The atmosphere was seemingly down, but only to those who were keen enough to spy the feeling crawling beneath their skins. Chanyeol felt more distracted than he knew he ought to have been, but the heaviness in his head clouded the events around him. The calling of his name jerked him out of his thoughts and he soon remembered his place in that moment in time.
“Chanyeol, you’re up next.”
Nodding at his group’s instructor, Chanyeol cautiously stepped forward, peering upwards at the high wall. Rock climbing, in all its glory, never seemed like such a difficult feat, but with his focus jerked from its placed, Chanyeol began to doubt. He checked the safety harness once, then twice.
There were four stations on the wall, but Chanyeol had stepped into the line with the most difficult lean. If it was to distract himself from the fact that Baekhyun had been pulled away from the group activity to tend to Kyungsoo’s sudden return and request for the brunet, then it did the supposed job.
Burning arms and burning thighs went unnoticed. The thought of his physical pain was unconditionally masked with the anger and irrational annoyance that drenched him in their passion. Physically present, but not in mind, Chanyeol was the last to be aware that he was nearing the top by a sheer, insignificant margin of space. He tuned in on the cheers below him for a split second before turning his head back with the intention of giving those on the ground a smile of assurance, but he muddied his efforts with the accidental glance in the far distance where he could see the camp’s main office and the figure of a small brunet walking slowly to accompany a male with crutches.
Chanyeol physically slipped from his grip and his hold the way his mental being diminished as quickly as he saw the distant image. As the groans and saddened mumbles ensued from under him, his jaw locked as he threw his head back, cursing at nothing, without a clue as to who to curse.
The rest of the forty-five minute activity dragged its claws on the hands of time, unwilling to move faster than time permitted. Chanyeol, impatient as he was, was haste in his enthusiasm to walk back to the main area. Those around mistakenly understood his attitude as that of one who was eager to eat their meal, but late lunch was not at the top of Chanyeol’s prioritized agenda.
The quiet winces were enough to convince Baekhyun to silently make the judgment that the prescribed painkillers were not sufficient in keeping Kyungsoo away from the hands of agony. A moment came about in which the time was correct in addressing the matter, but he heeled, catching the underlying message in Kyungsoo’s gaze to keep quiet about his condition. Pride was the factor, and Baekhyun understood, so he kept silent on the issue.
As Kyungsoo moved at a steady, but yielding pace, Baekhyun did the same as the male beside him crutched by the distance. His eyes traveled from Kyungsoo’s casted leg to his pale lips, drawn of blood from the excessive lip biting. Baekhyun had the urge to touch him, the fragile and broken human that persevered to be present in his life despite his physical state, but decided against the idea.
“Did you eat on your way here?” The latter’s luggage was light, and by the severe persistence on Kyungsoo’s part, an adult was following behind a fair distance after the president argued against the idea. With his lips in fine, thin line, Baekhyun gave a smile over. “The food actually isn’t bad. I survived pretty okay.”
“Did you?” Kyungsoo passively replied, eyes focused on the dining hall where he had taken the tragic fall. With his hands tightly gripping the crutches, he heaved a rough sigh. “So, will you tell me or will you keep it to yourself?”
Drawing his brows slightly inward, Baekhyun frowned. Kyungsoo, in turn, made fierce eye contact with him before glancing back to approximate how loudly he should speak with the presence of a third wheel following closely behind.
“You have an excessively obvious dark spot on your fucking neck.” Kyungsoo had muttered the words under his breath, and to his unfortunate luck, Baekhyun was near enough to hear every word and venom that seethed to spite him. “The fact that you’re trying to cover it by wearing a jacket is hardly praiseworthy. When you stretch your neck in the east direction away from me and the hood of your jacket falls a little to the back by the micro bit, it’s like God himself is putting a magnifying glass right in front of my face, making that thing fucking painful to look at.”
Raising a hand, Baekhyun touched the side of his neck where he instinctively knew Kyungsoo was bearing down on. Heat rose to his face, but he kept ground, shrugging as he brushed the remark off. “Even when you try and erase mistakes off a piece of paper, the original mark’s there.”
“So, that’s a mistake?”
Turning his eyes to Kyungsoo who met his eyes with the same intensity he constantly gave Chanyeol, Baekhyun pursed his lips. “It’s in question.”
Scowling, Kyungsoo stopped making progress, holding in a standstill as he estimated the seconds he had in his possession before the adult following them entered their range. “What do you mean it’s in question? What the hell is in question, anyways?”
“We’re not dating,” Baekhyun clarified, keeping a pause before he kept pace, uncaring for Kyungsoo’s childish standstill. “It was physical.” When the brunet heard the soft sound of feet behind him, he spared himself the effort of checking if the latter left his post.
“Physical for you,” Kyungsoo said in an angered passion, “but the thing can’t be said about him, right?”
“I don’t know what you mean,” Baekhyun answered as they neared the hall.
“Of everyone in this fucking school, you’re the only one I don’t shit around with.” The pain of walking with the crutches hurt more than his physical body, but his pride as well. It was one thing to be inferior to the rest by being a cripple in technical sense, but another to feel a sense of uselessness. Just as he had no control over his own body’s healing process, Kyungsoo saw the lack of power and influence he was beginning to hold the boy next to him. It was infuriating. “I know you’re a smart individual, despite the fact that you choose not to reflect that in your school efforts, so I won’t give you two shits worth of credit for that answer. I asked you whether or not Chanyeol knows that it was just—”
“What does my business with Chanyeol have to do with you!?” Baekhyun suddenly cried.
“I’m your friend—”
“But not my boyfriend.” Baekhyun averted his eyes the minute he saw Kyungsoo’s go blank. “If you’re concerned about what he is to me, don’t be. It’s nothing. He knows, because I told him. Whether he accepts that explanation or not, I have no control over that, but stay out of it.”
Kyungsoo could feel his knuckles bleeding white as the blood began to drain from his body. “You don’t know him. How can you feel so comfortable with some guy who came out of nowhere confessing his love for you like some damn school boy in middle school? You know what it is, right? It’s suspicious, it’s weird, and it’s annoying. For all you fucking know, he’s sick in the goddamn head. I can see it.”
“Can you?” Baekhyun asked passively.
“I deal with these people every day. I hear things and I know more than you do about what goes on in the fucking school, so when I say that sick people like Park Chanyeol who go around playing with people’s feelings actually exist, I know what I’m talking about. It’s how girls our age get pregnant. Boys manipulate them into thinking that forever is real, when it’s not. It’s shit coming out their mouth, but the girls don’t know that. It’s the reason why that kid committed suicide last year after getting played by his girlfriend. People like this exist in both genders, and I can’t risk losing you if Chanyeol is—”
“Chanyeol’s not like that, Soo. Haven’t we gone over this?”
“Adam and Eve had the favor of God, but even they fell for the Devil, unable to recognize the snake for who it truly was,” Kyungsoo muttered before he ultimately decided to forfeit the argument, determined to keep Baekhyun by his side. If another opportunity rose to unclip him of the attachment stringed right toward the athlete, scissors would be at hand to do so. Time, in Kyungsoo’s principal, would tick until perfectly aligning itself to the write moment.
Chanyeol clung to the seconds, anticipating the event of seeing Baekhyun again, despite the ugly truth that he would be in the company of the student body president. It took time in reaching the realization as to where Kyungsoo’s hate and inferno rooted from, but it made sense that the latter would feel such things towards him when Chanyeol came to accept the fact that he was seen as an enemy, a man of romantic competition.
Kyungsoo had laid his feelings so dormant for so long, he had forgotten that Baekhyun became his own individual the moment they broke up. Chanyeol understood that, perhaps, scraps of wasted feelings were left during their platonic friendship afterwards, and that was what was resurfacing in the form of jealousy.
Though the theory made Kyungsoo’s abiding revulsion for him slightly bearable than it previously was, Chanyeol was undeterred in his feat. Kyungsoo was Baekhyun’s past, and Chanyeol knew that he was his future.
Displeasure surged when two trays clacked down on the table and Kyungsoo’s eyes jerked from his tasteless grilled chicken, right into the black void that consumed him on eye contact. “Jongin. Chanyeol.” His greetings were curt and cold for reasons too obvious to state. “If you’re lost, perhaps I can scribble a map. Chanyeol, you know how to read maps, correct? Maybe you’ll safely find your way to your table of friends and athletes with grades sadder than France’s poor military history.”
Jongin seemed jerked out of his composure, but Chanyeol brushed the insult off. “It’s okay. We’ve been eating with Baekhyun and Luhan since you’ve been gone. It’d be rude to just leave them now.”
“Who’s saying that it’d be rude?” Kyungsoo asked, drawing his eyes to Jongin. “Don’t feel obligated to eat with us.”
“We’re not obligated,” Jongin answered, “so cut the act and drop it.”
Murder was written all over Kyungsoo’s eyes as his gaze bore into Jongin’s own. “You’re such filth,” he spat. “You’re the entire reason why I fell and you have the audacity to eat here?”
“You fell on your own accord, but like always, you can’t even take responsibility for the consequences, can you? If I’m filth, then you’re not even human, Do Kyungsoo.”
Baekhyun’s cup of tolerance ran dry. He shook his head and met Chanyeol’s eyes. “I’m sorry,” he mouthed silently to the giant in true, sincere feelings before asking in a louder voice, “Can you guys sit somewhere else?”
Immediately, Chanyeol felt floored over the decision Baekhyun made to choose Kyungsoo’s presence over his. With his mouth dry as though he had just been hit with the winter wind, Chanyeol couldn’t find it in him to trust himself to speak so he hesitantly nodded, preparing to stand before Jongin beat him to the punch, pushing him back down in his seat.
“Sure. Let’s go Kyungsoo.” Jongin left his tray with no explanation as to why until it became clear when he attempted to touch the president’s body. “Either you get your doctor-prescribed crutches or I carry you to another table far away from these two. Choose your pick.”
“I’m not moving, you fucking ape,” Kyungsoo cried, punching away the hand that dared to near him. “If it wasn’t clear to you and your undeveloped fat head, he was referring to you and Park.”
Scoffing, Jongin stepped forward and scooped Kyungsoo into his arms. Despite the latter’s punches and slaps, the meds and his injuries were enough to make the task easy on the soccer captain. “Luhan, will you carry our food over to our new table?”
Nodding, Luhan scampered out of his seat and did as the man asked. Baekhyun watched in horror as Kyungsoo’s panicked features were screaming red alert and his face was turning red either from anger or embarrassment. Baekhyun couldn’t decipher, and before he could blink after Luhan’s departure as well, he was alone with Chanyeol.
“Are you not going to go back and get my goddamn crutches?”
Jongin took his time slicing his grilled chicken into pieces, even offering a piece to Kyungsoo, who slapped the meat away in distaste, which caused Jongin, in turn, to answer in an irked tone. “I wouldn’t want you to leave, would I?”
“I would figure that you would.”
Shaking his head, Jongin disagreed. “You cause too much trouble for Chanyeol.”
“I wouldn’t have to if he didn’t have disgustingly black and tainted intentions when it comes to Baekhyun.”
“I don’t see how my friend wanting Baekhyun for himself is coming off to you as tainted,” Jongin replied, taking a bite of his dinner. “I think it’s rather cute.”
“Is the Devil cute?” Kyungsoo sardonically asked spitefully before glancing out the window.
Jongin shrugged before drawing his eyes in Kyungsoo’s direction, studying the male in his imprisoned state. “He has to be or else how will he tempt people into committing sins.”
Whipping his head back towards the man who moved him without his consent, Kyungsoo frowned. “That was rhetorical.”
“You asked and I answered. Now, will you make Luhan’s sacrifice of moving to sit with other people worth the effort by eating or not?”
“I’m not hungry.”
Jongin kept silent for a while before he heaved his shoulders. “I’m not going to put blame on you for that,” he said. “I should apologize for accusing you of not being human. I suppose your inability to eat stems from your revulsion of the fact that your ex-boyfriend is falling in love again, while you’re still stuck on the love you had. Jealousy is a trait less admirable than the rest, but it’s enough to humanize even the highest of gods.”