Alone.

The Selfishness of Our Hearts.

He suddenly couldn't see anything. His vision had blurred, reducing his surroundings into a watery mess. He could feel his knees weaken, and a second later, his body surrendered to its sudden heaviness, bringing him down to the floor. His arms shook as the tears fell more and more. Despair claimed him and he could feel himself falling into it before a sudden excess of rage flashed behind his eyes. He abruptly threw his phone against his door, making it shatter and disperse around him, but he couldn't care less.

He had lost them both and there was nothing worse than that.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

- Three days earlier -

He felt like this was the first time he was really seeing their home. As he gathered his stuff, every room became a discovery, and every object, a memory. He wasn't part of it anymore. This wasn't his house anymore. And it became more and more real as the boxes piled up in the living room and the surroundings became more and more empty. He sadly realized he had turned his back on that life for some while now. He had tried to not really grasp that reality, but he couldn't get away from it any longer. Especially not after what had happened. The last thing he wanted was to drag the one he had loved for so long into it, but it wasn't a choice he could make. It was horrible enough that he had let himself stay in ambiguity to escape, when he had clearly known what he wanted. It was horrible enough that he had fallen out of love with Kibum, when he had thought that he would've always found happiness by his side. It was horrible enough that the only thing that could make it worse would be for him to keep lying. He had never seen himself as a liar. He had always prided himself for being authentic and transparent, but now he wasn't even sure if that person still existed. Had it only been an illusion? Was this really who he was? A liar and a cheater? That question would harass him day and night and leave him more miserable than the day before. He had to accept that this was part of him now. That he had made a fatal mistake and that he needed to face the consequences of it. Only from there, would he be able to keep going. If that was even possible.

He put another one of the boxes on top of a pile and sighed as he took in that the first step was done. Soon, he would be leaving this place forever. There was no denying that the fact only hurt him deeply, making it clear that the reality would make him feel that much worse. With his acute disposition to nostalgia, this chapter of his life would become another burden that he would now have to carry. A burden he was scared he'd never be free from.

He swallowed down another lump of dread as he looked at his watch. There wasn't much time left. He started moving around again, trying to impregnate himself one last time of the moment, of this life. The doorbell ringing had him still sharply into place as his heart rate quickened uncontrollably. He moved surprisingly fast towards the door and with an unexpected courage, he opened it.

He exhaled deeply as he looked at his best friend. 'Minho,' he breathed.

The latter cocked an eyebrow. 'Did you forget that I was coming?'

Jonghyun snorted at his stupidity. Of course it had to be him. Kibum wouldn't have rung the bell at his own house. The logic that had failed him quickly settled in as he stepped aside to let the taller one in.

'Oh god...' Minho exclaimed as he gave a quick look around. 'It's so empty...' he added as he moved forward and scrutinized the place. He then stopped in the kitchen, pouring himself some water before downing it quickly.

'This is so weird,' he commented again as his back rested against the counter.

Jonghyun could only look away. He was ashamed of having his best friend witness this situation. Knowing how harshly he was judging himself, he couldn't help but wonder how the other perceived him. Even after all those years... People changed and so did relationships, and with that lingering thought came the growing fear that Minho would end up abandoning him.

He suddenly felt a hand on his shoulder, bringing him back to the present moment. Minho was now looking into his eyes, his expression soft, but full of worry. Jonghyun could see the other's lips were burning with words that he wanted to share, but he kept them in, instead wrapping his arms around his smaller figure and squeezing him tight. Jonghyun closed his eyes to let himself bask in the comfort of his embrace, but something didn't sit right. He could still hear the voice at the back of his mind reminding him that he didn't deserve it.

He pulled back abruptly, his eyes setting far from him again. He was suddenly feeling nauseous and had to grab on to the chair besides him to keep some composure.

'Jjong...' Minho called out gently.

Jonghyun closed his eyes again, but this time, there was nothing to seek. There was only blankness.

'You know I'm here for you, always,' the younger one reminded.

He didn't answer. There was nothing he could say, because he wasn't sure there was anything he could believe.

'I wouldn't be here if it weren't true,' he pursued as if he could read his mind.

Jonghyun opened his eyes. He didn't want to let himself hope that there was any truth in that, but it didn't stop it from happening.

'I know,' he simply said.

He felt bad for having any doubts concerning their friendship, but it just felt like everything he had believed to be true these last few years had no solid ground.

'I should probably get moving, before he arrives,' Minho noted before walking out of the kitchen.

Jonghyun followed him slowly, feeling his nerves bundle more and more in his stomach. He finally picked up one of the boxes he had placed on the floor and stepped out through the front door that Minho had meanwhile reopened. They were both walking back and forth between the house and his car to get all his belongings in the back seat and the trunk. When they were all in, he rushed right back inside, the cold biting at his skin as he had not bothered covering himself up properly. Minho finally joined him, but stayed in the frame.

'I won't be far, alright?' he reassured with his never ending concern.

Jonghyun nodded. He could feel his chin tremble, sign that he was about to burst again. But a couple of deep breaths brought him back to a relative stability right before he felt a hand on his cheek.

'I'm lucky,' he suddenly thought.

And then his gaze was following his best friend that was moving farther and farther away from him. He shivered. He was alone again.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

He had almost abandoned himself to sleep when the door finally opened. He jumped right out of the sofa, his body and mind made alert again. He noticed that the sky was painted a shade darker. The waiting was over. He felt his body being drained of every ounce of warmth as Kibum's eyes stopped on him. And the feeling got worse as the latter gave him a wide smile. He was about to crush all that; this was the last few seconds that he'd still be unaware, unsuspecting.

Jonghyun didn't know how to approach this. He visualized himself going through the usual routine of questions he'd ask whenever he got home, but it was beyond ridiculous. He had no right to manifest any kind of interest or affection towards him anymore. He sat down again, concentrating on his breathing one last time before he dove in.

When he looked up, he could see the other was perplexed. He was already dying with guilt. He knew there were no soothing words he'd be able to offer.

'Can you...' He cleared his throat, pushing down another lump again. 'Just... sit,' he finally managed to gather into utterance.

Kibum blinked. 'Eeeh?' His eyes then moved around nervously, before doubling in size. 'Why is there stuff missing?' he asked apprehensively.

Jonghyun's mouth turned dry whilst his hands turned moist with sweat. 'Sit...' he reiterated, afraid it would be the only word he'd be able to get out.

'No, I'm not going to sit,' the younger one refused sharply. 'What is the meaning of this?' he practically yelled as his fear became blatant.

Jonghyun's own was reaching an unbearable height. He wouldn't be able to tell him. How could he?

He had a sudden thought for Jinki, which only made things worse. He wanted him to be here with him, but he knew that wouldn't have helped, on the contrary.

'Jjong?' Kibum's tone was frantic.

'If you'd just sit-',' he started, but was cut off by a resonant 'no'. He realized that was the only way the younger one could keep some control, so he complied. He pushed himself up, but stayed in place. He wasn't sure that if he took a step, he wouldn't feel the urge to run away.

'I...' How could he say this? 'I... you know...' He rubbed the back of his neck as his eyes fell to his feet. He couldn't say it.

'You're breaking up with me, aren't you?' Kibum forwarded brusquely. 

Jonghyun looked at him, in disbelief. So he had felt it... He nodded, not brave enough to grant him a simple word.

At that, Kibum finally sat down. He suddenly looked exhausted, which broke the older one's heart even more.

Jonghyun's mouth opened, closed, and opened again. His words were hidden ghosts that were too afraid to step into the light. He wished that could've been the end of it. He wish he could've just stepped out peacefully into another beginning, as if this had all been a bad dream. But that was an unattainable wish and a cruel one too. He owed Kibum the full explanation, even though he wanted nothing more but to preserve him from the full pain.

'I never thought it would happen. I fought really hard to... I mean I denied it,' he formulated clumsily.

'Denied what?' Kibum asked instantly.

'Denied that I wasn't feeling the same way about you anymore... and that...' He was struggling to undo the knot that kept the truth inside. He didn't want to go there.

'Jjong, please...' Kibum pressed in a weak voice.

Jonghyun would've preferred anger to what he was seeing right now. A broken man that he was about to break even more.

'And that I had fallen in love...' His heart had lost all control. Its thumping was all he could hear, drowning even the words he had rehearsed in his head. If he fainted, everything would disappear. But his body maintained him, urging him to go through with it.

'I am...' His chest heaved. 'I love... I love Jinki,' he finally blurted, cutting links for a split second with his thoughts.

There was an instant shift, it was a subtle at first, but broke out dramatically as the other's shoulders suddenly shook. Jonghyun thought it was from tears at first, but soon, sounds of laughter left the younger one's bowed lips. It was almost maniacal and he didn't stop laughing for what felt like an eternity. As if it was the greatest joke he had ever heard. And it probably was, from his side of things. How could he believe in something like that?

When he finally came back to himself, the laughs turned into silence. His face was suddenly stern. 'I don't believe it,' he declared earnestly.

'It's impossible,' he then concluded categorically.

Jonghyun was tempted to agree, to pretend again that this never could've happened. But that too was impossible.

'It is...' he could only say. He didn't dare look at him. He was afraid of what he'd see next.

He heard him move, and before he knew it, he was standing right in front of him. 'You don't even know him,' Kibum noted sharply. 

Jonghyun swallowed back the bitterness that had reached his mouth. Maybe that was true, but it didn't change anything. 'Yeah... but I know how I feel...'

And then, there was a first blow. He held the side of his face, before another, and another and another strike made the pain rise through his features. He made no effort to block any of them. Being hit was nothing compared to what the other was probably feeling right now. The latter gripped his collar, bringing them only a few inches apart from each other. And then came the second blow. Kibum claimed his lips forcefully, taking the breath out of him as he did so. Jonghyun let him too. This was also a punishment. A reminder that he had screwed up everything, which was confirmed as the other pulled back first, pushing him away brusquely.

It had suddenly become clear to him too. 'How could you...' His voice cracked. He could barely keep himself up as his eyes filled with tears.

Jonghyun felt his chest squeeze. 'I'm sorry,' he let out through a breath. He wasn't far from falling down himself.

'I don't understand...' Kibum uttered through a voice shaken by uncontrollable sobs. He closed his eyes as it all hit him, the pain, the despair, the anger, the confusion, the resentment... The image of his brother popped up in his head, making them open right away. 'What about him?' he asked shakily.

Jonghyun shook his head. He couldn't tell him. 'I... I don't know,' he lied. Yes, he was liar, he realized.

Kibum snorted. 'You know it very well, don't you?' he accused with a tone that had reacquired sharpness.

Jonghyun kept looking down. He couldn't tell him.

'Yes, of course...' Kibum continued. 'I just couldn't believe it... gosh, I was so stupid.' His anger was fuelled now. He knew.

'My brother would never do that to me,' he scoffed.

The room then filled with a heavy silence. A silence too heavy for both of them to carry.

'Jinki would never...' His voice had turned soft again, almost down to a whisper.

Jonghyun could feel that there was still a part of him trying to convince himself of that. And it was an incredibly sad sight to witness. That was the sort of thing one should always be certain of. The kind of betrayal that should never occur.

Kibum turned away from him. 'You've taken all your stuff, right?'

'Yes.'

'Then, get out,' Kibum ordered with a tone that made the older one feel cold all over.

Jonghyun quickly grabbed the remainder of his belongings, which resumed to his coat and boots, and stepped out.

Breathing in the fresh air, he shivered. He was alone, again.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Jinki stared at his screen. And then looked down to the bottom of it. 5:45. Another sleepless night, but not a wasted one this time. His eyes were going down the words he had almost unconsciously jotted down by means of his keyboard, his fingers coordinating to the ideas rising in his head. He was surprised, utterly surprised that it had come out so easily, when he had felt like everything in his mind was an intricately knotted mess. Part of him felt relieved, like a weight had been lifted off his chest, his heart, his conscience, but the other part knew it didn't really solve anything. Words didn't make satisfying company, although they did ease one's burden. He rose from his chair before rubbing his eyes. For some reason, he didn't feel like moving just yet. He looked around. Everything was so different, so impersonal. His gaze went down to the unopened boxes that piled up at a corner. It had been a few days now, but he still couldn't bring himself to go through them. It would make it all real, when it was the last thing he wanted. Better to pretend. Better to be a coward.

He suddenly felt somewhat sympathetic to his past lovers. He had been betrayed so many times before, and now he was the one who had betrayed one of the most important people in his life. His own family. He wasn't even sure what that really meant anymore. As if he had forgotten what it implied to be a good brother. And sometimes, like now, it all came back too vividly to him. He didn't deserve to hold that title. Just seeing Kibum's face stricken with tears, how broken he had looked... He didn't regret his choice. This was the only logical thing to do.

He finally got into motion, walking straight to the kitchen as always. He knew bed should be his destination at this point, but he'd be kidding himself if he thought he'd get any sleep. But when he started pouring water into the coffee machine, he realized this wasn't going to cut it either. He needed to get out of here, he needed some change. So without thinking more about it, he threw on his coat and scarf and put on his boots. Keys in one hand and a packet of cigarettes in the other, he stepped out and turned his back on his hiding place. It was nice out. The sky oscillated between shades of blue and orange, the sun slowly starting to lift the veil the night had dropped on it. He decided to walk, realizing his body was in dire need of action. He drew in a first puff whilst his legs moved to a destination he didn't care to figure out. Wherever he'd end up would be better than the neat place he was struggling to call home.

Half an hour later, he was still keeping on, moving forward, never looking back. He was down to his fourth cigarette when his fingers started to feel numb. The streets which had been empty not so long ago were filling more and more with people hurrying to work or wherever they were needed. He felt like a stranger to this fast-paced world, he who now felt like everything had no meaning, no space in time. His stomach grumbling finally brought him some purpose. He didn't wait much longer before walking into a café, his body relaxing as he took in the calming scent of coffee. There were few people there, which pleased him. He sat down and glanced at the menu. He looked at the beverages first, settling for plain black coffee in the end. Choosing what he'd eat was much more complicated. His brows furrowed as the words started to merge together. He could feel a headache coming.

'What will you take sir?' a soft voice inquired.

He looked up, startled. The waiter looked very young and his eyes sparkled with life, unlike him, who felt like every ounce of his vitality had been drained into the gutter. He felt uneasy as the other's lips stretched into a sympathetic smile. There was something really familiar about that smile.

'I... well... I'm going to take the coffee, I mean black coffee and...' He stopped, feeling completely embarrassed. Social interactions were hard when you hadn't had any in a few days.

'Okay, good,' the young man noted as his pen moved across his paper. 'What else?' He smiled again.

Jinki couldn't help but stare. He knew what it was. He knew who he was seeing through him. The urge to get up and just run out the door felt incredibly tempting, but something else kept him seated. 'Um...' he laughed nervously. 'To be honest, I haven't decided yet...' he admitted with another laugh.

'It's your first time here, right?' the other asked with his same liveliness.

'Yes,' Jinki confirmed, a little perplexed.

'Maybe I can bring you what I think is best on the menu,' he offered coyly.

'Is it rum, by any chance?' he joked. He didn't even know where that came from, but it was like he was playing his part in a ludicrous scene.

'No...' the other revoked through a chuckle.

Jinki realized how ridiculous that must've sounded to the other. 'Sorry, I just... you just remind me of someone...' he admitted unexpectedly. 'This is what happens when you don't sleep,' he scolded himself through thought.

The other didn't seem to be fazed by his demeanour. 'Aaah, he liked rum I presume?'

Jinki nodded. 'We both did.'

'Well I hope me reminding you of him is a good thing,' he bantered.

'It's not...' He smiled anyways. 'I'll take whatever you have to offer,' he instead answered.

The waiter walked away, leaving him to his memories and a poignant urge to fulfill his heart's content.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

He was staring at the ceiling again. No matter how long or how hard he'd stare at it, it didn't move, it didn't change, and he felt envious. To just be should've been that simple. Unchanging, unmoveable, unbreakable. But that logic didn't even follow suit. Anything could be altered and falter. There just had to be something or someone to initiate.

He was the one who had initiated that break into the wall. He had caused damage to his other best friend, to the one he couldn't call his lover any longer, without being able to repair. That feeling of self-hatred that had never quite left him beamed stronger through his system, pounding its message relentlessly, never letting him forget that he was a cheater. He had thought of finding his own repair in the arms of his brother, but he hadn't been able to just yet. He was punishing himself for the life he'd ruined, for the memories that would forever be tainted with bitterness, and for the love he had lost. This was the worst part. Realizing that a feeling so strong could vanish so quickly. It scared him deeply. He had no way of knowing this wouldn't happen again. Although he had his doubts. What he was feeling... he couldn't say he had felt it before. It wasn't just strong, it was paralyzing. And it probably was what had really kept him from seeing him. He was afraid to lose himself to madness.

The door suddenly cracked open, revealing a tall young man through its frame. 'Dinner's ready,' Minho announced with a warm smile.

Jonghyun forced himself to smile back, knowing he wasn't fooling anyone. But he still felt like he had to play a masquerade, until he could actually believe it. He got off the bed and groggily made his way through the hallway. A few more excruciating steps brought him to the dinner table. He sat down and looked at the filled up plate Minho had displayed for him. The odour of seafood mixed in with vegetables and rice reached his nose. He turned his head. Nausea was hitting him again. He took a couple deep breaths, before giving it another look. He wasn't hungry.

'Just take a few bites,' Minho pleaded.

Jonghyun wasn't even sure he could do that, but he knew how worried he was making the other one. He hadn't eaten much in days. All he'd been able to do was stare at the ceiling as sorrow submerged him. He nodded before piquing a shrimp with his fork. He was thinking too much again, making something as simple as eating an unnecessarily painful experience. He finally put the food into his mouth and chewed on it mechanically. He could feel all the muscles working hard to turn it into mush, and that only was draining.

He slouched back on his chair after having gulped down two more bites. As Minho looked at him again, he hoped the other could see how sorry he was. 

'I'll finish it later,' he lied. Pretending to make an effort was starting to become his forte.

Minho put his utensils down. 'I know you won't,' he retorted.

Jonghyun could see he had hurt him. And he understood. He didn't know why he still felt like he had to guard himself around him. There was no use playing a role. No one knew him better than he did.

'I'm really sorry, Minho.' Finally, sincere words.

The latter sighed. 'I know you are, Jjong. But I don't need your apologies,' he dismissed sharply.

Jonghyun's face twitched at the sound of those words. This was the moment he had dreadfully expected, the moment he'd be rejected.

'What I need is for you to get out of here and go see him,' Minho finished as he took in the surprise that suddenly plastered the other's face.

Jonghyun's mouth had dropped but no words came out. None were needed. He knew in that moment, he no longer had a choice. He had to regain some control on his life again, no matter how scared he was to.

He moved his chair back and got up. In the matter of seconds, his whole outdoor attire was covering him and he was out. He fell swiftly into his car seat and started the engine with an exhilarating hurry. He didn't have to think much for this; every turn was instinctive. He finally reached his destination and mind not thinking, feet just moving, he climbed the stairs two by two until he was at the right floor. There was only a few steps separating him from that door, from that crucial moment. His heart was beating frantically and thrumming through every nerve, but it just fuelled him to keep walking. When there was only one more door left, he closed his eyes and took a deep breath.

And then he was in front of it. And his heart dropped. He didn't have to knock to know that there was no one in there. The envelope with his name on it made it clear. He pulled it forcefully with one hand, before taking out the paper inside. The blue ink covered almost all of its whiteness making him dizzy. He let his back fall against the opposite wall until he was on the ground. His fist was holding onto it so tight as if he was afraid it would disappear if he let go. He knew he had to look at it, but he couldn't help but ponder. If he didn't look at it, there was still some hope. But maybe if he did, there would be too...

His gaze stopped on the first words. 'I hope you'll see this. You probably will.'

And then he just kept going, drawn in.

'I don't even know where to start, what to say really... Maybe... Maybe I should say sorry first. I'm sorry. I'm sorry for getting into your life and turning it into a mess. I wish I could take it all back, so that you and Kibum could still be together. I just feel like this is all my fault. I knew what was happening, and I didn't do much to stop it, on the contrary. I think I wanted you too much. I think I needed you too much. But I just can't accept it. I can't accept to be a person who could've caused so much pain, so I have to get away from it all. From my brother and... from you. Not because I don't want to be with you, but because I do. Maybe it doesn't really make sense now, but I hope it does someday. Again, I know my words won't make up for any pain, for any anger you're feeling, but I hope you can forgive me. Or don't, that'll probably make things easier. And now I... I don't know...how should I end this? There's so much more I wish I could've told you, face to face, but you probably know it all already. My feelings were always sincere, please don't forget that. I want to say one last thing, but I don't think it would be fair or appropriate at this point.

Goodbye, Jonghyun.'

Jonghyun just stared into space for what felt like forever. He didn't allow his mind to let it sink in just yet. He couldn't. Instead, he got up. And then walked until his fist was on his door and he was knocking. He knocked and knocked over and over again, ignoring what he knew. His fist pounded harder and louder until he couldn't even feel it hurt. He then brought the other in on his desperate attempt to get an answer.

'Jinki,' he yelled. His voice cracked as he said his name a second time. And then the strength left his voice and he could only whisper his name. He suddenly couldn't see anything. His vision had blurred, reducing his surroundings into a watery mess. He could feel his knees weaken, and a second later, his body surrendered to its sudden heaviness, bringing him down to the floor. His arms shook as the tears fell more and more. Despair claimed him and he could feel himself falling into it before a sudden excess of rage flashed behind his eyes. He abruptly threw his phone against his door, making it shatter and disperse around him, but he couldn't care less.

He had lost them both and there was nothing worse than that. 

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