Word Counts: 2923 words
Side Pairing(s): Seulgi/Wendy (mentioned)
Warning(s): mentions of insomnia, some mild drinking
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: Chanyeol can’t sleep.
Author's Note: The excerpts are from Asleep by The Smiths.
Sing me to sleep
"Chanyeol," Seulgi says. He looks up at her over the array of his notes, pages of tiny scribbles blanketing the table like a snowfall of words. She doesn't say anything else, but then again she doesn't need to.
Chanyeol knows what he looks like in the mirror, which is why he doesn't look anymore.
"I slept last night," he says, heading the argument off with a statement that's factually true, and shuffling through the pages to hide the fine tremor in his fingers. Caffeine can't replace sleep, but sometimes it's good enough.
'For what?" Seulgi says, and Chanyeol knows she's not going to let it go, not today. "Twenty minutes?"
Chanyeol doesn't tell her that his sleep tracker estimated a generous ten minutes. He just shrugs. "It's something," he says, and wishes for the tenth time that he could wear concealer without someone commenting on it.
Seulgi just looks at him for a moment, twisting her pen between her fingers in sharp, jerking movements before she finally exhales, shoulders slumping slightly.
"I just want to help," she says, and Chanyeol feels bad even though it's not his fault.
"I know," he says, and he does. His friends are great and his family is great and it has nothing to do with it. "Thank you."
There's silence then, between them, just the sound of breathing and paper rustling and Chanyeol lets the world recede as he loses himself in this feeling of suspension, where nothing is exactly real and he can just go through the motions. During the day, he doesn't have to think at all, unless someone makes him.
It's at night when everything comes into sharp focus, when he twists and turns and feels the seconds dripping down, single drops of acid eating away at his skin.
How did things end up like this? Chanyeol doesn't know. He doesn't recognize the life he's living, not that there's anything wrong with it; he has friends and a degree path that he likes, but he just doesn't feel like it's real.
Somehow, sometime, he slipped off the wheel and now he's just standing, watching everyone walking along the road while he's just looking on from the sidelines of his own life, not sure how he got here.
"Chanyeol," someone says, and he has to blink through layers of fog until his eyes focus. Staring down at the page in front of him, he can see that he's just finished all the problem sets. He has no recollection of them at all.
"Chanyeol," the voice repeats, and this time he knows it's Seulgi.
"Sorry," he says, preempting her rebuke with an apology. "I was following a train of thought."
"You've been staring at the same spot on the page for the last ten minutes," she says.quietly.
"Oh," Chanyeol says, because there really isn't anything else for him to say. His fingers skate over the spread out notes, gathering them up both because he needs to and also just to look busy, give himself something to do to avoid her expression. Seulgi's eyes are too raw, too real for him to face in the daytime.
There's a pause, Chanyeol not looking up, and he wonders if he'll be able to sneak away but—
"Okay," Seulgi says, as though she's come to a big decision, and Chanyeol hides his wince. "We're going to supper."
I'm tired and I
The restaurant is crowded, dim lights offset by too many people clustered at tables, gesturing and talking and feeling too much. It's exhausting, and Chanyeol is already tired. Seulgi glances back at him, the wrinkle between her brow furrowing a little deeper. He braces his shoulders and flashes her a watery grin. She looks unconvinced.
"I'm sorry," she murmurs in his ear as he leans down, "I want to help but maybe this was a bad idea." Chanyeol thinks about going home, lying wide awake, staring at the ceiling as the stars spin through the darkness outside his window. Everything is a bad idea.
"I'm okay," he whispers back, her hair brushing his face as she turns to avoid running into a table. It smells like spring, and Chanyeol is suddenly thrown back into a scent-memory so strong that the room around him spins.
They're sitting beneath the trees skirting the field, rather than in the stuffy cafeteria where the belaboured air conditioning already can't keep up with the press of high school bodies. Seulgi sits with her back against the trunk of an apple tree, weaving a flower crown with the blossoms.
"Here," she says, passing it to the person sitting on the grass next to him, their knees brushing. Baekhyun reaches for the flowers, but then passes the crown to Chanyeol.
"Here, you put in on my head so it's straight," he says, and Chanyeol lifts it, Baekhyun's eyes gazing into his, as the flowers settle around his head. It smells sweet, and when Chanyeol lifts his fingers away, the scent follows.
He blinks, the restaurant settling around him. There's a strange ache in his chest; Chanyeol hasn't thought about him in years, not since—well, not anything in particular. Things just happened, people drifted apart. The saddest stories are the ones that fade out into nothing.
Luckily, Seulgi hasn't noticed, and he slides into the chair across from her, glancing at the open seat where she usually deposits her bag.
"Is someone coming?" he asks. Seulgi nods, grinning, and Chanyeol tries to figure out who it might be. Perhaps her girlfriend? He hasn't met Seungwan more than a handful of times, usually grabbing coffee on campus or something, since she's all the way across in the music department, but it would be nice to get to know her a little better.
He sits back in the chair, and tries to focus on being here, the skin of his fingers touching the menu, his feet flat on the ground.
"What do you want to order?" Seulgi asks, flipping through the menu. Chanyeol reads the words, imagines putting the food in his mouth.
"I'm not hungry," he says, but Seulgi's mouth starts to open so he adds, "I'll have whatever you're having." Her mouth closes again, and she flashes him a wicked grin.
He's going to regret this, he's pretty sure. Chanyeol closes his menu, setting it on the table with a click that cuts through his drifting thoughts.
"Who's coming?" he asks, and then he sees him, weaving around the other restaurant patrons, heading directly for their table so there's no chance it's just a coincidence.
And then leave me alone
Everything is suddenly, achingly real, as Baekhyun walks up to their table, familiar smile spread across his face. Chanyeol watches as he slips into the chair next to Seulgi, nudging her shoulder with his elbow before he turns to glance across the table.
"Chanyeol," he says, voice so familiar as it haunts the hallways of Chanyeol's memories. Chanyeol wants to stand up and run out of the restaurant. Chanyeol wants to reach across the table, fingers snagging Baekhyun's wrist, and never let him go.
The waiter stops by their table to bring Baekhyun a menu, and Chanyeol catches her eye.
"I'd like a glass of wine to start off," he says. Out of the corner of his eye, he sees Baekhyun's expression flicker for a moment, before he smooths his features flat again.
"Chan—," Seulgi starts, then stops.
"It's been a while," Chanyeol says, because someone has to say something. When Seulgi had said that someone would be joining them, he never expected it to be a ghost from his past.
When was the last time you felt real, Chanyeol? When was the last time everything was clear?
Baekhyun laughs, and the sound warms something inside him that's been cold for so long, while also stabbing into his chest. When the wine comes with the waiter, he doesn't bother to raise his glass, just downing a gulp. The wine floods his mouth, dousing and yet fanning the flames.
"It's been way too long," Baekhyun says, and Chanyeol can hear the rueful tone now, tinging his voice with something like regret. He could say a lot of things: they sit on his tongue, heavy with the weight of years.
You drifted away, he thinks, and waves the waiter down for a bottle of wine before Seulgi gives their order. She tries to meet his gaze but Chanyeol just looks away.
"Are you still studying?" he asks instead. The name of Baekhyun's university is imprinted in the surface of Chanyeol's brain, hanging from the tip of his tongue.
"I'm going away to school," Baekhyun says, staring up at the canopy of leaves above them. His hand slips through Chanyeol's fingers, reaching up towards the sky. "They have the best astronomy department."
Chanyeol's fingers are cold, closing around emptiness.
"I applied for my doctoral studies," Baekhyun says, grinning, and even after all this time Chanyeol can see the stars in his eyes. "We'll see where I get in."
"Don't worry," Seulgi says, taking a sip of water and flicking her eyes over to check on Chanyeol, even as she turns towards Baekhyun, "You're a great student. They'll be fighting over you."
Chanyeol's glass is empty again, red staining the bottom so that he can't see through to the table beneath.
He wanted to say, "Stay," but the words wouldn't leave his mouth. There was a rock pressing into his back, between his ribs, but Baekhyun turned his head to glance at Chanyeol, a smile wrinkling his eyes, and Chanyeol swallowed and smiled back.
"You'll be awesome," he said.
That night, after his shower, he saw the purple bruise on his skin in the bathroom mirror.
Don't feel bad for me
It's not that Chanyeol is drunk exactly, but he's not really sober either and the alcohol reacts strangely to the fog in his head. Everything is too clear, Baekhyun's face, swimming in his vision, and yet it feels vaguely surreal.
"Chanyeol," Seulgi says, and he turns to look at her, standing by the door of the restaurant. Her face is pinched with worry, and he feels terrible for making her look like that. He opens his mouth, and then closes it again. He doesn't know what to say, and all of his exhaustion coalesces like a bucket of icy water dumped over his head; he's left swaying where he stands.
"I'm so tired," Chanyeol admits, even though he knows it's pointless, even though he knows that as soon as he lies down he'll be wide awake. Baekhyun is standing next to Seulgi now, whispering in her ear as she nods. Chanyeol wonders what he's saying, what anyone is ever saying, what anything even means.
He has homework; he should be getting home.
"I'm going to go," he says, the words catching on his tongue and falling, mangled, from his mouth. He closes the coat around himself and heads for the door, only realizing it's actually the glass window next to it when his forehead collides with the transparent surface.
For a moment, everything goes white, and it feels like sleeping, or something so close that when Chanyeol blinks back his vision, the tears pooling in the corners of his eyes are because of that, and not the pain.
There are fingers on his arm, an arm wrapping around his back and he can tell it's Baekhyun even without looking.
"I'm coming home with you," Baekhyun says, in a tone of voice that won't accept arguments but the truth of the matter is that Chanyeol wouldn't protest anyway.
"Do you think I should go?" Baekhyun asks as they're sitting side by side in the school library, flipping through university brochures.
Chanyeol wants to say no. Wants to say please stay here with me.
"I think you should do what will make you happy," he says.
It feels strange, stepping into his apartment with Baekhyun beside him. He doesn't like the harsh overhead lights, only flicking on the lamp, and there's a knowing smile on Baekhyun's face. Another thing that he remembers about Chanyeol.
"Where are you staying?" he asks, hanging up his coat. Baekhyun is just standing there in the entrance way and suddenly Chanyeol is terrified that he'll just slip away again. He pauses, hand on the hanger, bracing himself for the answer.
"I don't know," Baekhyun says, and Chanyeol can hear the shrug in his voice without turning around. It's typical Baekhyun—making it up as he goes along and yet landing on his feet.
Standing half in the closet it's almost dark, and Chanyeol says what he wants to say. For once.
"Stay with me."
He stops breathing, waiting for the answer, and it's only when Baekhyun replies that he exhales, hand slipping down to his side.
"Okay." His voice is small, in the hallway, a single stone landing in the pool of silence around them, sending out ripples.
I don't want to wake up
Chanyeol finds a pair of spare pajamas for Baekhyun, who's dwarfed by the longs arms and legs and yet manages to look confident with the cuffs and wrists rolled up. Chanyeol feels crumpled in comparison, drooping and yet he knows what will happen as soon as he lies down.
"Are you okay with the couch?" he asks, and Baekhyun nods.
"I'm a pro couch-surfer," he says, grinning, crawling onto the cushions and pulling a blanket over his legs. "See? All set."
It looks uncomfortable, but Chanyeol still wishes he was sleeping here in the living room instead of lying in his big empty bed, staring at the ceiling.
"Good night," he says.
"Good night," Baekhyun replies, shifting to face the back of the couch and closing his eyes.
Chanyeol makes himself pick up his feet and leave.
Deep in the cell of my heart
Only to lie in bed, eyes open, his mind racing like it always does. He's so tired his eyes are gritting and yet everything is spinning through his head, all the things he's never said, all the things he's said to make people happy.
"You're a coward," he tells himself in the dark. Somehow it's always easier to talk in the dark, when no one is looking and the words are buoyant, floating up into the shadows.
Finally, at about three in the morning, Chanyeol allows himself to roll out of bed and head to the kitchen for a glass of water. He's just filling his glass from the faucet when the floor creaks behind him, and he spins in surprise, almost dropping the slippery glass in the metal sink.
It's just Baekhyun, standing there, but Chanyeol's heart is still racing in his chest.
"I thought you were asleep," he says, mouth dry, stuffed with cotton.
"I was," Baekhyun says, bringing a hand up to rub at his eyes before they sharpen. "Chanyeol, have you slept at all?"
Chanyeol looks down at the glass in his hands. So he must look a complete wreck. He doesn't bother answering.
"Seulgi just said—but I didn't think—," Baekhyun's voice breaks off. Chanyeol is still looking at the floor.
"Okay," Baekhyun says. He pauses, floor creaking as he shifts his feet. "I think you should drink your water and then we're going back to bed.”
Chanyeol drains his glass, setting it in the sink, and sighs, shuffling back to his bedroom. It's only when he climbs into bed and sees Baekhyun standing at the other side that he realizes what he meant.
"You're not sleeping anyway," Baekhyun says, and settles against the headboard, hands folded over his lap. "Seulgi always said that I could talk anyone into a coma."
For some reason, the thought makes Chanyeol laugh. He's still exhausted, still wide awake, but he rests his head on the pillow and listens to Baekhyun babble about the stars.
It almost feels like high school.
He's not sleeping, just lying there, letting the words wash over him, but Baekhyun must think he is because his voice falters, falling silent for a moment, and when he starts talking again his voice is hoarse.
"You know what?" he asks, but it sounds like a rhetorical question so Chanyeol doesn't answer. "I wanted you to tell me not to go. I wanted you to hold on, but you just smiled and told me to do what would make me happy and it fucking hurt, okay?" His voice breaks, and the bed shifts as he starts to climb off.
Chanyeol isn't sleeping, and everything is somehow easier in the dark. He reaches out, catching Baekhyun's wrist with his fingers.
"Stay," he says.
There is another world