edori【・ヘ・?】 (edoriko) wrote in slipintoadream,
edori【・ヘ・?】
edoriko
slipintoadream

(try to) arrange me

(try to) arrange me
Xiumin/Luhan
PG-13; Fluff/Slice of Life; ~8,000 words
In which Xiumin and Luhan can be described as stationary, and Xiumin's not sure if he's ready to reorder his pens.





Xiumin is reorganizing his pens in order of nib size when he realizes that probably no one would notice if he dies. It’s a startling realization, and it almost makes him drop the 0.5 mm Pilot pen he’s holding.

He tries to recount the last time he’s actually talked to another person, but work can be done by e-mail and after he signed up for his groceries to be delivered last month he hasn’t seen much point in leaving the house. Perhaps most people would be depressed by these thoughts, but Xiumin’s more pragmatic. So he signs up for watercolour classes at the local community center instead.
--

He’s painting the curve of an orange with slow, trembling hands when he hears someone walking up behind him. He chews his lips as he strengthens his grip, forcing the brush into the paper.

“You’re holding the brush too tightly. Your wrist is too stiff. Let the paint go where it wants.”

He bites back saying “I know”. Because he knows that his painting is hopelessly lifeless and flat. But it’s not so easy to trust the paint. And he doesn’t know why his arm seizes up whenever he’s about to put the brush to paper. He doesn’t want it to, it just happens.

But then he feels a light touch on his shoulder.

“Just relax.” The person’s breath tickles his ear and the hand squeezes his shoulder gently.

Xiumin turns to say something – anything – to this irritating stranger.

For a moment all he can see is a hazy glow of light brown and two large doe eyes.

And that’s the first time he really notices Luhan.

--

It seems that Luhan has taken his previous lack of response as some kind of acceptance because in the next class he stands behind Xiumin again, long fingers fluttering over his shoulders, resting to knead into knots that have developed here and there.

If Xiumin were being honest he would admit that he didn’t like Luhan when they first met.

When the instructor first introduced his assistant to the class, Xiumin didn’t think much of the slender man with an easy smile. Something about Luhan’s smile seemed too effortless and it bothered him.

“Still too stiff,” Luhan chides while kneading his shoulders.

Xiumin frowns.

--

The class after, and the class after that follow the same routine.

Finally, after several classes of enduring massages, Xiumin gains the courage to speak.

“W-why?” Xiumin croaks. It’s the first thing he’s said to anyone in months and his voice is weak with disuse.

The hands still. Then slowly they begin again, rubbing small spirals into his shoulder blades.

“Is it helping?”

Xiumin is glad that the other doesn’t comment on his voice.

“I guess… ” Xiumin’s words come out a bit stronger this time.

Luhan fingers find an especially dense knot. They prod at it, gently digging into him and Xiumin lets out a surprised yelp.

“Then that’s why.”
--

That day he trails after Luhan as he leaves class. They stand together in the elevator, Luhan humming to himself and Xiumin frantically writing text messages to no one (the only contact he has in his phone is work anyway).

They’re walking through the exit when Luhan gives Xiumin a small nod of goodbye. He turns to walk away, but…

“WAIT!”

Luhan stops and looks back, his wide eyes even larger in astonishment.

Xiumin’s surprised too. How could that forceful command have come out of his mouth? For a few moments he’s too mortified to speak.

“Yes?” Luhan’s tone is subdued, but his smile is coaxing.

Xiumin tries to quiet the wild thumping of his chest, and draws in a few shaky breaths in an attempt to stop trembling. Luhan waits and his soft smile doesn’t lose any of its gentleness.

His chest feels tight and he’s sure that his face is flushed with embarrassment. “Ah… I-I’m Xiumin,” the words stumble out at last.

Luhan closes the distance between them in two easy steps and takes Xiumin’s small hands in his.

“It’s nice to meet you, Xiumin. I’m Luhan.”

His eyes, confident and sincere, look straight into Xiumin’s timid ones and Xiumin finds his breathing becoming strained again.

--

Kim Minseok passed through high school quietly. He had a small group of friends – Kyungsoo, Suho, Chanyeol, and Baekhyun - but he was never really sure of his place among them.

At first, because he was the oldest, he was the one with a car. He was the one that drove everyone around after school and ferried people home after the late night parties. But then Suho’s birthday came around, along with a silver Mustang (“It’s just my Dad’s old car!” Suho had protested when everyone stared at the car in awe), and they asked to ride in the rust-flecked van less and less.

Next, he was the one who could dance the best and every time a new music video came out they’d all ask him to teach them the harder moves. Often he'd stay up late the day before just to practice the moves again and again. But then Kyungsoo’s childhood friend, Jongin, started attending their school. And it wasn’t long before the dancing prodigy and his friend from the academy, Sehun, began hanging out with them.

Then Minseok took on an after school job and became the one they forgot to call occasionally, like when they celebrated Chanyeol passing chemistry and when Baekhyun won the singing contest.

He spent the year after graduating high school working in a seedy Korean barbeque joint and several backalley noodle stands to save up money for tuition. When he got home he slept, and when he woke up, he went to work. So it wasn’t until weeks after his birthday had passed without any phone calls or text messages that he realized he was no longer one of them at all.

So that year he enrolled at a university in China and became Xiumin.

--

The next week after class, Luhan and Xiumin decide to grab a coffee at the small café across the street from the center.

At first Luhan grumbles about big franchises taking away from the local economy, but after he bites into the chocolate caramel tart topped with whipped cream and toasted almonds, he coos appreciatively.

Xiumin peers at Luhan cautiously while nibbling on his oatcake with chocolate drizzle.

And when Luhan notices Xiumin’s gaze he smiles. “So. What do people usually ask?” He tilts his head and hums as he thinks. “Ah, how old are you? Did you go to school? What do you do now? … I think those are the usual questions.”

He puts the oatcake down. “Um. I’m twenty-five –“

Luhan gasps. “You’re a year older than me? I never would have guessed with that baby face of yours!” He slowly places his fork down and stares at Xiumin in awe.

Xiumin fidgets under Luhan’s scrutiny. “Look who’s talking,” he mumbles before sipping his tea. He’s surprised to find out that Luhan’s only a year younger.

He doesn’t mean for Luhan to hear, but he must’ve because he chuckles and says, “I’m glad you’re starting to feel a bit more comfortable around me now."

Xiumin feels his cheeks burning so he answers Luhan’s other questions in an attempt to change the subject. “I studied English with a minor in Linguistics at Hunan University. And now I do freelance work as an editor and translator.” He picks at the oatcake before looking up shyly. “Uh. Well, what about you?”

Luhan grins. “Wow, so you went to Hunan! I guess that’s why you’re in Changsha!”

Xiumin nods slowly.

Then Luhan tells Xiumin about the years he spent at art school before finally managing to graduate. Luhan's art school was a small private college that relied on partnerships with neighbouring universities in order to allow their students to fulfill their university credits, and it was when Luhan attended classes for his education minor at a neighbouring university that he meet his small group of friends, all of whom were decidedly NOT art school types.

Through fits of breathless laughter, Luhan tells Xiumin about the time Jongdae (who is studying to be a brain surgeon) planned a prank on Lay. Luhan chortles to himself as he recalls the way Jongdae rigged a bucket over the classroom doorway to dump flour on the unsuspecting boy, only to dump it on the professor instead. Throughout the story Luhan's laughter intensifies and by the end he's howling.

Xiumin smiles politely and drinks his tea.

Then Luhan talks about the other odd jobs he does to meet the rent - feeding the cats of the businesswoman down the hall, and helping his friend Kris at the kindergarten where they work. Most of his stories about Kris seem to revolve around him scaring people unintentionally, one consisting of an angry parent and a rhododendron bush that nearly gets the police involved.

("Well, the problem with Kris is that he's got a serious case of bitch face," Luhan says solemnly.

"Oh," Xiumin responds, not understanding at all.)

Xiumin eats more of his oatcake.

From there Luhan launches into descriptions of funny incidents with his friends, and Xiumin smiles and tries to laugh in all the right places. He likes hearing Luhan talk, but after an hour of hearing about strangers his patience is beginning to wane.

“Is this another one of those ‘well, it would be funny if you knew him' stories?” Xiumin asks warily as Luhan starts on another.

“It seems like someone’s getting touchy,” Luhan teased. “But don’t worry, this one is really funny.”

(But it wasn’t.)

--

Still, Xiumin and Luhan keep meeting up for coffee, and later on, dinner. Even after the art classes have finished they still meet up to talk.

It’s when Luhan visits Xiumin's apartment for the third time that he realizes Xiumin is extremely particular about how he arranges his furniture.

Luhan is trying to show Xiumin how to let his arms make broad strokes freely when his arm bumps into a chair and sends it toppling.

They both flinch at the thud, and then Luhan rightens the chair while murmuring apologies. He sees a flicker of unease in Xiumin's face before Xiumin regains control of his expressions and the frown is replaced with his usual crooked smile.

Luhan wonders if what he thought was merely a dinning room chair is actually a family heirloom passed through generations, and feels a knot of guilt growing in his stomach.

But later, when he happens to glimpse Xiumin readjusting the angle between the chair and the table, he realizes that no, it's just a dinning room chair and Xiumin is just strangely neurotic about furniture arrangement.

--

By Luhan's fifth visit to the apartment he feels comfortable being there.

Despite being in the same room, Xiumin and Luhan work separately: Luhan at the table, painting, and Xiumin on the couch, translating articles. A relaxed silence falls over the two, sometimes broken by the scratch of a brush or ball point pen against paper.

Xiumin tries to do most of the translation work by memory, but he's brought out the tattered dictionary he bought in college just in case. He reaches for it as he starts the horoscope section and thumbs through the yellowing pages.

Then he feels the sofa cushions shift slightly and Luhan is there beside him.

"What are you looking for?" He asks while peering over Xiumin's shoulder.

"金牛宮" Xiumin mutters, trying to remember the number of radicals within each character. And then he sees the English word: Taurus. He jots it on the manuscript before looking up at Luhan.

"Did you always know that you wanted to be a translator?" Luhan asks when Xiumin's eyes meet his.

Instead of answering Xiumin smiles mischieviously. "What about you? Did you always want to be an artist?"

Initially Luhan is startled by the sudden question, but then his face relaxes into laughter. "I thought I'd be the Rubik's cube world champion by now." He picks at the sofa upholstery. "Unfortunately, I only made it to nationals."

And at first Xiumin doesn't really believe Luhan, but as Luhan begins to describe the shows and the competitions and the judging system he starts to think that maybe Luhan's being serious.

"I didn't even know there were Rubik's cube competitions." Xiumin can't keep an edge of disbelief from his voice.

"The world is a mysterious place," responds Luhan airily, laughing. He looks at Xiumin expectantly as his expression sobers slightly. "But you never answered my question."

And Xiumin shrugs. "I'm not sure. It just happened," he looks down at the article again. "I guess I've always been interested in languages."

Silence creeps over them as Luhan watches Xiumin scratch out notes onto the paper. But then the pen slows, and Xiumin looks up suddenly.

“My real name’s not Xiumin,” Xiumin confesses abruptly. “My birth name’s actually Kim Minseok.”

Luhan stares at Xiumin, evaluating his expression.

“I knew you were Korean,” Luhan admits.

Xiumin raises his eyebrows.

“Because your accent is so bad when you—“

Luhan’s words are cut short when Xiumin shoves him off of the couch

--

Some days, Luhan drags Xiumin to art museums, grumbling about finding inspiration.

And on the first time he's lured out, Xiumin is surprised to find that they both don't like abstract art.

In Xiumin's case, it's because what does it mean anyway and in Luhan's because why did they bother to go to art school if they're just going to paint like this. (Though Xiumin thinks that Luhan sounds a bit jealous when he says it.)

Instead, they spend hours in the impressionist exhibits, reveling in Renoir and Monet.

And after their outing Luhan often brings out his watercolors.

Sometimes he paints ferociously, and Xiumin wonders if the unearthly landscapes and vibrant colours are part of another world that only Luhan can see.

Other times he forces Xiumin to join him and they paint each others portraits.

On these days Xiumin always complains that he's not artistic and didn't Luhan see enough in the class to know that? Still, he attempts to paint Luhan, wincing at every line he puts to paper. And when they show each other their final products, Luhan whines that his eyelashes are not that thick and his nose is not that small. Xiumin briefly considers strangling the other, before Luhan smiles at last and admits that he likes it.

(Luhan's paintings of Xiumin, of course, are always good, and Xiumin can't help but feel flattered and envious at the same time.)

--

After Luhan finds out that Xiumin liked to play soccer in high school, he decides that it’s time for Xiumin to meet his friends.

And that’s how Xiumin ends up standing awkwardly in his apartment in a pair of soccer shorts he bought earlier that afternoon while Luhan nags at him to hurry up and try on the cleats that he brought over.

When Xiumin asks yet again if his hair looks all right, Luhan laughs.

“It's not like I’m introducing you to my parents or anything! Calm down!”

Xiumin agrees distractedly, but it’s not just a meeting with Luhan’s friends to Xiumin. It’s his first step into Luhan’s world and he better not fuck this up.

--

Xiumin's retying the laces on his cleats when he sees a pair of feet enter his vision.

He looks up into a long face set in a sour looking scowl. The man’s dark brown eyebrows knit together as he peers down at Xiumin.

Xiumin shrinks back instinctively.

“This is Kris.” Luhan gestures to the tall man. "Kris, Xiumin. Xiumin, Kris."

“Nice to meet you.” Kris says gruffly.

“Oh.” And then Xiumin remembers Luhan’s friend with the bitch face who works as a kindergarten teacher. “Oh.”

Kris’ eyebrow quirks, “Luhan, what did you tell him?” His voice has a threatening edge to it.

Luhan squeaks and runs to hide behind Xiumin. “Just… you know… about the time – “

“You didn’t.” Kris’ voice is hard. “Luhan! You said you’d stop telling people!” His voice trails off into a whine as he playfully attempts to reach around Xiumin. Luhan squeals and ducks further behind Xiumin.

After a few half-hearted swipes, Kris chuckles and lets his hands fall to his sides.

While Xiumin stands there, shocked at the sudden show of playfulness, Luhan slips out from behind him and clings to his arm. Before Xiumin has time to react, another of Luhan's friends arrives. He seems to be around Xiumin's height, with dark hair and sharp cheekbones.

"Hello” the man says in a sing-songy voice, swinging his arms around Kris’ shoulders and pulling him down to his height.

Kris attempts to shake off the arm clamped around his shoulders before grudgingly introducing the newcomer. “This is Jongdae. He’s Korean too."

"He’s also insincere and infuriatingly clever,” Luhan adds with a sigh.

“I take that as a compliment!” Jongdae grins, "But how am I insincere?”

“He's attending med school just to kill time.” Luhan whispers loudly to Xiumin behind his hand. He turns to Jongdae, “I'm pretty sure that's insincere.”

Jongdae shrugs and looks at Xiumin. “It’s true. My parents want me to take over the business after I graduate, so I just chose the major that requires the longest time in school.”

“I just can’t believe you actually got in,” Kris huffs. Then he looks around the field before gesturing to a tall dark youth. “Hey, Tao! Come here!”

The man saunters over.

“Hey,” he says. “Tao.” He sticks out a hand.

"Xiumin," he says as he shakes the outstretched hand.

“Tao creates idols,” Luhan chirps.

Tao scoffs. “Luhan-ge I’m an imagist.” He draws the last word out to add emphasis.

“I’m pretty sure you made up that title,” Luhan mumbles into Xiumin’s shoulder.

Tao shoots him a glare before elaborating. “I create images for celebrities. I help them with their personal fitness, plan their wardrobe, prepare them for the press, and all of that.”

“He knows wushu too!” Jongdae adds cheerfully.

“Hey, you know that new band… EXO or something? Tao works with them,” Kris tells Xiumin, face filled with pride.

Xiumin tries to remember the newly debuted boy band. All he can picture are outfits of leather and leopard print draped in revealing ways. “Ah, I thought their outfits seemed… ” Flashy. Gaudy. “… nice.”

Jongdae struggles to keep from laughing and Xiumin curses his honestly expressive face.

Tao frowns (and it's surprisingly cute). He opens his mouth to comment but Jongdae cuts him off.

“So, are we going to start playing or what?”

“Oh, we’re just missing Lay, I’ll go and get him!” Kris flashes a tight awkward smile before jogging over to the other side of the field to grab their wayward last member.

“Lay’s nice,” Jongdae tells Xiumin. “But sometimes he's not all there. If you know what I mean."

“He’s a back-up dancer,” Luhan whispers, as if that explains it.

Xiumin just nods.

--

Once, when Xiumin returns to his apartment after a rare outing, he finds Luhan curled up asleep outside his door.

“I thought you’d be home. You NEVER leave the house… ” Luhan murmurs reproachfully as one eye opens.

Xiumin swallows a retort because Luhan’s right. “The internet was down,” he mutters. “So I had to hand in the manuscript by hand.” He fumbles with his keys and Luhan scrambles out of the doorway.

It takes longer than usual for Xiumin to open the door because Luhan keeps leaning on him.

That night Luhan seems to be more quiet than usual. As Xiumin cooks dinner he hovers awkwardly. It feels strange to Xiumin, to be the talkative one for once, but he tries his best to ask about Luhan's day and explain what he's doing as he cooks.

When they sit at the dinner table Luhan eats wordlessly, only looking up from time to time to steal glances at Xiumin.

"Does it taste good?" Xiumin asks anxiously.

Luhan smiles slightly. "Yeah."

"My friend Kyungsoo taught me how to make it." Xiumin grins at the memory. "Kimchi spaghetti was always his specialty."

And then Luhan sets down his fork. "Your friend?" Luhan stares down at the dish of food in front of him. "How did you know you were friends?"

Pieces of spaghetti slip from Xiumin's fork because Luhan manages to ask the one question Xiumin always wanted to avoid. "You just do," he responds as he loads his fork with another mouthful of spaghetti.

Xiumin can tell that it wasn't the response that Luhan was looking for. "I don't understand how you can judge the distance between people," Luhan mutters, frowning.

After Xiumin finishes chewing he makes another attempt. "You know you're friends because you like being with each other. You care for each other, you rely on each other, and you … need each other." Xiumin thinks back to his friends from high school and wonders if he really believes what he's saying, or if he's just reciting the words he's learned from books and movies.

He tries to gauge Luhan's reaction, and apparently this response is acceptable because Luhan picks up his fork and continues eating.

But later that night as they watch reruns on TV, Luhan leans into Xiumin, trying to decrease the distance between them.

--

Before he realizes it, Xiumin’s collected fragments of Luhan: his mannerisms, his preferences, his experiences… . Anything Luhan says or does is filed away in Xiumin’s head.

It comes as a surprise to Xiumin because he’s always had difficulty remembering things. Even when his parents were still alive he forgot their birthdays more often than not. And back when he worked at the office, he often arrived at the company only to realize that he'd forgotten his briefcase.

But as he reminds Luhan to ask the waiter if there’s shellfish in the dish he just ordered (Xiumin's stunned how often Luhan forgets about his own allergy) he finds that information about Luhan comes to him easily.

That Luhan is allergic to shellfish. The way Luhan’s profile looks in the dim lighting outside his apartment. His habit of wearing mismatched socks. The way he drums his fingers against his leg when he's impatient. His favourite movies and restaurants and books and -

And he can’t help but wonder if Luhan is collecting pieces of him too.

--

The first time they kiss is not romantic at all because it's just after Xiumin gets hit in the face with a soccer ball.

The game's tied 3-3 when Lay goes for a corner kick and ends up hitting Xiumin solidly in the face. The impact of the ball makes him feel a little dizzy, so Xiumin is standing there, dumbfounded, as liquid begins to trickle from his nose.

Dazed, he touches his face, surprised to find his fingers wet with blood. As he stares at his hand in shock he doesn’t hear Lay apologizing or Jongdae asking if he’s all right.

A blur of golden brown that obscures his vision is the only warning he has before Luhan kisses him.

And before Xiumin is able to decide how he should react, Luhan pulls away with a shy smile on his face.

“I’ve heard that helps take away the pain,” Luhan says, his voice lilting playfully. But he then he is shy again, and he bites his lip as he looks up at Xiumin.

So Xiumin tries desperately to concentrate on the warmth pooling in his stomach and the tightness in his chest so that he doesn’t think about how gross and unsanitary it is that some of his blood is smeared across Luhan’s face.

--

After they’ve been friends for about six months, Luhan starts moving Xiumin’s furniture to see if he’ll notice.

The first time it's an accident - he moves the lamp in the entryway. He had moved the lamp in order to put down a bag of Chinese takeout and simply forgot to move it back, yet the next time he visits Xiumin the lamp is the same: five inches off-center.

So, on his next visit, he moves the coffee table next to the couch 3 inches closer to the wall.

Soon enough it has become a habit for Luhan to move a piece of furniture every time he visits Xiumin, and it becomes a game to see how long it will take until he gets caught.

But Xiumin doesn't notice.

--

One day, Luhan arrives at Xiumin's house right as he's getting ready to send off an article. Luhan tries to read it over Xiumin's shoulder, but he gets lost in the sea of English. "Why do you know so many languages," Luhan grumbles under his breath sulkily.

Xiumin ignores Luhan as he double-checks the e-mail to his employer. Finally, satisfied, he clicks send and swivels to face Luhan.

"Hey, Xiumin… why do you work from home anyway?"

"You really want to know?"

"Yeah."

Xiumin's quiet for a second. Then he motions for Luhan to sit.

He tells Luhan about the co-workers who teased him for being Korean. First it was only a few snide comments, but later, it escalated to documents being misplaced and his pens going missing. That's when Xiumin started ordering his pens - so that he'd be able to tell at a glance which ones needed to be replaced.

But the editor-in-chief was the worst. From the first day he met Xiumin, he made it clear that he felt nothing but distain for the younger man. Constantly, he asked Xiumin to do menial tasks, such as fetching coffee and buying packages of cigarettes. And he never referred to Xiumin by name. Instead he called him baozi, a nickname he used to mock Xiumin's chubby cheeks. (“Even though you're fat like a baozi, you’re all dough and no meat. Just like the ones they sell at that cheap little food cart down the street,” he sneered.)

The day that Xiumin left was a day when Xiumin was summoned to the editor-in chief’s desk.

“BAOZI!” the editor snapped in his usual way. “Where is your latest article? I couldn’t find it on my desk this morning and I need it by this afternoon if it's going to make tomorrow’s paper.”

Xiumin flinched at his harsh tone, but he still began to apologize. “I’m sorry, I don’t know what could have happened. I’ll do it over as – “

And then Xiumin saw his article. In the editor-in-chief’s trashcan.

Even though it’s slightly crumpled and stained with coffee, Xiumin could still make out the title and recognizable ripped pieces of photographs.

Then Xiumin thought about all the work that went into this article. How the kind intern helped him look up dates and figures. How the photographer printed out three sets of photos because Xiumin couldn’t decide which one was best.

He supposed that he could have pretended not to notice. He could have apologized and reprinted his report like he usually does.

But for some reason, on that day, he decided to look over at his co-workers.

And he wondered if the bullying was less because he was Korean and more because he was the youngest and a Hunan graduate. Perhaps, he thought, if he had been a bit more talkative around his coworkers everything could have been avoided. But it was too late. And as he looked into their faces he saw their indifference and contempt and Xiumin realized that he didn’t have a place there either.

So Xiumin quit and started working freelance.

He heard later that the editor-in-chief had been fired over a sexual harassment claim. But when the newspaper offered to give him his old job back, he refused. He'd had enough of the office environment.

Instead, he retreated deeper and deeper into his apartment.

A silence settles over them as Xiumin finishes speaking. Anxiously, he looks towards Luhan. He finds the other staring at him, and he fidgets self-consciously.

Then gently, Luhan takes Xiumin’s face in his hands. When their gazes meet, Xiumin can tell by the gathering tears that Luhan feels the loneliness as keenly as he did.

As Luhan cries, his fingers ghost over Xiumin’s cheeks. They skim over his skin, tracing the bumps and crevices of his face. And Xiumin rarely cries, but when he sees the way Luhan focuses on his face and feels the feathery touch against his skin, he can't help but feel his eyes tingle as tears begin to form.

"Why are you crying?" Luhan asks as he dabs at Xiumin’s eyes with a sleeve.

"Because you're crying."

Luhan's hands fly to his face, and he looks surprised to feel the wetness of his cheeks under his fingers. Then he lets out a small laugh. "So I am." But his smile remains sad and his voice tight.

He strokes the pad of his thumb over Xiumin’s cheek lightly.

“Bao… zi,” Luhan murmurs. “Baozi."

And Xiumin finds that he doesn’t mind the nickname when Luhan says it.
--

There are times when Xiumin glimpses a more fragile Luhan.

Like when Luhan suddenly throws a sponge on the ground and tells Xiumin to stop putting him on a pedestal because he’s not fucking perfect because Xiumin remarked that he better drain the bacon grease before washing that pan because it’s going to clog the sink.

Then they sit together, right there on the kitchen floor. As Luhan tells Xiumin about his childhood, Xiumin lets his hand rest on Luhan’s back in what he hopes is a comforting gesture. He drags his hand over the curve of the other’s back, feeling the ridges and valleys of Luhan's spine through the thin t-shirt.

"At first, my parents didn't want me to participate in any Rubik's cube competitions. I had to beg and beg," and in the beginning Luhan's voice is quiet and hesitant.

"It was only when they saw how determined I was that they finally gave in. But they said that if I was going to do it, I had to be the best." He chuckles. "That's how it always was with them. Unless you were the best there was no point in doing it at all.

"You know when you asked me if I always wanted to do art?" Luhan continues as he drags a finger across the edge of a tile. "The truth is, in middle school, art was my worst subject." His lips twist into a wry smile. "Although I did well throughout the year, I forgot to hand in the final project, so the best mark I could get was a B."

Luhan smiles to himself, shaking his head.

"All the classes I took… all A's, except for that one."

Xiumin can't speak, so he merely rubs a few small circles into Luhan’s shoulder blades. As Xumin waits for him to continue, he tries to ignore the cabinet knob jabbing into his back.

"After that, my parents wouldn't let me take art. In high school they told me to take music instead. And I listened to them! I just gave up," Luhan whispers, pulling his knees further into his chest. "But I didn't mind at first because I still had my Rubik's cube.

"But in high school there was so much more pressure." The refrigerator starts to hum softly in the background, and Xiumin leans closer to hear Luhan more clearly. "Everyday… I felt like I'd suffocate from the pressure. After one competition ended, there was always another… and even if I won, everyone just expected more from me."

Slowly, the tears spill over his cheeks, dripping past his chin and dribbling onto his jeans. "And then there was school… Chemistry, Physics, Math, Chinese, English, Music, History. I had to be perfect in all of them." Luhan whispers, pulling his knees further into his chest. "I'd stay up 'til 3 a.m. doing homework and practice sets just so that I could keep my grades up."

Now Luhan's crying freely, but he doesn't seem to care.

"And then at the end of high school, nationals came around , and when I was there and the clock was ticking down, I looked out into the crowd and saw my parents and I just blanked."

Luhan draws in a shuddering breath, trying to ground himself. When he speaks again Xiumin has to strain to hear the soft whispers.

"Because what if I failed? What if I wasn't perfect anymore?"

It pains Xiumin to see how small Luhan has become, back curled over his limbs in a tight ball. He rests his arm over the other man's shoulders, drawing closer.

Luhan settles into Xiumin before continuing. "My whole life had been devoted to keeping up that image. That's who I was. If I wasn't smart and talented then who was Luhan? I needed to have those grades, I needed to win at nationals. And I failed."

He laughs as the tears continue streaming down his face and his nose begins to water a bit as well.

"Xiumin, I was there and I failed."

Although Xiumin hates to see Luhan cry, he thinks that maybe Luhan needs this. So he merely curls Luhan closer into his side, trying to still the shuddering sobs.

It's only after a few minutes that Luhan's breathing becomes more regulated and the hiccups become more infrequent.

"What about after high school?" Xiumin murmurs. He's almost afraid to break the fragile silence.

There's a pause, and Xiumin wonders if Luhan didn't hear him. Finally, there's a measured intake of breath.

"Then after high school I moved to Changsha and spent a year putting together a portfolio while I worked a few part time jobs."

Like I did, Xiumin thinks.

And the conversation falls away as they savor the presence of each other.

"But I'm glad," Luhan says, just as the refrigerator splutters into silence. "I'm grateful for everything because it's all a part of who I am now. Is… is that weird?"

Xiumin thinks of here and now. The way Luhan's bony shoulders dig into his arm slightly and the cold linoleum flooring underneath him.

And he finds that he agrees.

--

Slowly Xiumin’s name begins to change.

At first when Luhan calls him Minseok, the syllables sound strange and foreign. Luhan’s tongue is clumsy in shaping the unfamiliar sounds and Xiumin barely recognizes his own name.

But the name begins to come more naturally as time goes by and Luhan begins to use it as often as he can.

It’s “Minseok, where do you want to eat dinner?” or “Minseok, did you remember your ID this time? Kris is probably going to want to drink.”

And sometimes it’s “Baozi, Baozi, come here” and Minseok is pulled into a tight hug. He smiles as Luhan clings to him and whispers “Luhan" over and over as he pulls the other closer to him.

--

Sometimes they kiss.

The kisses are innocent and careless, always stolen in quiet moments of happiness, like when Luhan finds the sock Minseok’s been missing for the past week.

Or like after Minseok manages to score a goal, and he, Luhan and Kris win against Tao, Chen and Lay.

And like now, when the movie has finished and Luhan finds himself waking up on Minseok’s shoulder, and the moonlight spilling through the window makes the moment seem that much more mysterious and beautiful.

Minseok wonders if it’s normal for friends to kiss or if they’ve already passed the invisible boundary between friends into something more. It’s not like he’s had enough experience with friendships to know what’s normal. All he knows is that the bond between him and Luhan surpasses that of any other friendship he’s ever had, even if he’s not sure what that means.

And although he wants to ask Luhan about it, he never quite finds the time or the courage to bring it up.

--

Weeks pass and it's the night that Luhan and Minseok plan to watch The Shawshank Redemption.

("Really, Minseok, how have you never seen this movie before? Did you really major in English?" Luhan had shrieked. And although Minseok doesn't see how the two are related, he agrees to watch it anyway.)

While Minseok fixes the settings on the TV, Luhan decides to make popcorn. He hums as he transfers the popcorn into the cheap plastic bowl Minseok reserves for movie nights. He walks back to the room slowly, shaking the bowl a bit in order to flatten out the mound of popcorn. But when he spots Minseok he freezes in the doorway.

Minseok is struggling to push the sofa to the right. And after a few moments of pushing, Minseok stands back to examine his work, then sighs.

Luhan feels a chill run through him. “What are you doing?”

Minseok glances up before returning his attention to the sofa, “Luhan, I know you’ve been rearranging my things.”

For some reason Luhan feels a lump forming in his stomach. Nausea rises within him and he just wants to close his eyes and try to forget everything. All at once he feels scared and angry and just so alone.

"Why didn't you say anything?" he whispers.

"Hmm?" Minseok hasn't turned away from the sofa.

Something in Luhan just snaps and he can't stop the tears anymore. His breath catches in his throat and his nose is running too. He feels like he's expelling all of his emotions from his body but he still doesn't know what to say.

"Weren't you… curious? Didn't you w-want to know… ."

Minseok turns and he's stunned to see Luhan crying. His eyes dart, searching, over the other's face. Luhan doesn't know what his face looks like right now, but he hopes that Minseok's able to see something in it.

"Know what?" Minseok says at last, cautiously. Although he wants to go to Luhan, for some reason, he hesitates.

Luhan can't look at Minseok anymore, so he gazes down into the bowl still gripped in his hands. He watches as his tears dribble onto the popcorn. "YOU ALWAYS TALK ABOUT FINDING A PLACE TO BELONG!" and Luhan's voice comes out as a shout, but maybe he's lost control of unimportant things like volume. "I just… wanted to belong here."

His knuckles are turning white as they grip the bowl. The plastic cuts into his skin a bit, but he hardly notices. "But you're so cold sometimes I don't feel like I ever really make a mark and if I do, then it disappears before I even get the chance to see it and I just – " he knows he's rambling now.

“Luhan, I – “

And then Luhan’s voice becomes small and muted, as if the anger has deflated from him and all that's left is the sadness and insecurity, “Minseok, do you pity me? Is that why you stay with me?”

Minseok is speechless because he thought that he was the pity case. Because he’s not good enough for Luhan. He’d never be good enough for him. And wouldn’t anyone see that? After all, Minseok is the one with the boring job and no friends. And Luhan is vibrant and free. All light and energy. If Minseok’s the one they’ll never remember, Luhan’s the one they’ll never forget.

And he loves Luhan so so much. But he doesn’t like feeling that he’s losing control. Because it’s frightening to be caught up like this. And suddenly he thinks that maybe he avoided talking to people all these years because he cares too much about others. And now, with Luhan staring at him with those big eyes, he’s just so scared. And he wants to trust Luhan. He wants to let Luhan rearrange his furniture and mix up his pens and put his socks in the wrong drawer. But he’s afraid, and Luhan deserves someone better.

“I can’t fall in love with you,” he murmers, “but I-“ want to anyway.

The words he meant to say die away as Luhan smiles and moves to kiss him. Minseok briefly wonders why such a soft, gentle smile doesn’t quite extend to Luhan’s eyes, but then Luhan leans into him and his thoughts just scatter and oh god he can’t think anymore because Luhan’s nipping at his lip and then –

The next morning, Luhan is gone.

--

It’s been over two weeks since Luhan left and Minseok hasn’t stepped outside the apartment.

He spends his days aimlessly. He’s thankful for the days that he gets e-mails from work. On those days he stretches out on the sofa with a red ballpoint pen, meticulously reordering i’s and e’s and pondering the intricacies of the English language.

On days when no e-mails come, he moves the furniture around. But at the end of all the dragging and reorganizing it’s always the same arrangement as when he started. He dislikes these days the most because he doesn’t accomplish anything and it feels as if time is moving on everywhere except in his apartment.

It’s on the eighteenth day after Luhan left that someone arrives at the door.

“Delivery!” A voice calls out. Knocks flutter impatiently against his apartment door.

As Minseok gets up he wonders if he’s ordered anything recently (because if not, then maybe it’s finally the set of Prismacolor felt tip markers that he thought had gotten lost in the mail) and then as he’s unlocking the door he wonders why the deliveryman is slamming his door so savagely –

“Delivery…" A hand snakes around the door and roughly forces the it open. “NOT.”

Minseok steps back in surprise when he’s confronted by two dark, murderous eyes.

A youth, brooding and lean, pushes his way into Minseok’s apartment. Minseok recognizes him as one of Luhan’s friends. It takes a moment before he can remember his name because Minseok still hasn’t gotten used to meeting people again and having to remember things about them.

“…Tao? What are you doing here?” Minseok tries not to panic at the sudden intrusion, but he can’t help but feel a bit alarmed because Tao’s boots have tracked mud onto his carpet.

“ARE YOU A FUCKING IDIOT?!?”

Minseok flinches, though he’s not sure if it’s because of the words or the sheer VOLUME.

“Do you even realize how torn up Luhan is right now?” As Tao yells, bits of spittle fly from his mouth. Minseok steps back, disgusted. “He’s been moping around for the past two weeks! Why haven’t you tried to contact him?!”
He takes a moment to think over Tao’s words before responding cautiously.

Luhan’s the one who left.”

“So?” Tao snorts in disbelief. “You’re the one who just let him leave! If you cared even a bit about him you’d at least try to understand why he left! Did you even stop to think that maybe he didn’t want to leave?”

Minseok’s eyes snap to the younger boy and he stares Tao, trying to see something in his face. Tao’s eyes are angry, hard, and maybe even cold, but his gaze is firm and honest.

Despite all his work as an editor, words often fail Minseok.

“But he left,” he finally manages to say.

Tao lets out a frustrated growl. “LOOK, there must be something you still want to say to him!” The youth looms over him, and Minseok is suddenly very aware of the 10 cm difference between their heights. “I’m going to come back later after my job and you better have written something because if you haven’t, then God help me, I will be forced to Show. Off. My. Wu. Shu.” The threat is punctuated with a fierce glare and a slender finger jabbing into Minseok’s chest.

But before Minseok has time to react, Tao has turned heel and left, slamming the door violently behind him.

--

Minseok thinks for a long time about what he wants to say to Luhan, and when Tao returns he hands him a card with two sentences carefully written in blue 0.4 mm liquid ink.

I hope that you can be happy now.

I’d like it if you came by and helped me move the sofa.


--

That night Minseok finds himself thinking about his old friends from Korea. It's a cool night, but the cicadas are loud outside his window. He can't sleep and he keeps wondering if Baekhyun made it as a singer or if Kyungsoo really became a chef.

After several sleepless hours he opens his laptop. Dear Mr. Do, I hope you are- Delete.

Kyungsoo-ah! Are you and Jongin married yet? Because if not- Delete.

He writes several different e-mails, but ends up deleting them all.

Minseok leans back in his office chair. He closes his eyes with the sigh. The sound of chirping cicadas fills the small apartment, but Minseok focuses on the calming whirr of his computer.

Then, with his brow furrowed, he starts another e-mail.

Kyungsoo-ah! It's been a long time. Have you been well…

--

Two days later Minseok hears a pounding on the door.

He’s a bit afraid to open the door because the last person to knock on the door forced his way into Minseok’s apartment, yelled at him, and left stains on the carpet that took bleach and 2 hours of scrubbing to get out.

So he pulls open the door cautiously, and peeps his head out only slightly.

But this time it’s Luhan. He’s back.

He looks at Minseok with a little lopsided grin. His auburn hair is a windswept mess and sweat has started to gather at his temples. And Luhan must have been running because he’s a bit out of breath and as he bends over his short gasps are the only noise that fills the tiny space of the hallway.

But now the intervals between gasps are filled with quiet laughter, and Luhan’s looking up at Minseok with the brightest eyes he’s ever seen.

“I heard you want me to move your sofa?”

Minseok nods.

“Is it really okay for me to?” Luhan’s words are pitched a bit higher than normal, and Minseok realizes that he’s not really talking about the sofa.

Luhan’s talking about them and Minseok finally letting go of himself. He’s talking about finally moving past an ambiguous friendship into something different and unknown. Minseok doesn’t know how he’ll handle this. And he doesn’t know what’ll come next.

But he’s okay with that.

“Yeah.”

Luhan’s face blossoms into a smile and suddenly Minseok has never been more sure that he’s willing to let Luhan mess up his life a little.

--

They pass their days lazily, and their time together is a blur of fights and kisses.

Minseok still does all his editing work at home, but he’s stopped getting his groceries delivered. Instead he and Luhan make the trek to the supermarket together.

Arm in arm, they puzzle over the difference between low fat and lite cream cheese before they finally deciding to buy regular. And when Luhan is taking a long time choosing peaches, Minseok wraps his arms around him and slips his head onto his shoulder. Even though Minseok thinks this kind of gesture is romantic, it makes Luhan laugh. But Luhan still relaxes into him with a content sigh.

They still have disagreements.

Minseok said some things he regrets after finding Luhan’s red sock among his now-pink dress shirts. And when Minseok insisted that the lamp be placed exactly six inches from the sofa, Luhan might have called him some parts of the body not often mentioned in polite conversation.

But when Minseok looks down at his desk and sees his pens – now arranged by colour instead of by nib size – he thinks that maybe this is what he wanted all along.


----
A/N: Thank you to cloudabovemybed for being my beta and keeping me from slacking off. ;v;

The title is from Furniture by Final Fantasy/Owen Pallett, which (partly) inspired this.
Tags: !fanfic, author: edoriko, length: one-shot, pairing: xiumin/luhan, rating: pg-13
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