Baekhyun tutored kids in private, often offhandedly, never fully committed, but nonetheless, he lent his hand to whoever needed it if he liked them well enough. Sehun, the school’s most valued free throw shooter, trickled down on his small clientele list, but after a few weeks in the library and a handful of small talk topics to fill gaps of tiny silence, Baekhyun found that the latter was more interested in the blonde who sometimes greeted them in the public library space. Once, the brunet caught the basketball player staring off as Luhan disappeared behind one of the shelves and though he seemed without humor, Baekhyun had to bite his lower lip in an attempt to keep face.
After a while, even without having been coaxed, Sehun confessed, keeping his cool as he said, “Chanyeol told me to ask you if it’d be alright.”
“Hm.” Baekhyun had stared at the multiple choice questions set before them. With Sehun’s attention fading, he knew it'd be difficult to get the boy to focus. “And why’s that?”
“You’re his friend.”
“Luhan’s also Chanyeol’s friend.”
“Yes, but…” Sehun looked uncomfortable. His eyes darted elsewhere, avoiding Baekhyun and their assignment. “Chanyeol told me he’s more of your friend than his.”
Snorting, Baekhyun read the line to problem sixteen. “I don’t know what he told you, Sehun. Do you need my permission to date him? By all means, date him.”
“Are you sure? Chanyeol said to make sure I have your permission.”
“Why’s he acting like I’m Luhan’s guardian?” Baekhyun asked, exasperated. “Do what you want with him.”
“Alright, then.” Sehun leaned back in his seat. His eyes studied Baekhyun’s sharp features from the way his lips were thin in annoyance to the way his brows were drawn together. “I think Chanyeol doesn’t want you to feel overwhelmed or anything. That’s all. I mean, I don’t plan on approaching every one of Luhan’s friends and asking them if it’s alright.”
“And why would I be overwhelmed?”
“Because...well, I don’t know,” Sehun said, shrugging. “The way he said it, he told me it has something to do with worlds colliding. Luhan’s more of your friend, so he’s more part of your world. As for me, I never really talk to you outside of here, only when I need help with something. Chanyeol said it’s because I’m part of his world, but I don’t understand his confusing concepts. He’s gotten a little weird since meeting you, I guess.”
By the look of his appearance, Sehun hadn’t seemed to factor in his unintentional underhanded insult. Baekhyun let the comment slide, projecting more of his attention on the pressure he was applying to his pen. “Ignore him. He’s just being stupid.”
It wasn’t too far-fetched for Chanyeol to have some sort of general anxiety over their relationship. In fact, it was reasonable despite how unnecessary it was in Sehun’s case. Chanyeol was careful, but it started to make Baekhyun feel constricted.
Baekhyun hadn’t met the giant’s friends yet, and he had been waiting, at least, for some sort of introduction. Though he wanted a quiet relationship, he was aware that things would be far different than how it was with Kyungsoo. With the president, it was easy being that it was only them. Two numerals in a world full of digits. But Chanyeol was of a different nature in that he had friends, a broad social life. It was inconsiderate to pull him from that life, so it was clear to the brunet how he needed to bend a little, but Chanyeol was making it near impossible.
It was a struggle as he pressed on to keep to himself, forcing it to the back of his mind. Nothing deteriorated people and relationships more than beastly thoughts. In his casualness, he brushed many things off. From the people who spoke behind his back when Chanyeol was no where near him to the letters he began receiving in the recent days.
Who the fuck are you…
What the hell is this…
By the fourth day, Baekhyun started throwing them in the nearest bin (rather than keeping them for further reading), just minutes before Chanyeol turning around the corner, sports bag over his shoulder with a wide grin on his face, asking, “Want me to walk you to class?”
As usual, he’d say no, but Chanyeol would always insist, eyes never seeing past the half-hearted smile.
There were times when Baekhyun saw Kyungsoo in the late morning. Before, the president would approach him to lecture about being timely, but that was no more. A fleeting glance was all Baekhyun received, but the effort to change the outcome was too much for him to spare at the moment. Kyungsoo needed to fall from his high first before being agreeable enough to converse without the two of them falling apart even more than they already were.
Basketball practice left Baekhyun’s phone silent. It was something he used to be accustomed to, but with Chanyeol’s constant need to make conversation, the device always found life. With two games lost one week right after the other, the coach was beginning to push harder, keeping the players longer than before. They needed to survive a few more games in order to compete in the district final, and if they won that, they’d qualify to run for region. There was too much at stake and the team’s focus was valuable. Baekhyun worried he’d become a distraction, but he shelved those thoughts for another day.
It was Thursday, and the lack of activities, thereof, left him bored out of his mind. It never occurred to him how he’d wait for Chanyeol’s calls, but when it did, it left Baekhyun slightly annoyed. Rolling off his bed, Baekhyun stood up, grabbing his jacket from the seat of his study chair and took his wallet with him.
His mother asked where he was headed, but Baekhyun gave to her a vague answer, considered to be open ended, but she nodded him off with trust. When he left the house, his hair was still damp from his shower and his clothes weren’t the least bit presentable. Sneakers with sweatpants, a white shirt, and a black jacket hardly pointed to anything productive on an agenda that he might’ve had on a Thursday night.
He walked with absolutely no sense of direction or plausible destination, but Baekhyun found himself content with the matter. There were no worry despite having left his cellphone at home, so with the hopes that something strange wouldn’t suddenly befall on him, he kept walking.
There was a music store down the block, hidden in a building upstairs a local restaurant. For a minute, he thought of visiting, but then decided against it, gambling that there wouldn't be anything interesting at the moment to buy.
Kyungsoo worked at a nearby convenience store, and though he knew he shouldn’t have, Baekhyun walked to the area and looked inside, watching Kyungsoo flip through his notes in the absence of customers. It felt slightly awful just thinking about him and how they were, but even more so to see Kyungsoo continue to try and please everyone who he had no love for.
The divorce hit the president harder than anyone else knew, and whenever Kyungsoo forced himself to push family matters aside for the sake of image at school, Baekhyun would look away. As he stood outside beyond the glass window, Baekhyun silently wondered how the latter was fairing. Love was certainly lost between them, but concern was not. There was an urge to burst into the store and fix the damage done by irrevocable choices made, but Baekhyun couldn’t get himself to move.
With dark shadows under his eyes, Kyungsoo looked exhausted. Baekhyun knew it was from lack of sleep, but he could do nothing except purse his lips at the sight. Sometimes, when troubled, Kyungsoo would be an insomniac, only sleeping for an hour or so before mindlessly wandering or keeping himself busy with work he constantly snapped about. Other times, it would be stress or just the mere thought of the future that’d keep him awake. For whatever reason, Kyungsoo would never allow himself the pleasure of dreams and fantasy very often, and Baekhyun guessed that it was because reality was too near around the corner for one to ever forget it.
After a few minutes, Kyungsoo raised his head and turned to look in Baekhyun’s way. The contact was shocking and brief, leaving Baekhyun slightly flustered, but nonetheless, he managed to give Kyungsoo a smile. Before he could raise his hand to wave, the latter looked back down at his papers, turning his position with his back facing against the window.
The sting of the cold gesture was too much, but the brunet kept his hurt to himself as he folded his arms and kept walking on. To keep himself from thinking about Kyungsoo, he began humming, mumbling broken lyrics to himself with his head down. A few minutes later, he hit someone by accident on the shoulder and raised his gaze up to give an apology only to stop when he realized it was Jongin.
Baekhyun had never seen the soccer captain in this part of the city before. In his head conjured questions, but instead, he simply greeted him with a nod. “Sorry,” he said, keeping notice of Jongin’s expression. It seemed as though he was in a hurry. “I didn’t see you.”
“It’s fine. It was partially my fault,” Jongin told him, glancing at the watch on his wrist. “Do you happen to know where Kyungsoo works around here?”
Drawing his brows together, Baekhyun cocked his head. It was an odd question considering the two never seemed to associate with each other much. The things Baekhyun recalled were all confrontations, heated and full of spite. But in no judgement did he let those isolated moments shadow his ability to answer. “Two blocks up, and then to the left. His shift doesn’t end until nine.”
Jongin followed in the direction of Baekhyun’s finger and after a few seconds, he nodded, thanking him. Then curiosity latched on to him. “What’re you doing here? Out here, I mean.”
“What do you mean?” If anything, Baekhyun should’ve been the one asking that question, but he let the question clear.
“You’re usually waiting for Chanyeol at school.”
Did it seem constant on a regular basis? Baekhyun frowned at the notion that he visited Chanyeol far more often than he initially wanted. His hands were curled beyond Jongin’s view.
The captain looked at him, studying his face for a short while all in the absence of words. Then he reached over, holding Baekhyun’s face with the pad of his thumb and his index. Jongin’s eyes looked lost, giving no clue to the brunet as to where the train of thought inside his head was going.
“What is it about you that he loves so much?” Jongin said under his breath. It was never meant to be said so loudly, but the statement slipped before anything could filter it.
Baekhyun drew back in caution, confused by the question. Too many things were out of its normal pattern. Jongin had never made an appearance in the area prior to that moment, and he had never touched Baekhyun in any way more intimate than the casual brisk of interaction. But both happened, and the brunet was at a loss.
Brushing off the incident, Baekhyun recovered with a smile. “I don’t know. Wouldn’t that be a question to ask him?”
“He’d never answer...”
“On the contrary, Chanyeol will probably never stop talking.”
Jongin said nothing, then shrugged. He looked back at the street, stuffing his hands in his pockets. “I suppose… Anyways, I’ll get going,” he said, turning on his heel.
“What business do you have with Kyungsoo?” Baekhyun asked quickly in the split second of opening he had. “I didn’t know you two had become close friends.”
“We’re not, and it’s nothing you need to concern yourself with, Baekhyun. It’s honestly just private matter at this point,” Jongin said, walking away.
In the end, the walk became an indulgent spree. Having stopped at the ice cream shop owned by an old uncle, Baekhyun gave himself an allowance of three scoops on his cone. The old man asked what he was doing out so late, and Baekhyun said it wasn’t late at all, but that was before he took a gander at the standard clock in the shop and realized he had walked and wandered for almost two hours with the time at nine.
Baekhyun thought back to his cell phone. Chanyeol would’ve called or texted right after practice, so there might’ve been messages waiting to be read at home. Hours were spent in a plotless venture and all for the freedom of being parted from him. Baekhyun wasn’t blind to his own motives despite his random act of the night.
In some way, he wanted his nights to stop revolving around the basketball player. It was troublesome to be dependant on someone for anything. The feeling snapped at him in distaste and Baekhyun was bitter with himself.
He was falling harder than he had expected. The entire relationship was a sinkhole, sucking him in at a rate faster than gravity. Part of him relished in it, but the part that still survived from his relationship with Kyungsoo was dying in its pressure. He had loved Kyungsoo so much that when it all fell apart, Baekhyun must’ve made the unconscious decision to never wander down the dark path of love again, but Chanyeol was making it so easy, and that’s what he found so terrifying.
Everything had a limit and a breaking point. The moment they reach theirs in the future, Baekhyun is already aware of how much he’ll hate himself for waiting for those texts and phone calls because it was all of those little details along the way that made him give his love away.
He finished his treat and left the shop as one of its last customers. The sky was dark when he stepped out and began his way back home.
Baekhyun’s mother told him immediately as he walked through the front door that he had a visitor. “He’s in your bedroom,” she had said, giving no other information, but she was especially cheeky about the statement that it sent a warning signal to her son.
Cautiously, Baekhyun went up the stairs. For a second, he hoped it was Kyungsoo because matters between them were dire and needed reparation, but as he threw his bedroom door open, it wasn’t Kyungsoo, but rather Chanyeol.
The second he walked through the door, the giant’s worried expression became wiped and a huge grin appeared. “Hey!”
“Hi,” Baekhyun said slowly as he closed the door behind him. Without much thought, he let Chanyeol lean down to kiss him on the lips. “Why’re you here?”
“It’s Thursday,” Chanyeol said, pulling away. “Besides the fact that I kind of need help with something, I just needed an excuse to see you.”
Setting his jacket on the bed, Baekhyun went over to his desk to put away his wallet. “It’s a little late, don’t you think? This is usually the time when you leave.”
“You want me to leave?”
“I didn’t say that,” Baekhyun said, yawning as he turned back around to sit beside Chanyeol on his bed. “I’m just tired.”
“What’ve you been doing all night?” Chanyeol asked, laughing.
Baekhyun smiled, glancing at the giant’s sports bag near his door. “Walking. Eating. I’ll never understand how you put up three hours of practice and still have the mood to like me.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“What do you think it means?”
“I think you’re asking where I get the energy to put up with you?”
Falling back on the bed, Baekhyun gave him a shrug. Chanyeol had hit it right on the dot. “Two points for you, Mr. Hotshot.”
“First of all,” Chanyeol started, lying down on his side, “your question was more like a free throw, so really, only one point. Second, do you really think being with you takes up a lot of my energy?”
“Yes, because I think I’m impossible sometimes.”
Chanyeol clicked his tongue. “I don’t think so,” he said lightly, reaching over to move the brunet’s hair out of his face. “Did you brush at all today?”
“Not really,” Baekhyun replied, lifting his hand to fix his appearance, briskly brushing his hand against Chanyeol’s. “I didn’t feel like it.”
“You’re starting to look like a poodle with this hair.”
Rolling his eyes, Baekhyun jabbed him with his elbow, but it did nothing but give a soft touch to Chanyeol’s side. “Alright, so what kind of help do you need?”
“Just some study questions that I need to get some type of clarification on, but that can wait if you’re too tired.”
With lips drawing together, Baekhyun sighed. “Are you sure?”
“Positive.” Putting an arm over Baekhyun’s waist, Chanyeol gently pulled him closer. He snickered at his brazen move, but the brunet only snorted. “I missed you today.”
“Chanyeol, my parents are downstairs.” Nonetheless, Baekhyun lied still, making no indication of moving away.
“It’s fine. I don’t think I have the balls to go further, anyways, so I’ll just hold you like this for a while.”
“This is really unnecessary, Chanyeol…”
The giant shrugged. “True, and I think I have to leave in fifteen minutes or so if I want to catch a bus, but I like it when we’re like this. It kind of makes up for the days when you don’t want to spend time together after school.”
A brief silence followed before Chanyeol looked at him and asked, “Is something going on at school, by the way?”
Glancing up, Baekhyun shrugged. There was nothing to say, in the very least, that wouldn’t spark worry. Teasingly, he traced the line of the player’s jaw with a small lopsided grin before pushing against his forehead. “Nothing that you need to know,” he said softly.
It didn’t sit too well. Chanyeol’s expression only showed a deepening displeasure. “But you’ve seemed kind of down lately.”
“I don’t know exactly, but…” Chanyeol’s jaw tightened. “Okay, are you sure? Cause if there is something, I want to know so I can help.”
“It’s just school. Pointless as it is, one way or another, you’re just bound to catch some sort of depression just from the thought of it,” Baekhyun said as he brushed off the matter. “It’ll pass, but thanks for the concern.”
Pulling Chanyeol down before he could ask any more questions with answers too heavy to bear, Baekhyun pushed their lips together until the giant forgot all about the words he wanted to say.