[personal profile] maayacolabackup
Title: Masquerades
Pairing: Baekhyun/Chanyeol
Rating: PG-13
Summary: Dr. Byun Baekhyun’s life turns upside down when he meets Agent Park Chanyeol, and his partner, Agent Kris Wu, and gets plunged into an unexpectedly dangerous adventure. [AU, 25k]
Notes:Written for [livejournal.com profile] seulpeo over at runandgun! This was a lot of fun! So OBVIOUSLY no secret agency runs remotely like this, but I hope it's an enjoyable flight of fantasy! Most of all, I wanted this to be a ton of fun to read! Thank you to [livejournal.com profile] threewalls for pre-reading this and keeping me from throwing it in the trash, and [livejournal.com profile] notaverse for a native-speaker check before repost! <3







#



Baekhyun’s feet are cold, and he wriggles his toes as he slowly comes awake. There’s a steady stream of light coming in through the curtains by his bed, tickling his closed eyelids, and Baekhyun sleepily rubs his hand over his face. The cottony taste of sleep is lying heavy on his tongue, and there’s a chill in the air that sneaks under his comforter and makes goosebumps rise on his arms.

His alarm hasn’t gone off yet, so Baekhyun curls onto his side, relishing his king-sized bed and how luxurious it feels to wallow under his three quilts and know he doesn’t have to move for at least a little while.

Later, he’ll have to venture out into the cool December weather, hoping the sidewalks aren’t icy and slick as he commutes to his lab. He’ll then spend hours studying refractory properties and tweaking the exact same equation until he achieves the most minute differences in his readings, while simultaneously trying to keep his assistant, Tao, a first year grad student from China, from working himself to death.

But for right now, at least, there’s only the soft cotton of his sheets and the dull noise of people beginning their days from outside as he enjoys the cool side of his favorite pillow and a trickle of sunshine along his face.

And then, unfortunately, there’s a knock on Baekhyun’s front door. Three knocks, a pause, and then another three. Like a password from a movie, or something, Baekhyun thinks, and rolls his eyes.

“Jongin!” Baekhyun yells, as loud as he can, but there’s no answer, which means it’s past seven and his roommate Jongin’s already left to go to the dance studio. Baekhyun sighs, and sits up in bed.

“Coming!” he says, fluffing his hair absentmindedly as he slips his feet into his house-slippers and grabs a heavy robe from where it hangs on the door of his closet.

He shrugs it onto his shoulders, and licks his lips as he walks through the living room toward the front door. He almost trips over Jongin’s towel on the trek—Baekhyun guesses he’d been running late this morning, as usual, on his way to practice, and had dressed en route to the door.

It’s an image Baekhyun treasures; Jongin always looks so stupid with one leg into his drop-crotch sweatpants that he swears make him look cool, and a tank that’s more openings than fabric in his fist as he tries to walk and dress at the same time.

When Baekhyun reaches the door, he hastily finger-combs his hair and wipes at the corners of his mouth, and then unlatches his door.

Baekhyun has considered a number of things that might be on the other side of the door: children asking for donations, his landlord, a neighbor in need of a handful of rice, the internet technician that isn’t supposed to be here until Jongin gets back at three… What he finds, though, is none of these things, at all.

What he finds is a bullet whizzing past his ear and embedding in the wall of his living room, as a lanky figure shoves him down to the ground. Baekhyun yelps as he’s covered by a warm body, the scent of chocolate strong in his nose.

“What-“

“Shhh,” says a low, smooth voice, and Baekhyun freezes. “Let us keep you safe.”

“Safe from what?” Baekhyun asks, but his words are muffled by the man’s shoulder, his lips pressing against some kind of fur.

“Clear!” says another voice, and Baekhyun is suddenly cold again, his flannel pajamas and robe not quite as cozy at the heat of another human being. Now the shadow is above him, and Baekhyun looks up to meet warm, dark eyes.

“Hi there,” the man says, light brown hair falling around his face as he looks down at Baekhyun. “Are you okay?”

“I don’t know,” Baekhyun replies, and he realizes his hands are gripping the man’s arms tight enough to bruise. The man doesn’t complain though; he just gives Baekhyun a once-over like he’s checking for something amiss. He grins when he doesn’t find any visible damage. “What just-?”

“Chanyeol, get up,” the other man says, and Baekhyun is suddenly looking at his ceiling instead of a face, and there are two men standing in his doorway. “You must be Dr. Byun Baekhyun.”

“Um,” Baekhyun says, and he sits up, rubbing his hands over his eyes. He’s not sure if this is a dream or not. But when he opens his eyes again, the two men, one smiley and the other stern, are still standing there, and Baekhyun is still sitting on his butt in the hallway trying to figure out what happened.

Both men are tall. One looks a bit like he just stepped off a magazine cover, wearing a tailored peacoat in a soft grey, and the other is dressed a bit like an off-hours high-school student, in an oversized fur hooded puff coat and impossibly tight jeans. He’s wearing hot pink converse with rhinestones, Baekhyun notices, and something inside him shrivels and dies at the sight, despite the myriad of other things he has to worry about.

“Are you hurt?” the smiley one says, and he’s the one who’d pushed Baekhyun down. The one with the voice, who smells like chocolate. “I didn’t hurt you, did I? I wasn’t sure if there’d be more shooting and-“

“I’m fine,” Baekhyun says. “But what’s going on? Who are you?” Baekhyun looks them up and down. Panic is lodging itself in his chest, now that the shock is wearing off, and he feels like he’s about to throw up. “Why are you wearing shoes in my flat?”

“Our apologies,” the runway-model-wannabe says, and Baekhyun fists his hands into the material of his robe as both men slip out of their shoes. The one in converse stumbles, a bit, as he steps up onto the floor again, and catches himself on the wall. “We didn’t really have time for introductions.”

“I’m…” Baekhyun exhales, slow and shaky, and thinks that this isn’t quite how he’d planned on spending his morning. His hands are trembling, he notices, so he clenches them a bit tighter into his robe. “Who are you?”

“I’m Agent Kris Wu,” the stern one says, pulling out a badge. “And this is my partner, Agent Park Chanyeol.”

“Just Chanyeol is fine, though,” the one in the fluffy coat, Agent Park, says, and he’s smiling even wider. His teeth are large, and perfectly straight, kind of like he’s starring in a toothpaste commercial. His eyelashes flutter. “You’re so cute.

Baekhyun’s not sure how to react to that.

“We’re with EXO,” Kris continues, a note of warning in his tone, presumably for the man next to him and not for Baekhyun. “We’ve had our eye on you, for a while now.”

Baekhyun’s heard of EXO, vaguely. He guesses ‘vaguely’ is the only way most people have heard about EXO. All Baekhyun knows is that it’s a branch of the government that deals with rather unusual cases, but Baekhyun’s not sure what kinds of cases those might be.

“And we’re here,” Agent Wu says, “because you were about to be kidnapped.”

“Kidnapped,” Baekhyun echoes, and he reaches inside his robe and pinches his arm. It hurts, and so Baekhyun figures he might as well accept that this is really happening, even if he still sort of feels like everything is happening to someone else right now. “Why would someone want to kidnap me?”

“Something about your research?” Agent Park says. He holds his hand out, and Baekhyun uncurls the stuff fingers of his right hand from his robe, and takes it. Agent Park pulls him easily to his feet, and Baekhyun notices the calluses on his palm. “We were just given orders to keep you alive and un-kidnapped.”

“Un-kidnapped is not a word,” Baekhyun says distractedly, walking over to his favorite chair and sinking down into it. “You’d better sit down and explain this to me.” He sticks out his lower lip, and Agent Park, who’s walked over to stand in front of Baekhyun, seems so cheerful in contrast. “Because I halfway feel like I should call the cops on you.”

He hears his front door close, and he turns his head to see Agent Wu carefully locking it. Baekhyun considers, for a moment, that these people could just be really insane serial killers, but something in his gut tells him they’re on the up-and-up, and Baekhyun usually trusts his gut.

Not that he’s ever been in a situation like this, before. Baekhyun lives a quiet life; the kind of life where people don’t fire guns at him when he opens his front door.

“We were assigned your case about a month ago,” Agent Wu says. “Yesterday, we noticed someone else had begun running surveillance on you, as well.”

Baekhyun thinks about what he did yesterday. He’d gone to his lab and worked all morning, and then he’d dropped by the bank to transfer his rent money to his landlord’s account. Then he’d just come home and taken a shower; he’d sung Girl’s Generation songs at the top of his lungs, so he rather hopes their surveillance isn’t that good.

“What does surveillance mean, exactly?”

“It means I know how much you like ‘Genie’,” Agent Park says, and Baekhyun narrows his eyes at him. “But only because I can hear it, even through the closed door of your bathroom. You’ve got a pretty voice.”

Baekhyun does a slow burn, and he pointedly turns toward Agent Wu.

“We have reason to believe,” Agent Wu says, taking a seat on the sofa, “that you’re in a lot of danger, sir.” Baekhyun notices that Agent Wu’s Korean is kind of off, but he’s completely understandable. Baekhyun wonders where he’s from.

Agent Park scrunches his nose, stealing Baekhyun’s attention. “I think we’re beyond that, really. The head guys at EXO are really concerned that you’re going to get snatched. They really want to keep you alive.” His fingers tap haphazard patterns across his thighs, and Baekhyun wonders if he eats a lot of sugar. Baekhyun’s silly too, sometimes, but it’s too early in the morning for this much energy.

Baekhyun recalls the strong scent of chocolate.

“And un-kidnapped,” Baekhyun says, only a tad sarcastic, and Agent Park nods like Baekhyun’s tone had been straightforward.

“Right,” he says, and Agent Wu clears his throat.

“Dr. Byun, we’ve been informed that someone’s trying to get to your work.”

“What use is my work beyond the theoretical?” Baekhyun asks. “I mean, I think it’s fascinating stuff, obviously, but we can barely get research funding from the university-“

“Well, clearly other people think it’s fascinating, as well,” Agent Wu says darkly, exchanging a look with Agent Park, whose smile slips just a little, before he reinforces it and looks back at Baekhyun.

“Who are those other people?” Baekhyun’s voice cracks, and he gulps. “Like, all they have to do is talk to the committee and-“

“Legal channels aren’t common with this bunch,” Agent Wu says, and he looks down at his obviously designer wristwatch and grimaces. His bleached hair falls into his face, covering his thick brows. “SM Corporation is quite dangerous.”

“SM Corporation?” Baekhyun’s stomach flops, and his palms are sweating. He rubs them on his robe and licks his lips. Baekhyun’s heard about SM’s shady side-dealings. Everyone has, even if it’s just whispers on internet forums, and most people know better than to really talk about in public. Baekhyun resists the urge to look around his apartment and make sure no one else can overhear. “How did I even…”

Baekhyun’s never taken a single step out of line in his life. He’d made all the right moves: excelled in high school, gone to a good college, attended graduate school overseas, and chosen an esoteric, low-profile science to spend his life studying under the radar. Nothing about Byun Baekhyun is unusual or special, at all. Nothing about him should attract anyone’s attention. Baekhyun’s always liked it that way, well enough.

“It’s a tough enemy, but EXO will protect you!” Agent Park says, and Baekhyun likes the way he talks, he decides. Agent Park’s voice is low and smooth and soothing, even if his face is unpredictable in its motions. “We’ll protect you, so don’t worry.”

“Do I… have a choice?” Baekhyun asks. He must sound as dubious as he feels, because Agent Wu’s eyebrows furrow. “I mean, is there a way I can… give them whatever they want so they’ll leave me alone?”

The silence that follows his question seems to be enough of an answer, but Agent Wu clicks his tongue. “We’re not sure exactly what they want,” Agent Wu says slowly. “But when they get it, they won’t want any loose ends.”

Baekhyun still thinks he might wake up at any moment, and hell if he’s ever going to eat Kyungsoo’s kimchi spaghetti ever again if it gives him dreams like this.

“So they’re going to kill me?” Baekhyun’s pretty proud that he isn’t hyperventilating, but it’s a close call. “I thought you said kidnapping?”

“We’re worried about your continued safety,” Agent Wu says calmly, in that uneven Korean, even as Baekhyun tries to stop himself from shaking. Agent Park unexpectedly puts his hand on Baekhyun’s leg, leaning across from where he’s sitting on the arm of the sofa. Baekhyun hates it when people sit on the arm of the sofa, because that’s not the part of the sofa you’re supposed to sit on, but not enough that he’s concerned about it right now, when there are so many other, much more scary things, on his mind.

Agent Park is staring at him worriedly, thumb rubbing small circles on the inside of Baekhyun’s knee, and it’s a weirdly intimate gesture that Baekhyun isn’t quite sure how to react to, because Agent Park is basically a stranger. A stranger with very pretty eyes. Baekhyun tears his gaze away, and tries not to blush.

Still, Agent Park’s comforting hand distracts him enough that his heartbeat starts to slow, and Baekhyun is finally able to catch his breath.

“Well, now I’m concerned about my continued safety, too,” Baekhyun says around the lump in his throat. The whistle of a bullet past his ear is all too fresh.

He could have been killed. It would have been an accident, considering SM is apparently trying to kidnap him for goodness-knows-what-reason, but Baekhyun could have opened the door and died.

So much for this being a safe neighborhood.

“Yes, well. That’s why EXO has decided to assign you permanent detail,” Agent Wu continues. “Agent Park-“

Chanyeol,” Agent Park interrupts, and Baekhyun’s surprised, again, at how deep his voice is. It’s the kind of voice that grabs attention, Baekhyun thinks, or at least Baekhyun’s. “Agent Park is so stuffy-“

“It’s your job to be professional, Chanyeol,” Agent Wu says. Baekhyun thinks there is something rather long-suffering in his mannerisms.

“His name is Kris,” Chanyeol stage-whispers to Baekhyun. “He’s just a bit uptight-“

“Chanyeol!” Agent Wu snaps, and Chanyeol leans back, away from Baekhyun, and Baekhyun sort of misses the weight of his hand as he pulls those long arms back in to help balance himself in his precarious seating position. “I’m sorry, he’s kind of-“

“I can tell,” Baekhyun says, wrapping his arms around himself. He’s not shaking anymore. That’s good. ”Just… what’s going to happen now?”

“Chanyeol’s going to be taking over, full-time. You’ll be his only job.”

“What does that mean?” Baekhyun asks, a thin waver of dread sneaking into his voice. Chanyeol doesn’t seem to notice. Agent Wu—Kris, Baekhyun decides, raises an eyebrow at him.

“Chanyeol’s going to be looking out for you, now. 24/7. Undercover, of course.”

“Undercover as what?” Baekhyun says. “A giant human being is just going to move in here, and no one’s supposed to notice or wonder about it? My roommate is going to kill me.” He can see Jongin’s face now.

He’s going to hate Chanyeol.

“I’m not giant--“

“Perhaps a childhood friend? A grad school buddy visiting from overseas?” Baekhyun gives Chanyeol a once-over and frowns as Kris scratches the back of his neck. “Whatever fits in best with your life. You’re a smart man, Dr. Byun.” He says ‘doctor’ in English this time, and it throws Baekhyun off. “We don’t want SM to know you’re aware of them. We’re pretty sure the kidnapper, this time, was just a hired hand. The fact that he shot at us, even though he might have hit you, means he wasn’t top of the line.”

“What a relief,” Baekhyun says faintly. “Only a mediocre kidnapper with a deadly weapon.” Chanyeol laughs, but Kris’s face just twitches slightly.

“Next time, SM won’t make that mistake. Hopefully they’ll think this guy just ran into a couple of your friends with quick reflexes, considering neither of us drew a weapon, and neither of us look much like agents.”

Baekhyun supposes that’s true. He thinks Kris sort of looks like high-school-delinquent Chanyeol’s sugar-daddy, but maybe he won’t say that aloud.

“Excuse me.” Chanyeol pokes with a single finger at Baekhyun’s shoulder, pressing into the white fluff of his robe. “Can I call you Baekhyun?” Chanyeol asks, somehow back in Baekhyun’s personal space without Baekhyun having noticed the encroachment.

“Um, sure,” Baekhyun says, and Chanyeol grins. His smile is… really bright, Baekhyun thinks. It’s like the smile of an overeager child who just wants to make friends on the playground.

It’s kind of cute, and Baekhyun can feel a bit of a flush rise in his cheeks at those round eyes, but Baekhyun doesn’t have pets for a reason.

“Baekhyun, do you have cereal? I’m hungry.” Baekhyun blinks at him incredulously a few times, before he nods and points towards the kitchen. “Thanks! No time for breakfast this morning, what with all the ‘crime-fighting’.” He claps his hands, and Baekhyun’s sort of impressed with his good mood, considering, well, everything.

Chanyeol had seemed so adult, when he’d covered Baekhyun’s body with his own to protect him from stray bullets; nothing like the childlike man in front of him now.

“So Agent Park-“

Chanyeol,” he singsongs from the kitchen, where Baekhyun can hear cabinets being rapidly opened and closed on Chanyeol’s quest for a bowl, possibly.

Chanyeol, then, is going to, what, stay here forever?” Baekhyun asks, running his hand through his hair. He hasn’t had the chance to style it yet, today. He feels like a mess; he might as well, he thinks, since he appears to be smack dab in the middle of a giant mess.

Baekhyun’s not quite sure why this is happening to him. Kris squeezes his eyes shut, then opens them, reaching in his pocket for his phone.

“Yes,” Kris says, tapping something into his mobile, his two large thumbs almost too big for his smartphone’s keyboard. “That’s right. To protect you. Until we figure out exactly why someone is trying to kidnap you.” Kris makes a thoughtful sound in the back of his throat. “No one can know Chanyeol is an agent. Not even your friends.”

Out of the corner of his eye, Baekhyun can see Chanyeol’s already made himself at home in the kitchen, pouring himself some of Jongin’s cereal, missing the bowl and getting flakes all over the counter as he hums off-key to a popular children’s song. Baekhyun can feel the beginnings of a headache. “Can’t you stay?” Baekhyun takes a deep breath, and leans back in his chair. “I mean, instead of him.”

Chanyeol’s legs, Baekhyun notices, have an outward bend. They’re miles long. Not that Baekhyun is looking.

“I’m afraid not.” The corner of his mouth twitches up in something like a smile. Baekhyun bets Kris is quiet and easy to live with. “But have fun.”

“Right,” Baekhyun says, and as Chanyeol squeals and spills milk on Baekhyun’s clean tile floor, Baekhyun wonders if he should invest in plastic covers for all his furniture. “What if I don’t want him to stay? What if I’m dreaming and I’m going to wake up?”

“The other, much better option, would be to take you into protective custody,” Kris says. “You’d have to stay there indefinitely, though, and…” Kris narrows his eyes at Chanyeol. “Well, it’s been pointed out to me that you have a life.”

“Sort of,” Baekhyun replies. More ominous clanging from the kitchen.

“He is housebroken,” Kris says, loud enough for Chanyeol to hear, and Chanyeol turns indignantly to face them. Baekhyun notices that Chanyeol has found his silverware, oversized metal spoon gripped in his left hand as his right holds the cereal bowl. “Mostly.”

“Hey!” Chanyeol says, but he doesn’t look too offended. Instead, he just smiles, broadly, big white teeth almost blinding, and Baekhyun’s stomach settles for the first time all day when he sees the sincere warmth in it. “I’m a great houseguest.”

Kris sighs, and Baekhyun sucks his lower lip into his mouth. Maybe it won’t be so bad, Baekhyun thinks, as Chanyeol settles down on the sofa next to Kris, who is finally sliding his phone back into his coat pocket. With Baekhyun and Jongin working on mostly opposite schedules, it’s been a bit quiet.

Plus, for reasons Baekhyun can’t begin to comprehend, something about Chanyeol does make him feel safe.

Then Chanyeol promptly drops the cereal, spilling it all over his lap and Baekhyun’s favorite throw pillow, and Baekhyun’s headache gets a little worse.

“Well, I should be going,” Kris says, and Baekhyun thinks he sounds a bit smug. “I’ll be by with Chanyeol’s things, later.” Chanyeol’s wiping at his lap with the tissues Baekhyun keeps on his side-table. Kris bends in closer to Baekhyun, so he can whisper in his ear. “He might not look it right now, but he’s one of the very best.”

“Great,” Baekhyun says faintly, and it can’t be past eight in the morning, but it feels like it’s already been a long day. And there’s a bullet hole in Baekhyun’s living room wall that will probably come out of their security deposit, and Jongin’s going to come home and kill him.

Baekhyun massages his temples, and thinks he might just take the day off work.

Kris waves goodbye, and Chanyeol blinks at Baekhyun cheerfully. “I’ll keep you safe. I promise,” Chanyeol says, and even though Baekhyun is worried sick, about his research, about his furniture, about what he’s going to tell Jongin and his friends… Despite all those things, Baekhyun looks into Chanyeol’s earnest eyes, and believes him.


#



When Jongin gets home, dropping his duffle and stretching out his sweaty arms as he sighs, then scratching his stomach, he probably isn’t expecting Chanyeol.

Actually, Baekhyun thinks, as he watches through the kitchen doorway with dread, Jongin isn’t expecting anyone, but he’s especially not expecting Chanyeol, who has his bangs tied up in a Hello Kitty hair-tie, and is growling and yelling at the television as he watches, like, Chinese basketball or something else that Baekhyun doesn’t care about.

“So, how was rehearsal?” Baekhyun asks. Jongin is a professional dancer with the Seoul Ballet Theater, and usually by the time he gets home, he’s completely wrung out. Today seems no different. Jongin’s bangs are plastered to his forehead with sweat, and his coat is unzipped, which is probably a combination of heat from dancing and the fact that Jongin doesn’t ever seem to feel the cold.

Jongin pauses, letting his arms fall to his side, and his mouth twists up in thought.

“Baekhyun,” Jongin says, surprisingly calm, “there’s a stranger on our couch.”

“He’s not a stranger,” Baekhyun says, coming out from the kitchen where he’d been making himself a cup of tea that is definitely, definitely not spiked with rum. “He’s my…” Baekhyun studies the way Chanyeol’s long limbs double up onto the sofa, almost like he’s too big to fit on it, despite the fact that he’s not that much taller than Jongin. “My friend. He’ll be staying with us for awhile.”

“Right. Okay.” Jongin takes a deep breath. “Why have I never met him before?”

Chanyeol chooses that moment to turn, and even though he and Jongin are talking in low tones, Baekhyun figures Chanyeol does have really big ears, and they’re probably excellent for hearing things from far away when you’re a super-spy or whatever Chanyeol is.

“You must be Jongin!” Chanyeol says.

“And who are you?” Jongin asks, raising an eyebrow. He doesn’t look friendly, but he doesn’t look unfriendly, either, so Baekhyun feels a twinge of hope.

“I’m Chanyeol.” Chanyeol leaps up, unfolding from his weird position to stand. He bows, at the waist, hair flopping forward. “Nice to meet you.” Then Chanyeol looks up, hopefully, eyes round and shining, and Jongin looks vaguely disturbed.

“I’m going to go take a shower,” Jongin says. “When I come back, I will hopefully have processed…” he looks down at Chanyeol’s toe-socks, and Chanyeol’s extra tight skinny jeans, and the long sleeve shirt Chanyeol’s wearing in pink and powder blue that says America Kinda Sorta Looks Like a Shark Sometimes, and takes another deep breath. “I hopefully will have processed all of that.”

“Sure,” Baekhyun says, and Chanyeol just keeps smiling. “That sounds like a good idea.”

“Is that a bullet hole in the wall?” Jongin’s voice is mild, and Baekhyun knows he’s not going to get off easy.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Baekhyun says, laughing nervously. “How would that even happen? Go take a shower.”

“I’m going,” Jongin says. “But I’ll be back. With better questions.” He disappears into the bathroom, not bothering to stop in his room. The water starts, loudly.

“This isn’t going to work,” Baekhyun says to Chanyeol, and Chanyeol chuckles.

“Yes, it is,” Chanyeol says, patting the space next to him on the couch. “Let’s figure out what to say about the bullet hole in your wall.”


#



“So how do you know each other, again?” Jongin asks. He’s sitting in Baekhyun’s favorite armchair, across from them both, and Baekhyun feels like this is an interrogation: kind of like he got shotgun married and Jongin is his disappointed mother.

It’s not that Jongin isn’t nice, it’s just that he’s protective of his personal space. He pretends not to be shy, but in reality, Jongin doesn’t deal well with people he doesn’t know, and he’s intensely private. Baekhyun has always tried to be clear and frank with Jongin, and Baekhyun’s quiet life has always matched up well with Jongin’s.

Baekhyun’s not the kind of guy to bring weird people home at all, let alone without warning.

But now, Baekhyun’s stuck, because he’s possibly being stalked by SM Corporation, and in order to keep both himself and Jongin safe, no one can know that Chanyeol is an officer with EXO, including his roommate.

“He’s… an old friend. From high school.”

“From high school, huh?” Jongin muses, narrowing his eyes at Chanyeol. “And how long are you staying, exactly?”

“Just a little while,” Chanyeol answers, turning that wide grin on Jongin, who seems rather non-plussed.

When Kris had left this morning, Baekhyun and Chanyeol had hammered out a vague history, but now, under Jongin’s scrutiny, Baekhyun’s not sure if it’s enough. Chanyeol had laughed when Baekhyun has asked if he was going to use a fake name, and told Baekhyun that every good lie used mostly truth as its foundation.

Chanyeol seems comfortable, though, and Baekhyun wonders if Chanyeol does this a lot; falling into people’s lives and mixing them all up in order to protect them. The thought, for some reason, makes Baekhyun slightly uncomfortable, but that might also just be the way Chanyeol’s arm, strong and warm even through his long-sleeved tee, presses against Baekhyun’s like they hadn’t just met this morning.

“A little while,” Jongin repeats, and Chanyeol laughs.

“Yeah,” Chanyeol says. “I want to look after Baekhyun for now.”

Baekhyun’s not sure what to say to that, because it sounds weird and intimate, like everything Chanyeol says and does seems to be, so he squirms in place.

Chanyeol looks down at him, his stupid hair finding its way free of his hair tie, strands falling down across his forehead, and sets his hand on Baekhyun’s knee, rubbing his thumb in slow, easy circles, just like he had earlier when Baekhyun had started to quake from shock and stress, and just like before, it calms him. He sighs, and leans against Chanyeol, almost instinctually, before he catches himself and straightens.

Jongin watches them with wide eyes, and then an unholy glee starts to rise in his eyes. “What’s that look?” Baekhyun asks. “What terrible thing are you thinking?”

Friend,” Jongin says. “I see.” He waggles his eyebrows, and Baekhyun’s stomach does a swan dive.

“No, no, no,” Baekhyun says, grabbing Chanyeol’s hand from his knee and dropping it back onto Chanyeol’s lap. “You’ve got the wrong idea.”

“Do I?” Jongin asks, and Chanyeol seems confused. “It explains so much, though.”

“What’s happening, here?” Chanyeol asks, linking his hands together and filling his cheeks with air like a puffer-fish. “What is being explained?”

“He thinks we’re…more than friends,” Baekhyun says delicately. He’s not sure how Chanyeol will react to that, because the implication, that Chanyeol would even be interested in a guy, let alone Baekhyun, is not the sort of implication guys usually like. Chanyeol tilts his head to the side, curiously. “Which is obviously ridiculous-“

“Oh,” Chanyeol says, as it dawns on him. Then his lips twitch, and Baekhyun starts to feel a niggling sense of dread. “We weren’t going to say anything, but…”

“I knew it!” Jongin says, as Baekhyun sees his life flash before his eyes. “The way Baekhyun was leaning against you-“ Jongin seems delighted, his evil grin stretching across his pretty face as he plans how he’s going to use this against Baekhyun most efficiently. “Plus he’s not wearing any make-up, and Baekhyun never lets anyone see him without make-up-“

“Chanyeol, stop encouraging him,” Baekhyun hisses, elbowing Chanyeol, and Chanyeol looks down at Baekhyun again for a moment before he takes his arm and wraps it around Baekhyun’s shoulders, pulling Baekhyun into his side. “Tell him you aren’t-“

Baekhyun’s heart skips a beat as his cheek presses against Chanyeol’s chest, Chanyeol’s palm spread wide across his bicep and holding him tight. “I know we were going to keep it a secret, Baekhyun,” Chanyeol says, and Baekhyun hates that Chanyeol’s voice is so deep and distracting, “but we should be honest with your roommate if I’m going to stay here for a while, don’t you think?”

Baekhyun means to push Chanyeol away and sit up straight, but he makes the mistake of looking into Chanyeol’s eyes, which are sparkling with amusement, and instead, he just feels himself blushing embarrassingly, like he’s a fourteen-year-old girl.

Baekhyun gulps, and closes his eyes for a moment to gather his thoughts, but he opens them again when Jongin starts to laugh. The remote for the television is digging into his side, but it’s a testament to how scattered and out of sorts things are right now that he barely notices.

“Oh my god,” he says. “I’m going to call Sehun; this is amazing. We’ve been trying to get Baekhyun to go on a date for years with pretty girls and the whole time he’s had a secret boyfriend. No wonder he wasn’t interested.”

“It’s not-“ Baekhyun starts to say, but then Jongin is gone, his mobile phone already in his hand as he speed dials his friend, closing his bedroom door loudly and leaving Baekhyun in Chanyeol’s embrace on the sofa. “Oh no.”

Chanyeol takes his other hand, and pushes Baekhyun’s bangs from his forehead. “What’s wrong?”

“My love life just became the hottest topic of conversation among my friends.” Baekhyun scowls up at Chanyeol. “I thought we agreed on high school friends, Agent Park.”

Chanyeol taps his chin. “Well, this seemed easier? I mean, since I’ll have to be with you everywhere, and sleep in your room-“

“You are not going to sleep in my room!” Baekhyun says, and Chanyeol exhales heavily, letting Baekhyun go. Baekhyun sits up, and puts a little distance between them. The living room is a bit chilly, he thinks, as he tugs down on his T-shirt where it’s ridden up his side. He should turn up the floor heaters.

“I’m your bodyguard,” Chanyeol says, and his face is suddenly serious. “I’m going to protect you.”

Kris had said Chanyeol was good at his job, Baekhyun thinks, and tries to concentrate on that, instead of on the way his palms suddenly feel sweaty, or the way his stomach is tying up in knots.

“Okay,” Baekhyun says, and Chanyeol’s face breaks into a smile. He reaches over and pats Baekhyun gently on his thigh. His hand looks so big, the nails cut short on his thick, large-knuckled fingers. Baekhyun’s hands are small and thin.

“I’m probably not your type,” Chanyeol says, “but we can pretend, for a little while, right?”

Baekhyun wraps his arms around himself, and looks around his apartment. Chanyeol’s managed to spread his things across the living room already; his iPod lying on the small table by the sofa, and a pair of white socks and an oversized camouflage hoodie on the floor, and a baseball cap and a fluffy multi-colored parka with a big fur-lined hood hanging from the coat-rack by the door.

“What do you know about my type?” Baekhyun mumbles, and he leans forward and snatches the remote from where it rests between them. Chanyeol stretches his legs out in front of him, those jeans clinging to them all the way down to his ankles. “It’s just until we figure out why they want my research, right? I can play along until then.” He changes the channel to MNET, and Chanyeol squawks. “But that’s the only game I’m concerned about right now, sorry. The basketball has got to go.”

Chanyeol pouts, his lower lip poking out dramatically, and Baekhyun wonders how old he is. “Well,” Chanyeol says. “I guess relationships are about compromises.” He shakes his hair out of his face, and pulls a face, and Baekhyun’s surprised into a laugh.

“Right,” Baekhyun says, and he leans back against the sofa cushion, and for the first time since this terrible, confusing day started, relaxes, tolerating Chanyeol’s loud opinions about the music videos as Baekhyun argues in defense of his favorite pop groups.

Later, when Baekhyun goes to bed and Chanyeol dutifully follows him, immediately collecting his socks and his sweatshirt, Jongin snickers and makes sex music, and Baekhyun buries his face in his hands as Chanyeol chuckles.

“Jealous?” Chanyeol quips, as he shuts the door behind him, and Baekhyun glares at him behind the closed door.

“You’re adding fuel to the fire,” Baekhyun says, even though he’s already resigned to the teasing he’s bound to get from his friends for this.

“I’ve been told that’s a specialty of mine,” Chanyeol says, as he takes one of Baekhyun’s three quilts, and Baekhyun’s pillow, arranging them on the floor at the foot of Baekhyun’s bed. “Sleep well, Baekhyun.”

“You too,” Baekhyun says, as he pulls the covers up to his chin. He’s not sure how he’s supposed to fall asleep, considering there’s an agent, an EXO agent at that, sleeping in his room on the floor, and Baekhyun was almost kidnapped and shot by accident for reasons he doesn’t quite understand.

But soon enough the stress of the day catches up to him, and Baekhyun’s last thought, as he slips into slumber, is to wonder if Chanyeol is still awake.

#


It snows overnight. Baekhyun figures it’s just going to be one of those weeks as he walks outside into the soft white snow, Chanyeol hot on his heels, zipping up his coat and making exaggerated shivering sounds with his lips as he waits for Baekhyun to lock the door.

“You have to go with me to work, too?” Baekhyun asks, and Chanyeol puts his hand on Baekhyun’s back, a little too close to his neck, and Baekhyun flinches away. “I don’t like it when people touch my neck.”

“Sorry,” Chanyeol says, looking like a chastised puppy for a minute, before he comes back to life. He looks left and right as Baekhyun starts walking, but he also looks like he knows where he’s going. Baekhyun figures that makes sense, if he’s been following Baekhyun for weeks. “But yes. I have to go with you everywhere. For your own safety.”

Because Baekhyun’s a kidnapping target. Right.

“I wish I knew what about my research was interesting,” Baekhyun says. “I’m just your average nerd. I study optics. I mean, come on, what’s worth kidnapping someone about in the field of optics?”

Chanyeol is walking beside him down the massive hill that leads down from his apartment building, hands shoved into his pockets and shoulders hunched forward. The plastic-like material of his winter puffy coat keeps brushing against Baekhyun’s wool coat, making this terrible squeaking sound. But every time Baekhyun tries to move away, Chanyeol just moves back in closer, and Baekhyun’s not sure if it’s job-related, or if Chanyeol just gets cold easily.

Chanyeol does look a little like he’s freezing, with shaking lips, but his eyes are alert. Baekhyun’s never too aware of where he’s walking, so it’s nice to walk with someone who is, even if that someone is wearing those awful hot pink converse again.

“Optics,” Chanyeol says, thoughtfully. “Right. The study of light.” His words are as shaky as his lips. Baekhyun thinks he’s assessing the kindly food vendors on either side of the street, but with Chanyeol, it’s hard to be sure because of how much he fidgets.

“You’d be less cold if you wore real shoes,” Baekhyun chides, and then bites his lip, because who is he to criticize Chanyeol. He’s just met the guy, no matter how much he invades Baekhyun’s space like they’re old friends.

“Kris says the same thing,” Chanyeol says, turning to him with that big grin. “But I never listen!”

“Why not?” Baekhyun says. “It’s good advice.”

“These shoes are the most comfortable ones I have,” Chanyeol says. “Unless it’s raining. Then…”

“Then what?” Baekhyun asks. “Then you wear a different pair of shoes?”

“No,” Chanyeol says, and he kicks at a bit of snow. “Then they’re uncomfortable, but they make rainy days a little brighter!”

“Has anyone ever told you that you’re sickeningly cheerful?” Baekhyun asks.

Chanyeol had inspired Jongin’s wrath earlier this morning, his irrepressible laugh causing Jongin, who is grumpy on the best of mornings and tyrannical on the worst of them, to throw all the towels in the drawer at him while grumbling obscenities. Chanyeol had just dodged, with not much grace, and picked them up as Jongin threw them, and beamed until Jongin had grunted with disgust, abandoning his cereal and escaping into the bathroom.

“My nickname at… work,” Chanyeol says, a suspicious pause between his words, “is ‘Happy Virus’.”

Baekhyun grins. “How apt,” Baekhyun says, and Chanyeol shrugs, stomping his feet as they approach the escalator that leads down to Namseong station, clearing the soles of his shoes of lingering snow.

“If all I have to do is smile to make other people smile,” Chanyeol says, “then it would be selfish of me not to.” Baekhyun meets Chanyeol’s gaze and there’s a flicker of something serious in his eyes before it’s gone, replaced by what Baekhyun is coming to recognize is his normal, playful expression.

He gestures to Baekhyun to go down the single-file escalator ahead of him, and Baekhyun does, dusting off the shoulders of his coat as he rides down, Chanyeol two steps above him. “This isn’t fair,” he mumbles. “You already have such a big height advantage. You have to go first on the escalator, next time.”

Chanyeol snorts, and his soft hair falls straight and shiny into his eyes. The color is a little duller down here in the station, Baekhyun thinks, as he walks past the convenience stop and down the stairs. Chanyeol drops an arm over his shoulder and pulls him into his side.

Baekhyun only freezes for a moment before he relaxes. He might as well start getting used to it, now. Baekhyun retrieves his T-money card from his pocket and runs it over the sensor for entrance to the subway, and Chanyeol echoes his movements, pulling away to walk through the adjacent entry-gate.

“Most people want a tall boyfriend,” Chanyeol whispers, as they walk down another, final set of stairs to the platform.

“I assume most of those people also want a boyfriend,” Baekhyun says. “So that logic doesn’t really apply here.”

Chanyeol runs a hand through his hair, revealing his pale forehead, and presses his lips together for a moment in thought. “It’ll be easier, this way,” Chanyeol says. “No one who sees us will think it’s weird that I want to stick so close.”

“They’re going to think this is a very, very unhealthy relationship,” Baekhyun says. “Especially if you follow me everywhere.”

“My sister told me I’d make a great stalker, once,” Chanyeol says, and then straightens his mouth out into a thin line.

“Your sister?” Baekhyun asks, and Chanyeol pulls away. “You have a sister? Is she as tall as you are?” Baekhyun pokes Chanyeol in the side in the same irritating way he does to Jongin, and Chanyeol shifts away from the touch unexpectedly.

“My family doesn’t really matter,” Chanyeol says. “The less you know about me, the better. I shouldn’t have mentioned her.” Chanyeol looks down at him, and smiles again, but it’s not as warm. It’s more like the weather outside. A little frosty. “I’m your bodyguard.”

“But you’re playing my boyfriend,” Baekhyun says. “I’d never date someone if I didn’t know their favorite color. And stuff like that.”

“You can just make it up,” Chanyeol says with a shrug. “I’ll play along.” He adjusts the big furry hood of his coat as the train approaches, and he uses the opportunity to look around. “I’m very good at that.”

“I see,” Baekhyun says, and Chanyeol grabs his wrist and pulls him quickly onto the train, snagging a seat for both of them. The train car fills up, and Chanyeol looks around with amusement.

“So busy during rush hour,” Chanyeol says. Chanyeol’s hand is cold on Baekhyun’s wrist, so Baekhyun puts his other hand on top of it to give Chanyeol a bit of heat. Chanyeol leans closer and sighs. “You’re a nice boyfriend,” Chanyeol teases, and Baekhyun flushes and tries to pull back his hand, but Chanyeol is faster, putting his other hand on top to trap Baekhyun’s there.

This is embarrassing, Baekhyun thinks, because this is more skinship than he’s used to with, well, anyone, but it is warm.

They change trains at Isu. Switching between Line 7 and Line 2 is a pain that Baekhyun usually tries to avoid. In the winter, though, it’s not worth the icicles on his nose to wait for the local bus when the subways are delightfully heated.

They have to stand on that train, but it’s only one stop, and Chanyeol finds a way to hold onto his wrist anyway. Baekhyun’s not sure what to make of the rapidly developing habit. It’s hard to remember, when he peeks up at Chanyeol through his lashes, that he’s only known Chanyeol a bit over a day, now. It feels like longer, maybe because Chanyeol insists on being so close.

Baekhyun’s research lab is in a small corner of a mostly irrelevant building at Seoul National University. The school itself is a big deal, but Baekhyun’s lab is not—he only has one assistant, a grad student named Huang Zitao, whose Korean is rather suspect. But he’s an absolute sweetheart, and Baekhyun really likes him, just like he really likes his tiny lab.

Chanyeol gives a low whistle as Baekhyun leads him through the campus. “Never thought I’d walk around through here without having to be sneaky.”

“Why not?” Baekhyun asks. “Or is that too personal a question?”

Chanyeol drops an arm across Baekhyun’s shoulders, careful not to touch his neck. The curve at his elbow rests heavily against the collar of Baekhyun’s coat. “Regular school… wasn’t for me,” Chanyeol says. His eyes are bright. Baekhyun really likes Chanyeol’s eyes. “I kind of admire people who excelled at it, like you. Smart guys.”

“It’s nothing special,” Baekhyun says, blinking and turning away, shrugging Chanyeol from his shoulders. “I’m not. It’s not that I’m that smart.”

“I don’t know about that,” Chanyeol says, but then he’s skipping ahead of Baekhyun, tripping on a slick patch of sidewalk and laughing as he barely maintains his balance.

“Well, I guess in comparison…” Baekhyun says, and Chanyeol looks up at him and gapes.

“Hey!” Chanyeol doesn’t seem upset though, just pink-faced from the wind, lips turning a bit blue as he grins.

“Let’s go inside,” Baekhyun says, and he unlocks the door to his building. They take the stairs up two floors to Baekhyun’s lab. “You look like you’re going to freeze to death.”

“I hate being cold,” Chanyeol says. “I’d rather be hot any day.”

“Noted,” Baekhyun replies, and he takes Baekhyun into his lab.

“This is not… what I expected,” Chanyeol says, as he steps inside. “Where are all the test tubes?”

“First of all,” Baekhyun says, “what I study leans more towards physics than chemistry.” Baekhyun turns on the auxiliary lights, and sure enough Tao is hunched over his laptop in the back of the room, eyes darker underneath than usual. “Second of all, most of my work is theoretical.” He rubs his hands together, and then takes off his coat. “No coats in the lab.”

“What about shoes?” Chanyeol jokes, and Baekhyun looks down at Chanyeol’s soaked pink chucks despairingly.

“I should say no, just because of how offensive those are,” Baekhyun says. “But I suppose you can wear them.”

“Thanks,” Chanyeol says, and he hangs his coat on the rack at the door, and starts wandering around the room. To Tao, who is now looking up with fixed interest, it probably seems like Chanyeol’s just taking in this new place. Baekhyun, who knows that Chanyeol isn’t just a regular visitor, thinks he might be casing the lab, checking for cameras or other dangers that might result in Baekhyun getting kidnapped.

“Hyung,” Tao says, gesturing to Baekhyun to come closer, “your equation.”

“My equation?” Baekhyun asks, leaving Chanyeol to his explorations and walking over to Tao’s side.

“I keep running through it, again and again,” Tao says, and he’s looking up at Baekhyun, who is resting his hand on the back of Tao’s chair, with shining, triumphant eyes. “Hyung, I think you were right.”

Baekhyun’s hand tightens on the chair. “You… what?”

“I can’t find anything to negate the hypothesis,” Tao says. “I’ve been here for thirty-six hours and-“

“Huang Zitao!” Baekhyun’s voice cracks, and trembles with excitement. “You should have slept.”

“But-“

“What’s going on?” says a voice in Baekhyun’s ear, and a hand comes to sit on his hip.

Tao’s gaze shutters, and he turns his laptop away from Chanyeol. “Who are you?”

“Chanyeol,” and Chanyeol wiggles his fingers in an approximation of hello that’s as upsetting as it is cute.

“He’s my…” Baekhyun exhales. “Friend.”

“Boyfriend,” Chanyeol says, resting his chin of Baekhyun’s shoulder. Baekhyun tries not to squirm in complete and utter mortification as Chanyeol presses dry, cool lips to his cheek, and Tao looks at Chanyeol incredulously, before he looks back at Baekhyun.

“Talking about research is…okay?” he asks, and Baekhyun nods. He expects Chanyeol to move, but he doesn’t. Instead, Chanyeol just sets his other hand on Baekhyun’s other hip, and Baekhyun can’t seem to focus on Tao.

“So you ran my equation-set through, and…”

“I think it works,” Tao says. “I really… think it works.”

“What does it do?” Chanyeol asks. Baekhyun observes Chanyeol out of the corner of his eye, and he catches on… Oh, he thinks, as he sees the tiny microphone. Chanyeol’s recording them. Maybe Kris is listening.

That’s a bit uncomfortable.

“It’s, um, well, basically a way to prevent the breaches that compromise the safety of optical fiber networks by removing the computational assumptions,” Baekhyun says, and Chanyeol gives him a blank look. “It’s a way to prevent information from being tampered with on optical fiber networks.”

Chanyeol tilts his head, and exhales. His breath is warm on Baekhyun’s cheek. “Could it be used in reverse? Like, to break down the security instead of foolproofing it?”

Baekhyun looks at Tao, whose eyes are now back on his laptop screen. “Theoretically, yes,” Baekhyun says, and Tao nods.

“I think yes,” Tao says, and his dark hair falls into his tired eyes.

“That’s something,” Chanyeol says, “that people might want to get their hands on.”

Baekhyun’s stomach lurches. “Maybe,” Baekhyun says, and he’s proud there’s only a little bit of a wobble to his voice. He’d never thought about using his research to attack secure information, but it does add a bit of perspective to suddenly having an around the clock bodyguard and a bullet hole in his living room wall.

Tao yawns, widely, and Baekhyun remembers that they’re trying to keep this whole ‘attempted kidnapping’ thing quiet.

“You should go home and get some sleep, Tao,” Baekhyun says. “Don’t you have homework to do?”

“This is more exciting,” Tao says, and he looks at Baekhyun with the usual enthusiasm in his eyes, rubbing his hands on his black jeans as he tucks his laptop away into his backpack. “But I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Right,” Baekhyun says, and Tao stops and considers Chanyeol. “Nice to meet you?” Tao says, and he shoots Baekhyun one last confused look before he walks over to the door to get his coat.

Baekhyun swallows down his embarrassment, pulls away from Chanyeol, and walks across the lab to boot up his desktop computer system. As he waits for it to start, he pulls out his handwritten notebook from the drawer next to Tao’s desk, skimming for his most recent notes. He hums Girl’s Generation’s ‘Twinkle’ to fill the silence, and after a few moments, Chanyeol snickers, and pulls out his phone.

Baekhyun looks up at Chanyeol, who is pulling a pair of glasses out of his pocket and staring at Baekhyun in a way Baekhyun would take for adoring if the man hadn’t just met him. It’s sort of like how Jongin stares at Baekhyun sometimes, when Baekhyun throws temper tantrums about the dishes, or the way Kyungsoo does when he thinks Baekhyun’s been living off instant ramen because he doesn’t want to miss his favorite dramas.

“What are you laughing at?” Baekhyun says, and to his horror, it sounds a bit petulant.

Chanyeol straightens his glasses, and offers Baekhyun a peace sign. “You’re just so cute,” Chanyeol says, and Baekhyun wrinkles his nose. “Not a stuffy scientist at all.”

“Were you expecting someone old, or something?” Baekhyun asks, and Chanyeol taps his chin with his index finger.

“Well, no,” Chanyeol says. “I knew you were young, but I thought you would act old.”

“Why?” Baekhyun says, and Chanyeol’s eyes are narrowed in teasing. Baekhyun can play along.

“You study some weird physics that most people have never even heard of, in a stuffy famous university, you don’t have a girlfriend, and you always go straight from work to home unless your friends drag you out, to watch dramas with a target audience of forty-year-old women.” Chanyeol claps his hands together once, and Baekhyun jumps at the sound. “You must admit, that’s not the profile of someone ‘young at heart’.”

“I’m just…”

“But,” Chanyeol says, with a smile, as he looks down at his mobile again, “you’re actually really cute. With your pretty eye-liner and tight trousers.”

Baekhyun’s a grown man. He shouldn’t be blushing. He shouldn’t be flattered, at all, because grown men aren’t supposed to be cute. But his stupid stomach won’t listen to him as it flops, and his eyes lose a little focus on his work.

“Shut up,” Baekhyun mumbles, and he quickly types in his password. “Is Tao in danger, too? He doesn’t know how the equation works. Just how to implement it.”

“Who else knows how it works?”

“Just me,” Baekhyun says, and then he turns toward Chanyeol, who now is hooking something up to his phone; a strange device that Baekhyun figures he’s not supposed to ask about. Chanyeol peeks up at him, through his bangs, and Baekhyun taps his head. “Up here. Nothing written down completely.”

“And that,” Chanyeol says, pushing up the sleeves of his horrific lime green sweater, “is something that will get you kidnapped.” He smiles. “Or would, if I weren’t here to protect you.”

Baekhyun returns his gaze to his monitor, but the words blur in front of his eyes.

#


Despite the constant fear that people are going to jump out of a black van and put a bag over his head, Baekhyun’s first week with a bodyguard slash pretend boyfriend isn’t so bad.

Chanyeol is constantly underfoot, getting in the way of Baekhyun’s work and everyday activities with his exaggerated, body-shaking laughs that echo off the walls and drive Jongin insane.

“Take your hyena out for a walk,” Jongin says, when Baekhyun walks into the kitchen to find Jongin covered in pancake batter and Chanyeol doubled over with giggles.

“Maybe after breakfast,” Baekhyun replies, stepping over the sticky mess on the floor to grab the cereal.

“You can’t keep him,” Jongin hisses, sitting down across from Baekhyun at the breakfast table as Chanyeol whistles and cleans up. “I’ll go insane.”

“You’ll live,” Baekhyun says, and he feels a smile tugging at his lips as Chanyeol glances up cheekily and pulls a face. “We’ll both live.”

The worst part, Baekhyun decides, is a toss up between the way his heart leaps into his throat with terror, for just a moment, every time he walks out the front door, and being constantly embarrassed by the way Chanyeol insists on staying so very close, hands brushing against waist and back and arm.

Baekhyun barely dates, let alone gets involved in long-term relationships, so this whole physical aspect is jarring. It’s complicated by the fact that it’s just Chanyeol’s unique way of doing his job, and Baekhyun’s just along for the bumpy ride.

“I don’t want anything to happen to you,” Chanyeol says earnestly, sitting at the edge of Baekhyun’s bed. “No one is going to snatch you right out of my arms.”

“That sounds like a line out of a cheesy romance novel,” Baekhyun replies, frowning down at his sheets.

Chanyeol chuckles and grabs his pillow and blanket, settling them down on the floor. “You would know,” Chanyeol replies, gesturing to Baekhyun’s shady looking collection of novellas on his bookshelf. Baekhyun doesn’t blush. He considers that an accomplishment.

“How long are you going to stay here?” Baekhyun asks. He doesn’t know why he’s so invested in the answer.

“As long as it takes to keep you safe,” Chanyeol answers, and Baekhyun knows it’s Chanyeol’s job, but it makes Baekhyun feel all warm and mushy inside anyway. He lifts up one of his smaller pillows and throws it at Chanyeol’s head.

“Go to sleep, James Bond,” Baekhyun says, and Chanyeol grins, before he turns out the light.



PART TWO



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December 2012

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