Summary: Baekhyun is a travelling photographer who loses his heart along the way but gains a travel companion, as a one-night-stand turns into a year and counting.
東京 - Tokyo in autumn
When they first meet, it was almost a moment like in those movies. It was dark around them, colourful lights sweeping over the dancing crowd which happened to part in the exact moment Baekhyun looked up, catching sight of Tao on the dancefloor. Granted, he wasn't the best dancer, only his enthusiasm made up for it, a fact Baekhyun later teased him about countless times. But the scene looked breathtakingly perfect in every aspect to Baekhyun's trained eye. He'd never regretted more not having his camera with him. If there was ever a moment he'd wanted to preserve for all eternity, this was it.
Baekhyun was a professional photographer. Not any kind of photographer, no, he had a liking for raunchy pictures. “Beautiful,” he'd say, “why hide how attractive people are, why not highlight it?”
“Gross. Very inappropriate. These pictures are unusable for the photo-essay I entrusted you with,” his boss had said and fired him.
So Baekhyun had scraped together all his savings, packed a large suitcase, his camera and laptop and an external harddrive with enormous capacity, and went on a trip throughout Asia. He snapped pictures of close to everything that crossed his vision in hopes of stocking up so many different photos of objects, people, sceneries, moods, themes that he could sustain himself as a freelance photographer.
On that particular evening, though, he had locked all of his equipment in his hotel room and gone clubbing in Shibuya, for once tired of seeing the world through a lens and just wanting to let go and have fun. And possibly get laid. He hadn't expected to become so enticed with that stranger he saw for a moment in the crowd before other dancers and people in the crowd, cocktail glasses in their hands, blocked his view again. He left his lukewarm beer bottle and the person he'd half-heartedly chatted up at the bar and made his way through the clubbers with a sense of urgency he couldn't really place.
He found the guy and tapped his shoulder before he even had a plan what he would say when he turned around, so he just smiled brightly up at him, ignoring the nervous thundering of his heart, and it seemed to be enough. The man grabbed his wrists and swung them, all the while moving to the beat, to get Baekhyun to dance with him, and there was nothing Baekhyun wanted to do more than that. They tried to introduce each other but it was close to impossible over the heavy bass and their jumbled Japanese. Baekhyun was pretty sure the other hadn't caught his name when his groomed eyebrows drew together in slight confusion and he craned his neck to get his pierced ear closer to Baekhyun's mouth. But instead of repeating his name, Baekhyun, playfully, cheekily, looped his arms around the guy's shoulders and pulled him down to nibble on his earlobe. That was as clear an invitation as anything, and after swaying for one, two more songs with his hands on Baekhyun's hips, the guy hooked a finger through Baekhyun's belt loops and pulled him towards the exit.
Baekhyun was glowing with something that the dark, sensual eyes of the stranger had ignited in him and he wasted no time hailing a cab and giving the driver the address to his hotel. They made out heatedly in the backseat and couldn't care less about the obvious displeasure they were causing the elderly man who sent them pinched looks through the rear-view mirror and drummed his white gloved hands on the steering wheel.
It was when he was bouncing hard in the guy's lap on the springy hotel mattress that Baekhyun figured out he could speak Korean. Baekhyun was chasing his own pleasure, feeling the man's thick cock slide deep and deeper at the fastest speed his straining thighs could muster, hands splayed on firm pecs, eyes screwed shut and head thrown back so he could focus all his senses on that painful, pleasurable feeling of too much, too full, too fast that he craved. His mouth was running along, strings of “Ah, ah, ah, oh god, yes ah please, ohh, so good, I must've saved a country in my past live, ah fuck, you're amazing” until he heard a huff of laughter and the man groaned out. “Shut up.”
“You speak Korean?” Baekhyun's eyes snapped open and he stopped, settling down on the man's dick, panting hard, and eyed him full of curiosity.
“That's great.” Baekhyun smiled and picked up his pace again, slower this time, just enough to feel the drag of the thickness against his inner walls while making conversation. “What did you say your name was again? I didn't catch it earlier.”
“Huang Zitao.” His voice came out in a short, strained huff, obviously not as chatty in bed as Baekhyun.
“Ji... Tz... Zitao? Ah, that's too hard to pronounce, I'll just call you Tao.” A curt nod gave him the okay, and they went on, Tao's hips pounding into him at a steadily building pace. Baekhyun made sure to reward Tao's amazing stamina by screaming his name when he finally teetered over the edge after many ecstatic minutes of pleasure. Happy and complacent – and finally quiet in his bliss – he let Tao hug his boneless form to his chest and fuck into him until he reached his own climax. They just lazed around after that, throwing the condom out but too sleepy and careless to shower, and Baekhyun fell asleep with the image of Tao's lips curled in a kittenish smile on the backs of his heavy eyelids like a photo negative.
He woke before Tao when the light was still soft and slow, pouring like silvery syrup over the man's back. He was sleeping on his stomach, nose pressed in the fluffy pillow one of his arms was draped over, and he was naked safe for the white blanket tangled around his long legs. Baekhyun snapped a candid picture of him on his phone, saved it somewhere deep in a folder he'd never consider for work, the swelling of his heart pressing almost painfully against his ribcage.
The mechanic click of the shutter roused Tao who then turned his head and blinked blearily at Baekhyun. He was about to heave his body up on his elbows, but Baekhyun didn't want that. It would destroy the perfect curve of his back, so he rolled himself quickly on top of Tao's back, pressing him down with his body weight, and soaked up the lines of his spine with his warm cheek and his roaming hands. Tao let him and so he worked his lips down the strings of muscles over his shoulder blades and on both sides of his spine, ending with a little kiss to each of the two dimples in his lower back. Tao thanked him later, when they turned around, by resting his cheek on Baekhyun's pillowy inner thigh and giving warm, lazy licks to his flushed cockhead.
They skipped breakfast and called room service for lunch. It was one of those clear autumn days that felt warm through the sunlit window pane but the windswept leaves told of an icy coldness in the blowing wind.
“When are you going to leave?”
'Strange', Baekhyun thought, 'Shouldn't I be the one asking that?' After all, it was Tao who was staying in his hotel room.
“I don't know. I want to go north, see the winter in Hokkaido. And then, somewhere else.” He had been staring out of the window, his head already half on the road, in the future, but he felt Tao's hand close around his wrist and looked at him, and had a moment of clarity, like when his camera found the right focus.
“Come with me.” He spoke the words as soon as they entered his mind.
Tao was surprised, Baekhyun could see it in the arch of his elegant eyebrows and his heart was pounding again. Tao remained silent for so long that Baekhyun grew sure he would decline. Outside, the heavy wind kept billowing up more and more clouds and the light changed. It became grey, diffused, and soon the first raindrops hit the windowpane with startling noise, plink, plonk like ice cubes falling down Baekhyun's back and hitting each vertebra in their wake. How stupid to ask a one-night-stand to become part of his aimless Bohemian journey. Tao probably had a steady, well-paying job, a nice car, and a girlfriend or two.
“Hokkaido?” Tao mused and followed Baekhyun's line of vision to his hand, still loosely in Baekhyun's grip. He moved his fingers minimally until they fit right in the space between Baekhyun's slender ones and intertwined them. “I heard the snow festival in Sapporo is beautiful.”
Later, they found out the snow festival wasn't until February but they did book a hotel over Christmas. Baekhyun poised his fingertip over the 'send' button and glanced at Tao. When he received a firm nod, he sent off the confirmation mail and clicked his laptop shut to push it aside and sprawl over Tao. His warm, tall body was quickly rising up Baekhyun's list of favourite lounging places. The rain was still pouring outside, now a steady gushing noise that drowned out all other sounds and made them forget they were in the middle of one of the mega-cities on this planet. Baekhyun wasn't tired but the rain lulled him into an uncharacteristic calm as he felt the steady cadence of Tao's breath swell and recede against his own chest gently. For now, Baekhyun didn't mind that he knew the feeling of Tao's naked skin on his better than he knew the man himself, the soft tickle on his lower stomach against Baekhyun's hairless one, the lazy press of their half hard cocks strangely familiar. He closed his eyes, felt his lashes brush over Tao's neck, wondering if he was as ticklish there as Baekhyun was, and tried to remember the last time he felt like he belonged somewhere.
Tao lifted his torso, twisting, but Baekhyun squeezed his eyes shut and his arms around Tao, not wanting to move. Tao just roamed around on the nightstand, though, and laid back down, and Baekhyun settled back into his comfortable position. Soon he heard a click and the neutral scent of lube reached his nostrils, making his face heat up at the prospect. He lifted his legs that had been lying snugly between Tao's one after the other to each side of his hips and raised his ass a little. The cold dribble of liquid had him hissing through his teeth and he punched Tao's chest.
“Ass,” he said but couldn't keep the pout on his face from turning into a grin.
“Your ass,” Tao shot back and slipped two fingers into Baekhyun.
“That doesn't even make sense,” Baekhyun gasped and rocked down against Tao's cock that was growing hard rapidly. “You should work on your comebacks. Or better yet,” he added cheekily, “shut up completely.”
“I'm not the one who keeps talking.” Tao sent him a glare and warningly positioned a third finger at his entrance.
“Ohh fuck, put it in,” Baekhyun moaned and melted against Tao's chest, only mustering the strength to keep his hips raised as Tao pushed in, gently but unrelentingly all the way to the last knuckle. Three were already quite a lot, even stretched as he still was from last night, but Baekhyun loved to take it to his limits, to teeter on that edge between soothing and aggravating the lingering oversensitivity. For a moment, he could only lie there and feel, and his insides were pulsing around Tao's fingers that he thankfully wasn't moving yet. If he told Tao to move them, oh god, he'd be screaming, it'd... the thought alone made his stomach clench and a deep groan fell from his lips. Hearing his own sound reminded him of their argument and he went on. “I keep talking because my voice is a gift from the g- aah”
“There.” Tao chuckled and crooked his fingers just right again, drawing another loud moan from Baekhyun, at which he gloated. “You sound like a baby elephant.” And for once, Baekhyun's sharp tongue failed him. But that didn't mean he stayed silent.
“You know what would be great?” He panted into Tao's chest, voice muffled. His thighs were shaking as Tao pumped his fingers minimally in and out, grazing over his prostate just enough to build up Baekhyun's pleasure but not nearly enough for release. Baekhyun's cock was leaking precum between them. “If you let me fuck you right now.”
Tao burst out laughing at that, jostling Baekhyun on top of him so hard that he almost fell off if Tao hadn't thrown a protective arm around him. “Right now? You can't even get up to get a condom.”
“'M clean,” Baekhyun mumbled, then pressed his heated cheeks against Tao's skin. What was it about this man that made him want to stay connected to him, preferably forever and as intimately as possible? He'd like to think it was just because Tao had such a damn hot body but maybe there was more to it that he wasn't ready to admit yet.
“Good for you,” Tao said, “but I only just met you yesterday.”
Baekhyun made a noise of protest as Tao moved again but stopped clinging to him so hard when he realized Tao wasn't trying to buck him off but to reach the little foil squares on the nightstand. It wasn't easy because Baekhyun insisted he kept his fingers in him but finally Tao managed to stretch his free hand far enough to snatch one. “Better use this,” he said as he let himself fall back with a groan, licked the back of the little packet, and slapped it on Baekhyun's cheek.
“Lubed. How fancy,” Baekhyun said after plucking it off. And then he had no other choice but to let Tao slip from him, at least for a while, until he got the condom on and they rearranged their positions, Baekhyun now kneeling before Tao.
“At least hold my legs,” Tao whined, legs bent at the knees and drawn to his chest, and poked Baekhyun in the side with his big toe. It was more a way to seek attention rather than a real complaint, Baekhyun could tell and – guilty as charged – he had been lavishing a bit too much attention on his own cock but he couldn't help it, not with the way the lubed condom slid so smoothly through his fist. Tao putting himself on display for him like that, though, was indeed a sight to behold and Baekhyun made sure to let him feel his appreciation with two fingers opening him up and the other hand palming over his heated cock that was lying heavy against his stomach. And he did hold his legs when he finally pushed inside him, the backs of Tao's muscular thighs under his hands feeling so heavenly that he didn't hesitate to knead into them a few times with a long, happy groan while he waited for Tao to adjust to him.
“Like them?” Tao smirked with obvious pride.
“Fuck yeah,” Baekhyun moaned and began to move his hips, allowing gravity to do most of the work as he let his weight sink him deep into Tao, earning him one of Tao's breathy noises of pleasure that could put any porn star out of business.
“Ahh, shit, come on, put your fingers back in, I really want to know what that feels like.”
Tao complied, though not without a roll of his eyes at Baekhyun's bossiness, and had to find out that he couldn't reach until Baekhyun let go of his legs and Tao drew him in closer, as close as possible. Tao still had to crunch a bit while Baekhyun stretched out on top of him, resting his cheek against Tao's collarbone and humming contently.
“You're lucky you're tiny.” Tao huffed.
“And cute.” Baekhyun grinned at him cheekily. Tao smacked his butt hard in response, sending a jolt through Baekhyun. He was just drawing a breath to complain when Tao shoved two fingers into him and all that came out of Baekhyun's mouth was a scream of surprise. His head snapped up and his hips began moving jerkily as he couldn't decide between burying himself deeper in Tao and fucking back on his fingers.
“Oh god,” he whimpered, eyes dropping close as he sped up, “oh fuck, Tao, you have no idea. I, ahh, this is, ah, fuck, I'm-”
Even through his babbling and Tao's moaning, the slick sounds of lube and sweaty skin slapping together could be heard and it only made Baekhyun thrust harder to create more of those hot, obscene sounds. Through the haze in his mind and the fire in his veins, he somehow managed to get his hand between his and Tao's bodies, around Tao's cock to jerk him off with the quickest movements he was capable of. Tao, not having expected the overwhelming extra stimulation, only took a few moments until his cum splashed between them and he clenched hard around Baekhyun, pushing him with him over the edge.
Sated, Tao went lax under Baekhyun, fingers slipping out, and Baekhyun collapsed on top of him, not even bothering to pull out. Pulsing hot and slick, it was the perfect place to let his cock soften completely while he'd just close his eyes a little bit for now. Under his ear, pressed to Tao's chest, Tao's heart was still racing, every beat knocking against Baekhyun's eardrum and he just wanted to melt into him.
When his eyes snapped open again, he didn't know for how long he had been out but Tao was still dozing and he was still snug in Tao's ass. The realization made a pulse of hot blood race through him and he could feel himself harden a bit. He rocked his semi into Tao, biting his lip because fuck, that had to be one of the hottest things ever, until Tao woke up and his sleepy brain caught up and then he gasped loudly as if scandalized, and smacked Baekhyun off him with a big, well-aimed pillow.
They used the hotel shower extensively, and when Tao ducked his head under the spray and towards Baekhyun with a sweet, pleading look that made him about ten years younger, Baekhyun turned weak and soaped him down from head to toe, starting with a scalp massage that Tao relaxed into with a hum and closed eyes. After washing the shampoo suds out, Tao stretched his neck and gave Baekhyun a short, little peck on the lips as thanks. With a tug in the pit of his chest, Baekhyun realized this was their first real kiss and even though they had spent the whole night and the majority of the day in bed together, he'd never felt so naked until this moment when Tao's lips touched his. The hands he placed lightly on Tao's shoulders and spread soap down his arms trembled along with his heart.
Later when they went outside, the rain had passed, leaving the night air soft and fragrant. The puddles on the sidewalk were glittering mirrors of the city lights that shone around them in the greens and whites of advertisement boards and the reds of paper lanterns hung in front of ramen stalls and yakitori eateries, warm yellow light falling through the windows. Baekhyun stopped to fiddle with the camera he was wearing around his neck and Tao turned around to him after a few steps, cocking his head as if to say, 'come on'. He had his hair styled up and a light trench coat on that accentuated his waist; he looked stunning. Baekhyun raised the camera to his eye and instead of taking a picture of the scenery as was his original plan, he focused on Tao and clicked.
“Let me see,” Tao demanded. Together they leaned over the display that showed Tao where he stood next to one of the little restaurants, soft light falling onto one side of his face, illuminating the planes of his cheek and accentuating his jawline, behind him the far background blurred into circles of yellow and green.
“I look good,” Tao said in a slightly boasting tone and gave a satisfied nod.
“It's my job as a photographer to make even someone as ugly as you look passable,” Baekhyun teased, ducking away from Tao's punches, their laughter carried up to the clouded stars as they walked on down the street and decided to eat in an udon place from which delicious smells wafted.
Settled in, jackets draped over the backs of their chairs and steaming bowls of udon in front of them, Baekhyun was just about to lift his bowl to his lips to take a sip of the broth but Tao lunged at him and tried to make him put it back on the table. “You have to take a picture first!”
“If you think I'll clutter my memory card with food pictures...”
“But my phone is out of battery. And your camera is better. Take a picture for me!” Tao pleaded and gestured resolutely at the food laid out before them. “I want to put it on instagram.”
“Nah.” Baekhyun snapped his wooden chopsticks apart and stirred the spring onions that were sprinkled on top into the noodles.
Tao slumped back onto his chair and pouted at the swirling ingredients. “You ruined it.”
Baekhyun picked up one of the thick noodles and slurped it into his mouth happily, then stuck his chopsticks in Tao's bowl and stirred that as well, chuckling at Tao's affronted shriek.
“Eat up. If you think I'm going to take a picture of every meal we're going to have together in the next month or so, you're greatly mistaken.”
Tao moved as if to turn around and grabbed his jacket to leave. “Goodbye,” he said gravely, theatrically, “you'll miss me. I was the best model you ever had. Last chance to stop me.”
“Okay, bye. I'll finish your food,” Baekhyun grinned and waved with the hand holding the chopsticks, pulling Tao's bowl towards himself with the other hand. In the blink of an eye, Tao was sitting back at the table, rescuing his bowl from Baekhyun's clutches, and they laughed at each other. The warmth in Baekhyun's chest wasn't only from the food and the buzzing, crowded but still cozy restaurant.
“I took one picture of you and you fancy yourself my model,” Baekhyun said and shook his head, pulling his mouth in to a grimace of disbelief.
Tao leaned over the table quickly and snatched Baekhyun's camera that was lying in front of him, ignoring Baekhyun's shout of 'careful!' and angled it sloppily at himself to take a selca.
“Two.” He grinned at Baekhyun then and put the camera back.
“Wow,” Baekyhun said flatly as he checked the picture on the display, “this might actually be the worst selca I've ever seen. Good thing you have a professional like me to do that for you from now on. So keep your fingers off my camera,” he added, the barely concealed chuckle in his voice softening the chiding.
“Are you really a professional?” Tao asked, chopsticks with noodles dangling from them poised in front of his mouth as he hummed thoughtfully.
Baekhyun nodded and so, between jokes and light banter, they got to know each other little by little. Baekhyun told his story, how he lost his job and was spending the money he got as pay-off to travel and collect photos he could use for... something, he wasn't sure what yet, but hopefully it would be something that earned him a living. Tao revealed he had thought about becoming a photographer as well, having finished some degree at college with no idea what to do next.
“Sometimes I want to become a rapper,” he said, checks glowing from excitement. He took a swig of beer and Baekhyun couldn't tear his eyes away from how his lips closed around the opening of the bottle and came away shining wet with a stray drop quickly lapped up by a dart of Tao's tongue. Baekhyun had to clutch his own bottle, wet with condensation. “Or an action movie star. I've been doing wushu since I was four. And sometimes I just want to go away and buy a ranch and teach horseback riding. My parents want me to go into business...”
He trailed off and shrugged vaguely. Then his eyes returned to Baekhyun's, sparkling with mischief. “CEO Huang Zitao. Making career like that doesn't sound bad. I'd look stunning in a tailored suit. I could hire you to take my picture for the cover of GQ.”
Baekhyun laughed. “They wouldn't want you. You'll look like an old fart. Only redeemable if I help you lose your jacket, open a few buttons of your shirt, pull your tie, muss up your hair a bit. In fact, now that I think about it,” he said, tapping a finger against his lip, “scratch GQ, you'd make a great model for an erotic magazine.”
Tao leaned towards him, chin resting on his steepled fingers, a smirk playing on his lips. “Are you asking to take naked pictures of me?” There was a sensual glow in his dark eyes that made Baekhyun's throat go dry as their gazes met and both lingered. Baekhyun thought about Tao's long legs, his toned body, the silvery light pouring over the lines of his broad shoulders, black, tousled hair in contrast with the white pillow. The candid picture he'd taken of that saved in the deepest depth of his phone.
“Yes,” he breathed, not concealing the honest want in his voice. His mind was already reeling, imagining Tao in various places, with changing props, backdrop, lighting... the different settings on his camera he could use to bring out the best in each shot. He wanted to create art, show a beauty that was wild, open, unashamed of its erotic sense! That's what he believed, that's why he had walked out of his office that day with a box of his personal belongings under his arm instead of pleading his boss to let him keep his job, promising to keep his toes carefully inside the drawn lines. He was done with forcing beauty into the petty little prison of appeasing modesty that some people admired as a palace because they couldn't see the bars behind the lace curtains.
All the photographs he had taken on his trip so far, all the hundreds and hundreds of views of landscapes, cities, forests, buildings, flowers, door handles, and dew drops that he had banned on polaroid, yes, they had been beautiful and his pictures flawless in a technical sense but it was the shallow perfection of, say, glossy travel brochures. Deep down, he had known that his soul wasn't in those pictures. And if he returned home with only those, he might as well have not set out on his journey at all.
กระบี่ - Krabi in winter
They decided to leave Tokyo early and slowly make their way north by train, stopping in little cities along the way, instead of taking a plane to go directly to Sapporo. Tao had picked up his own luggage from his hotel and Baekhyun met up with him at the main station. Last night, he had gone through all the image folders on his laptop and deleted most pictures, only keeping some really outstanding ones or those that he wanted to keep for a personal photo album he might put together. It made his luggage feel so light as if he had jettisoned real weight instead of just freeing some data space.
They had just left the outskirts of Tokyo behind them, the train rattling through yellow fields from which flocks of crows fluttered up every now and then, as Tao wondered idly if they would pass by Mount Fuji.
“I heard you can see it if you take the bullet train to Nagoya. But that's in the opposite direction, stupid,” Baekhyun laughed.
“Let's take a detour,” Tao said. When he got like this, excitement bubbling up in him until it sparkled in his eyes, he looked so different from the mysterious stranger Baekhyun had first met at the nightclub. But he loved these moment, treasuring them as they were something that no camera could catch. “Let's go to Nagoya and then come back here.”
A bit apprehensive, Baekhyun stalled by saying. “I don't know, isn't it a bit expensive?”
“Money's not a problem. I can buy both our tickets,” Tao said and pulled out a credit card that he twirled between his fingers. To Baekhyun's raised eyebrow, he leaned back in his seat and said lightly. “My parents told me to go find myself, it'd be good to know what I want when I start job hunting. Maybe I'll find myself at the foot of a dead volcano, you never know?”
So they got off at the next station despite Baekhyun's complaints that the mountain would probably be hidden behind a veil of clouds as it usually was but there was no stopping Tao once he had set his mind to something. He bought them round tickets to Nagoya and back, hauled their suitcases along and managed to stay excited the whole time even as Baekhyun sulked and whined about the long, boring hours spent on the train and the uncomfortable seats and that he was hungry and thirsty. Tao just laughed at him, pulled him along to the little toilet stall at the end of their coach, and gave Baekhyun a blowjob that shut him up like nothing else. Back in their seats, Tao kept throwing Baekhyun teasing grins and poking his heated cheeks until Baekhyun buried his nose in the collar of his jacket, unable to decide if the singing under his skin was from the wheels on the steel tracks below or from the warmth of the man beside him.
Due to their detour, it was dark when they arrived in Morioka, night air falling around them cold and crisp as they alighted from the train and stretched their stiff joints. A taxi took them to their hotel, a little resort outside of the city, ducked into the gently sloping mountainside. Baekhyun leaned his head, so heavy from tiredness, against Tao's shoulder and dozed. If he hadn't been so close, he would have missed Tao's quiet whisper.
“What for?” Baekhyun mumbled.
“For going along with it. I can't believe we really saw Mount Fuji.”
“Twice even, on the way there and on the way back. That's more than can be said for most people. I think it's a sign that we're lucky.” Baekhyun's lips pulled into a smile and he hooked one hand in the crook of Tao's elbow. It felt like it belonged there.
“It's so...” Tao's voice was still filled with the same awe as when their train had passed by small towns and rice paddies and suddenly the mountain had loomed up beside them in breathtaking clarity. “So massive.”
Baekhyun hummed his agreement. “Seeing it with my own eyes, it seems so much bigger than on any picture I've seen before.” It had been a deeply humbling experience.
The taxi pulled into the driveway of the hotel whose heavy wooden structure made it look warm and sturdy, the lights spilling from several windows adding an air of coziness. As Baekhyun stepped out of the car, something light and cold landed on his nose like a feather and melted there. It was snowing.
Baekhyun would consider himself anything but a romantic. He liked keeping things light and effortless and – unattached. Having fun, laughing things off, forgiving easily, he wasn't one for profound feelings, unless maybe his passion for photography counted, but certainly not when it came to relationships. Now though, with Tao reaching for his hand and the lantern light above them illuminating his smile as he locked gazes with Baekhyun's, sentimental and yet sweet words were swirling in his head like the snowflakes around them. First snow, first kiss, first love...
That night, he was burning for Tao's touch, crying out as Tao held him close and entered him again and again as he desperately wished it'd mean something to Tao as well.
It got progressively colder and lonelier the further north they went. The mountains and trees shivered in the first grasp of winter but it wasn't tourist season yet. Only Tao and Baekhyun were on the train, huddled in their thick jackets which they had bought in one of the station shopping malls they had passed through. The window next to them had fogged over slightly, leaving them unable to make out much of the landscape that was flying by in swirling whites and greys. Absentmindedly, Tao traced some Chinese characters on the window pane that aroused Baekhyun's curiosity.
He leaned over Tao, hands on his thighs as he stretched to get a better look around him at the scribbles on the window. “What did you write?”
Almost sheepishly, Tao pulled his hand away from the window and evaded Baekhyun's eyes. There was a reddish tint to his cheeks. “Little elephant.”
“Why?” Baekhyun laughed at him until his cheeks hurt and he could barely see out of his eyes that turned into little crescents. “What makes you think of elephants?”
“You,” Tao answered openly. Gone was the shyness from a moment ago. “The sounds you make when we have sex. Like last night. Either that or you talk non-stop,” he added with a mischievous, teasing sparkle in his eyes.
Baekhyun lunged at him with ice-cold fingers that he dug under Tao's layers of clothes until he found his warm stomach and pressed them into it mercilessly. Tao gasped but wasted no time retaliating by sliding his own cold fingers under the puffy collar of Baekhyun's coat and laying them around his neck. Baekhyun shrieked and tried to squirm away from the contact, drawing his shoulders up to his ears instinctively but it was of no use. Tao held onto him and only pulled him closer, into a heated kiss that left their faces and hands, their whole bodies from head to toe tingling. For the rest of the train ride, Baekhyun had to shift in his seat, adjusting the erection between his legs.
By some stroke of luck, the room they had booked that night wasn't available and they were upgraded to a suite in a spa hotel run by the same family and it came with a private outdoor onsen. Baekhyun's mouth dropped open as Tao stepped out of the bathroom in nothing but the thick cotton bathrobe they'd been provided with. The sash completely undone, he walked over to the heavy wooden sliding door and Baekhyun could only follow him with his gaze as he opened it and stepped barefoot onto the porch that led to the steaming pool. Tao threw him a smirk over his shoulder. Baekhyun swallowed. Then he grabbed his camera and scrambled after Tao.
“Pose for me,” he demanded breathlessly.
Tao let him take pictures of him sliding the bathrobe down his arms, feeling the temperature with two fingers suggestively dipped in, a small towel dabbing the side of his curved neck, every graceful line speaking of sensuousness as his head was thrown back, eyes closed and lips parted. He turned around and rested his elbows on the rounded pebbles lining the edge of the tub so Baekhyun could capture a picture of his back, too.
“Tense your shoulders a bit to make the muscles stand out more.”
Tao complied easily, hearing the clicks of the camera before he said. “Now put that thing away and join me.”
In the hot water, Baekhyun turned lobster-red in a matter of minutes but that didn't stop him from wriggling into Tao's lap, slipping his hands down his chest, and gliding into his lap. He relished in the slippery feel of wet skin on skin, moving against Tao in the weightlessness of the water, pulsing heat up to his chest but his cheeks and forehead cooled by the minuscule melting kisses of snowflakes on his skin. Tao lifted him up out of the water just enough to press his cold lips against the hot skin around Baekhyun's nipple.
“Tao!” Baekhyun gasped, spine arching. “Need you now.” He was starting to feel woozy from the hot bath and the level of his arousal.
The room had futons that they spread haphazardly on the floor, aching with the need to touch each other. Tao threw some bath towels on top of that because they were in too much of a haste to dry themselves but despite that, they didn't want to have to sleep in a puddle later. Baekhyun went to grab lube and condoms from his suitcase, almost stumbling over his camera. He stopped in his tracks.
“Can we... Can I film this?” he breathed, blood pumping hard through his veins. Tao looked up from where he was making their bed, considered the camera in Baekhyun's hands for a moment, and nodded. Baekhyun set it up on its tripod and adjusted it with trembling fingers to an angle that was most likely to catch everything even with no one moving around to get the best shot.
“It's running.” Baekhyun joined Tao on the futon and blushed a bit when Tao gave the camera a little wave before drawing Baekhyun in with guiding fingertips on his jaw and making a show of kissing him with tongue. Baekhyun felt his cock twitch and the camera probably caught that, too. Tao laid him down on his back and coaxed his legs open, gently putting him on display for the camera. Baekhyun's chest was rising and falling rapidly as Tao ran his hands up Baekhyun's thighs and further up to rub his thumbs over the small mounds of his hipbones, never taking his heavy gaze from Baekhyun's cock dripping translucent precum on his belly.
“My best feature,” Baekhyun tried to boast but his voice came out strained, wrecked.
“Your thighs?” Tao teased, hooking a hand under Baekhyun's knee and pulling it up so he could rub his cheek along Baekhyun's inner thigh. “Your cock?” Hie voice was hoarse, deep, like smoke, maybe even sexier than usual and Baekyhun wanted him to stop teasing.
“N- no, my pelvis,” Baekhyun moaned and dropped his head back in the pillow.
“I disagree.” A slow smirk on his face, Tao licked his lips and dipped down to press an open-mouthed kiss to Baekhyun's hard cock. Then he took it in his hands and angled it up, throwing a quick glance at Baekhyun, mischievous as much as self-satisfied, before he turned his head so he could aim a simmering, half-lidded gaze right at the camera as he lowered his head deliberately slowly and engulfed the head of Baekhyun's cock, sucking the precum from it with hollowed cheeks and a moan as if it was his favourite treat in the world. Baekhyun almost came hearing that sound and he knew rewatching that video would leave him falling apart every time. He could only watch as Tao lifted his head and tilted his chin up, the faint swell of his Adam's apple perfectly on display, bobbing as he swallowed.
“Fuck, you love this,” Baekhyun gasped out, the realization washing over him like a hot wave.
Tao hid his grin by pressing his mouth to the shaft of Baekhyun's cock again, nipping on the hard skin with his lips. The heated, glowering gaze he sent up at Baekhyun from under dark lashes as he held the velvety tip against his lips pinned him in place. He wouldn't even dream about bucking up into the inviting heat, helplessly watching with baited breath as Tao's skilled fingers started milking precum from him, rubbing up and down with such light touches that almost had Baekhyun sobbing, begging for something more satisfying. His balls felt so full and tight they were aching but the steady pearls of precum that slicked Tao's lips like obscene gloss and dribbled over his fingers brought no relief.
“Tao, Tao, please!” He whimpered when he couldn't take it anymore.
Mercifully, Tao sat up between his legs and asked, “How do you want it?” stroking his slick, wet hand in an absent-minded soothing gesture along Baekhyun's inner thigh. It gave him an idea that his lust-hazy mind wouldn't have been able to come up with alone.
“Come here,” he said, patting the space next to him, “with your back to me. Face the camera,” he added with a thick voice, breath catching in his throat. The camera would catch a perfect, frontal view of Tao in this position. He leaned over Tao to grab the lube, not missing the chance to bump his erection into Tao's hip. It tore a groan from his lips and felt so good that he did it again as he squeezed a liberal amount of lube into his palm and spread it between his hands. Then he took his position behind Tao, playing the big spoon, and thrust his hand between Tao's thighs, not between his ass cheeks where Tao had expected it so he twisted his torso and gave Baekhyun a questioning look, but Baekhyun only leaned down and kissed him sloppily, full of need, rubbing lube between his thighs. The other handful of lube he quickly spread on his cock, and then, with a snap of his hips, thrust his erection between Tao's legs.
It only took a split second for Tao to understand, and his moan almost came in tandem with Baekhyun's as he relished in the friction and heat surrounding his aching, swollen cock. Tao tensed his thigh muscles to squeeze as tightly around Baekhyun as possible and was rewarded with another, louder moan and faster thrusts. The sound of Baekhyun's skin slapping against Tao's was loud and he could even see the flushed head of Baekhyun's cock poking out between his thighs with every thrust. It was hotter than he would have ever imagined and he fumbled for his own cock as he watched excess lube and globs of precum smear between his thighs in a glistening mess but Baekhyun caught his hands and pinned his wrists behind his back.
“You don't get to touch,” Baekhyun managed to get out, voice shaking from the force of every thrust. “You feel that?” He angled his hips differently and now his cock was rubbing against the underside of Tao's, against his balls, over and over. “Think you can come just from my dick stroking your balls?”
“I can't, I can't, Baekhyun, more,” Tao sobbed, voice broken into hoarse moans as he rocked his hips, slamming back into each and every of Baekhyun's thrusts, needing more impact, more friction, anything more than just the maddening drag of Baekhyun's cock, so close but not close enough to where it would get him off. Baekhyun's moans rose in volume and he released Tao's wrists in favour of grabbing his hip so hard it almost bruised, slamming Tao back against him as his thrusts came to a stuttering halt and he spilled thick, white cum between Tao's legs. It felt hot even on Tao's already heated skin and the feeling made him groan, unable to resist the temptation of jacking off, bringing himself to completion now that his hands were freed.
But Baekhyun caught him and stopped him again. “No, up” he said, “on your knees.” He was still out of breath and his voice gravelly from his orgasm. He helped Tao up, forcing his knees apart so he could kneel between them, arms wrapped around his torso from behind to brush over his nipples and his abs as he spoke. “Let the camera see your legs. Feel my cum running down? D'you like it?”
Tao drew a sharp breath but bit his lip and shook his head lightly.
“But I can feel your stomach clenching. So ready to come if I touch you. You want to come?”
This time, Tao moaned a soft yes, head lolling back against Baekhyun's shoulder, and Baekhyun could feel his legs quivering as he splayed his fingers dangerously low on Tao's stomach.
“Look at the camera and speak louder.”
Tao swallowed hard, chest heaving. Every inch of his skin was radiating heat but he lifted his head and fixed his gaze on the camera. “I want to come. I need it, please let me come.”
Baekhyun hummed, more than satisfied. “Turn around, show the camera your best feature,” he said, and when Tao turned to face him, his back now to the camera, Baekhyun dug his fingers into his ass cheeks and spread them apart. Tao panted into the kiss, a drop of saliva escaping his mouth and sloppily wetting his chin, as Baekhyun took his hot arousal in one hand and began stroking it, running the other hand through the mess on his thighs. He scooped some of it up and pushed it in his hole with his fingers, fucking him through his orgasm.
When Tao had spilled everything, Baekhyun bedded him carefully on the futon, wiped his hands on one corner of the towel to switch off the camera and stow it away. He got a glass of water which he placed on Tao's bedside table and a towel to wipe him clean, then switched off the light and crawled under the blanket with Tao, feeling so warm and relaxed as if he'd reached a higher level of existence. Feeling his eyes drift close, he snuggled against Tao and breathed him in, his cologne and the hint of salt that Baekhyun felt he knew but couldn't really place, and now the sweat and musk of sex.
“I love you.” A sleep-muddled, heavily accented mumble of Korean that would have gone lost, had it been anyone else than Baekhyun. But he'd never had trouble understanding Tao.
'I love you, too,' he thought and fell asleep with a smile.
Christmas was spent partying in Sapporo and then they went to Thailand.
“I've had enough of the cold,” Baekhyun had complained one day, burrowing further into his cocoon of blankets.
“The connections are bad,” Tao had said, looking up flights on the internet.
They had to change several times, greeted the new year in ten thousand ft altitude, and finally landed in Bangkok.
The first thing Baekhyun did in Bangkok was lose Tao on a night market. One moment, he was right beside him, looking at the display of brightly printed caps with him, the next the buzzing crowd had swallowed him up with no trace. Baekhyun, close to panicking, rose to his toes but even that didn't make him tall enough to look over the sea of bobbing heads. He was jostled from every side as he stood there, unsure whether he should stay here and wait or go and search for Tao.
“Tao?” He yelled, but it was swallowed up in the general noise and went unheard. He was sweating through his shirt that was much too thick for the balmy night air of Bangkok. Then something caught his sleeve and tugged him into an empty spot between two market stalls. He was just about to struggle free when he heard an amused, familiar voice.
“Where were you headed?” Tao grinned at him, shaking the fabric of Baekhyun's shirt lightly in his grip.
“Where were you, huh?” Now that Baekhyun's panic had proven groundless, it turned into sullen anger and he glared at Tao who seemed unfazed.
“Why? I was right over there. I got this, look,” he said and pointed to his neck. Resting in the dip between his clavicles was now a handcrafted little golden tiger on a thin leather band. Ignoring Baekhyun still glaring, he smiled brightly and added. “And I got a matching one for you.” The pendant he held up to Baekhyun's eyes was a little golden elephant crafted in the same fashion. Baekhyun's sulkiness didn't stand a chance against the cuteness of Tao's gesture and his happy expression, so Baekhyun let him pull the leather band over his head and adjust the pendant on his collar.
“Really, were you afraid of losing me? Silly,” Tao laughed at him, eyes sparkling with cheekiness. He grabbed Baekhyun's hand and dove back into the bustling crowd of the night market. “Let's go get something to eat! I'm starving.”
“Fine,” Baekhyun said, a bit sourly still. “Just don't let go of my hand, okay?”
For a couple of days, they stayed in Bangkok and explored the city before travelling on to Krabi which greeted them with lush green forests, white beaches, blue sky, and even bluer water. They had rented a little cabin for themselves on one of the less touristy beaches, this one obviously attracting clients with more money and the wish to keep a lower profile. Small as it was, the cabin was beautifully furnished, and to Baekhyun's surprise, he found that a spacious jacuzzi occupied most of the small bathroom. A little town, barely more than a handful of houses and one tiny supermarket with a whirring ceiling fan and a more crowded beach with beach bars and parties were within walking distance – if walking for an hour to get there could count as within walking distance. But the soft sand caressed their feet and the warm, sparkling sunshine on the waves made it easy to forget that it was still winter elsewhere.
Baekhyun made a willing and almost naked Tao pose in front of his camera resting on a deck chair, swinging in the hammock on their veranda, and submerged to the hips in ocean water that rolled in gentle waves to the shore and in enticing droplets down the tanned skin of Tao's chest. And when Baekhyun found wild, soft pink orchids growing along the low picket fence like weeds, he delightedly collected a bucket full of petals and poured them in the jacuzzi. As if reading his thoughts, Tao scattered little candles around it, undressed, and got in the water. He let the petals feather over his skin and put on his best seductive face. 'Heaven', Baekhyun thought, 'would have a hard time trying to rival this.'
“You really look like you belong to the beach and the ocean,” Baekhyun mused one day, walking leisurely along the beach with Tao. There was a thunderstorm on the horizon, far away not to cloud over the sky above them but filling the air with a faint crackling, not a real sound, only something Baekhyun could feel in the prickling of the little hairs on his arms. Tao seemed unperturbed, he was right beside him and yet, in that moment, it felt like he was part of a different world that Baekhyun was cut off from by a transparent veil, Tao swinging his arms freely and lifting his knees high only to let his feet splash down into the water with every step.
“Maybe because I grew up on the beaches of Qingdao. It feels like home.”
“You sure you're not a mermaid who fell in love with the dashing Prince Charming – that's me, by the way – and grew legs to be with him on the land?” Baekhyun joked to rid himself of the weird mood that had befallen him so suddenly. It was a restlessness, like standing on sandy ground that trickled out from under his feet one little grain at a time, an out-of-place-ness with the heavy, black camera hanging around his neck which he carefully protected from the saltwater spray of the waves.
“Merman,” Tao stressed with a playful twinkle in his eyes, unaware of the thoughts that were nagging on Baekhyun's mind. “And you're not a handsome, young chaebol heir, so you can't be the main character.”
“What? So... you're the rich guy and the female lead? Are you saying I'm the poor male side character who pines after the girl but doesn't get her in the end? Because I object to that.”
“Nooo, of course you're not that character,” Tao said, making his voice soft and warm, appeasing. He shot Baekhyun a bright smile. “You're just the camera man.” And then he sprinted off down the beach, leaving Baekhyun to gasp like a fish in the ripples of his laughter.
서울 - Seoul in spring
Maybe Tao had felt the same, after all, or something similar of sorts. A few days later, the two of them were sitting on the veranda with cool beers in their hands, watching the sun set as Tao said he felt like it was time for him to go home.
“It's like time is standing still here,” Tao mused and shifted, slightly buzzed, until he could rest his head in Baekhyun's lap. The beer bottle beside him was empty, and the air that already carried a promise of a hot summer had made the alcohol rise to his head faster than usual.
Baekhyun hummed in agreement. “It's great for a while but I'm starting to feel like I'm stuck, like I'm going nowhere.”
Tao nodded, the movement of his head slightly rustling the fabric of Baekhyun's canvas shorts. “I think it's time. I should do something real, go back home, find a job.”
With all their stuff packed in their suitcases, the cabin that had been their home for the last weeks looked as impersonal as when they had arrived, almost as if they hadn't lived here at all, as if their presence hadn't left a single permanent trace. Baekhyun was silent the whole bus ride back to the city, and from the glances Tao kept throwing him, he could tell Tao knew how unusual it was for him to be so subdued. It wasn't that he had nothing to say, it was just that the words wouldn't come out of his tight throat.
Tao had a ticket back to Qingdao. Baekhyun had one to Seoul. He could think of nothing else and yet the words wouldn't even come out.
'Come with me.'
'Don't go, I'll miss you too much.'
'Don't you know that this is the longest I've ever been with anyone?'
They sat in the sticky heat of the Departures hall, licking ice cream that melted and ran stickily over their fingers. Baekhyun's heart was pounding heavily and slowly, the heat making his pulse move as if through molasses. Back home, in Seoul, the cherry blossoms would have just started to bloom.
Baekhyun licked his ice cream and couldn't shake the feeling that he was forgetting something.
“Have you found yourself?” he asked instead, tongue numb. Tao slurped up his ice cream next to him.
“I think no one ever finds themselves. They just realize they've never lost themselves.”
Tao's flight was called over the speakers.
“That's me. I should get going.”
Baekhyun stood up and hugged Tao one last time. He pressed himself close, shut his eyes, and inhaled deeply, then let him go. As he stood there, lungs still filled with his scent, it finally hit him what that trace of salt underlying his cologne was. It was the sea breeze and it was as much a part of him as the enticing play of light on the muscles of his back, the tone of his laughter, the taste of his lips, and the brush of his fingertips on Baekhyun's skin. All of his five senses were filled with memories of him. His words at the beach on that evening finally made sense to Baekhyun. Tao was leaving to do something “real” because Baekhyun had never given him a hint that this was real for him.
Baekhyun had never said 'I love you' back.
“Tao!” he called and ran through the terminal, his footfalls echoing loudly in his ear, but his heartbeat was louder. He passed by every service point and every ticket counter until he saw the so familiar figure standing in a line at a security gate. He was just taking his wallet out of his pocket and sliding his watch from his wrist, placing them in a little tray to be scanned, when Baekhyun skidded to a halt. Tao lifted his head and their gazes met. Now was the chance. He just had to say it.
But what came out instead was this.
“I told you not to let go of my hand.”
Tao stopped in his tracks and looked at him with eyebrows raised, a slightly amused but also guarded expression on his handsome face. Baekhyun felt tiny.
“Don't forget me,” he said and lowered his head, taking a step back. Only the sound of Tao's voice stopped him from turning around and running.
“Baekhyun. What do you really want to say?”
Baekhyun swallowed. Opened his mouth. Felt his chin shaking. “I love you.” There, it was out. A little croak and in the most unromantic spot imaginable, but, well, Baekhyun had never considered himself a romantic. At least it was out.
Tao's shoulders shifted, relaxed. His expression softened, then brightened, eyes crinkling and teeth blinking through his lips, parting into a smile. And then he laughed, and Baekhyun laughed, too, and it felt as if a huge weight had lifted from him.
“I won't forget you, silly,” Tao said in a light, teasing tone, and tapped against the little pendant strapped around Baekhyun's neck, “I have your number saved in my phone.” He pulled the device out of his pants pocket, tapped on the screen and showed Baekhyun the entry under 'little elephant’, then put his phone in the tray to his watch and his wallet. “You have my number saved, too. And we have each other's emails and kakaotalks. Just tell me when you miss me.”
Smiling, he waved and stepped through the security gate. It beeped. A security guard made him take off his shoes, scanned those, and then scanned the piercings in Tao's ears as well, finally waving him through. Baekhyun watched, a silly, happy smile on his face, until Tao was out of sight. Then he went to catch his own flight.
They stayed in contact. For Tao's birthday, Baekhyun sent him their video burned on a DVD which he put in an inconspicuous white case and wrote Little Elephant Productions on the piece of paper inside, adding a cute drawing of an elephant.
About two weeks later, he received a mail from Tao that consisted of nothing but rows of hearts and then a post script that said 'Started lessons for my teacher's license at the diving school! You're missing out on me all dripping wet and breathless~'.
Over the course of summer, Baekhyun kept Tao updated on his own plans of starting a little company which were going surprisingly well. He managed to raise the necessary funds, found a little office to rent and soon settled in with a small but enthusiastic team of people with a like-minded view on art. One of them was a former acquaintance from Baekhyun's time back in K-Arts University whom he'd lost contact with when the guy changed his major from acting to law. He was the kind of prim and proper model student Baekhyun had expected to blush at the mere sight of a nude model, but he had actually been the first to reply to the advert Baekhyun had put in the paper.
'You better not employ too many models!' Tao wrote with a grim-faced smiley. 'Can't teach diving in winter so I'll need a job!'
And that's how, in late September, Baekhyun cleared as much space as he could in his closet and on his bathroom shelves, and went to pick up Tao and his huge suitcase at Incheon Airport. The moment Tao stepped into the Arrivals hall, looking every part the dashing model in his stylish long coat and sunglasses, Baekhyun realized how much he'd missed having him close and he couldn't help flying into his embrace, arms thrown around him and face pressed into his neck. He still smelled the same, expensive cologne and a hint of salt water, and Baekhyun greedily breathed him in, the inconspicuous press of Tao's smiling lips reassuring against his temple.
“I have to show you the photobook,” Baekhyun said later, at home, “I have it here somewhere... where did I put it? It just came fresh out of the press.”
“Calm down, there's time,” Tao groaned, breath hitching in his throat, and he didn't mean only the book but also the way Baekhyun was bouncing wildly in his lap, almost like that very first time a year ago. Tao sat up against the headboard and gripped Baekhyun's waist to guide him into a slower, deeper rhythm.
“Ohh, fuck, fuck, I missed this so much,” Baekhyun moaned. A beautiful, red flush was spreading down his chest and his hair began to stick to his forehead from sweat. “Come to the office with me tomorrow. Everyone wants to meet mmhh my mysterious model.”
“Everyone?” Tao asked, chuckling lightly at the all too familiar realization that Baekhyun still had – and would probably never lose – his habit of babbling non-stop, even when he was filled up with cock.
Baekhyun moaned again – or hummed in affirmation. “Everyone at the office. Joonmyun and Kyungsoo, they handle all the aah accounting and the legal stuff. Anything with paragraphs and numbers. Joonmyun will do your contract. Jong- Jongdae and Minseok, who do PR and sales. The rest... oh, ooohh Tao, fuck, ahh, right there! The... yeah! The graphics team usually work from home. And our other two models. Our babies. From university. Only come in for photoshoots.”
And Tao took the next best chance to pull Baekhyun in with gentle hands and shut him up by shoving his tongue obscenely deep into his mouth.
青岛 - Qingdao in summer
'How do you like my outfit?' read the email that Tao sent him in early June the following year. 'Isn't it sexy?'
Attached was a picture of him on the beach, wearing a completely unflattering blue and white diving suit, black hair dripping wet and pushed back by the goggles and snorkel on his forehead that had left red imprints on the bridge of his nose. He looked a bit out of breath, crouched down with one hand on his knee, but he was holding the other up in a victory-sign next to his cheek. And the best thing, in Baekhyun's opinion, the one that made him leave the email at the top of his inbox where he could see it every day, was the radiant smile on Tao's face.
'PS: Can't wait till you come!'
Baekhyun read the message once more before he clicked out of his email account, shut his laptop down, and marked off the last day of work on his calender. Everything was prepared for his week-long holiday in Qingdao with his boyfriend. He'd go home and find his bags already packed, ready to leave for the airport tomorrow morning, heart beating joyfully towards a new journey.