“Have you seen this!”
Baekhyun slapped a white and black invitation in a rather harsh manner on the tabletop. He slipped onto a seat and buried his face in his arms as Luhan calmly picked it up.
“You are cordially invited to Class 2003’s Grand Reunion,” Luhan read. His face lit up, but immediately sobered up at Baekhyun’s obvious lack of enthusiasm. “Isn’t this something you’ve been looking forward to since we graduated high school?” he curiously asked his best friend.
Baekhyun lifted his head to glare at him. “That was obviously when I thought I’d be famous, rich and so in love,” he recounted, groaning when he realized how far he still was from his dream life.
Byun Baekhyun had always been ambitious. At a young age, he already knew what he wanted to be. He wanted to make clothes and he wanted to make them for people who could pay for them: the rich and the famous, the worthy. He had a knack for clothes as a child, which his mother encouraged by buying him the best clothes, helping him to mix and match the outfits. But there was only so much his mother could do for him. After graduating college, he applied everywhere he could think of. It was then that he realized that dreams were hard and weren’t as easy to reach as he thought.
“You’re a stylist, Baekhyun,” Luhan reminded him, rolling his eyes at his dramatics. “And not just any stylist. You pick the clothes of the most famous actors and musicians in the industry. I don’t think Cho Kyuhyun would be able to erase dork in the public’s vocabulary and pull off dashing without the clothes you choose for him. Then there’s Eunhyuk—.”
“How dare you!” Baekhyun looked appalled. “I do not style Eunhyuk. Huang Zitao does and if I get paid for every atrocious outfit that he makes him wear, I’d be a millionaire!”
Luhan waved his hand dismissively. “All I’m saying is that you are famous and you are good at what you do, hence you being rich because of it,” he clarified.
“Styling is miles away from designing, from having my own label and being proud that people wear my name,” Baekhyun pouted.
“Still, rich and famous,” Luhan insisted. “Two out of three off your list isn’t bad.”
“But the third part is the most important part!” Baekhyun cried, bringing his hands to his hair and pulling them into a mess. “That’s what I want most out of the three—.” He stopped himself, looking thoughtful for a second. “No, not really. But yes, that is still an important dream.” He pouted once more, his chin on the heels of his palms.
“No one’s going to care if you’re in love or not,” Luhan began with an eye roll.
“Easy for you to say,” Baekhyun grumbled. “You have girls and guys eating at the palm of your hand.”
Luhan smiled in such a manner than Baekhyun wanted to smack his face off. “Yes, well,” he giggled and stopped almost at once when Baekhyun looked like he was murdering him in his thoughts. “No one’s going to care, Baekhyun. Really.”
Baekhyun stood up and dashed out of the kitchen, while Luhan sat there, not caring whether his best friend was acting weirder than usual. Shortly after, or exactly five seconds later, Baekhyun came back with their high school yearbook in hand. He flipped through a couple of pages before settling on one. He pushed it in front of Luhan and pointed at a line under his photo.
“I thought I was the class heartthrob,” Luhan complained, flipping through the yearbook to find his photo.
“No, you’re not,” Baekhyun disagreed with a smirk.
They searched for Luhan in the yearbook, going through all the photos of their friends (Kim Jongin – “ha!” was Baekhyun’s reaction. Huang Zitao – “pfft” Baekhyun commented. Kim Minseok – “baozi!” they both chorused.).
“Here you are,” Baekhyun announced when they found him. “You’re the…”
“Oh, that’s right,” Luhan happily recalled.
“What am I going to do?” Baekhyun whined as they closed the yearbook. “I can’t go to the reunion without a date.”
“I honestly think no one would care,” Luhan repeated, getting up to start making dinner.
“Of course everyone would care,” Baekhyun corrected him. “I’m the class heartthrob. The class heartthrob can’t go to the reunion without a date. That would be like blasphemy and people would laugh at me and pity me because, really, how can someone with a face like mine go without someone hanging on my arm and every bit of thing I would say.”
“You really don’t sound conceited when you say that,” Luhan shared.
“It’s the truth!” Baekhyun emphasized. “I’m a catch! So why wouldn’t I have anyone right now?! No one would believe it and I’ll be the laughingstock at the reunion.” He trembled at the thought. There was nothing more frightening to Baekhyun than not being able to live up to the expectations of people, which was why he always worked hard.
“Then just go with someone, anyone,” Luhan suggested, turning the stove on and getting the bottle of cooking oil from one of the cupboards. “How about… Jongin?”
Baekhyun stared at the back of his head as if throwing invisible daggers at him. “Did you just hear my reaction when I saw his photo?” he prompted. “I don’t care if he’s dancing machine Kai now or whatever, no.”
“Look, just because he refuses to use you as his stylist—,” Luhan began, dodging the flying oil from the pan as he put in a couple of slices of spam on it.
“He doesn’t even wear clothes,” Baekhyun told him, deadpanned. “I don’t think he knows the concept of clothes.” He made a face. “Why are we even discussing him! He’s taken!”
“Well then what about—?” Luhan stopped and gave a shriek instead just as large flames erupted from the stove.
Baekhyun scrambled off his seat and rushed to the fridge. He saw the orange juice and poured it hastily on the flames. Luhan screeched, as the blaze seemed to claw towards him, rushing behind Baekhyun, who was now holding a spatula, fencing with the fire. It was then that Baekhyun saw the hose by the sink. He blasted it on and pointed it in every direction he thought he saw the fire touch.
Once the fire was gone, Luhan stood at the side, while Baekhyun inspected the remains of what used to look like a kitchen.
“It’s not that bad,” Baekhyun mused, taking a step back to look at the bigger picture. “At least you’re alive.” He smiled as encouragingly as he could. “I think Kyungsoo would be happy to know that at least.”
“Yes, because then he could kill me with his bare hands,” Luhan sniffed fearfully.
They heard the front door of the apartment close. Baekhyun and Luhan exchanged a look before scrambling out of the disaster-stricken kitchen.
“Hi Baekhyun,” Kyungsoo greeted him just as Baekhyun made his way to the door, hurriedly putting on his shoes and coat.
“Bye, Kyungsoo,” Baekhyun returned with an all too cheerful smile. He turned to Luhan, who looked like an angel sent from heaven, smiling like he had good news to share. “Bye, Luhan.” With that, he was out of the door.
He wasn’t even to the elevators when he heard Kyungsoo’s murderous scream. “LUHAAAAAN!!!”
Baekhyun should have known that Luhan would never keep his mouth shut over something as important as his love life dilemma. Not shortly after, he’d received a call from Sehun, propositioning him, which he abruptly declined, and Jongin, who just laughed at him as soon as he picked up. He merely screamed at his ear and ended the call.
He had half a mind to kill Luhan before he remembered that Luhan was still recovering from his brush with death from Kyungsoo.
All in all, he decided to console himself with the fact that he was rich and famous and who cares about having a date anyway, being single is way more fun.
“So I hear you’re looking for a date for your reunion,” Jongdae leaned back on his seat as Baekhyun flushed in embarrassment.
“I’m really going to kill Luhan,” Baekhyun decided once and for all as he ruthlessly stabbed his salad with a fork.
“Oh he didn’t tell me,” Jongdae corrected him. Baekhyun had the decency to look surprised. “Jongin did.”
“I’m really, REALLY going to kill Luhan,” Baekhyun confirmed.
“If it’s any consolation, I don’t have a date either,” Jongdae told him, smiling in amusement as Baekhyun stared at him.
“You’re kidding, right?” Baekhyun spat. “You’re Kim Jongdae, top hallyu star whatnot. No one is going to care whether you’re in a monogamous relationship or not.” He made a face at him. “Besides, aren’t you going out with a previous member of f(x), Krystal or something?”
“If by going out you mean…” Jongdae snickered as Baekhyun rolled his eyes at their understanding.
“You’re a flirt,” Baekhyun spelled out. He sighed. “I should just cancel and tell them I have somewhere to be at, a fashion event out of the country or something.”
This whole thing mattered to him. He might’ve been the class heartthrob back in high school, but he also knew that people didn’t really expect much from a pretty face. He’d worked his off to get to where he was. Despite not quite being a designer, he was still a stylist and a famous one at that, as Luhan pointed out. People sought out his opinions for clothes and fashion and took his words seriously. Still, the thought of him not being able to find love with anyone after all these years… even he wanted to pity himself.
Jongdae let out a breath and pushed a black folder across the table. Baekhyun eyed the folder warily then looked up at him.
“What is this?” Baekhyun demanded.
“Take a look,” Jongdae prodded him.
Baekhyun slowly lifted the folder and opened it. Inside were photos of some of the most beautiful men and women that he’d ever seen in his life. After being charmed, he frowned, confused.
“What is this?” Baekhyun repeated.
“I was thinking,” Jongdae slowly suggested, “that you could hire a date."
Jongdae almost panicked as Baekhyun fell into a coughing fit. The manager of the prestigious restaurant they were in demanded three waiters to send the best-branded waters to their table to ease his throat.
“You’re kidding,” Baekhyun said weakly after gulping down a glass of water.
“I, uh, no?” Jongdae nervously denied. Baekhyun slapped the folder on the table, making Jongdae jump and knock his glass of wine off the table. “It’s just a suggest—.”
“How dare you insinuate that I can’t get a date on my own,” Baekhyun huffed. He stood up, threw the napkin on the table and walked out.
It was three days till the reunion and Baekhyun still didn’t have a date. He’d scoured all his acquaintances and friends, but none wanted to go with him, or rather, no one fit his requirements. In order for someone to pass as his date, they had to be way taller than him, have a beautiful face, sparkling eyes, a beautiful smile, pretty hair, perfect skin, straight and white teeth.
“You need a mannequin, not a date,” Luhan had told him.
To which he replied, “A mannequin’s hair is coarse, though.”
He was never going to find a date from the industry he was in because he didn’t really like a lot of people that he worked with. He was very picky with people and he’d come to find that in the fashion and entertainment industry, not everyone was someone you want to hang out with, no matter how beautiful they looked on the outside.
So that was how he found himself looking at the website that he remembered seeing on the folder Jongdae had embarrassed him with. He was actually considering hiring someone to be his date. He cringed and buried his face in his hands. The thought of actually going through with it made him want to spill his guts out. He was better than this.
But if he was, then how come he didn’t have a date? More importantly, how come he hadn’t been dating for the longest time? How come he still hadn’t found love?
It wasn’t that he was picky with partners. It’s just that he hasn’t found that person he’s had a spark with. He was still a romantic like that. He believed in love at first sight and flowers and walks on the beach and all those things that made the heart flutter. And he hadn’t found that yet, hadn’t experienced that feeling where there’s so much love in your heart that you can’t help but give it away.
Still, he wasn’t sure if that was something that he can have. It’s been 25 years and he’s still very much single. All the dates he’d had here and there didn’t count. They were all just to fill in the emptiness.
Phone in hand, he sighed and dialed.
True love would have to wait.
There really must be something wrong with him. Sure, he hung out with some of the richest and most famous people in the fashion and entertainment industry. But, he also hung out with someone whose eyes constantly looked like they were going to fall out of his head, someone who hated wearing clothes, and he was best friends with Luhan. That in itself was a sure sign that he got dropped at birth and suffered a major head trauma. He probably had been unable to distinguish normal from…the abnormal. Even then, nothing compared to what he had done now.
He had actually called the (“It sounds so wrong,” Baekhyun shuddered) agency and asked for one of their lesser-known…people. If he were going to go out into the world with a date that he’d just hired, he would prefer if no one ever found out about it and him. If he hired some of their best, it would defeat the purpose because that would mean that such person would’ve made the rounds in a lot of parties and it wouldn’t do him any good if the one he chose was easily recognizable.
He picked someone whom he thought was closest to his ideal type: tall, pretty enough face, straight teeth, and big eyes. He really hoped that his hair was as smooth and shiny as it looked on the photo and hoped to god that he wasn’t dorky or had a really tiny voice because, well, what a turn off.
He sat on one corner of the café, carefully eyeing the door. He’d told the guy that he was wearing a dark gray collared, long-sleeved button down shirt and dark slacks and hoped on all hopes that he would be wearing something as decent as well.
The door to the café tinkled opened and Baekhyun sat up straighter. It was him. He casually waved him over and his heart thumped because it looked like he did look exactly like he did in the photo. He dressed quite well, too, in dark jeans and a white shirt with a navy blue blazer on it, which made Baekhyun want to sing to the heavens, except…
“Oh my god your hair!” Baekhyun exclaimed when his hired date finally sat across from him.
He was wearing a pretty cute hat, but he took it off and it revealed a mess of teased and frizzy hair. It looked like a bird’s nest and Baekhyun couldn’t even begin to describe the horror that he felt. He wondered if there was some creature living in it.
He merely stared at Baekhyun. “I’m Chanyeol.”
“Oh my god your hair!” Baekhyun repeated more painfully.
“Look, I came from a party last night,” Chanyeol tried to explain the sad (scary?) state of his hair. “This isn’t really something I go around with normally.”
But Baekhyun wouldn’t hear any of it.
“You are not—at all costs—going to wear that hair when you’re around me,” he directed. “This is the first and the last time. Do you understand?” When Chanyeol merely quirked an eyebrow at him, Baekhyun groaned and buried his face in his hands. “I’m really starting to think I’ve lost my mind. What have I done!”
“Will you calm down?” Chanyeol pleaded. People were starting to glance at them, probably wondering why the tall, gangly guy was making this pretty and adorable boy cry.
Baekhyun lifted his face and looked at him, suddenly serious and devoid of hysteria. “That’s another thing,” he stated. “You can’t ever tell me what to do. I’m in charge of this relationship.”
“Relationship,” Chanyeol repeated blankly.
“Relationship, date, engagement—whatever,” Baekhyun dismissed, waving him off and pointing at himself. “I call the shots.”
Chanyeol shrugged. Baekhyun figured he was probably used to bossy clients. Not that he was bossy. He was simply being specific and securing their arrangement properly. If this was going to even work, he was going to make sure that it worked according to his rules.
Speaking of rules, Baekhyun suddenly realized that he didn’t know anything about blind dating or hiring random people to act as his date. Is it just like a normal blind date? How did it go? Even if he was the client, are there actually certain protocols to be followed?
Baekhyun discreetly glanced at Chanyeol, who was trying (failing) to fix his hair. He supposed he was handsome enough, not someone he’d normally go out with. But he was the most decent among the lesser-known escorts and… yeah, he didn’t want to go through this whole argument again.
What was he going to do? Suddenly he was unsure of himself and this whole thing. He was a well-known stylist for crying out loud and he can’t just go parading some random guy, who probably had birds living in his hair.
“I’m guessing it’s sunk in that you’ve actually hired someone to act as your date,” Chanyeol spoke up, looking amused as Baekhyun merely nodded his head.
Chanyeol laughed and Baekhyun ended up blinking rather rapidly. Chanyeol’s smile was nice, he couldn’t help but think. All his glistening white teeth were straight, and he thought his laugh sounded nice, too. He slightly shook his head. He really was losing his mind.
“I just want to have a date for my high school reunion,” Baekhyun finally explained why he hired him. He stopped there and decided not to go into any details. The less this stranger knew about him and vise versa, the better. There was really no need to go into the specifics of each other’s lives if they were only going to be out once. “So…” he hesitated. “Is there something I should know about things like this? Some code or whatever?”
Chanyeol stared at him for a second and chuckled. “This is a highly legal service, you know,” he responded. “But I know that clients want this to be all hush hush so you should know that my part-time occupation is a model. I live in an apartment downtown and I work at the hotel nearby.”
“You do?” Baekhyun confirmed. “Or is this all some made up story just to keep up pretenses?”
“I do have a life outside of this job,” Chanyeol laughed some more. “So yes, I do all those things I’ve mentioned.”
Baekhyun felt relieved that he was actually a legit person and not someone he would have to make up stories for. He hated doing that and he hated phony people. Biting his lip, he decided once and for all that he was just going to go through with it. He’d had some reservations because Chanyeol might decidedly turn out to be really ugly in real life or maybe he had a tiny voice or a y personality, which would be the worst of all. But, looking at Chanyeol, after meeting him, he was glad that he actually seemed decent, and nice and funny.
“Okay then,” Baekhyun said resolutely. “The reunion’s tomorrow and it starts at seven.” He takes his cell phone out and hands it to him. “Key in your address and I’ll come pick you up at 6:30.”
Chanyeol took his phone, typed and pressed send. Right then, Chanyeol’s own mobile phone started ringing. He handed Baekhyun his phone and smiled.
“I now have your number,” Chanyeol said and Baekhyun sputtered. “How about I pick you up since I’m going to be your date and all?”
“I have very high standards,” Baekhyun warned him haughtily. “You cannot pick me up in some dump truck or any haphazard car that you might own. I would appreciate a nice suit, something sleek and expensive-looking.” He eyed Chanyeol up and down. “Probably Gucci everything for you. And please do something about your hair. Please. I cannot stress this enough.”
Chanyeol laughed, his right eye twitching, making Baekhyun’s mouth twitch. He nodded. “Yes, I will do something about the hair,” he assured him. “You don’t have to worry about anything. I know a thing or two about clothes since I am a model.”
Baekhyun rolled his eyes. Most models barely knew how to dress themselves. Just because they modeled really nice clothes and looked stylish on the catwalk, didn’t mean that they got to actually be stylish off of it. But Chanyeol looked like he actually knew how to dress himself so he supposed that he’d just have to trust him on the clothes part.
“I’ll see you tomorrow then,” Baekhyun said, standing up. Chanyeol stood up as well and he had to look up to meet his eyes. He was even taller than he originally thought. More brownie points for him came his next brain wave.
As Chanyeol walked away, Baekhyun wondered if he was going to be in trouble for this.
“So who’s your date?” Luhan bugged him through speakerphone just as he finished getting ready.
“You’ll just have to find out when you get there,” Baekhyun told him for what felt like the hundredth time, fixing his necktie. “He’s a model I met in some shoot.” He walked to the full-length mirror situated on the side of his room and took in his own appearance. He didn’t look bad in a gray suit. In fact, he thought he was rather dashing, perfect description for the class heartthrob.
“When did you meet him?” Luhan persisted. “And why haven’t I heard of him before? You always tell me about the cute ones that you meet.”
Baekhyun rolled his eyes even if he knew Luhan wouldn’t see. “I forgot, okay? It was a passing meeting and I wouldn’t have thought of him if I wasn’t desperate,” he told him. “Besides, you’ll meet him later so I don’t know what the big deal is.”
Luhan was quiet, making Baekhyun wonder if he was still talking to anyone.
“Are you there?” Baekhyun tested.
“You’re being very vague about this guy, Baekhyunnie,” Luhan determined in a sweet voice, sending alarming bells in Baekhyun’s head. Luhan was a nice guy. He looked angelic, like someone who would do no wrong and would want no harm to befall you. But Baekhyun knew the truth behind those saccharine smiles and sotto voice. “You like him, don’t you?”
“You always think I like everyone,” Baekhyun dodged his question. “Isn’t your date there yet? Why are you still talking to me? Who are you going with anyway?”
“Me,” a deep voice came through the speakers, making Baekhyun jump. “I’m just waiting for Luhan to finish your conversation.”
“Fine,” Luhan gave in. “We’ll finish this later, Byun Baekhyun.”
“I look forward to it,” Baekhyun quipped before ending the call.
Just then, the buzzer for his apartment rang. Looking up at the clock, he smiled. 6:30. Right on the dot.
There was something to be said about the kind of school Baekhyun considering the grandness of the reunion and they kind of people his schoolmates had grown up to be; businessmen, politicians, celebrities. There was an ostentatious chandelier in the middle of the ballroom, making everyone glitter in gold light.
Baekhyun maneuvered them around, greeting and chatting with old friends, some true and some whom he actually really hated even in the past. Chanyeol seemed to be handling the whole thing quite well. He had his hand tight on Baekhyun’s, squeezing once in a while to show some ounce of affection since everyone seemed to be checking them out, wondering whom the guy he was with. Baekhyun could only smile smugly because, hey Chanyeol did look like he was a catch.
And Chanyeol did come through for him. He had picked him up with a Lamborghini that Baekhyun was sure was worth more than his life and he’d been embarrassed to think that Chanyeol probably didn’t know anything about cars. When he’d asked where he’d gotten it, he said that it came with the job. And now, with his dark suit, pressed white shirt, black thin tie, slick shoes and (hallelujah) straight, silky hair, Baekhyun felt proud and happy to have his arm linked with his. He found that he couldn’t stop sneaking glances at him because he looked that amazing.
They’d gone around the ballroom, making sure to touch down on everyone who seemed important or more important, just to check in and so he could parade his date, and finally settling in right by the bar. Luhan was there with his date, Kris Wu. His best friend wiggled his fingers at him, giving him a knowing look with regards to his date.
“Do you want something to drink?” Baekhyun asked Chanyeol, speaking to him for the first time that evening. There really were too many people to talk to that night and he suddenly felt kind of bad not including him in anything. Except for the proper introductions, Chanyeol hadn’t really spoken much that evening.
“What do you want?” Chanyeol asked instead, shaking his head. “I’ll get it for you.”
Baekhyun told him and Chanyeol sauntered away to the bar to get their drinks.
“There’s no way he’s your date!” Zitao exclaimed, suddenly appearing beside him with Luhan.
Baekhyun rolled his eyes. “Well, he is, so there,” he snapped, having a sudden urge to poke his tongue out at him.
Zitao made a face and walked away with a huff, grabbing his date, practically dragging him to the other side of the room. Baekhyun felt smug, looking at Chanyeol as he conversed with the bartender for their drinks. He’s gotten a lot of jealous looks ever since he walked in and has heard whispers (“of course Byun Baekhyun has a hot boyfriend”), never mind that Chanyeol wasn’t really his boyfriend. The point was that he succeeded in his goal. Chanyeol was just perfect.
“He’s very hot,” Luhan gushed, looking slightly amused at Zitao’s dramatic exit. “Where did you find him?”
“I told you,” Baekhyun lied. “He’s some model in one of those shoots.” He nodded towards Kris, who was now in conversation with Chanyeol by the bar. “And how did that happen?” He quirked an eyebrow at his best friend.
“I’ve been seeing him. On and off,” Luhan shared thoughtfully. “He’s okay.”
“Okay?” Baekhyun scoffed. “He’s handsome and loaded.” He stared at his best friend, trying to assess if he was kidding with calling Kris “okay”. Kris Wu was the eldest son of the owner of a large chain of Exo Hotels across the country. He was more than okay. He was one of the ultimate bachelors out there. Sometimes he wondered whether Luhan knew how lucky he was with regards to the guys who gravitated towards him. Despite being pretty much of a player, the kinds of people he attracted were decent ones, ones who would do anything to be Luhan’s permanent someone.
“Yes, well,” Luhan only shrugged as if that didn’t make any difference. “I’m interested in your guy, though. Chanyeol, is it? I wonder why I’ve never come across him before.” Luhan was pretty much the social butterfly, having friends everywhere, knowing everyone, and knowing people who knew everyone.
“I told you,” Baekhyun repeated with a tired sigh. “He’s not exactly a top tier model or anyone well-known. He’s not someone you’d come across with.” He bit his lip and puffed out his cheeks. “But he is hot,” he admitted.
Chanyeol and Kris were talking seriously about something and Baekhyun wondered what it is and how is it that Chanyeol could so easily talk to someone like Kris, who was one of the elite anywhere with such ease and grace. Or maybe it was because, or so he hoped, that Kris was actually a nice guy and wasn’t a snob and was someone who was easy to talk to.
Chanyeol looked up and met his eyes as if he’d felt him staring. Baekhyun looked away, only to see Luhan giving him a knowing smile.
Baekhyun stumbled out of his room, rubbing his eyes drowsily. His head felt like in was being split in two and he began wondering when he’d drunk so much the night before. He’d only remembered drinking that one drink from Chanyeol, then maybe some champagne, or maybe a lot of champagne. He then looked around, suddenly thinking there was something amiss in his apartment. Walking to the living room, he put his hand down and stared at his couch.
Chanyeol was awkwardly draped over it, jacketless, tie hung on the headrest, white shirt ruffled and creased with a blanket too small for his size on him.
So he did come home with him. He vaguely remembered asking Chanyeol to just stay over since it was so late and that he should just get some sleep and leave in the morning instead. He didn’t really remember it actually happening or what actually happened when they’d gotten into his apartment. The part was a lot of fun, maybe too much fun, especially with Chanyeol’s smiles and laughter ringing into his ears.
The thought made Baekhyun’s stomach churn and he rushed to the bathroom.
When he’d gotten back out, all clean up and more sober than he was, Chanyeol was already up and about, preparing some breakfast. He leaned against the kitchen doorway and watched as he expertly pulled out ingredients he didn’t even remember having or buying and putting them into the pan on the stove and cooking away.
“What are you doing?” Baekhyun asked when he couldn’t stand not talking or asking him anymore. Chanyeol turned and smiled at him. Baekhyun curled his toes at the sight.
“Good morning,” Chanyeol greeted him. “You okay?” He turned back to the stove.
“Yeah,” Baekhyun answered absently, taking a seat and watching him cook. “So, I don’t remember much from last night,” he started casually.
Chanyeol chuckled. “You were pretty out of it by the end of the night,” he recalled. “You’re very… affectionate that way.”
Baekhyun straightened up so fast that he almost fell of the chair. Luhan had told him the same thing once or twice, or a lot of times, as well as by some other friends he’d gotten drunk with. He remembered even having kissed Luhan once just because he had too many feelings and couldn’t control himself. For the record, he threw up on Luhan right after and they’d decided then and there that they were really going to remain as friends.
“I didn’t—what—oh my god,” Baekhyun groaned, slumping on the counter. If he’d so much as attempted to do to Chanyeol what he’d done to Luhan… his life was over. Him hitting on his hired date was really the cherry on the icing of the cake. Or something. “Don’t tell me. Let me die ignorant.”
“You’re cute,” Chanyeol walked up to him and ruffled his hair, placing his breakfast plate in front of him. “Go and eat something to ease up your stomach.”
Baekhyun stared at the food then looked up at Chanyeol. “I’m allergic to anything fattening,” he informed him with an innocent smile. Chanyeol merely chuckled and walked towards the door.
“Where are you going?” Baekhyun found himself asking, his stomach clenched.
“I have to work,” Chanyeol told him. He turned to leave but stopped and looked at him again, smiling his winning smile. “See you around, Byun Baekhyun.”
He heard the door close and stared at the food that he made for him. It looked like it was messed up purposefully and he wrinkled his nose as he lifted his fork to his mouth to taste it. Surprisingly, the man knew how to cook well and he had to sigh. It’s just another one of those things that Baekhyun liked in a guy. A guy he was probably never going to see again because there was no way he was going to continue hiring him for a date. Just his luck.
“Can you stop drooling on my music sheets?” Jongdae pushed Baekhyun off his things and rolled him to the floor. Baekhyun laid sprawled, spread eagle, his eyes on the beautiful structural design of Jongdae’s apartment’s ceiling. “I have to hand these in by tomorrow and I can’t have you ruining them.” When Baekhyun didn’t so much as blink, he looked up at Luhan, somewhat worried.
“Oh don’t mind him,” Luhan waved his hand dismissively, turning his attention back to his phone where he was busy texting. “He’s just missing his reunion date.”
Jongdae raised an eyebrow at this. “So who did you end up going with?”
Luhan opened his mouth to answer, but Baekhyun beat him to it. “You can’t know because you weren’t there, you ditcher,” he grumbled. He knew that Jongdae had an important show to go to out of town and he supposed that he was excused, but that didn’t mean that he wasn’t a ditcher.
“Aww I didn’t know that you missed me,” Jongdae reached out to pat his head. “I’m sure it was fun. Now, really, whom did you go with? Who did you manage to woo at the last minute? Coz I remember that you still didn’t have a date just a couple of days away from the reunion.”
“Park Chanyeol,” Luhan spelled out before Baekhyun could stop him. Baekhyun closed his eyes and breathed to ten just so he wouldn’t strangle Luhan to death, something he’d wanted to do since he’d met him.
“Park Chany—,” Jongdae started to react, but had to stop himself when Luhan shot him a look. “Who is that?”
“Some model that he met,” Luhan relayed cheerfully. “He’s very hot and so perfect, Jongdae. You should’ve seen how happy Baekhyunnie was.”
“Good then,” Jongdae snickered. He nudged Baekhyun’s head with his foot. “Did you have fun?”
Baekhyun swatted his foot away and lifted himself up, resting his weight on his elbows. “If you two don’t stop talking like I’m not here…” he warned them.
“So you miss him already?” Jongdae pressed, smiling almost evilly. Baekhyun sometimes wondered how much influence Luhan had over their friends. He swore he could see a bit of Luhan in all of them now.
“Will all of you shut up?” Jongin called from in front of the TV where he was playing some video game. “I’m trying to concentrate here.” Kyungsoo, who was seated beside him, reached up and smacked the back of his head.
“Carry on,” Kyungsoo told them with a sweet smile.
“Why do you always side with them over me?” Jongin grumbled, pout visible all the way to China.
“Because they’re not stupid like you,” Kyungsoo answered smoothly.
“But you love me,” Jongin teased, pausing his game to hook his arm around his boyfriend’s neck. Kyungsoo ducked his head to hide his blush.
“Why am I friends with all of you?” Baekhyun whined, pulling himself off the floor and flopping down on the couch, making Luhan jump. “And who do you keep texting?” he grumbled, suddenly incensed that Luhan wasn’t more invested in his life and was more interested in his phone. “Why aren’t you paying attention to me?”
Luhan and Jongdae exchanged a look, while Jongin snickered in the background. Baekhyun closed his eyes for a second and knew that he’d just become one of those whiny kids who wanted to be the center of attention and knew that they now knew something was bothering him. He was always the type who wanted to be the center of attention, but he’d only ever voiced it out when he was in some sort of a dilemma.
“What’s going on with you, Baekhyun?” Kyungsoo asked, looking concerned.
“He’s missing his date,” Luhan repeated in a singsong voice, still focused on his phone’s screen.
Baekhyun then grabbed Luhan’s phone and chucked it out of the nearest window, which was, of course, closed, so it just sort of smashed into it.
There was a short silence.
“He made me breakfast,” Baekhyun finally spoke. More silence. “He made me breakfast after he brought me home and slept on my tiny couch.” He got quiet and he mulled the next few things he was going to say. “No one’s ever stayed over and made me breakfast before.”
“Is it that easy to woo you?” Jongin smirked.
Kyungsoo shoved him, then turned to Baekhyun, looking concerned. “Isn’t that supposed to be a good thing?” he then cautiously asked.
Baekhyun nibbled on his lip at Jongin’s words. He was right, of course. How can sleeping over and cooking breakfast be something that made his heart melt so easily? Other people don’t care for staying over or things like breakfast in bed, but those were important to Baekhyun. Those were things he yearned for. He was all for happily ever afters and things like forever and always. It might be silly and it’s something he’s never really voiced out to anyone, not even Luhan, but he wanted this. While some people, like Luhan, thrived on see multiple people at the same time, he wasn’t like that. He wanted love. And, Chanyeol, staying over and cooking for him, just made him feel warm all over and all the hopes and possibilities in his heart bloomed.
“Baekhyun,” Luhan started, sounding worried.
“Maybe—,” Jongdae began.
“I know, I know I’m being stupid.” Baekhyun sighed and got up, dusting his pants off. “I’m going to the office.”
“It’s a Sunday,” Jongdae reminded him, startled.
Styling maybe not be Baekhyun’s first choice in profession, but it was definitely something that he had and was his, something he’d worked hard for and something he knew wasn’t going away anytime soon. He needed that; he needed something he knew was stable in his life.
“I’ll see you guys,” Baekhyun told them and left.
“Hey, you owe me a phone!” Luhan shrieked after him.
So he did miss Chanyeol. More than he cared to admit. He might even like him a little. Just a little. But that didn’t mean that he had to go and make an effort to see him. Or call him. Not that he did. Because dropping the call in mid ring didn’t constitute as calling him. He truly found the whole thing weird because who misses someone they’d met twice and had gone out once with? He didn’t even know him that well. Sure he’d said he was a model and worked at a hotel. It could be that he also ws an axe murderer underneath all that prettiness.
“What are you doing here?”
Baekhyun blinked and looked up. Chanyeol stood there, wearing dark jeans and a plain white shirt, looking as hot as he did the night of their date. His expression looked a cross of confused and amused. Baekhyun opened his mouth to answer, but he stopped himself. Just what kind of lie should he tell him? He couldn’t very well admit that he’d been coming to every hotel near the café they first met in just to see where he worked, until he found out from Luhan, who found out from Kris, that he actually worked at Exo Hotel. As what, he wasn’t sure. So he’d been there everyday the past week, even booking a room, hoping to bump into him, but not so that Chanyeol would actually see him there. He didn’t want to sound stalker-ish or anything like that because he wasn’t stalking. Of course not.
“I, uh,” Baekhyun stammered.
“Are you doing anything right now?” Chanyeol asked instead, not even waiting for an answer. There was a cadence to his voice, like he was trying very hard not to be happy about something.
Baekhyun opened his mouth and closed it again. “No?”
“Coz I just got off work and am really starving,” Chanyeol told him. “Want to accompany me to grab a bite?” He was already walking towards the hotel entrance and Baekhyun found himself following him. “I know this small place where they serve the best pizza. You game?”
YES! Baekhyun wanted to scream. Instead, having already composed himself, he smiled and nodded demurely.
Small was a bit of an understatement for the Italian restaurant Chanyeol described. It was tiny, like minute tiny. It wasn’t so much that the place was small and that he hated it, he wasn’t that selective. It was just that with the little table they were confined in, Chanyeol’s knees, legs and shoes kept on touching him and, while he did enjoy that, he also found it uncomfortable because he kept on being reminded again and again that he probably already liked this guy more than he wanted to. This guy whom he paid to date him. That fact just never seemed to want to leave his mind. Chanyeol even probably thought this was just some casual run-in, like hey it’s the guy who paid me to go out on a date, he still looks desperate so I’ll just ask him to eat with me. Baekhyun almost wanted to face-palm himself. He’d never realized how much of a loser he was.
“You don’t look like you’re enjoying your food,” Chanyeol nodded at the untouched slice of pizza on his plate. “Do you want to try something else?”
“I told you, I’m allergic to anything fattening,” Baekhyun reminded him flatly, but there was a slight smile on his face just to let him know that he wasn’t too serious.
“Oh,” Chanyeol frowned, “that’s right.” He looked deep in thought for a second and Baekhyun almost didn’t want to interrupt him because he looked really cute. But before he could even say something, Chanyeol had stood up and had gone to the counter to talk to one of the waiters. He smiled at Baekhyun when he sat back down.
Shortly after, a vegetarian pizza was served to their table.
Baekhyun’s mouth practically hung open in what he was sure to be an unflattering look on him. “What’s this?” he asked.
“It’s the best I could do on such short notice,” Chanyeol gave him a sheepish smile. “Sorry I forgot.”
And Baekhyun wanted to lean across the table and kiss him just because. When did Chanyeol become so adorable? From what he remembered on their “date”, he was this cool, quiet guy, exuding such y confidence that no one could keep their eyes off of him. He remembered not being able to look away from him. Much.
“Listen,” Baekhyun suddenly spoke, not even bothering to thank him for his sweet gesture, because there are more important things to say. He took a deep breath. “There’s this thing this weekend. Some of my friends want to go out and I was wondering—.”
“Sure,” Chanyeol agreed without even waiting for him to finish. “What time do I pick you up?” He took a big bite of his pizza, leaving crumbs on the corner of his lips. Baekhyun bit his lip and looked away so he wouldn’t be tempted to reach out and brush it off him.
“Don’t you want to know what it is first?” Baekhyun asked.
Chanyeol shrugged. “We’re not going to go skydiving or anything like that, right?”
“What if I said we were?” Baekhyun shot back and Chanyeol shot him a look. He sighed defeatedly. Of all the things he could do in his life, skydiving would probably the last of them. “Uh, can I just warn you then?”
Baekhyun hated that he felt so insecure around Chanyeol. He was never like this with the other guys he’d dated, never meek and never one to look for approval in a partner. But with Chanyeol, somehow he wanted that, even though he barely knew him.
“Jongin, one of my friends, is in this dance group, and he’s forcing us to go,” Baekhyun explained. “Oh Sehun, another one of his bandmates—if you can call them a band—is a client of mine, also a friend, and I kind of need to be there so it’s mostly for appearances’ sake and—.”
“And you need me to look dashing and be on my best date behavior, yes I know,” Chanyeol finished for him, grinning, his right eye twitching.
“Yes, I was also hoping you can keep this nice hair you have and none of that nest hair,” Baekhyun’s tone was pleading, but teasing at the same time.
“Right,” Chanyeol wiggled his eyebrows smilingly, “So is this like an official date, like—.”
“Oh, I’ll pay you of course,” Baekhyun immediately promised him. He frowned at this, because he didn’t want this date to be like that. He wanted it to be a real date, but he and Chanyeol barely knew each other and he didn’t want to be presumptuous because he wasn’t and because… He inwardly groaned. He was going to go crazy with all this internal turmoil.
“Cool,” and suddenly Chanyeol was busy with his pizza, stuffing food into his mouth like a hungry hippo.
It felt like Baekhyun had to endure Luhan’s judging stares throughout the whole evening. He wondered if Luhan was able to watch a single dance step of Jongin and Sehun because it seemed like he was only watching him and Chanyeol. He felt uncomfortable the whole time and kept fidgeting on his seat and he only stopped when Chanyeol sneaked his hand over to squeeze it. Sure he stopped fidgeting, only because his heart was beating so fast and so loud that he was afraid Chanyeol would notice. Luhan had smirked at him then and he wanted to throw something at his smug face. He really wondered how he was best friends with him. He was no help and no support at all.
Which was why he was relieved when Chanyeol turned down Luhan and Kris’ invitation to go for coffee after they had dinner with Jongin and Kyungsoo. He really had had enough of Luhan’s staring, coupled with Jongin’s and Kyungsoo’s snickering.
Although, now, he was starting to regret that. Maybe he should’ve said that he was tired and that he just wanted to go home. Because walking around with his hand in Chanyeol’s was seriously going to make him faint.
“You’ve been really quiet,” Chanyeol’s voice seeped into his thoughts. “Everything okay?”
Baekhyun bit his lip. “Yes,” he answered. “But…” He glanced down at their entwined hands. “Your hand’s really sweaty.” Chanyeol chuckled as Baekhyun tried to untangle his hands from his. But he made sure to hold onto him as he watched him struggle in amusement.
After a while, Baekhyun figured it would be futile to try even more as Chanyeol’s hand and Chanyeol himself wasn’t budging. Baekhyun wasn’t sure whether to think of this as a good thing or a bad thing. He finally decided that it was somewhere in between and that he was going crazy with all the over thinking.
It was nice, walking around with Chanyeol, Baekhyun determined. The night was pretty, the stars twinkling above them, the wind was cool, and Chanyeol’s hand, despite being sweaty, felt perfect intertwined with his. He began to wonder again how this could all be real, how he could make it real.
“You’re thinking again,” Chanyeol interrupted his reverie.
“What?” Baekhyun asked, lifting his eyes to his.
“You’re doing that thing with your lips, biting it,” Chanyeol explained, gesturing towards him, “and you have this faraway look in your eyes…” He chuckled tentatively, shrugging. “I’ve just noticed is all.” Baekhyun was silent, helpless in the warmth that was spreading all over him. Chanyeol seemed to have taken it as something he offended Baekhyun with because he veered to another topic. “Nice night,” he said, looking up into the sky.
“Yeah, nice night,” Baekhyun murmured in agreement, wondering how on earth he was going to get out of this one. It was only the second date. It should be easy.
“You’re out with him again,” Luhan nodded to where Chanyeol was hanging out with Kris outside of the theatre. Luhan had pulled him into the washroom as soon as he laid eyes on him and Chanyeol arriving.
Baekhyun shrugged nonchalantly as he fixed his fringe in front of the mirror. What could he say, after all? He was out with Chanyeol again and that was that. Besides, Luhan said that every time he saw him and Chanyeol together.
“This must be, what, your billionth date?” Luhan mused, smacking his lips as he slicked on some lip balm. He eyed Baekhyun through the mirror, but Baekhyun refused to meet his eyes.
“I’ve only been “going out” with him for two months,” Baekhyun emphasized with air quotation marks. “So, no, not our billionth date.”
Once he’d decided that he was going to get out of the whole arrangement, things just seemed to happen that forced him not to. Luhan suddenly had this thing, then Jongdae had a show, then they all wanted to go to this gallery opening and it just seemed to pile up that Baekhyun had gotten used to Chanyeol standing beside him in events. He was hopeless. And stupid, probably.
“Still,” Luhan pressed meaningfully.
The two months he’d been spending time with Chanyeol were wonderful, even though Baekhyun paid every single time. But Baekhyun could see why Luhan would think that as a big deal. He was pretty sure that it was very clear that the happiness he exuded was because of Chanyeol. He was practically sparkling rainbows and he wasn’t even kidding. Heechul, one of his clients, refused to work with him just because he kept on smiling too much. Even Siwon, who was pretty tolerant of all kinds of people, merely patted his head and walked out of his office when he saw the two rows of his teeth greeting him. Baekhyun had to constantly remind himself that this happiness was not real and that Chanyeol was going out with him out of obligation.
“Still nothing,” Baekhyun made a face at him.
“You do know that I’m not stupid, right?” Luhan grabbed both his arms and peered at him intently, making him squirm. “I know that you like him more than you—you do! You do, don’t deny it,” He practically growled when Baekhyun tried to interrupt so he just nodded.
“I don’t… It’s not that easy,” Baekhyun finally settled on that answer. Maybe this was why he hasn’t found true love yet. He wasn’t ready for how complicated it was.
“It is that easy, actually,” Luhan sighed, patting his best friend’s cheek and Baekhyun had to look up at him because he knew that Luhan was actually concerned this time. “We always know how to get the things we want. Always. The tricky part is how brave we are to actually get it.”
There was a flicker of something in Luhan’s eyes that he’d never seen before. He wondered if Luhan was actually talking about him or himself.
Baekhyun then narrowed his eyes at him. “Are you being all-knowing and profound on me right now? Because, let me tell you, it doesn’t suit you.”
Luhan pulled Baekhyun into a headlock and kept him that way until they got out of the washroom.
Baekhyun looked around, apprehensive yet eager at the same time. “I don’t think I should be back here,” he spoke.
“There’s no one here,” Chanyeol dismissively waved him in. “So no one’s going to say you shouldn’t be.”
“You could get fired for this,” Baekhyun pointed out. He sat on a stool and watched as Chanyeol plucked out ingredients here and there to make them something to eat.
It was late (or was it early morning?) and they’d just gotten out of a club that Jongin had forced them to go to. There was a lot of flickering lights, drinking and grinding and, after a long while, Baekhyun couldn’t take it anymore. He wasn’t even sure why he’d agreed to go, but he felt relieved when Chanyeol grabbed his hand and, quietly, they slipped out.
They walked around, something they did a lot together. Then Baekhyun had mentioned something about the dodgy food in the club and how it was probably spiked with something, hence poisonous, which was why he didn’t eat anything.
That was how they ended up in Exo Hotel’s kitchen.
It was the first time Baekhyun actually knew what his exact job was at the hotel. Chanyeol never really talked much about himself even when he’d ask. He always just said that his life wasn’t that exciting and that there really wasn’t much to talk about. But Baekhyun felt this was a lie and that Chanyeol was just holding back.
Chanyeol looked really good at what he did, which meant that he probably was actually good at making food. He seemed to know every ingredient, where to find it, and just how much was needed to make it taste perfect.
The way his fingers dipped into ingredients and spilled (sprinkled?) them onto the meat felt like an art and something to be revered. Or maybe he just really liked Chanyeol’s hands because they were big and his fit perfectly right there. He closed his eyes at this and almost banged his head on the tabletop. All his thoughts started out innocently enough and always ended up at anything related to Chanyeol. Maybe he really should change his profession to stalker.
Soon enough, the food was ready and they ate in peace across each other in the kitchen. The way the flavors of whatever Chanyeol made him swirled in his mouth made him forget, even just for a tiny bit, the worries that were screwing with his mind.
He looked up at the clock and saw that it was almost 4am.
“Don’t people come in at around this time?” Baekhyun asked, munching. He then frowned, straightening up. “This is a hotel. Shouldn’t there be people here ‘round the clock?”
Chanyeol shrugged. “They go on breaks, too.”
“We’re so going to get caught,” Baekhyun groaned, shaking his head.
“Why are you so worried about me getting fired?” Chanyeol chuckled.
“Sneaking in to cook for me isn’t really worth it,” Baekhyun insisted.
“Watching you enjoy something I cook is totally worth it,” Chanyeol winked at him. Baekhyun ducked his head to hide his blush.
Those kinds of things were exactly why it’s been hard for Baekhyun to just drop Chanyeol and this whole messy ordeal. He always said things out of the blue that made Baekhyun’s heart beat too fast and fall hard until there was no way it could be resurrected.
It took Baekhyun a moment to notice how quiet it had become in the kitchen. He looked up and saw Chanyeol looking thoughtful.
“What is it?” Baekhyun couldn’t help but ask.
“Do you… have you ever done something you thought was a good idea then realized that it wasn’t, but you were too far in and you couldn’t take it back anymore?” Chanyeol asked in one breath.
Baekhyun snorted because how Chanyeol said it was exactly how he felt. His snort turned into a chuckle then into full-blown laughter and he found that he couldn’t stop laughing at how ridiculous he had become.
Baekhyun was never good at laughing at himself. So he did the only thing he knew he should do. He stopped seeing Chanyeol. He deleted all his text messages, his number, deleted his bank account number where he deposited payments, and just… erase, erase, erase.
“I don’t get it,” Jongdae asked him when he finally managed to corner him in his studio.
“Well you’re not very bright so I’m not surprised,” Baekhyun responded, looking through the outfit he was putting together.
Luhan snickered, jostling the outfit that was on him, so Baekhyun stuck a pin in. Luhan screamed like a girl, messing up the outfit even more. Both Baekhyun and Jongdae ignored him.
“I think, between the two of us, you’re the one who’s not very bright,” Jongdae concluded. “I’m not someone who would throw away an amazing boyfriend just like that.”
“Except he’s not a boyfriend.” Baekhyun folded the sleeve of the polo shirt Luhan was wearing and pinned it. “Not mine, anyway,” he added under his breath.
“I don’t get it either,” Luhan said this time. “Really. I don’t get you.”
“Luhan, don’t start,” Baekhyun warned him.
“I’ll start whenever I want to,” Luhan haughtily declared, stepping down on the platform, disentangling everything Baekhyun had been working on for the past hour. “And you,” he pointed at Baekhyun with the unraveled sleeve, “you’re being really stupid. Do you want to know how you’re being stupid?”
Baekhyun sighed and sat on a chair. “I’m sure you’re going to tell me anyway.”
“One,” Luhan lifted a finger, “you don’t just dump someone so unceremoniously like that.” He tugged at the clothing on his body until there was nothing left but his shorts.
Baekhyun and Jongdae watched in amusement as he hopped around the room, looking for his own clothing and putting them on.
“How exactly do you dump someone ceremoniously?” Jongdae piped in, looking truly curious. “I mean, isn’t that something people rather not be celebrated?”
“Shut up,” Luhan told him, turning back to Baekhyun. “Two!” He held up two fingers. “You don’t push away someone that you have feelings for—.”
“Now who said anything about feelings?” Baekhyun started to ask.
“Shut up.” This time it was Jongdae who spoke and Baekhyun felt oddly betrayed. Jongdae was supposed to be the nicer one of his two friends. “Look, Baekhyun,” Jongdae smiled as if trying to ease him out of feeling stabbed in the back, “we know you like him, a lot, so it’s really strange that you decided to stop seeing him all of a sudden, and without warning, too. And then you start seeing all these other guys…”
“It’s not rocket science,” Baekhyun explained, sighing and suddenly feeling exhausted. “I just don’t think the arrangement was working for me anymore. It’s not fair for anyone to be dated and be paid for it. He deserves someone who actually cares.”
“Three!” Luhan’s voice boomed as if Jongdae and Baekhyun weren’t speaking just then. He paused then wrinkled his nose.
“There’s no number three?” Baekhyun looked delighted.
“I, er, you were… paying for your dates?” Jongdae asked.
Baekhyun stiffened in his seat, closing his eyes as he realized his mistake. It had to happen sooner or later. It even amazed him how long he was able to keep it a secret from them. He knew he was never going to live this down. Because, really, who paid someone to go out with them? Only losers. Like him.
“Yes,” Baekhyun sighed resignedly. “I saw him at the website of that thing and—.”
“Hold that thought,” Luhan raised a hand that clearly said “stop”. Baekhyun zipped his lips. “You actually called Chanyeol up and hired him for the reunion?”
Baekhyun nodded and waited for the laughter that he knew he was going to receive from them. But no one laughed.
“But you’ve been seeing him for a while now,” Luhan continued. “Are you telling me that you still continued to…?” His eyes widened in horror when Baekhyun just nodded again. “But… why? You guys have been getting along so well. I would think that you’d have dropped the payments at the second date and just actually…dated.”
“Because,” was Baekhyun’s lame answer. How could he even begin to explain himself? He couldn’t and he wasn’t going to try, not even for his friends.
“You could…ask him? To just date you formally, I mean,” Jongdae suggested, but it felt more like a push to Baekhyun.
“Okay, this is weird,” Baekhyun finally said, ignoring his words.
“What’s weird?” Jongdae asked quietly.
“You’re not laughing at me,” Baekhyun pointed out. And it really was weird because Luhan and Jongdae laughed at him every time he got dumped (sort of) by some date that didn’t work out.
Luhan sighed. “You really like him, Baekhyun.”
And Luhan said it with such finality that Baekhyun knew he had to believe it, too. He really did like Chanyeol so much more than he thought he did, so much more than he should.
“I can’t go out with him anymore,” Baekhyun told them, relieved that they finally knew the truth. “I don’t want to pay him for dates and force him to go out with me.”
“Does he look like he’s forced to be with you when you’re together?” Luhan gently asked.
“It’s part of his job not to look like he’s being forced,” Baekhyun stated blandly. He sighed and got off the chair. If he was going to start moving on, he should start by not talking about Chanyeol any longer. “Anyway, this conversation is never going to happen again. Chanyeol’s name is never going to be mentioned anymore between us or anywhere within a 20-mile radius of me. He’s not my boyfriend, therefore, not worth the time to commiserate over.” He eyed Luhan, who looked away, and Jongdae, who looked torn about something. “Are we clear about this?”
“Baekhyun, I think there’s something you should—,” Jongdae began suddenly.
“Yes, we’re clear,” Luhan interrupted him. Jongdae shot him a look.
“Thanks guys,” Baekhyun smiled at them and left.
And there it was, the beginning of the end.
Baekhyun’s confidence in himself (stubbornness?) lasted one full week. Well, he actually faltered on Saturday, his feet walking him on their own accord to Exo Hotel, but still. One week. It was actually quite a feat for him, considering Chanyeol kept on calling him everyday, probably wondering what was going on since he’d still been going on events. Chanyeol had probably seen him on some magazine or the news or something with some random guy by his side. Baekhyun sniffed, wondering if it was because of the sudden loss of his steady income why he’d been calling so persistently.
He looked up and wanted to shrivel up and die. He was right in front of the entrance of Exo Hotel again. He looked down at his feet and glared at them as if willing them to catch on fire.
“What are you doing here?” Kris tried again.
“Oh, uh, I was just walking by,” Baekhyun lied, blinding him with his smile. “I’m actually on my way to Luhan’s so I’ll just see you around.”
“Luhan is actually inside,” Kris stopped him before he could dash off. “Come.”
As Kris ushered him in, squashing the disbelief that the son of the owner of the hotel is the one doing so, he prepared his mind and body in killing Luhan for thwarting his escape plan. Even when his best friend wasn’t actually around, he seemed to still ruin things for him. He really was evil.
“Baekhyun!” Luhan greeted him with a tight hug. Baekhyun moved to pull away, but before he could do so, Luhan continued squeezing him tight and saying, “Just know that I didn’t mean anything bad by doing it.”
“By doing what?” Baekhyun asked when Luhan finally let him breathe. He saw a movement from behind his best friend and saw that Chanyeol was actually seated on one of the tables, eyeing him warily. “You’re going to die tonight,” he told Luhan, who pouted, confidently.
“Not if I can help it,” Kris said, seemingly swooping down in a very prince-like manner, putting his arms around Luhan’s waist.
Luhan giggled. He actually giggled and this just confused Baekhyun more than ever.
“I’ll tell you all about it later,” Luhan promised him with a smile. He nodded towards Chanyeol, who had stood up. “Have fun.” He then pulled Kris away from him and walked out of the hotel restaurant
Baekhyun found himself seated across Chanyeol shortly after. He was quiet, not even looking at him, because he really didn’t have anything to say to him. Nothing more. He was going to have to keep his resolve on that one because—
“What happened?” Chanyeol broke into his thoughts. Baekhyun looked at him. “You stopped…calling me for dates.” His face twisted into something and Baekhyun wondered if he also thought it sounded outlandish being said out loud.
Baekhyun half-shrugged. “I realized I don’t need a date to be able to go to functions,” he simply stated. Or to be able to function.
“You don’t need a date or you don’t want me?” were Chanyeol’s next words and it practically jolted Baekhyun out of his seat. “You can be honest with me, you know. I’m not 7 years old.”
“What—who said anything about you being seven?” Baekhyun stammered, completely missing the point. He wasn’t sure what Chanyeol was going on about, suddenly demanding an explanation about things. And he hated it. Because the way Chanyeol phrased it, it felt like… He shook his head. He wasn’t going to torture himself with something that was a figment of his imagination.
Chanyeol scoffed and it’s the most unkind Baekhyun’s seen Chanyeol’s face have. “We’ve been going out every week for the past three months—two and a half months,” he corrected himself when Baekhyun corrected him, “and you’re telling me that you suddenly decided, out of the blue, that you don’t want me to be your date? Did I bore you?”
“I’ve been the one calling you, so yeah, I think I can decide whenever I can to not see you anymore,” Baekhyun snapped. Chanyeol was angry, that much was clear, and he did feel awful about that. He just wasn’t sure why they were even having this conversation. Couldn’t he be angry by himself and not drag him into it? They could’ve just moved on with their lives.
Chanyeol stared at him. “Has it ever occurred to you that I was the one who called you for more than half of those dates?”
Baekhyun blinked. He was right. Chanyeol was the one who called him for… almost all of their dates, actually. When he met Chanyeol’s eyes again, there was a softness in his gaze and he had to look away again.
“We’re not going out,” Baekhyun answered, playing with his hands and tried to act nonchalant. “I don’t think we have the obligation to answer to each other. Besides,” he continued, rather bitterly. “You should see someone that you like and not just someone who’s forcing you to go out with him by paying you.”
“I am seeing someone I like. You think I’m doing this just to support myself?” Chanyeol retorted.
Chanyeol looked like he was going to charge out of his seat and strangle him, so Baekhyun leaned back his seat little by little to give himself enough space to squeeze through so he could run away.
But the disappointment bloomed so fast and so hard across his chest that he had to struggle to keep himself from curling up.
“Oh. Okay. Well that’s good then. I’m happy I was able to help. I’m glad you’re happy,” Baekhyun managed to say, standing up. “I’ll see you around then.”
Baekhyun thought that it was better that he and Chanyeol managed to talk before disappearing from each other’s lives forever. At least they managed to talk about it and managed to have some form of closure.
He had so much fun with Chanyeol that he hadn’t stopped to think that he actually might have someone waiting at home for him after all the pretending was done. He wished he had the same. But not all dreams come true. Two out of three dreams, he remembered Luhan telling him, was not bad. Maybe someday he’d get to realize that dream of his. But not today. Not yet.
He was halfway towards the hotel entrance when he’s slammed into. He careened forward, arms stretched out, bracing himself for impact and thinking of how he was going to look like when he’s covered with scratches and bruises.
But the impact never came and he was straightened back up, an arm around his waist.
“Are you okay?”
Baekhyun let out a sigh and wondered if the universe was conspiring with Luhan against him. Chanyeol’s arm was around his waist. He could feel the heat of Chanyeol’s skin under his shirt and he just wished that he’d run out when he left the restaurant.
He pulled away from Chanyeol and took two steps away from him.
“I’m fine,” Baekhyun quipped with a short nod. “Thank you.” He turned to leave.
“I wasn’t being clear earlier,” Chanyeol spoke, stopping him. “About my explanation, about me seeing someone. I just meant that—.”
“I know what you meant, Chanyeol,” Baekhyun interrupted him, annoyed. “I’m not stupid.” He took a deep breath, hoping to feel calmer. “You don’t have to explain anything to me. Like what I told you, it doesn’t matter. I’m glad you’re seeing someone.” And he blinked then because saying it out loud twice made his eyes and his heart sting.
“I’m not an ,” Chanyeol blurted out as Baekhyun took one step away from him. Baekhyun stopped. “I’m not an ,” he repeated in a much slower manner. “I’m not a date-for-hire. I never was.”
Baekhyun faced him, brows furrowed in confusion. “What are you talking about? Of course you are, I saw you in that…” He cleared his throat in an effort to clear his embarrassment at voicing out the truth that he looked into the catalogue. “I don’t understand.”
“My cousin wanted to set me up with you,” Chanyeol began his blabber. “But his friend said that you would never agree to it, so I agree to pretend to be in that ridiculous catalogue because I thought you were cute and why not, right? I didn’t think you’d actually go with it, but your friends said you would and then you did call and—.”
“Stop rambling,” Baekhyun almost scolded him. He paused for a second. “Did you say friends?” Chanyeol hesitated. “Oh my god,” Baekhyun breathed, face palming himself. “I’m going to go to jail for when I kill two of my friends.” He stilled then lifted his face up to look at him. “Wait, did you just say you pretended to be an just so I’d…” He let out a breath and fanned his face, which he was sure was very red. “What…how is this happening?” He couldn’t even formulate proper sentences in his head anymore.
“I... Kris said everything was going to be fine,” Chanyeol tried again to explain. “He said that it would only be for one date then we could go from there. But you asked me that second time and you already said you’d pay.”
“What about all those other dates?” Baekhyun wanted to know.
“I couldn’t… I didn’t know how to tell you to stop paying and actually go out with me,” Chanyeol frowned. “But I wanted to. I hope you believe me.”
Chanyeol looked so earnest that Baekhyun did believe him. Or he really wanted to. But this sincerity was buried under a mass of lies, or jokes, but still lies that he wasn’t sure how to.
“Kris?” Baekhyun pressed. How would Kris be able to say that it would be fine for one date when they’d only met during the reunion, unless they already knew each other before then.
Chanyeol let out a sigh, one that fanned his bangs up. “Kris is my cousin,” he confessed.
Baekhyun chuckled, a smirk on his face. He wasn’t sure how he felt being the of a joke, one that his friends, the boyfriend of his best friend, and the guy he felt like he was willing to cross oceans for shared.
“I’m not hearing any more of this,” Baekhyun declared with a firm resolve. He got it now. His friends really didn’t think he could get a date on his own. Even Kris thought he was hopeless. And now, Chanyeol. He sighed. He didn’t want to delve any deeper into that.
The walk away from Chanyeol was probably the most painful he’d ever done. There were a lot of things he’d walked away from, friendships, opportunities, a famous celebrity who’d wanted to date him then, many things. But none like this, none like walking away from it would change him forever.
Chanyeol had grabbed his wrist this time and Baekhyun was feeling strangely manhandled that day.
“What do you—?”
But then Chanyeol’s lips were on his and he thought no more.
He hadn’t really died. Not really. It was more like waking up in a dream, one didn’t think he’d ever get to see through in his lifetime.
After Chanyeol had gone and kissed him, rather forcefully he might add, he opened and closed his mouth and seemingly plopped around like a fish out of water. There weren’t really enough words in him to process and explain how he felt. The only thing he could think of was: Chanyeol kissed him and seemed to actually like him. And he did say it aloud, too, in front of his staff, who had gathered to watch their head chef (“head chef!” Baekhyun exclaimed like a dying whale) sort of propose to the guy of his dreams.
Baekhyun wanted to slap him, he really did, for making things difficult, for not saying what he wanted out loud.
Chanyeol had retorted with, “You could have done something, too, you know. You were the one who first asked me out after all.”
Baekhyun had then rolled his eyes, a smug expression on his face. “Well, who was the one who went through all the trouble to pretend to be a date-for-hire and—.”
Chanyeol had kissed him again and he never got to finish taunting him. It was unfair and somewhat tragic what Chanyeol’s kisses could do to him, but he decided he wasn’t going to mind, that he shouldn’t mind.
Chanyeol’s hand on his waist was warm as they waded through the sea of people in the Angel Ballroom of Exo Hotel. It was the hotel’s anniversary and Kris made sure to invite everyone who was anyone.
“Well, look who it is,” Kris greeted them when they managed to finally come across each other. He had his arm around Luhan, who was unnaturally subdued.
Baekhyun was angrier that he’d let on to Chanyeol. He knew that Luhan and Jongdae were only trying to help, but he was annoyed that they meddled. Therefore, this had resulted into a rather violent scuffle between the three of them. At the end of it all, Baekhyun had a cut on his cheek, which he’d very gracefully covered up with concealer; Jongdae’s hair was cut short (for some reason a pair of scissors made its way into his hands), making him sport his hair into a gelled, spiky sort of style; Luhan, meanwhile, had a black eye, which, Baekhyun couldn’t help but be happy about this, he couldn’t conceal except with a pair of sunglasses.
“Cool party,” Chanyeol awkwardly said when no one said anything. Neither Baekhyun nor Luhan were looking at each other.
“The food is good,” Kris commented.
There was some more uncomfortable silence before Jongin arrived with Kyungsoo; Jongin bumping into Baekhyun, who practically crashed Luhan, and Kyungsoo bumping into Luhan. Luhan naturally opened his arms wide and secured Baekhyun onto him.
“Oops,” Jongin chuckled and walked away with Kyungsoo in tow.
They were both still for a second, and then Baekhyun was struggling to get away from him. But Luhan was having none of it and just kept on hugging him.
“You can create a scene by struggling like I’m you or you can just stand still and this will be over in a minute,” Luhan serenely told him.
Baekhyun immediately stopped moving because just the thought of looking like Luhan was him gave him shivers.
“You have 30 seconds,” Baekhyun quipped, his eyes on Chanyeol, who had retreated to the bar with Kris. People betraying him left and right was starting to become a trend that he hated.
“You’re my best friend, Baekhyun,” Luhan said softly, “and I love you. I just want you to be happy and, while my means weren’t the best, I succeeded because you are happy now. I’m sorry you feel like I overstepped, but, I think, as your best friend, I have the right to.”
Baekhyun sighed, defeated, and rested his forehead on Luhan’s shoulder. “I hate you,” he mumbled and Luhan hugged him tighter.
“I know,” Luhan happily giggled, knowing that he was forgiven.
“I’m not sorry about your eye, though,” Baekhyun pulled away to get a good look at him, trying to see past the sunglasses.
Luhan shrugged like he didn’t care about it. “Kris has taken very good care of me since then,” he shared, smiling mischievously.
Baekhyun threw up a little in his mouth, trying hard not to imagine how good Kris has been to him. “I can’t believe you’re with Kris—no, I can’t believe you’re with anyone,” he declared. Luhan just shrugged again. “What changed?” He was truly curious because Luhan was a social butterfly, flitting from one flower to the next, never stopping for anyone.
Luhan looked a Kris by the bar, sipping his drink, while talking to Chanyeol. Kris looked up as if feeling his gaze on him. And the way they looked at each other, Baekhyun didn’t even need Luhan to explain anymore.
“It’s never felt like this before,” Luhan simply said.
And when Chanyeol met his gaze and smiled at him, he knew exactly what Luhan meant.
“Are you sure it’s okay for you to be out like this when you’re supposedly making the food in there?” Baekhyun asked, smiling as people turned to greet them.
After finally making up with Luhan, Chanyeol had snatched him away to walk around the ballroom, introducing him to people left and right. They’d come across Jongin and Kyungsoo with Jongdae, who cowered when he saw him, by the bar, and Baekhyun didn’t have the heart to be mad at them. Not with Chanyeol holding him so close to him like he was afraid he’d disappear. So he just smiled, making Jongdae choke on his cocktail.
“They can manage without me for a night,” Chanyeol confidently assured him, lightly squeezing his waist. “Besides,” and he leaned down to his ear when he said this, sending shivers all over his body, “this is our first real date, one where you’re actually not paying me. I’m not going to miss it for anything.”
Baekhyun then stopped walking and turned to face him. “Hey, I did pay you for all of those dates,” he remembered, looking up to meet his amused gaze. “You took my money,” he said accusingly, pointing at him. “Scammer.”
Chanyeol laughed and pulled him into his chest, not caring whether people were starting to stare. He was Byun Baekhyun, famous stylist, and he was Park Chanyeol, Head Chef of Exo Hotel and family to the owners, after all. But he didn’t care about what people would think anymore. Chanyeol was his third dream. Three out of three for him now and people could stare all they want.
“See, this is what I was telling Kris about,” Chanyeol said. “You being all cute no matter what the situation is,” he elaborated when Baekhyun shot him a questioning look.
Baekhyun rolled his eyes. “I can’t believe I’m dating a scammer,” he sighed like it was such a travesty.
“How can I make it up to you?” Chanyeol asked, he wiggled his eyebrows.
“Well, you can give me back my money for one,” Baekhyun suggested.
“And two?” Chanyeol pressed hopefully.
“Hmm,” Baekhyun teased, reaching up to pull at his tie. “I suppose you can kiss me."
Chanyeol’s whole face smiled and he leaned down to do so. Baekhyun stood on his tiptoes and met him halfway.
1. For the record, Chanyeol did return Baekhyun's money. Baekhyun gave it to charity.
2. I'm a er for anything BaekYeol so this happened. They make me very happy. Just the thought of them makes me see rainbows and such. orz
3. Luhan is so precious. And Jongdae. And Kris. And... okay all of them are precious. Exobbs. /sobs
4. Comments/suggestions/violent reactions are welcome, but not required. :D