Pairing: girl!Suho / Kai (het!SuKai)
Genre: fluff, romance, het
Word count: 13.6 k
Summary: When Jongin helps his shy, older roommate Joonmyun to go on blind dates, he realizes that he wants to be the only guy she dates. Joonmyun’s younger brother Sehun and her best friend girl!Chanyeol try to help.
Author’s Note: This fic was written for glassfromscars as part of the girlexochange
One crumpled, tear-stained tissue joins the growing mound of discarded ones on the floor, and Joonmyun thinks she is almost out of tears. She thinks. She hopes. She's ready to get past the heartbreak and move on to the I-want-to-burn-everything-he-owns stage, but Joonmyun suspects she's too wishy-washy to ever attain that state of righteous anger. At this point, she'd happily settle for not feeling like her heart's just been run over by a truck.
She's reaching for another tissue from the mostly empty box on her bed stand when she hears a tentative knock.
"Can I come in?" The voice is deep and masculine and comfortingly familiar.
"No!" But Joonmyun's no doesn't sound even remotely convincing.
"Can I come in anyway?" There's no pressure or expectation in the question and Jongin's always been able to make her laugh. Maybe it's a good idea after all, to not be on her own right now - just weeping and drowning in self-pity and building a skyscraper of tissues.
"You're not allowed to ask nosey questions," Joonmyun managed to get out in between sniffles.
"I wasn't going to, Joonmyun."
"When are you going to start calling me noona? We've known each other for two years now, don't you think it's time?"
"I'm not ever calling you noona so you can stop asking me when. Can I come in now?"
"Fine. But no nosey questions."
There's a click as the doorknob turns and a tall, broad-shouldered young man lets himself in - pushing the door shut behind him. Jongin's face is one she's seen almost every day for the past two years. And as upset as she's feeling right now, it calms her to see his gentle brown eyes and almost smile.
When Joonmyun and her brother Sehun had found this apartment, he'd asked his friend from university to move in so they could split the rent three ways instead of two. And that was how Jongin had become their roommate.
"Oh Joonmyun." The husky voice wraps itself around her like a warm blanket. She's always liked the way Jongin's voice sounds, the way it makes her feel safe.
"Don't you oh Joonmyun me. Don't you dare feel sorry for me!"
"Move over," Jongin says quietly and she shifts closer to the wall so he can stretch his long, lean body beside hers. It's a queen-sized bed and they've been friends long enough that there's nothing weird about this - it's not even the first time it's happened.
"Are you sure you don't want to talk about it?"
"That's a nosey question."
"Not exactly? I prefer to think of it as a show of concern for a friend."
"Okay, okay stop twisting my arm already," Joonmyun grumbles and rests her cheek on his chest, while his arm settles around her shoulders. It's ... comforting. It's like being wrapped in a feather down quilt, and Joonmyun's heart feels just a little bit lighter as she relaxes into her friend's embrace.
"You don't have to tell me if you don't want to," he says.
But she does anyway.
"Don't you think it's time you did something other than watch weepy dramas in your room?" Jongin's standing in the doorway in the raglan tee Joonmyun had given him last Christmas - the gray one with the maroon sleeves that looks so good against his tanned skin. She looks at her Totoro pajama pants and ratty peach sweatshirt and gives an inward sigh, relieved that Jongin is just a dongsaeng who's not likely to judge her undeniably sloppy outfit.
"I like watching weepy dramas. Also, this isn't just any weepy drama, Jongin. This is 49 days."
"Isn't that the one where everyone dies?" He rolls his eyes.
"How do you even know this? You don't even watch dramas!" She gives him a suspicious, accusing look and flings a cushion at him which he catches with ease. "Also, spoiler much?"
"Please, I have an umma and two noonas. Even if I didn't watch dramas while I lived at home, I still watched dramas via osmosis. And I can tell you that this is not a drama you should be watching when you're already feeling blue. And it's not a spoiler - as far as I'm concerned, everyone dies in melodramas. It doesn't matter which one."
"That's the worst case of over generalizing ever. Everyone could be alive and happy at the end of 49 days!" Joonmyun protests and Jongin snorts in disbelief.
"But Joonmyun, watch something happier. You've been miserable for six weeks."
"What happy drama should I watch then?" She asks, pointedly avoiding the fact that she's been moping around for weeks.
"I watched bits and pieces of Sungkyunkwan Scandal and it looked like fun."
"It's sageuk though," Joonmyun wrinkles her nose, "and those stupid hats and Joseon robes. Call me old fashioned but I like seeing guys in pants?"
"Good looking guys though. Bromance and an interesting plot and funny too - I'm totally quoting my noona but she seemed to really like it?"
"I'm still not sure because men in dresses."
"Would it make a difference if you had company?"
"Probably. If I had someone to rant to about how stupid Yoochun looks in pink robes and an ugly hat it might help."
Jongin chuckles and says he's got the rest of the afternoon off. Grinning, Joonmyun moves closer to the wall so Jongin can stretch his legs out beside her, and puts some popcorn in her mouth as he sets up episode 1 on her laptop. They sit quietly through the opening sequence with the bowl of popcorn perched on Joonmyun's lap, and the camera focuses on Park Minyoung as she walks briskly through the streets dressed as a Joseon era man. In a dress.
"Park Minyoung doesn't look anything like a man. How could anyone not see that she's a woman? Also the costumes are hid-" Joonmyun begins to say and Jongin puts an index finger to her lips.
"Shhhh with the costume assassination ... Give the characters and the story a chance." Jongin winks and withdraws his finger, and helps himself to some popcorn. Joonmyun is just a little bit shaken because Jongin's never touched her mouth before. But when she turns to look at Jongin, his attention is focused entirely on the screen - he doesn't seem to have been affected at all so Joonmyun tells herself she's just over reacting and resumes watching the drama ... and gasps.
"Song Joongki is so handsome!"
"He's wearing a pink dress," Jongin snorted.
"He's working it." Joonmyun whacks his shoulder with her hand, then pushes her glasses further up her nose - eyes fixed on the ethereally handsome figure on the screen.
You are totally a woman.
"Oh my God, he can tell she's a woman! I told you! Song Joongki is brilliant! Okay you've convinced me. We're watching this drama."
"Look, he's explaining that she's totally a woman because she writes so beautifully. He can't actually tell she's a wo-"
"I don't even care, Kim Jongin." And this time it's Joonmyun who puts her finger to Jongin's lips, silencing him.
They end up watching two episodes of Sungkyunkwan Scandal in a row, both well and truly hooked even though neither is willing to admit it. It's twilight and the room is bathed in shadows but no one has made any move to switch on the lights. The long empty popcorn bowl sits on Jongin's lap while Joonmyun's head rests on his shoulder.
"What do you feel like eating?" Jongin asks.
"I don't care. Just get me whatever you're having." Joonmyun tries her best to sound nonchalant and hopes she succeeds.
"Let's go together. It'd be good for you to get out of the apartment for something other than lectures and tutorials."
"But then I'd have to change out of my Totoro pajamas," Joonmyun grumbles.
He tempts her with mouthwatering descriptions of jjambong, of succulent prawns and shiitake mushrooms, mussels and squid and delicious, spicy red broth he knows Joonmyun can't resist. But she tries to resist because she really doesn't feel like leaving the safety of the apartment and possibly bumping into friends who know about her breakup with Baekhyun, and who might ask awkward questions she has no wish to answer. So she tells Jongin no.
"You love jjambong."
"You know it's best eaten at the shop. The noodles will be perfect. And the seafood is always fresh and we can have some soju. You look like you could use a drink."
"My Totoro pajamas are too comfortable. I don't want to change out of them. And my hair is a mess."
But they leave the apartment twenty minutes later anyway, Joonmyun's long, straight black hair subdued in a hastily gathered ponytail. She's wearing gray workout pants and a mostly shapeless plum colored knit sweater. She should probably buy some leggings and jeans (that aren't 5 years out of fashion) and some nice tops and skirts and maybe even a dress, but it all seems like way too much effort when she doesn't even plan on leaving the apartment for the next 7 years.
If Jongin disapproves of her anything but stylish outfit, he doesn’t say a word about it or ask her to change into something more feminine and more fashionable like Baekhyun would have done. But then Jongin probably doesn’t see Joonmyun as a woman. She’s just a friend and a roommate and a friend’s older sister. A noona he won’t even call noona.
The jjambong is heavenly and it’s warm and cosy in the restaurant and the air is thick with the aroma of spicy seafood broth and animated conversation. Joonmyun and Jongin have been dissecting what they’ve seen of Sungkyunkwan Scandal so far and it’s been fun and Joonmyun’s head is buzzing from the one and a half bottles of soju she’s drunk.
"Yes?" He's had just as much soju as her but he seems to be a lot more sober than her.
“Why won’t you call me noona?” She glares at him, her eyes ever so slightly out of focus. When did Jongin get so handsome? Why hasn’t she ever noticed before how handsome he is? He's just Jongin, she supposes. But why is he so handsome?
“I just won’t and I never will so stop asking,” Jongin laughs and it sounds like dark chocolate, which doesn't make sense at all because chocolate doesn't sound like anything, does it? The soju must be doing something to her ears and she shakes her head slightly.
“Joonmyun, don’t you think it’s time you moved on? It’s been six weeks. And I mean I never said anything at the time but Byun Baekhyun is a bit of a dick.”
"Why didn't you say something?!"
"You're an adult. It wasn't my business to say anything and you wouldn't have listened anyway!" Jongin says dryly.
"Well, you're probably right. But you know why he broke up with me?" Joonmyun waves her soju bottle a little and the clear liquid sloshes around energetically.
"Are you sure you want to be telling me when you're not quite sober?"
"Who says I'm not sober?!" She protests defensively.
"I ... never mind."
"So anyway, he said things were over between us because I was, and I quote, too uptight! And he was upset because I didn't want to have sex with h-"
"Shush, Joonmyun," Jongin hisses and his palm swiftly covers her mouth before she can spill any more secrets in a busy noodle shop. And for one crazy second, Joonmyun has a strong and inexplicable urge to stick her tongue out and taste the skin pressed against her lips. It has to be the soju making her stupid. And it's probably the soju, too, that makes her do the next thing.
Determinedly, she bangs the bottle down and grabs his hand, removing it from her mouth. She pins both his hands on the table so he can't shut her up again.
"I mean it's not like I wouldn't have ... eventually. Probably. Okay ... maybe. But I wasn't ready and he hated that and he just didn't want to wait anymore. You know he's dating someone new now? Some sophomore called Kyungsoo. He didn't even wait two weeks, Jongin! That's how much he didn't care about me."
"Like I said, Byun Baekhyun is a dick and I'm glad he was too stupid to see what he had, because you're better off without him."
"Better off? I don't know if hiding in my room qualifies as being better off. He also thinks I'm a slob. I spent most of today in Totoro pajamas so I guess he has a point?"
"Clothes aren't important, Joonmyun."
"Then why do I feel like I'm not enough because I have no sense of style?"
"You're more than enough, Joonmyun. You're a beautiful person. And I'm not just saying that to make you feel better."
"Why don't I feel beautiful?" Joonmyun says sadly as a thick wave of self -pity washes over her.
"You are. In every way that counts, you are beautiful." Jongin turns his palms up so he can grip her hands tightly in his. They're dry and warm and they make her feel safe.
"Make me beautiful, Jongin. I need to believe that I can be. I just can't see it."
"You already are, trust me. But if it will make it easier for you to see, we can get you a few new outfits. You could get a new hairstyle?"
"Make up? I could learn how to use makeup?" After all, she only ever wears lipstick. She might even look glamorous with some makeup. She likes that idea.
"No! You don't need makeup!" Jongin looks genuinely horrified, "You look perfect as you are Joonmyun; you don't need to mess with that."
"But I could look better!" She insists stubbornly as she pulls one of her hands away and reaches for her soju.
"I think you've had enough to drink." Jongin removes the bottle despite Joonmyun's protests.
"Just one more sip?" Her words are slurring a little bit.
"But I really like soju!"
"I think we've established that, Joonmyun."
"Noona! You're supposed to call me noona," she frowns at him as fiercely as she can, given her current level of inebriation. She can still feel her cheeks though. They haven't gone numb yet so that's a good sign.
"Never!" Jongin says, chuckling. "So tomorrow we'll go shopping. I don't think you need to dress any differently but if you think it'll help, we'll get you some new clothes. I just want you out of your pajamas before dinnertime."
"That's unnecessarily sarcastic!"
"But accurate. I really think it's time you moved on, Joonmyun. I know you like hanging out in your pajamas and weeping over dramas but there are things you used to enjoy ... before Baekhyun and you broke up. You used to like going for movies - when was the last time you went for a movie at the cinema? Bookstores! You love sitting in bookstores and touching the pages and smelling the ink. Don't give me that weird look - you told me that once when we went to a bookstore together. You like cycling by the lake. Browsing in Manga lending libraries. Visiting museums. All these things require getting out of your pajamas and walking out the front door."
"Huh. I didn't even know you paid that much attention to what I did."
"I'm very observant. Also I'm worried about you. Even Sehun is worried about you and you know how self-absorbed he is."
"Sehun? He never said a word to me about it."
"You're his noona. You're supposed to be the strong one. You're the one who's supposed to tell him to snap out of a funk - not the other way round."
"That brat! He could show he cares once in a while and ask me how I am," she snaps and adds a second, emphatic brat! for good measure.
"The important thing is he does care - even if he's too much of a guy to show it."
"Do you care?"
"Do you actually have to ask? I watched a kdrama with you, the horror. And a sageuk, no less. And I dragged you out for jjambong and soju when I could have let you wallow in misery and cry alone over 49 days."
"That would have sounded so much more sincere minus the sarcasm." Joonmyun rolls her eyes but deep inside, her heart does feel warm all over because she knows Jongin cares. He always has.
"I can walk!" Joonmyun's voice sounds loud in the still of the night. There are people walking on the street and a few cars passing by, but there's a general quiet outside the noodle shop.
"You don't look so ... steady." Jongin shakes his head.
"I am a rock! That's how steady I am," she smiles just before she trips on a crack in the pavement and tips forward. Jongin manages to catch her around the waist just in time.
"Climb on." Jongin's voice is firm as he lowers his back and bends his knees so she can get on. Grumbling, she straddles his waist and loops her arms around his shoulders while he hooks his arms under her thighs and straightens.
“I just want to make it clear ... that I can walk,” Joonmyun’s mouth is so close to Jongin’s ear that the hot breath tickles it; and for one brief second, she isn’t just his best friend’s older sister or his roommate. She’s just a girl … one who’s precious and real and smells nice.
Her hair smells of pomegranates; Jongin knows this because he’s seen the opaque red bottle of pomegranate shampoo on the glass shelf of the bathroom he shares with Joonmyun and Sehun. It’s not the first time he’s smelt her hair, or her for that matter, but everything seems more intense today. It must be a combination of the soju and the fact that her chest and hips are pressing into his back and her legs are clamped around his waist. Jongin exhales in relief as a sudden, blessed blast of autumnal wind hits him in the face, cooling down his skin and taking away the scent of pomegranates, soju and Joonmyun with it.
“Brrr, it’s cold, Jongin.” Joonmyun shivers slightly before snuggling closer, her face buried in his shoulder and Jongin knows it’s going to be a long walk home, for all that it’s only five minutes away.
"What's wrong with me?" She mumbles into his upper back, slightly tipsy.
"There's nothing wrong with you. Why do you keep insisting there is?" Jongin can't quite keep the frustration out of his voice.
"Then why didn't Baekhyun want me?"
"Of course he wanted you. He just didn't love you enough to wait for you. It's his loss, and frankly I'm glad he's an impatient, selfish jerk. I don't really want him anywhere near you."
"Why are you so nice to me?" She asks softly, the back of her hand brushing the underside of his chin weakly and his heart wheezes. Just a little bit.
"Because ..." You're worth it, Jongin thinks but somehow can't bring himself to say. Then he hears a delicate, feminine snore. "Joonmyun?" But the only response is an increasingly loud snore and he laughs because it's just one of the many things he loves about Joonmyun - that she's not perfect, that she snores (although the snoring seems a little louder tonight than it does when she's sober). He trudges the rest of the way home, trying to ignore the scrambled state his emotions are in as he enjoys the weight of her body bearing down on his back, and the warm puffs of air that torment him as she continues to snore.
He struggles a little with the keys as he lets them into the apartment. It would have been much easier to bang on the door so Sehun could come out and help, but for reasons he's not ready to analyze, Jongin wants to see this night through on his own. Painstakingly, he removes her ballet pumps one by one before removing his own sneakers.
Once they're in Joonmyun's room, he maneuvers her onto the bed, his hand supporting her head as he lays it gently on her pillow. Carefully, he removes the hair tie and spreads her hair out as best he can, and it's like silk beneath his fingertips. Then he takes off her glasses, and he's not prepared for how pretty Joonmyun looks when she's not half hiding behind spectacle frames that are far too big for her small, heartlike face. Delicate eyelashes fan out on pale skin and Jongin has a sudden need to stroke her cheek, but he stops himself and covers her with her Totoro quilt instead.
"You're the most beautiful noona I know," Jongin says quietly as he brushes the dark hair off her forehead. Then he tugs the quilt up to her chin and takes one last look at her ... and makes himself leave. But he doesn’t shut the door so he can hear if she needs anything, or worse, if she vomits, but it’s unlikely that she will because she hadn't had all that much to drink.
He grabs some sleepwear from his room and heads to the bathroom just as Sehun is walking out.
"When did you guys get in?" Sehun, who is a couple of inches taller than him, is wearing his default unsmiling expression which borders on insolent at times.
"About ten minutes ago?"
"How is she?" A slight furrowing of the brow is the only indication of his concern for his sister, but Jongin knows it's there.
"Better, I think. She seems to want to move on now."
"Thank God for that because pajamas are not a good look?"
"Not nice, Sehunnie."
"It's the truth and you know it. So does that mean I won't have to give her any, um brotherly advice?" Sehun asks warily. He's a loyal friend and brother but about as far as you can get from the demonstrative sort. In fact he's about as far as you can get from Joonmyun; it's hard sometimes to remember that they're even related.
"You're good," Jongin nods as he steps into the bathroom.
"Thanks. Y'know, for looking out for her."
"She's your noona." Jongin says, like it explains everything.
"I guess that kinda makes her your noona too?" Sehun says with an oddly wry smile.
No, it doesn't, Jongin thinks but doesn't say, as he shuts the bathroom door behind him.
Later, he stops by Joonmyun's room to leave a glass of water on her bedstand, for when she wakes up. As he turns to leave, she coughs in her sleep and makes a kind of hiccuping noise that worries him, so he ends up dragging his bedding into her room. The wooden flooring is hard beneath his back but he'll worry about that in the morning. He turns on his side so he can just make out her form on the bed above him, and says quietly, "Goodnight, Joonmyun."
The only answer is a not quite gentle snore and Jongin smiles as her snores lull him to sleep.
"I was thinking," Joonmyun says with grim determination, "since we're going to overhaul my appearance, maybe I should try dating too."
"That's sudden." And Jongin discovers he doesn't like the idea at all.
"I think I just have to bite the bullet and see if I really am that uptight." The distaste drips off the last word. "You have to help me, though. You know I'm only confident with family and close friends and I'm super awkward with everyone else. I mean can you imagine me trying to chat up a guy or asking him out?"
"You shouldn't be chatting up guys!"
“Why not? You said I need to move on and this is a perfect way to do it.”
“But it’s only been six weeks-”
“No point dragging things out. I’ve been wallowing long enough and I need to do new things and see new people and you’re going to help me.”
“I … what do you mean by help?”
“Well, I need to meet people but I don’t know anyone and I don’t know how to flirt so maybe you could, I don’t know, introduce me to some nice guys?”
“I don’t know any nice guys.” Jongin cringes inwardly at how much that sounds like bullshit, but the thought of Joonmyun flirting and going out with guys feels like all kinds of wrong to him. Having Baekhyun come round to the apartment over a six month period had been enough of an ordeal – he couldn’t imagine watching her suffer as another asshole dated her.
“Of course you do, Jongin. I know you’ll think of someone.”
And Jongin realizes that it’s better if he introduces her to guys he actually knows are decent than to risk her meeting someone on her own who may just end up being another Byun Baekhyun. That will happen over his cold, dead body because Kim Joonmyun deserves someone who’ll appreciate her for everything that she is, not what they want her to be.
“You’re right, I’ll think of someone. Okay, what do you want to do first?” he asks they enter the lift of the mall basement car park.
“Clothes!” Joonmyun’s face lights up with girlish excitement.
Three tops and two pairs of jeans later, Jongin and Joonmyun are sipping peppermint tea (because they both abhor coffee) at a quaint café called La Petit Baguette. They’re sharing an apricot Danish and a coffee éclair, eating off the same plate and cutting and spearing the pastries with shiny, stainless steel forks.
"So have you thought of anyone yet?"
"God, you're in such a hurry," Jongin raises a sardonic eyebrow.
"It's just ... I'm not getting any younger and I feel like life is passing me by."
"Joonmyun, you're 23, not 43!"
"I'm an uptight 23 year-old so I'm practically 43 anyway," she rolled her eyes.
"You gotta let that one go. You're not uptight. I think you just didn't find Baekhyun attractive enough, physically and emotionally."
"So you reckon if it were the right guy, I wouldn't be so inhibited?"
"Yeah, I think so. Probably. Baekhyun just wasn't the right guy, obviously."
"Well you're going to have to help me find the right guy then."
"You make it sound like something as uncomplicated as choosing what ice cream flavor you want." Jongin wrinkles his nose at the direction the conversation is taking.
"I just need to ... do something. I haven't done anything but cry and hide for six weeks. I'm in a rut and I need to get out of it. Help me?" Joonmyun asks directly. She's always direct with him and Sehun; she's not one for whining or pleading. She'll just straight out ask or threaten when she's in need of help, and Jongin's always appreciated that because he can't abide whining or being manipulated.
"Fine," he takes out his phone and begins texting Zhang Yixing. He's earnest and nice, with clean cut good looks. A final year Engineering student like himself, Yixing has always seemed like the gentlemanly sort. Not the most exciting guy ... but safe.
After exchanging four or five texts, Jongin informs Joonmyun that she's got a blind date for tomorrow afternoon (Yixing had wanted to take her for a quiet dinner but Jongin had vetoed the idea, saying an afternoon meeting in a public place would be better for a first date and Yixing had assented). There had been no need for persuasion even as Yixing had perked up at the mention of Joonmyun's name - isn't that Sehun's pretty noona?. Jongin hadn’t been impressed.
"That's too soon!"
"But you've been hassling me all afternoon to hurry up and get it done," Jongin chuckles at the mild panic settling on her features.
"But I don't know how to talk to guys!"
"You talk to Sehun and me all the time. More like boss us around actually."
"That's different. You're dongsaengs. You're family so there's no need to be self-conscious." Joonmyun's casual words clatter painfully against Jongin's ego. I'm not family.
"How do I talk to a guy? And I'm not batting my eyelashes or giggling - I'm not about that life."
"I've never actually known a guy who likes eyelash batting and giggling," Jongin chuckles, shaking his head. "But girls seem to think we like that shit. I just don't understand why because they're the most annoying thing."
"Well thank God for that at least. There's still hope for me then. Okay so what do I have to do?"
"I don't know what to say other than just be yourself? I mean if you're going to be stuck with that person for a while, you want to make sure they know what they're getting themselves int- OUCH!" Jongin yelps as she pinches his arm.
"And you need to tell them you pinch really hard too. That was uncalled for Joonmyun!"
"You asked for it, implying I'm a bad catch."
"I wasn't! I like that you don't bat your eyelashes and that you don't giggle. And I like that you're not afraid to show it when you're mad or upset about something."
"Then you should date me, Jongin, since you already know all my flaws!" Joonmyun says it as a joke but her careless words make Jongin feel like he's been poleaxed.
"Maybe I should," he says in a daze, but Joonmyun's already moved on as she asks him what guys like to talk about. And Jongin begins to understand just how much it sucks to be friendzoned.
"It is not cool how cold it is!" Joonmyun's rubs her gloved hands together.
She's wearing the freshly laundered black skinny jeans and beige turtleneck Jongin had helped her pick out the day before. And there's even a new tan parka that looks both sporty and elegant on her slender figure. Joonmyun feels almost pretty as her skates glide smoothly across the slick surface.
"Don't let go!" Jongin yells nervously as he holds on to her hands tightly. She's zipping backwards effortlessly as she tows him along.
"Move your feet faster, Jongin! You can do this!"
"I can't. I know I'll fall if I go too fast."
"You won't! I'll catch you, I promise!" The cold air rushes past as she cuts across the ice, and it pulls at her hair and stings her face. But Jongin doesn't notice the air currents because he's too busy trying not to lose his balance and fall - his handsome face all tense with anxiety and concentration. Jongin's always so laid back and Joonmyun's never seen him look as intense as this. It makes him look older somehow, more attractive.
"Let go, Jongin! Just trust your legs and stop holding back. Let go!"
And this time Jongin finally allows himself to skate independently without relying on Joonmyun to propel him forward. His legs wobble a bit and his movements are far from elegant, but he's moving on his own steam, only holding her hands lightly now.
They skate around the rink side by side, Joonmyun weaving across the ice freely so she's sometimes ahead, sometimes behind him. It's exhilarating to just be moving together with the cold air snapping at their faces and whipping through their hair.
"Are you having fun?" Joonmyun's face is wreathed in smiles as she looks at Jongin and he smiles back, his eyes crinkling with achievement and delight as he puts his feet forward more and more confidently. He's so handsome Joonmyun can barely catch her breath, and her hand suddenly feels very small in his. She's so distracted she doesn't notice the little boy who cuts in front of Jongin. There's no contact but it's enough to throw a beginner off balance, and Jongin panics and tumbles backwards, pulling Joonmyun down with him.
"Ah!" Jongin lands hard on his back but manages to pull his head up just in time so it doesn't impact with the icy cold ground. Then he's groaning as a body lands on his. Relieved that he managed to break her fall at least, he opens his eyes to find Joonmyun's face close, ever so close to his. His senses are filled with her scent and her eyes, so animated and beautiful even behind the hipster frames. Their lips are just a palm's width apart and his eyes are irresistibly drawn to the pale coral pink sheen of her lips. It feels like all the muscles in his body are reaching up towards her, and her body is warm and provoking and pressing into him.
"Are you okay?" Joonmyun blinks furiously and hastily pushes herself off him. Just like that, the weight of her body on his is gone and Jongin feels bereft, in a way he can't explain.
"I ... I think I'm still in one piece," he smiles a little weakly as Joonmyun helps him up. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah, um ... I'm fine. Sorry I used you as an airbag though,"
"Well it's not like I didn't ask for it, pulling you down like that."
There's a thin layer of awkwardness that's suddenly coated their interactions and Jongin just wants to peel it away. He's about to say something light and funny to try and dispel the strange mood that's settled over them, when his phone buzzes insistently in his pocket. It's Yixing of course. He's managed to get his flat tire fixed and says he’ll be here in 10 minutes or so.
"I'm nervous, Jongin! What if I freeze and can't say a word? What if I forget how to skate and end up falling?"
"Just don't fall on him!" Jongin warns her and he isn't even remotely joking. The thought of Joonmyun lying on top of Zhang Yixing upsets his insides badly.
"Why would I do that?! Anyway, I'm sure he's a better skater than you since he suggested an ice skating date."
"Just make sure you move out of the way if he starts flailing like he's going to fall. It could just be a plan to get you to fall onhim," Jongin says unhappily.
"I won't be holding his hand though, so I should be safe enough. I'm curious to meet him but at the same time, I just want to go home, curl up in bed and watch a drama … For like the next 7 years."
"Let's go home then," Jongin squeezes her hand as he skates along jerkily, his earlier self-confidence having mostly trickled away with his little accident on the ice.
"If I didn't know better, I'd think you were asking me to skip out of that blind date."
"Maybe I am," Jongin says cryptically.
"Jongin, what ...?"
Before Jongin can reply, his phone rings and he reluctantly informs Joonmyun that Yixing is at the Jade Exit of the rink. When they reach the exit, Jongin introduces a now tongue-tied Joonmyun to a congenial Yixing, and he watches as Joonmyun's natural sassiness and bright personality drain out of her, leaving a slightly shy and slightly awkward Joonmyun. And Jongin doesn't like that the light has gone out of her; he doesn't like it at all.
And he likes it even less that he has to leave her with Yixing.
The two friends are sitting in a cosy coffeehouse furnished with weathered wooden tables and olive green, burnt orange and royal purple sofas. The aroma of coffee clings to the air and Jongin is glad he loves the smell of coffee even if he hates the taste of it. Sehun is warming his hands on a large, clear glass mug of mocha while Jongin takes listless sips of his hot chocolate and stares out the paned windows at the darkening sky.
"Why do you look like someone just died?" Sehun kicks his ankle none too gently.
"I wasn't gonna ask but, why'd you come out of noona's room this morning with your pillows and shit?"
"I was worried she'd throw up or something."
"She didn't seem hungover at all – she can’t have drunk enough to make her sick. Is there something you're not telling me?"
"Nothing to tell. She's on a date with Zhang Yixing at the ice rink downstairs, remember?"
"That doesn't mean anything," Sehun snorts. "Anyway, Yixing and my noona would never work out."
"Why the hell not?"
"He's too ... agreeable. She needs someone who can challenge her and not let her have her way all the time."
"She might decide he's just what she needs. And she does not try to get her way all the time."
"You only say that because you're biased."
"Why would I be biased? What does that even mean, Sehun?"
"It means you've been in love with her for a while now."
"I'm not in love with your noona!"
"Yeah, I'm sure that's why you currently look like you're dying, now that she's out with Zhang Yixing. And that's the reason you were in a foul mood for six whole months while she was seeing Byun Baekhyun - it was because you were totally not in love with her. And it’s also why you hardly ever date – it’s because you’re not in love with her."
"I'm not dying. I’m just tired."
"If you say so," Sehun shrugs. He doesn’t argue but it’s clear from his expression that he thinks Jongin is knee-deep in denial (and maybe he is, but Jongin isn’t ready to admit to this).
“Anyway, I’m heading home. Assignment due on Wednesday. You coming?”
“I’ll just stay here till Joonmyun’s done. She asked me to wait because she doesn’t want to get into a car with a stranger. You know how she is with people she’s just met.”
“Yeahhh, noona can be so awks. But dude, you should really tell her how you feel one day.”
“I’m not in love with her.” Jongin says stubbornly. “And even if I were, which I’m not, I’m just family to her.”
“Then she’s just as blind as you are. See you both at home. Don’t come back too early.”
Sometimes Jongin really really hates Sehun.
It’s only 6 in the evening and the pre-dinner crowd in the mall is already beginning to thicken. After Sehun had left for home, Jongin had ordered a raspberry tea so he could stay in the coffeehouse and read while he waited for Joonmyun to wrap up her date. Fortunately, he’d only had to wait forty minutes on his own before Joonmyun rang to find out where he was.
“So?” Jongin asks as Joonmyun joins him on the olive green sofa.
“Tired.” Joonmyun sinks onto the sofa beside him and lays her head on Jongin’s shoulder like she often does.
“Tired? How much ice-skating did you do?!” His arm fits around her shoulders easily and he tries not to be overwhelmed by the scent of her hair.
“We skated for about an hour I guess? Then we had tea at a patisserie on the second floor. The skating was fine, Jongin. It was the sitting across from each other part I had problems with.”
“Was he rude? Did he TRY ANYTHING?!”
“Of course not. He was a perfect gentleman.”
“Which part of that is problematic?’
“The polite conversation part. The getting to know you and trying to be charming and witty part. You know I suck at that, Jongin. I’m so exhausted.”
“So Yixing was nice then.”
“He was very nice and polite and considerate and …”
“And that was it. I wasn’t attracted to him. At all. No sparks or whatever you call them. So I said no when he asked me out again. He’s a really nice guy but he’s just friend material for me. With Baekhyun, I knew from the first time we met that I wanted to know him better and maybe kiss him at some point. I don’t get that with Yixing.”
“Okay, so not Yixing.” There’s a pang in Jongin’s chest, a subtle sour feeling deep in his chest as he realizes that Joonmyun and him have known each other for two years, but she has never been attracted to him either.
“But I’m not giving up. Who’s next?” Joonmyun pokes him in the rib with her index finger – apparently having gotten over the awkwardness during the ice-rink incident.
“You’re not serious!”
“Dead serious. Also, let's have fried chicken and beer for dinner. It's going to give me gas and make me fart for hours but I don't even care."
"Please! It's not something you haven't discovered for yourself in the past two years. You know all my worst habits, Kim Jongin. What is TMI when you've seen me at my worst?"
"And I still love you anyway." Jongin tries to keep all the sad out of his smile but he’s not sure it works.
"I love you too," Joonmyun smiles and the impact of her warm smile and the platonic sincerity of her words are a bittersweet thrust to the heart.
"Which chicken place then?" Jongin asks quickly before he has a chance to get melancholy over the fact that Joonmyun doesn't get sparks with him either.