title: if you wait ; written for lilli
parings: jongin/sehun, irene/sehun
word count: 3k words
author's notes: originally posted at sekaisquad for the secret santa event - i wish i could have made this much better! somehow, i am never truly satisfied with anything i write. nonetheless, i hope you enjoy.
The undeniable truth was that Jongin was in love with his best friend. It was not the most ideal of situations after all, Jongin never wanted to jeopardize their friendship because he harbored feelings towards the other. Just as the years, the months, and the hours went by it became increasingly difficult to hide the fluttering his heart did when the other was near or the blatant look of fondness that crossed his face when Sehun would simply smile.
Jongin knew he would never press his feelings on the other but, if they somehow became known it could guilt the other. That was just as inexcusable for the young pet groomer. Especially, when their livelihood is so tied together. Straight out of university the other combined their meager savings (backed by their generous parents) to open a small pet clinic in a decent neighborhood. Naturally, it doubled as a rescue center as well given that Jongin could not bear to walk past a stray animal - always resulting in him getting nagged by Sehun because they barely made a profit as it was.
But, it was their dream. The money was needed to cushion their lifestyles and the company’s bills however it was the love of it that drove them. Not the money. If that were the case they both would have stayed away from veterinary school.
The shop was a small modest thing. The first floor was packed by cages, supplies, and observing customers who came for check ups or grooming. Up stairs were the isolated animals who were sick or aggressive, mainly Sehun stayed there wanting to make as many animals prepared for adoption as possible.
Today Jongin comes in the shop a bit late, hair a mess, and three coffees in his hand in one of those ugly cardboard carriers. He knows Sehun is not feeling the best because an aggressive dog had to be put down the day before. They both had did the best they could but in the end some animals after such mistreatment will never be able to be put safely in a home. It used to get Jongin riled up but now it’s a part of the job. Sad but necessary. Sehun, on the other hand, often let it get to him. It was an injustice though. If half the animals they got were given a good home with responsible owners they often would not end up at their clinic.
The sugary sweet frappuccino is just what Sehun needs to cheer up, Jongin thinks. His clothes are atrocious today - faded denim jeans and an ugly pink t-shirt gifted by Junmyeon hyung when he came back from Japan. Kyungsoo, their only other employee, is steadily working with a few customers explaining the different treatments provided. That means Sehun probably is tucked away in the small locker room for employees.
He stops first to give Kyungsoo his coffee who dutifully thanks him and continues assisting a customer. A young woman seeking a friendly, energetic companion. Jongin slides in the back to put away his jacket finding Sehun scrolling through his phone mindlessly eating at a muffin.
Jongin almost forgets to breath. He looks up with his blonde hair pushed back off his elegant forehead and gives Jongin a sleepy but thoughtful smile. It’s enough to make the pressure in Jongin’s chest increase tenfold.
The pink couplets quirk upwards when Sehun's eyes zero in on the coffee in Jongin's hands. If anything, Jongin is consistent and predictable. It's a habit of his to always bring doubles of things whether it be lunch, a drink, or maybe even a snack. Sehun was always prone to stress and it often made him forget meals. Jongin was always there to ensure Sehun had a good meal in him and that he was alright. Jongin can only think about the many years before when their friendship was not tainted by his feelings. Truthfully, he never wants to see the familiarity of their friendship turn into something strained or awkward by a confession. Sehun and his friendship is pure and he wants to make it remain that way.
Sehun happily takes the drink and thanks Jongin with another grin. Jongin's heart does an odd offbeat pitter-patter as he sucks in a breath and slumps against one of the steel grey lockers. "When did you come in?" Jongin asks with a small tilt of his head, "You look exhausted. I thought I told you to take it easy?"
Sehun bristles. "I own half of this company too." Sehun says. "So, I can rightfully come in any time I want to." His tone lightens considerably though. "But I came in this early morning. The sick kitten that was found wasn't doing too well yesterday night so I wanted to see if her fever had went down. She's a sweet little sick thing."
Jongin nods. He understands. If he was not sympathetic or zealous advocate for animals he wouldn't have this job. The pay was not too great and they replied mainly on sponsorships and donations to stay open. It was not the most sound investment of both of their lives but it made them happy. Jongin could say confidently neither of them did it for the money.
He remembers back to the day they told their parents. He remembers the expression of his mother's disappointment and his sister's keen awareness of his feelings for Sehun. Mrs. Oh had been rigid and Mr. Oh more vocal about his disapproval. They had not spent years in university to be reduced to a small animal clinic. In fact, Jongin found it surprising that Sehun never informed his parents of his major switch their sophomore year to veterinary sciences.
He can remember the shrill disapproval of his mother telling him his father had not passed away to leave behind a son who would not amount to anything. It had been quite harsh and blunt- both of them suffering the anger of their parents who rightfully wanted what was best for their sons not realizing them chasing their dreams was exactly that.
Sehun had been by his side. Ever since the beginning. Even before the encounter with their parents. High School Jongin had been Sehun's shadow. Jongin had always been terribly shy and introverted. He was raised with three older sisters and because of that he liked to think he was a bit sensitive. Naturally, it made him a target for bullying. His sisters did no help by dragging their little brother about the playgrounds and cooing about how precious their little Nini was. Sehun had been a transfer. Most people took an automatic liking to him. Surprisingly enough Sehun had came up directly to Jongin, introduced himself and proclaimed him his new best friend.
It was many years of secrets, makeshift treehouses, stealing peeks at Christmas presents, and building pillow forts together after that. Their friendship survived even up in highschool when Jongin joined the soccer team and Sehun joined the dance team. Their friendship never wavered once. Sehun was always there to tell someone off for picking on Jongin and Jongin was always there to help Sehun with his algebra homework when Mrs. Choi was no help at all.
So, why Jongin does not think their friendship can endure Jongin's confession he is not quite sure. Maybe he is just too scared to be honest with himself. He has absolutely everything to lose. For all he knows, Sehun would be disgusted by him. It's one thing to be tolerant and a total another thing to know your best friend has had feelings for you for a long time without saying anything.
Jongin would feel dishonest if he confesses now.
"You should rest back here and I'll help Kyungsoo hyung out." Jongin suggests. "Nap and rest up while you can. By noon is when all the customers come so you should have a little time to catch a nap."
The glint in Sehun's eyes in all he needs to know. Sehun is not going to sleep away the morning. He takes one long gulp from his drink and stands at his impressive height. "I cannot laze on the clock Jongin. What type of example would I be for Kyungsoo?" Sehun chides playfully and presses a hand to Jongin's shoulder. "Anyway, you're too soft on me you know. Don't let me get away with everything now."
Sehun walks past him and back out into the shop. Jongin stands - pulse in his ears and heart hammering inconsistently. Yes, now would not be the right time to say something. There never would be a right time.
Life with Sehun is eventful. Sehun is just as thoughtful and observant as Jongin is at times. He makes sure his friend knows to join him for lunch and often invites him out for drinks with a few others from university Jongin only knows by names. Sehun had always been more sociable than he had been. His friends include Chanyeol, Baekhyun, and Jongdae all their seniors from university. They're a fun bunch and Jongin doesn't hate his time with them- he just finds his eyes falling back to Sehun's intoxicated flushed cheeks and laughter.
It's hard to not stare at times. He knows that sometimes when he is caught staring Baekhyun only smirks at him and Jongdae looks amused. Chanyeol is a nice guy but he is not the sharpest pencil in the pencil box. But, nonetheless, it's nice to see Sehun happy and stressless outside of their work.
He was always told nice things only last so long. Jongin had not taken it to heart.
It all comes crashing down with a few words. Jongin does not think much when Sehun is cleaning up early on his shift at the clinic. Jongin is preoccupied with a few puppies that are ready for adoption. They're a rowdy bunch. Naturally, his attention is drawn trying to break the bigger pups from targeting the runt's treats.
It's the sound of heels on tiles that catches his attention and he looks up. Sehun is there dressed in his usual black uniform and an odd look on his face. At his side is a girl he's never seen before. She is pretty, he supposes - but she is certainly no Oh Sehun.
"Nini," Sehun is the only one who can get away with calling Jongin that anymore, "This is Joohyun. This is my girlfriend."
Jongin freezes. Everything goes rigid and stops. He had not heard correctly, had he? He stiffens and straightens as if he was the one being scrutinized. His mouth parts as if he is going to say something but no sound comes out.
When had Sehun found the time to get a girlfriend when they spent nearly every moment together?
"Sehun has told me a lot about you, Jongin. I hope you'll take care of me." She says and her voice is melodic. Jongin frowns. It lacks the timber and bass to Sehun's. It sounds unpleasant and like something scratching unpleasantly at the walls of his eardrums.
"This is the first I've heard of you." Jongin deadpans. He does not mean to be rude. It just comes out. It's defensive. It's heartache. And ultimately, it's fear.
"I was going to tell you but there never the right moment to say anything. I wanted you to meet her before I introduce her to the guys tonight." Sehun says.
Jongin blinks. He was inviting her to guy's night out? There was an unspoken agreement that no girlfriends would be allowed. Not like Chanyeol ever had a girlfriend. Not like Baekhyun would ever risk Taeyeon in front of them with how much blackmail they had on him. It had never been a problem before. The surprise must be written clearly on his face because Sehun is saying, "Baekhyun is bringing Taeyeon and Chanyeol is dragging along Seulgi. I thought I would ask Soojung to accompany you since you two get along?"
Jongin wants to say no. He wants to shake Sehun and tell him why this would never work. He wants to demand what Joohyun has that he does not.
Instead he merely smiles tightly and agrees.
Soojung pities him. She is his bring along to every group date with his friends. Dinner, movies, drinks- whatever they do Joohyun is always there now. He tries to not be resentful of how close she is to Sehun or how they compliment each other. Soojung reads him easily and calls him out on his shit,
"Confess to him you buffoon." She says.
Jongin always shakes it off. It's not an option for him to ruin his friend’s happiness for his own selfishness. But in the back of his mind he thinks he deserves to be with Sehun and not some girl who appears out of thin air. Jongin was the one who Sehun cried on. Jongin was the one who comforted him, gave him advice, lended him money when he couldn’t afford lunch, struggled with him to keep their clinic upright, and ultimately had decided his early adulthood to making sure Sehun was happy.
And by the works of karma, some other person got access to the only place Jongin ever really wanted to be: Sehun’s heart.
Watching Sehun date her is absolutely miserable. He avoids the happy couple when Joohyun enters the clinic bring Sehun boxed lunches. It makes Jongin scoff, avoiding Kyungsoo’s knowing gaze because now Sehun had no reason to go to their favorite kiosk later for instant noodles or crab cakes.
They're, unfortunately, growing apart. Whether Sehun knows of his feelings or not - their friendship is tumbling downwards. Jongin feels so frustrated because he cannot do anything about it. He knows he could never explain without feeling guilt for spilling open his feelings at the expense of Sehun's happiness.
But, it's not Sehun who approaches him but Joohyun.
“He's miserable, you know.” Her words are careful and blunt, framed with cotton candy pink lips. Jongin absentmindedly wonders if they've kissed.
“I don't know what you're talking about,” Jongin dismissed and gestures to the work in front of him “you can see I'm quite busy.” There is days old paperwork that must be done on a batch of newly born kittens. He has to complete the paperwork so they can get their shots and they can update the website with their photos. Everyone always likes the baby animals around this time.
“He won’t even break up with me,” She says simply. “And he does not even realize he is in love with you. It’s frustrating.”
Jongin’s head snaps up. He doesn’t not care if she suspects his feelings but he certainly won’t have her giving up his hopes. “Funny.” He says his tone considerably less friendlier than before.
“All I am saying is don’t lose him before it’s too late. He has some sort of honor associated with not upsetting me by breaking up with me but when you're in the room he won’t even look at me.” It’s all she says before she is strutting off in her flowery skirt and loose curls swaying.
All Jongin can hear and feel is the pulse in his forehead going rampant.
He tries to forget it. He tells himself there is nothing good that will come from it. But, in the end Joohyun has ignited the most dangerous of feelings in his chest - hope. He tells himself the off chance she is right and is being honest is very low but even so he wants to make sure. He never wants there to be a moment in the future where there is a what if.
Jongin corners Sehun at the end of the day. They’re both working after hours and wired on coffee. Sehun looks like he could fall asleep on his feet and Kyungsoo has already left already. Sehun pauses from counting inventory when he sees Jongin approaching.
“Sehun, Joohyun told me you liked me. Is that true?” It comes out blunt and forward.
Sehun looks startled and his face inflames. It’s a look so innocent and so honest it tells Jongin everything he needs to know. He knows what Sehun looks like when he is hurt, when he is upset, when he is embarrassed, when he is mad - he has each ingrained in his memory. He knows what Sehun looks like when he has been caught red handedly.
Jongin closes the space between them in a few long strides. His hands move out to cup Sehun’s face peering into his eyes for confirmation. In those gente brown eyes is vulnerability and everything Jongin has not seen for months. His lips press against Sehun in the next second.
It’s sweet, it’s honest, and it makes Jongin’s heart ache for all the lost time between them.
Sehun melts. His knees buckle and he stumbles forward against Jongin a small distressed sound escaping his lips. But, Jongin has made his mind up. He will not let Sehun go now that he has him in his arms. Not too Joohyun. Not to anyone.
“Why didn’t you say anything?” Jongin asks lightly, lips ghosting the blooming blush crossing Sehun’s reddening face.
Sehun won’t look him in the eyes - it’s really cute. “The same reason you didn’t.” Sehun replies softly, eyes hesitantly flickering up towards Jongin’s.
They’ll figure out Joohyun tomorrow. It’s late. They’re tired, hungry, and overworked. Now that the fear of losing Sehun is gone Jongin feels brave and bold. His hand moves to entertain his fingers with Sehun’s and he smiles gently. So long as Sehun returned his feelings, Jongin would make sure Sehun never had to experience any turbulent feelings alone.
“Let’s go get some ddeokbokki.” Jongin smiles and the look Sehun gives him must be akin to love because he nods too much quickly. “Before I decide to stay here all night and never stop kissing you.”
He gets a hit on the arm but it’s weak and no real protest. Just, somehow he has a feeling Sehun would not be in objection to that offer either.