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Puffman and Tallboy

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Being a law student, flat broke, and constantly craving caffeine could make any sane man sad. Being a law student working two jobs, going to school, as well as attempting to reel in a very flustered best friend from overworking himself might as well have made even the happiest man very, very depressed.

So Kim Min Seok decided early on that, regardless of his rather craptastic situation, he’d make something good of it. He hit the jackpot when he got the job sweeping aisles and cleaning bathrooms at a music shop in south Seoul.

He wasn’t supposed to catch the shifty-eyed stranger’s odd behavior as he weaved through the aisles. ("The customers are here for what’s on the shelves, Min Seok-sshi, not for what’s at the bottom. That’s your job.") He wasn’t supposed to see him grab a headphone off a rack, slide in a CD, and stand still for exactly forty-five seconds before his shoulders began to shake. ("The customers don’t care about you, Min Seok-sshi. Make it so that you care as much as you can about them without getting too close. No one wants the janitor to touch them.") He wasn’t even supposed to be looking.

But he was because Kim Min Seok was a dangerously observant person with curiosity that may as well have killed the bird and the cat. He blinked and bit the inside of his cheek before he swiftly calculated his surroundings and tip toed over to the taller man. ("If I see you slacking, Min Seok-sshi, you can forget about paying for your term bill this semester.")

 “Hey.” He lightly tapped on his shoulder with a gloved hand. “Hey,” he called again, but the shoulders continued to shake and Min Seok blinked again. Must be really good, he pondered.

But when he shuffled to the man’s side and sneaked a glance at his face, his mouth dropped.

The man’s eyes were scrunched tightly, but the effort was useless as tears continued to stream down his face. His shoulders shook violently, and Min Seok looked around to see that there really wasn’t anyone here right now but them and the poor stranger probably didn’t see him when he came in.

He had brown skin and dark bags under his eyes. Min Seok gasped. He was just a child. No more than seventeen or eighteen. And he was shaking.

Min Seok placed a firm grip on his shoulder and tried to get the man to look his way. When he did, the stranger gawked at him.

He gawked back.

The man slapped his tiny hand away and tore the headphones off his ears.

“What?” He barked furiously.

Min Seok's signature uh-oh blinks came in rapid succession. “I… uh… the song must really be sad?” He stuttered unintelligibly, attempting to scratch his hair but failing miserably since he still had his gloves on.

The stranger’s heaving chest slowed down and he hesitantly placed the headphones back on their rack. “Y-yeah. Sorry about that.” He muttered, a heavy accent lacing his every word. “You took me by surprise. Please don’t sneak up on people like that,” he groaned, rubbing his temples.

(“Don’t do that!” Yixing bellowed as Min Seok blinked with his cheeks puffed out. “I could have died! People just don’t poke their heads into the bathroom when there’s someone else inside!” Min Seok had wanted to point out that the door was open and that he’d known that he went in there to study instead of taking a shit like normal folk.)

“It’s a bad habit,” he admitted sheepishly. “Would you like me to ring it up for you?”

“N-no,” he managed. Without another word, the stranger dashed out of the store and Min Seok just blinked some more in response.

He knew the stranger was lying when he admitted to Min Seok’s cheesy accusation regarding the CD. But if there was one thing Min Seok was good at other than being entirely too observant and curious, then that would be his ability to understand. He was a good little dumpling like that. (“Goddamn it, hyung, I said I ate the beef! Yes, yes I ate the rice too! I’m a grown man, Kim Min Seok, I don’t need anyone to take care of me! Yixing Zhang can take care of himself! Yes, I want the cream-filled kind. Make sure there are sprinkles on it, please, hyung?”)

At the end of his shift, he sauntered over to the music station where the tall stranger had spent the better part of two minutes crying. He picked up the headphones and clicked the start button, knowing that it was the same song from before since no one had bothered coming to this station since the tall stranger had left.

He gagged. It was a psychedelic remix of a T-ara song that made Min Seok want to cry. He pulled off the headphones and stopped the track, taking a moment to digest whether or not the man was actually crying because of the music.

He wasn’t, Min Seok surmised, because his eyes were broken. So broken that it reminded him of nights when Yixing came home from another failed interview for an internship, causing him to break down and for them to spend the rest of the night downing pints of rum raisin ice cream instead of studying it up for the next day.

It hurt Min Seok to think that the poor boy was probably still suffering. He only hoped that the young man had a crutch like Yixing did- someone like himself.

***

The music shop being the last stop of the day proved to be well and good for Kim Min Seok. It was a ten minute walk from his shared apartment with the business major and steps away from a small park geared towards elderly folk in dire need of nighttime walks.

Min Seok chuckled as he took refuge next to a figure huddled with its knees covering its face and feet planted on the bench. Min Seok sat an ample distance away, as to not disturb the person who obviously wanted solitude. So Min Seok turned the opposite direction and gazed at the trees and the soaked in the gentle breeze that signaled winter’s approach.

“Are you following me?” He heard someone shriek. He blinked rapidly, looking for the distressed person who claimed to being followed.

“I’m talking to you, idiot!”

Min Seok snapped his head towards the person next to him, whom he soon realized was the one spewing the hateful comments. His eyes practically bulged out of his head.

“Why the hell are you following me?” The former stranger asked with a deadly look plastered on his angular face, his thick Chinese accent rolling effortlessly off his tongue.

“N-no! I’m not following you!” He squeaked, waving his hands frantically in dismissal at the accusation. “I was just sitting here! I swear!”

“No,” the Chinese man retorted. “You followed me out of the store, didn’t you?” He accused, dropping his long and shapely legs onto the ground and slinking threateningly close to Min Seok’s retreating figure. “You were watching me, weren’t you?” He bellowed, causing a stray cat and an old lady to go scampering.

And Min Seok fell promptly off the bench in fear and hit his head clean on the cement below. He groaned and scrunched his eyes shut for a few seconds before opening them up to a blurred vision of the tall stranger who was crouching next to him.

“Maybe you weren’t following me…” He heard the taller man mutter.

“Of course I wasn’t following you,” he breathed out shakily, picking himself up off the ground and swatting away the taller man’s hands when he tried to help him.

“It’s your fault for creeping on my bench,” the stranger shot back.

“It’s public property and I gave you more than half the bench!”

“My posture made it very clear that I was not to be bothered!” The latter challenged.

“I-I— ugh! Forget it. Keep your stupid bench,” he huffed, rubbing the sore spot on the back of his head before turning around and staggering away from the offending man he thought he understood hours before.

“W-wait,” he heard from behind, but kept trudging before. He took a peek at his watch and gagged. Yixing would be home soon, and if he didn’t get back first and use the bathroom, he’d lose out while the younger man locked himself in and poured over his textbooks.

He shuddered at the thought of holding it in till midnight again.

“Hey, wait!” A hand grabbed his arm and swung him around. He was facing the tall and brooding stranger again. “I’m sorry,” he deadpanned.

Min Seok blinked- the type of blink that proved that he was getting real tired of the stranger’s bullshit.

“I have to go,” he replied firmly.

“Let me make it up to you,” the stranger pleaded. “For… uh… knocking you off the bench?” He smiled sheepishly, the shine of two sets of pearly white teeth momentarily blinding him.

“No,” he replied amused. “Maybe next time.” He went to turn around again, but the grip was still firm on his arm.

“Please,” he pleaded, his eyes watering the slightest bit, and Min Seok felt himself choke on air.

“W-what the hell?”

His face.

His entire face.

It looked like it came straight off a manhwa page- full with the comically drawn tears. But these tears, albeit faked, were not so comically done. They made his heart wrench.

“You… what are you?” He felt himself mutter as the stranger smiled slyly and dragged him away.

***

“So they won’t even let you take it as a side-major?” he asked curiously.

The stranger wiped away more tears while Min Seok rubbed his shoulder. “It’s not like I’m just going to drop everything and start a band,” he croaked. “But I like singing. I like dancing. My mentor said that martial arts were just another form of expression- another expression of dancing, another expression of art.”

“You could always do it on the side. Work at a music store, maybe, or do some street popping like the other kids.” He advised. “But to get angry over something so trivial- please don’t. If it’s so hard to take classes at your university, then just enroll in a separate dance school. It doesn’t have to be famous or at the tippy top. As long as you can dance with others- isn’t that the goal?”

“But what’s the point when I have to hide that from them too!” He replied with exasperation. “I don’t think I want to deal with them anymore!”

“They’re your parents, Stranger-sshi,” he soothed gently. “Maybe you should talk to them?” He perked up, taking a sip of his soda.

The stranger threw him a nasty look. “I’ve tried, and it hasn’t worked.”

Min Seok blinked his signature blink. “Try again. And if that doesn’t work, then take the classes anyway- only if you can excel in your other ones. Break the rules and take those two extra classes next semester, and get perfect marks on all six classes, and show them you can do it. That is, if you have the guts.”

Min Seok felt his soda bottle get shoved to the side as hands enclosed around his collar and pulled him almost all the way over the tiny table.

“You don’t think I can do it?” The angry college student growled menacingly. “You don’t think I can show them what I’m capable of?”

Min Seok chuckled half-heartedly. “I think you can,” he began, attempting to pry the long fingers off his frayed collar. “And I also think you need an attitude adjustment,” he whistled nonchalantly.

“W-what!?” The younger man gawked, letting go.

Min Seok smoothed his collar, pushed his chair back and got up. “Show them you can do it all instead of crying in a music store in broad daylight, then wallowing on a bench, then attacking a fellow benchmate, then dragging him to a shop without his permission.” The tall stranger with the panda-like eyes seethed, but Min Seok merely ruffled his hair, catching the softening of his features when he pulled his hand away.

“And when you do, I guess I’ll see you grace headlines one day then,” he managed to giggle.

“What?” The taller man spits, obviously surprised.

“A martial arts master masquerading as a kpop idol who can also count his numbers? Maybe you should even open your own production company one day,” he chirped. “Put all your talents into one pot and make something innovative out of them. I believe you can do it.”

The stranger blinked. “I can?”

“You certainly can if you stop being paranoid and aggressive with everyone you know,” he noted wisely.

That riled the stranger up tenfold and he roared. Min Seok was shorter, but faster. He ducked and fled as the stranger tried to grapple his throat again, extracting screams of protest and wait! from the man who came after him. He lost him after running during a red light and taking a detour around a Vietnamese restaurant.

When he finally reached his tiny home- Yixing was flailing and screaming and demanding he tell him where the hell he was since Seoul was crazy dangerous at night and neither of them were built well enough to take on mafia thugs- he realized that he never did get his name.

***

Flash Forward

“Hey, hyung.” Yixing poked him in the shoulder as he finished the last of his coffee.

“Hmm?”

“Professor Oh just sent me an e-mail. You remember him, don’t you? He’s saying there’s a Chinese investment firm that’s been on the rise since 2004 and now they’ve finally hit the big bucks. Like, the really big bucks. They need new people to fill in positions that have just been added in as soon as possible. There’s a gala in a few months that’s going to award the CEO for his tremendous work. It says here that the guy’s a genius.”

Min Seok smiled. “Go for it,” he encouraged.

“It’s in Hong Kong.” The younger man bit his lip. “They’re recruiting through applications only, no interviews needed. It sounds a bit strange.”

“You said the gala’s in a few months, right?” He questioned, brushing off his sweater vest. “He probably needs temps to fill in those stations for the time in between, and he’ll probably pay a lot. He’ll run thorough background checks, if he’s smart, and probably only take the people Professor Oh contacts.”

“You think?” He mused, genuinely curious. “I mean… Hong Kong’s really far away. But Prof. Oh was always good to me, even if I wasn’t from his university. I don’t know…”

“I thought you were manlier than this?” Min Seok chirped.

Yixing’s nostrils flared. “I am! I can do this, Kim Min Seok!”

“Then do it,” he smiled. “And send me postcards.”

But Yixing Zhang’s smile fell, and Min Seok’s faltered too. “What?”

“I don’t want to leave you,” he admitted quietly. “You’re my brother.”

Min Seok chuckled. “And as a good big brother, I demand you get out of Seoul for a few months, please. Really, Yixing-ah,” he found himself guffawing. “You’re Chinese. You’re going back to China. What’s wrong with this picture again?”

“I’m from Changsha, excuse me!” He heard the man exclaim. “Very different from Hong Kong. Too different. I’m from the damn countryside!”

Min Seok wanted to ruffle his hair, but it was styled stiffly with expensive products he couldn’t even pronounce. “But you’ll get a breather. Plus, AmniCorp wants you. Once you finish, you can just accept their offer with a full wallet and then some. If they don’t want you, then screw it. Accept one of the million other offers lined up for you. I heard the one from Thailand hacked into your BBM account. Is that true?”

Yixing groaned. “Let’s not talk about that. But fine. I’ll check into it. Temp, right? No problem. I have more than enough funds.”

“It’ll be like a vacation,” Min Seok added.

“Vacation. Yes,” the younger deadpanned sarcastically, and Min Seok did ruffle his hair before being chased out into the street.

***

“Hyung.” Yixing poked his spine as he straightened his lemon yellow tie and blue green sweater vest.

“Hmm?”

“It’s a year long contract.”

Min Seok blinked at the mirror, catching Yixing’s taller head peering at him through the reflection. “A year’s not that long.”

“Starting offer’s over seven hundred grand- in HDK.”

“Oh. That’s great. Enough to live comfortably for a year or so if you don’t want to take another offer right away.”

“The contract’s renewable, hyung. It’s not a temp.”

Min Seok blinked.

Yixing blinked.

Silence.

“… take it.” He found himself laughing. “Great benefits, I’m assuming? Probably. And it’ll be easier to visit your parents and grandparents.”

“Hyung,” the younger man whispered.

“I’ll be praying for you,” he added sincerely. “Just remember to send the postcards, OK?”

He left before he could say anything else.

***

“What.”

“Corporate lawyer. Team. Needs a leader. He asked specifically for you.”

It was a bit disconcerting for Min Seok to learn that he had a super rich stalker.

“Uh… no thanks. I enjoy representing the street vendors by the park. Very good people.”

Yixing rubbed his temples. “They pay you the same stipend an average third year paralegal gets. You’re brilliant, hyung, and I know you have corporate work under your belt. The Hyang Po case? Or how about when our favorite teashop was about to go bankrupt? You shut down the entire district office in less than two weeks, were reimbursed by the government itself, and even milked out enough cash for ajumma to renovate the entire place. If there’s anyone who can save a business from going under, it’s you.”

“Wait, the genius stalker guy’s firm is going under?” Min Seok inquired.

“No!” Yixing wailed. “I’m just saying that if it ever did, you’d be able to save it.”

“Then call me when it does,” Min Seok chirped, but before he could flee, Yixing grabbed a hold of his sleeve.

“There’s no one for us here, hyung. You know it; I know it. How bad it could it be?”

“I’m a Joseon person,” Min Seok pleaded. “I like Joseon.”

Yixing rolled his eyes. “You’re fluent in Chinese, and it’s a year long deal. And you’ll be with me. If you hate it, you can always come back. I’d only be able to come back if someone picks me up for another job offer.”

“If I’m here, I could always hire you,” he replied cheekily. Yixing gave him a death glare. He chuckled sheepishly.

“Please, hyung.” Yixing whispered, letting go of his sleeve and dropping his eyes, bottom lip quivering dangerously.

Min Seok sighed. “Give me some time.”

Yixing nodded, and Min Seok left for his street vendor employers.

***

“Omona, you convinced me to come all the way to China so I could take a job from a man who’s most likely my stalker. Oh my god. Oh my god.”

Yixing patted Min Seok’s hyperventilating figure. The plane landed as the bright sun beat rays through their window.

***

“What’s the asshole doing?” Min Seok flushed. “How does he know so much about me!?” Min Seok gawked. “Is that… a gift basket? Omona, it’s a gift basket! Yixing-ah! Yixing Zhang! GET OUT HERE RIGHT NOW!”

***

“It’s a welcoming party, hyung. Ten Koreans, four or five Chinese, and an assortment of others. I did my research. All one year offers with renewable contracts if the boss is pleased.”

“The boss can kiss my ass,” Min Seok grumbled. “One year, and then we’re going back. One year, and that’s it.”

“Are you enjoying your drinks?” A young man asked from behind. They nodded politely and took their second round of champagne flutes.

“I can’t believe you used aegyo on me,” Min Seok muttered, still entirely amazed.

“I can’t believe you fell for it,” Yixing chuckled. “Shh, look there. The boss, the genius, he’s going to get up on that stage and announce all the new employees. But since we’re all experienced folks, we’re all going to be given welcoming gifts and whatnot on his behalf.”

“To hell with him,” he snapped, taking a long swig of his drink before wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.

“Hyung!” Yixing called, absolutely appalled. “Manners!”

“Shut up, you!” He seethed. “You brought me straight to my stalker,” he sobbed.

“You’re not a special cookie,” Yixing bit back. “Now straighten up and smile. That’s our new boss.”

Min Seok rolled his eyes before letting his gaze travel to the stage. A figure was turned around, the dark sheen of his black frock coat bouncing off the chandelier lights.

“A frock coat? My sweater vests are a hundred times more amazing,” Min Seok huffed.

“No, they’re not, hyung,” Yixing deadpanned. “Now, please, just pay attention.”

There was chattering and the figure’s back was turned for a while before he went to face the rest of the crowd. Min Seok wanted to pay attention, but he couldn’t, so he slipped out of Yixing’s reach in the midst of the man turning around. He didn’t see it. He didn’t care. He went to the bar and ordered a glass of Chardonnay, downed it and went back into the thin crowd. The man’s back was turned again. Yixing shooed him closer. He rolled his eyes and went back next to him.

“Now, for our next batch,” the spokeswoman said, and a round of applause sounded through the hall as the firm’s three new accountants and two new recruiters were heralded in. Five minutes later, Yixing was called to the stage as the their new, lead credit analyst. For once, Min Seok’s chest swelled with pride, and he clapped. The boss man never turned far enough for Min Seok to take a look at him. Min Seok didn’t care. He just cheered when Yixing bowed respectfully to his new underlings.

Min Seok was last, and he was glad. By then, the crowd was tired ready to leave. Even Yixing smiled contently, his magical dimple appearing and disappearing as the hostess finished up the event. Min Seok punched him playfully in the arm, and they burst into laughter, finally in realization that they’d hit the ultimate jackpot.

“Our last, new member to the family. Can we please invite our esteemed, new team leader for our legal team? Mr. Kim Min Seok, please come to the stage.”

A thin round of applause, and Min Seok really didn’t care. He was too drunk to care. Well, he wasn’t really drunk, but he loved smiling like a goofball.

He toed up the stage and across the harshly lit platform before coming to the man who was turned away from him. After the woman’s little speech, he turned to the audience and waved warmly. He was surprised to see that people were still interested, and that Yixing was clapping the loudest.

He never had this much money on hold for him. He didn’t really have people cheering for him before like this. Maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea to come here. He inwardly giggled. When he turned back to his new boss, he bowed respectfully before accepting the bouquet of flowers and raising his head to finally take a look at him.

Hipster frames were placed above a sharp nose on an angular face. There was a sly smirk, one that reminded him of a certain someone who dragged him to some other place so many years ago. Long, thin, absolutely ruthless.

“Y-you.” Min Seok breathed.

“Welcome to the team, Min Seok-sshi.” The stranger from his former music shop grinned, the pearly white teeth and dusky brown skin glinting off the bright lights as the brass buttons of his frock coat shimmered with delight. “I hope you’ll treat me well,” the taller man pouted.

“You!” Minseok all but screamed.

“Me,” the man answered, pointing a thin, long finger at his chest. “CEO and marketing instructor, Huang Zi Tao.” He gave a little curtsy while Min Seok gasped and the crowd broke out into good natured laughter. “At your service.”

By the time Min Seok got back to his hotel room, everything seemed like a bad idea.

***

“So you stalked me?” Min Seok deadpanned.

“I sought you out. I did not stalk you,” he replied, exasperated with Min Seok’s constant quips.

“I never told you my name,” Min Seok said, suspicion coating his eyes. “How did you find it?”

The tall man, now twenty- something instead of the proposed seventeen or eighteen from years ago, smiled. “I have my ways.”

“How long has it been?” Min Seok asked. “Since you knocked me off the bench?”

“Seven years,” he answered truthfully. “I’m twenty-seven now. My firm helps me fund my dance studio and my dojos in Seoul, Tokyo, and right here. I put my interests together, and now-” He waved at the little patio on the hotel they were camping out in. “All of this belongs to me.”

“At least you’ve lost the paranoia,” he sniggered. “And picked up glasses.”

“They’re just for show,” he admitted. “Look great with my coat.”

“Why me?” He finally asked.

“I wanted to thank you,” he said softly, toying with his latte.

Min Seok snorted into his coffee. “We met for thirty min-”

“Forty-five,” Zi Tao claimed.

“Fine, forty-five. Forty-five minutes. From seven years ago. How much of a difference could any person possibly make?”

“I didn’t even tell you my name.” He answered truthfully. “Yet you listened to every word I said. Listened, and told me what I needed to hear. And then you left and I couldn’t find you. I had to go to therapy just to convince myself it wasn’t a dream.”

Min Seok felt bad. “I-I’m sorry,” he muttered.

He waved his hand dismissively. “Forget about it. All that matters is that you’ve accepted the offer, and I’m glad you did. I hope you’ll enjoy your time at the firm.”

Min Seok smiled lightly. “Same here. Thank you for hiring me.”

They drank their morning drinks for a while longer before Min Seok looked at his watch and remembered that he was supposed to accompany Yixing to the mall later. Min Seok bowed and waved goodbye at the man before departing.

Seven weeks later, Huang Zi Tao asked him if he’d like to go out to dinner with him after they’d spent eleven hours preparing a proposal for a mining firm Zi Tao really wanted under his wing. Min Seok agreed out of pure hunger and exhaustion, and they ended up eating take-out in Zi Tao’s office, his plasma television blaring the scores for the competing dancers.

Halfway into their dessert, Min Seok coughed and took a swig of his beer before patting his tummy. Ten seconds later, he felt smooth lips press against his puffy ones, stealing his breath for a good twenty seconds. When Huang Zi Tao let go, Min Seok took a deep breath. Then he pushed him away, grabbed his coat and briefcase, and left without another word.

***

“What happened, hyung?”

“You happened,” Min Seok snapped. “This is all your fault. I should have stayed home.”

“Then go back,” Yixing snapped. “The boss has taken a liking to you, so I’m sure he wouldn’t mind cutting you loose softly,” he sneered.

“I should have cut you loose when I had the chance,” he yelled back, causing Yixing to jump in his chair. “Forget you and your fucking boss.”

And he left.

***

He avoided Yixing’s calls for the first three days before swooping by his apartment on the forth with a bucket of Hong Kong style fried chicken and two cases of beer.

“Hyung, you know I can only take two and a half glasses of champagne before passing out completely.”

“It’s not for you; it’s for me.”

And he drank while the latter ate, talking about all the times they’d screwed up and then made up.

***

“The presentation’s being chartered by Mrs. Ping. Is there anything else you’d like before my meeting with the client tomorrow?”

“Can I take you out on a proper date to apologize for my rude behavior from last week?”

Min Seok politely declined, and that was the end of it.

***

Flash Forward

“How is Wu Fan-isshi?”

“Feisty,” he chuckled.

“Your black eye proves it so,” he mused.

“Twice,” he whined. “I can’t believe he hit me in the water room. I only asked for a goodbye kiss.”

“He thought you were leaving him,” he deadpanned. “Of course he’d clock some sense into you. Be more specific next time.”

“I should have hired you as my personal assistant instead of my lawyer,” he grumbled.

Min Seok gagged. “No thanks. Wu Fan would probably kill you then.”

“Wu Fan wants the world to burn.” Zi Tao mumbled.

“Except you,” Min Seok chirped. “Then you’d be dragon kings or something like that.”

“Dragon kings?” Zi Tao laughed.

“I heard he has a dragon tattoo,” Min Seok chirped.

“Who told you about his tattoo?” He asked threateningly.

“A little birdie,” he laughed.

Zi Tao punched his arm and he wailed. They puckered into a silence, the waves crashing in front of them as the smell of the sea salt wafted towards their noses. Min Seok touched his soda bottle.

“Mi Lee wants to visit Tokyo this summer. Make it a couples only trip- basically meaning all of us if you can afford to get off for a week or so.”

“I’m taking a month off in the summer to focus on my dojos. I want to get some martial artists interested in music to make it in the industries.”

Min Seok coughed. “As in kpop?”

“Mandopop, kpop, jrock- whatever they want. I never gave myself the chance, even though I knew I could do it. Why not give someone else a shot instead to make it up?”

“You want to fund them?”

“Yes. Maybe even get around to adopting one or two,” he chuckled. His hipster frames were absent today. His frock was gone. Both men sat comfortably in jeans and untucked button-up shirts.

“You want children?” Min Seok asked seriously.

“… yes. But more so, I want to be able to give someone a shot at that world. The one where you never have to stop moving around.”

“The thrill, the music,” Min Seok mused.

“The beauty,” Zi Tao finished. “Might as well open up an orphanage, train them, and send them off to be complete badasses.”

“You would do that,” Min Seok chuckled.

“I would,” he replied.

Min Seok smiled. “Mi Lee’s planning the trip with Luhan. Yixing’s freaking out because he thinks he won’t finish up his reports before the flight date. That reminds me. I need to pump him full of chicken and orange juice one of these days so he can just calm down.”

“He’s always calm when Luhan-sshi’s around,” Zi Tao noted.

“Everyone’s calm when Luhan’s around. He’s just that kind of guy.” Min Seok finished the rest of his soda. He looks contemplatively at the empty bottle before placing it down on the bench.

“That was the kind soda we drank when we went to that coffee shop.”

Min Seok gasped. “Back in Seoul?”

Zi Tao grinned. “I gave a can to Wu Fan and he dumped it in the sink. Said it would cause breakouts.”

“Oh god,” he moaned. “Your boyfriend does want to watch the world burn. Your taste, man, I can’t even begin.” He chuckled. He stopped when he realized what he’d said when he heard Zi Tao laughing softly. “… I just insulted myself too, didn’t I?” He asked, blinking rapidly.

“Yup.” The taller man stifled a giggle.

“Damn it.”

And they broke out into raucous laughter.

“I had clever schemes and everything planned to seduce you,” Zi Tao admitted.

“Ohoho, it would have taken more than money and hipster glasses to ensnare me,” Min Seok guffawed.

“Yeah,” Zi Tao replied wistfully. “It would have. Lady parts would have been the first.”

Min Seok choked on air and Zi Tao slapped his back. “Yah!" Min Seok squeaked.

“It’s true though,” Zi Tao confirmed.

“Shut up,” Min Seok huffed.

“You were still my first love, though,” Zi Tao whistled.

Min Seok gawked. “I have a wife and you’re supposed to be my boss. Are you trying to ruin my life?” He ridiculed, his eyes widening.

“Oh, how things would be today if you’d just accepted my advances and became mine,” he swooned, completely ignoring Min Seok’s complaints.

“Yixing would have cut your balls off if I’d succumbed. He didn’t like you at first,” he tattled.

“And the places we could have gone to- the things we could have seen. Oh, Mr. Kim, ohhhhh.” The taller man continued, pretending to be oblivious to the tomato red Korean.

“I’m sure Wu Fan-sshi would love to hear about how your heart goes thump-a-thump for your lawyer instead of him.” Min Seok whistled back.

Zi Tao croaked in mid-laughter. “Don’t.” He glared.

“Mi Lee would just leave me,” he drawled. “But Wu Fan would kill you before running off with your money.”

“Shut up, you!” The taller man seethed and punched Min Seok’s arm again.

“God damn it, stop hitting me!”

“Stop saying stupid stuff!”

“You started it!”

“No, you did!”

“Omona!”

“Shut up!”

They turned opposite ways and stayed that way until they were both calm enough to function.

“… this never gets out to Wu Fan.”

“As long as Mi Lee stays out of it.”

They swore on their future children and sagged back into the bench as the tide came closer.

“I still love you,” Zi Tao admitted. “But as a brother now. Not… not like before.”

“I know,” Min Seok whispered. “I love you too.”

“It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Since Seoul?” Tao pondered.

“I think almost nine years,” Min Seok calculated. “Right around there. I think that coffee shop’s still there.”

“Probably selling the same soda,” Zi Tao chirped.

“With the small tables and flimsy chairs.” Min Seok laughed.

“And that music store,” Zi Tao sighed. “I still remember that music store.”

“God, that song was awful and you were crying.” Min Seok chuckled. “You know, I had to take a minute to decide whether or not it was the remix that made you burst into tears.”

“It could have,” Tao admitted. “It definitely could have. I mean, they butchered the entire song. No one messes with T-ara, god damn it, no one.” He shook his head vehemently.

“Truth,” Min Seok agreed.

“Thank you for listening to me that night, Kim Min Seok. And tapping my shoulder and scaring the shit out of me.”

The waves got tighter and the breeze stronger. It was time to head home.

“No problem," he replied without missing a beat

They went home afterwards, still laughing.