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Metaphorical Milk Cartons

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Junmyeon’s not sure why there’s a giant sitting in the farthest aisle from the register on Monday morning, eating stolen doughnuts.

In fact, Junmyeon’s not sure why there’s a giant in his store in general, stolen doughnuts or not. According to Chanyeol, the guy had come in when it was his shift (“He didn’t look that tall to me, Hyung” “You’re like Godzilla”) and taken up residence in the refrigerator section, sitting on the floor and staring wistfully at milk cartons.

“Go tell him he needs to pay for those!” Junmyeon hisses. His hands twist on his work apron nervously as he eyes the golden haired man moping on the cold floor tiles. Chanyeol shoots his boss an unimpressed look and hops over the counter. Junmyeon stands on his tiptoes and watches as Chanyeol walks over and squats down next to the guy and says something. The man gestures wildly, eyes wide, clearly distressed, and then Chanyeol’s shaking his head sympathetically. A few seconds later, after patting the man’s shoulder softly, Chanyeol returns to the register.

“Well?” Junmyeon asks when Chanyeol just stands there.

His voice is gravelly and his eyes lowered as he says, “We had a talk. Tall person to tall person. I’m gonna leave him alone.”

“Chanyeol. He’s sighing at the milk.” It’s like Junmyeon is the only person who sees the problem with the situation.

The man shifts a little and calls out in slightly accented Korean, “I’m not sighing! I’m contemplating.”

“Oh great, now the doughnut thief is communicating!” Junmyeon whispers angrily. Said doughnut thief stands up and to Junmyeon’s complete horror, he’s even taller than Chanyeol. His blonde hair glints in the bright lighting of the convenience store and Junmyeon feels his impending death get closer and closer with every long step that brings the man nearer to the register.

“Do you…” the man pauses to sigh, “Ever just feel like a milk carton?”

Junmyeon feels like he regrets inheriting his parent’s store, but a high pitched “Uhm,” is the only thing that comes out of his mouth when he tries to speak. Not that he needed to have bothered, because the guy keeps talking.

“Like, when all your milk is gone and you’re just an empty paper container that gets thrown in the trash.” The man sighs again, leaning forward onto the counter. Junmyeon jerks back a little and presses his lips together tightly. Instead of answering to the man’s soliloquy, he raises an eyebrow and asks, “Are you going to pay for those doughnuts you ate?”

The man sighs again and reaches into the pocket of his tight jeans, then pulls out a loose fist of money. He drops everything on the counter and starts making his way back to the milk.

“Keep the change.” He calls over his shoulder, “I’m probably going to eat more.”

Oh joy.

*

Yixing’s shift starts in the afternoon right after Chanyeol’s ends. The appearance of the soft-spoken Chinese man also means the Ultimate Evil, as Junmyeon calls him, otherwise known as Kim Jongdae. Junmyeon doesn’t know how the little shrimp has wormed his way into his life, but there he is, every single day, like his entire purpose in life is to harass his boyfriend’s boss.

The worst part is that Junmyeon can’t even throw him out because then he’d look bad to the old ladies that run the flower shop across the street who had all been deceived into liking Yixing and his ‘cute little friend’.  The old ladies were not the ones who had to experience the two practically dry-humping in the back room every day.

Since it’s Jongdae’s job to try and give Junmyeon an early death, he immediately picks up on the man’s frustration towards the giant who has now migrated to the soft drinks. It’s making Junmyeon nervous as hell because now he can’t even see the guy.

“Junmyeon-hyung, I don’t know if you realized but there’s a guy on the ground hugging a soda bottle like it’s his dead lover or something.”

“Soda is the only drink that understands me!” A raspy voice proclaims from the soft drink aisle.

“Help me.” Junmyeon says lowly, as not to be overheard. “He’s been here all day.”

A devilish grin spreads on Jongdae’s face and he disappears happily into the aisle.

Junmyeon turns to Yixing and decides the Chinese man is his only sane employee. Yixing raises an eyebrow but then turns to help a middle aged man ring up a bag of chips.

At least someone actually does their job.

The bell above the door jingles, signaling a new customer. Junmyeon turns with a smile, only to have it drop off his face. He should have known. The beginning of the afternoon shift also marks the time classes end at the university a block away, meaning the flood of students come in with their hipster glasses and messenger bags.

Speaking of hipsters, Oh Sehun strides into the store with a yell of, “Hyung! Did you get my new manga like I asked you to?” His multicolored hair makes Junmyeon’s eyes hurt and the tall guy following him whose name Junmyeon can’t remember stops to speak in Mandarin to Yixing before trailing after his friend.

“How many times do I have to explain that we don’t sell manga and I refuse to order any to the store?” Junmyeon tries exasperatedly. Sehun stares him down.

“It’s in the back.”

Grinning widely, he holds his fist out for Junmyeon to bump. “For an old man, you’re really cool, Hyung.”

“I’m 27.” Junmyeon says darkly, but relents to pushing his knuckles weakly against Sehun’s. Sehun shrugs insouciantly and blows him a kiss with lipstick smeared lips, and then retreats to the backroom with his friend. Junmyeon’s sure they’d be there all day loitering around and doing who knows what.

“Was that Sehun and Zitao?” Jongdae asks, finally emerging from the drinks, and Yixing nods in response.

“Is the weird guy in the soda aisle going to leave?” Junmyeon shoots back.

“Yifan.” Jongdae supplies helpfully.

“Is Yifan going to leave?”

Jongdae’s happy face goes dark and he shakes his head slowly. He glances furtively from side to side and stage whispers, “He’s really deep, man. Like, he touches your soul.” Jongdae puts a small hand over his heart and closes his eyes, face turned up to the ceiling.

“I hate this store.”

*

It’s nearly closing time and the guy is still there. Junmyeon’s had enough.

He tries to make himself look taller, puffs up his chest, and makes the angriest face he can in the mirror of the back room. He looks ridiculous.

Sighing in defeat, he trudges out and over to the drinks, but when he peeks over some shelves to find Yifan, he’s not there. Instead, a little humming noise comes from the chips section.

Junmyeon drags his feet warily into the aisle. Yifan’s sitting on the floor cradling a bag of jalapeno chips and at first Junmyeon’s not sure what’s happening, but then he realizes Yifan is talking to the chips. Absently, he notes that Yifan’s voice is quite nice as he speaks in lilting Mandarin, voice deep.

The noises he makes sound even louder in the empty store. Junmyeon’s always the last one to leave, making sure everything is in order and locked up nicely.

“E-excuse me Sir?” Junmyeon hates the way his voice shakes, “We’re uh, we’re about to close now.”

“Oh.” Yifan looks faintly surprised, “Sorry, I’m going to go then.” He stands with one fluid motion that has Junmyeon gasping and reeling back at the unexpected movement. His arms windmill as he tries to regain his balance, but before he falls, there’s a hand on his wrist tugging him upright.

“Are you okay?” Yifan sounds the most normal he has all day, mouth pulled up in a little smile that makes Junmyeon’s stomach churn. He strictly commands it to stop before he realizes he’s trying to give mental orders to his stomach. Honestly, working in the store is driving him crazy.

“Uh…?” Yifan interrupts his inner monologue.

“Junmyeon.” The shorter man says.

“Yeah, Junmyeon.” The way his name rolls off Yifan’s tongue makes him want to smile. “I’ll just be leaving now.”

It’s only after Yifan leaves that Junmyeon realizes he hadn’t answered the tall man’s question.

*

Tuesdays at the store mean Junmyeon’s favorite customer.

Jongin and Kyungsoo stop in every Tuesday on their way to Jongin’s dance studio, and they always bring their dog with them.

Junmyeon’s ringing up a carton of eggs for a young lady who keeps smiling in a feline way when the sound of little excited barks fills the air over the tinkling of the bell. The sound alone is enough to make Junmyeon burst out into a smile.

“Jjangah!” he cries, and the dog launches itself into his arms. The lady looks a little taken aback as she retrieves her eggs and leaves. Junmyeon’s too busy hugging Jjangah to remind her to take her receipt.

“Morning, Junmyeonie.” Jongin smiles brightly. He’s wearing shorts that Junmyeon’s mother called “the inappropriate pants” before she retired from the store. His arm is wrapped tightly around Kyungsoo.

Junmyeon’s greeting them back when the bell rings again, stopping him mid-word. Yifan slouches into the store, hands shoved into the pockets of his hoodie, and when he nods at Junmyeon, the shorter man can’t help but gape and exclaim, “Are you wearing eyeliner?”

There are little black smudges around Yifan’s eyes, like his eyeliner had been rubbed at, but overall it adds to his attractiveness. Whenever Junmyeon tries to put on makeup he ends up looking like the time Chanyeol had fallen asleep and Jongdae had drawn all over his face before realizing in horror that it was a permanent marker.

Long story short, Jongdae’s left foot has never been the same since Chanyeol had been through with him.

Lost in his thoughts, Junmyeon almost doesn’t catch Yifan’s flat, “I look pretty,” before he rubs at his eyes. Then he’s slinking over to the magazine section and the top of his head soon disappears as he presumably sinks onto the floor again.

Jongin’s looking at him curiously, so Junmyeon shrugs and keeps petting the dog in his arms. Kyungsoo doesn’t even comment, picking up the usual energy drink for Jongin and coffee for himself. They pay and exit, and Junmyeon’s left to his thoughts.

It’s still too early for an ample amount of shoppers, so after a couple minutes Junmyeon’s itching with interest. Yifan’s golden head is just visible over the magazine rack, and as Junmyeon approaches, slowly more and more of him comes into view. Yifan has a magazine with various pictures of furniture spread over his thighs. He has a large, long fingered hand resting on one of the pages, stroking down the glossy paper softly.

Junmyeon clears his throat loudly and hopes the look on his face isn’t too scandalized. Yifan looks up, his face devoid of any shame.

“Do you need something?” he asks pleasantly. Junmyeon stares at him for a second before he snaps out of and shakes his head. Yifan pats the floor next to him.

What the hell. Junmyeon sets himself down gingerly, leaning himself against the shelf behind him.

“So- uh- why are you petting my magazines?” Junmyeon tries for a conversational tone, but it sounds more like he’s accusing Yifan of sexual harassment.

“Do you ever feel like you’re alone?” the tall man asks instead of answering. He sounds so sincere that Junmyeon actually feels his heart flutter with concern.

“Yeah, I guess.” Junmyeon answers honestly. “Is there something that happened to make you feel this way?”

Yifan’s silent for a second. Then, “My parents cut me off.” He sounds completely sober, mouth twitching down on the sides, sullen, hooded eyes ringed in black. He’s got to be at least Junmyeon’s age or even older, but he looks like a teenager discovering emo music for the first time.

Junmyeon snorts. “How old are you?”

“28.” He says it so shamelessly that Junmyeon can’t even laugh. “They got rid of everything. The maids, the cook, even the lady that does the laundry. Then they sent me to Korea.” Yifan’s practically wailing at the end and Junmyeon stares openmouthed.

“You had a maid. And she was separate from the lady that did the laundry.” Junmyeon sits back against the shelf and takes a deep breath. He’d been raised on hard work and tough love.

“And now I live here and I have nothing to do but sit here all day.” Yifan finishes, head dropping towards his chest. Junmyeon studies him quietly for a minute, examining the way his thick lashes curl, the sharp jaw, the thin fingered large hands that continue stroking the magazine unconsciously, the multiple pieces of metal glinting in his ears. Everything about him screams “aristocrat!”

“I’m sorry for thinking you were strange.” He mumbles finally, drawing a little smile from Yifan’s pink lips.

“Sorry for telling that curly haired guy you’re really short.”

“You told Jongdae what?!” But Yifan’s laughing, mouth pulling up brilliantly in the way that makes Junmyeon’s heart flutter. Either that or he was going into cardiac arrest from dealing with so many things every day and he really was going to die early. Some part of Junmyeon hopes it’s the latter; it would be easier than developing weird feelings for the foreign doughnut thief.

“I’ve got to get back to work.” He mumbles, rising to his feet. “Have fun talking to magazines.”

“I was talking to chips. Magazines don’t deserve my speech.”

Junmyeon doesn’t bother to respond.

The next couple hours of his shift aren’t too busy. A couple customers come in and pick whatever they need, not commenting on the giant sitting in the corner of his store. One little girl stops in with her mother and cries, “Flower Boy!” while pointing at Yifan until her mother blushes and ushers her out, nearly forgetting their milk. Yifan smiles and winks at the kid as she waves goodbye over her shoulder.

*

Sometime at around lunch, Chanyeol comes in for his Tuesday afternoon shift. He stops dead in his tracks when he spots Yifan humming softly and eating yet another pack of pastries he has yet to pay for.

“So I take it your talk with him didn’t go well?” Chanyeol murmurs as he gets ready for work.

“Look at him!” Junmyeon hisses, “He’s pathetic! I can’t kick him out! He was singing Chinese ballads to the eggs earlier!”

Chanyeol clicks his tongue in sympathy and grabs his lunch, then walks over to Yifan. A couple minutes later, he’s handing Yifan half his sandwich and fist-bumping him before heading back to the counter.

“The ways of tall people are a mystery.” Junmyeon deadpans and Chanyeol smacks him in the head with the wrapped other half of the sandwich.

“Get lost, shorty. Your shift’s over. I’ll lock up tonight.”

Junmyeon casts one last nervous glance back at Yifan and then nods slowly. “See you Thursday then.”

Chanyeol waves vaguely and ushers him towards the door. With nothing to do, he makes his way down the street and scrolls through his phone. When he finds the name he’s looking for, a satisfied smile spreads over his face.

Minho picks up on the second ring. He sounds like he’s in the midst of a volcanic eruption, or what Minho calls a ‘Taemin Temper Tantrum’.

“Hi Junmyeonie!” Minho’s voice sounds a little out of breath and distantly Junmyeon hears a nasal voice yell, “Taemin put down the sock!”

“Was that Jinki?” he asks, smile sliding into place. Minho is his best friend from back in Uni and somehow he’d gotten roped in with Minho’s other four friends.

“Jinki!” Minho yells, “Junmyeon said hey!” Then into the phone, “Jinki’s busy being strangled by Kibum’s sock so he couldn’t answer.”

Suddenly Junmyeon is very glad he never took that offer after he’d graduated university to live in the big fancy apartment Minho and his four friends live in. “Are you doing anything? Beyond letting Taemin kill poor Jinki.”

The sound of Kibum’s scream drifts through the speaker and Junmyeon shivers. Definitely glad. Minho, however, is somehow used to the chaos and nonchalantly answers, “Nah. Did you have something in mind?”

“The café?” Junmyeon suggests. He listens for Minho’s answer but after a couple seconds the only thing he hears is silence.

Then, in a low menacing voice, Minho threatens, “Lee Taemin if you do that I swear to god I will sneak into your room tonight and cut off every strand of that pretty hair of yours.” Junmyeon hears Taemin hiss something in return before Minho starts speaking to him again, “The café is fine, Junmyeonie. I’ll meet you there in like 20 minutes.”

There’s a click and the line goes dead.

*

“I swear to god, they’re all going to drive me crazy.”

Minho sits down across from him, crossing his long legs under the table. They come to the café every other week to the point where the waiters already know their orders.

Minho makes a little empathetic “tsk” noise and tilts his head to the side. “Here’s what you do. Sell the shop and move to a different country. I can go with you. Finally, I will be free from that menace Taemin.”

Junmyeon laughs and shakes his head, “I don’t know what I would do without the store.”

Rolling his eyes, Minho takes a sip of his latte and says, “It’s more like your weird little entourage wouldn’t know what to do without you.”

On a deep level, Junmyeon knows Minho is right. He naturally likes taking care of people and having others depend on him. That’s just how he’s wired.

“Oh, and there’s a giant stalking me.”

Minho doesn’t even look shocked as he waits for Junmyeon to spill.

“He’s like this weird tall Chinese guy whose parents sent him here and he has no friends so he sits, and when I say sits, I mean on the floor, of the store and talks about the metaphorical value of milk.”

Minho bursts out cackling at his expense, and it causes a couple white tourists from the table next to theirs to look over. Junmyeon hisses and smacks the top of Minho’s head.

“This is serious!” He whines after shooting an apologetic look at the tourists.

“No fucking way,” Minho laughs, “He sounds worse than that time Jonghyun tried weed during freshman year at Uni and wound up giggling about the word water for like half an hour.”

Junmyeon remembers and shudders. “Remind me to never let Jonghyun near my faucets again.”

Minho launches into a story about Jonghyun and Kibum almost flooding their apartment and Junmyeon thinks again about how grateful he is that he doesn’t live with them.

At least, he thinks absently, there’s always interesting things going on when you live with other people.

*

Wednesday passes without incident, Jongdae only harassing Junmyeon to a minimum, instead opting to spend Yixing’s entire shift with Yifan talking in hushed Mandarin.

About an hour before closing, Sehun’s tall friend Zitao comes in clad in all black, eyes done up in heavy eyeliner, and what Junmyeon is pretty sure are leather pants. He’s not even sure how Zitao got those on.

He takes a look around before turning his eyes to Junmyeon.

“Is Yifan here?” he asks in heavily accented Korean.  Junmyeon points to the frozen food aisle and watches as Zitao walks over and squats down next to Yifan, who’s on the floor comparing sugars in different brands of ice cream.

He says something in Mandarin and Yifan nods excitedly, and then glances over at Junmyeon who immediately averts his eyes.  Watching through his peripheral vision, Junmyeon sees Yifan shake his head and frown when Zitao says the same thing again, albeit this time louder.

Then Zitao rolls his eyes and straightens up. He eyes Junmyeon and makes a little scoffing noise in his throat before nodding a little and walking out of the store.

It feels unnaturally silent and Yifan isn’t humming or making any of his usual white noise. Junmyeon shifts uncomfortably and asks, “So you’re friends with Zitao?”

“He’s Chinese. I’m Chinese. We both wear eyeliner and like guys.” Yifan shrugs. Junmyeon mentally bookmarks the “like guys” before hastily pushing the thought aside.

“So was he trying to steal you from me?” Junmyeon teases in what he hopes is a light voice. Yifan’s mouth twists strangely and nods slowly.

“He wanted to go to dinner, but I wanted to wait for you to close.”

“Yeah? Why?”

“I don’t know.” Yifan pauses and shrugs, “You look like you’d be lonely all alone here at night. You’re too small to defend yourself. What if you get robbed?”

Junmyeon snorts and leans on his elbows on the counter. “Are you insinuating I’m not tough?”

Yifan’s up in a second and in front of Junmyeon in two more. He stoops down and blows softly in Junmyeon’s face. “I’m just saying, you wouldn’t be able to defend yourself against anything.” His voice sounds a little raspy, and Junmyeon suppresses a shiver.

“That’s why I'm here to protect you!” Yifan’s face clears up and he grins, reaching to mess up Junmyeon’s hair.

“If you mess up my hair again I'm definitely not the one who will need protecting.” Junmyeon smiles pleasantly. “And you should have gone. Now you’ll have to go eat at home alone.”

“I’ll get takeout or something.” Yifan shrugs, but Junmyeon sees his mouth turn down a little at the prospect.

“You can come to my house! I mean- Like, I can cook and, uh…” Junmyeon trails off weakly and sincerely curses his big mouth.

“Really?” to his surprise, Yifan doesn’t look scared off by his sudden offer, eyes lighting up in a way that makes Junmyeon want to melt into a puddle. “You don’t have to, but oh, I haven’t eaten anything home made in two weeks.”

“It’s fine!” Junmyeon’s voice sounds an octave too high even to his own ears. He wills his knees to stop shaking at the idea of having Yifan in his apartment and forces a smile. When was the last time he’d cleaned? What if Yifan thought his apartment was too small or shabby? Junmyeon feels his stomach clench weirdly. “I mean it’s not much, but um, it’s no problem.”

Somehow Yifan ends up in his tiny living room an hour later, legs tucked neatly under him on the couch as he takes in his surroundings with wide eyes. Junmyeon warily eyes the multiple pictures on the walls and the horrid decorative owl his mother had gotten him a couple years ago on the coffee table.

“It’s not much but I-“

“I love it.” Yifan interrupts solemnly. “It’s so comfortable and warm.”

“Oh.” Junmyeon’s sure there’s smoke coming out of his ears. “I- thanks. I- I’m going to go cook now.”

By the time he’s retreated to the kitchen, Junmyeon’s pretty sure he’s going to die because there is an attractive male literally a fiver meters away in his living room. He tries to focus on boiling pasta and not the way his hands quake when he’s trying to stir the sauce.

Then there’s a low voice in his ear. “I’m going to murder you with the owl.”

Junmyeon shrieks and leaps forward nearly falling into the stove before a pair of big hands wrap around his middle and pull him back. “Oh my god!” he screeches, turning to face a smiling Yifan. Then he’s smacking his hands on Yifan’s chest, making an outraged noise, “I can’t believe you, oh my god why?”

“I’m sorry!” He doesn’t sound very sorry, trying to cover his laugh with an oversized hand. Junmyeon’s ready to shove his head into the oven but then he’s grinning in the endearing way that makes Junmyeon want to reconsider.

“You’re not getting dessert because of that.” Junmyeon informs him. Immediately, the tall man sticks out a plush lower lip and pouts. “You suck.” Junmyeon murmurs as he turns back to the stove. Yifan covertly leans over him and takes a deep breath.

“That smells really good.” Yifan says softly after a couple seconds.

“Thanks. But kissing my ass isn’t getting you your ice cream privileges back.” Junmyeon hears a thump and whips around to see Yifan sitting on the floor, staring up at him. “And now you’re on the ground. Okay.”

“Sit down with me.”

Junmyeon wants to step on his head. Instead he counts to ten and gingerly sinks down. “Now what? Do we talk to the pasta?”

Yifan rolls his eyes like that’s crazy. “I told you, I only talk to the chips.”

“Ah, of course. I should have known.” Junmyeon wraps his arms over his knees and watches as Yifan spreads his long legs out in front of him and settles down on the floor.

“Have I ever told you that you have really tiny feet?” Yifan asks. Junmyeon looks down at his socks and wiggles his toes.

“Do not.”

 “Do too.” Yifan snakes a hand around his ankle before he can protest and presses another hand to the bottom of his foot to measure. “See?” he bends the excess of his fingers over the top of Junmyeon’s toes.

“You’re like two meters tall,” Junmyeon complains, “Shut up.”

Yifan grins dopily and starts talking about his friend back in China who had hands so small she could fit her entire fist in her mouth. Junmyeon feels half disgusted but half intrigued.

It strikes him them that he’s only known Yifan for three days, yet he’s sitting on the floor of Junmyeon’s kitchen and they’re swapping life stories. He shrugs it off though; he’s never had a problem making friends quickly. Even the peculiar ones who stroke furniture magazines.

A couple minutes later, Junmyeon’s too hungry to ignore his stomach anymore so he stands and gestures to the table.

“You don’t want to sit at an actual table?”

Yifan arches a brow. “Do you?”

Junmyeon considers it. “Not particularly.”

They end up balancing plates on their laps, leaning against the oven. Yifan entertains him with tales from his childhood in China-including the time the neighborhood kids made him eat a caterpillar and then convinced him a butterfly was gonna crawl out of his ear- and Junmyeon kind of wishes Yifan would stay in his apartment all the time.

Like, moving in?

‘No Junmyeon!’ He scolds his mental self. ‘You don’t want to live with this strange man you met only this week!’

But Yifan is so charming and quirky, it’s like Junmyeon can’t resist opening up to him. By the time he’s leaving, he’s already sweet-talked Junmyeon into inviting him over for dinner the next week and into giving him the terrifying owl statue. (“Why would you even need that?” “Reasons.”)

Junmyeon thinks he’s a little bit infatuated.

*

That Saturday, Yifan slinks into the store wearing a black sweater that clings like a second skin over ripped up jeans. Junmyeon feels his throat go dry immediately as he tries to wave nonchalantly, but it turns out looking more like a random muscle spasm.

Then Yifan actually gets closer and Junmyeon can actually see the dark circles under his eyes and the way he looks pallid and exhausted.

“You look tired.” He remarks, then brings his pink Hello Kitty coffee mug (a gift from Sehun) up to his nose to sniff and makes an appraising noise.

“Coffee.” Yifan’s voice sounds hoarse, his eyes downcast until they flick up and drag over Junmyeon’s hands.

Junmyeon makes a little concerned noise in his throat and hands Yifan the mug.

“Hello Kitty?” Yifan teases, sullen lips finally pulling up a little teasingly. Junmyeon sticks his tongue out and grabs the mug back quickly.

“If you’re going to complain then you don’t get any.”

“Wait, wait no it’s cute! I love Hello Kitty! I have a shrine to Hello Kitty in my closet I swear!” Yifan makes grabby hands for a second before he realizes he has several inches on Junmyeon and can just reach over and grab the coffee back.

“Unfair!” the shorter man shrieks, but Yifan is retreating to the instant coffee and cereal aisle on his long legs.

“All’s fair!” Yifan calls back.

“This is neither love nor war.” Junmyeon is contemplating running after him into the aisle but decides against it solely on the fact that Yifan is intimidatingly big.

“I love Hello Kitty and coffee, and I will rage war to obtain both those things.” Then Yifan shoots him a smile over the top shelf and sinks down onto the floor. A couple seconds later, the sound of soft Mandarin can be heard.

Yifan doesn’t emerge for the rest of the day, holding bottles of allergy pills and shaking them to listen to the different noises until Junmyeon wants to die because of the racket.

Surprisingly, though, Jongdae comes in (much to Junmyeon’s horror) even though Yixing isn’t working and asks for Yifan. Then he disappears for half an hour, conversing in hushed tones in Mandarin with him.

Junmyeon really ought to kick them both out, but one look out the window at the old ladies sitting in front of the flower shop and he pushes the thought away. Instead, he walks over, hands on his hips, and commands Jongdae to make himself useful and mop the floor.

Jongdae looks up at him and starts laughing, but it slides right off when Yifan looks up from the bottle of painkillers in his hand and says, “I’ll do it.”

“You’re okay with cleaning the floor?” Jongdae asks fearfully, making the chore sound akin to “slaughtering small animals”.

Yifan shrugs and gets to his feet, stepping around Jongdae and handing Junmyeon the empty mug. “I’ll do it every week if you make me coffee in the mornings.”

Junmyeon says yes so quickly that he almost misses Jongdae’s hissed, “He’d make you coffee anyways if you just asked.”

“I mean, he’s already making me dinner. It’s the least I can do.”

Jongdae’s eyebrows shoot up into his fringe. “Hyung, you don’t make me dinner.”

“Maybe it’s because I hate you.” Junmyeon smiles.

Jongdae sticks his tongue out and kicks lamely at Junmyeon’s shin. “Why are you being so nice to Yifan but so mean to me?”

“Again, it’s because I hate you.”

*

The next week passes uneventfully, with Junmyeon only being able to get minimal interaction with Yifan. He comes in every morning looking like the dead until he eats a couple pastries and some coffee. Then he sets himself down on the floor and sits there. All day.

They’ve eaten dinner together at Junmyeon’s house twice more, Yifan somehow charming him into inviting him over again.

Junmyeon isn’t sure if he wants to wants to call the police and have him forcibly removed or if he wants to tuck a blanket around the tall Chinese man and make him tea for the rest of his life.

By the time Friday rolls around, Junmyeon’s wound tight like a spring, ready to explode at any second. Every time he hears a faint murmuring in Mandarin from the chips aisle, he wants to strangle Yifan, but at the same time he’s extremely fascinated and wants to ask him more about himself.

Yixing’s running the register, helping out a young couple with a toddler clinging to the mother’s leg. He dimples gently at the child until she smiles back shyly and Yixing hands her a lollipop from the little jar behind the counter. She shrieks in delight and goes running off before her parents can grab her.

Junmyeon frowns as Yifan emerges a couple seconds later, holding the laughing child. She looks so comically small as Yifan struggles to carry her properly that Junmyeon lets out a little burst of laughter before he can help himself.

“I think this is yours?” He asks the parents, but to his (and Junmyeon’s) surprise, she refuses to relinquish her hold on Yifan’s sweater. Junmyeon leans in and stands on his tip toes to stare her in the eye. Yifan balances her clumsily on his hip and Junmyeon whispers softly, “If you let the nice man go, you can have any kind of candy you’d like.”

The kid’s eyes go wide as if Junmyeon has just told her all the secrets of the universe and she nods quickly, practically launching herself off Yifan, much to the tall man’s relief. Junmyeon smiles softly and takes her hand, leading her to the candy counter.

Afterwards, the parents apologize profusely to both him and Yifan, but Junmyeon brushes it off with a grin and a, “Come back soon!”

When he looks back into the store, Yifan’s staring at him full of awe. “How did you do that?” he demands. He looks so genuinely curious at the fact that Junmyeon compromised with a child that Junmyeon can’t keep in a peal of laughter.

“Practice.” He says wisely.

“The fact that you’re about a meter tall and look like a teddy bear helps.” Yixing adds dryly.

“Where’s Satan?” Junmyeon sasses back.

 Yixing smiles sweetly and points to the backroom. “Napping.” Junmyeon has no doubt that Jongdae is indeed within the room.

“If he’s on my couch you know I’m going to have to burn it again.”

Again.” Yifan chokes.

 Junmyeon raises his eyebrow, smirk pulling up on his lips. “I may be short and good with kids, but don’t underestimate my penchant for hating Kim Jongdae.”

*

Saturday morning, Junmyeon’s getting up when he twists his ankle and falls on his way to the kitchen. He kind of hates his life.

He’s late when he arrives at the store, and Yifan’s standing around the front, playing around on his phone. He opens the shop and watches Yifan disappear.

Junmyeon’s pretty much used to Yifan’s low murmuring following him around the store. As long as it doesn’t drive off other customers, Junmyeon’s fine with it.

But the trail of doughnut wrappers is kind of getting on his nerves.

Junmyeon follows what he’s referring to as the Trail of Sadness and Carbs with his eyes until he finds it leading into the snack aisle.

With a sigh, Junmyeon trudges toward the aisle marked "snacks" and finds Yifan situated in his nook, legs splayed out long in front of him. Junmyeon thinks absently that the Chinese man's lower half alone is the size of his entire body. Yifan glances up at the sound of his footsteps and he neatly crosses his legs to let Junmyeon pass.

"You didn't pay for the last couple coffees and that last pack of doughnuts." Junmyeon informs him flatly. “And you’re making a mess.”

Instead of answering him, Yifan points at his leg and asks, "Why are you limping?" Junmyeon's eyebrows rise in surprise.

"You noticed that?" Yifan nods and waits for him to explain so Junmyeon shrugs, "My ankle's been hurting a little lately." Before Junmyeon can process, Yifan grabs his wrist and pulls him down so his ass hits the ground with a small huff of shock. It doesn’t hurt but he feels his face grow warm with embarrassment.

Yifan laughs lightly at the noise and pulls his feet into his lap. "W-what are you doing?" Yifan rolls his eyes like it's the most stupid question he's ever asked and starts trying to take of his shoes. "Yifan stop!" Yifan takes a socked foot in one hand and starts rubbing his hand over it. Junmyeon shrieks as Yifan deftly ignores him and presses a thumb to his ankle, the other fingers skimming the arch of his foot. "Yifan!" His voice takes on a desperate edge and he's glad the store just opened because if anyone saw him he would start screaming. And crying, probably.

"Calm down." Yifan enunciates, and Junmyeon falls taciturn at the sheer force behind the words. "I'm trying to help." he mutters, hands sliding up and down Junmyeon's foot. He starts grinding the pads of his fingers into Junmyeon's tendons, and oh it kind of feels nice. Really nice. Eyes fluttering closed, Junmyeon leans back in the shelf and lets Yifan massage the ache out of him.

"You're really good at that," he murmurs quietly after a while. He's a little sleepy and can feel his eyelids weighing down heavily.

A smile tugs on his lips as Yifan ducks his head sheepishly and explains, "My mom used to make me do this to her." His thumbs rub a little more insistently into Junmyeon's ankle, and it should be ridiculous because Yifan's hand is larger than his entire foot but it feels so nice that Junmyeon's head actually rolls back and a tiny embarrassing whine escapes from his throat.

"Your mother is a wonderful woman." Junmyeon breathes out.

Yifan's smile widens. "She is," he murmurs quietly, then does something with his foot that makes a sharp cracking noise. Junmyeon gasps at a sharp flare of pain that streaks through it but then Yifan's soothing him with gentle fingers and when he's done, his ankles feel loose and the aching that's been going on is relieved.

"Oh dear." Junmyeon whispers. Yifan's looking at him through dark eyelashes, head bowed modestly. "Consider it repayment for the doughnuts." Junmyeon is in such a relaxed state that he's almost forgotten his reason for approaching the snacks aisle.

"You're still going to pay for those." Junmyeon chides. Yifan grins and waves his hand vaguely. Then the tinkling of the bell chimes through the store and Junmyeon's heart rate shoots up almost as fast as his body does.

"Hyung?" It's Sehun's voice that pierces the air. Wiping his sweaty hands on his jeans, Junmyeon glances down to see Yifan flipping through a magazine again so he calls out, "Coming!" and hurries back to the counter.

“My parents are so on my back about tests and jobs lately.” Sehun pouts miserably. Junmyeon can imagine. Sehun’s family’s pretty conservative from what he’s heard, and the lipstick and dyed hair don’t exactly match their ideals.

“Do you want to hang out here for a while, Sehunnie?” Junmyeon asks.

Sehun smiles sweetly, “Hyung, you’re the best.” He murmurs honestly, and then makes his way over to the snacks aisle, following the Sadness and Carb Trail.

“Do you people come to my store for me or the tall weirdo?” Junmyeon calls out. Yifan and Sehun both cackle and Yifan calls out, “Probably me!”

“He’s right, Hyung! He’s got charm!”

Of course Junmyeon knows that. As if he’s not being affected by Yifan’s freaky ass voodoo too.

  *

  Closing time brings Baekhyun and Chanyeol falling through the door, tripping over each other to get to Junmyeon.

"Hyung!" Baekhyun nearly screams, "Help us please!" Yifan jolts up, instantly alert. Junmyeon knows them too well to be surprised though, so he slowly turns and watches Chanyeol stumble behind Baekhyun. Baekhyun whips his head from side to side and then shrieks, "They're back!"

Junmyeon stares at the frantic mess in front of him for a second before he even asks, "Who's back?"

Baekhyun’s face turns dark as he whispers, "Satan." and then after a pause, "Minseok-hyung and Luhan-hyung."

 "Luhan?" Yifan's voice floats over, "Is he another of my exiled kinsmen?"

"What the fuck is that?" Baekhyun asks, examining Yifan as he hurries over to them. Ignoring Baekhyun, Junmyeon turns to Yifan and says,

"If by that you're asking if he's Chinese, then yes. He's also happily married to said Minseok and likes it here." Behind him, he hears Chanyeol's hushed whisper and he explains to Baekhyun the whole Yifan situation. The words "doughnut" and "pants" are the only things Junmyeon hears.

"They were in China for a week and they told me to water their plants." Baekhyun squats down in despair, head in his hands.

"Are they all dead?" Junmyeon guesses, and figures he's hit the nail on the head when Baekhyun wails. Chanyeol bends down and pats his shoulder sympathetically. Then Baekhyun goes upright and rigid, head swiveling towards the window of the shop.

"I sense him coming." He says the words like a death sentence and springs up to the back room.

Then the impending tornado that is Luhan bursts into the store, the bell crashing violently with the force of him throwing the door open. "He. Killed. My. Plant. Babies." Luhan seethes, pretty face scrunched devilishly.

Minseok lags in behind him and waves. "We're back!" He announces cheerfully over Luhan's fury.

"He killed my babies and now I have to kill him. It's Devine Retribution." With a couple strides, he's yanking open the door to the back and shuts it behind him. There's a little click and then silence for several minutes. Then there’s a high scream from Baekhyun and more quiet.

  "Don't break anything!" Junmyeon calls, even though he knows it's probably futile.

"You know, I think I'm kind of starting to like Korea." Yifan murmurs to Chanyeol. Despite his worry, Junmyeon feels a smile bloom on his face.

*

  Ten minutes later, Luhan emerges looking satisfied. Junmyeon almost doesn't want to go back there. Chanyeol, who's loitering around with Yifan near the dairy, looks up sharply at the angel faced man.

"He's all yours." Luhan mutters before nodding to Junmyeon and leaving. Chanyeol makes his way cautiously to the door, but before he can go inside, it swings open and Baekhyun steps out, albeit shakily.

He looks like he's just been flashed on the street and mumbles, "dead orchids.... up my ass... leaves...." and then Chanyeol's wrapping an arm around his waist murmuring, "Come on Baek, I'll make you some soup at home."

"Wait!" Baekhyun stops him short, "What if there are orchids at home?"

"Unless flowers magically appear in people's houses…" Chanyeol says exasperatedly. Baekhyun nods and lets Chanyeol lead him out. "See you tomorrow, Junmyeon-hyung!" Chanyeol yells over his shoulder.

 A couple minutes later Yifan also emerges from the shelves. "Here's the money for the stuff I ate today." He places a handful of money on the counter. As usual, it's too much.

"Forget it." Junmyeon smiles, "You gave me that massage, remember?" Yifan laughs a little and waves a hand dismissively.

"How long till you close?" He asks. Junmyeon checks his watch quickly and answers, "About an hour." Yifan doesn't say anything in response but plants his hand firmly on the counter and swings his legs over easily. Junmyeon would probably fall and die if he attempted that. "Do you wanna go get dinner afterwards?"

Junmyeon quickly stamps out the weird uneven beating his heart has started doing and stands a little straighter. Just a friend asking another friend if he wanted to grab dinner. Not a big deal.

“Yeah, sure.” He forces out a calm tone. “Um, did you have any place in mind?”

Yifan scrunches his face up cutely for a second as he ponders and then answers, “There’s a pizza place across from my apartment.”

The pizza place turns out to be a tiny diner-like restaurant in the nicer side of the neighborhood. Yifan slides across from Junmyeon into a booth and attempts put his feet up on the seat under the table, wincing when his knees slam into the hard wood.

“Fuck!” he hisses. A family with two kids glare at them and Junmyeon wants to throw Yifan out a window. He shoots the family an apologetic look and turns to Yifan.

“You fuckwad, you can’t just curse in public like that!” he whispers to not be overheard. Yifan rolls his eyes.

“Everyone will learn those words eventually. Why prolong it?”

“Remind me to never let my children around you.” Junmyeon deadpans.

Yifan’s face twitches in fascination. “You want kids?”

Junmyeon’s wanted children ever since he was a kid. He’s always been the older-brother type that helped all the other kids in the neighborhood and eventually gave them all advice on everything. He’s good at dealing with them and likes interacting with them, so he says, “Hell yeah I do.”

Yifan stares at him for a long period. Then, breaking his gaze, “I think you’d be a good father.” Junmyeon averts his eyes, trying not to look at flustered as he feels.

Then the waitress comes to take their order and Yifan smoothly orders for both of them. It’s horrifying how calm and composed he is in public versus how unable to function in society he actually is.

Yifan had explained to him one day in the store, it was because he’d been dragged to many social events in his youth with his parents. As a result, he’s good at showing a capable face and smooth-talking people until he gets what he wants.

“Every time you do that, it petrifies me.” Junmyeon says casually when the waiter leaves. Yifan chuckles and leans forward on his elbows.

“Do what?” he breathes, and oh, he’s doing it again, eyes heavy, mouth pulled up just a little into a smirk that makes Junmyeon want to hide under the table.

“I’m never going out with you again.” Junmyeon states flatly. Yifan laughs again and covers his face with his hands. When he drops his hands, he’s back to wide eyed weirdo.

“You’re just mad I’m good at acting suave.”

“I’m like a meter tall. I’m mad at everything.”

When they finish, Junmyeon feels full and content under the soft lights of the diner. He’s secretly dreading the walk home and one look at Yifan tells him he understands.

“Do you wanna come over to my house? I have alcohol and cake.”

“Why did I expect those exact two things when thinking about your pantry?”

Yifan shrugs and smiles widely. “I also don’t have a kitchen table so it looks like we’re eating on the floor.” 

*

Yifan’s apartment is almost exactly how he’d imagined it. High ceilings, warm lights, but minimalistic, with only one couch in the living room and no chairs around.

“Do you have a bed or do you sleep on the floor too?”

Yifan rolls his eyes and sticks his tongue out. “Who do you think I am?”  He leads Junmyeon through the apartment on a tour, pointing out the kitchen, two bedrooms, and bathrooms.

Then he tells Junmyeon to make himself comfortable and disappears into his room to change. He emerges a couple minutes later in sweatpants hanging loosely off his hips and a black shirt that leaves nothing to the imagination and Junmyeon’s throat goes dry at the sight.

“Ice cream? Soju? Whiskey?” Yifan lists them all off as he flits around the kitchen.

“I was promised cake.” Junmyeon stares him down until he goes to the fridge and takes out a white box and sets it on the counter.

It’s chocolate and amazing and Junmyeon kind of wants to marry it. And also Yifan. Kind of.

Leaning against the back of the couch, Yifan lays a blanket on the floor and they sit on it as they eat.

“Sitting on the floor makes things taste better.” He explains. Junmyeon can’t even object because somehow it’s true. He watches as Yifan sips his drink slowly and hands him the glass.

“One sip.” He demands.

Junmyeon ends up coughing and red faced at the burn while Yifan laughs and rubs his back. Junmyeon vows he’s never drinking and hides his face in his hands until Yifan coaxes him out again.

It’s kind of perfect.

*

Luhan is crazy. Luhan is completely, irrevocably insane.

He’s also trying to strip in the middle of Junmyeon’s store, but according to Jongin that’s “not important” because the underwear Luhan has on are pink and lacy and he needs to show everyone within a 100 feet radius. Thankfully, they’re all people Junmyeon’s “squad” as Minho fondly refers to them as.

Yifan isn’t even trying to stop the skinny Chinese man from shedding his belt and letting it fall to the ground, staring from the floor of the chips aisle. There’s a bag of barbecue chips in his hand and he’s petting them idly while watching the show.

Junmyeon wants to open the bag over his head.

Instead, he takes a deep breath and watches as Luhan lets his jeans pool around his ankles and begins waddling around Junmyeon’s livelihood yelling at the top of his lungs about Italian lace.

After he’s done jutting his narrow hips out to everyone in the store, (thank god it’s just Junmyeon, Yifan, and Jongin) he’s running off to the back to show Sehun.

A couple minutes later, a nearly frantic Minseok bursts into the store.

“Has anyone seen my husband?” he asks. Junmyeon points one shaking finger at the back room and Minseok shakes his head slowly.

“Is that his belt?” he asks quietly, jerking his chin towards the thin leather strip on the tiles.

Yifan nods.

“Ah.” He mumbles. “Sorry to trouble you.”

A second later, Minseok’s dragging Luhan out the door by the ear, and Luhan’s trying desperately to wiggle his pants up his thin legs. “Sorry, sorry, sorrysorrysorry,” he chants.

“Don’t you guys just love slow Tuesdays?” Jongin grins.

Junmyeon doesn’t respond. He’s trying to hard not to imagine Yifan in the panties, so he starts reciting the alphabet backwards.

It doesn’t work.

*

The afternoon light filters hazily through the long windows. Junmyeon yawns and feels his eyelids slip down a fraction more. Yifan’s lazy humming reaches his ears and he joins in softly. He’s heard the tune enough times to follow along.

Then the bell jingles and Junmyeon straightens quickly with a gasp and attempts to look awake.

Surprisingly enough, it’s Minho who strides in holding a… leash? On the end of the pink sparkly leash follows Taemin, who looks positively seething, glaring at Minho’s broad back.

“Hi Junmyeonie!” Minho ignores the tiny man shooting daggers into him and waves happily to the register. “I’m here for drinks and to interrogate that Chinese guy you were telling me about.”

“Interrogate?” Yifan asks. He emerges from an aisle and takes in the mess in front of him. He comes to stand by the counter as Minho leads Taemin over to the bread aisle.

“Is that guy on a child leash?” Yifan asks quietly. Junmyeon nods silently and watches as Minho rolls his eyes at something Taemin whines under his breath.

“Junmyeonie! Do you have any energy drinks?” Minho asks, and tugs sharply on the child leash when Taemin refuses to let go of the shelf with the loaves of bread.

“Aisle 4.” Junmyeon calls weakly. His gaze flits over Yifan’s amused face as he takes in what Junmyeon shamefully calls his best friends from college.

“There’s actually five of them.” He mumbles. “They’re all equally as strange.”

“Kinky.” Yifan comments.

“He lost a bet last night.” Minho informs them. Junmyeon doesn’t even want to know.

“Unfortunately, that’s my best friend from University and one of his roommates on the leash.” Taemin glances up and waves flirtatiously. Yifan waves back warily.

“He doesn’t usually have a leash.”

“I figured.”

Minho approaches the register with heavy intimidating steps. “So you’re the guy who’s been hanging around Junmyeon lately.” He stares Yifan down until he’s fidgeting with the hem of his shirt. Narrowing his eyes, Minho hisses, “What makes you worthy?”

“U-um. I talk to cereal boxes?” Yifan stutters after a second under scrutiny. Real eloquent. Minho’s face scrunches up in confusion but then smooths out.

“I’m just messing with you, man.” He laughs, “Junmyeon’s dated so many nasty fucks over the years, but you seem cool. But thanks for that.”

Junmyeon makes a noise in his throat. “We’re not dating.”

Minho laughs again breezily and waves a hand dismissively. “I'm just saying, you’ve had some pretty freaky stalkers. Like that guy who used to want to collect your shower water.”

Yifan’s eyebrows shoot up into his fringe but he stays silent. Junmyeon groans mentally and shoves at Minho’s unfairly muscular arm. “Buy your stuff and get out!” he whines.

Minho makes a face and sticks the energy drinks in a bag.

Only after they’ve left does Junmyeon realize they didn’t pay.

“I’m going to kill them.” He smiles sweetly at Yifan, who’s taken up residence on the ground behind the counter. Yifan hooks a finger around Junmyeon’s ankle and smiles up at him.

“You’re not going to tell me about the shower water guy?”

“I’m going to kill you too.”

*

Yifan always pays when they go out. Junmyeon finds this over the next couple weeks as Yifan insists on eating with him every night. He’s pretty sure that he sees Yifan’s spacious apartment more than his own at this point.

They tour the world without leaving the neighborhood. Chinese food on Mondays, Korean on Tuesdays, and then Italian on Wednesday, all throughout the week.

They’re arguing about where to go that night, Zitao standing in the corner on his phone, when a brown haired man runs through the door and nearly tackles Junmyeon.

He’d be completely unrecognizable if not for the slightly babyish way of speech as he murmurs “Hyung,” and starts sobbing into Junmyeon’s neck.

Sehunnie?” Junmyeon cautiously strokes a hand down his back. “Sehunnie, look at me.”

Sehun raises his tear streaked face and looks at the Junmyeon miserably. His eyes look red and swollen, out of place on his pretty face. Junmyeon’s chest aches in sympathy.

“T-they made me dye it brown.” Sehun sniffles, reaching a hand up to run it through his dark hair. “They said I wasn’t being serious enough.”

“Your parents?” Zitao asks. Sehun nods slowly.

“Let me see.” Yifan’s voice permeates Sehun’s bubble of grief. Sehun spins around slowly to face the tall man. Junmyeon watches as Yifan’s face changes from curious to concern.

“Your parents made you?” he questions quietly. Sehun nods, more tears streaming out of his eyes down the ridge of his cheekbones. Yifan holds his arms out and Sehun steps into them immediately.

“They took away my lipstick too.” Sehun’s muffled sob comes from Yifan’s chest. “They told me guys shouldn’t wear makeup.” Junmyeon bites his lip and meets Yifan’s eye over Sehun’s head. His mouth is squeezed together in a tight pale line and he looks furious. He steps away from Sehun and starts digging through the pocket of his hoodie until he finds what looks to Junmyeon like a pencil.

“Fuck them.” Yifan says sincerely. “Stop crying, Sehunnie, they can’t stop you from feeling pretty.” Then he’s brushing tears out of Sehun’s eyes gently and uncaps the eyeliner. “It’s going to smudge if you don’t stop crying.”

Sehun takes in several gulps of air and shuts his eyes. Then he opens them and wipes off the moisture.

“Thank you.” He murmurs. “Really.”

Yifan smiles softly and starts expertly swiping it over the top of Sehun’s eyelids, then under. When he’s finally satisfied with his handiwork he turns to Junmyeon.

“Look how pretty he looks.” Sehun looks up at him with caution, but honestly the makeup looks good, making his eyes look bigger and giving his face a more dangerous exposition.

“Sehunnie, you look so nice,” Junmyeon coos, then makes grabby hands at him until the younger walks over to him. Sehun cracks a smile through his sorrowful disposition and sniffles.

“What else did they say?” Junmyeon asks softly.

Sehun shakes his head. “They said if I wanted a job I couldn’t look so immature.” He looks so sad that Junmyeon wants to cry too.

“There are a plethora of people who would hire you, no matter what kind of hair you have.” Yifan frowns. “I mean, look at Zitao. He looks like that and he’s gotten hired places.”

Zitao makes an indignant noise as Sehun giggles softly.

“Do you guys want to go out to dinner with us tonight? And afterwards I can get you some more lipstick, Sehunnie.” Junmyeon offers. Sehun raises an eyebrow instead of responding.

“You guys were going out to dinner together?” Sehun asks. He makes a little knowing face that makes Junmyeon want to crawl into a hole in the ground and says, “Nah, Tao and I’ll go by ourselves. We can’t be seen with old men, you know?”

Junmyeon makes a face but fist bumps Sehun anyways when they’re leaving.

*

“What if Sehun’s parents get mad at him?”

“You always try to take care of people,” Yifan clicks his tongue disapprovingly; “I want you to relax for once.” The look he’s giving Junmyeon is soft and exasperated and Junmyeon kind of wants to melt.

“But what if Sehun goes home with eyeliner on tonight and his parents don’t let him leave the house anymore or something? What if they like, build a moat around his bedroom and fill it with sharks? Or piranhas? Or hybrid Sharkanhas!”

“Those don’t exist Junmyeonie.” Yifan reminds him.

“You talk to milk cartons all day, Wu Yifan, don’t tell me what does or doesn’t exist!” Junmyeon whines.

“I told you,” Yifan laughs, “The milk cartons are metaphors for my life.”

“How much weed do you smoke per day, by the way?” Junmyeon shoots back.

“Come on, Junmyeonie. I’ve known you for what, a month? I have yet to see you really relax.” Yifan slinks over to him balancing two bowls of noodles in his hands, then hands one to Junmyeon. They’re on Junmyeon’s couch because Junmyeon insists sitting on the floor all the time is making his ass bruise (“Can I see?” Yifan had asked. “Fuck no”).

Junmyeon sighs softly and twists his fork around and around, watching the noodles rotate in a mini whirlpool around the utensil.

“Do you think forks know that they’re forks?” he asks after a while.

“Junmyeon, I'm going to teach you an ancient secret Chinese art now. It’s called Shut The Fuck Up And Eat Your Dinner. Very simple, very affective.” Yifan leans on the arm of the couch and throws his legs over Junmyeon’s lap.

“Your feet are going to get into my food.”

“Eat my feet too.” When Junmyeon shoots him a look, the tall man sticks his tongue out petulantly and applies more pressure on Junmyeon’s thighs. “Do you have any more of those pastries from that bakery your friend works at? Kibum or whoever.”

“You’re going to put your feet on me and now you’re going to heist my sweets. Nice to know what kind of friend you are.”

“Grand theft cream puff.” Yifan declares solemnly, and then smirks until Junmyeon shoves his legs off his lap.

“Take your own advice and shut up.” Junmyeon mumbles, but relents when Yifan tries to slide his legs back onto him.

*

The day Junmyeon’s life ends is a pleasant one. Light shines through the windows, the sounds of children playing outside on the street in front of the street. It’s like any other day. Jongdae blabbers on and on in his ear, trailing after him in the store. Yixing and Yifan are both at the counter, speaking to Zitao in Mandarin.

When Jongdae finally tires himself out, he gives a curly smile and yawns, “I’m gonna go take a nap,” he calls to Yixing. Then he’s slinking over to the back room, and fuck, Junmyeon should start locking the door because he remembers the last time he’d walked in on Jongdae trying to get it on with Yixing back there.

Repressing a shudder, he keeps stocking the doughnut shelf (trying not to side-eye Yifan so hard for eating all of them again; it’s a miracle that boy stays fit). Tiny snippets of conversation drift over and Junmyeon knows he shouldn’t eavesdrop, but he knows Mandarin well enough if he focuses. Before he knows it, he’s tuning in unconsciously.

“Tonight probably,” Yifan is saying, and when Junmyeon peeks at them through his peripheral vision, he sees a carton of eggs open in front of the three Chinese men. Yixing says something he doesn’t understand, and then laughs softly.

“That’s a horrible drawing of him.” Zitao murmurs lowly, “You should make his cute little apron.” Junmyeon glances instinctively down at the pale pink apron tied around his waist.

Were they talking about him?

‘This is so wrong’ his mind-self screams, but Junmyeon hushes his conscience harshly and forces himself to concentrate on the next words that come out of Yifan’s mouth.

“He looks cute in everything. I wish-“ then he says something Junmyeon can’t comprehend and Yixing makes a face. Why is Yifan calling him cute? Why is he drawing on eggs? Junmyeon’s heart flutters hopefully in his chest.

“That one’s me.” Yifan adds, pointing to the biggest egg in the carton. Oh great, now he’s identifying as an egg.

Zitao grabs the egg and smashes it. “That’s what’s going to happen if you do this wrong.” He snickers, and Yifan snarls something else that’s too low for Junmyeon to hear.

Leaning forward on his elbows, Yixing grins and says something where the only words Junmyeon can pick out are, “Date”, “dinner”, and his name. Junmyeon’s heart picks up about a hundred paces. No fucking way. No fucking way.

Junmyeon tries not to skip or look too excited as he strolls as casually as he can from behind the doughnuts and smiles at the three men, who immediately jerk back from and break their weird little cult circle.

“Yixing, can you please sweep over in the chips aisle? I think a bag ripped.” False. Jongdae’d ripped it to piss Junmyeon off. Yixing dutifully grabs the broom and takes his leave. Junmyeon eyes the broken egg in the carton and the other one rolling around the countertop with an ugly little face etched onto it.

Yifan is many things, but he is not an artist, no matter how much he insists. “What’s this, an alien?” Junmyeon teases, picking up the egg with slender fingers.

“No, actually, it’s a visual representation of the human soul that I must now consume.” Then before Junmyeon can speak, Yifan grabs the egg back and cracks it. In his mouth.

Zitao’s red in the face with how much he wants to laugh. He giggles out a goodbye and runs off to find Yixing. Yifan makes a face and swallows quickly. “Remind me not to do that again.” He mumbles weakly, cheeks reddening. Junmyeon wants to faint.

Instead, he silently hands Yifan a bottle of soda from the stand, which he accepts gratefully. “So that alien, eh?” Yifan tries. “I was making an army of eggs to take over the world with.”

Junmyeon snorts and smacks his hand lightly. “You’re so dumb.” He says, not unkindly.

“Thanks.” Yifan rolls his eyes and takes a sip of soda.

“Anyways, I came over to ask if we were doing anything for dinner.” That’s definitely not the reason Junmyeon came over, but now he’s actually curious and his stomach grumbles mutely at the prospect of nourishment.

“My house?” Yifan suggests, then hands Junmyeon the bottle back. He takes it and takes a swig. He considers for a second and then nods. Yifan’s face lights up and then he’s sprinting towards the chips aisle, calling, “see you then!” over his shoulder.

Junmyeon feels like he could die.

*

Yifan’s apartment is a little messier than usual, a couple of clothes strewn around the living room, a shirt on the couch, a pair of briefs on the floor, (Junmyeon is not trying to look at the size, he’s just picking them up helpfully) and sweatpants in the fridge.

The last ones throw Junmyeon off a little, but he’s learned to let go of anything he doesn’t get about Yifan, so he leaves them next to the numerous milk cartons Yifan has drawn faces on.

“A couple of those are expired.” Junmyeon informs him after a closer inspection of the milk.

“Modern art has no expiration.” Yifan says, sinking on to the floor of the kitchen. Junmyeon sighs a little before sliding down next to him.

“What are we having tonight?” he asks after a little bit.

Yifan bites his lip as he think and finally says, “We could skip the dinner the just eat ice cream and watch a movie.”

“Perfect.”

The move Yifan ends up choosing is some English movie with a man who doesn’t sleep and attends various group therapy sessions. Yifan’s obviously seen it before because he keeps blurting out spoilers excitedly. After the last, “And that guy is actually his separate personality,” Junmyeon’s had enough.

“I will literally do anything if you stop talking right now.”

“Anything?” Yifan’s voice goes light and teasing, but Junmyeon feels the weight behind the words. He turns to face the Chinese man slowly, and finds him closer than he’d anticipated. Junmyeon makes to move back a little but finds his back hitting the soft arm of the leather couch.

The movie plays over the blood roaring in Junmyeon’s ears as Yifan leans forward anther inch. He can feel the warmth of Yifan’s breath wash over his lips. He tries to stop his hands from trembling, but it’s to no avail as Yifan closes the distance.

Yifan’s lips are so soft on his, pressing lightly, hesitantly, as if waiting for Junmyeon to pull away. Junmyeon’s hands go slack on his thighs as he melts into the kiss, and then tighten as Yifan starts kissing with more fervor, mouth gently insistent against his.

Then he’s pulling away and licking his lip nervously. “Was- was that okay?” he asks quietly. Junmyeon’s lips feel as if they’ve been set on fire, mind hazy with the taste of Yifan’s strawberry ice cream lingering on his lips.

“Kiss me again.” Junmyeon finds himself whispering. “Oh, please kiss me again.”

Yifan smiles so wide that Junmyeon’s sure he’s going to be blinded by all of the taller man’s straight white teeth. Then he’s pressing another kiss to Junmyeon’s mouth, and he’s not sure of anything anymore except that he wants Yifan so badly.

Yifan’s hand comes up to loosely cup his face, cool palms soothing the burn of Junmyeon’s cheeks as he flushes.

“You’re all red,” Yifan murmurs, half-closed eyes sweeping over Junmyeon’s expression. “It’s really cute.”

Junmyeon wants to protest that no, it’s really not, but if Yifan finds his red face and sweaty palms and stutter cute, then let him. That just means more of Yifan’s kisses for Junmyeon. Yifan kisses him for what feels like hours. Hell, it could have been hours because when he pulls away, the credits in the movie are playing and Yifan’s mouth is red and swollen.

Junmyeon leans his head back against the couch and closes his eyes. After a couple seconds, Yifan asks softly, “Don’t you want to discuss this?”

Junmyeon shakes his head. “Not today. Just, just let me think for a minute.”

His thoughts are going too fast for anything to really be comprehensible, but over everything, the steady noise of Yifan’s breathing is reassuring and anchors him. Junmyeon feels his consciousness slipping, and finally gives in the black

*

The early morning sunlight in Yifan’s apartment is exactly how he’d thought it would be.

He’s bathed in golden light when he wakes up, washing his skin with a honey-like tone. Junmyeon finds himself covered with a thick blanket on Yifan’s couch. His lips feel tender when he licks them and he stretches lightly as he pads to the kitchen, blanket wrapped around his shoulders.

Yifan stands in front of the microwave, clad in only sweatpants. He swivels around as he hears Junmyeon’s footsteps and the susurrus drag of the quilt on the floor.

“Hey.” he murmurs, lips curving up into a radiant beam. Junmyeon wants to squint at the refulgent sight, but refrains and manages a little shy smile back.

“Is your lack of clothing to distract me from the fact that you barely have any food in your fridge?” Junmyeon teasingly pokes a finger into the lean hard muscles of Yifan’s torso.

“I have instant coffee.” He counters. Junmyeon makes a face. “Let’s grab something to eat on our way to the store.” He amends, and Junmyeon nods in agreement.

They wind up on the floor of the snacks aisle, shoving doughnuts into each other’s mouths and exchanging kisses in between to get powdered sugar off the other’s lips. There’s an unopened milk carton between them that Yifan keeps scribbling on.

If it were anyone but Yifan, Junmyeon would have deemed it unsanitary, but it is Yifan, with his soft lips and even softer tongue, and his sugary mouth sliding gently against Junmyeon’s; how could he resist?

*

By the time people actually start showing up at the store, Junmyeon’s disposed of the doughnut wrappers and milk cartons that Yifan has drawn horrid faces on, mopped the sugar dusted floor, and shoved Yifan off of his neck at least three times.

Jongdae and Yixing take one look at him and shoot him shit-eating grins that literally make Junmyeon’s nipples want to invert.

Jongdae, the fucker, keeps screeching and yelling about “Yifan and Junnie, sitting in a tree, G-A-Y S-E-X-I-N-G” until Junmyeon’s ready to strangle him. Yixing politely informs his boyfriend that Sexing is not proper terminology.

Sehun comes in around lunch time, pink gloss slathered lips pouting until he sees Yifan subtly (read: not subtly at all) reach out and slide a hand down the curve of Junmyeon’s ass. Then he’s giving Junmyeon that same leer that everyone else has, and Junmyeon wants to stab his eye with an eyeliner pencil.

Slowly, all of their usual entourage finds out, and by nightfall, even the old ladies from the flower shop are coming over with a bouquet that makes Junmyeon flush and thank them profusely. Then one of the old ladies kisses the other’s cheek and tells Junmyeon how brave he is.

Go figure.

Junmyeon’s practically glowing by the end of the day when he finally ushers Chanyeol and Baekhyun out the door, locking it, and turns to find Yifan on the countertop swinging his legs below.

“Hey.” Yifan breathes quietly, eyes sparkling. The street outside the store is empty, and Junmyeon knows no one is out anymore.

“Hey.” He echoes, smile spreading over his face. Yifan holds his arms out and Junmyeon’s flying into them so fast he’s surprised he doesn’t get whiplash. Yifan maneuvers them around so they’re both behind the counter and presses Junmyeon back against the wood before pressing a soft kiss to his lower lip.

“You were really cute today.” Yifan murmurs. Junmyeon preens a little and shrugs. “And everyone was really happy for you.”

“Everyone says I take care of them.” He mumbles against Yifan’s neck. “I guess they’re glad I can take care of you now too.”

Then, gentle lips brushing his ear, “Let me take care of you.” Junmyeon feels a shiver run down his spine and he tries to stay upright, but his knees shake.

“Can I-” Junmyeon swallows hard, “Can you kiss me?”

  "Baby," Yifan croons into his ear, "You're about to get a lot more than that." Junmyeon's ready to die when Yifan sinks to the floor, kneeling in front him.

"O-oh dear," Junmyeon isn't used to feeling so flustered, but Yifan's staring up at him in a way that makes him feel like he's completely naked and it's making his insides shudder.

"I've wanted to do this for so long." Yifan admits, pushing the shorter man back lightly against the counter. Junmyeon's thighs clench and unclench as Yifan slides his palms up and down then slowly. "Can I?" Yifan gestures to the zipper of his pants that's becoming embarrassingly tented up in the front. Oh lord. Junmyeon nods and Yifan pulls the tight pants down Junmyeon's thighs to his knees.

Junmyeon dare not release a breath as Yifan presses his lips to the outline of Junmyeon’s dick through his briefs, slyly glancing up at his face. “I may not be good at functioning and living by myself but there are a couple things I know I'm good at.” He smirks, and then runs a long finger up the center of his briefs.

Oh,” Junmyeon sighs out as Yifan finally drags down the waistband of his underwear. He looks focused as he lets a hand travel up and down the pale skin of Junmyeon’s thigh and the shorter man feels his breath ghosting over the inside of his legs.

Yifan looks up at him with wide honest eyes, “I’ve thought about doing this for a long time. Sometimes during the day when anyone could come in. I want to kiss you in the aisles and suck you off against the counter and have sex on the couch in the back room.”

Junmyeon whines softly and ducks down to join their lips softly. “I’ve had a weird crush on you since the first day you sat down on my floor.” He admits with a breathy laugh.

“I came back every day because I thought you were the cutest human being I’d ever seen.” Yifan whispers against his lips. Then he’s pushing Junmyeon back up and takes his cock in his hand. The first touch of Yifan’s rough hand sends sharp spikes of arousal curling in his stomach.

Then he’s mouthing up the underside, tongue grazing the pulsating vein. He attaches his mouth over the head and glances up through his eyelashes. Junmyeon’s caught between wanting to never look away and closing his eyes and exploding in embarrassment.

He chooses to close his eyes because this is too fucking intense and his heart is beating so fast he’s sure he’s about to go into cardiac arrest and die. The inside of Yifan’s mouth is soft and warm as he lets his tongue trace the ridge of the crown of Junmyeon’s erection, and Junmyeon struggles not to squirm or let his legs give.

Yifan swallows him down inch by inch, mouth stretching over him obscenely until Junmyeon can’t think, can’t move, can’t do anything except moan and grip the counter tightly. Then he’s rubbing a thumb gently into Junmyeon’s hip bone.

Before long, Junmyeon’s crying out and spilling down Yifan’s throat in an embarrassingly short amount of time. Yifan swallows it all down neatly and straightens up, running a hand affectionately through Junmyeon’s hair.

“Please tell me there wasn’t any cum on your hand.” Junmyeon says hazily. Yifan laughs, and Junmyeon doesn’t know if that’s a good thing or not for him.

“Do you wanna go to your house?” Yifan asks, burying his face in Junmyeon’s neck.

“Yeah,” the shorter man sighs.

“Let me grab my stuff really quick.” Yifan presses a quick kiss to his forehead and leaps over the register again. Junmyeon relaxes in a half comatose state, listening for the familiar hum of Mandarin as Yifan moves around the store and picks up his jacket and phone. Then there’s the dull thud of the refrigerator door shutting.

“Put the milk cartons back.” Junmyeon smiles.

“They’re metaphorical!” Yifan calls back.

Junmyeon is so, so in love.