Characters/Pairings: QMi, Hanchul, Simin
Genre(s): Romance, fluff
Warnings: Zhou Mi being his dramatic flaily self
Author's Note: Almost 4000 words in two days! *victory dance* I'm sorry your original author had to drop, static_abyss, but I'm really glad I got to write this story!! I had a lot of fun with your prompts! Much thanks again to my dear beta, greyplain, who puts up with me blowing her off for QMi and then spazzes with me over how silly Zhou Mi is. I hope you enjoy this!
“Thank you for coming!” Zhou Mi calls, bowing as his last customers of the day close the door of the coffeeshop after themselves with a tinkle. He leans back against the counter behind him with a sigh, closing his eyes and rubbing his neck tiredly. One of the part-time high school boys called in with bad food poisoning, and he hadn’t been able to find anyone to pick up his shift on such short notice, so he’d been forced to manage the afternoon and evening rush one employee short.
Now it’s only him, as it always is at closing, and the Chinese man can take his time counting out the register and cleaning up. He usually enjoys the evenings just for this reason, but tonight he’s too tired to appreciate it. It’s amazing the difference one slightly awkward high school student can make in the smoothness of his day.
The door tinkles again, and Zhou Mi’s eyes open at the sound of a rich, smooth voice saying, “One mocha cappuccino, please.”
A man is standing in front of the counter, chocolate brown hair flopping over his forehead in a way that’s obviously unstyled. His dark, sober eyes peek out from under the edge of his fringe, making Zhou Mi feel a little off-balance, and his face is very attractive. He’s tall, but not as tall as Zhou Mi, whose friends affectionately call him ‘beanpole’. Even though he’s a couple years older and several centimeters taller than this man, Zhou Mi feels awkward and ill at ease, as though the customer can see into his mind and read his every thought. His clothes, while casual, are very good quality, and the self-proclaimed fashion hound brushes his hands self-consciously along his long black apron, tugging his plain white shirt into place.
“One mocha cappuccino,” he says as he stands straight and moves to the register. He fumbles his Korean for the first time in a long time, and can feel his ears heat up. “For here or to go?” The man replies that it’s for here, and Zhou Mi rings him up. “Will that be all, sir?”
“Yes.” The man pays silently and then stands at the counter, dark eyes following Zhou Mi’s movements as he turns on the espresso maker and pulls out the chocolate syrup. Zhou Mi wishes he wouldn’t; he’s suddenly deathly afraid that he’s going to drop a mug and spill scalding coffee everywhere. “No other customers?” the man says finally.
Zhou Mi looks up and offers him a wide smile. “No,” he says, carefully measuring out the appropriate amount of chocolate. “We close at eight, and most of our late-night clientele are regulars, so they make sure to clear out on time.”
The man’s eyebrows rose slightly, and he glances over at the large clock hanging on the wall, clearly displaying the time: 8:16. “Why did you let me in, then? You’ve already closed for the night.”
Zhou Mi’s mouth tips up at the corner, and he turns his back and shakes a container carefully over the top of the man’s drink. “Well, yes, but I hadn’t locked up or shut down the register yet, so there’s no harm done.” He turns and slides the mug and its saucer across the counter. “There you go, one mocha cappuccino.” He bows slightly as the young man picks it up with a nod and moves a couple steps to one of the round tables lining the walls.
Zhou Mi takes a deep breath and begins cleaning up behind the counter. It’s just like any other customer who comes in right before closing, he tells himself. They’ll sit and drink while he cleans, and when he’s done, if they haven’t left already, he’ll ask them politely to finish up and leave.
He sneaks a glance at the customer, who’s gazing out the dark window, mug halfway to his mouth as though he’d had a thought that made him forget about taking a sip.
The fact that this man is incredibly, devastatingly attractive and just Zhou Mi’s type should not make any sort of difference.
Zhou Mi wishes, for the first time, that the café were a little bigger. Normally he likes the cozy, intimate feel of the small space, tables and a few squashy armchairs scattered throughout with just enough room to walk between, but now he’s acutely aware of the man’s presence as he wipes down tables and puts the chairs on top so that he can sweep.
“Oh,” the young man says, surprised, and Zhou Mi turns, bumping a little table with his elbow. “This is really good. You sprinkled cinnamon on it?”
“Yes,” Zhou Mi says, heart speeding up slightly. “It’s a, um, house specialty. Most of our drinks are specialized in some way. It’s one reason why we’re so popular.” Now he sounds like he’s bragging. Zhou Mi closes his mouth and turns back to his sweeping, managing to knock a chair off of its table but luckily catching it before it made too much noise. His face is so hot he can feel it sting against the cooler air of the café.
“Well,” the young man says, “it’s very good.”
“Thank you,” Zhou Mi replies, managing a smile.
They are quiet after that, Zhou Mi cleaning up carefully and the man sipping his drink in silence. Finally Zhou Mi hears the clink of an empty mug set in its saucer and the rustle as the man stands.
“Thank you for the coffee,” he says, and Zhou Mi turns, startled, to see him standing suddenly much closer than before, and smiling. His knees go weak. “It was very good.” Then he turns and walks out the door, the bell tinkling in the silence.
Zhou Mi collapses back against the table behind him, sending it rocking.
Help, he texts Han Geng in Chinese, his ability to speak in Korean completely gone, I think I’m lost.
“So let me get this straight,” Geng says, spinning idly on one of the tall counter stools and completely ignoring the open sketchbook in front of him, “you forgot to lock the door after the last customer left last night, and so Tall Dark and Dreamy walks in—”
“You make it sound so torrid,” Zhou Mi grumbles, wiping down the espresso machine moodily.
Geng ignores this. “Tall Dark and Dreamy walks in, asks you for a mocha cappuccino in a voice of sex—”
“—And then drinks it and watches you make a fool of yourself cleaning up.” Geng fixes Zhou Mi with a stare. “Did I miss anything?”
“No,” Zhou Mi pouts, now moving to reorganize clean glasses so that he can empty the dishwasher. “You got all the facts right, but—”
Again, Geng ignores him. “But you don’t know his name, he’s never come in here before, and you have no way of finding him again.” He sighs. “Mi, you’re stupid. At least ask his name.”
“Like you’re one to talk,” Zhou Mi scoffs, clinking the glasses together petulantly. “How many years have you been in love with that guy’s artwork, even though he hasn’t come out with anything new in what, three years? And you even moved to Seoul to take art lessons and open a studio, just in the off chance that you’ll be able to meet him?”
Geng smiles, a shark smile. “But Mimi,” he croons, spinning a little faster on his stool, “I am going to meet him. Tomorrow. Here.”
Zhou Mi gapes. “No way! You finally found someone who didn’t hate his guts and got his contact info?”
“Indeed I did,” Geng chuckles slightly evilly. “I’m finally going to meet Kim Heechul,” he sighs, his spinning slowing to a stop as he gets lost in thought. “I hope he’s nice.”
“Don’t drool on my counter,” Zhou Mi says blandly, now turning the canisters of specialty tea so that the labels all face out at exactly the same angle. The door tinkles and Zhou Mi turns, a welcome ready on his lips, before his eyes widen and he freezes. “Geng,” he hisses, leaning flat on the counter, “That’s him!” He pops up just in time to smile at his mystery man as he reaches the counter. “Hi, what can I get for you today?”
The man gives a small smile back, eyes drifting just slightly to Han Geng, who is sitting back on his stool, arms crossed, and eyeing him without any pretense of shame. Zhou Mi really wishes he could kick him through the counter. “I’ll get today’s special for here.”
“One peppermint vanilla latte coming up,” Zhou Mi says, ringing it up. “Anything else?”
The man seems to stutter for a moment, and Zhou Mi tilts his head to the side curiously. “No,” he says finally, “that’s it.”
“3,300 won,” Zhou Mi says, and takes his money, handing him the receipt. “I’ll bring it out to you in just a moment.”
The man nods, giving Han Geng one more quick glance, before moving to one of the squashy armchairs in front of the open glass windows at the front of the store.
Geng watches him go, and then swivels back to face Zhou Mi. “Wow,” he says. “That was possibly one of the most awkward things I’ve ever seen.”
“Shut up,” Zhou Mi mutters, ears burning a bright red. “Was I blushing the whole time?”
“Yup.” Han Geng watches in fascination as the blush spreads down the back of Zhou Mi’s neck and into his collar.
“Just kill me now.” Zhou Mi makes his mystery man’s coffee with careful hands, and then just as carefully carries it out to him. “Here you go,” he says with a shy smile, “one peppermint vanilla latte.” He hands it to him and hovers for a moment, trying to think of a topic of conversation, before strategically retreating behind the counter before he can embarrass himself any further.
“Why don’t you just ask him for his number?” Han Geng says absently, taking the final sip of his coffee (black with a shot of caramel syrup) and sketching out what looks like the outline of the shelves behind the counter in his book.
“Keep your voice down!” Zhou Mi hisses, glancing fearfully over to the man’s chair, but he doesn’t seem to be paying them any attention, looking out onto the busy street instead. Zhou Mi feels a moment of irrational disappointment and mentally punches himself in the face.
Geng shoots him an unimpressed look. “We’re speaking Mandarin, Mi.”
“You never know,” Zhou Mi mumbles.
Zhou Mi’s mystery man comes in every single day that week, and always orders something different. His regulars are starting to notice and give him knowing looks.
Han Geng meets his artist obsession, an effeminate man with (as far as Zhou Mi can tell) the prickliest attitude of anybody he’s ever met. Zhou Mi does his best not to hover as they sip coffee and talk in the corner, but in a café as intimate as this one, it’s harder than it should be.
Things seem to be going relatively well for Geng, and so Zhou Mi can only draw comparisons to his own situation. He still doesn’t know the man’s name, where he works, his age, or really anything about him. And he can’t think of any way to ask that doesn’t come off as creepy or vaguely stalkerish.
He’s pondering the situation as he preps the café for opening that Saturday, opening the windows for some fresh autumn air and sweeping the front walkway clear of fallen leaves. His name at least should be easy to figure out…
“Um, hello,” a voice says, and Zhou Mi jumps, most definitely not squeaking at all as he turns to face his mystery man, eyes wide. His brown hair is more tousled than usual, as if he’s been running his fingers through it, and his dark eyes look up at Zhou Mi apologetically. “Sorry if I scared you. Am I too early?”
“Oh,” Zhou Mi says, clinging onto his power of speech as it tries desperately to run away, “No, I was just opening—please, come in.” He gestures at the door and smiles. The man smiles back and enters the café, and Zhou Mi takes a deep breath to calm himself before he follows.
The café is awkwardly silent after that. Zhou Mi tries to think of something to say but comes up completely blank, and is pathetically glad when the door tinkles again and he turns to see two of his Saturday regulars.
“Zhou Mi!” Sungmin smiles, entering through the door his partner Siwon holds open for him. Siwon and Sungmin come into the café every Saturday morning, order the same thing, and then sit and read (Siwon the New York Times, Sungmin an ever-changing book) for an hour before leaving again. Zhou Mi thinks they’re the absolute cutest couple he’s ever seen, because they do all of the cute couple things without even realizing they’re doing it. Today Sungmin is wearing one of Siwon’s sweaters and a scarf Zhou Mi had seen on Siwon last week.
“How are you?” Sungmin continues, leaning on the counter as Siwon comes up behind him and settles an absent hand in the small of his back. “Anything interesting happen this week?”
Zhou Mi smiles, already beginning to make their usual drinks without being asked. “You know me, Sungmin-sshi,” he says. “All work and no play. How about you? How was your week?”
Sungmin shrugs, taking the drinks as Siwon pulls out his wallet to pay. “Good. Siwon’s trying to convince me to go visit his family for the holidays. They always have a big party.” He leans in, eyes dancing. “They don’t like me very much,” he whispers conspiratorially.
“They like you fine, Sungmin,” Siwon says patiently, clearly used to this. “They just think I would be better off finding a girl to marry.”
Sungmin waves his hand. “Exactly!”
Siwon smiles and turns to go sit, suddenly stopping in surprise. “Kyuhyun!” he says, startled.
Zhou Mi’s mystery man stands and bows, hair flopping over his forehead. “Hello, Siwon-sunbae.”
Kyuhyun, Zhou Mi’s mind squeaks.
“Someone you know?” Sungmin asks, going to Siwon’s side and taking his arm.
Siwon smiles. “Kyuhyun’s my junior at the company. I didn’t know he lived near here.” Kyuhyun bows again.
Kyuhyun, Zhou Mi’s mind squeaks.
Sungmin smiles. “Nice to meet you,” he says politely, taking a seat at one of the two-person tables. Siwon joins him.
Zhou Mi faces the back wall, leaning his hip against the counter so that no one can see his face. He can feel a ridiculous smile breaking out. Kyuhyun. His name is Kyuhyun.
Cho Kyuhyun works as a junior member of a company close by, has a few very close friends but not many casual friends, and never drinks his coffee black. This is all Zhou Mi knows at the end of a month, and he’s getting frustrated. He’s afraid that if he asks Kyuhyun to do something with him outside of the café, he’ll be seen as a weird employee, get sued for harassment, and never see Kyuhyun again.
Han Geng thinks he’s stupid, but Han Geng is in the weirdest rival-lover relationship ever with that artist Kim Heechul, so he can’t talk.
Things might have gone on like that forever if a catalyst hadn’t appeared in the form of someone whom Zhou Mi would give anything to never see again.
The bell over the door tinkles its cheerful welcome, and Zhou Mi turns from where he’s gathering dirty mugs onto a tray, an equally-cheerful welcome dying on his lips as he sees who has entered. His smile fades and his eyes narrow, a dull pain flashing through his heart.
“How can I help you?” he asks coldly, gripping the tray of dirty mugs against his stomach as he turns to face his ex-boyfriend completely.
“Zhou Mi,” Moon Jaekyung says, smiling nervously as he stands just inside the door, “how are you?”
“I’m just fine, thank you for asking,” Zhou Mi says stiffly. “Can I get you anything, or did you come here just to ask inane questions?” He turns to escape behind the counter, where he feels safe.
“Wait, Zhou Mi,” Jaekyung says, and a hand closes around Zhou Mi’s wrist, jerking him to a halt and almost making him drop his tray of mugs. “Just let me—”
Another hand closes around Jaekyung’s, squeezing hard enough to make Jaekyung yelp and let go of Zhou Mi. “Don’t touch him,” Kyuhyun says, eyes hard, crowding into Jaekyung’s space and making him take a step back from Zhou Mi.
“What the fuck!” Jaekyung snaps, holding his wrist against his chest and glaring at the two of them. Zhou Mi feels like he can’t get enough air. “Who the fuck is this, Zhou Mi? Your new twink?”
“Why does it matter to you?” Zhou Mi snaps angrily, rallying. “Why are you even here, Jaekyung? You’re the one who broke up with me and cut all contact!”
Jaekyung sneers, trying to salvage his pride. “I’ll be back,” he says, shooting a nasty look at Kyuhyun.
“Don’t bother,” Zhou Mi shoots at his back, and lets out a sigh of relief as the door tinkles shut, sagging back against a table. “Thank you, Kyuhyun.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Kyuhyun replies, glaring after Jaekyung before turning to face Zhou Mi. “You okay?”
Zhou Mi nods, clutching his tray as if something terrible will happen if he relaxes. “Bad breakup,” he says shortly, standing straight and moving to set the tray down by the dishwasher. He gives the high school student working the cash register a reassuring smile, but he doesn’t think it helps, because the poor kid’s eyes are still wide and scared. Kyuhyun follows him to the counter.
“Anything I can do to help?” he asks. Zhou Mi sets his tray down with a little more force than he intended.
“Actually, yes,” he says, because he’s sick of waiting and fearing and hoping. He turns to face Kyuhyun. “You can take me out tonight, if you’re free for dinner. I get off work at eight thirty.”
Kyuhyun’s eyes widen, making him look adorably lost. “Um, what?”
Zhou Mi’s insides are a hot mess of fear, but he keeps his voice steady. “Dinner. Unless my crazy ex has scared you off?”
Kyuhyun shakes his head dazedly. “Um, no…”
“You don’t like men?” Zhou Mi persists.
Kyuhyun shakes his head again, a smile now growing on his lips. “No, I do like men. And I’d love to take you out to dinner tonight.” His cheeks are a little flushed.
Zhou Mi smiles back, sure he’s a little flushed himself. “Okay. Meet me here at eight thirty?”
“Okay.” Kyuhyun smiles at him again and then goes to sit back down, staring at his book with a little smile on his face.
The silence is broken by the high school student. “The most interesting things happen whenever I work here.”
Kyuhyun takes him out to Thai food, and Zhou Mi has a fantastic time. They’re both a little awkward, and both a little smitten, so the conversation jumps all over the place. But the food is excellent, and Kyuhyun hasn’t disappointed Zhou Mi once so far, and so by the time they arrive at Zhou Mi’s door his stomach is squirming at the thought of what he wants to do.
“I had a great time tonight,” he says, turning to face Kyuhyun on his doorstep. The light from the streetlamp casts Kyuhyun’s face in warm gold, and his breath gusts out into the cold air in curls of smoke.
“So did I,” Kyuhyun says, dark eyes intent on Zhou Mi’s face. “I’ll see you tomorrow at the café?”
Zhou Mi nods and, before he can lose his nerve, leans in. Kyuhyun’s lips are warm in the chilly fall night, and he takes in a quick breath before shifting and kissing Zhou Mi back, hands rising to grip the taller man’s sides and pull him closer.
Zhou Mi has to take a moment to collect himself when they pull back, smiling into Kyuhyun’s eyes. “I’ve wanted to do that since almost the first day you walked into the café.”
“Me too,” Kyuhyun rasps, nudging in closer but not kissing Zhou Mi again. “You need to go inside. I don’t trust myself to not ask to come in if we continue.”
Zhou Mi laughs and steals another kiss. “Okay. Goodnight, Kyuhyun. Thanks for the date.”
He opens his door and watches as Kyuhyun walks down the street.
“Something happened,” Han Geng says suspiciously the next day as Zhou Mi floats around the shop, humming and beaming and generally doing an excellent impression of a ray of sunshine. “What. Don’t tell me. You got laid?”
Zhou Mi smacks his arm lightly as he sails out to deliver someone’s coffee to their table. “Of course not,” he sings, wiping down another table quickly.
The door tinkles before Han Geng can make another guess, and Zhou Mi turns, his smile gaining even more intensity as Kyuhyun walks in. “Good afternoon!” he says, walking over. “What can I get you today?”
Kyuhyun smiles back, making Zhou Mi’s cheeks go slightly pink. “I’ll take today’s special, please.”
“Okay,” Zhou Mi beams, and reluctantly returns behind the counter to fix Kyuhyun’s drink. Geng stares at him.
“Shoot me now,” he announces. “You went on a date, didn’t you?”
Zhou Mi hums, ignoring him. Kyuhyun takes a seat at the counter and watches Zhou Mi make his drink.
“I think I’m going to be sick from all of the rainbows and hearts floating in the air,” Geng groans, finishing his coffee and standing, shrugging on his coat. He claps Kyuhyun on the shoulder. “Good job finally getting him to shut up about you, and if you hurt him I will disembowel you using the most creative methods I can come up with. Call me later, Mi.” The door tinkles behind him.
Zhou Mi gives Kyuhyun his drink.
“So,” Kyuhyun says, stirring his drink and staring down into the brown liquid, “I was thinking. I know we’ve only gone out once, but we’ve known each other for a while now, and I was wondering if you’d consider dating me seriously? Be…” he clears his throat. “Being my boyfriend.”
Zhou Mi stares, and then beams. “I think that’s a fantastic idea.”
Kyuhyun smiles back happily, and takes a sip of his coffee.
This entry was originally posted at http://sujuexchange.dreamwidth.org/2085