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Doyoung is wiping the counter, his big white hand slowly swiping from side to side. This is not from carefulness, as one may think, but out of habit, since his mind is somewhere else, finally relieved of having a few minutes for himself after a long day of work. Now and then, his black, round eyes shoot up, to the LCD screen strategically placed in the wall in front of the register machine, hoping to catch a glimpse of him.

Like now; ah, Taeil’s hair looks good in that dirty blonde shade. And his voice in that song is heavenly. This cameraman is really good, seeing that for once his favourite one from NCT is getting so much screen time- Oh, nevermind. It’s back on the leader.

Doyoung blows air through his nose and shakes his head to himself. Anyways.

Luckily, the bell from the door starts sounding with more frequency, as the closing time comes closer and the costumers start leaving the shop. Doyoung prides himself for having quite extended opening hours in his place, opening at 7 a.m. and closing not until 11.30 p.m. Of course, he wouldn’t be able to go through this if he was all alone; he has a very competent employee who works the morning shift up until mid-day, and then he comes in.

A very competent employee, who happened to be sick this very day. Meaning, Doyoung had to cover both shifts.

Luckily, it Is a Thursday, and people don’t really go to coffee shops that much on Thursdays for some reason Doyoung ignores. But still... over 16 hours of work are too much, maybe.

Closing time finally came when the last costumer left, ten minutes earlier than the official time, and Doyoung takes the opportunity to start the ritual. Cleaning all the utensils, the coffee machine, the counter, cleaning the tables and putting the chairs on them...

His lethargic ritual is interrupted with the noise of someone trying to open the door, unfruitfully, since he had already locked it. He looks up, startled, and notices he had forgotten to change the sign to ‘closed’. Shoot.

He puts the best apologetic smile he can as he comes closer to the door, but his eyes go wide because he seems to recognize the face behind the clear glass.

How could he not, though, if that’s the very same face that monopolizes all the screen time in every NCT broadcast?

“Hey!”, his voice comes muffled, the dark circles on his eyes contrasting with its cheerfulness, “Please open up?”

It’s more of a polite order rather than a request, and Doyoung usually wouldn’t mind but...

“I’m sorry, we just closed!”, he bows a little, and feels a bit of satisfaction running through him. It’s a ‘that’ll show him’ kind of feel, but with less ill intention (or so he wants to believe). He starts walking away, but is stopped when he hears knocks on the glass.

“Hey, you! Wait!”, he calls, and Doyoung turn with his face free of any expression, “Please, please can I just have a tall mocca? I just had a salad today, and I still have two hours of filming to go.”

Doyoung commits the mistake of looking at those eyelined pleading eyes, and he feels his resolve weaken with a pang of guilt, that only increases when he sees the older shiver up, and notices he is only wearing a dark denim vest (the very same one he was wearing on the TV presentation Doyoung was watching earlier). It’s cold outside, shouldn’t he be wearing at least something else?

Doyoung sighs, and unlocks the door. Seems like the both of them had a long day.

“Ah, thank you!”, he says with a big, white smile as he almost runs inside, shaking a little with pleasure at the feel of the warm heat and bean’s aroma that characterized all coffee shops.

Doyoung walks behind the counter, leaving the rag somewhere as he passes, and ties back the soft green apron back on his neck. He does the order, that ends up being a tall Mocachino with a sweep of low fat cream, and a cheese bread. Doyoung secretly replaces the low fat cream for normal one, partially because he is too lazy to make some at that moment, and partially because the guy looks too damn skinny and tired, and it can’t be healthy.

He secretly hopes Moon Taeil is better rested than his leader.

The guy, Taeyong, pays for his order with another bright smile and goes to sit on one of the couch tables that he is thankfully yet to wipe.

Since it’s just the two of them, and since he decides to still pay no mind to the celebrity, he grabs the rag once again and keeps going silently with his routine. This time, as he passes next to the door, he makes sure to change the sign.

It’s good because it’s almost as if he’s all alone, the quiet of his big shop only being interrupted by the occasional sipping. Besides, since he has to wait for him to be over, the urgency of being as fast as possible is gone.

At some point, Doyoung briefly looks up and  sees Taeyong’s attentive look eyeing him. He quickly looks away by busying himself putting the chairs over the table. And he starts with a new one.

“Do you know who I am?”

Doyoung blows air through his nose and closes his eyes. He had always felt Taeyong was kind of arrogant, and that question felt like it fell right into that line.

“Yeah...” he replied in a quiet voice, trying to ignore him, the movements of his hand a bit more jerky now.

He must have been unsatisfied with his reply, since he spoke up again.

“Have you heard any of our songs?”, he hears him sipping right after.

“Yeah,”, he says, and cant help but to smile a little, “I’m a big fan of NCT...”, however, he doesn’t even look up.

“Really?”

Doyoung’s reply comes in the form of more enthusiast yet shy nods.

“Then, why do I get the feeling that you don’t like me?”

Doyoung freezes and gulps before looking up at him. Taeyong is sitting cross-legged like a kid, shoeless, with his elbows on the table and his drink between both hands. His eyes are looking at him, had they ever left him? But there is no hint of anger or hardness, just pure childish curiosity.

“I’m...”, Doyoung stops, and stands straighter, with the rag between both hands. It suddenly occurs to him that saying what really was on his mind would be hurtful. He doesn’t believe he’d like hearing someone say that they are just sick of his face, “more inclined to vocalists...”

Taeyong’s eyebrow shoot up as he opens his mouth with a big ‘Aaaah...’

“So Taeil hyung, right?”

Doyoung jumps on his skin and his face reddens up.  He wants to change topics but also he wants to never speak with Lee Taeyong ever in his life again. Quickly, he’s back on his duty, trying to hide his face by looking busier than he ever was. Boy, sweeping tables sure was hard.

A quiet silence falls between them. Doyoung finishes with the tables, and grabs the broom.

“I can sing too, you know?”, all of a sudden, Taeyong leaves his drink on the table and stands on the couch. A loud, broken opera-like note leaves his lips, followed by his arms falling as he laughs. “Okay, okay, I was kidding.”

Doyoung frowns a little, trying not to smile too much, but he seems to be failing. For some reason, he adds, quietly, “I can sing a bit, too.”

“Really?”, he sees Taeyong revolving on his seat, excitedly, “Show me!”

Doyoung feels suddenly nervous for some reason. It’s not as if he does it professionally, but it isn’t either the first time he sings in front of somebody. Regardless, he opens his mouth and his voice is released, powerful, filling the whole room, resounding on the tall roof. He sings a few verses of a Disney song and sweeps, but stops after a few.

“Wow...”, he hears the shock on his voice and smiles to himself, satisfied. He was able to impress a professional, even if that professional was Lee Taeyong. He looks up and he sees his eyes opened big, the stage make up making them look more dramatic, “You’re like, really, really good.”

“Thanks...”, Doyoung mutters and smiles, hiding his pride.

They stay silent for what is left of the encounter. This gives Doyoung time to steal a few looks from the other one. He sees that he is, indeed, as attractive as he looks on TV, with his red leather choker and his ashen dyed hair, but he also seems smaller, skinnier.

As he is picking up the trash, he hears Taeyong take the last sip, and crunch up the empty paper bag. He is a bit surprised as he sees him picking up the rag Doyoung had been using and cleaning the table he had been on.

“Well, I have to leave now.”, he says, after he’s finished. His face seems a bit less hollow, and his circles a bit less purple. Doyoung walks him to the door, and he notices that he was indeed way shorter than him, “The coffee was delicious. Thank you so much for opening for me.”

He sees a sincere smile of gratefulness on his lips as he bows a little. Doyoung replies with a bow of his own.

“My manager will kill me if I don’t come back now. This was fun! I’ll come back.”

And before Doyoung can say something, he begins running away.

 

 

He does remember those words. But people always make meaningless promises, only meant to please and get a smile out of a stranger. Some (most) even lie to their loved ones, for the same purpose.

So it’s normal he gets a mini heart attack when he hears the three quick knocks on the glass door, and turns just in time to see the profile of a god being lined in white light by a ray that had just fallen. He walks up to him in an annoyed fashion, so upset at the fact that he has just seen him jump on his skin that he forgets for a second how upset he is about the storm currently drowning the streets.

“We are closed.”

“Please let me in? It’s raining and I just had some ramen and a donut today.”

“That should be enough for someone your height.”

“Hey! Come on. I’m starving and I’ve been craving your coffee for days.”

Doyoung’s resolve weakens, and he lets him in. He enters with his ever present smile, and his ever present eye bags.

“Our company opened a studio close-by, and I’m doing some MC’ing recording there. I will be doing it for a few weeks.”, Taeyong tells him as he is preparing the hot Mocachino. “I hope you always open the door for me.”

He wants to say no and he should say no, but his tone is just so agreeable and nice he just can’t do it. So, Doyoung just rolls his eyes and hands him his order. The older pays for it and does a bee-line to the same table he sat on before. This time, while picking up the broom, Doyoung catches him untying his boots and letting his feet free, swollen, and his expression shows a contented sigh. The rain conceals it.

Taeyong drinks in silence, admiring the rain outside, and Doyoung sweeps and sweeps. All the chairs were already on their belonging tables. He had even taken off his apron.

However, a thunder lights up and then roars, and Doyoung grabs his heart and yelps. His other hand grabs strongly form the closest table, and it takes him a few seconds and some quick breathes until he is good again. Then, he hears a soft chuckle.

“You’re afraid of thunderstorms.”, Taeyong says with a giggle still pulling from his lips. It’s a fact, not a question, and Doyoung frowns and looks at his feet because he has no guns to defend himself from it.  “It’s okay, I’m not good with scary stuff either.”

This picks his curiosity back up, and he looks at him. Taeyong has a hint of mischief in his eyes.

“I really like scary movies, though. I can’t watch them alone, so I make the members watch with me.”, he plays with the straw of his drink, “Then at night I can’t sleep well, either. But being a bit scared is fun, too.”

Doyoung smiles, because it strikes at him as childish and stubborn and kind of cute. He doesn’t say this though, he opts for:

“I recommend ‘Rinne’.”, and then, he starts sweeping again.

 

 

“I woke up at 4 a.m. and all I ate were some creppes.”

“I had, like, two kibimbaps and a tall juice.”

“I didn’t have time to eat a meal, I survived on some Oreos a fan gave me.”

It has become usual for them to meet like this, now. It always goes the same way,  every few days Taeyong shows up after closing time, and Doyoung refuses to open for him. Then, Taeyong puts up some excuse, and Doyoung ends up opening. It’s almost as if he is a bridge troll from a fairytale, and the older a prince that has to solve a riddle to continue his journey.

At some point, it stopped being an annoyance, and began being a routine. He’d make his coffee, and  he’d sit on his usual place. He had gotten used to the feeling of those strong eyes on his back, they didn’t bother him anymore.

He has even begun talking a bit more. He’s told him how much he used to crave coffee past 10 p.m. and how no shop was opened after nine, and how that was what made him open this place. He’s told him that he used to be in a rock band, and that he has a pet bunny. He’s even told him about Ten, his long time best friend, and Jaemin, his charismatic employee.

Taeyong has also shared his fair amount. He told him how he was casted, and how nervous he felt the day he debuted. He’s told him about how he had found in dance a way to deal with pressure, and how he always had a hard time with choruses. He’s told him he is a bit of a clean freak, and that he likes Doyoung’s place because of the hygiene, aside from the good coffee. He too, threw tidbits here and there about the other members.

It would be a lie if Doyoung said he wasn’t hoping for him to talk about Moon Taeil when he began talking about them. Unluckily, his mentions were always short-lived and sparse.

This day, Taeyong shows up in an unusual baby blue, baggy shirt and some red pants. The look is way brighter than what he usually wears -or is made to wear- and Doyoung feels like it suits him better. The intimidating, godlike Taeyong on T.V. is not the warm, almost goofy, chatty Taeyong that drinks his coffee.

“Today I had good meals, but I’m still craving your coffee, what can I do?”

He hears the whine in his voice and opens while buffing. For someone who claims to hate doing aegyo, he sure does a lot.

This time, however, Doyoung has a lot on his mind, and he only half hears Taeyong’s eternal babble about the movie he saw on the weekend, or the CF he filmed the other day. The older notices, though, and asks about it.

“It’s nothing... It’s just...”, Doyoung pauses and Taeyong can see the real concern in his eyes, “For some reason, business has started going down these days...”

It didn’t happen in a day. Doyoung had gradually began noticing that clients had started being less and less, but tried to lie to himself, saying it was just his imagination. But numbers don’t lie, and his sure are lower than the month before.

Now, Doyoung doesn’t intend to make himself a millionaire with this place. He just wants to live comfortably, and be able to support a family in the future with it, maybe. And he really enjoys running the place, honestly. It’ll break his heart if he has to give up this dream of his.

“Oh? For real?”, Taeyong opens his eyes big, honestly surprised with that. Doyoung secretly takes it as a compliment. “How come?”

He just lifts his shoulders and shakes his head, as he cleans the glass of the counter.

There’s a thoughtful silence in the air for a few minutes, until Taeyong speaks up again.

“There must be something that you can change, something that makes people want to come here more,“ there’s resolve on his voice, “I don’t know... Change the recipe on something? Maybe the cakes?”

“I buy them.”

“The beans?”

“I already buy a special brand.”

Taeyong thinks for a second, and then a bulb turns on in his head.

“Have you ever added vanilla essence and colouring to the cream?”

Doyoung’s head whips fast towards the other, and his eyes open big.

Five minutes later, Taeyong is visiting the behind the counter of a store for the first time. He picks up all the utensils, lifting them and trying them. Most of them he knows and has used before, but a lot, specific to coffee related business, are completely new.

Doyoung comes back from the back of the store with a triumphant smile and two small bottles: one of vanilla essence  and one of pink colorant.

And so, the experimentation begins.

At least an hour goes by, both their aprons full of pink and cream stains, several fingers with patches of colorant too, until Doyoung decides which is the perfect measure and mixture of his new cream. By the end of it, he doesn’t want to try another scoop of cream in his life, and Taeyong swears he went up at least two kilograms from all the sugar he just had, but they are both happy and agree on the result.

To even out the taste on their mouths, Doyoung has made two Americanos that they are currently having on Taeyong’s table. The bitterness is a blessing for their tongues, and the cheese bread they are sharing helps too.

“How did you come up with the vanilla thing?”, Doyoung asks, still a bit incredulous.

“I am good in the kitchen. I really like cooking, too.”, Taeyong kind of brags, with a bit of a smirk, as he sips from the straw. Doyoung takes a sip of his drink, too, only he doesn’t really like straws, so his cup doesn’t even have a lid. “You know, this is the first time I see you actually drinking coffee. For a person who claims to love it so much, that’s not a lot.”

Doyoung smiles a little, “It’s just that coffee doesn’t taste as good when you make it yourself, you know?”

Taeyong takes a long, mock-pensive sip and then talks again.

“Then, teach me how to do it sometime, and I’ll make it for you.”, he says it in a serious tone, but then breaks out in a smile, and it’s not until now that it strikes to Doyoung just how beautiful Taeyong is. Not only he’s attractive, he’s also beautiful, and his smile lights up his whole face. And his quiet yet expressive voice is so nice to hear, so charming, too and-

And these thoughts bother Doyoung, for some reason.

Doyoung lets out a laugh, nevertheless, and feels a bit embarrassed.

Of course he’s beautiful, he’s a celebrity. Don’t get your feelings mixed,

“Maybe I’ll teach you sometime.”

 

The following day, Doyoung wakes up earlier and heads to the coffee shop, just in time to see Jaemin opening it. As he says hi and helps him, he remembers when he first hired him, and how he’d come every day to check he actually opened and started working in time.

It’s not that Doyoung doesn’t trust other people, but Jaemin in particular didn’t seem like a responsible guy when he first met him. He is an attractive, popular guy, and he is still in college. Those characteristics alone write him in the potentially bad employee list, a book written by Doyoung’s past bad experiences. But Jaemin turned out to be more silent and patient than he ever thought, and he never showed up not even five minutes later than Doyoung had required.

Besides, it is a plus that he is always smiling. It has reached to his ears that a lot of female costumers really enjoyed being served with such a pretty smile.

 He spends the first half hour of the shift teaching him the new recipe, and they make the first batch of cream in pink, baby blue and soft yellow colours.

Then, he spends another half an hour of the morning drawing a good poster on the chalkboard sign to place outside. Which ends up on him, covered in patches of several chalk colours, and a... not that pretty but understandable sign, telling people to come try the new ‘fun cream with new recipe’. He should text Ten later and ask him to draw him a better one, Ten has always been good at that.

After that, he goes back home and comes back right before his shift starts. And wow, yes, the sales did increase. He smiles and silently thanks Taeyong, as he ties his apron and prepares the shop for the next batch of customers to come.

The afternoon goes by quick, although it doesn’t blow up, there are lots more than the past days, curious to have a pretty looking coffee. Some girls even come in just to match their outfits with their drinks, and it makes Doyoung snicker. Around six, however, the business calms down, and he takes the opportunity to catch up on a reality broadcast of NCT he is currently watching.

He enjoys watching them interact, and he wonders if they act like that when the camera is off. Taeyong, at least, is pretty much the same, only maybe less shy and a bit more talkative. He is wearing a choker, the same he saw him in a few days ago, and a shirt he remembered seeing him in also not too long ago. He looks good.

Doyoung notices something else. Although he’d like to deny it, he realizes he doesn’t feel as bothered to see him taking the screen time as much now. His expressions seem familiar. His smile, especially. Doyoung wonders if that’s his genuine smile or if he has other one only reserved for his closest ones that he has yet to see.

After all, Doyoung is nothing but an employee he sometimes talks to.

And oh, thanks to all this Taeyong thinking, he just missed something Taeil did. Dang. He takes the control remote to go back a little, when he is interrupted.

“Huh, a real fan, aren’t you? Wasn’t one time enough?”

He is embarrassed and surprised, and  is already preparing his apologetic smile when he turns and sees who was standing in front of the register box.

Doyoung had to blink twice, because yes, this was Taeyong, but in the middle of the day and wearing a hoodie, and absolutely no make up, and looking so normal, so guy next door it was surreal. Even like that, however, he still looked hotter than the very same blue-creamed Mocachino he was asking.

“How’s it going? Better?”, he casually asks, as if he doesn’t know that there’s people crowding outside the shop. Doyoung feels extra-nervous about replying, for some reason, and it gets worse as he sees some girls with their phones up, most likely filming or taking pictures.

“Y-yeah”, he replies and he hates himself because he has never been this shy not even once in his life. As he begins to make his order, Taeyong chooses to follow him around the counter, making small talk, telling him about his day.

“What are you doing here?”, he asks, genuinely confused, as he gives him his coffee. Taeyong smiles.

“I was able to escape Manager Lee and wanted to see how our cream was doing.”

Hearing him call it ‘their’ makes Doyoung a bit disoriented and flustered. Seeing Taeyong rest against the counter next to the cashier, next to him, while sipping his order does too.

“Huh, so you even watch our shows?”, Taeyong asks, eyes glued to the screen.

“Yeah, I already told you I was a big fan.”, Doyoung says in a low voice, eyes glued to the cashier machine.

“I thought you had lied.”, he says, and Doyoung wonders if it was because he never freaked out about him. “What’s your favourite song? I guess not Mad City, right?”

Doyoung laughs, because Taeyong remembers his petty remark from the first time they met. “Yeah, I really like Switch.”

Taeyong nods, and sips, and it that moment, it seems that the people watching outside decided to finally enter. Suddenly, Doyoung has twenty or thirty people on the line, waiting to be served, and he is on his own.

He wants to get stressed, but he reminds himself that he can’t right now, and starts taking the orders. He decides to take them in threes, so he begins, but the line seems to never end. His hands are working their fastest, and he briefly wonders if he should call Jaemin, but then remembers the kid’s at college, which leads him to the irrational wish of being an octopus.

After the seventh order in a row, he hears someone come behind the counter, and he turns to see Taeyong looking for the extra apron he wore the night before.

“What are you doing?!”

“You look like you need a hand.”

Doyoung is about to say that he doesn’t even know how to make hot chocolate, but is interrupted by the customer he was about to take the order to.

To his surprise, Taeyong is a quite decent assistant. When he first said it, Doyoung didn’t believe him, but now he sees he must be good in the kitchen, because the way he moves around the utensils is not of a first-timer.

And the people seem to crowd even more, because now they get the chance of being served by the one and only Lee Taeyong. Doyoung notices many costumers looking around for cameras, thinking that maybe they are in the middle of a reality shooting, and he can already imagine the netizens fuzzying about him helping in a random coffee shop.

Still, he doesn’t believe this is a publicity stunt. Lord knows Taeyong doesn’t need any more fame, nor seems the type to go around scheming. His real motives were unknown to Doyoung, though, but... This doesn’t diminishes the warmth that was growing at an alarming rate in his chest.

Then, around eight, he hears Taeyong’s phone ring, and him apologizing to some angry voice with a bit of aegyo.

“I’m sorry”, he says, and he looks really apologetic, “but Manager Lee just realized I’m not in the building. I gotta go...”

Doyoung bites his lip as he sees him untying his apron, and feels guilty. It is because of him he is going to get yelled, for sure, and if the rumors are true, idol managers could be really cruel and strict.

He just hopes he doesn’t get in much more trouble.

“Taeyong!”, his name leaves his mouth before he can decide why he is calling him in the first place. Taeyong turns, one hand on the small counter door. “Can you- I mean, are you going to come tonight?”

Taeyong’s face illuminates a little, but it could be Doyoung’s imagination.

“Why?”

“Aren’t you going to get your Mocachino?”, Taeyong makes a confused face, so Doyoung adds, “My treat.”

Taeyong looks like he was infused adrenaline, because he does a little fist-flex and he leaves in a rush, not before giving an energetic, “Sure!”

 

But now it’s 11:58 p.m., and Doyoung has already done everything he could do to make time go by. He’s swept the tables, put the trash away, swept the floors and the glasses... He even counted the cash twice, and organized the cutlery.

He is currently moving the chairs on the tables a little, more out of nervousness and habit than anything else, as he tries not to let his heart drop. Taeyong is a celebrity, after all. Why would he keep a stupid promise he made to a random coffee guy? Besides, he could pay a hundred Mocachinos way better than Doyoung’s. Why would he care it was his treat?

Doyoung feels stupid, because he could have left long time ago but instead he is still here, keeping his hopes up for something totally and completely irrational. He feels stupid because he feels sad and upset and he kind of wants to cry a little too, because the little pride he secretly held, the pride of knowing something most people don’t, of getting to know the real Taeyong, just proved to be completely and utterly fake.

He sighs, and looks at the time on his phone, and decides that he leaves at 12:05, not even a second later. However, this resolve falls as he Is putting his phone back, when he hears three clear knocks on the glass.

And he gets to the door so fast that almost knocks a chair, but he doesn’t even care at all, because his heart feels light and he is having such a hard time keeping a serious face as he opens for him.

“What, no need for excuses today to get my coffee?”, he says, cheekily, as he hurries in and takes off the red leather hat he is sporting now.

“Not today, you earned it.”

And if he ever thought Taeyong’s smile was bright, the one he is making now is the actual sun. Doyoung goes behind the counter, and doesn’t want to admit that he’s never been happier to turn  on the coffee machine back again after the end of a shift.

Taeyong waits on his table, but Doyoung feels those dramatically make-uped eyes staring at him from this far. He looks up one second and their eyes find each other, but Taeyong doesn’t look away. Doyoung does, forced by his sudden shyness to look down. He serves two drinks, a Mocachino for him and just a hot chocolate for himself.

“I’m sorry I came so late, but I had to re-do some scenes.”, he says, as soon as Doyoung sits.

He shakes his head, reassuringly, “It’s okay, I had stuff to do anyway.”

“Ah, I’m glad.”, Taeyong smiles, and takes a long sip, tasting the drink deeply, closing his eyes, and sighs at the taste. “I was worried you’d be gone.”

Doyoung doesn’t know what to reply to this, so he just imitates him, and tries his drink as well.

“Did you get too scolded?”

“Nah, just the usual,”, now he’s the one with the reassuring voice, “he was just worried the make-up noonas wouldn’t have enough time to do mine.”

Doyoung nods and they fall into a comfortable silence. It was a hard day for both of them.

“You know-“, Taeyong breaks it gain, and Doyoung looks up, “I did want to tell you that I was going to be late... But I don’t have your number, so...”

“Oh,”, Doyoung’s lips form a round shape, “Should I give it to you?”

Taeyong takes out his phone, a brand new IPhone in a dark red leather case, and hands it to him. Doyoung writes his number with a bit of difficulty, not knowing if the dizziness he was feeling was because of tiredness or something else, and hands it back.

Taeyong looks at the number and taps on the screen a couple times, before putting it back.

“I also-“

“I think-“

They start at the same time, but interrupt each other. Doyoung signals him to go first.

“I was going to say, that I also forgot to tell you- Um...”, Taeyong seems to be dubious with his words. “Did I ever tell you that tomorrow is my last filming?”

And if his heart had been able to rise again before, it just dropped right onto the floor again.

 

The LCD screen has been turned off all afternoon today. Doyoung didn’t need anything else that reminded him of Taeyong, since thoughts of him had been on his mind at all times.

When he focuses, he can make those go away, instead letting them be replaced by more important things, like the rabbit food he needs to buy, the orders he is making, the shirt he saw last week at the mall and wants to get, and so on. But as soon as he lets his mind rest a bit, memories of him creep up, like smoke in the water, slowly and subtly taking over.

He wonders if he is going to come that night. Maybe they’d wrap up sooner or later than usual, maybe they’d have a celebration, maybe, maybe... Doyoung doesn’t know, because he literally knows nothing about what goes behind the scenes, and he doesn’t trust what he reads on the net. Netizens can be horrible liars and big exaggerators.

Still, he makes a conscious effort to avoid thinking of him. Effort being the key word.

But it comes closing time, and to his surprise, the knocks on the door not only come, but come about ten minutes earlier than usual. Taeyong is here, with a dumb excuse and an unusual hint of nervousness on his movements. He asks for his usual Mocachino, and it’s not until he takes a sip from it that Doyoung hears him sigh and relax.

Doyoung is behind the counter, since he was still doing the first part of his routine, but he eyed Taeyong resting just like the day before, hips against the wooden part of it, elbows on the table, facing the front.

“I thought you weren’t going to come”, Doyoung says with a small smile, looking up.

“Why?”

“I don’t know... Maybe you had an after party to wrap up or something?”

Taeyong smiles and shakes his head, “Nah... We don’t really do that at SM.”

Doyoung nods and purses his lips a little. He wonders if it is out of professionalism or just coldness, but continues cleaning the cream maker machine nonetheless.

Doyoung has never been bothered by silence. Most of the times he preferred it, even if it was filled with the buzz of people’s far voices. But right now, for some reason... He just craves to hear Taeyong’s voice, who seems more silent than he’s ever been.

“You know, today a lot of costumers came in asking for you.”, he tells him, “Ah, but don’t worry, I just told them you were filming something.”

“Why?”, he asks again, with his eyebrows slightly raised, as he takes a sip.

“Uh... You know...”. For some reason, Doyoung doesn’t know how to voice his thoughts. So they wouldn’t think any of it? So they wouldn’t confuse them as friends or anything? So Taeyong could still come without worrying about being in the public eye, like he always seemed to be?

Oh right. That wouldn’t matter though. This is probably his last time coming.

An awkward silence falls between them and Doyoung takes it as an opportunity to hunch down and rearrange the cakes in the glassed fridge. The only thing that breaks it is the usual car passing by, and Taeyong’s sipping.

Doyoung stands up with a bit of a grunt, and hurries to the coffee machine, disposed to begin cleaning it, when finally, finally, Taeyong speaks up.

“Hey, can I  ask you something?”, this causes Doyoung’s head to shoot up. Taeyong’s eyes are fixed on his cup, his ring covered fingers are playing with the straw. “What do you think of me?”

Doyoung’s eyebrows rise up, and he uses the unravelling of the bean grinder as an excuse to think about what he is going to say.

“What do I think of you? Hmm, well...”, first, he considers lying. But for some reason, he feels enough trust between them to tell him what he really thinks. “I used to hate you.”

“Well, maybe hate is a strong word. More like I used to dislike you.”, he continues, and he looks up barely for a second, finding Taeyong’s scowl, just like he thought it was going to happen. He smirks a bit, and continues, “The cameras really do love your face, you know? On every broadcast, at least seventy percent of the time all I saw was you. And you know Taeil-sshi is my fave, and he barely gets screen time. I’ve always felt it was your fault, even tough I know you don’t have a say in stuff like that.”

Doyoung looks up again and sees Taeyong’s eyes glued to the floor, and he feels kind of guilty. So, he hurries to say the next.

“But these days...”, he says, and out of the corner of his eye, he sees a flash of white hair whipping up, “These days, seeing your face on my screen doesn’t bother me that much. I also laugh at your lame jokes, and sometimes the faces you make feel familiar to me. I guess I like you now. I like you a lot.”, Doyoung finishes with a gentle smile, and puts the part he was cleaning to dry. “Why?”

He looks up with curious eyes, but finds Taeyong walking to the counter door. He puts his hands on it, before looking up again.

“Because I like you. A lot.”. Doyoung looks at him in confusion, and Taeyong’s eyebrows are twisted in concern and seriousness, and his glare, more intense than ever, is firmly fixed on him. “I really like you.”

It happens in a rush, but Taeyong manages to run inside and suddenly, one of his arms is around Doyoung’s waist, fingers tangling with his apron, and the other firmly planted on the side of his face.

And he feels them. He doesn’t see, because his eyes are closed, but he feels Taeyong’s lips on his, and he feels himself pressing back.

And the world stops. It could have been five, ten, twenty seconds, even an hour, but Doyoung can’t tell, because he can’t even think straight. Taeyong’s lips begin moving, slowly, giving him time to respond, because he feels the urgency winning over him.

He hears Taeyong sigh between his lips, and he cant help to let the rag fall on the floor and tangle his fingers on that dyed hair of his, wanting to feel more of him, needing him closer.

But just like begun, it ends. And it all feels like a dream, because he still feels dizzy, but he registers Taeyong saying he has to go, and rushing out the shop as if the devil was taking his soul.

And he is gone.

Doyoung slides to the floor and hides his face.

 

 

Swipe. Swipe. His hands are shaking. Don’t think about it. Focus, Doyoung. Swipe. The blades of the blender cross dangerously close to his fingers. Focus. What did it mean? What did everything mean? His grip on the rag tightens. Did anything mean anything at all? His movements get jerkier. Focus.

He hisses, because he feels it before he sees it, the cut he just made on his ring finger.

Doyoung sighs, frustrated, because he can’t even curse with all the costumers around, as he grips on the damaged finger to stop the bleeding. Soon, he’s getting his first aid kit out and cleaning the wound.

Somehow, getting a cut isn’t what makes him the angriest.

It’s been a week from that. And Doyoung thought he knew by his 25 years of living what the meaning of something invading his mind was. But it isn’t until now that he realizes that no, he never, absolutely never knew what it really meant. Not until now. Not until that.

He quickly moves on to a different task, because he doesn’t let himself stay still for too long. Because staying still means having time to think, and he does Not want to think.

But he hates him. He hates Lee Taeyong so much. He hates him so much he deleted all his favourite songs because they either had him on it or reminded him of him. He hates him so much he can’t even have pictures of his favourite member of his favourite group on his phone because they immediately take him to him, to pieces of conversations, to confidentialities shared.

He even tries his best not to look up when he goes to the market, because he is popular and he is everywhere.

(everywhere, his mind included and probably first in line.)

He hates him because he isn’t the arrogant, self-centred celebrity he used to think he was. No, he is kind and sweet and dumb and a complete asshole that makes people grow feelings for him and then leaves. That kind of person is Lee Taeyong.

He wonders if it amuses him. He wonders how many people he has done this before Doyoung.

Kiss someone and then leave them forever.

A phrase about storms being named after people constantly rings in his mind, and he can’t help to feel bad about whoever wrote it, because he is completely sure he now knows what the author felt like.

The worst part is when the clock hits 11:30 p.m., with the obligatory closing ritual. He’s taken on doing it at least thrice the faster, because he’s on edge.

He’s afraid to be alone, afraid of never hearing those knocks again. Afraid because he knows that that’s exactly what it’s going to happen, because he knows the only Mocachinos he’s ever going to make will be for everyone except the one he wants to, and the only way he’ll see that smile again is through a screen.

He wonders what is worse, to not be able to see the one you long to see ever again, or to be able to see them, having to, every day, to have them shoved on your face constantly, to not be able to enjoy what you used to because not only it reminds you of them, but also they are literally part of it. He sees him daily and he won’t see him anymore. What a joke.

Doyoung wishes he was just star-struck. He wishes he could be going all ‘Oh, NCT’s Taeyong kissed me!’ to his friend as he laughed and told him to stop lying. He wishes he could just enjoy the fact that he still feels his lips on his, and that entire high-school girl shit, but he can’t.

Doyoung, focus.

He’s an adult, he reminds himself. He’s an adult, and he has his own shop, and his costumers are calling him to ask for their orders right now. He has responsibilities.

Enough of thinking of this bullshit. He forms a smile for the girl asking for a smoothie.

Life keeps going.

 

 

The days go by.

He is an adult, like he said before. He is calmer. He is more collected now, and he can even pick his favourite ramen again, the one that has NCT on the cover when he goes to the market. He feels proud, and empty, and a bit of a cheater, but proud indeed.

Cheater, because ‘not thinking of’ and ‘avoid thinking’ aren’t the same thing, but his mind insists they are.

But as he said, life goes on, and storms don’t last forever, and cloudy isn’t as good as sunny, but is better than rainy. And yes, he has constant dark circles under his eyes but he smiles at his costumers, and makes the coloured cream, and the sales are good. Ten doesn’t bother asking about them anymore even though he complains that Doyoung doesn’t tell him anything anymore, but Doyoung is still grateful.

So, it’s now a Saturday and all he can think about is going back home, making popcorn, and watching a movie with Yuta on his lap. His rabbit has been the only source of de-stress he’s had these days. He’d have to remember to turn off his phone, just so Ten will understand that no, he doesn’t want to go clubbing this weekend either.

It’s only half an hour until closing time, and there’s just a couple chatting with their voices low left. They are on a table against the window, and they look like they are close to leaving.

He sighs a little when he hears a costumer entering the place, but his eyes shoot up when he hears the order.

“Um... Can I get a hot Mocachino with low fat cream, please?”

He knows the voice, there’s an unfamiliar apologetic edge to it but he knows it, he knows it. He feels something ugly in his chest, and glares at the costumer as he replies.

“Sorry, we are out.”

“Um-uh, what about a hot chocolate?”

“We are out, too.”

“And-“

“We are out of everything, sir. Just go.”

Taeyong swallows thickly, and it feels like he just understood the pain behind Doyoung’s sting.

He looks down, to the crystal fridge, and then back up, resolved. “You do have bagels, right? I’m seeing them right there. Can I have one, please? A cheese one.”

Doyoung’s lips form a thin line as he nods and takes it. He knows Taeyong hates salty things, but what is the point of saying it? He wishes he had forgotten everything about him anyway. He gives him the paper bag and takes the money, avoiding touching the hands that gives it as much as possible.

Taeyong offers a small gentle smile, and goes to his table. No, not his table, Doyoung. To a table.

 

Doyoung doesn’t even know what he grabs, but he begins cleaning it with a rag, impulsively, violently. His eyes are glued to the thing, but he is blind, because what it felt like a spark now is a fire burning his whole chest, his throat. His muscles are tense. His mouth is sill pressed in a thin line and he has his tongue between his teeth to avoid clenching them.

He hears the couple leave between laughs, and throws the rag on the counter. In record time, he is in front of him, hands on his hips.

“We are closing, sir. Leave now.”

“Listen, Doyoung...”

“Listen? No, Taeyong, I don’t want to listen to you now. I don’t want to listen to you or see you ever again.”

Taeyong is standing up in front of him, his eyebrows curled sad, like a child. He tries to reach at Doyoung, “I’m...”

“No!”, Doyoung brushes it off in a sudden movement, and his voice starts being louder, louder than he’s ever heard it before, “Don’t you get it?! I don’t want to see you fucking face anymore! Do you think you can just do this? You think you can kiss someone and then leave? Make them feel close to you and then forget about them? Is it fun for you? Do you know how many nights I suffered because of your stupid arrogant ass?!”

He stops, and his shoulders are going up and down with his breath.

“No, you don’t. Because all you care about is people liking you, because you are an oh-so-famous star. Well, let me tell you, Lee Taeyong, not everyone likes you, because I hate you! I hate you and your little stunts and jokes and your help. So leave. Now.”

Taeyong is speechless, eyes big staring at him, until he breaks down...

In a fucking big smile.

Doyoung can’t believe his own eyes. Is this guy serious? Not only he hurt him, left him confused but also now he’s laughing at him?! You’d think he’d at least have the decency of not doing it when Doyoung is right in front of him. He must look like the biggest joke right now.

He feels rage invading his throat, closing it.

Doyoung takes big step towards him, decided to... decided to...

But before he can reach for his collar, he feels two strong arms hugging him by the neck.

“I’m sorry! I’m sorry I’m just so happy”, Taeyong says, as laughs start escaping from his lips, as his grip on him strengthens. “You thought of me! You’ve been thinking of me! I can’t believe this. I can’t believe it, I’m so stupid for leaving that day.”

It takes Doyoung a second to understand.

“Are you kidding me Lee Taeyong?! What’s so funny, huh!?”, Doyoung struggles to get out of his grip, but he feels him shaking his head, and he feels embarrassed. “Get away from me!”

“Oh, no, I’m not leaving again.”, he feels him take a deep breath and calm down, and Doyoung ceases moving, still in his arms, “I am sorry. I never meant to make you suffer. That day... I already told you I’m bad with scary things. And I’m a coward. But I’ve liked you since the first day you opened for me.”, he feels him sigh again, but this time it’s a contempt one.

“And I’m happy you feel the same. I’m so happy, Doyoung-ah.”

Doyoung feels his eyes sting and a big sob threatens to leave his throat. All the rage he’s felt, all the stress and anxiety he’s suffered, all seems to melt down in hot, angry but also relieved tears.

He feels them burning his skin and choking his throat and he is suddenly so vulnerable he feels his knees wanting to give in. His head falls on Taeyong’s shoulder and he feels so stupid because he’s trying to hide them but they are so obvious. He’s so obvious.

Taeyong doesn’t seem to mind, because his grip holding him only grows stronger, supporting him.

“I hate you.”, he repeats, but this time nobody believes it. “I hate you s-so much. You’re- You’re an idiot.”, his words get interrupted by his own sobs, and he feels Taeyong snuggling him, which somehow makes him cry harder. “You’re such an idiot, ugh. Why did I have to fall for an arrogant idiot like you?!”

“Yes, I’m an idiot.”, Taeyong agrees, and snickers a little. “But I’m your-“

Don’t.”, Doyoung stops him and lifts his head. “Don’t even try that on me.”

But once he sees his face, Doyoung can’t hold the smile that tugs from his lips.

 

 

Epilogue

 

Doyoung feels a knock on the door.

“Sorry sir, we are closed!”

And he keeps sweeping the floor, but he hears them again, more insistent.

“Please! I wish you could understand how much I need a coffee right now! I’m really stressed because my boyfriend hasn’t even texted me since this morning!”

“I’m sorry but we closed.”, he repeats, more stern, and sighs as he shakes his head.

Then, the sound of a lock and boots against the wooden floor echo the empty shop, and Doyoung feels a pair of arms enveloping him from behind.

“Then I’ll just use the back door.”, he feels Taeyong’s breath on his neck, as he whispers those words. A shiver goes down his spine, but he conceals it, and rolls his eyes.

“I never should have given you keys. That’s too much power.”

He sees Taeyong’s grin as he is turned by him, and finally receives a peck. He gives one back, and smiles at him, before raising his eyebrows.

“Wow, how tall are the boots you’re wearing today? You’re almost my size.”, he teases, and it’s Taeyong turn to roll his eyes.

“Long day, huh?”, he asks, instead, and traps him between his arms. Doyoung never thought Taeyong was such a physical guy, but it somehow fits him. Besides, even though he has a hard time admitting it, he loves his boyfriend being like this. So he just nods against his shoulder, and snuggles just a little.

“Want a coffee?”, the older asks, and Doyoung nods again. He releases him, and makes his way to behind the counter, as Doyoung picks the broom up again. “An espresso?”

“No, I plan going to sleep early today.”

“I don’t think so.”, Doyoung looks up, and sees him wink behind his dark stage make up. “Espresso it is.”

Doyoung sighs, and before keep going with his work he adds, “Not with that make up. I don’t want my sheets stained again.”

Taeyong grins again, and nods big. “Anything you say, babe.”