ℰmmi (seulpeo) wrote in forjongin,

(for shanwens) Even The Smallest Hello [1/2]

For: shanwens

Title: Even The Smallest Hello
Pairing: Jongin/Chen
Word Count: ~11,500 words
Rating: PG
Summary: Jongin never really thought that being a chicken delivery boy would lead to so many blind dates, but he’s always been a little bit terrible at telling Jongdae no. AU.

The first sight that greets Jongin when he comes into the shop is a stack of delivery boxes. “Just in time!” Chanyeol tells him cheerfully, pushing them towards him. “We got our rush a bit early. Better get going!”

Jongin wrinkles his nose, even though the smell of freshly cooked chicken is making his empty stomach rumble. “Give me a second to talk to Kris, I just got in.” He’s been up since early this morning, for his first class, and his last class had run late, so he’d had to race all the way here, too. The last meal he had was a coffee before lunch, and he’d kinda been hoping that Kyungsoo would sneak him a snack, but it looks like there’s no time for that, either.

Chanyeol drums his fingers on the top of the boxes. “Don’t take too long,” he warns, like Jongin
isn’t aware that he’s the one who will take the brunt of a customer’s anger over cold food. Jongin waves him off with a lazy flick of his wrist, making his way through the shop to Kris’ tiny little office in the back.

Kris’s long body is hunched over his low desk, broad shoulders folded in like he’s trying to make himself fit the size of the room. Jongin knocks at the doorframe as he leans in. “Uh, hyung?” he says, and Kris straightens with a start. “I just wanted to ask, y’know, about the hours next week…”

“Right,” Kris says, rubbing at his eyes. Kris is a good manager, but he wants this job about as much as Jongin does - that is, not at all. He always looks just a little out of place, his clothes just a little too nice, his hair with just a little too much hair product. “I looked things over, and I’m sorry, Jongin, I really don’t think I can squeeze you in anywhere else. I can’t afford it.”

Jongin does his best not to wilt. “Yeah, okay,” he says, forcing a smile. “Never hurts to ask, right?” He’d known that it was more than likely that Kris would say no, but things are tight this month, and Jongin can use every shift he can get.

Kris looks at him for a long second, and then he sighs. “Listen, if someone calls in sick, or we need someone extra, you know I’ll call you first.” Jongin feels a rush of affection. It’s funny, because Kris has thick, stern eyebrows and a naturally intimidating face, but he’s one of the softest men Jongin has ever met, and probably the best manager he’s ever had.

“Thanks, hyung,” Jongin says. He knows that he probably won’t get the call, but he can still hope. And anyway, maybe he’ll get a chance to catch up on some sleep. That’s kinda lower on the priority list, but still useful.

Kris nods. “Yeah, yeah, yeah,” he says, but the smile he offers Jongin is genuine. “Now get out of here. Don’t you have deliveries to make?” He shoos Jongin out with one big hand.

There’s another box on top of the pile when Jongin heads back to the kitchen. “Quickly, Jongin,” Kyungsoo chides from his spot behind the stove. Chanyeol’s already back at work, focus etched on his features as he concentrates on deep frying the chicken just right. “If I hear anything -”

Jongin hoists the stack of boxes, his year’s worth of practice making it easy to balance in one arm. “I’ve got it, hyung,” Jongin assures him, reaching for the list of addresses. “Don’t worry.” Kyungsoo just hums noncommittally, raising an eyebrow when Jongin doesn’t immediately disappear from his sight. “I’m going, I’m going! Jeez.”

It only takes Jongin a few seconds to secure his cargo on his scooter before he’s heading out into the city off to make his deliveries. In all honesty, Jongin doesn’t really mind his job. Even if it means a lot of late nights to go with his early morning classes, the neighbourhood is nice and his coworkers are pretty great. It could be a whole lot worse.

Still, it does mean a lot of long shifts and pretty much everything he wears smells kinda like chicken, and the customers? Well…. “Jongin, hi,” Zitao says, covering his yawn with one hand, and Jongin flinches. This is the third week in a row that Zitao’s forgotten a shirt. Not that that’s a bad thing, really, Zitao’s mentioned wushu practice or something before, and he’s kind of really, really nice to look at. It’s just that it’s not really what Jongin’s expecting when he’s standing at the door with a boxful of chicken. “Gimme a sec, alright?”

He disappears back into the apartment, and Jongin pointedly does not take notice of the way his hips shift with his lazy gait, or the way his yoga pants fit his ass. He presses his free hand to his cheek, trying to will his blush away. He never knows what to do when he sees Zitao like this. It’s really hard to talk to someone when their nipples are right there. “Yeah, sure,” Jongin says weakly.

Zitao returns with a handful of cash and a sleepy smile. “How’s dance going?” he asks, sifting through the money carefully. He always tips Jongin massively, and even if he’s running late he always insists. It’s sweet of him. “That uh, competition was it? Is it coming up soon?”

“A few weeks,” Jongin says, juggling the cash Zitao passes over at the box of food. He’s fumbling in his pocket for change when Zitao smiles at him gently and shakes his head. “Lots of practice.” Especially when Taemin needs another private tutor and Jongin needs the money.

“Let me know when it is,” Zitao tells him, leaning against the doorframe. “I’ll come for moral support!”

“Oh,” Jongin says, blinking. He’s made small talk with Zitao for somewhere around a year now, but they’ve never really taken it outside of, well, the whole delivery boy routine. “Um, sure.”

Zitao beams and waves him off. “Good! Now go, you don’t want to be delivering cold food.” He closes the door and Jongin just stands for a moment, shaking his head. That’s one way to start off the night. He exhales in a burst, blowing his thick bangs up for a second, and then he turns and heads down the hall.

Zitao isn’t the only regular he’s got on his route. He drops off a couple of boxes for a group of teenage girls before he recognizes the next address on his list. “Come in, come in,” Joonmyun tells him, sweeping him in with a magnanimous hand. He’s still wearing his clothes from work today, the sleeves of his shirt rolled up and his jacket thrown over the back of a chair in the dining room. “How are your classes going?”

He’s used to this, by now, and Jongin toes his shoes off quickly and follows him into the apartment and carefully sets down Joonmyun’s meal on the table. “Good,” Jongin says. “Um, I mean, anthro is kind of killing me, but.”

“That prof,” Joonmyun nods, pulling a sympathetic face. “I’m sorry he’s still giving you trouble.” Jongin doesn’t make a habit of sharing his life with his customers, but sometimes, they just have a way of pulling it out of him. Joonmyun is like that. He’s a little bit lonely, Jongin thinks. He’s never seen anybody here with him, no unfamiliar shoes in the doorway, no pictures of friends on the wall. His orders are always for later in the evening, too, and tonight is no exception. And yet, still wearing his work clothes. His days must be as long as Jongin’s.

“‘S alright,” Jongin says, shrugging. “Don’t worry about it, hyung.” He still has deliveries to make, but Joonmyun looks extra tired tonight, fine lines worn deep around his eyes, so he pulls out a chair and sits down. They’ll keep for a few more minutes. “I’m passing, right? That’s what matters.”

Joonmyun slides into the seat across from him, mug of tea in his hands. “Good,” he says. “You’ve worked so hard this year, I’m proud of you.” It should probably be a little weird, that Joonmyun should say something like this to his chicken delivery boy, but this isn’t the first time Jongin’s come inside for a cup of tea. It doesn’t feel so strange anymore.

“Thanks, hyung,” Jongin mutters, rubbing a hand across the back of his neck. He drags his toes across the spotless polish of Joonmyun’s tiled floors and glances up and smiles. He doesn’t really get to hear this kind of praise all that often. His sisters are the academic ones. He’s not good at school like they are. Just dance. And making money, he supposes. He does okay at that.

Joonmyun sighs, props his chin up in one hand. “I bet you’ve got more deliveries to make, don’t you?” he says.

“Sorry,” Jongin says. And he really is. Joonmyun is so nice. Maybe he doesn’t know what they’d talk about, but tea and dinner sounds a whole lot nicer than racing around the city hoping he’ll scrape together enough tips to afford coffee tomorrow without being angry at himself. “It was nice seeing you today.”

“You too,” Joonmyun says. He just sounds so tired. He counts out his cash and hands it over, but when Jongin stands to take it, he tucks an extra few bills into his jeans pocket. “I hope your night isn’t too long.”

When Jongin bends to tie his shoes again, he watches Joonmyun stare at his own hands for a few seconds before he reaches for the box of chicken on the table in front of him. Jongin bites his lip, hesitating in the doorway. “Get some sleep, hyung,” he says finally, and he slips out the door before Joonmyun can reply, cheeks hot. He’s not sure he wants to see his reaction.

As the night drags on, Jongin’s scooter empties out, but something’s a little off. He hesitates, digging sorting through the stack. There are too many boxes in his scooter. Jongin frowns, digging through them, until he comes up with the culprit. dinner is important, the note says, in Kyungsoo’s small, scrawled characters. The night is cold but warmth floods Jongin’s chest. He should’ve known that Kyungsoo wouldn’t let him go hungry. He sneaks bites between the last of his deliveries, wiping his hands clean on his jeans and savouring the taste of it. He was even hungrier than he’d thought.

The final delivery of Jongin’s night is also the most nerve-wracking. “Ah, my favourite delivery boy,” Jongdae sings, spreading his arms wide. Jongin doesn’t really know what to do, so he ends up holding out the delivery box and trying on a smile. “How are you, Jongin-ah?”

Jongin has had one of those all-consuming, trembling-knees, butterflies-in-your-gut crushes on Jongdae from the first delivery he made to him. He’s a music teacher, singing, mostly, but also piano sometimes, and he has bowed lips that seem perpetually curled up in a smile. He doesn’t even have to open his mouth to make Jongin turn red and his hands shake. “Okay,” Jongin replies, voice softer than he’d like.

“Just okay?” Jongdae asks, clicking his tongue. “It’s Friday! Don’t you have any exciting plans for after work?”

“Not really,” Jongin admits. He doesn’t want to tell Jongdae that after his fourteen hour day, going out isn’t exactly on the top of his priority list. Not when he has to get up early for dance lessons tomorrow. “I guess I’m kinda boring.”

Jongdae shakes his head, pulling his lips down in a parody of a frown. “It’s tragic, really,” he says, plucking the box from Jongin’s hands, “that someone so young should be so dull.” There’s no barb to his words, but Jongin’s eyes find his shoes anyway. “You should be having fun!”

“No one taught me how,” Jongin jokes, shifting his weight from foot to foot.

There’s a pause, and Jongin glances up to find Jongdae looking at him, eyes soft. He laughs. “Poor you,” he says.

His scrutiny makes Jongin squirm, toying with the hem of his jacket. “You’re the one eating chicken by yourself on a Friday at home,” he points out. “Again.” It’s much better to shift the focus away from himself.

Jongdae snorts. “Woe is me,” he sighs. “My friends have abandoned me in my time of need.” He reaches into his box with his hand and pulls out a piece of chicken. Jongin supposes it’s probably against policy to let a customer eat before he’s paid, but Jongin’s never really been all that good at being strict with Jongdae. “I’m surrounded by the elderly. No one knows how to have fun.” He takes a bite and then lays the back of his free hand against his forehead, a moue of sadness on his face. “But I have you! And that’s pretty awesome too.”

This is the part where, if Jongin were a braver man, he’d suggest that they hang out. It’s the end of Jongin’s shift, after all, and all he’s gotta do now is head back to the restaurant with his earnings. It’s on the tip of his tongue, but when Jongdae digs a couple of bills out of his back pocket, the words die in Jongin’s mouth, and the best he can manage is a shrug. “I’m sorry,” he offers, and Jongdae takes another voracious bite. “But you have dinner. That’s good, right?”

“With chicken like this?” Jongdae says. He tears out a bite with his teeth, letting out a lipsmack and groan of satisfaction worthy of any idol’s commercial. “That’s amazing.”

Jongin ducks his head. “I’ll give your compliments to the chef,” he says.

“Thank you,” Jongdae says magnanimously. He peels the last of the flesh off his chicken and leans back against the wall. “And thank you for making my night. I always like seeing my favourite delivery boy.”

Favourite. Jongin lets that word settle in his chest and warm him up. He’s got this route most nights, and Chanyeol only fills in for him rarely, but Jongin still seizes on the word and holds it close. “No problem,” Jongin says. He wants to tell Jongdae that he’s Jongin’s favourite, too, but somehow it catches in his throat and he closes his mouth, tucking the cash away. Maybe next time. “I’ll see you around?”

“Of course.” Jongdae wipes at his mouth with the back of his hand. “And you’d better have a good story to tell me.” He raises his eyebrows. “Got it?”

“Yes,” Jongin says. He repeats it under Jongdae’s stern eyes. “Yes! I promise.”

“Good,” Jongdae says, and when he beams at him, Jongin wonders if his legs are just going to melt right out from underneath him. “See you later.”

Jongin takes a few minutes to steady himself out by his scooter, picking at the last of the box that Kyungsoo had packed for him and trying to slow the race of his heart. It’s dumb, the way he’s let his feelings for Jongdae spiral out of control like this. Jongin doesn’t have time for this, not between his two jobs and his classes and helping out his family. He doesn’t even have time to see his friends, how would he have the time to waste on daydreams about being bold and daring and sweeping Jongdae off his feet, or the way his lips might feel on Jongin’s. He’s just a customer, and Jongin’s just a delivery boy. That’s all it’ll ever be.

His cellphone buzzes in his pocket. done! race u back. whoever’s in last has to help kyungsoo with dishes. Jongin pulls a face. Gross. Greasy pans.

He vaults onto his scooter and races back towards the restaurant. It’s not worth it to bother with a reply, because Chanyeol doesn’t actually require anyone to agree to submit to his bets before he cashes in on a penalty, and because he’s probably already halfway back. Jongin’s going to need to really push it if he doesn’t want to be stuck on dishes tonight.

He skids around a corner, but his smile has nothing to do with the thought of beating Chanyeol, and just about everything to do with Jongdae’s smile and his promise to see him again.

Jongin curls in on himself when his alarm goes off, and he groans. He’s never been very good at waking up, and it’s worse on no sleep after a night of work and studying. He only straightens far enough to reach out for his phone, silencing the din. He allows himself only a few seconds of relief and silence before he pushes himself up straight, scrubbing at the gunk in his eyes and yawning.

He zombies through his morning routine before he heads into the dining room. “Good morning,” he says, tipping his head to press a kiss to his mother’s temple. It’s bad today. He can see it in the way that her hands shake, the tight line of her lips when she reaches up in the cupboards. He frowns, and then smoothes it away, taking the stack of bowls out of her grip and taking them to the table. “Smells good.”

“Good morning,” she replies. She takes in his jacket and his bag slung over his shoulder. “You’re heading out already?”

Jongin can’t remember the last time he had breakfast with his family. Or breakfast at all, actually. “Gotta squeeze in some work on my history project,” he says. The papers he needs are only available through the school system, which Jongin thinks is kinda unfair. With all the technology they have now, how come he can’t find all this stuff at home yet? Home has a full breakfast.

But if Jongin is going to be able to get this done, he’s gotta go now. It’s the only time he’s got today, between a day’s worth of classes, an afternoon of lessons, and then deliveries again. He just wishes it didn’t mean he has to see that look on his mother’s face, disappointed and resigned. He’s been seeing it a lot lately. “I’ll try to be home for dinner.”

“You work too hard,” she chides, but it’s an old conversation. When his father was downsized at his job, Jongin had to step in, especially since his mother hasn’t been able to work for so long. Sometimes being responsible kinda sucks. At least, he supposes, he gets his share of free chicken.

“I’ll see you tonight,” Jongin says. He kisses her again so he doesn’t have to see the way she looks at him.

The buzz of his scooter is noisy even in the morning rush of traffic, but Jongin doesn’t pay it much attention. He never asked for this kind of responsibility, but he knows that it’s pretty much the only option. Both of his sisters already had their schooling, heavy courses that required hours of studying and never left room for anything else. And Jongin just happened to be the one to pick up the slack. Not that he minds, really. It’s not easy but this is his family and he knows how hard his sisters worked to get into the schools they wanted and he couldn’t take that away from them.

It just doesn’t leave a ton of time for Jongin to do his own thing. He’s got dance, the one thing he never gave up, but it’s easy enough for things to lose their shine when they turn into an occupation instead of a hobby.

When all of this is over, when his sisters are done school and when Jongin can take a breath, he’s going to get a dog. A little fluffy one. He’s decided it. He’s always wanted a dog of his own. And then he thinks of Jongdae’s grin. Maybe then, he’d have time for other things too. He’s never been on a date. That’d be nice.

“Jongin!” Jongdae says. Jongin loves the way his eyes crinkle up when he sees him. He knows it’s wishful thinking, but he’d like to believe that it’s genuine. That it’s just for him. “I’ve been thinking.” The sweatshirt Jongdae is wearing is too big for his frame, and his socks don’t match, but still, Jongin’s heart does a quick two-step.

So has Jongin. With every delivery, Jongin’s been carefully cataloguing the things he’s done over the last week, trying to figure out if he has any stories that would qualify as ‘interesting’ for Jongdae. He’d made a promise, after all. “What have you been thinking about?” he asks. He holds out the box of chicken he’s brought, but Jongdae doesn’t seem too interested in it.

“I have this friend,” Jongdae says, and Jongin’s heart sinks, “and I know you two would get along so well.”

“Oh,” Jongin says. He files away his stories. Maybe later. “You do?”

Jongdae grins at him, and he just looks so enthusiastic that Jongin can’t help but smile back. “Definitely,” Jongdae says. He tugs the box out of Jongin’s hands and pats his elbow. “She’s tall and gorgeous and so much fun,” Jongdae says, heading into his apartment to set it down. “She’s just your type.”

“I have a type?” Jongin asks. It sets his stomach shifting uncomfortably, Jongdae’s encouraging smile and the sure tone of his voice. Jongin’s pretty sure you have to date to figure that sort of thing out, but he is certain about one thing. She’s not what he wants. She couldn’t be.

“She’s everyone’s type,” Jongdae says with certainty. There’s something tight about the way that he smiles at Jongin then, but Jongin has never been that good at reading things like that.
“Just like you.”

What does that mean? Jongin searches Jongdae’s face, but he’s busying himself with counting out the money he owes Jongin, eyes nowhere near Jongin’s. “What…?” Jongin says helplessly.

“You’ll love her,” Jongdae says. He hands over the cash, and when Jongin blinks at him dumbly for a few seconds, he folds Jongin’s fingers over it. The touch sends a thrill through Jongin, despite everything. “I already asked her if she’d be up for a blind date, so you don’t have to worry about anything. Trust me!”

It’s not Jongdae’s fault that he’s misread Jongin. They only see each other for a few minutes each time, their interactions limited to Jongdae’s doorway over the transaction of chicken and money. Still, Jongin feels a bit miserable. When he’d daydreamed about Jongdae asking him on a date, he hadn’t thought it would involve a girl he’s never met and not Jongdae at all. Jongdae looks up at him, so earnest and hopeful, and something in Jongin’s chest crumples. “I trust you,” he says after a second, smiling weakly.

“Atta boy,” Jongdae beams. “Give me your number? I’ll set it all up. You don’t have to worry about a thing.”

“Sure.” Jongin hands over his phone. He never thought that Jongdae would ever ask for his number, but this is somehow so much worse.

“There.” He’s saved his number in Jongin’s phone as funky jongdae hyung and Jongin laughs a little at that. “All set.” Jongdae claps his hands together. “Trust me,” he says again. “This will put a smile back on your face.”

“Thanks, hyung,” Jongin says. The unfamiliar word feels weird in his mouth, but Jongdae rewards him with a grin. “I’ve, um, gotta go. Deliveries.”

Jongdae nods. “Sure, sure.”

Jongin steps back, out of the doorway, hands clenched tightly at his sides. “I’ll text you?” he says.

“You’d better,” Jongdae says, delighted, and he waves as he closes the door between them.

Chanyeol texts him, something about a rush order for a place three streets away, but Jongin pays it little mind. He sits on the curb next to his scooter, ignoring the cold of the night and the concrete underneath him, and picks at the box of chicken Kyungsoo packed for him. He’s not even sure how he got himself into this mess. It’s just - Jongdae smiles, and Jongin’s higher brain function kinda evaporates. “Shit,” Jongin mumbles, burying his face in his hands. What do you even wear to a date?

He’s overdressed. Jongin realizes it the instant he walks into the restaurant and sees her. She stands to greet him and Jongin takes in her mile long legs in her shorts and the sweep of her long hair, and, well, Jongdae was right. She’s really pretty. “Hi!” she says brightly. “You must be Jongin. I’m Soojung.”

Jongin pulls at the cuffs of his button up. “It’s nice to meet you,” he says hesitantly. He never should’ve worn this. It’s the kind of thing that wouldn’t look out of place on Kris, but Jongin just feels like he’s wearing a costume. They both hover by the table before Jongin remembers his manners. “Oh, um, you look very nice.”

“Thank you,” she says, sitting down again. Jongin follows her lead. “Jongdae was right. You are handsome.”

Jongin’s ears get hot. Jongdae said I’m handsome? “Ah, thanks,” he replies, turning even more red.

“It’s nice to finally meet you,” Soojung says. She crosses her legs at the knee, carelessly tossing her hair over her shoulder. “Jongdae talks about you a lot.”

Jongin isn’t the talkative type at the best of times, but that takes the words right out of his mouth. He knows that he thinks of Jongdae a lot, during deliveries, when he’s falling asleep at night, but he never really imagined that Jongdae might do the same. “Oh,” he says, fumbling with his water glass. “He does?”

“So you must be something special,” Soojung decides. She leans over the table. “What do you do? Jongdae said you’re in school. What classes are you taking?”

It’s a good thing that Soojung is so proactive with the whole asking questions thing. Jongin feels completely out of his depth. What is he supposed to be talking about? Dates are confusing. Is it like an interview, or what? Kyungsoo had just told him to relax, to talk about the things that he likes. That’d be good advice if Jongin had interests outside of dance and Digimon. Soojung is pretty and talkative and funny and Jongin is fairly certain she’s not into Digimon.

“Um, literature?” Jongin says. “Only part time though.”

He can see her lack of interest immediately, and Jongin can’t help but wilt a little. He’d appreciate her transparency if it didn’t make him feel, well, super boring. “I wouldn’t have pegged you as the reading type,” she tells him.

Jongin looks down at himself, pulling his shirtfront straight, and then he blinks at her. “What do I look like?” he asks.

She tips her head, dragging a hand idly through the end of her hair. “Not a bookworm,” she says, and Jongin shifts uncomfortably in his seat. He doesn’t know what that means, but he doesn’t think it’s anything good.

Once they’ve run through what they each do for a living, conversation dries up. Jongin clears his throat. “So,” he begins, “um, how did you meet Jongdae?” Sometimes, Jongdae tells him about the classes he’s had, the students he’s teaching, but he’s never heard much about his friends. He certainly hasn’t heard about someone like Soojung. She’s dressed simply, but the shine of her jewelry looks pricey. A personal shopper, she’d said. He doesn’t know exactly what that entails but she clearly does well for herself. Jongin pulls at his shirt again, one of his best, and tries not to shrink in his seat.

“Oh, we went to school together,” she says, waving a hand casually. “But he said you met him through work?”

Jongin wants to melt away. “Uh, yeah,” he says. “Work.”

She grins. “Well, it definitely wasn’t the dance lessons, since Jongdae was born without a sense of rhythm.” She taps her fingers against her chin. “Unless you’re working miracles and have managed to teach him some moves, but I find that very hard to believe.”

Jongin laughs weakly. “No,” he says. “It wasn’t the dance lessons. I teach kids.”

“That’s adorable,” Soojung says. “So where was it?”

“I deliver chicken,” Jongin admits. He sees it, the faint distaste that washes over Soojung’s face. “He’s a regular.”

He really doesn’t blame Soojung for the face she pulls. “Jongdae set me up with his delivery boy?” she asks flatly. Jongin stares at the tabletop, his hands in his lap. He knew this was going to go wrong from the very start. “Sorry, sorry,” she sighs. When he glances up, she offers him a tight smile. It’s contrite, but she seems genuine. “I was under the impression that you were friends, that’s all.”

“So was I,” Jongin says.

Soojung shakes her head. “Well!” she says. “That doesn’t mean tonight can’t go well, right?”

“Right,” Jongin agrees.

Except it all goes downhill from there. Jongin gulps at the prices on the menu and even though he’s hungry, he only orders something small. Which is a good idea, because of course he manages to knock the entire thing into his lap. He yelps and jerks upright, but his chair catches on the floor and he goes tumbling to the ground. Sitting on the floor, his lap soaked with half-eaten food, he feels like an idiot. Soojung drops to a crouch next to him. “Oh, wow,” she says. If the floor opened up and swallowed Jongin down right now, he would be totally okay with that.

“I think maybe this date is over,” Jongin says, and Soojung offers him a hand to help him up. Everyone in the room is staring, and a waitress rushes up to him holding out a damp cloth. Jongin tries to wipe at the mess on his pants, his cheeks red with humiliation.

“I think so,” Soojung agrees. She surprises him by paying the bill and then again with a surprisingly venomous look directed at the other, staring patrons as they walk out the door. They stop at Jongin’s scooter. He’d offer her a ride, but he’s pretty sure he’s done embarrassing himself for the night. “Thank you,” she says, “for a, uh. A date.”

Jongin ducks his head. “Yeah,” he says. “Memorable? Let’s call it memorable.”

She squeezes his hand for a second. “You’re too sweet for me anyway,” she tells him, and she smiles. “Have a nice night.”

He waits until she’s hailed a cab before he pulls on his helmet and climbs onto his scooter. “Too sweet,” he mumbles, shaking his head. He’s not really sure that’s a good thing. What is a good thing, though, is the fact that this date is over. Hopefully he’ll never have to do this again. He’s pretty sure he’s filled his quota for humiliating himself with pretty women. He kicks off and heads home for the night, and he’s already trying to figure out what to tell Jongdae. He doesn’t want to disappoint him.

After that disaster, Jongin is glad to be busy. The stains don’t clean out of his pants, and he hides them away at the bottom of his laundry basket. It’s not really a memory he wants to be revisiting any time soon.

What’s worse is Jongdae’s texts. As soon as he’d wormed it out of Jongin, that it was a mess, he’d started to bombard Jongin with questions about details. ok, so soojung was a bust, he says, quickly followed by that just means we have to try harder! you need to tell me what you like in a woman. When that one came, Jongin had just sat for a moment, phone cradled in his lap, staring at the screen. Jongdae is still so far off the mark. In the end, he’d just turned off the screen and pocketed the phone and pretended it had never happened. It was all he knew how to do.

Lucky for him, he’s always got something to occupy his time. There are always deliveries to be made, customers to deal with. Like these three. Jongin knocks on the door and is startled when it’s thrown open with a cheer. “Chicken!” two of the men crow in unison and yank the boxes out of his hands. He’s been here before a time or two, and he knows these guys. Lu Han and Yixing are Chinese exchange students, rooming with Minseok. It’s Lu Han and Minseok who are squabbling good naturedly over the food right now, trying to juggle the boxes while they wrestle with each other.

Yixing worms his way through the both of them and smiles at Jongin. “You just saved the night,” he tells Jongin solemnly, a mischievous sparkle in his eye as he presses the cash into Jongin’s hand.

They’re all so affectionate. Lu Han is always touching Minseok, always, and even as he’s tucking away his payment, Jongin watches the way that Minseok’s hand slides from the small of Yixing’s back up to squeeze Lu Han’s chin. It’s rude to stare, but the sight of it sets off a pang in Jongin’s chest that he’s not able to ignore. He doesn’t have friends like that, not really, and he hadn’t realized he’d been missing it until right now. “Glad I could help,” he says, and Yixing waves him off with a flutter of his fingers, turning back to his friends.

It’s not that Jongin doesn’t like physical affection, he definitely does. It’s just that he’s picky about it. Most of the people he’s around are picky about it too. Kyungsoo will deliver a swift punch to the balls if he’s surprised by unwanted touch, and Kris is never really sure what to do with his abnormally long limbs anyway. Jongin has kind of forgotten what it’s like, to have that kind of relationship with someone. It’s odd.

But Jongin has deliveries to make, and no time to dwell. Jongin knocks on the next door and calls out, fumbling with his box as the door opens. “Well, hello there,” the man in front of him says, eyes raking down Jongin’s body in an almost predatory fashion. Jongin swallows. “I would’ve been ordering a lot more chicken if I knew someone like you would deliver it.”

Jongin has been spending a lot of his time lately intimidated by men so much shorter than he is, but this customer has sharp teeth and a really suggestive look in his eyes and Jongin can’t tell if he’s freaked out or into it. “Um, your order?” He holds up the box.

“Thank you,” the man says graciously. He leans against the doorway, one hip cocked, and Jongin doesn’t think he’s ever been hit on so aggressively. “How’s your night going?”

“Pretty good, thanks,” Jongin says. Byun Baekhyun is pretty, in a plain sort of way, and the weight of his focus is flattering. “It’s, uh, really nice out.”

Baekhyun smiles, but he doesn’t look up at the sky when Jongin gestures. “It is, isn’t it?” His hand lingers on Jongin’s when he takes the box, and again when he passes over his money. It’s kind of pleasant.

“Enjoy,” Jongin tells him, and Baekhyun salutes him with a little shake of the box in his hand.

“Maybe I’ll see you again,” Baekhyun suggests, and when he steps inside, it’s with a suggestive flick of his hips.

Maybe. Jongin tugs at his bangs as he heads back down to his scooter, parked at the curb. That’d be nice, maybe. Jongin can’t deny the pleasant shift in the gut at the thought of Baekhyun’s attention.

The problem is that it’d be nicer if it were Jongdae, and not Baekhyun. And that’s not a thought Jongin really wants to have.

part two
Tags: # 2013-14, pairing: jongin/chen, rating: pg

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