Replay.

The Selfishness of Our Hearts.

The smell of coffee filled his nose for the millionth time since he had come earlier that day. He took a sip before watching the other get the different machines rolling. He couldn't help but steal glances at the one he now knew as Gi. His dark wavy hair tied into a bun made him look even younger in his eyes. He had no idea of his age, but he figured he must've been 20. He had this carelessness at least of the young that were discovering everything about life. He never failed to remind himself that he was young too, but inside he didn't feel like it. He realized he probably never had. And that was always something he had been envious of. He wished he had had that spark, that vitality that seemed to come so naturally to so many. But at the same time, he knew he probably wouldn't have dived into writing, which was something he couldn't imagine possible. His eyes went back to his screen, looking at a sentence that needed to be finished. The thoughts of just deleting the whole document came back again. Through the four weeks he had been here, he hadn't gotten more than five pages done. He knew something was wrong, very wrong. The usual scenario had always been for him to leave, write his heart out while he wallowed in his pain, and get on with his life the best he could. Obviously, this time was something different and he couldn't help the great sense of panic that it created inside him. If writing didn't cut it, what would?

His frown disappeared as he was startled by the other's sudden presence. The younger one had just sat before him, his fists nestled under his chin. 'Writing again, huh?' he forwardly engaged.

Jinki blinked, unsettled. 'Yeah, I guess...' he replied, uneasy.

'You guess?' Gi echoed through a chuckle. 'At first, I thought you were just writing for school or something,' he started,' but then I realized you never had books with you when you came here so I figured you must be writing something else,' he laid out before flashing a cute smile.

'Well it could be that I find all of my documentation online,' Jinki proposed plainly.

'But that's not the case, right?' Gi instantly countered.

Jinki rubbed the back of his neck as a sheepish smile formed on his lips.

'It's fine, I get it. I wasn't going to ask you what you were writing about, but I was curious to know if you were a writer,' Gi explained as he got up again. He looked back to the client that had just walked in. 'Hi,' he greeted with a bright smile.

Jinki froze; that smile again. It never ceased to have that effect on him. He swallowed consciously, trying to get rid of the sour taste in his mouth.

'Do you want another coffee?' Gi asked him as he started walking towards the counter.

Jinki nodded. 'Yes, please.'

His eyes lingered on him again, his guilt rising up as, like always, he went over the previous encounter. He still didn't know why he couldn't shake off that defensive reaction he had whenever someone brought up his writing. Yes, it was personal but... It was probably was too personal; at least, that's how it felt. He was letting his weaknesses and inner turmoil out and that wasn't something he wanted people to discover. Although, that secrecy had been breached. And surprisingly enough, he had come to terms with it. It was probably what had brought them even closer; probably what had made him so comfortable around him, amongst the many other things... He ran a hand over his face to bring himself out of the lane he so adamantly tried not to engage on.

He pushed his chair back, bringing his arms up for a good stretch. His body needed to move, but he didn't want to leave the comfort of the place. Plus, he had another coffee coming soon. So instead, he walked himself to the bathroom, members slow to waken. The late afternoon slump was catching up with him, and hitting in sync with his lack of sleep. He knew drinking coffee constantly probably wasn't helping the issue, but its warmth along with the one of his cigarettes were the two things giving him some comfort. And to some extent, talking with Gi probably helped too.

A quick stop to the urinal preceded his utter shock when he looked at himself in the mirror. He just now realized how dead he looked. He was disgustingly pale and his face, gaunt. If it weren't for the glasses he was wearing, he was pretty sure dark circles would make the whole picture far worse. He sighed. Frankly, he was a mess. Not admitting it hadn't done much for him, on the contrary. That was probably the problem. Not having a real line drawn to make him feel like it was over. Writing a letter and going away should've worked. It should've marked the end of it. He sighed again. 'You just need more time...'

He walked out and regained his previous spot, the corner of his lips rising slightly as he saw a new cup on his table. He lost no time to bring some comfort into his mouth, relishing the slight burn that glided down his throat. Knowing very well that getting his laptop out of its dormant state wouldn't do any good now, he looked out the window, failing to find a better distraction. The intensely cold weather that had graced them for the past weeks had finally given way to beautiful snow that was massing over the sidewalks and the streets. It was nothing compared to the impressive white sceneries he had seen abroad, but it made the surroundings look a little lively and not so drab. An image of him racing down a slope with Kibum suddenly came to him. They had had so many skiing dates, as they liked to call them, even though the younger one had always failed to make any progress, leading him to always lose. Nonetheless, it hadn't stopped the tradition. They'd end up in their family chalet, sipping hot chocolate and warming their hands close to the foyer.

His gaze fell down into his drink as he pictured Kibum's smile. It was that time of day. That time when he'd remember he was the cause of all his pain; that he had ruined his brother's life. That probably hurt the most; at least that's what he had persuaded himself of. He knew all his grief and sadness should've been for his brother, but it didn't stop the fact that many times, he'd have these feelings for himself and for another he had so quickly tossed aside. Either way, he had to deal with it on his own. For the best, of course. That was probably the most repeated words that pierced through the bundle of thoughts that clouded his mind. 'It's all for the best,' he'd think over and over again, as he was thinking right now.

Before he realized, he was staring into an empty cup. The thought of ordering another one went through his mind, but also made him feel sick. He had clearly reached his quota. Drinking anything out of boredom inevitably lost its charm. He'd have to turn to his other vice now. He turned his laptop off, giving up hope of getting any part of him out through his keyboard, and put on his coat, scarf, and beanie. He then reached for his bag, but a hand on his arm made him turn.

'You're leaving?' Gi expressed with what the other could feel was concern.

Jinki nodded. 'My blood must've turned black from all the coffee I've had today,' he joked.

The brunette laughed. 'That's probably, right.' He rocked his body back and forth, suddenly looking away. 'It's just that I was thinking that I could show you around, I mean, you spend a lot of time here and that made me think that you haven't visited much, not that there is much to visit, but I thought I could show you around, if that's okay with you of course,' he let out in a breath.

His clumsy little rant made the other one smile. He didn't let himself make too much out of the request. 'Yeah, why not? It's true that I haven't seen much,' he replied warmly.

'Okay, good,' the other said in relief. 'I'm off in 10 minutes. Do you mind waiting a little?'

'No problem. I'll wait out. I need to move and... I need a smoke,' he admitted with a laugh, into which the other joined.

Fresh air greeted him a moment later, his lungs taking it gratefully. He started pacing back and forth on the sidewalk to loosen up. His hands worked simultaneously until he was drawing in a first puff, succeeded by many others. The cold bit at them, but he didn't care. And as fast as it took him to get through three cigs, the younger one stepped out and walked towards him. His hair was down now, his face looking much stronger.

'Where should we go first?' the latter asked as he reached him.

'Wherever you want to take me,' Jinki answered readily.

Gi opened the walk with him following closely. There were a lot of people in the streets at that hour, making it almost impossible for the older one to stay at his side on the sidewalks. But the more they walked, the more the mass broke down into fewer and fewer people as Gi took on his guide role all the while. It wasn't a spectacular-looking town, but something about it felt familiar. Maybe it had to do with its configuration or the way some houses looked, but it reminded him of where they had lived in his childhood. It was like a world of its own, all the streets connecting into a central place where the life was most vibrant. They had left that spot when they had walked away from the café and Jinki was glad he was peeking into the quieter parts of it.  

'Oh! That is a used bookstore,' Gi pointed out as he gestured towards it. 'I'm guessing you like to read, right?'

Jinki smiled. 'I do.'

'It's really nice, because you can buy a lot for really cheap, but I guess you already know all that,' he realized as his cheeks reddened. Either it was from embarrassment or simply because of the cold, the other couldn't be sure.

'I have stepped in a few before, but it's nice to know there's one here too,' he reassured as he fought to not take note of his cuteness.

'Hmmm, is there anything else?' the younger one thought out loud.

'Well, you've shown me every important spot I think. I mean, all I really needed to know was where the nice bars were and now that you've shown me this library, I'm pretty satisfied,' Jinki rendered with a bright smile.

Gi smiled back. 'Well in that case... do you want to eat something? Walking that much has really opened up my appetite,' he exposed as his hand settled on his stomach.

Jinki couldn't say he was hungry, but he couldn't find it in him to cut their time short. 'Yeah, sure. Where do you want to go?'

The rocking back and forth returned. 'Actually... we're not far from where I live so...' his voice  trailed off, as he didn't shy away from his gaze.

Jinki couldn't ignore the alarm sign that flashed in his mind at that. Nonetheless, he was tempted. 'Alright, let's go.'

Gi's surprise shined bright, but it was only brief, his legs getting into motion a few seconds later. Indeed, they had been incredibly close, because in the matter of minutes, they were climbing up stairs and stopping in front of a plain wooden door. The younger one took out his keys and they both stepped in, Jinki turning the lock as he closed the door behind them. At first glance, it looked like a regular apartment, but as he walked in, his eyes fell upon stacks of painting on the ground and bundled wires laying around in a corner. He searched for an instrument but found none from what he could see.

'I'm sorry for the mess, we just don't know where else to put that stuff,' Gi explained, tone hurried by embarrassment.

Jinki didn't even have time to give out that he didn't mind, that the other rushed into the kitchen. He kept in a laugh, instead turning his attention to the paintings he had just seen. He fell into a squat to better see the one on top. It didn't represent anything in particular, there were just swirls of color, popping out and merging together. He lost himself in it for a few seconds, before pushing it forward to take a look at the other. The same style, but this time the colors were warmer, and the overall effect more aggressive. He liked that one too.

'Hum, I've got some shrimps left... do you mind eating pasta?' the other shout out from his distance.

'Not at all,' he shout back as he continued his exploring.

Soon, footsteps stopped next to him, bringing him to look up.

'What do you think?' Gi squarely asked.

'I think they're great,' he answered honestly.

The younger one sighed of relief before laughing. 'It's nice to know someone appreciates them.'

Jinki's face opened up from surprise. 'You painted those?'

'Why so surprised?' He retorted playfully. 'I don't have the profile of an artist?'

Jinki felt stupid. 'No, I don't know... it's just... You're talented,' he finished to save face.

'Thank you.' Gi gave him a wide smile, before walking back to the kitchen.

He didn't dare look around more while the other was gone, so he let himself drop on the sofa nearby and waited. The wait wasn't long, or maybe it was but he somewhat blanked, either way he jumped as a sharp tug on his shirt brought him back to reality. 'It's ready,' Gi announced, giggling.

He followed him and sat in front of a little round table. The plates had already been placed. Jinki inhaled the food. It smelled good. Maybe he'd find it in him to eat at least half of it. He straightened up as Gi came back with utensils and back again, with two glasses of water.

'Bon appétit,' the latter hummed as he piqued into his own dish.

Jinki wasn't long to follow. He nodded in satisfaction as he took a first bite. 'It's really good,' he told the other.

Gi blushed. This time there was no cold to make the cause uncertain. 'Thank you.' This one was more timid.

Again, Jinki didn't let himself linger on it. 'So how long have you been living here?' he casually asked before eating some more.

'Hmm, almost two years.'

'Oh wow, okay.'

'Is it that surprising?' Gi inquired lightly.

'I just... you just look very young, and I was kinda surprised you had your own place,' Jinki explained.

'Yeah well, I'm better off here anyways.'

Jinki suddenly wished he could take back his words. From the sudden anger he could read on his face, he knew something painful was underlying. He looked down to his food, distractedly moving the strands of pasta around.

'It's fine,' the younger one burst out with his usual liveliness. 'I don't mind telling you,' he continued.

Jinki looked at him again. 'You don't have to...'

'It's really simple, you know? My father found out I was gay, didn't like it, kicked me out, end of story,' he resumed matter-of-factly.

If that wasn't the strangest thing ever. Like a cassette was replaying parts of a story that he needed to forget. Although, this felt like a pale imitation; nothing could ever replace the original.

'I'm really sorry that happened,' he could only say, the weird feeling that had gained him getting stronger.

'It's fine, really, it's happened to lots of gay boys, right?' Gi rationalized.

Jinki felt his heart beat faster as he saw him again. He saw the tears and the pain rooted in his face as he brought him back home that day. It had been the most painful thing to watch, but again that had only brought them closer.

'Yeah...' he finally uttered.

'If you don't mind me asking, how did your family take it?'

His mind made a complete jump to an earlier time of his life. A happier time. 'I had it easy actually. Probably because my brother came out first... He got the cold shoulder from my father for a while, but he came around, and then when our mother died, I think he didn't want to lose anyone else so when I told him, he just told me to be happy,' he laid out with a surprising ease.

'Oh,' Gi expressed faintly. 'I'm sorry about your mother, but it's nice that your family didn't abandon you.'

Jinki nodded. That was true. He had been very lucky, for the most part.

A few more words were exchanged before they finished their plates. Jinki's eyes widened as he realized he had cleared his. That was probably the biggest event in the whole month. Gi stood up and brought them back, while he gulped down the water he had neglected. As he put it down, he realized he had no more purpose here. He got up from his chair, awkwardly waiting for the other to reappear. Which he did a few seconds later.

'I should go now,' he formally announced.

The disappointment that appeared on the younger one's face couldn't have been more blatant.

'Oh, really?'

'Yeah, but thanks for everything,' he quickly added.

Gi's pout almost made him hesitate, but he still started walking towards the entrance. He didn't even have time to retrieve his coat; arms had already wrapped around his waist. He tensed up around the embrace, the alarm sign flashing brighter behind his eyes. He released himself only to face him.

'What are you doing?' he sharply asked.

'I just...' Gi looked down. 'I just want you to stay.'

The alarm sign had given place to a face; a haunting face. 'That's not a good idea.'

'I'm not expecting anything... just...' He didn't know how to finish so he just expressed it into a quick peck on his lips. Peck that turned into a longer kiss as Jinki brought him closer. He had been dying for that kind of warmth, the kind that could never be replaced by any amount of cigarettes or coffee.

He pulled away as he stared into beautiful chocolate eyes. 'I should really go,' he persisted.

Gi didn't pay his words any mind, taking hold of his hand before dragging him further into the apartment. The brunette pushed open a door, which soon revealed a small bedroom.

'Don't be like me,' Jinki suddenly heard in his mind.

But that had the adverse effect. 'Maybe for once I should be like you,' he replied to the internal voice.

What more was there to lose at this point?

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

The smell of coffee filled his nose for the millionth time since he had stepped in that day. He looked away from the clients before getting the different machines rolling. He finished up a few orders before handing them out to the men and women that waited in front of the counter. Then, he looked at the clock. That gave him a little encouragement. Only 15 more minutes to go, and then... and then nothing. Probably bed. Yes, bed. Sleep. When was the last time he had gotten any? He could've answered that if he had been keeping track of the days, but he hadn't. They all seemed to merge into one long insipid frame. Days were divided for people who had plans, who had purpose. He didn't have either. All that was important right now was keeping himself up on his feet for a few hours, just to remain somewhat functional. Even though there was always that lingering fear that his legs would give out on him and he'd never be able to stand back up again.

He pulled down the handle and watched as the cream settled on top of the cup. He sprinkled some cinnamon on top and turned to give it to a young girl wearing a wide smile. It took everything inside him to give it back, poorly he was sure. His body relaxed as she stepped out. That had been his last order. He took his apron off first and walked into the employees' room. Soon enough, he looked like a regular civilian, and after sending a quick goodbye to his colleagues, he stepped out under a dark sky. His feet moved swiftly, hurried by the thought of getting under his blankets. Fortunately, he lived close and it wasn't long before he was stepping into the building that held in the place that had become his home. He sighed of relief as he let himself fall on his couch, head landing into a pillow. He took in its musty scent. In a weird way, he felt comforted. With the little energy he had left, he took out his phone from his pocket, and looked up at the corner of the screen. It was a reflex he had tried to quit, but always came back to no matter what. Just in case.

He had one voicemail. He clicked on the notice before jotting down the numbers that would give him access to it. He felt his heart rate quicken and felt stupid. He still had to listen to it. Just in case.

'Hey it's me,' it started. Jonghyun felt weighed down by the heaviness of his disappointment. Why had he expected anything else?

'I know you need space, and that's why I haven't been harassing you with tons of phone calls and haven't paid you a visit yet, but I can't help but feel very worried for you. We don't need to have a big conversation, I'd just like to hear your voice. Okay... that's it. Bye.'

Beeeeeep.

Jonghyun buried his head into the musty scent again. The last thing he needed right now was to feel guilty. As if it wasn't the case already. He felt drained and sad. He had never wanted to push the only person that had stayed by his side, but he hadn't been able to stay around him. He couldn't live any longer with being a burden his best friend had to carry. So he too had left. Not with any dramatics like writing a ty letter; his departure had been more simple, more sensible. He had left him his new address. He hadn't cut ties, he had just put some distance between them. He had been in luck of finding an apartment so fast. It probably would've not looked great to anyone's eyes, but to him it was more than great. It was his exit. With some money he had been saving, he paid for the first two months and was now working his off to keep up for the months to come. There was no happiness in this new start, which in reality wasn't one. It was as if he had been transported to the moment right before he had met Kibum. He was back to working in a coffee shop and had dropped out of his studies. Certainly someone up there had wickedly pressed the rewind button to bring him back to square one. But he knew that was wishful thinking. It was just too hard admitting he had ruined himself, again. And while the first time, leading this life had been a step towards progress, this time he was stuck into regress. And sadly, this was where he felt most comfortable.

He forced himself to get up, walking around the boxes he hadn't brought himself to open yet. As he stepped into his bedroom and the light, his eyes immediately fell on the piece of paper he hadn't been able to remove from his nightstand. He walked over to it and took it in his hands. He didn't how many times he had read those words... He probably could recite the whole thing without looking at it, but putting that to a test would be devastating. He still couldn't understand why he hadn't thrown it away. It was a constant reminder of why he was in so much pain. But he couldn't let that pain go. That was all he had left. He sat at the edge of his bed.

'Maybe it doesn't really make sense now, but I hope it does someday,' he read over and over again. He crushed the paper into a ball, knuckles turning white as he squeezed it. No that would never make sense. How could it? He had left him alone to bear with the fault they both shared. He had no doubt he was suffering too, but he couldn't understand his actions. Leave? It wasn't fair; leaving was easy, facing it was another. He had just wished he had given them a chance... a chance to talk, a chance to figure out things, a chance to... He felt his body heat up. No matter how angry he was at him, that never erased the longing that built inside him whenever he'd let himself think too long about him. Sometimes like now, he wished it hurt him as much as it did for him. That was farthest he could go, because he couldn't imagine any pain greater than his in that moment. He tossed the paper at the other end of the room, but instantly went back to retrieve it. He'd be damned if he lost it. He pulled open a drawer and hid it inside. At least, this wouldn't be the first thing he'd see when he'd step in here tomorrow.

'Jinki,' he whispered to himself before letting his body fall on the mattress. He closed his eyes, letting his mind run free. His face came back to him, his eyes that disappeared when he smiled, his full lips, his strong nose, his thick eyebrows; the portrait became fuller, adding the missing parts, his teeth biting down on his lip as he tortured himself with images of his body. His hand reached to the front of his pants, his fingers undoing them before his hand brushed against his . He always fought to touch himself, because he knew that wouldn't conclude into release; he'd just feel even more trapped than before. It didn't stop him from burying his hand into the warmth of his briefs, caressing himself lightly.  A sigh left his lips as he kept picturing him, as he pictured them... A third figure appeared into the picture. His hand stopped moving. He should've been thankful for that twisted game his mind was playing, but he just felt worse. That fear would always come back to him, needy for an answer he couldn't get. He saw the younger one's malicious smile in his mind, making his anger tear through his barely existent defences. He was once again confronted to his worst case scenario. Knowing that Jinki was away enjoying his time with another. He shook his head. He couldn't let himself wallow in that thought; it would be the end of him.

He gathered every ounce of strength he could find to get up again. What should've taken seconds, took minutes, as his hands clumsily took off his clothes, until he had nothing left on but his underwear. And then he was back on his mattress. No more getting up.

He closed his eyes. Tomorrow would be a better day... Tomorrow... He opened his eyes again, body heavy and mind foggy; he felt like crap. The sun pierced through the curtains, shining its light all over the apartment. He cursed at himself as he realized he hadn't set his alarm. He gave a quick look towards the clock.

',' he uttered loudly.

He got off his bed with an unsuspected rapidity and grabbed the first clothes he saw, which were the ones he had worn just a few hours ago. He could make it in time if he skipped breakfast and shower, two things he was in great need of, even if lately he failed to realize it. He stepped out into the poignant daylight, wincing as the sun hit his eyes. The urge of turning the other way and climbing back up to his sanctuary was more than tempting, but the necessity of making money was more urgent. Plus, it would offer him some distraction, which was the only thing he was conscious of needing.

He rushed inside after a few minutes, already feeling sick at the smell that greeted him. Even the things he had once enjoyed had lost their charm.

'Jjong, hurry,' one of his colleagues advised. 'The manager will be here real soon.'

He took that in seriously, changing quickly as soon as he had entered their room. He was now a docile employee, a real nobody. He took his place behind the counter, just in time to greet their boss that walked in not long after. His body relaxed after he passed them. If there was one thing he wouldn't allow himself to lose was a place in the active world. Not that it made him feel better, but it definitely didn't make things as worse as they could be.

The day that was just a prolonged segment of the other came to a conclusion, marked by the end of his shift. The same mechanical sequence brought him back home. And he repeated his unshakable reflex as he looked up to the corner of the screen. His eyes widened as he saw he had a new voicemail, again. The thought of it being Minho evidently crossed his mind, but he had to make sure who it was. Just in case. He brought the phone to his ear, after entering the code.

'Oh my god I'm so glad you haven't changed your number.'

He cringed.

'I know why you're not answering, but please return my call.'

Beeeeep.

That was it. He threw his phone at the other end of the couch. How dare he call him? How did he even get his number? The dreaded scenario came back to him. That little brat probably wanted to rub in his face how much fun they were having. He knew that was far-fetched, but not impossible. He was pretty sure the younger one could be that erse. He looked at his phone. This was the ultimate test. He could either keep the lock on that door or open it to see what was inside. He reached over to pick it up and dialled the number he quickly found in the call history. He didn't have to wait long. Fortunately.

'Jjong?' the other exclaimed loudly.

Jonghyun sighed. Unfortunately. 'Don't call me that,' he let out coldly.

'Right, sorry,' Taemin retracted.

Hearing the sound of his voice was making his blood boil. He should've kept the door closed.

'What did you want? he directly sought.

'Is Jinki with you?' the younger one asked.

'What?' Jonghyun let out from confusion. 'What do you mean?'

Taemin snorted. 'I think that's a pretty simple question,' he mocked. 'Is he with you, yes or no?' he reiterated impatiently.

Jonghyun frowned. 'No, why would he be?'

'Wait, when was the last time you saw him?' Taemin inquired with an urging tone.

'I don't know... maybe... maybe a little over a month ago,' the older one gathered. The realization weighed on his chest.

'Oh my god... I was sure he was with you, I...' He paused.

Jonghyun froze. 'Wait...' He couldn't believe his mind had taken so much time to catch up. 'So you're not with him?' he asked back, a little too eagerly.

'Bravo Sherlock, mystery solved,' Taemin scoffed.

Jonghyun felt his fist itch. 'Why are you even calling now? Didn't you try to contact him before?,' he pieced together as his mind regained its basic functions.

'Like I said, I thought he was with you and... I didn't call him because I wanted him to miss me and call back first. But then... I started to find it weird that I didn't have any news for more than a week, so I tried his phone and he's not answered any of my calls,' Taemin exposed with what felt like true disarray.

Jonghyun wasn't moved. 'Hasn't it occurred to you that maybe he just didn't want to see you again?' He knew that would hurt.

Taemin took a few seconds to reply, confirming his thought. 'Jinki doesn't just leave like that,' he simply answered. 'It's just weird...'

'You must've really broken his heart,' he concluded.

Jonghyun couldn't believe what he was hearing. 'Excuse me?' he expressed with utter indignation. 'You couldn't be farther from the truth. He left because he's a coward. It's as simple as that,' he rectified flatly.

'So he did cross that line with you...' he thought out loud. 'He probably can't face himself right now. Jinki's a good guy, and to have done that to his brother... you can imagine how that must make him feel, right?' Taemin reasoned.

Jonghyun didn't like that. He didn't want to put himself in the other's shoes. All his anger and pain had to be directed towards someone. 'No, I can't.'

The younger sighed. 'Fine. Thanks for nothing,' he added before hanging up.

Jonghyun's jaw clenched. He'd had gone back to his irritating self in no time.

He turned his phone off, before closing his eyes. A face appeared; a haunting face. The relief he got from knowing Taemin was nowhere near him briefly stayed with him before turning into worry.

'Where are you?'

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