Title: Going Through the Motions
Ship: Baekhyun-centric, Baeklu if you squint, Kaisoo if you read, also Hunhan and Jundae and multiple others if you're creative enough.
Word Count: 18,806
Plot: Going through the motions isn't enough; not for Baekhyun, not for Luhan, not for anyone.
Luhan, true to his word, is back at rehearsal a week later. He's surprisingly quiet – there are no arguments with Kris, no jibes aimed at Baekhyun, and not even a sarcastic comment when Chanyeol notices Jongin has another conspicuous hickey. That observance does, however, make their youngest member blush furiously and hide behind the drum-set for ten minutes until Chanyeol finally apologizes.
Luhan's unnatural silence is concerning. And Baekhyun can't be the only one who's worried. He catches the other members looking every other minute.
Still, it goes okay, besides that particular bit of awkwardness. He's starting to get the hang of singing with a band, and he's learning the lyrics too. There are minimal mess-ups. Overall, the rehearsal runs smoothly. His anxiety level is relatively low, if it's measured at any time during the rehearsal. It's not until they finish that Luhan tells Baekhyun he wants to talk to him.
That's all he says, nothing more. Just, “Hey Baekhyun, can I talk to you?” That's when Baekhyun panics again, because holy shit what if Luhan knows that he knows about Sehun. What if he's going to take him somewhere isolated and shank him. But wait, this isn't some sort of horror movie, that shouldn't happen. His life is more like a drama show. But wait, does that mean he's going to get hit by a car out of the blue? He doesn't want to get run over!
He answers “sure” anyways, mostly because Luhan asks in front of everyone else and it's hard to say “I don't want to,” when everyone is giving him encouraging nods. He has no idea what's going to happen, though, as Luhan goes off and Baekhyun follows. They don't go anywhere too sketchy; Luhan stops in an empty hallway before turning to face him.
Oh shit, is he going to kill him now.
If Baekhyun's response sounds more alarmed than warranted, Luhan doesn't say anything about it. He just frowns.
“For last-last week. My behavior was completely inappropriate, so I'm sorry.”
“Oh.” Baekhyun blinks. Why is he picking now of all times to apologize? Did he suddenly get a change of heart or what? “Then, um, it's okay. I guess.”
The both kind of stand there for a moment, awkwardly silent, until Baekhyun asks timidly, “Can I ask why?”
“Why what?” Luhan looks confused. “You mean, why I was being rude?” Baekhyun nods, and Luhan sighs, pushing the hair back from his forehead. “To be honest, there wasn't really a reason. I just didn't particularly want us to get a new singer.”
“Because you were the old one, right?”
A pained look crosses Luhan's face; Baekhyun realizes this was the wrong thing to say, but Luhan nods once. “Yeah,” he says softly. “I was.”
Silence. Baekhyun doesn't know what to say to that. An apology seems somewhat useless, because there's not much he can do. But after a moment, Luhan puts on an undoubtedly forced smile. “But that doesn't matter now. I'm already retired from that; you're EXO's singer now. How are rehearsals coming along?”
“They're, um.” Isn't Luhan being a little too nice now...? It's slightly alarming. “They're going good. I think I've memorized most of the songs.”
“Really? That's good. Much easier to know the lyrics than write them on your hand.” Luhan laughs.
“I always did that when I was in choir in fifth grade.” Baekhyun holds up his blank palm to demonstrate. “I'd write as much as I could and read it during the performance. The teacher caught me once. He was pissed.”
“That's why you have to do it discretely,” Luhan says. “You used to be in choir, then? That explains why your voice is so good. Have you been singing for a long time?”
“Mhm.” Baekhyun nods. “I've been taking lessons since I was six. I've wanted to be a singer since forever.”
“Really?” Luhan bites his lip, staring at the floor for a moment, but a second later he looks back up at him and smiles. “That's great. I'm sure you can do it.”
“Thanks.” Baekhyun feels compelled to say something else, so he comes up with another question: “Ah, what about you? Do you sing for just recreational purposes, or...?”
“Did I?” Luhan takes a moment to mull over the question. “Well, back in the day, I wanted to be a singer. But I've already given up on that.”
Luhan smiles at him again, only this time, it's a bitter smile that kind of scares him. “Because I'm not as good as I used to be. I can't sing anymore.”
“Yes you can.” Luhan raises an eyebrow at him skeptically, and Baekhyun nods
a couple more times. “Whatever that song was that you sang at the last performance – the one about the stars – that was amazing. I didn't even understand what you were saying and it made me cry.”
“Oh. That's not supposed to be a sad song, though. And besides, how could it have been amazing.” Luhan smacks his arm playfully. “I missed every other note. And my range is shit.”
“Well, technique isn't the only part of singing. My music teacher always told me that good music is one part talent and two parts soul. And you definitely got the soul part covered.” Baekhyun tries to smile encouragingly. His expression probably comes out looking more pained than encouraging. “The other part just comes with practice.”
Luhan shrugs, looking doubtful. Baekhyun keeps going:
“Were you trying to make the song sad? What is it actually about?”
“Take Off Ten Thousand Stars?” Luhan raises his eyes to the ceiling, as if he's thinking. “It's, ah, um, a love song. It just kind of makes me a bit sad, I guess.”
Sehun? Baekhyun almost wants to ask, but that's definitely unapproachable territory, so he doesn't. Instead he asks, “Luhan?”
“Do you like singing?”
Luhan blinks at him uncomprehendingly. “Um, yes? Why?”
“Then, why did you stop singing for EXO?”
“Why?” Luhan echoes, almost as if he doesn't know the answer to that himself. “I, ah, I had to get surgery for my throat at some point, and a lot of other things were...happening at the same time, so I took some time off.”
Baekhyun tries to take a moment to connect the dots:
Chanyeol said something happened that made it so Luhan couldn't sing
Lay said that this 'Sehun' or whatever died in the accident that rendered Luhan unable to sing
Luhan now says what made it so he couldn't sing was some sort of surgery at some point
Last time he checked, one person's surgery cannot kill someone else.
These dots do not connect, and now Baekhyun is thoroughly confused.
But still, he's apparently not getting answers, because Luhan stops then, smiling and saying something about having to go help Yixing with something (oh yeah, that's Lay), and that he'll see him at rehearsal tomorrow. And just with that, he's gone.
Baekhyun sits there for a long moment, wondering what he's supposed to do now, until Minseok texts him twenty minutes later and asks if he wants Kung Pao Chicken. That could be two blessings in one (Minseok's Chinese food is amazing and his roommate is actually really helpful when he has problems sometimes), so Baekhyun makes his way back to their apartment.
He walks in to the sight of Minseok in a bright pink apron, bent over the stove and cooking enough for twenty, never mind two. Baekhyun always tells him he makes too much – Minseok somehow always eats it anyways.
“Hyung, I'm back.”
Minseok doesn't look up, neatly dumping a pan full of chicken into a nearby bowl. “Good,” he says, pouring in copious amounts of soy sauce and oil into the skillet before tossing in a bunch of vegetables. “Get out the bowls? I'm almost done.”
“Okay.” Baekhyun walks over to the cabinet, standing on his toes to reach the bowls. He barely manages to reach them, and he puts them on the kitchen table as Minseok finishes, messing with multiple dials to turn off the stove. He carries over three or four dishes at the same time, setting them down in the middle. Baekhyun grabs two pairs of chopsticks, handing one to Minseok before sitting down. Minseok plops down in his usual chair, wasting no time in putting as much food as possible in his bowl and shoveling it into his mouth.
“Hey, hyung?” Baekhyun says, watching Minseok slurp up some noodles. “You used to study medicine, right?”
When they started rooming together in Baekhyun's sophomore year (Minseok's junior), Minseok was studying Human Biology. But after he went to study abroad in China, he decided to switch to Culinary Tech. As per Minseok, “Food trumps everything.”
Minseok nods instead of answering, probably because he'd choke if he tried to speak. He pauses, chewing a mouthful of food before he swallows and asks, “Why?”
“Well, um...” Baekhyun concentrates on picking up a piece of chicken. “Can you think of any situation in which someone would need surgery and would be unable to sing after?”
“Surgery? Sure.” Minseok reaches over to get more chicken. “Anything involving your throat or your vocal chords. Are you talking like surgery for trauma or for illness?”
“Um...either?” Baekhyun puts the chicken in his mouth, talking as he chews. “Anything that would require surgery.”
Minseok stops eating to rattle off a long list, reasons ranging from tumors to ulcers to a tracheotomy. Baekhyun tries to keep up and still misses most of what he says. He lacks the ability to understand medical speak. Still, when Minseok finishes, Baekhyun asks, “Can any of those situations cause someone else's death?”
Minseok gives him a blank look. “Um...depending on the context, maybe? Why?”
“Um.” Baekhyun stares down at his bowl of rice. “It's nothing. Well, obviously it's something, but...” Minseok is starting to look very confused, so Baekhyun tries again. “It's just, I was talking to one of my friends - ” If Luhan can be considered a friend - “and he said the reason he had to stop being a singer was because he had to get surgery. But my other friend said that that friend was in an accident and that accident was what made it so he couldn't sing. Plus he said that this friend's maybe-boyfriend died in this accident, and - ”
“Baekhyun,” Minseok interrupts, holding up a hand to stop him. “It might help if you used names.”
“Oh. Right. Luhan couldn't sing because he got surgery. But Potato Chip said Luhan couldn't sing because of an accident, and also that Luhan's friend Sehun died in this accident.”
Minseok frowns, taking a long, unbearable moment to think of what Baekhyun has told him. Finally, he says, “I don't know what to tell you, Baekhyun, there's not a lot to go off of there. You don't know what kind of accident it was, and you don't know what this surgery was for, either. Plus, the things you're talking about might not even be related.”
“Oh.” Baekhyun frowns too, tapping his chin as he tries to think. “Well, what should I do, then?”
“What are you trying to do?” Minseok has picked up his chopsticks to start eating again. “If it’s already happened, you can’t do much about it.” He picks up a piece of spinach, putting it in his mouth and chewing. “Or are you just trying to figure out what happened in the first place?”
“Um, I think the latter,” Baekhyun says. Minseok shrugs, scooping up the last of his bowl’s contents and shoving it in his mouth. He gets up, carrying it over to the sink.
“Then, you should try asking your potato chip friends for the lovely details, because I don’t know any of them. Now, do you want dessert? I, for one, want cake.”
“Hyung, we just ate all of this food.” Baekhyun stares at his half full bowl. “How are we supposed to eat cake?”
“There’s always room for cake,” Minseok says decisively, opening cupboards and drawers to get out ingredients.
This is exactly why he’s going to get diabetes when he’s older, Baekhyun laments with a sigh.
- - -
Baekhyun finds Lay to be just as antagonistic to his questions as he was on Monday.
“Baekhyun, can’t you just mind your own business?”
“But hyung, he was already telling me about it,” Baekhyun whines. “What you guys told me doesn’t match up.”
“I already – wait, he told you something?” Lay looks at him over his textbook. They’re both early to rehearsal, so Lay is using the time to study. Rather, to try to study. It's presumably harder to study while Baekhyun is there to bother him. “What did he tell you?” Lay narrows his eyes at him.
“He said the reason he stopped singing was because he had to get surgery.” Baekhyun hops closer to start prodding Lay’s arm. “And you guys told me it was because there was an accident. Which is iittttt. Hyuuung, tell me. Hyung, please. Pretty please. Pretty please with a cherry on top. Pretty pretty please with – ”
“Yah, are you five?” Lay slams his textbook shut. He looks ready to throw it at him. “What do you expect me to tell you? You’re the one making assumptions!”
“Assumptions? What am I assuming?” Baekhyun pokes Lay’s cheek this time. “Is the accident what made Luhan need the surgery? Are they related at all?”
“Stop that!” Lay smacks his hand away. “It was a car accident and a throat surgery, how can those be related? Stop talking like you know everything!”
“Two different things.”
“Go warm up or something, dumbass, I’m not answering any more of your questions.”
Baekhyun obliges, because Lay looks really pissed, but mostly because he has other plans. However, when he tries to corner Jongin after rehearsal as planned, Jongin is quite disagreeable. Baekhyun speculates this is more due to the fact that he’d rather be doing unspeakable things with Kyungsoo.
“Jongin-ah, no one else will tell me. Just help me out, please?”
“Can’t I help you later?” Jongin whines, only half paying attention because he’s watching in despair as Kyungsoo waves and leaves. Baekhyun moves to block his view.
“No. I need your help now.”
“You’re only going to bug me about what happened to Luhan-hyung,” Jongin mutters darkly, plopping down on the floor and crossing his arms. Baekhyun smiles brightly and sits down next to him.
“You’re the only one who tells me anything about it, though.”
“You should go bug Chanyeol instead.”
“Come onnn.” Baekhyun pokes the side of Jongin’s head. “If you tell me, you’ll be my favorite dongsaeng.”
“I don’t want to be your favorite dongsaeng,” Jongin says irritably. “You just cut off my bonding time with my boyfriend.”
“You guys would have been bonding a little too well, anyways.” Baekhyun gets up, squatting down in front of Jongin so they’re face to face. “The faster you tell me, the more bonding time you can spend with Kyungsoo.”
Jongin makes faces at him, eying the door.
“Don’t think you can run for it. I bet I can outrun you.”
“But, hyuuuung.” Jongin resorts back to whining. “Go bug Chanyeol instead, pleeease?”
Baekhyun crosses his arms. “Talk fast.”
“Yah, I don’t even know what you expect me to tell you.” Jongin crosses his arms too. “Lay-hyung knows more of it than I do, I just know the basics of what happened.”
“Then tell me that.” Baekhyun nods encouragingly. “What’s this accident everyone’s talking about? What happened?”
“Hyung’s accident?” Jongin frowns. “All I know is that they were driving somewhere and the car crashed. Lay-hyung and Kris-hyung were the ones who actually went to the scene.”
“What about Luhan getting surgery? Do you know what that was about?”
“Surgery?” Jongin takes a moment to think. “I think he had to get some sort of throat surgery after he got discharged from the hospital the first time…that was for something else, though. He had an ulcer or something.”
So Minseok was right, then.
“Alright.” Baekhyun nods, and Jongin starts to get up. “Wait, one more thing.”
Jongin looks ready to kill him.
“What’s so important about that song? Take Off Ten Thousand Stars?”
Jongin sits back down slowly.
“He always used to sing that song to Sehun.”
“And, Sehun was…”
Jongin sighs, tugging at his jacket sleeve absentmindedly.
“Sehun was Luhan’s boyfriend.” Jongin stands up, stepping around Baekhyun carefully, as if he’s waiting for Baekhyun to try and stop him. “That’s as much as I can tell you, hyung, so I suggest you talk to Lay or Luhan if you want to know more.”
“O-okay,” Baekhyun manages, only barely articulate because he’s trying to figure everything out now. “Oh, thanks,” he adds, remembering he should probably thank him too.
Jongin makes faces at him in return and closes the door with a bang.
- - -
Baekhyun tells himself that he isn’t going to bring it up again, but the next day Kris asks Luhan if he wants to sing at the next concert too. Luhan tells him no. Kris and Lay suddenly look very worried. Luhan still says no. Kris and Lay smile uneasily and spend the latter half of rehearsal having whispered conversations in the back. Baekhyun tries to listen in and finds that he can’t, because they’re speaking in Chinese.
He talks to Chanyeol and Jongin and Luhan instead; he finds Luhan is far more pleasant to talk to when he’s not pissy, but either way, the conversation holds little substance. They talk about classes. Baekhyun finds out Luhan is majoring in Communications. Jongin puts in that he’s still undecided. It’s a nice conversation, but Baekhyun can still see Kris and Lay glancing at them the entire time. Only at the end of the supposed rehearsal time do they ask Luhan to actually talk to them.
The rest of them go home then. Baekhyun chills in his apartment, because Minseok isn’t supposed to get back until eleven. It’s around 10:30 when he’s watching TV and his phone buzzes.
From: Potato Chip (Lay)
22:24 – Hey
Message: Bacon, did Luhan tell you he isn’t going to sing anymore?
Baekhyun frowns, typing out his reply.
To: Potato Chip (Lay)
22:26 – Re: Hey
Message: Uh, yeah…he didn’t tell you?
From: Potato Chip (Lay)
22:26 – Re: Re: Hey
Message: He just told us.
To: Potato Chip (Lay)
22:27 – Re: Re: Re: Hey
From: Potato Chip (Lay)
22:27 – Re: Re: Re: Re: Hey
Message: We’re trying to talk him out of it.
Making your own life decisions must be overrated, in the potato chip world.
To: Potato Chip (Lay)
22:29 – Uh
From: Potato Chip (Lay)
22:38 – Re: Uh
Message: You don’t get it. Luhan has literally wanted to sing since he was in grade school. You’ve heard what he sounds like without practice; he used to be amazing. The only reason he isn’t now is because of the accident. I don’t want him to make a decision he’ll regret just because of things he can’t control.
To: Potato Chip (Lay)
22:46 – Re: Re: Uh
Message: Still, isn’t that his own decision?
From: Potato Chip (Lay)
22:57 – Re: Re: Re: Uh
Message: It’s his own decision and I respect that completely. I just want him to make the decision after he actually thinks about it. The only reason he gave us was that he didn’t want to anymore, but I think he’s just frustrated. I’m hoping that he might get better if he sees the side he used to want. So, do you think you can talk to him for us? You’re a music major too, so maybe if you just explain why you picked that and why you want to be a singer and everything, he’ll understand.
Baekhyun stares at his screen for a long moment, unsure of what to say. He gets another text a minute later.
From: Potato Chip (Lay)
22:58 – Please.
Message: It’s not like we’ll try to force you to do it. I’m just asking. Please. I know Luhan isn’t your favorite person in the world. But he hasn’t been the same since Sehun. I get the feeling he’s trying to do this to punish himself. He thinks it was his fault.
He stares at the messages for a long time, until his eyes get tired from seeing the same thing over and over, until Minseok comes back and asks his usual question of what they should eat for dinner. Finally, Baekhyun writes out his reply.
To: Potato Chip (Lay)
23:54 – Re: Please.
- - -
Baekhyun soon finds out that Lay's (and apparently Kris', too) idea of “talking” involves shoving the two of them in the band room after rehearsal and locking the door until “Luhan decides to listen.” Luhan looks ready to kill someone. And Baekhyun is the only one around to kill. He also has things to be doing right now – like homework – and would not have said yes if he'd known this would be an all-night endeavor. As Lay and Kris inform them through the door, they're not letting them out until they've talked. Except, Luhan looks very closed to talking. Baekhyun has no idea how long they'll be in there. He feels that Coke and beer (the two things in the fridge) are not appropriate sustenance for long periods of time.
So he just sits on the floor, watching Luhan irritably pace back and forth in front of the door. He hopes he isn't going to keep that up for too long, because he'd like to go home eventually, but being angry seems to give you energy. Luhan's been at it for a good ten minutes.
“Yah, did you agree to this?” Luhan stops mid-cycle to glare at him. Baekhyun cringes.
“Um, I told them I'd try to talk to you? I was not informed that we'd be stuck in here for indefinite periods of time.”
“Ha.” Luhan bangs on the door with one fist. It's no use – they don't open it. “Talk to me. Yeah, that'll help.” He turns to the door, raising his voice. “Where's your motivational shit about not doing something you don't want to do now, Wu Yifan?”
There's no reply. Baekhyun wonders if they've actually left. He certainly wouldn't put it beneath them to. Baekhyun just hopes they don't forget about them.
“...bullshit.” Luhan sinks to the floor, back against the wall and arms crossed. “This is such bullshit. Why did they think I'd talk to an almost stranger, anyways.”
“Um, I think Lay said that he thinks I can offer a viewpoint on being a singer,” Baekhyun offers timidly, getting up and coming over to sit next to him (albeit a good couple centimeters away.) Luhan gives him an icy glare.
want to be a singer. I wanted to be a singer. There's a big difference there.”
“But, there isn't any reason for you to give up singing.” Baekhyun scrambles for articulate reasons. “Like, your voice is really good. I can't even imagine how good it used to be.”
“Used to be,” Luhan emphasizes. “It took a lot of work to get my voice up to there. I'm not willing to put in the time to reteach myself the basics.”
“Yeah, but...” It's a valid point; it just doesn't make sense in light of his original aspiration. “Is that all? You don't want to be a singer anymore because you don't want to put in the work?”
Baekhyun crosses his arms.
“Now, that's bullshit.”
That gets Luhan's attention; the older boy raises his head to look at him in disbelief. “Excuse me?”
“You don't just turn off motivation like that!” Baekhyun waves his arms in frustration and nearly hits Luhan in the face. “Sure, I can understand if you just want to switch to some other career or something, but that's no reason to stop singing completely! You can't just give up like that!”
“Why can't I?” Luhan turns to him, eyes blazing. “Why do any of you care about what I do or don't want to do? It's not of anyone's business, especially yours! You barely know me! You have no idea why I'm making this decision!”
His last exclamation leaves the room in almost painful silence. Baekhyun swallows hard, steeling himself for his next sentence:
“It's because of Sehun, isn't it?”
Luhan's expression seems to go through a series of emotions in that next minute. There's initial shock, then an undeniably anguished expression before Luhan's face goes completely blank.
“They told you about Sehun?” he asks flatly. Baekhyun nods once.
“Figures,” Luhan mutters, crossing his arms and turning away. Baekhyun scrambles for something else to say before he loses him completely.
“Lay thinks you're blaming yourself for the accident and that's why you don't want to sing anymore.”
“Really? Does he now?” Luhan glares at the door, but Kris and Lay – whether they're present or not – make no comment. “And they told you what exactly happened in the accident?”
Baekhyun flinches at his tone. “Um, sort of ish?”
“Sort of,” Luhan scoffs. “You don't know anything, do you?”
“I...” Baekhyun gulps. “I know that...I know that you lost Sehun because of it?”
“Yeah? Do you know that I was the one driving? Did they explain to you why exactly it's my fault?” Luhan's voice raises almost to a yell. “Don't try to tell me anything if you don't know how it happened!”
He stops then, turning away to stare at the opposite wall. Baekhyun waits for what seems like hours before he ventures to speak again.
“Then, can you tell me what happened?”
Luhan doesn't say anything.
“Please. If you say I don't understand, then tell me what happened so I do.” Baekhyun shrugs helplessly, even though he knows Luhan won't see. “We've got a while in here, anyways. If I don't understand, then make me understand. Then I can't bother you anymore and they'll let us out of here.”
“Those bastards probably just left, anyways.” Luhan doesn't say anything more for a long moment, but then he turns his head slightly to look at Baekhyun out the corner of his eye. “What have they even told you? How much do you actually know?”
“Well...” Baekhyun fidgets uncomfortably. “Jongin mentioned that you associate 'Take Off Ten Thousand Stars' with Sehun.”
“Yes, I do. That used to be our song.” Luhan sighs. “He couldn't even understand the lyrics. I always had to translate
“...and...he said that Sehun was your boyfriend.”
Luhan stares at the floor.
“That he was.”
“How long were you guys...” Baekhyun tries to find an appropriate word. “Ah, together?”
“The accident was a week from our anniversary. So, about a year.” Luhan rests his chin on his knees. “I knew him for a while before we started dating, though. We went to high school together. He was one of the first people who talked to me after I moved from China.”
“Was he the same year as you?”
“No,” Luhan snorts, “He was a few months younger than Jongin, actually.”
Baekhyun has to put in conscious effort to keep his jaw from dropping, because shit, this group seems to be filled with cradle robbers.
“That was everyone else's reaction when they found out, too.” Luhan fiddles with a stray thread on his sleeve absentmindedly, staring at the wall as he speaks. “We'd already formed EXO by then, though, and it wasn't that much of a shock because they were already accusing Kyungsoo of wanting to get into Jongin's pants. Kyungsoo helped us coordinate a lot of things even before he started dating Jongin, actually. Sehun thought it was hilarious. I had to remind him multiple times that our relationship was technically worse, because our age gap was bigger.” He pauses, tapping his lips with a finger thoughtfully. “That was my sophomore year. It was around the end of that year that it happened.”
Luhan stops again, like he doesn't know whether to continue on or not. It's ages before he speaks again.
“I'd just gotten my license, so naturally Sehun thought it'd be a marvelous idea to try it out. I agreed, obviously, because otherwise this wouldn't have happened.” Luhan swallows hard, his voice growing quieter with the next words. “I don't even remember where we decided to go, it was to the bubble tea store or something trivial like that. It definitely wasn't worth it.”
“We were talking about something on the car ride there – it wasn't even an important conversation. I think he was talking about his math test the next week, or it was an English project or something. So, I was listening to him, and...” Luhan takes a deep breath. “We came up to an intersection, and I wasn't looking, and...”
Luhan stares at him pleadingly, like he's begging Baekhyun to understand without him having to say it explicitly. It's not that hard to comprehend. Baekhyun gets what he's saying. He nods slowly to demonstrate this.
The Chinese boy is silent for a long moment before he says, “They said he died on impact. Neither of us saw it coming.”
Baekhyun doesn't know what to say to that, so he just nods again. Luhan apparently isn't done:
“I wish I'd been knocked unconscious or something, at least. I was awake for the first half of the carnage. I didn't know what was happening; first we'd been driving along, and then there was a crash loud enough to blow your eardrums out and we were flying across the intersection. I was too shocked to scream – I just waited until the car stopped rolling, and I looked over - ” Luhan's voice is trembling - “to see if Sehun was alright, and - ”
“Luhan.” Baekhyun cuts him off quietly. He's almost afraid to say it more loudly, he doesn't know what kind of reaction Luhan will have. “It's okay. You don't have to tell me everything.”
Luhan only gives him a pained smile and shrugs his shoulders.
“I wish I hadn't seen it. I still get nightmares sometimes.”
“It sounds like it would be a pretty unsettling sight.” Baekhyun cringes at the thought. The closest he's ever gotten to seeing that kind of accident is on TV.
There's only another shrug in response. Baekhyun wonders if he should ask about the other part, considering how Luhan has already told him a lot already, but since it's already gone this far, he might as well.
“Then, what happened with your voice...?”
“My voice...?” Luhan takes a minute to register what he means, then sighs. “That was after. They found out while I was in the hospital that I had a throat ulcer.” He laughs bitterly, shaking his head. “Talk about being kicked while you're down. I'd lost two of the most important things in my life, at the same time, one after the other. Sure, I probably could have gotten my voice back, but after the accident I just shut down. Never mind singing, I didn't even talk. Yixing and Kris always tried to figure out how they could get me to. Their methods never were effective. They were probably far more worried about me than could be considered healthy in that time. I don't think I've ever actually thanked them, or even apologized. Yixing and Kris aren't the type to hold a grudge over that, though.
“They had Sehun's funeral a few days after I got discharged from the hospital. The casket was closed, of course; nobody wanted to see the aftermath of that. It's funny, I don't think anyone even associated me with his death. I got labeled as a victim too.” Luhan's voice falls even quieter. “I didn't even cry. Is that wrong? I wanted to but I couldn't.”
“There's nothing wrong with not crying.” Baekhyun rubs at his eyes with the back of one hand. Luhan notices.
“Are you crying?”
“What? No. No.” Baekhyun shakes his head a couple of times, as if multiple rejections will make Luhan believe him. Luhan doesn't question it, probably because the tears in Baekhyun's eyes are visible enough to be obvious.
“Anyways. That's pretty much it. Can you tell Lay and Kris to let us out now?”
“Wait, wait.” Baekhyun scrubs at his eyes with his sleeve before holding up both hands. “When did you ever explain why exactly it's your fault?”
Luhan turns to stare at him, a very clear are you serious expression on his face. “I told you. I was the one driving, remember?”
“Yeah, but just because you were driving doesn’t mean it was your fault.” Luhan looks skeptical. “No, really! It takes two to make an accident.”
“Sure it does,” Luhan says with a roll of his eyes. “That’s' what people tell themselves after they've gotten in crashes.”
Baekhyun searches for something else to say, something that can actually get Luhan to listen.
“So, that's it, then?”
“You're just going to give up like that.”
The words come out a bit more bluntly than Baekhyun intended. Luhan flinches visibly.
“But this all happened, what, one, two years ago? And you've just decided now that you don't want to sing anymore. Nothing's changed. Just a couple weeks ago, you were being a complete ass because you didn't like having a new singer. Is there any legitimate reason to make this decision?
Luhan stares at him blankly. Baekhyun sighs.
“I know. I know I don't know anything. I don't know Sehun, I don't know you. But from my perspective, it doesn't make sense. You think you don't deserve to sing? Why, because there was an accident? As far as I heard, you didn't intentionally crash the car. Is this your way of making it up to your dead boyfriend? You said he liked hearing you sing. Would he want you to stop doing it? If you really feel bad about what you said was your fault, then shouldn't you keep singing? If you're trying to make it up to Sehun, keep singing so he can hear you. So you remember every single time what you did. Do it for him.”
Luhan is silent. Baekhyun is about to give up himself, because godammit what more can he say, when a voice comes from the other side of the door.
Luhan answers in Chinese, gaze trained on the floor. If Baekhyun hears correctly, that's...Lay who's talking? Baekhyun has no idea what they're saying (Minseok might actually be really convenient right now), but it seems that every time Luhan replies, he sounds more and more anguished. The exchange lasts a good ten minutes until the door opens. Baekhyun looks up to see Lay in the doorway, his expression as distressed as Luhan's. Baekhyun opens his mouth to ask, but Lay shakes his head, stepping around him to crouch down in front of Luhan, so they're eye to eye.
“Just do it for Sehun,” Lay says softly, in Korean this time.
Luhan stares at him for what seems like hours until slowly, wordlessly, he nods his head.
- - -
“Yah, why are we still rehearsing if we're going to be missing so many people? What's the point?”
“We're not missing 'so many' people, only Lay and Luhan will be gone,” Chanyeol reminds their youngest, reaching over to tap his forehead with one finger. Jongin flinches back, hiding behind Kyungsoo.
“Actually, we'll be missing Lay, Luhan, and Baekhyun,” Kris corrects him, tugging on the collar of his crisp white dress shirt. “And I'm missing work to come rehearse with you, so be grateful.”
Jongin ignores the latter half of Kris' sentence to gape at Baekhyun.
“Yah, hyung, you're going too?!”
“Um.” Baekhyun smiles sheepishly and nods. “Guilty as charged?”
“Come on, we're missing both of our vocalists, then!” Jongin whines, turning back to Kris. “And we'll only have one guitarist! What's the point?”
“You're the one who needs more practice, anyways,” Kyungsoo laughs, patting his boyfriend's head as the younger pouts.
“It's not my fault all of the new songs have hard bass parts!”
Baekhyun stands up then, sliding his backpack strap over his shoulder as he does so. “I'm leaving now, then?”
“No fair,” Jongin whines. Kris just smiles and waves.
“Have fun, if Yixing and Luhan start trolling in Chinese, just swear at them in Korean or something.”
“Or Thai,” Chanyeol suggests.
Baekhyun gives him an odd look. “I don't speak Thai?”
“Learn Thai, then swear at them in Thai.”
“It's not like he can learn Thai in two hours,” Kyungsoo points out. Baekhyun just rolls his eyes and walks out the door.
He unfortunately learns that, a couple hours later, Lay and Luhan's idea of entertainment on train rides is singing in Chinese loudly and telling Baekhyun he should join in. Baekhyun has to inform them multiple times that, no, he does not want to sing in Chinese with them, and that he doesn't even know the lyrics to “Hurray for Idols.” It takes an hour and a half for the two of them to calm down enough so that Baekhyun can actually talk to them.
“So, you're going to be singing for him?” Baekhyun asks Luhan. Luhan nods, tugging on the lapel of his suit nervously.
“Do I look okay?”
“Yes, you look fine,” Lay informs him. “Sehun would think you looked great even if you were wearing a paper sack.”
“Shut up,” Luhan complains, smacking his arm. Baekhyun laughs.
“You look great.”
“Except your tie's not straight,” Lay puts in.
“Kidding, kidding, it's fine.”
Baekhyun and Lay nod convincingly. Luhan sighs, adjusting the position of the flowers in his lap.
“Alright, it's this next stop.”
“Are you sure you want us to come with you?” Lay asks. Luhan hesitates, then nods.
“Yeah. I told him next time I'd bring Baekhyun, anyways.”
“And I'll be the third wheel, fantastic,” Lay mutters under his breath. Luhan gapes at him indignantly.
“You're not a third wheel! That's only if the other two people are dating!”
“Well, you two are practically – mmmph.”
Baekhyun covers his mouth before Lay can finish.
“Well, let's go then, shall we?”
The cemetery looks too cheerful for what its real purpose is. They find Sehun in the back corner, next to a patch of flowers and dogwood trees. Luhan takes a deep breath, walking over and laying one hand on the cold stone.
“Sehun-ah, how have you been?”
A breeze rustles through the flowers. A flurry of petals floats through the air.
“It's been a while since I've talked to you, I hope you've been well. I don't think much has really happened since the last time I talked to you. We had a couple performances. I had to sign up for some new classes. I think I'm going to end up graduating with a double major, years after everyone else.” He pauses. “I told you I'd introduce you to my friend this time, right?”
Baekhyun wonders if this is his cue. Lay pushes him forward before he can ask.
“Sehun-ah, this is Baekhyun.”
Baekhyun clears his throat awkwardly.
Awkward silence. Baekhyun searches for something else to say.
“Um, Luhan has told me a lot about you.”
“Baekhyun is the singer for EXO,” Luhan says, shuffling his feet. Baekhyun nods in confirmation.
“Yixing came too. Remember Yixing? He was the one who always called you a brat.”
“But very lovingly,” Lay interjects. “I lovingly called him a brat.”
“I said I'd sing for you, too. I was going to find something else, but I figure you'd still want Take Off Ten Thousand Stars, right?”
Baekhyun takes a step back, so that he's standing next to Lay. Lay pats his shoulder in approval.
Luhan takes a deep breath and sings:
“Qing qing bi shang shuang yan, wo jiu zai ni shen bian, qiao qiao de shi ge yuan, wo jiu hui rang ta shi xian. Jing wan de ye kong tian tian de, bu xu yao you liu xing hua guo, ying wei wo yao gei ni zhen ge xing kong...”
It's interesting, Baekhyun thinks, to compare today to the last time he heard Luhan sing this song. The last time was a little under a year ago, but today, the feeling is completely different. The last time it sounded like he'd put all the sadness of the world into the lyrics; now it sounds lighter, happier, somehow. Baekhyun wonders if this is what the original song is supposed to sound like. The way Luhan sings it now, it sounds more like a celebration of something that happened and passed, rather than a lament of what's gone.
“Qing qing wen ni de lian jia, rang shi jie ting liu. Jiu rang jing wan mei you jing tou,” Luhan finishes, voice tapering off into silence. But still, when he turns around he's smiling.
“You guys can go ahead, I just need a minute.”
Lay is dragging him away before Baekhyun can even ask if he's alright. Not until they're at least one hundred meters away does Lay stop, turning back to look at Luhan. He's still standing by the grave, mouth moving as he speaks. They're too far to hear what he's saying.
“Is he okay?” Baekhyun asks. Lay nods.
“He'll be fine. He's just talking to Sehun by himself. Look, he's coming over now, see?”
Luhan makes his way over in much less time than it took the two of them, presumably because Luhan doesn't have an extra person to drag with him. He doesn't comment, just smiles.
“Yah, let's go.” Lay lets go of Baekhyun's wrist to skip off down the path, calling out behind him, “Come on lovebirds, we're burning daylight!”
“Zhang Yixing, I am going to kill you with a pillow in your sleep!” Luhan yells after him, groaning and shaking his head as if Baekhyun can't see the red spreading visibly across his cheeks. He walks past him, his hand not-so-conspicuously brushing Baekhyun's as he goes by. “Let's go.”
Baekhyun rolls his eyes, catching up and deliberately grabbing Luhan's hand as he passes. Luhan stops to look down at their interlaced fingers. Baekhyun smiles wryly.