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[personal profile] forcedsimile

III.

Shinbi woke the next morning and stared at the ceiling for what felt like an eternity. She went over yesterday's events over and over. Oh, god, she made a fool of herself. She pressed her hands over her face and groaned. Eri and Tei wouldn't think less of her for her whining and whimpering, they knew her too well. It was Hobin that cast uncertainty over everything. Eri knocked on her door.

"Shinbi? Are you awake?" she asked.

"Yes," Shinbi said as she sat up. Eri opened the door. She was in her pajamas with her stethoscope around her neck.

"Did you sleep well?" Eri asked.

"Eventually. Were you and Tei comfortable on the pull out bed?" Shinbi asked.

"We were fine," she said and sat down next to Shinbi. She took a thermometer out of her pocket and put it under Shinbi's arm to take her temperature.

"I'm sorry," Shinbi said.

"No worries, I'm off today. I'll probably sleep a bit more when I go home. Ah, you're still a bit feverish, but it's gone down. Stay in and call someone next time you need something," Eri said. "Now let's listen to those lungs."

Shinbi followed her instructions to breathe deeply. When she was finished, Shinbi grabbed Eri's wrist.

"Mr. Hobin was here yesterday, wasn't he?" Shinbi said.

"Yes, he was," Eri replied. Shinbi covered her face.

"Hey! What's wrong?" Eri asked.

"I was acting weird. He must think I'm so stupid," she said.

Eri rubbed her back and giggled a little.

"You were running a pretty high fever. I'm sure he understands that you don't usually act this way," Eri said.

Shinbi nodded, "I guess. I just don't want him to think I'm immature and can't take care of myself."

Eri raised her eyebrows, "Really?"

"Yeah," Shinbi said.

"You're so pretty and so cool. I'm surprised you're worried about Hobin's opinion," Eri said. Shinbi wasn't sure she could admit this to anyone else, not even Soi. She looked at Eri a bit hesitantly before she looked back down at her hands.

"Mr. Hobin has always been this cool, older guy I look up to. I can't imagine how awful I'd feel if he thought I was just another pretty face with an empty head," she said.

"I don't think that he thinks ill of you at all, Shinbi," Eri said. "He went through a lot of trouble to help you. Mr. Hobin doesn't waste his time helping people he doesn't like."

Shinbi supposed she was right and she ran her fingers though her hair.

"Tei's making breakfast. And Hobin made food for quite a few days. It was remarkable that he can cook that fast," Eri said. "Are you up to eating with us?"

"Yes," Shinbi said and slid out of bed. She was still turning over the events from the day before. Meeting Hobin at the drug store and seeing Tei and Eri at her building. Being in Hobin's arms, albeit briefly. She had no idea why that memory made her blush. Perhaps it was merely the thought of being carried like a princess. She shrugged it off. Some guy at work would be asked to carry her the same way for a shoot, it would be stupid of her to start associating that with romance. Besides, Hobin was much too mature to be swayed by something so small. She was just about to faint and he saved her a few steps is all.

Shinbi sat at the table feeling a bit listless. Eri was next to her giggling at something on her phone.

"Tei took this picture yesterday while I was with you. I made him send it to me because it was so funny," she said. Shinbi leaned over and managed a smile when she saw it. Hobin was in her kitchen cooking in her apron. It was funny, she knew he was running Banjul, but she never actually stopped to think that he could do anything besides make cakes, tea and coffee.

"He made that soup I ate yesterday?" Shinbi asked.

"Yes he did," Tei called from the kitchen.

Shinbi sighed deeply. She wasn't sure how to respond to all of Hobin's kindness. He probably thought she was just encroaching in his valuable time. It could be spent doing other things.

Her thoughts were interrupted by Tei entering with breakfast.

"Eat up, Shinbi. We need you back at tip top shape or else Hobin's going to come and force his help on us again," Tei said. Shinbi breathed heavily and ate as much as she could. There was no need to trouble Hobin if she could help it.

#

Shinbi was not eased back into her routine. As soon as she was back on her feet, she was rushing to a several day photo shoot, then she was to shoot a commercial for another few days and then she was rushing back to class. She managed to keep up with her homework somehow. When she set foot back on campus she was relieved. She found the pressures of a shoot immediate and sometimes overwhelming. Despite her cool exterior, at times she wanted to have a diva freak out and walk away for an hour. The pressures at school weren’t immediately demanding.

Her web design class brought an interesting project: design a website for a company. She read over the requirements and wondered what she should do. She put the paper in her binder and decided to work out a plan of attack after she met up with Soi. Shinbi decided to wait for Soi outside of her class. She knew people joked that they were lovers, but she didn’t really care for what people thought. Soi was her friend and she wanted to be around her friend.

Soi came out with her sketchbook and seemed obviously overwhelmed.

“Shinbi, look!” she said waving a paper in Shinbi’s face. Shinbi leaned back and took it away from her. She looked at it. The requirements for creating a mini line of clothes.

“Can I use you as a model?” she asked.

“Yes,” Shinbi said.

“Good! That’s one less thing to worry about. But how am I going to finish five finished outfits? What will my theme be! I don’t even know!” she cried.

“Come. Let’s go see Zion. You will get inspiration at Banjul, I promise,” Shinbi said. Soi sighed and complained the whole walk there. When they arrived they only found Tei and Hobin there.

“Oh, is Zion not here? I thought he was working today?” Soi said.

“He is,” Tei said. “We sent him out on an errand.”

“He’d better come soon! I’m under serious stress!” she said.

“You always are,” Tei said with a smile. Shinbi had to admit, she wasn’t sure if he was being sarcastic.
“I have a big project too,” Shinbi said off hand.

“Really, what’s your assignment?” Soi asked. It was as though all her own troubles disappeared when Shinbi mentioned a potential challenge of her own.

“It’s not as serious as yours. I was asked to design a website for a company. I haven’t decided which one to do,” Shinbi said. Tei arrived just as she finished describing her assignment.

“You have to design a website for a company? Would you like to redesign ours? It’s rather old. Finish your assignment however you have to for school, but if we like it, may we use it and pay you for it?” Tei said.

Shinbi nodded, “It’s good for my portfolio.”

“I’ll ask Hobin for approval,” he said. “In the meantime, what can I get my hardworking students?”

“Black coffee,” Shinbi said.

“Secret Garden Tea, please,” Soi said.

The girls were silent as they began brainstorming. Shinbi was sketching a general layout and making notes of pages and features she wanted on the Banjul website. Soi was sketching curves and circles and writing down ideas and colors to inspire her. Shinbi glanced over at Hobin. He hadn’t said anything to her. In fact, she hadn’t seen him since he helped her that day, and that was almost two weeks ago. She put her notebook down and steeled herself to speak to him.

“Ah, Shinbi. I hear you might be redoing our website,” he said.

“Yes. It’s good experience,” she said.

“Good. If we decide to use your website, I’ll pay you,” he said.

She shook her head, “No. Consider it payment for helping me when I was sick.”

He smirked, “I thought we cancelled out our debts when I bought your medicine and you bought my bandages.”

“Well you opened the cycle of debt up again when you helped me,” she said.

He chuckled and Shinbi worried that she had said something silly again.

“How about from now on, we have this agreement. We’re friends. We’ll help each other out without keeping track of who owes who for what,” he said. Shinbi smiled slowly and for the first time, she saw Hobin actually smile in return. Not his familiar smirk either, a real smile. The sound of a bag hitting the ground caught their attention. They both turned to Zion who was pointing at them in alarm.

“T-Tei! Hobin was smiling! I swear it was real!” he said.

“What? I missed it!” Soi and Tei chorused from across the room. This startled John, who had been snuggling in Hobin’s arms. He jumped out of Hobin’s hold and scurried across the room. Zion picked up his bags.

“Shinbi you have strange powers. Hobin always acts differently around you,” he said.

“I do not,” Hobin said.

“Yes, you do,” Zion said.

“I do not.”

“You do.”

“Do no—”

“O.K., O.K., don’t you two start this endless argument again,” Tei said. Shinbi giggled a little. It relieved her to see Hobin acting a little immature.

“Oh no!” a woman cried from across the room. All three of them turned to see Soi helping her clean up her clothes from a spilled drink.

“I’ve got this,” Hobin said. Shinbi returned to her seat and continued to work, watching Soi and Hobin over the top of her notebook.

“I’m so sorry this happened to you ma’am,” Hobin said. “Do you want another latte?”

“Yes, please. I’m just glad it didn’t get all over my knitting,” she said. Soi looked over at what she was working on. Shinbi knew from the sparkle in her eyes that Soi had an idea. When she sat back down, Soi was silent for once and sketched away. Shinbi also had a few ideas but she needed to take a few photos in order to get what she wanted. When she and Soi were ready to leave, she approached Hobin.

“May I return later this evening around closing time? I want to take a few pictures for the idea I have,” she said.

“You can stay after closing time as long as you like. I’ll be here,” he said.

“Having your nightly glass of wine?” she said.

He sighed, “I’m getting predictable in my old age.”

She smirked, “Your words, not mine. Can you also prepare a few drinks if I ask you?”

“Do you know which ones you want?”

“Here,” she said and handed him a list. He adjusted his glasses.

“All right. I will see you later,” he said. She nodded and waved as she turned to leave. Soi was all but dancing down the street.

“You seem happy,” Shinbi said.

“I got an idea! I’m going to create knitwear! It’s weather appropriate!” Soi said.

“Most labels are a season ahead,” Shinbi said.

“This is for my personal betterment, not for the masses! And this is what inspires me now!”

“I’m glad. I’ve got some work to finish before I come back to Banjul tonight,” Shinbi said.

“I’m off to buy a bunch of yarn. See you!” she said. Shinbi waved to Soi as she ran down the street. Shinbi felt a bit of relief after speaking to Hobin today. Not that her life was tied up over what he thought, but she felt good since it seemed he didn’t think she was stupid or helpless or anything. She went to her apartment in high spirits.

#

She had come to Banjul around closing hours frequently. It was the perk of being a friend of most of the people who worked there. Though she supposed now she should say she was a friend of the owner, since Hobin had basically said they were friends. No, he had definitely said they were friends. Shinbi smiled as she hefted her bag over her shoulder and walked up the stairs.

“Shinbi, is that you?” Hobin called.

“Yes,” she replied. When she reached the café, Hobin was behind the counter making the drinks she had requested.

“How was the rest of your day?” she asked as she set her bag on a chair and rummaged though, taking out her camera and desired lenses.

“It was pretty normal as days at Banjul go,” he said. She walked around taking a few test shots, trying to decide which angles would truly get her what she wanted and how to angle the lighting just so.

“Where would you like me to put the drinks you asked for?” he asked.

“On the counter,” she said. “I’ll move them when I’m ready.”

“Good, I’ll be in my office if you need me,” he said. Shinbi was glad. As much as she was growing fond of Hobin’s company, she worked best alone. She took her pictures in peace. It took a bit longer than she thought to get things just right, but when she was satisfied, she packed up her equipment and decided to say good bye to Hobin. She knocked on his office door, though it was open. He got up and met her.

“I’m done, sorry I stayed so late,” she said.

“Don’t worry. You’re doing us a favor,” he said.

“What are you going to do with the drinks you made?” she asked.

“Well there are a few options,” he said.

“You can pour them out,” she said.

“Or we can drink them together,” he said.

“But they’re cold now. And didn’t you just drink wine?” she asked.

“They’d probably taste better hot, but I see no harm in drinking them now. And no, I didn’t drink tonight. Not that it would matter anyway,” he said. “That is unless you’re sensitive to caffeine.”

She shook her head, “Not particularly. I have no trouble going to sleep after a cup of coffee.”

“Me neither,” he said. They went back out to the café and sat with four cups of caffeinated drinks. They chose a cozy corner of the café, the chairs Shinbi liked to sit at with Soi and Eri the best. It was odd to see Hobin sitting at one of his own tables and drinking like a customer. Shinbi grinned and got an idea.

“Stay just like that,” she said and got out her camera. He opened his mouth to protest, but as soon as the lens was pointed at him, he relaxed effortlessly into a pose. It wasn’t forced, but it didn’t strike her as something a normal person would do. It was as though he knew the lines his body would make from the angle she was shooting. She snapped a few shots and looked them over. She raised her eyebrows when she glanced back up at him. They were nearly perfect.

“Your turn,” he said and held out his hand. She handed him her camera reluctantly. He put down his mug and got ready to take a picture, but he stopped. He smirked and Shinbi felt a tightness in her chest when she met his eyes.

“Relax,” he said. “You do this all the time, right?”

She felt a small smile tug at her lips. He squinted and stood up.

“Lean this shoulder back,” he said and pushed her a little with the palm of his hand. “Cross this leg, and...”

He adjusted the coffee mug in her hands. Shinbi knew she must have flushed red, but he didn't seem to have any reaction as he fixed the placement of her fingers.

“Finally...” he said and gently held her chin. He raised her head slightly. His face was inches away from hers, but it was as though he wasn't really seeing her. She knew this look well, many a photographer or art director had posed her like this and had the same face. But for some reason, when Hobin did it...

“Perfect,” he said. “Stay just like that.”

He kneeled and took a few shots.

“That should be plenty,” he said and handed her back her camera. Shinbi was now curious, and she looked at the pictures he had taken. She was surprised at how well they turned out despite being so informal.

“You must know something about photography,” Shinbi said.

“It was a hobby of mine. I still take pictures now and then,” he said.

“Maybe we should go together one day,” she said. She promptly took a sip of her coffee. She had no idea what possessed her to suggest that. Her cheeks burned furiously as she hoped Hobin wouldn't react.

“We should,” he said. Her head snapped up to read his face. He was downing his coffee. When he set his mug down he smiled gently at her.

“We should go out and take pictures someday. Let me know when,” he said.

Shinbi thanked Hobin for all his help and for letting her have free drinks. She couldn’t explain why her heart was racing as she descended the stairs. She attempted to be reasonable with herself. Hobin was someone she admired, so connecting with him was a pretty big deal to her. She took the bus back to her home and started coding immediately. When the code made her eyes spin, she decided to edit some of the photos she took. She opened up all the files and clicked through them all. She couldn’t help but linger on the picture she took of Hobin. How one managed to be so effortlessly flawless was beyond her. She supposed it shouldn’t be so beyond her, she was trained to look effortlessly flawless all the time when she went to photo shoots.

She then pulled up the picture Hobin took of her. Shinbi felt her face grow hot. She placed a hand on her cheek. Was she blushing? She had long since gotten used to seeing pictures of herself, so what would have been awkward for most girls wasn’t awkward for her at all. She wasn’t blushing because it was a picture of herself, it was because...she placed her fingertips on her chin, where Hobin’s hand was. He had been so close. Shinbi closed her eyes and shook her head. She decided to distract herself by putting all the unedited files into a flash drive. She’d let Hobin and Tei use it for promotional material if they wanted.

She crawled into bed and went to sleep decidedly ignoring the way butterflies cluttered her stomach and the way her toes curled at the thought of going back to Banjul.

#

It was a few more days before Shinbi was able to return to Banjul. She had a relatively small shoot and needed to catch up on homework. She received a desperate text from Soi all but begging her to show up at Banjul later that afternoon. She had barely made it up the stairs before Soi swooped in. Zion had barely even opened his mouth to greet her. Soi plopped her in a chair threw her a ball of yarn and hook.

“Get started,” she said. Eri waved and returned to her project.

“I take it we’re crocheting,” Shinbi said.

“Yes. As much as I love crocheting until I fall asleep in Zion’s arms, it’s intensely boring when I work by myself. Look, I’m going to work on my projects at Banjul everyday. Can you come and crochet with me sometimes?” Soi asked.

“Whenever I can come, I’ll be here,” Eri said. Shinbi eyed her scarf that was already a few inches long.

“Isn’t Eri a natural?” Soi said. “I taught her only a few hours ago and she’s gotten it so quickly. So how about it, Shinbi? Will you crochet with me? We’ll be like the Banjul Wives Club or something.”

“Neither of you are married. And I’m not dating anyone from Banjul,” Shinbi said.

“I’m just talking. So are you going to join us or not?” she asked.

Shinbi held up her hook and yarn, “Teach me.”

It was slow going. Even though Eri and Soi were teaching her, she found she just couldn’t get it. Soi had the benefit of a few days worth of experimenting to get her stitching down and she was notoriously bad at explaining things. It was becoming more and more apparent to Shinbi that Eri was some sort of yarn whisperer. She seemed to be able to undo all of Shinbi’s mistakes but unable to explain how she fixed them. After an hour, Shinbi was ready to give up for the day.

As she set the tangle of yarn on her lap and leaned back in her chair, Zion arrived.

“Here, for your trouble, Shinbi. Your favorite,” he asked. A cup of black coffee was set in front of her. She smiled and ran a finger along the rim of the mug.

“Oh, Zion is Hobin here?” she asked.

“No, he’s talking with some of our suppliers today,” Zion said.

“Oh...well, I have this flash drive with some pictures on it for him. Do you mind if I leave them for him?” she asked.

“Go ahead to his office and leave him a note,” Zion said. Shinbi thanked him and got up. John appeared out of no where and followed her.

“Don’t worry, I’m just leaving something for your owner,” she said to him. He continued to follow her like a fuzzy shadow. Shinbi set the flash drive on Hobin’s desk and write a quick note to him. John distracted her, pressing his tiny body against her legs. She giggled and picked him up. He purred as she rubbed his chin.

“You know how to get all the girls don’t you?” she said. “Did you learn that from Tei, Hobin or Zion?”

He snuggled closer and her smile only got bigger.

“I see, your charm is all your own,” she cooed. The door swung open to reveal Hobin, with his now famous jacket. He regarded them with some surprise before he gave her something between a smirk and a smile.

“Now this is picture perfect. To what do I owe the honor of finding you in my office Miss Shinbi?” he asked.

Shinbi nodded toward his desk, “I left a drive with all the pictures I took on your desk.”

“I see. What about the ones I took?” he asked.

“Which one? Oh, you mean the ones of me?” she asked.

“Yes. I want to edit them and add it to my portfolio,” he said. “May I credit you as the model?”

“You may. I didn’t include it, but I’ll send it to you,” she said. He opened up his wallet and gave her a business card.

“My email is on there,” he said. “And you may as well add my phone number. Since we’re friends and all.”

Shinbi nodded and put the card in her pocket, careful to cradle John in one arm.

“Well, my business is done here, so I’m going back to Soi and Eri,” she said. As she was about to leave, Hobin called to her.

“Don’t forget. We have to go out and take pictures together. I’m serious. I miss photography. It’s been a while,” he said.

“All right,” she said with a smile. She tried to disguise it as she went back out to the cafe by kissing John’s forehead. That was too much affection for him and he squirmed out of her arms. Shinbi returned to the girls to make more yarn tangles, her heart and stomach forming knots to match the ones her fingers made.

Way Too Cute

Date: 2015-09-27 02:03 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] random_gal
I never even thought of Shinbi dating Hobin, but I'm so glad I found this fic!

The whole thing is so incredibly cute. It's slice of life with mixed friendship and crushing and interesting little tidbits, like little jokes about Johnson's feline appeal or Eri being a /yarn whisperer/ (I really want to know why that occurred to you but I approve 100%. Dolls or personal experience or just 'cause?). And her tangled little suppressed feelings that don't come off as totally oblivious, and just...

The sickness and Soi's desire to design what she wants rather than what other people are doing and Shinbi's confession to the quieter of her friends was all fun. I like having Shinbi coding things and fail at crotcheting.

cute. Shinbi. Everyone. No exceptions.

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