Everything was in its right place. His clothes were still scattered at the end of his bed, his watch and phone were still on the nightstand and he was still in his rocking chair with a cup of coffee in his right hand like always at this hour. But the breathing that wasn’t his made it all seem surreal. He had spent the night staring at the contours of a face he knew too well and despite his mind constantly warning him of the damage that could do, he still kept at it, getting only slight breaks when his vision blurred from fatigue. And now, as he sipped silently while making an effort to keep a blank mind, strings of lights pierced through his crimson curtains and lined the wooden floor with its shadows. A yawn suddenly crossed his lips as he realized it was day. For a few minutes, he let himself enjoy the pleasure of darkness through eyes closed. And then he faced the settings again, noticing no change as he squirmed on his chair. His body was stiffened by unease and he could feel the soreness through his muscles. Walking would’ve brought him relief, but he was afraid that one step would ruin the peace that had lingered for so long. He was dreading the moment words would stumble out of his mouth to make conversation. He figured it was probably best to say nothing.
Looking around his room wasn’t much of a distraction, bringing his eyes inevitably back to the relaxed face that was half buried into his pillow. He hated how it made him feel. The tingling in his gut couldn’t be ignored, but he would pretend for as long as he could that he didn’t know what it meant. He only had to think about his brother to remember why he shouldn’t give it any further thought. He had gone through enough heartache to refuse being the instigator of it. Whatever he was thinking or feeling right now would just have to be silenced for he was sure it was temporary.
He sipped mechanically, lost in the nothingness he was trying to keep his mind in, but the lightness of his cup got him out of his daze. It was empty. A quick look to his watch made his eyes widen as he realized another hour had passed. It was close to 11 and Jonghyun still seemed to be completely out of it. Worry started filling up his thoughts and for a few minutes, he debated whether he should wake him or not. He opted for the latter, remembering how much he had drunk the night before. He couldn’t help but shake his head, as guilt panged him in the stomach.
‘You know what...’ he heard again in his head.
He had relived that moment in his mind an incommensurable amount of time. Yes, he knew, but at the same time, he wasn’t sure he did. The incessant wondering was driving him crazy, but there was nothing he could do about it. Not if he wanted to avoid a disaster.
He squirmed again in his chair, his body aching to move. His legs were begging for action and his worn out state requested another coffee. He pushed himself carefully at the brink of his chair, the wooden floor creaking as it rocked. A breathed curse left his lips, before he got up swiftly. He sighed of relief as he walked to the kitchen. Going straight for the coffee pot, he poured down the liquid until it filled his cup.
He then went to the living room, hoping to find something that would occupy him for a while. His eyes fell on the papers scattered next to his laptop. He hadn’t touched them since the last time Jonghyun had been here. A few steps brought him to his desk and he sat down, just staring for a while at the pile. He was scared to even look at the words, suddenly hit with realization. He had been taken over by a gust of inspiration some nights ago, but now he wanted to throw all those papers away. He picked them up in one hand and got up, but stopped dead in his tracks as his gaze found a disorientated-looking Jonghyun staring at him.
He tossed them right back on his desk, putting down at the same time his cup of coffee. He could feel himself tense up again.
‘Hi...’ he uttered faintly.
‘Hey,’ the other one let out in a rasp. He ran a hand through his hair, before leaning against the sofa.
Jinki’s eyes traveled despite him down his uncovered chest. ‘Um... I... I left Tylenols and water next to the bed-‘
‘I took them,’ Jonghyun cut in.
Their eyes met briefly before the older one directed his attention back to his drink. He was trying his best not to act differently, but he was miserably failing. He didn’t know what to do.
‘Thank you,’ Jonghyun suddenly said. His tone and expression were serious making Jinki uneasy.
‘For what?’ he asked accordingly.
‘For lying for me, I guess... and letting me spend the night here,’ he completed as he looked down.
‘So you remember everything?’ Jinki inquired instantly.
‘I do,’ Jonghyun admitted after a moment.
Jinki couldn’t help but notice his discomfort, which only amplified his.
A painful silence settled between them before the younger one broke it. ‘I think I should go,’ he announced dryly.
Jinki was taken aback. ‘Oh, okay...’ His hand tightened around his cup.
‘Are you sure?’ he then added. ‘I mean you’re still hung over right?’
‘I’ll be fine,’ he answered sharply.
Jinki stared blankly at him, words stuck in his throat. He watched as Jonghyun walked away.
At that moment, he felt the urge to go after him and ask him to stay, but he remained in his spot, rendered still by rational thoughts.
A whiff of alcohol tickled his nostrils as he looked down to his shirt. He scrunched up his nose in disgust. The long walk he took hadn’t appeased him like he’d thought it would. Now that he was standing in front of a house he had long seen, he felt even more strung out than before. With the little strength he had left, he swiftly climbed the stairs and pressed on the doorbell. He would probably kick himself mentally later for that, knowing that his time here wasn’t necessarily going to be pleasant. He didn’t have to wait long. The door opened shortly after.
‘What the ?’ was the first thing Minho blurted as he looked at his best friend. ‘What are you doing here?’ he asked a little more calmly as Jonghyun made his way in. The latter heard the door get shut behind him as he was already making his way to the living room. He let himself drop on the couch and closed his eyes.
But they soon reopened in shock. He pushed the pillow out of his face. ‘Why’d you do that?’ he exclaimed. And then he winced as a sharp pain shot through his head.
‘Didn’t it occur to you that I might be worried?’ Minho retorted. He sat down and stretched out his legs. ‘I literally have nothing to do today, so you better start talking now,’ he advised as he watched the other one’s face get paler.
‘I need coffee... or tea... or whatever, just something hot please,’ Jonghyun uttered urgently.
Minho got up immediately and disappeared into the kitchen.
Jonghyun sighed of relief. He really needed that drink, but it would buy him some time before he’d have to avoid answering questions. He slouched even more into the soft cushion and closed his eyes again, but it didn’t help him relax. He was replaying that whole awkward moment that had had happened earlier. Especially that intent look Jinki had given him. His twisted mind couldn’t help but mull over and over again on what it could mean.
In some way, he regretted acting so cold towards him, but in that moment he had felt anger he hadn’t suspected was there. Maybe it had just been a consequence of his drinking, or maybe it was the only way he had found to once again evade the truth. He could try to convince himself otherwise all he wanted, but he knew which one it was.
He opened his eyes as he heard footsteps getting closer. Minho put down two cups on his coffee table. ‘I made green tea.’
Jonghyun nodded in approval. It was the best thing to get him back to a regular state. He picked up his and wrapped his hands around it. The sudden warmth on his skin was more than welcome, his muscles relaxing almost instantly.
‘Jjong...’ Minho voiced heavily.
He didn’t have to say more, Jonghyun knew that he was waiting for answers. Answers he wasn’t sure he could give.
‘I don’t know what to tell you, Minho,’ he sighed.
‘Well, I’ll just have to pull it out of you then... did something happen last night?’ he asked bluntly.
‘I don’t know what you mean,’ he quickly replied.
‘Don’t play dumb.’
Jonghyun could feel his frustration through his tone. ‘I just slept,’ he said before taking a sip.
‘You just slept?’ he repeated in disbelief. ‘If that were true, you two wouldn’t have had me lying to your boyfriend about where you spent the night,’ he pointed out.
‘I...’ He stopped and looked into the leafy beverage. He realized Key hadn’t crossed his mind all morning. A poignant feeling of guilt seized him. He felt like an .
‘Look, I’m here for you, always,’ Minho reminded. ‘I just want you to let me in, because I don’t want to see you going back to the way you were before.’
‘You need to deal with whatever’s going on in your head,’ the younger one added as he got no response from his best friend. The latter was still staring at his cup.
Jonghyun finally lifted his head up. ‘It’s just... I don’t know...’ There was so much he wanted to say, but he was scared to let the words out. As long as it stayed inside him, it wouldn’t really be part of reality.
Minho sighed. ‘I told Kibum that we went to a bar, that you drank too much and that I brought you back here,’ he informed. ‘Don’t mess up the lie.’
‘Was he worried?’ Jonghyun inquired.
‘He sounded angry.’ Minho stared at him, a look of concern furrowing his brow. ‘I get that you’re not ready to talk, but promise me you’ll stop drinking.’
‘Okay,’ he acquiesced automatically.
Letting the warm tea glide down his throat again, he tried not to let himself get overwhelmed by the sudden sadness that menaced to take over.
Jinki jumped at the sound of knocks on his door. It took him a few seconds to register that he had dozed off in front of a television show. The knocks started again and he got up, rubbing his face as he made his way to the door. He opened without hesitation, but then regretted. Hiding his disappointment behind a forced smile, he let Taemin in.
‘Oh my god, I was starting to get worried,’ the brunette exclaimed. ‘Why didn’t you pick up my calls?’ he asked with a pout.
The older one felt a strong urge to roll his eyes, but instead he just said, ‘I was trying to get some rest.’
‘Oh.’ Taemin stepped closer to him. ‘You didn’t sleep?’ he inquired as he brought a hand up to the other one’s cheek.
‘Not really... I was writing,’ he lied as he found some comfort in his gentle touch.
Taemin let his hand trail down to the back of his neck. ‘About what?’
‘It’s not important,’ Jinki replied dismissively.
Another pout curled the younger one’s lips. ‘You’ve never shown me what you write,’ he reproached.
‘It’s just... really personal.’ Jinki didn’t expect him to understand, but he would just have to accept it.
‘Alright then.’ Taemin gave him a push, making him fall back on his sofa. Following his instincts, he straddled him, a little laugh leaving his lips as he saw the other’s shocked expression.
‘Taemin... what are you doing?’ The older one couldn’t help the panic in his voice.
‘You know damn well what I’m doing,’ he retorted with an amused glint in his eyes.
Jinki let out a groan as Taemin grinded against him. ‘Stop,’ he ordered meekly.
A mischievous smile cracked the other one’s lips. ‘You should listen to your body,’ he teased as one hand grabbed him through his pants.
Feeling harden, he bit down hard on his lip to muffle a moan.
‘No...,’ he protested as he tried to push his hand away. But Taemin tightened his grip around him making the little strength he had to begin with leave him.
He pulled him into a passionate kiss, warmed all over by the softness of his lips and the roughness of his tongue. His mind went blank for a second, before a haunting thought found its way in. He broke the kiss, his chest heaving softly.
‘I can’t,’ he realized as he looked into dilated brown pupils.
‘What...’ Taemin breathed.
The other one’s gaze stayed fixed on him. ‘I should’ve known.’
Jinki frowned in confusion. ‘What’s that supposed to mean?’
His question was left unanswered, Taemin getting off him instead and walking away. A few seconds later, he heard the door get shut.
Curiosity would surely nag at him for the rest of day, but he was glad to be alone again.
Jonghyun had been dragging his fork across his plate for the last few minutes. After trying to initiate conversation and royally failing, this was all he could do to calm his nerves. Ever since he had gotten back home, Key had given him the silent treatment. The only word that had come out of his mouth was a ‘hey’ and in that syllable only, Jonghyun had felt the depth of his anger. He knew he deserved it, but it didn’t make it any less frustrating.
‘So... who are you meeting with tomorrow?’ he tried once more.
Key didn’t even lift his head. Instead, he picked up his phone as if he was the only one in the room.
Jonghyun waited but the other’s eyes stayed fixed on the device, his other hand playing with his fork. His level of frustration was rising by the second and even if he felt like getting up and leaving, he knew that wasn’t going to help. He’d evaded the issue enough. They needed to talk.
‘Kibum...’ he softly called out.
Still no reaction. When Key was set in a mood, there was little one could do to get him out of it.
‘Look, there’s no need to act immature about this,’ he finally snapped.
Within a second, he had his boyfriend’s eyes fixed on him. His gaze was piercing.
‘How dare you?’ the younger one snarled as his phone bounced against the table. ‘I’m acting immature?’ he emphasized with a snort.
Jonghyun knew not to roll his eyes at the other’s little fit. ‘I only mean that we should just talk instead of turning this into a big deal,’ he explained as calmly as he could.
Key’s expression had nothing to reassure him. ‘Oh so now you want to talk?’ he spat before his mouth dropped open in disbelief. ‘You’ve been pushing me away for weeks,’ he reminded harshly.
Jonghyun bit the inside of his cheek. There was no arguing with that. ‘I know...’ he croaked. He could feel himself tense up as a million words tried to push their way to his mouth, but none passed through. He could only blink and try not to crumble under his guilt.
‘That’s all you have to say?’ the brunette exploded. ‘You...’ He stopped. He wasn’t going to go off like he always did; he wasn’t the one who needed to do the talking. He clenched his jaw in an effort to keep his composure.
The need to break the uncomfortable silence that was closing in on them was heightened by the second, but Jonghyun remained silent. He knew this conversation could go two ways and he wasn’t sure which way to go. With every passing second, the urge of blurting out everything that was running through his mind was getting stronger. Everything he had right now could be destroyed if he just said the words.
‘Kibum, I...’ He paused. Just one look at the other one’s face had his mindset shift completely. The wavering eyes he was staring into betrayed the stoic façade he had been putting on. ‘I’m so sorry,’ he said softly.
The younger one didn’t move, didn’t even blink. ‘Are you?’ he questioned.
Jonghyun knew him too well. His indifferent stance didn’t mean that he wasn’t hurting, on the contrary; he only got that way when dealing with his emotions was too much to bear. He took it as his cue to walk up to him and by a forceful pull, trap him in an embrace. Instinctively burying his face in the crook of the taller one’s neck, his unsettling thoughts took the back seat as he allowed himself to prickle his bare skin with light kisses.
‘I love you,’ he whispered against the other one’s ear. The latter’s ensuing shiver comforted him. He suddenly felt like everything was back in its right place.