For whatever reason, there is a reason.
"It's beautiful. These colours, like nothing you've ever seen."
"I always thought I knew what beauty was, but this is--"
"-- I know"
(I don't know.)
Because in a world where everyone's world is colourless and bleak, waiting for that catalyst to come along and make you feel something more.
And all you can do about it is wait, and wait, and wait and wait--
-- What else are you supposed to say?
Don't try so hard, Baekhyun. You can't force it, you know?
I know, Baekhyun says. Exhausted, and tired. And just a little bit lonely.
You have to be patient.
But he's tired.
I'm tired of everything I see; all these dead colours, when it's all he's ever known. He wants to feel the vibrancy of the reds the sunset has, to breathe the blues of the sky and the sea.
I want-- I want more than this--this loneliness.
Colourless and empty.
Getting home, standing in an overcrowded train, everything in muted shades of grey, suit no longer in its pristine form of the morning, Baekhyun sighed. Not ungrateful, having too much to be ungrateful, but still tired. And still a bit hollow.
And he did try. Tried to just fall in love, tried to fall in like. He was far from being an optimistic romantic after so long. But trying and giving it your all, does not always end in success.
And for Baekhyun, it never did.
Could-have-beens. There were could have beens.
Big and noisy, but sweet and a little warm. With his large puppy eyes and sticky-out-y ears, and a mouth full of teeth. It was just so easy, Baekhyun thought, to be around him, and the way he would drape his arm around him, no matter where they were, or how hot it was. And in winter, it was more than fine.
(Be everything I need you to be.)
Baekhyun figured, it could be so easy, with Chanyeol. They weren't too different, and that wasn't always a bad thing. It could be a good thing. It could--
It was almost too easy, and he supposes that should have given it away.
(I built my hopes on you; tiny bit by tiny bit.)
But Baekhyun still saw these dead colours, but what hurt the most was that he still felt a cold inside, and Chanyeol's warmth couldn't reach too far beneath the surface. Baekhyun, he had had his expectations high--
"I know, I know."
"Of course I do." (I don't.)
(I broke you the same way; tiny bit by tiny bit.)
Later, a while later, when Baekhyun could smile at Chanyeol, and Chanyeol wouldn't flinch, Baekhyun saw him walking around with someone even taller than him. Straight-faced, and much sharper, Baekhyun didn't linger.
And then Chanyeol, he stretched his arm out, as if reaching for the sun, and smiled so brightly, his eyes completely closed.
He received a gummy smile in return, such a strange change in expression and--
And what kind of person would Baekhyun be, to begrudge him this?
Baekhyun used to make his way to his backyard, a habit he's had since before he could form proper sentences, and lay across the grass. Once, he wondered, what colour they were, with the strong earthy, and the alive fragrance they gave off.
But after a while, while he still laid across the soft surface, hand across his eyes, he just knew, knew that that light filtering through the spaces of his fingers from the sun, that would be the most beautiful and most brilliant. Nothing would compare.
But like most things, Baekhyun doesn't do that anymore.
Baekhyun wondered, as he stood in front if his mirror, fixing his tie, how it was that after so many years, he still carried that ridiculous tiny flame of hope. Bending down to tie his shoes, a darker shade of everything else, he felt a sliver of irritation. Living every day, in the hope that today might be the day--
Shouldn't it have extinguished itself by now?
"Is it ever that simple, Baekhyun?" Joonmyun asked, staring over the rim of his cup.
"Probably not." Baekhyun sighed.
"I know it's hard Baekhyun, but--"
"Do you?" Baekhyun asked, not bitter, not angry; just a little tired. Of hearing the same old pity-- of running in the same pointless circles.
Joonmyun pursed his lips into a tight straight line, exhaling through his nose, and setting his cup down.
"Sorry." Baekhyun mumbled.
"It's fine." Joonmyun smiled, carrying a different kind of exhaustion in his voice, a kind of sadness.
That's fine, Baekhyun thought, because no matter how sad he got for Baekhyun, he'd be okay.
Because, when Joonmyun had his catalyst, Baekhyun thought, watching Kyungsoo's passive face take on a warmer expression, as he snuck up on Joonmyun, his voice filled with unbridled happiness--
He can't be too sad.
Baekhyun felt someone resting all of their weight on the back of his chair.
He sighed, barely glancing at Luhan.
Luhan smiled, eyes crinkling cutely, face scrunched a little, looking sweet with his soft brown hair, and doe expression, a picture of innocence. And then he full out laughed, and Baekhyun took it all back.
"Can't you go bother Minseok?" Baekhyun said, still typing away, not paying heed to any of the loud laughs and noises around him.
"--Except he kicked you out again. I guess it pays to be higher on the food chain."
Luhan snorted unattractively, and went to sit on Baekhyun’s table, stretching his legs, wearing an absentminded smile.
Of course, Baekhyun thought, rolling his shoulder to work a crick out of it. Luhan's smiles aren't that much different t from Joonmyun's. And Minseok, for all he's worth, isn't much better than Kyungsoo, either. Hiding his smiles from the eyes of others, wanting to keep the love he has for Luhan, hidden, and only for Luhan to see.
Idiots, Baekhyun thought. If it were him, he wouldn't hide it for the world.
"By the way, your suit's colour is really interesting. Somewhere between a blue and a green; ocean-y." Luhan said, leaning forward to run his fingers over Baekhyun's jacket, hung over the back of his chair.
"I'll take your word for it." Baekhyun mumbled, no longer bothered by these sorts of things.
"What's with you?" Luhan whined, "You're hardly any fun these days, Baek. Seriously, all serious and mopey and distracted. And just so--unlike you." Luhan ended, with an edge of concern colouring his words.
Baekhyun sighed, heavily through his nose, hands resting in his lap and leaning against the back of his chair. "I dunno Lu. I'm just so drained these days, you know?"
Luhan's eyes curved down, and he sighed as well. "You know I only found Minseok last year, and I was older then than you are now." He said, running a hand through Baekhyun's hair, and smiling softly.
Baekhyun knows that, but it doesn't really give him the hope he wanted.
He admired Luhan.
But he also knows that even though Luhan carried a cheerful air around him before, when he saw no differently than Baekhyun did; optimistic and sincere. Sometimes when he thought no one was looking, his eyes used to curve the same way. Just a little too lonely.
"Give it some time Baek. It'll come."
Another day of getting up early, of travelling a crowded train, of sitting at a nine to five job, and Baekhyun was grateful. Grateful for what he had. But mostly grateful that he didn't have to spend the entire week alone, like he did most weekends, doing nothing, achingly empty. Regardless of whether he was completely alone, or surrounded by people he loved.
"Come on, Baek. I'll treat you to lunch. Just you and me." Luhan said, dragging Baekhyun away from his desk.
Baekhyun figures he must look really bad if Luhan's willing to give up his lunch date with Minseok to cheer him up.
Lunch was lunch, uneventful but even so, he already felt better. Laughing along to stories of Joonmyun bursting out in tears when Kyungsoo brought him flowers to work, and of Chanyeol walking into a wall just to gain attention, and of the new guy--
"What new guy?" Baekhyun asked, looking at Luhan through his bangs.
Luhan laughed, happy to have caused any interest in his close friend. "The new guy in Kyungsoo's office," Luhan said, pausing to sip his coffee, "Kim Jongdae. Twenty eight, same age as you."
Baekhyun squinted, sandwich halfway to his mouth, "Uh huh."
Luhan grinned, "And I think he's louder than you, even at your worst. He didn't even seem like he was new here." And then seemingly thinking about it, he added, "I think he might be louder than Chanyeol, too. And he's always whining."
"Actually," Luhan said, seemingly deep in thought, "I think he might be louder than both of you combined."
Baekhyun didn't think about the new guy again, Kim Jongdae, not really interested. But of course--
Of course, he would see him. It's just that he wasn't really looking before.
He would see him one day, in the lift, looking frazzled and trying to balance several thick books on his own, hair a mess. Baekhyun offered to carry half, and he turned and smiled so beautifully, so gratefully, that Baekhyun felt something stutter.
"Kim Jongdae." he introduced himself.
And Baekhyun wondered; if he looks this beautiful like this, nervous energy, and just a bit of fatigue; what did he look like on a good day?
Baekhyun didn't think about it, wouldn't allow himself to think about it--
(About those eyes, and those happy lines around them--)
Walking home from the train station, Baekhyun held his hand in front of his eyes, squinting against the sun. Confused, he blinked again, trying to focus on the unusually bright light, unusual for this time of day. Something looked strange. But exhausted; he shrugged it off, and carried on home.
Curved eyes, and strange kitty lips, sprinkled with a mole here and there, and a laugh louder, much louder than even Chanyeol's. Eyebrows too expressive, smile too soft, and hands too warm.
Baekhyun didn't know how he went weeks without ever seeing Jongdae, when they were always running into each other now. Jongdae hardly sees Baekhyun before he's laughing that big, loud, happy laugh; like he's genuinely pleased all the time. And maybe he's even happy to see Baekhyun, eyes almost completely crinkled shut in mirth.
It took nothing at all for them to get along; for Jongdae to hang on Baekhyun, always touching. For Baekhyun to send him messages two in the morning when he couldn't sleep, and get an almost immediate reply, or sometimes a call in return, Jongdae mumbling, sounding so sleepy that Baekhyun couldn't stifle his laughs.
"Why are you even awake, Jongdae?" Baekhyun asked once, laughing, not really having expected any reply so early, much less a call.
"I dunno," Jongdae mumbled, clearly struggling to stay awake, "I just--"
"Just?" Baekhyun whispered, resting his head against his pillow, Jongdae soft cadence and quiet breathing, drawing him to sleep.
"I dunno, Baek. I just-- wanted to, I guess." Jongdae exhaled.
Baekhyun breathed deeply, quiet, and scared.
Even over the phone, Jongdae's so warm, and it was so easy, but things are never easy. And Baekhyun's so scared.
Pretty, he would laugh; Jongdae. You're so pretty Baekhyun.
Shut up. (You are.)
"Do the clouds look strange today?" Baekhyun asked, squinting at the sky.
Luhan glanced up, eyes scanning the sky, and shook his head. "They look the same?" he replied, looking confused.
"Oh. Nevermind then."
Baekhyun glanced at the sky, feeling a feverish irritation under his skin, unable to pinpoint the difference. The clouds looked different today, he just couldn't tell how.
He thought they looked softer.
And he turned his head when he heard that familiar laugh, staring at the back of Jongdae's head until he went back inside, before he turned back to the clouds. And they looked sharper, for a minute, and then he blinked, and they were the same as any other day.
"They look different to you?" Luhan asked, glancing at the sky again.
"No," Baekhyun said, "they look exactly the same."
Baekhyun didn't know how he felt, when his eyes seemed to search for Jongdae's, without him actively doing so. And when their eyes did meet, he couldn't keep the contact too long, for fear of--
But of course, he knew what. But why would he actively think about those things?
Baekhyun stirred his coffee one morning, before he dropped the spoon in the sink, and blinked at his reflection in the window, thrown off by the smile tugging at his lips. Pursing his lips, he made his way to his bedroom, feeling another smile tugging when he saw a notification blinking on his phone.
Free? Wanna meet for lunch?
Sure. Where and when?
My place? At 2?
Baekhyun curled his socked toes into his carpet, back bowed forward, as he stared at his phone. Meeting at his place, in his home, where he spends a lot of his time. Where his life will be scattered all over, the small things that make Baekhyun's heart race and--
(Baek, you're overthinking this.
You are. It will be fine. Trust me, Luhan said.)
Yeah. I'll be there.
Baekhyun rubbed at his eyes, glaring at his computer screen in irritation, and out of the window again. It kept fluctuating, in and out; his eyes, what he saw. Shifting from looking softer, and looking harder, stranger, and back again. He wanted to joke to Luhan, tell him that he might need to have his eyes checked, but something told him it was more than that.
Jongdae smiled brightly at Baekhyun, too much warmth in his eyes. He wanted to ask Jongdae if he had a soulmate, one he might have missed seeing with all the time he spent with Jongdae in his apartment--
(Baekhyun, he faintly heard Luhan reprimanding him)
-- because he can't keep smiling like this at Baekhyun. And Baekhyun didn't want to hope, didn't want to try, didn't want to do this all over again.
But sometimes, when Jongdae would whine for a hug, and wrap himself around Baekhyun, his face buried in Baekhyun's neck, the flutter of his eyelashes a gentle caress, Baekhyun would think that maybe, maybe--
Maybe he could-- maybe he could try one more time.
And on another morning, when he caught himself smiling again, as he got ready for work, he realized he couldn't remember when last he felt lonely. When last was it that he dreaded being alone at home, alone on the weekend. He wasn't alone so much anymore, not with Jongdae always there. On the phone, on the couch, laughing at Baekhyun's taste in selected B rate movies and--
But he realized, even when he was completely alone, he didn't feel lonely.
"Sometimes," Luhan said one day, "sometimes he looks at you in a way..."
"Jongdae." Luhan replied, frowning as he leaned back in his chair, staring at the ceiling.
Baekhyun felt his stomach give that now familiar twist, parts anticipating, parts uncomfortable, but didn't reply.
"He looks like, not like he's in love with you. Not this look. The rest of the time it's a little obvious that he is, Baek. In love with you." Luhan said, staring at Baekhyun, eyes serious.
"Baekhyun." Luhan said quietly, firm. "You love him. I know you love him. And you know you love him. Even-- even if he's not your catalyst, isn't he enough?" Luhan asked, eyes beseeching.
Baekhyun sighed, feeling tired like he hasn't in a while. Not since he met Jongdae.
"What if-" Baekhyun whispered, breathing uneven, "what if that's not enough for him?"
"Is it enough for you?" Luhan asked.
"Yeah." Baekhyun whispered. And a part of him thought, how could it be so easy? For him to accept anything less than his catalyst, when he couldn't accept others. But when he thought of Jongdae, he wondered if a catalyst could ever compare to all that Jongdae was.
And Luhan smiled so sincerely, in a way that he hasn't for a long time, not around Baekhyun.
"Then it will be fine with him, Baek. Have a little faith in him. He calls you in the satanic hours of the morning because you're lonely and you miss him and he misses you. I love you Baek, but even I wouldn't do that." Luhan laughed, eyes crinkling.
Baekhyun leaned against the back of his chair, staring at his hands.
"Sometimes he gets a different look in eyes, though. When he looks at you." Luhan said, looking serious again.
'How?" Baekhyun asked, hands tightening on the armrest.
"Like he's waiting for something; waiting for you to do something."
Baekhyun never does ask him. And Baekhyun never gets any reprieve.
Not when he works, not when he's struggling through peak hour, especially not when he's sleeping.
Because even when he closes his eyes, he still remembers his eyes, and his nose, and his mouth that quirks up strangely. But Baekhhyun can never tell; is it humour or mirth or confusion or--
Or are you in love?
Some days, the silences felt stifling, not in the way it used to, where Baekhyun felt lonely, and empty. But rather like storage space, when something is moved, and the space is empty, and it feels weird for a while. And other times it feels like a heavy pressure, waiting to be lifted by carelessly loud laughter and--
Some days, they were just friends. Close, always so close, but only almost touching. And it eases Baekhyun as much as it makes him uncomfortable. He wants to reach out, and just take Jongdae's hand in his some days, and others, he'd rather not have Jongdae close at all. Because he doesn't know how much more of this he can take. How much more of Jongdae he can have, but not really have.
And some days, when he dreams of a braver self, he imagines that he can tell Jongdae how he feels, and Jongdae would smile that brilliant smile, the one that's so soft and warm, that Baekhyun still feels it days after.
But right now, Baekhyun's far from being any kind of brave.
"Baekhyun!" Jongdae called him from afar, a smile colouring his voice. He wondered what colour they would be, if they could be a colour. Colouring the way he said Baekhyun's name.
Baekhyun had turned then, ready to grumble about noisy boys with annoying smiles and--
He looked at Jongdae, feeling as if the world just stopped. Breath caught, hoping it wouldn't break whatever spell this was--
-- was he always this breathtaking?--
Baekhyun blinked, and whatever it was, was gone. He stood still, yet--
And Baekhyun exhaled, feeling a gentle hand against cheek, a thumb stroking the corner of his mouth.
"Baekhyun" Jongdae said smiling so softly, so softly--
(Don't say my name that way.)
And he would ask Baekhyun if he had had lunch yet, and Baekhyun would always say no. He wouldn't know what to do with himself at all, because these days happened a lot as well; when Jongdae would touch him like this, deceptively innocent, and intimate. And look at him, like he was--
"Like he's waiting for something; waiting for you to do something."
But Baekhyun wasn't brave enough yet, not just yet.
But it tore him apart, that flash of disappointment in Jongdae's eyes, before Jongdae pretended like nothing had happened.
"Your eyes still bothering you?" Luhan asked one day, his eyes on his computer, typing away.
"Only sometimes. It kind of fluctuates in and out. Kind of like those old movies, where the picture is unstable." Baekhyun answered, a bit thrown at Luhan's nonchalance. Luhan’s the one who's usually dragging him to the doctor whenever he gets sick, or complained about the smallest things. But now he was-- sort of blaze about it.
"Lu-- are you okay?" Baekhyun asked, worried.
Luhan turned to look at him, studying him for a while, before he broke out a gentle smile.
"I'm fine Baek."
Baekhyun pursed his lips, and turned back to his computer.
Jongdae was leaving, for two weeks.
"Oh." Baekhyun said, when Jongdae told him.
Jongdae smiled softly, fixing Baekhyun's bangs, which was blown into a mess. "My brother's wife is giving birth soon, and he's too far away to get here on time. I can't just leave her alone, and her dad kinda drives her insane. So, I'm going."
"Okay." Baekhyun answered, not sure what else to say.
He wondered if Jongdae was telling him for a reason that's more than them just being friends. But then again, Baekhyun was always wondering something, hoping for something when he wouldn't even make a move himself.
"Yeah." Jongdae said, and opened his mouth to say something else, looking like he needed to, but then thought better of it, and smiled.
"I hope I don't have to be in the room when she gives birth. They don't do that, do they? Only spouses, right?" he asked, eyebrows all scrunched up.
Baekhyun laughed loud, not knowing what to do with Jongdae's ridiculousness at times, and got a warm smile in return.
"Hey, Baekhyun," he started, his hands twitching along the edges of Baekhyun's cuffs, "do you think-- do you think, when I get back, we could talk? Because I have something I've been wanting to tell you for a while now." He said softly, eyes serious.
No, Baekhyun wanted to say--
(Scared of not getting what he wants, and scared of getting what he wants)
-- as much as he wanted to say; why not just tell me now?
But all he said was, "Sure. I'll see you, then."
He must have sounded a lot sadder than he thought, because Jongdae smiled his smile, that really soft one, and wrapped him in his arms, face buried in his hair.
"I'll still call you, whenever you want me to. It's only two weeks." He whispered.
"Okay." Baekhyun replied, feeling that two weeks might as well be forever and berated himself. Say more, Baekhyun, say more--
"And--" he broke off, breathing unevenly, wrapped in Jongdae's warmth.
"Call me whenever you want, too." He whispered, resting his forehead on Jongdae's shoulder.
"Okay." Jongdae replied, and Baekhyun couldn't be sure, but it sounded like he was smiling.
It was a little lonely, and a little empty, without Jongdae here. And Baekhyun didn't want to hide from that truth anymore. He missed him, more than just a little. And he loved him, much more than just a little. And that alone made him warmer.
And when he thought of that smile he had only seen Jongdae smile at him, and at the little kids in the park, then he didn't feel so lonely anymore.
Baekhyun leaned against the wall, holding a coffee cup in one hand, and pinching the bridge of his nose with the other. Exhaling, he emptied his coffee cup, and turned to head back to his cubicle.
"You okay, Baek?" he heard after he bumped into Minseok.
"Yeah," Baekhyun said, squinting, "I'm okay. Just--just dizzy, I guess. Got a little headache."
"You sure?" Minseok asked, resting his hand against Baekhyun forehead, eyebrows creased, "Luhan told me you were having trouble with your eyes, but you're looking kinda sick, Baek. Maybe you should take a day off."
"No, no. I'm fine, Minseok. It'll pass." Baekhyun smiled, a little pained.
"Baekhyun, it's not a big deal, to take a day off--"
Baekhyun blinked hard, eyes burning, and head spinning a little, only half hearing what Minseok was saying.
"-- Everyone"s worried about you, you know? So--"
Baekhyun blinked again. Distantly, he heard his name being called, like an echo down a long tunnel, but he just kept squinting. At Minseok, at his tie.
He reached for it, pressed neatly against Minseok's shirt, and ran his finger over a spot on it, over and over again, as if wiping a smudge. But there was nothing there. Logically, he knew something was off, something more, but he felt dull, and couldn't concentrate on anything.
"Baek?" He heard Minseok ask, quietly, but something about his tone made Baekhyun look up.
"Sorry," Baekhyun blinked, in time to see Luhan standing behind Minseok, looking at him strangely, "sorry, I just--I--"
"Baek," Luhan said, wrapping his hand around Baekhyun's wrist, soft but firm, "is there something wrong?"
"No, Luhan, I'm fine, really, I just--"
"No, Baek," he said, lifting Baekhyun's wrist up, and running his thumb on the inside, "is there something wrong with Minseok's tie?"
Baekhyun blinked, confused, always confused, and looked at Minseok's tie again. That spot was still there, and it looked so strange, as if it was-- almost fluctuating, growing and shrinking in size.
"There's a spot on it, is all. I thought-- well, it's just a spot, I guess." Baekhyun mumbled, his head pulsing a bit.
"Baekhyun," Luhan said so softly, smiling, his eyes looking wet. He kept opening his mouth as if to say something, before closing it again, smiling.
"Baekhyun," Minseok whispered, confusing Baekhyun further, "there's no spot on my tie. My tie is one colour." He smiled.
"I don't-- I don't understand."
"Baekhyun," Luhan whispered, pulling him close, "his tie-- it's orange."
What was that he read about love, again? Falling in love is like falling asleep; slowly, and then all at once. Because that's exactly what happened, and now, now everything has changed. Nothing blended in as they did before. Bright colours, dark colours, strange colours, and oh.
But it still wasn't completely filled out, spots of grey still lurking about, but this time, Baekhyun thinks he knows why.
And the sunlight-- that light, that used to peek in between his fingers, it's so bright, and just so, so--
Baekhyun laid across his bed, staring at his ceiling, the dark brown wooden ceiling, and the darker brown spots in between, and just felt-- just felt the same as he has been feeling for a while now.
When he told Luhan this, all Luhan did was laugh, like it was a running joke.
Frowning, he turned to look out the window, lips pursed.
"It didn't just happen, Baek." He turned to see Kyungsoo standing behind him, eyes on the clouds outside the window, arms crossed.
"It didn't just happen, Baek." He repeated, and then smiled, "Did it?"
Baekhyun blinked, and then he understood. And he grinned at Kyungsoo, receiving Joonmyun's favourite heart shaped smile in return.
Months of warm hands and warm smiles and-- no. It didn't just happen.
Jongdae smiled, wide and beautiful, and unbearably warm.
"Baekhyun”, he said, smiling against a backdrop of soft oranges and marshmallow pinks ("Isn't it beautiful?" Luhan had asked, happy tears in his eyes.), and Baekhyun wonders how anything will ever--
-- could ever, compare to all that Jongdae is; with his loud mouth, and his strange eyebrows, and stranger smile and--
Baekhyun walked to him, standing all but a few centimetres apart, before he wrapped his hand behind his neck. He pressed his lips against Jongdae's once, and pulled back to see Jongdae staring at him, eyes dark, emotions swirling in a flurry, and he pressed another kiss. And by the fourth kiss, he felt Jongdae's smile.
"Jongdae." He said, face pressed in his neck, breathing in everything.
Jongdae huffed a soft laugh, wrapped his arms around Baekhyun and--
"-- took you long enough."
(Be everything I need you to be.) You are so much more.
author notes: Thanks for reading!