He hated it. He didn’t think he’d hate it so much, but Chanyeol did. It wasn’t as if Baekhyun was moping around. No, Baekhyun didn’t pout. He never even dragged his feet around the house. After they got home, Baekhyun was compliant to everything. He went about his daily job routine—fixing beds, cleaning the floors, wiping furniture—but the only thing different then was that he didn’t talk.
And that’s the thing that bothered Chanyeol the most. He never thought that the silence he craved for would be blaring louder than Baekhyun’s laugh resonating through the house. Instead of Baekhyun’s voice that he’d hear, Chanyeol heard his own guilty conscience berating himself.
That evening, Chanyeol accidentally spilled coffee on his shirt. It was nearing nine and everyone seemed to already have been settled in. Despite this, Chanyeol changed into a new shirt and went off to search for Baekhyun, who he found sitting with Sehun and Kai in the living room.
Walking up to him, Chanyeol gently held the coffee-stained shirt up. “Baekhyun, I need you to wash this.”
Baekhyun lifted his eyes up from the television then down at the shirt. Without even saying a word, he got up. He didn’t move in a grouchy or slouchy manner. He moved like nothing was wrong and that everything way perfectly fine. Taking the shirt, Baekhyun made his way over to the bathroom first to try and rinse out most of the liquid before throwing it in the washer. After he left, Chanyeol caught Kyungsoo’s eyes looking at him before Kyungsoo shook his head and looked away, making Chanyeol feel even more guilt.
The next morning, Chanyeol wasn’t woken up the way he was used to. Instead, Baekhyun stood by his side and gently shook his shoulder. In a somewhat hushed voice, he called for Chanyeol to wake up. “Mr. Park, it’s time to get up.”
Chanyeol blinked a few times, trying to make sense of what he heard. At first he wasn’t sure if he had heard right—wasn’t sure if Baekhyun had really addressed him by his formal name. But when Baekhyun repeated his words again, Chanyeol—with his back turned to Baekhyun—snapped his eyes open. From Baekhyun’s view, Chanyeol had a frozen look on his face finally coming to his senses that the way he woke up that morning was different.
There was no bed shaking, which Baekhyun had been doing since the first time they met. There wasn’t that voice half-screaming, half-singing for him to get up and smell nature. Baekhyun didn’t even rip the covers up—enough to expose him to the chilly morning air. Instead, there Chanyeol was, being woken up by a small voice and gentle—hesitant—shaking.
“Mr. Park, are you awake?”
Chanyeol took a breath before answering. “Yes…” Then Chanyeol listened as Baekhyun pulled away and began to walk to the door. Slowly sitting up, his eyes followed Baekhyun as he left, taking note in his appearance, watching him as he rubbed the back of his neck.
Once gone, Chanyeol flopped back on his bed, staring up at his white ceiling, unable to get rid of that stupid feeling inside his gut.
When he went to the kitchen for breakfast, still groggy from sleep, Chanyeol almost tripped on a brown paper bag that felt like it was a rock. Hissing after barely catching himself, Chanyeol glared at the bag before Kai gently—yet quickly—pushed passed him and crouched down to get the item. “Sorry. I meant to throw this out earlier today,” he explained.
Just before Kai exited through the back door to throw whatever that was away, Chanyeol called out to him. “What is that?”
Kai paused and looked down into the bag. “It’s nothing. It’s just something that Baekhyun bought two days ago—”
Kai shrugged before fully stepping out. “Dog food,” he mumbled. Then he added, “Don’t worry. We didn’t use grocery money for it. Baek paid for it himself.”
Then Chanyeol hated the universe because the universe hated him.
Throughout the day, Chanyeol watched Baekhyun do his job silently, though he’d occasionally ask permission to open a few windows so that the cool ocean breeze could seep through the house. Chanyeol was internally struck at the fact that Baekhyun would even ask for permission. Nonetheless, and no matter how struck he was, Chanyeol would nod and allow of it, speaking one word before leaving Baekhyun alone again.
And it was during his watch that Chanyeol kept count of how many times Baekhyun took a hand and rubbed his neck. He was curious as to why he kept doing that, but he figured that Baekhyun must’ve slept in the wrong position last night. It wasn’t until Sehun informed him that Baekhyun decided to slip out and sleep in the hammock outside that Chanyeol understood.
“How do you know this?” Chanyeol asked as Sehun was crouching down to cut dying flowers at their stems.
“It was after everyone else went to bed,” Sehun started. “I went to the kitchen for some water and then the backdoor just slid open. It kinda scared me, but I saw that it was just him…” Sehun paused to wipe his forehead with his arm. “Then he asked me for help setting the hammock up, you know? At first I thought that this was just another one of his crazy ideas, but I don’t know…It didn’t feel like it.”
“It was dark, except for the moon maybe,” Sehun said, trying to recall. “He had a flashlight and we got it all fixed for him. I asked him why he was sleeping outside and then he told me…He said that he didn’t want to feel confined. That’s all he said before touching my arm and telling me to come back inside.”
—Baekhyun; 22 years old—
Swinging gently in the hammock, Baekhyun looked at the moon’s reflection on the calm waters, letting the sound of the soft waves crashing onto shore fill his ears. Slowly, his eyes drifted up towards the sky. He felt a slight sense of peace despite that destructive feeling inside of him, threatening to unlock bitter, old memories which would break him into crying.
Tears. There wasn’t any room in his life for tears—stupid droplets that emitted weakness in character. Tears were something he had only done in his childhood, yet swore never again to do. They were “chaotic”. Crying would lead to being emotionally distressed and being distressed meant losing one’s composure. In Byun Baekhyun’s household, composure was gold.
Up in the sky, millions of stars showed their light alongside the moon. They were beautiful in his eyes, but at the moment, Baekhyun couldn’t push the darker facts of life aside.
When he was younger, it was already clear that he was yet another genius born into the family tree. As a kid, hundreds of people would comment on his brain, his capabilities, his composure at a young age, and “his” love for “his” art—robotics.
“Baekhyun, you’re a very smart boy,” they’d said. “You’re very lucky to have a brain like yours,” they’d add. Then, they’d pet him on the head like some sort of project worth being satisfied of before continuing to compliment the very intelligence that he had never asked to be born with. “Baekhyun, you’re just like a star. You’re absolutely bright—just glowing with potential.”
Even at a young age, Baekhyun knew the facts of the universe—about stars. He held his tongue, not daring to correct them, or even yet, telling them that they had made a mistake—that he didn’t want to be a star. Not even ten years old, Byun Baekhyun knew better than the adults, yet he decided to keep his mouth shut for the sake of behaving.
As Baekhyun continued to stare up into the unknown, he remembered all the times in his life—the times when he kept being compared to “stars”. He thought, trying to remember what it was that he had kept his mouth shut about. It took no longer than a minute for him to remember why he had hated the comparison even as a kid.
Stars on the surface—when you look at them from Earth—twinkled. They twinkle because they’re bright. Stars on the surface catch everyone’s attention because people think that they’re beautiful and perfect. But—as the young Baekhyun already knew—the very stars that everyone saw in the sky were a million light years away. And at the very source, those stars aren’t beautiful. In fact, most stars at their core are either dying or have died.
It was a grim fact. Even though Baekhyun didn’t like the comparison, as he grew older, he realized that in some way, he was a star: appearing to be bright, perfect, and happy on the surface, yet slowly dying on the inside—dying because the person who everyone wanted him to be was murdering the person he wished he was.
Settling in his hammock, Baekhyun closed his eyes and fell asleep under stars that were just like him.
It was in the afternoon when Sehun was suddenly given a small gift bag, shoved into his hands. He looked up from his seat, surprised to see Chanyeol in his room. He hadn’t been aware that he had even entered the room.
Looking down on the bag, Sehun didn’t know what to say. “Thank…you?”
“It’s not for you,” Chanyeol explained.
Sehun glanced back and forth between Chanyeol and the bag. “It’s for…?”
“I need you to go inside Baekhyun’s room and give that to him.”
Sehun raised a brow. “And…you’re making me do this because?”
“Because you work for me and I’m telling you to, now just do it,” Chanyeol said before sighing. “Please.”
Getting up from his seat, Sehun tilted his head, holding the bag with both his hands. “Alright, then. I’ll deliver it to him, whatever this is—what is in here, though?”
“Just some stuff that he likes,” Chanyeol muttered.
Sehun smirked and leaned in. “Like?”
Rolling his eyes, Chanyeol put a hand on Sehun’s back and began to gently push him out the door as he walked along side of him. “A cardigan and a few books,” Chanyeol muttered.
“I didn’t hear that.”
“You won’t hear me cutting your pay, either,” Chanyeol said, giving an empty threat. “Just give it to him and get back to me—”
“What am I supposed to say?” Sehun asked as they walked through the house. “Yah, here’s a bag of things that Chanyeol knows you like—”
“Don’t mention my name.”
Sehun halted and gave Chanyeol a look. “Don’t?” Shaking his head, he heaved his shoulders. “I don’t understand. Why’re you not the one giving this to him?” When Chanyeol didn’t answer, Sehun caught on to the guilty air. “You can’t face him, can you? Chanyeol, I think that—”
“I don’t need your opinion,” Chanyeol gritted out. “Just do as I asked. Say that you were out shopping and might’ve passed by a few things that you remembered that he liked.”
“Is that how you came about these?” Sehun laughed as he started walking.
“Shut up.” Stopping just before entering the right wing of the house, Chanyeol watched Sehun continue on.
When Sehun came into the work room, Chanyeol stopped slouching and immediately straightened his position, grabbing for a pencil to try and create the façade that he was working, when in reality, he knew by the look on Sehun’s face that Sehun didn’t buy it.
“Working on something?”
“That paper looks really blank, though.”
Chanyeol ignored Sehun’s remark and moved on. “ What did he do?”
“Nothing,” Sehun said shrugging. “He just said ‘thank you' in the voice he's been using since you gave away his dog...”