Jonghyun put the book down for the first time in hours. The words were starting to blur and he suddenly realized he hadn’t had much to eat or drink for that matter. Walking up to the kitchen, his mind ran over where he had stopped in the story. It was another passage full of pain and heartbreak and it was still hard for him to wrap his mind around the fact that Jinki could’ve written that kind of stuff. He had gone through 2 books and was now in the middle of the third. And even though it still brought up guilt, this was the best way he had found to get closer to him; to know him better.
It had been weeks now since the fashion show and they had seen each other a few times since, but he always felt like there was this wall. He wasn’t sure if it was really there or if he was just being paranoid, but in the end, he was pretty sure there was so much more to him. And his writing confirmed that. So during his free time, he would read and read and read some more, all the while thinking at how those beautifully worded pages were actually parts of his real life.
Every time he would tell himself that he should stop, but he couldn’t. It wasn’t just about getting to know him; the truth of the matter was that he was simply an amazing writer. Once you fell into his world, there was practically no turning back.
Which was why, in his haste, he heated up a leftover from last night’s supper and brought it back to the living room, eager to continue his reading. His actions were unfortunately put to a halt when he heard his phone ring. He practically cursed at the device for being a disturbance, but his demeanour changed as he saw the caller ID.
‘Hello?’ he answered with the hint of a smile.
‘Hey,’ Jinki replied warmly. ‘Am I bothering you?’ he then immediately inquired.
‘No, not at all,’ Jonghyun said as he slid his bookmark between the pages of the book.
‘Oh well, I was wondering if...’ The brunette laughed nervously. ‘Um...’
‘What?’ Jonghyun expressed with amusement.
‘We’ve been hanging out for a while now and I just realized that you have never seen my apartment,’ Jinki finally let out, voice lowered almost to a murmur.
But Jonghyun caught all of it. How couldn’t he? This was important. This was a step further. This had his heart hammering against his chest and his lips cracking into a bashful smile. This made him happy.
‘So if I understand correctly, you’d like me to come over,’ Jonghyun uttered after reeling in his excitement.
‘That’s pretty much it, yeah,’ Jinki confirmed.
‘What’s the address?’ the younger one asked, forgetting all about his food and the book.
To his surprise, the place wasn’t that big. He would’ve thought otherwise, as he had seen his fancy car and his nice suits, but it was rather simple. Although to him that wasn’t a bad thing. In fact, he liked that the place was more cozy and slightly messy; it didn’t make him feel out of place.
‘So that’s it, that’s my home,’ Jinki concluded after he had given him a quick tour.
‘It’s really nice,’ Jonghyun complimented as he walked around the living room. As it was to be expected, books were scattered all over the tables, even though a magnificent bookshelf was standing proud against a wall nearby. He couldn’t blame him though; the shelves were almost filled over capacity.
‘You have so many books,’ he observed as his eyes trailed down the beautiful piece of furniture.
‘Yeah well, I like to keep myself occupied,’ Jinki conceded.
‘You have enough books here to occupy yourself ‘till death,’ Jonghyun teased, a throaty laugh ensuing his words.
The other one echoed his laughter, before saying ‘I guess I’m what you call a nerd.’
‘I think that’s just being passionate.’
Their eyes locked briefly and then the atmosphere suddenly felt heavy. Jonghyun couldn’t help but look away; he couldn’t withstand the intensity of the other one’s gaze. His eyes tried to find something worthy of comment; anything to create distraction. He finally caught something. There was a pile of papers beside a laptop, which could be anything really, but his curiosity was still piqued.
‘What is that?’ Jonghyun asked as he pointed to it.
Jinki’s eyes followed his arm. Suddenly uneasy, he rubbed the back of his neck.
‘I’m writing down ideas,’ he answered quickly.
Eyebrow cocked, the younger one then automatically inquired, ‘Ideas for what?’
Jinki crossed his arms. ‘For a new story,’ he specified.
Jonghyun’s eyes widened as his mouth fell slightly open. ‘You’re writing again?’ he exclaimed.
Then leaving no time for the other one to answer, he added ‘Are you okay?’
The brunette’s discomfort completely left his body as an unrestrained laugh shook his body.
‘I’m fine. I’m writing for fun this time,’ Jinki reassured.
Jonghyun smiled with relief. ‘Just making sure.’
His words were followed by a silence that persisted, making both their brains work hard to find something to say. A sudden buzzing sound put a halt to that. Jonghyun pushed a hand down his pocket and took out his phone. He rolled his eyes and then pushed it back down where it belonged.
‘You’re not answering that?’ Jinki asked, before letting himself drop on his sofa.
‘No,’ he simply replied as he made himself comfortable too.
‘Who was it?’
Jonghyun sighed. ‘It was Minho.’
A frown settled on the older one’s face. ‘Oh...’
‘I...’ Jonghyun couldn’t find any words. He knew he had no excuse.
‘I know it’s none of my business, but it looks like you’re avoiding him.’
‘I’m not. I’ve just been busy...’ Jonghyun finally said, tone merely convincing.
‘Busy seeing me?’ Jinki joked.
A smile cracked both their lips.
‘Yeah,’ Jonghyun thought as a flutter unsettled his heart.
‘I can’t say I’m any better. Kibum’s called me, but I haven’t made time for him yet,’ Jinki admitted.
‘Well it’s not like he has a lot free time anyways,’ Jonghyun snorted.
‘So... you guys don’t spend much time together?’
‘Not really.’ He found himself feeling slightly discomforted by the thought of his boyfriend.
‘It’s sad... I mean when I see you two together it feels so...’ His eyes shifted quickly as he mulled over what he was trying to say. ‘So right,’ he finally uttered.
Jonghyun just stared at him, thinking.
Noticing that, Jinki continued, ‘But the only way that can be maintained is if you both make your relationship a priority.’
The younger one sighed. He could feel a knot form in his stomach and he wasn’t quite sure why.
Jonghyun rolled his hips slowly, then fast and then a little faster, trying to angle himself just the right way, but it wasn’t working. Setting his eyes into confused brown irises, he just had to admit to himself that he wasn’t into it. He climbed down the lithe body as a sigh escaped his lips.
‘I’m so sorry,’ he breathed, too ashamed to look his boyfriend’s way again.
Key pushed himself up on his elbows, brows furrowed from a mix of annoyance and disarray.
‘What’s going on, Jjong?’
Face buried in his hands, he didn’t answer. There was no way he could just tell him what was going on in his mind. There was no way he could tell him why he couldn’t get it up for him just now and get out of it alive.
‘That thing with your parents is still messing with your head, huh?’ Key supposed.
Jonghyun felt relieved. He could just agree to that and save himself the trouble of having to dig into what was really going on.
‘Yes,’ he replied. ‘I thought I was over it, but I guess not.’
His gaze finally stopped on his boyfriend. ‘Please believe me when I say it has nothing to do with you,’ he continued, hand reaching out to his cheek. A light caress already had the other one’s eyes half-closed; sign that he believed him.
At that point, there wasn’t anything left to say, so Key just slid back under his sheets as Jonghyun turned the lights off. He then jumped right back in bed, even though he knew this was going to be another one of his sleepless nights.
And he was right. He didn’t know how much time had passed, but whether it was a lot or not, it was painful. The thoughts that were harassing him as the soft tremble of his boyfriend’s breathing could be heard were unbearable. It all went down to one question: How could he have let his happen?
What he had right now with Key, the life they built together, it was perfect. So why did it feel like he didn’t belong anymore?
Unable to catch a break from his restless mind, he got up, being very careful about not disturbing the other one’s peace.
His phone was still where he had left it; on the dining table. These days he tried to keep it away from him, but it didn’t really help. It didn’t make him feel more at ease to not be aware if a certain brunette had called or not.
He walked up to the table and picked up his phone. He turned it on as he let out a breath he didn’t know he had been keeping in. For two days, it had been left untouched. Part of him wanted to find something and part of him wanted to be faced with nothing.
The latter part of him was deceived as numerous missed calls showed up on his screen alongside a few texts. He looked at them quickly, feeling his heart quicken. They started out casual with things like ‘Hey, how are you doing?’ to more concerned messages like ‘Are you okay? You’re not answering my messages...’
A pang of guilt ran through him. He had never wanted to worry him, but he was doing them both a favour. At least, that’s what he had thought. Ever since he had last seen him, he felt like he had to put a distance between them. He was now realizing that it wasn’t really solving anything and that he would have to talk to him sooner or later.
A few clicks then brought him to his voicemail. He couldn’t help but close his eyes as the warm voice of Jinki filled his ear. There were words, many words; he couldn’t make them all out. He was getting dizzy just from hearing him. But three words stood out and echoed in his mind, minutes after the phone had found its place back on the wooden structure.
‘I miss you.’
Jonghyun put down his spoon as he watched Key pour coffee into a cup.
‘You haven’t slept much, have you?’ the younger one asked as he let his back rest against the counter.
‘I have...’ Jonghyun looked right back into his bowl. ‘Don’t worry, I’m fine,’ he lied.
‘I know you’re not, but unfortunately I can’t stay to pull it out of you.’ He downed his cup and walked over to him. He gave him a quick kiss on the forehead and then he was gone.
Jonghyun felt a weight lift off his shoulders as he heard the front door get shut. He didn’t have to be in pretend mode anymore. No, he hadn’t slept much. In fact, he hadn’t slept at all. Insomnia had always been part of him, and now it was acting out.
He pulled out his phone from his pocket and scrolled down to the number he wanted. He was going to call him, he needed to.
‘Hello?’ he heard at the other end of the line.
Jonghyun felt his heart stop. It wasn’t Jinki. He knew quite well who this was.
‘Taemin,’ he uttered before hanging up.
It was almost too much. The sadness that suddenly hit him was overwhelming. In an instant, the glimpse of hope, the jolt of excitement, all of it had been completely erased.
This couldn’t be him. He couldn’t be that pathetic person pining for something that couldn’t be. He suddenly felt weary; he needed sleep. All he wanted right now was some peace.
But of course, he had to be disturbed again. His phone was ringing and the number that appeared just made him want to throw it against a wall. He wouldn’t do it of course. He wouldn’t because he didn’t really have the will to turn his back on him.
‘Hi,’ he answered sharply.
‘Hey,’ Jinki said with clear unease.
‘What do you want?’ Jonghyun asked, anger flowing through him as the very thought of him being with Taemin unfolded in his mind.
‘I’m glad you picked up the phone. I... I’m glad to hear your voice.’ He took a deep breath. ‘Listen, Tae just came for a visit. He-‘
‘I seriously don’t care,’ Jonghyun interjected. ‘I just didn’t want to be a bother, so I hung up. You didn’t have to call me back,’ he let out a little more harshly than he had intended to.
‘Jjong, let’s not fight about this again,’ Jinki pleaded.
‘We’re not fighting,’ he said before putting an end to the call.
He sighed. This day was adding up to the other ones he would need to forget.
Minho’s eyes widened as he opened the door. He definitely hadn’t expected to see his best friend’s boyfriend on his front porch. The latter walked right in, giving him no other choice but to close the door and follow him into the living room.
‘I know I should’ve called, but I was close so I decided to drop by,’ Key explained quickly.
Minho sat down in front of him. ‘What’s going on?’ he expressed in a tone laced with confusion.
‘JJong isn’t here, is he?’ Key asked, a little panicky.
‘No, he’s not...’
‘I just... I...’ He stopped himself so he could gather his thoughts. ‘I don’t know what to do anymore. I tried to fix things on my own, but obviously it’s not working...’
Minho knew from the way his voice shook that Key was at a loss. He who always had things under control was now letting someone else in. Someone he didn’t even like. That was definitely a first.
‘Having troubles with Jjong, huh?’ Minho pinpointed.
Key nodded, trying hard not to lose face. ‘He’s just not the same and I don’t know what to do...’ he admitted.
‘He hasn’t shared much with me lately... I guess he’s pushing everyone away,’ Minho observed.
‘So it’s not just me then... I’m not the problem?’ Key asked in a manner that sought reassurance.
‘It probably has something to do with his parents... it’s hard to get over that kind of stuff,’ Minho suggested, knowing very well that wasn’t the case.
‘That’s what I thought too, but I feel like there is something more...’
‘I guess you’ll just have to wait until he tells you.’ Minho brought a hand to his shoulder and gave it a squeeze. ‘I’m sure he’ll go back to normal soon.’
Key let out a breathy laugh. ‘You’re right. I don’t know why I got so worried,’ he said as he got up.
‘Sorry for bothering you,’ he added as their eyes locked.
‘It’s okay. I understand,’ Minho reassured with a smile.
He accompanied him back to the front door and a few seconds later, he was alone again. That visit just confirmed his fears. He knew something was up with his best friend. And he knew what that something was. Jonghyun could ignore him now, but he knew that sooner or later, when things would become too hard to bear, he would get a call or a visit and then it would be all out in the open.
The warm liquid glided down his throat, making him instantly feel a little better. He had tried all day to fight the urge, but here he was now, in a bar, trying to mellow out.
As soon as he was done with his first drink, he called for more shots. Each of them passed his lips quickly and he suddenly found himself wishing a certain someone was with him. And he made no effort to push that thought away; he was tired of fighting.
So tired, that without thinking it through, he brought his phone to his ear. He could be mad or sad all he wanted, but that didn’t change a thing. It didn’t change the fact that his body and mind were aching for his presence.
The ringing stopped. ‘Hello,’ a husky voice answered.
‘Hey,’ he drawled, head swimming in thoughts and alcohol.
‘Jjong?’ Jinki exclaimed. He rubbed his eyes before turning over to look at the hour. ‘What’s going on?’
‘Nothing... I just...’ A hiccup left his lips.
‘You’re drunk’ the older one realized. ‘What’s going on?’ he repeated.
‘Stop asking me that,’ Jonghyun managed to say.
Jinki sighed. ‘Just tell me where you are.’
He did and then it all gradually faded out. He slightly jumped as the sudden feeling of a hand on his back brought him somewhat back to reality.
Jinki sat beside him and immediately pushed away the untouched glass he was about to drink.
‘You need to stop doing this to yourself.’
Jonghyun’s head fell to the side, unabashedly allowing himself to stare into the other one’s eyes.
‘You need to stop...’ he trailed loosely.
Confusion sprawled across Jinki’s face. ‘What?’
‘You know what...’ Jonghyun replied in the same tone. He scrunched up his nose, a twinge of pain shooting through his head.
The other one looked down to the table. ‘I know.’ He then reached out for his hand and held it tight. ‘I should bring you back home,’ he said softly.
‘No...’ Jonghyun whined. ‘I can’t...’
Jinki gave him an intent look. ‘Give me your phone,’ he suddenly requested.
The younger one placed it into his hand, not even slightly curious about why he had asked for it.
The brunette found the number he was looking for. ‘Hello,’ he uttered after a few seconds.
‘Who is this?’ Minho asked, confused.
‘This is Jinki. Look, I know this is going to sound strange, but could you please tell Kibum that Jjong’s spending the night at your house?’ He could feel his hands getting sweaty; he knew this wasn’t right.
‘No way,’ Minho answered as his eyes grew wide with disbelief. ‘I don’t know what game you’re playing-‘
‘Minho,’ Jinki halted. ‘Jonghyun’s really drunk and he doesn’t want Kibum to see him like that.’
‘Please do this,’ he then implored.
‘Why can’t you just tell him the truth?’ Minho spat out.
‘Because... It would just make things more complicated,’ he admitted. And then, he hung up.