carrisauce (pleaseuu) wrote in chanteol,
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99 problems (and you're 69 of them)

title: 99 problems (and you're 69 of them)
rating: pg-13
pairing: kim jongdae & huang zitao
length: ~5700w
disclaimer: i do not own anything but the plot.
summary: zitao learns that luhan and sehun are the Worst Friends Ever, pick up lines don't really work, and jongdae is horribly dense. but it's okay -- zitao is horribly dense, too.
a/n: reposted from sncj_santa!!! written for razi_a. taochen was fun to write ;u; thank you to everyone who has held my hand through this! i love you all <3





Huang Zitao has many problems.

He's barely managing in his studies, he's already failing his Korean class, he's a pretty efficient procrastinator and has a tendency to fall asleep while skimming through his Economics notes. He's afraid of snakes, he can't cook for his life, he still thinks that there's a monster under his bed, and he has to tiptoe around his room so as to not step on anything. He's also obsessed with Candy Crush, he can't seem to get out of bed before twelve in the afternoon, has a five minute patience for everything and anything, and he never remembers to separate the whites and the colours during wash. He--

Well, you get the memo. In any case, Zitao has many problems. But his biggest one of all, is Kim Jongdae.







--







Zitao and Jongdae meet in their first year in high school. Well, technically it's Zitao who sees Jongdae after dozing off during the Principal's speech on the first day. He's jolted awake by the sounds of wild clapping and sharp wolf whistles, and he tries to discreetly let out a yawn while the principal calls out for the next person to speak.

"Please put your hands up and ears open for our school's top entry scorer, Kim Jongdae!"

The moment Zitao lifts his sleepy lids to look at Jongdae is his fatal mistake. His eyes are greeted by chiseled jaws and beautiful eyes. Jongdae looks really, really good in his neatly pressed uniform, all buttoned up together with the blue blazer, school crest proudly emblazoned. As far as Zitao can tell while sitting down, Jongdae isn't exactly tall, because most of his body is covered by the school podium, but where is height his lacking, his voice definitely isn’t.

It really isn't fair that Jongdae is blessed with good looks and a nice voice, really. As if Jongdae doesn't look good enough -- when he opens his mouth to give the first years a ten minute long speech, Zitao thinks his ears have opened up to the sound of birds singing. Jongdae's voice is like rich dark chocolate that slithers down your throat, all so pleasingly and smooth. While the rest of the student population is busy trying to keep awake, Zitao's eyes are stuck onto Jongdae for the whole duration he's on stage. Zitao takes in every word he says, but the content all forgotten. It doesn't really matter though, Jongdae's probably saying some cliché shit like "let's keep the school spirit high" and who cares when you can listen and inhale the silky baritone of his voice?

It's Zitao who jumps up and claps until his hands are red when Jongdae ends the speech. Sehun, one of his good friends from middle school, slowly backs away and sinks further down into his seat because of the embarrassment next to him. "Can you quiet down a little bit?" he hisses, but Zitao can't be bothered because he's busy eyeing Jongdae down the stage and behind the door.

"Sehun. Remember when you told me about that experiment where it's proven that love at first sight can happen within 0.2 seconds?" Sehun side eyes him, but nods.

Zitao's eyes are, to say the least, bright and sparkling with newfound motivation (or maybe love). "Well," he breathes, "I think I've found it."







--







Nothing really changes between the both of them as time passes. Jongdae, as expected, is popular amongst the student population and the teachers. He tops the level for two years in a row, and is part of the school choir. Sometimes, he takes part in singing competitions. Most of the times, he wins them. He's also a helpful little fellow who volunteers at the orphanages and old folks' homes. Jongdae is practically that guy in the manga that is adored by everyone and their cats. He even has a fansite whose motto is "Jongdae, Jongnite". It's read religiously by 1000 fans every day, with posts mostly containing fan accounts and HQ photos of the said guy.

Zitao's pretty far apart. His grades are barely staying afloat, but he insists that "I'm still alive but I'm barely breathing". He's a wallflower that stays in the crowd, blending in with the masses and preferring not to attract attention to himself. As fate would have it, Zitao's never had the opportunity of being in the same class as Jongdae, which sucks to the core because the only thing that stays is his affection for Jongdae.

Zitao is still starstruck by Jongdae, even after two whole years. He admires him from afar, falling deeper and deeper into the trap Jongdae has (unknowingly) set for him. But he has never revealed that to anyone but his close friends. "Look Zitao, this little crush has been going on for far too long, it's either you ask him out or you crush this crush out of your sight," Luhan says as he sloppily slurps on the cafeteria spaghetti, frowning only when a blot of ketchup gets on his uniform.

"But I don't think he'll like me! His fansite says that he likes girls who are gentle and affectionate! Am I a girl? No!" Zitao whines noisily, stabbing the poor meatball on his plate with his fork.

"Well, you are passionate," Sehun supplies helpfully, "And for a record, he has never dated anyone before. He's rejected every single one who's confessed to him."

"Doesn't this make things worse," Zitao snarls in response. "If I do confess to him, there's a 99% chance he's going to reject me flat."

"Where does the 1% go to?"

"The rubbish dump of my dreams."

Luhan rolls his eyes. "Maybe you could start off with being friends with him, then you could make a better analysis on whether to be friendzoned or not. Jongdae is a nice guy, I'm sure he's willing to be friends with you."

"Friends my ass," Zitao mutters, staring dejectedly at the now mutilated meatball. "We're worlds apart, who would want to be friends with an average Joe like me?"

"Are you insulting my taste in friendships. Excuse you, Huang Zitao, I'm not the one who isn't getting any."

Before Zitao can retort, the cafeteria doors open. The sounds of his fangirls are heard before he sees Jongdae flesh. Jongdae looks as good as he had two years ago, but now accompanied by his entourage. They are known as the Six Princes of the Council. Jongdae is no president, but he's still highly ranked.

SPC walks past Zitao, Luhan and Sehun's table in order to grab food. Zitao looks down at his food and pretends to eat, face flushing red and body heating up. Even when they're gone, Zitao is still heaving.

Luhan whistles. "Well, aren't you whipped."

Zitao throws the meatball at his good friend and ignores the shrill screams coming from the diva.







--







"I can't do this anymore, what can I do to make Jongdae like me??" Zitao flops wildly in his velvet chair. The librarian stares holes into his back but the distressed teen takes no notice.

"Why would Jongdae even look at me when he can look at himself??" Luhan, the ever resourceful best friend, looks up from his game of Minion Rush and decides to take pity on him.

"There, there Zitao, you can always look up at the super duper effective pick up lines. They always work!" Luhan loads a page and then promptly shoves his screen right up Zitao's nose. Zitao takes a look at the first line and only frowns.

"My love for you is like diarrhea, I can't hold it in."

Luhan only grins even wider. "Well you better hold that diarrhea in because you're about to vomit out some really cheesy pick up lines!" Luhan has an Evil Glint in his eyes. Zitao only feels terrified and violated.







--







"Luhan, are you sure this is how I should start my friendship with Jongdae?"

The school's janitor closet is dark. Zitao can't see Luhan's expression, but if the sudden glint of his teeth might indicate, Luhan is really just assuring him that this is all fine and dandy. "Just hit him with your best shot! Like literally okay, or he won't notice you."

Zitao's just a second away from backing out. This is a horrible plan. Granted, it's probably not as bad as the time Luhan had convinced him to watch Jongdae's unlisted YouTube singing practice videos while studying in the library (he screeched and hyperventilated so loudly that they were banned from the library for a month), but it's still a really horrible one. There's a fairly high chance of it failing to work and then he'll probably be kicked out of school for inappropriate behaviour and never even get to see Jongdae again. Why did he even follow Luhan's orders, where is Oh Sehun when you need him, why didn't he talk sense into him--

"Okay I see SPC walking over now gooo!" Before he knows it Luhan has both his hands on Zitao's back, firmly pushing him out of the closet. For a moment, Sehun is blinded by the sudden burst of light. He can't see, but he manages to grab onto something steady so that he doesn't fall on the ground and embarrass himself in front of Jongdae.

When the white he sees slowly fades away from his sight, Sehun finds himself looking into the face of a surprised (concerned if he's pushing it) male that he is very, very familiar with.

Zitao's grip tighten around Jongdae's arms (they are muscular, wow the rumours are true he does work out) because what the hell. This is not real, he must be dreaming, how could he be wrapped around in Kim fucking Jongdae's arms???

"Um. You stumbled out from the closet, are you okay...?" Oh god, that voice in such close proximity-- Wait.

Zitao lets out a yelp and jumps away. Jongdae (Jongdae!!!) is looking at him concretely. So is the rest of the SPC. No, he can’t make a fool of himself right there and then. He needs to act his best in front of his crush!!!

His mind runs through a blank script, hopelessly coming up with nothing solid. All he remembers are what Luhan has told him prior to this, and that it would certainly leave an impression on Jongdae.

“Yeah I am,” he says coolly (he hopes???), eyes focused on Jongdae, "But do you have a BandAid? I might have scraped my knees falling for you."

Someone around him coughs and Zitao suspects the other maniacal laughter from behind to be from Luhan. But there's no time for him to be embarrassed, because Jongdae blinks innocently and tilts his head (why is no one here to take a photo of this glorious moment!!!) before replying, "I don't have one on me right now, but you can check out the nurse's room? Do you need to me accompany you?"

"FUCK YES" is what Luhan shouts and "IT'S OKAY" is Zitao's response, following his wild hand gestures. Jongdae and the rest of the SPC are decidedly amused by their reactions. "Well, if that's the case... I'll see you again some other time." He waves at Zitao politely before shuffling off with his pack of friends. They seemed to have gotten into a conversation, none which Zitao can overhear.

Luhan clamps his hands on Zitao's shoulders, hitting the breath out of him. "You're so dumb! You should have said yes when he asked whether to accompany you to the nurse's room! Such a fantastic opportunity wasted!"

"It was so hard saying anything in front of him," Zitao mumbles. He can still feel the ghost of Jongdae's hands wrapped around his own. He shivers involuntarily; it still feels so surreal. "I'm so dead. I'm so dead. I shouldn't have said that. He's never going to talk to me again."

Luhan pats his back, which offers little comfort to Zitao. "There, there. One day, you will thank me for this. I promise."

"I won't," he snarls back, hanging his head down low. He's so dead. And maybe whipped.







--







Sehun kindly tells Zitao to stop whining (read: slamming the math textbook onto the back of his head) while they're revising for an important test the next day. Zitao is determined to whine even more, but the harsh glares and constant shushing by the school librarian prior makes him think twice.

It's been a week since the incident with Jongdae, and Zitao isn't too sure how their friendship is supposed to unfold after he embarrassed himself in front of everyone that mattered. Sure, he's seen Jongdae a couple of times, but it's all just brief glances and hurried movements to get away as quickly as possible. Zitao has already mentally decided that he should never have another run-in with Jongdae anymore, in case he ruins whatever is left of his reputation.

"This is the sad life I'm destined to," he sighs sadly, finally opening his practice book to study. "Yeah, unrequited love is such a pain in the ass," Sehun replies unsympathetically.

They study until mid-afternoon and pack up to leave. But it's only when they walk out of the school gates that Zitao pats his pants pocket and realises that his phone is missing.

"That's strange," he mutters as he starts to pat every pocket on himself, "I was using it while we were studying."

"Maybe it's still in the library, you better go check it out."

"Yeah I will. Go on without me, I'll search for it by myself." They wave each other goodbye and head their separate ways. Zitao grumbles as he trudges his way back to the library, thinking about all the time he lost. He shouldn't have forgotten his phone, he really shouldn't have.

There's nothing at the table Sehun and Zitao studied at, he frowns. Nothing on the chairs, nothing under the table. Did someone take it away?

He drums his fingers quietly on the table, trying hard to recall where he could have left it. He spent most of the time in the library studying, so where could it possibly have gone to--

"Hello?" At the sudden sound of the voice coming from behind him, Zitao nearly screamed from shock if not for the fact that he belatedly remembered that he was in the school library. "Are you looking for something?"

Zitao bites his lips down to stop himself from stuttering. Jongdae looks up at him, patiently waiting for his answer, arms wrapped around a couple of books. He must have been studying in the library too. "I, uh, lost my phone in the library?"

"And you can't find it anywhere?" Jongdae spins around slowly in a circular motion, eyes furrowed. Zitao would melt there and then if he could. Oh god, why must he be so cute and within a one meter radius, this is so so dangerous. "Well that's weird. Have you tried calling it?"

Uh. "I... don't have a phone to call."

"...Right." Jongdae balances his books precariously on one arm and pulls out his own phone from his pocket. "Use mine then, I don't mind."

Zitao stares at the phone hesitantly. Jongdae cocks his head to the side, eyes urging Zitao to take it. "I really don't mind."

"If you say so, then." Zitao reaches out for it, brushing Jongdae's hand in the process. Oh shit, he can feel himself blushing. This isn't good at all. He hurriedly keys in his number and dials for it, pretending to not noticed Jongdae looking at him all this while.

It's a good thing the library is quiet, because his ringtone is heard straight away (thank god he changed it from an audio clip ofJongdae singing, thank god). But it's also a bad thing that the library is quiet, because his ringtone is heard straight away.

"NO USING OF HANDPHONES IN THE LIBRARY," the school librarian barks out. Zitao squeaks a "sorry!" and rushes off to find the source of the noise. It doesn't take him very long -- turns out that he had left it on one of the shelves while sifting through books to study.

That's one problem solved. When Zitao turns to Jongdae to thank him for his help it's Jongdae who smiles so wide, his eyes crinkle to make his smile wrinkles even more pronounced. There's something about Jongdae being happy that makes Zitao giddy just looking at him. It's like the whole world gravitates towards him when he lights up, like moths to a light source. Zitao, unfortunately, is just one of the measly moths that swarm around him. It knocks him off balance.

"I'm glad you found your phone," Jongdae says, "I have to go now, so bye!"

Zitao only manages to wave back when Jongdae is out of sight. Belatedly, he realises that he'll probably never have a chance to talk to him one-on-one ever again. He really should have acted better. And he never got to properly introduce himself--
His phone beeps and lights up. It's a text message from Jongdae's number.

Wait. Kim Jongdae's phone number.

Zitao fumbles trying to unlock his phone, continuously keying in the wrong password combination in his hasty attempt to check out the text message. When he finally gets his password right, the message reads:

You have a test tomorrow right? Huang Zitao, fighting! ^^

Zitao fails in his attempt to control his facial muscles from breaking out into a wide smile.

Guess losing his phone was a blessing in disguise, after all.







--







"So you never replied? Taozi, you're a loser."

The said man hugs Luhan's pillow fiercely. "What do I say! If I replied it would have turned out awkward no matter what!"

"it's better than not replying at all," Luhan snarls, throwing a stuffed toy right smack in Zitao's face. "Dude. He texted you first. Take the chance! And kiss him!"

Immediately after what happened, Zitao had contacted Luhan, who had declared an emergency meeting straight after hearing what had happened and demanded Zitao to come straight to his own house. Zitao had, of course, dutifully relayed everything to Luhan, even going as far as showing Luhan the text message. In all honesty, Zitao thinks that Jongdae only sent the message out of mere courtesy (he himself would have done that too. Probably), but Luhan was up to more ideas.

"He wouldn't text you first if he didn't like you, even to a certain extent," Luhan argues, "There had to be an ulterior motive, there just had to be."

"Now you're just assuming. You know that Jongdae's nice and that's why he's so well-liked by the school population."

"Well-liked by you as well." Luhan is a sarcastic piece of shit. "So you aren't going to text him back?"

"I'll... see how it is."

"AKA no." Luhan flips his bangs to the side in slight annoyance. "Huang Zitao, you're going to regret this someday, just trust me on this."

"I said I'll see how it is!" Zitao does his best to glare at his best friend with pins and needles, but Luhan doesn't even seems slightly convinced. Then again, Zitao can't say that he's convinced himself either.

Why is Kim Jongdae such a problem. Why.







--







"Only a few more seconds before the clock counts down to zero-- number 1 throws the ball to number 68 -- it's a two-on-one fight for the last basket, this is going to be tough. Wait, number 68 gets past his two opposing defenders and shoots! The buzzer has gone off! SM High wins this match!”

The crowd roars, applause and cheers converging to become a messy mix of noise. The school team runs to their star shooter and starts to congratulate him loudly on the winning basket. "Stop patting me on the back, it hurts," Zitao complains above their noise level, but the wide grin on his face is still intact, showing no chance of vanishing anytime soon. And for a good reason as well -- they were headed to the finals, with this win. It was something worth being happy about.

Arms slung around Kris' shoulders, Zitao energetically engages in conversations as they all packed up and slowly walked out of the gymnasium. The crowd, by then, had started to thin, leaving only a couple of spectators left in the stands.

One of his teammates, Chanyeol, was telling him about a particularly embarrassing incident that happened before the match. "So I didn't notice the bucket in front of me, right? And then..." His eyes drifted off to somewhere behind Zitao. "Hey, I think the Vice-President is looking for you."

What Vice-President, Zitao wants to asks, but when he turns around he gets his answer. Jongdae perks up when Zitao looks at him, and waves at him, almost seemingly nervously. But nah.

Kris pushes Zitao forward, towards Jongdae. "Don't let him wait," he says. There are hoots and wolf whistles and Zitao can't help but flush and roll his eyes and go oh god they're so embarrassing they aren't my teammates I don't know them as he paces himself slowly, making sure not to walk too fast and seem like he's excited at Jongdae's surprise appearance.

"Hi," Jongdae says even before Zitao stops in front of him. Zitao croaks back a similar reply and hopes that Jongdae doesn't notice him stumble on the pronunciation out of nervousness.

And then, nothing happens. No one opens their mouth to initiate further conversation. Zitao is suddenly struck by the guilt that he hadn't replied Jongdae's text message. It's been two weeks, and Jongdae probably forgot about it, but Zitao's so dead if he even brought it up, because there's nothing to explain himself for. It's so quiet between them that Zitao wonders if Jongdae can hear his heart pounding wildly and loudly, painfully at his ribcage. He wouldn't be surprised if he did.

Zitao looks at Jongdae fiddle with his fingers. If he was indeed angry at Zitao for not replying, he isn't showing it. "That was a good game," he says quietly, "I enjoyed watching it."

It takes a moment for Zitao to realise what he just said. "You watched the game just now?" It sounds absolutely incredulous, coming from Jongdae, whom Zitao knows never comes in contact with exercise or sports. "I wouldn't miss it for the world. Watching the games take a load of my tired mind, I guess. You know, amidst all the cheers and stuff, I get to forget my hectic life for a while."

Jongdae chuckles and Zitao thinks that it's the most beautiful sound he's heard. "Anyway, congratulations on the game. Our school team deserves to get to the finals, really. Especially with a star player like that!"

"Ah... Thank you." Zitao mentally reprimands himself -- it's Kim Jongdae who's complimenting him and all he can say is a dumb thank you?

"So what's your way of relieving stress? I told you mine, I deserve to know yours." There's a slight twinkle of mischief in Jongdae's eyes, the way he changed the topic so fast. Zitao watches as Jongdae purses his lips into a straight line and waits for the former to reply his question. It's unfair how he looks attractive doing even nothing.

But when Zitao thinks about his question, he realises that he really has no clue. "I... don't really know. I do a lot of stuff whenever I'm stressed, but I can't really name it." He pouts to show that he's sorry, because he really is. Jongdae nods, not appearing to be upset or anything, which Zitao takes as a good sign that he isn't offended or angry.

"Is it fun to be playing on the court?" Zitao blinks. "Of course it is...? I love the sport, that's why I play it."

Wistfulness is painted on Jongdae's face as he says, "It does seem really fun..." Zitao catches the wisps of eagerness in Jongdae's eyes, a sudden glint in it, as he looks behind Zitao's shoulder and at the centre of the gymnasium. Zitao's brain-to-mouth filter must not be working to optimum, because before he realises what he's about to do, he blurts out, "Do you want to play?"

Jongdae visibly stiffens. "Play? As in play basketball?" When Zitao nods, he replies, almost embarrassingly, "Ah... I can't."

"But you can," Zitao points out, spinning the basketball in his hand expertly on one finger for further emphasis, "I have a basketball, and there's a court. That's all we need."

"I mean..." Jongdae trails off, eyes flickering down to his shoes. "I can't play basketball. Or any sports. At all," he mutters, "I'm not good, I'm athletically challenged."

Oh. Zitao thinks about how Jongdae looks close to becoming one with the floor out of embarrassment. This is a new side to Jongdae that he's never seen -- one that isn't all perfect and know-it-all. It doesn't make him more vulnerable, but Zitao feels like he's more like an average person, someone whom he could have gotten to know, or bumped into while shopping. Not someone he idolised and may or not may have a crush on.

Huh.

Despite himself, Zitao feels a smile creeping up onto his face. "I'll teach you," he offers, not too sure where the courage is mustered from. "Come on, it'll be fun."

There's hesitation apparent in Jongdae's expression. The way his eyes darken, the way his lips tighten. But Zitao stretches a hand out encouragingly and Jongdae, surprisingly, takes it. Ecstasy and joy bubbles at the bottom of Zitao's stomach. Jongdae's hand is warm against his own. It feels nice.

Zitao leads him to the nearest hoop and starts to teach him the basics. Jongdae may have seemed hesitant at first, but as the time passed and he (slightly) got the hang of having control of the ball, he visibly loosened up. Even when the ball bounced off the metal hoop and landed on the ground with a loud thud, peals of laughter just echoed off him, taking it in his stride. It was only after countless of tries and attempts of teaching that Jongdae managed to shoot it in.

"Hey, hey, I got it! I'm a sport genius!" Jongdae erupts into a cheer too loud for just a single hoop, and goes on even further to run a congratulatory lap around the court. Seeing Jongdae so genuinely happy and free of pressure makes Zitao genuinely happy as well, and right at the moment, Zitao decides that seeing Jongdae laugh just as carefree as he had is his very own stress reliever.







--







Steadily, they become friends. Zitao picks up the courage to text a meek "hello” to Jongdae after the game and it all picks up from there. Their conversations are mundane and predictable ("What's your favourite colour? Hobby? Food?"), but Zitao feels like he's being let into a secret chamber that Jongdae stashed away, hidden from the public eye. Beneath the facade of a smart and charming student are other sides to Jongdae -- one that is afraid of spiders, enjoys reading manga in his free time, and absolutely loathes cheese (it smells like puke, he reasons, no one wants to eat puke). He almost seems... real. Like a friend.

Slowly melting into a world where Jongdae and Zitao coexisted and interacted -- it seemed impossible, but now it's true. Now that he's integrated into Jongdae's life in certain ways, Zitao feels blessed, especially when his phone lights up and it's Jongdae (as usual) bitching about the long school day and the impossibly difficult school council projects he has to lead. It's different, but Jongdae isn't just someone he idolizes. He's now someone real and intagible, someone who has feeling just like him. Jongdae is just like a package that Zitao had wholeheartedly accepted and welcomed with both arms.

He would say that it feels good to be friends with Jongdae, but Zitao knows that good isn't enough. Not when his heart beats faster every time Jongdae replies his text message. Not when Jongdae waves to him cheerily as they pass by each other in the corridors and Zitao has to stop and pause just to calm down. Not when there's a lingering voice telling him to move forward and be brave.

"Just confess and get it over with," Luhan and Sehun's been constantly pestering him. But the thought that Jongdae might reject and they'll go back to the awkward stage before (they might not even be friends anymore) makes him think twice, thrice. Jongdae makes a great company and great friend. He can't do this.

Kim Jongdae is a problem (or maybe even problems) the he can't bring himself to solve.







--







Zitao decides that one way to get Jongdae off his mind is to do the other thing loves -- basketball.

Honestly, he's just mindlessly shooting hoops, his level of concentration on getting the ball in coming to a close zero. However, it still manages to steal his attention away from the issue that's been hoarding him for quite a while, which he does feel grateful for. It's just himself and the court. There isn't anything else for him to be distracted by.

About half an hour later, Zitao hears the gymnasium doors creak open, and immediately stops. He's not letting anybody into his sanctuary, except maybe--

Jongdae.

Jongdae, who's standing somewhat sheepishly a distance away from him right now, who's lurking in the shadows. Zitao stops himself from dropping the ball out of surprise, but his facial expressions betray him in the end.

"Sorry for barging in like that," Jongdae says even though he doesn't exactly look sorry, "I asked around and Luhan said that you were right here."

Zitao is absolutely sure he has the worst friends ever. He is very sure that before he left he had told Luhan he wanted free time to himself. Free time means Zitao alone, not Zitao plus Jongdae. Luhan is so dead.

"You kind of... drifted off in our conversations. Like you were physically here, but not really. Is anything wrong?"

Zitao wants to scream yes, everything right now is wrong, you right here right now is wrong, but instead, he frowns and says, "No, nothing's wrong, what do you mean?"

"It's just. You know." Zitao looks down at Jongdae and sees him wringing his hands and shuffling the ball of his soles from one feet to the other. It's a habit of his whenever he gets nervous. "One moment we were hitting off well and then suddenly your replies feel so distant and curt. So distracted. If it was because of me, I apologise, because--"

"No, it's not your fault. It's mine."

The consequences of his words doesn't hit him until he meets Jongdae's eyes and sees confusion swirling in his brown orbs, just as lost. What do you mean, they're asking. What do you mean it's your fault?

Zitao can't tell. It's the reason why he's so easily frustrated nowadays.

But looking at Jongdae's puppy eyes, he just slips.

"I like you."

Zitao can almost see the gears in Jongdae's head spinning and whizzing, until it all clicks. "Wait, what?"

"I liked you since the first day of school, when you were on the stage," he mumbles, "You looked good and sounded good and I just thought that wow, that guy is absolutely stunning, I want to get to know him better. And I just sort of... Liked you. A lot."

Seconds crawled past painfully slow. Jongdae doesn't say anything, expression unreadable. It's then that Zitao starts to panic -- could Jongdae not have liked him the way he did and was thinking of ways to reject him?

"Look, you don't have to respond or anything, I'm just telling you how I really feel," Zitao says, heavy lump in his throat. At this point, he's just starting to ramble just to fill the silence and heavy tension. "The reason I was stumbled out of the closet was all Luhan's idea, and that crappy pick up line was also his fault, he said it would work, but ha, it didn't. Anyway-- anyway, I just kind of like you a lot, more than I hoped, and if you're going to reject me please let me just say this, you could fall from the sky, you could fall from a tree, but the best way to fall is to--"

Zitao gets cut off when Jongdae presses in, hands wrapped around his neck. He can feel Jongdae leaning into him, on his toes, as the shorter male brings himself even closer. Jongdae tastes of coffee and candy, both bitter and sweet, and when they pull apart Zitao can still feel the taste of him lingering in his mouth. He's still stunned by what happened, but finishes his pick up line, albeit awkwardly: "Fall in love with me."

"It's okay," Jongdae says breathlessly, "I like you too. Since two years ago, in fact." When Zitao shows no indication of cutting in (in actual fact, he's really shooting out question marks and exclamation marks and screaming what what what) Jongdae continues on, "I saw you playing in your first match. You looked so carefree, and looked like you were having a lot of fun. I was under a lot of stress at that time, so watching you have fun made feel strangely feel relaxed. I've never missed a game with you in it ever since. That day, when you asked me to play basketball... I didn't want to embarrass myself in front of you, you know? But you didn't seem to mind, and really, that day was one of the best days of my life. Excluding today."

There's no way that Jongdae would like him of all people. There was nothing about him that stood out. But. "You could have told me earlier, you know," he says, feeling the tips of his ears turning red. At least now he knew it was a one-sided attraction. "I wouldn't have wasted so much time mulling over a non-existent issue."

"Well, it isn't too late to realise it now," Jongdae muses, entwining his fingers with Zitao's. "We still have a lot of time. Want to go on our first date?"

"After I shower," Zitao promises. Jongdae looks at him, eyes full of new-found adoration (or maybe Zitao never really noticed), and he merely sighs in satisfaction.

That's another problem solved.
Tags: fandom: exo, member: jongdae, member: zitao, pairing: chentao
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