part three

RED

Don’t ask me how the party ended. I don’t know. Do you know that feeling when you’re so hyper-focused on something, in my case, someone, that time seems to blend together into one long strip of a time-lapse video?

What I do remember is giggling all night long. Being high on giddiness. It’s a lot like standing on clouds five hundred feet off the ground without single care that you’ll plummet to your death.

Of course, the metaphor of death is heartbreak. Was I sure that this was going to end well?

As a serial dater, I was always prepared for the lows. When there’s a high, there will always be a low. I knew that relationships could go one way or the other. You meet someone, you fall in love, maybe temporarily. It could go either way. Maybe he’s the love of your life.

This means, there are two ways this could go. A terrible break-up where I’d end up proclaiming that relationships were a waste of time and I’d never do it again. Or, we get married, ride off into the sunset—have babies. You know, the entire ordeal.

I could be a bit of a realist or just a bit cynical—whatever you wanna call it, but I couldn’t deny that I was also an optimist.

So what if it could end in a long blaze of inferno flames?

I was so drunk on this feeling. Frankly, I couldn’t remember the last time a guy barely exerted any effort in order to catch my interest this quickly.

I wasn’t so sure why I’d been hooked from the start. Why I let him kiss me upon our first meeting.

And this. He did it on purpose. He was intelligent. He’d known that stoking my curiosity was the answer.

I let him win. At least, for now.

It took more than suggestive words and pretty smiles.

It was three in the morning when the last of us left. The night was pitch-black and bone-chilling.

“Be safe, D!” Winter blows a flying kiss toward me.

I catch it, pressing two fingers to my lips. “See ya.”

Then, Winter proceeds to turn her head toward Baekhyun who stands a couple of feet away. Close enough to watch over us, but far enough that he was respectable, letting us say our goodbyes.

“Hey, Baekhyun?” She calls out.

Instead of looking straight at her, he glances briefly at me before looking toward her. My heart hammers in my chest. And I feel so awfully silly for feeling like this. I feel like a little girl, analyzing every little action of his and questioning it—hoping that there was something there.

I bite my bottom lip, tearing my eyes away. Get a grip, Dan.

“Yeah?” He answers Winter.

Winter prompts, “if I ask D tomorrow whether or not she was walked home safely, what answer do you think I want to hear?”

I hear him chuckle, and I glance back up at the two of them. He’s looking at me. Again. There’s a spark of playfulness gleaming in those eyes of his. “Bye, Winter,” is all he says.

She looks to me, winking and mouthing mission success.

I make a show of rolling my eyes at her.

When the door shuts, Baekhyun sidles beside me, matching my pace. He’s carrying his guitar case, slung over one arm.

There’s just something so damn attractive about his easy gait. It’s like the entire world is his walkway. He’s confident and his cockiness is a little charming. I’ll give him that.

“How long have you been playing?” I ask, signaling to the guitar case on his back.

He shrugs his shoulder back, hiking it higher. “Since I was seven.”

I must look surprised because he asks, “why? Do I sound like an amateur?”

I immediately shake my head. “No, it’s just an odd notion is all.”

“How so?”

“I don’t know. On top of everything, I guess it makes you a little less human.”

A corner of his lips quirk upward, and he holds out his hand.

I hesitate for a split second, unsure of his motives. But eventually, I place my hand into his, and he pulls me along as if this was a natural progression. So casually that it catches me off guard.

In the past, it never was like this. I never felt so tongue-tied. I’ve never been so clouded. I’m actually speechless, so out of control—so out of my element.

I should be afraid. I should be on edge. Hell, I should’ve slept over at Irene’s.

Instead, I was here with him. Surprisingly cozy with someone that I just met.

Technically, I knew of him. But everyone knows that doesn’t count. Because what’s better than the campus hottie walking you back home?

I think, in a way, he excited me. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I didn’t know what I was doing. I felt like an awkward baby swan learning how to walk and stumbling over my feet.

“So let’s humanize me,” he says.

“How?” I ask, playing along.

He squeezes my hand. And he releases my hand only to run his fingers on my skin. The pads of his fingers are only slightly rough. And the friction of them gliding against the top of my hand, my palm, to my wrist sends my mind spiraling into a million places.

“I have callouses,” he whispers, his voice hoarse and low.

I shiver, feeling tingles crawl down my spine.

“That’s not such a bad thing,” I reciprocate, my breathing turning shallower each second.

I stutter on his lips before landing on his eyes. We’d already kissed. I already know that, but something about this just—feels more intimate. So much more.

“If anything, I think that makes you awfully unattainable,” I tell him with a sly smile.

Baekhyun curiously tilts his head. “Really?” He leans in, and I anticipate the feel of his lips. But he stops, hovering so closely and yet lightyears away. “I snore.”

I laugh. Maybe it was his intended effect. This push and pull. Telling me things about him that were supposed to be a turn-off and yet endearing at the same time.

“Invite me to the next slumber party, and I’ll draw my own conclusions.”

I obviously know what I’m doing because his pupils shaking means that I should do it again.

At this time, a small breeze passes us by, and I shiver, feeling the crisp air burn my skin.

Baekhyun pauses, eyeing me for a split second.

“What?” I titter, feeling shy from his directness.

There’s a secretive smile curved on his lips when he shrugs off his jacket and holds it out. I slip into it, arms first, shivering again—this time, not from the cold but from the puff of his hot breath on my neck.

“I’ll want it back,” he tells me with mischief.

I glance up at him, away from the ground. “And what would you like me to do with that information?”

“It’s an excuse,” he answers, brushing the button of my nose with the back of his finger. “To see you again.”

My stomach does backflips off a diving board. I’m plunging straight into a long, dark pit. But it’s warm and fuzzy.

Somewhere along the way, his hands engulf mine and he’s tugging me along, his steps light yet purposeful. We continue our slow pace.

Because he’s stalling, and I’m playing the game. His game.

“Any other cautionary truths that I should be aware of?” I ask.

“That’s for you to find out,” he says, “and for me to prolong.”

“You’re…special.”

“Special enough to see you again?”

I turn to him, realizing that he’s been looking at me for a while now. It makes me shy and again, catches me off guard. “What makes you so different from everybody else?”

Baekhyun hums, his voice lilting, “how many am I competing with?”

I raise an eyebrow, deciding to be vague. “Enough.”

He takes the challenge. “Okay, so how many are holding your hand?”

“Right now?”

“One,” he answers for me, squeezing his hand and henceforth mine. “And how many have kissed you today?”

“Yesterday, you mean?”

At this exact moment, he steals a single kiss. It may have been a single kiss, but my knees become rubbery. And when he pulls away, I don’t think I’ve taken a single breath. The bottom of my lip continues to throb because his teeth were merciless and when he bit on my bottom lip to remind me that this, indeed, was real—I’ve lost all of my ability to speak.

Today,” he whispers, smiling deviously.

And even though, I’m cold. Even though, the chill continues to nip at my bare skin as we’re standing idly in front of my residential hall. I can’t miss this.

It’s electric. Powerful as much as it had been an enigma.

I don’t understand why he’s chosen me. Why—out of every single girl tonight—he’s walking me home.

But maybe it’s too late to continue questioning it. I was Lee Dan. I never backed down from a challenge.

Partly because I didn’t want to. Plus, some naive part of me hoped that he felt these butterflies.

I push up on my toes, using his shoulders to hoist me up higher until I’m close enough to return a kiss. It’s chaste, and I let it fall at the corner of his mouth. I press a hand to his chest where his heart was.

And my answer had been there.

His heart beat as quickly as a rabbit.

When I pull away, I catch a glimpse of his expression. A mixture of longing and hunger.

“Good night,” I call out. Turning my back on him, I suppress the biggest grin known to man.

When I sleep, I dream of his calloused fingers.

 

 

###

 

 

I don’t see him tomorrow. Or the next day, and naturally, the day after that.

Days turn into weeks. And suddenly, a week blurs into three.

I honestly didn’t know how to feel about him suddenly going MIA. I did wonder if it was me. If I was the catalyst. If I’ve somehow bored him to death.

But Sehun tells me that Baekhyun hasn’t attended class in several weeks.

So, that means it has nothing to do with me. The least he could do was text me because now, I wasn’t sure where we stood.

This year, my February 14th was sad, and what followed was heavy rain, pitter-pattering on my window and reminding me that I was played a fool.

I’d never been ghosted immediately after a connection or worse, a tinkling of chemistry. Some guys did it after a week or maybe two days.

What was the self-doubt. I usually wasn’t so harsh on myself. I could accept my flaws and differences. I had thicker skin because I’d been dating since high school, and let me tell you, if you think teenagers were a bunch of s, you should meet adults.

It didn’t matter if someone was nice or mean, some people become a different person when they're seeing you.

I didn’t know where to place him, and no matter how much I racked my brain for an explanation, my logical side pleading me to come up with a decision, there's nothing. Absolute radio-silence.

I do know that I should cut him off, never speak to him again, and, or I avoid him until we’ve graduated and become real adults.

But for some reason, I stutter over my decision. I’ve even somewhat closed off my heart, and the cute barista at the coffee shop I usually frequent won’t do anymore.

He doesn’t have long, slender fingers or guitar callouses that decorate them.

Or thick messy dark brown hair that I’d hypothetically want to tug on.

“Dude,” Taeyong mumbles when we exit the shop.

I barely turn my head. It’s way too early in the morning. Eight AM classes were the bane of my existence and should be illegal on national holidays. I’d downed my signature drink, as my friends like to call it, a cup of heart-attack, like my life depended on it

Taeyong shakes his head, concern etched on his features. “You good?”

“Yeah,” I say with a yawn.

He snorts, not believing me one bit. “Surprised you didn’t immediately add his number. You’ve guys had a thing since we frequented this place.”

I scrunch my forehead. “Huh?”

Taeyong huffs out a laugh, pointing to the side of my cup. The sharpie scribbles that were initially invisible when my drink was full are now super obvious upon a single glance.

“He wants in, and you’re always up and about,” Taeyong says like it’s a fact.

“I don’t know, T,” I sigh, “I’m not sure I have it in me to…try.”

He bawks at my half-assed response. “But you don’t try.”

“Yeah, I do,” I protest, and sadly, I easily toss the empty cup in the nearest trash can. “There’s so much a girl’s gotta do just to get laid. Meanwhile, you s—“ I pause, eyeing the eye-sore of a cowlick on Taeyong’s head. “—strut around with week-old unwashed, just rolled out of bed hair because it’s totally the norm.”

Taeyong tsks, “sounds to me like it’s awfully personal. Which terrible guy did this to you?” He throws an arm over my shoulder, squeezing me into him.

“I don’t wanna talk about it,” I grumble.

“You’re sulking,” he sings.

“Am not.”

“Uh, yes, you so are.”

I decide to ignore his insistent replies and attempt to march ahead, but Taeyong doesn’t let me go so we end up looking like bumbling idiots.

He squeezes my shoulder tight and says, “Hey, whoever it is. Tell me his name, and I’ll jump him.”

“You’re not serious,” I deadpan.

“Not unless he’s bigger than me. Then, you’re on your own, gal.”

It brings a smile to my face, and I bump into his hips. “Thanks, T.”

He reciprocates my smile, and we stand there smiling like fools at each other.

Then, we hear someone clear their throat. Might I mention—as obnoxious and loudly as possible?

My smile drops immediately when I see who it is.

It’s my ex-boyfriend, the married one, AKA the last person in the world I want to see right now.

“Are you two—“

And for a second there, I’m really not sure who’s standing in front of me because it’s certainly not the guy I fell for. His jaw is shadowed from days of not shaving—and not in the y, groomed kind of way. His hair is matted and greasy, and frankly, it gave me the ickiest of ick.

I grind on my bottom jaw and smile as pleasantly as I could muster. “No, he’s my friend. And even if we were, it’s none of your business.”

“Babe, please—we need to talk,” he begs.

Taeyong grips me tighter, trying to pull me away but still, my ex-boyfriend is bigger and taller. So, they stand head to head, and I’m off the side of Taeyong like a loose accessory.

It’s not a good look. We’re getting antsy stares from all directions, and I definitely don’t need any more attention after being dubbed the campus home wrecker by our peers.

“Take a walk,” I tell him through gritted teeth. “You made it quite clear that it was my fault your marriage ended broken. I gave you that. So what else do you want from me?”

His eyes falter on my face. “I made a mistake. Losing you was the biggest regret of my life.”

“Live another way,” Taeyong chimes in—unhelpfully.

My ex-boyfriend zeroes in on Taeyong. “Hey, you keep out of our business. And get the hell off of my girl while you’re at it.”

Taeyong doesn’t take it too kindly because he releases me to shove the latter back. “Get lost, you cheating .”

“Hey!” I snap at the both of them. “Cut it out.”

The testosterone level continues to rise and neither of them pays any heed to my frantic movements, and now they’re bashing heads. Out of what seems like nowhere, Mr. Cheater whips his arm back and follows it through, hitting Taeyong in the cheekbone.

Clearly not prepared for the impact, Taeyong stumbles back and falls, smacking his head on the ground.

I sputter out a gasp, dropping to my knees to grab a sprawled-out, possibly concussed Taeyong.

Jesus,” I hiss, whipping my head to my half-wit ex-boyfriend, “will you please just ing go?”

Mr. Cheater clearly has zero comprehension skills because he continues to approach us and reaches for my arm.

I jerk on instinct, startled by his touch.

There’s a whoosh of air, and I’m still trying to process what the hell just happened. In the span of a minute, my ex-boyfriend is now the one sprawled on the ground—completely passed out.

My jaw is completely wide open when I stare up at the perpetrator who is recoiling his leg as we speak.

I can’t decide which thing I’m more shocked about. Mr. Cheater lying still on the floor or the fact that I’m staring at a nonchalant and unapologetic Baekhyun?

“Did you just…kick him in the face?”

Now, I’m usually not a fan of brute force but seeing him throw a technical kick like it was nothing was hot as hell. I must be losing my damn mind. How is this my biggest priority right now?

Baekhyun frowns, stepping over my passed out ex-boyfriend. He reaches us in one long stride and kneels beside me, peering at Taeyong.

“I think he has a concussion,” Baekhyun tells me.

I nod, still kind of stunned by his sudden appearance after disappearing for three weeks.

“They’ll both live,” he offers with subtle optimism.

As I’m shaking my head in disbelief, my words come back to me, and I stammer, “we have to get him to the nurse.”

Baekhyun agrees, hoisting Taeyong up to his side. “Help me?”

I take the other side, and the three of us lumber off to the nurse, completely ignoring my ex-boyfriend who is, yes, still knocked out from Baekhyun’s kick.

Out of nowhere, my chest begins to bubble with laughter, and the next minute, I’m laughing so hard that the sides of my stomach have begun to hurt. “I can’t believe we just ing left him there.”

Baekhyun entertains me and joins me in laughter. “Are you hurt?” He asks in the midst of laughing.

The cross between our laughing fit and his one-second concern only makes me laugh harder until I’m clutching my stomach and leaning over to catch my breath.

But the thing is, me accidentally letting go meant that Baekhyun was suddenly bearing Taeyong’s entire weight, and I watch in slow-motion as the two of them go down like bowling pins.

In horror, I leap to their rescue but end up violently colliding my head with Baekhyun.

“Holy—“ The air is knocked out of him because , my head hurts like a so I’m gonna assume it’s a shared experience.

“Are you okay?” I choke out, trying to get the earth to quit moving from side to side.

He makes a tiny sound of acknowledgment and bursts into laughing shortly after.

I stare in bewilderment as my heart begins pounding relentlessly from his sweet, gorgeous laugh.

“, I’m gonna throw—“

We hear horrible retching coming from nearby. However, it’s too late to do anything because Taeyong is already hurling his breakfast into the air.

 

 

###

 

 

When we drop Taeyong off at the nurse, she informs us that he indeed does have a concussion.

Her name is Lily, and she’s a pretty brunette, not too far off from our age.

I’d been a little nervous about leaving him there, but she quickly assured us that it was better to leave him there overnight.

A half-hour later, Baekhyun and I find ourselves standing outside of the clinic in awkward silence.

“Let’s get coffee,” I suggest, breaking the silence.

Baekhyun glances at his watch before meeting my eyes to say, “sure.”

Honestly, even if he hadn’t agreed to coffee, I would’ve gone by myself. You could never go wrong with too much caffeine. Not a flex—but, I’d been so used to drinking a fatal amount of coffee in high school that caffeine rarely does it for me anymore.

Mom used to joke that I’d be buried before her. Now, I’m not so sure that she’s wrong. I’m one last straw from doing coke.

Anyway, I’m happy to report that the initial awkwardness skyrocketed when we entered the coffee shop.

Why did I take him here? Why was I still with him and not in class?

Okay, to be fair, I wouldn’t have gone to class after what happened to Taeyong. Rumors on campus spread like wildfire, and I bet everyone was already talking about my adventurous morning.

The cute barista from earlier is still here, and when he sees me, the shades have gone over his eyes.

Oh .

On other occasions, I’d be happy to entertain him, but not today. This was really bad timing.

I wave awkwardly. A common motif of today.

He takes our order quickly and efficiently as always but hangs around for a couple of minutes.

Seeing as he’s lingering, I’m pressed to say something. Anything.

“Is everything alright?” I ask.

There’s a momentary flash of confusion on his face, but the barista answers without a hitch, “did you get my number?”

My mouth opens comically, and I close it. “Uh. Yeah.”

I peek at Baekhyun and catch him staring at both of us. I can see a twinkling of amusement. Jesus. Does he find this funny?

The barista doesn’t look too bothered by the fact that I’m standing in front of him with another guy. Maybe he’s assuming that we’re platonic because I come here all the time with Taeyong and Sehun.

I become suddenly aware of the fact that I’ve horrendously disturbed my routine. Relationships weren’t fun, but who would say no to flirting?

Besides, I was literally in no-man land. For one, I wasn’t sure where I stood with Baekhyun anymore. I counted my eggs way too soon. And right now, I was really confused.

“I thought we were vibing. Did I get the wrong message?” The barista questions.

Props to him for going straight to the point. Man, I really did like him. But this wasn’t going anywhere, and I needed to put on my adult pants.

“What’s your name?” I ask.

“Johnny,” he answers.

“Johnny,” I say, “it was wrong of me for leading you on. I was vibing, but it turns out that there’s this guy I really like, and I’m not sure if he likes me. But that’s okay because I’m telling you the truth in hopes that he’ll do the same.”

Johnny, thankfully, doesn’t look too hurt about it. He nods and tells me that because he was quitting, he decided to shoot his shot which was really sweet in hindsight and a little unfortunate.

He hands us our coffee, and I bid him good luck.

“That was totally a movie moment,” I say when Baekhyun and I are out of the shop.

Baekhyun chuckles. “Movie moment?”

“Yeah,” I laugh. “Don’t you have those moments when you think to yourself ‘I one-hundred-percent was the main character’?”

He wrinkles his nose. “Don’t you mean ‘am’?”

I take a sip of coffee. “Oh, no. I have too many enemies to not be humble.”

“Elaborate.”

“Okay, well, my ex-boyfriend probably hates my guts after what you did.”

“He deserved it.”

“What if he didn’t? How could you tell that he was antagonizing me? What if you’re wrong?”

Baekhyun slows his pace and turns to me, suddenly scrutinizing my appearance.

I back up on instinct, but he gets closer, putting a gentle hand on my shoulder.

“You flinched,” he says. “It doesn’t take a shrink to see that you were scared.”

His concern touches my heart and warms every corner and crevice of my chest. “Thank you,” I say. “I mean—you didn’t have to kick him.”

“My bad. Next time when someone threatens your wellbeing, I’ll be sure to carefully deliberate my methods of violence.”

“You and your mouth,” I mumble.

“I can assure you with full confidence that my mouth can do other things.”

I’m a little taken back from his comment, but not from his actual comment—more like, my reaction to his comment. It’s not like I wasn't prone to having R-rated thoughts. I wasn’t going to pretend that I was above it and holier than thou.

Damn it. Now I can’t get it out of my head.

“Are you sure you should be propositioning me after being gone for so long?”

What I’ve observed so far is that he had everything. Every y feature in a guy, plus confidence was something he didn’t lack.

“I don’t know. I wonder if this guy you like is willing to share.”

“I’m not sure he’s that type of guy,” I peruse. “I don’t think he’s particular to sharing.”

He squeezes my shoulder, leaning in close until I can see his inhales and exhales. “You’re absolutely right. I don’t like to share what’s mine.”

“Yours?”

“Sorry, I meant to say that in a metaphorical, rhetorical, and poetic sense that you’re mine, and totally not in the possessive, toxic, and misogynistic alpha male sense.”

“Your ing mouth,” I huff out a laugh, kind of dazed that I haven’t threaded my fingers through his feathery brown hair and kissed him yet.

He pulls me snugly against his chest. “Entertain me for a second.”

I hum out a reply, waiting.

“Did you think about me?”

I nod.

“Okay,” he breathes, “you want me to be honest?”

I nod again.

“I haven’t been able to stop thinking about you. Do you know what that means?”

“You like me,” I surmise.

“You like me,” he echoes with that overconfidence of his.

“What if I do?”

“Well then, it’s not a matter of if, babe. How’s dinner tomorrow, at seven?”

[a/n] goddamn this mf is so smooth. why do i keep writing characters i cant have bye 

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baekyhoney
so. um. how are we feeling about ?? because cough cough it's happening. like if we're not comfortable, i can release it in its own separate chapter when the story ends?
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