tangled words (lotusk) wrote,
tangled words
lotusk

Peace of Mind 1/2

Title: Peace of Mind [1/2]
Pairing: Junmyeon/Jongin
Rating: NC-17
Genre: Fluff, romance, smut, college!au
Length: Oneshot (10,800w)
Summary: College!au fic where Joonmyun falls hopelessly for his best friend Jongdae's housemate Jongin, and has a penchant for overstaying his welcome as a result.

Originally posted as an entry in the suholiday fic exchange. Written for aemilla. Posted here

Kisses to Shanti, Cass, Ange & Ayumi for keeping me on the Suholiday train when I felt like getting off. This fic would never have been finished without all your cheerleading :)

Sometimes Joonmyun wishes Kim Jongin had never moved into his building. And at other times, Joonmyun simply wishes he'd never set eyes on his best friend Jongdae's roommate. He sorely misses the peace of mind he used to enjoy before he'd met the tall, lean Architecture student with the bitter chocolate eyes and light hazelnut skin. He can barely even recall the serenity he used to enjoy before he became inconveniently infatuated with Jongin. The 21 year old undergrad had moved into Jongdae's apartment two months ago, and within a matter of two weeks, Joonmyun had found himself reluctantly but hopelessly attached to the man. Now he just wants the attachment to end so he can have peace of mind again.

But Joonmyun's sporadic attempts to stop crushing on Jongin mostly only ever last for the brief number of minutes it takes for Jongin to open the door and let him into the apartment, or for him to wander out of his bedroom when it's Jongdae who answers the door. Because as soon as Joonmyun sees his sleepy-eyed, lazy molasses smile, all his resolve to exile Jongin from his heart and mind vanishes like grains of desert sand scattered by the wind. And at times like these, Joonmyun hates his own weak heart more than anything.

He looks at his watch, and it cheerfully informs him it's 7.34. Fashionably late by four minutes, Joonmyun consoles himself as his thin knuckles rap on the wooden door. He only has to wait less than a minute before he hears the latch being released and the doorknob being turned.

"Joonmyun, hi! Did you get the pizza?" Jongin greets him warmly as he sees his roommate's best friend standing in the doorway. Laughter lines appear around his eyes and it's one of the things Joonmyun likes best about Jongin - the fact that he smiles so much. He hasn't had a haircut in a while, and longish strands of dark chestnut brown hair fall attractively across his forehead, just touching his eyebrows.

"Super Supreme with extra pepperoni and mushrooms just like we agreed." It's a ritual. Every Wednesday, Joonmyun comes over with pizza - the toppings change from week to week depending on what everyone feels like having, but it's always pizza. Another part of the ritual is that they watch a movie after dinner, and it's usually Jongin and Jongdae who pick the movie because Joonmyun is indecisive (but Joonmyun suspects it's more to do with Jongdae's declaration that he has weird taste in films).

"We're watching The Italian Job tonight. You know the heist movie with the Mini Coopers? I love that movie."

"I've never seen it." Joonmyun says apologetically as he carefully places the Papa Luigi pizza box on the kitchen table. With expert ease, Jongin pours equal amounts of chilled Coke into three indigo blue glass tumblers. Jongin is a part-time waiter at Havana Bistro on Carrington Avenue, four blocks from the apartment and he handles a plastic Coke bottle with the same kind of care and finesse he applies to handling a bottle of exorbitantly expensive French wine. Joonmyun is often mesmerized by the graceful yet masculine movements of his slender fingers and elegant forearms.

"The plot is interesting and there's good chemistry between the characters. It's got some funny moments too and cool car chase scenes. Also, Charlize Theron is really pretty." Jongin says animatedly as he hands Joonmyun a filled glass and shouts over his shoulder, "Dae! Dinner!" And there's that pang in Joonmyun's gut as he remembers why he needs to stop liking Jongin. Based on Jongin's occasional references to two ex-girlfriends, and the way he and Jongdae compare notes about girls in the movies they watch, everything seems to point to Jongin being straight. Joonmyun knows his crush will lead nowhere but he can't seem to make himself stay away from Jongin or like him less. And it's at times like this that he REALLY wishes Jongin had never moved here. If he didn't see him all the time, maybe ... maybe he could actually get over him.

"Joon, you'd better have extra mushrooms and pepperoni in that box or else I'm going to have to hurt you." His best friend of eight years, Jongdae reaches one hand to flip open the cardboard lid while the other recklessly grabs an indigo blue tumbler. "I knew I could count on you," Jongdae grins impishly at Joonmyun before taking a swig of Coke. Imbued with a natural puckishness, Jongdae usually only allows people to see the flippant and often sarcastic side to his nature but Joonmyun knows better. Jongdae has stood up for him and stayed by his side where other friends have faltered and faded away and Joonmyun recognizes the true weight of his friendship.

"So," Jongdae announces dramatically as he plucks a circular slice of pepperoni off the pizza and pops it into his mouth, "We're robbing a bank tonight!" And Jongin and Joonmyun both groan in unison at the lameness of the joke.

"You've got to be kidding me," Jongin gives him a pitying look as he settles his lithe frame onto a dining chair with the same kind of effortless, fluid grace he does most things.

"Let's just eat." Joonmyun rolls his eyes at Jongdae who protests noisily that he's the only one in this place with any sense of humor.

***

Joonmyun ends up liking the movie, and this pleases Jongin more than it should. He's not sure why it's important that Joonmyun approves of his taste in movies - maybe it's because he looks up to their older neighbor. Kim Joonmyun is a final year Civil Engineering Honors student and Teaching Assistant at the same university as Jongdae and himself. It's easy to admire his intellect and his easygoing nature - his bonhomie. He's good looking in a clean cut, quiet kind of way ... not that Jongin checks out guys or anything like that. He enjoys his company, which is a good thing because Joonmyun spends a lot of time at their place. A lot of time. He figures it must be a drag for Joonmyun to share an apartment with his older brother and his girlfriend, and that's why he's always downstairs with them. It must get ... awkward for Joonmyun when his hyung and his girlfriend need privacy.

The second floor apartment has a small balcony that overlooks the busy street below. It's almost 11 pm but pedestrians still clog up the streets and avenues - some tense and drained in ties, white shirts and smart business suits, while some radiate easygoing vibes in comfortable, casual wear; and still others look far too young to be that jaded in scanty tops, slinky dresses and dangerously high stilettos. The three friends enjoy people watching as they sit on hunter green deck chairs, beer cans balanced on slim thighs with the night sky rolled out like a midnight blue blanket shot through with silver sprinkles. The stars are barely visible with the amount of light the city generates but Jongin and the others know the stars are there if they look hard enough. Conversation has trickled to almost nothing and at quarter past the hour, Jongdae stretches his arms upward and yawns just a little exaggeratedly before mumbling something about how late it is and how Joonmyun should probably be heading home too. But Joonmyun pretends not to hear his hint because Jongin looks so handsome in the soft amber glow of candlelight that he can't bring himself to leave just yet. Jongdae eventually mumbles something about spending some quality time with his bed and disappears into the dimly lit apartment. He's left his empty beer can on the upturned small furniture crate they use as a makeshift table because he knows Jongin or Jongdae will dispose of it. Typical.

***

The balcony is lit by nothing but cloud filtered moonlight, and the soft champagne glow of the stubby white candle that burns slowly on a square green glass dish. Jongin's Noona had given it to him a few weeks ago, complaining that his apartment was in desperate need of a few feminine touches. The delicate scent of vanilla perfumes the air and it reminds Jongin of freshly baked shortbread cookies. He loves that smell and makes a mental note to tell his noona he likes this candle best of all the ones she's given him.

There's silence but it's not really awkward because they've known each other for two months. As he watches Joonmyun sip his beer, Jongin has a sudden epiphany. Joonmyun has been his neighbor and friend for two months but they barely know anything personal about each other. Jongdae is usually with them and they usually end up talking about impersonal things like project deadlines, sports, shows and movies they've watched recently, people they know. And very occasionally, Jongdae may mention his dates with his girlfriend, or ask for relationship advice. Joonmyun never says much when Jongdae asks for dating advice, grinning sheepishly and saying he doesn't know anything about girls really. So it's usually Jongin who steps in, drawing on his personal experiences with ex-girlfriends Soojung and Seohyun. Jongin scratches the back of his neck distractedly, thinking that maybe it's time he finds out more about Joonmyun. They're friends after all.

"Dreams." Jongin says abruptly.

"Jongin, what?" With his eyebrows arched in confusion, Joonmyun has the cutest expression on his face.

"Let's do a word association game. I say a word and you say the first thing that pops into your head. Then you give me a word and I do the same. What do you think?"

"I'm in." And Jongin's never seen such mischief on the older man's face. It's like a undetected patina of playfulness lurks beneath all that congeniality.

"Dreams." Jongin repeats and waits to hear what Joonmyun wants to be in the future.

"Sailing." Joonmyun closes his eyes and says, "There's this recurring dream I've had since I was a 14. I'm always surrounded by ocean and it's summer and there's a breeze. And I'm ... free."

"I wasn't ... expecting that." Jongin was anticipating an answer tied to reality and careers but this answer is almost whimsical and that's not a trait he's ever associated with Joonmyun.

"What were you expecting?" Joonmyun chuckles, "Did you think I'd say I wanted to build bridges and skyscrapers?"

"Something like that, I guess."

"There'll be plenty of that when I graduate. That's reality, not a dream." And maybe it's the dim lighting but there's an element of fatigue in Joonmyun's face when he says that. Then he concentrates for a few seconds before saying, "Fears."

"Heights. I'm scared of heights." Jongin admits before covering his face, embarrassed.

"Me too." Joonmyun smiles reassuringly, his hand gripping Jongin's shoulder. Joonmyun's hand isn't large but it's warm ... a comforting weight. "That's why I can't do roller coasters. Very uncool of me."

"I hate roller coasters. My ex, Soojung used to get so mad because I wouldn't go on roller coasters with her. Did you have the same problem with your ex-girlfriends?"

"I probably would have if I'd ever had a girlfriend." Joonmyun takes a swig of beer.

"Is that out of choice? I mean I'm sure you had options because you're a nice, good looking dude. I mean that in the most objective way by the way - as in I'm not into guys or anything." Jongin regrets the words before they've barely left his mouth because they sound like all kinds of awkward.

"I am though ... into guys, I mean."

The statement is made matter of factly but Joonmyun's features are suffused with a certain sadness and Jongin wonders what he's gone through.

"I never knew that." And Jongin really has never had any idea. Neither Jongdae nor Joonmyun have ever let on and now he understands why Joonmyun never offers any advice on girls and Jongdae doesn't hassle him about that when he's perfectly happy to give Joonmyun shit about everything else.

"I hope that doesn't freak you out, Jongin. It's not something I can do anything about." Again, there's that slight sadness. Maybe a part of him is shocked at this new knowledge but it's just a small part, and Joonmyun is his friend so Jongin stifles it.

"I just wasn't expecting it, Joonmyun. But no, I'm not freaked out. Are you ... are you seeing anyone?"

"Not now. I've had a couple of relationships but I haven't dated for more than a year, I guess."

"Do you miss dating?"

"Not really. It's kinda nice just having time to do your own thing. What about you?"

"Same. Also, it's nice not having to try and survive PMS every few weeks - not that that's something you ever have to worry about. It must be nice." Jongin chuckles.

"Well, boyfriends have their issues too. Maybe not on a regular monthly cycle but yeah, they can get pissy too. Didn't you ever get cranky with your ex-girlfriends?" Joonmyun asks teasingly and Jongin laughs, "Sure, I did. I used to get so pissed off when they kept talking to me while I was watching Chelsea football matches or reading the paper."

"See? Boyfriends have off days too. But anyway, back to the game - your turn to give me a word." He deftly guides the conversation away from uncomfortable waters and Jongin knows he should feel relieved but all he feels is curious and there are even more questions dancing on the edge of his tongue, but they die on his lips when Joonmyun determinedly restarts the game.

"Cake." Jongin's head feels a bit like it's swirling so he can't seem to come up with anything that doesn't sound completely lame.

"Carrot. I don't really have a sweet tooth so carrot cake is my favorite. You?"

"Chocolate praline. Sweet and bad for me - that's how I like my cake." Jongin looks up and catches Joonmyun staring at him thoughtfully.

"So you like things that are sweet and bad for you. Does that apply to girls too?" Joonmyun's voice is teasing but there's a ... Jongin can't understand it but he senses a wistfulness in Joonmyun's gaze.

"I never really thought about having a type. Both my ex girlfriends were pretty bubbly I guess? And they were caring most of the time but there were days I just wanted to hide out a friend's place for a few days, y'know? I guess my type seems to be bubbly and mostly sweet." Jongin chuckles. "But I haven't met anyone interesting in a while. I broke up with Soojung 6 months ago. She's studying in the East Coast and long distance relationships just aren't my thing. What about you? What's your type?"

"Definitely not bubbly!" Joonmyun says and they both chuckle.

"Someone who's caring and considerate and has a sense of humor - that's what I look for in a guy." Then he abruptly changes the subject by saying, "Books." And just like that, their conversation is traveling on a safer tangent. Again.

***

It's way past midnight and Jongin traps another yawn behind his cupped palm. He's enjoying the conversation but he's longing for his bed too - it doesn't help that he has an 8 am lecture he can't miss.

"Hey Joonmyun, I don't want you to feel like I'm chasing you out but I really have to sleep soon. 8 am lecture so ..."

"Shit! I lost track of time." Joonmyun gets up and smooths his hands over the seat of his pants before collecting all three beer cans and taking them to the kitchen disposal unit. His movements are spare, measured and elegant and Jongin finds it soothing to watch him negotiate his way around the apartment. He stops to wash his hands and then he's heading for the front door, like he's done a million times before. He opens the door and turns around to say "Goodnight" just as Jongin walks up behind him and suddenly their faces are only three inches apart. Joonmyun gazes up at him, eyes wide like he's slightly startled by the proximity. Seen up close, Joonmyun's almond eyes are really pretty, Jongin thinks. His bottom lip is full and plush and it juts out ever so slightly so that there's an almost pout. Jongin is overcome by an overwhelming and inexplicable urge to trace the curves of those coral pink lips with his finger.

"Goodnight, Jongin." Joonmyun says abruptly, his voice laced with tension as he turns away and walks quickly out into the dimly lit corridor before Jongin even has a chance to say it back. Instead of shutting the door, Jongin leans against the door jamb and watches as Joonmyun strides towards the lift. He's still staring when the lift doors shut behind the older man, who didn't turn back at all. This leaves Jongin feeling a little let down somehow, although there's no logical reason why he should feel this way.

When Jongin is lying in bed fifteen minutes later, his head is full of all the new things he's discovered about Joonmyun. He's never even thought about Joonmyun having real dreams - dreams that have nothing to do with building a successful career. And that whole thing about him being gay ... Jongin isn't sure how he feels about that yet but he knows it doesn't change the fact that Joonmyun is his friend. All these new facets of Joonmyun are fresh and intriguing and Jongin just wants to uncover more. He WILL find out more, he thinks as sleep claims him.

***

Joonmyun curses that stupid game as the lift doors close and create a second and more definitive physical barrier between Jongin and himself. He's already had enough trouble obsessing over Jongin - that was before he even knew Jongin has a fear of heights like himself and before he knew the qualities Jongin looks for in a relationship. But the main catalyst for Joonmyun's new found determination to remove himself from Kim Jongin's orbit is the fact that the object of his affection now knows he's gay. Joonmyun doesn't think he can keep things together around Jongin anymore so he won't be dropping by at his best friend's apartment anymore for a while. Maybe two weeks will be enough time for him to make his crush fade away. After tonight's conversation with Jongin, his peace of mind is well and truly gone and he needs to recover it. It's time to end the misery of liking someone who won't ever like him back.

***

Jongin's eyes scan the shelves for Spiro Kastof's A History of Architecture: Settings & Rituals and he reaches for the thick volume when he sees it. He plucks it smoothly off the shelf, and is carefully flipping through the glossy pages when he hears a girl's voice call, "Joonmyun! Do you have a minute?" What are the chances there is another Joonmyun doing Architecture or Civil Engineering? Jongin spends three seconds deliberating and then he's peering through the gaps in the shelves. Joonmyun hasn't been to the apartment since movie night six days ago and he's kind of missed having him around. If he's honest with himself, it's been a little weird not seeing Joonmyun around the apartment. As he's guessed, it is Kim Joonmyun. And a girl seems to be asking him for help with something - it makes sense because he is a teaching assistant. Except the girl seems to be ... flirting with him. He recognizes all the signals. He knows them well after all, because girls are always coming on to him - not that he encourages it. He had meant it when he'd told Joonmyun he was enjoying the single life.

With a kind of morbid fascination, Jongin watches as the girl (who's pretty in a subtly made up, long-haired, porcelain-pretty way) leans over the desk to speak to Joonmyun, who is earnestly explaining something to her. He's wearing black-framed glasses today and Jongin realizes he's never seen Joonmyun in glasses; he's never even known he has anything less than perfect eyesight. And it occurs to him for the third time since his conversation with Joonmyun on Wednesday night, that there is so much he doesn't know about Joonmyun. What he does know is that he doesn't like seeing that girl flirt with his friend. It doesn't seem to matter that Joonmyun is gay and she's just wasting her time - Jongin just doesn't like it and there is absolutely no rational explanation why he should feel this way.

Joonmyun is smiling as he looks up at the girl. He can't hear what they're saying. They're too far away and besides, they're speaking too softly anyway. Jongin decides that the glasses suit Joonmyun. He's always been handsome but the glasses somehow make him look sexy in an intellectual kind of way. Joonmyun smiles at the girl again and this time it's unmistakable, Jongin feels his breath catch. It's such a wispy thing he can almost convince himself that he feels nothing as he watches his neighbor's face light up in an easy smile. Part of him wants to go over and sit with Joonmyun and talk to him and make that girl leave, but the other part of him just cannot deal with what's happening to him. In the end, he grabs a random textbook from the shelf - he doesn't even look at the title, doesn't even care - and forces himself to walk back to his desk and study. Jongin tries to immerse himself in architectural principles but instead finds himself haunted by images of black framed glasses, an engaging smile, and a face that should be familiar and yet seems completely new to him.

He attempts to chase way the ghosts and absorb the contents of a chapter entitled Designing the Fin de Siecle, but banishing Joonmyun's smile is harder than he expects. Finally, after ten minutes of frustrating struggle, Jongin's had enough and he starts making his way to the area where Joonmyun is sitting. Maybe he just needs to stretch his legs and take in some air that isn't recycled AC air tainted with the smell of old books. As he turns the corner and Joonmyun's desk comes into view, Jongin finds to his dismay that the girl is still there. A chair has been dragged over sometime in the past twenty minutes and she's sitting (too) closely to Joonmyun, who's diligently printing lines and lines of numerals and Greek symbols onto lined paper as he explains some complex engineering theorem. His face is scrunched up in concentration and his eyes look intense behind the transparent shield of his glasses. The sight of Joonmyun teaching is something that appeals to Jongin a little too much and he wonders how he's never seen him in this mode. How has he never bumped into him in the library or around the campus when they see so much of each other off campus? It almost defies logic that their paths have never crossed before today.

"Joonmyun, hey." Jongin clears his throat to get his attention and it feels weird because it's something he's never had to do - he's always had the older man's attention.

"Hey," A warm smile edges out the serious expression he'd had on his face earlier, and wrinkles the skin around his eyes in the most attractive way. And just like that, Jongin realizes he's missed the subdued handsomeness of Joonmyun's features far more than he's ever imagined he could.

"Are you almost done? I was thinking we could grab something to eat downstairs."

"Just three more lines of equations," Joonmyun pushes his glasses up with an index finger so they settle on the bridge of his nose and Jongin is inexplicably fascinated by the movement. The girl is watching him curiously and he gives her a friendly nod of acknowledgement but doesn't introduce himself or ask her name.

"I'll just go grab my stuff and meet you back here in ten."

"Sure, Jongin." He agrees absentmindedly before turning his attention back to the squiggles before him. The girl is still watching Jongin speculatively and Jongin looks away uneasily before leaving.

***

"Do you always tutor students in the library?" Jongin asks just before taking a sizeable bite out of his grilled chicken and avocado wrap.

"No, not usually. They usually ask questions during tutorial sessions or after lectures."

"So why did you help that girl today?"

"Sunyoung really struggles with the Hamilton-Cayley Theorem so any extra help I can give her ... I try."

"I'm not sure she's struggling that much with math." Jongin makes a sound that can only be interpreted as a derisive snort, and his remark confuses Joonmyun.

"Why would you even say that?" Joonmyun demands.

"That girl? She is definitely into you."

"Of course she isn't!" Joonmyun protests, placing his pastrami sandwich haphazardly on a standard issue, Library Cafe white ceramic plate.

"So. Into. You. Everyone in the library knew it except you."

"You've got it wrong, Jongin. Girls don't come on to me. Plus she's a student in a course I'm a TA for. It's not ethical." He shook his head almost mutinously.

"When has that ever stopped an undergrad?" Jongin rolls his eyes as he takes a sip of coffee, wincing as the dark liquid scorches the inside of his throat. "And why wouldn't girls come on to you? You're a good looking dude and that girl was definitely flirting with you."

"No she wasn't. She was just paying attention to what I was saying. And I'm not good looking, are you kidding me? I'm just ... ordinary!"

"Nope, you're a good looking. Don't argue, please. Was she flipping her hair a lot? Twirling the ends with her fingers? Laughing? Was she laughing a lot? Or worse, did she giggle? Did she lean over into your personal space a lot?"

"Well, yes, but -"

"All textbook signs of flirting."

"But I didn't encourage her. I'm not even interested."

"I don't think it matters to her whether you're interested. She's trying to make you interested, don't you get it? Also I don't think she realizes you won't ever be interested. I mean we're friends and I didn't even know till a week ago."

"It's not really something you go around randomly sharing with people?" Joonmyun glares at him.

"What about male students? Do they flirt with you sometimes?" Jongin looks almost ... wary and Joonmyun can't understand why.

"There've been a few, I guess ... but I just ignored them because it's not ethical and because I'm already-" and Joonmyun stops mid-sentence when he realizes what he's almost revealed.

"You're already ...?" Jongin's eyes are alert and inquisitive and Joonmyun's never seen him so interested in anything.

"It's nothing." He stares into his coffee cup anxiously.

"You're already ..?"

"I'm already interested in someone else." Joonmyun finally admits and Jongin's face is filled with an odd mix of curiosity and dread - not the expression of triumph he's been expecting at all.

"Oh. Is it someone I know?"

"You could say that."

"You won't tell me who it is?" Jongin's eyes are trained intensely on him and looking at Jongin is like staring at the sun. It hurts and he looks away.

"I ... I can't Jongin. Maybe one day I will, and we can both laugh about it over a beer." Joonmyun's heart fractures a few degrees as he says this but he tries to keep his expression upbeat.

"I hope you'll tell me eventually." Jongin says quietly as he watches Joonmyun eat. "I was thinking, Jongdae's got a date and won't be joining us for the movie tomorrow. So we don't have to eat pizza if you feel like eating something else."

"Can you handle Thai food?" Joonmyun knows he vowed a week ago to be less hung up on Jongin and to spend last time around him. He's proud of the fact that he's managed to stay away from him for six days. It's been difficult and he's missed seeing the younger man's warm lazy smiles and sleepy eyes, his plush lips and tawny skin and long, lean body. He's missed just talking to him and being with him even if he knows all that longing won't lead anywhere. Joonmyun's heart is tired and just needs to bask in everything Jongin for a little while - it's had enough of Joonmyun depriving it of the fix it badly needs. Joonmyun's only spent twenty minutes with him today and his limbs already feel lighter and and there's a kind of humming contentment spreading slowly across the surface his heart. He knows he should say he can't make it for tomorrow's movie night, but ...

"Is that a ... challenge?" Jongin is grinning mischievously as he puts his coffee cup down.

"The Tomyam soup at Lemongrass Cafe is so spicy it'll make you weep." Joonmyun taunts Jongin but inwardly despairs at his lack of self restraint.

"I'd like to see it try." Jongin chuckles and they make plans to have an early dinner at the Thai cafe which is ten minutes' walk from their building.

Part 2
Tags: college!au, exo, fluff, jongdae, jongin, kai, kaiho, nc-17, romance, suho, sukai
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