What changed?

Art-to-Heart

‘’ What’s up with you? ‘’ Minho asked as he joined the blonde in the other corner of the room.

Jonghyun cocked an eyebrow as his eyes found his friends. ‘’ What do you mean? ‘’

‘’ It’s not like you to stay in the same corner all night, ‘’ the brunette pointed out.

The other sighed as he looked right in front of him.

A dancefloor full of students moving around like brainless organisms. Flashing neon lights blinking in a schizophrenic pattern all over the room. Tasteless music loops blaring through the speakers as if they were all deaf.

‘’ Remind me why this is supposed to be fun again? ‘’ Jonghyun asked, wrinkling his nose in disgust.

Minho frowned, giving his friend a long look. ‘’ It’s a party, Jjong. You love parties, ‘’ he reminded.

The blonde looked at the empty cup he was holding. ‘’ I guess it’d be better if they’d let us have more than one drink. ‘’

‘’ You’ve never needed that before to loosen up, ‘’ Minho pointed out, more and more disconcerted by his best friend’s behaviour.

‘’ Yeah, well I guess I’ve changed, ‘’ Jonghyun sighed again.

It had only been an hour since he had been here, but already he wanted to leave. At first, being with his friends and playing around had been fun, but soon enough they had all found some girls on which to sharpen their flirting skills and dance with. Not so long ago, he would’ve done the same, but as he kept looking around for potential targets, he realized no one created that spark in him.

‘’ Isn’t there anyone Kim Jonghyun would like to add to his Kiss List tonight? ‘’ Minho baited knowingly.

The blonde snorted. ‘’ You do know that’s not a real thing, right? ‘’

‘’ It’s not because there is no written list that it isn’t real, ‘’ Minho argued. ‘’ You’re the one always boasting about how many people you’ve kissed. ‘’

Jonghyun smirked at the note of annoyance he picked up in his tone. ‘’ It’s not my fault my lips are so irresistible. ‘’

‘’ Gross, ‘’ the taller one uttered, wincing.

‘’ Have you even kissed anyone this year? ‘’ he then wondered.

The question caught Jonghyun off guard for a moment as realization hit him. ‘’ I haven’t… ‘’

‘’ Woah, seriously? ‘’ Minho exclaimed as his eyes widened.

‘’ Yeah… ‘’ Jonghyun slowly processed.

There was a moment of silence between them, a moment of shared surprise and concern for what they had both just uncovered.

‘’ Well, ‘’ Jonghyun finally started once he got over it. ‘’ I guess you’ll finally be able to catch up then. ‘’

The jab brought the other out of his own state of shock.

Scowling, he replied, ‘’ This is not a competition. ‘’

‘’ Oh, I know, ‘’ Jonghyun acknowledged, laughing. ‘’ But it wouldn’t hurt for you to actually get some. ‘’

‘’ Maybe I am, ‘’ Minho countered, crossing his arms over his chest.

‘’ Oh really? ‘’ the blonde expressed in an exaggerated show of enthusiasm. ‘’ Are those practices with Kibum finally paying off? ‘’

A deadly glare had him exploding with laughter, the suddenness of it having him bent in half. It was a while before he could regain control over himself and face his grumpy-looking best friend again.

‘’ You know I’m just kidding, right? ‘’

‘’ Even if you aren’t, ain’t no way Kibum and I could ever get along, ‘’ Minho settled categorically.

‘’ But you are practicing together, right? ‘’ Jonghyun inquired, suddenly curious.

The brunette sighed. ‘’ Yes, we are. And we are barely making it alive each time. ‘’

‘’ I believe in you, Ming, ‘’ Jonghyun cheered on, laughing again.

‘’ Whatever, ‘’ he grumbled, looking ahead.

Jonghyun did the same and immediately felt his mood drop again. Nothing had changed in the last few minutes. It was the same boring scenery.

I wonder what Jinki is doing…

That sudden thought for his roommate made him even more sure that there was no point in him staying here anymore.

‘’ I’ll leave you to the fun and chase, Ming. I’m leaving, ‘’ he announced.

‘’ What? ‘’ the taller one let out loudly.

‘’ You heard me. ‘’

‘’ Where are you going? ‘’

‘’ Probably to the studio. I feel like working on some compositions, ‘’ Jonghyun lied without a second thought.

‘’ Okay… ‘’

Jonghyun didn’t let himself be fazed by the other’s suspicious look. Giving him a smile, he then his heel and left the room. 

He didn’t know why, but he suddenly found himself rushing up the stairs and through the hallway, leaving him almost breathless once he was back in front of the door of their dorm room. He took a few seconds to catch his breath before running a hand through his hair.

When he finally was inside again, he suddenly felt weird. He just stood in the middle of the living room for several seconds, trying to find the source of that uneasiness. His eyes widened as it finally caught up with him. He was only now realizing how unlike him it was to just rush out of a school party and go back to his room.

He did enjoy his alone time more than people could ever suspect, but he had never turned down an opportunity to just let off some steam on the dancefloor and get some game.

What changed? He wondered as he stared at a blank spot in front of him.

When he realized the answer wouldn’t come to him, he finally moved again. His eyes darted towards his roommate’s door, but at the last minute he decided to go into his room first. As soon as he was in, he started looking around anxiously for something that would make his presence back here more justifiable.

It took a moment, but he finally found it. It was something he had almost forgotten about, but that worked perfectly in this instance. When he pulled it out, a huge grin cracked his face.

Wasting no more time, he finally walked to the other’s room and knocked.

Silence answered him.

He knocked again, determined.

His ear finally caught a sound, but that soon faded into silence again.

‘’ Jinki! ‘’ he decided to call out as he grew impatient.

That proved effective as a few seconds later, the door opened before him, revealing a confused Jinki.

‘’ Jjong? ‘’

‘’ What are you doing here? ‘’ he then asked as a deep frown creased his brow.

‘’ That’s no good, Jinki, ‘’ he reproached with a pout. ‘’ How about I’m so happy to see you, Jjong. ‘’

‘’ Well, I’m glad, but… why are you here? ‘’ Jinki wondered, still confused.

‘’ I thought that I should bring the party to you since you didn’t want to go, ‘’ he conveniently explained as he held up the paper bag he was holding.

‘’ What’s that? ‘’

‘’ Let me in and you’ll see… ‘’ Jonghyun teased with a wink.

Jinki’s gaze immediately found another focus than the one standing before him. He then stepped back to let him in, closing the door behind them right after.

Once again, Jonghyun made himself comfortable on his mattress, in the same position he always took. His eyes immediately went to the book that had been left in the middle of the bed. He picked it up as he put down the paper bag.

‘’ What’s that? ‘’ he asked as he struggled to read the title.

‘’ L’Étranger by Albert Camus, ‘’ Jinki answered right after he found his comfortable spot against his headboard.

‘’ Isn’t that French? ‘’ Jonghyun gathered as he looked at the back cover.

‘’ Yes. ‘’

Jonghyun stared at Jinki, blinking. ‘’ You’re reading this in French? ‘’

The brunette nodded. ‘’ Well to be correct I’m rereading it. ‘’

‘’ Wait, wait, wait… you speak French? ‘’ the other all but shrieked.

‘’ I understand it more than I can speak it to be honest, ‘’ Jinki rectified once more.

The blonde’s mouth fell open, stunned. ‘’ But how… ‘’

‘’ My parents were always big on consuming art in their original form, or language in that instance, so I was tutored in many languages from very young. ‘’

‘’ How many languages do you actually know? ‘’

‘’ Apart from Korean and English, I know Japanese, German, Russian, Spanish and French. ‘’

‘’ I’m… ‘’ The blonde was truly at a loss for words and he was only fluent in one language.

‘’ You’re a genius, Lee Jinki, ‘’ he concluded as he kept looking at him in awe.

‘’ Ninja, genius… which one is it? ‘’ Jinki joked, trying to mask how flustered the other was making him.

‘’ All of the above. ‘’

‘’ It’s nothing really, ‘’ the brunette dismissed as the other’s gaze felt more and more unbearable.  ‘’ We can all learn lots of languages as children. My parents just exploited that ability, that’s all. ‘’

‘’ Yeah well that’s still amazing, ‘’ Jonghyun insisted. ‘’ You are full of surprises, Lee Ninja Genius Jinki. ‘’

Even though bashful, he couldn’t help but smile at that.

‘’ Mmm, ‘’ the blonde hummed in approval. ‘’ You should smile more, it really suits you. ‘’

Jinki almost missed the other’s own smile as he looked away, feeling his face heat up. But he could still see it from the corner of his eye and felt his heart flip because of it.

He soon distracted himself by putting away his book and then his cellphone and earphones from which had come the rain sounds he often needed to stay focused. 

‘’ What’s in the bag? ‘’ he then asked once it caught his line of vision again.

Jonghyun grinned. Without a word, he handed it to him.

Jinki gave him a suspicious look, but went on uncovering what was inside.

‘’ You can’t be serious… ‘’ he gasped, eyes wide.

‘’ Oh… I’m more than serious, ‘’ Jonghyun chuckled in amusement.

‘’ You know you could get expelled for this, right? ‘’ Jinki reminded as his initial shock subsided to give place to fear.

‘’ I’ve hidden it well all this time, I’m not worried, ‘’ the blonde shrugged. ‘’ Plus, if we finish it all tonight, we can get rid of the evidence, ‘’ he continued with a sly smile.

‘’ You’re crazy. ‘’ Jinki gave him back the bottle. ‘’ Get rid of it now. ‘’

‘’ Oh come on… ‘’ Jonghyun whined in protest. ‘’ That’s no fun. ‘’

‘’ You know what’s fun? Not getting expelled, ‘’ Jinki retorted.

‘’ And you know what’s even more fun? Having a few drinks with your favorite roommate and not getting expelled, ‘’ Jonghyun threw back smugly.

Jinki looked at him with worry and disapproval. He didn’t like this at all, but at the same time, he did want to join the other in his very stupid plan.

‘’ I guess there isn’t much risk drinking here, ‘’ he rationalized despite his worst-case scenarios.

‘’ Exactly! ‘’ Jonghyun said, beaming. He lost no time to pull out the two small glasses that were also in the bag.

‘’ Hold these, ‘’ he indicated before taking the bottle in his hands again.

Soon enough, the rich golden-brown liquid filled each glass.

‘’ Cheers, ‘’ Jonghyun initiated excitedly once he had his own glass in hand.

‘’ Cheers, ‘’ Jinki echoed stiffly.

They both brought the glass to their lips and drank.

‘’ Ooof, that’s strong, ‘’ Jonghyun noted with a grimace as he lowered his glass.

‘’ Well yeah, it’s rum, ‘’ Jinki replied, unfazed.

‘’ Thanks, Sherlock, ‘’ the blonde huffed.

‘’ I mean that’s probably why you bought it right? ‘’

‘’ Yeah… ‘’

‘’ Have you actually had rum before? ‘’ Jinki asked as he read his expression.

Jonghyun would’ve been quick to say yes to save face, but he had shared so much with Jinki already that it didn’t seem right to act almighty now.

‘’ No… ‘’ he admitted. ‘’ I’ve never been much of a drinker… ‘’

‘’ So why did you bring that bottle? ‘’

There was a silence, a long silence, during which an internal debate took place inside the blonde, but in the end it did nothing to change the outcome. It was too late to keep his truth in now.

‘’ In case I wanted to forget… ‘’

‘’ Forget? ‘’ Jinki repeated, surprised. ‘’ Forget about what? ‘’

Jonghyun looked down to the mattress, embarrassed. ‘’ About everything… ‘’

The other’s answer left the brunette silent, his eyes still on the other’s sullen demeanour. He wanted to find the right thing to say, the thing that could erase just for moment that sorrow he could sense coming out from his every pore, but he came up blank.

‘’ Don’t worry, Jinki, ‘’ Jonghyun finally said, lifting his head up. ‘’ I had actually forgotten about the bottle, so I’d say I’m doing pretty good, ‘’ he observed with a small laugh.

That didn’t do much to reassure the brunette. ‘’ Jjong… ‘’

Still he couldn’t find the words.

‘’ I say we still deserve to have a few drinks since we’ve had to work so hard lately, ‘’ Jonghyun decided with a renewed enthusiasm.

Jinki was still worried. ‘’ Are you sure? ‘’

‘’ Very, ‘’ the blonde settled before he brought the glass to his lips again and downed it.

The other watched him grimace again, but felt a little more at ease when he retrieved his smile.

‘’ You can’t just watch me drink, ‘’ Jonghyun pointed out. ‘’ You have to drink too. ‘’

Jinki slowly nodded, still a little on edge.

Soon, his own glass was empty too.

But that only lasted a few seconds as the blonde got back to pouring.

Jinki wanted to protest again, but found himself unable to. Before he knew it, he was following the other once more in his fast-paced drinking and from then on, it was just a sequence of fill up the glass-down it-repeat.

They soon reached their limit half-way through the bottle, both ending up sprawled on the bed, lids drooping over their eyes. Jinki could feel the pull of sleep, but he fought it, remembering that he wasn’t alone.

‘’ Jinki… ‘’

The other’s tone let him know he wasn’t alone his predicament.

‘’ I’m sleepy, ‘’ the blonde went on drowsily.

‘’ Go get some sleep, ‘’ the brunette said.

‘’ I want to, but… I don’t think I can move… ‘’ Jonghyun answered with a lazy laugh.

‘’ Do you mind if I just sleep here tonight? ‘’ he then asked, letting his eyes close.

If Jinki had been fighting with all his might with sleep before, the sudden surge of panic that rose inside him now had him fully alert.

‘’ That’s not a good idea. ‘’

A frown graced the blonde’s sleepy face. ‘’ Mmm? Why? ‘’

‘’ Um… ‘’ Jinki’s brain worked full speed to find the perfect excuse.

‘’ Cause I snore, ‘’ he found, feeling relief wash over him.

‘’ Hmm? ‘’ Jonghyun hummed, perplexed. ‘’ I’ve never heard you snore before. ‘’

‘’ Well I do, ‘’ Jinki asserted, pushing his guilt aside. ‘’ I’d feel too bad if I knew that I had ruined your sleep. ‘’

The blonde fell silent as a feeling of disappointment crashed over him.

‘’ Jjong? ‘’ Jinki called out, worried again.

‘’ Fine, ‘’ he finally answered. ‘’ But you’ll have to help me up. ‘’

‘’ Sure, ‘’ Jinki acknowledged before he started moving off the bed. He soon found his way to the other side where Jonghyun had in the meantime managed to bring himself up to a sitting position.

‘’ Just put an arm around my shoulder, ‘’ the brunette indicated.

Jonghyun did just that and before he knew it, he was lifted up onto his feet.

‘’ Wow… you’re pretty strong, ‘’ he noted with a slight slur to his words. 

Jinki felt himself blush again. ‘’ Not at all, ‘’ he immediately refuted.

A breathy laugh tumbled out of the blonde’s mouth. ‘’ You’re always so serious, Jinki… ‘’

The brunette chose not to engage. ‘’ Just focus on your steps now. ‘’

He started moving first, bringing the smaller one along in his motion. For the first few steps, it almost felt like he was dragging him, but then Jonghyun seemed to remember how to make his body move again, making the remainder of their path that much easier.

Jinki finally let go once the blonde was back onto his bed. He quickly turned away to leave, but Jonghyun’s voice made him halt.

‘’ Thanks for tonight, Jinki. T’was fun. ‘’

Jinki felt his heart speed up. ‘’ Get some sleep now, ‘’ he advised.

‘’ Yes, chief, ‘’ Jonghyun replied, giggling.

The brunette left the room right after, turning off the light and closing the door behind him.

Jonghyun soon fell asleep, the last thing on his mind being the other’s smile.

 

***

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