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The Garden of Earthly Delights
My Mind Is My Best Friend And My Worst Enemy
Ticking Like A Bomb In A Birdcage (Kai-centric, LuKai) [1/3] 
17th-Nov-2013 06:15 pm
Title: Ticking Like A Bomb In A Birdcage 1/3
Pairing: Kai-centric, Lu Han/Kai, slight Kai/Ara, Kai/Tao, and lots of minor pairings
Rating: PG-13
Warning(s): lots of girl group cameos (mostly AOA and Hello Venus)
Genre(s): slice-of-life, angst, romance
Word Count: 18,190
Summary: Hindsight is 20/20. Or something to that effect.
a/n: Just to note, this fic doesn't exactly have the happy ending you'd expect? I don't think it's a sad ending by any means, but just be warned. Also, I had the American school system in mind when writing this rather than the Korean system.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

------------------

He met them in middle school during study hall. Jongin had always been relatively quiet- shy around people that he didn't know well. So the two rambunctious, laughing boys who came over to his table when the teacher left the room were somewhat jarring in comparison to the peaceful studying he was used to doing. They weren't there to talk to him- apparently they were friends with the boy who sat across from Jongin- but that didn't stop them from introducing themselves and pulling him into their conversation.

“Look at the teacher's shirt when she gets back,” the boy with the long face and small eyes said, “It's made out of gauze.”

“It's not gauze, Sehun,” the other boy replied, acting as though they'd had this argument before- as though this was what they'd been discussing for the entirety of study hall. But beyond the inane content of their conversation, Jongin was taken with how delicate the second boy seemed- wide eyes, long lashes, pink mouth, and pointed chin.

Jongin kind of wanted to point out that gauze was what doctors use to put on wounds- not a material that clothes were made out of, but he felt that it wasn't his place, so he kept his mouth shut. Sehun and Lu Han seemed to have a rhythm going, like they'd been friends for ages, and Jongin didn't want to interrupt.

---

Lu Han ended up sitting behind Jongin at their anti-climatic graduation from middle school, and since it seemed that Jongin was the only person that Lu Han had any interest in talking to in the vicinity, Jongin spent most of the ceremony with Lu Han leaning over the back of his chair to whisper into his ear- unable to sit still and be quiet during such a dull event.

That led to Lu Han inviting Jongin out to eat at a restaurant that he'd mentioned and from then on, it seemed like Jongin was the official third member of the Sehun and Lu Han group (not an official name- just what Jongin called them in his head). Even though he wasn't quite sure how that had happened.

---

Sleepovers at Lu Han's house became commonplace the summer preceding high school, the three boys taking over Lu Han's living room and spending the evening watching stupid horror movies and playing video games.

Except while Sehun would fall asleep around one or two in the morning- crashing after a sugar rush that he kept up for a couple hours with a never-ending intake of candy and soda- Lu Han and Jongin would stay up until the sunrise, pulling their sleeping bags next to each other so they could whisper without waking Sehun who always ended up in a crumpled heap on the chair on the other side of the room.

“It's weird how you can kind of tell who you'll date in high school,” Lu Han had murmured during the wee hours of the morning, no doubt referring to the girl with whom he'd gone to the movies with on a “date” that summer (Sehun had been allowed to tag along and the two kept lamenting about how awkward it was in the weeks that followed. Jongin complained that he hadn't been invited, refusing to let it go for the entirety of their friendship).

But Jongin didn't feel like he knew who he'd date in high school. He wasn't the type to have tons of prospective girlfriends considering he was typically so shy. Lu Han, on the other hand, was outgoing and friendly to everyone. It was no surprise that he'd amassed quite a few female admirers in middle school.

He wanted to be able to relate to what Lu Han was saying even though it didn't make sense at all to him. So he'd just hummed in response, letting Lu Han continue his musing.

---

Jongin didn't act it, but he was the biggest romantic out of the three of them. He wasn't constantly chasing girls or cooing over romantic movies. Usually, he just stuck by Lu Han and Sehun and complained about unrealistic and sappy endings. But underneath his outward cynicism, he couldn't help but want to fall in love.

---

“We need friends who are girls before high school starts,” Sehun had decided one day when they were wandering around the big park that was near Sehun's house, sneakers kicking up dust when they shuffled over the places where the grass had been worn thin by foot traffic.

Lu Han had nodded solemnly, “I can call that one girl that I went to camp with last summer. She's going to be going to our high school.”

“And what about that girl that we used to talk to in science class?” Sehun added, addressing Lu Han.

Jongin stayed silent, knowing that he didn't have much to contribute. But he was still silently in support of this plan. He was under the impression that not being friends with any girls in high school would immediately place him at the bottom of the social ladder. Besides, how was he supposed to find true love if he didn't even talk to any girls?

An hour later, they were walking around the same park with Joohee and Yookyung, making small talk and trying to seem cooler than they really were. Jongin could see how the girls reacted to Lu Han. There was something about him that just drew people in. Jongin understood completely. But he did his best to smile and joke with the girls, hoping not to be left out with the way that Lu Han and Sehun seemed so much more comfortable than him.

“Yookyung is your type,” Sehun observed once the girls had gone home and the three of them were walking back to Sehun's house, cutting through their little town and laughing at the middle school aged kids- wondering how they'd ever been so small and awkward.

“I've been saying that!” Lu Han insisted, nodding enthusiastically.

“You have?” Jongin didn't remember anyone ever mentioning anything about Yookyung in regards to himself. In fact, he hadn't even known her name before that day. Until then, she had been “that girl that Lu Han went to camp with and mentioned on occasion.”

“You should ask her to homecoming,” Sehun told him, nudging him in the side with his elbow.

“It's only August...”

“You have to start planning now!” Lu Han insisted, “Homecoming is in October so you have to ask a girl by mid-September. Which means you need to figure out who you're going to ask now.”

“Oh,” Jongin felt his stomach sink at the immediacy of the issue. They weren't even in high school yet and he had to choose a girl.

“I want to ask Joohee,” Lu Han announced, “Did you see how tiny her waist looked in that dress?”

Sehun immediately agreed and then proceeded to give Lu Han a hard time about noticing such a little thing while Jongin tried to fight of the feeling of discomfort that was creeping into his chest. And it wasn't just the anxiety of actually having to get the courage to ask a girl out. Hearing Lu Han talk about Joohee like that...it was just strange. He couldn't put his finger on it, but something seemed off.

---

“So are you going to ask Joohee to homecoming?”

“What?” Jongin turned around at his locker to see Baekhyun, a casual friend from one of his classes, standing behind him.

“Joohee,” Baekhyun repeated, “You're asking her right?”

“No...I...where did you hear that?” Jongin furrowed his eyebrows, frowning in confusion.

“Lu Han told me...”

“Dammit, Baekhyun!” Lu Han wailed, walking over to where they were standing and hitting Baekhyun on the shoulder, “You weren't supposed to tell him!”

“Wait what?” Jongin was completely lost.

“You never said that!” Baekhyun insisted, “You just told me that Joohee liked him so he was going to ask her to homecoming.”

“Guys, hold on. What are you talking about?”

“No, I said that she likes him, but he doesn't know yet, so he'll probably ask her to homecoming,” Lu Han complained, “You ruined it.”

“Ruined what?” Jongin was getting impatient now.

Lu Han sighed, “We found out that Joohee likes you so we were going to set you guys up as a surprise so you could get to know her before asking her to the dance.”

Jongin could feel his frown deepen. None of this made any sense.

“But I thought that you liked Joohee?”

Lu Han waved him off, “She obviously likes you. It's no big deal.”

“So you want me to ask the girl you like to homecoming?” Jongin asked, incredulous. Wasn't this against some sort of rule? Not to mention the fact that he really had no desire to ask Joohee anyway. At least Yookyung was more like someone he could imagine dating.

“Well, yeah! She likes you!” Lu Han told him, laughing. Though Jongin was sure that he could see just a little bit of hurt flash in his eyes before disappearing.

“Are you sure? I mean, it's not like I like her or anything...”

“You're asking her and that's that,” Lu Han said with determination, “We went through all the trouble to plan to accidentally ditch you at the ice cream shop after school today when Joohee will be there.”

“I have to go to ice cream with her?” Jongin wasn't sure why he felt so dismayed. There was nothing wrong with the girl. He just...he didn't know. And he definitely felt weird going with the girl that Lu Han liked.

“Yes!” Lu Han laughed, “Just play along and pretend you don't know, okay?”

Jongin suffered through the horribly awkward “date” that afternoon, wishing that Lu Han and Sehun would have stayed with him. But apparently Joohee told Nara who told Soojung who told Baekhyun who told Lu Han that she was really hoping that he'd ask her.

So Jongin didn't really have a choice in the matter at all.

---

Jongin pressed closer to Lu Han so their shoulders were overlapping as they smiled for the cameras. It was official. The only thing more awkward than having to ask Joohee to homecoming was posing for their parents in their finery before they left for the dance. They'd done pictures their entire group that had arranged to go together (Baekhyun and Soojung, Lu Han and the girl who sat behind him in math, Hyejeong, Chanyeol and Choa, and Joohee and himself- Sehun had decided that there was no one whom he wanted to ask, though he still whined about Lu Han and Jongin going without him), couple shots, and now they were taking pictures of all the boys together.

Jongin was thankful to be pressed against Lu Han rather than Joohee who had nervously pinned his boutonniere on with shaking fingers, only to have it fall off as soon as she'd stepped away. Jongin's sister ended up pinning it for him.

“My cheeks hurt,” Jongin whispered through his smile, knowing that he probably looked like he was grimacing, and bumping his shoulder against the other boy's.

“Me too,” Lu Han replied, though a quick look at Lu Han revealed that his smile looked just as sweet and genuine as ever.

“This sucks,” Jongin muttered.

“Remember that time we slowed down Dong Bang Shin Ki's Wrong Number so it sounded like a slow 90's jam?” Lu Han hissed into his ear, a smile in his voice.

Jongin felt his eyes crinkle in a genuine grin for the first time that evening, “And then you sang it complete with over exaggerated facial expressions and hand motions,” he added, snickering.

Lu Han laughed out loud next to him.

Unsurprisingly, when Jongin looked through the pictures that his sister had taken, that was the only shot where he didn't look like he was headed for the gallows.

---

Sehun and Lu Han were going through a “pantsing” phase. Meaning that they were obsessed with trying to pull each other's pants down (as well as Jongin's) when the other person wasn't expecting it. Jongin didn't join in, but that didn't stop the other two, Sehun especially, from yanking down his sweatpants when he'd get up from Lu Han's couch to get a soda- the two of them cackling like it was the most hilarious thing in the world.

Needless to say, going commando wasn't an option during this phase.

It wasn't a big deal- it wasn't like they hadn't seen each other in their boxers before. But it was kind of annoying. And Jongin found that he wasn't comfortable pulling down his friends' pants. Except for that one time when he really needed to get Sehun back.

Jongin stood back, watching the other two trying to yank down each other's pants- Lu Han standing on the bench while Sehun was still on the ground. Yep, that's right. They were in public. So Jongin did not want to be a part of it.

It was kind of a weird thing to observe- his two best friends trying to strip each other. If he didn't know any better, he'd think that they maybe had a thing for each other. But they were always handsy like that. Jongin...not so much. He sometimes leaned into Lu Han when they'd been standing for a long period of time, but he didn't participate in tackling or tickling or pantsing.

They liked to tease him, telling him that he had personal space issues. But it wasn't that he didn't like to be close to people. He just hated it when Sehun knocked him onto the couch and sat on top of him, trying to tickle him while Jongin struggled and threatened bodily harm. He thought it was perfectly normal to not want that. A gentler, more affectionate touch would be fine. But gentle touches weren't offered so easily.

Except when Lu Han allowed Jongin to rest his head on his shoulder and then he reached up to pat Jongin's head.

Sehun didn't seem to notice these times when he gave Jongin a hard time for his personal space bubble.

---

“Look you guys!” Lu Han exclaimed, coming up to Jongin's locker where Sehun was slumped down, leaning against the wall, and looking half asleep, “I stole this golf ball!”

“What?”

Sehun just grunted.

“I stole it from a miniature golf course,” Lu Han explained as if that cleared it up, holding the purple dimpled ball like it was made of gold.

“Okay...” Jongin couldn't help but let out a snort at Lu Han's excitement.

“You're so dumb, Lu Han,” Sehun complained, eyes closing.

Lu Han just laughed as though Sehun wasn't in on the joke. Jongin wished he was.

---

“We need to figure out a way to get Yookyung to ask you to the turnabout dance,” Lu Han said to Jongin conspiratorially when they were watching a movie at Jongin's house one Saturday night.

“How am I supposed to get someone to ask me?”

“How do you think you ended up asking Joohee to homecoming?” Lu Han questioned, “Not on your own free will.”

You told me to!” Jongin pointed out.

“Right, but I told you to because I found out that she liked you and wanted you to ask her.”

“So you're saying that we spread rumors that I like her and want her to ask me?” Jongin asked, incredulous, “No. No way.”

Lu Han just laughed, “No I have a better idea.”

---

The following Sunday, Jongin found himself following Lu Han to the school's football field at ten o'clock at night.

“I feel like we're taking part in a drug deal,” Jongin deadpanned, shoving his hands into his pockets to shield them from the cold March air.

Lu Han cackled, shoving at Jongin's shoulder before he was waving at someone standing on the bleachers.

“Who-”

“Hey Mina,” Lu Han grinned, that smile that had a tendency to make everyone who saw it want Lu Han as their own, “Thanks for meeting us.”

“No problem,” the girl replied, smiling and revealing the dimples in her cheeks.

“So I had an idea for the turnabout dance,” Lu Han began, “Since you're friends with Yookyung, I thought that you could get Yookyung to ask Jongin and then we could go together.”

Jongin gaped. This was so weird. There was no way anyone would just agree just like that-

“That's a good idea!” Mina enthused, nodding in agreement, “I think Yookyung was going to ask Baekho, but I'll call her and tell her to ask Jongin instead.”

“If she's already going to ask someone else, it's not a big deal. I can-”

Lu Han elbowed Jongin in the ribs.

“Sounds great! Thanks for going along with this,” Lu Han said, flashing a smile at Mina who flushed in response, “Let me know what Yookyung says tomorrow in Geometry?”

Mina nodded and then Lu Han was dragging Jongin back in the direction of his house.

---

The next day at lunch, Yookyung delivered a bag of homemade fortune cookies to him with fortunes inside that read Will you go to the turnabout dance with me?

She'd obviously already gotten everything she needed in order to ask the other guy. There was no way she'd been able to pull this together at 10:30 last night. Jongin felt a little guilty, but Lu Han was grinning and it wasn't like he could tell Yookyung 'no.' So he brightly agreed to go with her, catching Lu Han's smile in his peripheral.

Sehun complained that he hadn't been included in the scheme and Jongin kind of hated himself for the warmth in his chest that resulted from knowing that Lu Han had thought of him.

---

Noooo, don't fall asleep,” Lu Han whined, poking Jongin's cheek as his head lolled against the back of the couch.

“'M not sleepin',” Jongin mumbled, eyes opening to take in the blurry face of Lu Han leaning over him.

The turnabout dance had been mildly less awkward than homecoming, but none of that mattered at that particular moment (5:30 the following morning) since Jongin was trying so hard not to just give in and pass out.

“Come on,” Lu Han cajoled, “You said you'd stay up with me! I don't want to risk not hearing my alarm at six!”

“I know, I'm awake.”

They were the only two that were though- the other guys were passed out in their sleeping bags on the floor of Baekhyun's basement, dead to the world. Jongin was pretty jealous, to be honest.

“You are not!” Lu Han pouted, “Here, I'll sing to keep you awake.”

Lu Han started singing...something as Jongin's eyes slipped closed again. His voice was wobbly from the fact that they'd just pulled an all-nighter, but Lu Han just kept singing.

“What song was that?” Lu Han asked, prodding Jongin's shoulder.

“I dunno,” Jongin replied groggily.

“You don't know the main song from the Lion King?” Lu Han exclaimed in mock disbelief, knowing full well that Jongin did know the song, but that he'd slept through Lu Han singing it.

“I know the song,” Jongin mumbled, unsure of why he was even arguing.

“No you don't, you just said you didn't,” Lu Han argued back.

And then he proceeded to sing something else, but Jongin missed that too because he couldn't keep his eyes open.

At six o'clock, Jongin surfaced long enough to see Lu Han grabbing his bag and making his way up the basement stairs. Apparently he'd given up on keeping Jongin awake.

Jongin felt a little like he'd let his best friend down, even if it was just a stupid thing like being unable to fight against the need to sleep. But he was dozing off again before he was able to think any more about it.

(And Lu Han never let him forget that he'd failed to recognize The Circle of Life from the Lion King.)

---

“You'll never guess what happened in Bio today,” Lu Han said to Jongin the minute he got to his locker.

“What?”

It was the end of the school day and Lu Han looked like he had a good story. Jongin couldn't help the smile that crept onto his face.

“You know Kim Kibum?” Lu Han asked and Jongin nodded, eager to hear what had happened, “He asked Sehun and I if you were gay!”

Lu Han laughed as Jongin felt his stomach sink down to the floor.

“Was he serious?”

Yes!” Lu Han cackled, clapping his hands like it was the funniest thing he'd ever heard. Jongin would go so far as to say it was the least entertaining story that had ever come from Lu Han's mouth. Or anyone's for that matter.

“Well what did you say?” he demanded, panicked, and Lu Han finally seemed to notice that Jongin wasn't laughing.

“We said no,” Lu Han said, looking at Jongin curiously, “Why?”

“Just...” Jongin frowned, heart hammering uncomfortably.

If people thought he was gay...he'd never get a girlfriend. He'd never have dates to dances. Everyone would talk about it. It would be all over the school in an hour. Oh god. It felt like his worst nightmare was coming true.

“Why would he think that?” Jongin finally asked. Kibum was gay himself. Surely he'd have better gaydar than to think that Jongin was gay, right?

“I dunno,” Lu Han shrugged, still looking puzzled by Jongin's reaction, “He's an idiot. He's always just saying stuff. Don't worry about it.”

“Okay,” Jongin agreed, though he still felt a little ill.

“Hey,” Sehun bounded up to them, “Jongin, what's the matter?”

“He's upset that Kibum thought he was gay,” Lu Han explained, even if he really had no idea.

“Kibum is always gossiping, don't worry,” Sehun snorted, nearly echoing Lu Han's words, “No one really listens to him anyway. It's fine.”

Jongin nodded and followed his friends outside, the two of them laughing about something that had happened during their shared gym class. Jongin tried to laugh along, but he felt like there was a weight pressing down on his shoulders.

---

It turned out that Sehun and Lu Han were right. Jongin never heard another thing about Kibum's preposterous idea that he was gay. Their sophomore year started, and while it was nice not to be clueless freshmen, it didn't feel nearly as exciting. There wasn't the need to attend all the dances or to go to the football games to watch their team suck ass. Things kind of...settled down. Which was both good and bad.

Although, to be fair, Lu Han did get asked to the turnabout dance by some girl in his history class. But that wasn't really a surprise to anyone.

---

“Are you sure we're not going to miss Sehun's event?” Jongin asked, following Lu Han through the halls of the empty school. They were at one of their rival high schools to watch Sehun's swim meet. But true to form, they both got bored when Sehun wasn't competing, so they'd wandered off to explore the school. Because it was massive.

“Yes, I'm sure,” Lu Han assured him, “I asked his mom and she told me we had at least a half hour until his next event.”

Jongin grinned, always happy to go on an adventure with Lu Han. It was kind of like they were little kids at times like these- running around in places they weren't meant to be and getting themselves into trouble.

“Hey look,” Lu Han said, “It's the women's bathroom.”

“And the men's bathroom is right there,” Jongin pointed out.

“No, I mean, haven't you always wanted to go into the girl's bathroom? Just to see what it's like?” Lu Han asked eagerly.

“You're such a pervert,” Jongin laughed at him, punching him lightly on the shoulder.

“No, that's not what I meant,” Lu Han pouted, “I mean, just the bathroom itself. I want to see.”

“But what if someone's in there?” Jongin asked. Sure, it seemed like they were the only ones who weren't staying near the pool, but that didn't mean that some girl hadn't decided to go to a bathroom where she'd get more privacy. It's not like Jongin knew what reasoning girls had when going to the bathroom.

“Here, we'll find out,” Lu Han told him, stepping up to the door and opening it a crack, “Mommy?” he called, voice an octave higher than it normally was.

Jongin was practically on the floor he was laughing so hard.

“What the fuck? That was so weird,” he told Lu Han, doubling over again when Lu Han starting chuckling as well.

“Well, I don't think anyone's in there,” Lu Han announced when they'd both calmed down.

Jongin agreed and they timidly crept in the girl's bathroom.

“...it's just like the men's except there aren't any urinals,” Lu Han observed after a moment.

“Well what did you expect?” Jongin snorted, watching their refection in the mirror.

“This was kind of anti-climatic,” Lu Han admitted as they exited the bathroom.

Fortunately (or unfortunately), their afternoon was injected with excitement when they nearly got themselves locked in a stairwell.

“The door at the top is locked,” Jongin announced, jogging down the steps.

“We should have checked to see if the one at the bottom locked automatically,” Lu Han sighed.

Jongin fought the urge to make a sarcastic comment along the lines of, yeah, you think?

“Do you have your phone?” Lu Han asked, “We can just call Sehun's mom.”

“No, I left it with her,” Jongin admitted, starting to get a little bit concerned about their predicament, “Where's your phone?”

“Out of batteries.”

The two stood there staring at one another for a moment before Jongin looked past Lu Han's shoulder and noticed a door that led outside.

“Do you think it's an emergency exit?” he wondered, “Will an alarm go off if we use it?”

“We don't have much of a choice,” Lu Han shrugged, and Jongin had to agree.

Holding his breath, Jongin pushed the door open, relieved that it wasn't locked. And then even more relieved when an alarm didn't sound.

As soon as they were out in the sun, heading for the main entrance of the school, the hilarity if the situation really set in.

“We would have been trapped there until Monday!” Jongin exclaimed, failing to consider the fact that Sehun would have come looking for them (and been completely unsurprised to find them in such a stupid situation).

“Yeah, the students would find us, half starved to death in the morning,” Lu Han chimed in, setting them off again.

It was with great excitement that they recounted their near-death experience to Sehun on the way home.

---

For Halloween that year, Sehun and Lu Han decided to go as a Stepford couple- Sehun dressed in a suit with a fedora from the 1950's that he'd borrowed from his grandfather and Lu Han in a white blouse and a long skirt that he'd gotten from the thrift store as well as a ruffled apron and a headband, looking as much like a 1950's housewife as a fifteen year old boy could. The red lipstick didn't hurt either.

Jongin went as Michael Jackson.

But in the pictures that Lu Han's mother insisted on taking before they left to go to the Halloween dance, they had Lu Han between them, holding onto the crooks of their elbows as they both leaned in to pretend to kiss him on the cheek.

---

For Jongin's sixteenth birthday, he opted to have a few of his friends spend the night. Nothing big, just pizza and cake before they made themselves comfortable in the basement where they'd be sleeping.

When it got late enough, some of the guys decided that they wanted to put a movie on so they could lay down in their sleeping bags and relax. Jongin and Lu Han were no where near ready for sleep (it was only two in the morning, for heaven's sake), so they huddled up on one end of the couch and whispered as the movie played.

That is until someone shushed them.

So they decided to go hang out in Jongin's laundry room until the movie was over. Laughing about that time that Lu Han had eaten so much candy at Jongin's house before going to sleep that he literally made himself sick was a lot more fun than watching some dumb comedy that they'd both seen multiple times.

Perched on top of the washer and dryer and deep in conversation about something or other, they both jumped when the door flew open to reveal a very angry looking Sehun.

“Why are you guys in here?” he asked, frowning.

“We just didn't really want to watch the movie,” Lu Han explained, shifting nervously since he could tell that Sehun was really mad.

“Jongin, this is your party,” Sehun went on, “And you guys are just sitting in here talking like lovers or something.”

With that he slammed the door and, presumably, stalked off to watch the movie.

Jongin and Lu Han stared at one another in shock. Sehun had the tendency to get jealous when they did something without him, but this was most certainly the first time that he'd accused them of being gay.

Somehow, that was kind of hilarious. They found themselves muffling hysteric laughter into the palms of their hands, eyes meeting and only serving to fuel their amusement.

They felt bad that Sehun was upset, of course. But there was really no talking to him when he was like this, so there was nothing they could do to mollify him now.

Though they did end up feeling guilty enough to emerge after another ten minutes to grudgingly watch the end of the movie.

---

Being an upperclassmen finally was nice. But that didn't mean that Jongin and his friends stopped doing stupid things.

One night after going through a drive-thru for a late snack, Lu Han decided that they should go park at the cemetery in their town to eat. Because where else would one go park to eat?

Sehun wasn't with them that time because if he had been, he would have flat out refused. He was not obsessed with horror movies like Jongin and Lu Han were, not wanting to go along with their weird horror-inspired adventures. “It's because I'm normal,” he'd say, to which Lu Han would respond, “No, you're boring.”

The thing about the cemetery in their town was that it was just that- a cemetery. No church next to it. Nothing. So the parking lot was actually in the middle of the cemetery. Visitors would have to drive down a narrow road with gravestones on either side to a small concrete square big enough for maybe ten cars that was situated right in the center- graves surrounding it on all sides. Needless to say, at night it was spooky even to Lu Han and Jongin.

“I'll bet the ghosts are jealous of my orange juice,” Lu Han mused, eating his chicken nuggets happily.

“You and your orange juice,” Jongin sighed, taking another bite of his burger.

Lu Han had decided to order orange juice instead of a soda and for some reason, he found that really entertaining. He'd been talking about the orange juice all the way to the graveyard.

“Besides,” Jongin went on, “Ghosts wouldn't want orange juice. They don't need to eat. Why would they want your orange juice?”

Lu Han shrugged, grinning, “What if they start attacking the car because they want it?”

Jongin rolled his eyes, but couldn't contain his answering grin, “That's really stupid.”

The sound of Lu Han's phone going off in the cup holder startled them both a little more than they'd like to admit.

“It says unidentified number,” Lu Han said, eyes wide like maybe it was one of the ghosts calling.

“Answer it,” Jongin laughed, sipping his soda and watching with interest as Lu Han pressed the talk button and said hello.

“Hello?” Lu Han said for a second time, frowning, “Hello?”

He hung up the phone.

“No one was there,” he announced.

Jongin and Lu Han locked gazes having a silent conversation, neither able to decide whether it was funny or terrifying.

“Maybe we should go,” Jongin finally said and Lu Han readily agreed.

Once they'd put a couple of miles between themselves and the cemetery, the consensus was definitely that it was hilarious and one of the best things that had ever happened to them.

---

“I don't know if I should date her,” Lu Han lamented to Sehun and Jongin over a cheap dinner of noodles at the restaurant they'd been coming to since Lu Han had gotten his driver's license- the first of the three to be able to drive.

“What troubles you have,” Jongin exclaimed sarcastically, “Girls like you all the time and the girl that you're always with who's pretty and nice wants you to ask her out. Your life is so hard!”

“Shut up,” Lu Han told him even as the corners of his lips twitched into almost a smile, “It really is a problem. I don't know if I like her.”

“You never like anyone,” Sehun pointed out, slurping his noodles noisily.

“That's not true!” Lu Han argued, “I liked Joohee freshmen year. I liked that girl bass player in that band-”

“You didn't even know her,” Sehun interrupted, “You were just a fanboy. Doesn't count.”

“Whatever,” Lu Han sighed, “The point is, I think I only like her as a friend, but I do really like her! So maybe if we dated, I'd start to feel that way?”

Jongin kind of wanted to tell Lu Han that calling her his girlfriend wouldn't magically make him like her (not that he had a lot of...or really any dating experience), but he felt weird trying to keep his friend from dating. Like it'd seem like he had ulterior motives or something.

So he kept quiet and just told Lu Han that he was happy for him when the other boy finally decided to just ask her out.

---

Despite Lu Han's time suddenly being monopolized by 'the girlfriend,' as Sehun had begun to refer to her as, Lu Han and Jongin still made plans to go see the new horror film that had just come out. The problem was, it was R and they were still sixteen. Or that would have been a problem if they hadn't already managed to see multiple R rated films in theaters by just buying a ticket to another movie and then going into a different theater.

They'd never had any problem before, but the system had to break down at some point.

“I don't see it,” Jongin announced after staring at the electronic boards that indicated which movies were playing in each hallway of the theater. They'd already purchased their tickets to some animated kid's movie, but the movie they intended upon seeing wasn't listed.

“It has to be here,” Lu Han reiterated for probably the fifth time.

“Are you sure it was at seven?”

“Yeah, I looked online,” Lu Han assured him, eyes still reading the boards as if the movie might just appear all of the sudden.

“Let's ask the ticket taker which theater it's in,” Jongin suggested.

“But then they'll know that we bought tickets to another movie!”

“No, look! It's a different guy.”

“Alright fine.”

So they asked about the movie, only to completely stump the ticket taker as he looked at the movie show times on a clipboard. At which point he brought his manager over, who kept asking to see their tickets.

“We threw them away in the bathroom,” Jongin lied, wishing that they'd just stayed home. This was not working.

“Let's go to the ticket counter and switch your tickets to a different movie,” the manager told them, “I just don't understand how you could have gotten tickets for a movie that isn't even playing...”

“No really, it's fine,” Lu Han interjected, an edge of panic in his voice. Because the woman who had sold them their tickets would surely remember that she hadn't sold them tickets to a horror movie that wasn't even playing.

“It won't take long,” the manager said, “Let's go switch the tickets.”

“No it's fine!” Jongin spoke up this time, sure that the manager must have known exactly what they'd done, “We'll just go.”

“Are you sure-?”

“Yes!” Lu Han nearly squeaked, pushing Jongin ahead of him as they exited the theater.

“Okay, what did you even look at online?” Jongin asked, since it clearly hadn't been movie times for that evening.

“I don't know...oh my god I thought we were going to be arrested!” Lu Han exclaimed, grabbing onto Jongin's arm as they made their way to the car.

“Yeah, let's make sure we have the right time before doing that again,” Jongin agreed, unable to deny the fact that his heart was racing from their 'close call.'

Since they couldn't see the movie, Lu Han suggested that they go to an electronics store that wasn't far away and just look around. But by that, he apparently meant go to the electronics store to look at their selection of porn that was right in the middle of the DVD section with nothing but black pieces of cardboard to shield the covers from the eyes of minors.

“Lu Han seriously, are you sure no one is going to come by to make sure we're eighteen?” Jongin hissed, standing nervously behind Lu Han as the latter casually browsed the porn movies.

“Only if we try to buy one,” Lu Han told him, “Come on, at least look. You're acting like Sehun.”

“I am not,” Jongin frowned, not wanting to be compared to his friend who claimed that he was going to wait until marriage (Jongin doubted it, but gave up on arguing with him) and who cringed at any overly explicit jokes that Lu Han would make.

So he leaned forward to look over Lu Han's shoulder, watching pictures of girls with terrifyingly gigantic boobs go by as Lu Han flipped through the DVD cases.

He kind of wanted to ask Lu Han if he'd seen any of these movies online or something, but decided against it.

---

Two weeks later, Lu Han broke up with his girlfriend.

---

Lu Han had a karaoke machine in his basement that the three of them- Lu Han, Sehun, and Jongin- used to play around with a lot freshman year. As they'd they'd gotten older, the machine had lost its novelty, but it still sat in the corner by the TV, along with the microphone stand that went with it.

Lu Han was fiddling with it as he summarized the movie he'd watched the previous weekend- stepping on the base and trying to spin with it.

As he hooked a leg around it, Jongin snorted. “It looks kind of like you're trying to dance on a stripper pole.”

Smirking, Lu Han secured his ankle around the base and did a body roll against it.

Jongin laughed and Lu Han, pleased with the positive response, decided to try out some more moves. Gripping the top, he dropped down in a squat- legs spread like Jongin had seen in movies- before he straightened his legs and lifted his upper body really slowly with his ass pushed out.

“What are you even doing?” Jongin asked, somewhat surprised by the display despite having learned not to be surprised by anything Lu Han did ever.

“Doing a pole dance for you,” Lu Han answered confidently, coiling a leg around the metal and dipping his head back.

Jongin just watched, laughing disbelievingly every now and then as Lu Han continued to perform, ending up rolling around on the floor with the microphone stand which, Jongin informed him, wasn't something most strippers did given that their poles were actually secured to the floor.

When Lu Han did things like this, it was always with a mixture of his usual erratic playfulness and a strange focus that always had Jongin wondering just what Lu Han was thinking.





Part 2

kai
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