“What are you doing for Christmas?” said Onew, catching up to you after class finally finished. “Staying, going home...?”
You hadn’t thought about it, now he reminded you. “Going home, maybe?” you said, shrugging. “I don’t know. I haven’t even done my Christmas shopping yet, to be honest.” You looked sheepish.
“I finished mine months ago,” Onew said proudly.
“Don’t you have enough cousins to populate a small European country?”
Onew nodded. “Most of them girls too.” He scratched his head. “It’s hard buying for girls. What are you getting your cousin?”
You blinked at him. “My cousin?”
“You know, the one I’ve met? The boy?”
“Oh!” You felt like kicking yourself for forgetting about the cover story you had given Onew. “Right, um...” There was another thing you hadn’t thought about: what were you getting Taemin? Somehow you suspected he might not appreciate a big bone with a ribbon tied around it. “I don’t know. Do you have any ideas?”
Onew shrugged. “What kind of things is he into?”
“Mmm...” you tapped your chin thoughtfully. “He mostly just lounges around watching television and playing bad games, to be honest. I don’t know, a lot of him is kind of a mystery to me.”
“Really?” Onew’s eyebrows raised. “You two seem so close.”
“O-oh!” Get it together, get it together. You brayed unconvincingly. “Well, you know, we’re close but the mind of a teenage boy is always a mystery, isn’t it!”
Onew scrutinised you for a few nailbiting seconds, then his face cleared. “I guess,” he said lightly. He chewed his lip, as if working up his courage, then managed to gather enough to speak: “Look, um, the reason I asked what you’re doing for Christmas... well, the thing is... this year my family’s having a sort of party, and I was wondering if you might come...” Seeing your surprise, he hastily added, “If you don’t want to it’s fine! I just thought... you can bring your cousin too if you want!”
He was so nervous he was almost shaking. You couldn’t help but smile. “I’ll try my best to make it. Promise.”
Onew’s sigh of relief was visible. “That would be great.”
“Will I finally get to meet your hordes of cousins?”
Onew beamed. “They’ll all be there. Some of them are your cousin’s age too. Well, just one of them. And one of them’s bringing her baby, he was only born a few months ago and he’s really cute...”
You let Onew ramble on, describing each cousin to you in turn. It sounded nice, you thought, to have such a big family. You wondered what Taemin’s family was like. Maybe one of these days he would finally tell you more about them.
As usual, your arrival home was marked by Taemin bounding to the door and throwing his arms around you. The apartment, you noticed, was meticulously tidy. You eyed Taemin.
“Did you tidy up?”
“No,” Taemin said. “Jonghyun came around to visit.”
“I really should replace you with Jonghyun,” you joked, slipping out of your shoes. Before Taemin could prickle with jealousy at the remark you swiftly kissed him on the cheek, softening him. “My classmate invited us to a Christmas party.”
“The one who’s trying to get into your pants?” said Taemin. “I don’t like him.”
“He’s not--” You sighed, shaking your head. “He specifically invited you as well, you know.”
“I’m not a messy person.”
“It’s not like I never tidy up, you just don’t notice when I do it.”
“We’re not talking about that now,” you said patiently. “We’re talking about Jinki’s party. Do you want to go?”
Taemin shrugged. “Not really.”
“I’m going either way,” you said, sitting down.
“I’m going too then,” Taemin decided instantly, prompting you to roll your eyes. “Like I’m letting that guy get you alone.” He sat down beside you, nuzzling until he was halfway into your lap. “You know, I used to know a guy who looked just like him. He was some kind of sociopath too, probably a future serial killer, and when he got girls alone--”
“Where are you going with this?”
Taemin shrugged, giving you a faux-innocent look. “I’m not saying that guy changed his name to Jinki and moved or anything, just... you know, it’s a possibility. I’d be careful.”
You tutted. “Next you’ll be saying the guy next door is a secret serial killer too.”
“It’s also a possibility.”