Fandom: EXO (AU, !NYC)
Pairing: Suho/Chen, Kai/Sehun, Kris/Tao, Luhan/Xiumin, Chanyeol/Baekhyun, Chen/OC; past Tao/Chen, Kris/Chanyeol.
Word count: 13,972
Summary: For most of his life, Lu Han had belonged to a certain subgroup of society, which Minseok referred to as “the extremely well-off” and which Sehun called “a bunch of rich fucks being twits”.
A/N: this is alternatively known as "rich fucks!au". I started this a couple of weeks ago and is the first thing I've started and finished without getting distracted halfway through in literally months, so I have a lot of good feels about this fic :3 this fic is for canttakeabreath ♥ who helped me out a lot when I was writing it and helped me with the geography of NYC, and also for aniyo and ilu, who helped me out with the actual plot.
Alternative summary: EXO are rich fucks, Baekhyun and Zitao are gossips, and Yixing's life is way more interesting than anyone gives a shit about.
disclaimer: I actually would kill to live in Brooklyn.
When they didn’t have anything better to do, which, to be fair, was most of the time, Baekhyun and Zitao met up for coffee and gossiped about who did and wore what at whichever charity dinner/gala party/corporate event they went to that weekend. Sometimes it turned into a mini competition to see who had the most scandalous piece of news, something which Baekhyun usually won, because Chanyeol liked to eavesdrop in the elevator, while Wu Fan thought that gossiping was a waste of time, and so never picked up anything of interest.
This time, Baekhyun could practically see the excitement running through Zitao’s veins, but he didn’t give him a chance to say anything before Baekhyun opened with, “On Saturday that Sungjong kid turned up with the most ridiculous date I’ve ever seen.”
Zitao looked torn for a minute before he said, “I heard that he spilled a glass of red wine on the German ambassador’s wife.”
Baekhyun nodded. “All over white silk, it was a disaster. Apparently he was some computer student at UVA, some long term relationship thing. He made Yixing look like he had his shit together.”
Zitao raised an eyebrow. “That bad?” Yixing had run away to Tennessee and joined a commune during college, until his father had turned up and threatened to cut him off from his inheritance if he didn’t take a shower.
“Terrible.” Baekhyun took a sip of coffee and sat back in his chair, pleased at having set the target so high. “What about you? Anything interesting?”
Zitao leaned forward, elbows on the table. “I heard that Junmyeon is in love with Jongdae,” he said, almost blurting it.
Baekhyun raised an eyebrow. “That’s boring,” he said.
For most of his life, Lu Han had belonged to a certain subgroup of society, which Minseok referred to as “the extremely well-off” and which Sehun called “a bunch of rich fucks being twits”. He’d been born into the world that most of them still inhabited, of wearing shirts to dinner and having maids to do all his cleaning. He’d been friends with rich fucks, gone to school with rich fucks, and then got into a college with rich fucks.
Then he’d decided to major in East Asian studies, and almost in the process, came out, and was subsequently disowned from his family. One of those insubordinations may have been okay, but the two put together was unforgiveable. He’d moved out, found a tiny apartment that he hadn’t been able to afford, and found a job in a coffee shop that barely even covered personal expenses, never mind tuition. He’d lost the apartment two months later and had spent sophomore year on Wu Fan’s couch. The only thing that had helped him through had been meeting Minseok, and Wu Fan, who had felt so guilty about encouraging both of the things that caused Lu Han to lose his inheritance that he’d paid for Lu Han’s groceries and books for an entire year.
It had turned out about a year ago that, even though at least half of his friends had been around at the time, they’d placed all the blame for the disownment on his choice of major, which had explained Zitao’s brief flirtation with being a political science major until he’d remembered that that meant work and he’d gone back to painting the city skyline. Only Wu Fan and Sehun had known anything about him and Minseok being a couple.
Considering they’d been a couple of five years before anyone noticed, Lu Han wasn’t surprised to find out that it had taken them this long to notice something as obvious as Junmyeon’s crush on Jongdae.
“Baekhyun and Zitao are the biggest gossips this side of central park,” Sehun said, laid out on Lu Han’s sofa with a beer in his hands. “How do they never notice these things about their friends?”
Lu Han shrugged, sitting on the arm of the couch reading Grass Soup. “More important things on their minds?” he suggested.
Sehun snorted. “Like what? Which salon to get their hair done at? Whether they should order the oysters or lobster at lunch?”
Lu Han raised an eyebrow. “Someone is bitter today.”
Sehun sighed and poked him with his toe. “I’m sorry, but it’s all so ridiculous. Who even cares if Junmyeon likes Jongdae, or if Yixing is fucking some artist from Germany—”
“—what does it matter in the long run? Isn’t there anything more important that they could be doing with their time?”
“No.” Lu Han shut his book and slid down the arm of the chair and sat on Sehun’s feet. “They don’t have anything better to do, which is why they gossip. They’re bored. You know why it took Baekhyun five years to finish up undergraduate? It’s not because he’s stupid, he’s incredibly smart. It was because he was bored, and he had nothing better to do. That’s the kind of life they lead.” By this point, he was sprawled across Sehun on the couch, head resting on Sehun’s chest. “So are you going to tell me why you’re really in a bad mood, or can I continue my reading?”
Sehun sighed. “I met this guy,” he began. Lu Han made an excited noise, and Sehun frowned down at him. “No, not like that. Well. Kind of. He was at that conference I went to at the weekend.”
“So a scientist?”
“No.” Sehun looked uncomfortable, shifting so that Lu Han slid between his side and the back of the couch. “No, he was…the son of the guy who owned the hotel.”
Lu Han tried to sit up and accidentally kneed Sehun in the hip. “Sorry,” he said, “but wait, weren’t you staying at Kai Central? So that means—”
“Kim Jongin, he said his name was.”
“Oh my god,” Lu Han said, hushed. “And when you said you met him, do you mean—? Because that guy’s worth easily as much as Wu Fan is, just through their hotel side of the company alone.”
“I know he is.” Sehun looked pained. “And I don’t know. He started talking to me in the bar, and I thought that he was just another guy at the conference but then he said that he owned the hotel, and then he tried to buy me a drink, and when I said no he sent a bottle of champagne over to my table, and then he tried to get me upgraded to a nicer room in the hotel, and—”
“So wait,” Lu Han said, “Kim Jongin hits on you and somehow this is a bad thing.”
“I know what it’s like to date someone rich like that,” Sehun said. He said rich like it was a dirty word. “So full of themselves. They think you should be falling into bed with them just because they sent a limo to pick you up from your apartment which could fit into their bathroom.” He let his head drop back, staring at the ceiling. “I got tired of that during high school.”
“But,” Lu Han said plaintively, “Kim Jongin.”
Sehun rolled his eyes and wrapped his arm around Lu Han’s shoulders, cuddling him. “I know, I know.”
The front door to the apartment opened and there were sounds of rattling keys and rustling bags. “I got groceries,” Minseok called, sounding very proud of himself. “I even remembered the milk this time!”
“Did you get soda water?” Lu Han called. There was a pause.
“Damn it,” said Minseok, walking into the room with his arms full of brown paper bags. “I was doing so well, too! I even managed to grab the last bag of rice that was on sale. I was almost the master of the supermarket.”
“Mmm,” said Lu Han, amusement in his voice.
Minseok dropped the bags on the dining table and began rummaging through them. Then he gave up, grabbed a beer from the fridge, and flopped down onto the arm chair. “Why are we snuggling?” he asked, raising an eyebrow at Lu Han.
“Sehun met Kim Jongin,” Lu Han said.
“His dad owns the Kai hotel chain,” Sehun said wearily. “He’s a multi-millionaire and incredibly attractive, and Lu Han can’t understand why I wouldn’t be interested.”
Minseok grinned. “Too many rich brats for one lifetime, huh?” Minseok understood, at least. Sehun smiled weakly at him.
“Wait,” said Lu Han. “Incredibly attractive? I don’t remember that ever coming up in conversation.”
“Uh,” said Sehun.
“I’ve never met Kim Jongin,” Lu Han said. “I’ve only ever heard him talked about. That was all you. You think he’s attractive. I knew you were interested.”
“Well I’m interested in his face,” Sehun said, exasperated. “The rest of it is off-putting.”
“You don’t even know him,” Lu Han said. “You could just go on one date!”
“One! Just one! Come on, Sehun.”
Lu Han rolled over him and onto the floor, making sure to dig an elbow in the soft part of Sehun’s stomach as he went, and then walked to Minseok and curled into his lap. He glared at Sehun.
“Why am I always the second choice when it comes to cuddling,” Minseok muttered, arm around Lu Han’s waist. “Always.”
Within a week, the only person who didn’t know about Junmyeon’s crush on Jongdae was Jongdae himself. This didn’t please Junmyeon, who had worked for two years to keep the whole thing secret. It had been quite easy because his friends were only interested in the lives of everyone else, and couldn’t care less about Junmyeon. He wasn’t exciting. He’d been born in California and had a biology degree and knew lots of things about vaccinations and absolutely nothing about which clothes were last season.
He knew that this didn’t exactly place him on an equal footing with Jongdae. At the age of twenty-five, Jongdae was the marketing director of an international cosmetics chain. He owned a one bedroom apartment overlooking Central Park and wore specially tailored suits and was dating a French model who Junmyeon wanted to set on fire.
“That guy’s a jerk,” Kyungsoo had said, the first and only time they’d met Marc. Zitao had told Jongdae so to his face. The man hadn’t spoken to anyone, except to Jongdae in French, and left early. Baekhyun had just informed them that he’d stormed out of a photo-shoot today because there weren’t enough ice cubes in the water.
Junmyeon slumped across the bar, almost upsetting Baekhyun’s cocktail. Baekhyun moved it out of the way, sucking on an orange slice. “What is he doing with that guy,” he groaned. “He’s a dick.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Lu Han said. “He just has really terrible taste in guys.”
There was a pause. “Hey,” said Zitao, hurt, because he and Jongdae had dated briefly during college before it became apparent that their separate collections of designer clothing were at war, and soon after their relationship hadn’t be salvaged after an argument over wardrobe space.
“I can’t compete with this guy,” Junmyeon said, stirring his drink with a straw. “He’s a male model.”
“So was Chanyeol during college,” Wu Fan said. “Big wow.”
“It’s okay,” Lu Han said soothingly, laying a hand on Junmyeon’s arm. “Everything will work out.”
Junmyeon gave him a helpless look. He loved Lu Han, really he did; Lu Han had been the first person to befriend him when he moved to New York, the whole reason he was friends with these people, but Lu Han was hopelessly idealistic. You’d think spending half of his college career sleeping on Wu Fan’s couch would have stomped that particularly personality facet straight out of him, but apparently not.
“No, it won’t,” Junmyeon said miserably. “I’m going to be alone forever. You guys might as well just start buying all the toys for the ten thousand cats I’m going to own.”
“Would you please stop,” Zitao said, slumped against Wu Fan’s side in the booth. “Self-pity is not a good look on you.”
“Cats,” Junmyeon insisted.
“Why are we talking about cats,” Kyungsoo asked, balancing four drinks in his hands as he made his way back from the bar. “I know this breeder, if someone wants to buy one, purebred shorthairs, they’re—”
“Stop,” Junmyeon moaned. Kyungsoo blinked at him.
Clucking his tongue, Lu Han pulled Kyungsoo down onto his chair. “Ignore him,” he said. “He’s just being melodramatic because of Jongdae.” Kyungsoo rolled his eyes.
Apparently bored of the subject of Junmyeon’s love troubles, Lu Han turned to Wu Fan. “Have you ever met Kim Jongin?” he asked.
“Once,” Wu Fan said. “At a dinner. Why?”
“Sehun met him at a conference last weekend and turned him down for a drink,” Lu Han said. “I wanted to know what he was like.”
“Okay, I love Sehun,” said Zitao, “but that boy is a fucking moron.”
“He seemed quiet,” Wu Fan said, shrugging. “Just introduced himself, chatted about the weather and then moved onto someone else.”
“He’s not quiet,” Kyungsoo piped up. “He’s actually pretty talkative when you get to know him.” Everyone stared at him. “What?” he asked. “We were roommates in college.”
“Why don’t you tell us these things?” Baekhyun asked desperately.
In the end, the guilt over not telling Lu Han (plus the phone call he got from Zitao telling him how stupid he was) tipped Sehun over the edge. “Right,” he said, as soon as Lu Han picked up the phone. “I need to tell you something.”
There was a bang on the other end of the line and Lu Han cursed in Chinese. “Yeah?” he asked, sounding a little distracted.
“Are you okay?” Sehun asked, concerned.
“Yes, yes,” said Lu Han, now sounding harassed. “What was it?”
Sehun, sitting curled up in a chair in his apartment, stared at the slip of paper sitting on his coffee table. “You remember how I told you last week about meeting Kim Jongin in that hotel bar?”
“Yes,” said Lu Han, a little more mellow now. “I really wish you’d—”
“Remember how I said that he sent that bottle of champagne to my table? Well, that wasn’t the only thing he sent over.”
Lu Han paused. “You realise he could have sent anything over, right? A box-set of Sex and the City. A diamond ring. The decapitated head of—”
“He gave me his number.”
“Okay, let me get this straight,” Lu Han said. “You get chatted up by an attractive rich guy in a bar. He gives you his number. He makes it very obvious that he likes you. And then you don’t call him. I’m beginning to think that you actually are stupid.”
“You know why I can’t just ring him. He was arrogant, self-obsessed, he clearly had nothing better to do than just hang around flirting with his guests.”
“Give him a chance,” Lu Han whined. “Do it for me. I know what you’re like, Sehun, you make a snap decision and never change your mind about them. Remember when you met Chanyeol and said he was crazy?”
He is crazy.”
“No, he’s an eccentric genius. Nothing like what you thought. Come on, Sehun, please? Just give him a call.”
Sehun could hear the note of desperation in his voice and suddenly realised that Lu Han might always be interested in Sehun’s sadly lacking love life, but he was never invested. “Are you okay?” he said carefully. “Is everything alright?”
Lu Han hesitated. “I lost my job, Sehun.”
Sehun sucked in a breath, whistling through his teeth. “Oh,” he said. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry, do you need me to—”
“No,” Lu Han interrupted. “It’s fine. I’m fine. They just didn’t need me anymore. I’m applying for a couple of teaching things next semester and looking for something to tide me over until next year. Don’t worry, this isn’t the first time.”
“I know, but you were barely making it through anyway.”
“Everything is going to be fine. Minseok has a couple of auditions coming up and he’s pretty confident about them. I’ve got plenty of options open. We’ll be fine.”
Sehun knew that Lu Han was optimistic to the point of folly, and he didn’t entirely trust Minseok to not just go along with whatever Lu Han said. He wondered if he wrote a cheque and mailed it to Minseok, whether it would get cashed or not. He hung up the phone, thinking about it, and then decided to do the only thing he could think of that Lu Han seemed to think would help: he called Jongin.
The call connected after three rings. “Hello?” asked Jongin.
“Hi,” said Sehun, sounding a lot calmer than he felt. “It’s Oh Sehun? We met at the weekend.”
There was a bang on the other end of the line. “Fuck,” said Jongin, “sorry, I just—”
He fell silent. “Are you okay?” Sehun asked.
“What, oh, yeah.” Jongin now sounded as distracted as Lu Han had; Sehun wondered if it was something about talking to him. “I just…I wasn’t expecting you to call. I knocked a glass of water off my desk.” Sehun didn’t know what to say to that. He didn’t know if it was flattering, that just hearing his voice could make Jongin have that reaction, or whether he felt bad about it because to be honest, he hadn’t been planning on calling, ever. “Sorry, I’m just being stupid. It’s good to hear from you.”
“Yeah,” said Sehun slowly. He was already beginning to regret this. He hadn’t actually planned what he was going to say. He didn’t know how to make small talk over the phone, and jumping straight into asking for a date seemed presumptive. Besides, he still wasn’t entirely sure he wanted a date. He cast about for something to say and spotted his desk filled with his latest project for work. “You’re at work?”
“Yeah, Dad’s in Taiwan right now for something, so I’m running the US front.”
“But it’s past eight.”
“No rest for the wicked, huh?”
“No, I guess not.” Something twisted in Sehun’s stomach, shame blossoming like a paint blot in water. He’d assumed that Jongin was like Zitao; a bored rich kid with nothing better to do than hang around his hotel and hit on uninterested guests. He hadn’t even given a second thought to the idea that Jongin possibly had a job with the hotel. Maybe when he’d said he was “conducting customer satisfaction surveys”, he wasn’t being obnoxious.
“So, uh,” Jongin said, suddenly sounding a little shy. “Were you calling for any particular reason?”
“My friends said that I should,” Sehun said, somewhat bluntly.
“Oh,” said Jongin.
“I don’t know. I guess I know why you sent me that champagne, and why you gave me your number, and while I wasn’t interested in it, I figured you’d gone to all that effort, so I should at least thank you for the room upgrade.”
“Oh,” said Jongin again. “Yeah, when you say it like that, it seems like too much. I just thought…you didn’t really seem to care about the champagne.”
“I don’t like champagne,” Sehun said, skirting the fact that he honestly hadn’t wanted it anyway.
“I’m sorry,” Jongin said sincerely. “I didn’t know. What do you like? I could—”
“No,” Sehun interrupted. “It’s fine.”
“Well,” Jongin said, sounding shy again, “could I take you for dinner anyway?”
“What?” Sehun asked, not really expecting that so suddenly.
“It’s fine if you’re not interested, but I mean, you called me, so I thought that maybe you’d want to—”
“I don’t…” Sehun trailed off. He didn’t what? His last date had been almost a year ago, with some guy he’d met at a fundraiser for the company Sehun had been interning at. The guy had been less interested in the date and way more interested in getting into Sehun’s pants. It had been even longer since he last had sex. Not that he was thinking about that with Jongin. At all.
“It’s okay,” Jongin said, politely, a little more closed off now. “You don’t have to feel pressurized.”
“No, no,” Sehun said, making a snap decision, “I would like to. Yeah. When…when are you free?”
“Tomorrow night?” Jongin replied immediately. “I can clear out my schedule if you’re free then.”
Sehun blinked. Then he rolled over onto his bed, stretching to grab his diary from the side table, and flicked through it. “Buy more milk,” was the only thing scrawled on the page for the entire week. “Yeah,” he said, unable to believe this was happening. “Tomorrow night is great.”
“Great,” Jongin echoed, sounding relieved. “Let me just grab a pen. What’s your address, so I can come pick you up?”
“No, it’s okay,” Sehun said, alarmed. “I can make my own way there.”
“I’m not entirely sure where there is right now,” Jongin said, “so it’ll be a surprise. Is there anything you can’t eat?”
Sehun told him no, and then rattled off his address, waiting for a comment on the neighbourhood. When Baekhyun had first found out where Sehun lived, he’d asked if Sehun had ever been stabbed, and seemed rather disappointed to find out no. Jongin said nothing, merely reiterated a promise to pick him up at seven.
Sehun hung up, feeling, surprisingly, pretty good about it all. He’d just scored a date with a rich, attractive guy, with no strings attached, and if it didn’t go anywhere, it wasn’t going to cause any issues for him or the people around him.
He lasted five minutes before he called Lu Han in a panic.
True to his word, a car pulled up outside Sehun’s apartment building at seven on the dot. Sehun, who had been standing near the window checking on the street down below every few seconds, pulled back so that it wasn’t obvious that he’d been looking. The car was sleek and black, and looked like the sort of thing the mafia used in old movies from the 1980s.
Sehun took his time heading down, forcing himself to walk normally down the stairs. The driver of the car got out to meet him and hold the door open, which made him uncomfortable, and he slid into an interior of dark leather, warm after the cold bite of the night air outside. There was no Jongin.
“Mr Kim will be meeting you at the restaurant,” said the driver, after he had taken his place in the front. “He sends his apologies but he had something to deal with at the office.”
Sehun sighed. He should have expected that. He hadn’t wanted the car to begin with, and travelling to an unknown location in silence with a driver he’d never met before wasn’t exactly setting him at ease. He slumped in his seat, leaning his head against the window, and watched the scenery go by.
After twenty minutes, they pulled up outside a restaurant that Sehun had heard about, but never had cause to actually visit. It was the sort of place that Baekhyun and Zitao had raved about, where the upper crust of society went to see and be seen. Sehun had always thought it seemed like the kind of place he needed to avoid at all cost.
His preconceptions, for once, turned out to be correct. The restaurant was busy and loud, full of people talking just to be heard. Even though he was wearing his best shirt in anticipation for such a restaurant, he still felt hopelessly underdressed. He nervously ran a hand through his hair, searching for Jongin in the crowd of people waiting by the bar for a table.
“Sehun,” called Jongin, breaking away from a cluster of people he had been talking to and hurrying over, holding a drink in his hands. “You did come. Hi.” He was smiling, almost exactly the same smile that had so irritated Sehun in the hotel bar. It was too certain of himself. He didn’t understand how the guy who had been so endearingly shy on the phone could smile like that. He was dressed in a dark suit, with pale grey shirt and thin black tie. Sehun slid a hand into the pocket of his own pants, trying to not show how self-conscious he felt.
“Well, you sent a car,” Sehun pointed out.
“I wanted to collect you myself,” Jongin said, setting his drink on a small table beside them. “Something came up. Do you want a drink? Our table should be ready soon.”
“Yeah, I’ll just have…” Sehun gave the drinks menu a customary glance, then picked it up and looked it through, biting his bottom lip. “Uh,” he said, glancing back up at Jongin. “I guess I’ll have a JD and coke?”
Jongin nodded and moved off to order. Sehun placed the menu back down on the table and smoothed his hands down his shirt. He really hoped that Jongin was paying for this date. He was certainly a lot better off than he had been during college, but he still wasn’t quite in the pay bracket for this place.
Jongin came back and handed him a glass, then began to usher him to the table that had been set up for them. It wasn’t exactly prime location, but Sehun got the feeling that no table in the restaurant would be. He felt like he was being scrutinized from every possible angle. He shifted uncomfortably, and saw Jongin glancing at the people around him.
To cover his nerves, Sehun plucked the menu out, opened it, and ran his eyes over it. He was quickly reassured that it was worse than what he’d thought. He lay the menu on the table, scratched the back of his neck, and then began to actually read the food names rather than simply looking at the prices.
“Is everything okay?” Jongin asked, after a couple of minutes of silence between them. He had placed his own menu down on the table and was watching Sehun carefully.
“Fine,” said Sehun shortly.
“You don’t like it here, do you?” Jongin asked. He slumped back in his chair, rubbing at his forehead. “My secretary said that it was a place she’d always wanted to go on a date. She booked the table.”
“It’s not that it’s not nice in its own way,” Sehun said, swirling his drink in the glass. He hated Jack Daniels. “It’s just not somewhere that I’d usually come.”
“To be honest, it’s not my usual place either,” Jongin mumbled, staring at the table.
“Okay, if we’re being honest,” Sehun said, “I can’t afford anything on the menu, I didn’t even understand half of the drinks, and I feel like everyone here is watching us and trying to judge who we are and whether we’re important enough to even be here.”
Jongin lifted his head, looked at Sehun for a minute, and then smiled. Sehun felt a little taken aback. It was the kind of smile that could break hearts, totally different to the arrogant one he hadn’t seen so far. It was, he thought in dismay, the kind of smile he could fall in love with.
“Okay,” Jongin said, completely unaware of the effect his smile was having on Sehun. “Here’s what we’ll do. I know this Italian place around the corner, it’s really nice and a lot less pretentious. I’ll go tell the waiter that we’re leaving and I’ll meet you at the door.”
“Oh, but,” Sehun said, startled, “don’t you have to pay to even reserve a table here?”
“It’s not a problem,” Jongin said, waving his hand. “I don’t even like anything on this menu and that’s impressive, because I like everything.”
“I just want a beer,” Sehun admitted. Jongin laughed, and Sehun smiled genuinely for the first time. Jongin had a nice laugh.
Junmyeon kicked the back of his foot against the pillar he was leaning against and took another sip of champagne. He hated the stuff but he hated modern art even more, and seeing as he couldn’t escape the latter, he could at least block it out with the former. When his brother had announced that he was opening an art gallery in New York City, he hadn’t expected to be dragged along to the grand opening.
“You look bored stiff.”
Junmyeon straightened, startled. “What are you doing here?”
“What?” Jongdae asked. “Don’t I look like the type of person to go to modern art galleries?” Junmyeon raised an eyebrow at him. Jongdae grinned. “Okay, fine, we got an invitation through the company and the guy above me refused to come, so here I am. Why are you here?”
“My brother owns this place,” Junmyeon said. “He’s, uh, over there—” he pointed to where his brother was chatting with a man and his wife. “He made me come along for family support. I hate modern art,” he added, sullenly and under his breath.
“Poor thing,” Jongdae said, teasing. “Forced to drink free alcohol and eat free food.”
“Forced to talk to a bunch of pretentious assholes, you mean.”
Jongdae pursed his lips, looking like he was trying to not laugh. “I guess I’ll leave you alone then.”
“No,” said Junmyeon, alarmed even though he knew that Jongdae was joking. He reached out and wrapped his fingers around his wrist and tugged him a little closer. Jongdae let himself be dragged, falling easily into place next to Junmyeon, looking out at the rest of the room. He took a sip of champagne.
“I have no idea who half of these people are,” he said.
“I don’t know who any of them are,” Junmyeon admitted. He didn’t move in these circles, not like his brother, who owned a successful number of similar galleries up and down the west coast. If it hadn’t been for meeting Lu Han, Junmyeon’s entire circle of acquaintances would have consisted of the people that he worked with, who were nice, but generally ten years older and married with children.
“Well, your brother is taking to one of the most prominent art dealers of today,” Jongdae said, “and next to him, the man with the red tie, he owns a restaurant chain out of New Jersey, and that blonde woman over the other side of the room, she’s another art dealer, and—”
“How do you know these things?” Junmyeon asked. “I can’t even remember all the people that I work with, never mind all these random people.”
“They’re important people in society,” Jongdae said. “When you work in marketing, you have to be able to recognise people, and know their names and things about them. People like that. It helps them remember you in turn.”
“I have a good memory,” Junmyeon said. “I remember things. I just don’t understand why it’s even important to remember all these people, when I’m probably not going to see them again.”
“Well, it’s not just important for these kinds of people,” Jongdae said. “I remember things about my friends, too. For example, I know that you hate champagne, so I don’t know why you’re drinking that.”
Junmyeon looked down at his glass. “Because it’s alcohol,” he admitted.
Jongdae clucked his tongue and grabbed the glass out of his hands, poured it into his own, and then set it down. When a waiter swooped in to clear the empty glass away, he asked him to get Junmyeon a beer. Junmyeon watched him, perfectly in control, perfectly at ease in this kind of atmosphere, and tried to not think about kissing him.
“Lucky guess,” he said, to pull Jongdae’s attention back to him. “Everyone knows I hate champagne.”
“Okay,” said Jongdae, folding his arms. “I know that you like blueberry muffins, and that you’re left-handed but you cut using scissors with your right. I remember that you said in college you tried to write a novel about a vampire scuba-diver living in Australia. I know that you graduated with honors from Cal Tech. I know that you think the colour red is tacky. I know that—”
He cut himself off and bit his bottom lip. Junmyeon let out a shaky breath and smiled. He didn’t even remember sharing his love of blueberry muffins. “Okay,” he said. “I believe you.”
“Good,” said Jongdae. He suddenly seemed shy, eyes turned down to the floor and one of his hands tapping on his elbow.
There was silence for a long time, awkward and pressing. Junmyeon didn’t know what to say. To be honest, he was pretty mortified at anyone remembering his failed attempt at a novel. He said, after he could stand it no longer, “You didn’t bring Marc?”
Jongdae started, looking at Junmyeon’s face. “What? Oh, no.” He rolled his eyes. “He doesn’t like art galleries either. He refused to come with me.”
Oh, thought Junmyeon desperately, I’d go to art galleries with you if you needed me to.
Baekhyun fished around Chanyeol’s fruit salad for one last piece of mango. Chanyeol let him, even though he hadn’t technically been finished when Baekhyun had decided to steal the pieces of fruit that he liked. “How was your brother’s opening?” Chanyeol asked, leaning back in his seat as Baekhyun leaned across him.
“Fine, I guess,” Junmyeon said with a shrug. He thought that it had gone well; he had certainly seemed happy when they’d arrived back at his place, where he’d been staying for the past week.
“I heard Simon Davies was there,” Baekhyun said, still digging his fork in the fruit salad.
“I’m sure he was,” Junmyeon said, having no idea who that actually was. “Jongdae was there.”
“Oh?” Baekhyun didn’t seem too interested in that.
“We hung out. He knows I like blueberry muffins. Life sucks. Etcetera.”
“You are so melodramatic,” Baekhyun said. “You should have majored in acting instead.”
“It’s all well and good for you,” Junmyeon retorted. “You found the guy of your dreams with minimal amount of effort. Meanwhile, some of us just happen to fall in love with attractive men who just so happen to be attached already. It’s hard.”
“Oh, come on,” Baekhyun said. He threw his fork down onto the table. Chanyeol tried to rub his thumb against the back of his neck soothingly and Baekhyun brushed him off. “What does Marc have that you don’t have?”
“Height?” Junmyeon suggested. “The ability to speak three languages? An apartment on Broadway?”
“Nothing, that’s what. All of that is just material. Jongdae doesn’t care about that stuff.”
“He works for a cosmetics company,” Junmyeon pointed out. “He owns a Versace briefcase.”
“You’re infuriating,” Baekhyun said, “and that’s why you’ll never get with him. You’re too busy thinking about how you can’t compare to the French supermodel and not thinking about all the ways you’re better than him.”
“I’m sorry,” Junmyeon sighed, “but you say, compare yourself to the French supermodel, and my brain just starts laughing at me.”
“You’re nice, for one thing,” Baekhyun said.
“Nice,” Junmyeon repeated. “I’m nice. Well, no wonder I’m not fighting away guys with a stick, I’m a fucking wet blanket.”
“Stop with the pity party. You’re nice, and you’re funny, and you’re way smarter than Marc, who, I’m told, has read one book in his entire life, and it was The Notebook. You’re very attractive—don’t.” He held up a hand while Junmyeon tried to protest. “You are. Don’t try to deny it. You have lots going for you. Just because you’ve never appeared in Vogue in a pair of tiny white boxers doesn’t mean that you’re inadequate.”
“Okay,” said Junmyeon, “are you talking just in generally, or specifically about the tiny white boxers, because I don’t know—”
Junmyeon sighed and slumped in his seat. In front of him, the syrup on his half-finished pancakes was starting to congeal. “Fine, fine. But he’s not interested in me, I know that. I just...I just hate that guy! He’s so crap. He won’t go places Jongdae wants to go, he won’t meet his friends, he won’t even stay the entire night apparently. I mean, who does that? I wish I could just...set him on fire.”
“Oooh,” said Chanyeol, suddenly excited. “Can we? I’ll do it!”
“No.” Junmyeon stabbed his pancake with a fork so viciously it stood straight in the air for a couple of seconds. “That’s illegal.”
“What does that matter?” Chanyeol asked, blinking in genuine confusion. “I’m the best defence lawyer in the state. We’d get away with it.”
“We can claim self-defence, on the basis of how much of a fucking dick he is.”
“Morality is questionable,” Chanyeol said earnestly. “There’s a lot of leeway for this sort of stuff. We’d be doing the world a favour.”
“Actually,” Baekhyun said, “morality is pretty black and white, at least according to most of the world’s major religions—”
“Yes, yes,” said Chanyeol, “I know. But fire.”
“We’re not setting Jongdae’s boyfriend on fire,” Junmyeon said. Maybe he should have been disconcerted by Chanyeol’s fervour. He was more disconcerted by the fact he wasn’t.
“Aw,” said Chanyeol, disappointed.
“We really should do brunch more often,” Baekhyun said demurely.
Sehun had worked hard to get the chosen venue for drinks downgraded, aware that Lu Han did not like making his personal expenses public knowledge, not even to his friends. But Sehun knew that now, a month after he’d first lost his job, and two weeks after Minseok’s last failed audition, they were going to be struggling. As far as Sehun was concerned, they were under no obligations to come to this faux-party, which was, after all, just another thing that Baekhyun had organized because he was bored and he could.
In the end, Baekhyun had agreed to move their reservation from a place that was obscenely expensive, to somewhere moderately affordable, after Sehun had told him a (very fake) story about how his laptop had broken and he had very specific requirements in technology thanks to his job, and so he was struggling this month, and perhaps could they maybe tone everything down a little? Baekhyun hadn’t been happy (“But they change the napkin colours every hour at Henry’s”), but had agreed.
Of course, Zitao was currently telling Lu Han about the trip he’d taken to Japan that Saturday to buy a particular shirt, so Sehun figured you could take the rich kids out of the expensive restaurant, but you couldn’t stop them from being fucking obnoxious.
“No Jongin?” Lu Han asked, once Zitao had turned to tell Kyungsoo about the material his new shirt was made out of. Lu Han’s mouth was turned up into a smirk that only Sehun would notice. Or maybe he was simply paranoid.
“No Minseok?” Sehun shot back.
Lu Han’s face sobered. “He has a...thing,” he said. “He’ll be late.”
Alarmed, and suddenly worried that he’d said the wrong thing, Sehun said, “Is everything okay? You’re not still angry with him about the cheque, are you? Because that was all me—”
“No, no,” Lu Han said, with a laugh that was genuine. “You worry too much, Sehun. It’s fine, he’s just going to be a little late, okay? So why don’t you explain why Jongin isn’t here?”
Sehun thought about protesting that it had never even crossed his mind to invite Jongin to something like this, but figured that Lu Han would be able to tell he was lying. “He’s in Singapore at some conference,” he said.
“And how is everything with him?” Lu Han asked, cocking his head to the side.
“Fine,” Sehun said, almost biting it out. “I went to his place for dinner on Saturday.”
“Oh, that sounds nice,” Lu Han said, sounding pleased that Sehun wasn’t running from this relationship.
“And then I left on Sunday after lunch,” Sehun added. Lu Han spluttered on his drink. Sehun finished his own and motioned for the waiter to bring him another.
“What?” Lu Han asked, still with alcohol dripping from his chin. Sehun handed him a napkin to mop himself up with. “Wait, so you’ve slept with him already?” Lu Han asked, dabbing at his chin.
“Uh, yes,” said Sehun, feeling a little flushed. “A few times, in fact.”
“And you didn’t tell me?” Lu Han hissed.
“Come on,” Sehun protested. “He’s the heir to the Kai Hotel chain, worth billions, and we’re friends with Baekhyun and Zitao.”
“Oh, they couldn’t care less about you and your sex life,” Lu Han said. “If you want to keep anything a secret in New York City, becoming friends with Baekhyun or Zitao is the only way to do it. Yixing’s been in Florida for the past week fucking the ambassador of Columbia’s son, and literally no one even knows about it.”
“Sometimes I’m convinced that he has a more exciting life than anyone else on the planet,” Sehun murmured, “and yet somehow no one gives a fuck.”
“I give a fuck,” Lu Han said. “The ambassador’s son is cute.”
“And you have a long-term boyfriend,” Sehun pointed out. “Hell, you’re practically married.”
“So? Doesn’t mean that I can’t look.”
“I’ll be sure to tell Minseok that when I see him.”
Lu Han gave him a tight smile. Sehun suddenly felt a little cold, like he was missing something big. “You and Minseok,” he said, “you’re not—?”
Lu Han looked blank and confused. “Not what?”
The thought of Minseok and Lu Han breaking up seemed too terrifying to even say aloud. Sehun shook his head. “Nothing,” he said. “Don’t worry about it.”
Lu Han took a sip of his drink. “Is Jongin really worth billions?” he asked around the rim of his glass.
“I don’t know,” Sehun sighed, tired of it. “Does it matter?”
“I can’t believe you slept with him. Multiple times. After all the posturing about how he was just some arrogant rich kid and how you weren’t even going to go there.”
Sehun shrugged, looking at the bottle of beer in his hand. “I don’t know. He’s nice. He’s still a stupid rich kid but he’s nice.”
Lu Han grinned at him. “You like him a lot, don’t you?”
“I’m not answering that question,” Sehun said with affected pride.
“So what’s he like in bed?” Lu Han asked innocently.
Sehun mumbled something under his breath, face hot. He was too scared to even joke around about that, because he could end up saying something which proved just how much he actually did like Jongin. He didn’t want to jinx it with gossip and rumours. It had been way too long since he’d last met someone who managed to be both his type and actually good in bed. Very good in bed. He drank his beer and tried to not think about last weekend.
He was pulled into a conversation with Wu Fan about Law and Order, a show which they both loved, and which no one else around them liked, and which had proven a strange bonding method between the two of them back when Sehun had not wanted to know any of Lu Han’s new friends in college. Lu Han, meanwhile, flittered from person to person, talking to Jongdae for a few minutes before moving onto Zitao, then onto Chanyeol. He was standing by the door looking tense, enough so that Sehun was debating asking him once again if everything was okay, when Minseok finally arrived.
He looked like he’d gone home and dressed in a hurry. His tie was still undone around his neck, his face flushed. A couple of people called out a welcome, but Minseok made a beeline straight for Lu Han, a tight smile on his face. Lu Han stepped in close, hands automatically going to fasten his tie, while Minseok leaned in, whispering into his ear.
Lu Han’s hands stopped halfway through knotting the tie. He stepped back, staring. Then his mouth moved, too quiet for Sehun to hear, and Minseok nodded, his smile now spreading over his face.
“Oh my god,” Lu Han shrieked, loud enough that everyone in the room noticed, and he threw his arms around Minseok’s shoulders and began both hugging him and jumping up and down.
“What?” asked Junmyeon next to them, looking startled and confused. “What is it?”
“Would you fix your tie?” Baekhyun asked, pained.
Minseok laughed and did as he was told, a difficult task while Lu Han was still hugging him. After he’d done so, he said, “I just found out—” which was when Lu Han kissed him full on the mouth, cutting him off effectively. There was a minute where they thought Minseok would pull away and finish his sentence, but then he just circled Lu Han’s waist with his arms and kissed back.
Chanyeol’s catcall was what broke them apart, so that Minseok could flip him off. “I just found out that I passed my audition,” he said, looking exhilarated. “I got the lead role.”
“For that dance show?” Baekhyun asked, looking gobsmacked. “The new Broadway one?”
“Yeah,” said Minseok. “I got it. I’m the lead. I’m the lead.”
Lu Han made a garbled noise and grabbed him to kiss him again. Now Kyungsoo joined in with Chanyeol’s catcalling, hands cupped around their mouths. Everyone crowded around to offer their congratulations, which was difficult, when Lu Han kept pulling Minseok into kisses.
“Lu Han,” said Sehun, tugging Lu Han away for a moment, which gave Junmyeon an opening to actually shake Minseok’s hand. Lu Han looked up at Sehun, beaming. “Congratulations,” Sehun said, hugging him warmly.
“I didn’t do anything!” Lu Han said, laughing, even though he was hugging back.
“I know, but,” Sehun said, shrugging and not letting go, “I know how important this is.”
“Yeah, it is.” Lu Han pulled back and patted Sehun’s cheek. “I told you, didn’t I? I said it would all work out.”
“Yeah,” said Sehun, smiling. “You’re always right.”
“I’m surprised you could fit me in,” Jongdae said, sipping his coffee. “I’ve been reading up on your case.”
Chanyeol shrugged. “It’s straight forward enough. It’ll be easy to get her off. Nothing to worry about.”
Jongdae raised an eyebrow, smiling. “She shot her husband so she could run away to Mexico with her new lover.”
Chanyeol nodded. “I didn’t say that she wasn’t guilty,” he pointed out.
Sometimes it was really amazing how Chanyeol and Baekhyun worked so well, when Chanyeol believed firmly that anyone had a right to a defence providing they could afford to pay him for it, and Baekhyun had an undergraduate degree in theology, with an emphasis on morality as applied to the modern world. Somehow, they did work. Jongdae assumed it was something to do with mutual compatibility. Baekhyun probably knew that he’d never find anyone who would adore him as much as Chanyeol adored him.
“Speaking of questionable morals,” Chanyeol said, “how is your relationship with Marc?”
Jongdae shrugged. “Fine, I guess.”
Chanyeol stared at him intently, the kind of look that had made him squirm during college. Now he was used to it, even if it did feel like Chanyeol was looking into your soul when he did it. “You realise that no one likes him, right?” Chanyeol said bluntly.
“Yes, I know,” Jongdae said, turning a page in the menu. “But I don’t need my friends to like him, do I? It’s not like I’m ever going to marry the guy.”
“Then why are you with him?” Chanyeol asked, sounding surprised. Jongdae supposed that it made sense that Chanyeol was the type of person who couldn’t understand the point of a relationship for the sake of being in a relationship. Chanyeol wanted forever or nothing.
“Because I don’t have any other options,” he said, eyes focused on the menu. “Plus the sex is worth it.”
“But you deserve so much better,” Chanyeol said earnestly.
Jongdae glanced up. “Are you coming onto me?”
“No,” trilled Chanyeol, “I’m just saying. You have other options, you know. Better options.”
“Like what?” Jongdae sighed. “All the kinds of guys that I attract are hopeless cases or completely impossible to deal with. At least Marc isn’t asking for much from me. Sex and dinner might not seem like much of a relationship to you, but it’s working for me.”
“I heard you hung out with Junmyeon at the art show last week,” Chanyeol said, suddenly, apropos of nothing as far as Jongdae could tell. He shifted uncomfortably in his seat and then nodded. He had been avoiding Junmyeon since then and had managed to not speak to him once at Baekhyun’s party at the weekend. He’d come horribly close to saying too much with his list of things that he randomly knew about Junmyeon, some of them gleaned from years of watching a little too closely.
“Well, you know, he’s single,” Chanyeol said, sounding like he was trying to be subtle about something and failing miserably. “Have you ever thought...?”
Yes, Jongdae thought, but he snorted aloud and said, “Of course not, he’s straight.”
Chanyeol looked suddenly confused. “Junmyeon’s not straight,” he said.
Jongdae blinked. “Yes he is. He had a girlfriend. Remember? We saw them getting lunch and you said—”
“Shit,” said Chanyeol, ashen. “Really? You believed that? I have no idea who that girl was but she was never his girlfriend, I just made that up to see how you would react.”
“You made it up?” Jongdae hissed, leaning across the table as if he was lunging for Chanyeol’s throat. “Do you even realise—”
“You didn’t even blink when I said it! I thought you didn’t care.”
Jongdae caught himself and sat back in his chair, pushing his hair back from his face. Up until then, he’d half entertained thoughts of something with Junmyeon starting; the gentle flirting, the easy conversations, how simple everything had been between them, had been the kind of good signs that Jongdae hadn’t seen in a potential relationship since he was fifteen and a “relationship” consisted of driving out of town and making out on the back seat of his boyfriend’s car. Then he’d found out that Junmyeon was straight, and had subsequently hooked up with Marc as a way of pushing Kim Junmyeon straight out of his mind, an aim which had been somewhat less than successful.
“But,” he said, a little desperately, unable to believe that he’d just wasted the past five months on some asshole guy when he could have gone after the one he really wanted, “he works in medical research.”
“Kyungsoo owns a chain of menswear boutiques,” Chanyeol said, “and he’s the token straight guy.”
“Oh my god,” Jongdae said. “I hate you. You’ve ruined my life.” And for good measure, he kicked Chanyeol under the table, which upset it and sent ice water straight into Chanyeol’s expensive suit. The vindictive pleasure Jongdae felt still didn’t bury the rolling misery in his stomach.