16 November 2016 @ 11:05 pm
Nepenthean Encounters [2/2]  

part i


Chanyeol swears that if Jongin isn’t sitting in front of him coaching him on how to breathe, he would have passed out by now. He’d left his studio twenty minutes after the incident with Jaehyun, guilt weighing on his conscience as he’d gone towards his son’s room, fully ready to apologize. He had no idea what he gotten into him (later, he would blame it on the stress), and was beating himself up for having snapped at his son. After knocking on Jaehyun’s door for nearly another five minutes, however, and not hearing a reply or even sounds of crying, Chanyeol had opened the door only to find an empty room. He’d searched the entire apartment and started to panic when he couldn’t find the boy anywhere.

After running around screaming his son’s name, he finally thinks about his neighbors, hoping that Jaehyun had just gone over to spend some time with Jongin and Sehun. He almost face-plants as he trips on his own feet as he makes a dash towards the door.

“Hyung!” Jongin exclaims as soon as Chanyeol wrenches his door open, almost colliding into the taller man. “Why didn’t you pick up your phone? I’ve been trying to call you for the past five minutes.”

“Jaehyun,” Chanyeol mutters, completely ignoring Jongin’s question, “is he over there? Is he with you?”

“No, that’s what I was calling to–”

“I’m the worst dad in all of existence,” Chanyeol cries, his legs giving out underneath him as he collapses onto the ground. “Jongin…you have to help me find him. I-I yelled at him,” Chanyeol sobs, his entire body shaking, “I think he ran away.”

“Chanyeol hyung, breathe. Come on, breathe with me. In…out…that’s it.”


“Oh, right. That’s what I was trying to tell you. Sehun just called me, he knows where Jaehyun is. I guess Jaehyun called Baekhyun hyung when he left the house. Oh! That’s why you didn’t pick up your phone…” Jongin chuckles, “you didn’t have it.”

“Called Baekhyun?”

“Yeah, Baekhyun hyung is with him now.”

“H-He’s okay?”

“He’s fine, just a little upset. Baekhyun hyung called Sehun and told him to let you know their whereabouts. I assume he wants you to go there.”

Chanyeol barely let’s Jongin finish what he’s trying to say before he’s dragging the boy along behind him, running to find his son. Both of them are out of breath when they reach the playground. Chanyeol looks around frantically and runs towards Sehun when he spots the boy leaning up against a tree by the swings.

“Where is he?” Chanyeol asks, huffing and puffing as he tries to steady his breathing. “Where’s my son?”

Sehun points upwards, towards the tree house, and Chanyeol sags in relief when he glances up and sees two pairs of legs swinging over the edge of the platform. He sees Baekhyun peek his head over the edge a moment later, presumably after hearing the worried father’s voice, and nods when the teacher holds up his pointer finger to tell him to wait. He hurries over to the blonde when Baekhyun climbs down the ladder and envelopes the man in a hug, surprising Baekhyun and the two bystanders.


“Thank you,” Chanyeol sobs, bending down to rest his forehead on Baekhyun’s shoulder. He feels Baekhyun rubbing his back in comfort and tightens his hold on the smaller male. “Thank you so much.”

“You should go talk to him,” Baekhyun says quietly, looking up at the tree house where Jaehyun’s feet have disappeared. “I’ve calmed him down, but I’m sure he’s still upset…”

Chanyeol nods and offers a grateful smile at Baekhyun as he heads for the ladder. “Thanks again, Baekhyun.” He takes the ladder two steps at a time and lifts himself onto the platform just outside the tree house. Chanyeol sits by the door, folding his knees up in front of him as he leans against the side of the tree house. “Hey, buddy…” he whispers, sure that Jaehyun could hear him.

Sure enough, a quiet sniffle followed by a soft “hey” replies him.

“Can we talk?”

He hears shuffling inside the dark tree house, and a moment later, Jaehyun sticks his head out of the entrance. “Sure…” Jaehyun whispers. Chanyeol feels a hundred times worse when he takes in his son’s puffy eyes and red face. He pats the spot besides him, and thankfully, Jaehyun forgives him enough to crawl out and sit next to him.

“I’m sorry, buddy,” Chanyeol begins, “I shouldn’t have yelled at you.”

“You hurt my feelings…” Jaehyun mumbles towards the platform, not looking at Chanyeol. “You made me sad.”

“I know, and I’m really sorry. I’m a bad daddy.”

At this, Jaehyun looks up and vehemently shakes his head. “You’re not a bad daddy, you’re the bestest daddy!”

Chanyeol can feel the tears forming in the corner of his eyes when he hears Jaehyun’s words. “But I made you sad.”

“You didn’t mean it,” Jaehyun says, standing up to wrap his small arms around Chanyeol. “Mr. Baekhyun says you didn’t mean it.”

“Mr. Baekhyun is right, I didn’t mean it. I was stressed and I took it out on you, and for that, I’m sorry.” Chanyeol wraps Jaehyun in a hug, holding him close, afraid that he would blink and the boy would disappear again. “Will you forgive me?”

He feels Jaehyun nod against his shoulder. “I forgive you, Daddy.”

“Thanks, buddy. I promise, I’ll never take my frustration out on you again, okay?” Chanyeol pulls away and looks his son in the eyes. “But you can never, ever, pull a stunt like this again. Okay? Daddy loves you, Jaehyunee. I don’t know what I would’ve done if something had happened to you…”

“I won’t, Daddy. Promise!” Jaehyun smiles and goes back in for a hug. “Jaehyunee loves Daddy too.”

* * *

“Can we talk?” Baekhyun asks, sending Sehun a pleading look.

Jongin, who has his arms wrapped around Sehun from behind as they leaned against the tree, looks at Baekhyun and then back at Sehun before releasing his hold. “I’m gonna go get something to drink,” he says, winking at Baekhyun and whispering a soft “Fighting!” as he passes.

Baekhyun waits until Jongin is out of earshot before he speaks again. “I’m sorry…” Baekhyun offers, looking hesitantly at his brother-in-law. “For everything.” He thinks Sehun is ignoring him, that Sehun doesn’t want to talk to him, and almost gives up and walks away when the younger replies.

“You weren’t the only one affected.”

“I know…”

“You weren’t the only one who lost someone you loved.”

“I know…”

“But you were the only one who hid away. You were the only one who wasn’t at her funeral. You were the only one missing the day we buried her.”

Baekhyun sniffles and brings his hand up to wipe the stray tear away. “I know.”

“We needed you,” Sehun says, his voice breaking. “I needed you.”

“I know…” Baekhyun says, boldly stepping forward and pulling Sehun into his arms, “and I’m so sorry. For making you deal with all that on your own. For not being there for you… I’m so sorry, Sehun.”

“I lost my sister,” Sehun said, the shaking of his body the only giveaway that he was crying. “I knew it’d be hard, but I thought I’d be okay because I’d still have a brother. But I lost you too.”

No,” Baekhyun enunciates, “you didn’t lose me, Sehun. I’m still here. I’ll always be your brother.”

Sehun’s arms lift up to wrap around Baekhyun. “You w-weren’t there,” the boy cries, and Baekhyun tightens his hold as his own tears start to fall again. “You weren’t there!”

“I’m here now,” Baekhyun says, reaching up to pet Sehun’s head. “I’m sorry it took me so long. I’m sorry I’m so late…but I’m here now.”

* * *

“Hi Daddy!” Jaehyun greets with a smile as Chanyeol walks up the school’s steps.

“Hey buddy!”

“What’s your excuse this time?” Baekhyun asks, glaring at the single father as he holds up his left arm with his wristwatch. “You’re an hour late.”

Chanyeol smiles sheepishly and rubs at his nape. “I know… I’m sorry.”

“Nope, don’t say sorry to me,” Baekhyun responds, looking down pointedly at Jaehyun, who stands in between the two adults with a knowing grin.

Chanyeol sighs and bends down to face his son. “Daddy is so, so, soooo sorry that I was late again, Jaehyunee. Will you find it in your big, understanding heart to forgive me?” He pouts and clasps his hands together in front of him for good measure.

“I forgive you, Daddy!” Jaehyun giggles, throwing his arms around his father.

Baekhyun rolls his eyes, but laughs all the same. “Really though,” he says, eyeing Chanyeol, “why were you late this time?”

“I did it!” Chanyeol grins triumphantly. He reaches into his back pocket and pulls out a folded paper. “I finished the painting!”

“I knew you had it in you,” Baekhyun smiles warmly, his eyes forming crescents.

“I knew too!” Jaehyun adds.

Chanyeol laughs as he looks from teacher to student, taking in the uncanny resemblance between them. “My two biggest supporters,” he grins.

Baekhyun rolls his eyes and grabs the piece of paper from Chanyeol. His eyes grow to the size of saucers when he sees the digits printed on the check. “Chanyeol…are you sure they paid you the right amount?”

“I questioned that too…” Chanyeol replies, grinning from ear to ear. “But I checked, and then checked again. It’s the right amount.”


“Shall we celebrate tonight?”

“YEAH!” Jaehyun yells, throwing both arms into the air. “Can we have cake?”

“Of course we’ll have cake!” Chanyeol exclaims, picking Jaehyun up and throwing him into the air. “How about it, Mr. Baekhyun? Would you like to have cake with us?”

“Let’s eat cake together, Mr. Baekhyun!”

“Yeah, let’s eat cake together!” Chanyeol repeats, putting Jaehyun back down on the ground. Baekhyun covers his face and groans as the father and son chant for cake as they skip in circles around him. He’s grateful that no one else is around to witness his embarrassment; but when Chanyeol and Jaehyun begin to laugh as the each grab ahold of his hands and drag him down the steps, Baekhyun finds himself laughing along with them.

* * *

“It’s starting!!” Jaehyun yells, dashing into the living room with his Captain America plate in his hands. “Daddy, hurry!!”

“I’m here!” Chanyeol calls, appearing a moment later with two plates in his hands. He takes a seat next to Jaehyun and pops a baby carrot into his mouth. “Baek, hurry!”

“I’m coming,” Baekhyun laughs as he comes into the living last, taking a moment to observe Chanyeol and Jaehyun as they sit under the fort. Chanyeol’s sheets dip downwards in the middle, making it so the taller man has to bend his back in order to fit under it. It looks uncomfortable, in Baekhyun’s opinion; but Chanyeol is all smiles as he displays his pearly whites towards the teacher.

“Are you going to come join us?” Chanyeol asks, “or will you stand there all evening?”

Baekhyun shakes his head as he makes his way over, dropping down on all fours so that he can crawl under the sheets. Chanyeol and Jaehyun inch over to make more room for him, and Chanyeol slides a plate of grilled chicken and vegetables his way once he’s settled. Jaehyun shushes them impatiently when the opening theme song dies down.

Baekhyun watches as Chanyeol cuts his chicken into small pieces and urges Jaehyun to also eat, occasionally reaching over to his son’s plate to stab a piece of the chicken to bring to Jaehyun’s open mouth. He chuckles when both father and son cheer and turn to high-five each other when something good happens to the characters on the screen. Baekhyun turns his attention to his own plate of food. He brings a piece of chicken up to his mouth and almost groans aloud in pleasure as the flavors hit his taste buds. Almost. Instead, he closes his eyes and leans back, savoring the taste of a home-cooked meal.

When Baekhyun opens his eyes again, there is a piece of broccoli in front of his face, right under his nose. Chanyeol raises his eyebrows in warning, chuckling when Baekhyun’s nose scrunch up in slight displeasure, but smiles when the blonde obliges and slides the vegetable off the fork with his teeth. He returns Baekhyun’s warm smile before turning to look back at the television, unaware of the way Baekhyun’s eyes remain on him for the duration of the show.

* * *

Baekhyun looks at his watch when twenty minutes have passed and Chanyeol has still not shown up. He motions of Jaehyun to follow him back into the building and pulls out his phone to dial the father as he grabs his belongings and turns off the lights in the classroom.

“Shit! I’m late again,” Chanyeol says in form of greeting as soon as he picks up. Baekhyun can hear him scrambling around, presumably in a rush to get out the door. “Hold on, Baek, I’ll be there as soon as possible.”

“Don’t worry about it, Chanyeol,” Baekhyun responds, wincing when the artist curses and groans in pain on the other end of the line. “Are you okay?” he asks worriedly, only to laugh when Chanyeol bashfully admits to having stubbed his toe on his bedpost in his hurry to leave. “Don’t go, I’ll bring Jaehyun home.”

“Are you sure?”

“What’s for dinner tonight?”

“I was going to make my famous stir-fried sausages and vegetables.”

“Then I’m sure,” Baekhyun chuckles. “We’ll see you in a bit, Chanyeol.” He ends the call and returns the phone to his pocket, and then turns to the boy beside him. Baekhyun offers his hand, which Jaehyun immediately latches onto, and leads the way out of the building.

“Let’s go home, Jaehyunee.”

* * *

“I’m sure they’re fine, hyung,” Jongin reassures Chanyeol as he glances around. “Baekhyun hyung is an adult.”

You haven’t seen him with games,” Chanyeol retorts, frowning when Baekhyun fails to pick up his phone once again. Next to him, Sehun snorts, understanding well what Chanyeol means. “Why isn’t he picking up, damn it! That man gets lost so often, I should just put a tracking device on him or something…”


Chanyeol turns and a gigantic smile instantly replaces his frown. He watches as Baekhyun and Jaehyun jog towards him, barely able to see his son behind the gigantic Rilakkuma doll hiding more than half of his body. Baekhyun is grinning from ear to ear as he holds a large cup of lemonade between his body and elbow, a fake sword in one hand, and the largest piece of fried dough Chanyeol has ever seen in his life in the other.

“Daddy, look what we won!” Jaehyun’s muffled voice calls out once they come to a stop in front of the group of three. Baekhyun is beaming with excitement when he transfers the sword over to Sehun, and then takes the big plush bear from Jaehyun. “Isn’t this awesome, Daddy?”

“Where’d all this even come from?” Jongin asks, sniping a piece of the dough from Baekhyun.

“We passed by the Ring Toss, and then, um….after we hit the Dunking booth I just couldn’t pass up a game of Whac-A-Mole. Then Jaehyun said he was thirsty so we went and got the lemonade, and I guess I got distracted when I smelled the fried dough.”

“You said you were just going to the bathroom,” Sehun deadpans, eyeing Baekhyun and Jaehyun. Baekhyun chuckles sheepishly as he holds out the fried dough towards his brother-in-law as a peace offering. They all turn to Jaehyun when the boy lets out a gasp.

“Jaehyunee still has to pee!”

* * *

“Is everything ready? Do you have everything?”

“It is. I do.”

“When will he be back?”

“Six? They have the annual meeting with all of the teachers today.”

“How’d you even get the keys to his apartment?”

“He gave me a copy. I stay here sometimes.”

Chanyeol frowns slightly at Sehun’s response. There’s an unsettling feeling in his gut; something akin to jealousy, but he would never admit it. Sehun and Baekhyun are family, after all. He and Baekhyun are…well, nothing. ‘Yet.’ He grumbles for Sehun to hurry up and open the door, and pushes past the younger.

“Sad” is the only word that comes to mind when Chanyeol takes in the Baekhyun’s unfilled apartment. Besides the basic necessities, the flat is empty. Bare. Nothing hangs on the greyish-white walls to act as decoration, and there is little to no color at all. The space makes Chanyeol feel depressed, cold even, and he wonders how such a warm person like Baekhyun can stand it.

“It’s gotten better,” Sehun says, startling Chanyeol. For a moment, he’d forgotten the college student was there with him. “He brought home a cactus the other day.” Sehun points to the windowsill where a tiny plant sits, soaking up the sun’s rays. “He’s gotten better ever since he met you and Jaehyun.”

Chanyeol nods, and then clears his throat. “Let’s get started.”

Chanyeol and Sehun work silently alongside each other, prepping the meal for that night’s dinner. When three o’clock comes around and the front door opens, Chanyeol almost has a heart attack when he thinks that Baekhyun has come home early and their surprise is ruined. It’s just Jongin, however, who comes to join them after having picked up Jaehyun from school.

“Hiya Daddy!”

“Hey, buddy,” Chanyeol greets back, leaning down to pick up his son. “How was school?”

“Good! Daddy, why didn’t Mr. Baekhyun take me home today?”

“Today is Baekhyun’s birthday,” Chanyeol explains, adjusting Jaehyun’s weight onto one of his arms so he can check on the pasta with his other. “We’re going to have a surprise party for him.”

“Today? Daddy, put me down!” Flustered, Chanyeol lowers the boy down and looks at him curiously. “Jaehyunee needs to go make a present!” Chanyeol smiles after his son as he watches the boy grab his backpack and heads into the living room, scattering his markers and crayons from him pencil box around him. He leaves Jaehyun to color as he turns back to the kitchen, shaking his head when he notices Sehun and Jongin’s decorating has somehow turned into a battle of who can inflate the biggest balloon.

At five minutes after six, the table is set and the apartment is decorated. Sehun and Jongin are lounging on the couch, with Jongin’s head resting in Sehun’s lap, and Jaehyun is just about finished with his gift for Baekhyun. Chanyeol walks around anxiously as he sticks his hand into his left pant pocket from time to time to make sure his own gift is still there. He freezes when he hears the sound of the door unlocking, and ushers the others to get into position.

Baekhyun yells in shock when he opens the door and is greeted by a booming exclamation of  “SURPRISE!” He looks around the room, his eyes becoming blurry and his lips trembling at the way his lackluster home has been splattered with color from the balloon and “Happy Birthday” banner hanging across his window. But what really get his tears to fall are the smiling faces of all four people standing in front of him.

Sehun is the first to speak, breaking Baekhyun from his reverie. “Happy birthday, hyung.” Baekhyun takes a step forward and envelopes the twenty-one-year-old in a hug; tears of happiness streaming down his face.

“Mr. Baekhyun!” Jaehyun cries, running over to latch onto Baekhyun’s leg. “Why are you crying? Do you not like it?”

Baekhyun bends down and wipes at his tears. “No,” he smiles, shaking his head, “I love it. I’m so happy.”

“Don’t cry,” Jaehyun whines, wrapping his small arms around the birthday boy, “Mr. Baekhyun should smile on his birthday.”

“You’re right, Jaehyunee,” Baekhyun nods. “I won’t cry anymore.” He looks up at Jongin, Sehun, and then Chanyeol. “Thank you, guys. Really, thank you so much.”

“Nothing about it,” Jongin grins, waving his hand.

Chanyeol comes over and wraps his arms around Baekhyun and Jaehyun, sandwiching his son between them. “I’m glad you like it.”

“I love it.”

“You’ll love the food even more!” Jongin says, rubbing at his stomach. “Come on, hyung, I’m starving!”

“I’m hungry too!” Jaehyun adds, raising his arm in the air.

“Me three!” Sehun joins in.

Baekhyun laughs as he walks over towards the wide spread of food on the table while the others follow after him. “Let’s eat then.”

They share a happy meal, complete with laughter, jokes, and stories. Jaehyun rehashes animatedly about the dream he had the night before in which he had become Iron Man’s sidekick, flying through the sky in his own small suit to help defeat the bad guys. When they’re all finished, the group migrates to the living room, where Baekhyun sits in the middle of the couch with Jaehyun and Chanyeol on either side of him. Jongin sits on the floor opposite them, and Sehun joins him after placing the birthday cake onto the coffee table. Baekhyun claps along as they sing to him, and asks for Jaehyun’s help to blow out his candles after making his wish. He doesn’t think anything can get better than this; he doesn’t expect any more surprises. Chanyeol, however, has other plans when he places his hands onto Baekhyun’s shoulders and turns him gently towards him.

“I have something for you,” he says softly, reaching into his pocket. He takes a breath and looks around the room, nodding at the silent encouragement from both Jongin and Sehun. Jaehyun curiously walks over to Sehun and sits on his lap when Sehun beckons him over, and watches his father.

“I don’t know how you did it, but you somehow stole my son’s heart from the very first day he met you,” Chanyeol says when he turns back to a wide-eyed Baekhyun. “I thought he was crazy at first. I thought, ‘How could he like someone so infuriating?’ But after some time, I finally saw it. I can finally understand what it is about you that attracted my son…that attracted me. You’re so beautiful, Byun Baekhyun, and so strong. I know you don’t think it, but I know it. We all know it.” He sees Baekhyun’s eyes dart to the side, and sees the nods of approval from their audience. “I know this may seem like I’m rushing into things, but I’ve always been one to go with my gut. My son loves you. I love you. I know that with every fiber of my being, and even if you don’t see that yet, I’m sure you will. I’ll make sure to show you each and every day how much I do.” The single father pulls his fist out of his pocket and holds it in front of him. He’s shaking, and he can see that Baekhyun is too. Baekhyun’s hand is over his mouth, and his eyes are wet and unsure as he stares at Chanyeol.

“I’m not asking you to answer right now… I know this is probably a lot to take in. B-But it’d really make me happy if you could be by my side as my partner, and as someone else Jaehyun can depend on.”

Jaehyun gasps loudly and throws his hands of his mouth. He stares from his dad to his teacher, and then back at Sehun as if to ask if his daddy has really just said what he thought he did.

Sehun nods and ruffles the boy’s hair, smiling softly.

“Will you consider it?” Chanyeol asks as he opens his fists, revealing the silver cuff bracelet with an “Ohana” engraving sitting in the palm of his hand. He holds his breath and watches as Baekhyun takes the bracelet into his shaking hands. The blonde looks around the room, at the expectant faces around him, and then back at Chanyeol who is looking at him with uncertainty. Chanyeol almost cries in happiness when he sees the small nod. “Yes?” he dares to ask, leaning forward slightly in his seat.

“Mr. Baekhyun will be Jaehyunee’s daddy?” the little boy asks quietly, looking from his father to the kindergarten teacher.

Baekhyun’s eyes find Sehun’s, who nods at him, reassuring him. He nods again, more firmly this time. “Yes.”

Sehun and Jongin shout a cry of victory and high-five each other, and Jaehyun jolts up from Sehun’s lap to jump up and down in excitement. Chanyeol deflates in relief and takes the bracelet from Baekhyun, helping him to wear it. He holds onto Baekhyun’s hand as he takes in the way the bracelet sits on his wrist, and the way the blonde’s hand seems to fit perfectly in his. He leans over and places a soft peck on Baekhyun’s lips; and then sits back and lifts up his sleeve with a smirk, showing off his own, identical bracelet.

“I had one made for Jaehyun, too.”

“Jaehyunee has a present too!” Jaehyun suddenly shouts, distracting the two adults. He runs to his backpack and comes back a moment later with a drawing in his hand. “For you, Mr. Baekhyun,” the boy beams, holding up his masterpiece.

Baekhyun can’t hold back his tears any longer as he takes the picture from Jaehyun. The five-year-old had drawn a family portrait, with himself and Chanyeol each holding onto one of Jaehyun’s hands with big smiles on their faces. Chanyeol was drawn as Iron Man, and Jaehyun drew himself as the mini version of the superhero. Sehun and Jongin were also drawn into the background, sitting in front of what Baekhyun assumed was a television and gaming console. What Baekhyun can’t seem to take his eyes away from, however, is the drawing of himself in a Captain America costume right next to the boy in the picture.

He clutches the drawing to his chest and cries, looking around at each and every face smiling back at him in the room. In that moment, Baekhyun feels right at home. He smiles as a warm feeling of bliss envelopes him as he looks around at his friends.

His family.