“Hmm?” It’s hard to pay much attention to his work when it’s so nice outside. Jongin stares longingly out the window, at the people who pass, smiling in the sunlight. It’s unfair that he’s stuck in Kyungsoo’s apartment, slogging through this anthropology project with no end when he could instead be out there, enjoying himself. Free time is kind of a luxury Jongin doesn’t have much of these days, though.
“You know what,” Kyungsoo says, laying down his pen. “Let’s go outside.”
Jongin tears his eyes away from the window. “What?” he says, cheeks pink.
Kyungsoo is already carefully tidying his things up, collecting himself to leave. “There’s a park a few blocks away, right? It’s not windy out. Let’s study outside.” He stands, ready to go, and Jongin is under the impression that it’s less of a suggestion and more of an order.
“But…” Jongin frowns, brow furrowed. “You don’t like the outdoors.”
Jongin remembers one time, last year, when Kyungsoo had been trying to figure out what to do for an anniversary date with his girlfriend. The look on his face when Chanyeol had suggested a picnic had been pure, icy disdain. “I prefer my meals without insects,” he’d said, and that had been that.
“Maybe today I can make an exception.” Kyungsoo is looking at Jongin with that soft expression in his eyes that lets Jongin know that this is a favour. Maybe he shouldn’t have told him all about that disaster of a date with Soojung. “Well? Are you coming?”
“Alright, alright.” Jongin scrambles to gather his things and follow Kyungsoo out.
Maybe he’s not much better at focusing outside, but Jongin sure feels a lot better. They find a spot under a tree and settle in, Kyungsoo spreading his books out neatly and resting his notebook on his knee, Jongin sprawling out on his belly and kicking up his heels. The heat of his sun warms his back and he kicks off his shoes, burying his toes in the fresh grass. He sighs happily and out of the corner of his eye he sees Kyungsoo smile a little.
Jongin’s lack of focus isn’t just because of being cooped up, though. He’s got his textbook open in front of him but as he taps his highlighter against the page, his mind wanders. It’s kind of hard to forget something, once you’ve figured it out. He’s been so busy for so long that he’s been outrunning his feelings, but they’re starting to catch up with him now.
It’s just, well, it’d be nice, to have somebody. It’s not really fair to want that considering how busy he is, but sometimes he just thinks it’d make it all just a little bit easier. It’d be nice, to have someone to tell about his day, someone to curl up with on those rare nights off. Jongin glances down at the page, highlighting a line almost at random, and laughs at himself. Maybe he really should look into getting that dog.
“Jongin?” He can’t deny the way his heart kind of stutters in his chest at the sound of his name. He knows that voice. “Wow, hi!”
Jongin straightens immediately, pushing himself up on his hands as Jongdae approaches. “Hey, hyung,” he says cautiously. Next to him, Kyungsoo raises an eyebrow curiously, but he doesn’t say anything.
“How are you on this beautiful day?” Jongdae asks. He plonks himself down next to Jongin and flashes a grin at Kyungsoo. “Hi!” he says. “I’m Kim Jongdae.”
“Ah, Kim Jongdae,” Kyungsoo says. He nods. “Do Kyungsoo.”
“Nice to meet you,” Jongdae says. He reaches out to flick the pages of Jongin’s textbook, scoffing. “Jongin-ah, didn’t I tell you to have more fun? This isn’t more fun, you know.” Jongin’s used to seeing Jongdae in like, house clothes. Comfortable pants and old hoodies, that kind of thing. So it’s a little weird to see him properly dressed like this. His striped shirt makes his narrow chest seem a little broader than it is, and Jongin’s eyes linger on his shoulders, his waist.
Jongin closes the textbook with a snap, flushing. “Helps me get through school, though,” he points out. “That’s handy.” He’s suddenly aware of the grass clinging to his shirtfront and his bare feet, and he folds them up underneath himself.
“Do you know what might help?” Jongdae asks. He nudges Jongin’s knee with his knuckles. “Another date.”
Two words, and the nice, comfortable mood of the afternoon is erased. “Oh?” Jongin asks, but he doesn’t really want to know. He draws on his knee with a fingertip, staring down at Jongdae’s legs because meeting his eyes is too hard. He’d kind of hoped that one failure would put Jongdae off the cause, but if anything, he’s just become twice as determined. It’s flattering, in a way. He’s wanted Jongdae’s attention for months. This just isn’t how he wanted it.
“Listen, I know the last one was, well.” Jongdae pulls a face, and Jongin knows that Soojung must not have pulled any punches when she’d told Jongdae about it all. “But okay, trust me. I have the girl for you, I swear.”
It’s worse, seeing the earnest way that Jongdae looks at him. For some reason that Jongin can’t fathom, he really wants these dates to go well for Jongin. He’s a good friend. “Yeah?” he says. He hears Kyungsoo make a small noise in his throat.
“Definitely,” Jongdae assures him. He’s got one hand resting against Jongin’s knee, and it warms him more than the mid-afternoon sun ever did. “She’s fantastic. I promise you, you will like this girl.”
The longer this goes on, the harder it is to sort out. “Okay,” Jongin says, folding beneath the weight of Jongdae’s perfect, hopeful smile. “Why not?”
Jongdae reaches out and ruffles Jongin’s hair, beaming at him. “Just you wait,” he tells Jongin. “You can thank me at your wedding.”
He looks so pleased with himself that any protests Jongin could have had dry up in his mouth. It’s just one date, right? It can’t possibly go any worse than the last one. All he has to do is go to dinner and figure out how to talk to a girl and then maybe Jongdae will be satisfied. He tried, right? Jongin tucks his hands in his lap and clenches them tightly together.
“Ah, shit, I’ve gotta go. Late for a lesson. Nice seeing you!” Jongdae stands and brushes himself off, and Jongin definitely doesn’t notice the sliver of belly he flashes when he stretches his arms above his head. “I’ll text you the details.” He nods quickly at Kyungsoo. “Nice to meet you too!” he says, and with a wave, he sets off across the field.
They’re both silent for a few minutes after Jongdae leaves, and that’s mostly because Jongin knows what Kyungsoo will say. “A date, huh?” Kyungsoo asks.
Jongin rubs his eyes with the heels of his hands. “I guess so,” he says.
“So he’s got no idea at all.” It’s not a question, and it’s only slightly accusatory. If Jongin had just been honest with Jongdae, then he wouldn’t be in this situation in the first place. It’s kind of his fault.
“No one knows,” Jongin sighs. “Except you, and Sehun. And Kris hyung, and that was mostly an accident.” He hadn’t really meant to come out to Kris in the first place and now he’s kind of aggressively solicitous, taking the role of ‘hyung’ very seriously. “It’s just - I don’t -” Jongin pulls his legs up towards his chest and frowns.
“It must be hard,” Kyungsoo says, and Jongin might not really like the sympathetic twist of Kyungsoo’s mouth, but he’s always understood what Jongin’s trying to say when he’s fumbling with his words. “I know.”
Jongin huffs, more upset with himself than anything, and grabs his textbook. “Doesn’t matter anyway,” he says.
Kyungsoo hesitates before he speaks. “He doesn’t know how you feel about him either, I take it.”
“Said it doesn’t matter, hyung,” Jongin says, shaking his head. Because it doesn’t. Even on that tiny, tiny chance that Jongdae could ever see him the way he sees Jongdae, it’d be silly of Jongin to think that he has time for a relationship right now. So it’s pretty much irrelevant anyway, right?
“You know,” Kyungsoo says, laying his pen down on his page, “You can take a few minutes for yourself sometimes. It’s not selfish.”
It feels selfish, though. “What should we do for a visual?” Jongin asks, stubbornly ignoring the exasperated look that Kyungsoo sends his way. “Everyone will be doing a powerpoint but I think it’d be quickest.”
Kyungsoo exhales through his nose, shaking his head. “Whatever you’d like,” he says. “As long as it’s not a poster. No more arts and crafts.”
Jongin musters up a weak smile at the memory of their final project last semester. It’s nice of Kyungsoo to play along with his subject change, at least. “Deal,” he says. He bends over his textbook, determinedly focusing his eyes on the page in front of him. He needs to get through this chapter before his shift starts in an hour, and if he can’t shake this off, he’ll never finish. It’s just hard to study with the threat of another horrible date hanging over his head.
Jongin doesn’t have time for this. He hikes his briefs up on his hips and rifles through his clothes one more time. He learned his lesson last time, with dressing up too much, and ended up with a pair of stained pants. He’s just not sure what counts as ‘casual’ that doesn’t also count as ‘sloppy mess’. He comes up empty-handed again and he groans, throwing himself onto his bed and burying his face in his pillow.
He’s tried asking for advice. Kris had rattled off a few designer names and offered to lend him clothes and, well, no. Jongin’s seen Kris’ idea of what to wear on a date and it’s a bit too avant garde for him. Kyungsoo had been dismissive about the importance of what he’s wearing, and Chanyeol had told him to go naked. His friends aren’t particularly useful.
He hesitates before he texts Jongdae. The answer comes quickly enough that Jongin’s heart clenches just a little. don’t worry so much, Jongdae says, followed by you’re handsome enough it doesn’t matter what you wear. she’ll love you.
Handsome. The context of it dulls the compliment, but Jongin’s cheeks still heat up with it. thanks hyung. It’s not really helpful, either, but it does make him feel pretty good, so he’ll take it.
In the end, he settles on a plain shirt, something Chanyeol had once told him he looked nice in, and he hopes it’s enough. What if it’s not dressy enough? What if this time, Jongdae’s picked somewhere really nice? He won’t even be able to afford an appetizer, in that case.
He wishes it were Jongdae, if he’s honest. He doesn’t want to be, because thinking about the things that he can’t have doesn’t help anything, but it’s the truth of it. At least then, he’d actually want to go. Right now, he’s a bundle of nerves and he doesn’t even know this girl, much less, like, want to date her. Maybe this can be practice. Less nerves. Right? Jongin tugs on a pair of socks and sighs. His stomach is a mess.
It’s amazing how easy it is to waste time by worrying. By the time Jongin’s brushed his teeth and wrangled his hair into something like submission, it’s almost time for him to go. He hesitates over taking his scooter again, but in the end, practicality wins out over any potential helmet hair. Having an escape route, is crucial.
This time, he’s early. He sits at the table, fidgeting with his water glass and the flower he’d brought. It was supposed to be a sign, that he was the one, but Jongin mostly feels kinda silly. It’s a bit wilted from the ride over, and he hopes she doesn’t mind. He can’t wait for all of this to be over.
“Oh my - Kim Jongin?” Jongin’s head whips around, eyes wide, and he stares up. Standing in front of him, flower tucked in her hair, is Choi Jinri. “Wait, you’re my date?”
Jongin blinks. Jinri sat next to him through two years of history class. “Wow,” he says, standing to pull out her chair. “You know Jongdae?” It takes the edge off, the fact that he knows this girl, at least a little. He knows she likes hairbows and chews on her pens and is surprisingly good at soccer.
“Yeah,” she says. “He’s my little brother’s piano teacher.” She sweeps her skirt under her legs as she sits, and Jongin is so grateful that this time, he doesn’t feel so out of place. “I’ve known him for years.” She shakes her head, tucking her hair behind her ear. “Wow. I was definitely not expecting you here.”
“Oh?” Jongin scratches at the back of his neck. “Who were you expecting?” He didn’t know he was so disappointing.
Jinri shakes her head. “Oh, no, it’s just -” She licks her lips, hesitates. Her lipgloss is so pink. “You know, I never thought I was your type.”
There’s that phrase again. Jongin pulls a face, baffled. “I have a type?” he asks. “I didn’t know I had a type.”
Jinri purses her lips thoughtfully. “Well,” she says, “I thought it was certainly more masculine.” Jongin goes cold. Oh, he thinks distantly. Their waiter approaches, expression cool and polite, and Jongin has already forgotten what he wants to order. He wonders if the man overheard Jinri. He wonders if he even cares what their waiter thinks. Jinri presses a hand to her lips. “I’m sorry,” she says immediately. “I didn’t mean to say anything, I’m sorry.” The waiter clears his throat and Jinri turns her smile on him. It’s sharp and dismissive, in start contrast the softness and sweetness of her features. “We’ll need a minute, thank you.”
Jongin hadn’t really considered the idea that someone might figure things out. He’d kinda thought that his sexuality would be the kind of secret he keep all to himself, fold it up tiny and keep it inside his chest forever. This wasn’t an option he’d ever considered. He feels so precarious right now. “Um,” he says.
“It’s none of my business,” Jinri says. She looks so worried, eyebrows creased up and one hand pressed against her sternum like she’s trying to steady her own heart. “I didn’t mean -”
“No,” Jongin says. “It’s fine, you’re. You’re right.” He smiles shakily. “I’m mostly into - well.” The words don’t quite make it out of his mouth but Jinri gets it, the tension softening from her face. “But, uh, I can still enjoy a dinner with a pretty lady, right?”
She snorts. “Of course,” she says. “Especially if you pay.” She winks at him good naturedly, and then waves over their waiter.
It’s funny how much easier a date is when it turns into dinner with a friend. Jongin is still a bit unsteady, but the thing about Jinri is she’s always been so warm and easy-going. She fills him in on her life, her forays into school theatre and her last year of studies and it’s just - it’s comfortable. Nothing has changed from the same, casual friendship they’d had in class. It’s not like he’d expected something dramatic, but. It’s just nice.
They linger on the street afterwards, and she kisses him on the cheek, leaving him with a bright, sticky imprint of her lips. “I had fun,” she says, squeezing his wrist.
“Me too,” Jongin says, wiping at his face and it surprises him how much he means it. It’d be weird, to thank her, but she still smiles at him. He thinks maybe she gets it, sort of. “And if I think of someone, ah, more your type, I’ll pass him along.”
Jinri has the kind of face that lights up entirely when she smiles, a bit childish, but mostly beautiful. “You’re so thoughtful,” she says. “The same goes for you.” She wiggles her eyebrows conspiratorily and then makes her goodbyes, heading out.
Before Jongin follows suit, he lingers over his phone. Somewhere around dessert, Jongdae had sent him another text. how’d it go? It’s not really an easy question to answer. After a few long minutes, Jongin settles on she’s not for me. It’s the truth, at least. Once he pockets his phone, he feels it vibrate with a flurry of replies. Probably the names of three new girls he thinks Jongin will like. Jongin doesn’t bother to check them. For now, he’d just like to enjoy the warm feeling in his gut and the looseness in his shoulders. This has been a good night.
Sehun looks grumpy when he opens the door. That’s not really new, though, Sehun looks grumpy a good sixty percent of the time. “Took you long enough,” he snipes.
Jongin slugs him. “I’ll have you know that I’ve got the fastest scooter in the city.”
“Sure,” Sehun scoffs. He scowls but he softens when Jongin holds up his delivery boxes, and Sehun waves him in for a second. “Your stupid scooter.”
“It’s beautiful,” Jongin tells him. He likes Sehun. He’s known him since they were kids and nothing makes him feel more normal than when Sehun tells him he’s an idiot for something. “Big order tonight. Got company.”
Sehun avoids his eyes, gesturing vaguely for Jongin to set the boxes down on the counter. “Nah,” he says. “Just hungry, I guess.”
Jongin presses a finger to his lip. Sehun’s only been living on his own for a year or so, and he’s never taken well to it. His kitchen is littered with takeout and empty instant meal boxes, but there are no dishes piled up in the sink. When Sehun reaches into his fridge for a drink, Jongin sees the shelves, bare of mostly everything but condiments. “If I didn’t have a job, unlike some people, I’d help you finish it,” he tells Sehun.
“Yeah, but you’re always busy,” Sehun says, a bit resentfully.
Jongin doesn’t have an answer for that, because he’s right. It’s been weeks since Jongin’s had much time between his studies and his jobs to spend time with people. The way Sehun stares at his feet reminds Jongin of Joonmyun and his tired eyes. If he were more ambitious, maybe he’d drag Sehun around on a delivery someday. He thinks they’d get along. “Sorry,” Jongin says finally, as sincerely as he knows how.
Sehun shrugs and pushes Jongin, hard enough to make him rock backwards. “Whatever,” he says, but he smiles a little bit. “But I better get an invite to your stupid dance thing.”
“Backstage pass,” Jongin says, jostling Sehun back. “Duh.”
“Okay, good,” Sehun says. He kicks at the floor with his socked foot. “I’m not tipping you, though.”
Jongin squawks indignantly, and honestly he should be mad. But he knows what it’s like to have a really long day and just come home and be exhausted by the thought of cooking. If money’s tight for Sehun this month, Jongin won’t begrudge him a few thousand won. He’s gone without coffee before, he can do it again. “Cheapskate. What kind of friend are you?”
“Here’s a tip,” Sehun says, “your face is ugly.” He grins.
“You’re lucky I’ve got to leave right now,” Jongin tells him. He shoves Sehun one more time. He’s still getting broader, which Jongin thinks is kind of unfair. He remembers when Sehun looked like a skinny dweeb and now he’s even taller than Chanyeol is. “Text me sometime, okay?”
“Sir, yessir,” Sehun says, but at least he doesn’t look so scowly. Jongin takes it as a win.
Now, he’s just gotta hope he’ll knock the next one out of the park. He’s got one more delivery tonight, and again, it’s Jongdae. He’s been picking Jongin’s brain for a week about the date. Jinri had covered for him, which was pretty sweet of her, said something about how he’d reminded her of an ex. tough break, buddy, Jongdae had said. but don’t you worry. i’ve got you covered. While it’s nice to be texting Jongdae this much, he wishes it could be about something other than what he looks like in a girl. There’s only so many gender neutral replies that Jongin can get away with.
“Hey, Jongin-ah!” Jongdae grins as he opens the door, that wide, dazzling smile that knocks Jongin off his feet. “Tell me I’m your last delivery.” Jongdae shifts and Jongin can see the flex of his biceps and okay, he maybe feels a little bit lightheaded.
It takes a few seconds for Jongin to remember his words. “You’re in luck,” he says. “I’m all done.”
“Come in, then, come in,” Jongdae waves him in. It feels a bit weird but when Jongin kicks off his shoes, Jongdae closes one hand around his wrist and drags him into the living room. He hasn’t even paid for his delivery yet, and Jongin’s still got it clutched to his chest, but Jongdae’s casual touch has his heart racing a little. “I bet you’re tired from being out all day. I know you were up early with school stuff.” Jongdae catches the way that Jongin eyes him strangely, and colours. “You replied to my text at like seven in the morning. It’s not rocket science.”
Jongin didn’t know that Jongdae noticed these things. “Oh,” he says. “I mean, it’s nice to get a break.”
“See?” Jongdae says. He throws himself down on the couch and reaches for his chicken. “Thought so. Join me?”
Jongin sits down stiffly. “What, like, your delivery?”
Jongdae hums, scrounging a few bills out of his jeans and then stretching out an arm to tuck them into Jongin’s hoodie pocket. “You don’t wanna have dinner with me?” he asks, pressing a hand against his chest in mock injury. “I’m wounded.”
“No,” Jongin says hastily. “No, no, it’s just - it’s your food. You paid for it.”
Jongdae waves a hand in a dismissal, tapping his fingers against the lid of the one box left in Jongin’s lap. “Help me eat it,” he says.
His couch isn’t that big, and Jongdae’s knee brushes up against Jongin’s when he shifts in his seat. Jongin feels like a kid with his first crush, heated up and so unsteady. “Well, I mean, if you insist.”
Jongdae pats his thigh. “Atta boy,” he says. Jongin isn’t sure how he’s supposed to eat, though, when Jongdae’s doing his best to stir up a storm in his belly. It’s kind of overwhelming, being so close to Jongdae. This isn’t like any of his deliveries before, and it isn’t like texting him. He’s actually getting to spend some time with him, one on one, and it’s worse than any blind date, because this is someone Jongin actually wants to spend time with again. “So I’ve been thinking -” Jongdae says, and Jongin knows that tone by now.
“Hyung,” he says suddenly, busying his hands with the box in his lap. “No more. Please.”
Jongdae looks taken aback. “What?”
“I don’t want any more blind dates,” Jongin says. He’s pretty proud of himself, actually, even if Jongdae looks confused and a tiny bit hurt. He’s never really been able to say no to Jongdae before. “I’m just - I said yes, because I thought it’d make you happy. But I’m not - I don’t really date. They’re not for me.”
“I’m sorry,” Jongdae says. He leans away, pulling away from that tiny bit of contact between them. Jongin does his best not to be crushingly disappointed. “I just thought - you always look so tired and sad.” He shrugs a shoulder, flushing again. “I just wanted to give you something good.”
Jongin doesn’t have the slightest idea what to say to that. Jongdae had noticed that? He rubs self-consciously at the dark circles he knows are under his eyes. “Oh,” he says again.
“You don’t need to say yes for me,” Jongdae says. “I’m sorry I was so pushy.”
It’s the first time that he’s seen Jongdae so unhappy, and Jongin immediately decides it’s not something he likes. “That’s not it,” he says, frustrated. “It’s just…” He takes a deep breath. “I’m not into girls.” It’s easier the second time around. Easier still when Jongdae is watching him, gaze steady and even. “So those dates were kind of doomed from the start.”
He can’t help it, he holds his breath until Jongdae replies. “That explains a lot,” Jongdae says, laughing a little. Jongin braces himself, confused, until Jongdae reaches out to him again. “I could’ve sworn I got it right with Jinri, but I was seriously missing the mark.” He’s tense, in a weird way that Jongin doesn’t really understand, and makes him nervous. Jongdae’s always been so confident and self-assured, and Jongin doesn’t get this.
“She’s really nice,” he says. He can’t tell Jongdae that it’s not just her gender that doesn’t work, but he thinks that one revelation is enough for tonight. He’s never told anyone he likes them, and it seems kinda terrifying. “But not quite right.”
“Gotcha,” Jongdae says. He smiles at Jongin, and it changes from sweet to sly. “Don’t worry, I can work with this. I’ve got just the guy in mind.”
Jongin’s stomach twists. “Um,” he says, twisting his hands in the too-long sleeves of his hoodie. “I’m still not really, like, super into the idea of blind dates,” Jongin admits. “I’m not really good at that kind of thing.” The dates were bad enough when it was girls. He can’t even imagine how much more nervous he’d be if there was a possibility of actually being with someone he has a chance of liking.
His stomach lurches when Jongdae grabs his wrist again. “Just this one last time,” he pleads. “Just one. After this, I promise I will never set you up with anyone again.”
The chicken in his lap is cooling fast enough that it’s gonna be too gross to eat soon. Jongin doesn’t really want to think about how disappointing it is, that Jongdae is so hellbent on this idea of setting him up. He means well, though, and his hand is so warm around Jongin’s wrist. “Well, okay,” he says reluctantly, and just like always, Jongdae’s face lights up.
“Third time’s the charm,” Jongdae promises, and Jongin manages a smile. If nothing else, maybe it’ll get his mind off the way that Jongdae’s mouth curls up at the corners and the flex of his shoulders and how earnest he looks when he’s trying to cheer Jongin up. “This one will stick.”
“I hope so,” Jongin says.
He has to pull his hand out of Jongdae’s grip to answer his phone when it rings. “Where are you?” Chanyeol asks. “I’ve been back for like twenty minutes. Kris wants to close.”
Crap. Jongin’s eyes widens when he realizes the time. “Sorry, sorry, I’m on my way.” Chanyeol crows something about how Jongin will be stuck on dishes duty for a week and Jongin hangs up, nearly knocking Jongdae’s chicken on the floor. “I’m sorry, I just, I’ve gotta go.”
Jongdae nods. “Yeah, of course,” he says. He wiggles his eyebrows. “Get stoked, though. This next one’s gonna be a doozy.”
It’s hard for Jongin to muster up the same enthusiasm when all he feels is nerves and a little bit of sadness. “I’m sure,” Jongin agrees, smiling at him. He takes his time pulling his shoes on again. “But uh, thanks, hyung.” For reaching out to him, for trying so hard, for a lot of things. It turns out that Jongdae’s a pretty good friend. “I mean it.”
“Thank me after this date,” Jongdae says. There’s something tight in the way he grins at Jongin, not quite as cocky as usual, but Jongin doesn’t know how to read it. “Have a good night, Jongin-ah.”
“You too.” One more date. That’s all, just one more. It can’t be that bad, right? Might even be nice if he likes the guy. He shivers at the thought.
Jongin’s early again. Which is good, on one hand, because being late is its own headache, but it does mean that Jongin has more than enough time to drink his way through a glass of water and think way, way too much.
Jongdae hadn’t given him any details about this guy, and that makes it worse. Because it means that Jongin doesn’t really have any boundaries for his imagination now. And no matter how much he speculates, twisting his water glass around in his hands, he just keeps imagining one person. Small, easy smile, those sharp, down-turned eyes - there’s only ever been one person Jongin wants to see on the other side of the table, and it’s the one person it won’t ever be.
Maybe this date will be good for him. Even if it’s cutting into his time for work on his final lit project. He’s never really let himself think about actually dating someone, he’s always had too much on the go. Still does, really. It’s just too hard to say no to Jongdae, though. One date. It won’t cost him all that much.
He’s halfway through his second glass of water when someone approaches his table. Jongin’s stomach does a really weird thing when he sees who it is, a simultaneous lurch of hope and disappointment. There’s only one reason that Jongdae would be here right now - his date bailed. Jongin thinks that maybe he should give up this whole dating thing if he’s gonna start striking out before he even meets the guy. “Hyung?” he says, looking up. “Where’s my date?”
Jongdae is dressed up enough that Jongin’s heart kind of flutters in his chest. He’s got a red flower tucked into his buttonhole and his hands pressed to his sides. “Right here,” he says, sliding into the chair across from Jongin. “If that’s okay with you.”
To Jongin, Jongdae has always been so confident and self-assured, and this is the first time he’s seen anything else in him. It’s strange, the way that he blinks a little too fast and drums his fingers against the table. “Wait, what?” There’s a weird sort of deja vu when you’ve been daydreaming about something for months and then somehow it actually seems to be happening in real life. “I don’t -” Believe that this is really happening.
“I just thought, maybe,” Jongdae says, flustered. “I’m sorry, I guess I misjudged again, I’ll just -”
He pulls at the flower in his pocket and Jongin reaches out before he even realizes he’s doing it. He closes his hand around Jongdae’s wrist before he can stand and pull away. “Wait,” Jongin says desperately. “Please, I -” He swallows. “I have had the biggest crush on you since the first time you opened your door,” he admits, his stomach rolling with fear. “I just never thought you’d ever...y’know.”
This is the scariest thing he’s ever done. The restaurant hums with the noise of quiet conversation and the kitchen, but the silence stretches between the two of them for long enough for Jongin to panic a little, pulling away. “I always thought you were straight,” Jongdae says, laughing a little. He sits again, slowly shifting his grip until he’s got Jongin’s hand in his. “So I thought maybe, I could be your friend instead.”
If Jongin wasn’t seated, he’d be worried about his knees giving out right now. This is unreal. “I teach ballet,” Jongin says, and he covers his smile with his free hand. “Most people don’t draw the same conclusion.”
Jongdae shrugs. “So, tonight, let me make up for my mistakes.” He tugs his flower out of his buttonhole and leans over to tuck it in Jongin’s pocket. “I told you, third time’s the charm. I bet this one will stick.”
It turns out that the real deal, Jongdae all dressed up and smiling and just as nervous as Jongin is, is way better than any daydream that Jongin’s ever had. “I hope so,” Jongin says, and his heart feels like it’s doing its best to flutter right out of his chest.
After their dinner, when Jongin feels full and warm and Jongdae has captured his hand again, they walk back to Jongdae’s together. They stop half a block from his door and Jongdae pushes Jongin back until he steps off the curb. Like this, their heights almost match, and it’s so easy for Jongdae to use his grip on Jongin’s collar to reel him back in and kiss him. Jongin would let Jongdae push him around forever if it always ends like this. He feels lightheaded. Jongin’s not experienced, but Jongdae is, and when he pulls away, Jongin follows, eyes half-lidded and out of breath. “So,” Jongdae says, and Jongin is so aware of the weight of Jongdae’s hands, on the back of his neck and against his chest. “How’d I do?”
“Bullseye,” Jongin says, dizzy, and Jongdae laughs, leaning in to catch his mouth again.