first week at Kings High, Baekhyun made sure to research well about all the security cameras and locks used in the school. The science lab and the staff room are the only places to use the CT019, one of the best security locks in the world. Baekhyun has wondered why the Chairman's Office has manual locks that can easily be picked when the school has provisions for biometrics. Until, he found out about the Chairman having psoriasis, making it difficult for him to access things through fingerprints. 

 

Someone's curse, someone's boon. Baekhyun chuckles at the thought.

 

Another grumble from his stomach reminds him that he is still yet to find his way out. He lingers around the entrance for a while, searching for any hole or open spot (even though he has no idea how that would be helpful). He tries randomly touching the lock, wondering if he can find a way to break it. He laughs at his own thought; there's no way he can break a hard metal lock with his bare hands, especially an electric one.

 

Electric. Baekhyun's eyes widen. Palladium!

 

Call it the nerdy part of Baekhyun but while researching the locks and cameras for his little break-into-the-Chairman's-Office party, Baekhyun had managed to study the whole mechanism of CT019.

 

So, he knows that Palladium plays a core role in the working of CT019.

 

A plan formulates in Baekhyun's head and he quickly rushes to gather the things he requires. He digs through the storage cupboard to find a pair of gloves, a lab coat, protective goggles, and a flashlight. His plan is risky and any misstep could cause him severe damage but Baekhyun is too desperate to get out to care.

 

He's going to make one of the most powerful acids in the world.

 

Baekhyun knows if he can get the Palladium to corrode, the lock would stop functioning. Aqua Regia, which is basically a solution of nitrohydrochloric acid, seems like the perfect candidate for the job. Aqua Regia will dissolve the only Palladium, leaving all other metals intact. So the next morning, no one would suspect that the lock has been broken on purpose. The faculty would just get the lock replaced. Simple and hassle-free.

 

Baekhyun gets to work. The making of this particular acid is simple but one needs to do it with extreme caution. Even the slightest involvement of any organic compound can set off a vigorous reaction and the fumes to be released are a different story altogether.

 

Baekhyun gathers the basic chemicals he needs and heads towards the fume hood, thanking God that all machinery in the lab worked on solar cells. He cautiously adds nitric acid to the hydrochloric acid and watches them mix till the signature royal red colour of Aqua Regia appears.

 

He carefully carries the beaker to the entrance and splashes it right over the lock. 

 

The acid seems to do it's work because Baekhyun hears a click sound and on pushing, the door opens. Baekhyun steps out, gasping for fresh air. He has inhaled too much of the acidic fumes and feels dizzy with breathing difficulty.

 

He barely manages to walk two corridors before his legs give up and he falls down. He drags himself to a side and curls up in a ball. His head feels too heavy and there's a burning sensation inside his lungs

 

"Baekhyun? Baekhyun, is that you?"

 

He lifts his head and sees a tall silhouette approaching.

 

"Oh my God, what happened?" The person asks on approaching closer, sounding concerned.

 

Baekhyun focuses hard at the approacher's face till the haziness in his eyes clears. Chanyeol is leaning over; his big, bright eyes looking even bigger with concern. The moonlight is falling right on his face and bouncing off of his silver hair, making him look ethereal.

 

"C-Chanyeol? What are you doing here?" Baekhyun manages to choke out.

 

"Late night rendezvous." Chanyeol shakes his head. "But that doesn't matter. What happened to you?"

 

"Heechul… science lab… locked me in… since evening." Baekhyun struggles to speak comprehensibly. His body is weighing him down and he feels like he's about to faint.

 

"You were in there all this time? Are you okay? How did you get out?" Chanyeol looks worried, as he places a hand on Baekhyun's forehead to check his temperature.

 

"I poured Aqua Regia on the lock." Baekhyun says, breathing heavily.

 

"Holy shit! You sure are crazy." Chanyeol exclaims. "You probably inhaled some really toxic stuff."

 

Baekhyun doesn't reply but groans in pain instead.

 

"Come on, let's get you back to your room." Chanyeol picks Baekhyun up and carries him on his back.

 

"You keep carrying me. I don't like it." Baekhyun whines softly. Chanyeol chuckles in return.

 

"Then stop getting in situations where I need to carry you."

 

"You hit me with a ball last time!" Baekhyun exclaims, a little louder. He tightens his hold around Chanyeol's neck and buries his face in Chanyeol's shoulder. Chanyeol smells like mint and sweat.

 

"Your back is so broad, it's comfortable." He murmurs, to which Chanyeol replies, "Thank you, I guess?"

 

There's a soft hum from Baekhyun in agreement and Chanyeol doesn't need to look over his back to know that Baekhyun has already fallen asleep.

 

"Sleep well, Byun."

 

***

 

The next morning, Baekhyun finds himself tugged in his bed with no memory of how he got there. The last thing he remembers is Chanyeol carrying him on his back. Baekhyun figures he must have fallen asleep somewhere along the way.

 

He decides to take a sick leave since he's still exhausted from last night, and a day's rest should do him good. He stays cooped up in his room, studying all day on his bed with a blanket wrapped around him. He refuses to go out for meals and survives only on the snacks he keeps stocked up in his room.

 

It isn’t until late afternoon that a knock on his door makes Baekhyun get up. He lazily moves opens the door to reveal Park Chanyeol standing at his doorstep. Chanyeol makes his way into the room past Baekhyun and settles on Baekhyun's bed.

 

"You cannot just barge into someone's room anytime you want, Park!" Baekhyun crosses his arms, looking annoyed.

 

"I can when the guy doesn't show up at school after falling asleep on my back last night." Chanyeol simply retorts. "Are you still wearing last night's pyjamas? Geez Baekhyun, go shower!"

 

"You have lived your life as a clean-freak, protected from the rest of the too-busy-for-hygiene world in the four walls of your million dollar mansion and it shows. " Baekhyun glares at him. He doesn't know why he's so childishly annoyed at Chanyeol but he refuses to calm down.

 

"Are you attacking me just because I'm rich?" Chanyeol accuses him with a pout.

 

"Yes." Baekhyun states, narrowing his eyes. "Now get out. Don't you have classes, anyway?"

 

Chanyeol shrugs. "Bunking every now and then is healthy. Not everyone is a nerd like you."

 

"Are you attacking me just because I'm intelligent?" Baekhyun mimics Chanyeol's earlier statement.

 

"Just returning the favour." Chanyeol winks at him, to which Baekhyun rolls his eyes.

 

"Seriously, why are you here?" Baekhyun asks. "Not like you need to make sure that I got back safe since you're the one who brought me in, tugged me in bed, and maybe even sang a lullaby."

 

"You're not privileged enough to get a Park Chanyeol lullaby yet." Chanyeol interrupts. "And I'm here to talk. About last night."

 

"What about it?" Baekhyun asks, avoiding Chanyeol's eyes.

 

"Look I usually keep myself out of someone else's business. But with you… I don't know, we're sort of friends right?" Chanyeol asks, uncertainty vivid in his eyes.

 

Baekhyun wordlessly nods even though he is not sure whether they are friends himself.

 

"After last night, I can't just not say anything. They went a little too far this time." Baekhyun sees Chanyeol's fists curl up in anger-anger on his behalf-and feels warm. "You could have been stuck there all night! No, you would have been stuck there all night if you weren't the half-crazed idiot you are."

 

"I know." Baekhyun simply says.

 

"So do something about it!" Chanyeol exclaims, standing up. "I know you don't get bullied because you're weak. You pick up your fight when you need to."

 

"Where are you going with this, Chanyeol?" Baekhyun looks at Chanyeol with curious eyes.

 

Chanyeol grabs Baekhyun's shoulders, gently but firmly enough to be persuasive. "All I'm saying is rather than doing something to level things every now and then, do something big and shut them off in one strike." He then cups Baekhyun's cheek with one hand. "You deserve better than this." With that Chanyeol leaves him alone, moving towards the exit. Baekhyun is left standing dumbfounded with burning cheeks.

 

Once out, Chanyeol turns back. "You know, I researched about our Science Lab's security lock last night. It's a brilliant idea, really, what you did. The whole mechanism fails once the core is made dysfunctional." Chanyeol shrugs with a smirk. "Just something to think about." With that he closes the door, leaving Baekhyun with a million thoughts to process.

 

Baekhyun ponders over everything that Chanyeol said for a while before reaching the conclusion that Chanyeol was indeed right. Maybe it was time to end this bullying for once and for all.

 

Now the question was: how? Chanyeol had left a hint for that as well. Take out the core, the system crumbles. So if Baekhyun can silence the main culprit behind all this, maybe he can stop the bullying altogether.

 

That person is none other than Kim Heechul, definitely. He is the most influential among the entire 'Bully Gang' be it in accordance with having the most well off family background or having cruellest bones and most cunning wits.

 

To get revenge for all the bullying on Heechul, Baekhyun would have to do something massive; because Heechul is not a man easy to tame. Physical violence would be useless, and Baekhyun prefers not doing anything such as well. He is better than them. But he knew it was time to break a few rules he had set for himself.

 

A boxer never uses his professional techniques in a fistfight. Similarly, an ethical hacker never uses his skills to blackmail people.

 

But Baekhyun has already waived from his codes as an ethical hacker enough; him being at this school is the biggest proof of that. And it is time for him to get his hands a little dirtier.

 

He spends the rest of the day collecting dirt on Heechul. Social media, academic records, emails. In a digital world like today's, all secrets are always hidden in the privacy of cellphones. And Baekhyun does find a lot of things, but Baekhyun considers himself more 'classy' than to use such immature, teenagery stuff.

 

Finally while going through Heechul's old emails, Baekhyun finds something. He digs deeper into the matter until he has more than enough proof to expose Heechul to the world.

 

Heechul had been involved in a car accident during holidays last year. Baekhyun found emails exchanged between Heechul and his father's company lawyer regarding the issue. Turns out it was a case of DUI, but the case was filed as a simple accident. If Heechul committed DUI last year, it means he was also underage for both drinking and driving. But he never faced any charges.

 

It is wrong. But Baekhyun is not surprised. This is how the world works. The rich get away with almost anything while the poor suffer guilty of crimes they don't even commit. He cannot change the world, but he can work to make his way to the other side which is better off.

 

So assembling all the data he collected, Baekhyun sends a mail to Heechul threatening him that Baekhyun would reveal all this if Heechul or anyone ever bullied him again.

 

Baekhyun knows that he has now successfully saved himself from bullying for the rest of the semester but the satisfaction of triumph got buried underneath the shame of the cost he has to pay to win. What bothered him most is that despite his mind telling him that what he has done is immoral, Baekhyun's heart doesn’t feel any guilt. If he is faced with the same situation ever in the future, then he will make the same choice again.

 

Guess I do fit right in with the people of Kings High, after all.

 

His plan works. The bullying stops. All the bullies could do is glare helplessly at Baekhyun, which Baekhyun knows well to ignore.

 

Chanyeol notices this too and one day asks Baekhyun about it when they cross paths in the hallway.

 

"Seems like you took my little advice." He had said. "No more bullies."

 

Baekhyun had shrugged wordlessly.

 

"What did you do, exactly?" Chanyeol had then proceeded to ask, his eyes burning with curiosity.

 

"Oh Chanyeol," Baekhyun had laughed, "Boys like me don't kiss and tell." And then he had left a very frustrated and angry Chanyeol to get to his next class, grinning to himself.

 

With everything that has been going and all the academic pressure on top of that, the real reason why Baekhyun is here completely slips off his mind.

 

A sudden text from Mr. Choi asking whether or not he has managed to find anything substantial seems to work as the wake-up call for him that he needed.

 

Baekhyun plans another break-in following the same fashion as the previous unsuccessful one.

 

He picks a convenient time, makes sure to hack into the security cameras well in advance, and sets out to go on his date with the Chairman's computer dressed in all black from hoodie to shoes.

 

The break-in proceeds smoothly, just like last time and soon enough Baekhyun finds his fingers stretching before the keyboard of the Chairman's computer. He runs codes, fingers pacing at the speed of light. He wants to be done quickly to avoid getting caught like he almost did before.

 

He cracks into the firewall soon enough, celebrating this small success with a small, almost inaudible cheer of victory. Searching through the various transactions, plans, and blueprints for anything suspicious is tiring. And the complex business functions prove to be difficult for Baekhyun to understand.

 

After an hour or so of mind-numbing search, Baekhyun reaches the conclusion that there is nothing iniquitous hidden in the files uploaded on Kings Corporation's server. Just as a precautionary measure, Baekhyun still copies the files he finds remotely fishy to send to Mr. Choi.

 

Baekhyun returns back to his room, dejected. He always knew that not finding anything had been a possibility from the beginning and that Mr. Choi will not revoke his admission because he can't keep his end of the deal but Baekhyun still feels awful. He can’t help but feel he failed at his mission and does not deserve to be studying here anymore.

 

The first thing he does after coming back to his room is to call Mr. Choi.

 

"I'm sorry." Baekhyun says as soon as Mr. Choi picks up the call.

 

"It's not your fault, kid. You did your job exceptionally well." His voice is kind and tender, unlike his usual tone.

 

"So now what, Sir? Is there anything I can do?" Baekhyun asks, hopefully.

 

"I'm afraid not, Baekhyun. Focus on your studies, now. You're in there on my recommendation. Make me proud." It is strange to hear Ms. Choi talk so affectionately. In Baekhyun's mind, the man has always been tough and rigid. But now, Baekhyun realises how Mr. Choi has developed into something similar to a guardian for him.

 

"What about the files I sent you? Did you find anything useful in those?" Baekhyun asks, already knowing the answer but unwilling to abandon hope yet.

 

"Not particularly, no." Mr. Choi said, sighing. "But they only confirm my suspicion regarding the corruption at that company."

 

"I don't understand." Baekhyun says, confused.

 

"I don't expect you to understand." Mr. Choi states, not as condescendingly as he normally does but Baekhyun does sense a hint of disappointment in his voice. "There are small things that don't add up. It's tough to explain to someone who doesn't have a business degree. But one thing is for sure, they are hiding something."

 

"Do you mean that-" Baekhyun begins but Mr. Choi finishes his question for him.

 

"-These are not the original files? Yes, I have a suspicion. But this means that the Chairman has a separate private server for the real files."

 

"What do we do then?" Baekhyun asks, seeing a dim light of hope.

 

" You will do nothing, Baekhyun. This is beyond you." Mr. Choi says sternly, and though disappointed, Baekhyun smiles at hearing the familiar sternness in his voice. "I will talk to my colleagues and we will figure something out. Thank you for your help so far, Baekhyun."

 

There's a momentary silence. "You should sleep now. Good night."

 

"Good night, Mr. Choi."

 

The call ends. With a heavy heart and disappointed soul, Baekhyun goes to bed.

 

The next day brings a brand new start to Baekhyun. He doesn't dwell on the happenings of yesterday anymore, instead, he focuses on schoolwork. With the bullying and his mission, both, having come to an end, Baekhyun now can divert the entirety of his focus towards academics.

 

By lunchtime, he has completely obliterated his break-in from last night out of his mind. But the very next class brings it all back to him, along with a brand new direction for his mission to proceed in.

 

Baekhyun is early to class, as usual. And since it is right after the lunch break, so are most other students. Baekhyun settles in his regular seat and stares out the window due to the lack of any pre-class preparations to do that day.

 

On the bench behind him, two students are talking amongst themselves. And even though Baekhyun has no need to keep his guard up anymore, old habits die hard. Baekhyun eavesdrops on their conversation.

 

They are talking about the excitement of Christmas approaching in a little more than a month, the stress of semester examinations, and going home during Christmas vacations.

 

Baekhyun zones out on their conversation until he hears a name that pricks his interest.

 

"There's no way he's gonna get in Chanyeol's good graces." One of the boys says, disapprovingly.

 

"Yeah, why is he Sungwoo even trying?" The other agrees.

 

"Like being Chanyeol's minion would get him an introduction to Mr. Park." The first boy laughs. "He's being delusional."

 

"I know right? Everyone knows Chanyeol always keeps his guard up for opportunistic wannabes and gold diggers."

 

"Bro, but you should see Sungwoo's confidence. He's sure he's gonna get close enough to Chanyeol for Chanyeol to invite him over for Christmas."

 

Both boys laugh. "He actually believes that's possible? Like Chanyeol would ever take anyone other than Sehun and Jongin over?"

 

The boys move their conversation towards the past oddities of this "Sungwoo" they were talking about. But Baekhyun was beyond listening now. His mind was fixed on Chanyeol, or rather on Chanyeol's house.

 

Mr. Choi had said that the Chairman must have a private server for the original corrupt files, so there must be a computer that would provide him easy, quick access to it. The only two places where they can possibly be are his office and his house. The office was out of Baekhyun's reach but his house was worth a shot.

 

So all Baekhyun needed to do was get close enough to Chanyeol for Chanyeol to invite him to spend his Christmas holidays at the Park Mansion. It won't be easy, Baekhyun knew that. He had heard about how every year Chanyeol, Sehun and Jongin spent their vacation at Chanyeol's place. It would be onerous to intrude on such a long ongoing tradition. Also, just like the boys behind Baekhyun were saying, Chanyeol was surrounded by people who wanted to use him for who he was. So, gradually, Chanyeol wouldn't let his guard down to someone like Baekhyun so easily. After all, they barely knew each other.

 

But Baekhyun needed to get into that mansion. So he needed to become that important to Chanyeol and he needed to do it soon.

 

I need to make him fall in love with me.

 

***

 

It was easier said than done. Especially since Baekhyun was the one who'd get flustered and blush like a beetroot even at bare minimum interaction like smiling at each other while crossing paths in the hallway.

 

Baekhyun knew he was beautiful. He'd had enough suitors back in his village to boost his self-confidence. He knew he could be charming when needed to be as well. All he needed was more opportunities to spend time with Chanyeol and some self-control to not let the tall, gorgeous man affect him.

 

It is during gym class that he makes his first move. They'd had a football match and Chanyeol and Baekhyun were both on the winning team. So gradually, Chanyeol is in a good mood.

 

Baekhyun had been mentally preparing himself to talk to Chanyeol after the match and he, taking in a deep breath, finally does so.

 

"Chanyeol." He calls out to the taller, while the whole class walks towards the locker room to shower and get dressed.

 

"Yeah?" Chanyeol turns around, a grin already playing on his face. 

 

"I... I need to talk to you." Baekhyun manages to say while looking at his feet.

 

"Sure. Go on." Chanyeol says, but he is clearly distracted by the other students talking to him and complementing his football skills.

 

Baekhyun sighs. "Nevermind. We'll talk later."

 

Chanyeol finally gives his full attention to Baekhyun. "No, we can talk now."

 

Baekhyun shakes his head. "Later." He says,  looking around. Chanyeol follows Baekhyun's gaze to find that a lot of students were staring at him, curious about their exchange.

 

"Okay, later." He agrees. "I usually shower last. Wait for me in the locker room?" Chanyeol raises his eyebrows, with a hopeful expression that Baekhyun just cannot say no to.

 

"Alright." Baekhyun gives a small smile, which Chanyeol returns before joining the other players walking ahead of them.

 

True to his words, Baekhyun finds himself waiting in the locker room, alone. He's fidgeting and keeps tapping his feet and fidgeting out of anxiety.

 

After dealing with high profile government officials and breaking into unauthorized areas, THIS is what I panic over? Baekhyun chuckled at his own thought.

 

"Sorry to keep you waiting. Say what you wanted to say." A voice calls from behind just and Baekhyun turns around to talk but the sight he meets shuts him up.

 

Park Chanyeol is standing in front of him, fresh out of the shower wearing nothing but a towel.

 

Baekhyun forgets everything and gawks at Chanyeol's perfectly sculpted body. Water is dripping off his chest, down his perfect abs (Baekhyun would really like to know how does Chanyeol manages to have a body like that despite their hectic schedule) and his towel is hanging so low that Baekhyun can see the V-line of his pelvic girdle.

 

He looks like he came out of a magazine, so alluring and sensual, just unreal.

 

Baekhyun opens and closes his mouth a few times, no words coming out. Chanyeol just stands there, with a smirk on his face, well aware of the fire he's causing within Baekhyun.

 

"Baekhyun?" He finally asks, smirk still intact on his face.

 

"Y-yeah?" Gathering all the willpower Baekhyun had within himself, he tears his eyes away from Chanyeol's chest and looks at Chanyeol's face.

 

"If you and strawberries were in a competition for being red, pretty sure you'd win." Chanyeol says, amused.

 

On processing Chanyeol's words, Baekhyun feels mortified. He turns his back towards Chanyeol quickly, knowing that staring at a half-naked Chanyeol any longer would make him lose whatever shreds of dignity he had left.

 

"Which one of you would taste sweeter is the real question." He can hear the teasing tone in Chanyeol's voice and mentally groans. This. Is. Not. Helping.

 

"Shut up." Baekhyun tries to say harshly, but it comes out as a meek plea.

 

He hears Chanyeol's roistering laughter and can't help but feel more embarrassed.

 

"You can turn around, you know? I don't charge for the view." Chanyeol teases again.

 

"J-just shut up and get dressed." Baekhyun whines.

 

"Okay, okay." Chanyeol chuckles and Baekhyun hears the rustling of fabrics. He patiently waits as Chanyeol gets dressed, trying to prevent his head from having thoughts by focusing on breathing.

 

"I'm no longer naked. You can turn around now." He hears Chanyeol say, and even though he can't see Chanyeol's face right now, he's well aware of the kind of expression the silver-haired boy must be sporting.

 

"Really?" Baekhyun asks, "You're not lying right?" Baekhyun would rather not face those toned muscles again. He prefers keeping his self-respect over feasting his eyes.

 

"I'm not." Chanyeol snickers. "Do you want me to pinkie promise or something?"

 

Baekhyun slowly turns around, hands covering his face. He peaks from the gap of his long, slender fingers like a child to see a 'dressed' Chanyeol leaning against the lockers, watching him with amusement. Chanyeol's hair is still wet with tiny droplets sticking out at the tips. He looks stunning.

 

Baekhyun quickly removes his hands from his face and clears his throat loudly, trying to move past the awkward atmosphere.

 

"Look at you, standing there all red and cute." Chanyeol coos and Baekhyun's face turns redder, if that's even possible.

 

"So…" he trails off.

 

"So…" Chanyeol mimics. "You wanted to say something?" Baekhyun silently nods. "Are you finally gonna tell me how you got Heechul to shut up?" Baekhyun shakes his head. "Well, it was worth a shot." Baekhyun stares at him wordlessly. "So do you have selective muteness or…"

 

Baekhyun finally speaks. "I-I need your help."

 

"With what?" Chanyeol scrunches his eyebrows, curious and confused.

 

"I want you to teach me how to play guitar." Baekhyun says, sheepishly, with the largest puppy dog eyes he can manage.

 

Chanyeol crosses his arms. "Why me?"

 

"I saw the guitar in your room when I visited-"

 

"-which belongs to Jongin." Chanyeol tries to cut him off but Baekhyun ignores, knowing that Chanyeol is just teasing him.

 

"-and I've heard about how amazing you are at playing guitar."

 

"That I am." Chanyeol says proudly. "Why should I help you, though?"

 

"I-I've always wanted to learn how to play the guitar. Music fascinates me. But I never had the money to buy a guitar or take classes. And I thought you'd…" Baekhyun says, looking at his feet timidly. He knows exactly what to say and how to act to spark sympathy in Chanyeol's heart.

 

"Okay. Fine. I'll help you." Chanyeol says, and Baekhyun looks up to see Chanyeol staring at him with unfathomable, deep eyes. Baekhyun cannot understand the emotions those eyes hold but pity is definitely not one of them.

 

"Thank you." Baekhyun simply says. Chanyeol shrugs.

 

"No problem. I'm getting late for class now. I should get going."

 

Baekhyun nods. "Yeah, me too."

 

"We should schedule timings for your lessons later. See you around, Byun." Chanyeol waves goodbye and turns to leaves when Baekhyun calls him.

 

"Here." He extends a small piece of paper, nervously.

 

"What's this?" Chanyeol asks, confused.

 

"My phone number. It'll be easier for us to meet up if we text."

 

Chanyeol studies the digits and smiles. "Now if this isn't worth all the effort I'll have to put." He waves the paper in the air and Baekhyun blushes.

 

Chanyeol makes his exit then and Baekhyun stands motionless there for a while, processing everything that just happened.

 

They soon schedule a meet for Baekhyun's first guitar lesson. Chanyeol wanted to meet in his room but Baekhyun refuses thinking about how Sehun and Jongin may interrupt their alone time and prevent Baekhyun from getting close to Chanyeol. So they decide to meet in Baekhyun's room instead. 

 

He thinks about all the gossip that will go around, when people will see Park Chanyeol in the Nostradamus wing, in front of the "Scholarship Kid's" room with a guitar in his hand. But he doesn't dwell on it much.

 

Erratically, he waits for Chanyeol to come, pacing around in his room. His heart skips a beat at the knock on his door. With a deep breath, he opens the door to reveal Chanyeol, in casual jeans and a polo shirt with a guitar strapped on his back. Baekhyun hates how he looks like the dream high school boyfriend Baekhyun had always wanted.

 

"I'm not late, right?" Chanyeol asks, checking his watch.

 

"No, you're not." Baekhyun shakes his head. "Come in."

 

Chanyeol enters and removes the guitar from his back placing it on Baekhyun's bed and sitting next to it.

 

"So, let's get down to business shall we?" Chanyeol smiles and Baekhyun nods with fake enthusiasm. Truthfully, he has no interest in learning how to play guitar. He is just using guitar as an excuse to get closer to Chanyeol.

 

"Let's start with the most basic chords." Chanyeol says. "This is C Major."

 

Chanyeol shows him the chord and then extends the guitar towards Baekhyun to try. Baekhyun mimics Chanyeol's finger placement and strums the guitar. "Doesn't sound right. Apply more pressure." Chanyeol disapproves.

 

Baekhyun nods and presses the strings harder. "Not that hard!" Chanyeol exclaims. "Your fingers are too pretty to bleed."

 

Baekhyun groans. "This is hard."

 

"Well, you weren't expecting it to be a piece of cake now, were you?" Chanyeol gives him a look.

 

"You're a strict teacher." Baekhyun pouts.

 

"You made the choice, now deal with it." Chanyeol shrugs and Baekhyun continues strumming with a pout.

 

The lesson comes to an end after two long hours of Baekhyun whining and Chanyeol behaving stricter than their Physics teacher.

 

"Alright. That's it for today." Chanyeol says and Baekhyun sighs in relief, perhaps a little too loudly.

 

Chanyeol packs his guitar and heads towards the door. He's about to go out when he stops and returns back to where Baekhyun is.

 

"Tell me something, Byun." Baekhyun looks at him, curiously. "And be honest because I don't give second chances." Chanyeol warns. "You have no interest in playing guitar, do you?"

 

Shit.

 

Baekhyun accesses Chanyeol's face to know what he is thinking. There's a small smile playing on Chanyeol's lips, a smug and condescending smile. Like he caught Baekhyun red-handed.

 

What do I say? Do I confirm or deny?

 

"It's true." Baekhyun decides to go with his guts instead of his brain. "I'm a lot more interested in the guitarist than the guitar."

 

Baekhyun is surprised at his own boldness. He sees Chanyeol's eyes widen with surprise too but Chanyeol quickly puts his smug face back on.

 

"Really now, Byun?" Chanyeol's eyes hold a delighted mischief in them. "Pretty little nerd like you is interested in something outside your books too?"

 

You have no idea, Park.

 

"I-I think you're really handsome." Baekhyun says, pretending to be shy. "And I'd like to get to know you better."

 

"I see." Chanyeol takes a step closer to him. "But tell me this, Baekhyun." Another step. "The whole school would like to know me better." Another step. "What makes you any special?" Chanyeol is towering over Baekhyun now, making it difficult for Baekhyun to talk, think, breathe.

 

"I-I-" Baekhyun tries to speak but fails.

 

"Yes, go on. I would love to know what you have to say." He doesn't move even an inch, even though Baekhyun is sure that Chanyeol is well aware of the effect he has on Baekhyun.

 

Baekhyun thinks- thinks hard- about what reply to give Chanyeol. What makes Baekhyun special? Baekhyun can't think of anything. Baekhyun is pretty, yes. But Park Chanyeol himself is a breathtakingly gorgeous man. Baekhyun is smart too. Park Chanyeol isn't but--

 

It all suddenly clicks together and Baekhyun's eyes widen in realization.

 

"What makes me different from the rest," Baekhyun begins and Chanyeol leans in, curious. Baekhyun knows that what he's about to say is still a shot in the dark and there are a lot of things that still don't make sense, but it's worth the risk, "is that you're interested in me too."

 

Chanyeol steps back. Though it doesn't show on Chanyeol's face, Baekhyun's gut tells him that he just gout under Chanyeol's skin.

 

"Aren't you getting a little too ahead of yourself?" Chanyeol chuckles but Baekhyun can sense he's tense. "What makes you say that?"

 

"The fact that you made me do your homework when you're smart enough to do it yourself." Baekhyun says, almost certain now that he's right.

 

"I'm not!" Chanyeol immediately protests. "Everyone knows I'm not."

 

Baekhyun crosses his hands over his chest and smirks. "Chanyeol, I was honest with you. Shouldn't you be returning the favor?"

 

Chanyeol stares at Baekhyun for a while, his large eyes blinking animatedly. Baekhyun patiently waits.

 

Finally, Chanyeol sighs. "How… how did you find out?"

 

"The books in your study, the ones you gave me for reference when I went over at your place. They were all worn out from constant use. No way the son of the Chairman would use second-hand books, right?"

 

Chanyeol opens his mouth to say something but Baekhyun beats him at it. "And don't even try saying that the books are used by Sehun or Jongin."

 

Chanyeol stays silent. Baekhyun continues, "Those two can't even do addition properly, let alone study such advanced books."

 

"So that's how you figured it out? That I'm not a total egghead like I pretend to be? That I'm fairly decent at studying?"

 

"I think you're more than 'fairly decent', Chanyeol." Baekhyun used his fingers to form air quotes. 

 

"What do you mean?" Chanyeol is clearly panicked now.

 

"Remember the night I got locked in Science Lab?" Baekhyun asks.

 

Chanyeol nods. "Yeah, what about it?"

 

"And remember how I got out?" Baekhyun questions further.

 

"By pouring acid over the lock. But what has that got to do with me?"

 

"Which acid was it?" Baekhyun ignores Chanyeol's question and asks one of his own instead.

 

"Aqua Regia. Seriously Baekhyun, where are you going with this?" Chanyeol looks irritated.

 

"Tell me Chanyeol, how did you know about an acid that is too advanced for a high schooler's knowledge well enough to know it creates poisonous fumes if you weren't nerdy enough to read outside the syllabus?"

 

"I-I-" Chanyeol stutters. "It was still a long shot for you to come to this conclusion just from that."

 

Baekhyun shrugs. "Says the guy who literally just accused me of not having any interest in guitar even after that emotional speech I made in the locker room."

 

Chanyeol flashes his teeth. "I guess we are both instinct over rationality people."

 

Baekhyun giggles. "I guess we are."

 

There's a silence after that, but not as awkward as one would expect it to be. "So what now?" Chanyeol asks.

 

"I don't know?" Baekhyun replies. He genuinely doesn't know since things had gone nowhere nearly as he had planned. But somehow, he was happy at this unexpected turn of events.

 

"I have a question or two, though." Baekhyun says.

 

"Understandable. Shoot." Chanyeol urges him.

 

"Why homework?" Baekhyun simply says, knowing Chanyeol would understand what he's asking despite the lack of a well-detailed question.

 

"I didn't know how else to talk to you." Chanyeol says. "I'd been looking for a way to approach you and that day, I couldn't just sit by and let you get into trouble but I didn't want you to think that I was going out of my way to help you so homework just came in like an unexpected little present along the way."

 

"You, always so smug and confident you , didn't know how to approach me?" Baekhyun gives him an unamused look, not believing what he had just heard.

 

"Hey, smugness has got nothing to with not knowing how to approach people. Believe it or not, I'm not the social butterfly this handsome face may make you believe I am." Chanyeol protests with a pout.

 

A five-year-old. A narcissist, gorgeous, attractive five-year-old. Baekhyun groans.

 

"I couldn't just go up to you and say, 'hey, I think you're cute. Let's get to know each other.' I have a I-don't-give-a-fuck-about-anyone reputation to keep."

 

"Well, it wasn't like you were very friendly even when we started talking." Baekhyun accuses. And it was true, Chanyeol never seemed to show that he cared about Baekhyun in any way.

 

"Well, I'm sorry! I'm just so used to acting coldly that I was embarrassed to show that I was interested in you." Chanyeol tries to defend himself. "Just because I didn't show I care doesn't mean I actually didn't. And you must have felt it too. That's why your gut told you I liked you."

 

Baekhyun couldn't deny that. "Moving on." He said, "the thing you said about me topping in my class?"

 

"It was true." Chanyeol says. "I usually score the highest in our grade but some teachers told me that I had tough competition this year. So, I did break into the administration office to check records and I found that Byun Beakhyun has both beauty and brains."

 

"Of course I have brains, Chanyeol. I came here on a scholarship." Baekhyun rolled his eyes and Chanyeol shrugged. "Next question. Why do you hide the fact that you're so smart? Everyone thinks you barely get passing grades and that too just because you're the Chairman's son."

 

"Things are easier this way." Chanyeol shrugs. "People expect less from me because they just naturally assume that I must be a spoilt brat born with a silver spoon in my mouth." Chanyeol pauses. "It's true. My dad is rich. I've had all the privileges anyone can ever dream of since the day I was born. But my parents raised me to value these privileges I get, unlike most kids here because my dad started from the bottom too. So, he knows the struggles people go through to earn money."

 

Baekhyun suddenly feels guilty for all the times he judged Chanyeol based on his background. He felt like a hypocrite for judging Chanyeol for being rich when he doesn't want anyone to judge him for his poor background.

 

Chanyeol looks at him and chuckles. "You're probably thinking I'm saying all this to impress you. I'm not."

 

Baekhyun opens his mouth to protest, to say that he'd never think so but instead of saying so out loud, Baekhyun decides to reach out for Chanyeol's hand and give it a gentle squeeze. Sometimes actions speak louder. 

 

"Look Baekhyun, I'm not perfect. I have flaws. I've stood on the sidelines and watched you get bullied way too many times for it to be excusable. At first, I didn't care and later I didn't know how to stop acting that I don't care. And I don't expect you to forget it but I-"

 

Baekhyun cuts off Chanyeol's ramble. "Hey, Chanyeol?"

 

"Yeah?" Chanyeol's huge eyes look so eager.

 

"Do you think I'd be pretending to want to learn guitar just to spend time with you if I had any grudges or anything of that sort against you?"

 

A lie. But a white lie.

 

"Final question then." Baekhyun says. "What are we now? And don't you dare say 'whatever you want us to be'. I'll punch you if you say cliche shit like that." Baekhyun warns.

 

"Well, obviously not guitar teacher and his apprentice." Chanyeol laughs.

 

"Yes." Baekhyun groans. "Let's scrap that idea and pretend it never happened."

 

"I guess then it's time for me to take you out on a date." Chanyeol shrugs. 

 

"A what?!" Baekhyun exclaims.

 

"A date." It is a mystery how Chanyeol can stay so calm when Baekhyun can already feel his face heat up. "A real date. No stupid lies. Or jerkish behavior on my part. What do you say?"

 

"I'm overwhelmed." Baekhyun admits honestly. "But I'd like that. Yes."

 

The grin that spreads over Chanyeol's face is infectious and Baekhyun finds himself smiling too.

 

"So, I'll see you soon, I guess?" Chanyeol says, a little awkwardly.

 

"Yes. I'll see you soon." Baekhyun replies, confidently.

 

Chanyeol leaves after that, promising to text Baekhyun soon and Baekhyun replying with an 'I'll be waiting for it'.

 

He falls on his bed with a sigh of relief. Today didn't go the way he had planned at all but he's not complaining. Chanyeol liked him and the thought gave Baekhyun a strange sensation in his heart.

 

Everything felt so delightful but there was so much turmoil within Baekhyun at the same time. He said he liked Chanyeol too. But he didn't mean it. Or did he? He's not sure. But he still needs to use Chanyeol to get access to his father's computer. But he doesn't want to hurt Chanyeol's feelings.

 

With contradicting thoughts raging in Baekhyun's mind, Baekhyun shakes his head to himself and takes out his books to study.

 

***

 

They both don't get to see each other for the next two days, both busy with their own classes and schoolwork. It is torturously ironic how before they'd often bump into each other in the hallways but now that they are getting restless to see each other, they don't.

 

They keep in contact with each other through texts. It was a little awkward at first but soon Baekhyun found himself comfortable with Chanyeol. After two days of texting morning to night, non-stop, Baekhyun admits to himself that he seems to genuinely care for Chanyeol. But only as a friend. 

 

Baekhyun walks into Physics class with a smile on his face that is still lingering due to a joke Chanyeol made a while back. He heads towards his regular place and stops in his tracks when he looks up.

 

"Chanyeol what are you doing here?!" He exclaims louder than he intends to and heads turn in his direction. Chanyeol sits amused, enjoying watching Baekhyun quickly take his seat out of embarrassment.

 

"What are you doing here?" Baekhyun asks again with a glare. His voice has dropped quite a few decibels this time.

 

"Now that is not the warm welcome I was hoping for." Chanyeol pouts.

 

"Park, I will hit you now." Baekhyun threatens.

 

"Feisty. I like that." Chanyeol winks. Baekhyun continues to glares to which Chanyeol laughs. "Alright, Mr. Sourpants. I'm here to attend Physics class, obviously." Baekhyun is about to shout at him again but Chanyeol signals him to pause with his hand. "Mr. Song cancelled our class and said we could attend any of his other classes for attendance, so here I am."

 

"Bullshit. You don't care about your attendance. You're just here to annoy me." Baekhyun says rolling his eyes. "This is why you were asking for my schedule yesterday,  weren't you?"

 

Chanyeol raises his hands in the air. "Guilty."

 

Baekhyun sighs, "You're annoying."

 

"Yet I make your heart skip a beat, don't I?" Chanyeol shoots back.

 

Baekhyun stares at him in disbelief. "J-just focus on class." He groans and Chanyeol laughs. "How are you sitting here anyway? Eunwoo sits here usually."

 

"I just came here and asked the students where you usually sit. They pointed towards your seat. So I told the guy who was sitting here that I'd like this seat. He gave it up willingly." Chanyeol explains.

 

"Unbelievable." Baekhyun shakes his head.

 

The teacher arrives soon and their banter/flirting comes to an end (much to Chanyeol's dismay).

 

It is sometime during mid-class that Chanyeol nudges Baekhyun. Baekhyun looks at him and raises his eyebrows questioningly. Chanyeol passes his notebook to Baekhyun.

 

On the first line of the otherwise blank page is written ' Can't wait to take you out this weekend' in a messy but comprehensible handwriting.

 

Baekhyun takes his own pen and scribbles ' You still haven't told me where we are going, fyi!!!!!!' He passes the notebook back to Chanyeol.

 

Chanyeol sees what Baekhyun has written and chuckles at the excessive amount of exclamation marks. He starts writing again and Baekhyun impatiently waits for him to pass the notebook.

 

Chanyeol hands the notebook over to Baekhyun with a mischievous smile.

 

' At the risk of getting punched, since you tend to threaten immediate violence at my smugness and cliches (a shame really since both are parts of my unignorable charm), I'd say that it is a surprise.'

 

Baekhyun giggles at the note out loud causing Mr. Song to stop his lecture. "Mr. Byun, would you like to share anything with the class?"

 

"No, Sir." Baekhyun says, embarrassed. "I apologise."

 

Mr. Song continues with his lecture and Baekhyun glares at Chanyeol who is busy trying to hold back his laughter. 

 

Baekhyun doesn't react to any of Chanyeol's nudges after that, pretending to be mad while internally feeling giddy and excited about his date.

 

When the much anticipated weekend arrives, and Baekhyun gets ready for his date, he's a nervous mess. He doesn't know what to wear or how to style his hair or what to say when he meets Chanyeol. This date is his chance at engraving a place in Chanyeol's heart deep enough for Chanyeol to invite him to his house and Baekhyun does not plan to let it go.

 

After long self debates and multiple choices made and changed later, Baekhyun settles for a simple white t-shirt with a leather jacket and tight-fitting ripped jeans. He settles his hair down and puts on eyeliner knowing the killer effect Baekhyun's eyes have with black eyeliner on them.

 

While waiting for Chanyeol at their planned meeting point outside the campus gate, Baekhyun notices how the people passing by eye him. He smirks, delighted to see that he still has that kind of effect on people. 

 

"Hey, have you been waiting lon-Woah." He turns on hearing Chanyeol's voice.

 

Chanyeol is staring at him with wide eyes and Baekhyun can't help but reciprocate his expression. Chanyeol is wearing a pink sweater with a white shirt peeking at the collar and at the rolled-up sleeves with regular faded jeans. His silver hair is styled up, making him look like some kind of royal prince.

 

"Wow. You look-you look amazing." Chanyeol says and Baekhyun doesn't understand how someone looking like that could be complimenting him.

 

"Thank you." Baekhyun blushes.

 

"Let's get going then?" Chanyeol asks, a little awkward himself.

 

Baekhyun nods. Chanyeol reaches towards him to hold his hand, making Baekhyun blush harder. "Come on, this way."

 

Chanyeol leads the way as they walk, Baekhyun constantly asking where they are going and Chanyeol goofily replying that it's a secret. 

 

"We have reached our first stop." Chanyeol announces suddenly.

 

"The bus stop? Our date is at a bus stop?!" Baekhyun asks in disbelief.

 

"No, dummie." Chanyeol gives him a judging look. "We're going to take the bus to go somewhere."

 

The heir of Kings Corporation rides the bus?

 

"Where?" Baekhyun demands.

 

"You'll see when you'll see." Chanyeol says and Baekhyun sticks out his tongue in annoyance, making Chanyeol laugh.

 

The bus ride is rather uneventful. They continue with their useless banter. When one of the seats in the bus empties, Chanyeol chivalrously offers Baekhyun to sit down and Baekhyun in return stubbornly refuses, saying that he's a grown man who does not need anyone else to offer him a seat.

 

After approximately twenty minutes, Chanyeol says their stop has come and they get down and resume walking. Finally, when they arrive at their destination, it is nothing like what Baekhyun had imagined.

 

"You brought me to the arcade?" Baekhyun was expecting a movie theatre or an expensive restaurant.

 

"Yeah, I gave it a lot of thought about there to take you and I thought maybe somewhere that reminds you of home? So I looked up Gidaedong and I saw there weren't many places to go to for entertainment, except for the arcade. So I thought that bringing you here would be a good idea. You must be homesick."

 

It is strange watching Chanyeol speak so shyly like he was embarrassed and nervous that Baekhyun might not like it. Normally, Baekhyun would have jumped at the opportunity to make fun of him but he is too taken aback right now. He's so touched at the thought Chanyeol had put behind this date that he's left speechless.

 

"Baekhyun? You should say something by now. You're making me really nervous here." Chanyeol laughs out loud, trying to lighten the mood but it comes out too shaky and nervous.

 

"I don't know what to say." Baekhyun says with a blank face. Then a grin slowly lights up his face. "Except that I'll beat your ass at pacman."

 

"Oh, it's on." Chanyeol grins right back, accepting his challenge.

 

Baekhyun suddenly dashes into a run shouting, "LAST ONE TO REACH THE PINBALL MACHINE HAS TO BUY FOOD!!!"

 

Chanyeol shouts from behind, "That's cheating!" And runs after him.

 

When Chanyeol reaches Baekhyun, the latter is already giggling and jumping around repeating 'loser, loser!' in a singsong voice.

 

"Firstly, you cheated." Chanyeol states and Baekhyun sticks out his tongue, "And secondly, I'm paying for our meal anyway."

 

"I know," Baekhyun says, "but I wanted to satisfy my ego by justifying you buying me food because you lost."

 

Chanyeol sighs. "You're going to be a handful, aren't you?"

 

Baekhyun raises his shoulders with a mischievous smile. "Enough stalling, now. Let's get gaming!"

 

They spend the day playing games in the arcade, Baekhyun laughing at Chanyeol's silly jokes and Chanyeol smiling at Baekhyun's childish ebullience. Baekhyun finds out that Chanyeol is a sore loser while Chanyeol finds Baekhyun to be an over-enthusiastic winner. Baekhyun would jump around in joy and call Chanyeol names every time on winning, while Chanyeol would sulk and say that there's something wrong with the machine every time he lost. Each disagreement, though, would end in Chanyeol sneaking a kiss on Baekhyun's cheek saying it's the consolation he deserves and Baekhyun blushing at that.

 

After the arcade, Chanyeol then takes Baekhyun to a diner nearby where they have steak and roasted vegetables for dinner. The food is delicious and Baekhyun finds himself lost in the delicacies.

 

A sudden realisation makes him freeze mid-chewing. He's supposed to act charming and make Chanyeol fall in love with him. So far, all he had done was behave like an overgrown child, sticking his tongue out and teasing Chanyeol on every chance he got. And now, he was eating like a literal caveman while making strange sounds.

 

Who would like a guy who eats as noisily as me?

 

Baekhyun wants to crawl up in a hole and die. He doesn't know how or when did he put his guard down and become so free with Chanyeol. He's sure that he's blown any chance that he had of getting closer to Chanyeol and the taller might never wish to go out with him again.

 

Upon Baekhyun's sudden silence, Chanyeol reaches out for his hands. "Hey, all okay?"

 

Baekhyun nods, barely managing a fake smile.

 

"I really had fun today." Chanyeol says. "We should do this more often."

 

Baekhyun looks up in surprise. He still wants to go out with me?

 

"It's nice having dinner with you like this." Chanyeol continues. "You eat so prettily."

 

Okay, he is officially crazy. And he is making me crazy. Baekhyun has never felt his heart beat faster.

 

The day comes to an end as Chanyeol drops Baekhyun back to his room. "I really had a good time today, Chanyeol." Baekhyun genuinely says. "I don't remember the last time I enjoyed so much."

 

An unexpected rush of bravery takes over Baekhyun and he tiptoes to kiss Chanyeol's cheek. "Thank you." He smiles the sweetest smile.

 

Chanyeol just stares at him in shock. Baekhyun watches a shade of red slowly creep up Chanyeol's cheeks and Chanyeol has never looked any more beautiful.

 

"Umm...you-I-I had fun too." He finally says and Baekhyun giggles at how unsettled he is.

 

"Goodnight, Chanyeol."

 

"Wait! I-I have something to give you." Chanyeol says, biting his lower lip.

 

"What?" Baekhyun asks, confused. He glances at Chanyeol's empty hands wondering what it is.

 

"It's in my room. I'll bring it over, give me a minute."

 

Chanyeol rushes away before Baekhyun can even say 'okay'. Baekhyun chuckles to himself. Dork.

 

Chanyeol comes back with a duffle bag in his hand.

 

"What is this?" Baekhyun enquires, taking it from his hand. He opens the bag to find it filled with clothes.

 

He opens his mouth to ask something but Chanyeol starts speaking. "I didn't buy them, don't worry. These are all mine. I know you're a little short on clothes because of what the boys did." Chanyeol says, earnest glowing in his eyes. "And I know you don't like accepting help but-"

 

"Thank you." Baekhyun cuts him off. "Thank you for these."

 

Baekhyun can feel his eyes get teary and he attempts his best to not cry. He's overwhelmed by emotions he's never felt before. So instead of saying anything further, he hugs Chanyeol.

 

He can feel Chanyeol's muscles tense and then almost immediately relax. Chanyeol hugs him back and Baekhyun lets himself soak in the warmth of Chanyeol's embrace.

 

"I was scared you'd get mad at me for this." Chanyeol mumbles into Baekhyun's hair.

 

"I'd never." Baekhyun says, buried in Chanyeol's chest.

 

"Well you rejected the clothes when I sent them through Yixing, so I just thought that maybe you'd still be annoyed now."

 

Wait, what?

 

Baekhyun breaks apart from Chanyeol with a confused expression on his face. "So when Yixing came up to me with a help offer, it was you?"

 

"Yeah, I'd heard about what had happened and wanted to help but we weren't really close enough for me to offer help. So, I couldn't really think of another way without it looking like I was butting my nose into things that don't concern me."

 

"But why Yixing?" Baekhyun asks, internally groaning and getting frustrated.

 

"He's a decent guy. There aren't many people I can trust to ask such a favor from without them gossiping about it later."

 

He doesn't know about my first day here with Yixing.

 

"I see. Thank you once again, Chanyeol." Baekhyun says, squeezing Chanyeol's hand.

 

"Don't mention it. I should get going now. Goodnight." Baekhyun stands at the door, watching Chanyeol leave. The line between using Chanyeol and having real feelings for him had been blurry for Baekhyun from the very start. But now, it seemed to have been completely obliterated from existence.

 

I think I'm falling for you.

 

***

 

"Tell me a secret." Baekhyun suddenly says.

 

"What?" Chanyeol asks with a quizzical face, a little taken aback at the suddenness.

 

"Tell me a secret. Anything." Baekhyun insists with a pout.

 

"Want me to confess my sins now that you have me in a compromising position? You play dirty, Byun Baekhyun."

 

The said 'compromising position' is nothing but the both of them sitting on Chanyeol's bed with Baekhyun holding Chanyeol's guitar, and Chanyeol playing soft melodies on it while hugging Baekhyun from behind.

 

Baekhyun groans. "You can never answer anything without making an annoying, snarky comment first, can you?"

 

"Wouldn't be my style, now would it?" Chanyeol says, pressing his lips against Baekhyun's ears, "Plus, you look so cute when you get worked up like this."

 

Baekhyun bumps his head with Chanyeol's. "Ow!" Chanyeol exclaims.

 

"I'm gonna keep getting more and more brutal with every tick of the clock." Baekhyun threatens.

 

"Okay. Okay." Chanyeol says defensively, "I am scared of jellyfishes."

 

Baekhyun turns his head to look at Chanyeol and raises his eyebrows questioning.

 

"I got stung by a jellyfish once, while I was vacationing with my family in Hawaii." Chanyeol explains. "It hurt like a bitch and I was just a kid, so I guess the trauma remained."

 

Baekhyun hums in response.

 

"Your turn now." Chanyeol nuzzles against Baekhyun's neck.

 

"I know Sehun and Jongin are totally cool with me now, since you and I, you know…" Baekhyun blushes. "But Jongin still intimidates me."

 

Baekhyun feels Chanyeol's laugh vibrate against his neck. "Tell me someone more. Something I don't know."

 

Chanyeol stops hugging Baekhyun and moves a little away to get a proper look at him. Baekhyun regrets asking now, he'd rather have Chanyeol snuggle up to him.

 

"Remember the night I found you semi passed out near the science lab?" Chanyeol asks and Baekhyun nods. "It wasn't a coincidence."

 

"I'd heard Heechul and Kibum talking about locking you up while roaming around in our wing. So, I was coming to save you."

 

Baekhyun doesn't say anything in reply. Instead, he places the guitar away and reaches for Chanyeol. He cups Chanyeol's face in his hands and crashes his lips against Chanyeol's.

 

Chanyeol doesn't kiss back, initially. Perhaps from the unexpectedness of it. But once the initial shock wears off, Chanyeol immediately takes charge, kissing back with passion. His hands find their way around Baekhyun's neck and he raises his body a little to dominate over Baekhyun's. 

 

The kiss is gentle, both a little unsure and a little hesitant, but full of hunger. They kiss until both of them have to forcefully break apart to breathe. Their foreheads lean against the other's as they pant heavily.

 

"Definitely sweeter than strawberries." The mirroring smile that spreads on both of their faces is magical.

 

"Shut up." Baekhyun blushes. "Don't talk about it, anymore. You'll just embarrass me." Baekhyun says, moving away with a shy smile.

 

"I have waited too long for this to just talk about it, Baekhyun." Chanyeol says as he strides towards Baekhyun to pull him into another kiss. Baekhyun groans against Chanyeol's mouth but doesn't protest. 

 

They spend the rest of the day kissing and cuddling in Chanyeol's bed.

 

"Baek?" Chanyeol asks, head resting on Baekhyun's lap.

 

Baekhyun hums in response while drawing abstract patterns on Chanyeol's forehead.

 

"Are you going home for the vacations?" Chanyeol looks at Baekhyun with hopeful eyes. Baekhyun's fingers stop.

 

"No, I'm not. My home is too far away and I don't have the money to afford the trip either." He said nervously. 

 

"Your family must be sad, then." Chanyeol states, frowning a little. "You must be sad too."

 

Baekhyun shakes his head and tries to smile. "It's okay. I called my mom and she thinks it's best for me to just stay here as well."

 

"Most students will go back home. You'll get lonely."

 

Baekhyun shrugs. "It'll be pretty much the same for me. It's not like anyone talks to me here anyway."

 

Chanyeol gets up with a jerk. "I talk to you!" He protests with a pout.

 

"Oh you big baby, is this your way of getting me to say I'll miss you?" Baekhyun teases.

 

Chanyeol shakes his head and places himself on Baekhyun's lap again. He takes Baekhyun's hand and positions it on his forehead again, urging the other to continue his soft caressing.

 

"You don't have to miss me, you know." Chanyeol mutters, lowly. Baekhyun hears it, though, and knows what Chanyeol is implying but chooses to ignore it.

 

"Jongin, Sehun, and I stay at my place during vacations every year." Chanyeol says. "You can come with us if you want."

 

Baekhyun should have been happy, this is what he had initially wanted but all he feels is a strange uneasiness.

 

"Thanks for the offer but I don't think I should intrude." Baekhyun says, hesitantly.

 

"You won't be, trust me. Sehun and Jongin take the vacation as their own little honeymoon and I hate third-wheeling so I mostly stay by myself." Chanyeol says, taking Baekhyun's taking and kissing it lightly. "Please come?" His eyes are so big and hopeless that Baekhyun can't bring himself to reject him.

 

"Fine." He sighs. "It'll be fun, I guess."

 

Chanyeol is overjoyed at this but Baekhyun doesn't feel the same excitement. He knows his intentions towards Chanyeol aren't as selfish as they once were, but a certain sense of guilt still remains.

 

I hope this vacation turns out to have more heart-fluttering memories than guilt-ridden ones.

 

Time passes in a blur of sweet dates and stolen kisses, and before Baekhyun knows it, the Christmas vacations are already here.

 

Over time, Baekhyun's hesitance regarding spending time at Chanyeol's house had reduced. He consulated himself saying whatever his past intentions were, his current feelings for Chanyeol were real and that's all that mattered. A part of him still wanted to break into the Chairman's personal office justifying it by saying that him doing so had nothing to do with his feelings for Chanyeol. But Baekhyun always shakes the thought off. He'll decide over it once he gets there.

 

With his backpack on his shoulders, Baekhyun waits for the three boys outside the campus gate.

 

The sounds of footsteps made him turn his head and a gasp almost escapes Baekhyun's mouth. The three boys look absolutely stunning and they are walking towards Baekhyun looking like models on a runway. Chanyeol is wearing a white t-shirt with a black blazer that complements it. Sehun is wearing a multicolour striped sweater and aviator sunglasses. While Jongin, the most fashionable of them all, is in a light grey buttoned-up shirt with a dark grey trench coat.

 

"You all look like The Plastics from Mean Girls." Baekhyun blurs out as they approach.

 

Chanyeol just looks plain confused while Jongin rolls his eyes and Sehun smirks, saying, "I'll take that as a compliment, Cady Heron."

 

Baekhyun relaxes on Sehun saying so and giggles.

 

"Alright, we are off now." Jongin announces. "See you at the Park Mansion, Chanyeol." He pauses. "You too, Baekhyun. See you."

 

"Wait, we're not going together?" Baekhyun asks, confused.

 

"Well, there are four of us." Sehun says, "And you can't possibly be expecting three of us scrimmaging in the back seat." There was something about the way Sehun spoke that made him sound spoilt and diva-ish but strangely it didn't make Baekhyun develop any ill feelings towards him. Baekhyun had changed, he realized. He was no longer the bitter boy with an agenda against the rich. He now knew that growing up privileged didn't make people bad; the misuse of the privileges did.

 

"Yeah, see you both later." Chanyeol waves at them. "Hey Baek, you wanna sit on the backseat with me or would you prefer riding shotgun?"

 

"With you." Baekhyun replied with a smile.

 

Baekhyun had changed and it was Chanyeol who had changed him.

 

***

 

Chanyeol's house could beat anything Baekhyun had ever seen in any movie. It was huge (Baekhyun could swear as big as his entire colony) and extravagant like a place meant for heavenly princes.

 

The mansion was located a little far away from the hustle and bustle of the city and so the scenic beauty was unparalleled to any other. The interior decoration is modern and chic and one can tell no expense is spared on the furniture.

 

The pool here was bigger than the lake near Baekhyun's house and Baekhyun could not even begin to estimate the number of rooms the villa consisted of. And the garden out front was majestic and beautiful.

 

Baekhyun enters while looking around in amazement and the three boys watch him in amusement instead.

 

"Did you like the place?" Chanyeol asks, smiling at Baekhyun's awestruck expression.

 

"Like it?" Baekhyun's eyes look so bright that they appear to be glowing. "I love it, Chanyeol." He exclaims, clapping his hands giddily like a child.

 

Sehun and Jongin chuckle while Chanyeol just smiles wider, "Well, I'm glad."

 

"Why don't you give him a tour, Yeol?" Sehun suggests with a wink that Baekhyun misses.

 

"Yes! Give me a tour, Chanyeol!" He says, excitedly. "This place is so huge. I'll get lost without you."

 

"And while you're at it, introduce him to your mom. I'm sure she'll be delighted to meet her future son-in-law." Sehun says, with a smirk.

 

Baekhyun suddenly starts coughing and Chanyeol marches towards Sehun to hit him. Sehun dodges and runs away causing Chanyeol to chase after him, screaming, "Get back here, you little brat!"

 

"He's just kidding, relax." Jongin shrugs. "Sehun likes to joke around a lot. Since you'll be spending the vacations with us, better get used to it."

 

"Yeah," Baekhyun laughs nervously, trying to compose himself. "I knew that. Haha." Jongin raises an eyebrow signaling that he is not buying Baekhyun's act, making the latter drop his pretense and asking anxiously, "His mom is not home, is she?"

 

"No." Jongin answers. "His family is almost never home and definitely not during holidays, it's the main time for business."

 

"He must get so lonely." Baekhyun sadly says to himself.

 

"He's so freakishly used to it that it concerns me sometimes." Jongin sighs. "We come here every year so that he won't be alone. And yet, he still spends most of the vacation cooped up in his room by himself."

 

Baekhyun nods understandingly.

 

"You'd probably think it's his way of giving me and Sehun some privacy but he's always been like this, you know. He's always been so… detached to everything." Jongin's eyes show a strange vulnerability, and Baekhyun knows it is his concern for his friend. "Which is why both me and Sehun are glad that you came here with him." Jongin says, making Baekhyun look at him in surprise.

 

"I'll be honest, Byun. I'm not particularly fond of you. I never have been. Call it my upper class privileged snobbish brain or just my protectiveness for my friend but I believe you approached him with ulterior motives." Baekhyun looks down, swallowing in his own shame and guilt. "But you make him happy. This is the happiest I've ever seen him."

 

Baekhyun looks at Jongin, "I'll do my best to keep him happy."

 

"You better do. Because Sehun is good at witchhunts and I'm good at beating the crap out of people." Jongin says, his voice low and threatening.

 

Baekhyun gulps. "I-I-"

 

"Relax," Jongin snickers. "As long as you don't hurt my best friend, we're cool." Jongin smiles and Baekhyun realizes this is the first time Jongin has smiled so genuinely at him. "It was nice talking to you, Byun."

 

"You too, Jongin." Baekhyun smiles back at him. 

 

"Oh and Baekhyun?" Jongin says, and Baekhyun looks at him questioningly. "About the way I behaved with you on your first day… I'm sorry."

 

Baekhyun is taken aback at the unexpected apology. "All in the past, Jongin."

 

Jongin guides him to the living room where they both sit in a non-awkward silence waiting for their partners.

 

Chanyeol and Sehun arrive a while later, both visibly exhausted. So the quartet decides to hit their rooms and take a nap.

 

Chanyeol shows Baekhyun the way to his room. Baekhyun doesn't pay much attention to the directions, too busy looking around. Everything around him was just to dreamlike.

 

"And this is where you'll be staying." The room is bigger than Baekhyun had expected it to be with soft vanilla walls and some music posters on them but somehow it doesn't feel like a guest room. "With me." Chanyeol finishes and Baekhyun's eyes go wide.

 

"We are staying in the same room?!"

 

"Yeah. Sehun and Jongin usually share a room. So, I thought we should as well." Chanyeol says. "But if you're not comfortable with this, you can pick any of the guest rooms. It's totally cool." Chanyeol quickly adds, reassuringly.

 

"It's fine. I was just a little surprised, that's all."

 

A mischievous smile spreads on Chanyeol's face. "Good. Because the only reason I brought you here is because I need my soft cuddling hours." He pauses. "And hot makeout sessions."

 

With that, he pulls Baekhyun to the bed with him and kisses him.

 

"Chanyeol!" Baekhyun whines and giggles between kisses.

 

"I plan on spending the entire vacation this way, so prepare yourself, Byun Baekhyun." Chanyeol says before moving his kisses from Baekhyun's lips to his neck, making the latter moan.

 

They fall asleep after hours of kisses and cuddles.

 

The next day, Chanyeol takes Baekhyun on the house tour Baekhyun wouldn't stop whining about.

 

Baekhyun loves how Chanyeol's tour consists more of  'when I was in fourth grade, I tripped off these stairs and was hospitalized' and 'I used to hide my test papers behind this painting' more than 'these stairs are made out of specially imported Italian marble' and 'this painting costs in more zeros than you can count on your fingers'.

 

Chanyeol shows him everything, including the kitchen, the parlour, the study rooms, and his father's and his uncle's private offices. Baekhyun felt his heart in his mouth when Chanyeol pointed towards the room. "That's my father's office. He's barely home but whenever he is, that's where he spends most of his time." Chanyeol says, nonchalantly. "Next to that is my uncle's office. Another workaholic, just like my dad."

 

"Come, I'll show you the pool now." He takes Baekhyun's hand and they rush towards the swimming pool but not before a second glance at the Chairman's office from Baekhyun.

 

When they arrive at the pool, Chanyeol sneakily pushes Baekhyun into the pool. Baekhyun vows to never speak to Chanyeol again while Chanyeol only laughs saying he looks like a wet puppy in water.

 

They are joined by Sehun and Jongin later in the evening for a movie at Chanyeol's personal home theater, another part of the mansion that left Baekhyun in awe. The two couples cuddle and make out in the dark throughout the movie. 

 

The next day, or rather the entire vacation, falls under the pattern of domestic romance with little to none variation daily and Baekhyun couldn't be asking for more.

 

By the time Christmas Eve finally arrives, Baekhyun can safely say he's wrapped in a warm sweater of affection called Park Chanyeol. The day is spent drowning in hot cocoa and chocolate cookies and snuggling by the fireplace while watching the snowfall outside.

 

At night, the quartet settles in the living room with home movies of Chanyeol, Sehun, and Jongin. Baekhyun enjoys them through, watching a little Chanyeol play with his friends. Sehun and Jongin provide several inputs of embarrassing facts about Chanyeol much to the latter's displeasure. Between the loud laughs and careless chatter, the boys don't realise when the time passes and before they know it, it's already midnight.

 

The booming sound of the pendulum clock announces the arrival of Christmas and shouts of "Merry Christmas" echo in the mansion as the four boys greet each other. Chanyeol turns to greet Baekhyun first, wrapping him in his arms and placing soft kisses on his forehead. Then he turns to his two friends while Beakhyun watches from the side, feeling a little intrusive and awkward.

 

Surprisingly, Sehun engulfs him into a warm hug too which Baekhyun instinctively returns while still being quite taken aback from the unexpected affection. On constant nudging and silent urges from Sehun, Jongin too approaches Baekhyun for a hug, which goes quite stiffly and awkwardly but makes Baekhyun happy nonetheless.

 

They greet goodnight after that and head towards their rooms. Baekhyun jumps on the bed with a sigh while Chanyeol lingers near the door till Baekhyun notices.

 

"Chanyeol?" Baekhyun calls out. 

 

"I have something for you." Chanyeol says in the same nervous tone he always uses before gifting something to Baekhyun.

 

Baekhyun frowns. "I thought you said you guys didn't buy each other gifts for Christmas. That's why I get you anything."

 

"We don't. And you don't have to get me anything." Chanyeol quickly says. "But there's something I've wanted to give you for a while now and I don't know, today just feels like the right time for it."

 

"Okay..." Baekhyun says, skeptically. "So what is it?"

 

Chanyeol opens a drawer and takes out a small gift box. "Here." He extends it towards Baekhyun.

 

Baekhyun gets up from the bed and takes the gift from Chanyeol's hand, examining it.

 

The box is small and covered in a glittery wrapping paper with a ribbon bow on top. Baekhyun shakes it and hears the sound of something solid colliding against the edges inside it.

 

He looks at Chanyeol who gestures to him to open it. Baekhyun slowly undos the ribbon and removes the gift wrap to reveal a small cardboard box. He opens the box and inside lies-

 

A tape.

 

A cassette with a piece of paper stuck on it and in the most beautiful calligraphy Baekhyun has ever seen is written ' Baby You Are'.

 

"Chanyeol is this-" Baekhyun begins but Chanyeol doesn't let him complete. "A mixtape? Yes. I made it for you." He says, shyly. "I wrote all the songs and sang and recorded them and everything. Sehun and Jongin helped though."

 

"Wow. I-This is amazing. Thank you." Baekhyun hugs him. "Should I listen to it now?"

 

"No, not now. I want you to listen to it when you're alone. And tell me your opinion and thoughts later." Chanyeol says, shaking his head.

 

"Okay." Baekhyun gives him a small peck on his lips. "I love it." He pauses and suddenly pouts. "Now I feel bad for not getting you anything."

 

"Hey, it's fine." Chanyeol reassures. "I don't need any gift."

 

"Maybe I can still give you something, though." Baekhyun suggests, his eyes twinkling with a sinister glow.

 

"Bae-" Chanyeol is cut off as Baekhyun presses his lips against Chanyeol's hungrily. Chanyeol responds, cupping Baekhyun's face in his hands. Baekhyun snakes his arms around Chanyeol's neck as he continues to kiss him passionately.

 

Baekhyun's kisses keep getting hungrier and more and more desperate. Sensing the suggestiveness of them, Chanyeol pauses. "You sure you want this? There's no pressure, Baekhyun."

 

Baekhyun nods before capturing Chanyeol's lips with another kiss. On getting the consent we wanted, Chanyeol gets straight to work. His hands slide down from Baekhyun's face to his ass to his legs, which Chanyeol guides around his waist, picking the smaller up.

 

He gently throws Baekhyun on his bed and climbs on top of him. With an unworded understanding, both of them start unbuttoning each other's shirts hastily. 

 

"You're so beautiful." Chanyeol says in awe as his finger traces down Baekhyun's abdomen, causing a shiver to run through Baekhyun's spine.

 

Chanyeol starts kissing the smooth skin of Baekhyun's neck and makes his way to Baekhyun's nipple. He sucks on the pink, perky nipple causing Baekhyun to moan.

 

"So sensitive." Chanyeol says as he licks Baekhyun's nipple with his tongue and Baekhyun fists the bed sheet tight in his hand.

 

Chanyeol then makes his way further down Baekhyun's skin leaving butterfly kisses along the way. He removes Baekhyun's pants painfully slowly. His hands brush across Baekhyun's member way too many times while unbuckling the belt for it to not be intentional.

 

"Will you speed up and fuck me already?!" Baekhyun groans in frustration.

 

Chanyeol chuckles, "Patience, baby."

 

He swiftly removes Baekhyun's trousers, leaving the latter in nothing but his underwear. He starts kissing Baekhyun's inner thighs while removing his own pants. The moans seem to increase and Chanyeol is sure Baekhyun's thighs are his sensitive place. He sucks on the pale, milky skin; marking them red.

 

"Ch-Chanyeol p-please." Baekhyun begs.

 

Chanyeol smirks against his skin. He pulls off Baekhyun's underwear, leaving Baekhyun exposed. Baekhyun closes his legs shyly.

 

"Aww baby, don't hide from me." Chanyeol coos as he forces open Baekhyun's legs apart. "Your hole is so pretty. Just like you."

 

Baekhyun whimpers in response.

 

"I wonder what you'll taste like." Chanyeol says, stretching open Baekhyun's hole. He licks Baekhyun's entrance causing the other to shriek. Chanyeol's tongue was showing him a heaven he never knew existed.

 

Satisfied with Baekhyun's screams and his own crafty tongue, Chanyeol decides it was time to take things further.

 

"I'm gonna prep you now." Chanyeol says, pushing two of his fingers into Baekhyun's hole. "So fucking tight."

 

Baekhyun's mind is in hysteria. His hole keeps clenching and unclenching around Chanyeol's fingers. "More." He begs. "More please."

 

"So greedy." Chanyeol says as he enters another finger.

 

Baekhyun's moans get louder. "Ch-Chanyeol stop playing around and put your goddamn cock in me already." Baekhyun whines.

 

"Look at you." Chanyeol chuckles, "So ruined, yet so bossy."

 

"Chanyeol, please." Baekhyun mewls.

 

Chanyeol finally takes off his underwear, revealing his length which was already too hard from the foreplay. Baekhyun gasps. Chanyeol is huge .

 

"You're so big." Baekhyun compliments, breathing heavily.

 

"Why the tone of surprise?" Chanyeol laughs.

 

"Please fill me up, I beg you." Baekhyun's voice is so pleading, so submissive, that it turns Chanyeol on further.

 

When he removes his fingers from Baekhyun's hole, Baekhyun whines impatiently. "Patience." Chanyeol says as he leaves a whimpering mess of a Baekhyun alone on bed, to reach a nearby drawer; the drawer that contains condoms and lube. Chanyeol takes time with his preparations that only make Baekhyun whine and move restlessly.

 

Once he is finally prepared, Chanyeol enters Baekhyun, filling his hole with his member.

 

It's safe to say Baekhyun sees stars of bliss for the rest of the night.

 

***

 

As the last day of the vacation approaches, Baekhyun gets more and more restive. After sleeping with Chanyeol that night, he can definitely feel a shift in his relationship with Chanyeol. He feels more intimate and attached now. And more paranoid.

 

He doesn't want to lose Chanyeol. But he cannot help but fear that someway Chanyeol will find out about how his real mission behind coming to Kings High was to gather evidence against his father. Will he ever be able to forgive me?

 

He tosses and turns in bed, unable to sleep. Next to him, Chanyeol is fast asleep. His chest rising and falling periodically with his peaceful breathing.

 

Chanyeol had insisted they go to bed early today. Baekhyun wanted to stay up till late since it was their last day here but Chanyeol had been really persistent and Baekhyun couldn't reject those puppy dog eyes.

 

But staying in bed is proving to be extremely difficult. His mind is uneasy and his soul is restless.

 

He gets up slowly, careful not to wake Chanyeol up. Tiptoeing, he reaches for one drawer after another, searching for something that he's certain he has seen lying around. Finally, on one of the wooden shelves attached to the wall, Baekhyun finds the cassette player. He digs out his headphones from his backpack and picks up the mixtape Chanyeol made for him from the bedside table.

 

Taking a deep breath, Baekhyun hits play.

 

You are the sole person I’ve been searching for

Yeah you are

I think I’ll go crazy thinking of you throughout the entire day

Baby you are

 

Hello angel, you’re like a picture

When I see the sky, I only see you

City street lights go off and the moon disappears but it’s dazzling

Because the star that fell from the sky is you

 

Sometimes I think

When I see you laughing brightly

That your eyes and lips and everything else

Seem to look like me

It’s like your pitch-black eyes take in my light

And shine just as brightly as I do

Sometimes I see myself when I look at you

 

Four seasons

The two of us are

Like spring and summer

Blossoming and deepening

We don’t change our minds

When the leaves fall

I want to hold you closer to chase away the cold

 

Tears stream down Baekhyun's face by the time the mixtapes comes to an end. What was it with Park Chanyeol and overwhelming him with emotions? The songs are beautiful and Chanyeol's voice holds magic. And it was all for him. For Baekhyun. 

 

Suddenly, the weight of insecurities come crashing down on Baekhyun. I'll tell him everything tomorrow. He decides. If Chanyeol wishes to leave him after that, then he'll respect Chanyeol's decision.

 

Sniffling and rubbing his eyes, Baekhyun heads over to Chanyeol's side and sits on the floor there. Chanyeol sleeps peacefully oblivious to the hurricane of unsettling emotions going inside Baekhyun.

 

Baekhyun extends his hand to caress Chanyeol's face softly. "I love you." He whispers.

 

He quietly exits the room then, closing the door behind him and heads downstairs. The mansion looks so cold and empty in the dark gloom of the night.

 

Baekhyun has forgotten to put on his slippers and the floor feels icy against his feet. 

 

Funny how everything is warm with Chanyeol and cold without him.

 

Baekhyun takes a deep breath as he reaches the destination he had set out for.

 

The Chairman's Office.

 

He doesn't know why he's here. Something in his subconscious just urged him to come this way.

 

Perhaps it was closure he needed. To look the thing he initially came here for in the eye and say no it. For the data to be just a few steps away but him to not take those steps. Baekhyun needed to flush the mission and traces of it out of his system before he told Chanyeol the truth tomorrow.

 

He stood there motionless for a few passing moments, staring at the white doors with the intricate gold designed doorknob.

 

After a while, feeling finally at peace, he shakes his head as he glances at the door one last time and turns.

 

If Baekhyun had anything in his hands at the moment then he would have dropped it in shock because his body goes numb at the sight of the person in front of him.

 

"Chanyeol." The name comes out as a choke, as his body approaches a breakdown point.

 

There's motionless silence. Like time has stopped. Baekhyun waits for Chanyeol to say the first word and Chanyeol does the same.

 

"How long have you been standing there?" Baekhyun finally asks.

 

"As long as you have been." The reply is curt, and maybe Baekhyun imagines it but it is also icy cold.

 

"Why didn't you say anything?" Comes another whisper from Baekhyun. The quiet of the night makes his broken voice heavy enough to reach Chanyeol loud and clear.

 

"I was waiting for you to go in." Baekhyun feels a twist in his stomach and his knees feel wobbly. He knows. Chanyeol knows.

 

"Chanyeol, I-" Baekhyun starts explaining, even though he's unaware of how to proceed.

 

"Your feet must be cold." Chanyeol cuts him off.

 

Baekhyun is taken aback at the sudden change of topic and Chanyeol's calm and casual tone. "What?"

 

Chanyeol signals at Baekhyun's feet by protruding his chin forward, "You're not wearing slippers." 

 

He raises his hands to reveal that he has been holding a pair of slippers. "Here." He walks towards Baekhyun while the smaller stands as still as a statue. Gently he lifts one of Baekhyun's feet, Baekhyun's body compliant to Chanyeol despite Baekhyun's mind not processing what is happening, and slides in the slipper. He does the same with the other feet and then stands up, facing Baekhyun. "I wanted to put them on from the moment you left but I didn't want to disturb you while you were lost in your thoughts."

 

Baekhyun doesn't say anything. He only stares at the boy in front of him, the boy whom he was dreading to face, the boy who was smiling at him with the same affection in his eyes as he had been before going to bed. Baekhyun doesn't understand.

 

"Why didn't you go in?" Chanyeol asks, brushing his thumb against Baekhyun's jawline. "Isn't that what you came here to do?"

 

He knows and he's still smiling at me. Baekhyun really didn't understand.

 

"I couldn't do that to you." Baekhyun says, sincerely as a hope of saving a relationship he thought he'd lose begins to blossom within him. "I just came here for closure." He doesn't expect Chanyeol to understand his justification, but he says it anyway. Because Baekhyun was willing to strip down to his bare soul if it meant saving what he has with Chanyeol.

 

Chanyeol nods. "Come with me." He intertwines his fingers with Baekhyun's as he leads them towards the room right next to the Chairman's. The Vice-Chairman's office.

 

"You know how to pick a lock, don't you?" Chanyeol asks and Baekhyun nods, almost mechanically. "Then do your magic."

 

"I'll need a hairpin." Baekhyun says. "And answers."

 

Chanyeol sighs. "Hairpin, I can provide." He digs into his pocket to fetch a black hairpin. "Answers will have to wait till morning. We have a job to get done now."

 

Baekhyun nods. "We both have a lot to say."

 

Chanyeol extends the hairpin to Baekhyun and Baekhyun kneels down before the doorknob. "Chanyeol, the s-"

 

"Don't worry about the security camera recording. I'll deal with it later."

 

Baekhyun only nods and gets to work. Picking the lock is a walk in a park for Baekhyun and the clicking noise from the doorknob only confirms it.

 

"You are a true magician, Byun." Chanyeol says, impressed but Baekhyun is in too much turmoil to be delighted about it.

 

They head inside and Chanyeol switches the light on causing Baekhyun to stop with a jerk, in surprise. "Baekhyun we are in my house, remember? Relax." Chanyeol says, and Baekhyun exhales the breath he had been holding in so far.

 

"Why are we here, Chanyeol?" Baekhyun asks, his voice low even though he's aware that he can speak louder if he wants to.

 

"Because everything you need is right there." Chanyeol said, pointing at the computer sitting on the office table.

 

"So you mean-"

 

"That it's my uncle behind all the corruption and not my dad? Yes, that's exactly what I mean." Chanyeol says grimly and Baekhyun sees sparks of anger flash in Chanyeol's eyes that he has never seen before.

 

Baekhyun opens his mouth but words fail him. Chanyeol heads over to the computer and starts typing rapidly. Baekhyun just watches from where he is standing. Everything makes sense and is confusing at the same time. He's unsure of what to do but something in him compels him to follow Chanyeol.

 

"I never get past this." Chanyeol suddenly says, in frustration. "But then again, I don't know much about computers or hacking into them." He looks at Baekhyun. "But you do."

 

Baekhyun gasps. "How do you know all this?"

 

"Like I said, I'll give you all the answers you need tomorrow. Right now, I need you to get past the security lock of these files and send them to Mr. Choi."

 

He knows EVERYTHING. But how? Baekhyun's mind is a jumble of questions and he's lost in it.

 

"Baekhyun?" Chanyeol calls out again when Baekhyun continues being stationary. "Do your thing. Come on."

 

Snapping out of his thoughts, Baekhyun heads towards the computer. Chanyeol steps aside to make space for him and Baekhyun gets down to doing what he does best.

 

Once his hands are on the keyboard, all questions, all thoughts, everything leaves him. It's just him and his codes.

 

Chanyeol watches, somewhat in amazement, as Baekhyun completely zones into his coding and types on the keyboard aggressively.

 

It takes time but Baekhyun manages to break through. After hitting the final enter, Baekhyun steps back, cracking his neck and stretching his fingers. The security was tough but Byun Baekhyun was a pro when it came to computers. "We're in."

 

Chanyeol quickly takes over going through all the documents and files while Baekhyun watches Chanyeol focusing hard this time.

 

Baekhyun finds it astonishing how he and Chanyeol are so oddly in sync although everything is happening so spontaneously and working with Chanyeol to break into a Park's office was beyond Baekhyun's wildest dreams. 

 

"This is it." Chanyeol cries out in a sudden burst of enthusiasm. "It's all in here."

 

He grabs Baekhyun's hand and pulls him towards the screen. "See all this. Bribery records, slush funds, dummy accounts. Records of everything!"

 

Chanyeol celebrates his Eureka moment while Baekhyun copies everything in a blank pen drive that Chanyeol provides him with.

 

Once, he is done, he turns to Chanyeol. "I have everything in this." He raises up the pen drive. "Let's get out of here."

 

The duo wraps up everything and erases their races of intrusion. They silently head back to the bedroom after that.

 

Once in the bedroom, Baekhyun turns to Chanyeol. "Chanyeol, we need to talk."

 

"I'm tired Baekhyun. We'll talk in the car tomorrow. I'll tell you everything." Chanyeol says, yawning. "Let's go to bed now, baby." He kisses Baekhyun's forehead and goes to bed.

 

Baekhyun is irritated at Chanyeol's insouciance. It annoys him how Chanyeol is behaving so casually, pecking Baekhyun's forehead like Baekhyun did not just hack into Chanyeol's uncle's computer and now has the data in his pocket that may ruin his father's company.

 

"Chanyeol, I'm serious." He says, frowning.

 

"I know you are." Chanyeol sits up. "I know you have questions and I will answer them all. But right now, we are both exhausted. No good will come out of us talking now. Come to bed. Let's get a good night's sleep. And tomorrow, in the car, we will talk."

 

Baekhyun sighs. He was exhausted indeed. And he knew that it was futile to make Chanyeol talk once the taller had made up his mind against it.

 

Baekhyun shakes his head in defeat and lazily climbs onto the bed.

 

Giving a satisfied smirk, Chanyeol wraps his arms around Baekhyun and pulls him closer. When Baekhyun doesn't struggle, Chanyeol only takes it as an invitation to snuggle closer to him.

 

"Chanyeol, I swear to God, if you say something cocky right now, I'll cut off your balls. I'm already pissed off enough." Baekhyun warns.

 

Chanyeol chuckles in return. "Then at the risk of you castrating my balls, which by the way would be as much of a loss to you as to me, I'll just say… I love you too."

 

He heard. Baekhyun feels his face turn red . Did he even sleep at all?

 

Baekhyun doesn't reply to Chanyeol which only causes the taller to chuckle. Both being exhausted from their midnight adventure fall asleep soon after.

 

The next morning, they pretend like the previous night didn't happen. Baekhyun doesn't ask Chanyeol anything, knowing that the taller won't be answering any questions till they were inside the car anyway. And Chanyeol doesn't bring it up either.

 

The morning is spent packing and saying goodbye to the house help who have been nothing but kind to Baekhyun.

 

After a final hearty breakfast, the four boys leave the mansion.

 

"It was nice having you with us this year, Baekhyun." Sehun says and gives him a hug.

 

"I had an amazing time too." Baekhyun hugs back.

 

Jongin offers him a handshake. "Don't be a stranger when we get back to school." Jongin shrugs casually.

 

Baekhyun smiles. Such a tsundere.

 

"I won't."

 

"You mustn't. " Sehun warns. "We're all friends now, so you'll have to sit with us, eat with us, hang out with us, go shopping-"

 

"Let my baby breathe, will you?" Chanyeol interrupts, carrying his luggage into the car.

 

"I'm not your baby ." Baekhyun glares, which only makes Chanyeol coo at him and kiss his cheek.

 

"Sure. Whatever you say, baby." Baekhyun groans and stomps his feet.

 

"I don't think we should let the two of them hang out together. I'm sensing an impending disaster." Jongin says to Chanyeol, loud enough for Baekhyun and Sehun to hear.

 

"Kim Jongin, you'll have to pay for that." Sehun threatens, glaring at his boyfriend.

 

"And that's my cue to leave." Jongin chuckles. "See you back at school." He gives Chanyeol a bro hug and heads over to the other car with Sehun.

 

Baekhyun is the first to get seated and he keeps restlessly tapping his feet till Chanyeol comes in.

 

"Okay so let's talk." He says, as soon as Chanyeol settles himself in.

 

"The car hasn't even started." Chanyeol laughs. "Calm down, Baekhyun."

 

"I don't care." Baekhyun snaps, crossing his arms over his chest. "Speak."

 

Chanyeol shakes his head at Baekhyun's impatience. "Okay. So ask away. I'll answer everything."

 

"What do you know? How do you know? And since when do you know?" Baekhyun shoots all at once.

 

Chanyeol chuckles. "I'll have to start from the beginning I guess. But this is gonna be a huge monologue kinda thing, so promise me your impatient ass won't interrupt."

 

Baekhyun rolls his eyes. "Fine. Now, begin."

 

"Kings Corporation as you already know has been internally corrupted for quite a while now." Chanyeol says and Baekhyun nods. "And my father has no clue about it. He's a good businessman but he has blind faith in my uncle. I've known about all this for a few years now and have been trying to collect evidence against him but I'd never been successful. My uncle worked so neatly that I've never been able to find anything against him. Until last year. My cousin had come to town and we both were out drinking."

 

Baekhyun opens his mouth but Chanyeol shushes him. "I know you don't support underage drinking but it's not the point right now. Listen. So, she got really drunk and started blurring out all the details about her dad's secret funds and everything. From her, I found out that all the proof I needed was accessible right through my own house. But of course, I couldn't make it past the security locks and the firewalls. I wanted to appoint a professional of course, but my dad had already seen me chase quite a few dead leads and had prohibited me from doing anything to accuse my 'innocent' uncle again. So, my hands were tied.

 

"You came in like a miracle in my life. It was the first week of school, I think? You tried to break into my dad's office. I saw you that day."

 

Baekhyun gasps. So it was Chanyeol whose footsteps I heard and shadow I saw.

 

"It caught my interest, obviously. And I decided to dig deeper about you. I saw on whose recommendation you had come to Kings High and that you were a pro hacker and it wasn't difficult to put two and two together and figure out what you had come to the school to do.

 

"I kept an eye on you since then but I didn't approach you because obviously, I didn't know if I could trust you or not."

 

"So when I said you liked me and you agreed…" Baekhyun can't bring himself to complete the sentence.

 

"I lied." Chanyeol admits, and Baekhyun feels a pang of hurt in his chest. "Back then, my primary motive behind wanting to spend more time with you was to observe you and see if you were trustworthy or not."

 

"A-And now?" Baekhyun asks dreadfully. His eyes avert Chanyeol's and focus out of the window instead.

 

"Isn't it obvious?" Chanyeol says, the intensity of his voice making Baekhyun turn his gaze back towards Chanyeol. "I'm hopelessly and ridiculously in love with you."

 

Baekhyun's heart skips a beat. "Chanyeol-"

 

"And I never said there were no feelings involved before either. And the times I tried helping you, with the clothes or the science lab thing, those were all genuine. It was just all so confusing and overwhelming and I couldn't distinguish what I felt from what I needed to feel."

 

Baekhyun nods. "I've been there myself." He confesses. "I think you already know but I need to say this myself. The only reason I approached you with that embarrassing guitar lesson idea was because I wanted to get close enough to you so that you'd invite me over."

 

As Baekhyun expects, Chanyeol does not look surprised. "I figured. I wasn't sure if the idea of the documents being in my dad's private computer had hit you or not, but I was certain that you approaching me definitely was a part of your mission."

 

There's silence for a moment. Baekhyun thinks about the irony in the situation; they both wanted to use each other but ended up falling in love instead.

 

"It wasn't a lie, just so you know." Chanyeol says. "The dates, the laughs, the touches. I was never pretending."

 

It was real for me too.

 

"I never thought I'd ever find love. I've always been so wary of people, always suspecting them to have ulterior motives that I'm never real with people. I suppose, with you, I was already aware that you approached me with an ulterior motive so there was no room for suspicious left." Chanyeol laughs. "And I was more me with you than I've ever been."

 

"I was myself with you too. It didn't make sense. I was supposed to be charming and charismatic but I was just me. You made me want to be real." Baekhyun quietly says.

 

"Oh, you romantic fool." Chanyeol teases and Baekhyun punches his arm lightly.

 

"I think that covers everything? Or do you have something else left to ask?" Chanyeol asks.

 

"Are you sure it's okay? For me to give the pen drive to Mr. Choi and expose your uncle?" Baekhyun asks, hesitantly. "This will affect the reputation of your dad's company."

 

"I'm positive." Chanyeol replies with a confident nod. "It will affect the company's reputation, yes. And there'll be a huge fall in stock prices. But if dealt with properly, the effects won't last in the long run. And I trust my dad. He can deal with it. Better this than letting my uncle continue to feed off the company like an internal parasite."

 

"I understand." Baekhyun says. "I'll talk to Mr. Choi and hopefully he'll deal with everything discreetly."

 

"I did that already." What?! "Right before we came here, I contacted Mr. Choi and confronted him about sending you to our school. Of course, he denied everything until I told him I could help him get the evidence he needed. I explained everything to him and he agreed to help me out. We came to a mutual understanding that on receiving and studying the evidence, he'll contact my father. Together, my dad and Mr. Choi can deal with this in a way that justice is also served and Kings Corporation is also safe. Oh and Mr. Choi didn't say anything about this to you because I told him I wanted to tell you myself."

 

"Wow. Looks like you had at all planned out." Baekhyun says. "Why didn't you tell me before? I was wallowing in guilt the whole time."

 

"I was hoping for you to come clean to me first. I knew you weren't going to break into my dad's office, I just knew. I could see it in your eyes that you were in love with me as much as I was in love with you." Chanyeol says. "But I wanted you to tell me everything on your own first. Because, after all, you were the one who came to me first."

 

Baekhyun sighs. He's right . "I'm sorry. I should have told you, I know. But I was so scared that I'll lose you that I didn't have it in me to go up to you and tell you everything. I was going to tell you everything today, though. I swear!"

 

Chanyeol chuckles, seeing Baekhyun get so hyper. "Baby, calm down. It's okay. We both lied and hid things from each other. I'm sorry too."

 

"So, where do we go from here?" Baekhyun asks.

 

"Forward." Chanyeol replies with certainty. "We go forward."

 

"What would have happened if I hadn't come up to you first?" Baekhyun suddenly asks.

 

"I don't know, honestly. I hadn't thought of the whole I-like-you angle until you suggested it first, really. I was hoping to find a way to befriend you but if that was not possible, I would have probably told you everything eventually and we'd have joined forces to do something together. After I was sure I could trust you, of course."

 

Would that have been better? No lies, no manipulation?

 

As if hearing Baekhyun's unasked question, Chanyeol says, "I like the way things happened though. Our motives may have been questionable but our feelings never were. If you had never come up to me and I had approached you straight up telling you I need your help to hack into my uncle's computer. Things would have been too formal between us. We would have never happened."

 

Baekhyun nods, wordlessly. Chanyeol was right, they hadn't met under the most ideal of conditions but what they had was real and that's all that mattered.

 

There are no more words exchanged after that. Baekhyun rests his head on Chanyeol's shoulder and intertwines their fingers together. They let the silence talk in a way words never could.

 

Baekhyun thinks about his life at Kings High. The hate, the bullying, the rejections, the subtle betrayals, but even with all the negativity, he'll always remember Kings High as the place where he met Park Chanyeol; the cocky, charming, drop-dead gorgeous boy who was secretly the biggest closeted dork.

 

Park Chanyeol, the gorgeous stranger with headphones. Park Chanyeol, the guy who could make you blush just by his presence. Park Chanyeol, the dork who'd take you to the arcades on your first date. Park Chanyeol, the boy you can't help but fall in love with.

 

They were still young and had their whole lives ahead of them. There were still a thousand issues to solve and a thousand problems to fix. But right here, right now, Baekhyun is blissfully in love . And that's all that matters to him.

 

"I have one last question." Baekhyun suddenly says. "Am I your boyfriend?"

 

"Baekhyun, seriously?!" Chanyeol gives him the look. 

 

Baekhyun pouts. "Well, we never really discussed about it and I was too guilt-ridden to ask."

 

Chanyeol laughs out loud heartily. "Oh Baekhyun. What will I do with you?"

 

"Well, am I?" Baekhyun urges further, glaring at Chanyeol.

 

"Yes," Chanyeol says, amused. "Baby, you are."

 

Baekhyun does not get to reply since his boyfriend then pulls him into a long passionate kiss.