genre: au, romance
length: 16,107 / twoshot
warning: all the cliches, fail sexy times, general dumb
summary: “Except there you were—my lighthouse. When I look at you, I'm home.”
an: written originally for chanbaekmemoirs with the prompt...let's forget about the prompt.
an2: thanks so much to nighttimefalls for making this readable and to baekfats bc oppanim.
One last brush stroke and he's finally done. A pair of dark-brown eyes assess the canvass that was propped solidly against the wooden easel. The morning sunlight pouring through the floor length windows of the studio hits the painting just right, bringing to life the fantastical fairy kingdom born from the artist's slender fingers. It will add nicely to his growing collection, he thinks, and soon he can put up his own solo exhibit. The slightly-built male smiles in satisfaction.
Byun Baekhyun turns away to wipe his paint-covered hands clean with an equally stained rag, absently surveying the place that serves as his workroom and office. The walls are painted a very pale shade of yellow, bare except for a framed charcoal of a lighthouse drawn when he was fourteen. Cloth-covered canvasses of varying sizes fill one corner while a work table occupies another. On it is a phone and several papers—a stack of receipts from his previous commissions and some rolled-up blueprints.
He is in no way as famous as those renowned painters in the big city but Baekhyun has made quite a name for himself in Gangwon-do. He just turned twenty-seven and he's content with where he is right now, doing what he loves the most. Although it has taken some time, his dreams of his own art gallery will be realized. Not only will he be able to showcase his work, he can also help other local artists do the same. His friend and agent, Kim Jongdae, called him two days ago with a new project. Baekhyun doesn't usually do murals or seascapes but the pay is very good and it's more than enough to complete the funds for the construction of his gallery.
His eyes stray to the old sketch on the wall. The road had been bumpy—and at times really painful—but he has come a long way.
Baekhyun gets pulled from his reverie when his phone rings. He walks over to his desk and looks at the blinking screen. He grins fondly before picking up the call. "Are you calling to tell me I've been nominated for National Artist yet?"
He can almost hear Jongdae rolling his eyes at him.
"No, but this is just as important. So remember the project I was telling you about? Well, apparently the developers are on a tight schedule—something about the client wanting the house to be finished and ready soon. They called me to say that they need you to start ASAP," his friend explains.
Jongdae hesitates a bit. "Like, right now."
"Now?" Baekhyun asks, surprised. "But I haven't started on the design yet."
"Then I'll call them to say you're going to start tomorrow. But you'd have to head over there this afternoon to sign stuff." Baekhyun can hear the sound of turning pages and he can imagine Jongdae in his office, flipping through his planner. "Get something to write on. Here's the address."
"I just finished painting and my fingers are tired." He tries to control his laughter when Jongdae sighs in exasperation. They've known each other for years now and the agent knows Baekhyun is just messing with him again.
"Fine, fine, you lazy ass. I'll message you the address."
Baekhyun chuckles. "Thank you. You're the best."
"I know I am."
They exchange a few more words, with Jongdae telling him about the upcoming exhibit in Seoul, urging him to join even though he knows Baekhyun will just turn it down. His friend calls him stubborn as hell and threatens to drop him from his client list but Baekhyun knows it's all bluff. He changes the topic and assures his friend he'll be by the project site before lunchtime.
After their conversation ends, Baekhyun sends a message to his mother. She's staying with her youngest sister on the other side of town. It's his aunt's third trimester and his mom's assisting her until she gives birth. He shakes his head at the pregnant woman's husband who was working—more like enjoying himself—out of the country. He receives a short reply; a reminder to eat properly and stay healthy.
Baekhyun enters the house adjacent to his studio. The place is small but it gives the impression of being spacious with its wide windows and simple wooden furniture. There's more than enough room for a single man and his mother to live comfortably. At one time, they've thought of moving into a place closer to the capital but ultimately decided against it. It's peaceful here and near enough the beach that he can feel and smell the cool sea breeze from outside.
It takes him just a few minutes to shower and change into a blue plaid button down shirt over a white tank top and jeans. It's casual and he looks more like a college student with the outfit but he figures it's summer and the meeting won't be formal anyway. He combs his straight black hair with his fingers and checks his sling bag for his portfolio and color sheet. All set, he picks up his phone from the bedside table and opens a message with the address Jongdae sent him.
He has to read it twice to make sure. The place is familiar but somewhere he hasn't been to in years. Baekhyun feels a slight pinch in his chest when unbidden images managed to escape from a tightly closed box of memories. He shakes his head. He has no business remembering. It's all in a very distant past, he tells himself as he mentally pushes all of them back to the deepest recesses of his mind where they belong.
It takes a twenty-minute bicycle ride to reach the beachfront address. Baekhyun looks up at the two-story building in front of him. It was strange to see the modern concrete house alongside the other remaining cottages dotting this more secluded side of Naksan. Five years has wrought changes to the place but not enough to take away its beauty. From the side of the house, Baekhyun gets a glimpse of the sea—as vast as ever, sparkling blue under the sun.
He parks his bike by the low iron gates of the unfinished house. There's a Caution: Construction in Progress sign beside a board which reads Lighthouse Developers, Inc. Baekhyun makes his way inside, stopping to ask directions from an old man tending to the lawn grass. He is asked to wait as the man enters the house, returning after a few minutes with a young guy walking behind him.
The other guy is shorter than Baekhyun's 174cm and looks every bit as nice and warm as his buttercup yellow cardigan. He extends his hand for a handshake and hands him his business card. He introduces himself as Kim Junmyeon, the one currently in charge of the site.
"I apologize for the short notice, Mr. Byun, but our client has moved the deadline and my boss—well, let's just say he doesn't back down from challenges," Junmyeon says, smiling. He then invites Baekhyun inside.
The place is as impressive as its exterior. From the entrance, there are a series of arched doorways leading to the different areas of the house. They first go to the spacious living room where the furniture is still covered with plastic. A number of workmen are scattered here and there, laying down marble tiles on the floor and affixing the glass windows. One whole wall is made of the same glass and from there they can get an unhindered view of the beach and the distant lighthouse towering above a formation of rocks.
Baekhyun turns his back on it. "So where would the mural be?" he asks, eager to get away from there.
"That's on the master's bedroom on the second floor," Junmyeon says as he leads him up a staircase.
There are maybe three or four rooms at the second level, Baekhyun observes, two of which are right across from each other. There are still no doors attached so he can see what's inside as he passes by them. It's obvious that no cost was spared with the construction of the house. He wonders vaguely, though, why the buyer wanted it built here.
They go into a room at the end of the hallway, a large one with a balcony facing the shore. Junmyeon points at the wide blank wall at the left side of the bedroom. "This is where the client wants the mural."
Baekhyun nods, ready to discuss work. "I brought my portfolio with me and some color samples. I could go through them with you if you like and—"
Junmyeon lets out a chuckle. "There would be no need for that. I know next to nothing about paintings anyway. My boss said the client just wants 'an extension of the sea right in his bedroom' and that's about it. We're giving you 20 days to finish. I trust that you already know what to do."
"Of course," the painter replies with confidence.
"Any questions, though, before we sign the contract?" Junmyeon asks on their way down the stairs.
"I was just curious about one thing, actually," Baekhyun begins. "It's not that I don't want the commission, I do, but I want to ask, why me? I'm just a local artist and from the look of things, your company and your client have the budget to contact more famous ones from the city."
Junmyeon hands him a set of papers to sign before he answers. "That's exactly why we want to hire you. The buyer of the house wants a local one to capture, I don't know, authentic local flavor? In any case, you were the one recommended to us."
"Okay," Baekhyun answers, thinking the reason's logical enough.
Junmyeon claps his hands together. He walks towards a work desk that acts as his temporary office, motioning for Baekhyun to follow. "Well, then. Let's have your signature here," he says while pointing to a blank line on the contract, "and here."
Baekhyun holds onto the pen the businessman hands him. He's about to sign when he hears the other guy exclaim excitedly.
"Oh, boss, you're here! How was the trip?"
Baekhyun looks up and freezes on the spot, heart slamming violently inside his chest. He sees the tall man standing by the doorway, reddish brown hair ruffled by the wind, rather large ears and smooth cheeks a bit flushed from the drive under the heat of the afternoon sun. The guy's eyes are concealed by a pair of sunglasses but Baekhyun can feel the intensity of his gaze all the way to his gut.
"You're just in time," Junmyeon pipes up, oblivious to the sudden tension between the two men. "I was just having Mr. Byun sign our contract here. Mr. Byun, meet my boss Park—"
"I'm sorry. I changed my mind," Baekhyun manages to say before dropping the pen and stalking quickly out of the house.
No, no, no, it can't be.
He doesn't care if he looked rude for walking out or if Jongdae will kill him when he finds out that he did. There are still other projects and commissions he can do anyway. All he knows is he has to get out of there. Baekhyun gets on his bicycle and pedals away as fast as he can.
He supposes he's already half-expecting it, that's why Baekhyun isn't exactly surprised when the sound of a car engine stops in front of his house.
It has been half an hour since he ran away from Park Chanyeol.
He makes an uneven line on the canvass for his hand is trembling. He's wrong to think that hiding in his studio and painting can calm him down from his brief encounter with his past lover. But he knows he shouldn't even be this rattled.
There aren't any feelings because whatever part of him he has shared with Chanyeol has already died. Yet the panic clogging his throat says otherwise. He tenses when he hears footsteps come nearer. Baekhyun stands up and faces the open doorway.
Park Chanyeol hesitates a moment before he walks in, well aware that he isn't welcome. Baekhyun catches the stiff jaw and the wariness in the taller man's eyes. In his suit jacket and slacks, Chanyeol looks as successful as he promised Baekhyun he'd be one day and the memory of that conversation sends resentment rushing to the surface.
"What are you doing here?" Baekhyun asks, knuckles turning white from his tight hold on the paint brush.
The younger man doesn't immediately answer. Instead, Chanyeol looks around the room as if doing an inventory of what has changed and what hasn't. His gaze pauses on the framed sketch on the wall. "It's still there," he says, his voice deeper with age.
Yes, it's still there. A reminder of broken promises.
"I said, what are you doing here?" Baekhyun repeats. He steels himself when he receives Chanyeol's full attention. The other man moves close, only stopping when he's an arm's length away.
"Why did you leave?"
"I am not going to work for you," Baekhyun says steadily, belying the fact he's anything but composed.
"Why is that?" Chanyeol raises a brow.
Is he seriously asking me why? Baekhyun remains silent, incredulous.
The taller man takes one step closer that Baekhyun has to tilt his head up to look at him, and he hates it because it makes him appear weak and inferior. But he can't step back, because he will seem afraid. And he's not.
"Are you still in love with me?" Chanyeol asks in a quiet voice.
He might as well have yelled the question with the way it ploughed through Baekhyun's defenses, making his heart constrict. "No," he says with gritted teeth.
Chanyeol searches into Baekhyun's eyes. "Then why?"
"I won't work for assholes like you," he bites out, regretting the words as soon as they were out.
"So you're letting your hatred for me stop you from doing your job?" Chanyeol's patronizing tone grates on Baekhyun's nerves. "After all this time, I thought you've matured and—"
"First," he cuts him off, "I don't hate you. Hatred means I care and I don't. Second, I've matured—way more than you seemed to have—but as I have said, I don't like working for the likes of you. Now, I have things to do."
But the taller man can't seem to take a hint. He moves forward, invading Baekhyun's personal space—so close that he can almost see his own reflection in Chanyeol's eyes.
"This is just a job. What are you so scared of?"
Baekhyun's fist clenches. He wasn't afraid. He doesn't feel anything at all.
Chanyeol persists. "What's three weeks in exchange for the ridiculous amount of money my company's going to pay you? I remember your dream of setting up your own gallery and—"
"You don't get to talk to me about that, Park Chanyeol," he says, leaning forward, meeting the challenge in his ex-boyfriend's gaze. The other stands his ground, although his expression becomes guarded.
The silence lengthens as Baekhyun stares back at Chanyeol, getting a good look at him for the first time. He's still heartbreakingly handsome but taller, more muscular than the lanky teenager he gave his first kiss to. Chanyeol also reeks of success—from his expensive haircut to his shiny leather shoes. But his eyes—those that once sparkled with so much enthusiasm—appear hard and jaded.
Baekhyun's fuming but at the back if his mind, he knows that Chanyeol has a point. Why is he even acting this way? He's over him. He's been over Park Chanyeol the moment he left. This is just a job and a good paying one at that. Will he let this opportunity go because of a man who means nothing to him?
And it's no more than three weeks. He doesn't even have to actually deal with Chanyeol.
"So what'll it be?" the younger male asks with a trace of impatience.
"I'll be there tomorrow," Baekhyun answers. He sees triumph in the way the other man's lips curved and it gets his hackles rising. "You better go."
Chanyeol nods and leaves without another word.
"The problem with you is that you don't have ambition! If you want to rot here then go ahead but don't expect me to stay."
Baekhyun feels dread settling in his gut even before he opens his eyes.
He feels exhausted. He spent the rest of the day before planning for the mural and even after finishing the sketch by dinner time; he was only able to sleep past midnight. It wasn't even three hours later that he woke up with a slight headache. He has been lying in bed since then, unable to stop his brain from replaying the past, convincing himself that it doesn't affect him anymore.
He never expected to see Chanyeol again. When the man left from here five years ago, his departure had seemed so final and irrevocable. But now he's back and Baekhyun's going to work for the same guy he swore he'd erase from his life.
It doesn't have to be complicated, Baekhyun tells himself for the thousandth time. Just finish the painting and that's it. He'll be gone again.
His alarm goes off and Baekhyun's forced to get up. Jongdae called him last night to ask what happened and why the contract with Lighthouse Developers hasn't been signed. Apparently he got a call from Mr. Kim alongside a copy of the said papers through email. His agent didn't reprimand him from walking out so he assumes there was no mention of it during their talk. He is asked to report to the beach house at 8 a.m. today, though. It won't do to be late.
He arrives at the site with a few minutes to spare, decked out in his usual work clothes—an old pair of jeans that has paint stains on both legs and an even older t-shirt. Baekhyun decides to walk around the perimeter of the house to get the feel of the place and use it for the mural he's going to make.
Baekhyun reaches the edge of the lot where a wood plank pathway leads to a set of steps down the shore. He walks on it, enjoying the breeze, before he stops halfway. He looks back at the two-story structure and mind conjures the small hut that once stood in its place. He used to go here every day to get free painting lessons from Grandpa Cho.
He turns towards the sea and unwillingly remembers the first time he came here with Chanyeol. The younger boy had told him he found the coolest place and Baekhyun had to see it. So one day after class, they made their way there with him sitting behind Chanyeol on the taller boy's bike. From the shore, Chanyeol showed him the lighthouse and his 14-year-old self had exclaimed in awe as he stared at the tower, impressive against a spectacular sunset backdrop.
That was where he met the old painter. In one of their visits, Baekhyun saw Grandpa Cho, sitting on the sand with a drawing pad on his lap, capturing the crashing waves in amazing detail. The boys watched, enthralled, while the wrinkled hand moved in sure strokes across the paper. The man finally noticed them and invited Baekhyun and Chanyeol to sit with him. He handed each of them a piece of paper and pencil. Chanyeol declined but Baekhyun gladly accepted and began to draw.
It was the start of blissful afternoons, the same afternoons that drew Chanyeol and Baekhyun closer together. Bike rides became a chance for him to wrap his arms around Chanyeol's waist and rest his head against the taller boy's warm back. Walks on the beach progressed to strolling while holding hands. Jokes and teasing turned to whispers of affection... and promises.
Baekhyun shakes his head, shoving away the vague feelings of betrayal at the knowledge that Park Chanyeol bought the place that had been so important to them—to him, only to sell it to some stranger. He has no right to those feelings and there's no place for it here.
"Mr. Byun," Junmyeon calls out from the end of the pathway. "You're early."
He strides towards the house without another backward glance. "Good morning. Just please call me Baekhyun," he tells the other guy with a smile. "I guess, I was just eager to get started."
If Chanyeol's assistant finds it unbelievable after his walk out yesterday, he doesn't say a word. Kim Junmyeon just grins and chats with Baekhyun until it was time to start work. He leaves the artist alone inside the master's bedroom.
Baekhyun takes out his markers from his satchel and begins to draw marks on the blank surface of the wall. The project will be his largest to date; the wall spanning almost 15 ft. across and 9 ft. from top to bottom. He proceeds to divide it into four vertical sections, leaving lines here and there, marking where each drawing will go. He goes to the middle of the wall and is tiptoeing to put another mark when he realizes the spot is too high for him to easily reach.
With a sigh, Baekhyun looks around the room for somewhere to stand on but it's empty except for his own things. He returns to the spot and extends his arm again. He just needs an inch or two, surely he can just jump and he'll be able to mark it. Baekhyun exactly does that, however the resulting mark is off. He does it again but to no avail. The short male decides to do it one last time before he goes out to find a ladder or something.
He's about to jump when he feels two large hands circling his waist and lifting him up. His look of surprise turns into a glare when he sees who the owner of the hands is. "Put me down."
Chanyeol raises a brow. "Are you just going to look at me or are you actually going to put that mark?"
Not sure he even draws it on the right spot, Baekhyun hastily places a mark and then glares back down on Chanyeol. "Now, can you put me down?"
The other man does as he says and steps back, putting much needed distance between them. It riles Baekhyun that Chanyeol can touch him with such familiarity. Up to this moment, he can still feel the imprint of the taller male's hands on his waist, sending unpleasant fluttering in his stomach.
Chanyeol's face remains impassive. "I came here to remind you that the project deadline is in 20 days—more than enough time, I think. The workers come in at seven and the place is locked down by eight. You can do your work anytime in between. If you need anything, just talk to my assistant. All clear?"
"Actually, I have two questions." He furtively eyes the rolled up sleeves of Chanyeol's white shirt and the denim that flattered what's supposed be unattractive bowlegs. "Isn't your office in the city?" He knows he sounds entirely too ridiculous but somehow he couldn't directly ask Chanyeol what he wanted to. Why are you still here?
He hears the other man heave a sigh.
"I'll be staying at a hotel nearby until the house is finished. The client is important to me, I mean, to my company so I have to be here to oversee everything and make sure all goes well. "Chanyeol slips his hands in his pants pockets and studies Baekhyun's face—for what, Baekhyun doesn't know. "And the second one?"
He loses some of his confidence but he forges on. "For the time I'm working on this project, can I ask that no one goes in here unless it's absolutely necessary?"
Chanyeol pauses and then asks, "Is that for everybody or just for me?"
Baekhyun shakes his head. "It's for everybody. I—you know how I am with my paintings and—" He cuts himself off, cursing silently for his slip. What is he doing assuming that Chanyeol would even remember?
"Okay." The taller guy stares at him for a few more seconds. He then proceeds to go out the door and Baekhyun finally lets out the breath he didn't know he was holding.
Three weeks, Baekhyun. Just three weeks.
True to his word, nobody goes into his workroom and Park Chanyeol stays away.
Baekhyun barely sees him the past week. Sometimes he gets a glimpse of Chanyeol in conversation with the workers or when he's busy talking on the phone. To accommodate the hot weather, he abandons his expensive suits in exchange for light colored shirts and jeans, much like what Baekhyun wears. He looks much younger in them, the painter thinks, although they can't detract from the seriousness that seems to now be deeply entrenched in between his brows.
Chanyeol looks stressed and exhausted as if he hasn't had proper sleep in a long time but Baekhyun reminds himself that it isn't any of his business.
His business is finishing his work. He does make good progress on his mural. The paint and materials were delivered without a hitch and Baekhyun is now done with the first sketches on three sections. He can finish the fourth one and do the coloring for the next week and a half, leaving him at least 6-7 days to spare. The sooner he finishes, the sooner he can go back to forgetting.
"Hey, I know you don't want anyone here," Junmyeon says from the doorway, holding out a peace sign which makes Baekhyun laugh. "But it's Friday and on Friday's everyone eats lunch with the Big Bad Developer a.k.a Mr. Park."
The painter's smile drops at that. "Oh, that's okay. I'm still full and," he motions to the wall, "I have to finish this part before the day ends."
The assistant looks crestfallen, effectively making Baekhyun feel guilty. The man has been nothing but nice since day one. Kim Junmyeon made sure that everything goes smoothly for Baekhyun—helping out with his paint orders and personally bringing a six-step foldable ladder for his convenience.
"Are you sure?" Junmyeon replies with slumped shoulders.
Baekhyun internally groans. "So this lunch? It's just a quick one, right?"
The other man's lips curve into a smile, making him at least feel a bit better about his decision. "Yeah. Come on. Everyone's already out on the front lawn where the table's set."
Baekhyun follows him quietly. He feels a bit relieved when he doesn't see Chanyeol. A number of men are eating on the long table, talking boisterously with each other. At one end are three empty chairs and Junmyeon invites him to sit on the one opposite him. The man then hands him his own paper bag of take out.
He starts to eat and is almost through with his Dak galbi but the seat at the head of the table remains suspiciously empty. Wasn't this lunch supposed to be Chanyeol's idea? It was at the tip of his tongue to ask Junmyeon where his boss was but he doesn't. He also doesn't want to think more about it so he tries to make small talk. "The food's really good."
The guy beside him just grunts; too busy stuffing his mouth with food. Baekhyun smiles in amusement.
"We order these from the small restaurant near the resort down the road. The home cooked food's cheap and really delicious," Junmyeon picks up something from his own plate and offers it to Baekhyun. "Try this."
The painter looks at the pan fried stuffed cucumber held out to him and his nose instinctively start to scrunch. If there's any food he hates the most it's cucumber. But before he can even refuse, Chanyeol takes his seat and says in a low voice, "Junmyeon, get that away from him."
The assistant looks at his boss in surprise but does as he says. "But it's really good," he mumbles.
"He doesn't like cucumbers," Chanyeol tells him.
Junmyeon glances curiously back and forth Chanyeol and Baekhyun. "How did you know?"
Baekhyun, who busied himself with his plate when Chanyeol arrived, freezes. He can also feel his ex-boyfriend tense beside him, Chanyeol's hand arrested halfway through picking up his chopsticks. Baekhyun opens his mouth in an attempt to explain but the taller man saves him the trouble.
"Anyone can figure that out with just the look on Mr. Byun's face while you were offering it to him. It's good to observe things around you once in a while," Chanyeol says wryly.
"Oh," Junmyeon chuckles. "Sorry 'bout that."
Loathe as he is to admit it—more than Chanyeol remembering his dislike for the said vegetable—Baekhyun can't seem to get past what Chanyeol called him. Mr. Byun.
Mr. Byun in an impersonal, almost indifferent tone.
Which is what it should be, he tells himself still he somehow loses his appetite. Baekhyun excuses himself and stands up, thanking everyone for the meal. He knows that to ignore Chanyeol will be rude so he turns to him and bows. It should have ended at that but his mouth runs away from him. "Thank you for the lunch, Mr. Park."
He sounded so awfully bitter. Baekhyun flees to his workroom, cheeks burning with embarrassment because he saw Chanyeol's face before he left and he's certain the other man caught it—that split second Baekhyun stopped pretending he has moved on.
Baekhyun signs his name on one corner of the canvass. It's his first commissioned painting and he proudly thinks it isn't half bad.
He feels a warm body against his back and long, arms wrapping around his middle before a soft kiss grazes his cheek. "Pretty name," Chanyeol murmurs, holding onto him tighter. "Pretty name for a pretty boy with pretty fingers and pretty smile and basically, pretty everything."
Baekhyun elbows his boyfriend, flustered. "Shut up."
"You know what shuts me up," the taller boy teases. Chanyeol straightens and turns Baekhyun in his arms until they're facing each other. He leans down the same time he tilts Baekhyun's head up. The older boy's eyes are already closing, lips eagerly parting for the kiss he knows Chanyeol's going to give him.
But the kiss he's waiting for doesn't come. Baekhyun opens his eyes to see Chanyeol looking at something behind him. Baekhyun looks over his own shoulder then back at his boyfriend. "What is it?"
"That fairy prince on your painting looks really, really familiar." Chanyeol returns his gaze at Baekhyun. "Like really familiar."
The older male chuckles. "Well, he was drawn after a certain person."
"Hey, my ears aren't that big!"
Baekhyun wounds his arms around Chanyeol's neck and rests his chin on the other's chest. "I love you," he whispers.
"I love you, too," Chanyeol says while drawing him closer. "But my ears are still not that big."
Baekhyun laughs but Chanyeol captures his mouth in a gentle kiss, effectively taking his breath away. "Say it," he whispers against Baekhyun's lips. "Chanyeol's ears aren't big, they're perfect."
"I was taught not to lie." His boyfriend’s eyes stare at him wounded and Baekhyun's not proof against those large brown eyes. "Park Chanyeol has big ears but he's still perfect. Happy now?"
"I'm only happy when I'm with you." Chanyeol picks him up and squeezes him tight against him.
"Then stay forever with me, okay?" Baekhyun cups the sides of Chanyeol's handsome face. "Promise you'll never leave me."
Baekhyun's looking out the windows of the master's bedroom, into the beach where a lone figure stands near the shore.
He was taking a much needed break when he passed by the window and spotted Chanyeol outside, facing the sunset. Baekhyun's feet unconsciously stopped, gaze arrested by the sight and unable to break the spell that had him staring, helplessly mesmerized.
The fading light touches the tall man's reddish locks, making it seem like it's on fire—a small scoop of the sun on top of his head. Baekhyun lips quirk at the fanciful thought but they stop short of a full smile because he feels a sudden ache in his chest and a burn behind his eyes.
Baekhyun raises his finger and slowly traces the line of Chanyeol's shoulders against the glass; the familiar slopes and dips that his hands had once memorized.
He feels. He hurts. He remembers.
He always remembers.
He remembers every promise and the pain when the man he loved didn't keep them. He remembers being accused of not having ambition. But he knew he did. He had all those dreams and for the longest time Chanyeol had always been in them. Until he broke Baekhyun's heart.
He had probably hurt Chanyeol, too. But unlike him, Chanyeol has always known how to fix things. That was what he did—find something broken, fix it, and then walk away.
He was a broken thing when Chanyeol found him. His father left him and his mother to fend for themselves and life was absolute hell until he met the boy with wide, toothy grin who offered him bike rides and laughter. He made Baekhyun whole and made him believe in forever.
But he should've known they were a mistake from the very beginning. Not even Baekhyun could make Chanyeol stay.
He leans his forehead against the smooth surface, feeling the cool glass against his skin. It's tiring stopping those memories from invading his thoughts. He wants to give up. It's just that every time they slip past his guard, it still hurt so much. Even now he's wondering how many other lips has Chanyeol kissed and how many other had lain in his chest, breathing his scent in. Five years and he realizes he's still stupidly hung up on Park Chanyeol. He closes his eyes in misery.
How can you completely move on from the best thing that has happened to you?
Still, whatever happens, Baekhyun knows he has to. The past five years may have not been enough but there's still a lot of five years to go. If he doesn't surrender then maybe those memories finally will.
He'll get over him.
Baekhyun yawns as he pedals his way into the beach house's driveway. He's still so sleepy. He didn't come home until late last night, staying until eleven to finish the fourth section of his mural. If everything goes well, he'd be done today right on his schedule.
The petite male frowns in confusion, though, when he sees a group of workers crowding in front of the gates. There are two police officers there, too. Baekhyun sees Junmyeon talking to one of them, the assistant looking worried. Feeling anxious himself, he walks over to them.
"What happened?" Baekhyun asks Junmyeon when he finishes his conversation with the officer. "What's going on?"
Junmyeon wrings his hands together. "The place was vandalized. Most everything inside was trashed."
"What?" he asks in shock and disbelief.
"There's broken glass and furniture everywhere," Junmyeon continues. "Oh god, the cost and the time it'll take to replace them and really, oh, dear. But the good thing is they already captured the vandal and he's now taken into custody."
"Did they say why they did it?"
"The man was a local drunkard who blames the rich for having enough money to develop the place," Chanyeol answers from his position at the front door. "He said he didn't want the city people to ruin their hometown and so he wanted to drive us away." He strides towards them. "What time did you go home last night?"
Baekhyun's a bit rattled by the abrupt question. "Uh, around eleven?"
"The work hours are only until eight. The foreman told me you insisted to stay late into the night," Chanyeol says, voice tight. "The vandal came here at that time. Do you realize you could've been hurt if you had stayed just a tiny bit longer?"
Baekhyun can feel waves of anger coming from his ex-boyfriend. "I know but I didn't."
"Goddammit, you are missing the point!" That comes out louder and harsher than Baekhyun expected. He feels Chanyeol's hand clamp around his arm.
"What are you doing? Let go of me."
"Do you know what happened inside?" Chanyeol almost shouts, glaring at him, forgetting the audience they are attracting with their exchange. "Every furniture's been destroyed. Every window was broken, every wall vandalized—"
Baekhyun stops struggling, eyes rounding. "What do you mean every wall?"
Chanyeol's hold loosens when he sees Baekhyun paling. "Every wall."
In a burst of energy, Baekhyun shakes the taller man's arm away and he runs inside, ignoring Chanyeol calling his name and the warnings to keep out. He goes directly up the stairs to his workroom and staggers to a halt at what he sees.
The mural's ruined. It's covered all over with angry red and black slashes that look like deep, bleeding wounds. For some reason, he feels the sting of each gash as if they were inflicted on his own skin. Perhaps it's because of exhaustion and the stress of everything put together that Baekhyun feels so beaten down and defeated at that moment. He feels so badly bruised that he trembles, his hand lifting to cover his mouth to stifle a sob. It's all so unfair.
He hears footsteps and he turns his head to see Chanyeol standing not too far away. His eyes are filled with worry and as if that isn't enough to make Baekhyun come undone, Chanyeol calls out to him. "Baek."
That nickname on Chanyeol's lips pushes the floodgates open and he shatters. The tears fall in earnest, crystal drops tumbling and chasing each other down his cheeks. "It's ruined," he cries. "Everything's ruined, Yeol."
He isn't even sure what he's crying for but he cries harder when strong arms wrap around him. A comforting hand cradles the back of his head and holds it against a solid chest. Baekhyun grabs onto Chanyeol's shirt, not wanting to let go despite the fact that he was the one who kept pushing the other man away since the moment he saw him again.
"I hate painting seascapes," he sobs.
"I know," Chanyeol murmurs into his hair.
"They're so complicated and—awful." Baekhyun buries his face further into Chanyeol's warmth. The tears begin again as he recalls those times after the two of them argued. The taller man always gathers him into his arms and holds him just like this; then everything's better.
They've fought and parted so long ago but Baekhyun realizes that after five years, he was still waiting for this embrace. Except this time, he knows what they had is over and they can't take it back.
"I'm sorry," Baekhyun says as he steps away and Chanyeol's arms fall to his side. There's an awkward silence as both of them try to come back from the hug they unwittingly shared. "I'm sorry," he says again.
"There's nothing to apologize for."
Baekhyun fidgets with his shirt. "I know your client is important to you and I also know you have a lot to take care of after what happened. I'll try my best to redo the mural in time for the deadline," Baekhyun promises.
Chanyeol appears to be troubled for a second before his expression clears. "I'll—If you let me, I'll help you."
The smaller man eyes round with surprise at the offer. "No, it's okay. I can manage."
The other man shakes his head. "We both know you can't. If we want this to be finished on time, you need my help. I'm not a great painter but at least I can assist you. I've done it before, Baek."
Yes, Chanyeol did but working alongside him—
"And this is about business. Nothing more."
Of course, Baekhyun wants to laugh at himself. It's about business. What was he even thinking?
It's surreal, actually, how the two of them managed to fall into some sort of truce. It's as if they signed an unwritten contract to set aside whatever history they have to finish the job they ought to do.
Chanyeol has moved into the beach house since the break-in so he's there even before Baekhyun arrives. The tall guy has been really helpful the past three days, giving a hand to other workers in repairing fixtures and such. He also keeps his word and assists Baekhyun with the mural.
The businessman’s brows are currently knotted as he concentrates on applying the base color for the lighthouse—a thing that somehow made its way into the painting. Baekhyun was distracted and didn't notice that he had drawn the structure until his ex-boyfriend pointed it out while he was watching Baekhyun work.
Now, it's Baekhyun who's watching Chanyeol from his perch on top of a ladder. The taller guy's biting on his lower lip while he maneuvers the brush into a curve. He's wearing a small towel around his head, pushing his hair away from his forehead. His black shirt's all splattered with white and brown paint, it's sleeves cut off and revealing his toned arms, muscles flexing every time he raises his hand to paint.
Baekhyun knows that staring at him will not help his cause but his eyes remain fixed at Chanyeol. He doesn't get to see him from this angle often, even when they were still together. Baekhyun has always been the tiny boyfriend who has to tiptoe to receive a kiss.
Aware of the dangerous path his thoughts are taking, he closes his eyes and shakes his head only to open them and see Chanyeol looking up at him. "Is there anything wrong, Baek?"
He should stop calling him that.
"Ah, it's nothing. I just," he scrambles for something to say. "My hair's getting in the way of my eyes." He shakes his head again for good measure and even blows on his fringe. "I have paint in my hands so."
"Yeah, it's getting long," Chanyeol replies with a smile. "I don't have another towel, though, and this one's all sweaty." The man purses his lips. "Oh, wait here.”
Chanyeol comes back and asks Baekhyun to go down. The older male's almost afraid to but he does go down the steps. Chanyeol stands in front of him and holds out his palm. "Rubber bands. Got them from the blueprints."
He then motions for the shorter man to bow his head. Baekhyun dazedly follows, brain still muddled from Chanyeol's soft gaze. "What—"
Chanyeol gathers Baekhyun's fringe on to the top of his head and then ties it with the rubber band. He nods and steps back to inspect his handiwork, resting his hands on his slim waist. "There. Problem solved."
Baekhyun reaches up to touch the small sprout of hair. "I look ridiculous," he mutters, focusing on that piece of inanity instead of the abrupt weakness in his knees.
Chanyeol chuckles. "No, you don't."
This has got to stop because his heart just skipped at the happy sound just like it did when they first met. Baekhyun can't do that again.
"That's enough talk for today," he says more sharply than he intended. "We better get back to work."
His words instantly wipe the smile off Chanyeol's face, transforming him back to his cool businessman self. "Sorry. I forgot you don't want to be disturbed when painting. It won't happen again."
Baekhyun turns away and goes back to working on the mural. They continue silently and when he next looks in Chanyeol's direction, the taller man's already gone.
Chanyeol finishes with all the base work and lets Baekhyun do the rest, moving onto other things that needed to be fixed. Somehow, the room seems so big and empty without him.