After Baekyeon graduates, she decides to spend one year resting. She sings at bars and works at a cafe in the afternoons and she’s doing all of the things that she wished she did when she was still in college.
Jongdae, Chanyeol and Kyungsoon are all still in college, so she’s forced to adjust to their schedules. Out of boredom, Baekyeon decides to spend most of her time with the music club. She loves their energy: how they all truly love to sing; how they all have some inner talent that’s just waiting to be set free. The new members are all young and fresh and enthusiastic and Baekyeon absolutely loves them.
One day, Kyungsoon announces the most important project that their club has ever done. “The audition tape we sent passed the judges’ criteria. We’re going to join a competition.” The entire club cheers, even the outsider Baekyeon.
“But there’s a catch. It’s in Europe, and we don’t have enough funds to send ourselves to London.”
“So what are we going to do?” Sunyoung asks.
“We’re going to hold another fundraising concert, but it’s going to be bigger and much better,” Kyungsoon proclaims. “We’re going to invite people from everywhere, even the old sponsors from school festivals. We need to publicize this properly and make sure that the most important people know about this. Do you all understand?”
She has her Iron Fist Voice, and nobody dares to do anything else but nod. They stand up and start bringing out their phones and try to talk to as many people as they can. Kyungsoon beams with pride. As soon as she and Baekyeon are alone, she squeals and runs to Baekyeon’s arms.
“I’m so happy! I never thought that this would happen to the lame club that I joined four years ago,” Kyungsoon admits.
“I’m happy for you. I wish I could participate though.” Baekyeon sighs, texting some of her friends to ask them if they’d be interested to watch and support them.
“The concert is in one and a half months. I’m pretty sure you can master a song in that timeframe, right?” Kyungsoon hands her a paper, just like how she did it before.
“Kyungsoon, I don’t know if I want this again,” says Baekyeon, voice quiet and small.
“What do you mean you don’t know? You were great last year, Baekyeon.”
“I was. I know that. I just don’t know if I can handle the pressure again.”
Kyungsoon sighs loudly, grabbing her phone and texting someone. Barely a minute later, someone calls Baekyeon’s phone. She smiles when she sees Jongdae’s name on the screen.
“Take the solo.”
“Hello to you too, Jongdae.” She glares at Kyungsoon on the other side of the room. The other girl merely shrugs.
“Take the solo, Baekyeon. You know you want to.”
She sighs. “Jongdae, I don’t. I don’t want it. I’m not even part of the club! She should give it to someone who really deserves it.”
“Yeah, she’s doing that. And it’s you.” She can hear the frustration growing in Jongdae’s voice. “I don’t want to force you--”
“Oh really? Jongdae, you know me better than anyone. You know that I don’t want this,” she whines.
“You say that, but I know you better than anyone. I know you want this.” He sighs. “It’s just one concert, Baekyeon. It’ll be fun. You know that.”
She looks at Kyungsoon, still innocently looking at her from the other side of the room. “Fine,” she says. The cheer coming from Kyungsoon is uncharacteristically loud. She runs to Baekyeon and tackles her in a hug. She grabs the phone from Baekyeon’s hand.
“Jongdae! Thank you so much for helping me out,” she chirps.
“Anything for her,” says Jongdae before he hangs up. Kyungsoon stares at the phone in her hand for a few moments. She decides to ignore his last sentence and hugs Baekyeon tightly.
Baekyeon grabs Kyungsoon’s hand and they bow deeply, grinning at the sound of the crowd’s applause. The concert went as great as hoped, and Sunyoung estimates that the funds from the university combined with the eight companies that decided to sponsor them would be enough to send them to Europe, spend two or three days just wandering around and then bring them home.
Kyungsoon helps Baekyeon put on her coat, and they greet everyone and thank them for participating well. The older girl decides to take a short walk and stuffs her phone into her pocket, asking them to just text her when they’re going to go to the celebratory party at Miyoung’s apartment.
She walks to the audience area and takes a seat at the front row. The lights onstage are still turned on, giving the platform a sort of ethereal glow. Kyungsoon always tells her that, “The stage is a holy place; only the greatest find their home there.” A part of her marvels at Kyungsoon’s obvious love for performing; she’s never seen herself as that type of girl.
“The set was beautiful tonight,” A man’s voice tells her. Baekyeon sharply turns to her left, surprised to see that someone’s sitting two seats away from her. His gaze shifts from the stage to her.
His cool gaze and smooth voice sends shivers down her spine, and she blushes involuntarily. “Th-thank you. We worked hard to organize this event.”
“I could see the effort.” He opens his phone for a second, seemingly annoyed when he sees that there are lots of messages waiting for him. The stranger shakes his head and tries to smile. “You were great on that stage.”
“Thank you,” she mutters, too embarrassed to even speak properly. The way he looks at her is too scrutinizing, as if he’s trying to look into her soul.
She’s surprised to see a calling card being handed to her. Baekyeon takes the paper, reading “Jung Yonghwa” at the very top.
“I’m Jung Yonghwa, a junior producer at an entertainment company.” They shake hands. “I’m not actually allowed to give you any funds, but they sent me here to see if your group has potential to win the competition. I’m glad to say that you were great. Your leader will be hearing from the company soon.”
He stands up, brushing off nonexistent dust off his coat. “It was nice meeting you, Baekyeon.” She merely nods.
“Call me. I’d like to talk to you sometime.” He winks cutely as he walks backward. She can see him chuckling at how her hands ball up into fists and she can’t look up from her lap. Baekyeon lifts her head to smile at him at the very least, but by then he’s already gone.
Baekyeon saves the number in her phone and hopes that she’ll have the courage to call him one day.
“And that’s how I ended up as a producer. Just shove your résumé down a receptionist’s throat and you’re definitely going to get the job you want,” Yonghwa jokingly says. Baekyeon is still in her business attire, fresh out of an interview to the company that she wanted to work in ever since she decided on her course in college.
“Thanks for going out with me, by the way. I know you’re busy,” says Baekyeon. He shakes his head and smiles brightly.
“It’s fine. I had fun.” Yonghwa holds her wrist and leans down to peck her lips. “I’ll talk to you soon.”
He waves goodbye and disappears into the elevator of her apartment building. Baekyeon’s lips are still warm from the kiss, and it takes her a few moments before she remembers that she has to open the door before she can go inside. The metal of her keys feel like ice against her heated skin, still hypersensitive from the slight touch that he gave her. This is weird. She hasn’t felt like this in a long time.
Kyungsoon is eating on her couch, watching TV. Baekyeon has to recall her entire day to remember why Kyungsoon’s eating one of her microwaveable meals while wearing an ugly shirt that Baekyeon hasn’t worn since her rock band obsession days during high school. The doe eyed girl turns her head and just nods at Baekyeon.
“You look happy,” Kyungsoon manages to mutter past the food in her mouth. After she swallows, she makes a face. “This is horrible, by the way. I think instant noodles are better than this unhealthy crap.”
“Someone’s grumpy,” teases Baekyeon. “Is this your first time fighting with Chanyeol or are you just naturally like this and I’ve only discovered this side now?”
“It’s not our first time fighting. We’ve talked over the phone and we’re fine now. He’s picking me up in a while.” Kyungsoon and Chanyeol have already moved in with each other. On the rare occasions that they fight, Baekyeon is Kyungsoon’s closest friend, and she’s obligated to hold her hand while they go through the motions of ignoring each other and eventually making up and making out. Baekyeon generally dislikes it, but she’s used to this.
“Don’t avoid the question, Baekyeon. Why are you so happy?” Kyungsoon grins and pats the seat beside her. Baekyeon takes off her blazer and heels and plops down on her couch. A smile finds its way onto her face, and she can’t stop the giggles from escaping her mouth.
Kyungsoon chuckles. “Of course this is about him.”
The other girl sits up straight. “I haven’t felt anything like this before, Kyungsoon. It’s as if he’s everything I’ve liked in a guy and more. He’s charming and sweet and his voice is great and we harmonize really well and--” Kyungsoon raises a hand. “What?”
“You’re rambling about how much you like someone. That means you’re still in the honeymoon phase. Get over it as fast as possible, honey. Once you reach the lowest point, there’s nowhere to go but up.”
“Are you serious? You talk about all of the great things about Chanyeol, and let me point out that they are nonexistent, all the time,” Baekhyun points out. Kyungsoon narrows her eyes at her.
“Chanyeol and I have been together for three years. It’s perfectly fine for me to talk about him twenty-four seven.”
Baekyeon thinks about being with Yonghwa for three years. Will they be like Chanyeol and Kyungsoon? Will they live together in the same apartment and do stupid domestic things and act like a lame married couple like how they do in TV shows? Will they even last that long?
She doesn’t know what it’s like to have a relationship longer than half a year. It’s not that she’s afraid of commitment; she’s not afraid of anything. Joonmyun told her that maybe it wasn’t a fear of commitment, and maybe she just didn’t want to commit to someone. It’s not preposterous, but she knows that deep inside she wants to live together in the same apartment with someone and do stupid domestic things with someone and act like a lame married couple like how they do in TV shows with someone. She knows that she’s going to want that one day, but maybe she’s just not ready for now. Maybe that’s just it.
“What was your first fight about?” Baekyeon knows that this might not be the nicest thing to talk about, even with someone who she considers her best friend’s girlfriend who’s also kind of her best friend as well. Kyungsoon doesn’t falter nor does she act like anything’s wrong. Baekyeon doesn’t take back the question.
“It was my fault. I thought he was cheating on me because he wasn’t answering his calls and he wasn’t home all night. We hadn’t even been together for a year yet and weren’t living together, but I had my own drawer in his bedroom and we kind of understood each other that way. I was jealous and angry and over-thinking everything and I shouted at him when he got home the next morning. We didn’t talk for two days, and then I opened my door in the morning and saw a box in front of my door. He prepared a gift for my birthday, and the box was full of all the dumb things that we would associate with each other. He didn’t answer my calls because he was busy making it for me and he didn’t want to lie about what he was doing. I ran up to his apartment and kissed him and that was it.”
Baekyeon blinks. She can imagine Chanyeol doing that: being incredibly sweet to someone that he cared so much for. And they had only been together for a few months when he decided that Kyungsoon was one of those people. It’s sickeningly cute, and the happy smile on Kyungsoon’s face shows how much she’s fond of that memory.
Baekyeon can’t imagine herself with Yonghwa to be similar to Kyungsoon and Chanyeol. They’re not the same types of people, and she knows that as charming as Yonghwa is, he’s not going to be the guy that would go through hell and back just for her.
Strangely enough, Jongdae would.
They’ve been friends for seven years. He’s done everything and more for her, and she’s done the same for him. It brings a smile to her face.
“You’re thinking of Yonghwa doing that for you, aren’t you?” Kyungsoon teases.
Baekyeon lies. “Yeah. He would.”
Baekyeon’s still buzzing after announcing to everyone in the gang that Yonghwa’s her boyfriend. There was this weird, triumphant feeling of finally telling everyone you care about that you’ve been in a relationship for four months already. He has an arm around her shoulders while they wait outside the restaurant that they ate in so that Jongin, Sehun and Zitao could hail a cab. His arm is steady, and she leans against him comfortably.
Suddenly, her phone starts ringing. Her brother rarely ever calls her, so she knows that there’s something big happening. “Baekbom?”
“Baekyeon, mom’s in the hospital.” Her world stops turning for a second. “I need you to come here, back home. She’s critical.”
Baekyeon’s eyes widen and she turns to Jongdae. “Can you please drive me back to Bucheon? My mom is...”
Jongdae just nods. “Let’s go.”
“Are you sure it’s okay with you?”
He sends her a look. “Come on, Baekyeon. It’s fine. I’ll go get my car from the parking lot. I’ll pick you up here.” He runs to his car.
Baekyeon turns around to face her boyfriend. He’s looking at her with concern in his eyes, hand on the side of her face. “Everything’s going to be alright.”
“I hope so.” She bites her lip. The thumb on her cheekbone hesitates for a moment.
“You know, it’s okay with me if I drive you there,” he says quietly. She shakes her head.
“He knows the way to everywhere. And I know he wants to see his family too.”
“This is a boyfriend’s job.”
Before she can respond properly, Jongdae honks his car horn and stops in front of them. Baekyeon pecks his lips quickly and pulls away from him. “Sorry, I have to go. I’ll see you later.”
She hops into Jongdae’s car, the familiar scent of his air freshener lingering in her senses. He reaches out to squeeze her hand before they start moving.
Baekyeon doesn’t want to think of Yonghwa’s words and she doesn’t want to look back to see his emotionless face staring at her. This isn’t the right time.
It’s during their one year anniversary when Yonghwa pops the question.
“Will you...” He takes a deep breath. It’s not very comforting for Baekyeon, and at that moment she’s thinking of how to say no in the least painful way possible.
“Will you move in with me?”
She doesn’t know why she’s so relieved. Still, she’s thinking of how to say no in the least painful way possible.
“I’m happy that you asked me, really happy, but I’m not really ready yet,” she says awkwardly, pacing her words as slowly as she can. “I love you. I really do. I guess I want to keep my independence for a little longer?” She doesn’t know what she’s saying, but it seems to be fine when she sees Yonghwa still smiling at her.
He pays for the bill and helps her out of her chair and they walk back to his car with Baekyeon in Yonghwa’s arms. She feels amazingly safe, amazingly comfortable with how they fit together. A part of her knows that this is still the honeymoon phase, and as Kyungsoon said, “Once you reach the lowest point, there’s nowhere to go but up.” Baekyeon’s hoping the phase lasts a little longer; she’s happy with staying happy like this.
Jongdae strokes her hair softly as she cries on his shoulder, just like how she’s been doing for the past eight years. Her hands tighten into a fist on top of his thigh. This isn’t the worst that she’s been, but it’s been a while since he’s seen her like this.
“It’s going to be alright, Baekyeon,” he murmurs into her hair. He pulls away, wiping off the tear tracks on her cheeks. Her eyes are red and puffy and she stares at him with so much emotion in her eyes. Jongdae leans forward to press a light kiss against her forehead, familiar and welcoming like how it’s always been.
“It was just one bad comment. It wasn’t even bad; it was just average. And that’s fine for an overall evaluation. You’re not always going to be the best, Baekyeon. It’s not always going to be perfect scores and good feedback. But everything’s going to be fine.”
She smiles freely, hugging Jongdae tightly. He always knows what to say, always giving her the boost that she really needs. Her head fits perfectly on her shoulder and his arm circles around her head. Jongdae smells like soap and Jongdae. It’s familiar, the most comforting thing for her right now.
“It’s not always going to be great, Baekyeon. Not everyone’s going to kiss your ass every single day, twenty-four seven.” Baekyeon chuckles against his neck, the warmth of her voice making him laugh as well.
They hear the door closing. Jongdae freezes, pulling away to look at the hallway. “What was that?”
“It was probably a neighbor’s door. Don’t mind it,” she says as she wipes the new tears that have sprung up to her eyes.
He checks the time and sighs. “I should probably go.”
Baekyeon pouts. “Jongdae, come on. We rarely ever stay with each other now.”
“We’re in the real world, Baekyeon. This is bound to happen.”
“It doesn’t mean I like it. You seriously need to take a break from that firm. Why is everyone telling you to design their houses anyway?”
“Maybe it’s because I’m great at my job?” Baekyeon laughs harshly, mocking him with her eyes. “Hey, I’m heavily in demand nowadays.”
He rolls his eyes. “Isn’t the company working you too hard as well? I know you’re too busy to go out with us and you’re studying for your exams too.”
Baekyeon sighs heavily. “Don’t even remind me of all of that. I’m so tired of this job.”
“You’ll be fine. I know you’ll be.” He hugs her again, but this time he grabs his coat from the armchair when he pulls away. “Now I really have to go. You’re just stalling me.”
“Guilty as charged.” She smiles widely and squeezes his hand. “Thanks for being here.”
“Gladly,” he says.
When Jongdae opens the door, Yonghwa’s leaning on the wall, arms crossed. The older male looks up and glares at him. Jongdae doesn’t respond.
“I really don’t know what’s your deal with my girlfriend, but I want you to back away,” Yonghwa says with a low voice. Jongdae narrows his eyes and huffs.
“Are you serious? You’ve known her for a year and I’ve known her for eight. I don’t think you have the right to push away someone who’s been here for her since forever.”
They stare at each other before Jongdae walks away, too tired to even deal with him. Yonghwa fixes his expression before he knocks on Baekyeon’s door. He looks at Jongdae for a second before the door opens and Baekyeon smiles at him. He can see how it dims a little when she recognizes that it’s Yonghwa, that it’s just Yonghwa. He tries to ignore it as he pulls her in for a kiss.
Yonghwa strokes her hair lightly, enjoying how Baekyeon’s locks curl at the ends. They’re peacefully watching TV, one of those lame dramas that kids love so much. Her phone beeps and she’s too lazy to talk to anyone so she just glances at the lock screen.
please come over i really need to talk to you about something
and by the way i...
She groans and picks it up, unlocking her phone. The message at the end really wasn’t what she expected.
please come over i really need to talk to you about something
and by the way i quit my job today
Baekyeon stands up and grabs her coat. There’s an odd look in Yonghwa’s eyes, like a mix of suspicion and frustration. She doesn’t think it’s unjustified. It probably really makes sense, but she just doesn’t care.
“I have something to do,” she mutters. He just puts on a smile and motions towards the door. “Bye.”
“Bye,” he says. Baekyeon doesn’t look back when she puts on her coat and leaves her apartment.
While she walks to the lobby and tries to hail a cab, she thinks of Yonghwa. He’s... changing, and she doesn’t know why. She doesn’t want to think of the look on his face a while ago. She doesn’t want to think of anyone else except for Jongdae because he’s the constant in her life up to now. He’s been the one person that hasn’t changed for her, or maybe they’re just changing together and she doesn’t notice how his body has filled out and his personality is a little mellower and his smile isn’t the same anymore. Neither is hers anyway.
He’s waiting by the door when she arrives at his apartment. Baekyeon runs up to hug him, thinking that this isn’t a good thing. Jongdae laughs and pulls away.
“This isn’t a bad thing, Baekyeon.” The shine in his eyes is back. “I’m happy.”
She holds his face and sighs. “I’d usually support you, but isn’t this a little too reckless, even for you?”
Jongdae holds her hands and guides her inside his apartment. The furniture is rearranged and it gives her a warmer vibe. He grins at her.
“I fixed it myself. I always liked arranging these things, you know.” They sit down on the couch, and this time it faces the large window leading to a good view of the street in front and a few of the buildings at the back. It reminds her of the time that they were hunting for an apartment for her. It’s nostalgic, and Baekyeon looks up at him to see the blissful smile on his face. Those were very different days, and she was happy for very different reasons back then.
“Interior designing?” she asks. Jongdae nods. Baekyeon closes her eyes and leans against him.
“I’m happy for you.”
“Thank you,” he whispers against her hair.
After a while, he asks, “Can you stay?” Baekyeon thinks of Yonghwa, of that specific look on his face, of the change that’s been happening to him. She shakes it all off by smiling and saying, “Yeah. I’ll stay.”
It’s not just being able to stay. It’s also wanting to.
Yonghwa breaks up with her a few months later.
Of course she’s outraged. Of course she’s hurt. Of course she tries to find out why he’s leaving her, what’s happening, is there anyone else? And what really matters is: did the past two years ever matter to him? Did she matter to him?
She catches him right before he enters the waiting room in the airport. He’s about to leave for Japan in a hour or so, and she wants to clear her mind just before he leaves. She loved him, probably still does.
“Why?” she asks. Her voice is shaking; her hands on his arm are shaking. Yonghwa stands there, unfazed, uncaring.
“Because you already had a boyfriend.”
“What?” she asks incredulously.
“Why are you even asking? Just look at you and Jongdae. What am I against someone who’s known you since forever, someone who practically treats you like a girlfriend anyway? How am I going to compete against someone who you’d go to willingly even when I’m still there? I was supposed to be the one to drive you to somewhere that could be a thousand miles away at the dead of night without even complaining once; I was supposed to be the one to hold your hand all night when you’re sick or scared. But you put him first, Baekyeon.”
“He’s my best friend,” she meekly whispers. Her voice is starting to crack, starting to show the fear that she had tried so hard to hide. She doesn’t want him to leave. She doesn’t want to be alone.
“He’s your best friend. He’s so devoted to you and he’s the one who drives you to somewhere that could be a thousand miles away at the dead of night without even complaining once. He’s the one who would hold your hand all night when you’re sick or scared.”
Yonghwa shakes her hands away and walks away. He doesn’t look back.
Baekyeon walks out of the airport and into the parking lot, desperately looking for Jongdae’s car. By the time she sinks into the passenger seat, her tears are already streaming down her cheeks. She feels Jongdae reaching out to touch her and she stops him before they can even make contact.
“Don’t. Just don’t touch me,” she says with a low voice.
“Baekyeon, I’m here for you. Just tell me what happened.”
“Do you really want to know? Really, Jongdae?” The man nods slowly.
“This is all your fault.”
Jongdae narrows his eyes at her. “Excuse me?”
“Just take me home,” Baekyeon says, tears still freely falling from her eyes.
Jongdae doesn’t start the car. “Really? You tell me that it’s my fault that your boyfriend broke up with you and you actually have the courage to order me around?”
“Yes, Jongdae. Yes I do. He broke up with me because of you. He broke up with me because you were ‘so devoted to you and he’s the one who drives you to somewhere that could be a thousand miles away at the dead of night without even complaining once. He’s the one who would hold your hand all night when you’re sick or scared. But you put him first.’ That’s what he said to me, Jongdae. He left me because I had you.”
The man doesn’t reply, just starts the car and grips the steering wheel until his knuckles turn white.
“Just take me home. Please.”
“He drives ahead, not even daring to look at her side.”
“Get out of my car.”
“Stop. You said it yourself: he left you because he thought that you had me. Apparently, it was wrong to be a good friend and drive you to wherever you wanted to go at whatever time you needed to, or hold your hand when you need someone to hold you. Apparently, I stole his job from him because i was doing what I’ve been doing for years now.
“I have been with you since high school, Baekyeon. I have watched men come and go in your heart. That’s your problem. You fall in love too easily and with too many people. And the worst part is that they leave, and you’re always, always, left behind. But you know what? While they were busy leaving you, I stayed. I’ve been here for years. I’ve watched you lose parts of yourself because you deny the fact that you fall in love as if it’s easy to fall out of it, but you regret doing that because they’re always the ones who leave. I’ve stayed. You don’t deserve to tell me that it’s my fault that someone walked out of your life again.
“If you want me to stay like how I’ve stayed for the past few years, then I will. If you want me to leave because you don’t want the same thing to happen to your next boyfriend, then I’ll leave. I’ll give you time to think about it. If you call me tomorrow, I’ll be there. If you don’t, then you don’t. For now, I need you to get out of my car.”
Baekyeon wipes the tears away from her face and opens the door. Jongdae pretends to not notice how she looks back at him for a split second, how she looks at him as if she’s sorry. But Jongdae isn’t going to be that easy anymore. This wasn’t what he wanted, but maybe it’s what she needs.
It’s always been about her. He’s always cared about her more than anyone else. And maybe that’s his problem. Her problem is how she falls in love too much; his problem is how he doesn’t care about anyone else but her.
i’m sorry. i really am. i acted like such a bitch and i know that you’re right. i have my own problems and faults and i make mistakes a lot. one of those is saying everything i said yesterday.
it’s alright. i forgive you. i know i forced you to make a decision today, so i’ll understand if you still want space. it’s okay. i’ll understand.
it’s not that i want space. but maybe i need it? thank you for understanding, jongdae. thank you for everything.
no matter what happens, you’re still my best friend. and i love you.
Jongdae doesn’t reply.
Kyungsoon smacks her arm. Baekyeon winces in pain, but she knows that she deserves it. The younger girl keeps on hitting her until Baekyeon hides under her covers to block the incoming hits.
“Please stop,” she begs Kyungsoon. She only shakes her head.
“You are so dumb. Jongdae is a blessing to you and you throw him away like that?”
“I didn’t throw him away! We’re okay now, but we just need space.”
Kyungsoon pulls the blankets down to reveal the terrified look on Baekyeon’s face. “Space turns into distance, Baekyeon. Don’t lose Jongdae.”
It’s in a rare Friday night meet up at a bar when they touch each other again. The entire group is there, but Yifan’s kind of not there with how he’s asleep on Zitao’s shoulder. The younger male is also trying not to fall asleep, but Sehun hugs his waist and tries to coax him into passing out. Yixue and Luhan are kissing as per usual, and Joonmyun is busy texting his boyfriend of two years on his phone.
None of them talk about Yifan and Joonmyun and how they haven’t reconciled after four years. None of them talk about the pained look on Yifan’s face when he found out that Joonmyun and his boyfriend, Himchan, have moved in together. None of them talk about Yifan’s few and far in between relationships with random people; they don’t talk about how the longest one only lasted three months. None of them talk about the fact that both Yifan and Joonmyun are just forcing themselves to stay in this circle of friends even if it means having to see each other.
Baekyeon’s had a little too much to drink and her tolerance has significantly lowered since her college days. Involuntarily, she allows someone to place an arm around her shoulders and pull her closer so she could lean on someone’s chest. It’s warm and comfortable until someone kisses her forehead and she realizes that it’s Jongdae.
She doesn’t mean to do it, but she jerks away from him. Jongdae’s expression doesn’t change, but she wishes she could wipe away the hidden sadness that she knows is there. He’s not the only one who’s hiding sadness though. Baekyeon’s just better at hiding it.
Baekyeon’s feeling extremely horrible one night, and Kyungsoon still isn’t talking to her properly. She loves the younger girl a lot, and she knows she deserves the detached treatment. She’s desperate, so she texts Jongdae.
come over please
sorry i’m still at work.
She knows that he’s lying. A part of her knows that she’s losing everyone that matters to her because of what happened with Yonghwa. She knows that it’s all her fault and she still can’t stop blaming herself. It’s been nearly a year, but things aren’t back to normal yet.
Baekyeon doesn’t know why, but she texts Yifan.
To: kris wu yifan
what do you do when you want something or someone but you don’t know how to fix things
From: kris wu yifan
Wait for six years and hope that everything will work out somehow.
To: kris wu yifan
that isn’t helpful
From: kris wu yifan
It wasn’t meant to be helpful. Maybe you’ll wait for six years and nothing will happen. Maybe you’ll wait for six days and everything will work out. You can’t control it.
I know this is about Jongdae. Face it, Baekyeon. You messed up a lot. But I’m sure that Jongdae loves you, be it as a friend or more than that. I’m sure things will be alright for both of you because I know that neither of you want to lose your friendship.
“Kyungsoon, I don’t know what to do. I said no to her and we never say no to each other. I feel horrible for doing this,” Jongdae complains. Kyungsoon, as usual, sighs and hits him.
“Do something. Say something. Tell her to come to you.”
please come over
The girl on his couch rolls her eyes at him. “Both of you have been like this for months now. If you’re so desperate to talk to each other, why don’t you actually talk? I think it would be better than running to other people because you’re scared to run back to each other.”
Jongdae’s phone beeps.
sorry i’m really sick
“She’s lying,” Jongdae says.
“Of course she is. Now go make up and make out already,” Kyungsoon urges him.
“What?” Jongdae stops pacing in front of the window. Kyungsoon’s expression changes.
“Go. Just fix things.”
“What do I do?” The desperation in Jongdae’s voice is incredibly loud in the closed space of his living room. Kyungsoon sees it flaring in his eyes, spreading all over his body until his hands are shaking with the need to do something.
“Don’t wait for her to go to you. Go to her.”
Jongdae doesn’t hesitate when he grabs his coat and keys and runs to the elevator. He drives quickly to her apartment, traffic rules be damned, and knocks loudly on her door. He doesn’t hear any movement from inside, so he gets her spare key and opens the door by himself.
He can hear her from inside her room, and she’s unmistakably crying. Jongdae opens the door, and Baekyeon curls into her blankets. “Go away,” she mutters, muffled by the cloth surrounding her.
Jongdae sits down on the bed and pulls the sheets away. Her eyes are red and puffy and she looks at him with defiance in her eyes. He holds her face gently, stroking his thumb over her cheekbones like how he always would. The familiar warmth on her face makes her start crying again.
She leans up and hugs him tightly, arms around his neck. Jongdae doesn’t waste any time, and he pulls her waist closer to him. This is familiar, and it’s comforting. Baekyeon misses it so much.
“I’m sorry,” she whispers. “I’m still sorry.”
“It’s okay. I’ve forgiven you long before.” The vibrations of his voice make her shiver. “I just miss you.”
“Me too. I miss you a lot.”
“What can’t you miss about me though?”
Baekyeon starts laughing and she pulls away from his embrace. “You are such an ass.”
They lie down and joke about things that they haven’t joked about in months. They talk like the best friends that they really are, and Baekyeon is just content. She’s happy to have him again, to hear him laughing to his own lame jokes again. Things are going to be just fine.
They’re eating lunch with Yifan, Sehun, Zitao and Jongin when Baekyeon asks the question that she’s been waiting to ask for months. “Why aren’t you dating anyone?”
Jongdae blinks at her. “Is that a problem?”
“I mean, when was the last time you got laid?” She smirks, a dangerous glint in her eyes.
“Last week,” Jongdae says matter-of-factly.
Sehun snorts. “Last week and two years ago, I bet.”
Jongin and Yifan start laughing and Jongdae glares at the youngest male. “Very funny. I also find the pictures of you and Zitao in my phone absolutely hilarious.”
Zitao’s eyes widen. “You’re an ass.”
“Thanks.” Jongdae grins at them.
Baekyeon stands up, grabbing her bag. “Thanks for the lunch, guys. I’ll make it all up to you someday, but right now I have two deadlines today and I’ve barely started on them.” She pats Jongdae’s head. “We’re going to talk about your lack of relationships later.” The man just glares at her, even more harshly than how he glared at Sehun.
When she arrives at her workplace, Taeyeon greets her at her cubicle. “Hey, how’s the Canada project?”
“I’m working on it in a while,” Baekyeon answers absently. An idea suddenly hits her.
“Taeyeon,” the girl turns around to face her, “are you busy on Friday night?”
“I’m not. Why are you asking?”
“Would you like to go on a date with one of my closest friends?”
Taeyeon turns her chair around, making Baekyeon squeak in surprise. The older girl is grinning at her, and Baekyeon is pleased but also a little alarmed. “Is there anything wrong?”
“No, I just wanted to thank you for setting me up with Jongdae. He was such a gentleman during the entire night, and now he’s asking me out on a second date!” Baekyeon smiles. Mission accomplished.
“I don’t know why you’re just best friends with him though. He’s such a great guy and if I’ve been his friend for ten or so years, I wouldn’t have been able to stop myself from falling for him,” Taeyeon says dreamily. Baekyeon chuckles, but she does start thinking. Did she ever fall for Jongdae?
Baekyeon is in desperate need for Chinese food, so she calls Jongdae in hopes that he’s not busy with his architecture crap and they can go out to eat lunch together. She’s surprised when a woman’s voice picks up the phone.
Her eyes widen when she realizes who she’s talking to, who Jongdae’s with at the moment. “Taeyeon! Is Jongdae there?”
“Ah yes, he’s here. Wait a second.”
Taeyeon is with Jongdae. Jongdae is with Taeyeon. She honestly doesn’t know what she expected by setting them up together.
“Hey, Baekyeon.” She doesn’t respond for a while. “Is everything alright?”
She snaps back into herself. “Oh! Yeah, everything’s fine. I just wanted to know if you’re free for lunch today.”
Baekyeon can almost see his grin from the other end of the line. “As long as you pay.”
Taeyeon goes to work with a cloud hanging over her head. Baekyeon’s cubicle is right beside hers, so they often talk to each other when they’re not doing anything. Right now, Taeyeon doesn’t look like she’d enjoy a conversation with anybody. Baekyeon still tries though.
“Is everything alright?” she asks tentatively. The sad look that Taeyeon gives her tells Baekyeon otherwise.
“Jongdae broke up with me,” she mutters. Baekyeon bites her lip and rolls her chair towards her to give her a hug. Taeyeon welcomes the embrace, sighing for the sixth time already.
“Your best friend is an ass.”
Baekyeon doesn’t know why, but she starts laughing. “He is. I’m sure of that.’
Luhan is in Jongdae’s apartment when Baekyeon decides to visit her best friend. His living room is filled with pictures of everyone during their high school days, and it suddenly occurs to Baekyeon that it’ll be ten years since they graduated high school in a few months. She sees pictures of Sehun before his massive final growth spurt, Luhan and Minhee as the head editors of their newspaper, Yifan and Joonmyun posing beside each other after a basketball game that Yifan’s team won. They had only been dating for a few weeks, but Yifan secretly had an arm around his waist in that picture.
“Hey, Baekyeon!” Luhan tries to stand up to hug her, but there’s a photo album on his lap and Baekyeon messes up his hair as a greeting.
“What are you two doing?” she asks. High school was pretty great, but she doesn’t see the point in going through all of these pictures for a moment of nostalgia.
“We’re organizing the ten year-mark reunion,” Luhan explains. “I’m in charge of the general events planning and Jongdae’s in charge of logistics and the smaller details.”
“Want to help out?” Jongdae asks, handing her their old yearbook. She takes it and sits down on any space that isn’t covered with pictures. “Here’s my laptop. Try contacting as many as you can. I’m sure word will spread soon so let’s just contact those we know.”
Baekyeon looks through the pages and recalls all the people she knew back then. Her world was so much smaller back then, and only then does she realize that she’s twenty-eight years old and she’s been independent from her parents’ funding for seven years. It’s strange how much time had passed already.
Every single one of these people has a story and are living their own lives. Somehow, she forgot that these people once filled her entire world. High school was a long time ago, and they’ve all come a long way since then.
Kyungsoon hugs Baekyeon when they meet up at a restaurant. Baekyeon is startled at the sudden display of affection, but she welcomes the hug nonetheless.
“Can you keep a secret?” Kyungsoon asks. Her doe eyes are gleaming with excitement, and Baekyeon is a little freaked out but she’s excited as well.
“I don’t make any promises, but okay.”
Kyungsoon raises her left hand, and on her ring finger is a diamond ring. “Chanyeol proposed.”
Baekyeon’s eyes widen, staring at the beautiful ring on her finger. “When?”
“Just last night. We went to dinner in a fancy restaurant and he was so nervous the entire night. I kind of felt as if he was going to do something big like this, but dinner passed by without any event. We started walking at this park and that’s where he knelt down and brought out a ring. It was so sweet, and saying no didn’t even cross my mind. I just hugged him and that was it.”
The way she talked showed how much adoration she had for her boyfriend-turned-fiancé. Kyungsoon has a new glow on her skin, a brighter spark in her eyes.
“You love him.”
“I love him so much. We’ve been together for nine years, and I can’t imagine myself with anyone else but him. I guess that’s what love is: seeing yourself with someone and feeling the happiness you’ll get just by thinking about it.”
Baekyeon thinks about it, and the only person she can imagine herself being with is Jongdae. Maybe not as lovers, but she can see herself waking up and seeing him beside her. She can feel the kiss that he’ll place on her forehead, and the warmth of his breath against her face when he greets her, “Good morning.”
“I guess so,” Baekyeon whispers. She doesn’t know if she’s ready to tell Kyungsoon that Jongdae’s that person for her, that Jongdae’s the reason for the smile on her face right now. She doesn’t even know if what she’s feeling is her usual appreciation for him or if it’s the love that Kyungsoon’s talking about.
Baekyeon’s one of the first people to arrive at the reunion. The pillars inside the building are lined with fairy lights, and everything gives this soft glow of nostalgia. It reminds her of the lights at the auditorium where they graduated. She thinks it’s intentional.
Jongdae hugs her from behind and she laughs, making sure that he doesn’t tear any of the delicate lace on her dress. He places his chin on her shoulder and aligns their bodies. The embrace is warm, and she welcomes his touch.
“No PDA, please,” Luhan interrupts. Just in time, Yixue appears and pulls him in for a kiss. Jongdae clears his throat, arm still around Baekyeon’s waist.
“No PDA, please,” Jongdae mimics. He holds her hand and guides her to the registration table. She signs beside her name and Jongdae gives her a name card.
She turns around and sees Yixue and Luhan staring at each other lovingly. Usually, she’d make fun of them. But now she’s seeing these couples in a different light, and it takes her a few seconds to realize that she’s already staring at them.
Baekyeon pulls Yixue away from Luhan’s gaze and they walk to the ladies’ room. Yixue doesn’t question anything and just starts fixing her makeup. Baekyeon’s too busy trying to see if there’s something on her ring finger.
“Yixue, I have a question.”
“Yes?” She smiles and looks at Baekyeon at the mirror.
“You and Luhan have been together for years now and you’re still not married or engaged or anything. Why?”
Yixue’s laugh is melodic, sweet to Baekyeon’s ears. “I’m going to show you something, but you have to promise not to tell anyone.” She pulls out her necklace from where it’s hiding beneath her dress, and a beautiful ring is hanging at the string. Baekyeon gapes at it.
“We were engaged around two years ago. While we were planning the wedding quietly, it was like a part of me didn’t want to get married. I didn’t want to tell him because I didn’t want to ruin anything. He might have thought that he was the problem or that I didn’t want to marry him. I didn’t want to marry him, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t in love with him.
“After a few weeks of having that crisis, he opened up to me and told me that he felt the same way. And there was this moment when we understood each other completely. We took off the rings on our fingers and we still have it, just to remind us that we don’t really need marriage. We love each other, but neither of us wants the legal bond that would tie us to each other for the rest of our lives.”
Baekyeon blinks. They’re so different compared to Chanyeol and Kyungsoon, but she can still see that there is some kind of bond between Yixue and Luhan. You don’t need to have a large ceremony or golden bands to show that you’re in love with someone. Sometimes looking at them like they’re the absolute center of your world is enough.
Jongdae is beaming at everyone, and Baekyeon notices that he’s in such a good mood. “Why are you so happy tonight?”
“I organized this. I fixed all of this and it came together. I’m really happy, Baekyeon.” His eyes are shining with happiness, but when he looks at her it slightly softens. Even if they’re in their seats, he places an arm around her waist, hugging her from the side.
When Yifan arrives and Chanyeol loudly announces his presence, there’s tension in the table. Even if they’ve met up as a group lots of times before, something changed between Yifan and Joonmyun. They would usually just try their best not to speak or look at each other, but now Yifan greets him with a quiet, “Joonmyun.”
He looks up from his seat and smiles slightly under Yifan’s gaze. “Yifan.”
Jongdae whispers something but Baekyeon doesn’t catch it. She leans against him, only slightly buzzed by the glass of wine she just drank. She’s warm and comfortable against him and his hands hold her firmly, so she stays.
It’s not just being able to stay. It’s also wanting to.
Jongdae clears his throat as he stays under the spotlight, waiting for the background music of his song choice to play. Baekyeon’s at her seat in the booth, staring at him. She wasn’t able to catch what song he was starting to sing, but her mind blanks out when he sings the first note.
She doesn’t hear his voice. She can’t recognize the words. All she can see is Jongdae staring at her earnestly, his mouth shaping out words that seem to be directed to her. And her body goes numb, her thoughts are just a buzz; Jongdae is singing this song for her.
It’s not a subtle confession. During the entire song, he’s looking at her, and so is everyone else in the bar. Her lips curve up into a smile on their own; her eyes involuntarily tear up. Jongdae is singing this song for her.
As he sings the last note, he hasn’t broken eye contact with her. He hands the mic to someone else, and he walks up to sit beside her. Jongdae has an arm around her shoulders and she leans against him. It’s familiar, it’s how they’ve been for twelve years now. Nothing much has changed, but now even the slightest contact warms her skin and sends shivers all over her body. She can hear his breathing, slightly erratic after singing a ballad with a lot of high notes. He kisses her forehead and Baekyeon relaxes. Nothing much has changed.
They pass by Joonmyun and Yifan sitting on the bench in a playground, sweetly kissing. Baekyeon always knew that they would find their way back to each other, and she remembers her conversation with Yifan a few years ago. He had been waiting for years now, and he never gave up on making Joonmyun his again. His persistence reminds her of Jongdae’s persistence; Baekyeon wonders why she never saw how much effort Jongdae put for her.
“Let’s go home,” Jongdae says. She nods, and she doesn’t question why he’s driving to his apartment instead of dropping her off at her own.
The elevator ride up to the fifth floor is quiet, but neither of them is complaining. There are enough words that had been spoken and a lot more that are yet to be said, but this isn’t the time. There’s no rush.
The living room is barely lit by the lamp on the table. They stay near the window, and the warm glow of the lamp and the pale moonlight streaming from outside create a serene atmosphere. Jongdae laces their fingers together and hugs her close by the waist.
“What now?” she asks. It’s not the smoothest thing to say at the moment; Jongdae even chuckles.
“You never looked at me,” he whispers, leaning his forehead against hers. “I’ve been here for years, right in front of you, but you never looked at me. I thought that being called the ‘best friend’ was a good enough sign for me to give up, but I didn’t. You were worth it, Baekyeon. Even watching you getting hurt and hurting myself in the process was worth it because I have you.”
She’s starting to tear up. “I tried to hide it, Jongdae. It hurt me when Yonghwa broke up with me because of you. It hurt me, not because I lost him, but because I almost lost you after that. Kyungsoon told me that space turns into distance after a while, and I cried myself to sleep just thinking of not having you here with me anymore.”
“I was worried that I’d just end up wasting most of my life waiting for you.”
“I would have wasted most of my life if I hadn’t looked at you.”
Jongdae tilts his head and carefully, slowly, gently pressed their lips together. Her hands trail up his arm to hold onto the back of his neck, pulling him closer and making the kiss firmer. He closes the small distance between their chests.
Neither of them knows how long they stayed in that position. Neither of them minded anyways.
“I love you, Jongdae,” Baekyeon whispers. She remembers the time that she said that to him and she meant a completely different kind of love.
“I love you too.” She remembers the look on his face, and she feels guilty when she thinks of just how long he waited for her.
Baekyeon wakes up to the sunlight against her face and Jongdae sleeping beside her. She grins, the memory of last night catching up to her. She kisses his lightly and stands up to cook breakfast for them.
Halfway through frying the eggs, she hears the bedroom door open and Jongdae hugs her from behind, kissing her temple. “I’ve always wanted to do that,” he mumbles sleepily.
Baekyeon turns off the stove and turns around to kiss him, gently biting at his soft lips. “I’ve always wanted to do that.”
Food forgotten, Jongdae lifts her up to sit on the counter and pulls her in for another lazy kiss. Her hands roam all over his back, kneading at the tense muscles of his shoulders.
“I love you,” he says breathlessly. “I’ve always wanted to say that and know that you understand exactly how much I do.”
“I love you. I have for a very long time, but I guess I never understood how much I did.”
Jongdae smiles up at her and she laughs. This was ten years in the making.
a/n: and YES it's finally done!! i'm so so happy about finishing this because i've been working on this for over a month now and it's very much similar to how i wanted it to be. please blame everything on baekchen and my love for broken!krisho and this au. 10 years au is my fave.
credits to tegan and sara for the title & ingrid michaelson for the cut.
thank you for reading!! <3333