| mentoring (I) |
“So this isn’t going to get me fired.”
“Nope,” Luhan smiles what would be reassuringly save for the devious glint in his eyes, and rests his right arm on the window sill. He waves a few crisp bills in front of Jongin’s face. “And you’ll get a nice 10 bucks if you hit him—15 if you get his head.”
Jongin bites his lip, stares at the ostrich egg in his right hand and then out the open window, down three stories at where Kyungsoo is rummaging through his car in the parking lot. Then he stares back at the egg, then to the $15 in Luhan’s hand, and gulps, “Where did you get this thing?”
“Friend of a friend of a friend. But don’t worry about it right now,” Luhan coos, fanning himself with the bills. “There’s only one thing you need to focus on.”
“Exactly how does this make Kyungsoo like me more agai-?”
“Shhh,” Luhan lays a hand on Jongin’s wrist, and uses the other to curl Jongin’s fingers around the egg. “Shh. Don’t worry about that right now. You know what you need to do.”
Jongin glances down at the ostrich egg one last time, takes a deep breath then lobs it out the window, ducking under the ledge just as the egg sails out of sight. They’re rewarded two seconds later by a crack, a yelp, and a dull thud.
“He’s out cold,” Luhan whistles as Jongin peers over the sill.
Kyungsoo is crumpled face-first on the pavement, head crowned by more than half the eggshell, hair and shirt laced with egg yolks and whites. Jongin’s face pales.
“That’s his favorite shirt,” Jongin whispers before bolting out the door, down three sets of stairs and into the parking lot.
“You are cruel,” Jongdae laughs from his desk, legs crossed and propped up on the surface.
“Had to get rid of that egg somehow,” Luhan shrugs, peering down at the still-unconscious Kyungsoo, who was now being hoisted, princess style, by an extremely fearful Jongin. “Not a big fan of omelettes. Or big omelettes.”
Luhan then turns around and slides the bills under Jongin’s keyboard, knocking a slip of paper to the ground. As he bends to pick it up, he realizes it’s Kyungsoo’s number, written in Kyungsoo’s handwriting, enshrined in a glaringly-bright, yellow star sticky note. Luhan glances back out the window just in time to see Kyungsoo rouse from unconsciousness and the subsequent bright red blush that explodes across his face. Luhan holds back a guffaw and spins around with a slow smile to face Jongdae.
“What,” Jongdae pulls his legs from the table and nearly knocks over his half-full (on Jongdae’s bad days, half empty) complimentary, company-monogrammed mug. He quickly lunges forward to stabilize it. He looks up at Luhan nervously, “You look creepy.”
“$200 says Kyungsoo won’t be a virgin by the end of two weeks. Another $100 if it’s Jongin.”
“Pfft,” Jongdae says, relaxing and leaning back. “No way, a month tops. Jongin, maybe. But Kyungsoo’s too naive.”
“And I disagree,” Luhan taps his fingers on the window sill. “So let’s bet on it. I need to jumpstart my Macbook fund anyway.”
“Deal. You might as well write me the check now.”
Luhan glances back down at the parking lot. Jongin is gently picking out pieces of eggshell, fingers weaving and combing through Kyungsoo’s hair. Kyungsoo himself is shielding his scarlet face with his hands, wide eyes peering through the cracks in his fingers.
“We’ll see about that.”
| Happy Tuesday |
There’s a knock on Baekhyun’s door, and when he looks up from his work he’s greeted by a vase full of flowers.
Tao peeks around them, “Someone ordered these for you.”
The thing about Baekhyun’s sad, single life is that it presents boatloads of pathetic, forever-alone moments. Like how he experiences a rush of euphoria over getting flowers for the first time, even as the pink roses take a solid kick to his testosterone-induced pride. Like when he can’t relate to Tao when Tao gushes about the choice of florist (‘oh my god, whoever sent these to you has good taste, at least two people send me stuff from these guys every Valentine’s day’). Or how his heart flutters when he sees the little card attached (it reads Happy Tuesday in messy, scrawled handwriting).
Or like the exchange that occurs thirty minutes later when that tall, cute guy from sales stumbles through his open door (is it Chan-yeol or Cha-nyeol), and nervously asks whether Baekhyun received a vase of flowers.
“Oh they’re from you,” Baekhyun’s voice cracks as his heart leaps into his throat.
“Um, well technically, yes,” tall, cute guy awkwardly shifts his feet, pausing and biting his lip. “Do you like them?”
“Oh, uh, wow, uh,” Baekhyun’s heart is thumping rapidly, because even though he doesn’t really know who this guy is, damn he’s attractive. “Yeah, I guess. Roses aren’t really my thing, but they’re pretty.”
“Technically yes, er, becausethey’reformygirlfriend,” cute guy suddenly sputters. And Baekhyun’s heart deflates and sinks like a balloon speared by a harpoon. “Sorry sent them to the wrong room.”
“Er, oh, and you want them back,” Baekhyun awkwardly holds the vase out.
“Oh, no! They were sent to you, so they’re yours now,” cute guy gently pushes the vase back with one hand. “Keep them.”
They lapse into an awkward silence.
“Well I’m Park Chanyeol, from sales,” Chanyeol tries after a good 45 seconds, and extends his hand. Baekhyun resists the urge to say I know.
“Byun Baekhyun, engineer,” Baekhyun shakes his hand.
Baekhyun really needs to restrain the leap his heart makes, because, well, Chanyeol’s apparently taken.
They lapse into awkward silence again. As Baekhyun suddenly finds the stucco on his wall incredibly interesting, he notices the clock.
“Okay, um I actually have to prepare for a meeting that’s in...oh shit...half an hour, so...” Baekhyun trails off, hoping Chanyeol can take the hint.
“Oh okay,” Chanyeol takes a step towards the door then pauses. Biting his lip and scrunches his right eye, he hesitantly asks, "Wait, before I leave, can I get a picture of you with the roses?”
Baekhyun stares at Chanyeol.
“Uh, you know, like....proof for uh her...so she won’t get....mad,” Chanyeol says carefully, studying Baekhyun’s face. “You know, mad.”
Baekhyun poses awkwardly next to the flowers, as Chanyeol snaps the picture with his phone. He’s almost a little nervous as Chanyeol scrutinizes the picture for what seems like eternity, until Chanyeol breaks out into one of the most dazzling smiles he’s ever seen.
“Cute,” Chanyeol looks up and blinds Baekhyun with his grin. “Well, see you around.”
Baekhyun dies a little inside.
“Hey, about the meeting,” Kris pokes his head through the doorframe just as Chanyeol trots out.
“Oh shit,” Baekhyun begins furiously typing. “Argh, wait, I need nine more slides, shit shit shit shit.”
“Oh, actually take your time, I was going to tell you Junmyeon ate a burrito that didn’t quite agree with him,” Kris points at the bathroom. “He’s been in there for 20 minutes and counting. We’ll probably going to reschedule the meeting for tomorrow.”
“That’s a relief,” Baekhyun sank into his chair, and then frowned. “Kinda. What if I need to use it later today?”
“Elevator down to second floor take a right,” Kris says, glancing at the mass of flowers on Baekhyun’s desk. “Someone’s popular. Who are they from?”
“Oh this,” Baekhyun jabs the vase. “They're from that guy from sales, Chanyeol.”
Kris cat calls and waggles his eyebrows, “What do you think of him?”
“I don’t really know him, so I don’t have a strong impression of him,” Baekhyun says. He has a feeling he knows where this is going, so he adds, “Though he’s kind of cute.”
Kris’ eyebrows raise slightly, “Hrm?”
Baekhyun scoots back, a little creeped out by Kris’ sudden interest.
“This is going to make things a lot less interesting for you and everyone who you’re going to tell, but this isn’t going to lead to anything. Because these,” Baekhyun flicks a rose, “are actually for his girlfriend. He accidentally sent them to me.”
“Hmm,” Kris leans out of the doorway and scans the hallway distractedly. “That’s funny.”
“Why,” Baekhyun asks, absentmindedly rubbing a petal between his thumb and forefinger. Damn these things are soft.
“Because Chanyeol’s single.”
“Huh? What? Oh look there’s Luhan, gotta let him know about the schedule changes,” Kris quickly strides away, leaving behind a dumbfounded Baekhyun.
Kris stops at Luhan’s desk, licks his thumb, and leafs out three ten dollar bills.
“Damn it. Chanyeol sent flowers today,” Kris mutters, glancing at Baekhyun’s office out of the corner of his eye. “You win that one.”
“Baekhyun’s third day here,” Jongdae whistles. “Nice call Luhan, Chanyeol’s quick.”
“Yup, but we weren’t betting on time,” Luhan grins as he eases his hand towards the money. “It was between flowers and chocolates.”
Luhan’s hand clamps on the bills and tugs. But then he frowns, because Kris isn’t letting go.
“Ah, but there are few deductions that need to take place,” Kris smiles.
Luhan suddenly looks concerned.
“Ten,” Kris snaps a bill out of Luhan’s fingers with a flick of his wrist. “Because he included a card.”
“Another ten,” and Luhan visibly flinches as Kris rips away another bill. “Because he used Tao to deliver them.”
“And forty,” Kris continues, pulling on the last bill.
Luhan gasps, “NO he didn’t.”
“But Chanyeol did,” Kris smirks and jerks the last bill away.
“Chanyeol did what,” Yixing pokes his head over the divider.
“Psyched himself out while talking to Baekhyun and used the girlfriend excuse. Called it,” Kris smiles. “Oh yeah, you owe me too for that one.”
“I didn’t think Chanyeol was that lame,” Yixing groans and throws $40 at Kris’ face.
“So that leaves Luhan in the red,” Kris says and jabs an index finger at a whiteboard outside of Luhan’s cubicle. “And update the scoreboard because Kris: 3, Luhan: Uno.”
“Yeah, yeah whatever,” Luhan rolls his eyes and shuffles over to the whiteboard. He scribbles Kris and Yixing next to the Jongdae’s and his own name, marking once under his own and four times under Kris.
“Oh and I have one more bet for you Kris,” Luhan says, capping the pen. “One week’s worth of soda.”
“Make it two weeks and then I’m listening.”
“Do I look like I’m made of money,” Luhan scoffs.
“...two weeks’ worth is equivalent to $10. You make more than three times that in a hour.”
“Oh right. Anyways, two weeks of soda if you mess with Chanyeol.”
“That is like punching a baby for candy.”
Yixing, Luhan, and Jongdae look at Kris.
“I’m pretty sure that’s not how the idiom goes.”
“Nope...nope it doesn’t.”
“You just made this really awkward.”
“Who made what awkward,” Chanyeol sticks his head through the entryway, curls of auburn hair framing his face.
Molding his face into a solemn expression, Kris turns around slowly, “You did Chanyeol.”
“Wait,” Chanyeol furrows his brows and frowns. “What did I do?”
“Royally fucked up your chances with Baekhyun” Kris says, shaking his head. “Also get rid of that perm. You have a major sale pitch to make in two days. Dye job’s okay but the curls look ridiculous.”
“Oh I know. And...Okay,” with hunched shoulders, Chanyeol slinks away.
“That was really depressing,” Luhan says.
“Yeah,” Kris pauses for a moment. “But you know what would make me feel better?”
“A free soda.”
Luhan flings a bill at Kris’ face, “Get it yourself.”
Kris catches the dollar and walks backwards with a grin, “Oh, also meeting’s moved to tomorrow.”
“Oh that’s cool,” Luhan spins in his chair. “Why?”
“Junmyeon went to the taco truck again, that one that loads their stuff with cheese” Kris moonwalks around the corner and calls, “so I would avoid the bathroom for the next week and a half.”
“No. No. NO. That guy knows he’s lactose intolerant. IT’S THE FUCKING SEVENTH TIME,” Luhan yells, raising a fist towards the bathroom door. “LEARN SOMETHING JUNMYEEEEON.”
“Yes, I know, and I’m sorry,” a queasy voice answers, muffled by the bathroom door. Luhan hears a flush. “I’m learning that lesson right now.”
| thievery |
“Okay. Who. The. Fuck. Keeps. Eating. My. Lunch,” Tao brandishes a half-eaten sandwich in one hand and an opened bag of chips in the other.
The office falls to silence, 11 pairs of eyes warily lock on Tao’s angry face.
“It’s the ninth time this month. FESS UP.”
“You’re getting crumbs on the floor,” Kyungsoo whispers, eyes wide as he watches pieces of wheat bread float to the floor.
“ANYONE AT ALL,” Tao yells over Kyungsoo, and waves his lunch more frantically.
“I just vaccu-,”
“Hyung,” Jongin clamps a hand over Kyungsoo’s mouth. “Now’s probably not the best time.”
Kyungsoo goes red, eyes flitting from Tao’s angry face to Jongin’s hand, “But I jus-”
Jongin shushes Kyungsoo’s mumbled protests, and nervously glances at Tao, who’s now aiming a withering stare at both of them.
Across the aisle, Luhan flashes 300 with his fingers at Jongdae and struggles while trying to form a dollar sign. Sehun laughs. Jongdae just gags and rolls his eyes.
Minseok stands up, “Okay, since it’s obviously not me because I’m allergic to wheat, and I really need to fax this-”
Tao whips around and glares scathingly at Minseok.
“-I will sit back down and shut up.”
“No one moves,” Tao narrows his eyes, dropping his voice to a near whisper. “Until I figure out who is responsible.”
The phone on Tao’s desk rings, cutting through the quiet, and Tao pointedly ignores it.
“Tao,” Kris coolly says, sticking his head out of his office.
“Tao, personal vengeance comes after work,” Kris drums his fingers on the doorframe. “Please do the job we pay you for.”
The phone rings again.
“I AM NOT DONE. I WILL FIND THE PERPETRATOR EVENTUALLY,” Tao yells, and shakes his sandwich with flourish before sprinting to his desk. “AND I SWEAR I WILL END YOU.”
The only thing that rationalizes curling up in one of the break room cupboards for two hours is the fact that Yixing’s 90% sure he knows the identity of Tao’s lunch thief.
Not that he really cares about Tao’s sandwich. In fact Yixing finds the whole thing hilarious. Especially after Tao began taping notes on his lunches, like today’s ‘there is one sandwich, 15 chips, and a soda in this bag. Tao is watching you.’ In fact Yixing’s even amassed a small online following through posting pictures of Tao’s warning messages on the internet. Oh the sweet, sweet, karma. And the sweet, sweet, notes.
No, it’s because if Yixing’s right, there could be bountiful harvest of benefits.
His train of thought is broken by shuffling of sneakers on tile, and he scrambles into spying position, peeking through the crack between the cupboard doors and aligning himself at a perfect angle for observing the refrigerator. But then he frowns. The shuffling isn’t heading towards the refrigerator, in fact it sounds like it’s headed towards-
“...What are you doing.”
Yixing shields his eyes from the fluorescent lights, and peers up at an unamused Sehun.
“Uh I’m…meditating. This is my meditation corner,” Yixing glares. “Have a problem with that?”
“...Can you just pass me some cereal.”
As Yixing turns around, Sehun mutters under his breath, “weird.”
“I heard that,” Yixing gripes as inspects the twenty types of cereal behind him.
“Gluten or gluten free,” Yixing asks as he shifts a box of corn flakes, then Cheerios, then Rice Krispies.
“Doesn’t matter, I just need to eat something.”
“I don’t care, give me anything.”
“...look, just give me some m&m’s.”
As Sehun shuffles back out, Yixing makes a mental note to inform Luhan of how much of an ass his intern is.
“At least close the doors behind you,” Yixing mutters. He hooks his fingers on the doors and shuts himself in.
Fifteen minutes pass by before Yixing hears activity again. He’s tracing patterns on the wood when he hears footsteps. Yixing scoots into position, peering through the crack. But almost instantly he realizes it isn’t his target, as two voices float through the cabinet doors.
“Oh yeah, where do you live,” and it’s Chanyeol, hair relaxed and straight now, and he runs a hand through his bangs. “I don’t want to sound like a creeper, but we were definitely leaving work in the same direction yesterday.”
“Oh I thought that was you. Over in the south side.” It’s Baekhyun, with his back facing Yixing.
“Wait, me too! Which street?”
“On-” and Yixing can’t hear Baekhyun’s address over the sound his palm makes against his forehead.
“Hey that’s like 5 minutes from my place. We should carpool. You know, to save the Earth.” Chanyeol nervously grins and throws a tiny punch in the air, “Woooo Earth.”
“Oh that’s a great idea.”
They awkwardly stare at the floor.
“Ah...” Chanyeol mumbles, “Could I get your phone number then…for like coordination purposes and…yeah. Coordination?”
Through the crack in the cupboard, Yixing can see the red tinting the tips of Chanyeol’s ears.
“Yeah, sure,” Baekhyun pulls out his phone. “Here type in yours and I’ll text you mine.”
After a flurry of keypad clicks, they lapse into silence again.
“Okay, as cute of a couple you guys are together,” Yixing throws open the cabinet doors and leans out of the cupboard. “I’m going to have to crash your date. I’m actually trying to get something done, and…this,” Yixing motions at Baekhyun and Chanyeol, “is not helping.”
Chanyeol and Baekhyun spring away from each other as Yixing emerges from his hiding place.
“Wait, we’re not toge-” Baekhyun starts, visibly flustered.
“Yes, yes, save it for the bedroom,” Yixing ignores Baekhyun as he pushes the two out of the break room.
Thirty minutes later, Yixing’s bored out of his mind. He’s already arranged the cereal boxes alphabetically (then rearranged them by number of calories per suggested serving), eaten the rest of the m&ms, and traced every crack on the doors. He’s just about done counting the number of cornflake crumbs littering the cabinet floor when he hears a scuffle. It sounds like one person, he’s headed for the refrigerator, and Yixing’s breath hitches a bit, this time could it be. When he leans forward and focuses through the thin crack, the sight of a shock of red hair and an open refrigerator door greets him. It is.
At the click of the shutter Junmyeon whirls around, and he’s met with the sight of Yixing poised with a phone and with a smile he doesn’t completely like. Junmyeon blinks in confusion. He doesn’t quite get why Yixing just took a picture of him, or why Yixing just flipped his phone around to show him (or why Yixing’s grin just grew more a tad bit sinister).
“Um, that’s awesome?” Junmyeon shifts awkwardly, “I don’t understand what I’m looking at. Is candid photography your passion or something?”
“Don’t try to change the subject,” Yixing taps at the corner of the picture. “We both know why you’re here.”
Junmyeon steps forward and squints. His expression remains puzzled until he reads the name on the bag that his fingers in the picture are ghosting over. Tao.
“Oh, wait, nooo. You’re misunderstanding something. My lunch is behind Tao’s, I was reaching over his bag,” Junmyeon grins. He laughs for a bit until he realizes Yixing’s expression isn’t changing, and peters off uneasily. “Wait, you really think I’ve been doing it.”
“I only have empirical evidence,” Yixing jiggles his phone. “Let’s not make this harder than it should be.”
“Really it’s not me.”
“I hear Tao’s bringing his staff in tomorrow.”
“Honestly it’s not me,” Junmyeon pleads. “Don’t make up shit, especially about Tao’s lunch.”
Face stoic, Yixing slowly shakes his phone again.
“What do you want,” Junmyeon gulps and bites his lip.
“Let’s sit down for some negotiations,” Yixing guides Junmyeon to the break room table.
“This is blackmail,” Junmyeon whimpers.
“No,” Yixing’s lips curl into a smile. “This is justice.”
Eighteen days of paid vacation time and a hefty bonus later, Yixing congratulates himself on a job well done. Sure Junmyeon’s fearful look after the negotiations rides on his consciousness a little bit (as well as drive a little doubt into whether or not Junmyeon is the actual thief), but, whatever. He’ll have 18 days to get over it. Yixing smiles to himself as he leans back in the break room chair.
He’s so engulfed in his success that he doesn’t hear the padding of footsteps as another individual enters the room, pops open the fridge, and quietly chuckles, “...watching you. haha cute.” He also doesn’t hear the “ooo yum, ham today,” the munching from molars on wheat, the crinkle from a bag of chips, or the creak from the door of the fridge swinging shut. Yixing’s deaf to the real world, mentally miles away, planning his vacation to Hawaii—soaring skies, soft sands, swaying fronds, Maui, Oahu, the Big Island-
“Hey get back to work,” the intruder mutters through a mouthful of chips, startling Yixing into reality.
“Yes Kris,” and Yixing scampers out of the break room.