‘This one or...’ Key picked up the other watch. ‘Or that one?’ he completed as he displayed them alternately.
Waiting was not his forte so when he saw that his boyfriend wasn’t listening, annoyance made him stern in the face. ‘Jjong,’ he called out sharply.
Jumping slightly at the sound of his name, the older one turned his gaze towards him. ‘What?’ he uttered in confusion.
A cold stare from the other unsettled him, but fortunately it didn’t last as his attention went back to the watches. ‘I asked you which one you preferred?’ the younger one reiterated with a forced calm.
Jonghyun looked at both, unfazed. He recognized their intricate and luxurious quality, but he couldn’t care less. This wasn’t his kind of thing.
‘I don’t know, either looks fine to me,’ he expressed nonchalantly. He knew this should be important to him too, but there was so much going on in his mind that this particular choice seemed irrelevant.
Despite that, he reconsidered as he grasped the sheer disappointment covering his boyfriend’s face. ‘I think the Audemars Piguet is more his style,’ he observed, barely stumbling over the pronunciation of the brand’s name.
With the hint of a smile, Key nodded. ‘I think you’re right.’ He put the other one back in its cushioned white case and held out the chosen one for the salesman to see. ‘It’ll be this one,’ he informed.
The man took it from his hands. ‘Good choice,’ he uttered approvingly, before disappearing with it in the back.
Relief washed over the brunette as a wide smile plastered his face. ‘Thanks,’ he quickly threw his way before walking over to another part of the shop.
Making sure the other one was far enough, Jonghyun took out his phone again. Eyes stopping on the last text he had received, he felt his insides churn. The other’s persistence surprised him and even worst, eroded his resolve, but he needed to keep it no matter what. He had learned many times that giving in only brought him more pain. He wasn’t going to keep on making the same mistakes; not anymore. Blocking out any hesitation he had, he deleted the messages he had kept.
He lifted his head as the man came back with a box in his hands. ‘Here you go, sir,’ he hailed, taking his place back behind the counter.
Key skimmed through the rows, his credit card already out when he stopped before him. In a matter of minutes, the transaction was over and they were making their way back to the car.
But suddenly the younger one halted. ‘Oh my god,’ he exclaimed in panic.
‘What?’ Jonghyun blurted.
‘Why didn’t I think about that before...’ he whined as he bounced lightly on his feet.
The older one frowned, his mouth slightly agape. ‘Care to enlighten me?’ he finally asked.
‘I just realized that maybe Jinki had the same idea... Maybe he came here too and bought a watch.’ The tone of his voice betrayed some frustration and the sigh that followed, some annoyance.
Jonghyun’s eyes flicked to the ground. The sound of the name that had permeated his mind constantly left him shaken. Feeling the weakness spread, he ran a hand through his hair and cleared his throat as to regain some control.
‘So you two didn’t talk about this?’ he gathered.
Key’s lips curled into a pout. ‘I usually think about those things. I guess I’ll just have to call him later.’
‘I know your dad loves watches but getting the same...’ He paused. A little bribe of crucial information had crossed his mind at that very moment. In a few days, he would be seeing him again. It baffled him how he had not realized that before. Key had been talking about his father’s birthday party for days now and it hadn’t occurred to him until now that Jinki would naturally be there. Once again, he felt himself get weak.
‘It would be so awkward,’ the brunette finished with a laugh.
‘Yeah...,’ he agreed absent-mindedly before closing in on the distance between him and their car.
‘I’m sorry, Minho,’ Jonghyun thought as he downed a glass of rum. He had been serious about keeping his promise but this night was taking a toll on him and it had barely begun. People covered every square foot of the room, amplifying his already hard to bear anxiety. He had always hated those types of gathering, but for Key’s sake he was going to keep it together. At least he would try; nothing was sure yet. As much as he had tried to distract himself with meaningless talks, he couldn’t help but wonder when Jinki would arrive. He forcefully entertained the hope that he wouldn’t show up when he knew quite well that he craved his presence. It didn’t matter that Key stayed by his side the entire time, he just couldn’t shake it off.
‘Woah, ease up on that,’ his boyfriend advised as he watched him pour himself another drink.
Holding back a snort, he brought the glass to his lips, this time forcing himself to just take a sip. ‘Don’t worry, I don’t plan on getting drunk,’ he reassured quickly.
Key still eyed him with some worry, but he shrugged it off. This was the only way he was going to make it through this night.
‘Jinki,’ he suddenly heard. As his gaze travelled to the other side of the room, he found that the shrill voice that had called out his name belonged to one of their aunts. His eyes unfortunately stopped next on him and he felt his heart pang. All apprehension left him as he was left astounded by his appearance. His dark hair was pulled back in a way that accentuated the sharpness of his features and his outfit made it impossible for him to look away. From the fitted white dress shirt which was complemented nicely with a casual yet distinguished jacket to the black jeans that hugged his lower body just right, there was no arguing that he looked stunning. Even more so as he flashed a bright smile at the relatives coming his way.
But he suddenly broke free from his daze as another familiar face appeared in the picture. His hand tightened around his glass as a mixture of anger and hurt crashed over him.
‘Oh my god, I can’t believe he brought Taemin,’ Key voiced with disdain.
Jonghyun felt his mouth turn dry. They were coming their way. He only had a few seconds to mentally prep himself before they halted in front of them.
‘Nice to see you two,’ Taemin immediately dove in, flashing a bright smile that made the other two cringe.
Jonghyun waited for his boyfriend to give him a piece of his mind, but surprisingly, he didn’t, turning instead his head towards his brother.
‘So, what did you get him?’ Key inquired.
Jinki laughed. ‘Still scared I got him the same thing?’
The brunette rolled his eyes. ‘No, I’m just curious.’
‘Well, you’ll see later,’ the older one replied teasingly.
As Key kept nagging him for an answer, Jonghyun turned the other way, trying to distract himself with the sight of the food displayed before him. He was debating on whether to take or not some shrimp appetizers, when he felt a hand on his shoulder. He jumped slightly at the contact before retrieving his initial position. His heart fluttered as his hazel eyes fell into darker ones.
‘It’s been a long time,’ Jinki pointed out as he held his gaze.
Jonghyun acknowledged his words with a nod, preventing the conversation to go any further.
‘Let’s go find your father,’ Taemin suddenly urged as he tugged on the other one’s jacket.
After giving them a courteous smile, Jinki followed in his steps.
‘I still can’t believe he brought that little brat with him,’ Key let out as soon as they were far enough.
‘I guess they’re back together...’ Jonghyun put down his glass; it was no use drinking anymore.
The pain he was feeling wouldn’t be dulled by anything.
Jonghyun couldn’t help stealing glances every few seconds. Despite the crowd that was surrounding him, his focus had no time to spare for any of them. He had tried fighting with his mind again and again throughout the evening, but it was stronger and let every little thought and feeling he had tried so hard to suppress break free in that moment. Nothing escaped him as he didn’t even make an effort to look away anymore. He watched his every move, his every expression and unfortunately his every display of affection towards Taemin. It wasn’t anything dramatic, but nonetheless he could feel his body tense up every time their hands intertwined or their eyes met. He knew his face would betray him as his stare turned into a glare, but he couldn’t care less. The naive part of him had tricked him into believing things could just go back to the way they were, but he had yet another proof that they couldn’t.
He finally detached his gaze from the annoying sight to momentarily go back to what they had been gathered here for. Key’s father was going through the gifts one by one, a never ending smile dancing on his lips as his eyes glinted with joy. Jonghyun would’ve been happy watching him if his expression and features didn’t bring him back to thinking of a certain face. Fortunately, Key commanded his attention as he grabbed his arm in excitement.
‘It’s our gift,’ he beamed as his grasp tightened.
His father’s smile widened and he opened the little red box that was nestled in his right hand. His surprise showed clear on his face as he released the watch from its case. A trail of impressed exclamations and nods of approval ensued. He immediately put it on, a satisfied expression settling on his features.
‘I love it,’ he directed towards them. It felt genuine and Jonghyun suddenly felt Key relax beside him.
‘Thank you Kibum, and you too Jonghyun,’ he added warmly.
‘I’m glad you love it, dad,’ Key replied with a smile.
Jonghyun forced himself to smile too, hoping it seemed authentic enough. The corners of his mouth dropped again as soon as the celebrated went on with his gift opening. The boxes, envelopes and gift bags succeeded each other at a pace that he wished could’ve been accelerated. The night was dragging on and all he wanted was to cut it short.
‘Oh, this is mine,’ a voice signified clearly through the chatter.
Jonghyun didn’t need to take a look this time. He knew who’s it was all too well. And so did he know the one that immediately jumped in to up to the older man. The latter opened the bag in which he’d unravel his surprise. Tissue paper rustled as his hand went in and took out a little book. A clear laugh left his lips.
‘How did I know you’d give me a book?’ he teased as he looked at his son. His gaze then went back to the black cover before he opened it to figure out its content. His eyes suddenly widened. ‘This is...’ He stopped.
Jinki walked up to his father, crouching to get closer to his seated form. ‘They were scattered all over my apartment and I thought it’d be nice if we had a keepsake,’ he exposed for everyone to hear.
‘She really had a way with words,’ his father noted after a while. ‘And she transmitted that gift to you,’ he continued as he started tearing up.
Jinki wrapped his arms around him as everyone voiced how sweet the idea was. Jonghyun was left puzzled. Even though he had known Key for quite some time, they had never really talked about his mother apart from the quick mentioning that she died when they were in their teens.
‘What’s in that book?’ he inquired, turning to a visibly shaken Key.
The brunette cleared his throat. ‘Our mother’s poems. She loved to write... it didn’t matter where we were, if she felt inspired she’d just take out a piece of paper and put down what came to her,’ he explained earnestly. ‘I had forgotten about that...’ he realized with guilt.
Jonghyun brought a hand to his back, it in a soothing manner. He was glad he knew a little more about her. This was probably the only good side this night would have.
‘I made one for you too, Kibum,’ Jinki informed as he looked their way.
Key’s bottom lip quivered before he addressed a quiet thank you to his brother.
‘Thank you, son,’ their father uttered as he regained his composure. ‘It really means a lot,’ he added softly.
Jinki just smiled and walked back to where he stood before. Jonghyun couldn’t help but look at him again and when their eyes locked for the second time that night, he didn’t shy away.
He retraced his steps for what felt like the millionth time. He should’ve known finding a bathroom in that big house wouldn’t have been that simple. And he had been too prideful to accept indications. Now, he just wanted to hit himself. He took another guess and pushed a wooden door similar to all the other ones.
He sighed as he walked into what looked like a study. There were all the usual: the bookshelves, the desk, the cushioned chair, the laptop, but also sofas and a pool table and so much space. He already felt more at ease here and suddenly wished he had brought his glass of rum with him. A sigh, this time of relief, escaped his lips. He was happy to finally get some time alone. Especially since the shared looks had increased, making him extremely uncomfortable. What did it even mean?
He had tried to keep himself in check as best as he could, ignoring his texts and voicemails and trying to keep his focus on his boyfriend, but he had to face it, he was tired of fighting. If anything, he just wanted to screw everything up and give in, but then again, he remembered that Jinki was now someone else’s. Which hurt in an indescribable way, but which foremost left him confused.
He leaned against the pool table. Closing his eyes, he relaxed his body and tried to keep his mind blank. The only faint sound of his breathing managed to calm him so he centered all his attention on it. Breathing in, breathing out; over and over again.
But the peace he had finally managed to find from within was disturbed by the sound of the door opening. Panic struck him and his eyes darted all around trying to find a place to hide, but there was none. Steps echoed against the wood floor, getting louder at each second. Jonghyun held his breath but puffed it right out as the person came into view. His heart skipped and he held on to the edge of the table.
No words could be said in that moment. The air suddenly felt thick, trapping them in some tense trance.
‘What are you doing here?’ Jonghyun finally managed to say, his voice coming out with a coarseness he hadn’t expected.
Jinki waited, debating in his mind what to say. ‘I was just wandering...’ he replied casually.
Jonghyun cocked an eyebrow.
‘Whatever,’ he retorted after a while. He started walking towards the door, but a strong hand grabbed his arm, rendering him still. He gave the other a puzzled look. ‘Let me go,’ he pleaded as he watched him getting closer.
‘No,’ Jinki objected sharply. ‘We need to talk,’ he continued, this time a little more gently.
The younger one could’ve just simply detached himself from his grasp and still walk away, but something inside him was working counter his better judgement.
‘About what?’ he inquired as he made his way back to his initial spot. The more distance there was between them, the better.
‘Are you mad at me?’ Jinki asked, voice softened from worry.
There were a few reasons he would have right now to say yes, but he didn’t even feel anger anymore. ‘No,’ he answered with a sigh.
‘Well why are you acting this way?’ the older one threw back instantly.
Jonghyun was a little taken aback. He hadn’t expected to be confronted so openly. He could see the other one was troubled; for the first time, he could see through him.
‘Do you really want me to be honest?’ he uttered quietly.
Jinki stared at him. ‘Yes.’
‘Well you first,’ Jonghyun deflected. ‘Are you and Taemin back together?’ he bluntly asked.
The other’s mouth fell open. Eyes falling to the ground, he rubbed the back of his neck. ‘I... I don’t know.’
The blonde snorted. ‘Seriously?’
A soft sigh slipped from the brunette’s plump lips. ‘We’re not together, Jjong. I just... ‘ He stopped. His eyes were still looking down. ‘I just thought... maybe...’ Another sigh ensued. ‘I don’t know what I was thinking,’ he concluded, voice weary from exasperation.
‘So why did you bring him here?’ Jonghyun’s tone was pressing, the outline of an answer already forming in his mind.
Jinki’s gaze darted to the left, fixing a bookshelf that stood proud in the back. ‘You weren’t answering any of my calls, or texts and... and it... it affected me far more than I thought it would.’ This time his eyes stopped on him. ‘I hate myself for saying this, but I was trying to get back at you for ignoring me for so long,’ he finished, his expression earnest from such confession.
Jonghyun’s eyes widened as he registered what that meant. ‘You were trying to make me jealous?’ he exclaimed, voice elevating from surprise.
The older one could only nod.
Huffing in disbelief, he slowly turned the other way, trying to gather himself.
‘I don’t know why you thought it would make me jealous,’ he said with almost enough sharpness to make it believable.
But Jinki was no fool. ‘Jjong... I think we’re past being in denial now. We both know what’s been happening in the past weeks and you made it pretty clear the other night too.’
As his hands turned cold, the images of that said night came back to him. ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about,’ Jonghyun denied still.
‘We should head back to the living room,’ he added as he saw the other take a few steps in his direction.
Not waiting for an answer, he walked away until two arms circled around his waist, bringing him to a halt. Feeling the other’s hard chest pressing against his back was almost too much.
‘What are you doing?’ he asked in a much more alarmed tone than he had intended.
‘I just need to hear you say it,’ Jinki uttered softly against his ear.
A shiver ran down his spine, his legs menacing to give out at any moment. ‘Say what?’
‘You know what.’
‘Jinki...’ he whined. He couldn’t keep his act up anymore. His mind was going crazy and his heart was about to burst.
‘Jonghyun...’ He held him tighter, his lips brushing teasingly the crook of his neck. ‘Please,’ he insisted.
The younger one’s eyes closed shut, head swooning. ‘I...I...’ He couldn’t even think.
‘I can’t.’ The words had crossed his lips faintly, barely audible.
And with the little composure he didn’t know he had left, he freed himself from his warm embrace and made his way to the door, not once glancing back.