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                                                                                                      ONE.

 

The day of the first call goes like any other-- flour flying as chefs twirl globs of dough in the air, grouchy customers ordering nasty ass pizzas, Chenle eating squares of mozzarella cheese straight out of the bucket, a frazzled Mark returning from a delivery with twigs in his hair, and Renjun about to keel over from the heat at the front registers. He doesn’t even have the energy to tell Chenle to get his grubby mitts off the mozzarella again.

Again. The little demon.

Renjun toys absently with the pens at the front counter, half listening to Ten starting shit in the kitchens again, half singing along to the latest summer bop bouncing around inside his head. His knees ache from standing all day, but at least Kun doesn’t get mad at him for doodling on the backs of receipts when it’s slow.

He’s just started a pretty, winding chain of flowers lining the left side of the jagged slip of paper when the shrill wail of the phone pierces his ear.

“Can you get that? I’m stuck again…” Chenle’s high pitched voice floats back from God knows where, and Renjun doesn’t want to ask. If he does, he’ll be the one roped into rescuing Chenle from whatever cursed predicament he’s gotten into.

(Renjun will never let go of the Great Stove Incident of Summer 2018. He left that shift with one singed eyebrow and his patience depleted for an entire month.)

“I’m busy.” Renjun says, just to be difficult. He caps his pen before moving towards the phone, sucking in a deep breath to deliver the spiel.

“Thanks for calling Red Bean Pizzeria, this is Renjun speaking, could I get your phone number, please?” Renjun chirps as fake-brightly as he can, plastering on his best customer service persona-- the one that makes the angry customers pity him enough to not be mean to him and makes the little grandmothers try to pinch his cheeks. He taps blankly at the base of the register monitor, barely conscious of the words spilling out of his mouth.

A warm, rich voice filters across the line, chuckling lightly. Renjun can’t ignore the slight shiver it sends down his spine. It feels familiar, somehow. “My number, already? Wow, this is all moving so fast.”

Renjun rolls his eyes, unfazed by the dude’s smartass remark and weak attempt at-- what was that, flirting? Christ, it’s just pizza. There’s no reason to make things difficult. “I need a phone number to open the ticket order.” He deadpans, irritation darkening the edges of his cheery tone.

The pleasant obnoxious voice rattles off a string of numbers. Renjun attentively punches them into the system, repeating them back every so often to make sure he hasn’t misheard anything. The phone number triggers a flashing red New Customer! notice in the top left corner. Renjun shifts the receiver into the crook between his jaw and shoulder as he scans over the information he needs to get.

“Will that be pick-up or delivery?”

“Delivery, please.”

The sides of Renjun’s mouth twitch up. At least the guy seems to have manners. The feeling is immediately squashed after Renjun types in his address and moves onto the next question.

“What’s your name?”

“Jaemin, but you can call me Nana.” Jaemin’s voice dips considerably deeper as he drawls in what he probably thinks is an enticingly flirty accent, but in reality it’s raspy and crackly and honestly sounds like it hurts his throat to keep up. The effort is there, though.

Renjun is silent for a few moments, heat creeping over his cheeks while he curses every god in the books for letting him take this god forsaken part time job. It’s evidently long enough for Jaemin to splutter, backtracking awkwardly. “I mean. You don’t have to. I-- I was joking.”

“Yeah. I, uh. I won’t. Do that, then.” Renjun’s words come out stilted and tense, the receiver pressing uncomfortably into his jaw.

“Thanks.”

They sit on the line for a few beats before Renjun eloquently breaks the awkward silence. “Please order something.”

“Oh, right.” Jaemin launches into a rather lengthy order, and Renjun slowly tunes into the commotion filtering through the call. It sounds like he’s got friends over, which only makes the twenty-two orders of mozzarella sticks a tiny bit more reasonable.

(For the record, Renjun does consider warning Jaemin about Chenle and his mozzarella...tendencies. He’s not heartless. However, the thought of Kun bursting a blood vessel at having to deal with the health inspector again makes his jaw snap shut. If Kun dies, he’s taking them all down with him one way or another, and Renjun is too pretty to suffer death by pizza oven.)

Renjun takes a moment to read the entire order back to him. He can practically hear the beam in Jaemin’s voice as he exclaims, “Hey, you got it! Man, you’re good.”

“Just doing my job, my good sir.” Renjun says, mockingly over-polite. If he had a hat, he’d tip it sarcastically. Jaemin laughs again, a loud and brilliant sound, and thanks him a few times before the line goes dead.

Renjun rubs at his eyes, not thinking too much of the call as that summer bop from earlier takes up 85% of his brain space again. He’s just reaching for the pen as Chenle comes barreling through the door, some yellow substance smeared all over his cheeks and nose. Renjun’s own-- very clean, thank you-- nose wrinkles as the devil child nears him.

“You will not believe what just happened!” Chenle’s arms fly around in grand gestures. Renjun feels like he’s staring directly into the sun, a small headache forming behind his eyes as Chenle bounces around the room.

“I probably won’t.” Renjun tears a napkin from the wall dispenser, then pauses and grabs four more. To his dismay, he can see the tips of Chenle’s hair drenched in the stuff. He’s close enough to identify it as honey mustard, and wishes he could rewind time to ten seconds ago when he decidedly did not have that knowledge.

The bell for the back door rings, and Renjun peeks around the corner to greet Yangyang. The younger boy pulls off his motorcycle helmet, storing it in the back room before coming up to join them at the counter.

He grins and waves at them, pushing his mussed up hair behind his ears. Something that strikes utter fear into Renjun’s core dances in Yangyang’s eyes as he takes in Chenle’s dishevelled appearance. “Did you explore the ceiling hole in the walk in freezer...without me?

Renjun could barely handle one Chenle, so God spat on him and gave him two.

“Right, so there I was-- wedged between the vat of that one brand of buffalo sauce that makes me break out in hives and the fridge with the cold cuts from the 1960s, totally freaking out about what to do with my stash of loose croutons--” Chenle launches into his story. Renjun is only half listening as he pats the overgrown puppy dry, letting his brother’s energetic Chinese wash over him. Chenle takes as many years off his life as he adds to them. The two of them work well together.

Chenle cuts himself off as the phone rings again, leaping towards it with more excitement than Renjun has probably experienced in his whole life combined. Chenle’s lips dip into a cute little concentrated pout as he reads out the address. “Sure. Delivery to...5 Red Velvet Circle?”

Yangyang’s face pales as his spine snaps ramrod straight. He surges forward, ripping the phone out of Chenle’s hand and hanging it up immediately. Breathing hard, he clutches onto the side of the counter for support, one shaking hand pressed to his heart.

Shock and worry are written all over Chenle’s face, only intensifying as Yangyang looks up at him with a feral look in his eyes. Body wracked with shivers, he jabs at the screen like a man possessed, gritting the words out one by one. “We do not deliver to those girls.”

Renjun doesn’t ask.

 

 

                                                                                                      TWO.

 

“How is it that we always end up on the same shifts.” Renjun deadpans as he measures out another side cup of ranch dressing. Chenle is bent over the fryer with his tongue just poking out from his lips, brows furrowed in intense concentration.

“Not my fault you hate my ideas. You can’t ignore genius forever!” Chenle jabs an accusatory finger at his brother before lobbing more jelly beans into the basket.

Renjun swears he catches the unhinged gremlin adding a splash of soda when he thinks no one is looking, but poor Renjun really doesn’t get paid enough to bother intervening. As long as Chenle drains and sanitizes the fryer after his little...experiments, Kun can’t throttle Renjun for negligence-- he hopes.

Renjun barely dodges a stray bean that ricochets off the metal and thwacks into one of the phones. The phones start wailing as if wounded by the attack, and Renjun curses every deity he can think of for sticking him with Chenle: resident magnet of trouble, president of disturbing the peace.

Renjun peels off his gloves and heads to the front counter, poking the accept button of one of the phones and tucking it under his chin with a sigh because Chenle apparently doesn’t intend on abandoning whatever the fuck witch’s brew he’s cackling over. God. How does Kun pay them the same salary?

Renjun delivers their standard greeting with as much enthusiasm as he can muster in the sticky summer air, gaze drifting tiredly across the calm storefront.

“Reonjeon!” A sunny voice pierces his eardrum, and Renjun cringes as he slightly pulls away from the receiver. What the fuck?

“That’s not my name,” he mutters, caught off guard. He quickly catches himself and slathers on his customer service voice again, pitched high and sweet, “Can I get a number for your order?”

The boy on the other end of the line prattles off his number in one big breath, making Renjun’s fingertips fly across the monitor as he struggles to keep up. There’s an awkward pause after Renjun plugs in the information. The customer’s next words are soft and tinged with disappointment at the edges.

“This isn’t Reonjeon?”

Renjun blinks at the familiar Na Jaemin burned across the customer profile attached to the phone number and wonders why he sounds like he’s pouting. “Uh? Yes, this is Renjun. It’s just-- um, you pronounced it wrong. It’s Ren-jun, not Reon-jeon.”

“Oh! Good! Great, that’s um, great. Renjun. Got it. Good to hear from you Reon-- Renjun!”

Renjun’s eyebrows raise so high they could lift off his face. “Okay...?”

Jaemin gulps audibly before pulling himself together, voice brightening considerably. “Okay! Delivery please, Renjunnie.”

Renjun bites back a squeak of surprise at the nickname. Apparently the bizarre exchange is enough to draw Chenle away from his poison brewing, as the slightly charred boy pokes his head into the front room with a quizzical look. Renjun shoos him away by tossing an eraser at his head.

“What can I get for you?”

“Oh.” Jaemin hums absentmindedly for a solid few seconds, as if he wasn’t expecting to get this far. “I guess...I’ll have...a pizza. Yeah, a pizza sounds good.”

“Wow, what an uncommon order. It’s your lucky day, though, we just happen to have a few of those on hand.” Renjun’s tone doesn’t betray his smile at the boy’s obvious lack of planning. Normally it would be an annoyance to have his time wasted by a customer who clearly wasn’t ready to order, but for some reason Renjun can’t bring himself to get mad. It must be the boy’s unfairly nice voice. Renjun rolls his eyes at himself. Yeah, whatever.

Renjun forces the corners of his lips back down as Jaemin’s bright laughter floods the line, “Glad to hear it! I’ll have that with no cheese, and uh,--” his voice muffles like he’s bickering with someone, and then clears, “--fuck it. Anchovies and garlic.”

Renjun’s thoroughly disgusted silence must speak volumes, because Jaemin starts to whine. “Hey, I’m lactose intolerant, you know! And the anchovies and garlic are, I dunno. Why not? It’s on your menu for a reason.”

“I didn’t say anything.” Renjun sticks out his tongue as he inputs the order. It’s not the worst one he’s gotten by far (that goes to the lady who wanted bananas and grapes on her large cheese pizza and requested for the tomato sauce to be replaced with relish) but it’s still pretty out there. “The customer is always right, after all,” he says very seriously, eyes wide and hand over his heart despite knowing that Jaemin can’t see him.

Jaemin giggles again, and then again when Renjun shudders halfway through reading the order back. He hangs up with a cheery, “Bye, Renjunnie!” and Renjun lingers for a few seconds before putting the phone back in the receiver. There’s still a silly little grin caught on his lips, and he can’t quite figure out why.

He turns, heart nearly escaping his mouth as he’s instantly met with a flour drenched Chenle less than two inches away from his face, eyes narrowed and hands on his hips. “What was that?”

Renjun averts his eyes, suddenly very interested in the flickering light bulbs above them. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“You’ve never tolerated a customer that long!”

“Lies and slander. I’m always nice to the customers.”

Renjun should feel offended at the incredulous look Chenle throws him as he brushes past him to pull up the delivery log. Chenle hums thoughtfully, drumming his fingertips on the counter. “Hyuckie!” He shouts at the top of his lungs, and a rainbow head of hair pops up from where he’s rearranging one of the back shelves.

Donghyuck pushes a bright strand of hair behind his ear, grinning just a little too widely as he trots over, looping one arm around Renjun’s neck. “Aw, are you bullying Junnie without me?”

“Everyone in this godforsaken establishment is out to get me.” Renjun complains, folding his arms across his chest. Absolute demons, the lot of them. No wonder he’s getting gray hairs at the ripe old age of seventeen.

“Even me?” The back door swings open and shut with a loud crash, leaving a slightly soggy Mark wincing by the coat rack.

“You’re on thin ice.” Renjun tells him as Mark shakes the water out of his hair like a dog.

“Do you guys know a Na Jaemin? I swear his name sounds so familiar.” Chenle points at the delivery log, and Mark squints at the address.

“Oh yeah, I think I delivered his order last time.” His brows furrow, and Donghyuck pokes at the wrinkles forming in his forehead. “Hm...doesn’t he go to our school? He’s tall, popular, pretty...got a nice smile. I dunno, he seems cool.”

Donghyuck’s nose scrunches, finger digging deeper into Mark’s forehead as he slowly pushes him against the rack of to-go boxes.

“Ow, Hyuckie! Not as pretty as you, I swear!”

Chenle snaps his fingers suddenly, drawing Renjun’s attention from the bickering two who are seconds away from landing a featured episode on Buzzfeed Unsolved: True Crime, courtesy of Doyoung and his vats of marinara sauce. “Ah, Na! I know that name. Jaemin’s in your grade, I think. He’s pretty popular, I’m surprised you don’t know him. His brother Jisung is in my class so I’ve gone over to their house a few times for projects.”

Renjun prides himself on being a good brother and thus doesn’t point out the blush creeping across Chenle’s cheeks at Jisung’s name-- a trait he immediately regrets once Chenle’s smile sharpens dangerously.

“Jaemin’s a total hottie, you know. One time we were working in their kitchen and he came in without wearing--”

“Don’t you have bizarre objects to fry, Chenle!” Renjun hastily shoves his brother into the back room, sighing heavily as the boy cackles his way back to his station. Why should he even care? As far as Renjun is concerned, this Jaemin dude is literally just a customer-- another random voice over the phone, a mere two minutes out of his shift.

Donghyuck has been banished back to whatever layer of hell he crawled out from by the time Renjun returns to the front counter. Mark is standing there like a Sim awaiting directions, making Renjun laugh as he helps the boy pack Jaemin’s order into his delivery bag.

“The last house was a bunch of sixteen year olds around a campfire. They offered to tip me with a hit from their bong.” Mark says suddenly, staring off into space.

“Wha-- you-- did you?!” Renjun splutters and squints at the boy, but Mark’s red rimmed eyes tell him all he needs to know. He throws his hands up at the ceiling in disbelief. God help him.

“Ugh, drivers get all the fun!” Donghyuck’s disembodied voice whines before a suspiciously loud thwack echoes from the kitchen and he falls silent. Renjun heads over to replenish Doyoung’s pickle supply and also to check on Donghyuck’s pulse, but not before sparing one last glance at the phone sitting innocently in the handle.

 

 

                                                                                                      THREE.

 

Customer service sucks sometimes. Like, really fucking sucks.

It’s not even halfway through Renjun’s shift when the store erupts into chaos. A middle aged woman bursts into the store with fire in her eyes, and Renjun can just tell it’s going to be a long day.

He’s in the middle of stuffing the cracks in the granite countertops with chunks of masking tape when the woman approaches him with a tight smile. He vaguely recognizes her as a customer he cashed out about fifteen minutes ago, and tilts his head with a slightly raised eyebrow. “What can I do for you?”

The woman slides a pizza box across the counter with a frown, folding her arms firmly. Hair from her ponytail falls across her face, and she blows the strands away with clenched teeth as she spits, “I want my money back.”

Renjun blinks slowly. “I’m sorry?”

“I don’t want this anymore. I don’t like it, and I want my money back.” She stares him down. Renjun tugs the box open, but the pizza looks perfectly normal. It hadn’t even been touched. Already sensing that this would be above his pay grade, Renjun politely tells her to wait for him to grab a manager as he escapes to the back room.

“I’m just telling you, man. If there’s anyone I’d graverob, it’s Avril Lavigne.”

“Is she even dead? I don’t think she’s dead.” Taeyong says absentmindedly as he scratches down inventory on his notepad.

Lucas waves a chicken drumstick rather threateningly, eyes blown wide. “That’s what they want you to think.”

“Uhh, Taeyong? We have an angry customer out front.” Renjun interrupts them hesitantly, not entirely sure what he walked in on. He never is.

Taeyong bites his lip, brushing off his apron before squaring his shoulders and heading towards the front. Renjun throws one more inquisitive glance at Lucas, who has already turned his elaborate conspiracy theories on early 2000s pop punk stars on an unsuspecting Dejun.

When Renjun makes it back to his station by the phones, Taeyong is in the middle of explaining to the woman that they’ve already made the pizza and the kitchen didn’t make any mistakes, so there’s no way he can give her money back. She, obviously, is not having it.

“What’s so hard about just giving me my fucking money back!” She shrieks, throwing her hands into the air. “You can’t do this! You can’t keep my money for a defective product! This is theft--”

“There’s nothing wrong with the pizza, ma’am. We can remake it if you’d like, but we can’t refund you. That’s store policy.” Taeyong says tiredly, standing his ground.

Renjun averts his eyes, knowing that the lady is only going to get more riled up if she doesn’t get her way. It’s clear that there’s something else making her so upset, but that doesn’t mean it’s justified for her to lash out on a bunch of pizza parlor employees. At least the chaos is kind of entertaining, mostly because Renjun isn’t the one who actually has to diffuse the situation. He just gets to spectate, and boy is it a show worth watching.

Alas, Renjun is still on the clock, and he sighs a little bit when the phones start ringing, adding to the cacophony filling the shop. Dejun pokes his head out to grab the phone, but Renjun catches the caller ID and snatches it up a little too fast, pushing Dejun’s hand out of the way.

“Back so soon?” Renjun answers with a grin, ignoring Dejun’s quirked eyebrow at the less than standard greeting. At least Taeyong is too preoccupied to tease him for it. Dejun sidles around the counter to eavesdrop on Renjun and also to watch the lady who is about one more “no” away from launching a two liter bottle of soda at Taeyong’s head. She’s started to pace around the small storefront, yelling about god knows what.

“Just couldn’t stay away, darlin’,” Jaemin quips, and Renjun rolls his eyes. How greasy.

“I’d say so. You ordered from here yesterday, and Thursday, and Monday. And those are just the days I was here to know about it!”

“The only days worth calling on.” Jaemin’s voice drips with sugary sweetness. Renjun gags dramatically.

“Shut up. I can tell you winked just then. Put it away.”

Jaemin bursts into a full bellied laugh, forcing a smile onto Renjun’s lips. The furious woman is still screaming in the background, but the tense situation completely melts away with Jaemin’s laughter filling his ears.

“Delivery, right?”

“You’ve got it! Man, hand the phone to your manager. I’ll tell him to give you a handsome raise.”

Renjun giggles, and Dejun’s mouth drops open in shock. Oh. Renjun kind of forgot he was there. “I would, but my manager is kind of busy right now. We have a bit of a...situation.”

The angry customer has escalated to threatening to call the police to arrest them for robbery. Taeyong, with the politest smile pasted across his face, calmly tells her, “Do it then,” as he strides towards the kitchen. She’s left to splutter after him indignantly, steam coming out of her ears as her face flushes bright red. She zeroes in on a smiley Renjun, gaze darkening.

“Oh, you think this is funny, kid? You think this is a fucking joke? I’m not fucking lying, you asshole! I’m calling the police right now!” She leans over the counter, and Renjun flinches back a bit. He’s not afraid of her, but damn it still sucks to be yelled at, especially when he’s literally done nothing wrong.

“What the hell is happening over there?” Jaemin’s voice crackles through the line, and Renjun presses the receiver into his ear a little harder. Dejun seems to be cooling the lady down a bit, and yelling at him is like sucker punching a puppy, so Renjun is sure he’ll be fine. He turns back to the phone.

“Just an, um, unhappy customer. What else is new.” Renjun’s tone falls a little flat as he moves on to the menu screen to take Jaemin’s order. Silence fills the air for a few minutes, and Renjun sighs again as he catches sight of the bitter woman on her phone. He knows that the cops won’t bother to show up if she calls them, but the whole situation is just a damn headache.

“Do people threaten to call the police on you guys often?” Jaemin asks in disbelief after giving Renjun his order. It’s not much of an order: one slice of their chocolate cake and a side of mozzarella sticks. After the first few calls, Renjun has been very careful to ensure that Jaemin would only receive food made from non Chenle afflicted mozzarella. Call him whipped, whatever.

“It’s happened a few times since I’ve started working here.” Renjun leans against the counter casually. If the phone had a cord, he’d certainly be twirling it right now. “There was this one guy who called the police on us because he claimed his pasta didn’t have sauce on it. He tried to pick it up half an hour late, so we just went into the back and flipped it over because it all settled to the bottom and he just refused to stir it. Everyone involved was so mad, it was a total waste of time.”

Jaemin laughs, and Renjun forces the warmth away from his cheeks. “People fucking suck.”

“Yeah, sometimes they really do. But what can you do, y’know?” Renjun blows his bangs away from his face, gaze snagging on the clock in the corner of the screen. Fuck he’s been chatting with Jaemin for way too long. He straightens up. “A-Anyways, your order. Anything else I can get for you?”

Jaemin is quiet for a moment, as if mulling something over. When he finally speaks, Renjun kind of wishes he hadn’t. “Just-- can I get a pizza your heart, please?”

Renjun muffles an incredulous giggle against his sleeve. “Sorry sir, I don’t believe we offer that on our menu.”

“But Injunnie, I believe you’ve already stolen a pizza my heart, can you have the driver drop it off at the door?” Renjun can hear the grin brightening up Jaemin’s cheesy words.

“Please don’t tell my manager that. He’s had enough stress for the day.” Renjun glances up, finally realizing that he can hear Jaemin’s words clearly, without a layer of shrill shouting interfering. The storefront is calm, the lady peeling out of the parking lot with as much resentment as one can muster backing a 2019 Jeep out of a narrow parking spot. Dejun has his forehead pressed to the counter, Kun’s stress ball firmly in hand.

“...I just wanted to make you smile. Did it work?”

“Maybe.” Renjun says, cashing out the order. Dejun is the only witness to the dopey smile that lingers on Renjun’s face after he hangs up the phone, and Renjun will force him to take that information to the grave. He sticks his tongue out at Dejun, who is thankfully far too tired from damage control duty to stick around to tease Renjun as he half crawls into the back room for a well deserved nap.

And if Renjun finishes his shift with cheeks sore from smiling so long and throws in an extra slice of cake with Jaemin’s order, well. That’s between him and whatever poor celestial being is stuck with pitying him from above. Or below. Who knows.

 

 

                                                                                                      FOUR.

 

“You’re pathetic, you know that?”

Renjun glares at Chenle, grip tightening on the pen in his hand. “Oh how lucky I am to have a brother that supports me and loves me unconditionally.”

“Uh huh. Now say that without crying.” Chenle ducks to tear another strip from a spare roll of register paper underneath the counter. He slaps it on the table with far too much gusto for half past 5 pm, a hazy stretch of the shift right before rush hour where the air hangs extra thick and syrupy.

“He’s right, you know. Australia is upside down, and staring longingly at the phone isn’t going to magically make Jaemin call you.” Donghyuck interrupts because of course. Of course he’s here.

“Dear lord why are you around.” Renjun pinches the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger, looking towards the ceiling. “You aren’t even on the schedule.”

Donghyuck waves a hand as if his workplace’s official schedule does not, in fact, govern what Lee Donghyuck decides to do with his day.

Renjun stares down at the table where he and Chenle have boredly been trying to recreate the world map from memory out of chunks of register paper taped to the countertop. Okay, so he was probably a little off on Australia, but he’s almost certain that Spain does not border Russia. Almost.

“Jaemin doesn’t call me.” Renjun pouts, avoiding Donghyuck’s gaze. “He calls the store just like any other customer.”

Chenle rolls his eyes. “Yeah, right. He barely even orders anything at this point. I don’t know why he keeps wasting his money.” He carefully slides what is apparently supposed to be the United Kingdom, a shapeless blob of ragged paper, between Canada and Greenland. That doesn’t seem quite right, but Renjun keeps his mouth shut.

“I’m serious. Sending the phone all those death glares really isn’t going to make it ring faster, love.” Donghyuck tuts. “Why don’t you just call him first? You’ve got to know his number by now. He’s called, like, a hundred times in the last few weeks.”

Renjun bristles, spine straightening with indignation. “That is not how this works. I stay on my end of the line, and he stays on his. Transactional and professional, nothing more.”

Donghyuck hums thoughtfully. “Ooh, kinky. Like a phone sex op--”

Donghyuck barely dodges Kun’s stress ball as it careens towards his head. Renjun buries his face in his hands as Donghyuck staggers into Chenle, scattering their fucked up world map across the storefront. He should invest in his own stress ball. Kun was definitely on to something.

When rush hour hits, it’s just Chenle and Renjun manning the phones, as Donghyuck is pulled away to wherever the hell he goes when it’s actually time to work and not just torture Renjun. The night is busier than normal, and Renjun frowns as the hours stretch on.

Despite how often the phone rings, it’s never who he wants to hear on the other end.

Renjun is in the middle of explaining to a woman the difference between the steak and cheese sub and the steak and cheese wrap when Chenle shoots him a shit eating grin.

“Oh, Jaemin!” He crows, flapping a hand flamboyantly, and Renjun tries to cover up the way he instinctively perks up at the name. Judging by the waggling of Chenle’s eyebrows, he wasn’t very convincing. “Yeah, Injunnie will be available in a few minutes. Unless you can’t wait, which--” Chenle’s eyes widen innocently in mock shock, “Oh, you’d wait all night for him? Great, love to hear it. I’ll put you on hold!”

Chenle sets the phone onto the counter with a flourish. Renjun cashes out the order he was working on with red burning furiously across his cheeks. “What the fuck, Lele!” His flustered words escape his throat high pitched and strangled, hands flying in the air as he struggles to piece a sentence together.

Chenle’s big doe eyes blink at him sweetly. “Your loverboy is on the line. Better not keep him waiting, though I don’t think he’d mind! He only wants to speak to you, after all.”

Renjun grumbles as he snatches the phone away from Chenle’s goblin grip. “Scram! Go fill up the soy sauce, or something.” He shoves Chenle away, who skips happily into the back room. Renjun massages his temples, realizing a beat too late that he’s definitely just sent Chenle directly on his way to share his juicy gossip with Donghyuck and Ten. Truly, Renjun will never know a day of peace with Chenle as his little brother.

Renjun pulls in a deep breath, willing his heartbeat to stop rattling around in his chest at the prospect of speaking to a boy that he’s probably never met in real life. Before he can chicken out, he stabs at the hold button, eagerly pressing the receiver to his ear. “Looking for me?”

“Oh, always.”

Fuck, and there goes his heart, racing away for nothing more than a voice on the other end of a call. How embarrassing.

“I’m starting to worry about your health, all this pizza can’t be good for you.” Renjun says by way of greeting. “I could’ve sworn Yangyang told me you called this morning.”

“Yeah, but you weren’t there. So, here I am again.” Jaemin responds like it’s the easiest thing in the world, and Renjun shoves two fingers under his chin to measure his pulse. Goddamn. He should not be getting this flustered just because one Na Jaemin has a habit for bizarre pizza orders and flirty pick up lines.

“W-Well, are you here to order, or are you going to waste my precious time on the clock with your pizza themed pick up lines?” Renjun smacks his forehead at his stuttering, hoping it wasn’t noticeable through the line. God, he has to chill out. He can already hear Ten snickering at him.

Jaemin clicks his tongue. “Aw, are they too...cheesy for you?”

Renjun’s grip on the phone tightens. He will swear until the day he dies that the blush darkening his cheeks is just because he’s caught off guard at the boy’s boldness. “Jaemin.”

“I think we’re at the point where you can call me Nana, darlin’.”

Renjun is going to scream. He is going to punt this phone into the wall, scream his lungs out, and maybe kiss Na Jaemin on the lips. Whatever.

“Are you saying we’re friends now, Jaemin?” Renjun puts emphasis on his full name, and Jaemin whines at the rejection of his nickname. Renjun is only half teasing, heart pounding in his chest.

Jaemin is quiet for a beat before speaking softly. “...For real? Friends? I’d-- I’d like that. A lot. I mean--” He swallows hard, sounding like he’s biting back words. After composing himself, his voice dips into that infuriatingly attractive, smooth tone, “You could say I’m pepperlonely.

Renjun dissolves into giggles that are part amusement, part relief, and part...something unidentifiable. “Wait, you’re not, like, forty years old and balding, right?”

“Aw, you don’t like older men, Injunnie?”

“Jaemin, don’t think I won’t hang up on you just because this is my job.”

“Okay, okay!” Jaemin laughs, but it wavers a little, almost tinged with nervousness. “Um, we’re in the same grade. I-- I think you’ve been in a few of my classes, and we have some mutual friends.”

Renjun roots around in his memory, but he’s not one to catalogue each and every one of his classmates’s faces. He spends most of his time at school capitalizing on the free products in the art room whenever possible, so he assumes a lot must fly under his radar. He’s never regretted it, until now.

“It’s okay if you don’t remember me,” Jaemin almost trips over his words in his haste, “I’m really not very--”

“Jaemin, relax.” Renjun frowns, something tugging at his heart. “You’re thinking too much.”

“You’re right.” Jaemin sighs, crackling through the line. “I crust you, Injunnie.”

“That one was fuckin’ awful, Jaemin. Dare I say, your cheesiest pun yet.” Renjun laughs as Jaemin protests the slander. He takes Jaemin’s order, though inputting the information has become like a reflex since Jaemin calls so much. It’s when Renjun is preparing to send out the order and hang up that Jaemin speaks.

“This isn’t...this isn’t actually bothering you, right? It’s not creepy that I call you like this? I can stop, if you want.”

“No!” Renjun is a little too quick to answer, fingers digging into the countertop. He bites his lip. “No, Jaemin. I...I look forward to your calls. I really do.”

Jaemin lets out a breath of relief. “Oh, thank god. I’ve stockpiled way too many pizza puns to stop now.”

The grin stretched across Renjun’s face as he hangs up the phone drops when a voice speaks from behind him.

“Flirting on the company’s dime, eh Renjun?” Kun is leaning against the doorframe, arms crossed. His mouth is set in a firm line, but there’s a twinkle in his eye that Renjun instantly relaxes at.

“F-Flirting?” Renjun’s eyes dart all over the room, hand rubbing vigorously at the back of his neck. “I, uh. I didn’t do anything. I’m innocent!”

“You were on the phone for a solid ten minutes. You’re lucky we’re slow, and also that you’re one of my best and most pleasant employees.” Kun sighs heavily, gaze unfocusing as if years of bickering with Doyoung and Ten are flashing before his eyes. Renjun smiles. It feels good to be the favorite son. Kun just can’t get mad at him.

Kun’s grin widens, and Renjun’s stomach plummets to his feet. Kun can’t get mad at him exactly, but oh boy can he embarrass him.

“Is he cute, at least?” Kun coos through Renjun’s protests, advancing on him with arms stretched wide, “Come on, he must be pretty cute for you to be giggling on the phone like a middle schooler. If you’re going to goof off on the clock, he better be worth it. Oh, my child is growing up so fast!”

“Kun, stop,” Renjun complains, face flushing crimson as he mumbles, “I don’t even know what he looks like.”

“I do!” Donghyuck crows, and Renjun seriously contemplates asking Chenle to fry him next-- either Renjun himself or Donghyuck will do.

Donghyuck bounds up to them, brandishing his phone in their faces and speaking before Kun can scold him for using his phone at work. “I can’t believe we didn’t think to look up his Instagram sooner! I’ve definitely seen him around. He’s quite the catch, Jun.”

Renjun squeaks and covers his eyes, not sure why he’s so afraid of putting a face to the name. It feels wrong somehow, like he’s invading Jaemin’s privacy and disturbing the balance of their strange, budding relationship. There must be a reason why he’s remained faceless on the other end of the phone line, why he’s never talked to Renjun in person.

Still, Renjun can’t help peeking through his fingers for a split second before screwing his eyes shut again. Oh god.

Oh god he’s hot.

 

 

                                                                                                      FIVE.

 

Renjun never expects for the roles to be reversed. Jaemin calls, Renjun answers, they banter back and forth, and that’s it. Simple, easy, and by the book.

Safe.

The door creaks shut behind him. Renjun’s shift had ended a little past midnight, later than usual, and Taeyong and Hendery decided to hang around even longer to work on the food order for next week. As a result, Renjun is left to walk back to his car, alone.

The parking lot that the employees use isn’t exactly far from the restaurant, but it isn’t close either. The sidewalk is dark and dimly lit, and a few narrow streets cut in between. It’s not terrible, but it’s still not a walk Renjun particularly enjoys taking alone, especially at night. He’s usually fairly calm, anxiety wrung out of him from the exhausting work day.

Tonight, however, something feels off.

His footsteps seem to echo on the smooth concrete, the sound lagging just a second behind. He convinces himself that he’s just imagining it, allowing his brain to fill in empty space and letting the darkness of night whisper horror stories into his ears.

Nothing’s there. No one’s there.

Renjun stops short, and there’s a single footfall out of place before the night goes silent. Something cold curls in the bottom of his gut, fear trailing icy nails down his back.

Something’s there. Someone’s there.

Renjun grips his keys tighter in his hand, terror twisting in his chest as he forces himself to take a step forward, acting like he hasn’t noticed anything. He speeds up a bit, and the footsteps behind him follow suit.

Call someone. Renjun thinks dimly, fingertips skittering over the outline of his phone in his front pocket. I need to call someone.

He carefully extracts the phone from his pocket, trying to avoid raising suspicion. His hands are trembling, fear rooting his gaze straight ahead. He fumbles with the phone screen for a moment, taking a few tries to type in his passcode correctly. When the bright numbers of the screen burn into his fear stricken eyes, there’s only one string of numbers he can think of, one that he’s repeated every other day for the past few weeks.

It rings once, twice, three times, until--

“Hello?”

“Jaemin.” Renjun breathes, pressing the phone as close to his ear as he can, craving the solace of the familiar voice.

“Wh-- Renjun?” The grogginess thickening the soft voice clears as fabric rustles in the background. It sounds like Jaemin is sitting up in bed. “I didn’t recognize your number. Miss me that bad?” His tone is light and flirty as usual, but there’s something uneasy lingering beneath it, like he knows Renjun wouldn’t call him up like this for no reason.

Smart boy.

“Jaemin.” Renjun repeats. The name just feels comforting in his mouth. “There’s someone following me.”

“Someone following-- are you walking home by yourself, Injunnie?” Alarm colors Jaemin’s voice, all traces of joking absent. It’s a stark difference to how they usually interact, and Renjun can’t help but feel guilty for tainting whatever they had.

Renjun gives a tiny shake of his head before remembering that Jaemin can’t see him over the phone. “Car.” He squeezes out in a tiny voice, eyes darting all over the place. He tries to keep his words as quiet as possible as panic threads through it, his breathing picking up. “I’m walking to my car, Jaemin, and it’s so dark and I swear I can hear someone following me, I’m scared. I’m s-sorry, I didn’t know who else to call, Jaemin-- J-Jaemin I’m so scared--”

Jaemin hushes him. “It’s okay, Injunnie, I’m here. I’ve got you, I’m here.” Renjun welcomes the rush of warmth that floods through him at the affectionate nickname. Jaemin’s voice strengthens suddenly, his presence solidifying at the back of Renjun’s clouded awareness. “Keep walking, Injunnie.”

“R-Right.” Like magic, Renjun’s feet unstick and he moves forward on trembling limbs. He hadn’t even realized he had stopped.

Jaemin’s voice is a soothing presence in his ear, and Renjun clings to it like a lifeline. “I want you to talk loudly to me and say that you’ll be home in a few minutes. They’ll lose interest if they know for sure someone knows where you are and is waiting for you.”

Jaemin says it with such confidence that Renjun can’t help but believe him. In a shaky voice, he wheezes out the script. “H-Hey, I just got off my shift.” Renjun swallows hard, throat dry and scraping. His sharp fingernails bite crescent moons into his palm. “I’ll be home in a few minutes, see you then.” After a few beats, he adds, “I hope you got eggs at the store earlier, I wrote them on the list.”

“Nice touch!” Jaemin’s voice brightens. If he’s panicking too, he does an excellent job at hiding it. He hums for a moment. “Now, call me honey.”

“What?” Renjun’s mouth drops open as the words work their way through his frazzled mind.

“You heard me. Call me honey!”

Unbeknownst to him, a little smile starts to creep up on Renjun’s face. “I absolutely will not.”

“Hey, you’re the one who started playing up the whole domestic schtick. You should call me honey, it would be very convincing.” Renjun can feel the grease dripping from Jaemin’s voice.

“Is this for my sake or for yours?” Renjun says bluntly, and the silence on the other side of the line is all the answer he needs. He sighs.

“I mean, I guess it doesn’t have to be honey. What about baby? Or sweetie?” He pulls away from the phone for a moment. “Puddin’? That one’s a classic.”

“No to all of those.”

Renjun can faintly hear keys clacking on Jaemin’s side of the line. He clears his throat. “Fine, we can do...honey biscuit? Sugarplum is good too, I like it. My itty bitty dumpling? Actually, no-- I’m reserving that one for you.”

“If you call me that I’ll kill you. Don’t forget, I know where you live.” Renjun cuts him off, but Jaemin’s on a roll now and doesn’t intend on stopping.

“Muffin is a cute one, though kind of basic. We need to be innovative and fresh. What about munchkin? Oh hang on…” Jaemin trails off, voice sounding a little muffled. “Oh! You should call me sweet pea. I like that one.”

“I’m going to throw up.”

The clicking sounds get a little louder. “How do you feel about dreamboat?” Silence. “Okay, understandable. Maybe love muffin would suit me better? Or, um...lovey yummer?”

Renjun can’t help the full bellied laugh that escapes his lips. “Lovey yummer? There’s no way that’s real. You’re just fucking with me now.”

“Well, I had to start getting creative here darlin’, you were rejecting everything at the top of the Internet’s 100 Greatest Pet Names for your Partner list. Boo!” Jaemin teases him, fake crying through the phone. Renjun can practically hear the sulky pout forming on Jaemin’s lips as he whines. “Why don’t you love me, my beautiful rose petal, my gum drop, my little honeysuckle, my sweet buttercup, my cinnamon bun, my caramel apple, my snickerdoodle, my--”

“Nana, are you hungry, by any chance?” Renjun suppresses a giggle. When he tears his gaze off the ground, he’s shocked to see his car right in front of him. He pulls his phone away from his ear for a second, listening carefully.

He’s alone.

“Ah-ha!” Jaemin gloats. “You called me Nana, so I’ll take that as a win for now. I’m not promising to lay off my pet name agenda any time soon, though. I really think you should give ‘cuddle muffin’ a chance--”

“I’m at my car.” Renjun exhales for what feels like the first time in fifteen minutes. He’s sure the relief is reflected in his tone, as it takes Jaemin a second to respond.

“Oh, thank god.” Jaemin audibly deflates. “I’m so glad to hear that.”

Renjun settles into his seat, locking the doors immediately. Something sweet and soft wraps around his heart, warmth glowing through his chest. Jaemin distracted him so well, kept him so calm that he didn’t even realize he made it to the parking lot in one piece.

“Can-- Can I ask you a favor?” Jaemin’s voice breaks a bit on the last word, betraying his stress.

“Of course.”

Jaemin gulps. “So, uh, I know you remember my number. Can you...will you text me that you got home safe? You can call, too, I’ll, um. I’ll be up. If you need me. Yeah.”

The warmth in Renjun’s chest intensifies. “Sure, Nana.”

Jaemin’s relieved giggle echoes through the car. “Baby steps, tater tot. Good night.”

“Night...honey.” Renjun whispers to his dark phone screen before inserting his key in the ignition.

 

 

                                                                                                      SIX.

 

The day of the last call goes like any other-- the ovens sizzling as chefs tug perfectly cooked pizzas out, Ten threatening to strangle the next person who steals his markers, Chenle hovering over the fryers with a box of peppers in hand, drivers hoisting delivery bags over their shoulders as they pop in and out, Donghyuck hiding all of Ten’s markers, and Renjun staring longingly at the phones at the front registers.

He had texted Jaemin as soon as he got home that night, heart still caught in his throat and twisting up his tongue. He was grateful that it wasn’t another phone call, unsure if he could handle more of Jaemin’s sleepy, impossibly fond voice, but the excessive exclamation points and sparkly eyed emojis in his sweet messages didn’t do much to quell the fluttering in Renjun’s chest.

With the ice broken, they started texting regularly. If Renjun wasn’t constantly monitoring the store’s phones for Jaemin’s call, he was suppressing the urge to check his own messages. Donghyuck had teased him endlessly for his apparent heart eyes, but ended up just ruffling his hair fondly and telling him to “confess already!”. Bitch.

Renjun chews on his lip, hair falling into his eyes from the slight breeze of their new fan. It’s been a few days since the incident, and Jaemin hasn’t called the store yet. Objectively it’s not a very long time, but Renjun had really been getting used to hearing Jaemin’s voice.

God. Maybe he does have heart eyes.

Yangyang is in the middle of rambling about his island layout in Animal Crossing when the phone rings. Renjun cuts him off with an uncharacteristic squeak as he recognizes the caller ID, sweeping the phone up in an instant.

“Nana!” He greets brightly, smile spreading across his face. Beside him, Yangyang’s eyes glitter dangerously, drawing in a deep breath like he’s about to scream out something embarrassing about Renjun loud enough for Jaemin, and probably the rest of the goddamn world, to hear. Thankfully, Mark materializes behind them, dragging Yangyang off to help him count the driver’s tips. Mark is off thin ice with Renjun for only a second, because he promptly throws Renjun a greasy wink and a “Good luck with your boy, Injunnie!”.

“You sound chipper,” Jaemin laughs, and Renjun revels in the sound. “Did you miss me, darlin’?”

Renjun doesn’t notice the small pout forming on his own lips until he half-whines out, “Well, you haven’t called in days…”

“Sorry, tater tot.” Jaemin says with a breathy chuckle, but there’s an edge to his voice that Renjun can’t quite place. He enthusiastically taps at the screen, ready to quickly input all of Jaemin’s usual order information so they can chat freely.

“Delivery, right?” Renjun asks, just to be sure. Even with regulars, he’s supposed to run through the whole process thoroughly in case they change their mind or he gets something wrong. It’s a few beats before Jaemin answers, enough of an abnormal pause that concern blooms in Renjun’s chest. “Jae-- Nana? Are you okay?”

Jaemin releases a big breath, almost like he’s steeling himself. Renjun’s fingers tighten on the receiver, and he’s glad they do, because the next words almost make him drop the phone.

“A-Actually, I’ll have it for pick up, Injunnie.”

This time, Renjun is the one rendered speechless. His mouth hangs open for a second, utterly shell shocked. When he speaks, his voice is thin and high pitched, “Really? You-- you’re coming here? Like, in person?” It’s a dumb question, but it’s the quickest response Renjun can put together.

Jaemin’s words are strung tight with anxiety, reedier than Renjun has ever heard. “Yeah? If that’s okay with you, I mean. I’ll...I’ll come in. In person. I can prove to you I’m really not a balding forty year old man.”

There’s a glimmer of a smile in Jaemin’s last sentence. The remaining tension melts away as Renjun responds, “I’d love that, Nana. Although, I can’t say I won’t be disappointed…” Jaemin audibly gulps, and Renjun laughs before continuing, pitying the boy too much to stretch out the joke any longer, “I was really warming up to the whole bald thing.”

“We can adjust for that, don’t give up on me now!” Jaemin says a little too quickly, and they break down into laughter again.

The rest of the call flies by with their normal banter: terrible puns, cheesy pick up lines, and borderline flirting-- though on Jaemin’s end it’s very blatant and shameless flirting. However, the world beyond Renjun’s screen seems just a bit out of focus, the sounds of the bustling shop dimming to his ears and the static electricity from his apron barely registering on his skin. It isn’t until Jaemin hangs up with a shaky, “See you soon, darlin’.” instead of their usual farewells that it hits Renjun in full.

Jaemin is coming in. He’s coming here. Renjun is going to see Jaemin’s face properly for the first time, or at least the first time since they’ve built this strange relationship from opposite sides of a telephone line. Renjun is going to see Jaemin’s smile, hear his deep, soothing voice without interference, and find out if his eyes really light up the way Renjun always imagined they might when he laughs.

He’s really going to meet Jaemin. Oh god. He’s going to meet Jaemin in, like, twenty fucking minutes.

“Uh, Renjun? I think you made a mistake on this ticket. Jaemin always gets delivery.” Donghyuck appears by the door with the paper slip in hand, a slightly confused frown marring his face. For once, Renjun is intensely grateful that his best friend ignores the store’s shift schedule and shows up whenever he pleases. He grabs the front of Donghyuck’s apron, yanking him towards himself.

“It’s not a mistake.” Renjun doesn’t bother to disguise the mix of panic and excitement rising in his voice, knowing that his emotions are about as opaque as Ten’s famous clear plastic pants to Donghyuck. That is, Donghyuck could read him like a fucking children’s book.

“Wait, you mean Jaemin is coming in? For real?”

In. Person.” Renjun leans even closer to Donghyuck, eyes wild as his fists tighten in Donghyuck’s apron. “In person! Oh my god, Hyuck, I’m not ready for this! What if he thinks I’m weird? Or ugly? What if I’m too awkward and I fuck up and he never wants to contact me agai--”

“Huang Renjun!” Donghyuck shoves Renjun against the counter, hands coming up to squish Renjun’s cheeks until his lips protrude like a fish. He jostles Renjun’s head back and forth as he speaks, forcing him to maintain eye contact. “Don’t you dare sell yourself short like this! You’ll be just fine, and you know it. Think about it! Jaemin most definitely knows who you are. He knew that you guys were in the same grade, he probably knows what you look like, and he’s been flirting with you this whole time. If he was gonna get scared away, it would’ve happened a long time ago.”

Renjun tries to protest, but Donghyuck starts squishing his cheeks with a renewed intensity. “Don’t fight me on this, Renjun. He’s definitely way more scared than you are. You’ve either never seen his face or you don’t remember it. He’s probably freaking out right now wondering if you’ll think his hair is stupid or if his personality is annoying or if his cologne is too strong. He’s been pursuing you, he knows how he feels about your hair and personality and-- okay, maybe not the cologne, but still. He knows how he feels about you, and he’s still on his way here. Clearly, you’re already doing something right.”

Donghyuck leans back and crosses his arms, examining Renjun from head to toe. Renjun’s cheeks have slight red hand prints on them from Donghyuck’s pep talk, but he can’t deny that it really did put his mind at ease. “Thank you, Hyuckie. I--”

Donghyuck waves a hand with a grin, reaching over to fix Renjun’s hair. He takes a step back to admire his handiwork, nodding in approval. “Nuh-uh, save the sappy shit for your loverboy. I’ll have Chenle on standby to make sure he doesn’t cross any lines. Ciao, babe! Go get your man!”

Donghyuck disappears in the same tornado of energy that always seems to deposit him at Renjun’s side. Renjun is left to shake his head with a soft smile spreading across his face, fondness warming his chest. Donghyuck is a force of nature, but one he wouldn’t trade for anything-- well, maybe for a bag of Renjun’s favorite tortilla chips but hey, could you blame him?

Time slips away without Renjun even noticing, and it isn’t long until the chime of a bell shakes him from his thoughts. His jaw drops at the sight of the newcomer.

A tall, slender boy steps into the shop, head tilted down a bit in uncertainty. He’s got his hands shoved deep in the pockets of his dark wash denim jacket, which is littered with patches that almost look handmade, the stitching endearingly sloppy in places and fraying at some edges. His white t-shirt hangs loosely off his frame, and the thin silver chain around his neck catches the glow of their rusted old light bulbs.

What instantly catches Renjun’s eye, though, other than the infuriatingly nice collarbones peeking out of the baggy neckline of his shirt-- seriously how can collarbones be so attractive what the fuck-- is his hair. It’s electric blue, almost blindingly vibrant, and yet the strands look soft to the touch. A few stray pieces flutter over his forehead and into his eyes, the rest swept up to cascade over his temple. When his chin lifts, giving Renjun a glimpse of his face, Renjun’s breath hitches in his throat. The boy’s dark eyes positively sparkle, delicately framed by long eyelashes and curving gently as a small, apprehensive smile tugs at his pretty lips.

He’s gorgeous, is the only thought Renjun’s mind can half-form as the stranger opens his mouth and instantly becomes much less of a stranger.

“P-Pickup for Jaemin?”

Renjun’s heart pounds in his chest at the deep, rich voice that he’s gotten so used to hearing over the past weeks. He can’t help the giddy grin that spreads across his face, watching the boy-- Jaemin-- shift from side to side, nervously wiping his hands on his jeans before shoving them back into his pockets in an attempt to feign nonchalance.

“Hi, Nana.”

Jaemin’s eyes snap to Renjun’s face, searching for something in his eyes. Renjun instantly remembers Donghyuck’s words and tries to soften his features as much as possible, hoping that Jaemin can see that he hasn’t scared Renjun off. Whatever Jaemin finds seems to put him at ease, and his smile widens, properly reaching his eyes this time. His voice is soft, almost reverent as he steps closer to the counter.

“Hi, darlin’.”

His intense gaze meets Renjun’s eyes as if he can’t believe what’s in front of him. Renjun can relate, unable to tear his eyes away even as his shaky hands reach out to tap the monitor to life.

“Your hair is blue.” Renjun blurts because all of his brain functions are short circuiting. “Really. Blue.”

“Aha, yeah it is, isn’t it...I lost a bet. Do you-- do you like it?” Jaemin runs a hand through the mop of blue self consciously, and more strands drift lazily into his eyes. Renjun gulps.

“Oh, no, I like it. I like it a lot! You look really good. It uh, it suits you. A lot. Did I say that already? Ugh, I--” Renjun slaps a hand over his own mouth because apparently he’s so smitten that he can’t even shut himself up. God, he’s so embarrassing.

Jaemin laughs, and it’s even prettier in real life. His eyes disappear into crescent moons, and his pearly white teeth poke out from his slightly chapped lips as he beams. “You’re so cute, Injunnie.”

The nickname feels like honey to Renjun’s ears, the comforting sweetness extinguishing the flustered fires erupting in his head. This is just Jaemin, his Jaemin, the one who has been brightening up his shifts for weeks, who never fails to make him smile, who is there for him when he needs him and soothes him when he’s afraid.

“Out of pizza puns, Nana?” Renjun places his hands on his hips, sighing in relief as they slip into their familiar banter. The air is still charged between them, but it’s the pleasant, fluttery kind. “I’ve got to say, I’m disappointed.”

“Injunnie, you think I would show my face here without at least twenty puns saved up? I’m insalted.” Jaemin widens his eyes dramatically, leaning his elbows on the counter separating them and propping his chin up on his hand. “Even so, it’s slice to finally meet you, after all this time.”

Renjun muffles his giggle behind his hand, but Jaemin perks up like a puppy at the sound. He looks entirely too proud of himself, but Renjun wouldn’t take away that smile for the world.

Renjun’s head is scrambled in all different directions and all of them have to do with Jaemin, Jaemin, Jaemin, so he’s thankful that Chenle pops up out of nowhere to hand Renjun the order.

Their hands brush when Jaemin reaches out to take the bag, and Renjun forces a blush away from his cheeks, averting his gaze shyly. They’re caught in each other’s eyes again, silly smiles on their faces, before Jaemin swallows and gestures towards the door. “I should, uh. I should get going, eh?”

Jaemin’s eyebrows lift suddenly, gaze drifting over Renjun’s shoulder. Renjun whirls around just in time to see metal flash as Chenle hides his arm behind his back, smiling sweetly at them. “Take care, Jaeminnie!” He sing-songs, but it sounds more like a threat than a courtesy.

Renjun lifts his hands up, throwing a glare in Chenle’s direction that reads, ‘I love you little brother and thank you for looking out for me but I will not hesitate to throttle you if you fuck this up for me’. It’s a look Renjun has perfected throughout the years.

“I-- I hope I’ll see you around, Injunnie.” Jaemin waves as he steps away, and suddenly Renjun is speaking before he even realizes what words are coming out of his mouth.

“You should sit down next time, Nana.”

Jaemin pauses with his hand on the doorknob, turning around to shoot a devastatingly brilliant smile at Renjun that renders him weak in the knees. “Only if you join me, darlin’.”

The door swings shut behind him, and Renjun feels like he can’t shake the stars out of his eyes. Donghyuck has materialized beside Chenle, both of them wearing matching shit eating grins. Renjun can see Kun looming somewhere behind them. Everyone in the goddamn shop was probably paying attention to the encounter, but Renjun can’t bring himself to care.

His cell phone buzzes in his pocket, and he pulls it out knowing that Kun won’t reprimand him for it. He picks up the call with a smile, twisting to glimpse Jaemin sitting in his car in the parking lot, phone pressed to his ear.

“I think I left a pizza my heart with you. Can I pick it up on Thursday?”

 

 

                                                                                                      BONUS.

 

“Did you even eat any of those pizzas? Be honest.”

Jaemin flushes, avoiding his eyes, and Renjun smacks a palm onto the table in disbelief. “Na Jaemin! How much money did you throw away trying to woo me?”

“You can’t stop me.” Jaemin raises his eyebrows in challenge, pointing his fork at Renjun. “I will spoil you and also buy as many bizarre pizza combinations as it takes for you to fall irreversibly in love with me. My plan since day one. Foolproof!”

Jaemin’s hand settles over Renjun’s, thumb rubbing across his knuckles lovingly.

“Shut up, you know you have my heart already.” Renjun huffs as red rises to his cheeks, embarrassed at being so sappy in public. He pouts, “Seriously though, the anchovy and garlic thing? Ew! You’re so lucky I even picked up your calls after that. I would not have kissed you with breath like that.”

“Hey, it wasn’t my idea, it was Jeno’s! He told me if I was gonna waste money on pizza I didn’t want, I should at least order something that you would remember.”

“Oh I remembered it all right. Nearly threw up putting it into the system.” Renjun rolls his eyes, but it’s fond. It always is.

A small sound echoes from somewhere beyond the front registers, and Renjun smiles tightly. He calmly removes a stray crayon from a recently deserted table and winds up to chuck it in the direction of the disturbance. It sails cleanly over the countertop, and Renjun is satisfied at the grunt of pain elicited from Chenle as the projectile bonks him on the head.

With the prying eyes out of the way, Renjun tilts his head and plants a firm kiss on Jaemin’s lips.

Jaemin smiles sweetly into the kiss. He always does. When they break apart, there’s something brimming in his eyes. One might call it love-- and it very well might be-- but they’ve been together long enough for Renjun to know when Jaemin is barely holding back another terrible pun. He sighs. “Well? Out with it, Nana.”

“You’ve heard of pizza pie, but you’re my cutie pie.” He rests his chin on his hands, pursing his lips cutely and cooing at Renjun.

“Mm, honey, you’re losing your touch.” Renjun says as he leans in for another kiss. “You should start thinking outside the pizza box.”