Rating: R (for some suggestive scenes – this is SHINee fan fiction after all).
Author: Pari Passi
Length: 13,000 in total
Pairing: Jongho (Plus some platonic Changminho)
Summary: Set in the 1940’s, this is a story of a boy who asks for second chances and the people who give them to him. Minho takes on an apprenticeship at a tailor shop that changes his life forever.
I have been working on this story for about a month and a half and it’s given me a lot of challenges. First of all don’t expect anything to be historically accurate; this isn’t based off of any particular moment in history to reference though it is set in Korea (Not the Korean War…which was in the 50’s anyway…) It’s all fictional and I am no history buff outside of big picture facts…its more just the idea inlayed into Seoul.
I can sew a little though, so at least I know I have my tailoring jargon down. (If that counts for anything).
This story really was a labor of love though so I hope you enjoy it and I swear I’ll give you all some pointless PWP after this because I don’t think my brain can handle another round of this sort of writing for a few months. I am really proud of it though, so I hope whoever reads it enjoys it as much as I enjoyed writing it (even if it did make me want to tear my hair out at times).
Thank you so much for reading, you have no idea how much it means to me that you are!
He was twenty the first time he’d crossed the threshold of the doorway he’s standing in, on his own and roaming door to door in search of a job. He was orphaned in a sense, but old enough to no longer fit the definition of the word. Minho did his best though and when that wasn’t good enough he’d find the warmest doorway he could for shelter when the lamplighter came around to ignite the gas lamps that line the streets. Choi Minho had found himself without family and without little more than the thin clothing on his back to call his own.
“Apprentice wanted.” He read the sign posted in the corner of frosted glass and wondered if that required any experience. The cold air that swirled around him and cut through the thin linen jacket he had wrapped around himself encouraged him to step foot inside the shop and find out.
“Hello?” It was a tailor shop, well lit by the open windows and lamps hanging from the exposed beams of the ceiling. One wall was lined with rolls and rolls of fabric, arranged almost artistically from the hard wood floor to roof beams. There was a back counter and a dressing area with mirrors and Minho already sort of regretted walking past the threshold of the door because he was so obviously out of place.
He had already turned around to make a quick exit when a voice stopped him in his tracks. “Did you need help, sorry I was—” The loud hum of a sewing machine stopped and a tall man stood from where he’d been hunched in front of the machine, pausing when he realized that Minho was nowhere near potential clientele.
Changmin was from Busan, a tailor by trade trying to make ends meet in the middle of a city that was so much bigger than he was. He had plans, big ones, dreams he made with four of his closest friends. (They were really more like family though). The story between Busan and Seoul was a long, littered with tears and heartache but Changmin likes to think he was stronger than that and soldiered through what was one of the darker times in his life. What matters most is he’s still chasing his dream even if he is behind on rent, shorthanded and without his family.
In a way Changmin is orphaned too. Orphaned is a nicer way to say abandoned.
“There was a sign outside…” Minho started to explain, gesturing awkwardly to the window, pink tinting his cheeks, half from embarrassment, half from it being so cold outside.
Changmin smirked a little and wiped at his brow. “You’re interested in becoming my apprentice?” He wasn’t sure why, but he was drawn to the stick figure that was now loitering in his doorway.
Minho was between bolting and trying his luck. “I don’t have any experience.” He started to explain, fingers blindly reaching for the gold plated handle behind him all while he held eye contact with the man who’d now come forward to lean on the counter in the middle of the shop.
“That is the point of an apprenticeship, you know.” It wasn’t. “I just need a hard worker who can learn.” Changmin had ducked under the back counter and was in the middle of the shops main floor now.
Minho nodded like he knew what Changmin was talking about even though he didn’t.
“What’s your name?” Changmin smoothed his hands down the front of the button down shirt he was wearing. It’s crisp and clean and fits Changmin like it was made for him, probably because it was.
“It’s Minho…sir, Choi Minho.” He stands as tall as he can, hoping to give off an air of confidence.
“Let me see your hands, Minho.” Changmin reached forward to wrap large hands around Minho’s and flipped them over to inspect his palms. The tailor’s hands weren’t soft, his fingertips are rough and calloused from years and years of needle work. He hums and puffs bangs out of his eyes and tilts the younger man’s hands in his own. Minho wonders what he’s looking for and hopes that the dirt that’s wedged under his nails isn’t a dead giveaway for how desperate his situation is.
“You’ll work long hours.” Changmin drops his hands and Minho’s heart beat fast in his chest because he’s pretty sure he actually just found himself a job.
“That’s fine!” He doesn’t mean to sound as eager as he does.
“It’s not easy work and the most I can pay you is room and board.” Changmin is holding back a chuckle at the younger boy’s outburst.
“It’s perfect…Seonsaeng.” Minho bites into a plump lower lip and makes sure his voice isn’t quite as boisterous as before. Room and board is all he needs. Changmin wonders if he sounded this eager when Yunho first took him on as an apprentice. He hopes not.
“Changmin.” Changmin snorts at the honorific and reaches forward to ruffle Minho’s hair a rush of nostalgia hitting him from his own humble beginnings. “My name is Changmin.” It’s obvious this kid is coming off the street and Changmin isn’t sure why he’s being so charitable when he normally isn’t. It feels like something soft hearted Yunho would do, so he goes with the notion as a sort of homage to his memory and business style. Yunho was the man who had once taught Changmin everything he knew.
Changmin doesn’t say much more on the subject, not directly, he just suggests Minho cleans up because he doesn’t want any of his materials to get dirty and leads him past the back counter of the small shop he’s had for barely a month now.
“Changmin-Seonsaeng then.” Minho quickly corrects himself and Changmin just laughs.
“I like you, kid. Follow me.” He motions with his hand and heads for the back of the shop.
Relief washes over Minho as he quickly follows Changmin past the back counter towards a set of narrow steps leading to a small loft in the back of the shop.
“Your room will be on the left, the bathroom is out back and we don’t have a bath so you’ll have to go down a block to the bathhouse to wash up, alright?” Changmin reaches into his pocket and hands Minho a small coin, it’s enough to cover the fee it will cost him to use the facilities.
“I have a pretty impressive clientele to work with--” His clientele isn’t actually that big, not yet at least but he figures Minho won’t know the difference. “--So we can’t have you loafing around in the shop in that.” He motions to Minho’s attire with a casual hand then crosses his arms over his chest. Minho is tall like he is and has a thin build that Changmin is sure will fill out once he gets a few proper meals in him. Changmin laughs a little when Minho goes red to the tips of his ears and brushes at his rags self-consciously.
“Lesson one, Minho, a tailor is only as good as the suit on his back.” Changmin disappears upstairs and comes back with a garment bag, it’s an old suit that doesn’t fit him right anymore that they can pin and tuck to fit Minho’s thinner frame when he comes back from the bath house. “When you come back, I don’t want to recognize you.”
Minho wonders if he’s dreaming or he should be worried by Changmin’s generosity as he fists the silver piece in his hand and lets the suit hanger dig into his fingers when he pours out of the front door back into the cold. He lets out a sigh when the cool winter air rips through his jacket and hopes to god that he didn’t just trade his soul for a garment bag and a silver coin. The work will be hard, but it’s better than scraping for food and fearing frostbite on the colder nights. He can’t really remember the last time he actually slept in a bed.
He spends longer then he probably should at the bath house, but the water is so warm and his muscles ache so much. Minho can’t even remember the last time he took a decent bath or wore pressed clothing that didn’t have holes in it. His long legs slide with ease into fitted slacks, they’re only a little big on him but with the set of suspenders Changmin included they feel comfortable. Anything is better than the itchy trousers he’s leaving in the trash bin of the bath house dressing room.
He ties his hair back with a loose thread from his old shirt and rolls up the sleeves of the linen dress shirt Changmin has given him. He hardly recognizes himself, so he’s sure Changmin will be pleased. The brown dress shoes he slips his feet into are stiff and he wiggles his toes a little feeling sort of impressed with his own appearance before he heads back to the shop.
“Be with you in a moment.” Changmin is behind his machine again, feeding black material into the foot of the device.
“It’s me.” Minho let’s his hands rest comfortably in the front pockets of his trousers. Changmin knew it was him, but it’s much more fun to tease Minho.
“Wow.” The hum of the machine stops and Changmin stands and brushes stray threads off the front of his pants. “You actually look decent.” He comes forward to lean against the counter and makes a big show of looking Minho over. “We can take the pants up a few centimeters and maybe take in the inseam a little or maybe just feed you.” Changmin gives Minho a small smirk but it’s obvious he’s only joking. “Turn around.”
Minho rolls his eyes a little and lets out a puff of air at the playfulness of the comment but does a small spin to appease the other man.
“Just one thing…how attached to this hair are you?” Changmin grabs a pair of sheers from the counter and makes his way out into the middle of the shop to stand toe to toe with his newest charge. Before Minho can say anything he’s whirling him around flicking the pony tail Minho has his hair pulled back into.
“Not that—“ He feels a tug and the sound of the sheers slicing behind him. Changmin clips his hair close to the back of his neck and short around the top. Minho doesn’t mind, it actually feels good to have it out of his eyes and off of his neck.
“There, now you look like a tailor.” Changmin smirks at him and reaches up to run his fingers through the chopped tuffs of hair to dislodge any strands that aren’t attached anymore.
Minho gives him a small smile and ducks his head.
“Now, let’s see if you have the skill set to match the look. The broom and pan are in the corner.” Changmin is smiling that sarcastic looking smile and moving to disappear behind his sewing machine again.
Minho is a quick learner, or maybe he’s just determined. By the end of the week he can measure a client without a guide and Changmin is pretty sure he’s never seen the shop look more polished and clean since he’d pointed out the cleaning supplies to his apprentice that first day.
Changmin teaches him everything he knows. He guides him through fittings and shows him the difference between cheap cotton and quality wool. In his spare time Minho pours through the books that line the back of the shop that are full of chapters about drafting suit patterns and how to use darts and tucks effectively. Minho isn’t sure how to say thank you, so he just shows it. He does everything Changmin asks him to; he keeps the shop clean, cooks and keeps Changmin company when he’s managing the bookkeeping at the beat up roll top desk that sits near one of the back windows. Changmin hates book keeping and makes it no secret. Minho appeases him with black tea and lemon slices and stays as quiet as possible when he’s working with numbers as not to disrupt his concentration.
For Changmin Minho replaces that family he lost, for Minho Changmin replaces the family he never had.
Months go by and the shop is everything that Changmin had hoped it would become, their clientele list is long and he’s tailoring suits he only dreamed about when he moved into the city. The area booms and Seongbuk Street practically becomes a legend, anyone who’s anyone has their suit tailored from Seongbuk Street and one of the many famous tailor shops that have come to line its left side. Shim & Co. is no exception to this.
Success doesn’t last though, not for Changmin and Minho or any of the other tailors in the heart of the city. The threat of war comes, and with it the loss of a need for an expensive suit especially when the economy takes a nose dive straight into the red.
Minho worries and Changmin tells him he shouldn’t because all of this has happened before and it all sorts itself out by the end of the week and they’re back to business as usual. He says this as he leaves the shop, headed for the coast to pick up a bolt of imported wool for a tailored suit for one of their best customers.
It turns out that Changmin is dead wrong.
The politicians aren’t able to salvage whatever political mess they’ve gotten themselves into this time and the country has declared war on the country to the north. The papers are calling it the war of the century and Minho tries not to think about how badly this is going to affect his life especially when a white letter carrying the government seal arrives for Changmin.
He sets it gingerly on the desk that Changmin does his book keeping at and tries not to think too much about what he knows is inside of its folds.
When Changmin comes home from Daegu he’ll be able to explain all of it and put his mind at ease, and until then he’ll just keep things going and think about hems and material grains like he’s supposed to.
Changmin makes it home three days later and doesn’t even mention the news that’s on everyone’s minds. Minho sort of appreciates it but at the same time he can’t help but hope that Changmin notices the letter on his desk so that he can open it and put Minho’s worry at ease.
In the middle of the day it finally gets the better of him.
“A letter came for you while you were gone.” He has a bolt of black muslin spread out across the table that he’s marking with white wax for practice. He swings his head to the white letter perched on top of Changmin’s roll top desk.
Changmin takes his time getting to the letter and instead circles around to inspect Minho’s handy work. He’s patterned out a traditional British style suit and the older can’t find a flaw in it. Lines and notches spread over the thin piece of practice material in all the places they should be. Changmin doesn’t even have to look at the measurement’s Minho has scribbled up in the corner of unused material to know that his proportions are all spot on. He can tell with a trained eye.
He sets the bolt of material he’s brought back with him against the counter; it crunches, still wrapped in brown butcher paper to protect it on the journey. He’s almost hesitant when he picks up the letter, turning it in his hands a few times before breaking the wax closure on the back of it. His eyes scan the words spread across the paper; the government’s seal in the top corner of the page is a dead giveaway and Changmin’s stomach clenches when he reads the words ‘Notice to report for induction.’ It’s not because he’s afraid, it’s because of Minho. His eyes swing to the younger boy who’s re-measuring all of the lines he’s just created just like he’s been taught to.
“Minho-ah…” He folds the letter neatly back into the envelope it came in and leans against the drafting table Minho’s working it.
Minho hums, concentrated on the task in front of him. He sweeps a long curved line across the black material with the aid of one of the many pattern templates Changmin has created. He hasn’t actually heard what Changmin has said.
“Minho, pay attention. This is important.”
“Yeah Hyung?” He sits up finally, wipes at his brow then wipes the chalky white wax off of his fingertips onto the apron he has wrapped around his middle to protect his trousers.
“I think you’re ready Minho.” He reaches over to ruffle his fingers through Minho’s short hair.
Minho’s brow furrows. “Ready? For what, Hyung?” Minho can feel his heart in his throat, he has a feeling he knows what Changmin is talking about, and he has a sinking feeling that he knows exactly what’s contained in that letter that came earlier.
“Don’t play stupid.” Changmin doesn’t mean to let out the sigh that pushes past his lips. “You don’t need me to teach you anything more.” And it’s true. The lengthy bean pole Changmin took a gamble on over a year ago turned out to be one of the best choices he’d made in his career. His work was flawless, almost as good as Changmin’s already, and for a street rat he was savvy and good with the customers.
Minho was a people pleaser, and in this business that’s what you needed along with talent.
“You need to run the shop for me.” Changmin starts but is quickly cut off by Minho’s protests. It only takes one look from Changmin to stop his words dead in his throat. Instead he just pleads with him with his eyes and Changmin hates how they water and the guilt that spreads through him.
Silences falls between them for a few moments before Minho tries again, knowing Changmin won’t hear anymore objections.
“Will you check my work for me, Hyung?” His voice is cautious and he pulls blue colored correction chalk out from the front pocket of his apron and hands it to Changmin before pushing past him to grab the bolt of fabric Changmin brought back from Daegu so that he can put it away.
Changmin sighs and palms the blue chalk while watching Minho busy himself around the shop. Minho ends up avoiding him for the rest of the night and Changmin knows why. Minho is bright, he knows and the government seal on the back of the envelope paired with what is going on is a dead give-away to what’s going on and the younger doesn’t want to hear it. He understands the words that went unspoken and Changmin’s implications.
Changmin wants to tell him to stop being a brat and face reality but even he understands that this is a delicate thing and Minho will come around. He always does.
Like Changmin predicted, Minho does come around. He slips into Changmin’s bed sometime after midnight, pushing his legs that are spread out aside so that he can rest comfortably in the dip the older man’s mattress has from years of baring his weight.
“I can’t sleep.” He announces, folding his hands across the flat of his stomach and blinking up at the wooden ceiling overhead as his eyes adjust to the blackness of the other man’s room. Changmin lets out a soft groan and repositions himself, laying on his side to blink at Minho’s silhouette in the darkness.
“Try closing your eyes. It works for me every time.” Changmin’s voice is groggy from sleep and he shifts on the bed trying to get comfortable.
Minho just rolls his eyes and pulls the covers up over his shoulders and rolls to face Changmin. “Hyung. I’m serious.”
Changmin moves on the bed and reaches over to give Minho’s forehead a soft flick. “Why?” He knows that’s what Minho wants him to ask and he figures the sooner he does, the sooner he can get back to sleep and not think about war and how he’ll be pummeled head first into it in just a few days.
“That letter.” Minho’s normally deep voice sounds nervous as he asks about the very subject he’s been avoiding Changmin over all day long.
Changmin sighs and reaches over to ruffle his short hair. “We’ll talk about it in the morning, alright? Get some rest.” He instructs, fingers slipping from dark hair to stretch out over his own head as he rolls onto his back. He feels Minho roll to his side and then slip an arm around his middle, long awkward limbs curling up to him and a forehead press into the side of his shoulder.
“You got drafted for the war, didn’t you?” Minho’s staring at him in the dark.
“Minho-ah…” The promise of it will be okay dies in his throat because truthfully he doesn’t know if it will be. He shifts instead, moving an arm around Minho’s shoulders to pin him against his side. “Get some rest.” He repeats, a sigh escaping his lips as he stares up into the darkness of his room. “We’ll talk about it in the morning.”
“You did, didn’t you?” Minho’s fingers curl in the thin cotton of his sleeping shirt and his voice is a little more paniced.
“Minho—“ Changmin starts but Minho doesn’t let him finish.
“You can’t go.” He pleads, voice cracking as fingers pull even more desperately the cloth draped over Changmin’s middle.
“You know I don’t have a choice.” Fingers reach up to run soothing lines through short hair like he’s done so many times before.
“What am I supposed to do?” There is panic in Minho’s deep voice and desperation in the way that he clings to Changmin’s side.
“You’ll run the shop for me.” Changmin is impressed with himself and how he manages to keep his voice level even if deep down he’s sort of terrified. He can’t show that to Minho though, not if he hopes to convince him that he’ll be okay without him for a little while.
“You will, won’t you, Minho?” His eyes are adjusted to the darkness and he’s able to look the younger man in the eye. Big round doe eyes plead with him to understand and he tries to give him all the confidence he has to ebb away at the uncertainty that war has brought.
Minho finally loses his resolve and nods, thankful for the blanket of darkness that covers the wetness of his eyes.
“I need you to take care of things for me, alright?” Changmin rolls to his side and wraps his arms around Minho, his hand cups the back of his head to sooth him like a father might do to a crying child.
Minho nods again then forces himself closer to Changmin’s side.
“Thank you Minho-ah. I’ve always been able to count on you.” He smiles and rests his chin on the crown of Minho’s head and thanks God for the veil of darkness that blankets them and the hesitation that shows on his wrinkled brow.
“When do you leave?” Minho’s muffled voice finally asks after a few long moments of stillness between them. He doesn’t really want to know because whenever that day is it will be too soon.
“Monday.” Changmin’s voice is level. “This coming Monday.” It is too soon.
“Monday.” Minho repeats.
“Let’s get some rest.” Changmin’s adam’s apple bobs and he closes his eyes and pulls Minho a little closer.
Monday comes faster than Minho cares for it to. Changmin is already downstairs dressed in a government issued uniform that arrived in the post that morning rather than his usual slacks and buttoned down shirt. It makes his stomach churn.
“You know what to do, take care of the shop for me, alright?” Changmin ruffles his hair the same as he always has and acts like this morning is no different than any other morning they’ve had in the shop.
“I can’t Hyung.” The corners of Minho’s mouth are downturned and he looks up at Changmin through long lashes like it’s going to change the outcome of whether or not Changmin will walk out that front door to the call of war.
“Minho, we’ve been through this, you can and you will.” Changmin is firm. His hand slips down to Minho’s shoulder and gives it a reassuring squeeze.
“No I can’t.” Minho quickly shakes his head.
“Since when has can’t ever been in your vocabulary.”
Minho’s lips thin, he knows he’s right so he just settles for giving Changmin the most pathetic pleading look he can manage.
“Minho, that’s not going to work.” The older man chuckles at the pitiful attempt and gives the younger man a soft smile.
“But Hyung…” Minho tugs at his sleeve like a petulant child.
“Promise me Minho.”
“Minho.” This time Changmin’s tone doesn’t leave room for argument and Minho just swallows and nods.
“Take care of things for me, before you know it this will be all over and I’ll be back.” Minho just nods and refuses to let himself get emotional as he follows Changmin to the front of the shop.
The warmth of the room leaves out the front door with Changmin and Minho feels like he’s been stripped down to the tattered rags he was in when he first found Changmin. Changmin turns around when he’s halfway to the corner of the block and gives Minho a smile the younger knows well enough is just to save face. He looks older with his head shaved army style and his ears sort of stick out more than they should and all Minho can think is that this isn’t fair.
“I love you, Hyung!” Minho doesn’t know what compels him to do it, but he shouts from the front stoop of their shop and tries to ignore the stinging in the back of his eyes. “If you don’t come back I’ll hate you forever!” His throat constricts and he waves his arms wildly in a form of good-bye. He doesn’t really mean it, not the part about hating him at least.
Changmin laughs and shifts his bag on his shoulders. “Don’t be an idiot. Tailors don’t cry.” What he means is I love you too. He gives him one final wave and disappears around the corner and Minho’s pretty sure someone is squeezing all of the air out of his lungs when shaky legs bend to sit and he does what Changmin says he shouldn’t.
Tailors might not cry, but apprentices do.
It’s been a month.
The shop isn’t the same without Changmin and Minho wonders what he’s supposed to do, he’s just an apprentice. Changmin said he was ready, told him he’d be fine but it’s disheartening to open the shop up by himself each morning and peek out into an empty street and even more so to trudge up the stairs at the end of the night and listen to the silence of the shop that reminds him he’s all alone.
As far as the business goes, he’s managed so far. Some of the clientele still comes, the ones who haven’t been shipped off to war along with Changmin. It always the older men who have already served or their age prohibits them from taking up arms and defending the mother land. Somehow, they still have reason enough to stuff themselves into suits and jackets and attend meetings or banquets and Minho does what he can to keep them happy so that they’ll return. A lot of the shops on Seongbuk street are closed now either because their owners have suffered the same fate as Changmin or just because their isn’t enough business to keep them afloat.
Minho has learned how to hem dresses and skirts for extra cash because he desperately needs it. He offers cleaning and pressing service and spends his nights elbow deep in soapy water sloshing bundles of clothing around until his finger swell and prune from being submerged for far too long. He sells sewing notions in a small corner of the shop and scarps of fabric in bundles for a few extra coins to the little women who make quilts to send off to their boys who live in bunkers.
Minho does anything he can think of to keep Changmin’s shop going even if it is now a far cry from the prestigious store front it once was. Times are tough now though, and he thinks Changmin might be proud of the small adaptions he’s made to make due. When Changmin is home they’ll go back to being just a tailor shop and concentrate on drafting suit patterns and creating master pieces together. He’s already a month and a half behind on the lease Changmin has on the corner shop but he swears he’ll make it up before the other man is home.
It’s when he’s bent over bills and wondering what he’s going to do because Changmin’s landlord has given him an ultimatum that the shop gives him his next second chance. It comes in the form of an over eccentric man in a hideous suit. He just doesn’t realize it at first.
“Are you open?” Minho looks up from where he’s sorting thread. The man that just walked into the shop isn’t like anyone of Changmin’s customers. He’s young and loud and Minho’s pretty sure that’s a blue velvet suit he’s wearing. It’s the tackiest thing Minho’s ever seen. He puts down the black thread in his hand and walks up to the counter.
“Yeah, Can I help you?”
“Do you fix buttons?”
Minho reaches for a deep blue colored thread, the same as the man’s jacket and comes to the counter. “It’d be a pretty pathetic tailor shop if we didn’t.” Minho ducks under the counter.
The stranger is shrugging off his jacket and Minho tries not to stare too hard at the muscles that flex under a shirt that might be a size or two too small. He tries to hold the bitter thought at bay that the only reason why this man hasn’t been shipped off to war is probably because the money in his family’s bank account. It makes him miss Changmin and he just stares at the material in his hands for a moment as his thoughts consume him.
“It’s the top one.” He points out because Minho hasn’t made any moves yet.
“You said fix, not replace.” The taller man snaps out of it, shakes his head and ducks back behind the counter, jacket in tow.
“Is that going to be a problem?” His customer makes himself at home, leaning on the counter in a way that makes his muscles bulge against the white fabric of his dress shirt even more.
“I think I can handle it.”
Minho heads back and rifles through a few drawers before he pulls out a button that is identical to the other round buttons that line the front of the jacket and makes quick work of it. He doubles the thread like he’s been taught and wraps the end around his finger to make an easy knot before he quickly stiches the button back in place.
“Perfect, what do I owe you?” Minho is in the middle of helping him back into his jacket when he asks.
“It’s free.” Changmin would have been rolling his eyes at him.
“How about I take you to dinner?” The man offers with a greasy looking smile. Minho just shakes his head.
“How about you try telling me your name first.”
“Jonghyun. Pick you up at six.” He taps the notice of hours that is painted on the glass of the window on the door and slips outside before Minho can even protest.
As promised, six o’clock comes and so does Jonghyun, no longer dressed in that tacky suit he was wearing before. Tan colored slacks hang off his hips and he looks like he found a shirt that actually fits. The bell at the front of the shop jingles when he steps inside.
“Ready?” He catches Minho’s attention with a wave. He’s in the back of the shop, sweeping up thread and tufts of fabric that have made their way under the tables that house Changmin’s sewing machines and completely ignores the man at the front of the shop.
“Hey, come on, our reservation is in twenty minutes.” Jonghyun shoves his hands in his front pockets and rocks on his heels.
“I never said I would go to dinner with you.”
“You never said you wouldn’t.” Jonghyun quickly counters with an over enthusiastic smile.
Minho stops what he’s doing and just glares across the shop. Jonghyun just keeps smiles at him like an idiot.
“Come on, is going out to dinner really going to kill you?” He’s leaning against the counter like he was when he first visited only this time the buttons on his shirt don’t look like they are straining to keep fastened.
“Not interested.” Minho resumes his sweeping.
“Come on, It’s dinner, I’m not asking you to fuck me or anything.” The broom clatters to the floor and Minho quickly recovers it, back straight like he didn’t just startle at Jonghyun’s suggestion.
“Definitely not interested.” Minho goes back to sweeping, keeping his back to Jonghyun to hind the color that’s prickled over the height of his cheeks.
Jonghyun just shakes his head and ducks under the back counter.
“Hey! You can’t come back here! This is an employee area only!” Minho squawks when Jonghyun grabs his arm.
“Oh lighten up. Let’s go.”
“No.” He rips his arm free of Jonghyun’s grip.
“Come on, it’s payment for the button, remember? I don’t like to have a debt over my head.” Jonghyun wraps his arm around Minho’s upper arm again and gives him a gentle tug.
Minho sighs, he can tell this guy is persistent and he figures the sooner he can get this over with the better. “Fine, but just dinner.”
“I’m going to change my mind.” Minho warns.
“No, come on let’s go…Uh--?“ Jonghyun realizes that he has no idea what the tailor’s name actually is.
“Minho.” The taller man provides.
“Minho? It’s not Changmin?” Jonghyun points to the gold paining on the door that states Shim Changmin is the proprietor of the shop.
“I’m his apprentice.” Minho explains just enough.
“Whatever. Minho’s easier to say anyway.” Jonghyun brushes off the correction and pulls the taller boy out of the shop.
Minho turns and locks up the shop once they’re out on the front stoop. He can’t believe he’s agreed to this and tells himself that it has nothing to do with the fact that he might be a little curious about what Jonghyun’s body might have looked like if those buttons would have popped earlier.
“So, Why aren’t you…you know, out there?” In the war Jonghyun means.
Minho frowns. “Why aren’t you?” It sort of feels wrong to go out to dinner when they’re in the middle of a war and he just about turns around and locks himself back inside his shop at the thought.
“Got my shoulder messed up pretty bad. I guess I’m not fit for it or something like that is what they said.” Jonghyun shrugs like it’s nothing. Minho just hums and shifts in his seat.
“I told you why I’m not out there, why aren’t you?”
Minho wonders if it’s safe to tell a complete stranger that he’s not because the government doesn’t actually even know he exists. “I messed up my knee.” He lies and Jonghyun just nods like he understands and thankfully doesn’t ask any other questions that Minho doesn’t actually have the answers to.
It does turn out that some of Minho’s early speculations do turn out to be true. It’s not exactly the reason why, but Jonghyun’s family is well off, his father is pretty high up in the ranks of the military. He brushes it off with a shrug of his shoulders when he says his old man’s disappointed in him for being a defect and not being out there with the rest of the country.
Minho wonders for a brief moment how much he actually cares in relation to how he acts like he doesn’t.
Dinner isn’t as painful as he thought it was going to be and he finds he actually likes how Jonghyun can drone on and on about a topic and doesn’t mind that Minho is more of a sit-and-listen sort of guy. It’s not like he’s having the time of his life or anything, but being around Jonghyun is comfortable and it makes him feel a little less alone even if this is probably just a one-time thing.
Jonghyun seems like the kind of guy who just acts on a whim and he’s pretty sure after this supposed date he’ll be over it and stop pestering him in the shop.
Minho couldn’t have been more wrong.
At the end of the date Minho thinks it’s kind of cheesy that Jonghyun wants to walk him back home but he doesn’t stop him from walking next to him or make any sort of verbal protest against the idea. Instead he just turns and starts back towards the shop, looking over his shoulder only once to give the other a look that suggests he doesn’t exactly mind the idea and waits for him to catch up.
Jonghyun smiles and takes a few running strides to close the distance between them.
“So about the fucking part I mentioned earlier--?” Jonghyun starts when they get to the corner that the tailor shop is on. He means it as a joke and Minho actually laughs.
Minho snorts. “Good night, Jonghyun. Thanks for dinner.” He doesn’t even wait for Jonghyun to answer, he just steps into the shop and heads for bed with a small satisfied smile on his face.
“Good night, Minho.” Jonghyun just sort of stands there when the door closes mid-sentence, hand hanging in the air before he lets out an embarrassed noise and turns on his heel to head back home.
Surprisingly enough, Jonghyun isn’t deterred by Minho’s brand of coldness, if anything it makes him more persistent. He continues to visit the tailor shop throughout the week. It’s always for small things, a missing button here, a small tear that needs mending there. It’s painfully obvious that the buttons have been snipped off with a pair of sheers and the tears aren’t any sort of accident, they’re way too clean of cuts.
It irritated Minho at first, but by the middle of the week he’s sort of amused, and then by the time Friday rolls around Minho finds himself looking up eagerly at each jingle of the bells attached to the door announcing Jonghyun’s entrance.
He comes in around four o’clock with a set of trousers that look like they’ve had the zipper ripped out of them on purpose. Minho smiles at the pathetic excuse that tumbles out of Jonghyun’s mouth about how he got caught on a bush and some other excuses that don’t make any sense.
“You can fix it, right?” Jonghyun asks, leaning against the counter that sits between him and Minho.
“Tomorrow. I’m closing early today. Are you free at five?”
“What?!” Jonghyun slips on the counter. He’s been asking Minho out all week and he’s either been met with flat out refusal or Minho just ignoring him and sliding his bill and mended garments across the counter with a cheeky smile.
“Are you free at five?” Minho speaks slowly and pronounces each syllable with purpose.
“Yeah…Yeah!” Jonghyun realizes right away that he sounds really desperate. “I mean yeah, I had some plans but I guess I can move them around.”
“Plans? To what, cut off more of your buttons?” Minho laughs and reaches over the counter to finger at one of the pearly buttons on the front of Jonghyun’s pressed shirt. Minho isn’t the greatest at flirting and he’s still denying that he’s actually enjoyed the other man being in and out of his shop relentlessly asking him out for the past week but he guesses coffee can’t hurt.
“I didn’t pull them off.” Jonghyun is red to the tips of his ears when he denies Minho’s allegation.
“Right. See you at five. I’ll bring a needle and thread in case we have any accidents.” Minho holds up the pair of trousers that need mending to emphasize his point.