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your eyes are like starlight

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It's going to be a white Christmas. 

Seungmin stares out of the window of the bus at the cloudy gray skies, wondering if he'll make it to District-9 before it snows. On Christmas Day, not many people are out. Despite the heater running in the bus, the chill emanating from the window makes Seungmin burrow his face deeper into his scarf.

The voice that comes over the bus speakers announces every street they pass. Seungmin rises when his stop comes, thanking the driver as he exits into the chilly winter.

The cold nips at his face and all of the heat Seungmin had accumulated on the bus dissipates with a hateful quickness. Hands buried in his pockets and shoulders hunched up, Seungmin speed walks the rest of the way to the cafe.

When the District-9 sign comes into view, Seungmin slows down to catch his breath. There aren't that many people in the cafe, but Minho is still there behind the counter, smiling brightly when he looks up to see Seungmin walk through the door.

"Your usual?" he asks, already moving away to the espresso maker.

"Thanks," Seungmin says, rummaging around his backpack for his wallet.

Minho sees his movement and shakes his head. "On the house today."

With a small smile, Seungmin puts the cash into the tip jar instead. He takes a seat inside - there's an outside area that's surrounded by foliage on all sides and is magical to be in, but it's too cold for that today. 

There's someone setting up a mic and guitar on the performance stage, a small raised area in the corner, so Seungmin sits facing the dais. He sets his bag on the floor, leaning it against the leg of his chair, and takes out his laptop. It might be Christmas and he might be out of school for winter break, but he can still get some work done. It's not like he has anything else to do, really.

Just as the singer starts to speak into his mic, Minho comes by with Seungmin's steaming rose latte. "Think you're gonna sing?"

Seungmin shrugs noncommittally, reaching for the coffee. "I wasn't planning on it," he murmurs. "But now that I'm here, maybe." It doesn't happen every time Seungmin comes, but aside from the open mic nights, he can sometimes be cajoled into singing a song or two for the cafe. Most of the time, it's Jisung or Hyunjin convincing him. 

Today, he's alone. He came for the company and the atmosphere more than anything else. When the current performer starts strumming the strings of his guitar, Minho returns to his spot behind the counter with an encouraging pat on Seungmin's shoulder.

The first song is some old American hit, the chords sounding clear above the quiet hum of the coffee machines. With there being only two other customers, both sitting alone at separate tables, there's no murmur of voices fighting the singer for attention. It would be eerily quiet, but once he starts the song, the cafe is filled with a pleasant tune.

Seungmin absentmindedly hums along to the song once he recognizes it, but he pays more attention to the work he has to do to prepare for the next semester than to anything else. The singer moves from old American r&b to old Korean pop, and Seungmin finds himself enjoying the selection more than he thought he would.

Halfway through the second song, a text message draws him away from his laptop screen.

Felix's contact stares back at him. 

lixie [10:42 AM]
where you at?

Seungmin picks up his phone to reply.

[10:43 AM]
d9. what's up?

lixie [10:43 AM]
ahh okie !! just didn't want you to be alone. binnie and i will see you there later?

Seungmin sighs fondly. 

[10:43 AM]
you don't need to worry about me so much. see you!!!

Felix sends back a paragraph of hearts, making Seungmin's lips twitch upwards. He replies with a short "go back to your bf" and then sets his phone down again. When he looks up, the singer is taking a sip of water before announcing the next song.

"This one's for the cutie in the back," he says, looking straight at Seungmin. He winks and Seungmin's eyes widen, then he feels his cheeks start to burn and he ducks his head down.

The singer's laugh rings out, something light and cheerful. It makes an odd warmth burst in Seungmin's chest. Despite Seungmin's best efforts to avoid looking at the man in front of the mic for the rest of the song, he finds his gaze straying away from his laptop screen more often than not. The singer is almost never looking back at him, too engrossed in the song, except on the last note, when he catches Seungmin's eye and smiles at him.

Huffing out a breath at being caught, Seungmin returns to scrolling through the pictures on his laptop with a vigor. The singer moves on to his next song. It's been about half an hour now, and Seungmin wonders how long he's planning on staying up there.

Over the next two songs, Seungmin has a hard time staying focused on his work. Eventually, he gives in and sits back, closing his laptop to stare unabashedly at the singer. As if he can feel Seungmin's eyes on him, he looks over and meets Seungmin's gaze while he sings. He's leaning close to the mic, lips almost brushing the top, and his body is halfway off of the high stool he's sitting on. He has a head of curly blond hair, but his outfit is black on black and when he tilts his head, Seungmin can see the light catching on his earrings. 

It makes him a little intimidating, which would be much more effective save for the fact that he's in the middle of a cheesy love song.

The discrepancy makes Seungmin smile. When the song ends, the tendrils of the last note fading into the air, the singer makes a motion to Minho and sets down his guitar.

As a happy, upbeat Christmas song comes to life over the cafe's speakers, Seungmin makes up his mind and stands. At his movement, the singer and Minho glance over at him from where they're chatting at the counter. Minho, once he figures out what Seungmin wants to do, gives him a thumbs up and gestures to the singer to take a seat at an open table.

Seungmin takes a deep breath and walks over to the stage. He plugs his phone into the audio jack on the speaker system set up for busking, scrolling through his music selection until he finds a good song. It isn't until the first notes start playing that he even realizes what he's doing, having come up purely on instinct.

It's a love song, but it doesn't mean anything. Even as he stares straight at the other singer, he doesn't think about the words he's singing, the confession in the lyrics of the song. He mostly feels a little competitive; strange as it is, he doesn't want to sit still when he's flirted with by the new singer, as cute as he may be. 

He's gonna flirt back. 

It's the day before Christmas and he doesn't have a boyfriend and he can't go back to his family to spend it with them and most of his friends are with their significant others or aren't awake yet and so Seungmin's a little lonely, today. And since he's lonely he's gonna flirt with a stranger by singing him a love song.

It's not the worst thing he's ever done. Or the most embarrassing.

Seungmin even finds himself enjoying it, a little, to his surprise. The other singer seems to be, too.

The initial surprise on the other's face has been replaced by a happy little smile. Seeing it, Seungmin feels satisfied.

It makes his awkwardness back away, leaving behind a confident singer. When he finishes, the other man claps enthusiastically for him. Seungmin lets himself smile a small little thing, his mouth lifting at the corners.

He unplugs his phone and takes a playful bow, then makes his way back to his seat.

As he passes the counter, Minho leans over and says, "Amazing, talented, brilliant, never gonna take this for granted."

Seungmin ducks his head bashfully. "Thanks. I'm gonna head out for lunch soon, but I'll see you tonight."

"Anytime," Minho replies. "You're always welcome here, Seungmin."

"Yeah," Seungmin says. "I know." And he means it, too, even if he can't convey the depths of his gratitude enough.

He packs up his things quickly, not daring to look at the other singer. He needs time to adjust to his burst of bravery,  but he really is hungry, too. If that means he's running away, then so be it.

With a glance down at his phone to check the time - it's barely past one, which means he's been at the cafe for close to two and a half hours - he drops his backpack down behind the counter with Minho and leaves in search of food.

Outside is just as cold as it was in the morning, with the sun still covered by clouds. Seungmin wraps his scarf around his neck and then sticks his hands into his pockets. There's a restaurant just down the street run by a nice old lady that always gives Seungmin free food when he goes. He's really craving some cold noodles, so he starts walking in that direction.

Behind him, he hears a door open with a jingle of the door chime, and then a voice is calling out his name. 

Surprised, Seungmin stops in his tracks and turns around to see the singer waving at him.

"Hey, Seungmin, right?" the other says, jogging to reach Seungmin. He's smiling again. He has dimples.

Cute, Seungmin thinks, and then he turns his gaze to the front and starts walking forward again. He blames the redness of his cheeks on the cold. "You did just yell it to the whole street. I turned around, I should hope it's me."

"Minho told me your name," the singer replies, unabashedly moving forward. "I'm Chan."

Chan. Seungmin repeats it in his mind to try to help himself remember it. "Hi."

"Hello!" With all of the excitement making Chan light up, Seungmin is reminded a bit of a puppy. It's endearing, he'll admit. "You're a good singer."

"Thanks," Seungmin says, casting him a sideways glance. "You are, too."

"Aw, nah, not as good as you are." Chan looks away, rubbing at the back of his head sheepishly. "I just sing in my spare time."

Seungmin frowns. "No, really, you are. You shouldn't be so quick to dismiss yourself." When Chan doesn't reply immediately, Seungmin chances another look, only to be met with Chan looking at him with surprise

Seungmin sighs, taking pity on him. "I'm going to get lunch. Would you like to come with?"

At the change in the topic, Seungmin can feel Chan relax. "Yeah, thanks. I was getting kind of hungry."

"Is Korean okay? There's a good place down the street." Seungmin has no idea why he's inviting this stranger out to lunch, but he has to admit there's something to be said about the way Chan bops his head when he gets really into a song and the way he tilts his head when he smiles. Maybe singing love songs to each other in a cafe is enough basis for them to be friends. And if Minho trusts him, then so does Seungmin.

"Wait, are you talking about Jip Noodles?" Chan asks, all of a sudden alight with eagerness. "I love that place."

Seungmin, eyebrows raised in surprise, replies, "Yeah?"

"God, I used to go there all the time. I really missed it," he sighs wistfully, a hand placed against his heart. Seungmin can't help but snort at his dramatics.

"Do you come here often?" Seungmin asks. He's been coming to District-9 with a regularity that has his wallet hurting for the past year and a half, but he's never seen Chan here.

Chan glances over at him. "I didn't go to any other cafe after discovering it my freshman year, but I spent sophomore year studying abroad in Australia and then I took a semester off, so I just got back."

"Oh, that's really cool," Seungmin replies. He wants to talk more, but he doesn't know what to ask. With all of his thoughts clogging up his head, he doesn't realize that he went silent until Chan starts talking again.

"Hey, I hope it wasn't weird that I, uh," Chan pauses to clear his throat, "called you cute, back there?"

Immediately, Seungmin flushes. He readjusts his scarf, pulling it over his nose to hide his face. "It-um, no, it was fine. Uh, I'm sorry if I made you uncomfortable with my song choice, too. It didn't mean anything, I swear."

"What, so you don't like me?" Chan teases. When Seungmin glares at him, he breaks out into a grin. "Nice taste in music, by the way. Day6 is great."

Seungmin hums in agreement. "I'm glad you like them. I was going to leave right now if you didn't."

Chan places a hand to his chest. "You would drop me so easily? I'm hurt. I thought you liked me."

"Keep talking and you're paying for lunch," Seungmin warns. They reach the crosswalk sooner than Seungmin expected and wait for the light to change.

"Hm?" Chan's smile turns mischievous. "Were you gonna pay?"

Seungmin rolls his eyes and starts crossing the street. A beat late, Chan follows behind him quickly. Seungmin still reaches the restaurant first, so he enters and holds the door open for Chan to come in after him.

"Seungmin!" The auntie running the store grins and ushers him in, gesturing him to sit down. When she sees Chan come in, she pauses and stares at him intently. "Is that Bang Chan?"

"Hello, auntie." Chan moves to stand beside Seungmin, letting the door close to keep in the heat. He bows his head politely.

"Chan, it's been too long! Sit, sit. Tell auntie what you want." She places menus in front of them, putting a hand on one of their shoulders each, holding a pen in one hand and memo pad in the other.

Seungmin doesn't have to look at it to know what he wants. "I'll have the naengmyun. Thanks, auntie."

Chan gives him a judging look, but smiles up at the auntie as he orders, "Can I have the dolsot bibimbap? Thank you."

"Of course, of course." The auntie takes their menus and leaves with a promise to be back quickly.

"Naengmyun?" Chan asks almost immediately after she walks away. He has that incredulous look on his face again. "It's, like, freezing outside, and you want to eat cold noodles?"

Seungmin raises a brow in response. "Yeah, you eat cold food when it's cold outside. It's a thing." He snaps open his wooden chopsticks, then starts making a chopstick holder out of the wrapper.

Chan narrows his eyes at him. "That really doesn't sound healthy." He takes his chopsticks out, too, put he just puts aside the paper and props the chopsticks up on his plate instead.

"Dude," Seungmin replies. "You eat cold things when it's cold and hot things when it's hot. It's totally a Korean thing, I think you've spent too much time in Australia."

"Did you just call me 'dude'?" Chan sputters in response. Before he can continue or Seungmin can respond, the auntie comes back with their side dishes, a spread of kimchi and radishes and other vegetables in individual small dishes. As she sets them down, Seungmin and Chan give her their thanks.

When she nods at them and goes back to the kitchen, Seungmin shrugs. "You strike me as a 'dude.' You have that vibe." He gestures to Chan with his chopsticks, waving them around in the air to emphasize his point.

"I'd be offended, but you're not the first person to say that." Chan pouts a little, poking at the bean sprouts with a sigh.

Seungmin snorts, batting Chan's chopsticks away to grab a bean sprout for himself, since the other didn't seem to be planning on actually eating them. "So why did you choose to study abroad in Australia? Wasn't it scary, since they speak English and all?"

Giving up his morose expression, Chan hums. "Oh, I actually grew up there. Moved back here for part of middle school, then went to high school and got into college here and everything, but I missed it so I wanted to go back."

Seungmin thinks about the English songs Chan had sung in the cafe and makes a small sound of realization. "Your English was really good, back at the cafe."

Chan smiles. "What about you? You in college? If you want to study abroad, might I recommend Australia?"

Picking up a block of radish, Seungmin shrugs. "Yeah, I'm in my second year at Yonsei. I wasn't really thinking about studying abroad, but I lived in America for, like, three months when I was a kid, so I've always kind of wanted to go back."

"Yonsei!" Chan exclaims, eyes widening. "Me, too! Ah, did Minho bring you to the cafe, then?"

Shaking his head, Seungmin replies, "Hyunjin and Felix, actually. They're both in my year, but they're also in the same dance club as Minho and Minho brought them there, first. They both work there as baristas, now."

Chan breaks into a fond smile. "Oh, yeah, Woojin told me about them. I haven't met all the new regulars, but it's always nice to know that the cafe is doing well."

Quietly, Seungmin agrees. He sets his chopsticks down, realizing that he hadn't actually eaten any of the side dishes in a while, too busy talking. "It's a really special place to us," he admits, voice going soft. "Are you going to the party tonight? I think all of us 'regulars' are going to be there."

"Yeah, I wouldn't miss it for the world," Chan says. He glances down at the table, and then back up at Seungmin. "Woojin's an old friend of mine. The cafe is something he's put a lot of heart into."

Seungmin, despite himself, smiles. "I think Woojin's done a great job of making the cafe a safe, welcoming space for all of us." He stops fiddling with his sleeve and glances up to meet Chan's eyes, briefly. "He probably saved my life," he admits.

Chan gains a knowing smile, going affectionate at its corners. "Yeah, I know what you mean."

Though the atmosphere is nice, Seungmin clears his throat and looks away, unable to handle the vulnerability of the moment. Maybe later, he thinks, when they know each other a little better and it isn't quite so painfully awkward to share their life stories.

Thankfully, the restaurant auntie comes back with a plate of ddeokbokki right at that moment, a cheerful smile at the ready. "This is for the two of you, from me. Welcome back to Korea, Chan."

"Ah," Chan exclaims, bowing his head as he looks up at her with a grin. "Thank you, auntie. I'll eat well."

"Yes, yes," she hums, nodding. "Enjoy, kids."

"Thank you," Seungmin says as she leaves. He takes the chance to stuff a rice cake into his mouth, but the heat of the dish makes him regret it instantly. He huffs air into his mouth, making an embarrassing sucking noise, as Chan bursts out into laughter.

"Careful, it's hot," Chan warns him, belatedly, in between his fits of giggles. "Oh, god."

Deciding to just get the suffering over with, Seungmin chews the rice cake with great difficulty and swallows, then chugs half of his glass of water. "Thanks," he finally says dryly, giving Chan a deadpan look.

Chan puts on an angelic smile, fully accepting the thanks. "Better now?"

Seungmin responds by staring Chan in the eyes and lifting another rice cake in his chopsticks, bringing it to his mouth and concentrating on not reacting to the heat as he chews and swallows.

Immediately, Chan stops laughing, stunned. He breathes out a, "damn, okay," before Seungmin breaks into a smirk.

"The look on your face," Seungmin wiggles an eyebrow tauntingly. "Incredible."

"I don't know why," Chan says, "but I feel like I just survived a near death experience. Do you do this to all of your new friends?"

Seungmin considers the question as he puts a cube of blessedly cool radish on his burnt tongue. "Only the cute ones," he replies with, though he doesn't know what compels him to say it, really. He doesn't know why, but he's feeling especially brave today, and the pretty blush that paints Chan's cheeks is kind of worth it.

"Oh," Chan stutters out. "Okay."

God, Seungmin doesn't even know why he said that. It didn't even fit all that well. He ducks his head, face slowly heating up, and reaches for another bright red rice cake to distract himself.

"A-anyway." With Chan stunned silent, Seungmin scrambles for another topic to talk about. "What are you studying?" There. A safe topic of conversation where Seungmin will not make a fool out of himself. Even if Chan is cute, Seungmin's never been the type brave enough to flirt so blatantly during a first meeting.

Chan starts at being addressed, almost choking on the sip of water he'd brought to his mouth at the same moment that Seungmin spoke. God, will Seungmin ever stop embarrassing himself? Not today, clearly.

"Astronomy," Chan finally manages to answer, once his glass is safely down on the table and he has his composure back.

Though it is kind of cute, Seungmin has to admit, that someone so bold earlier could be reduced to a blushing mess by one measly flirtatious remark.

"What are you studying?" Chan continues, picking back up the flow of the conversation.

"Law," Seungmin replies smoothly, having expected the question already. He starts fiddling with his chopsticks again. "I, uh, I wanted to do photography, but Yonsei doesn't offer it. Most of my extracurriculars are related to photography, though, and law isn't that bad either."

"That's pretty cool," Chan remarks.

Seungmin looks up at him. "Is it?" It comes out much more vulnerable than he had intended, and he averts his gaze quickly.

"Hey, aren't you the one who told me not to 'dismiss my skills,' or whatever?"

Seungmin snorts. "'Or whatever.' Yeah, I guess." He pauses, then continues with a, "thanks."

"I'd love to see your work sometime," Chan ventures out, bringing a rice cake to his plate and poking at it, "If you're comfortable with that, I mean."

"Maybe," Seungmin answers noncommittally. "What about you, then? What made you want to study astronomy?"

Chan lets out a sigh. "Ah, I don't know. I wanted to go into music production, actually," he admits, smiling ruefully. "But, you know, Yonsei doesn't offer that, either. And I always loved looking up at the stars. I wanted to be an astronaut when I was a kid, but I actually get really bad motion sickness. Studying the stars and the planets and the galaxies, everything that's up there - it's really, really cool."

"That's pretty cool, too," Seungmin tells him, tone teasing but eyes sparkling with admiration. "Do you still write songs, though?"

Chan smiles back at him, head tilting bashfully. "Sometimes, yeah. Maybe I'll take you to my studio sometime."

The restaurant auntie picks this time to come back with two big bowls balanced on a tray, setting them down on the table in front of Seungmin and Chan. She stands back to look at the two of them. "Now what are you two kids doing here on Christmas? Shouldn't you be with your families?"

Chan and Seungmin exchange a look. Seungmin doesn't know Chan's story, but if he's a regular at District-9, Seungmin figures they can't be so different. The cafe has a tendency to take in strays, give them a family they either lost or never had.

Seungmin smiles up at the auntie. "We are."

At his answer, Chan's gaze darts to him in surprise, but before Seungmin can worry too much about if he overstepped, Chan smiles.

"Thanks for the meal," Seungmin and Chan chorus to the auntie, who leaves with a wave of her hand and an, "Enjoy!"

With the heater on inside the restaurant, Seungmin had taken off his overcoat and the sweatshirt he was wearing underneath, leaving him in a black long-sleeved shirt and his jeans. After a few bites of naengmyun, he gets cold enough to put the sweatshirt back on, at which Chan sighs and shakes his head.

"How's the bibimbap?" Seungmin asks, gesturing to the stone bowl. It's hot enough to be steaming a little.

"Delicious," Chan tells him, mixing the rice and packing it down to scoop up a spoonful. He offers it to Seungmin, as if feeding him, but Seungmin blushes and reaches for the spoon to feed himself.

"Thanks," he mutters afterwards, unable to meet Chan's eyes. Chan chuckles, but doesn't mention it. Seungmin looks down at his noodles. "Would you like to try the naengmyun?"

Chan looks up at him and pulls a face. "No thanks, I quite like my food hot and not about to freeze me to death."

"It's really not that cold," Seungmin protests with a roll of his eyes, but he goes back to eating his own food without another word.

For a while, the two are quiet, the sounds of Chan's spoon clinking against his bowl and Seungmin slurping up the noodles filling the silence. There's the occasional hum of contentment and Seungmin will reach over to put a rice cake from the ddeokbokki into Chan's bowl, or Chan will gesture for Seungmin to eat more of the side dishes. It's an easy companionship Seungmin finds himself enjoying more than he thought he would, with Chan being almost a complete stranger.

It's the fact that they're both from District-9 that makes them closer, Seungmin thinks. Anyone who goes there, who is friends with the Minho or any of the other baristas, is automatically one of his friends, too. It's not a sentiment he expresses readily, but it's shared between all of the District-9 regulars, who have become his family over the last year or so.

"Do you have plans after this?" Chan asks, suddenly. When Seungmin looks up, Chan's bowl is already empty, despite Seungmin being barely more than half done with his own.

"Not really," Seungmin admits. "I was just going to go back to the cafe, get some more work done."

"Want to go somewhere with me?" Chan asks.

Seungmin hesitates. "Where?"

"I want to show you something," Chan answers, wiggling his eyebrows meaningfully. It looks silly more than anything else, making Seungmin scoff.

Still, despite himself, he agrees.

So once Seungmin finishes eating, Chan stands. "I'll pay for lunch."

Eyes widening, Seungmin stands, too. "What, no. I invited you, I'll pay."

"I'm older, so it's my treat." Chan motions for him to sit, shaking his head. 

Though Seungmin can't argue with that, he narrows his eyes and says, "Fine, but I'll treat you to something else." It's a promise to see each other again, if Chan accepts. Seungmin, despite himself, really wants Chan to accept.

Chan gives him a wide grin. "Deal."

Seungmin sits and lets Chan go up to the register. He pulls out his phone, realizing that he hadn't checked it since Chan introduced himself and they started talking. When he checks his notifs, he has a few messages from a group chat and another one from Felix.

He replies to the group first, which is full of people screaming. Well, it's mostly Jisung screaming. He doesn't bother scrolling up to see what the fuss is about, instead sending a message that he knows will incite even more screaming: 

[2:09 PM]
met a cute guy .

The responses (read: Jisung sending a long AHHHHH ) come in almost immediately, but Seungmin switches to his chat with Felix.

lixie [1:35 PM]
u sure u don't want company? binnie and i can come early to help set up!!!

Seungmin pauses, glancing over at Chan, who looks like he's being fawned over by the auntie.

[2:09 PM]
aren't you supposed to anyway? but yeah, i'm not at the cafe anymore. went out for lunch.

lixie [2:09 PM]
WITH A BOY???? 

Seungmin snorts.

lixie [2:10 PM]
SEIUNGMIN

lixie [2:10 PM]
MIN

lixie [2:10 PM]
BRO

lixie [2:10 PM]
COME ON

lixie [2:10 PM]
DEETS??????

lixie [2:11 PM]
I CAN SEE YOU READING THESE

lixie [2:11 PM]
KIM SEUNGMIN I S2G

After a moment of contemplating what to reply, Seungmin replies: 

[2:12 PM]
met him at d9. he'll be at the party later .

lixie [2:12 PM]
GODDAMN KIM SEUNMGIN

lixie [2:12 PM]
OK GET IT

Seungmin flushes, embarrassed even though Felix can't see him, and hurries to lock his phone screen when he sees Chan coming back out of the corner of his eye.

"Everything okay?" Chan asks, one brow raised in concern.

"Fine," Seungmin tells him.

Chan gives him a look, clearly unconvinced, but doesn't call him out on it. "Come on," he says instead. "The place isn't that far away, we can walk."

Seungmin rises, letting Chan lead the way. He can't help but tease, though. "How do I know you're not taking me somewhere to kill me? No one would know."

Chan snorts. "Come on, I'd be sneakier than this if I was trying to kill you."

Seungmin fights back a smile. "Sure, whatever you say." He follows anyway, putting his coat back on and wrapping his scarf around his neck as they go back out into the cold.

Chan is just wearing the same black bomber he was wearing in the cafe, though Seungmin is noticing for the first time. Even though it's padded, it doesn't look warm enough for the weather. "Aren't you cold?"

"Hm?" Chan looks down at himself, then at Seungmin. "Nah, I'm fine."

Seungmin frowns, but he accepts Chan's answer. He resolves to keep an eye on him for the rest of their walk, though. "Can I know where we're going?"

Chan tilts his head, considering it, and shrugs. "Yeah, okay. So you know how I like to produce music? I have this studio not too far away, I wanted to show you this song I wrote the other day."

Seungmin's breath catches in his throat. "Chan, that sounds amazing."

"It's okay," Chan demures. "I'm part of this song writing trio, we share the studio. We, uh, we call ourselves-" he breaks off to smother a laugh- "3racha."

Seungmin gapes at him. "You're CB97?"

At his stage name, Chan's eyebrows shoot up. "You know us?"

"I know Jisung and Changbin," Seungmin explains. He's fairly impressed, having heard a few of Chan's songs through the other two. "They talk about you guys all the time, make us all listen to your music and stuff. You're really good."

"Ah." Chan nods. "Thanks." When Seungmin looks over at him, there's a light dusting of pink across his cheeks that makes Seungmin question if it's because of the cold or the praise.

"You're really bringing me to your studio?" Seungmin asks in wonder. As an artist himself, he understands the sacredness of a workspace, so the thought makes his heart flutter.

"I don't know why," Chan tells him, "but when we were talking about school I really wanted you to hear the song I'm working on. It's about the stars. Being an astronaut. I don't know, I thought you'd appreciate it."

"I'm honored." Seungmin nudges Chan's arm with his own.

Chan quirks his lips up. "You might hate it."

"I highly doubt I will," Seungmin reassures him. "I could never."

"That's a big promise."

Seungmin makes a small noise of agreement, but it's true. He's just a little enamored with the way Chan's cheeks are bright pink and the way conversation flows so easily between them and how Chan's eyes are so expressive and so, so incomparably kind. Like Seungmin could ask for the world and Chan would give it to him, despite the two having only met that morning.

It's a little dangerous, that feeling.

Even the silence between them as they walk is comfortable. It's not snowing yet, though the clouds above are getting darker, but the light wind cuts at Seungmin's exposed skin. He chances a peek at Chan, still baffled by his lack of winter outerwear.

When he sees that Chan's shoulders are hunched against the cold, he takes his hands out of the warmth of his pockets and starts taking off his scarf.

His movement catches Chan's attention, who looks at him with a confused look on his face. He looks like a little puppy, and it's kind of cute, really. If he wasn't shivering against the cold, it would be, at least.

"You don't-" Chan starts, but Seungmin waves away his protests.

He stops in the middle of the sidewalk to wrap the scarf over Chan's neck and bundle him up in it, pulling it up around the bottom of his face. Standing like this, Seungmin notices that he's just a little bit taller than Chan despite being younger and he offers Chan a small smile.

"Let's keep going," he says. He turns back to the direction they were going in and starts walking again, Chan taking a moment to catch up.

"Thanks," Chan says, voice slightly muffled by the scarf. When Seungmin peeks at him, his face is redder than before, and Seungmin takes pleasure in knowing that this time it's definitely because he's blushing.

Cute, Seungmin finds himself thinking. Catching himself, he turns his gaze back to the front. 

Seungmin glances to the side occasionally, wanting to continue talking with Chan but not knowing which of the questions running through his head to ask. Instead, he keeps quiet, and they keep walking.

Chan’s studio is in a large, nondescript building. Chan points it out as they get closer and Seungmin hurries his pace in anticipation. When he gets to the door, he turns back to face Chan expectantly, but the latter is walking towards him at a normal pace, with an endeared smile on his face.

Chan pulls out an ID card from his wallet and swipes the card reader by the door, which unlocks with a beep and a click. Since Seungmin is closer to the door, he holds it open for Chan with a bow and Chan laughs as he walks through.

“It’s down here,” Chan directs as they walk past the front desk, Chan swiping his way through again. There’s a long hallway and nowhere else for the studio to be, really, but Seungmin appreciates the thought nonetheless. “Room 19.”

When they get to Room 19, Seungmin pauses. There’s another key card reader, but the light behind the door is also on, a yellowish light showing through the frosted glass.

“Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me,” Chan mutters as he also registers the presence of people in the room. As he unlocks the door and opens it, he walks in with, “What are you two doing here on Christmas?”

Chan doesn’t walk all the way in, standing just past the doorway and leaning against the door to keep it open. Seungmin peeks into the room above Chan’s shoulder, only a little surprised to see Jisung sitting on one of the large chairs inside.

“Seungmin?” Jisung exclaims in lieu of replying to Chan. He sits up, eyes wide, and Seungmin waves at him in response.

Changbin, the other occupant of the room, merely rolls his eyes and says, “You’re here, too, Chan.”

“I’m here to show Seungmin something,” Chan protests, finally opening the door wider and moving aside to let Seungmin in, too.

“Hey,” Changbin greets Seungmin with a nod. To Chan, he says, “Weren’t you supposed to be at the café all day?”

“I had lunch with Seungmin,” Chan explains, motioning for Seungmin to take a seat on the couch as he drops into the open chair. 

Jisung and Changbin exchange a look at Chan’s first statement, then they turn to look at Seungmin in a rather creepy synchronized movement.

Seungmin just looks back at them, crossing his arms and leaning back on the couch. “Yeah,” he says to Jisung and Changbin, “We met at the café.” Though Changbin’s stare eventually leaves him, Jisung’s only seems to get more insistent, his eyes wide and facial expressions trying to convey - something. Seungmin wouldn’t know what, as he steadfastly ignores him.

Chan grins, happy. “I guess I don’t need to introduce you guys.”

“Weren’t you hanging out with Felix?” Seungmin asks Changbin. “He texted me earlier.”

At the mention of his boyfriend, a small smile appears on Changbin’s face. Seungmin doesn’t know if he’s fully aware of it, or if he’s just that much of a sap. They’re a disgustingly cute couple, but Seungmin is happy to see his friends happy. They deserve it, really.

“He’s out getting lunch,” Changbin replies. “Jisung and I wanted to finish up a song before the party tonight.”

Chan sighs. “You guys shouldn’t work so hard. It’s Christmas! Go out with your boyfriends.”

“You’re one to talk,” Changbin starts, but he breaks off when Jisung shoves and elbow into his ribs.

“You know what?” Jisung says, staring meaningfully at Changbin. “We’ll go catch up with Lix and just eat there. See you two tonight?”

“Mhm,” Chan nods happily.

Seungmin finally meets Jisung’s gaze, narrowing his eyes in suspicion. As Jisung ushers Changbin out of the room, Seungmin finally agrees, “Yeah, see you tonight.”

"Don't get caught in the snow!" Jisung sings as he leaves. Befuddled, Changbin turns his head around and waves, but Jisung just keeps pushing him out. The door closes behind them with a click.

And like that, Seungmin and Chan are alone again.

Chan tilts his head towards the chair Jisung just left. “Take this seat, come look.”

With an eagerness that surprises even himself, Seungmin switches his seat and scoots closer to Chan. He watches as the other starts clicking around on the desktop, eventually pulling up a file that leads to an audio editing software.

Though Seungmin sings, he’s never seen this side of the production process, and the complexity of the software amazes him. “This is really cool,” he tells Chan.

“Ah, it still needs a lot of work,” Chan replies. He looks at Seungmin then, a nervous smile playing around his lips. “It’s a really rough draft, it’s a super new project that we’ve been working on and-“

“Shut up,” Seungmin interrupts. It works, making Chan snap his mouth shut. Mouth quirked up at the corners, Seungmin nods to the computer screen. “Just play it.”

Chan complies quickly. As the first few notes play through the speakers, Seungmin’s breath catches in his throat. He doesn’t dare to breathe, afraid of missing even the smallest detail as Chan’s singing transitions to Jisung’s rapping, and then goes to Changbin. 

The song is really catchy, a happy bop that has Seungmin nodding his head to the beat. There’s a strong bassline underneath the more upbeat rapping and singing, with the lyrics alluding to space and adventures and an exciting future that Seungmin finds himself wanting to experience. Seungmin has heard Jisung both rap and sing before, but Changbin singing and Chan rapping is new. With the three of them, they fill the song easily, even though it’s only just under two minutes long.

When the last few beats of the song fade out, Seungmin is smiling. He turns back to Chan, intending to compliment him, only to find Chan staring right back at him.

There are stars in Chan’s eye and a soft fondness in his gaze that makes Seungmin's heart stutter.

“That,” Seungmin murmurs, “was incredible.” His eyes flick around Chan’s face, searching for something he can’t quite place.

Chan's ever-present smile drops, replaced by something more vulnerable. "Thank you." 

Seungmin catches the way Chan's gaze strays down to his lips and a burst of vindication blooms in his chest. Or maybe it's more like triumph, or anticipation. Vindication sounds like Seungmin takes a twisted pleasure in knowing that Chan wants to kiss him, but there is nothing twisted about the way Seungmin feels like he might break if he doesn't get to kiss Chan.

As Seungmin starts slowly leaning in, watching the way Chan's eyes flutter and his throat tightens, there is nothing twisted about the way the small bloom in his chest starts resembling something more like happiness.

But then the ringing of a phone cuts through the air, making Chan jump and breaking the moment between them. Seungmin drops back in his chair with a sigh, trying very valiantly not to pout, as Chan answers his phone.

Seungmin, slumped in the armchair, kicks at the ground to spin himself around. He tunes out the conversation, instead taking the opportunity to look at Chan while the other is distracted. The best thing about Chan, he decides, is how expressive he is, his eyes showing his every emotion. He smiles more often than not, and Seungmin is entranced by the shapes his mouth makes when he talks and smiles and frowns.

When Chan hangs up the phone, Seungmin lifts up his head. "Everything okay?"

"That was Woojin," Chan gives him a sheepish, sorry smile. "He says that we're expecting snow pretty soon, so he thinks it's best if we all go to the cafe early."

If it was anyone else, Seungmin thinks, he would curse them. As it is, Woojin has done so much for him and is such a genuinely good person that Seungmin can't bring himself to be mad. He'll be damned if he doesn't get to kiss Chan eventually, though.

Chan turns off the computer, then stands. Seungmin waits until Chan turns to him, then raises his arms and waits expectantly.

"I didn't know you were a big baby," Chan teases, but nevertheless he takes Seungmin's hands and heaves him up onto his feet.

To be honest, Seungmin hadn't expected Chan to be able to do that entirely on his own. He stumbles a little with the momentum, but Chan steadies him with a hand on his arm. Embarrassed and more attracted to Chan than ever before, Seungmin refuses to meet his eyes as he walks to the door and, as calmly as possible, opens it and steps out.

As he walks through the hall, he can hear Chan trying to stifle his laughter behind him, but by the time he reaches the large doors that lead outside, Seungmin has regained his composure and turns around to let Chan catch up.

"Thanks for waiting," Chan says as he reaches the door. Seungmin rolls his eyes, but there's a smile on his face, and he takes his scarf from Chan's hands only to wrap it back around Chan's neck.

Satisfied that the both of them are warm enough to brave the cold, he leans against the door to open it. In the time they've been inside, the wind has picked up and the weather feels like it's dropped some. Seungmin hunches his shoulders against the cold and pulls his coat tighter around himself.

"I can't believe you came out in literally just a jacket and jeans," Seungmin mutters to Chan.

"Okay, I actually have a bigger coat at the cafe, but I didn't think it was gonna get this cold!" Chan defends himself. Seungmin just scowls back, picking up the pace of their walk.

An idea strikes Seungmin, but he has to stare at Chan for a moment to gather the courage to carry it out. Chan catches him staring and raises his eyebrows. "Is there something on my face?"

Seungmin shakes his head, instead reaching out and taking Chan's hand from his pocket and bringing it into his own. In the coat, with Seungmin's body heat, Chan's hand gets a little warmer. When Chan doesn't protest, Seungmin reaches over for Chan's other hand to add to the same pocket.

Chan ends up walking a weird, lopsided stride but his hands are warm and he has this endearingly smug look on his face so Seungmin is satisfied.

They hurry like this, too cold to talk without their teeth chattering, until a drop of cold lands on Seungmin's cheek. He stops walking to look up at the sky.

"Is it snowing already?"

"Hm?" Chan stops, too, tilting his head up.

The snow starts coming down just the tiniest bit harder, enough for them to see the flakes starting to gather on the streets.

"Wow," Seungmin breathes out, holding out a hand to try to catch a snowflake in his palm. Chan just stands there, staring at him with a doting smile, waiting for Seungmin to be ready to walk again.

The snow that lands on Seungmin's hand is still small and the cold is turning Seungmin's hands red. He gives up quickly, shoving his hand back into his pocket to gather warmth in there, and motions with his head for them to continue walking.

As they walk, the snow starts getting thicker. They break into a speed walk, but they're still a bit away from the cafe when the snow has gathered enough on the sidewalk for Seungmin to consider what's definitely a bad, but fun idea.

He stops abruptly, kneeling down and almost bringing Chan down with him, to gather together a ball of snow. 

Once he realizes what Seungmin is doing, Chan yanks his hands out of Seungmin's pocket and starts walking away backwards, hands out in a placating gesture as he pleads, "Seungmin, come on."

Seungmin just looks up at him with a mischievous smile, lifting up the small snowball he made and throwing it at Chan.

"Have mercy!" Chan begs just as the snowball hits him and splatters across his stomach, his arms up to defend his face. When he feels the impact, he looks down to see the carnage and then he narrows his eyes at Seungmin. "Oh, you've asked for it, now."

He bends down to start collecting his own snowball, but Seungmin is still on the ground and preparing a counter attack at the same time. Seungmin finishes first, taking his two small snowballs and sprinting past Chan with them. He turns around when he feels something hit the back of his pants and throws his snowballs one after the other. With his pitcher's strength and accuracy, they hit Chan on the back and then on the side.

His snowballs were small and Seungmin was careful to keep out any rocks or sharp objects, so he knows the groan that Chan lets out and the way he bends over to clutch at his side is exaggerated. Filled with glee at this impromptu snowball fight, Seungmin has to lean against the nearest building to support himself as he bursts into laughter.

Chan stops and stares at him, gaze utterly adoring. Seungmin muffles his laughter behind a fist and grins back. He leans his head against the wall, watches as Chan gathers his courage and strides across the distance between them.

When Chan reaches him, he says, "I like your laugh."

"I like you," Seungmin replies, settling down into a relaxed grin. He's feeling particularly brave today, meeting Chan's eyes with his own admiring one.

"Can I kiss you?" Chan gets closer and closer, but he doesn't close the gap between them until Seungmin nods.

And then they're kissing. Chan's lips are cold and a little chapped, but so are Seungmin's. Eyes fluttering closed, Seungmin tilts his head into the kiss, letting his mouth open for Chan. Despite the cold chill in the air, Seungmin feels warm inside, the closest thing to happy that he's been in a long time. As Chan's lips move against his, he reaches up and hooks an arm around Chan's neck, pulling him closer as Chan's hands settle on his waist.

The snow continues to fall around them, a white Christmas in the making. Chan pulls back first, gaze tender and soft. His eyes are sparkling and his cheeks are flushed and Seungmin thinks he might be a little bit in love.

"Let's go meet our friends," Chan whispers, breath visible in the air, "before we freeze out here."

"Okay," is all Seungmin says, reaching out to grasp Chan's hand in his own.

They walk hand in hand the rest of the way to the cafe, despite the cold nipping at their fingers. The snow makes the ground slippery, so they hold each other close and walk carefully. 

Even if he ends up getting sick, Seungmin thinks, it would be worth it.

When the sign for the cafe comes into view, Seungmin exchanges a smile with Chan and they speed up for the last few steps. In the monotonous white of the snow, District-9 casts a warm yellow glow on the street. Through the window, Seungmin can see all of his friends already inside, milling around and chatting.

The chimes above the door draw all of the attention to them when they enter, causing a loud uproar in welcome.

There's a chorus of "Seungmin!" and "Chan!" that blends together in the air, Minho coming over to pull them towards the table in the middle they're all crowded around.

Seungmin catches Jisung looking between him, Chan, and their hands still joined in the middle, and then Jisung nudges Felix and whispers excitedly into the other's ear. On Felix's other side, Changbin catches his eye and gives him a knowing grin, making Seungmin roll his eyes and look away. He spots Hyunjin with Woojin behind the counter, making drinks.

Someone stuffs a steaming mug into Seungmin's hands and when he takes a sip, he's pleasantly surprised to discover that it's hot chocolate. 

Felix pushes Changbin away towards Chan so that he can lean closer to Seungmin. "Seungmin! Were you holding hands with Chan?"

"He totally was," Jisung butts in, crowding Seungmin on the other side. They're wearing matching grins, chins propped up on their hands and wiggling their eyebrows at him.

Seungmin looks back and forth between them. They had to have practiced this. "Yeah," Seungmin agrees, because he wasn't going to deny it in the first place.

Still, Felix and Jisung break out into cheers. 

"I'm so happy for you." Jisung fakes a sniffle, wiping away a nonexistent tear. Felix nods along, face drawn in mock seriousness.

Seungmin rolls his eyes, but he doesn't fight back his smile. "Thanks. We still have to talk about it, though."

Felix looks at him, about to say something when his eyes flicker to something behind him.

Curious, Seungmin turns around to see what caught his attention. There's a boy at the door, looking hesitant about entering, and Seungmin is about to go to invite him in when Hyunjin exclaims, "Jeongin!" and rushes out from behind the counter.

Hyunjin brings in this Jeongin kid to a room full of welcoming smiles, taking him around the room to introduce everyone one at a time.

When they get to where Seungmin is sitting with Jisung and Felix, he takes a second look at the kid. 

"This is Yang Jeongin," Hyunjin says. "He's in my cinema class. Take care of him, he's a year younger than us."

Up close, Seungmin can see the bruise around Jeongin's eyes, faded with age but still distinguishable against the paleness of his face. Seungmin offers him a smile. "I'm Seungmin," he introduces himself. "Welcome to District 9."

"Thanks," Jeongin murmurs, face getting red under all of the attention. When he smiles, Seungmin can see his braces and decides, right then and there, that he would do anything for Jeongin.

"Want something to drink?" Hyunjin asks.

Jeongin looks back at him hesitantly until Hyunjin clarifies, "Coffee, hot chocolate, tea?"

"Hot chocolate?" Jeongin requests.

"A man of taste," Seungmin declares, lifting his cup in cheers.

Hyunjin drags Jeongin behind the counter and the others follow naturally, joining the rest of their group that's already there. They settle into a large circle around the bar, Seungmin sliding into place between Chan and Changbin.

"Hey," Chan says, his happy grin sending warm and fuzzy feelings thrumming through Seungmin's chest. "Having fun?"

Seungmin nods. "It's nice. Merry Christmas."

"Merry Christmas to you, too." Chan quiets and though Seungmin has more to say, thoughts pressing in on every side, he's content with just listening to Hyunjin narrate the story of how he was once lured in by a cult. As he glances at Chan every so often, occasionally catching Chan looking back at him, he thinks that he can save his thoughts for later. They'll have time.

After Hyunjin, Jeongin shocks them with his own story of almost joining a cult, and Jisung jokes about starting a cult of his own. Seungmin's hot chocolate has gone cold with neglect, but he feels warm inside anyway as he laughs with his friends.

Sometime during the story, Chan's arm wraps around Seungmin's waist. At the touch, Seungmin starts in surprise, but then he leans into Chan's warmth. 

The night bleeds into early morning just like this: Woojin opens the doors of his apartment to their motley crew of nine and they pile into his living room to sit around and talk about nothing. The lights are turned down low and the atmosphere grows mellow as they fall asleep one by one.

Seungmin curls up under Chan's arm on the couch, with Felix's head resting on his stomach. As Chan plays with the ends of his hair, he tilts his head to look at the other and murmurs, "Hey, thanks for today."

Chan gives him a warm smile. "I had fun, too."

"Why did you call me cute, anyway?"

Chan hums, running his fingers through Seungmin's hair. "I don't know. You were looking at me, and you looked sad. I thought it would cheer you up."

Well, Seungmin doesn't know what to say to that. Cheer him up, it did. But he feels the familiar tendrils of doubt creeping in and asks, "Do you make a habit of flirting with strangers?" What he wants to ask is: will you go on a date with me?

"Only the cute ones," Chan replies. But then he must see something in Seungmin's eyes, because he hurries to correct himself, "But no. You're special."

Surprised, but pleased, Seungmin accepts this answer. "Will we see each other again?"

"Of course," Chan is quick to assure him. There's a beat of silence where both sides are waiting for the other to speak, but Chan breaks it soon enough. "Do you… Would you… I mean, go out with me? Like, on a date? Would you want to?"

Seungmin rolls his eyes, but he feels nothing but fondness. "We already kissed. Aren't we doing things a little backwards, here?"

"Then today is our first day?" Chan suggests, a sparkle in his eyes.

"Yesterday," Seungmin amends. Satisfied, he pushes himself up a little to press a kiss against Chan's cheek. "Happy day two."

Chan grins back at him. "Happy day two."