“... Excuse me?”
There’s a boy with yellow hair leering at Kibum, and he is not okay with it.
The library is usually pretty quiet during his shift, eight to three AM Monday through Thursday. Taemin comes in on Tuesdays and Thursdays to help out, but for the most part no one really bothers him. This late it’s only terrified comp students and the honors freshmen terrified about not making the dean’s list. And now, apparently, creepy attractive fratbros and their 1950s pickup lines.
The boy with the yellow hair leans against the check-out counter, his teeth sparkling and his collar popping. “I said, can you check out these books for me?” He slides his card across the counter.
“I’m pretty sure that’s not what you said,” says Kibum slowly, scanning his card. He isn’t sure what’s going on. Is fratbro hitting on him or being really weirdly homophobic?
“Maybe that’s because your good looks have made you deaf.”
“That doesn’t even make sense.” Kibum stamps the book and slides it over across the table to fratbro, hoping he’ll take that as a cue to leave. He’s really too tired to deal with this.
“Think about it, sweetheart. It’ll come to you.” He grins at Kibum, waggles his eyebrows a little, and walks away. Kibum stares after him, dumbstruck.
“... Don’t call me sweetheart,” he manages a few minutes later. By then he’s alone.
The boy with the yellow hair is stalking him.
That’s what Taemin says. “He only shows up to your shifts,” his coworker excitedly explains, “and I swear to God, half an hour after you get off work he always leaves.” The freshman’s eyes gleam. “Kibum, you have a stalker.”
“Taemin, the library closes half an hour after I get off work,” Kibum responds, rolling his eyes. “And he’s not stalking me - look, he’s studying right now! He hasn’t looked up once in the last half hour!”
“How do you know that, Kibummie?” asks Taemin, his smile deceptively innocent.
Kibum stamps his forehead with an overdue sticker.
Then again, the boy with the yellow hair shows up five minutes after his shift starts every day that week.
Kibum never catches him watching back.
“His name,” announces Taemin, “is Jonghyun.”
Kibum doesn’t look up. “How could you possibly know that.”
“Minho-hyung is in his frat,” Taemin shrugs, printing off a hold slip. “I saw them together at the student center yesterday and later I asked him who he is. Kim Jonghyun, he’s in Sigma Chi, he’s a philosophy major and he’s super gay. Like, you-gay.” He puts the hold slip into the wrong book.
Kibum rescues the book, swatting Taemin on the shoulder with it. “First, you’re not allowed to use me as a gay classifier anymore. Second, look at him.” Kim Jonghyun is drooling on his textbook; with every snore a little bit of his hair falls into his mouth. It’s not cute at all.
“That is so cute,” Taemin says.
Kibum hates Taemin.
Kibum doesn’t really know why he hangs out with Taemin’s friends. Well, okay, he gets Jinki, because he and Kibum are childhood best friends and apparently that isn’t magically negated by college, but he really doesn’t get why he hangs out with Minho. Or why Minho hangs out with Taemin. Or why Minho exists, actually. He’s told Minho all of this before. Minho didn’t respond.
They’re in Taemin’s dorm room, spread out across bunk bed and desktop and bean-bag chair on the floor. Taemin’s roommate is terrified of Kibum, so he’s never around when they come over. Kibum lounges across his bed, listening to Taemin excitedly tell Jinki about the girl in his Intro to Jazz Dance section he’s sort of seeing. Jinki is listening really patiently, really excitedly. Kibum is falling asleep.
“Jonghyun,” says Minho, right next to his ear. Kibum sits up so fast he bangs his head against the bedframe.
“Motherfucker!” he yelps, whipping around to glare at the mop-headed freak. “Are you human? Are you legitimately a living, breathing human being?” He rubs the back of his head, glaring at Taemin and Jinki until they resume their conversation, with slightly softer voices. He turns the glare to Minho, who is unrepentant, the bastard. “What did you say?”
“Jonghyun,” he repeats. “Taemin says you were asking about him. Why?”
“That fucking kid- I wasn’t asking about him, it was Taemin that’s making such a big deal about it.” Minho continues to stare. “I don’t know, he comes in every day during my shift and leaves when I get off work. According to Taemin, that means he’s in love with me.” He glares at Minho, feeling rushed and stupid and vulnerable. He hates all three of those things. “That’s it.”
Minho blinks, once. And then he does something Kibum has never seen him do. He smiles.
“You’re the library kid,” he says softly, nodding to himself. “I thought it might be Taeminnie but Jjong’s never really gone for that type...”
“What are you talking about?” Kibum snaps, now irritated beyond belief. It doesn’t help that Jinki and Taemin are now giving this conversation their full attention.
Minho shrugs, putting too much lanky grace into such a small gesture. “There’s this ‘library nerd’ - his words, not mine - Jonghyun’s been caught up in for like, half a month. It’s all he talks about at the house, it’s annoying everyone. We didn’t know who it was but,” he smiles, a little too mocking, “I guess I figured that one out.”
Kibum stares at him, too shocked to say anything. Behind him, Taemin laughs, delighted.
“See, Kibum! I told you you have a stalker! A love stalker.” Jinki high fives him. Kibum wants to punch something.
Kibum spends his two days off in this weird state of panic-fear. He texts Jinki once every five minutes before he goes to work, varying between ugh this is so stupid he looks like such a tool to WHAT IF HE TALKS TO ME OH MY GOD PICK UP YOUR PHONE YOU DICK. Ten minutes into his shift, Jinki texts back lol ditch work and come to the pool with me :D
He spends the first hour of work trying not to get himself into a nervous panic. This is stupid, he tells himself. He nervously drums his fingers against the desk, watching the clock tick by so painfully slowly. Forty-five minutes. An hour. An hour and ten minutes. He doesn’t show up, and Kibum’s heartbeat attempts a return to normalcy.
“Excuse me,” someone says, and Kibum looks up.
Kim Jonghyun is really gorgeous from up close. Really, stupidly gorgeous, and Kibum thinks everyone is ugly. He kind of thought he was nice-looking, in a lopsided sort of way when he could only see him in profile, but up close and personal - if Kibum was the heroine in a 1920s Hollywood romance his breath would be taken completely away.
“Uh,” he replies.
Kim Jonghyun laughs. He’s wearing those Polo's Minho is disturbingly fond of (the collar is unpopped, thankfully) and he has on this cologne that makes Kibum think of his ex-boyfriend, a month before he decided he was straight. His smile is kind of crooked, and he has this awkward but charming dimple on his cheek, and Kibum is internally monologuing about his good looks. This is not the person he wants to be.
“Yeah,” he says, “I, uh, I was wondering if you could help me. Find some books, I mean.”
“Uh,” Kibum repeats. His coworker side-eyes him from her desk, and he kickstarts himself back into the land of the not-internally-monologuing-about-Kim-Jon
Jonghyun laughs again. It’s charmingly attractive. Kibum tries not to remember what Minho said about him. He can’t. “I have this paper due soon on, um, French Modernists? I, uh, I don’t even have a topic and it’s sort of due tomorrow, so, just, any books would be pretty good.”
Kibum blinks. “Oh, I’m an art history major. I could help you, if you want.” Three seconds after the words are out of his mouth he realises what he’s said. His mouth hangs open for a few seconds too long. He’s pretty sure Jonghyun notices. He wrenches it shut.
“Oh, dude, that would be so great,” Jonghyun says, leaning back as though the force of his enthusiasm has propelled him backwards. “Seriously, that would be so fucking amazing. When do you get off?”
Kibum glances at the clock. Say ten hours, say never! “Three hours? If that’s too long-”
“No, that’s awesome! I have to do some other last-minute homework too,” and then a little cocky smile, his fratboy inheritance, “so I can wait around just over- over there?” He gestures to the tables where he always sits. “I’m Jonghyun, by the way, uh, Kim Jonghyun.”
“Oh, yeah,” Kibum says, scrambling for words, “I’m, uh, Kibum.”
Jonghyun smirks again. “I know.” He smiles at Kibum for just a moment longer before turning around and walking - strutting - back to his seat. He looks at the clock, grins, and turns his head down to his textbook.
Nicole whistles behind him. “Jesus, Kibum, looks like you just got a date.”
“Go fuck yourself,” Kibum mutters, placing his head in his hands. He doesn’t understand what force of nature possessed him to do what he just did. He wants to blame Taemin - maybe say he took control of his body by Minho-aided witchery - but he knows it’s all his fault. Because Jonghyun has really nice eyes. And Jonghyun maybe likes him. And Kibum hasn’t been liked in a really long time.
“Motherfucker,” he mutters, and glances at the clock.
Nicole shoos him off half an hour before his shift is over - “Sweetie, sex over a paycheck every time.” - but Kibum is too nervous to approach Jonghyun’s table before the dreaded study date. Jonghyun must have been watching him again, though, because right as he’s about to slink off to hide in the stacks, a bundle of yellow, Polo and Old Spice is accosting him.
“Hey!” Jonghyun says, leaning uncomfortably close, “you ready to do this?” Kibum looks at his mouth, and back up into Jonghyun’s eyes. Too close.
“Uh, sure,” he says, and Jonghyun beams.
An hour later, though, and Kibum is starting to feel like he’s been tricked.
Jonghyun’s paper is pretty much finished - “I mean, I banged out a first draft last week but I feel like there’s more to be done,” he says, as Kibum reads over a ten page masterpiece on Manet.
He’s much more interested in talking about Kibum - asking him where’s he’s from, why he decided to come here instead of his local school, what his favorite shows are, who his favorite bands are, has he seen that new action movie that just came out, one of his buddies told him it was really awesome and he’s been dying to check it out. Kibum tries to throw in a few weak questions - do you think your thesis is strong enough, why not expand here - but Jonghyun throws them off easily, instead focusing on what’s important - so where do you live? You should definitely stop by the house sometime, I’m a senior so I have one of the biggest rooms. Hey, if you want we can go there now, maybe get some studying done there-
Kibum holds his hand up, cutting off that particular strain of thought. “Jonghyun,” he says, “you’re trying to hit on me, aren’t you.”
Jonghyun blinks at him. “Wow,” he says, “you’re like, the worst gay guy ever.”
The tip of his foot begins to rub Kibum’s ankle.
Kibum leaves without a word.
The next day at work, Taemin is disappointed.
“I can’t tell you why I’m disappointed,” Taemin says, glaring at Kibum as he slams a book shut, “because then you won’t learn. Kibum.”
“It’s Jonghyun, isn’t it,” Kibum says. Taemin doesn’t reply, but the redness of his ears gives everything away. “Taemin, he tried to seduce me with art essays. I am not going to sleep with someone who tries to seduce me with art essays.”
“You don’t have sleep with him, you just have to be swept away on a magically romantic adventure!”
“I feel like that would involve sleeping with him at one point?”
“Well yes, but by then you’ll be too blind with magical romance to notice!”
Kibum sighs. “Look, what would you do? He creeps on me for a week and then uses academic probation as an excuse to molest my feet. Not really a turn-on.” He shrugs, picking up a stack of discarded books. “Even if I did ever want to see him again, I doubt he would. I walked out on him fast enough.”
Taemin bites his lip, not meeting his eyes. Kibum tenses. “Taemin...” he says, “Taemin, what did you do?” Taemin is silent. Kibum leans in and down, forcing Taemin to meet his eyes. “Taemin.”
“Um,” he says. And then, so fast and quiet that if Kibum wasn’t almost pressed against him nose-to-nose he wouldn’t be able to hear: “I kind of told Minho that you wanted to ask him out to lunch.”
Kibum goes very, very still. Taemin looks up, doing that wide and eager eyes thing he knows Kibum usually can’t resist. (Usually.) “I mean we’re coming too and it’s just, Minho said Jonghyun looked really sad last night and I just, I wasn’t really thinking- And I thought it might be nice-”
Kibum sighs again. “When did you tell Minho we would meet them?”
“Um. 11:30?” Kibum looks at the clock. 11:25.
“Motherfuck...” He looks at Taemin, who has visibly wilted. “I swear to god, if you ever pull anything like this again you are not getting a Christmas present. Now let’s go, I’ll stay for five minutes and then we’re coming back.” He pauses, and smiles. “And you can sort the card catalog for the rest of the shift.”
Taemin’s expression is almost worth it.
They’re already waiting in the cafeteria. Minho has about five platefuls of pasta, and Jonghyun has a tiny salad that takes up a third of the plate. Kibum raises his eyebrows at him; Jonghyun shrugs.
“Hey!” Taemin chirps, sliding into the booth. “Sorry we’re running late. Hyung, that’s so much food, do you have a game soon or something?” He and Minho quickly fall into a loud, eager conversation about soccer. Taemin, thinks Kibum, is a bastard. He knows Kibum doesn’t care about soccer, and from Jonghyun’s expression neither does he.
Or maybe he just thinks staring really intently at Kibum’s lips is more interesting.
“Seriously,” says Kibum, poking at his own lasagna with an expression of distaste, “if you want to fuck just say so.”
“Would that work?” asks Jonghyun curiously.
Kibum pauses. “Well, no.”
“Didn’t think so.” Jonghyun begins to shred a piece of lettuce. “But no, is the answer.”
Kibum tilts his head. Jonghyun does that smirk thing, except it’s more of a smile this time. “I don’t just want to fuck. Minho said he told you what I said. I’m crushing on the cute librarian, I’m not lusting for him. I mean, there is a certain amount of lust in that crush but, it’s only like, 40 percent of it.” He pauses. “Okay, 45.”
A small smile threatens Kibum’s frown, but he forces his mouth into a straight line. “That’s attractive.”
Jonghyun tilts his head, resting his cheek against his hand. “I’d like to think so.”
“I’m sure you would,” Kibum mutters, glancing down at his own tray. Suddenly, he isn’t hungry. “Look, I really am flattered, but I’m not...” He pauses, looking at Jonghyun. Oh, God, his face. He is about to reject a person with that face. “... Interested.”
Jonghyun, oddly, doesn’t look put out. If anything, he only looks more amused. “What, in men? I’m sorry, Kibum, but - dude, you’re really fucking gay.”
There’s a beat. “... I can’t tell if that’s homophobic or just stupid,” Kibum replies slowly.
“Maybe both?” Taemin interjects. Kibum shoots him a look, and he quickly dives back into arguing whether Jose Mourinho is the best thing to have happened to soccer or the devil in a three-piece suit.
“No, I mean, I definitely go for the cock,” says Jonghyun, voice deepening a little on the last word, “but you... man, you go for the cock. You know?”
“... That was the most eloquent thing I’ve ever heard,” Kibum says after a moment. Jonghyun laughs. Kibum can’t stop a small smile from curling the edges of his mouth. “No, I mean, okay, I am ‘really fucking gay’,” he fingerquotes, “but I don’t go for fratguys.”
Jonghyun raises his eyebrows. “That’s stereotyping.”
Kibum raises his own back. “Have you done anything to prove me wrong?”
To his credit, Jonghyun looks a little bashful. “Alright, no. But we’ve interacted what, twice? You’re really gonna judge me on two admittedly very awkward attempts?”
Kibum pauses. He should outright reject Jonghyun. He should say he doesn’t want to date right now (true), that he just got out of a rough relationship (sort of true), that he isn’t attracted to guys like Jonghyun at all (not true at all). He should ignore the way Jonghyun’s smile has faded more and more each second he doesn’t reply.
“I guess that would be rude of me,” he says instead. Jonghyun’s smile blossoms, and it is beautiful.
Kibum has the next day off, but he also has a huge paper due the next day he’s only a quarter of the way through. He sequesters himself off in a corner of the fifth floor, working through most of the day and into the night. At around 1:30 he’s almost finished; he glances at the clock and leans back into his seat with a long sigh. When he opens his eyes, it’s to see Jonghyun staring back at him.
Kibum yells in fright. He’s fairly certain they’re the only people on this floor, but Jonghyun takes great delight in shushing him. Kibum straightens, turning around and glaring.
“What the fuck are you doing here? Oh my god, Taemin was right, you are a stalker.”
The jock grins, straightening from his crouch and moving to the chair across from Kibum. “Relax, library boy, I had to help a friend with her Chinese homework.”
“You speak Chinese?” asks Kibum, despite himself.
“No,” Jonghyun shrugs.
Kibum rolls his eyes, looking back down at his laptop. Gender in 20th century African literature, he tells himself. Not Jonghyun’s stupid jokes and his stupid face and his stupid Greek god jawline - dammit. He looks up.
Jonghyun is looking at him. Not with a smirk or like a stalker, but just looking at him. It makes Kibum uncomfortable, but then again, a lot of things about Jonghyun make him uncomfortable. He looks away.
“You do that a lot,” Jonghyun says. “Avoid me.”
“It’s not intentional,” Kibum says, resuming his typing. “I just don’t like it when people look at me. And you look at me a lot.”
“Is this the part where I delve deep into your psyche so we can go on a healing journey... together?” Kibum snorts. “Look, I don’t want to like, get on your nerves or whatever. And you don’t need to look at me all the time. Just, I don’t know. It would be cool if you gave me a chance instead of full-on blowing me off.” His tone isn’t accusatory, but somehow that makes Kibum feel worse.
“I don’t want to blow you off,” he says quickly, meeting Jonghyun’s gaze. “It’s just. I don’t know. You... Your type doesn’t really go for me that often. You have to understand why I’m freaked out.”
Jonghyun’s mouth quirks. “My type? What is my type, exactly?”
Kibum purses his lips. “Popped collar bros who’d be failing out of business college if their daddies hadn’t paid for a new medical school wing?”
He laughs easily. “Wow, your character judgement is even worse than Minho said. One,” he leans forward across the table, holding up one finger, “popped collars went out of style with Britney. Two, philosophy, never business, and three, dad paid for the athletic building, not the med school.” Kibum can’t suppress a snort.
“Okay,” he admits, “wrong on all accounts.”
“So,” Jonghyun says, still not leaning back, “we admit that the only thing stopping you from giving me a chance is that I’m a stereotypical frat-bro, which we can also admit is false. Whatcha gonna do now, Kim?”
And then he laughs, this low, dark laugh that makes something curl up tight and uncomfortable in Kibum’s stomach. Fuck, he thinks, fuck, fuck, fuck.
“Well,” he says out loud, “I guess there’s only one option.”
Jonghyun laughs softly. Warm breath tickles Kibum’s mouth.
He wonders if he should close his eyes. He closes his eyes. Jonghyun’s nose brushes against his. Kibum’s lips part.
“... Party tomorrow night.”
“What?” Kibum’s eyes fly open.
Jonghyun leans back, his expression smugger than a cat’s. “I’m having a party tomorrow night. Well, I mean, the pledges are having a party tomorrow night, but me and Minho are buying the beer so we’re having a party tomorrow night. You should come.”
“You want me to come to a frat house,” says Kibum flatly. “For a frat party. With pledges.” His feelings boner is miraculously gone.
“Judging!” Jonghyun sing-songs.
Kibum rolls his eyes. That uncomfortably pleasant feeling in his stomach is still there, along with an angry sort of embarrassment that colors his cheeks pink. He knows Jonghyun can see it, too, and that just makes it worse. “Alright,” he says, trying for nonchalance, “if I go to your dick party, what’s in it for me?”
“Dicks, for one,” Jonghyun leers. “The pleasure of my company. Drunk sexually confused freshmen. And free beer.”
Kibum considers. “Can I bring Taemin?”
“I think Minho already asked him,” smirks Jonghyun.
“Fuck,” Kibum mutters. He’s pretty much required now - if Minho already asked Taemin, then Taemin must know Jonghyun is planning on asking him. If he says no, it’ll be held over his head for decades. “... Fine,” he huffs. He holds up a hand at Jonghyun’s grin. “It isn’t a date, though. It’s just a... thing.”
“Right,” Jonghyun says, “a thing.” His eyes are doing that dark smoulder thing again. He leans closer, so far so that he has to stand up and place his hand on either side of Kibum’s laptop to support himself. Kibum automatically draws back. “Just a thing.” He swipes his tongue against his bottom lip, softly, slowly, and watches Kibum swallow. His eyes are hooded.
He draws back abruptly. His smirk is replaced by something a bit more feral, a bit more dangerous. “Tomorrow at eight,” he says, pushing the chair back in. “I’ll look for you.”
Kibum’s heart is still pounding by the time his footsteps fade.
Kibum and Jinki share a two bedroom apartment a few blocks from campus. Jinki has the bigger bedroom, but Kibum has the bigger closet. Right now he’s in the middle of destroying it.
“Relax,” says Jinki, who is sprawled over Kibum’s bed idly reading some fishing magazine or something (Kibum doesn’t really know what it is but it’s Jinki). “It’s a frat party, not dinner with the president. It doesn’t matter what you wear.”
“I know it doesn’t,” Kibum says, holding a shirt up to his torso and frowning, “I’m not a freshman.”
“Then why have you gone through your entire wardrobe twice in the last half hour?”
Kibum huffs, tossing the shirt to the floor and grabbing a pair of skinnys. “Because I want to make a good impression, alright? Minho says a bunch of the upperclassmen in his frat are econ majors, too, and I want them to like me.”
“Yeah,” says Jinki, rolling onto his stomach and doing this weird leer thing, “and you want Jonghyun to like you. Sexually.” He wiggles his eyebrows.
Kibum stares at him. “... Taemin told you to say that, didn’t he.”
Jinki shrugs, looking back at his magazine. “Whatever, Kibum-ah, it’s totally true.”
“I hate you both,” Kibum mutters, squirming into the jeans. “I don’t want him to like me, by the way,” he calls, grabbing a shirt from the floor and pulling it over his head. “I mean, it’s nice that he invited me but I’m gonna tell him tonight that it’s not gonna go further than this.”
Jinki sighs, looking up at Kibum. “You’ve been single for half a year, Kibum, you can’t say you’re not ready to date yet. I know you, you were over Seunghyun three weeks after he dumped you. And Jonghyun’s a nice guy, I’ve met him. He’s kind of dumb, he’s kind of a jerk, but he’s nice. There’s no reason for you not to give him a chance.”
Kibum is silent. He fingers the collar of his shirt, staring at himself in the closet mirror. His torso is awkwardly stretched, and his legs are too short. He’s let his hair grow too long and he’s starting to suspect his nose will never not be a little crooked. He’s not handsome; he’s not pretty, he’s not graceful. He’s just this average, bitchy econ major who doesn’t have anything to offer a guy like Kim Jonghyun.
“I guess you’re right,” he says, softly. Jinki grins at him in the mirror, and Kibum tries hard to smile back.