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Jongin stands in the doorway, watching Baekhyun getting ready for the evening. He sweeps the brush in a wingtip over his eyelids, a narrow swath of black mystery following in its wake.

Mystery.

Baekhyun pouts his rosebud mouth at the mirror before smiling in satisfaction at his reflection, standing and walking over to look up at Jongin.

"Do you have to go?" Jongin brings curled fingers to his mouth but it's too late; the words have already been spoken.

Baekhyun's smiling face shuts down, his eyes looking up between silver-encrusted eyelashes.

"I think we've already had this conversation." He adjusts the cerulean silk that makes up his flimsy top, making sure that his gold-dusted collarbones are visible.

Jongin looks down at his bare feet; his pyjama-clad appearance a sharp contrast to Baekhyun's finery.

"You know I don't like parties," he whispers, crumpling the thin cotton in his hands. Baekhyun's expression softens.

"I know that, my little toddler dancing machine." Baekhyun pokes his cheek lightly, and Jongin melts into the sudden warmth, ignoring the pinching of the French-tipped manicure. "But parties are something I have to do."

Baekhyun looks at him for a moment, biting his bottom lip in an uncharacteristic display of uncertainness before setting his Prada clutch down on the end table and opening his arms wide.

"Come here then."

Jongin sinks into his embrace, perpetual fear of abandonment forgotten for the moment. Even though he has so many doubts, Baekhyun can always manage to calm his anxiety. He feels warm arms wrapping him comfortingly and long fingers patting his back.

But all too soon Baekhyun pulls away, rearranging his outfit, picking up his clutch, and stopping to check his platinum pixie-cut in the mirror before twirling out the door in a whirlwind of glitter and colour.

Jongin trudges back to his room. He knows he should probably get over himself, Stop being such a baby! and go to the studio to rehearse. The performance is in less than a week, after all. The problem with being a celebrated principal dancer is that he's allowed far too much leeway, like today where it's already 10 in the evening and he hasn't really even gotten out of bed yet. But I can't help it. Baekhyun, as the CEO of MD2 Electronics, has to make social appearances, and it's already bad enough that his famous boyfriend never shows up to any public events apart from the ballet; Jongin can't keep dragging him down.

So he curls into a ball between the Egyptian cotton sheets of their king-sized bed, and pretends not to feel the growing leak under his ribcage.


Baekhyun straightens his goddamned fucking itchy top for the thousandth time as he rides the private elevator up to their penthouse apartment. His eyes have glitter in them, his lips are cracked from smiling and his head fucking aches. I hate these parties; I'm like a costumed peacock on display, pimping myself out to all the Armani-suited closet-perverts judging me for my age and orientation while they sip their vodka martinis and undress me with their eyes. Well fuck them! My company is far more successful than their paper companies that they feed with dwindling trust funds and they can go and suck it! He groans, running fingers through his brittle hair. I guess it's time for another oil treatment on top of everything else on my crowded plate right now.

He keys in the code, waiting for the lock to sing off-pitch as usual before slumping into the foyer, kicking his sadistic Vivienne Westwood sandals off before looking around for Jongin. The boy is usually overjoyed to see him, bounding like an excited puppy as soon as he hears the elevator door open. But today there's only silence.

That's strange.

Baekhyun notices an uncharacteristic tightening in his chest as he tosses his clutch onto the sofa, I'll deal with the business cards tomorrow before quietly approaching the bedroom. Maybe he's all tired out? But he didn't even go to the studio today...

The room is dark when he pushes the door softly open, the only illumination the glow of the city lights shining through the wall of glass beyond the bed. He can see Jongin curled up in the corner against the headboard, comforter drawn into a nest around his gangly limbs. As Baekhyun approaches the slumbering boy, fingers outstretched to brush his cheek, he sees the tear-tracks staining the face and pillow.

This isn't working. But he doesn't know what to do.


There's sun shining in his face. Jongin blinks a couple of times before rubbing his swollen eyelids with the back of a hand. He stretches out the other arm, fingers searching the through the soft fabric, but the bed is empty. I guess he didn't come back for the night. His heart sinks.

He sadly unfurls his long arms and legs, the Beyblade-patterned cotton riding up his calves, before half-pitching himself off the mattress in a rare show of clumsiness. His head feels foggy from crying. Hoping against hope, he trundles down the hall, maybe Baekhyun is in the kitchen, but the apartment is too still on this bright morning and Jongin stands alone, blinking back the harsh sunlight along with the sudden moisture creeping into his eyes.

He finally forces his reluctant feet over to the kitchen island, a folded white piece of paper standing harshly out against the black marble.

I'm sorry that I missed you baby but you looked so peaceful sleeping I didn't have the heart to wake you...I have to run but remember to eat a proper breakfast!

XOXO

The hugs and kisses scrawled across the bottom ring false. Didn't have the heart to wake me? Or didn't want to bother? Jongin crumples the paper in his hands and lets it fall on the way back back to bed. He's not hungry. As he burrows back between crumpled fabric, the hole under his ribs yawns a little wider.


The apartment is quiet in the evening crimson when Baekhyun finally comes home, grumbling under his breath. Meetings with these idiots...do I have to do everything myself? He sighs with relief after removing his Louboutin loafers and dumps his jacket on the side table on the way to the sideboard for a little restorative. The ice clinks too loudly in the silent apartment and after pouring himself a generous whiskey on the rocks, he wanders thought the apartment looking for Jongin.

I guess he must be really busy preparing for the opening.

He sighs in disappointment; they haven't had a chance to spend enough time together lately, what with his fucking annoying waste of time gala parties and merger meetings, and Jongin's upcoming performance. He misses the boy with his happy smiles and cute enthusiasm bounding about, playing video games and draped on the sofa reading manga. Although I really shouldn't call him a boy, he's only two years younger than me. Baekhyun takes a sip, laughing fondly as he perches his linen-suited bottom on the leather arm of a chair and kicks his heels against the plush carpet.

He's getting up to take his empty glass to the sink and grab a bite to eat when a sudden sight stops him in his tracks. A flash of white catches his peripheral vision, and he sets the glass down before making his way down the hall. There, on the carpet, is his note, crumpled up and tossed aside. He can't ignore the tightening in his chest.

"Jongin?" There's no answer of course, and the unmade bed lies cold and empty, sheets dyed a harsh vermillion as the sun sets.


Jongin runs cold hands over the aching muscles in his back on the ride up the elevator. He's been killing himself on the wood floor of the studio in a self-imposed penance for slacking, his furious determination making up for a lack of sleep and absence of appetite. He ignores the grey veils hanging in the wings of his vision. There's nothing else he can do anyway.

I'm not a child.

Baekhyun isn't home. Jongin isn't even sure what he's expecting anymore. The bed is made, sheets tucked smoothly beneath the mattress, and the mess of crumpled pyjamas he left at the foot of the bed frame has been neatly placed in the laundry hamper.

Am I just a mess that gets tidily put away as soon as I'm out of sight?

There's a new pot of thulian pink orchids on the island, with a cute note attached. Jongin's unconsciously trembling fingers reach for the cream-coloured paper, fumbling before he manages to open it and see the written contents.

Sorry I missed you again. Good luck with preparation! ♡

The note is cute but it isn't enough. Do you think I can't recognize your secretary's writing? The hole under his ribs has widened to a steady trickle. He barely notices the dim thud as the arm of his leather jacket catches on the orchid stem, sending it to the floor. The sound of the door slamming shut rings through the heavy air.


The orchids he spotted on the way to a business lunch, that reminded him so much of Jongin's cute blush that he had to hold up the entire schedule for 15 minutes while he purchased them, sent them with his secretary so they would get home sooner, and then phoned, panicked at having forgotten to write a note and dictated it word by word despite the aggravated tapping of the foreign business associate, are lying in a crushed and broken mess on the marble floor.

"Jongin? Jongin?"

He stumbles through the apartment, a Salvatore Ferragamo driving shoe hanging off his left foot as he hops on his right, but there's no one there but him. He takes out his phone but as soon as he lifts it to his ear he can hear the familiar ringtone coming from a pile of cushions on the sofa.

Why can't he ever remember to take his fucking phone with him? But he's only worried, not annoyed, as he runs frustrated fingers through rumpled hair. He finally has to settle for leaving a message with his secretary, asking the poor woman to try to track his boyfriend down.

The tightness in his chest constructs suddenly as a terrible thought comes to mind, and he trips off the couch, half running, half falling into the bedroom where he throws open the wardrobe doors. Baekhyun breathes a ragged sigh of relief as he sees Jongin's shoes lined up beneath the neat row of hanging shirts and jeans that he himself keeps in order, because his boyfriend is the artistically messy type.

Later, sitting at his dressing table and staring at his reflection in the mirror as he takes out his earrings and waits for his secretary to call, Baekhyun doesn't see the face of beautiful man hiding behind a mysterious swath of black eyeliner. He sees glitter, tears, and broken promises, and blacking out the reflection of his eyes in the mirror doesn't change a thing. He's only left with stained fingers.


Jongin's standing in the wings, waiting for his cue. He watches the excitement of the backstage dully as it sweeps around him, an ocean of voices and finery whose waves only lap at his toes before retreating into the sand. He knows his heart is beating too fast, heavy veils hanging in the wings of his vision, but today is opening night and he hasn't half-killed himself for nothing. He stretches his mouth into an almost believable grimace of a smile, at least from the distance of the orchestra pit, and glides onto the stage.

He'll be here; he always is.

His eyes rake the audience between chaînés and brisés, but he can't see the familiar platinum head in the first box.

He...probably got held up by an emergency meeting or something. But the hole under his ribs disagrees, the trickle expanding slowly to a small torrent.

Intermission comes and goes. The first box is still empty of the familiar smiling face. Jongin's grimace is approaching a frightening rictus as he tries to hold his chest together with shaking resolution, but even the other dancers are starting to eye him, alarm and even worse, fear, lurking in the corners of their bird-like eyes. Maybe...maybe something happened with the merger. Or there was traffic. Or Baekhyun forgot his ticket and had to go back to get it. But he knows he's only grasping at threads.

Falling into position with the corps de ballet for the coda, the humming in his ears intensifies and the bright stage lights start to fade. He fights to finish his last grand jeté, and in the still beats before the curtain drops, he darts a look through the darkening clouds of his vision at the first box. There's no one there, and as the dark veil finally falls across his sight and his knees gracefully give way, he feels the hole under his ribs break open into a raging waterfall.


It's been one thing after another. First the appointment schedule at his hair salon is backed up beyond belief, then they somehow mess up his oil treatment and end up having to dye his hair, okay raven black is a nice colour and I was thinking of switching it up anyway but why today?, then the traffic is a terrible mess of honking horns and furious drivers. Baekhyun is nearly tearing out his freshly dyed locks by the time his car pulls up at the door. It's only then he realizes he forgot the congratulatory bouquet of roses at his office, so he has to dash over to the in-house florist shop, grumbling at the sub-standard selection before settling on some reasonably fresh peonies in a pretty shade of liseran purple. He's running late and he knows it as he limps to the box office in his Balenciaga wedges. I knew I should have worn the damned flats!

"I'm very sorry, but we've had to close your box temporarily due to some structural issues." The lady at the desk is very gracious and polite but Baekhyun would like nothing more than to punch her in her pearly-toothed mouth. Breathe in, breathe out.

"Has my subscription been moved to a different box then?"

His smile is a little too sharp to be strictly polite but it's been a long day. His secretary wasn't able to track Jongin down until morning, apparently he's been sleeping at the studio, and Baekhyun is worried. Jongin may be childish at times, but when it comes to dancing he's more devoted than a drug addict to his next fix. He needs someone to keep him in the real world, and Baekhyun knows he's been a miserable failure at caring for his boyfriend lately. Yes, things have been crazy at the company, what with mergers and major reorganization plans in the works, but that's no excuse. He feels the painful lack of Jongin in the constant tightness of his chest and the thick silence engulfing an apartment that used to be filled to the brim with the sounds of laughter and video games.

I'm going to fix this. He isn't quite sure how yet, but it will happen. It has to happen.

"Unfortunately all of the other boxes are full but we reserved a seat for you in a loge, if that's acceptable?" She looks a bit nervous, and Baekhyun can't help but feel bad. He must have been glaring storm clouds through his brooding and no part of this is her fault. He manages to infuse a little more warmth into his smile as he nods in acquiescence.

By the time he makes it to his seat it's over ten minutes in and he hopes Jongin won't be too mad. He's been looking forward to this performance for a long time. He tries to catch Jongin's eye a couple of times, but he seems preoccupied, although it's difficult to see his expression properly from this distance. He's probably deep in concentration since it's opening night.

Baekhyun starts to be a little concerned after intermission, when Jongin's dancing seems to be reaching new levels of breath-taking genius because that's always been a sign that something is wrong. At the last grand jeté, Baekhyun actually leaps to his feet in spine-tingling fear, long fingers pressed to his mouth to stifle a scream. It was heart-stoppingly beautiful but his back isn't supposed to bend like that!

So Baekhyun isn't at all surprised when, just as the curtain drops, he sees the wavering form of his lithe boyfriend crumpling to the floor along with the heavy velvet fabric, a sea of dancers rushing in to catch the fall. He's in the lobby before he even realizes that his feet have moved, the crumpled bouquet of peonies lying abandoned on his seat.


There's a strange green beeping disturbing the calm blackness. The sound grows, as though he's approaching the exit of a long passage, and the darkness lightens and whitens and suddenly his eyes are open.

Jongin looks up at the white ceiling, trying to collect his thoughts. He remembers everything going black...

There's a different sound coming from his right. Someone is holding his hand tightly. He twitches his fingers in discomfort and looks over.

The person sits up suddenly, wiping away tears with their free hand.

"Baekhyun?" His voice is raspy and it scares him.

"Jongin?" Baekhyun voices a fresh sob and moves over to enfold him in a tight embrace, burrowing his face into Jongin's shoulder.

Jongin feels strangely empowered, despite lying in a hospital bed, head aching, and only a fuzzy image of recent events in his foggy brain. Baekhyun needs me. He gently runs his hands over his boyfriend's back, patting him comfortingly as the sobs quiet to hiccoughs.

Finally Baekhyun takes a deep breath and straightens up to look his boyfriend in the eyes, moving his fingers to cup Jongin's face.

"I'm so sorry." His eyes are shiny with yet more tears, but Jongin finds that, strangely enough, the hole under his ribs is slowly being filled.

"You dyed your hair," he says. "I thought you didn't come." He's not entirely sure, but pretty sure, as he tests the waters for an answer.

Baekhyun glares at him through wet eyes. "Of course I came!" He looks indignant, but the black makeup tracks trailing down his cheeks give his face a strangely comical appearance, one that Jongin isn't used to seeing.

What mystery?

He starts to laugh instead, causing Baekhyun to pout sulkily, tears forgotten. Jongin slyly trails his fingers along the nape of his boyfriend's neck and is rewarded when Baekhyun shivers with something other than sadness before glaring daggers at him.

"We're in a hospital where you were sent after collapsing due to fatigue, overwork and malnutrition! This is no time to be playing!"

Jongin sighs secretly in relief, so there's nothing seriously wrong with me, before smiling up his boyfriend.

"But I haven't seen you in so long!" he whines, eyes sparkling.

Baekhyun looks like he's about to sock him a good one and Jongin is almost alarmed, but Baekhyun only settles back into his chair and smirks.

"Well, seeing as you've been ordered to be on complete bed rest for the next week, and I'm finally going to make that lazy CAO step up and do actual work, I can think of a lot of fun things I can do with you to make up for lost time."

He darts in for a quick kiss before dancing out of arm's reach again. Jongin only laughs, his head light and heart full of happiness.


As Baekhyun weaves around Jongin's bed, avoiding his long arms between pouncing in for kisses, the tightness in his chest loosens and he takes a deep breath.

We can fix this.