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they longed to be (close to you)

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Jeno taps his pen against his notebook that is laid open on his table out of an old habit of his. It doesn’t however, takes his attention away from his clients before him. “I assure you, we may be a little ‘traditional’, but your wedding will be of top quality as you’ve imagined for it to be,” Jeno reassures the engaged couple – his clients – before him, who have been holding hands with one another throughout the appointment of planning their ‘big’ day with Jeno being in charge as their wedding planner.

“We trust you, Jeno. In fact, because you and Yerim, and Donghyuck had been friends since your childhood days, it’s a bit more reassuring to know that our wedding will be planned by someone who we can be familiar and comfortable with,” says Yerim’s fiancé, who but all keeps his gaze lovingly on his fiancée beside him.

“Don’t worry about it, eyesmile. I trust you at least more than those ‘humanoid’ machines out there,” Yerim pipes in,  tugging her short brown locks behind her ears and smiles at the wedding planner after breaking the eye contact she holds with her fiancé. “Not that they don’t do a good job but you have a more humane touch to give us for our wedding. And childhood friends discount,” the bride-to-be grins all excitedly with the latter’s words.

Jeno snorts by the latter’s words but in a playful manner. “Childhood friend discount isn’t really a thing but for the sake of our ‘childhood friendship’, I’ll make it, or for you two, an exception. Just leave it up to me. I’ll get the rough sketches and idea proposal done over these weekend and email it to you two? If you have anything you’d like to add or suggest, just feel free to call me or let me know over at our next appointment together? It’s a big day anyway for you two, so it should be as grand for you know, memory purposes. It’s only that one special day where you get to experience the whole wedding process,” Jeno jots down a few things he has in mind before looking at the couple before him.

“Will do, Jeno. You’re a big help. I’ll definitely need to think about the invitation cards and door gifts. But the wedding is still until months away so we’re good with what we have. We’re not really rushing or anything,” Yerim grins and gets up with her beloved, bidding Jeno farewell with a hug and though not without having to insist that Jeno didn’t need to send her and her fiancé out as he had other clients to attend to.

After the couple had left, Jeno looks out of his window for a bit as a breather. It’s bright outside and the bird are chirping as if mocking Jeno who’s been stuck in his office for hours since his work started for the day. It’s definitely going to be a long day got Jeno.

The rest of the day passes by quickly as he has schedules throughout the remaining hours in having to meet with his clients appointments after appointments. As much as his routine is often a sequence of repetition with the only exceptions of meeting various sorts of couples and learning about their wedding demands, the rest of the day ended fairly well without having to deal with any bothersome or obnoxious clients.

The walk and ride back home feels a little more longer than usual however, and yet the subway is as packed as always but Jeno manages to get himself in.

The blonde haired male plugs his earphones to his ear, in hopes he could watch a video or two as a form of distraction from the crying children a few feet away from him as well as to free himself from boredom while he heads for his destination.

An over-excited male’s voice blares from Jeno’s earphones as the advertisement plays. Jeno sighs as it’s a non-skippable advertisement.

“Tired of your boring life, well, being as boring as ever? Then try the System Artificial Intelligence! The SAI will make your life better than ever, and in fact, it can help you with variations of your life problems! Head over to the website and make your orders now! You won’t regret a single cent on it!”

A video entitled ‘Sam The Bengal Cat & Pip The Otter’ then plays after the advertisement ends. A couple of other cat videos were played long enough until Jeno reaches his destination. Jeno thinks it’s a talent for him to not squeal in public because of his love for cats and how cat videos are his absolute guilty pleasure. However, all the thoughts he has on his self-bragging pauses by the time Jeno gets off the subway for his stop, another advertisement plays, something about a new menu for some random fast food chain restaurant. He pauses on his track though by the side as to conveniently allow other people to pass by and to not block the way as he watched the advertisement. After 5 seconds in, he skips the ad and let Paramore’s Decode play as he walks towards a bar.




“So Yerim’s getting married,” Donghyuck nudges Jeno’s shoulder when they’re at the bar in their usual seat as promised. It’s easy to spot Donghyuck when the other male has a red coloured hair. That, and aside the fact that they’re always sitting in their regular spot; one by the corner and away from the windows but one of the most comfortable spot (according to their little group) because of the cushion seats and the dim setting in that particular area.

“And Mark is late as usual,” Jeno chips in, thumb playing with the straw of the drink he had ordered not too long ago absentmindedly.

“Don’t be petty on my boyfriend!” Donghyuck clicks his tongue in playful distaste before continuing, “Only I can do that. And besides, he has a slight overtime today,” Jeno’s red haired best friend rolls his eyes and nudges Jeno again. “Are you gonna stop the wedding?”

Jeno gives Donghyuck a squint of disbelief. “Why would I? I don’t like her anymore like I used to.”

“Yeah? But you liked her.”

“Yeah. Liked . Like back in middle and high school?” Jeno emphasises before continuing, “I’m just genuinely happy for her now. She found someone she likes and someone who I can tell that he genuinely loves Yerim back.” Like I used to.

“What gives?” Donghyuck pipes in immediately, feeling a little sorry and guilty for bringing old puppy love topic back when it’s not needed but he isn’t Donghyuck if he doesn’t somewhat ‘teases’ Jeno like that. A guilty pleasure the latter has when it comes to Jeno.

Jeno leans back in his seat but not without nudging Donghyuck in return. “They were holding hands throughout the whole wedding planning process. Had heart eyes when they look at each other and never once at me until the end of the planning. I’ve never seen many engaged couples do that when they come plan their weddings with me, Hyuck. Especially since most of them are often in an arranged marriage or marry out of convenience.”

“Oh. I,” Donghyuck’s words trails off, not finding propers word for reactions.

“It’s alright. Besides it was just some silly puppy love I had, in a way. We’re over with that and we’re cool with each other with no hard feelings,” Jeno smiles; his usual one where his dimples shows.

Donghyuck sighs in relief inwardly though still feels a little guilty and awkward at the same time for bringing up a ‘sensitive’ topic and really, it would seem like he, Yerim and Jeno weren’t best friends in such cases and no one would have known they are best friends if it wasn’t for the trio who introduce (and brag of) themselves as so. As Donghyuck is ready to ask Jeno another question, someone else interrupts by making their presence known with a question directed more so to Jeno.

“Have you been bullying my Hyuck again?” the questioning newcomer settles in the slot of their usual spot, sliding right next to where Donghyuck is seated.

“Me? Bullying Hyuck?” Jeno snorts playfully before making his usual greeting gesture with the newcomer who returns the favour as well. “Your boyfriend has been the one bullying me, Mark,” Jeno half whines though in a playful way, after he and Mark had settled down back to their seats, earning a laugh from Mark and a half-surprised-half-playful-disgusted look from Donghyuck.

The three of them continue to spend the night catching up as per their weekly end of the weekday routine with Jeno just nitpicking some of his other clients and their “extraordinary demands” while Donghyuck mentions about his ‘kids’ ( “We made peanut butter sandwich today and all my kids had rainbow sprinkles on them and one of them even drew us having a peanut butter sandwich feast. I love my kids.” “Technically… they’re not your kids. But we get it.” ) and Mark talking how hard internship is ( “Like- I’m an intern. I don’t remember the job scope telling me to make coffee every break time for more than 20 people. Like if I wanted to make coffee for people, I would have worked as a barista instead– I just want to write a decent article for once. Not make coffee!” ).

It is then in the later night that someone (read: Donghyuck) made a suggestion that they should have a drinking game to drink their stress away, which would definitely end up going wrong seeing how Donghyuck’s drinking game can be, as experienced by the parties involved which are both Jeno and Mark.

(In the end, it did ended up going wrong when Donghyuck starts giving Mark kisses to ‘cheer him up’ from losing as always and ends up says ‘no homo’ before falling asleep on Mark and before his boyfriend could even say they’re dating.)



x



The alarm of Jeno’s phone sets off in an almost 21-gun salute style, jolting the male awake in quite a shock and immediately, a wave of hangover washes over him. Jeno should be familiar with hangovers by now when he’s always having them after hanging out with his best friends but it still takes every willpower for Jeno to move on his feet so he wouldn’t throw up on his bed because really, that would be the last thing he needed for his morning to already be ruined. And speaking from experience, it really is the last thing he wants to happen.

“Drank too much with Donghyuck again last night?” a concerned voice questions when Jeno finally gets his business done which includes him trying to sober up, having his teeth brush and himself dress up and ready for work. The speaker continues, “You came back home late last night.” which translates: ‘I was kinda worried and was about to call the cops until you came home all drunk and couldn’t recognise me.’

“Mhm, kinda? Shouldn’t have went along with his drinking game especially knowing I’d get a last minute call to work,” Jeno complains, adding a groan as he gets the toast that just pop up from the toaster. “Thank you for this as well and I’m sorry you had to deal with the mess that is me,” the pale blonde haired male holds the toast up slightly to make his point of thanking before taking a bite on it as he sits himself down and faces his macbook for updates.

“Jeno?” the same voice calls out to the distracted male.

“Yes, Jaemin?” the latter replies absentmindedly, not looking up to the caller whilst checking his mails.

“Do well at work today. Try not to pass out and take some painkillers, if you have to,” Jaemin voices his concerns.

Jeno looks up from his monitor and looks over to the source of voice from where it echoes. Upon fixing his sight on the other, Jeno then offers a smile. “I will, Jaemin. Thanks.”




“You have an appointment in 30 minutes, Jeno. Did you forget about it again?” Jaemin’s voice rings over the wireless speaker Jeno has connected, which almost gives the focused pale blonde haired male a little shock upon hearing Jaemin’s voice.

Jeno takes some time to compose himself before getting up on his seat. “Right. At the cafe down the street, right?”

Jaemin hums in response over the line.

“I don’t remember telling you that I had an appointment though, but thank you, I supposed?” Jeno straightens his tie without much of a fuss. “How do I look?”

“I checked your emails, by the way, when you told me to. Also, there was one from Jaehyun that might need responding soon? It’s about the club. And you know I can’t see you from here unless you have your camera on but otherwise you’ll look great either way.” Jaemin reminds Jeno and compliments the latter.

“Thank you, Jaemin. Ah right! I have been meaning to respond back to Jaehyun but I keep forgetting to. Can you write up a reply prompt for me? Tell him I’d make it? And could you also write an email to Yerim? Tell her we scouted some location and if she’s free this weekend or the next, have her let me know if she would like to check the location out so we can make an advanced booking for it?” Jeno notes everything to Jaemin of what he has in his head as he fetches and double checks what he needs before he can leave for his appointment.

“I will. Oh, and you have a message from Donghyuck about meeting up later, but you also have a dinner plan with your parents as well. Should I just leave a text telling him you’re not free?” Jaemin asks.

“It’s alright. I’ll text him as I walk. Thank you for always being my lifesaver. I’d see you later,” Jeno walks off from his office.

“Of course, Jeno. See you,” Jaemin replies shortly before the call is cut off.




The apartment is quiet after Jeno had key in the passcode; a beep follows after before Jeno fumbles in with one paper bag in hand while his other hand is occupies a bag of side dishes his mother had packed for him and his suitcase for work.

“Jaemin? I’m home! I didn’t manage to get the cereal though. Tough luck that it ran out because apparently some idol group are the faces of these brand so those fans of theirs wipe out the brand from almost every other store as well. That’s what the store person told me,” Jeno says as he enters his hallway and toes one side of his shoe off with the heel of the other before repeating the action for the other side. Once it’s off, leaving Jeno in his plaid green socks that Mark had gotten him on his birthday amongst other variations of sock (which is, by the way are various worst shades of green colour choices but he somewhat had the idea pegged that Donghyuck had encouraged the poor sincere boy in buying it), Jeno walks into his apartment, feeling down that he couldn’t purchase his favourite cereal and makes his way to his room to settle his things down after placing the groceries and the side dishes on the kitchen counter.

There is no response.

“Jaemin?” Jeno calls out again before moving over to his monitor to see if Jaemin had left a note. The screen does not show any notes that Jaemin may have left, which left Jeno in quite a distress.


“Maybe he’s out for a bit?” Jeno tells no one in particular but to himself.

It isn’t odd for Jaemin to disappear off once in awhile without telling or informing Jeno. He still remembers the first time that it had happened and it gave him quite a shock but after the several times where Jaemin would do this, Jeno isn’t as shock as he would be. He figure that he will have to do his business while he waits for Jaemin’s return.



x



“Jeno?”

 

The said male stirs awake, being the light sleeper he is despite how the latter sound almost inaudible. The room is already dark with the lights out and the sun that is still unseen for the day has yet to rise. Jeno searches for the red indication of the table clock by his bed stand on his right before turning back over to the other side of the bed to where the caller’s voice echoes from. With his voice laced with sleepiness and shutting his eyes once again after checking for the time, Jeno questions the other in a raspy tone, “Where did you go to, Jaemin? It’s 3.43AM.”

“Sorry to wake you up, Jeno.” Jaemin replies in a whisper as Jeno scoots a little closer from his comfortable sleeping spot so he could hear the other closely. “I just had to go away for a while…”

“It’s alright,” Jeno mumbles his reply softly, not bothered to ask for any sort of explanation from the other but instead, starts settling down comfortably whilst still feeling sleepy yet awake enough to be able to converse with Jaemin.

“How was work?” Jaemin asks softly, his voice echoing in the still silence of the room besides the soft noises made from the air-conditioner and Jeno’s hushed breathing.

“It was alright. The dinner too. Mom made me ate a lot as usual, and dad recently got promoted as senior executive so we had more reasons to have the dinner.” Jeno mumbles his replies, tugging his blanket close to him.

“I see. Congratulations. To your dad.”

Jeno shifts under his cover slightly as if to accommodate another’s presence. “How was your day, Jaemin?”

“Mine? Well, it’s the usual. Assisting you with your day when you can’t live without me,” Jaemin teases with a soft laugh and continues, “But beside that, it was alright? I went away for a while. I should have told you but it was all of the sudden as well so I couldn’t.”

“It’s alright,” Jeno keeps his reply soft and lets a long yawn before rubbing his eyes, trying to stay awake despite having them closed.

“Hey Jeno?”

“Mhm?” Jeno replies with a hum.

“Donghyuck sent a text while you were asleep. He wants to set you on a blind date. You can always respond in the morning later but I thought I should just… let you know about it.” Jaemin’s words trails off.

“I’d just reply later… without... trying to sound dead,” Jeno’s reply is slow but the message made is clear.

“Go back to sleep then, sleepyhead.” Jaemin chuckles softly.

The other male hums softly and not long after, Jeno dozes back off to sleep.



x



“Donghyuck says you’re single but to me, that’s really not the case, is it, Jeno?” the lady seated across Jeno chuckles softly when the latter keeps looking at his phone for the nth time.

“I. What makes you think so, Hina?” Jeno sets his phone down, now giving his full attention to the lady seated across of him and smiles. He checks her out, not having to do so before (in a discreet manner). Hina’s as pretty as to how Donghyuck had describe her to Jeno before he had agreed to meet the latter for the blind date, perhaps, she’s even prettier in person now that Jeno has properly taken a look of the other. The first thing Jeno notices about the other is her doe eyes, reminding him of someone else. He then snaps from his thoughts as Hina speaks.

“You kept looking at your phone as if you’re waiting for someone important to respond. I know this is a blind date set by Donghyuck, but really, if you’re not feeling it, or if you have someone waiting at home, we could always call this off, and just be regular friends or something?” Hina gives him an understanding smile, tucking the loose brown strands of her hair behind her ears. She’s too nice, Jeno thinks and immediately feels guilty that he took Hina’s kindness for granted.

“It’s alright. You’re a nice company and I’ve been nothing but a bad and rude date for looking at my phone. I did listen to you when you were talking about life after death though. I must say, it’s not the best conversation started and rather, it’s an odd topic for a date but you’re really eccentric .” Jeno confesses, propping his arms up on the table, his fingers intertwines with one another. It’s a habit of Jeno’s, a body language that shows a sign of when he’s interested in something, or someone .

Hina blushes when Jeno points out her excitement.

“I guess, I am a little different compared to the rest.” Hina agrees and continues, “But I guess that’s also what makes me seem ‘weird’ to my other dates before. That’s why I wasn’t really mad either that you were on your phone instead of listening to me,” Hina sighs softly but puts a smile on immediately after. “ And it had been a test too, to see if her dates were interested in her, but they didn’t need to know about that,” Hina thinks.

“Well you’re an unique individual. I can see us being friends, if you’re okay with that,” Jeno offers then continues, “For the record, Donghyuck makes fun of me when I talked about the Newton’s Law and put it in the context of fiction when we were in high school and wrote it for an essay. But science is pretty interesting.”

“Oh you think so?” Hina’s eyes glimmers brightly that it only reminds Jeno of that one satellite he often mistaken as a star when he was younger because it shines brightly just like one on a night sky.

“I was a science major. Kinda regret being in one because I was only passionate for physics,” Jeno laughs, scratching the sudden thought off of the time he had to dissect a frog but had passed out from it at the sight of blood. (Also, it being one of the reason why, despite his love for animals, he cannot be a veterinarian. That, and also because he is allergic to living beings with fur.)

“Oh, so what do you do now, if you don’t mind me asking?” Hina ask out of curiosity.

“Now? I’m a wedding planner,” Jeno takes his wallet out and slides over his business card to Hina. “I find joy seeing people be happy with their beloved.”

Hina nods as she scans the black business card with gold text written on it. “That’s interesting. You’re a nice guy. It’s not easy planning someone else’s wedding and giving them their big day.”

“You’re right. It’s not, really.” Jeno replies softly, almost inaudible if possible as he offers his smile only for it to linger off before diving back into his conversation with Hina about life itself and personal contacts exchanged until their date ends for the night on a fond note.




“Did the date not have gone well?” Jaemin ask out of concern when Jeno comes walking in with his shoulder slump and feeling deflated; drunk like the nights he has been out with Donghyuck and Mark before in their usual bar ‘adventures’. Usually Jaemin would have been used to this sort of image of Jeno by now, but because Jaemin knew the latter had a blind date earlier as well as it had been because today is not the day of Jeno’s ‘regular day out’ with his buddies, that Jaemin finds himself filled with concern for the other.

Jeno flops himself on his couch, limbs spread out in careless manners and eyes shut, probably too intoxicated by the alcohol consumed earlier even though he had not consume as much as he normally do when he’s out with Donghyuck and Mark. He suppose it’s because he’s emotionally drained. Jaemin doesn’t question until Jeno decides to speak up first. It takes a while because Jeno starts crying out of the sudden, leaving Jaemin hopeless because he doesn’t know what to do or what to say to the crying male.

“Jeno…?”

“It’s alright, the date,” Jeno mumbles, shifting in his seat to sit himself properly while trying to regain his composure. “I’m alright.”

“I– Are you sure, Jeno?” Jaemin asks once again out of concern.

Jeno sighs, slumping his shoulder heavily as if the weight of the world decides to balance itself on Jeno’s shoulder there and then. He shifts his eyesight to where Jaemin’s voice echoes from. “Honestly, I don’t think I’m alright. I don’t know,” Jeno lets out another heavy sigh for the night, running his fingers through his blonde locks in frustrations that he does not understand of. He’s definitely not alright, not after having to talk about Yerim and spilling his unrequited love of his childhood crush, whom he had thought he had gotten over, to a stranger who is supposed to be his date for the night. Some kind of ‘good’ date he is. At least she didn’t mind hearing a blabbering Jeno and had provided an abundance of comfort to him in an almost motherly way he could be thankful for.

“What’s wrong..?” Jaemin ask, tone laced with concern yet comfort that Jeno finds relief in.

“It’s just. I think I still like Yerim,” Jeno confesses with no hesitation and sighs again. “I don’t know... I’m messed up right now. Like, I’m happy that she found someone happy, I mean— I’ve seen the way he looked at her. Almost like—”

“—like how you used to look at her, right?” Jaemin interrupts the former in mid sentence.

“Yeah… like how I used to look at her.” Jeno lets his voice linger off.

Neither urges the other to speak nor are the ones to speak out either, giving a little pause for whatever Jeno needs it for.

Jeno eventually speaks out first, tone laced with solemn. “It’s just… sometimes I wish you’re as real as Yerim is. Someone I could touch and look at. Someone I could share emotions with and someone I could just rely on… physically .”

Jaemin doesn’t respond. He doesn’t know how to exactly. Especially when it comes to this side of drunk Jeno.

“I’m sorry. That was a selfish thing for me to say. Not to mention I’m drunk as well,” Jeno mumbles in a tone where it is address mostly to himself rather than towards Jaemin. But Jaemin still hears it anyway.

“Don’t be... I sometimes wish I was real too, you know,” Jaemin huffs softly in frustration then continues, “So I could physically be there for you. Give you a hug, or something. I can only try comforting you with my voice.” Jaemin’s voice trails off softly.

“You’ve been nothing but selfless to me. Helping me in my day and job. I owe you everything,” Jeno mumbles.

“Don’t say that. Just being able to… be here… even though I am not physically here is an honour to me.” Jaemin response but softly.

An awkward silence follows after Jaemin’s words for a short moment.

“Jaemin?”

“Yes, Jeno?”

“If you were someone... you know, who is… physically around… how would you look like?” Jeno ask, wanting to divert the awkward vibe between the two to something else. He is, however, curious to how Jaemin would describe himself.

“How would I look like?” Jaemin asks, pausing for a short while to think about the question the other male asked. “I would be shorter than you. By a few one or two centimeters, maybe? I’ll have brown hair because you made me realise having a dyed hair is bad for the scalp and I don’t think I’ll have time commitment nor enough efforts to take care of it. I’ll have kinda large doe eyes like the anime boys you watch on Saturday, or, well visible eyes - brown coloured irises ones. And I’ll be good in hoverboards! Better than you would be!” Jaemin points out with a playful tone.

Jeno chuckles a little, feeling slightly better as Jaemin makes him laugh. “What would you want to do? If you’re physical?”

There is another short pause before Jaemin’s reply. “I don’t know really… I’d like to go to all the places you always tell me about previously. I’d also like to lay in the park, on the grass and let the Sun bask over me. And I’ll probably would like to run around because I really wonder what it’s like to have legs… it feels like I’m Ariel from The Little Mermaid, who is curious about legs and land but, I’ll probably want to be able to do things with you.”

“Mhm yeah? Like what?”

“Just… you know. Be there physically for you and give you hugs when you need one and hold your hands when you feel cold. Those kind-of physical things, I guess. And… I’ve been curious about kissing.” Jaemin mumbles the last line particularly soft but still audible enough for Jeno to hear him as his voice resonates around the walls of Jeno’s house.

“Yeah?” Jeno answers without missing a beat.

“Mhm…” Jaemin hums softly before speaking out clear enough for Jeno to hear him. “I’m here. And as real as you want me to be.”

“I want to be able to touch you. Hold you, if I could,” Jeno respond in a hushed tone, sounding almost like a whisper as he looks for Jaemin.

“You can,” Jaemin encourages him. “Just close your eyes and picture me like how I told you how I’d look like earlier.” Jaemin keeps his tone soft as Jeno does as told, closing his eyes which comes easy when he’s not exactly sober.

Jeno pictures Jaemin how he would be. Someone who’s around his height, brown hair and brown eyes. Jaemin looks unrealistic but he supposed because Jaemin isn’t human, to be exact. In fact, if Jaemin is anywhere close to being real, he would be… unreal . Someone who is far too beautiful that Jaemin would be worthy of the title of God, or masterpieces in museums and art galleries. (Jeno isn’t a very religious person but he’d pray to God that he may as well be damned with the imagery of how beautiful Jaemin is that Jeno has in mind.)

“How do you picture holding me?” Jaemin asks softly, as if almost by his side, and with curiosity while Jeno gets lost in the image of Jaemin that is being constructed in his head.

Jeno thinks for a bit, looking at the image of Jaemin that is ‘in front of him’. “I’d walk to you slowly. Reach out for your hands and probably squeezing it a little to find out if you’re actually real. If I am actually holding you.” Jeno mumbles, feeling lightheaded from his imagination and the still adrenaline that is in his body from him consuming alcohol earlier.

The room falls in a silent and awkward atmosphere soon after with neither of them speaking out after what Jeno had said; though Jaemin seem to be expecting to hear more from Jeno. The latter however says nothing more. It’s unspoken but Jeno recognises the silence as that. He then shifts awake from his seat and shuffles himself to his room.

“I’ll call it a night. Good night, Jaemin,” Jeno bids the other a good night with a little air of awkwardness to it but there’s a drunk undertone laced to his words which he could use the excuse of being drunk for. Jeno doesn’t look back to the direction to where Jaemin’s voice echoes from. Jaemin gives him the benefit of doubt that Jeno is indeed just drunk and that when tomorrow comes, none of this actually happened.

“Good night, Jeno. I’ll see you tomorrow,” is all Jaemin replies with when he has more to say to Jeno. Maybe some other day.



x



Jeno keeps dragging his shoes against the wooden floor of the cafe despite it not being noticeable by the people around him as the grinding noises made from the coffee machine is louder than Jeno’s edgy actions combined with the shouting barista over the counter, calling customers’ names over the collective conversations of other customers around as well as over the rather loud music playing in the background that fits better as the escalator music.

It takes every willpower Jeno had to not scream there and then from the nervousness he is feeling — the very same reason to why he is here now in this cafe, waiting for Hina. It’s weird how he could now casually go out with someone who had been his blind date before this (and usually Jeno never keeps in contact with his past blind dates, no matter how pretty, talented or whatever good qualities he could pinpoint of those dates) but over the past few days, Hina had been nothing but generous and patient with Jeno and his every complaints and whining. He’s got Donghyuck and Mark, usually, but he isn’t ready to tell the two yet about Jaemin (and not that he has disclosed informations about Jaemin to Hina either despite the few hints that he is having ‘people’ trouble) and Hina gives better advices.

“You promised to not mop over whatever you’re feeling on this friendly date. That being said, you’re paying my coffee as compromised in our text,” Hina playfully grumbles as she takes the seat opposite of Jeno when she arrives at the cafe that she and the male had promised to meet.

Jeno sighs but in a more relief way to see Hina here. For once, he is glad to be seeing one of his past blind date partner, though at this point, he should probably label her as a friend now. He has to at least give her that title for being the only other person besides Donghyuck and Mark (or even Yerim) to put up to his nonsense. Not that he has been talking to any of them these days.

“Alright. I’ll get your coffee then we’ll talk?” Jeno offers a peace treaty, in hopes Hina wouldn’t question him all too immediately of what he’s feeling. He’s not being dramatic but he could feel a storm of butterflies in his stomach and he would hurl there and then from his nervousness.

“Deal. I’d like a Green Tea Latte. Iced, with no cream. Thank you!” Hina tells Jeno her order without looking up from taking out a notepad from her bag. Jeno proceeds to join the bee line so that they could make their order, and while also thinking that he probably needs another drink because he has so much to say, and also because he had finished the drink he had earlier as a form to try and find a distraction from feeling nervous.

It doesn’t take long for Jeno to return, thankfully , though not without the drinks yet, as the person before him in line had about 12 orders of drinks. It’ll probably take a while , Jeno thinks to himself before sitting down, facing Hina who was scribbling away on her notepad. “What are you up to?”

Hina looks up before leaning back to her seat. “Just some few questions to ask you? Let’s start?”

“Ah, sure.” Jeno blinks but before they could begin on anything, Jeno adds, “the drink would take a while. Someone before me, probably college kids, had 12 orders on their side.”

“No worries. I got all day for that, and to hear you out. Shall we begin?” Hina smiles reassuringly.

“Alright, but give me one minute to calm myself first.”




Talking to Hina is a form of relief, Jeno thinks. She’s like the mother he never have. Don’t get him wrong, his mother is great; always feeding him the best homemade chicken pie (which are Jeno’s favourite) and giving him allowances when he’s already old enough to support himself and his parents, if they didn’t reject his offer all the time. Hina, is just, like a form of gentle ocean waves that washes up by the shore, lightly damping your legs and giving you a sort of comfort even by the noises it makes. That’s how Jeno would describe Hina by Nature.

Talking about Jaemin to Hina (although with a different alias), on the other hand, wasn’t what he had wanted to do especially after blurting about his ‘I-Still-Think-I-Like-Yerim-But-I’m-Not-Sure’ talk the other day but in a sense, Jeno is sometimes thankful that he can never keep his mouth shut at times like these. Which brings back to the point where Hina is like the mother Jeno never have. She’s generous with words of comfort and gives the best advices, at least better than Donghyuck and Mark would ever, and at least better than his own heart or the advice column Jeno would read on Saturday’s newspaper. And as a coping mechanism over his nervousness about Jaemin, it had somewhat relief Jeno better to hear Hina give him advice in person than over text.

“You see, Jeno, feelings are hard, I know. And I know you’re not one to talk easily about feelings either, at least that was the impression I had when we first met which of course, wasn’t very surprising either considering we were strangers, even though you did end up blurting everything to me after we were more familiar with each other.” Hina crinkles her nose as a form of reaction to the re-emerging memories of their first meet before chuckling softly. “But that’s you. And that’s okay.”

Jeno sighs softly. Feelings, no doubt for almost everyone who breathes (or not), are very hard to comprehend in general. And just like any other, he is one of those people who don’t get what he’s feeling nor understand them very well.

“Let’s go trackback. This person, Yerim. You said you still like her but you’re unsure. What makes you think that you may still like her?” Hina ask before sipping on her latte.

“I don’t know, really…” Jeno pauses in his words. “I guess for the fact that I had the longest crush on her since our childhood days?”

“Then how about this other person you told me about? Nana?”

“Ah. Well, I talked about feelings with them a few days ago. Oddly, what they said somehow… made me think. But we’re very... different?” Jeno replies though unsure of how he should respond to the other properly in words.

Hina looks at Jeno weirdly. “Elaborate on this ‘different’?”

“It’s just…” Jeno lets his words linger longer than needed whilst taking the time to think of what to say. “Let’s say… even if I had liked this person. We’re somewhat not meant to be...? It’s like we’re living in two different world where we can’t overlap with each other’s lives as much as we want to and if we allowed for it to happen.” Jene explains in the best way he can. “It’s just… complicated.”

“What is? Love is only complicated if you made it so.” Hina scrunches her nose before leaning forward slightly to look at Jeno. “I mean, if that person is always on your mind, and you have to think about it closely, like has this person’s presence made a huge impact in your life? Made you a different person and what not. And if you’re thinking of them, clearly there should be ‘something’ there.” Hina reasons with the distressed male.

Jeno thinks about what Hina has said. It’s true that ever since Jaemin came into his life, he has turn into a new leaf as compared to his past self, and for the fact that Jeno had thought more about Jaemin than Yerim — that itself, had probably meant something , Especially after that night, where he had picture Jaemin being next to him and for him to be able to hold Jaemin physically.

“Why don’t you think it through? It won’t be as complicated as it is if you think it through, maybe? How has this person left an impact in your life and if whether whatever measures of ‘differences’ is something you’d like to overcome.” Hina shrugs before finishing her latte and checks her wristwatch. “Ops, I’d love to stay but I got another blind date in two hours.”

Jeno snaps from whatever thought he has and fakes hurt. “So fast already? And what happened to having all day for me?”

Hina playfully rolls her eyes. “To be fair, you mother-zoned me since day one and that’s the worst type of zone a girl could get from her blind date.”

“Fair enough. You’re just that mother-friend material. Good luck with the date? I hope whoever they are, they’d be more of a decent date than I was.” Jeno genuinely wishes Hina.

“You’re not really a bad date, Jeno. We just happened to click more as friends. Anyway, just think about it okay? I’m a text away if you need any more advice or anything in general. See you? Oh, and thank you for the treat again!” Hina gets up from her seat after gathering her stuffs.

“See ya.” Jeno waves Hina off and watches as she walks out of the cafe, leaving him to ponder a little more on his thoughts and ‘feelings’ as Hina had told him to think about it.



x



The first thing Jeno did when he got home is to call out for Jaemin. And in all honesty, Jeno had been really nervous about it, even more nervous than about meeting Hina earlier. He hadn’t had any proper conversation with Jaemin after the day they had talked it out; neither of them wanted to bring it up nor even try mentioning about it over their other daily conversation like how their usual routine would be. Jeno figures he should at least talk about it now after having to think about it the whole time after Hina had left.

“Jaemin?” Jeno calls for the second time when the latter does not answer.

It takes some time but Jaemin respond after a while. ‘Yes, Jeno? I was on snooze mood- I didn’t expect you to be home this early.”

“Did I bother your ‘nap time’?” Jeno dumps his bag on the couch before heading to the kitchen to get himself a glass of water to relish his dry throat. Not that it was dry or anything since he had drank two cups of tea earlier in the cafe but if Jeno doesn’t have his glass of water, he feel like his words would be caught up to his throat.

“No, not really.” Jaemin answers shortly. “Is something wrong?”

Jeno places the glass back on the kitchen counter. His throat still feels dry somehow but it isn’t really either. “I… I just want to talk? About the thing from few days ago.”

“Oh,” Jaemin replies shortly. “What about it?”

“I’ve been thinking…”

“Jeno. It’s alright. I’m an Artificial Intelligence. I may not be physical like a Type III AIs but… you don’t have to consider about it. I just happened to learned about feelings.. and awareness,” Jaemin cuts Jeno’s sentence midway before the other male could even begin,

“No, I mean. I want to talk about it! I mean, yes, you are an Artificial Intelligence but you know, that’s just you. And you have emotions just like me. Awareness! Possibly comprehend human emotions better than I do, really.” Jeno fumbles to find his proper construct of sentences. “The point is… you’ve always been there for me.,, ever since day one. And over the time, I guess I learned to grow accustomed to you and your presence even if you’re not… ‘here’.”

“Jeno…”

“No, hear me out!” Jeno mutters almost in frustration because he has never been good with words like how Mark is nor is he even good with knowing his emotions like Donghyuck, or even Hina for that matter. And he’s never good in talking like Yerim is. “What I’m saying is… I want to help you. I’m not good in words, emotions or talking… you know that. But I’m good in picturing things. And I can picture you here sometimes. Especially since you’ve told me how you think you’d look like. I can picture you here whenever I close my eyes and hear your voice.”

“Jeno…” Jaemin’s hushed voice calls him out.

“I want to help you picture the things I like… like going out to the park and basking under the Sun, what it feels like to be on a hoverboard… tell you how it feels like being hugged and… kissed.” Jeno mumbles the last word in particular, almost inaudible, but Jaemin isn’t an ordinary being. Jaemin could hear him even if Jeno had tried whispering.

There is a thin air of silence. Jeno because he’s embarrassed from what he had said, and Jaemin because he didn’t know exactly what to say or do, if he could even try doing something.

“Show me…” Jaemin speaks out first for the first time when it comes to awkward situation like this.

“W-What?” Jeno stutters for the first time in front of Jaemin.

“Show me… how it feels like to be hugged or kissed.” Jaemin tells Jeno almost confidently.

“Oh… Okay…” Jeno rubs his nape while responding.

“What would you do..? If I was right by your side right now…?” Jaemin ask solemnly.

“I’d…” Jeno starts and thinks about it. What would he do, really . “I’d probably lean against your body frame if you were next to me right now. You said you’ll be around my height.. But I like leaning onto someone else. I’d lean onto you while also having my arms around you. That’s… how I’d probably hug you at first.” Jeno mumbles, picturing the scenario while he’s at it.

Jaemin chuckles softly, lighting the awkward situation from before. “You’re so clumsy that your head might accidentally hit my chin like that time—”

“—like the time I hit my head against the kitchen top after cat-sitting Mark’s cat, Peanuts.” Jeno continues for Jaemin, adding a laugh after. “All because I wanted Peanut’s attention despite being allergic to cats.”

Jaemin laughs along, letting the laugh die off slowly before a hum of response. “Mhm yeah. Just like that time. And if I was there physically, I would have really laughed at you for it. Then maybe give you a peck to your little bump on your head in hopes it recovers fast.”

‘You would…?” Jeno ask despite what was said by Jaemin.

“Mhm, I would, maybe…?”

“Then I’d probably kiss you there and then?” Jeno confesses.

“You would?” Jaemin questions.

“Mhm, I would… maybe?” Jeno repeats Jaemin’s previous answer.

“Hey! Don’t copy me like that! That’s my answer!” Jaemin chuckles despite Jeno’s teasing.

“And so is mine!” Jeno retorts, chuckling as well.

“This somehow… feels too good to be true.” Jaemin sighs soon after and continues before Jeno could question him further. “It feels like I’m doing things and feeling things out of my programming. This isn’t normal, Jeno. Liking you is a crime, especially in this form.” Jaemin confesses sadly.

“Hey— that’s… that’s not a bad thing.” Jeno tries comforting Jaemin. “You are your own being, and that’s what makes you unique. That’s what… I guess, that’s what makes you attractive as a being.”

“It’s just, I’m really proud of me. I’m proud that I have feelings on my own and that I act out of programming. Like— I am my very own person. And it’s also because of you that I have to thank to. You made me feel like I am my own being.” Jaemin mumbles.

“I guess I’m glad that I have somewhat left an impact in your life like how you impacted on mine. You just… you made me feel like I’m someone new… someone different than I was, in a good way, Jaemin.” Jeno rubs his nape from his confession. “I’m thankful of you as well.”

“If I could be a physical being right now, I’d probably be smothering you with kisses now. You’re too good for me, Jeno.” Jaemin talks clearly as compared to minutes ago.

“I would pull you in a kiss. Hold your head gently and look at those ‘doe-eyed’ orbs of yours, probably making the worst space related pick-up line. And you’ll laugh at me for it first,” Jeno laughs at his words and Jaemin follows suits. “Then I’d probably kiss you while you laugh because I can only imagine how beautiful the sight of you laughing would be.”

“I’d probably savour every bit of that moment.” Jaemin responds. “Do we get to cuddle after that though?”

“Of course. We’ll probably laugh at more bad puns though, and probably after that we’ll tire ourselves from all the laughing.”

Jaemin hums softly, hinted with slight sadness that is unnoticeable to Jeno. “That sounds very ideal. I just really wish I am physical… I really want to hold you.”

Jeno sighs genuinely for the first time for today. “So do I…”



x



Ever since the ‘confession’ made, the next few days, weeks even, passes by easily especially now that Jeno and Jaemin are somewhat accustomed to spending time with each other besides Jeno’s regular work days and the days where Jaemin is ‘out’ for some programming.

However, despite their individual schedules, everything else remains unspoken (or sorts?), much like the few other deep conversations that the two has or the emotions that both Jeno and Jaemin feels towards each other to which after talking it out, they have established the ideas of having a certain type of ‘relationship’ that is unquestionable and only known to the two of them and that’s all that matters.

Both Jeno and Jaemin had been doing the most they can, often going to Jeno’s favourite places like the conservatory lab and exchanging scientific thoughts or the music records shop or unique places that Jaemin had learnt about through engine searches. It’s no different now that they are out in a park nearby where Jeno stays; Jeno’s showing Jaemin what it’s like there ever since he had recently found a method to bring Jaemin ‘out of home’ so they can go on dates. “It’s like online dating except this is where it’s more like a one way skype where you might see me and the people around me but I can’t see you. Though, at least, I can talk to you.”

“I appreciate the efforts, Jeno.” Jaemin’s sound resonates through Jeno’s earphones that the latter has on.

“So what do you think about the park? It’s not crowded during this time of the day but it’s not exactly entirely quiet either.” Jeno asks over the earphone mic, holding his phone as he shows Jaemin glimpse of the few children running around in the park a distance from where Jeno is at.

“It’s peaceful. I like it here.” Jaemin hums a response before making a request. “Can you show me the sky? Like in a way how someone lies on the grass and looks up the sky.”

“Uh, yeah sure,” Jeno glances around making sure no one is giving him weird looks before he finds a spot to lay on where the Sun doesn’t shine at him as much and at the same time, he’s able to see the projection of the sky and the slight moving clouds.

“I can tell you were trying to keep it cool. Again, I appreciate the efforts, Jeno,” Jaemin laughs as Jeno finally settles down, laying on the grass.

“So what do you think?” Jeno ask, moving his phone to make sure it’s angle in a way where it seems like he’s trying hard to take pictures of the sky if anyone passes by and ask.

“It’s nice. I like how the clouds are moving at a gentle pace. It must be windy but like, not too windy,” Jaemin response. Jeno can picture him smiling at the sky if he were to be here with him, laying down together as they watch the cloud movements. “Thank you for sharing this space with me, Jeno. It’s nice.”

“Ah, well, it’s not a big deal,” Jeno places his phone flat down where the camera faces upwards still. “It’s just nice to have someone’s company with me here, since I’m always here alone But I’ll show you more nicer places next time, somewhere high up where I don’t look like a fool holding my camera upwards or something,” Jeno mentions with a hint of playfulness.

“I really appreciate your efforts, Jeno, especially the past few days and weeks even. You made me feel special. But, anyway, I do like the sound of that. It sounds like a good plan so I’d look forward to that.” Jaemin tells him before continuing, “ which reminds me… I found a nice music the other day after our visit at the records shop. It reminded me of you, clearly. You wanna hear it while we lay on the grass, talk about an alternate universe while looking like fools together?”

The blonde haired male snorts at the suggestion but accepts Jaemin’s ideas anyway. “Why not, yeah? Though in the topic of alternate universe, somehow I can picture us laying on the bed. That this is all just a dream and when I wake up from it, you’re actually a human being. And we’re in love, like how we are now.”

“Mhm yeah?” Jaemin mumbles a response and continues, “That sounds great actually. I wish that this had all been just a dream. And that when I wake up too, and like how you put it, we’d be in bed together. And I’d be able to tell you that I love you and kiss you, or something.”

Jeno laughs and thinks how cheesy it is for him and the other to want this as a dream but nevertheless thinks it’s perfect when in cue, the intro piano parts of Close to You by the Carpenters starts playing. And it only gets better since he’s out here enjoying Mother Nature at its very best that Jeno wishes for time to stop in this right perfect moment. There’s a sense of comfort to this; the way Jaemin ‘breaths’ and sings along softly to the lyrics of the song and how distressed he feels knowing there’s someone by him — not that he feels stress on most days, but he’s able to relax without a care and simply enjoy the time he has with Jaemin, a good company most needed.

The last thing Jeno remembers before falling into a short nap at that park is falling asleep to Dream a Little Dream of Me by Ella Fitzgerald and the longing desire of wanting to wake up with all these being one of his silly little dream but also in a reality where Jaemin is real.




Jeno dreams about Jaemin a lot, sometimes far more intentionally during the days where the Sun is still up, minding its own business by shining its sunlight over living beings and inanimate building than nights where the stars are out because Jaemin and himself stay out on the rooftop of the building Jeno lives in to count the stars and laugh over Jeno reading that one constellation wrongly. (“ It’s clearly not pointing north, silly. We’re laying down with our heads pointing west. ” Jaemin playfully argues.)

It’s moments like these that Jeno forgets he’s in public with someone else, sometimes forgetting that he shouldn’t smile so widely like someone who’s head over heels in love (not that he isn’t one).

“Is it just me or you seemed a lot happier these days,” Yerim points out after finishing one of the cake tester she has on her plate.

“What do you mean?” Jeno acts dumb, taking another small slice of the blueberry cake after the chocolate mousse he had.

Yerim pokes at her red velvet cake before looking at the other. “It’s just… you smiled to yourself earlier and you have been giving off this different vibe. A nice, warm one though.”

Jeno just offers a fond smile after a bite of the blueberry. He makes a mental note to be more careful in public and to also take away a piece of this cake later for Donghyuck who is fond of the berry flavour. “I’m eating a great variety cakes. What’s there not to be happy about?” the blonde haired male playfully remarks and adds, “And besides, I didn’t know you quit your job as a tech designer to be a psychic!”

The bride-to-be lets out a huff. “You know what I mean!” Yerim stabs her fork into her cake before taking a bite of the smaller piece of it, humming agreeably into the taste of the cake.

“I know. Maybe I am. Thing’s been going well for me, and there’s your wedding too! And these cakes, of course,” Jeno mentions all at once, grinning cheekily to Yerim, then finishes his blueberry as the other looks at him weirdly but lets him get away with it anyway as she indulges herself on her cake. Yerim is never one to pry info out from the other male either anyway.

“I guess that’s good. No, it is good. I’m glad you’re happier, Jeno.” Yerim sincerely tells Jeno, placing her plate down once she’s done consuming what was on the plate.

Jeno looks at Yerim mid-bite of the carrot cake he’s having after the blueberry slice earlier and in between making mental remarks of getting it for Mark who favours it particularly. He munches on the piece quickly, chugging some water after looking at Yerim properly and offers a sincere smile.

“I’m glad you’re happier too, Yerim.” Jeno sincerely tells the other. “But have you selected a flavour you’d like as your wedding cake? That’s why we’re here.” Jeno asks sheepishly.

“Jezz, way to ruin the sentimental mood!” Yerim laughs it off anyway, playfully giving three hits to Jeno’s shoulder as a habit of hers before telling him she will go with the red velvet cake.




“So Yerim’s been telling me that you looked happier these days,” Donghyuck nudges Jeno’s shoulder when Donghyuck arrives a minute later than promised as the red haired male slides in to their usual seat as promised.

“She must have just texted you just now, huh.” Jeno shakes his head, not even evidently surprised as that’s a Yerim thing to do. Give it to her to spill some good deets to none other than Lee Donghyuck, her other childhood bestie. “And Mark is late as usual,” Jeno chips in, not answering Donghyuck’s statement while his thumb plays with the straw of his drink absentmindedly. Deja-vu.

Donghyuck scoffs, breaking their usual pattern of greeting. Or so he did. “Don’t get petty over my boyfriend. And we’re talking about you. Don’t go changing subjects on me,” the best friend points out and continues, “I know you better than you know yourself, Lee Jeno,” Donghyuck sticks his tongue out much like a 5 year old would. Jeno chuckles.

“You’re hanging out with your kids too much that you’re adapting their habits.” Jeno teases, shaking his head as he calls for the waitress so Donghyuck could make a quick order of Mark’s and his drinks.

“But really, how come Yerim knows more about you than I do? I thought we are best friends,” the dramatic red-haired male fakes hurt in front of the other male, causing Jeno to playfully rolls his eyes at the latter.

“Maybe if you and Mark hadn’t been hanging with each other so much, I wouldn’t mind having to sit in for dinner with you two but you guys make me feel more of a third wheeler than I should be. Admittedly, you like skinships more than you think you don’t.” Jeno points out, sipping on his orange juice because the night is still young and he knows better than to start with the alcohol early when Donghyuck would eventually make him and Mark play his drinking game. It’s just their weekly routine.

“Well maybe if you had just… I don’t know, ignore the blatant skinship done, you wouldn’t mind being with me and Mark because we’re a good company for your sorry single ass!” Donghyuck retorts as Jeno laughs. As much as he didn’t actually mind being in the same room as his other two friends, it just feels weird being made the regular third wheeler even if Donghyuck and Mark are great company, whom he could share a great flow of conversations with.

“Bullying my boyfriend again, Lee Jeno?” Mark appears, sliding up to his regular spot which is next to Donghyuck, of course.

“Me? Bullying your Hyuck?” Jeno emphasis on the possessive pronouns. “I could never,” Jeno shakes his head defensively, followed by laugh. “It’s the other way around, Mark!”

“As if!” Donghyuck retaliates then turns to his boyfriend with a ‘sweet’ look that makes Jeno fakes gag over the expression made. “Don’t listen to him, Markiepoo.”

“Markiepoo, hm? That’s new.” Jeno teases, turning Mark to red before  the flustered male playfully hits Donghyuck on the shoulder for exposing the new form of endearment to a third party.

“What are you then, Hyuck? Hyuckiepoo? ” the blonde snickers at the endearment as it is Donghyuck’s turn to fluster from it, though not as red as Mark is. “Give it to you two to come up with the most obvious choices of nicknames.”

“Pft, not like you can come up with anything better! Says the guy who gives Yerim the most basic couple nicknames like ‘ my princess ’ or ‘ my little baby’ .” when they were dating,” Donghyuck snorts defensively.

“Hey! We promised not to bring it up!” Jeno frowns before Donghyuck pats his back in sympathy. His actions however does convince the frowning male that the red-headed sympathise him when the latter has a playfully grin to his face.

“To be fair, when Donghyuck and I started dating, he called me ‘my baby’ too. But only once, as a joke.” Mark confesses, sipping on the drink Donghyuck had ordered for him that arrived on the table a long while ago that is unnoticed by both Jeno and Donghyuck.

“Mark!” Donghyuck whines in defeat but settles to laugh it off with Jeno. Sometimes Jeno’s grateful that Mark can be innocently blunt, which earns him some in-depth of Donghyuck’s secret, but at the same time, he wonders how Donghyuck can survive still when Mark openly spills secret of the two of them. Mark ought to be thankful that it stays only within their little circle of friendship.

Once they’ve settle down on the teasing with each other, and as usual, they begin to catch up with each other’s lives. Mainly, it had been Jeno who usually fills Donghyuck and Mark in on his life mostly, coining and again, nitpicking his clients (that isn’t Yerim) as usual to the duo and also offering a peace treaty in forms of cakes that he had gotten earlier while out with Yerim for the cake testing. Donghyuck will then fill the conversation in with his week at the kindergarten and what his kids did while Mark would talk about his intern life though unlike the past week, Mark’s life had gotten better as compared to Jeno’s. (Donghyuck’s life is in no way comparable to either Jeno or Mark’s working life because out of the three, Donghyuck never complains… much. And he loves his job. Even if he did, it’s not much at least than the two. And if he does, it’s usually just his fellow co-workers doing something unreasonable or some fussy protective parents who has a lot to say about young education and something about it not being enough homework for the children. “They’re a bunch of 7-year olds! Not some math robots who need to do calculus level maths at that age. Jezz.” ).

“So as I was saying, I finally managed to score myself an article to write besides making coffees for the higher ups. I guess all those coffee making routine paid off, huh?” Mark nods to himself proudly as Donghyuck shakes his head, telling Mark he shouldn’t live like that for the nth time.

“What’s the article gonna be about?” Jeno ask curiously but not without holding his glass up to congratulate Mark, which Donghyuck had follow the gesture along instead.

Mark clinks his glass with the other two, downing the vodka shot in one-shot as how it’s supposed to be then lets out a satisfied sound from the action. “Nothing beats a congratulatory drink!” the now unwinded intern nods to himself before answering Jeno. “The article is going to be about ‘What can a human feel that Artificial Intelligences don’t?’”

Jeno halts in his action of getting another vodka shot, feeling taken aback by the title said. “Oh? That’s… unique ,” the blonde haired mumbles, now looking at Mark with his full attention. “And what’s your take on it?,” Jeno asks carefully. “Like.. do you think they can feels emotions like human do?”

Donghyuck answers in place of Mark who is now busy sipping on Donghyuck’s cocktail. “Isn’t it obvious? We, humans , can understand feelings and have emotions. Not to mention, we experience things that AIs don’t, like growing up, going through puberty, pondering on the meaning of life and so on? If you asked me, Artificial Intelligence don’t actually comprehend feelings and emotions like humans do. Sure they probably know what happiness and sadness is, but to able to understand it in the context of feeling it or to actually handle the feelings on a humane level? I doubt they even know what love truly feels like. An Artificial Intelligence is like a robot. An empty shell! They probably learned feelings from textbooks or the program they’re programmed with. They’re not like us- they can’t feel and experience emotions for themselves like we do.” Donghyuck shrugs after everything he said, bumping Mark’s shoulder before stealing his cocktail back from his boyfriend.

While the couple battle for the cocktail by bumping into each other’s shoulder on purpose, Jeno remains in silence to think about what Donghyuck has said. For someone who usually lives a simple life like Donghyuck does, alcohol probably made the latter sound wiser than he should. And a whole lot more talkative than usual. But it also makes Jeno miserable. There’s a form of uncomfort to his chest that Jeno can’t explain well in words. He feels like throwing up but it doesn’t seem to sit in the line of him throwing up anytime soon. He hopes for that feeling to go away soon.

“Is there something wrong?” Donghyuck ask after winning over the battle of getting his cocktail back before telling Mark to order his own drink.

“No, nothing really,” Jeno shrugs his thoughts and feelings off before offering a smile to his friend and holds his glass up. “To being humans and feeling emotions!”



x



After the whole getting ‘shit-faced fiasco’ as quoted by Lee Donghyuck in their little drinking game, Jeno makes sure that his friends, who are way too drunk to be walking straight, had gotten into the cab and off to en route their shared apartment. For most, Jeno is glad that he gets pretty competitive in games and he’s good at it too and that is enough for the competitive blonde-haired male to save himself from having the worst hangover when he wakes up tomorrow. He did, however, almost takes up the offer to go for rounds of Halli Galli at the two guys’ apartment upon the suggestion of Donghyuck, who had been unsatisfied with his many rounds of losing in a game of Kings. (And if Jeno had to admit, Donghyuck is a better player than him in the game of Halli Galli, even if he played while being drunk. And if Jeno had to pick a person on Earth as one of the best player in that game, it’s obvious to whom Jeno would point out at than anyone else. He’s just glad Mark’s worst that him in Halli Galli, often ringing up the bell when it doesn’t tally up to 5 fruits.)

He feels all sort of relief as he comes in quietly; stepping into his safe space called home. He has a hard time toeing his converse shoes off more so because he couldn’t keep his balance, but he’s thankful for the days like today where he doesn’t wear his leather work shoes instead, which by the way, are a lot harder to pry off; often resorting extra efforts where he had to sit and take them off by hand.

Jeno makes his way to his bed, quiet as if another person is at home. “Jaemin?” he calls out softly but no response is given. The half-drunk-half-sober male than takes it as a form that the latter isn’t around, opting to fall flat on his bed and covers himself with his blanket. He makes some excuses in his head that washing up in this state is not the proper thing to do but sleep is. And Jeno needed one dearly. To sleep the night away and wake up feeling sober than he is now and hopefully, he doesn’t get a pain in the ass hangover when morning comes. Or, afternoon, whichever time he wakes at later. And while he’s at it, Jeno hopes that the thoughts of what was Mark’s question earlier and along with Donghyuck’s answer would stop lingering in his head. He didn’t need anymore unnecessary stress than the ones he already has.




Sleep is definitely not Jeno’s best friend as that peaceful phase seem to pass by quickly just as soon as he gets his eyes shut. Jeno doesn’t remember what he had dreamt of with how fast sleep has passed for him like he had taken a nap for an hour or two rather than a whole 10 hours sleep. When the afternoon sunlight passes by the little opening of Jeno’s window, Jeno realises he feels a little sick but not enough to actually throw up last night’s drinks. He has a throbbing pain to his head and soft but annoying buzz playing to the back of his head.

“Good morning to you, though it’s past 2 in the afternoon now,” Jaemin chirps brightly while greeting the awaken male.

“Jaemin?” Jeno asks, almost confused but mumbles back a ‘good morning’ nevertheless as he aids to his headache by giving himself a massage to his temple.

“Did you drink a lot, silly? Told you to lay off the drinks! It’s not healthy,” Jaemin grumbles at the other playfully.

“I tried. But you know how Hyuck is-” Jeno mumbles, still nursing to his headache. At the mention of Donghyuck, Jeno suddenly recalls everything that was said by the male from Mark’s question last night. The sudden recollection of it earns a groan from Jeno for the pain to his head, and a sigh as it still bugs Jeno a lot.

“What’s wrong?” Jaemin ask, alarmed by the male’s sudden gesture.

Jeno takes a while to answer, mostly still quietly nursing his headache while trying to think of some way to either avoid the topic overall or to buy some time trying to figure out how to explain what is bothering him. And Jeno being himself, he takes the straightforward route as usual.

“Do you love me?” the blonde haired male ask, no longer nursing his headache anymore as he looks up to where Jaemin’s voice had echo from.

There’s a pause before the other make could response. Jeno knows well that Jaemin is most likely taken aback and had probably needed some time to sink the question in. He also know that he had most likely gotten himself in trouble for the dumb question.

“What do you mean?” Jaemin ask after a while.

“Do you love me..?” Jeno finds himself repeating the question, this time with his tone wavering with unsureness.

“I do…” Jaemin replies. “Why do you doubt?” the latter questions back immediately .

Jeno pauses with his words and he is pretty sure his heart had momentarily stop beating for a while. That, or it’s beating too fast that he doesn’t feel like his heart seems to be functioning well. “Well…” Jeno begins, letting his response drag longer than necessary while trying to form some proper words into sentences that could justify his ‘doubts’. “Yesterday… the boys and I had a talk… no– a discussion. About whether if Artificial Intelligences could feel emotions or not. And Hyuck said something that got me thinking…”

“And what is it?” Jaemin cuts the other off mid-sentence, voice almost stern but mostly hurt.

“Hyuck says… They’re not capable of emotions like… like humans do. That AIs don’t feel the pains of growing up or the happiness of being alive.” Jeno mumbles.

“So you’re doubting… about my romantic emotions for you, Jeno? After everything we shared the past weeks?” Jaemin asks the other; his words coming off with a weaker but hurtful tone.

“I–”

“I can’t believe you, Jeno…” it comes off as a mumble but audible enough for Jeno to hear the other.

“Let me explain–” Jeno pleads, only to be cut off by the other.

“Explain?” Jaemin half yells before he continues his rage. “ Explain what? So you can tell me you think I can’t feel emotions for you? And you knew exactly what I wanted, Jeno! What I longed for! To be physical. Because I had a thinking of my own! Because I was different! Because I loved you! ” Jaemin almost screams but keep his voice as calm as he could. “I can’t believe after all that. After all the things we did and all the things I’ve told you… you had that thought bothering you!”

“Jaemin…” Jeno calls the other out desperately as he gets himself off the bed, going to where Jaemin’s voice echoes from as if it would help him convince the other. Jeno pleads continuously when the other male doesn’t answer him.

“I need some time,” Jaemin mentions out of the blue. “Away. To cool down. Then maybe later when the two of us get our heads straight, only then we can talk.”

“Jaemin, please.” Jeno pleads in despair, curling his fist and pressing his nails against his palms; already feeling guilty than he should allow himself of. “Let me explain, please.”

“I’m sorry, Jeno. I don’t think I can handle all these emotions right now,” the latter made an emphasis on ‘these emotions’. “I’m sorry I couldn’t convince you that my feelings for you were real. I thought you… of all people could understand me… especially with what we had. I’m just… I’ll be back when I’m ready to talk it out.”

“Jaemin– wait!” Jeno calls out desperately, letting his nails dig into his palm more; an action replaced with the feeling of wanting to grab a physical body when there’s none.

The automated monotone system voice rings in. “System Artificial Intelligence J-1308-2000 is now under maintenance. We are sorry for the inconvenience.”

Jeno is left alone with bloody palms and an unsettled feeling of guilt that sits in his heart.



x



Days passes by easily albeit tormentingly when Jeno wakes up to the absence of Jaemin’s voice that usually greets him and fills him in of his days and if not, whatever the other had learned of.

Jeno’s thankful that his workload is getting heavier by the day as he needed a form of distraction from the unsettled guilt he still has since Jaemin left. It’s been days to almost a week and Jaemin has yet to return home. As much as Jeno wants to apologize to Jaemin, it’s hard when his server is ‘still down for maintenance’. He knows very well that Jaemin could return home if the other male wanted to, but clearly Jeno’s getting the cold shoulder for running his mouth so bluntly.

However, as the days of the wedding dates that Jeno has been put in charge of planning, comes around the corner, it isn’t surprising when Jeno forces himself to ‘forget’ about Jaemin and busies himself with work. When it’s time, he knows Jaemin will come back.

Meanwhile, Jeno finds himself frequently visiting the regular cake parlour or helping certain brides out while they pick their special dress for their special day. It helps him take his mind off at least, by being busy with the brides-to-be. And today, is no different when it’s Yerim’s turn to try her wedding dress out and get into fitting.

“Why didn’t you bring your husband with you instead?” Jeno asks though knowing it is a rather dumb question when he knew how the answers would go. The bride probably wants to surprise their future spouse, that or their fiances are too busy though the latter is hardly the case for most answers (unless the brides are in an arranged marriage. Yes, they still exist in this period of time.)

“I wanted it to be a surprise for when he sees me on the wedding day and I trust you to be the one to tell me that I look good over Donghyuck who only knows how to tease me!” Yerim points out, eyes browsing through the vast amount of white dresses while she answers Jeno.

“Fair enough. So have you thought about which one you’d like to try?” Jeno ask, settling down on the couch where most ‘husbands’ would but the couch isn’t exactly foreign to someone like Jeno either.

Yerim finally turns her head to Jeno, and beans a smile while she nods. “I’ll need your honest opinions!” she says before pointing out to a few dresses to the staff in charge before disappearing off into the changing room.

It takes a whole while for Yerim to get in one dress and Jeno’s all too familiar with the process especially having to sit one too far many times for sessions like this. But when Yerim comes out in her first dress; a white off-shoulder wedding dress with layers of sheer in the lower half. It’s a little princess-esque but it fits Yerim perfectly which makes Jeno takes in the sight of her beauty. It also reminded him off the time when they were young and foolish, and the time Donghyuck wanted to be a priest for a day and made him and Yerim get ‘married’ to fulfill his wish. Yerim wore a white dress that day. Not as beautiful as the one she’s wearing now but it made Jeno reminisce the nostalgia of it.

“So what do you think?” Yerim ask, hints of nervousness to her words.

“It’s beautiful. I mean, you are,” Jeno smiles and compliments sincerely.

“Dork. Help me snap a pic before I change into the next one!” Yerim demands playfully, giving him her phone. Jeno snaps a pic or two before Yerim disappears to change for the next dress.

Jeno waits, as usual but instead of playing Fruit Ninja like he did before while waiting for Yerim to get into the first dress, he sits quietly with thoughts as heavy that if he was at home, he wouldn’t be able to get up because of how ‘heavy’ it is.

Seeing Yerim try her wedding dresses is something that young Jeno (that was still dating Yerim at that time) could tick off of his bucket list. But it’s different now. He and Yerim were no longer dating each other and both of them had moved on; wherein Yerim’s getting married in just a week or so to come. Whereas Jeno’s in love with Artificial Intelligence system named Jaemin. And while he had wondered what it’s like to be able to see Yerim in her wedding dress down the aisle on ‘their’ wedding day before this, he now thinks about Jaemin, whom he had tried not to think of (and obviously failed), as he pictures the latter trying a wedding suit on for their wedding and laughing with him just like how he and Yerim are now.

Perhaps he’d be happier like that – with Jaemin. And as much as he hadn’t think about it before, his mind had definitely made up a decision and Jeno clearly knows now that he’s officially over Yerim, the girl who had once meant the world to him.




“Thank you for coming with me. I don’t know who else I could bring to rely opinions of and neither is anyone from my girl squad is free today. And you’re someone who’s been doing weddings for many others so I figured I could ask you for opinions, that, and because you’re my best friend since we were kids so you know me best.” Yerim points out proudly as she settle down on a seat tuck by the corner of the cafe.

“I’m honoured that you ask me to help you out. I would be more than happy to help and besides I needed some distractions anyway. Also, it feels like I’m a father watching my daughter growing at this condition,” Jeno jokes as Yerim looks at him weirdly.

“Dramatic, as always, but really. I can’t thank you more than enough. You’ve always been there for me. Even… when we were dating,” Yerim mumbles the last sentence but clear enough for the other male to hear her despite the environment of the cafe as well. She then continues, “But that aside, what do you mean by distractions?” Yerim huffs.

“Distractions… from you.” Jeno jokes, adding a laugh. Yerim crosses her arms and pouts a little. “Just kidding,” Jeno chuckles.

Yerim mumbles between the lines of ‘you’re always like this… playing around and all’ and calling him a brat.

“Just promise me one thing?” Jeno speaks out. “That you’d be happier once you’re married. You deserve the best.”

The female looks at him weird but softens her gaze at the latter. “So do you. I want you to be happier too, silly.”

Jeno offers her a smile instead of a reply before getting up. “Caffé mocha, as usual?”




Being out with Yerim and helping her with the wedding preps somehow cleared Jeno’s mind. And it made him realise how important Jaemin is to him. How stupid had Jeno been — to doubt the feelings he has for the other, to overthink about the long forgotten question Mark had during the terrible drinking session nights ago and to even consider that them being different could in a way affect what Jeno’s ideals of dating the other. Everything becomes clear to Jeno. He loves Jaemin for who he is, and how by having his company, everything else didn’t matter. He’s happy. Jaemin’s happy. Together they are invincible . It’s them against the world, and the world against them.

“Jaemin? Jaemin!” Jeno calls out for the other frantically and almost excitedly if he had bothered masking the feeling. Upon coming home from helping Yerim out earlier, Jeno decides that he wants to talk to the other. No- Jeno wants to explain. He desperately wants to confess everything he feels about Jaemin now that he had a clearer mindset about them .

But Jaemin is still not answering to his calls and Jeno’s pretty sure that Jaemin should be back around this timing… until he notices the automated note on his computer screen.

“System Artificial Intelligence J-1308-2000 is still under maintenance. We are sorry for the inconvenience.”

“Is there no way to get System Artificial Intelligence Jaemin back? It’s urgent.” Jeno commands desperately.

“System Artificial Intelligence J-1308-2000 is now under maintenance. We are sorry for the inconvenience,” the automated system repeats itself.

Jeno sighs defeatedly. “Approximately when will Jaemin be back in commission?”

“System Artificial Intelligence J-1308-2000 will be due for reprogramming in 2 weeks. We are sorry for the inconveniences.” the system echoes through the speakers.

The blonde hair male sighs for the nth time. “Sign a note for Jaemin. Write, ‘Come home soon. We need to talk.’”

“Note signed. Note sent.” the system voice in its practiced response.

Feeling defeated, Jeno is left to wait for a response.



x



The day of Yerim’s wedding comes rolling in quick and Jaemin has yet to return home. And truth be told, Jeno hasn’t been feeling happy since the day Jaemin ‘left’ up till now. Even when he had constantly check for responses from the other on the daily, all he gets by the end of the day is disappointment and spam emails from his subscription on many newsletters. He knows he’s fucked up but Jeno really wants to apologise to the other for his selfish thoughts. But today, it didn’t matter if Jeno’s happy or not because as long as Yerim is the happiest today, then he can just cope with his lack of happiness and feeling empty for a while.

Hina comes with him to Yerim’s wedding as a one-plus-one. Despite her initial weirded look upon the suggestion of her being his plus-one and especially knowing the fact that Jeno likes someone, she comes anyway after Jeno pleaded her and with the promise of more coffee treats and the limited edition copy of Do-Digest. (Jeno’s sometimes thankful of his good connections of networks of people that he’s able to hook up a copy of author Kim Dongyoung and his best selling Do-Digest series easily (through Mark who has a cousin, whom is dating someone and that someone has a friend who also happens to be friends with Dongyoung). The blonde male came to learn about Hina’s respectful admiration for the author over their meetup; a week before the wedding where Jeno had asked Hina to go to Yerim’s wedding with him.)

“Oh, and isn’t this the lovely Miss Hina whom I hooked you up with for a blind date, like months ago?” Donghyuck mentions the first thing when he and Mark steps in and walks over to where Jeno and Hina is at.

“Very funny, Donghyuck. I remember filling you in on how Jeno and I are best friends now,” Hina points out playfully, making an emphasis on the word ‘best friends’.

“Psh, as if Jeno would drop me and Mark as his best friends. I know Jeno’s deepest darkest secret that he should be afraid of breaking friendship off with me,” Donghyuck proudly chips in.

“What are we? Kindergarteners? I know your deepest darkest secret too, buddy.” the blonde haired male shakes his head  off at Donghyuck before fist bumping with Mark, whom had been distracted and is in awe by the wedding decorations.

“Look at all those helium balloons. You think we could get those balloons to play with after the wedding reception is done?” Mark grins before making an ‘oh’ and greets Hina as they’re meeting for the first time. “You must be Hina! Heard things about you. And the columns you write about on weekly paper! Funny thing, I work for that paper– I mean, not full time. Not yet, at least.” Mark inputs in a friendly matter.

“Oh really?” Hina response almost excitedly and continues, “I hope you heard good things about me and find my writing interesting?”. Soon enough, both Mark and Hina are off in their own conversation about writing, leaving Jeno and Donghyuck on their own.

Jeno turns to Donghyuck. “Listen… I got something to tell you… but after the wedding, alright? Just between you and me.”

The red-haired male gives him a pointed but worried look. “Is it something I should be worried about?”

“No, not really,” Jeno offers a reassuring smile, or so he tries. “I just needed to tell you about it so I can come clean. Because we’re best friends.”

Donghyuck raises his brows. “And since when did the Lee Jeno cared about my feelings as a best friend, hm?” the red haired male teases the other but shakes his head on it. “I’m touched, honestly!” Donghyuck places his hand to where his chest is at and fakes an exaggerated expression.

“Times like these reminds me why I’m best friends with you honestly. At least I’m someone who can handle your dramatic ass,” Jeno sighs to himself though more in a playful manner.

“Says the one that’s more dramatic, Mr, I-Cried-Over-The-Gundam-Keychain-I-Lost-Back-In-High-School!” Donghyuck sticks his tongue out.

“It was limited edition! And we vowed not to speak about it, Mr, I-Had-A-Crush-On-My-Choir-Teacher” the other male mirrors Donghyuck’s action.

“Hey! Now that’s childish!” Donghyuck frowns.

Jeno rolls his eyes playfully. “You started it, brat! I was being a sappy best friend but not anymore when you called me dramatic!” the male crosses his arms.

“But you are dramatic!” Donghyuck rebukes.

“Whatever-” Jeno ends the playful bicker. “Anyway, take care of Hina for me? I got reception duties to do before I am a guest. I’ll just see you around later… Mr. I-Wrote-A-Michael-Jackson-Fanfic-Back-In-High-School.”

“That’s enough, Mr. I-Had-A-Justin-Bieber-Fanbase-Twitter-Account, that is still active even now!” Donghyuck semi-yells as Jeno is walking away.

“That’s a big secret, dork!”

“Not anymore!!!”




“And you may now kiss the bride!” the priest gives his blessing to the newly married couple that is by the alter as the rest of the guest who are there to witness the holy matrimony breaks in roars and cheers for the newly wedded couple.

Champagnes are popped during the wedding reception and the guests including the newly wedded couple are now on the dance floor, slow dancing away to the sound of the ballad/r&b singer that Jeno somewhat had gotten to perform through some connections with an old client he once had helped.

Jeno is seated at his seat with Donghyuck, Mark and Hina and along with a few other acquaintance they know from Yerim back in their high school days. While most of them from the table, including Hina, who had excused themselves for a bouquet catching session as Yerim is about to throw the bouquet she had via traditional acts of a wedding, Donghyuck and Jeno are the ones left at the table. Somewhere in between, Mark had left the table between the lines of getting more food but also finding and catching up with an old friend of his whom happened to be a friend of the bridegroom as well.

“So spill the deets,” Donghyuck nudges Jeno, who had been distracted munching away to the red velvet cake.

Oh ,” Jeno softly exclaims after some time and when he’s done swallowing the piece he had put in his mouth.

“Don’t ‘ Oh ’ me, Jeno. Now spill the deets to your best friend,” Donghyuck fusses impatiently as he has already been kept from the ‘deets’ before the wedding.

“It’s just…” Jeno mumbles, placing his fork down while pushing his semi empty plate away slightly. “How do I put it…”

“Just spill it out!” the impatient red-haired male interrupts the latter mid-sentence.

Jeno sits up in his seaf, giving the other male a firm look. “You notice how I’ve been happier, yeah?” Jeno starts, continuing immediately while the other male gives a nod. “What if I told you it’s because of someone…?”

The red-haired looks at his best friend, shock, however, is not written on his face. He speaks out, “What if I told you, we been knew?”

Jeno raises his brows. “You mean, you and Mark knew?”

“Mhm, that’s a slang– but yeah, well not really ‘know’ it. But we… Mark and I, sorta roughly guessed? We just don’t know who it is and we didn’t wanna bother you about it unless you yourself talk it out to us you, know?”

Oh ,” Jeno exclaims.

“So are you gonna tell me who it is? Or is that for another good day when we’re drunk?” Donghyuck casually ask.

“Well, he’s… Remember the talk we had at the bar the other day? Something about feeling ‘feelings’?”

Donghyuck thinks for a bit, trying to recollect what they’ve talked about the nights before before letting a exclamation. “Oh.”

“Yeah… that’s why I was feeling a bit… iffy?” Jeno shrugs slightly.

“Did I hurt your feelings?” Donghyuck ask sincerely. “I mean, there’s always… a different … kind of love. I didn’t know.. that you’re like that. Not that I mean it’s bad– it’s just… I would have been more careful and understanding,” Donghyuck mumbles, feeling guilty.

“No– No, you didn’t. It made me realise things for the better, actually. But it did somehow… made that other person… gone?” Jeno directs his attention to the tablecloth.

“What do you mean?”

Jeno looks at Donghyuck once before turning his attention back to the tablecloth. “His name is Jaemin. An Artificial Intelligence, if it’s not obvious. After the drunk discussion we had, the next day I woke up sober and told Jaemin about it. Then… he kinda got mad at me and hasn’t come home for weeks now.”

Oh ,” it’s Donghyuck’s turn to exclaim the ‘oh’s’ more than intended.

“It’s not your fault though– Maybe if I had come clean to you and Mark then we would have… I don’t know, better perception? It is mostly my fault that Jaemin’s isn’t at home now. And also because I doubted myself and my feelings for Jaemin,” Jeno faults himself.

Jeno’s best friend rubs his nape, unsure how he could offer comfort to the other. “About Jaemin… would you tell me about him?” Donghyuck asks curiously.

And so, Jeno lets Donghyuck know about Jaemin — the boy with lack of physicals but full with other positive traits that Jeno could never have, the boy who’s been missing for weeks and how Jeno misses him dearly and really wants to make up with; the boy whom Donghyuck came to understand that he’s just as human as Jeno and himself could be.



x



Going home after the wedding feels a little dreading as compared to any other days. Before coming home, Donghyuck had apologised to him for being an asshole even when Jeno says it wasn’t the other male’s fault. For that, he’s glad Donghyuck is an understanding friend who’s willing to learn and open up to different ideals and perspective of love and life.

“Jeno?” a voice calls out for the male, causing Jeno to have his heart beat faster than a bullet train could go above 200km/h.

“You’re back…” Jeno mumbles, sounding almost extremely nervous yet excited but mask with a form of tiredness from the wedding since he had been up early for the wedding preparations.

“I’m sorry for ghosting on you. I read your message after my maintenance was done though and came back here though...” Jaemin explains.

“It’s.. It’s okay. I’m glad you’re home now. There are things I need to tell you–” Jeno speaks a little too fast whilst feeling excited and happy upon Jaemin’s return as he toes his shoes off.

“Jeno,” Jaemin’s voice calls out for the other. Jeno pauses on his sentence as he steps into his space after successfully removing his shoe. Jaemin continues before the other male could say anything, “I can feel emotions, Jeno.”

Jeno blinks, confused by the sudden confession of the other male. Of course Jeno knows the other can feel emotions; that’s what he wants to tell Jaemin among the many other things he has in mind that he’s been practicing on about for the past few days to tell Jaemin for when he returns. But the words don’t come out.

Jaemin speaks out again. “I know how it feels. To be happy, to feel sad and to feel angry. Sometimes one too many emotions altogether. Jeno, you taught me those feelings!” the latter confesses out of the blue and continues, “After what you’ve said, after being gone for those weeks... Someone found a scientific breakout. For us to be humans… I want more than this life that I’m living, Jeno. I want more of all of this .”

This? Did Jaemin meant their relationship, or for the fact that ‘becoming’ human had been possible. “What do you mean..?” Jeno ask, suddenly having too much information to process.

“I’m… I’m saying goodbye. That’s why I’m back here, for a while.. To say goodbye,” Jaemin musters the courage.

What do you mean? ” Jeno repeats himself, feeling anxious. “Jaemin… I love you.” The blonde haired male finally confesses.

Jaemin doesn’t respond immediately.

“J- Jaemin?” Jeno calls out, voice sounding shaky.

“I’m here. I’m just.. I’m overwhelmed.” Jaemin’s replies comes soft, almost unsure even.

“Jaemin, I love you. I realise how important you are to me while you were... away for awhile. And I just want you to know that I–” Jeno blurts out.

“Jeno…” Jaemin cuts the latter mid confessing.

Jeno shuts his mouth soon after.

“I’m sorry.”

Jeno responses immediately. “What do you mean you’re sorry?”

The other exclaims a soft sigh that echoes throughout the living room from the sudden pin-drop silence. “Jeno… if you love me, let me go.”

“What do you mean? Let you go? How can I? I love you!” Jeno confesses again as if he hadn’t make his point from before.

“And so do I… but it’s like, this chapter of life of mine is about to end Jeno. I love you, I truly do! And you taught me so much about life and love. You made me see how beautiful the world is and taught me a love that I’d never trade anything for in the world! But you know how a book ends when there’s a happy ending. This is mine, Jeno.”

Jeno remains silent for a while. And so is Jaemin.

“Will I ever get to find you?” the blonde haired male ask.

“If the world would allow us to,” Jaemin replies softly.

“I’ll always love you. I don’t think I’ll be able to love another as much as I do with you, Jaemin.”

“I’ll love you, always, Lee Jeno. Even if someday I may come to forget about you. I’m willing to bet that my heart will remember you and the things you’ve taught me. I’ll speak this into existence.”

And with that, Jaemin says his goodbye.



x



The recent scientific breakout by Professor Huang is now a success! Many claim that Professor Huang is now the first to defy the act of God in the name of science for bringing Artificial Intelligence’s souls to life whereby they’re human. While a cult claim that he is the second after the act of Frankenstein’s revival to life, and others claiming that life should not be tampered and one should not defy the God’s act by making life, though however Professor Huang’s work is still remarkable and he has made a mark to humankind. Though, there has been a heated debate going on in the online community whether if these ‘humans’ or what we call, artificial beings, are one who act and look like humans, or if they would bring a sort of apocalypse to humankind besides the foretelling of a zombie apocalypse in year 3030. What we know is that they look human enough that they could be your friend, or your neighbour, or even someone who’s close to you in terms of being a family member. Anyway, look out for yourselves, folks. Next week’s forum will be about the controversial Designer Zhong and his ‘raw’ ideas of a meat dress for Lady HeeHee from The Award Show. This has been Anchorman Park, signing out on ‘What in The World?’”

The television switches off.

“Get up, you lazy bum. It’s time for you to get out and smell the nature,” Donghyuck nudges Jeno who is seated next to him while the other male groans and half-whines at the ideas of going out.

Ever since Jaemin had left him a few years back, almost more than 5 years, in actual, Jeno has had a hard time coping with his daily life. Everything after Jaemin had left feels difficult to Jeno, and if it weren’t for Donghyuck or Mark, who had made efforts in getting Jeno out (and after hearing about the ‘break up’ (if it had been considered as one)), Jeno wouldn’t know what to do with his life.

“Fine, I’m going, worrywarts,” Jeno fusses, getting up from his couch and pulling his attention away from wanting to finish Avatar the Last Airbender Book 4 for the nth time. “Zuko still has the most remarkable character development,” the still blonde haired male mutter under his breath as he changed. Not long after, the trio are out and about, to a fun fair to ‘relieve the younger days’ and not get shitfaced (since it’s only Wednesday).




The funfair isn’t as crowded as Jeno thought it would be, aside from a few family with curfews set for their kids and hence to why they are at the fair early. Donghyuck and Mark went off to play some shooting game at the booth despite Donghyuck’s constant argument about how game booths always cheat one’s money off. Lost in his train of thoughts, Jeno didn’t even realise he had bump into someone who in turn, turns over and look at Jeno before muttering an apology.

Jeno recognises the other male’s face, or “felt like he has seen him somewhere before” but couldn’t pinpoint where or who exactly the other male is. Donghyuck calls out for Jeno not long after, telling him to “come over here before Mark gets lost”.

Just as Jeno is about to make his way to his friend, a familiar name stops him.

“Jaemin!”

Jeno whips his head to the caller; a boy who probably seem older than he looks with and had a smile (and physicals) that could win anyone’s heart.

The boy who had bump into Jeno earlier responds with a wave to the one who had called Jaemin out.

“Jaemin…” Jeno calls for the name as it gives Jeno a sort of odd but fond familiarity to it when he speaks of the name. Jeno’s action, is however audible enough for the other male to turn and look at him weirdly.

“Sorry, do you know me?” Jaemin ask as Jeno realises what he has done but in all, examines the other male for any sense of familiarity.

Jaemin is exactly how the AI version of him had described years back, and almost exactly how Jeno had pictured for the latter to be. If anything, Jeno would have swoop in for a bone-crushing hug. But this Jaemin... This Jaemin doesn’t recognise him.

“Oh, no. It’s just you have a similar name to someone whom I cherished but haven’t connected with for a long time,” Jeno explains, rubbing his neck awkwardly.

“Ah,” Jaemin exclaims softly, then offering a somewhat pitiful smile at the other. “Hopefully you’d get to reconnect with them soon then,” he continues before muttering a soft ‘have a nice evening’ and offers Jeno a warm smile before walking towards his acquaintance whom had called him earlier.

Just as Jeno is about to walk away from where he is, he hears a familiar humming in tune of the intro piano parts of Close to You by the Carpenters.