Jinki takes a step sideways, breathing in the wet-asphalt smell of the street, and accidentally jostles elbows with Headphones Boy. Headphones Boy spares Jinki a glance from around the edge of his hoodie then looks away. There's no zing of lightning, no instant soul-deep connection. Jinki exhales, disappointed.
Headphones Boy has gold headphones wrapped around his neck today, matching the metallic gleam of his sneakers. He also has blue streaks in his hair, wears eyeliner like he has nothing to prove, and clothes that look like he pulled them from a page in a magazine. He is pretty much the coolest person that Jinki has ever met.
Okay, well, maybe that is an exaggeration. Because they've never actually spoken to each other before, technically. But today is the day, Jinki reminds himself. He stops hugging his books against his chest, because it looks nerdy, even if it does give him a small sense of comfort.
"N-nice weather, huh?" Jinki says, smiling feebly. His heart is pounding in his ears, nearly as loud as the rain that is thundering against the shelter of their tiny little bus stop.
"Mmm." Headphones Boy grunts. It is progress, though. Time for Phase Two. Jinki takes a breath, opens his mouth.
"So, you probably have a name," he blurts, and is immediately mortified. That is not the clever joke he'd planned to say. That isn't even witty banter. What it is, is boring and cliched, and Headphones Boy is going to laugh in Jinki's face any second now.
Headphones Boy does not laugh, but the corner of his mouth quirks up along with a sleek black eyebrow. "Most people do," he says. Then, after Jinki has only continued to stare, paralyzed by his own lameness, Headphones Boy shrugs. "Key. That's my name."
He would. He just would have a name as cool-sounding as Key. Jinki goes on staring, now paralyzed with awe. The other boy peers a bit closer at him in return, and frowns in confusion. "Hey. Don't you usually catch the west-bound? From the other side of the street?"
He recognizes me. Jinki's heart gives a small somersault in his chest cavity. He needs to say something unbearably cool, now. Something like, Yeah, I just felt like going east today.
What he says, instead, is: "Lee Jinki. That's who I am. Yes. Hello."
"Hi,” Key says back, not looking at Jinki like he is insane, which Jinki feels is very gracious, because Jinki has certainly earned it.
That's when the bus pulls up in front of them, and Key files onto it along with other people, and Jinki hangs back, hugging his books to his chest and feeling bereft—even though he’s accomplished the goal he’d set for himself ahead of time, which is Introductions. He should be satisfied with that. He should cross the street, catch the proper bus, and go home.
Jinki does not do those things. Instead, he flings himself towards the closing doors and manages to just barely squeeze on, clinging to the metal handrail as the bus lurches away from the curb.
Key is sitting in the last row, gazing out of the rain-streaked window, but he looks up as Jinki makes his way down the aisle and stumbles into the old lady one seat up, making her spill her groceries and squawk like a hen. By the time Jinki has apologized and chased down every last wayward clove of garlic and the old woman has subsided from beating him with her umbrella, Jinki feels sure that he’s just ruined beyond salvation any faint chance he’d had in this world of impressing Headphones Boy.
“Hey, so, look. Are you stalking me?” Key asks him, blunt, when Jinki has finally escaped the scary little old lady.
Jinki wonders if the bus driver would object to Jinki flinging himself under the wheels. “Yes,” he admits, hanging his head in defeat. “Yes. A bit.”
“Huh,” Key says, eyeing him up and down. Jinki clutches his books—it's a nervous habit, he can’t control it. “Well. That’s cool, I guess.” Key announces this with an air of nonchalance, then slides sideways, making room for Jinki on the seat.
Jinki should probably not be grinning like an idiot right now, but he can’t not. He sits next to Key, still with a stupid smile on his face, because they are already up to Phase Nine and they’ve only known each other for five minutes. It makes Jinki wonder where they’ll be by the time the bus ride is over.
Either way, this is definite progress.