The bar isn’t the nicest place in the world. The lighting is dark, too dim to be called ambient. An overwhelming odour that’s especially unpleasant, maybe it’s piss?, lingers in the air. It’s deeply pungent and has probably already soaked through Chanyeol’s clothes. Guess he’s going to smell like piss for awhile, he sighs. Might as well order another lacklustre drink to complement the one he already has.
He takes a sip of his ‘something fruity’, snorting tiredly. At least the drink isn't false advertising, he thinks as he takes a bite of cubed strawberry. He wanted something sweet and the nice lady bartender decided to shack up something fruity. Chanyeol half wonders if his sexuality is painted on his face.
It probably isn’t, he realises when he sees a pretty girl staring interestedly at him from the other side of the bar. She looks like she’s here alone, just like Chanyeol. He isn’t sure if non-single people would come to a ratbag place like this though. A place that smells like piss and is so dark he can hardly see if he’s spiking his own drink let alone see if someone else is spiking it.
Somehow, things haven’t really changed in the past 6 years. He hasn’t been to this specific bar before, but everything seems to be the same. This place had been recommended to him by his neighbour as one of the new hot places to go if you’re single.
Which is literally what he said.
“Hyung!” Chanyeol can remember the excited look on Sehun’s face as the young boy, he’s really only a boy, chirped happily.
“I heard this was the best place to go if you’re single. Not that I know or anything.”
Sehun’s still underage and even though Chanyeol’s nearly a good 13 years older than the other, he trusts him. It’s not like Chanyeol would know any better.
He’s somewhat doubting the other’s judgement now as he continues to sit in the piss-smelling dungeon, the atmosphere so hot it’s almost stuffy. He lays an arm on the bench, fingers brushing something sticky, and that’s when Chanyeol knows he’s definitely not drunk enough to continue being here.
“Double shot of whatever he’s drinking.”
He hears a voice creep up from beside him and flicks a gaze towards the lady who had been eyeing him all night. She’s not there anymore and Chanyeol has the mind to half wonder where she went before he spots the man sitting next to him.
Man isn’t the correct word he should use, more boy if anything. He looks young, so young, hardly on the precipice of leaving his young teenage years and entering strenuous adult life. Chanyeol inwardly laughs at his thoughts, wondering when he turned into such a curmudgeon. And when he ever started using such draconian language like curmudgeon. Jesus Christ.
“Is that for me or are you just impressed by what I order?” Chanyeol decides to grace the other with at least some conversation.
The mystery boy—okay Chanyeol will give him the benefit of the doubt and say man, gives him a breathtaking smile, more teeth Chanyeol’s sure he’s ever seen in his life. He lets out a husky laugh to go along with it, voice a lot deeper than what Chanyeol would’ve expected from his soft looks.
“I don’t know, let’s talk. If I like you, you can have the drink. If I don’t… you can have it anyway.”
“Aren’t you just the kindest?” Chanyeol snorts around the rim of his glass. There’s no drink left in it, but he crunches on the ice, an odd habit of his since before he left.
“I like to think so,” the man replies with a shrug.
Chanyeol gives the other a fleeting once over, starting at his intense eye-makeup down to his tight-fitting jeans. The man’s legs are encased so snugly by the fabric, almost as if it was second skin. Chanyeol wonders just how much he has drunk when he finds himself staring interestedly at the mesmerising sight.
It’s not like this man seems to mind however, moving his legs further to the side so Chanyeol can appreciate them some more.
“I’m Baekhyun,” mystery man-boy supplies when Chanyeol doesn’t seem like he’s going to reply.
He gives the man—Baekhyun a polite smile, turning back to his drink. It’s not like he isn’t interested. Baekhyun is gorgeous and definitely seems entertaining, if Chanyeol can base ‘entertaining factor’ on the few sentences they’ve had with each other. He’s sure he’s destined a good time if he talks with him. No, it’s because of how weird this feels. The man looks so young, so, so, so young. Chanyeol can only imagine how young he was when he left Earth for his mission.
He would have been 14? 15?... 13?
It’s stuff like this that makes Chanyeol’s stomach tingle, because kids have grown up since he left. Heck, Sehun’s nearly an adult and that makes him feel weird. The skinny gangly kid he left as a 24-year-old astronaut is now already a tall, muscle-growing 17-year-old.
Baekhyun, surely, would only be a few years older. At the very most.
“Aren't you going to tell me your name?” Baekhyun raises his eyebrows when Chanyeol continues to sit there, mute.
“…Chanyeol,” he replies later, less enthusiastic.
He doesn’t want to be rude. He never wants to be rude. But his name is somewhat known nowadays and less attention the better. Park Chanyeol, moonwalker is embarrassing at the best of times.
Baekhyun nods once, head turning slightly downwards. Chanyeol watches as he takes a sip of his drink, something bright red, so red it’s visible even under the shitty lighting of the bar. Vodka cranberry, he thinks as he takes a whiff of the strong, debilitating substance. At least the abundance of vodka cranberries hasn’t changed since he left. That’s one thing that hasn’t.
The younger man’s eyes light up slightly and he sends Chanyeol another smile. This one has less teeth in it but it’s no less blinding.
“Like that astronaut guy who came back recently.”
The snort that leaves Chanyeol is so loud and filled with so much derision, it’s somewhat embarrassing. He runs a hand through his hair, flicking his eyes towards the bright exit sign, wondering just how he can get home. He thinks he’s drunk a bit too much to safely drive. Maybe he can catch a cab?
“What’s so funny?” Baekhyun asks with his head cocked to the side. In Chanyeol’s opinion, he looks a little like a cute puppy and Chanyeol somewhat has the urge to pat the other.
But that’s just the alcohol talking because when did he ever have urges to pat beautiful barely-legal strangers in the middle of bars?
“No, just…” Chanyeol tries to find the words, any words, to placate the other. “I mean… tada. You found him.”
Baekhyun frowns at him for a few seconds before his eyes widen almost comically, mouth dropping open into an ‘o’.
“No way!” He says loudly. Too loudly. Chanyeol looks around awkwardly when he sees the bartender staring in their direction.
There’s a lot of aimless chatter in the bar, obviously, as bars are just the pinnacle for social interaction. But for some reason Chanyeol feels unnerved, like everyone’s heard Baekhyun. Which is stupid because no one has heard Baekhyun. The boy didn’t even say anything incriminating in the first place. He said ‘no way’, not ‘oh look everyone! Astronaut Park Chanyeol is here. Come and stare!’
Plus, it’s not like it’s Baekhyun’s fault anyway. Chanyeol’s unsure why he so eagerly proclaimed he’s the guy, 'the astronaut man'. The reason why he came to this bar tonight was to hide away from that fact. He was just meant to be average bar-going Chanyeol.
Oh well, he thinks when he catches the sight of the bedazzled boy. Guess he needs his contingency plan right about now.
“Yep,” Chanyeol reaches out and takes the double shot of 'something fruity' (or was it 'something sweet'? Chanyeol can't remember). He flinches slightly at the strong hit of alcohol, his tolerance practically non-existent, having not drank in 6 years.
He knows he’s feeling it when he starts to answer all of the boy’s questions.
“I’ve been hearing about you so much on the news! Park Chanyeol, first young Korean to go to the moon, let alone have such a long trip. That’s insane! What was it like?” Baekhyun asks excitedly, head resting within the palm of his hands.
The boy looks so interested to be talking to Park Chanyeol, like his name means more than his person. Except… that’s probably true as well. Well, fuck.
He takes another big gulp of alcohol, impatiently waiting for the fuzziness to truly take over his body.
“Lonely,” he says after a while, twirling the coaster between his fingers.
Baekhyun quiets down when he hears that, his mouth opening a little in surprise. He starts to say something before he stops and shakes his head, hair flickering daintily around him.
He’s really beautiful, Chanyeol admits, resting his head in the palm of his right hand. There’s something delicate about Baekhyun’s looks, from his pretty dark-lined eyes to his small, soft features. So, so beautiful.
“I… can imagine,” Baekhyun responds after a minute of silence. “6 years is a long time.”
“Felt like a millennium,” Chanyeol agrees with a nod. “I feel so old now. I don’t know how anything works anymore.”
And it’s true. He doesn’t.
He doesn’t know a single thing of this world, of this land of smartphones and super technology. It’s not even called super technology, just technology. It’s super to him though, he thinks as he looks in wonder at touch screen devices. Virtual reality headsets and GPS tracking phone devices are all so strange. So different. Nothing’s the same anymore.
Not even Chanyeol.
“How old would you have been? When I left, that is,” Chanyeol asks because he’s a masochist. He doesn’t know if finding out just how old this kid is will make him feel better or worse. Probably worse, he snorts, watching as faint pink colours the other’s cheeks.
Baekhyun lets out an awkward laugh, rubbing the back of his head with the palm of his hand. Chanyeol absentmindedly files this smile away as one of the teeth ones, this one hardly as genuine as the others though. Baekhyun does seem embarrassed.
“High school. 15, I think. Yeah.”
21, Chanyeol calculates quickly. He doesn’t know what it means when he doesn’t feel that surprised, nodding his head along when he takes another sip of his drink. There’s a little flash in the back of his mind that’s asking him just what the fuck is he doing? He’s with a 21-year-old that looks like a kid who still lives with his mother. Meanwhile Chanyeol's nearly thirty and has lived away (in space) for the past 6 years.
He must be a little fucked up from the trip. That’s all.
“What’s a young man like you talking to an old timer like me, then?” Chanyeol asks, a little concerned. “You usually hit up older guys?”
The awkward laugh lingers and Baekhyun flashes his eyes downward in embarrassment, pretty eyelashes appearing. Chanyeol eyes the movement, bewitched. That must be the move the kid used to get all the old men. It’s kind of working on him, too.
“What do you mean old timer? You’re not nearly old enough to be using such archaic phrasing, grandpa,” Baekyun rolls his eyes. “And maybe. Would you believe me if I said men age like wine do?”
“Ah, so you have been flirting with me,” Chanyeol responds a little more animated than he has been the whole night. “I should’ve known since you used that ‘you can have this drink regardless’ line.”
Baekhyun shrugs, his eyes twinkling with something that looks like a mix of pleased mischievousness.
“You got me. I just love my wine.”
Chanyeol laughs, a full whole-hearted laugh, something that comes from deep within. He stares at Baekhyun with a fond look on his face, mouth turning into a smile. The boy looks happy and satisfied at Chanyeol’s reaction and he leans further into the table, further into Chanyeol, elbows nearly touching Chanyeol himself.
He drops his gaze towards Chanyeol’s lips for a few seconds, obviously alluding to what he’s thinking before he pulls the innocent act back up, the same twinkle in his eyes once more.
“So, lonely huh? How’s it feel to be back on Earth? On solid ground once again?”
“Ah, well. Surprisingly not too bad. I mean when I first came back, I found it hard to walk. Wasn’t used to it. My muscles weren’t used to it either, so I had a lot of trouble,” Chanyeol recites the same thing he usually tells people. The whole ‘yeah, my legs were practically shrivelled up. Nah, it didn’t hurt. Yes, I had to get physiotherapy. No, I can walk now. I’m literally standing right here, you idiot.’
He doesn’t go into detail about the mental issues he’s had since he’s returned. How he feels so lost all the time. How he feels like the world is just speeding ahead while he’s stuck in space, while he’s stuck in this body that only knows how to work a machine that is not even useful in day-to-day life.
Baekhyun looks enraptured though. Truly and utterly enraptured like everything Chanyeol’s saying is the most interesting thing he’s heard in years. He sits even closer to him now, knees touching the side of Chanyeol’s thighs and his face even more eager. His eyes are lit up with a certain type of grace around him. Something childish and innocent.
He’s so interested that he continues to ask Chanyeol questions. He asks him about how it was like over there, the stuff he ate (“The terrible vacuumed sealed stuff. I nearly died from happiness when I tasted bibimbap as soon as I came back.”), along with how he felt to be back home.
The alcohol must be truly hitting Chanyeol now because he spills it. He spills everything to the too young boy that's barely a man. There’s something about the other’s innocence, something about how interested he is in Chanyeol. He seems so genuinely interested, it almost throws Chanyeol for a loop. No one has been interested in the specifics. No one has been interested in what he actually has felt besides the usual questions. Normally they stick to the general questions, the practically commemoratory stuff that he’s repeated only a million times.
It must be because of how young he is, Chanyeol reasons with a drunk man’s haze covering his mind. Chanyeol has never been interested in younger men before. Never. It feels even more wrong, impure, when he thinks about the last time he was in a bar. Six years ago. Six years ago and Baekhyun would’ve been 15.
He tries to think about that fact when Baekhyun looks at him with those bright eyes. So bright and beautiful. So, so beautiful.
So, so young, he also tries to rationalise when he hears Baekhyun laughing awkwardly in confusion at an old joke Chanyeol brings up.
“I think you just need to get out more,” Baekhyun shrugs with all the knowledge of a professional psychologist, just without the crippling after-visit fee. “It sounds like you’re stuck in your house all the time. I hardly think that’s good for you.”
Chanyeol wonders when this weird date, hit-up thing started to become a therapy session and he inwardly snorts at how serious Baekhyun sounds. He shrugs his shoulders, reaching over to take another sip of his drink before finding out that it’s already empty. Damn, he should buy another.
“Chanyeol,” Baekhyun says firmly and suddenly there’s a hand on Chanyeol’s thigh. Uh oh, the world is starting to spin once again.
He isn’t sure whether it’s from the alcohol or Baekhyun’s hand.
“I think you’ve drunk enough,” the younger man says softly and Chanyeol wants to scoff. Who is this kid to tell him whether he’s drunk enough? He’s the grown man here, the adult, he can decide for himself.
“No…” Chanyeol replies weakly, his voice cracking. His cheeks burn when he clears his throat, obviously sounding really drunk.
It hurts to look at Baekhyun now, the other looking so ethereal it’s nearly blinding. The smell of piss continues to waft through his nose, scent almost nauseating, and the dim lighting causes him to accidentally step through air instead of placing his foot on the rim of his chair. He falls slightly because of it, and Baekhyun has to steady him, just so he doesn’t fall over.
He feels so dumb, so large. Like a dumb and large failure of a person. There’s no more illustrious Park Chanyeol moonwalker here. Just Chanyeol, drunk Chanyeol, who can’t hold his liquor in front of a fucking kid.
It would be embarrassing if he gave two shits about it. Instead, he just lets himself be held upright by Baekhyun, enjoying the way the other’s hand seems to have crept in his hair. It’s soothing being held like this, like he’s now the child and not the other way around.
“I can introduce you to the world again.” Baekhyun says slowly, fingers carding through Chanyeol’s thick locks. So, so soothing. “Would you like that?”
Chanyeol just hums, letting the pretty fingers continue their work.
“I can teach you it all. You don’t have to feel lonely anymore,” Baekhyun’s fingers are still doing their magic, massaging the back of Chanyeol’s head with ease and grace.
“You don’t have to feel as though you’re alone. I’m here. We’re all here for you.”
Despite Chanyeol’s drunk self, the words linger in his mind, the boy’s husky voice repeating itself over and over.
We’re all here for you.
When he seems to have sobered a little, he’s standing outside of the bar. He takes in a deep breath, inhaling the fresh air and thanking the world for not smelling like piss. It’s a little chilly outside, a direct contrast to the muggy atmosphere inside the bar and he lies against the brick wall, enjoying the way the brisk cold enters his lungs with every breath.
There’s a little scuffle to his left and he makes a small noise of surprise when his eyes catch sight of Baekhyun hobbling fast towards him. The younger boy has a small smile on his face and he bounds towards Chanyeol, his shoulder bumping the elder.
He lets out a bright grin and leans close to him.
“Hi,” Chanyeol replies, looking at the happy boy in front of him.
It still unnerves him a little; how young the kid is. Chanyeol is nearly 9 years older than him and it makes him feel somewhat weird. It’s a little disorientating to think that the last time Chanyeol was on Earth, the man in front of him was only 15 years old.
But then Baekhyun smiles at him, a grin that's just so beautiful and attractive, and all thoughts rush out of his mind. It’s something otherworldly and Chanyeol feels dazed once again.
“You’ll call me, right?” Baekhyun reaffirms like Chanyeol’s drunk promises aren’t enough. “So I can show you the world?”
“Shining, shimmering, splendid?” Chanyeol jokes with a grin, head hard against brick.
“Idiot,” Baekhyun hits him on the arm, but smiles anyway.
Everything is still a little weird, Chanyeol thinks as he looks out into the distance, looks out to the stars he saw as a man in the sky. It’s different being back on earth, around civilisation once again. Getting used to the fact that things, kids, from long ago aren’t kids anymore. Things that were once new are now old. Stuff that he used to find interesting, now redundant.
It’s going to take a lot to get used to the world. He'll need a lot of time being reintroduced to the fleeting things he saw once, a long time ago.
But maybe it won’t be so bad, Chanyeol thinks as he leans down to give Baekhyun a good night’s kiss. Their lips barely brush each other, the faintest touch of skin-on-skin before Chanyeol leans down and gives Baekhyun what he’s been waiting for. He’s less hesitant now and Baekhyun wraps his slender arms around the back of Chanyeol’s head, giving all he’s worth. There’s no real urgency in their kiss as they continue to slot their lips together again and again. Rather, a mutual understanding that there’s probably going to be more of these times. A lot, lot more, Chanyeol decides as he plants one last heart-stopping kiss on the younger’s lips.
When he pulls back, he watches Baekhyun’s eyes flutter open, a dazed and happy look on his face.
“Wow,” Baekhyun says breathlessly, letting out a laugh that’s just as breathless.
“Yeah,” Chanyeol smiles at him, wrapping his arms around Baekhyun’s waist and resting his head on the younger's shoulder.
Maybe it won’t be so bad. Baekhyun’s going to show him the world after all.