On Monday nights, Baekhyun would slip inside Chanyeol’s dorm room and climb into bed with him. Chanyeol would stir, but end up wrapping an arm around his tiny boyfriend, and Kris would wake up the next morning with another roommate.
Chanyeol stood outside the house that he once shared with Baekhyun for a short period in time. He remembered the promises that he had held and the hopes and dreams that they had, but at that moment, past things like that were dust to him, because they were things that he hadn’t thought of in countless months. Gathering up his courage, he lifted up his hand and knocked on the door. He expected the door to open and to be greeted by Baekhyun, but it took longer than he had thought and the person who had opened the door wasn’t his soon-to-be ex-husband.
The young, pleasant-faced girl that had opened the door smiled up at him. “Hi, there.” After a small pause, she asked, “I’m guessing you’re Chanyeol.”
Nodding, Chanyeol confirmed. “Yes.”
“Well, come in,” she said, stepping aside. When Chanyeol was inside, she closed the door behind him. “I’m Luna, by the way.”
“Nice to meet you,” Chanyeol said, holding out his hand.
“Thanks!” she replied brightly, shaking his hand. “Baekhyun should be down here any minute.” Then, with a softer, but sadder look, she said, “He’s been expecting you.”
It hurt Chanyeol a bit to hear the words, but there was no helping the truth in them. He had filed for divorce and he was sure that Baekhyun got the notice two weeks prior. Of course Baekhyun was expecting him. If anything, standing in that foyer made him slightly nervous as to how Baekhyun would react. He imagined Baekhyun yelling and screaming at him, shedding tears with eyes that sought for blood.
But this image didn’t hold up. When he looked up on the staircase where Baekhyun was making his entrance, Chanyeol caught the smile that used to make his heart stop—and it still did. Chanyeol stood at the entrance of the house, heart-stricken and heart-stopped by Baekhyun. Snapping himself out of it, Chanyeol approached him slowly. “Hey."
Walking towards his husband, Baekhyun opened his arms. Without even waiting for Chanyeol to make the first move, gave him a hug, before pulling back at an appropriate time. “Hi, giant.”
Chanyeol’s lips thinned. He didn’t want to be called “giant” anymore. It brought back too many things that would drift him off course from his purpose. “Don’t call me that anymore, Baek.”
With his mouth slightly open, Baekhyun nodded understandingly. “I’m sorry,” he said with a laugh. “I forgot that we were divorcing. Of course.” Patting Chanyeol on the arm, Baekhyun turned on his heel and crooked his finger. “Let’s move over to the living room, okay? Luna, can you go make Chanyeol some tea? I’ll have water.”
“Do you want lemon, Baek?” she asked.
“No. Just plain.”
“Got it,” Luna said, clicking her tongue and making her way to the kitchen.
Chanyeol watched as she left, wondering about Baekhyun’s relationship with her. In his mind, Kyungsoo’s words reverberated. Maybe Baekhyun found someone just like how he found Kyungsoo. They both found people who were convenient to be with.
Once seated, Chanyeol studied Baekhyun’s face. “You look a little…tired, Baek. Sleeping alright?”
It took a moment, but Baekhyun nodded with a smile. “I’ve just been working a little hard lately. That’s all.”
“Okay…” Chanyeol took a breath for a second before opening his suitcase. “As you know, I came with things for you to sign.”
“It won’t take long.”
“I’m trying to make this as painless as possible for you, Baek.”
Baekhyun laughed softly. “It’ll never be painless.”
Chanyeol looked in Baekhyun’s eyes. “I’m sorry…”
Unable to stand the heavy atmosphere, Chanyeol moved on. He took the papers out and slid them across the coffee table over to Baekhyun, who sat across from him. As Chanyeol noticed, Baekhyun moved a little slow, but he figured that he was just afraid to face the reality the papers would bring.
As Baekhyun lifted the papers and scanned over them, Chanyeol spoke. “You’re basically acknowledging that we both want this. It also means that you’re willing to go to the court dates and meetings where we’ll discuss how to split everything. But, Baek, the house…this house will remain with you, I promise you that.”
“You promise me?”
“You promised me things at the altar, too,” Baekhyun said softly in a ghost-like whisper. “But here we are.” Not wanting his husband to dwell on it, Baekhyun waved the subject off. “So where do I sign?”
“At the bottom of the page,” Chanyeol said. He reached into his pocket. “Do you need a pen?”
As their fingers brushed against each other’s when Chanyeol gave the pen over, he noticed Baekhyun’s body temperature. “Are you cold?”
“No, I’m fine.”
“But your hands aren’t usually cold. They’re warm.”
“I’m glad you remember.”
A minute passed and Chanyeol watched as Baekhyun held the pen, yet never moved it. “Baek—”
“Hey, Chanyeol,” Baekhyun said brightly, looking at him with a smile that made Chanyeol feel like he was back in in their college days. “Can I ask you for something?”
Knowing what he was putting Baekhyun through, Chanyeol nodded. “Sure. Anything.”
Baekhyun held Chanyeol’s gaze softly before asking, “Please stay one week with me.”
“Because of Kyungsoo.”
Baekhyun held his breath. He knew about Kyungsoo. He knew about the guy who would answer his calls for Chanyeol. Still, Baekhyun couldn’t help, but feel a shot of pain in his chest. “It’s just one week…”
“It’s one week too long.”
“We’ve been married for almost four years, Yeol,” Baekhyun said with a sad smile. “One week’s all I’m asking for, giant.”
Chanyeol thinned his lips. “What do you expect to happen over seven days?”
Even though the silence grew, there was a certain type of calm in the air. Baekhyun had looked away, but when he answered Chanyeol’s question, he looked solemn and honest. The tired look in his eyes made him look innocently beautiful and calm, and that was something Chanyeol couldn’t help, but notice.
“I’m not expecting anything to happen…” Baekhyun slowly said, lacing his delicate fingers. “For one week, I just want you to pretend, Yeol,” he said with a voice that threatened to break. “I want you to love me the way you used to…”
With a sad smile on his face, Baekhyun put up a hand. “I said ‘pretend’. Remember that, giant.” He laughed lightly. “You don’t have to be in love with me. I already know you’re not anymore. I just want you to pretend. I won’t ask any more of you. This’ll be the last promise you’ll ever have to hold for me…”
It felt odd being in the house again, but even more, sleeping in a different room other than the one he shared with Baekhyun—or used to. As he lied in his bed that first night, he contemplated his situation. He felt like if God had decided to smite him right then and there, he would have deserved it for doing what he was doing. It still didn’t sit well with him to know that after months of barely any contact, he finally contacted Baekhyun only to break his news of wanting a divorce. But in the end, in his mind, it was inevitable. They weren’t functioning together anymore. Chanyeol moved one way. Baekhyun moved the other.
He turned his head to the right and looked out the window. And as he took notice of the bright stars up in the sky, Chanyeol wondered what else living in the city had prevented him from ever seeing.
One of Chanyeol’s concerns were clothes; he hadn’t brought any seeing as how he wasn’t planning on sticking around for more than a few hours. When he told Baekhyun of this dilemma, Baekhyun smiled and told him not to worry about it. As the time came around to retire for the night, he had taken Chanyeol to a guest room near what was once their bedroom. Baekhyun left for a moment, but came back a little while later with three shirts in his arms while Luna, who was following closely behind him, had plenty more including pajama pants, shorts, boxers, and more t-shirts.
“I couldn’t carry them all,” Baekhyun had explained. “They're too heavy for me.”
Chanyeol then looked at the small pile that Baekhyun and Luna had carried in and set on his bed. “They don’t look that heavy.”
“They weigh like a ton to me,” Baekhyun said quietly.
When Baekhyun left after Luna, bidding Chanyeol good-night, he recited a sequence of numbers before leaving. Unable to understand the binary, Chanyeol moved on. But the more he stood there alone in his room, the more a certain curiosity ate at him as his eyes drifted back to the stack. Then he moved over to the bed, gathered everything and lifted it up.
It wasn’t heavy.
Despite the circumstances of his situation and the angry text messages he received from Kyungsoo the night before, Chanyeol woke up with a peaceful calm. He couldn’t figure out why that was. Maybe it was because he wasn’t in the city and, for once, had sleep that didn’t involve the background noises of sirens and cars. Or maybe it was the house itself. Baekhyun didn’t miss a detail in making every room in the house comfortable and warm.
He took a quick shower and slipped into the clothes that Baekhyun had lent to him. It wasn’t until he looked in the mirror that he saw his appearance and realized something: Baekhyun had given him the clothes he had left behind.
Bitterness washed over him. He didn’t know whether Baekhyun had done it on purpose, which Chanyeol knew he probably didn’t. There were questions in his mind as to why Baekhyun still had them. They were old. He hadn’t worn them in years. He left them in behind.
Why hadn’t Baekhyun gotten rid of them?
The more he looked in the mirror, the more Chanyeol realized he looked the way he used to be. It was funny how a few old clothes and no hair products made him look the way he was two to three years ago. But that was contrary to how he felt. It wasn’t funny. It was bitter and it burned something inside of him. Maybe it was guilt. Chanyeol didn’t know. He just wanted to get through six more days and go home.
Chanyeol was distant. He didn’t know how to act, despite the fact that Baekhyun had only requested for him to pretend. How do you act to pretend? It was a cycle that had no answers.
Breakfast went a little rocky, but Baekhyun tried, making Chanyeol feel like he needed to try also. Luna had made coffee. Baekhyun requested Chanyeol’s coffee to be black. Then he requested milk with his. And when Chanyeol gave him a look, Baekhyun grinned at him and sheepishly shrugged.
“I still remember,” he said. Then he opened his mouth, wanting to tell Chanyeol that every so often he would review the things of what he liked so he wouldn’t forget. But in the end, he closed his mouth and hid behind a smile.
“There’s a tree that’s not too far from here, Chanyeol,” Baekhyun said when Luna was cleaning up their breakfast.
“What do you want to do with a tree?”
For a moment, Baekhyun gave Chanyeol a blank look before softly looking at him. “I want to carve something.”
In that moment, it clicked in Chanyeol’s head. He remembered Baekhyun’s old hobby of writing their initials in the bark of trees, saying that it’d be there for the entire world to see. Chanyeol frowned. “Baek—”
“Let’s go, Chanyeol.”
“Don’t do this.”
Baekhyun couldn’t catch himself. His smile faltered for a visible split second. “We’re only pretending, remember?”
The key word was “pretend”. Chanyeol didn’t know why Baekhyun wanted to do something so cruel as to pretend when they both knew nothing that was happening was actually real. He could see how everything was hurting the petite brunet. But still, it was only for a week and it was Baekhyun’s one condition for signing the papers. It was the most Chanyeol could do, so in the end, he nodded.
In his short time there, he noticed Baekhyun moved a little slow at things. Sometimes it’d take him a minute to process something complex and when he had to do a task that involved too much labor, Luna was around to do it for him.
Chanyeol still couldn’t understand Baekhyun’s relationship with Luna. He didn’t know whether she was a housekeeper, a maid, or a girlfriend—though “girlfriend” was out of the question since their interaction seemed strictly brother and sister. But even though Chanyeol couldn’t draw the line as to what it was, he knew that Luna was protective over Baekhyun for whatever reason.
As he waited in the foyer, he could hear Baekhyun and Luna’s voices around the corner. With ears perked, Chanyeol couldn’t help, but eavesdrop.
“Are you sure you want to walk that far?” he could hear Luna’s concerned voice say.
“I’ve walked there plenty of times. I’ll be alright.”
“That was before…”
“It’s okay. I have Chanyeol.”
The conversation ended there. In the next moment, Chanyeol saw Baekhyun turn a corner and start walking towards him. Behind him, Luna tried to keep a happy look on her face, but Chanyeol could see the distinct look of true concern.
They walked for ten minutes on a path and only came upon the tree Baekhyun was talking about when they went off the trail. After a fair amount of vegetation, Baekhyun pointed at a tree that seemed to be the master of all trees around it.
Chanyeol watched as Baekhyun happily inspected the tree’s base. Then he took a seat as Baekhyun started to work on his tiny project. As he watched, Chanyeol felt something warm inside of him just by looking at the sight of the tiny male against the gigantic tree. It was a pleasant sight and for the first time in so long, Chanyeol let his guard down.
After five minutes of trying to penetrate the hard wood, Baekhyun sighed and turned to Chanyeol, holding out his pocketknife. “Can you do it for me?”
Chanyeol blinked before rising to his feet. He walked over and gently took the sharp object from Baekhyun. “Is the wood hard to cut?”
“I’m just a little tired.”
Chanyeol glanced at him. “Did you sleep well at all last night?”
Silence grew for seconds before Baekhyun answered. “Yes…”
“Then why’re you tired?” Chanyeol asked, looking back at the tree and inspecting the knife.
“I’ve been sick for a while…” Baekhyun replied.
“Have you gone to the doctor?”
“They said it was just a cold,” Baekhyun said, looking away. “They told me I’d be alright…”
“Just a cold, huh?”
“Just a cold.”
Chanyeol pursed his lips and pointed the knife at the tree. “So, what do you want me to write?”
Chanyeol snorted, but he smiled softly anyways. “It’s always binary with you.”
“Numbers can say things that humans never have the courage to say in words sometimes,” Baekhyun said, smiling back. “Where words are vague, numbers are clear.”
They paused for a second before Chanyeol moved again and Baekhyun slowly told him the sequence. By the time Chanyeol was done, an hour and a half passed. In the end, it wasn’t wasted time. They talked about the past and the times that made them laugh until tears were pouring out of their eyes.
Baekhyun laughed for the first time in so long and it seemed to unlock something in Chanyeol’s ears as the beautiful sound filled them. For so long, Chanyeol was deprived of the laugh that made him look twice at Baekhyun back in their college years. And now, with the ringing back in his life, Chanyeol was flooded with different types of emotions. He wasn’t sure how to feel. All he knew was that he felt warmness inside his chest and the beating of his heart coming back to life.
And by the time that it was all done, they walked back together to the house at Baekhyun’s slow and staggering pace, leaving behind a message in the forest that read:
“01001001 00100111 01101101 00100000 01110011 01110100 01101001 01101100 01101100 00100000 01101001 01101110 00100000 01101100 01101111 01110110 01100101 00100000 01110111 01101001 01110100 01101000 00100000 01111001 01101111 01110101”
And if Chanyeol had known binary, he would have known what the numbers were trying to tell him.
I’m still in love with you.
That night, Chanyeol felt something warm crawl into bed with him. When his eyes cracked open, he saw the outline of Baekhyun’s figure standing over him against the moonlight. Then in a quiet voice, Baekhyun asked, “Can I sleep with you tonight?”
He should have hesitated, but Chanyeol didn’t. He moved and flipped the covers over. “Come on in…”
Slowly, Baekhyun laid himself down. He kept his distance, facing the other way, but it was Chanyeol who unexpectedly pulled them together. It wasn’t necessary. There was nothing in their deal about physical contact, but Chanyeol wrapped his arms around Baekhyun’s waist anyways. It surprised Baekhyun for a second, but then he settled into his husband’s strong arms, biting back tears as he tried to fall back to sleep.
They spent the second day singing. Chanyeol hadn’t touched a guitar in so long, he surprised himself by playing fairly well. He messed up on certain notes and couldn’t keep up with certain tempos, but all in all, Baekhyun clapped and smiled at him, praising him for remembering so much despite the years of lacking practice.
While Chanyeol played the guitar, he also sang, but it was Baekhyun who sang for the most part—or at least he tried. His voice cracked and he couldn’t go as high as he used to the way Chanyeol remembered. He would look upset, but Chanyeol would nudge him with his knee and give him a smile. Then they’d continue on with Chanyeol singing the leads and Baekhyun falling back to being the one singing along. Neither of them minded the change in roles. Their voices were still harmonized.
When the sun set and the stars came out, Baekhyun took a blanket outside and invited Chanyeol. In the yard behind their house, Baekhyun set the blanket down, and with the help of Chanyeol, they laid it out.
Lying on their backs, they lied in comfortable silence watching the stars glow. When Chanyeol commented on how rare the stars were in the city, Baekhyun mentioned the light pollution.
“They keep you from seeing the sky. It distracts you.”
“It keeps me from seeing this every night.”
“Yeah…” Baekhyun replied gently. “It does that.”
Chanyeol didn’t know if Baekhyun had always been clumsy. The first time Baekhyun knocked over a glass of water seemed like an accident, but when he squinted his eyes, trying to reach another glass twenty minutes later only to knock it down again, Chanyeol could see that something was wrong.
When they settled on the living room floor, getting ready to play a series of board games that Luna had gotten from the attic, Chanyeol couldn’t help, but ask. “Are you okay, Baek?”
Raising a slightly interested brow as he dusted off the games, Baekhyun hummed. “Yeah, I’m fine.”
“I meant your health,” Chanyeol clarified. “Are you sure it’s just a cold?”
“What else could it be?” Baekhyun shrugged. “I’m tired all the time because of it.”
Chanyeol felt that there was something more, but he didn’t push on. “I see you taking medication sometimes,” he muttered. “Are those for the cold, too?”
Baekhyun paused before he lifted the top off the Monopoly game. “Yes…They’re for my cold. I get headaches sometimes.”
Slanting his lips, Chanyeol said, “Maybe you should go see a doctor again.”
“Maybe I should.”
The atmosphere was heavy, but as soon as the game started, it lightened. They had no stakes. No one was promised into taking off clothing for every property lost, but the laughter and joke-like insults were all real and no pretend.
On the fourth night, they huddled together under a blanket on the living room couch. The two of them—along with Luna, who sat on the floor—watched Titanic, one of Baekhyun’s favorite movies. Chanyeol knew that Baekhyun would be gushing with tears in the end, but to his surprise, the wary male, who was too tired to even stay up past ten, fell asleep leaning against his shoulder.
He looked peaceful even in the dark with only the lighting from the television illuminating his face. Chanyeol took note of it. Deciding that it wasn’t worth Baekhyun waking up sore from sleeping in such a way, Chanyeol rose from the couch and picked Baekhyun up in his arms.
Luna got up to help, trailing right behind Chanyeol until he set Baekhyun in his own bed. After pulling off his shoes and tugging on the covers until it covered the fatigued male’s body, Chanyeol turned around and faced Luna, who was watching everything he was doing.
“Is he always this tired?”
There was a silence. “Not always,” she answered back.
Looking back at Baekhyun’s sleeping self, Chanyeol sighed. “He said he’s been suffering from a cold.”
“A cold…” Luna mumbled.
“Tell him to get medical attention if it gets worse.”
Luna began to start, but failed to go through with her words. She heaved her shoulders and nodded. “I’ll tell him.” She stood there for a few more minutes before figuring that Chanyeol wanted to be alone with Baekhyun. Retreating, she left the room.
Once Luna had gone, Chanyeol’s gaze turned completely onto Baekhyun. Moving his hand, he swayed the hair out of Baekhyun’s face. As he touched the strands, he noticed the feel of them. They weren’t as soft or as glossy as they used to be—or at least how he remembered. Chanyeol didn’t know what to think. In his mind, the cause might’ve been stress. When he looked over his shoulder, he saw the laptop that Baekhyun had open and plugged in.
In the end, Chanyeol reasoned that it was stress due to working too hard on another book. Leaning down, Chanyeol hesitated at first, but conceded to the desire. He kissed the top of Baekhyun’s forehead and let his lips linger for a moment above the fragile male before pulling back and stepping out of the room.
During their rift, Chanyeol was often too busy to ever pay attention to Baekhyun’s plans and his work. He knew Baekhyun’s interests in general, but work always caused him to be too tired to care. In the afternoon, for the first time, Chanyeol sat down and listened to Baekhyun’s plans.
Baekhyun moved slowly, but Chanyeol was used to his pace now. He was also use to Baekhyun occasionally forgetting things or having stalled responses. It wasn’t a rare occasion for Baekhyun to rub his eyes and close them for a while. Chanyeol, trying to do what he could, would go and retrieve water whenever possible.
Papers splayed out on the living room floor. There were small papers with notes on them as well as stapled packets. Baekhyun spread them out and Chanyeol watched as he struggled to organize them the way he wanted—if that was why he kept looking frustrated and confused.
“So,” Baekhyun started, “these are all my ideas and plans.”
“That’s a lot,” Chanyeol commented, looking at the mess. “Are these the ideas you had years ago?”
“No. I threw away everything I had back then.”
Chanyeol raised a brow. “Everything?”
Nodding, Baekhyun confirmed. “I threw everything away in late spring.”
“I wanted to start over. I realized I’ve been writing nonsense.”
“Well, nonsense is your thing, isn’t it?” Chanyeol said, offering a smile.
“It is, but I wanted to try something different. That’s all.”
Glancing down at the words on paper, Chanyeol grinned. “Well, I’m sure it’s gonna be good. Just like the rest.”
Looking at Chanyeol, Baekhyun’s eyes twinkled as his lips curved. “Thanks, Yeol.”
After a moment, he asked, “Will you read it?”
Chanyeol blinked. “Your book?”
Nodding, Baekhyun said, “Yeah. Once it’s published.” Then he added, “I won’t make you promise me that you’ll read it, though. I already told you that this week is the last thing I’ll ever ask of you…”
Feeling a heavy tug on his heart, Chanyeol lifted a hand and turned Baekhyun’s face towards him. “I’ll read it.”
Baekhyun looked more of sad than happy, which was the complete opposite of what Chanyeol expected. Biting his lips for a second, Baekhyun nodded again. “Thanks.”
When Baekhyun paused for a second to close his eyes and take in deep breaths, Chanyeol looked at him with a concerned face. “Headache?”
“Yes…” Baekhyun said weakly. “Headache.”
Chanyeol looked at his phone and saw Kyungsoo’s text messages. He answered them briefly and curtly before turning his cellphone off again. When he went to the kitchen, he found Luna alone, which was what he needed. Tapping her on the shoulder, Chanyeol stepped back instinctively when she turned around with a knife in her hand.
“Oh,” she said. “Hi, Chanyeol.”
“Hi.” Chanyeol fixed his posture for a second and fixed his shirt, which he was pretty sure was from his college days. “I wanted to ask you for a favor.”
Luna looked at him. “What kind of favor?” she asked, cautiously.
“Can you make Baekhyun’s favorite food tonight? And do you have any wine?” he asked.
“To accompany the dinner,” he justified.
“I think Baekhyun would be better off with water, Chanyeol…” Luna mumbled.
Chanyeol was taken aback for a moment, but then he nodded understandingly. “Alright. No wine. But can you make the food?”
Setting the knife down on the counter, Luna crossed her arms. “What’re you trying to do?”
“I’m trying to give him a nice dinner.”
“It’s my last night here.”
With thin lips, Luna sighed. “Chanyeol, don’t. You’re not doing anything good for him by doing this. You know that this is only going to hurt him right? You’re going the extra mile for him for one night, but you’re leaving him the next day. I know you’re just being nice, but this is really cruel.”
Chanyeol’s jaw locked. He didn’t know what to say. “But I want to do this. Not to hurt him, but rather, to make up for everything.”
“What’s there to make up for when all you’re going to do is leave him for another person the next day?”
Taking a step back, Chanyeol felt a panging in his chest. It was true. It was the cold hearted truth. Tomorrow he was going to leave the house with those signed papers, never to look back. He’d be leaving Baekhyun behind with nothing, but the house and some money. It felt horrible because for the last few days, he had been escaping the reality. Now, the night before he had to leave, Chanyeol didn’t know how to deal with it anymore.
Swallowing, Chanyeol tried. “Luna, it’s for one night. Please.”
Luna stared hard at him before turning back. “Fine.”
Chanyeol wanted to sigh in relief. “Thank you.”
After a few seconds, Luna asked, “Do you still love him?”
“What kind of question is that?” Chanyeol muttered, unsure of the answer.
“It’s a reasonable question.”
Thinking, Chanyeol realized that he didn’t know. He felt conflicted. The word “home” no longer had a definite meaning. The days he spent in the house felt warmer to him than the apartment that he had been living in for years. Baekhyun’s laugh seemed to soak him pleasantly in its sound whereas Kyungsoo’s laugh seemed like a mere replica that tried to affect him the same way Baekhyun’s did. His eyes were more tired than Chanyeol had ever seen them, but in the recent days, despite how faded Baekhyun’s eyes had gotten, Chanyeol could see the fire that was once there.
There should have been no hesitation for his heart knew the answer, but his head—the master of all his thoughts and actions—intercepted the confident answer from his heart and distorted it, leaving Chanyeol speechless and confused. His heart said yes, but his head flashed him the image of Kyungsoo.
After waiting for minutes and still not getting an answer, Luna shrugged it off. “Never mind that I asked. I’ll cook for you tonight. Make him happy, even if it’s just for the night.”
A few candles lit the room. Dimmed lights set the mood. The food was set on their plates.
When Baekhyun walked in, he bit his lips so hard, he thought he’d bleed. He wanted to back out and run away because it didn’t seem real, but when he felt Chanyeol’s chest against his back and his hands on his shoulders encouraging him to move forward, Baekhyun had no choice, but to comply.
After they sat down, they began to eat. They didn’t speak for the first few minutes, but gradually the conversation moved. It lightened even more when Baekhyun grinned and commented on their appearance. Chanyeol was wearing a plain shirt and shorts. Baekhyun wore a t-shirt and pajama pants. Neither of which was proper attire for what was supposed to be a romantic dinner date.
And once they were all done, Baekhyun rose from the table after thanking Chanyeol. He planned on heading off to wash his hands, but when he rose, Chanyeol rose faster than he and walked over to him, pulling him up. He led Baekhyun to the living room, which was just as dimmed and filled with the small flares from the scented candles as the dining room.
Then he took the music player’s remote and hit play, initiating a flow of slow music out of the speakers. At this point, Baekhyun was shaking. It was too much for him to bear. He wanted to drop down to the floor, but Chanyeol’s arm wrapped around his waist kept him up. With his other hand, Chanyeol took Baekhyun’s right and intertwined them as they began to sway from side to side.
It was a sweet moment, but for Baekhyun, it also brought him pain. And even though Chanyeol rested his cheek against the top of Baekhyun’s head, and even though he kept them swaying to the soothe sound from the speakers; he could hear Baekhyun crying against him.
As Chanyeol’s grip on the smaller male against him, he clenched his eyes and bit his lips. He tried to ignore the dryness of his throat and fought the heavy urge to silently cry as well.
When morning came, Chanyeol didn’t feel like going back to the city anymore. But he had to. That was where he belonged. He functioned there. That was where his life was. It was where Kyungsoo was. Heaving a sigh, he got out of bed and checked his phone. There were plenty of missed calls from his boyfriend and Chanyeol figured it was about time to call back.
He got an earful when Kyungsoo immediately answered. There was a lot of “Why didn’t you call me back!?” and “You’ve been ignoring my texts!” thrown around, but as the minutes dragged on and Kyungsoo had calmed down, Chanyeol plainly explained to him that he’d be going home that morning. In a huffy voice, Kyungsoo conceded, telling him to do it quickly so they could move on with their lives. Soon after, they hung up.
Chanyeol took off the clothes that made him the man that once belonged to another time and slipped back into the clothes that he arrived at the house in. He fixed his hair and fitted his suit. Soon after, the next time he looked in the mirror, he recognized the miserable fuck that he had been for the last years.
In the kitchen, he saw Baekhyun sitting at the table. When he looked up, Chanyeol noticed that his eyes were red. It was obvious that Baekhyun had been crying, which made Chanyeol’s chest twist in unimaginable ways even more when Baekhyun smiled.
A silence ensued as Baekhyun glanced down and took the folder that was in front of him and held it out to Chanyeol with both hands as if one hand was not enough to lift the lightless folder. “It’s all signed.”
Chanyeol grimaced as his fingers took the folder from Baekhyun. They were shaking, but Chanyeol tried to control his body. “Thank you.”
Nodding, Baekhyun looked away. “Will you be staying for breakfast?” he asked quietly.
“No…” Chanyeol replied softly. “I have to get back to the office in the early afternoon…I have to leave as soon as possible.”
Without looking up at him, Baekhyun nodded. “I understand.” Giving Chanyeol one last look, Baekhyun smiled until it hurt everything inside of him. “Thank you for everything, Yeol,” he said in a shaky voice.
Chanyeol felt gutted. He wanted to pull Baekhyun out of his chair and kiss him, cry, and tell him whatever he needed to say in order to make himself feel better. He wanted to fix things. He wanted to stay. Chanyeol genuinely wanted to stay. He didn’t want to go back to his job or to his apartment. His heart yearned to stay in the place that it had always called home, but Chanyeol’s body disagreed.
With a stoic face, Chanyeol gulped and nodded, accepting the fact that Baekhyun had yet again looked away. “It’s no problem. Thank you…for the papers.” Knowing how Baekhyun wasn’t going to respond to that, Chanyeol continued. “Take care, Baek.”
“Bye, Yeol,” Baekhyun said in a whisper like voice. His face was still turned towards the table, refusing to look up.
In a way, Chanyeol was thankful of the fact that Baekhyun was refusing to look at him. He would have seen the sorry look on his face. With a heavy heart that didn’t want to be wretched from the place where it wanted to be, Chanyeol took a step back before turning on his heels.
When Chanyeol returned back to his apartment, it was like he returned back as another man. It was funny to him how one week made him despise all he had been for the last two years and what he had done. Kyungsoo greeted him happily, but Chanyeol found that it hurt to smile. He wanted to cry, but he couldn’t. He didn’t want to cry because then his thoughts would go right back to Baekhyun. Instead, he forced his body to wrap his arms around Kyungsoo.
Four months had gone by and Chanyeol still felt like he was floating right on by life. Fall was in the midst—perhaps in its end—and the colors of the trees had changed. Not only had the leaves changed, but his marital status had also changed. The ring on his finger was no longer the one he exchanged with Baekhyun, but rather a new one that Kyungsoo had urged for the both of them to get. He was engaged for the second time in his life and Chanyeol admitted to himself that he didn’t feel as happy the second time around as he did around the first time.
Finally having days off, Chanyeol strolled around a park alone where he delved into his thoughts. He still felt empty, especially when there were trees around because they reminded him of the small brunet that used to carve their initials into them.
Thinking about Baekhyun was a daily thing. There was no helping it. Chanyeol still felt a little bit black and white against his colorful background, but there was no helping it. All the blood and the color seem to have drained out of his life when he opened the door and saw Baekhyun’s lawyer standing in the hallway. At first, Chanyeol had thought it was about their impending divorce. In a way, he had hoped that Baekhyun had changed his mind, which would have given Chanyeol the excuse to call everything off. But life was cruel and it wasn’t so.
The lawyer was there for something more grim; something more morbid. And even before the lawyer could go into the details of property and money, Chanyeol had broken down on the floor.
They told him it was brain cancer.
It wasn’t a cold. Chanyeol was angry for the longest time at his deceased husband for lying. He was angry because of the fact that Baekhyun never even bothered to tell him that he had been suffering all along. It was after the news that everything made sense.
Baekhyun’s strong and painful headaches, his slowness, his weakness, his fatigue, his forgetfulness, his clumsiness, and Luna’s overprotectiveness began to click and piece together. And still he had the strength to smile and pretend like everything was fine, and that was the fact that stabbed Chanyeol right in the heart. Baekhyun had been suffering and deteriorating, and he had the cruel mind to hurt him even more by asking him to sign divorce papers.
It had taken Chanyeol time to recover, but he knew that he never would. His mistakes were branded on his soul and it was something he couldn’t erase. His regrets stayed with him all that time. He regretted not listening to his heart; he regretted being too busy to nurture their relationship; he regretted putting work over his own husband; Chanyeol regretted so much that it pained him to a point of insanity.
But, he had to move on no matter how much it hurt.
He took a deep breath and looked up at the sky, watching as his breath created white smoke in the cold weather. Heaving his shoulders, he kept on walking in the direction of home, which, to him, wasn’t home. Home was the tiny estate out in the country that he had once shared with Baekhyun. Home wasn’t in the city. It never was.
As he walked, he kept his eyes down until he reached the end of the block. Along with other people, he waited for the walk signal to turn on. In his wait, his eyes wandered until it hit a large chain bookstore right behind him. He would have looked on and ignored the store, but the face and name in the display window caught his eye.
The walk signal turned on. People walked. Chanyeol walked the other way.
He entered the store and immediately went to the stack of new books. Taking one, his eyes studied it as his heart raced and clenched.
It was Baekhyun’s last book. The one he wanted Chanyeol to read.
With no hesitation, Chanyeol immediately took the book to the counter and bought it.
That night, as Kyungsoo worked throughout the night at the office, Chanyeol read the book and cried. When he read the author’s note in the beginning, he didn’t understand why Baekhyun had chosen to write it until he read the story. By the time Chanyeol had read every word and had closed the book, tears streamed down his face as he realized that the book was their story, but with the ending that both he and Baekhyun had secretly yearned for in their hearts.
“A certain giant would always tell me that it's pointless to cry at the end of movies that don’t end the way we want because it wouldn’t change anything, and I would always ask him what was so wrong with wishing for a different outcome.”
Unable to take any of it anymore, Chanyeol tossed the book on his bed as he took his jacket and left the apartment. And beyond his knowledge, when the book landed, it opened to one of the last pages where Baekhyun had typed his final message.
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