Jongin hates train stations.
There is nothing that he hates more than train stations except crowded train stations and that is exactly the situation he is in right now. If it wasn’t for the fact that there’s so much traffic on the streets right now that he’d be late to the appointment with his spouse and their respective parents, he’d be sitting comfortably in his sleek luxury car’s leather seats with the heater on.
But he’s not.
He pulls his scarf up a bit higher and shoves his hands into his dress pants pockets, his fingertips rubbing up against the smooth silk inside. His shiny black shoes slip a bit on the frosty ground but he catches himself before he falls over and causes an embarrassing scene. His strides are long and quick as he moves across the platform and down to where the train will soon be arriving to shuttle its passengers to their destination.
He’s about to come to a stop on the platform when his body suddenly lurches forward from a harsh impact to his back and the world is blurring by quickly in a string of colors and shapes before his hands come into rough contact with the cold cement below, a loud slap resounding through the sharp and spiraling air.
As the stranger who fell onto him is fumbling to get up from their awkward position on the ground, anger starts to bubble up through Jongin and is spilling out through the seams in floods and rivers. He’s already in a bad mood from having to meet his spouse today and thought that this day couldn’t get any worse but here he is, his suit dirty and hands aching from being knocked into by this person.
He gets up and is just about to summon an infuriated shout from the pits of his abdomen when doe eyes look up at him from below and something’s moving within him as he stares into these eyes. It’s as if the gears of his heart are stopping and speeding up at the same time and the universe is spinning but halted in a paradoxical moment. The stranger is the first to break through their ephemeral fantasy with his soft and concerned voice, “Are you hurt? I’m so sorry!”
Jongin’s words die in his throat from the innocent and flushed look on the other person’s face and he takes a deep breath, trying to control his emotions that now seem to be flickering in the electrified air. The anger is dissipating as quickly as it came and his muscles start to relax. So instead of yelling at this man in front of him, he opts to mumble a ‘no problem’ before walking away and leaving the stranger staring after him with wide eyes.
Jongin arrives at the posh restaurant one minute before the promised meeting time and, when he enters the private room in the back of the building, his parents smile their most professional smile as they introduce him to their long-time friends; the parents of the person who he will soon be marrying. He greets them politely out of courtesy before sitting down and taking sips of his ice-water. It’s been a while since he’d last seen his parents due to their busy schedules but he notices that his parents both have a few more wrinkles from the strain of their marriage.
It looks like his spouse isn’t here yet and there’s a wash of relief through him as he leans back a bit in his seat, half-listening to the parents making small talk with each other. He glances over at his spouse’s parents and notices that their body language towards each other is distinctly different from his own parents’.
His mother and father avoid touching each other and making eye contact as much as possible, an air of fractured composure between them despite their seemingly happy faces. On the other side of the table, his spouse’s mother has her hand on her husband’s knee and her husband has his hand on the small of her back. They smile adoringly at each other when they laugh and Jongin thinks that his spouse grew up in a lovely household.
The door to their room opens again and the parents all make loud exclamations towards the person who has just walked in but Jongin can’t bear to look over at the man he assumes is his spouse. His gaze is trained on the woven fibers of the tablecloth and his heart is starting to beat faster in a strange type of nervousness and anxiety. He attributes this feeling to the caged and restricted circumstances occurring around him and not out of any type of eagerness to meet this person. What kind of meaning is his life supposed to have when every aspect of his future is beyond his control?
His spouse is sitting down in the chair across the rectangular table from him now and Jongin still refuses to make eye contact even when he knows that everyone’s eyes are trained on him now, watching his next move, hoping that their children will be able to live a joyous and prosperous life together. He decides that it wouldn’t be right for him to cause a scene here so he slowly moves his eyes up, raking his spouse from the chest upwards. His eyes widen when they reach the familiar large eyes across from him.
“I’m Do Kyungsoo. It’s very nice to finally meet you, Jongin.”
The smile on Kyungsoo’s face is radiant and gorgeous, lighting up the atmosphere like fireworks and Jongin feels the ice crackling down his spine for a moment as he recognizes this face from the train station. His body is rigid with surprise and his distressed palms are getting sweaty as he clenches and unclenches his hands on his pants. He finally lets out the air that he’s been holding and breaks eye contact swiftly.
“I’m looking forward to our future together,” Kyungsoo mutters shyly, his youthful face turning a bright shade of red as he looks at Jongin through his eyelashes.
And Jongin can only respond with, “Yeah.”
“So is he just as you imagined or was it like when I met Chanyeol?”
The biting chill outside is frosty with the deep hues of winter so Kyungsoo’s friends, Baekhyun and Chanyeol, are here sipping hot chocolate on Kyungsoo’s sofa as a warm aroma coming from the kitchen washes over the coziness of the living room. Kyungsoo’s cheeks flush a bit as he grins, remembering his first meeting with Jongin yesterday.
“Come on, Baekhyun. Our first meeting wasn’t that bad,” Chanyeol retorts, frowning in disagreement.
“You threw up on me,” Baekhyun deadpans with a glare laced with daggers and knives.
“I said I was sorry! I had the stomach bug! At least I changed your clothes!”
“Yeah, because stripping me in public and then taking off your own clothes to give to me is romantic.”
“You did look adorable in my shirt…” Chanyeol reminisces, his eyes getting distant as he recalled the image. Baekhyun scoffs and smacks Chanyeol playfully with a throw pillow, causing laughter and giggles between the two as Chanyeol counterattacks with tickles. And Kyungsoo hugs his cup of hot chocolate closer as he watches them from the armchair, longing for the time when he’ll be able to be this way with Jongin.
In the background, the timer to the oven goes off in a beep that resounds throughout the room. Chanyeol immediately stops tickling Baekhyun and shoots up like a security dog that’s found drugs. “Cake!” he exclaims, loudly.
As Kyungsoo’s putting on his oven mitts, Chanyeol’s lingering behind him and bouncing on the balls of his feet, excited to have a taste of the delicacy fresh from the oven. “I already told you that you can’t have any, Chanyeol.”
“You never baked me a cake when it was my birthday, Kyungsoo. Why are you baking Jongin one?”
“Geez, Chanyeol. Isn’t it obvious? The poor guy’s in love with him. Speaking of which, you never answered my question, Kyungsoo. How did it go yesterday? Was it like you thought?”
“Better, Baekhyun. Much better,” Kyungsoo responds with a flush as he’s preparing to frost the cake.
“How is that possible when you already treat the guy like he’s some type of god?”
“He’s even more handsome in person than he is in my picture and his voice is deep and smooth.” Kyungsoo’s eyes smile and he tries to keep the giggles out of his voice as he stirs the frosting in the bowl noticeably quicker than before.
“He’s only five years old in your picture. Of course he looks better now,” Chanyeol nonchalantly states as he hovers over Kyungsoo’s shoulder, watching the shorter man put the finishing touches on the birthday cake; shredded chocolate on top of poofs of swirled cream.
And Kyungsoo looks at it with worry because he’s unsure if Jongin even likes chocolate—or cake for that matter—but Baekhyun reassures him that everything will be fine.
He hopes so.
It’s a twenty-minute train ride from Kyungsoo’s house to Jongin’s with Kyungsoo clutching the cake container carefully, making sure that it doesn’t get damaged in any way until it safely arrives in Jongin’s mouth. His grip on the stiff paper box gets tighter as he’s standing in the house’s foyer, having been let in by the elderly housekeeper with a gentle smile.
“I’ll take that for you. Jongin’s in the living room with his other guests. Here, I’ll show you where it is.”
He nods politely at her and follows her down the clean hallways, the walls decorated with exquisite art pieces and embossed wallpaper. He’s kind of nervous about meeting Jongin’s friends and hopes that he’ll be able to make a good impression, the thought of upsetting his fiancé always in the front of his mind.
As they’re about to enter the room, some laughter from the inside startles him a bit and Kyungsoo suddenly feels a bit awkward. It wasn’t as if he was directly invited to Jongin’s party by the birthday boy himself but, rather, by his parents when they had met yesterday. He takes a deep breath to steady his nerves as the housekeeper enters.
“Excuse me. Your guest, Kyungsoo, is here to see you.” She smiles a reassuring smile towards Kyungsoo before stepping out. Everyone’s quiet as they inspect Kyungsoo for a moment and he feels more anxiety welling up through him as he’s the only one standing, the other guests seated in a circle on the sofas with refreshments between them on the coffee table.
Luhan is the first to break the strange air in the space with a bright smile as he stands up and pats Kyungsoo on the shoulder. “Hi, I’m Luhan. I don’t think we’ve met. How do you know Jongin?”
“My name is Kyungsoo. I’m…” He glances sideways at Jongin for some reason, as if asking if it’s okay to reveal their relationship to this person and, noticing his gaze, Jongin sighs and shifts his legs.
“He’s my fiancé,” Jongin finishes calmly, an air of indifference snaking around his expressionless face. The tense atmosphere is quickly resolved into one of surprise and awe as four pairs of eyes light up and they usher Kyungsoo over to sit next to Jongin so that they can bombard him with questions.
“How old are you?”
“Where do you live?”
And there’s an uncomfortable feeling settling into Kyungsoo’s stomach as he’s not sure if he should be revealing information about himself to people he’s just met. He peeks at Jongin for a split second to inspect his reaction and finds nothing but a bored expression so his heartstrings tug painfully. As Jongin’s friends are arguing—‘leave the guy alone’ and ‘I’m just trying to be nice’—Kyungsoo excuses himself to go to the bathroom.
He’s too quick to exit the space and be rid of the jumbling sensation in his stomach though because he collides loudly with the housekeeper who is carrying more plates of appetizers and refreshments, causing a heart-splitting crash into the hallway and a fumbling of limbs and glass. Everyone comes rushing over to see the commotion as Kyungsoo’s crouched down trying to pick up the shards of glass and ceramic, all the while nodding his head and spewing apologies.
But Jongin’s the one who strikes the atmosphere into a truly unwelcoming one as the frustration overflows into his demeanor and threatens to crack the world in half.
“Just—Leave it. You’ve done enough,” Jongin hisses through clenched teeth as Kyungsoo’s handling the glass pieces.
Kyungsoo feels the knot growing and swallowing his abdomen when Jongin scolds him and he thinks that he’s definitely hated now. The atmosphere is splitting into a tangible silence as everyone stares on at the situation and Kyungsoo’s eyes prickle with a hot rush of tears.
“I’m really sorry. I should go then. Happy birthday,” Kyungsoo whispers as he gets up and leaves.
Everyone sighs as they watch him leave. Sehun motions for Luhan to stay away from the dangerous glass before going to help pick up the fragments and, when the mess is cleaned up, everyone glares at Jongin disapprovingly.
“I thought Sehun told you to be nice and try to get along with him,” Luhan snaps bitterly, sipping some lemonade.
“Yeah, that’s not how you treat your fiancé. He just got here and you exploded at him for a mistake.”
Jongin’s eyes are still shot with anger as he replies harshly at his friend, Suho, “A mistake? It was a mistake to invite him in the first place.”
Suho rolls his eyes at Jongin as if unwilling to engage in this argument with him, opting to scoot closer to his friend Yixing, but Luhan’s ready to pick this battle. “You know--!”
But the heated argument is interrupted when the housekeeper is back and enters the room, smiling with her hands underneath a platter with a lovely cake on top. “I brought some cake.”
Jongin’s the first to take a bite of the cake with the tendrils of chocolate and fluffs of cream dissipating onto his tongue in a flurry of sweetness and happiness. His angry feelings are melting away now and he manages a smile at the delicacy. His friends also seem to be experiencing the same heart-warming feelings as they bite into their pieces and appreciative nods fill the room.
“Where did you get this cake?” Jongin asks the housekeeper as she’s getting ready to leave the room.
“Oh. Your guest, Kyungsoo, called yesterday and said he wanted to make you a birthday cake. He brought it over when he came. He didn’t tell you?”
And everyone’s eyes dart over to Jongin as if wishing for him to drown in an infinite sea of guilt.
Kyungsoo’s eyes are spilling tears uncontrollably in his bedroom as he sobs all of his sad feelings away with the animated wall in front of him. Baekhyun and Chanyeol’s concerned faces are staring at him through the pixels embedded into his wall, their faces shifting around on the large space through the progression of technology.
“Kyungsoo, it’ll be okay. Maybe he was just frustrated because of something else and he took it out on you,” Baekhyun theorizes, hoping to soothe Kyungsoo.
“H-he— he definitely h-hates me!” Kyungsoo chokes between his sobs, wrapping his body around a pillow.
“You should’ve just given me the cake,” Chanyeol sighs. Baekhyun quickly smacks him over the head with his fist, earning a loud groan.
“Kyungsoo’s upset and all you’re worried about is the cake? I can’t believe you!” Baekhyun exclaims, trying to push Chanyeol off of the couch in their home.
“Well, what do you expect me to do? If we just let him drown in his tears then it’s just going to cause problems in their marriage. Look, Kyungsoo, the best way to get over this is by sincerely apologizing to him the next time you see each other and move on. He’ll understand that it was an accident like Baekhyun did after our first meeting,” Chanyeol states confidently.
Kyungsoo takes his friend’s words into consideration for a moment as his tears emerge slower and slower, his breathing getting more even. And he nods because he also wants his marriage to go smoothly.