"Hi. Sorry, but could you... would you mind helping me with something?"
Some relationships start off simply. Baekhyun thinks this may be one of them. No dancing around each other for weeks and weeks, or waiting until the time is right. There is no awkward flirting or eye-gazing while they pretend not to notice the other staring. In truth, Baekhyun hasn't noticed Yixing more than once or twice since he first got here several days ago, and he didn't exactly swoon either of those times. He doesn't now, except, "Yes?" he asks the lifeguard on duty, eyes resolutely not drifting lower than the guy's cheek where a dimple bashfully winks.
Yixing—he doesn't know his name yet—blushes, and Baekhyun already feels his cheeks warming up, because if ever there's something embarrassing, Baekhyun will most likely feel it sooner or later.
"I was wondering, since you're the only guy on the beach right now who doesn't seem to be occupied..."
Baekhyun looks around, noticing that this is true. "Uh huh?" he fidgets nervously.
The lifeguard waits, fidgeting about as much as Baekhyun. "Could you help me with sunscreen? It's... just my back, please? I'm kind of prone to burning..."
An awkward smile comes unbidden to Baekhyun's face, his eyes turning stone-like. "I, uhm... sure."
He thrusts a bottle of sunscreen into Baekhyun's hands as he turns around, strong arms raising to pull his shirt over his head. Baekhyun looks awkwardly at the sand, then at the back of his head, at the red, standard edition lifeguard whistle and lanyard etching across his neck. He's rather pale for a lifeguard, although his physique is trim. Slim, but muscular, and very much unlike Baekhyun's own. He's embarrassed already to be sharing a beach with this guy, and that thought includes just about every other person currently out on the sands right now. It's true what the lifeguard said. Baekhyun is the only single, solo person having a sunbath this afternoon. Only couples, families, and assorted groups of mix-gender friends seem to be out. Baekhyun is literally the only person with a set of spare hands.
The lifeguard clears his throat, and Baekhyun realizes he's been waiting on him. He almost drops the bottle trying to squeeze out a dollop of lotion, then wedges it between his knees while he rubs his hands together. The lifeguard's skin is smooth against his fingertips, warm to the touch. It's such a thin expanse of skin, that soft arch between his waist, spine shifting as he runs his thumbs across it. He puts too much lotion on the second time, so ignoring the lifeguard's instructions to cover just his back, he wipes the excess lotion up between his shoulder blades, massaging to the top of his shoulders and neck instead until his hands start to dry.
"There... I think that's... it. Is that okay?"
The lifeguard turns around gratefully, smile forming again, dimple back in place. He has sandy colored hair, definitely dyed, but the way his hair falls effortlessly across his bangs gives him a natural look, as if he was made this way fully formed. Grateful brown eyes beam downwards at Baekhyun. The lifeguard beats him in height by just a few centimeters, but the way he smiles at him gives Baekhyun the impression that he's not prone to intimidating anyone, even at close range like this. He can't help smiling back, partially grimacing while he pretends the man's whole physique isn't daunting in a way that makes Baekhyun's knees want to wobble.
"Yeah, no problem."
Baekhyun expects him to move away. He hands the bottle back and crosses his arms to wipe the last bit of lotion around the vicinity of his elbows.
"My name's Yixing."
Baekhyun looks up unexpectedly. "Baekhyun," he says.
"Nice to meet you, Baekhyun." The lifeguard takes only a step back, angled so that Baekhyun actually feels uncomfortable, as if Yixing is appraising him all over, politely. "Are you from the resort?" He inclines his head towards the multi-million dollar beachside hotel with its extravagant balconied suites, open-air bars, multi-leveled pool and private path to the ocean. Yixing is probably employed by them to sit along this stretch of beach and keep an eye out for the guests' safety.
"No," Baekhyun responds, shaking his head in the opposite direction along the shore. "Beach houses."
"Oh?" says Yixing, genuinely surprised. He looks the way Baekhyun pointed, and then back at him, smiling. "Well, thank you. See you around, Baekhyun?"
It's definitely a question, the way he poses it. Baekhyun smiles back dumbly and nods. "Yeah. Probably. See you around."
He gathers up his towel shortly after, hair still dry from having never entered the water, and with a last look at Yixing strolling over to the lifeguard's tower, hands now rubbing suntan lotion across chest and collarbones, Baekhyun heads home.
He drops his sandals at the steps of the porch, shaking his feet for sand. Then he steps into the cool bucket of water placed just before the door before stepping out gently and drying them with a towel. It's his grandmother's house, purchased years ago by his now deceased grandfather as a place to spend the winter months. Winterbirds. Baekhyun's whole family are a bunch of winterbirds, himself included. They ride out the cool summers of the north and then descend south before the frigid snows arrive. Grandpa and grandma, mother, father and brother, and it only worked out because the boys were homeschooled and their studies could travel.
They haven't been down in a few years though. Baekbeom went to college overseas, their father now works a stable year-round job and his mother can't bear to leave him. It coincided with his grandfather passing away, so for the last three years it's been just his grandmother and him.
"Halmeoni, are you home?!" Baekhyun calls as the back door creaks open, already sweating as he plans which window to open. It's the first time they've come down during the actual summer months, and Baekhyun will never get used to humidity that lingers around the cottage. They don't need central air during the winter, but the old, porous house oozes airflow, ever conditioning itself to the outside temperature.
When there is no answer, he assumes she must be out and worries no more. He throws open the two back windows with their view of the sea and notices for the first time that if he sits in the corner and angles just right, he can see the tail end of the resort and the beach, and Yixing's lifeguard post. From here Yixing looks barely larger than a pinprick. He makes out his bare, creamy skin which nearly blends in with the sand, the white and grey swim trunks, the blurry lettering of the resort name emblazoned vertically down the side.
He leaves the window feeling suddenly like a creeping tom and scampers about the house following the smell of recently baked muffins. They're blueberry and the centers aren't all the way cooked, but Baekhyun picks around the gooey bread inside and enjoys it anyways. Five years ago his mother would have been here to coax his grandmother into paying attention to bake times, but Baekhyun doesn't feel confident enough to fill her shoes. His grandmother's underly done muffins and rock hard cookies are still made with love, and he figures that's the most important thing anyways.
"How come you don't have any friends? You should get some new friends!"
Baekhyun hums into his cup of hot cocoa, blowing ripples across the surface and scattering the marshmallows. His drink is too hot even to sip, and his grandmother thinks it's super easy to just find a new friend.
"It's July," he says like that's answer enough.
"So? Lots of people come in July. More probably than in December."
He sighs, because this is the truth. What's also true is that all the people Baekhyun knows are winterbirds like him, and none of them are here this time of year. Everyone else on the beach is a stranger, even Yixing.
"Kyungsoo's family doesn't get here usually until November." He's stalling for time.
"So? Make a friend who comes before November."
Her rocker squeaks against the wood grain floor, and Baekhyun detects the barest hint of a smile, as if she knows he's being ornery but doesn't want to call him out on it specifically. She's a truly insightful woman even after reaching 80 years of age. A little feeble, a little slow, taste buds almost completely shot, but still sharp of mind.
She grumbles good-naturedly and a few minutes later he catches her dozing and shoos her off to bed. Coming to the beach house out of season bothers him more than he cares to admit. The landscape is the same, the buildings are the same, but the temperatures are off, the waves are a different height, the tourists are different. It might as well be an alternate universe for how similar everything feels and yet it's not right.
In winter, half the tacky beach shops are closed shut, the sands aren't swarming with bikinis, the resort is staffed by part-timers only, and only a handful of the little beach houses come to life with families or retirees. Everything feels backwards now and instead of meeting familiar neighborly faces, all Baekhyun hears are weekend swimmers who pay good money to come trash the place and leave their empty beer cans strewn across the dune grass until they're swept up by the wind against the back of his grandmother's fence.
He wonders if Yixing ever picks up trash or if his only job is to sit up on the platform and look pretty while he keeps the sun out of his face, watching for emergencies. Probably, the resort has other staff who do that kind of dirty work, and Baekhyun finds that both sad and a treat, because then Yixing can just sit up on the wooden pedestal that Baekhyun definitely didn't erect in his mind, but it's a nice view anyways. When it's not marred by all the litter that distracts him. Summertime truly turns this place into a completely different beach.
He meets Yixing again a few days later, and this time he doesn't let the lifeguard sneak up again. It's early in the morning, barely after sunrise and most of the tourists haven't quite woken up. Baekhyun strolls through the sand because the walk to the grocery store is more scenic in this direction than if he took the sidewalk down the main drag. He encounters a few elderly couples, dog-walkers, a set of friends getting their windsurfing gear together, and Yixing.
"Morning. Baekhyun?" Yixing says with a little uncertainty.
Baekhyun had hesitated walking behind the lifeguard's post, but Yixing hadn't yet climbed atop and they would have met either way.
"It is 'Baekhyun'. Am I right?"
"Hmm? Oh, yes. You're right," he answers a few seconds late, too caught up in the distraction before him to notice that distraction was actually speaking. "And you're Yixing, yeah?"
Yixing beams like Baekhyun or himself or both of them just tied for first place in a spelling bee. "Morning walk?"
"Errands on the beach?"
Baekhyun shrugs. "It's prettier to go this way." In more ways than one.
He's stopped walking, suddenly cognizant that this is the way to make 'friends' and right now he has Yixing's undivided attention, for better or worse. He digs his toes into the sand, his sandals swinging freely between his index and middle fingers. Yixing is wearing his usual swim trunks and a T-shirt he hasn't yet abandoned, but there are no more pleas to apply sunscreen on his back, and Baekhyun thinks that's a shame. Perhaps Yixing is waiting for a better, cuter masseuse than Baekhyun.
"So... do you live here, or are you just visiting?" Yixing shocks him out of his reverie.
He starts to explain the concept of winterbirds before he gives up two words in and says, "just for the summer, with my grandmother. It's her beach house."
Together they look across the sand at the dainty row of almost identical little cottages. They're the same size, same shape, over two dozen in a row with matching back fences and just a couple yards apart. It's a practical arrangement, economical, even if they're still outrageously expensive just for the privilege of having sand right at the owner's footsteps and an unhindered view of the beach. The only thing that makes them stand out is the color. Baekhyun painted their own house pale green with a white trim last year. The neighbor's house to their right is a violent purple, and on their left the house is painted yellow.
"Usually we come during the winter, but this year we came early," he explains tidily.
Yixing nods consistent to his polite, curious inquiries. "Which one is yours?"
The lifeguard mistakes his tone for distrust. "Oh, I mean, you don't have to tell me, I just..."
"The green one," Baekhyun says quickly before he can chicken out. He doesn't look, but Yixing does, and he can't help fretting that now Yixing knows where he lives. It's out of his comfort zone, giving away such facts, but there's no point hiding such an open secret. All Yixing would have to do is watch one day where Baekhyun returns to. If Yixing cares, which right now he's not certain about but either way, he ought to be doing his grandmother proud by... socializing.
"I have to get going now... See you later?"
Yixing waves him goodbye before climbing up into his perch, and Baekhyun refuses to look back and reflect on the man's profile. He's twenty years old, not prone to flirting, and his grandma needs groceries and fruit and pound cake and cool whip if she's going to make him a trifle cake for tonight's dessert. Baekhyun suggested it because it requires no bake time so there's no way she can mess it up, and definitely not if he helps put it together. It'll make too much for just the two of them to eat, but Baekhyun can cross that fence when he gets to it.
He does cross that fence, later that night. The sunset is rolling in, the resort guests are starting to abandon their umbrellas and their fold out lawn chairs and return to the indoor life. Baekhyun's grandma is snoozing in her chair, both their bellies full from a good dinner and their dessert. That just leaves Baekhyun to fiddle around with nothing in particular in the sandy fenced-in yard. He's looking for Yixing, he'll admit. The lifeguard apparently went off duty mid-afternoon and he hasn't been back. Another guy took his place and Baekhyun decides the new guy is cute, but not as cute as Yixing. He's biased, but there's nobody to admit that to.
Baekhyun tucks his toes into the sand, seagrass and assorted dirt all mixed in until his feet are a mess but it's not too often that Baekhyun wears shoes in his own backyard. Not when he has the ocean for his playground. He's just starting to contemplate a late evening swim by himself when he hears a knock on the front door. The front door, not the back. Nobody but the mailman ever uses the front door.
He hears his grandmother get to it first, her sweet voice warbling at the surprise. "Hello? Oh my, now who would you be? Are you a friend of Baekhyun's? Ahh, you must be. Come in! Come in. Baekhyunnie!"
Baekhyun freezes in his tracks. "Halmeoni?" he calls out, still confused why somebody is at the front door, asking for him.
He jumps up, sand and dirt flying, but before he can get to the porch steps and clean his feet, he's being greeted by the sight of Yixing himself.
"Hello," says the lifeguard, while Baekhyun stares in return. Yixing, inside his house, peering out at him in the yard as if there had been a standing invitation for him to come over.
The lifeguard is wearing normal clothes, khaki shorts and flip flops, a solid colored tee. "I wasn't sure you'd be home. But, well I was walking by and saw the green house and..."
"Hey, no problem." Baekhyun recovers quickly. He can't believe Yixing is here; he can't believe Yixing remembered the green house. He also can't ignore that he has a guest in his house, in his grandmother's house. Hospitality, what is hospitality? He can almost hear her speaking to him about being nice to his guests and making them feel comfortable and welcome, even though all she's doing now is smiling, as if her eyes are delighted by what she sees. And in this, he shares his grandmother's taste.
"You're off from work, I guess? I mean, you must be. Since you're here." Baekhyun cringes. It's a stupid question, plus he already sort of spent the afternoon spying on the lifeguard hut rotation. He hopes he was never obvious about it. Perhaps that's what Yixing is here for? To politely tell him that stalking is creepy, even if done from a distance and safely from inside one's home?
Yixing, however, nods and doesn't rebuke him. He also doesn't appear to judge Baekhyun's lack of conversational skills. "I work mornings mostly. Some afternoons. And well, most of my evenings are free?"
"You poor dear," Baekhyun's grandmother interjects. "You must come by here often then. Yixing, you said your name was? Well Yixing, sweetie, this old woman is retiring for the evening but do have fun. Have a lot of fun. There are cookies in the kitchen. And a messy dessert Baekhyun persuaded me to make. So so messy! But I hope you like it. Goodnight." She winks at Baekhyun as the boys each bid her sleep well, and that's as much support as Baekhyun knows he's going to get.
"Trifle?" he asks. He might as well try out this thing people call making friends.
"You should really come hang out on the beach with me. It would help the time go by! Honest!"
Yixing laughs, and Baekhyun smiles shyly in return.
"I... I don't know. I burn easily," he responds. After nearly a week of hit-or-miss evening visits from Yixing, they've developed something of a slight friendship. Baekhyun doesn't open up easily to strangers. He may prattle and talk about a lot of nonsense when he gets comfortable, but details about himself, his life, his family, his general loneliness... those things he doesn't give out so easily. And his and Yixing's friendship hovers just on the cusp of this.
"Avoiding burns are easy. Wear sunscreen. Or a hat. Or sun-blocking clothes."
"I have the hat and the sunscreen, but... I don't know about intentionally hanging out on the beach." Baekhyun does it all the time, actually, but with someone he finds attractive? That part is rare.
Yixing's smile is unnerving in a way. Baekhyun has been on the receiving end of it enough times now to feel unsettled. His heart doesn't pound, but it does feel a little funny. Yixing is cute, he has a dimple, beautiful hair and a great body. It makes Baekhyun feel puny in comparison, even if he thinks he's still rather fit. At twenty years old he feels reasonably comfortable with himself. It must just be Yixing.
"I get the feeling, if I met you anywhere else, I wouldn't think of you as a guy who lives in a beach house for the summer."
"Winterbirds, usually," Baekhyun says. Yixing seems to understand.
"Ahh, I guess that makes a little more sense. Also explains why I haven't ever seen you around before."
"You come here often?"
"Yes, for the last couple summers. It's a nice easy-going job. Gets me away from the city for a few months of the year, just enough so that I feel like a real human being when I go back."
They're sitting on Baekhyun's back porch. Yixing's still wearing his lifeguard trunks, and fortunately he put on a shirt before coming over, so Baekhyun's eyes are spared. Or rather, he might say, he's been foiled. Since the first day they met, Baekhyun has only walked down the beach a couple times when Yixing was on duty, and there hasn't yet been a repeat of the sunscreen incident. He doesn't know whether he should be relieved or sad about that, but probably he should feel relieved. It's kind of obvious—at least to himself—that he's attracted to Yixing, but he also doesn't need to be striking up a summer fling. Baekhyun gets attached easily, and Yixing is just the kind of guy he could fall for, hard. Why start something only to get his heart broken in the end.
"I still think you should come by more often. You can sit with me."
"What, up on the chair? Isn't that forbidden?"
"Yes, but I could also sit down on the beach with you, and that's not forbidden." Yixing smiles. Baekhyun feels his heart thumping softly back to life again. He wills himself to stop this, but it also seems like Yixing may be flirting with him?
"So. Sit on the beach. And do what. Sunbathe? Babe watch?" He laughs, not even comfortable with his own joke.
"Or anything. Whatever makes you happy."
What would make Baekhyun happy is if he could safely continue to watch Yixing from afar, sigh to himself in private and make moon-eyes at the guy without the fear of getting caught. Reality on the other hand is a dangerous ordeal.
"Maybe I will then," he cautiously suggests.
"Tomorrow?!" says Yixing excitedly, while Baekhyun hears the caution bells blaring loudly inside his head.
"Yeah... tomorrow, I guess."
The next day finds Baekhyun standing with his back to the ocean, frowning upon the city. He probably should have expected this. All signs, including his halmeoni's final words of advice spoke to Baekhyun having to put up with this: standing frozen, toes burrowing into the sound, breath held taut because who knows what kind of sound might come out if he lets it go.
"Almost done. Hang on. Unless you want to turn into a lobster, which... would be sad."
Yixing's hands feel amazing. They're strong and muscular, but tender as he slathers sun lotion all over Baekhyun's exposed back. He also shares no hint of modesty when he declares that Baekhyun likely missed a few spots earlier. Long fingers coat every inch of skin on his back up to his neck and down the backs of his arms. He hits a ticklish spot, and Baekhyun shrieks. He grips tighter onto the lifeguard tower, leaning on it for dear life as Yixing feels him up.
"What... what are you... ahhh!" He exclaims wildly a few seconds later, Yixing's fingers coating his lower back right to the tops of his swim trunks, and then some.
"Just making sure you're covered... There. All done. My turn now?"
Yixing's grin is wicked, but at least this way, with Yixing facing away from him, Baekhyun can blush all he wants without fear of the lifeguard seeing his face. He isn't quite so fortunate all the other times during the day when Yixing probably catches him staring, but at least it seems like they have the beginning of a good friendship, if not something else.
Three weeks later is when things start to change. Yixing comes by around five in the evening as planned. Baekhyun wills his heart to quit fluttering while he finishes doing up the buttons on his shirt, still in his bedroom. He hurries, meanwhile he listens to Yixing's rapt knocks and initial greetings—Yixing always comes through the front door, because it gives Baekhyun's grandmother such a joy to answer it.
'Halmeoni, how are you tonight?'
'Ohhh, I'm just fine. Just as I ought to be. Here to see Baekhyun now? Well, that boy should be along any second now. Any second. You have a seat now while he pretties up. Always wasting time that boy,' she adds fondly.
Baekhyun hears Yixing chuckle, and the things it does to his heart cannot be good.
They've been spending so much time together lately. Every other day for a while, and then every day. First a few hours together, and then for longer. Pretty soon Baekhyun was spending his days out on the beach sitting nearby and talking. A week ago they started going out in the evenings too, excursions away from the shore and into the town itself because Baekhyun knows it all and Yixing never had a reason to venture forth. Last night he walked Baekhyun back to the house and kissed him on the cheek, and for once Baekhyun wasn't the shyest one there.
He takes one last look at himself in the mirror and nods, satisfied. Unstyled hair, but it's combed down nicely instead of doing the fly-away look. A baby blue and white checkered shirt, khaki shorts and flip flops. It is still summer on the beach, and the nights are warm, not that his wardrobe is much different during the winter season either. The main difference he sees in himself now is the slight tan he's put on during his days spent with Yixing.
His grandmother gives him the once over when he appears in the living room, nods in approval and then bids them have fun. Yixing looks gorgeous, but then Baekhyun always thinks he does. They don't really talk until they walk outside. Last night Yixing kissed him, but today they're both lacking in confidence. They ho and hum on the sidewalk before the fence, making a general plan of where they want to wander tonight, which streets to explore, which food stands to try, maybe see how far of a walk it is to the lighthouse at the end of the peninsula. And for a few moments it feels like the night isn't special at all, that they're just two friends out to waste some time engaged in similar activities.
At the gate though, Yixing blushes anew and he hesitates. Then he reaches for Baekhyun's hand, and they begin to walk. They don’t make it quite as far as the lighthouse, but this time they kiss each other directly and make out for a bit in the moonlight. It's the summer romance Baekhyun never asked for, but he isn't about to turn it down now.
The next day though, things are different. Baekhyun walks up mid-morning to someone knocking on the door, and he hears his grandmother's voice. He's too groggy to register who it is, and anyways what does it matter, because it's not going to be Yixing. He rolls over to go back to sleep, only waking up half a minute later when somebody plops down on his bed. The mattress springs creak, and his body bounces up.
"What!?!" he cries, sitting up animatedly and pulling his sheets towards his body.
"Good morning," comes a melodious voice, a man who sounds more than a little amused with himself.
Baekhyun blinks and rubs his eyes. "Kyungsoo?"
"What. Were you expecting someone else in your bed?" Kyungsoo is teasing of course, but if only he knew what Baekhyun was dreaming about last night.
Through breakfast, he pieces the puzzle together, how two winterbirds came to be down here in the summer. "I figured you'd be bored, so I came down to keep you company."
Kyungsoo scarfs up his pancakes while Baekhyun's grandmother looks on with a cheeky smile. The scene is a familiar one, but Baekhyun didn't guess his friend would sacrifice himself to the heat just for Baekhyun's sake. He wears a short sleeved shirt, but it's black, and so are his shorts. He's going to melt and be miserable and whine nonstop. It's fun already to think of all the teasing Baekhyun will get to do, except Kyungsoo's suitcase is sitting inside the door and he hasn't told him about Yixing yet.
"Uhm. Where are you staying?"
"I was hoping here? My family's place is rented out through the end of next month." Kyungsoo gets the approval from Baekhyun's grandmother, and he himself nods, but later on he paces by the back windows and sees Yixing at a distance. They're supposed to go out again tonight, but now he's not sure. Baekhyun's never talked to Kyungsoo much about dating... especially not about dating boys, and right now he feels conflicted.
"God, does it do anything else around here in the summer other than sunshine?!" Kyungsoo is already complaining, and it's barely noon.
"It rained once last week. For just a few minutes," Baekhyun replies. "It was still warm though, not much different than jumping into in the waves. Yixing and I..." He stops short.
He and Yixing had laughed at the meager rain drops and made a mad dash towards the beach, lapping up the fresh falling water and the salt spray equally.
"Yixing? Who's that?"
"He's Baekhyun's new friend!" His grandmother yells from the other room. She's busy putting together another trifle, and Baekhyun is loathe to explain to Kyungsoo that's it because Yixing loves trifle.
"New friend, huh?" Kyungsoo pouts smugly.
Baekhyun laughs it off. "Yeah, something like that."
Kyungsoo sighs and leans back in the rocker. "So you replaced me after all. Ahhh, what a waste. And I came all the way down here for you. Guess I should pack up and go on home." On the contrary of course. By the time Baekhyun is pacing back and forth in his room while Kyungsoo puts away some of his clothes in Baekhyun's closet, he has absolutely no idea what he's going to say.
He likes Kyungsoo, he really does. He's his best friend and they've known each other for a decade. He hates feeling guilty all of a sudden. Yixing is coming over later, and he doesn't know how to explain. He doesn't even know if he and Yixing are seriously dating. They haven't defined their relationship in such terms yet, but it was going so well. So well. Baekhyun was just getting used to the idea of this being okay, of letting whatever happen. Little did he know that the few pitiful text messages he'd sent to Kyungsoo weeks ago about being bored would lead to this moment. How now is he supposed to ditch Kyungsoo, who came all the way here to keep him company, to go on another date with Yixing? And he's just enough of a chicken to let the matter go until the unfortunate appointed hour.
"So... uhm... movie? Kyungsoo, do you like movies?"
Kyungsoo shrugs. "Yeah. Anything's cool."
Over his head Yixing squints his eyes at Baekhyun, who pointedly looks away. Baekhyun is sulking, he knows it, but it's just so awkward. It has been since the moment Yixing showed up at their door, and instead of blushing and shyly touching Baekhyun on the arm, Yixing was met with a stoically panicked Baekhyun and his curious best friend.
He's guessing Kyungsoo doesn't realize yet that he's the third wheel. Baekhyun sits in the middle during the movie, completely stiff with his eyes facing forward. Yixing's knee falls open and his elbow and hand conveniently fall close to Baekhyun. Baekhyun, however, just inhales and exhales slowly. He knows Yixing is taking a gamble, to see if he'll take his hand or touch him back in any way, but instead he holds himself still. Yixing shifts a little while later, and Baekhyun knows the moment is passed. He kind of wants to cry.
"Your friend's pretty okay," Kyungsoo says later that night, after Yixing went home straight from the movie theater and Kyungsoo and Baekhyun left together.
They brush their teeth, and Kyungsoo strips down to his boxers before sliding into Baekhyun's bed, just like they've done for many a sleepover in years past.
"Yeah." Baekhyun barely has the energy to respond. He's tired and mopey and he just wants to sleep.
"You just met him this summer? While lifeguarding? Is that all he does?"
"Hmm..." Kyungsoo turns over in the bed, nearly depriving Baekhyun of half his covers. "Well, what do you want to do tomorrow? Since we've got the rest of the summer. By the way, nice tan?" He chuckles. "How'd you come by that? I thought you rarely went outside."
"Been spending time with Yixing," Baekhyun mumbles, because he's tired and why the hell not. "I like him. He's nice." He doesn't even realize what he's said until morning, when he wakes up before Kyungsoo, hoping that his friend didn't hear.
He slips out of the house while Kyungsoo is in the shower. He forgets his shoes even, but the sand isn't so hot that he can't go barefoot. Even still he practically sprints down the beach, slowing to a jog and then a steady walk when he approaches Yixing's lifeguard tower.
"Baekhyun!" Yixing yells down excitedly. In a few seconds he's down by his side, hugging him. As if last night's horrible 3-way 'date' never happened.
"G'morning," Baekhyun mumbles into Yixing's cheek. He already feels the blush starting to burn across his skin and he dips his face down to hide along the crook of Yixing's neck. He realizes belatedly that Yixing is shirtless, and that his bare chest is pressed right up against him.
"Morning, back. How is... where's your friend this morning?"
"Still at home. Getting dressed," he says, still mumbling.
Two arms pull Baekhyun back so that Yixing can see his face, and for a moment he holds him at arm's length. Then he quickly scours the beach as if looking for signs of trouble or need, and seeing none, he leans in and kisses Baekhyun full on the mouth. Despite the fact they've done this before, it still literally takes his breath away. Yixing's lips pry open his, one hand digging in claw-like to the small of his back, the other creeping up to hold his neck. Baekhyun sneaks his arms low around Yixing's waist and gasps a little. It gives Yixing the leverage he needs to press his tongue in deeper, exploring Baekhyun's mouth, and Baekhyun is too awestruck to do anything like experiment back.
It's over in a matter of seconds. Yixing breaks the kiss, although not their close-pressed bodies, and smiles across at him. "Hey."
Baekhyun blushes anew but doesn't speak. He's still holding onto Yixing's waist, and he rather likes the feel of it.
"I wasn't sure... with your friend last night if... you... or if I could..."
"I haven't talked to him yet?" says Baekhyun. "He surprised me yesterday. I... a few weeks ago I told him I was bored and pretty much alone, but I didn't expect he'd actually clear his schedule and come see me."
"He's one of your winterbird friends?"
"And he's staying with you?" Yixing asks like he's jealous, but there's a teasing hint to his voice that has Baekhyun smiling apologetically.
"I... slept on my own side of the bed, if that makes you feel better?"
"You sleep in the same bed!" Yixing exclaims softly. "Now that isn't fair at all."
"Why, because you wish it was you?" Baekhyun bites his lower lip, eyes lowered. He isn't used to being the teasing type. He isn't used to any of this actually. Two years ago he halfway tried the dating thing with a boy who was here for the winter. It was less a holiday romance though than a not-so-whirlwind crush. He spent a whole month getting to know the guy, shy flirting going back and forth, and then Jongin had to go home. It ended before anything ever began, and none of Baekhyun's other friends—like Kyungsoo—ever knew that anything had happened, or was in the process of happening. A case of missed timing and bad execution.
He's just hoping the same thing isn't about to happen again, now, with Yixing.
"Can I say no comment right now, but I really, really just want to kiss you again?" Yixing whispers against his lips.
"Y-You can do that," says Baekhyun, breathless again.
Kyungsoo is munching on a bagel when Baekhyun gets back. And, he’s musing, or whatever that expression is that's commonly on his face.
"You're up! Good morning,” says Baekhyun shakily.
Kyungsoo grins at him, lips closed tight as he chews. Baekhyun helps himself to the bag and starts to toast his own. He’s tapping his fingers distractively against the countertop when his friend finally swallows enough to speak.
“I didn’t think you usually woke up so early.”
“Oh?” Baekhyun swivels around. “I… the sun is brighter this time of the year. Wakes me up early.”
“So you wake up early, and go for early morning walks on the beach?” Kyungsoo raises both brows.
Kyungsoo chuckles. “Your kicked puppy look offends me. Relax. It’s no big deal.”
“It’s… not? What’s not?” Baekhyun vacillates.
“I saw you.”
The bagel pops out the toaster with a small ding. Baekhyun relishes the excuse to turn away. “Saw, what?” he says, grabbing a plate down from the cabinet, and a butter knife for the cream cheese.
“Yixing, you and him, about five minutes ago,” says Kyungsoo softly. “You could have told me, you know. I feel bad now, barging in on your date last night.”
“You didn’t barge in,” Baekhyun replies. He still won’t turn around, preferring to hide his blushing, mortified expression. He’s not even sure what he’s more ashamed about: getting caught kissing Yixing, or lying to his friend. It’s probably a little bit of both.
“Right.” Kyungsoo snorts. “Anyways. I’m sorry.”
Baekhyun turns around. “For what?”
“I don’t know.” Kyungsoo sighs. “For being the kind of friend you were worried about telling?”
Baekhyun gulps. “It’s not that… Kyungsoo, I didn’t mean…”
“Baekhyun. It’s fine. Anyways, it’s out now. Uhmm,” he scratches his neck, frowning, “so… tell me more about this guy. If he’s going to date you, I feel like I ought to know more than just his taste in movies.”
Baekhyun invites both of them out to dinner later that night, an apology meal for having mislead both his friend and his boyfriend into a weird, awkward contest for Baekhyun’s attention, à la the night before.
To his relief, Yixing and Kyungsoo seem to get along. It’s a truce for Baekhyun’s sake, even if he doubts they’re the kind of people who would become great friends on their own. In between bites of burgers and fries, they swap stories about Baekhyun and embarrass him greatly. He spends half the meal red in the face and complaining hotly, but under the table Yixing lays his palm on Baekhyun’s thigh. It’s a comforting reminder that Yixing seems to like him, a lot. It’s also heavy and a bit of a turn-on, but fortunately Yixing doesn’t graze any higher than is safe and appropriate. Baekhyun isn’t very keen to start moaning at the table in front of his best friend, who just figured out he was gay.
Kyungsoo leave them after dinner, shirking off Yixing’s invitation to stay and hang out.
“No no, you guys go out. I’m going back to your house, Baekhyun. I actually brought a ton of my school stuff with me so I should get a start on that. See you later. Yixing, have him back before… Oh, I don’t know. Morning?” He winks and is off.
Baekhyun chuckles nervously, but Yixing takes his hand and says, “Come! I wanted to show you something.”
He starts to lead him to the beach, but instead turns towards the resort where he works.
“What is it?” Baekhyun asks. “Is there a great view from the top of the hotel? Is that what you’re going to show me?”
Yixing grins poutily. “No fair guessing!”
“Oh, so there is?”
“Yes,” says Yixing simply. “Not as good a view as the lighthouse, but pretty close. Come on.”
Baekhyun’s never really been to the resort. It’s a useless commodity for people richer than himself, and besides - he already has his own beachfront property. During the winter, he and his friends usually hit up the local food joints, the ones the tourists don’t know about, and party all they want from the security of someone’s back porch, either Kyungsoo’s or Baekhyun’s. He’s never been dazzled by the fancy resort with its blinding lights or poolside bar; never been impressed by its tropical colored umbrella canopies or golf cart service to the nearby marina.
The music though, sometimes that’s pretty nice. And tonight they have a jazz band.
Yixing drops his hand when they get near, holding a finger to his lips, enticing Baekhyun to follow quietly. He opens a side door with his employee keycard and takes the back stairwell. Four flights of stairs later, Baekhyun is huffing when they get to the top. Then Yixing leads him through another door which houses all the employee supply rooms, laundry, service elevator and other equipment.
“There’s an extra lifeguard supply room up here. That’s why I’m allowed in.”
“Nifty,” says Baekhyun. “But am I supposed to be impressed?”
Yixing takes his hand again with a smile, fingers tickling Baekhyun’s palm until he gives in. “There’s also a balcony which might be viewed as a private vista. Great view of the ocean.”
“And the pool.”
Baekhyun snorts again.
“And the city behind us.”
He inclines his head, vaguely interested, but not really. Yixing laughs, his hand turning the knob to the outside door.
“Right above where the band plays.”
“Okay, now we’re talking.”
It’s a darkened spot, perfect for lovers, Baekhyun thinks, with only a cool backwards glow from all the lights below. The band plays on the second floor balcony, right next to the too expensive restaurant, and one level higher than the pool. From their corner of the hotel, Baekhyun can see everything, hear everything, but not be seen in turn.
“Told you you’d like it,” says Yixing, wrapping his arms around Baekhyun’s waist as they lean over the railing.
“Hmmm,” he murmurs in response, because Yixing is kissing his neck. Part of him is ticklish, and part of him is so very much falling in love.
“Hey, Baekhyun?” Yixing whispers in his ear.
“I’m glad I met you this summer.”
This summer, this summer. It’s Baekhyun’s first summer romance, but the word only sinks down deep in his gut, later that night as he sneaks back into house, tiptoeing so as not to wake his grandmother or Kyungsoo. Summers come to an end every year. And when that happens, what then?
It’s honestly hard, juggling his feelings for Yixing, while spending time with Kyungsoo; while keeping his grandmother company; while dodging phone conversations with his parents back home about what he plans to do this coming fall.
He should go to college. It’s beyond the time when he could have gone. Perhaps he’ll take a couple courses at the junior college back home, just to feel like he’s doing something useful. He tries not to wonder where Yixing will return to, after the summer ends. For now, it’s almost enough to enjoy his time here while it lasts.
“I thought you said his shift doesn’t end until 3pm?” Kyungsoo whines as Baekhyun leads him down the beach.
“It doesn’t. But he can still kind of hang out with us for the last thirty minutes.” Baekhyun plows through the sand resolutely. He’s wearing his swim trunks and loose muscle shirt. Kyungsoo wears one of those long sleeves UV beach shirts and a big floppy hat because he’s so afraid of burning.
“I can’t believe you’re dragging me out to this part of the beach, just so you can stare at your boyfriend’s ass for thirty extra minutes,” he complains hotly.
“Who said you were allowed to notice?”
“Nobody, but I can’t help noticing that you seem to like it a lot. Could you be any more obvious?”
“Find your own butt to stare at,” Baekhyun laughs.
He’s watching where he walks, barefoot and the last time he didn’t pay attention he nearly walked over a twisted aluminum can. So he walks right into the back of Kyungsoo, who’s stopped short.
“What?” Baekhyun splutters, nearly overbalancing. “What’d you stop for?”
“Looking at a butt, as instructed.”
“Perfect, now can we walk?” Baekhyun steps around him. And then he stops too.
Ahead of them stands a slim man in navy blue speedo. His wavy brown hair dances in the breeze. Baekhyun can only see part of his profile, a tanned back and small but shapely ass, short but muscular thighs and legs. He’s also completely obscuring Yixing, his arm held up by Yixing’s shoulder.
It’s only because the stranger doesn’t have his arm completely around Yixing’s neck that Baekhyun moves forward again. He’s still tempted to bolt completely and run back home, so astonished is he to see someone standing so close to his boyfriend. They don’t look like strangers to each other, and the man is frankly quite intimidating. Baekhyun sucks in his stomach as they approach.
Yixing is nervous, even before he sees Baekhyun. Small measure of comfort, even as Yixing turns twice as uncomfortable. He steps away, thereby losing the palm on his shoulder, smiling awkwardly.
The other man turns to look at him, a dazzling smile on his face which unnervingly doesn’t go away.
“H-Hey, Yixing. Sorry we came a bit… early.”
He doesn’t know the protocol for introducing himself to a man who’s flirting with his boyfriend.
“That’s okay,” says Yixing quickly. He nods briefly at Kyungsoo and then steps up to Baekhyun’s side. Even more stress fades away when Yixing winds his arm low around Baekhyun’s waist. Baekhyun watches the other man’s smile twitch when Yixing presses a small kiss to his cheek. Then Yixing straightens up, arm still loosely attached and introduces the stranger.
“Sorry, this is uhm… Joonmyun. Joonmyun, this is Baekhyun.”
He doesn’t state who Baekhyun is specifically, although he guesses the kiss did the trick. He shakes the man’s hand, a firm grip and then backs away. Kyungsoo goes through the same greeting, minus the kiss and then silence floods through the little group.
“I uh… this is great weather, right? Have you known each other long?” Joonmyun asks. His smile has faded into an awkward crooked grin, and his hands swing by his side. He obviously doesn’t know what to do with them, and Baekhyun would sympathize except the man has abs and a well-filled speedo.
“A while,” Yixing says, a strong definite reply. To Baekhyun he looks apologetic, and then he adds, “I met Joonmyun last summer.”
“You’re staying at the resort?” Kyungsoo asks. Baekhyun is grateful for the interruption, because as Joonmyun answers back, and the two discuss the hotel, Yixing catches Baekhyun’s eyes guiltily, and then Baekhyun finally understands.
Joonmyun is Yixing’s ex.
Baekhyun doesn’t know which.
They find themselves an hour later at the same burger place where Baekhyun went with Yixing and Kyungsoo. This time, however, there are four of them.
Joonmyun seemed imperious to his awkward fourth-wheel status, although maybe he was just desperate, or too embarrassed to back down now. He went back to his room and changed at least so Baekhyun is grateful for that. He’s also grateful to Kyungsoo for drawing as much of the man’s attention to him.
“Baekhyun, I’m really sorry… I didn’t expect him to show up today. I didn’t know he was even in town,” Yixing attempts to explain during Joonmyun’s short room change.
“It’s okay,” says Baekhyun, not sure if that’s true or not.
“He… we aren’t together anymore. I thought I broke up with him pretty good last year, but—”
“It’s okay,” Baekhyun reiterates. Maybe if he says it enough times, he’ll believe it.
Regardless, the meal is extremely awkward. Joonmyun may spend a lot of time talking to Kyungsoo, but there’s still the fact that they’re sitting two and two across from each other, and it’s too rude to not include him in their general conversation, or to ignore Joonmyun when he asks specific questions: what Yixing’s been doing, how’s his job so far. 'Anything cool happen at the resort? Oh so Baekhyun is a local, a winterbird, and Kyungsoo too, how interesting. Guess that’s why we’ve never run into each other before.'
He also mentions a lot of things about Yixing that Baekhyun didn’t know. For instance that Yixing drives a motorcycle back in the city where he lives, that he has a sweet mother who came briefly last summer for a visit, and that he doesn’t like mustard. Joonmyun narrowly saves Yixing from biting into a hamburger that came with the wrong toppings, and Baekhyun is absolutely not jealous that he didn’t realize this fact before.
It’s a huge relief when they pay for their meal and exit the building.
“Well,” says Joonmyun sighing. “What are you guys up to for the rest of the evening? Wanna catch a movie or a club?”
“Thanks,” Yixing intervenes quickly, “but we have plans already. Going back to Baekhyun’s grandmother’s house. See you later?”
If Joonmyun looks put out, or that Kyungsoo looks surprised, neither Baekhyun nor Yixing comment on it. He waves goodbye, hopefully forever, to his boyfriend’s ex and starts walking for home.
“So, what are we doing at home?” Kyungsoo asks. “Board games?”
Yixing’s laugh sounds out of place. “Uhm, I guess? I was just trying to… I’m sorry, again for that. It’s… It was really uncomfortable right?” He hangs his head.
Baekhyun doesn’t respond until they get home, trudging his feet sullenly along the pavement. Then Kyungsoo stops outside the front door and says, “You two go on. Do something fun. No, really, go on. You deserve it.”
The one thing Baekhyun does know after how this day’s gone so far, is that he’s confused. And just a bit sullen. Yixing directs them to walk in another direction, away from his house, away from the resort. Baekhyun thinks about all the things he could possibly blabber on about, maybe pretend like his heart isn’t working at full steam ahead, and around, and backwards and sideways and… he doesn’t say anything at all. Not until Yixing takes his hand and nudges his shoulder, cautiously smiling at him like he’s worried Baekhyun is going to run. And maybe he was thinking about just that thing.
“Where are we going tonight?” Baekhyun cuts him off.
Yixing swallows unattractively, and Baekhyun feels remorse. Just not enough to say it out loud.
“I thought, maybe to the lighthouse. You’re the local, do you not recognize this path?”
“I’m not a local. I just live here during the winter.”
“And I’m only here for the summers, but we both seem to know a lot of about this place.”
Baekhyun lets that thought mull in his head for another few minutes. There’s a sidewalk that cuts through the sand, the beach growing farther and farther away. It’s still hot, but there’s a breeze cutting in across the ocean. They’re nearing the park, more grass than sand, and a few scrawny trees. Beyond, if they keep walking, is indeed the lighthouse. Baekhyun hasn’t visited it in years. He got over the fascination a long time ago, Baekhyun and Kyungsoo and few others as kids, scampering up the slope to the visitor’s attraction. It’s barely operational now, but still draws a crowd.
“Lighthouse sounds fun,” he says noncommittally. He walks a little faster, almost dragging Yixing along until his boyfriend physically stops him.
“What?” Baekhyun turns around. Before he can speak again, Yixing is cupping his hands gently over Baekhyun’s ears, drawing their mouths together.
The way Yixing kisses is always distracting, always soothing. Always leaving Baekhyun hungrier for something a little more. Part of him wants to draw away, not because he doesn’t like it, but because right now Baekhyun refuses to be satisfied with just this. Not Yixing and his plush lips and warm tongue, or his hands sliding down the sides of Baekhyun’s head, nails dancing tantalizing into the skin of his neck. It’s not enough to forget the ex-boyfriend, or that ex-boyfriend’s physique and obvious manners. Joonmyun didn’t just happen to pop back down the beach out of chance. He was there specifically to scope out Yixing, to ask to have him back. And Yixing just sucking the lifeforce out of Baekhyun isn’t enough to make him forget that. All his insecurities, the finality of their short time together.
He pushes firmly against Yixing’s chest, although his lips are saying otherwise. It takes several exasperating seconds before he can relinquish that as well and put some space between them. He pants, eyes dropping downward to the ground between them. Anything to avoid looking Yixing in the eye.
“Yixing… this thing, us, what are we even doing?” he asks desperately.
Only the silence answers him, Yixing’s heavy breathing, a hand pawing gently at his side.
“What?” says Yixing.
Baekhyun sighs. He doesn’t want to say it again. He barely even knows what he is saying, asking, or insinuating.
“You’re worried.” It’s not a question, not the way Yixing says it.
Baekhyun nods. It’s the only thing he can do. Maybe Yixing gets it after all. In the meantime, the ground is very interesting, as are Yixing’s toes, peeking out through his sandals.
“Are you jealous of Joonmyun?” Yixing asks.
What is the answer, Baekhyun doesn’t know. He frowns instead of replying.
“You don’t have to be, you know that, right? He’s not important to me. Maybe he wishes he was, but—”
“Am I important to you then? Now? Or, will I still be next summer?”
Yixing drops his arm from Baekhyun’s waist, in shock maybe. Baekhyun chances a glance up, and sees his face. He looks surprised, bemused. Baekhyun continues before Yixing can say otherwise. “I mean, isn’t this just a summer fling?”
“Is it?” asks Yixing.
Some relationships start off simply. Baekhyun thinks maybe this was one of them. It was too simple, too casual. The beginning of something without boundaries, without limits, but because of that very nature, it became finite.
There was always going to be an end, even if Baekhyun couldn’t see it.
Yixing was his summer love, his first. They never exchanged the words, those three precious words, but still Baekhyun strived to make it known. He showed it in every touch, every word they spoke thereafter. Making up for lost time, or the time they might lose in the future. When it all might come to an end.
He showed it in the way they kissed, in the way he steadfastly refused to talk about the end of summer. Was Baekhyun just a summer fling? Yixing said he wasn’t, but what did that mean in the face of something Baekhyun refused to call destiny. He was no more in charge of his life than Yixing, and promises made might so easily be broken.
So he swallowed his fears, just as he swallowed his heavy panting, Yixing taking him by the hand and leading him one step at a time to the top of the lighthouse. Just as he swallowed the wonder of the night sky, and dark ocean, and the lights of the town behind him. What was a view, when Yixing was shoving him through the door of the deserted light room, one hand breaching the back of Baekhyun’s pants, the other enticing Baekhyun to touch him, please, pretty please.
How they ended up on the floor, Yixing naked from the waist down with Baekhyun straddled on top, his body on fire as they rutted together, skin against skin, was that an ending or just a beginning? Baekhyun didn’t ask.
“Now, are you sure you boys don’t want another slice of cake?”
Baekhyun whines and rolls his eyes. “Halmeonnie, we’re stuffed! Probably going to die if you keep—”
“Stuffed? Nonsense. All of you are as skinny as a rake.”
She pats her ample belly and looks proudly around the tiny little kitchen table. Yixing looks like he’s going to pass out, and Baekhyun feels about the same. Kyungsoo is eyeing the looming slice of 'seconds' that Baekhyun’s grandmother just served onto his place. He looks more than a little alarmed. Joonmyun appears about to die. The cake doesn’t seem to be settling well in any of their stomachs, and Baekhyun is too scared to ask what she put it in. He wasn’t there to supervise the baking. It’s the last week of summer and time was precious. Who knows when he’ll get to see Yixing again, and because of their fall and spring semesters, it may not be until next summer. Yixing has promised he’ll be back here again.
“I think,” Baekhyun begs, “we need some tea first. Maybe then we’ll have more.”
Maybe by then, his precious grandmother who can’t bake to save her life, will have gone to sleep and they can sneak out and not eat more cake. He knows that Kyungsoo is particularly keen on solidifying his newfound relationship with Yixing’s ex, awkward as all that might seem. It is, just a bit, but Yixing isn’t bothered by it, and if he isn’t, then neither is Baekhyun.
They’re much too into each other this summer.