coley_merrin: (QMi Too Perfect)
[personal profile] coley_merrin
Title: Demarcation
Rating: PG-13
Pairing: Kyuhyun/Zhou Mi
Words: 8,000
Summary: Prompt from this link: "I saw you trying to hit the “door close” button in the elevator but I made it in and then I pushed every single button to make you later for work, but now we’re stuck in this fucking elevator as it stops at every single floor and I don’t know what to say other than “you started it” AU"

Written for the qmi exchange.




***

On another day, maybe Zhou Mi waited. Maybe he even held the door, gave a good-morning. It was 25 feet, a man clearly hustling to make the elevator that only Zhou Mi was on, and Zhou Mi looked back down to the e-mail he was reading, his finger tapping against the button to close the doors as though maybe hitting it more than once would make it close faster. He just wanted to get to his office, get out of the rat race, and send a jolt of caffeine into his system. An arm thrust through the closing door just in time to have it bouncing back out, the same man who’d been making his way toward Zhou MI to begin with.

“Thanks so much,” the man said, sarcasm dripping off of his every word. “Apparently you own the elevator today.”

Zhou Mi shook his head, looking back down once the door closed. Whatever. Small delay.

And he heard the sound of skin sliding against metal, the clack of plastic. And on his own side of the elevator, he watched with horror as the buttons started lighting up, row by row. He looked over to the man, and yes, there he was, running his hand along the console and pressing every, single one.

“Since you needed to go up so quickly and all,” he was told, and Zhou Mi pressed his lips together, exhaling.

Zhou Mi pressed at random lighted buttons as though maybe pressing again would deselect them, as it did in more modern elevators. But no, the lights just continued to mock him like eternally red traffic lights.

“There’s always the stairs,” the man supplied helpfully, something wicked in that tone.

Zhou Mi resisted the urge to retort in kind.

Floor by floor they stopped, Zhou Mi’s shoulders tensing with every ding, every rise of a head of whoever sat nearest only for no one to get on or off of the elevator. Until the fifth floor.

“Hey, Kyuhyun! How’s your morning?” a man said as he got into the elevator. “Oh, whoa. I wish we could find the jerks that push all the buttons like this. Maybe make them ride up and down all day long.”

Zhou Mi stared at the ceiling and bit his tongue.

“You could have told him,” Kyuhyun said, after the man got off the elevator two floors later, and it was just them again going up. “I mean, he’d never have believed you, but you could’ve tried.”

“Maybe there’s surveillance,” Zhou Mi said, and Kyuhyun laughed at the dramatic way that Zhou Mi shook his fist at the imaginary camera. “No. No need to tattle on you. You shot yourself in the foot as much as you did me.”

“Maybe I’m not nearly close to being late,” Kyuhyun said.

“I’m sure that you have better things to do with your life than riding the world’s more boring amusement park ride. Is a ghost going to jump out?”

“It’s not boring yet.”

Enjoying another person’s suffering. That was nice. Outing his new… friend - Kyuhyun - to his acquaintance would’ve been a war tactic, and he didn’t have time to have a feud, even with an irreverent, golden-voiced jerk. Sure, Zhou Mi could’ve gotten out, gone down the stairs and over to the next building and taken the elevator up to the sky bridge, crossed over and he’d have been a few floors away. But it was a test of wills at that point. Anything Kyuhyun could do, so could he. And Zhou Mi eyed the suit that Kyuhyun wore. Nice enough.

“What floor were you actually needing to push?” Zhou Mi asked.

“Why, so you can find my desk and destroy it while I’m gone?”

They stared at each other. Well, no, the thought hadn’t come to Zhou Mi before that, but now that Kyuhyun mentioned it.

“We have a directory,” Zhou Mi said. “I could find out anyway.”

“Then find out.”

It came with a heavy sigh, and another floor dinging and Kyuhyun stabbing at the door close button.

He’d try a different tactic then.

“How long have you worked in this building?”

There was a look of offense on Kyuhyun’s face, like Zhou Mi had just told him that he smelled.

“Are you seriously going to talk at me the whole way up?”

“I’m not the one who pushed all the buttons, and I’m not just going to stand here and glower at you.”

“That’d be more satisfying. And quieter,” Kyuhyun muttered. But one more open and close of the elevator doors had him sighing. “Yeah. A year and a half, I guess.”

Zhou Mi wondered if they’d been caught in the same elevator before, but it was going its normal speed. They worked on a different floor, no doubt about that.

“I’ve been here…almost two years. But not all that time in this building. We were next door, when we moved to the floor of the only button you didn’t push. The subway is nice and convenient, anyway. A little less hill to walk up. Do you live nearby? Kyuhyun? My name is Zhou Mi, by the way. Why aren’t you saying anything?”

The elevator doors slid open again, and there they were, halfway to his floor.

***

There was a grown man in an elevator car whining at him that he wasn’t talking. Kyuhyun wasn’t sure where his morning had gone off the rails, but he could guess. He’d known the guy in the elevator was pushing the door close button, all while trying to look like he wasn’t. That just rallied up his squished-into-the-subway-late-for-breakfast morning to a fever pitch right there, and it had been so satisfying, so satisfying to see the expression on Zhou Mi’s face as the floor buttons lit up. And then it’d been rubbed in his face that he was making himself wait, too, but the silence seemed to be killing Zhou Mi more than the waiting, or the endless starts and stops. At least he wasn’t claustrophobic, but maybe he should’ve pushed all the buttons between his floor and Zhou Mi’s after it was his turn to get off. Maybe he should’ve thought that through a little better.

“You started it,” Kyuhyun muttered.

Zhou Mi eyed him, the judging little shit. “And your answer to that is silence?”

“What does it matter where I live anyway? I live five stops away, and I take the subway to work every morning. My boss is probably going to think I made a break for the border. I didn’t eat breakfast. What else do you want?”

“Which direction? Oh. Well, food I can help with.”

Zhou Mi had screwed up his morning even more, and there he was, holding out a tiny orange that Kyuhyun was fairly sure he could’ve popped into his mouth whole. And Zhou Mi stared at him like he had four heads when he didn’t move to take it.

“Here. You said you were hungry.”

It was a grudging acceptance, staring down at the lumpy little fruit.

“Are you supposed to eat on an elevator?”

“I don’t see any signs against it. Besides, if they don’t have a camera to see you pushing all the buttons, they won’t see you eating.”

That was supposed to burn, Kyuhyun was pretty sure of it. Still, food was food, and he stuffed the peel into his jacket pocket, again as Zhou Mi watched, judging him.

“This is like the world’s slowest tour of the building,” Zhou Mi said, banging on the close button again as the doors slowly slid together. “Just repeated denial. Almost up to speed, and then slows right down.”

Kyuhyun swallowed down the remnants of a couple of orange segments, nearly half the orange itself, and cast a look toward where he assumed the motor running the whole thing was.

“Hope they built it well so it doesn’t get hot easily.”

Maybe that’d spook Zhou Mi, the thought of it. Maybe he’d think on that instead of talking, or maybe he’d decide to walk. But no, Zhou Mi looked intrigued, staring up at the changing numbers for a couple of floors as strangers got in and out, and then they were alone again, most of the way to the floor that Kyuhyun was going to.

“There are horror movies with elevators, just falling right down the shaft. Demons. Artificial intelligence. Burglaries.”

“You watch horror movies?” Kyuhyun asked, and wished he had some kind of a cloth to wipe down his suddenly sticky fingers after the orange was finished. He made do with a handkerchief, but it wasn’t enough.

“I do. I usually go with someone, but I go alone sometimes. Most of the time I’m not scared, but if it gets a shiver or my heart going, it’s worth it. They’re fascinating. Sometimes I don’t really understand them, but it makes it fun!”

Zhou Mi did some kind of a mock shiver like they were in the Arctic and not in the middle of a humid Korean summer. He also seemed to be creeping closer, leaning one shoulder on the back of the elevator while he talked, his free hand moving. It made Kyuhyun feel kind of hemmed in, but it also made him realize just how tall Zhou Mi was. Not that the impeccable, long trousers hadn’t given that away but it was one thing when it was across an elevator car, and another when six feet of airy-smelling man looming at him.

In his four second lingering on Zhou Mi’s mouth, Kyuhyun realized he’d forgotten to be both miffed and off balance. And that miffed him and put him even more off balance than he had been to start with.

Two more floors.

“I don’t,” Kyuhyun said, and it made no sense as a declaration or as a sentence itself. “Movies are fun.”

He finished that off with a shrug, and Zhou Mi nodded before turning and looking again as the doors slid open, and then shut. Kyuhyun stood up straight, gripping his bag and feeling like he was escaping from a lion’s den. Who knew that men who were jerks and refused to wait for people were so friendly. He hadn’t gotten to know so much about a person since his last blind date, and he was pretty sure their elevator trip had lasted as long.

“This is me,” Kyuhyun said, as the doors slid open. It took two strides and he was on his way to freedom.

“Have a good day!” Zhou Mi called after him.

Not turning and offering the same was Kyuhyun’s final parting shot. Kyuhyun locked himself in the bathroom and washed the last of the orange off of his hands, but he could still smell it as he explained to his boss that there was some elevator trouble that had him getting in late. But he wasn’t in trouble, anyway.

It was almost lunchtime when he discovered the orange rinds in his pocket. And when he went down a floor for lunch, he took the stairs.

***

The elevator misadventures didn’t follow Kyuhyun for long. He thought about it on his way home, riding downward with an eased breath just knowing he was going to get out of the building without any holdups. It had been one of those weird moments that he laughed about with his friends, and it slid to the back of his consciousness the next few trips to and from work. It took all types of people. Somewhere in there was a lesson for patience.

Kyuhyun didn’t know whether he was amused or disturbed to find Zhou Mi leaning against the back of the elevator when it dinged open a couple of days later, with Kyuhyun on his way to be going home. Zhou Mi held up his hands like it was a truce and he wasn’t going for the button to close the doors before Kyuhyun could get on. He half thought to wait. But then he strode with purpose. No, he wasn’t going to let one guy keep him back. Kyuhyun half wondered if it was strange. How many times had they been in an elevator together before the other time. It was just them that day, right then at least, a happenstance of timing. Or of something Kyuhyun really couldn’t explain.

“How has your day been?” Zhou Mi asked, as they started their trip downward.

“It was fine,” Kyuhyun said, and people got on at the next floor, making them shuffle a little closer together. They looked at each other, and though no question was forthcoming from Kyuhyun’s mouth, Zhou Mi seemed to take it as such anyway.

“Mine wasn’t bad. I took off from work a little early. I think the people in the building might think we suddenly have an elevator man.”

Kyuhyun blinked at him. The words made sense. The face, angled, well-composed, and damn near angelic.

Maybe a little sheepish as Kyuhyun made a sound of understanding.

“You’ve just been— You’ve been riding the elevator waiting for me to get on it?”

“Luckily it doesn’t do that thing where it makes your stomach swoop,” Zhou Mi sighed, and they kept moving downward, people exiting, getting on every so often. “I’d have waited on your floor, but there are desks facing the elevator, and giving you a chance to see I’m a good citizen seemed more appropriate. I was only on the elevator for about..eleven minutes.”

A good citizen. And eleven minutes, as though that made it better.

“You are weird,” he said in all seriousness. “What if I hadn’t been here? What if I took the stairs. Why would you even waste your time like that?”

On floor ten, a person exited the elevator, leaving them alone again, and Zhou Mi pushed the door close button.

And the buttons of every single floor beneath them.

“What are you doing?” Kyuhyun asked, mystified.

“Payback in a small scale, but also asking if you’re free for dinner?”

Kyuhyun opened his mouth, and then closed it, confused. Zhou Mi was needling him. But also, unless he was misreading that smirk, asking him out. That answered the question of why Zhou Mi had turned the elevator into his own amusement park ride.

But who did that?

And why was he laughing?

It turned out they had exactly one floor before they had company. Considering there were two people on the elevator, and two getting on, the eight lit lights were a clear sign.

“What asshole pushed all the buttons?” the woman complained.

“I know, right,” Kyuhyun murmured, looking askance at Zhou Mi.

“I’m getting off on the next floor and walking. I don’t have time for this.”

Zhou Mi just chuckled, not looking in the least bit sad at that. More time for them, apparently.

When they had been abandoned again and the elevator started its descent, Zhou Mi just relaxed a little, looking at Kyuhyun. And Kyuhyun blinked back at him, suddenly remembering Zhou Mi’s earlier question. It felt too clandestine to be a hey-let’s-be-pals thing. Though what did it say about Zhou Mi with him apparently wanting to eat with the guy who’d kind of put a dent in a morning for both of them.

“Dinner. Are you talking about a date?”

“Or a meal,” Zhou Mi hedged.

Or a date.

They finally arrived in the lobby without anyone else besmirching Zhou Mi’s character, and Kyuhyun putting off accepting or rejecting Zhou Mi had to end right there unless he just dropped through the floor and never appeared again. He wondered if it was silly that he was leaning to yes. How Zhou Mi had reacted to Kyuhyun’s jerk move told him a lot about him. But he also knew Zhou Mi was prone to ramblings, and a little bit nosy. Not a tiny bit eccentric. Maybe it was weird, but he wasn’t freaked out by it. It seemed like it said something. He just didn’t know what it said, yet.

And since he had an out, what did it hurt.

“I have plans later, but I was going to eat at the stop I was going to. It might be out of your way, but if you don’t mind?”

Kyuhyun shrugged, like it was nothing to him either way, but the distance to the stop seemed nothing to Zhou Mi.

“I haven’t eaten around there in a while. It’ll be fun to see what all is there.”

And that was that. They made their way down into the subway, scanned their cards, waited for their train as Zhou Mi talked about what was new there in the last two years and how much nicer it was. And they managed to snag to standing spots near the door on the first car, a score in itself as they hung on to the overhead handholds.

"Let me guess," Kyuhyun said, after Zhou Mi had murmured to him almost the entire way between the first two stops. "You like to talk."

Zhou Mi stared at him for a bit like his head was on crooked before he tilted his head back and laughed. The first ripple of it was louder, and the rest quieted as he caught ahold of himself and the fact that he'd been drawing attention in the crowded train.

"You've caught me," Zhou Mi told him, his eyes twinkling.

He said it like it was some kind of secret, something he was amused to share with Kyuhyun alone.

"Do you have your own office, or do you just chatter at people all day?"

"Oh, a question! I do have my own office. I'm on the phone part of the time, though. Though I like quiet, too. Just finding a comfortable place and reading, getting to really relax. I probably talk more when I'm moving. Nerves but also...connection."

Did Zhou Mi think he was going to fall for him because of his voice or something? Kyuhyun really didn't know what to think of that, the way Zhou Mi said it, the way his voice got a little lower. He hadn't made any moves, hadn't leaned in, nothing like that. But Kyuhyun still felt like Zhou Mi was closer than he had been before.

They ended up eating street food, jamming themselves into a corner. It was quick, which Kyuhyun needed with his plans, and Zhou Mi had no complaints about stripping himself out of his jacket, rolling up his sleeves and digging in. Kyuhyun eyed the drinks available, but he couldn't go stumbling out of there drunk.

"You seem like you'd be more comfortable with a champagne flute," Kyuhyun said.

The look that Zhou Mi sent him was surprisingly judging. "I still work for a living. The only champagne I get is if my company just sold the moon or if someone is getting married."

"Me, too. I can just imagine you as some snooty guy."

"The kind of guy who closes the elevator doors early on people?"

Kyuhyun raised his eyebrows, not arguing against that at all. And he slapped at the threatening hand, Zhou Mi's fingers covered in the spicy sauce from the chicken they were eating. He managed to escape without Zhou Mi smearing that on his face, laughing as he continued eating. But Zhou Mi was smiling, too.

“I’ll take it as a compliment, anyway. You look natural in a suit, though I bet that’s not all you wear. What do you like to do at home?”

“I get off the computer at work, go home, change into pajamas, and get on the computer there,” Kyuhyun said, chuckling a little as Zhou Mi nodded, clearly understanding. It seemed like it was easier to talk when he wasn't feeling somewhat awkward and defiantly guilty for doing something he maybe shouldn't have. Though he still contended that Zhou Mi deserved it for being impatient and inconsiderate. Zhou Mi half admitted that too, so he could mark that out of his book.

But where Kyuhyun had felt awkward after doing something wrong, Zhou Mi carried on like he caused inconvenience and mayhem every day of the week. Kyuhyun said as such and asked, suspicious, "Are you a lawyer?"

And Zhou Mi laughed until he nearly choked, making Kyuhyun almost squirm in unfiltered glee.

They were both done eating by the time his phone started glaring at him that he should be on his way. It was only a few minutes to walk, but he didn’t want to be late. They were still out of the way of the passing pedestrians as they got themselves back together and threw away their trash.
Kyuhyun glance briefly at Zhou Mi’s forearms as Zhou Mi got his jacket set over his elbow, eyes catching at the way Zhou Mi’s belt sat just so on his hips. Maybe a bit of pique was good for the soul. It had brought him something good for his eyes at the very least.

“That was good,” Zhou Mi sighed, patting at his belly.

“It was. I should get going. Be safe going home, now,” Kyuhyun said, his lips quirking up in the corner as Zhou Mi squinted at him.

“I will,” Zhou Mi said, nearly curtsying and making them both laugh. “Have a good rest of your evening.”

Zhou Mi’s hand slid down Kyuhyun’s upper arm, waving with his other hand. Kyuhyun stood like he was missing something, feeling for his phone, half turning toward the street so he could check it, so he wouldn’t be caught watching Zhou Mi leave. He did glance one more time, though. And he had five minutes to make it to where he needed to be.

“So you had dinner with the guy from the elevator,” Ryeowook said, looking outrageous with a bucket of popcorn half as big as his body. It was meant for three of them, who’d been too lazy to wait and went to find their seats. Or maybe Ryeowook had banished them so he could hear the gossip, Kyuhyun didn’t know. All he did know was there was a finite time before they’d be in theater and he’d be off the hook.

“Tonight seemed best. That way I had an excuse did get away if it was horrible.”

“Was it horrible?” Ryeowook asked.

That actually stopped Kyuhyun. Sure, he’d enjoyed what his eyes had seen. He’d asked a few questions, and Zhou Mi had offered up more information than he’d asked, but he could think of a dozen other things he wanted to know.

“What does this mean?” Ryeowook asked, moving his mouth up and down like he was talking but not quite. “Or were you going to say something.”

The silent treatment wasn’t an effective method of keeping Ryeowook from smirking.

***

The date - or a meal, however Kyuhyun had decided to interpret it - had gone well, Zhou Mi thought. He’d discovered a number of things about Kyuhyun that he liked, including that he liked watching Kyuhyun think, liked Kyuhyun wickedly amused, liked the soft sound of pleasure he’d made once when they’d been eating. He liked the way that Kyuhyun looked up at him a little bit through his eyelashes, and the way his hair was styled.

All in all, more things than he’d been expecting to come away from the evening with. The one thing he hadn’t come away with was a future plan, and beyond that, not even a phone number. It had been right there, right on the tip of his tongue when he’d reached out to touch Kyuhyun’s arm. But the night had been so pleasant right up to that point, like it had been resetting whatever strange wrong foot they’d gotten themselves off on the first time. Maybe in that way, it hadn’t been a date. If he had the good luck of it happening again, he wanted that one to be clear.

But, there was a problem. Zhou Mi didn’t want to take off early again to ride the elevator in endless cycles in the hopes that Kyuhyun would stumble across him. Serendipity would perhaps smile on him, but he wasn’t prepared to wait months for that to work. In other words, he had to be proactive. He had to be aggressive. He had to seize the day.

He also had to call four offices on the floor that Kyuhyun had gotten out of the elevator on before a man answered and asked him to hold for transfer.

“Hello, this is Kyuhyun,” Kyuhyun answered his phone, sounding lightly distracted, but that was very much his voice.

“Why hello, how are you doing today, Cho Kyuhyun?” Zhou Mi asked.

There was a pause. “Fine?”

“I’m glad you’re doing all right. This is Zhou Mi from four floors above you, enjoying this gloomy morning of ours.”

Zhou Mi could almost feel the alarm radiating through the phone. It made him laugh a little, using his thumbnail to line up two folders.

“Look, I know this is your work line, and I promise - unless I’m invited to - I won’t call this number again. But I didn’t know how else to get ahold of you, and I wondered if you’d be free sometime to meet up again.”

“For a…meal?” Kyuhyun queried.

Ah, their code? Of course, they were still at work. “For any kind of meal you’d like.”

That made Kyuhyun laugh. “Oh, don’t promise that. Let me check my work schedule, though. What’s your cell number?”

Zhou Mi almost had to orient himself, making sure to give Kyuhyun the correct number.

“Just let me know,” he said, almost feeling breathless. He’d told himself that he wasn’t going to coax, that if Kyuhyun said no, that serendipity really would have to take over at that point. And for all he knew, Kyuhyun could be stalling to get Zhou Mi off his back. But it was a chance.

“Yeah, yeah,” Kyuhyun said. “Hey, go back to work, slacker.”

His horrified gasp gained him another chuckle from Kyuhyun, and then they both nearly said goodbye at the same time.

Zhou Mi sat up a little straighter in his office chair, nodding once and overlooking his kingdom. His desk, anyway. Maybe Kyuhyun wouldn’t text. Maybe he would. He thought he was being really subtle, too, putting his phone right near his hand, where he could see and hear if a text came in.

When it did almost twenty minutes later, Zhou Mi nearly knocked the phone off his desk, grabbing it as it spun.

“Hey, it’s Kyuhyun. Tomorrow works if okay for you. Can meet in the lobby. What time are you free?”

It was hard work that paid off, sometimes, he thought as he texted Kyuhyun back.

***

There were days when Zhou Mi ended up staying late, but not the night of the planned meal. He’d picked out his shirt extra carefully that morning, even bringing along an extra one in case of accident. But no, his self-preservation prevailed, and he stepped out of the elevator just two minutes after their agreed-upon time. Kyuhyun was by the doors, jacket and bag in one hand, and they fell into step as they exited out onto the street. The subway was an option, but if they were going to eat somewhere far enough, Zhou Mi was thinking a taxi was best, but first they had to iron down their plans.

“What sounds good?” Zhou Mi asked, eyes resting for a moment on the neatly-tied tie before settling back on Kyuhyun’s face. It made him want to muss Kyuhyun up a bit, not the first time he’d had that thought.

“Meat,” Kyuhyun said with some amount of feeling, and Zhou Mi had to catch himself before he huffed out a laugh that was completely inappropriate.

“Where’s your favorite place to go to eat?”

Kyuhyun almost had to draw out a map in the air for Zhou Mi to visualize, enough they knew taxiing would be easier, at least to allay the growling of Kyuhyun’s stomach. And Zhou Mi didn’t have any more oranges on him to ease the hunger. Waiting for a taxi to notice them, they ironed out who was older, for Kyuhyun’s peace of mind more than his own. Ah, impetuous youth. Though Kyuhyun was just under a couple of years younger.

“Hey, Kyuhyun,” Zhou Mi said, needing to know before they got much further, and he waited for Kyuhyun to pause, to look up at him. “What type of a meal are we having?”

Kyuhyun thought for a moment, almost like he was going to answer the most obvious way - that they were eating Korean food, or that they were eating dinner.

“I thought you said this was a date.”

He’d said nothing of the kind. If he recalled, Kyuhyun was the one who’d brought up the word to begin with. Though, he would own it if that was what he got.

“Then that must mean tonight I’m paying.”

Zhou Mi wished he could’ve written that look on Kyuhyun’s face into his memory forever, a little pleased, a little coy, climbing into the taxi ahead of Zhou Mi and giving the driver the address. Zhou Mi pursed his mouth a little, looking to Kyuhyun. After that shot about him liking to talk, maybe he’d give Kyuhyun a chance. Of course, that was if he didn’t break first.

Though, then he had a thought as they stared at each other and Kyuhyun raised his eyebrows.

“What?” Kyuhyun asked, and when Zhou Mi wiggled his head back and forth, he reached out and smacked Zhou Mi’s arm. “If you have something to say, say it.”

Kyuhyun’s hand fell onto the seat between them, pressed there as he tried to will Zhou Mi into speaking. And if he could keep back words, he couldn’t hold back himself there, resting just his fingertips against the edge of Kyuhyun’s fingers.

“How was your day?” he asked, punctuation to that lingering touch, and Kyuhyun guffawed, but he didn’t move his hand away

“Are you sure you want to hear about that?”

“Yeah, I do,” Zhou Mi said softly, relaxing against the seat. He wanted to hear about almost anything.

“It seemed like it went on forever, and things were going wild,” Kyuhyun said, and Zhou Mi could understand that. “But I knew at least there was something to look forward to.”

It made Zhou Mi wiggle, and Kyuhyun sputtered. But he kept talking, and Zhou Mi kept listening.

***

Zhou Mi’s face as Kyuhyun recounted his day went through some truly interesting transformations. The shock, the amusement, little things written there that made it satisfying even as he became a little self-conscious, his ears heating as he became way too conscious of Zhou Mi’s fingers on his. It was just a meal, with a guy who even in Kyuhyun’s insulated little bubble was putting off clear interest. The taxi stopping was almost a relief, something else to focus on. Finding a seat, deciding what to eat.

“Anything?” Kyuhyun wanted to confirm. And Zhou Mi did the smart thing, paging through the menu to see if there was anything that would break his pocketbook.

“Yeah, anything,” Zhou Mi told him.

Kyuhyun nearly wanted to test him on it, such a suggestive thing that was, but he resisted. So they ordered, the hum of conversation and the smell of cooking meat all around them. It was familiar too, starting to cook, watching Zhou Mi sampling things.

His mouth was gorgeous, but that wasn’t dinner conversation.

“It’s been a while, since I was on a date,” Kyuhyun said, waiting for Zhou Mi to look up at him as he flipped over some beef that Kyuhyun was just waiting to get inside him.

“It’s been almost a year for me,” Zhou Mi said.

It almost made him feel better. It wasn’t even so much a confession as it was kind of mystifying. All that time, not that he’d really been pining to find someone to go out with but he’d thought about it. All that time, and some guy had been working a few floors above him maybe thinking about it, too.

“Normally I don’t get rewarded for bad behavior,” Kyuhyun said. “Oh!”

Zhou Mi was grinning at him, holding out his hand, and Kyuhyun bit down and took the carefully-wrapped piece of meat from Zhou Mi’s fingers. It was faintly spicy, dripping, rich, and Kyuhyun may have moaned a little.

Zhou Mi looked so pleased with himself, and Kyuhyun had already known his idea was perfect, but right then, he was giving himself a massive pat on the back.

***

After a filling meal, Zhou Mi followed Kyuhyun out onto the street. They’d flirted over food, talked over drinks, and Zhou Mi had paid for the meal, true to his word. He got to know more about Kyuhyun, the person, his humor, tidbits of his family, things he loved to do, places he wanted to go. Kyuhyun had a way of taking charge, and so did Zhou Mi at times, but the ways were different. Ways that were potentially compatible, giving a little instead of always insisting, taking a little when it was needed. Kyuhyun laughed at Zhou Mi when he was pouting, but didn’t seem miffed if Zhou Mi laughed back. They bumped elbows, walking together, Zhou Mi easing his hand into Kyuhyun’s lower back to stay with him as they edged around people. It was fun, browsing stalls, looking at window displays.

They stopped at a corner street stall selling cell phone accessories. It wasn’t something he particularly needed, but it never hurt to see what was available. Zhou Mi held up an incredibly cutesy phone case complete with jewels and rounded little bear ears on the very top.

“Is it too soon for couple cases?” he wanted to know, and Kyuhyun pulled Zhou Mi away with him once the case was put back down.

“Way too soon, if you’re thinking of something like that.”

“What would it take for you to put something like that on your phone for me?”

Kyuhyun just raised his eyebrows. “You’ll have to find out.”

Oh, a challenge. He liked that.

“How many phone cases do you own?”

“Well. It depends on what kind of cases you mean?” Zhou Mi hedged.

“Oh, no,” Kyuhyun said, though it was with great humor as he tugged Zhou Mi along to a little corner cafe, and dessert, Kyuhyun’s own treat.

***

They didn’t see each other for a couple of days after that, but that didn’t mean that they weren’t in contact.

“Safely made it up the elevator,” was the first text that Kyuhyun sent him the morning after.

“I’m already here. What took you so long?” Zhou Mi asked.

There was a several minute pause, and all Kyuhyun wrote was, “Please don’t tell me that you’re a morning person.”

“Mornings,” Zhou Mi wrote back, with several skull and cross bones emoticons.

“Okay, you’re acceptable.”

Well, he was glad for that. But it was fun, every so often sending Kyuhyun an update on his day, what joy of duties he had to do after work. Kyuhyun was quick to respond with a few lapses that Zhou Mi didn’t obsess over. He knew Kyuhyun had better things to be doing than talking to him every second. But compared to the silence he’d gotten from Kyuhyun at the very start, Kyuhyun was engaged, connected, sassing him, making him laugh.

It was a Thursday morning that Zhou Mi arrived at work, and within an hour he had another text from Kyuhyun with a picture attached. Zhou Mi wondered what exactly he was looking at, some kind of scribbled puddle of red ink on a piece of paper, with a blue ink pen lying on top of it.

“RIP, pen,” was Kyuhyun’s message. “Who is responsible for this tragedy?”

“I say Colonel Pencil in the drawer with the stapler,” Zhou Mi texted back.

Kyuhyun’s next text comprised solely of a sticky note that had “You win!” written on it.

And the next text, “Unless you mean he had an affair with the stapler. Can you staple a pencil?”

“Maybe don’t try at work! And get some work done!”

“You first!” Kyuhyun shot back. And then immediately thereafter. “Where are we eating next? I chose the last place. Your turn.”

Zhou Mi rested his chin in his palm, thinking about that as he tried to come up with something good. Maybe something that Kyuhyun didn’t eat every day, something they could have a good time eating, something he hadn’t had in a while either, for that matter.

“If it sounds good, there’s a restaurant that has hot pot about 15 minutes away,” Zhou Mi sent, and prepared to actually get back to the process of working. He liked his work. It didn’t quite give him the same giddy feeling as reading Kyuhyun’s texts, but he was definitely going to focus in the hour left he had scheduled in his day.

Then his phone buzzed and drew him away from it, unlocking the screen and lowering it into his lap.

“How soon can we go??”

Zhou Mi huffed out a laugh, shuffling papers with one hand and typing back with his thumb.

“Free in an hour but I can wait until you’re ready.”

Kyuhyun shot back a thumbs up, and then Zhou Mi buttoned himself down for real, straightening his back, pulling out his keyboard. He was extra efficient, with a stomach dreaming of food, and a mind already anticipating seeing Kyuhyun.

***

The subway trip over was filled with the exploits of their day, the ones that they had shared and some of the ones they hadn’t. They got to expound on things and vent, and Kyuhyun’s wicked impression of his boss had Zhou Mi fighting to stay quiet in the crowded train. A surprise loud ringtone from behind them had them giggling together, Zhou Mi settling down as he tried to imitated part of the dance from the song without hardly moving. He studied Kyuhyun’s face, too, the lines of it. The ridge of his nose, his eyelashes, the mark beneath his eye. There was something kind of innocent and curious in the way that Kyuhyun blinked up at him, and it made him grin.

“Do I have something on my face?” Kyuhyun asked, reaching up and brushing his nose.

“No, there’s nothing,” Zhou Mi said. And he tried to hold it in, he really did, his lips twitching as Kyuhyun squinted at him. “Just good looks.”

Kyuhyun scoffed at him, not even meeting his eyes for a minute. It was good timing that they arrived at their stop, and Kyuhyun took Zhou Mi’s wrist, pulling him along at least until he realized he had no idea which exit they were heading toward. The restaurant wasn’t far up the street, and Zhou Mi pointed out other places nearby he’d tried, but they were seated quickly, ordering.

“Do you cook?” Kyuhyun wondered, sipping his drink.

“A little. Mostly out of self defense for my stomach’s sake.”

“There’s a lot of possibility. If you know what you’re doing?”

Zhou Mi leaned forward. “Will you cook for me, then?”

“I can think about it,” Kyuhyun said.

It might have been an accident, just Kyuhyun stretching as they ate. But it wasn’t an accident, Kyuhyun’s legs trapping one of Zhou Mi’s. It was a point of contact, subtle, but not subtle at all. And Kyuhyun complimented the food, both with words and by the fact that he stuffed himself, groaning a little but in such obvious satisfaction that Zhou Mi was pleased. Also a little intrigued, because Kyuhyun had never made that sound before.

“Just roll me home,” Kyuhyun pleaded, and then with reflexes somewhat like a cat, he paid the bill. It was his turn for that, too, and they bickered about that for half a block, lapsing into comfortable silence as the shops gave way to something quieter, no one ahead of them on their side of the street. Zhou Mi reached out, stroking down Kyuhyun’s bare forearm and getting him to stop.

“Tonight was fun,” Zhou Mi told him, stepping closer. But Kyuhyun wasn’t moving away, looking at him so steadily. “Actually, all of today was fun.”

“Are you going to turn into a pumpkin now?”

“No, and I don’t have any reason to rush home, but I just… Can I kiss you?”

It wasn’t entirely private, even as alone as they were, but he wasn’t going to try to kiss Kyuhyun unless he agreed. Maybe when they were more alone, or maybe on another night. He’d been thinking about it through dinner, thinking about it since the first meal they’d gotten together, if he was honest. He didn’t think that would be a surprise to Kyuhyun at all, not with the glances that he’d caught. Being on the same page like that, that was some kind of a gift as Kyuhyun stepped forward.

“Yeah,” Kyuhyun huffed out, tilting up his head, pinching the cloth of Zhou Mi’s shirt between his fingers.

And tingles spread over Zhou Mi’s skin as their lips brushed, Kyuhyun’s lips damp and soft, pressing back against him and meeting him kiss for kiss. His hand curled solidly around Kyuhyun’s arm, anchoring himself even as he lost himself to the soft, exploring kisses. Breaths came a little harder, his nose nudging beside Kyuhyun’s as they stood together, breathed together.

“Thank you for dinner,” Zhou Mi said, and felt Kyuhyun smile in the way his nose wrinkled.

“You’re welcome. Do you want to find a cafe so I can thank you for tea?”

“Yes, I do,” Zhou Mi told him. At least, after another kiss.

***

Tea had turned into tea and dessert, and then into an impromptu late movie, and a morning that came way too early. At least Kyuhyun could count down the hours until he was free to nap, making plans in his head of the next time they’d be able to meet up. Kyuhyun sent Zhou Mi a picture of himself mid-morning, head on his desk, pretending to sleep.

Zhou Mi had responded like Kyuhyun had sent him some work of fine art, declaring, “That is now my phone background!”

Discussing favorite types of naps kept him aware of how tired he was, but at least he got some cute images out of it, like the thought of Zhou Mi all sprawled out and fast asleep. They met up for lunch after the weekend, another movie, a few hours of doing nothing but poking their noses in places and seeing what trouble they could get up to.

It was time, Kyuhyun decided, to do what he’d been planning in the back of his head.

Which was how he opened his apartment door to a smiling Zhou Mi who held a not-too-shabby bottle of wine. And he didn’t kiss too shabbily either, greeting Kyuhyun, patting his butt, and then following his nose and Kyuhyun to the kitchen.

“Something smells good,” Zhou Mi said, and that was a double entendre as they looked at the bubbling pot all the while Zhou Mi was nudging at Kyuhyun. Subtle.

“I’ll try my best to not poison you,” Kyuhyun said, all magnanimity.

“That’s good. Ah, I feel so fortunate, to be standing in Kyuhyun’s kitchen, eating food cooked by Kyuhyun’s hands.”

It was like he was in some kind of play and Kyuhyun stepped none too gently on his foot.

“I hope it beats camping out in an elevator car for hours waiting for me get on it.”

“You know it wasn’t that long!” Zhou Mi protested,

Okay, so he did, but he couldn’t help teasing either, as he handed Zhou Mi a piece of fruit to eat. “Okay, maybe not. But still, it could’ve been pretty creepy.”

“I was determined,” Zhou Mi said, licking his thumb clean. “And I didn’t do the elevator riding thing after that! If you’d just blown me off, I wouldn’t have tried to contact you again.”

Zhou Mi was pouting, and it was the smallest bit cute. Though best of all, Kyuhyun believed him. His life would’ve been significantly less fun if he’d thought he had to avoid the elevator because some weird guy kept riding it hoping to meet him. It might’ve been good for his legs, though, since he might’ve been tempted to take the stairs.

“I guess that’s something. I almost thought it was something like fate, until you told me you’d been camping out in there.”

“It could have been anyway,” Zhou Mi said, leaning closer, brushing his lips against the corner of Kyuhyun’s mouth. “What if you hadn’t been at work that day? What if you’d taken the stairs?”

Oh, Zhou Mi throwing his own words back at him. But it was true. He could’ve been busy instead of having some time before his plans, or he could have told Zhou Mi to go jump in a puddle, or instead of pushing all the buttons, he could have instead not forgotten his halo at home.

“When you put it like that,” Kyuhyun murmured.

Zhou Mi chatted his ear off while they waited for dinner to finish, pulling Kyuhyun into his side and watching with such interest and fascination as Kyuhyun responded to him. He figured he could get used to that, a man rubbing his side, dutifully setting the little table and complimenting what was a rather rudimentary meal. He figured he could get used to putting that look of satisfaction on Zhou Mi’s face, and he decided right then that he wanted some kind of seat that could fit both of them.

Though for their own peace of mind, it was probably good there were pieces of plastic between them, but he wasn’t shrugging off the arm Zhou Mi wrapped around his shoulder.

“You know what you did tonight?” Kyuhyun asked, nudging his fingers into Zhou Mi’s thigh. “You made it so you have to come back so you can share that wine with me.”

Zhou Mi pursed his lips, thinking about that really hard like he was questioning his desire to actually do that, at least until Kyuhyun started punching his leg. He dissolved into laughter, huffing into Kyuhyun’s neck. But Kyuhyun meant it. He was already making plans.

***

The morning had been bright, aside from the fact that Zhou Mi actually hadn’t seen a lot of the morning. Most of it had been spent scrambling, racing from home, to subway, to work. The elevator announced its arrival, and Zhou Mi stepped in, pushing the button for his floor, and making his way to the back since others were getting on after him in the morning rush. He held up his hands in a show of innocence, and was alone for about three seconds as he was joined in the back of the elevator.

“How was your morning?” Kyuhyun asked.

“Exceptionally short,” Zhou Mi said, eyeing him.

Someone’s alarm hadn’t gone off. Someone had also nearly kept him from showering, and getting out of his door with a paltry half a cup of tea, on which he had nearly scalded himself. Someone had also held him up when he’d half fallen asleep on the subway and had tried to sag right over. It was going to be a long day. Worth it, but it was going to be long.

It was a miracle they’d gotten out the door without wearing each other’s shoes.

The elevator was moving, but at least he wasn’t expected to move with it. Kyuhyun just looked pleased with himself, and Zhou Mi elbowed him.

“How was your morning?” Zhou Mi returned.

“No complaints,” Kyuhyun said. And out of his jacket pocket, he pulled something that had Zhou Mi frowning, depositing it in Zhou Mi’s palm.

"What's this for?" Zhou Mi asked, staring down at the little orange.

Neither of them had eaten, and as the realization dawned over Zhou Mi, Kyuhyun just shook his head, smiling.

***
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