Home is where the heart is. It's a drastically overused statement whose meaning is too simplified to slap on any and every situation. And yet it slips out like some sort of clinging comfort when someone needs that boost of hope, a shot of endurance to make it through the next day.
And the next.
It's a rope around Baekhyun's neck, a lead to take him wherever they want him to go without question. Home is where the heart is. It burns Baekhyun's tongue, and he finds himself glaring at the words carved into the metal hull more times than he can count.
He's a fighter. He's a soldier. He's a therapist when he needs to be. Everyone on this ship has problems. And somehow, they all find their way to Baekhyun. Even hurtling hundreds of thousands of light years through space can't keep the many failings of humanity from crawling under Baekhyun's skin. There's only one, brief escape.
He's laying in his bunk when she calls, her beautiful face fuzzing into view until the image is so crystal clear it's almost as if he could reach out and caress her cheek. He holds the tablet in his hands, fingers curled around the edges as she smiles at him.
His Hyeran. He's out here for her. Fighting for her.
"Hey handsome," she greets, dark strands of hair half fallen in her eyes. She sweeps them away and Baekhyun watches fondly as most of them drop to where they were before.
"Hey," he whispers, almost afraid that his voice could shatter the fragile connection. This far out, the feed bouncing off the closest satellite is sketchy.
There was a time when she would ask how he was doing, and he would ask her the same. Their answers had always been laced with an optimism they both saw through but didn't mention. They don't even bother with that anymore.
"I'm glad you're alive," Hyeran tells him. "When we got news of the latest attack -" Her voice cuts out and the connection goes fuzzy just for a second. When it clears, Baekhyun sees the tremble in Hyeran's chin, the tears gathering in the corners of her eyes.
"It was bad," Baekhyun tells her. He doesn't tell her any of the details. He doesn't want that in her life. "But I promised you I was coming home."
"I know," she says, a smile spreading over her lips. "I know."
Baekhyun sits up, wishing he could touch her, smell her, just this once. He's about to tell her when the alarms on the ship go off. Baekhyun sees Hyeran's eyes go wide, and his heart lurches.
"I love you," he gets out in a rush. "I love you so much."
The feed cuts before Hyeran can answer. Baekhyun drops the tablet onto his bed, running his fingers through his hair in frustration. A general call to battle stations rings out on the ship. Baekhyun rolls off his bunk and grabs his shirt, slipping it on over his head as he makes his way toward the bridge.
The halls are crowded, organized chaos as every person on board the ship rushes to their post. Baekhyun finds his on the bridge, taking his seat beside Kyungsoo at the main gun controls.
Junmyeon stands in front of his Captain's chair, arms crossed over his chest as he watches the enemy fleet approaching. The moment they're in range, he orders them to fire. Baekhyun's headset falls over his eyes, the controls blinking on to take control of the rail guns on the front of the ship.
There's no doubt in his mind: they're going to win this. Because home is where the heart is. And he's going to make it back there to her no matter what. That's a promise.