They say somewhere within us live all the ages we've ever been, and Chanyeol believes in that.
Four, and his mother is tending to a scrape on his knee after he fell on the cemented area of the playground from running around too much.
Eight, and his father is teaching him how to hold a guitar while simultaneously plucking the strings on his right fingers, his mother watching them from the background with a small smile on her face.
Ten, and his sister’s applying fuschia lipstick on his face for a bet that he’d lost. They sneaked to the hotel pool one midnight during their trip to Jeju and settled who could last longer underwater, he almost drowned but his sister was able to grab his shirt from the back of his neck before he completely submerged and maybe die. Yoora won but he secretly liked the stickiness of the cosmetic on his lip and the smell of chemicalized strawberry - and that his sister got in trouble when their parents found out what happened.
Sixteen, and he’s standing in front of excited, curious, and anxious students with Sehun beside him as they introduce themselves as the president and vice president of the music club to the newly recruited members - perhaps some are forced by their advisers to join at least one club to pass.
“Hi, I’m Byun Baekhyun and I will perform on the television someday!!!” One small guy with gleaming eyes in seventh grade confidently hailed and Chanyeol wanted to snort so bad and maybe crush this kid’s delusional self but felt Sehun step on his toes so the president merely smiled and nodded and said he’d look forward to that day.
Sixteen, and he’s the one blinking down at the kid he secretly mocked for being so ambitious who got chosen to represent the school in that year’s national singing competition.
Sixteen and he’s swallowing down bile, realizing how ordinary he is. How he’s not that special. How he isn’t talented enough - not when Baekhyunnie was there now.
Sixteen and he’s looking at Sehun’s concerned eyes, clenching his fist so tight trying to convince himself that it’s fine and it’s not like it’d be his last year in middle school.
“Oh you think you’re so good because you won against me?!” Chanyeol snatched the guitar from those slender and delicate fingers.
Wide and surprised brown eyes stared up at him.
I didn’t mean it, he’d thought as his face snapped to the side when Sehun called his name brusquely - serious. So serious this time.
Shock, guilt, and outright shame hitting Chanyeol in the gut all at once.
“I’m sorry,” he’d whispered to tender doe eyes empty of any resentment or terror that should have been there.
I yelled at him, he thought. I yelled at Baekhyun.
Chanyeol wishes they could have stopped there, but it didn’t.
Sixteen and a girl is kissing him on the lips. Her perfume permeates the air, and he wants to tell her, but he remembers Sehun telling him to be nice, so he doesn't.
Sixteen and he receives his first handjob, he guides her dainty hands as she jacks him off behind the school gym, the air smells like mint and relief patch.
Seventeen, and he’s had sex four times, thrice with different women and once with Myungsoo, that boy in his class who plays the violin. None of them felt right.
Well. Myungsoo hadn’t been that bad, he supposes.
As they lay on Chanyeol's bed, chasing their breaths, Myungsoo said to him, "That’s nice but weird."
Chanyeol chuckled but didn't give it much thought. Not even when it happened again. They raised a toast when it happened for the last time.
Eighteen, and he's watching Baekhyun squirm on top of a desk, thrusting against his fingers and gazing up at him with desire. Chanyeol recognizes Baekhyun's desperation, knowing that he is the only one who can provide that.
Chanyeol had no remorse. No despair. Just the searing need to dominate and control this boy with raw talent who holds everything Chanyeol has ever dreamed of.
He liked the feel of Baekhyun’s tongue on his cock, which was a bonus.
He wants Baekhyun to know what it's like to lose - to ache for something and get a taste of it then have it taken away from you. Of what it’s like to give everything you have and serve it on a silver platter in front of someone and have your dignity torn from you.
He didn’t think about what Baekhyun would have felt when he discovers what Chanyeol has done to him. He wants him to hurt as much as he had unwittingly hurt Chanyeol.
He remembers the warmth of Baekhyun as he fucks him for the first time, licking inside his mouth and tasting the flavor of strawberry on his tongue. This is the last time, he thought as he watch the boy underneath him cry and twist in pleasure.
Baekhyun looks at him like he put the stars in the sky and Chanyeol is terrified. Terrified of the weight of that look, recognizing the emotions behind it.
Nineteen, and Chanyeol was finally struck with an epiphany of how fucking cruel he was and that he'd given away a part of himself to Baekhyun in the process of hurting him. He doesn't think he'll be able to get it back.
Twenty and he carries two feelings inside him: guilt and the desire to be better.
Twenty-three, and it’s a new city. New people, new everything. Barren of every trace that connects him to that one particular club in middle school. Except for Sehun, but Sehun’s a part of every story in his life and yet he barely talks to him. It's terrible, it's so lonely, yet the loneliness is tempered by his desire to be the best at his craft. In this industry. In the entire universe. To prove to him that he is better.
Watching Baekhyun perform on the world stage, hearing his voice while getting coffee in the morning, or hearing his name on every corner of the street, makes him want to bleed himself dry; envy and bitterness strewed with the pride of seeing someone he knew so very well live their dream.
“How are you doing these days? I rarely get to talk to you and we’re in the same company.”
Chanyeol looked at the rows of cabbage on the shelf in front of him, he wanted to make kimchi for tomorrow because his sister plans on finally visiting him after three months of not seeing each other.
He was lonely and miserable, but he flashed a smile and assured his best friend and his mother who had joined the call that he was fine.
If he repeated it enough, maybe it’ll come true.
Twenty-five, lost and in sorrow, he can't recall the last time he felt happy. Truly happy. The kind of happiness that made him want to scream and dash up to his friends and leap into their arms, proud smiles and pats greeting him in return. That feeling of being good and knowing it.
He has written countless songs about loneliness, about heartbreak, and yet he still doesn’t feel better. He received loads of awards for the songs that he made, songs about longing and regret and he still doesn’t feel better. He gave up everything just to prove that he was better.
Twenty-six, and he sees him in person for the first time; so familiar yet so different that everything about him makes Chanyeol feel like he's walking back in time while living the future.
He watches him move and dominate the stage, listens to his voice, and feels like floating on fire. He hears the cheers of fans and people who might be watching him for the first time, they are all the same - hypnotized by the man performing on stage, dancing and singing like he was born to do just that.
This is why he never attended award shows. Six years and everyone wonders why no one saw him walk down the red carpet despite bagging a trophy at every award show. Six years and he made sure not to cross paths with him, not to walk the same hallways as him, not to even use the same dressing room as him.
But there he is, up on stage, living the dream that Chanyeol had wanted for himself for so long - the very thing he’d wanted since the day he’d realized his love for music…
Chanyeol wants to throw up blood.
Twenty-six and Baekhyun remain to shine brighter than Chanyeol ever could.
Twenty-six and he gets drunk on the fact that he'll never be Baekhyun and will never have Baekhyun.
Twenty-seven, and he's back to harboring this void in his soul as if his grief has formed a life of its own.
Twenty-seven and all he does is write sad songs and hide in his studio and write again.
He writes and writes and writes in the hopes of his message reaching him.
“You’re an idiot,” Sehun berates him after he managed to break into Chanyeol’s studio one afternoon. “Ever since MAMA, you’re being stupid again. What is wrong with you?!”
“What are you talking about? I’m fine, Se. Why are you here anyway, didn’t I lock the door?”
Sehun sighs. “Stop fucking lying to me, you know it won’t work. All you do is hide in here and never answer the phone. Your mom is getting worried.”
Chanyeol stayed mum. The cobwebs on his ceiling he never noticed there before suddenly become interesting.
Sehun let out a long breath. “What happened? Why are you punishing yourself this time?”
And there it is.
Chanyeol grips the armrest of his swivel chair, digging its blunt edges into his palms so it would hurt. He bites his lip, tries so desperately not to make a sound. Any sound. Not when Sehun’s listening. Not when someone who knows him too well is listening.
"Se," he chokes after a few minutes of suppressing his sobs with Sehun's puzzled silence behind him as company, tears and snot streaming down his face and spilling onto his lap before he even begins to confess.
“Remember when Baekhyun joined our club in middle school?” He starts while still looking at his computer screen.
“Yeo— yes,” Sehun answers cautiously. “Why are we talking about Baekhyun?”
“Sehun, I did a cruel thing.”
And then everything spills out.
“How old was he, Chanyeol?” Sehun grits out after Chanyeol’s done, anger making him sound rough and haggard. “How old when you—”
“Chanyeol, you know how much I value this friendship and I’d give up my life for you but you need to— When did this happen? Why would you do— what do you get from hurting people? In hurting yourself? What fucking— are you sick in the head?”
“I wanted him to give up,” he concedes. “I wanted him to feel as awful as I did. I wanted to take away music from him.”
He buries his head in his arms, desperately wanting to scream. To show Sehun how much he loathes himself for what he's done - and allowed himself to do. For all he's ever felt and all the opportunity he let slip away. For sacrificing his heart in order to destroy Baekhyun, and for wanting to be whole again, despite it all.
He's had enough of feeling guilty. He's fed up with everything. It's not that he didn't have a good life; it's just that there's a part of him that still belongs to Baekhyun, and he wants to take it back.
He wants to say sorry.
He needs to say sorry.
“Get help, and then ask if he wants your apology. You can’t force him to forgive you. That’s— what you did is unforgivable. It isn't about what you want and what works for you right now.”
He finally looked up and turned his chair around. All this time, he hadn’t looked at Sehun, choosing to hide his face out of shame.
“I don’t know how to talk to him…” He weakly said after meeting Sehun’s disappointed eyes.
“I’ll ask his manager if he’ll allow me to get his number and give it to you but only after you get help, okay? I thought you were a selfish bastard but it never occurred to me that you were a fucking abusive asshole.” The other grits as he runs his fingers through his hair.
Sehun stops and slumps down on the sole couch of the studio- they went silent, a whole minute of just breathing.
“Chanyeol,” Sehun breaks the silence, his voice jaded. “I will never leave you. I want you to know that and keep that in mind. I’m glad you shared this with me— all along I knew you were not okay. I knew and I was waiting. So thank you for trusting me.”
"And you’ve been there for me since we were kids, Yeol. You’re my best friend and you’ve been there for me all these years so now let me be here for you this time.”
"I’ll look for someone who can help you. Professionally. I want— I need you to be okay, you fucker. I need you back.”
Chanyeol nods, wiping his tears with the sleeve of his hoodie. He sinks back on the chair, looks to the ceiling, and for once he sees the light and feels the weight in his chest decreasing.
It went silent for them again then Chanyeol hears small almost inaudible hiccups not coming from him. He looks over at the other person in the room and sees Sehun with his head down, shoulders shaking uncontrollably. A voice in his head says ‘Your best friend is crying, and it’s your fault!’ and he wants to say sorry and assure him that he’ll be fine because he’s going to fix this and he’s with him now but his throat can’t produce any sound in that the moment.
“You know I always thought you were in love with him. I didn’t think—”
“I was,” Chanyeol admits, something ugly begins to churn his insides. “I think I was.”
A bitter laugh escapes from the man lying on the couch. It sounds like a chime from hell.
“That makes it worse, huh? What you did.”
Twenty-eight, and he believes he's at a point where he can finally reach out. Or not.
Twenty-eight and he panics at a message notification that flashed through his screen while he's lifting weights in the gym.
Twenty-eight, and he thinks Sehun and everyone who ever admired him in his stint of being a president in that fucking music club is about to strangle him for giving them back-to-back updates on how he's messed it all up again.
Twenty-eight, and Jongdae Kim and Kyungsoo Doh is threatening him with a copious amount of knife photos, one even featuring a smiling face of the latter holding up a bloodied knife which he hadn’t confirmed if real or not.
“Go fuck yourself,” Jongdae sings in a voice message sent to the group after Kyungsoo sent a clip of a song that says ‘you piece of shit, leave him alone' which he had no idea what song it came from.
Twenty-eight, and he’s given a chance.
Twenty-eight and they’re finally sitting face to face, looking at each other’s eyes. Chanyeol wants to die.
It’s stupid and utterly laughable—Chanyeol and the lovesick man he has become; because love, and all the tenderness that comes with it, has always appalled him. All the women and men who ever made the mistake of sleeping with him can attest to that. They have seen how Chanyeol’s eyes turn a disgusting shade of brown, akin to dark clouds- ready to pour disaster to anyone and everyone once feelings are involved. It’s funny how Chanyeol is suddenly on the receiving end of the stick, receiving coldness in once warm gazes, sweet honey turning into sour looks.
Chanyeol doesn't blame Baekhyun. But being pushed aside and treated like any other stranger still hurts. As if their hands hadn't memorized each other's body, their nails trailed down each dip and curve, creating a map of their own. Breaths grazing down their throats, causing a series of earthquakes in the pits of their stomachs, as if their tongues hadn't already imprinted their marks on each other's lips. As if they didn’t look at each other’s eyes knowing the tornado of emotions erupting within their chests.
But he can’t back down now. So he swallows the shame, the imperial pain, his pride, his dignity, and everything that he thought makes him a man. He promised to fix this, he will fix this and he can’t give up.
Even when Baekhyun shoves him in the chest one night after consuming three glasses of red wine, screaming “What do you want? What more do you want from me?! What else could I give you?!” with tears and everything that haunts Chanyeol meld in a frown.
He thought they’re doing okay. He thought everything is going well.
But Chanyeol only hugged him tight and lulled him to sleep. Whispering sorrys and new promises.
He won’t give up, because Baekhyun has every right to be angry and he’s there to receive that. He’s ready to receive that now.
Twenty-eight when he falls completely fucking in love, and he is not surprised.
Twenty-eight and he wants to be good. To be worth something for Baekhyun.
Twenty-eight and Baekhyun’s smiling down at him, singing about forgiveness and new beginnings.
It takes a lot of work on their part. Together and individually.
Chanyeol spends most of his weekends on his therapist's chaise lounge, tears streaming down his face, regretful, guilty, and trembling with self-hatred.
He spends his time looking at Baekhyun’s adorable face on his phone screen when they’re too busy to meet or whenever the idol’s on tour. Talking about music and random things, or how exhilarating it is to perform in front of thousands of people jumping to the beat and singing your songs back to you as he tucked himself to sleep, but if it is what Baekhyun wants, then why not?
Some nights it’s them staring into each other’s eyes after a round of pleasure, breaths mixed into one.
They spend the entire time relearning everything about each other, searching every corner and finding every alley in their personalities. Little secrets whispered between lips, meals, and baths.
Twenty-eight and he’s brave enough to tell Baekhyun everything he regrets and brave enough to hear Baekhyun’s stories of all his sleepless nights.
Twenty-nine, and Chanyeol’s kissing Baekhyun in the middle of the stage after performing a song they made. Flashes and screams around them but all he cares about is how beautiful Baekhyun looks when he smiles.
He doesn’t really care about what chaos the action brings forth in their fandoms, the headlines they have to face in the morning, the screams of their managers greeting them backstage, or how their companies will castigate them, not when Chanyeol had his own light and air and land right there in his arms. His own little world. Just for himself because he’s always been a selfish bastard.
Thirty-one, and Chanyeol has Baekhyun wearing his shirt that is two times bigger than him in a place they call home.
He has him in their bed, their kitchen, their bathroom.
He has Baekhyun’s kiss on his skin, on his mouth, in his life.
He has Baekhyun, and it’s perfect.
He wants everything and nothing from Baekhyun - just him, there. Always. To smell strawberries on his hair and hear him sing a song as he closes his eyes to sleep.
To build a family of their own. To get to have this forever.
He wants to count their decades together through the wrinkles in the corner of Baekhyun’s brown eyes. He wants those creases to exist for all the times he'll make Baekhyun laugh, or hear him laugh in the company of everyone who's ever made Baekhyun feel truly loved.
Chanyeol wants to get to watch as Baekhyun’s dark hair slowly turns grey, and to still be able to kiss the moles decorating his face until their last days.
Thirty-two, and Chanyeol gets down on one knee after Baekhyun concluded his last concert for his Apogee album held in Gocheok Sky Dome. Baekhyun screamed yes on his mic and the fans went wild. That was the tightest hug he received from the man and the hardest they ever fucked.
Thirty-four, and he’s looking at Baekhyun as he walks down the aisle, and Chanyeol saw everything, his home, his future, the other father of his children.
Thirty-four and he's reciting his vows he never thought Baekhyun would get to hear.
Thirty-four and he saw the rest of his life flashed before his eyes when he hears Baekhyun say "I do".
Somewhere within Chanyeol lives all the ages he’s ever been.
And if he thinks about it, every single one of those years has been shared with the people who are laughing with them as he and Baekhyun fail to properly slice their wedding cake.
Somewhere within Chanyeol lives all the ages he’s ever been.
And if he truly thinks about it, every single one of those ages—every hurt, every loss, every pain, every love and joy—if he truly thinks about it. Every heartbreak and triumph he's ever been through.
Every single one of those years he’s ever lived has led him here: To this glorious moment. To unconditional love. To divine happiness.
And when someone says that Baekhyun is the culmination of every good thing in Chanyeol’s life, he believes in that.