Taeyong hums to himself as he listens to the familiar calling tone, a hand playing with the eraser on his desk. He isn't nervous, not really, but he’s only started this three days ago, so it’s all still kind of new to him.
“Hello, you have reached SM Adult Services, how may we help you?” Says the pleasant, disembodied voice.
“Hi, I'd like to talk to Jaehyun please.” Taeyong keeps his voice level, ignoring the slow climb of anticipation and nervousness curling at his stomach.
“Sure. Just a moment please.” The voice replied, upbeat and professional.
Taeyong massages the back of his neck as he awkwardly waits on the line, his hand abandons the stationery on his desk for the white earphone cord instead. He doesn't have to wait long.
“Hey, it's you again.” A warm, familiar voice greets him.
Despite himself, a small smile tugs at Taeyong’s lips. He sits a little straighter and curls his legs underneath. “Yeah, it's me.”
Soft chuckling could be heard from other side of the line. “On time, as always. So, how goes another day of scheming against the evil sister, Taeyong-ssi?” Comes the light-hearted tease.
“If you must know, Jaehyun-ssi , the plan is going splendidly.” He smiles, stretching his arms above his head and letting out a noise of satisfaction when he feels his neck pop. “I mentioned taking a Korean language course once and you start using formal language on me now? I thought people call to let loose.”
A snort comes from the other side of the line. “And people do let loose, as you so aptly put. Plus, I only know what you tell me, which isn’t much. All you’ve mentioned were adding -yo behind each sentence, and that grandmas will hit you if you speak to them informally.”
The small smile stretches a bit wider, and Taeyong slides lower on his chair to prop his feet up on the clean desk. “Touché.” He leans back, one hand still playing with the cord, the other drawing lazy shapes on his belly. “And how are you today, Jaehyun-ssi ?”
A short sigh comes from his earphones, quiet and intimate. Not for the first time, Taeyong finds he’s growing fond of the small noises Jaehyun makes. “It was alright. I'm a little worried about the writing assignment tomorrow. It’s for a literature course and… I want to do well.” The uncertainty resonating from his voice makes Taeyong frown.
“What’s the assignment about?”
“We have to write a report on two short stories, and what some scholars think of them. It sounds kind of boring, but I guess that’s Literature 101 for you.” Jaehyun sounds almost sheepish, and Taeyong wonders if the soft rustling sound is him scratching the back of his head.
He makes a noncommittal noise in the back of his throat, unsure of what he should say. Comfort isn’t his forté, but he feels compelled to brighten the mood. “What was the last book you read, for fun?”
“Hm? Like, not for school?” Jaehyun replies, voice curious.
“That’s usually what fun means.” He responds teasingly.
“With all due respect, between the two of us, I feel like I have a better idea of what fun is, thank you. I just wanted to clarify.” Jaehyun retorts. Taeyong hums in response, it’s probably true. His fingers pause on their aimless path on his tummy when Jaehyun clears his voice, “The last book I read was One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”
That name sounded vaguely familiar, and Taeyong sits up straighter to pick up his phone and googles it. Ah. “A classic. Why did you choose the book?”
“It’s my roommate’s. Came with good recommendation, so I read it.”
Taeyong hums. “Did you like it?”
“It was… good. I’m starting to get into older American classics. The one I read before that was Atlas Shrugged. And before that, a couple Kurt Vonnegut. They’re all… very interesting.”
Taeyong lowers his feet to the floor and walks over to his bed. “Considering how those stories were written around the time of industrialization in America and the influences of the two World Wars, interesting is the least one could say about them.” He hums in quiet appreciation, settling on his bed and turning on the table lamp. “I didn’t know you liked that genre.”
“Just trying to read as much as I can.” Comes the response, genuine and passionate. There was a pause when Jaehyun doesn’t speak, but Taeyong hears shuffling in the background.
“What are you doing?”
“Um. I took my laptop out. To look over my assignment. I mean. Since we aren’t doing anything anyways. You don't mind, right?” Jaehyun asks nervously. The reasoning is sound, and in truth, Taeyong doesn’t really care. But it’s fun to tease the other man from time to time.
“Here I am paying you $3 a minute, and you’re doing your homework? I should request someone else next time.” He replies, feigning indignation. He can almost see the frown on Jaehyun’s face, nevermind the fact that he’s never even met the other man before.
“Well, you were the one who made it clear you weren’t expecting anything from the beginning.” Jaehyun shoots back huffily. Then a pause. “Oh, you were just teasing. Ha. Haha. That was lame.”
Taeyong bites back a smile, and taunts back. “I’m not the one doing their homework right now.”
He hears something hard hitting the desk, and a long groan follows. Finally, Jaehyun speaks, response muffled from the phone being squished between his cheek and the desk. “They don’t pay me enough to put up with you.”
At this, Taeyong finally lets out a snicker. “That’s not my problem. I’m a paying customer, you have to do as I say.”
There was another pause, and Taeyong could hear Jaehyun reading over his report very softly. Finally, he replies, “A paying customer… at your sister’s expense. What did she do to you again?”
Taeyong realizes he’s still standing in front of his bed, having forgotten what he originally wanted to do. “Hm, do you need time to read something over? I can shut up for a bit.”
Jaehyun laughs sheepishly, replying that he doesn’t mind, but Taeyong stops talking all the same. Finally remembering that he wanted to get ready for bed, he unplugs his earphones and puts his phone on speaker. He was done pulling off his t-shirt and onto his belt when Jaehyun speaks again.
“I hear something. What are you doing?”
“Undressing.” Taeyong pulls the rest of his pants off, leaving him in boxers. It’s getting late, and he doesn’t have the energy to take a shower anymore. It’ll have to wait till tomorrow morning. The evening air is not too cold, and Taeyong prefers to sleep with as little clothes on anyway, so he settles on his bed.
He doesn't expect Jaehyun to drop his voice a little lower, a little huskier. “Is that so? I thought you said you weren’t interested.”
Taeyong stills momentarily, before rolling his eyes and makes himself more comfortable. “You know very well the only reason why I do this is to see the shock on my sister’s face when she receives her phone bill.” Taeyong chides, no bite in his words. He reaches to the phone on his bedside table and turns the speaker off before holding it beside his ear as he snuggles more comfortably in bed. “I’m just getting ready for bed.”
Jaehyun chuckles. “Well aware. You still haven’t answered. What did your sister do that warrants such an expensive payback?”
Taeyong pauses, running his tongue on his teeth as he measures his words. “She put hair dye in my shampoo, so my hair was bleached with patches of strawberry pink. I had an interview the next morning. Thank god the interviewer had a sense of humour and I was still hired.”
Jaehyun laughs. And laughs. Taeyong turns a bit pink, and a bit annoyed, when someone’s joy is at the expense of his embarrassment, but he ignores it. He waits a few seconds, clears his throat and attempts to overcome his embarrassment as Jaehyun’s laughter dies down. “So yeah. Don’t ever cross me, or I’ll think of very creative ways to hit where it hurts, hard.”
Jaehyun’s voice is a little raspy when he speaks next, probably from laughing so loudly. Serves his right. “You should dye your whole head strawberry pink. That’s a trend these days, right?”
Taeyong scoffs. “Would you trust a strawberry pink haired guy to manage thousands of dollars? Looks matter in my industry. It’s a good thing I wasn’t hired for a client-facing position, and like I said, I got lucky to meet an interviewer with a sense of humour. Otherwise, I would’ve upped the punishment.”
Jaehyun snickers again. “May I never upset you in any way possible.”
Taeyong doesn’t immediately reply. Instead, he pulls his bangs to where he can see them, and frowns at the patchy dye job. Jaehyun speaks again. “Hey? Did the line drop?”
Sighing, resigned to his fate, Taeyong’s hand returns to tracing circles on his belly. “I’m still here. I was just thinking, I should probably pick up some black hair dye to fix this mess. My hair looks like shit.”
“Go with black-blue. It’s dark, but it’s fun. I think it’ll suit you.”
Taeyong raises an eyebrow, but when he realizes Jaehyun cannot see, he asks, “How would you know?”
There was another pause, and Taeyong hears Jaehyun read under his breath again, pulling a small smile to his lips. After a few more seconds, Jaehyun replies: “Uh. Just a feeling, I guess. I can hear from the way you speak and your personality, that the colour will probably fit you well. But don’t quote me on anything. It’s your hair, after all.”
Taeyong makes an indistinct thoughtful sound. “I guess I could take that into consideration.” Taeyong concludes. His right arm was getting tired from holding the phone against his ear, so he switches ear and squeezes the phone between his face and the pillow. “What about you?”
“What do you look like?”
Jaehyun snickers. “Why are you trying to picture me?”
Taeyong frowns, not really liking what that tone implies. “Just curious. Humour me.” He persuades.
There was a pause, and Taeyong feels he should call this off if it’s making Jaehyun uncomfortable. But then Jaehyun replies, playful and light-hearted, before he has a chance to retract his words. “I guess I don't have a choice, right Mr. Client?”
Taeyong feels a rush of relief that Jaehyun doesn’t take things too seriously, and smirks into the pillow. “See? You can learn quickly too.”
“Don't patronize me.” Pause. “I am six feet or so, pale… not thin, but not chubby, I guess? I like food, but I play a lot of sports, too. Oh, and I recently dyed my hair, so it's a light brown now. Caramel? Honey? Or something like that.”
Taeyong snorts. “This is why I can't take you seriously. Shouldn't you know what you put in your hair?”
Jaehyun laughs, warm and hearty, and the sound makes Taeyong smile too. “I can't read the Japanese on the box, I spontaneously picked it up when I went shopping last week. It came with high recommendation, so…”
Taeyong chuckles, the tease comes out before he considers the words. “You're pretty easy, aren’t you?”
Jaehyun lets out a bark of laughter. “If you're trying to flirt with me, this is not the right way, Taeyong.”
Taeyong rolls his eyes. “What makes you think I’m gay?”
A beat. “Are you kidding me?”
Taeyong rolls his eyes and switches the phone from one side to the other. “No, why would I be joking?”
Taeyong hears Jaehyun snort and feels like he’s missing the bigger picture. “Um. I guess you haven’t noticed, but this is a gay phone sex line. Bold, capitalize, and a million underlines to the gay part- Are you serious ?”
A blush creeps up Taeyong’s neck. He didn't really check before dialing. He had gotten this number from Yuta after telling him what had happened with his hair and the interview… His eyes widen, and everything clicks. Yuta that little shit-
“...Believe it or not, that wasn’t intentional. A friend told me to call this number and I didn’t double check before I called.” He clears his throat nervously. “But it’s not like I’m homophobic or anything! I was just surprised. I promise.”
Jaehyun chuckles again, and Taeyong feels his face grow hotter with embarrassment. “I didn’t come to that conclusion, don’t worry. I’m more surprised at how it didn’t dawn on you when you heard a man pick up the phone. You can be pretty oblivious sometimes, huh?”
Taeyong doesn’t know how to respond, knowing that he’d trip over his tongue in part humiliation and part anger, so he huffs in quiet indignation.
Jaehyun laughs again, light and easy. “So I guess you’re not gay, either?”
Taeyong supposes it is easy for Jaehyun to talk about sex and sexuality by the nature of his job, but it’s not the same with himself. He folds his arm up against his chest, and mumbles into the phone. “And I guess you are?” At this rate, his face will be the reason his poor phone overheats.
“At least you’re not slow on the uptake the second time round.” More muffled laughter. “I am bi. I mean… I haven’t had too much experience with dating, but I have diverse tastes?”
Taeyong nods silently, not sure what to do with that information, and clears his throat. “I’m… I don’t have that much experience either, I guess. I’ve been on a couple dates with girls before, but those led nowhere. And I've never considered dating a guy before.” Taeyong wrinkles his nose and fleetingly wonders if he’s an aromantic.
“That sounds kinda aromantic to me.” Jaehyun responds, strangely quiet and contemplative.
Taeyong stills. “Huh. I was just thinking that. You took the words right out of my mind.”
Jaehyun makes another thoughtful noise, and Taeyong wonders if he's smiling right now, or frowning. It's not easy to gauge the other's emotions without seeing their face. And this topic makes Taeyong ask questions about himself that he doesn't really have the time or care for.
“Well either way, I'm in no hurry to settle with someone. I'd rather spend more time on dance before I graduate.”
“I've danced all my life. Why do you sound so surprised?”
“Because… it doesn't really fit with your… my first impression of you? I don't know. You call at the same time, every day, for the past three days. You study finance. You said so yourself, looks matter in your field. Do your friends even know about this?”
Taeyong frowns, not really knowing how to feel that he's already giving off a finance/professional vibe. He isn't that boring, that stuck up, is he? He shuffles uncomfortably between the sheets. “It's kind of hard to keep this a secret, I practice almost every day. It helps with stress.” He reasons, the same things he tells his mum when she complains that he spends too much time out. “My grades are better from it. I've even dragged a friend along.”
There was no hesitation, not even a pause, before Jaehyun replies. “Do you pay them too?”
Taeyong snorts and replies sarcastically, “I am a perfectly good friend. Supportive and approachable and all the friendly qualities. My friends love me. You’re a jerk.”
The laugh that follows is too loud annoying and frankly kind of insulting, and Jaehyun wheezes towards the end. “Jerk?” More wheezing laughter. “Sure, I guess I am. I guess we're also in grade school or something, and kissing gives you cooties?”
Taeyong scowls harder. “You're overcharging. I should contact front desk about your service. This is bullshit.”
Jaehyun snickers and volleys right back, “Please, we haven’t even started. Don't knock it ‘til you've tried it.”
Taeyong scoffs. “I said- I don't have time to think about it, doesn't mean that I'm against it-”
“So you'd consider it?”
The low, husky tone of Jaehyun voice vibrates through Taeyong’s body and brings him to a full halt, his brain draws a blank. At a loss of words, Taeyong growls and flips to his other side, glaring at the lamp on his night table like it had personally offended him for existing.
A minute passes in silence. Belatedly, Taeyong realizes Jaehyun had stopped typing somewhere in between.
“Are you done your homework?”
“It can wait. Are you mad at me?”
“No, but it doesn't make you any less of a prat.”
It can been Taeyong’s imagination, he doesn't even know how it sounds like, but he has a feeling Jaehyun is biting his lip before his next words come out. “I'm sorry.”
There is another pause, one where Taeyong realizes he's been holding his breath, and he slowly let's it out. To be very honest, he's not sure why Jaehyun is the one apologizing when he cannot take the joke. He’s the one who calls the sex phone line, for crying out loud. But Jaehyun was the first to apologize… and that made Taeyong feel bad.
“I'm sorry too. I shouldn't have taken it so personally.”
To that, Jaehyun says nothing. Taeyong frowns and checks the phone for the battery percentage, then realizes they've been talking for almost an hour. Almost an entire hour with a complete stranger, by any definition.
To be honest, Jaehyun was not far from the truth. Taeyong is intense, through and through. He works and lives and breathes in the blacks and whites of society, he deals with numbers and reactions of people during events. He understands human psychology on a higher level, but he's never had many friends, let alone close friends. Yet here he is, talking to a stranger, being open and sociable and normal in what would otherwise be a strange, uncommon circumstance.
And he knows this won't last. He's only meaning to do this until the end of the month, when the bills come in the mail. There is nothing permanent about this exchange.
He stifles a yawn and scratches his belly, and then playing with the drawstring he finds there. Numbers, he can deal with. Heck, give him numbers related to people, he'd still be a fish in water. Human interaction, on the other hand…
Jaehyun clears his throat, voice steady and uncertain. “So, what are you going to do tomorrow?”
“The same thing I do everyday, Pinky. Try to take over the world.” He drawls out, voice deadpan, face expressionless.
Jaehyun guffaws into the mouthpiece and Taeyong winced when the decibels attack his eardrum. He turns down the call volume as soon as he can and almost misses what Jaehyun says.
“Wait, what? Ow. You almost made me deaf. Ow . What did you say?”
Jaehyun chuckles, all easy and lighthearted again. “I said: You’re pretty interesting. Sometimes, I can't predict you, like, at all. And other times you're so textbook it's uncanny.”
“Uh. Thanks? I think?”
Jaehyun hums. There's some shuffling again.
“Putting away the laptop?”
“Yeah. And your hour is almost up.”
“....that predictable, huh?”
Jaehyun snickers. “This is one of those times, yeah.”
Taeyong snorts. “Fair.” He stifles another yawn.
“Tired? Did you just yawn?”
“Almost. Yeah, I'm pretty tired. It’s been a long day, I guess.”
“It is almost midnight.”
Taeyong checks his phone. “One minute.”
“One minute to midnight. I should go to sleep now.”
Jaehyun laughs into the phone. “Alright. Night night, Taeyong.”
Taeyong wrinkles his nose at Jaehyun’s attempt to be cute...or maybe that's just how he is? He shakes his head with a smile and replies, “Good night, Jaehyun.”