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Pride

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“What do you think about Amsterdam?”

Kyungsoo asks and pouts a little while staring at the big sketch of world map framed on his living room wall. It’s customized for him by a well-known drawing artist. He looks at it every single day yet this morning is a lot more special than any other day.

There are different spots with varying colors, and if you look at it the first time, they look like target places. They probably are, for Soo.

He stares at the spot where Amsterdam is, smiling heartily before turning around to face the couch.

Soo raises his brows while smiling, “Rotterdam?”

“Netherlands?” Jongin asks, watching him intently while leaning on his sofa. Kyungsoo needed to stare at his perfect physique for a brief moment before turning back to the map to hide his flustered face.

“Yes…” Soo mumbles, hands on both sides of his waist while absentmindedly watching the sketch of the countries again. “Ever thought about going there?”

“No…” Jongin answers truthfully from where he sits, still having the time of his life while watching the exposed thighs right in front of him. He lifts his gaze up when Kyungsoo turns around again, hopping on his side with the same enthusiastic smile on his face.

“How about Milan?” he smiles, wrapping a leg on Jongin’s lap.

The tanned boy grins a little, looking down to his lips and holding his leg closer to him.

“No.” he becomes more amused when Kyungsoo’s brows droop down, “What’s with Netherlands and Italy, anyway?”

A small and almost secretive smile situates itself on Kyungsoo’s lips, and despite all of the good feeling it brings to the one seeing it, Jongin can’t help coming up with something else.

Especially when Soo only hums, “Nothing.”

Jongin’s brows slightly crease, keenly watching Kyungsoo’s soft smile even when the latter has his full focus on tracing his chest with his finger. Jongin grips his hand in the midst of it, stopping whatever he’s doing and probably the possible thing to happen if he continues.

“What?” Soo asks humorously when he finally catches the frown on Jongin’s face, “Why are you looking at me like that?”

“Don’t tell me you’re thinking of running away after last night…” he mutters seriously that gets Kyungsoo chortling, “it’s not funny. I know you’re up to something.”

Soo shrugs and proceeds to touching his chest again, “Maybe I am…”

Jongin catches his hand, jaw clenching because of his tormenting touch. Soo finally flashes a big grin that tests the taller’s patience and self-control even more. Kyungsoo shifts closer to him, placing his arm on the edge of the couch behind Jongin’s head.

“Wanna know a secret?”

His tone is teasing, flashing a sly smile when Jongin’s hands travel up to his exposed thighs. It’s enough for a response.

“I have this plan…” he subtly gulps even while still smiling, “ever since I started my second year in high school.”

Jongin is intently listening, watching every shifting emotion in his eyes even when most of them are tried to be concealed.

“I have always been looking for…you know…these good places far from here. Preferably Europe…or somewhere at the very end of this planet.” his smile becomes a little forced, “You would think it was an impulsive plan by a hormonal teenager but… there’s not a single day that passed that I changed my mind, and I don’t even know if that’s a good thing.” he chuckles.

He looks back at Jongin and sees a hint of confusion in his eyes, yet he can also see he’s already having an idea. Kyungsoo gulps and looks back at the large frame plastered on his living room wall. Suddenly, Seonho’s voice fills his memory. He vividly recalls the envy and desperation he felt when he heard about his plan to leave. He remembers it well because they’re all coming back to him now that he’s talking about this.

“I had that made to remind me every day.” his eyes are gentle while looking at the map, then to the man beside him. “To remind me that one day…I have to leave this place. I have to settle somewhere far from here…I just have to.” Kyungsoo sighs in between, “I’ve been preparing for it for so long. The image of my father going nuts when I finally escape his leash is something that motivates me. I’ve been saving money, practicing to be independent and…trying to gain courage over the past few years.”

He spaces out for a while, watching their tangled legs as unwanted thoughts about his life start to come back and haunt him. Kyungsoo gets a grip of himself and tries to smile at Jongin who’s watching him while also in deep thought.

“S-So…” the tanned man clears his throat when he stutters, “where exactly do you plan to go?”

His heart floats inside his chest just by the simple question. Kyungsoo expected why as the first to be asked. But Jongin understands in an instant. It feels good not to see him looking at him like he’s gone mad or that his idea is completely absurd. It’s like getting a validity, somehow.

Soo flashes another smile, “I don’t know…that’s why I was asking, right?”

He lightly laughs, earning him a soft smile from Jongin. But the latter still seems conflicted by something.

“You’ll go alone?”

He looks straight into Kyungsoo’s eyes as he asks. Soo tries to reason out that it’s not a glimpse of hope he’s seeing from him. But then he remembers, when last night happened, he already decided to stop himself from suppressing anything he feels for Jongin, nor expressing them all shamelessly.

“Hmm…” he purses his lips in full attempt to conceal a smile, “that’s why I was asking…right?”

It’s exactly the same response as the first one but he clearly sees the way Jongin’s face relaxes. He slowly blinks before the side of his lips curls up.

Soo tauntingly raises a brow, leaning a little when he wasn’t able to answer, “What do you think?”

Just as the taller’s gaze falls on his lips, they’re interrupted by a phone call. Jongin’s hand lingers on Kyungsoo’s thigh even when he scoots towards the center table to reach for his phone. When he catches the name on screen, he glances reluctantly at Kyungsoo. Though he still answers.

“Soojung?” he mumbles and this time, it’s Soo’s expression that relaxes. Jongin looks at him every now and then, not even removing his hand from his leg while he listens to the person from the other line.

Soo tries to keep an unbothered façade.

“Uh… I don’t know about that.” he doesn’t even know why Jongin tries to keep his voice down when he’s basically an inch away from him. He’s just lucky Kyungsoo can’t hear Soojung’s voice very well. It slightly annoys Soo that he’s glancing at him once in a while as if to make sure he’s not going to speak and be heard. He’s not a mistress or something.

Just when he’s about to ask him about the possibility of including him in his plans, Soojung just really had to interrupt. It’s like she knows when and how to ruin the moment.

“Ah. Yes, I will.” Jongin says formally, “Okay, see you then.”

Soo shamelessly narrows his eyes at the carpet this time. See you, huh?

“No problem…bye.”

Jongin silently looks at him as soon as he ended the call, and Soo only looks back at him. Like before, he keeps a blank expression even if the little scenario pissed him off, unsurprisingly.

“As you were saying…”

“I forgot about it.” he slyly smiles and buries his face on the crook of Jongin’s neck to remind himself of the edge he has from that woman. Geez, what is wrong with him? It’s probably to compensate for the sudden irritation.

He hears a sigh from Jongin.

“Soo…about yesterday.” Soo only hums nonchalantly, “About what happened to Soojung…”

Kyungsoo slightly rolls his eyes, brave because Jongin couldn’t see his face. He resorts into sensually touching him around his waist, grinning when he catches the cuss Jongin made under his breath.

“Soo.” the taller straightens up from his seat to shift away and look at him properly. Kyungsoo can only raise his brows innocently, “She had a bad asthma attack in the middle of play rehearsals.”

For some reason, Jongin’s serious tone irks him even more.

“Yes, and?”

It’s a fast transition from being a brat into completely looking like a scolded child when Jongin gives him the serious look.

“The doctor said it’s overfatigue that led to the attack.”

“What does it have to do with me?”

He doesn’t fail to see the frustration in Jongin’s gaze, as if he’s being a complete pain in the ass, which he actually is by playing dumb.

“She’s been rehearsing nonstop, along with her classes and internship duties.” Soo subtly looks away, “And…is it true you didn’t allow her to rest from practicing?”

Kyungsoo blinks rapidly. Did she tell him that?

“Soo…”

“Well I’m not the director! I’m not in charge of the rehearsals all the time.”

He gulps when Jongin remains serious.

“All of them said you decide everything…including the schedule, or their rest days…everything.”

He’s not able to respond immediately. So the org members threw him under the bus, too? Was Baekhyun even there? Because if he was, then Soo wouldn’t be reprimanded like this right now. He would’ve stood up for him.

In the first place, he didn’t even know that the girl has some medical issues. How is it his fault?

“I didn’t know she’s sick.” Soo tries to conceal the pain in his voice when he started feeling like everyone is against him about this. It’s an asthma attack and they’re acting like he has the control over it, “We were rushing but I would’ve allowed her if I knew about her condition... Why is it my fault now?”

“It’s not your fault.” Jongin assures him but Soo frowns a little.

“You make it seem like it is.”

“I’m just asking you to give her a few days to rest…if that’s alright.” Jongin says gently, caressing his leg. “We’re having the final presentation tomorrow so after that she’ll have more time for the rehearsals. You, too.”

Soo purses his lips, unknowingly raising a brow.

“Yeah, okay. I’ll tell them.” he says casually but Jongin can read him so well. He pulls him closer until Kyungsoo is almost sitting on his lap, the small frown on his face still visible.

“Soo.” Jongin mumbles huskily, trying to catch his gaze that’s focused on the floor even when their face is too close. His chest heaves before finally staring back at Jongin, all his might and pride come crushing in an instant when he sees the little grin on his face.

“What’s so amusing about this?” he hisses and Jongin chuckles even more.

“I wanna kiss you when you’re mad.” Jongin mutters while tilting his head sideway to tease him, “You become extra cuter, I can’t help myself…”

Soo looks at him despite feeling tongue-tied by the other’s frankness. He frowns even more.

“I’m not cute.” he says while squinting his eyes, “And why don’t you do it, coward?”

Jongin gazes down to his lips while a ghost of smile settles on his face, making it a struggle for Soo to keep himself from closing the tiny gap between them and do it himself.

“Can I see your final designs now?” Jongin asks before they even proceed to something else again, “And maybe let’s get you some shorts because you’re not helping me at all with these undies and oversized shirt.”

Soo finally snickers, his cheeks lightening up because of the huge smile. Just like that, everything that pisses him off gets thrown to the bin.

“Come on.”

“It’s a surprise!” he smirks, “You just have to wait until tomorrow.”

Jongin narrows his eyes, “You really sound so confident about it, huh?”

“Yes, because it’s not like anything you’ve seen. I think you’d be threatened, Mr. Prodigy.”

Like before, Jongin’s eyes still linger on him every time he genuinely smiles. For some reason, Soo fails to notice it.

“I bet I would.” he tells Soo, gladly feeding up his ego. “Can I at least know what the supervising architects thought about it so I’m aware what I’m up against?”

Soo proudly smiles, “Nothing because I didn’t consult them.”

Jongin blinks in confusion, “Why?”

“Because I don’t need to. It’s not like they will decide anyway.” he shrugs despite the look on Jongin’s face, “And they would just tell me to change my original ideas and revise them again and again because they hate me.”

“You should’ve still asked for their professional insight, Soo…they’re our supervisors.”

Soo wraps an arm around his nape, “What for? You’re here. You’re better than most of them, anyway.”

He laughs when Jongin simply sighed from the flattery. Kyungsoo lightly bumps his face on his neck as he always does whenever he giggles.

“Don’t worry, I followed all the guidelines and format they gave us.” he says, “Then I paid someone to do them.”

He croaks out another laugh when Jongin glares at him, “I’m kidding!”

Jongin can only sigh at his playfulness, not being able to suppress a smile afterwards. The shorter’s laughter is just so contagious.

“That’s it, we’re getting dressed now.” Jongin intended to stand but Soo weights himself heavier on his lap.

“What? It’s still early…” he says with a little whine.

“You have classes.” Jongin says but stiffens when his large hands get placed on the skin under Soo’s shirt, “Soo.” his tone is firm but the petite boy only smiles at him.

“We still have a little time.” he beams innocently yet his tone is suggestive.

Jongin tries to shake his head even when the problem has already occurred badly and the other can very much feel it under his bum.

“You’ll be late.” now his voice finally wavers, urging Kyungsoo to lean closer to his face.

“I can ditch…”

Jongin shut his eyes in frustration and Soo smiles victoriously.

“You’re the biggest dilemma of my life, Do Kyungsoo.” Soo cusses harshly when his back falls on the couch as Jongin hovers above him.

 

×

With a beam from ear to ear, Soo finds his way to the org room where the production members are waiting for him. It’s the day of the internship presentation so he’s excused from his classes. But he decided to go to the university first to let them know about the changes in rehearsal schedule, as per request. He intentionally went there ten minutes after 1PM to make sure everyone is there already.

Just as he expected, he got a bunch of teasing as soon as they see him in his corporate attire. Baekhyun is even taking a picture of him with his phone until he almost throws him a shoe to stop.

“Now shut up because I have an important announcement.” he hisses at them despite the curve on his lips. Some of them collectively lets out a sshh to shut the others up and pay full attention on the president, “This is about the play rehearsals.”

He pauses when someone enters the door beside him. Soojung pauses a little when she sees him before quickly making her way towards the back of the room with her head down.

“Hey, are you okay now?” Baekhyun asks her while the others anticipate her answer, too. She looks a little pale but she nods nonetheless. Soo watches her but she wouldn’t stare back at him.

“As I was saying…” Soo continues when the attention shifts to the new recruit, “Because of what happened to Soojung, I realized we’ve all been overworking on this production for months. I don’t want the same incident to happen to anyone of us again. So I’m thinking of giving you the whole week after this to rest and focus on your classes and other endeavors.”

Some of them coo in excitement while others start raising their hands.

“But Soo, aren’t we lacking time?”

“Yeah, other stage props should be started as soon as possible.”

Kyungsoo watches them agree over the same thing. This has always been his point even before. There’s no time to slack off because they’re running out of time to make everything perfect and majority of the org members know that.

But of course, he wouldn’t look so nice if he let what happened to the lead actress pass without “doing” something. Subtly, he looks at her from where she stands but she’s still looking blankly at the floor despite the exchange of conversation around.

“I know that…” he sighs, “but I don’t want to put your wellbeing at risk just because of this. If Soojung gets too exh—”

“Is it just about me?”

Her low voice still gets heard by everyone. For some reason, Kyungsoo starts getting curious as to why she seems to eagerly avoid his gaze. But she clears her throat and continues.

“If this is just about what happened to me…then don’t worry. I’ve taken a rest. We can resume rehearsals next week.” she tells everyone while slowly blinking, “I don’t wanna be a bother.”

There’s a brief silence around the room. Her gaze unintentionally landed on Kyungsoo, but she immediately looks somewhere else when she sees his intent look at her.

“Soojung, don’t worry about the rehearsals, worry about yourself. You look like you still need a little rest. We can all adjust.” Baekhyun assures her with a smile, and Soo can’t help raising a brow.

Actually, he badly wants to roll his eyes. This is him giving her a chance to take a week off because of Jongin’s special request. Jongin asked it for her so Kyungsoo could not really say no. So if she’s trying to be a drama queen now, then Soo wouldn’t bother. Everyone in the room seems to give her all the sympathy, too.

“I can resume rehearsing next week, I’m sure of that. Still, thanks for considering.” she says with finality, forcing a little smile before looking away again.

Some of the members look back at Kyungsoo as they wait for his decision, though his eyes linger on the same girl who’s acting unusually reserved today. She’s blankly staring into space and that alone is already a bit off-putting. For some reason, it bugs a part of him.

What are you thinking?

When he realized he shouldn’t care, he chooses to finally dismiss her. Clearing his throat, Kyungsoo looks at everyone.

“Okay. But I still want to give you a few days off so let’s resume on Wednesday, next week. For the stage committee, you can continue your work little by little. But each of us has to get a much-deserved break so I suggest you do it on Wednesday, too.” he says, “Any questions?”

He entertained a few questions from the actors and other committee members before they finally wrapped up. All of them wished him good luck for his final presentation, to which he only responded with a confident smile. They tried to wish the same for Soojung, but she wasn’t in the room anymore. It seemed like she left as soon as the meeting finished.

Baekhyun meets him at the hall outside, and Soo is the first one to flash a beam.

“You don’t look nervous.” Baekhyun points out with squinted eyes, “Is that a good sign? Are you officially becoming the Chairman of the firm next week?”

Kyungsoo chortles, “I don’t think my father would allow that as long as he can move a finger.” he looks around carefully, “I asked you to stay for a while because I need your opinion about this.”

“Sex?”

“Tss, I won’t be the one to need that. Anyway, Baekhyun take this seriously!” he hisses at him that gets Baekhyun laughing.

He takes the box out of his bag. It’s made of leather and from afar, it already looks pricey. He hands it to his friend, who looks at him with intrigue.

“What is this?”

“Open it.” he says with a hint of smile. He watches the awe from the other’s face when he finally sees it, “How is it? In honest opinion.”

“Wow, Soo…this is beautiful.” he mutters while gaping, “How much is this…”

Kyungsoo bites his lip as if suppressing a smile. His expenses have never been a problem to him and there’s no need to ask why, but this one is different. He bought this watch with his own money he’s been saving for his future plans. This one is special.

He didn’t have second thoughts after seeing it in the store, no matter how much it cost him.

“Well…a little expensive.” he says, trying to make it sound lowkey, “But it’s worth it, right?”

Little. Yeah, right.” Baekhyun chuckles before blinking slowly, “Who’s this for?”

Kyungsoo smiles a little, and Baekhyun doesn’t need another confirmation. Though his smile falters a little.

“Oh…”

“Do you think he’ll like it?” Soo asks with a glint of hope in his eyes.

Baekhyun gently raises both his brows before forcing a smile, “Of course…”

He gets the box of watch back. The gold, intricate details look very elegant. The huge smile on Kyungsoo’s face can light up the entirety of the day, but he doesn’t notice the way Baekhyun looks at him. Conflict fills his friend’s eyes and he repeatedly tries to speak but he only does when he thought he already found the proper words.

“Soo, thanks for allowing Soojung to rest…she really needed that.” he starts off gently.

Kyungsoo’s brows raise before he shrugs once, “Yeah, sure.”

“I was there when she collapsed. It was bad…and it was fortunate that Jongin was there to help.” he continues with a gulp when Kyungsoo’s smile falters a little, “And…I was also able to talk to her after that. When we were left alone.”

Soo doesn’t respond anymore. He’s aware that Baekhyun is trying to say something more, so he allows him to speak further while he simply listens.

“I don’t know how…but we were simply just talking about her family and financial problems. I was empathetic so I listened when she confided. And then we ended up talking about Jongin…”

Now the president’s face relaxes into a blank one. He doesn’t know whether he’ll feel good or terrible about being aware where exactly this is taking them.

Baekhyun blinks, his lips parted slightly.

“She has feelings for him, too, Soo. She confessed it to me.” Baekhyun says gently as if he doesn’t want to break it too fast for Kyungsoo, “She really likes him, and I don’t know if Jongin knows…but I bet he doesn’t, or else it could’ve gone further, right? You were matchmaking them before…”

His friend looks at him expectantly, but Soo keeps a straight face.

To be fair, Baekhyun isn’t aware of the setup between him and Jongin. It’s an exclusive secret between the both of them so he can’t really blame him. But the fact that he seems to be siding with another person other than Kyungsoo feels like an insult to the latter, considering that he knows about his feelings. Of all people, he didn’t expect to hear this from his only friend.

“And I need to know this because?”

Baekhyun sighs, “I just don’t want you to get hurt, Soo. Really.” he says with a hint of frustration, “I know that you’ve grown attached to him over the past months. But if you confess to him…knowing that he likes someone else, then it’ll be really messy. Especially that they mutually like each other. I don’t want you to deal with another heartbreak, Soo.”

Kyungsoo swallows hard, unable to retaliate instantly.

“I just want you to think about it, Soo. He likes someone else.”

“You’re sure about Soojung, yes. But how are you so definite about Jongin?” he breathes sharply, “How can you speak for his feelings? It’s been months, what if he doesn’t even like her anymore? Or at all? Why would you assume who he likes?”

“I’m not telling you this to argue, Soo.” Baekhyun says firmly when his tone raised.

No. Soo shakes his head with certainty. He doesn’t want to be mad. Not at Baekhyun. But he just couldn’t help it. He badly wants to scream at his face. He feels frustrated over the words said to him. He wants to make it known to everyone that he has the bigger chance with the man he likes because they fucking kissed and touched each other beyond closed doors. He connected with him in every way more than anybody else. He’s itching to say it all but it has to stay as it is. A secret.

And it’s really hard.

“I don’t give a damn about Soojung’s feelings.” he says ruthlessly, “I can worry about my own. I don’t need someone to dictate me whatever the hell I should do with my life.” he gulps before smiling sarcastically when a hint of pain flashes in Baekhyun’s eyes, yet he continues. “And if I’ve had ways to get whatever I wanted in this life then it shouldn’t be different from getting the man I want. Whoever that driver of mine truly likes right now, I honestly don’t give a shit.”

He grins and turns away.

“Soo…”

“Don’t worry about it, Baekhyun. I have my ways. Just watch. I’ll probably prove you wrong, who knows?” he shrugs despite his teeth gritting against each other.

Baekhyun looks at him, brows furrowed.

“I know you, Soo. And if you’re planning to play dirty this time then I’m telling you it’s not worth it.” his chest heaves, “We always tell each other, right? It’s low to sabotage someone just for a ma—”

“To be honest, I couldn’t care less. I need to go.” he chuckles bitterly and spares the boy another glance before leaving, “My driver’s waiting for me.”

Baekhyun watches him in defeat, his gaze filled with concern for Kyungsoo as he tries to console himself. He sure hopes he’s wrong.

And fate seems to be messing with the chaebol son, really.

He’s still worked up from the heated conversation he had with Baekhyun and he just had to bump into the last person he wants to see as soon as he stepped out of the university gate.

Soojung seemed to see him before he did because she already has her gaze fixated somewhere else when Kyungsoo spots her. Her hands are clutched together, looking around with a hint of haste on her face.

Fortunately, the familiar Audi is already getting closer to where he stands. Kyungsoo looks at it before glancing over Soojung again, who’s now looking at the same car as well.

If it’s the effect of the conversation he had with Baekhyun, he’s not really sure. But Soo feels like he has to prove someone wrong about being an asshole to someone just because of a man.

“Are you waiting for someone?” he asks out of the blue and the gulp Soojung made didn’t go unnoticed, “We’re heading to the office, too. Do you need a ride?”

With another noticeable glance at the tinted car, Soojung blinks rapidly before shaking her head.

“My father will drive me there…t-thanks.” she says and faces the other way. As much as he is bewildered, Kyungsoo shrugs and gets in the front seat. He takes another look at Soojung even when he’s already inside the car, but the girl does her best not to glance at them.

She should be aware that Jongin’s the one driving, so it’s a little weird to see her acting like that. Avoiding them like a plague. Though for some reason, it amuses the other boy. Is this a sign of giving up?

It better be.

He only stopped looking at her when the car began moving, finally realizing that Jongin is right beside him.

“Is she okay now?” he asks, effortlessly driving with one hand while the other one presses on the radio to give him his daily dose of RnB. He doesn’t notice the boy beside him gaping at the sight of him.

Jongin looks at him when he didn’t get an answer, lips curving slyly when he sees his reaction.

“Hey.”

“What…a-are you wearing…” is the only thing Kyungsoo could mumble, even stuttering in between his words.

“You don’t like it?” he asks even though the face says it all. His gaze travels only between the road and the boy beside him.

Soo absentmindedly stares at the road in front of him.

“You actually…look nice.” he mumbles which is an absolute understatement of the man who’s in his simple white polo, hugging his figure so well while the first few buttons are allowing anyone to get a glimpse of his collarbones. The chaebol son needed to restrain himself.

If people can see them, it would be no question that they’ll assume Jongin owns the million-dollar car he’s driving. He just suits it well, as if he naturally belonged among all the other beautiful things in life. He’s the only one that can make Kyungsoo feel all the things he didn’t even know would go together—intimidation, greed and arousal.

He wants Jongin all to himself but sometimes, he can’t help but feel unworthy of his presence around him.

“Thanks.” Jongin looks at him with a hint of smile. His glorious skin tone is even more emphasized because of the color of his clothes. His hair is also styled differently today, almost giving Kyungsoo an assurance that it won’t just be him and Soojung that would be gaping at the firm building later.

“So do you.” he adds before focusing back on the road. Soo needed to exhale a silent breath as he looks away.

Maybe he’ll ask him to have sex again after this damn presentation. That sounds like a plan.

The drive to the company building didn’t take too long. It was almost silent all throughout, Jongin being obviously nervous about the presentation while Soo simply looked at the distance, rehearsing the perfect words that can go along with his gift.

He seemed more concerned about it than the presentation itself.

When the car stopped in the parking lot, his chest heaves. He doesn’t even have a single idea what to say. Yet still gathering all his courage, he shifts sideways to face Jongin.

“Hey…”

The tanned man watches the usually confident Kyungsoo being obviously tongue-tied over something. Soo sneaks his hand inside his bag to hold the box.

“I k-kinda...kinda want to give you something.”

Jongin creases his brows, although a small smile forms on his lips. “What is it?”

Kyungsoo’s doe eyes linger on him for a while before pulling something out of his bag. Jongin looks at it with curiosity.

“Well, uh…little gift.” he gulps as he hands it to him. His driver takes it, glancing at him before opening it. Soo eagerly watches his expression. He feels scared to even see the slightest distaste from it.

“For me?” Jongin chuckles huskily, finally opening the box. When he sees the wristwatch inside, his smile falters.

It doesn’t make Kyungsoo feel any better when he’s responded with nothing by silence. Jongin only stares at the pricey gift, blinking once before gulping.

“D-Don’t you like it?” Soo mumbles, “Is it ugly?”

With another gulp, Jongin slowly shakes his head.

“It’s…it’s beautiful.” the smile almost comes back on Kyungsoo’s face when he continues, “I can’t accept this, Soo…”

The shorter huffs, “Why not?”

Jongin sighs in frustration.

“I don’t want you to buy very expensive things for me.”

“But it’s a gift. It can be pricey or cheap, it doesn’t matter. It’s the thought that counts, right?” Soo insists but Jongin remains conflicted, “Say that you just don’t like it.”

“It’s not that, Soo. Come on.” he sounds frustrated.

“Then why?”

Jongin looks at him directly, but Soo keeps his lips pursed in a thin line even if he feels the need to let out another huge breath.

“I don’t want you to think…that this is what I’m after.” Jongin sighs, “I don’t want you to think that you need to give me things like this just to keep me.”

Soo feels his heart toppling in his chest, headlong. His gaze softens, obviously not expecting such words.

Jongin tries to see through his eyes while still in a conflict.

“Do you understand?”

Somehow, Kyungsoo’s eyes began warming up. The only thing he understands from his almost incoherent thoughts is that he’s desperate to keep this man as long as he can. He badly wants to.

And it means the world to know that Jongin wants to stay. That he thought about staying, in the first place, without anything in return.

For once in his life, he feels accepted for who he really is.

Kyungsoo swallows the lump forming in his throat before chuckling lightly, concealing the sudden rush of emotions he had. “I’m not thinking that way. I will never.” he smiles while taking the watch out of the box. Jongin intently watches him as he takes his hand to wrap the watch around his wrist.

His eyes linger on the watch perfectly worn around Jongin’s wrist, like it has always been meant to be there. There’s a heartfelt smile on Kyungsoo’s face, finally looking back at Jongin who seems to be staring at his face the whole time.

“I just want to give you something precious…that’s all.” he looks straight into Jongin’s eyes. The latter doesn’t even spare the watch he’s wearing a single glance as his gaze remains fixated on Soo.

“And why is that?” the side of his lips curves, his tone suggestive. But even if Kyungsoo already has the answer, he chooses not to say it. He’s still afraid that Jongin might get too pressured and rushed if he tells him what he feels. For now, everything is going so perfect. Who is he to ruin that?

So instead, he shifts forward and lazily wraps an arm around Jongin’s nape to kiss him firmly. He’s a little above so Jongin earnestly tilts his head up to kiss him back, not a single complain present.

Soo lets their noses touch briefly before completely pulling away.

“Now refuse to accept that gift again and that would be the last kiss you’ll get from me, Mister.” he threatens even if he knows to himself how impossible it is. He’d probably be the one to ditch the gifts instead of the kisses.

Jongin chuckles, “You win.”

“Uh-huh. As always.” Kyungsoo grins, taking his seatbelt off. “Now let’s kick the hell out of this presentation. We’re late.”

The taller’s gaze lingers on him for a while as the smile on his face becomes prominent. When Soo hops out of the car first, he doesn’t get to see Jongin taking another gulp before following.

Seeing a few architects that are part of the panel finally gives Kyungsoo the realization that this is actually happening. He takes a huge breath on their way to elevator, glancing behind him where Jongin is already quiet, too. His obvious deep thinking is probably part of the jitters. When he catches Kyungsoo’s gazes, the shorter would always smile reassuringly, unaware that he has something else in mind.

Soo understands it, still. It might not be a bigger deal for him than it is for them but this presentation is still very important to him. He dedicated hours, days and weeks to finally come up with the best he can. This is the only time he can prove his father wrong.

Prove everyone wrong.

He’s not there for his name or influence. He can do what they all expect he can’t do. And when he finally gets them to see the final designs he worked hard for, then maybe he can have the chance to make more choices for himself. Maybe his father would finally give it to him.

If it’s futile to hope that he can get the freedom he has always wanted after this day, then consider him crazy.

The Chairman’s secretaries assisted them when they reached the top floor, giving the order of the presentations. Jongin will come first, followed by Soojung, then Kyungsoo for the last. They will be given time to present their works individually in front of a panel with some board members, architects and the Chairman himself.

Five minutes before Jongin’s turn, he’s already awfully silent at the lobby couch they’re sitting. Soojung has gone to the rest room for the second time now, giving Kyungsoo the courage to subtly reach for his hand on his lap. He smiles a little while looking at his gift around Jongin’s wrist, adding to the man’s already undisputed charm.

“You can do it.” he mumbles encouragingly while looking at Jongin’s conflicted expression. True enough, he hears a deep sigh from him.

“What if I mess up?” the younger worries while gripping his hand back. His eyes are fixated on the watch.

Soo smiles softly, “Remember when I told you you’re better than most people in that room?” Jongin looks at him as if he’s kidding, “I mean it.”

“Soo.”

“Jongin, you’re a damn genius when it comes to this. Everyone can attest to that and they’ll be desperate to have someone like you.” he says firmly, smiling again when his driver’s gaze softens. “And even if they criticize your work, then so what? I’d probably be the CEO in the next few years so I can fire them all and have you replace them.”

Jongin finally cracks a smile because of this, making Soo chuckle. His gaze gives him all the assurance.

“I’ve always believed in you. Okay? You’ll do great.” he immediately pulls his hand away when he spots an employee walking from the end of the hall, “It’s time.”

The secretary calls Jongin and leads the way ahead of him. He meaningfully glances at the chaebol son before following.

Soo only remains on the same spot, watching his back. Though his smile falters a little when Jongin pauses from walking and mumbles something to the secretary before she goes to the hall on her own. Jongin turns around and takes quick steps back to where Kyungsoo is, looking determined over something.

Soo stiffens when he stands right in front of him, blinking slowly when he sees his driver suppressing a smile.

“That Europe…moving away thing…when do you plan to do it?” he asks, a little breathlessly. Kyungsoo looks at him with confusion, but when he realizes how little the time they have left, he shakes his head.

“Not too soon…why?” he asks reluctantly. He doesn’t even expect this to be brought up all of a sudden.

Jongin nods once, smiling.

“Good.” he exhales a breath of relief, “I can still change your mind.”

The certainty in his voice got Kyungsoo blinking rapidly. His emotions are all over the place again, just because of a few words. A few vague and too spontaneous words, even.

My, how does he tell Jongin that he already began changing his mind? That he’s already considering to stay in what used to be such a forsaken place and let go of all the plans he already made for himself, just because of him?

“Go on and try then.” he grins even when he almost choked out the words because of the sudden lump in his throat. His eyes glisten a little.

Jongin nods again, as if taking the challenge. He exhales another breath before walking away backwards to continue watching Soo.

“What do you say… diner, after this?” he asks. Soo gulps and nods without any hesitations.

“Diner. After this. Sure.” he says almost incoherently because he’s smiling too much, “Now look where you’re going, driver.”

Jongin flashes the same handsome smile before turning around to run to the presentation hall, leaving Soo breathless and heaving on his own.

The same big smile situated itself on Kyungsoo’s lips even when he’s left alone in the lobby. It’s far from his turn to present, yet he’s already looking forward to finish it and leave.

Soo feels like he won’t be able to stop himself anymore. He wouldn’t wait for this day to finish without telling Jongin what he truly feels. He’s been gathering his courage for so long. This is the right time.

There’s still a hint of smile on his face when he catches someone from his peripheral vision. He looks at the hall and sees Soojung walking to his direction, holding her blueprints on her arms and her presentation folders. Unlike earlier, she’s already groomed up and is looking so pretty. But the change in her eyes doesn’t go unnoticed to Kyungsoo, reminding him of the intimidating aura she had from the first time she auditioned for the play, for some reason. The confidence is far from the way she barely looked at anyone in the eyes on today’s early org meeting.

She slows down when she gets in front of Kyungsoo. The corners of her lips curve with a formal smile even when Soo plainly stares at her.

“Good luck.” she says and doesn’t wait for him to respond as she proceeds to walk to the direction of the presentation room.

Soo follows her with his gaze, brows furrowed in confusion with the sudden interaction. Earlier today, it felt like she was avoiding him like a plague. And she’s wishing him luck while smiling kindly?

Despite finding it a bit sketchy, Soo got over it and ended up practicing some of the points of his designs. He went through it over and over again just to make sure he’ll be presenting well. He barely noticed the hour that passed and only realized it’s almost time when a secretary walked up to him and reminded him it’s fifteen minutes before his turn. It also occurred to him that the other two will be there to watch him since they’re already done. Good, then. Soo thinks to himself—he prefers everyone to see his work.

“Sir?”

He nods at the secretary and stands right in front of the double doors. He’s instructed to wait for their cue so he takes this chance to breathe deep and maintain his usual composure.

This is it. Soo gives himself some thought of motivation. Most people in that room have always underestimated you. It’s time to prove them wrong.

He’s called inside and the stoic looks from people around the conference table could crumble anyone. Soo’s probably too used to it. His eyes settled on his father lastly, who’s sitting at the far end while seriously watching him. Soo finally gulps because of this.

Even the fact that Soojung is sitting right next to Jongin behind the panel doesn’t go unnoticed to him. The handsome man flashes him an encouraging smile when he catches his gaze. It’s enough to conclude that his presentation went well since he looks relaxed already. Soo was right, after all.

“Good afternoon, everyone. Architects.” he tries glancing around him before looking at his father, “Chairman.”

The old man only nods once at him, giving him the same stern look as he waits for him to start. He starts walking around to hand everyone a copy of his work. Each of them opens it after receiving. Soo barely pays attention to their reactions but he takes the complete silence as a good sign.

He opens his laptop, looking for his blueprint copies in his suitcase. Kyungsoo’s brows furrow when the flash drive is nowhere there.

Fear starts to crawl into his chest. He tries to think—did it fall off at the lobby? Did he forget it? It’s impossible. It’s always been with his sketches. He tries checking his pockets when someone from the panel clears his throat.

“What is this?” one of the architects squints his eyes at him, glancing at his folder again.

Soo slightly creases his brows, “Sorry?”

The old architect looks over at the chairman, who’s staring at the designs as well.

“Pardon me, Chairman…” he politely addresses the man first before continuing, “but these designs are very similar to the previous one.”

There’s a collective murmuring in the room. Soo simply stares at everyone without understanding anything.

“I agree. They’re really the same.” another one agrees out loud that finally gets him speaking.

“Sorry. I don’t quite understand.” Soo shakes his head, “What do you mean similar? I don’t remember giving any designs prior this one.”

“Not yours.” another board member retaliates almost condescendingly, “Miss Jung’s. Your designs are very much like hers.”

Soo begins blinking in confusion as he glances over Soojung who looks equally stunned. He forces a chuckle because of this, finding it all ridiculous.

“What?” he says with a forced smile. He’s being told of plagiarizing right before he could even start. Is this some kind of a joke? He goes through his suit case again, looking for that damn flash drive to get this over with. But it’s not there at all.

Slowly, Kyungsoo starts feeling the whole world crashing all over him.

This can’t be happening.

Soo looks at where Jongin is, and the latter is watching him with equally confused expression.

“Would you mind explaining how this happened, Mr. Do?” an old board member asks him sternly.

“Those are my designs.” Soo speaks firmly even when his heart feels like bursting any minute, “I made all of that.”

“You’re telling us that this uncannily familiar site plan, the floor plans, and… look, even the component details are coincidentally the same with Miss Jung’s?”

“I don’t know. But I’m sure that I made all of that! You can’t just accuse me of copying someone else’s designs… especially when those are my work. That’s not fair.”

No matter how much he wants to handle this calmly, his shoulders start heaving. This feels like some kind of a sick joke.

Actually, he’d rather have it that way.

“Miss Jung?” the same board member turns to Soojung who still looks shocked. She rapidly blinks when most of the panelists anticipate her response as well. The only one who stayed watching Kyungsoo is the chairman himself, looking even sterner than he already was. It doesn’t help Soo at all. But then, why should he expect something from his father, really? He’d be the first one to humiliate him if he got the chance.

“I-I don’t know, Sir…” she mumbles before turning to one of their internship supervisors, as if asking help. “A-Architect?”

“I was the one who checked and approved Miss Jung’s first and second drafts before this day.” the said architect tells everyone, “She had her work consulted again after a couple of days before the actual presentation to ask for comments so I can guarantee I’ve seen the progress of her designs leading to these.”

Soojung looks at Kyungsoo.

“I’ve finished my first drafts even months before this! I’ve had my blueprints prepared since last month!” Soo insists desperately, “And now you’re saying she consulted you days before today, so isn’t it telling you something?”

“Which supervising architect did you have your drafts consulted then, Mr. Do?” one of the department heads asks, “Maybe he or she can support your statements.”

He exhales through his lips, “I didn’t consult anyone.” now, there’s a knowing look on the panel’s faces that gets him even more confounded, “And it’s because I preferred to work on my own and it’s my right. But I can guarantee that I’ve finished these designs way before—”

“And why should we believe your words alone?” now he’s under their scrutinizing looks again, “Where are your presented blueprints, then? There should be an actual date finished there, right?”

For the first time, his hands tremble on his sides. He doesn’t know why it all led to this when everything was fine just a while ago.

Soo swallows the big lump forming in his throat, fighting the strong urge to cry in frustration.

“It was s-stolen…” now his voice breaks, but he tries to breathe to continue fighting for himself. He repeatedly gulps while still struggling to go through the suitcase again, “I s-swear it was just here in my suitcase b-but now I can’t find it.”

He can see some of the panelists shaking their heads, while some watch him mockingly. It’s like everyone finds it fun to watch him humiliated.

“Everyone’s time here is important and to be honest, you’re wasting it.” another woman board member bravely says despite knowing he’s their boss’ son. But Soo completely knows they wouldn’t have a bit of this courage if it wasn’t for his father’s silence, “All of you should be aware that we do not condone plagiarism or cheating in this firm, right?”

“Those are my designs!”

“Don’t raise your voice at me, young man.” the same person tells him. Soo bites his lip hard, “Where is your proof that those are actually your work? You don’t have someone to back your facts up. You don’t even have the simple blueprints of them and that’s a part of the requirements.”

Soo harshly wipes the side of his eyes, refusing to believe he’s shedding tears because of this. But it’s just enraging to see his work being stolen like this. His hard work, time and idea—snatched from him just like that, and he’s being the one ridiculed for it.

“I told you it was stolen…”

“What do you take this panel for, Mister?” they continue to ask, “Recklessly copying someone’s intellectual property then presenting it here as if we wouldn’t notice?”

Someone else chuckles, “He didn’t even bother tweaking it a bit…”

Kyungsoo can feel his chest heaving. He tries to breathe and keep his expression composed despite the tears forming in his eyes. With the brief silence and contemptuous eyes on him, he strives to collect himself…even if he’s an inch away from crushing down.

“I-I can make new designs…” he mumbles with a low voice, “give me a day and I can come up with new and better designs to present…”

He hears a collective chuckling. And Soo badly wants to run away. Everything that is happening seems to have formed a traumatizing memory encrypted in his mind.

“The final presentation only happens once. No special chances and exceptions for anyone. And it’s not like it’s possible to prepare for everything in a day…” one of them says. Soo grits his teeth harder.

“J-Just one day, I guarantee—”

“Kyungsoo.” everyone falls silent when the Chairman speaks firmly, “Enough.”

Soo looks at his father with disbelief. His gaze becomes even more blurry because of warm tears.

“This meeting is adjourned. I’m going to talk to Kyungsoo about this.”

Some of them stand up when the Chairman does, but Soo remains on his post. His gaze travels to where Soojung is, catching her burying her face on both her hands, shoulders trembling while Jongin watches her.

With his jaw clenching, Soo takes quick steps towards where she is.

“What’s wrong, Soojung?” he asks sharply. Jongin is quick enough to grasp his arm before he could close the gap between them, “Why are you crying, huh? Why are you crying?!”

Soojung lets out a sob when he demands her an answer, earning the attention of everyone else in the room.

“Soo, please…” Jongin whispers to him but he frantically shakes his head.

“What are those tears for? You’re guilty?” he asks through gritted teeth, “Your conscience has finally hit you for stealing my designs?!”

“Mr. Do!” one architect walks near them to pull Soojung away, who’s already finding it hard to breathe. They handed her a bottle of water and the amount of sympathy in their eyes can almost come close to the level of mockery they had for Soo just a moment ago. The sight angers him even more.

“Ms. Jung, what’s wrong?”

She sniffs and tries to catch her breath. Soojung shakes her head while her eyes are still bloodshot red.

“I-I’m sorry, Sir... a-architects…I’m really s-sorry.”

Soo gulps while watching her, hoping deep inside his heart that she isn’t the worst person by finally admitting it’s his work. Despite all the rage, he tries to hope.

“I-I’m sorry for being emotional…I just…” she glances at Kyungsoo, then to everyone, “d-didn’t think my work could be s-stolen like that. I w-worked hard for it…”

He breathes frantically.

“YOU—!” Jongin uses his whole strength to keep Kyungsoo in his arms. The chaebol son is already flushing in anger, “fucking—you’re the one who stole them and you know it! You know it, Soojung! Tell them! Tell them or—”

“KYUNGSOO!” everyone gets stunned when the Chairman raises his voice in anger. He’s looking at his son sharply, lips pursed into a thin line. “I told you that’s enough! You’re coming with me now!”

He gives a look of finality to Kyungsoo before walking out of the door. Soo is still catching his breath while glancing around everyone watching him. He blinks rapidly and swallows hard, finally looking at Jongin whose arms already loosened around him.

But the man only stares back at him, eyes filled with confusion from what happened. He wants to pull his hand and snatch him away from there. He wants to run away with Jongin and cry his heart out somewhere far from this hell. But he realized he can’t do that when the boy, just like everyone else, demands an answer from him. He can tell it from his eyes alone.

So Kyungsoo looks at him helplessly before following his father out of the room.