“Thanks for, you know, coming with me.” Taekwoon says, coming back to the bar table with two drinks in hand.
“No problem, thanks for asking me to,” Yixing says, dimple at full force as he smiles. “I wouldn’t turn down free food."
Taekwoon smiles back, somewhat relieved still that his friend had agreed to come with him to the corporate Christmas party, after his girlfriend had bailed at the last minute. Well. She'd broken up with him. Bailed on him. Something about how he was a poor communicator. Taekwoon frowned at that.
The food and place cards and everything else had already been ordered and placed, so his manager had advised him to just invite someone else. Yixing had been okay with salmon and a place card with his ex girlfriend’s name, and that was that.
"These appetizers are good."
Yixing's voice pulls him out of his thoughts, for Taekwoon to find that Yixing has snagged some...food items, and put them on the plate. There's bacon, and something else he can't quite identify, but Yixing is chewing on it contently, toothpick still in his mouth, and it's bacon, so it has to be good.
Yes, Taekwoon decides, Yixing has good judgement.
They'd met back in university, when Taekwoon had been on the soccer team with one of Yixing's friends. It wasn't uncommon for others to join the team for drinks after practice, and that was how Yixing ended up talking to the usually reticent Taekwoon, or Leo, as he'd gone by in those days. It helped that alcohol loosened his tongue, somewhat, but it also helped that Yixing was both endlessly patient and friendly. Taekwoon was glad to have him as a friend.
A friend who, at the moment, is holding the glass by the stem and sniffing it curiously.
"Cosmopolitan," Taekwoon supplies. "The bartender recommended it."
"I usually just drink beer," Yixing says. "What's in it?"
"No idea," he admits.
He's about to say more about his guess, when one of his workmates catches his eye, waving as he comes over, date on his arm.
"Almost thought you wouldn't come," Hongbin says.
Taekwoon and Yixing both move over so the couple can rest their drinks on the table. Hongbin is dressed in the requisite suit, while his date looks stunning in a shimmering grey dress.
"This is Jessica," Hongbin says, nodding towards his date, "and this is Taekwoon. We work on the same floor. I'm Hongbin, I've don't think we've met...?"
Hongbin's eyes flicker towards Yixing, before looking questioningly at Taekwoon.
"Yixing," he says, shaking Hongbin's outstretched hand. "It's nice to meet you both."
"Friend," Taekwoon supplies. "From university."
Hongbin's eyebrows shoot up, and Taekwoon frowns.
"You're very pretty," Yixing is saying to Jessica. "I like your dress."
"Thank you! And you're very handsome as well," she grins. “Taekwoon is very lucky."
“No, the pleasure is all mine,” Yixing says. “Taekwoon is very nice."
Hongbin opens his mouth to say more, when someone else crashes their table, and Hongbin excuses himself and Jessica to join the rest of his teammates. He invites Taekwoon and Yixing to join them, but Taekwoon points out the tables aren’t big enough for so many people, and he doesn’t know the rest of Hongbin’s team very well, after all.
The rest of the pre dinner cocktail socialization slash registration hour is taken up by similarly inane conversations, and if it weren’t for the appetizers, Taekwoon would be very tempted to just grab Yixing and go somewhere with no people. Yixing, however, is doing a good job of charming Taekwoon’s colleagues, and saving Taekwoon from the usual water cooler talk that he has to deal with on a daily basis anyway.
There is not enough alcohol in the world for water cooler talk to ever be palatable.
It makes sense that Taekwoon lets his mind drift, giving an occasional yes no mhmm response when the conversation seems to go his way. So it isn’t until after he says a vague “yeah,” that it clicks that the last sentence had had “boyfriend” in it, and suddenly Hongbin’s look clicks into place.
Yixing blinks at him.
Taekwoon opens his mouth, and then shuts it.
“Well….” Yixing temporizes, scratching the back of his head, “we are very close."
Taekwoon can tell that - Sungjae? yes, Sungjae, was getting the entirely wrong impression out of this, and Yixing wasn’t helping in the bit. In Taekwoon’s panic, the words that fumbled out of his mouth weren’t words at all, and he could feel his ears burning red.
But Sungjae just smiles and patted Taekwoon on the arm.
“I’m glad you haven’t let what happened with Minkyung get you down,” Sungjae says, and quite frankly, Taekwoon is too flustered to respond.
The moment Sungjae is out of earshot, Yixing is staring at him.
“I’m your boyfriend?” he asks.
Taekwoon grimaces, and then sighs. “Sorry, I wasn’t listening, and…"
“It’s alright,” Yixing assures him, “I’m sure it’s just a misunderstanding."
Except, as Taekwoon and Yixing discover, it’s a misunderstanding that everyone seems to have. To Taekwoon’s immense relief, the announcement that the dining hall is ready sounds not a moment too soon.
Their assigned table is still empty - Taekwoon can’t remember exactly who they were sitting with. Hakyeon is beside him - he knows, because he’s the one who’d got Taekwoon to come with the promise of free food. Jaehwan from QA is probably at their table too, but he’s not as sure about that.
Taekwoon sits down with a groan.
“You’d make a very good boyfriend,” Yixing says helpfully.
“Not…the….problem…” Taekwoon growls. “Besides, I have ‘communication problems’."
“I think we communicate just fine,” Yixing says.
“Yes but, you’re you.” Taekwoon waves his hands as if that explains everything. Yixing smiles and nods, so Taekwoon assumes that it does.
Further conversation is cut short as Jaehwan joins them, his girlfriend, Jaeah, in tow. Word must have spread, because the first thing Jaeah asks, after all the introductions have been made, is “so how long have you been together?"
“About two weeks,” Yixing answers after a beat. “We met in undergrad."
Taekwoon stares at them all blankly. Yixing turns and gives him the most charming smile.
What are you doing, Taekwoon mouthes furiously.
“You broke up with Minkyung?” Jaehwan asks. Someone is clearly even worse at keeping up with office gossip than he is.
“Over a month ago,” Taekwoon answers deadpan.
“Don’t you remember how sad our Taekwoonie was for an entire week?” Hakyeon swoops in, draping himself over Taekwoon’s shoulders. Taekwoon rolls his eyes at Yixing, jabbing an elbow into Hakyeon’s chest. The annoying one, he mouths. He’s told Yixing about him before.
“I was not sad,” Taekwoon grunts, shoving Hakyeon off entirely.
Like Taekwoon, Hakyeon is currently (sexy) free and single, but since his single-hood had started and continued throughout the entire registration period, he was here alone.
“So you say, but I remember you eating your way through a bag of Cheetos a day. And not the small ones,” Hakyeon duly informs those who hadn’t had to share a desk with Taekwoon during those harrowing days. Taekwoon punches Hakyeon in the shoulder and glowers.
“Anyway,” Hakyeon says, unsuccessfully fending off Taekwoon’s attack, “what’s this I hear about the lucky gentleman who gets to put up with Taekwoon’s terrible habits?"
“Hi, I’m Yixing,” Yixing says, as Taekwoon contemplates the legality of murder and before he can get in a word edgewise. Yixing is smiling perfectly pleasantly but Taekwoon catches that glint in his entirely innocent eyes that says something is about to go terribly wrong. “Is there something I should call you, or is ‘annoying one’ okay?"
Taekwoon is going to need to have a Talk with Yixing. Preferably right now.
“Excuse us,” Taekwoon says, dragging Yixing away to Jaehwan’s confused noises and Hakyeon’s howl of laughter and Yixing protesting that he wants to talk to Taekwoon’s friends more, they’re very nice.
“Why are you doing this,” Taekwoon groans, looking like he very much wants to clutch his head and sink down to his knees in the empty hallway, if he was in the habit of doing such things.
Yixing giggles, patting him on the shoulder.
“Well, I thought that if it’s too much of a misunderstanding to clear up now, we should just let them assume and after today you can tell them we broke up? Maybe due to your ‘terrible habits’?"
Taekwoon looks at Yixing with the deadest eyes he can manage.
“Are you drunk,” he asks flatly.
“Maybe? Just a little?"
Taekwoon places his face in his hands. He should’ve known not to give Yixing alcohol when he hadn’t eaten yet.
“Alright, fine, we’ll do this, but first, I need another drink."
“Also, his name is Hakyeon. But yes, you may call him the annoying one."
Taekwoon may have agreed to it, but he was pretty sure that holding hands as they walked back to their table was complete overkill. Glowering at Yixing, he shakes their hands free before sitting down.
And Yixing wouldn’t stop smiling. Taekwoon was starting to think bringing his friend may have been a bad idea.
“Awww, is Taekwoonie embarrassed?” Jaehwan teases as they sit down. Predictably, Hakyeon is still laughing.
“I am older than you,” Taekwoon states, with a look that says if there weren’t two people between them, Jaehwan would have hands squeezing his neck right now.
Yixing's phone beeps with a new text, and he pulls it out to check.
Minseok: what's this i hear about u and taekwoon?
Yixing quirks an eyebrow. How had he gotten the news so fast?
me: I'll explain later
he quickly shot off.
Someone new joins their table, introducing herself as Taeyeon, from Purchasing, with her plus one, Baekhyun. A few minutes later, her friend Seohyun joins them.
"Looks like we've got a monopoly on Koreans," Hakyeon joked.
Yixing raises his hand. "I'm Chinese," he says very seriously.
The rest of dinner passes fairly uneventfully, with Taekwoon determined that they'll finish all three bottles of wine on their table, and Yixing happily telling their tablemates about how him and Taekwoon had just gone shopping the other day.
They had, true, but the way Yixing was relating these extremely factual events made it sound like they'd been on a date. Hell, he'd only let Yixing pay for the crepes because Taekwoon had covered him for popcorn at the movies a while back. And that had been with a lot of their friends, so no one could accuse them of dating there.
At least it saved Taekwoon the trouble of Hakyeon urging him to talk more, since Yixing was providing a hearty distraction. It meant Taekwoon could tune everything out and focus on his steak. At least, he reasoned, it was good steak. And good wine. And he didn't even have to be distracted from the steak by socialising. And it was good chocolate cake. And good chocolates.
"You have something on your face," he hears Yixing say. Taekwoon is completely unprepared for Yixing casually wiping at the corner of his mouth with a napkin. His ears, predictably, turn bright red. Yixing, predictably, is barely holding it together, mere inches from collapsing into stitches.
Taekwoon swats him away, and glares.
"I swear to god," he groans, as soon as dinner is over and they excuse themselves as people diffuse and the socialization begins in earnest.
"You love me too much to strangle me," Yixing says brightly, sweet smile on at full force, dimple and all.
Taekwoon puts his hands around Yixing's neck anyway. Yixing gives him that wounded puppy dog look. Taekwoon sighs and drops his hands.
"We don't have to dance, do we?" Taekwoon asks, just a little petulant. They're in the middle of clearing the tables from the floor.
Yixing considers this for a moment and he looks like he's about to say yes, but he shakes his head.
"Maybe I will if I like the song, but we don't have to," he says. The emphasis gives it a whole other meaning, that Taekwoon isn't sure he's comfortable with.
For the moment, they're content to sit off to the side, sipping orange juice and giving up on conversation as the music volume is upped. Taekwoon fiddles with his phone, not surprised to see a text with a sad face from Hakyeon. It could mean anything, and Taekwoon is sure Hakyeon will tell him in due time. Very insistently.
Someone joins them at their table, and Taekwoon looks up to see Hyuk bearing two bottles of wine and some fresh glasses.
"I come with a peace offering," he says cheekily, dropping himself into a seat.
"Yourself?" Taekwoon asks, showing just a bit of teeth.
Hyuk laughs, eyes curling into crescents. When Hyuk had first joined their team, he'd been half convinced that Taekwoon was a silent, murderous cannibal out to eat him. Taekwoon had informed him in due order that if he had been a cannibal, he wouldn't have eaten him anyway because he preferred more meat. Since the rocky start to their relationship, they'd somehow become much closer as friends.
"So what's this I hear about your newest fling?" Hyuk asks, looking towards Yixing, who is thankfully staring towards the dance floor, blissfully unaware that a new potential victim has arrived.
"He's not my newest fling," Taekwoon groans.
"Going steady?" Hyuk teases.
Hyuk laughs, patting him on the arm and pouring him a full glass. "We had plenty left over so I figured I'd salvage them," he says, raising one of the bottles. "You looked like you needed them."
Taekwoon raises an eyebrow.
Hyuk shrugs. "Alcohol makes everything better," he offers.
At some point, Yixing must have sensed Hyuk's presence, because he turned around
"No," Taekwoon cuts him off bluntly, before Yixing can even open his mouth.
"So are you going to introduce me or are you going to have a lover's spat," Hyuk asks, eyes glinting, and Taekwoon makes a mental note to never leave him and Yixing together in the same room.
"Yixing, this is Sanghyuk, Hyuk, this is Yixing. Friend from university, colleague."
"Hey, I thought we were more than just colleagues!" Hyuk protests.
"But Taekwoonie, I thought we were more than just friends," Yixing says.
"Please don't call me that," Taekwoon groans. "And shut up."
Hyuk just laughs.
"Well," he says, pushing himself up from his chair. "It's been lovely meeting you Yixing and lovely talking to you as always, hyung. Enjoy the rest of the evening and happy holidays and all that."
"So?" Yixing asks, once Hyuk has gone.
"I told him," Taekwoon says flatly. "Well. He guessed."
"That's too bad," Yixing says. "I guess we're not convincing enough."
"I'd rather not be convincing at all," Taekwoon says.
Yixing laughs, and goes back to staring into space. Taekwoon, frankly, does do as well.
His mind drifts off to nothing, and he barely notices when Yixing rests his head against his shoulder, absent mindedly patting him on the head. This isn't so bad, he's thinking, kind of calm even though there's music and too many people, and hell is that his manager over they're doing the robot that's ten seconds of his life he's never getting back. Most of the older people have left or are leaving now, as the clock nears nine. There's another hour or so left in this holiday party, and most of the people on the dance floor are in their twenties or early thirties he'd guess, and the interns. They'd done a whole slew of slow songs first, for the over forty here with their long time husband slash wife crowd first, but the music was picking up and catering to more modern tastes.
Yixing suddenly perks up like a guinea pig at the sound of food, eyes almost comically wide.
"I'll be back n.n" he says, jumping to his feet and moving towards the dance floor.
Taekwoon sits back, amused as Yixing busts out his dance moves to the beat, working those hips while wearing a full suit, jacket and black tie and all. Everyone else, he notes, has long since shed at least their suit jackets - he's a little surprised that Yixing hasn't, actually, considering how much he doesn't like clothes. His own jacket is slung over the back of his chair. Someone Taekwoon vaguely recognised as being a co-worker from seeing him in the cafeteria joins Yixing, and soon enough a full on dance battle of guys in dress shirts and girls in cocktail dresses ensues. Taekwoon's eyebrows slowly rise; he pulls out his phone and shoots a quick video, possibly for blackmail purposes.
Yixing comes jogging over, face flushed and glistening from sweat.
"You should've joined us," he says, loosening his tie and shrugging out of his jacket.
"You looked like you were having fun," Taekwoon says.
"We were!" Yixing agrees, nearly chirping. He grabs Taekwoon by the hand and pulls him to his feet, apparently forgetting that he'd said Taekwoon didn't have to dance.
Taekwoon doesn't actually mind, so he follows quite willingly. Yixing is grinning happily, as he pulls Taekwoon into his circle of new friends. To his surprise, he sees Hyuk there, who gives him a quick wave. The song has a quick beat, and it's fun watching Yixing dance. He's a little surprised when Yixing pulls him in too, but maybe it's the alcohol or the heat or sheer adrenaline, but Taekwoon shrugs and goes with it, letting his body go with the music. Out of the corner of his eye, he sees Hyuk's incredulous look; he shoots him a smirk, before gesturing for him to take over.
"See? It's fun right?" Yixing yells into his ear, as Taekwoon rejoins him.
Taekwoon can't help it, but he laughs.
The song ends, the lights change, and the beats clearly slow. People disperse, a new set of people take over, and Taekwoon is about to leave as well when he feels an insistent tugging on his sleeve.
"I've always wanted to slow dance," Yixing says. "Dance with me?"
"You never have before?" Taekwoon asks dumbly, but maybe definitely it's the alcohol, the blood in his head, the rush from the music that he agrees.
Yixing giggles a little as they try to figure out whose hands go where, before Yixing finally settles on putting his hands around Taekwoon's neck, Taekwoon's hands on Yixing's waist.
Taekwoon makes a face. "This feels weird," he says, "doing it with a guy."
"But we're dating, right?" Yixing asks, grinning as they sway to the music. "That makes it okay."
"We are definitely breaking up by the end of the night," Taekwoon mock growls.
Yixing laughs, and rests his head on Taekwoon's shoulder.
"Tired?" Taekwoon asks.
Yixing half nods and hums into Taekwoon's shirt. "It's been fun," he says.
"I guess," Taekwoon allows grudgingly.
"Even with all this?" Yixing asks. Taekwoon assumes he means this whole fake dating thing that seems to have sprung up.
"You kept them off my back," Taekwoon says after a moment. "I like not having to talk when I eat."
"I'm glad I was able to help," Yixing says, straightening.
Looking around, Taekwoon realises that the crowd has thinned considerably. The younger crowd are having their last drinks, picking up their things, men grabbing hopefully their own suit jackets, women putting their heels back on.
Taekwoon realises that this must be one of the last songs for the night.
"Time to go home?" Yixing asks.
Yixing leads him off the dance floor, and they too grab their jackets, saying goodbye and see you on Mondays as people drift off to taxis.
"Come on, I'll take you home," Taekwoon says.
Yixing looks surprised.
"You don't have to," he says softly. "We're not actually dating."
Taekwoon shakes his head.
"You'd just take the subway," he says. "No point, when they'll reimburse me for the taxi."
Yixing has that stubborn look in his eyes, the set of his lips that says he's going to protest. Taekwoon rolls his eyes, and for a change, grabs Yixing by the wrist and pulls him towards the door, and the taxi stand.
"I'm not on your way home," Yixing says.
"Doesn't matter," Taekwoon replies. "Not my money."
There's plenty of taxis, ready to take home his slightly inebriated co-workers and their partners, and Taekwoon grabs one, pulling Yixing in with him. He gives the driver Yixing's address, and settles back as they pull onto the road.
The sudden silence after the noise and ocean of people of the evening is both welcome and somewhat jarring. Taekwoon realises that Yixing is particularly quiet. Sometimes, Taekwoon knows, Yixing gets that way. Usually when something is on his mind.
"What are you thinking about?" he asks.
"Hm?" Yixing blinks. "Nothing much."
"What's bothering you," Taekwoon asks, far more bluntly.
Yixing's lips are pressed into a thin line. Taekwoon stares at him until Yixing sighs.
"I didn't...make you too uncomfortable?" Yixing asks, chewing at his lip.
"What?" Taekwoon frowns. "That's what's bothering you?"
"I mean, I kind of just ran with it and dragged you with me," Yixing explains, in deliberate tones.
"I-di-ot," Taekwoon says, punctuating each syllable with a flick to Yixing's forehead.
"Hey! That hurts!" Yixing pouts, rubbing the spot.
Taekwoon narrows his eyes. "If I was really uncomfortable, you think I wouldn't have let you know?" he asks.
"Well..." Yixing mulls. "I guess...? Probably?"
"Look," Taekwoon says gruffly. "It's not like we're not friends, or something. And it wasn't so bad."
"Because you got to eat your steak in peace?" Yixing teases, and Taekwoon is glad to see he doesn't seem as worried anymore.
"Yes," he says. "Exactly."
They don't say much for the rest of the drive. Yixing doesn't live so far away, so it's a quick one. Yixing is opening the door and about to get out when he turns around.
"Did you forget--" something, but Taekwoon doesn't get to finish that.
"Breakup kiss!" Yixing chirps, jumping out of the car.
He leaves a confused Taekwoon holding his hand to his cheek where Yixing had just kissed him.
Half an hour later, as Yixing gets out of the shower, towelling his hair dry, he sees a text from Taekwoon.
Taekwoonie: so. movie next week?
me: That's Christmas! But it sounds fun! Let's do it!