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When he first meets Minho, Jisung is exhausted. 

He’s running on three hours of sleep on account of not being disciplined enough to go to bed before four in the morning, anxious on account of the pressing weight of his untouched homework and approaching midterms, and drenched from head to toe on account of the pouring rain.

In short, it really isn’t his day.

Jisung had been walking home after cramming in the university library until closing, prepared as ever with nothing but the hood of his jacket to shield him from the sudden downpour. He’d sprinted to the nearest awning and taken cover hopefully fast enough to prevent the water from soaking through his bag and ruining his laptop and papers, but not fast enough to avoid the uncomfortably damp state he is now in.

He pulls his hood down and combs a hand through his wet hair, cursing under his breath. He notes that the rain doesn’t seem to be letting up, staring up in contempt at the fast-falling droplets illuminated by streetlights. There is no way he’s walking all the way back to his apartment like this. He slumps against the wall of some closed clothing store and sighs, looking around and weighing his options.

He could wait it out here, possibly, even pull out his laptop and see if he can leech off of someone’s Wi-Fi to get some work done. His laptop’s battery life has been shit lately, though, and he’s not too keen on the idea of sitting on the damp concrete until it and the rain both die. He briefly wonders if he should slip inside one of the shops nearby and look around just to kill time, but he really shouldn’t be doing anything that will cause him to put off his homework, and by extension, his sleep, any longer.

So, that leaves him with the incentive to look around for somewhere he can walk in, plug in his laptop, and force himself to be productive until he can make it home. Somewhere that doesn’t have a “no pets allowed” sign hanging out front, because he’s pretty sure he strongly resembles a wet dog at the moment.

Ironically, after that fleeting thought and skimming past a few fast-food chain logos, a sign across the street lit up in yellow that reads “Feline Fine Cat Cafe” catches Jisung’s eye, followed by a neon “open” sign hanging in the window. 

He recognizes it, having cast many a longing glance into its windows while passing by during his time in the city and promised himself to visit soon, but he’s confused to see it still open despite the hour and the dimly lit interior. 

Deciding not to question it, he pulls his hood up and sprints across the road, wincing when he splashes in a puddle on the way. There's no awning above the entrance, so he hurriedly shuffles inside and wipes his feet on the welcome mat. 

Jisung yanks his hood down again, running a hand through his hair in a likely failed attempt to make it presentable. He notes with a glance around that the cafe is empty save for himself and the man behind the cash register, who had been faced away, wiping down the back counter. 

The chimes on the door alert him of Jisung’s presence and he whirls around quickly, surprise etched into his features—which seem strikingly handsome from what Jisung can tell at this distance, for the record.

“Hi,” Jisung offers weakly, grip on the strap of his backpack tightening as he steps closer to the counter. 

The other man turns fully towards him and opens his mouth as if to say something only to close it again. He lets the dishrag fall onto the counter and strides over to the register with a smile.

“Hi,” he says, and Jisung had certainly been right about him being handsome. He glances down at Jisung’s rain-soaked clothes with an amused smile. “Forget your umbrella?”

“How could you tell?” Jisung asks, sheepishly smoothing his hair down again.

“Just a hunch. What can I get for you?” He taps something into the cash register, then looks back up. “Besides a towel.”

Your number, Jisung entertains the thought of saying but ultimately decides strongly against it. He also thinks how fitting it is that this guy works at a cat cafe, his features rather catlike themselves. His eyes and nose are sharp yet so soft in appearance, accompanied by equally soft-looking lips and hair, and Jisung has to make a conscious effort to avert his gaze before he stares too long, opting to look up at the menu instead.

His eyes scan one cat pun after another, from the meowcha latte to the catpuccino, eventually settling on one of the specials. “I’ll try the... furnilla latte?” Jisung squints at the menu to make sure he’s reading it right, unable to suppress a snort at the cheesy pun being spoken aloud.

“With or without the fur?” the barista asks as he taps away at the cash register. 

“Oh, with, of course,” he responds, not missing a beat. “Extra, if possible. I want to be hacking up hairballs, you know, get the full experience.” He nearly physically cringes at the sound of the words tumbling out of his mouth, but his lack of a filter at least earns a cute giggle from the other boy. Jisung’s stomach performs a single, impressive somersault. 

“I understand completely. Can I have a name for the order?” the barista prompts, as if there’s anyone in the vicinity that he would need to distinguish Jisung from. He flutters his eyelashes innocently. Maybe it’s just protocol. 

“Uh, Jisung. You?” he blurts and is immediately overcome with the desire to forget the fur-filled latte and make a break for the exit. Responding to one's waiter with a “you too” when they say “enjoy your meal” is one thing, telling a movie theater concessions worker to enjoy their movie, too is another, but this may just be Jisung’s personal all-time low of embarrassing automated responses. “I mean, um—”

“Minho,” he interjects before Jisung can make a fool out of himself any further. He then notices the nametag Minho is tapping on, which indeed says “MINHO” as clear as day (the “O” in his name sports two ears and a tail because of course it does).

A barely audible “oh” slips from Jisung’s lips. 

“Do you always ask your baristas’ names?” the newly-identified Minho interrupts his brewing thoughts of self-deprecation as he busies himself with making the latte. “Or just the ones who are literally labeled with them?”

“Hey, you can never be too sure!” Jisung pretends to defend his stupidity, his cheeks heating up in embarrassment. “I gotta make sure and all, you know, in case you poison me or something. I’d hate to find, uh... pawrsenic...under all that fur.”

Minho freezes and turns to him, lips pursed. “Not good.”

“Yeah, I know. Sorry,” Jisung sighs, “I swear my pun game is usually better. I’m a little out of it.”

“Mm. I can tell,” he says before seeming to wince at his own words. “Um, no offense?” 

Jisung shrugs. He’s sure he looks awful even aside from the rainwater soaking every inch of him, and that the dark circles under his tired eyes are a dead giveaway if nothing else. 

Minho glances at the bag slung over Jisung’s shoulder. “Midterms, huh?”

Jisung shifts on his feet uncomfortably, really wanting to talk to the cute barista about anything other than his current dismal attitude towards his coursework. “Yeah. It’s whatever.” Minho seems to take notice of the aversion to the topic and drops it with a nod. Jisung is grateful. 

While Minho is busy, Jisung finally turns to get a look at the room adjacent to them separated only by glass walls and two doors. It’s a fairly spacious area littered with colorful, feathery cat toys, tunnels, and scratching posts. There’s a cozy-looking couch in the corner, several small tables and chairs, and even a hammock. For the cats, there are walkways built along the walls ascending to a foot or so below ceiling level, where a cute wooden bridge decorated with fake flowers connects one end of the room to the other. 

From what Jisung can see, most of the cats seem to be asleep or lounging around lazily, which doesn’t surprise him considering the hour, but he feels a pang of disappointment all the same. 

He turns his attention back to the lobby, and a blur of colors to his right catches his eye. He glances over to see a collage of papers scribbled on with crayons and markers alike pinned to a large corkboard. Most of the papers seem to be home to crudely adorable drawings of cats done by children, dotted with the occasional anime or cartoon character created by more experienced hands. 

At the top of the board is a sign that says “Expurress Yourself.” The corner of Jisung’s mouth quirks up. He’d love to add his own contribution to this wall of chaos, but he really needs to force himself to focus for now. 

He’ll have to expurress himself some other time.

“Get some hand sanitizer and follow me,” Minho instructs once he’s finished making Jisung’s drink, heading through the door behind the counter into the glorious Cat Room. 

“Ah, you forgot to ring me up!” Jisung manages to get out right before the door closes behind Minho. Minho simply winks at him through the glass. “Oh...okay,” Jisung whispers to himself as he squirts some sanitizer into his palms and wills away his blush, even taking a moment to pretend to check his phone before finally entering. Minho sets the drink on the nearest table and disappears into a back room, reemerging with a towel that he tosses to a bedraggled Jisung.

“Oh. Thanks.” Jisung smiles shyly and catches it, doing the best he can with his wet hair and clothes.

“Hope you remember your umbrella next time,” Minho smiles and takes a seat on the rug next to a young tabby who is fast asleep. 

“I’d like to say I will, but this isn’t the first time I’ve failed to check the weather before leaving home.” He gently places his bag in a chair and crouches down next to a slumbering black cat, giving it a tentative stroke. The cat raises its head and gives a startled but friendly “prrrt?” in response. “Sorry,” he mumbles, but keeps petting anyway. 

“Why not carry one with you all the time, just in case?”

Jisung clicks his tongue. “That makes too much sense. Not really my thing.”

Minho giggles, a pretty, light sound, watching Jisung intently. “You haven’t been here before, have you?”

“Nope. I’ve wanted to though. It’s exciting!” Jisung enthuses, scratching under the cat’s chin. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen this many cats in my life. What’s this one’s name?”

“That’s Luna,” Minho answers. “I’m surprised you went for her first. Black cats tend to be unpopular—with those who have no taste, at least.”

“You took me for someone with no taste?” Jisung places a hand over his heart in mock offense. 

“Well, since you asked…” Minho trails off with a smirk. “No, it’s just that most who come in here don’t pay much attention to the black cats.”

“Why, ‘cause they’re unlucky? Pfft.” Jisung has his own fair share of bad luck. What’s a little more from crossing paths with a cute cat? For all he knows, it could just cancel his bad luck out. “I think they’re beautiful.”

“They are,” Minho says, an unmistakable fondness in his voice. “They’re unpopular because they’re ‘unphotogenic.’ People aren’t interested in the breeds that won’t get them as many likes on Instagram.”

“You’re kidding. That’s so shallow!” He glances down at the black cat who’s standing and stretching now, advancing towards Jisung to give him a good sniff before head butting him almost aggressively. His heart swells from the affection—man, he’s really starved for it, huh?—as well as a desire to protect Luna and all other black cats from assholes with poor taste. 

“She likes you,” Minho comments. He has now taken to dangling a toy on a string above the little tabby next to him and catching her attention as she eyes him groggily. 

Jisung hums as Luna flops back down next to him, seemingly losing interest and gearing up to go back to sleep. “Guess I should’ve come at a better time,” he muses, standing and heading to the table by Minho to drink his latte. 

Minho shrugs, twirling the toy around the tabby, tempting her to move from her comfortable spot on the floor. Typical cat behavior, Jisung thinks, surrounded by tons of painstakingly crafted cat furniture and deciding to sleep on the floor instead. “There’s always a bunch of them sleeping. Cats can sleep away up to three-fourths of a day, you know.”

Jisung surveys the room, the several peaceful, sleeping cats, wistfully. “God, I wish that were me.”

“Maybe it could be if you weren’t at a cafe at this hour, about to drink caffeine that will prevent you from doing just that?” Minho suggests. 

“Ugh, don’t remind me about my poor life decisions. I’ve got work to do before I can sleep.” Jisung deflates with a glance at his backpack as he taste-tests Minho’s creation. “Ooh, this is pretty good. Could use some more fur though.”

Minho nods in understanding before pretending to grab a handful of fur off of the tabby and lunging for his drink. Jisung shouts, startling every cat in the room and nearly spilling the latte on the table in an attempt to escape Minho. “My bad,” he whispers meekly to the several pairs of disgruntled cat eyes trained on him from every corner of the room, reflecting the light ominously. 

Minho notices them too and the two boys share a look before they burst out into laughter. “God,” Minho says. “It’s like a horror movie in here at night.”

“Kittens of the Corn,” Jisung says, and Minho laughs. Jisung swears his heart swells a fraction every time he manages to make the other laugh. “I feel like I’m about to become a murder victim just for disturbing their fifteen hour beauty sleep. Which, hey, they should murder you instead for provoking me!”

“You wanted cat fur!” Minho retorts as he stands up next to Jisung, furiously brushing his legs free of fur and sending it floating in his direction. “I’ll give you cat fur.”

“Hey, hey!” Jisung scrambles to cover his cup to prevent any stray hairs from entering. “Is this how you treat all your customers? I want to speak to the manager!”

“That’s the last time I give you free coffee, brat.” Minho sticks his tongue out as he retreats out of the door and back behind the counter. Somehow the thought that it won’t be the last time already creeps into Jisung’s mind, making him smile almost giddily.

He reminds himself that the wall separating him and Minho is very much see-through and does his best to play it cool while he retrieves his bag and begrudgingly removes his laptop, the dread of impending homework settling in. Still, he can’t shake the urge to smile and feels good for a moment, lighthearted even, despite the heavy bags under his eyes and the heap of work waiting behind the screen. 

This is strange for Jisung. He doesn’t normally find himself able to talk to strangers so comfortably, so often crippled by his anxiety and below-average social skills. There is a reason he’s become such a hermit since starting college—not intentionally, and not because he doesn’t want to make friends or doesn’t enjoy others’ company. It’s just… hard.

Jisung doesn’t realize he’s been staring at nothing, deep in introspection until Minho returns with a drink of his own. Minho takes a seat right next to him, effectively making Jisung’s nerves go haywire as his previous question comes to mind; is this how he treats all of his customers?

“Wow,” he remarks after a sip of whatever dark drink he brewed for himself, staring at Jisung’s inactive screen, “this is doing wonders for your productivity.”

“I don’t need this from the guy who’s sitting down on the job,” Jisung grumbles back with a smirk and Minho looks like he’s physically restraining himself from landing a playful hit on Jisung’s shoulder.

The level of familiarity he already feels with Minho almost scares him. Almost.

“Yes, because there’s so much work I could be doing.” He gestures around the empty cafe and the many sleeping cats to make his point, and Jisung can’t argue with it, so he shrugs and opens up his browser to at least look like he’s making effort to get some work done.

“There’s not many people who show up here this late, huh? I’m surprised you’re even open.” Minho hums quietly, nursing his drink. Jisung logs in to his school website and deliberates over which procrastinated project he should work on or which midterm he should prepare for first. After wiggling his mouse around a bit in thought, he makes up his mind and clicks on his psychology course homepage.

“What are you working on?” Minho’s soft voice is suddenly much closer than it had been a moment ago. Jisung realizes with a start that Minho is leaning over his shoulder to peer at his screen, which he might find rude if it weren’t for Minho being really cute and Jisung being really flustered. He giggles an apology and leans away. Jisung hopes the way his face flushes isn’t too noticeable in the dim lighting.

“Psychology,” he manages. “I know most of it; I really just need to fill out the study guide for the midterm and brush up on some stuff.”

“Ah, I had the same professor!” Minho points at said professor’s name on Jisung’s screen excitedly. “She loves cats. Draw some on your exam and she’ll give you a couple extra credit points.”

“Really?” Jisung asks. “Wait, you go to JPU?”

Minho nods. “Yep, and I aced this class. I can fill out that study guide for you while you do something else.”

“What? No, it’s okay, I can do it! You already gave me free coffee—”

“It’s not free,” Minho interrupts him sternly. “The price is that you help me by letting me help you because I’m getting a headache just looking at how exhausted you are.” He sips his drink. “And it’ll give me something to do.”

Jisung scratches his head, embarrassed. Truthfully, collecting the information and filling out study guides is a hassle, and it would be a great help, but he feels like he’s taking too much from Minho, someone he has just met, without giving anything in return. He searches his brain for something he can do for the other boy, to repay his seemingly endless kindness.

“Fine…” he starts, “but!” Minho rolls his eyes. “You have to let me treat you to lunch sometime in return for the coffee and your help.” The implication of what he’s saying doesn’t really sink in until he’s said it, and for a moment Jisung is both terrified that Minho will take it the wrong way and reject him while simultaneously terrified that he will accept. 

He’s never asked a stranger on an outing in such a short time of knowing them; even the few actual dates he’s been on have been preceded by a decent amount of time as friends. This is out of the ordinary for Jisung, and probably for Minho, too.

Instead of seeming taken aback or uncomfortable, Minho beams at him so brightly that his eyes become sparkly crescents, and Jisung can vividly picture Cupid’s heart-point arrows piercing his own heart. “Deal.”

The two boys end up pushing their small tables together to create a workspace where they use separate application windows to work on, each one taking up half of the screen. 

Minho neatly and diligently works his way through the study guide, writing the answers down in Jisung’s psych notebook. Meanwhile, Jisung takes notes for his math exam and tries not to get too distracted when Minho snakes his hand around Jisung’s elbow propped on the table to scroll down the study guide on his half of the screen. 

They work hard for who knows how long, with occasional banter and questions about each other’s majors. Jisung learns Minho is a dance major who also sings, and he doesn’t think he could get any cooler until he notices with wide eyes that Minho is also ambidextrous. He’d just barely caught it out of the corner of his eye when Minho wrote with his left hand, picked up his phone to look something up, then resumed writing with his right. 

Minho laughed at him, telling Jisung he was silly and too easily impressed, but Jisung swears he saw a light blush on his cheeks as Minho distracted himself with doodles of crude cats in the notebook’s margins instead of finishing the question he was working on.

Two and a half completed study guides and one free muffin later, Jisung decides to call it a night, with no idea how Minho hadn’t kicked him out and locked the place up hours ago. The time has come, though, the rain has long since stopped, and while Jisung is completely drained and missing the warmth of his bed like crazy, he can’t help but be sad that the night is ending. Minho turns off the lights and says his goodbyes to the cats before walking Jisung out. 

“You know,” Jisung says, slinging his bag over his shoulder as Minho locks the place up from the outside, “I hadn’t really given it too much thought at first, but something tells me you guys usually aren’t open this late.”

“Hmm.” Minho taps his chin innocently, keys jingling with the motion. He covers the very obvious “store hours” sign on the door that Jisung conveniently overlooked on his way in. “I’ll leave that to your imagination.”

“Hey, how did I not notice that?” Jisung asks incredulously, attempting to pry Minho’s hand away. Despite his delicate appearance, Minho is impressively strong.

“Probably because you were too busy tripping over yourself to get out of the rain?” Minho says, his whole body blocking the door now. “Anyway, go get some rest.”

“You’re lucky I’m so tired,” Jisung warns, punctuated with a yawn, “otherwise I’d get my answers.” Minho simply smiles in response, not budging. Jisung sighs and backs away with his hands raised. “All right, fine. I’ll, uh... see you next time. Good night!”

Minho stays planted for a few more paces before finally departing from the door. Jisung gives it a moment before turning on his heel and sprinting back. Minho reacts a second too late, and Jisung beats him back.

8pm?!” he shouts. “You were closed before I even got here! Oh my God, I’m so sorry. I made you work, like, four extra hours, and didn’t even pay for my stuff, holy shit. Oh my God. I should be arrested. I’m going to jail and to hell.”

“Jisung, Jisung!” Minho laughs, patting his shoulder in a way that’s all but comforting. “It’s okay, really. I could’ve gone home at any time. It’s my fault for forgetting to turn the sign off. I could’ve kicked you out the moment you came in; it’s on me.”

“Still,” Jisung groans, dragging his hands down his face. “I imposed on you so hard. I’m so sorry.”

“You’ll make it up to me, right?” Minho winks. Jisung stutters, taken aback. “You said you’d treat me to lunch.” Then he pouts and looks ridiculously cute in doing so.

“Oh, right! Right. Wherever you wanna go.” Jisung flashes him a genuine (albeit sleepy) grin. “Seriously, I feel awful, but thanks so much for your help.”

“It was fun.” Minho tilts his head and smiles, his eyes shining with the reflection of the city lights. If Jisung were any more tired than he is right now, he’d probably blurt out how beautiful he thinks Minho is and how he’d spend every day endlessly doing schoolwork if it meant he could spend time with him and get to know him more.

Well...no, he wouldn’t go that far. Sleep deprivation is getting to him for sure.

“Yeah,” Jisung yawns, too tired to tease Minho for having a strange definition of “fun” and telling him that doing a stranger’s homework is definitely not it. “I’m about to drop dead, though, so good night for real!”

Minho hesitates for such a brief moment that Jisung wonders if he imagined it before nodding and turning to leave. “Good night, Jisung.”

They wave and part ways.

“Pack an umbrella!” Minho calls out from some distance away. Jisung laughs. 

The sleepy smile stays on his face until the moment he collapses in bed and passes out.

 

❀ ❀ ❀

 

Despite Minho occupying Jisung’s every non-school-related thought, he resolves the next day to avoid the cat cafe at all costs for the foreseeable future. 

For one, he’s incredibly embarrassed and ashamed for freeloading and making Minho work four hours of unpaid overtime, not to mention receiving free snacks and help with his work. The last thing he wants is to seem like he’s using Minho—but is he being ungrateful by avoiding him instead? Would Minho think Jisung doesn’t want to see him again (because he does, he really does), or that he’s skimping out on the free lunch he promised? Would he be making things worse by not coming back, or would he seem desperate and overly eager if he came back so soon?

Such trains of thought run through Jisung’s mind ceaselessly, cluttering his mind, which is a less than ideal mindset to have when one has so much schoolwork on their plate. He does his best to push them to the back of his head but eventually settles on the realization that his questions and concerns would be answered and a good portion of his anxiety quelled if he simply visited the cafe again. 

After all, he’s never been good at denying himself sweet things.

So that’s how Jisung ends up peering in through the window of Feline Fine Cat Cafe to make sure Minho is working just a few days later. Jisung is sure to arrive much earlier after the overtime incident. He refuses to be the cause of Minho staying late and losing sleep even if it means he has to share him with a few other customers. Luckily it isn’t a particularly busy cafe, and Minho can likely sit and chat with him a bit even if they don’t have the place to themselves.

Jisung pulls his headphones off of his ears, takes a deep breath, and pushes the door open. His heart flutters when Minho turns around at the sound of the bell and smiles brightly at him.

“You’re still alive,” Minho says in a way of greeting. Jisung approaches the counter and flushes as Minho gives him a once-over. He would be lying if he said he didn’t put in a little more effort into his appearance than usual today though, and he’s glad it doesn’t go unnoticed. “You’re pretty cute with a little light in your eyes.”

Jisung pouts to hide his sheepishness. “So I’m not cute when I’m sleep deprived and dead inside?”

“No, you’re definitely cute when you’re dead inside too.” Before Jisung can collect himself enough to compliment Minho in return, he speaks again. “How’s your work going? You seem to be much better off today, at least.”

“It’s...going,” he answers vaguely, not having made much progress on it since he visited last. “Oh, but I did good on my psych exam! Thanks to you.”

Minho waves a hand dismissively. “All I did was fill out a study guide. You did the heavy lifting.”

“But you also saved me like an hour or two that I was able to spend sleeping instead,” he argues. “What if I didn’t get that extra hour of sleep, and I was so exhausted I slept through all twelve of my alarms, missed the bus, missed class, failed my exam, dropped my GPA, and had to retake the course? You may as well have saved my scholarship. I owe you my life.” Jisung nods solemnly.

Minho snorts. “Wait, twelve alarms?”

“That’s all you get from that?” Jisung demands. “But yeah, it’s honestly probably more like twenty.”

“You are ridiculous,” Minho mumbles before straightening up and putting on an exaggerated customer service smile. “Can I get you anything, sir?”

Jisung strokes his chin and pretends to scan the menu for a prolonged amount of time. “What does the chef recommend?”

“The chef recommends you hurry up and make a decision before he spits in your drink.” 

“Ah, I see. In that case, I’ll have an iced ameowicano.” Again Jisung stifles a laugh at the pun and quickly pushes a five-dollar bill across the counter before Minho can object, earning an eye roll.

“Don’t flatter yourself. I was gonna make you pay anyways.” He tries and fails to hide his smile as he puts the bill in the cash register and hands Jisung his change. “It’ll be right out.”

Jisung nods and gets a squirt of hand sanitizer before letting himself in the marvelous cat room, elated to see the felines much more active than they had been the other night. There’s no one else there but a young girl and her mother who are playing with a young calico in the corner. Jisung opts for the opposite end of the room which is occupied by a few different cats he hadn’t had the chance to pet before.

They greet him with ever-wide eyes and curious sniffs, a large gray and white tomcat circling Jisung’s crouched legs and rubbing his face all over him, surely getting its light fur on his black jeans. Jisung doesn’t mind.

“Iced ameowicano for Jisungie,” Minho calls out louder than necessary, shaking the drink in his direction with a smirk. Jisung feels his face heat up, but he isn’t sure if it’s from the nickname or the curious looks the mother and daughter give the two of them. 

Despite calling his name, Minho brings the drink to him anyway, crouching next to him and running his hand down the cat’s back.

“Thanks.” He pokes the straw into the americano and takes a sip. “What’s this one’s name?”

“This is Danbi,” Minho replies, scratching him under his chin, which the tubby cat seems to appreciate. “He’s very cuddly. C’mere.” He lifts himself onto the nearby couch and pats the spot next to him. Whether he was summoning Jisung or Danbi is unknown, but they both follow obediently nonetheless, with Danbi immediately taking up residence in Minho’s lap and Jisung sitting tentatively beside him. Minho gently guides the cat towards Jisung, and he sets his drink aside to fully appreciate the soft creature who is now kneading his lap.

“Biscuits!” Jisung squeals excitedly, stroking the cat and watching him knead his thigh as if it were a roll of dough. He doesn’t have much meat on his bones there, to be honest; he’s pretty sure the cat would have a better time kneading Minho’s thighs by the look of things. 

He feels his face flush at the realization that his gaze had drifted over to said thighs briefly, quickly returning his attention to the cat in his lap.

Danbi seems to be content with what little leg he has to offer if the loud purring is anything to go by. Minho leans in closer to pet him too, close enough that Jisung can smell his floral shampoo as their hands brush against one another somewhere on the cat’s back, and suddenly butterflies are fluttering in Jisung’s stomach.

Minho giggles for some unknown reason as he leans back to his previous spot. “Do you have any cats?”

“No…” Jisung frowns. “My apartment doesn’t allow pets, and neither do my parents.”

“You’re good with them.” Jisung can feel Minho’s gaze on him, suddenly intense, and is too afraid to turn and face him. “Cats or dogs?”

“Huh?”

“Are you a cat person or a dog person?”

“Oh. Cats, of course,” Jisung says easily. “I love dogs, too, but cats just…you know. I’d ask you the same question but I think you’d kick me out.”

“Absolutely I would,” he laughs, leaning in to pet Danbi again. “At first glance, you struck me as a dog person, but after talking to you some more I figured you were a man of culture. Plus...dog people don’t tend to like cats.”

“You know, you’re right. It’s so weird.” Jisung turns to him, eyebrows drawn together. “Like, cat people usually love dogs too, but dog people have this like, ‘cats are literally Satan’ mindset.”

“Right?” Minho sits up straighter, clearly passionate about the subject, and Jisung finds himself smiling at the notion. “This is why cat people are better! Cat haters just don’t have the intellect to appreciate the subtle love that cats give their owners.” The mother and daughter glance over at them in concern at Minho’s heated speech, but he pays them no mind. “Isn’t that right, Danbi?”

Danbi only purrs in response, squinting his eyes in bliss as he gets his chin scratched.

“How could anyone hate a face like that?” Jisung muses. He thinks back to Minho’s first question. “You have cats, right?”

“Two,” he confirms. “Soonie and Doongie. They’re my babies.”

“Do you have any pictures of them?” Jisung asks and knows it’s a stupid question before it leaves his mouth. He’s spent a total of a few hours with Minho, but he knows he’s the type of person to have his camera roll filled to the brim with cat photos.

Do I?” Minho pulls his phone from his pocket and the pair are greeted by his lockscreen—a cute orange and white cat wearing a black beret. “That one’s Soonie,” he explains before Jisung can ask.

“She’s so cute! She’s really working that hat.”

Jisung can’t help but think how brave Minho is as he scrolls through his camera roll in front of him. Sure enough, though, it’s about 70% cat photos. The remaining 30% is mostly comprised of selfies taken with strange filters and dance videos. He almost gathers the courage to ask to see his dancing, but Minho is so adorably excited to share his cat pictures that Jisung can’t find it in him to distract from that.

He finally finds what he’s apparently looking for and shows Jisung a picture of the two cats together, lazing on the pavement in the sun. Jisung coos as Minho explains the differences in Soonie and Doongie, from their appearances to their very distinct personalities. He shows him several more select photos which Jisung responds to with genuine enthusiasm and interest, asking questions and laughing at his stories. 

Minho is clearly happy to have someone to indulge in his cat tales, and they spend a long while just talking about Soonie and Doongie as well as some strays that Jisung used to feed back home, unbeknownst to his parents.

Sometime during all of this, Danbi had curled up and gone to sleep in Jisung’s lap, and the mother and daughter had left them alone in the cafe. The sun was beginning to set, much to Jisung’s surprise. Time really flies in this place, he thinks.

“Anyways,” Minho smiles with a tinge of sheepishness and pockets his phone. “I hope I didn’t bore you too much. I’m happy whenever I find someone willing to let me ramble about my cats.”

“No, not at all! I’m glad I got to know them.” And you, he doesn’t say. 

It might be weird to mention how much closer he feels to Minho just by seeing his face light up when talking about his cats, or his eyes sparkling with mirth when he recalls a funny story, so he doesn’t mention it.

“Maybe you can meet them someday,” Minho muses absently, making Jisung light up with the thought that Minho deems him as someone worthy of meeting his beloved cats. “Anyway, do you have work to do? I can grab your bag so we don’t disturb his meowjesty.”

Jisung rolls his eyes at the pun before grimacing at his bag. “Yeah, unfortunately. Not a lot, though.”

Minho hums, retrieving the bag and sitting back down next to Jisung. An orange tabby follows, sniffing the bag curiously, and Minho gives it a scratch. “Anything I can help with?”

“Um... how’s your math?” Jisung asks, not expecting a positive answer. Maybe his face gives it away because Minho almost looks offended.

“I’m good at math,” he states. “What, are you assuming things because I’m a dance major? Shame on you.”

“What? No! Sorry, that’s not what I…” he trails off, biting his lip. Jisung knows there’s no real heat to Minho’s words, but they still hit home. When he had first expressed his desire to major in music production (and still, to this day), he was met with some resistance, to say the least. All of the hurtful, discouraging words he’d heard his whole adult life come flooding back to him at once and he feels guilty for potentially imposing those feelings on Minho.

“Kidding,” Minho assures him, concern taking over his features as he assesses Jisung’s near-horrified expression and rests a soothing hand on Jisung’s arm. “Not about the math part. I am decent at math. Probably forgot all the formulas and stuff, though.”

Jisung nods hesitantly, feeling embarrassed both at his overreaction and Minho’s lingering hand. “I’m not bad at it either. I’m just a little lost since I haven’t been paying much attention in class.”

Minho surprises him by lightly flicking his forehead. “You should pay attention.”

“Jeeze!” He rubs the spot dramatically, though it didn’t really hurt. “Maybe if you were there to inflict pain on me every time I got distracted…”

“Ah, that sounds like a nice part-time job. Pay me to go to class with you and assault you every time your mind wanders.”

Jisung guffaws, the thought of Minho looming over him ominously and slapping his hand every time he reaches for his phone coming to mind. “Name your price.” He reaches into the bag offered by Minho, pulling out a notebook and looking at his lap hopelessly, wondering where to place it.

“Ah, we might have to move him after all,” Minho states regretfully. Jisung contemplates just letting him stay there for a while longer, but he doesn’t want to delay the work any longer than needed and end up keeping Minho stuck there past operating hours again. 

“Yeah. Sorry, bud.” Jisung carefully slips his hands under the soft ball of fluff in his lap and stands, gently placing him in the spot on the couch that he warmed. Danbi flexes his paws, more or less unbothered, before returning to his nap. “Oh, to be a cat.”

Minho hums in agreement and fusses over Danbi a little longer, inadvertently entrancing Jisung with the incredibly tender expression on his face. He seems to feel Jisung’s eyes on him and turns to meet them, eyes crinkling with a sly smile. 

“Is there something on my face, Jisung?”

Jisung flushes, caught in the act.

“Yeah,” he lies. “Cat fur.” Jisung involuntarily holds his breath as he bends down to gently brush his thumb across Minho’s cheek, the elder’s eyes widening a fraction. “Got it. You’re welcome.” He sticks out his tongue playfully before turning on his heel and moving to the table they had worked at together the other night.

“I’ll have you know that was not cat fur,” Minho protests after a moment, standing to follow him. “I’m growing a beard, and—”

“On your cheek?” Jisung interrupts.

“I don’t know, smartass. You tell me.” He smirks as he takes his place beside the younger, in a way that tells Jisung he didn’t buy the lie at all. He leans in, angling his head around with a wild look in his eyes. “Would you like to check for more?”

“Stop, stop!” Jisung laughs and pushes him away before forcing his face into a serious expression. “Fur real.”

Minho actually lands a hit on him this time, his fist colliding with his shoulder. Jisung cries out much louder than necessary and once again manages to disgruntle the group of cats before him.

“One more bad pun and you’re out,” Minho threatens, wagging a finger in Jisung’s face. Jisung, acting completely on impulse, tries to bite it.

Minho is faster, retracting his hand and bringing it back to flick his forehead.

“Hey!” he whines, rubbing his forehead, more indignant of the insult to his pun than the assault of his forehead. “If bad puns were a crime this place would’ve been shut down a long time ago.”

Minho rears up to flick him again but sighs, relenting. “Fair enough.”

Jisung nods, satisfied, as he unpacks his things. “God, I want cheesecake so bad,” he thinks aloud suddenly, remembering the amazing cheesecake he had picked up from the store the night before. “You don’t happen to serve cheesecake here, do you?”

“No,” Minho answers apologetically. “I can get you some normal cake though. On the house, I guess, since it’s not as good as cheesecake and because I want you to leave me a good review on Yelp.”

Jisung stifles a laugh and rolls his eyes in an exaggerated fashion, huffing. “Whatever. I guess it’ll do.”

“Don’t make me flick you again,” Minho warns, gesturing threateningly as he retreats into the kitchen mumbling playfully about Jisung being ungrateful. Jisung watches him go with an unconscious grin plastered on his face.

He wants to just accept Minho’s kindness and move on, but being Jisung he can’t help but overthink these things. Why is he so nice to him? He can’t imagine there are that many other customers that Minho has known for such a little time and does so much for. Or...maybe there are. Maybe he’s some kind of cat cafe playboy, Jisung thinks to himself with a chuckle. There’s a certain genuine kindness to Minho, though, that makes him feel like he is a special case.

...But what makes Jisung special? Maybe it’s not too hard for him to imagine that Minho simply feels that he clicks with Jisung, too, and the thought makes him embarrassingly giddy. Maybe he just pitied Jisung on that first night and took him under his wing as he would with a pitiful, defenseless stray. Maybe Jisung is okay with that.

Regardless of the circumstances, Jisung seems to finally be making his first real friend since starting university, and he decides to not look a gift horse in the mouth and just be happy that, for whatever reason, Minho has taken some sort of liking to him.

When Minho re-enters, Jisung rubs at his forehead and pretends to be in pain. “Hey, how do you expect me to leave you a good review when you abuse me like this?”

“You mean to tell me my free treats and sparkling personality don’t make up for it?” Minho places a hand over his heart in shock. “I’m wounded, truly.”

Jisung has a change of heart when he slides the cake over to him. “Hmm… We’ll see.” He digs into it immediately, taking a bite with a satisfied hum. “Yeah, this is a five-star cake.”

“Good.” Minho props his head on his hand and watches Jisung, which only unnerves him a little bit.

“So, uh,” Jisung starts, swallowing down another bite, “what kind of food do you like? For when I treat you to lunch.”

“Ah. I’m not picky,” he says.

Jisung pouts. “Can you at least narrow it down?”

“I like whatever I can get in my mouth,” he says. Jisung stops chewing and cuts his eyes at him. There’s a brief silence and a joke begging to be made, but neither of them make it. “We’ll just wait until the day of and see what we’re in the mood for, hm?”

Jisung gives up and nods, focusing on his cake.

“What’s your favorite kind of cheesecake?” Minho asks.

“I’m not picky,” he responds in a mocking tone. Minho readies his hand to flick him again and he cowers in fear. “Ah, okay, okay! Um...yeah, honestly, any? But I love chocolate the best.”

He simply hums enigmatically, directing his attention to his phone while Jisung finishes his cake. Once he’s consumed every crumb on the plate, he finally gets started on reviewing math. 

Minho turns out to be a big help in that after a quick refresher he explains the concepts easily, but he also turns out to be a distraction again when he leans over Jisung’s shoulder or reaches across him to correct something on his paper. In the end, though, Jisung manages to pay enough attention to fully grasp the material and be prepared for tomorrow’s exam. He’s filled with glee when he glances at the time and sees that it’s only about seven.

“Feels so good to be done with this shit before one in the morning,” he sighs, flopping onto his stomach on the floor to face a lounging calico. 

“Glad I can play a part in breaking your procrastination habits,” Minho says wryly, returning to the couch to lie down next to the gray tabby who has taken Danbi’s place.

“Nah, they’ll be back in full force any day now. Thank you, though, you’ve once again saved my ass.”

“It’s nothing,” he assures him with a wave of his hand as he rests his head next to the cat and closes his eyes.

Jisung’s stomach twists unpleasantly with guilt. “Um, hey, should I go and let you get some rest?”

“No, I’d just fall asleep.” Minho looks at him with sleepy eyes he hadn’t noticed before. They’re terribly endearing. “Unless you want to go, then feel free.”

“I’m good!” Jisung chirps, scratching the calico behind her ears. “Just let me know if you ever want me out of your fur.” Minho groans. 

“I don’t think you could get out of it if you wanted to,” Minho says, looking pointedly at Jisung’s fur-coated pants. He’s right in more ways than one.

Jisung debates whether he should even ask at this point, feeling incredibly inconsiderate for not saying anything sooner, but eventually caves and asks, “How are your midterms going?”

“They’re okay.” Minho trains his sleepy gaze on him again, and Jisung has to look away. “I’ve just been up later than usual studying.”

“And you wanna talk about my procrastination habits? The hypocrisy!”

“Whatever,” he giggles. “I barely know you and I can say with confidence that I’m nowhere near as bad as you.”

Jisung is quiet for a moment, the words sounding almost foreign to his ears as he’s reminded that this person he’s slipped into such a comfortable companionship with has only existed in his life for a few days.

“Tell me if this is weird,” he says finally, “but I feel like I’ve known you for so much longer than four days.”

“I feel like I’ve known you for at least five,” Minho says without opening his eyes.

“Oh my God,” Jisung groans, regretting his attempt at sincerity. “I take it back.”

“I thought the same thing, though,” he says, to Jisung’s surprise. “Maybe we were together in a past life.”

Jisung flushes, eyes wide as he turns to look at him. Minho’s eyes are closed and his lips are turned up at the corners ever so slightly—almost smugly, like he knew his comment would fluster the younger boy. And he probably did.

Whether he meant “together” in a platonic or romantic sense is a complete mystery to Jisung, and even if he wanted to ask him to clarify, he doesn’t think he could because Minho seems to have fallen asleep seconds later. Once it’s clear that he has, Jisung quietly moves to retrieve the blanket from the back of the couch and drapes it over him, vowing to watch over the cafe while Minho rests.

In the meantime, Jisung makes his rounds petting every cat he can reach and attempting to coerce the ones he can’t reach down to him, jumps in fear at the sound of Minho muttering in his sleep, listens to some music, and goes over his math notes one more time before Minho stirs and sits up.

“Oh, sorry,” he mumbles, stretching his arms above his head in a way that resembles a cat and rivals its cuteness. “I didn’t mean to fall asleep.”

“No biggie! It’s almost closing time, though. You might wanna head home and get some real sleep.”

“Since when have you cared about closing time?” Minho teases, checking his phone. “Thanks for not ditching me, though.”

“Of course,” Jisung says, almost insulted. Did Minho think he would just leave him alone and defenseless? “I guess I could’ve woken you up, but you looked so cozy next to, uh…”

“Bob,” Minho supplies.

“Like the—”

“Animal Crossing, yes,” Minho smiles knowingly while Jisung laughs and makes a mental note to ask for Minho’s friend code later. “He’s a sweetie.”

“Aren’t they all?” Jisung asks, making his way over to pet him too, unable to resist the sleepy eyes that aren’t unlike Minho’s. He giggles when he gets a closer look and sees a familiar mark on his wet, pink nose. Minho tilts his head in question. “Look.” He boops Bob right on the nose speckle then reaches up to Minho and gently pokes the matching mole on his nose. “Twinsies!” Minho blinks in bewilderment before regaining his composure and booping Jisung’s nose right back with a cute giggle.

“You’re weird.” The two of them laugh softly and pet Bob in silence for a bit longer, the atmosphere unbearably tender and intimate. The silence continuing to stretch makes Jisung nervous and overly conscious of his every move, so he decides to break the strange tension by departing from the couch and packing his things up. Minho follows suit with another stretch and heads into the backroom, presumably to clean up and grab his things. Jisung pulls his headphones back over his ears and waits.

“You didn’t have to wait for me,” Minho says, surprised to see Jisung still there when he comes out with his coat on and keys in hand.

“I didn’t say good night,” he offers as an excuse, knowing he wouldn’t have left regardless. “Plus, um, I figured the cats needed someone to look out for them. While the door’s still unlocked and all.”

Minho hums, ducking his head with a smile as they head for the exit and lock up for the night. Jisung shoves his hands in his pockets.

“Are you working tomorrow?” Jisung asks, sounding more hopeful and possibly desperate than intended.

Minho pockets the keys and smirks up at him. “Can’t get enough of me, can you?” Jisung, once again, feels himself blushing and hopes it isn’t illuminated by the streetlights.

No, he wants to say, I’d actually like to hang out with you every day because you’re cool and funny and pretty much my only friend here, not to mention gorgeous and I’m seriously going to pass out if you don’t stop looking at me like that—

“Who says I’m coming for you?” He pouts. “Maybe I just wanna see the cats.”

“You can see the cats whether I’m on shift or not.” Minho’s smirk grows wider.

“Maybe I just want free cake!”

“Do you want me to put in a good word for you with my coworkers? They can give you free cake, too, you know.” He crosses his arms.

“You’re gonna make me say it, huh,” Jisung sighs in exasperation. Minho raises an eyebrow. “ Fine, I wanna hang out with you! If I can make the hours of your shift pass by faster by annoying you then I’ll gladly do so anytime. Plus, I love the cats, and it beats studying alone at home, I actually get way more work done here, I mean you help me of course, but if I’m ever too much, because I know I can be, just let me know and I can go—”

“Jisung, you’re not too much. You just talk too much,” Minho teases. He reaches out and gently pats the top of Jisung’s head, the latter melting under the contact. “I am working tomorrow afternoon. You better be there.”

“Wouldn’t miss it!” Jisung promises. “Someone’s gotta keep you on your toes.”

“Isn’t it the other way around?” 

“Okay, yeah, that’s fair,” Jisung assents. “You’ve gotta keep me on my toes.”

“I’m working two jobs now. Great.” His lips curl up into a smile. “You’re lucky you’re cute.”

“Who, me?” Jisung bats his eyelashes, poking a finger into his own cheek.

“Ew, never mind,” Minho laughs. “I’m quitting my second job.”

“No, please! I’ll give you a raise!”

“Uh-huh.” Minho shoves his hands in his pockets. “And the raise entails…?”

“Whatever you want it to.” Jisung smirks and ignores the voice in the back of his head telling him he’ll think back on this later and cringe.

“Oh? I’ll hold you to that,” Minho laughs then stifles a yawn. “I better go rest up, though. Apparently I’m working and babysitting tomorrow.”

“You’ll need all the rest you can get,” Jisung smiles. “Sleep well, hyung.”

“You too, Jisungie,” Minho says sleepily, reaching up to ruffle his hair before waving and heading down the street. “Good night.”

“Good night,” Jisung calls out and promptly swivels around to hide the goofy grin on his face before burying it in his hands.

 

❀ ❀ ❀

 

“So when’s the wedding?”

Jisung tears his gaze from Minho, waving at him through the glass as he and Changbin exit the cafe, to give his friend a bewildered look. “What?”

“I’ve never third wheeled so hard in my life.” Changbin smirks at his flustered expression. “You guys are annoyingly cute.”

Jisung scrambles to clarify. “We’re friends.”

“Is that what the kids are calling it these days?” Changbin teases.

“What do you know, old man?” Jisung laughs, shoving him and watching him stumble across the sidewalk with a smile. “You literally just got here.”

Changbin had indeed only arrived to visit Jisung for the week earlier that morning, forcing the younger out of bed at an ungodly hour to meet him (especially considering it’s his autumn break, prime time for sleeping in). Changbin’s parents are out of town for the break so he opted to visit Jisung instead of returning home alone or staying at his own dorm. He had whined about wanting coffee and Jisung had perked up instantly, dragging him to the cafe at his first opportunity.

“I have eyes, man,” Changbin says. “You should ask him out.”

Jisung hums uncertainly. “I dunno…”

“Why not?” he presses, nudging Jisung’s shoulder with his own.

“I don’t wanna mess it up,” he says quietly, studying the cracks in the cement as they wander down the street. “He’s the first real friend I’ve made in, like, forever. What if he doesn’t like me and I make things awkward?”

Changbin snorts. “You’re dense as hell, you know that?”

“What? Why?”

“There’s no way he doesn’t have the hots for you!” Changbin insists. “The guy looks at you like, hell, I dunno. I need a cheesy metaphor.”

“He’s just really nice!” Jisung says, feeling his cheeks heat up.

“He looks at you like you’re a thousand cuddly kittens combined into one adorable human,” Changbin continues, then raises his hands defensively when Jisung gives him a Look. “His thoughts, not mine.”

“Damn, that’s love,” Jisung laughs it off. “Are you a mind reader now, too?”

“Fine, keep deflecting,” he sighs. “Think about it, though. It could be good for you.” He adds in a singsong voice while he pokes Jisung’s ribs mercilessly, making the younger convulse, “I know you want to.”

And he does want to, so he does think about it.

“You really think he likes me?” he asks Changbin a few days later, for maybe the third time during the week he spends with him. They just returned from visiting Minho at work a second time, so he wants to know if Changbin’s opinion changed.  “Like, actually? Be honest.”

Changbin rolls his eyes and groans through his mouthful of ramyeon. “Yes, God. If you ask me again I’m gonna march back down there and settle this myself.”

“You wouldn’t dare!”

Changbin shoots him a warning glare, so Jisung purses his lips shut and makes a silent promise to drop it, at least for the night, but the other boy keeps the conversation going. “Seriously, he seems like a nice guy. If he’s worth your time, he’ll still be your friend even if he miraculously doesn’t feel the same.”

Jisung sighs, resting his cheek on his hand. Changbin is right, of course, Minho is nice and amazing and perfect and Jisung doesn’t think he would push him away for confessing. He just doesn’t know what’s worse: trying and being rejected, or never trying at all. Only one option has the potential to end his worries and possibly end with him kissing Minho on his beautiful face, though.

Maybe Changbin is onto something.

“Thanks, hyung,” Jisung smiles, sitting up straight. “I think you’re right for once.”

“Of course I’m right!” Changbin howls indignantly, reaching over the table to ruffle Jisung’s hair. Jisung ducks his head and groans, though he secretly appreciates the gesture.

The rest of his week with Changbin goes by all too fast with a weight off of Jisung’s shoulders and a new resolve in his heart. 

 

❀ ❀ ❀

 

Minho makes three things impossibly clear to Jisung over the past several weeks: one, he enjoys Jisung’s company at work; two, no, Jisung isn’t using him and he’s silly for worrying about that; and three, Minho really, really loves cats. 

Jisung, being Jisung, still worries about the first two concerns until about the third or fourth time Minho reassures him throughout the weeks they’ve known each other, and before he knows it the two of them have settled into a comfortable companionship leading up to the end of the semester. 

They spend all of Minho’s free time at the cafe bonding over cats and preparing for finals (Minho being a much bigger help than Jisung). Minho spoils him with more free treats, though Jisung tries his best—and sometimes even succeeds—in convincing Minho to let him pay for them. They tease and poke fun at each other relentlessly, Minho managing to fluster Jisung on a regular basis but rarely being able to take what he dishes out without blushing when Jisung turns the tables.

Jisung has willingly left the house more in the past few weeks than he has for the entire rest of his college life. He’s unable to get over how remarkable his fast-growing friendship with Minho is; he can’t remember the last time he’s hit it off like this with someone. 

Actually, he’s pretty sure he never has. He’s normally so nervous around new people, especially in a college far from home without the buffer of his other more extroverted friends, too anxious about how he’ll be perceived to function without being awkward and therefore becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. Something about Minho just put him at ease from the moment they met, made him feel free to be who he is, act as his natural, goofy self, without the fear of scaring off his new friend, and he only feels more comfortable as time goes by.

Jisung thinks there was maybe one time where he was able to click with someone—an old friend he’s long since lost contact with, but the feeling evidently hadn’t been mutual. After that crashed and burned horribly, his already incredibly introverted disposition gave him even more trouble with getting close to people. It takes time and a kind, patient friend to bring Jisung out of his shell and feel comfortable enough to be himself, apparently—like Chan and Changbin. Or a rude remark sparking a rivalry turned into a long-lasting friendship, like with Hyunjin. 

Or a funny, cat-loving barista with stars in his eyes and cat fur perpetually clinging to his clothes. 

“Jisung?” A familiar face, though not the one he’d been hoping to see, greets him when he enters. Jisung had just finished his last exam less than half an hour beforehand and made a beeline for the cafe to tell Minho how well he did and thank him again for his help (and hopefully receive some celebratory cuddles). Rather than Minho, however, the boy who usually sat by Jisung in psychology was behind the counter instead, sporting the cafe’s green apron and a blinding smile.

“Felix? Hey!” he greets, briefly glancing around in search of his favorite barista. Not that he isn’t happy to see Felix, of course—he is really nice from what Jisung can tell, but Minho mentioned before that he would be working today. “I didn’t know you worked here.”

“I just got hired recently,” Felix explains, then taps his chin. “I didn’t take you for a cat person.”

“Why does everyone say that?” Jisung whines. Before he can complain further, the man he’d been hoping to see emerges from the kitchen area with a smile and a hand brandishing a covered plate.

“I thought I heard a nuisance,” Minho says in a way of greeting and something akin to affection. 

“Hi,” Jisung breathes, too relieved at his sudden appearance to bite back. “Oh, hyung, my math final finally got graded and I did so well! I got a 96! That’s, like, the highest grade I’ve ever gotten in that class. And I’m pretty sure I aced my psych final. I drew the cats again.” 

He had indeed drawn a poor likeness of Bob, the cat with the nose mole that matched Minho’s. The memory of his short, sweet moment with Minho when he first made that discovery gave him butterflies in the middle of the exam period when he recalled it. Embarrassing.

“Good job!” Minho gives him an approving thumbs up and Jisung beams in return. “So are you all done then?” Jisung nods excitedly.

“Wait, you two know each other?” Felix asks, looking shocked, then turns to Minho. “You tutor?”

“God, no,” Minho laughs. “I’ve just been helping Jisungie prepare for exams to pass the time at work.”

Felix’s lips part in realization. “Oh, is that why you asked me for my shift today? Even though finals are over?” He asks the question innocently, but the way his grin turns devilish after Minho swats at him gives away his intentions. Minho’s cheeks are tinted pink while he avoids eye contact in favor of fiddling with the cover on the plate.

“Oh, you did, huh?” Jisung leans on the counter, smiling smugly up at Minho as he happily takes the bait. The revelation touches him, especially knowing Minho is busy finishing up his own finals—but it also gives him a burst of confidence as he recites Minho’s words from a couple of weeks ago. “Ah, you just can’t get enough of me, huh?”

Minho, unfortunately for Jisung, composes himself quickly and leans over the counter as well, his smug smile mirroring Jisung’s mere inches away from his face. Jisung struggles greatly to keep his cocky facade from crumbling in front of everyone’s eyes.

“No, I can’t,” Minho says simply, then puckers his lips in an exaggerated fashion and leans in. Jisung startles and flinches away as if he’d been shocked, face flushing as Minho laughs at his embarrassment.

“As much as I would love to be caught in the middle of...whatever this is all day,” Felix speaks up, “you don’t have to be on shift to hang out with him. Right?”

“Right?” Jisung parrots. “If you wanted to hang out with me so badly, you could’ve just asked.”

Felix nods pointedly at Minho, who huffs, before carrying a tray into the kitchen. Jisung wonders if Felix actually had something to do or if he just wanted to escape their squabbling.

“You’re the one who’s always rambling on about how you want to hang out with me and the cats and get your free cake so badly! Oh, speaking of which.” He nonchalantly slides the mysterious plate in his hand across the counter. Jisung tilts his head, puzzled, before unwrapping the plate. His eyebrows shoot up at the sight of what is a little bit messy slice of something of unmistakable cheesecake quality.

“You got cheesecake! Wait…” He inspects the treat more closely. “Did you make this?”

“Is it that obvious? I know it’s ugly, but...sheesh,” Minho tries to hide his apprehension with a scoff.

Jisung bites his lip to keep from laughing as he looks down at the crumbly slice of cake. “It’s a little bit ugly, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be delicious!” He grabs a fork from the container on the counter to confirm while Minho watches expectantly. It isn’t the most amazing thing he’s ever tasted, but cheesecake is cheesecake, and Jisung loves cheesecake. He hums contentedly.

“Good?” Minho asks, and Jisung nods enthusiastically. “Good. It’s my first attempt, so I wasn’t sure if it’d be edible. Well, second. First attempt went horribly and doesn’t count.”

“You learned to make cheesecake for little ol’ me?” Jisung gives his best puppy-dog eyes before stuffing his face with another bite.

“Psh.” He waves his hand. “I only figured it’s about time we added a new item to the menu. You’re just my guinea pig.”

“I’ll be a guinea pig any day if it means free cheesecake,” Jisung says with zero shame, even showing his front teeth and imitating the way a guinea pig chews for emphasis.

“Admirable,” Minho deadpans. He then reaches for Jisung’s face, causing the latter to freeze in place. Minho stops about halfway, instead pulling away and gesturing to his own lips. “You got a little…”

“Oh,” Jisung chuckles, finally exhaling. He wipes the crumb from his lips and barely registers that Felix has re-entered.

“I’m literally begging you two to get a room,” he says. “You’re scaring the customers.”

Minho shrugs. “So about that meal you owe me.” 

It’s been a good two months or so since said meal was promised, and weeks since it was brought up, but Minho apparently isn’t going to let him forget. Jisung has no complaints. He would have been happy to spend more time with Minho outside of the cafe anytime, but their schedules conflicted every time it was brought up. 

Now Minho is free thanks to Felix, and Jisung is free from the clutches of school for a whole month, so he hopes they can find time to grab some food today and maybe a few more times over the break. Minho helped him a lot, after all—he probably owes him twenty full course meals at this point.

“Aren’t you working?” Jisung smirks just to be difficult.

“I was going to,” Minho says, side-eyeing Felix.

“Sorry for ruining your plans,” says Felix, unapologetic. “Some of us need to work for money instead of to—”

“Anyway,” Minho interrupts before Felix can tease him further. He walks around the counter and tugs Jisung’s sleeve with one hand, grabbing his coat with the other. “Food?”

“Okay,” Jisung squeaks through a mouthful of cheesecake before wolfing down the few remaining bites and following Minho, whose hand slips from Jisung’s sleeve to his hand once they’ve exited. 

Minho looks at him like he’s trying to gauge if it’s okay or not, but when Jisung looks away to hide his embarrassment, he lets go and reaches for his phone instead. Jisung mentally slaps the shit out of himself for making Minho think he doesn’t want to hold his hand when there’s nothing he’d rather do except maybe kiss him silly. 

The two are no strangers to physical affection; while it’s still tentative territory with neither wanting to make the other uncomfortable, they have certainly discovered each other’s love for cuddling, to say the least. Nights spent in the cafe after closing or afternoons on slow days sprawled out on the couch or floor, pressed against each other comfortably or using one another as pillows, can attest to that. Not to say that it hadn’t felt intimate, but somehow holding hands out in the open felt more so than being huddled up in the cafe, pampering a cat or two between them like it’s an excuse. 

Here, it’s just them.

Jisung quickly chases after Minho’s hand and grasps it once more, grumbling, “Use your other hand, ambidextrous bastard.” Minho grins and grips him tighter, his small, soft hand sending sparks of electricity straight to Jisung’s heart. He doesn’t reach for his phone again.

They end up strolling and chatting for quite a bit, about finals and how they each know Felix mostly (he’s on Minho’s dance team, which explains the level of familiarity and the eagerness with which Felix had teased him). 

Jisung finally asks, “So where are we going, anyway? I’m getting hungry.”

“Is my cheesecake not good enough for you?”

“Hmm...next time bring two slices and we’ll see.”

“I don’t think any amount of cheesecake could satiate your hunger,” Minho says, and Jisung nods. “But about food…instead of a restaurant, I was thinking the boardwalk? If you want to go.” He adds the last part quietly, almost sounding shy. “But it’s cool if not, I know it’s kinda cold and all.”

“Are you kidding?” Jisung lights up with excitement. “I’ve been wanting to go so bad! I just haven’t had anyone to go with.” 

Minho squeezes his hand with a bright smile. “You have me now.”

A blush blossoms on Jisung’s cheeks at his words, so simple yet heartfelt, followed by a big smile spreading across his face. His stomach turns with butterflies and his chest flutters with an impossible fondness as he looks down shyly, gaze fixed on their intertwined hands lightly swinging back and forth.

“Yeah.”

This isn’t just Jisung treating Minho to food as compensation for his time anymore as it would have been two months ago so much as it has become a full-on date. It could pass as two pals hanging out if not for the absolute refusal of the two to let go of the other’s hand or the endless days of flirting that led up to their outing. Jisung is on an actual date with the cutest, sweetest, funniest, cat-loving-est boy he’s ever met and he is positively reeling. 

At least, he thinks he is, and suddenly it’s all he can think about. Changbin’s words of encouragement ring in his mind and he takes a deep breath.

“Hyung,” Jisung says, “do you like me?”

Minho blinks, looks down at their interlocked hands, then back up at Jisung.

“This is a date, right?” Jisung splutters, panicking a little at his lack of an answer. “I-Is this a date?”

Minho’s lips twitch into a crooked grin. “Isn’t it?”

“I-I mean like, I just wanna make sure,” Jisung mumbles, feeling silly for asking because of course it’s a date. “Officially, I mean.”

“Barely on our first date and you already want to make things official?” Minho clicks his tongue. “Can’t blame you. I’m a keeper.”

“Shut up,” Jisung laughs, nudging him with his shoulder. He does not dare to inflate Minho’s ego by telling him he’s right.

“And Jisung,” Minho says softly, prompting the younger to turn to him. He flicks him on the forehead, much lighter than the previous times. “Of course I do, dumbass.”

Jisung thinks he wouldn’t mind if Minho insulted him all day as long as he did so with that much fondness in his voice.

“I am, aren’t I?” Jisung smiles sheepishly. “I probably would have thought this was just a platonic bro outing if Changbin hadn’t convinced me that you probably like me.”

“Ah, Changbin.” Minho nods as he recalls meeting him. “I guess I owe him one then. I feel kind of bad for seeing him as my competition now.”

“Your what?" Jisung laughs in disbelief.

“Hey, what am I supposed to think when you show up and act all friendly with some other cute boy?” Minho pouts.

Jisung laughs so hard he nearly runs into a lamppost, stopped only by Minho yanking him out of the way. He remembers now, the way Minho had sized Changbin up and given a tight-lipped smile when he’d asked, “Who’s your friend?” 

“Oh my God, that’s rich. Wait, cute? Should I be worried about competition?”

“He’s not as cute as you!” Minho coos, pinching Jisung’s cheek almost painfully. Jisung bats his hand away, still chuckling. Then he adds, more seriously, “Plus, he’s a dog person.”

“True and true.” Jisung sighs. “So is my other best friend. Guess not everyone can have big brains like us.”

“I guess not.”

They fall into a comfortable silence as they walk a few more blocks, Jisung taking in the surroundings of this part of town as much as he can since he doesn’t wander this way often. The streets and their shops are adorned with Christmas lights and other festive decor, Jingle Bell Rock playing distantly and making Jisung smile. He wonders if he will get to spend Christmas with Minho or if the elder will have other plans. Regardless, he needs to think of a gift. Something cat-related, for sure—maybe a cute sweater? Or, even better, an ugly one.

He glances over at Minho, whose eyes are shining as he takes in the sights, nuzzling down into his scarf when a cold breeze drifts by. Jisung’s heart swells.

“Ah, look,” Minho startles him after they turn a corner, pointing towards the beach. The fair catches Jisung’s eye instantly with all its spinning and flashing lights, its dozens of booths and food stands, and the big Ferris wheel in the back. Beyond the boardwalk, the sun is beginning to set over the water, orange and pink hues bleeding into the atmosphere and spilling onto the ocean’s surface.

“Pretty…” Jisung murmurs. Minho hums in response, and the fact that he’s looking straight at Jisung when he does isn’t lost on him. He turns to Minho, face reddening, and is caught between telling him stop, that’s so lame and just wanting to kiss him on the spot. Before he can do either, Minho bursts out laughing. 

“I’m sorry, that was cheesy. I knew it’d work on you though.”

Jisung pouts, lightly hitting Minho’s shoulder. “It didn’t work on me! It was lame!”

“You’re redder than a tomato, Jisungie,” Minho points out, patting his tomato cheeks. “Lame, yes, but it worked.”

“Whatever,” he dismisses and swats his hands away before Minho can fluster him any further. “Let’s go take pictures of the sunset!” 

This time it’s Jisung’s turn to lead as he runs down the beach, pulling Minho along. They laugh as they stumble over the soft sand and dodge seagulls and children until they’re finally close to the water, not far from the boardwalk but far enough that the lights won’t ruin their view of the sky. 

The colors intensify and cast a brilliant glow on the beach as the sun inches towards the horizon, bathing them in warm light. Jisung simply stares in awe for a few moments before remembering the reason he dragged Minho down here and pulls out his phone to snap some pictures of the sky. He’ll probably send them to his parents later since he never has much of substance to update them with. 

Minho, unsurprisingly, catches Jisung’s eye. His gaze is fixed on a cute little sandpiper hopping away from the tide, but that’s the least of Jisung’s worries because in the warm glow of the sunset, it hits him especially hard just how devastatingly breathtaking Minho is. The golden rays of the sun catch in his brown hair, crowning him with a halo of embers that ripples in the cold sea breeze. His eyes shine with a warm hue, and his stupidly gorgeous profile looks ethereal to Jisung. 

Without much thought, he lifts his phone and snaps a picture. Minho turns to him after the shutter sound goes off and raises an eyebrow. Jisung doesn’t even have it in him to be embarrassed.

“You’re beautiful,” he says, by way of explanation. Minho blinks a few times.

“And I’m the cheesy one?” He breaks out into a contagious smile, and Jisung snaps another photo, somehow better than the one before. It shouldn’t come as a surprise seeing how Minho’s smile is radiant enough on its own, but basking in the golden glow, well, he puts the beauty of the sunset to shame. 

“Let me see that.”

Jisung allows him to take his phone, and instead of inspecting the pictures like Jisung expected, Minho points the lens at the younger instead. “Uh, how should I pose?”

“However you want.”

Jisung hesitates, flailing around for a moment before settling on staring off to the side in a dramatic fashion. He’s not too worried about how the photos come out since they’re on his phone and he can just delete them later. That, and Jisung knows that he is, in modest terms, somewhat photogenic. After a few serious shots, he opts for silly poses, making a heart with his arms and smiling brightly, his grin spreading to Minho while he crouches down for a better angle. 

A few shots later, Minho beckons him over, wrapping an arm around his shoulder for some selfies.

They must have spent at least ten minutes taking advantage of what little light the day had left to offer, taking more and more pictures together, the majority of them as goofy as the two boys combined. Jisung feels giddy from the mere thought of going through his camera roll later.

“I’m going to send these to myself,” Minho says, tapping his number into Jisung’s phone and selecting the many photos they had taken. 

“Hyung, if you wanted a picture of me so bad—”

“All I had to do was ask, I know.” Minho rolls his eyes and passes his phone back before linking their arms. “Let’s go eat something expensive and unhealthy!”

Jisung cheers and follows suit as they stumble towards the bright mass of colorful lights that embellish the boardwalk, now looking considerably more magical against the backdrop of the dark blue sky. Music and chatter of adults and children alike grows louder as they draw near and the enticing smells of greasy food and cotton candy waft into Jisung’s nose. He suppresses a shiver at a particularly violent gust of wind and huddles closer to Minho’s warmth.

“Let’s get you something warm,” Minho says, ushering him over to a concession stand and peering at the menu. He reaches in his coat pocket for his wallet. “What do you want?”

“Hey!” Jisung tries to shoo his hand away. “Did you forget I’m treating you?”

Minho simply sticks his tongue out before turning to the cashier and passing him a crisp bill. “Two corn dogs, please.”

“I’m buying dessert,” Jisung grumbles as he begrudgingly accepts the wonderful smelling fried grease stick.

And, after they stop again for pretzels and Jisung wrestles Minho’s wallet out of his grip in front of a bemused boardwalk employee, he does. The funnel cake is to die for, and Jisung bounces around happily at the feeling of fresh cotton candy melting in his mouth.

Once they’ve had their fill of snacks, the pair gravitates towards the more fun-oriented section of the boardwalk. Jisung isn’t sure where to focus his attention first, booths with flashing lights in every direction and workers shouting to draw in customers on every corner.

“Ah!” Minho exclaims suddenly, releasing Jisung’s arm. He misses the warmth immediately. “It’s you!” He points at a squirrel plush strung up at the top of one of the booths, beaming. Minho had watched him eat a little too intently one day and commented on his squirrel-like cheeks and eating habits. He hasn’t let it go since. Said squirrel frowns and puffs up his cheeks, both in indignance and to prove Minho’s point and get a laugh out of him. 

Minho fishes a dollar bill from his pocket and pays for a round. The game seems simple enough; if the player pops enough of the balloons pinned on the back wall with darts, they get to choose a prize, the size corresponding with the number of balloons popped. The squirrel is pretty small, so Jisung thinks Minho should be able to win it easily if he wants it so badly.

...Except Minho turns out to be hilariously bad at the game, missing every single throw.

Jisung is keeled over laughing as Minho reaches in his pocket for the third time, his features set in a determined frustration. There’s a small line of people growing behind him. The girl working the booth simply rolls her eyes.

“Here, let me show you how it’s done.” Jisung isn’t sure how well his dart skills will hold up, but he literally cannot do any worse than Minho. 

He steps up to the counter and cracks his neck in a cocky fashion, sensing Minho’s eye roll. He takes aim and pop, pop, pop. Three of his five darts find their mark, popping the small balloons and making Minho flinch each time. Maybe he subconsciously missed them on purpose because he didn’t want to hear the sound, Jisung muses.

“Congrats,” the girl behind the counter drawls. “You can pick a prize from here.” She gestures to the row of plushies that includes the squirrel. Jisung glances at Minho who looks back at him with sparkling, expectant eyes that make his stomach turn and lips twitch.

“This one, please!” He proudly presents Minho with the cute squirrel plush when he receives it. “Man, I expected that to be a lot harder with the way you were struggling.”

“Shut up,” Minho smiles, clutching his newly-obtained plush close to him in one hand and accepting Jisung’s offered hand with the other. “I have to win you something now.”

“Good luck with that,” Jisung teases and responds to the pinch on his hand with a yelp. He looks around for a game that might be a little easier for Minho. First, they try a bean bag toss, where Minho does a little better but not enough to get a substantial prize. History repeats itself until they end up scampering to an ATM for more ones, Minho’s fate never improving even on the luck-based activities like spin the wheel. 

Jisung is starting to genuinely feel bad for him as they walk hand-in-hand, both covered in consolation prizes in the form of headbands, stickers, and plastic jewelry. Minho seems to be enjoying himself despite it all, a smile still gracing his features as he surveys the booths around them.

“This is the one,” he says firmly, pulling Jisung towards a ring toss stand.

“Sure, hyung,” Jisung laughs, stepping aside to watch as Minho is administered the rings by a tired-looking employee and readies himself, squatting slightly and practicing his throw without releasing the ring.

“I’d ask you to kiss these for good luck,” Minho turns to say, “but I don’t know how many grimy hands have been on them.”

“Yeah, I’m not putting my mouth on those. So...” Jisung leans forward on impulse and plants a kiss on Minho’s cheek instead, heart fluttering. “I guess that will have to do.” He steps back and folds his arms triumphantly as if the act had ensured Minho’s victory. 

The pink dusting Minho’s cheeks and the huge, dazed grin he gives in response, flashing lights reflected in his eyes like stars twinkling in the sky makes Jisung feel like he’s won the biggest prize of all.

It takes the guy behind the counter clearing his throat conspicuously to make them realize they’re holding up the line by making googly eyes at each other. Both quickly avert their gazes.

Jisung watches Minho forcefully contort his face into a serious expression as he turns his attention back to the bottles before him. With a flick of his wrist, he tosses the first ring and it lands right on the neck of a bottle. He glances at Jisung and grins. Then he gets another. And another. Jisung claps, excited and amazed, as Minho manages to get all five points.

“What do you want?” Minho asks him, bouncing on his heels in excitement rather adorably.

“Well, you got one that reminds you of me, so…” Jisung scans the row of plushies hanging above him, gaze landing on a calico cat plush. “That one.”

The man behind the counter retrieves it for him and they thank him, walking away with their plushies in hand and a weight off their chests.

“Finally,” Jisung says, poking Minho’s ribs with his elbow. “I thought you’d never win me anything.”

“Have a little faith, Jisungie!” Minho says, feigning offense. “I told you I would.”

“You only won because I gave you a good luck kiss.”

“Maybe you should’ve done it sooner then,” Minho pouts.

“Guess I should’ve, huh?” Jisung smiles, snuggling closer and intertwining his fingers with Minho’s again. He leans his head on Minho’s shoulder and closes his eyes for a moment to soak in the warmth he provides and savor the feeling of bliss this night has left him to bask in.

“Did you know almost all calico cats are female?” Minho says after a brief period of walking in silence.

Jisung looks down at his plush in mock horror. “And to think I was gonna name her after you… I’ll call her Minnie instead.”

“I said almost all!” Minho huffs, assaulting Jisung’s ribs with his fingers and making him double over in laughter. “Male calicos are just rare.”

“Well, I’ve decided this one is a boy, which makes it one of a kind,” Jisung proclaims and turns to Minho with a smug grin on his lips. Minho gives him a warning look that says please don’t say the cheesy thing I think you’re going to say. He does anyway. “Just like you.”

“Ugh.” Minho pushes him away in disgust, though the smile on his face and the way he pulls Jisung back in would suggest otherwise.

Jisung buries himself in Minho’s warm side again and sighs in complete and utter contentment. His nose and hands are freezing, but he feels like he’s walking on air. He isn’t sure what could make this night any more perfect.

But that’s a lie―he knows exactly what would, what he’s been wanting to do all night, what he’s been thinking about doing since practically the night he met Minho and fell in his good graces amongst the judging eyes of the cafe’s inhabitant cats.

His gaze drifts up to the Ferris wheel alight at the end of the boardwalk and Jisung himself lights up with an idea. “Hey, Minho? Can we go on the Ferris wheel before we leave?” He feels Minho tense beside him. Jisung pulls away to examine his face. Had he read Jisung’s mind? Does he not want to share a cliché kiss at the top of the Ferris wheel? Is Jisung reading it wrong? Is he moving too fast? Did Minho lose a loved one to a Ferris wheel incident?

“I…” Minho stares at the offending ride, chewing the inside of his lip. He puts on a smile that isn’t quite as bright as the previous ones. “Yeah, let’s go.”

“W-We don’t have to,” Jisung quickly adds, his determination slowly being eaten up by nervousness. “Just thought it’d be fun, but it’s okay if we don’t.”

“It will be.” Minho gives him a more genuine smile this time along with a squeeze of his hand. Jisung allows himself to relax a bit at that.

They grab another serving of cotton candy each on the way to the large, illuminated wheel, and before long they’ve reached it. Jisung doesn’t miss Minho wringing his hands or his eyes darting up to the structure nervously, but before he can question it, they’re ushered into a carriage and being sent up slowly, stopping every few feet to accommodate new passengers on the lower carts.

One of Minho’s hands is balled into a fist in his lap and the other is holding onto his squirrel plushie for dear life by the time they’re about halfway up, his eyes squeezed shut. Jisung gently places a concerned hand over Minho’s.

“Minho…? Are you okay?”

“Sorry,” he laughs dryly and pries his eyes open to look at Jisung. “I’m afraid of heights.”

“Why didn’t you say something?!” Jisung slaps his shoulder lightly. “Now I feel like an ass…”

“No, it’s okay. You looked excited so I wanted to give it a shot.” Minho intertwines his shaking fingers with Jisung’s. “It’s okay. I’m okay.” He sounds like he’s trying to convince himself more than anything.

“You are. You can close your eyes if it helps,” Jisung suggests, putting an arm around him and rubbing comforting circles on the back of Minho’s hand. He nods and does so. 

Jisung looks out over the edge of the carriage. All loaded up, they’re moving in earnest now, slowly ascending for their first round. As they pass the top, Jisung finds even himself feeling nauseous seeing how high up they are, quickly turning his attention back to Minho. Jisung sighs, remembering his plan. “So I guess you don’t wanna kiss at the top, huh?”

“I didn’t say that,” Minho says after a pause. His lips are curled into a smile, either at the question, Jisung’s own hand tightening its grip in fear―or both. “Maybe it’s the distraction we both need.”

“Look at us, a couple of scaredy cats,” Jisung laughs. 

“We belong back at the cafe with the rest of them,” Minho jokes weakly, and maybe Jisung shouldn’t find how small his voice sounds, how it wavers slightly in fear endearing, but he does. He does and he wants to grab his face and kiss all of his fears away.

Jisung sighs. “The view’s supposed to be the best part of this and we can’t even look.”

“I thought the best part would be that kiss you had planned?” Minho smiles, his voice quivering as he feels the carriage start to ascend again.

“I’m sticking my tongue out at you, just so you know,” Jisung says, providing the visual for Minho’s closed eyes.

“Save that for the top.”

Jisung’s retort is cut short with a gasp as the Ferris wheel slows to a stop suddenly, the operator slowly but surely unloading passengers. He buzzes with excitement at the realization that they’re only a few stops from the top.

“We’re almost there.”

“You won’t chicken out, will you?” Minho asks. “Should I open my eyes to make sure?”

“Don’t you worry your pretty little head about it,” Jisung says with a pat to Minho’s hair, feeling bolder with the absence of Minho’s eyes boring into his soul. “I’m getting that kiss.”

“Good.” Jisung wonders if Minho has any idea how cute he looks when he smiles like that. He’s sure he would be even more beautiful if his eyes were open wide to reflect the blinking lights of the carriage and the city below. He’s beautiful like this, too, his expression gentle and almost serene despite being far from it at the moment, his long eyelashes casting gentle shadows across his cheekbones. 

The wheel squeals to a halt and Jisung barely registers that they’ve reached the top, too entranced by Minho’s features. “We’re here,” he breathes, letting go of Minho’s hand to reach up and cup his face resolutely, turning him fully towards himself. 

To his surprise, Minho’s eyes flutter open just barely, shining with borrowed light and a bit of his own, focused intently on Jisung’s face. He nearly falters under Minho’s gaze, heart threatening to beat out of his chest as Jisung lets his own eyes shut and leans in.

Jisung briefly worries his heart pounding against his ribcage could be heard in the silence of the carriage, above the distant, muffled music and commotion from below, worries about Minho’s fear, their distance from the ground, how terrible he would feel if there were some freak Ferris wheel accident that scarred Minho physically or mentally, but every worry in his mind fades away when their lips finally meet after months that felt like lifetimes.

Like the rest of him, Minho’s lips are soft and warm, a welcome contrast to the cold night air. They spark a warmth in Jisung that blooms from where they meet, warming his cheeks and traveling straight to his heart. Jisung thinks he could definitely get used to this.

Jisung pulls away fairly soon, albeit reluctantly, not wanting to be overbearing, only for Minho to grab the front of his shirt and pull him back in, muffling his noise of surprise with those soft lips. Different from the chaste kiss before, Minho kisses Jisung with a tentative eagerness, lips moving against him gently but ardently. 

In turn, Jisung pours himself into the kiss, an attempt at conveying unspoken thoughts and feelings that have filled his heart and head for weeks, finally overflowing and being channeled into showing Minho just how happy he’s made him in such a short amount of time. 

One of Minho’s hands slips from Jisung’s shirt to his neck, and Jisung shivers violently at the sudden cold touch. Minho huffs out a giggle into the kiss and suddenly laughter is bubbling up in Jisung’s chest until he’s giggling so much he can hardly kiss or be kissed. 

“What’s so funny?” Minho murmurs, not pulling away. There’s a smile playing at his lips and his eyes are fixed on Jisung, intent on not looking out over the edge of the carriage even as they start to descend.

“I don’t know,” he confesses, brushing a strand of hair out of Minho’s eyes with a smile he couldn’t will away if he tried. “I’m just...happy.”

“Me too.” Minho smiles so softly, his thumb caressing the skin of Jisung’s neck and stealing some of its warmth in exchange for goosebumps. The Ferris wheel jolts to another stop and Minho’s eyes widen as he remembers the situation. He bites his lip. “Distract me until this is over?”

It’s the least Jisung can do when he holds Minho closer, more securely, leaning in to capture his lips again and again until he’s the only thing on Minho’s mind, just as he occupies Jisung’s. 

He wants to make him feel safe, give Minho the feeling he gives Jisung when he lets him stay past closing time after a bad day and curl up with him and the cats, when he cards his hand through Jisung’s hair and pets a cat with the other, when he takes care of him and asks for nothing in return. 

Above all, Jisung wants to make Minho happy—as happy as Minho makes him.

He seems to be shaking less at least, caught up in the distraction Jisung is all too happy to provide. He’d distract him all night if he need be, but the thought is shot down soon enough with the clearing of the throat of the aggrieved employee manning the wheel.

“Oh.” Jisung pulls away, disappointed. He can’t even find it in himself to be embarrassed by the disapproval on the employee’s face.  “It’s over.” He reluctantly peels himself off of Minho and climbs out of the carriage, offering his hand. 

“Thank God.” Minho exhales as he follows Jisung’s lead, taking his hand and stumbling into his arms on shaky legs.

“You okay?” Jisung asks, hands braced on Minho’s waist to help steady him. 

Minho only beams and nods in response, surprising Jisung with a peck on the lips before he slings an arm around his shoulder.

“Carry me, Jisungie,” he whines and then gasps, apparently not expecting it when Jisung hooks his arm behind Minho’s knees and lifts him bridal style.

“Where to, princess?” Jisung smirks and tries not to let on how much of a toll it takes on him.

Minho giggles and loops his arms around the younger’s neck. “Just need to sit down for a second, I think.”

With a glance around, Jisung notices a bench behind them and lets out a sigh of relief, managing to carry Minho the short distance over and gingerly set him down. He’s barely sat down himself when Minho cuddles into his side and wraps his arms around his middle. 

Jisung exhales a laugh and puts his arms around him in turn, offering up all the body heat he can. Around them, the crowd seems to be dying out as booths gradually shut down.

“Guess we should go soon,” Minho says, his voice muffled as he speaks into Jisung’s torso.

“Yeah…” Jisung casts a forlorn glance around, hugging Minho tighter. “Don’t want it to end though.”

Minho sits up and looks Jisung in the eye. “If it doesn’t end, how will we go on another date?”

“Hm, fair point.” Jisung swoops in and kisses him, unable to resist when he’s so close, the world around him disappearing as Minho relaxes against him and smiles, bringing a hand up to caress Jisung’s cheek. He jumps again at the sudden cold and Minho pulls away to laugh and apologize.

“Where should we go on the next one?” Jisung wonders aloud, rubbing circles into Minho’s arm.

Minho hums, resting his head on Jisung’s shoulder. “I heard there’s this nice little cat cafe back in town.”

“Oh! The one with the barista who looks like he models on the side?”

“Yeah,” Minho says.

“Felix…” they sigh dreamily in unison and burst into loud laughter, slapping each other’s arms.

“He’s alright,” Jisung manages once their laughter dies down. “That Minho guy though? Wow. Unreal.”

“Who cares about him?” he scoffs. “I heard there’s this regular who’s so cute, all he has to do is bat his sparkly eyes and puff up his cheeks and he gets free things thrown at him all day. Now he’s a catch.”

“I can’t argue with you there,” Jisung says. “I think you’re out of luck, though; he’s got his eye on someone else.”

“Aw,” Minho pouts. “That’s okay. I’ll find a way to make him mine.”

“Is this your way of asking me to be yours?”

“Not you. Him.”

“Oh, okay. Hold on.” Jisung retrieves his phone and presses it to his ear as he pretends to receive a call. “Yeah. Mhm. Okay, thanks.” He shoves it back in his pocket. “That was him. He said he’d love to.”

“Really?” Minho grins.

“Duh.” Jisung feigns calm but can’t keep the smile off of his face as Minho dives in for another kiss, unbothered this time by his cold hands on his neck. He’s reeling with the realization that Minho has just very likely, in some roundabout, Minho-esque way, asked him to officially date him like he’d joked about earlier, but there’s plenty of time to ponder that later. 

Right now, all that matters is the feeling of Minho’s lips and the warmth in Jisung’s chest that comes with the comfort and kindness that Minho constantly radiates. 

They kiss, and they kiss, and it drops probably another two or three degrees while they do so, only finally parting when Jisung starts to shiver despite Minho’s warmth.

“We better head back,” Minho says reluctantly, combing his hand through Jisung’s hair.

Jisung pouts but can’t disagree, untangling himself from Minho to stand and offer his hand. “You good to walk or shall I carry you home?”

“I’m good now,” Minho laughs, accepting his hand and shivering at a gust of wind. “Aside from freezing my ass off.”

“Man, I’d kill for some hot chocolate right now,” Jisung muses, pulling Minho close as they head back towards the road.

“I know just the place.” Minho brandishes the keys to the cafe.

Jisung giggles and picks up the pace with Minho snuggling into his side, excited to end the perfect night at the perfect place it all began, surrounded by warm, fuzzy bodies, and most importantly, Minho’s hand in his.

 

❀ ❀ ❀

 

Jisung hums along to the radio, kicking his feet with a dull thud on cabinet doors along to the beat. Beside his perch on the kitchen counter stands Minho, finishing up the last of the dishes and passing them along to Jisung to dry, as per their custom―this way, they won’t have to bicker about who does the dishes, and to their delight, more often than not it ends in countertop makeout sessions. 

As the chorus to the obnoxious pop song approaches, Minho drops the sponge in the sink and grabs the retractable nozzle to use as a makeshift microphone, dramatically belting out the lyrics. Jisung can’t help the goofy, endeared grin that spreads across his face as he joins in, a spoon serving as his mic.

His fond smile quickly turns devilish when he recognizes an opportunity.

Minho’s eyes are squeezed shut passionately, nozzle pointed right at his face. Jisung would be a complete fool to pass it up.

In a quick motion, he reaches over and turns the water on full blast, cackling maniacally when it drenches Minho’s face and the collar of his shirt with water while he splutters and frantically scrambles around for the handle.

Minho manages to shut it off and sends Jisung the best glare he can muster, looking the polar opposite of intimidating as water drips from his hair and rolls down his face. He drags a hand across his face and flings the moisture at Jisung. 

“You know what comes next, right?” Minho asks, voice sinister as he points the nozzle at Jisung.

“Babe…” Jisung lifts his hands to shield himself from the spray. “Let’s talk about this.”

“Talk.” Minho’s aim doesn’t waver.

“I love you?” Jisung tries and is promptly met with a rush of water that immediately soaks him from his head to his waist. “Minho, Minho, please! I’m sorry! I love you! Please!” He laughs as he wildly thrashes around on the counter, not daring to try to run in fear of slipping and falling on the hard floor.

Minho relents, finally, snickering at Jisung’s expense. “Have you learned your lesson?”

“No fair,” he whines, shaking his arms and adding more droplets of water to the puddles surrounding the two. “I didn’t spray you that much.”

“You should have just sat there and dried the dishes.” Minho clicks his tongue. “Now look at this mess you have to clean up.”

Me?” Jisung gapes, looking around at the puddles that were at least eighty percent his boyfriend’s doing. Despite his words, Minho grabs a towel from the drawer and tosses it on the water. He grabs another and steps into the puddle surrounding Jisung, draping it over the younger’s head and scrubbing at his wet hair.

Jisung closes his eyes and hums, content to have his hair touched in any way, to have Minho touch him in any way.

“Spoiled brat,” Minho comments fondly.

“You love me.”

“Gross.”

Jisung beams when the towel is pulled away and he smooths Minho’s wet hair back, exposing his glistening forehead, before grabbing his face and pulling him into a kiss. 

They both seem to forget the mess around them for a moment, forget the program on television they were going to watch, forget that anything or anyone else exists as their lips and hands move against the other gently. Jisung can’t help but think how lucky and happy he is and wonders what on earth he did to deserve Lee Minho.

“You know what this reminds me of?” Minho says after he’s pulled away just slightly to catch his breath. Jisung hums questioningly, raking a hand through his boyfriend’s hair in the way that he knows makes him melt. Minho’s eyelashes flutter shut before he seems to remember he was in the middle of speaking. “The night we met.”

“What?” Jisung snorts. “How?”

“You were a dripping wet, soggy little nuisance.” Minho pecks him on the lips. “Like you’re being right now.”

“Nuisance?” Jisung gasps defensively. “If I was such a nuisance, why’d you let me stay?”

“How should I put this…” Minho taps his lip in thought. “It’s like when your boyfriend tells you that you really don’t need another cat but then this poor, pitiful little thing turns up in the rain, soaked from head to toe, and you just don’t have the heart to say no.” As if on cue, the newest addition to their family pads into the kitchen and meows. Minho smiles.

“Guess I should be glad you’ve got a thing for picking up strays, then.” Jisung chuckles humorlessly, dreading the thought of a world where Minho hadn’t taken him in much like he took in the cat before them. “If you’d have kicked me out, we wouldn’t be here today. I would’ve been so embarrassed that I’d never show my face again.”

“Nah, you wouldn’t be able to resist coming back after laying eyes on me,” Minho smirks, poking the younger’s nose, “or the cats.”

“Ugh,” Jisung groans. “I hate that you’re right. I was destined to be stuck with your annoying ass the moment I walked in.”

“I love you too,” Minho smiles as Jisung pulls him back in for another kiss despite the water settling uncomfortably into their clothes. Jisung lets his hands wander to give Minho’s behind a playful squeeze, only for his hands to be batted away. “Not in front of Dori!”

They both turn to face the tabby, who grooms herself, unbothered.

“Dori, could you give us some privacy, baby?” Jisung asks sweetly. Dori stands, scratches behind her ear, and saunters out of the kitchen. 

He turns to Minho with wide eyes, seeing his expression mirrored on the elder’s face before they burst out into laughter, Jisung resting his damp forehead on Minho’s. “It looks like we have her permission.”

Minho giggles, wrapping Jisung’s legs around his waist before lifting him off of the counter. “Let’s go get cleaned up.”

And as Minho carries him from the kitchen, the occasional drop of water rolling off of each of their heads, dishes unfinished and puddles in their wake, Jisung couldn’t be happier.

He might even say that life is purrfect.

Minho would slap him for the pun, but he would agree.