Title: Finders Keepers
Word Counts: 7523
Side Pairing(s): Kaisoo, Markson, Joyri, Namjin
Warning(s): profanity, potentially risque bed makeout
Disclaimer: The celebrities' names/images are merely borrowed and do not represent who the celebrities are in real life. No offense is intended towards them, their families or friends. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this fictional work. No copyright infringement is intended.
Summary: Baekhyun hates that he’s stuck with Chanyeol for this variety show. He especially hates how much he realizes he missed Chanyeol in the six years since their breakup.
Author's Note: Thank you for such a fun prompt! And thanks to my super amazing beta readers for being the best cheerleaders in the universe.
For a while, Baekhyun felt nothing. That was the first year without Chanyeol, which dragged on obscenely and felt like twenty lifetimes. Emotions returned eventually, but none of the ones he cared to feel. Anger showed first, snapping at people and making him unpleasant to be around. Then sadness, an endless river of tears flooding his pillow at night alone. He doesn’t remember when apathy surfaced but it wasn’t much better than the other feelings.
He hadn’t thought about just how long it had been without Chanyeol until just this moment, seated at his breakfast nook with a mug of tea warming his perpetually-cold hands. He stares at his tablet in front of him, opened to a gossip site just to sate his curiosity, and feels an unshakable urge to either cry, vomit, or throw his mug across the room.
Former EXO Members To Reunite On Finders Keepers!
It was always a possibility, but in the same way that tripping over his cat and breaking his jaw is a possibility—plausible, but not probable. So seeing Chanyeol’s stupid smiling face, seeing old photos of them together looking happy and cozy and perfectly fine, makes Baekhyun instantly regret ever agreeing to being on this show. It’s a favor, he’d told himself after officially accepting a spot on the variety program. It’s for Junmyeon. This show is his baby and he’s such a nice person and—
“What the fuck are you trying to pull?” The screaming startles both Junmyeon on the other end of the phone and the cat sleeping in the windowsill. One of them grunts and Baekhyun can’t be bothered to figure out which.
“Okay, so you saw—”
“Are you fucking kidding me, Kim Junmyeon? For fucking real? You fucking asshole!”
“So, hey, let’s try moving on to a non-fuck word,” Junmyeon says. “Good morning, Baekhyun, and I deeply apologize.”
“You’re an asshole.” Baekhyun deflates, just a bit, as Custard steps out of her window napping spot to rub against his arm. He sighs and runs his hand along her fluffy mass of white fur. “Why would you do this to me?”
“I didn’t,” Junmyeon says. “I asked Sehun. He’s got a thing in Milan, but he said Chanyeol would be available and then the next thing I know Chanyeol’s on the phone accepting a position I didn’t offer him. And I didn’t know how to tell him thanks but no. He’s so easily bruised, I couldn’t—Sorry.”
“Would you feel better if I told you you absolutely won’t be partnered with him?”
Kim Junmyeon is a dirty fucking liar.
It’s half an hour before shooting is set to begin and the wind moans a sad tune through the air and Baekhyun wonders how deep the ocean is and if he’d be able to shove Junmyeon in and have him never return. The bugs buzzing around don’t help his dour mood.
It isn’t Junmyeon’s fault, really. He doesn’t control the network, much as he really, really wants to. He only does what they say, and what they say is pairings will be according to popular ships from yesteryear. That wasn’t the original plan, according to Junmyeon’s late-night pleas for Baekhyun to stop being angry in the weeks between finding out Chanyeol would be a part of the show and now, on the beach, staring at lighting being set up by the production assistants. Originally, a show to check in with former idols was the extent of it. Chanyeol agreeing to appear kicked some station higher-up’s brain into gear, and thus the shipping concept was born.
Baekhyun wants to die.
Or, if not die, then kill. Definitely kill. Particularly Junmyeon, but he’ll settle for making sure Chanyeol sleeps with the fishes.
The Cayman Islands would be nice if Baekhyun could remove the veil of anger fitted over him and just enjoy the scenery. Everything is blue, blue, blue and the sand feels like velvet beneath his bare feet. It’s lovely, and he can’t enjoy it because fifty feet to his left, Chanyeol is getting the final touches done on his makeup. Instead of the sand and the sun and the salt of the ocean, all Baekhyun thinks of is Chanyeol.
He looks largely the same—ears that stick out too far, bowed legs that stretch too long, mouth that pouts too cutely. His hair’s a bit longer than last Baekhyun saw, but it looks good; it suits him. The way he laughs, the way it lights up his whole face, just annoys Baekhyun even more. He doesn’t look like he’s miserable without Baekhyun at all and the sting of it feels unbearable.
A production assistant rambles but Baekhyun doesn’t hear a word of it, still fixed on watching Chanyeol. He thinks maybe, if he squints some, he can see his Chanyeol somewhere in this new Chanyeol who manages to be even more confident, even more self-assured. Something else stirs in Baekhyun that isn’t exactly anger or sadness but some irritating amalgam of emotions that overwhelms everything else. His eye sting, fists clenching momentarily before he finally looks away. This new Chanyeol just makes his heart hurt.
Rather than focus on every way in which Chanyeol proves problematic, Baekhyun opts to look over the script once more. There isn’t much to it, at least not for the part they’ll be filming soon; Finders Keepers prides itself on being the least-scripted variety program currently airing. The gist of it is that several teams compete to complete a scavenger hunt list. Normally, when guests are just regular citizens, the prize is monetary. This time, with all celebrity guests, they’re competing for charity. And that’s what Baekhyun tries to focus on—he’s doing this for his favorite charity, and for that, he can suck it up and deal with Chanyeol for a few days. Maybe. Hopefully.
“Beautiful here, huh?”
Baekhyun stiffens. Considers pretending he hadn’t heard. But Chanyeol’s voice is one that can’t ever really be ignored, deep and loud and comforting as it is. He glances up from his script, sees Chanyeol hovering nearby watching him, looks back to the paper he grips a little tighter.
“Ready to run around like idiots?” Chanyeol tries again.
There’s a sigh, but Baekhyun refuses to look at Chanyeol. “Look, I know this isn’t ideal,” Chanyeol says, “but we’re professionals. We can make this work, right?”
“We sure can,” Baekhyun says. “When the cameras are rolling. Not a single camera is on right now so if you don’t mind, I’m busy.”
Baekhyun almost, almost, feels bad about the slump of Chanyeol’s shoulders that he spots without meaning to see.
“You have no idea how glad I am to see you.” Baekhyun sighs, throwing his arms around Kyungsoo’s shoulders.
“Venturing a guess to say ‘very’?”
By one pm, the rest of the contestants for their episode have arrived on the island. Four other pairs, eight other idols who are shoved together for the sake of charity who probably haven’t seen each other in years. It makes Baekhyun momentarily nostalgic for his youth, for the time when all these pairings maybe sort of meant something. But at least, he thinks as Kyungsoo musses his hair, he hasn’t lost track of this one good friend.
“It’s awful,” Baekhyun says, whining. “I had to talk to him for like three minutes!”
“That must have truly been torture.”
“Don’t sass me.”
“Don’t leave yourself open for sass,” Kyungsoo says. He smirks, pushes his bangs back, and Baekhyun rolls his eyes. That look won over tons of fans but is essentially useless on him. Most of the time. “So what’d you talk about for like three minutes?”
“Good, evil, and the notion of free will,” Baekhyun says. “What the fuck do you think?”
“This is why no one talks to you,” Kyungsoo laughs. “It’s beautiful here, wow…”
“You can coo over the scenery later. Listen to my problems first.”
“I haven’t even seen my hotel room yet.”
“It’s nothing to write home about. Focus on me.”
Kyungsoo looks tired behind his shades and Baekhyun maybe feels a little bit bad unloading on him before he can even unload his luggage, but this is important—this is a level 5 ex emergency. Baekhyun maybe feels a little bit bad, especially knowing that Kyungsoo and Chanyeol remain close. But he knows Kyungsoo can keep secrets well, if only because no matter how much Baekhyun begs to hear what Chanyeol has to say about him, Kyungsoo keeps mum.
“You already know my stance on this,” Kyungsoo sighs.
“So what do you want me to do?”
“Switch partners with me,” Baekhyun suggests.
Kyungsoo’s laugh scares off some birds nearby. “I’m not working with Chanyeol. He gets way too competitive. And no one shipped you and Jongin.”
“Yes they did!” Baekhyun says. “There were…at least five people!”
“Keep your terrible partner,” Kyungsoo says, patting Baekhyun’s shoulder. “It’s four days. You can do it.”
“Maybe I can’t. You’re the actor here, not me.”
“You’ve acted plenty.”
“But you’re like…official EXO actor. Come on. Switch.”
“I’m walking away now,” Kyungsoo laughs quietly.
Their first task might kill Baekhyun. With the other teams filming elsewhere, Chanyeol decides for both of them that they should do the hardest thing on the list first—kiss a stingray. He watches tourists splashing around with stingrays and barely listens as staff assures them how safe it is, but he can’t help his scowl anyway. This Cayman trip appeals less and less.
“I can do it if you want,” Chanyeol says. “If you’re scared.”
“I’m not scared,” Baekhyun snaps. Chanyeol simply stares. “Shut up.”
“I haven’t said a word.” But Baekhyun hears the smirk in that tone and he really wants to walk away. “Cameras are rolling, by the way. Mics aren’t live yet, though. In case you want to be fake nice to me.”
“I’ve said three things to you in fifteen hours,” Chanyeol comments as he pulls his shirt over his head. A rather colorful bird off to the side becomes Baekhyun’s new fixation to keep from staring but he notices Chanyeol’s gotten a tattoo. “If anything, you’re the one being insufferable. I’m trying. You’re being a spiteful prick. And I get it. You still hate me. But just pretend for this week that we’re on good terms. For charity. For the fans.”
Baekhyun sighs quietly. “I never hated you,” he mutters as he starts to disrobe to put on a wetsuit.
The divers assigned to guide them at Stingray City explain how to handle the rays. Nerves make it hard for Baekhyun to focus, though; all he can think is that these so-called water puppies have the capacity to murder them in a blink and he really doesn’t want to be taken out by an ocean thing. His thumb twitches rapidly and he does his best to keep that off-camera. And just before he completely chickens out and yells at the staff to cut, he feels a hand at his neck. Chanyeol’s hand. Chanyeol’s kind of rough, very large hand, gently squeezing and rubbing at the nape of his neck to calm him. The nerves turn calm, but only for a second.
A rant about Chanyeol daring to do that to him on camera, where he can’t just smack his hand away, sits at the tip of his tongue and has to be shoved aside in favor of clever banter with Chanyeol and their dive instructors. He wants so badly to be angry. He wants to lash out and kick Chanyeol in the shin and storm away to be alone and cry about how much he’d missed that soothing touch. But he can’t, so he continues to just laugh at Chanyeol’s terrible jokes, spit out a few teasing remarks of his own, do his best to remember how exactly he and Chanyeol fit together all those years ago and recreate it with not much frame of reference in mind; he’d made it a point to turn his mind into palimpsest and write a thousand other things over those memories.
By the time it’s their turn to take what they’ve learned from the staff, Baekhyun forgets about being nervous in the first place. He waits until Chanyeol gets into the water, then carefully slides in himself and tamps down complaints about Chanyeol offering a helping hand. He doesn’t let Baekhyun go as they wade closer to the largest concentration of stingrays, and Baekhyun almost, almost feels appreciative. The water reaches their chests, not very deep at all, but he feels a little like panicking all the same.
“There’s at least two dozen,” Chanyeol comments. He’s grinning, eyes sparkling as he looks around the whole bay, and Baekhyun tries hard to see the appeal of this. “Look, look! They’re flapping all around over that person!”
Chanyeol’s excitement gets the better of him and he smacks his free hand against Baekhyun’s shoulder. Baekhyun tries to steady himself to avoid lurching forward and accidentally touching a ray that’s way too close for his liking; he leans against Chanyeol’s back and silently prays that the ray will kill Chanyeol first.
“Now like I said,” one of the divers comments, “you just touch the flat areas near the top of their heads, never back here by the barbs. It’s completely safe.”
“It’s literally stabby death,” Baekhyun says with a frown. His cover moves away and he momentarily sputters, but stops himself from summoning Chanyeol back again. The water is cold and the sun isn’t helping and something brushes against his leg but he’s too scared to look down and see what it was. Instead, he stares at Chanyeol making friends with stingrays.
It makes sense, really, that Chanyeol would have zero problem assimilating into a swarm of stingrays. He’d always been the more fearless of the two, the one who urged Baekhyun to try new things, talk to new people, go new places. That he’s perfectly at home amid several animals that are perfectly capable of murdering him doesn’t surprise Baekhyun at all. That he feels himself smiling as he watches Chanyeol petting every ray he can reach does.
“Baekhyun-ah,” Junmyeon attempts a whisper, and Baekhyun turns. Junmyeon flaps his hands, trying to signal for Baekhyun to move closer to the rays, then points to the camera to signal that they’re filming. “Go!”
When Baekhyun reaches the rays, and Chanyeol, he tries not to frown or cry too much. But a ray slides up the front of his wetsuit, way too enthusiastic, and he lets out a wail that turns into the most pathetic whine-laugh. Chanyeol guffaws but moves closer to nudge the ray off of Baekhyun.
“I guess I have to be the one to kiss it?” Chanyeol asks with a grin.
“I said I can do it,” Baekhyun says.
“You just lost your sh—You freaked out when that one touched you. I’ll do it.”
It’s at that point that a ray swims up, flaps against Chanyeol’s torso. Chanyeol grins in that way he always has, whole-faced and brilliant and infectious, and Baekhyun can’t help his own smile in return. Chanyeol pets the ray, nice and gentle, then dips down for a quick kiss on top of its head before letting out an excited yell. And Baekhyun can’t help but yell, too, clapping if only because Chanyeol managed not to die while doing this mission.
“Cut!” Junmyeon yells. Chanyeol smiles a bit more shyly at Baekhyun and rakes his wet hair back. Baekhyun looks away, watching Junmyeon come a little closer. “Okay so the lighting wasn’t quite right, do you think we could do that again?”
“Are you f—”
“Kidding! Just kidding.” Junmyeon holds his hands up in surrender to calm some of Chanyeol’s ire. “But Baekhyun, would you be willing—”
“Okay, so just one shot of—”
Junmyeon sighs. “Okay, well, that’s a wrap on the rays.”
“I think we’re in first place so far. I don’t think anyone else got anything done today other than getting drunk at dinner.”
1:48 in the morning and they’re back in their shared room at Pirates Point Resort. The furniture looks tragically 1995 and the air conditioning seems to be stuck on meat locker but at least it’s working. The downside—just one bed. Which is fine with Chanyeol, since there’s a couch and he didn’t mind squeezing onto it. But thinking about it, about the fact that they can’t just sleep together like they would’ve a decade ago, makes Baekhyun frown.
He watches Chanyeol undressing, stares at Chanyeol’s back and how muscular it is as he rummages through his belongings. Muscular and intricately decorated. The limbs of the giant tree tattooed on Chanyeol’s back sway as he moves his arms and it’s almost kind of calming to watch.
“So what’s with the tat?” Baekhyun asks.
“Hn? Oh. Uh. Y’know. The follies of youth.”
“Most people’s youthful follies don’t involve tree murals,” Baekhyun says.
Chanyeol turns, eyebrow raised, but he doesn’t opt for the sarcastic answer Baekhyun can see spinning in his head. “I liked that tree of life design and I wanted to get a tattoo. The end.”
“Do you miss it? The group, I mean.”
“I have a giant tree on my back, Baekhyun.”
“Right. Dumb question.” He pauses. “Do you miss me?”
“I’m going to shower.”
Baekhyun sighs heavily but he knows Chanyeol can’t hear it over the sound of the water hitting the shower floor.
A thing Baekhyun did not miss about sleeping with Chanyeol is his tendency to wake up in the middle of the night to shuffle off to the bathroom. He sighs at the sound of Chanyeol smacking into the bathroom door frame, unfamiliar with the route in this hotel, listens to him talking to himself quietly, the flushing of the toilet, the sink going on and off, another whack into the doorframe.
And then, instead of Chanyeol’s heavy footsteps making their way to the couch on the other side of the room, they come closer. And closer, and closer. And then there’s grunting, the mosquito net over the bed being yanked to one side, and the bed depressing.
Double fuck as Chanyeol slaps an arm over Baekhyun, snuggles up to him, tucks his chin into Baekhyun’s shoulder as he’d done a thousand times before. He’d sleep-big-spooned his way into the bed and now he’s out cold again and fuck Baekhyun isn’t sure if he wants to wake him and put him out or leave him be. It’s disarmingly comfortable. This is going to be another makeshift therapy session with Kyungsoo later on.
It’s fine for almost two whole minutes, Chanyeol’s breathing evening out, deepening. Baekhyun starts to drift off again himself. But then the kissing starts. Slowly, softly at first, careful pecks against Baekhyun’s shoulder. Chanyeol moves his hand to Baekhyun’s waist, sliding closer and pressing against Baekhyun’s back, kissing at his shoulder with more insistence.
“Chanyeol,” Baekhyun mutters. He doesn’t know why he doesn’t immediately jump up, jump out of the bed, throw something at Chanyeol. But he doesn’t do any of that. “Hey. Chanyeol.”
“Wake up, you’re…” Baekhyun frowns some. You’re doing that sleep-fucking precursor thing again. “Just…wake up, go back to the couch.”
“Uh huh.” He doesn’t move.
“For fuck’s sake…Fine. I’ll get on the couch.” Getting up should be easy. Should. And yet Baekhyun finds himself still hesitating. “God…Chanyeol!”
“Shit! What!” Chanyeol jolts upright, taking the blankets with him. “What is it? What’s wrong, what’s happening?”
“Get out of the bed. You live on the couch.”
“Deja vu,” Chanyeol mumbles. He groans his way out of bed, carefully padding toward the couch. “It’s freezing over here.”
“Yeah well.” The bed does feel about thirty times more frigid without that giant asshole. “Whatever, just…come back. But stay on your side. Don’t touch me.”
They settle on their respective sides of the bed after a few minutes but it still feels cold. Baekhyun covers his face with his hands, then lets out a groan.
“Fine. You can move closer.”
“Thank you for your benevolence.”
“I sincerely hope you get the bends.”
“You’re the one rooming with me. You think that won’t affect you too?”
“I’m ignoring you starting now,” Baekhyun says.
“You’ve been ignoring me for years; how is now different?”
“Now I’m ignoring you to your face.” Chanyeol’s laughter puffs against his shoulder and sends a shiver through him. “Why are you always a billion degrees.”
“Why are you always an icebox?” Chanyeol asks. There’s heat over Baekhyun and he thinks maybe it’s Chanyeol’s arm but there’s a chance maybe it’s just his insides going haywire. “Is it okay if…?”
“Sure,” Baekhyun says quietly and the heat lowers, wraps around his waist again. He feels ridiculous for the sigh that slips out.
It’s quiet but Baekhyun knows Chanyeol isn’t asleep. If he didn’t know better, he’d say it felt like any other time they’d shared a bed on trips. But he knows better, and the tension that should be there isn’t and that just makes it more awkward.
“I missed you,” Chanyeol mumbles so softly Baekhyun could have easily missed it if he didn’t feel Chanyeol speaking against his shoulder. “I miss you. I’m sorry about—”
Silence again and Chanyeol starts rubbing his hand against Baekhyun’s stomach and it feels way, way too good to tell him to stop.
“Where do we even find a turtle,” Chanyeol asks, though it’s fairly muffled by barbecue chicken.
“Well…the ocean…” Baekhyun laughs quietly, then a bit more genuinely at Chanyeol’s puzzled, barbecue sauce covered face. He turns his camera to Chanyeol with a smile. “Say cheese!”
“Don’t record me eating!” Chanyeol laughs, holding his hand up in front of his face. Baekhyun laughs and turns the camera back off. “That’s so rude.”
“You recorded me trying to find somewhere to pee,” Baekhyun comments. He sips his cocktail. “Turnabout’s fair play. How do you think the other teams are doing?”
“According to a very braggy text from Jongin,” Chanyeol says between chewing, “they’ve got three of five done. He says Yerim and Sooyoung have two. Same as Namjoon and Seokjin. Mark and Jackson have four.”
“So we have to kill them,” Baekhyun says.
“Glad we’re on the same wavelength.”
Baekhyun smiles and starts to record an iguana nearby, waddling across the road. “We just have to find a turtle, take a picture with it, and boom. Our charities win.”
“All the charities win,” Chanyeol points out.
“Ours win more. Plus we can tell Jackson to suck it. Maybe we shouldn’t be taking a food break right now. C’mon. Get up.” Baekhyun stands and stretches, then kicks at Chanyeol’s foot. “Let’s go. Wipe your mouth, caveman.”
As soon as he says it, he regrets. Chanyeol’s face falls. They tear their eyes from each other and walk toward the beach in silence. He hates this. First spooning all night and now random old nicknames coming out without a second thought.
The trek to the beach feels heavy. Baekhyun busies himself in any way he can, filming the sky, more iguanas, a random cloud that kinda looked like a dinosaur. Anything to keep from focusing on the silence wedged between them. At least, he thinks as he films a flock of birds, they didn’t have Junmyeon and the crew following them to record this awkwardness; they’d only tagged along for the stingray filming just to ensure the best shots.
When they reach the beach, it’s clear Chanyeol’s all but forgotten about the awkwardness not even ten minutes prior. He shouts, he jumps around, he squat-waddles behind a very confused crab. And Baekhyun, keeping his distance, records it all. From behind the safety of the camera, he doesn’t feel as conflicted about watching Chanyeol—he has to watch, just to make sure he’s getting good footage for the show editors. That’s all it is. There’s nothing more to it, no additional reasons why he’s zooming in to get a tighter shot of Chanyeol hopping out of the ocean, grinning widely and waving his arms. Nothing other than wanting the show to look good.
Once Chanyeol gets all of his beach excitement out, they stroll along the water’s edge, trying to look for turtles within the water or maybe hiding out in the sand. Baekhyun isn’t entirely sure where sea turtles live most of the time but Chanyeol seems confident about looking in the water.
“Hey remember going to Malta?” Chanyeol asks out of the blue. Baekhyun glances over.
Of course he remembers Malta. He remembers a lot of drinking. He remembers Chanyeol getting him alone. He remembers the champagne on Chanyeol’s breath, the heat radiating from both of them as Chanyeol pressed close to him and mumbled a drunken confession. He remembers not even making it to the bed they shared.
But all of that probably has nothing to do with where Chanyeol was going with that question.
“No reason,” Chanyeol shrugs. “Just asking. The water here kinda reminds me of that. We walked a lot and I just kind of remembered--”
“Is that Jackson?”
Most of the time, spotting Jackson elicits some kind of groan or eyeroll from Baekhyun. This time, he pretty much wants to kiss the guy. Jackson walks toward them, talking exaggeratedly with his hands as Mark walks beside him filming.
“Oh crap,” Chanyeol mutters.
“Oh...crap.” Baekhyun frowns and they both stop walking, spotting it at near the same time--a giant sea turtle waddling toward the water, just about halfway in between the two of them and the jerks down the beach. “I’m not wearing my murdering clothes.”
“Maybe they don’t see--” Jackson’s scream reverberates through the air and cuts Chanyeol off. When Baekhyun looks, Jackson alternates between screaming about them and screaming about the turtle. “Nevermind. How long we got?”
“Six minutes,” Baekhyun says after a quick time check on his phone. They’d been instructed to stop all scavenger hunt attempts at 5pm and it was skirting pretty close to that. Maybe Chanyeol was right and they shouldn’t have stopped for lunch.
“You going in the water or me?”
“I could do it I guess…”
“Great,” Chanyeol says. “You follow it in, I’ll distract. Go!”
Baekhyun doesn’t have time to fully emote his confusion. Chanyeol’s already damn near up to the turtle--and Jackson. There’s a lot of hand-waving, and Chanyeol dancing around the turtle to block Jackson and Mark, and Baekhyun really hates the smile he’s got watching. He records them as he walks up, eyeing Mark a moment as he gauges just how close the turtle is to the water; he doesn’t want to have to shove it in but if it means getting a picture before Mark and Jackson, he just might.
“You’re cheating!” Jackson yells. “This is absolutely cheating! Move, giant!”
“What?” Chanyeol shouts. “What? Can’t hear you, sorry! Hey look at that lizard!”
“I’m not above shoving you on your butt,” Jackson says, and Chanyeol laughs and sidesteps some more to keep blocking the rather oblivious turtle.
The arguing is amusing, but Baekhyun turns his attention elsewhere--the water. More specifically, the tiny circles that catch his eye within the surf. Tiny, green circles. Jackpot. Rather than draw attention to the baby sea turtles, Baekhyun casually starts to move toward the water after passing his camera off to Chanyeol. He turns the waterproof camera on, glancing over his shoulder now and then to make sure the other boys are still too preoccupied with the bigger turtle to notice. And then, he’s right in the water with them.
Underneath the waves, a few dozen baby sea turtles swim around undisturbed and it’s honestly the most serene-looking scene he’s ever seen. It takes him a few seconds to remember he’s on a mission but the sound of muffled yelling snaps him out of his tranquility. He positions the camera, grins as best he can, and snaps a few baby turtle selfies to make sure at least one of them is usable.
When he surfaces, Jackson is still yelling and Chanyeol is grinning and Mark’s wading out into the water, too, now that they’ve realized there are babies to take pictures with. Before Mark can get very far, just as Baekhyun emerges from the water, the alarms on their crew-provided phones start blaring. Chanyeol hoots excitedly, jumping up and down as Jackson flops into the sand.
“Time!” Chanyeol shouts. “Time! Ha! HA!”
That competitive streak of Chanyeol’s clearly hadn’t lessened over time and Baekhyun finds himself enveloped in a tight hug. Chanyeol pulls back and high-fives Baekhyun, and Baekhyun starts to say something about the brilliant colors beneath the water when Chanyeol grabs his cheeks, pulls him close, and kisses him.
It lasts less than a second. Maybe even less than half a second. Their lips hadn’t touched and then they did and now they stand there staring at one another, Chanyeol’s eyes wide and full of regret and Baekhyun doesn’t even know what’s happening on his own face but it’s probably not good.
“Uh.” Chanyeol is about the same color as the sunset starting behind him. “Um.”
“Whoa man,” Jackson comments from the ground. Baekhyun kicks sand at him.
Something like an apology gets mumbled in Baekhyun’s direction and Chanyeol’s off to go back toward the hotel, to meet up with the others for dinner. Baekhyun sighs. He sits down in the sand near the turtle and glances to Jackson, watching him with a wry grin.
“I didn’t even--”
“Preemptive shut up.”
Dinner passes excruciatingly slowly. But it seems like maybe it’s only Baekhyun. Everyone else, even Chanyeol, seems perfectly fine. They’re talking around him, possibly even to him, but he’s not paying attention to any of it. Everything he focuses on is begrudgingly, overwhelmingly Chanyeol.
He stares at Chanyeol’s face, the way his eyes light up as he speaks with Jongin, probably bragging about being nearly done with their scavenger hunt list. The hint of grease from the cheeseburger that makes Chanyeol’s lips shine. It’s unfair that Baekhyun strongly considers what it’d be like to kiss them clean.
He’s yanked from his seat and dragged off into the darkness before he can finish that particular fantasy, and he turns a questioning look to see Kyungsoo staring at him.
“What’s going on?” Kyungsoo asks.
“You’ve said two words all night and Junmyeon left himself open for at least three sex jokes and you didn’t make any. So what’s up? What happened today?”
Baekhyun sighs. “You’re really annoying,” he says.
“What did he do?”
“He kissed me.” Even in the dark, the outside lights of the restaurant barely illuminating anything, Baekhyun sees how wide Kyungsoo’s eyes get. “It was just a little...peck. Thing. Don’t freak out.”
“But you’re freaking out,” Kyungsoo points out. “You look like you’re in shock.”
“Well I kind of am,” Baekhyun says. “I don’t want to talk about this. I just wanna go to sleep.”
“You don’t ever not want to talk about things,” Kyungsoo laughs. “You talk while you’re not talking. So this is kind of momentous. You can’t force me to get involved and then tell me not to get involved. Are you mad? Did you punch him? Are you canceling on the show?”
“I’m not mad,” Baekhyun sighs. “I didn’t punch him and I’m not going to back out of the show. It’s just kind of weird. I mean last night we slept in the bed together--”
“What the hell!”
“--and now this and I want to just forget about it all. And now you’re making me think. I don’t like this and now I’m mad at you.”
“That is seriously misplaced anger,” Kyungsoo says. “As the neutral party here, can I just say maybe you’re both leading one another on and it’s definitely going to go somewhere you both might regret?”
“Too late, I said it. Don’t do anything you’ll regret,” Kyungsoo says. He pats Baekhyun’s head. “But you’re an adult. So I guess do whatever the hell you want. One or both of you’s gonna come crying to me regardless. I reserve the right to say I told you so.”
“You do that anyway,” Baekhyun points out.
Kyungsoo laughs a little, then pulls Baekhyun closer and kisses his temple. “I’m neutral,” he says quietly, “but I’m just going to say that I personally root for you two.”
“You are really not clear on what neutral means, are you,” Baekhyun groans.
“So...Do you hate me even more now or?”
Baekhyun pauses in the middle of pulling on his pajama pants. He looks to the sofa, to Chanyeol watching him with those damn puppy eyes of his. It’s a trap for sure, so he lowers his gaze back to the floor.
“I told you, I don’t hate you,” Baekhyun sighs. “Look, you...I don’t know what you want me to say here. I’m not mad. I don’t hate you. It’s fine.”
“I can sleep here tonight,” Chanyeol says with a nod. He unfolds a blanket, shaking it a few times before curling up on the couch. “G’night, Baekhyun.”
“Get in the bed, jerk,” Baekhyun says before he can really think too much about it.
The time it takes from saying that and finding himself with a bedmate isn’t even enough for Baekhyun to overthink what he’s doing. He hears Chanyeol laugh quietly behind him, can feel Chanyeol’s perpetual warmth radiating beneath the covers, and he wants Chanyeol even closer. Maybe. But only because it’s been a while since he’s had anyone close, he’s sure. Chanyeol could be anybody, literally anybody, and he’d welcome the company. It’s absolutely not because Chanyeol is Chanyeol.
But Chanyeol is Chanyeol and his head comes closer to Baekhyun’s shoulder, close enough that Baekhyun feels his flop of hair against his skin. Chanyeol is Chanyeol and all the memories that come along with that explode in Baekhyun’s head, melt away until all that’s left are the flashes of pleasure they’d shared over the years and Baekhyun’s ears burn at the thoughts.
He should definitely not shift in bed to move his hips back closer to Chanyeol’s. He should not let Chanyeol put a hand against his hip. He should really, really not reach to put his own hand atop Chanyeol’s. Everything is bad and wrong and the complete antithesis of everything Baekhyun swore he’d do the next time he saw Chanyeol.
Their hips fit together like there hadn’t been any time lost between them at all. Like it’s the very first time they’d ever spooned in bed. Like it’s one of the hundreds of nights like this that followed. Chanyeol nuzzles Baekhyun’s shoulder, hugs him a little tighter, and Baekhyun does his best to ignore the desire starting to swirl in his stomach. A few deep breaths in and out calm him, sort of.
He turns his head to look over his shoulder and it startles him just how close Chanyeol is to him, even though he felt him there. They stare at each other for a stretch and Baekhyun sees the assortment of questions that Chanyeol isn’t asking aloud. Most everything in him says to just get up, get out of the bed, get away from this potential bad decision.
Baekhyun never really listens to himself.
Shifting to face Chanyeol, he puts his hands against the taller’s chest and leans in close, close enough that there’s hardly room for a whisper between them, but neither of them officially closes that very minuscule gap for some time. Chanyeol’s heart, beneath Baekhyun’s hands, beats quite a bit faster.
He knows Chanyeol won’t make a move, not since that earlier mistake and Baekhyun’s subsequent avoidance. So Baekhyun takes another breath in and closes his eyes, pushing his lips against Chanyeol’s and curling his fingers in the fabric of Chanyeol’s shirt. A pathetic whimper hums its way out of Chanyeol and Baekhyun would laugh if he weren’t so focused elsewhere. Elsewhere like working his way from a somewhat chaste, kind of boring lip-smushing kind of kiss to something that makes his stomach swirl more, something that’s all hormones and instinct and heat. He’d forgotten how nice Chanyeol’s mouth, his tongue, tastes.
Chanyeol doesn’t get very far in the attempted rebuttal. His protest gets swallowed down the second Baekhyun shifts, straddles Chanyeol’s hips, carefully presses against him as he deepens their kiss. There isn’t room between them for protesting and Baekhyun refuses to entertain the notion of being rejected. He pushes his hips against Chanyeol, slow and questioning and almost shy, and when Chanyeol moans, Baekhyun smiles into their kiss.
It’s easy, Baekhyun thinks, and he tries to avoid thinking about that dumb riding a bike cliche if only because it’d make him laugh. He pushes against Chanyeol again and there’s another moan, and it takes him a second to realize it’s from himself. He laughs quietly, breaks their kiss, starts nipping along Chanyeol’s neck and jaw and ear and god he’d really really missed this.
“Baek, wait.” Fuck. Baekhyun starts to reclaim Chanyeol’s mouth to avoid having to stop, but Chanyeol turns his head some. Fuck fuck fuck. “Probably...a really dumb idea,” he says and his voice is strained and deep and just as sexy as Baekhyun remembers it to be in the middle of makeout sessions. “You don’t want to do this.”
“No but I do,” Baekhyun says. “I really, really do. Let’s just have a do-over.”
Chanyeol sighs and starts to sit up again, and Baekhyun slides back onto his side of the bed. “I don’t want to...do a thing that you’ll just regret once we’re off this island. I mean it’s been five years--”
“Six,” Baekhyun mumbles and fuck there goes his arousal. He frowns and sits up as well, wrapping the blanket around himself.
“Right. And it’s...I mean trust me I have wanted to get it on with you again for a billion years but…” Chanyeol heaves a sigh and musses his own hair and Baekhyun just wants to jump into his lap again. He looks off to keep from getting more ideas. “I dunno. We should probably talk like adults about...what happened.”
“I’m going to bed,” Baekhyun mutters. He flops over, facing the window rather than Chanyeol. The bed shakes with Chanyeol getting readjusted as well.
“I’m sorry,” Chanyeol says. Baekhyun squeezes his eyes shut and pretends not to hear.
Baekhyun has about ninety-four percent certainty that the curtains had been shut when they crawled into bed last night, so the sun stabbing into his eyes is highly unwelcome. He turns over and immediately regrets doing so--right, Chanyeol’s in the bed. Any sleepiness lingering falls away, and Baekhyun opens his eyes and prepares himself to see adorable amounts of early-morning Chanyeol. Except, there’s no one on that side of the bed.
Rubbing his eyes, he sits up, looks around the room, spots Chanyeol filming in a mirror. He smiles some to himself and tries to focus well enough to find something to say.
“Ah! He’s up!” Chanyeol says as he whips the camera around to film Baekhyun.
“No!” Baekhyun yells and immediately disappears beneath the blanket with a laugh. “Don’t film me!”
“But your bedhead is funny,” Chanyeol says. Baekhyun feels him poking and starts to shriek with laughter. “Come back out!”
“Turn off the camera!”
“It’s off, it’s off!” Chanyeol says. Baekhyun starts to emerge, then thinks better of it. Instead, he uncovers one arm, holding his hand out.
“Give me the camera,” he demands. “To make sure it’s off.” Hesitation. That lying jackass. “I hate you.”
“Ah, you’re no fun,” Chanyeol sighs.
He takes a few seconds but eventually Baekhyun feels the camera fall into his hand. Since it’s safe to sit up, he comes back out from beneath the covers and smiles at Chanyeol. Chanyeol makes a face and goes to sit and put on his shoes.
“Jackson and Mark are gonna be going after the turtle,” Chanyeol reports as he ties his shoes. “And Jongin and Soo have one left, too. So I set our alarm for an hour earlier and we’re skipping the group breakfast. We’ll get that booby feather right at ten. I saw some when we were on the beach and I was going to grab one but then the thingy went off. So. Pants on, hair brushed, off to the beach, grab a feather. And then we win!”
“You woke me up earlier than I needed to be up so we can get a feather from a doofy-looking bird just so you can say you won?” Baekhyun says. Chanyeol nods. “You...You know what, I’m not even mad.”
It takes Baekhyun hardly any time at all to get ready, and when he comes out of the bathroom, Chanyeol has his eyes on him. He stops for a second, trying to decide if he wants to comment on the all too familiar look he sees on Chanyeol’s face, but ultimately decides to just put his shoes on quietly.
Ten o’clock and the alarm signaling that they’re free to start the scavenger hunt once again chimes. Chanyeol’s grin triples; they hadn’t been able to skip the breakfast but they’d left a little earlier and sat beside the nest he’d found, chock full of loose feathers. As soon as Chanyeol turns the alarm off, he jogs closer, films the nest for a bit, grabs a feather and shouts. Baekhyun can’t help but laugh some.
“Look look we win!” Chanyeol says. He points the camera at Baekhyun, and Baekhyun grins and waves until Chanyeol starts to film his phone. “10:01am. We definitely won. They’re probably still walking from breakfast. How do you feel, winner?”
“I’m going to Disneyland,” Baekhyun deadpans.
“Look there are some birds,” Chanyeol points, and Baekhyun watches a couple of red-footed boobies walking around. “Thank you, birds!”
“You are honestly a dork,” Baekhyun says. “How are you not any less dorky? You’re a grownup.”
“How many of these do you think it’d take to make a coat?”
“I’m calling Junmyeon,” Baekhyun laughs some.
The last zipper of Baekhyun’s bag is zipped and he takes another moment to look around the hotel room to make sure he isn’t leaving anything behind. It’s over, and he’s trying not to feel too terribly sad to be done with a thing he didn’t even want to do in the first place. He adjusts his sunglasses, biting at the inside of his cheek, and tells himself he’s only sad to leave the island. No other reason.
Chanyeol wheels his giant suitcase toward the door and sighs, then looks at Baekhyun with a soft smile. He’s got his sunglasses on, too, otherwise Baekhyun would be trying his damnedest to decide if he should say something substantial to him.
“We did good,” Chanyeol says with a firm nod. “That was fun. I’m glad we got paired up.”
“Yeah...Y’know, me too,” Baekhyun says and it doesn’t feel like a lie. It does, however, make his feet feel even heavier. “Look, I’m sorry about--”
“Nah, let’s not,” Chanyeol shakes his head. “We had a good time. That’s enough.”
“Right.” Baekhyun sounds disappointed. Sad. He tries to reel that back in. “Um. Off to the airport, then.”
“Yep,” Chanyeol nods. He opens the door and holds it for Baekhyun, and Baekhyun carts his things on out.
It’s bright and annoying outside and just pisses Baekhyun off even more about this whole leaving situation. He wants to say more. He wants to tell Chanyeol that he’s sorry about so many years of the cold shoulder, about not talking out their issues, about not listening when Chanyeol tried to talk. He wants to, but then there are the others around and Chanyeol’s off to chat with Jackson and Jongin and it’s just another in a long series of missed opportunities for Baekhyun. He sighs and sits atop his suitcase to wait for the cab and avoid talking to anyone.
Not even a minute later, there’s a shadow over him. He squints up, and then up up up some more, until he sees Chanyeol’s grinning face.
“Hi,” Chanyeol says. He extends a hand, and after a moment’s hesitation, Baekhyun takes it. Chanyeol gives it a vigorous shake. “I’m Park Chanyeol.”
“...I know,” Baekhyun says. He raises an eyebrow and starts to wonder what the symptoms of heat stroke are and if he should call a medic for Chanyeol.
“Really?” Chanyeol asks with surprise. “Huh. That’s strange. I don’t know you. What’s your name?”
“Chanyeol what are--”
“I mean, two total strangers probably have a better shot at making things work than two people who super screwed up and are too bullheaded to fix it, I’d think,” Chanyeol says. “But that’s sort of a weird thing to say to a stranger. Your name is…?”
Baekhyun watches Chanyeol’s hand still shaking his own. All this jostling has probably done something wacky to his brain, for sure. He smiles a little, glancing just behind Chanyeol to see Kyungsoo watching them, giving a thumbs up once they lock eyes. Baekhyun laughs quietly and looks back up to Chanyeol.
“Byun Baekhyun. Nice to meet you.”