Genre: Fluff, humor, romance, cafe!au, flowershop!au
Pairing: Xiuhan, bff!Kailu
Characters: Luhan, Xiumin, Jongin, Sehun, Chanyeol (mentioned)
Length: Oneshot, ~6.6k words
Summary: Luhan likes sitting at the same table, at the same cafe, at the same time every morning. Luhan likes his routine but routines are made to be disrupted and he's furious with the sassy brown-haired stranger who's taken both his favorite table and his peace of mind. A prequel oneshot set in the In Bloom flowershop!au.
Luhan looked up from his watch, feeling pleased with himself. He always got here at 7.32. The steel roller doors had been neatly tucked away and the al fresco tables had been pushed out, with wicker and wooden chairs neatly arranged around them in circles. Luhan always made sure he was the first customer at Rocco's Cafe so that he could sit at his favorite table, which was the leftmost outdoor table. He liked to spread out his newspaper and read the sports page, then the world news while he enjoyed a tall cup of Americano, with either a bagel, muffin, croissant or brioche - whichever one appealed to him more on any given morning. Because it was the corner table, it caught the mellow breeze that wafted past, and soaked up gentle rays of sunshine during the cold months. Having his coffee at his favorite table was Luhan's favorite way to start his day.
He was about to place his folded newspaper on his regular table when he realized he wasn't looking down at the smooth, unbroken surface of a faux marble tabletop. There was a novel lying there and at first, Luhan's mind could not comprehend what he was seeing because it appeared to be a photograph of a pair of boxer shorts. White boxer shorts, transposed against a rich, burgundy background. The words seemed to swim in front of him, making no sense at all: naked ... david sedaris ... author of BARREL FEVER.
But it wasn't the boxer shorts that upset Luhan so much as the fact that there was a THING on HIS table that didn't belong to him. How dare the owner of this 'thing' take possession of his table. That table had been his table for 1.5 years, and this was completely unacceptable. His hand reached out to take the book and move it to the next table, but before his fingers could grip the edges of the book, his movements were stilled by a soft spoken, smoky voice.
"That's mine. Did you want to borrow it?" And Luhan found himself staring into a pair of intelligent, catlike eyes. The handsome stranger had straight, dark brown hair and slightly rounded cheeks that only added to his appeal - not that Luhan was paying attention to any of that. He had only one thing in mind and that was to evict his ass.
"I'm sorry but that table is mine. I always sit here in the morning. Every morning."
"Ahhhh. That must be nice for you. But there was no reserved sign on this table ... hence, it's nobody's table?" The stranger said coolly with one eyebrow raised in ... was that? Mocking amusement? Luhan could feel the irritation creeping gradually beneath his skin.
"That's been my table for one and a half years." Luhan said firmly.
"I'm happy for you. Now if that's all, I'd like to get back to my book. Have a nice day," the audacious man raised his coffee cup at him and took a composed sip before placing his black ceramic mug back on the dove grey veined marble. Then he gave a final, somewhat challenging smile before he looked down at the pages of his novel - emphatically ending their little interview and effectively dismissing Luhan. How dare he?!
Luhan continued to stand there, spluttering silently as he unhappily conceded that there was no way to forcibly remove the smug man. Much to his eternal chagrin, Rocco's had a no reservations policy, with the exception of dinner bookings. But tomorrow was another day. He would come earlier and reclaim his table. Or die trying.
Xiumin subtly angled his head up about five minutes after the dark haired stranger had stalked off, literally bristling with anger. In his peripheral vision, Xiumin could easily observe the young man, whom he estimated to be around his own age. He was glaring at his newspaper, eyebrows furrowed in a way that was both fierce and deeply sexy. Xiumin was not the sort of person who had time for denial - he found the man's intense eyes, finely chiseled features and pale skin extremely attractive. And the willful determination in his eyes intrigued him in ways he couldn't quite articulate. There was only one course of action available to Xiumin. He would have to get to know him and see if the attraction only lay skin deep, or whether there was much much more there.
Stealthily, Xiumin observed how the other man's hands were curled into fists and the sleeves of his plain white t-shirt revealed strong arms that were leanly muscled. A few veins were clearly outlined as the man emanated tension and possibly wrath, and Xiumin spent two seconds considering whether he should just ask him to share the table so he could have a better view of those arms. But no. That would be too easy. No. He would take his time and let the handsome stranger slowly unravel before he had his way with him. Moving to a new town and a new job had just gotten worlds more interesting, Xiumin smirked as he turned his attention back to the words on the printed page before him.
I started hitchhiking on a regular basis. Aside from the inconvenience, I enjoyed spending time with people who knew nothing about me. I was free to re-invent myself, trying out whichever personality happened to suit my mood.
Xiumin stopped reading. He wondered what kind of personality that man had and Xiumin decided on the spur of the moment to call him Asshole - because he looked like a bit of an asshole even though he was one of the most attractive men Xiumin had ever seen. He had considered calling him The Table Nazi but it was such an unwieldy moniker. So in the end, Asshole had won out because it was short and it seemed ... apt. Xiumin really wondered what kind of personality he had. That single minute of interaction had given him an impression of a passionate and stubborn individual. He wasn't too crazy about the uncompromising part he'd glimpsed but the passion he'd seen in those eyes made his skin buzz with anticipation. He took another peek at Asshole and found him staring back at him furiously. He couldn't resist picking up his mug and raising it in a toast. If he didn't know for a fact that things like that couldn't happen in real life, he swore the man's head would have blown up in fury.
Yes, Xiumin thought, his new life in a new town was about to get very interesting indeed.
Still upset from his encounter with the rude brown-haired stranger, Luhan covered the six-minute walk to work in a space of four agitated minutes. 'Work' was a flower shop called IN BLOOM, and beyond the shiny, plate glass windows were large buckets overflowing with pastel and vividly colored flowers - everything from roses to irises to gladioli. The flowers had probably been put there by his best friend Jongin, who was also his business partner and the floral designer of IN BLOOM. Either that, or it had been Jongin's assistant Chanyeol who'd done it. Frowning, Luhan entered the shop in a huff, leaving the wood and glass door banging and setting the copper bell bouncing crazily.
"Why are you slamming doors? Can you not slam doors because it's really messing up the zen in the store? Chanyeol and I won't be able to come up with any decent arrangements if you keep banging about like that." Jongin's deep voice wafted out from the recesses of the shop, "I don't care what's got your boxers in a twist, but can you untwist them somewhere else and stop slamming doors in my store please? Thank you."
"DON'T SAY BOXERS IN MY PRESENCE! AND IT'S OUR STORE, NOT YOURS!" Luhan became incensed as he recalled the cover of the novel that had lain so obnoxiously on his table at Rocco's. Boxers. On. His. Fucking. Table.
"I'll say boxers if I want. This is my store too and I don't want any more doors banging in here." Jongin was generally a mellow, quiet and painfully shy kind of guy, but they'd been best friends long enough that Jongin was completely relaxed with him. And while Jongin was laid back about most things, he took his work as head floral designer very seriously and Luhan knew better than to slam any more doors in their workspace. Maybe he could go and open and shut all the doors on the two delivery vans? A few times?
"I wear y-fronts, not boxers." Luhan grumbled for no apparent reason.
"Luhan, I don't give a shit what underwear you wear, just stop slamming doors in my store!"
"I think someone's pissed off because they lost their table at Rocco's." Sehun piped up - not even making any attempt to hide the fact that he was laughing at his boss. Tall, gangly Sehun was Jongin's cousin who, together with Luhan, did the deliveries for the store. The twenty year old had a lot of nervous energy - mostly brought on by the constant stream of Lifesaver Pep-O-Mints he seemed to suck on throughout the day. His hyperactivity drove Luhan mad and he'd once threatened to introduce a clause in the Employee Handbook to ban the consumption of candy on the premises so as to prevent hyperactivity amongst In Bloom employees. Sehun had retaliated by taking twice the number of mints and then tormenting Luhan with all manner of fidgeting and random bursts of shouted lyrics from songs by My Chemical Romance and The Killers. Luhan had almost strangled him at one point, while Jongin and Chanyeol had made ill-concealed attempts to hold back their laughter. But Sehun had made his point and Luhan had never mentioned banning his mints again.
"Who the hell said I was pissed off?" Luhan asked scornfully.
"Well ... I went by Rocco's and saw someone sitting at your usual table, except it wasn't you. Nope. You were sitting at the next table and you looked livid. Livid, I read that in a novel once and I've always wanted to use that word in everyday conversation and now I have."
"What the fuck does livid even mean?!"
"Enraged. Furiously angry. According to dictionary.com anyway." Sehun had quite a dizzying array of strange habits and quoting word definitions ad verbatim from dictionaries just happened to be one of his less quirky idiosyncrasies.
"I was not angry, let alone enraged. Please." Luhan snorted calmly although he was a maelstrom of everything that was livid on the inside as he recalled the chestnut-haired stranger's smug expression. He would punch that look off his face one of these days or die trying. He could feel the irritation inching along, and spreading across his skin as he recalled those arched eyebrows and challenging eyes and the small mouth with its reddish pink lips. Asshole and prick, that's what the stranger was. He wondered if Oh Sehun could define those two words in his fancy, dictionary English. And he decided right then and there that he would call him Prick.
Luhan couldn't believe his eyes. He had come seven minutes earlier just so he could grab his favorite table first. Everything had gone wrong yesterday because he hadn't started his morning right. Seven minutes earlier and yet here he was, looking at those damned white boxers again. The book seemed to mock him as it sat innocently beside a mug of what looked like ... sissy latte, on his table. He may have turned 24 just months ago, but Luhan had to battle an uncontrollable pre-schooler urge to take out a Sharpie and scribble smileys all over those white shorts. And latte was a wimp's drink. Real men drank espresso or flat white - none of that fancy latte or macchiato shit for Luhan.
"Are you sure you don't want to borrow my book?" It was that maddeningly calm voice again.
"This is not going to work out. I don't know where you came from and how long you'll be coming here but this is my table." Luhan was appalled that he was behaving like a character from a bad TV drama but at the same time, he seemed powerless to stop himself. It was intolerable.
"It'll be your table when you get here before I do."
"Challenge accepted!" Luhan's fist struck the faux marble table top forcefully, shattering the serenity of the early morning.
"I'll see you tomorrow morning then ... When you eventually arrive." Prick taunted him with a voice that was cool and unconcerned and leavened with a subtle dash of sarcasm.
"No, I'll see you when you eventually arrive. There will a newspaper and an Americano on this table tomorrow morning, not boxer shorts and a sissy latte or macchiato."
"I have to confess I'm touched. I didn't even know you were keeping track of what I was drinking."
"I wasn't!" Luhan protested in outrage.
"If you say so."
"Your coffee was on the table. Anyone who walked past would have noticed."
"But I'm not talking about anyone else. I'm talking about you."
Luhan wanted so much to retort with something intelligent and scathing but all he could see and think about was how pink the other man's lips looked as he smirked at Luhan. Snorting in disgust, he stalked off to the next table and threw his rolled up newspaper on the table.
So much passion, Xiumin thought as he took a sip of his "sissy" latte. So much passion ...
"You can't be serious! I'm 12 minutes earlier than usual." Luhan's words were like buckshot in the quiet morning.
"I told you I'd see you when you finally got here. Didn't you believe me?"
"This is getting ridiculous. I need to sit at this table or my day gets screwed up. I've been sitting at this table 5 days a week for one and a half years. It's my routine. No one has ever messed it up for me. You need to give it back."
"You're welcome to share the table - it's just ... A. Table." Prick enunciated the last two words slowly and clearly as if he was speaking to someone who was either hard of hearing or of doubtful sanity. "It's nothing to me if you want to sit here. We don't even have to converse," he suggested in a very reasonable manner.
"It's not the same. I need this table for myself." Even to his own ears, Luhan sounded whiny and slightly deranged but he couldn't seem to help himself. This man just brought out the worst in him. And why couldn't he stop staring at his mouth? And his perfectly arched eyebrows? And his subtly rounded cheeks and pointed chin? Why was he checking him out? This was perhaps what disturbed Luhan more than the territorial loss of the table. He couldn't understand why he felt attracted to him when he had never ever been physically aware of men before. Miserably, Luhan reached for the still steaming Americano in front of him and took a reckless sip of it - promptly burning his tongue and the back of his throat. As he hissed in pain, Luhan's eye darted up to find Prick's eyes on him. If he didn't know any better, he would have said that the other man looked a little concerned. But it must just have been a trick of the light. Luhan dismissed the thought and began (trying) to read his paper. He hadn't been able to read the news calmly all week because of Prick and now he'd scalded his throat because of him. It was beyond infuriating. He was rereading a sentence about tremors in New Zealand for the third time (why was it so difficult to concentrate?) when a clear glass tumbler landed gently before him with a muffled thud.
"Drink some water. It will help soothe your ..." The other man's words trailed off as he pointed at his throat instead. Luhan was instantly aware of two facts (1) Prick had been watching him and that was how he'd known he'd scalded his throat; and (2) he had a beautiful Adam's apple. Not that Luhan knew much about what a beautiful Adam's apple looked like since he'd never had any reason to look at them much before. All he knew was he wanted to touch this man's Adam's apple and his perfect little peach of a mouth ...
But in the end all Luhan did was give Prick a curt nod. His gesture of appreciation came too late though as the other man was already settling down in his seat by the time Luhan had calmed his thoughts enough to muster that nod.
"You can't be serious?!" Luhan glared at the white boxer shorts. This time the book wasn't on the table, it was loosely gripped in Prick's pale, slender hands. He had small hands, Luhan noted. Very small hands.
"I'm perfectly willing to let you share the table."
"This is my table. I shouldn't have to share it." Stubbornness and a burning need to win - these had always been two of Luhan's most significant flaws. Jongin had been telling him to tone things down for years to no avail.
"Well, I can't help you then." Prick said coolly and turned back to reading his novel while Luhan stood there, frustrated.
To Xiumin's surprise, Asshole looked strangely deflated and didn't offer any angry words of protest. He watched surreptitiously as he walked further away from him. Asshole was lean and sinewy, with powerfully built legs and elegantly muscled arms. And he was possibly two to three inches taller than Xiumin ... the perfect height difference for kissing. Xiumin wondered if he had a uniform at work as he'd come to the cafe in a white t-shirt and cargo shorts every day this week. The shorts varied in color but the t-shirt was always white and Xiumin hoped it wasn't the same white t-shirt.
He had to confess he was a little disappointed; he missed Asshole's usual fiery response to losing his table. But at the same time, Xiumin was deeply intrigued by the abrupt turnabout in attitude. What did it signify?
"Jongin, I need some advice." Luhan pulled a stool over and sat next to Jongin - not so near that he got in Jongin's way but close enough so that they could speak in low tones and not be overheard by their workmates.
"What kind of advice?" Jongin asked distractedly as he gingerly slid a stalk of American Beauty into a majestically large table arrangement. In the back of his mind, Jongin knew it had to be something fairly serious because Luhan hadn't aggravated him by planting his ass on his worktable. That was was his usual modus operandi when he invaded his workspace. He knew Jongin hated people sitting on his table so he always tried his best to do just exactly that.
"Relationship advice." Luhan said seriously and Jongin's mouth hung agape.
"Me? You're asking socially awkward me for relationship advice? I've only had one boyfriend. In high school. That was almost 8 years ago, Lu. I don't know the first thing about relationships. I'm not sure Chanyeol and Sehun will be much help either."
"You know something about being gay."
"Well, yeah. On account of my being gay and all but what does that have to do with ... you?" Jongin's voice faltered at the end as he gave Luhan a questioning look.
"Well there's this guy," Luhan said awkwardly.
"There usually is in a gay relationship." As his tanned, slender fingers moved deftly along the outsides of the arrangement, adjusting stems and realigning blooms, Jongin nodded in amusement - his eyes radiating warmth and quiet smiles. It wasn't mocking amusement - Jongin was the best friend you could ever ask for in that sense, because he never judged you no matter how badly you deserved it. And Luhan usually deserved it if he was brutally honest with himself.
"Well there's this guy I've been seeing around and ... I kind of really want to get to know him better but not in a let's-go-have-a-beer-and-shoot-pool-and-t
"You mean you want to date this guy?" Jongin placed the red rose on his worktable carefully, his dark brown eyes watching Luhan with gentle curiosity.
"I don't know if I want to date him, Jongin. I just know that I want to get to know him and," Luhan made a frustrated noise before admitting, "He has this tiny, perfect mouth and every time we meet, we kind of always almost argue and he always wins and I just want to fucking kiss the smirk off his lips!"
"I've known you a long time, Lu, and I've never heard of you accepting defeat. And I've also never heard you talk about other guys like that."
"That's because I've never. I've never talked about guys in that way because I've never thought of them that way. I mean hell, I was pretty damn sure I was straight. I've always been happy dating girls and now I see this ... PRICK and he makes me so mad I can't stop thinking about him. I guess I'm not as straight as I thought. Not quite anyway. I don't know. Maybe it's just a phase. But it's been four days and it's just getting worse. I hope I don't end up molesting him in front of Rocco's one of these days." Luhan groaned theatrically and planted his forehead on the smooth wooden planes of his best friend's worktable in defeat.
"Ahhh. So it's that dude who hijacked your favorite table. That's probably the longest I've ever seen you stay mad at someone. I can't say I'm surprised it's him. Maybe instead of molesting him you could ask him if you could share the table?"
"But that would mean asking him for permission and that would be giving him a power advantage." Luhan frowned and Jongin laughed because Luhan's single-minded competitiveness had been legendary in school. He always had to win - whether it was sports, exams, computer games or an argument. Luhan always had to win. And he was a complete troll when he didn't.
"If you don't want to get arrested outside Rocco's for sexual harassment, I suggest you either ask to share his table or buy him a coffee. It's not that complicated, Lu." Jongin made a half-assed attempt to mask his chuckles but Luhan wasn't buying it.
"I don't like asking anyone for permission. For anything." Luhan glared intensely at Jongin.
"I know." Jongin rolled his eyes and picked up the rose he had abandoned earlier and slotted it right at the heart of the arrangement, "But I don't think you want to be led away in handcuffs either. Just saying."
"Ok fine I'll-buy-him-a-coffee-and-ask-to-share-h
"I would like to point out that he offered to share the table with me. Twice. But I refused so I don't think he'll offer again. How do I ask him to share the table? What do I say to him?"
"Lu, you've had more than a few girlfriends, and you're practically a serial dater. You should be giving me advice on what to say." Jongin's almost dimple was showing as he smiled at an uncharacteristically perplexed looking Luhan.
"Jonginnnnnn, they were girls. I've never picked up a GUY before."
"I imagine it's the same as picking up girls except you probably wouldn't give them flowers - I mean I don't think guys give other guys flowers anyway*. Do they? And no ice-cream! I don't think you could take a guy for ice-cream* because it seems like something you do with girls, not guys. Not that I know anything at all about dating girls or guys for that matter, so ... you need to just ignore me."
"You still haven't told me what to say to him, dork." Luhan complained and Jongin punched him.
"Don't be an asshole, Lu!" Jongin's face puckered up in annoyance but it still didn't detract from the handsomeness of his features. Luhan's heart contracted a little as Jongin asserted himself because it reminded him of the first time they'd met in high school ... a lifetime ago. Jongin had been anything but assertive as Luhan found him being taunted by some dick sophomores. The painfully shy boy had stood quietly by the wall as they'd called him a "flower loving queer". Luhan had run them off, intimidating the younger kids with his natural aggression and his popularity as a star striker on the school's winning soccer team. He'd adopted a stunned Jongin as his best friend from that day onwards and he'd never regretted it.
"What do I say to him, Jonginnie?" He placed both his hands on Jongin's shoulders. "And what if he's not gay? I would make a total ass of myself. What if I'm not gay and this is just some weird phase?"
"You're asking him to share a table and have a cup of coffee, not share an apartment with you." Jongin snorted loudly. "Just start with something simple and truthful like ... I don't know, can I sit here?"
"Okay. I guess I could do that."
Jongin had never seen his cocky friend look so unsure of himself in all the years he'd known him. His crush had to be really something, he thought, to make the unshakeable Luhan doubt himself. Really something.
Luhan strode around the corner impatiently - his body humming with a mixture of anticipation and anxiety. He'd rehearsed the words countless times in his head, even as he simultaneously cursed guys for being so much harder to pick up than girls. Luhan was sure he'd never gone through this much angst to pick up girls in the past - he didn't even do angst. He wasn't an angsty person at all, what was happening to him? The sooner he asked Prick out and got him out of his system, the sooner he could move on and fixate on someone less provocative and maddening. He was a take charge kind of guy - he could do this.
Before he knew it, he was standing in front of the corner table and he was about to ask if he could share it when he realized that it was unoccupied. There was no sign of the white boxers or the usual macchiato slash latte and there was especially no sign of Prick. He couldn't believe it. He'd been all pumped up to finally talk to him properly - like actually have a conversation with the guy instead of a verbal duel. Luhan finally had the table to himself but there was no sense of victory - instead, he felt let down. Dejectedly, he let the newspaper fall onto the table before he entered the cafe in a slight daze. His eyes were cast downward as he stopped in front of the counter - not even bothering to look up as all the baristas at Rocco's knew he never took anything but Americano. He peered disinterestedly at the day's pastries and hot food, and finally decided on a cranberry muffin.
"I'll have the cranberry muffin." Luhan straightened and finally made eye contact at the barista, only to find himself staring into a pair of familiar, playful brown eyes and delectable peach pink lips. His hair was swept neatly off his forehead and tamped down with a navy blue snapback. His pale, slender forearms emerged from white cotton sleeves folded up to the elbows, and a navy blue apron rested crisply against his pristine button-down shirtfront. He looked so handsome and Luhan had to fight an inexplicable urge to untie the strings of his navy blue apron.
"I - you ... you work here?"
"I do today so that table you've been chasing all week is all yours. For today, anyway." He added cheekily. "Did you want an Americano with your muffin?"
I'd rather have you, the thought popped unbidden in Luhan's head but what he said was, "Yes, please ... Xiumin? Your name is Xiumin?" Luhan squinted at the name tag.
"Yes," he was smiling again. Why was he always smiling like he thought Luhan was a big joke?
"It's nice to meet you, Luhan. Do you want anything else besides the coffee and muffin?" Xiumin said as he efficiently keyed in his order.
"I was actually going to buy you a coffee today and offer a truce but you're working." Luhan tried not to look as disappointed as he felt.
"Why don't you buy me dinner tonight, instead?
"Okay." Luhan wasn't sure what was happening but he knew he wanted to have a proper conversation with Xiumin and maybe kiss that perfect mouth so dinner sounded like a great idea.
"You'll have to suggest a place. I just moved to Cedar Falls last week so I have no idea where's good."
"So how is it you're working here?" Luhan asked - his eyes inquisitive.
"It's a long story which I'll tell you over some jjambong. I haven't had jjambong in a while - could we have that for dinner?"
Luhan swallowed and nodded. He abhorred jjambong but he very much liked Xiumin so he would make himself eat jjambong and he would even try to make it look like he enjoyed eating it.
"Where do I pick you up?" Luhan asked quickly before Xiumin could change his mind about dinner.
"Here. You can pick me up here. 7.30."
"You're working a 12 hour shift?!"
"Tonight, Luhan. I've got to get your coffee now." Xiumin moved to the espresso machine and placed a gleaming black mug in front of it. His face was intense with concentration as he watched the mug fill up with coffee.
"Tonight." Xiumin said firmly and just like that, Luhan tucked away all his questions.
Jongin was putting the finishing touches to a bridal bouquet when an upbeat Luhan sauntered in and sat on his work table.
"Your ass, Lu, get it OFF my table."
"Never mind the damn table. His name is Xiumin!"
"The guy at Rocco's? That's his name? You asked him out then?"
"I'm not ... exactly sure? But I think he was the one who asked me out."
"That's great, Lu. I'm glad for you." Jongin grinned, patting him on the shoulder.
"We're going out for dinner tonight. He wants jjambong, which I detest but I reckon I can pretend to like it for one night."
"But when we eat together, we always have to eat food you like. I never get to pick where we go, Lu!" Jongin complained.
"I won't eat food I don't like for you because I don't want to kiss you." Luhan smirked and Jongin threw a handful of cut flower stems at him in annoyance.
"Now you're going to have to pick those up because I'm outta here. Gotta get ready for my date." He slid off the worktable, grinning.
"I preferred you when you weren't getting anywhere with that guy. YOU WERE NICER!" Jongin grumbled and Luhan stopped at the doorway to give him a cheeky wave.
"Hmm?" Jongin didn't look up as he spun the bouquet in his hands and observed it from diverse angles.
"How do you kiss a guy? Is it different? How do I ...?" Luhan's self confidence seemed to have ebbed again as he stood in the doorway, looking a little lost.
"I've never kissed a girl, Lu, so I've nothing to compare it with. And I've only kissed one guy. I really am the last person you should be asking for advice on kissing."
"Well, I've never kissed a guy so that makes us even. Is there some kind of signal you have to ... you know, look out for? Or give?"
"I don't think there are any rules to this, Lu! I was so shy I would probably never have gone beyond holding hands. Seungho just kissed me while we were walking home one night. He pulled me behind a tree so no one would see and then he kissed me. There wasn't any 'signal' as far as I remember." Jongin chuckled but his cheeks were a little red from the recollected kiss. Luhan hoped Jongin found another Seungho. He needed to set him up on another blind date. He spent far too much time alone with his books and his bizarre grunge music and his flowers. It worried Luhan more than he cared to admit.
"So I should just kiss him if it feels right?"
"You've done the kissing thing loads of times. You'll know what to do."
"Okay. I'll try not to mess things up."
"Have a good time."
Luhan had chosen a small Korean eatery three blocks away from Rocco's and they were currently taking short but manly sips of soju as they waited for their jjambong.
"So how is it you're working at Rocco's?" Luhan tried not to stare as Xiumin swallowed the clear, bitterish liquid. He was positive he'd never paid this much attention to girls' necks so why was he so obsessed with this man's neck and his Adam's apple and ... Luhan took another swig of soju to distract himself and his eyes almost watered at the sting.
"The same reason I'm always at the cafe so early. My brother is the manager."
"Homin is your brother?!" Luhan yelled in disbelief.
"We live upstairs from the cafe. I'm staying with him temporarily till I find my own place. You never had a chance of getting to that table before me. Home advantage." Xiumin gave him a mischievous grin.
"That's ... so devious." Luhan said with admiration in his voice.
"I've been told I can be quite devious."
"So you work at the cafe on Fridays?"
"No, I'm starting my new job as a junior editor at Horton Publishing on Monday. I was just filling in today for one of the baristas who called in sick."
"But how do you know how to work the coffee machine thingy?"
"My brother and I both worked part-time as baristas when we were in college. Nothing to it." And so it went as they candidly asked for, and exchanged information about each other and each other's lives.
Xiumin enjoyed watching a plethora of emotions flit and chase each other across Luhan's face. He was such an expressive man, he thought. More guarded by nature, Xiumin usually maintained a neutral kind of expression on his face. Luhan, on the other hand, seemed to live on the surface of his skin. If he liked or disliked something, it was immediately apparent from the way he smiled approvingly or grimaced openly. For one, Xiumin had been watching Luhan eat his jjambong and the latter was doing a terrible job of concealing his distaste for the spicy seafood noodles.
"Why are you eating jjambong if you hate it?"
"You wanted to eat it so I reckoned I could tolerate eating it for one meal."
"Are you usually this considerate of others? Because that wasn't the vibe I was getting from the whole table mafia thing you had going on?"
"Table mafia? I'm not a thug. Well, not usually anyway. I just have a ... strong personality is all." Luhan muttered almost sheepishly and Xiumin burst into unrestrained laughter.
"You're stubborn and insanely competitive, you mean?!" Xiumin raised his eyebrows, still chuckling.
"My best friend Jongin says that all the time but he can't be trusted because best friends always shit on you anyway. And you're not supposed to insult people you hardly know - especially when they're paying for dinner."
"I'm just calling it as I see it. I'm a straight talker, Luhan. I don't like to waste time with small talk and I don't pretend to be what I'm not. I suspect you're like me."
"I am." Luhan tried to look calm but his previous experiences with dating girls had involved a certain amount of small talk and flirting and he wasn't completely prepared for Xiumin's frank approach.
"So my question is, are we just having dinner because you feel bad for harassing me about the table? Or is this a date?"
"I'm hoping it's a date. I don't know about the whole dating thing because I've never actually asked a guy out but ... I just know I want to kiss you. So I'll know what to do next."
"I ... okay." And for once, Xiumin seemed at a genuine loss for words. Then after taking a few neat mouthfuls of jjambong, he asked, "You've never asked a guy out?"
"I've always dated girls. I never actually checked guys out until ... well until you decided to hijack my table."
"I don't know what to say."
"You don't have to say anything. Just kiss me later so I can get you out of system." Luhan said with all seriousness.
"You make me sound like some kind of disease." Xiumin chuckled, shaking his head in disbelief.
"You are a disease. I just want to be cured." Luhan sighed. So far he could see no signs of the symptoms abating. If anything his senses were even more overwhelmed by everything Xiumin ...
After dinner, they'd moved on to a quaint cafe in the inner city. It was still early and neither Xiumin or Luhan were ready to call it a night. They spent the next two hours deciphering each other - discovering they had things in common and also interests which were completely different. Both had a mutual obsession with soccer, but while Xiumin was quiet and loved words and stories and books, Luhan was gregarious and mostly only dealt with facts and non-fiction and newspapers. And yet, they seemed to work well together and found much to talk about.
When Luhan and Xiumin were walking back to his Prius, Luhan recalled what Jongin had said about the first time Seungho had kissed him, and he knew it was time. Quietly, he took Xiumin's small hand in his and the other man turned to give him a questioning look, his eyebrows raised in inquiry. Luhan reached out to smooth his right eyebrow, and then he bent his head, shut his eyes, and covered Xiumin's lips with his own. They weren't quite as soft as a girl's lips but they felt every bit as good. Xiumin's curled around his nape firmly and drew him closer, and then those peach pink lips parted and his tongue began exploring the contours of Luhan's lips. Sighing, Luhan let him in and their mouths fused together urgently - tongues tangling feverishly as they both gave in to four days of pent up attraction.
When they eventually drew apart, faces flushed with passion and lips slightly swollen, Xiumin asked with a lazy smile, "So are you cured now that we've kissed?"
"I don't think I want to be cured anymore." Luhan's eyes were intense as he leaned forward and kissed Xiumin again ...
Readers who are familiar with my longfic In Bloom, will remember Luhan and Xiumin from that earlier fic. I hope I managed to stay true to the spirit of their characters in my writing of this prequel and I would love it if you guys would share your thoughts about the story. Cookies for In Bloom readers who picked up on the dramatic irony in Jongin's advice to Luhan about picking up guys. No flowers and no ice-cream LOLOLOL:
"I imagine it's the same as picking up girls except you probably wouldn't give them flowers - I mean I don't think guys give other guys flowers anyway*. Do they? And no ice-cream! I don't think you could take a guy for ice-cream* because it seems like something you do with girls, not guys."
Thanks for reading, everyone!