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Of Birthdays and First Meets

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i.

 

Ryeowook stands in the middle of the lobby, eyes on the glass doors of the apartment complex he’s in, hands toying with his phone. He sighs heavily, his hot breath coming back because of the face mask he’s wearing.

It’s June and it’s hot, what’s worse is the country is still in a pandemic. And what’s even worse is it’s his birthday and he can’t even celebrate with his loved ones. 

Going home is not an option since his work still requires on-ground attendance. He’s also too busy to visit his friends — or for them to visit him, and the only time he can “rest” is when he’s at home in his apartment.

What happened is his parents sent him a full-on birthday cake that night with some rice and side dishes to go. Ryeowook doesn’t know why they did it when they know he can’t celebrate it with his friends, or anyone for that matter.

 

“Mom, you don’t have to do this. I’m just gonna cook for myself.”

“It’s just a cake and some rice meals, Ryeowook-ah. It’s the least we can do for you.”

“I don’t even have anyone to share this with!”

“Bring your neighbors over, I’m sure they’ll want that.”

“My neighbors are a drunkard, a college student who’s probably running on caffeine, and a couple next door who keeps making weird noises every night.”

“It’s already ordered, Ryeowook. I can’t cancel it. Just enjoy the meal, okay?”

“Mom, please. This is really un—”

“Have a happy birthday, son! We love you!”

 

So now, Ryeowook’s waiting for the delivery to come by the lobby of the complex. He’ll probably just eat some as proof to his mother and bring the rest to work. He just hopes it won’t spoil on the way there.

His phone pings and a message appears on the screen:

this is angel’s cook & bake, you’re delivery is outside

 

Ryeowook steps outside and a guy wearing a helmet immediately comes to view. He’s standing beside a motorcycle complete with a delivery box decorated with fake wings.

The angel guy slides up the cover of his helmet, opens the box and takes out the rice meals to which he hands over to Ryeowook. Confused, Ryeowook takes it and is about to head inside when the guy suddenly speaks.

“Your cake.”

Ryeowook blinks. “I’m… I’m sorry? What?”

Angel Guy turns around holding a round cake full with purple decorations. He motions to the cake with his head. “I meant, you haven’t gotten your cake yet.”

“Oh… right, sorry,” Ryeowooo mutters. “I’ll get it then.”

With a click of his tongue, Angel Guy takes the cake out of reach. “It’s too much to carry. I can follow you to your door and help you.”

Ryeowook only squints his eyes in suspicion. Now, why would he offer to bring the cake to his door? Ryeowook could just make two trips or ask drunkard Jiseok from across his room to help (the latter seems absurd but hey, at least it’s safer).

“No, I’m not going to mug you. And no, I have no intention to do any unsolicited or unwanted acts,” Angel guy sighs, his eyes pointed at Ryeowook. “I’m just a deliveryman out on his last trip, and just wants to go home.”

It definitely shut Ryeowook up. So he wordlessly turns around and leads the way to his apartment. The occasional squeak of Angel Guy’s footsteps added to the noise that filled the hallway: Jiseok’s TV turned all the way up, somebody from upstairs playing music from the 90s not giving a shit about everyone else, and someone’s baby crying. Angel Guy doesn’t comment on the noise, nor doesn’t speak at all.

When they finally reach Ryeowook’s door, Angel Guy starts to put the cake on the floor and prepares to take his leave.

And that’s when Ryeowook thinks of a bit of a crazy idea.

“Hey,” he addresses Angel Guy who looks up at his call. “Would you like to come in and eat before going home?”

Angel Guy raises an eyebrow from behind his helmet.

“Sorry, it’s just…” Ryeowook trails off. His mother did say to invite his neighbors. And she did say once that, as a Christian, everyone is his neighbor. Whatever that means. “It’s my birthday and my parents ordered these for me, but I can’t possibly eat all of these.”

Angel Guy stands there so awkwardly that Ryeowook doesn’t know what to say anymore. He contemplates on making a run for it inside his apartment when the other picks up the cake again.

They stand there doing nothing for a solid fifteen seconds when Angel Guy clears his throat.

“Is that invitation still intact or…”

Ten minutes later, Ryeowook ends up setting the food on the coffee table with him and Angel Guy sitting on the floor six feet apart from each other.


“So, birthday boy, what do you do for a living?”

Ryeowook learns that Angel Guy’s name is Kyuhyun and that he delivers as a part time job. He’s a graduate of computer science but employment really hasn’t been on his side yet, so he ended up taking on a bunch of part time jobs. Kyuhyun’s also the same age as Ryeowook, not that it would matter anyway, but it makes Ryeowook more comfortable.

Sitting six feet apart from each other wasn’t really a bad thing since they barely knew each other. Ryeowook thinks it’s kind of ironic how he’s celebrating his birthday with a stranger when he specifically remembers his mom telling him not to talk to strangers. The soft lull of the music playing through his bluetooth speakers fill the room.

“I assist in film productions. Really, it just depends on the budget how much I really get. But I enjoy doing it so I haven’t really thought of doing other things.”

Kyuhyun hums while trying to pick salted oysters from a small plate. “Don’t you feel exploited, though?”

“I do, but who doesn’t in this day and age, anyway?” He shots back.

“You’re 25, you can do so much more,” Kyuhyun mumbles, chewing on his rice.

“Well, you’re 25 and doing part time jobs. You can do so much more,” Ryeowook replies, dragging the ‘o.’

“Touché.”

“You know, one of my housemates works as an assistant director for films,” Kyuhyun points out, stacking up meat on his rice. “Think you might have worked with him?”

Ryeowook’s ears pick up at the idea. “What’s his name?”

“Lee Hyukjae, ring any bells?”

“No, sorry,” he replies, a bit disappointed. “I hope I get to work with him soon though.”

Kyuhyun’s hands immediately wave as if disposing of the idea. It was a good thought, wasn’t it? Getting to work with someone Kyuhyun is close to (now, why would that be a good thought, Kim Ryeowook?). Not that he was trying to earn points with Kyuhyun, it was just great to think that he knows of someone who’s close to Kyuhyun somehow.

“You don’t want to work with him, his feet smells,” Kyuhyun scrunches his nose in response. “I’ll let you meet him next time so you’d know.”

Ryeowook smiles. “So there’s a next time?”

A bunch of nonsense sputters from Kyuhyun’s mouth. He’s clearly flustered, Ryeowook thinks. Cute.

The silence draws on as they eat, the soft humming of the radio on the background filling Ryeowook’s apartment. For a guy he only knew twenty minutes ago, he found Kyuhyun easy to talk to. There wasn’t any judgment behind his words, even though he sounded so dead-beat, like he believes in existential dread.

Everything was going well until the couple next door decided to do some action that peaceful evening.

Ryeowook could see Kyuhyun’s eyebrows scrunching together in confusion. He decides to pass it off, thinking it might be another reason. It wasn’t until the loud moan that Kyuhyun fully spat the water he just so decidedly drank at the same time.

“Kyuhyun, what the fuck?”

“I’m sorry! It was just so loud! Are you not bothered at all?” Kyuhyun exclaims, his hands a frantic mess.

Ryeowook gets up to swipe the mess Kyuhyun made. “Of course, I do. It happens almost every night, I’m not even surprised anymore.”

He hands over the cloth to Kyuhyun who reaches out for it. It’s his mess, so might as well clean it himself.

“What do you do about it then?” Kyuhyun asks, swiping the table and the floor.

On the other hand, Ryeowook walks over to the speaker and adjusts its volume higher. “I do this.”

And at once, the awkward noises from next door were drowned out by the voice of Min Kyunghoon.

Kyuhyun nods approvingly. “Nice. Buzz.”

“Tree is my favorite, what’s yours?”

“The Naruto theme song.”

“Oh.”

“Hey, I kinda have to go now,” Kyuhyun says, getting up. “So do you want to blow the candles on your cake or do you prefer doing that alone?”

Ryeowook jumps, Kyuhyun’s words making him snap back to reality. He already forgot that the other wants to go home so badly.

In a quick pace, he takes the cake out of the box and places it neatly on the counter. As he tries to find a matchbox, Kyuhyun pins the candles on the cake, the words “Happy birthday Ryeowook” still visible on the top.

Ryeowook finds the matchbox on top of the fridge and he tosses it to Kyuhyun who catches it perfectly.

“You could have just handed it over like any normal human being would do,” he complains.

Shrugging, Ryeowook only laughs as he nears the counter. “It’s not fun that way.”

With Buzz’s Travel to Me playing in the background, Kyuhyun carefully lights the candles for Ryeowook. The soft fire comes to life, and it was as if everything else turned quiet just for that moment. Ryeowook approaches the counter with slow but sure steps.

Kyuhyun looks at the birthday celebrant and smiles.

“Happy birthday, Ryeowook. Make a wish.”

He closes his eyes, thanking everyone he’s close to even though they weren’t there, thanking his parents who bought him cake and food, and thanking the guy in front of him who brought it over. And with a wish sent to whoever was listening to him up above, Ryeowook blows out the candles.

“What did you wish for?” Kyuhyun asks.

Ryeowook only smiles. “It’s a secret. Or else, it won’t come true.”


Ryeowook has no choice but to clean everything after. He couldn’t possibly make Kyuhyun clean with him (after all, he just randomly asked him to stay a while and eat) so he sent him off with a few of the food that they didn’t touch and some cake. Kyuhyun did mention that he has some housemates of his own, and Ryeowook didn't want them to complain about Kyuhyun coming home late.

Kyuhyun was fun to talk to even though he was sarcastic at times. Ryeowook finds it amazing how celebrating his birthday with a complete stranger could ever feel so good. He was content and he was happy. (Take that, pandemic!)

Ryeowook still finds himself smiling even while clearing the coffee table where they both ate. He carefully stacks up the dishes they used and wipes everything under it. He’s about to stand up and carry everything to the dishwasher when something falls off under the plate on the bottom.

It was a note.

Confused, Ryeowook sets the plate down again before grabbing the note off the floor. He couldn’t identify the writer but he can only assume it’s from that one person he has in mind.

 

Hey, birthday boy.

Happy birthday! Thanks for inviting poor me over even though I don’t know you and you don’t know me. You’re a weirdo, you know? 

Anyway, I really enjoyed talking to you the whole night. If you’d like it, maybe we could talk more about jobs, our friends and Buzz? Here’s my number, let me know.

 

Ryeowook feels the smile grow on his face. So maybe he wasn’t the only one feeling something the whole time they talked. As he looks back on the note, he couldn’t help but thank the stars or heaven or whatever.

 

P.S. hope your wish comes true

— Kyu, delivery guy from Angel’s Cook & Bake

 

It did, Ryeowook thinks. It already came true.

 

ii.

 

The heavy bass thumps all throughout the floor, and everyone jumps to the sound of the beat dropping. The whole room reeks of alcohol, the sweaty bodies of drunk college students rubbing and clashing against each other as they swayed to the music. College parties were one thing, but college birthday parties were a whole kind of different atmosphere. 

Kyuhyun sits awkwardly on one of the couches, red cup in hand half-filled with beer. His roommate, Hyukjae, who brought him over now long gone among the throng of people inside the house. To tell the truth, he probably doesn’t know anyone in the party except for Hyukjae. He was only in there because Hyukjae dragged him over after being invited by his senior in an organization who actually knew the birthday celebrant.

Now that he lost Hyukjae to the rowdy crowd, Kyuhyun doesn’t know what to do. He can’t possibly try to socialize with other people, he can’t go to the kitchen because some scary looking dudes are hoarding the food supply, and he can’t dance for shit.

So Kyuhyun does what he does best: be alone.

This time, he refills his cup before going out of the house and tries to find a spot where he could be all to himself. Poolside? Too many people stripping. Front yard? Too many people making out. Bedrooms upstairs? Nah, there might be doing the deed. Kyuhyun thinks about leaving the party and just texting Hyukjae when he spots the ladder by the side of the house leading to the roof.

Perfect.

Avoiding any close contact with the people making out in the front yard, Kyuhyun walks over to the ladder and starts to climb it, biting his red cup in between his teeth, careful not to spill any of its content. Nearing the top, he places the cup on a level surface of the roof before hoisting himself up. Once he can finally stand up, he picks up the cup and sips a bit of the beer, enjoying the cool breeze of the night.

“God, finally, freedom,” he grumbles.

“Congratulations.”

The sudden words of someone speaking almost caused Kyuhyun to jump and fall over. Thankfully, his sense of balance is still not damaged because he might have been dead in just a matter of seconds.

“You know, it’s common courtesy to not surprise anyone who’s standing over a high place, much less a roof,” Kyuhyun complains, walking cautiously over to the person who spoke earlier.

Coming over to the other side of the roof, he settles down next to the person. Kyuhyun discovers it was a guy, petite with prominent cheekbones, and he was grinning at Kyuhyun.

“What brings you here to my lovely hideout?” the guy asks.

Kyuhyun notices the bottle of wine in the guy’s hand and a red cup on the other. The hand with the red cup is slowly twirling, like one would do with a wine glass. He looks back to the guy’s face, surprised to see the other still looking at him.

“I wanted peace and quiet,” he answers simply.

The guy laughs at his answer. “The party too much for you?”

Kyuhyun nods. If it were another situation, he would have backed out of the conversation. But since the other guy clearly wants to be away from people, he feels content with the situation.

“Same. There’s too much going on down there, you know?” the guy asks, although clearly not looking for an answer but Kyuhyun still hums in response. “I’m Ryeowook, by the way.”

The guy reaches out a hand for him to shake. He accepts it. 

“Kyuhyun.”

“Nice name. I think I’ve heard that somewhere…” Ryeowook trails off. He looks over to the pool below where some guests were having a game of catch the dragon’s tail.

“I doubt it,” Kyuhyun replies, sipping a bit from his cup. “I’m only here because my roommate forced me to. I don’t even know whose birthday it is.”

Ryeowook looks at him again, an amused look on his face. His eyes look over him lazily, but a smirk is very much evident on lips. The slight pink blush on his cheeks compliment his other features, Kyuhyun thinks.

“So you came here not knowing whose birthday you’re attending?” Ryeowook drawls out.

“Yeah, I did,” he answers confidently. “Do you know whose birthday it is?”

Ryeowook only laughs at him. He takes a big gulp of the wine in his cup. 

“I do. I think you and him make good friends.”

Kyuhyun doesn’t answer anymore. He doesn’t know what to say anyway. Instead, he looks over to where Ryeowook did before. Amidst all of the people clearly having the time of their lives by the poolside, he spots Hyukjae over at the barbecue pit, eating a plate full of meat and ribs.

It was typical of his roommate to leave him for food, of all things. He just didn’t expect Hyukjae to be talking to a girl while eating ribs.

“That’s my roommate over there at the grill, talking to a girl,” he points over for Ryeowook to see. The other squints his eyes to see more clearly.

A flash of recognition flickers in Ryeowook’s eyes. “Hyukjae’s your roommate?”

“You know him?”

“Yeah, my friend Jongwoon knows him,” Ryeowook says, nodding. “He might be the one who invited him.”

Kyuhyun finishes the beer in his cup in one gulp. He cracks the bones in his knuckles before readying himself in a throwing pose. 

“Think I can hit him in the head with this cup?” he asks Ryeowook.

Ryeowook laughs again. Kyuhyun thinks he might be drunker than before because he finds the sound cute and endearing.

“I’ll give you anything you want if you can,” Ryeowook dares at him.

“That’s a deal then.”

Kyuhyun crumples the red cup and steadies his position. Gathering all the soberness and coordination left in his body, he closes one eye and fixes the aim of this throwing arm. In one swift motion, he hurls the red cup to Hyukjae’s direction. 

As if the universe heard him, Hyukjae just so decides to stand up at that moment, causing the red cup to hit him smack in the face. The girl he was talking to suddenly jumps up at the amount of profanities that came out of Hyukjae’s mouth. Clearly turned off, she walks away from Hyukjae who is only screaming in agony.

Up on the roof, Kyuhyun goes down to his knees and silently looks up to the sky while pointing at it, as if thanking the heavens. From beside him, Ryeowook claps happily, apparently more interested in Kyuhyun’s antics than finishing the wine bottle he has.

“Nice aim, Kyuhyun. You should try being a baseball player if you can throw that well,” Ryeowook exclaims in between his fits of laughter.

Carefully standing up again, Kyuhyun finishes his ceremony with a bow in Ryeowook’s direction before sitting down beside him again. Ryeowook offers the wine bottle to him, but he refuses. Kyuhyun thought the other would have drank more but Ryeowook only sets aside the bottle. He folds his legs and hugs his knees, facing Kyuhyun again.

“So… about our deal?” Kyuhyun asks. “I’m gonna make use of my prize now.”

Leaning in, Ryeowook looks in his eyes. “What can I do for you then?”

He comes closer to Ryeowook. He weighs his options right there: if he does something too bold , Ryeowook might punch him and he might fall to his death but if he does something too timid, that night wouldn’t lead to anything more than just the two of them talking. So Kyuhyun decides to settle somewhere in the middle.

He takes out his phone from the pocket of his jeans and hands it over to Ryeowook.

“Give me your number,” he says. Ryeowook raises an eyebrow at him. He smiles back. “I want to get to know you more, and maybe talk more, or anything… more.”

Grinning, Ryeowook takes the phone from Kyuhyun’s hands and taps in his number. Might as well give the man his request since he feels the same. He saves his number with the name “Ryeonggu” and a giraffe emoji before handing it back.

Kyuhyun looks at the saved contact. “A giraffe?”

“I like giraffes,” Ryeowook shrugs.

Kyuhyun keeps the phone back in his jeans pocket before coming closer to Ryeowook. He feels Ryeowook move as well, the look in his eyes drawing him closer and closer. Stopping inches apart from the other’s face, he smiles.

“Wanna know what I like?” he asks.

Right when he saw Ryeowook catch his breath, he leans in and captures his lips in a kiss. Ryeowook places his hands by his shoulders and the slightest touch brought shivers through his body. So he wasn’t the only one feeling the attraction between them. Ryeowook’s lips feel soft against his. It was warm, and it melted every single part of Kyuhyun’s body.

At that moment, there was no loud music playing, no people partying by the poolside, no crowd partying on the dance floor, none. It was just just the two of them, Kyuhyun and Ryeowook, with their lips entangled. Kyuhyun has never felt anything right as this was.

Breaking away from this kiss, Ryeowook catches up his breath, but still looks at Kyuhyun’s eyes.

“You got two things from me, that’s cheating,” he mumbles.

Kyuhyun tilts his head in a teasing manner. “It’s a package deal.”

Ryeowook only shakes his head in response, however still finding the whole situation amusing. 

The phone in Kyuhyun’s pocket starts ringing so he takes it out. He sees Hyukjae’s name on the caller ID, motioning to Ryeowook that he’ll answer it.

“What do you want?”

“Kyuhyun? Where are you?” Hyukjae asks over the static.

“None of your business. You left me all alone, now you’re going to ask me where I am?”

“Let’s go home. I’m not enjoying this anymore.”

“What if I don’t want to?” he replies, looking over to Ryeowoook.

“Then, congratulations on leveling up on your social skills! Come on, I wanna go hoooooome,” Hyukjae complains in a grumpy voice before hanging up.

Kyuhyun looks at his phone in disbelief. Hyukjae is clearly very much drunk and they agreed for Kyuhyun to remain sober for them to go home safely. (Kyuhyun’s not sober, he drank beer but he won’t let Hyukjae know of that fact, or the other fact that he kissed someone in the party)

“Hey, I think I have to go now. Hyukjae’s being a whiny baby already, so…” he explains.

Ryeowook nods. “It’s okay.”

Kyuhyun stands up but he hesitates on going. Ryeowook sees this and he motions for Kyuhyun to go down.

“Really, Kyuhyun, it’s okay. You have my number already, right?” he reassures Kyuhyun. “We’ll meet again soon, I promise.”

And with a final wave of goodbye, Kyuhyun comes down the roof to fetch a drunk Hyukjae terrorizing a frightened freshman by the beer keg. As he leads the way outside the house, he looks back to the roof in hopes of finding Ryeowook. 

There’s no one on the roof when he takes one final look.


The next morning, Kyuhyun wakes up to someone singing Red Velvet songs at the top of their lungs (Hyukjae, he assumes). The smell of freshly cooked eggs and bacon welcomes him as he enters the mini-kitchen they have in their room. Right as he assumed, Hyukjae is singing to Future at seven in the morning.

“What’s gotten into you?” he asks as he settles on a chair.

“I have a date later,” Hyukjae answers in excitement while placing what he cooked on the table. “I checked my phone earlier and apparently, after I lost a girl when a cup fucking hit me in the face out of nowhere, I met another girl and we agreed to a date. Talk about luck.”

Kyuhyun gives him an impressed look. He thought Hyukjae might have given up after the face-hitting incident but he proved Kyuhyun wrong. He remembers the whole event that transpired, suddenly remembering that he hasn’t messaged Ryeowook yet.

“Shit!”

“What? What is it?”

“I forgot to text someone I met last night,” he says as he scrambles up to look for his phone.

“Wow, you actually talked to someone other than me?” Hyukjae asks, surprised.

Kyuhyun goes back to his bed and feels for his phone. Once he found it, he turns it on, only to find a message from an unknown number.

“Who did you meet at the party?” Hyukjae asks again when Kyuhyun comes back to the table.

Too busy to look up, he answers Hyukjae while trying to read the message. “Ryeowook. Do you know him? He knows you.”

Silence meets him after so Kyuhyun just assumes that his roommate doesn’t know who Ryeowook is.

 

02:41

Hi, Kyuhyun. I got your number from Jongwoon hyung. I don’t know why he has your number, but anyway, I hope you got home safe. Rest well. Talk to you when you wake up :)

02:43

Oh, this is Ryeowook, by the way. 

 

“I can’t believe it, he texted me!” Kyuhyun shouts in glee, looking up at Hyukjae.

Hyukjae, however, only looks incredulously at him. With a hand on his hips and another hand holding a spatula, he sighs disappointedly at Kyuhyun.

“What?” he asks him, confused.

Hyukjae points the spatula right at him. “Kyuhyun, you idiot. Ryeowook’s the one who celebrated his birthday last night.”

Kyuhyun feels his stomach drop. Holy shit. He flirted and kissed the party host without knowing it was his birthday?! He remembers their conversation and he feels the humiliation after.

“So you came here not knowing whose birthday you’re attending?”

“Yeah, I did. Do you know whose birthday it is?”

“I do. I think you and him make good friends.”

He furiously types on his phone to reply to Ryeowook. God, he felt so much like a dumbass.

07:38

why didnt u tell me it’s ur birthday yesterday??@!

 

The reply comes almost instantly.

07:38

You looked cute not knowing LOL sorry

Don’t worry it won’t cause you any minus points ;)

07:39

i hate u

sorry

I don’t think you hate me tho :P

How about this… you treat me to coffee later as a gift? That’s the only way I can accept your apology.

07:41

fine >:(

See you later! <3

 

“So, how did it go with Ryeowook?” Hyukjae asks, taking an egg to his plate.

Kyuhyun smiles. He might have embarrassed himself to someone he likes but at least, he got himself a date later. Thinking about the events that night, maybe the stars aligned so that he would climb up the ladder leading up to the roof. That one decision changed his night because it made him meet Ryeowook.

He only had one thing on his mind that night, and that was being alone. But after meeting Ryeowook, it changed. Kyuhyun felt happier beside him, with him, and he can’t deny that. Hyukjae leaving him alone led him to meet Ryeowook.

“Thank you,” he simply replies.

Hyukjae looks at him confused.

“If this leads to something more, I promise you’ll be my best man.”

 

 

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