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A Break in Routine

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Yoosung has a routine. It's the same one he's had since he moved into this house a year and a half ago, fresh off the heels of his college graduation and subsequent job offer. He'd found a place in a nearby neighborhood, nice and quiet, with room to grow (ever looking forward with hopes of a family to fill it one day) and settled in. Before he knew it, he had a particular way he started his mornings.

Wake up. Do yoga and meditation for an hour. Shower. Eat. Leave for work.

The yoga and meditation take place outside except during winter. To hear the world around him, waking up as he relaxes and centers himself for his day is truly amazing. Birds chirp, families get ready for their day, dogs bark, the wind ruffles the leaves on the trees. It's lovely and always gives Yoosung a deep sense of peace that he needs to get through the day.

But then he came, all pale skin and handsome features. A new neighbor, one who starts his day around the same time as Yoosung. Often they leave their windows open on the same nights and Yoosung will wake up to an enchanting baritone singing proudly, the voice wafting across the yard and over the fence to grace Yoosung with a performance. Sometimes Yoosung recognizes the songs as popular on the radio, sometimes he hears enchanting renditions of numbers from the musicals his sister loved and sometimes he has no idea what his neighbor is singing but he enjoys it nonetheless. Even this man's speaking voice is charming, from the few times Yoosung's heard it.  How can such an amazing voice belong to a real, living person? Surely it should belong to some sort of ethereal being, one meant to delight or perhaps to lure.

Then again, who's to say he's not otherworldly? With those captivating red eyes and the gorgeous silvery-white hair he pulls back into a ponytail, all toned muscle and firm skin, he's almost too beautiful to be real.

And of course, the world’s most beautiful man has to have the most beautiful husky Yoosung has ever seen. Side-by-side, they go on their morning run together every day, the dog appearing to be well-trained and happy with its owner.

It's no wonder Yoosung can't stop staring whenever he comes out to do his yoga. In the middle of tree pose, Yoosung dares to slit open an eye and watch as he stretches, warming his muscles up, earbuds around his neck and yPod strapped onto his arm. Today his hair is piled on top of his head in a messy bun and it manages to make him look even more attractive than before. But when Yoosung finally allows himself to open his eyes fully, switching poses, he can also see the dark circles under his neighbor’s eyes, the deep frown and worried wrinkles above his brows. This is new. Something's wrong.

There's always been a strong desire to help those around him in Yoosung and sometimes it leads him to do things he wouldn't normally do. Such as walking over to the small fence separating their yards (gracefully tripping on the way) to ask if everything is okay.

The man looks over at Yoosung in obvious surprise, blinking once before flashing Yoosung a smile that knocks the air right out of him. He feels his face grow hot and he bites the inside of his lip, completely mortified. What is he doing? The couple of times this man has tried to talk to him, he's been a stuttering mess unable to coherently string words together. It's always earned him a look that Yoosung can only describe as “awww, aren't you cute” which makes things worse because damnit, he's a fully grown man, he cut his hair and he graduated college and is working full-time as a vet, he should not be cute, he should be-

“Hey! My cute, shy neighbor finally speaks,” the man says in a teasing tone, causing Yoosung's face to flush more. “I must not have done a very good job disguising my stress, huh? Haha… sorry to worry you, dude. I'll be okay.” He flashes Yoosung another dazzling smile in an obvious attempt to seem alright, but it doesn't quite reach those eyes that Yoosung's been admiring from a distance for nearly two months now. With a sigh, he rubs his forehead and looks at the ground. It's at that point that Yoosung finally notices the absence of the beautiful husky that usually graces his side.

Yoosung shakes his head and forces words through his suddenly dry mouth. “Uh… if you d-don’t mind m-me asking…” Standing a little straighter, he manages to almost put on his professional face. “Where’s your dog? Is that the, uh... the issue? Uh. I’m a vet, you know.”

Wide eyes snap up to look at him and that hand slowly drops, the man looking at him with a type of hope shining on his face that wasn’t there before. “Really!? Yeah, she’s been acting kind of strange lately, sluggish and not wanting to do anything she normally does. Sleeps a lot, isn't eating as much but seems to be gaining weight? She hasn't come on a run with me for about a week now...”

Yoosung frowns, his mind flipping through the catalog of illnesses in his mind that fit those symptoms. “Can I see her?” he asks. “Uh, o-only if you're comfortable w-with that, um. You don't have to let me,” he tacks on, backtracking quickly with his hands raised in front of him, grimacing. God, he's so smooth.

“Yeah, sure.” The man turns around, padding toward his door. He stops right before it, glancing back at Yoosung over his shoulder. “Are you coming?”

Yoosung stumbles as he steps over the fence, scrambling to catch up as his neighbor opens the door and steps inside. He has to admit to mild curiosity to how someone so handsome would decorate, and while this is the first time he's been in the house since the new guy moved in, Yoosung used to come over quite a lot when his best friend lived here. Back then it was always messy, littered with PhD Pepper cans and empty bags of honey buddha chips, only occasionally picked up whenever Saeyoung’s twin brother or college “friend” Vanderwood visited. There hadn't been much on the walls, then; just a few pictures of the twins (all obviously selfies, half of them cutting off parts of their heads) and a couple of Yoosung and Saeyoung.

But Saeyoung had moved out of the blue without so much as a goodbye at the time. It wasn't until months later when Saeran dropped by with a bored look and less than five words that Yoosung had received the letter explaining that Saeyoung’s life had been in danger and he'd had to pack up and leave immediately. Yoosung hasn't heard a word since.

“She's asleep on the back porch.”

Yoosung's yanked back to the present when the man speaks, beckoning him inside from where he'd frozen on the doorstep. He nods and finally enters, eyes taking in the small entryway. At first glance, it appears not much has changed but as they head further in, Yoosung notices the walls become lined with posters from musicals. Most he's heard of but there's a few he hasn't, and when they pass the arch that leads to the living room, he catches sight of the full-out musical theatre decor in there. An old-fashioned popcorn maker, curtains that resemble those on a stage, the lights that can be angled to shine anywhere to bring attention to the star performer. The carpet has been ripped up to reveal a breathtakingly beautiful wooden floor and he sees decals placed to show actors where to move. He falters in his steps, sucking in a breath in awe; it looks amazing. It's hard to believe this is the same living room where he and Saeyoung-

No, it's not the time to think about that. Shaking his head, Yoosung turns to see the man watching him with a small smile on his face. “Sorry, it's just…” Yoosung swallows past the lump in his throat, eyes flicking back to the room. “I had a friend that used to live here and it looks so different…”

“A good type of different, I hope?”

“Yeah. It's clean, for one.” Yoosung smiles when the man bursts out into delighted laughter. “But uh. I like how you did-” he waves a hand vaguely at the rooms theme, “that. It's cool.”

“Ah, thanks.” Yoosung looks at the guy to see him scratching the back of his neck with the slightest tinge of pink on his cheeks. “I might be just a little obsessed with the theatre. When I was little I wanted to be a famous musical actor but…” He shrugs, hand dropping to hang limply by his side. “Anyway, Hae-Mi is back this way.”

Yoosung blinks, then grins at the familiar name as he follows him toward the back. “You didn't happen to name her after Hae-Mi Bark, did you?”

A surprised look is leveled at him over the man's shoulder. “Yeah, actually. You know who that is?”

“She's my sister's favorite actress,” Yoosung admits, running a hand through his hair. “She's a bit of a theatre buff herself, actually. I grew up watching some with her. Hae-Mi is her favorite actress. Er, at least she used to be. Don't really know anymore.”

“Small world, huh?”  Chuckling, the man reaches out to push open the door to the back deck, another place laced with memories for Yoosung, some good, some bad. All of that flies out of his mind when he sees the sleeping dog curled up on the black loveseat, though.

“Oh, poor puppy,” Yoosung coos, rushing over to her and gently brushing a hand over her fur. It’s patchy in areas, thinning and even balding. “Um, can you come sit by her so she doesn’t get upset?”

The man nods and moves to crouch next to her head, gently waking her and petting her. “Hae-Mi, wake up. Our nice neighbor is here to check you over, princess.” She sleepily opens her eyes, looking up at him, then rolling them to look at Yoosung.

There’s no sign of aggression so Yoosung moves closer, slowly sliding his hand up to her head. “Hello, Hae-Mi, I’m Yoosung and I just want to feel your throat, okay?” She lazily blinks at him, making no effort to move. The throat is always a dangerous place to touch on dogs, very easy to trigger their defenses so Yoosung moves at almost a snail’s pace, slowly creeping around her neck and then down. Surprisingly she doesn’t make any moves, allowing him to prod gently at her thyroid. Biting his lip, he drops his hands and starts petting her normally.

“You should take her to a clinic,” he says softly and calmly so as not to cause any sort of upset in Hae-Mi. “My best guess is that she has hypothyroidism, but a blood test needs to be performed to be certain.”

“Hypothyroidism…” the man repeats, frowning down at Hae-Mi as she closes her eyes and returns to her slumber. “Is that… is it fatal?”

Yoosung shakes his head. “No, but she won’t return to the dog you knew unless you get her diagnosed and on medicine. Please get her looked at professionally, it’ll improve the quality of her life greatly.”

With a sigh, the man scratches behind her ears and nods. “Alright. I’ve been putting off taking her because the school isn’t great about giving me time off but I’ll just have to call in and do it, no matter what they say.”

There’s a small silence before Yoosung stands, brushing off his shorts. “So you’re a teacher, then?” He's always been curious about what someone like him did for a living, and this is the perfect opportunity to find out.

“Yup. I teach at the local college. Bet you’ll never guess what.”

“It’s not musical theatre, is it?” Yoosung teases with a grin.

He laughs, patting Hae-Mi one final time before standing as well. “Close. I teach a lot of music classes, but mostly those oriented toward vocal performance.”

“I’m not surprised, you have a fantastic singing voice,” Yoosung blurts out before thinking. Crap. He claps a hand over his mouth, feeling his face heat up again. God, why didn’t he grow out of the blushing? It’s so embarrassing.

“Oh~? You hear that, hm?” The man takes a step closer to Yoosung, eyes sparkling with mischief. “Anything else you’d like to say about me?” The air thickens as he asks, stepping closer again.

Yoosung’s heart is racing and he looks up at him, breath catching in his throat. He’s been harboring an attraction to this man since he moved in, true, but he wasn’t expecting anything to come from it and he definitely wasn’t expecting it to be returned. Even now he’s not sure if that’s what’s going on or if this man is just naturally flirty and he’s reading too far into it. Opening his mouth, Yoosung finds he can’t form any words and snaps it shut it again.

“I see you watching me when you’re doing yoga, you know.” Voice dipping lower, the man dares to move forward again, eyes intensely focused on Yoosung’s. “I watch you, too. It’s cute how you stutter and blush, like you’re too nervous to talk to me. Yet you still rushed to my aid when something was off…”

They’re nearly chest to chest now and Yoosung’s forgotten how to breathe, completely forgotten. He doesn’t even know this guy’s name but he’s close enough to touch, nearly close enough to kiss and oh god he really shouldn’t be thinking about this right now he doesn’t even know this man doesn’t even know if he really feels the same…

Stooping down, the man smirks, tilting his head to the side. Some of his hair has fallen out of the bun and the silvery locks frame his face, offsetting those entrancing eyes Yoosung could get lost in for days. “It’s only polite we know each other’s names if we’re going to observe each other, hm?” He leans in closer still, whispering in Yoosung’s ear. “My name is Hyun Ryu. It’s nice to finally meet you.”

“Yoo… Yoosung K-Kim,” Yoosung squeaks out, quite certain his face is a violent crimson color by now as he stands rooted in place under his, Hyun’s, spell.

“Nice to meet you, Yoosung,” Hyun sighs, sending Yoosung’s pulse shooting through the ceiling. “Thank you for helping me with my princess. But…” Pulling back, Hyun pulls off the yPod and glances at it. “Don’t you usually leave for work soon?”

Blinking, Yoosung stares at Hyun blankly for a moment before the words sink in. “Oh, shit,” he curses, eyes going wide. “I-I… I gotta go. Um. Yeah. Bye?”

Chuckling and looking at him with that “aww you’re cute” expression again, Hyun waves a hand toward the hallway. “If you’ve been here before, I assume you know your way out?”

Yoosung nods. “Yeah, thanks? Uh. N-nice to meet you, Hyun. See you around l-later.” With that, he turns and bolts down the hall, flustered from the impromptu flirting and worried that he’ll be late. God, he’s still got to shower, get changed…

This is not how he usually starts his day.

 

-oOo-

 

It's a busy morning, full of lots of routine check-ups and a few false concerns, and Yoosung's thankful to send most of the owners home happy. He's off-balance today, he can feel it; his mind isn't focused. All he can think about is a pair of eyes that draw him in and hair that frames an enchanting face. The man - Hyun - seems very friendly, even without the flirting. Yoosung wants to get to know him better but right now every thought that passes through his mind is indecent, forcing him to shut them down as soon as they crop up.

The first patient after lunch is a husky who's been under the weather, and Yoosung shakes his head, sighing. Hopefully this is just another owner seeing symptoms where there are none. His schedule is free after that so he's considering leaving himself, not wanting to end up making any mistakes.

The vet tech explains the symptoms of the pup to him and for a second Yoosung's mind stutters to a stop; hair loss, lethargy, weight gain? Can it be…? But no, that's ridiculous; Hyun has no idea where he works. It's just a coincidence.

Putting on his professional smile, Yoosung confidently walks through the door into the exam room, only to trip over his own feet when he sees Hae-Mi sitting in the corner with none other than Hyun. “Hyun…?” he breathes, his cheeks already tingling with heat as he remembers their morning vividly.

Hyun aims a lopsided smile at him and Yoosung has to grab the exam table to steady himself when he feels his knees go weak. “Yoosung! Fancy that, meeting you here, the place with your name on it.”

“Did you…” Yoosung can't finish the question, too busy trying to remember that he needs to breathe to live and needs to be alive to work.

“Look you up? Sure did.” Hyun picks up Hae-Mi like she's nothing more than a puppy and sits her on the table, placing a hand reassuringly on her back. “Wouldn't trust anyone else with my princess.” He winks and Yoosung blindly grasps for the rolling chair, collapsing onto it as his brain completely shuts down.

“I… o-okay,” Yoosung says, rubbing his temple and forcing his brain to reboot so he can do his job. “Well, uh, since I already looked her over, I'll just order the test then. The tech will come draw the blood and we’ll know the results in a few days.”

“Cool.” Hyun smiles at him again then steps around the counter to face him directly. “I do have another question to ask you…”

Taking a deep breath, Yoosung nods. “A-alright. Shoot.”

“Do you want to get dinner with me sometime?”

Yoosung stares at Hyun, feeling like his mouth hits the floor in shock. “Wh...what?” he croaks out, unsure if he heard correctly.

All confidence vanishes from Hyun’s face at Yoosung's question and he suddenly appears mildly embarrassed, but still he forges on. “Would you like to get dinner with me sometime?” he repeats, an edge of hope to his voice now.

“Like… like a date?” Yoosung whispers, heart racing.

Hyun nods, a softer smile gracing his handsome features this time. “Yeah, if you'd like it to be.”

“I'd love to.” It feels like a dream. Is it a dream? Did he fall asleep at work? Yoosung's not sure and he slowly moves to pinch his arm, wincing when it hurts. No, not a dream.

A dazzling grin erupts across Hyun’s face and he closes the distance between them, looking into Yoosung's eyes. “How does Friday night sound?”

“P-perfect.” Hyun’s so close that Yoosung can feel his breath ghosting across his skin. He's struggling to keep his mind from shutting down again, knowing he'll need it to place the order for Hae-Mi.

Grabbing Yoosung's hand, Hyun slips a piece of paper into it and gently closing his fingers around it. “Here's my number,” he murmurs, oblivious to how close he is to giving Yoosung a heart attack. Yoosung nearly jumps out of his skin when he feels lips touch softly against his hot cheek, Hyun pulling back with a confident smirk back in place. “Text me later and we can work out the details.” Moving back to sit in the chair in the corner again, he cocks his head to the side and winks again. “Or just stop on over. You know where I live.”

Yoosung nods, rendered speechless, then looks down at the crumpled paper holding the number of the man who only this morning he hadn't known the name of. A thought strikes him and he glances back up at Hyun, teeth sinking into his lip for a second before he speaks. “Or… I'm free now?” he says hopefully, voicing pitching up like a question.

Obviously caught off-guard, Hyun gazes at him in surprise. Then his face lights up so brightly it's nearly blinding and Yoosung can't help return the smile he sees. “Just stop over when you're ready, then, babe,” Hyun responds, voice low and suggestive.

Yoosung shivers, heart thudding hard at the use of the pet name. He needs to get out of the room before he combusts. “I'll… go place that order,” he manages to say, voice thick with emotion. Standing, Yoosung offers a quick smile at Hyun before slipping out the door, holding the paper to his chest and taking a deep breath. Oh my god, did that just happen?

“Yoosung? Are you okay?”

His head jerks to the side to see one of the techs standing there, looking at him quizzically. Clearing his throat, he nods. “Yep, completely fine,” he chirps, voice high and strained and very reminiscent of his college days. “I'm gonna go put in an order for a TSH test, so be ready.”

“I'll go get the stuff ready now.”

Yoosung watches her walk off, then exhales heavily and turns to head to his office, holding onto the paper like it's the most important thing in his life.

Which maybe it is. One way or the other, Yoosung's going on a date with his new neighbor tonight and he couldn't be happier.