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Man in the Mirror

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“What if the only reason we can’t walk through mirrors is because our reflection blocks us.
What if they’re protecting us?
What if they know the other side is horrifying and painful, and they are trying to keep us
from ever crossing over .”




Chanyeol had always prided himself in his ability to read people. The skill came to great use at his workplace, helping him to close many deals and gain the title as the city’s most successful realtor. He was always able to pick up on a client’s slight shift in body language; always quick to examine the situation and turn it in his favor. Park Chanyeol was observant, which is why he didn’t miss the off behavior from his long-time boyfriend the moment he stepped foot into their two-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment after a long day at work.

“Baekhyun?” he asked, questioning the full layout of food on their dining room table – the table that they never used. “What’s going on?”

“Chanyeol, you’re home!” the petite male smiled, placing the platter of quail down on the table.

“Uh, yeah,” Chanyeol said, frowning when Baekhyun came up behind him and helped him out of his suit jacket. “Baekhyun, what-”

“Come sit!” his boyfriend interrupted, giving him a slight push towards the table. “The food’s getting cold.”

Chanyeol obeyed, taking his seat, eyes trailing the brunet male silently. Something was off. Something was wrong. “Baekhyun…”

“How was your day?” the brunet interrupted again, taking his seat opposite Chanyeol, unfolding his napkin and resting it on his lap.

“Err…good. Today was good. But Baek-”

“Plate,” Baekhyun demanded, interrupting yet again as he held out one quail. Chanyeol lifted his plate, accepting the bird. He watched as Baekhyun tried to reach his plate with the scoop full roasted potatoes, only to sigh in aggravation when his arms didn’t quite stretch the distance. He remained silent when the brunet stood and walked over to his side, serving him his food before returning to his place and scooping out his own portion. “Let’s eat!”

Chanyeol nodded, picking up his fork and knife, holding them cautiously over his bird as he watched Baekhyun cut into his. “Baekhyun…” he finally said as the brunet took his first bite, “what’s going on?”

“Do you notice anything different tonight, Yeol?”

“Yeah. You’re acting weird.”

Baekhyun sighed, putting down his utensils. “About the food, Chanyeol. Do you notice anything different about the food?”

Chanyeol glanced down at his plate. Quail. Carrots. Beets. Squash. “Uhh….no?”

“Look at their size.”

Chanyeol looked at his food again and then up at his boyfriend. “They’re….small?”

Baby carrots, Chanyeol. Baby beets. That squash mash was made from baby squash.” Baekhyun smiled when the clang of silverware dropping echoed in the room. Chanyeol looked up at him in amazement, eyes wide, and mouth agape.

“Do you mean-”

“Yes, Yeollie,” Baekhyun smiled. “We’re having a baby.”

The silence that followed was a bit unsettling as Baekhyun watched Chanyeol take in the news. After a while, the realtor just stood up without a word and headed towards their bedroom; Baekhyun wanted to follow, but he found he couldn’t take the necessary steps to move after his boyfriend. His heart clenched as he spread a hand over his stomach, eyes starting to water as he thought about the small life growing inside him. “It’s okay, baby…” Baekhyun whispered, comforting himself in the guise of comforting his baby, “it’ll be okay.”













In the days to follow, Chanyeol had begun coming home later and later. Baekhyun never questioned the reason why his boyfriend would avoid his eyes, nor would he ask why the realtor suddenly had so many meetings that ran much later than usual. Instead, Baekhyun would sit on the couch, stuffing himself with gallons of ice cream as he promised himself and his unborn child that everything would be okay.













One week after Baekhyun’s announcement, Chanyeol came home early from work. When Baekhyun arrived home, he was surprised that his always-busy significant other was sitting at the dining room table, seemingly waiting for him. “Chanyeol?”

At the sound of his name, Chanyeol snapped out of his thoughts. “Baekhyun,” he replied, voice raspy. “Come here.” He motioned to the chair opposite him.

Swallowing, Baekhyun toed off his shoes, taking his time as to prepare his heart for what he feared would happen, before slowly making his way over to the seat. His hands were trembling in his lap as he looked up at Chanyeol, waiting for the other man to speak. But Chanyeol didn’t say anything. Instead, he stood up and took the few short steps over to stand in front of Baekhyun, looking down at the man before him – the beautiful, compassionate, witty man in front of him; the man who he fell in love with.

Baekhyun was fully prepared – or, as prepared as he’d ever be – for Chanyeol to break up with him. He’d ready himself to hear the words, “it’s not working out, Baek” or “I can’t be a dad right now”…but what he didn’t expect was for Chanyeol to kneel down in front of him.

“C-Chanyeol?”

“I know I didn’t take the news well…” Chanyeol began. Baekhyun scoffed, but otherwise remained silent as tears began to well in his eyes. “It was just so sudden, Baek, and I didn’t know how to respond.”

Baekhyun didn’t say anything, but a small flare of anger arose in him at Chanyeol’s words. ‘Didn’t know how to react?! How about staying by me instead of pushing me away you-‘

“I just needed some time to let it sink in,” Chanyeol continued, interrupting Baekhyun’s thoughts. “I’m sorry, puppy.” Baekhyun found himself smiling at the term of endearment. Chanyeol had opted to call him “puppy” rather than the usual nicknames, claiming that it was because Baekhyun looked like the puppy he had when he was a kid. At first, Baekhyun had been appalled (and somewhat offended), but the name stuck; and Baekhyun grew to love it.

“I’m sorry if I made you upset with my reaction,” Chanyeol whispered, taking Baekhyun’s hand in his. Baekhyun’s mouth fell open when he saw the man pull a box out from his pocket. “And I’m sorry it’s taken me forever to finally do this.”

Baekhyun was crying; he was pretty sure that was what he was doing because his sight suddenly became hazy; the image of Chanyeol kneeling in front of him with a small, velvet box blurring into a scope of colors. “C-Chanyeol…”

“It still amazes me sometimes, when I wake up and see you lying beside me every morning. Sometimes I wonder what I’ve done in my past life to deserve someone like you,” Chanyeol began, gripping onto Baekhyun’s hand like it was a lifeline. “You don’t understand how scared I get every time we fight; how worried I am that I’d finally done something stupid enough to make you leave me. But you never left…you’ve always stayed by me, even when I was at my worst. You’ve been nothing but perfect; my impenetrable support system. This,” Chanyeol reached to place a hand on Baekhyun’s stomach, “is the best gift you could ever give me. This baby is the symbol of our love; and it’ll only help to strengthen what we already have.”

His tears were freely falling now as he listened to Chanyeol’s confession. “I love you, so much, puppy.” A chocked sob escaped his throat when Chanyeol took hold of his hand and slipped the ring onto his finger. “So…. Byun Baekhyun. Will you marry me?”

He didn’t remember what happened next; all he remembered was shouting, “YES!” before jumping into the arms of the man he loved.













Baekhyun’s stomach swelled with each passing day; and the love for his fiancé only grew with it. Chanyeol was nothing but perfect; always so ready to help, and always so caring.

Working had started getting much more tiring for Baekhyun. Standing up while decorating cakes for hours on end started taking a toll on his body. Three weeks before their baby boy – Chanhyun – was due, Baekhyun decided to take the time off. He spent his time at home while Chanyeol continued to work, preparing for the upcoming arrival of their baby.

Baekhyun would spend hours in the spare bedroom that they had transformed into the baby’s nursery, going through the so-far empty baby albums. Sometimes, he’d find himself asleep in the rocking chair by the crib with the stuffed duck that Chanyeol had insisted on buying for the baby; and sometimes, he would find himself staring into the mirror hanging on the wall, observing the way his belly swelled; relishing in the bump that was the result of life growing in him.

It wasn’t noticeable at first; the subtle change in expressions… the slight variation in posture. He never noticed the sad smile present on his face; the smile that he wasn’t smiling. Nor did he see the envious looks or the wistful glances every time Chanyeol would wrap his arms tightly around him from behind. And when he did finally see it – that one time when he noticed that things didn’t quite line up – he just took it for a trick of the eye.













After the arrival of the baby….that was when Baekhyun finally started to notice the differences more and more. Every time he would hold Chanhyun, the reflection would smile sadly. Every time he put Chanhyun to bed, the reflection would look on affectionately. Every time Chanyeol was in the room, the reflection was displeased.

Baekhyun had tried to tell Chanyeol, once, about how his reflection seemed to not match him. “It moves on it’s own,” he had said, only to have Chanyeol laugh at him.

“You’re just tired, puppy. Go to sleep, I’ll take Chanhyun.”













It was the day Chanyeol came home late from work, while Chanhyun was asleep, that Baekhyun finally talked to it.

To him.














Chanyeol had started noticing Baekhyun’s weird behavior; how his fiancé would spend hours standing in front of the mirror in the nursery, talking to himself. He’d brushed it off as stress at first; as the tiredness from the sleepless nights of taking care of their newborn that was getting Baekhyun on edge. But when he came home one day to find Baekhyun sitting cross-legged in front of the mirror, mumbling incoherent things to himself while Chanhyun cried in his crib, Chanyeol knew that there was definitely something wrong with his lover.













“Baekhyun, come to bed,” Chanyeol whispered, gently taking hold of Baekhyun’s shoulders to lift him up. Baekhyun shrugged him off as he continued to stare into the mirror. “Baekhyun,” Chanyeol pressed again, grabbing onto the brunet’s wrist this time. He let go in an instant, when Baekhyun turned and snarled at him, eyes angry and crazed.

“Leave us alone.”













“Let me help you.”

“How?”

“Let me save you.”

“YOU CAN'T!!"













He was woken from a peaceful sleep at the sound of a shout, and a baby crying. Stumbling out of bed, Chanyeol ran towards the nursery, only to stop, frozen, when he opened the door. Baekhyun was sitting in front of the mirror holding Chanhyun in one arm; his other arm held out in front of him.

Chanyeol looked on in shocked, as Baekhyun seemed to stare in amazement, at the blood dripping from his hands.













They buried their son on a Sunday; in the rain.

Baekhyun stood, emotionless, as he watched the small casket being lowered into the ground.

Chanyeol had left him shortly after; and Baekhyun had resorted to locking himself in the nursery, doing nothing all day but stare into the blood stained mirror.













With one hand on the cracked surface, he observed his happy life play out in front of him. A sad smile graced his face as he glanced down at the jumper of his lost child, stained with blood red tears.

Because at the end of the day…. he was just the man in the mirror.

And even though his life was a mess…. at least his life was better.










***














Baekhyun frowned as he searched the counter. ‘I swear I had enough…’

“What’s wrong, puppy?” Chanyeol asked, coming up behind his husband and wrapping his arm around his waist; resting his chin on Baekhyun’s shoulder.

“I’m missing a strawberry… I swear I made enough!” Baekhyun said, pouting. “You didn’t eat my strawberries, did you?” Baekhyun asked, squinting at his husband. “You knew they were for the cake!”

Chanyeol laughed, backing up with both hands in the air. “It wasn’t me!”

“If it wasn’t you then who-” He turned when he heard the soft giggle from the other side of the counter. “Ahhh,” Baekhyun sighed, smiling as shook his head. “Chanhyun?”

Another giggle.

Baekhyun walked around the corner, chuckling as he found his three-year-old son huddle against the counter, face and hands covered in chocolate and strawberry juice. “Mr. Chanhyun,” Baekhyun said, hands on his hips, feigning anger. “Did you steal Papa’s strawberries?”

“Sorry Papa!” the toddler shouted, jumping up and wrapping his arms around Baekhyun’s legs, tears pooling in the corner of his eyes. “But Papa’s choco strawbwerries are sooooo yummy! Hyunnie only take one!”

Baekhyun chuckled as he leaned down to pick up his son. “It’s okay, baby. I forgive you,” he said, kissing the boy’s chocolate-covered cheek. “Just ask next time, okay?”

“Okie!”

“See?” Chanyeol said, coming over to the father-son duo and wrapping his arms around them. “I told you it wasn’t me."


-FIN-