Minghao heard his own words echoed by another. Shaking the water out of his hair, he looked around for the person who'd said them.
It'd been a bad day, to say the least. Xu Minghao, a stickler for routine and punctuality, who had never been a minute late to university, had overslept and missed his daily train- the 7:31 to Seoul station. Political Science had seemed particularly boring that day, he'd messed up his paper in Art Theory, and even Mingyu and Seungkwan couldn't cheer him up during lunch. All day, he was plagued by worry because of Soonyoung's recent ankle injury, and how it would affect their new choreography. To add to everything, the moment he'd stepped out of his university building (after hours of mindlessly staring at his computer), the heavens had opened, drenching him in ice-cold water from head to foot.
Minghao found himself sprinting the 1.7km to the railway station, using his cloak to cover himself as best he could. When the familiar building was finally in sight, he dropped his hands and pushed past the throng of people so that he could escape the deluge.
He thought about how his backpack was definitely shot to hell now, as well as everything inside it. Frustrated, he looked up at the board, to see when the next train home would arrive.
"We regret to inform you that all trains on the Gyeongui–Jungang Line have been indefinitely delayed, as a result of the rains. Passengers are requested to use alternate means of transportation for the moment."
It took a moment for the announcement to sink in (Minghao was still not perfectly fluent in Korean, despite his best efforts), but when it did, he released a colourful string of swear words in Mandarin.
Someone else seemed to have the same sentiments, though. Pleasantly surprised to hear the warm tones of his native tongue, Minghao struggled to make out their features in the crowd. He saw a tall man wrestling with a giant, purple umbrella with whiskers and cat ears sticking out at the top. He also seemed to be simultaneously holding his phone to his ear and yelling into it, while gesticulating wildly.
Amused, Minghao made his way towards the man, his earlier exasperation forgotten. As he drew closer, he caught a few snatches of his heated phone conversation.
"And she has the gall to tell me that my office colour scheme was garish? I just happen to like bright colours, Won, does that make me a bad person? And I won't hear a word against my plant babies, I tell you! It's pouring out here, by the way, I'm going to be late to- this umbrella just refuses to close, damn it!"
The man's voice grew higher with every word of his tirade, and by the end, he seemed to be on the verge of tears.
Minghao stepped closer, and put out his arms, raising one eyebrow in an offer of help. The man smiled gratefully, handing his umbrella over, now complaining about one Lee Jihoon, who'd "waltzed in like he owns the place, and started barking orders."
A few pained grunts later, Minghao managed to snap the umbrella shut. "There, crisis averted," he said. When he looked up, he suddenly found himself unable to breathe.
The man in front of him was downright gorgeous. With lovely tanned skin, an incredibly well-sculpted nose and a sharp jawline, he had soft, brown eyes, even softer, brown hair, and holy shit, was that an earring? When he grinned his thanks, he showed far too many pearly white teeth, and Minghao was gone.
"You know you just saved my life, right?"
Even his voice was beautiful, gentle and with a light Chinese accent. Minghao thought it was quite unfair. With a start, he realised that the man was talking to him, and he hadn't said anything for a good four seconds.
"Nice umbrella." Brilliant.
The man chuckled, looking down at the cat umbrella. "Thanks, I feel like it perfectly embodies my personality."
"You're both adorable?" Minghao had no idea where this courage was coming from, but he couldn't find it in himself to regret it, although he was sure he would later.
"I was going to say that we both don't shut up, but that sounds way better."
There was a long moment of silence, and on seeing Minghao's stunned experience, the man continued, "Too far? It's just, I've had a lot of people tell me that I talk too much, or am too loud or weird, and it all just came out now, in a metaphor about an umbrella. I'm sorry, I've had a bad day, so-"
Minghao felt a sudden flash of anger at the people who'd managed to make this beautiful, genuinely kind-seeming man feel terrible about himself.
"You can send the next person who says that to me. I didn't take all those wushu lessons when I was a kid for nothing." Perhaps this was a rather extreme offer to make to someone he'd just met, but it felt right and Minghao thought it was absolutely worth the dazzling smile that appeared on the man's face. "I know you don't know me, but-"
"I appreciate it, really. It's not everyday a cute guy offers to beat people up for me." And as if that weren't dangerous enough for Minghao's heart, the man had the audacity to wink at him, as he said it.
Minghao tried furiously to will away the blush he was sure was on his face. Forming coherent sentences had never been as hard as it was at that moment. Still, he managed a "Where are you headed?", accompanied by a vague gesture towards the aforementioned umbrella.
The man cheerfully rattled off an address, which conveniently happened to be only a few minutes from Minghao's apartment. So what happened next was only inevitable.
The half-hour walk (and that is, if you walk briskly) from Seoul to Yongsan had never felt shorter. The two of them huddled under the man's enormous umbrella, both holding onto it as it swayed in the wind. It was an exercise in futility, though, as they ended up being soaked through.
Minghao didn't care. He was being regaled with the epic adventures of the man's cat (they'd switched to Mandarin somewhere along the way), his roommate's boyfriend woes, and his co-workers' utter lack of taste. He talked (with a lot of arm-flailing) about the 13 plants that resided on his cabin windowsill, and how he'd named every single one of them, and Minghao was enchanted.
In turn, he spoke about his classes at university, his dance team with Soonyoung and Chan, this new formation they were working on and how he hoped they'd win the big year-end competition, his recent interest in painting and how Mr. Choi made the World History class living hell. The man listened attentively, making funny remarks at appropriate junctures, and Minghao had never felt this kind of ease talking to anyone before, much less someone he'd only just met. He didn't want it to end.
Before they knew it, they were outside Minghao's apartment complex, but all he felt was disappointment.
"That's you, right? We made it!", the man announced, struggling for a few seconds but managing to close his umbrella, flashing a proud smile at Minghao.
The downpour had ceased and there was only a light drizzle. A cool wind blew in their direction, when a thought struck Minghao.
"I still don't know your name."
The man smacked his forehead. "How terribly rude of me, how could I have forgotten? After all the rambling I subjected you to, all this time-"
Minghao acted on impulse and took the man's hands in his. The other paused, and looked right into Minghao's eyes.
"Wen Junhui. But you can call me Jun." He was smiling now, and Minghao couldn't help but smile back giddily. Junhui's wet hair was plastered to his forehead, his teeth were chattering slightly in the chill, and his silver earring glimmered under the moonlight, and he looked more radiant than ever.
The spell broke when a dog barked in the distance, and the two jumped apart.
Minghao shuffled his feet, and looked reluctantly in the direction of his building. "I have to go now, there's this big assignment coming up."
Junhui nodded understandingly. "Ah, the trying life of a college student."
Minghao gasped indignantly. "Hey, you're only a year older!" He stopped when he saw that Junhui had a playful gleam in his eyes, the two breaking out in giggles.
"It really is getting late, though. I need to make sure Wonwoo hasn't set the apartment on fire in his attempt to make dinner." Maybe Minghao was projecting, but did Junhui look just as reluctant to go home? A trick of the light.
They looked down to realise that their hands were still clasped together. Minghao fumbled awkwardly, trying to separate them. Before he could, Junhui leant towards him and pressed a soft kiss on his cheek. He pulled away before Minghao could even register what had happened.
"I'm sure I'll see you again, Xiao Hao! After all, I know where you live now." Junhui shot him another wink, as he turned and ran in the opposite direction, brandishing his giant purple umbrella.
"Not creepy at all, Wen Junhui." Minghao yelled after him, physically unable to stop smiling. He slowly made his way up the stairs and into his apartment.
Maybe he should get a cat.