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Phosphene

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So maybe the world’s gonna burn,
And maybe we’ll watch it go.
But, baby, I’m in love with you,
And that’s all I need to know.

˚˚˚˚˚˚˚

For as long as Byun Baekhyun can remember he’s dreamt of space.

The untouchable, the unreachable, comets, and stars, and far off planets, he dreams of the unknown, and what he can never have. He dreams of mysterious places and blurry faces, and a life less banal than that which he has. A life worth living, perhaps even an extraordinary life, even though he is just an ordinary person.

But, at the end of the day, as he sits amongst candy wrappers at a cluttered desk, next to an out of date telescope, in an observatory tower that could do with far more funding, he realizes that that’s all they are: dreams. And dreams can’t fuel an rocket and take him into space, or finance an expedition across the universe in search of his lofty aspirations.

At the end of the day, dreams can’t do shit. And Byun Baekhyun is just an ordinary astronomer working an ordinary nine to five job on an ordinary planet living an ordinary life.

There’s nothing extraordinary about Byun Baekhyun, and there’s nothing extraordinary about his dreams.

But, even extraordinary things can happen to ordinary people.

˚˚˚˚˚˚˚

“Baekhyun, why did you even become an astronomer?”

Baekhyun eyes his childhood friend for a long time across a couple of scotches before sighing and leaning back on his barstool.

“I mean, let’s look at the facts, right?”

Baekhyun wants to interrupt, to tell Jongin that no, that’s really not necessary, but he hasn’t been friends with the kid for seventeen years and learned nothing. I mean, sure he wasn’t the smartest kid at the academy, but he knows enough to know that when Jongin is on to something, to just shut up and let it go.

“You don’t particularly like math,” Jongin counts out the facts on his fingers, “You hate sitting still, you don’t like reading—fuck, can you even read?”

“Jongin,” their third companion, punctuates Jongin’s name with the tap tap tapping of his fingers on the wooden bar countertop, “what on earth is your point?”

“He complains all day and all night about work, but he doesn’t do anything about it, Kyungsoo,” Jongin explains, gesturing wildly, “It gets old.”

Baekhyun sighs loudly. “There’s nothing to do. And plus,” he points at Jongin, “You know why I became an astronomer.”

“Yeah, yeah, it was your father’s dying wish,” Jongin says, waving his hand, while also waving over the bartender for more drinks, “But, here’s the thing, your dad’s dead. He’s not gonna know if you change professions.”

Kyungsoo slaps Jongin on the back of the head for his lack of tact right as Jongin leans forward to take a sip of his drink causing him to spill the liquor in his lap.

“You deserved that,” Kyungsoo says before Jongin can say anything.

“You’re right though,” Baekhyun says, swirling his drink in the light and peering into the cup, “He won’t know. How could he, when he died sixteen years ago.”

Kyungsoo kicks Jongin under the table. “What was that for?”

“I guess,” Baekhyun says, setting his glass down, “it’s the principle of the matter.” He stands up to leave, after throwing a few dollars on the countertop in front of Jongin and Kyungsoo.

“Baek, one day, your masochism is really going to bite you in the ass.”

Baekhyun shrugs the comment off and leaves the bar for a night of gazing at that which he can never reach.

˚˚˚˚˚˚˚

It’s 10:54 PM on a crystal clear night when Baekhyun’s life goes to shit.

He’s gazing at Canopus, and recording orbital frequencies, when he sees it out of the corner of his telescope lens: a bright fireball of light, shooting across the night sky. He entertains the childish luxury of making a wish on a shooting star for a brief moment before he realizes the object is heading straight for him, and on a collision coarse with his observatory tower.

“Shit,” he curses as he leaps up from his desk, knocking over his chair in the process, and fumbling for the stairs. Outside, a thunderous sound booms and the walls of the tower quake. He races down the stairs and skids to a halt in front of the double door exit, throwing them open just as the walls around him begin to crumble.

He throws himself out onto the lawn with as much grace and poise as he can muster before scrambling away from the flying debris. Once he’s managed to put a good amount of distance between himself and the wreckage, he turns around and squints through the thick, black smoke, eyes widening in shock and fear as a tall figure emerges from the mess.

He struggles to push himself to his feet, cutting his palms on the gravel, as he coughs from the smoke, eyes wide with fear. Frantically, he gropes around in the grass for something—anything to use as a weapon—and comes up with a broken pipe of some sort, which he brandishes in front of him like a makeshift sword.

The figure advancing on him pulls what appears to be a gun from its belt and points it square at Baekhyun’s chest, and Baekhyun’s grip on the pipe tightens.

Okay, so it’s no super advanced spacetastic phaser, but a pipe is better than nothing, right....?

The figure shoots the pipe right out of Baekhyun’s hand, and Baekhyun curses at the feeling of the hot metal reverberating against his palms.

“Who are you?” he manages, shaking away the stinging sensation from his hands.

The figure doesn’t answer, but instead raises his gun again, this time aiming for Baekhyun’s head.

“So, this is how it ends,” Baekhyun muses, as he steps back slowly. His life flashes before his eyes: space academy, that time he saw Jongin and Kyungsoo kissing after graduation, promising his mom he’d carry on the family legacy, glow in the dark stars on his ceiling.

“Just make it quick,” Baekhyun says, scrunching his eyes shut, and raising his hands.

“As you wish, Do Kyungsoo.”

Baekhyun’s eyes shoot open. Do Kyungsoo?

“Wait!” he shouts, waving his arms, “You’ve got the wrong gu—“

The figure pulls the trigger, and the world goes dark.

˚˚˚˚˚˚˚

“Why are you crying?”

Baekhyun looks up from the blades of grass he had been picking out, wide, dark brown eyes rimmed red from tears, and aching loss blossoming magnificently in the form of dark bruises to complement his lightless eyes.

He sniffs loudly, and lets his gaze drop back down to the grass at this strange boy’s feet, hoping that’s enough of an answer—hoping he’ll go away. He just wants to be alone, because that’s what the cruel world has done to him—forced him alone. So, he’ll be alone, and he won’t like it, but that’s the cruel way of the world, something six-year-old Baekhyun has grown to learn.

“Hey, are you okay?”

The strange boy doesn’t go away, and like a chemical reaction somewhere deep in his soul, Baekhyun’s tragic loss morphs into anger, and he lashes out at the boy in front of him.

“No, I’m not okay!” he almost shouts, his small voice on the verge of hysterics, anger and loss, and pain and suffering all swirling around in his gut, “Leave me alone!”

The owlish boy in front of him blinks down at him, not even fazed from the outburst. He lets Baekhyun sniffle a little more and return to picking at the blades of grass at their feet, the anger slowly seeping out of him. After giving him a few moments’ reprieve, he speaks up again.

“I’m sorry,” he says, and Baekhyun’s ready to lash out again, to angrily claw at this boy with harsh words, because what right does he have to be sorry? To pretend to know his pain? To understand what it means to lose your father before you can barely even spell out his name on a school assignment? What does he know? Who gave him the right?

The boy crouches down next to Baekhyun before Baekhyun can begin his tirade and places his arms around Baekhyun in a comforting embrace.

“I won’t leave you alone,” he says clearly, “because you’re not alone.”

Baekhyun blinks, caught in this strange boy’s embrace, as the fight within him is slowly extinguished.

“I’m Do Kyungsoo,” he hears the boy say, and Baekhyun nods, almost automatically.

“I’m Byun Baekhyun.”

“You’re also not alone.”

˚˚˚˚˚˚˚

Baekhyun wakes with a start in a dimly lit room, as his head slams unforgivingly against cold metal. He blinks wildly, eyes adjusting too slowly for his liking to the eerie red glow of the fluorescent lights above him. Groaning, he shifts on the cold floor, cursing under his breath when he realizes his wrists and ankles are bound by coarse, thick rope.

Squinting into the darkness, he tries to get a handle on where he is, while his brain kicks into overdrive, trying to recall how he ended up in this most unfortunate and confusing predicament.

Remnants of dream long suppressed bounce around in his head, and he groans again, banging his head almost too forcefully against the cold floor.

Around him, he manages to register the sound of a ship engine purring dangerously, and the electric feel of being shot with a motherfucking stun gun tingles just under his skin.

Right. He clenches and unclenches his fists behind his back, trying to subtly undo the knots, but no luck. This kidnapping piece of shit could evidently tie knots just about as well as he could aim.

He rolls his eyes and wiggles back and forth trying to loosen the knots, but to no avail, and finally decides to roll over and stare at the offensive red lights on the ceiling. They look like warning alarm lights to him and he scrunches up his face as the rumbling of the ship continues around him, engulfing him in magnitude, swallowing him whole. The vibrations of the engine, which shake the floor, the walls, the lights—everything—make him slightly motion sick, and he shuts his eyes in a poor attempt to drown everything out.

For as long as Byun Baekhyun can remember he’s dreamt of space.

But, this, right here and now, bound and haphazardly thrown in the back of a rickety ship, amongst cargo and hopelessness—this is not what he’s dreamt of.

He lies in silence on the cold metal floor for some time, trying to will the nausea away, as he desperately tries to come up with a plan of action.

Memories of being called Do Kyungsoo—the name of his best friend since he was six-years old—bounce around in his head, and he groans.

Kyungsoo had always been the quiet time—he didn’t make waves and he didn’t cause trouble. Graduating first in their class, four ranks ahead of Kim Jongin, Kyungsoo’s overzealous boyfriend, and eight ranks ahead of himself, Kyungsoo had been offered the world upon graduation.

I mean literally, he had been offered a job in the space command center, upper deck, just outside of Earth’s orbit, in charge of public-alien relations, and interspacial affairs. It was everyone’s dream job, but the hours were long, and it would mean 9-10 months spent in space, and with Jongin taking a job in meteorology research at their al mater, and Baekhyun inheriting his father’s position at the observatory, Kyungsoo had opted to stay terra-bound, doing research for the academy, and helping Jongin study for the pilot’s examination in his spare time.

But that, of course, meant that Kyungsoo didn’t exactly have the means or opportunities to really make that many enemies, especially enemies who just happened to crash land on Earth, hunt him down, and then proceed to kidnap him violently, and tactlessly.

So, what on earth did this savage want with Kyungsoo?

Baekhyun’s temple throbs painfully as he rolls over in the cargo hold, teeth clenched, anger and confusion brimming within him.

If he’s being honest with himself, this is fucking annoying, and if he’s being really honest, he’s not going to go down without a fight.

He kicks a box to the left of him in frustration, and something falls off the top of it into the darkness.

He lifts his head up slightly, squinting at the floor, eyes widening slightly when he realizes what the object is.

A small grin breaks across his face as he shuffles to grab it with his bound hands, biting his lower lip in concentration, as it slips against his fingers.

Crashing into one’s space observatory—one’s home—is grounds for cheating, and on a list of things Baekhyun really fucking hates, cheating is somewhere near the top.

So, when he comes face to face with this savage again—his fingers close around the item, and he grins. He’s going to be ready.

Getting to work, undoing his bound wrists and ankles, he glares at the exit door ahead of him, blindly fumbling with the bounds.

Most importantly, there is no way he’s letting this nutcase get his hands on the boy who saved him from himself when he was six-years-old and being consumed by the empty space left by the loss of his father—the real Do Kyungsoo.

˚˚˚˚˚˚˚

Park Chanyeol fiddles with the knobs and dials on his spaceship’s dashboard, as he eases himself back into his oh-so-comfortable, and of course, well-deserved, captain’s chair, settling in for a long flight to Xanar to drop off his ‘ordered cargo.’

Smiling somewhat goofily to himself, he engages the autopilot, and lets the ship zoom along at hyperspeed. On the screen in bright neon numbers the message, “4 HR 00 MIN” flashes in front of him, indicating they have four hours until they reach their designated destination, and he sighs, leaning back in his chair with his hands behind his head, in a comfortable position, and dozes off, completely at ease.

It’s some time later that the door to the navigation deck opens with a whoosh, and his eyes open groggily, as his mind slowly tries to process what’s happening. Before he really has time to fully emerge from his state of sleep and dreaming, there’s a cold hand on the wrist of his hand that would be reaching for his phaser, still strapped to his belt, and a blade pressed to his throat.

He blinks up blearily at the figure of the man he had just managed to kidnap from Earth and groans.

“For someone so tiny, you’re pretty strong,” he grunts as he tries to push Baekhyun off, but Baekhyun stays put, immobilizing Chanyeol beneath him.

“Shut up and tell me who you are,” Baekhyun hisses, pressing the blade against Chanyeol’s throat in a menacing fashion.

Chanyeol blinks up at him, still slightly half-asleep, and trying to put two and two together to come up with an escaped and now weaponized kidnapee hovering over him.

“....are you threatening me with a....” Chanyeol’s eyes widen, “... a box cutter? Did you cut through the ropes with a fucking box cutter?

“Shut up,” Baekhyun bites out as he jostles Chanyeol, “Answer my questions: who are you, and why did you kidnap me?”

Chanyeol blinks up at Baekhyun. When he had kidnapped him back on Earth, amongst smoke and debris, he hadn’t really noticed how pretty his target had been. As Baekhyun leans closer, in what the smaller boy probably thought was a menacing fashion. Chanyeol finds himself counting Baekhyun’s eyelashes in the dim neon lights around them.

Baekhyun scrunches his eyebrows together in annoyance. “Hey,” he says, jostling Chanyeol again, “Are you listening?”

“Listen,” Chanyeol says, the grogginess and surprise finally absent from his voice, and Baekhyun nearly jumps at how low and authoritative the savage’s voice sounds, “Why did I kidnap you? Do you really have no idea, Do Kyungsoo?” He smirks at Baekhyun, and Baekhyun is caught between the suddenly overpowering urges to slap his smug face, and also shout that he’s “not Do Kyungsoo, you fucking moron, do your research before you fucking kidnap people out of their houses!”

But, he stops himself from doing either and instead, bites out through clenched teeth, “enlighten me.”

It happens so quickly that even Baekhyun’s not sure what’s happened. One minute, they’re smoothly sailing along through space, the message flashing on screen, a dull “2 HR 57 MIN”, the next minute, he’s thrown backwards, off of Chanyeol, and onto the floor, as the ship tilts dangerously, and shakes around them.

“Shit,” Chanyeol curses, as he throws himself forwards, onto the control panel, and begins hitting buttons, and pulling up the main command keys to try and regain control of the ship. “We somehow ended up in a meteor shower!” Chanyeol yells, as another smaller rock formation collides with the ship, and the whole ship quakes.

Baekhyun struggles to pull himself up, gripping a metal bar for assistance, as Chanyeol violently steers the ship to the left, the force nearly knocking him off his feet once again.

“Weren’t you supposed to be piloting the ship so this wouldn’t happen?” Baekhyun shouts back, annoyance bleeding into his tone.

A light blush colors Chanyeol’s cheeks as he recalls almost irresponsibly putting the ship on autopilot and then falling asleep, but in a fit of self-defense he replies with, “Someone had a fucking box cutter pressed against my throat!” Reflexively, his right hand flies to his throat to rub at the rapidly forming bruise, as he jerks the ship to the right to quickly avoid another collision.

Baekhyun turns bright red under the neon lights and looks away, muttering something unintelligible under his breath.

Chanyeol smirks up at the screen in front of him, having won the battle, cringing only slightly when he realizes once he’s managed to clear the shower, the war will continue on.

Chanyeol manages to dodge a few more asteroids and safely pilot them away from the onslaught of space rock, a triumphant smug look on his face, as the ship finally evens out. His death grip on the steering controls loosens, and he leans back, relaxed for a fraction of a second, before he jumps to his feet, right hand flying to his phaser. Spinning around to face Baekhyun, he aims the gun at the now-slumped figure, pity briefly flashing in his eyes as he registers Baekhyun’s crumpled figure.

“You don’t get out much, do you?” he says, as he edges closer to Baekhyun. Baekhyun groans in annoyance, still clutching at his stomach, as waves of nausea wash over him. He glances up at Chanyeol, who is once again aiming a phaser at him, and groans again, as the same annoying events from before seem to be repeating themselves in the same annoying fashion.

Having now gained the upperhand, Chanyeol relaxes, and the same cockiness seeps into his very being, as he towers above Baekhyun. “On my ship, you answer to me. Just because you managed to luck out and escape earlier doesn’t mean anything.”

He misses Baekhyun mutter, “It’s because you’re shit at tying knots.”

“To answer your earlier question,” Chanyeol continues, “My name is Star Lord.”

He misses Baekhyun snort.

“And you’re my prisoner.”

Baekhyun finally recovers from his bout of motion sickness long enough to shoot Chanyeol an indignant look.

“Why?” he spits, and Chanyeol smirks.

“You play dumb so well, I’m inclined to actually believe you’re this stupid.”

Baekhyun’s about to open his mouth to counter Chanyeol’s insult, but the sudden warning alarm that blares through the cabin ceases the opportunity for any further conversation.

Cursing again, Chanyeol shoots Baekhyun one last “you better not do anything” look, before rushing back over to the captain’s chair to see what’s happened this time.

“Shit, we’ve taken damage.” Chanyeol sighs exasperatedly, “We’re going to have to land and get it repaired.”

Inside Baekhyun’s mind, the gears start turning as the possibility for escape on a planet register.

“That’s too bad,” Baekhyun comments, struggling to stand, and Chanyeol glances back at him.

“You might not want to stand up—you still look pretty green,” Chanyeol says, and Baekhyun can’t help but be somewhat surprised when he hears the hint of concern.

“It’s this stupid fucking lighting you have in here,” Baekhyun replies, and Chanyeol takes offense at that.

“It’s not stupid, I got this whole entire interior redone when I got this ship!”

“Yeah, where’d you get it from, the junkyard?”

Chanyeol’s jaw drops, “Don’t you think that’s a little harsh?”

On some level, Baekhyun can’t believe he’s having this sort of argument with a maniac who just fucking kidnapped him, not to mention, wanting his best friend dead, but he can’t stop himself from retorting with, “Look at this ugly ass rug and the chipped paint. Also, I’m pretty sure the technology you have running in here went out of functional use in the late 90’s.

Chanyeol gapes like a fish out of water. He’s halfway through an oh-so-eloquent reply of,” Oh, yeah? Well, well—” when Baekhyun opens his mouth and vomits all over poor Chanyeol’s ‘ugly ass rug.’

They both stare wide-eyed at the pool of vomit in the middle of the room, as a friendly “0 HR 8 MIN” flashes onscreen, denoting the amount of time before they arrive at the planet, Dohr, for repairs.

An awkward silence settles around them as Chanyeol points towards a broom closet and Baekhyun awkwardly shuffles towards it, and neither of them talk again until after they land.

˚˚˚˚˚˚˚

Before disembarking, Chanyeol unceremoniously shuffles a slightly cleaned up Baekhyun (“You need to change your clothes.” “I don’t have anything else to wear.” “....Well, you can’t walk around like that!” “Maybe you should have let me pack a change of clothes before you, I don’t know, fucking shot me and kidnapped me.” “.......Here, fine then, borrow some of my clothes.....” “.....You’re fucking huge....” “No, I’m just not a midget.” “What the fuck did you just say?” “Are you going to take the jacket, or not?” “......Does this say Star Lord on it?” “Just take it.”) against the exit door and snaps a silver tracking bracelet around his wrist.

“This is so you don’t run off,” he shoots Baekhyun a meaningful look, “obviously.”

Baekhyun rolls his eyes and jerks his wrist away from Chanyeol’s lingering touch, the silver bracelet tinkling against his skin.

“Yeah, yeah, whatever,” he hisses, as the doors slide open, and Chanyeol nudges him forwards.

The sunlight is bright and almost offensive as he stumbles out, and he nearly trips over his own feet, the sudden stationary ground beneath him throwing him off completely. A firm grip on his shoulder keeps him upright, and as they make their way down the ramp, away from the ship, and into the crowd, the grip loosens into an almost gentle guiding presence, which a combination of linger motion sickness, disorientation, and something else (which he’s not going to admit is a contributing factor, of course), keeps him from shaking it off.

Chanyeol guides him through the busy streets, lined with alien life forms—purple women with tails and, the fuck, is that a walking plant???—towards a small shop across from a fountain that looks like a two-headed cat creature riding a surfboard, with the words “REPAIRS AND DEALS” blinking offensively at them.

“This seems shady,” he mutters under his breath, but Chanyeol either doesn’t hear him (likely), or just outright ignores him (also likely...), and they enter the shop without even pausing.

“Chanyeol!” an elderly man from behind the counter booms happily as they enter the shop, and Chanyeol’s hand drops from Baekhyun’s shoulder momentarily to flounder around uselessly by his side.

“It’s Star Lord, Star Lord!” Chanyeol enunciates, trying to subtly point to Baekhyun, though failing miserably, and the elderly man just laughs. Baekhyun can’t help but find the exchange somewhat cute, which causes him to quickly scan the area for the nearest sharp object with which he can impale himself.

“Alright, Star Lord,” the man replies, ushering Chanyeol closer, “What can I do you for today?”

Baekhyun begins to wander away from Chanyeol, but a sudden hand enclosed around his wrist keeps him in place.

“What am I? Your dog?” he says venomously, and watches with internal amusement as Chanyeol’s cheeks are tinged with red.

“And who is this?” the elderly man asks, as if noticing Baekhyun’s presence for the first time.

“Nobody,” Chanyeol responds, before Baekhyun can even get a word out, “He’s nobody.”

Chanyeol slides an order slip across the table and the elderly man takes it, glancing down at the parts as he speaks. “Friend?” Chanyeol shakes his head.

Baekhyun peers at some plastic bobble heads in a glass display window, tuning out the man’s guesses.

“Hired help?”

Another shake.

“Lover?”

In an exaggerated attempt to deny the outlandish claim, Chanyeol is struck by a sudden violent coughing fit as he shakes his head and beats his own chest, while Baekhyun is so surprised, he nearly knocks over the entire bobble head display.

The elderly man gazes on with amused eyes, twinkling with glee, as both men attempt (poorly) to compose themselves.

“No, no, definitely not that,” Chanyeol is finally able to get out, while Baekhyun attempts to melt into the floor, “He’s official business.”

The elderly man simply nods with a light “mmhm” before stamping Chanyeol’s order sheet, and sliding one back with the price.

“I expect the sum delivered to my bank account before the start of the new lunar cycle this time,” he knowingly raises his eyebrows at Chanyeol, and Chanyeol looks away sheepishly.

“Of course...”

“Alright, repairs should be completed by tomorrow.” The elderly man’s expression suddenly darkens as he glances from Baekhyun to Chanyeol, “I’d keep a close eye on your ‘official business’.”

In that moment, Chanyeol seems to sober up, and he nods quickly, signs his name, and then proceeds to drag Baekhyun out of the shop and towards a cheap intergalactic space motel a few blocks away.

Without saying a word to Baekhyun, he checks them in, and then drags Baekhyun into their designated room, without so much as asking Baekhyun for his opinion.

Once inside, Chanyeol shuts the door, and lets out a sigh before turning to face Baekhyun.

“We’ll stay here tonight.”

Baekhyun looks around the small room, before turning back to Chanyeol, eyebrows raised, “There’s only one bed.”

Chanyeol glances around as if this fact had not registered with him prior to Baekhyun pointing it out, and for a moment, Baekhyun is truly impressed at how idiotic one person can be.

“Then you’ll stay here tonight. I have business to attend to tonight,” Chanyeol quickly replies, and Baekhyun quirks an eyebrow.

“Business?”

Chanyeol gets distracted staring at Baekhyun’s pretty face, with the same number of pretty eyelashes he’d managed to count in the dim shitty lighting back on the ship, with pretty lips and pretty droopy eyes. “You’re very expressive,” he comments, forcing himself to turn away from Baekhyun, as he opens the bag he’d carried with him off the ship, and he can hear Baekhyun’s scoff of annoyance behind him.

“If you think I’m just going to sit here in this room while you hold me prisoner,” Baekhyun starts, “You are really underestimating me.”

Chanyeol looks back at him somewhat incredulously, before dropping his back backpack on the desk and closing the gap before Baekhyun and himself in two massive strides. Baekhyun leans back, somewhat startled by Chanyeol’s suddenly actions, the back of his legs pressed against the hard, cheap mattress.

His breath hitches in his throat as Chanyeol leans even closer, a sudden gaze of piercing intensity on his otherwise goofy face, and oddly enough, Baekhyun’s palms suddenly feel clammy and sweaty, as he curls and uncurls his fingers.

“Are you completely unaware of your current position within an intergalactic framework, Do Kyungsoo?”

Baekhyun struggles to keep a calm poker face, and neither nods nor shakes his head in response.

“Tell me, were you really going to tell that shop owner your name? You can’t possibly me that stupid, can you?”

Anger flares up within Baekhyun, and he has half a mind to shove Chanyeol away, but the need to garner information is stronger, so he bites down on his tongue, swallows his pride, and gives no response to the insult.

Chanyeol sighs, realizing Baekhyun isn’t going to talk, and leans away, allowing Baekhyun to finally breathe, as he realizes, almost stupidly, that he’d been holding his breath the entire time.

“As keeper of the map to El Dorado, you should be a little more careful in your endeavors.”

Baekhyun has to bite the inside of his cheek to keep from letting his jaw drop.

“Don’t you know they’ve created a machine on Taura that can extract information from the brain of recently deceased brain tissue? You could be snatched up and killed at any time, especially if word gets out you’re here.” Chanyeol moves towards the window and peers outside through half drawn shades, “There are a shitton of smugglers, outlaws, and fuckers out there who’d love to get your hands on you.” He gives Baekhyun a stern look, “You should be glad my employer requested you alive.”

With that, he makes his way over to his bag once again, grabs something small out of it, and moves into the bathroom, the door locking with a small click.

Baekhyun feels the blood drain from his face and his knees go weak, and he’s almost thankful for the shitty, hard motel bed behind him when he falls backwards onto it, his head swimming with questions, and nothing but the sound of running water and the thumping of his own heart in his ears to comfort him.

˚˚˚˚˚˚˚

“Kyungsoo, what do you do all day in your lab anyway?” Baekhyun swishes his drink around in his glass before taking a swig, “Since your dumbass boyfriend literally got you grounded here on Earth—“

“Hey!”

Baekhyun dodges a poorly aimed swipe, and continues drinking, “—and you gave up a shot at the big leagues up on the space station, what has been your plan B?”

Kyungsoo lets out a sigh, not looking up from his various articles splayed around the bar countertop in front of him, even as Jongin makes another attempt to knock Baekhyun’s drink from his hand.

He succeeds on the third attempt in staining Baekhyun’s favorite pair of skinny jeans with dark liquor, and in retaliation, Baekhyun grabs a fistful of peanuts, which he’s about to put down Jongin’s shirt, when Kyungsoo sighs and puts his article down on the table, suddenly earning both his best friend’s and his boyfriend’s attention.

“If you must know Baekhyun, I’m doing some highly advanced star charting and mapping of the outer belt of constellation Xigma.”

Jongin lowers his own handful of peanuts, gaping at his boyfriend, “You never told me that!”

“Wait, wait, the outer belt of Xigma?” Baekhyun drops his peanuts back into the bowl, while Jongin screeches about how unhygienic that is, as he leans closer to peer at Kyungsoo’s articles.

“Isn’t that where the fabled space El Dorado is supposed to be?”

Kyungsoo snorts. “That’s just a myth.”

Baekhyun picks up one of Kyungsoo’s articles, quickly scanning the title: “A Review of the Dust Particle Composition of Sedimentary Asteroids Recovered from the Xigma System.”

“Don’t you think there’s some possibility it really does exist though?” Jongin asks, while picking out the peanuts Baekhyun and sullied with his very presence from their shared bowl, “I mean there are enough stories to indicate it might.”

Kyungsoo, who loves Jongin more than the sun and the stars, and luckily for him, commonsense and being right, sighs in defeat, “Yes, I suppose given the stories, there is some possibility that something resembling the mythical space El Dorado could exist somewhere out there.”

Jongin and Baekhyun both shoot each other wide, triumphant grins.

“But,” Kyungsoo continues, “A small planet at the edge of a boring star system containing nothing but riches and gold? That hasn’t been found in the past hundreds of years that man, or other sentient alien race, has mastered space travel?”

Kyungsoo looks up at the hopeful faces on his friends’ faces.

“Doubtful.”

˚˚˚˚˚˚˚

“Son of a bitch,” Baekhyun mutters under his breath, immediately somewhat regretful, as he had spent a great deal of time with Kyungsoo’s mother, especially after his father’s funeral, and found her to be a kind woman. But, his sense of panic and the overwhelming knowledge that El Dorado was real and now space pirates, criminals, smugglers and all sorts of disgusting people were after Kyungsoo because somehow—god bless his fucking, bookworm, massive brain—he had managed to crack the code and figure out where the fuck it was, was just too much for him.

By the time Chanyeol exits from the bathroom, Baekhyun has recomposed himself, and is standing by the bed, posture as rigid as a board.

Chanyeol immediately notices his shift in demeanor, and finds the suddenly serious atmosphere seeping into himself, making him more on edge; reminders that this is business, dangerous, lethal business, and he’s a man hired to smuggle and do whatever it takes to ensure the delivery is completed satisfactorily.

“Do you understand your position now, Do Kyungsoo?”

Baekhyun nods solemnly. “The person who hired you,” Baekhyun starts, his eyes dark and serious and his lips stretched into a tight line. Chanyeol is momentarily distracted once again by just how much emotion one face can hold, but the sudden buzzing of his PAD at his side brings him crashing back to reality, and he intently refocuses on Baekhyun’s words about their shitty situation at hand.

“This person requested me alive?”

Chanyeol crosses his arms and leans against the wall, nodding.

“I presume he wants me to help him find El Dorado.”

“If you want to phrase it lightly, yes.”

Baekhyun looks up, their eyes meeting across the twilight-lit room, the setting sun bleeding hues of orange and red into the space around them.

“And after that, he’ll kill me.”

It’s not a question, but for some reason, Chanyeol feels obligated to answer anyway, no matter how shitty the response is.

Unable to face Baekhyun any longer, his eyes slide away to rest on the windowsill instead, so that he can’t see the fear or brokenness in Baekhyun’s eyes when he answers.

“At that point, it won’t be my business any longer.”

˚˚˚˚˚˚˚

The air between them is stagnant and awkward as Chanyeol shuffles around the room, collecting up trinkets and papers to take with him.

Baekhyun doesn’t ask where he’s going, and all Chanyeol says before he leaves is, “I have business to attend to. Don’t even think about leaving this room. If someone finds you on the street, you’ll be dead before you can even blink.”

Baekhyun lies on the bed, and watches the sun disappear over the horizon as two moons rise in the sky, and thinks about his options.

On the one hand, he could very well leave the room. If someone asked if he were Do Kyungsoo, he’d simply deny the claim, and if they forced a DNA scanner on him, they’d find he wasn’t lying, and then what could they do about it?

He could catch a ride back to Earth, warn Kyungsoo and Jongin, and then what...?

He groans in frustration as he realizes his hands are tied and there’s no fucking, magical box cutter that’s going to get him out of this one.

He rolls over on his stomach and stares at the ugly caramel colored upholstery.

His other option is to stay, of course, and keep up the ruse, but what happens when they find out he doesn’t know shit about El Dorado? When they scan his brain and no map comes up?

Then he’s dead, there’s no one to warn Kyungsoo, Kyungsoo and Jongin are dead, everyone’s dead, dead, dead, dead, dead.

He sighs.

Last option then.

Outsmart Star Lord and run away?

Baekhyun wonders how a simple astronomer could ever commit murder in cold blood.

˚˚˚˚˚˚˚

As night falls over the city, Chanyeol makes his way through thinning crowds and down back alleys.

On a fairly populated street corner, waiting for the light to change and hover cars to come to a halt, he finds himself shoving his hands deep into his pockets, tipping back his head and groaning at the sky in deep-seeded frustration.

“You haven’t changed much, hyung.”

Chanyeol blinks wearily, the blurry, dark figure of his longtime junior coming into focus, as the light changes and the crowd begins to move like flowing water around them.

“Having some regrets?”

Chanyeol smiles as the familiar face brings some calm to his troubled heart.

“Me? Never.”

“Really? Because you look shittier than usual, hyung.”

The smile falls off Chanyeol’s face, and he reaches out to hit his slightly shorter junior’s head, “You’re such a brat.” He looks around them briefly, confusion settling on his features, “Why are you here?”

His junior nods to a bar some feet away, “This probably isn’t something we shouldn’t discuss on the street.”

“Literally,” Chanyeol agrees, and the two of them make their way to the bar.

˚˚˚˚˚˚˚

“Buy me a drink.”

Chanyeol groans, fishing through his wallet for money, and pulling out the necessary amount to purchase a drink. “You really are a brat, Oh Sehun,” he half-mutters under his breath, but Sehun pretends not to hear him.

When he’s finally gotten his hands on a chocolate milk (“Sehun, why the fuck are you drinking chocolate milk at a bar?”), he settles in his seat and begins to talk business. “So, I hear you managed to pick up the requested cargo. It’s a hot item on the market right now.”

“And let me guess, the boss sent you here to make sure I don’t get second thoughts and not complete my delivery?”

“It’s not like the boss doesn’t trust you....”

“The boss doesn’t trust anyone.”

Sehun seems to think this over before nodding curtly, “He thinks you have a soft heart.”

Chanyeol scoffs, “I told him clearly I had no problem with it as long as I don’t have to kill anyone.”

Sehun seems to notice Chanyeol’s suddenly stormy expression and he places his hand on Chanyeol’s shoulder in a show of comfort that only almost-brothers who have known the dark underworld of intergalactic space crime and smuggling after being raised by an abusive crime boss can share.

“It’ll be okay, hyung. You’re gonna get through this, and then, with the bonus money, we can go anywhere we want.”

Chanyeol doesn’t reply, but instead, fidgets with his glass, and he wants to ask so badly, but he can’t bring himself to form the words—to make his tongue move and shape them, to voice them aloud. He wants to ask Sehun if maybe there’s something better out there—better than crime, and smuggling, and kidnapping, and blood money—he wants to ask Sehun if he believes in something like that.

But, who is he kidding?

They can’t afford to have lofty dreams of warm homes, of loving families, or happiness and clean hands, when they can’t even afford to pay the check.

They skip out on the bill.

˚˚˚˚˚˚˚

Chanyeol had always found himself a compassionate man forced into an uncompassionate line of work.

He blames shitty circumstances, cruelty of fate, and maybe even his own push-over-laced personality for his current predicament, and wonders why when his mother died, leaving him orphaned and stranded on Earth all those years ago, he had to abducted by space trash, and made to work in a filthy line of work, filled with deceit and crime.

He makes a well-memorized turn down a dark alley and slips into a meeting room through the back door, pushing aside sticky tentacles and sweaty appendages, as he makes his way to the center, in order to report on the status of his delivery.

Near the center of the crowd stands a humanoid man with blue skin and an air of authority around him. He gives Chanyeol a toothy grin as Chanyeol steps into his line of view, whistling in mock appreciation.

“Well, well, well, if it isn’t Star Lord.”

The crowd bursts into laughter around them, and Chanyeol can feel his face heat up as he maintains his locked gaze with the man before him.

A shorter goon besides the boss looks up at Chanyeol, a clipboard in his claws. “Status report on your mission?”

“All on schedule.”

“So, the package is in place?”

Chanyeol nods slightly, “Ready for delivery.”

The boss lets out a deep, booming laughter that rattles Chanyeol’s skull and makes his stomach churn, “My boy, I really thought you would disappoint us. Or mess up and bring the wrong kid.” A chorus of laughter erupts around them. “But, you’ve done well, and soon enough, we, the Ravagers, will have untold riches and the key to El Dorado.”

Cheers explode from the crowd around them, and several Ravagers lean forward to clap Chanyeol on the back appreciatively. “With the gold and riches we’ll secure, you can buy yourself an entire star system and name it ‘Star Lord’, boy,” the boss says through boisterous laughter, and Chanyeol feels sick suddenly.

“And the package?” he asks almost weakly.

A look of disgust flashes across the boss’s face as he pushes Chanyeol off with a shove. “You’re going soft, boy, like cheese in the sun. Soft and warm. Your sympathies will get you nowhere.”

“We had a deal,” Chanyeol protests weakly, and the boss laughs haughtily in his face.

“Use your commonsense, boy, have you ever known the Ravagers to keep a prisoner alive?”

Chanyeol feels his heart drop into his stomach and his vision goes fuzzy around the edges.

“We deal in murder like others deal in money. And his blood is on your hands, too.” He shoves past Chanyeol, hailing more praise and cheers from the crowd around them, leaving Chanyeol to consider the consequences of what he’s done.

˚˚˚˚˚˚˚

Baekhyun’s two steps away from the door, an escape plan fully formed in his mind, when the door swings open abruptly, nearly causing him to jump out of his own skin. He stares with wide eyes as a tall, lean figure enters the room. Blinking rapidly, Baekhyun registers that it’s not Chanyeol standing before him, and he quickly scans the room for a weapon of some sort.

Somewhere in the back of his mind, it registers faintly that this in fact, happens to him quite a lot.

He really should be more prepared.

“Hyung was right about you,” the figure says, watching him with little to no emotion, shaking long blond bangs out of his face. He closes the door behind him with ease and steps further into the room, “Though I think ‘cutest boy ever’ is a bit of a stretch.”

Baekhyun nearly trips over his own feet as he shuffles backwards and away from the stranger. “Um, excuse me?”

“I’m Sehun,” the kid introduces himself, pushing his bangs back, “Chany—I mean, Star Lord, or whatever, is my hyung. I’m here to save you from certain death.”

Baekhyun blinks back at him, head reeling from the sudden information, questions as to whether or not he should trust this stranger racing through his mind. “Certain death?” he decides to repeat, “He told me to stay here, so...”

“Our boss, a bitchy man who tries to call himself our adoptive father,” Sehun rolls his eyes, “should be double-crossing him as we speak.”

“Double-crossing him?”

Sehun stares at Baekhyun in annoyed bewilderment, “Are you really smart enough to have derived the map to El Dorado?”

It takes Baekhyun a moment to snap out of his confused state, “hey—!”

“Yes, double-crossing him,” Sehun doesn’t wait for Baekhyun to finish his thought, “they’re probably sending goons to kill you right now.” Sehun peers out the peephole and into the hallway, before stepping back and locking the deadbolt.

“I’m here to guide to the RLK,” Sehun can see Baekhyun begin to open his mouth to ask another question and sighs. “Chanye—Star Lord’s ship.”

“I thought it needed to be repaired.”

“Taken care of on an advanced schedule.” Sehun glances back at Baekhyun, catching the seemingly perpetual look of confusion on his face—yeah ‘cutest boy ever’ was definitely a stretch—“I know a guy.”

Baekhyun remains frozen, somewhere between the bed and the window, unsure of what to do. Sehun sighs, before pulling a phaser from his belt and waving it in front of Baekhyun’s face. “If your fight or flight response is confused and needs a little bit of help, you should know that a fight probably won’t end well for you.”

“Why should I trust you?” Baekhyun is slightly proud of himself for managing to break out of his confused trance.

From outside the motel room, the sound of running and muffled conversation arises and Sehun raises an eyebrow at him. “Well, you can trust me and go, or you can take your chances here.”

The sound of footsteps rapidly approaching and leather boots against metal stairs sounds through the paper-thin walls of the room.

“Your choice.”

“He’s in here!”

“Alright, let’s go!” Baekhyun shouts just as someone’s foot makes contact with the door, kicking the flimsy piece of wood in.

“About time,” Sehun mutters, as he quickly crosses the length of the room and shoots the glass out of the window. “Come on.”

“You want me to jump out the window?” Baekhyun asks incredulously, but instead of answering, Sehun grabs his wrist and drags him over pieces of jagged glass, towards the only exit.

“No time,” he replies, as he pushes Baekhyun out the second story window.

˚˚˚˚˚˚˚

Blood thumps loud in Chanyeol’s ears, breathing ragged, and stomach churning uncomfortably as he runs down the streets that lead back to the docking station. He can feel sweat slick on the back of his neck and his palms, and he swallows hard, trying to force air into his rapidly constricting lungs, panic and fear overtaking him. Behind him, he hears no footsteps following, but the night is still young, and darkness and silence wrap around him, distorting his senses and luring him into a false sense of security.

Blocks and blocks away, he thinks he hears the firing of a phaser or the scream of an innocent, and he clenches his eyes shut for a brief moment, as his legs continue to carry him forward robotically.

The sinister grin of a man who’d forced him to call him father burns angrily on the backs of his eyelids and another wave of disgust washes over him along with a seemingly gentler mental image: a shocked boy, crouched amongst rubble and dirt, with still a spark of fight left in him, brandishing a metal pole.

“His blood is on your hands, too.”

Chanyeol runs faster, his trust already doled out to others, no longer within himself, no longer weighing him down.

˚˚˚˚˚˚˚

In theory, falling out of a two story window should have hurt more than it actually did, but Baekhyun must thank Sehun’s excellent planning, in placing a low-energy anti-gravity device right under his window before attempting to ‘retrieve’ him for his lack of broken skull and/or bones upon landing on the ground.

He takes a moment to right himself after the slight disorientation of having landed perfectly from a twelve-foot drop, when Sehun drops down neatly beside him, as graceful and emotionless as a cat.

“Come on,” he says, and he takes off running, leaving nothing but the sound of angry shouting and phasers blasting behind them to motivate Baekhyun to follow.

Baekhyun takes off after Sehun, letting him guide him down back alleys and side streets, all the while questioning if he’s doing the right thing, if Sehun is the right person to trust, and what Sehun meant when he mentioned double-crossing.

They’re nearly to the docking station, having successfully outrun most of their pursuers, when they hear the echoing footsteps of a particularly fast goon hot on their heels. Sehun glances over his shoulder, his widening as their pursuer pulls a phaser, and reacts quickly, grabbing Baekhyun’s hand and pulling him in front of him just as the phaser is fired.

Baekhyun’s eyes widen in fear when he hears the shot go off so close to them, but a shove to his back keeps him running, the blood pumping through his veins and in his temple keeps him running, so he keeps running almost automatically, barely even registering the sound of Sehun pulling his own phaser and shooting their pursuer in the chest, a myriad of curses slipping under his breath.

They reach the docking station only a few moments later, the RLK all charged and ready to go, hovering almost mockingly peacefully in the distance. Both winded and out of breath, they nearly collapse by the door, as Sehun forces himself to regain enough composure to punch in the four-digit code to open the door.

Baekhyun sees blood on the back of Sehun’s jacket.

Before he can say anything, the door slides open, and Sehun shoves Baekhyun inside, merely staring with the same indifference, as he punches the “CLOSE” button on the outside panel.

“Wait!” Baekhyun shouts, leaping forwards to grab Sehun and pull him into the ship, but the door closes too quickly, and he finds himself colliding with cruel metal.

“Fuck!” Baekhyun exclaims, trying to open the door, but he hears the emergency lockdown engage, and the ship engine purring to life. Recognizing no use in beating at the door, he quickly turns on his heel and races to the main deck, in hopes of catching Chanyeol in time to stop the ship and let Sehun on.

By the time he reaches the deck, however, Chanyeol has already keyed in the codes for lift off, and countdown set.

“Stop!” he exclaims, running towards Chanyeol’s chair, “We can’t leave yet!”

Chanyeol turns slowly to face him, relief washing over him and making him momentarily numb. It’s only with some temporal delay that he recognizes Baekhyun’s distress and turns back to the screen before him, finishing the code for take off.

“We have to go,” he replies, trying to keep his voice steady, panic and relief mixing within him and giving him horrible whiplash, “We’re in danger here.”

“But, what about—“

Before Baekhyun can finish his sentence, the ship jerks forwards, slamming Baekhyun back into a wall with such force that he feels himself momentarily blackout. He thinks he can hear Chanyeol cuss, but it sounds distant and everything feels fuzzy and muted.

When he hears Chanyeol speak again, it sounds closer and clearer, and he can feel the ache in his body and bones. He groans in response the loud, loud, loud voice now right above him, and opens his eyes slowly to face Chanyeol.

“Shit, are you okay? I’m sorry, I should have warned you,” Chanyeol’s eyes are full of concern and true remorse, wide and brown like a puppy dog’s, and Baekhyun suddenly feels a surge of anger rush through him.

“What game are you playing at?” he shouts as he launches himself at Chanyeol, managing to knock him backwards and flat on his back, Baekhyun’s fists in Chanyeol’s collar.

Chanyeol’s hands automatically fly up to Baekhyun’s wrists to try and pry him off, but Baekhyun won’t budge, as he continues to glare down at Chanyeol with a purely venomous look. “What’s this about being double-crossed? Who the fuck was chasing me back there? What’s going on?”

Chanyeol blinks up at him with wide eyes, pausing in his attempt to squirm free of Baekhyun. “They wanted to kill you,” he manages to choke out, his grip on Baekhyun’s wrists tightening briefly, “That wasn’t part of the deal.”

“Why do you care?” Baekhyun shouts, jostling Chanyeol, “You fucking mercenary. Don’t pretend to act all moralistic now. Are you planning to sell me to the next highest bidder?”

“I wasn’t going to let you die!” Chanyeol shouts back with just as much force. The sudden outburst startles Baekhyun, and his grip loosens on Chanyeol’s collar enough for Chanyeol to unceremoniously push him off. “Your death wasn’t part of the deal,” Chanyeol repeats, sitting up and readjusting his collar.

“But, you’d let your friend die in order for you to make your getaway. You’d let him take the fall so that your precious ‘delivery’ could go unharmed.”

“I told you, the deal’s off! You’re not my ‘delivery’ anymore, fuck if I know what I’m going to do with you now!”

“Then why didn’t you let me die?”

“I’m not going to let you die!”

The words echo around the small room, as both Chanyeol and Baekhyun continue to stare at each other, raised emotions and anger slowly dissipating into the air around them.

Finally, Baekhyun turns away, away from Chanyeol, away from this mess, away from the guilt, away from everything. He’s nearly to the door exiting the bridge when he hears Chanyeol speak, fists suddenly clenching at his sides.

“He didn’t die. Sehun didn’t die. He has connections, unlike me. They couldn’t—can’t kill him. He’s okay.”

Baekhyun feels tears prickle at the corner of his eyes.

˚˚˚˚˚˚˚

They’ve been flying for several hours in respective solitude when fate has them interact again.

Baekhyun had sought refuge amongst the cargo and had been counting backwards from one thousand, a mental relaxation technique Kyungsoo had taught Jongin and him when they were young, when the door slides open to reveal Chanyeol’s offensive-by-mere-existence figure standing there.

“Why didn’t you tie me up this time?” Baekhyun finds himself asking, the words escaping from his mouth before he’s really had a chance to think about them. He continues to stare at the wall opposite him, even when he hears Chanyeol move closer.

“It’s not like you’re trying to escape or kill me,” Chanyeol replies, “It didn’t seem necessary.”

Baekhyun turns slowly to look at him, “Do you only do things out of necessity?” Chanyeol chews on his lip trying to decide how to answer, but Baekhyun doesn’t wait for one, doesn’t really need one. “You say you’re not going to sell me to the next highest bidder, you say you’re not going to kill me. Now what?”

“I need your help.”

Baekhyun raises his eyebrows at Chanyeol.

“You’re an astronomer, right?”

Baekhyun wants to laugh. In that moment, he really does. He remembers Jongin questioning his profession just a few nights ago, of them sitting in a mundane bar, him living his mundane life—it seems like years ago. Yeah, he’s an astronomer, that’s why he’s in this fucking mess. Baekhyun thinks this is the stupidest question he’s ever heard.

Chanyeol must realize how stupid the question sounds because he blushes and clears his throat, “I need help navigating through this part of space. My IPS is malfunctioning because of the sun spot storm and....”

Baekhyun blinks at him. “You can’t navigate manually.”

Chanyeol nods sheepishly.

“You are the owner and self-designated captain of this ship, and you can’t navigate manually.”

“....the need for the skill never really came up until just now...”

More silence.

Finally, Baekhyun gets to his feet with a sigh, pushing his way past Chanyeol, and making his way towards the navigation bridge.

“I don’t even need to ask what happens if I don’t cooperate,” he mutters as he goes, Chaneyol tailing along behind him, “You’d probably fly us right into the fucking sun.”

˚˚˚˚˚˚˚

It’s while watching Baekhyun point out the difference between Vega and Canopus that an idea suddenly occurs to Chanyeol.

“You wouldn’t be willing to take me to El Dorado, would you?”

Baekhyun makes a disgusted face, “Over my dead body.”

Chanyeol’s eyes drop from the monitor to his feet, but Baekhyun doesn’t notice as he continues to type in calculations for the proper navigation course.

The sentiment that that could very well happen remains unspoken between them.

˚˚˚˚˚˚˚

“If you’re trying to get to Xanor, we’ve ended up way off course,” Baekhyun reports back after about thirty minutes of running various calculation and plotting out courses on the backs of pages of Chanyeol’s old, yellowing maintenance logs.

“I needed to reset the course to avoid anyone who might be following us,” Chanyeol explains.

Baekhyun scribbles something on his sheet of paper and holds it up for Chanyeol to see, “To avoid any meteor showers or gravitational pulls, it’ll take about ten hours to get to Xanor.”

Chanyeol’s face falls. He reaches forwards and gently pushes Baekhyun’s hand away, so that they can talk face-to-face, “Is there any way to get there a bit um, quicker?”

Baekhyun gives Chanyeol an unimpressed look. “This is the quickest route I can come up with, unless you want to play Russian roulette, but with meteors instead of bullets.”

“Oh...”

Baekhyun blinks at Chanyeol, “Is that a problem?”

“I don’t think RLK is suited to fly for that long....”

“Let me guess,” Baekhyun says, getting to his feet and thrusting his calculations into Chanyeol’s hands, “The shoddy repairs you ended up getting to ensure we’d have enough time for a getaway wasn’t suited for long-term purposes, and it’s going to give out any minute now.”

“Well, in five hours to be exact,” Chanyeol says quietly, and Baekhyun sighs.

“Here,” he says, pointing to a star system halfway between their current position and Xanor, “there’s a cluster of ports hidden right here that aren’t usually on any large scale maps. Anyone looking for us shouldn’t know about it.”

Chanyeol squints at the map, tapping in the controls to make the cross sectional area bigger on screen, letting out a small hum of approval when the station comes into view.

“Hey, you’re not such a bad astronomer after all,” Chanyeol says to Baekhyun’s retreating figure as he types in the new rerouting commands, “Thanks, Kyungsoo.”

Baekhyun pauses in the doorway as Chanyeol returns to his work.

“What now?” he asks, voice barely above a whisper, “What are you going to do with me now?”

“Improvisation.”

Baekhyun is about to ask what that means exactly when his stomach suddenly growls loudly and he looks away in embarrassment.

Chanyeol can’t help but smile up at Baekhyun. “Hungry?” he asks. He doesn’t wait for Baekhyun to answer before getting to his feet and stretching. “I’ll make you something to eat,” he says with a smile, and Baekhyun moves to hide his blush in the shadows of the poorly lit room.

“Honestly, no wonder they double crossed you,” Baekhyun says as he follows Chanyeol down the hall towards the galley.

“Why’s that?”

“Because you’re shit at being a cold-blooded kidnapper.”

Chanyeol’s loud laughter bounces off the walls all the way to the kitchen.

˚˚˚˚˚˚˚

“The way I see it,” Chanyeol says, sitting across from Baekhyun and eating his instant noodles loudly, “is that you’re dead if I take you home, but you’re also dead if I leave you alone out here. Either way, you have a huge, El-Dorado-shaped target right on your back.”

Baekhyun taps his chopsticks against the side of his bowl and frowns. “So, what you meant by improvisation was....”

“Basically, make it up as we go along. Play it by ear.”

“And you were hired to...”

“Bring you to the boss—this guy named, Yondu, who wanted to use your brain, with or without your body, to find El Dorado.”

“And he’s your.....” Baekhyun chews over his next words carefully, and Chanyeol catches the trepidation in his tone.

“He ‘adopted’,” Chanyeol snorts, “—if you could call it that—me and Sehun when we were kids. We both got “picked up” from Earth when I was about eight and Sehun was six, or something.” Chanyeol makes air quotes around the words ‘picked up.’

“”Picked up?”” Baekhyun asks, mimicking Chanyeol’s gestures, and a dark expression crosses Chanyeol’s face.

“Abducted is probably a better term.”

“Oh....”

“Yeah...” Chanyeol digs around in his noodles a bit before shrugging, “Not like sticking around on Earth was going to turn out well for me anyway.”

Baekhyun doesn’t prod, waiting for Chanyeol to explain on his own.

“My mom died shortly after I was born, and my dad died when I was seven, the day I was abducted, actually. It was an accident in his lab. He was developing some method of interdimensional travel when Yondu and his lackeys showed up.” Chanyeol gives Baekhyun a bitter grin, “Unluckily for us all, Dad’s experiment didn’t quite work out and the whole thing blew sky high. Yondu took me in, thinking I knew something about Dad’s work, but come on, I was just a kid. Being space scum’s foot servant for over a decade... it gets old.”

Baekhyun nods solemnly, “My dad died when I was six, too.”

Chanyeol seems broken out of his sad reverie by this and while Baekhyun expects some form of condolences or an offhand comment, he gets something that makes his heart feel weird in his chest and his eyes sting.

“It’s lonely, isn’t it?” Chanyeol asks, with a smile as soft as starlight.

˚˚˚˚˚˚˚

They land in the backwaters of a larger constellation on a somewhat unpopulated space station without any problems or interference. Once again, Chanyeol keys in the tracking code for Baekhyun’s tracing bracelet before they leave the ship, and then instructs the mechanic on what needs to be done, before heading out into the main city with Baekhyun by his side.

On the way towards a cheap fast food joint, they pass a vintage-styled arcade. Chanyeol manages to lure Baekhyun in with a bet (“If I win best four out of seven at space pinball, you’re paying for dinner.” “Deal.”) after being distracted by the allure of the games, which is luckily, something both boys can agree on.

Six rounds later, the score is tied, and Chanyeol is in the process of completing his last play against Baekhyun’s set score when someone puts “Hooked On a Feeling” on the jukebox, and Chanyeol finds himself humming along.

“My dad used to play this song while he worked in his lab,” Chanyeol says as he mashes the buttons on the pinball machine. He’s advanced to one of the last levels, quickly advancing on Baekhyun’s score, when Baekhyun suddenly starts singing along.

Overwhelmed by Baekhyun’s soft, melodic voice, Chanyeol finds himself concentrating more and more on Baekhyun’s singing and less on the game. Right before he’s about to beat Baekhyun’s score, he misses the ball resulting in a resounding ‘GAME OVER’ just as the song ends, and someone puts on some technopop song on the jukebox instead.

“I win,” Baekhyun says triumphantly with a brilliant smile as Chanyeol turns to gape at him.

“You sing really well,” he says somewhat dumbfounded, and Baekhyun rolls his eyes.

“Right.” Baekhyun begins walking away, happy with his winnings of a promise of a delicious free meal as Chanyeol stumbles after him.

“No, really,” Chanyeol insists, missing the small smile on Baekhyun’s face.

“Sure, Star Lord.”

Chanyeol pauses. “You called me Star Lord.”

Baekhyun turns to look at him, continuing walking backwards, “Yeah, so?”

“No one calls me Star Lord. Seriously, at least.”

“Who said I was being serious?”

A goofy grin breaks out on Chanyeol’s face as he runs to catch up with Baekhyun.

“Though no wonder no one calls you that, it’s a stupid name,” Baekhyun comments once Chanyeol has caught up to him and they continue walking towards the fast food joint side by side.

Chanyeol gasps in mock horror. “It most certainly is not! It’s strong, yet feminine!”

Baekhyun snorts, “Okay, Chanyeol.”

“How did you now my name?” Chanyeol stares with wide-eyes.

“It’s written on all of your maintenance logs,” Baekhyun replies flippantly, “By the way, why is your ship called the Rilakkuma?”

“It’s the RLK!”

“Isn’t Rilakkuma the name of that ferret thing?”

“It’s a bear, and it’s cute!”

“So, you named your ship after a stuffed bear and call yourself ‘Star Lord’?”

Baekhyun stops abruptly outside the fast food joint, causing Chanyeol to bump into him. Already flustered, Chanyeol has to stop himself from once again being caught up in Baekhyun’s expressive eyes when he finds that their faces are just inches apart.

“Somehow everything makes sense now.”

Chanyeol cocks his head to the side, but Baekhyun doesn’t elaborate—just turns on his heel and enters the restaurant, pointing out all the things he wants to eat.

˚˚˚˚˚˚˚

It’s only after several rounds of food (Baekhyun gratuitously decides to help pay when Chanyeol opens his wallet and, he swears to God, fucking moths fly out) that they both wander to a nearby cheap hotel, opting to just fucking go for it and pay for a nice bed rather than sleeping on the lumpy cots aboard the RLK.

On the way home, they stop by a liquor shop, and Chanyeol buys them two six-packs of the beer because “well, we almost fucking died today, if that’s not reason to get drunk, I don’t know what is.”

They throw their shit on the hotel twin beds and then flop down in exhaustion, lying facedown with their faces hidden in their pillows until Baekhyun finally flips over to stare at the ceiling.

“Back home, when I was young, I used to have glow-in the-dark stars on my ceiling,” he says out-of-the-blue. Chanyeol rolls over on his back, too, to stare at the ceiling. It’s yellowing and has cracks in it, and in the very corner, is a single, fading, plastic glow-in-the-dark star, probably stuck there by some traveller’s kid on the go, and forgotten.

“So, you’ve been all about space from the very beginning, huh?” Chanyeol says and Baekhyun shrugs.

“It was in my blood. My dad was an astronomer, so was my mom.” Baekhyun lifts his arm up and reaches towards the star, closing his fist around empty air. “But, I think I always wanted something more.”

Chanyeol sits up and takes out two beers, opening one and taking a long drink, before placing the other on the side table separating their beds. “Like what?” he asks and he thinks he sees Baekhyun smile in the dimly lit room.

“Space... real space. Being in space, going up in space, flying through space. I wanted that. I wanted to be with the stars. ”

“Why...?” Chanyeol finds himself asking before he can stop himself, only aware of how perhaps-insensitive it sounds after it’s left his mouth, but if it’s offensive or insensitive Baekhyun doesn’t seem to mind.

“Because only bad things happened on Earth,” Baekhyun says, turning to face Chanyeol, “I wanted something different.”

“Isn’t that running away?”

Baekhyun sits up, grabbing the beer off the desk and takes a sip. “Yeah,” he concedes, after a moment’s pause, “maybe it is.”

There’s a moment of silence before Chanyeol comes over to sit on Baekhyun’s bed, startling Baekhyun with his sudden presence. “You know,” Chanyeol says, taking Baekhyun’s hands in his own, “you don’t have to be in space in order to be with the stars.” Baekhyun blinks at him in confusion, as Chanyeol lifts Baekhyun’s hands to his face. “Close your eyes,” he instructs, and out of perplexity, Baekhyun complies. Chanyeol presses Baekhyun’s palms to his closed eyes, applying light pressure. “What do you see?”

Baekhyun’s voice is soft when he replies, but Chanyeol hears him loud and clear, “.....stars.”

“Exactly!” Chanyeol booms, releasing Baekhyun’s hands and flopping back down on his own bed, “they’re always with you, you know.”

Baekhyun remains like that with his hands over his closed eyes for some time, before opening his eyes again and blinking to clear his vision. “So, what’s your deal?” he finally asks

Chanyeol looks at Baekhyun, “My deal?”

“Yeah,” Baekhyun says staring at Chanyeol, “You asked me earlier if I would take you to El Dorado. I’m assuming they promised you some cut if you delivered me to them, so I’m wondering why. Sick of slumming it and after untold riches and gold?” He pauses. “Or is it something less boring?”

Chanyeol snorts, “You act confident after you’ve got a drop of alcohol in your system.”

“I act confident after I’ve kicked your ass at pinball and helped pay the dinner bill.”

Chanyeol chuckles to himself at Baekhyun’s antics before sobering enough long enough to answer, “El Dorado refers to a ‘city of gold’, right?” He glances over to see Baekhyun nodding. “But, I don’t think that’s all there is to it.”

“So, if not gold, then...”

“A place where all your dreams come true.”

It’s Baekhyun’s turn to snort, “The fuck does that mean?”

Chanyeol frowns at him, “Hey, Mr. El-Dorado-Expert, you’ve read the literature. Not everyone refers to it as a floating space rock covered in gold. Some accounts are more abstract than that, and some people even describe it as a place where ‘any wish can be granted’. Everyone just assumes it’s monetary riches because that’s what everyone wants these days.”

“So, you don’t think it’s money.”

“Nope.”

“Not even monetary goods?”

“Nah.”

“Something magic?” Baekhyun starts laughing at the prospect, but Chanyeol merely smiles at him, with his same soft, warm smile.

“I’m sure there’s a scientific explanation for it, but yeah, I guess in layman’s terms: something ‘magic’.”

Baekhyun lies back on the bed, trying to recall any of the literature he’d read up on El Dorado in the past. Kyungsoo would be disappointment in the shitty façade he was putting up; he was doing no justice to the star research that was the real Do Kyungsoo.

“There is some literature on the matter,” Baekhyun says, picking out whatever bits and pieces he can remember from the times he and Jongin had pestered Kyungsoo into doing ‘fake research’ on El Dorado. He snorts inwardly; ‘fake’ his ass.

“Some experts do claim that El Dorado is actually a place where various energies of the universe collide into a place where many things are possible,” he turns to face Chanyeol, “Maybe that’s the El Dorado you’re looking for.”

Chanyeol nods slowly. “I wanted to find that place, and uh...” he trails off, looking away sheepishly, “make a wish.”

Somehow, Baekhyun knows the answer before he asks, and yet he asks anyway. “What wish?”

“I really just.... wanted to see my family again.”

Baekhyun nods, understanding the sentiment probably better than most. He’s almost thrown completely off when he sees Chanyeol smiling at him, radiating nothing but pure joy. “What is it...?” he asks cautiously and Chanyeol laughs.

“Weirdly, I’m really glad I met you, Do Kyungsoo.”

Baekhyun feels something in him crack, but he’s not sure what.

˚˚˚˚˚˚˚

Hot hands fumble against the cold metal of zippers, as Chanyeol struggles to pull Baekhyun’s jeans down past his hips.

The smell of alcohol hangs heavy in the air, empty beer cans strewn around the floor, and the sheets are messily rumpled under their sweaty bodies, as Baekhyun finds himself inching further up the bed, his head smacking against the headboard.

“Be careful,” Chanyeol murmurs, grabbing a pillow they’d knocked out of the way earlier and placing it behind Baekhyun’s head.

“We shouldn’t be doing this,” Baekhyun whines as Chanyeol finally manages to rip both his pants and boxers down, turning his head to the side when Chanyeol’s hot breath ghosts over his aching erection.

“Then tell me to stop,” Chanyeol says softly, nosing at Baekhyun’s erection. Baekhyun shuts his eyes tightly when Chanyeol speaks again, his deep voice reverberating in Baekhyun’s very soul. “Do you want me to stop?”

Eyes shut tight and beads of sweat on his forehead, Baekhyun vigorously shakes his ‘no’, and shoves his fist in his mouth, biting down hard enough to leave marks, when Chanyeol opens his mouth and takes him in whole.

˚˚˚˚˚˚˚

Later, as they lay with limbs tangled together on sticky sheets, Baekhyun traces out mathematical formulas off the top of his head in the small empty space on the bed and wonders if when he dreamed of space all those nights, if he also dreamed of this.

˚˚˚˚˚˚˚

He wakes up earlier than both Chanyeol and the sunrise on the space station. The room is still cloaked in darkness when he carefully slips out of bed and makes his way out onto the balcony, the early morning air cool on his face.

He stares out at the lights peppering the otherwise dark city, looking, but not really seeing. Despite its lightweight, he can feel the tracking bracelet around his wrist, burning into his skin as though it were hot, and he sighs, rocking backwards to look up at the sky and the stars—something familiar he’s always known.

He taps his fingers against the railing of the balcony and tries to imagine how he’d explain all of this to Kyungsoo and Jongin back home.

“So, get this: this wackjob kidnapped me thinking I was Kyungsoo—“

“Wow, to get someone as stupid as you confused for Kyungsoo—how moronic is this guy?”

“Shut up, Jongin. Anyway, yeah, so he kidnaps me. We end up flying into a meteor shower, have to land on a planet where whoever hired this guy to kidnap me—by the way, did I mention this guy calls himself Star Lord?”

“Star Lord? Sounds like your type, Baekhyun.”

“Shut up, Jongin. Anyway, whoever hired Star Lord to kidnap me double-crosses him, and tries to kill us both. We end up escaping, but I have to help this idiot navigate manually because he doesn’t know how to.”

“Baekhyun’s intelligence actually saved the day? Say it isn’t so.”

“Jongin, the fake gasp is unbecoming. Anyway, we end up stopping on some space station in this backwater star system thanks to my star-expertise, and then we got drunk and hooked up. Funny story, right guys?”

Baekhyun lets out another sigh.

What would be their next comments? Would Jongin ask if it was good? Would Kyungsoo ask how he felt about Chanyeol? Would they both ask what he did next?

Baekhyun glances back through the open door at Chanyeol’s sleeping figure; his mouth is slightly open, and his long, tanned limbs are spread out across the bed. Baekhyun wonders absentmindedly how he’d also managed to fit on the bed, too.

“I can’t take you to El Dorado,” he says quietly, “I’m not Do Kyungsoo.”

But, only the walls are listening.

˚˚˚˚˚˚˚

What now? What now? What now?

The question echoes in Baekhyun’s head, painfully bouncing around and giving him a headache as he walks beside Chanyeol towards the RLK.

Chanyeol glances at him, furrowing his brow in worry when he notices Baekhyun’s expression.

“Hey, are you okay?” he asks. When Baekhyun doesn’t respond, Chanyeol frowns, grabbing his hand instead. Baekhyun jumps at the sudden contact, a jolt of electricity running from their joined hands and down his spine, but if Chanyeol notices, he doesn’t comment, and they continue walking on.

“Do you regret what happened last night?” Chanyeol asks.

The feel of warm hands on his body and soft lips on his cock make Baekhyun groan internally, and his hand suddenly far too hot in Chanyeol’s palm.

“No,” he finally says, and Chanyeol hums out a ‘good’ in response. They walk along in comfortable silence towards the ship, as Baekhyun tries to calm his racing heart and shoo away thought of the previous night.

“I heard what you said last night,” Chanyeol says finally, and Baekhyun feels his entire body tense, his blood suddenly running cold.

“What?”

“That you can’t take me to El Dorado.” Baekhyun’s head swims with panic, and he slowly begins to pull his hand from Chanyeol’s grip, “You kept muttering it in your sleep. Do you really feel that guilty about it?”

All at once, Baekhyun feels a dull sense of relief crashing into him, and it leaves him drained and hassled. “Oh...”

“I understand,” Chanyeol continues happily, still walking with Baekhyun’s hand enclosed softly in his own, “I won’t make you. But, we do have to do something about Yondu and his men.”

He smiles at Baekhyun over his shoulder, and Baekhyun feels his heart ache. “If you stick with me until we can throw them off, then I’ll take you home.”

Baekhyun’s mouth is dry when he speaks, “Why?”

“Because, I meant what I said yesterday: I’m really glad I met you, Kyungsoo.”

The feel of warm hands on his bare skin.

“I’ve been alone for so long, I’d forgotten what it was like to just want to be with someone, Kyungsoo.”

Chapped lips on his body.

“So, I need to make it up to you, Kyungsoo.”

Isn’t this where they’d kiss if they knew each other’s names?

“I’m repaying my debt, Kyungsoo.”

“I’m not Do Kyungsoo!”

Chanyeol stops walking, letting Baekhyun’s hand drop at the abrupt outburst.

“You got the wrong guy. My name is Byun Baekhyun and Do Kyungsoo is my colleague and, most importantly friend. I pretended to be him because I couldn’t put him in danger like that.” Baekhyun feels his throat constrict and his eyes burn, but he keeps talking, keeps explaining himself, willing away the tears, “Unlike me, Kyungsoo has a life on Earth. He has people who love him, people who would care if he died.”

Chanyeol turns to face Baekhyun slowly, “You would rather die than sell out your friend?”

“I’m—” Baekhyun’s words get caught somewhere in his throat, and he shuts his eyes tight to will away the strong emotions now clouding around him, “I’m sorry.”

Strong arms suddenly wrap around him, and he finds himself suddenly drowning in Chanyeol’s scent. All around him is Chanyeol, engulfing him in his very presence, and Baekhyun has to take deep breaths to keep from drowning in his overwhelming confession and now, this overwhelming presence.

“I’m so relieved,” he hears Chanyeol say, face buried in his hair, as he squeezes Baekhyun tighter.

“This doesn’t change anything,” Baekhyun says, leaning forwards slightly against Chanyeol’s chest, “I won’t let you or anyone else go after Kyungsoo. You’ll have to kill me first.”

Chanyeol squeezes him tighter causing Baekhyun to cough, “I’m not killing you! ...sorry.” Chanyeol relaxes a little and steps backwards so they can talk face to face, though his arms still rest on Baekhyun’s shoulders.

“This means... you wouldn’t take me to El Dorado because you didn’t know where it was, right?”

Baekhyun nods slowly, trying to piece together Chanyeol’s master solution.

“But, what if we could find it.”

Baekhyun raises an eyebrow at Chanyeol. “How?”

“Sehun and I had a plan B just in case shit went down. I didn’t really think kidnapping the wrong guy was going to be the shit that went down, but eh, it all ends up here anyway. The point is, Sehun and I haven’t just been bumming around the galaxy for the past fifteen years without a plan. We’ve been doing our own research on the whereabouts of El Dorado.” He takes Baekhyun’s hand once again and gently tugs him along, “Come with me. Let me show you.”

Chanyeol brings him onboard the RLK—and Baekhyun subtly notes this is probably the nicest boarding experience he’s ever experienced—and shows him to a room off the main navigation bridge.

“Look,” Chanyeol says, gesturing to the star charts and various articles hung up on all four walls of the small room. Baekhyun’s jaw drops slightly as he stares up at the various mapped out patterns.

“This is incredible...” he says faintly as Chanyeol beams at him proudly.

“This is the product of fifteen years’ worth of work, but with how brilliant you are, I’m sure you could have figured this out in an afternoon.” Baekhyun blushes, but thankfully, Chanyeol misses it in the darkness of the small room. “Anyway, we nearly have it figured out, but here, look,” he points to a blank spot on an equation and a corresponding blank star chart, “We can’t figure out this last piece.”

Baekhyun reads over the equations, eyes moving from the math to the star chart and back as Chanyeol talks, “We thought, if it didn’t work out—if we managed to keep Do Kyungsoo from Yondu and convince him to help us in some way—maybe convince him we weren’t in it for the money, you know—maybe he’d help us figure out this last pie—“

“Got it.”

Chanyeol shuts his mouth abruptly, taking in fully, the sight of Baekhyun focusing intently on the page as he scribbles out the missing component of the math equation. “With this, I should be able to map a course in about an hour or two. You’re a bit off here and there, but I can correct that easily.” When Chanyeol doesn’t respond immediately, he looks up at him. “What? What is it?”

“You’re really something else, you know?”

Baekhyun blushes and looks away; Chanyeol’s gaze suddenly too intense for his liking. “Is this part true though?” he asks, instead of addressing Chanyeol’s comment. Chanyeol leans over Baekhyun’s shoulder to see what he’s pointing at, and Baekhyun can feel the parts of his body where Chanyeol is touching suddenly heat up.

“Yes,” Chanyeol says firmly, “that relocation equation is correct. After El Dorado is found, it relocates completely.”

“So, once we find it, I—Kyungsoo—will be useless to anyone.”

“They won’t come looking for him.”

Baekhyun nods. “Okay then. Let’s go find El Dorado.”

˚˚˚˚˚˚˚

An hour and a half later, the RLK is on its way once again to the point where stars and dreams meet: the fabled El Dorado, with Chanyeol in the captain’s chair, and Baekhyun keying out navigation.

“What do you think Yondu would have wished for if he’d gotten to El Dorado?” Baekhyun asks, measuring out the correct angle with a protractor, and drawing a corresponding line across the map.

“Probably something sinister, like becoming intergalactic overlord.”

Baekhyun pauses before commenting thoughtfully, “If you put it like that, we’re kind of like the guardians of the galaxy, aren’t we?” Chanyeol lets out a loud laugh and Baekhyun narrows his eyes at him. “What’s so funny?”

“You made fun of me calling myself ‘Star Lord’, but you want to call us ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’?”

“’Star Lord’ sounds stupid.”

“I had your cock in my mouth and you’re still going to call my alias stupid.”

Baekhyun pauses. “Chanyeol is good at giving head, Star Lord is shitty at kidnapping people.”

Chanyeol mulls over the comment, “Fair enough.” He pauses and then adds, “Baekhyun.”

“What’s that for?” Baekhyun asks, going back over his notes.

“I like your name.”

Baekhyun blushes and clears his throat, “okay, we’re actually...” Baekhyun leans back and reads over his calculations once more, “We’re actually nearly there.”

“What?” Chanyeol exclaims. He leans over, almost falling out of his chair, so he can also see the notes. “Holy shit.”

“Yeah...” Baekhyun breathes, “holy shit.”

“It was hidden behind the sun the whole time.”

They’re knocked out of their wonder quite literally when the entire ship shakes from a hit, as both men are thrown from their chairs and across the bridge.

Chanyeol recovers first. “Baekhyun, are you okay?” he shouts, as Baekhyun stumbles to his feet.

“I’m fine. What was that?”

Chanyeol glances up at the screen, eyes going wide with fear as a bright red WARNING flashes on screen.

“They found us,” he mutters as he races to the captain’s chair to steer the ship away from danger.

Baekhyun manages to quell his rising nausea, swallowing the bile in his throat, as he throws himself in the chair next to Chanyeol as they dodge another hit. “How?” he shouts as Chanyeol pulls the lever to engage the shields and runs a scan of the ship.

“There!” he says, pointing at a blinking spot on the ship’s blueprints on the screen, “Sons of bitches, they attached a tracker to the ship.”

“So, we’d lead them right to it.”

“Exactly, but here’s the thing,” Chanyeol says, pulling out the keyboard and rapidly typing in a set of flight commands, “they don’t know we’re nearly to it. They probably want to capture us now and force the information out of, well, you, but they weren’t counting on one thing.”

Baekhyun peers over Chanyeol’s shoulder, his mouth falling open in a silent ‘oh’.

“The warp equation...”

“The one my father almost finished, and would have if these fuckers hadn’t of killed him, yeah. Sehun and I met a man named Joonmyun on Sagittarius Nine who helped us do the math. It’s finished.” He beams up at Baekhyun, “So, here’s what we’re going to do: I’ll run down there and disengage the tracker while you key in the coordinates to warp us away from here. We throw them off the trail, then come back later and find El Dorado. Sound good?”

Worry flashes across Baekhyun’s face as he takes the plan in. “Don’t worry, you’ll be safe up here,” Chanyeol assures him, but Baekhyun quickly shakes his head.

“What about you?”

“I’ll be fine. I know this ship better than I know myself. Getting down there, dislodging the tracker, and getting back is like a walk in the park for me.”

Baekhyun nods slowly, though he can feel hesitant doubt gnawing away at his stomach as Chanyeol gets to his feet. “Oh, one last thing: you don’t know how to fly a ship by any chance, do you?”

Baekhyun shakes his head, and Chanyeol laughs, “Yeah, I thought so, with all the vomiting and stuff. Don’t worry, I’ll teach you when I get back.”

Baekhyun is about to tell Chanyeol he doesn’t think this is a good idea, that this doesn’t sound safe, that this is too risky, that it won’t end well, when Chanyeol leans forward and presses his lips to Baekhyun’s.

“For luck,” he whispers, and then he’s gone, leaving Baekhyun reeling, his heart doing flips in his chest.

He sits in stunned silence for a moment, unsure of what to do, when another red warning flashes on screen, this one slightly smaller than the first. He leans forward to read the warning, his stomach dropping when he sees the words on the screen: “external lock faulty, exterior quarters prone to opening; all personnel is recommended to stay in main cabin”.

Baekhyun jumps up from his seat, slamming his hand against the intercom button, as the ship takes another hit, and he finds himself thrown to his knees. “Chanyeol!” he screams, his palm pressed down on the button, “Chanyeol!”

Another hit shakes the ship, and sirens begin to sound. The warning on screen flashes larger: “heavy damage sustained; external quarters exposed; main cabin being sealed.”

Baekhyun spins to see the doors to the main bridge automatically shutting and locking with such force he gives himself whiplash, but he can’t be bothered with the painful sensation as camera views of the external chambers damaged by the hits flash on screen.

He watches with wide eyes as he sees Chanyeol’s figure, tall and lanky and awkward, moves across the screen.

Everything slows down, and he can hear his heartbeat thumping in his ears. His lips part, but no sound comes out, and around him, he swears the ship is shaking from another hit, the alarms are sounding, but everything is quiet and still, nothing matters, nothing except Chanyeol’s figure on screen and then, he sees the quarters shot open, he sees the infinity of dark space, and the RLK eclipses the sun.

“CHANYEOL!”

˚˚˚˚˚˚˚

“What’s the matter Baekhyun, why are you crying?”

“Dad, I don’t want to be an astrononomer. It’s so boring.”

“There, there, son, what’s so boring about it? You love the stars.”

“I want to be with the stars, Dad. Not just look at them.”

“My child, you always have the stars with you. Here, let me show you something. Close your eyes and take the palms of your hands and push on your eyes. Yes, like that. What do you see?”

“....stars?”

“Exactly. You have entire galaxies within you, Baekhyun, so don’t cry and don’t be afraid. The stars are always with you, and so nothing will ever harm you. I promise.”

˚˚˚˚˚˚˚

Baekhyun awakens with a jolt.

His bangs stick to his forehead from sweat, and his breathing is labored, as he blinks wildly in the darkness trying to calm his racing heart.

Slowly, he uncurls his fists from where they are latched onto his sheets tightly in a death grip, and he takes deep breaths reminding himself that it was only a dream.

Beside him, a figure stirs, finally awakening, too, blinking large, brown eyes up at him in so much sympathy and concern, Baekhyun is sure they will break like egg yolks and run all over.

“Baek, are you okay?”

“Yeah,” Baekhyun replies, though his voice is shaky, “Yeah, I’m okay.”

“Was it a bad dream?” the figure moves to sit up, wrapping long arms around Baekhyun in a comforting embrace, and bringing him closer to rest against his bare chest.

“Yeah...”

“It was only a dream.”

Waves of emotion with no real known cause or origin suddenly wash over Baekhyun and he feels his resolve breaking under the vulnerability of a warm embrace. Tears that he’d hidden for so long roll down his face, and he feels himself sink completely into his surrounding warmth, which does nothing to move away or escape, only rises to meet him halfway and ensure him of safety and love.

“But, that’s just it. It wasn’t just a dream. It wasn’t just a dream, Chanyeol.”

˚˚˚˚˚˚˚

“I can’t believe you found the legendary El Dorado.”

“Yup.”

“You left this fucking planet for once in your life, and you ended up finding El Dorado.”

“Yup.”

“And you had your wish granted by El Dorado.”

“Exactly.”

Jongin leans back in his chair, completely amazed, “Unbelievable.”

Baekhyun grins into his drink, while Kyungsoo frets next to him.

“Baekhyun, how can I ever apologize? I feel like this is all my fault.”

“Don’t worry about it, Kyungsoo,” Baekhyun replies, “It was fine. Better than fine. Great.”

Kyungsoo and Jongin both give Baekhyun incredulous looks.

“Something tells me he’s not giving us the whole story...” Jongin says sourly, stabbing at the olive in his martini with his little plastic sword. Baekhyun laughs.

“I always wanted to go up in space, and this was an excellent opportunity to do so.”

“You almost died,” Kyungsoo deadpans.

“Why do I feel like he probably got laid...” Baekhyun’s jaw drops as he stares at Jongin who smiles back at him deviously. “I’m right, aren’t I? A little intergalactic dicksuck?”

Baekhyun is about to retort when he feels a tap on his shoulder. Slowly, he turns to see a figure he’s come to not only know, but practically expect by his side. He smiles up as the man holds his hand outstretched for Baekhyun to take.

“The name’s Star Lord,” he introduces himself grandly for Kyungsoo and Jongin’s benefit, “and if you come with me, I can show you the entire galaxy.”