The Monday before the corporate party, Kyungsoo shows up in a two-doored BMW E-93 Coupe that looks brand new, wheedling Jongin into getting into the car with him to an unnamed destination. As Jongin climbs in, buckling his seatbelt and admiring the leather seat as surreptitiously as he can, he wonders if he should be worried.
They pull up in front of a tuxedo shop and are ushered into a fitting room once when the staff sees Kyungsoo. Jongin holds out his arms and lets himself be measured, watching silently as the staff flutter and bob around Kyungsoo, asking if he would like any refreshments or would he be interested in having a seat? The Kyungsoo that refuses both is reserved and polite, a quiet confidence in his every word. This boy is someone unfamiliar, someone who chooses the cut on Jongin's suit and inclines his head when the staff speaks, someone who pays for Jongin's suit with a crisp credit card. This boy is Do Kyungsoo, heir and son of the CEO of one of the highest grossing companies of the country.
On Tuesday, Kyungsoo comes to pick Jongin up in the Coupe again. Jongin abandons his attempt to properly fasten his tie while his fingers tremble traitorously to open the door, and he takes deep breaths when Kyungsoo reaches up to tie the silky blue fabric for him. Their ties match, Jongin can't help but notice, though Kyungsoo looks a thousand times more comfortable in his suit.
"You look good," Kyungsoo says, backing up a step to take in all of Jongin. The smile playing on his lips makes Jongin want to smile back, so he does.
The car ride is quiet, Jongin fiddling nonstop with the dials on the radio. He stops when Kyungsoo takes his hand off the steering wheel and puts it over Jongin's restless fingers, the unexpected touch enough to settle him.
They arrive at the venue before everyone except Kyungsoo's parents. When Kyungsoo takes Jongin to greet them, Jongin is unbearably tense, even when Kyungsoo pats his arm reassuringly. "This is Kim Jongin," Kyungsoo introduces after his father turns away from a party planner to nod at him and his mother plants a kiss on Kyungsoo's cheek and turns curious eyes on Jongin lingering at Kyungsoo's side.
"Ah, he's so handsome," she coos, admiring the way Jongin has gelled and combed back his fringe in an effort to clean up nicely. "What do you do, Jongin?"
"I—I study economics in university," Jongin explains, unsure how much he's supposed to say.
"Economics! How interesting!" she gushes. Before Mrs. Do can ask more, the arrival of the first guests distract her, and she lifts the heavy skirt of her extravagant evening gown and leaves to greet them. Her husband lingers long enough to appraise Jongin, a blatant once-over that ends with a curt nod before the CEO walks away. Beside Jongin, Kyungsoo sighs in relief.
When Jongin looks over at him, Kyungsoo smiles at him, no teeth. "That went well, but you need to relax. My mother adores you already."
"You mean she adores my face?" Jongin asks, only half-joking.
Kyungsoo shrugs. "Better than nothing. Are you hungry?"
Even when Jongin declines, they drift their way over to the buffet lines prepared by the professional caterers. Kyungsoo socializes the entire way there with the arriving guests, introducing Jongin briefly and asking after family and friends by name. The way he holds himself, the way he seems to actually care about the person he is engaged in conversation with, is magnetic. When Jongin gives into the urge to wrap his arm around Kyungsoo's waist, the way Kyungsoo leans back into his touch without a second thought makes him tremble inside.
It's hardly entertaining, being at a gathering like this. All of the people are overdressed, in Jongin's opinion, all of the conversations shallow and repetitive. He amuses himself with admiring the curve of Kyungsoo's neck when Kyungsoo turns his head to talk to some businessman or another manager and their wife. Several girls approach Jongin throughout the party then falter when they realize he is with Kyungsoo; evidently, Do Kyungsoo is not the sharing type. Here, he can see Kyungsoo in his element.
Kyungsoo's parents leave after his father makes a very official-sounding speech and Kyungsoo—and therefore Jongin—is delegated to see everyone out in the lobby of the luxurious mansion. Jongin catches sight of several limos parked in wait and has to struggle against rolling his eyes. "Thank you for coming!" Kyungsoo repeats cordially, wearing his most charming smile as he waves and humbly laughs at compliments. A few of them bid Jongin farewell as well, which he responds to as well as he can.
When the final guest has departed in her fancy car, Kyungsoo buries his face into Jongin's neck and lets himself sag against Jongin; unprepared on his part, Jongin has to tighten his grip to keep them both upright. "So you survived your first party," Kyungsoo says into Jongin's skin.
"Yep," Jongin says. "Are you proud of me?"
Kyungsoo lifts his head, giving Jongin a genuine, disarming smile, the first one Jongin has seen all night. "Extremely proud."
When Jongin wakes up in Kyungsoo's bed the next morning, he can't bring himself to regret it when Kyungsoo is still knocked out beside him, arms curled around Jongin's torso and face lost in Jongin's shoulder.
In exchange for Jongin sacrificing his Friday off to attend another party with Kyungsoo, this time at the lavish home of one of the managers of Do Trading Corporations, Kyungsoo makes him dinner on Saturday night. The short ribs he makes are, if possible, even better than last Friday's meal. When they end up lying in Jongin's bed at the end of the day, Jongin prefers to blame his full stomach rather than the warm tension in his chest.
"What do you think, about the parties?" Kyungsoo asks, rolling over onto his side to face Jongin, who is on his back with his hands folded behind his head. Fortunately, Kyungsoo does not get elbowed in the face.
Jongin shrugs, a bit clumsily. "It's not torture or anything, but I have better things to do with my time."
"Have you been working at the restaurant all week?" asks Kyungsoo, his tone disapproving.
"Yeah, at least two shifts a day," Jongin yawns. He does not mention how alarming high a number of those shifts were alongside Jongdae, nor how achingly tired Lu Han looked when Jongin did see him. "It's been busy, with the holiday season and all."
"I have tomorrow free," Kyungsoo says suddenly, breaking the silence that follows Jongin's statement. "Do you have work tomorrow?"
"I—I could take the day off," Jongin answers. He signed up for all three shifts, seeing as it was the weekend, but the way Kyungsoo is looking at him so hopefully makes Jongin think just this once.
Kyungsoo smiles, a half-smile that curls his lips oh so slightly and sets off that dull ache of longing in Jongin's stomach. Before he can stop himself, he leans over and kisses Kyungsoo's perfect smile, slow and sweet and careful.
Then his mind catches up to his body and he jerks back sharply, panicking and searching Kyungsoo's shocked expression for any sign of disgust or anger. "Shit," Jongin whispers. "I'm sorry—I'm sorry, Kyungsoo—"
"What are you apologizing for?" Kyungsoo asks, and he tugs on Jongin's shirt so they are kissing again. Everything demands Jongin's attention, from the easy give of Kyungsoo's mouth against his, to the beginnings of a whimper deep in Kyungsoo's throat, to the small sliver of skin at Kyungsoo's hip that Jongin's thumb can't stop stroking. He feels lightheaded and it isn't even the lack of air that's completely to blame.
When he pulls away again, this time for the sake of his lungs, Kyungsoo's expression is satisfied. Jongin feels like he should say something, anything, but the awkward words die in his throat when Kyungsoo presses a lazy kiss to the corner of Jongin's mouth, a smile playing on his own lips. "We should sleep," Kyungsoo says. At the sight of protest in Jongin's face, he adds, "I'll be here in the morning, Jongin."
Jongin gives in; when Kyungsoo says it like that, it feels they have all the time in the world. "Good night," he says softly as Kyungsoo presses close in preparation to sleep. Together, their bodies fend off the winter chill well.
"Good night," Kyungsoo says back, already on the brink of dozing off.
"You're cancelling today as well?" the manager asks, his deep voice colored with disbelief.
Jongin shifts uncomfortably, holding the telephone to his ear. He usually avoids using the apartment phone at all costs, but work is an exception. By Jongin's side, Kyungsoo eases his face out of the pillow to peek balefully at Jongin for unsettling him. "Something important came up," he says truthfully, pretending he doesn't see Kyungsoo's smile.
The manager sighs. "I guess I'll put Jongdae in, and maybe Joonmyun can go on waiter duty, just this once."
"How—how is Lu Han?" asks Jongin, a bit uneasy with probing for information but he needs to ask.
"It's been hard on him," the manager replies reluctantly. "Trying to balance working two jobs and visiting the hospital and all."
"Is he sick?" Jongin asks in alarm.
"No, no. He never told you?" When Jongin answers negatively, the manager hesitates before saying, "It's best if you ask him yourself, but he's healthy."
The roundabout refusal to answer sets off warning bells, but Jongin only exchanges polite goodbyes with the manager before he hangs up. "All clear," he tells Kyungsoo, lying back down and turning to face the other boy.
"Good," Kyungsoo says, still smiling. "Is there something wrong with your coworker?"
Jongin shrugs helplessly. "I know something's wrong, I just don't know what. And I don't know how to help him."
"Give him time," Kyungsoo says, his tone reasonable and calming. "He'll tell you eventually."
"You don't even know him," Jongin says in disbelief, marveling at Kyungsoo's baseless confidence. "Next thing I know, you're telling me that the kitchen hand and the cleaning boy are going out."
Kyungsoo laughs cryptically and refuses to speak when Jongin presses him for information, demanding how he even knows who Baekhyun and Chanyeol are. "I only was thinking they could be together, doesn't mean they are. You're the one jumping to conclusions," he says to Jongin, still laughing. "Though I would like to meet Lu Han and the others some time?"
At the uncertainty on Jongin's face, Kyungsoo immediately opens his mouth to take the request back, but Jongin interrupts them. "No—no, I think they'd like to meet you. Anything to keep Lu Han and Joonmyun from getting premature wrinkle lines."
"They just care about you," Kyungsoo says admonishingly. "It's hard not to when you insist on such an unhealthy lifestyle."
"You worry about me too?" Jongin asks. He means the question to come out as a teasing remark, but it tastes too serious for him not to regret it.
"Of course I do," Kyungsoo answers at once. "You ought to be focusing on your studies and having a proper social life, not working yourself to the bone at the restaurant and going without sleep all the time."
"I'm resting now, though," Jongin says, gesturing at them. They still have not moved from the bed, even though it is well into morning. "And I'm, uh, partying."
Kyungsoo rolls his eyes. "When I went to college, my idea of partying involved a lot more fun than the corporate parties I have now. And I've been going to those since middle school."
That reminds Jongin of a question he has been wondering about since he met Kyungsoo. "What's it like? Being the son of the CEO of such a big company?"
"You mean besides the money?" At Jongin's awkward shrug, Kyungsoo laughs, this time short and dry. "It's not that I dislike it, really. I've been trained all my life to take over the company. Now that I've finished university, my father has been stepping down from a lot of the management and I'm picking up his work. Just my job."
"Don't you wish you could've been something else?" Jongin asks.
Kyuungsoo searches Jongin's face, but says, "No. Not really."
Jongin leans back, rolling over to face the ceiling. "You're lucky then. When I told my parents I didn't want to follow their work in medicine, they kicked me out."
"Medicine?" Kyungsoo repeats loudly.
"I almost became a doctor," Jongin says. It's his turn to laugh, the sound completely empty of mirth. "Kyungsoo, I would've made a shitty doctor. I wanted to be a dancer."
"But you study economics," Kyungsoo says in confusion.
"Economics is more reasonable, and I can deal with statistics and consumer consumption and whatever. But when I was in high school, the only thing I wanted to do was become an entertainer. I almost did it, too. Auditioned for several companies and applied to all these liberal arts universities—the one I go to now was a backup my teachers advised me to have—but then I was disowned so..." Jongin stops, remembering the bitter helplessness and despair. He had known all along it was inevitable, but he had also known, just as certainly as he does now, that the medical field was not his future. If the stage wasn't his place either, then so be it. There is always next time.
They are silent, Jongin reliving the worst months of his life and Kyungsoo absorbing the information, trying to imagine Jongin the doctor's son and how he resisted his fate only to end on an equally undesirable road. "I've always loved to sing," Kyungsoo says, the words slipping free; Jongin opens his eyes and pulls himself up onto his elbow. This time it is Kyungsoo who refuses eye contact. "I took private lessons for singing when I was younger but then I became too busy with work to continue. But I've always loved it."
"Sing for me," Jongin whispers, his voice rough with emotion. "Please, Kyungsoo."
"It's been so long, I don't think I can," Kyungsoo says uncertainly.
Jongin edges closer. "Please," he says again. When Kyungsoo gives in, Jongin pulls close enough to feel the other boy's chest vibrate with each note, the solidity and warmth of Kyungsoo's voice filling Jongin until he can't help but cut the music off for fear of bursting. So focused on trying to remember lyrics from years ago, the frantic kiss takes Kyungsoo by surprise, but he finds his bearings remarkable quickly, kissing Jongin back with equal desperation.
"Beautiful," Jongin whispers, licking the curve of Kyungsoo's bottom lip and inhaling the musical sound Kyungsoo gives him in return. He is pulling words out of somewhere he hasn't found since he broke into dance studios in the middle of the night and practiced until dawn to booming bass and hip hop beats. "Wouldn't it be nice if—if next time we meet, you'll be singing and I'll be dancing and we'll both be famous but not because you're the son of a CEO?" It's hard to speak when Kyungsoo is trying to kiss him again, but Jongin has never needed to say something so badly.
"Yes," Kyungsoo breathes. "That'd be incredible." And then he curls his hand around the back of Jongin's neck and they kiss until Jongin forgets everything else he wanted to say.
They spend the rest of the morning kissing languidly and picking stage names for each other. Jongin dozes off in the middle of the day to the feeling of Kyungsoo stroking the characters for "Kai" against his collarbone.
Work keeps them away from each other for almost the entire week after, except Kyungsoo makes Jongin promise to attend a party to celebrate the finalization of an important trading deal on Friday. The deal has Kyungsoo so busy that he doesn't even stop by the restaurant for dinner.
Lu Han only makes it for morning and evening shifts now, leaving punctually as if he has a schedule to follow. Jongin finally catches him at the end of evening shift on Wednesday. "Lu Han—is there something wrong?"
"I—Jongin—" Lu Han stops, sighs in frustration and reaches up to push his fringe out of his eyes. He is unnaturally pale, the high cheekbones of his face jutting out more sharply than Jongin has ever seen them.
"You look worse than I did. Don't be a hypocrite, okay?" Jongin asks, carefully grasping the fragile wrist. "I know I can't do much, but I'll try."
"Please, Lu Han. You don't have to do everything by yourself," Jongin says, almost pleading. All of the times Lu Han helped him clear out a table, that Lu Han pressed slender fingers to his forehead to feel for a fever, that Lu Han handed him a full pitcher of water before Jongin could even ask, because this boy is so kind and considerate and selfless and once, Jongin could fool himself into thinking he was in love with Lu Han. Lu Han, with his doll eyes and sweet smile, who is nothing like Kyungsoo but just as close to Jongin's definition of the word "perfect."
When Lu Han finally looks at him, his eyes are bright with unshed tears. "It's my father. He's been sick for a very long time and I don't...I don't have the money for the liver transplant he needs to get well."
Jongin allows Lu Han to press his face into Jongin's shoulder, the thin body shaking with silent sobs. "I work as a secretary at an accounting firm downtown and I've been looking for another waiter's job or something but, Jongin, it's not enough. I have no idea how I'll be able to get that much money..." Lu Han bursts out.
"I'll help," Jongin repeats. "Anything I can do, I'll do."
"No—no, Jongin, I know money is too tight for you!" Lu Han says in alarm, jerking back to look Jongin in the face with red-rimmed eyes. "Don't you dare split your paycheck for me."
"It's not that big of a deal, I'll find a cheaper apartment or something," Jongin says. His mind spirals out to Kyungsoo's offer, but he laughs at himself for taking it seriously. "Lu Han, your father needs to live more than I need a three-room suite. I'll be fine."
"No," Lu Han says firmly. "I'm not kicking you out of your own home."
No matter what Jongin says in an attempt to reason with him, Lu Han refuses to budge. They finally drop the subject when they realize nobody is closing the shop, because they're the ones who are supposed to be doing that, but Jongin keeps a careful eye on Lu Han until they go their separate ways.
When Jongin gets home, he picks up the phone. "Kyungsoo," he starts, "I need a favor?"