{{ a y a m e | mabudachi trio }} (hoyah) wrote,
{{ a y a m e | mabudachi trio }}
hoyah

i'm here to stay
xiuyeol; kaibaek; past xiuhan; nc-17; approx 10.5k
warnings: character death, allusions to past abuse
disclaimer: fic of a fic. messing around in danie's petau.

Kai is different from the first time Xiumin had seen him - different even from the first time he'd met him. He's still nervous, quiet, but there's something about the way he relaxes in his master's hold. Xiumin sees something there that he'd never thought he'd see again. He doesn't tense with Baekhyun's hand against his elbow, reassuring him that he won't be gone for long. He even seems comforted, though Xiumin would expect him to be made nervous by the separation.

Baekhyun will only be gone three weeks - not even a full month. Chanyeol is often away weeks at a time, especially these days.

But Kai is fragile and unused to Baekhyun's business trips taking him away for so long. Xiumin thinks of all the times Kai has kept an eye on the door, awaiting Baekhyun's return when they're left so the masters can speak. It's a dependency he's never understood, because Xiumin has always been sure someone would be back for him.

But this time there is unconditional trust in Baekhyun's words shining in Kai's eyes. For some reason, this unsettles Xiumin and he lowers his own gaze, feeling as if he's stepped in on a very intimate moment.

As Baekhyun departs and Chanyeol guides Kai upstairs to show him his chambers himself, Xiumin is left standing alone in the empty hall. More than capable of walking with his own two feet, he heads to the library to occupy himself with a book until dinner as Chanyeol occupies himself with their new guest.

It will only be three weeks - Baekhyun will return for Kai in three weeks.

The first meal is awkward. Xiumin watches from his master's side as Kai is invited to as much as he likes of whatever he likes. Just from a glance, Xiumin can see that Kai is still wary. He is used to seeing him eat as he likes in his own home, whenever Baekhyun invites Chanyeol over and Xiumin is asked to accompany him. But Xiumin has noticed how Kai only eats from his master's hand when they are anywhere else.

"Are you not hungry?" Chanyeol asks, blinking with a bright eyed, uncomprehending curiosity from where he is seated.

There is silence as Kai struggles to find the words. In the end, he doesn't succeed, but Chanyeol moves forward to place meat and vegetables and a slice of bread on his plate.

"If you don't eat, Baekhyun will have my head."

Even though Xiumin is looking down now, occupied with his own meal, he can sense the laughter in Chanyeol's eyes, his bright smile. Before long, from across the way, he hears cutlery pressing into china. When he glances up, Kai is chewing on a sausage. Chanyeol is beaming, swelling with pride, and Xiumin finds himself smiling gently around his own bites.

Chanyeol doesn't call for Xiumin that night. It's not very surprising, because these days the courts have been occupying much of his time, even at home. Every day there is correspondence, every day there is paperwork for him to look over after dinner because he makes his trips into town during the daylight hours. He always rises earlier than Xiumin and Xiumin expects him to be burning midnight oil when he passes by his room on his way downstairs. But tonight the room is dark, no light flowing out from beneath the door.

As he's approaching the drawing room is when he hears voices. Well, one voice. Chanyeol, explaining something about a trip he had taken with Baekhyun that had resulted in one or the both of them soaked through their britches and half covered in slime. Kai isn't exactly laughing, but his eyes betray his amusement when Xiumin peeks in and catches a glimpse of them.

Kai's eyes catch everything. When they meet Xiumin's from where he's peeking past the door frame into the library, Xiumin instantly ducks out of the room. He feels like an intruder, like a thief in the night, as he slips away and hurries back upstairs. He doesn't dare come out of his room after that.

When Kai greets Xiumin in the hallway the next morning, it is with a perfect 90-degree bow that startles him so much he is left staring blankly at the younger pet as he scuttles away. Brushing his messy hair from his eyes, Xiumin thinks little of it - Kai has always been a bit skittish in his presence - and makes his way downstairs to breakfast.

Kai avoids the dining table that morning until Chanyeol asks one of the waiting maids to fetch him, brow furrowed in concern. "He seemed all right yesterday," he murmurs absently, at no one in particular. But Xiumin hears and Xiumin pretends he doesn't, because he doesn't know what to make of this uncomfortable feeling in the pit of his stomach.

Chanyeol has always treated guests with warmth. When his sister had finally regained the strength to visit, he had swept her up in his arms and spun her around. Whenever Tao or Baekhyun come calling, he is nothing but bright smiles and firm handshakes that turn into half-hugs. But Xiumin has never seen him pay this much attention to a pet, even if he does banter with Sehun and flirt with Suho (but everyone flirts with Suho).

When Kai finally enters, apparently unable to refuse a direct request, he glances anxiously at Xiumin before taking his place from the day before.

Today, Chanyeol quickly piles food onto his plate and urges him to eat it. /But only as much as you want of whatever you actually want./ It seems Baekhyun had instructed him carefully on what kind of orders to give and Xiumin doesn't know why he's so surprised at Chanyeol's attention to detail, but he is. He's always surprised that somebody as big and awkward as Chanyeol holds such a high position at the council, is entrusted with paper documents that seem full of nothing but tiny details that he somehow never seems to confuse or botch.

It's different, though, seeing him pay this level of attention to a pet. Not that he doesn't to Xiumin, but Xiumin is his pet. And it surprises Xiumin how emphatically that thought comes into his mind.

Breakfast is a relatively quiet affair today. Xiumin pretends not to notice how Kai keeps sneaking glances at him, the younger pet probably thinking that he's being very discreet about it. But Chanyeol isn't the only type to pay attention to small details.

Chanyeol has to head into town today. "Errands to run, things to buy," he explains hastily as he ties up his boots. It's his day off, so naturally he is going to be catching up on all the things he couldn't during the week. This usually involves trips into the nearby town and he often goes alone. He has since given up on trying to shop with Xiumin, because Xiumin never asks for anything unless it's needed - he came with his own wardrobe, with his own accessories, with anything and everything he could have wanted to take from the pet shop because Chanyeol had wanted him to be comfortable.

(Whatever Chanyeol had actually bought for him he kept hidden away. His master's tastes are by no means offensive, but Xiumin had sworn off bright colors long ago.)

But today, as Chanyeol instructs for him to keep Kai company - "I don't want him cooped up all day - Baekhyun says he tends to do that when he's not given instruction otherwise." - Xiumin wishes he could be anywhere but at home.

It isn't that he doesn't like Kai. Kai is nothing but polite, quiet. He is easy enough to tolerate. But he doesn't know Kai and he doesn't know why his master insists on going so far out of his way to make him comfortable. The maids, the other servants, could do enough for him on their own, he thinks.

Still, an order is an order, even if Chanyeol never phrases them as such these days. He nods his head demurely, promising to do as asked, and is surprised when Chanyeol turns a bright smile up to him. More surprised by the way a lump catches in his throatat the sight of it.

"Thank you. I'll bring something delicious home for dessert tonight, so don't fill up too much on dinner." Sweets are one of Xiumin's weaknesses. Ever since Chanyeol caught on, he buys them as often as he can when he knows he's going to be out.

"You needn't go that far, Master," Xiumin replies, just to be polite.

"I want to," comes the simple response, before Chanyeol straightens up and, with a slightly awkward wave, leaves Xiumin to tend to Kai.

Xiumin finds Kai in his chambers. It isn't a huge surprise, but it does startle him to see Kai sitting crosslegged on his bed, back ramrod straight, just before he is scrambling to his feet to bow to him. Had he really intended to sit like that until the next meal time?

"You don't have to be so formal," Xiumin assures him in soft, carefully practiced dulcet tones normally employed for the nervous young virgins who would visit the shop.

Kai says nothing, but it is obvious enough that he does not share Xiumin's opinion.

Xiumin has no need to waste on so many pleasantries, because around now he would be out for exercise, anyway. "I thought you might like to take a walk with me. The sky is bright today and the air will do your lungs good."

Kai's eyes have widened and Xiumin is surprised himself how big they are. He swallows, feeling uncomfortable again as Kai bows to him hurriedly. "Yes, sir. Of course, sir."

Sir. Xiumin wants to correct him. He doesn't seem to hear it.

Xiumin likes the gardens but has never experienced them with another person before. Chanyeol's property is large and far-reaching, but he's often too busy to go very far into them - even if he were the type, Xiumin wouldn't invite him. There's a lot to be said for fresh air and solitude.

But Kai is quiet as they walk, leaving Xiumin free to his thoughts. It is as they are approaching a small gazebo placed further in to offer strollers a chance to rest that Xiumin gestures for Kai to follow him and sit down.

"It's bright out."

He can't believe he's resorted to talking about the weather, but it's difficult to broach very complex topics with Kai. Kai who remains silent, only nodding in response even as his eyes seem to be glued in his lap.

Xiumin tries not to frown, tries not to show his own irritation, but he doesn't understand. (Right now there are far too many things he doesn't understand.)

"How have you been faring the past few days? Do you miss your own manor?" He intends to sound apologetic, affected but polite. He doesn't expect to sound more like an interrogator.

Kai glances up at him, only briefly, and goes back to worrying his fingers in his lap. He seems to be contemplating his answer and Xiumin can't tell if the answer he gives will be honest or not. He's noticed that Kai lies depending on what he thinks the other party wants to hear. "I've been well, sir," he finally says in a voice so soft it might as well be a whisper.

Xiumin's eyebrows furrow in a visible display of irritation. "Xiumin. My name is Xiumin." It isn't proper, he thinks, for a pet to be addressed as "Sir." He is also fairly certain he's never heard Kai call Chanyeol "Sir."

Kai looks worried again and Xiumin sighs, forcing himself to relax a bit, because even if he doesn't understand, he knows better.

"You don't have to call me 'Sir'. I'm just another pet, I hold no power over you."

Kai nods, though he still seems uncertain. Xiumin decides it's time to change the topic. "Do you read?"

Kai only seems upset again and Xiumin feels out of his element. He waits quietly for an answer. When it comes, it startles him. "I can't, s-"

He's seen Kai in the library a couple of times. He has to admit, though, that it's usually in Chanyeol's presence. And Chanyeol isn't the type to read to a pet, though he seems to enjoy it when Xiumin reads to him. (Towards the end, he'd sat at Luhan's bedside reading for him until he fell asleep. He had been reading to him when he went to sleep for the last time.)

"I see..."

Kai bites on his lower lip, then swallows as he looks up at Xiumin. It seems to take him a lot of effort to do so and his gaze isn't steady, but it's enough to hold Minseok's. "I'm not- I'm not trying to take his attention from you."

Xiumin stares.

"I could never- He would never, because you're so- so-" The words seem to die on Kai's face as he stares at Xiumin. His complexion is turning a dangerous sort of grey, causing Xiumin to rise suddenly to his feet.

"I think we should go back inside." He thinks Kai might need a glass of water. He thinks he might need a glass of water. In any case, the outdoors holds no appeal to him at the moment, as he helps Kai to his feet and guides him back indoors.

Chanyeol will have his head, he thinks with a twisted sort of wry smile, if anything serious happens to Kai.

When Chanyeol returns that evening, it's to find Xiumin in the library. He stands at the doorway, looking more than a little shocked (he still doesn't ever hide anything well, a trait that Xiumin begrudgingly admits is one of his more charming ones) at the sight of Xiumin reading to Kai. Kai who is curled up on the cushions, his head resting in Xiumin's lap, half-dozing as the elder pet strokes fingers delicately through his hair.

Xiumin blinks up at him and, for some reason inexplicable even to himself, starts to color. (He isn't embarrassed, this is nothing new, this is nothing out of the ordinary.)

But Chanyeol's expression quickly transforms into a bright grin as he takes a step forward, loud voice announcing his presence and startling Kai from his sleepy state. "You won't believe what I found at the baker's today!"

As Kai scrambles to his feet to greet him, Xiumin stands, as well. Chanyeol's hand comes to rest affectionately against his cheek when he's within reach, stroking over it lightly with his thumb before leaning n to press a soft kiss to his lips. Xiumin closes his eyes, as a proper pet should do, to accept his master's kiss. But he doesn't know what to make of it, because Chanyeol still hardly kisses him out of his bedchambers.

When Xiumin is summoned that night, he arrives in one of his more sheer robes, because when Chanyeol summons him into his chambers it is usually only for one purpose. He likes the predictability, likes knowing where they stand because it's easy to go through the motions, to play the good pet when he can anticipate his master's desires. And when Chanyeol desires his body, it is the easiest thing to give him, because Xiumin is so well trained.

But tonight he arrives in Chanyeol's bedroom to find his master dressed for bed. When it is clear what will happen, Chanyeol usually already has his shirt off. But the familiar jars of lotion and oil are still tucked away and his master still has papers in his hand. Xiumin is at a loss.

It takes three counts for Chanyeol to notice him standing there and when he does he looks just as lost, confused. Xiumin's stomach curls in on itself in embarrassment. "I-" Xiumin fortunately recovers fairly quickly, his training coming in handy. "You summoned me, Master."

That seems to break Chanyeol from his slight daze. "Ah. I did." He smiles, extending his hand, and Xiumin gravitates towards it, letting Chanyeol pull him onto the bed to sit. "I wanted to ask how your day with Kai was."

And while Xiumin had spent the day calming Kai down and reassuring him he felt no threat from him, no jealousy at all, realizing just how fragile Kai was when it came to disapproval, an ugly feeling begins to surface from deep inside his stomach.

He masks it well, sitting up straighter and pulling his robes more tightly around himself to cover up as he starts to speak. Chanyeol eagerly scribbles down notes.

Xiumin finds it becomes a routine, coming into Chanyeol's chamber every other day to fill him in on how Kai has been faring. Since Baekhyun will be away for three weeks, Chanyeol has been charged with writing to him at least every few days to update on his condition. Xiumin has never seen so protective a master, but Kai's situation is a special one, so he can at least understand where it comes from. Still, why Chanyeol feels the need to ask Xiumin about it, he doesn't know.

"Because he follows you like a puppy," Chanyeol explains one day, when Xiumin asks him if perhaps might be better to ask one of the servants who is always around. For some reason, he doesn't like talking about Kai to Chanyeol. (He doesn't like that look of rapt attention on Chanyeol's face as he pens down notes on whatever Xiumin has to say.)

Chanyeol is right, though. Ever since the day of their walk, Kai had been less averse to Xiumin's company. He'd never asked outright to accompany Xiumin around the house, but he'd never hesitated at an offer and seemed to at least be content with their quiet walks, reading in the library, or simply listening to Xiumin as he practices on the piano. ("Can you sing?" he had even once dared to ask. But Xiumin doesn't sing for anyone these days.)

That night, Xiumin goes to bed feeling blank, defeated. He's frustrated, because he doesn't know where it's coming from. As he passes Kai in the hallway on his way back to his room, the younger pet's eyes curious as they fall upon his still impeccably dressed figure, he becomes even more agitated. And he can't explain why, aside from pride. Pride that is pricked by the fact that Kai obviously knows he and Chanyeol have done nothing aside from talk in his bedchambers this last week.

He slams the door shut and goes to bed straight away that night.

Xiumin is used to dreams about Luhan. Sometimes he wakes up feeling blissful, the depression only sinking in when he's come to his senses enough to realize it had been nothing but a dream, after all. Sometimes he wakes up in tears, because he'd been reminded about the end. Reminded of how he'd woken up in the morning to find Luhan's body cold beside his, reminded of the way the servants had had to pry his arms from around his former master (best friend, lover).

But this time it's different. This time he dreams about something that never happened, never could have happened. In his dreams he sees Luhan smiling at him from afar, but it's a sad smile, not the usual brightness that makes his eyes crinkle at the corners and light up with practically visible sparks. This time he sees Luhan fading away right before his very eyes, refusing to take his hand even as he's reaching it out to him.

This time he sees Chanyeol. This is the first time he's ever seen Chanyeol, appearing before him and taking his hand, pulling him to his feet. He wakes up before anything else can happen, feeling not so blissed, not so sad, simply panicked.

Xiumin stumbles out of bed, knocking over trinkets left aside on his drawer, as he scrambles to find the sleep collar Luhan had gifted him with so long ago. Clutching it tightly in his hand, he curls up, arms wrapped tight around his knees, whispering the other's name like a mantra, as if afraid it will disappear from his memory should he not remind himself.

It's terrifying, this feeling he can't describe. He just knows he can't forget Luhan. And he doesn't want to dream - to even think of - Park Chanyeol anymore.

Xiumin doesn't go back to sleep that night, though he comes down late for breakfast. It's only because he's been summoned that he goes at all. Chanyeol frowns at him with concern, as he takes his place beside his master. Kai is watching him curiously, too, with something like worry in his eyes, though it's hard to tell. Xiumin doesn't look at either of them, as he nibbles at what's offered to him from his master's hands.

When Chanyeol leaves for the post - and Xiumin is reminded of the reason he's gone at all - the servants leave Xiumin and Kai alone, as they're accustomed to doing after cleaning up. Xiumin quietly announces he will be in the library. Kai hesitates this time, but he follows, because up until this point, Xiumin has always invited him. It's his first among a string of mistakes that he isn't even aware he's making.

//

Chanyeol does not come home to a quiet house. Chanyeol enters his manor to the sound of shouting and hurries to the source - the library - where Xiumin stands far from what could only be called a cowering Kai. His shoulders are stiff, hands fisted at his sides, and he is no longer yelling but his face is red and his eyes are, too.

"I'm sorry, Sir. Forgive me, I'm sorry." And Kai looks terrified, ashamed, hurt. It makes Chanyeol angry, angry in such a way that he hasn't been with Xiumin since their first few weeks together.

"Xiumin, go back to your room," he snaps tersely. He half expects him to protest, to defend himself, but Xiumin only glances back at Kai once on his way out. Chanyeol can hear his footsteps speed up as he presumably breaks into a run once he is out of sight.

Kai is still apologizing, not looking up, and Chanyeol approaches him carefully. Baekhyun is going to kill him.

//

Xiumin is confused, ashamed, terrified. In a fit of frustration - because Kai had dared to accompany him to the library, because Kai had dared to observe him so openly from afar, because Kai had dared to ask if he'd slept well the previous night - Xiumin had exploded. Wrapped up in his own private, furious thoughts about Park Chanyeol, he had taken his frustration with himself out on the younger pet. And Kai had crumbled right before his eyes, sinking to the floor in a pose of subjugation that had made Xiumin sick with himself.

Of course that was when Chanyeol had come in.

Xiumin stays quiet in his room, wondering if Chanyeol will come to him. If Chanyeol will punish him, since he clearly deserves it. But until Chanyeol approaches him, he waits. He waits for when Kai comes back up, because his master is not the only one he owes an apology to.

He skips dinner and no one comes to fetch him, though a tray of food is brought up to his room. Chanyeol never goes so far as to withhold food as punishment. He does leave dessert off the tray, though, Xiumin notes with some wry amusement. But it doesn't matter, because today he has no appetite. When the tray is sent back downstairs, it has barley been touched.

Chanyeol doesn't call for him.

It is late when Xiumin considers it safe enough to sneak out of his room .It is easy enough to get into Kai's room, since pets rarely bar their doors and it is something of a rule for him that he doesn't. (A safety precaution, Xiumin had overheard the maids whispering.)

Xiumin finds the younger pet in bed already, but Kai bolts up the instant light is visibly streaming into the room. Xiumin feels horrible.

"Sir?" Kai asks, looking even more lost and confused in his simple sleep clothes. He looks every bit the kicked puppy and Xiumin feels like a monster. But how he feels isn't important and, shaking his head lightly, he approaches the younger pet slowly, though he dares not to sit down on the bed beside him. Instead, Xiumin does something he never thought he would ever do in front of another pet. He kneels on the floor by the bed - making Kai's eyes go even wider - and lowers his head.

"I'm sorry."

Xiumin has asked forgiveness from masters before, but never another pet. Never even a servant. And he can see that Kai is unused to anyone ever asking for forgiveness from him. He is at Xiumin's side in an instant, pleading with him to rise, to get up, because this isn't necessary, this isn't right.

"I'm sorry," he repeats, turning his hands over to hold onto Kai's. He hopes this is enough - he has no idea if what he's doing will ever be enough to wipe that look from Kai's face. "It was my temper, my fault. You didn't do anything wrong. You have to know that you didn't do anything wrong."

Kai shakes his head and Xiumin can tell he already doesn't believe him. But he looks a bit calmer now that they're facing each other and on equal ground, even if Kai will always look down on Xiumin on account of height alone.

"I shouldn't have yelled at you," Xiumin continues with a soft sigh.

Kai shakes his head again, hesitates, as if he doesn't know if he should continue. He looks like he has something important to say, a secret he doesn't know how to handle. "Lord Chanyeol explained to me-"

The words catch Xiumin by surprise. He feels his stomach turning, wondering just what Chanyeol had explained. If he told Kai about how difficult, how stiff Xiumin was in general.

But Kai continues, glancing away now. "He said you've been under stress, bad dreams. He said you didn't mean it, but- He wanted me to understand, but I already understand." There's something odd in the way he says it, something a bit whimsical.

Xiumin doesn't know how to take any of it. He doesn't know who he's more upset at - himself or Chanyeol. Chanyeol for blatantly making excuses for him. Chanyeol for trying to excuse him.

He simply shakes his head, squeezing Kai's hand lightly. It seems to relax the other boy a bit, though he still looks confused now that they're looking at each other again. "I didn't mean to disturb you," he finally says, a bit helplessly. He doesn't think further apologies for his earlier behavior would help, but he still feels he needs to apologize for something.

Kai gives him something of a queer smile at that. And doesn't mind it when Xiumin starts to ask him about dinner, turning the topic away from the uncomfortable topic of this afternoon. It's probably better for the both of them right now, to avoid it.

Chanyeol doesn't summon Xiumin for an entire week. It's only a few days to Baekhyun's return, and he has left Xiumin essentially alone with Kai, but he never calls him up to ask about him anymore.

He doesn't expect Chanyeol to punish him, he knows better than that, but being ignored like this may actually be worse. It's startling to realize how much he cares. (He remembers a time he would have been more than happy to be sold back to the shop.)

It's a few days to Baekhyun's arrival that a servant comes to fetch Xiumin to his chambers. He's just gotten ready for bed and contemplates changing his robes (why does he care so much?) but recalling the past couple of weeks decides against it.

When he enters Chanyeol's bedchambers, Chanyeol is seated back on the bed, shirt off and pants undone. He reaches his hand out for Xiumin and there's something vulnerable to the gesture. (He recalls a familiar dream, one he had tried to put behind him until this moment.)

Xiumin steps closer, lifting his robes and climbing onto the bed, climbing over to straddle Chanyeol's lap as he's pulled in for a kiss. He closes his eyes, not wanting to see the expression on Chanyeol's face tonight.

Ever since they'd tried experimenting with different positions, Chanyeol has been taking advantage of it. Tonight he has Xiumin on his back, legs wrapped around the lord's long torso as he pounds his hips slowly into the soft mattress. Xiumin finishes first, much to his own surprise, but he hasn't been touched in weeks. Chanyeol finishes inside him, with a soft groan and a light kiss to his shoulder.

Xiumin tries to move to get out of bed for the wash cloth to clean them both up, but finds himself pinned to the bed by Chanyeol's weight. "Master?"

Chanyeol shakes his head, kissing Xiumin's shoulder again, burrowing against him as if to press him even further into the bed. "I've been neglecting you, haven't I?"

There's nothing to say to that.

"I'm sorry."

It's the second time this master has apologized to him and it feels like too much already. Xiumin wraps his arms around Chanyeol's shoulders, squeezing him close. There's nothing to say. Chanyeol takes physical reassurance better, anyway.

When Xiumin wakes up the next morning, it is in Chanyeol's arms. The young lord has had something of an exhausting week, it seems, as he is still dead the world. Xiumin sits up carefully so as not to disturb him and watches as his arm drops down from where it had been draped over his chest to curl around his waist. Like this, Chanyeol looks nothing like the pillar of strength he seems to represent in the kingdom. Like this, he looks young and pure and Xiumin is suddenly overcome with the urge to keep him that way.

"It's a shame you came across a pet like me," he murmurs softly, to no one in particular, fingers brushing the bangs away from Chanyeol's forehead. "You deserve better than damaged goods."

The meal downstairs is quiet as usual with just him and Kai. But the silence is more comfortable these days, though he feels as if Kai's eyes had taken one look at him and come to all the right conclusions in an instant. He doesn't know why this should embarrass him, when Kai is a pet himself and understands perfectly well the purpose for which they were intended.

"Ask whatever it is you want to ask," he says once they've settled into the library after breakfast. Kai can be persuaded into asking for what he wants if he thinks he's been given an order to speak his mind, Xiumin has discovered. He isn't sure it always works with the masters, but for a pet, he finds it effective enough.

Kai colors slightly and Xiumin thinks the way his ears turn pink must be one of the reasons Baekhyun fell so easily for him. It's entirely natural, unaffected, nothing like the way Xiumin's own cheeks turn a rosy shade when he is complimented. He waits as Kai contemplates his wording, startled when he hears what the younger pet has to say. "I want to learn from you."

"From me?" Xiumin asks, arching an eyebrow in a clear display of ignorance. He has no idea what it could be that Kai might want from him.

Kai nods, still refusing to meet Xiumin's gaze. "I, ah- I wish to please my own master so well."

Xiumin coughs and waits for the color in his cheeks to fade away. Somehow it feels wrong to be discussing things like this with Kai. "I'm sure you please your own master very well," he replies, gently. He must be, for Baekhyun to be so smitten. For just about everyone to fall so easily, if he were being honest.

Kai shakes his head, but doesn't ask again. Xiumin presumes it's because he took that as a no. But for the time being, Xiumin would like to keep it that way.

When Chanyeol does eventually wander downstairs, he finds them still in the library and it's only after pulling Xiumin into his arms, ignoring his protests of "Master, please!" and knocking the book he had been reading to Kai to from his hands, that he greets the younger pet and invites him out for a walk.

Kai has far worse dreams than Xiumin. Kai's dreams are never anything happy, always painful and sad and though he doesn't explain in much detail, whenever Xiumin wakes him up from one it is obvious from the look on his face, from his pale ashen expression, from the clamminess of his hands. Hands that Xiumin always carefully into his own, steadying him though Kai's palms are so much wider, his fingers so much longer.

Xiumin doesn't know how to calm him exactly, so he does the only thing he can think of. He guides Kai's hand up to his collar. His collar, the one Baekhyun had put around him. It seems to work as a reminder of who he belongs to. Kai stops shaking so much, lets Xiumin guide him back against the sheets, tuck him under the covers.

When Xiumin returns to his room, he can't help looking through his own drawers for a gift given to him long ago. As he gently touches his fingers over the delicate stones, he is suddenly no longer comforted but feeling disgusted with himself.

Kai fights every day to forget the past. Xiumin is still holding tightly onto it. For all intents and purposes, he belongs to Chanyeol now, but he knows he's holding back.

Were Chanyeol any other lord, it wouldn't matter. But Xiumin is beginning to see how much more than that he is.

"I'm sorry." And he has no idea which of his masters he is addressing anymore.

Three weeks isn't a very long time at all, but Xiumin can see that for Kai it's long enough. On the day Baekhyun is due back to fetch him, Kai wakes up even earlier than usual and is downstairs to wait quietly to be summoned. Normally he stays in his room, but Xiumin can tell he prefers the study with a full view of the front gates, where he can see Baekhyun galloping in.

Xiumin doesn't remember the last time he had stared out a window waiting for someone to arrive. He's always greeted Chanyeol in the foyer or waited to be called downstairs.

"Did you have a pleasant stay?" he can hear Baekhyun whispering once he's got Kai in his arms, the pet leaning down and closing his eyes to accept the kiss his master gives him.

Chanyeol and Xiumin see them both off, because Baekhyun would like to take Kai home that night. Xiumin finds it unnecessary, because whether at Baekhyun's house or Chanyeol's, they would still be together. But when Chanyeol scoops him up into his arms the moment they've driven off in Baekhyun's carriage, he forgets about what's proper and lets his lord carry him inside.

Chanyeol keeps him occupied in his bedchambers the whole weekend.

Xiumin has been sporadically in and out of sleep the last few days. Kept entirely in his master's room, he has no sense of time anymore though there is a vague notion of meal times. When he wakes up to Chanyeol's lips warm against his throat, his hands stroking slowly over his thighs up to his hips, Xiumin groans softly with exasperation that doesn't last once Chanyeol has taken him into his mouth, apparently hell bent on sucking him dry.

Xiumin is getting far too used to the attention Chanyeol has been giving him the last week. He tries not to think too hard about it because it leaves him feeling uncomfortable, unsettled (undeserving).

Chanyeol doesn't let Xiumin out of bed except to go to the washroom adjoining his bedchambers. Once, he joins him in washing up, winds up washing him up and taking him so hard against the wall that Xiumin has to be carried back to bed, unable to carry himself on his own two feet.

Xiumin is unused to this but somehow it feels uncomfortably familiar.

"Master, you're spoiling me," he says in as serious a tone as he can muster with Chanyeol having just climaxed inside him, still throbbing slightly as he comes down from his high and settles to nestle against him on the bed.

Chanyeol's hair has gotten into his eyes again and Xiumin no longer hesitates to brush it aside, because he's found he likes looking up at Chanyeol's expression, always tousled, mouth slightly agape as he rocks his hips against him.

Now, Chanyeol is laughing softly and Xiumin wonders if he will listen this time as he never does when he reminds him of behavior appropriate between a pet and his master.

"I'm serious. It's bad for me - I may expect you to call me like this every weekend."

Chanyeol kisses his jaw, a gesture that should be considered lewd considering the state they're in, but somehow it makes Xiumin blush with the affection he can feel emanating from him.

"I would take you like this every day if it would please you."

Xiumin's fingers curl inwards slightly as he shifts to press his weight against Chanyeol's side. His master gasps as his hand comes to wrap around his arousal and Xiumin sets forward with a dogged determination to make Park Chanyeol scream with his next release, because things are simpler when he's reminded of the job he's supposed to do.

It's been a month. A month since Kai returned to Baekhyun and Xiumin is left essentially to himself with his lord and master. A month and Chanyeol hasn't exactly changed, but he's doing different things, trying things with Xiumin he hadn't been before.

He keeps him all but locked up in his room on weekends, his only free time. Xiumin is exhausted, but exhilarated, to have his master's attention all to himself like this. It's incredible all the different places and positions Chanyeol is still discovering in his own bedroom.

It's been a month and it's only after a month that Xiumin realizes he hasn't thought once of Luhan. The only face he's been able to see is Chanyeol's, though, so he supposes that would make it difficult to dwell on memories that he can no longer touch. And Chanyeol has done plenty to keep him occupied, even going so far as he read to him and feed him and wake him up in the morning for breakfast. (He had apparently tried once to prepare breakfast himself, but that had not gone so well if only due to his unfamiliarity with his own kitchen.)

It starts to sink in on that fourth weekend after Kai has left. It starts to sink in and Xiumin feels panic welling up inside as he sneaks back into his room and searches around for the necklace, his necklace, the one Luhan had given to him.

It's been a month since he's seen it last.

It's one month in that Xiumin loses it. He supposes he can't escape the dreams forever, even if Chanyeol has been keeping him so occupied he hasn't had the time to dwell (the time to remember). But perhaps it's because of his own neglect that the feelings come so strong this time, the memories so vivid.

That's what they are this time, memories. He dreams memories of waking up to Luhan's cold body, hugging him so tightly that he needs to be pried off, trying desperately to warm up the corpse with his touch as if that might make it any less real.

When he wakes up, he's in Chanyeol's arms, shivering with tear stains streaked all over his face. He knows he must have called out - he knows because he always calls out when it's that dream, sometimes even wakes up with an arm stretched out across the mattress, trying to hold on.

But this time his arms are wrapped around Chanyeol's shoulders. He burrows his face into the other's chest, letting out a soft, agonized moan, because he's awake and Luhan isn't there. Luhan will never be there again. And he feels like he's losing him all over again.

Chanyeol must have heard. But he doesn't ask any questions, arms simply holding tight onto Xiumin, squeezing him close to his body as if letting him go might mean he'd disappear. Xiumin feels sick, sobbing uncontrollably against Chanyeol, his stomach lurching. But in time, he starts to calm down, though he knows he won't be able to sleep tonight.

"Why aren't you angry?" he asks in a hoarse voice some time later. (He doesn't know how much time has passed, just that Chanyeol has stayed like this for the entirety of it, arms holding tightly onto him, waiting for it to pass.)

Chanyeol doesn't answer, just gives him a kiss to his forehead.

It makes Xiumin frustrated and he squirms slightly in the young lord's hold, pulling back, trying to run away. But Chanyeol doesn't let him go, and when Xiumin dares to look up at him, his eyes are open wide with concern, panic, hurt.

Xiumin stops moving.

"I don't know why you keep me."

Chanyeol seems calmer now that Xiumin has stopped struggling so much against him. He answers this time, his low voice soft and gentle and Xiumin doesn't think it's fair how Chanyeol keeps doing this to him. "I like you."

"Do you...?"

Chanyeol nods, kissing the crown of his head. "I like you so much I don't know how to give you up."

Xiumin doesn't understand, doesn't think he will ever understand. "There's nothing left of me to like, Master."

"I think I like everything about you," Chanyeol replies, and his voice sounds just that little bit hopeless. Xiumin realizes Chanyeol already knows he doesn't stand a chance in the wake of Luhan's memory. But somehow he still won't let him go.

Still, that doesn't make sense to Xiumin. The only thing left to like, he thinks, is an empty shell. He twists slightly in Chanyeol's lap, moving to straddle him, arms still around his shoulder as he starts to nuzzle his nose against the juncture of his neck. He is kissing him now and Chanyeol gasps, hands around Xiumin now moving to steady him at the hips. Xiumin grinds down, wringing a slight groan from his master.

But then he finds Chanyeol's hands are restraining him, holding his hips back.

He presses his hips down more insistently, mouthing now at Chanyeol's shoulder, teeth nibbling his collarbone. Chanyeol's body is warm, inviting. He moves forward, rolls Xiumin onto his back and holds him there. Xiumin waits for it, waits for him to move, waits for him to take the one thing he thinks he can give to him anymore.

But Chanyeol doesn't. He waits, looking down at Xiumin with something that looks too much like pity. It makes Xiumin uncomfortable. Laying back like this, pinned down, he feels vulnerable.

"I like... the sound of your voice when you read to me. I like how you look when you rush to get the wash cloth first, because you don't think it's right to let me do something so simple as clean myself off. I like that you always think about the rules even when I've told you time and time again they don't matter, not here. I like how you look when you sit at the piano, I like how your fingers move across the keys. I like how you tease the servants and make them blush, as if you have no idea the effect you have on them. I like how you look when you dance alone in the gardens." He leans down, presses a soft kiss to Xiumin's lips, and Xiumin hadn't even realized his lips were trembling. "I like how you look when I take you-" You're beautiful when I ruin you. "-But that isn't the only thing I like about you."

Xiumin lets Chanyeol wrap him back up in his arms, clinging tightly now as he struggles to get his breathing back under control.

He does fall asleep again.

It's at his first social event since Kai left that Xiumin begins to see what other people must when they look at Park Chanyeol. He isn't sure how it happens, but suddenly there is less of the hot headed young lord he had been introduced to and now there is a capable young servant of the king at court. He watches from Chanyeol's side as he mixes and mingles, charms and persuades, gets seven different contacts to agree to informal luncheon meetings over the course of the month without making it seem like work at all.

Xiumin is properly impressed.

But this business finesse is not all there is to him, either.

"How have you been, Kai?" he asks in quiet tones that Xiumin has only ever heard used in the presence of two people.

This time, Kai answers without having to be given express permission. "I've been very well, my lord."

Xiumin retires to the pet corner with Kai. Tao is away on business in foreign lands and Kyungsoo has Leo on his arm today, so it is only the two of them among their circle.

Xiumin sits on the cushions and gestures for Kai to sit down beside him. Kai does, the pet easily allowing himself to be guided by Xiumin's fingers in his hair to rest against him. This has always soothed Kai, Xiumin has noticed, and the gesture relaxes him, as well. It has become habit to curl up with Kai like this when they are alone.

"I heard you might start dancing lessons."

Xiumin can practically feel Kai's blush. He doesn't smile so openly yet, but Xiumin can tell he is pleased by the way he turns his face inwards towards him slightly.

"Sehun is a fine dancer. He even managed to help Junmyeon a bit, and Junmyeon is nothing but awkward legs."

Kai looks up at that and Xiumin smiles softly. To Kai (to almost anyone who knows him really) Suho is nothing but perfect. But Xiumin for all that he adores Suho himself is more pragmatic than that.

"Ask him to dance with you one day. You'll get a nice laugh out of it."

Kai looks mortified at the very idea of laughing at Suho and this makes Xiumin openly laugh, eyes turning upwards into little crescents, his gums peeking out from beneath his lips. Kai is calmed by the way Xiumin brushes his bangs from his forehead, reassured by soft promises that everyone laughs at Suho at one point or another and he never minds.

It is when they've moved on to other topics that Xiumin catches Chanyeol watching him from another part of the room. Chanyeol quickly looks away.

On the carriage ride home, Chanyeol pulls Xiumin on his lap. "Did you have fun?" he asks, as Xiumin straddles him, fingers hooking behind his neck. The bumpy ride has friction building heat between them and he can feel Chanyeol's hands against his thighs, slowly hiking his robes up.

Xiumin nods and leans forward, catching his master's lips in slow, soft kiss. It is unreadable, but there is a look on his face that begs to be comforted. Xiumin wants to do that for him, to wipe that look off his face, and this is the only way he knows how.

When he's pulled back, Chanyeol has parted his robes, has his hand now wrapped around his half hard cock, working him to full arousal. He moans and presses down against the seat of Chanyeol's lap, causing more friction.

"May I?" he asks, with a hand already at Chanyeol's belt, ready to undo it.

Chanyeol moans soft assent from where his lips are pressed to Xiumin's throat.

Xiumin undoes his belt, scooting back so as to work his cock out from its confines. Chanyeol is already hard in his hand. He lets Chanyeol's larger hand work them both together and bites back too loud a moan for obviously there is still a driver in the front seat.

"Master!" he gasps when it gets to feel like too much.

It still surprises Xiumin how easily Chanyeol stops whenever he asks.

Xiumin doesn't ask for permission as he spits into his hand, reaching beneath his own robes to wrap his hands around Chanyeol's cock. The length of him requires him to slick him up twice, before he feels ready enough.

Xiumin sinks down on him slowly, Chanyeol's hand on his hips to help steady him. The bumpy ride makes it difficult, but he eases down as carefully as he can until he is fully seated on his master's lap. Chanyeol wraps his arms around Xiumin's waist as the pet begins to move on top of him.

This time the bumpiness serves to wring surprised gasps from Xiumin as he rides Chanyeol quick and shallow. "Master," he moans, as Chanyeol's hands rest on his ass, spreading him wider to take in more of him. Chanyeol's strong hands guide Xiumin's hips down as he thrusts hard into him.

Somehow this had started for Chanyeol's sake but Xiumin finds himself the one being taken care of as he clings to his master's shoulder, whining soft pleas for more when Chanyeol finds that spot inside him that threatens to make him come undone.

He finishes first, clenching so tight around Chanyeol with his release that it doesn't take long for him to reach his own climax.

Xiumin rests bonelessly against Chanyeol for a few moments, still filled with the length of him. When he is finally lifted off of him, he sinks back on the carriage seats, weak and quiet as Chanyeol straightens his robes and fixes his own britches.

"Did I make a very big mess, Master?" he asks, tone playful.

Chanyeol chuckles, tucking his shirt back in. "Nothing my coat won't be able to hide. Or a proper excuse involving today's cream soup."

And Xiumin finds himself laughing, quietly chuckling as Chanyeol looks down at him with surprise. "What is it, Master?"

Chanyeol reaches to stroke his cheek and Xiumin leans into it, closing his eyes. "I've always wondered what your laughter might sound like."

Xiumin's breath is caught in the warm kiss Chanyeol gives him.

Chanyeol brings Xiumin breakfast in bed on a cloudy day. Xiumin is sure at this point that Chanyeol knows whenever he has one of his Luhan dreams, though they have been less frequent now that he has quietly resolved to be the best kind of pet he can for Chanyeol. But gestures like this make it difficult for him to clearly define their relationship. He doesn't know how to reconcile what he is to Chanyeol with what Chanyeol makes him feel. (A strange mix of anxiety and happiness, happiness he hasn't felt for such a long time he'd nearly forgotten what true happiness was.)

"You didn't have to, Master," he says in exasperation as Chanyeol sets up. "I didn't even get a chance to make myself presentable for you."

"I've seen you with bedhead before," Chanyeol replies, still smiling even as Xiumin is frowning at him. Everything about this seems wrong.

"That's different." That's after Chanyeol has taken Xiumin so many times so hard that he is physically incapable of walking back to his own room or waking up early enough in the morning to sneak back to his room.

Chanyeol chuckles and leans in to kiss Xiumin on the cheek. He has been more generous with his kisses recently. "You do so much for me. Let me do this for you."

This statement surprises Xiumin even more. "What- what have I done for you, Master?"

Chanyeol grins. "You put up with me."

Something in Xiumin's chest hurts. He hates what Park Chanyeol's big brown eyes and toothy smile are doing to him.

"It is a pet's duty to-"

"I'm not talking about a pet. I'm talking about Xiumin. Xiumin who might rather be anywhere else in the world but who has to be here with me. Xiumin who has to wait for me to grow up enough to be able to send him back one day."

Chanyeol isn't looking at him anymore. Xiumin doesn't understand why he won't, because right now Xiumin needs him to. Right now Xiumin really doesn't understand.

"What do you mean send me back one day?"

Chanyeol tries to feed him a bite of eggs, but Xiumin refuses, grabbing onto Chanyeol's hand with both of his. He hadn't considered it as an option in so long that the idea of leaving Chanyeol's manor, Chanyeol's side, takes him completely by surprise.

"One day," Chanyeol says quietly, like a promise. It's the saddest promise Xiumin's ever heard.

"No." And the word surprises even himself. His own panic surprises him. "Why would you - one day, any day- Don't I- Don't I please you, Master?"

"You pleasure me very well, Xiumin. But that isn't-"

That isn't enough, Xiumin realizes. Because he still isn't doing enough to deserve Chanyeol. He hadn't even realized he was trying to deserve Chanyeol.

"Master, please." Xiumin doesn't care that he is begging. "Master, please tell me what would please you."

Chanyeol looks up now, surprised at the urgency in Xiumin's voice, the tight squeeze of his hands around Chanyeol's own.

"Master?"

Chanyeol wrests his hand gently away, setting aside the fork before shifting to gather Xiumin in his arms.

"Master?" Xiumin asks again, confused.

"This is more than enough."

Xiumin tries harder after that, though he has no idea anymore how to be more than a body for his master's use. But he knows he wants to be by Chanyeol's side. He knows he isn't so ready to leave because Chanyeol's smile and Chanyeol's laugh are precious and all he seems to do is drive them away.

Asking directly what might please him didn't exactly help, so Xiumin observes. Xiumin watches and notices that Chanyeol likes to read after dinner. Fairy tales before bed, though the maidservants all laugh at how childish he is when he explains they help him dream more pleasantly.

It isn't that Xiumin hasn't read to him before, but usually only upon request. Chanyeol rarely requests anything of him. So Xiumin asks now if he might read for his master, and Chanyeol looks surprised, but says yes.

Xiumin reads "The Little Mermaid" to him in bed, reads until he falls asleep, and stays the night to watch over him, wondering if indeed the dreams he has will be pleasant.

He blushes when Chanyeol wakes up and mumbles something about a dream come true as he wraps Xiumin tighter in his arms and wraps them both up in the blankets.

Xiumin has also noticed how Chanyeol seems to enjoy listening to the piano while he works. He knows his master can play - remembers a tense conversation over that once, when he'd walked in on him practicing a piece - but Chanyeol rarely has time for practice. So Xiumin plays for him, hoping the sound reaches his upstairs office.

He is surprised when Chanyeol joins him on the bench one day, fingers joining his on the keyboard, and starts singing along to the song they're playing. Chanyeol has a beautiful singing voice, Xiumin realizes. It's low, rich.

When Chanyeol asks him to sing for him one day, Xiumin hesitates. He rarely sings, even alone. When Chanyeol is just about to withdraw his request, though, Xiumin starts in on an old lullaby. ("This one's my favorite," Luhan had said as he taught Xiumin how to form the strange syllables from his native tongue.)

Chanyeol lays an affectionate kiss on his forehead afterwards. Xiumin listens to him sing the rest of the day away, until they are finally called in for supper.

Xiumin tries harder and it isn't that Chanyeol hasn't noticed, but that Chanyeol doesn't understand. Xiumin realizes it when Chanyeol closes the book in his hand one evening and tells him it is all right to retire to his room.

"But Master-"

Chanyeol shakes his head. "This is only making it harder."

Xiumin doesn't know what he is making harder and his confusion must be evident on his face because Chanyeol reaches to stroke it. Xiumin leans into the touch and this time Chanyeol pulls away. For some reason, it hurts more than a slap to the face.

"Did you learn how to force that expression, as well?" Chanyeol asks, and it makes Xiumin's eyebrows furrow in deeper because Chanyeol is no longer making any sense. "You don't have to act so much anymore. I'm- I'm sending you back next week."

Xiumin's stomach drops down to his feet. His body feels numb, all sensation leaving his fingertips as he stares blankly up at Chanyeol. Chanyeol stares back, gaze steady. He is speaking but Xiumin can't make sense of his words.

"Master," Xiumin cuts him off, voice hoarse even as he is trying to keep it controlled. "Master, did I do something to displease you?"

Chanyeol shakes his head. It is only when he takes a step back that Xiumin realizes he is moving forward, trying to get him to stay.

"Then why are you sending me back, Master?"

Chanyeol takes a deep breath. He won't look at Xiumin, his fists balled at his sides. "Because you don't want to be here and it's selfish of me to keep you here. Selfish of me to indulge myself in your company because you're the perfect pet, more perfect these days. But I know it's all an act, and I can't do this anymore."

Xiumin has Chanyeol backed up against a bookshelf now and it makes no sense, a pet trapping his own master, but Xiumin knows no other way to keep him.

"But I've been trying, Master."

"Well. You needn't try so hard anymore." Chanyeol escapes while Xiumin is still trying to figure out what that means

Chanyeol had picked the busiest week in the year for this intentionally. Xiumin doesn't see him at all in two days, because he's risen too early and come home too late that he doesn't have a chance to approach him. Chanyeol has always been busy, but Xiumin's never truly felt neglected until recently. Now he feels outright ignored. That's when Xiumin decides to stay up later.

He can't see when the carriage approaches from his room, because it's too dark out, so he settles in the foyer, pacing all night until Chanyeol arrives home. He looks shocked at the sight of Xiumin waiting for him, but after a quick greeting, rushes up the stairs. Xiumin follows, though unbidden, but can't match his long strides. No matter how he calls out, "Master!" Chanyeol won't look back. Chanyeol has locked him out by the time he reaches his bedroom door.

Xiumin tries to wake up earlier. He's waiting outside Chanyeol's door, kneeling on the floor, when the young lord emerges from his room for an early breakfast. Chanyeol again looks surprised, but doesn't give Xiumin a chance to speak before he's closed the door behind him again. Xiumin wants to scream with how frustrated he is.

"Master- Master-" He doesn't know how to ask Chanyeol to open the door. He isn't used to making demands of his masters, he's never wanted anything from them before. But now he wishes desperately that Chanyeol would just listen to his voice and understand what he's asking of him.

Chanyeol doesn't. Xiumin is sent back to his room by a servant, under orders to rest. He has a lot of packing to do.

Xiumin doesn't pack. He doesn't eat. He doesn't do anything but wait outside Chanyeol's door until he's made to retire to his chambers. He's both exhausted and restless and he can't stand the pitying glances the servants keep giving him whenever they pass by him. During the daytime, when Chanyeol is gone, he tries to carry on as usual. But it's difficult when he has no appetite. It's difficult when he has no energy.

"What do you mean he's not ready?" Xiumin hears when he wakes up on the sixth morning from a fitful sleep. It's Chanyeol. Sitting up makes him dizzy, because he hasn't properly eaten, but he manages to stumble out of bed, anyway, following the sound of Chanyeol's voice.

"I mean he isn't packed," the head housekeeper is telling Chanyeol, her tone agitated. Everyone's on edge, these days. "He's not ready."

"Then have someone help him," comes the terse reply.

When Xiumin opens the door, Chanyeol is already heading down the stairs. He hesitates only momentarily at the sound of Xiumin's voice calling out to him, but then bounds the rest of the way down the stairs.

Xiumin doesn't like the look of pity the housekeeper is giving him. He tries to school his expression into one that is more unreadable, but he can see in her eyes that she doesn't believe for a second that he doesn't care.

"I'll send someone with your breakfast. You should eat - the journey will be a long one."

Xiumin feels sick to his stomach.

He doesn't eat but they do send someone to "help" him. As his things are put away, Xiumin sits in the center of his bed, watching with a sort of numb detachedness. It doesn't feel like they are his things being packed away, until they get to his drawers and start packing up his jewelry. Xiumin lunges and grabs Luhan's necklace before they can touch it.

He hasn't held it in his hands months. Looking down at it now, he feels nothing.

He's supposed to leave in the morning. He wonders if Chanyeol will even be awake.

"I packed you a lunch for the journey. Dinner will be at an inn," the housekeeper tells him. She sighs softly as she places the basket in his hands. "It's a shame. You were a good influence on him."

"Then tell him to let me stay," Xiumin says, half-pleading. And he can't believe he's about ready to beg to a servant.

It wouldn't work. She just shakes her head and ushers him into the carriage.

Chanyeol isn't even awake. It starts to sink in that perhaps he's finally stopped caring. He's known for a long time he would never be able to offer another master what he had been able to give to Luhan. But he hadn't realized he would ever again want to. Of course Chanyeol is finally tired of having a broken pet - of course Chanyeol would want to look for one less damaged, more open to all his charms.

But Xiumin has been trying and he hates that it still isn't enough. He still isn't enough.

He's quiet on the carriage ride out, staring at the basket in his lap for lack of anywhere else to look. He tries to ignore the way his eyes sting and his limbs ache. Everything hurts and perhaps he'd better sleep so that he doesn't scare the driver with his appearance when they stop for lunch.

For some reason, though, he wants one last look at the manor. Peering out the window, his eyes look up directly to where Chanyeol's bedchambers would be.

The light is on.

Heart beating fast in his chest, Xiumin acts before he realizes what he's doing. The carriage door is open and he's rolling out of it, dust is flying everywhere and getting in his eyes and his shoulder hurts and his robes are torn, but he doesn't care.

He's running back to the manor, unable to see straight ahead because his eyes are blurred by tears and grime, and he stumbles but he just picks himself up again and keeps running forward. Chanyeol meets him part way along the road. Chanyeol wraps him up in his arms and holds him tight and yells, "Why did you do that?! What were you thinking?! You could have gotten hurt! Are you hurt?!"

Xiumin is crying, begging, pleading. "Please don't send me away. Please don't send me back. Master- Chanyeol- Chanyeol, please. I don't want to go, I don't want to leave. Chanyeol, please don't make me leave."

Chanyeol squeezes him closer and Xiumin thinks he might be crying.

"Master- Master, please don't cry. I'm sorry, I'm so sorry. Don't cry, please- please."

Chanyeol shakes his head, holds Xiumin tightly and whispers, "I'm not sending you anywhere. I'll never send you anywhere again. You're to stay with me, I won't let you leave. I won't let you go."

At last, Chanyeol is starting to get it.
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