[personal profile] maayacolabackup






#


When they leave, Chanyeol pushing into the specially vetted taxi next to him, and resting his head on Baekhyun’s shoulder, Baekhyun is hyperaware of every movement Chanyeol makes, and Chanyeol’s breath along the line of his jaw, and Chanyeol’s hair tickling against his neck, and he’s just as aware of his own reactions; Baekhyun’s heart is beating so fast, and his stomach is tied in knots.

But Baekhyun’s not sure what’s real, and what’s Chanyeol just doing his job, and that makes him ache, because Baekhyun isn’t pretending at all, because he’s never been that good an actor.

He quietly lets them into the flat, Chanyeol sliding off his shoes behind him as he walks in, and Jongin’s asleep already. He’d left a single light on in the living room for them, though, which makes Baekhyun smile a little.

The get ready for bed in mostly silence. Chanyeol tries to starts several conversations, but Baekhyun doesn’t really want to talk. He keeps hearing Kris’s words in his head, and he’s not sure, but he thinks his heart might be breaking.

“What did I do?” Chanyeol says, as Baekhyun turns on his side, his back to Chanyeol, and switches off the light. “Why are you angry at me?”

“I’m not angry at you,” Baekhyun says, and his voice cracks, and to his horror, he can feel tears prickling at the corners of his eyes. “Just go to sleep. It’ll be fine tomorrow.”

It will be. Baekhyun’s not an emotionally fragile flower. Baekhyun’s strong; through all of this, he’s learned that he’s stronger than even he’d thought he was, and the fact that Chanyeol might not care about Baekhyun, for real, the way Baekhyun cares about Chanyeol… That’s not going to break him.

But just for tonight, Baekhyun wants to feels sad about it. He gathers a handful of his blanket in his hands and squeezes, closing his eyes and hoping Chanyeol will just go to sleep.

“But I want it to be fine tonight,” Chanyeol murmurs, snaking his arm around Baekhyun’s waist, and his lips are close to Baekhyun’s neck. Baekhyun can feel his breath there, at the nape, and it sends a shiver through him even as he tries to pull away.

“You don’t have to pretend to care when there’s no one here,” Baekhyun says. “You only have to be my boyfriend when people are looking.”

Chanyeol freezes, his arm going stiff around Baekhyun’s waist, and Baekhyun can hear Chanyeol’s breath quicken. Then Chanyeol gulps, and his hand flattens out across Baekhyun’s stomach in a way that sends heat surging through Baekhyun’s body.

Then Chanyeol chuckles. It’s not his usual playful and confident laugh. It’s quiet, and unsure, and it creeps into Baekhyun’s chest, wrapping around his heart and squeezing. “Baekhyun,” Chanyeol says, and now Chanyeol’s lips are ghosting over Baekhyun’s bare shoulder; the lightest of touches, and maybe Baekhyun is imagining it. “No one is that good at pretending.”

“Not even you?” Baekhyun asks, and his stomach, for the first time in hours, starts to unknot. He hates the way his voice wavers as he asks, but Chanyeol, too, is shaking, just a little.

“Not even me,” Chanyeol replies, and Baekhyun brings his hand up, resting it on top of Chanyeol’s. Chanyeol’s hand is warm. “You’re my friend, now.”

“Chanyeol, I-“ Baekhyun presses his lips together, and he can’t find the words.

“My sister’s three years older than me. She wants to be a radio DJ. My favorite color is blue. I used to be in a shitty band called Heavy Noise, and I played the guitar, but I also play the drums. I barely passed high school because I didn’t care about it, so I never went to university. Instead, I passed an examination to join EXO.”

“But-“

“Nothing’s going to happen to you,” Chanyeol says. “No one is going to take you, and get that information from you. And… you’re my friend, now.”

“Thank you,” Baekhyun says, swallowing around all the emotions that are trying to claw their way up their his throat.

“Sleep well, Baekhyun,” Chanyeol says, pressing his nose into Baekhyun’s hair, and Baekhyun gives a shuddering exhale.

“Good night,” he whispers back, and it takes a long time for him to fall asleep.

#


“Trouble in paradise?” Jongin asks, and Baekhyun sighs.

“What paradise?” Baekhyun says. “Did paradise ever exist?”

“Oh no,” Jongin says. “Something must be really wrong.”

“Shut up,” Baekhyun says. “Nothing’s wrong.”

“If you start quoting Emily Dickinson or Go Eun poetry, I’m calling Kyungsoo,” Jongin says. “I’m not equipped to deal with that.”

“Everything’s fine,” Baekhyun says. “I’m acting like a kid.”

“Good,” Jongin says, and Baekhyun’s eyes dart upward. “It’s about time you did something besides be insufferably adult.”

“Jongin?”

“I’m sure it’ll work out,” Jongin says. “Whatever it is.”

Baekhyun smiles, but he knows it doesn’t reach his eyes. Baekhyun had skipped all this falling in love stuff when he was in college, preferring to read books about it than to experience it himself. But Baekhyun doesn’t have to be experienced to know unrequited love doesn’t usually turn out well, at all.

#


Shattering glass wakes Baekhyun up. Chanyeol is already awake, and alert. His hands are on his knees, and Baekhyun, even in the dark, can see the tight lines of Chanyeol’s back.

“What’s happening?”

“Break-in,” Chanyeol says. “It’s that desperation we were talking about.”

“What are we going to do?”

“You’re going to stay here, and let me be the brawn,” Chanyeol says, and then he’s gone, out the bedroom door. There’s a sickening crack, and Baekhyun hopes that the person who walks into the bedroom will be Chanyeol.

It is. He’s pale, back straight and eyes trained on Baekhyun, who is no longer remotely asleep.

“We can’t pretend anymore,” Chanyeol says, face drawn, “that we don’t know they’re after you.” Chanyeol sighs. “Get up. Pack.”

“Okay,” Baekhyun says, and he doesn’t ask questions. He trusts Chanyeol, completely, no matter what other confusing things are creeping up and making it hard for him to look him in the eye.

“Good thing Jongin is out of town, isn’t it?” Chanyeol says. His eyes look a bit feverish, Baekhyun thinks, as he takes his suit out of his closet and puts it on top of a suitcase he’d already had mostly packed. “This would have scared him.”

“He got scared of the confetti at his twentieth birthday party,” Baekhyun says, as walks into the bathroom, purposefully not looking into the living room because he doesn’t know what he’ll see. “Everything scares him.”

His hands are shaking as he grabs his hygiene items. When he goes back into the bedroom, Chanyeol is taking a seat at Baekhyun’s computer. “Does this have anything in it? Addresses, phone numbers, work stuff?”

“All of the above,” Baekhyun says, and Chanyeol nods.

“What’s the password?” Chanyeol says, as Baekhyun grabs his notebooks, the only three he has here, and shoves them into his bag. “Quick.”

“Happy Virus,” Baekhyun says, and now’s not the time to feel the sharp pangs of embarrassment, even if Chanyeol pauses for a moment in shock before those thick square fingers type faster than Baekhyun had thought they could.

“I’m going to wipe your computer,” Chanyeol says. “I don’t know if they’ll come back here, and I don’t know how well they hack.” Chanyeol looks up at Baekhyun, and smiles, and there’s a bit of a flush to his cheeks, too. “But if I know you, it’s all up there in that pretty little head of yours, anyway.”

Baekhyun zips his backpack. “If you call me pretty one more time, I’m going to-“

“Shhh,” Chanyeol says. “I’m doing computer things. My concentration is bad enough.” Chanyeol runs a hand through his hair, and the soft strands part under his fingers. There’s a thin sheen of sweat on his neck.

“That should be good enough,” Chanyeol says, and Baekhyun drags him towards the back door. “We’ve got a conference to get to. Guess we’re going a few hours early.”

“Guess so,” Baekhyun says. Baekhyun looks at his clock. Five in the morning.

Suddenly, Kris is in the doorway. “How quickly can you be ready to go?” Kris asks.

“Give us five more minutes,” Chanyeol says, pulling on jeans as Baekhyun grabs a T-shirt and pulls it over his head.

“I’ll be outside with the car,” Kris says, and Chanyeol ‘hmm’s agreement. “I’ve got Suho on changing our plane tickets.”

When they go out into the living room, the intruder is gone. “Kris took care of it,” Chanyeol says stiffly, and Baekhyun doesn’t really ask questions. He thinks maybe now isn’t the time for it.

The ride to the airport is silent. Baekhyun wants to talk about silly things, to break the mood, but he can’t come up with anything to say.

Someone had broken into his flat. There are no safe places left for him. It scares him all the way down to his bones, and all he wants to do is curl into Chanyeol’s chest. But Chanyeol seems more bodyguard than pretend boyfriend right now, and Baekhyun’s not quite sure if he’s willing to let himself cave like that, either.

Chanyeol sticks to him like glue as soon as they get out of the car. They get their tickets and Baekhyun hands over his passport and winces when the man behind the counter says his name aloud, but Chanyeol is there, hand around Baekhyun’s arm, and Baekhyun smiles and takes his passport back, along with his luggage tag, and lets Kris herd them both in the right direction.

They have to take the escalator down to the tram to get to their gate. Kris goes down first, and then Baekhyun follows, Chanyeol at his heels. Chanyeol’s hands wrap around the straps of Baekhyun’s backpack, and Baekhyun thinks, with vague amusement, that once again, Chanyeol is behind him on the escalator.

Baekhyun tries to sleep during the flight to Beijing, but he’s twitchy, and anxious. Chanyeol keeps looking around the plane, like he thinks there’ll be an SM agent two rows behind him, and Kris also keeps subtly scanning the rows.

Chanyeol grabs his hand. Baekhyun looks down, and notices that his hands were fisted so tight his nails were cutting into his skin, and Chanyeol had taken his hand to stop him, lacing their fingers together.

Baekhyun’s heart is beating so fast, from everything.

“I’m going to survive this, right?”

“Of course,” Chanyeol says, and he looks at Baekhyun, and there’s something in his eyes that makes Baekhyun licks his lips and turn away, heartbeat thundering in his ears. “Of course you are.”

Baekhyun looks at Kris, who is staring at Chanyeol. Kris blinks, twice, and frowns, before looking out the window.

Kris and Chanyeol are both far too on edge during luggage check. “What if there are like twenty of them waiting for us,” Baekhyun says, and Chanyeol sighs.

“Hopefully by leaving 5 hours earlier than our tickets had originally said will buy us time,” Chanyeol replies. “Also, they can’t get us with that many. They’re not an open crime organization. They’re a legitimate company with a dirty side. They don’t want that kind of attention, or the main branch of the government will stop accepting bribes to turn a blind eye.”

“EXO is independent of the normal chain of command,” Kris adds. “EXO. ‘Outside’.”

“Okay,” Baekhyun says.

There aren’t any problems on the way to the hotel where the conference is taking place. Kris picks up a rental car and drives them there, and Baekhyun does check-in as Kris stands in the center of the lobby, checking everyone who comes and goes. There’s no doubt, Baekhyun knows, that some of these people are from SM. The location of the conference is public, and there’s no way there aren’t a bunch of them, waiting for Baekhyun to be alone so they can take him quietly. No fuss, no attention.

“But I’m not going to leave you alone,” Chanyeol whispers into his ear, as the woman behind the desk hands him his card key. “I’m not letting you go anywhere without a fight.” Chanyeol’s chest is pressed against his back, and he feels, Baekhyun thinks, a little like armor. “Can you trust that?”

“Yes,” Baekhyun says, and he doesn’t relax, but the nausea abates, just a little.

They stay in the room.

“Guess we’re not engaging in any tourism on this trip,” Baekhyun says, as he hangs up his suit.

“Not this time,” Chanyeol says, laughing a bit. “That would be a worse idea than leaving me in charge of making pancakes.”

“No one regrets that more than Jongin does,” Baekhyun answers, and this is good. This is Baekhyun making light of things, so that his stomach can slowly uncurl.

“I think he’s starting to like me,” Chanyeol muses, and Baekhyun giggles. It’s only half nervous.

“Me too,” Baekhyun says, and doesn’t think about the fact that it might not matter, since if everything goes according to plan, Chanyeol’s bodyguard job is just about over, and he’ll be gone as quickly and easily as he’d barged in. If everything doesn’t go according to plan, Baekhyun might face an even worse fate.

Kris brings them food; burgers and French fries, and reveals he’s got the room next door. The room on the other side, he says, is taken by a physicist from California and his wife, and Kris has apparently checked them out thoroughly and is satisfied.

They all watch television, Kris sitting at the edge of the bed, occasionally translating the news but mostly all of them lost in their own thoughts, and Baekhyun lets himself lean against Chanyeol. Chanyeol folds his arms around Baekhyun easily, and it’s so natural and comfortable that Baekhyun almost wants to cry that it isn’t… That it probably doesn’t mean to Chanyeol what it means to Baekhyun.

“You should sleep,” Kris says after a while. “You’ve got a big presentation tomorrow.”

“Yeah,” Baekhyun says.

Kris leaves, and he and Chanyeol get ready for bed in silence. They settle down under the covers, and on instinct, Baekhyun curls into Chanyeol, who tucks Baekhyun’s head under his chin. “It’ll all be over tomorrow,” Chanyeol says. “Don’t worry.”

His voice is so soft and tender. Baekhyun loves the sound of it.

If Baekhyun is honest with himself, he just loves Chanyeol. But Baekhyun can’t afford to be honest with himself. Not right now.

He thinks about optical fibers, and quantum equations, and all the things he doesn’t have written down, and forces himself to fall asleep, Chanyeol’s chest moving steadily underneath his splayed palm.

#


They wake up late; at least Baekhyun does. Chanyeol is lying on his side, just looking at Baekhyun, when Baekhyun opens his eyes. “What?”

“You’re so cute,” Chanyeol says. His voice is rough with sleep. Baekhyun thinks it’s too early in the morning to blush. “You’ve got three hours until you need to be in your presentation room.”

“Right,” Baekhyun says. He wonders if Chanyeol can hear how fast his heart is racing. Chanyeol’s fingers are tapping an aimless rhythm against Baekhyun’s hip. “I’m going to go take a shower.”

“I’ll get us something to eat,” Chanyeol says, and he sits up. He’s already dressed, and his hair is wet from the shower. He looks really nice in his dress slacks, Baekhyun thinks. Tall and lean. “Kris will keep watch until I come back.”

“Okay,” Baekhyun replies, and then retreats to the shower, ignoring the weight of Chanyeol’s eyes.

Baekhyun lets the hot water pound his back as he rests his head against the tile. The last day, he thinks. The fear and the danger and all that will hopefully be done with, and Baekhyun can go back to his life, the way it was before.

Without Chanyeol, it will seem awfully quiet.

When he comes back out, a half an hour later, Chanyeol’s returned. He can smell curry as soon as he opens the bathroom door.

“Curry for breakfast?” Baekhyun asks, and he keeps his tone light.

“Of course,” Chanyeol says, and his eyes are dark as he stares at Baekhyun, who’s wearing nothing but a towel around his hips. “Get dressed,” he adds roughly.

Baekhyun carefully puts on his suit; does his tie with an impeccable knot, and carefully applies his make-up. Less than usual, he tells himself, tapping his fingers on the vanity counter.

He can feel Chanyeol watching him. “What’s so interesting?” Baekhyun asks, and his voice is trembling.

“You,” Chanyeol says.

“I thought I was boring,” Baekhyun replies, and Chanyeol laughs.

“I haven’t thought you were boring since I actually met you,” Chanyeol says. “Only an idiot would.”

“Hence my suspicions,” Baekhyun jokes, but his palms are sweaty, and he sets down his eyeliner before he puts out an eye. Chanyeol’s still got that look on his face, that Baekhyun had seen when he came out of the bathroom, and if Baekhyun thinks about it, maybe he’d seen it earlier than that, too. Maybe when they were at the amusement park, or when Chanyeol had looked at him from across the bar all those months ago, while he and Sehun and Kris had collected drinks.

Chanyeol takes a spoon of curry and holds it up. “Taste?”

Baekhyun opens his mouth, and Chanyeol feeds him curry, and Baekhyun eats it, licking his lips after every bite. Chanyeol’s eyes follow his tongue, and Baekhyun is… Baekhyun wonders if Chanyeol might just…

He tries to push the thought away, but it lingers, and Chanyeol’s cheeks are flushed pink, and Baekhyun can’t think of any other reason. There’s no one here to see them, and Chanyeol is feeding him curry anyway. Because he wants to.

“It’s not as good as yours,” Baekhyun says, and Chanyeol grins, staring down at the tablecloth.

“You’re right,” Chanyeol says, and takes a bite for himself. “I got it from downstairs. From room service. I think they were surprised I didn’t call it in.”

They finish, and there’s a knock on the door.

“Room service,” the voice says. “Here to pick up your dishes.”

“Perfect timing,” Chanyeol says, packing up the dishes and putting them on the stainless steel tray. He picks it up, and Baekhyun goes to unlatch the door.

“Wait a minute,” Chanyeol says, his voice suddenly sounding panicked, but it’s too late. The door is pushed open, and two men with guns rush into the room. Chanyeol drops the tray and pulls Baekhyun behind him.

He kicks the gun out of one of the guy’s hands, and Baekhyun tries to stay back. Chanyeol is not a cool looking fighter, Baekhyun thinks, but he’s an efficient one. Chanyeol takes on the one guy as the other approaches Baekhyun, knocking him out and then grabbing the other guy from behind.

Suddenly, the guy just drops, falling out of Chanyeol’s grip, and Kris stands there, holding a few tiny tranquilizer darts similar to the one Chanyeol had taken from the assailant at Isu station.

“I’m so stupid,” Chanyeol says. “I didn’t think-“ He looks at the felled man in the doorway and puts both hands in his hair. “I didn’t even think that the room service pick up might-“

“You protected me, though,” Baekhyun says.

“He still made a huge mistake,” Kris says. Baekhyun doesn’t think he’s ever seen Kris angry before. “I told you that you were getting too distracted to do your job-“

“Shut up,” Chanyeol says, sounding, Baekhyun thinks, strangely small. “I’m taking Baekhyun up to the conference.”

“I’ll clean up,” Kris says. “Do you think you can keep him safe that long, Romeo?”

Chanyeol goes a dark red, and Baekhyun’s heart leaps with a tinge of hope.

“Kris-“

“Just go.” Chanyeol grabs Baekhyun’s arm, and Baekhyun follows him, checking his pocket for his USB with his presentation. It’s there. This is it.

Chanyeol guides him to the elevator, looking left and right as they wait for it to arrive.

It comes quickly. Baekhyun supposes it’s a product of having so many elevators in the building; no one has to wait very long.

Chanyeol pulls him inside, and then lets go of him, retreating to the other side of the elevator.

“Chanyeol?” Baekhyun asks. “What was Kris-“

“It’s nothing,” Chanyeol says. “Kris is just a worrier.”

But Chanyeol isn’t himself. He’s got his eyes darting around the elevator, and he’s chewing on his lower lip, and Baekhyun thinks…

Or Baekhyun hopes, maybe, that he’s not reading things the wrong way. And maybe it’s adrenaline, and almost getting kidnapped, again, and a combination of fear and nervousness and how much he wants what is between him and Chanyeol to be a little more real that makes Baekhyun feel like taking a risk.

Baekhyun stops the elevator. The emergency stop lever feels powerful beneath his fingers. “There’s something we need to clear up, I think,” Baekhyun says, and Chanyeol looks at him with wide eyes, hands wringing together.

“Baekhyun, we’re in a hurry,” Chanyeol says, but Baekhyun can tell he’s just nervous. It’s a relief, Baekhyun thinks, that Chanyeol is nervous, because Chanyeol always seems like he doesn’t have a care in the world, while Baekhyun is falling apart, and it’s nice, Baekhyun thinks, to turn the tables. “What do you-“

Baekhyun pushes Chanyeol into the metal wall of the elevator; slams him really, and Chanyeol looks confused and slightly bewildered and off-balance, and absolutely fucking adorable, and Baekhyun kisses him.

Chanyeol’s mouth is soft and wet, and his mouth tastes like curry rice and coke, which is totally gross, but Baekhyun doesn’t even care because his blood is singing in his veins. At first Chanyeol is still, but then his big hands are moving, one hand coming up behind Baekhyun’s back to pull him closer, and the other hand resting on Baekhyun’s cheek, thumb tracing the shell of Baekhyun’s ear as he tilts his head for access. Chanyeol groans as Baekhyun’s tongue licks across his lower lip, and Baekhyun is dizzy with the taste of Chanyeol on his lips.

Chanyeol’s lips part, and Baekhyun slips his tongue between them, exploring cheeks and teeth and the soft roof of Chanyeol’s mouth, swallowing the soft whimpering sounds Chanyeol makes as Baekhyun presses even nearer.

“Baekhyun,” Chanyeol says, as Baekhyun pulls back just far enough to take a breath of air, and his name, in Chanyeol’s voice, made husky with kisses and desire, is enough to render him weak, unable to stop himself from closing the distance between their mouths again and tangling their tongues together.

“I just want-“ Baekhyun says, and then he’s licking back into Chanyeol’s mouth. Chanyeol’s so warm beneath him, like a furnace, and his hands are messing up Baekhyun’s hair and Baekhyun’s lips are going to look swollen and it doesn’t matter. Nothing matters but the melting sighs Chanyeol makes as Baekhyun presses deeper, sucking and tasting and wishing he could stay in this moment just a little longer.

“No,” Chanyeol says, and at first Baekhyun thinks he’s imagining it, but then Chanyeol is pushing him back. Baekhyun licks his lips as Chanyeol’s own spit-slick ones tempt him, and Baekhyun sees the panic lurking at the edges of Chanyeol’s eyes. “Baekhyun, no.”

“You kissed me back,” Baekhyun says. “I don’t understand.”

“That was a mistake,” Chanyeol says, hands coming up to his neck as he straightens his tie. “I shouldn’t have done that.”

“But you did,” Baekhyun insists. “And you said, before, that you weren’t-“

“This is my job,” Chanyeol says. “It’s not. I’m not.”

“Of course,” Baekhyun says, and he’s suddenly numb. His mouth still tastes like Chanyeol.

He feels so stupid.

“Baekhyun, I-“

“You don’t have to explain,” Baekhyun says, and his voice cracks. But he fists his hands and he doesn’t cry. “I’m sorry.”

“No,” Chanyeol says. “You don’t understand. I…”

“I understand enough,” Baekhyun says, and he can’t meet Chanyeol’s gaze. Instead, he lifts the emergency stop lever, and the elevator lurches back into motion.

Baekhyun’s stomach sinks as it does, but that probably doesn’t have anything to do with the upward motion.

The elevator dings. They walk out into the hall, Chanyeol stiff in front of him. It’s easy to see where Baekhyun’s presentation is taking place; there’s a small crowd milling outside the door.

“Well, Dr. Byun,” Chanyeol says, with a forced cheer in his voice that makes Baekhyun want to throw up, “I’ve delivered you safely to the final act.”

“You did,” Baekhyun replies, and he straightens his hair and wipes the corners of his lips. It’s time to think about what he has to do, and not about Chanyeol. Chanyeol reaches toward him, and Baekhyun forces himself not to jump away from the touch.

Chanyeol straightens Baekhyun’s tie. Baekhyun wills himself to breathe.

He doesn’t have notes. He fishes his USB drive out of his pocket and hands it to the tech at the computer. As he readies himself to present, he can see people settling into their seats, whispering to each other as Baekhyun takes a sip of the water left for him by the organizers. The seal had been unbroken. He’d checked, just like Chanyeol had taught him.

It hurts so much.

“Good afternoon,” Baekhyun says, and the interpreter repeats after him in English. “Let’s talk about the future of cryptography.”

There’s loud applause. The room is full.

He finds Chanyeol in the audience, looking at him with wide, glassy eyes, and Baekhyun feels like it might as well be an ocean between them.

Baekhyun’s about to resolve everything, here, about his case. About his research.

But Baekhyun’s ruined everything, between him and Chanyeol, if there was ever even anything between them at all.

Baekhyun’s lips still tingle.

#


“We got one,” Kris says excitedly, after the presentation. “Pretty high-level.” He looks at Baekhyun. “You’ve really helped us. Thank you for being-”

“You helped me,” Baekhyun says. “I should be thanking you.” He coughs. “I am thanking you.”

Chanyeol is staring at his shoes. Baekhyun’s arm feels cold. “Get some rest,” Kris says. “Lock your door. Chanyeol and I are going to do a final sweep, and then we’re going to interrogate the guy in my room. Suho will be here in three hours, so…”

“Right,” Baekhyun says. Chanyeol escorts him upstairs.

“Baekhyun-“

“Kris was right,” Baekhyun says. “You’re the best.” Baekhyun takes a deep breath. “Thank you.”

“You’re… you’re welcome,” Chanyeol says, and Baekhyun locks the door.

#


“You’ll be safe now,” Chanyeol says, hours later, and he grabs a pillow and blanket off the bed. “They can’t get anything from you, now, and you’re too high-profile after that presentation to even go after you. SM doesn’t want to expose themselves to that kind of scrutiny.” Chanyeol clears his throat. “But I’ll stay in here tonight, just in case.”

“Okay,” Baekhyun says, and he still doesn’t cry, even when Chanyeol sleeps on the floor for the first time in a long time, and the bed stays cold all night.

#


Chanyeol sits next to Baekhyun on the plane, on the way home, and Kris is on his other side. Chanyeol doesn’t grab Baekhyun’s hand and forcefully lace their fingers together, or lean too close and whisper nonsense about the history of airplanes or which sports teams the different people on their plane support based on their jackets or socks or whatever. He doesn’t ask what Baekhyun is thinking, either, with that wide-eyed puppy look that turns Baekhyun’s insides to jelly.

Baekhyun guesses the job is over.

Chanyeol doesn’t have to pretend anymore, to be Baekhyun’s boyfriend. Maybe Chanyeol, in real life, doesn’t like to touch people that much. Maybe he doesn’t like to touch Baekhyun that much.

Or maybe he’s scared, because Baekhyun is unpredictable and kisses people in elevators unexpectedly at all the wrong moments.

Baekhyun gets up to go to the restroom, and when he comes back, Kris and Chanyeol are talking.

“I was worried,” Kris says, “that you were going to break protocol.”

“Not me,” Chanyeol says, and he offers a weak laugh. “I know the rules. I know them so well it hurts.”

“Good,” Kris says. “We’ve got debriefing as soon as we escort Baekhyun home.”

“Yeah,” Chanyeol says, and Baekhyun whispers a quiet ‘excuse me’, nudging Chanyeol’s endlessly long leg with his shoe, and Chanyeol jumps like he’s been burned.

“Only a few hours until you’re rid of me, right?” Baekhyun says, jokingly, and Chanyeol flinches and Kris smiles.

“You were one of our better assignments, Doctor,” Kris says. “It was a pleasure to ensure your safety. Right, Chanyeol?”

“Of course,” Chanyeol says, and Baekhyun knows Chanyeol well enough by now to know what Chanyeol sounds like when he’s miserable.

It’s exactly like that.

Baekhyun’s miserable, too, though, so he closes his eyes, and hopes the flight is over soon.

#


“I guess we’re done with this charade, then,” Baekhyun says. He doesn’t meet Chanyeol’s eyes. He hasn’t been able to since the conference. He keeps remembering the way Chanyeol had pushed him away in the elevator, with swollen lips and soft, confused eyes.

“I guess so,” Chanyeol replies, shoving his hands in his pockets. Baekhyun still hates his bright pink shoes, but they’re safer to look at. “Sorry for turning your life upside-down, Dr. Byun Baekhyun.”

“It wasn’t all bad,” Baekhyun admits, and he looks up. Kris is staring at him sympathetically, and Baekhyun hates that. His gaze shifts to Chanyeol, who’s staring at him with lips pursed and brows furrowed. Baekhyun wants to reach up and smooth Chanyeol’s forehead; rub his thumbs along the lines there until Chanyeol relaxes.

But Chanyeol was only a pretend boyfriend. A bodyguard. A friend, maybe, that Baekhyun has scared away.

Kris sets his hand on Chanyeol’s shoulder. “Well, partner,” he says. “It’s time to go report in. I do think we might even be praised.”

“Right,” Chanyeol says, and he looks like he wants to say something to Baekhyun, but whatever it is dies on his lips. He’s carrying one of his bags, and Kris has got the other.

Baekhyun forces himself to smile, and wave, as they get in the car and drive away, but once they’re gone, the smile falls from his face.

He hides in his room for the rest of the night, head under his pillow and covers pulled over him to block out the world, and he doesn’t let himself cry.

#


“Sehun and I are worried about you,” Jongin says.

“Wow, I must really look terrible,” Baekhyun says dryly. “You sound like a concerned friend. Do you feel those emotions?”

“Baekhyun, it’s been a month. Don’t you think that’s a long time to mope over an ex?”

“No,” Baekhyun says. “If that’s why you’ve made me dinner, you’ve wasted your time. I don’t need a psychiatrist.”

“You’re lucky I didn’t bring Kyungsoo in for this,” Jongin says. “He would have used much lower blows than instant curry.”

Curry makes him think of Chanyeol, and the way Chanyeol had laughed as he’d spilled it all over Baekhyun’s countertop the first time he’d made it. Baekhyun had pretended to be exasperated, but really, he just thought it was funny.

“I don’t think there are any lower blows,” Baekhyun says, and he sets his spoon down in the bowl. “I’m fine. I have my work, and my friends-“

“Baekhyun, you don’t even put on eyeliner anymore. Not even when you go to the mall. You know you hate going to the mall without make-up because ‘everyone is just waiting to judge you’-“

“You can’t even try to have a serious conversation with me without being a little punk, can you?” Baekhyun asks, and Jongin squirms in his chair. “Maybe you should have left this to Kyungsoo.”

“You’re my roommate,” Jongin says. “And I don’t know what happened with Chanyeol, but… As much as he was loud and annoying and had those terrible ears, he was sort of growing on me. And he adored you so much that-“

“Clearly, he didn’t,” Baekhyun says, and his voice cracks, and the tears sting at his eyes, so he blinks, quickly, to force them back. “Adore me, I mean.”

Jongin snorts. “Whatever is going on, there’s not any doubt that he’s absolutely head over heels for you. You can fake a lot of things, but you can’t fake absolute devotion that level of disgusting.”

“Shut up,” Baekhyun says. “You’re not making it better.”

“Neither are you!” Baekhyun looks up from his curry, and Jongin is staring at him with sad eyes, and even though he’s still miserable, it does reassure him to know Jongin cares. Jongin’s so awkward that Baekhyun knows this must have taken him a lot of effort, to bring it up.

“At the end of the day,” Baekhyun says, scooping up another bite of curry and holding it in front of his mouth, “all that matters is that Chanyeol left.” The rice, when he takes the bite, is hot on his tongue, and the curry isn’t spicy enough. He swallows, and it’s heavy in his stomach and ash in his mouth. “And I…”

“Baekhyun,” Jongin says, softly, and his hand comes to rest on Baekhyun’s shoulder.

“I’m fine,” Baekhyun says, and he pushes his hand back through his hair. “I’m a famous scientist now, you know. I’ve finally got enough funding for my research.”

Jongin crosses his arms and snorts. “Like that’s enough for you, now.”

“It has to be,” Baekhyun says, and he wonders if it’s too hot to take a walk. Even early summer is sweltering in Seoul, and Baekhyun doesn’t particularly love to sweat.

Baekhyun only particularly loves refractory angles, liquid eyeliner, and Park Chanyeol. It’s not so easy to move on from that, no matter how many sappy dramas he watches on SBS.

“Where are you going?” Jongin asks, as Baekhyun stands, abandoning attempts to finish his curry.

“Out,” Baekhyun says. “Where I can mope in peace.”

“Aw, I wasn’t trying to scare you away, Baekhyun, I just…”

There’s a knock at the door. Three knocks, a pause, and then another three.

Like a password, Baekhyun thinks, and suddenly, he can’t seem to catch his breath. “Chanyeol?”

Jongin blinks, and then his eyes widen. “Well,” Jongin says. “I’ll be in my room with my headphones on, if that’s who you think it is.”

And then Baekhyun is alone in the kitchen. He walks out to the living room, feet crossing the wooden floor as slowly as he can manage, and there are three knocks, again. Baekhyun remembers how everything had started with a knock just like this.

Baekhyun’s fingers tremble as he undoes the latch. He opens the door.

Chanyeol is standing there. He’s wearing a terrible floral patterned T-shirt, and those too-tight jeans, and his stupid pink and sparkly converse, and Baekhyun must be in love because he thinks he looks amazing.

“So,” Chanyeol says. “Debriefing is done. The case is officially closed.”

“Is that why you’re here?” Baekhyun asks. His throat is tight, and he rubs his hands nervously on his thighs. Mosquitoes might fly into his living room.

“I got a promotion, too,” Chanyeol continues. “A desk job.”

“Congratulations,” Baekhyun says. He’s a bit confused about where the conversation is going, but he feels a faint stirring of hope.

“I can’t… Do undercover work anymore,” Chanyeol says. “Also, I really broke protocol with my last job. I didn’t get in trouble for it, but I really, really did.”

“Oh yeah?” Baekhyun asks, and Chanyeol steps closer, inside the door, and shuts it behind him.

“I fell in love with my assignment, you see,” Chanyeol says. “And that’s definitely frowned upon. I thought it might be time to get out of the game.”

“I…see,” Baekhyun says, and he feels like his heart is about to explode in his chest. Chanyeol is looking at him with those puppy-dog eyes, and there’s no pretense or art to how afraid he looks; the vulnerability in his eyes is tangible and real and beautiful, and it makes Baekhyun raise his hand and fist it in Chanyeol’s ugly shirt. “Fell in love, huh?”

“Yeah,” Chanyeol says. “And I’m not pretending, or acting-“

Baekhyun doesn’t let him finish the thought. Instead he gets up on his tippy toes, his bare feet not slipping on his wooden floor, and claims Chanyeol’s mouth.

Chanyeol sighs, and shudders with relief, his hands coming down to Baekhyun’s waist, and Baekhyun hadn’t thought he could miss something as much as he missed the warmth of those big, steady hands. But he did, and having Chanyeol here again, for no reason other than that he wants to be, makes Baekhyun feel like nothing else will ever be this right.

Chanyeol kisses him back, desperately, tongue sliding along Baekhyun’s lips and demanding entrance, and Baekhyun parts immediately for him, letting Chanyeol’s tongue wrap around his own. Then Baekhyun’s pushing back, taking just as much, as he swallows Chanyeol’s husky groans, and Chanyeol pulls him even closer. Baekhyun can feel the frantic beating of Chanyeol’s heart beneath his clenched fist, but he can hear his own, and it’s enough to make him weak in the knees.

Chanyeol doesn’t seem to be faring much better, his fingers digging too hard into Baekhyun’s waist, and Baekhyun’s never imagined kissing someone could be like this.

“I love you too, stupid,” Baekhyun says, against Chanyeol’s lips, and Chanyeol laughs, and Baekhyun just knows one of his eyes is twitching, and the worst part is, it just makes him want to kiss Chanyeol again. “Even if you made me suffer.”

“Well, I’m just the brawn, remember?” Chanyeol replies, leaning forward and resting his head against Baekhyun’s for a moment, before he pecks his lips twice, two times. “You’re the brains. The world-famous Dr. Byun.”

Baekhyun closes his eyes, and Chanyeol drops kisses on his eyelids, gentle and wonderful and better than a perfectly balanced equation, and better than the applause of all those people when Baekhyun unveiled his discovery.

Baekhyun’s been waiting his whole life to feel just like this.

“I take it back,” says Jongin from behind them. “I preferred the misery.”

“Hey, Jongin,” Chanyeol says. “Long time no see.”

“This is possibly the grossest thing that has ever happened to me. Even the hand-holding in public was better than this.”

Chanyeol lets his hands drop from Baekhyun’s waist, but he snags Baekhyun’s left wrist and holds on, like Baekhyun’s going to disappear. Baekhyun turns to look at Jongin, and smiles. His lips are still tingling.

“Jongin,” Baekhyun says. “Shut up.”

“Then get a room!” Jongin says, and he’s trying to scowl but a smile of his own is pulling up on the corner of his lips. Baekhyun thinks Jongin might be a secret romantic.

“Sure,” Chanyeol says, and he steps a little further into the living room. “Oh look, it’s the living room.” He presses a big, sloppy kiss to Baekhyun’s cheek, and Baekhyun has to fight back the giddy giggle that keeps trying to escape.

Jongin throws up his hands in mock disgust, and retreats back to his room, slamming the door for good measure.

That laugh finally finds its way free, and Chanyeol is laughing too, pulling Baekhyun back into his chest and wrapping his arms around him in a hug. Baekhyun’s head fits perfectly beneath Chanyeol’s chin, and yes, this is like coming home.

“Chanyeol,” Baekhyun says, and Chanyeol presses his nose into Baekhyun’s unstyled hair. Baekhyun turns a little, and his lips brush against Chanyeol’s neck, and Chanyeol shivers deliciously.

“Yeah?” he asks, and Baekhyun swallows at the way Chanyeol’s voice is different again. He loves Chanyeol’s voice. He loves Chanyeol’s everything.

“What have I said about wearing your shoes in my house?”

Chanyeol chuckles into Baekhyun’s hair, and rubs his hands in slow circles across Baekhyun’s back. “I’m sorry, love,” he says, and Baekhyun is filled with light.

“I suppose I’ll forgive you, again,” Baekhyun says, as he leans back to meet Chanyeol’s eyes. “But this is the last time I remind you. No more forgetting.”

“No more forgetting?” Chanyeol says. “That’s harsh.”

“As long as you stick around, you’ve got to obey the rules,” Baekhyun replies, and he brings his hands up to cup Chanyeol’s soft cheeks. Chanyeol’s smile stretches wide across his face. “I’ve got my own protocols for real boyfriends.”

“Forever is an awful long time to obey protocol,” Chanyeol says. “I don’t seem to do so well with protocols, lately.” And maybe, Baekhyun thinks, as Chanyeol kisses him again, Baekhyun will let him get away with a few mistakes every once in a while, if that’s the sort of time frame they’re working with.

“Can I meet your sister?” Baekhyun asks, and Chanyeol’s arms tighten around him.

“Sure,” Chanyeol says. “How about this weekend?”

“Sounds good to me,” Baekhyun says, and he thinks Chanyeol’s eyes are a little glassy, but that might be a trick of the light.



Date: 2012-09-04 06:08 pm (UTC)

Date: 2012-09-04 09:30 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] bblingasaurus.livejournal.com
I CANNOT.
YOU'RE PERFECT.
THIS IS PERFECT.
I'm in love with this. I think I'll read it again later.
Just... the whole plot of bodyguard/guardee is so overdone but you've made your story so unique and it stands out so much. Your character development and especially the development of baekyeol's relationship was SO WELL DONE I CAN'T
The banter. oh my god. it was gold.
Jongin is precious.
and I LOVE that you didn't make Baekhyun one of those cries all the time is desperately in love type characters. He has strength and he's smart I could sympathize with him and he was just SUCH A GOOD CHARACTER AUGH.
Yeah. This is one of my faves ever.
Thank you.

Date: 2012-09-17 08:43 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] maayacola.livejournal.com
;___________; <3 <3

this fic is really light-hearted and fun, for me, so i hope it made you feel happy to read!

thank you~

--maia

Date: 2012-09-05 12:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] goopeculiar.livejournal.com
I'm sobbing disgustingly right now, this is made of perfection just like everything else you write.

Date: 2012-09-17 08:45 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] maayacola.livejournal.com
;_____________; i'm glad you enjoy my fluff <3

thank you for reading and commenting!

Date: 2012-09-05 11:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] han-corrupted.livejournal.com
I commented on this over at [livejournal.com profile] runandgun, but when I saw you'd posted it here too (so people can properly tell you how awesome you are), I just couldn't help myself. I read it again. For the fourth time. It's still as genius as the first time I read it. I still giggle over Chanyeol's pink Converse, and Kris' however-(un)indended teasing of Baekhyun when he was leaving Chanyeol with him for the first time. And awkward, but hyper and adorable Tao. And Chanyeol's revelations of his family and past, and his confession (oh be still my heart!). And just everything. It's still as wonderful as the first time around, if not better. Never, ever, ever stop writing, okay?

You = love. This fic = love. Just drawing sparkly hearts all over it, all the time. LOVE!

Date: 2012-09-17 08:47 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] maayacola.livejournal.com
:D :D :D :D :D

I'm really happy you liked it!!

Something about EXO brings out the fluff in me and I can't make it stop!!!!!

<3

Thank you for reading! (more than once, tee hee)

--Maia

Date: 2012-09-11 12:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] starsthatlast.livejournal.com
I commented over at runandgun but then i realised you posted this on your journal too! I JUST WANT TO TELL YOU THAT I LOVE YOU FOR WRITING THIS ALL THESE FEELS YOU INDUCE IN ME ASJDHCKJSAGHCKCJSAGD I LOVE THEIR DYNAMICS, BAEKYEOL, CAMEO LAY, AND JUST EVERYTHING.

I LOVE YOU SO SO MUCH JKASHCJKASGHCJSGCJHJCHDSG PLEASE WRITE MORE THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!!!

sequel maybe? :D or an epilogue?

Date: 2012-09-17 08:50 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] maayacola.livejournal.com
:D :D :D

Thank you so much for reading it!!!

And ahhhhh, i should go check over at runandgun again to make sue i'm not missing anything ;____; <3

Thank you so much for reading!!

--Maia

p.s: I think you'll have to imagine the rest on your own ;)

Date: 2012-09-17 06:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lonerleo.livejournal.com
This is a really great story, thanks for sharing :D

Date: 2012-09-25 06:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] maayacola.livejournal.com
thanks for reading!

Date: 2012-09-21 10:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] hngabriella.livejournal.com
OMG, THIS IS JUST TOO MUCH FOR MY BAEKYEOL FEELS RIGGHT NOW.....I CANT I CANOTTTT BEGIN TO EXPRESS MY LOVE FOR YOU.
im just so glad you wrote baekyeol again, i really missed them since you havent wrote them in this much detail since 'make a day feel like a minute' (which was just a fucking amazing as this fic is). i havent come across a legit good baekyeol fic in awhile, but youve done it yet again. this was just perfect!! the plot, characterization, kaibaek brotp, and everything was just so wonderfully put together. thankyou for this fic!

Date: 2012-09-25 06:18 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] maayacola.livejournal.com
I'm really happy you liked it!! <3 <3

baekyeol is such a warm place for me; thank you for reading!! <3 <3

--maia

Date: 2012-11-09 12:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dalankar.livejournal.com
This is so sweet :D
This has to be one of my favourites!

Date: 2012-11-20 09:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] be-burnt.livejournal.com
ohh, gosh, this fic needs more love <3 I read the first part in school
and I was so pissed of that I had to go to the classes and I couldn't finish it :D
I loved Baekyeol before, but I'm certain I love them even more now ^.^
I really like the plot and it's really well written n__n

Date: 2012-12-05 07:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] xiyu.livejournal.com
OH MY GOD I LOVE YOU AND ALL THE BAEKYEOL I mean omg you are really one of my favourite writers, this whole thing was a joy to read and all your baekyeol fics never fail to make me smile like an idiot from the start to the end and okay I will stop here before it becomes an endless rant about how awesome this is ;A; I CANNOT believe I haven't read this until now tbh OTL

Date: 2012-12-05 07:26 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] impishness.livejournal.com
I have so many feelings right now that the only coherent comment I'm able to write down is that you are the best you really are. and so are your bakeyeol.

Date: 2012-12-06 03:20 am (UTC)
ext_950092: (Default)
From: [identity profile] bubblyisme.livejournal.com
PERFECT.

This fic contains everything. It made me laugh, made my heart skip some beat and it brought me to legit tears. The way your words describe things is just so real that I keep wanting more of them.

If I were to grade this, definitely A+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ :)

Reading this is definitely worth my time :) Thank you <3

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