Title: 516 Problems for a Single 143
Warning(s): Mentions of alcoholism and addiction.
Length: 8,203 words
Summary: The magazine articles said they were in a bitter rivalry, but Chanyeol was just bitter.
Author's note: I did little to no research, going off of inferences, so I apologize for inaccuracies. It's purely fiction. Also! If you understand the title, props to you. I hope you enjoy.
Chanyeol was beginning to regret ever attending the meeting. Looking around, he felt a little bit out of place. It was an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting and he had a purpose being there, but perhaps it was pride and arrogance that made him feel as though he didn’t belong with the rest of the present alcoholics. Those around him looked as if they didn’t have jobs or they were so far in to their addiction that they were beginning to age faster than they ought to have. As far as Chanyeol knew, he looked into the mirror that evening and saw that he looked absolutely fine.
Sure, his mother and sister badgered him about the fact that he was an apparent “alcoholic”. And perhaps, maybe, even the tabloids have caught him stumbling out of clubs and spewing his gut on the streets just to curse at a crowd of rogue photographers out to destroy his image (or what was left of it). Social media had a blast playing around with his “problem”, even though Chanyeol would always argue that there wasn’t even a problem to begin with. They called him “washed-up star”—a “has been”— and there was a time when one headline dared to exaggerate “the downward spiral of one of Korea’s top young actors”. All of which, however, Chanyeol scoffed at.
Others might make the argument that he was an alcoholic in denial, but even if so, it wasn’t any of their business. If Chanyeol wanted to drink, he could. If he wanted to puke on some woman, he could. It wasn’t a god-given right, but if it was his choice, then that’s that. It’s his choice.
Even so, there was probably a part of him that started to decay in stance and doubt his own self. This was the side that casted doubt on his own stubborn stance that he didn’t need help; it was the side that agreed with his mother and sister, the tabloids, and the internet users. It was probably one of the only things that got him off his couch that evening, saving a bottle for later, and driving to the meeting for people with alcohol issue.
The meeting location was plain and open, and Chanyeol guessed that simplicity was best. Nothing in the room distracted him and Chanyeol supposed that this was a good thing. He arrived at the perfect time, neither early nor late. There were regulars that were familiar with one another enough to strike up a small conversation, but Chanyeol kept to himself, saying a curt greeting to those who sat near him, but all in all, he continuously sat there with his arms folded and dark sunglasses on.
When the clock was a few minutes away from starting time, people began filling up the seats that were unoccupied when Chanyeol walked in. By the time that it was five o’clock sharp, the meeting began and it started just as how Chanyeol imagined that it would.
The counselor had dark brown hair and black rimmed glasses. He was wearing a sweater and a white undershirt beneath, and if Chanyeol didn’t know any better, he thought that it made the man look three times his age. After clearing his throat and looking down at his clipboard to jot down a few notes, the counselor stood up and introduced himself. “Good evening, everyone. I’m glad you all came here safely. For those who don’t know me, hi, my name’s Kim Junmyeon and welcome to AA,” he greeted, making sure to make eye contact with everyone in the circle group. “All the seats are filled except for a few, but this is a great attendance. We actually have, um, a few new people here so I’ll let them introduce themselves.”
Chanyeol didn’t move his head around to see who would go up first. After a few seconds of awkward waiting (for him), someone near the front who was closer to Junmyeon stood up with his hands in front of him humbly. “Hello, uh, I’m Sehun, and should I say my story now? Oh, okay, so, uh, I’m here because my…”
Too long, don’t care. Chanyeol closed his eyes behind his shades knowing that he had the benefit of hiding his eyes. For a short while, his mind began to drift onto what he’d eat later after the meeting and began wondering what type of dishes he wanted while two more individuals stood up, introduced themselves, and went about telling the entire room what got them there in the first place. Chanyeol was only jolted away from his day dreaming when the front entrance was pushed open, jerking everyone’s attention to the door and to the person that came through it.
As Chanyeol lifted his eyes to spectate the late comer, his brain immediately recognized the sight that his eyes were seeing. His mouth slowly gaped open as his line of sight moved upwards from the individual’s feet and all the way to their face.
“Hey, sorry I’m late!”
“It’s alright, Baekhyun,” Junmyeon said in a sincere voice as Baekhyun quickly made his way to a seat.
Chanyeol didn’t really mean to, but it was inevitable the way his eyes followed the individual who just walked in and took a seat across from him in the group circle. Before he knew it, his mouth snapped shut once again as his hands curled into tiny fists. Just as he was about to glare some more at the familiar face, he faintly heard his name being called by the counselor, tearing his thoughts away from the man who sat on the other side of the circle.
Junmyeon smiled at him. “It’s your turn to introduce yourself and tell us your story.”
There was a delayed reaction on Chanyeol’s part as his hands froze midway while trying to decide whether or not he should keep his sunglasses on. In the end, he took them off out of courtesy. “I don’t know if I should even introduce myself. I’m sure you all know who I am already—”
“Oh my god…”
Halting from his introduction, Chanyeol snapped his head instinctively in the direction of the incoming voice. Unsurprisingly, it came from who Chanyeol assumed it was. “Excuse me?” he said in a voice that dripped with sarcasm and higher authority.
Baekhyun, with his legs and arms crossed for effect, tilted his head and batted his eyes defiantly at the peering tower of a man. “I’m sorry. Did I say that too loudly?”
“You must have if I heard it.”
“But you have large ears. I’m sure you can hear even the smallest teeny, tiny, little whis—”
Junmyeon threw Baekhyun a look, shaking his head at the jeering brunette to end his sentence before finishing. Baekhyun sighed and settled into his seat a bit more than before as he put down his fighting words and muttered, “Sorry…”
After Baekhyun was dealt with, Chanyeol lifted his chin a little bit higher as he took Junmyeon’s cue to continue on. “As I was saying, you all probably know that I’m…” He stopped, drifting from his original thought, knowing that to the left of him, in the corner of his peripheral vision, the dark haired male from his past was off scoffing and silently rolling his eyes. His mouth shut into a tight thin line for a second before deciding to take his introduction to another route. “I’m Park Chanyeol.”
There was a simple, yet not so simple story behind Chanyeol’s history with Byun Baekhyun. To him, it was straightforward, although to others it might’ve seemed as complicated and heated as their past arguments and public rivalry.
Chanyeol—prior to his supposed “fall from the entertainment grace”—was an actor by start, while Baekhyun broke into the industry as the flower boy model for beauty products and promo advertisements for big named companies like Samsung. It was even on the news one year about how the raven-haired male had the best hands in the industry at the time, which then attracted other cellphone agencies to try and hire him to hold their precious devices with his baby-soft fingertips.
During that time, Chanyeol wasn’t jealous about seeing the—then—brunette steal some of the entertainment spotlight away from him just to focus on the runt’s small hands. Chanyeol’s hands looked like they belonged in solo, amateur, pornographic video rather than holding items like lotion and cellphones. However, when Baekhyun began making dramatic transitions into the acting branch of the industry, that was when something ignited.
Their history together, though, drew even farther back from Chanyeol’s time of being an A-List and Baekhyun’s run as the CF King. They had actually met years before when they both attended the University of Arts in the drama department. Back then, a different type of ignition had started.
Looking back on their past together, Chanyeol would consider them as a past thing. He remembered the first thing that Baekhyun said to him during the second day of lectures in the theater (since Baekhyun was gone the first day for auditions) and it was, “Do I look okay?”
Before he knew what was coming out, Chanyeol uttered, “Thou shall not lie to thy neighbor…No.”
Tall and confident, Chanyeol came off a little arrogant, because the next thing that he knew, Byun Baekhyun threw him an insulted look and walked off, opting to sit elsewhere far away from the guy who he thought had insinuated that he looked awful. “Then I guess I’ll just move my ugly ass away from you, then,” he had said.
This was the moment Chanyeol wanted to face palm himself. It was true that he was a bit overconfident and conceited with his own reflection, but when he said no, he genuinely meant no. Baekhyun, back then, looked more than “okay”. In fact, he was so down-right attractive that Chanyeol wanted to run his rough hands (quite the opposite of Baekhyun’s baby-soft ones) under the brunette’s shirt and do all kinds of things that would’ve had him saying a hundred Hail Mary’s just to compensate for his inappropriate thoughts.
At the time, he blew it. Whenever he tried to be friendly with the short stump, he’d always receive an elbow hit, and after a while, he began receiving verbal commands like “Stop it” or “Go away”. It was pretty denting to Chanyeol’s pride and efforts until they bumped into one another outside of school and right into an empty bedroom at a frat party.
“You’re so full of yourself. You think you’re all that just because you got signed on to an agency already and started filming short roles,” Baekhyun had snapped—all the while accepting Chanyeol’s tongue inside his mouth as his back was pressed against the cold wall, vibrating from the music in the main room of the host’s house.
“Alright,” Chanyeol groaned when he had the chance to, stuck between unbuckling Baekhyun’s ass-tight jeans and making markings on the shorter male’s neck.
Grabbing onto Chanyeol’s hair and pulling his head up away from his neck so they could face each other in the eye, Baekhyun drew his eyebrows together as he held Chanyeol’s attention. “Aren’t you glad the lighting in this room sucks? You can’t see my face at all.”
He had said it so teasingly, and yet Chanyeol could sense a little bit of leftover feelings from when they had first met a few months back before the cat and mouse game started between them up until that moment. Knowing that he wanted to clear away any negative message that Baekhyun misunderstood that day, Chanyeol stopped what he was doing, picked Baekhyun up despite the brunette’s gasp of shock, and tossed him on the bed provided before slapping a hand on the light switch and filling the room with beaming light.
“Actually, I prefer it this way.”
Without being given a moment to recollect himself, Baekhyun found his lips occupied and jeans being tugged open before feeling Chanyeol’s large hand underneath the cloth and his boxers to touch his hardening dick.
The meeting was boring, but Chanyeol didn’t pay much attention to the stories and struggles of others as much as he paid attention to the way Baekhyun crossed his legs—like he always did—and sucked on his bottom lips—like he always did. It beat the purpose of attending the meeting, which was for his alcoholism, because it was very distracting to sit there with same person who started it all.
They never hooked up that night, and it left Chanyeol a little bit frustrated that Baekhyun decided to start ignoring him in a way that wasn’t how it was before. Group assignments were not the same as it was prior because of the fact that Baekhyun seemed to have taken on a new attitude. Before, when Chanyeol would call over the brunette to work on certain scripts, Baekhyun would shove him off verbally, but show up at his dorm room’s doorsteps thirty minutes later. Now, Baekhyun wouldn’t even pick up his cellphone.
Stress from school was one thing. Stress from a person was another.
As Chanyeol sat there in his acting lecture with Baekhyun sitting two rows down, he heard nothing, but the sound of his own thinking. Then, he suddenly thinks of something—immature, but it was an idea.
Taking the corners of his script in front of him, which was for a small commercial he was shooting later in the week, Chanyeol tore it off and rolled it into a small ball. Then, uncaring if anyone else was witnessing his mischief, he flicked it over to Baekhyun, hitting the brunette on his back neck. For a second, Chanyeol saw those little shoulders jerk at the slight touch of the paper and he knew that Baekhyun was aware it was him. Then, for reasons beyond him, he wanted more of that reaction.
He took the back page of the script, which was only filled to the middle, and created more crumpled rolls. When he started launching them again, Baekhyun was practically being showered in paper. And even though everyone around them could see the interaction between the two, Baekhyun refused him the slightest bit of attention until he burst in Chanyeol’s dorm room and shoved the roommate out for a one on one with the knucklehead who made a scene during the lecture.
It was a bit of surprise the way Baekhyun went barging in, practically pulling Chanyeol’s roommate off his bed and dragging him outside before closing the door on him; however, the aspiring actor wasn’t unsatisfied by the way Baekhyun suddenly took control of him and his attention by taking the script in Chanyeol’s hand and throwing it across the room until it hit the wall. In fact, he liked it.
“Stop bothering me, Park!” Baekhyun started. Chanyeol wasn’t even given the time to sit up on his bed before the brunette slapped him hard on the chest. Despite his small hand, Baekhyun could hurt him even so. “Stop texting me! Stop calling me! I don’t want to get coffee with you! I’ve told you so many times to ask the others for help on assignments and yet, ring, ring, hello? Oh, it’s you calling at two in the morning to ask how far I am on my part of the work!”
Resisting the urge to one-up Baekhyun’s dramatic dialogue, Chanyeol bit his tongue and let out a breath. “Well, to be perfectly clear, I didn’t call you all those times for assignment help,” he said, casually shrugging. “I was just awake and I guess I wanted to call you. So, I did. I called.”
“So, stop it.”
“I will once you stop ignoring me,” Chanyeol responded, finally gaining a voice that warned not to be trifled with. “First, you led me on—specifically to a bedroom. Next, you gave me your mouth. Third, you let me stick my hand in places your mother wouldn’t be very proud to know. But then, you—”
“I’m not listening to this,” Baekhyun said, quickly cutting him off and dramatically covering his ears. “I came here to tell you to stop, okay?” Dropping his hands down, he sighed. “I’m leaving now.”
“You come in here, kicking my roommate out, just to tell me to stop trying to contact you?” Chanyeol sardonically said. “Is that all you wanted to tell me or is there more?”
“There’s nothing else for me to tell you.”
“You can tell me why you suddenly punched me in the face while my mouth was on your dick that night,” Chanyeol replied without mercy. “You can tell me why you decided to quit on me halfway through when we were both naked.”
“Don’t bring that night up, Park,” Baekhyun gritted, pointing a finger in Chanyeol’s direction. “You already embarrass me in class. Don’t embarrass me in private.”
“Well, I want to know.”
“Why!?” Baekhyun groaned, dragging a hand down his face. “I don’t understand why! Why do you care? Are you upset that I punched you? If you want, you can punch and run away like I did. Let’s do that so we can make it fair if that’s what you’re upset about.”
“I’m not upset about that, Baekhyun,” Chanyeol said, growing more irritated by the second. “You knew that I wanted you, and I’m pretty sure you’re aware that I wanted you long before that night. You know you’re that fox that plays hard to get, but you wouldn’t have been playing that game in the first place if you didn’t want me to chase after you.”
“Then what the hell do you want?”
“I want us out of each other’s system.”
Drawing his brows together, Baekhyun frowned. “And how do you suggest we do that?”
“Easy,” Chanyeol said as he rose, towering over Baekhyun’s small figure. “We start a relationship.”
A man, who called himself Jongin, was talking about an update to his status. From what Chanyeol caught, he’d been sober for a year, but still continued to attend because he enjoyed the support and encouragement from those around him. There was no point in Chanyeol speaking, and there was no one who could blame him. Be it that he was a first attending; being shy was a natural diagnosis for “quiet” cases such as him.
But, it wasn’t so much that Chanyeol was quiet because he was shy. It was more like there was someone he used to be very well acquainted with who was glancing his way every so and so, giving him looks that were hard to decipher other than looks of annoyance.
“You know, your room is really basic.”
“Maybe to someone whose room is plastered with photos of models.”
Scrunching his brows, Baekhyun rolled over on his side, frowning at the guy lying just as naked beside him. Then, under the covers, he balled his right hand into a fist and hit Chanyeol on the stomach, but to no damage. “Judgmental and blind. That’s what you are.”
“Whatever,” Chanyeol laughed. He tried to pull Baekhyun closer and against him, but the brunette had other ideas, apparent in the way his face suddenly came in contact with the smaller male’s hand as he tried to sit up.
“What time is it?” Baekhyun asked as he squinted up at the clock adjacent to Chanyeol’s bed. “It’s already eleven in the morning?”
“Lie back down. There’s no use in doing anything today, anyways. Everyone’s practically gone for the winter, and I’m cold,” Chanyeol grumbled, reaching for Baekhyun’s waist and pulling him back down on the mattress. “The heating’s shit in this place.”
“Hugging you makes things too hot,” Baekhyun muttered, but nonetheless, welcomed Chanyeol’s embrace by loosely swinging an arm around Chanyeol’s waist as well. “But that’s okay.”
“Hmmm.” Chanyeol sighed as the bottom of his chin nestled itself atop Baekhyun’s fluff of hair. “Sometimes, when we just lie here, I forget that we’re not even dating.”
“It’s easy to forget.”
Chanyeol kept silent for a while, blinking at the nothingness at the other side of his room and listening to Baekhyun’s short and pleasant hum of tune. It went on until Chanyeol moved his hand and began tracing circles on the brunette’s back. “Why don’t we?”
“Why don’t we what?”
“Because I’m not interested.”
Sitting in that room, surrounded by a number of alcoholics, it was Chanyeol who wasn’t interested in anything else but the little detail in the group circle. There were glances his way, and they all knew why. In the public’s eye, he hated Byun Baekhyun, the model-made-actor. During his “golden years”, which overlapped with Baekhyun’s own rise to fame as an actor, Chanyeol must’ve felt compelled to compete against him out of spite. Any role that Baekhyun was being considered for, Chanyeol demanded his agent to try and steal. Six times out of ten, Chanyeol had the upper hand and he knew how much it frustrated Baekhyun behind closed doors.
There were talks and theories as to why he was so obsessed to overshadow the smaller male. One ignorant little user online even had the audacity to theorize that Chanyeol felt threatened by Baekhyun. That night, Chanyeol actually laughed while he drank his whiskey.
No. Truth was, if he couldn’t win Baekhyun, then he’d win against him.
Spring came with the usual fervor and there were students scurrying home to study for exams. Unlike them, the only thing Chanyeol was racing for were his scheduled times on set. Small roles had jumped started him, enabling his popularity to grow and larger deals to present themselves to him. Though work at school became a little neglected and unattended, there was one number on his phone he constantly called and texted out of comfortable habit.
The only warmth during the cold season was Baekhyun’s voice and little somewhat encouraging words. Things like “Get off your ass, and go to work” made the giant’s heart flutter until he was too happy to film a scene that was supposed to be somber and grim. But, as quickly as the fox stole his heart, the wind came blowing and took it away.
Gradually, but quickly enough for Chanyeol to become immediately alarmed, Baekhyun shoved them apart from one another, like two individuals on two different broken pieces of rifted ice slates drifting quickly away in different directions.
When asked for a reason, Baekhyun receded back, answering, “We were never dating, so I don’t owe you one.”
At the time, Chanyeol had been filming for his first major role in a movie, but was having difficulty acting in the set mood that the director had intended for the work. Baekhyun’s hammer on his heart benefited him. Chanyeol went to work with a sullen face and a heavy heart, perfect for the character he was chosen to play.
That summer, the very same movie became a block buster hit for multiple weekends in a row, and Chanyeol was completely pulled out of school, tossed right onto center stage where the newspapers said he belonged.
“I came home one night and my boyfriend told me that to overcome your addiction is to find the root of the problem and work on mending it…”
For once, Chanyeol actually heard something someone said in the circle that rendered to his brain and jerked his attention for a moment. When he looked over at Baekhyun once again, the other reciprocated and they met eyes. If Chanyeol was insinuating anything, it was that Baekhyun was the root of his problem, but there didn’t seem to be any solution in sight.
As Baekhyun caught up in celebrity status, Chanyeol’s appearances in public became more and more publicized as he swung his way around the latest clubs and bars, always coming out with the most handsome person that night. There were also other times when he dated other popular actors and actresses, always being dubbed as the “perfect couple” until he broke up with them, which earned him a notorious label as the industry bachelor. Ironically, that title and the image of a man that couldn’t be caught aided interest in him.
Money and fame were at his fingertips, but Chanyeol felt a little hallow. It never really hit him how he was trying to appear so great and untouchable at the cost of being lonely until the first thing he saw when he walked into his agency’s management building was Baekhyun with another actor on a magazine and a title that read, “A Match Made in Heaven”.
He looked up at the clock and saw that forty-five minutes had passed, which meant he only had to stay for fifteen minutes more before jetting out of there. Of course, there was no obligation to stay at all. One could leave without having to explain why or for what insinuation, but Chanyeol couldn’t bring himself to get up and leave.
Perhaps time passed by without notice because of the simple fact that Chanyeol’s mind was running at a different pace, a different time in his memories. He heard all the stories, all the updates, and he wanted to applaud the others around them for their personal successes at filling the holes of emptiness in their lives that they had all previously tried to fill with bottles of patron, but the giant’s focus was elsewhere.
The turning point of his problem was the day the realization that he couldn’t win at all started to come bearing down on him. Baekhyun, as perfect as they were for each other, had no intention of solidifying that relationship years ago. So, to make the latter regret his choice, Chanyeol delved into his opportunities, hoping that his constant face in the magazines and billboards would wilt the little flower he once held with a warm embrace during the cold winter nights.
But when Baekhyun rose to fame on his own, the gap between them lessened, breaking down Chanyeol’s celebrity leverage. So then, when the giant figured that if he couldn’t have the upper hand of having glamour that the other couldn’t touch, he might as well steal the roles and spotlight, but it proved useless the moment he set eyes on the front page cover of Baekhyun and another man.
His memory was blurry. It was disfigured in accuracy and he couldn’t pull in depth with what occurred, but that night, he took home a girl and a bottle, spending the dark with a woman he shamelessly called by the brunette’s name.
The clock chimed and people began to shift. A tiny prayer was said, which Chanyeol participated in with silent respect. Afterwards, they were all invited to eat the snacks and coffee provided near the door.
A few people stood up and began to socialize, introducing themselves, perhaps trying to seek new companions to inspire them towards the road of sobriety. Some approached Chanyeol, striking up a small hello and to compliment him on his work. There were others who patted him on the back. Strangers. Giving him their support. He had no idea who the hell they were, but he found that he didn’t mind.
In the midst of being the center of a small crowd that were all far shorter than him in height, Chanyeol spotted his little sprout standing not too far away from him. He hesitated with making the decision whether to act like he hated the former (or not so former) love, or to act friendly for appearances sake. After he dismissed himself from his crowd, he met Baekhyun across near the exit, neither acting as hatred that engulfed him all those years, nor as a friendly fake who wanted to smile for the public.
An hour in that room hadn’t changed his life. He knew that it would take a lot more effort than the one hour session to fix the shambles that he created. Despite how he spent the evening introverting into himself, he did realize that he had let himself go for the sake of pitying himself for having lost and never gaining the only person he wanted. And that, was the core of his hurt and sadness, the cause of his addiction.
As he stood peering down at the male, who was still the same height as he was when they were unofficially together, Chanyeol’s hands felt odd, tingling in a nervous sensation as he reached for his dark glasses that hung on the front of his shirt.
“It’s a surprise seeing you here.”
Baekhyun shrugged. “It’s comforting to see that you actually came,” he replied as he brought the hood of his jacket on his head. “Couldn’t help but notice you were distracted.”
“You were a bad liar then. You’re a bad liar now.”
Silence was strewn in the empty spaces of words that never spilled, and Baekhyun gave a smile before shifting, moving his feet to leave, and for the life him, Chanyeol couldn’t figure out why he acted without thinking, on impulse, as if, and gently pulled back the one that got away. But he did it anyways.
“Let’s go get coffee.”
Looking back, Baekhyun never saw those around him, sight completely locked on the matured face of the same guy who used to continuously ask him the same request. In the past, he would’ve rejected, undesiring of any opportunities to bond and attach themselves to each other, but with an acceptance as he nodded, Baekhyun agreed. “Okay,” he said in calm reply. “Let’s go.”
The ratio between questions and answers was overbearingly weighed towards one side as opposed to the other. They sat facing one another in a window seat, wallowing in the silence that overcame after a few fans that recognized them came up and asked for autographs before going back to their seats. The night had overtaken the sun and there was nothing outside visible outside the glass window but the leftover shadows of the bright gleam in the horizon.
Chanyeol had the hot drink that he had wanted in hand, but its boarder rims were left untouched by his lips as he found no desire to consume. Baekhyun was diagnosed by the same appetite, leaving his drink untouched as well.
When both finally decided to speak up, they did so in unison, pushing Baekhyun to courteously nod ahead and insist, “You go.”
Hand tightly holding onto his cup, Chanyeol raised his gaze and met the dark eyes that held him captivated. “I don’t know where to start.”
“You invite me for coffee and you don’t know what you want to converse about…”
“There’s really no need to sound so critical,” Chanyeol replied.
Baekhyun kept his strong stance, unwavering to the human desire to comment back with wit, and opting to take lead of the conversation. “You used to be so good at starting a conversation. That’s too bad.”
Ignoring the minor jab, Chanyeol’s lips twitched. “What were you doing at that meeting?”
“Do I really owe you a reason?”
If there was a moment in his life where his heart stopped beating for a fraction of a second, Chanyeol’s heart faced its second time in that coffee shop. “I would say that you do,” he said, voice confident, though inside he was wavering.
Seconds slipped by with nothing until Baekhyun slanted his shoulders. He could see peering girls behind Chanyeol from his peripheral vision, knowing that they were being subjected to watching eyes and was compelled to keep his voice low only for Chanyeol’s hearing pleasure. “I wanted to make sure you attended.”
“And why would that have mattered to you?”
Baekhyun’s fingers lightly tapped the table’s surface. “I’m just as concerned for you as your mother and sister, not to mention your fans and certain tabloid articles that have been circulating for the last year and few months.”
“So, you’ve pitied me like the rest of them.”
“Then what is it?”
Untethered by the tone of voice that the giant used, Baekhyun dropped his eyes down at the dark abyss of the coffee in his cup. “Believe it or not, I care as a person who actually knows you.”
Chanyeol paused before letting out a soft chuckle, bitter and low. “That’s rich, you know.”
“What is?” Baekhyun replied platonically, unaffected by the sarcasm as he became the first to drink from his cup.
“As a person who knows me?” Chanyeol repeated, leaning in. “That’s funny. You should submit that to the tabloids once we get out of here and they try to interview you about why you were with your rival in the dark, dark evening.”
“I’m being serious.”
“And so am I,” the other replied, voice rising until he realized he shouldn’t escalate his volume in such space. “We haven’t talked in years and you have the shamelessness to think that you’re someone who’s close to me?”
“I am,” Baekhyun concretely stated. “I know you. I know what you’re like, so seeing you on the front page of papers with your face all fucked up and drunk is…It’s sad to see.”
“So, it is pity.”
Setting his drink back down on the table with a thud, Baekhyun drew his brows together. “And if it is? Why does it matter? It doesn’t change the fact that I was concerned. I still am.”
“Because it’s not any of your business!” Chanyeol’s jaw locked; his grip tightened. “It may be my sister’s. It may be my mother’s. But you? It’s not.”
“Why?” Baekhyun asked. “Why not me? Why am I not allowed to care?”
“Oh, I don’t know,” Chanyeol said as he cocked his head, “but I guess you could say it’s because you don’t owe me anything.”
“Obviously, I do if you invited me out for coffee.”
Pinned, Chanyeol pursed his lips in, wanting argue, but finding that he couldn’t. Leaning back against his seat, he took a quick sip of the bitter black drink. He failed to respond, though content with his silence. Baekhyun looked to his right, spying figures under the dim lighting of the street light. Judging by the glare that reflected off the lamp and something held in their hands, Baekhyun could only guess that it was a couple of photographers.
“Let’s go…somewhere more private…” he mumbled, looking away from beyond the glass.
“There’s no need to,” Chanyeol said. “It’s…I don’t know. We need to talk out here because if I took you somewhere secluded, then I don’t know what I’ll do.”
“Maybe you’ll hit me.”
“Maybe you’ll even yell,” Baekhyun went on. “I don’t know what you’ll do, but there’s probably a reason out there that exists justifying that I’d probably deserve it.”
Chanyeol focused his eyes on the man across from him. “What is it that you need to tell me in private that you can’t tell me here?”
Shutting his mouth briefly, Baekhyun took the time to rethink his actions and intents before giving in with a sigh. “I’m sorry,” he said quietly. Then, after a moment, he said it again, but louder. “I know that you’re hurt because of me, and—”
“And it makes me feel—”
Chanyeol stood up, halting Baekhyun mid-sentence. He froze in his spot, wanting to leave. For some reason, he didn’t want to hear the very things that he had wanted for years: answers. There was a voice in his head, ordering him to stay, to find those answers as they are the core reasons to his addiction, if anything. He knew it was in the right, but he felt overwhelmingly emotional, filled with things that made his heart race with anticipation and anxiety like it never had before.
Baekhyun was looking up at him without saying a word, but his eyes, solid in color and heavy in unspoken wishes, held the giant where he stood and paralyzed him from any movement. Then, he finally grabbed his cup and turned his back, momentarily letting the smaller male’s heart fall until he said, “I live not too far from here. We can go there.”
He left first and Baekhyun followed soon after, getting in first to the cab that Chanyeol had hailed down for them during their gap.
“Every time I saw you on the front page, you do realize it was bittersweet, right? You looked handsome and successful. Everything you ever wanted to be. At school, everyone talked about you, but I was the only who felt sad because I couldn’t be by your side.”
“And whose fault was that?”
Baekhyun sent a glance up at the distracted man beside him who was punching in his home code. “There were reasons why I couldn’t say yes, alright?”
“Uh-huh,” Chanyeol grunted as he pulled his door open and held it open.
As Baekhyun walked in, he continued on, turning around to look back at Chanyeol who followed. “I distracted you.”
“Damn right, you did.” Taking off his glasses, Chanyeol set them on a table and shook off his jacket. “You could distract anyone.”
Baekhyun frowned as he followed Chanyeol further into the house, reaching the living room. “That was the problem. You know what they say about young love, right? It’s terminal.”
“I don’t understand you,” Chanyeol replied dismissively as he gestured for Baekhyun to sit on the leather couch before walking to the open kitchen.
“You and I were twenty. Young adults. Young, reckless—careless, even.”
“And you and I both know that youth is a key factor in success with this industry. You have to make the best of everything while you’re young, because that’ll build the foundation needed for a career.” Baekhyun’s eyes followed Chanyeol as he moved to his refrigerator to take out a bottle of water. “I saw you were struggling with your first role back then, you know. They said you could never get into character. I even heard rumors about replacing you because you were only a supporting character and a new actor on the scene, so I had to do it.”
In the midst of twisting the cap, Chanyeol paused. “What?”
“That’s why I told you I didn’t want to see you anymore. I knew that I was going to—”
“So, you decided to shove me out!?” Chanyeol loudly yelled. All the fury and rage he felt from being shut in the dark all those years began to emerge. The reason for his blindness seemed so petty, he couldn’t control himself from feeling upset; a feeling that he had grown unaccustomed to relatively after beginning to numb himself with bottles.
“Yeol, we weren’t even officially dating. I didn’t think you’d be so—”
“We weren’t,” the giant interrupted. “You’re right. We weren’t. But it sure as hell felt like it. It fucking felt like it all those nights. It felt like it when we argued in the laundry room over whose colored shirt got mixed in with the whites. I felt like it during days when I was upset and you were there trying to comfort me in your own little sarcastic way, or when it’d rain and I’d give you my jacket because you were being a dumb ass that day and wouldn’t listen to my forecast.” With chest heaving, he could see Baekhyun’s eyes locked on with his, intimate and sad in many ways. “We may not have had the label, but you and I had every definition. Every single one.”
Baekhyun clasped his hands together, shaking as he sat on that couch under Chanyeol’s intense stare. “If I hadn’t let you go, you wouldn’t have had a successful movie. They said your acting was brilliant and—”
“I was reacting to everything you did to me and they caught it on film, slapped my character on it, and called it a work of art.” Chanyeol spared him one glance before twisting the cap of his water bottle open. “But I wasn’t acting.”
Grimacing, Baekhyun looked around the room and spotted a large glass case set against one wall, gleaming with what were obviously accomplishments. “I thought you were doing well.”
“It’s what it looked like in news.”
“They exaggerate everyone’s life.”
“I thought you had moved on.”
Moving from the kitchen, Chanyeol joined his guest in the living room, taking the seat adjacent and leaning back with casual ease. “Far from it,” he admitted.
If he had learned anything that night, it was that with dealing with one’s problem, it was to face it truthfully. He had to accept certain realities such as his reason into falling in such a hole, and maybe, if he could, deal with it as best as possible.
“When you were dating all those models and actresses, I was always hoping that it would all work out for you,” Baekhyun sighed. “I wanted you to settle down. You were already successful and everyone would call you Mr. and Mrs. Perfect. I thought that you might as well deserve a perfect package like that.”
“You were always hoping that I’d end up with them…”
Baekhyun heaved his shoulders. “I suppose.”
With his head hung, Baekhyun couldn’t see that the giant’s eyes were analyzing him during the silence that followed. “You’re a terrible liar.”
Laughing, Baekhyun’s shoulders shook as he took in a deep breath and gave a small grin toward Chanyeol’s way. “Critics have called me a bad actor before. I’m not surprised.”
“You weren’t hoping.”
“No, I was,” Baekhyun explained. “I guess a part of me was wishing against it, that’s all.”
For once, the corner of Chanyeol’s lips moved upwards, just ever so slightly. Then, he looked off, using a hand to rake through his hair in a messy fashion before rubbing his eyes from fatigue. He knew Baekhyun was watching him, aware and on full alert, and there was a feeling from within him to break free of the cage that had initially been placed, but later depressed himself so hard that he stayed though the door was open for escape. Taking the opportunity, Chanyeol stepped out of his comfort zone, the zone he had limited himself to for years.
“You’re still the one I want.”
There was no surprise in Baekhyun’s eyes, no pathetic pity for a man who still clung on to a frivolous love affair that happened years prior in his heart. Instead, he accepted it, feeling a sense of mutuality.
“I’ve realized that.”
“I wanted to make you regret everything. You were my reason for staying in this industry. I never wanted you to go anywhere without having to see my face and feeling regret for leaving me.”
“I hated all those women, but I thought that it’d hurt you. Then, when you started getting more roles, I hated how you and I were suddenly on the same playing field, so I took roles from you.”
Baekhyun let out a soft breath. “I figured that out.”
“I couldn’t stand it, you know. And then, you started dating that…guy and—”
“And then you started drinking even more,” Baekhyun finished gently. “I know… I didn’t think it was because of me until something clicked.” He paused. “I went to a club one night because I heard you were there. I just wanted to see you for myself. When I saw you across the room, you already had a drink in your hand and you were already out of it, but the moment you turned your head and saw me, it seemed like you sobered for half a second, long enough for me to see your sad expression before you went back to indulge in your activity.”
Chanyeol stared at the floor, trying to pull any kind of memory of that night, but failed to do so. He hated that he couldn’t remember that night, and even more so when he knew that it was mostly due to the amount of alcohol consumption. “You must’ve been disgusted.”
“Actually…I felt a heartbroken,” Baekhyun replied in a soft voice. “I wanted to go back to our winter break of second year when all we did was lie in bed all afternoon with nothing to worry for, but script assignments and heating. I felt like it was my fault because if I hadn’t initially pushed you that way, then maybe things would’ve turned out differently.”
“Well, if I hadn’t become so obsessed with making you regret a lot of things, then I probably would’ve moved on and forgotten you which are things that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to do.”
“I guess we both have responsibility for ours faults,” Baekhyun said. “But as it is now, we shouldn’t wallow in it. Acceptance and having the ability to move on is what’s best.”
“Move on…” The giant repeated slowly, mimicking the phrase with a tone of mock.
“Now that we’ve talked, I’m sure that you’ve been able to get rid of certain things that’ve been on your chest for years,” Baekhyun reasoned. “There’s nothing holding you back, you know. I mean, of course it’ll take time. You have to continue with your treatment and keep going to therapy, maybe even admit yourself to rehab just for that extra security, but—”
Raising his head, Baekhyun witnessed as Chanyeol stood up, high and towering. “What do you mean no? Chanyeol, please, get help. I thought you understood this already.”
“I do understand!” Chanyeol was quick to dispute. Bringing a hand to his face, he pressed his palm against his forehead, pushing his hair aside. “But none of that shit’s going to help me. You’d still be on my mind, consuming me so much that it’d just be impossible.”
“Chanyeol, you need to put yourself first.” Reaching for Chanyeol’s hand was a gamble, but Baekhyun felt a sense of relief when Chanyeol only flinched, but did not pull back at the soft touch of the hands he had seen so many times, yet never felt. “I think that it will help,” he said softly, grazing his thumb against the back of the rough hands. “It’ll help with everything.”
“It won’t help with you...”
Slanting his shoulders, Baekhyun exhaled slowly as he pushed himself upwards to stand up high against the man in front of him. Standing as an equal, all images of what they were painted as—enemies, rivals, celebrity frenemies—fell at their feet. With fingers still lightly tangled, Chanyeol hung his head while Baekhyun turned his face for full appearance. “Then what do you want to do?
Time dragged by, clinging to the moments lost until Chanyeol’s fingers moved. For a moment, Baekhyun thought he would move away, overwhelmed by the mood around the man who held his hand, but he stayed put even as his heart stopped when he felt the rough, callous hand touch the lines of his jaw. “I want to start over again. I’ll get clean, I promise, but I want to do it with you by my side.”
“As a friend?”
Chanyeol held his breath before exhaling discreetly. “You and I were more than that.”
“Exactly, but we didn’t do it right the first time. You wouldn’t let me, but now I want a redo.”
Rejection was at the tip of his tongue for fear that perhaps his presence in Chanyeol’s life could worsen the current conditions and discourage him from the road of sobriety. Then, he thought, thinking of the positives that could be given the chance to flourish by a response that knocked for him to spill within the current seconds, and it was then that Baekhyun knew what to say.
They had a deal, and it was one that Chanyeol was fairly satisfied with.
They agreed to start a trial sort of relationship, and Chanyeol was quick to steer clear from the friends-with-benefits type of pain and hurt that they had years prior. Baekhyun only gave his consent for an improper form dating when Chanyeol admitted himself to a rehab center and continued attending the meetings with Junmyeon and the organization. Finally, in order to keep public pressure off of them, Chanyeol eventually caved in to keeping their relationship on the down low.
“We’ll be more…open in public once you finish your treatment. After that, then we’ll date properly.”
“Great, so maybe then I can show you a better time outside my apartment, because as awesome as this bed is with just you and I on it, we can think of some other things that would be nice to do together.” Turning over, Chanyeol pressed his cheeks softly against Baekhyun’s head as the smaller one adjusted himself for comfort in the confines of the giant’s arms. “I want to outdo that last guy, you know.”
“Yeah, yeah. Just stay on track with your program and meetings. When they give you the go, you can announce whatever you want.”
Chanyeol took him up on that promise. Five months later, Baekhyun dragged his feet in slight embarrassment as Chanyeol paraded him around the city, past all the stands that had their faces printed on the cover of every single one of them.
Ps: 516 is an alcoholic beverage. Get the title? No? Ok. Nevermind♥