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The fairy lights aren’t hanging at quite the right angle. Junmyeon’s no mathematician (well, actually his grades were above average), but he can just tell that something is out of place.

“More to the left? Here? like this?” Jongdae impatiently moves the string of lights back and forth. Tiptoeing on the folding steps he’s only just tall enough to reach. Five long minutes of Junmyeon’s indecisiveness and his arm is starting to give out.

“I’m not sure. It’s just..” Junmyeon taps a finger against his lips. How can he put this delicately. “A really shitty idea.”

Jongdae doesn’t throw the lights, but after he’s hooked them back up and hopped down from the steps he does give them a hard kick to fold them. Junmyeon of course is grateful that his best friend found time in his hectic schedule to stop by and help, but he’s not going to mind the peace after he’s left.

“No offense, but does it even. matter?” Jongdae rolls the sleeves of his tailored shirt back down and gestures for Junmyeon to pass his jacket. “It’s just to get more people in here. Make it look less like an uninviting cave.”

Junmyeon smiles insipidly. “I prefer thinking of it as a mysterious, enticing cave. But I know that,” he sighs. Watching Jongdae button his work jacket one-handed sparks some weird kind of muscle memory, so he leaves to put the steps back in their usual spot. The place isn’t in any state for trying to personalise yet.

This isn’t Junmyeon’s dream job, working as a florist. He’s taken the place over and has financially gotten it back on its feet, which was an impressive feat in itself, but it currently makes nowhere near enough of a profit to give it the attention it needs. And Junmyeon doesn’t mean to be so apathetic to the helpful suggestions, either - his mother is always bringing in donated garden ornaments, and this is the second string of lights Jongdae’s deprived a teenager of stringing above their bed. But it’s a florists, not one of those cutesy high street stores. It’s dim and damp and was last modernised in 2003; it needs a full make over, not some cross eyed plastic animals and more lights to attract bugs.

The place is starting to have an identity crisis, and to be honest so is Junmyeon. When did his entire life end up revolving around trying to arrange garden ornaments to look welcoming?

Junmyeon walks Jongdae to the door. Jongdae pauses to button his cuffs, and it gives Junmyeon time to swipe two carnations out of a tin bucket by the door. He knicks the stems off with a sharp thumbnail. “Thanks for helping, anyway,” he says, “Here. For your desk.”

Jongdae opens his hands for the two flower heads. They’re round and so soft under his thumbs; even if they only survive one day in the office it’ll brighten it up a bit. Junmyeon routinely palms people off with free flowers just because he always has them to hand, but for his lack of enthusiasm for the job he’s uncanny at picking the exact right ones.

“I know it’s not ideal, but you’re probably better off here in the cave.”

Junmyeon gets the door for Jongdae. “Work no better?”

Jongdae grimaces as he steps past. “Good thing you got out when you did, Myeonie.” Carefully, Jongdae tucks the flower heads into his top pocket. They’ll probably survive the subway better there than in his hand (plus it makes him look rather charming). “You know, recently I keep fantasising about resigning and moving away to run a food truck.”

Honestly Junmyeon’s been having similar thoughts recently, just the opposite way around to Jongdae. This job was a stopgap that he’s been grateful for while he needed it, but his patience is starting to wear thin in such an unambitious line of work. It started as vague daydreaming, but once the idea was sown the more seriously Junmyeon’s been thinking of selling up and quitting this, getting back into the routine of a suit and tie and desk of his own. It’s the desk he’s been longing for the most, with a functioning computer and no greenfly to brush away.

There’s nothing really keeping him here and a lot of reasons to get back into what he used to love. It’s all that’s been on Junmyeon’s mind recently. Well, except for yesterday. The cute guy who passes by the storefront every day actually came in yesterday. Didn’t buy anything - he barely stayed a minute. Normally anyone who touches flowers they don’t purchase is warned and coerced into a sale, but Junmyeon’s a little biased in his case.

Watching his cute stranger carefully cup an allium in his big hands, like he just wanted to feel how round it is, was as puzzling as it was adorable. All Junmyeon did was stand from his chair and it seemed to startle him. His hands zipped up into his long sleeves and he scuttled away, and Junmyeon sulked for the rest of the afternoon. (He didn’t even see him walk past this morning - maybe that’s contributed to his bad mood today).

Since the start of chrysanthemum season Junmyeon’s noticed him. The guy is like seven feet tall - he’s hard not to notice. He scoots past the windows just before Junmyeon opens up, and then again at midday, slower and more sluggish by then. Not that Junmyeon’s been paying that much attention. But cute, giraffe-height guys who pass by an entirely open storefront like clockwork every day are kind of hard to miss. It’s not like Junmyeon’s had any fun otherwise since he started running this place; an attractive guy to distract him for a few seconds each day is the least he deserves.

Junmyeon only ever seems to see him either taking long, bouncing steps while he mouths along to music or frowning, head bowed. Not a superstitious person by nature, Junmyeon’s apparently just bored enough these days to have started attributing tall cute guy’s moods to how his own days will progress. He looked particularly gloomy when he passed in the afternoon, lips pursed and shoulders hunched. He walked like he was soldiering head-on through rain.

Junmyeon really doesn’t like these lights.

In a stupid, daydream-y kind of way Junmyeon supposes he’s got something of a crush on tall cute guy. It’s been..a while since he last got involved with anyone, and with this place keeping him busy it’s not really been on his mind. Both the ideas of dating and getting another office job, with his record, are better as daydreams. Being interested in someone at least makes Junmyeon feel a little more human again, a little more fun. He’s not all doom and gloom and potting soil.

Tall-cute is back again today, and Junmyeon is so entirely endeared to him. Some people find it awkward when they feel watched while they browse, and after how easily startled he appeared before, Junmyeon’s purposely keeping himself busy. Updating his handwritten order book was something that needed doing anyway. There is a computer, but it’s running XP and sounded like an old lawnmower the first and only time Junmyeon tried to run a cleaner on it.

Junmyeon works slowly on striking out completed transactions with a blue biro, and tall-cute, in his oversized jacket with his pensive little frown, continues to be both unbearably tall and cute. He’s slowly sidestepping around the place, stooped up and moving carefully like he’s afraid to bump into anything. He keeps squinting his big eyes like he probably has glasses he should be wearing.

Junmyeon’s longing to talk to him. Not that he thinks it’ll lead anywhere, obviously, but this is the most interesting thing to happen to him since working here. (It’s not even an exaggeration - his private life hasn’t exactly been active since he left work. A breakdown will do that to your flimsy working relationships).

It’s not every day Junmyeon lets someone break his rules. But this guy..this big, soft guy who seems so charmed by the blooms when he cups them in his big hands. Beats his usual customers - weddings, funerals, partners who don’t want to spend another night on the couch.

Anyway, customer service, engaging. It’s just good business.

“There’s an offer on those,” Junmyeon points out when tall-cute steps in front of an orchid display. He’s so tall that he may have missed the sign level with his shins, right? “What kind of occasion..?” Junmyeon has a good customer service voice, but his crush seems startled, like he was the first time. He looks over at Junmyeon, eyes big and round, and promptly darts to the other side of the store.

So, great, now Junmyeon's made this awkward. Tall-cute has shrunk in even smaller, hands buried deep in his pockets, arms clamped tight to his sides. Junmyeon gets being clammed up and not wanting to talk after work. He courteously keeps quiet and out of the way now, poring over his orders book with determined interest.

Tall-cute shuffles here and there, bundled up in his clothes, doing these funny little stamping steps. Junmyeon moves on to reorganising the junk spread over the counter. Out of the edge of his vision he sees each time tall-cute hedges towards the counter and then diverts off to another display, but there’s plenty enough scraps of ribbon and stray withered leaves on here to make him look busily unaware. Junmyeon’s on such a roll with this he’s almost about to do the unthinkable - clean out the counter drawer - when the footsteps finally approach.

His selection of flowers is..interesting. But if this big adorable boy wants a rainbow of tulips, who’s Junmyeon to say no? (Well, he’s a florist who should advise a better choice, but who cares). Junmyeon smiles warmly, and wow is this guy tall now they’re standing face to face.

Park Chanyeol, he’s called. Junmyeon’s eye level with the name badge pinned to the loose shirt underneath his jacket. He must work in a convenience store nearby, and if that isn’t the greatest motivation Junmyeon’s going to get to actually leave the cave and go buy a decent meal.

So Park Chanyeol is going to have Junmyeon make the ugliest bouquet of his career, and Junmyeon isn’t even going to question it. This must be what having a crush is like. “So how’s your day been?” Junmyeon asks as he pulls and neatly slices a sheet of wrapping from the roll on the counter. He turns back and finds the tulips lined in colour order, in pairs. Huh.

Chanyeol is looking away at the ugly ornaments Junmyeon had hidden up on a shelf. “Shall I get these wrapped up for you?” Junmyeon asks. Chanyeol's fingers start fiddling with the headphone cord sticking out of his pocket. He doesn’t respond, so Junmyeon starts gathering the stems together

Typical, he thinks. His one crush in all this time and it’s on a jerk. Even more reason to shut this place up and leave, if he’ll have to see Chanyeol walk past every morning and think of what a disappointment that venture was.

Chanyeol is still silent, but when he (finally, thank you very much) looks back to Junmyeon’s work his whole body jolts. His big hands shoot out, fingers splayed, blocking Junmyeon’s access to the flowers. Junmyeon's stunned. Chanyeol leans into his space, undoes his work, and swiftly sets the flowers back into their colour divisions.

“You’d like them like this?” Junmyeon can’t make sense of this. Chanyeol isn’t giving verbal instructions, and when Junmyeon gives him a searching look his eyes just dart away. “Individually wrapped?” He prompts. He isn’t rude to even his difficult customers. Usually they are difficult in louder ways. “In pairs, like this?” He gestures.

Chanyeol nods, but his focus is on his pocket, his iPod, headphone cords wrapped around his hand now to uncover the screen. It’s odd - Junmyeon’s not a bad judge of character normally. It’s really none of his business. A crush certainly doesn’t make Chanyeol any more his business than any other customer.

It takes a while, all the paper measuring, wrapping. Junmyeon lays the flowers in a neat rainbow along the counter. The till is unreliable, so he calculates the old fashioned way on a notepad. The paper is damp and the pencil could do with sharpening, but it’s more reliable than any of the technology in this place.

Chanyeol’s preemptively counting money from his wallet. Junmyeon notices the way he hesitates, slots a few notes back in. He looks from the rough skin around his nails to his soft, pouting lips. He doesn’t want this to have been an entirely uncomfortable interaction.

This could either be a great idea or a terrible one, but it’s worth one more shot. “Unbeleafable offer, right?”

Jongdae would leave if he offered him that kind of pun, but - thank god - it’s a winner with Chanyeol. This ridiculously tall man, silent but not sullen, bodily reacts to the joke. His hands clench. His smile is all teeth and eye crinkles and Junmyeon’s hands are suddenly clumsy as he counts out the change. Maybe Chanyeol just isn’t from around here? But hmm, no, he works in a convenience store, so that’s probably not it. Perhaps he’s just had enough of people and conversations for the day. Junmyeon may have been out of an office environment for a while now, but he remembers clear enough how that feels.

Chanyeol looks cute always in his oversized jackets, skinny bowed legs. He’s plain adorable with a bunch of flowers clutched to his broad chest. He doesn’t return Junmyeon’s goodbye, but he does offer an odd little twist of a smile. Junmyeon positively beams in return. Almost reflexively Chanyeol tenses up again, shrinking in on himself.

From the outside (well, inside, technically) Junmyeon’s always imagined that he’s a cheerful person. If he’s had the day from hell, Junmyeon..he’d like to somehow make it a little better. Because he’s apparently helpless when he crushes and his brain has been mush since he saw Chanyeol smile, but also because Chanyeol’s presence has made his own days brighter.

It’s a split second decision, but Junmyeon’s plucked a hyacinth from behind the counter and called excuse me before he has time to think better of it. Chanyeol turns in a shuffle step. His eyes blow wide and impossibly prettier, darting to Junmyeon for a beat. He gets a dimple when he smiles the way he his now, mouth pulling crooked. Junmyeon gives an encouraging nod.

“Free gift,” Junmyeon clarifies. He barely refrains from adding something awful, like for being so cute. He smiles his most winning smile, feeling it stretch into an inane grin when Chanyeol slouches back towards the counter.

He takes the stem carefully. For a moment Chanyeol seems to lock up, unsure what to do with himself between Junmyeon and the weight of a gift. It’s only a few seconds until he’s tracing the edge of a petal with a fingertip, relaxing into this. His thanks comes out a little staggered, and then he’s shuffle-stepping away.

So, it may not have been the kind of encounter Junmyeon has been daydreaming about (like the kind where Chanyeol comes in just to say he wants to talk, he’s noticed Junmyeon in here all alone. He works for a company that would love to hire him..). But it sure beats an average day here.


“What do you think of the lights?”

Chanyeol’s eyes widen and he bodily startles at the unexpected question. He leans in closer, brows knitted, urging Junmyeon to clarify.

“My friend, he said they’d brighten the place up-” That was an unintentional pun. “-But I haven’t decided whether to keep them.” Gave the place a natural look, like vines or something, Jongdae said when he was back here yesterday to string them up again. Honestly, Junmyeon, I know more about business than you do.

Chanyeol is adorable, the way he looks up in awe at a cheap string of lights. He doesn’t reply, but Junmyeon wasn’t really expecting him to. There’s nothing wrong with making friendly conversation. Less creepy, less intentional conversation today.

The only sound from Chanyeol’s side of the counter is a faint scraping, clinking. It’s Chanyeol turning over the change Junmyeon had handed back, rubbing the coins together.

It was a pleasant surprise that Chanyeol stopped by again. It’s not every day you need to buy flowers, and there are other florists who wouldn’t have made awkward conversation. But he came back, more confident in approaching the counter than yesterday.

Junmyeon asked before wrapping the tulips this time. Four of them, all a different colour, and a carnation that Junmyeon tucked in for free. Chanyeol sucked his lower lip between his teeth and carefully felt the ragged petals, and Junmyeon briefly forgot he hates his job.

Chanyeol hums. Maybe that’s his response. He purses his lips, covers his mouth with both hands. Junmyeon steps back, thinking he might sneeze. But that moment passes, and Chanyeol shoves his hands back into his hoodie. Well, they’re never going to get talking. Disappointing, but Junmyeon will probably get over it, and.. wait, now what’s he doing?

Junmyeon frowns down at Chanyeol’s iPod, placed on the counter, then looks searchingly all the way up to Chanyeol’s face. His eyes dart away. His mouth moves like he’s explaining, but the only sound is his fingers tapping the counter, drawing Junmyeon’s attention back to his iPod.

There’s a note open on the screen. This is kind of weird, but Junmyeon obligingly leans in to read it, propping on an elbow. In his peripheral Chanyeol’s started rocking on his heels.

HI!!!! ٩(๑❛ᴗ❛๑)۶ it starts. That’s honestly more how he’d expected Chanyeol to sound. This looks like Chanyeol probably has it set aside for when it’s needed, and Junmyeon suddenly feels warm with embarrassment at the realisation. He’s just some guy in a store that was unprofessionally eager to chat. ur reading this because I couldn't talk :(( Junmyeon scrolls. Chanyeol’s busying himself with the reel of ribbon on the desk, wrapping it around two fingers to bind them together. i am ☆:.。. partially non verbal .。.:☆ that means sometimes I'm slow talking or cant at all!! please be patient \;o;/ thank u !!!♡♡♡

Well. Junmyeon doesn’t entirely know what that means, but he can take a good enough guess. Everything makes more sense now. And Junmyeon, god, he feels awful. The poor guy was probably stressed enough without having someone trying to eek a conversation out of him. Junmyeon apologises, at lack of anything better coming to mind. He’s been unprofessional. He’s been pestering Chanyeol, and it’s been obvious.

Chanyeol gestures that it’s fine. He bites back a full grin, looking kind of like a chipmunk the way his teeth stick out as he smiles. Junmyeon passes his iPod back over and returns the smile sheepishly. He’s been a jerk, and he’s grateful Chanyeol doesn’t seem to have taken it badly.

Now Chanyeol’s waving both hands, shaking his flowers. He points to the lights and nods, gives a thumbs up. Junmyeon’s startled for the moment it takes his brain to catch up and realise they’re back on the original subject. Chanyeol’s laugh is deep and vibrating, and Junmyeon’s flushing warm as Chanyeol heartily laughs at their situation.

“You think so?” Junmyeon smiles. There’s no way he could have stayed tense after hearing Chanyeol laughing like that, so he leans more comfortably on his elbows. “That’s two votes in favour, then.”

Chanyeol points to Junmyeon, then crosses his fingers. Junmyeon is the losing no vote.

“I am sorry,” Junmyeon says. Chanyeol’s got a hand on the brass door handle - it took him getting that far for Junmyeon to make up his mind whether to say anything. He’s still not sure it’s a good idea, but he likes Chanyeol, and he is sorry. “For being intrusive.”

“Oh,” Chanyeol says aloud. His brows knit. His big hands fumble to tuck the flowers carefully under arm so he can dig out his iPod and thumb at the screen. He starts to shuffle-step back towards the counter, so Junmyeon hurries out from behind to at least meet him half way.

It’s been..a while since Junmyeon's seriously considered that he might like someone. Even this - finding Chanyeol pleasing to look at, feeling fondly towards his presence, obnoxiously trying to get his attention - he’d thought was probably just a result of boredom. But there’s no mistaking the shot of nervous energy straight into his belly when Chanyeol beams at him, holding his iPod up.

thats why I have the note!! ٩( 'ω' )و

It’s a slip of the tongue that Junmyeon addresses Chanyeol by name. Chanyeollie, as though they’re familiar in some way, because ever since Junmyeon saw the badge on Chanyeol’s shirt he’s thought of him that way. He’s not tall-cute-guy anymore. He’s Chanyeol. And Junmyeon gets the warm fuzzies when he fondly calls him that in texts to Jongdae, but wow if he doesn’t want the ground to open up and swallow him now he’s said it out loud.

Chanyeol was busy rummaging through a container of ribbons when it slipped out. For the past three days Junmyeon hasn’t had to keep an eye out for Chanyeol passing on his way out of work, because Chanyeol’s headed straight into here. The first time it was to buy a single blue rose - those ugly dyed things that Junmyeon resents having to stock. The following two..Junmyeon couldn’t really say. Chanyeol just browsed for a while, smiled a lot. Junmyeon talked into the quiet and gave him more carnations. Chanyeol’s voice is as deep as his laugh, Junmyeon discovered the day Chanyeol caught a Chicorita inside the store and showed Junmyeon his Pokemon Go screen, talking loud and fast.

Behind the counter there’s a screen door, and behind the door are boxes of stock that Junmyeon has been too lazy to unpack. Well. Lazy, apathetic - same result. Today Junmyeon asked if Chanyeol would like to help him sort through them - like, if he wasn’t busy, no pressure, just shake for no it’s really fine. It was an impulsive thought, but Chanyeol happily took him up on the offer.

“Uh.” Considering Chanyeol hasn’t actually told Junmyeon his name, this is kind of awkward. “I should have introduced myself, shouldn’t I,” Junmyeon scratches his neck. That doesn’t exactly make sense either. Should he? Random florist guy?

Chanyeol presses his tongue behind his teeth, then says, “Kim Junmyeon,” and Junmyeon swears his heart would have leapt right out of his mouth if he hadn’t already been grimacing at his own stupidity. “Your card,” Chanyeol grins, “It was, it was in the flowers.”

Oh. Right. “I, uh, I saw yours on your badge.”

“I figured. Hey, you know-” Chanyeol wedges the roll of ribbon he’s been winding back into the box and scuttles back out front, past the screen door. For a moment Junmyeon can’t see him at all, but he can’t help smiling at the telltale stomping footsteps.

Chanyeol reappears with his phone in hand. Junmyeon’s kneeling beside a box, so Chanyeol standing beside him is like, 8ft tall and slightly unnerving. Chanyeol’s smiling with his lips pursed tight, humming the sounds of a command. He gestures to himself, to Junmyeon, and Junmyeon’s so muddled by the sudden close attention that it isn’t until Chanyeol’s practically dropped his phone on Junmyeon that he gets the idea.

Kakaotalk’s contact screen is open on Chanyeol’s phone. Junmyeon stares at it for so long he must seem like he doesn’t know what it is (What is his ID? When has he added anyone since finally getting his mom to make an account?). Chanyeol gives him a look that’s urging him to hurry. Or maybe regretting asking, because Junmyeon sure isn’t at his charming best around Chanyeol. Right, right.

“Oh, uh. Sure,” Junmyeon belatedly answers, reanimating enough to at least use his thumbs and finding his contact after two attempts at the ID. Chanyeol has 84 unread messages. “Done.”

He should maybe ask why, for what purpose, but by the time Junmyeon’s organised that thought Chanyeol has his bag back on his shoulder and is hovering by the screen door.

“I’ll..” Chanyeol finishes the thought by tilting his head toward the door, then pointing. Ah, right. The company was nice (there’s been seven boxes here for as many weeks - reducing it to five means Junmyeon won’t stub his toe quite so often).

Junmyeon points too, then finger walks to confirm he understands. Then remembers Chanyeol can hear just fine. “Wait, what am I doing?” He sheepishly buries his hands back into the box of floral foam. Chanyeol bursts into a laugh so full bodied he slaps his hands onto his knees to support himself.

Once very tall, very cute Chanyeol has left, Junmyeon barely stops himself from lying face down out-back and wallowing. If he thinks about it (which he prefers not to) Junmyeon’s relationship experiences so far have all been contrived. There was that mutually awkward two months spent with the girl who’s umma was friends with his, and decided for them that they’d be good together. Guys he met in uni that he knew only wanted someone who wouldn’t tell tales, women from his office that he’d take out to dinner hoping for the same. He’s never just..done this. Just met someone and been so achingly fond when they’re around.

It’s his first proper crush, all organic and nebulous and whatever other garbage he’s probably scoffed at in the past. And it’s horrendously embarrassing. He can’t wait to see Jongdae and transfer the embarrassment to him too.

Junmyeon’s phone vibrates loudly on the counter. Maybe that’ll be Jongdae now - Junmyeon totally forgot to reply to the saga of Jongdae researching food trucks at 2am. He taps the screen.

[add me back kim junmyeon!!! (⁰▿⁰)]

Oh, no.

Over the following two days Junmyeon finds out through a combination of texts, hand gestures and responsive enthusiasm that Chanyeol is leaving his job. The flowers were each of his colleagues favourite colours. He also finds out that Chanyeol is high-functioning (which he searched on Naver), enough so to get a job, but not necessarily considered reliable enough to keep it (which Junmyeon, while not entirely, feels a twinge of empathy for). Poor concentration and bad customer service, mostly.

“They would have known you couldn’t work at the counter? Talking is one of the most important parts.”

Chanyeol nods, eyes wide. His tongue has loosened a little since he’s been spending more time here, but that’s with Junmyeon knowing the situation, and Chanyeol knowing Junmyeon. Junmyeon doesn’t entirely understand - Chanyeol’s explained that sometimes it’s a kind of anxiety, and sometimes the prompt to verbalise a thought’s just lazy, it doesn’t kick in when it should - but he can see why customer relations wouldn’t be a strong point.

“I only applied for restocking and, and the stuff outback,” Chanyeol explains, knee jogging. His legs are almost bent up to his chest so he fits sitting on the folding step.

Junmyeon strikes a neat blue line through a completed order, then taps on the page. “So they moved you and then it didn’t work out? That doesn’t seem fair.”

Chanyeol pulls an exceptionally glum face, like he’s sorry Junmyeon just had to hear some bad news. “It was supposed to be temporary. But, but,” jog jog jog, “I think they just needed an excuse to get rid of me, honestly.”

“Why would they do that?” Junmyeon asks. Wait, no. “I mean, why did they want to let you go?” he backpeddles quickly. Junmyeon doesn’t need telling that companies will find a reason if they don’t want to state the real one.

Chanyeol shrugs. For a long moment he’s busy with pulling his cuffs so they cover his fingers entirely, rubbing his hands to feel the corded fabric. “In the way, I guess.”

It’d be impractical of Junmyeon to argue that based only on seeing how carefully Chanyeol slots himself around this place when he visits. Admittedly Junmyeon had found Chanyeol a little odd until he’d been given some context, but.. if a member of staff is perceived as unhelpful, rude, uncomfortable, people don’t often wait for context.

Junmyeon clicks the biro in and out against his palm. “I’m sorry.” People would be avoiding Chanyeol, not trying to understand him.

Chanyeol’s mouth twists. “Yeah, don’t be,” he says, then waves a sleeve at Junmyeon. “I mean, thanks. But it gets annoying when people are sorry if something happened ‘cause I’m me.”

“Sorry,” Junmyeon apologises reflexively, and Chanyeol instantly brightens up again. His laugh would probably fill the entire room if the bulk of plants didn’t insulate them in. Well, at least being an idiot amuses Chanyeol. Junmyeon closes the order book and tries to ignore that his face is hot. “Anyway, how does moving some things I can’t reach sound?”

“Fun.” Chanyeol starts rolling his sleeves. “You really are short. How did they get too high for you in the first place?”

“I’m average height,” Junmyeon scowls. Chanyeol grins as he stands. Behind the counter, Junmyeon pushes up on his toes. “Anyway, I took this place over. I’ve been trying to clear it up at the same time as running it, but..” Well, Chanyeol knows how that’s been going from how many boxes he’s helped clear. “I keep finding things all over the place even now.”

“Family business?”

“No, actually..well, wait, yes. Technically, yes. Distant relative. They didn’t expect anyone to continue the business after them,” Junmyeon says, and for the first time feels a twinge of guilt for how indifferent he’s been about the work they loved. “To be honest, I wasn’t interested in it. They just thought I’d be able to help get the business back on its feet.”

“Ohh,” Chanyeol says, then hops away ahead of Junmyeon. “That’s better,” he calls from behind the screen door. “If someone had died and passed it on you’d always wonder if they were watching over what you were doing.”

Junmyeon could really do without that idea planted in his mind when he’s here after dark, but he’s relieved there’s no tension between them. Really, of all people he should know better than to say he’s sorry. There was no way he was getting back into a government department job again, not after how much sick leave he took. Especially not after rumour got around that the team manager had been talked down from a rooftop.

Everyone around Junmyeon seemed content with phrasing it that he needed some time for himself. No one wanted to talk about the dark place he was in, but they did all want him to come back from it. And a distant side of the family very much wanted someone to sort out their failing business, and it’s not like Junmyeon wanted his above average math skills going to waste.

Before Junmyeon knew it he’d been here six months. Everyone he’s spoken to from his life prior to being Junmyeon The Florist has been sorry. For all his excuses about being so busy, that’s probably why Jongdae is the only connection to his old life he hasn’t severed.

Some days when Chanyeol drops by looking for odd jobs he talks as though he always talks. He speaks loudly and laughs even louder, and then it abruptly stops. It’s like a switch inside him has shut it off, and Junmyeon will say something and wonder if it was the wrong thing, when Chanyeol is suddenly drifting out of focus and busying himself with his tasks. After a while Junmyeon comes to understand that often Chanyeol only verbalises half a thought, the obvious part of the words not feeling the need to leave his mind. He frowns, expecting Junmyeon to catch up. Sometimes he does, sometimes Chanyeol gets frustrated. It’s obvious in how raspy he gets by the end of the day that he’s not used to chatting so much.

Junmyeon always offers that he can take home any flowers he wants, if he really still wants any, and he usually decides based on if the petals are soft, or if it looks like it needs a good home. Junmyeon has his bias with the flowers he pushes to the front of displays, but it’s hard not to see the beauty in all of them when Chanyeol talks as though they’re all doing their best.

Junmyeon’s days are actually starting to feel incomplete when his little (big) helper can’t stop by. It’s not like Chanyeol understands enough about what the job entails to do any of the actual work, but the cave is looking the cleanest it’s ever been. Having so much noise and laughter around the place seems to have had some kind of subliminal effect on Junmyeon’s attitude to brightening it up, too, and to his mother’s delight he’s started filling it up like it’s some fancy craft store on the high street.

(Maybe it’s just that when Chanyeol plunks down ornaments, telling Junmyeon they’re happy there, or rearranges the lights without explaining why, he just doesn’t mind it).

The easiest two weeks of Junmyeon’s life pass with Chanyeol stopping by regularly, Junmyeon musing over if he should offer to pay for his help with more than the odd free succulent, Jongdae ignoring all of his texts about how cute Chanyeol is. This is all fine. Junmyeon gets to spend time nursing his silly crush and feeling pleasantly warm inside when Chanyeol is around. The cave is starting to actually look welcoming - people are coming in to browse, not just following the map on their phone when they need flowers.

It’s a little less fine that when Chanyeol isn’t here, Junmyeon feels glum. It’s a Friday, so Chanyeol was probably working anyway - he had a months worth of shifts to see through before leaving. It’s not like Junmyeon expects him to make a routine of this or anything. Just because he came last Friday doesn’t mean he’d be here today. Or anytime, really. He’s just keeping occupied while he’s going through some stuff, adjusting to losing his job and the concerns surrounding how he’ll find another. Some day soon he’ll find something else to take up his time.

“Stop moping,” Junmyeon tells himself firmly, but he’s shuffling around apathetically for as long as it takes to shut the place down in preparation for his day off tomorrow. He’s already turned the sign on the door - he owns the place, if he wants to sulk and close a half hour early he’s entitled to. All that’s left is sweeping ribbon cuttings into the trash. He’s actually made something of an effort with keeping his counter in order since they cleared it off.

Recently Junmyeon had been filling his free time with researching new career paths, but with a sudden lack of contempt for his job the weekends can drag on. Jongdae barely gets a day off a month. Junmyeon doesn’t envy that, but otherwise his social circle basically extends to his family. And even his mom is busy on Sundays. He has Chanyeol’s number, but their chat dwindled after the initial introductions. Maybe he should start looking into some kind of productive hobby, or get a pet, or- have a heart attack because someone just knocked on the glass, what the hell.

Junmyeon grabs the counter to steady himself, having nearly jumped out of his skin. They’re closed; unless someone’s late to a wedding or funeral Junmyeon can’t see what you’d need to go harassing a florist for. His heart has barely gotten back into rhythm when he lifts the blind, finds Chanyeol plastered to the door, and then it’s pounding back up in his throat again.

“Chanyeollie?” Junmyeon has to stretch to reach the latch. Chanyeol’s bouncing his weight from foot to foot, and when Junmyeon opens the door for him he practically hops in.

“I didn’t miss you!” Chanyeol beams. “Everything was all shut up but the- the lights were on, so I figured.” He isn’t dressed like he’s come from work today, although the big jacket is the same. His hair looks as though he’s had it styled up, and now it’s starting to droop down over his forehead and looks so messy and attractive. It takes a moment for Junmyeon to catch himself, because wow has his mood just shot right up. He’s hopeless.

“I’m all set for my weekend, Chanyeollie,” Junmyeon says gently. “There’s nothing that needs doing right now..”

Chanyeol nods rapidly in understanding. “But I didn’t miss you.”

What does that mean, Junmyeon would ask if his heart wasn’t right in his mouth.

Chanyeol’s line of vision darts back and forth between Junmyeon’s hair and chin, proxy eye contact. Sometimes Junmyeon feels a little self conscious when Chanyeol stares straight at his pockmarked cheek when he talks.

“See, ‘cause, sometimes I’m busy when I’d like to spend time with you. And my friend- he said I shouldn’t keep bothering you while you’re working, and I was like! I’m not, I help! But, anyway,” Chanyeol’s hands flap like crazy, swinging his long sleeves, “So, maybe, we could see each other when you’re not at work sometime?”

What. “What?”

“Oh.” Chanyeol balls a sleeve against his mouth, giving Junmyeon an anxious look around it. “If you don’t wanna be like friend-friends that’s ok. But, I kept thinking it was too bad I couldn’t see you today, and then I was like-” he stops for breath. It’s not a long enough pause for Junmyeon to get his head around this. “We could just see each other some other time? If it’s cool with you.”

It’d be cool of Junmyeon’s mouth to start working again.

Chanyeol holds his face between his sleeves and sways anxiously. “Orrrr you can totally ignore all of this,” he offers, and no, no- Junmyeon doesn’t want to do that at all. But what are words right now. Junmyeon’s never actually asked anyone for a date in such wholesome terms before, it’s probably stressful whoever you are. If a date is what Chanyeol is offering.

like a date? is what Junmyeon should say. “No, no. Sure. When?” is what comes out instead.

“What do people do on dates.”

Jongdae slow-blinks at Junmyeon over his drink, then starts to narrow his eyes. “What do you mean?” he asks. Junmyeon’s turned to fully face him, looking as though he might pull out a jotterpad to start taking notes on any minute. He isn’t drunk in the slightest - it’d be easy to tell if he was.

Junmyeon - totally sober Junmyeon - edges closer. “You’re my best friend. You know my history. I’ve never gone on a normal date. And what other options are there? So many ideas seem focal on face to face things like dinner, or just, kind of focal on talking, what d-“

“You actually invite me over and it’s to sort out your non-relationships problems.” Jongdae drinks, his thumb pressing a dent into the can. Junmyeon guiltily takes the smallest sip of his own. “I’m as disappointed in myself for still coming when I suspected it. Did you even establish if this is a date you’re going on?”

Junmyeon winces. “It’s not that easy. I like him a lot, but I don’t even know if he’s picked up on it. Maybe he thinks I’m always a mess around everyone.” That’s not a reassuring thought. Jongdae shakes Junmyeon off when he tries to crawl over for a hug. “I like him so much, Jongdae,” Junmyeon pouts, ruffled up now as he balls up on his side of the couch. “I’ve been searching online for ideas and it all sounds wrong. And if I suggest something he’d hate then he’ll probably just say no, and I won’t know if it’s like a rejection no or just a ‘yes but not that’ no, and, and-”

“Oh my god,” Jongdae groans. “You are an insufferable man. And a terrible friend. And totally sober-“

“I needed a clear head for this!”

“So if I help, on my one night out in the last three weeks,” Junmyeon nods eagerly, “You’re going to shut up, drink with me while we watch garbage tv, and,” Jongdae waves his drink threateningly, “Give me advice on setting up a business.”

“I will tell you everything I know about managing your own accounts.”

“Alright.” With a great sigh, Jongdae sets his beer on the table and shifts to face Junmyeon. It’s ridiculous to him that Junmyeon used to easily wine and dine people who were on friendly terms with government officials and here he is having a breakdown over some convenience store worker. “So, start easy. What kind of things is he interested in.”

“Uh. Music and Pokemon,” Junmyeon answers, but it’s kind of a guess. Chanyeol’s mentioned playing guitar and always has his iPod on him, and Junmyeon’s noticed the first gen charms hanging from his bag and phone. They walked to the nearest gym together once, but there were already a few teenagers battling and Chanyeol shied away.

Jongdae’s eyebrows have disappeared up into his bangs. “Let’s go with music..”

“No, maybe Pokemon is good?”

“Junmyeon. You’re 26.”

“But Chanyeol..”

Jongdae shushes him. “I know. But maybe he’d like to do something grown up? It doesn’t mean he’s a kid.”

“But,” Junmyeon protests again, biting into his lower lip. Obviously he knows that, but he also knows Chanyeol has a curfew, and an alarm for if he doesn’t pick up on hunger cues. It’s a lot to consider, along with not making Chanyeol too aware that he is.

“So we’re sorted?” Jongdae asks, reaching around Junmyeon for the remote. He may be huffy, but his tone is tellingly soft. “Grown up date, music involved.” Junmyeon nods in response to the hard stare Jongdae gives him. “Good. Now,” Jongdae pushes the now room temperature can back into Junmyeon’s hands and starts channel surfing, “You’re my best buddy for the rest of the night.”

Junmyeon falls asleep on the couch the moment he’s seen Jongdae out the door. An hour later he gets a glass of water, swipes away the notifications from Chanyeol, and opens a new tab on his phone.

Concert tickets are expensive, and although there are a few events on tomorrow, it’s a. short notice b. probably too big a gesture for a first (potential) date, and c. ridiculous, because Junmyeon doesn’t even know what Chanyeol is interested in. There are some local events in venues Junmyeon had no idea existed. His brain is fuzzy enough from the can of chuhai and the late hour to entertain what kind of outfit he would wear to some dark sweaty club with a local band playing.

“Pokemon was a better idea,” Junmyeon complains aloud to the empty side of the couch. Going to a Pokemon Centre at a weekend is rough even for someone who doesn’t get sensory overload, though, so that’s out. Hmm. It’s only 1am, Chanyeol is probably still awake. Just asking him rather than trying to pull some big gesture with picking might be for the best.

Junmyeon opens kakaotalk and guiltily taps Chanyeol’s unread messages.

[kim junmyeon kim junmyeon !! where are we going~~]
[what time !!]
[sorry (>人<;)]
[kim junmyeonnnn]

[hi chanyeollie. sorry >< I was busy with a friend]
[do you like arcades?]

Chanyeol likes noise if he’s the one deciding when he hears it. More often than not he has his headphones in, blocking out the sounds he doesn’t want to process with louder ones direct into his ears. It grounds him. So, apparently, does the blare coming out of the namco arcade they meet at.

Junmyeon spent most of the morning wondering what you wear for a casual (potential) date, then wondering if it was too much for somewhere dark and full of teenagers. Should he try and look young and cool? Even thinking that question probably answered it. In the end he settled uneasily on jeans and a jacket. It reminded him a lot of the standard depression outfit he’d putter around at home in during the weeks his brain was too broken for leaving the place at all.

Chanyeol’s in a hoodie again, but one of those expensive ones with the sleeves that hang down. “I know it must seem kind of contradictory, but I love loud places like this,” Chanyeol shouts over the sound of the demo on a point and shoot game. He’s wringing his long sleeves together. “I like when everything happens at once. Sometimes everything seems too slow.”

Junmyeon nods. He’s usually the opposite these days, preferring things to be at a manageable pace, but there’s something gratifyingly brain numbing about the atmosphere in here. “I’ll get us started,” he tugs at Chanyeol’s sleeve to make sure he heard and gestures to the coin exchange machine by the entrance. Chanyeol makes a move for his wallet, but Junmyeon waves it off. “It’s on me.”

It is a (potential) date, after all.

Junmyeon is maybe a little enthusiastic with how much money he feeds into the machine, but the clatter of metal tokens into the tray is getting him all excited. Scooping handfuls of them into one of the plastic containers provided, he wonders why he even stopped coming to these places. (Well, because he wanted to bed-hop with the dull elitists in uni and then got a job in the government, but like, that aside). Deafening noise, flashing lights, sticky carpet- a crepe store right outside. He’s nearly as excited about it as he is the reason he’s here.

Chanyeol on his long legs has already done a complete round of the UFO catchers by the time Junmyeon finds him. “Kim Junmyeon,” Chanyeol’s voice comes out loud and nasal over the pulse of music. He loops an arm through Junmyeon’s, long sleeve hanging between them. “Look, look-”

Really, Junmyeon’s never actually been particularly good at these things. Especially not UFO catchers, so he stands by and passes Chanyeol the tokens. Because Chanyeol, on the other hand, is winning more than Junmyeon’s ever got out of an arcade machine in his whole life. Chanyeol’s legs are so long he has to assume a kind of stance to be at the right angle. It reminds Junmyeon of the way giraffes drink water. It’s probably the cutest thing he’s ever seen.

“If you win that where are you going to keep it?” he asks as the claw closes around a near full-size dakimakura. Not a worry, though - it’s a direct hit, but the claw’s grip is too weak to even lift the pillow. It snaps back open and knocks one of the small keychain prizes straight down the hatch, and correction: Chanyeol’s face when he pulls it out of the machine and proudly presents it to Junmyeon is most definitely the actual cutest thing.

It’s surprisingly empty for a weekend, so they’re able to wander through the rows of games. Junmyeon’s a little giddy, almost disoriented by all the noise and artificial light. He’s either getting old or he’s really out of practice at having fun.

There’s plenty enough tokens to waste on trying different machines out, and eventually Junmyeon finds he has some skill for a rhythm game that only has 3 buttons to hit. He recognises some of the songs on it and gets a good enough score on his second play to win a third.

For the next few minutes Junmyeon’s so absorbed in following the lights on screen he’s barely aware of the shadow of Chanyeol slightly off to his side. A light touch to his back totally throws his focus.

“Sorry,” Chanyeol rumbles. The rubbing turns to tapping, and Junmyeon realises the touch was Chanyeol’s fingers worming under the hood on his jacket. Not a bad choice after all.

Junmyeon shakes his head. He’s hit blue instead of green three times now, but Chanyeol’s big hand is still on his back, so he doesn’t really care. “This level is kinda hard.” The screen washes with white, and the character who had been singing pops up to cry over Junmyeon’s terrible score. “Do you want to try?” he asks.

“Ah..” Chanyeol’s fingers drum a line across Junmyeon’s back, then slip away. “My battery is running down.”

Junmyeon blinks curiously, turning to see if Chanyeol is holding his phone or iPod. His face is washed red from the machines in front, but Junmyeon can still see that Chanyeol doesn’t look as relaxed as when they first started this venture.

“Sorry.” Chanyeol’s twisting his sleeves together, winding them up and pulling them apart again. “I invited you out, but.. some days I have so much energy I never want to go home,” he says, then sucks on his lower lip. Junmyeon can fill in the rest of the thought. Today isn’t one of those days.

Junmyeon trips a little in trying to answer - does invited out mean a date? - and he blurts, “Shall we go out and get some air?”

Trailing behind Chanyeol, Junmyeon wonders if that was the wrong thing to say.  But maybe Chanyeol wouldn’t have wanted to try and explain any further had Junmyeon asked. But maybe Junmyeon should have made it more clear he understood the problem. Maybe this is why people avoided addressing that Junmyeon had problems at all - saying the wrong thing seems to negate the effort of trying.

It’s lucky the sound of a machine makes Junmyeon look up from his feet then, because Chanyeol’s changed direction. Junmyeon scoots after him. The white square of daylight coming in from the exit was right ahead, but they’re back in the artificial glow that lights up the rows of UFO catchers.

“Oh.” Junmyeon presses a hand to the glass and pushes up on his toes to peer into the one Chanyeol’s stopped in front of. It’s full of Eeveelutions. “How did we miss this one earlier? This is the best one.”

Chanyeol just makes a grabby hand at the tokens left at the bottom of the container. Junmyeon sets it down on the panel between machines so Chanyeol can use them up.

“Which one is your favourite?” he asks after a long enough pause to realise Junmyeon isn’t going to just pick up on the sentiment.

“Eevee. I like all of them, though.”

Chanyeol’s really got a gift for these things. The Eevee nearest to the top is under several others, and Junmyeon watches in awe as three plushies go down the hatch in as many tries. This is the best (potential) date he’s ever been on.

“I wasted so much money in those places when I was a kid and never won anything,” Junmyeon sighs. Today has felt kind of like back then, really. As much as he liked the idea of a date, more than anything it’s reminded him of being in his early teens, meeting up with friends. It’s sunny out, and the plaza out back of the arcade is practically empty. The paving is cracked and growing tufts of grass in places. Good old fashioned day out. Junmyeon likes it.

Chanyeol’s been smiling and silent since they got out here. They didn’t make a full Eeveelution set, but they still needed to visit the exchange desk to get a bag for Chanyeol’s wins, and it’s given him something to fiddle with.

Junmyeon doesn’t exactly want to ask in as many words how much longer Chanyeol wants to spend with him. “Where next?” he tries, quickly adding, “Or shall we call it a day?”

Chanyeol swaps the bag to his left hand. “Where next,” he says. Junmyeon sees him grip the phone charm hanging from his pocket, rubbing his big thumb over the tiny features. “Where next..” he drags the words out, looking away from Junmyeon and up, like he’s giving it a lot of thought.

He often echoes words - Junmyeon, or when he’s reading texts, or the radio if they have it on in the cave. Usually he finds his thread again after a few repeats. By the fourth time he looks hopelessly amused. On the seventh he disappears behind his hands and abruptly stops walking, stomping his feet on the spot. Unsure if he’s upset or just fidgeting, Junmyeon waits it out.

“I got stuck. I’m-“ Chanyeol ducks his head. “Sorry, that was really embarrassing.”

Junmyeon apologises reflexively. “I’m sorry if this was a bad idea. I felt like you wanted me to suggest something, but leaving it to you probably would have been better.”

“No, no. I’m not stressed. I promise. This is really nice.” Chanyeol smiles, but there’s doubt in his tone. “It’s just..” he returns both hands to the bag handles, twisting them together. Junmyeon’s heart sinks. “I just haven’t..wasn’t expecting to..ah.”

Junmyeon wants to say he doesn’t need to explain - Junmyeon gets it. It’s hard doing social things when you’re not everyone’s idea of sociable. If Chanyeol wants to talk then he wants to hear it, though, so he just waits, focusing on the cracks in the paving.

“I wasn’t this bad when I was a teenager. Actually it was hardly noticeable, other than.. like, looking back there were some pretty obvious signs, but it’s not like anyone was looking out for them,” Chanyeol says, “But. I only do things with my friends or family now, I mean. It’s been a long time since I’ve..yeah.” He shrugs. His cheek dimples when he gives Junmyeon a lopsided smile.

“I haven’t done this in a while either. I mean, I haven’t been to an arcade since I was a teenager.” Junmyeon laughs bashfully. It was probably obvious how much he enjoyed being back in one. Chanyeol shuffles his feet, looking somewhere near Junmyeon’s chin as he grins. “But I mean, meeting new people and going out and stuff..but I spend all my time working in the cave, it’s not the best place to meet people. Handsome guy like you, though?”

“I do get a lot of interest,” Chanyeol answers honestly, and Junmyeon laughs. Chanyeol smiles, but the way he scrubs at the back of his hair is less relaxed. “But that’s before people know me, y’know? I have some really, really good friends. But further than that gets kind of complicated.”

“When you can win that many prizes for your date?” Junmyeon nods to the bag swinging between them. It was genuine teasing, so he’s not disappointed that Chanyeol doesn’t either refute or confirm that that’s what this is.

“It’s just, you know. Once you’re in like, your mid-20’s, you don’t wanna go on a date with someone who’ll need you to pay for them in a store. Or info dumps about anime without being asked. I still live at home.” Chanyeol rubs at the bridge of his nose with his free hand. “It’s not even like I just live there because I don’t have the money to move out. I need to. Even with people I like I run out of energy to socialise pretty fast, and I don’t think I really get how dating, I guess. Maybe I’ve just never had the right kind of energy for it.”

It’s right on the tip of Junmyeon’s tongue to say that this has been just fine by him, but from what Chanyeol’s saying, it seems more likely than not that this is just a friendly outing. Other than failing at finding words to say that he thinks Chanyeol is very dateable, Junmyeon.. he really doesn’t actually care. He had, and he’d been bracing for the disappointment of Chanyeol not feeling the same. But Chanyeol makes him happy just by being around. If they get to just be good friends, and Junmyeon is someone Chanyeol trusts and is willing to expend energy on, that’s still a pretty amazing deal.

“So,” Junmyeon toes at a weed that’s broken through one of the paving slabs, “Is that all of your bad traits before you let me argue the good ones, or..”

To his relief it makes Chanyeol laugh. Junmyeon’s so used to the flapping now that he doesn’t even really notice one of Chanyeol’s hands going until he points out that he’s doing it.

“Ah, I didn’t even mention that one! I get enough attention with my height, and then I go scaring people by moving unexpectedly. Like! Who would want to go on a date with someone who’s always chewing things or flapping around or bouncing. I don’t even notice I’m doing it half the time. So embarrassing,” he groans, flopping one of his long sleeves over his face.

“Is it rude of me to ask questions about it?”

Chanyeol gives Junmyeon a wide-eyed look from behind the sleeve. Junmyeon flaps a little himself, waving a dismissive hand. “Ah, no- I don’t find it embarrassing. I’d just like to understand. I was worried that I made you anxious when you did it around me.”

Chanyeol shakes his head. “No, it’s.. well it can be because I’m stressed. Just kind of anything that’s like, ahhh. If I get excited or nervous or..anything like that, it just kinda channels into a physical action. Usually it’s because I’m happy.”

“Oh. I think that’s pretty nice. I mean obviously not-” idiot. “Not if you find it a problem, but,” Junmyeon fumbles. Thankfully Chanyeol just gives him another big smile, and Junmyeon’s heart and stomach team together to do some twisting, clenching kind of thing. Chanyeol may think he’s a bad date, but honestly, what does that make Junmyeon?

“At least it’s not so bad in winter, though,” Chanyeol says.

Junmyeon looks away from him and realises they’re heading for the exit. Time to call it a day. “No?”

Usually the laugh Junmyeon hears come from Chanyeol is deep and rumbling, but he giggles. “Everyone is jogging around because it’s cold!”

“Kim Junmyeon,” Chanyeol tugs at the back of Junmyeon’s jacket. One of Chanyeol’s friends is bussing to meet him and see him home, so Junmyeon offered to walk with him to the terminal. “Um,” Chanyeol’s eyes dart away to the floor when Junmyeon turns to look up. “These are for you. If- if you want to take them.” He holds out the orange and white bag from the arcade. Junmyeon raises his hands but hestitates to take it, so Chanyeol reiterates: “All of them. I caught them for you.”

“Are you sure?” Junmyeon takes hold of the handles. He glances inside briefly, just to check. Six plushies and a few keychains. He really doesn’t feel he should accept all of these, but when he looks back up Chanyeol is jogging on his toes, tongue poked out between his lips. He’s staring ahead to the bus terminal, and right, yeah. His friend will be turning up any moment.

This may have been the strangest (potential) date Junmyeon’s been on since he was 13, but it’s no word of a lie when he thanks Chanyeol for a fun day. Hopefully they can do this again sometime. Maybe somewhere Chanyeol chooses next time.

“I’ll see you around, then?” Junmyeon wonders if it shows on his face how silly and gooey he feels inside about all of this. Or if it does, if Chanyeol can read it. “Thanks again for all the Eevees,” he says, breaking into a grin around the words.

Chanyeol nods. “Thanks for- letting me talk and everything. Uh,” he knuckles the bridge of his nose. Mouth temporarily stuck again, he looks back ahead at the terminal. The sign is lit up now, so it’s now or never. “Do you do hugs?”

Not in quite a few years Junmyeon hasn’t. Not necessarily by choice. “Sure,” he coughs around the pulse suddenly throbbing right up in his throat.

Being hugged by Chanyeol is a lot like being wrapped up in a blanket. He must be bending his knees a whole lot to fit so tightly around Junmyeon’s shoulders, long arms and long sleeves and a long, solid body engulfing Junmyeon before he’s had a chance to even open up for it. He wiggles one arm out enough to bring a hand up to Chanyeol’s back, barely returning the hug.

After a moment Chanyeol starts less than gently swaying them side to side. It almost lifts Junmyeon’s shoes off the floor. “Kim Junmyeon,” Chanyeol kind of sing-songs. Junmyeon’s coming to realise that it’s just a stand-in for when the words he actually needs don’t want to come out. Over Chanyeol’s shoulder he can just see the lights of the traffic going past. For a few seconds Junmyeon turns more into the crook of Chanyeol’s neck and closes his eyes.

The Eeveelutions fit right in at the cave. Junmyeon spreads them around the place - some on shelves, some perched between decorative dried flowers. The Eevee came home with Junmyeon and lives beside his bed, sitting on his phone at night so he’s not as tempted to pick it up when he can’t sleep. The fat, misshapen keychain from a show Junmyeon doesn’t recognise has pride of place on the counter - it’s arms are the right shape to hold his cards.

“You’re 26 goddamn years old,” is Jongdae’s response the next time he stops by. Junmyeon won’t hand over the printouts he had done at the library about starting an independent business until Jongdae admits that the new additions look nice.

“Would you consider this too much for a gift?”

“I have no idea what that is.” Jongdae takes whatever Junmyeon’s showing him and turns it in his hand. There’s a switch on one side, a rollerball to thumb around on another. It’s kind of like a big dice with something or another on every side. Jongdae seriously questions how Junmyeon seems to just get nerdier by the day. “Is it a game or something?”

Junmyeon shakes his head. He leans over the counter open-handed and Jongdae drops the little cube back into his palm. “It’s called a fidget. He probably already has one.” Junmyeon pouts, thumbing at the spinning disk on one side. “I found it online. It’s to keep your hands busy.”

Jongdae’s giving him the eyebrows. Yes, fine, it doesn’t look too extravagant of a gift. Junmyeon’s more concerned about the intent. He doesn’t mind at all that Chanyeol flaps his sleeves when he’s happy, or only gets a full sentence out because he’s busy folding and refolding an old receipt in his pocket. The jogging and wringing and kneading don’t bother him either. But it does bother Chanyeol, if it’s not a good time or place to be doing it.

“I thought this might be helpful, but I don’t know if it’s too personal. Or maybe I’d just seem annoying or rude. I used to be so charming,” Junmyeon sighs dramatically, collapsing over the counter even more so. “Jongdae, where did it all go?”

“Well..” for a second Jongdae flashes him a sly smile, but whatever he’d been planning to say, he just shakes his head. “It’s kinda different when you’re trying to charm someone who none of the usual rules apply to, no?”

“I guess.”

“Your date sounded pretty successful, all considered.” Jongdae flicks at a greenfly that’s skittering along the counter towards them. “Your kind-of-date, whatever it was.”

“I don’t know.” Junmyeon pushes his hair up out of his eyes, giving Jongdae a forlorn look. Chanyeol’s just not very good at texting. Junmyeon goes unread for days at a time, then even longer with no reply, so it’s not unusual to have not heard back from him. “I know I need to clarify with him what it even was, feels like it might ruin everything if I do.” The things Chanyeol told him while they were out made it sound as though he wouldn’t like dating. But then, maybe Junmyeon saying he’d like to while knowing all of those things would help. But.. ugh, it’s all been spinning around in Junmyeon’s head for the last week, and it’s not helping that he can’t stop thinking about how good that hug felt.

Jongdae sighs, reaching for the cube again. “You sure do get yourself into some situations,” he says, swiping the rollerball around. “One day you’re managing an entire department and flirting with the head of another, the next you’re fretting over giving a..whatever this thing is to a guy you don’t even know if you’re kind of dating. But I mean, it’s not like you’re gonna get back into the gay scene now, even without the career riding on it. So maybe finding someone as unconventional as you and confessing with a..” Jongdae squints at the cube, “A widget. Is exactly what you need.”

Junmyeon laughs helplessly, covering his face. His fingers feel cool and good against his hot skin. Jongdae’s the only person who’s allowed to be an asshole about when Junmyeon’s brain broke. It does him good to laugh about it sometimes, to normalise that it happened. “Says the man who’s planning to trade in a highflying career to work out of a food truck.”

Jongdae shrugs one shoulder, and Junmyeon absently reaches to straighten his collar where it’s turned up. “I actually always dreamed of being a singer,” Jongdae drawls lazily, but his eyes go distant for just a moment. Junmyeon suspects that’s not sarcasm. “I’m probably better at singing than I’ll be at making mandu at 5am. Just getting away and travelling around is what I want.”

Junmyeon hums. He may tease Jongdae about it, but in all honesty he’s willing to help however he can. Jongdae’s fought it out longer than he did, but getting out while you’re ahead is something Junmyeon wishes he’d realised sooner. “I’ll follow you around. Give you good reviews.”

“I’d offer for you to join me, but I’d never get a good hygiene rating with you running a kitchen.” Junmyeon swipes at Jongdae, and Jongdae laughs in that way that creases his whole face up. “It’s true- look at the state of this place,” he gestures, and he’s right, even after the month-plus of cleaning and reorganising.

It’s nice when Jongdae stops in. Sometimes it’s just after opening and Jongdae’s in his rumpled suit, stale from a night of dozing on and off at his desk. It’s nicer for both of them when he’s actually made it out on time and they can sit in here with the store’s shutters closed on the outside world. The world is too much sometimes. Having a cave to hide away in is pretty nice, if a little damp.

Junmyeon sighs heavily, resting on his palms and pressing them hard into his cheeks. “You know, the things Chanyeol was saying,” Jongdae side-eyes him but keeps the snark in his mouth. He can only deal with so much hopeless crushing at a time, but Junmyeon looks too distant to pick up on it anyway. “Until what happened to me, I would have been one of those people. I wouldn’t have been kind to someone who needed longer to do their job than the others. All of the things he said about why people don’t want to get close to him..” Junmyeon pauses for a long moment, drifting into thought again. This has been on his mind a lot. “It’s all true. It’s only because I’ve experienced the way people pushed away that I’m as sympathetic, I think. You know?”

Jongdae shrugs. He looks a little caught off guard by the subject turning on Junmyeon.

“You know what I mean,” Junmyeon presses, “If I was who I used to be I’d have probably wanted him fired for being slow and impolite too. I wouldn’t have any place in my life for someone who can’t socialise and doesn’t understand why adults do the things they do, even though there’s so many amazing things about him. But because I broke, I see people treating me how I’d have treated him. No one wants to be around me since it happened.”

The clicker on the cube, like a little light switch, is loud in the silence that follows. Jongdae turns it again and thumbs at a dial instead. “Hey, your no showering phase lasted a month. You weren’t exactly inviting company,” he says, and Junmyeon laughs.

“I just keep feeling guilty about it.”

“Of course you do.”

Junmyeon looks back to Jongdae, prepared to argue with him, but his smile is gentle.

“Maybe you did need an experience like yours to be able to relate to him better. If it hadn’t happened you wouldn’t be here in the first place - you’d never have met him anyway.” Junmyeon pouts at that and Jongdae rolls his eyes. He’s really got it bad. It’s as cute as it is sickening. “If you like him and he likes you and you get along now, it all worked out ok. Even if you think you’re being all saintly and patronising by getting to know him, it’s probably doing you and your busted brain good talking to someone you can relate to in that way. Right?”

Somehow that makes Junmyeon feel worse. “I should tell him.”

“Buddy,” Jongdae gives Junmyeon a firm clap on the shoulder. “You should probably figure out if you’re in a relationship situation or not first.”

Junmyeon’s nothing if not a try-hard. He’s going to do both.

It takes another two days and a few gently worded nudges for Chanyeol to respond. He apologises three times and cant really explain why he didn’t get around to it, but he belatedly takes up the offer to meet up outside work again with enthusiasm. Obviously wasn’t because he had an awful time and was trying to avoid Junmyeon, which is a comfort at least.

It’s Chanyeol’s choice this time, and after a roundabout conversation about how the Eeveelutions are doing he chose a park. (Or more specifically the area off the side to the entrance. Not many people like it there, he said.)

Junmyeon has a similar outfit dilemma, settles for the same jacket he wore last time, then has a further crisis over if he should take the cube. At this rate he’ll need it for his own restless hands.

“Hi, hi,” Chanyeol approaches waving both arms. Junmyeon still isn’t entirely over the sight of someone as tall as Chanyeol bounding along the way he does. “I’m sorry it’s been so long!”

Junmyeon staggers back a few steps from the force of a Chanyeol hug delivered at speed, laughing and gripping at his broad shoulders to steady himself. For a moment he’s so giddily happy (he really loves these hugs) that he can’t feel the anxiety. When Chanyeol steps back Junmyeon catches sight of two guys at the bus terminal just outside the gates, staring in at them. They look around the same age as Chanyeol, and heat creeps up the back of Junmyeon’s neck when they quickly turn away, laughing into their hands.

Chanyeol’s two friends both have coloured hair - one streaked with red, the other a shock of orange - and it looks kind of like one may have a lip ring. If he and Chanyeol are friend-friends (or more), Junmyeon will have to get to know them. And his only friend to introduce is Jongdae. Maybe the food truck will make them popular.

It’s quickly evident why the spot Chanyeol chose is quiet. It’s where there are tables and benches to eat at, but with the weather perpetually wet and chilly recently no one is likely to stop here. The floor is sand and shale, damp from earlier rain and sticking to their shoes. Junmyeon’s shivering from the heavy shade of the trees within minutes.

Chanyeol’s focused on clearing out his storage on Pokemon Go, slouched across the table and using a folded arm as a pillow. There’s always a lot of good finds in parks, so he wants to be prepared.

Junmyeon can appreciate that Chanyeol’s comfortable sitting in silence with him. That’s a good way to be in any kind of relationship, right? But Junmyeon kind of came here with the express purpose of talking, and the silence is just giving him time to worry. Mostly about Chanyeol’s friends, and how much they’ll probably laugh at his outfits.

“Hey, um. Can I tell you something?”

“Yeah,” Chanyeol says against his forearm. It takes a few seconds, but he minimises the game and gives Junmyeon a flash of eye contact. “I mean, of course. I spent most of last time talking at you, it’s definitely your turn.”

Ok. Junmyeon looks down into his lap. “I can stop if this is..yeah. Just let me know if I should stop.”

Chanyeol puts his phone down, frowning. With Junmyeon shying away he’s more confident in filling the space, stretching his long arm right out to Junmyeon’s side of the table.

“So, a few months ago I left my job. Well- I was dismissed, because I took so much sick leave, and I wasn’t going to be suitable to go back into that kind of work. It..” Chanyeol waves his sleeve at Junmyeon. He looks up, worried Chanyeol’s cutting him off already. But he looks concerned, and wiggles his hand in the sleeve again, and then Junmyeon gets it. It’s for him to hold.

“The flowers suit you though,” Chanyeol says.

“Really?” Junmyeon laughs. That’s good feedback for the business. This is serious, but he feels a little lightheaded and silly sitting here gripping Chanyeol’s hoodie sleeve. Unconventional (potential) date no.2. “No, I.. uh, actually I did a pretty important job. Government stuff. I had a team and everything. I think I’ve always been the kind of person that tries too hard, first in last out kind of thing, but I couldn’t keep up with it. I mean, I did, and I thought I was doing a good job of it, but..”

Understandably, Chanyeol looks confused about where this is going. Ok, ok.

Junmyeon takes a deep breath, but saying, “I had a breakdown,” still feels like it knocks all the air out of him again. “And it was really bad. I didn’t want to be here anymore, and I couldn’t take care of myself for a while, and.. I ended up working at the florists because my family thought I needed the peace. And, I mean, they weren’t wrong. It’s done me good.” And it meant meeting Chanyeol. Junmyeon can’t even look at him. “But, it’s been really hard learning who I am again and what my life is going to be like. Only one friend stayed, and.. ah, he and my family have been supportive, but they don’t like addressing what actually happened. I don’t feel like I’ll ever go back to being who I was before it happened. Sorry.” Junmyeon gulps hard.

Across the table, Chanyeol’s got his other sleeve to his mouth. Junmyeon thinks he’s chewing on the cuff, but he doesn’t look for long enough to be sure.

“I’m happy that we met. For a lot of reasons. And.. and, ah..” This is all coming out muddled, not really linking up the way Junmyeon had wanted it to. It made sense when he was thinking it over on the subway - I’m not who I used to be, who I am now is the kind of person you don’t think is out there, we could date and I’d understand.. But something about seeing Chanyeol’s friends there, seeing him off and evidently knowing that the hug was coming, it’s thrown him.

It’s a sudden, sickening thought that if this all goes wrong he’ll be back to how life felt before Chanyeol was in it.

“I don’t know how else to ask this. I might be about to embarrass myself and make things weird.” Junmyeon looks up again, and Chanyeol’s resting his chin on his free arm, like the weight of the conversation is getting to him,’s too late to stop now. “I just, Chanyeollie. I wondered if this..and when we went out before. If it was kind of like a date.” No, he can’t keep stepping around this. “I mean. If you thought of me like that. If that was.. Was that ever your intention?”

It’s hard to say if Chanyeol looks offended or shocked, but either way he quickly pulls his sleeve back. Junmyeon stuffs his hands into his jacket pockets to get them entirely out of the shared space.

“I listened to everything you said, Chanyeol, I really did. And I’ve thought it over so much. I liked being with you, and I didn’t want to just assume I was an exception to those things, but..”

“I wanted to spend time with you because I like you,” Chanyeol says. He sounds sort of..angry, like that should have been obvious and he’s hurt that Junmyeon needs to ask. Hearing it makes Junmyeon’s heart pound, but in that tone it’s more in an anxiety way than the way he’d hoped. “Like, just two of us time,” Chanyeol clarifies, “And it was nice. So we’re doing it again, and.. what other intention do you mean?”

That.. did not help clear the matter up at all. “You kept saying no one would want to date you. But all of the things you said, I.. I’m not explaining this very well.” Junmyeon’s usually good at talking, but usually it’s just, you know, like, government officials. Not the person he likes. “I understand why you think it would be hard at our age to find someone. But if you’d be ok with trusting me..” This is still a mess. Chanyeol’s eyes are as wide as Junmyeon’s ever seen them. He’s the stillest Junmyeon’s ever seen him, too, like he’s frozen to the spot. “I like you too,” Junmyeon offers helplessly. “I like you a lot. As a.. a friend-friend, but more than that too.”

For a long, long moment Chanyeol just stares down at the table between them. He’s moving again now, jogging a knee. “Kim Junmyeon,” he lowers his eyes to his hands, watching his own fingers threading together restlessly. It’s a filler while he gets the words organised, but Junmyeon shrinks a little at how berating it sounds. “Maybe I wasn’t clear before in what I said. Relationships.. like, adult relationships, I can’t do those. It’s too many rules and expectations that don’t make any sense, and I’m too- I can’t help it, but I’m too wrapped up in myself and what I need to be good to someone else that way. You know? I have needs that..they aren’t cute when you’re a few years off thirty and you wanna do grown up things. It’s not equal.”

“I know. I do- I understood what you said.” It’s too late now, but Junmyeon wishes he hadn’t bothered asking. Things were nice as they were. They like each other, and Chanyeol wanted to be around him, and that should have been enough. He’s just too used to needing things completely clarified. Things aren’t so scary when you know exactly what they are.

Chanyeol’s got his phone back in both hands now. “I’m sorry about what happened- I am, and I hope you’re dealing with it ok. But you can change and move on,” he says, frowning down at the screen. Junmyeon doesn’t have a response to that, so for a moment Chanyeol ignores him, typing with both thumbs. His friends are probably back home by now. They must be good friends, travelling around with him when he needs to take public transport.

It’s so cold sitting here that Junmyeon’s jogging his legs now too. He almost says to Chanyeol that even at his age it’s the first time he’s tried to confess to someone, and what a mess he made of it, huh? But then Chanyeol looks up at him, tries to hold eye contact, grips his phone a little tighter as he slips away to focus just over his shoulder instead.

“I can’t change this. Junmyeon. However much I like someone I can’t change. I’m not going to learn to stop being embarrassing or figure out why I’m being disappointing, or understand why romance is a different kind of love and I’m supposed to act different.”

It’s not a nice feeling realising that Chanyeol’s probably talking from experience. “I understand that. Chanyeollie,” Junmyeon desperately wants to reach out for his hand - sleeve - again. No wonder Jongdae was despairing so much over him, getting in this deep with someone who’s probably not even thought about him that way. “I’m not looking for something like that. I’ve never done relationships before, so it’s kind of confusing for me too. But I’m not interested in..” Well, thinking about it, Junmyeon’s never considered marrying. His brother is planning on providing the grandchildren. “All of that stuff. Honestly.”

“It’s not as easy as that.” Chanyeol’s starting to sound as tired as he looks. “What do you want? A big kid to look after? That’s what you’ll get.”

“It’s not like that,” Junmyeon protests, “I just- those things don’t change that I like you. I like listening to what you have to say, and I like the way you think about things. You’re comfortable to be around, and I love when you’re excited about things, and I get all- my friend, Jongdae, he’s sick of hearing me talk about you.”

And that’s..about it. The more Junmyeon’s trying to break down exactly what he thinks he does want the less sense the entire concept of a relationship is making. It doesn’t need to be a set of prearranged actions and gestures. It doesn’t need to be any more than knowing they’re special to each other. Maybe kissing and stuff, but, no, that’s not for thinking about right now if Junmyeon doesn’t want to squirm more than he already is. He would like that part, though.

“I don’t know how this works either,” he says quietly. “But it felt dishonest to keep being around you and not to explain.”

“Yeah,” Chanyeol replies plaintively. “My, um. My friends weren’t far off, so they said they can come back soon,” he says, glancing over his shoulder like he’s expecting them already.

Well, Junmyeon at least made the right decision in not bringing the cube. They must look odd, two guys meeting up for not-a-date just to sit in the cold and talk and leave again. “Sorry,” Junmyeon watches Chanyeol rub his cuffs together, “This..wasn’t all that great of an idea.”

“It’s ok.” Chanyeol gives Junmyeon that little sideways smile that slants down at the edge, makes his cheeks look extra soft and cute. “It’s just a lot to..” He kind of flaps, but then he sort of deflates back into himself. “My head is fuzzy. Can you give me some time?”

Junmyeon nods. Of course. He’s just random florist guy, really, causing Chanyeol problems since the day they first..well, they didn’t talk, but. Yeah.

Chanyeol stands and steps out from the bench, lifting a long leg over it. Junmyeon isn’t sure whether to follow. He kind of hopes Chanyeol will start Pokemon Go up again and carry on like this wasn’t that big of a deal. But he just stands there, thumbing the charm on his phone.

Junmyeon looks up to find Chanyeol watching him. “Are you ok waiting on your own, or..?” he asks, and maybe it’s kind of stupid when he’s not even sure if Chanyeol still wants to speak to him. Chanyeol mentioned when they texted last that losing the routine of his usual walk to work had made getting out and about seem more daunting. Junmyeon’s pretty envious of anyone over 5’8”, but sticking up above a crowd must be unwanted attention in Chanyeol’s case.

Chanyeol’s response is puffing his cheeks and swaying. As much as Junmyeon’s learned from all this time being around him, that translates as you can stay.

“Sehun has the orange hair,” Chanyeol says. He’s been rocking the toe of his shoe over a leaf for so long it’s stopped making nice crinkly sounds and is starting to come apart. “And Baekhyun, he’s the short one. Sehunnie is kind of shy, but he’s really really nice. We’ve been friends since we were kids.”

Junmyeon says a quiet oh. He’s not sure if this is awkward or not, but he’s wanted to be at home having a nice cry in the shower for the five minutes they’ve been standing by the gate waiting. “Baekhyun too?”

Chanyeol laughs. “No, he, he just has an attention deficit disorder. We met at some group thing. It was pretty bad, we didn’t do the whole course of it. He talks way more than I can keep up with, but. Friends who hyperfocus together stay together, I guess.”

Junmyeon doesn’t know what that means. Hyperfocus. Search that later.

“My friend Jongdae is trying to start up a food truck.” Junmyeon sways restlessly. Chanyeol is so tall it’s obvious if Junmyeon is looking at him, having to actually tilt his head. “We used to work together. He’s ready to quit and move on to something else now too. Mandu, he’s thinking.”

Chanyeol finally gives up on the leaf he’s trodden into dust, moving to a new one that crunches under his shoe. “That’d be cool. Let me know if he gets it done? We can all go visit.” Crunch, crunch. “I liked being your friend, Kim Junmyeon.”

Past tense. Junmyeon’s stomach feels like it drops right out, but then Chanyeol says, “Sehun told me you liked me like that,” and it lurches back in place to let him know how nauseous he is. Well, that’s..

“Baekhyun did too. Ah, actually my sister and mama too-too. So it’s not like I wasn’t expecting.. ah.” They both glance down as Chanyeol’s phone lights up in his hand. “That’s me. Um.”

Junmyeon wasn’t expecting to still get a hug. It’s brief, Chanyeol more perching his arms on Junmyeon’s shoulders than actually wrapping him up. Junmyeon manages to get in a quick pat to his elbow.

By the time they’ve parted and are walking in their separate directions Junmyeon can’t even remember if they said goodbye. His head feels fuzzy too, but he’s kind of glad of that. Right now he doesn’t want to recall that conversation in too much detail.

But Chanyeol’s told them enough about him that they all know. Junmyeon zones out in front of the ticket barrier in the subway. Sehun and Baekhyun definitely knew. Chanyeol probably did know. Junmyeon’s impatiently nudged from behind. He nearly drops his pass and fumbles to get through the barrier while directing an apologetic bow of his head to the small queue that had formed behind him. Time for that cry in the shower.

Junmyeon doesn’t eat breakfast. Just washes his meds down with orange juice (the vitamins will do him enough good), then checks his schedule. No deliveries today, no pick-ups, no events. No reason to shower, other than it being the second day he’s thought that, and in time he’ll start overpowering the flowers and losing customers.

Eventually he has to lift the Eevee off his phone to check his emails. The only two notifications he’s had in the night are from a game, telling him he’s won some free gems. Yay. His message to Chanyeol is still unread. It’s been nearly a week. Not that unusual for Chanyeol, but then it’s not usual for the preview to be something as pathetic as please please let me know when you see this, I hope w...

As much as his mother may claim otherwise, Junmyeon’s never really stopped being like this. The medication stops him from feeling like the world is going to end, but it so far hasn’t stopped him from being somewhat disappointed that means he has to keep on living in it. Better has been in small victories - getting into a routine, getting back to work, bothering to change sweaters, caring whether the cave looks nice or not. It’s not like having a hopeless crush was Junmyeon being better. Just Junmyeon feeling like he was still capable of some of those rusty old emotions. Like there’s something out there outside of how trapped he is in himself.

Anyway, now he can get back to researching new career paths. Chanyeol’s probably doing the same, because he’s stopped walking by. His last shifts were due to be up around about now so it’s no surprise. It’s no surprise that he hasn’t dropped in at all - he’ll be busy job searching. Or he’s so absorbed in something with Baekhyun he hasn’t even noticed time passing. (Hyperfocusing sounded pretty useful).

After two weeks Junmyeon even calls, though he cancels before it’s connected and texts an apology - Chanyeol never talks on the phone. He knows. All his hyacinths are drooping. This isn’t the kind of job you can afford to get apathetic in. He’s already missed two morning deliveries. He’ll pull himself back together soon.

Junmyeon strikes out a completed order with a line of red ink. A month of running the place without any assistance has let it get a little chaotic again, and he’s misplaced his blue pen.

It’s been the good kind of chaotic, though. A lot of people are sick around this time of year, so rather morbidly Junmyeon’s been doing a great trade in get well gifts. Some customers (or their recipients) have been so pleased that they’ve brought odd little gifts back with them. You’d never tell that the cave had been so unwelcoming at one time now there are so many ornaments dotted around the place.

The newest one arrived just today. A little girl who (with some help from her father) had bought a bouquet almost as big as herself for their first visit to her new sister posted a Yokai Watch figure through the door while Junmyeon was out for lunch. It’s a bit unevenly painted, probably came free in a box of cereal or something.

“I think you’ll look good just here,” Junmyeon tells it, pushing up on tiptoe and supporting himself on a shelf. The figure fits right in with the pots of trailing ivy, matching in colour and posed almost like it’s intentionally trying to climb up the tendrils. Very nicely done, if he says so himself.

On the counter his phone buzzes three times in succession. That’ll be Jongdae. If he’s actually had success buying a repurposed truck in auction..

[ (´;Д;`) ]
[kim junmyeonnnn]

Oh. Junmyeon leans back against the counter and takes a deep breath. Two more messages arrive, but right now he’s just going to focus on the lights. They look good strung up the way they are now. The make over this place ended up having may not have been all that professional, but the atmosphere is so much nicer.

Turns out Chanyeol just wanted to tell Junmyeon he has the migraine from hell. It’s 3pm and he only just realised he hasn’t hydrated all day. He thinks his brain must be shrivelling up.

[didn’t you feel thirsty?] Junmyeon replies, like this isn’t the first time they’ve spoken since back in the park.

[what does that have to do with if i think to actually drink something?]
[i hate that i’m like this sometimes]
[mama is looking after me. i’m 25 but i’m still? like this. i’m lucky she’s happy to. feels bad tho (ㆀ˘・з・˘)]

Junmyeon reads the replies three times. For a moment he wonders if this is Chanyeol trying to reaffirm what he said before about needs and not being an adult. But fuck, how self-centred is that? The guy’s head is splitting open and he’s sad and for whatever reason decided to reach out to Junmyeon.

Junmyeon’s still pretty sad himself, though. Eventually he sends a Bulbasaur sticker. It’s animated; be brave pops up above it’s head as it’s vines wave. He thinks Chanyeol will like it. Junmyeon likes it.

[im gonna try and sleep again thooo]
[mama’s tired of me asking if i’m gonna die. if she just promised i wouldn’t i’d feel better!!]

Hmm. What to do. Junmyeon’s always been a great one for holding grudges, but he’s just.. he isn’t much like that anymore. All of that kind of fight got sucked out of him. As much as he wants to ask why Chanyeol’s texting out of the blue, demand to know if he’s read all the messages, explain.. that would be pointless, because Chanyeol probably doesn’t have an organised answer. If he had, he’d have let Junmyeon know.

If Junmyeon was upset with him for not responding the way Junmyeon wanted, that would entirely prove the point Chanyeol had been making.

[I promise you won’t die, how’s that? Feel better soon! And don’t forget your alarm next time!!] Junmyeon replies instead.

[are we still friends?]

After a month and a half, Junmyeon should probably consider just letting this go. It’d be easier if it weren’t for the odd texts Chanyeol sends sometimes. He sends random pictures, saying they made him think of Junmyeon but with no explanation why. He tells Junmyeon what to name his Eevees to get the new Eeveelutions he wants. Sometimes he just sends his name, junmyeon with five n and a star in place of the o , surrounded with emojis like it’s a joke all on its own.

After this long Jongdae finally snapped and told Junmyeon to stop moping around and do something, and much as Junmyeon protested, it’s a fair point. Sure it’s kind of cathartically nice, the way his heart still gives a little skip and squeeze when Chanyeol texts, but this needs to go one way or the other.

[chanyeollie, you said you needed time, but how much time? I’d just like to know if we’re still friends]

Junmyeon rubs a hand over his face. He needs to be up so early for a delivery in the morning it would have been a great idea to have been asleep an hour ago. Between 10pm and 1am seems to be the best time to catch Chanyeol alone and undistracted though.

He’s just starting to drift when his phone buzzes, nearly slipping out of his open hand.

[i wanted to be]
[i didnt think you liked being friends (´・_・`)]

Oh, no. No, no. At some point between texting and getting the reply Junmyeon seems to have slipped down from resting on his elbow to his pillow. Sitting up so abruptly makes the words tilt as he tries to type as fast as he’s thinking.

[of course I liked being friends!]
[that wasn’t what I meant at all;;]
[that we would stop being friends. or that I didn’t like being friends. I didn’t mean that I didn’t like it!]

The messages pop up as read. Chanyeol doesn’t start typing, so Junmyeon continues.

[I wasn’t asking you to be anything different, chanyeollie >: I didn’t want our friendship to change overnight and turn into some big scary thing]
[I didnt mean I wanted to replace your friendship with something else]
[its just when you like someone in a dating way then you’re special to them in a different way to just a friend]
[I didn’t mean I don’t like being friends;; and I didn’t mean I wanted you to change who you are so we could be something different]
[I just meant that I like you as a friend but more than that too]

[ (´ー`) ]
[thats what i mean tho!! friendships and relationships wouldnt be different things if it didnt matter]
[once its a relationship its different. you’re not friends anymore you’re a thing and its complicated and i dont get it. i dont like it]

[I’m not expecting that;; you and everyone else already knew I liked you and you still wanted to see me. you said you like me too. I just don’t really understand, yeollie;;]

Chanyeol sends back three Rilakkuma stickers. Rilakkuma’s expression doesn’t change a whole lot, but Junmyeon feels for the one face down on the floor.

How else can he put this. In the past, pre-breakdown Junmyeon definitely would have seen why there was a line here. Chanyeol wouldn’t be beneficial to date. He wouldn’t understand the social circle Junmyeon was in, and would Junmyeon really have not been embarrassed by the way he physically reacts to things? That he can’t speak to strangers and his stand-in is hyperactive and has metal in his face? Junmyeon can take a good guess that he wouldn’t really get the sentiment behind most gestures, either. Junmyeon’s spent a lot more on dull boys in uni to get half the reaction Chanyeol has for a free flower he thinks has done a great job in growing.

But Junmyeon doesn’t want any of those things from the past. He just wants to be happy in his stupid flower shop and to see Chanyeol happy and have some stability there. Being liked by Chanyeol is being someone Chanyeol wants to open up to, rely on. If anything Junmyeon would like being someone who gets to make sure Chanyeol is taken care of. That’s what liking someone is, maybe. Junmyeon doesn’t know either, but at this point there’s no harm in sharing his confusion.

[I think what I mean is what we already have + I would be so happy if you’d let me be more involved in your life. your needs too. if you’d let me I want to be closer to you and know how to make things easier]

For a moment Junmyeon presses his palm to his face. He’s so dizzily tired and burning up at how embarrassing he’s being right now. Telling himself this is the most beneficial way to communicate is all that gives him the nerve to keep going as he searches the pages of emoji on his phone. Holding hands. Two boys with a heart. Kiss.. is that too much? Junmyeon adds it anyway, hits send, then stuffs his phone under his pillow. Augh. He can practically hear Jongdae nasally griping that he’s too old to be like this.

If this didn’t really matter so much it wouldn’t feel like this, though. Junmyeon likes  tall cute Chanyeol more than he knew he could still care about anything, and Chanyeol liking him in return in whatever context that may be felt like the impossible happening. Not even just that it was Chanyeol. That anyone would meet him and want to get closer now, after everything, it’s.. Junmyeon’s whole pillow vibrates and he startles. Right. Wincing, he slips his phone back out to peek at the notification.


Yeah. Oh. Maybe that finally made more sense.

[ kim (・Д・) junmyeon]

Jongdae wins a truck. A truck that’s being sold from Yeongam and needs to be collected in person. The best option is trains, cabs, then drive it home. But Jongdae has no idea how to drive back here from all the way down there.

What Jongdae needs is a map reader who can take time off at their own liberty. Conveniently his best friend fits that role perfectly.

It’s only two days away from work, and even then they totally could have made the round trip in a day if they’d really wanted to. Jongdae’s jittery and clearly needs some time away from things, though. He’s simultaneously elated and terrified that he’s currently unemployed, and Junmyeon’s..well, that’s basically how he feels about life anyway. They both deserve to take the journey slow, eat a lot on the way,, Jongdae’s not sure what he ever did to deserve Junmyeon having control of the playlist.

“Maybe I’m having a mid-life crisis.”

Junmyeon glances across at Jongdae. “Are you only planning on living to sixty?”

“This is what people do when they have a mid-life crisis,” Jongdae gestures around them. The truck. The stretch of road ahead. Himself and his lack of employment. Just buying a motorbike and leathers like everyone else would have been cheaper. “Sleeping in a lay-by during a road trip isn’t as fun as it looks in movies, huh.”

“Definitely not.” It’s been really fucking cold in here. Neither of them wanted to own up to being scared, but ultimately they alternated turns driving until the sky started to colour. Stopping and dozing seemed safer once they could see their surroundings clearly again, and they covered enough ground that they’ll have most of the day back at home for catching up on sleep. “You know I love you,” Junmyeon looks over again. There’s a stripe of glowing sunlight right across Jongdae’s chin now. “And I support your mid-life crisis decision. And I don’t mind how much experimental mandu I’ve had to eat. But if we’d died out here I hope my family would have sued yours.”

Jongdae snorts. “That isn’t very nihilistic of you. Don’t tell me your meds only just kicked i- Oh,” Jongdae straightens in his seat, squinting as the strip of light catches him in the eye. “Shit, actually. Did you-“

“Yes, I brought them,” Junmyeon sighs. He’s already had his crisis - he can manage himself while Jongdae goes through his own. “Hurts my stomach if I take them without food though. Did you bring anything?”

“Mandu?” Jongdae offers, reaching for the bag stuffed behind his seat. Junmyeon smacks him hard across his knee, and Jongdae throws the bag of chips he comes up with at Junmyeon’s head. Or aims it that way, anyway, Junmyeon has to scramble a bit to retrieve it from between his seat and the door.

When he’s back upright he smooths down his hair. Out the corner of his eye Junmyeon can see that Jongdae’s smiling at him. He’s a dick. But a kindhearted one. Either way, he’s not going to let Jongdae share these with him now.

As usual, unless someone is either late for a wedding, funeral or birthday, Junmyeon can’t see why anyone needs to harass a florist. It’s barely five minutes past opening on a Wednesday morning. There is no reason to slam his door open so hard he can hear it from in the back room.

“You’re finally open again,” calls an unfamiliar voice. “There wasn’t even a sign up saying when you’d be back.”

Junmyeon frowns, wiping his dusty hands off on his apron as he steps out front. The lip ring and streaked hair, more familiar. Behind Baekhyun is Sehun with the orange hair, hands in his pockets. Shy, Chanyeol had described him. Hmm. Lingering back by the door is Chanyeol, but it takes Junmyeon a second to really register that it’s him.

It’s not only because it’s been a while, and what the hell are the three of them doing here. Chanyeol’s hair is growing out of its layers and is a bizarre pastel mess of pinks and purples (and is that green at the back?). He looks like a big gladioli.

“Can I help?” sounds kind of ridiculous considering they’re definitely not here to buy flowers. Sehun’s mouth twitches like he’s decided he doesn’t need to keep up the vaguely threatening look.

“This one has some things he needs to say to you,” Sehun nods his head to Chanyeol. Junmyeon’s intrigued. Chanyeol hasn’t had much to say to him at all by text over the week since the emoji conversation. The way he hunches in reminds Junmyeon of the first time he was here, careful of bumping into anything.

He’s still very tall, very cute. It’s not worth wondering if Chanyeol’s always looked down at Junmyeon from up there and seen clear on his face that he likes that. Still, Junmyeon’s a little more tired than back then, but he probably looks that way now too.

Chanyeol audibly gulps. Looks past Junmyeon at the Jolteon plushie perched on the shelf above the counter. “I got a new job.”

Oh. Well, that’s good news anyway. “That’s great,” Junmyeon smiles his best customer service smile.

“Yeah, I’ve..that’s why I haven’t been in touch much. It’s been really busy getting started and things.” Chanyeol’s really looking everywhere but at Junmyeon. He inhales like there’s more, but nothing comes out. He starts hitting his balled fists together instead. That one’s new.

“And,” Sehun prompts, “You’d like to..”

“Shut up,” Chanyeol stage whispers over his shoulder, like Junmyeon can’t already tell this is leading somewhere. “Yeah, um. The, uh. The atmosphere here and, stuff. And before, helping out- we never finished that. We never- never, we never-“

Sehun looks to Baekhyun, who’s very absorbed in counting the figures hidden all around the cave, sighs, and steps closer to rest a hand on Chanyeol’s shoulder. He turns, giving Sehun a startled look. Just a tiny bit of the anxiety in Junmyeon’s chest loosens at the way Chanyeol visibly relaxes with Sehun at his side. But then Sehun turns his thin frowny eyebrowed attention to Junmyeon and the tension floods back. This would have been somewhat awkward even without Chanyeol bringing two bodyguards.

“Listen,” Sehun doesn’t carry himself like he’s as tall and terrifying as he looks. “We can’t stand him talking about you anymore. And this place - he likes it here a lot, and he liked helping out. All he needs to work is his laptop.”

Chanyeol makes a little sound there, like he wants to interject. But Sehun’s got this, squeezing his arm. He softens whenever he looks back to Chanyeol. Junmyeon can see that he probably is shy, just gets the anxiety override when Chanyeol needs some help.

“If he won’t cause you too much bother, and you..have a power outlet..” Sehun casts a wary glance to the desktop pc. There wasn’t any point not letting a trailing plant grow it’s way onto it, it’s not like Junmyeon’s ever going to use it. It’s aesthetic, or something. “It’d be nice for all of us if you’d let him set up here.”

“Some days,” Chanyeol finds his voice again. “Days that are ok for you. I don’t want to get in the way.”

That’d be impossible, seeing as every day would be a great day for Junmyeon to have Chanyeol around. “You’ve never been in the way,” Junmyeon replies sincerely. “I’d be happy to have my helper back.”

“Oh,” Chanyeol covers his mouth with both sleeves. He looks like he wasn’t expecting Junmyeon to agree. Junmyeon’s helpless, so he’s not surprised at himself for jumping at the chance to get talking again. Talking, flapping. Whichever works.

“Text him with times,” Sehun says. He gives Chanyeol another squeeze, tight enough that he makes a sound into his sleeve. “He will reply, we’ll make sure.”

“I will. I don’t mind waiting.” Junmyeon smiles. He used to be such a sharp person. The unforgiving streak made him good at his job, weeding out anyone unreliable and never letting them forget it. He means it, though. Chanyeol’s doing things how they work for him. The silence wore away at him; he’d rather have it filled again than make a point of how long it lasted.

“Hear that?” Sehun curls a long arm around Chanyeol’s shoulders. Their hair colours clash. “Let’s leave the nice man to do his job until he’s ready to have you back.”

Junmyeon shakes his head at that, still smiling. He’s going to still be smiling after they’ve gone, even when Jongdae tells him how ridiculous he is. (Again. For the hundredth time.)

Sehun’s already gone and Chanyeol’s holding the door for Baekhyun. He’s so much taller Baekhyun just ducks right under his arm. They’re at opposite ends of the cave, but when Baekhyun pauses to pat Chanyeol’s chest and say, “See? I told you it’d be ok. He isn’t mad,” Junmyeon hears it well enough.

Chanyeol seems to deflate a little when the two of them are ahead of him. Junmyeon doesn’t look away in time as he turns back, and for a moment they lock eyes. Junmyeon beams - he can’t help it - and Chanyeol’s eyes widen.

“I caught another Chicorita outside. I only need two more to evolve,” Chanyeol blurts, and off to the side Baekhyun laughs.

Chanyeol’s work is transcribing recordings to text. It looks boring as hell, but it pays the same as his convenience store shifts did, so, yeah. It was a big fat lie on the part of the company that employed him that it’d involve music, unless you count the history lecture on some ancient instrument. They had to do an image search after fifteen minutes of arguing what it would look like based on the lecturer’s description.

It’s a kind of impractical job for someone with bad concentration. Chanyeol drifts a lot and has to revisit some parts again and again, getting up from his end of the counter and pacing to try and walk off the buzz in his brain. Helping Junmyeon out with odd jobs ensures he takes regular breaks, though, and Junmyeon serves as a much better food and drink reminder than the alarms on his phone. Most jobs aren’t easy with bad concentration, Chanyeol reasons, and at least with this one he can choose his own hours.

“Doing two jobs at once is more fun anyway,” Chanyeol says. He’s somehow got soil on his shirt and Junmyeon’s keeping busy to avoid the temptation of brushing it off. “The best thing when focusing on one task is hard is to have another one to switch to.”

Junmyeon considers that. “After years of doing eight things at once, I prefer one at a time now.”

“I am being helpful though, right?” Chanyeol asks, then nods. Only one box is left behind the screen door now, and he’s far quicker at reorganising high shelves than Junmyeon on a folding step. Deliveries and outgoing orders take up less time with two pairs of hands, and the couriers have stopped looking so surprised at the way Chanyeol barrels around them with his head bowed.

He settles back at his laptop, giving his hair a quick finger comb before picking up his headphones. “Plus,” he tilts back in the chair to see past the counter, but Junmyeon’s busy tying green string around stems. “I’m attracting business.”

True. Junmyeon laughs. “You’re the most interesting decoration in here, for sure.”

Turns out Junmyeon’s far from the only person who wants a glimpse of the tall cute boy in passing every day. That’s about the extent of it though - Chanyeol finds excuses to shuffle out of talking range when customers approach the counter, and his technique of pairing up flowers that look like friends so far hasn’t resulted in Junmyeon sending out any of his suggestions.

“Anyway, it’s nice.” Chanyeol opens up a new file, rubs the bridge of his nose, then opens the mp3 attachment on the email. “Being around without worrying about getting all overloaded on you.”

Junmyeon turns, but Chanyeol’s got his headphones on. Junmyeon taps the scissors against the ball of twine. A week of this has worked out just fine, technically, even if it’s been a little rough on his heart.

“That hyperfocus thing you told me about. Do you think it’s possible I could have it?”

Jongdae’s on his third dumpling batch of the night. His hair is drooped from the steam, and Junmyeon can’t entirely remember what his fancy kitchen used to look like before it became mandu central.

Junmyeon hums. “There’s reasons other than autism, but I’m not sure you have any of those either.” He picks at a slither of onion skin stuck to the counter. “I’d diagnose you as being incredibly stubborn.”

“That’s how you get ahead in business,” Jongdae huffs. Apparently leaving his job was going to help reduce his stress levels. He leans against the counter and lets out a long sigh. Steamed is harder than fried when you’re chronically inept at getting a good presentable seal on the skins. “Hey,” Jongdae rests his chin on the heel of his palm. “You’ve never said that before. The a-word. You’ve never called him that.”

Junmyeon shrugs. “He’s never used it himself.” Junmyeon’s the same - describes symptoms rather than naming names. “Why did you choose mandu?”

Despite being surrounded by them, Jongdae looks incredibly put out to be reminded of the damn things. “Tell me more about life in the cave and your non-relationship,” he says, and Junmyeon laughs.

“I know you just want to complain about how useless I am.” Jongdae nods, smile wide. “And I am, I’m really happy to have him around again. And we’re getting along fine. I think we’re working up to sorting things out.”

Jongdae looks pleasantly surprised. “So long as you’re feeling good and looking after yourself.” His hands are still damp and he leaves a faint grey print on the shoulder of Junmyeon’s white shirt. “You two are the slowest slow burn of all time.”

Junmyeon decides there and then to be proud of that. Going from the mess of his previous not-exactly-relationships to taking this long to figure things out must mean something good has come out of all the unwanted soul searching between.

“Speaking of burning..” he sniffs the air.

“No!” Jongdae launches away from the counter. “These are steamed, no-“

“Kim Junmyeon.”

It’s intoned like a question. Deciphering Chanyeol is sort of similar to the way Pokemon can only repeat the same thing, but you know what the intent is. Junmyeon takes his head out of the plant feed fridge to look. Chanyeol’s turning the fidget cube in his hand.

“Ca..” The word dies. Chanyeol huffs. “Can you tell me where you got this? It’s nice.”

The cube looks so much smaller in Chanyeol’s hand. Junmyeon had just stuffed it in the counter drawer at some point during the month of assuming he’d never see Chanyeol again. “Keep it.” He gestures that it’s fine when Chanyeol immediately freezes up. “Really. I got it for you. Before, when..” Well. Yeah. Before. Junmyeon checks that the fridge door sealed fully shut. “The time never seemed right to ask if you’d like it. But if it’s good then go ahead and take it.”

“It- yeah. I like it. Thank you.” Chanyeol bows his head. Junmyeon and Jongdae both fumbled and dropped the cube when they tried it out, but Chanyeol seems to have already got the hang of turning it between his fingers to utilise each side. “When we.. before? Like, when we were going out places.” Chanyeol clarifies. “Thank you. That was nice of you.”

Junmyeon just smiles at lack of any response that doesn’t involve awkward feelings.

Chanyeol taps on the flat side of the cube. “Maybe we could, could do that again. I love Sehunnie and Baekhyun, but, but. We don’t always wanna do the same kinds of things, and, it’s kind of more like you taking me out? Than us going out exactly, but.”

To be fair a week was longer than Junmyeon expected to make it before this came up. Junmyeon looks down at the floor the same way Chanyeol is, like they’re both searching for the same invisible object down there. The fridge is humming happily again now it’s closed. It’s the only reliable thing in this place.

“Chanyeollie, I know you have to do things your own way,” Junmyeon starts carefully, “I’m not saying this because I expect you to change that. I just want you to know that it was difficult not hearing from you for so long. I don’t know how you feel if you don’t tell me.” It doesn’t seem that long ago that Junmyeon was only just learning, watching Chanyeol find other ways to communicate when his voice failed. Because he always still has found ways. “I was thinking the worst. You know? I was worried.”

“It’s not my fault if you like me,” Chanyeol replies. The directness catches Junmyeon off guard. “If you have feelings that need treating more carefully and I told you I couldn’t, it.. wait, that sounded bad.” Chanyeol scratches at the back of his hair. The little patch of green is almost blonde now. “I avoided you. Because it always sounded bad.”

“Avoiding it doesn’t make it go away,” Junmyeon says, and maybe he’s a little bit of a hypocrite.

Chanyeol pockets the cube so his hands are free to twist into his cuffs. “I just, look at the things you say and don’t know what to say back. I like you a lot too, and I know that’s supposed to make things easy, but I’m scared if I say anything that makes it sound ok then I won’t know what to do next.” He wrings his sleeves together. “Isn’t that weird? Friends can talk about anything, but partners are scared to say the wrong thing.”

“That’s probably why I avoided having one in the past,” Junmyeon agrees. “Things like that are just as tiring and complicated even if you understand them, trust me.”

Chanyeol’s cheeks only dimple on one side when he smiles. Junmyeon smiles back.

“I didn’t say the things I wanted to very well. Back in the park or when we texted after. I was so nervous of how to say it all that I messed it up.” Junmyeon watches the light on Chanyeol’s laptop blink. He turned the sign on the door - early lunch break - and Chanyeol stopped the timer on his phone that counts his hours. “What I meant was I understand having limitations you can’t help, and having needs that don’t fit into what everyone else seems to be doing. I know what you meant, but I can’t just get better and move on. It’s hard, you know? I take my medication and I stick to my routine. My mother makes me do yoga on weekends. But it’s always there. I have more ok days than bad days, but I don’t have many good days.”

Chanyeol winces. “I didn’t mean to dismiss it like that. Really. I’m sorry.” Junmyeon gives him a little nod. Chanyeol sighs, disappearing behind his sleeves for a moment. When his mouth is working it doesn’t necessarily make it any easier for the formed thoughts to make it out whole. “Ok, like- that day in the park, I knew what you were going to say, I just.. no one would listen to me. Everyone kept saying how nice it would be for me to date again, like they just forgot what happened the last time I tried. It took me so so long to stop blaming myself, and it’s not like any of what went wrong before has changed- other than me getting older so it’s even worse. But everyone made it sound like..”

“Like feelings are more important than practicalities?” Junmyeon offers while Chanyeol pauses for breath.

“Yeah. And, and I.. it was a big deal for me getting to know someone new. A really big deal. Even I, I could. Could.. Could. I could-“ Chanyeol makes a low sound in his throat. He stamps a foot, and Junmyeon waits.

The place can stay closed for another ten minutes at the least. “Take your time.”

“Bleh,” Chanyeol sticks his tongue out. Junmyeon glances away so he doesn’t laugh at how ridiculously cute an action it is. It seems to help get him back on track. “I could tell. Right from the start. I know I make it easy for people to treat me like a kid, but avoiding relationship stuff doesn’t mean I can’t see it myself,” Chanyeol pouts, “Maybe that was why I gave you my number, I dunno. I wasn’t really thinking it through.”

Junmyeon smiles sheepishly. “I didn’t either, to be honest. Giving you flowers and things.. I was surprised you kept stopping by after how embarrassing I was.” Chanyeol ducks his head down, but Junmyeon still catches him grinning. Maybe his awfulness worked to his advantage in this case. Maybe Jongdae’s right that they both just need to be who they are. “Chanyeollie, I understand you being wary of what relationships entail. And I know that this requires a lot more planning and discussing than it may seem relationships usually take, but I don’t mind that. I would like that. I can’t deal with all of the spontaneity and guessing games either.”

Unsure if it’s a bold move or not, all considered, Junmyeon still hesitates midway as he reaches for one of Chanyeol’s sleeves. Junmyeon wants to make it seem less scary than it does, and he isn’t sure exactly how to.

“How we feel and being honest about what we need is more important than replicating what other people do, isn’t it?”  

Chanyeol turns his hand in his sleeve. “I mean, obviously, yeah.” Junmyeon’s biting back a laugh again when Chanyeol grips his thumb through the fabric. “But it’s hard to, to find anyone who’s ok with not being how relationships all look on tv.”

“If we just learned from media then we’d all be straight,” Junmyeon replies a little more sharply than he’d meant to. Chanyeol’s conceding eye roll at that makes Junmyeon feel about twelve other things that aren’t relevant to this particular conversation. “A lot of things aren’t about people like us. But people all want to fit in, so even if it isn’t what we want sometimes we just copy it so we don’t stand out.”

Chanyeol laughs at that, and Junmyeon thinks maybe he’s been talking for too long. Chanyeol swings their hands a little. “You’re talking to someone with pink hair.”

“I had been wondering about that.”

“It felt a bit better looking different on the outside too. It’s like a warning light. And being less approachable is pretty useful, anyway.” Chanyeol musses the top of his hair where the distinct layers are grown out. He squeezes Junmyeon’s hand tighter. “I just don’t want you to have expectations and be disappointed.”

“How much do you think I’m up to?” Junmyeon smiles. This is what he likes about being with Chanyeol - he doesn’t set those expectations himself, so it doesn’t matter if Junmyeon isn’t all that functional of a person either. “Sometimes I knock the order book off the counter and get so upset with myself I don’t shower or eat for two days. You should probably have low expectations too.”

“I will,” Chanyeol grins again. He starts to play with Junmyeon’s hand, capturing it between both of his sleeves, but the drink alarm on his phone goes off, and- right, Junmyeon has a business to run. Impromptu lunch break over.

Chanyeol grudgingly takes a long drink from the bottle in his bag, starts his timer again, puts his headphones back on. Junmyeon turns the sign on the door and doesn’t stop smiling.

“So,” Chanyeol rests both hands on the broom handle and his chin on top of them. He’s swept the entire place twice. When Junmyeon looks up from rummaging in the counter drawer Chanyeol is jogging his knees like he has enough excess energy to go again. “This is kinda stupid, but..”


“Did- we actually. Like, agree to..?” Chanyeol’s left eye squinches up when he’s trying to telepathically communicate a thought. Sadly Junmyeon isn’t quite at that level yet. “I wasn’t! Sure if I’d said it or just thought it, but, if we do this we have to be proper boyfriends.”

Junmyeon blinks. “As opposed to..?”

“When people are like, this person is their friend but they’re kind of involved but it’s complicated, but they don’t wanna talk about it but-“ Chanyeol drops the broom handle from hand to hand, “-then the other person upsets them by not being serious enough even though they won’t tell them how they feel- kind of thing.”

“Chanyeol, believe me-“ Junmyeon has to put his weight behind the push to get the junk in the drawer flat enough to close it. “-there’s nothing I want more than to be a hundred percent proper boyfriends.”

It’s nothing short of flattering that Chanyeol’s response to that is to zoom away into the back room without a word. Junmyeon laughs, and when a hoarse whine comes from behind the screen door he laughs harder.

Junmyeon locks up, pulls on the door just to make sure, then turns to Chanyeol with a smile. They’re going to walk to the subway together, proper boyfriends side by side. Chanyeol’s tied his headphone cords together and frowns back, because no amount of tugging is getting them apart again.

“Let me,” Junmyeon offers.

Chanyeol backs away, up onto his toes so he’s even taller and further out of Junmyeon’s reach. “You’ll make it worse.” He bites his lip, then says, “You’ll have to meet my family. Like- after I tell them. Is that ok? It's too soon, isn’t it.”

Far too soon. Junmyeon links their arms and Chanyeol squeezes Junmyeon in tight to his side. All of his anxiety seems to just be bubbling up into laughter right now. “It’s fine with me.”

“I’ve already told them so much about you. I mean- mama and my sister already..they were concerned about it too, obviously, but they’ve kinda just been waiting.”

No pressure then. They can’t walk all the way to the station pressed in close like this, but it’s nice just for now. Junmyeon leans his head against Chanyeol. He doesn’t even entirely reach his shoulder, and that makes him want to laugh again.

“At least I can bring nice flowers, right? You’ll have to give me some hints.” A rainbows of tulips and roses dyed blue. “You’re good at picking flowers for people you know.”

By the time they’re on a main road they’re walking with distance between them again. Chanyeol’s untangled his headphones enough to have the left bud in is ear, blocking out the sound on the side Junmyeon isn’t talking to him. And Junmyeon’s talking a lot, rambling about the girl who’s umma knew his, and what he should wear to meet Chanyeol’s, and five other things he doesn’t remember saying the moment it’s left his mouth. He’s just happy. So much that it’s channeling into all this energy, he can totally see the appeal of flapping.

Chanyeol waits until he’s stopped to catch his breath. “So do you, um. About dating and whatever,” he says, knuckling at the bridge of his nose. “Do you do kisses and stuff?”

Yes. Junmyeon catches himself and says it at an appropriate volume instead of letting the entire street know. Yes, Junmyeon likes those a lot.

“Ok. Cool.”

It’s cold out. Chanyeol rubs his hands together while they walk and Junmyeon wonders how much of it is him just burning off energy. It’s probably for the best, anyway, as they’re in public, that Chanyeol doesn’t kiss Junmyeon.

Chanyeol kisses Junmyeon. It catches him by surprise and only half lands, but it’s soft and warm, and Junmyeon may be kind of rusty at this whole relationship thing, but he’d have definitely done this smoothly - catching Chanyeol’s jaw, turning him back and kissing him for real. Like, if they weren’t in the living room of Chanyeol’s family home. He’d definitely have done that.

Junmyeon was already overheated before his whole face flushed. Mama Park keeps the place warm, and Chanyeol’s been serving as a blanket since Junmyeon arrived. Despite visiting regularly Junmyeon’s still getting used to the whole informal family thing, and his instinct is to sit prim and proper taking up as little space as possible. Chanyeol easily tugged him to the middle of the couch and promptly curled up on top of him, and there’s not much escaping that.

It took a few visits for Junmyeon to get past how different Mama Park is to his own mother. She was curious about his meds rather than frowning at mention of them. She’s hugged Junmyeon probably more than even Chanyeol has and smiles fondly when he double-checks their date nights by her. And whether Chanyeol is lying on Junmyeon, holding him captive in his lap, or unsubtly sneaking kisses while she’s in the kitchen, she seems amused by it all. Junmyeon’s still getting used to that part.

Junmyeon pouts. “What was that for?” He touches his lips, tries to look as scandalised as possible, and Chanyeol beams. It squashes the air out of Junmyeon when he wriggles, and Junmyeon’s laughing whether he meant to or not. “Happy?”

Chanyeol refolds his arms over Junmyeon’s shoulders and settles his chin on them. “I was thinking about how, like, you know how you can apply to make businesses Pokemon stops? Maybe it would..” Junmyeon brushes back fluffy pink hair that’s fallen in front of Chanyeol’s eyes. It tickles. He scrunches his nose. “..attract more business and stuff.”

That’s a yes, then. Junmyeon hums thoughtfully. “Would either of us ever get any work done again? If we were sitting right on a stop?”

Frowning, Chanyeol pushes up on his arms again. “Kim,” he huffs, planting a bony elbow into Junmyeon’s side, “Junmyeonnn.” It’s mostly Chanyeol’s size that makes him so heavy, and combined with squirming it’s totally crushing Junmyeon into the couch.

“I didn’t say no-“ Junmyeon gasps out, but then Chanyeol is kissing him again. It’s better aimed this time, and Junmyeon quickly forgets he was supposed to be wrestling back some breathing space. And he really should have gotten back to the cave by now to prepare for a delivery early tomorrow, and Jongdae will be expecting marks out of ten and a write up on the last batch of mandu he dropped off. But right now Junmyeon is kind of occupied with his very tall, very cute, one hundred percent proper boyfriend.

Junmyeon is happy, too.