Pairing: kai/d.o + one sided!kai/luhan, background!baekhyun/chanyeol, background!sehun/luhan
Word count: ~23000 SCREAMS
Rating: pg-13 (but almost r oops)
Summary: Between struggling in university and working shifts at the restaurant, Jongin is fighting to bring his life together after his parents disown him. Meeting Do Kyungsoo, however, changes everything.
A/N: when i get into a group, i usually have a pretty good idea which members ill be more attached to and which ones ill care about less. but for exo, that doesnt seem to be the case?? both jongin and kyungsoo grew on me much more than i expected, AND THEN I WROTE THEM FIC :| WHY KAISOO WHY
this is tagged as restaurant!au but in the end it has nothing to do with the restaurant but i didnt know what else to tag it in case i wanted to write spinoffs for other otps so uh thats what it is.
i wrote this instead of working on my runandgun assignment, im such a bad kid. and then it turned out way longer than i predicted, i think i am cursed AND now my tlist hates me bcos ive been screaming about this for two weeks :( tysfm i love you guys for putting up with me, esp iliaccrests, feixing, leadernim, destroyedcastle, babykyungsoo, capsless, and jess who refuses to join the world of lj :'| (edit: who is now sooryun!)
in the wonderfully accurate words of lunathunderhead: "emmi has been working on this kaisoo since like 1996 is it like 150k words now" (also vee you owe me a bullet in the head bcos i swore this fic wouldnt go over 20k....)
finest thing in history
Clear up Table 5, they just left,” Lu Han says, passing Jongin with a pitcher of water, slice of lemon and all, as well a carefully balanced tray of several filled glasses in the other hand.
Jongin glares at the other waiter over his shoulder, yanking a hand towel off of the stand and shoving it into his back pocket before following the direction. Lu Han has only been working at the restaurant a month longer than Jongin has, taking every shift available before Jongin could by the time he joined staff, and Jongin resents the coddling, almost condescending way the other boy treats him just as much as he hates the years between their ages. “I hope you drop the water,” he mutters to himself, glancing at Lu Han’s slender, weak-looking wrists, the gentle curve of his neck. He knows Lu Han will never drop anything, the slight boy maneuvering the crowded tables with ease.
He starts stacking the empty plates at the table at a speed the manager would call efficient and Lu Han calls too rushed, scraping leftovers into the soup bowl before setting the plates aside. Forks and spoons clatter as he clears out the rest of the table, the cutlery settling as napkins are discarded and cups crowded together on a platter. It will take two trips to the kitchens to take in all the dishes, he accesses, moving for the quickest path there without even looking around. It would be a stretch to say he knows the restaurant layout like the back of his hand, but half a year of work pays off in more ways than one. If anything, it’s something worthwhile to spend his time on.
On his second trip, just when he gets through the kitchen doors, Jongin is so focused on the teetering cup at the top of his stack that he doesn’t notice the cleaning boy pass with his enormous mop; he steps back to avoid Chanyeol and swears out loud when the plates are set unbalanced. The resulting crash attracts the attention of the entire kitchen.
“Fuck,” Jongin hisses again, snatching his hand back from the broken glass now sprawled over his feet and the smooth tiles. One of the best platters is among the wreckage, blue porcelain scattered among chips of white. His paycheck this month will be suffering for this.
“Oh, god, I’m so sorry,” Chanyeol blurts, and hovers nearby even though Jongin ignores him. Gritting his teeth at his carelessness, Jongin takes the offered towel from a kitchen hand and kneels to clean up the mess. The kitchen hand, a tiny boy with soft eyes and long fingers, shy enough that Jongin has never directly spoken to him, hurriedly tugs Chanyeol away.
He’s passing a hand—a bit thoughtlessly—over the now moist floor, checking for any lingering shards his eyes have missed, when Lu Han sweeps into the kitchen. “Jongin!” Lu Han exclaims in alarm, squatting beside him as soon as he notices the shards of glassware and porcelain in a nearby trash can. “I keep telling you not to rush.”
Jongin scowls at him, jerking away from Lu Han’s light touch to his elbow. “I know you do.”
“You could have split that table into three trips, or asked me to help you,” Lu Han says admonishingly, standing up when Jongin does. He tries to take the towel from Jongin’s fingers, but Jongin tightens his grip.
“Lu Han, I know!” he snaps. He knows he’s usually standoffish at the restaurant, he knows Lu Han isn’t a stranger to his bad temper anymore, but when the other boy’s eyes widen in shock and he takes a step back, Jongin also knows he has crossed a line. It isn’t fair to Lu Han for him to take his anger out at him, because Jongin does know; he knows that those dishes were a bit too heavy for him, a bit too much for him to handle, and he’s upset with himself for his carelessness and not watching out for Chanyeol and his long limbs and what a mess his life is in general.
He mumbles an apology even as Lu Han hides the hurt from his face, disappearing out of the double doors instead of pushing forward to bandage the cut Jongin just realized is blooming across his palm. The kitchen hand gives him the first aid kit, then rushes away when one of the chefs shout, “Baekhyun, stop slacking off and come here!” as the smell of burning food fills the air.
“Maybe you need a break,” Joonmyun, another one of the kitchen hands, says softly as Jongin is sitting in the corner, wrapping up his cut. Jongin bristles even as he rifles through the first aid kit for a bandage, sick of being babied just because he’s the youngest one on staff. After the first time Jongin lashed out at him, Joonmyun learned to back off, sighing when Jongin shrugged off his comforting hand or refused to accept his aid, but Jongin knows he still worries just as much as Lu Han does. A match made in heaven, he decides bitterly.
Jongin tugs a heavy duty bandage out of the box and closes the first aid kit with the back of his wounded hand. “I’ll be fine,” he insists, ripping open the wrapping with his teeth even as Joonmyun reaches out to help. He uses it even though it’s a bit too short for the cut, then stands to get back to work once he determines his vest and dress shirt are free of blood.
“Don’t worry so much, Joonmyun, you’ll get wrinkles,” Jongin says with a smirk, pushing through the double doors and tugging out his notebook to take someone’s order.
A week later, Jongin receives an expected C on his research essay for his Government Regulation of Industry class at the university and an unexpected call that evening from the restaurant, asking him to take over Lu Han’s usual evening shift. “Why can’t he make it?” he asks in confusion. Since the first day he started working at the restaurant to his night shift the day before, he has never seen Lu Han miss a shift. Even he has called in sick or busy before, and God knows how much Jongin needs his paycheck.
“Family problems, that’s all he said,” the manager tells him. The deep voice is as solemn as always, full of authority and power, but Jongin wonders if he’s concerned.
Jongin shrugs. “I’ll be there.”
When he hangs up, he decides against the bowl of ramyun he just peeled the plastic wrapping off of; the restaurant sometimes covers meals for the waiters if they take the evening shift, and he’s been eating beef flavored ramyun for the past two weeks because actual grocery shopping is such a hassle. Rice is usually a good deal, now that his ex-roommate from school, Yixing, gave him his old rice cooker, but rice also becomes boring very quickly. It came as a surprise when Yixing offered the beat-up cooker to him upon getting a new one, seeing as the two of them had never been close during the semester, with different classes and different circles and different personalities. But Jongin knows better than to turn free things down when money is tight.
He pulls on his thickest jacket over his work uniform, tugging at the tight collar of his dress shirt, and takes the bus down the restaurant even though the closest stop is a ten minute walk away. It’s so cold he can see his breath when he exhales, but the chill clears his mind and leaves him enough room to wonder if Lu Han is all right. For all he’s ever said or done, he has to admit the other boy is a familiar presence in his life, with that easy smile and those delicate features. That kind of exquisite beauty has always intrigued Jongin, no matter how he denies it.
It’s a busy night, and Jongin easily sees why Lu Han strives so hard to get this shift. Tips flow easily, not the stingy dollars Jongin manages on his usual nights, and the cooks pull up some kimchi fried rice and a skinny slice of cake for him after hours when he promises to help close up for the night. He just manages to catch the last bus back to his neighborhood, climbing the endless flight of stairs, unlocking the door and opening it to his silent, untouched apartment.
Jongin grabs a bag of chips from the cupboard, a reward for himself after a good night of work, and pulls out his books even though it’s almost eleven. His struggle to get into university was more of defying his parents’ wishes and less of actually wanting an education, but he still has to do well if he wants to make getting kicked out of home worth it. A college degree will mean he can have something more than this, more than the extra bit people add to their dinner payments, more than the treat the chefs gave him that he finished in three bites. More than this lonely apartment he returns to every night, where the landlord won’t even let him own a parakeet or something to fend away the silence. All his life, Jongin has just wanted more.
By the time he falls asleep, the sky is flushed with the beginnings of sunlight.
Lu Han is back the next day, as good-natured as ever, and Jongin casts away all of his doubts and scenarios without a second thought. He takes the opening for noon shift instead of taking a nap between classes, then stows his vest away in his backpack during the bus ride back to university. Nobody can stop him if he wears a white dress shirt to class instead of a sweatshirt, and he certainly doesn’t care if anyone happens to stare.
“Jongin, you look like you’re going to fall asleep,” Yixing tells him when he passes his ex-roommate between lectures.
Jongin resists the urge to yawn, or to lash out; both of them seem much too appealing at the moment. “I’ll be okay, Yixing,” he says finally, darting away so he won’t be late for Public Finance and Public Policy, or just so he won’t have to see the concern in Yixing’s expressive eyes.
He takes notes the best he can, dozes fitfully on the bus ride back home, then sets an alarm for evening shift right before he crashes. The manager asked him the other day about how he was doing in school, whether he could handle all of the shifts he was signing up for, and Jongin shook the manager off as politely as he could without screaming in frustration. “I wouldn’t ask for them if I couldn’t make it,” Jongin said, pushing as much certainty into his voice as he could, but nothing he said could get the skeptic line of the manager’s eyebrows to smooth out.
When his alarm clock blares from its spot right beside his pillow, Jongin gets up with a sleepy curse before washing his face with ice cold water and changing into his work clothes for the second time of the day. By now, he suspects the bus drivers all know him as “that zombie kid,” judging by his state of mind when he stumbles down the steps of the bus.
“You look horrible,” Lu Han says, his voice matter-of-fact, when Jongin enters the kitchen through the employee door. “When was the last time you slept?”
“Last night, like everyone else,” Jongin replies, tying on his apron and flipping the notebook from his pocket to a fresh page.
He slips out into the throng before Lu Han can hassle him some more, taking orders and clearing tables and bringing dishes mechanically even as his stomach growls and a throbbing headache builds up between his temples. During his five minute break, he doesn’t have the heart to refuse the cup of tea Baekhyun offers him, sitting down and slipping it slowly. It gathers enough brain cells that, by the time his alarm goes off to signify the end of his break, he is still capable of standing and getting back to work.
He has only just begun work again when he sees Lu Han’s face turn deathly pale at the sight of his cell phone screen and the other waiter drops the bowls he was clearing and runs outside the store. The greeter at the door, Minseok, stares after him in alarm before gesturing wildly for Jongin to take Lu Han’s section of the restaurant as well until Lu Han returns.
Mindlessly obeying, Jongin finishes up the table Lu Han left halfway and pauses to look outside the windows to check on Lu Han, but the other boy is long out of sight. Snow has begun to fall, untouched by footprints, and Jongin resigns himself to wet shoes tonight.
“Can I take your order, or would you like some more time to look at the menu?” he asks the boy who has seated himself alone at one of the window booths in Lu Han’s section. The manager has always said, a bit teasingly, a bit wearily, that Jongin is too abrupt with customers, lacking the charm Lu Han uses to coax people back again and again, but Jongin knows it’s too high of an order to make himself as charming as Lu Han.
“More time would be nice,” the boy says, looking up from the menu in his hands. He has wide but not unfriendly eyes and his nose is a bit too big for his small face, further emphasized by his short, cropped haircut. By all means, not a face Jongin would pick off of the street (though he is usually the one chosen, for his full lips and sharp features and dancer’s body), but not a face Jongin would turn away either.
Jongin nods indifferently and leaves to go refill the water of a little girl who yanks on his vest until he bends down far enough that his ear is by her mouth. “Where’s the other waiter?” she asks him, eyes innocent. “The pretty one.”
She could only mean Lu Han. “I don’t know, but I’m sure he’s fine,” he whispers back, just because he wants to see her smile. Children are easily pacified by lies, and this one is no exception; the delight in her face, however, lifts the weight on his chest a little more. Surely Lu Han is fine. Lu Han is always fine.
He fills her cup and she thanks him happily, already attached judging by the devotion in her eyes. After clearing a table and stowing a few bills of tips into his back pocket from a family leaving, he returns to the boy. “You ready now?” he asks.
“I’ll just get this,” the boy says, pointing to one of the illustrations on the menu, some noodle in soup dish Jongin has never tried but seems reasonably popular.
“Is that all?” Jongin asks, making note of it. “Anything to drink?”
“No, I’m fine,” answers the boy. Jongin reaches out to take the menu from him, but he slides it back, out of reach. “Sorry if it’s rude, but you look like you’re going to drop dead any second now.”
Jongin blinks, taken aback. “You don’t sound sorry at all,” he says finally. He must look terrible if he has random strangers telling him what Lu Han and Joonmyun and the manager and Yixing and everyone else has been repeating for the past week.
The boy laughs and gives up the menu. “I guess I’m not. It’s true, anyways.”
“I—Sorry?” Jongin says unsurely, not knowing how to reply. “I’ll go get your food.” He hurries to make his getaway, adding the noodle dish to the list of orders for the chefs and struggling to get back to work. He knows that everybody he passes on the streets probably thinks he looks like he’s in bad condition, but for someone he doesn’t even know to straight-up tell him so is a bit of a surprise.
When he brings the boy his noodles, the boy thanks him quietly and digs in, allowing Jongin to leave with some peace of mind. As Jongin clears tables and rings up totals, slipping those desperately needed tips into his pocket, the boy eats slowly and deliberately, until he’s one of the last customers left near closing time. Jongin is there when he finally finishes, bringing him his check.
“I’m paying with cash,” the boy says, tossing a bill onto the table. It’s more than enough, and Jongin brings him the change only to have his hand pushed away.
“Um, excuse me,” Jongin says, following when the boy stands and makes his way to the exit. For all of his composure, the boy is still several inches shorter than Jongin, and Jongin pulls the confidence to speak to him from that. “Your change—”
The boy stops at the door. “You can have it, seriously.”
“But—” Jongin tries, uncomfortable. He’s not sure how to say it, how to refuse someone so casual about giving away an amount of money Jongin would never let go. I don’t want your charity seems like a good start, but the boy speaks before he can.
“You clearly need it more than I do,” says the boy with a serene smile, and then he pushes the door open, striding through the snow towards the parking lot. Jongin stares after him, torn between outrage and gratitude at that shadowy figure who just gave him more than all the tips he gathered that night combined. If anything, Jongin hates being looked down at the most.
In the end, he retreats back inside to help close the store and adds the money to his tips of the night anyways. Besides, he reasons to himself, the water and electricity bill for the apartment needs paying.
By the end of the month, Jongin decides that he really has become a zombie, going through the movements of the day for an education and a paycheck he isn’t even sure are worth the effort anymore. Joonmyun even goes out of his way to tell him that the manager is trying to get him to take a day off and sleep properly for once, but Jongin turns him down immediately. “Tell the boss I said he doesn’t even have to try, it’s not worth his time,” Jongin says, putting down the load of dishes in his hands. It’s a miracle he hasn’t dropped any more of them, considering the amount of sleep he’s been running on lately.
“Jongin, the circles under your eyes have never been darker and you’ve been losing too much weight,” Joonmyun says, pointing out things Jongin has refused to acknowledge when he looks in the mirror. “When was the last time you slept through the night, or eaten a proper meal?”
“I can’t remember,” Jongin says with a shrug. He tosses the dirty towel in his hands into the hamper and retrieves a new one. “Don’t you have a job to do besides worrying over me, Joonmyun?”
He hasn’t seen the boy since that first time, after Lu Han has returned to take over his area of the restaurant, and Lu Han hasn’t missed a day since. It takes him by absolute surprise then, when Lu Han seeks him out while he’s filling water glasses, and says, “We’ve got a customer who wants you.”
“Me?” Jongin asks in disbelief, emptying the pitcher and turning to face Lu Han, who looks as surprised as Jongin must be.
“He says he doesn’t want anybody else,” Lu Han says. He takes the pitcher out of Jongin’s limp hands and smiles at the customers Jongin was just serving, nudging Jongin forward with his hip even as he nods and laughs at whatever the customer just said.
Jongin trips forward and makes his way to the two-person table where a lone figure sits, the style of the black hair telling enough that Jongin allows the swell of hope in his chest. “Um,” he says in opening, then curses himself for being awkward. “What can I get for you?”
“Sit down,” the boy says absently, without looking up from the menu in his hands.
“I’m working right now though?” Jongin says, his uncertainty making his statement a question. He doesn’t move until the boy lifts his gaze from the menu and fixes it unrelentingly on Jongin’s face.
“I know you are. Sit down,” he repeats. When Jongin obeys slowly, moving towards the other side of the table, he adds, “I’ll pay you for this, if that’s what you’re worried about.”
That was what Jongin was worried about, but he decides that’s as good as a segue than any to say what he wanted to say. “I don’t know who you think you are,” he begins defensively. “But I’m not something you can buy for money. I’m doing all right by myself.”
The boy rolls his eyes. “Anyone who looks at you can tell you’re not doing all right.”
“I’m fine,” Jongin says, a bit of frustration leaking into his voice. He’s sick of everyone hovering over him, telling him things he already knows but can’t help. Without the salary coming in from every single one of his shifts, he’d be kicked out of his apartment and out into the street before he could blink at his landlord’s vanishing back.
“Well, Jongin,” the boy says, and Jongin abruptly realizes he’s wearing his nametag on his vest, resisting the urge to cover it belatedly when the boy has already seen it, “Humor me, then. I don’t like eating alone, so sit and pay me some company. Is that okay with you?”
Jongin can feel the fight draining out of his body. “I need to work,” he says half-heartedly, but he resigns himself to his fate, pulling out the chair across from the boy and sitting down.
“I’ll take care of it,” the boy says firmly. “My name is Kyungsoo, by the way.”
Kyungsoo, Jongin thinks, and doesn’t realize he said it out loud until Kyungsoo laughs—it’s a very nice laugh, Jongin decides reluctantly. “That’s my name, don’t wear it out,” he says.
At a loss of what to say next, Jongin shifts in his seat and stays quiet as Kyungsoo studies his face. His eyes are intent, almost devouring Jongin’s features, his expression contemplative. “Um,” Jongin inserts at last, “Did you actually want something to eat, though?”
Kyungsoo considers it. “All right. Same thing as last time will do.”
“Coming right up,” Jongin says with an attempt at a sincere smile, standing up and gathering the menu into his hands.
“After you put in the order, come back here until they tell you to bring it out,” Kyungsoo orders, folding his fingers under his chin. Jongin considers refusing him, but nods and retreats to the kitchens in the end.
Surprisingly, Lu Han is on break, waiting for him when Jongin slips through the double doors. “What did he want? Who is he, do you know that guy?” he demands, latching onto Jongin’s sleeve.
“Lu Han, stop,” Jongin says irritably, shaking the other boy off as he goes to add the order to the queue. He puts it in as a rush order and adds a note to alert him when it’s done, which immediately attracts Lu Han’s attention.
“That’s his order, isn’t it?” Lu Han asks as he follows Jongin through the kitchen. “Jongin, you have to be careful. You don’t know what he wants. You don’t even know who he is.”
“His name is Kyungsoo. Happy?” Jongin shoots back, hoping to appease Lu Han enough to escape. He knows the other boy will notice he avoided the other questions.
“Kyungsoo? Do Kyungsoo?” a voice pipes up behind them. Both Jongin and Lu Han turn to stare in surprise at Baekhyun, who was taking break with Chanyeol nearby and only paid attention after Jongin’s aggressive retort.
“You know him?” Jongin asks in confusion.
Baekhyun looks just as taken aback. “Um, yes? He’s quite important in these parts, Jongin, you didn’t know? He’s the son of the CEO and heir of Do Trading Corporations, one of the largest businesses in the city.”
Jongin freezes. “I—I’m keeping him waiting, I have to go,” he says numbly, pulling his arm out of Lu Han’s grip and exiting out into the restaurant.
“That took you a while,” Kyungsoo comments once Jongin returns to his table, sipping coolly from his cup of water.
Shrugging helplessly, Jongin pulls his seat out and sits uneasily, wondering what the manager would do to him to see him sitting and chattering during his shift, especially with the heir of a very big company. No wonder Kyungsoo didn’t want his change. “I kind of got held up in the kitchens.”
“By the other staff?” Kyungsoo asks musingly. He is still considering Jongin with an intensity that is beginning to frighten him, searching as if he wants to pull something from the deepest corners of Jongin’s soul and take it away. The slight frown on his face isn’t an encouraging sign either.
Jongin nods. It’s beginning to hit him just how much out of his league he is around this boy, this boy who clearly wants something from him and only needs to reach out to get it. Only when a quiet bell pings and a light on the wall by the kitchen doors flashes does either of them speak, and it is only Jongin clarifying that he is standing to retrieve Kyungsoo’s food.
Thankfully, Lu Han is working, both his and Jongin’s sections, when Jongin returns to the kitchens, but he doesn’t miss Baekhyun’s look of concern when he takes the dish and leaves through the double doors again. He places the plate of food in front of Kyungsoo and takes his seat again, looking out at where Lu Han is taking the order of a table clearly in Jongin’s area.
“Are you close?” Kyungsoo asks, gesturing his head toward Lu Han even as he takes a bite of his noodles.
Jongin hesitates, then decides on being honest. “No. I… I’m not close with any of the staff here.”
Kyungsoo puts down his chopsticks and reaches out for his cup instead. “You aren’t close with anyone else either, aren’t you.”
Clearly it’s a statement Kyungsoo knows is true. Jongin presses his lips together and shrugs in reply, conceding the point. “No, I guess I’m not.”
Nodding to himself, Kyungsoo meticulously finishes his food and releases Jongin to work until closing time, nursing a cup of tea at his corner table; Jongin can feel Kyungsoo’s heavy gaze on his back and sometimes his face as he works for the rest of his shift. It’s extremely unnerving, but slipping into the kitchens only brings him under the concerned eyes of Lu Han and Joonmyun and Baekhyun. By now, Chanyeol is his favorite person, and that’s as odd as it gets.
The one thing about Kyungsoo’s presence, Jongin admits, is that he no longer feels as tired, running on enough adrenaline to get through the remainder of the day.
“Come home with me tonight,” Kyungsoo says when Jongin passes his table, getting ready to clean out the till as Lu Han locks up the doors.
Certain he heard that incorrectly, Jongin stops and looks Kyungsoo fully in the face, aware that this is the first time he’s met that penetrating gaze. “Excuse me?”
Kyungsoo smiles faintly, more of a smirk. “Jongin, you heard me. Come home with me tonight, and you won’t regret it.”
When Jongin looks up, he sees Lu Han staring at him, eyes wide with something too close to fear for Jongin’s taste. It frustrates him that Lu Han thinks he’s so vulnerable, that he can’t take care of himself. That thought pushes him to look back at Kyungsoo’s face and nod once.
“I’m leaving now,” Jongin calls, pulling his coat on over his shoulders. Lu Han just left a few minutes previous, glancing at his watch and launching himself out the door, but Joonmyun is there to give Jongin a concerned once-over, reminding him to sleep more, in Lu Han’s stead. Jongin just rolls his eyes and nods to make him happy.
Kyungsoo is waiting at the door of a sleek, black van with shaded windows, arms deep in the pockets of his trench coat and head cocked to the side. “Ready to go?”
Jongin nods and follows Kyungsoo into the backseat of the van. The air conditioning is up on high, almost as chilly as the wintery street Jongin walks home along, and Kyungsoo notices the shiver he’s trying to hold back. The press of a single button instantly raises the temperature to something more comfortable, and Jongin lets out a deep breath. “Thank you,” he says tentatively.
“You’re welcome,” Kyungsoo says, tilting his head graciously.
Jongin turns to look out of the window, a bit surprised at the perfect clarity because of the coverings. As he watches the increasingly unfamiliar streets pass by, blurred from the speed of the smooth vehicle, he feels Kyungsoo examining his profile. He knows the constant staring should be borderline creepy by now, but the methodical, almost scientific scrutiny feels so detached that Jongin can’t help but feel like a caged specimen instead.
He follows Kyungsoo out of the car and into an immense, spacious mansion expected for Kyungsoo’s social status but shocking to someone like Jongin. Everything is covered with gold and silk and ivory, fancy vases along marble-floored hallways with masterpieces spanning across ceilings. Jongin’s attention is pulled to a dozen places with every step he takes, following in Kyungsoo’s wake.
Then he looks up, and sees Kyungsoo has led him to the bedroom.
“Whoa,” Jongin says loudly, backing up to the doorway even as Kyungsoo crosses the enormous suite to the bed. “Whoa, stop. This isn’t what I signed up for.”
“I wasn’t under the impression you signed anything,” Kyungsoo says, his voice frank and a bit amused. He sits on the creamy bedspread, pulling his legs up underneath him, and looks into Jongin’s face. They measure each other for a few moments, and then Kyungsoo reaches into his jacket pocket. “I didn’t finish paying for dinner yet.”
Jongin eyes the bills Kyungsoo holds out to him like they’re explosives instead, pressing his back against the door frame. “I…No thank you.”
Kyungsoo cocks his head pensively. “Jongin, you need this money.”
“No—no—I need to go,” Jongin says. He reaches back to grope for the doorknob of the suite and swears under his breath when the knob resists. “Unlock the door and let me out!”
A flicker of movement from Kyungsoo’s other hand pulls Jongin’s attention to a line of tiny switches, one of which must lock and unlock the door with a single movement. He can think of no way to persuade Kyungsoo to open the door, but still refuses to draw near. Kyungsoo is still holding out the bills to him.
“Jongin, come here,” Kyungsoo says, his voice like velvet. “You can’t keep working at that restaurant for the rest of your life.”
“It’s temporary, I can handle things,” Jongin says impatiently. He wills himself to pull his hand away from the doorknob, gravitating towards the switch panel with each slow step.
“Is it really? You have something better waiting for you in the future?” asks Kyungsoo, his voice cynical, his hand unwavering.
Knowing he has no answer, Jongin inhales deeply, pulling the air as far into his lungs as possible and holding it there until he feels like bursting. Something about Kyungsoo, whether it’s his authority or his unforgiving eyes, renders him incapable of lying. Before he knows it, he’s standing right before the other boy, gritting his teeth to keep from shivering.
Kyungsoo leans forward to take Jongin’s hand in his own, smoothing out his fingers until his hand opens flat and putting the bills into Jongin’s palm; Kyungsoo’s touch is shockingly warm, almost gentle. With one single dinner, Jongin has earned almost double than the paycheck of this past month, including that night he took over for Lu Han’s shift. That Kyungsoo has all this money just to give away to some random waiter he doesn’t even know properly is a better sign of Kyungsoo’s wealth than the luxurious home he lives in or the finest cashmere of the scarf draped around his neck.
“Thank you,” Jongin whispers, out of courtesy.
His fingers curl when Kyungsoo closes them around the money. “You’re welcome,” replies Kyungsoo, leaning back on his arms, completely relaxed in his own home. “Are you going to entertain me now?”
“I—I don’t—” Jongin stammers, scrambling backwards. “Wait—”
“What is it?” Kyungsoo asks, his tone perfectly even as if he merely asked Jongin how the weather was, or whether he had any pets or siblings. Certainly not fitting what Jongin understood he was asking.
I didn’t come here to be your whore, Jongin wants to scream, but instead he grabs the handle of the door, pushes down, and is out of the room in a desperate flight that deserves an ample amount of shouting and the flailing of his arms. Only when he makes it outside, completely lost in a part of town he has never set foot in (if he’s even in the same town he started in), does he realize that Kyungsoo flipped the switch to let him out.