Pairing(s): XiuHan, TaoRis, KaiSoo
Summary: He doesn't want puzzle pieces jammed together
A/N: Don't know if anyone's noticed by now but with apartment, it's kind of a wide medley of drabble/oneshot thingies so like some of them like the KaiSoo last time'll be over a long period of time, but most of them are about quick, short one-two-day moments that happen in the apartment and that's kind of what this one is, which is why the pacing seems so fast. It's like a snapshot. And just like the baekyeol storyline's ended, this is the end of the xiuhan storyline even though you'll still see them around in the other stories.
Minseok is flattened to the floor the moment he opens his front door.
Luhan blinks down at him, fingers digging into the teacher’s waistband. “Hey,” the translator grins. One hand comes up and fingers lightly press against Minseok’s cheek. Luhan drags his lips over Minseok’s cheek bone, kissing down to Minseok’s ear and then across to the teacher’s mouth. Minseok tilts his head up, letting Luhan kiss him until they’re both breathless. He fists a hand in Luhan’s hair.
“Zitao went down with Baekhyunie,” Minseok says after the kiss—after Luhan has rolled off of Minseok. The translator reaches back slightly to slam the door closed before settling back and kneeling between Minseok’s legs, one hand still at the teacher’s hip.
Luhan grins again. “Yeah,” he says. “I know.”
Minseok sits up and wraps his arms around Luhan’s waist. “You saw them on your way up?”
“Yeah,” Luhan says, and slaps both of his hands against Minseok’s cheeks playfully—the teacher laughs, tightening his arms against Luhan’s waist and leaning forward to bring their lips together again. “Zitao was down there to meet up with Wufan, so I just stopped by the desk and said hi to Kyungsoo and Jongin.”
Minseok raises his eyebrows, and tilts his head. “Were you nice?” he asks.
Luhan simply gives another grin—right before he throws himself at Minseok and knocks them both to the floor again.
The clock on Minseok’s nightstand reads some time past two in the morning when Luhan wakes up in the darkness from the sound of the front door opening. He gently shifts Minseok out of his arms, as carefully as possible so the other man doesn’t wake up, and then swings his legs out of the sheets and onto the floor. It’s pitch black in the room, so Luhan has to rummage around at the footboard to grab the first pair of pants he can find, foregoing underwear for the moment, and then pulls them on hastily before he heads out.
Zitao has the refrigerator open, the light penetrating the darkness of the apartment. Luhan silently walks up to the counter, smiling inwardly as he flicks on the smallest of the kitchen lights and watches as Zitao jumps a little before whirling around. “Ge,” Zitao breathes, eyes wide.
Luhan leans on the counter, pressing the warm skin of his arms against the cool granite. “Did you have fun with Wufan?” he grins.
“What makes you think that?” Zitao asks back coyly.
The translator lets out a short laugh, as Zitao closes the refrigerator, emerging with a bottle of iced tea, and stands at the opposite side of the island. The younger man breaks the seal of the cap open and downs a few sips before placing it on the countertop. “He’s nice, right?” Luhan says lightly, and then laughs again at an afterthought. “I wonder if he remembers when I had to babysit you instead of going on dates with him,” he adds and Zitao smiles.
“He’s nice,” Zitao says, nodding thoughtfully, and then turns those deep set eyes onto Luhan steadily. “So why’d you break up with him, ge?”
Luhan bites back a smile at how that part of Zitao has stuck through ever since Luhan’s known him (although there’s never been a moment when Luhan hasn’t known Zitao, because Luhan has known Zitao ever since the translator’s mother brought Luhan over to the neighbor’s house to see a pink, wrinkled baby clinging for dear life to the large stuffed panda in his crib). Zitao has always had a thing for saying things exactly the way they form in his mind—bluntly and straightforwardly, without reserve, but in such a Huang Zitao way that it never comes out as acerbic.
“I wanted to go back, remember?” Luhan says. “And he wanted to stay.”
Zitao gives Luhan a look, narrowing his eyes and tilting his head to the side slightly. “Ge,” he says with a breathy laugh. “Luhan-ge.”
Luhan grins knowingly. “What?” he says, playing along.
“There’re these things,” Zitao says, “you know—phones? And—I heard—you can even call while seeing the other person’s face now.”
“Okay, you need to stop hanging out with Wufan—you’re too cute for sarcasm,” Luhan says and Zitao laughs.
When the younger man’s laughter starts to fade off, Luhan sighs and looks into Zitao’s eyes. “It’d be one thing,” Luhan starts slowly, quietly, “if he was trying to decide—like—if he was torn between being with me and staying in Korea—or even if he at least tried to figure out a way for it to work—if he offered something long distance.” The translator licks his lips, looking down and away. “But,” Luhan continues, a humorless smile on his lips as he looks back up at Zitao’s intent eyes, “he didn’t. Because—for him—it wasn’t about choosing between being with me and staying in Korea. It was between what he wanted and what I wanted.”
There’s not even a split second of pause before Zitao immediately asks, “Why didn’t you tell him that? Like—ge—why didn’t you—”
“Because—for me,” Luhan says, the humorless smile twisting at his lips bitterly, “it wasn’t about staying with him or going back to China. It was about what I wanted or what he wanted.” He leans across the countertop and Zitao slides the bottle of iced tea over to the translator’s waiting hands. Luhan unscrews the cap and takes a sip, swallowing slowly. “And—I guess—both of us put what we wanted over what the other person wanted.”
Zitao is the one to look away this time. “That doesn’t mean you can’t still love each other,” he says quietly, and Luhan sees a crease form between the younger man’s eyebrows.
“A big part of love—I think at least,” Luhan says, reaching across the countertop and tugging at a lock of Zitao’s hair (the younger boy glances up, blinking and meeting the translator’s eyes with a small smile), “is trying to put what the other person wants over what you want and working it out from there. So—I mean—I think we still love each other—but it’s not the same.”
Zitao grins suddenly, and his eyes flicker to somewhere over Luhan’s shoulder. “Yeah,” Zitao says, abruptly in Korean, “I guess it’s not.” His eyes are no longer looking at Luhan at all and the grin has turned into a small smile.
Luhan blinks before whirling around—and finding Minseok standing, still shirtless just like Luhan is, in the doorway that leads from the living room and kitchen to the bedrooms. The teacher’s hair is sticks waywardly off of his head, a few strands falling over his eyes and brushing at his eyebrows. There’s still a flush to Minseok’s cheeks and—
“Why’re you wearing my pants?” Luhan asks, squinting.
Minseok blinks back. “Because you took mine,” he says and points at Luhan’s legs.
Zitao laughs, passing around the counter, and touching Minseok’s arm lightly as the younger man heads for his bedroom. “’Night, hyung,” he says, glancing at Luhan and smiling. Minseok’s eyes follow Zitao until the younger man disappears into his bedroom, before the teacher looks back to Luhan, blinking.
Luhan steps over to Minseok and takes the teacher by the hands, leading him over to the couch. He tugs Minseok’s hands sharply and they tumble together onto the sofa with Minseok laughing under his breath as their bodies entangle, hands drifting over faces and through soft hair. The translator has caught Minseok’s face in his hands, cupping where jaw meets neck, and Luhan is about to lean in for a kiss when Minseok suddenly draws back a little, gazing curiously into Luhan’s eyes.
“What?” Luhan whispers, blinking.
“Zitao guesses what’s not?” Minseok asks, the corner of his mouth tugging upward slightly.
Luhan blinks again, eyebrows furrowing for a moment as he tries to figure out what Minseok is referring to before the translator remembers. “Oh,” Luhan breathes in realization, “that.” He smiles. “That it’s not the same,” he says vaguely.
“What isn’t?” Minseok tilts his head, confused.
Luhan merely grins, as he leans in, fingers pressing against Minseok’s cheek as the translator holds the side of the teacher’s face—Luhan answers the question without words (starts a conversation where Minseok’s inquiries are breathless moans and Luhan’s replies are kisses against pale skin and nicknames whispered in places that turn hard and hot when touched).
The morning arrives and happens in a daze for Minseok—he vaguely recalls being awoken when Luhan tries to slip off the sofa, untangling their limbs. Minseok feels lips press gently against his cheeks as gentle fingers stroke through his hair. He hears something faint whispered against the shell of his ear (have a good day, baozi), lips in his hair, before the warm hands are off him and then Minseok hears the opening and closing of the front door.
He drifts back to sleep after that, and the next time he wakes up—really wakes up—is to the smell and sound of Zitao frying eggs and scooping rice into two bowls. The teacher also hears the drip of coffee and water being poured into cups as he sits up and rubs at his eyes (and lets out a relieved breath when he looks down and sees that he did remember to pull his sweatpants back on after last night’s activities before he collapsed into sleep against Luhan’s body).
Minseok stretches and swings his legs over the edge of the couch, leaning forward with his elbows on his legs and lightly slapping his face with his palms as he glances to meet Zitao’s amused eyes. “Were we loud?” Minseok asks apologetically, standing and walking to the counter.
“Only at the end,” Zitao smiles and slides the teacher a bowl of rice covered in neat, little strips of cut fried egg. He pushes down a cup of coffee as well. “I was really tired so I slept through most of it—I think.”
“Sorry,” Minseok says sheepishly. “You must’ve had fun with Wufan though—to be that tired.”
Zitao ducks his head, biting his lips as his smile starts to turn as sheepish as Minseok’s tone. “Luhan-g—hyung told you?”
“I guessed,” Minseok grins. “You usually come back around dinner time after working on your project, so it couldn’t be that—process of elimination from there.”
Zitao laughs softly as Minseok takes in a mouthful of rice and egg, following up with a gulp of coffee. The younger man seems to have finished most of his breakfast already and taps the countertop. “Oh,” he says, “Luhan-hyung told me to tell you that he had an early interview—so he had to leave to go back to his apartment to shower and change.”
Minseok nods, sipping at his coffee again. “Yeah—I wanted to ask you,” he says, “Luhan wouldn’t tell me—what were you talking about when I woke up last night? Something about not being the same?”
The younger man frowns for a moment and Minseok watches as the thoughts sift through Zitao’s mind as he tries to recall the conversation he had with Luhan. “That,” Zitao says finally as Minseok fits in another few more bites of rice and egg. “Oh—that?” Zitao half-shrugs and smiles oddly. “I was asking about Wufan-g—hyung, and Luhan-hyung was telling me about how it’s different.”
“What is?” Minseok blinks.
“Loving you and loving Wufan-hyung,” Zitao says simply, blinking back.
He wants to say, wants to think and believe, that he just swallowed the food in his mouth a little too fast—that a sip of coffee will bring everything down—but Minseok knows that it isn’t rice and eggs that’s caught in his throat.
(It feels like his heart is shattering into pieces and each shard is trying to vomit up through his mouth, slicing the walls of his throat as they come up)
Because of course it’s different—loving Minseok and loving Wufan. Of course Wufan loved Luhan better than Minseok ever could and ever will (because when people look at Wufan and Luhan standing side-by-side it makes sense—the same can’t be said for when Luhan and Minseok stand together), and Wufan fits Luhan better than Minseok could ever and will ever. Minseok should just be lucky, should be grateful, that he was even given this opportunity through sheer chance of Luhan and Wufan breaking up—through sheer chance of Luhan somehow taking an interest in the teacher.
Minseok should be grateful that it even lasted this long.
(He should stop dragging it out because as happy as Luhan seems to be, the translator will be that much happier once Minseok lets him go and stops being selfish)
“Hyung,” Zitao says as Minseok puts the dishes in the sink once they’re both finished with breakfast, “how come you won’t move in with Luhan-hyung? If you moved in with him, he wouldn’t have to leave early to get ready—and—you could spend more time together.”
Minseok turns on the faucet, letting a light stream of water fill the bowls so that they’ll soak over before he puts them in the dishwasher. He lowers his eyes and swallows, focusing his gaze on the dishes and not turning around to meet the younger man’s eyes. “It’s more convenient if we live alone,” he says, forcing his tone to stay light.
Zitao frowns when Minseok turns around. “Convenient?” the younger man says slowly, enunciating each syllable carefully.
“Less worrying, less to do and take care of,” Minseok explains, when he realizes that Zitao probably hasn’t heard the word in Korean yet.
But Zitao’s gaze just grows more confused. “How is that more convenient?” he asks. “You would both have less worrying, less to do and take care of if you lived together, right?”
“Not—necessarily,” Minseok says haltingly. “If we broke up, we’d have to move all of our stuff back and someone might’ve rented Luhan’s apartment or my apartment while we were living together—it’s just more convenient altogether if we stay separate, y’know?”
Zitao’s expression is now utterly confounded, completely blank and befuddled. “What do you mean if you broke up?”
Minseok blinks. “I mean—if we broke up,” he says, now also confused because he thinks that sentence was pretty self-explanatory.
“Why would you ever break up with Luhan-ge?” The tone of Zitao’s voice is suddenly grave and almost upset as the honorific slips out untranslated.
A humorless smile slides onto Minseok’s face as he’s reminded exactly of how naïve and trusting Zitao’s mind is—even though the younger man isn’t childish and innocent, there’s a simplicity to which Zitao views the world, views relationships, that Minseok has noticed ever since Zitao came to stay and it would be heartening if it wasn’t so saddening when put in juxtaposition with the reality of what’s between Minseok and Luhan.
The teacher shrugs. “Things could happen,” he says and smiles tightly at Zitao. “You should go—you’ll be late for class.”
Zitao looks more confused and solemn than ever as Minseok manages to usher him out of the apartment, telling him to have a good day at university and to do well on the quiz Minseok knows the younger man’s been studying for that’s happening today. Once Zitao is out the door, Minseok stares down at the door handle, stares at the door in general—and thinks that after tonight, Luhan will probably never walk through it again.
Wufan is waiting for the elevator by the time Luhan rushes out of his apartment, hair still damp from the hasty shower, and clothes only half-fastened. The reporter glances at Luhan, as the translator puts down his briefcase in order to finish buckling his belt and smoothing his shirt into his pants. “Seven minute shower?” Wufan asks.
“Five,” Luhan grins. “Woke up late.”
“Looks like you had a good night,” the reporter remarks, scrolling through the messages on his phone with one hand, briefcase slung over a shoulder, coffee in his other hand.
Luhan raises his eyebrows as he finishes putting himself together. He picks his bag back up. “I know that you had a good night.”
“We walked around a few blocks,” Wufan says, rolling his eyes, “and I bought him food.”
Luhan clicks his tongue against the roof of his mouth. “Scandalous,” he says.
“Never as scandalous as you,” the reporter says casually. “Nearly over a year with him and still not living together.”
The corners of the translator’s mouth tug upwards humorlessly. “It’s not like I don’t want to,” he murmurs, as the elevator rings and the doors open. There’s no one else inside as Luhan and Wufan step in. Wufan presses the button for the lobby.
“It’s just that he thinks you’re a ticking time bomb and you still haven’t told him that you won’t break up with him,” Wufan says, raising his eyebrows down at Luhan once the doors close on them.
“I’ve been doing everything I can to show him that there’s no way I’m going to leave him, but he doesn’t get it—what else am I supposed to do at this point?” Luhan says, and his voice comes out harsher and more upset than he’d intended (he doesn’t like being vulnerable in front of Wufan).
“Maybe,” Wufan says slowly, meeting Luhan’s gaze, “you should try telling him—since showing him hasn’t worked.”
Luhan’s eyebrows crease and he frowns at the other man. “Telling him?”
Wufan merely tilts his head in concession as the elevator announces their arrival to the ground floor and opens its doors to the lobby.
Every step Minseok takes back towards the apartment once he’s finished closing up the classroom and helping the students who’re having trouble with the material for this week’s exam is heavy and painful. During his lunch break, he received texts from Luhan about how they should go for a walk tonight once they’re both back at the apartment. Luhan has asked Minseok what the teacher wants to eat tonight—if he wants to eat out or come back to the apartment or walk after they eat together or—
It hurts because Minseok knows that after he sees Luhan tonight, after Luhan comes home, everything is going to end because Minseok isn’t going to let this go a moment longer than it should—it’s already gone on for too long and every second he’s with Luhan is like standing on needles because Minseok knows that it just doesn’t make sense. They’re not right for each other—ill-fitted, mismatched, puzzle pieces that have been jammed together incorrectly.
(If given the chance, if left to his selfish wants, Minseok probably would have continued holding those mismatched puzzle pieces together for eternity)
He sits in the lobby, on the sofa, watching amusedly as Jongin and Kyungsoo laugh into each other over their project (although Minseok hardly thinks either of them at this point is focusing very much on the assignment). The teacher had gone up and changed, put down his bags and books up in his apartment before coming down, which meant that some time had gone by and it’s not long before Chanyeol walks through the lobby doors, waving brightly to Minseok and then dropping by the desk to greet Jongin and ruffle Kyungsoo’s hair before the journalist jogs breezily off to the elevators.
Wufan is next, strolling through the lobby impassively, nodding his head briefly at Minseok and then tilting his head slightly as he passes the receptionist desk. Minseok closes his eyes, steeling himself for when the translator arrives because Luhan never carries much with him to work and usually goes in casual clothes for interviews which means they’ll be able to go on their walk right away—except that there won’t be a walk at all.
“That looks pretty.”
Minseok’s eyes shoot open—widen in ultimate surprise because his gaze is filled with deep, round, dark eyes framed by familiar lashes and pale skin. “Aw,” Luhan smiles, wrinkling his nose playfully as he draws back to give Minseok some breathing room, “I said that you look pretty like that, baozi—with your eyes closed.”
It never ceased to confound Minseok—this aspect of Luhan—how the translator managed to shower Minseok with utterly false compliments and make it seem so believable, make it seem as if Luhan actually meant those words (Minseok attributes this simply to how kind Luhan is). He tilts his head up, almost habitually at this point, receiving the usual greeting kiss Luhan gives whenever they see each other after coming back from work.
Luhan pulls Minseok lightly to his feet. “Ready for our walk?” Luhan asks brightly, fingers already twining with Minseok’s.
Minseok breathes in and out bracingly, ignoring how every cell in his body is screaming for him not to do this (because it’s time that he stopped listening to his heart—and all the lies it’s managed to convince him on how maybe Luhan means all the flattering words he rains down on Minseok—and started listening to his mind, started coming back to his senses). “No,” Minseok says softly, and shakes his head, looking straight into Luhan’s mildly surprised gaze.
Luhan frowns, confused. “What’s wrong? Minseok-ah—”
“Let’s break up,” Minseok says, and stamps out every bit of emotion in his face and voice. He gazes blankly and head-on into Luhan’s suddenly wide eyes.
The translator swallows visibly, jaw tight and eyes now stretched to taking up nearly half of his face. “Why?” Luhan whispers hoarsely, and his grip on Minseok’s hand is abruptly so tight that it’s painful.
“Because it’s different, isn’t it?” Minseok finds himself blurting back in a whisper—suddenly can’t prevent the sadness, the frustration from leaking out in his voice (on his face). “Loving Wufan and loving me won’t ever be the same—I know that—I’m not Wufan—I’m not your type, and—”
“What did Zitao say?” Luhan cuts the teacher off urgently, eyes wide and alarmed. “Minseok-ah—Kim Minseok, you have to tell me what Zitao said word for word because I swear—”
Minseok wrenches his hand out of Luhan’s and runs for the elevator, blocking his ears from Luhan’s shouts—sprinting when he hears Luhan’s footsteps start to follow. He manages to catch an elevator just as it comes down, closing the door before Luhan can get to it. Minseok presses the button for the twelfth floor and leans against the corner with his eyes clenched shut.
Luhan bangs his fist against the elevator call button for the fifth time before giving up on it completely and heading straight for the emergency stairwell. Climbing twelve floors is a small price to pay if he manages to not fuck this up the way he fucked up the beginning of their relationship. As he takes the stairs two at a time, shedding his jacket and unbuttoning the top buttons of his shirt as he climbs, he begins to turn the thoughts he’s harbored for the past year into words.
He runs sentences and phrases over and over through his mind with every step he takes, with every floor he passes, because Luhan is a translator—his job is to find just the right words, just the right order in which to say them, to convey meanings across the barriers of human speech. And yet, he hasn’t managed to translate the words that he knows describe Kim Minseok into words that Minseok will understand—will finally realize as ultimately true.
Luhan owes it to Minseok (wants and needs Minseok) to do all of this and more because Minseok is a teacher—and this teacher has taught Luhan what love really is, how to love, how to be loved, how it feels to have someone who will go to any length to give you happiness even at the expense of their own. Minseok is the one who taught Luhan that all the selfish pre-conceived notions the translator had were everything but love—because love is selfless.
Just like Kim Minseok.
Luhan is lightly sweating, heavily panting, by the time he reaches the twelfth floor. He heads straight for Minseok’s door and plops down in front of it, leaning his head back against the wood and closing his eyes as he reaches backwards and raps his knuckles against the door. “Baozi,” Luhan calls into the crack, just loud enough for the sound to carry through, “Baozi—I know you can hear me.”
After a moment of no response, of complete silence, Luhan continues talking. “Loving you is different,” the translator says, hugging his knees to his chest as he opens his eyes and stares at the ceiling of the hallway while he speaks. “Loving you is different from loving Wufan and loving everyone else I loved after—because I don’t think any of those times was ever really love. It was close, but not really.”
The translator takes a moment to catch his breath after the climb, since talking right away is difficult after twelve flights of stairs. “I know you won’t believe me—because I keep showing you and you never seem to get it—but I’m telling you right now, with words, straight-up, and it’s your choice to believe me or not,” Luhan rubs the sweat from his eyes. “Kim Minseok—you’re singularly the most beautiful, amazing, kind, considerate, smart, hilarious person I’ve ever met and the fact that you don’t understand how fucking incredible you are on the inside and outside and all the ways in between confuses the shit out of me because I see it—wake up to it—every single day.”
Minseok’s knuckles are white as he grips the door handle, forehead resting against the cool wood. “And I know I’m selfish—contrary to what you might think,” Luhan’s voice continues to softly sift through, “I’m fucking selfish and horrible and you think otherwise just because of how I look—but you’re a greater person than I’ll ever be. But I’m selfish—and—I want to keep seeing it—seeing you and waking up to you for a shitload of days to come.”
It’s the teacher’s choice, just as Luhan said, to choose whether or not he’ll believe the translator’s words. (Minseok does know, though, that Luhan is an amazing translator—always accurate, always capturing the truth of everyone’s words—so maybe it’s time Minseok learns to trust in the ones that come out of Luhan’s own mouth)
He nearly falls backwards as the door he leaned against is suddenly opened. Luhan scrambles to his feet and feels his eyes burst open wide as he finds himself meeting Minseok’s amused gaze. “You’re always supposed to lean on the wall next to the door,” the teacher says with a tiny smile.
Luhan’s heart surges. “Haven’t had much practice,” he says, smiling back, “this was my first time.”
“Hopefully the last time,” Minseok says, licking his lips and hesitantly taking Luhan’s hand. He gazes directly into the translator’s eyes.
“The last time we fight?” Luhan asks, confused.
The small smile is back on Minseok’s face. “The last time either of us has to wait in front of the other person’s door,” Minseok clarifies and gives Luhan a meaningful look.
Minseok blinks, raising his eyebrows anticipatorily—nervously.
“So—” The translator swallows.
“Yeah,” Minseok breathes with another smile.
Luhan kicks the door of Minseok—and Luhan’s—apartment shut.
(Right before he covers Minseok’s smile with his own)
Chanyeol blinks as Kyungsoo waves Zitao off back towards the elevators. “He’s moving into Luhan’s apartment?” the journalist asks, blinking at the receptionist.
“Yup,” Kyungsoo sits back down and shuffles the papers Zitao had handed in. “Luhan moved in with Minseok so I guess they worked things out so that Zitao could take Luhan’s apartment since it’s dumb to have three people in one apartment when there’s an empty one available.”
The journalist grins excitedly. “Finally,” Chanyeol snorts.
“Right?” Kyungsoo laughs. “It’s about time. Those two are—like—a match made in heaven.”