minseok/chanyeol (side kai/baekhyun, suho/sehun/tao; past minseok/luhan, jongdae/kris); nc-17; approx 18.7k total
warnings: master/slave dynamics
disclaimer: reversal of danie's petau, which masters are now pets and pets are now masters.
It's still cold, so Chanyeol has to at least put on a shirt. When he presents himself for Minseok, however, it is met with a frown.
"My shirt," Chanyeol says, sporting the same playful grin he always used at the shop to get what he wanted.
"It's not much of a shirt," Minseok says, tugging lightly on the torn fabric that leaves very little of Chanyeol's torso from view.
"You know I own very little that is particularly formal, Master."
Minseok frowns again, muttering something about Jongdae and very different tastes. But he wraps his arms around Chanyeol's waist, in the end, and tilts his head up in a clear request for a kiss, which the pet gladly obliges.
"You do own thirty coats, so I suppose one of those will have to be enough for the cold."
Minseok hates big gatherings like this and it's obvious enough to Chanyeol, though his master always looks appropriately pleasant the moment anyone approaches him. As a pet, he knows it's his job at these occasions to be supportive and, though he is always free to request some time at the pet corner if he so chooses, he sticks close to Minseok most nights.
Tonight Chanyeol knows that Minseok would rather have him at his side, since the bruise on his eye is still plain even with make up. He keeps a protective arm around Minseok's waist, listening to him make small talk with other guests who make no secret of staring at his face. But one smile from him and he can tell they're too afraid to ask him how he received it.
That is, until a young lord regularly up against Minseok on policy at court, invites him into Minseok's current circle of conversation.
"Surprised to see you here, Lord Minseok." Chanyeol wants to punch his smugly smiling face.
"I came by invitation as you did, Lord Han."
"I think it would have been understandable, had you skipped it on account of your present condition. But perhaps you felt an appearance was due. They've been speaking, you know, about how you haven't been at court the past week."
Chanyeol hopes he's the only one who notices how Minseok's hand clenches around his glass. "I submitted my reasons, Lord Suho has been keeping me updated."
"Yes, I'm aware. Caring for your ill pet, I've heard." His eyes scan over Chanyeol, who averts his eyes lest his glare be made too obvious. "He certainly looks fine now. His health issues are less complicated than your last charge's, I hope."
Minseok is smiling, but there's no sincerity behind it. "Chanyeol is healthy. It's the most a master should wish for."
"Healthy enough to look after himself, I suppose. Though how did he manage to become so ill in the first place - perhaps just your bad luck."
Minseok's ears are red, a clear sign of his frustration. But he keeps the smile on his face and Chanyeol squeezes his hip lightly, a sign of support. (He would support him punching Lord Han in the face in this very instant more.)
"Master-" Chanyeol murmurs, so that Minseok may be excused, but he is interrupted.
"Lord Han, I do believe there's someone looking for you."
It's a familiar voice. Suho's. Chanyeol looks up to see their host with his lover on his arm. Tao is presumably off entertaining the pets who have accompanied their masters to the party.
"The new foreign trade minister would like a word - something about the numbers being off on the last set of inventory you submitted. I don't think you should keep him waiting."
Han turns bright red, before giving a curt bow to their party and walking off. Chanyeol watches the crowd disperse.
"Let's go, Chanyeol," Minseok says, voice quiet.
"You could have punched him," Chanyeol suggests, arm wrapped around Minseok's form huddled in against his in the carriage. He had been expecting distance, but Minseok had leaned in against him the moment they'd taken their seats.
"Not at Suho's party," Minseok replies with a soft chuckle. "Maybe at my own, next time."
Chanyeol rests his cheek against the crown of Minseok's head. "You host parties, Master?"
Minseok laughs again. "Only for special occasions. This would count, wouldn't it?"
"I'd pay to see it, Master."
"Pay me with the pocket money I give you?" Minseok teases, tilting his head up to look at Chanyeol.
He's unbelievably small, the pet thinks, a natural sense of protectiveness coming over him as he leans in to press their foreheads together.
"May I see it, anyway?"
Minseok responds by tangling his fingers into Chanyeol's hair, dragging him in for a kiss.
This is the easiest form of comfort, Chanyeol thinks. This is the best sort of distraction he can give to his master for now.
It's been a while since Minseok's last dreamed like this. Caught up in trying to make it up to Chanyeol, he hasn't been thinking much of Luhan these past few weeks. But the encounter with Lord Han had reminded him of those last few days and he finds himself waking up in a cold sweat with Luhan's name on his lips and Chanyeol's arms wrapped around him, holding him still.
"I-I'm sorry," he says, unable to meet Chanyeol's eyes.
"It's all right, Master."
It always is, for Chanyeol. And that makes Minseok feel infinitely worse, because Chanyeol deserves better than this. Deserves to have a master whose attention is focused entirely on him.
"You can go to your room, if you'd like." He doesn't know if he'll wake up again. He doesn't know if he'll dream again.
"I'd like to stay," Chanyeol murmurs against his hair, and Minseok turns his body, at least, so that he can wrap an arm around Chanyeol's waist, taking in the warmth the pet so openly offers. It's still strange, this source of comfort, but he does find real comfort in Chanyeol's arms. Truth be told, it isn't as if he would sleep if Chanyeol left.
"Good night, Chanyeol."
"Good night, Master."
Chanyeol doesn't sleep that night. He can't, kept up with wondering, with all the questions he dare not ask for fear of being brushed off. Or worse, for fear that Minseok might answer. Up until now, the only clear image he has of Luhan is what he's gathered from the stories Baekhyun tells. Luhan seems so bright - someone to aspire to be like, Baekhyun had said. The ideal pet, his illness the only problem he'd ever given his master. It's no wonder Minseok still sees him in his dreams, though what those dreams are about he can only guess at.
Minseok has called out his name a few times before, but this is the first time he's woken up like this. And Chanyeol knows he has to deal with the possibility his master might never stop thinking of Luhan. That he may be thinking of Luhan even when he wakes up, body warm and pliant against Chanyeol's as he kisses him awake. That he may be thinking of Luhan when he has Chanyeol pressed into the mattress, riding him so hard he feels he might explode from heat and pressure and how overwhelmingly pretty Minseok looks with his head thrown back, pale throat and slim body exposed.
He doesn't hope to replace Luhan. He only wants to be recognized as Minseok's pet, however burdensome his presence in his master's life might be at the moment.
Chanyeol finally manages to doze off closer to sunrise. When Minseok stirs, so does he, but his master presses him gently back against the pillows and affords him a gentle kiss. "You should rest."
Chanyeol curls up into the warm space left vacant by his master and drops back to sleep.
They don't speak of that night.
It was a mistake, he thinks, to bring this back up again. But Minseok hasn't been able to stop thinking about Luhan since that night. And every night, he finds himself returning to that drawer he had locked up so many weeks ago, when he'd made the decision to focus all his attention on Chanyeol. Every night he carefully, quietly, removes the necklace he'd gifted Luhan so many years ago.
It's still in perfect condition, since Luhan had taken such good care of it while he'd been alive. And Minseok had taken care to keep it pristine upon the pet's passing.
Master, this is too much.
Minseok remembers how his fingers had trembled, when he'd placed it around Luhan's neck. It's always been a frightening thing for him, to give so much of himself to someone, but Luhan had made it so easy. Looking into his eyes, it had been easy to give himself away.
Now I'm as much yours as you are mine.
And he'd meant it more than a master means to his pet. He'd meant it as a man in love. He hadn't thought he could feel that way again.
And he hasn't, he tells himself. Even when he thinks of Chanyeol's bright, smilng eyes. Even when his heart aches when he knows the smile Chanyeol wears is just a mask. Even as he remembers the fear that had gripped him when Chanyeol had fallen sick.
He doesn't want to forget Luhan just yet. But he doesn't want to be unfair to Chanyeol either.
Minseok nearly drops the necklace in his hands. He manages to put it carefully away, closing the lid just before Chanyeol approaches him.
Minseok allows Chanyeol to pull him to his feet, closing his eyes and selfishly taking in the warmth the pet offers, arms going around him in an instant.
"Master, do you need-"
Minseok looks up at Chanyeol with fierce determination in his eyes. When the pet hesitates, he pulls him down, crushing their lips together until Chanyeol is kissing back, the heat between them building as Minseok guides him back into the bed.
In this moment, he is thinking of Luhan. In this moment, it is Luhan's hands he imagines at his waist, hesitant as they had been the night he'd given him more than just another trinket. He imagines Chanyeol's long fingers are Luhan's, stroking his face and tangled in his hair.
He closes his eyes, as Chanyeol shifts to press him into the mattress. And he moans gentle encouragement as Chanyeol undoes the drawstrings on his pants and drags them slowly off his hips.
"Master," Chanyeol breathes, and Minseok's hips arch up when the pet's lips wrap around his cock, sinking down against him.
He tries to keep quiet at first, but Chanyeol's tongue drags the sounds out of him. His fingers brush through the pet's hair and he imagines it's Luhan's soft strands he's tugging on.
When he comes, it's with that name on his lips, body arching off the bed as his thighs quiver with the strength of his release.
It isn't until he's fallen back against the bed that he's realized what he's done.
It feels like a blow to the gut. It feels like having his insides squeezed and torn out and Chanyeol can only sit in silence, because he hasn’t been dismissed and he can’t just run out.
Minseok’s voice is hoarse and Chanyeol can barely hear it through the pounding behind his ears, all the blood rushing to his head from feelings he’s too afraid to think too much on. Because it hurts and he didn’t think it could hurt this much, to have the truth thrown in his face.
“Chanyeol,” Minseok’s voice again, calling to him through the haze. Chanyeol tears his face away from his master’s hands, when he tries to raise him to look at him. He doesn’t want to look at Minseok right now, he doesn’t know how to face him like this. At least he’s still dressed, not so exposed and vulnerable that Minseok can hurt him again.
“Chanyeol, please look at me. Please don’t do this, look at your master.”
And his tone is coaxing, but this is a command if Chanyeol’s ever heard one. And he can’t disobey any commands, he can’t disobey his master, because this is what he lives for. Who he lives for. And he reminds himself of his position and forces his eyes, forces his lips upwards.
Minseok’s expression is frightening. Not because he looks angry, but because his eyes are so wide yet so sad. And Chanyeol has no idea why, when Minseok had just come apart under him so passionately just a few moments before.
It’s when Minseok’s wiping at his tears that Chanyeol realizes he’s crying. He lowers his head again, wanting to be far far away. Anywhere but here, where Minseok can see him breaking down. Anywhere but in the arms of someone who only wishes his body was another’s.
“I’m sorry, Chanyeol.”
It’s the first time anyone other than another pet has apologized to him. Chanyeol shakes his head. What right does he have to accept apologies from a master, when he can’t even be enough as himself to please his master.
“I’m all right.”
Minseok’s tone is insistent, but Chanyeol shakes his head. “Foolish,” he mutters. “Just a foolish pet. I’m all right. Don’t trouble yourself.”
“I’m sorry,” Minseok repeats, and Chanyeol’s lips are trembling when Minseok kisses him.
The tears flow hot and warm down his face now.
“You may go back to your room,” Minseok says, when he finally pulls away.
“Thank you, Master,” Chanyeol murmurs, before climbing off the bed. He doesn’t look back once.
He's done it. Minseok knows that he's done it at last. He's completely and irrevocably messed up.
He doesn't get any sleep that night, thinking about Chanyeol and knowing how badly that must have hurt the pet. He has no idea how to make it up to him, because he knows Chanyeol - he knows Chanyeol will greet him as usual when he's more composed, will smile though it's just a mask, will let him continue to do things like this because he thinks it's all he's worth.
"Damnit," he hisses, fist slamming uselessly into his pillow.
In the morning, he sets off a little earlier than usual to work, well before Chanyeol is up and out of bed for breakfast. On the way out, he dispatches a note to Jongdae, informing him of a visit to be made after his afternoon sessions at court are over with. He's in way over his head.
Chanyeol falls into a restless sleep. He dreams of a face he's never properly seen, someone whose name he's only ever heard through the stories of another, and none of it makes any sense when he wakes up because it's all so vague and intangible. But his body aches and his heart feels heavy, somewhere at the bottom of his feet.
When the maids inform him that Minseok has already set off, he decides to stay in. There's no reason to make an appearance, after all, even to keep face. He's grateful for the extra few hours of rest.
By the time the sun is high up in the sky, he's feeling a little more refreshed. And when he's ready to step out of his room with a smile, he's informed his master will be late tonight.
Chanyeol smiles and nods his head, thanking the maid who delivers the message kindly, before setting off for his favorite spot at the piano.
His music fills the room, a mix of energetic melodies and soft, sad songs. For a while, he lets the notes carry some of the heavy burden in his chest.
At least Jongdae hadn't punched him this time, Minseok thinks. But he finds the meeting completely unhelpful, because for the first time in a long time, he's not satisfied with letting things be.
Give him space. You don't know what he could be thinking.
Jongdae's right, though. Minseok has some idea, but he can't be sure. He can't be sure about anything with Chanyeol, because Chanyeol only wants to show him what he thinks will make him happy. What he thinks he needs to as a pet.
He's doing his best for you. You should make the effort to do the same.
"Is he awake?" Minseok asks, handing off his coat once he's stepped foot inside.
"In the library, sir." The maid servant looks at him inquisitively. He doesn't meet her eyes.
"Thank you. You may retire after cleaning up. We won't need anything else tonight."
Minseok finds Chanyeol sitting by the fire, a book in his lap, but his eyes staring off into the flames. He looks like he's had a bath and is dressed comfortably in plain cotton pants with a plain loose shirt.
"You're up," Minseok observes. He jumps when Chanyeol does, the pet jerking back slightly from his daze before he turns his head up to face his master. His smile is wide on his face, his eyes turned up a bit in slight crescents. Minseok wants to scream.
"I wanted to wait for you, Master."
"Did you?" Minseok asks vaguely, kneeling to reach to touch Chanyeol's cheek. Chanyeol doesn't shrink away, but neither does he lean into it. It's enough to make Minseok drop his hand. "I understand, if you'd- if you need- if you'd like- space."
Chanyeol's smile falters just a moment, barely noticeable. "Why would I? Would you like me to read to you tonight, Master? I've started a new book."
Minseok takes in a deep breath, remembers Jongdae's advice. To let Chanyeol deal with this in his own way for a bit.
He needs to trust you again, to open up to you. You can't just force him to tell you how he feels.
"Of course. Let's go to bed."
Chanyeol greets Minseok in the morning with his usual smile. He takes Minseok to bed with his usual skill if a bit less enthusiasm. All the same, Minseok can't say he's dissatisfied, when he's dropping into bed slick with sweat and chest heaving. And if he's a bit more distant, at least when Minseok calls for his attention during the rest of the day, he gives him the full measure of it.
It's awkward, but perhaps only on Minseok's side, because Chanyeol seems almost the same as usual.
The only difference is how much quieter he's become. And Minseok can't bear it, as used as he had been to quiet in his household before.
He misses Chanyeol's laughter, low and deep. He misses the music he used to play around the house, his voice spinning tales with the other servants. And though Chanyeol still reads for him, he misses the conversations they would have in bed, just because.
Minseok invites Jongin and Baekhyun over. Chanyeol hasn't seen his friend in a while, and Minseok needs a second opinion. He remembers what Baekhyun had been like, when Jongin had first purchased him. Perhaps either master or pet could be of some help.
When Chanyeol is informed of visitors, it is with relief that he shuffles off with Baekhyun to the seclusion of his own room. The mansion, for how big it is, has become stifling. Chanyeol can't very well avoid Minseok and it's getting more and more difficult every day to pretend he's moved on. It's getting more and more difficult to look away every time Minseok looks like he wants to ask him something, but holds back. And Chanyeol can't sort out his feelings at all.
But there's Baekhyun, and he doesn't keep anything back from Baekhyun.
"He did what?"
And Chanyeol wonders why Baekhyun sounds more offended than just shocked.
Chanyeol just nods. "I knew he still... He must still think of him."
"Even so, he shouldn't- there's no reason to- it's so cruel to-"
Baekhyun looks flustered and angry. Oddly, it eases some of Chanyeol's frustration and he laughs, taking the other pet's hand in his. "I guess I was a little angry, too."
"Damn right you should have been angry."
"But what am I supposed to do about it? I was forced on him - it isn't as if he really wants me around. Of course- of course sometimes he must think of Luhan, so he can endure being with me." It's a painful thing to admit out loud and Chanyeol accepts Baekhyun's arms around him, the smaller pet offering what comfort he can.
"How did he react to it afterwards?" Baekhyun asks, after some time has passed.
Chanyeol shakes his head, more to clear it than anything else. "Sometimes, he looks at me like he wants to say something. But I don't know- He's not a cruel man. I think- I think he might feel bad about it. And if he does, what if- so it doesn't happen again- he sends me back?"
Baekhyun sighs, breath warm against Chanyeol's ear, though it makes him shiver, instead. "It's horribly unfair, isn't it? How much more dependent we are on them than they are on us... But every pet deserves a master who can take care of him."
"I don't want any other master, though."
The statement shocks even Chanyeol. He had considered it. Of course he had wondered what it would be like to go back, to wait for someone else to find him. Perhaps a master who might look at him the way Jongin looks at Baekhyun. Perhaps a master who might put down his own gold just to have his collar around Chanyeol's neck.
But then he thinks of Minseok's smile, those times he's managed to elicit a real one from him, how bright his eyes had looked as he laughed. And he thinks of how his master had stayed at his bedside the entire time he'd been ill, looking stricken every time Chanyeol woke up coughing and sore and too too hot. He thinks of Minseok underneath him, those times he hadn't been calling out for another's name, but had begged Chanyeol for more more please Chanyeol Chanyeol Chanyeol...
Chanyeol shakes himself out of his own reverie. "I just want to be enough for him."
"Then you need to show him."
Jongin is quiet, as Minseok explains to him the situation. And quieter still when he finishes, because there's not much to say that Minseok probably hasn't already said of himself.
Minseok sinks down in his seat.
"I'm disgusting, aren't I?"
Jongin's smile is sympathetic, as he reaches over to pat his friend's hand. "At least you feel remorse."
"Remorse isn't enough. I don't know what to do."
"Well, it depends on what your goal is."
"Goal?" Minseok asks, looking up.
And Jongin's smile is brighter. "What do you really want to prove to him, hyung?"
Minseok is glad to see Chanyeol in better spirits even after Baekhyun is gone. When the pet accompanies him to the makeshift weapons room after dinner, it's still with some hesitance, but his laughter after their sparring session is genuine and though Minseok wins (Minseok always wins) he can tell Chanyeol put some effort into the fight. The last few times had been a bit awkward for the both of them.
"How are you ever going to defend yourself against an attacker?" Minseok teases, straddling Chanyeol's hips with hands still pinning Chanyeol's wrists over his head.
"Let's just hope none of my attackers are you, Master." Minseok grins and is glad to see Chanyeol grinning back at him.
The talk with Jongin had led to some important conclusions. Minseok's primary concern, at least, is now apparent to him. He needs to make Chanyeol comfortable enough to stay with him, or send him back.
He deserves a master who can devote all his attention to him.
Minseok still isn't sure he can be that master. But he also isn't ready to send Chanyeol back - already, he knows he would at least miss him.
"You're brooding again, hyung. You're too pretty to brood."
Minseok is startled from his thoughts and looks up to find Jongdae standing in the doorway to his study. He smiles, getting up to greet his oldest friend.
"You didn't say you were coming."
"It was a spontaneous decision. Where's Chanyeol?"
"Taking a bath. We were going to go into town today. He'll be glad to see you and you're welcome to join us, if you've the time to spare."
Minseok had underestimated how glad Chanyeol would be to see Jongdae. Much like they had with Baekhyun, Chanyeol's eyes had visibly brightened at the sight of Jongdae. In his usual manner, he had come running to their guest, already bent slightly downwards so has to properly wrap his arms around him and lift him up.
Chanyeol has never held Minseok like that. But then, Minseok has never given him cause to think it would be acceptable.
Jongdae laughs, however, and Minseok reminds himself this will be good for Chanyeol. Outside company, so he doesn't have to depend on Minseok so much.
Chanyeol and Jongdae catch up in the carriage. Minseok has always been a quiet person of his own accord, but now he finds he can't interrupt even when he wants to. He observes quietly, watching the way Jongdae so easily makes Chanyeol laugh. It's obvious, how much Chanyeol has missed this sort of conversation.
"If you see anything you like-"
"You should take advantage of his generosity. He never buys me anything anymore."
Minseok rolls his eyes. "You hardly depend on my pocket money anymore."
"Valid point. In that case, Chanyeol, if you see anything you like, I'll gladly buy it for you."
Somehow Minseok falls into step behind them. He can't explain the sudden twist in his stomach that comes from watching them talk to each other, the easy way Jongdae's hand slips into the crook of Chanyeol's elbow to steer him along. Perhaps breakfast just isn't settling well.
"Do you want it?" Minseok asks, startling Chanyeol from his careful observation of a stud earring.
Chanyeol straightens and shakes his head, smiling with some embarrassment at having been caught.
"You can just-"
"I don't want it, Master."
Minseok's eyes linger on the earring after, but follows Chanyeol out of the shop.
Minseok stares at the small, wrapped box Jongdae has slipped into his hand once they reach home again and Chanyeol has gone upstairs to bathe. Jongdae has, naturally, been invited to stay for dinner, though Minseok still feels unsettled from breakfast.
"It's not for you, but it might help you."
Minseok frowns, undoing the wrapping. In his hand is the earring Chanyeol had been eyeing before they left.
"He didn't want to have to ask for it."
The reaction is not exactly unexpected. Chanyeol seems confused, but pleased, smiling wider than Minseok has seen him do in a while as he immediately turns to the mirror to remove his former stud and slip the new one in.
Minseok watches him quietly, still uncertain about the uneasiness that won't seem to go away.
"Thank you, Master," the pet says, when he's turned back around and scooted in closer to press Minseok back into the pillows.
Minseok closes his eyes and pulls back when Chanyeol leans in to kiss him. It feels wrong, somehow. He wants to tell Chanyeol the truth, but that feels dangerous. What can Chanyeol do, anyway, when he's tied to Minseok like this.
"Did you have fun today?" Minseok asks, when they settle into bed afterwards. Chanyeol is already beginning to doze under the soft touch of Minseok's fingers stroking through his hair.
"Mm... Yes, Master."
"Jongdae said- he said he'll come visit more." Minseok peeks up, but Chanyeol's eyes are closed, expression content and otherwise unreadable.
"You like him very much, don't you?"
"Yes, Master. He's very kind."
"Yes... He is. Good night, Chanyeol."
"Mm, good night, Master."
Jongdae keeps his promise, coming more frequently on the weekends. When Minseok is working, he keeps Chanyeol company. When Minseok and Chanyeol go out, he accompanies them. And as Minseok feels himself fading into the background, the uneasiness builds.
"He thinks you're avoiding him," Jongdae tells him while Chanyeol is out for a walk on the grounds.
Minseok's head hurts. He hasn't been sleeping well for the past few days, kept up with too many reports to oversee and review. And Jongdae's weekly visit wasn't something he'd been looking forward to, but had been preparing for. He planned to make himself scarce today, because as each week passes, it becomes more apparent who Chanyeol would rather spend time with.
"He doesn't want to be around me. The weekends are what he looks forward to," he mutters, resentment plain in his voice.
"Because you don't try to do anything with him anymore. You're always busy and he's bored."
"You knew what I was like when you gave him to me," Minseok snaps.
Jongdae is frowning at him now. "And you're not boring, but you need to make time for him. I thought you could use a change, too, but if you won't change then I'll take him back."
"Fine! Take him! You should have had him in the first place!"
Jongdae goes quiet and Minseok expects him to storm out, slamming the door. But the younger boy approaches him, instead, placing his hand atop Minseok's. His knuckles are white, squeezing so hard against the edge of the table.
"Hyung. I don't want to take him from you. But if you're that worried about it..."
Jongdae leaves early, without seeing Chanyeol. When Minseok goes looking for him, the pet is nowhere to be found in his usual places. Not particularly worried, because Chanyeol isn't likely to get into much trouble on the grounds, Minseok nonetheless sets his schedule aside to find him.
He's behind one of the trees in the garden, long arms wrapped around his legs and face buried in his knees.
"Chanyeol?" Minseok asks, with a frown.
It's decidedly strange, when Chanyeol won't look up at him. Minseok sits himself on the grass, hand reaching up instinctively to stroke through Chanyeol's hair. It's grown out, probably due for a trim that he hasn't had time to schedule.
"Chanyeol, what are you doing out here?"
There's no response and that's even more alarming, because Chanyeol's never ignored him like this. Except for once...
Minseok shifts closer to him. "Look at me, pet."
The pet's eyes are red rimmed, the tear tracks obvious along his cheeks when he looks up. His lips are quivering too much to smile and Minseok knows somehow this is his fault. All he can do, though, is cup Chanyeol's cheeks, leaning in to kiss him softly, over and over, as if somehow this will ease some of the ache.
They sit in silence under the tree, Minseok with his arms tight around Chanyeol now, until the pet stops trembling in his hold.
"I'm sorry, Master," Chanyeol finally says, voice hoarse.
Minseok shakes his head. "Don't be."
"Will you-" And the words have clearly come unsolicited, because Chanyeol tries to bite them back. But Minseok's already heard.
"Will I what, pet?"
Chanyeol shakes his head, as if afraid, and Minseok knows that's his fault, too.
"You can tell me. I promise, I won't be upset. If it's something you want to know, I'll answer you. "
The pet doesn't seem to believe him, so Minseok waits a few more beats.
"Please tell me." He kisses Chanyeol's cheek softly. "I want to know."
Chanyeol shivers, swallows as if to regain his nerve, before speaking. "Will you really send me back?"
Absurdly, Minseok wants to laugh. Because it's ridiculous, but it seems only he's aware of that fact. He shakes his head, rather more vigorously than he intended, arms going tighter around Chanyeol. "No, darling. I won't send you anywhere."
And he knows Chanyeol isn't convinced. But at least now he knows what his goal is - what he has to prove. That Chanyeol belongs right here, with him.
It takes some coaxing, before Minseok convinces Chanyeol to come back inside. The pet seems overall still shaken up, so Minseok calls for a bath to relax him. But rather than let the maids tend to him, he's the one to help Chanyeol out of his clothing and ease him into the water.
"You don't have to do all this, Master," Chanyeol says, as Minseok is lathering soap into his hair.
"I want to."
For some reasons, the words make Chanyeol blush. He's unused to this kind of attention and Minseok suddenly feels sorry, leaning in to kiss Chanyeol quietly before he pours warm water over his head and washes away the suds.
"I'm sorry you're saddled with such a poor master," he says, as he settles behind him to scrub over Chanyeol's neck and back.
Chanyeol frowns from where he's obediently hunched over. "Don't say that, Master."
"But it's true. When Jongdae gave you to me, I wasn't fair to you at all. And because I'm such a silly, selfish person, you're always suffering for it."
"That's not true, Master." Chanyeol refuses to let Minseok continue speaking like this, turning around abruptly and splashing water out of the tub, some of it getting all over Minseok's shirt. He looks a little stricken at what he's done, but Minseok is smiling, all gums, as he peels off the shirt and gets up to be rid of his pants, as well.
Chanyeol's hands move to rest against Minseok's hips, steadying him as his master eases himself onto his lap in the water.
"What happened that night-"
Chanyeol freezes, averting his eyes immediately, until Minseok's hands force his face upwards to look at him. His master's eyes are pained, sad, and Chanyeol knows in that instant that this isn't because of Luhan, but for him.
"You should never forgive me for what happened that night, Chanyeol. But believe me that I'm truly sorry for it. And I'll never, never use you as a stand in for him again. You're not him, and I don't want you to be. It's you I want now."
Chanyeol doesn't believe him - can't. Minseok knows this isn't enough, but hopes it's at least a start, as he leans in to kiss the pet, murmuring his name softly. "Chanyeol... Chanyeol..."
They kiss, building heat between them, as Minseok slips one hand beneath the water to wrap around Chanyeol, stroking him slowly to full arousal. The pet doesn't fight it, reveling in the attention. "Master," Chanyeol groans, when Minseok prepares himself enough to finally sink down onto the length of his pet.
"Chanyeol," Minseok breathes, hips rocking slowly over Chanyeol before he stabilizes his hands against Chanyeol's shoulders and raises himself nearly off his cock before sinking back down again. Chanyeol's hands help him, grip firm as he lifts Minseok's hips only to let him drop down once more. The pace builds as the heat between them rises.
Water is splashing everywhere now, but they both pay no heed to it, as Chanyeol hears his master's voice shout out his name when he finishes at last, the tension around him bringing about Chanyeol's release, as well.
"You're mine, Chanyeol," Minseok murmurs against his shoulder. "Mine. I'm not going to let you go anywhere."
And for the first time in a while, Chanyeol feels his master's words are to be believed.
Minseok can't neglect his work, but stops hiding in it, much to the relief of everyone around him. It's especially gratifying to Chanyeol, who finds his master making himself available to himself again.
Every night, Minseok finds a way to remind Chanyeol who he belongs to. And he dreams less frequently, which both worries Chanyeol at the same time that it makes him feel relieved. (Which at the same time makes him feel guilty.)
"I asked him," Minseok announces one night, as they're preparing for bed. He's been gone the majority of the day and had come back looking tired, so Chanyeol knows it's a night that Minseok has only called him to his room because he wants his company.
"Pardon, Master?" Chanyeol asks, glancing from the book he plans to read to Minseok tonight to ease him into sleep.
"Jongdae. I asked him how much he purchased you for."
Chanyeol stares at him with wide, confused eyes. Minseok smiles and leans in to kiss Chanyeol, because he likes this expression. "And...?" Chanyeol isn't sure if he's meant to inquire into the price, as he's never been really curious.
"I paid him back. In full."
Chanyeol doesn't miss the meaning behind this. He leans into the next kiss Minseok offers, dragging it out until they're both a little breathless from it.
"I was right," Minseok breathes, when Chanyeol's eyelids have fluttered open again. "You were a steal - you're worth much more than what he put down."
It's an anniversary of sorts - not the day Chanyeol was brought to the manor, but the day Minseok took him into the library. The night Minseok had first claimed him, however awkward the event was. Minseok at least finds it a better occasion than the first.
"I want to celebrate," he says, and Chanyeol beams at the announcement of a party.
His friends are all invited, naturally. But the gathering is ultimately small, because Chanyeol's circle of close friends wraps only around the social periphery of his master's social network.
All the same, it's good to have them over.
"You look happier," Baekhyun tells him.
"We are," he replies, watching as Jongdae urges Minseok to have another drink.
Normally Minseok doesn't have Chanyeol run his errands. If there's anything he needs, he often goes up to his room to find it himself. But as he's been at his desk all day and Chanyeol has merely been sitting at his side with a book, the pet had insisted on finding the seal Minseok had left while signing off on the last set of reports himself.
"Top drawer of the nightstand," he instructs, with an affectionate pat to Chanyeol's cheek when the pet leans in for a kiss before going up.
Chanyeol expects it will be quick, easy to find - Minseok is tidy to a fault, everything always in its place. But the seal is not where he had said it would be, and Chanyeol frowns, rifling through the contents of the drawer for a moment before removing it entirely to turn its contents out. He finds the seal, small and most likely hidden beneath other trinkets.
As he's about to set the drawer back, he catches sight of something sparkling in the lower desk drawer. When he removes it, it's plain as day what it is - a pet's necklace, the sort of gift masters so rarely present to a pet unless they share a bond deeper than - well, Chanyeol can't say he's surprised.
"What's taking so long, did you-"
Chanyeol turns around to see Minseok approaching, but it's too late to hide the necklace and he can only stare up at his master, unsure what sort of reaction he'll get. Anger, perhaps, because he's not supposed to be sneaking through his things like this. It'd be well deserved.
But what comes over Minseok's face is not anger, but panic, and Chanyeol is reminded of how far they've come.
"It's not what you think," he blurts out, kneeling beside Chanyeol.
As always, Chanyeol feels sorry, being the source of his master's guilt. The corners of the pet's mouth turn up in a small smile, as he reaches his hand out to place the necklace into Minseok's palm. "It's a very precious item, Master. I wouldn't expect you to have tossed it out."
He leans in to kiss his master, rather boldly for a pet as he was not bidden, but it serves to relax the lord a bit. Minseok places the necklace back into its hiding place and Chanyeol comes back downstairs with him, staying beside Minseok quietly as his master resumes his work. He finds his attention easily focused on the book in hand, the necklace forgotten for the time being.
This, much like the last time, is an accident. Chanyeol always knew the room next to Minseok's was Luhan's. But the doors were always locked and he assumed it was largely abandoned, just a part of Minseok that he kept locked away.
Today, however, he sees a maid stepping out of it, in a hurry for she had been called downstairs by the cook. The door is shut, but not locked, and Chanyeol's curiosity has him slipping inside.
This part of the house faces where the sun rises and, with its light passing through the large windows, Chanyeol can see everything clearly.
He sees the bedding, neatly tucked in and clean with fresh sheets. He sees the furniture, polished and bright. He sees the vanity, littered with photographs - one familiar face, one he's never seen before, but a smile and sparkling eyes he could identify in an instant with how often he's heard of them.
The room is kept in pristine condition, as if its owner might come home any moment, and Chanyeol's chest clenches as he runs his fingers over the dust free drapes.
The room is nothing like he'd imagined. Hanging over the bed, he had expected an old, dated portrait of his master - because Luhan never struck him as the type to keep his own portrait overhead. But what he sees is Minseok's bright smile, gaze drawn upwards towards a face smiling fondly down at him. He sees his master, dressed casually in slacks and a plain, cotton shirt, seated on a familiar chaise, legs raised up with a lean body kneeling between them.
Quietly, Chanyeol slips back out, heart heavy and head spinning. Everything feels like too much and he thinks it's much different to have had the idea of Luhan in his head than to see him like this. To feel him, in every part of the room.
Chanyeol already knows he could never have competed with Luhan, but now he understands where he stands. This is as clear a sign as any that he isn't enough for Minseok, however well he thought they had been doing. He could never be enough to fill that empty space so apparent in Minseok's heart.
Minseok calls for Chanyeol as he has been doing nearly every night, but today he is surprised to find the pet in a black button up shirt to match his dark leather pants. Normally Chanyeol is never this covered up, unless they're going out.
"You don't look like you're ready for bed," he says with a confused smile as he reaches his hand out to beckon the pet closer.
Chanyeol's expression is closed off, unreadable. Minseok doesn't know what to make of it, nor does he know what to do when Chanyeol decidedly ignores his hand, sitting at the edge of the bed.
"Is something the matter?" he asks, scooting closer to the pet.
"I'd like to go back."
Chanyeol's voice is barely above a whisper, but the words carry enough impact to have Minseok stopping dead in his tracks. "What- what do you mean by that?" he asks, confusion plain on his face now.
"I want to go back to the shop. I don't think- I don't think I should stay here anymore."
Minseok's frown deepens as he reaches for Chanyeol again. "Chanyeol, what's gotten into you? Look at me. What are you saying?" It's been a year and he can't understand what would make Chanyeol change his mind about this - about them - all of a sudden.
Chanyeol shakes his head once, but it's firm, and despite Minseok's coaxing, won't look up at him. Minseok can tell from the way his hands are clenched on his laps that he's struggling, but he's stubborn.
"What happened? Chanyeol, please at least tell me. Did I do something wrong?"
Chanyeol shakes his head. "Just send me back. Please."
"No." Minseok of a few months ago might have done it, might have welcomed the opportunity to relieve himself of this responsibility. But the Minseok of the moment can't imagine his life without Chanyeol anymore, and he grips the pet's shoulders tightly, ready to wrap himself around him to hold on as tightly as he can. "Not without a good reason. Darling, please - if I did something, I'm sorry. I'll fix it. I promise you, I'll fix it."
"You can't fix it, there isn't anything to fix." Chanyeol still won't look at him, but he's shaking now with the pressure of trying to hold back tears. Tears Minseok can see him wiping away at roughly with the back of his hand. "Please, please just send me back."
Minseok shakes his head, though Chanyeol isn't looking up at him. "Not without a reason."
"Isn't it reason enough that I'm not good enough for you?"
The pet's words startle Minseok into silence. They seem to surprise Chanyeol himself and the pet is quick to apologize. "I'm sorry, Master. I shouldn't have- I didn't mean to snap. I'm sorry, Master. Please, you can punish me, you should punish me for that."
Minseok just shakes his head, reaching now to pull Chanyeol into his arms. "What do you mean you aren't good enough? Why would you think that? I thought- I told you, all I want- Why do you think-"
"Because you're still waiting for him! I've seen his room, I know why you keep me at the other end of the house! I know it all now!"
Chanyeol pulls away from Minseok, taking a few steps back, eyes down at his feet now. Minseok hates most that he won't look at him.
"Please. Please send me back." The desperation in Chanyeol's voice tears at MInseok's heart. "I don't want to be here anymore. I don't want to be here."
Chanyeol can't stop shaking, can't stop sniffling. Minseok knows this is all his fault, all his doing, and wonders why he'd never thought to do something to that room earlier.
"You can go back to bed," Minseok finally whispers. "We can talk in the morning."
To his surprise, Chanyeol doesn't budge. "No. I want you- I want you to say you'll send me back first. I want to go back."
It's completely out of line for a pet to make any demands upon his master. And Chanyeol isn't that type of pet. But Chanyeol is in obvious pain, and Minseok knows he isn't being fair to hold him like this. As his master, he has to look out for Chanyeol's best interest.
"Fine. I'll- I'll write to inform them I'm sending you back. Tomorrow."
"Thank you, Master."
Chanyeol goes without another word, without so much as a glance back.
Minseok shudders at the click of the door closing shut.
Chanyeol goes back to his room as quickly as his feet can carry him. Locking his door, he falls to the ground instantly, knees weak now that all the nerve he had mustered to carry out his request has left him. But whatever part of him that still wishes to take it back is quashed. He can't turn back now.
He hates wasting time on tears, so sets about packing up his things. He hadn't dared to start earlier in the day, unsure if he would even be successful. But now that things seem finalized - his master is not the type to go back on his word - Chanyeol opens up his trunks, carefully placing away the things he'd brought with him to the manor.
He's filled one trunk and started on the second when light outside the window catches his attention. Strange, because it's the middle of the night and most servants have gone to bed by now. He frowns, opening the drapes further to investigate.
There's a flurry of movement outside, as the servants - some still dressed in their sleep clothes - hurry about carrying furniture and other items outside to stack in a senseless heap. Chanyeol sees Minseok among them, lifting a familiar chaise.
Chanyeol's heart stops.
Before he can think about it, his feet are carrying him out of his room, down the stairs, and outside to join the workers.
"What are you doing?" he asks, dumbfounded as he realizes all these items are things he had seen just earlier today. All these items are Luhan's, and he can't understand why they're being placed outside like this.
Minseok looks up from where he's just set down the chaise. His eyes are hard, expression determined.
"I'm going to burn it," he says, and only the slight quiver of his lips gives away any other feeling.
Chanyeol stares at him. "Why?" he asks, voice hoarse because he already knows the answer.
"Because I don't need it. I don't need any of this, and if this is what it takes - I'll show you that you're more important to me than all this."
Chanyeol can only stare as Minseok removes from his pocket another item - one that hadn't been in the room, but he'd kept tucked in the second drawer of the nightstand by his bed.
"I'll burn it all, if it means you'll stay. I'll burn it all to keep you with me." His expression is fierce, but in the light of the torches surrounding them, Chanyeol can clearly see the tears streaming down his master's face.
Chanyeol feels his stomach twisting, his heart both full and empty at the same time. As if dreaming, he steps forward, taking Minseok's wrist and pulling him in close in a tight embrace. "Don't," he whispers. "I'll stay. I'll stay."
It's strange, to feel his master shaking so much in his arms. And it's new, to be the one to lift him up. It's perhaps out of place, to give orders to everyone to take these things back inside, go back to bed.
But Chanyeol does it, and takes on the task of carrying Minseok back inside, back to his room, back to where this never should have started in the first place.
Minseok is still shaking, even when he's seated in his bed. Chanyeol gently takes the necklace from his hands, setting it aside on the nightstand. He doesn't miss how Minseok's eyes follow it - but there's no jealousy, no hopelessness. He knows how Minseok feels now.
"You're a silly master," he says, arms going back around his master. He is relieved when Minseok winds his arms around his shoulders, leaning into his embrace.
"I'm sorry," Minseok whispers, and Chanyeol shakes his head. "I would have burned it all. I really would have."
"I know." It's that knowledge that makes this unbearable. "I'm sorry, Master. To make you feel as if you had to choose."
"I do have to choose." Minseok's voice is insistent, but Chanyeol shakes his head again.
"No. You don't have to choose, because I don't want to compete with him. I don't want you to give up someone so important to you. I just- I'm sorry, Master. I'm sorry I misunderstood you."
"Stay with me tonight."
"Of course, Master."
Chanyeol wakes up to find the bed empty. It's not so unusual, because Minseok often rises earlier than he does, anyway. But hopefully he hasn't already missed the opportunity to dine with his master before he has to go to council.
Bounding down the stairs, still dressed in the same clothes he'd worn the night before and his hair a mess, he finds Minseok seated at the dining room table with a plate of fruit and his usual coffee.
"Good morning, Master," he says, with a bright smile.
Minseok looks up from his paper, smiling back at Chanyeol. His eyes are still a bit red, but he looks dressed for the day.
"Good morning, Chanyeol. Join me for breakfast?"
Chanyeol grins. "Let me put on something more comfortable."
He should at least freshen up for his master, considering everything he's put him through the night before. With a nod from his master, Chanyeol takes the stairs two at a time to head back to his room. He expects to find his trunks as they'd been left the night before, but is surprised to find his room completely cleared out.
His heart drops somewhere to the vicinity of his knees. He doesn't know what to make of it, because it couldn't be that Minseok changed his mind. Yet where are his things? There's not a trace of anything that was once his.
"I'll take you to your new bedchambers, sir," says a familiar voice behind him. Chanyeol turns to find his favorite maidservant barely suppressing a smile as she bows before turning to lead the way. He follows her in a confused dazed.
The path to his new room is a familiar one. It's one he's walked so many nights before, but never has he been led to this particular door. Never has he had it opened to him like this.
When Chanyeol steps inside, it's to find the space nothing like he'd seen it like the day before. The drapes are wide open, the bedding all his own, and the vanity cleared off and replaced with his usual make up supplies and brushes.
It's bigger than his last room.
"It's funny - I really thought thirty winter coats would take up more space."
Chanyeol spins around to find Minseok leaning against the door frame, watching him with amusement sparkling in his eyes.
"I guess we'll have to shop for a few more things to fill this place up."
His master laughs as Chanyeol bounds forward to sweep him up into his arms, spinning him around before dropping him flat onto his back on the bed, pinning him down with the weight of Chanyeol's own body. Chanyeol loves the way his cheeks bunch up, the way his eyes turn up, the way his gums peek out. He loves knowing this is real.
"If you don't mind, Master... I'd like to christen it first."
He swallows the next burst of laughter, hoping to keep it forever, wanting this moment to last.