The morning of the second day was Hell the minute someone’s loud alarm began ringing with an obnoxious song put on high. Despite in covered darkness, Baekhyun could faintly see his cabin mates begin to stir within their beds. Rolling over, he turned on his phone and glared against the LCD light as the device flashed. After seeing the god-awful time, he put the phone back on the ground and lied back in his bed.
It was seven-fifteen, and the sun hadn’t yet broken out in the sky, but traffic was a pain in Baekhyun’s ass. With no agenda to fight for space in the stall-limited bathrooms, he begrudgingly left his bed using a flashlight to see in the dark as he pulled out clothes and shower materials.
Once he finished, he stood up while aiming the flashlight on the floor. All efforts to slip outside quietly were hindered with every step on the creaky ground. When he heard a faint voice calling at him, he paused for a moment, looking back and pointing the light in the face of his neighbor.
“What’re you doing?”
The question came out in a gruff voice, roughened by the early morning hours. Pointing the light back down, Baekhyun shook his head as he quickly found the door. “Go back to sleep, Chanyeol.”
The clouds that loomed over the sky the previous day lingered and returned with a windier fury than the last. Even the slab of concrete that was poorly called a “porch” was slick with water due to the rain that had issued back in play during the night. Cursing under his breath, Baekhyun pulled his towel over his head and made a careful dash up the rocky hill beside the cabin. Once he reached the bathroom building, he pulled open the heavy door forcefully and stepped inside.
His eyes stung, no doubt in his mind that it came from being awake so damn early. After checking the mirrors, he glared at his eyes, red and puffy from the uncomfortable sleep acquired from the lack luster mats the camp called beds.
The loud hiss of the shower head snapped the silence in the barren bathroom. Hanging his head, Baekhyun found himself breathing as though he was suffocating. Just beyond his sight, he spotted the dark bruises on his shoulder left behind by the invasion of Chanyeol’s eager lips the day before.
Inwardly crawling within his skin, Baekhyun felt the turmoil of being engulfed in heated embarrassment again. Wrapping his arms around himself in a gentle manner, he stared at the white-tiled wall contemplating how his actions should be executed about that day. Smart tactics and strategies were key to the success of any war, and Baekhyun was on red alert in order to find his golden map out of the Hell he faced.
Perhaps in the beginning he was the overconfident prince peering down from his ivory tower watching the enemy with an ego, assurance that his walls would never be breached; however, the tides were changing and with physical evidence left on his body, Baekhyun felt his castle, his haven, intruded upon and failing to hold on to its security.
In Chanyeol’s mind, Baekhyun might’ve seemed like a rose, red in seduction and fascinating, and perhaps that’s how Baekhyun might’ve seemed to the giant from a distance, but it was only a matter of time before the persistent man would try and touch him only to realize that his very existence was covered in thorns.
“Where did you go yesterday?”
Setting his cellphone aside, Baekhyun glanced up at the tired blond loosely holding the fork in his hand as he attempted to impale the sausages given that morning. Luhan, as Baekhyun saw, looked as miserable as he, but in a fashion less severe. At least the latter didn’t have blood shot eyes.
“The camp had a pool,” Baekhyun answered cautiously as he took a sip of water from his cup. “I decided that it was worth looking at, I suppose.”
“Oh, okay. You disappeared after the hike. I thought that you had—” Interrupted by the ding of a text alert, Luhan paused for a moment, giving the brunette an apologetic look as he pulled his own cellular device out and began texting.
Curiosity struck the brunette who glanced at his phone that hadn’t revealed a single signal tower the moment he stepped foot in the damp wilderness. It wasn’t the god-awful weather that deterred his connection to the outside world, but the trees—or at least that was what Baekhyun had convinced himself.
Once Luhan finished his business, Baekhyun drew his brows together and asked, “How’re you getting signal?”
Momentarily in a loop, Luhan appeared confused until he understood. “It’s not signal. The camp has wifi here, and also in the community hall, but those are the only places.”
Free wifi, in Baekhyun’s opinion, was truly a gift from God. It was as though the almighty being was shining a light through the cluster of trees that blocked the sun for all that it was worth, and that, for Baekhyun, was an ecstatically revelation.
It took no longer than a few seconds after connecting to the only possible lifeline he had that Baekhyun’s phone came back from the dead and alerted him of message after message from Kyungsoo on their messenger app. The first initial texts received were ones almost jokingly mocking at the brunette whether he had figured out the wifi gateway access yet. The later ones were of the usual: Kyungsoo digging his claws at everything happening.
They took me to the hospital to get x-rays. You know the stupidity I have to deal with telling these doctors that it’s sprained and that I know that it is already? No. They wanted to take rays and inflict ultraviolet damage to my foot to confirm what I already knew. The healthcare system disappoints me and shatters every image they’ve ever claimed to be true.
I suppose I should apologize for being an ugly son of a bitch to your friend. I won’t mention his name, but he’s the one that clings to you like an orphaned pup. You know that even if I apologized, I wouldn’t really mean it with any type or form of sincerity, don’t you? For appearances sake, give him my apologies and hand him the excuse that I wasn’t in the mood for him, but it’s apparent that it won’t fall through. Whether he says so or not, he’s aware of my dislike of him, and it’s getting difficult for me to keep face in front of that dimwitted jock and his soccer friend.
I’m sorry I asked you to accompany me on the trip only to leave you, crippled with a crutch and bruises to the forehead. I should’ve been more careful, but the blame’s also in the hands of the damn idiots who created that goddamn stair, slick and shit with the slightly sprinkle of rain.
I would tell you to have fun, but there’s a fat chance of the impossible ever happening. Let me take you out to dinner or to lunch when everything’s back to the way it was, the way I liked it… Just you and me, and we’ll call it a date, or whatever label you want to give it.
When you figure out that the camp ground has wifi to offer, message me back because as corny as I’ll ever make it sound, I miss having you to talk to.
If in any situation that large manifestation of growth hormones starts to bother you, tell me. Don’t let yourself be violated. I know how delicate you can be whether or not you admit the fact.
Anyways, I have to go to sleep. It’s late. Message me when you get this or else I’ll worry for some goddamn reason…
In that moment in time, Baekhyun must’ve unconsciously set his facial expressions free. The realization only hit when Luhan’s soft laughter broke through his concentration after asking, “Kyungsoo?”
With his fingers lightly gliding over the screen, Baekhyun felt the way his lips curved at the name. Then, he nodded. “It’s not even a fair guessing game. It never really was, I suppose.”
“I guess not.”
They ate in silence for a while as Baekhyun took a minute to type a short, curt, but briefly fitting message to the injured male from beyond the woods. Luhan’s tired eyes wandered as his brain dragged itself attempting to function so early in the morning. In one particular direction, he met eyes with Chanyeol, who, with a determined and quirky face, carried his plate with ease as he maneuvered through the dining hall to join the two of them.
Taking a short look in Baekhyun’s direction, Luhan hummed. When he looked back to the approaching giant, he spotted Jongin walking shortly behind and immediately felt discomfort by the single fact that on more than one occasion, Kyungsoo had spent minutes slashing and burning every positive opinion of the supposed headstrong captain. However his opinion of the two went about, he knew there was no room for his voice on a matter that didn’t concern him so much or ever will.
Gently touching Baekhyun’s hand, Luhan nodded and looked past him. “Chanyeol’s coming over to join us. Jongin, too.”
Opening Kyungsoo’s delayed messages felt like one thing, whereas the news about Chanyeol’s presence made the brunette feel different. With the upbeat pace of his pulse, he made sure Kyungsoo’s text went through before putting the phone down and turning his head back just in time to catch Chanyeol smiling at him as he arrived and began to sit down.
“Good morning,” Chanyeol said, greeting the blond first before turning his attention back to the male beside him. “Good morning to you, too. Did you sleep okay last night?”
Scoffing, Baekhyun shook his head. “No,” he muttered under his breath.
“What was that?”
Jongin sat nearer to Luhan, as Baekhyun noticed, but the latter moved slightly off to the side despite the immense amount of room the captain had left in between them. Momentarily, Baekhyun was curious of the mystery as to why until he felt Chanyeol’s large hand on his back.
“I asked if you slept alright last night,” Chanyeol repeated, looking at him with a discerning eye.
“Yeah,” the brunette answered back as he sighed. “Fine.”
“You kept tossing and turning,” the athlete said, motioning his hand on Baekhyun’s back in a lazy, yet comforting pattern. When he felt the rising question Baekhyun was preparing to ask, Chanyeol gave him a tired grin. “I couldn’t sleep last night either…”
The implication what the male insinuated was enough to push Baekhyun to the mental brink of wanting to fade out of existence. True, he found it hard to close his eyes and drift into the arms of Sleep, but it was also to no debate that the reason for that being was Chanyeol’s mere presence. Even in the darkness of the cabin, Baekhyun could not find shelter from the fresh memories woven in his head. Every time he closed his eyes the night before, the image of Chanyeol’s face inches away from his own slashed like entities that refused to be forgotten, and the feeling of the athlete’s hands and lips all over his body against the thrashing cool pool water came rushing back. No amount of tossing and turning could deter the moments from reaching his conscious mind.
Had it just been him alone, perhaps the embarrassment would’ve been more bearable since it was a feeling Baekhyun had to deal with all on his own, but the knowledge that Chanyeol had the very same issues falling asleep for the exact same reasons enflamed him on the inside.
For some reason, it was odd to feel in sync with the latter, but the feeling was different than what sparked during his relationship with Kyungsoo in the past. What lacked then, Baekhyun could feel in the moment as Chanyeol’s comforting hand continued to touch his back softly.
Sensing underlying messages that he knew otherwise than to touch upon, Jongin took up the opportunity to break the feelings that lingered in the air, nodding at the phone beside Baekhyun’s hand. As if catching on to the drift of the atmosphere that was present before his intrusion with Chanyeol, Jongin rubbed his hands together before picking up an eating utensil. “Were you messaging Kyungsoo?”
Straightening up in his seat, Baekhyun swayed away from Chanyeol’s touch, sparking a raised brow from the giant. “I just found out they had internet, so I only got to opening his messages just now,” Baekhyun said, ignoring the sullen expression on Chanyeol’s face. “He said that he’s fine, but they took him to a hospital anyways.”
“That’s good to hear then,” Jongin commented before beginning to eat and seemingly pushing any thoughts of the injured president aside.
Grabbing Baekhyun’s attention again, Chanyeol coughed, causing the latter to turn his eyes in his direction. Once the tiny ploy succeeded, he smiled, almost fervently thrusting the impaled sausage on his fork in front of the brunette’s face. “Want it?”
Taken aback for a moment, Baekhyun stalled, almost stuttering before he answered. “That’s yours.”
“You know how they have that two sausage rule up there? I took the third for you. Can’t say it wasn’t fun stealing even though I feel a bit bad. I should go apologize later,” he mumbled, glancing back at the breakfast line. “Anyways, take it, okay? From what I heard, we’re doing group exercises today again so that means a lot of physical activity.”
Groaning, Baekhyun slid the sausage off Chanyeol’s fork and bit it. “It’s raining,” he gritted as he chewed, “and they’re still adamant on making us do things out in the woods? What’re the chances of being struck by lightning, Luhan?”
“One in five-hundred thousand,” Luhan answered in a sure tone.
“The likeliness of that one in five-hundred happening today rises every time we’re all forced to do something out in the rain,” Baekhyun stated, holding the sausage meat in Chanyeol’s face. “Today could be the day for all these people know when, in fact, what do they really know at all anyhow? I can almost taste preservatives off this sausage and they still claimed to our parents that we’d be provided with healthy food according to state standards set by the board of education.”
Leaning over with no worry as to how it might appear to others, Chanyeol nipped the half of the sausage from the part that Baekhyun had bitten from. Bewildered, Baekhyun looked back and forth between his half-eaten sausage and the man who chewed on it thoughtfully.
Chanyeol hummed for a second before giving Baekhyun a teasing glance. “It doesn’t taste like preservatives. Tastes like something else, but not that,” he said, lips curved in a small grin. “Overall? It’s okay.”
“You’re really something, aren’t y—”
“Yes, I am,” Chanyeol said, winking before Baekhyun could even finish. In the faint distance, he heard his name being called. Naturally, he turned back and noticed his teammates motioning for him. Conflicted but giving into the need of the majority, Chanyeol waved everyone at the table and look. “I’ll be back. Eat your breakfast,” he said, looking straight into the brunette’s peering eyes.
“I already did. You gave me your stolen sausage when I didn’t even ask for it.”
“You burn a lot of energy just by talking about how much you hate everything around you,” Chanyeol said grinning, standing up. “I’ll be quick, so save this seat for me.”
“Who else would sit there?” Jongin snorted, speaking up without looking in the duo’s way, occupying himself with his cellphone.
Shrugging, Chanyeol continued to fix his eyes on Baekhyun. “Kyungsoo would’ve, but…”
“But he’s not here,” Baekhyun scoffed. “Alright, whatever. Go, run. The peasantry calls for your royal highness over to their court.”
“As much as it hurts me to part from the Queen, I—”
“Don’t call me ‘Queen’, Chanyeol,” Baekhyun interrupted.
Laughing as he slowly backed away, Chanyeol tilted his head slightly to the right. “Then should I describe the weather as warm and sunny? No, cause then that’d be lying about the obvious, wouldn’t it?”
Purposely, Chanyeol left before any more argumentative points came slipping out of Baekhyun’s mouth. Left unattended by, he went to occupy his time with his phone, slightly surprised that he had been so distracted as to let a message by Kyungsoo go about unnoticed.
When asked of what he was currently doing, Baekhyun made a quick response recapping everything that just happened, but minus all the minuscular details about Chanyeol’s effortful attempts as the usual. With the birth of a feeling that came crawling to him like a silent killer, Baekhyun should have been able to anticipate Kyungsoo’s brashness at all times as he usually did in the past, but there was something skewed about the president in their recent times. Perhaps it wasn’t so obvious before, but as their conversation back and forth elongated into minutes, the fissure contrasting Kyungsoo before and his current self began to surface.
In the past, efforts on Kyungsoo’s part to integrate himself in Baekhyun’s affairs were slim to none. At times, Baekhyun would often think that single fact was their failure: the inexplicable letdown on both of their parts to conjure more than just a platonic emotional and physical relationship. Kyungsoo had never been fervently active in involving himself with the brunette in comparison to Chanyeol, but for a reason too premature to deem as the culprit, Kyungsoo was enraged with every growing interaction and glance between Baekhyun and the athlete. And, for all that it was worth, it was more passion than he had ever let himself feel during his platonic time with his ex.
Seconds dragged as Baekhyun’s eyes stayed glued to his phone, staring for what felt like an eternity at Kyungsoo’s odd news, because despite the injured back, the sprained ankle and the bruises lurking beneath his clothes, Kyungsoo, in all his flesh and pride, had written, “I’m coming back in the late afternoon.”