surfer!au. romance. drama. slight!humor.
Jongin is a wave that comes and goes until he meets Kyungsoo.
a/n: this fic is actually not as dramatic as the summary makes it out to be. but still dramatic, thus the drama tag. fair word of warning: i know little of surfing – it's just the au setting. anyway, this is yesi's fic for exoforsichuan! hope you enjoy it!
COMES AND GOES
The good thing about working at the beach is that the weather is always nice, the people are friendly, and the ocean smell will wake you up before any coffee can. Kyungsoo enjoys the fact that he can wear a light sweater one day and a loose t-shirt the next without worrying about any weird weather shifts, even if he comes home smelling like salt water every evening.
The bad thing about working at the beach is the sand, the sand, and the sand. That, and those obnoxious bicyclists who bike at the "no bike" zones. Oh, and the sand. You can never forget the sand. It's really always just the sand. Smelling like salt, Kyungsoo can handle, but sand in his sneakers? Better steer clear of him for a good ten hours. Make it twelve if it got into his socks, too.
It's by the fourth week of his job that Kyungsoo finally gets the drift and starts wearing sandals to work, even though it's actually against dress code rules (not that anyone follows them, Jongdae never fails to point out before obnoxiously going on and on about how they're at the beach and shoes are the least of everyone's concerns here).
Still, Kyungsoo can't help but be bothered by that feeling of impending doom whenever he walks from and to the bus in his flip flops. With all these people around, most of whom are too busy scarfing down ice cream and other fatty foods or dodging bicyclists and skaters to pay attention to their surroundings, someone's bound to step on Kyungsoo's bare feet.
And it's about six weeks into summer that Kyungsoo's worst feet fear actually happens. He's on his way to the lemonade shack, working a later shift today for a friend (Baekhyun promised to do laundry for a week if he did, and a laundry-free week is Kyungsoo's idea of a vacation in itself). He's dragging his feet, a bad habit he picked up in school when he could barely pick his feet up as he walked, too weighed down by the textbooks in his bag and arms.
Dragging your feet on a busy pier, with groups of people walking all around you, none of them caring about what happens to you and your feet, is never a good idea. Kyungsoo learns that today.
"Shit," Kyungsoo hisses as he stumbles forward. The man, too busy talking on his phone, doesn't even notice as he continues walking past him without a glance in his direction. Kyungsoo shoots daggers at his back anyway, just to feel better about himself.
Another thing about walking on the pier is that you should never, ever stop in the middle of it. Not on a busy Saturday like this one, with people moving back and forth, holding buckets of fish among other items. Even the slightest pause, like the one Kyungsoo is taking, can be bad.
For example, you might run into a surfboard, just like Kyungsoo does.
"Are you serious," Kyungsoo mumbles dizzily right after his face slams right into the side of a surfboard, knocking him completely backwards. He rubs the side of his face achingly. Just his luck.
"Whoa, man, are you okay?" owner-of-the-alleged-face-smacking-surfb
"No, it's okay," Kyungsoo manages, feeling even more embarrassed now. Today looked so good until this all happened. He wipes his hands off on his jeans, barely meeting the stranger's concerned eyes as he pushes past and starts walking with the crowd, making a beeline for the lemonade stand.
The stranger watches curiously before shrugging and continuing back to the beach, surfboard in hand.
Jongin will never get tired of the salty smell of the ocean, the feeling of sand between his toes as he approaches the water. He lets the water rise up in a greeting, an unspoken "welcome back" after so long. After all, it's nice traveling around and seeing the world, but nothing can ever compare to the feeling of home.
Whatever home can be considered as, that is.
Jongin can't pinpoint the exact moment when he fell in love with the beach – or, more specifically, the ocean and its never-ending waves of promise and adventure – but it wasn't too long after he picked up a surfboard five summers ago. He remembers the day clearly; it was early summer, and he had just gotten his license. Sixteen years young with no worries and regrets just yet, he and his friends went out for a day at the beach. His older friends always talked about surfing, and they promised to teach him that summer.
It didn't take much longer for Jongin to fall in love with surfing. After he rode his first wave, he never wanted to come back down from that high. Nothing can quite compare to the feeling of weightlessness surfing gave Jongin, as if nothing mattered anymore except for him, the board, and the water.
"It's good to see you back," a new voice suddenly says, startling Jongin. He turns around, unable to hide his surprise to see Luhan standing there with his own surfboard. Then again, that shouldn't really be a surprise at all, since Luhan was one of his friends who had originally introduced him to surfing all those years ago.
"It's good to be back," Jongin manages, smiling as Luhan walks over and wraps an arm around his shoulder in welcome.
"So, should I save the questions for before or after the waves?" Luhan asks, eyebrow raised. Jongin chuckles, ducking his head and jogging into the water. "I take that as an after," Luhan calls after him as he follows him, surfboard underneath his arm.
After a couple of hours riding the waves, Jongin finally gives in and offers to talk over a drink. When Luhan points out it's too early to get drunk – to which Jongin laughs, because the old Luhan he knew was always up for a drink – Jongin asks what he would suggest getting then.
"Lemonade," Luhan answers after a moment of thought. "They have a really good lemonade stand at the end of the pier. C'mon, I'll show you." They walk together, Jongin listening mindlessly as Luhan recounts his past years spent surfing and – to Jongin's surprise – singing.
"Turns out I'm more than just a pretty face and a hot body," Luhan says smugly, to which Jongin laughs and almost knocks Luhan over with his board.
"I don't remember you being this cocky the last time we hung out," Jongin snorts, shaking his head when Luhan looks over at him, smirking.
"Well, people change after not seeing them for a whole two years," Luhan replies, and although he says it lightly, the words still weigh heavily in Jongin's mind as he tries to come up with the words to say he's sorry. Luhan notices the pause and sighs before putting on a smile again and nudging Jongin with his elbow. "Don't feel too bad. We barely noticed you were gone."
Jongin grins at that before shoving Luhan away. "You ass."
Luhan smirks and the two continue walking until they reach the lemonade stand. Jongin insists on paying, although Luhan doesn't even bother pretending as if he would want to pay.
"I'll wait here," Luhan says, setting his board against the railing. Jongin nods and walks over to the line. It's a short wait until Jongin's at the front.
"Two lemonades pl– hey, it's you," Jongin says, surprised to see the boy he ran into earlier working at the lemonade stand. Said boy's eyes widen in recognition before they fall in shame, dark hair covering them. "Are you okay?" Jongin asks in concern, frowning slightly.
"Yeah," the worker mumbles, shaking his head back and forth. His shoulders heave as he takes in a deep breath before meeting Jongin's eyes. "So, two lemonades?"
Jongin smiles. "Yeah..."– his eyes trail down to look at his nametag –"Kyungsoo. Thanks." He beams at Kyungsoo, who stares at him for a moment longer before ringing him up.
"That'll be $3.50," Kyungsoo tells him. Jongin hands him the money, and he's about to leave when Kyungsoo calls, "Wait, what's your name?"
"Jongin," he replies.
"Okay, we'll call your name once your lemonade's ready," Kyungsoo says with a small smile, and Jongin can't help but smile back as he walks out of line to stand by Luhan. He glances back at Kyungsoo who's already helping another customer.
"So how is the east coast anyway?" Luhan asks, leaning against the railing. Jongin turns to look at him. It always spooked Jongin how Luhan never seemed to age. His eyes did, but never his face. Even with that playful glint in Luhan's eyes, they still felt eerie to Jongin sometimes, as if they knew too much.
"It's nice," Jongin replies coolly. "Not anything like here, though."
"What I want to know is how you live the entire school year away without your surfboard?" Luhan asks, standing up straight and leaning in curiously.
Jongin laughs and leans backwards to avoid Luhan. "They have beaches on the east coast," Jongin points out.
"But nothing can compare to here," Luhan replies cheekily, falling back to his earlier position. Jongin rolls his eyes, but he can't argue. Nothing can compare to the water here. Call him biased, but waves here always felt longer, as if Jongin could ride them all the way to the end of the world and back. It's a feeling of power, to tame something nature produced.
Jongin is about to ask about his other friends when he hears his name called. Luhan raises an eyebrow, and Jongin is about to excuse himself when Luhan offers to pick up the drinks with him.
"Two lemonades?" Kyungsoo asks, even though he already knows the answer. Jongin smiles and is about to thank him when Luhan cuts in.
"Hey, Kyungsoo," he says, and both Jongin and Kyungsoo turn to him in surprise. Jongin because he didn't know they knew each other, and Kyungsoo because he hadn't noticed Luhan earlier until now.
"Oh, hi, Luhan," Kyungsoo replies with a soft smile. "How were the waves today?"
"Great, right, Jongin?" Luhan asks, nudging Jongin who was watching with a slack jaw.
"Yeah," Jongin says with a jump. "I mean, better than great. They were fantastic."
"That's good," Kyungsoo says with an eye smile. Jongin can't help but smile back.
Luhan rolls his eyes, which Jongin ignores. "Anyway, we should get going now," Luhan says, and Jongin wants to protest, but knows he can't without being too obvious. So instead he feigns a smile and nods, turning back to Kyungsoo, who's been watching them with curious eyes.
"Okay," Kyungsoo replies. "I should get back to work anyway. See you around, Luhan."
"You, too," Luhan says with a smile as they part.
Kyungsoo turns to Jongin expectantly. He doesn't say it, but his gaze does. Will I see you around, too? Jongin doesn't know how to answer an unspoken question, but he smiles anyway and it seems that Kyungsoo understands his reply as he smiles back and leaves with a final nod.
Jongin waits for Luhan to bring up Kyungsoo again, but to his surprise – and disappointment, because he wants to know more about Kyungsoo, like how he knows Luhan and if he has a knack for running into surfboards and if he smells like citrus and things like that – he doesn't.
"I bet everyone will be happy to hear you're back," Luhan says as they sip on their lemonade.
"Hmm," Jongin hums as he drinks the lemonade, welcoming the familiar acidic taste he hasn't had in so long. "Who is 'everyone' these days anyway?" He feels bad for asking, for not already knowing who's left, but with a group of boys, all so adventurous and curious about the world within their grasps, you can never know for sure who's left and who's gone.
"Well, there's me," Luhan says, stating the obvious. "And Junmyeon, and Chanyeol, and Minseok, and Yixing, and... I think that's it." Luhan nods before taking another sip of his lemonade.
Jongin isn't surprised about Junmyeon, because even though Junmyeon had the most money to spare, he was also the most scared to leave. He was always comforted by the idea of stability, of the solitude of home. He would have never left. Chanyeol is a bit of a shock, because he was the riskiest of them all and Jongin expected him to be halfway across the world by now, doing crazy things like sky diving. Minseok is not much of a surprise either; he was always quiet and unsure of himself, despite the fact that he was the smartest of them all. He graduated in the top ten of his class. Yixing is not a surprise either, because to Yixing, California is the adventure. He transfered here with dreams of becoming a big shot dancer, and with the help of Luhan, who was his best friend back in China, he flew over and started on that dream. Of them all, Jongin had always admired Yixing the most.
"And then there are some new guys I'll introduce you to."
"New guys?" Jongin asks, eyebrow raised.
"Yeah, but they're cool," Luhan assures him. "One of them is some martial arts dude with eye bags like you would not believe."
"Martial arts?" Jongin is impressed. Maybe he'll like the new guy; he's always been interested in martial arts.
"Mhm, and another Chinese member. He's cool, but I gotta warn you – the moment he opens his mouth, you will want him to close it."
Jongin laughs. "What is that supposed to mean?"
"Oh, you'll see," Luhan says, and it sounds like a warning.
Jongin doesn't know if he should ask, if it's too much to even bring it up, but the uncertainty in the air is enough for Luhan to understand.
"And Sehun's still here, too," Luhan says quietly. Jongin nods quietly, wondering what this means for them. "He-he missed you, you know. Probably the most actually."
Jongin smiles weakly, watching the ground as they walked now. He doesn't know how to reply. It'd been two years since he saw everyone, and the reason he left will be there when he gets back. It's like taking five steps forwards and seven backwards.
"You're still his best friend in his mind," Luhan murmurs, and Jongin laughs at that. He actually laughs. Luhan watches somberly as Jongin throws his head back, the sound bitter and heavy unlike his usual laughter.
"Of course," Jongin mutters darkly. "Well, when am I going to see said best friend and everyone else?"
Luhan thinks about it for a moment. "How does tonight sound?"
"You know, asking customers for their names isn't a part of our routine," Jongdae says as he passes Kyungsoo, who's restacking the cups.
Kyungsoo shrugs. "If they know my name, why can't I know theirs?" he asks as if it's no big deal, but Jongdae knows him better than that.
"You never care for our other customers' names before," Jongdae points out, which causes Kyungsoo to pause in his cup stacking, shoulders stiffening at the truth of Jongdae's words.
"W-Well..." Kyungsoo stammers, trying to find an excuse but failing. "Oh, whatever. Stop being so nosy," Kyungsoo grumbles, leaving the cups and walking back out to the front again to take over the cashier. Jongdae snickers as he watches his co-worker leave all flustered like.
Out of them all, Kyungsoo has to be the easiest to rile up. Of course, Jongdae likes Kyungsoo, more than he likes most admittedly, so he tries not to bother Kyungsoo too often. But hey, Jongdae's all for fun and games, and he knows an easy shot when he sees one.
"Anyway, Junmyeon just invited me to dinner tonight," Jongdae says, casually leaning against the counter by Kyungsoo.
"That's nice," Kyungsoo says dryly. If there's one thing worse than Jongdae trolling, it's Jongdae talking about Junmyeon, because once he gets started, there is no stop. And after seeing Jongdae make jokes about almost everything, it's pretty weird hearing him talk so seriously about someone.
Love is a strange emotion, Kyungsoo thinks.
"Yeah, but there's a problem."
"Oh no," Kyungsoo says apathetically. He really doesn't care, especially not after Jongdae just teased him.
"Oh yes. You see, it's guys night out with his friends, and he wanted to bring me as his date."
"O-kay...?" Kyungsoo fails to see a problem with that.
"It's guys night out," Jongdae repeats, deadpan.
"You do realize you're a guy, right?" Kyungsoo replies, narrowing his eyes at his co-worker.
"Of course!" Jongdae snaps. "But it's guys night out with his friends, none of which I know! It's going to be so awkward!"
"I'm sure you'll be fine," Kyungsoo sighs, rolling his eyes. Seriously, this is Jongdae they're talking about. Jongdae, who's never had an awkward moment in his life. Jongdae, who causes the awkward moments in others' lives.
"It will be," Jongdae says, and Kyungsoo does not like Jongdae's tone. Whenever he uses that tone, it only means trouble. One time he spoke with that tone, Kyungsoo found himself advertising lemonade on the beach in a lemon costume. Wearing sneakers. Kyungsoo reached an all-time record for how-many-cuss-words-can-one-spew-in-one-m
"If you come with me," Jongdae finishes, and he's wearing that shit-eating grin that Kyungsoo has come to fear with every fiber of his being.
"No," Kyungsoo deadpans. "No, no, no, no. No. I do not think so. I will not go on your date with you just because you–"
"Oh, come on, Kyungsoo!" Jongdae pleads. "It's good to get out and socialize!"
"I socialize everyday," Kyungsoo defends.
"Asking people what flavor lemonade they'd prefer can hardly be considered socializing."
Kyungsoo glares at Jongdae, who puts his hands up in surrender. "You're not very good at persuasion," Kyungsoo bites.
Jongdae smiles sheepishly. "Come on, Kyungsoo! Do it for me!"
"Do it for the food!"
"I have food at home, thank you very much," Kyungsoo says, about to leave when Jongdae grabs his arm and pulls him back.
"I'll pay for your meal!" Jongdae offers in a final, desperate attempt to get Kyungsoo to agree. As much as Kyungsoo dreads the idea of spending the night with a group of drunk guys and – even more scary – drunk Jongdae, a free meal is a free meal and Kyungsoo is still not quite where he'd like to be, financially speaking.
With clenched fists, Kyungsoo finally grinds out, "Fine, I'll go."
And just like that, Jongdae is around him, yelling, "Thank you, thank you, thank you!" as he wraps his arms around Kyungsoo and pulls him in for a tight hug before running to the back, leaving Kyungsoo to attend to the new customers.
Kyungsoo sighs. He does not get paid enough for this.
Jongin is not ready. He knows he told Luhan that he was on the phone just five minutes ago, but that was a lie because Jongin is nowhere near ready to meet his friends – can they even be called friends if you haven't even tried contacting them for over two years? – and he can already feel his lunch coming back up at the thought of it.
What do you even say in moments like these? "Hey, yeah, it's been a long time, but it's kind of nice seeing you guys even though we're practically strangers now"? Or maybe "Wow, did you get a haircut? Not that I'd know because the last time we saw each other, you were sporting a mullet and anything is a step up from that"? Or even "This is really awkward can we just eat and not talk let's not even make eye contact"?
The last one is a bit straight-forward, but it could work.
It's not that Jongin is anti-social or even shy – he loves talking to people. It's what makes his travels worth it – meeting new people and learning new things. It's just that meeting old people is always the hardest, because he wants to speak like old friends but he knows that things have changed and the fact that he doesn't know what change happened, or how they happened, makes it that much more difficult.
Because meeting new people is all about new chances, which Jongin lives for, while meeting old friends is nothing but reliving the past, which Jongin has been avoiding for two years.
A knock at the door interrupts Jongin's panicking. He opens it to see Luhan, dressed in dark jeans and a button-up shirt. "Wow, the place hasn't changed," Luhan whistles. "Are your parents here right now? I should say hi."
Jongin rolls his eyes. Luhan was always such a kiss-up to the parents, second to Junmyeon. "No, they're out right now. Where are we going anyway?" Jongin asks as he stuffs his phone into his pocket and closes the door behind them as they step out.
"Eat," Luhan replies as they walk towards his car.
"How specific," Jongin says sarcastically.
"Mhm. It's just some Korean restaurant downtown," Luhan says with a shrug. "Junmyeon knows the owner – or should I say, his parents know the owner – so he gets free food and discounts and stuff."
Jongin snorts. Of course they'd be going somewhere where they get discounts. After all, they were all just college kids or kids just out of college still, struggling to get by. They didn't have the money to pay at a real restaurant without help.
On the car ride, Luhan tells Jongin a little more about the new guys. It doesn't mean much without a face to connect the names to, but Jongin listens anyway. It's enough to get his mind off his worries.
When they arrive, Luhan says everyone's there already and they're the last, which doesn't help Jongin's nerves. At least if they were early, Jongin could handle everyone one at a time, but if they're all already there, he has to take them on all at once.
With a deep breath, Jongin follows Luhan into the restaurant.
They're led to a back room, and the first face Jongin sees is Junmyeon's familiar smiling one. Junmyeon stands up and walks over to him and pats his back. "Well, look who finally showed up." Jongin smiles weakly, still feeling a bit nauseous but better now that he's actually seeing them.
"Way to disappear on us, man," Chanyeol yells, and Jongin would have been scared had he not seen the bright smile on Chanyeol's face first.
As everyone steps up to welcome Jongin with old jokes and teasing, Jongin wonders why he ever left. He lets his old smile settle back onto his face as he takes jabs back at his friends, shedding his worries.
That is, until he sees him.
"Sehun," Jongin says, choking on the name. It's been too long, but not long enough at the same time. Jongin isn't ready. Not yet.
"Wow, I can't believe it's you," Sehun laughs. His laugh's quieter, more subdued than Jongin remembers, and he can't tell if that's a good or a bad thing. He can't tell if Sehun is a good or bad thing.
"It's me alright," Jongin says weakly, hoping he doesn't look as weak as he feels. Sehun's face is smiling, but his eyes aren't. They're dark, no longer light enough for Jongin to look into and understand.
"Yeah, apparently," Sehun replies, rolling his eyes. The room is still stiff though, the friendly chatter having died down the moment Sehun walked in and Jongin noticed. "Well, are you just gonna stand there or are you gonna tell us what you were up to?" he asks, eyebrow raised.
Jongin doesn't understand what's happening, but he plays along. Everyone else gets the memo too, taking a seat. Jongin is recounting his first year away when a man Jongin has never met before walks in.
"Sorry for being late," he apologizes, ducking his head. "But I ran into these two. They got lost." The man smirks as he gestures for the two waiting by the door to come in.
Jongin's eyes widen as Kyungsoo and another man walks in. The other man immediately walks over to Junmyeon, plopping himself on his lap to Jongin's surprise. Junmyeon flushes and proceeds to (gently) push him off onto the seat beside him.
"There are a shitload of Korean restaurants downtown, you know," the man says, leaning over to mockingly glare at Junmyeon. "Kyungsoo almost convinced me to drive him home after we circled around for the fifth time."
Kyungsoo, meanwhile, is still at the door, awkwardly looking for somewhere to sit. There's no room by Jongdae, who's too busy talking to his boyfriend to even notice Kyungsoo. He glances around the room, spotting Luhan first.
"Luhan?" he asks. Luhan looks up from the menu and gapes.
"Kyungsoo? What are you doing here?" Luhan asks, eyebrow raised. He glances at Jongin, who's still staring at Kyungsoo.
"Jongdae dragged me along," Kyungsoo sighs, rubbing the back of his neck. He feels so out of place. He continues to look around when his eyes lock with Jongin. The surprise is evident in both of their eyes as they pause before looking away, both embarrassed to be caught staring.
"Well, there's an empty seat by Jongin," Luhan finally says, smirking.
"Wait, what–" Minseok says, looking around. He's sitting by Jongin. Or, he was, until Luhan gave him The Look that hauled Minseok's ass out of the chair and into the one across from Luhan. After all, Minseok's not dumb enough to question Luhan's Look.
"Oh, thanks," Kyungsoo mumbles, face flushed. Jongin wonders if Kyungsoo is always this cute, or is it only when he's around. He opens his mouth to greet Kyungsoo when the words die on his lips when he sees something out of the corner of his eye.
The man who brought Kyungsoo and his friend in walks over to Sehun and presses a kiss to his cheek. Sehun smiles – and it's not the smile Jongin received earlier, fake and forced. This smile is full of something Jongin hasn't seen in Sehun for a long time, if ever.
"Jongin, this is Tao," Luhan says, catching Jongin's eye with concern. "He's the one I was telling you about, with the martial arts background."
"Oh, oh yeah," Jongin says, trying to catch his breath. He doesn't know why, but seeing Sehun like that, after so long, made his heart clench. If he had stayed, maybe–
No, he couldn't have stayed. Leaving was for his own good.
"Nice to meet you," Tao says with a nod, taking the seat beside Sehun. Jongin doesn't meet Sehun's glance as he smiles weakly at Tao.
"You, too," he says. He wants to say he's lying, but he can't. Tao hasn't done anything wrong. Jongin has.
Sehun is about to say something, and Jongin knows it but doesn't want to hear it (or maybe he does, but he doesn't know if his heart can take it), so he turns around and focuses on Kyungsoo again, who was watching with those curious eyes of his again.
"Hi," Jongin says.
"Hi," Kyungsoo replies, lips curving into a smile. Jongin doesn't know what it is about Kyungsoo, but whenever he's around, Jongin feels like smiling wide just to match Kyungsoo.
Jongin doesn't know what to say, but it's comforting enough to have Kyungsoo there for some reason. Kyungsoo, a stranger, but a new chance among old ones for Jongin. They sit side by side, listening to the others' conversations instead. Junmyeon gets Jongin to start talking about his time spent away, which Jongin accepts just to appease to them.
After dinner is served, they start ordering drinks. Jongin passes, knowing things will only get worse if he gets drunk. Kyungsoo passes too, while eyeing Jongdae who's ordering drinks like there's no tomorrow.
As everyone gets drunk, Jongin and Kyungsoo watch on as the conversations start to make less and less sense. Jongin glances at his watch, then back at his friends, waiting for the night to be over.
Jongin can't help but be surprised when Kyungsoo leans over and asks, "Want to get out of here?"
He doesn't even remember his answer; all he can think of is how much warmer it is outside, how much lighter he feels now, and how grounded Kyungsoo keeps him.
"You looked like you were suffocating in there," Kyungsoo says with a sympathetic look. Jongin doesn't even meet his gaze out of the corner of his eye; he feels too pathetic. If Kyungsoo, a stranger, noticed, then his friends probably did too, and all those years away would have meant nothing.
"Ah, yeah, it was just a little overwhelming I guess," Jongin murmurs, running a hand through his hair.
Kyungsoo smiles a little. "Yeah, I guess. So why did you leave so long anyway?"
Jongin turns to look at him. This isn't the first time he's been asked this, but this is the first time he's heard the question so... softly. There aren't any accusations or implications behind Kyungsoo's words – they're innocent, just curious.
"It's... a long story," Jongin settles for. Kyungsoo nods in understanding, knowing not to push it. They continue walking. It's not exactly quiet – they're downtown on a Friday night, after all, so the streets are more alive than usual – but it's comfortable.
Jongin's mind wanders when a soft hum snaps him back to reality. He turns to see Kyungsoo nodding his head, humming quietly to a foreign melody.
"What are you humming?" Jongin asks, and apparently Kyungsoo was in his own daydream as well because he stops humming immediately, startled by Jongin's voice. It takes him a moment to process Jongin's words before he replies.
"Oh, it's just a song," Kyungsoo says offhandedly.
Jongin laughs. "Well, yeah, but what song?"
Kyungsoo smiles sheepishly before ducking his head to avoid Jongin's gaze. "It's nothing. It's just–just some song I was working on before things got hectic."
"You write songs?" Jongin asks, surprised. He didn't really think Kyungsoo was that sort of guy, although then again, he doesn't know what sort of guy Kyungsoo is to begin with.
"I used to for fun," Kyungsoo admits shyly. "But not anymore."
"Why not?" Jongin asks, tilting his head to the side.
"I got busy." Kyungsoo shrugs noncomittally. "With moving and finding new jobs and everything, there was no time to write." His eyes wander around, obviously feeling awkward about talking about this.
Jongin's not a romantic or an idealist, but he always believed that if you truly loved something, you should keep it. And he can tell that Kyungsoo, despite his attempts to maintain nonchalance about the subject, loves music.
"Well, if you really like composing, you should keep writing," Jongin says softly. Kyungsoo stares up at him for a moment, then smiles.
"Yeah, maybe," he finally says. "Thanks."
"Anytime," Jongin laughs. It's weird how easy it is to talk to Kyungsoo, but it's a good weird, Jongin decides as he watches Kyungsoo stuff his hands into his pockets and continue walking.
They finish walking around the block and end up back at the restaurant. Neither look like they want to go back in, but Kyungsoo makes the first move anyway.
"If I don't go in and stop Jongdae from drinking his head off, I won't hear the end of it tomorrow at work," Kyungsoo sighs, and Jongin chuckles in pity (and maybe a little amusement).
"Yeah, I should stop Luhan, too," Jongin says. "He's my ride back home after all." Kyungsoo nods, stepping forward to walk in. Jongin follows closely behind.
They're outside the room where their friends are when Jongin stops. "Hey, Kyungsoo," Jongin says, reaching out to put an arm on Kyungsoo's shoulder. Kyungsoo looks over at him, eyes wide and anticipating. He smiles despite himself. "Thanks. For everything."
Kyungsoo returns the smile. "Anytime." And Jongin actually believes Kyungsoo when he says it.
"So where'd you go with Jongin last night?" Jongdae asks, sliding over to Kyungsoo's side as he prepares the lemonade.
Kyungsoo decides that he hates how well Jongdae can tolerate alchohol and hangovers. He'd much rather take over two shifts than have to deal with Jongdae right now.
"We just walked around," Kyungsoo sighs, sealing a cap on top of the cup and handing it over to Baekhyun handling the cashier and customers. Baekhyun raises an eyebrow at him, having overheard Jongdae, but doesn't say anything about it. Yet.
Kyungsoo wonders if it's too late to take that job offer at the shoe store he applied for earlier.
"Is that what you kids are calling it these days?" Jongdae snickers. "'Walking around', eh? In my days, we just called it fu–"
"Jongdae!" Kyungsoo hisses, looking back towards the customers, some of which were just children, and then turning back to Jongdae with a glare.
"What? There's nothing wrong with sex. It's natural," Jongdae coos, reaching out to pinch Kyungsoo's cheeks. Kyungsoo swats his hand away with a scowl and moves into the back so that the customers can't see Kyungsoo smack the living daylights out of Jongdae with his glove.
Jongdae follows, cackling his head off. "Oh, man, Kyungsoo, you are just too easy," he sighs, wiping a tear. "Come on, though, spill. What'd you do with the hottie surfer with the tan?" Jongdae asks, wiggling his eyebrows.
"Nothing!" Kyungsoo exclaims, throwing his hands up in exasperation. "We really did just walk around and talk. Is that so hard to believe?"
"Obviously," Jongdae scoffs, crossing his arms. "After all, he's hot, and you're... you. A little bit of touching should have happened at least! Come on, Kyungsoo, when life throws you lemons, make–"
"Don't you dare," Kyungsoo hisses, knowing what's coming next.
"Lemonade!" Jongdae yells, ignoring Kyungsoo with a smirk as he grabs a cup of lemonade and throws it up, only to have the liquid fall on both of them.
Kyungsoo clenches his fist and glowers at Jongdae.
Jongdae leaves early today with red marks all over his face, watching his back warily for a scary, doe-eyed boy.
"Hey," Baekhyun calls when the customers start dying down. "Do you think we could close early today?"
Kyungsoo frowns, still drying his hair with a towel. He smells like lemons, but at least he washed off the lemonade. He doesn't want to come home crawling with ants. "Why?"
"Because I have a date tonight," Baekhyun says with a confident grin. "And I want to get ready. Besides, it's already five. No one gets lemonade in the evening anyway."
Kyungsoo sighs, because Baekhyun has a point – everyone is too busy packing up or grabbing a real dinner in the evening to buy lemonade. Still, their closing time is seven, and Kyungsoo feels bad closing up a whole two hours early.
"You can go," Kyungsoo mumbles indignantly. He doesn't want Baekhyun to leave, of course, because it gets really lonely in the last hours of opening. But he knows how long Baekhyun takes to get ready – Kyungsoo has almost peed his pants one too many times waiting for Baekhyun to get ready for work in the bathroom – and he figures he can handle just two more hours of work.
"Really?" Baekhyun asks hopefully. Kyungsoo just stares, and Baekhyun smiles and throws his arms around Kyungsoo. "Thanks, Soo! You're the best!" he yells as he runs out of the back of the shack, throwing off his uniform as he does.
"Yeah, I know," Kyungsoo mutters as he leans against the register with a sigh. He's too nice sometimes.
A couple of customers show up and order lemonade, and Kyungsoo handles it for the first hour. He spends the free time counting the lemons, then recounting them just in case. It's okay, until the final hour comes along. Then Kyungsoo just gets anxious.
"Maybe closing early doesn't sound like a bad idea anymore," Kyungsoo mutters, slouched on the stool he placed in front of the register during his boredom. He looks around the pier. It's nowhere near empty – there are people outside of restaurants, fishers packing up, couples and families walking around. But no one stops by for lemonade.
Kyungsoo is picking at questionable stains on the counter now when he sees a light shadow fall over the counter. He looks up in surprise – no one in their right mind could want lemonade at 6:45PM – and his jaw almost drops when he sees Jongin standing in front of him, hair still wet and dripping down his chest.
His board is in his hand, so Kyungsoo assumes Jongin just got done surfing a little while ago. Kyungsoo wonders how long he spends out there. Surfing has always seemed so hard to Kyungsoo, but maybe that's just because Kyungsoo has a hard time balancing on curbs of the road, much less on the water.
"Hey," Jongin says, a small smile on his lips. "One lemonade, please?"
Kyungsoo nods. "Sure. $1.75," he says, ringing it up. As Jongin takes out the money, Kyungsoo moves to grab the lemonade. There isn't much left though because Kyungsoo didn't think anyone else would come so he didn't make anymore, so Kyungsoo turns around and smiles sheepishly. "I might have to make a new batch. Do you mind waiting?"
"Not at all," Jongin says, eyes curving.
"So, are you busy?" Jongin asks, looking down at his cup as he plays with the straw. Kyungsoo raises an eyebrow and shakes his head.
"No. Customers don't usually come around this late," Kyungsoo explains. "I'm closing up soon actually. Why?"
"Well, I was wondering if you wanted to hang out," Jongin says, shyly looking at Kyungsoo. Kyungsoo smiles at that. Despite his good looks and charming personality, there's something innocent about Jongin that Kyungsoo wants to learn more about.
"That sounds nice," Kyungsoo replies, hating how shy he sounds too. But it's hard not to act shy when someone like Jongin is looking at you with smiling eyes, face brighter than the setting sun.
"Cool," Jongin says with a grin. "When do you close?"
"Seven," Kyungsoo answers, looking down at his watch. It's 6:55PM. Close enough. "But I can close now." Jongin chuckles. "I'll be going out through the back, so uh. I'll come back around?"
Jongin shakes his head. "It's okay, I'll walk over there." Kyungsoo smiles and nods.
"Okay, see you soon then," he says as he closes the front of the shack. He hurries after that, locking up the register (he counted the money earlier luckily, and Jongin's $1.75 won't make a big difference) and racing towards the back. He throws his apron off and opens the door to see Jongin at the side, readjusting his surfboard. Jongin looks up, surprised.
"That was fast," Jongin says, and there's a smile in his voice that makes Kyungsoo wonder if he's teasing him.
"I already prepared earlier," Kyungsoo defends, flushed from working so quickly. "Anyway, what are we doing?"
"I was thinking we just hang around and grab a bite for dinner?" Jongin offers.
"Sounds like a date," Kyungsoo laughs without thinking.
"It could be," Jongin offers, and Kyungsoo sobers at that. He turns to look at Jongin with wide eyes, and Jongin just smiles. Kyungsoo wonders if it's the summer heat or something else that's making him feel so warm right now.
"Y-yeah," Kyungsoo finally stammers, looking down at his shoe before looking back up to see Jongin still smiling at him. Feeling awkward, Kyungsoo tries to change the subject. "So, uh, where are we going to eat?"
"I was thinking we just grab some hot dogs or something."
How un-romantic, Kyungsoo thinks, amused.
"And then we could walk down the beach," Jongin says, glancing at Kyungsoo for approval. The first part is not as tempting – Kyungsoo is more of a hamburger person – but he has to admit he likes the second part a little more than he wants to admit.
"That sounds good." Kyungsoo smiles.
Jongin returns the smile readily.
They're about to leave when a breeze hits and Kyungsoo realizes he's still wearing his lemon hat. He cringes in embarrassment – the hat has got to be the worst part of their uniform, even worse than the smile they have to fake to every customer – and takes it off immediately. "Stupid hat," Kyungsoo mutters as he folds it and stuffs it into his back pocket.
Out of the corner of his eye, Jongin is watching. He chuckles softly and murmurs, "Cute," just loud enough for Kyungsoo to wonder if he heard him correctly.
They get hot dogs at a nearby shack that Kyungsoo recommends. They pay for their own food. Kyungsoo watches in both awe and horror as Jongin buys practically half the menu.
"I get hungry," is Jongin's explanation. Kyungsoo figures that much anyway.
After they get their orders, they eat at the pier. Kyungsoo tells Jongin about when he got his job at the lemonade shack at the end of May, a little after he moved here. He explains he just finished university, and coming to California was his dream ever since he was a child. Even though a job at a small lemonade shack at the end of a smelly pier isn't exactly living the dream, it's a start.
Jongin is a surprisingly good listener. It's not that Kyungsoo thought Jongin would only talk about himself, it's just that people usually get bored listening to Kyungsoo ramble on about his future. But Jongin listens attentively, nodding appropriately and never once zoning out.
By the time Kyungsoo finishes talking, Jongin's done with his food. They throw away their trash – during which Kyungsoo rambles on about how he hates the litter problem the beach has and he will never understand why people do not throw away their wrappers when there are a bazillion trash cans around – and make their way over to the beach.
Jongin is still holding his board, so Kyungsoo asks him, "Isn't that heavy to carry around all day?"
Jongin doesn't even have to ask what Kyungsoo's talking about; he's gotten asked this question plenty of times by his buddies back on the east coast. "No," he answers with a shake of his head. "I mean, maybe at first it was, but you get used to it. I love my surfboard, so it's no big deal."
Kyungsoo raises an eyebrow but doesn't push it. Instead, he asks, "How long have you been surfing?"
"Five years now," Jongin replies, kicking the sand as he walks.
"Oh, wow," Kyungsoo breathes. Five years is a long time for any hobby. Jongin must be passionate about surfing. "When did you first start?"
"When I was sixteen. Luhan actually helped teach me."
Kyungsoo's eyes widen in surprise. That must mean they've been together for a long time for Luhan to have helped teach Jongin that long ago.
"You've known him for a long time, huh. Are you guys..." Kyungsoo trails off, but Jongin still catches the suggestion. He laughs at the absurdity of it though.
"No, Luhan has always been like a big brother to us. I could never date him or anything." Kyungsoo nods in understanding. Jongin turns to glance at him and smirks. "Why?"
Kyungsoo catches the smirk and flushes. "I was just curious, because knowing someone for five years is a long time."
"I've known Luhan for seven years," Jongin admits. "We met him in our freshman year."
"'We'?" Kyungsoo asks, eyebrow raised.
Jongin didn't even realize he said 'we' until Kyungsoo brings it up. "Oh, yeah. Me and my, uh, friend, Sehun. We've known each other for who-knows-how-long," Jongin says, rubbing the back of his neck awkwardly.
Kyungsoo tries connecting a face with the name. "Was he the one with Tao?"
Jongin's lips curve downwards and Kyungsoo notices. He wonders if Jongin has a problem with Tao or something. "Yeah, that was Sehun," Jongin mumbles.
They fall into silence again, except this time it's more awkward. Kyungsoo is left wondering about Sehun and Tao, and Jongin just stares out into the sea blankly. Kyungsoo always thought Jongin was easy to read until he saw the way Jongin looked at the ocean, face devoid of any emotion yet eerily calm.
"So how often do you see your friends?" Kyungsoo asks softly.
"Not that often," Jongin admits, ashamed that even the word 'friends' sounds so foreign now.
"I just like to leave sometimes," Jongin says slowly. "I guess I just need to run away sometimes."
"But do you always come back?"
"Yeah," Jongin sighs. "But I leave so often, it doesn't really mean anything anymore. Coming back, that is."
Kyungsoo frowns. "What do you mean?"
"Well... think of it as a wave," Jongin explains, and Kyungsoo smiles a little at that, because a wave does seem like something Jongin would use to compare himself to. "They always come back, but each time it's different. And when you know the wave is just going to draw back into the sea, you let it be. You don't chase after it anymore because you know you can't do anything about it."
Kyungsoo watches as Jongin's eyes grow darker and deeper like the sea. The loneliness that tints Jongin's voice is subtle, but Kyungsoo can hear it. He wants to get rid of it, let it sink to end of the ocean and bring Jongin back up.
"But the shore's always there," Kyungsoo offers hopefully. Jongin turns to look at him, and now it's his turn to to be confused. "The shore will always greet you."
Jongin stares at Kyungsoo for a moment before letting out a soft laugh. "I guess it will be." He smiles, and Kyungsoo feels his heart flutter. They continue walking, side by side, arms barely brushing. Jongin tells him about the water today, all the great waves he missed, and Kyungsoo listens as the life returns to Jongin's voice.
A little after the sun sets, they part ways. Jongin promises to come back again tomorrow, and Kyungsoo finds himself looking forward to tomorrow already.
It's only as Kyungsoo watches Jongin leave that a realization strikes Kyungsoo hard enough to send shivers down his spine.
If Jongin is a wave that always comes and goes, then it'll only be a matter of time before he leaves again.