Taeyong isn’t built for this.
He’s a little too sweaty, a little too fidgety, and definitely way too early. His legs are vibrating, like he’s two seconds away from zooming out the door, which proves his point.
He’s not built for this.
Everything is stressing him out right now. The cafe feels stuffy, despite only having five people at most, only three of them occupying any seat and the rest at the counter waiting for their order. It’s stressful. Taeyong is sweating.
Okay, he admits. He may be having a mild anxiety attack over the past ten minutes.
This is actually happening. One year, one whole year, and it’s finally happening.
He’s going to meet Johnny Suh.
Taeyong nervously tugs on his shirt hem as his eyes dart around the cafe for any sign of a familiar looking face that might be Johnny, before remembering he has no idea what Johnny looks like. They had settled on items of clothing for them to recognize each other: Taeyong wears a striped tee, and Johnny would show up in a pink shirt. It’s easy enough to catch on. He’s facing the cafe entrance, he’ll notice the pink shirt when Johnny arrives, and he’ll wave.
Not to mention, Taeyong is almost two hours early. There’s no way Johnny would be here as early.
His hands tremble and he presses them flat on the table. He can do this. He’s been not-so-casually talking to Johnny for a year, he knows Johnny. There’s nothing to be stressed about. He’ll meet Johnny, they’ll realize they’re in love this whole time, and they’ll have a wedding by the end of spring. Perfect.
Or, Johnny realizes the real Taeyong isn’t as interesting as he makes himself to be online and says “Sorry, I can’t.” and ditches him.
The sweat is starting to dampen his hat so he takes it off, and gently puts it on the table. He pointedly turns and faces out the window, an effort to get it together, Taeyong. The brown and gray buildings of Cheondamdong surrounds the somewhat hidden cafe where Taeyong insisted they’d meet, because he had asked his entire friend group which coffee shop would impress Johnny and this is it. The reviews were great and the place isn’t overcrowded on a Saturday afternoon.
It’s October: right in the middle of fall and the chill is starting to seep into his bones, but too warm to warrant a thick jacket. A supposedly romantic season where the leaves are warm and the air is light, a season when good things happen. Taeyong hopes this would be a good thing. He hopes he is the good thing for Johnny.
His phone chirps and he looks down at the lit-up screen. It’s Doyoung. Be careful, the text says, call immediately if you need help.
Doyoung might be overreacting, but he does have a point.
This could be dangerous.
He never expected things to go this far. Never in a million years did he think he’d find comfort in a faceless stranger he met through a fucking pen pal app. But that’s how he met Johnny, and now here he is.
He’s not above the normal dating apps, but after a few too many failed attempts he found himself writing an open letter to strangers across the world, and Johnny’s the only person who replied. They’d hit it off, and soon enough they were on texting terms, and gradually more. Albeit, it took them a little too long to go beyond what they had.
Taeyong likes the way things are, the growing number of small texts they’d send each other throughout the day regardless of the time difference, the little but clearly artistic pictures of Johnny’s life he took just for Taeyong, the way Johnny’s voice is silky, melodious through the phone, a little rough, and his raspy and slightly breathy laugh. It’s good.
But it’s a little short of perfect, not being able to have all of Johnny. He knows him so well, but not enough. Like an aching burr inside that refuses to go away, the physical absence starts to take a toll on Taeyong, because Johnny feels so close, but just a tad bit out of reach.
Taeyong’s grateful for Johnny, he really is. He doesn’t want to risk losing what they have.
Even this much of Johnny feels better than anything Taeyong has ever had.
Before Johnny, Taeyong had always kept his relationships at an arm’s distance, too anxious for commitment, his own doors shut tight. But Johnny’s steady, open presence was so easy to rely on, so comforting when he needed it most. He found himself falling for Johnny’s effortless charm before he could even fathom how little he actually knows of the man.
He could be ugly, Doyoung had said, but Taeyong couldn’t bring himself to care. The Johnny he knows is attentive, sincere, and so, so kind. Never one to pry, but remembers every little detail Taeyong does let out. Always so ready to hear about Taeyong’s day, that the day feels incomplete without at least an hour of rambling into the phone.
Taeyong might have never met Johnny physically, but the Johnny he has met, the Johnny he knows, carries himself like he’s the handsomest man on earth.
So yes, Taeyong’s scared. There’s a real possibility of him losing all of Johnny in an attempt of wanting a little bit more, be a little bit greedy. The thought of not having the easy conversations, the gentle acceptance, the warm voice at the end of the line, interested in his thoughts and feelings of everything. Always so caring. Always so supportive.
Taeyong shifts in his seat, the urge to bolt out the door settles deep in his gut. He stares wildly around the cafe again. No signs of a pink shirt. He could still call everything off and say there’s an emergency. Johnny would understand. He always does.
But Doyoung was right. Taeyong’s in too far deep for him to not know anything about Johnny. Johnny could entirely be a lie, a sleazy old man in his forties trying to trick him out of his money, and he doesn’t really care about Taeyong the way Taeyong does him, but at least, at the very least, there’s a face to Taeyong’s nightly dreams, and Taeyong knows. That’s the reason for everything, really. Taeyong needs to know, and he needs to know before it’s too late, before his heart is in danger of shattering.
Maybe, if Johnny does end up being a lie, they could be friends. They could still talk, and Taeyong could move on. Find a guy that’s real, that’s present.
It’s only healthy. This is necessary. This is good.
He’s lucky enough that Johnny’s in Korea, I’m visiting family and old friends!, he said, and remembered to tell him about it, so there’s nothing more to it than two internet friends casually hanging out for the first time, even though there’s an undeniable flirtation to their everyday conversations that toes the line of being more and Taeyong’s a little too attached. You’re in korea? Then we HAVE to meet. It’s only long overdue. It’s the natural flow of events.
Tell me about him, Doyoung had whispered one night, tell me about the man who stole your heart, yongie. Taeyong felt a soft smile spread across his face, an uncontrollable reflex he has whenever Johnny was mentioned, despite his fears and unanswered questions. He knows this. He knows this feeling.
I sent an open letter into the void of a dying app, he said, eyes staring into the ceiling, like he’s using everything he knows of Johnny to shape him out, an abstract art piece made of nice things, beautiful things. Johnny is passionate, articulate, driven. Makes a little too much bad puns Taeyong couldn’t understand, but takes the time to explain. Johnny has a slight lisp he tries to control, but it slips out when he gets excited. He also laughs very easily. Even Taeyong’s lamest jokes get a bubbly warm laugh it doesn’t deserve. He gave me his number in his final letter, and we started talking everyday. Like a moth drawn to a flame, Taeyong wants.
Everything about Johnny feels easy. Their conversations flow by smoothly, not always deep and heavy, sometimes light, airy. It’s the little things. Johnny’s new splurge on yet another doll. Taeyong’s new snack obsession. The litter of kittens he’d walked pass. The rainbow they’d seen after a rainy day. Life goes by, but they make sure to take little tokens of it to show each other.
But sometimes, there’s the heavy stuff too, things he had to whisper into the night while his head is tucked under his blanket, because it’s too scary to be said out loud, too real, and it’s okay. When his thoughts makes him feel like he’s screaming underwater and Taeyong’s a little overwhelmed by it all, Johnny’s voice lulls him to sleep, and the miles between them stops to matter.
You’re wonderful, yong, Johnny always says, voice gentle in his ear, never let anybody tell you otherwise.
Taeyong takes a deep breath and drinks deeply the glass of water he ordered before giving into the urge to check his phone. An hour more. He could do this. He’d get through this.
No text from Johnny yet. Okay. He’s okay.
Right when he goes for another gulp of his drink, his eyes caught onto the tall figure right outside the cafe’s fire escape, barely visible from where he’s sitting. Pink shirt, black coat, jeans, dark brown hair, cigarette hanging from his mouth.
His heart races unsteadily for the first five minutes, wondering if Johnny saw him there and is hesitating on coming inside. Maybe Johnny’s regretting everything and planning to bolt. Maybe it’s not even Johnny.
The man taps wildly on his phone, and sure enough, Taeyong’s phone chirps with an incoming text. He nearly drops the glass.
Johnny 2:35 pm not to alarm u but
Johnny 2:35 pm i am a little nervous haha
Sure enough the man, Johnny, looks nervous as he takes another long drag of his cigarette and slips his phone back into his pocket, his feet shuffles on the tarmac, his hand runs through his shiny hair. And Taeyong’s hit with a realization that Johnny might be scared too.
He’s been too preoccupied with his own cowardly thoughts, he’d never accounted for Johnny possibly feeling the exact same way. The exact same butterflies in his stomach. The exact same tremor to his legs.
He stares down at his phone, at the thousands of texts from almost a year of finding comfort in each other, the emotional attachment that’s grown between them, so tender and precious it couldn’t possibly be one-sided.
Taeyong really really likes Johnny. He thinks Johnny really really likes him too. Well, he hopes.
He just needs to take the leap to be sure.
Taeyong 2:40 pm honestly? me too
Taeyong 2:40pm I’m here already