xiumin/kai; r; approx 6.4k
warnings: uh stripper!seok?
Jongin's been frequenting this cafe for a couple months now. He likes the homey atmosphere - the mismatched mugs, the eccentric collection of porcelain figurines on the counter, the potted plants decorating the window sill, the soft cushions and light blankets that no one needs in the summer heat, but are nice to wrap himself up in when he stays up the night working on a last minute essay.
He likes how the mom and pop of the shop greet him with warm smiles, quietly noting his usual order after just the third visit. He's gotten used to coming after classes and even after his own part time gig at the arcade, unwinding with a book and his usual chai latte. The cafe has become a familiar part of his daily life.
But today there's a new barista taking his order behind the counter. "Where's Mrs. Kim?" he blurts out, because something about the way this boy's sharp, cat-like eyes stare up at his has his palms sweaty.
The boy's eyes are twinkling as he responds, voice soft and tone a little high, matching his round babyface. "Out on a date. I'll try not to mess up your order in the meantime. What would you like?"
'Your name and cell phone number,' Jongin thinks, but could never bring himself to say. He clears his throat and asks for his usual chai latte, paying quickly and retreating to his corner of the cafe.
He's there again the next day and Jongin still hasn't recovered.
"Let me guess - chai latte?" he asks with a smile. It's dangerous, the way his eyes curve up into little crescents, and Jongin finds himself tongue-tied. He can only nod, handing over the cash and collecting his stamp card with shakey fingers that he hopes the barista hasn't noticed.
It takes him a week to muster up the courage to ask his name. 'He's just another kid,' he tells himself. "What should I call you?" he asks, when said kid arrives at his table with his order. He tries to sound as cool and nonchalant as possible, but the image is ruined by the way his leg won't stop twitching and he can't look the barista in the eyes.
"Me? I'm Kim Minseok."
"Kim...?" Jongin raises his eyes to meet laughing ones, sees Minseok's gums on full display, and wonders if it's possible to have a heart attack at such a young age.
"Yeah, I'm their son. I'm here for summer break, helping out a bit."
He must not live here, then. But Mr. and Mrs. Kim don't seem like the type to send their kid off to a boarding school. Minseok doesn't look like the boarding school type at all, in his torn jeans and white t-shirt, red apron completing the look.
"Need anything else?"
Jongin knocks himself out of his reverie, unaware he'd been contemplating Minseok's clothes for so long.
"Ah, no- I, uh. Sorry, just wanted to know who I should be thanking for the lattes."
Minseok laughs and a lump forms in Jongin's throat. Even his laughter is pretty.
"You're welcome, Kim Jongin."
With a wink, he turns back for the counter. Jongin tries to hide his burning cheeks behind another book.
"What're you reading?"
Jongin nearly knocks the table over with how hard his knee slams into it.
Minseok is laughing softly as he takes a seat across from him, straddling the back of the chair and resting his chin on his arms. Jongin tries not to let his eyes wander too low, keeping them on the other boy's smiling face. It's truly unfair, how sweet Minseok looks with his cheeks bunched up.
"Did I scare you?"
"No, no," he says hastily, righting his cup and setting his book aside. "I, uh- well, maybe I was a little surprised." Jongin smiles sheepishly, berating himself in his head for sounding like a spaz. Looking like a spaz. Being a spaz. "I was just..."
"Really involved. It was cute, how focused you were."
Jongin doesn't know what he's more appalled by - the fact that Minseok just called him cute - or the fact that Minseok, looking like he does, has just called him cute. "I'm not cute." And he isn't pouting, either.
"Right, right." But Minseok's eyes are twinkling and the corner of his lips are twitching in a barely restrained smile. "You didn't answer my question."
"Huh?" 'Very articulate, Kim Jongin.' "Ah, just a fantasy novel my friend recommended." He looks around at the mostly emptied out cafe. No wonder Minseok had approached him. "You must be pretty bored."
"How's your holiday going so far? You seem to be here a lot."
"Yeah, well my parents are paying me. Helps the college party fund."
Jongin blinks at him and, if anything, Minseok's smile only seems more mischievous.
Could he be going into university next year already? Could he actually be the same age as Jongin?
"Yeah. I'll be returning in the Fall."
Returning. Jongin swallows and it's no secret how surprised he is, with the way his eyes are wide open. "Are you, like, a child prodigy or something?"
Minseok bursts into laugh like that. It's wholly unfair, because no matter how often Jongin hears it, he still thinks it sounds like soft windchimes in a light summer breeze. "How old do you think I am, Jongin?"
"Uh... Is this a trick question?"
Minseok grins and shakes his head.
"I don't know. Sixteen? Seventeen?"
"A little older than that."
Jongin stares at him. "Eighteen?"
Minseok grins and Jongin stares hard.
"Don't tell me..."
"I'm twenty-two. But you can call me hyung."
Jongin can feel the heat spreading across his cheeks and fanning out to his ears. Minseok is laughing again as he stands up, chuckling as if to a private joke. "I should let you get back to your book."
Jongin waits for him to have his back turned before he gathers his things in a rush and flees.
Minseok likes to startle him from time to time, taking a seat across him like he had that first time, laughing softly whenever he looks up and then instantly falls over in surprise. Over time, Jongin's instincts adapt, and he no longer drops his spoon, throws his book, or knocks over his coffee.
As their conversations develop, Jongin learns Minseok is a recent graduate returning in the Fall to grad school. He's majoring in architecture and interior design, though he much prefers serving coffee. He's also single, not that Jongin thinks he has a chance.
"Where are you heading to school, Jongin?" Minseok asks, head resting on his arms, cheek pillowed against his forearm as he stares at Jongin with his perpetually wide eyes.
He looks like a rabbit, the way his almond shaped eyes are pink at the corners, and Jongin wonders if he was up late. It's unlikely he was studying, and he had mentioned a "college party fund" earlier - even if in this small town there's really no place to party.
"I wanna go overseas. But I'm not sure if my family can afford it, so we're looking at options closer to home."
Minseok smiles. "You want to join a European ballet company or something?" His tone is serious, sincere. He's not mocking Jongin, for which the younger boy is grateful.
"Maybe- I don't know. I kind of just want to travel. Isn't that why you left?"
"Mm, something like that."
The bell at the front door alerts them to another customer and Minseok turns back, before getting up.
"If you're that bored, maybe you should come out with me this weekend. Going to hit a club in the city with some friends. I'll drive if you need a ride."
Before Jongin can answer, before Jongin's mouth regains the saliva it needs to even answer, Minseok is already taking the next order.
Minseok picks him up at nine. Jongin had thrown out his entire wardrobe trying to figure out what to wear, before he realized the nicest things he owns are dark jeans and long sleeved, button-up flannel shirts. Not ideal for the summer, so he settles for a black t-shirt, instead.
Minseok gives a whistle of approval as he appraises his outfit once he's in the car. "Simple but chic. I like it," he says, and smiles so brightly that Jongin starts blushing.
The drive into the city isn't very long. Minseok tells Jongin about the history of the bridge they cross as they drive over it - how it was constructed, how long it took, the way the architect had jumped off of it.
"Pretty romantic, don't you think?"
"But sad," Jongin says, looking out at the water.
"Romance is sad. Nothing but drama and theatrics." Minseok is smiling, but not at Jongin this time, his eyes straight on the road ahead. "My friends are waiting ahead at the club and they've already found us a table. It'll be easy to drag you in, since I've got my ID."
They do manage to sneak Jongin in, having him pose as Minseok's forgetful older brother. One look at the round-faced boy with his sparkling eyes and driver's license is enough to convince the bouncers at the door. Though one of them winks at Minseok conspiratorially as they pass by.
"That's Chanyeol. He would have let us in easy if it was just him."
"You come here pretty often, I guess?"
"I used to," Minseok says with a laugh, taking Jongin's hand as they weave through the crowd. Jongin can practically feel his own heart rate picking up. "Yixing! I brought a friend!"
Jongin has already told Minseok about his history with dancing, but it's Yixing who explains why Minseok finds it so easy to drop onto the floor, the curve of his ass making a nice display as he gets back on his feet. He's laughing, as if it's a joke, but Jongin's made dizzy by the way the heat pools at the pit of his stomach when Minseok grinds his hips against his.
Yixing winds his arms around the older man, pulling him back, and Minseok lets his hips sway gently to the music as Yixing rocks into him.
"I met him at a strip club," Yixing says over the music, once they're seated again and Jongin has downed two cokes in an attempt to cool himself down. (Minseok won't let him drink, even if he's already broken the rules by allowing him into the club at all.)
Minseok punches him playfully in the arm and Yixing just smiles it off, reaching over to pinch the older man's cheek. Their familiarity has Jongin curling his fingers in against his palms. Of course, he thinks - no way a guy like Minseok would be available.
"He's gonna think I'm some sort of money grubbing filth," Minseok says with a laugh and Jongin shakes his head instantly, eyes wide with sincerity.
Yixing laughs, a knowing look in his eyes. "I don't think you're in any danger of that. And we all have to earn a living."
Chanyeol joins them after his shift is over, though it's nearing three in the morning, nearing time for Minseok to sneak Jongin back home since he'd not told his parents he was going out. It seems Chanyeol, like so many others, is fond of pulling Minseok into fond embraces - even picking him up and swinging him around two or three times before setting him back on his feet - but Jongin's fingers no longer curl in on themselves, his nails no longer dig into his own palms at the sight of it. They've been occupied all night tangled up in Minseok's hair.
Jongin's had nothing to drink, but he's heady from the way Minseok dances with him, body rolling so naturally against his, lips fitted so well to his own just as he pushes him up against the wall for another kiss.
Minseok's soft laughter against his cheek as his arms go around the smaller man leaves him breathless.
"Good luck," Chanyeol says with a wink on his way out. Jongin thinks his luck has been pretty damn good so far.
"See you tomorrow?" Minseok says, straightening Jongin's shirt and running his fingers affectionately through his messy hair as he pulls back. They've been parked outside Jongin's house for the last half an hour, neither very willing to let the night end.
Jongin can only nod dumbly, still in a daze from the way Minseok had kissed him, pressing him back into the passenger seat and nearly straddling his waist. He'd nearly picked the smaller man up and helped him into his lap, but the gear clutch had made that somewhat difficult. In the end, he'd settled for leaning back and keeping his hand at the other's waist, fingers slipping under the hem of his shirt when he felt brave enough to grab for a little more..
"Good night, Kim Jongin."
And with a chaste kiss, almost sweet, Minseok pushes the door handle down to open the passenger side door. Jongin stumbles out, waving as Minseok drives off.
The sound of the car engine starting up again must have alerted his parents to his coming home, because his mother is coming down the steps.
"Kim Jongin, get inside this instant!"
He's grinning even as she drags him in by his ear.
Jongin doesn't see him for a week, because that's how long he's been grounded. Even his library privileges are taken away and the best he can do is text on his way to dance lessons, because his parents aren't cruel enough to suspend those no matter how late he was out. But Jongin discovers that Minseok doesn't actually text much, except to send him pouty selcas or pictures of the lattes he supposedly makes for him that he can't drink.
Sorry, hyung. Can't leave the house at all today.
The response is a picture of Minseok resting his head on the cafe's register counter top. Supposedly he means to look bored, but Jongin's palms grow a little sweaty at the way he stares into the phone camera with his big eyes, full lips slightly parted invitingly.
See you next week, hyung.
But Jongin can still attend dance lessons. They're nothing too fancy, just at a local school - the only school - available in their small town. His regular hip hop session is at the end of the week and he intends to hit up the cafe afterwards, now that his probation is over.
When he gets to class, he finds a spot in the corner to stretch, as none of his friends seem to have arrived. It's when the teacher calls their attention that he looks up, and his jaw nearly drops to the ground.
"All right, everyone, gather around. This is Kim Minseok, one of our best and brightest former students and he'll be leading our new routine for today."
"Former student?" Jongin hears someone whisper as he takes his usual position up front. "He looks like a middle schooler."
"I guarantee you he doesn't dance like one," Jaewon says with a grin, as he begins to circle the room.
Jongin catches Minseok's eyes through the mirror after he's instructed everyone to follow his warm up routine. The moment he bends over into a stretch, Jongin swears he winks at him. It's going to be a long session.
After stretching, the class discovers Minseok's routine isn't anything a middle schooler should ever be doing. The girls are giggling and the boys are staring. Jongin shifts uncomfortably from where he's watching and switches with another student so that he's a little further back.
Minseok works them at a quick pace, normally soft voice suddenly sharp as he does counts of eight and corrects their form. When he gets to Jongin, his eyes are sparkling, or perhaps Jongin is only imagining it through the haze of his own perspiration. He bites down on his cheek until it's nearly bleeding when Minseok reaches to rest his hands on Jongin's hips, adjusting his position.
It's only by some miracle of God that he doesn't embarrass himself in front of the entire class, before Minseok's moved away and onto the next student.
"Five, six, seven, eight-" Minseok repeats as he guides the students in a shimmy.
The class is laughing by the end of it, everyone covered in far too much sweat, bodies aching. Jongin heads to the changing room first, while the class goes up to Minseok to thank him. Only Jaewon seems to notice, which is probably for the best.
"Did I surprise you?" a familiar voice asks when Jongin steps out the front door after his shower. He nearly leaps five feet into the air and is met with soft laughter and an arm around his waist to steady him. Jongin is blushing when he turns around to meet Minseok's gummy smile. "Hi."
"Going my way? I could give you a ride."
Jongin grins, capturing Minseok's lips in a kiss.
They never really make it to the cafe. Jongin finds himself in the backseat of Minseok's car, the older man straddling his hips as they kiss, grinding against him and undoing all the work his cold shower had done.
"Have you ever...?" Minseok asks, breathless against Jongin's lips as he continues to rock against him. The pressure against his cock is almost too much to bear and Jongin isn't sure how he's expected to give an answer in this moment. The most he can do is shake his head, shameful as it is to admit. But he's never gone this far with a boy before - with anyone, really.
He'd like to, with Minseok. But it seems Minseok has other ideas, leaning in and resting his head against Jongin's shoulder as he shifts back a bit. Before Jongin can protest, he has his pants button undone and his hand inside Jongin's underwear, wrapping his small fingers around the length of him.
Jongin groans and lets his head loll back, amazed by how strong Minseok's grip is. He's panting heavily, as Minseok's palm strokes firmly against him. With Minseok's breath warm against his throat, his hand causing friction between them, his small body fitted tightly against Jongin - it's too much all at once, especially when Minseok starts sucking on his neck
"Hyung," he groans, when he finishes, embarrassingly early.
Minseok kisses him through it, fingers still moving over him, coaxing the last of his release out before finally pulling back.
Carefully, Minseok tucks Jongin's shirt back into his pants, buttoning him up again. He kisses Jongin slowly, sensually, until Jongin is so relaxed he feels he could fall asleep at any moment.
"I'll drive you home," he says, just as Jongin is about to start dozing.
Jongin thinks he might have just blown it.
But Minseok keeps texting and Jongin resumes his regular visits to the cafe during the weekdays. On the weekends, Minseok takes him to the movies, to pizza joints, to nice restaurants, to his friends' house for video games or soccer. He doesn't mind the kisses Minseok steals in empty corridors, during breaks at the coffee shop, or in the darkness of the movie theater.
Sometimes they just sit in his car, listening to music, and Jongin doesn't mind when things escalate and he's pressed back against the seats, Minseok's hips grinding on his once more. Sometimes it's Minseok's hand on him, sometimes it's Minseok's lips, and once it was his own mouth wrapped around Minseok, wringing soft moans from the older man's lips as his fingers tightened in Jongin's hair. Jongin had even managed not to choke and was rather proud of himself, when Minseok ruffled the mess he'd made of his hair afterwards.
Jongin wants to tell someone. Jongin wants to shout it from the rooftops. But such romantic displays only work in the movies, so he just shows up with a small origami rose for Minseok one day at the coffee shop, laying it on the counter shyly just before placing his order.
Minseok smiles, gums showing, and tucks the flower away before leaning over the counter to give Jongin a kiss. "Thank you," he whispers.
It's enough for Jongin, knowing that Minseok at least doesn't seem to mind doing this - being with him - in public.
"So are you gonna tell him?" Sehun asks, when he talks to him about it over bubble tea. Sehun is leaving soon, for school, and so is he. So will Minseok. And if he hasn't met him in all this time that he's lived in this town, he's not sure he will again later.
"I want to, but - I don't know."
Sehun blinks at him from over his bubble tea. Entirely useless and unhelpful, because even his friends think that this is just a fling for Minseok. That an older guy dating a high school kid - no way he's taking him seriously.
Jongin is reading in his usual corner, when he arrives. He wouldn't have noticed, were it not for the sound of the windchimes at the door ringing to alert the presence of new customers. Were it not for Minseok's soft laughter, before he exclaims, "Lu ge!" And by the time Jongin has looked up, a pair of unfamiliar arms has scooped Minseok up into a tight hug, swinging him around even as he protests, smacking the stranger's arm in feigned irritability.
Jongin puts his book down.
They're speaking quietly - Minseok always speaks quietly - but he can hear the other man clearly. Not that it makes a difference, because he's not speaking in any language Jongin understands - Chinese, he's sure, and now he wishes it'd been an elective offered at his high school.
Whatever they're talking about doesn't matter, though, because Jongin is more upset by how bright Minseok's eyes are, how widely he smiles at this Lu ge.
It's none of his business, he tells himself. He's seen Minseok drop it low with Yixing on the dance floor. This is far more tame.
But he doesn't like how Lu ge reaches to pinch Minseok's cheek, or how he keeps touching his elbow, or how he's constantly moving closer and closer right into his personal bubble that Jongin had at least respected until they started making out.
The thought that perhaps Lu ge has already kissed Minseok crosses his mind and Jongin picks up his book again, opening it to any random page and hiding his flustered expression behind it.
The sound of their voices slowly fade. When Jongin peers out from behind his book again, Minseok and Lu ge are gone, presumably into the staff room at the back.
"Ready to go?" Minseok asks, sliding into the booth with Jongin some hours later. He'd spent a lot of time between the front counter and at Lu ge's table, chatting with him until the other man had finally left. Jongin hadn't looked up to witness the good bye, just listened as Lu ge had done something that had made Minseok laugh and hit him, exclaiming a soft, "What's wrong with you?"
Right now, though, Minseok's smile is directed at him, and Jongin's quiet, simmering jealousy fades. He smiles back, setting his book down and reaching up to cup Minseok's cheek in his palm, leaning in to kiss the older man.
It's the first time he's initiated a kiss like this and it feels nice to take control, twisting their bodies to press Minseok back against the back of the booth. He tilts Minseok's face upwards, for a better angle, as his tongue coaxes Minseok's lips apart. He takes and takes and takes, drinking Minseok in, until Minseok is breathing through his kiss swollen lips when it's over, softly panting.
Jongin tucks his book into his bag. "Let's go, hyung."
"Who is he?" Jongin asks, when they're driving back from dinner to his house.
Minseok's fingers are tapping the steering wheel in time with the song playing on his radio. He glances over at Jongin, eyes wide and with a bewildered sort of smile on his lips. "Hm?"
"The guy at the cafe today. Lu ge, or whatever."
Minseok's smile widens as he turns his gaze back to the road. "Luhan? He's just a friend from university."
"From university." So what's he doing here? Jongin wants to ask, but it sounds petulant even in his head. "He looked like a close friend."
"Yeah, we're very close. He decided to take some time off to visit me. Stupid, because he only gets so much time to be at home, you know, and his family is all in Beijing."
But Minseok seems pretty pleased about it all the same. Jongin doesn't know why it makes his stomach churn, the way Minseok smiles while talking about Luhan.
"Should I introduce him to you next time?"
Jongin blinks out of his reverie. "What?"
Minseok is smiling at him, eyes sparkling with a hint of mischief that Jongin has gotten used to. "You seem to have him on your mind. I wouldn't blame you - a lot of people fall for him, until they get to know him."
Jongin looks out the window. "Did you, hyung?"
There's a brief pause before Minseok speaks again. "Something like that."
Luhan shows up at the coffee shop the next day, as well. And the day after that. And the day after that. And so far, Minseok hasn't introduced him to Jongin at all, though they're always sitting only a few tables away from each other.
Sometimes Jongin sneaks a peek at him from behind his books. Sometimes he catches Luhan glancing at him, especially when Minseok comes over to refill his coffee or just to chit chat. Sometimes Jongin deliberately puts an arm around Minseok's shoulders or pulls him down for a light kiss, but Luhan doesn't seem to notice.
In the end, it's Luhan who approaches Jongin first.
"You must be Jongin," he says, with an easy smile that Jongin already hates on account of how handsome it makes him look. He's pulled up a chair, sitting in it in the same way Minseok had when he'd first spoken to him.
"Making friends?" Minseok asks, after Jongin introduces himself. They both turn to look at him - Jongin's expression somewhat wide-eyed and Luhan's warm, the corners of his eyes crinkling. Jongin pretends not to notice Minseok's small hands on Luhan's shoulders, kneading lightly.
"Was just inviting Jongin along to our movie tonight," Luhan says, turning back to Jongin. There's amusement in his eyes - he's showing off, Jongin realizes.
"Not sure he can, with the rating."
"We can pose as his guardians."
Jongin's stomach drops to somewhere below his knees, when Minseok starts laughing along with Luhan. Hastily, he puts away his books and pulls his bag over his shoulder, mumbling an excuse abut having to get home for dinner and wincing at how much that doesn't help the situation before he rushes off.
But Minseok doesn't go after him.
Minseok has been sending regular text messages for three days now, but Jongin hasn't yet found the courage to respond to any of them. As casual as Minseok sounds when he asks Jongin what he's up to or tells him what he's doing, who he's with, what he's just eaten, the fact that Minseok is messaging so much at all shows he's concerned.
But Jongin doesn't want Minseok's concern, doesn't need to feel more like a baby than he already does, pouting over the idea that someone else might want to play with his new toy. "Maybe I am too young for him," he mumbles half into his pillow as he closes his phone on the latest message and tosses it aside.
Sehun is seated at his desk, spinning in his wheely chair and, as usual, being of absolutely no help at all.
"Probably. Or maybe he's too old for you."
"He doesn't seem old."
"But he's had more..." Sehun makes lewd hand gestures that has Jongin throwing the pillow at his face. "Hey! Just saying - sounds like he's been around the block. Maybe he got tired of people his own age, but I don't think he's so normal. I mean what kind of a university student hits on high school boys, anyway?"
Jongin groans, because Sehun is missing the point entirely. "You're useless."
"And your pathetic. If you're this hung up over his ex, just talk to him about it. Can we play video games now?"
"I was wondering if you'd died," Minseok says with a smile when Jongin makes his way down the path from his house to the other's car. He looks no different from when Jongin had seen him last, but his eyes don't shine as brightly. There's no mischief in them today. He seems a little distant, a little guarded.
Jongin smiles back, a bit sheepishly, and scratches the back of his neck in an attempt to avoid the pinprickling gooseflesh forming there. "Didn't mean to worry you."
"Mm. Ready to go?"
Jongin slips into the passenger side of the car when Minseok opens the door for him and puts on his seatbelt as Minseok goes around the other way. "Where are we going today?"
"Just some place to talk. Hope you're hungry - my mom packed a pretty big picnic for us."
They arrive at the edge of some peak overlooking their small town, a place Jongin has only heard his friends talking about taking their girlfriends to, but had never gone himself, because he'd never had anyone he'd thought to enjoy the view with.
He stares out at the distance, unsure about why Minseok chose this of all places to talk. He was under the impression people didn't do much talking here.
Minseok smiles, getting out and grabbing the picnic basket and a blanket from the backseat. "Don't tell me you're scared."
"I'm not scared," Jongin protests with a slight pout, clambering out of the car after him. He helps Minseok lay out the blanket and takes a seat beside him as the older man starts unpacking - sandwiches, salads, rice rolls, lemonade.
"Your mom made these?" he asks, tone light. "Does that mean they're okay to eat, then?"
"Hey, I'm a very good chef," Minseok protests, laughing softly, his gums showing. Jongin still loves how his cheeks bunch up, the way his eyes lift up.
They eat in silence, talking about trivial things - dance lessons, how the coffee shop's doing, and eventually Minseok's plans for the following school year.
"I'm not going to come back next summer, I think," he says, quietly.
Jongin stares at him, halfway through a bite of kimbap. "Why not?"
"I'm looking into internships overseas. There's a few places I'm interested in and their application process starts this Winter."
"And... well, there's not much to come back to here."
What about me? Jongin wants to ask, but he knows exactly how that will sound.
"Jongin. I think this might be the last time I see you."
Jongin can only stare, watching as Minseok's eyes grow more distant even as his smile grows wider in its effort to comfort him. But how is he supposed to feel comforted at the very thought of what's happening?
"You're young. You'll meet someone better for you than me."
Jongin does shake his head, then, and rather emphatically at that. "No. You're perfect," he blurts out, because that's what's always on his mind, anyway.
He hates the way Minseok laughs, like a gentle pat on the head for being such a good boy.
"You think that way because you're young. You think you like me, but you don't- You don't really know me."
It makes Jongin angry, because that isn't true. Couldn't be true. He knows exactly who Minseok is when he sees him smile, when he hears him laugh, when he holds him in his arms.
"I could get to know you. If you didn't leave."
Minseok's smile falters. "You don't want to get to know me."
Jongin shakes his head again, but Minseok remains quiet. And it's too hard to find the words to ask for what he wants, when he's used to conceding. When Minseok is this much older than him and has always been in control.
"I'll drive you back," Minseok finally says, after some time.
Jongin feels dread creeping slowly through his body, as he takes that first step home. That first step away from Minseok.
It's different, being the one to avoid Minseok and being the one that Minseok is avoiding. It's strange to arrive at the cafe and not see him behind the counter, as usual. It's different, having his coffee served to him again by Minseok's mother or father - it smells different, tastes different. It's weird, to text and not receive anything back. And it makes the last two months feel like some sort of dream that he's just woken up from.
Jongin doesn't stop visiting, though, just in case. Just because maybe one day he'll be surprised.
He is surprised, actually, to find Luhan across his usual table one afternoon. He's in that same position, straddling his chair, arms wrapped around the back and his chin on the backrest.
He blinks. Jongin blinks.
"So..." Jongin says, with a hesitant swipe of his tongue across his lower lip.
"He really likes you," Luhan says, with a slight frown, as if it puzzles him.
It makes Jongin defensive. He frowns right back, leaning in slightly. "Not enough," he retorts.
Luhan shakes his head then. "No. Too much."
And that's as much as he says, before getting up and leaving, smiling and waving cheerily to Mrs. Kim on his way out. She smiles back at him, eyes bright, turned up in that way that reminds Jongin so much of Minseok that it hurts.
Jongin asks Jaewon to pass on a message. He wrangles Yixing and Chanyeol into harassing Minseok, too. Both seem rather eager, all things considered. They aren't that close to Jongin, after all, though Yixing always greets everyone like a dear old friend.
"Good luck, pal," is all Sehun says around a mouthful of tapioca pearls, when Jongin consults him for one last pep talk.
Minseok leaves in a week. He's got very little time left, and Jongin refuses to wake up from the dream. At least not without a fight.
Please come, he texts to Minseok, the night before.
Jongin arrives at the shop ten minutes to eight. Ten minutes earlier than the time he'd told Minseok. And with every passing second, he wonders if Minseok will show up at all. The shop is mostly empty, a different part timer behind the counter on her phone. She glances up at Jongin when he enters and takes his order. He takes his usual seat, watching the door, waiting to see if Minseok will stay away or turn up.
But Minseok is always punctual. And he arrives at eight on the dot, just when Jongin is checking the time, so Jongin has to look up when the doorbell chimes and the older man is stepping in.
"Hey," Minseok says, with one of his small smiles. It doesn't reach his eyes, sharp and wary. He looks hesitant, like he doesn't want to be there at all, and Jongin takes in just how small he is, in his oversized university sweatshirt and jeans.
"Can we-can we talk?" Jongin asks, already walking towards him.
Minseok nods, looking confused when Jongin finally reaches him, forced to look up at him due to their height difference.
It's so easy, to take his face into his hands, lean down and kiss him. Jongin forgets he meant to talk to him at all, once Minseok's arms go around his neck, pulling him to kiss him right back. But that's just the little extra push that Jongin needed, to whisper against his lips, "Don't go. Don't leave me behind."
Minseok doesn't respond, when Jongin sets him back down onto his feet, so Jongin pushes forward.
"I like you. I really like you. I know you think I'm just some kid with a crush - but that's not what this is. I like you. I like you so much, in a way I've never liked anyone before. And I don't know what it is that I'm lacking yet - but if you give me time, I'll figure it out. I want to keep seeing you. I want to keep getting to know you."
Minseok is staring up at him again, lips slightly parted, looking so unbearably small that Jongin's arms instinctively pull him in close again.
"I was a stripper," Minseok whispers, not exactly the confession Jongin was hoping to hear from him. "When I met Yixing, that's what I did. I almost quit school, because I was making so much money and it was easy. And I didn't know what I was doing. I didn't know if I wanted to be an architect or if I wanted to dance. My parents would be disappointed, though, if I chose dance. So I quit."
He says the last words softly and Jongin can practically feel them fading into the space between them.
"And then I met Luhan. Luhan was the first guy I've ever- He's a really good guy. But he wasn't what I wanted, either. And when I called it quits, he was so- so- He was so disappointed. I could see it in his eyes, on his face. If you've ever seen Luhan smile... It's horrible, to be the one to take that away."
He pulls back now, looks up at Jongin directly, brows furrowed together in a slight frown.
"And you- You're so young. I can see all your hopes and your dreams in your eyes, just when you talk about them. You think, because I'm older, I have all the answers already. And you think I could make you happy - that I could be enough. But one day- I don't want to disappoint you. I couldn't stand it if I disappointed you."
"Hyung..." Jongin kisses his forehead, wanting to erase the frown. Kisses his cheeks, wanting them to lift again. Kisses his lips, hoping to turn them around. "Hyung. And you're not a disappointment to me, hyung." He smiles a bit, kissing Minseok again. "I'm not asking for forever. Just a chance. You're right, I'm young. But I won't always be. I don't know what I want from the future, but at least right now, I know I want you. I want just you - not what you think I'm expecting from you."
Minseok is going back today. His car is packed and he's already said goodbye to his parents, but Jongin's house is his last stop.
"I'm gonna miss you," Jongin says, ears turning red with embarrassment from his own words.
But Minseok just smiles and ruffles his hair, before pulling him down for a kiss. Another goodbye on top of all the other goodbye kisses they've already shared. But none of them feel too heavy, too permanent, because in a few month's time, they'll be seeing each other again.
"Drive carefully. Call me when you get to a rest stop."
"You're worse than mom," Minseok teases, but he nods, anyway. "I'll call."
Jongin kisses him again. And again. And again. And it takes a while, before Minseok is finally back in his car, waving as he pulls out of the driveway. Jongin follows for as long as he can, down to the street corner, waving until Minseok is a dot in the distance.
When he checks his phone on his way back, there's one message.
Go inside already.