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Back.

 

And forth.

 

And back.

 

And forth.

 

The swings creak with every movement they make, their joints rusty yet steady still. Junmyeon sits next to them, watches the wind push the seats around as if occupied by the spirits of children long gone.

 

 Back.

 

 And forth.

 

 And back.

 

 And forth.

 

 He is alone.

 

The wind picks up. The trees sway in tact with the swings now. The grass around his body is slightly damp still with the morning dew. Everything around him moves. His arms hug his legs closer to his torso, he picks up his chin from his knees to put his head back, onto the wooden support of the structure. 

 

The blood rushes back into his brain, he is dizzy with it. He stares emptily into the blue sky above him, peeking out between the leaves of the dying trees. He lets out a breath he didn't even know he was holding. The wind picks up once again, the first leaves of the year begin to fall, to dance with it, their first and last. Autumn has begun. He shivers in his flimsy jacket. It feels more like the middle of winter.

 

Back. And forth. And back and forth.

 

It's monday again, school again, tired again. It's been weeks since he last talked to his best friend. He misses him like a piece of his own soul has been ripped out, stolen. Lay never had any right to take it. He chats with Baekhyun a lot these days, falling back onto old friendships for the support and attention he so desperately craves. Baekhyun is vaguely involved with the same circle as Lay, but he refuses to utter a single word about it. Loyalty runs deep. 

 

Baekhyun's eyes look extra droopy with tiredness, but they glow as he talks about his weekend with Chanyeol. They went on a mini camping trip to use the last sunny days well, and also "made out a lot", as Baekhyun puts it. Junmyeon really doesn't want to know.

 

"I'm thinking about", Baekhyun starts, looking around in caution, if anyone is listening "I'm thinking about going all the way with him." 

 

Junmyeon, still trying to wake up, asks "Go where? On another camping trip?" 

 

"No like I'm thinking about sleeping with him" Baekhyun flusters at the admission.

 

"Oh. That way." Junmyeon murmurs, before realizing that Baekhyun maybe wanted his opinion on the topic. 

 

"I trust him, you know?" Baekhyun confesses further, eyes uncharacteristically downcast, shy.

 

"Don't trust easily unless you can take the heartbreak" Junmyeon deadpans, and he knows it isn't what Baekhyun wanted to hear. However, if a single opinion could change his mind, he could not have been too sure in the first place. He is seventeen years old, he should know what feels right and what doesn't by now.

 

"I'm always ready for tragedy" Baekhyun hums, seemingly content with the answer regardless of its harsh nature. He plays with the hem of his hoodie, one of Chanyeol's, which already oversized on the taller, completely drown Baekhyun. It looks kind of scratchy, but also like it holds all the comfort in the world.

 

"Do it on a friday, it's more practical with the weekend ahead." Baekhyun smiles at that, finally back to his usual, much more annoying persona. Junmyeon misses the quieter version already. The bell rings, their first class of the day over, and Junmyeon can't wait to get home.

 

With the last, loud ring tearing through the still empty hallways, the day is over. Junmyeon's shoulders sack down after being tense for too long, they ache. He puts his bag over them anyways, his back curling in tiredness and strain, eyes trained on the ground, not willing to put up with looking into other people's eyes at the moment. 

 

Nearly stomping out of the school, exiting the premises as quick as he can, all to avoid the one boy he really, really does not want to see right now, or ever again. Afraid, afraid to forgive the other with one look into his cold, warm, tired, confusing eyes. Junmyeon always had been the forgiving type, pliant and serene. Sometimes, he wishes to be fierce, then remembers Baekhyun's terrible struggle with it, and the pain it brings. He decides not to be fierce.

 

It's late afternoon, he has just finished his homework, head pounding at the information and eyes slipping shut. He was outside again, maybe wearing one of Lay's muscle shirts underneath his sweater, maybe not. No one could ever know. He misses his best friend, he can't nap outside at all anymore, how he used to, because he doesn't feel safe. He's tired more often now. Lay's smell is almost gone, never to be felt again. He feels pathetic for pining after it in the first place. He feels pathetic in his inability to be alone, in his terror of crowds which puts him into constant nirvana. He sighs, leans against a tree, a thought comes to mind. 

 

Should he? He dares. Turns around, right ahead, off the grass into where the Forest grows denser and denser. He could walk this path blindly, has, ran it, lost the chase he never wanted to win. His heart aches and his knees are weak. He trudges on, a soldier on his own. His breath remains steady, he has not been here since that day. He had cried until his bones ached, cried until his eyes had no more tears to give. He puts concentration on his breath again, into his stomach, long and slow, long and slow. The journey to the treehouse feels like climbing a mountain now. 

 

Once he arrives, he listens, quiet as he can get, holds his breath even, just to hear nothing but the faint noises of the woods, the song of the birds and trees. An owl hoots, scarily close, but he pays it no mind, climbing up the ladder step by step. 

 

It looks the same as always, wooden, clean, and it's deserted. Deserted except for something caught up in the branches surrounding it. It's a pale brown ball of fluff, making angry owl noises. An owl. 

 

Fascinated, he watches, his body not yet lowered onto the platform, feet still on the ladder, as the bird struggled for freedom. He thought about approaching and helping somehow, but the beak and claws of the animal really did not seem inviting. Said claws were now holding onto the railing, buried deep, leaving marks as its mighty wings slapped about with terrifying strength. It was big, too. Junmyeon ducks his head as, with another angry shriek, the bird is freed and flies off, still croaking as if calling for a mate for comfort.

 

Junmyeon waits another minute before daring to move, his legs hurt from the constant strain they were under seconds ago. He walks over to where the bird was, some of the orange leaves are speckled in blood but otherwise there is no evidence of the struggle. He lets his fingers drift over the marks made, careful not to catch any splinters, as he notices something red and white amongst the leaves. Caught up, hopelessly entangled, and at least halfway soaked in blood, there are two big, white feathers with brown markings on them. It's what kept the bird from leaving, it must've managed to break them off with sheer force in order to be free. Junmyeon begins to untangle them, heartache forgotten for a moment. The universe wants to tell me something, he muses, a smile creeping to his face. How else would a noiseless, deeply elegant bird of the woods get stuck in a tree?

 

With his hands a bit bloody, he holds his prize. The owl won't need them anymore anyways. They must've been primary flight feathers too, judging their size. He hopes it can fly well without them.

 

There is not much else to do out here, not alone, so he leaves quick, doesn't quite know if he is overjoyed or sad that he did not meet anyone on his journey. Regardless, he conquered the place, the fear, and taking his spoils of war he feels free.

 

He is home alone. It's been long since his parents asked how he felt inside. He is old enough to manage that himself now (no one ever really is). He looks up crafts with feathers, but due to their gigantic size, all he could find was a detailed tutorial on how to make feather quills. 

 

First, he really needs to sterilize and wash them (and his hands) in some very soapy, very hot water. He lays them out to dry as he reads the instructions. Excited, he gathers the needed materials and gets to work. Once the Feathers are dry, he removes the fluffy bits from where he'd hold them. He cleans up the messy tip, until it's a nice clean cut; hardens the feathers in hot sand, a process that takes too long and makes him feel like a blacksmith constructing a sword of steel. 

 

Once hardened, the real carving process begins. It's a bit nerve-wracking, to place cuts he cannot undo into the hard, yet fragile Material. The first two cuts are the biggest and the worst, after that it reminds him of woodcarving, something he loved before puberty came along. He bites his lips as he makes them. Doesn't blink. He refuses to think about him as he puts a gentle tip on the feather. It's far from perfect, but it's getting late and he slowly gets too tired to trust himself with a knife sharp enough to chop of bits off him easily. He feels proudness in his chaotic creation, just because he created something, no need for it to be perfect.

 

Accomplished, he stumbles into bed for the night. He dreams of a white owl, blood long dried, hunting in the woods.

 

It's a nondescript friday, and he has not thought of Him in almost two weeks. He had not noticed until his last lesson for the day, which is philosophy, and boring enough to make math seem like english. Not really, math is worse than philosophy. Anything is better than math. He tried to put his concentration back into the text in front of him, but it still makes no sense, even on his third way through. Not many others seem to get it either, choosing to chat with their peers rather than doing the work. He stares at the clock for a few seconds, until his brain registers its newest job. Fifteen more minutes. He despises philosophy.

 

Baekhyun catches him on his way out, intending clearly to play with him like a cat with a mouse. It was too late to run now, so he stood for the challenge. 

 

"Hey, lil' Bunny Boy!" 

 

"I told you not to call me that! And you're not even taller!" He pouted, but to no avail as Baekhyun fell into step next to him. 

 

"How about we go out together tonight? Yeol is out the city, we can go wild, you can finally take you mind off things" Baekhyun had the audacity to wink at him. Junmyeon groans, feels his eyes roll so hard they almost fall out. At least he wouldn't have to deal with looking at Baekhyun any longer. 

 

He wants to tell the other that he's just fine, his mind is finally off 'things' for the time being. But saying no would be hypocritical, and he's been in his comfort zone for far too long. It's time to make some mistakes.

 

"I'll go with you, because I am that good and charitable" He answers as they step out of the school, their fast gait has put them far from their classmates. 

 

Baekhyun grins, predatory again, Junmyeon feels a shudder on his arms, like he's making a mistake already. He does not mind. "Cool. See ya at 8!" With that, and a little wave as a goodbye, Baekhyun turns around and leaves. Junmyeon walks into the opposite direction.

 

The house is empty upon his return, no single noise sounds, aside from the wind outside. He faithfully does his homework, all of it. He doubts he will be able to do much after Baek is done with him, he'll need to weekend to recover. He strips down as much as he can without being naked, opens the window, stands there, listens to the wind until the cold has seeped into his bones. He leaves the window, open. His bed feels like ice, the illusion is almost perfect, yet it's not quite like the forest. He listens for the birds, here's not one until he falls asleep.

 

He is awoken by a deft banging on the door. It's only 6 PM. Baekhyun must have noticed his newest tendency to sleep. He finds a pair of sweats to open the door, Baekhyun looks delectable, there is no other way to describe him. The heavy eyeliner combined with his thick leather choker make him seem like some sexual deviant of a demon, ready to pull Junmyeon into the pits of hell with him.

 

"Isn't a crop top a bit cold for the season, Baek?" 

 

"It's cold outside but I still be lookin' like a thotty because a hoe never gets cold!" Baekhyun's eyes glint like metal, sharpened by his heavy makeup. "Come on, Bunny Boy, you gotta shower, I'll find something decent in your closet." Junmyeon obliges. 

 

Fifteen minutes later, his hair is dry again, he hangs the towel up, exits the bathroom. Baekhyun has put out his most ripped pair of blue jeans and what looks like a tank top he hasn't worn in very, very long time. Junmyeon panics.

 

"That top. That top- It's too tight. I can't wear that!"

 

"Yeah, Sherlock, that's why I chose it." All he gets from Baekhyun is a roll of his pretty, pretty eyes "Don't think I haven't noticed you've been working out more! You gotta learn to show what you got, Bunny." He has the audacity to wink. Wink. Junmyeon huffs, but complies.

 

Junmyeon is now fully clothed, Baekhyun's black leather belt around his hips, feeling naked with his shoulders exposed to the cold room. Baekhyun looks up from where he sitting with his phone. 

 

"Alright, that looks okay… Now! Chop Chop, into the bathroom! We'll need to do something about your eyebags." Baekhyun is already on his way. Makeup?

 

"No- wait! I don't nee-" Too late. Maybe he should try it? Why not? All that's holding him back is shame and shyness. Determined to break his own boundaries, he follows Baekhyun.

 

Inside the bathroom, Baekhyun has already spread out the contents of his makeup bag into the sink (as there is no other space to occupy). The air is still wet from his shower earlier. Junmyeon steps closer, fascinated at the wide array of brushes, creams and glitters Baekhyun had somehow crammed into his tiny bag. He yelps as he is grabbed and dragged into the critical view of the others eyes.

 

"I promise I won't do too much. I don't even have that much stuff that fits your pale ass skin. Actually, your skin ain't even all that bad, Bunny Boy" While talking, Baekhyun begins to assault his face with various smeary stuff. He doesn't feel particularly pretty in it, but it does make him seem less tired.

 

Soon he is told to close his eyes ("gently! No, don't squeeze them!"), and as he opens them, he is a different person. Many of girls in school gossip that Baekhyun has sold his soul for perfect eyeliner skills. Junmyeon can see why this is a valid theory now. Within minutes his tired eyes have turned into something soft yet sharp, defined and magnetizing. He barely can keep his own eyes off of it, just because he doesn't look like himself anymore. 

 

It's subtle, but he wishes it wasn't. He does not want to be himself any longer, at least for today. He eyes the myriad of tins and containers. Baekhyun catches his eye, understanding too fast, too easily, raises a painted brow all the way up, up, up. Junmyeon does not want to admit it, so he just nods to the unspoken question. Baekhyun does not ask which color he would prefer, just gestures him to close his eyes again. 

 

He looks soft. Brutally so. The color Baekhyun put on him is a gentle shade of pink, which is probably why he wasn't allowed to see it until it was applied. Little does Baekhyun know he would take anything at this point,  anything to avoid getting lost in his own head even more.

 He is dragged towards the exit of his home. He wonders if his parents were going to notice his absence.

 

They walk. Baekhyun knows the way, Junmyeon does not. The sun is already down, but it's light is still out, projecting a cold kind of grey into the clouds. He shivers again, even though he is bundled up in his coat, stumbles over his own feet, begins looking down at them as he walks. The pavement is grey. Everything is grey. It might rain tonight, he thinks. 

 

They snake through the streets of their little town, left, right, right again, cross the street despite the fact the traffic light is red for them. They come close to the centre, split away again, northwards. It takes them another couple of minutes, no talking. Junmyeon feels too alone with his thoughts.

 

-

 

He can hear the music booming, and they haven't yet rounded the corner leading to the house. It's in the richer part of the town, the part he rarely went to. The house the sound is coming from looks big, almost like a mansion. One of the lower windows is opened, and a man is leaning out, drunk? Most definitely. He's shirtless, despite the cold, and he's belting out the lines of the rap song currently playing. On the porch, there is a whole group of admirers (also drunk), watching on as the man constantly verges on the edge of falling out of the window, face first. 

 

Junmyeon stops for a moment to stare, just like the others, but Baekhyun drags him along as he always seems to. They enter the house at last. 

 

Inside, the chaos is already well on it's way. It smells like weed, alcohol and sweat. Baekhyun seems to prefer being fashionably late. In the big entrance hall, countless bodies squirming along each other to the beat. Some are already passed out in the corners, some are lounging on the seats by the stairs. 

 

As Junmyeon's eyes wander through the room, assessing the situation, one boy catches his stare. Junmyeon does not know him, yet he is mesmerized by his eyes. They are bold, terribly bold, and the heavy makeup does little to help. His clothes seem expensive, too, and the way he sits in his chair is nothing short of regal, making his rather tiny statue seem gigantic. Baekhyun smiles upon seeing the boy, the way you smile at old friends you have not seen in a while, walks up to him. Junmyeon does not want to get closer to him, has very little interest in having to meet his eyes once again.

 

He also doesn't want to be left alone, not yet at least. He makes the decision to stay with Baekhyun for the time being. Up closer, the boy seems a little less scary. A little.

 

"Junmyeon, this is Minseok, this is his house and his party. Min, meet Junmyeon, he is bunny boy." Understanding blinks through Minseok's eyes for a moment, he nods, without saying a word. Junmyeon thinks It's kinda weird that Baekhyun must talk to his friends a lot, and under the name "bunny boy", too. Then again, it's Baek. 

 

Baek who, has somehow and magically acquired two cups with what smells like beer, looking at Junmyeon with an unspoken question in his eyes. Junmyeon never drinks, but Junmyeon also doesn't go to parties or wear makeup. He nods.

 

It is beer. And it tastes terrible. But Junmyeon drinks it anyways, there is no one to stop him. Quickly, he feels the buzz of it, making him feel dizzy and stupid, brave. He probably drank too much too fast. His feet move on his own, towards the dancefloor, the music which sounded kinda whacky before now a siren's call. It's slightly cold in the entrance hall, but the alcohol and the crowd of dancing bodies keep him warm now. He gets lost, easy, like falling.

 

Baekhyun finds him like that, blissed out but not really drunk. Drags him away, and Junmyeon wants to go back into the warm cradle of bodies, grind himself stupid on another stanger, never to be seen again, but Baekhyun needs a buddy for beer pong.

 

The room his friend pulls him into is much warmer, almost to the point it hurts, the air is even heavier with smoke. The music isn't as loud, instead people are chatting. And making out in the corners. Junmyeon does everything not to shiver or pull his lips in disgust, he knew what he signed up for. He knew. 

 

He's pretty good at beer pong, it turns out. Though he really doesn't get the objective of the game (Is it win the game or get as hammered as possible?). 

 

Another 3 cups of beers later and rational thoughts start to seem really boring, and stupid and everything is spinning. He briefly considers stripping, it's still so hot and he's suffocating in his clothes, in his head. Wants to go back into the entrance hall, at least he could breathe there. Baekhyun has disappeared, is nowhere to be seen. Junmyeon is glad for it. He sneaks out of his prison.

 

The world is spinning again, twirling. The sweat trailing down his skin feels satisfying. He feels dizzy but at least it makes the pain go away.

 

This time, when he stops, it's not Baekhyun. He's still on the dancefloor, bass thumping mercyless in the dim light. There is a stranger in front of him, he has dimples, deep. Junmyeon does not recognize him. All he knows is anger, and, more potently, desire. He does not know the stranger. He does not know the stranger. Only anger, and desire.

 

He lurches up at the boy, kissing him like its his born right. The other pulls him closer, kisses back without hesitation, his eyes are hooded. The embrace smells like alcohol and weed, something Junmyeon is well acquainted with by now. It's the perfume of that mistake he's been waiting for, he's sure of that. 

 

He is lead to another door, and its pitch black inside. Nevertheless, the stranger drags him into it, locks the door. Judging by the tiles on the floor, it must be a bathroom. Junmyeon stumbles back as he's embraced again, kissed again, more fervently. The lips feel familiar. He's eager, arousal and excitement mixing with the anger and the desire, it's a terrible kind of cocktail. 

 

"Please, please" he slurs, stumbling back further, falling, falling, landing in what must be a huge bathtub. He doesn't even know what he is begging for. A heavy body joins him where he lays, the weight feels comforting, familiar. A deep, smooth voice answers his plea, right next to his ear.

 

"If you're going to beg, use my name."

 

Desperate, he answers"Yes, yes"

 

"Call me Yixing" 

 

--

 

A couple of hours before that, Baekhyun just getting ready to go to Bunny Boy's house. He's powdering his face with a substance Yixing does not care to know. 

 

"I know you still think about him." Baekhyun's voice is cold, hurts like ice when you press it against your skin, and Yixing really can't think of anyone sane who wouldn't be intimidated by it. He meets his eyes with an unspoken question.

 

"He's doing all right, but I don't think he's over you yet. You were his world. As much as he was yours." Yixing gets the message. Was. Was. Not is. He wants to get high to escape all of this.

 

"My world, at least. The Universe, maybe" Yixing answers, steadfast as if he believes it's the truth. It's his truth at least, all he has left now. There is a pause, as if Baekhyun needs to consider his next question carefully.

 

"Why don't you tell him that?" Baek finally asks, all while refining his ridiculously perfect eyeliner.

 

"He'd break with it" He replies, and Baekhyun nods the answer off, like he knew it already. 

 

Yixing lets his body fall back into Baekhyun's bed with a thump. It smells like Chanyeol, too. Jealousy feels ugly. Baekhyun is done with his preparations, as it seems. He puts on his jacket (It has fur, It looks expensive, Yixing hates it) and stares at him on the bed. 

 

"I'll be over at-...

 

Hey, will you be at Xiumin's party Tonight?"

 

That's why Baek was dressed like that, he'd almost forgotten. He's forgetting many things these days, important things. Like his morals. He stares at Baekhyun for another moment, nods soundlessly. Baekhyun smiles, kind of like a dog who's found the bone -but again that's just him- and disappears out of the door.