It wasn’t until Baekhyun said the name that a chilling fear crawled up Kyungsoo’s spine. He’d forgotten about Moonkyu, in the turmoil of his return. He stopped mid-slice, staring at Baekhyun.
“I didn’t realize he was still relevant,” Kyungsoo muttered icily, resuming the peeling of the mangos with a little too much vigor.
“Oh, for me he isn’t. But for you, unfortunately yes,” Baekhyun had started. He would go on to explain that Moonkyu had been feeding Jongin false information, spinning tall tales about Kyungsoo’s departure; breeding mistrust in Kyungsoo’s intentions when he and Jongin were together. With each comment Kyungsoo grew colder, glaring until Baekhyun had to ask him if he was going to murder the mango.
“Hyung I- I have to go,” he’d said, rinsing his hands and grabbing his keys, running out of the door before Baekhyun could process it.
Which was how he found himself standing in front of Jongin’s door, where he’d been glued for the past twenty minutes, unable to bring himself to knock. They’d seen each other twice since the weekend on the North Shore, and Jongin was polite without the icy reserve, though he was shyer than he used to be. He felt like a fool, pacing in front of Jongin’s door, so distracted by his thoughts he didn’t register the ding of the elevator.
“Hyung?” Jongin’s voice snapped him out of his thoughts. Kyungsoo swallowed hard, blushing.
“Huh? Oh, Jongin! Howzit? Fancy seeing you here,” Kyungsoo chuckled.
“Um, well, you’re in front of my apartment door,” said Jongin. Kyungsoo choked on his spit, clearing his throat to cover it up.
“Right. I was- am. But you’re busy, so I’ll be going now,” Kyungsoo waved, attempting to side-step Jongin but the grocery bags in Jongin’s hands blocked the way.
“How long were you waiting?” Jongin asked. Kyungsoo’s ears burned.
“I- I wasn’t waiting! For you. For anyone. Just checking out the-“
“Hyung,” Jongin raised an eyebrow, waiting for a flushed Kyungsoo to look at him.
“O-okay maybe I was waiting for you,” he admitted, scratching his neck. Jongin shifted a hip towards Kyungsoo.
“My keys are in that pocket,” Kyungsoo stared at him stupidly. “My hands are kinda full, hyung.”
“Oh, right,” Kyungsoo awkwardly extracted the keys from Jongin’s pocket, opening the door and stepping back to let Jongin in. The apartment was slightly messy, a hoody thrown across the sofa, and three socks thrown haphazardly across the living room floor, accompanied by several cups. Jongin placed the bags on the countertop after slipping off his shoes, running to pick up the strewn clothes and crusty cups, closing the door of his room with a sheepish grin.
“So,” he walked back to the kitchen, sifting through the groceries and organizing them, “Why’d you come over?” Kyungsoo pushed up his glasses, licking his lips.
“Oh, uh, no reason, really. I wanted to know how you were doing,” he said, biting his lip when Jongin gave him a quizzical look.
“You should’ve called first,”
“I meant so you wouldn’t have to wait for me,” Jongin paused, holding the cabbage, “I like having you over.” Kyungsoo’s head shot up, but Jongin had gone back to sorting the groceries, the fridge door blocking his view.
“Do you- I could cook, if you want,” said Kyungsoo, shifting his weight. Jongin peered at him over the fridge door, eyes twinkling.
“It’d be a crime to turn down your cooking,” said Jongin, grinning at him, “but we don’t have many options.”
“Didn’t you just go to the supermarket?” Kyungsoo asked, butting Jongin aside to look in the fridge. Jongin blushed, tugging on his ear.
“Ah, well, I mostly live off this stuff,” he held up a box of frozen food, his ears bright red when Kyungsoo gave him a horrified stare.
“My god, what have I done to you,” he said. Jongin laughed shyly, hiding the frozen food box behind him. “There’s no use hiding it now, throw that out.”
“But that’s my dinner for the week!” Jongin protested, holding the box out of reach. Kyungsoo rolled his eyes, grabbing the bag of rice and shoving it at Jongin.
“Make yourself useful, cook some rice,” Jongin took it with a sheepish grin, stuffing the frozen food box in the freezer before removing the lid of the rice cooker. Kyungsoo shuffled around the kitchen, setting up bowls and placing the scallions aside. “Where’s your kimchi?” Jongin pointed at an unlabeled jar on the door of the fridge. Kyungsoo took it gingerly, opening it to sniff it. “Where did you get this?”
“Oh, eomma- uh, your mom, gave it to me,” said Jongin, fiddling with the switch on the rice cooker. Kyungsoo’s soft “oh” was nearly lost under the clatter of the lid, Jongin’s sheepish grin making its return.
Kyungsoo went about cooking, squeezing the juice out of the kimchi, ordering Jongin to open up a can of spam, slicing the scallions thinly; the juice went into a bowl with the gochujang and the soy sauce, which Jongin was ordered to whisk while Kyungsoo heated the pan, kimchi browning until the apartment was fragrant with it. Jongin’s stomach growled, eliciting a giggle from both of them. Next was the spam, sizzling loudly. Kyungsoo waved at Jongin, hands outstretched for the bowl of rice for him to mix in. It was quiet for a while, just the sizzle of the pan and the movement of the spatula across it. Jongin watched him closely, leaning against the counter, and the weight of Jongin’s gaze made Kyungsoo fumble, nearly dropping the bowl as he poured the kimchi, gochujang, and soy sauce in. He gasped sharply. Jongin’s hands were steadying him, taking the bowl when he was done. The rice sizzled, and he was flushed, swallowing hard.
“Fry up the eggs, it’s almost done,” Kyungsoo snapped, but it was far less forceful than he’d wanted it to be. Jongin smiled, giggling when Kyungsoo snatched the egg out of his hand.
“I can fry an egg, hyung!”
“I don’t want eggshell in my rice,” he grumbled.
“Three years is long enough to learn to fry an egg,” Jongin grumbled back, peeling Kyungoo’s stubborn fingers back.
“Yah! Watch it, I’m gonna drop it,” Jongin just grinned, cheeks pink, as he took the egg and cracked it open. “Oh, you weren’t kidding.” Jongin threw his head back and laughed.
“Hyung, it’s an egg,” Heat crawled up Kyungsoo’s neck.
“Shut up,” he mumbled, serving the rice onto a plate. He sprinkled the scallions on top, sliding a fried egg on each plate (two for Jongin, the way he liked it).
“It smells so good,” Jongin moaned, grabbing a spoon and chopsticks, breaking the yolk of the eggs.
“Sit down first!” said Kyungsoo, taking the plate from under Jongin’s spoon. He followed closely, sidling up to Kyungsoo’s side and mixing the yolk into the rice. He moaned again, making Kyungsoo blush.
“I missed this so much,” he managed around the mouthful of rice.
“You could’ve cooked it yourself. It’s not that hard,” said Kyungsoo, blowing on the coil of steam that rose from his spoonful. Jongin shook his head, hissing.
“Ith hod,” he jiggled his knees, swallowing with a wince.
The rest of the meal was mostly quiet, though it was over quickly; Jongin had practically inhaled his plate, leaning back on the sofa with a sleepy smile. The clean up was slower; Kyungsoo felt odd, out of place now, drying the plates carefully. He watched all of Jongin’s movements, shifting his weight so he leaned away whenever Jongin got close. He squeaked when Jongin touched him.
“Uh, hyung, you’ve been drying that plate for the past minute,” said Jongin. Kyungsoo put the plate down hurriedly, wincing when it clattered, and threw the paper towel out.
“I- uh, I guess I’d better go now,” Kyungsoo chuckled, drying his hands on his pants. Jongin was quiet, his dark eyes boring into Kyungsoo.
“What if you stay?” Jongin asked. Kyungsoo choked on air, coughing until Jongin patted his back.
“You- really want me to?” Kyungsoo asked. Jongin gave him a half smile, closing the distance between them and wrapping his arms around Kyungsoo, burying his nose in Kyungsoo’s hair. It was unexpected, but everything Kyungsoo wanted, enveloped by Jongin’s scent and warmth. He melted against Jongin, closing his eyes and giggling when Jongin’s shoulder knocked his glasses askew. Jongin pulled back. “I should take these off.” Jongin chuckled, putting the glasses on the counter and pulling Kyungsoo towards the sofa, patting his lap. Kyungsoo settled in it, curling up against Jongin’s chest. Jongin’s slim fingers tangled themselves in Kyungsoo’s hair and he felt Jongin’s soft lips against his forehead. Jongin’s shirt was low cut, the triangle of golden skin teasing him until he placed a hand squarely at its center, feeling Jongin’s heartbeat under his fingers.
He hadn’t slept this well in years. Of course there were the nights after he returned to Oahu, sex-satiated and pliant after oof with Jongin, but it wasn’t quite the same; not when he was afraid to touch Jongin afterwards, afraid of driving him away again. That night, curled up against Jongin’s side (he would’ve liked to sleep on Jongin’s chest, but he’d jostled the piercing one too many times), the feeling of their bare skin and the rise and fall of Jongin’s breathing had lulled him to an unbroken sleep. The morning came and went, his phone buzzing, later Jongin’s, but they slept well past noon. He checked his phone groggily, rolling his eyes at Baekhyun’s texts, which grew progressively more lewd, and opted to respond to his mother’s text; Jongin rolled over, blinking blearily.
“Wha’timeizzit,” he slurred, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. Kyungsoo peered at his phone.
“1:25. Wow, we woke up late,” Kyungsoo chuckled, running his fingers through Jongin’s hair when the other groaned.
“Ten more minutes,” he mumbled, faceplanting into the pillow. Kyungsoo laughed.
“You have until I finish using the bathroom, then we’re going out,”
“Out?” Jongin squawked, staring at Kyungsoo’s back.
“Uh, yeah, we’ve already wasted a whole day,” he turned to look at Jongin, propping a hand on his hip. Jongin pouted, kicking his legs. “You’re such a baby.” Kyungsoo laughed, ignoring Jongin’s scowl.
Somehow, they left the apartment two hours later, Jongin still grumbling, and ate. The afternoon was cool, and the sun was already tinging the sky pink by the time they reached the park, shaved ices in hand. They walked slowly, kicking up sand with each step, and Jongin bumped into Kyungsoo playfully, grinning when Kyungsoo stumbled and blushed.
“Like beef?” Kyungsoo asked, frowning at Jongin, who laughed.
“Aw, c’mon hyung,” Jongin snickered, placing a wet kiss on Kyungsoo’s temple. “What’s with the stink eye?” Kyungsoo blushed, shrugging.
“It’s nothing,” said Kyungsoo, giggling when Jongin put his fists up.
“C’mon hyung, let’s scrap. See how tough New York made you,” he stretched his neck, bouncing on the balls of his feet.
“Stop that, before you get hurt,” said Kyungsoo, snorting when Jongin bumped into a palm tree.
“Laughing at my pain? Is that how it is?” Jongin asked, pulling Kyungsoo close and kissing the bridge of his nose. Kyungsoo blushed, snaking an arm around Jongin’s waist.
“You lolo,” said Kyungsoo, squawking when Jongin blew a raspberry on his cheek. They were reaching the beach now, and their giggles subsided. They sat under a palm tree (not a coconut palm, Kyungsoo had checked), the orange glow of the sky washing over them. Jongin rested his cheek on Kyungsoo’s head.
“I missed this,” he said softly, draping an arm around Kyungsoo’s shoulders. Kyungsoo felt tears prick his eyes, clearing his throat to keep them at bay.
“Me too,” he said quietly, sniffling. There was a lump in his throat, and it wouldn’t leave; his eyes still glittered with tears, but he didn’t want Jongin seeing him cry. He took off his glasses, wiping the tears under the pretense of rubbing his eyes.
“Allergies?” Jongin asked.
“Oh, no. Just got something in my eyes. Probably an eyelash,” said Kyungsoo, sniffling again and wiping his hand on his shorts. Jongin caressed Kyungsoo’s neck, then pulled his hand away, both of them suddenly shy. “It’s good to be back.” Jongin smiled at him.
“Guess the big city couldn’t compare to this little ole’ island,” Jongin joked, slipping his feet out of his sandals and burying them in the sand. Kyungsoo watched him, the grains alight with the colors of the sky, toes peeking.
“No, it doesn’t in the least. This is home,” he said softly, looking back out over the beach. The waves were growing, crashing noisily, crested with orange and red.
“Then welcome home,” said Jongin, reaching out to hold Kyungsoo’s hand. Their fingers slotted together, warm and familiar.Kyungsoo wanted to press himself to Jongin’s side, but he didn’t want to scare Jongin off, so he just squeezed Jongin’s hand lightly. A cool breeze blew from the water, sending a shiver down Kyungsoo’s back. Jongin’s warmth enveloped him; he looked at Jongin, who had wrapped an arm around Kyungsoo and pulled him close, but Jongin was looking out over the water.
“Thanks,” Kyungsoo said softly. Jongin smiled.
“I’m your sun boy, remember,” he said, just as softly. Kyungsoo inhaled sharply, frowning to keep the tears at bay. He suddenly felt much colder, but he couldn’t sidle closer to Jongin, not when guilty tears pricked his eyes. But he didn’t need to. Jongin pulled him closer, resting his cheek on Kyungsoo’s head. For the moment, as he had felt when he was on Jongin’s lap the night before, and as he had felt curled up by Jongin’s side on the bed, it was as if he hadn’t left; as if he’d stayed in Honolulu, carving out a life for them together, a step closer to planting their starfruit. Jongin still wore the pendant; he hadn’t taken it off since that weekend on the beach. Despite the spikes of guilt that made him nauseous, Kyungsoo had hope; with Jongin playing with his hair and kissing his temple, some of the guilt ebbed. He turned to look at Jongin, blushing when Jongin’s cheeks pinked too. There was a sad glimmer to Jongin’s eyes that made Kyungsoo’s stomach churn, but Jongin sniffled and kissed Kyungsoo’s forehead, pressing Kyungsoo’s cool cheek against his own, much warmer cheek. He felt the slight stubble grate against his skin, a smile forming on his lips when Jongin tangled his fingers in Kyungsoo’s hair, leaning down to kiss Kyungsoo’s neck. He shied away, blushing, and Jongin chased after him, catching him by the waist when Kyungsoo nearly fell over. He chuckled nervously, feeling all too raw under Jongin’s touch; but it wasn’t enough to keep him away, tucking himself under Jongin’s arms again to watch the sun drown spectacularly, the sky painted in orange and red, the far reaches of it pink until it met the inky blue of the night sky.
They returned to the apartment much later, with groceries (curated by Kyungsoo; he couldn’t possibly cook anything else with the garbage Jongin had bought, or so he said. This, of course, led to a race down the aisles that nearly ended in disaster, Jongin jerking back the cart mere inches from a tottering old woman), and Kyungsoo cooked while Jongin ran out to the corner store to buy slushies, though his was half finished by the time he returned. After they ate and cleaned up, they settled on the balcony, looking out over the traffic.
“You didn’t ever tell me why you came over,” said Jongin, gnawing on the straw. Kyungsoo sipped his drink noisily.
“Me wanting to see you isn’t a good enough reason?” Kyungsoo asked. Jongin smiled, but it didn’t reach his eyes.
“If it was that, you would’ve called. And you wouldn’t have tried playing it off,” said Jongin. The apartment was quiet now, the far off sound of cars honking and the breeze ruffling the curtains muffled. At last, Kyungsoo cleared his throat.
“Because you were talking to Moonkyu,” he said softly, avoiding Jongin’s gaze.
“Why do you care that I’m talking to him?” Jongin asked, though it wasn’t with malice. Kyungsoo fiddled with his straw, mixing the remnants of slush around.
“Because I don’t like him. All he ever does is talk stink about me,” said Kyungsoo, looking up at Jongin, whose face was unreadable, “and before you bring up me leaving, this has been happening since we became friends, and you know it.” Jongin looked away. “He’s always hated me, and I can’t even imagine what bullshit he tried to poison you with while I was gone.”
“Why do you care about what he said while you were gone?” Jongin asked quietly. “He’s my friend. He was worried about me.” Kyungsoo crushed the straw, fire in his eyes.
“He’s not your fucking friend, Jongin!” Jongin glared at him, lip curled in a snarl. “Would a friend talk stink about your boyfriend? Would a friend make you feel worse about something that’s not your fault-
“You’re just jealous-“
“Me? Jealous? He’s the jealous one, Jongin. All these years he’s been talking shit about me and it’s because he’s fucking pining over you,” Kyungsoo growled. Jongin’s eyes widened and he leaned back in his chair.
“He- oh,” Jongin hid his face behind his hands. “Oh god, oh- that’s why he’s always- I didn’t know why he- oh that- oh my god.” Kyungsoo stared at him.
“Jongin did you really not notice that he liked you?” He asked, so quietly he wasn’t sure Jongin had heard him, but Jongin’s nod answered him.
“I just thought he was bitter because he thought he was being replaced as my best friend. I didn’t think he- liked me,” Jongin propped his elbow on the armrest, staring at the condensation on Kyungsoo’s glass. They were quiet again.
“It’s getting kinda late,” said Kyungsoo, standing up.
“Right. Yeah,” Jongin stood up too, closing the balcony door when they walked in.
“I’m gonna- I’ve got papers to grade,” Kyungsoo stuttered.
“Do you want to meet for dinner tomorrow?” Jongin asked. Kyungsoo smiled.
“That sounds wonderful,” he said. Jongin looked relieved, hugging Kyungsoo and holding the door open.
“Wait-“ he pulled Kyungsoo back, giving him a deep kiss, before Kyungsoo stepped onto the elevator.