coley_merrin: (Bee Positive)
[personal profile] coley_merrin
Title: Endlessly
Pairing: Zhou Mi/Kyuhyun
Rating: up to NC-17
Genre: AU, romance, smut

Summary: Kyuhyun's life changes when he gets the chance to meet his favorite singer. (Or, as the prompt put it: fanboy!kyu finally meets his bias.)



***

Part One * Part Two * Part Three * Part Four * Part Five * Part Six * Part Seven

***

Kyuhyun inhaled several times before letting out his breath slowly between his teeth. He was trying not to sweat on the album in his hands, the reality of the meet and greet after the fanmeeting suddenly all too real. When his ticket had been picked at random the day previously, he’d nearly bowled over the friends he’d been sitting with, gawking at his phone and babbling incoherently in disbelief. And then he’d had to go buy a new album of Zhou Mi’s so he could get a pristine copy signed, and not the one with his fingerprints all over it.

He had a half a dozen things he wanted to say, a few he knew he’d pass out before saying, and a couple of back-ups like, “I love your music, thank you so much.”

Zhou Mi would never remember him, but at least Kyuhyun would sound like a coherent adult.

The fans had all been rounded up like ducklings, ushered into a little room. There were three guys including himself, and seven women in his group, and Kyuhyun was both glad he wouldn’t stand out and a little miffed.

The first thing he saw was Zhou Mi’s legs. He was wearing jeans. That fact only hit him after Kyuhyun’s head snapped up, actually seeing Zhou Mi’s face within twenty feet of himself for the first time. Zhou Mi was half smiling, nodding as staff spoke to him. They were arranged in a little half circle, and Zhou Mi started at one end, with Kyuhyun a bit past halfway. He was right there. Right there. Tall, his blue shirt crisp, his laugh infectious and creating twice as many butterflies even as Kyuhyun was somewhat put at ease by it. He rehearsed the little things he wanted to stay while swaying back and forth between his feet and trying to keep all the little pieces of his brain together.

He detested the first three people in line who seemed to chat so easily with Zhou Mi, and then Zhou Mi was at the third woman, which meant he was two people away, which meant he was going too fast, which meant by the time Kyuhyun had to hiccup in a breath and stand a little straighter, Zhou Mi was within arm’s reach and talking to the guy beside him like they’d been buddies for half their lives. He’d seen Zhou Mi in concert, twice. He’d been to a fanmeeting, seen countless pictures, and still nothing prepared him for just what Zhou Mi looked like in person. There wasn’t the distance of a lens, a glossy page.

Zhou Mi’s eyes were luminous as he turned, as he looked at Kyuhyun. Not just looked through him, or glanced, but looked at him.

“Hi,” Zhou Mi said, and looked down at the album that Kyuhyun was holding like a life preserver. “Kyuhyun.”

It was said just a little bit wrong, and Kyuhyun inhaled as Zhou Mi laughed at himself, laughing helplessly, flushing, hoping Zhou Mi didn’t think that Kyuhyun was laughing at him.

“Hi,” Kyuhyun said, once Zhou Mi had calmed to just chuckling at himself, and he felt like he was a firecracker liable to explode at any second, and also maybe that he would just float away into infinity at the cheeky smile that Zhou Mi shared with him. Maybe the others had shared scintillating stories, and talked to him like a friend, but he’d gotten that smile. “You were amazing tonight. I’m really glad I got to be here.”

His face heated further, glad he’d gotten out two sentences, anyway, even if they were a bit rushed and Zhou Mi blinked at him a little like he was processing what Kyuhyun said.

“I am, too,” Zhou Mi said. “I needed that laugh.”

And Kyuhyun let go of the album, letting Zhou Mi use the little uncapped black marker to oh-so-carefully print Kyuhyun’s name before scrawling his signature, and his signature heart beneath that, too. Zhou Mi had drawn him a heart, too. Kyuhyun wanted to shout about it, and all he could do was fumble as Zhou Mi tried to hand the album back.

“Thank you,” Kyuhyun told him, and became a human statue as Zhou Mi’s hand closed around the one he was clutching the precious album with.

“Kyuhyun. I remember your name. Were you part of a birthday project this year?”

Of all the—

“I was. How do you remember stuff like that?” Kyuhyun asked, and Zhou Mi cackled as Kyuhyun got out his phone. The staff member stepped forward like Kyuhyun was going to ask for a picture, but all he did was do some frantic tapping, show himself among the others who’d gotten together for Zhou Mi’s birthday project. They’d sent Zhou Mi the picture, too.

“I’ll have to look closer at that when I get home,” Zhou Mi said, and Kyuhyun wanted to say oh no, please don’t, because the letter he’d written had been embarrassing and there was no way he could look Zhou Mi in the face if Kyuhyun knew he connected Kyuhyun to that.

Not that he was probably going to have another chance to look Zhou Mi in the face again, but he was going to dream. Zhou Mi looked like he was going to say something else, but the woman beside him indicated he needed to move on, and Zhou Mi squeezed Kyuhyun’s hand again - where it seemed all of his nerves were permanently fused to be aware of Zhou Mi’s skin - and said, “Thank you.”

Which confused Kyuhyun into tiny pieces of sparkling bubbles, but not enough that he didn’t get out a beat late, “Thank you!”

Just before Zhou Mi moved on to the person beside Kyuhyun. He got one last blooming smile, and then all that attention, all that wonderful skin, and lively eyes were focused on someone else. Kyuhyun covered where Zhou Mi had touched with his other hand, glancing out of the corner of his eye as Zhou Mi finished his circuit of speaking to them all. Zhou Mi spoke to them all, collectively for a few minutes, too, asking them how they liked the fanmeeting, if there was anything they’d like next time, and thanking them for coming so sincerely that Kyuhyun almost couldn’t stand it. The group picture was taken in a flash, Kyuhyun several people away from Zhou Mi with likely a completely horrible expression on his face, and that was it. Zhou Mi was waving and smiling and trying to make eye contact with each of them again as he was all but shoved out of the room, and Kyuhyun wanted to sink onto the floor and just flop there like an over-inflated marshmallow. All he heard around him were tiny exclamations of “wow, he’s so—“ and ten million stars in each person’s eyes as it sort of dawned on them that hey. Hey. They’d just met Zhou Mi. He’d spoken to them. He’d been right there.

It had been more than Kyuhyun had ever imagined, and he felt like he could maybe lap the world as he shook and shimmied, and clutched his bag on the subway like he was carrying a dragon egg home instead of a music album with a signature in it.

He could still feel Zhou Mi’s hand holding his.

***

The pictures from the meet and greet were ready, Kyuhyun learned from a phone call from one of the organizers. Apparently, they were handing them out in person, which he was fine with. A physical copy of the picture was just a bonus, though he hoped it didn’t look too weird. Kyuhyun loitered around a vendor on the top side of subway station, awaiting the representative. He kept an eye out in case he saw anyone else familiar, fans from part of the meet and greet he was at. Though the longer he waited, the more he wanted a drink, and he picked up two bottles, looking between the labels, waiting for want and inspiration to drive him.

“That kind is my favorite,” said a man beside him, pointing at the green labeled bottle.

It was such random, unsolicited information that Kyuhyun stared at the offending hand for a moment, almost to make a sound of acknowledgement as he lifted his chin. That voice.

The man wore a hoodie, sunglasses. Kyuhyun blinked at the man’s chin. At the man’s mouth. At the man’s eyebrows. His eyes started getting wider, both completely positive and absolutely, horrifically sure he was wrong. At least, until the man tipped down the sunglasses and the eyes smiling at him were the final straw in his brain’s acknowledgement that he was standing next to Zhou Mi.

And Zhou Mi just wiggled his fingers at him, his smile discreet, like they greeted each other all the time.

“Hi?” Kyuhyun expelled, deflating a little, almost wanting to shrink away to give Zhou Mi his space. And he was still holding two bottles and gawking, and a simple hello wasn’t going to cut it. Zhou Mi was going to think he was stalking him. “I was here to pick up the meet and greet photos?”

Zhou Mi lifted a flat brown envelope that Kyuhyun hadn’t noticed in his staring at Zhou Mi like he was the sun, waggling it. “Yes! I brought them.”

“You— You’re delivering the meet and greet photos?!”

Kyuhyun’s voice swelled and shrank down instantaneously, glancing behind him for a second before lasering his sight back on Zhou Mi and his sunglasses.

“I’m delivering yours,” Zhou Mi told him.

How… What…

Kyuhyun needed to do something and staring at the two bottles, he had a sudden burst of inspiration. Yes. Good.

“One second,” Kyuhyun said, and he paid for the drinks, gesturing and then following Zhou Mi like a lost puppy as they got away from the more crowded area of the subway entrance. And he muttered, “Here.”

The drink, from Kyuhyun to Zhou Mi. At least Zhou Mi couldn’t think it was doctored.

“Oh! Thank you,” Zhou Mi said. He made it sound like Kyuhyun had just handed him a yacht, and it didn’t sound contrived at all.

It was with an almost afterthought then that Zhou Mi handed Kyuhyun the envelope. He didn’t know what to do with it. Look at it. Hold it. Put it away. Considering he’d been expecting a staff member to bring it to him, and he’d gotten Zhou Mi, maybe the envelope was something unexpected, too. But no, a quick glance had him confirming that it was just a picture and he tucked it back into his bag. He didn’t look at his face too closely, because he didn’t need wondering what Zhou Mi thought of the picture added on to the fact that Zhou Mi was even there, drinking out of a drink that Kyuhyun had personally bought for him.

“How did you end up delivering pictures?”

“I told the organizers I wanted to. It seemed like there was only a few seconds to talk at the meet and greet.”

“And they let you? Just here, go meet up with some random guy who no one knows?”

Zhou Mi laughed freely then. “I was really persuasive.”

Standing in front of Zhou Mi at the meet and greet had felt like a decade, but like Zhou Mi said, also like only a few moments. There was no staff to shoo Zhou Mi away, no other fans waiting breathless. No one to distract Zhou Mi from him. Just him. And then panic started to creep in. Zhou Mi had said he remembered Kyuhyun from somewhere. If he still had those cards, had the letter that Kyuhyun had tucked in last minute so that no one but Zhou Mi would see, then he had no idea what Zhou Mi was thinking.

“Why?” Kyuhyun asked, even if he wasn’t sure he wanted to know. He’d been facing Zhou Mi completely anonymous, but that letter had been all of the things he could not tell Zhou Mi to his face. And then Zhou Mi said the words he’d been dreading.

“I went home that night and looked through the gifts, and I found the letter that made me remember your name.” Maybe it was another letter, another person with the same name. But his picture had been with it, in the project. There had been multiple birthday projects. Multiple letters, but— “I thought you were really brave. You probably didn’t think about me ever seeing it, knowing it was you, but I felt really touched that you trusted me with that. And I remember your advice, too,” Zhou Mi said.

No. It was definitely that letter. All Kyuhyun could do was make a sound, as Zhou Mi seemed to speak almost from memory.

“You said I should be happy, and reach for everything I wanted. And that you were going to try to be happy too, even if maybe your family could never know. And I’m so thankful for that.”

Zhou Mi was famous, he had concerts, meet and greets. But there had been times when it had seemed dark. Health scares, people being horrible to him. Kyuhyun had wondered how much Zhou Mi was affected by those things, knowing his own worry did little more than erode his own health and not help Zhou Mi. There were secrets, too. No one knew all about Zhou Mi’s life, though sometimes from the lyrics he wondered. But being an idol was difficult in itself, and there were people who were possessive, demanding, which made it hard to reach for happiness that many would consider normal. To be able to date, to have normal friendships. Kyuhyun didn’t have the struggle of being an idol, but he did have his own unique struggle. In his letter, he’d confessed that he was gay, that so few people knew that it seemed sometimes that no one did, and how hard it was to look out from a corner where he looked just like everyone else but could see no one else who could relate, who was the same, who he could create a place of safety with. Harder still to find someone he could love. So maybe he and Zhou Mi weren’t the same, but he’d wanted Zhou Mi to know that he could fight to be happy, to do that in whatever way he needed to and that Kyuhyun would support him, and would fight in his own way to do the same.

The thought of Zhou Mi dating always sent a particular zing through him that was somewhat sad, but the thought of Zhou Mi being happy because of it far outweighed that little feeling he was helpless to stop.

Kyuhyun suddenly wondered how much handwaving he’d done in the letter to assure Zhou Mi that Kyuhyun’s feelings toward him were pure as the driven snow. At the time he didn’t want Zhou Mi to be put off, to let Kyuhyun’s want get in the way of the message. Though when he thought about it like that, none of the messages from anyone would count. It made him want to groan at himself.

“I don’t want you to think it’s weird,” Kyuhyun tried to explain, and stopped when Zhou Mi took off his sunglasses for a moment and looked at him.

“Are you going to dash my hopes of being attractive to everyone?” Zhou Mi asked.

And it was so sweetly said, so sly, that it had Kyuhyun gasping out a laugh.

“I didn’t think it was weird at all,” Zhou Mi assured him. “The letter, it wasn’t like you were… like you were trying to come on to me? I think being told you can be happy and that people will be happy for you can’t be said enough.”

Kyuhyun nodded, fiddling with his drink bottle and trying not to just melt in relief. There he was, Kyuhyun, the guy who liked guys, and Zhou Mi had not read his letter and thanked his lucky stars that he had gotten away when he had, but sought Kyuhyun out to appreciate it. He’d thought it was brave.

“I think, if you’re a fan of someone, you should want them to be happy,” Kyuhyun said, and some of the plastic of his bottle gave way, crunching a little bit and giving him the perfect out to look down instead of speaking to Zhou Mi’s nose.

“I dated someone last year, but I sent them away. I broke it off for a lot of reasons, fear of getting discovered, what the fans would think. Some of that probably kept me from connecting, wondering if I was taking too much. Looking back I know I deserved it.”

Kyuhyun wished he could see Zhou Mi’s behind the dark lenses, but his nodding felt not helpful, and all the sounds he wished he could make, the wise words, they were off on vacation somewhere without him.

“There’s always next time,” Kyuhyun finally settled on, as inane as it sounded, but Zhou Mi agreed so quickly.

“Do you live nearby here?”

That was something easy to ramble about, gesturing in the direction he lived in, talking about the ridiculous subway change, where he had lived before that. That evolved into concert locations, and traffic and different types of lines, and Zhou Mi both listened carefully and spoke freely, telling Kyuhyun about the horrors of backstage and changing in front of people because there was no time, and Kyuhyun’s laugh was little more than a squeak imagining it.

And then they both jolted at the sound of a phone vibrating.

“Oh, that’s me,” Zhou Mi said, and pulled out his brightly decorated phone. Kyuhyun tried to stare at anything, a fallen leaf, a passing car, a pigeon, anything so that he didn’t seem like he was eavesdropping on the conversation. Though the first words were assuring whoever it was on the other end that he was fine, and Kyuhyun fought a giggle because yes, they were on a public street and Kyuhyun wasn’t attacking him.

But Zhou Mi hung up after not much more than a couple of minutes, stuffing the phone back away. It had been obvious he’d been telling someone where he was by the end of the call, so Kyuhyun was prepared for the disappointment.

“I need to go,” Zhou Mi sighed. “That was my manager, and apparently I have things to do now that he’s assured himself that I’m unharmed and that you hadn’t brought an axe or made me elope.”

They laughed together a little at that, and oh, the absurdity ran Kyuhyun flat. Made him elope. At least Zhou Mi hadn’t brought the letter with him. But Zhou Mi fumbled, pulling out a card and handing it to Kyuhyun. It had precise little writing on the back, a name, a set of numbers that the longer Kyuhyun stared at them seemed to coalesce into a phone number.

“You should text me,” Zhou Mi said, his hand touching Kyuhyun’s for a moment as though to emphasize his words. “It’s nice to be able to sit and talk sometimes. I can always find time somewhere.”

“Okay?” Kyuhyun said. And he wasn’t sure what else he could have said. Thank you? Bless you? Are you sure?

An SUV pulled up and Zhou Mi shot the driver a thumbs up, his smile to Kyuhyun just about evacuating all the air from his lungs.

“Have a good rest of the day!” Zhou Mi said, and scuttled over the road divider, climbing into the passenger’s seat. And then he waved and waved as the SUV pulled away as Kyuhyun’s smile kept being pasted on and he waved back.

He hadn’t even got a picture. Or asked for a picture. He just had a phone number, and he put his hand to his forehead and bonked himself with the drink bottle instead. He’d bought Zhou Mi a drink. Zhou Mi knew his secret. Zhou Mi had enjoyed talking to him. Zhou Mi existed.

Kyuhyun saved the card in his phone, tucking it and his phone away, and then managed to wobble down the street. To where, he didn’t know, and at that point, reliving that meeting, he also didn’t care.

***

Maybe an email would’ve been easier. But on email, there were no size limits, so he could’ve rambled on and on. The character limit in his text box mocked him, though he didn’t put in Zhou Mi’s number at first. That wasn’t true. He had, and then he’d deleted it in fear that he’d accidentally send something horrible and weird on accident. So instead, he wrote the same two sentences over and over, inserting words, adjectives. Zhou Mi didn’t need to know about his nerves. Yes, it had been great to see Zhou Mi, but he didn’t want to sound too eager or obsessed. He didn’t want to text too soon, but he didn’t want to be too slow and make Zhou Mi think he was rude, either.

He over-analyzed. He knew it. He judged himself for it. He couldn’t help himself.

“Hi. Thank you for bringing the picture yesterday,” Kyuhyun started. And that was good. A solid sentence, and good reinforcement. “You said I should text—“

That was weird. That was like he was texting because Zhou Mi told him to and not because he wanted to. He’d run the conversation with Zhou Mi handing him the card a dozen times, and no, Zhou Mi really had said to text him. He wasn’t just reading into it.

“Let me know when you’re free. I’m free. Anytime.”

Kyuhyun blew out a breath, read over that, deleted all of it. No. That was creepy, he was sure.

“Now you’ll have my number in case you’re free sometime like you mentioned.”

That wasn’t too bad. Not too forward. Putting it in Zhou Mi’s hands if he wanted to meet. Though saying it like that had him wondering if Zhou Mi would think he was texting Zhou Mi just because he wanted to meet. So he erased the end.

“Hope you’re doing okay,” he mumbled as he typed. And he did. He didn’t know what Zhou Mi was up to, but considering the eye bags, probably something tiring.

“Hi. Thank you for bringing the picture yesterday.” Exclamation point? Yes, that was better. “Now you’ll have my number just in case. Hope you’re doing okay.”

Smiley, he capped that off with.

Not too forward. Not too backward. He could live with that.

He entered Zhou Mi’s number again and read over one last time for some errant typo and his finger was hovering over the send button before—

Kyuhyun cursed. He hadn’t even put his name. Sure, maybe from context it was obvious, but it’d be a new number.

“Hi, this is Kyuhyun.”

Perfect.

He hit send before he could change his mind, a little sick as he watched the progress bar. Too late to change anything, too late to take it back.

All he had to do was remain calm, as he added Zhou Mi as a contact to his phone. Zhou Mi was a busy guy. Even if it took a day or two, it was okay. Even if it never happened.

Kyuhyun checked the number one more time. Yes, it was the right number. He was letting it go. He was going to put down his phone, and get a snack, and—

The buzzing of his phone in his hand nearly scared the life out of him. It was going to be a friend, or his mom, or—

“Hi Kyuhyun!! Can you meet for coffee tomorrow?”

Smiley. Smiley. Smiley.

Definitely not his mom, as the name at the top of the text was “Zhou” and “Mi” in careful hanja.

“It depends on the time,” Kyuhyun typed with nervy hands. “When is best for you?”

Forget a snack, as he flopped onto his side like a sunning walrus. He’d just set up a time to meet Zhou Mi for coffee. He laughed in complete disbelief at the wall, at himself, at his life.

***

Kyuhyun stepped out of the subway car 30 minutes before their planned meeting. It wasn’t so much that he couldn’t stand being at home, having spent a fraction less time thinking of what he would wear than he had for the meet and greet. It was something. But he did have visions of the subway shutting down, all the taxis being busy, the skies opening up and pouring. He figured it was just easier to get there early, to putter around a block or two away, and start edging his way back that way. He didn’t want to be too early, but his biggest fear was being too late. So when he slipped into the cafe two minutes early and saw the back of the cap that Zhou Mi had told him he would be wearing, he just about jumped out of his skin.

And Zhou Mi turned, looking back, spotting him, a smile curving his lips as he waved with his fingers. Kyuhyun wasn’t exactly sure how he moved. But he got from the door to the table in record time.

“Hi,” Kyuhyun said, half out of breath, and Zhou Mi, now that he was looking at Kyuhyun and not at people who might recognize him, beamed.

It was like getting welcomed by sunbeam.

“Hi! I’m so glad you could make it today. I needed to get away, and this is one of my favorite places to go and relax.”

Kyuhyun had just gotten his butt really settled into the chair when his eyes fixed on Zhou Mi’s cup, and his head swiveled to the counter where there were people waiting to make drinks.

“Oh,” Kyuhyun said. He’d sat down already. But Zhou Mi wouldn’t want him to just sit there without something to drink, since Zhou Mi had wanted to meet for coffee. “Oh, a drink.”

“Go, go, I’ll be here,” Zhou Mi said, reading his indecision. And he just remembered to grab his bag so he could pay, scuttling to the register, making his order for the easiest iced drink he could think of. He didn’t want to spend a bunch of time waiting for a drink when the drink was so much less important than spending time with Zhou Mi.

“Sorry, I should’ve thought of that before sitting down,” Kyuhyun said, breathless and a bit tense again, like he wanted to fidget. But he couldn’t because the table was small and he’d have been smacking his knees on Zhou Mi’s if he tried to move too much.

He got the sense that Zhou Mi was laughing at him a little, which made Kyuhyun laugh, which also made him flush, pleased as he stared at the rim of his drink. Oh, his drink. He was so glad he had something to do with his hands.

“Have you been getting enough sleep?”

Starting off the conversation like he was Zhou Mi’s mom. Oh yes.

“Sometimes that’s hard. I get naps. Sometimes it’s hard to force myself to go to sleep when I know I should, and other times I’m falling asleep way earlier than I should. I love sleeping though.”

“Yeah, it’s really great.”

“Wait, why, do I look tired?” Zhou Mi asked, suddenly concerned as he leaned forward, tilting his head around so Kyuhyun could get a better view. Kyuhyun didn’t know where to look though, pursing his lips.

“The other day, a little? But not so much today?”

That satisfied Zhou Mi, sitting back and letting Kyuhyun breathe again.

“I did get more sleep last night. You know a lot about what I do. But what do you do?”

Oh right, because he hadn’t figure out how to game and be a fan as a profession. The sudden focus back on him had him gathering his brain for a moment. And he went from having nothing to say, to rambling on, Zhou Mi laughing at his stories, sipping his drink, nodding along. It was probably nice to hear about mundane stuff like staplers trying to eat reports and the eternal evil of copier toner.

“It pays bills, and lets me do stuff I enjoy.”

“My job, too, though I guess I get more stuff I enjoy in the process of it. The long days, it’s hard sometimes. Most of it’s worth it, though.”

That was good. It was easy to worry. Kyuhyun knew not all of it was glamor, not all of it was the joy he knew Zhou Mi took in singing.

“That’s what matters,” Kyuhyun said, and Zhou Mi nodded.

“Not everything will be good all the time, but we can do our best to make the best of it.”

It was surreal, the serenity on Zhou Mi’s face for a moment, before all that crumpled when he laughed, focusing on Kyuhyun again instead of whatever thought he’d been caught up in. Kyuhyun didn’t even get through half of his drink, too caught up in talking about his family and listening to Zhou Mi describe family gatherings to the point where he was gasping laughing at Zhou Mi’s descriptions. He learned more in those minutes than he had in years of being a fan, utterly charmed by the affection there. He secretly harbored the thought that Zhou Mi’s family had to adore him because, of course they had to, but hearing nice stories made that happy little place in him soar.

Some kind of sci-fi booping starting being emitted from Zhou Mi’s pocket, and Zhou Mi flailed, pulling out his phone.

“That’s my alarm. Manager is coming in a few minutes so I have to be around the corner to meet him. This is my reprieve for the day.”

And Zhou Mi had spent it with him? He could’ve napped, or done anything.

“But I have your number now, like you said,” Zhou Mi teased, reaching over and pushing against Kyuhyun’s hand. “I don’t know what my schedule is going to be like, but I’ll text you and maybe we can meet again sometime.”

Kyuhyun was glad he wasn’t standing up.

“Sounds good,” Kyuhyun said.

“Okay, really, running. Have a good afternoon!”

“You too,” Kyuhyun said, watching as Zhou Mi put on his sunglasses, and strode out the door looking like a million bucks.

A few times, he’d even forgotten to be nervous. The Zhou Mi he was a fan of was so lofty and far away, and the Zhou Mi he’d met for a drink was funny, a little goofy, charming. Maybe a little scattered. A guy who loved his family, and worked hard. Kyuhyun’s heart just grabbed a shovel and started digging the trench a little deeper.

***

Having Zhou Mi as an example texter loosened Kyuhyun up a little. Zhou Mi was prone to texting random life updates, like the fact that he’d just buckled himself into a car (good, he was being safe), and that he was trying to stop burping some unfortunate dinner so he could do his hosting job without making noises on camera. That made Kyuhyun snicker a little. It was interesting to see how unpretentious Zhou Mi was. Kyuhyun had always known he was the smallest bit vain, but Kyuhyun would’ve been too if he’d looked like that. The first time that Zhou Mi had sent Kyuhyun a picture that he’d never seen before, Kyuhyun had had to stop and consider. There had been been a couple before that, but they were reposts of pictures that Zhou Mi had uploaded to Instagram or Weibo. Not that Kyuhyun didn’t appreciate the personalized service, and the messages that accompanied them, but he kind of wondered if Zhou Mi realized that Kyuhyun had seen them when Zhou Mi had posted them less than thirty minutes earlier.

The first picture Kyuhyun had sent conversely was not something that Zhou Mi had sent before, but did have Zhou Mi in the picture, too. Sort of. Kyuhyun had been in the subway, and there was an advertisement sprawling on the wall with Zhou Mi’s face on it. He’d put on a thinking face, like he was puzzled by the fact that Zhou Mi was in the shot, and texted, “I didn’t know we had plans?”

Zhou Mi had sputtered at him, a talent over text, and Kyuhyun had gone around that day feeling like king of the planet.

But their planning didn’t go so well, the next time that they met.

It wasn’t just raining, Kyuhyun was pretty sure it was actually just dumping buckets from above him onto his protesting umbrella. Water had started creeping into his shoes minutes before, and besides that, Zhou Mi was late. But when Zhou Mi did show up, he was like a stalking cat, angry at the rain’s intrusion, and a little puzzled at why Kyuhyun was still outside the cafe they’d planned to meet at until he saw how packed it was.

“How much would you like to get mobbed by people today?” Kyuhyun asked as they stared.

“I know another place,” Zhou Mi said.

Though it was resignation, as they trudged through the rain, with Kyuhyun following behind him. At least Zhou Mi had worn a jacket. The next cafe was full up, but the one after it had some tables they could see toward the back.

“How about you tell me what you want to drink, and I’ll order it while you go get a table,” Kyuhyun suggested. Less chance of Zhou Mi getting noticed that way. Zhou Mi agreed, though by the time that Kyuhyun brought the drinks and sat down, he was fretting.

“I didn’t invite you out so you could buy me a drink,” Zhou Mi said, cupping his hands carefully around the cup.

There was impulse cake, too, two kinds of which Kyuhyun had no preference between. If Zhou Mi didn’t want one, he’d get a box and take the other one home.

“A cup of tea isn’t going to break me. Did you want cake? You can have either if you do.”

The look of thoughtful greed on Zhou Mi’s face was pleasing to see. He finally settled on the green tea cake, pulling it toward himself, which left Kyuhyun with chocolate and strawberry.

“Being inside like this is perfect on a rain day,” Zhou Mi said, and then made a noise when he took his first bite of cake.

A noise that had Kyuhyun nearly inhaling a crumb, and writing it into his memory because of reasons. Zhou Mi liked the cake he’d chosen. Zhou Mi liked cake. Zhou Mi made sounds.

It was the rain and the choking and the heat of the tea that had him flushing, that was all. He spent a long moment communing with his cup before realizing he was being inspected. He was pretty sure he wasn’t broadcasting his thoughts that loudly, and he stared back for a moment before Zhou Mi spoke.

“You didn’t get too wet, waiting? I don’t want you getting sick.”

Zhou Mi was worried about him.

“Just my socks a little. I’ll be fine. It’s not like you dragged me out knowing it was raining. I’ll wear boots next time.”

Zhou Mi seemed to be judging himself, and Kyuhyun just took a punctuating bite of cake. Just a little damp, that was all. Still, at least Zhou Mi was going to be working inside, and he was going straight there so he could get changed and warmed up which kept Kyuhyun from worrying, too.

The fact that there was likely to be a next time still boggled him. And he was all warmed through by the time they’d finished their drinks, and Zhou Mi ducked his head, following Kyuhyun out to the street. The umbrellas made a bubble of distance around them, one that was hard for Zhou Mi who liked to reach out with his hands. But short of Kyuhyun squeezing under Zhou Mi’s umbrella with him, that wasn’t happening. That’d be just a tad shy of cuddling, and probably the back of his pants would get wet.

And SUV turned down the side street they were lingering on and Zhou Mi sighed.

“That’s me. I’ll text you later.”

“Okay,” Kyuhyun said.

There was the shriek of nylon on nylon as their umbrellas met, and Kyuhyun’s umbrella tilted back as he was surrounded by a tall, warm, hug. Kyuhyun didn’t even get a chance to inhale or exhale as his face pressed into Zhou Mi’s jacket, and by the time the hug was over, Kyuhyun had only sort of figured out how to lift his free arm. Not to hug back, but his arm had lifted a little anyway.

“Bye bye,” Zhou Mi said, and Kyuhyun mouthed something similar as Zhou Mi sprinted, splashing to the passenger’s side door and climbing in.

Kyuhyun waved back like it was some kind of autonomic reflex, and he only realized once the SUV turned the corner that he was smiling in a really, probably creepy way. He had raindrops in his hair because of the hug, and scattered down his chest, and Kyuhyun didn’t even notice.

***

Their method of Kyuhyun buying and Zhou Mi waiting seemed to be working, even at the movie theater. Though that time, Zhou Mi had been wise to him, buying the tickets in advance and then being a smart aleck about giving Kyuhyun his food order. So they were even, then as Kyuhyun lugged popcorn and drinks and led Zhou Mi up the single-file elevator.

“Ooh, there’s a deal,” Zhou Mi said as they considered their options.

Kyuhyun went off to buy, but he didn’t get the deal. One popcorn to share, both of them dipping their hands into the same bag, no. It wasn’t that he couldn’t take the touching, but even if Zhou Mi had seemed okay with it, it seemed too forward. But they settled in with their 3-D glasses, their drinks, their individual popcorn servings. Kyuhyun sighed in relief, relaxing to the air conditioning and the sound of advertisements. It was a movie that had been out a while, so there were only a few scattered people, and that made him relax more, knowing that were was less likelihood for Zhou Mi to be spotted. Zhou Mi was happily munching, mumbling about the ads, wiggling a little at catchy song that played during one of them.

“It’s been so long since I’ve been to a movie with someone other than staff,” Zhou Mi said. “Hey, you look cool in those glasses.”

Zhou Mi adjusted his own like he was going to go off and pilot some jet and Kyuhyun laughed, chewing on his straw and relaxing back as a preview began. Zhou Mi was rapt, when Kyuhyun glanced over at him, and he was almost more interesting to watch than the preview.

“Oh, I want to see that,” Zhou Mi whispered, still gawking at the screen. It made Kyuhyun grin and nod. Maybe they’d see it together. Kyuhyun really started into his own popcorn as the previews ended and the movie started. It was some action, thriller thing, tense, and it kept both their attention, immersed. He’d almost finished his popcorn when he remembered that he’d gotten candy, too, and they shared it, rattling the box a little.

“Oh no,” Zhou Mi gasped, and on screen, there was a car chase, the heroes driving like Kyuhyun had only tried in video games. And Kyuhyun was still when all of a sudden Zhou Mi’s shoulder was against his, leaning into him like that would help the car make the turn it was attempting.

“Go, go,” Zhou Mi whispered, urging them.

Though after the car chase was done, Zhou Mi didn’t exactly move, staying leaned against Kyuhyun even though some part of him had to be uncomfortably jammed up against the arm rest. It just made it easier for Zhou Mi to turn his head, to say something about the movie, for Kyuhyun to feel as well as hear him laugh. Kyuhyun leaned Zhou Mi’s way, just a little, so he didn’t have to lean so far and that evened them, a little. His life was so surreal. He even relaxed into it after a while, not quite so conscious that Zhou Mi was Right There, Leaning Against Him. And it wasn’t like Zhou Mi would bite. Zhou Mi’s reactions made the movie about four times more interesting that it actually was, and Zhou Mi actually made Kyuhyun jump once, laughing against him once they’d both calmed down. His shoulder actually felt cold when Zhou Mi sat up straight as the credits started, collecting their trash and making their way out.

When they dropped off their 3-D glasses, Zhou Mi immediately swapped on his sunglasses, following right behind Kyuhyun on the way down the elevator and out.

“I have to get back soon,” Zhou Mi sighed. “My manager will lock me down if I’m not, since the next few days are going to be nuts.”

They walked a ways, so they could actually catch a taxi for Zhou Mi, but it gave them time to actually talk about the movie.

“We’ll see something different next time. Are you afraid of scary things,” Zhou Mi asked, knocking his elbow against Kyuhyun.

“Depends on the movie,” Kyuhyun said.

Zhou Mi beat on his chest like some kind of warrior. “I’ll protect you.”

Kyuhyun laughed, but his first thought was that he couldn’t imagine being scared if Zhou Mi leaned against him like he had that day.

The hug that Zhou Mi pulled him into when the taxi pulled up was one-armed and Kyuhyun just got squished against him, popcorn breath and all.

“Don’t work too hard.”

“I’ll text you! It may be the only sanity I get the next couple of days,” Zhou Mi bemoaned, and got into the taxi. He immediately rolled down the window, and Kyuhyun was laughing at the universe in general. “Thanks for going with me tonight! Have a good trip home!”

They waved until Zhou Mi had to get his arm back into the car or turn himself into an owl as the taxi went down the street. Kyuhyun walked back toward the subway entrance, waving a little at the ground and thinking all the things he hadn’t said before Zhou Mi had gone. Maybe he’d text them, though. Because Zhou Mi had started texting him before he ever got home.

***

Kyuhyun felt like he was some kind of waiter, waggling out onto the sidewalk with paper bowls in each hand. He was strutting down toward where Zhou Mi was waiting and trying not to give his existence away to the whole city by laughing out loud. He just kind of frowned, and Zhou Mi beamed at him, so angelic as they caught a table around the corner, out of the way of people passing. It was in the sun, so people weren’t on that side either, but Kyuhyun didn’t mind.

Zhou Mi had already given him one heart attack for the day. Kyuhyun had been relaxing, totally at ease and getting down the serious business of doing absolutely nothing when his phone had buzzed.

“GET DRESSED! EMERGENCY!!”

Kyuhyun had been torn between running for clothes and texting back. He opted for the latter, texting, “What’s wrong??” and then fleeing for his closet.

He hadn’t even gotten his pajama pants off before Zhou Mi’s next text had come in, and Kyuhyun had sagged onto the edge of his bed.

“I NEED ICE CREAM EMERGENCY. ARE YOU FREE??”

Which was why he’d grumbled at Zhou Mi when he’d arrived, “You’re lucky my heart’s still beating. You scared me to death.”

“Sorry!” Zhou Mi said, patting at him in true apology. “Sometimes the urge for ice cream is just too much!”

Kyuhyun had judged him silently, all the while thinking that surely Zhou Mi had someone else he could call out to meet him for desperate cravings. Not that Kyuhyun minded, obviously. He’d gotten dressed and all but flung himself out of the door before making sure that his hair was okay. Luckily it was, but waiting in line to get both their orders, two waters, two ice creams (and four spoons, per Zhou Mi’s hastily half-shouted demand), gave him time to unwind. He wasn’t trying to careen through the city to get to Zhou Mi’s side. He was there. And then, there they were with their ice cream, in the sun, with Zhou Mi all carefully protected by a hat and sunglasses.

“It is such an ice cream emergency that you’re going to need a spoon for both hands?” Kyuhyun asked, handing Zhou Mi two of the spoons to go with his fruit and nut concoction.

Zhou Mi laughed, delighted, and used one of the spoons to dig up a generous spoonful. “No. It’s so you can taste, too.”

“Oh!”

Kyuhyun put one of his hands on the table, ready to reach for the spoon, and then realizing that that wasn’t how that Zhou Mi was offering it to him. His eyes widened, focused on the orangey-pink swirl, and then his eyes closed just as his lips did, pulling all the cold sweet into his mouth as Zhou Mi pulled back the spoon. He hummed, blinking rapidly as he focused. It tasted of peaches swirled with raspberry, the smokey hint of pecans underneath of that. He half wished he’d gotten that kind instead, and he nodded at Zhou Mi who looked like he was waiting for a verdict.

“That’s really good!”

The grin was immediate. “It’s my favorite kind here. Well, I may like other kinds more, but I haven’t been able to stop getting this kind to see.”

Kyuhyun wanted to laugh, still licking the taste of peach from his lips. And he realized, belatedly, that he’d gotten four spoons. One had been intended by Zhou Mi to share with him. And one, Kyuhyun deduced with a thunk, that Zhou Mi had hoped Kyuhyun would share. His own pick had been dark chocolate, swirled with a chocolate syrup, and did not doubt his selection so much as doubt everything to do with sharing.

“Did you want to try…?”

Even when Zhou Mi heard what it was, he nodded, leaning forward like a baby bird anticipating a meal. Kyuhyun wasn’t stingy, spooning up just as much as Zhou Mi had, and offering it out. His lower lip sagged, watching Zhou Mi’s lips part, watching them close around the spoon. And Kyuhyun felt caught as Zhou Mi’s fingers pressed against the back of his hand, keeping him still as Zhou Mi slowly pulled away from the spoon. His eyes were closed behind his sunglasses, at least for most of it, which was good because it took a few seconds for Kyuhyun to get his face from gawking to neutral.

Zhou Mi tasted and mulled that chocolate like he was in a wine tasting, his tongue darting out one last time.

“That’s really good, too,” Zhou Mi said. “I’m glad I had an ice cream emergency now.”

Kyuhyun snorted, unable to do anything else, and had to do a mental screeching stop before he dug the spoon he’d just used to feed Zhou Mi back into the ice cream. He used the clean spoon instead, savoring but eating quickly before it all turned back into liquid. There wasn’t much talk, mostly hums and brain freeze, and breathing through the cold against their teeth. He was grateful for the cold, because it distracted him from the way his face was burning up - and not from the sunlight.

Kyuhyun finished first, Zhou Mi still delicately poking to get the last nuts from the bottom of the bowl as Kyuhyun rambled about placed he liked to eat, places he liked to go if he was out late, or before a concert, of places his family actually liked. They compared favorite McDonald’s sandwiches, and which type of meat they preferred grilled, and which sides they liked best.

“I’ll have to treat you to beef one day,” Zhou Mi said, drinking from his water bottle and making a comical face as it dribbled down his chin. Kyuhyun shoved over his extra napkin, laughing again, at ease. It was all so normal like that, laughing at each other. It made Kyuhyun wipe at his mouth to make sure he didn’t have any chocolate left behind, and locked away the errant thought of what Zhou Mi might have been able to do if he had.

***

Zhou Mi was antsy, that was the first thing that Kyuhyun realized when Zhou Mi arrived. Too much coffee, maybe, but Zhou Mi had shown up with drinks, inviting Kyuhyun into the SUV and sitting along some side road as Zhou Mi’s manager wandered off to do who-knew-what. It felt very clandestine for some reason, and Kyuhyun wrapped his fingers a bit more tightly around the warm cup as Zhou Mi chattered, his hand flying. Kyuhyun wasn’t sure if he was breathing, his foot tapping along so that Kyuhyun could even feel the vibration of it under his own foot.

He’d never seen Zhou Mi that on edge.

“Is everything okay?” Kyuhyun asked, as Zhou Mi paused to finally take a drink.

“Yeah, everything is— I just wanted to—“

Kyuhyun blinked, staying quiet, keeping out of Zhou Mi’s way mentally as Zhou Mi made a sound and got increasingly frustrated with himself

“There’s something I haven’t been completely honest with you about. Do you have your phone?” Zhou Mi asked.

“Yeah?” Kyuhyun said, and pulled it out. And he watched, mystified as Zhou Mi took it, pressing the power button and powering it off. He didn’t know what Zhou Mi could have possibly been dishonest with him about. It had to be something more important than his favorite ice cream, but just trying to puzzle it out had Kyuhyun uneasy.

And Zhou Mi stared at Kyuhyun’s phone for a moment, handing it back like it was on fire.

“I don’t even know why I’m that paranoid. I just— I need to tell you this without worrying.”

Kyuhyun wondered if Zhou Mi thought he was recording him or something. Kyuhyun frowned but he nodded, tucking away the phone so that Zhou Mi didn’t have to fixate on it any more. At least the nervous movements had stopped. Zhou Mi almost visibly relaxed, setting his drink into the cupholder, and turning more fully to Kyuhyun.

“Do you remember I mentioned the person I sent away, when we were talking about dating a few weeks ago? The one I couldn’t be with?” Zhou Mi shook his head for a moment, exhaling as Kyuhyun processed that and remembered. It was hard not to remember meeting up with Zhou Mi. “The break up wasn’t just because of being an idol, of needing to be careful. It was because he was a man.”

Kyuhyun’s mind balked, staring at Zhou Mi like he was speaking Greek, the way his voice cracked a little on the last bit he said. But Kyuhyun at least got one thought started through. “You were dating…?”

Zhou Mi nodded, meeting Kyuhyun’s eyes and staying there, even though Kyuhyun could tell he wanted to look away. They’d talked about it. About dating. About happiness. About—

“That’s why my letter stood out,” Kyuhyun said slowly, bits and pieces of their meeting starting to make sense. “It wasn’t just about me telling you that you should be happy. Because of what I told you about…me.”

He hated that they had to dance around it, that they couldn’t just say it outright. He couldn’t just say to Zhou Mi, ah, you’re like me, either, because there were so many possibilities. Maybe Zhou Mi only liked men, or maybe he liked men some of the time, and maybe he dated women, too. But no matter how they differed on that point, they at least had something similar. When he hadn’t been able to understand what it was that he had said that would have caught Zhou Mi, because confessing he was gay had been big but not so much that it would’ve stood out like that, he finally got it.

“I’m sorry,” Zhou Mi said.

“No. No, you don’t have to be. I mean, it’s fine you told me, but you didn’t have to. It’s a big thing to have to keep to yourself.”

“What do I look for in a woman, how would I treat my girlfriend,” Zhou Mi said. “Those questions are easy to generalize answers for, and it’s for my career that I answer them, for my dreams. But sometimes it feels like the biggest lie. It’s like they don’t know me. They’re not a fan of…me.”

“They should still be though,” Kyuhyun mused. “And, if you pay any attention to your fans, some of them… maybe sort of suspect? But suspecting is different than knowing. I don’t know how that’d make things different.”

“Is it different for you?”

Kyuhyun tilted his head back, laughing. “Well— Yes? I mean, knowing someone you admire is maybe a little more like you than most everyone else is. Maybe worried, too. I used to wish I wasn’t like this, that I’d just been born “normal,” and it made me so unhappy. That’s why I wanted you to know you could be happy. The people who mattered would still love you. Even if it was secret, as long as you were happy.”

And he stopped, winced. “Did that even make sense?”

Zhou Mi chuckled, relaxing against the seat. “It did. Though I don’t want you to have to worry. You told me something important, so I didn’t want to lie to you at least.”

“It’s still not a lie. When it comes right down to it, you’re a product. What fans see is the shiny exterior, the dream. What’s inside isn’t for people to buy, though. That’s just yours.”

Zhou Mi puffed out his chest, angling his jaw like he was posing. “I am the best box of cereal ever.”

“Only if you have marshmallows.”

They giggled a little bit, tapping their paper cups, but he was glad that Zhou Mi had relaxed, glad Zhou Mi maybe had one less thing to worry about. He was still overwhelmed with knowing, with the fact that Zhou Mi had told him.

“Maybe I don’t owe it to the fans to tell them, or to anyone, but my friends know, and a fan is not all you’ve been for a while now.”

Kyuhyun nodded slowly. “I was a stranger when we met. I don’t usually go around telling strangers either.”

“Was I a stranger or just strange?” Zhou Mi mused, like he was waiting for Kyuhyun to rush in and assure him. When Kyuhyun just stared back, Zhou Mi squawked, “Kyuhyun!”

“We were both strange,” Kyuhyun conceded.

Kyuhyun had so many questions and none of them felt appropriate, like Zhou Mi should give him information himself if he wanted to. So they talked about other things, other schedules Zhou Mi was preparing for, a visit to Kyuhyun’s parent’s soon. Zhou Mi had already given Kyuhyun such a huge thing that it felt greedy asking more, and Kyuhyun wondered if part of Zhou Mi’s worry was that Kyuhyun would reject him once he knew. Hugely hypocritical, that would’ve been. Besides the fact that—

Zhou Mi’s phone buzzed, announcing his manager’s imminent arrival, and Kyuhyun stepped out onto the sidewalk, talking to Zhou Mi through the open door and getting his face smushed into Zhou Mi’s shoulder in an angled hug.

“I’ll text you,” Kyuhyun said before he left, waving as the SUV pulled away.

Kyuhyun had a dozen realizations over the next few days. His eyes going wide in the dark when he was in bed, stopping with a juice carton in his hand in his kitchen, as the realization that Zhou Mi had dated a man crashed over him again. It meant… He didn’t know what it meant, because he packed it away again, folding it over and sliding it closed. Zhou Mi was amazing, and had trusted him with it, and was more like him than he could have imagined or hoped. He was going to protect that trust for Zhou Mi, as the friend he’d never imagined he’d be either.

***
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