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[personal profile] surgicalfocus
Title: No Vessel For Young Men

Pairing(s): Chanyeol/Baekhyun

Rating: PG-13

Genre: Fluff, romance, stupid

Warning(s): Language, sexual references, Baekhyun in drag

Length: ~6,200

Summary: For Baekhyun, being the entertainment organiser on a cruise ship full of seniors has its ups and downs – mostly downs – but sometimes the people he meets make it all worthwhile.

Many thanks to those who provided the prompts that spawned this monstrosity.

“Number fifty-one,” Baekhyun said into the microphone. “I repeat – number fifty-one.”

He looked out at all the heads bowed over their bingo sheets – a sea of mostly white and grey, with a few purple rinses thrown in for variety. Leathery hands gripped coloured markers so tightly that they trembled, eager to cross off more numbers. Apart from the occasional phlegmy cough, the room was silent, waiting with bated breath for him to speak.

Baekhyun wound the handle of the spinner until another plastic ball with a number on it popped out; he picked up the ball and squinted at it. He hated being on bingo duty – he still occasionally had bad dreams about it, which resulted in him crying out BINGO! in the dead of night and waking himself up.

“Number thirty-four,” he called out.

“A little louder, please,” a lady sitting in the first row of tables called back to him. She cupped her left ear with a wrinkled hand. “We’re a bit hard of hearing down here, love.”

“Speak for yourself!” someone nearer the back yelled at her.

“Once again, the last number I called out was thirty-four,” Baekhyun droned in reply.

“BINGO!” two voices shouted in unison.

Thank God, Baekhyun nearly said aloud, but managed to check himself just in time.

Hang on, he thought. He was pretty sure he’d heard two voices, not one. Unlike everyone else in the room, many of them aged seventy and over, Baekhyun’s hearing was perfectly fine… but even he was doubting himself right now. Being constantly surrounded by old people could do that to you; it was like his body was starting to deteriorate out of sympathy.

He peered out into the crowd. Two old ladies – one mauve-haired, the other grey, both sitting at tables near the stage – blinked up at him in surprise behind half-moon spectacles. They looked at each other, and then back at him.

“Alright, ladies,” Baekhyun said wearily. “You can’t both have winning cards… I'll have to check your numbers.”

“I've won - come and see for yourself,” the grey-haired lady said indignantly, thrusting her bingo sheet out towards him.

Baekhyun sighed and descended the stage steps, making his way to the table where the grey-haired lady was seated. He took the sheet from her and peered at each of the numbers she’d crossed off, checking them against his list, and then checked the other woman’s numbers as well.

“You’re right,” he said, frowning at the sheet in his hands. “Someone must have accidentally made two copies of the same card..”

“Well, whatever the case, I’m the one who said ‘bingo’ first,” the mauve-haired lady sniffed. “As I’m sure my tablemates here can vouch for.”

“No, I said it first..!” her opponent replied angrily.

“Ladies, please calm down,” Baekhyun said, holding up his hands to silence them. “Technically you both won, so you will both be awarded prizes in this instance. I'm sure there's a reasonable explanation for the error.”

Whatever the explanation was, he was fairly certain that Sehun had something to do with it.

* * * * *

“Sehun!” Baekhyun yelled, storming through the door of his office. “What have I told you about checking through the bingo sheets for accidental duplicates..?” Bingo was thankfully over, the attendees having shuffled off to the dining hall for their afternoon tea. After that, they would most likely head to their cabins for a nap, which meant that they were out of Baekhyun's hair for an hour or two - a fact for which he was very grateful.

Sehun looked up from his desk. “I thought I did.."

“Well, apparently you didn’t. We had two overall winners with exactly the same cards; I had to give them both prizes to shut them up. If I have to keep doing that, we’re going to run out of bloody prizes, aren’t we..?”

Sehun shrugged. “Sorry… one must have got past me,” he said, but he didn’t look too threatened. Baekhyun suspected that the boy was used to his tirades by now; things seemed to go more smoothly back when Sehun was still afraid of him.

“It’s fine,” he sighed, collapsing onto his chair. “Just make sure it doesn’t happen again. If there’s one thing that does my head in, it’s rich old people who think you’ve cheated them out of a bingo win.”

Baekhyun felt around in his pockets for his phone, intent on checking his schedule. Karaoke Night would start in a couple of hours, after dinner. Tomorrow night would be Disco Night, which was always a worry, because 9 times out of 10 some old fart in flares really got into it and ended up throwing his back out. And he still had to go over the New Year's Eve run-sheet one last time before Wednesday, and… and he had no idea where his phone was.

“My phone,” Baekhyun said absently, his hands still dancing around in his trousers. “Where’s my phone..?”

Sehun didn’t look up from what he was doing. “Maybe you left it in the hall during bingo.”

“Dammit,” Baekhyun muttered, yanking his hands out of his pockets. “I must have. Just what I need..”

Baekhyun practically sprinted down to the information desk, narrowly dodging several doddering old guests traversing the corridors with the aid of walking frames and wooden canes. Upon arriving, he rang the bell on the counter repeatedly until Kyungsoo finally emerged from his office.

“Alright, one ding is enough..” Kyungsoo said, sounding slightly irritated. “What can I do for you, Baekhyun?”

“I’m missing my phone,” Baekhyun replied, tapping his fingernails impatiently on the marble surface of the counter. “It’s a white iPhone 6. Has anyone come to hand one in..?”

Kyungsoo bent down to pick up the lost property box beneath his desk, shaking it so that the contents rattled. He dumped it on top of the counter.

“No phones as yet, I'm afraid,” he said. “On the other hand, if you're missing a transistor radio, a collapsible cane or a set of dentures, then you're in luck.”

Baekhyun sighed and ran his hands through his hair in exasperation. “Dammit… I guess I'll come back later. If someone drops one off in the meantime, then please let me know ASAP; it'll probably be mine.”

“Is this what you're looking for..?” said a deep voice immediately behind Baekhyun, and he spun around in surprise. Before him stood a very tall, very handsome, very young man wearing beige chinos and a striped green polo shirt. He was holding a phone that looked very much like Baekhyun’s in the palm of his hand.

“Yes,” Baekhyun said excitedly, “that’s it! Where did you get it..?”

“My grandmother found it abandoned on a table during bingo,” the man replied, grinning down at Baekhyun. “So I figured I’d pop down here to hand it in.”

“Thank you so much,” Baekhyun said, reaching out to take the phone, but before he could grab it the man moved his hand away.

“You can have it back,” he said, still grinning widely, “if you have dinner with me.”

Baekhyun stared blankly at the tall weirdo, stunned into silence by his response, and then turned around to look at Kyungsoo. Kyungsoo only gave him a helpless shrug and shook his head as if to say sorry, but you’re on your own.

“Um… excuse me..?” Baekhyun said, turning back to the stranger.

“I'm just kidding,” the man laughed, holding the phone out towards Baekhyun again. “It’s all yours.”

“Oh. Um, thanks.” Baekhyun quickly snatched the phone away before the man could change his mind and slipped it into his pocket.

“If you’d like to thank me, though, you could always join me for a coffee sometime,” the man said. “I came on this cruise as my grandmother’s chaperone, and God knows I love her, but it would be nice to hang out with someone a little closer to my own age for a bit.”

“Oh…” Baekhyun replied, still a little dazed. “Well, I guess I can do that..”

“Great! I’m Chanyeol, by the way.” The man held out a gigantic hand for Baekhyun to shake; Baekhyun took it in his own and shook it half-heartedly. Chanyeol’s skin was a little rough, but warm. “I'll meet you at The Palms Café sometime tomorrow? It’s the one out on the deck, near the pool—”

“I know where The Palms Café is,” Baekhyun interrupted him. “I work here. I’m the entertainment coordinator.”

Oh, right..” Chanyeol replied, and then laughed shyly. He went a bit red, which Baekhyun thought was cute. “I should have realised. Well, if you can get away from your duties for a while, I’d still love to have a coffee with you… what did you say your name was..?”

“My name is Baekhyun,” Baekhyun replied with a polite nod. “And early afternoon works for me. Shall we say… 2 o’clock? It’ll have to be a quick coffee, though.”

Chanyeol nodded, his floppy brown hair bouncing around with every movement. “2 o’clock is fine – I guess I’ll see you there!”

Baekhyun watched Chanyeol walk away in silence until his thoughts were chased away by the sound of Kyungsoo clearing his throat.

“What..?” Baekhyun asked, turning around to face him.

Kyungsoo only smiled and made kissy-kissy faces at him until Baekhyun got annoyed and told him to shut it.

* * * * *

The next day, Baekhyun arrived at The Palms Café at 2pm sharp, before Chanyeol did. In fact, Chanyeol kept him waiting for another twenty minutes, which pissed Baekhyun off a little, because spare time wasn’t something he could afford to just fling about freely. But then Chanyeol finally showed up – shirtless, surprisingly muscular, and spectacularly sunburnt. By that time, Baekhyun was already on his third coffee and starting to palpitate from all the caffeine; seeing Chanyeol’s half-naked body only made things worse, and he suddenly got that winded feeling he sometimes had after finishing a 5km run.

“Hi,” he said, looking up at Chanyeol with his eyebrows raised. “You look… um… red.”

“Yeah... I fell asleep out on the deck earlier, and woke up like this,” Chanyeol replied; he pulled out the chair opposite Baekhyun and sat down. He didn’t seem too worried about his sunburn; if it were Baekhyun, he probably would have cried. “I’m hoping it turns into a tan. Sorry I’m late, by the way... can I get you anything?”

Baekhyun shook his head and sat in silence while Chanyeol ordered himself a coffee.

“So,” he said at last, “you said you’re here with your grandmother, huh?”

Chanyeol nodded and rubbed the tip of his sunburnt nose with his thumb. “Yeah… she’s in the pool right now, getting into the aqua-aerobics. She’d been talking for ages about going on one of these luxury cruises, but my grandfather passed some time ago, and she didn’t want to go alone. So I volunteered to accompany her. It didn't occur to me that I'd probably be the youngest person on the entire ship.”

Baekhyun smiled. “What a dutiful grandson. I was surprised to see someone so young here… the two of us probably lower the average age in this room alone by a couple of decades.”

“Tell me about it,” Chanyeol laughed heartily, slapping the table in appreciation. Baekhyun managed to save his cup just in time before it went flying. “So. What’s it like to work on board the Calypso? I imagine it must be like a party all the time.”

“Not quite,” Baekhyun replied. “Keeping older customers entertained isn’t as easy as it looks. You’d think it would be, but they can be surprisingly demanding.”

“I’ll bet they are. Especially the really rich ones.”

“Oh, the really rich ones are the worst...” Baekhyun groaned. “The New Year's Eve party tomorrow night is my main worry right now; once that's over I think I'll be able to rest a little easier..”

“I saw one of the flyers for that,” Chanyeol said, taking a sip of coffee and returning his cup to the table. “I didn’t think old people would be into drag queens... but I'm looking forward to it.”

“Oh, no – they always love Jongdae,” Baekhyun replied matter-of-factly. “He’s a fabulous performer… he just happens to enjoy wearing a dress while he does it. So what do you do, then..?”

“I’m a music teacher,” Chanyeol told him. “Drums and guitar, mostly, but I can also play the piano. I’ve played in the odd band here and there, just for fun.”

“Cool,” Baekhyun replied, and looked down at his watch. “Uh-oh… I’d better go. Time’s getting away from me, as usual..”

“Sure. What’s on for tonight, then?” Chanyeol asked.

“Tonight’s Disco Night,” Baekhyun told him; Chanyeol laughed and made a face.

“I might skip that one – my disco moves aren’t quite up to scratch. I will most definitely be attending the New Year's Eve party though, with my lovely grandma as my date, of course.”

Baekhyun chuckled at the thought. “How sweet... well, I might bump into you tomorrow night, then.”

“I certainly hope so. Anyway, thanks for joining me; it was lovely to see you,” Chanyeol said, and held out his hand for Baekhyun to shake once again. Baekhyun shook it and gave the other man a little smile as he walked away, trying to shake the image of Chanyeol’s muscles out of his mind as though he were erasing an etch-a-sketch drawing, and completely failing to do so.

* * * * *

The next morning, Baekhyun bumped into Chanyeol – and Chanyeol’s grandmother – on his way out of the dining hall after breakfast. They were walking with their arms linked - although Chanyeol had to stoop in order to do this, because his grandmother's head just barely reached his armpit.

“Baekhyun – how nice to see you again,” Chanyeol said, grinning at Baekhyun. Baekhyun felt the bacon and eggs inside his tummy do a little flip at the sight of Chanyeol's smile. Chanyeol nodded towards his grandmother. “This is my grandma; we were just on our way to breakfast. Grandma, this is Baekhyun. Baekhyun works on the ship -- he organises all the entertainment and such.”

Chanyeol's grandmother peered up at Baekhyun, her eyes large and owl-like through her glasses. “Oh, how nice,” she said, and elbowed Chanyeol suggestively in the side. “And what a pretty young lady.”

Chanyeol turned even more red under his sunburn. “Grandma…" he whispered, a little too loudly. "Grandma, Baekhyun’s a man..”

“Oh!” Grandma said, and laughed at her mistake. Baekhyun laughed too, mostly so she wouldn't feel bad. Chanyeol didn't laugh at all, but he looked as though he wanted to, really badly.

“I’m so sorry, dear…" grandma said, smiling kindly at Baekhyun. “My eyes aren’t really what they used to be.”

“That’s quite alright,” Baekhyun assured her with a polite bow of his head. “I hope you both enjoy your breakfast; unfortunately I must run off. There’s still a lot to do for tonight.”

“Grandma, go and have a seat and I’ll join you very soon – I just want to talk to Baekhyun for a moment,” Chanyeol said to his grandma, and as soon as she was gone he turned to Baekhyun again. “How are all the preparations going?”

“Good,” Baekhyun replied. “I’m just on my way to the ballroom… they’ve already started setting up in there.”

Chanyeol nodded. “Well, can I help at all? Grandma’s made a bunch of new friends, and she’s going to join them in the spa after breakfast, so I’ll have some time to kill. I was just going to waste it reading manga on the deck anyway.”

Baekhyun considered the offer for a moment. “I guess we could use a spare pair of hands setting up tables and chairs... but only if you're not busy, of course.”

“Not at all,” Chanyeol replied, shaking his head. “I’ll meet you at the ballroom after breakfast.”

As soon as he and Chanyeol had parted ways, Baekhyun dashed off in the direction of the ballroom. He entered it to find Sehun armed with a clipboard, delegating various tasks to other members of staff.

“Sorry I’m late; I got caught up on the way out of the dining hall,” Baekhyun told him. Sehun handed him the clipboard with the run-sheet attached to it. He was chewing his lip nervously.

“Listen,” he said, leaning over to whisper in Baekhyun’s ear. “Don’t freak out, but there’s a slight problem with tonight's entertainment schedule..”

Baekhyun’s heart sank into the depths of his stomach. “What do you mean..?” He looked down at the run-sheet and saw that Jongdae’s slot was circled in red pen. The lines were bold and urgent.

“Well, the thing is… Jongdae woke up this morning with a severe sore throat,” Sehun told him. “And he's kind of lost his voice. By ‘kind of’ I mean completely.”

Baekhyun stared at Sehun for a moment, thinking his assistant was pulling his leg, but Sehun was as poker-faced as ever.

“Oh no,” Baekhyun groaned. He grabbed the nearest chair before a staff member could take it away and sank down onto it. “Please tell me you’re joking…”

Sehun clasped his hands together, looking apologetic. “It’s 100% the truth, I’m afraid..”

“But his performance... that's a whole two hours I have to fill,” Baekhyun said; he could feel pressure building up behind his eyes and hoped that it wasn’t a tension headache, or worse, an incoming flood of tears. “How are we going to fill two hours on such short notice? And people are expecting Jongdae to perform, not someone else. I suppose I should have been prepared for this.”

“I went to see Jongdae at his cabin earlier,” Sehun replied. “He could barely whisper, he was so hoarse. He can’t sing sounding like that..”

Baekhyun nodded and rubbed his forehead to ease some of the tension. “Alright… fine. Is he still there? I want to talk to him.”

When Jongdae answered the door to his cabin, he looked even paler than he did when he had his performance make-up on. He was wearing a loosely tied red silk robe, his dark circles were prominent, and his hair was sticking up in all directions. “Baekhyun,” he whispered, and coughed hoarsely into a hanky. He put the hanky back into one of his pockets.

“So it’s true,” Baekhyun said gravely. “I can’t believe it..”

Jongdae nodded. “You must know how devastated I am about being unable to perform... but it’s hopeless. There’s no way I’ll be able to sing like this. Not unless I’m lip-syncing.”

Baekhyun shook his head. “No, of course not. You just concentrate on getting better... I’ll have to think of something else for tonight. We’ll just have to see if the band can play for another hour after dinner’s finished, perhaps..”

“You know,” Jongdae said as Baekhyun and Sehun were about to leave the room, “there is one way you could continue with the show..”

Baekhyun’s ears pricked up and he turned around to face Jongdae again. “There is..?”

Jongdae bit his lip. “Yes,” he whispered. “But you’re not going to like it.”

* * * * *

“For the last time,” Baekhyun said to Sehun as they hurried back towards the ballroom. “No. Way.

“But… you'll definitely know all the songs, and you can sing…” Sehun pleaded. “It’s the only way we can keep tonight’s show – just like Jongdae said.”

Baekhyun laughed the suggestion off. “Are you nuts? And anyway, Jongdae’s a rock singer… all I can do is ballads…” he replied, and nearly walked smack into someone on his way through the ballroom doors.

“Baekhyun…” Chanyeol said, looking down at him worriedly. “Are you okay..?”

“You’re fine. I mean, I’m fine,” Baekhyun said quickly. “We unfortunately just found out that Jongdae can’t sing tonight because he’s too ill, and so now I have to find another way to entertain a room full of geriatrics for two hours. As you can imagine, my options are quite limited.”

“Who’s this guy…?” Sehun asked, jerking his thumb towards Chanyeol.

“This is Chanyeol,” Baekhyun told him. “He’s a friend – he’s here to help us out. Chanyeol, this is my assistant Sehun.”

“Well, as I was saying,” Sehun continued, “you know all the songs, Baekhyun. And you’re a great singer. He's a great singer,” he repeated, turning to Chanyeol. “He used to be a karaoke champion. He always sings to himself when he’s typing up his run-sheets and thinks no one’s watching; he’s just shy about it… says ‘those days are behind him’, and all that.. bullshit, if you ask me.”

“Oh really...? Well, this is new information,” Chanyeol said, smiling down at Baekhyun. He had a devious gleam in his eyes that Baekhyun didn’t like the look of.

Baekhyun sighed and nodded his head. “Okay – fine. I'll think about it… can I maybe skip the drag part though?”

Sehun looked doubtful. “Well, it was advertised as a drag performance. And if you dress up like Jongdae, and act like Jongdae, maybe no one will even notice that you’re not him. Hopefully..”

“Alright, alright… I’ll do it – make-up, dress and all,” Baekhyun groaned, and pulled at his hair in exasperation. “God help me… let’s just finish setting up before something else goes wrong.”

At Baekhyun’s direction, Sehun hurried off to continue bossing the other staff members around. Baekhyun watched them absently for a moment until he felt Chanyeol put a hand on his shoulder.

“Hey…. do you have a band for tonight?” Chanyeol asked him.

Baekhyun nodded. “Yes, we do. But they’re only scheduled to play during dinner, until Jongdae’s show starts at 9 o’clock. Jongdae usually just performs with a backing track.”

“Well, if you find a way for me to borrow an electric guitar, I can accompany you,” Chanyeol suggested. “Just so you’re not alone up there for the whole two hours. I used to be in a pub band, and we took lots of requests, so I can play a lot of popular songs.”

Baekhyun looked at Chanyeol skeptically for a moment. “I suppose that’s a good idea,” he said finally. “What do you charge?”

Chanyeol shook his head. “Nothing, I’ll do it for free. Just show me the set list. If you can trust Sehun to take over on the setting up, maybe we’ll have some time to rehearse together, too.”

“But… I have to repay you in some way..” Baekhyun began, and Chanyeol cut him off.

“It’s fine,” he said gently. “I'm happy to help.”

* * * * *

“Are you ready?” Sehun whispered. They could hear the sounds of people chatting away filtering into the backstage area, and it did nothing for Baekhyun’s nerves. Chanyeol was already out on the stage, setting himself up, and had yet to see Baekhyun in all his glittery glory. He was looking very dapper in a black and white tuxedo, and Baekhyun couldn’t help feeling envious; it was the sort of thing he should have been wearing, instead of what he was wearing right now.

“I suppose so...” Baekhyun shifted uncomfortably on his feet; Jongdae’s red sequined heels were a little too big for him, and the threat of falling over on his way to the front of the stage was very real, but he tried not to think about that. He smoothed the skintight satin gown down over his legs and sighed. “Was the thong strictly necessary, though..?”

Sehun nodded. “Jongdae said VPL was a real problem with this dress.”

Baekhyun turned to look at his assistant blankly. “VPL..?”

“Visible Panty Line,” Sehun replied. His gaze flickered down to Baekhyun’s legs. “And with a split that high, I wouldn’t recommend freeballing either.”

“Right… thanks for the tip,” Baekhyun muttered under his breath. “Okay, then. Let’s get this over with… how long have I got?”

Sehun looked down at his watch. “Two minutes.”

Baekhyun nodded, closed his eyes and said his prayers.

When Sehun gave him the okay signal, he strutted onto the stage, trying not to wobble around on his stilettoes. The stage lights were hot and blinding, his blonde wig was itchy, and he could feel the chicken fillets sliding around inside his ill-fitting bra. Despite these grievances, the applause he received was enthusiastic, which made him feel a little better… at least until he turned his head to meet Chanyeol’s eye and saw the other man’s jaw nearly drop to the floor.

Baekhyun swallowed nervously and looked away, busying himself with adjusting his microphone. He didn’t have a chance to think anything else before he heard Chanyeol playing the first few chords of Hit Me With Your Best Shot; exhaling deeply, he lifted the microphone to his red painted lips and began to sing.

As soon as he did, it was as though something inside him came to life – or perhaps some kind of spirit had possessed him through Jongdae’s outfit… he couldn’t tell. Baekhyun would have laughed off such an idea under normal circumstances, but he had no way to explain what came over him while he sang; he felt sexy and powerful, and he could feel Chanyeol’s gaze burning right through him from where he stood a few metres behind. Baekhyun felt comforted having Chanyeol on stage with him; it had been a long time since he’d sung in front of an audience this large, and although he was no stranger to the experience, it was good to know he wasn't alone.

He became a different person for each song, according to what the music demanded of him. When he sang Like a Virgin, he was sweet and innocent; when he sang I Want You To Want Me, he was passionate and hopeful. When he sang I Love Rock and Roll, on the other hand, he was naughty and provocative. There were old people getting up on their feet all over the room, and those who couldn’t dance stood in one spot, waving their canes around excitedly and throwing their glittery party hats across the room.

Those two hours flew by before Baekhyun knew it, and when he was bowing for the last time with his hand in Chanyeol’s, he felt not relieved as he’d imagined, but elated – and almost disappointed that it was over.

“Wow,” Chanyeol said, when they were safely behind the curtain again. “I can’t believe you were hiding a voice like that in there… that was incredible.”

Baekhyun laughed shyly. “Thanks... you were pretty good yourself. I almost forgot how good it felt to do that."

“You should totally do it more often," Chanyeol told him.

“I should,” Baekhyun agreed. “But maybe not in a dress. I think I might get changed now."

Chanyeol grinned and shook his head. “Oh no, I think you should leave it on – you look great. Not that you don’t look great normally, but… this is a different kind of great.”

“Alright, I’ll leave it on,” Baekhyun said. “I suppose I don’t get dolled up like this every day... I might as well have fun with it. Hopefully Jongdae won’t mind me wearing it a little longer.”

Chanyeol nodded and held out his arm. “May I escort you to the dance floor, my lady?” His cheeks were a little red as he said it, and Baekhyun suspected that sunburn was not to blame this time. He linked his arm with Chanyeol’s and smiled.

“Yes, you may.”

* * * * *

After their performance was over, the speakers blared sleepy ballads for all the elderly couples to slow-dance to, at a volume that would have been uncomfortable for anyone under the age of eighty, until it was almost 12. During the countdown to midnight, Baekhyun held Chanyeol’s hand and shouted out each number along with everyone else in the room, until finally a cloud of multi-coloured confetti rained down upon them all from the ceiling. Chanyeol disappeared for a moment to where his grandma was seated with her friends; as soon as he found her, he gave her a kiss on the cheek and hugged her for a long time. Baekhyun stood in the middle of the floor, surrounded by people hugging and kissing their friends and loved ones, and he felt awkward and alone; but before too long, Chanyeol was back, pulling him into a hug so tight that he was left short of breath. They stood like that for a while, holding each other in silence, their bodies swaying gently to the background music. When they pulled apart, they briefly met each other’s eyes, smiled and shyly looked away.

“Would you like to sit down for a while?” Chanyeol asked, taking Baekhyun’s hand in his own. “Those heels must be killing you.”

Baekhyun laughed and nodded. “They are. Don’t you want to spend some time with your grandma..? You've hardly seen her all night.”

Chanyeol shook his head. “She’s with all her friends, so she’s fine,” he said, leading Baekhyun away from the crowd. “Right now I’d rather spend time with you, while I still have the chance.”

They sat down next to each other on two seats at the edge of the dance floor, and watched the remaining couples slow-dancing to Auld Lang Syne. By now, many of the other guests were slumped at the tables, either nodding off or fast asleep, which made Baekhyun smile to himself. At some point his head came to rest on Chanyeol’s shoulder, and he was too content and comfortable to move it away. Chanyeol responded by taking Baekhyun’s hand in his own and holding it tightly; he then lifted the hand to his lips and kissed it.

“Well, I think we can finally say that tonight was a success,” Baekhyun said, breaking the silence at last. “Also, I think I might need a holiday.”

“You work on a luxury cruise ship,” Chanyeol replied. His voice was low and sleepy. “You’re practically on holiday already.”

Baekhyun laughed. “If only that were true,” he said. “Thank you for all your help today, Chanyeol. I don’t know what I would have done without you.”

“I think I know how you can repay me, if you’re interested.”


Chanyeol turned his head until his warm lips brushed against Baekhyun’s ear. “You can be my New Year’s kiss, if you like..”

Baekhyun lifted his head from Chanyeol’s shoulder and looked at him quizzically. “Me..?”

“Well, I don’t see anyone else I’d like to kiss around here,” Chanyeol said, casting his eyes upon the other people in the ballroom. He was still holding Baekhyun’s hand. “Everyone’s far too old, and not anywhere near as beautiful.”

“It’s nearly one o’clock,” Baekhyun replied. He felt too shy to acknowledge the fact that Chanyeol had just called him beautiful, but it filled him with a pleasurable warmth and made his heart pound inside his chest. “I think we missed the boat, so to speak.”

“Nonsense… it’s still midnight somewhere in the world,” Chanyeol pointed out; he turned Baekhyun’s head with one hand until they were facing each other. “Happy new year,” he whispered, leaning forward until their lips gently touched. He pulled away, his forehead still resting against Baekhyun’s, and then kissed him again.

“I hope that made your night a little more pleasant,” he said, and he gently slipped off Jongdae’s blonde wig from Baekhyun’s head, dumping it on the empty seat next to him. He stroked Baekhyun’s hair with his fingers and smiled.

“Tonight was definitely worth shaving my legs for,” Baekhyun replied, smiling back at Chanyeol.

In response to this, Chanyeol stealthily slid a hand down over Baekhyun’s body and trailed it across the bare skin of his leg. Baekhyun yelped in surprise – Chanyeol’s fingers were cold. Chanyeol laughed and moved his hand away; he put his arm around Baekhyun’s shoulder instead, and leaned over to whisper in his ear.

“Silky smooth,” he said. “I like it.”

“Stop,” Baekhyun laughed, “not in front of the old people. Speaking of old people, do you think you can help me with one last thing?”

“Of course.”

“We might have to go around and check on the guests, just to make sure they’re still breathing,” Baekhyun said, frowning as he looked around the room. “Some of them haven’t moved in a while.”

Chanyeol laughed at the suggestion; he grabbed Baekhyun’s hand and pulled him up out of his chair. “Alright – but first, you owe me one last dance.”

They slow-danced together for a while, and as they did so, Baekhyun began to sense a change in Chanyeol’s mood. He seemed quiet and contemplative, as though he had run out of things to say. He looked over Baekhyun’s shoulder instead of into his eyes, distracted by the old, eccentric Mr. Kim Joonmyun, 88 years of age, who stood on the stage all by himself, swaying to the music with his eyes closed. He was wearing a gold glitter-covered top hat and pink plastic glasses shaped like the number 2015.

Baekhyun nudged Chanyeol out of his stupor. “What’s wrong? You’re quiet all of a sudden.”

“I just realised how much I’m going to miss you when this cruise is over,” Chanyeol said quietly; he buried his face in the crook of Baekhyun’s shoulder and softly pressed his lips to his neck. “I really like you, Baekhyun. I don’t want this night to end.”

“Neither do I,” Baekhyun replied. “I really like you too. But this ship is practically my home now… even if we were dating, I would hardly get to see you.”

Having said this, Baekhyun paused for a moment, lost in thought.

“Unless…” he said at last, and Chanyeol leaned back to look at him curiously.

“Unless what..?”

Baekhyun smiled. “Call me crazy, but I think I have an idea.”

* * * * *

At Baekhyun’s suggestion, and with his help, Chanyeol managed to secure a job on board the Calypso, hosting regular group guitar lessons for the ship’s guests. Now that they worked together and shared a cabin, the transition of their relationship from friends to lovers was easy, and surprisingly natural. Chanyeol was a wonderful teacher; he was gentle and patient, always quick to crack a joke and a smile, and his classes became so popular that he was forever running short on guitars. Occasionally he and Baekhyun would perform together for the guests at night, just like they did on New Year's Eve, but Baekhyun opted not to dress in drag for any subsequent performances. That was something better left to Jongdae, he decided.

“I think working on this ship was the best decision I ever made,” Chanyeol told Baekhyun one night, when they were lying in bed together. He sighed happily. “And I think I’m finally getting used to the seasickness.”

Baekhyun smiled and rolled over to face him. “It still hits me too, sometimes... but you get over it eventually. Now I only feel it in certain areas of the ship.”

Chanyeol poked Baekhyun in the belly. "You know what's good for seasickness?"


“Kissing,” Chanyeol said, biting his lip. “Lots and lots of it.”

Baekhyun laughed and rolled his eyes. “Really? I had no idea…”

“Oh yes,” Chanyeol replied, nodding vigorously, his brown hair flopping all over the place. “It's been proven 100% safe and effective.”

“Why don’t we test it out then, and see if it actually works?” Baekhyun suggested. Chanyeol responded by pulling him closer and kissing him.

“While I was playing my guitar today, all I could think about was putting my hands all over you instead,” he whispered in Baekhyun’s ear. “So now I’m going to do just that. And my lips, as well.”

“Please do,” Baekhyun whispered back.

Chanyeol had that glimmer of mischief in his eyes that he always got at times like these. “Do you like it when I touch you here..?” he asked, running his hands over the bare skin of Baekhyun’s back.

Baekhyun closed his eyes and nodded. “Uh-huh.”

Chanyeol smiled and kissed him once more. “How about here..?” he asked, trailing his fingers up and down Baekhyun’s arms. Baekhyun felt goosebumps forming on his skin at the cool touch of Chanyeol’s fingertips, and he shivered a little.

“Yes...” he said, and then he said it again, each time Chanyeol touched a spot he liked – which was more or less everywhere. Chanyeol had long since stopped speaking; his lips were too busy leaving a trail of kisses all over Baekhyun’s body, getting lower and lower until—

“BINGO!” Baekhyun cried out. His outburst was immediately followed by silence, and he slowly opened his eyes.

Chanyeol stopped what he was doing and lifted his head, looking down at Baekhyun with an amused expression. Baekhyun felt his cheeks growing warm. He covered his face with his hands.

“Sorry... I have no idea where that came from.”

Chanyeol barely missed a beat before he burst out laughing, which in turn made Baekhyun chuckle too, even though he was still a little embarrassed. “You’ve been hanging around old people way too much,” Chanyeol said, wiping tears of mirth from his eyes.

Baekhyun sighed, but he couldn’t help smiling. “I used to wonder if old age was contagious… perhaps it is after all.”

Chanyeol laughed and leaned over to whisper in Baekhyun’s ear. “Call me weird, but that was kind of hot… I wonder if I can make it happen a second time…” He spent the rest of the night repeatedly pushing all of Baekhyun’s most sensitive buttons, inflicting such delicious torture upon him until he had no choice but to say it again.


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