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Tu Es Là, Devant Moi, Toujours Le Même

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Paint covered knuckles and agile fingers.

 

The first thing Kyungsoo ever learned of Baekhyun was his hands. Covered in remnants of his creativity, up to his wrists in a cacophony of obnoxious colours. Reds and purples and greens and yellows; harsh and ghastly and offensive to Kyungsoo’s eyes. They had rested on the surface of the faded wooden bar Kyungsoo sat at, sipping forlornly at his double scotch.

 

Hyperactive. The second thing he learned about Baekhyun and - once again - he learned that through his hands. Long, pretty fingers danced and tapped and beat at the surface, like it would drive him to insanity if he had to remain still. The faceless man with the pretty hands covered in hideous colours seemed eager, though Kyungsoo hadn't seen anything but those hands of his.

 

He hadn't the time or the energy to meet anyone. Especially a hyperactive person covered in hideous colours. Kyungsoo’s frown had deepened, and he’d taken another long sip of his alcohol. A wince as he swallowed, the burn dripping down his throat and into his senses, hopefully enough to lighten his sour mood just the tiniest bit.

 

“Excuse me.”

 

Kyungsoo ignored him. Kyungsoo had been once again rejected from a record company he’d sent his demo to. Kyungsoo is a good songwriter. A good singer. Why don't the men in suits, sitting at desks, flaunting platinum albums they hadn't written, quite see that?

 

“You're ignoring me on purpose.”

 

Kyungsoo finally turned, if only to tell this man to fuck off. He found the words stuck in his throat, however, as he was met with hound-like eyes and a downturned, pink, pretty mouth. All words were lost on him. He’d never seen such dewy skin in his life.

 

“Oh, wow!” The man, Baekhyun, had said, eyes widening not unlike a puppy, his head cocking to the side. A mess of hair, Kyungsoo noticed. Like he’d cut it with a butter knife in a shattered mirror, shaggy and unkempt and oddly charming.

 

The third thing Kyungsoo learned about Baekhyun was that he is absolutely beautiful, in the way a waterfall, a secluded little river, or a sky full of stars is. A natural, raw type of beauty, that sources itself from something pure. It never has to try to be stunning. It just is.

 

“Your face is fantastic,” Baekhyun had said. Kyungsoo, for a brief moment, thought he may have been reading his thoughts aloud. Until gaudy coloured hands started reaching for his face. “Look at your lips! And your eyes, my goodness, I can see planets in there!”

 

“Uhh,” Kyungsoo had said dumbly, eyes wide and lips agape. Fingers prodded at his cheeks, the pads of thumbs digging into his lips. This stranger was touching his face - studying, it seemed, with his furrowed brow and his bottom lip drawn between his teeth. “Hello?”

 

Shaggy hair and bright eyes had drawn back, then. A smile brighter than a thousand stars lit up his youthful face and Kyungsoo swallowed around a lump in his throat.

 

“I’d love to paint you, sometime.”

 

Kyungsoo, regaining some semblance of composure, quirked an eyebrow. “Hopefully not with those hideous colours.”

 

Baekhyun had glanced down at his hands, his smile somehow brightening even further. “You think they're ugly?”

 

Kyungsoo hummed, running the tip of his finger along the rim of his glass. “Individually, no. Together? Atrocious.”

 

Kyungsoo wondered if it was possible to ever grow accustomed to the wattage of that grin. He would learn that it is absolutely, undeniably, unavoidably impossible.

 

“Good.”

 

“You want me to think they're ugly?”

 

“I was hoping to create a piece that made the viewers feel uneasy, offended, maybe a little grossed out.”

 

Kyungsoo bit at the bait. “You couldn't just print your own nudes?”

 

The fourth thing Kyungsoo learned about Baekhyun was that his laugh was loud, pitchy, and unapologetic. Much like the rest of him.

 

“Oh, my good sir,” he had grinned, leaning in subtly closer to Kyungsoo’s personal space, “I can assure you my nudes would spark nothing but arousal, even joy, in any viewer.”

 

The fifth thing Kyungsoo learned about Baekhyun is that he is someone Kyungsoo very much wanted to get… intimately acquainted with.

 

“Not sure if I can take your word for it.”

 

Baekhyun lives in a century old home that was reconstructed into an apartment complex. Baekhyun’s space, small as it may be, was - and still is - so perfectly charming and so perfectly Baekhyun. He got the attic apartment, for the skylights overhead to give him plenty of light to work in. His apartment isn't much more than a studio. A modest kitchen. A small bathroom. A bit of closet space. The far wall, underneath the window, has a bed tucked between to two corners. A bookshelf littered with everything besides books. An easel in the middle of the room, surrounded by a drop cloth and so much art supplies Kyungsoo can't even keep track of all the colours.

 

“What do you do besides paint?” There were no books, no television, no radio.

 

“I draw, too.”

 

“I mean besides work.”

 

“This isn't work. It’s me.”

 

Kyungsoo wasn't entirely sure what he meant by that. He shrugged it off, anyway.

 

“You have no curtains.”

 

“I need the light.”

 

“But what about privacy?”

 

“If anyone is looking, they're allowed to see.”

 

Kyungsoo stood idly in the space. There’s nowhere to sit besides the bed. He studied Baekhyun through narrowed eyes, as the young man dug for something in the closet.

 

“You’re crazy,” Kyungsoo said.

 

“I know this,” Baekhyun replied.

 

He’d emerged from the closet with an old, beat up record player, diving back in to return with a box of records. Kyungsoo watched him set up, plug everything in, flip through the records to find what he wants. His hands were still filthy, the paint chipping off in flakes, but they're so gorgeous. Long, dainty, pretty fingers and slender wrists.

 

“I set this up to play whenever I paint.”

 

“Why not just leave it out?”

 

Baekhyun had glanced up at Kyungsoo, a furrow in his brow. “It’s a process. It gets my inspiration flowing.”

 

Kyungsoo almost reminded Baekhyun that he’s crazy, once again. But he figured he knew as much.

 

“You're not going to start painting me now, are you?”

 

Baekhyun had smiled, finding the record he wanted and putting it on. The static at the beginning of the record. Then the opening sounds of something smooth and sultry. Trumpets and basses and piano keys. Old fashioned and an interesting choice.

 

“I’m trying to get you naked, Kyungsoo.”

 

“By putting on music from the 1920’s?”

 

That loud, pitchy, unapologetic laughter again. “Everyone knows jazz music is an aphrodisiac.”

 

“I doubt the validity of that statement.”

 

Baekhyun had stood up from where he was crouched over the crate of records, devilish smirk showcasing all of his teeth. He reached back, hand finding the back of his collar, all while maintaining unwavering eye contact with Kyungsoo. Kyungsoo had quirked an eyebrow, wondering what on earth the man in front of him was doing, until Baekhyun pulled his t-shirt over his head and dropped it unceremoniously on the floor.

 

Kyungsoo watched with attentive eyes as Baekhyun undressed himself. It was totally ridiculous. The floor lamp in the apartment cast terrible lighting and Baekhyun had just stood in the middle of the room taking off his clothes garment by garment. Kyungsoo didn't find he minded. He watched with a smirk on his lips and his arms crossed over his chest, admiring the simultaneously soft and lean lines of Baekhyun’s body. Fair skin looking so supple and grabbable. Kyungsoo admired the curve of his hips, the fullness of his thighs, the way all of Baekhyun was round and soft and welcoming.

 

When Baekhyun had looked up at him Kyungsoo realized that his eyes were likely clouded over and his full lips agape with increasingly shallowing breaths. Baekhyun smirked at him, taking one step in closer, studying the way Kyungsoo watched him with studious eyes.

 

“I told you jazz music was an aphrodisiac.”

 

“I don't think it's the music that’s doing it for me.”

 

Even with that obnoxious, offensive laugh, Baekhyun was still disgustingly desirable. So, Kyungsoo took the initiative to take one, two steps in closer, placing a hand on the small of Baekhyun’s back and leaning forward.

 

“Nuh uh,” Baekhyun had said, placing his hands against Kyungsoo’s chest. “Clothes first.”

 

Kyungsoo tried again, this time leaning forward to nip at Baekhyun’s jaw. He didn’t miss the choked off moan that caught itself in Baekhyun’s throat at that. “Wouldn’t you rather undress me?”

 

A hum. “It’s a process.”

 

“You and your processes,” Kyungsoo huffed, pulling away to start tugging at his clothes. Baekhyun had pulled a lower lip between teeth, unashamed of the fact that he was entirely bare in front of Kyungsoo, already hardening at just whatever may have been swimming through his mind.

 

Crawling onto the bed - giving Kyungsoo a fantastic view of his ass - Baekhyun said, “You have a great dick, you know that?”

 

“What?”

 

“It’s very pretty. I’d love to paint it sometime.”

 

Kyungsoo spluttered, following Baekhyun onto the bed. The paint stains on the white sheets didn’t surprise him one bit. He felt a flush run down his cheeks to his chest, watching as Baekhyun sat there completely unaffected. “Absolutely not!”

 

“Don’t worry, it’d never go in an exhibit, or anything. Just for my personal viewing pleasure.”

 

Without missing a beat, Kyungsoo replied, “Wouldn’t it be easier to just take a picture?”

 

And without missing a beat, Baekhyun said, “Well, if I paint it I get to portray it the way I see it.”

 

“What, you wanna put a halo and wings on it?” Kyungsoo deadpanned.

 

“Oooh, a halo, you know I have cock rings around here somewhere-”

 

“Forget I said anything.”

 

As if to say alright then, Baekhyun shrugged and surged forward into a kiss. Baekhyun kissed in a very unsurprising way. As in he kissed with a lot of surprises. Unpredictable and a little strange, just like the rest of him.

 

He bit at Kyungsoo’s lips, sucked on them to soothe them, released sweet little whines from the back of his throat, licked kittenish at Kyungsoo’s teeth, drew back, dove in again. His hands wandered all of Kyungsoo, those pretty, colourful hands, tugging on the crown of Kyungsoo’s hair or scraping fingernails into the flesh of his thighs. It was all enough to keep Kyungsoo dizzy, his head spinning, unable to keep up with everything happening to him all at once. It was perfect and so very Baekhyun and he had only just met the man hours before.

 

Kyungsoo had forgotten about the music spinning on the turntable, but just as Baekhyun’s hand slid down his chest, stomach, to his hardening dick, one of the songs reached a climax. He laughed into Baekhyun’s mouth, as if the artist had planned it that way, but the laugh dissipated into a moan when Baekhyun ran the pad of his thumb just below the head. With a shiver, he allowed himself to be pushed back, shoulders hitting the mattress as soft skin and messy hair hovered over him, devouring his lips and coaxing him to full hardness.

 

Baekhyun’s free hand massaged the skin inside one of Kyungsoo’s thighs, urging them to fall further apart. Kyungsoo complied, completely dizzy, moaning gently into Baekhyun’s mouth. With that, he’d earned a satisfied hum and a murmured, “pretty sounds,” from Baekhyun, who retracted his hands entirely from Kyungsoo’s body to reach for something on the windowsill. A bottle of lube.

 

“What’s that for?” Kyungsoo asked.

 

“To put my finger in your ass.” Baekhyun really had no filter, Kyungsoo discovered.

 

“Not with those filthy hands, you aren’t.” Kyungsoo glared pointedly at the crusty paint on Baekhyun’s knuckles. Baekhyun huffed, rolling his eyes.

 

“Don’t you find it kind of poetic?” Baekhyun bargained, though he was already retreating to go to the sink.

 

“Shoving a paint-covered finger up my ass? What type of poetry are you reading?”

 

“Live a little.” The sound of the tap running from the kitchen. “The art is in you.

 

Kyungsoo groaned, digging his knuckles into his eyelids. “You are the strangest person I’ve ever met.”

 

“You’re probably right,” Baekhyun had replied, returning to the bed. He immediately slinked his body over Kyungsoo’s, hands on either side of Kyungsoo’s head as he gazed down at him with meticulous eyes. “But it’s true, you know.”

 

Baekhyun dove down to begin nipping at the hollows of Kyungsoo’s jaw line. His mouth was sinful, distracting, making it difficult for Kyungsoo to find words. “What is?”

 

“The art.” He moved down, mouthing at the base of Kyungsoo’s throat, swirling his tongue across his collarbone. Kyungsoo groaned quietly, willing to let Baekhyun eat him whole. “It’s in you.”

 

“You don’t even know me.” His voice was nothing but a broken whisper, at this point.

 

“I know enough.” Kyungsoo hadn’t even noticed Baekhyun retrieve the bottle from where it had been abandoned on the mattress, until a cold, slick finger started teasing his rim. Kyungsoo gasped, arching into it, eyelids squeezing shut. “Like that,” Baek groaned, “art.”

 

The first thing Kyungsoo ever learned of Baekhyun was his hands. The way they had danced across the surface of the bar introduced Kyungsoo to a level of beauty he hadn’t experienced before. Sure, they had been covered in an array of offensive colours, but they were still a sort of stunning Kyungsoo would never expect to deem a set of hands. What he didn’t expect from those delicate fingers of his, however, is how dextrous and how delicious they felt working him open. Every curl, every push, every scissor had Kyungsoo keening, his breaths shattered and shivering, his entire body aflame.

 

“That’s it,” Baekhyun said lowly, watching Kyungsoo come undone beneath him. “You’re so beautiful.”

 

Kyungsoo would flush at the compliment, but he didn’t have time to think before he felt a pair of pillowy lips against his dick, which had been resting heavily and ignored against his stomach.

 

Baek.

 

He looked down, finally willing his eyes open, to find Baekhyun watching him with wide eyes. They curled up into crescents when he realized Kyungsoo was looking at him, with his lips wrapped around the head of Kyungsoo’s cock, his tongue swirling around the tip in ways that made Kyungsoo’s entire skin quake. His free hand wrapped snugly around the base while the other continued to pump in and out of him, stretch him open, and all he could do was roll his head back and groan aloud. If he weren’t careful, he could have come just like this.

 

The first side of the album had long finished, the record spinning silence into the room around them. Neither of them cared enough to go flip it over.

 

Baekhyun’s dick reminded Kyungsoo of Baekhyun’s hands. Long and pretty and something Kyungsoo wouldn’t mind staring at for a prolonged amount of time. Really, who was Baekhyun to say that Kyungsoo had a dick worth painting? Also why was Kyungsoo even thinking about this? It was probably a bad idea to go home with someone so bonkers. He’s rubbing off on him.

 

“Did you know,” Baekhyun said breathlessly, pushing his length into Kyungsoo inch by inch, “that your mouth is shaped like a heart?”

 

Kyungsoo didn’t. “Maybe.”

 

“Also your eyebrows,” he was fully flush against Kyungsoo at this point, regaining his breath, running his fingers over Kyungsoo’s eyebrows, “when you laugh they pull down at the corners. Makes - ah - makes you look like you have no idea why you’re laughing.”

 

“That’s because I usually don’t.” Kyungsoo grabbed at Baekhyun’s forearms, which were braced on either side of his head. He wiggled his hips. “Now are you going to keep telling me what I look like or are you gonna fuck me?”

 

Baekhyun’s laugh was a lot less boisterous when he was this breathless. “Sorry. Just wanna make sure I get it right.”

 

Kyungsoo’s not entirely sure what he meant by that, but any train of thought is soon forgotten as Baekhyun’s hips drew back slowly. The drag along his walls had Kyungsoo groaning low, back arching a subtle amount, and with his eyes closed he could feel Baekhyun’s palm running along his torso. A push back in and Kyungsoo hiccuped, relishing in the way Baekhyun gasped, and he opened his eyes, to see Baekhyun watching him as if committing it all to perfect memory.

 

“W-what?” Kyungsoo breathed out, a little unaware that he was even speaking at all.

 

“Nothing I just…” Baekhyun picked up his pace, then, brow pinched and pretty, pretty mouth agape. “I just like looking at you.”

 

“How romantic.”

 

“You're visually pleasing,” Baekhyun somehow managed to say, mostly coming out as a moan than actual words. “I’d like to congratulate your artist.”

 

“Those would be - ah yes, like that - those would be my parents.”

 

Baekhyun said nothing more, just hummed lowly, contentedly, then tilted Kyungsoo’s hips a little higher and deepened his strokes. Kyungsoo yelped, his chest aflame, his gut boiling, his senses tightening like a rubber band being pulled to its limits. He opened his eyes, deciding to study Baekhyun, just as Baekhyun had been studying him.

 

What he sees is something beautiful. Flushed skin and sweat pooling in the divots of his bone structure, across his forehead. There was a smudge of purple on his collarbone, as if he’d itched himself there with dirtied hands without realizing. Kyungsoo found that remarkably endearing, considering what they were currently doing wasn't exactly adorable.

 

Kyungsoo was vaguely aware of the thumb pressing into his bottom lip, glancing up at Baek’s face to meet his gaze. Eyes clouded with something dark, something deep brewing behind his irises, pretty pink lips parted to release little whimpers. Baek is so pretty. What the fuck. This was not what Kyungsoo had signed up for. A fuck to clear his head, distract him from the grim weight of rejection on his shoulders.

 

He wasn't supposed to want to keep it.

 

Instead of bothering to push those thoughts from his mind, he just moaned obscenely just to see the way it affected Baekhyun. Fluttering lashes and a bitten lip is what he earned in response and he found that perfectly pleasing. Baekhyun’s thumb was still digging into the plump flesh of his bottom lip, so he sucked it between his teeth, giggling at the way it made Baekhyun’s hips stutter.

 

“You,” Baekhyun said kind of dumbly, tugging at Kyungsoo’s shoulders until their positions were reversed. Baekhyun looked pretty, his mop of unruly hair fanned out across the sheets, gazing up at Kyungsoo with a lust-clouded smirk. “I’m tired. You do the work.”

 

Kyungsoo rolled his eyes but rolled his hips, all the same. This pulled a particularly delicious moan from Baekhyun’s chest, so Kyungsoo did it again, just to hear him curse under his breath. Kyungsoo found it a fun push and pull, grinding himself down onto Baekhyun’s length, driving the boy beneath him wild. A game, a contest, to see if Kyungsoo could fuck Baekhyun’s eyes closed. He was stubborn, though, refusing to pull his gaze away from anywhere on Kyungsoo.

 

When Kyungsoo lifted his hips and dropped back down, grinding his hips on the downstroke, is when Baekhyun’s will power finally faltered, his head falling back and exposing a long, pretty neck as a low groan built up in his throat. Kyungsoo smirked to himself, doing it all over again, this time moaning, himself, as Baekhyun’s cock brushed right where Kyungsoo feels the most.

 

“You,” Baek panted, “are fascinating.”

 

“You're strange,” Kyungsoo replied, the end of the last word trailing off into a shattered moan as he hit it again.

 

“Yet, you continue to roll with it.”

 

“Roll?” He ground his hips filthily. Baekhyun growled. “Like that?”

 

“Fuck.”

 

Kyungsoo couldn't have said it better, himself. He picked up his pace, his enthusiasm, chasing what he desperately needed, the edge coming into view. Stars were starting to spot the corners of his vision, his breath leaving him in whimpers. So close. So close.

 

Baekhyun’s hands found his hips, and before Kyungsoo knew it, he was being manhandled onto his stomach, flat against the sheets, Baekhyun settling himself atop him. Baek was either stronger than he looked, or Kyungsoo fucked himself into absolute putty, completely malleable beneath Baekhyun’s palms, as he had no will to do anything but let Baekhyun push his head into the mattress as he pounded back into him with full force. His neighbours must have been pulling their hair out, as the force of it all actually had the bed skitting across the floor, Kyungsoo’s moans now something closer to screams.

 

When he came, his vision was nothing but a white sheet splattered with black stars, flashing and disappearing and making his skin tingle. Baekhyun fucked him through it, until his hips were stilling against Kyungsoo’s ass, his teeth sinking into the juncture of Kyungsoo’s neck as he filled the condom.

 

They stayed there a little while longer, Baekhyun flat on top of him, both of their limbs way too heavy to do anything at all. He could feel Baekhyun breathing hot air into his neck, the fingers interlaced with Kyungsoo’s - when had they started holding hands? - squeezing a bit tighter until Baek dropped a kiss onto Kyungsoo’s shoulder and climbed off of him. Kyungsoo’s back was suddenly very cold, and he whimpered groggily, a wordless beg for Baekhyun to return.

 

He was so close to slumber when Baek returned with a warm, damp cloth, that he was only half aware of Baekhyun wiping him clean. He was entirely unaware of Baekhyun tucking him in under the sheets, sliding in next to him and snaking a possessive arm around his waist. Even in sleep, though, Kyungsoo was fully aware of the warmth and contentment spreading from his chest to the tips of his fingers.

 

And when he woke, it was to a sheet of white light streaming in from the window above him. He moaned softly, pointing his toes to stretch out his legs. He wondered vaguely why his muscles were so sore, then memories of the night before flooded behind his eyelids and his heart skipped a beat. A stranger with pretty lips and strange sentences. Jazz music and colourful hands.

 

He looked around the room to find Baekhyun at the end of the bed, his legs pretzeled beneath him. He had a sketch pad in his lap, his brow furrowed and his tongue peeking out the corner of his mouth as he scribbled onto the paper. Kyungsoo couldn't help the smile that tugged at the corners of his lips at the concentration in Baekhyun’s features.

 

“Wait, no, shh, go back to sleep,” Baek had said when he looked up at Kyungsoo. “I’m trying to capture you without the galaxies.”

 

“The what?” Kyungsoo mumbled, mouth still too sleepy to enunciate.

 

“Your eyes. You got entire solar systems in there, man.”

 

Kyungsoo chuckled quietly, deciding to comply and shut his eyes again. He couldn't stop smiling, though, knowing that Baekhyun was studying him, sketching him, immortalizing the way Kyungsoo looks when he’s sleeping. He should have felt strange about it. Instead, he felt warm. Like Baekhyun’s undivided attention is what he was built for. He hadn't intended to drift back into sleep, but before he knew it, he was dreaming about nebulae and cosmic explosions.

 

“There,” he heard Baekhyun say, pulling him out of slumber, “all done.”

 

Kyungsoo sat up, then, joints complaining. He reached for the sketch pad, his mind still too tired for him to open his mouth and form words. Baekhyun understood him just fine, shrugging as he handed the book over to Kyungsoo.

 

The drawing was the most beautiful thing Kyungsoo had ever seen. He didn't care that it was probably a tad narcissistic of him to feel that way about a portrait of him, but the way Baekhyun put lines together, captured light, shapes, dimension, had Kyungsoo’s eyes widening and his breath disappearing from his lungs. It wasn't perfectly realistic. His features were somewhat exaggerated; his closed eyelids nearly the size of saucers, his jawline stronger than it really was, and Kyungsoo was suddenly aware of his heart-shaped lips, as Baekhyun had mentioned the night before.

 

“Holy shit, Baekhyun,” Kyungsoo had breathed, once his lungs began working again.

 

Baekhyun released an adorable little giggle. “I painted you too, you know.”

 

Kyungsoo had blinked up at him with wide eyes. “How long have you been up?”

 

“I don't know. I don't have a clock in here. The sky was pink when I woke up, though.”

 

“How do you tell time?” Kyungsoo distinctly remembered that Baekhyun didn't even have a phone.

 

“I don't. I run on my own schedule.”

 

“Can I see the painting?”

 

“Of course.”

 

Kyungsoo followed Baekhyun out of bed, finding his underwear on the floor and slipping it up his legs. He laughed at the disappointed look on Baekhyun’s face, padding across the studio floor until he was face-to-face with a canvas.

 

“Oh my god, Baek!”

 

Before him wasn't a face, or a body. It wasn't anything at all, really. Just an explosion of colours, all gorgeous and unified, unlike the way Baek’s hands looked the previous night. Everything from merlots to plums to navies swirled together in a perfect arrangement, the colours so rich and deep and regal. They were splattered with a scattering of microscopic white dots, bursts of light amongst the depth of the colours. Kyungsoo wanted to reach out and touch, but thought the better of it, his fingers hovering over the canvas instead.

 

It vaguely resembled an entire universe, it seemed. A universe of delicious hues, scattered with sparks of light, so vivid, you could feel it on your tongue.

 

“This is… me?”

 

“Those are your colours,” Baekhyun said lowly, reaching for the hand that still lingered over the canvas. He played absently with Kyungsoo’s fingers, gaze focused on his knuckles as if that was far more fascinating than the masterpiece on the easel. “That’s what you look like. And what you feel like.”

 

“What the hell, Baekhyun.” It wasn't even a question.

 

Baekhyun said nothing. Kyungsoo had turned to face him, his eyes meeting Baekhyun’s and finding a welcoming sort of softness in them. Kyungsoo knew nothing about people having colours, but he knew people had music, and Baekhyun’s sounded something like a gentle harp. Pure and unmistakably angelic.

 

“Those are my colours?”

 

“Everyone has colours, Soo. The way they look and feel.” He turned to the painting again, his eyes roaming the arrangement of rich shades. “My first love had me painting in soft yellows. When he told me he didn't love me and moved back to China, I painted in melancholy greys.”

 

Kyungsoo frowned at that. He didn't have words, so he just continued to watch Baekhyun as he analyzed his work from earlier. Baekhyun hummed and Kyungsoo raised an eyebrow.

 

The artist met his gaze. “I really love your colours, Kyungsoo. Stick around a little longer.”

 

“Okay,” Kyungsoo said without realizing. “Should I make breakfast?”

 

“Anything to keep you here.”

 

There was a lot that kept Kyungsoo there. Kyungsoo ended up spending more time in Baekhyun’s modest studio than in his own apartment. He really only went home to his piano to write and rehearse. He slept in Baekhyun’s bed and showered in his shower and ate in his kitchen. There was nothing to do in Baekhyun’s apartment than to listen to whatever record Baek put on to paint and listen to the strange words that Baekhyun shared. And he had plenty of those.

 

Kyungsoo had discovered all the funny little things that filled Baekhyun. The way he only eats desserts for breakfast because he finds it fun to start his day with the end of the day. The way he sings loudly - and admittedly wonderfully - along to his music, but instead of singing actual words, he comes up with absolute gibberish.

 

Kyungsoo was used to scratches and bites and hickies being the remaining marks after sex, but soon learned of charcoal fingerprints and smudges of paint. Always in merlots and plums and navies. Baekhyun left colourful handprints everywhere he touched, including every inch of Kyungsoo’s skin.

 

He spent all his time with Baekhyun. Baekhyun was always creating. And Kyungsoo loved to watch the process. He also loved the distracted things Baekhyun would utter aloud when his mind was on the art.

 

Like when Kyungsoo got himself a permanent gig - for the foreseeable future - at some lounge in Gangnam, where he could play the piano and sing to his heart’s content every night. (And come home to Baekhyun’s greedy hands, always coated in the day’s work.)

 

“Your voice sounds like money and fine wine. Of course the rich people want to listen to you sing, Kyungsoo.”

 

“You're crazy.”

 

“I know.”

 

Or one night, after Baek had cut his hair into a much neater style, but dyed it pink. Kyungsoo had spent what felt like hours running his fingers through it enthusiastically, a giggle on his teeth as Baekhyun squirmed underneath him to escape his ecstatic hands, until they were both giggling and breathless, Kyungsoo plopped flat atop Baekhyun, with Baekhyun’s hands flat against the back of Kyungsoo’s ribs.

 

“I’m pretty sure this is my heartbeat, I’m feeling.”

 

“You're crazy.”

 

“I know.”

 

Baekhyun was crazy. And the funny little things he said always gave Kyungsoo something to work with. He had asked Baekhyun what kind of poetry he was reading on that very first night. He hadn't bothered to ask what kind of poetry he was breathing.

 

-----

 

“Nooooo!” Baekhyun cries, tugging at the hem of Kyungsoo’s shirt. “Don't go, I need to paint!”

 

“You can paint without me, Baek,” Kyungsoo giggles, ruffling Baekhyun’s hair. His dark roots have started to grow back in and Kyungsoo finds it stupidly attractive. “I need to do some writing. I think the regulars at the lounge are getting tired of hearing the same songs.”

 

Baekhyun pouts, his pink bottom lip jutting forward, his wide shoulders hunching forward. Kyungsoo laughs again, leaning forward to kiss Baekhyun’s forehead.

 

“I hate that your music is back at your apartment and not here.”

 

A sigh. “Let me shower real quick and then I’ll be off,” Kyungsoo says with a gentle voice, his hand remaining on Baekhyun’s waist a little too long. He loves the way Baekhyun feels beneath his fingertips. He’s always so soft and warm. “I’ll be back after work tonight, okay, babe?”

 

Baekhyun sighs, turning back to his easel. Lately, his paintings are involving slightly brighter shades of blue, and including a gorgeous, vivid magenta. Kyungsoo wonders if his colours have evolved, brightened, because of the presence of a certain maniac in his life. “I never paint as well without my muse.”

 

Kyungsoo's smile is so soft, even he can feel the way the edges of it fuzz. “It’s just for the afternoon, Baek.”

 

Baekhyun says nothing more, just continues to pout as he dips his brush into a paint the colour of pomegranate juice. Kyungsoo rolls his eyes, despite the smile on his lips as he retreats to the bathroom. Shedding himself of his clothes, he admires the colours around his throat and down his chest in the mirror. That might be his favourite thing about sex with Baekhyun. He always leaves a little bit of art on Kyungsoo’s body. And he always grieves it as he watches the colours swirl in the water at his feet until they're a murky brown and disappearing down the drain.

 

When he emerges from the bathroom and into the studio, already clad in a pair of sweats and a t-shirt he thinks belongs to Baekhyun, what he sees appalls him. Baekhyun is crouched in front of his white wall, paint brush full of a shade of warm brown running in gentle yet determined strokes against the drywall.

 

“Baek, what the hell are you doing!?” Kyungsoo shrieks, scurrying over to see whatever the fuck his boyfriend is doing.

 

Baekhyun peers over his shoulder at Kyungsoo, grinning broadly. “Giving you a piano to work with!”

 

Kyungsoo shakes his head in disbelief, eyes and mouth opened wide. Low and behold, there on the wall, is a painting of a piano that Baekhyun somehow managed to throw up in a limited amount of time. Shades of brown and black giving it dimension, almost looking as though Kyungsoo could really reach out and touch the keys.

 

“Your landlord is going to kill you.”

 

“Why?” Baekhyun asks, standing up straight and staring down at his work. He cocks his head to the side, admiring it. “I think it looks pretty good.”

 

“You’re crazy, you know that?”

 

A laugh. “You know I know that.”

 

Kyungsoo can do nothing more than shake his head exasperatedly at Baekhyun, collecting his keys and phone off the kitchen counter. He shouts his good-bye over his shoulder before closing the door behind him and marching down the stairs until the soles of his shoes meet the sidewalk outside. He stands there for a moment, the summer sun warming his skin as he thinks and thinks. With a sigh, he pulls his phone out of his pocket, tapping away at the screen and holding it to his ear.

 

“Hey, Chanyeol? Can I borrow your truck? And perhaps a few helping hands?”

 

When Kyungsoo returns to Baekhyun’s apartment later that afternoon - much earlier than his boyfriend is expecting him - with a group of his friends in tow, carrying his piano up the steps into Baekhyun’s apartment, his boyfriend literally cries. He grabs Kyungsoo by the cheeks, smothering his face in a bunch of grateful kisses while Kyungsoo is incapable of doing anything but giggle in the most embarrassingly smitten way possible.

 

Chanyeol smirks at them once the piano is on the ground, placed against the wall right where Baekhyun had painted it. Baekhyun stares for a long moment at the piano against the wall.

 

“Can I paint on it?”

 

A laugh. “Sure, Baek. It’s just as much yours as it is mine, now.”

 

Kyungsoo knows nothing of people’s colours, but he knows that Baekhyun’s are positively bursting at those words. He smiles impossibly brightly at Kyungsoo, his eyes swimming with a sort of excitement Kyungsoo has never seen before. A long, tender kiss later, Kyungsoo mumbles, “now my music is here with you.”

 

“Gross,” Sehun says, wiping his hands on his jeans.

 

“Agreed,” Jongin seconds.

 

“You guys are just jealous,” Kyungsoo teases.

 

“Now get out,” Baekhyun says, not hesitating to dip forward to connect his lips to Kyungsoo’s neck. His hands are ruining his t-shirt with colourful handprints around Kyungsoo’s waist. “We’re gonna make some beautiful music.”

 

Chanyeol’s laugh booms through the studio as he follows the two younger friends who have already scampered away, muttering things about never needing that image in my head.

 

“Later, weirdos.”

 

The sound of the door closing behind them. Baekhyun wastes no time shedding Kyungsoo of his shirt.

 

“Now,” he says, “ inspire me.

 

-----

 

Two weeks later, everything changes.

 

Kyungsoo lets himself into Baekhyun’s apartment after work, as Baekhyun always leaves the door unlocked for him. Baek can't paint once the sun goes down, so the hours that Kyungsoo works are still a mystery to him. What Baekhyun does to pass the time, he isn't sure he’ll ever know. He assumes he just spends hours listening to sad music on his record player, face down in his sheets, waiting for Kyungsoo to come home. At least, that's how Kyungsoo finds him more often than not.

 

Today, however, it's completely silent when he steps into the apartment, locking the door behind himself. It’s dark, too. Baekhyun is never asleep when Kyungsoo gets home.

 

“Baby?” He calls into the darkness.

 

“Kyungsoo.”

 

Kyungsoo smiles. Nothing makes him feel warmer than the sound of his boyfriend’s voice, even faceless and cutting through the darkness. He blinks a few times, letting his eyes adjust, until the moonlight pouring through the windows and skylights lights the way. He sees a tuft of pink hair amongst the bundle of sheets. His smile widens.

 

On his way to bed, he strips himself of his shirt and pants, sliding under the covers in just his underwear and reaching out to find Baekhyun’s skin. And there it is, soft and warm as always. A hum is released between them and Kyungsoo bathes in it, the sound of Baekhyun’s warm, sticky voice.

 

“Hey, baby,” Kyungsoo says, voice soft.

 

Baekhyun scoots closer in bed, connecting his lips to Kyungsoo’s in a tender, affectionate kiss. “Missed you.”

 

“I was only gone a few hours.”

 

“Always miss you. Miss your colours.”

 

“You sound very sleepy.”

 

“Sad.”

 

“Sad?”

 

Kyungsoo uses a gentle hand to pull Baekhyun’s face away from his, searching for Baek’s eyes in the silver light. Baekhyun gazes back at him longingly, pretty fingers coming up to dance along the lines of Kyungsoo’s face.

 

“Just kiss me for now.”

 

Kyungsoo’s heart plummets for inexplicable reasons, but he does what's asked of him. He distantly wonders why Baekhyun is sad, and why Baekhyun doesn't want to talk about it. However, Baekhyun’s kisses are earnest and insistent, soon drawing contented hums from Kyungsoo. They've been in this arrangement - artist and muse, then loosely termed boyfriends - for barely two months, but it's been plenty of time for Baekhyun to learn Kyungsoo’s buttons and switches. Just as Kyungsoo has learned of Baekhyun’s.

 

Sliding a thigh between Kyungsoo’s, Baekhyun lets his hand wander down Kyungsoo’s chest, stomach. His kisses trail across his cheek, along his jawline, down his neck. Kyungsoo hums. Baekhyun is so warm. Warm hands and warm mouth, a familiar comfort to him.

 

Baekhyun leaves no trails of paint in the wake of his touch. He must have showered while Kyungsoo was out, as his hair is soft and he smells like honey. Kyungsoo loves all of Baekhyun’s scents. Whether he smells like watercolours, paint thinner, or the honey shampoo he uses. They're all so unmistakably Baekhyun and Kyungsoo wonders when something like that became so important to him.

 

It started with what was supposed to be casual sex. It quickly developed into an artist wanting to paint his colours. How he wound up finding a sense of home in the warping of Baekhyun’s most played records as they spin on the turntable is beyond Kyungsoo. He may never figure out why he feels so comfortable here. Here in Baek’s studio, Baek’s bed, under Baek’s touch.

 

Lips are against his hip bones, now, and Kyungsoo is vaguely aware of how desperate he is. Baekhyun seems plenty aware, a teasing set of fingers just barely dipping beyond the elastic waistband of his briefs. Kyungsoo wiggles his hips, speaking without words, and he can feel Baekhyun’s grin against his skin.

 

“Patience.” Baekhyun’s voice is low and sinful. “I’m trying to savour this.”

 

“Savour what?” His sentence breaks off into a gasp as Baekhyun begins pressing open-mouthed kisses to the outline of Kyungsoo’s dick straining against the cotton of his underwear.

 

A hum. The vibrations shoot pleasure up Kyungsoo’s spine. “The way you look. The way you feel.”

 

His colours.

 

It goes unsaid, but Kyungsoo knows what Baekhyun means. He begins to panic, his heart leaping a moment, as he ponders why Baekhyun would need to savour his colours tonight particularly. He doesn't let his thoughts wander too far, as Baekhyun is slowly, so slowly, tugging down his underwear. He even takes the time to pull them all the way down and off his ankles, as Kyungsoo was willing to just let them stay around his thighs.

 

“Please make a lot of noise,” Baekhyun says, diving forward to lick a broad stripe up the underside of Kyungsoo’s dick. His breath catches in his throat. “Your colours are more vibrant that way.”

 

Kyungsoo doesn't have to force himself to be loud for Baekhyun’s sake. Soon, his boyfriend’s lips are wrapped tight and warm around him, sinking down to the base. Baekhyun is good at giving head. And he fucking knows it. Enthusiastic and eager and showing a deliberate amount of technique that always leaves Kyungsoo’s head spinning at the speed of the damn planet.

 

He groans, pants, murmurs quiet encouragements, his fingers finding purchase in Baekhyun’s hair. His mouth is so perfect; so pretty and pink and warm and wet and pliant. Baek hums, Kyungsoo’s hips bucking in reaction to the shocks of pleasure coursing through him. Pretty hands against his hips, holding him down.

 

Kyungsoo isn't aware of anything in the universe except the wet heat of Baekhyun’s mouth and the bursts of pleasure exploding behind his eyelids. His fingers curl, tugging, and Baekhyun moans again, and that's all Kyungsoo needs before his orgasm tears through him. Nothing but white; white noise, white heat, white screens behind his squeezed eyelids. He thinks he calls Baekhyun’s name. He can't be too sure.

 

When Baekhyun resurfaces, it's with an unceremonious pop. Kyungsoo is still breathless and a little bit hazy, but he reaches for Baekhyun’s hips with greedy fingers and pulls him close.

 

“Your turn,” he murmurs and Baekhyun doesn't say anything, just nods, looking a tad zoned out.

 

Kyungsoo works Baekhyun’s underwear down far enough to free his dick, earning a hiss from the boy straddling his hips. He holds out a hand toward Baekhyun, palm forward.

 

“Lick.”

 

Baekhyun does, tongue flat against his palm, before Kyungsoo’s dropping that hand to wrap it around Baekhyun’s length. Baek moans, shakily, somewhat groggily, and Kyungsoo soaks in it.

 

It’s just quick and desperate, at this point, chasing Baekhyun’s release. Baek whimpers and whines, little puppy yips that he always makes when he's already close. Lips find Kyungsoo’s and soon they're nipping and sucking at each other’s mouths, licking behind teeth and swallowing each other’s breaths and sounds. Kyungsoo loves the taste of Baekhyun. He could kiss him for ages.

 

Baekhyun’s entire body quakes when he spills over, his breath leaving him in a shattered sigh between Kyungsoo’s teeth. Kyungsoo hums, soothing, encouraging, stroking him gently until Baek is whimpering from oversensitivity. Kyungsoo lets go, and Baekhyun collapses flat against him, his face finding comfort in the juncture of Kyungsoo’s neck and shoulder.

 

Baekhyun’s eyelashes flutter and his breath stutters. He feels warm under Kyungsoo’s palms, his breath damp against the crook of his neck. Kyungsoo can feel Baekhyun’s heartbeat battering against the back of his ribs, where Kyungsoo’s palms lay flat and firm against him. Dread floods his system, knowing that without any distraction, they'll have to talk about this, now. Whatever this may be.

 

They lay there long enough that Kyungsoo can physically feel Baekhyun’s heartbeat calm into a steady, healthy pace.

 

“I got the mail today.”

 

Kyungsoo swallows. “And?”

 

“I… I think I’m going to go live in Paris for three months.”

 

Kyungsoo isn't sure if he’s imagining it, but he hears a vivid shatter, a crash. He feels as though it may be coming from somewhere in his chest. He squeezes Baekhyun tighter.

 

“Paris?”

 

“This art company they… they like you.”

 

Kyungsoo sighs. “Me?”

 

“You know, your colours, your galaxies.”

 

“You mean they like your paintings.”

 

“Sure.”

 

Kyungsoo doesn't say anything. Baekhyun doesn't say anything. They lay there much, much longer, and Kyungsoo feels vaguely like someone struck a match and dropped it into a bottle of Baekhyun’s paint thinner. Kyungsoo tries to picture what it will be like going back to his own apartment instead of here for those three months.

 

Three months. That’s longer than they've even known each other.

 

“I can't pass up this opportunity. They're offering me so much money. Then I can buy you a television, or some books.” Kyungsoo thinks there are tears pooling in the corners of his eyes, and he isn't sure why he feels so sad. “So you aren't so bored sitting around while I paint you.”

 

With a hum, Kyungsoo manages to squeeze him even tighter. He can feel a breath against his neck, heavy and shaky, like Baek hadn't realized he'd been holding it. “I don't think you understand. I love laying here and doing absolutely nothing.”

 

“You are the perfect muse.”

 

Kyungsoo sits in silence for a moment. His left leg is starting to lose feeling and his breathing is getting shallow from the weight of the boy laying on his chest. “You're willing to put more furniture in here? I thought you liked the space.”

 

Baekhyun sits up, straddling Kyungsoo’s hips. Pretty hands remain flat on Kyungsoo’s chest as he gazes down at him sweetly, then around the room. Kyungsoo follows suit. “I thought I did. But then you came. And your music.” He means the piano. Kyungsoo glances at it. Silver in the subtle moonlight. Harsh shadows cast beneath every edge. “I figured I like it here more with a little less space.”

 

Kyungsoo says nothing more on the subject. Instead, he lets his hands wander Baekhyun’s torso, warm, tight flesh taut around his ribs and hips. His tummy is flat but soft. The timid light of the moon seeping in through the windows coats his skin and hair in a layer of grayscale, making the boy above him look as though he isn't even real. Kyungsoo’s right hand slides up to cup his cheek, and Baekhyun leans into the touch, his eyes fluttering closed in contentment. He is very real, and Kyungsoo releases a sigh of relief.

 

Baekhyun leaves three days later. The two of them spent those days wrapped up in each other’s limbs, Baekhyun’s fingers mapping out every line and divot of Kyungsoo’s body.

 

“I'm trying to memorize you,” Baekhyun had murmured. “Trying to keep my muse at arm’s reach from thousands of miles away.”

 

Kyungsoo wishes it were as simple as packing his bags and going with him. When Baekhyun had asked him if it were possible, if Baekhyun could take his inspiration with him, Kyungsoo’s heart had sunk into his stomach. He has a job, friends and family, and he can't just push everything aside and follow Baekhyun wherever he may go. No matter how lovely that may sound.

 

And now he lies there, atop Baekhyun’s unmade bed, staring at the ceiling. There are shadows that look like water stains, but they're faintly of multiple colours. The condensation in the air, it seems, is always bleeding with Baekhyun’s art. It’s been five days since Baekhyun left for Paris, and Kyungsoo is completely distressed.

 

Baekhyun had given Kyungsoo the single key to the studio. “Take care of her,” he’d said, “because if I leave her alone for too long she'll resent me.”

 

Kyungsoo had accepted on the pretence that his music - his piano - was here. He hasn't been back to his own apartment since. He sleeps in Baekhyun’s bed, and wears Baekhyun’s clothes, eats Baekhyun’s food. Everything smells of watercolours and paint thinner and honey, so Kyungsoo wants to stay.

 

Baekhyun hasn't quite been able to calculate the time difference between them. Baek’s hotel room has unlimited international calling, so he’s in charge of calling Kyungsoo’s cell phone every night. Except Baek keeps calling when Kyungsoo is already fast asleep, and the only contact he has with his artist in another world is the strange voicemail messages awaiting him every morning.

 

The first message went:

 

“Evening, Soo. Or perhaps morning. Isn't it odd how time works that way? You're living in the future, and I’m trailing somewhere behind. Tell me, what is the world like a few hours from now? I’m sure it's dark but the city is still buzzing and alive and more awake than even in the middle of the day. Particularly the part of town where you're currently living. Speaking of which, how is she? I’m sure she's creaking and groaning and grieving my loss. Are you creaking and groaning and grieving my loss? Because I am. I miss your skin. The artists here are… incredible. But they'll never make art as great as you.”

 

Kyungsoo had been bawling by the time the message finished.

 

The second one sounded like:

 

“There’s this pretty tree that's just outside my hotel room’s window. I've asked people what kind of tree it is but they always respond with a French word so it never sticks between my ears. I always nod and say ‘ah, of course’ and then I walk away still as clueless. I would laugh at myself but it's kind of embarrassing, I’m so used to knowing absolutely everything. You've come to realize that, right? That I am all-knowing. The company is very welcoming to me, they've hired me a translator, but perhaps by the time I finish here I’ll be able to speak a considerable amount of French. Imagine that, Byun Baekhyun the Fre-”

 

The message had cut off.

 

The third one sounded like:

 

“Remember the tree I told you about? I didn't get a chance to mention last time that there’s one dead branch on the entire thing. It’s so lush and green and beautiful but there, completely unabashedly, hangs a greying, crumbling branch and it's my favourite. It’s hideous and it stands out and I know if I were to just nudge it it would crumble to dust and I think it's poetic how it's still persevering. I think it's the most beautiful branch. Because it's the only one that's different. That's what makes beauty, right? Uniqueness. You're unique. You and your colours. God, I miss you. I hope you're sleeping well without me. I’m not.”

 

Kyungsoo had realized that Baekhyun has hardly told him anything about the company, his coworkers, or where he’s staying. The only thing Kyungsoo knows about where Baekhyun is is a beautiful green tree with a dead branch.

 

The fourth one, the one Kyungsoo has just listened to, as Baek has been gone five days and four nights, sounded like:

 

“There’s this pretty blue bird that comes to sit on my favourite branch every morning. I’ve noticed him a few times but just figured out today that it’s the same bird. He seems to be alone. His nest isn't in my tree. But he comes and sits on that branch and he keeps his chin - or his beak, rather - held high and he tweets and tweets until mornings without you sound a little prettier and then he flies away. I’m going to name him Kyungsoo. A nice thing to wake up to. I’ll try and call earlier tomorrow. I miss your voice.”

 

The only time that Kyungsoo finds himself motivated enough to sit at his piano and write more music is the few, sparse minutes after he listens to Baekhyun’s messages. All of his songs are sounding sad, nostalgic, longing. It’s because Kyungsoo misses Baekhyun. And he isn't sure how he’s going to last two more months and three more weeks of this.

 

-----

 

Baekhyun has been gone for three weeks.

 

Kyungsoo wastes his days wallowing in loneliness. He plays Baekhyun's favourite record on loop until he can visualize the music behind closed eyelids and feel it thrumming through his veins. Some western crooner who sings sad songs in English, and since Kyungsoo can't understand what he’s saying, Kyungsoo's brain fills in the blanks and fills it with Baekhyun, Baekhyun, Baekhyun.

 

Kyungsoo is pretty sure he technically lives here now. He’d signed off the remainder of his lease to a man with striking eyes named Minseok, and his boyfriend Jongdae, who:

 

“Has loud laughter like you, but his cheeks aren't as round and pink.”

 

“Ah, Kyungsoo, you must be missing me. Comparing me to strangers and all.”

 

He’s also met one of Baekhyun’s neighbours. His neighbour now, he supposes. The man who lives directly below them, Junmyeon, who has an immensely warm smile and a friendly demeanour.

 

“You must be Kyungsoo.”

 

“Oh, has Baekhyun mentioned me?”

 

“No. I just hear him say your name… often enough.”

 

“This is the most traumatizing conversation I’ve ever had.”

 

He hadn't even asked Baekhyun if he could move in. He just did it. He figured Baekhyun is never one to make decisions the standard, typical way. Kyungsoo figured Baek would find it a nice surprise.

 

“Oh, good!” He had cheered when Kyungsoo broke the news. “You can move your stuff in and there will be less space!”

 

Chanyeol, Jongin, and Sehun are going to help move his things this weekend.

 

Baekhyun has been calling earlier. It’s always right when Kyungsoo returns from work, late at night, and they talk until the sun comes up where he is, and it's the dead of night where Baek is. Their conversations always start with updates on Baekhyun’s tree and bird. They always end in Baekhyun complaining about how he’d left his inspiration at home, right between Kyungsoo’s ribs.

 

“I’ve been painting in greyish browns and sky blues. I’m afraid my inspiration is confusing you, my true muse, with the other Kyungsoo, perched on his branch every morning. I swear, Kyungsoo, I’m beginning to forget what you really sound like. In all my memories, whenever you open your mouth, you just start chirping! It’s so bizarre.”

 

“Everything that's ever been thought up by you is bizarre, Baekhyun.”

 

“Regardless, I’m afraid the company won't like the other Kyungsoo’s colours as much as they liked yours. I sure don't.”

 

Now, Kyungsoo returns from work, shrugging on a sweater that belongs to Baekhyun and pulling the collar up over his mouth and nose so that Baekhyun is all he smells. He turns on the kettle, bare feet padding across the cold floors, pulling a cup of ramen out of the pantry. He’s become accustomed to his little nightly routines, here in his new home. He navigates this place better than he’d ever navigated his own apartment.

 

His phone rings.

 

“Hello, darling.”

 

“Kyungsoo, I am losing my mind!”

 

Kyungsoo chuckles. “Baekhyun, I’m pretty sure you lost your mind something like twenty-four years ago.”

 

“I’m painting birds, Kyungsoo! I’m not painting you anymore! My work is hideous. I am no artist without you.”

 

Kyungsoo’s stomach feels incredibly hollow as he pours the boiling water into the cup. With a sigh, he puts the chopsticks on top of the lid so he can let the noodles cook, his phone squeezed between his shoulder and his ear.

 

“You were once an artist before me.”

 

A long, staticky sigh from the other end of the line. “That's the thing, Kyungsoo. I learned you once, and I’ll never create anything greater than you again.”

 

-----

 

Baekhyun has been gone for a few days short of two months, now.

 

Kyungsoo discovered, earlier today, that the studio no longer smells like Baekhyun. The clothes, the walls, the sheets and the air, all smell like Kyungsoo and with a thrashing heartbeat, Kyungsoo shot up from his spot on the bed, determined to fix it.

 

He threw all of Baekhyun’s clothes - that he’s been wearing - into the laundry, using Baekhyun's detergent and fabric softener. He found a blank canvas leaning against the wall beside his piano, put it on the easel, and immediately started splattering the pure, white backdrop with every shade of paint Kyungsoo could get his hands on. The air starts to smell like paints. He is satisfied. He washes all the brushes in paint thinner. More of Baekhyun’s smell. It isn't until he’s stepping into the shower, about to shampoo with Baekhyun’s honey-scented shampoo, that he realizes he’s been crying frantic and panicked tears the entire time. He wipes viciously at his damp cheeks, under his eyes, and wishes with every inch of him that he could just stop missing him.

 

He’s growing exhausted.

 

When he goes to work that evening, he’s nothing but a hollow vessel, going through the motions. He knows the regulars are tired of hearing the same songs, especially since his most recent ones are terribly sad, but he hasn't been able to write a song in weeks. He always sits on his bench, staring at the keys, willing himself to write something, anything, but he always winds up staring at the pretty designs Baekhyun had painted all over his music when it first arrived here. And then he just wants to curl up in bed and wait. And he always does exactly that.

 

When he returns home that night, he feels exhausted and sallow. He has a little over a month left. He feels as though he’s aged ten years.

 

Kyungsoo is so… absent that he doesn't even feel his usual dose of excitement at the sound of his phone ringing.

 

“Hey-”

 

“Soo!” Baekhyun is sobbing. Unadulterated, uncontrolled, unashamed bawling. He is completely hysterical, his breath hiccuping and his throat wailing, and Kyungsoo is tossed back into reality, suddenly hyperaware of everything.

 

“Baek, honey, are you oka-”

 

“My branch has fallen, Kyungsoo! My branch is gone!”

 

Kyungsoo knows, somewhere in the back of his mind, that this shouldn't be a big deal. It is nothing but a branch that was dead and rotting, anyway. It was bound to break at some point. But Kyungsoo knows what that branch meant to Baekhyun. That branch and that bird were something close to what he had with Kyungsoo. They were a source of some sort of inspiration.

 

“Kyungsoo was there this morning to sing me awake, but I just got home and and and-” he quakes into another series of sobs. Kyungsoo thinks he might be crying along with him, but all he’s aware of is Baekhyun’s utter bawling. “It’s gone, Kyungsoo! Any last… semblance of inspiration I had… it’s all gone and it's there with you!”

 

“I’m… I’m sorry, Baek.”

 

And Kyungsoo’s mind starts reeling. Baekhyun has been very aware, and very vocal from the beginning, that his inspiration, motivation, creativity, was left in Seoul. His muse, his source of creation, is behind Kyungsoo’s eyelids and between each rib and at the tips of his fingers and Baekhyun has known from the very start he’d be missing it.

 

Kyungsoo didn't realize, however, that his inspiration, motivation, creativity packed up and flew to Paris. His muse, his source of creation, is in the knobs of Baekhyun’s knuckles and the sharp points of his canines and the riddles falling from the tip of his tongue. Kyungsoo hasn't been able to create, to write a single song, since his inspiration boarded that plane. He only ever itches to create when he’s speaking with Baekhyun. Lately, he goes to bed the minute they hang up.

 

Kyungsoo is an artist, just like Baekhyun. And while Kyungsoo’s always known that he’s Baekhyun’s muse, they've never vocalized, realized, whatever, that the same goes both ways.

 

“Baek,” Kyungsoo says over the sound of Baekhyun sniffling, “I… I’m sorry I have to go.”

 

And he hangs up before Baekhyun can argue.

 

Then, he’s calling his boss’ number. The owner of the lounge.

 

“Hey, it’s Kyungsoo. I’m sorry, I know it’s late, but… an emergency came up and I’ll be gone for a few weeks. I’ll give you the name of a great musician who can take my place for the time being. His name is Park Chanyeol.”

 

-----

 

Paris is stunning. Kyungsoo finds it very odd that Baekhyun could be surrounded by such beauty and culture and find no inspiration in it. It’s a bit of an honour, really, that Baekhyun could be in the middle of all this and still consider Kyungsoo the only thing worth painting.

 

He asks the clerk at the desk what room Baekhyun is staying at in very broken English. She answers in slightly smoother English that she can't authorize him a key to the room without Baekhyun there. Kyungsoo thanks her, and turns with his luggage in tow, to sit in the lobby and wait. The couch is remarkably comfortable. He’s more exhausted from his trip than he thought he was. He doesn't even realize that he's slipping into slumber.

 

He wakes to the feeling of fingers prodding at the plush of his lips. His eyelids flutter open and he’s met with overgrown pink hair with overgrown dark roots. Wide, curious eyes gazing down at him and a furrowed brow.

 

“Oh my god!” Baekhyun shouts. “You're really here!”

 

“Baek.”

 

Hands are scrambling, grabbing ecstatically at all of Kyungsoo, yanking him off the couch and dragging him toward the elevator. Kyungsoo is still a bit groggy, half asleep, despite the excitement thrumming in his chest at seeing Baekhyun again. That ball of pink hair and light and energy and joy.

 

Baekhyun’s room is small and quaint. Sweetly decorated and lived-in. Despite the fact that the cleaning service is there every morning to make his bed, Baekhyun has clearly made himself at home. Notes and scribbles and art books clutter every surface available. It smells like honey.

 

He immediately walks to Baekhyun’s window, looking out at what his boyfriend sees every day. He can feel the weight of Baekhyun's gaze on him, behind him. Instead, he just absorbs the sight of a beautiful, lush, green tree. It's as beautiful and vivid and healthy as Baekhyun had described it to him. But there, against the trunk, a little to the right, is the nub left over from a collapsed, rotting branch.

 

That branch was the last connection between Baekhyun and his muse. Somehow, that branch reached all the way to Seoul, giving Baekhyun a little taste of the inspiration he left at home. When it finally collapsed, it was time to return to him. The muse needs their artist just as much as the artist needs their muse.

 

“Paris is beautiful,” Kyungsoo says. He can't stop staring at what's left of that branch.

 

“Isn't it? The air here smells like your voice.”

 

He means money and fine wine. Kyungsoo smiles, the corners of his mouth gentle and warm. He turns around to find Baekhyun sitting on the corner of his bed, staring back at him with sparkling eyes. Baekhyun raves so much about the galaxies in Kyungsoo’s pupils. Does he have any idea how brightly his shine?

 

“Why did you come?” Baekhyun asks, voice soft.

 

“I've missed my muse. Figured you were missing yours.”

 

Baekhyun blinks, face falling in confusion. Kyungsoo walks toward him, legs on either side of Baek’s. “Your muse?” Baekhyun asks, straightening in his seat and holding Kyungsoo’s hips, welcoming him to sit on his lap.

 

“Mhm,” Kyungsoo nods, “I’m your art and you're my music.”

 

Baekhyun’s palms immediately begin mapping out all of Kyungsoo’s lines through the fabric of Kyungsoo’s shirt. His hands are warm, as always, wide and welcoming at Kyungsoo’s waist.

 

“I'm so happy,” Baekhyun says, voice soft, studying Kyungsoo’s face with attentive eyes. “Your colours are back.”

 

It’s then that Kyungsoo notices the dried paint on the insides of Baekhyun’s wrists, his knuckles. Greys. Nothing but greys.

 

Kyungsoo dips down to meet Baekhyun’s lips in a warm, tender kiss. Oh, how he’s missed that pretty mouth of his. Suddenly, there’s music flowing through Kyungsoo’s veins, songs of celebration and rejoicing and excitement. Warmth and comfort and familiarity. Songs about finally coming home, finally being right where you belong.

 

Baekhyun scoots around until he’s lying flat on the bed, head in the pillows, hands remaining curious and adventurous as he watches Kyungsoo tug his shirt over his head above him. He pulls at the hem of Baekhyun’s until the artist’s back is arched off the mattress enough for Kyungsoo to pull it free. Immediately, his lips meet hot skin. It smells like watercolours and paint thinner and honey. It tastes like everything that's been absent from Kyungsoo’s life the past two months.

 

Kyungsoo is all gentle, generous hands; prepping Baekhyun languidly just so he can admire the way he looks with his face twisted in pleasure and a flush across his chest. He nips at Baekhyun’s pulse point, licks gently at his sternum, sucks on the softest part of his stomach. He hums into skin and buzzes at the way delicate fingers in his hair feel so familiar.

 

It isn't until Kyungsoo is sinking himself into Baekhyun, hips meeting hips, that one of them finally says something.

 

“Mauve,” Baekhyun says, “and periwinkle. When did - ah - when did your colours get so bright?”

 

Kyungsoo pauses to catch his breath. His fingers wrap around Baekhyun’s ribs, right where he can feel his heartbeat. “Probably some point after I realized I’m in love with you.”

 

Baekhyun’s eyes widen, and he looks as though he's about to say something. Kyungsoo chooses that moment to pull back and push back in, all in one swift motion. Instead of words, Baekhyun gasps, hiccups, fingers clawing for purchase in Kyungsoo’s flesh.

 

“I’m in love with you too, my muse,” Baekhyun says after a moment of hot, mixing breaths and quiet moans. “Tried to replace you with that fucking bird,” he pauses to moan as Kyungsoo’s pace increases, “but I am nothing, nothing, Kyungsoo, without you.”

 

“Now you're just being sappy.”

 

“You flew to Paris without warning to be with the man you love,” he quips back, albeit shakily, “I think we know who the real romantic here is.”

 

Instead of responding, Kyungsoo deepens his strokes, ducking his head down to rest against Baekhyun’s shoulder. It’s just white noise of skin on skin and breathless gasps. Baekhyun moans wordless begs and Kyungsoo licks and nips at Baekhyun’s clavicle. Dainty, greyscale hands on his back, soft thighs around his hips. Warmth and comfort and pleasure and love. Fuck distance, honestly. Kyungsoo will follow Baekhyun wherever he may go, from this moment on.

 

He has no clue how long it takes, but by the time they're finished they're sore and sweaty and dragging each other reluctantly to the shower. Baekhyun lathers Kyungsoo’s hair with his honey shampoo and Kyungsoo’s chest feels full to bursting with helium, like he could float away if he lets go of Baekhyun’s hips.

 

“Tu es là, devant moi, toujours le même,” Baekhyun murmurs. His accent isn't perfect. He sounds entirely sure, though, like he knows exactly what he’s saying.

 

“What was that?” Kyungsoo asks through a smirk. He can hardly see Baekhyun through the steam.

 

“You are there, in front of me, always the same.” Baekhyun grins so wide Kyungsoo has to blink the brightness away. “Told you I’d master French by the time I’m done here.”

 

Kyungsoo thinks for a moment. “Are those not lyrics from that French singer whose album you like listening to?”

 

Baekhyun swats at his chest. “You're supposed to be impressed!”

 

Kyungsoo laughs, not missing the way Baekhyun watches the heart-shaped tug at his lips. “Alright, master linguist. Your genius blows me away.”

 

A kiss. Brief and sweet and not enough. “That's better.”

 

Kyungsoo kisses him properly, this time, his arms snaking tightly around Baekhyun’s waist. He buries his face in Baekhyun’s hair, sopping wet as it is, feeling unprecedentedly happy and complete. Oh, the music he could write about this very moment.

 

“You're right. This is better.”