Minho runs his hands through his sweaty hair, sticking it up on end. Thomas watches the big muscles in Minho's forearms, his jaw open.
Newt smacks it shut.
“Try and keep the drooling to a minimum, you bloody idiot,” he gripes.
Thomas shakes himself, glaring at Newt. “I was not drooling.”
Newt takes a bite of his sandwich and chews it slowly, eyes dull with disinterest. “Whatever gets you through the night, Tommy.”
Thomas settles back into the bench, crossing his arms with a scowl. If his eyes happen to drift back to Minho, doing cool-down stretches after his afternoon run, well. It's not really his fault. He blames Minho's freaking insane arm muscles. Outstanding, they are. Unignorable. It's like Thomas's eyes are magnetized negative, and Minho's arms are positive, and so it's physically impossible not to stare and that makes it not actually his fault—
Newt smacks him in the nose, this time. “Cut it out, Tommy.”
Thomas tears his eyes away from the glory of Minho, scowls off into midair. His life has been decidedly rough since Minho transferred to their high school last semester.
Aside from Newt, Minho and him, the park is mostly empty. People are out of town for winter break, or holed up inside hiding from the cold weather. Snow softens the contours of the ground and the trees and the benches; only a few sets of footprints break the smooth surface. The imprints of Minho's running shoes can be seen winding off along the trail. A less graceful path leads from Newt's parked car to the bench where they're seated now, eating lunch away from the chaos of Christmas decorating taking place in their houses. Thomas loves decorating, but a dude can only handle so many hours of Chuck screaming carols at the top of his lungs. He jumped at Newt's text asking if he wanted to grab lunch. It's just icing on the burned (but still delicious) Christmas cookies he'd made this morning that Minho's here in running tights and a skin-hugging thermal shirt.
Thomas chews his lip, his leg bouncing rapidly. “I should go talk to him,” he tells Newt. “I should go say hey, right?”
Newt rolls his eyes. “Whatever you want, Tommy.”
Thomas nods decisively. “I'm gonna go talk to him.”
“Try not to make too much of an ass of yourself,” Newt says encouragingly.
“Ha, ha,” Thomas replies, standing. His butt is cold from the bench. He shakes his arms out, blowing out a breath.
“Christ, Thomas—just go,” Newt commands.
“Okay,” Thomas says, nodding some more. “Okay. I'm going.”
He sets off across the stretch of white separating them from Minho, snow crunching beneath his weight. His breath makes delicate clouds in front of his face. He rubs his hands together, wishing he'd had the sense to bring gloves, then shoves them deep into the pockets of his winter coat.
He comes up beside Minho, who has a leg propped on the low seat of a picnic table and is stretching over it.
“Hey, man,” Thomas says, flashing a smile. Minho doesn't respond, and Thomas's heart kicks immediately into panic-mode, which doesn't exactly help his thought process. He runs through possible lines in his head, rejecting them all. 'You come here often?' No. 'Fancy meeting you here.' Definitely not. 'How's it hangin'?' Maybe not the best thing to ask the guy you have a huge crush on.
“What's up?” Thomas asks finally, settling for simple.
When Minho still doesn't answer, Thomas's chest squeezes with anxiety. Why would Minho outright ignore him? “Um,” he says. “So, me and Newt were just having lunch over there, and I thought I'd come say hi.”
Thomas's palms feel sweaty. “Uhh,” he says. Last he checked, it was common courtesy to acknowledge people talking to you. He frowns a little. “Look, man, do you not like me?” he asks. “It's okay if you don't like me, just—say so, you know? Don't just leave me hanging.”
Minho switches his legs, keeps stretching, and keeps ignoring Thomas.
Thomas grits his teeth. “Dude, you don't have to be so rude about it. Is it... Are you weirded-out that I stare at you so much? I thought I'd been pretty discreet, but Newt tells me I'm about as subtle as an elephant in a pink tuxedo, so...”
At the continued lack of a response, Thomas lets out a frustrated groan, kicking at the snow with his boot. “What the hell, man? Would you at least talk to me?” His voice climbs. “It's not that big a deal, all right?” Minho looks at him, at least. “I just think you have really great arms, and I like your hair, and it's—it's seriously not that big a deal, okay? Can a guy not fantasize about touching another guy's arms, or something?”
Minho straightens, a frown pulling down on his lips. He reaches up and... oh, fuck. Pulls the earbuds out of his ears.
In this moment, Thomas wants nothing more than for the snow around him to rise up and swallow him whole. He could face this better as a snowman, he's pretty sure. Snowmen probably don't turn bright red when their crush looks at them a little confused and a little uncomfortable.
“Uh,” Minho says.
Maybe I'll pass out, Thomas thinks. Yeah, that would be cool. Pass out, Thomas. Do it.
He doesn't pass out.
He feels way too hot in his winter layers now; he unzips his coat, fingers sweaty.
“Sorry,” Minho says, holding up the earbuds, “I only caught the last bit of that. What were you saying?”
“You,” Thomas says, “You, um. You heard—the end of it?” His voice is about two octaves higher than it's supposed to be. He clears his throat. “How, um. How much did you hear?”
Minho's frown deepens. “Uh—something about my hair, and... fantasies about my arms, I think?”
Thomas is frozen for a second, and not because of the weather. His jaw is hanging open again (though in mortification this time), and Newt's not here to smack it shut. “Oh,” he says faintly, feeling light-headed. “That's, um. Well.”
He laughs nervously.
And then Thomas does something he's very good at: he runs away from the scary attractive boy.
“We're leaving,” he pants to Newt, who looks up from his sandwich in surprise. Thomas catches the top of the bench to stop himself, breathing hard, his eyes wide. “C'mon, leave the damn sandwich, we've gotta go.”
Newt makes a face, not budging. “What'd you bloody do this time, Thomas.”
“Auuurggh,” Thomas says helpfully, dancing with agitation. “Let's just go, come on, please.”
With a final huff, Newt caves, wrapping up his sandwich and getting to his feet. “You're buggin' stupid, you know that?” he tells Thomas.
“Yep,” Thomas says, looking back nervously at Minho, “yep, I totally am, let's go, let's go please, let's go now.”
Newt rolls his eyes, and sighs, and generally makes a big deal about trudging back to the car. Thomas jogs in place alongside him, jittery like his veins have been replaced with electrical wires.
He blows out a huge breath of relief once he's protected by the familiar walls of Newt's car. He peers out the window to see Minho standing exactly where Thomas left him, looking entirely lost.
“Oh my god,” Thomas mumbles, sinking down as low in his seat as he can. Newt starts the car. “Oh my god, I'm such an idiot.”
“Yes,” Newt says drily, “I'm glad we're on the same page. Are you going to tell me what happened, now?”
“No,” Thomas says miserably. “We're never speaking of this. Today never happened. In fact, let's just pretend I don't exist at all, okay?”
Newt stops the car.
“Nooooo,” Thomas protests. “Keep driving. Drive away, Newt. Get us outta here.”
“I will,” Newt says, “after you tell me what shuck-brained thing you did this time.”
Thomas lets out an explosive sigh and mutters, “I don't wanna talk about it.”
Newt arches an eyebrow. “Well, I don't want to drive this car until you do.”
“You're the worst,” Thomas says.
“Thank you,” Newt says. “I'm lucky to have such a supportive friend.”
Thomas stews in silence for another moment, but quickly realizes that Newt is stubborn enough to sit here all night if he doesn't spill.
He sighs again.
“I, uh.” He tips his head back, closing his eyes and taking a deep breath. “I might've told him I liked his hair and that I fantasize about touching his arms,” Thomas exhales.
Newt's eyebrow climbs higher. “Just like that?” he asks. “You just went up to him and said, 'hey, I like your hair and I want to do things to your arms'?”
Thomas punches his own leg in frustration. “No,” he growls, “of course not. See, I was talking to him, but he wasn't answering, so I thought he was ignoring me, and then I—I don't know, I just got—rambling, I guess, and I blurted it out and of course that's the only part he heard through his headphones, and I really like this guy, Newt, why do I have to screw everything up?”
Newt rolls his eyes, which Thomas thinks is pretty insensitive. “Because you're you, Thomas, and you're an idiot.”
Thomas scoffs, too embarrassed and frustrated to even give a properly indignant response. “Thanks,” he says sarcastically, “I'm lucky I have such a supportive friend.”
A thin smile quirks Newt's mouth. “That you are,” he says, and finally hits the gas.
It's one thirty am when Thomas barges through Newt's bedroom window. “Hey,” he says in a stage whisper. “Hey, Newt. Have you seen my phone? I think I lost it sometime today.”
There's no answer. Thomas rolls his eyes, feeling his way through the room in the dark. “Newt!” he hisses, shaking the Newt-shaped lump under the blankets.
Newt blinks his eyes open, startled for a moment, then settling into a glare. “What the hell are you doing here, Thomas?”
“I'm looking for my phone,” Thomas tells him. “Have you seen it?”
Newt stares at him a second, wide-eyed. Then he grumbles “Get the hell out of my room,” and rolls over away from Thomas, tugging his blankets up under his chin.
Thomas chews on his lip thoughtfully.
He searches Newt's entire room before he leaves.
“Oh,” Newt says the next day, looking up from the string of lights they've been unsuccessfully trying to untangle for the last half hour, “I found your phone this morning.”
“You did? Where was it?”
Newt shrugs. “On my desk.”
“I looked there!” Thomas cries.
“Yeah, let's not discuss how you raided my bedroom last night.”
“I was looking for this!” Thomas says, brandishing the phone.
“You'll be bloody lookin' for your balls if it happens again,” Newt promises.
The Saturday before Christmas, Newt decides they're going to see a movie, and won't be swayed by Thomas's whined reminders that they talked about this, Newt, he planned to never show his face in public again after the Minho thing, come on. Somehow, Thomas finds himself in Newt's car, staring sullenly out the window, until they pull into the parking lot.
“We're here,” Newt says.
“I hate you,” Thomas replies.
What follows is a struggle between Newt, who is very determined to get Thomas out of the car using as much force as necessary, and Thomas, who is equally determined to remain in the car, even if it means clinging to the steering wheel while Newt tugs on his legs. He doesn't have much dignity left, okay? And he really doesn't want to be here. What if someone he knows is here? He clearly can't be trusted with human interaction. What if Minho shows up?
With a final burst of effort, Newt succeeds in dragging Thomas from the car. He dumps him in a heap on the icy blacktop.
“You're a great friend,” Thomas mumbles mockingly.
“I am,” Newt agrees, ignoring the sarcasm. “Do you plan to get up, or am I going to drag you the whole way into the theater?”
“I'm coming,” Thomas says in a tone that makes his feelings about this whole endeavor clear.
They walk through the parking lot, stepping carefully in fear of ice. The snow has cleared in the last week, but the ground still bears dangerous slick patches. For its part, the air still carries a sharp chill that bites at Thomas's cheeks and fingers. He shivers, walking faster.
They reach the theater and hurry into its enveloping warmth, inhaling the rich smell of fake butter. Newt stops Thomas before they can hand their tickets to the attendant.
“Hold the tickets for a sec, will ya? Gonna hit the bathroom before we go in.”
“Yeah,” Thomas says, accepting the offered tickets, “fine. Just—be quick, okay?”
Predictably, Newt rolls his eyes. “Keep your bloody pants on, Tommy. The chances of Minho showing up are pretty slim, I'd say. And would that really be so bad, anyway? I mean, if you talked to him, he'd probably—”
“Whatever, man,” Thomas cuts in. “Just—go do your stuff.”
With a shrug, Newt heads off.
Thomas finds himself a nice spot on the wall to lean on, hooking one ankle over the other. The thick, heavy smell of butter-stained theater popcorn wafts over, speaking to his tastebuds and his stomach on a deep level.
He holds out for all of thirty seconds before he makes for the concession line, patting his pockets to make sure he has some cash. Producing a ten dollar bill, he grins, and starts eyeing the menu to see how big a bucket of popcorn he can afford.
While he waits in the slow-moving line, he keeps one eye on the bathrooms, ready to wave Newt over when he emerges. Except, Newt's is not the first familiar face to catch his attention: in through the front doors walks Minho, carrying himself tall and strong, quick eyes scanning the room.
“Auh—” Thomas blurts, a startled-out noise of fear. His eyes dart around, but there's nowhere to hide. His heart crawls into his throat. Minho hasn't spotted him yet, but he's walking this direction.
Before he can think too much, Thomas drops to a crouch and waddles sideways to hide behind the elderly couple in line ahead of him.
They both look down at him, owl-eyed behind their glasses. He waves them away anxiously, peering around their legs at Minho.
But—Minho's... not there anymore? Thomas whips his head from side to side, eyes wide.
“Hey, man,” says a voice beside him.
Thomas jumps; he lets out a sharp, startled noise. He looks up, heart beating triple-time.
Of course it is.
“Um,” Thomas says. “Hi.”
Minho's eyebrows quirk up. “Whatcha doin' down there, bud?” he asks, bemused.
“I'm, uhhhhh,” Thomas says, brain whirring. “I dropped a penny. I was looking for it.”
“Oh,” Minho says. His eyes scan the ground. Not seeing a penny, he starts to crouch beside Thomas.
“No, no!” Thomas says. “You don't have to do that!” He rises from his crouch, but his timing is such that he bangs his forehead into Minho's, leaving them both wincing and standing up slowly.
When they're both standing without further incident, a smile tilts Minho's lips. “Looks like this is gonna be some hell of a first date, huh?”
Thomas blinks. “First...” he says. “Um.” He frowns. “What?”
Minho's smile slips a little. “Your texts?” he says.
“You said you were sorry for running away the other day; you were going to ask me to the movies but you chickened out?”
The pieces click together. The missing phone. Newt dragging him here, then disappearing into the bathroom. “Oh!” Thomas says. His insides are a turmoil of 'I'm gonna kill Newt, that interfering bastard,' and 'God bless Newt, that interfering bastard.' “Man,” Thomas says, ducking his head and rubbing at the back of his neck. He offers Minho a smile. “We musta knocked heads pretty hard.”
Minho grins at him, wide and exhilarated. Thomas's heart becomes suddenly proficient in acrobatics.
“Sure you weren't just distracted fantasizing about my great arms?” Minho asks, his lips twitching with a repressed smile.
“Oh, my god,” Thomas says. He can feel heat spreading up his cheeks. “I hate you,” he tells Minho. “I take it all back. I don't think you have great arms, or great hair, or a great butt—”
“Oh, you're into my butt, too?”
“No,” Thomas says, ignoring the warmth in his face. “See, I was just saying, I don't think you have great anything anymore. I'm no longer into you. Not at all.”
Minho raises his eyebrows. They stare at each other for a second, the theater humming around them in bright colors and random laughter and popping popcorn.
“I'll let you touch my arms if you say you're into me again,” Minho offers.
Thomas doesn't even hesitate. “Deal.”