Bone-deep tiredness seemed to be the only thing that Jongin’s body had been experiencing for the past few days.
It was Jongin’s first year working at the Seoul Central Hospital as a pediatric nurse and he absolutely loved his job: he loved taking care of children, he loved being able to do some good in the world, and he was learning how to juggle his personal life and the time spent at the hospital pretty well, in his opinion.
He was content, happy even, and had never once regretted choosing this career path.
That was, until then.
While being pretty much used to his daily dose of exhaustion - his years in college and his training had prepared him well for what awaited him –, his first Christmas week in the pediatric ward of the busy hospital proved to be harder than he thought, and it was putting him to the test - one that he was quickly losing hope to pass unscathed.
The workload was absolutely hectic: children seemed particularly prone to get in trouble right around Christmas - new toys to disassemble and stomachaches from too many sweets being the major contributing factor -, and Jongin, as a fresh college graduate, was bearing the brunt of it.
On Christmas night, all the way up on the fourth floor of the large hospital, Jongin was lying face down on the reception desk of the pediatric wing, dozing off during the only quiet hour of the day, right between four and five in the morning, when everything was mostly calm and still.
“Jongin, could you at least pretend to be awake, for my sake?” Baekhyun asked, nudging him on the cheek with one of his pointy fingers. “I have no intention of getting scolded by the head nurse again because of you,” he whined.
Jongin’s colleague didn’t seem to particularly cherish quietness.
Another nudge, this time on Jongin’s shoulder. Jongin still didn’t stir. Sighing rather loudly and rolling his eyes, Baekhyun was forced to deploy the last weapon in his arsenal: he stretched his fingers, his knuckles popping satisfactorily, and with an ugly smirk on his face he flicked his middle finger against Jongin’s only visible ear, a loud clack resounding in the empty hall.
At the impact Jongin sprang up in his chair with so much force that the momentum would have caused him to topple over on the floor if it wasn’t for Baekhyun’s quick reflexes: grabbing him by the collar of his scrubs – they were light yellow and had cute brown bears wearing pajamas on them – and stopping the chair from crashing on the ground with his foot, his friend stopped him from ruinously falling on the floor, an alarmed expression on his face.
Frozen in fright, the two of them looked at each other in horror, Jongin now wide-awake: gulping, they nodded at each other in silence, praying that their rambunctious actions had not woken up the Beast, also known as Head Nurse Kim.
Mentally counting to ten, they fixed their gazes towards the end of the corridor, right where their supervisor’s office stood, silent, and – hopefully – empty. If they were lucky enough, Head Nurse Kim would be on one of her rounds, far enough from the nurse station. If not… well, they would soon hear the telltale sound of her comfortable – and ugly as fuck, in Jongin’s opinion – shocking pink crocs carrying her to deliver her punishment.
Luckily, it seemed that fortune was on their side that night and, after waiting a solid thirty seconds, they sighed in relief.
Gently, Baekhyun pulled Jongin back towards the desk, mindful of not using too much strength and making the minimum sound once the two front legs of the chair hit the ground once again.
Chuckling awkwardly to diffuse the tension that had enveloped the two of them, Baekhyun hit Jongin lightly on the shoulder with his fist, jumping away from him right after that when Jongin looked in his direction with a murderous expression on his face – that, to be honest, turned out to be somewhat… cute, if Baekhyun were to be asked, what with Jongin being all sleepy and dazed after being woken so abruptly just a few minutes ago.
“Well, it seems like Head Nurse Kim is not around, uh,” Baekhyun said, nodding in satisfaction. “She must be busy checking the nursery, lucky us.” His laugh was obnoxiously loud in the empty hall. Way too loud for Jongin’s sensitive ears, his irritation levels rising with each passing minute.
“When was the last time we got so lucky, Jongin? Do you remember the disaster of last Halloween? I swear, that time she was so pissed at us she had smoke coming out of her nose—”
“And she couldn’t do anything about it because there were so many kids and parents around! Oh, man, we had the best idea ever holding that party for the children.”
“I mean, okay, we didn’t exactly ask permission for it, but c’mon, what’s a bit of trash on the floor when the children were so happy to eat candies and have some fun?”
“If I remember it correctly, Nurse Byun, what you call ‘a bit of trash’ took, in fact, a good couple of hours to clean up, and the candies you so generously handed out caused such hyperactivity in our little patients that nobody slept a wink that night.”
Jongin saw the life drain out of Baekhyun’s face.
While his friend was getting carried away recounting what, according to him, had been their best idea to date, Jongin - who enjoyed an uninterrupted visual of the elevators that were positioned directly at Baekhyun’s back – had witnessed, horrified, the arrival of their supervisor: dressed in lime-green scrubs, shocking pink crocs at her feet, Head Nurse Kim had swooped in on them like a bird of prey upon two little fluffy, unsuspecting rodents happily frolicking in a meadow.
Jongin’s attempts at warning Baekhyun had counted for nothing: his friend had been so distracted recalling the best day of his career – his words, not Jongin’s – that he hadn’t even heard Jongin calling out for him.
Luckily for them, Head Nurse Kim seemed to be in a good mood that night, despite the many hours spent in the hospital that day – or maybe, Jongin thought, because of them: he was convinced she was some kind of android that never slept and got her energy from running around in the hospital all day, like some kind of auto-charging battery.
“Well then, gentlemen. Considering that you are experiencing a bout of idleness tonight and, of course, we don’t want that, I suppose that you won’t mind helping me completing my rounds, will you?”
Scratch that, she was the spawn of Satan, as always.
Glancing quickly at each other, Jongin and Baekhyun bowed down before her, and waited to hear what fate awaited them.
Weirdly enough, despite Baekhyun being the one who had actually got caught rambling on during working hours, their supervisor had let him get off quite lightly: all he had to do was to accompany her on her last round to check on the well-being of their patients. Well, to be totally honest, Jongin thought that it was probably the worst thing that could befall Baekhyun: he was so intimidated by their supervisor that he started babbling every time he spent too much time with her. She had gained a lot of intel from him that way. She was an evil, clever woman and Jongin respected her a lot. But, well. He preferred doing that from a distance.
While Baekhyun scampered along the Head Nurse, Jongin had been told to go downstairs to the nursery and be useful there; in the meantime, Joohyun, one of their colleagues, would substitute them at the nurse station.
All in all, Jongin wouldn’t have minded too much to spend some time in the nursery had he actually been well-rested: he loved taking care of infants, they were the most precious little beings on earth and he would fight anyone who disagreed, but he had been running on fumes for days now and he’d rather be asleep in his warm bed than in the hospital on Christmas day. He was so drained that even the short walk from the elevator to the entrance of the nursery was proving to be a little too much for his body - case in point, he almost face-planted on the ground when his foot tripped against the edge of a metal cabinet he would have sworn wasn’t there the day before.
“Hey, hyung,” he called out once he entered the nursery.
“Jongin! Head Nurse Kim told me she would send someone to help me but I was expecting Baekhyun.”
“Were you expecting him, or were you wishing it’d be him?”
Jongin would always find entertaining making stoic Jongdae blush.
“That’s none of your business,” Jongdae retorted, his head bent over one of the newborns’ medical charts.
Giggling, Jongin went closer to him, right by the crib of their newest little munchkin. Golden and silver tinsel had been wrapped all around the small beds and a carousel of cardboard stars dangled from the ceiling. Jongin imagined it was Seulgi’s work: he had seen the girl go crazy on the decorations for every single festivity on the calendar ever since Jongin had joined their team. Not that Jongin minded: the babies looked even cuter surrounded by Christmas decorations if that was even possible.
“Has-… has Baekhyun asked you to switch with him?”
Glancing over at his hyung, Jongin wondered just how far Baekhyun’s obliviousness went.
Jongdae’s crush on Baekhyun was no secret among the nursing personnel: rumors said that the first time Jongdae had seen Baekhyun, fresh out of college, he had been so distracted looking at him that he had fallen headlong inside a dirty laundry cart.
Alas, Baekhyun seemed completely unaware of what poor Jongdae was going through, much to the amusement of Jongin and their colleagues: once, Jongdae had tried to confess his love by buying Baekhyun a very expensive box of Swiss chocolates and hiding a cute little note under them – Jongin had only read it because Jongdae had panicked so much over it that he had asked Jongin to help him out, the same Jongin who had last had a date when the dinosaurs still walked the Earth -, hoping that Baekhyun would open the box once back home, find the note and… Jongin didn’t know what exactly Jongdae expected from this stunt, definitely a kiss or two, probably even more, but he didn’t like to dwell on that too much, for his own sanity. Anyway, the plan had backfired when, inexplicably, Jongdae had put the box inside the wrong locker and spent two weeks hiding away from Nurse Lee from geriatrics.
After that, had come the birthday cake – Baekhyun had shared it with the kids under his care, cue a cooing but frustrated Jongdae -, the flowers – Baekhyun had turned out to be allergic to pollen -, and an invite to get coffee together – “Oh, I asked Joohyun to come with us, I hope you don’t mind.” Jongdae had, in fact, minded.
But Jongdae was nothing short of stubborn and incredibly resourceful, so Jongin was sure he had prepared something new for Christmas; after all, Christmas was an incredibly romantic holiday, in Jongin’s opinion. The lights, the snow, the warm atmosphere… oh, what he wouldn’t do for a nice, romantic date with a handsome man at this time of the year.
He was dying to ask Jongdae what he had prepared, but he didn’t want to pry and tease him too much, as he already seemed a bit too strung up.
Suddenly, what Jongdae had said registered in Jongin’s tired brain, and he turned towards him, ready to dismantle whatever negative thoughts Jongdae had concocted: “Why would Baekhyun ask me to switch places with him? He loves working with you!”
“Maybe to avoid me, I don’t know.” Jongdae carefully picked up one of the little girls and placed her upon the scale, diligently writing down the figures displayed on the digital screen. “Do you really believe that he is totally unaware of my crush on him? Here, darling, I know you’re hungry,” he said, fussing over the squirming little girl. “Just a moment and we’re gonna get you back to your mommy, okay?” Done with the measurements, he picked her back up again and placed her inside the crib they used to move the infants from one room to another.
“Hyung, believe me when I say that Baekhyun hyung can be completely oblivious to certain matters.” Jongin didn’t like the tired smile at the corner of Jongdae’s lips, nor the dejected look in his eyes.
“It’s okay, Jonginnie. Maybe I should just get the hint. Ah, there you go, little princess, now you’re all set for… what time is it?” He looked over at the clock mounted on the wall. “Just after 5 am! Well, I guess we could call it a very early breakfast!” He smiled down at the girl, before pushing the crib over to Jongin. “Please, can you bring little Seoyeon up to her mom? She is due for a feeding. Room 407,” he said, looking over the plastic bracelet around the baby’s small wrist. “The name is Park Yoora.”
“If you are asking for my opinion, I think that Jongdae hyung should just smack some sense into Baekhyun hyung and kiss him already, you know? There is no way he would misunderstand that, right?” He paused to listen and nodded, satisfied. “Yeah, I thought so, Seoyeonnie. You know what? It’s nice talking to you, you are a good listener.”
The baby girl was looking at him from the folds of her yellow baby blanket, her tiny feet flailing under it, while her little head, crowned by a tuft of dark, wispy hair, was barely visible underneath the cute, pink beanie that kept her nice and warm.
“Don’t tell the other girls and boys, but you are the cutest baby I’ve ever seen, you know that?” He tickled her button nose and plump cheek, his heart squeezing in his chest from the sheer cuteness of her little face scrunching up at him. He sighed fondly, completely enamored.
The sound of the elevator stopping at their floor shook him out of his stupor, and with one last smile in Seoyeon’s direction, he pushed the crib out the elevator and down the corridor, its wheels squeaking a bit on the polished floor.
Moving past the nurse station, he raised his hand in greeting when he saw Joohyun there, looking as well put together as always despite the many hours Jongin knew she had been in the hospital: the only thing betraying her actual state was the slight reddening of her eyes, probably due to too many hours spent awake thanks to an insane intake of caffeine.
Knocking softly on the door of room 407, he waited a few heartbeats before going inside, surprised to find four pairs of eyes looking at him when he had been expecting only one: two women, one older than the other, and two men, one of whom had to be Park Yoora’s husband – Jongin had met him right outside the delivery room a few hours ago, nervously pacing along the hallway waiting for his child to be born.
“Hello,” he greeted. “Seoyeonnie is due for another feeding. Sorry for the hour but a baby’s tummy knows no rest,” he chuckled, mentally grimacing at his awkwardness, exacerbated by his exhaustion.
As soon as he had uttered those words and had wheeled the baby’s crib in the room, he saw one of the two men’s eyes light up in joy and a huge smile take over his face. He stood up, the chair he had been sitting on wobbling dangerously, and he was tall, so tall that he almost seemed to take up all the space in the room, and then he spoke, and his loud, booming voice only augmented Jongin’s first impression of him: “Seoyeonnie!” he yelled, ignoring his sister’s attempts at shushing him – because she had to be her sister, the two of them looked too similar to be anything but siblings -, and in two wide strides he was right by the baby’s crib - right in front of Jongin, who froze, startled, with his hands still on the handle.
“Seoyeonnie, hello! Hi, baby! I’m your uncle! Oh, you’re so beautiful,” he cooed, his eyes never straying from the baby girl, taking in every tiny detail, from her small, pouty mouth, to her chubby little fingers, topped by the smallest nails Chanyeol had ever seen. He felt as if his heart had broken in his chest and was put back together by the sight of his niece’s first yawn.
“Noona, she is beautiful, one almost wouldn’t believe she is your daughter.” The cheeky smirk he threw behind his shoulder to his sister was one of the hottest things Jongin had ever seen. Sighing wistfully, Jongin didn’t register Yoora’s irked reply, nor her husband’s muffled chuckles, too busy daydreaming about running his hands between the black curls of the handsome man standing in front of him, maybe during a heated kiss. Would he be a good kisser? Jongin thought so. He had pretty lips and an even prettier smile, with round cheeks that hid a cute, precious dimple. Smiling all dopey, Jongin imagined kissing him right on that spot, just to hear him giggle. And oh, those hands. Big and veiny, Jongin imagined them wrapped around his waist, holding him tight.
“Mom, was I ever this tiny?” Chanyeol asked, teary-eyed.
“No way, your ears alone made your head look way bigger than our Seoyeonnie’s.”
And he had such a cute nose too! Jongin was a sucker for cute noses. Was that a mole?
“Seoyeonnie, your daddy is the fun parent out of the two of them. Remember that, princess.”
His eyes were big and round and shined like a thousand glittering stars. He was adorable.
“Chanyeol, will you let my grandchild eat? Let the nurse bring her to Yoora and then you can cuddle her all you want.”
Pouting, Chanyeol turned one last time towards his niece, gently grabbed her little hand and told her: “You’re our little Christmas miracle, Seoyeonnie; I can’t wait to get to know you properly, princess. I will spoil you rotten.” He ignored Yoora’s amused groan and bent down to leave a small kiss on her downy cheek. “I love you, baby. I love you, I love you, I love—”
“I love you too.”
Time stopped, and silence fell upon the room. Blinking furiously, Jongin felt as if he was waking up from a dream. No, scratch that, his dream had just turned into an outright nightmare.
Blushing furiously, he realized just what he had uttered out-loud to a room full of strangers to the most handsome man he had ever seen.
Who was now staring at him open-mouthed.
In the next breath, a few things happened simultaneously: Jongin covered his face with his hands wishing to disappear, someone started giggling like mad, and little Seoyeon started crying her lungs out, famished.
Taking that as his only chance of getting out of that room without incurring in even more embarrassment answering loaded questions, Jongin took advantage of the moment of confusion to grab the baby, blanket and all, drop her on her mother’s lap – who was laughing so hard at her brother’s expression she almost choked on her own saliva – and made a hasty exit muttering something about coming back in a while to take the baby back to the nursery. Of course, he had no actual intention of ever going back into that room.
Sprinting down the corridor and then into the elevator – and ignoring Joohyun’s yells reminding him of the strict hospital’s policy stating that running in the hallways without an ongoing emergency was not allowed, not even to medical and nursing personnel -, he had already elaborated three feasible plans contemplating changing his name and moving to some far-away country where he would spend the rest of his life in shame and misery.
Still bent over his niece’s crib, Chanyeol felt incredibly confused. What had just happened? One moment he was cooing to his baby niece and the next… the next…
“Chanyeol, honey, are you alright?”
The next the cute nurse had run out of his sister’s room after telling him—
Chanyeol blushed right to the roots of his hair.
The high-pitched laughter of his sister mixed to the softer giggles of his mother and brother-in-law brought him back to Earth; standing awkwardly, he rubbed his neck with his hand, nervously clearing his throat. When he had arrived at the hospital in the dead of the night he had not expected to receive such a confession from a man he had never met before. It was a little embarrassing, but also kind of… endearing? The nurse had been so cute, running out of the room like that, his face as red as the Christmas baubles hanging in front of the window…
Chancing a glance over his shoulder, he scowled at his sister, who was having such a hard time breathing through her laughter that her husband had to take the disgruntled baby from her, trying to calm Yoora down patting her lightly on her shoulder while rocking the baby back and forth with his free arm. His mother, bless her soul, was trying really hard to hide her mirth, pretending to be particularly interested in the contents of Yoora’s diaper bag.
“Are you quite done yet?” he asked, finally turning around to face his family, now that he could feel his flushed face reverting to its usual color.
“You—you should have seen your face, Chanyeol!” Her cackling didn’t seem to be calming down any time soon.
Sighing deeply, he shook his head in mocked consternation, just a tiny bit amused by his sister’s antics. Exchanging a knowing glance with his brother-in-law, he pretended to be more and more affronted by Yoora’s jokes, happy just to watch her smile so openly.
After a while, when she had calmed down enough to take Seoyeon back in her arms and was ready to nurse her, she threw him a confused glance, to which he responded with one of his own.
“What are you still doing here?” she asked him, stopping from trying to unfasten the top of the hospital gown she was wearing.
“Oh! Of course, I’m gonna wait outside for you to finish feeding Seoyeonnie,” he said, moving towards the door.
“Yes?” He didn’t think he quite deserved the exasperated twin expressions on his sister and his mother’s faces, to be quite honest. Nor the conspiratorial glances they were sharing among them.
“Go run after him, you dumb boy. Where else are you going to find a cute boy who is so into you already? Imagine if he turns out to be your soulmate!”
He stared at her open-mouthed for a few seconds before sprinting out the door as if his life depended on it.
“Yes, Joohyun noona, I’ll tell him if I see him.”
Playing with the cord of the wall phone, Jongdae observed Jongin trying to disappear between two empty cribs, crouched on the floor so that not even a tuft of his hair could be seen through the large window separating the nursery from the outside hallway.
Hanging up, he turned towards him, his one raised eyebrow and his crossed arms conveying his thoughts on the matter. “So. What exactly did you do? Noona said there’s a man asking for you insistently at the nurse desk. Apparently, he’s been looking all over the ward for you.”
“I didn’t do anything!” Jongin croaked, heart in his throat. He hoped the man wasn’t looking for him to punch him in the face. It would just be his luck.
“If you didn’t do anything then why is this man looking for you?”
Jongin’s mumbled reply came from behind the shield of his hands, raised to cover his blushing face.
Sighing fondly, Jongdae kneeled in front of Jongin and gently took his hands, lowering them on his knees. “Want to try again?”
“Not really.” He picked at a hole in his pants, scratching the skin underneath. “I promise it wasn’t anything bad, just… really embarrassing for me. Well, maybe for him too, I’m not too sure about that.”
Jongdae was looking at him with such open fondness on his face, the kind of expression he usually reserved for cute babies and puppies. Jongin wondered in which one of those two categories he fell into.
“Okay then. Are you going to hide in here until your shift is over?”
Nodding meekly, Jongin prepared himself to spend the next forty-five minutes crouched on the floor, rethinking all his life’s decisions that had led him to that moment.
“I’m very sorry, but it looks like my colleague didn’t go back to the nursery after leaving your sister’s room. I suppose I could ask for him on the intercom if it’s really that urgent…”
By the pinched expression on the nurse’s beautiful face, Chanyeol assumed she wouldn’t do it very happily.
“No, it’s okay,” he said bashfully, a bit intimidated by her unwavering gaze, “I’ll just… go…” he gulped. “But thank you!”
He scuttled away, eager to put as much distance as he could from the pretty, scary nurse. He had turned to her when his search along the ward for the runaway nurse had proved unfruitful, hoping that maybe she could help him in his research. She had looked at him quite suspiciously, and had acquiesced to his request only after he had assured her he had no ill intention towards his colleague, he just wanted to… ask him something. About his niece. How to care for her in case of colic. ‘Cause, you know, I suffered from it when I was a child and my mom always tells me how terrible it was, and she had looked at him like she hadn’t believed a word of what he said. At that point, Chanyeol thought, she had grabbed the phone just to get him to shut up.
Sighing in frustration, he thought that this was how Prince Charming must have felt looking for Cinderella after the ball. But at least he had had a shoe to start off with, Chanyeol had nothing, not even a name – which he had conveniently forgotten to ask the nurse at the station for.
Still, he didn’t want to give up. He believed in fate, and he liked to think that things happened for a reason. Maybe that cute nurse would turn out to be the love of his life, and who was he not to follow what fate had put in his path? He would try looking for him one more time, and then, if the research would turn unfruitful once again, he could maybe leave him a message at the nurse station, addressed to the cute boy in bear scrubs. The ball would be in his court then, and Chanyeol hoped he would decide to give him a chance.
He called the elevator and pushed the button for the third floor: he would check there next.
Jongin woke up at the sound of the nursery’s door opening and closing. He had dozed off against one of the cribs, and now his face was sore. He felt sore all over, to be totally honest; also, he couldn’t quite feel his butt: the cold, hard floor tiles were unforgiving. Cracking his neck, he let out a big yawn, his eyes slowly getting used again to the harsh lighting of the room.
“Have you seen Jongin? You wouldn’t believe what just happened to me.”
“He’s sleeping over there.” A pause. “Why is everyone looking for him anyway? I asked him but he wouldn’t tell me.” A rustling of clothes, the sound of steps getting closer. And then Baekhyun’s ugly snort.
“Listen to this: I was done with the rounds around the ward and minding my own business…”
“Were you trying to sneak some chocolate into your patients’ rooms again?”
“Yes, it’s good for their mood,” he promptly agreed. “But that’s not what’s important! As I said, I was minding my own business when I saw this man – this fucking tall man, mind you – coming down the corridor and I’ve never seen him before? I thought he must have been some relative but then again why would you go visit a child at 5:30 in the morning? So—”
Jongin’s brain was starting to wake up after his impromptu nap and it did not like where the conversation was going.
“—I stopped him and asked him what he was doing and – listen to this – it turns out he was looking for a certain male nurse with cute bears on his scrubs, and he was so embarrassed you wouldn’t believe it. So, of course, I asked him why he was looking for our Jonginnie and he told me that—”
“Hyung!” Frantically getting up from his crouched position, mindful of not bumping against the cribs, Jongin limped towards Baekhyun and Jongdae as his left foot had fallen asleep, and clamped his hand on Baekhyun’s mouth, effectively silencing him mid-speech. “Don’t you dare say another word on the matter,” he threatened him. Noticing Jongdae’s wide-eyed stare, he added, “Think about your own love life instead. Right, Jongdae hyung?” And with that, he stormed off.
Frozen in his wake, they looked at each other in mild confusion.
“What was that all about?” Baekhyun wondered out loud.
“I—have no idea.”
Squinting his eyes in Jongdae’s direction, Baekhyun observed with suspicion his quickly warming face. “Are you sure about that?”
Before Jongdae could come up with an excuse, the door opened up once again, Jongin’s messy mop of hair peeping out of it. “Hyung, just kiss him already,” he seethed and left again.
“So… who is kissing whom?”
“Oh, for God’s sake, come here.” Grabbing Baekhyun by the lapel, Jongdae planted a big, fat smooch on his pretty mouth, shutting him up for good.
They were only separated by the loud squawk of one of the newborns who was in dire need of a diaper change.
Stomping his way to the elevator, Jongin angrily pushed the button a few times, freeing himself of some of his pent-up frustration. Sighing loudly, he pinched the bridge of his nose, lost in thoughts. The day had just barely started but he was already so tired of it. All he wanted was to rid himself of his dingy scrub, take a nice, warm shower, and fall into bed for the next couple of days, Christmas shopping with his mom be damned.
Exhaling in relief at the arrival of the elevator, he stepped inside and pressed the button for the basement floor: he would head to the locker room to change and then straight home. He leaned against the mirrored wall of the elevator and closed his eyes, praying not to find too much slush on the roads once out of the building.
A loud intake of breath from the other side of the cubicle urged him to open his eyes.
Seemingly frozen in shock, the man Jongin had been hiding from for the past hour or so stood in front of him, taller than he remembered. Gulping in fright, Jongin tried to put as much distance as he possibly could from the other man, but there was nowhere to go in the small space they were standing in, and Jongin’s only hope was that he somehow could manage to convince the guy not to punch him – or, at least, not to punch him too hard.
What Jongin hadn’t noticed, taken as he was in trying to find an escape route before things went south, was the look in Chanyeol’s eyes, soft and mellow, and the happiness that transpired from his wide, toothy smile.
“I looked everywhere for you,” Chanyeol said, a note of relief apparent in his voice. He had almost lost all hope of finding the boy – Jongin, the funny nurse with the pink hair had told him – before he had to leave the hospital, but here he was, in what, to him, seemed like the last impossible stroke of luck in an incredibly blessed day.
“Listen—I’m sorry if you got offended over what I said, it’s just that… I’m basically running on fumes, I’ve slept 5 hours in the past two days and you were just there, acting all cute with your niece and I blurted out the first thing that came to my mind and maybe I shouldn’t have and oh, my God, this is so embarrassing but please don’t punch me,” he concluded, hiding his flushed face behind his raised hands.
“Punch you? What—why would I punch you?”
Taking a peek from behind his fingers, Jongin realized with surprise that the other man had reacted with confusion at his words, and he had such an endearing look on his face that made him resemble a confused puppy.
“Oh, no, you’re so cute,” he uttered, and when he realized just what he had let slip from his mouth, he covered his eyes in shame and felt so mortified that the only thing he could think about was how to disappear off the face of the Earth, preferably immediately. Maybe the bottom of the elevator could open up and swallow him whole?
“Please, disregard anything I’m saying right now, I’m really sorry if I’m making you uncomfortable.”
He felt a warm touch on his hand, another hand lowering his own and holding it lightly, tentatively. His heart started pounding in his chest, a swarm of butterflies taking flight in his stomach.
Founding, at last, the courage to look the other man in the eyes, he gasped softly, overwhelmed by what he found there. No one had ever looked at him with such gentle awe, least of all a man he was insanely attracted to.
“I was looking for you everywhere because I find you really cute too, and I didn’t want to miss my chance to tell you.”
The man nodded, and then laughed, and he was the most beautiful being Jongin had ever seen.
“I’m Jongin,” he told him, and he was pretty sure he looked all kinds of messy at that moment, but if this man found him cute with his dirty scrubs on and dark circles under his eyes, well… he might have been lucky enough to stumble upon the love of his life.
“I know, your colleague told me. I’m Chanyeol.” Even his name was pretty! “So… would you like to have breakfast with me? I know a nice place not far from here, they serve a mean chocolate cake and the fluffiest pancakes I’ve ever eaten.”
“You had me at cake.”
Was it possible to be this happy because of someone he had just met?
Lost in the other’s eyes, they were suddenly pulled apart by the elevator’s doors opening to let in a few more people. They got pushed to the back, still holding on to each other’s hands. They shared a smile, and when they reached the lobby, Jongin whispered to Chanyeol to get off and wait for him there while he went down to the locker room to get changed.
He would have preferred to change into some nice clothing for what he hoped would be the last first date of his life, or to take a nice, long shower, but alas all he had were his comfiest sweater, a pair of threadbare jeans, and the lukewarm shower of the hospital personnel bathroom. He tried to be as quick as possible, and in just fifteen minutes he was back in the lobby, his eyes scanning the crowd looking for Chanyeol.
And there he was, right by the door, his face hit by the first rays of a beautiful Christmas morning sun.
Jongin hurried towards him, giddy with nerves and anticipation, his tiredness forgotten as if his body had magically ridden itself of it by basking in the brightness of Chanyeol’s smile.
“Hey,” Jongin addressed him, once close enough to be able to feel his warmth.
“Hey, you,” Chanyeol answered, and Jongin couldn’t resist the urge of planting a small kiss on his precious dimple, admiring the blush that colored his cheeks at his gesture.
“Should we go then?” he asked Chanyeol, and the other nodded, hesitating just a heartbeat before taking his hand once again.
“Merry Christmas, Jongin.”
He tightened his hold on Chanyeol’s hand. “Merry Christmas, Chanyeol.”