coley_merrin: (Birds B&W)
[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

***

Meeting in Zhou Mi’s car. Meeting in restaurants and coffee shops and movie theaters, all of those seemed normal, compared to being buzzed into Zhou Mi’s building, riding up the elevator with no small amount of worry. He could leave any time, though he wasn’t sure exactly why he would want to. He was excited. He was a little scared that he was as excited as he was. He was going to a friend’s house, and he had a bag full of snacks and drinks, and he was so excited to see Zhou Mi that he was all but crawling out of his skin.

Zhou Mi’s voice actually echoed down the hall as he opened the door for Kyuhyun, and Kyuhyun nearly felt the need to avert his eyes because Zhou Mi was wearing shorts - not just shorts, but short shorts, shorts so short that he could see a different kind of fabric poking out in one spot, fabric that he assumed to be underwear.

“I sat down and fell asleep. Then I was running around throwing things away. Oh, what is this!”

Zhou Mi took the bag from him, letting him get out of his shoes and into a pair of slippers.

“Oh, my favorite,” Zhou Mi said, waggling one of the drinks at Kyuhyun. It was the drink he’d bought for Zhou Mi, the first time they’d met. Oh, what little he’d known then.

And Kyuhyun got blinded a little by Zhou Mi’s thighs as Zhou Mi put everything down and all but shouted he’d be right back as he motored right back out of the room. He was back in less than a minute, in a pair of sweatpants that contrasted with his red shirt and molded to him as he walked. Oh, Kyuhyun took every single thought the shorts and the pants had caused and locked them away in a box. Not forever, just until Zhou Mi wasn’t right in front of him. Not that Zhou Mi could read his thoughts.

“My mother would scold me for wearing shorts when I have company,” Zhou Mi said, returning to the task of unpacking Kyuhyun’s spoils. “Though she’s the reason that I’m not still living out of boxes and my suitcase. When she got here, she wouldn’t even sit down, dragging me out so I could get furniture.”

It looked…normal. It was bigger than Kyuhyun’s apartment, in a newer building, and deliciously cool, but it wasn’t all that different than Kyuhyun’s own place. He wasn’t sure what he was expecting. Something opulent, maybe. Chairs crusted with diamonds, gold lamé curtains. Instead there was a big corkboard covered in postcards and notes and pictures, and in a corner, a set of shelves. One was full of books, the other full of things like stuffed animals, little boxes, a stand full of hanging necklaces, and—

Oh, fan gifts. He recognized one of the fansite logos. He’d never actually given Zhou Mi a gift, just sent in notes or made donations, or bought fan goods so that he could support stuff like food support. There was a framed drawing of Zhou Mi there, too, one Kyuhyun remembered as part of a set of gifts for…a birthday, maybe. There were boxes stacked high beside that, too. Other things that he couldn’t display, maybe.

“I like your place,” Kyuhyun said, as Zhou Mi showed him through the outer couple of rooms and where the bathroom was. He got acquainted with a lamp Zhou Mi’s mom had sent him, and the first pressing of the first of Zhou Mi’s CD’s that had Zhou Mi’s name spelled wrong.

Zhou Mi didn’t show him his bedroom. Small mental favors.

But Zhou Mi did have a large TV that they sat down in front of, ostensibly to watch. But it got turned on, muted and then ignored as they faced each other on the couch Zhou Mi said he had bought for entertaining but mostly used for naps.

Kyuhyun imitated what he thought Zhou Mi’s sleeping face would be and got smacked.

“My mom helped set up my apartment, too,” Kyuhyun admitted. “I sort of sat back and let her.”

“Oh, I’d like to see that,” Zhou Mi laughed.

“Mostly she just asks me if I’m eating enough and when I’m getting married,” Kyuhyun sighed. And oh, danger, as Zhou Mi sent him a sympathetic look.

“But she doesn’t know?”

“If she does, she pretends not to. That works for me.”

“And you’re not dating anyone?”

“Not for a while,” Kyuhyun said, shaking his head.

He’d hooked up a few times, but that hadn’t been all he’d wanted it to be. Finding someone to date seemed like some unscalable mountain, sometimes, like maybe he’d just lucked out the last time, or the time before that. Lucky for a little while, anyway. Zhou Mi was talking about his family, too, and Kyuhyun sagged a little, watching him. He’d wondered if it was going to be weird, if he was going to see Zhou Mi through Might Be Gay in Some Way lenses. He had other friends he knew liked guys, and he didn’t expect things from them. That made him feel better. He wasn’t just there, expecting something from Zhou Mi. He was there because he enjoyed being around Zhou Mi, and because Zhou Mi had wanted him there.

Actually, that made him feel pretty good about himself.

And Kyuhyun jumped when his phone in his pocket buzzed the announcement of an incoming email and text.

It was probably rude to check, but he pulled it out anyway. Another topic to choose from, maybe.

He laughed out loud, seeing the subject line.

“Oh, hey. I just found out I got an audience tickets to the fanmeeting of some guy named Joo…Cho…Mi?” It made Zhou Mi laugh like he’d hoped, and he leaned in to see. “At least I won’t have to work to get to meet you after.”

“We should meet after anyway,” Zhou Mi said, nudging him. “Since we’ll be in the same area.”

“You’ll be exhausted.”

“Not too exhausted to meet up a while. Unless something else is going on. We’ll see how it goes.”

“They haven’t been working you too hard preparing?”

“Not really. They’re trying to keep me sharp on some of the dances, though. In a few days we’ll walk the venue again, and then rehearse.”

“They have to keep you sharp on dances? Really?”

Kyuhyun bleated laughing as Zhou Mi smacked his open palm on Kyuhyun’s shoulder repeatedly.

“Don’t make fun! I’ve practiced a lot!”

He couldn’t even take the pouting, ducking his head and chuckling. “You’ve come a long ways.”

“I have,” Zhou Mi said, and glared a little when he realized that Kyuhyun was casting doubt upon his former dance ability. “Some people out there think I dance really well!”

Kyuhyun just nodded, smirking, and he had a huffy man beside him.

“I’ll have to make sure you get a front row seat so you can see better since you apparently haven’t been able to from far away.”

They eyed each other for a moment, chuckling. And then Kyuhyun was a little horrified.

“You don’t have to arrange my seat. I’m just happy I was able to get in.”

Zhou Mi just waved him off like he was saying something ridiculous. “Don’t worry. If I can’t, we won’t think about it, but if I can’t have one person moved up, well.”

Zhou Mi sniffed, and the topic change was easy, falling into talking about one of the commercials for face products on the silent TV, and Zhou Mi pretending he was modeling for them.

“You’d make a good endorser for them,” Kyuhyun said.

And it made him happy to watch Zhou Mi preen.

Zhou Mi enfolded him in a hug before he left, when he was past the edge of being afraid of overstaying his welcome, but also whining inside that he didn’t want to go. Zhou Mi had made a sad face when Kyuhyun said he should get going, but it had been hours, and Kyuhyun felt saturated being near Zhou Mi so long in a way that was far too ebullient almost to be endured..

“Thank you so much for coming over. Sometimes it’s just nice staying in, not having to worry. Oh, did you want to take home the leftovers?”

Kyuhyun shook his head, patting at the soft shirt over Zhou Mi’s back with one hand. “Thanks for having me, and no, if I take all that home, I’ll just eat it.”

Zhou Mi laughed, rumbling both of them, rocking them back and forth. Zhou Mi was so close, too close, not close enough, and he smelled good, and hugged like he was trying to draw Kyuhyun into him, and it was intoxicating. He leaned against the wall of the elevator and tapped his chin, wondering. Wondering if Zhou Mi— No, he shook his head, boxing that away as well. But the hug still followed him home.

***

It turned out that Zhou Mi really could pull strings. When Kyuhyun was scanned in, he was handed an alternate pass and waved up to the front. It wasn’t right in the middle, more toward the far right of the stage, but it very much was in the front row. He didn’t even know who he was sitting by. Important people, lucky fans, he didn’t know. It didn’t matter, either, as the lights went down, and the sound in the audience went up in anticipation. Sparkles burst into the air, and the intro to Zhou Mi’s first single started up, and Zhou Mi danced himself right onto the stage with his backup dancers.

Kyuhyun laughed, cheering with the rest of the crowd as the little mini-concert got off to a rollicking start. Zhou Mi was a little out of breath when he was talking after, patting at his face with a towel and thanking everyone for coming. He shouted to the people in the back - after moving the mic away a little - bouncing up and down like maybe they couldn’t see him waving. He waved front, back, side to side, like he was trying to personally wave at every single fan who was there. Some of them would be lucky enough to meet Zhou Mi afterward, like he had. He wondered if they all had butterflies, if they were going to spend the majority of the concert looking at Zhou Mi on stage and wonder how they were going to exist getting near to him.

It was possible. He was well accustomed to it already, which was more Zhou Mi’s fault than his. It was hard not to be, when Zhou Mi was loud and focused and engaging. He was like a whirlwind of a sunbeam, and music played as Zhou Mi disappeared backstage for a few minutes, a ballad beginning. It was one of Kyuhyun’s favorites, and even just the music had his breath catching a bit.

The audience rose, standing, swaying as Zhou Mi began to sing, their light sticks held, reverent.

Zhou Mi’s voice had always destroyed him, hitting him in odd places, the lilt, the rise and fall of it, the surprising power, and unsurprising sweetness. It didn’t matter if it was something cheesy, or catchy, or something slow and deep, there was something there that had always caught him. It was no different, but the pangs of feeling had him off his guard, listening to Zhou Mi sing. He’d changed out of the plaid pants, in a suit instead with the jacket open and the first two buttons of his shirt beneath it undone. It was the color of wine, and Zhou Mi’s voice was rich with it, singing to his audience, making his way down along the stage and getting closer to Kyuhyun. It wasn’t like Kyuhyun could hear him better like that, but he could see, see the emotion Zhou Mi poured into the song as his hand moved in emphasis, see the fleeting smile that glanced out toward someone, something, in the crowd.

“So many things I’ve never said,” Zhou Mi sang, and Kyuhyun froze when Zhou Mi found him and met his eyes. “I wonder if you hear it anyway. Will you listen?”

The music swelled and Zhou Mi’s eyes lifted as he sang to all of the people behind Kyuhyun. Zhou Mi was there, singing with hundreds of eyes on him, a star, but all Kyuhyun saw was Zhou Mi. He saw the hours they’d spent together, the laughter, the conversation, the quiet, the hugs.

Kyuhyun loved him so much.

He flushed, and his skin prickled cold at the same time, almost gasping, almost twisting with it because it was too much. He’d adored Zhou Mi before. He’d loved Zhou Mi as a fan, seeing him sparkling on some distant horizon, untouchable, unknowable. He didn’t just see the facade any more, the shiny exterior. What was underneath maybe wasn’t quite as polished, maybe was funnier, more unfocused, sweet and silly all at once. But that was who Kyuhyun loved, had been falling for without even knowing. Zhou Mi, the guy who called him up, and insulted his eyesight, and pouted at him. Zhou Mi, the one who bought him drinks, and wore tiny shorts, and couldn’t help reaching to touch him.

Kyuhyun’s knees were jelly as he and the audience sat back down. He’d been nervous out of his mind meeting Zhou Mi, had been so embarrassed with himself as a fan meeting someone both admired and loved. But they were friends, they’d become friends despite Kyuhyun’s bashfulness, and he didn’t know how he was supposed to meet up with Zhou Mi with the sudden knowledge that he didn’t think of Zhou Mi just like that any more. A friend, that was something. A crush was something even less than he felt then, hot and cold, his palms sweating. He was having a crisis in the middle of a fanmeeting, and Zhou Mi was being adorable on stage, playing games with some of his fans. His laughter felt like the gurgles of a drowning man, love settling heavy on him like lead apron when before he’d realized it, it had been delight in being in Zhou Mi’s presence, basking like a flower in the sun.

He wondered if Zhou Mi knew, or had seen, or if Kyuhyun had shown more than he’d even known. But Zhou Mi had never seemed put off, and Zhou Mi knew that Kyuhyun was gay, so he had to know there was at least a chance of it. That’d be irony, of Zhou Mi understanding that Kyuhyun might have Feelings, when Kyuhyun had been completely oblivious. He’d been a fan, had become a friend. He just hadn’t expected more. More from his own side, anyway. Zhou Mi had only offered his companionship, and that was what Kyuhyun would be happy for.

***

As the fanmeeting ended, people were milling, starting to exit, and Kyuhyun felt a hand on his arm. Zhou Mi’s manager. He was tugged along backstage, directed to a little room, and Zhou Mi ducked out of what seemed to be a bathroom as the door closed behind him.

“Kyuhyun! We’re not going to be able to meet after, because we’re doing a larger meet and greet, and I have an early schedule tomorrow.”

“That’s okay. I figured that, anyway.”

“Too smart,” Zhou Mi tsked. “Anyway, I just wanted to see you before I had to rush off. Was it okay?”

Zhou Mi still had makeup on, and he looked so hopeful, that Kyuhyun in that moment at least didn’t have trouble looking at him and acting like himself.

“You know it was great,” Kyuhyun said, rolling his eyes, and Zhou Mi beamed, taking the two steps it took to wrap Kyuhyun in a hug.

“You’ll have to tell me everything you liked later,” Zhou Mi told him, laughing. “Oh, you’re trembling.”

Was he? He wrapped his arms around Zhou Mi’s ribs the same as he’d done so many times, and Zhou Mi stroked along his back. It wasn’t nerves. It just felt like he was buzzing all over, and Zhou Mi… Zhou Mi didn’t help.

“It made me happy to look out and see you sitting there!” Zhou Mi told him, which proved to him that yes, Zhou Mi had been looking at him. “I think I’d have snuck you in even if you hadn’t gotten a ticket.”

The knock on the door kept Kyuhyun from having to answer, almost leaping out of the hug before the door opened.

“Get some rest if you can,” he said, waving as he edged out of the room. And Zhou Mi’s eyes were on his, waving at him until Kyuhyun turned and fled.

Zhou Mi had been happy to have him there. Of course, it was a nice thing to say. Zhou Mi couldn’t know what those words did to him. Kyuhyun planted himself against a wall, waiting for the subway to empty out more, and sent Zhou Mi a text. Words were too much, but he managed with emojis. Music notes, smiley faces, cake, celebration. His way of saying a good job had been done.

There were dreams, little fantasies he’d had even before meeting Zhou Mi, of having a chance at a relationship with him. None of them had been realistic, not really, and none he had any expectations of being real. Nothing had changed. Logic said, sure he had a better chance since he knew Zhou Mi. He wasn’t a stranger, at least, and because Zhou Mi had at least once dated a man, maybe…? But there was a difference between reality and hope. Unless it was something that Zhou Mi wanted, he could push back the other feelings. For his own sake, for the sake of their friendship, he needed to.

***

Zhou Mi asked if Kyuhyun was free by text, and Kyuhyun’s immediate reaction was yes, immediately, any time. Simultaneously to that, his reaction was no, what if Zhou Mi found out, what if Zhou Mi saw through him. And if Zhou Mi did find out, what if he thought that Kyuhyun only liked being around him because he thought it was going to get him something, or because Kyuhyun wanted to date him. At some point, he knew logically that he’d have been happy just being friends, meeting up, having fun. He just didn’t know if his feelings would get the better of him and the wistfulness would cause more pain than not. Distance was kinder. If he’d found out a month before that Zhou Mi was dating someone, he’d have been happy, if not nursing a tiny little sore spot of a fantasy. He wanted Zhou Mi to be happy. But since his feelings had gotten the better of him, he knew he’d find the happiness for Zhou Mi somewhere. But it left him feeling tight. Some things weren’t meant to be, and he’d find a way to cope, but while he could rationally prepare, there was also no sense in getting himself upset about something that wasn’t even on the horizon.

He was pretty sure, or at least hopeful, that his heart wouldn’t break if it happened though. It was just probably that it was going to be bent up a while.

Still, Zhou Mi suggested an actual activity, not just meeting up to sit across from each other at a table and stare at each other for an hour. And still, Kyuhyun had to blow out a slow breath as he hiked up the subway stairs, and found Zhou Mi waiting for him not far down the street. Zhou Mi wore jeans, a long sleeved shirt rolled up to his forearms and open at the collar. He looked good. There wasn’t any surprise there.

Kyuhyun was relieved that Zhou Mi didn’t ask him immediately about his performance at the fanmeeting. They’d talked about that over several days of texting, including Kyuhyun being as cautiously complimentary as a human possibly could be. He didn’t want Zhou Mi to think he was hitting on him, or that he was trying to be sweet because of nefarious reasons, or whatever reasons Zhou Mi could read into it. He left out all of the feelings realizations, and instead sent veiled compliments/insults about Zhou Mi’s dancing, and the faces he’d made, and linked Zhou Mi to a couple of fan videos to demonstrate his point.

And yet still, there they were walking into a massive library with Zhou Mi getting distracted by a big display for people to donate books, and then Kyuhyun dragging him down amongst the stacks before he got recognized by the entire city. There were just rows and rows, and other floors, too, as they rode up an escalator and wandered down into a different section.

“Do people still read this many books?” Kyuhyun wondered, and Zhou Mi shushed him like he’d spoken a sacrilege.

“Not that I can talk because I don’t read nearly enough.”

“I think with your schedules, you can be forgiven,” Kyuhyun said. It felt like routine, even though sometimes he could feel something simmering under his skin. Or like maybe he’d burst into flames if he looked at Zhou Mi straight on. “Sometimes I can’t help but buy a novel when I’m at the airport and about to go on a trip, but I read mostly on my phone or something.”

They stopped in a row of what looked to be automotive books on one side and cooking books on the other. No one else was there, at least not right then, so they could talk without still moving.

“I mostly sleep if I’m not doing something on a trip,” Zhou Mi laughed. “If I’m traveling for fun, I like to see things, eat the local food, really explore what I can. But then I spend a lot of time in the pool and just letting myself breathe.”

“Where do you like traveling most?” Kyuhyun asked, not wanting to sound too creepy even though he was pretty he already knew.

And Zhou Mi saw right through him, elbowing him. “Do you really not know?”

“Okay, so yes, I do know. But I don’t know where exactly, or why. I read your book, though.”

Again, Zhou Mi raised his eyebrows. “You read it?”

“I looked at the pictures and read someone else’s translation,” Kyuhyun said, scowling. Zhou Mi had to muffle his laughter behind his closed fist.

“I should write you notes that you have to translate. Texts would be too easy. I could buy you a dictionary. Or maybe only speak to you in Mandarin?”

“That would be speaking at me, in that case,” Kyuhyun said. “But what if I mistranslated the notes and thought you were calling me a mouse’s snot or something?”

“Maybe that should be your nickname?”

Kyuhyun made a sound of protest as Zhou Mi started cooing unintelligible words at him, while reaching out and pinching Kyuhyun’s cheek.

Kyuhyun wondered if his unimpressed face was really showing through when Zhou Mi laughed and let him go.

“Okay, maybe we can find something else. But that gave me an idea. Not about that. But they have travel books here, right? Photo books of different types. We should go find some that are interesting and look at them together!”

They were in nonfiction, so surely they had to be around there somewhere.

“Sounds fun,” Kyuhyun said.

They followed each other for a while, browsing up and down. They found some nature books in one row, and browsed opposite ends, picking out a few, and Kyuhyun crouched down, trying to decide between books on volcanoes.

When he looked up, Zhou Mi wasn’t near him any more. Or, in sight at all for that matter. Kyuhyun’s mouth opened, and then he shut it immediately, because that was definitely not the way to stay unnoticed, shouting Zhou Mi’s name. He got up and went down the aisle, and nearly ran into Zhou Mi turning the corner.

“I thought I lost you,” Kyuhyun said, heart frantic for about a dozen reasons including Zhou Mi going missing for about 15 seconds, and the smile that brightened Zhou Mi’s face when Kyuhyun spoke. He grinned back out of reflex, and embarrassment, because yes, that was awesome. Make Zhou Mi think that Kyuhyun thought he was inept.

“I have an okay sense of direction from shopping a lot,” Zhou Mi assured him, patting at Kyuhyun’s arm. Kyuhyun just glared. “I think the travel books at that way, but I want to see what’s down here, too.”

“Why don’t we meet up at the tables as soon as we’re done? Five or ten minutes?” Kyuhyun suggested, and Zhou Mi nodded like it was going to assure Kyuhyun he wasn’t going to get lost in quicksand in between. Kyuhyun just sniffed. “Yell if you need help.”

“I will,” Zhou Mi said, all air and grace, and then he wiggled as he walked away which was utterly unfair.

Kyuhyun rubbed at his chest and his heart that was still trying to recover from all that smiley-ness right in his face. Yes, time to pick stuff out on their own gave him space to get himself together again. He couldn’t just look at Zhou Mi askance forever or stand four feet away without Zhou Mi figuring out something was up. He picked up books at random that looked interesting, including a couple of travel books. He started down toward the direction Zhou Mi had gone in to see what else was down there and they passed each other like ships in a canal. Kyuhyun raised his eyebrows and Zhou Mi lifted one hand to point two fingers at his own eyes and then at Kyuhyun as though to say he saw Kyuhyun or was watching him.

Kyuhyun pretended not to understand and kept on going, poking around and keeping an eye on his watch. Seven minutes into their agreed time, he made his way to the tables, and at eleven minutes, Zhou Mi appeared with a stack of books a few taller than his. Kyuhyun tilted his head and led Zhou Mi to the table on the end, one they could face away from the other tables and toward a wall for maximum privacy. Kyuhyun wished there was some kind of room they could lock themselves in, except—

He took that thought to a different conclusion, and decided their very public table was just wonderful.

Between them, their haul was eclectic. There were travel books, five between them. One on Thailand, one on China, two from Europe, and two of general world places. There was a book on different types of boats, one of the universe, some kind of compendium of animals, an art book, the book on volcanoes, and random photography. If they spent a lot of time on each book, Kyuhyun didn’t know how long it would take. His stomach was going to get antsy about it before his brain was. That or he’d just collapse from emotional exhaustion.

“Let’s start with this, since you wanted to know what places I liked,” Zhou Mi said, bringing forward the book on Thailand. “They don’t have my book here.”

They both tsked at the same time, and the book was opened between them, about six inches between their closest arms. Kyuhyun propped an elbow on the table, nervously playing with the edges of his hair, rubbing against his neck, leaning his head against his raised knuckles as they looked through the book. Some of it Zhou Mi knew, and some of it he didn’t, but all of the pictures were gorgeous. Though when Zhou Mi spoke, his whole focus on the picture, Kyuhyun watched Zhou Mi talk instead, the movement of his lips, the wrinkling of his nose, the way he blinked. Kyuhyun had to rapidly look down at the book to keep from being caught staring at least once, holding his breath, nodding, making an inane comment.

Well, it was a nice roof, after all.

Kyuhyun relaxed, just a little. A fraction of a fraction. No chance of Zhou Mi floating off and getting lost, as they looked through pretty pictures of paintings. No chance of Zhou Mi x-ray visioning into his feelings when they were talking about seashells or wingspans. He just had problems, was all. There were Zhou Mi’s fingers pointing things out, and his purposely hushed laughs, and the little sounds of interest he made as they tilted the books and he got closer to really see. The real art in the building, Zhou Mi’s profile, he thought, embarrassed at himself even before the thought was finished.

There were a few places in the book on China that Kyuhyun had been. More that Zhou Mi had been to, but a few they both wanted to see.

Zhou Mi pretended to snap his fingers. “I’ll use my powers of teleportation to take us there right now.”

“You are holding out on me,” Kyuhyun said, eyeing him.

“Singer by day, superhero by night.”

“Uh-huh.”

“Kyuhyun!” Zhou Mi whined, nudging at him. “Come on, you could be my sidekick.”

“What would I do? Carry your suitcase?”

“Let’s go the next book,” Zhou Mi interjected, ignoring Kyuhyun’s slight insult and doubting of his own abilities in one fell swoop.

It was the book on volcanoes. And if Kyuhyun had been unprepared for seeing Zhou Mi’s profile and watching him speak, Zhou Mi one-upped himself on destroying Kyuhyun’s ability to think. The book was smaller, having to tug it back and forth to be able to see. And apparently, Zhou Mi got tired of that, or of leaning, because one moment the space between them had gotten smaller due to Zhou Mi leaning in, and the next, the chair Zhou Mi was on caused a small sound as it scraped against the floor. Not only was Zhou Mi closer, but his arm was draped over the back of Kyuhyun’s chair, his body pressed up against Kyuhyun’s shoulder.

If Kyuhyun turned his head far, it wouldn’t be much effort to bump noses. If Zhou Mi breathed hard, Kyuhyun could have probably felt it. It made all of the hairs stand up on the back of his neck, his left hand clenched on his thigh as he used his right hand to turn the pages. Anything to keep from moving, from touching more than he had to. He might have tried not breathing, too, but then he probably would have swooned into Zhou Mi’s lap.

Imaginary Zhou Mi: What happened, why did you faint on me?

Imaginary himself: Being near you was too overwhelming.

Imaginary Zhou Mi: Oh, Kyuhyun! (heart) (heart)

Yeah, no. It wasn’t his heart’s fault that Zhou Mi hadn’t been blessed with a sense of personal space. Zhou Mi also seemed blissfully unaware of Kyuhyun going tense as a fence post and his neck still like he was in a brace.

“It’d be amazing to see but also scary,” Zhou Mi said, tracing his finger along the bottom edge of lava spilling down a hillside.

“Yeah. Probably better from a distance. Get too close, and you could get,” and Kyuhyun inhaled as he felt and saw out of the corner of his eye that Zhou Mi’s face had swung toward him. “Burned.”

He didn’t squeak it. He didn’t know how he managed it, but he didn’t. His whole face turned to lava, though, clearing his throat as he tilted his head a little bit and turned the page. Just act normal. Just act like the guy his heart was currently gnawing on in glee wasn’t inches away and all warm up against him. Just act like maybe what he’d said wasn’t a bit too true, like Zhou Mi was the lava and he was the observer. He’d made the risk, taken the chance.

“Probably not a good place to build a house,” Kyuhyun said as they turned the page, and a spout of lava was shooting up into the sky.

“This is where the teleportation would come in handy,” Zhou Mi laughed.

He both thanked himself for choosing that book and highly regretted it as they set the book on volcanoes aside. They moved on to a book of random shots of food, Kyuhyun relaxing as the pages turned. He couldn’t be tense around pictures of tomatoes, and artistic shots of wheat. Though Kyuhyun’s stomach had its own opinion about halfway through, and Kyuhyun froze up again as the sound curled between them.

“Such accolades!” Zhou Mi said, hushed and awed.

Kyuhyun smacked the back of his hand against Zhou Mi’s thigh, and they still managed to finish the book at least. Though there were four books left, as they stretched and stood. Kyuhyun’s whole body felt off balance from holding himself so stiffly for so long.

“I wanted to finish these,” Zhou Mi said, rifling through the leftover books. “Maybe I should check them out?”

“Do you have a library card?”

Zhou Mi’s mouth opened, and then closed. “Oh. Maybe not.”

It made him sigh, but Kyuhyun picked up the books. “I’ll check them out, then, and you can take them home. I trust you that you won’t lose them or drop them in the tub or something.”

“I’ll protect them with my life,” Zhou Mi promised, and sent Kyuhyun a sly look before Kyuhyun could protest that maybe that was taking it a little too far.

Zhou Mi ducked out the front door as Kyuhyun was checking out, and by the time Kyuhyun slipped out, too, Zhou Mi’s sunglasses were already on, and they transferred the books into Zhou Mi’s bag.

“I wanted to treat you to something so your stomach didn’t have to just react to a book, but I need to go soon,” Zhou Mi said as they dodged people and wandered down the street. “We didn’t even get to talk about what you thought about the fanmeeting.”

“I told you by text,” Kyuhyun said, and felt his traitorous face start to heat again as he tried to remember just exactly what all he’d said, and what all he should be embarrassed about.

“But I didn’t get to hear! That’s different.”

Kyuhyun might have answered, in some unknown language, as Zhou Mi pulled him into a hug. Zhou Mi’s bag, full of books, helpfully patted Kyuhyun on the ass, and Kyuhyun nearly got his nose stuck in Zhou Mi’s collar before lifting his chin and actually taking part in the hug.

“I’ll buy you something to eat next time, and then we can talk,” Zhou Mi rationalized. “Right?”

Zhou Mi jostled him, and it rattled his brain and all of his common sense with it.

“You already know you were great.”

Zhou Mi gasped, dramatic and loud, and he just squeezed Kyuhyun tighter. “See! I need to hear it!”

Zhou Mi was mentally strutting in his head, he could tell. That was the guy he was in— That he loved, an overly tall peacock who hugged him like he was just trying to absorb Kyuhyun right in. It made him feel boneless and like he was going to just float into space, and he began to tap out some alarmed patterns on Zhou Mi’s back before Zhou Mi grumbled and let him go.

“Sure, we can talk next time,” Kyuhyun said, out of breath, at that moment willing to say anything, flushing from his hairline to who knew where as Zhou Mi lifted a hand in victory.

“I will hold you to that! Think about where you want to eat! Oh!”

Kyuhyun was engulfed in a last-second surprise hug, gurgling as Zhou Mi rocked into him, almost nuzzling against his cheek as he said, “We’ll meet up soon, promise.” And then Zhou Mi drew away, laughing.

“Okay, I have to get a taxi. Isn’t the weather gorgeous today?”

Kyuhyun waited with him, chatting about the weather, about the stores on the other side, about weird clouds. Zhou Mi was a little ungainly, endearingly, as he folded himself into the taxi, but he waved back at Kyuhyun for what seemed like ages as it pulled away.

Kyuhyun didn’t even know what to do with himself. He was overwhelmed, and he was electrified, and there was suddenly no Zhou Mi around to absorb it all. His stomach’s needs got put off as he relived hug one and hug two, and Zhou Mi leaning against him in the library, and Zhou Mi’s grin when they’d almost run into each other. Eventually he gave in to the rumbles, letting his jitters take him as he decided where to eat.

He’d almost finished eating, when he got a text. There was no actually message to it, just a picture of some Chinese writing, followed by two drawn hearts. He knew those hearts, how Zhou Mi added them to his signatures at fansigns. It was like looking at an old friend. He’d look the characters up online at home, he thought, if he survived that long.

***

The note, as far as note went, was cute. “Kyuhyun is the best!” it read, with its two little hearts. That made him grin, possibly also preening, and when he texted back, “I agree!” he got an almost instant reply.

“Do you like it?” Zhou Mi texted back immediately.

“I do like it. You’re smart.”

“Just smart? Kyuhyun!!!!!”

Kyuhyun laughed, almost feeling Zhou Mi’s frustration through the phone. “What? Being smart is good! The note made me happy.”

Kyuhyun hit send before he really could think about it, and wondered if that last part was too flirty. Considering he was teasing Zhou Mi right before, probably not.

“I’m glad it did,” Zhou Mi texted, and Kyuhyun could almost see the pout. “What about me?”

“Yeah, you made me happy too,” Kyuhyun said at his phone. But he definitely did not type that. However, he did settle on, “The note didn’t write itself?”

That earned him a string of complimentary emoticons, and an invitation to come over to finish looking at the library books. He supposed he could go. He did have to make sure Zhou Mi was taking good care of the books after all. It was completely for that reason and not because he had a sickness that required routine exposure to Zhou Mi’s smile rays or whatever.

He even rolled his eyes at himself for that one.

Kyuhyun brought wine, because he didn’t want to just bring something he’d brought from the store somewhere on the way again. It was a nice bottle, too, one he’d been saving. Which also meant maybe it was a nice bottle that he hoped that Zhou Mi would want to share, and also that he hoped Zhou Mi would like. He’d basically ordered himself into calmness, and to help him, Zhou Mi did answer the door in pants which was good.

But as Kyuhyun got over the “wow, we’re all alone again” feeling, it was Zhou Mi who seemed nervous, buzzing around like a bee, making sure Kyuhyun’s slippers were okay, asking if he wanted something to drink, twice. And then putting his hand on the wine, laughing, almost knocking it over.

“Maybe just water now,” Kyuhyun said, so that maybe Zhou Mi would feel like he’d accomplished something.

Zhou Mi was casual, some kind of slacks, a t-shirt with a logo Kyuhyun had never seen. It accentuated his arms, though. Errant thought, while he was being shooed away and denied the opportunity to help. But the thought that Zhou Mi was adorable wasn’t errant, as Zhou Mi had a little presentation noise as he got their drinks set on the table. He sat down and then patted the couch cushion beside him to invite Kyuhyun to sit, too.

“I’m so glad you were free to come over! Plans fell through with my— Well, you know who Jia and Feifei are, but I didn’t just invite you because they couldn’t— Oh! The books!”

The back of Kyuhyun pants had barely brushed the cushion before Zhou Mi had rocketed onto his feet again. It made Kyuhyun stand, too, not wanting to just sit there as Zhou Mi got the books and brought them back, putting them between their drinks on the table. Then it was just them, standing there, staring at each other. Zhou Mi’s eyes were soft, but worried, too, and Kyuhyun didn’t know what to make of that.

“Is everything okay?”

“It’s— Yes. But.” Zhou Mi stepped closer, and it was clear they weren’t just going to sit down and have a drink. “I didn’t just invite you to look at the books. When my schedule cleared up, it seemed…right.”

Kyuhyun didn’t make a sound when Zhou Mi seized his hand, but it was close. He thought his hand was dirty or something, and stared, anxious, at his nails in case he’d failed in some grooming ritual. But no, Zhou Mi was just holding onto his hand, tracing along his fingers like he was trying to find the meaning of the universe there somehow. Zhou Mi was doing some kind of calming breathing thing, but whatever it was, it wasn’t working its way into Kyuhyun, too.

“I was glad you liked the note I sent a picture of,” Zhou Mi said after maybe the longest moment in history, still stroking along Kyuhyun’s fingers. He was glad Zhou Mi said something, because all that was running between his ears was a hum.

“Oh. Oh yeah, it was cute,” Kyuhyun said, trying to get his brain to stay with the program. He couldn’t just sink into a puddle of adoration and request that Zhou Mi keep touching him.

“This wasn’t what I—Ah,” Zhou Mi said, and began another sentence, that time in Mandarin, Kyuhyun’s ears hearing only his own name at the start. He knew Zhou Mi could see the question marks on Kyuhyun’s face. “What the note said. You are, you know.”

He was? He…was? He was fairly certain the note had said he was the best, and he couldn’t forget the hearts. So if that was what Zhou Mi was saying he was, then. Critical error. Meltdown imminent. Evacuation required.

“I think you mean you,” Kyuhyun said Deflect, deflect. “I was glad you didn’t call me mouse-snot.”

The laughter was quiet, but it was there, like it was hushed for some reason. He could hear, feel his heart beating , too. He didn’t even know what Zhou Mi was saying, what Zhou Mi was doing, how he was supposed to think with Zhou Mi fingers lifting to touch his jaw, his cheek. His hand was free, but it was useless, tingling and completely unhelpful at his side.

“I didn’t expect this at all, but I’m so glad we’ve gotten to know each other better. To become friends.”

“Yeah, me too,” Kyuhyun said.

Zhou Mi had some kind of gravitational pull, he was sure of, and his traitorous hand helped him out, curving at Zhou Mi’s waist as he leaned his face just slightly against Zhou Mi’s hand. It made Zhou Mi meet his eyes, keener, searching for something and Kyuhyun had no idea if he knew how to hide any more.

“Do you— Would you…?” Zhou Mi asked, this thumb sliding along Kyuhyun’s cheekbone.

To any question, to every question, it was yes. He wasn’t sure if he said it, if all he did was think it.

Maybe he had his own kind of pull, because Zhou Mi’s eyes dipped, and Zhou Mi was right there, so close, so warm. He lifted up, just a little, meeting Zhou Mi half way, letting Zhou Mi kiss him. Zhou Mi’s lips were soft, and the first brush of them against his shot tingles down his spine. He angled his head, asking for more, rubbing their lips together, the way they clung together as Kyuhyun hummed, trying to find purchase on the back of Zhou Mi’s shirt. Zhou Mi gasped a little at that, like he’d been tickled, and then they were more laughing than kissing, but they were definitely still kissing. It felt like his skin was alive, his chest tight. That was Zhou Mi’s nose pressing against his face, and Zhou Mi’s lips clinging to his, pressing against his cheek, the top of his neck. Kyuhyun felt like he felt too much, trying to breathe, trying to get more control rather that just buzzing in the disbelief of what had just happened.

“Do you know how long I’ve wanted to be able to do that?” Zhou Mi asked, leaning his head against Kyuhyun’s.

“No?”

He wasn’t sure if he was ready to know. Just as long as Zhou Mi didn’t ask Kyuhyun how long he’d been imagining it, they were good. If they were going to have a competition on length of time wanting, then Kyuhyun was going to win if only because he had the upper hand on knowing who Zhou Mi was for longer.

“Yeah. It was so long. And then I finally told you and… And I could!”

He was half sure of what Zhou Mi meant, so he wasn’t just fishing, but at least he could feel the individual beats of his heart again.

“Told me what?” he asked, and he was almost certain that Zhou Mi stamped his foot.

“Kyuhyun,” he whined, and Kyuhyun chortled at him, only making him wiggle more as he squeezed Kyuhyun and audibly pouted. “You got my heart in that text. But I just really, really, really—“

“Okay, okay, okay,” Kyuhyun gasped, laughing a little at Zhou Mi’s insistence.

“Really!!” Zhou Mi kept going. “Really think you’re the best. It was scary. I haven’t felt like this about someone in a long time.” And then Zhou Mi gasped, nearly startling Kyuhyun to death as he hauled Kyuhyun back far enough to see. “Can this be a date??”

A war was bubbling inside of him. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to accept, it was a war for how he wanted to answer in the face all that happy hope on Zhou Mi’s face bubbling in front of him like a particularly joyful fountain.

“Well, let me think,” Kyuhyun said, but his voice was shaking trying not to laugh or maybe to shout, and the fact that he was being trolled was clearly evident to Zhou Mi so he gave up. Mostly. “I guess since I’m already here.”

But it was excuse enough to offer another kiss, in case Zhou Mi really wondered.

Or two or three kisses.

“Are you going to make me go out and come back in again?”

“I should,” Zhou Mi sniffed, but he grinned then, too, and the parts of Kyuhyun that were trying to really be normal and rational just melted. And Zhou Mi actually cooed at him, tugging him down onto the couch for “real date time.” Obviously he’d said yes, yes, this was a date, with full mental faculties. But as they got all arranged, he just sort of had reality trickle down and crush him like he was in some kind of cartoon. He was wheezing inside, his arm nestled around Zhou Mi’s back and their thighs all pressed together as they looked through another book. It was all pictures of storms and cloud formations, and Zhou Mi’s arm seemed to get heavier and more bold on his shoulders.

And when it got too much, when the realization just soaked him through and started overflowing, he stiffened, staring at Zhou Mi like he was about to disappear.

“This is a date,” he said, the words both mumbled and rushed.

“Yes?” Zhou Mi ventured, far too cautious.

“I just. Needed to say it? Just, this is. A date.”

He wasn’t sure if he started smiling first, or if Zhou Mi started smiling because of him, but it was suddenly a cheek-hurting smile fest. Zhou Mi’s arm around his shoulders was a really good lure, reeling him in so they could figure out how to stop smiling long enough to kiss. And it made him kind of wriggly feeling when Zhou Mi just sort of leaned his head and admired him.

“If you knew everything I wanted to tell you or ask you, you’d probably run away,” Zhou Mi confessed.

“No,” Kyuhyun said, and they had an argument simply in sounds for a minute. He thought of all the times they’d hugged, or when Zhou Mi had touched him. All the times he hadn’t wanted to be too creepy, to make Zhou Mi uncomfortable. And there they were practically snuggled together, and his mouth had touched Zhou Mi’s, and—

Mostly he had to touch Zhou Mi out of self-defense, to quiet his mind. He settled on Zhou Mi’s neck, his face still being too intimate, and then he had the pleasure of watching Zhou Mi fluff in pleasure. He hadn’t even been sure that was possible.

“Tell me one thing then,” Kyuhyun bargained.

How to choose just one thing, that was written all over Zhou Mi’s face as he covered Kyuhyun’s hand and held it against the skin of his neck.

“I don’t want to move but it’s also really hard to stay still because I want to go shout and roll around,” Zhou Mi said, laughing at himself. “The neighbors would really wonder what I’m up to.”

It made him imagine some kind of tumble gym with them bouncing off of walls and yelling. It also dipped into a different kind of rolling around.

“I hope that’s not me the second I leave. I’d be running down the street and people would think I was losing reality.”

“I’d like to see that.”

“No!” Kyuhyun said, and Zhou Mi laughed harder. “What was a question then?”

“Just…everything. Tell me about everything. Tell me about… Your friends.”

A safe topic. It became more like talking, easy, like they had from the start, really. Zhou Mi let his hand go and Kyuhyun ended up half touching Zhou Mi’s stomach, feeling him chortle as they traded stories about friends, outings.

“One of my friends knows we’ve hung out, but he’s trustworthy,” Kyuhyun said. “And I obviously didn’t have anything to tell, then, though he knew I—“

Kyuhyun cleared his throat as Zhou Mi’s eyebrows rose. “Knew you…?”

“Knew I was into you,” Kyuhyun grumbled, flushing from his ears right down his neck just to say it out loud, right there with Zhou Mi’s eyes dancing.

“I think there was some suspicion on my side, too. Normally if they invite me out, I’m either working, or shopping, or free. So they’ve been teasing me about my new boyfriend. Ahhh!”

Zhou Mi sighed like he’d just won the universe, and Kyuhyun quite literally wanted to squirm or maybe break into a dozen pieces.

“They’ll want to meet you,” Zhou Mi put out there, and it was like a splash of ice water on his blissful little feelings. Oh, other people. “I can’t keep it from them. And your friend, if you want, you can tell him.”

It was a measure of trust. It was also something that told him that Zhou Mi saw something in him, in them, that was longer than a date or two. He could’ve asked Kyuhyun not to tell anyone, until they were sure, or until Zhou Mi had a chance maybe to meet Ryeowook and evaluate for himself. There was a measure of danger to Kyuhyun, being outed, but it had the chance of severely damaging Zhou Mi’s world. Not just something fleeting, they had a real chance.

“You sure are confident after one date,” Kyuhyun said, but he kissed back right away when Zhou Mi leaned into him. And he smacked at Zhou Mi’s hands as they looked through the last two books. Or, they paged through them, anyway, still too wrapped up in each other.

Kyuhyun took the books home in a bag, nearly dissolving into his shoes from soft kisses when he left so that Zhou Mi could actually get some rest.

“I’ll text you when I know when I’m free so we can plan date two,” Zhou Mi said, just before opening the door for him. “And I’ll text you in between.”

“Okay,” Kyuhyun said, standing in the hallway and, well. Breathing. Breathing was good. “Okay. Bye?”

“Bye,” Zhou Mi said, waggling his fingers and sticking his head out to look before blowing Kyuhyun the teeniest, tiniest kiss.

No, Kyuhyun didn’t run screaming down the sidewalk as he left. He might have been shouting some kind of triumphant march under his breath though. He couldn’t even fathom it. He’d just— No, he couldn’t get his head around it.

He didn’t even know what he was going to do with himself when he could.

***

He’d been on a date with Zhou Mi. Oh, it had been informal, and if he’d had a diary it totally would have blared “FIRST DATE WITH ZHOU MI” and things had gone so well after he’d gotten home. He probably could have excavated a mountain with all the extra energy he had, and he blasted through projects, took out all his garbage and recycling, took on his dirty dishes. Dating was apparently very productive for him. Or at least it was, until his music player decided it hated him while he was folding his socks. One second he was absolutely fine, and the next Zhou Mi’s voice was drifting out to him, and he might as well have been hit over the head. He had two options: turning off the music immediately, or suffer through the feelings.

And that was how he ended up face down, half on and half of his bed, his breathing cracking a little bit as Zhou Mi’s voice swelled. He couldn’t even see—

It wasn’t even like the fanmeeting, where he had the atmosphere, and Zhou Mi moving and breathing. It was like being handed a neat little package of his emotions set politely to destruct.

Zhou Mi had wanted to kiss him for a while. Zhou Mi had nearly been all wrapped around him. Zhou Mi had feelings and wanted to go on another date, and the little island he’d been bricking himself into so that his inconvenient emotions didn’t spoil a precious friendship apparently had a harbor that Zhou Mi had sailed right into. He had to throw out the hope, and trying to talk himself out of his feelings. They’d just get to know each other. Dating.

Kyuhyun squirmed back around and landed on his butt next to his bed. Fitting. The song wound down. His heart resumed beating.

***

It was four and a half days, something squeaked into a weekend last minute with Kyuhyun having fifteen minutes to arrive, throwing clothes on and flying out the door, but the second date happened.

Zhou Mi spotted him, standing up straighter, and with his hands still at his hips he squeezed his fingers up and down in some modified wave that was both adorable and not very subtle.

“Hi,” Zhou Mi said, still a respectable distance away, but leaning into him.

“Hi,” Kyuhyun replied. And he had other things to say that were just not as important as the helpless smile that trembled his lips wide. That probably said more than all his words could’ve anyway, and he flopped a hand helplessly at his side. And then he started getting embarrassed for himself as the silence kind of stretched and Zhou Mi shimmered just a little too cutely. “You said you were feeding me.”

“I may have,” Zhou Mi agreed. And by phone, no less. It had been a cute invitation, Zhou Mi’s voice peppy with road noises in the background as he was whisked from here to wherever. It wasn’t like he was of a mind to say no, but Zhou Mi’s half breathless little laugh, and “I can’t wait to see you again,” had him lying as a lump of dazed human flesh on his bed for at least three minutes after he’d hung up.

He may have stuttered out “He can’t wait to—“ before turning his head into his mattress and laughing, but no one was going to pry that out of him.

The most touching they got before being seated though, was Zhou Mi’s hand on his back as they entered into the restaurant. But the table was small and they both had long legs so Zhou Mi’s knee was tapping out a rhythm on his as they chose their food. Plus, inside Zhou Mi had taken off his sunglasses so he could see Zhou Mi’s eyes. It didn’t help his heart doing loops, but at least he could see that Zhou Mi was equally as excited slash nervous.

“Why does this almost feel like a first…” Kyuhyun was processing, trying to think of a codeword. “Meeting?”

Zhou Mi laughed at him, subtly. “Maybe because it’s more public? I was thinking of just having you come over again, but this will keep us on good behavior.”

Kyuhyun’s brain paused and beeped repeatedly wondering just what exactly that Zhou Mi would consider bad behavior. After all, all they’d done was cuddle, and kiss. And kiss.

“We didn’t really get a chance to process what was happening before the last…meeting started,” Kyuhyun rationalized.

He wasn’t even sure what they would’ve done with a second date at Zhou Mi’s place. Kissing some more would’ve been an option, and he was completely on board with that.

“What’s that face for?” Zhou MI wanted to know.

Oh, nothing. Just thinking how much I like your mouth.

“Just thinking of all the things we…” Kyuhyun stopped again, trying half a dozen ways he could end that without making a giant double entendre. “Just thinking of all the things.”

“All the things,” Zhou Mi said, enjoying Kyuhyun’s discomfort immensely as they started digging into their food. “We should go see another movie sometime. Then I’ll really have a reason to lean in close.”

“You were— that was on purpose?”

Zhou Mi blinked at him. “Oh. Yes.” That was a sheepish though slightly pleased expression if he ever saw one. “So, one of those things I told you about that I wanted to tell you. I really liked being close to you. I was still working up courage to tell you about a lot of things, and realizing just how much I liked you.

So Zhou Mi had been creeping on him a little. And there he’d been trying not to make Zhou Mi uncomfortable or to seem like a weirdo and Zhou Mi had been feeling him up almost. He was. Flattered. Amused. Embarrassed. A tiny bit turned on.

“You smelled good, too,” Zhou Mi saw fit to throw in there, because Kyuhyun didn’t have enough to completely flatten himself with as it was.

“I liked the hugs,” Kyuhyun said faintly. “You— Yeah, the hugs were good.”

That got him all the preening he could ask for, and a Zhou Mi leaning forward.

“You weren’t disappointed when you got to meet me?”

“Have you seen yourself in person?” Kyuhyun asked, totally serious. Zhou Mi’s eyebrows flew up and, seriously he had no idea what Zhou Mi even was thinking with that question. “Everything I ever thought about what you would be like was completely not enough. You were everything I thought, but way more. Just…more.”

What he’d known, really known, of Zhou Mi had been like trying to compare a standee that was pretty but made of cardboard to the real, breathing man in front of him. He’d probably find ways of articulating that to Zhou Mi but not in public and not right then when he was already flushing at having just said what he did.

Zhou Mi cooed at him, which made it worse, and two seconds later, Kyuhyun had to thrust out a napkin because food had dribbled down Zhou Mi’s chin. Zhou Mi took the napkin, and Kyuhyun’s fingers too, squeezing before dabbing at his face and making sure all was pristine to Kyuhyun’s satisfaction.

“You believe me that I wouldn’t let you sit there with some still left?” Kyuhyun asked, feeling a bit wicked.

Zhou Mi raised an eyebrow, running his fingers over his face and finding nothing left behind.

“I guess until you give me reason not to.”

“It was cute. But I like your face like it is.”

Zhou Mi’s lips curved, his calf rubbing against Kyuhyun’s, and they ate, and talked, relaxing into each other in subtle increments. The touching of their legs, brushing of fingers across the table as they traded phones to show off weird pictures or funny stories, Kyuhyun able to study Zhou Mi’s face instead of just skating across it. He liked seeing Zhou Mi enjoying the food, liked when his eyes lit up because he wanted to say something and couldn’t because his mouth was full. Of course, then there was the race to chew and swallow, swigging his tea and almost sputtering it as Kyuhyun covered up his own mouth because he was laughing too hard at the forty desperate faces Zhou Mi had just gone through.

“I’ll still be here when you’re ready to talk,” Kyuhyun reminded him.

It had just been a really important airport story he’d had to share was all. Kyuhyun enjoyed it, and Zhou Mi turning red. Though he enjoyed the food, too, even if he never really lost the feeling of being just a bit on edge.

“I want to buy you dessert, too,” Zhou Mi said, looking mournfully at the time on his phone. Like all their other meetings, it was snatching time between activities, time that probably carved out of other things that Zhou Mi could be doing. Maybe like sleeping. Kyuhyun glanced at him a little more sharply, but he didn’t look any more tired that he usually did. Which he wasn’t sure was good or bad.

Kyuhyun loitered while Zhou Mi paid. He’d buy something next time, he’d decided, and they’d barely even made it to the alley before a car was pulling up. And that, that marked the end.

Zhou Mi shuffled him into a hug, and Kyuhyun’s arms cooperated, hugging back like he ought to and being a bit amazed by Zhou Mi’s warmth even through his shirt.

“I’ll kiss you twice next time we’re alone,” Zhou Mi promised, quiet, nearly talking into his ear and clutching him a little tighter. Which was good, because it kept Kyuhyun from thinking of collapsing.

“Only twice,” Kyuhyun joked.

“Twice as much,” Zhou Mi said all prim. He waggled a finger as he let go and started to get into the car. “Don’t be greedy.”

“You’re the only reason I would be.”

Zhou Mi send him a brilliant smile, waving, sending out the world’s tiniest, fastest blown kiss as the car pulled away. Kyuhyun didn’t make a motion to catch it, but he did stand there like a statue of a baboon just taking things in. He half wished he’d already told someone about what had happened, the Big New Development in his life, but then again he wasn’t sure if any one single person had the time for him to spew out all of the varying thoughts in his head. Some of them were tangled like balls of yarn and others were going off like a fireworks display.

Though when it came right down to it, he’d been on a date, and he’d liked it. It made him pull out his phone, texting, “Good food, good to see you. Hope you’re free again soon!”

He amended it with dog emojis and a slice of pizza.

And then sent a second text almost immediately after, “Make sure to schedule plenty of rest.”

Dates were definitely second place to keeping away exhaustion. If he ever saw Zhou Mi post another picture because he was getting an IV drip it would be too soon.

“Yes, I will!” Zhou Mi replied back, clearly laughing at him through text. “Can I just pack you around in my bag?”

Kyuhyun snorted. “You would need more muscles for that.”

Zhou Mi sent him a pouting picture of him trying to flex and take a picture at the same time.

On a scale of one to ten, with one being completely unaffected, and ten being completely sunk, Kyuhyun was a zebra.

***

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