Author: Anonymous until 1/30/14
Pairing: Baekhyun/Kai [side: Sehun/Suho]
Word Count: 10,432
Summary: According to Jongdae, the 21st Century method of Finding Your Way, Baekhyun learns, is to get thrown in the middle of actual nowhere.
Warnings: brief drug mention, alcohol, language
“I’ve been thinking, Jongdae,” Baekhyun begins with a dry mouth. There’s a glass of something in his hand, and he drinks with his eyes squeezed. “It’s not that I don’t like working for you, but I think,” he takes a breath, “I’m not meant to be working for you.”
It’s a Wednesday evening, and Baekhyun finds himself at the bar and grill again, trying to warm himself up with a glass of something that smells like it’s going to warm him up. It’s not that he minded coming here all the time with his boss, he just didn’t plan on it, and so his hands keep fidgeting. He zones out, he watches the TV programme reflected off the scratched up glaze of the bar counter until Jongdae snaps him out of it, like he did 45 minutes ago when he found Baekhyun slumped in a similar pose at his reception desk, playing with the coils on their telephone. Talk to me, man.
Maybe he shouldn’t have, he thinks belatedly. No matter how easy they got along, Jongdae was still paying him, and it’s a good job. It’s a good job he didn’t apply for when he came with a pretty bleak resume asking for the position of the surveillance room monitor. He’d sat there, he remembers clearly, while Jongdae interviewed three people for the receptionist job and dismissed all three of them before he turned grumpily to him next in line. Things happened, then he got hired. It was miraculous.
Jongdae has little to say. He actually doesn’t say anything for a solid two minutes, during which Baekhyun claws into his sweaty palms, chew his lip till it bleeds. Baekhyun can’t meet his eyes, though he probably should. For two minutes he feels himself disintegrate into the background of the quiet restaurant.
“Are you getting nostalgic again?”
Baekhyun slumps on the table, audibly with some kind of grumble, and Jongdae laughs once, crisp and fresh. Everything about Jongdae is so fresh, from the first moment he walks in every morning carrying the fresh smell of snow, making fresh coffee, heels tapping down the hallway while he hums. Baekhyun’s himself has been feeling like he’s trapped in quicksand lately, regressing back into the past beyond consciousness, getting his legs stuck in there. It’s a miracle he thanks every day that Jongdae understands.
“I’m probably the shittiest employee of the year,” he mumbles with his cheek mushed against the tabletop.
“I’m not letting you quit. I went through a lot to find you, Baekhyun, you’re stuck with me.”
He says this, and he orders Baekhyun another drink, but the topic doesn’t leave his mind for the rest of the evening.
Baekhyun wakes up with a hangover buzzing in the back of his head as he dresses for the morning.
He goes to work to find a new stack of folders on his desk, and Jongdae running around their office with his pants newly ironed, seams sharp enough to cut through glass, and a spirit bright enough to cut through Baekhyun’s morning drowsiness. They’ve got work to do—Jongdae’s going over some new architecture plans, spreading blueprints on tables and tracing over lines when Baekhyun’s phone buzzes in the middle of their mini meeting.
He’s munching on the last bite of a donut when it nearly falls out of his fingers. He crams it all in. “I have to take this,” he says while pointing to his phone with eyes blown wide with trepidation. Jongdae nods, and Baekhyun’s out the door, kicking it shut, finger on the answer key. “Hello?”
Grandma’s thin voice comes through just as he remembers. “Hello? Baekhyun? It’s grandma.” Yes, I know, he says, trying to catch his breath. He’s breathing through his mouth—she may be old, but she’s keen as ever, even the whistle of his uneven breathing can’t escape her. She could probably smell the fear on him through the speaker, or hear his hitches. Baekhyun sits straighter just on reflex, his soles firmly planted.
“It’s almost new year’s,” she declares with a tonelessness. Yes it is, Baekhyun says, laughing breathlessly at his own jittering nerves. He only remembers the formality surrounding her in his youth, and the ruler she carried tucked into her belt, the square set of her jaws and her curved chin, scolding him and his friends when they messed around in the summer. It’s been a year since he’d seen her. Once a year around New Year’s, like some kind of filial obligation, which he oddly didn’t mind. The drive up the Yanggu mountains was always worse than the weeks he spent there.
A door opens, and Baekhyun turns to see Jongdae popping in to refill his mug, looking at him spinning nervously in his chair with curiosity. “Come visit me, child,” grandma says into his ear, and then suddenly as if she felt uncertain for a fraction of a moment, “if you, if you have time. The mountains here are beautiful.”
Baekhyun wishes her a happy holidays, hangs up, and slumps into his seat exhausted down to the bones. Jongdae comes back around with the steam of his coffee fogging up his specs.
“Who was that?” He looks down at Baekhyun falling apart in his chair.
“Grandmother, like every year. I might have to bus there again next week and take a few days off.”
Jongdae stands looming for a while. Baekhyun lifts his eyelids and watches him, but he can’t read his face behind his fogged up glasses. A moment later Jongdae straightens, if it was even possible, a little more. “Gangwon-do, was it?” Baekhyun nods. “You know, I’m headed up in a couple of days for a project. I can offer you a ride.”
Baekhyun lights up. “Will you really?” And then suddenly sinks back down when he remembers something. Then the light’s back, except this time a little apologetic. “Do you think you can take someone else as well?”
When Baekhyun gets off work, the sky outside is already dark. He sneaks into Sehun’s apartment with the spare key he dug out from the bottom of his penholder, and the lights are off when he toes his way in. It smells incredibly like teenage boy inside, and something muskier even, so strong it must have cultivated over a good length of time by a homebody. When he steps into the moonlit living room he scans the place, and it’s oddly clean save for a dish or two in the sink.
Sehun’s softly snoring on the couch, his whole body shriveled up, skinny frame wrapped in sweats with his bony feet poking out the legs of his pants, dug into the crevice between cushions to keep warm. Baekhyun turns the light on first, and when Sehun doesn’t stir, rolls him by the back of his knees right off onto the carpet.
Sehun smashes awake. “Jesus, what the—”
“Up you go, kid.”
“What time is it?”
It’s seven something, probably. Baekhyun watches Sehun look around disoriented, mouth hanging open and hair a total mess. He looks too disheveled to be in a place as clean as this, but it’s the first time Baekhyun’s seen it so kempt too. Sehun scratches his back under his sweater. “Shit, I skipped lunch.”
“Order some takeout for dinner, I’ll eat with you.”
On impulse Sehun grabs his phone off the coffee table, and then turns around to Baekhyun with his brows knit. “What are you even doing here?”
“Uh, letting you know you should probably start packing.” He flat out says, kind of deflated. Sehun will get the hint soon enough, and then he’ll probably react like he did last year, threatening to lock him up, whining all the way through taking out his suitcase and carrying it off the cabbie, avoiding Baekhyun’s grandma for a good week and locking himself up with his laptop. Sehun hated the countryside, always wanted to get the hell out since he was a kid, and kept his word when he followed Baekhyun to the city.
Sehun unlocks his phone and starts dialing, like he’s pretending he didn’t hear. He ducks his head under the coffee table, flips around the bottom layer for something and stands up empty handed. Baekhyun watches him flip open his kitchen cupboards until he scores, pulling out a takeout menu from some neatly filed compartment.
“No, half veggie, half garlic chicken, no olives on the veggie. Also a box of bread sticks.”
He hangs up, sticks the phone in his pocket and sits down. Baekhyun’s dangling on the back of the couch, watching him. Sehun lets out a long sigh. “When are we leaving?”
“You’re actually gonna come? To Grandma’s, you know that right?”
Sehun just hums. “Yeah, why not. Wanna get out more.”
Baekhyun’s face is contorted. He kicks Sehun’s hip, and Sehun rolls onto his back. “Why are you so excited?” Sehun never answers him, except he pads away looking like a little girl with his hands in his pullover pocket with a little moon of a smile hanging on his mouth.
They sit on Sehun’s floor with the pizza while they pack. Baekhyun’s catching up on his drama while Sehun runs around dodging his laptop, tugging a shirt off the rack here or there. He packs his whole fridge into his mini suitcase and that’s it. Before it’s zipped Baekhyun catches a glimpse of a six pack and half a bottle of whiskey and about two longsleeves a turtleneck and a jacket. His laptop he’s got in his backpack, along with some packs of tofu skewers from the pantry. Baekhyun thinks it’s too little, but when he looks around the room he notes it’s been kind of empty to start with.
The morning they leave, Jongdae picks them up at dawny dawn, and the two of them wait on the stairs of the apartment breathing out frost. Sehun cracks his suitcase on the icy ice, this ugly tie-dye thing with a spiral print like a rainbow slinky but 100% more LSD. Sehun nags for a solid five minutes about the crack running out from the corner, and he seems really sad about the plastic thing. Baekhyun stomps the snow off his boots before he climbs into Jongdae’s little Honda Civic, forced into the back seat by tour guide JD.
“Welcome aboard,” he says behind him, unlatching the brakes. “Check seat belts and everything. Our bus will be driving slow due to the miserable weather and icy roads up the mountains north. Also there will be a few detours, but you can sleep through them.”
Jongdae’s going to survey some sites for a couple of his spring projects, even though he probably won’t be able to see jack shit with all the snow covering the fields. Baekhyun doesn’t know the details or the whereabouts, but he’s ahead of schedule anyway, and Jongdae’s car is weirdly soothing, brewing some homely atmosphere between the three young guys. He and Sehun only go to sleep trusting the GPS stuck to Jongdae’s windshield.
When Baekhyun wakes up it’s dusk. They’re still on the road, somewhere with more lights now, neon signs of hotels glowing off in the distance, across a lake of some sort. Sehun wakes up, and Jongdae takes an exit. They head into some nameless city, Baekhyun trying to identify the province by the color of the street signs under the dwindling light.
They go through drive thru somewhere for some burgers, and get back on the road. Jongdae cranks open his sunroof, and suddenly they can see the stars mapping out the whole expanse of midnight above them. The wind blows the little bells hung on Jongdae’s rearview mirror. In the dark, Sehun’s texting, fluorescent light of his phone the only source of brightness. He texts with one large hand and pulls fries from the bag with the other.
Baekhyun nudges him with his toes. “You look like a vampire.”
Sehun sticks a few more fries in, licks the salt off three of his fingers. “Do you know why I came with you?”
Mid text, he exits the screen and flips open his photos, sliding the album until he holds up a blurry picture to Baekhyun. He picks at the fry bag between his thighs while Baekhyun squints. There’s a warm lighting overall, but the picture’s taken in some darker place, pixels unclean. It’s a selca of Sehun, and there’s another guy with him, shorter by the looks of the camera’s angle. Before he gets a good look, Sehun scrolls with his thumb, and then there’s another picture of them with less clothes. And another with less clothes. Suddenly there’s a closeup of this guy’s mouth and Baekhyun drops the phone.
Sehun’s laughing so hard he wheezes. “Chill, it’s just my neck.” Baekhyun has his jaw dropped, hands up in surrender, shaking his head. “And also he’s 34.” Baekhyun whacks him on the arm, scandalized for life. Sehun laughs, and while he does his fingers by some memory slips under the edge of his sweater and rubs at a strip of skin where the edge of his underwear peeks out. Baekhyun follows the movement.
“Why do you keep doing this?” He reaches, but Sehun catches his wrist. “You’ve been doing that for a while now.”
“What if...I said I tattooed his initials here.”
Baekhyun’s mouth snaps shut with a crack. He pushes forward, peeling back the band for some trace of ink, and there are two small letters scratched into the ridge beside his hipbone, like a homemade effort. “JM? Who’s JM?”
Sehun doesn’t respond, just smiles smugly down at his screen. Baekhyun thinks he’s getting a headache, until he sees the smile gradually drop from Sehun’s mouth, and then he scrolls the screens of his phone looking kind of dazed. Something suddenly occurs to him, “does this guy even know you’re here right now?”
Sehun still doesn’t answer, but a muscle at the corner of his mouth twitches, and Baekhyun’s stomach drops. “You’re running away?”
There’s a tense moment. Sehun turns off his screen, crumples the empty fry bag and pulls his knees up. In the silence, Jongdae’s bells ring as a constant undertone. The GPS speaks up all of a sudden, and it breaks a reverie. Jongdae’s here, but he almost seems like he isn’t.
“I don’t know what I’m doing,” Sehun says softly into his knees, and Baekhyun thinks he means more than just the roadtrip. “I’ve done my fair share of stupid things.”
Baekhyun wants to turn on the light and take a good look at Sehun. They don’t speak for a few months and this is what he manages to do, like ink himself, like invite this guy back home to his junkyard and see him out with everything filed and cleaned. Like probably moving half his apartment to someone else’s home. The thought crosses him to take responsibility for the kid, call up this man, but for some reason he thinks this time Sehun can make it out of this on his own.
So he sighs. Sehun sleeps on his lap like a big dog. Baekhyun finds a folder of CD’s in the back pocket of the passenger seat and makes Jongdae play them, once Sehun’s fallen asleep. Apparently in some life long past, Jongdae had worked for a record company selling kid songs about counting numbers with cats and dogs.
It takes Baekhyun another half an hour to fall asleep.
Jongdae can’t be sure, but when he sneaks a peek behind him, Baekhyun’s head is hanging by his shoulder, gently rocking as they dash down the highway. He looks like a bobblehead. If he tipped a little more his head would hit the window.
3 little kitties in a tree, 4 little puppies in a park, the song goes on.
Jongdae hasn’t spoken since the drive thru, and it’s fully dark out now. His headlights splash onto the road like two pale columns slashing through the night.
5 little fishies in the sea, 6 little fireflies in the dark!
Jongdae laughs at himself. He shuts the audio off, and grabs his phone from the holder. With a hand on the wheel he dials a number from his head, muttering the digits to himself. He tries to keep his voice down.
When he hangs up, he chucks the phone onto the seat next to him and holds the wheel with both hands. He drives another half a mile before the foot on the gas pedal gives, little by little, until somewhere in the middle of the empty highway he rips the wheel and does a smooth 180 skid onto the other side, pumps his fist, and drives back the way he came from quietly laughing.
Baekhyun wakes to the blare of a horn.
“Rise and shine, boys!”
Sehun wakes up snorting, sucking whatever it is in his nose with the sharp gasp that shakes him awake when Jongdae opens the door he’s leaning on and he almost falls out of his seat. Baekhyun rubs at his eyes and finds them pierced with the sun coming in every direction.
It’s probably noon. First look out the frosted window tells him he’s in some rural place, but it’s slightly off-putting, because he doesn’t recognize a yard of it. There are no mountains anywhere in sight, and when he stumbles out the car he finds Jongdae leaning up against the frame with shades on, looking ridiculous while he sucks a lollipop. Probably the only thing worse for him in the moment is that there is a frozen lake behind him, which suddenly brings him to awareness of how abnormally cold it is, and the bridge across it, which Baekhyun can safely swear he’s never seen in his entire life.
He turns back to Jongdae. “Where are we.”
Jongdae does this thing with his mouth and shrugs half smiling. “Sorry I lied, but you and your little cousin both desperately need a getaway. Also I’m kicking you from the party bus. I’m actually late for a huge meeting coming here right now, so I’ll be on my way as soon as you unload.”
“Hyung,” Sehun says, and it looks like he’s awake now. “Where are we?”
Vaguely, Jongdae gestures behind him. There are rows of flat houses, some streams of chimney smoke, and what looks like a lighthouse in the distance. “Paid vacation.” Baekhyun gapes. “I’m serious, get your stuff. I have to run, Baekhyun, I even had to change in the car while driving,” he says while smoothing back his hair, and Baekhyun just squints at the set of suit and tie on him. “Here, let’s get your bags. Go straight down this street past the bridge and find the family hotel there, it’s the biggest building here, they have big red doors. Ask them for my name. There’s really bad reception but the hotel has wifi. Ask for Kim Jongdae, okay?”
The ignition starts up again. “Have a fun time,” he says, waving over his shoulder, and then drives away.
The biggest building turns out just to be a conjunction of more flat houses with a courtyard in the middle. It has a name, and Sehun reads it off the red doors they were told to look for. When they walk into the courtyard, there’s a well in the middle, bucket swinging in the wind, where the uneven paving of the brick floor breaks off, and a tree barren with nothing but strips of snow clinging to its bones. Around them are rooms, identical looking, engulfing them. There’s a smaller door across the yard from where they stand, and it’s latched closed.
Neither of them really know what to say. It’s nostalgic in the weirdest way—where they’re supposed to be, in Yanggu, there were bungalows like these, but they never looked as simplistic as the ones here, simple and sturdy. Facing towards the yard are too many doors, and Baekhyun’s wondering which one he should try first when one of them swings open, and the two of them watch as a kid comes out with a yellow basin, and a towel slung across his sleeveless shoulder, a shade of gold that just doesn’t belong in this climate. A black earbud swings after him as he walks. Under fraying jeans of his overalls he’s wearing sandals.
The guy looks over, catches their eyes, and then nods slightly and walks out the double doors without a word. They watch him trek through the snow, and then disappear like an apparition into the distance. “I don’t even know where to begin,” Baekhyun says. Sehun gives a weak laugh, then starts walking towards the door the guy walked out of. They find it opened, with a little bell on the other side.
They find the reception quickly enough, which is really just a living room larger than the individual shacks seen from the outside. Inside, there's middle aged woman reading on a loveseat.
“Are you the landlady?” Baekhyun calls, voice bouncing off the walls. She turns around, and when she finds them in the doorway, nods.
“We were sent here by...by a Kim Jongdae?”
“Kim Jongdae? Yes, he comes here a lot.” She gets up from the seat. The two of them walk in while she opens opens the drawer of a table and pulls out a notebook and a pen. “Kim Jongdae, yes…”
She sets the notebook down, flips a few pages. On the tabletop there are dozens of candle stands, erecting candles melted down to all kinds of lengths, and she gently pushes them aside as she writes. “What are your names?”
They tell her, and she says to call her Mrs. Kim. “Madam, it’s a weird story, but we are kind of here on short notice, and—”
“Don’t worry,” she smiles in a way that makes Baekhyun guiltily suspicious. “Things are taken care of.”
She leaves with a round chain of keys dangling in her hands, and Sehun and Baekhyun sit back in the seats, looking around them. The house is much newer on the inside than out, high beams running across the ceilings in a pyramid, lights hanging off them. On top of the small fireplace hangs a cross, and on top of the cross is the only window in the room, up as high as where an attic would have been.
“It does seem like a good place for a vacation,” Sehun comments casually. Baekhyun eyes him. The kid got damned lucky, getting to go on his runaway trip, and not even having to deal with family. Baekhyun’s looking at all the candles when Mrs. Kim comes back with two separate keys chained onto a plastic card. She follows his gaze.
“These are for when the lights blow out,” she takes two candles as she waves them to follow, “When the storm’s too strong, it happens. Come with me.”
They’re assigned to adjacent rooms. There’s a toilet down the hall, and Sehun races to take the room closest before he realizes there’s no shower. Baekhyun’s unpacking his stuff on his bed when he sees Sehun in the hallway stopping Mrs. Kim and asking about the showers, and about where on Earth they were. She points in a direction, muttering something Baekhyun can’t hear, and Sehun’s eyes light up. And then she answers the second question, and Sehun’s face drains of blood. Sehun comes back, face straight.
“Where are we,” Baekhyun asks for the last time that day.
“We drove from Korea to North Pole.”
Sehun sits down on his bed. When he looks back up, there’s a mischievous smile trying to break his stoic face.
“There is one good thing, though. There’s a hot spring.”
There’s a hot spring.
The chimney smoke he’d seen actually came from the steam of what he has just learned is the selling point of this little vacation town: The sulfur hot spring, plunging 250 meters underground, once punctured by the brutality of a force rumbling from the planet’s core, now embraces the warmth of this all natural water 365 days of the year. When they were told they could skinny dip, since it was miraculously closed to public for three days of annual cleaning, the two of them shed everything and dashed out wrapped in fuzzy bathrobes. The back door of the yard led to a path cutting through a garden and a greenhouse, leading to where they stand now, in front of the cavities of rumbling water in the snow. They watch just behind the big row of boulders which fences off the springs from the outside. Baekhyun thinks he’s going crazy, because there’s actually nobody here.
“I can’t fucking believe this.”
“I can.” Sehun runs up to the edge of a pool, testing the water with one hand. The snow around the edge of the black stone has been melted in a gradient by the steam. “Dude, this isn’t even carved, these formations are literally all natural.”
“This. Is unreal.” Baekhyun jumps in.
The whole town is covered in about half a foot of snow at the moment, and their sandals get coated with it while they relax in the heat. The sky’s jet black, and with his head back Baekhyun watches the white powder float down, trying to guess which way is north, which way is home. As the day went on, he found himself caring less and less about where they were. Jongdae has his reasons, most likely. He’s paying for everything anyway.
“Should we maybe call your grandma? To say that we’re, y’know, not going?”
“I’ll do that after we—”
A rock clatters onto the stone floor.
Baekhyun lifts his head, looking towards the sound, and suddenly out of the darkness he makes out a leg dangling against the black of the boulder. “Holy shit—” he loses grip on the edge and slips into the water, choking, coughing once he finds his way up again. When he opens his eyes Sehun’s covering his mouth, ducking his body as much as he can into the water, staring up at the top of the rocks, where the kid they saw earlier now sits in his full height, legs swung around the narrow width of the rocks like a saddle. He’s holding a bag of candy in his lap, towel around his naked shoulders, phone in his hand lighting up just when Baekhyun sees him.
“Sorry,” he calls out, and it echoes. “Are you okay?”
“Yes, shit— ”
Baekhyun’s face is heating up. What’s even worse is that now, the kid turns his head to the other side of the natural cave, where Baekhyun assumed were more of these springs, and without warning he swings his leg across and flips himself off the rock, so suddenly that Sehun half shouts from shock. They hear him crunching through the snow, until somewhere far away a door opens, closes, and a minute later it opens again. Sehun and Baekhyun are still staring at the place where the kid took off when he pops back over the edge.
“Mom says dinner’s ready, come quickly.”
Baekhyun nods, dumbfounded. The head disappears.
They climb out of the water, shivering for a millisecond before crawling back into the hug of their bathrobes. Baekhyun shakes the snow out of his slippers.
“Wait,” Sehun says, straightening. “Who’s ‘mom’?”
They have dinner together, four of them sitting around a round coffee table on the floor. There’s a TV program on, and Baekhyun’s trying to focus on that, even though the sound’s muted. Mrs. Kim does a great deal of variety given the veggies she has to work with, and the meal’s delicious.
By now, he’s met Kim Jongin. He’s a kid Sehun’s age, they’d found out through conversation, awkwardly carried on in the living room while his mother finished preparing the meal. He’d grown up here in this place, never gone past high school, helping his dad with the fishing business when it’s the right time of the year and helping his mom run the inn. Jongin can do a lot of things, Baekhyun learned when he asked. He sat waiting, watching him sit in a little stool by the corner, melting paraffin wax into molds for the candles they had brought to their rooms. He looked intensely concentrated, not much of an expression on his unconventionally handsome face, occasionally chewing his lip. After a brief introduction, Baekhyun hadn’t really felt like it was right to keep asking him questions.
Jongin is a quiet eater, also quick dodger of conversation. He keeps filling his mom’s bowl with veggies without saying anything, working through his bowl of rice. “First day from the market is always fresh,” he mumbles, picking up two pieces of something sliced thin in a dish Baekhyun hasn’t touched, and puts one each in Sehun and Baekhyun’s bowl. Baekhyun eats it a little in shock and still doesn’t know what it is.
While they eat, a couple comes out of the darkness of the hallway with their kid and greets them. They look like they’d just woken up from a nap, chatting briefly with the landlady. Baekhyun turns around and finds Jongin cooing at the sleepy little child, barely holding himself up on his wrapped little feet. He picks up the bundle of a kid and sets him in his lap, leaning the baby’s weight on his shoulder.
“How’s my favorite baby today? How’d you sleep, boo?”
Jongin’s smiling, which is enough to make Baekhyun stop eating, until he realizes everyone has. The parents watch him tickle the boy’s belly fondly. Beside him, Sehun puts down his chopsticks and waves. “Hey kiddo.”
Jongin looks up, “Want to meet some new friends?” The kid nods sleepily.
“This is Sehun,” he points, “and this hyung is Baekhyun.”
Baekhyun doesn’t feel strongly for kids on most occasions, but he gladly puts down his bowl and pinches the little kid’s cheek. Jongin leans forward, like he’s offering the baby, and it’s the strangest feeling of familiarity when he thinks of the foreignness Jongin held towards them earlier.
The family leaves, and they don’t say anything for the rest of the meal, only listen to Mrs. Kim talk. Once he finishes eating, Jongin disappears.
That night, on Sehun’s request, Baekhyun wanders around looking for blankets. Mrs. Kim sends him to ask her son while she washes their dishes, and Baekhyun swallows hard, standing in front of the door that has a little carved name placard of “Jongin”. He decides to knock an inoffensive number of three times. The door gets yanked open.
Baekhyun blinks. “I’m looking for extra blankets?”
Jongin is taller than him, he realizes. Even in a loose sweater and messed hair there’s something immense about how he looks down at him, something intimidating. His eyes are too dark. Baekhyun tries to look away anywhere else, trying to look past him, except Jongin seems to notice, and quickly closes his door with a yank of his wrist.
His face has dropped. He gets Baekhyun blankets, but Baekhyun doesn’t feel any warmer sleeping.
He gets up from a nightmare, and it clings to him like saran wrap. Baekhyun washes his face with the ice cold water from the pipes. He looks at himself in the mirror, stares a bit, and then makes his way outside. There’s a little bit of light on the horizon, and he borrows it to read the time. He leaves his phone in his room, and walks with nothing in his pockets, towards where the light expands, dyes the sky a shade of robin’s egg. There are no sounds, no movement, save for the endless drift of snow.
When he finds himself at the foot of the bridge, he spots Jongin out on the lake with a pair of ice skates. They’re white, the ones figure skaters use. There’s a bag on the river bank.
He watches Jongin skate, worried the ice would give, but he flows across the lake so gracefully it’s like he’s weightless—Baekhyun knows that’s not true. Underneath his washed jeans is nothing but muscle, beautifully sculpted. Underneath his hoodie, Jongin’s back is broad, arms solid. He pushes off the ice for a jump, and the muscles in his thighs constrict, springing him gracefully upwards like a bird lifting off. A tightening, and then freeing, expanding and endless.
Jongin stops after a glide, bends to retie his laces, and when he looks up he notices Baekhyun, now standing in the middle of the arch, inadvertently watching him.
“Morning,” Jongin calls out.
He skates to the bottom of the bridge, looking up at Baekhyun with his hands in his pockets. “You can come down if you want, the ice is thick enough to walk on.”
Baekhyun takes his offer. He steps onto the ice balancing himself, trying to walk a few steps. Jongin skates around and comes back. When he zips past, Baekhyun says, “You’re pretty good at this.”
“Thanks. I’ve been skating since I could walk.”
He comes back around, passing under the bridge. Baekhyun’s been wanting to talk to him since last night, and it nagged him the moment he woke. “Hey, listen—”
“No, come here, stop for a sec—”
Jongin charges at him, and Baekhyun doesn’t even think before clambering out of the way, launching himself back onto the snow covered banks of the lake, flat on his back. Jongin skids to a halt like he’s shredding something. He laughs like bubbles. Baekhyun sighs in relief. He sits up, brushes the snow out of his sleeves, and sticks his hands back in his pockets.
“I’m sorry about last night. I feel like I didn’t make the best impression on you.”
He watches Jongin’s eyes widen. He’s still looking down at Baekhyun, but it feels nothing like last night. Now he looks almost guilty. “Hyung, no, don’t—I don’t really know what my expression looks like to people sometimes, I’m sorry.”
“Don’t have to speak formally to me, Jongin.”
Jongin smiles down at him, and Baekhyun’s nerves relax. He’d known he was a sweet kid, deep down. His cheeks are pink, especially pretty through the shade of his skin, and the beanie he wears tumbles sideways down his mop of brown hair. He pulls it off, shakes his hair, combs it with his fingers and puts it back on. “Want to take a walk, hyung? I’m a part time tour guide.”
You’re a part time everything, Baekhyun thinks, and he lets himself get pulled to his feet by the solid grip of the kid. When they get back to the inn, Baekhyun hauls Sehun out of bed, and the three of them head off into the woods to watch the sunrise.
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