One more branch to climb and he'll be able to reach it. Just one more. He's so close.
"Baek, I think you should go down!" a boy shouts from below.
Baekhyun ignores his best friend and continues to go up the old sycamore tree. He reaches his hand up and the tips of his fingers touch the trapped red kite. If he could just—
"Baek, forget it! Come down now!"
He can't. He's already so close. Another inch and—Got it!
"I got it, Yeol! I got it!" he says excitedly. Baekhyun hugs Chanyeol's kite to his chest.
"Okay, but please come down now!" There's more than a tinge of fear and worry in his best friend's voice. Baekhyun finds out why when he finally looks down from where he is.
The ground looks so far down, cold tendrils of fear slither up his spine. He hasn't gone so far up before. He begins to tremble and he tries to look at Chanyeol for reassurance but he can barely make out his friend's face.
"Chanyeol?" His hands unconsciously let go of the kite and he watches it dance and dangle in the air before it goes down, down, down to rest beside Chanyeol's feet. That's an awfully long distance to fall down.
"Just return the same way you climbed up. Don't look down and hold on tight! You can do it, Baekhyun!"
The small boy begins to listen to his friend. He climbs warily down, branch after branch. It takes a long time because his knees are shaking badly along with his arms. He's getting tired nevertheless he's making progress.
"Just a little more, Baek! You're near!"
He starts to think that everything will be okay but then his right foot slips and he almost falls if not for a large branch that snags on his pants pocket. His cheek throbs from where the bark scraped on the soft skin. He closes his eyes tightly and stops moving. "I can't do it!" he cries out. "I can't."
He'll fall. He'll fall and break his neck and his parents will cry and Chanyeol will cry and—he'll fall.
"It's alright, Baek!" Chanyeol moves closer to the tree. "It's not too high now. Jump and I'll catch you!"
"No!" His friend can't catch him. Chanyeol has poor eyesight and Baekhyun's heavy and they'll both break their necks.
"Come on, Baekhyun. I'm here. I'll catch you!"
He looks down and he sees the younger boy holding out his arms and he looks so confident that Baekhyun's tempted to believe him. Chanyeol has never lied to him before. His best friend never lies. "Really?"
"I will, Baek. Just jump. I'll catch you, I promise."
He's still so terrified however, Chanyeol smiles up at him and he looks like he really can catch Baekhyun so the smaller boy nods. He has to force his hands to let go of the trunk and untangle his pants from the branch. Finished, he looks back at his best friend. "Okay, I'm ready. If—If you don't catch me, you're dead Park Chanyeol!"
Baekhyun wants to close his eyes but he knows he can't. He heaves a deep breath then launches himself at the other boy. There's an audible snap when he lands on Chanyeol. His heart is beating so fast and he can feel the other boy's heart against his, too. He gazes at Chanyeol's face and the taller boy is grinning but he seems pale.
"Are we alive?" the younger asks.
"I am. Are you?" He shifts and sees Chanyeol wince at the movement.
"My arm's dead, I think." There are quiet tears in his best friend's large eyes. "But you see? I told you I'd catch you."
"I'm sorry." Baekhyun's crying, too. "I'll make your arm better. I'll be your giant Band-Aid."
"But you're tiny. You're a tiny Band-Aid," Chanyeol says hoarsely.
"Why are you so dumb?" he sobs. He sits up and rubs on his eyes with his small fists.
He wonders and wonders what good thing he's done to deserve a Park Chanyeol.
Baekhyun feels a certain kind of contentment as he orders Chanyeol in his bookstore, making him carry heavy boxes filled with books and arranging them on the shelves. He hums cheerfully while the taller man narrows his eyes when Baekhyun tells him to move the boxes to another spot for the third time. He thinks he hears Chanyeol mutter a 'slave driver' when he passes by.
Baekhyun joins Sehun by the register and the younger male throws an amused glance at him. "I'd hate to be in his place," he quips.
"Ha! He gets to have free meals in my house, that's compensation enough," the brunette answers with a raised chin.
They hear a "The food's not even that good!" from behind a shelf and they snicker.
"How long is he going to be here?" his assistant asks quietly.
Baekhyun frowns. He admits he doesn't like being reminded that Chanyeol's going to be leaving by Wednesday. That's a measly day and a half from now. The clock's ticking. He knows it's silly of him to worry this much. They're friends again—with numbers saved in each other's phone. A phone call away. Two train rides and they can meet. There are weekends. It's enough.
"He goes home on Wednesday morning."
Sehun raises a brow at his tone. "And that pout is because?"
"What pout? There's no pout," he pouts.
"Right," the pale boy replies tersely.
A customer comes in and inquires about a book, breaking the conversation. Sehun rings the old woman's purchase and Baekhyun seeks out Chanyeol, intending to find more things for him to do. The taller boy is behind one of the back shelves, staring puzzled at the books in his hands. Chanyeol looks up when he hears him approach.
"Oh, good. Where do I put these?" he shows Baekhyun three copies of an atlas. "I've already placed the new ones on display."
There're beads of perspiration across Chanyeol's forehead and he appears tired. Baekhyun suddenly feels guilty for having him work for free. He takes the books from his friend. "I'll take care of them."
He pulls a foldable ladder from a corner and places it in front of a high shelf where the older editions are kept. He starts to climb but Chanyeol stops him with a hand on his arm. "Let me do it."
Baekhyun rolls his eyes at him. He shrugs Chanyeol's hand off and climbs up again. He places the books on the topmost shelf without trouble. He even beams down at the other guy who is holding onto the steps. "Piece of cake."
He spoke too soon.
Baekhyun loses his footing for some unknown reason (or maybe it's the intensity of Chanyeol's gaze) and he can only flail helplessly as he slips and falls, his back hitting the steps, one by one until he ends up in Chanyeol's arms. The younger man frantically searches his face for any signs of pain. "Are you alright?"
His shoulder's aching and he's guessing a large bruise is forming on his butt but he's otherwise okay. "My back hurts."
"Good," Chanyeol says with a scowl. "That's what you get for being stubborn! I told you to let me do it."
Baekhyun bristles at his friend's words. "You can't tell me what to do. I'm not a kid."
The taller man's shoulders instantly deflate and to Baekhyun's surprise, he feels a warm hand cup the side of his face. "I know. I know it. I'm just—You worry me," Chanyeol mumbles.
He freezes at the look Chanyeol is giving him. He gets that feeling—that twisting in his gut, the beginnings of something awful. Yet he can't look away. Chanyeol leans in, ever so closer. There's a violent rushing in his ears and his hand comes up to remove Chanyeol's touch. Only, it can't seem to. Instead, it covers Chanyeol's hand and presses it closer to his skin.
He's near. One tilt of his head and he can reach those full lips.
Then his mind unwillingly remembers something along the lines of pretend confessions in the middle of the afternoon, the smell of books mingling with the cool scent of Chanyeol's cologne. It's like a cruel sort of deja vu except it really did happen. Not again.
Baekhyun abruptly pushes Chanyeol away, hiding the pounding of his heart beneath a short laugh that sounds so perfectly fake. Chanyeol's arms fall against his side, face registering confusion.
"You sound like my mom," Baekhyun says. Then he's walking away.
He feels Chanyeol's eyes follow him the rest of the day. Baekhyun tries to act normal, or as normal as the churning in his stomach permits. Even Sehun notices the sudden tension in the air though thankfully he doesn't comment on it. The two older men remain quiet.
The drive back to his apartment is just as silent. Baekhyun lets Chanyeol take the wheel while he pretends to nap in the passenger seat. It's a relief to see Lu Han waiting for them at Baekhyun's door, arms full with bags of food and several six-packs. The blonde guy grins at them and announces that they're going to have fun tonight.
Chanyeol helps Lu Han carry the food inside while Baekhyun heads straight to the bathroom where he washes his face and ineffectively attempts to get ahold of himself. He stares at his reflection on the mirror above the bathroom sink and asks the tired-looking man what the hell he is doing.
Baekhyun can't feel this way about Park Chanyeol. He just broke up with his long-time boyfriend not two weeks ago. He's not ready to feel things. The way he thought Chanyeol looked at him earlier—pure imagination. All of this is merely rekindled feelings of friendship. There has always been this indescribable connection that takes over when they're together.
Baekhyun can't have harbored his feelings for his best friend for six long years. It's impossible. He's over him. Allowing himself to think otherwise is mad.
He doesn't want to go back to the stupid twenty year old Byun Baekhyun who was so scared and in love that he ran away. He painfully recalls the last time he fell and Chanyeol didn't catch him. No more of that, please. The scars are still there.
Baekhyun assumes he's been there for quite some time because Lu Han knocks on the bathroom door and asks if he's okay. He calls out a yes and assures his friend that he'll be out shortly. He dries his face and takes a fortifying breath before he comes out.
His two friends already have everything laid out in the living room. There's pa jun and dukboki as well as some chips on the table. And beer, lots of it. Baekhyun plasters a smile on his face and turns on the TV just in time for the late telecast of the soccer match between Man-U and West Brom. Lu Han excitedly sits on the floor and readies his cheers.
Baekhyun can't seem to muster that much enthusiasm for the game, letting Lu Han do all the screaming at the supposedly unfair calls and at the dirty way West Brom plays. The blonde's cursing turns to drunken promises of revenge when Man-U loses. Baekhyun just watches as Chanyeol leans forward and pats the crying Lu Han's shoulders. Good thing his neighbor recovers quickly. Lu Han then proceeds to play a movie, one of the chick flicks they picked up together last week.
More alcohol into their system and Baekhyun starts to loosen up, barely managing to stop himself from blatantly staring at Chanyeol who is sitting on the other end of the couch, nursing a bottle of beer in his hand and looking downright handsome there in his graphic shirt and acid-washed jeans. Why does he have to be so dumb? he asks himself, forcing his eyes back on the screen.
"I want to be Mandy Moore without the boobs," Lu Han slurs with a big arch of his arms, almost hitting the empty bottles beside him. "I want to be chased by a sexy guy with a British accent, too. Is that too much to ask?"
They aren't sure if the older man is crying or laughing. Before Baekhyun can even attempt to answer, he gets distracted by a shrieking Moore sliding down the side of a roof and being caught by Sexy-accent guy.
Baekhyun gets the urge to cry which is really stupid since he isn't a girl and aren't girls the only ones allowed to cry over movies like this? But falling isn't nice, his muddled brain argues, it's scary and painful and who says boys can't cry anyway? He doesn't give in, though. He just drops on his side and curls into a ball on the couch.
He thinks he feels a hand run through his hair once, twice but Baekhyun's too heartsick to make sure, knowing he'd be disappointed if he finds out it was just a drunken illusion. He hears Chanyeol's deep voice complain when Lu Han sings along with the movie's theme.
"If I'm not in love with you, what is this I'm going through toniiiiggghhhhhhhtttttt!"
"Shut up," Chanyeol groans in misery at the screeching.
"If Oh Sehun ever deems to wear a blue wristband like sexy accent guy, I'm done for," Lu Han wails.
Baekhyun knows his neighbor is truly drunk when he begins to talk about his love-hate non-relationship with his assistant. "Are you going to start stripping now?"
"No!" Chanyeol is quick to stop the blonde guy from taking his shirt off. "We're all drunk. We know how the movie's gonna end anyway. Let's get you home."
Lu Han gives the small brunette a sloppy goodnight kiss on the cheek, giggling as he lets Chanyeol take him to his own apartment three doors down. Baekhyun's left watching the happy ending alone. Sexy-accent guy's hot and all, maybe. But Baekhyun thinks he still likes Dopey. He's clearly as hammered as Lu Han.
He looks at the mess they've made yet he can't make himself stand to clean it up. He stays unmoving even when Chanyeol gets back and stares unblinking down at him. Then the taller man shakes his head and sways slightly on his feet. Dumb drunk. Dumb.
"Time for bed, Baek," Chanyeol whispers. He leans down to hold on to Baekhyun's arm.
"Don't touch me," the older guy says. Don't touch me or I'll break.
Chanyeol frowns but he doesn't listen. He pauses, though when he gets a better look of Baekhyun's face. "Baek, why are you crying?"
He's crying? He lifts his hand to wipe at his cheeks and sure enough they come away damp. Fucking fantastic.
"It's a happy ending, right?" Chanyeol cups his cheek. He's taken aback when the smaller male slaps his hand off.
"I said stop it. Don't touch me." Baekhyun sits up and glares at Chanyeol. "Leave me alone!"
"You promised me," he interrupts his friend. He doesn't know what he's saying anymore. Or perhaps he does. He's drunk and it's a good excuse. He feels like he's about to burst and he also feels so empty. "But you're so dumb."
The single syllable holds so much frustration and Baekhyun feels slighted. Park Chanyeol doesn't have the right to be frustrated. "I changed my mind. We can't be friends."
"But you can't take it back."
Baekhyun ignores him. He heaves himself up and stumbles his way to his bedroom. He needs to get away except before he even reaches his room, Chanyeol's there behind him, stopping him.
"What did I do, Baek?"
Chanyeol sounds so confused and Baekhyun wants to laugh. So he does. But it dies on his lips when the taller man grasps on his arms and spins him around.
"Tell me. What did I do? You're running away again. You're leaving me and I don't even know why!" Chanyeol's grip tightens. "You're so unfair. Six years, Baekhyun, and you're still not telling me anything!"
Chanyeol's tearing his scars open and probing at his wounds. "Please don't do this to me," he says desperately.
"Don't do what?"
Baekhyun tries to get out of Chanyeol's hold again. "Let go."
"You lied!" he shouts. "You promised that you'd always catch me—but you didn't!"
Chanyeol's eyes widen. "What are you saying?"
"I'm saying you confessed but you said it was a joke. I'm saying that I ran away because a best friend doesn't think of kissing his best friend and keeping him for himself." Baekhyun looks up at Chanyeol's stunned features, eyes flooding with bitter tears. "I'm saying I'm supposed to be over you but I let the perfect man go just like that because I could never say yes to anyone but you. But you don't want it… You don't want me. I'm saying—"
He has a whole lot more to say, dammit, except Chanyeol's mouth has already seized his in a hard, angry kiss, stealing whatever breath he has left. Baekhyun thinks that his heart can't take more but then he's being backed into a wall and Chanyeol's pinning his hands beside his head, lacing their fingers together, forcing more tears to come to the surface.
The kiss unexpectedly gentles and anger is replaced by something sweet. Something irresistible mixed with a dash of longing. Chanyeol lifts his head to gaze into his soul and lets go of one Baekhyun's hand to pull him by the waist. Then Chanyeol's kissing him again, his soft mouth plundering Baekhyun's, tongue delving inside in delicious torment, moving seductively as if to memorize his taste.
The lips move on from the corners of Baekhyun's now swollen lips to his smooth cheek, up to the curve of his ear before they travel down the side of his neck and pause at his collarbone where Chanyeol deems it the perfect place for a bruise, marking Baekhyun's fair skin with his mouth and tongue and teeth, eliciting a strangled moan from the smaller man.
He knows this is crazy. Chanyeol's drunk and just doing this out of pity and who is he kidding, he isn't drunk, he's insane, and he's going to regret this tomorrow, and he has wanted this forever and Chanyeol's still kissing him and he tells himself that he's going to lose his best friend again and he loves him so much dammit, and can't he please be fucking happy just this once?
But no matter how much he tells his stupid brain to let it happen, it won't stop telling him that this is wrong. That if he lets Chanyeol own his body, he's going to completely break when he leaves. And he will leave Baekhyun. And laugh and thinks it's cool.
He kisses Chanyeol back, opening his lips more insistently over his, counting the seconds when he would have to really let go. His hand holds on to Chanyeol's wrist before it slides down his forearm. There's a scar near his elbow and that reminder gives Baekhyun the energy to tear his mouth off of Chanyeol's and run to his room.
Running's easy when you've done it so many times.
"Baek, let's get married."
"I can't think of anyone else I'd want to spend my life with."
"You said that about my mom's cookies."
"Yeol, we're thirteen. How can you be serious?"
"You have a point."
"I always have a point. But ask me again when we're older."
"And then you'll say yes?"
"No, I'll laugh at your face."
"Don't be mad. You'll probably forget this conversation by tomorrow."
"You have a point."
"I'm sorry," Lu Han murmurs as he plays with Baekhyun hair. The brunette's head is on his lap and they're on Baekhyun's couch, watching another one of Baekhyun’s girly movies.
"I hate you," Baekhyun replies half-heartedly.
"I just thought he'd be able to make you happy."
Chanyeol did. And perhaps still does. But he also hurts Baekhyun and he can only fall so many times before he can't get up anymore. Chanyeol leaving is a thousand times worse than Kris walking out the door. Because Park Chanyeol's oblivious and he always rips out Baekhyun's heart and takes it with him.
"You said you loved him. At the housewarming party, you said you wanted to be with him but you're stupid and he's dumb," Lu Han continues.
"We are." They still are after six years.
He recalls that scene three days ago when he opened the door to his room the morning after their first and last kiss. Chanyeol's standing right outside, waiting for him, looking worried and troubled and Baekhyun didn't have the heart to see his best friend that way. So he lets him off the hook.
He pretends that he has forgotten what has happened. He says again and again that they were both drunk and that it's okay. Everything's okay. He tells it to himself again and again, too, when Chanyeol leaves a day early with just a small wave. And up until now, he's telling himself that while he stops himself from tearing up because Tom Cruise just went back to Renee Zellweger and says and does all the right things that only happen in movies.
There's no prince for Baekhyun, not even a Dopey and that's so sad.
He doesn't hear the knocks until Lu Han tells him to get off so he can open the door. Baekhyun vaguely thinks he's going to post a no knocking sign outside his door. There's a doorbell for god's sake.
He hears Lu Han pad back to the living room. "Who was that? I seriously will cut off the next person who knocks on my door, I swear to god."
He freezes because that deep voice is nowhere near Lu Han's light one. Baekhyun sits up and looks over the couch's backrest. Sure enough, there's Chanyeol looking like death himself. His clothes are rumpled; tie hanging crookedly around his neck, hair hopelessly disheveled. There are dark bags beneath his eyes—he's a mess and he looks exactly how Baekhyun feels like right now.
Baekhyun stands unsteadily and Chanyeol walks to him, stopping a few feet away. "First of all, I wasn't drunk."
"Shut up, Baek. I wasn't drunk. I wasn't. I knew perfectly well what my tongue was doing inside your mouth." Chanyeol steps forward but then retreats right after. "But you kept on saying that you were. Drunk. And that I am, too. And—and that made me think that you really were and that you didn't want me. That it was just the alcohol."
Not want him? How can Baekhyun not want him?
"And so I left because I felt guilty. You just broke up with your boyfriend and I want you. You were distraught. And I want you. You clearly needed a friend, a best friend, not an asshole who can't think of anything but kissing you the moment you opened the door and every second since."
Baekhyun stares at him in disbelief. "That's impossible."
Chanyeol let out a self-mocking laugh. "Impossible? I was out of my mind because I wanted to come after Kris Wu to beat the hell out of him for making you cry but part of me wanted to hug him for letting you go."
Baekhyun's knees feel like they're going to give out any moment now.
"So right. There I was in my office this morning and I'm thinking about you. Again. And I figured six years is enough time to wait for the perfect guy to snatch you up and since he's doing a poor job of finding you, I'm going to get you myself. Something I should have done all those years ago. I've already given them their chance and they blew it. It's my turn, Baek, Okay?"
Chanyeol takes out something from his pants pocket and Baekhyun can see him trembling. He nervously unfolds a slip of paper. "I prepared for this so please don't interrupt until I finish. Or I'll throw up all over your living room." Chanyeol clears his throat and begins to read. "I, okay. You are a kite stuck on a tree and a broken arm. You are missed rollercoaster rides and after class detention. You are kisses, almost and breathless ones. You are—a 13 year old boy's first heartbreak and a 26 year old man's dream come true."
The taller man looks up briefly before he proceeds. "You are every painful heartbeat and sleepless nights and—you're sticky summer days and stolen food and every song I've ever played in my guitar. You are not my first I love you but I feel—I know you're going to be my last."
Chanyeol drops the paper and closes the distance between them. Baekhyun doesn't know what to do because it feels like he's falling again but Chanyeol's hands are holding onto him tight. This time he's not exactly catching him but he's falling right alongside Baekhyun. "You are—going to laugh at me but, Baek, I still want to spend my life with you. I'm not drunk. And it's real this time. Say yes."
Baekhyun lips part. Yes, he thinks. He wants to say yes. Instead, he cries.
"Or anything. Say something. Anything."
"Shut up, you had him at hello."
They both turn their heads to find Lu Han standing by the doorway, hands clasped in excitement.
Chanyeol's brows knot. "But I didn't say hello."
The blonde male rolls his eyes. "You really are as dumb as Baekhyun says."
"Lu Han," Baekhyun says.
"Alright, going, going, gone!" Lu Han traipsed off leaving them alone, with Baekhyun still reeling from what Chanyeol just told him.
"Can you say something now?" Chanyeol catches his chin between his thumb and forefinger, lifting his face up to him. "Please."
"I'm so happy that you have hair," Baekhyun answers and punctuates it with a kiss.
Yes, I love you.
"Hello, new neighbor. I'm Chanyeol."
-movies mentioned were Chasing Liberty (2004) and Jerry Maguire (1996)
-also AHAHAAHAHAHAHAHHAHA /quits life