acatwhowrites: (L.Joe♡too cool)
A Cat Who Writes ([personal profile] acatwhowrites) wrote2016-11-13 09:12 am

Cheer up, emo kid

title: Cheer up, emo kid
players: Wu Yifan/Kris, Byun Baekhyun, Do Kyungsoo/D.O., Oh Sehun
rating: PG-13
word count: 4,540w
warning/s: anxiety, panic attack
summary: It's not a phase; Baekhyun genuinely does not like people. Especially preppy jock people with excessive height and wide smiles that show off gums. They're the worst.
a/n: I never went through a rebellious or emo phase, but I do have anxiety, and people trying to be helpful were never helpful at all, so while this has a happy ending, it's not realistic to me. It doesn't have to be. It'd be kind of nice if it was, though, because anxiety is awful.

Ages have been changed a little. The differences are the same, but they're all teens. This is high school, a great time to be emo.

Written for the second krisbaek fest.
Read on: AFF || AO3 || LJ

The mall.

Shoe-shined floors glossily reflect iridescent lights and large rectangles of skylight. Older women cluster in pairs and power through the crowds; harried moms with infants and toddlers juggle diaper bags, purses, and luxury beauty products; and the afterschool crowd of uniformed students milling around the food court and technology stores and clothing stores and sporting stores and just every store imaginable, clogging the little store fronts and halls and making it too much like work to simply pass by on the way to the bathroom.

It's too much like school.

So Baekhyun avoids the social hotspot as much as possible, shopping online when needed or looking for lesser known gems on the outskirts of the city or downtown.

But with his aunt and uncle on vacation in the Caribbean for their fifteenth wedding anniversary, their youngest son is staying with Baekhyun's family while the oldest stays with friends, closer to his school. Sehun's pretty cool, for a pretty, thirteen-year-old prep. He's a closet nerd and is too short for all his snark, but he's one of the few who don't mind Baekyun's cave of a bedroom or preference for dark eye makeup and soul-suckingly depressing American music.

He's also one of the select few that Kai, Baekhyun's picky black cat, tolerates. When Sehun meanders into Baekhyun's bedroom without knocking, dropping his backpack by the door and sprawling into the cushy deskchair appropriated from Mr Byun's home office, Kai slithers out from the shadows and sits at his feet. The cat simply puts a slender paw on Sehun's socked ankle and blinks at him, too lazy to jump onto the boy's lap.

Sehun sighs and picks it up. Kai squirms onto its back to lie along Sehun's arm with legs splayed. He tickles the soft belly fur without response and looks at the walls. They're covered in posters, like always. Years ago, there were movie posters, dinosaurs, robots, and anime. Now, unfamiliar people with heavy makeup and perfect hair glare dolefully from every available space, acting as glossy wallpaper. Blackout curtains cover the single large window, and even the ceiling light globe is covered in paper maiche crepe paper, dimming the room further.

Like most living things, though, his cousin does actually need light. Purple fairy lights and rope lights frame his mirror and bookshelves. Kai's cat bed is forgotten in a corner, covered in laundry. The carpeted cat tree acts as a coat rack and CD holder, not as forgotten and sporting a layer of dark fur.

Sehun lowers his arm to his lap and pushes against the cluttered desktop to spin slowly.

Downstairs, the front door opens and closes; Sehun can hear his aunt greeting her son cheerfully but carefully, and he snorts. Baekhyun's about as dangerous as a puppy. All bark and very little bite, unless provoked. He swears he still has the scar from when Baekhyun sank his teeth into him as a toddler.

Footfalls up the carpeted stairs, a tired sigh, brief pitstop at the bathroom, and Sehun stops spinning to smile at Baekhyun, only it's not Baekhyun who steps inside but rather his even darker and less soulful friend, Kyungsoo. Sehun isn't afraid of his cousin; they've been relatively close since Sehun was born, and he's seen how playful his cousin could be, but Kyungsoo is terrifying. Maybe it's his eyes, round and staring like a watchful owl or half-open and glaring like a judgemental cat; maybe it's his naturally pale complexion that's a shade warmer than death; or maybe it's his quick reflexes, swiftly locking Baekhyun in a headlock when his friend gets unusually rowdy or says something stupid; Sehun's not sure. He just knows he shrinks when the older boy's around.

Kai has no such reservations and walks across the junk on the desk, wrinkling and knocking some papers to the floor, to bump its head against Kyungsoo's elbow.

"Hi, Kyungsoo hyung," Sehun mumbles.

"Hello. Still abandoned?" Kai purrs when Kyungsoo's fingers curl under its chin. He's Baekhyun closest--and probably only; he's the only one Sehun's seen hang out with Baekhyun, at least--friend. He's not a bad person or anything, but being around both Baekhyun and Kyungsoo at the same time is too depressing. It's hard to believe someone can be so dark and negative, much less two someones who serendipitously met and combined their dark forces.

"My mom called me today from Puerto Vallarta. She and Dad are coming home at the end of the week."

Finally, the toilet flushes, and Baekhyun appears a minute later. He sees his cousin and sighs. "Hey," Baekhyun grunts. "What do you want?"

"My phone screen broke." He waves it half-heartedly, a spiderweb of cracks distorting a black and white group photo of Girls' Generation.

"So take care of your crap."

Sehun pouts in a completely uncute manner. "I asked your mom; she said to ask you to take me to the mall, because I'm too cute to go by myself without the probability of being kidnapped. She also said that the only answer is 'Of course, Mother Dearest.'"

Kyungsoo snorts and takes Kai to make himself comfortable on the nest Baekhyun calls his bed.

Baekhyun rolls his eyes and closes the door behind him. "Don't worry. You're definitely not cute enough to be kidnapped. You can go alone." He shrugs off his uniform blazer and zips up a dark hooded sweatshirt with a metallic skull over the back. He drops a pile of blankets and pajamas to the floor and sits beside Kyungsoo, almost hip to hip. Kai yawns at him and chews on the fingertip his human offers but stays planted on Kyungsoo's lap, slowly sliding between his thighs carelessly.

Sometimes, Sehun wonders about Baekyhun and Kyungsoo. They're weirdly close and do each others' makeup--Kyungsoo pulls Baekhyun's chin a little to fix a smudge of eyeliner. They're like girlfriends.

"Are you guys dating?"

Kyungsoo snorts and drops his hand to his friend's lap. Baekhyun levels a glare at Sehun, unamused. Even Kai seems to groan in his near-sleep. "Go do your homework."

"It was just a question," Sehun mumbles. He rocks back and surges to his feet and shuffles to the door, looking over his shoulder to ask, "So will you go to the mall with me tomorrow?"

"Maybe." Preferably not. "Get out."

Sehun sticks his tongue out and closes the door behind him.

Baekhyun picks up a remote and turns on the stereo across from his bed. Music screams through the speakers at a volume just at the peak of his parents' tolerance level.

"You gonna take him?" Kyungsoo asks. Kai's completely between his legs, now, unaware and uncaring as it catches its fourteenth spontaneous nap of the day.

Baekhyun scoffs, although it's more nasally than throaty, a betrayal of underlying anxiety. "Hell, no." He's most content to stay in his cave of a bedroom, with as few people as possible. Kyungsoo's a kindred spirit and also sort of grounding, if Baekyun really thinks about it. He doesn't like to think about it, but his best friend has the uncanny ability to cut through the panic that grips his heart and throat and make him breathe again. Sehun's tolerable, sometimes. Being older, Baekhyun feels justified in pushing him around a little, but he actually gets that Baekhyun isn't trying to be a prick. He just wants to be left alone; he feels safer that way. His liberal parents, however, don't get that at all. It's impossible for them to comprehend that their youngest is so unlike their oldest and is not simply going through a rebellious stage. Someday--maybe tomorrow, fingers crossed--he'll wake up and tear off the black out curtains and throw out the makeup and buy pastel polos and befriend the entire neighbourhood with a single smile. Like he used to, when he was a little kid.

Unfortunately for the Byun family, something (read: puberty) happened, and he just...stopped talking. He clung to Kyungsoo, who was a quiet child to begin with but would speak for them both. Later came the deeply philosophical thoughts and cynical beliefs and then dark makeup to reflect those thoughts and beliefs. When he spoke, Baekhyun chilled the room. He preferred their silence, but he relished in the solitude of his bedroom, which grew cluttered and even darker. He only felt the room shrinking maybe three times, which is much better than his school record, which shows numerous detentions and excused sick days after vomitting during class.

After Kyungsoo heads home, Baekhyun rolls back into his bed and drags Kai closer. The cat wriggles away just to curl around his head. It's hot, but the claws are sheathed, at least. They nap until Mrs Byun sends Sehun to get Baekhyun for dinner.

For some reason, "dinner is ready" is code for "dinner is actually ready in a few minutes, set the table and get your father." Without fail, Baekhyun falls for it, but it's better to just drag himself downstairs before his mom lectures him. He has her lectures memorised; they're scored into his brain, so he can relive her nagging and the weight of her disappointment every night before he goes to sleep.

Baekhyun plods down the stairs into the kitchen. They changed most of the lights to LED bulbs, "because they're more energy efficient," which is fine, well, and good, but the light sears into his eyeballs. He pulls up his hood and hovers behind his mom. She jumps when she turns into him and pulls his hood down.

"Sehun ask you to take him to get his phone fixed?" Baekhyun grunts, side-stepping to lean against the counter and pull his hood up again. Mrs Byun reaches around him for a spoon and makes sure to tell him that he will take his cousin to the mall tomorrow. "It'll get you out of the house."

"I leave the house pretty much every day. Unluckily for you, I always come back." Sehun meanders in, quietly taking utensils and bowls from cabinets.

Mrs Byun passes Baekhyun a pot of food and nods towards the table. "I don't include school as a healthy outing, and stop talking like that. You were such a happy child," she sighs and shakes her head. "What the hell happened?"

He's probably not meant to hear the last part, but Baekhyun rolls his eyes, and Sehun bites back a snort as he lays out bowls and chopsticks. Mr Byun, drawn from his home office by the smell of food and sounds of snark, yanks Baekhyun's hood down and ruffles his hair.

Baekhyun scowls at the table as he sits, combs his hair back over his face, and remains sullenly silent as his parents and Sehun chat like an amicable family blissfully unaware of anything else in the world.

Being the weekend, Baekhyun doesn't even have the excuse of school to get out of chaperoning Sehun's trip to the mall. He doesn't have practice of any sort, either, and Kyungsoo says he doesn't want to go. So it's just Baekhyun and Sehun on the bus. Sehun sits on the aisle seat. Fewer people stare at the Vantablackness that is his cousin that way.

The mall is the same as always--tall, imposing, bright, and lively. Everything Baekhyun is not. His natural inclination towards tall, imposing, bright, and lively is anxious avoidance, which makes him hate those things even more, because anxiety completely sucks what little energy he channels to survive the day right out of him with icy claws.

Sehun practically skips ahead of him, and Baekhyun has to hurry to keep up. Even two years younger, Sehun's legs are longer than Baekhyun's. Their grandma jokes about putting a brick on his head to keep him from growing. Baekhyun thinks it's a good idea, just on principle.

Baekhyun keeps a firm grip on his phone in his hoodie pocket, earbuds shoved into his ears and head down. He follows Sehun's feet. Up some stairs, sidestepping couples linked at the elbow and clots of "squads," around the maze the food court to a cream-tiled shop with wall-mounted frozen yogurt dispensers and a long counter of various toppings separated from people's hot breath by partial domes of glass.

Sehun grabs the hem of Baekhyun's hoodie. "Hyung..." he whines and makes eyes at the bubble tea.

"Seriously? I thought you had to get your busted phone fixed."

"Yeah, but as long as we're here..." Sehun shrugs. "Please?"

"Buy it yourself."

"I'm using my money to pay for the phone repairs! Besides, I was literally in the room this morning when your mom gave you your allowance and said to treat me nicely."

"She meant I couldn't trip you down the escalator and leave you to bleed," Baekhyun grumbles. Sehun's making eyes at him, now, and pouting, and he'll start doing that nudging thing if this goes on for much longer. "Fine! Here, get me a chocolate sundae, too." He shoves some bills at his cousin and slouches to a corner table. He plugs in his earbuds to his phone, tucks them in his ears, and tunes out the noise of the mall rats.

Sehun nudges him with his sneaker and sets a sundae piled high with sugary toppings in front of him. Baekhyun mumbles his thanks out of habit more than actual gratefulness, because there is no way he can be grateful about anything except leaving.

His cousin sits across from him and browses the crowds that pass back and forth, shyly dropping his gaze when a group of giggling girls pass by to get in line for tea. He chases the boba in his cup with his straw, sucking air obnoxiously until he got them all.

Baekhyun eats his sundae slowly, letting it melt to just the right consistency and mixing all the toppings into it. He glances up to scowl at Sehun when he nudges him again, but the boy leans forward to say something and shake his empty cup. Baekhyun nods and returns his attention to his food and the heavy task of ignoring the weight of the mindless mall population.

Sehun pushes his chair back, stands, tucks it back under the table, and leaves.

Alone again, Baekhyun opens his chat with Kyungsoo. They share music back and forth and commiserate over everyday oppression. Today, Kyungsoo has no sympathy.

you shouldn't have gone.

its not like i wanted to

my mother is a tyrant

are you still there?

yea. sehun wandered off somewhere Baekhyun notices the time on his phone and sits back to look for another clock, because if his mental math is right, he's been sitting for nearly two hours, and Sehun had only been with him for maybe a quarter of that.

So where'd he go?

If that dumb shit actually got kidnapped, so help me... He tries to be grumpy and talk himself into chewing out his cousin, but his chest is pulling strangely, and he can barely hear his music over his heartbeat hammering in his ears and throbbing in his neck and wrists. Barely lifting his head, he looks around the little dining area, but he doesn't see his cousin. His fingers shake when he serial messages Kyungsoo.

soo. i dont know where he is
he's gone
what do i do?
its been over an hour
i didnt even want to come
i knew this would happen
he always goes off on his own He didn't know this would happen, and Sehun's actually pretty good about sticking around, which Baekhyun usually found annoying. The kid couldn't take the hint that his preppy company was not appreciated.

His phone buzzes in his hand, drawing his darting eyes back to the chat window.

don't freak out.
did you call?

his phones busted
thats why im stuck here rmember? His own phone beeps twice, tiny battery icon flashing and a window popping up telling him to charge it.

ask someone. just find the nearest security guard.
you'll be fine. just breathe a minute.

no guarantees once that minutes up
my phones almost dead He feels like he'll be joining it soon. It's one thing to know his cousin's gone, and he can't just text him to get his butt back here, but it's another thing to actively get up and look for him. Baekhyun's not sure his legs are going to cooperate.

Someone's working behind the counter, wiping things with a damp towel and leaning over to check food behind the glass display window. He can ask if they saw which was Sehun went and work from there. It's a plan.

To save battery life, he closes everything on his phone but keeps his earbuds in his ears and tosses his dirty bowl and napkins in the trash bin beside the counter.

No one's in line, and the kid behind the counter notices him before he can say anything. "Hi! Can I help you?"

"Uh..." If only the floor would open up, but he'd just float. Baekhun notices the way the kid looks at him, smile plastered on like a mask, but he can't stop his eyes from looking at Baekhyun's hair, makeup, clothes, and the quaking of his hands in his front pocket. Probably thinks I'm a complete freak. "Have you seen my cousin? He's about this tall," he holds a hand up just over his head, "thirteen..."

"The kid you came with? He left like forty minutes ago." He shrugs. "Sorry. I haven't seen him since."

Baekhyun nods and squeezes his phone in his pocket. He'll look for Sehun himself. Even covering the bathrooms, though, will take a long time. Each floor has at least four bathrooms, and Sehun goes to more stores than Baekhyun does, so he could be in a clothing store, toy store, electronics store, comic store...

He could be literally anywhere, and Baekhyun will simply never find him.

Baekhyun backs out of the surging crowd, eyes darting back and forth. There are many boys Sehun's age, but none of them are Sehun. He's not here. He should be, but he's not, and the whole reason Baekhyun came with Sehun was to keep an eye on him, and he's gone.

People stare as they walk by. He can hear their murmurs and thinks he sees some people pointing. Moms grab their kids and pull them further away from him, like he's some embarrassment or germ.

Embarrassingly, he feels his eyes water, hot and stinging.

Where is Sehun? He should go look for him, but where? The mall is huge in comparison to a single person. Tens of stores on each level; there's no way to orderly search them all. Sehun's phone is busted; Baekhyun's is barely clinging to a charge. It all adds up to hopeless.

He bites his lip and backs up further into the alcove of the shop. It'd be better if he could get to a restroom--better still if he just went home--but the crowd is too thick, and everyone is staring at the weird crying kid wearing all black and smearing his makeup by crying like a freak.

Tucking his hands into his sleeves, he leans against the wall and crosses his arms over his torso, hunching forward and staring at the floor, the only stationary thing. He's so dizzy.

Sneaker toes shuffle into his vision, and Baekhyun wills them away, because the neon accents are glaring, but they shuffle and ask, "Are you okay?" in English before repeating themselves in Korean, and Baekhyun swipes at his eyes with blackened fingertips and nods. He just wants them to go away.

"Why are you crying? Can I help?"

Baekhyun shakes his head and sniffles. Why won't this guy just go away? He's pretty sure his heart is trying to beat right out of his neck and abandon him.

"Hey, c'mon. Sit." They take Baekhyun's elbows, making him walk with them to the far corner table. Baekhyun's thankful they choose to sit with their back to the waves of mall walkers; they can't see the disgusted and pitiful looks cast Baekhyun's way. He looks up at them through the dark haze of his bangs and shrinks a little. His Good Samaritan is handsome and familiar. "My name's Yifan."

"I know," Baekhyun whispers against his palm, wiping under his eyes again. He goes to school with Yifan, a couple grades under him. Yifan's pretty popular among the athletic crowd, transferring from a middle and high school career of being captain of the basketball team overseas.

"What's wrong? Take a breath." Yifan's not going anywhere, and Baekhyun's legs aren't working as well as his stuttering lungs, so he breathes deep and sighs.

"I can't find my cousin."

"Did you call him?"

Baekhyun manages a quivering, pouty glare, imaging his flushed cheeks are from righteous anger rather than crying. He holds up his phone, battery line a distressing red.

Yifan moves on. "How old are they?"

"Thirteen. His name's Oh Sehun." And he's a stupid idiot for leaving without saying anything. Maybe Baekhyun should just leave him. His aunt's young; she could make a new Sehun, more obedient and respectful of his elders.

"Okay. What if I get security to look out for him?"

Baekhyun shrugs but nods and stands up. "I need the toilet," he mutters. Eye makeup has run over the apples of his cheeks. It feels tacky as it dries. As much as he likes the dark-eyed look, he prefers it more Gerard Way and less Studio Killers' Cherry.

"I'll walk with you." Yifan ruffles his hair in what's probably supposed to be friendly and supportive but is just really annoying to Baekhyun. "Cheer up, emo kid. We'll find him."

"Don't call me that," Baekhyun grouses. He keeps his eyes on the ground and breathes a little easier once the shiny tile turns into a carpeted hallway. He leaves Yifan and trots to the restroom. He hears shrieks from the women's restroom, children playing with the sinks and hand dryers while waiting for their moms. Thankfully, the men's room is quiet and empty.

Baekhyun frowns at himself in the mirror, grimacing as he wets a paper towel and cleans his face. He takes a clean towel and runs it under cold water to just hold over his eyes.

His brain takes that as permission to break down. He tries to old it back, but his shoulders lurch, and he sucks in a gasp of air that fuels a sob he barely manages to catch in his hands. There's a fleeting feeling of really wanting his mom, but it's overwhelmed by the greater want to just go home, crawl into bed with his cat, and sleep.

Yifan's still waiting when Baekhyun finally calms down and reapplies his face. He looks cool leaning against the wall, as cool as someone can be next to an ad about flu shots.

"Hey," he greets. "I found a link to security on the mall's website. They're looking for your cousin." He tucks his phone into his back pocket. "We can just wait here. You probably don't want to sit in a crowd."

"Not really," Baekhyun replies. His heart jumps a little, and he pinches the skin between his thumb and forefinger to give him something else to focus on.

Yifan pushes off the wall and sits on one of the sofas along the hall wall. A couple women with their arms laden with shopping bags hustle down the hall, back into the fray, and Baekyun sits on the opposite end of the same sofa.

"Do you get like that often?" Baekhyun casts a sidelong glance towards him, and Yifan looks at the end of the hall. "Have a panic attack, I mean."

"Not really."

"But sometimes? Because you seem fine at school."

He recognises him. Excellent. Baekhyun brings his feet up onto the cushion and slouches, hiding his red face behind his knees. "I just avoid people and am fine. My mom made me take my cousin today, but I won't do it again." He's going to put a deadbolt on his door, bars on his windows, and get an automatic litter box for Kai, so they don't have to leave except for food. Maybe he can buy a mini fridge and hotplate.

Yifan doesn't say anything else, which Baekhyun's grateful for, but he doesn't leave, which Baekhyun isn't grateful for but isn't wholly resentful, either. Quiet company is okay.

When the older boy takes out his phone again, Baekhyun looks without meaning to, catching the full weight of Yifan's smile. "Security found him in the arcade. They're bringing him up, now."

Breathing gets easier. Sehun's found; he's safe and alive and not kidnapped. Without the heavy clouds of doom fogging his thinking, Baekhyun can decide his cousin's punishment for making him freak out.

It's between litter box duty and dancing a pop song to Kyungsoo when Yifan gets to his feet and waves Baekhyun closer to the end of the hall and people. They spy the dark caps and uniforms of mall security before the boy between them, but it is Sehun. All in one piece and expression impassive until he sees his cousin.

"Hyung!" Sehun skips through the crowd, running on his toes to slip between clots of people.

"You idiot!" Baekhyun drives his fist into his cousin's shoulder before yanking him into a hug. "Where did you go?"

Sehun slithers out of Baekhyun's grip, looking appropriately sorry, although he doesn't yet know what sorry is. "I went to the store to get my phone fixed then met with some friends! I told you, and you nodded." He rubs his neck and mumbles, "You had earbuds in, but I thought you'd heard me."

"You thought wrong, and we're going home."

"But my phone--" He points vaguely towards the stores.

"Mom will drive you back tomorrow." Baekhyun grabs him by the back of the neck and forces him into a respectful bow. "Thank you, everyone, for finding the ditz." The security officers wave off the thanks, sort of smile, and leave. The number of lost kids they have to hunt down has probably dulled their sympathy.

Yifan's more perceptive and offers a genuine grin. "No problem. Are you gonna be okay...?"

"We'll be fine," Baekhyun says. He's had enough of humiliating himself in front of the foreign kid.

Sehun's apologising again as he's lead by the hand through the mall and out to the bus stop. He only stops when Baekhyun tells him to and throws his hood back over his head. Then, he hovers sulkily behind Baekhyun's shoulder.

On the bus, Sehun again takes the aisle seat, and Baekhyun stares out the window.

Hopefully, Yifan will forget all about it come school on Monday, but Baekhyun braces himself for a backlash of snide remarks, although there's a little voice he hasn't heard in while, one more chipper and positive, saying that Yifan won't say anything. He's just not that kind of guy.

"Hyung? Are you okay? Your face is kind of red."

Baekhyun whacks Sehun's hand from reaching to his forehead. "It's nothing." He shifts closer to the window, sighing softly at its coolness. "Just leave me alone."

He is never leaving his room again.