ℰmmi (seulpeo) wrote in galaxyabandoned,

{exo; baekhyun/chanyeol} fall from paradise

Title: fall from paradise
Fandom: exo
Pairing: baekhyun/chanyeol
Word Count: ~8500
Rating: pg-13
Summary: Everything about Baekhyun's new life at university is eclipsed by a boy named Park Chanyeol, but he has no idea what he is getting himself into.
A/N: i wrote for the fic exchange, runandgun, where it was originally first posted here! my prompt was exo’s song, angel/into your world, which is actually the basis of an au ive already started writing, so this fic fits perfectly into the arcs (which have now expanded to 3, one of which will be sehan). this one is actually meant as the second arc. hope you enjoy anyways!

fall from paradise

The first day of university, and Baekhyun is already lost. And by lost, it means his first lecture of the year is about to begin in two minutes and he could be wandering around the buildings right next to his classroom or be all the way across campus, and he would have no idea. Lost as in, he's flipped the map a full 360 degrees multiple times and nothing looks familiar, and he's ready to sink to the ground beside his backpack and curl into the fetal position and cry.

It was bad enough moving across the country for school, but now he has become proof that his parents were right, that he can't make it on his own without them. He remembers navigating the crowds of people at the airport with eyes round from staring, keeping his suitcase close as he sat in the terminal and then needing a hand on the airplane to get it into the compartments over his head. As he carefully navigating into his seat, sitting at the window beside two strangers, Baekhyun curled his arms around his backpack and buried his face into the rough fabric, fighting back a panic attack. Flying was one of his least favorite things to do, but necessary, seeing as his parents would never drive him across the country. Not for this.

"Hey, you," someone behind him calls, and Baekhyun nearly jumps out of his skin at being addressed. He assumed there was nobody else outside of the buildings except for him, the only footsteps scattered across the pavement his own.

He glances jerkily over his shoulder. A lanky, tall boy with a brown fringe peeking out of his baseball cap, hands deep in his pockets, smile a bit too bright, is walking behind him with a stride so languid and easy that Baekhyun is jealous. "W-What?" he stammers, fingers tightening over the crumpled paper of his map.

"Where are you headed?" the boy asks. When he holds a hand out of the map in Baekhyun's hands, Baekhyun flinches back, not used to such a direct manner.

"Um, Introduction to Studio Art?" Baekhyun says softly.

The boy solemnly examines Baekhyun's face, taking in the uncertainty edging toward what Baekhyun swears isn't fear, and then holds out a hand. "Follow me," he says. "I'll take you where you need to go." His voice is a deep baritone, rich, warm. As if asking for Baekhyun to trust him.

Baekhyun eyes the outstretched hand, an invitation he's not sure he wants to accept. But he does. It is his first one here, after all, and a scrawny kid like him needs all the ground he can get. When he slips his hand into the offered one before him, of this boy he doesn't even know the name of yet, he watches his pale, long fingers be engulfed by a significantly larger palm--obviously height correlates to size for this boy. He glances up into a surprisingly bright grin, now more genuine, heat in his fingertips as if the skin itself rejoices in this first meeting.

His new school is a lot bigger than he could've dreamed of, Baekhyun decides. And he has spent a long time dreaming about it, about wrestling free from his mother's constant fretting and his father's pressing expectations, of needing to well, good, better, in school more than needing to find himself while he still has the chance. But he took the risk and started the chase, so maybe his new life here starts with those warm, warm fingers grasping his as he follows this boy through an open plaza, empty of people besides them. He musters some courage, coaxing words out of his frozen vocal cords. "Are--are you a tour guide? An upperclassman, perhaps?"

"Upper..." the boy trails off thoughtfully. "Sure. A tour guide. I can be that for you."

Baekhyun is about to ask after the odd wording when the boy lets go of his hand, and cold autumn air rushes forth to take its place. "I--"

"Here's your class," the boy says with something just short of a flourish. The smile is still there, still bright, intent.

"Thank you," Baekhyun says, amazed and a bit disoriented. They looped around the buildings he had been circling earlier, cut through the plaza and its adjacent lawn, and voila--barely a walk, after all. His direction skills need some work.

"No problem," says the boy, slipping his hand back into his pocket.

Baekhyun edges the classroom door open, catching his breath at the sight of canvases propped against the wall, before the thinks to glance back after the boy. But when he looks, the boy is gone, a strange blur of--light? mist?--lingering in his place. A blink, and it's gone, into Baekhyun's imagination.

As if the boy never existed.

The first week goes by in a rush, and Baekhyun emerges from his last class on Friday night feeling anything but wiser, anything but more educated.

He clutches his blank canvas close to his chest and shuffles to the side to avoid the jam crowding out the door. A few students have dropped back to ask the professor about the syllabus for the semester's painting course, but Baekhyun doubts he can handle a conversation with the teacher without making a run for it halfway through the first sentence. There are a lot of strangers here, a lot more foreign people at the school, rather than the friendly, almost like family community he grew up in, went to church with, and fought to escape so stubbornly during high school. Among the art majors, Byun Baekhyun is a bit of an oddity for being male, and his height (or lack thereof) makes him an easy target.

Baekhyun squeezes his way past two girls--Sculpture focused, judging by the clay smeared already on their hands, during the first week of school--clustered around one of the posted artworks on the wall, by some of their seniors. This one in particular is a landscape, rather standard, except the artist decided not to limit themselves to the earth itself. The painting depicts not only the grassy fields and blue, blue sky--it rises above the clouds and sinks below the earth, and it looks fascinating.

"We forget," a voice says, beside his ear.

Baekhyun jerks in surprise, seeing the guy from his first day. It is not the first time throughout the week when Baekhyun has peered up into this face, the boy appearing uncannily whenever he is outside of class, whenever he is especially unsure or afraid. "Oh--"

"We forget," the boy repeats, cutting Baekhyun off. For once, his voice is not calming, his wide, expressive eyes are not fixed on Baekhyun's face, but rather the sky of the painting.

"Wha--What do we forget?" Baekhyun asks uncertainly.

The boy cocks his head, sweeping fringe meeting long eyelashes, both a deep golden color. He is very tall. "Too much," he says at last, and grins, betraying his mysterious eyes.

Judging by the boy's expression, Baekhyun is pretty sure he has lost his grip on this conversation. He hesitates, so unsure, and then continues his way out of the building. The boy falls into step beside him, almost behind, but Baekhyun can tell the boy's stride could easily outpace his own.

The canvas knocks against his knees as Baekhyun makes his way to his assigned studio, dropping off the bulky board. If he can get a photograph by Monday, his professor will start giving the go-ahead to start their first pieces. As much as Baekhyun is looking forward to abstract styles and different mediums and maybe even typography, beginning with somewhat familiar territory soothes him. He only needs a picture of something to paint, first.

He chances a glance at the boy on his right, who followed him out of the art wing and down the sloping hill to the dorms without a single sound--save for a simple tune whistled under his breath. Baekhyun wonders why he is being kept company, but every time he tries to ask why, the words die in his throat. He should be grateful.

The lobby doors of the dorms are wide open, two of the RA's clustered in the couches lining the far wall. One, a slim girl with glasses on top of her head, the senior who had greeted Baekhyun on his first night, nods to the sight of Baekhyun's ID card but hesitates at the sight of Baekhyun's companion. No ID, no visitor pass, and yet the frown is brushed out of her face easily when the boy gives her a charming smile.

As they head down the boys' hall, Baekhyun and the boy, Baekhyun glances up at this boy who has somehow slipped into the dorms despite the obvious lack of identification. An easy flick takes the long bangs away from bright, bright eyes, and Baekhyun looks back down at the ground, hands worrying the straps of his backpack. All of his classes are nice, he even likes his roommate a lot, but this boy is unsettling. Off-kilter yet definite in this new place Baekhyun is hoping, trying to understand.

Jongdae, Baekhyun's roommate, has gone out; it is simple to see that when Baekhyun pushes the door open after fumbling with his room key. There are traces of him, in the sweatshirt tossed onto the foot of the bed, and his water bottle on the far desk.

"If you must sit," Baekhyun says hurriedly as the boy pulls out Jongdae's chair from its desk, "sit here, please." The desk set and bed closest to the door belong to Baekhyun, personalized a bit by his clothes, his notebooks. A line of gallery exhibition pamphlets stand solemnly along the shelf over his desk, dog-eared and well-worn, a compilation of things he picked up at home. His parents hadn't stopped him from attending all those exhibitions unless they were too costly, at least, overlooking the growing stack of pamphlets until he painstakingly packed them away in preparation for coming to this school. Other boys collected sports magazines or comic books, but Baekhyun saved art galleries' magazines, a collection he only hoped would grow with his studies and skills.

The boy obediently switches seats, slouching his long form to fit properly. "Nice place," he comments, eyes darting from Baekhyun's tiny, digital clock on the nightstand, to the shut bathroom door, to the tangle of cords and such Jongdae uses to charge his electronics. They flicker to a stop on Baekhyun's face. "How's your roommate?"

"Jongdae's nice," Baekhyun says, slowly. He takes a seat on his bed, pulling his knees up to his chin and hugging them close. It is silent when they look at each other, Baekhyun trying to rationalize why he hasn't kicked the boy out of his room and out of his life yet. They are virtually strangers, after all, just as Baekhyun is with the rest of the student body at his university. Perhaps the school has given him a sense of security, allowing this boy to sit at his desk where Baekhyun devours art history texts for his afternoon class. Or perhaps it's just that this is the first person who has spoken to Baekhyun of their own accord rather than guided by a professor or an RA, and it's something Baekhyun hoped to find here.

"I don't even know your name," Baekhyun blurts.

The boy looks at him, surprise evident on his face. "My name."

Baekhyun nods, eagerly, hopefully.

"It's Chanyeol," the boy says, measured and cautious as if Baekhyun has taken him aback.

"Chanyeol?" Baekhyun repeats.

The boy--Chanyeol--nods. "I'm Chanyeol. Park Chanyeol. And you're Baekhyun."

It is not a question, but rather a statement. "Byun Baekhyun," he says, nodding. On impulse, Baekhyun stretches out his hand, filling the space between desk and bed. "It's nice to meet you."

It's like reaching out, asking for his name, has stripped Chanyeol of some of that mysterious, once infallible certainty, and Baekhyun can see that shift when Chanyeol tentatively reaches out to shake Baekhyun's hand, a reversal of their first meeting. "It's nice to meet you too."

Their hands grasp, shake, release, and Chanyeol curls his arm back, close to his body as if holding onto something precious.

"What do you major in?" Baekhyun asks curiously. The question can segue into the answers he really does want--maybe Chanyeol just misplaced his ID card and the girl already knew him, or he's from a neighboring university and just haunts other campuses. He could be completely harmless and ordinary, or exciting and foreign, or just plain weird. There is something wonderful in getting to know someone, Baekhyun decides. Like a present, or a secret.

Chanyeol props his chin on the back of the chair, leaning heavily on the stiff wood. "Don't have one."

"You're undeclared?" asks Baekhyun.

"You could say that," Chanyeol says. He is very good at giving roundabout answers.

"I'm here for art," Baekhyun says without being asked. "But I guess you knew that already." Still, Chanyeol doesn't object or run out of the room screaming, so Baekhyun lets himself chatter a bit, just talking about himself, his love for the paintbrushes and charcoal sticks and sticky oil pastels. Sometimes he puts his gesturing arms down to sneak a look at Chanyeol's face, heartened by the interest he sees in those big eyes, and babbles on about his art teacher from back home, all of the art galleries he's been to, and especially the ones he wants to visit someday. The second list is a lot longer than the first, once he starts throwing in museums from out of the country, but he anticipates the day when it goes vice versa.

Just as the sun is about to set, Jongdae returns to their room, his hair a mess from the wind, scarf bundled tightly around his throat. He looks surprised to see a guest in their room already, but takes it in stride, greeting Chanyeol with a friendly smile and quick introduction. Jongdae has a lovely smile, Baekhyun muses, one he'd like to get down on paper once he buys himself a sketchpad and some of those good graphite pencils.

"How was class?" Baekhyun asks, deciding he has talked enough.

Jongdae looks up from where he is turning the heater up, staring at the tiny numbers on the dial reproachfully. "Good! I had a lot of fun and my classmates are all very nice, especially the tenors. I met some of the other music students today, too, during sectionals."

In their room, the arts collide, art and music. "Other music students?" nudges Baekhyun. Chanyeol seems content to just keep listening for now, one leg hiked up on the seat.

Jongdae nods cheerfully. "I was nearly flattened by a trombone but the boy attached to it was quite nice. And I met some other instrument kids, a clarinet and a few percussionists. But mostly I was with the vocal kids, just practicing our sight reading."

"Did you make lots of friends?" Baekhyun asks. "I want to get to know people outside of the arts department."

"We don't go into the science or business or literature areas of the school, but art and music are close," Jongdae says, ever so optimistic. "And there are school-wide events coming up."

Baekhyun makes a sound of agreement, then notices the slit of sunset coming from their modest window. He springs to his feet in a sudden impulse of inspiration, grabbing his borrowed camera off of the desk and pulling Chanyeol from the chair, and drags him to the window. "Hold this and be careful, it's not mine," he instructs, placing the camera gently into Chanyeol's hands before flinging the curtains wide open.

"Are you going to photograph the sunset?" Chanyeol asks, bemused.

"Yes--do you think I can't reach it?" Baekhyun asks. He glares up at the window, a bit out of reach for his tiny stature.

"Let's go to the roof," Chanyeol suggests. "There's a viewing deck on the top floor. It kind of looks like a balcony, and it'll be facing the sun as it sets."

Baekhyun nods in agreement, allowing Jongdae to wrap the thick, woolen scarf around his neck in protect against the cold, and then he and Chanyeol are scaling the stairs up because the elevator takes too long. A door at the end of the last flight of steps bears a sign reading "Roof Access," but when Baekhyun tries to open it, he groans. It is locked.

"Let me," Chanyeol says, and the door swings open at his touch. "Maybe it was jammed," he shrugs at Baekhyun's incredulous stare.

They step out onto the balcony, Baekhyun shivering at once when the chill hits him. Chanyeol positions himself at Baekhyun's side, radiating heat as he blocks out most of the wind, before Baekhyun even has the thought to complain.

Windiness aside, the sunset is worth it. Baekhyun only hopes his camera has enough film to fully capture the progression of the sun, the rich burst of orange and crimson, seeping below clouds dyed peach with light, in union with the grand, green mountains along the horizon. A bird streaks through a few of Baekhyun's shots, a daring silhouette against the awe of the sun, and Baekhyun is already anticipating seeing the shots laid out in neat prints before him.

"Stand there," he directs loudly, nudging Chanyeol towards the railing.

Chanyeol obeys, leaning against the metal that surely must be cold through a thin sweater like his, and gives Baekhyun a confused look. "Like this?"

"Here--" Baekhyun positions Chanyeol the way he sees in his mind's eye, back to the sun and eyes far, far away in the night, broad chest stuttering for long arms against the rail, casual and confident. The fingers he reaches up to guide Chanyeol's face in the right direction are cold, inducing a hiss of shock at the contact, but Baekhyun only mumbles an apology as he steers the line of Chanyeol's jaw. "Perfect!"

He scoots back to his original spot, but now his pictures have a focus, this imposing, gorgeous model with a neck cut so sharply it could have been sculpted from stone, arms lean but muscled, profile slicing the near-night sky. Gorgeous.

By the time Baekhyun and Chanyeol start to return to Baekhyun's room, the sun is gone, long gone, and Baekhyun's film is well filled with pictures, with anticipation. Of the sunset, and of Chanyeol. Baekhyun can't wait to see them developed.

By the time he has photography and film, Baekhyun's mind is so cluttered with new brush strokes and styles that he only realizes what the film's contents are when he leaves the darkroom. And then he is sprinting, sprinting to finish the process so he can see just how well Chanyeol turned out.

Chanyeol, does not.

He checks and double checks, unfurling the film and shuffling through his carefully produced prints, but all Baekhyun finds is sunset after sunset after sunset, with the occasional bird but no boy bathed in red sunlight, no curve of a jawline that flinched away from Baekhyun's cold fingers, no sloping broad shoulders or lean, lean arms. No Chanyeol, no nothing. How could it be?

Baekhyun's photography professor picks up on his agitation and stops by to examine the prints himself, impressed. "These are well-taken and well-developed, Baekhyun," the professor says, lifting the top one of the stack to point out the inky spot of the bird. "Excellent contrast."

The boy would've been better, Baekhyun thinks miserably, but he accepts the compliment because if there's one thing he has learned from his first few weeks of being an artist, is that there will always be more critique than there will be praise, plenty of dislike and disapproval waiting for his work. But at least he's improving.

Baekhyun does not see Chanyeol for the next few days, but only lets himself panic when it has been an entire week since the sunset picture-taking and he realizes he has never had a way of contacting Chanyeol in the first place. It was always the other way around, always Chanyeol approaching Baekhyun whenever it took his fancy, with a smile and that bright aura that was more Park Chanyeol than the body itself the wore. The aura that Baekhyun had let himself depend on, at school. He hadn't even felt homesick when Chanyeol was by his side.

On the eighth day of Chanyeol's absence, a day of anxiety and distraction, Baekhyun is taking notes on the influence of Greek sculpture techniques when the knock sounds on his door. "Coming," he calls, untangling his feet from the backpack he'd left on the floor. "Who is it?"

"Baekhyun, open up," and that deep, deep voice is unmistakable.

Choices, each one more hysterical than the next, flash through Baekhyun's mind--open the door? Leave it closed and pretend he didn't hear anything? Scream? Cry?--but in the end Baekhyun wrenches the door open to find Chanyeol waiting there, hands deep in his jeans pockets, almost sheepish smile on his face. What could Baekhyun do? Throw a fit? Slap him? Pretend like nothing happened? Slam the door shut in Chanyeol's face? A week is an awfully long time to disappear, and how can Chanyeol even begin to explain the pictures--

The indecision must be starkly visible on Baekhyun's face, because Chanyeol grasps the door in his right hand to keep Baekhyun from closing it, wedging his body into the gap just in case. "Baekhyun, I can explain."

"Then explain," Baekhyun says shortly.

Chanyeol searches his face with wide, beseeching eyes. "I--Let me inside, Baekhyun, please."

They stare at each other, Baekhyun trying desperately to stare Chanyeol down despite his height deficit, until Chanyeol heaves a sigh. "Baekhyun," He repeats, and Baekhyun jumps at the warm, always so warm, hand that cups his cheek. "Please."

Something, some little grain of forgiveness, has Baekhyun shuffling back--he can't deny he wants answers, explanations. He wants his pictures, the ones that properly depict the memory he wanted so badly to save, to eternalize. "Talk," he demands.

Carefully, like a ritual, Chanyeol takes his coat off and hangs it on one of the pegs behind the door before taking his seat, Baekhyun's recently emptied seat. "Hear me out," he says instead, but his tone makes it a request rather than an order like Baekhyun's.

Baekhyun gives him a sullen look from his perch on the bed. It is silent for a moment, before he realizes Chanyeol is waiting. "Okay," he says softly, consenting, and he can feel the atmosphere give way to the gravity of what Chanyeol wants to say.

Chanyeol sighs, and his shoulders slump from the weight of it, as if he is very, very tired. "Look--I can't exactly tell you why I was...away." As if he can sense the protest choking Baekhyun's throat, he flails a hand, trying to continue. "No! It's just...something I can't say. Just, I just--trust me, Baekhyun. I need you to trust me."

"Are you in trouble? With, like, drug lords or gang leaders or something?" Baekhyun blurts out.

That gets a laugh, a rather surprised one, as if Chanyeol didn't think he'd be laughing considering some unknown circumstances. "No, it's not like that. Just me, I guess. I'm sorry I can't say anymore."

Baekhyun huffs, still not pacified. When he stands, Chanyeol half-rises to his feet as well with a frightened look in his eyes, but Baekhyun ushers him back. A bit of rummaging through his drawers, and then he yanks out his film and prints from that one night on the balcony and unceremoniously dumps them onto Chanyeol's lap. "What is this," he says a bit harshly. It scares him too, whatever Chanyeol is, whatever Chanyeol is doing. It scares him when Chanyeol disappears off the surface of the earth--of the photographs Baekhyun can vividly recall taking with Chanyeol centered in the frames--or when he doesn't see the guy for a week and suddenly Baekhyun can't think of anything, anyone else. Because whatever magic it took to get Chanyeol's image off of the camera film is nothing in comparison to what it took to get this tall, gorgeous boy who is proving to be only as reliable as a dream can be, with large, warm palms and the brightest smile, this boy who is getting under his skin and Baekhyun can't stop it.

"What..." Chanyeol spreads the pictures out on his lap, sunset after sunset after sunset featuring bird, and featuring no Chanyeol. "I..."

Baekhyun fixes the boy with a hard stare, just short of a glower, and resists the urge to plant his hands on his hips. "Don't tell me you can't say anything."

Chanyeol gives him a look of desperation, of despair. "I can't, Baekhyun."

"People just don't disappear from photographs!" Baekhyun shouts, suddenly filled with a rising sense of panic. Something isn't right, something in the charming smiles and unlocked doors and the photographs--the photographs-- "Chanyeol, this doesn't make sense!"

"I can't tell you!" Chanyeol cries, pulling at Baekhyun's forearms. Baekhyun didn't even realize he had gotten so close, but Chanyeol is yanking him down onto the bed and pressing him to sit and listen to him. "God, I'm so sorry, I can't tell you anything right now. Please be patient with me."

"Then you'll tell me someday?" Baekhyun asks hastily. Anything, he'll take it all.

Chanyeol looks at him sharply. He is silent, as if the idea never occurred to him.

"Someday? Chanyeol?" Baekhyun repeats.

"Someday, I guess," Chanyeol concedes uneasily. He doesn't sound like he's agreeing, but Baekhyun lets the matter go for now. Instead he takes the film roll and places it into Chanyeol's hand, hoping beyond hope that whatever Chanyeol is, he can right what went wrong. "Baekhyun...?" Chaneyol asks.

This time it is Baekhyun's turn to beg. "Can you fix this? Please, Chanyeol."

"I don't know if it's for the best--" says Chanyeol, staring down at the tiny roll in his hand. "I don't know if that's a good idea."

"I want those pictures. Please--the way I took them," Baekhyun insists.

"Baekhyun..." Chanyeol stares searchingly into Baekhyun's eyes as if looking for something terribly, terribly significant. Their faces are surprisingly close, but Baekhyun can't risk pulling back. "Here," Chanyeol says at last, putting the film back into Baekhyun's hand.

"But you didn't even--" starts Baekhyun indignantly.

"Develop it again," Chanyeol says, and all traces of his usual light-hearted cheer are gone. Today has been an odd day on that front.

"What use would that be?" Baekhyun asks.

"Just do it." Chanyeol closes Baekhyun's fingers around the film with a warm touch, and then stands. "I have to go."

"Not for good though"? Baekhyun demands, scrambling to his feet.

Chanyeol pauses, then shakes his head. "No. Not for good."

After he leaves, Baekhyun remains standing frozen in his room, his Greek history notes left neglected on the desk, his fingers curled around a film he has already developed. Chanyeol's parting "I'll see you tomorrow" lingers in his ears.

When the pictures develop for a second time, Chanyeol is there. Baekhyun stops trying to make a sense of it, just wordlessly hangs his favorites of the batch on the wall beside his bed, and lets himself laugh at the panicky, flailing arms when Chanyeol accidentally pricks his finger on a tack he is passing to Baekhyun.

The time Baekhyun doesn't spend sitting in a classroom or painting in front of a canvas propped on a massive easel, he is with Chanyeol; a lot of the time he is working on some art piece or another, Chanyeol is there too, content to watch quietly and occasionally pointing out something he likes. All Chanyeol knows about art is that he likes what he likes, but it doesn't take Baekhyun long before he realizes Chanyeol has excellent taste. But otherwise it seems Chanyeol wants to go everywhere, anywhere--exploring the various practice rooms in the music wing to listen to students practicing their instruments from the doorways, or through the science classrooms to make faces at the jarred specimen lining the shelves or winding down in the sacred, calming silence of the university library. And sometimes, there were parties, fraternities, and other exclusive groups Baekhyun couldn't even begin to imagine how Chanyeol has connections within them, but also just those moments on the roof balcony when day slips into night and Baekhyun's camera is left behind in its case back in his room. The quiet moments are Baekhyun's favorite, a soft laugh into Chanyeol's shoulder and a sleepy yawn.

For the art majors, there is a post-midterms treat: a field trip to a local art museum, one that just happens to be a gallery on Baekhyun's dream list. After the rush of cramming countless dates and techniques into his mind, of finishing final projects, of panicking and panicking outside of his History of the Arts classroom over such a major test (Chanyeol's touch had been the perfect soothing balm, setting his nerves and filling him with a tentative confidence; they had celebrated his A without restraint later, ice cream and candy), Baekhyun is more than happy to relax. He sits on the bus beside another art major, a slender girl always taking quick study sketches of people she passes by, and can't help but wish this good-natured, polite girl is Chanyeol and his boisterous grin. They've been together so much that Baekhyun feels wrong without Chanyeol at his side.

With the university's entire art department in attendance, adding to the usual flow of visitors, it shouldn't come as a surprise to Baekhyun that the gallery is crowded. Still, the press of bodies all around him makes him uneasy, but he pushes that away as he peers at exhibit after exhibit. The art displayed is gorgeous, and there is something abuot the 3D textures and layers of paint that a 2D image fails to capture. The museum's featured exhibit, the crowd-winner, is one of Impressionism, but Baekhyun finds himself enamored with every single room he wanders through.

He is in a room full of spindly, graceful sculptures, pieces constructed from wire and filmy sheets of paper, but supported with thick slabs of wood, the apparent delicacy meant to emphasize the trials of the art. Baekhyun has paused in front of a placard, reading the description for a piece called "Paradise II" when the shout of alarm goes up. He twists around just in time to see Paradise I teeter on its pedestal and come crashing down, all 15 feet of material and supports, falling toward Baekhyun's frozen body. Behind him, a girl screams. There is no time to run.


A swift jerk to the backpack he is wearing pulls Baekhyun to safety just in time, but the fear and shock has Baekhyun staring into the frightened face of Chanyeol numbly, without registering who he is at first. "Are you okay? Baekhyun?" Chanyeol asks, his voice bleeding with the frantic concern in his eyes.

"Y-Yeah," Baekhyun forces out, his tongue refusing to form words. surely an accident like that, a fall like that would have caused him injury.

Chanyeol sighs in relief, grasping Baekhyun's shoulders. They are positioned away from the tatted remains of the sculpture, Chanyeol's back to the exhibit, but Baekhyun can see everything. Museum employees and security guards swarm the scene, helplessly clustering around the ruined sculpture, talking as reassuringly as possible to the visitors--"Just an accident, nothing to worry about"... "The crowd around the two of them refuses to be calmed, and the quiet murmur of conversation quickly escalates to loud accusations and protests. As the people shout, they move, pressing against the employees, and the aggressive atmosphere is anything but calming to Baekhyun. He is hardly there, hardly aware--all he can see is Paradise I coming down, crashing down, splintering into remains of metal and wood and glue. Could he have just looked death in the eye?

An angry, middle-aged man shoves Baekhyun from the back, hard enough he is jostled into Chanyeol as the man and his wife, who is pulling along a confused little girl, push their way past. Baekhyun fists his hands into Chanyeol's sweater and sways, his mind refusing equilibrium.

"Baekhyun--Baekhyun?" Chanyeol asks, and the note of panic has not faded now that Baekhyun is safe.

Baekhyun shakes his head this time to show he is unable to reply, and groans at the resulting dizziness. The flutter of air in his lungs is too quick to be of use, but he can't seem to slow the pace down.

"You're hyperventilating," Chanyeol says loudly, his face struck with that unfailing concern. Carefully, he pulls Baekhyun forward, closer, until Baekhyun's face is pressed into Chanyeol's chest, arms wrapped tight around each other, and Baekhyun is sure Chanyeol can feel how hard is he trembling. "Shh. You're all right now."

"I--" Baekhyun chokes and falters, letting his desperate, clinging hands speak for themselves. Standing like this, Chanyeol holding Baekhyun up to his body, only stresses their height difference, but Baekhyun finds a sense of solace, of protection and safety, encased in Chanyeol's embrace. He sucks in a shuddering breath, tries not to cough. "I need to get out of here." He doesn't know how Chanyeol could pull that off, but he knows he needs to leave. If he can remove himself from the growing tension and rage in the room, he'll be able to catch his breath.

"It's okay, it's okay," Chanyeol says soothingly. "Trust me."

And Baekhyun does, he does trust Chanyeol because despite all the secrets Chanyeol is withholding from him then at least Chanyeol makes him happy apart from that. So when Chanyeol starts shuffling out of the room, forcing his way through the knot of people with a broad shoulder, Baekhyun lets himself be taken along. Breathing steadily still eludes him, and between the two of them, his gasp-gasp-gasp is still rather loud.

Then they are outside, on a patio, sheltered from sight by a wall. The disconnect would help if Baekhyun couldn't hear the furious people inside, and he buries his face into Chanyeol's chest again. "Thank you," he says anyways.

"We aren't done yet," Chanyeol says, a light touch to Baekhyun's neck. He looks determined, making a decision. "Hold onto me tightly."

More? Baekhyun is holding Chanyeol so hard the pressure must be unbearable, but he nods and clutches Chanyeol's torso. Chanyeol adjusts his grip so it is less of an embrace and more of a hold meant to support weight--Baekhyun opens his mouth to ask why and suddenly--suddenly, their feet leave the ground.

Their feet left the ground and they're not stopping, and Baekhyun's mind has reached a blank because there is no way, no way this is possible. His hyperventilating accelerates, and one of Chanyeol's hands presses Baekhyun's head into Chanyeol's chest again, coaxing him to block out the wind whipping violently around them at such a high altitude. Baekhyun squeezes his eyes shut.

Gravity takes them back with a jarring thud, and Baekhyun recoils from Chanyeol once he's certain he is on stable land again. Chanyeol reaches out for him, his expression filled with a heart-breaking despair. "Baekhyun..."

"What is this?" Baekhyun shouts, nerves pulled tight. "What are you? You can't just appear out of nowhere at the museum in time to save me from being flattered, and pick me up to take me to--to--" He glances around and realizes they are on the balcony of his dorm building back at school. The bus ride to the museum had been an hour or so, significantly longer than whatever Chanyeol had pulled off.

"Baekhyun, please--"

"Chanyeol, I'm tired of secrets," Baekhyun says desperately, emotion spurring him to some adrenaline-crazed state because he will collapse otherwise. "Tell me, i deserve to know! Whatever it is, I can take it."

Chanyeol looks at him helplessly. "I'm not allowed--"

"Who says you're not allowed?" asks Baekhyun, upset. "Who is it? What are you?" He has too many puzzle pieces and not enough clues, no way to push them together until they click.

When Chanyeol reaches out again, Baekhyun skitters back a few steps. "Baekhyun, please."

"I deserve to know," Baekhyun repeats. "All this--after all this--you can't deny me the answers forever, Chanyeol."

"I tried," Chanyeol says. "And now you won't even let me touch you."

He tries again, and this time Baekhyun fights the instinct to back away. "I need to know."

Once his hand reaches Baekhyun's wrist, Chanyeol sighs, long and tired. It's like he has aged a lifetime before Baekhyun's eyes, birth to death in the span of a single breath. "Baekhyun, I'm--I'm an angel."

"You are a what."

"An angel--not the kind you sing church hymns about but. Baekhyun--Baekhyun, I was sent for you. To make you happy," Chanyeol says, so earnestly.

Baekhyun stares back. "For me?"

"Yes--I," Chanyeol breaks off, tightening his grip on Baekhyun's hand. "There are rules, up there. Lots of rules."

"Up there as in...heaven?" Baekhyun asks incredulously.

"Where else?" Chanyeol asks. "Baekhyun, I was unstable, wandering there. Restless. So I wanted to come back down to earth and the only way I could was to apply to become a guardian angel."

"You were--you used me to come back down?" Baekhyun asks, horrified, and starts trying to pull his hand free.

"No! I didn't!" Chanyeol holds on tighter. "Baekhyun, we're only allowed to come down to earth if we find someone unhappy enough that they needed our help. When I looked into your home and saw you in your room, saw all of those art pamphlets--your dreams... I couldn't resist. I would have fallen for you."

Baekhyun is about to ask what falling is, how he did the looking, but Chanyeol cuts him off with more words as if he won't be able to start again if he stops.

"And then I met you at this school and I never, ever knew how attached I'd get. And how sloppy I was being. You see everything. You know, the balcony roof is always locked and off-limits to students. Always. But I wanted someplace special for us, I wanted you to see the sunsets--and you give me this look, just a tiny glance, every time. As if you know."

"How do you--"

"Metal is easy, and it's not a very complicated lock." Chanyeol hesitates, then adds, "People are a bit harder. Like the RA and my ID, or all the teachers that never seem to care where we go? And even your photographs. I'm sorry, Baekhyun."

"You have magical powers?" Baekhyun asks; he would've been if disbelief if he weren't so relieved to know the answers, finally, finally find out how Chanyeol was doing all these things. He should have guessed. "People?"

"It's not much," Chanyeol says uneasily. "I can make myself more likeable. Influence their attentions or their objectives. I'm more powerful at home."

More powerful in heaven, as an angel. "Do you ever...use that on me?" Baekhyun whispers.

"On you--No! No! Baekhyun I would never even consider--" Chanyeol grabs Baekhyun's other hand and holds them painfully tightly, clear eyes filled with fear. "Please believe me."

"I believe you--I believe all of it. What you said. It's hard to process, but I do," Baekhyun says, wearily. And, the...the flying?"

Chanyeol looks down guiltily. "I--I shouldn't have. That was a bad idea."

"You broke the rules?" Baekhyun asks, alarmed.

Chanyeol sucks in a breath, releases it, and manages a nod. "You know that one week I vanished, at the beginning of the year? That's because they wanted to discipline me for using too much magic in front of you. But I guess--I wanted to impress you? I used to wander the school just to find all your classes, in case one day you'd need directions."

"And I did," Baekhyun says.

"You did. I was so happy when you let me into your life, Baekhyun, you need to know. So happy. I was sent to make you happy but I'm no angel anymore, I'm selfish. I want you all to myself, your smiles and your laughter and your beautiful hands. Baekhyun--" Chanyeol swallows, hard.

Baekhyun flushes, no longer trying to free his hands. "I--I feel the same way," he mumbles.

Chanyeol startles and pulls Baekhyun closer. "What?"

"I--Chanyeol, I was so upset that week. I never thought to have my very own...well, angel, I guess. But... But I'm glad I meet you. Glad you came for me," Baekhyun says, flushing. There are more things he wants to say, more things hovering in his throat impatiently, but he can't bring himself to say them.

When Chanyeol holds him again, Baekhyun does not resist. Instead, he reaches around sneakily, running his hands up Chanyeol's back. His fingertips brush over Chanyeol's shoulder blades and Chanyeol flinches in surprise, a soft sound of pleasure escaping his throat traitorously. It sounds gorgeous, Baekhyun thinks. "Can I see your wings? Please?"

"My wings?" After a moment's thought, Chanyeol steps back, examines Baekhyun's eager expression. He checks if he has enough room--his height must call for a huge wingspan--and unfolds the majestic wreathes of feathers as they shimmer into sight. Rather than the pure, pure white Baekhyun learned to expect, Chanyeol's wings are threaded with gold, each feather tipping off in a bronze cap. They flutter gently in the afternoon breeze, quivering, and Chanyeol has averted his eyes as if self-conscious.

"Can I--" Baekhyun pauses with a hand outstretched, breathless for an entirely different reason.

Chanyeol nods. The wings are silky and soft, finer than any bird's feathers possibly could be, and so fragile Baekhyun can hardly believe they can carry Chanyeol--let alone the two of them. They are enormous though, arching above their heads and ending at the floor, Chanyeol lifting them slightly so they don't drag or dirty. It is a breathtaking sight for an artist, for a human.

His awe and appreciation must show because Chanyeol smiles in relief, the wings rippling in response, and he pulls Baekhyun close again. A wash of gold filters some of the dying sunlight away, the wings forming a feather cocoon around them.

Shrouded like so, Baekhyun finally feels himself begin to relax. The museum, the falling sculpture seem like another lifetime, detached from this paradise Chanyeol has created, just for them. He looks up into Chanyeol's face, warmed by the soft expression he sees.

Gently, oh so gently, Chanyeol cups Baekhyun's face in his hands and kisses him. And it's like kissing the sun, kissing the stars, with heat flooding to the tips of Baekhyun's fingers and ears and toes as their lips meet in a silent joy, meeting for the first time and they are strangers all over again. Meeting like they have been reborn and lived their lives up to this point without knowing what they are missing out on. Meeting, in kissing. Like it was the two of them that invented such an intimate, perfect act.

"You taste sweet," Chanyeol whispers.

Baekhyun whimpers a bit at the breaking of their connection but contents himself with curling into Chanyeol's side, the wings molding closer in turn. He is hyperaware of them.

"You know, the first rule they tell us is 'Don't fall in love,'" Chanyeol says, his voice so quiet Baekhyun strains to hear. "I think, this time I'll be gone for longer than a week."

"What?" Baekhyun says, struggling to reorient himself after so long of a day. "Chanyeol, don't tell me--"

"Will you wait for me?" Chanyeol asks hopefully. There is serene acceptance in his eyes, no regrets.

"Of course--but--"

"Then that's all I need." Chanyeol releases Baekhyun, kissing him one last time (and the novelty does not wear off even if it isn't the first anymore), and then moves toward the railing. An angel takes flight, flaring his golden eagle wings and launching that gorgeous body into the air; it is a visual Baekhyun will never forget.

Yes. He will wait.

If you address a letter to someone who lives in heaven, will the post office be able to get it to its recipient?

Baekhyun resists the urge to test that out, but he really does wish Chanyeol left a means of contact. Instead, he pushes himself to study hard and spend more time with Jongdae and other music students, because Chanyeol wouldn't have wanted him to mope and pine. He still does a little of that, though. One morning, he wakes up to find a long, golden feather under his pillow, marking Chanyeol's absence of one month. Instead of wondering pointlessly for the rest of the day, Baekhyun takes it to one of the typocraphy teachers that knows calligraphy and asks if he can turn it into an ink pen.

When the professor asks him where he got such a high-quality feather, he merely shrugs and says, "Someone sent it to me as a gift." The pen is safely stored in his desk drawers now, and Baekhyun is a bit afraid that it'll dissolve away when he uses it. It came from an angel, after all.

When Baekhyun tells him Chanyeol will be away for a while, Jongdae takes it upon himself to cart Baekhyun around at his side, to chase away the loneliness Chanyeol has left behind. He introduces Baekhyun to people throughout the departments, surprisingly social for a boy who prefers to hide in the practice rooms to sing, and they are reasonably friendly to him.

Zitao was Jongdae's roommate last year, an Asian studies major who enjoys martial arts in his free time. At first glance, he is intimidating, glaring, dark, but once Baekhyun gathers the courage to talk to him, they become close easily. "We're both beef," Zitao says to him one day. "Taurus." And Baekhyun laughs the hardest he has since Chanyeol left.

Equally intimidating and even taller, he thinks, than Chanyeol is Zitao's boyfriend, Wu Fan. He merely fixes Baekhyun with a hard stare, gives what Baekhyun hopes is a nod of approval, and keeps his hand on Zitao's hip. Thankfully, their friend, Lu Han and his boyfriend Sehun--who Baekhyun is astounded to find is a biochemistry major--are much friendlier, Lu Han curling a slender arm around Baekhyun like close friends, even though they just met.

"He's doing fine," Lu Han whispers into Baekhyun's ear when Sehun and Jongdae are distracted and Zitao is leaning towards Wu Fan to hear what the other is whispering into his ear. They are all sprawled on beds and chairs and even the floor in Baekhyun and Jongdae's dorm room.

Baekhyun stares, unable to hope. "You mean--"

"Yes, him. He'll be back soon, and then we can all spend some time together, okay?" Lu Han says with a sweet smile.

"I--I--okay. I'd like that," Baekhyun stammers. He is distracted by Zitao, all of that muscle and sinew and energy, jumping and tackling him into the bed with no apparent warning. Wu Fan looks vaguely amused, Jongdae roaring with laughter beside him. They are all so friendly and funny and cheery, but Baekhyun can't help but wish Chanyeol were here too, cracking up so hard his eyes crinkle away and his entire body shakes with mirth. Soon, Lu Han said. Soon.

Soon clearly means another month later, Chanyeol showing up at Baekhyun's door with a smile like the sun he thrives by, the sleeves of his button up shirt rolled up to his elbows. "I'm back!" he says enthusiastically the moment Baekhyun opens the door, and then grunts when Baekhyun tackles him so hard they stumble into the other wall of the hallway. Chanyeol laughs, then winces when his back presses against the wall.

"Are you okay? Did they hurt you?" Baekhyun asks, noticing the grimace flicker across Chanyeol's face.

"Nothing outside of reason," Chanyeol says lightly, but Baekhyun is already tugging him into the privacy of his room and pushing him onto the bed, sitting him where he belongs. It fills with a sense of righteousness, of relief to see Chanyeol again.

Forced to straddle him to reach but hardly caring, Baekhyun runs light fingers down Chanyeol's back, noticing he is touching the shoulder blades when Chanyeol pulls Baekhyun's hands away. "Your wings--"

"Gone," Chanyeol says, a bit hoarsely, and Baekhyun is startled to see the touch has brought Chanyeol to tears. "They stripped me of them."

Baekhyun remembers them, Chanyeol's wings, gold beauties that marked him as something ethereal and otherworldly and beautiful. Now gone. Torn from his body and no magic can properly restore him to what he once was. No magic can serve his former self justice. "Can I see?" he asks, his voice a breath in the silence following Chanyeol's statement.

"I don't want you to see the scars," Chanyeol says, quiet but firm. "They'll fade in a few days anyways. And I'll be like you."

"Human," Baekhyun whispers.

"My powers disappeared with my wings," Chanyeol tells him. "But I also gave those up a long time ago."

"Also? When did you give your wings up?" Baekhyun asks incredulously.

Chanyeol reaches up to touch the furrow between Baekhyun's brows, gently trying to smooth it away. When that fails, he silently strokes his fingers through Baekhyun's hair, resting his hand at the nape of Baekhyun's neck. "When I fell for you."

Falling in love for humans, not whatever heaven means when they say falling. Baekhyun curls his arms around Chanyeol's neck and closes the distance between them, and Chanyeol kisses him tenderly on the lips. "I'm sorry," Baekhyun says in the gaps between kisses. "I'm sorry. Welcome back."

"I'm not," Chanyeol says. "And I'm glad to be back."

Baekhyun thinks of Chanyeol flitting through the sky, up and up and up on those golden wings, and decides that he is sorry, sorry that the only way they can be together is this. But that only makes Chanyeol's sacrifice so much more precious.

"I have nowhere to go back--go home--to now," Chanyeol says finally, when Baekhyun is pressed snugly to his body and they are staring up at the ceiling together; or rather, Baekhyun is staring at the ceiling with a blush burning his cheekbones and Chanyeol is staring at him musingly. To prevent stressing his back with pressure, Chanyeol is on his side, arm slung over Baekhyun's stomach casually. "So will you take me instead?" The question is soft and pleading, groundless like Chanyeol’s missing wings, like Chanyeol is the one who needs a place to secure himself instead.

Baekhyun laughs softly, and listens to Chanyeol's answering one with a smile when the movement jostles Chanyeol's arm. He has dreams and hopes, hopes of Chanyeol at his side at Baekhyun's own art exhibitions off in the far, far future, of Chanyeol watching the sun set with him wherever they end up next, more of Chanyeol cuddling him in Baekhyun's bed. "Of course I will. Of course."
Tags: fandom: exo, pairing: baekhyun/chanyeol
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