Bits and Pieces
Chanyeol didn’t know what to say. Kyungsoo was just as frozen and shocked. Baekhyun noticed, but he didn’t pay them any mind. He kept subtly bouncing the pup like it was a baby in his arms and cooing at it like a child. The dog looked clueless to the world, sticking its tongue out, huffing in content with Baekhyun’s baby treatment. Kai, on the other hand, moved quickly away from Baekhyun, leaving him alone to stand Chanyeol’s storm.
“Someone put him in a box near this ugly, ugly red building,” Baekhyun said, running a gentle hand along the dog’s cheek. “Kind of sad.”
Chanyeol’s eyes darted to Kai who was trying to escape his way over to the kitchen as if trying to use Kyungsoo’s presence as an invisible wall from Chanyeol’s threatening self. When Kai saw that Chanyeol’s attention was on him anyways, he shrugged. “I tried to get him to leave it!”
“Couldn’t convince me to leave you, could he baby?” Baekhyun said, nuzzling his face against the dog’s.
Chanyeol watched him. He admitted that it was somewhat cute, but that thought was in the very back of his mind. He was still furious over a long list of things. The dog just toppled everything over.
Coming out of the bathroom, Sehun looked up and stopped short when he saw everyone staring and facing in one direction—plus he caught onto the tense air about them. His eyes followed everyone else’s direction and immediately saw the black fur ball.
“Did we…get a dog?” Sehun asked cautiously. No one answered him, though Kyungsoo looked over and shook his head subtly.
Without a word, Chanyeol stalked forward and grabbed Baekhyun by his shirt. Pulling him harshly along, Chanyeol dragged them to the nearest bathroom before shutting and locking the door behind him. Then, turning to Baekhyun, Chanyeol took the dog despite Baekhyun’s efforts to hold on to Nugget. Striding over to the tub, Chanyeol placed the pup inside, letting it safely walk around in a confined area, yelping and trotting its small legs around.
Baekhyun tried to push past Chanyeol to retrieve Nugget back, but Chanyeol put a hand on his chest and pushed him away. When Baekhyun prevented himself from stumbling backwards, he frowned up at Chanyeol, though he didn’t utter a word.
Not liking the upset look on Baekhyun’s face, Chanyeol locked his jaw, standing his ground. “Do you know why I’m fucking angry with you?”
“Might be because I stepped outside the house for once—”
Chanyeol backed Baekhyun against a wall and slammed a hand on it, causing Baekhyun to flinch. “Try again.”
Baekhyun huffed. “I took the car...” Chanyeol moved his eyebrows, indicating to Baekhyun to continue on. “I don’t know what other golden rule I broke—”
Chanyeol laughed before pointing over at the tub. “You’re forgetting that.”
“What about Nugget?”
“What about Nugget!?” Chanyeol repeated as if he was going to go crazy, which was not far from the truth. “Nugget there shouldn’t fucking be here!”
Baekhyun lightly slapped Chanyeol on the arm. “I wasn’t going to leave him—”
“Well, you fucking should’ve,” Chanyeol spat. “You keep bringing in things that don’t belong in this house, damn it! First Kai and now that fucking animal—”
“Nugget!” Baekhyun snapped. “His name’s Nugget.”
“I don’t give a shit,” Chanyeol snapped back. “It’s a stupid looking animal and it doesn’t belong here. It shouldn’t even have a god damn name!”
To Chanyeol surprise, Baekhyun looked a little hurt. “You shouldn’t say that, Chanyeol.”
“And why the hell not?”
Baekhyun’s lips quivered as splotches of anger began to surface in his voice. “If you can give a machine a name and a way to identify them, then why the fuck can’t Nugget have one?”
“Because it’s just an anim—”
“—Shut up,” Baekhyun cut in. “He’s not just an animal, Chanyeol.”
“Then what is 'he'—”
“—He’s Nugget!” Baekhyun barked. “He’s a black fur ball with a fat belly named Nugget. Some asshole abandoned him. To you, he might just be some animal, Chanyeol, but in reality, that pup over there? He has feelings. He has the potential to be a lot of things—to be a best friend or a companion. Damn it, he’s just a dog with a lot of love to give, but got abandoned before he could have the chance…” Baekhyun glanced down at his feet before meeting Chanyeol’s eyes once again. “You know, I bet Nugget was just sitting in that box wondering what the hell he did wrong. I bet he fucking waited.”
Chanyeol watched the way Baekhyun’s eyes glistened. In his mind, Baekhyun had grown too overly attached to the dog, giving it a name, personality, traits, and even the little creative thought that it had feelings. Chanyeol, not used to animals, dismissed everything Baekhyun said.
“Tomorrow,” Chanyeol started in a low voice. “Tomorrow, we’re taking it to a shelter.”
Baekhyun’s eyes grew wide as he clutched onto the front of Chanyeol’s shirt. “No! We can’t!” In the background, Baekhyun could hear Nugget whine as if sensing his doomed fate at the animal shelter. Hearing that dog’s cry, Baekhyun gripped harder. “Please—I promise to take care of him. His expenses will come out from my own pocket. I’ll clean up after him!”
Chanyeol scowled, wrenching Baekhyun’s hands away and pushing them at his sides. “Tomorrow,” he repeated adamantly. “We’re not keeping it, Baekhyun. Tomorrow we’ll go turn that dog in and that’s final.”
Done with the conversation, Chanyeol turned his back to Baekhyun and began walking towards the door. When he didn’t hear Baekhyun following him, Chanyeol whipped his head around, prepared to bark orders, but when he saw Baekhyun still in the defeated position he left him in, Chanyeol relented a bit.
“Dinner. Let’s go.” When Baekhyun continued to stare at the floor with his arms limping at his sides, Chanyeol didn’t know how to react so he reacted in a defensive way. “Fine. Stay here,” he said before exiting the bathroom, slamming the door behind him as he left.
It took a minute after Chanyeol left before Baekhyun snapped out of it. When he turned his head, Nugget had stood on his hind legs, trying to keep his paws from slipping on the bathtub’s edge as he tried to get Baekhyun’s attention.
Though somewhat torn up inside, Baekhyun found a way to smile at dog. Walking his way over, Baekhyun joined Nugget in the tub, lying down and letting the dog try and climb on top of him. When Nugget couldn’t do it, Baekhyun laughed quietly as he picked the dog up and put him on his chest.
Feeling the tiny paws trotting curiously on his chest, Baekhyun was struck with a bitter sweet feeling. Caressing the top of the pup’s head, Baekhyun bit his lips. As if sensing Baekhyun’s mood, Nugget faced forward, giving Baekhyun a view of his big orbs.
Sadly sighing, Baekhyun kept running his hands along the pup’s spine. “I’m sorry, Nugget. I guess I’m losing you again…”
Fifteen minutes into the awkward dinner, Chanyeol was at his breaking point. Baekhyun hadn’t joined them and that was bugging the shit out of him. Inside, he knew that it was somewhat his fault, but the stubborn side of him kept saying that it was Baekhyun’s own fault for being so childish.
Despite that mindset, Chanyeol didn’t want to go back and face Baekhyun. Partly because he didn’t want to see the aftermath of his words—his “lecture”. Setting his fork loudly on his plate, Chanyeol was done with it—he was done with the silence, the absence.
Directing his attention at Sehun, he cocked his head to the right. “Get that idiot.”
Nodding, Sehun excused himself from the table and went off to the bathroom. As he left, Kyungsoo frowned over at the two empty spaces at the table. Turning his attention to Chanyeol, Kyungsoo asked in a tone that was heavy and a little angry. It was something Chanyeol was not used to. “What the hell did you do to him?”
“I didn’t do anything.”
“Then what the hell did you say?”
“The reality of everything.”
Baekhyun hated the sight. He hated the stupid façade of the building. The mural of all the happy animals was complete bullshit to him. He knew what was inside. What was inside was a bunch of metal pens suitable for a little movement here and there.
Chanyeol took off his glasses and hung them from his shirt. He watched Baekhyun stare at the building, not really knowing what the guy was thinking. Eyes moving down, Chanyeol saw the dog trying to climb Baekhyun before turning his head to look at Chanyeol.
Frowning, Chanyeol looked away. He didn’t like that look in the dog’s eyes—that look of “why’re you doing this to me”. Quickly undoing his seatbelt, Chanyeol opened his door. “Come on. Get out so we can get a move on.” When Baekhyun didn’t move quickly enough, Chanyeol groaned. He leaned over and stole the dog from Baekhyun’s arms.
Baekhyun tried to get him back, but his seatbelt was keeping him at bay. “Give him to me, Chanyeol.”
“Get out of the car and I’ll give it back to you.”
Knowing that he didn’t have the upper hand—not that he wanted it—Baekhyun freed himself from his restrictions and got out of the car, shutting the door as he walked around it. Chanyeol saw Baekhyun complying and proceeded to close his own door. Meeting Baekhyun near the hood, Chanyeol handed the pup back over, trying to not let the small dog’s whimpering and paws get to him.
When they got to the office building, Baekhyun stopped short. When Chanyeol called for him to keep walking, Baekhyun shook his head. “I’ll give him up when the papers are signed.”
Chanyeol opened his mouth to refute, but he backed down. Baekhyun already looked like he was getting all his happiness sucked out of him forcibly—which Chanyeol wasn’t willing to take any responsibility for. Nodding, he told Baekhyun to stay near before he entered the building.
After he left, Baekhyun carried Nugget over to large tree nearby, sitting down at the base and proceeded to pet the pup who was cooperatively settling his face on Baekhyun’s lap.
After talking to the person in charge and signing a few things concerning Nugget’s well-being at the shelter, Chanyeol stepped out to retrieve the dog only to see that Baekhyun wasn’t anywhere to be found. At first, Chanyeol thought that Baekhyun had darted off—this would’ve made sense. But after checking the surrounding area again, Chanyeol noticed Baekhyun’s back against a tree not too far from the building.
Chanyeol walked his way over, but it wasn’t until he heard Baekhyun talking to the dog that he walked a little slower and quieter, trying to catch what Baekhyun was muttering.
“I bet you’ll get adopted by nice people, Nugget,” Baekhyun said, trying to think on the bright side. “I bet you’ll live in a nice house—now, I’m only saying ‘nice’ because living in a large house doesn’t mean that you’ll be a happier pup. See, living in a big house when you’re the only dog around—and right now you’re still small—it’ll get lonely, I promise you. Even if you bark, you’ll probably hear your own echo.” Baekhyun smiled down at the dog, feeling the soft fur against his fingers. “But, if you live in a tiny house, like a clown house, everyone in your family will be squished together, but that’s alright because you’ll love how close you all are—they’ll love it, too, because no matter how small their little tiny house is, know that they made enough room just for you.”
“Also, don’t take orders from people who are mean to you,” Baekhyun piped. “If they hit you, then tell you to roll over, just sit down and don’t do anything. But, if they’re nice to you and they tell you to roll over, do it because that’ll make them happy, which will make you feel good on the inside—it makes you happy, too.”
When Nugget tapped Baekhyun thigh with his paw, Baekhyun laughed. “Yah, dad’s a hypocrite, right? I don’t make people happy, Nugget. I’ve been trying to do that all my life, but now I’m just being a little selfish to make up for lost times. Don’t be like dad—I’ll always be your dad, too. You’ll just get another dad—or mom—after a while…Hopefully you don’t have to wait for too long….”
Moments passed in silence before Baekhyun jumped at the sound of someone hitting against the tree. Looking up, he saw Chanyeol standing over him. “Baek, it’s time…”
With tight lips, Baekhyun held Nugget in one arm as he pushed himself up. He looked Chanyeol in the eyes for a second before dropping them to the ground.
Chanyeol didn’t want to feel guilty or sad about what he was doing. He shouldn’t have even cared about Baekhyun’s sudden attachment to the animal in his arms, but in the end, Chanyeol did. He cared even though he didn’t want to. With everything inside of him, Chanyeol forced those feelings aside as he led the way back to the office building.
The ride back home was quiet, but it was different. The silence had guilty air mixed in with defeated sadness. Chanyeol didn’t like it. He didn’t like the fact that Baekhyun had been so silent. In fact, he preferred if the guy yelled or screamed at him instead of giving him that silent torture.
But it wasn’t like Chanyeol could request for Baekhyun to be angry at him so he just left Baekhyun to continue looking out the window, sinking in his own thoughts.
—Baekhyun; Age 8—
Dropping his school bag and quickly ridding of his shoes, Baekhyun pushed his way past all the doting maids to run his tiny legs up the elaborate staircase. With every step that he quickly took, he became more and more excited to get to his room because of what would be awaiting for him there.
“Nugget!” he cried happily as he ran his way towards his open bedroom. “Nugget, come and greet me! I’m your dad!” Baekhyun slowed down as he got to his room, laughing. Pushing the door open, he expected to be jumped, but when he wasn't, he stepped inside, looking around. On his face, Baekhyun still had a smile on. “Nugget? Nugget, are you hiding somewhere?”
Baekhyun was in the middle of looking under his bed for the third time when he heard a knock at the doorway. He crawled out from under and saw that it was his dad with his hands behind his back. Pushing himself off the floor, he quickly ran his way over to his dad, gripping him by the pants.
“Dad, I can’t find Nugget! I—”
Baekhyun stopped when his dad reached down to stroke his hair. “Baekhyun, we had to give the dog away.”
Slowly, Baekhyun let go. “What?” he asked not fully understanding. “Dad, he was my friend. Why’d you give him away?” Baekhyun, though young, kept his composure. His dad didn’t like chaotic behavior so he had no choice, but to try and be calm.
“Instead of playing with some dumb animal, I thought you could do something a little more productive as the heir. Do you understand?” his dad asked.
Baekhyun understood. He was smart. He understood very well, but at the same time, he wished he didn’t understand. He wished that his brain was unable to comprehend the situation. He wished that he didn’t understand what his dad had done or why he had done it. Baekhyun wished that he wasn’t Byun Baekhyun, the kid with no friends, yet the kid who had just lost his only friend because of who he was and what he had to be.
But he was only eight. He had no choice. Nodding, Baekhyun mumbled, “Yes.”
Smiling at his son, his father took his other hand from behind his back and presented to him a small robot with a head, two arms, two legs, and a torso. In Baekhyun’s mind, the robot was disturbing to look at. It was like it was trying to imitate a human, but Baekhyun was smart and he knew better. It was just metal.
“This used to function, but I took out some parts and disassembled areas just so that you could practice and put it back together yourself.” Handing the toy to Baekhyun, his father proceeded to give him a small bag, which Baekhyun could tell held all the disassembled parts. “You know, if you do it just right, it’ll function. Then you can play with it. It can even be your best friend.”
Again, Baekhyun nodded. “Okay.”
Ruffling his son’s hair one last time, Baekhyun's father left, leaving Baekhyun with a broken toy and a bag of parts.
It didn’t take long for Baekhyun to reassemble the broken machine. Though past his bedtime, he sat at his desk with the lamp turned on. He rested his head on his arm, watching as the tiny robot fidgeted and moved, walking on its own to a point where Baekhyun had to lift it up and place it somewhere not along the edge.
Baekhyun tried to like it. He tried to like the human-imitating toy. At one point, he tried to pet it like he had done to his dog, but the blunt edges hurt his hand and the cold surface was unappealing to him. He couldn’t feel anything soft about the toy. Even the eyes built in it were cold, forever unable to hold any emotions.
Half-trying, Baekhyun asked for the machine to do a series of commands. “Bark.” Nothing. “Speak.” Nothing. “Roll over.” Nothing.
The robot couldn’t do anything but walk in a straight line and blink a few lights. It didn’t feel nice and it had nothing in its eyes. Tired and done with it, Baekhyun turned off the lamp and hopped off his chair. The night light beside his bed was his North Star guidance through the dark. And once Baekhyun felt his bed, he climbed inside the covers and curled up, not forgetting that there used to be a warm body next to him. But now, instead of a dog, Baekhyun had an assembled robot.
He didn’t like it.