—Three years prior; 1 day after Baekhyun’s departure—
Chanyeol looked like shit the next day he made an appearance at school. He didn’t feel like getting out of bed so Yoona had to push him and nag him to get up. She finally managed to get him to leave his bed thirty minutes after school officially started for the day, rendering him late already. Then he didn’t feel like getting dressed so his maids had to put his clothes on for him—except his underwear, which he did all by himself. Chanyeol didn’t feel like moving a limb so he refused to drive himself to school, forcing his parents to call out the family driver.
When Chanyeol entered the classroom, he could feel the stares. He could sense the eyes glued on him like he was some animal at the zoo with no purpose in life other than to be looked at. He threw the note he got from the office over to the teacher and trudged his way over in the back where he sat. He kept his eyes low. He didn’t want anybody to see them for multiple reasons. One: his eyes were still puffed from that morning. Two: his eyes looked tired from not being able to sleep last night. Three: eyes were the gateways to the soul, and in his state right then and there, Chanyeol didn’t have a soul. He was a walking shell of a human.
As the attention on him began to slowly fade and return back to the teacher in the front, Chanyeol finally raised his eyes. Kai was present in his seat. Kris was still gone. The guy had lasted only a week after Tao transferred out of his life. After that, like the straight forward bastard that he was, Kris booked a ticket and left also. As for Sehun, Chanyeol didn’t know yet since they weren’t in the same class, but he was sure that he was at school, too, because his attendance had been consistent for a while.
But even thinking about his closest friends was a hard task when everything in his head was Byun Baekhyun and his stupid fucking “I love you” and “good-bye”. Chanyeol didn’t do much in school. He just set his head down on his desk and covered his face with his arms.
—Three years prior; 5 days after Baekhyun’s departure—
Happy Virus. That was what Chanyeol was dubbed ever since he realized how easily he could interact with people. He’d always be smiling, smirking, and flirting with everyone without a god damn care in the world. Even more, he would never shut his mouth unless he was giving someone the silent treatment or sticking his tongue down someone’s throat.
To everyone, when Chanyeol didn’t speak at all during school since that day, it was like a super natural phenomenon. To Kai and Sehun, though, they knew what was going on so they didn’t have any false beliefs as to what was silencing the giant.
A week had dragged on by and Chanyeol still couldn’t get himself to do anything about Baekhyun. Since the first day, Chanyeol went from unbearably sad to angry and hurt. Why did the bastard have to leave? How did he have the fucking audacity to say those three precious words to him at the tipping point of their relationship? What kind of bastard did that?
It was fair to say that while Chanyeol was going through his phases, he neglected his work. His grades were beginning to slip with all the failed quizzes and tests, along with the missing assignments and failure to participate in class. His parents were called, but whenever the matter was brought up at the dinner table, Chanyeol tuned out.
Tuning out of things wasn’t even a simple, single action anymore. It wasn’t a habit. It just was. Chanyeol stopped listening to lessons. At lunch, he wouldn’t know what the conversation was about because he wouldn’t keep up. Even music couldn’t cure him. He simple went deaf to everything. If anything, the sound of his own heart breaking deafened him to the world.
—Three years prior; 11 days after Baekhyun’s departure--
Denial was out of the window. Chanyeol’s anger was replaced by a greater sense of depression and despondency. After the initial shock, distress, and grief over Baekhyun’s disappearance from his life, and after the anger that surged through him, blaming Baekhyun and cursing him for everything, Chanyeol was finally hit with guilt.
Everything was his fault. He pushed Baekhyun to leave with words. Chanyeol didn’t need to do any physical harm to him to force him out of the relationship. He replayed the argument that they had that day and went to realize that his words must’ve been more razor sharp than a knife.
“Being in a relationship with Yoona was easier than being in this one.”
Remembering those words killed him. Why the fuck had he said that? It was pointless to ask. Chanyeol knew he said that because he was angry and wanted to spite Baekhyun right back for accusing him of cheating…
On the subject of unfaithfulness, Chanyeol cursed himself for letting his bitterness and rage unlock the filter to his mouth. Under all the uncertainty, and under all the suspicion, when it came down to it, he found that he really didn’t know whether Baekhyun let Lay touch his lips. The lighting sucked and all he saw were their black outlines. He saw Lay lean, yes, but other than the, the smaller—crucial—details were something he couldn’t see…
“Sometimes I think that if I really was given a time machine to go back in time that I would go back… Because if I went back and succeeded in keeping Yoona and I together, then I wouldn’t have to be here dealing with you.”
It was at this remembrance that Chanyeol really felt like killing himself. Why the fuck did he say those words…
—Three years prior; 12 days after Baekhyun’s departure—
Drowning in his own self pity, Chanyeol couldn’t pull himself together enough to even roll on his back in bed. Yoona’s efforts were finally put in vain. No matter how many times she tried to get him out, she couldn’t. It reached the point where Chanyeol raised his head to scream at her to get the fuck out.
Yoona’s last resorts were called in.
Before Chanyeol knew it, he heard his door being kicked numerous times. He ignored the poundings, thinking that whoever it was would give up in due time since they weren’t going to get in anyways. He had locked the door the moment Yoona stepped out.
Chanyeol was wrong. The kicking and the pounding on his wooden door was relentless and, if his hearing didn’t deceive him, it got louder and louder with every passing minute. Fed up with the noise resonating in his room when all he craved for was to be alone and to quietly die on the inside, Chanyeol shouted at the person—or persons—behind the door to “Quit fucking around!” as he stomped over to unlock and open the entry.
When he saw who was standing outside his door, Chanyeol immediately tried to close the door again, but Sehun’s raised his leg and kicked the door—and Chanyeol—back. Then, Sehun led the way in, followed only by Kai—as Kris was still in China.
“Your room looks like a fucking pigsty,” Sehun said, not bothering to cover the sharp bluntness of his voice.
“I’m not in the fucking mood, brat,” Chanyeol growled, moving back over to his bed.
Before Chanyeol could move any further, Kai moved Sehun aside to grab Chanyeol by the back of his shirt, pulling him back into a halt. “Turn the fuck around so we can talk to you.”
Chanyeol whipped around and took a hold of Kai’s forearm, gripping it to a point of Kai wincing. “Both of you. Get the fuck out of my room.”
“What?” Sehun snapped. “You want us to leave you to rot here? Hm!?”
“Yeah, why don’t you, actually,” Chanyeol scoffed. He let go of Kai, throwing his arm off to the side. “Like honestly, can’t you two shits just leave me alone!? Can’t you fucking see that I’m fucking scattered right now!? My head’s not in the right god damn place. I’m depressed as fuck, I can’t fucking function, my grades are slipping, I’m getting yelled at by my parents, and this annoying fucking voice in my head—a stupid fucking voice keeps telling me that it’s my fault that Baek’s not here anymore…” he said with a cracking voice.
This time, when Chanyeol moved back to his bed and threw himself on it, neither Kai nor Sehun motioned to stop him. Instead, when Chanyeol had adamantly buried his face in his bed, Sehun glanced over at Kai. “Chanyeol, we’re going to tell you something. It’s beyond late and it’s probably gonna hurt like fuck, but there’s really no good time to break this shit to you.”
When Chanyeol didn’t make a sound, Kai kicked his bed. “Are you listening, Yeol?”
Chanyeol fidgeted a finger, which Sehun took as a go. “Remember that date that Byun asked you on?”
He felt like his heart stopped beating for a second. Quickly, Chanyeol turned over and sat up. “How the hell do you know about—”
“Because for one,” Sehun started out, “I gave him some ideas on what to give you that day. For two—”
“—A-And for two,” Kai interrupted, finishing for Sehun, “I ate Baek’s cakes…”
Chanyeol blinked, scowling at the two. “What!? What the fuck—Explain. Just explain.”
Sehun sighed. “Byun came to me, asking me what type of movies you liked. Then I told him that he should make you something. He ended up making you cupcakes.”
Chanyeol snorted. “Bullshit. He told me he—”
“He fucking lied, you slow fucker,” Sehun snapped. “He bought the tickets to the movie beforehand and made you cupcakes from scratch.”
“And how the hell do you know this? Hm? Cause he told me he didn’t do squat Saturday,” Chanyeol said. “He told me that he wasn’t even at the theater yet—”
“—Shut up,” Sehun cut in. “Kai. Tell him.”
Crossing his arms, Kai tilted his head. “Kyung and I were on a date that Saturday. We bumped into Baek at the theatre…”
“He was sitting on a bench—he looked pretty depressed, Yeol. Just to put that out there,” Kai muttered. “Kyungsoo called him over and we asked him what he was doing there. He gave us answers, but they seemed really…fake. I don’t know. He ended up giving us tickets and cupcakes—”
“—so if you piece two and two together, you stupid fuck,” Sehun carried on, “He lied so that your ass didn’t have to feel bad about canceling.”
Chanyeol’s mouth hung open as a sudden flashback happened.
“You don’t contribute anything to this relationship! You invited me on a date, sure, but you weren’t even fucking ready when I called to cancel. Do you realize how sad that is?”
“He…was actually there?” Chanyeol asked in a quiet, strained voice.
“Yeah,” Sehun curtly said. He glanced over at Kai before returing his attention to Chanyeol. “Another thing, too. Lay and Suho are involved with each other.”
At the moment, Chanyeol didn’t give a flying shit about anybody or anything else. He was still stuck in the past when he accused Baekhyun of contributing no effort in anything that he tried to do for him…God, how he hated himself. The word “hate” wasn’t even enough to describe Chanyeol’s self-loathe…
“I don’t care…” Chanyeol grumbled. “I don’t give a shit about Lay’s fucking relationship stat—”
“—Yeol, Baek fucking cried to Kyungsoo, alright?” Kai said, interrupting his angry friend. “And because they’re such good friends, whenever Baekhyun fucking cries—which almost never happens—Kyung cries, too. Now, shut up and listen.” Kai paused. “From what Baek was crying to Kyungsoo about, you accused him of cheating on you with Lay the night of his birthday—”
“—I saw the bastard lean in. What the hell was I supposed to think—”
“—But did you clearly see them kiss?” Sehun said, agitated. “Cause I don’t think so. Luhan lives around the same neighborhood, Yeol, and I’ve been to his house countless times after the sun’s been long gone. I know for a fucking fact that the street lights aren’t up to the same caliber as the ones that’re on our streets. I don’t think you saw shit.”
“And adding to that,” Sehun continued. “Since Lay and Suho are practically fucking each other’s brains out—which I don’t think is one-sided, nor lacking emotional attachment—I’ll fucking bet you my parents’ political reputation that Byun and Lay didn’t smother their lips together.”
Sehun wasn’t done. “And even if you don’t believe that they didn’t kiss, I’ll tell you this. I asked Byun if he wanted me to help him out again when he was trying to figure out how he felt about you. By ‘help’ I was really asking him if he wanted to make—the fuck—out. He said no. He shook his head and said no.”
—Three years prior; 12 days after Baekhyun’s departure—
After further questioning, Chanyeol found out that the reason why it took the bitches practically a week and a half to tell him all the crucial shit was because of him. He, Chanyeol, was functioning, so to them, that meant that at least he was fine.
Fine was a vague word—something that Chanyeol caught on to considering how Baekhyun would always answer with “fine” even though nothing was “fine”.
Chanyeol didn’t know how to feel at the word “function”. Apparently to Kai and Sehun, the fact that he managed to get dragged to school every day, breathe, and eat meant that he was doing fucking fantastic. Chanyeol's absolute refusal to go to school for the last two days was the “last straw”, especially when Yoona—of all people—had to call them in.
After Kai and Sehun left to rejoin the rest of society, Chanyeol sat on his bed for thirty minutes, running things over in his head. Then it finally came to him. He didn’t have to sit around and deal with the fact that his Baek was gone.
It took him long enough…
Chanyeol hopped off his bed and searched for his wallet in his disheveled room. He eventually found it underneath shit that he hadn’t bothered to organize or put away. Then he walked over to his laptop, shoving items aside with his feet. Once he got there, he sat himself down on his chair and took out a credit card, later going on to book a flight to the States. Chanyeol didn’t know anything about Baekhyun’s whereabouts such as address, yet, but Sehun had told him something. Baekhyun’s dad’s job relocated him to Silicon Valley. It was just a region, but at least Chanyeol knew where to book his flight for; California.
Nearly three months had passed since his flight back from Beijing and not a day went by where Chanyeol wasn’t thinking about Byun Baekhyun. How could he not? The bastard slipped through his fingers again. It frustrated Chanyeol to oblivion, but he wasn’t in high school anymore. He needed to push that personal shit aside when it came to work.
Looking down at the papers in front of him, Chanyeol sighed as he moved them around to get a look at each and every one. He lounged in his chair, settling back. Sales numbers…sales numbers…graph...graph…orders…Baek…propos
“Argh!” Chanyeol stopped, setting his hands on the arm rest to straighten his posture up, figuring that better posture would equal a clearer head and a clearer mind.
The outburst had startled his new assistant in the office. Sunny was her name. Technically it wasn’t, but that was Chanyeol’s nickname for her since she never failed at being upbeat and happy.
“Is something wrong?” she asked, tilting her head and smiling with a concerned look on her face.
Chanyeol shook his head. “It’s nothing… I’m just, ah, tired…”
Sunny turned her head to look at the clock on the wall. “It’s almost eleven thirty. You should probably go home if you’re so tired that you’re screaming at numbers on paper,” she said, laughing. “I bet the Missus would like her husband home by now, too.”
Chanyeol blinked. “The what?”
“The Miss…Your wife?” Sunny said in a questioning tone.
“Oh,” Chanyeol said in a deflated tone. “There’s no one waiting for me at home. I don’t have a wife.”
Sunny covered her mouth. “I’m sorry…I just assumed that because you—um…the ring—”
Chanyeol waved her off. “It’s alright. No, I’ve had this since high school.”
“Why do you wear it on your ring finger? It makes people think you’re married,” she said, giggling.
“Technically, I am married,” Chanyeol said, grinning as he took the ring off to look at the markings on the inside. His eyes focused in on the engraved heart next to the letters as he spoke. “My bride’s just being evasive and I just need to catch him, that’s all…”
Sehun didn’t follow in the footsteps of his parents, nor their expectations. He became estranged from his parents once he introduced Luhan as his lover and boyfriend a few months after he graduated from high school.
Not dealing well with their son’s choice of sexual lifestyle, the two parties drifted apart. They still kept in contact. His parent’s still loved him, but the fact that their son was dating someone of the same sex didn’t sit so well.
Sehun shortly moved out of his parents’ house and moved in with Luhan. Sehun was already admitted to the same school as his boyfriend, but he ended up taking only four semesters of classes before dropping out of college.
Luhan was upset for a while—upset at the fact that Sehun had dropped his educational career short—but by the time Sehun opted out of college, Chanyeol was already in the midst of taking over his parents’ company. With Chanyeol, Sehun was able to get a job at a moderate rank in the company with his incomplete college background.
It was then that as the events unfolded, Sehun found himself working for the giant he often called “stupid” back in their high school years.
For the past two weeks, Sehun had been arriving at work with a coffee cup in hand, smelling like coffee roast that Chanyeol admitted to smelling fucking fantastic. Chanyeol thought nothing of this until he had to share an elevator with Sehun one morning.
Chanyeol turned to his left to greet Sehun, but the design on the coffee cup caught his eye. “Have you been going to some sort of café made for girls?” he asked, laughing.
Sehun gave him a confused look. “Huh?”
Chanyeol pointed at the coffee cup. “What is that? Like a bear? With hearts and candy surrounding it?”
Sehun shrugged. “I think it’s cute.”
Snorting, Chanyeol bobbled his head. “Alright then, brat. Didn’t know that this was your style.”
A second passed before Sehun groaned. “Look. Remember when I said that Luhan was trying to find a job again? Because, you know, his last job’s boss was—”
“—Harassing him,” Chanyeol nodded. “I know.”
“Well, yeah, he found a new job weeks ago,” Sehun said solemnly. “Turns out that the guy running the joint was an old friend…”
“That’s good,” Chanyeol said, giving Sehun a smile. “Glad that he found a job working for an old friend.”
Sehun nodded slightly. “Right…” Then he elbowed Chanyeol. “Say, let’s go have lunch at the café where he works today. You’ll probably like it.” The elevator doors opened and Sehun stepped out first before waiting for Chanyeol.
Chanyeol fixed his black tie a bit. “Hn…Sure. Where is this place?”
“Not far,” Sehun replied as they walked to their offices. “Remember the little building that’s been under construction for two months? The one that started roughly around the time you got back from Beijing with Yoona?”
Chanyeol nodded. “That’s the place?”
“Yep,” Sehun said before lifting the coffee to his lips to take a sip. “It’s three blocks from here. I drop Luhan off for work every morning and get a drink—which is always on the house for me since I know the guy who owns the place.”
Raising a brow, Chanyeol asked, “You know the owner, too?”
Sehun chuckled. “I’m sure you do, too, Yeol.”
Chanyeol shook head, rubbing his temple. “I meet a lot of people on a regular basis now,” he mumbled. “You’re lucky I even remember you.”
“Asshole,” Sehun retorted. “Anyways, we’re having lunch there today.”
“Is this just some lame ass excuse for you to see Luhan?” Chanyeol muttered.
Sehun shrugged. “Amongst other things…”
“What’s the place called?”
Chanyeol and Sehun stood across the street from the place that Sehun’s been commited to ever since Luhan’s employment. Looking up at the header of the place, Chanyeol said, “‘Pabo’s Café’…The place is called fucking ‘Pabo’s Café’…”
“It’s for young people who have a sense of humor, gramps,” Sehun said. Looking in both directions, he motioned for Chanyeol to move and jay walk across with him.
Chanyeol followed Sehun, but his eyes moved to the moderate line of young girls, who looked like they were either in high school or in some university nearby. “There’s a lot of girls here, Sehun…”
“Eh,” Sehun said in a dismissive tone. “It’s popular amongst young girls for a few reasons—excuse us.” Sehun carefully squeezed past a girl near the door way and Chanyeol ensued, making apologies of his own.
The inside of the café was—in more or less of a better term—cute. The main display case featured a multitude of fat, larger-than-life cupcakes, which Chanyeol thought should’ve been illegal just for their size. These were cupcakes on steroids.
The smell was enticing, though. There was a mix of coffee, milk, and sugar in the air. Chanyeol could sense why the place was inviting for young girls like the ones standing outside and the ones sitting at the tables on the inside.
Sehun motioned for Chanyeol to follow him further, towards the front. Chanyeol felt kind of bad for technically cutting, but what could he do? Sehun was bulldozing right on through.
Luhan saw his boyfriend from the corner of his eye as he was creating a decaf latte for a high school girl that kept eyeing him. “Yah! What’re you doing here?”
“Lunch,” Sehun simply answered.
Luhan quirked his lips, but his eyes moved to Chanyeol. “Hi, Chanyeol!”
Awkwardly, Chanyeol raised his hand. “Hey.”
Luhan tilted his head in a direction. “Grab a seat before there’s none left.”
Nodding, Sehun found them a table that faced the front counter. As they waited, Chanyeol looked around. “It’s like your coffee cup design, but on a larger scale…”
“It’s called a theme, idiot,” Sehun muttered. “Anyways, there’s a reason why I wanted to take you here finally.”
“When the hell have I ever invited you out for lunch?” Sehun asked. “It’s always been you asking me.”
Chanyeol blinked. “Then why—”
“Just keep your eyes on the counter.”
Chanyeol didn’t understand why Sehun was making him keep his eyes on the counter, but he did so anyways. He didn’t see anything that seemed important. While keeping his eyes at the place where all the workers were bustling to serve the customers, Chanyeol noticed small details.
On the counter, a brown bear was plopped near the tip jar. The jar had a piece of decorative paper taped on it. Curious, Chanyeol took his attention off the counter to focus in on what the jar’s paper said. Squinting, he read: “Tips…for…Pabo—”
Chanyeol’s thoughts were jerked off their tracks when he heard a familiar laugh. He rarely heard this laugh, but it was because of its rarity that he treasured the sound. Lifting his eyes from the tip jar, his eyes went back to the counter and felt his heart stop beating.
The guy manning the front now had dirty blonde hair, ditching his old brown color. He wore black eyeliner and featured a playful look on his face as he joked around with a customer. His voice rang in the entire café, causing many people to look and silently admire him for a second before going about their business again.
Even as all eyes strayed from the guy in the front after a few fleeting seconds, Chanyeol couldn’t tear his eyes away. His heart was racing a billion miles per hour as his lips parted to say the name of the guy he kept losing, but never stopped loving.